Life Without


William Bodie knocked tentatively on the door to George Cowley's office. He had put in a late appearance that morning, but normally the Controller would not call him in to complain unless he was more than fifteen minutes late. Today it had only been six, well, ten minutes and that was only because traffic had been worse than a fly caught in a treacle tart.

The problem was that he had used traffic congestion as an excuse the last three times he'd been late and it didn't seem likely that Cowley would just brush it off once again. Resigning himself to a day in Records, he tapped on the door once again and opened it.

The Scotsman was obviously already hard at work, with his glasses perched on his nose and a stack of papers on his desk. After a suitable length of time, Bodie cleared his throat and asked, "You wanted to see me, sir?"

Without looking up, Cowley replied, "Aye, 3.7. Sit there for a few moments whilst I finish this."

Bodie complied, moving his big frame into one of the chairs. For only an instant he debated whether he could get away with putting his feet up on a nearby chair, but decided against it. Cowley's temper was always tetchy first thing in the morning.

The few moments stretched into a minute and then another minute before Cowley removed his glasses and took his agent into focus. As usual, Bodie was dressed in black with some kind of leather jacket covering his upper torso. Long gone were the days when Bodie had appeared in the office wearing pink or red shirts and expensive suits. Cowley had always believed that ripping his red shirt in the fight with Krivas had shown Bodie the wisdom of dressing down. As a Scot, Cowley could only approve. It was just too bad that 3.7 couldn't economise on his expense chits.

"Did you stop by the rest room before coming here, 3.7?"

"Uh, no sir, I was told that you wanted to see me as soon as I entered the building."

Cowley nodded. He was pleased to hear that since any of the agents still remaining in the rest room would have alerted Bodie to what was coming. "Very well. I asked you to stop by because you will be working without your partner for the next few weeks."

Bodie straightened up. "Is Doyle going on assignment, sir?"

"4.5 has been suspended as of 0700 this morning."

Cowley's bombshell hit the younger man right between the eyes. Doyle hadn't been suspended since the Ann Holly fiasco. "I...I don't understand, sir. What did Ray do? We haven't been on a case since we caught up with Mme Ojuka."

Cowley hesitated only a second before informing him, "I'm well aware of that, 3.7. I thought it best to give 4.5's injuries a chance to mend, even though they were minor in nature."


Cowley's eyebrow went up. Bodie rarely questioned the Controller's actions. "I do not intend to discuss 4.5's suspension with you. You will have to accept my word that it is justified. For the time being you'll be working with 6.2. He is tracking a shipment of drugs that we wish to take off the streets. He will give you the particulars."

Bodie's face took on that stubborn look which intimidated most men, but Cowley simply ignored it. "Oh and 3.7, please try to report on time. I dislike paying my agents for time spent in traffic. Dismissed."

Knowing that there was little chance of getting more information from Cowley, Bodie left. Someone at CI5 must know what had happened between Doyle and the CI5 Controller.

Someone did. As soon as he appeared at the door of the rest room, all the talking stopped. Anson just continued to puff on his cigar whilst Lake and Stuart turned their backs on Bodie, preferring to whisper between themselves.

Stephen Murphy poured out two beakers of coffee before approaching Bodie. Handing one over, the tall agent announced, "Let's find somewhere we can talk."

The two long-legged men walked down the hall where they found an empty office. Plunking his unwanted coffee on the table, Bodie demanded, "What the hell's going on Murph? Why was Ray suspended?"

Murphy grimaced as he took a drink of the black sludge. "Not sure, Bodie. All I do know is that I could hear Ray yelling at Cowley when I arrived this morning. Only thing I could hear for sure was 'You're not going to do that to my partner.' Then it went quiet."

"You sure? Can't imagine Doyle yellin' at Cowley even with that temper of his."

"Tell me something I don't know. 4.5's worse than Guy Fawkes Night, but he doesn't usually go off the deep end."

"Guess I'll have to ask him myself."

"Uh, do you think that's wise? I need you in one piece to help me with this drugs case."

Bodie's lips curved into an arrogant smile. "I can handle Doyle."

"Well, it's your funeral." Murphy stopped for a moment, considering his next words. "You might ask Stuart if he knows anything. He was here when I drifted in. Might have heard more."

Bodie shook his dark head. "Stuart 'n me don't get along."

"Why's that?" Murphy had noticed that the two men rarely spoke.

"He seemed friendly enough after the Gerda Helm case, but then he started askin' Ray out for a lager or a game of darts. That kind of thing," Bodie explained.

"What's the matter with that?"

"Think he wants to work with my partner. He's probably had enough of workin' on his own and wants the best, but I'm not available." His face took on an evil grin. "Ray's next in line and they seemed to get on when they were trackin' down those kidnappers."

Murphy's mouth dropped open slightly. Bodie's arrogance always astonished him, but he also knew that there was an element of truth in what 3.7 was saying. "Pull the other one, Bodie, Doyle'd never break up your unit."

The sapphire eyes shadowed over. "Wouldn't think so, would you? 'Specially not after Ojuka. Cowley really read me the riot act 'bout movin' in too soon. Hadn't been for me, the little sod would be dead."

Murphy decided, in the interest of maintaining his teeth, not to mention that Doyle had managed to escape Parker on his own. "Yeah, it was all over headquarters. Spent a week in Records, didn't you?"

"'n Doyle was sittin' home with some bird, tendin' his wounds. Ungrateful toad." Bodie's lower lip took on its accustomed pout.

"Well, it's up to you, mate. I've got some papers to collect so if you want to talk to Stuart, do it now because we're going to be busy for the next few days. I'm going to find those drugs and you're going to help." Murphy stood up, his imposing height adding to his air of determination.

Bodie stirred his large body into movement. Maybe just this once he could talk to Stuart. The man might be irritating and after his partner, but he was a good operative. Making his decision, Bodie headed back to the rest room. With luck the dark-haired agent would still be there.

3.7's luck held. Just as he entered the room, Stuart and Lake were leaving. One glower from Bodie and Lake took himself off, leaving Stuart to 3.7's mercy, however, Stuart was made of stronger stuff than Lake. He took one look at Bodie's stern face and demanded, "What do you want, Bodie? I have to be out on the streets."

"That's okay. Just want to ask you something." Bodie stood with his body blocking the doorway.

"I don't know why Doyle was suspended." Stuart started to push past the other man when Bodie grabbed his arm.

"How'd you know that's what I was going to ask?"

Stuart's eyes narrowed. "If Doyle was my partner, that's the first thing I'd want to know."

Bodie conceded the point. "You sure you didn't hear anything? You were here early."

"Listen, Bodie, all I know is that Doyle and Cowley were yelling at each other. I only picked up a few of the words and then Murphy came in so I walked into the rest room."

Bodie's blue eyes lit up. "What were the words?"

"I don't think I should tell you." Stuart started to walk off again.

With a rough push, Bodie shoved him away from the door. "Why not? I've got a right to know. He's MY partner!"

"Fine!" Stuart replied with exasperation. "He said, 'I'm doing this under protest.'"

Bodie let loose of the other man. "What? I don't understand."

"What makes you think I do? Don't ask me, ask Cowley or better still ask Doyle. That is if you care." This time there was no stopping Stuart as he stormed out of the room, leaving Bodie alone.

When 6.2 caught up with Bodie, he could instantly tell that his temporary partner was not in a communicative mood. Assuming that Stuart had told him something he didn't want to hear, Murph practically had to goad 3.7 into paying attention to the sundry details that had been developed about the drug smuggling ring. Finally, after a third sharp, "Bodie!" a frustrated 6.2 slammed the folder down on the table.

The seemingly mild-tempered agent lowered his voice, "I don't give a damn what's going on between you and Doyle, but Cowley assigned me to this task and by God, I'm going to find out what's going on with this scum. Are you going to help me or do I go to Cowley and tell him that his blue-eyed boy is so worried about his partner that he can't do his job?"

Seeing the throbbing vein at Murph's temple, Bodie realised that he had pushed his friend too far. Whispering, "Sorry," he picked up the folder and began to read. After a brief run through, he commented, "Seems fairly straightforward. Why hasn't customs picked 'em up by now?"

Breathing a sigh of relief, Murphy nodded. "That was the plan but then we were alerted to the fact that the drugs were earmarked for a certain group who would use the money from the drugs to buy weapons. It's that group we really want. We can pick up the drug carriers anytime."

"Makes sense. 's just like the Kabil Kammahmi bunch tried to do."

"Right but then you had Marge Harper's help flushing them out." Murphy rubbed his hand over the polished table in front of him.

"That was before you joined this mob, how'd you know about that?" Bodie demanded.

"Everybody's heard about Ray and Margery Harper. She had quite a thing for him, didn't she?"

Sullenly, Bodie replied, "Said I had shifty eyes. Wasn't Ray's eyes she was lookin' at, was it?"

"I don't suppose he...well, you know," Murphy hesitantly asked.

Bodie jerked upright. "'Course he didn't. She was old enough to be his...his older sister."

"Still, some men like a woman with experience. Wouldn't be the first time for him, would it?"

Bodie grabbed 6.2's arm in a merciless grip. "Where'd you hear that? Nobody knows that but me!"

The tall agent jerked his arm loose, rubbing at it for effect. "Ray mentioned it to Jax once. Jax told me. Rentboy, wasn't it?" He started to smile, but sobered when he caught the look in the blue eyes.

"He was puttin' Jax on," Bodie protested. "You know him, always makin' jokes."

Murph wasn't sure he believed the other man, but he gave in. "If you say so. Now, shall we get down to business? I want to hand these people over to Cowley as soon as possible."

Bodie mumbled his agreement, but a corner of his mind still focussed on his missing partner.

The rest of the day was spent in lining up surveillance details. Fortunately, Cowley had assigned several of his best agents to help Murphy and Bodie so that manpower wasn't the issue although in the end it would be the necks of 6.2 and 3.7 on the chop if results weren't achieved in a short time.

Designating their own shift as 4:00 to midnight, Murphy assigned Lucas and McCabe to follow them on the midnight to 8:00 shift whilst Anson and Lake took the remaining eight hours. Naturally, Lake protested at spending so much time with Anson and his cigars, but Murphy ignored the grumbles, telling Lake to put in for a gas mask.

With one man on visual and the other on audio, no one could enter the target house without being spotted or so they assumed. Murphy and his partner received their due comeuppance when a stranger, who no one had picked up, sauntered out of the house whilst merrily going on his way.

Shocked by the occurrence, the two men notified Cowley of what happened. Shutting their ears to his rather vituperative comments, they promised to find out how the man had entered the house.

To their relief, Lake provided the answer when he remembered seeing the man enter a house down the way from the house under observation. Surmising that there might possibly be some kind of tunnel between the two buildings, Murphy assigned another team to keep track of the coming and going at the second building.

At the end of forty-eight hours the CI5 men had enough evidence to justify a raid on the two houses.

It was during the raid that Bodie finally came face to face with how much he missed his partner. Murphy zigged when Doyle would have zagged. It was just that miniscule fact which almost resulted in the death of 6.2. For one horrifying moment Bodie's Smith & Wesson lined up with the back of Murphy's head. Only his superb reflexes stopped him from continuing the pressure on the trigger that would have resulted in a bullet slamming into Murph's head.

Bodie's thumping heart nearly broke through his chest as he watched Murph move on, following the villains upstairs to where they seemingly intended to make their last stand. Shaking himself free of the near tragedy, Bodie joined the taller man to add his firepower to the final showdown.

Hours later 6.2 and 3.7 put in their obligatory appearance at George Cowley's office. With two villains dead, three in the interrogation rooms, several pounds of uncut heroin in CI5's safe and crates of confiscated weapons at hand, both of the exhausted men expected to find the Controller in a good mood, a sharing mood; however, no wee drams of pure malt scotch made an appearance during the hour of debriefing. In fact, the older man was at his dour best.

After glancing at the inventory of items taken, Cowley stared at the two men over his glasses. "How was Lucas wounded? I assigned enough men to this raid that it should have gone like clockwork."

Bodie shifted his exhausted body slightly. "Ah, yes sir, but you see those blokes didn't have watches."

Cowley slammed one hand on his desk. "That's enough, 3.7! I know we're all tired, but I can't afford to have another agent out."

"Then why not cancel 4.5's suspension?" Bodie audaciously suggested.

Murphy just closed his eyes at Bodie's tactless remark.

Carefully, Cowley picked up the folders on his desk and then stacked them neatly. In his most reasonable voice, he spoke to Murphy, "6.2, you can leave now. You don't have to report for twenty-four hours so use this chance to get some rest."

Grateful to escape, Murph pushed his tall figure up out of the chair and with the briefest of thanks, left.

The Scotsman said nothing for a minute, letting Bodie wait for his possible retribution. To the surprise of the younger man, it didn't come in the form that he had anticipated. "Bodie, I won't have any man question my decisions. You signed on the dotted line and you take orders--my orders--as I see fit. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir, it's just...."

"Bodie! I will not repeat myself. 4.5 was suspended on my orders. That is all I'm going to say. Tomorrow you will spend the day doing your report and working in Records. The next day you will leave for an assignment near Liverpool. I estimate that you will be gone a minimum of ten days. Pack accordingly. Dismissed."

"Now, wait a minute...."

"Do you want to be suspended as well?" Cowley's face was as hard as granite.

The dark head twitched slightly. "No, sir," he confessed.

"Then do as you're told. By the time you return from your assignment, 4.5 will have completed his suspension and your partnership can return to normal. By the way, I want your report on the drug runners by 0900 tomorrow. 6.2 will be doing the follow up on the carriers."

"I'll get it done," he acknowledged.

"Good. Go home now and get some sleep. You look like you can use it."

"Yes, sir." Bodie left without another word. When he reached the car park, he slumped into the driver's seat, not sure what to do. He was tired, but an early night didn't appeal. His mind and body were too restless to take Cowley's advice. Instead, he decided to stop by Doyle's flat. Perhaps he could convince the curly-haired golli to tell him about the reasons behind the suspension. At least then he wouldn't have that on his mind when he was on his Liverpool assignment.

Putting the Capri into gear, he left with a defiant air and a two-fingered salute.

The drive to Ray's flat wasn't a long one. In fact there were times when Bodie was sure his motor could do it without someone at the wheel since he frequently spent after work hours with his best mate.

The two partners, after a rocky beginning, had become almost inseparable, spending their work time together as well as double dating on occasions and even having spent their last so-called holiday together. Unfortunately, George Cowley in his august wisdom had called in his best unit after only four days instead of the prescribed week.

After the hostage crisis had been taken care of, Doyle--as only he could--had questioned the Controller about the remaining three days owed to them. Cowley hadn't blinked. He had just reminded 4.5 that he had had an extended holiday just a few months before.

Stunned, Doyle had protested huskily. "Don't think almost dyin' from those two bullets was much of a holiday, sir!"

Bodie, of course, had agreed. The weeks and months of Ray's recuperation from Mayli's bullets had been a nightmare for both men. The threat that their partnership was over had created an aura of fear, one that hadn't ended even after Doyle's return to duty and their success against Dawson, Rahad and Avery. Both men knew it could so easily happen again and if it did there was no guarantee that there would be another chance.

Pulling up to the kerb, Bodie bounded out of the car, pushed the buzzer to Doyle's flat with impatience and waited. When there was no answer, he tried again, but the result was the same. Doyle wasn't home. Chiding himself for his assumption that Ray would just hang around with time off on his hands, Bodie climbed back into the Capri. Most likely Doyle had found a bird to comfort him in his hour of sorrow.

Frustrated about losing his chance to interrogate 4.5, Bodie rapidly went through his options in his mind. He could always call a willing bird. A long, slow fuck would help release his tension, but even better would be a hard, fast fuck of a strong partner, a strong male partner.

During his years at CI5 he had rarely availed himself of that option. He had made do with birds since they were safer. He had no desire to screw himself out of a job, but sometimes--just sometimes--he was willing to take the risk. Tonight was one of those times. That was the beauty of male sex--no hearts and flowers. The two men decided what they needed and got down to it. Names weren't even a necessity although Bodie usually asked, knowing that the name was likely to be fake anyway.

A tingle of desire and need washed through his body. He knew just where to go and since it was still early yet, he could go home, shower and dress as a man on the make. It shouldn't take long to find a man who would fit the bill and then, well, then they could flip for top or bottom. At that moment he didn't care which it was, he just wanted.

Ninety minutes later Bodie walked into the club known as Chez Homme. It was dark, cool and scented with hormones, much like Bodie himself. He had dressed in his tightest black trousers and only a black polo neck jumper. No layers of protective clothing on this jaunt. It was get in and get out fast.

On his way to the bar, his arse was caressed or frankly groped several times. Bodie had only smiled to himself although he had given his patented glower to one heavy-handed man who had immediately broken into a sweat before heading to the loo.

Asking for a scotch, he leant against the bar, letting those around him see what was on offer. They would come to him; they always did.

One or two brave or crazy individuals made their bids, but were ignored. Bodie wanted a man, not a boy with pretensions. Finally, a tall well-built man with a head of red hair made his way through the throngs to his side. "Want to dance?"

"Not really. Prefer to save my energy." Bodie didn't even look at the man.

"Got plans for later, have you?" The stranger was practically licking his lips.


"Mind if I buy you a drink then unless you're saving your throat muscles too?" The redhead teased daringly.

Bodie looked into the greyish-green eyes staring at him. "I'll have a double."

The stranger whipped out his money, handing it over when the two drinks were ready. "Come here often?"

Bodie almost groaned at the line and then reminded himself that it wasn't a witty partner he was looking for. The man beside him would never pass the CI5 physical, but he was fit, probably playing tennis once a week at his club. Bodie dragged his tongue across his lips before replying, "Not often. No need to. How about you?"

The redhead looked at him suspiciously, debated for a second and then replied, "Don't get down to the Smoke often."

Bodie nodded. Man probably had a wife and kiddies at home. "So what are you looking for?" Bluntness sometimes paid dividends.

The other man blinked, started to stammer and then blurted out, "Sex."

Bodie almost smiled, but instead he gave the man credit for knowing what he wanted. "Good. So am I. Nothin' too heavy, just a good time for all."

The redhead sighed with relief. "Haven't...haven't done this much. Was afraid you might go in for the rough stuff."

"Why would you think that?" Bodie inquired.

"You look like you know your way around. Didn't think you'd even speak to me."

"So why try?" Bodie didn't want to make this too easy.

"Because you're the best looking man in here, except for that guy out there on the dance floor. Tried to chat him up earlier and his mate almost handed me my head," he replied with a refreshing honesty.

"Trespassed on somebody's territory, did you?"

"Yeah, of course I should have known better. Man who looks like he does was bound to be taken. Surprised somebody hasn't put their mark on you too."

Body moved closer to the red-haired man. "Listen, nobody owns me. Anybody tries and they always regret it."

"S-sure. I understand. 'S just a bit of fun, right?" The redhead nearly started to babble.

"Right. You got a name?"

"Br-ruce. You?"

"Phil, just Phil. Ready to go?"

Bruce nodded and then hesitated. "Let's go to my hotel."

"No hotels. This place has rooms upstairs. There's always one or two free." Bodie started to lead the way through the crowd. He had availed himself of the rooms upstairs before. They were small but clean and the management provided an assortment of lubes and condoms.

With his long strides he and Bruce were nearly across the room when Bodie halted. Just ahead but over in a corner was a figure he'd know anywhere, the auburn curls and fantastic arse could belong to only one man. Doyle was curled around another man. In fact, he was almost in the other bloke's lap as he tried to devour the mouth underneath his.

Behind him, Bruce stepped close enough for Bodie to feel his nudging cock. "What'd you stop for?"

Bodie said nothing, but just then Bruce caught sight of the auburn-haired man. "Oh him? What an arse, huh? Would I like to stick my prick up that!"

The CI5 man ached to smash his fist in Bruce's soft gut, but he didn't want to call attention to himself so he grabbed Bruce's tie, pulling him into a detour towards the stairs. By the time they were half way up, Bruce was gasping for air, but he continued to follow behind.

At the entrance to the rooms, Bodie threw down the required bills to the attendant, took a key and pushed Bruce into the correct room. Without another word 'Phil' began to strip.

Bruce just stood there as the angry red cock emerged from the black trousers. "I...I'm not sure this is a good idea. You're bigger than I thought."

"It's not how big you are, it's what you do with it. Don't worry, I'm not gonna rape you. Not my style. Now, do you want this or not?" Bodie started to put the trousers on again.

"Yes, yes, I do," Bruce replied eagerly. Removing his clothes, he threw himself on the bed. "Just go slow. Only been fucked once before."

Bodie almost backed out then. He needed to do it hard, not take it easy with a novice, but his cock had a mind of its own so he rolled on the condom, got out the lube and used a lot on both himself and Bruce.

With one quick thrust he was in. The big body underneath shuddered at the intrusion, but Bruce said nothing as Bodie started to move. Restraining himself wasn't easy, but Bodie had always prided himself on his control. It wasn't the redhead's fault that Ray Doyle was a tart.

Changing his angle, Bodie hit Bruce's prostate. The other man grunted, gasping out, "More."

"Like that, do you? Didn't the other bloke do that to you?"

"No, he...I was so tight he came right away. Do it again!"

Bodie complied, riding Bruce's arse with a skill the other man had never imagined.

"Up on your knees!"

Bruce struggled up, grasping his own cock feverishly as soon as he could breathe deeper.

Together they found the perfect rhythm to satisfy themselves. Bruce exploded first with Bodie not far behind. Covered in sweat, Bodie sank down on the bed for a moment's rest. "You okay?" He breathed softly.

"Fine. I'll be sore tomorrow, but it was worth it," Bruce admitted.

"Take a hot bath and use some antiseptic cream. 've paid for another thirty minutes so rest a bit." Grabbing up his clothes, Bodie started to dress.

"You're leaving?"

"Got things to do; places to go."


"No sweat. Piece of advice though. You're playin' with fire. Go home to the wife and kids."

"How...?" Bruce's chin dropped down to his chest. "Can't...can't give it up. Only time I feel alive. You know how that is?"

"Yeh, I know how it is, but just be sure you're willin' to pay the price."

Bodie slammed the door behind him, moving out into the corridor where he heard voices. Waiting for a moment in the shadows, he watched as Doyle unlocked a door just down the way. As he stepped into the room, Bodie could finally see the man Doyle had been kissing. 3.7's belly clenched into a knot as the dark head of Ben Stuart bent over to kiss 4.5. Doyle pulled 3.3 into the room and shut the door.

The trip back to his flat was a blur. He'd known in the back of his mind that Stuart fancied Ray, but he'd never imagined that Doyle might want the slim dark-haired man in return.

Once safely inside his flat, he poured out a measure of scotch, drinking it down. The burn felt good on the back of his throat as darkness took over his thoughts. Stuart had obviously lied to him about not knowing why Doyle had been suspended. Without a moment's hesitation, Bodie threw the tumbler at a nearby wall. The shattered crystal seemed to mock him as Stuart had done. The bastard had probably laughed when he had told his lover of Bodie's questions. Lover--just the word sent cold shivers down 3.7's spine. Doyle had never evinced an interest in men before. Why now with Stuart?

Even in CI5 Stuart was known to be a tad quirky. Basically a loner, the so-called 'King of South London' had an arrogance about him that didn't promote close friendships in the mob. Indeed, Bodie had been astonished that Stuart would show up at the pub with Ray after John Parker's rescue. At the time Bodie had been more interested in Gerda Helm's attributes than learning more about Ben Stuart, however, that had changed when Stuart made a point of chatting up Ray Doyle.

"Bastard!" Unfortunately, at that moment, Bodie wasn't sure which man he meant: the interloper or his heretofore best mate.

Filling another tumbler with the amber liquid, Bodie decided to take a hot shower then get some sleep. One more day at headquarters to finish up his report and then he'd be on his way to Liverpool and away from any contact with Ray. When he returned, he'd decide whether he could stomach continuing as Doyle's partner. Perhaps it would be better to let Stuart watch Ray's back. No doubt, Stuart would do it with loving care, judging by what Bodie had seen at Chez Homme.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Doyle glanced over at the supine man on the other side. "You're sure that's all Bodie said? Can't believe he din't rattle your teeth tryin' to find out more."

"We were in the rest room, Ray. 'Sides it'll do the arrogant bastard good to be in the dark for awhile. Takes you for granted."

Doyle sighed as he pulled his boots off. He was tired and this assignment had just begun. "Told you, Bodie's all right. No one better at watching my back."

Stuart sat up, inching nearer Doyle. "Then why am I here and not him? Why did you tell Cowley you'd only work undercover if Bodie wasn't involved?"

The jade green eyes softened slightly as they took in the hungry look on Stuart's face. "'Cause I knew you could do the job. 've seen that look on your face before."

Stuart lay down on the bed again, his hands under his head. "Alright, so I fancy you. After that act you put on downstairs, you're not going to tell me that you've never done this before."

"No, I'm not gonna tell you that, but it's been awhile. When Cowley put this assignment to me, I almost turned him down. Knew Bodie wouldn't want, well, he wouldn't want any part of it so I suggested you."

Stuart grimaced at the cruelty of the remark. "Blunt little sod, aren't you?"

"Only doin' my job, Ben. You know that. You didn't have to say you'd do it," Doyle reminded him

"I suppose." Stuart turned on his side, facing Doyle. "Hope you're going to be the one to tell Bodie it was all a set up if he finds out. Don't fancy him twisting my head off. He's already sure I'm after you as a partner."

"That's why Cowley's sendin' him to Liverpool. By the time he gets back, Gabriel should be in the nick."

"You really think Gabriel's going to risk coming after you?" Stuart probed.

"Cowley thinks so. Last two men Gabriel picked up in this club could be me twins, 'cept for the age difference."

"And that's why you've been here the last couple of nights?"

Doyle rubbed one hand over his face. "Thought I'd give him a preview, but he didn't show. Bastard! Don't fancy doin' this every night. 'd rather get it over with."

"Ray, you never did tell me why Cowley is using you to get to Gabriel."

"Man's a drug dealer, arms dealer and first cousin to the Devil himself. Uses people like you eat bacon rolls. One of those two men was only eighteen and the grandson of an army mate of Cowley's. After Gabriel used him, he was shot full of heroin and then dumped in a river. He wasn't found for three days. Not a pretty sight according to the photos."

Stuart flinched. He'd seen many bodies in his five years as an active agent, but floaters were some of the worst. "But why do you need me? Would've thought you'd be more appealing without a protector?"

"Smug sonofabitch thinks he's irresistible. Likes the thrill of taking his victim away from a lover. He can't resist someone as possessive as you've shown yourself to be," Doyle pointed out.

"So I'm just supposed to stand there and let you go off with him?"

Doyle frowned. "'Course not. You'll have to object or he'll get suspicious. Might even have to take a knock or two."

"And what will you have to take?" Stuart stared intently at Doyle. "I can handle what you want me to do, but I can't handle what they might do to you."

"'S my job. If I can stop this man, it'll be worth it."

"To you maybe, but what about me--and Bodie?"

"Leave Bodie out of this! You just do your job! You're my backup. Once I hook up with Gabriel, all you have to do is play the jealous, rejected lover. You should be good at that!"

Stuart grabbed Doyle by the arm. "What the hell's the matter with you? Thought we were friends if nothing else. What'd I do to make you behave like this?"

Jade eyes held brown. "Nothin', nothin' at all," Ray whispered. "I just want this to be over. Sorry, Ben, I shouldn't have involved you. I've mucked this up. When Cowley told me what he wanted, I couldn't let Bodie get involved. Din't mean to use you like this."

Stuart reached out one large hand to caress Ray's damaged cheekbone. "Can't complain too much. I'm the one who ragged you about back up before. Guess this is my chance to return the favour. Just wish I was sure you'd come out of this in one piece."

"'ll do my best. Least he doesn't know he's dealing with a trained agent, 'stead of some eighteen year old kid. Cowley's going to owe both of us a bottle of scotch for this one!" Doyle winked at the other man who took a deep breath and then leaned forward to kiss Ray.

4.5 didn't move nor did he respond. He knew what Stuart wanted from him, but it wasn't possible.

Rocking back on his heels, Stuart whispered, "Sorry. Couldn't resist. I've wanted to do that since that day we were standing out on the embankment by the Thames. Hasn't been easy having you crawl all over me."

"Yeh, I could feel how tense you were." With one hand he unconsciously rubbed the scar in the furred skin around his heart. "Didn't really want to do this one, but Cowley insisted it had to be me. Been thinkin' maybe it's time to get out of the mob. 'm tired of gettin' shot 'n beaten by sadists like Parker. Wanted to kill him."

Stuart wiped away a small trickle of sweat at Doyle's temple. "I was undercover when I heard about your being shot by that girl. Wanted to come to see you, but I couldn't."

"'S okay. Din't feel much like company for quite awhile."

"Except for Bodie."

Doyle didn't look at his friend. "Not even him sometimes. Had that look in his eye, that accusing look. Hated seeing it there."

"What look?"

"One that said it was my fault for forgettin' the lock. Never read me the riot act like Cowley, but I could see how much I'd lost."

"You're not making sense!"

"Not surprised at that. 's like the dreams I had when I was lyin' there. Nothing's in focus. Sometimes I still think I'm dreamin' and I'll wake up and everything will be back to where it was before I walked into my flat that day."

"Maybe you should have taken more time off?" Stuart's concern was written on his face.

"No! I needed back on the streets. Couldn't let Bodie be out there alone, even if he didn't trust me the way he did before."

Stuart blinked in bewilderment. "But I thought he came after you despite Cowley's orders during that operation with Colonel Ojuka?"

"Heard about that, did you?" Doyle took a deep breath. "Shouldn't have let that bitch in the door. Let the Colonel and that poor girl down."

"You had no way of knowing! Cowley should have let you know sooner that she wasn't to be trusted. Old man's always talkin' double-think but he let her outfox him on that one.'

" do you know so much about what happened?"

"I've made it my business to keep up-to-date with what you've been doing," Stuart admitted. "Thought you might need a friend sometime."

"You're already that. We worked damn well together. Hadn't been for what you found out about the men with the bowlers, John Parker might be dead."

3.3 licked his lips and then quietly commented, "But I'm not Bodie."

There was nothing to be said to that.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. "Time's up in there! It'll cost you more money if you want to stay longer."

"Guess we might as well call it a night. Gabriel's not likely to show," Doyle conceded.

"Right," Stuart agreed. "I'll meet you here tomorrow night." Standing up, he could see Ray hesitate. "Something wrong?"

"Just wondered if you wanted to stop by a pub and have a quick one? All this talk's made me thirsty."

"Sure. Why not? My local's not far from here. Will that do?" Stuart asked.

"Won't cause trouble bein' dressed like this, will it?"

"Nah, they're used to seeing me in different outfits. Besides you look great in that leather."

"Hot though. Think I'll wear a muscle shirt tomorrow night. Be cooler."

"Guess so," Stuart remarked sadly. He loved the way the shirt with the pulled down zipper looked on Doyle. It was all he could do not to grab him for another kiss.

"Let's go then. You've got to report in to the Cow tomorrow."

"Yeah, while you sleep in!"

Doyle's delicious laugh stirred Stuart's cock. "Has to be some perks to bein' suspended. Need my beauty sleep if Gabriel's going to look twice at me."

"No worry about that, mate. He'd have to be dead for a fortnight not to notice you." Stuart led the way out of the room and down the stairs with Doyle following close behind.

At 0900 Stuart parked his lean backside in one of the chairs outside Cowley's office. He knew it wouldn't take long to deliver his daily report to the Controller. The report had been the same for the last three days. Gabriel hadn't been seen at his favourite club so there had been little that either he or Doyle could do.

Sitting there, Stuart appraised the situation coolly. How long Cowley would be willing to keep the two of them undercover was the big question. Both men were good at their jobs, but they were also too valuable to waste their time in a hopeless cause. It was always possible that Gabriel had decided to get his jollies in other ways. Still, it was obvious that Cowley was determined to get Gabriel, even at the cost of some bumps and bruises to Ray Doyle or least Stuart hoped that his friend would have to suffer no more than that.

Since the Parker case, Stuart had found himself thinking about the auburn-haired man a great deal. Doyle's reputation for a hot temper, skill with a handgun, and loyalty was well-known to even the newest CI5 recruit. In fact the 3.7/4.5 unit was almost legendary.

Reputations didn't mean much to Stuart. He worked alone and was proud of it, but then Cowley had assigned him to help Doyle find the kidnapped Henry and Mrs. Parker. Doyle's firm support of 3.7 had hit just right--then, but in the ensuing days, Stuart began to think differently. He needed to know just what the relationship between Bodie and Doyle truly entailed. Being good partners was one thing; however, he had heard the rumours that the two men were lovers. Lake had adamantly denied that, but Doyle's motives for keeping his partner in the dark about this assignment still puzzled 3.3.

Shifting his long-limbed body, he straightened up when the door to Cowley's office opened. Bodie walked out. For one moment the bigger man just looked at Stuart with hatred and then strode past. Stuart couldn't help shuddering, but he shrugged off the feeling before entering the Controller's office. Cowley needed his report.

Ray Doyle arrived at Chez Homme early that evening. Dressed in a dark green muscle shirt and extremely tight green moleskins, the agent took a seat where he could see the entrance to the club. Sipping at the gin and tonic in front of him, he waited for Stuart to put in an appearance. Then the show could begin.

Thirty minutes later Stuart walked in. Doyle practically pounced on the other man. "Kiss me," he hissed in Stuart's ear. "He came in ten minutes ago."

Stuart didn't hesitate. Taking the other man in his arms, he openly groped Doyle's bum while probing Ray's mouth deeply. Reluctant to let go of Doyle, he held onto the sexy man in his arms. "Let's dance."

Doyle nodded, leading the other man to the small dance floor. This early in the evening they had the floor practically to themselves so all eyes were on the two slim figures who danced crotch to crotch. With a little wiggle, Ray moved impossibly nearer to Stuart who gasped, "If you do that again, I'm going to come right here."

"'S that a challenge?" Doyle nibbled at one earlobe. "Don't think you really want to find out."

Stuart groaned. He had wanted this moment from Doyle since they had worked together, but it was only pretend. Shrugging off his doubts, he pulled Doyle closer, plundering the generous mouth in front of him. It was all that he could have imagined and Ray couldn't push him away.

In the middle of the unforgettable kiss, Stuart felt a tap on his arm and heard a harsh, raspy voice, "Mind if I dance with your partner?"

Doyle pulled away from Stuart. "Sorry, I prefer to dance with my friend."

Hammond Gabriel perused the delectable man in front of him. The mussed curls, slightly bruised mouth and made-for-sex body intrigued him. "Surely your...partner won't object to one dance? I promise to return you to him in one piece."

"He said he doesn't want to dance!" Stuart knew what was expected of him.

"Down boy! The man can speak for himself. He doesn't need a nanny!" Gabriel announced.

Stuart's angular face reddened. "I said he doesn't want to dance and frankly I don't think you're man enough to take him away from me!" Stuart made a grab for Gabriel's collar, intending to land a blow when Ray stopped him.

"It's all right, Ben. I'll dance with the man ONCE. Get yourself a drink. This won't take long."

Pretending to be mollified, Stuart grazed Doyle's lips with a kiss and then took himself to the bar. Ordering a double, he gulped it down. Just the sight of the slim, beautiful figure of Ray Doyle in the arms of the shorter, heavy set Gabriel caused his insides to clench.

Gabriel was a good dancer; even Doyle had to acknowledge that. Despite his larger bulk he moved with a grace all of his own. The man's dark face wasn't all that unpleasant either although he really didn't go in for moustaches. In fact with his dark eyes and hair he might even be attractive in some ways. It was no wonder that some gullible young men might find themselves drawn to the man, only to find out later what horror the man represented.

"You're an excellent dancer." Might as well get down to it. He was sure that Gabriel was the type to lap up flattery.

"Thank you. I might say the same for you. You dance like you move--with your whole body." Gabriel smiled at the CI5 man.

"Have you been watching me then?" Doyle wiggled his hips provocatively.

"Every man in the club has been watching you. You are unique, but then I'm sure you know that." Gabriel licked his lips.

"I suppose I do, but it's...stimulating to know that other men recognize it."

Gabriel chuckled. "I like that. No false modesty. I'm sure you've had many...admirers?"

"My share. Most of 'em are just short term though."

"Would you say that's true about your companion? He seems rather possessive." Gabriel tightened his hold on his dance partner.

"Ben? He does like to think he owns me. He's okay though; keeps the riff-raff away," Doyle observed.

"I can see why that might appeal to you. There are so many...unsuitable men out there who would like to get their hands on you."

"Right." Ray flashed him a chip-toothed smile. "'e does a good job of it too."

"I could do better." Gabriel surreptitiously rubbed his groin against Doyle's.

It took all of 4.5's training to control himself so he didn't flinch at the unwelcome move. "What makes you think I'm looking to change partners?"

"Perhaps you're not, but that doesn't mean we couldn't be...friends. Why don't we spend some time together? I have a home just outside London. There's a tennis court. I'm sure you look beautiful in whites."

"'S not my best game." Doyle fluttered his lashes at the other man.

"Oh? What games are more to your taste?"

"Squash if I want to work up a real sweat although there are more enjoyable ways to do so."

"True but then I also have a pool so that you could cool off."

"Sounds delicious," Ray growled in Gabriel's ear.

Neither man noticed the approach of Stuart, who stood just off the floor for a moment, his arms folded over his chest. Suddenly, he made his move, grabbing Ray by the arm. "Ray, the dance is over!"

Doyle gave him a look of disgruntled recognition. "What? Oh, it's you. Mr...." He turned to the shorter man. "Sorry, I don't know your name."

"Hammond Gabriel. And your name is Ray?"

"Ray Duncan actually. This is my friend Ben."

"C'mon, Ray, let's get out of here!" Stuart increased the pressure on Doyle's arm.

Doyle pulled his arm loose. "I'll go when I'm ready. Go get yourself another drink. Mr Gabriel is an excellent dancer. I was enjoying myself."

"I don't give a fuck what he does!" Stuart's grim face focussed on his supposed lover. "You're with me and I don't share!"

Gabriel took a step towards Stuart. "I believe you have worn out your welcome in this club. Leave now or you'll be thrown out."

"Now, just a minute!" Stuart planted himself right in front of Gabriel. "You have no right to make me leave!"

"Ah but I do. This is my club and you are annoying me." Gabriel smirked openly.

"Uh, well...." Stuart hesitated. "C'mon, Ray, let's get out of here." Stuart started for the door, but Doyle didn't follow. Stuart stopped, his eyes pleading.

"Sorry, Ben. I think I'll stay awhile. You go on; I'll call you tomorrow."

Without another word, Doyle slipped into Gabriel's arms as the music started up again. Neither man even noticed Stuart leave the club.

Doyle, in his green Speedos, cut cleanly through the aqua blue water of Hammond Gabriel's pool. The sparkling water was just the right temperature, refreshing but warm enough not to chill the bones.

By the side of the pool, Gabriel watched as the man with the so-enticing body finished another lap, did a tuck turn and sped on his way. Ray had been his guest for two days. In that time, he had discovered that the curly-haired man played a mean game of squash, never giving an inch. He also appreciated good wine, but seemed mostly indifferent to the excellent cooking that Gabriel's chef provided. Discovering that had momentarily disturbed Gabriel. Food was a pleasure to the older man; he didn't like picky eaters although he could understand that Duncan didn't want to lose his trim good looks. After all Duncan, like most of his type, depended on their beauty to survive.

That was the main reason he also didn't object to the amount of time Ray spent in the pool, keeping fit. Just the sight of the wiry body emerging from the pool with drops of water caught in the curls on his head and the hair on his chest was enough to send a surge of lust through Gabriel. Ray's well-defined musculature was also quite pleasing to the eye. Gabriel liked hard men; ones who could his endure his lovemaking until he tired of them.

Once or twice he had tried softer, younger men, but they had giggled or whined when he took what he wanted from them. Men like Ray Duncan were few and far between, despite his less-than-blatant masculine looks. The scars that adorned Ray's beautiful body spoke of a difficult life, not one of pampering.

For two days he had waited, letting Duncan relax and become adjusted to a life of luxury; however, Gabriel had decided that tonight Duncan would find out the cost of that luxury.

"Hand me that towel, will you?"

Gabriel looked up into green eyes, slightly rimmed with red. "Enjoy your swim?"

"Yeh, could get used to this," Ray admitted as he towelled off. Wrapping the damp towel around his middle, he stretched out on one of the beach chairs. "Too bad I can't stay past tomorrow."

"Why can't you? You can see there's plenty of room," Gabriel cajoled.

"Yeh but I should get back. Ben's probably furious with me."

"What do you care about him? He didn't even care enough to fight for you."

"Guess that's true, but he treats me good. Haven't had to worry about this kind of thing," Ray pointed to his damaged cheekbone, "since we got together."

Gabriel leant closer to Doyle. "I'd have killed the man who did that to you."

"Wasn't a man. Me mum caught me havin' it off with my friend, Nick, when I was sixteen. She hit me with a pan. Was in hospital for weeks and when I got out, I took off. Haven't been back there since."

"So you don't have anyone but...Ben?" Gabriel inquired solicitously.

"'S right. Ray Duncan does for himself. 's just nice to have Ben scare off the big ones. Ben can be right nasty if he wants."

"You don't need Ben. I'd be happy to be your protector," the older man smoothly assured him.

"Why would you do that? Lots of blokes out there like me."

"They might have your looks, but you're something special. I told you that the night we met."

"So you did, but what's in it for you?" As Ray sat up, the towel slipped off his damp body.

"You, of course. you. I can be a very good lover, and I'm sure you'll be an exciting one."

Ray pretended to think it over for a moment. "Not sayin' you love me, are you?"

"Of course not, but I think we can please each other and you can stay here. I need to be in the City quite often, but you can enjoy yourself here and then when I return, we can have a...reunion."

"You want me to be your rentboy?" Ray tried to sound indignant.

"I suppose you could say that, but you need a protector and I need someone beautiful in my bed. I think that's a fair exchange."

"S'ppose we could give it a try, but I can leave anytime, no questions asked?" He didn't want to appear to give in too easily.

"Of course not. You're not a prisoner. So what do you say?"

"My briefs are cold 'n damp."


"Maybe we should go upstairs to me bedroom so you can take 'em off for me." Doyle gave him his sexiest leer.

"Maybe we should. I definitely don't want you to be cold." Gabriel grabbed Ray's hand, practically dragging him into the house.

The next few days went smoothly. Gabriel's lovemaking was enthusiastic but not sadistic. He enjoyed rough sex, always demanding submission from his partner, but was also quite solicitous of any minor injuries caused by the rough play. Ray endured all with gritted teeth. He had suffered worse at the hands of a real nutter whilst he was undercover for the Met.

The hardest part was pretending pleasure when called upon to service the other man with his mouth. Gabriel was big and thick, making it difficult for Ray to accommodate the man. The first time he had performed fellatio, he had been sure that Gabriel intended to choke him with his thrusts, but then the dark-haired man backed off, apologising for his thoughtlessness.

Surprisingly, his fucking technique relied on brevity. Gabriel went at it hard, but it didn't take long for him to get off inside Doyle's body. Within in moments of completion, he would fall asleep, leaving Doyle grateful and relieved to be left alone.

As soon as he was sure that Gabriel was deeply asleep, he'd get out of bed to luxuriate in the huge shower that graced the marble bathroom. Unfortunately, he had to return to the big bed since Gabriel expected him to be there all night, but at least he could get some sleep.

Four days after their first night in bed together, Gabriel drove into the City, leaving Doyle alone for the first time. Taking advantage of this chance, Doyle let himself into Gabriel's study. It wasn't likely that any incriminating papers would be left lying around, but he needed to study the layout. When CI5 raided the house, they'd need details to insure that they secured all the evidence of the man's nefarious affairs.

Well-versed in such search techniques, Doyle didn't hesitate to examine the paintings, the book shelves and any other potential hiding place. Remembering the memorable search conducted at the homes of Sir Lionel Laverton and Kabil Kammahmi, Doyle took particular care with the book shelves. Using a small torch, he soon discovered that it was likely that some kind of hidey hole was behind the shelves. Excited by his discovery, Doyle noted the various areas that would need to be checked out when CI5 made its move.

Returning to his room, he tugged on his red Speedos and went for a refreshing dip in the pool. By the time he had finished his fiftieth lap, Gabriel was back. Dressed in his expensive suit, Gabriel stood by the side of the pool watching Doyle swim. The sun on his back sent a trickle of sweat down the big man's back. He wanted to be out of his suit, he wanted to feel that cool, slender body in his arms. He wanted to be inside Duncan, forcing him to take all of his cock, making Duncan acknowledge him as his master.

Not able to control his desires, he yelled the swimmer's name which Ray didn't hear immediately. By the time he did swim to the side of the pool, Gabriel was in a fever of need, ripping off his clothes until he was fully exposed to the slight breeze from the nearby trees. Desperate, he pulled Doyle from the pool, forcing him down on the deck.

For one moment, Ray considered fighting back, but he knew he was in a vulnerable position. He had no friends in the house and certainly Gabriel wouldn't hesitate to use extreme violence against him. Better to submit and survive the encounter. Gabriel usually rode out his desire quite quickly and then it would be over.

Slamming Ray's head down on the deck, Gabriel pulled down the red briefs, parted the white cheeks and forced his way inside the wet body. Pumping his shaft in and out, he ignored any murmurs of pain, lost in his need for release and punishment of the man underneath him. Finally, it was over. His cock withered and slipped out of the tight place. Staggering to his feet, he slowly moved towards the house, leaving Ray on the deck.

Dazed, Ray lay there for awhile before painfully getting to his feet. Pulling up the Speedos, he made his way to his room where he cleaned himself up, poured a drink and then went to lie down on his bed. Chilled by what had happened, he stripped off the wet Speedos, using the duvet on his bed to stop the shivers.

There was a knock on the door. Pulling the duvet tighter around his shoulders, he tried to ignore the sound, but since there was no lock, he knew that nothing could stop Gabriel if he chose to enter.

The door opened. "Ray?" The big man, now dressed in a flowered shirt and casual trousers, entered. "Are you all right? I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. I saw you like that and I had to have you. Do you need a doctor?"

Doyle shook his head. "Jus' leave me alone," he whispered.

"Ray, please. You don't know what you do to me! Tell me how I can make it up to you," Gabriel pleaded.

"Go 'way. 'll be all right. Need s-sleep."

"Of course. If you need a doctor, you just have to say. I have a physician who can come at a moments notice."

"Jus' need t'sleep."

Gabriel stood there silently for a moment and then left.

Ray shivered again. He knew it was time to end the charade and get out. The next time Gabriel lost control of himself; the CI5 agent knew he might not be so lucky.

Hours later darkness filled the room as Doyle slowly awoke. Stretching his body tentatively he was pleased that the pain had lessened somewhat. There had been only a small amount of blood so he felt certain that most of the damage was minor.

Needing to use the loo, he rolled off the bed, forcing himself up in one smooth action. After his many injuries, he'd found that this worked best rather than babying himself by moving slowly. Get it done and the pain would fade.

After relieving himself and gulping down a tumbler of water, he pulled on a comfortable track suit before returning to bed. If he appeared unable to move without pain, Gabriel might leave him alone for the rest of the night.

The thought had no more than entered his mind when there was a knock on the door, followed by Gabriel entering the room. "How are you, pet?"

Ray flinched. He hated to be referred in such a manner by a man he despised. "Sore," he muttered.

Gabriel came around to the side of the bed which dipped noticeably as he sat down. "I'm so sorry." Reaching out, he touched one of the bruises on Doyle's face. "If I promise not to...touch you, will you come downstairs for dinner?"

"'m not hungry but thanks."

"Nonsense, you need to eat." Gabriel grabbed one of Ray's hands. "I have an idea. I'll ask the chef to prepare a light meal and serve it in the film room. I have some new films that I think you'll find entertaining. Please," Gabriel pleaded.

Doyle thought it over. Perhaps it would be best to go along. There was no point in antagonising the man at this point. "Alright, I'll come with you, but don't be surprised if I fall asleep in the middle of the film."

"Oh, I don't think you'll do that," Gabriel purred, "but if you do, that's okay. You can always put your head on my lap."

Ray turned green. The thought revolted him, but he said nothing. Exaggerating his pain, he rose slowly.

"Let me help you," Gabriel offered.

"I can do it! Just show me where this room is."

"Oh that's right; I forgot you've never been there. I have hundreds of films and the finest of equipment of course."

"Of course."

Gabriel hovered nearby as Doyle walked slowly down the hallway to a small room which had a screen and projector. Along one wall were cabinets where the films were stored. Each drawer was labelled with its contents.

"I've put out the films I think you'll enjoy. You just sit down on the couch and look through them. I'm going downstairs to see what the chef can prepare for you. I'll be right back." The heavyset man scurried out the door.

"Don't hurry on my account," Doyle murmured to the empty air. He would watch one of the films and then insist on going back to his own room. Hopefully by tomorrow this time, he'd be out of this place.

A quick glance at the titles on the small table at his side told Doyle that the films were likely to be pornographic. He really wasn't in the mood to watch so he forced himself up to look at the titles on the drawers. Gabriel had eclectic tastes in films, everything from darkly dramatic films such as "Odd Man Out" to musicals.

Perusing the various drawers, Ray stopped when he came to the last one. There were no titles listed on that one. Assuming it was empty, he still pulled it open out of curiosity.

The drawer was full of small film reels; however, they were labelled only in code.

"What are you doing?"

Ray jumped when he heard Gabriel's voice. "Just lookin' for a film. Din't like any of those you picked."

Gabriel stared at him for a long moment, and then walked over to take the coded reel from his hand. "I haven't catalogued those yet."

"Oh. Well, then how about "The Third Man"?

Gabriel's eyes opened wide. "I didn't think you'd be interested in something like that."

"I like the music," Ray replied guilelessly.

"Alright then. Sit down then and I'll find it. The chef will be here in just a few moments with dinner." Gabriel set the unlabelled reel down on the table and started to look for the chosen film.

Swiftly, Ray grabbed up the reel, stuffing it inside his shirt.

It took Gabriel only a few moments to find the right film which he threaded onto the projector. "As soon as the chef brings the food, we'll start watching."

"Fine," Ray replied as he stretched out on the couch. He didn't want the big man anywhere near him.

Reluctantly, Gabriel took the nearby chair to wait. Thrumming his fingers on the table between the two pieces of furniture, he noticed that the reel was missing. "I thought I put the extra reel on this table?"

"Oh that? I put it back in the drawer," Ray smiled at the other man, his heart thumping wildly.

"Thank you. I don't want to lose any of them. My collection is quite special to me."

Just then the chef arrived with sandwiches, salad and various pastries. Helping himself to one of everything, Gabriel asked, "Ready to watch now?"

Doyle nodded, grateful when the lights went out so that he could immerse himself in the intrigues of Cold War Vienna. As the images flickered across the screen, he allowed himself the luxury of remembering the exchange of conversation he'd had with Bodie during the Thomas Darby op. Bodie had been enamoured of the attributes of the female star, but then Bodie would never fail to notice an attractive bird or give up the chance to entice her to his bed. Bodie was good at that as he was good at so many things.

Sighing under his breath, he could hardly wait to have this assignment done and go back to the pursuit of villains on the street. It could be a dirty, violent business, but protecting Bodie's back meant a great deal to 4.5. In a way that was the reason for this whole mess with Gabriel--Doyle doing his utmost to protect his partner.

Caught up in the memory of the times that he'd spent with Bodie, Ray didn't even realise the film was over until it began to flap wildly against the reel.

Gabriel abruptly sat up, rubbing his eyes. "Must have gone to sleep."

"No problem. 'm tired myself. Think I'll go to bed now."

"I'd like you to come to my room tonight if you feel like it," Gabriel offered.

"Don' think 's a good idea. 'm still sore," Ray explained. The last thing he wanted to do was spend the night in the sadist's bed.

"I wouldn't touch you!" Gabriel exclaimed in horror.

"Sleep better on me own. Maybe tomorrow night." Of course Ray had no intention of being in the house the next night.

"Very well. I suppose I should be punished for taking such cruel advantage of your beautiful body, but that will only make our reconciliation that much sweeter." Gabriel flashed him a provocative smile.

"Yeh, guess so. See you tomorrow then."

Ray hurried out of the room. He wanted to examine the reel of film he had in his shirt so that he could return it to its rightful place. He had a hunch that it was more than just another film to be catalogued.

Turning on the light in his room, he held the transparent film up to the light. As it unrolled, Doyle began to feel sick. His copper's hunch had paid off. In his hand was a visual record of a murder. Even though it was difficult to tell details, he could see enough to tell him that Gabriel had personally shot the other man in the frame after using the victim sexually. Chilled by the cold-blooded behaviour of the man who had taken his slim body so brutally, Ray knew that this would be solid evidence against the drug dealer. It might also help to close several missing person cases, going back over the last five years. Doyle couldn't help but wonder how many lives Gabriel had destroyed in that time.

Rolling the film back onto the reel, Doyle slipped out of his own room. In a few quick strides he was back in the film room and had the reel in its place once again. Tomorrow CI5 would have all the evidence it needed to put Hammond Gabriel away for the rest of his life.

The sun had barely risen when Doyle rose, slipping on his blue Speedos. He would take a quick dip and then things would begin to happen.

Down the stairs and out into the early morning light, Ray barely noticed the lingering aches of the day before. Just knowing that this was the last time he would have to endure Gabriel's distasteful presence caused his spirits to soar.

Hitting the water with barely a ripple, Doyle started his laps, ignoring the chilly air. The warmth of the pool water soothed his body as he forced himself to keep going. He could do this; he knew he could. He'd made it back to the squad after nearly dying. What Gabriel had done was nothing compared to that. Back and forth, the length of the pool became his whole existence. Gabriel didn't know Ray Doyle. Ray Doyle didn't give up--ever.

At the end of the fiftieth lap, Ray pulled himself out of the pool, wrapped a towel around his shoulders and another around his middle. Shivering, he padded into the house and up the stairs to his room. A hot shower and he'd feel more like 4.5, not Gabriel's catamite.

Striding into his room, he started for the loo when he heard the door slam behind him. Swivelling around, he saw Gabriel standing there.

"Out early, weren't you, Raymond?" Gabriel moved towards him, his eyes dark pits of lust and anger.

"Felt like a swim," Ray tried to explain.

"Of course, you need to keep your beautiful body in shape, don't you? After all, it's only good for one thing, isn't it?"

Doyle started to back away. "Need to take a shower. 'm cold."

"Not as cold as you're going to be! I've heard that the dead become cold very quickly."

"Dead? Why would you want to do that? Thought you liked shaggin' me?" Bravado had worked in tight positions before.

"Oh, I do," Gabriel agreed, "but I can't trust you. You didn't return that reel of film soon enough last night. I went back to check that it was there. When the numbers didn't tally, I knew it had to be you who took it. Did you like what you saw?" Gabriel moved closer.

"Din't look at it, 'cept a few frames," Doyle lied.

"Of course, you didn't. Who do you work for anyway? Special Branch? The Yard? How much do they know? You couldn't have told them anything important. Once you're dead, their case will fall apart."

Gabriel moved in, his large hands aiming for Doyle's neck.

Ray aimed his kick for Gabriel's bollocks, but his aim was slightly off, hitting the softness of the big man's belly. Swaying with the ferocity of the kick, Gabriel yelled in pain. Like an injured bull he charged in, determined to break Ray's neck.

Using his speed, Ray nimbly moved out of the way. Knowing that his nearest potential weapon was the crystal decanter on the nearby table, he darted that way, grasping it by the neck. It was then that Gabriel pounced from behind.

Doyle went down as one massive hand pounded Ray's head into the floor. Hitting his already bruised face, Ray tried to remain conscious otherwise he knew he was dead.

Instinctively, he knew he had one chance. With a massive heave against the bulk on top of him, he used his remaining strength to swing the decanter in an arc against Gabriel's face.

Blood spurted everywhere as a horrible scream filled the room. Pulling himself out from under the man on top, Ray watched in horror as Gabriel clutched at his sliced throat. The blood continued to spurt until the injured man sank down on the floor, quivering in his death agony.

It was then that Doyle heard the sound of running feet in the hallway. Gabriel's men. It wouldn't take them long to check where the scream had originated. Without a shooter, Ray knew he could never hope to defeat all of them. There was only one other way out of the room and he took it.

Pulling open the French door which led to a balcony, Doyle climbed out then lowered himself off the cast iron frame. It wasn't that long of a drop, but a broken leg would probably condemn him to die at the hands of his pursuers. Shaking off the chill of fear, Doyle closed his eyes and let himself drop.

Rolling as Macklin had taught him so many years before, he avoided a broken leg, but one arm took the brunt of the fall. He could hear the crack of the bone and feel nausea already rising in his stomach, but there was no time to think. He had to run. He had to find safety.

Taking off in a lop-sided jog towards the gate in the outer fence, he focussed on his goal, ignoring the chilling wind on his nearly naked body, ignoring the pain that radiated from his left side where he had hit the ground.

100 feet became fifty. He could easily see the gate, even though his eyes didn't seem to focus correctly. It was there; he knew it was there. He just had to have the will to make it. There was no Bodie to rescue him this time. His partner was hundreds of miles away. Sobbing as it became harder to breathe and his legs turned to lead, he struggled to keep upright.

Then to his amazement the gate opened. He hadn't touched it and the gate opened. Fear shuddered through his aching body. If Gabriel's men were on the other side, he was dead.

A tall, dark-haired man walked through the gate, coming straight towards him. "Stuart?" Ray whispered. His head hurt, his left side hurt, his whole life hurt as he slipped to the ground and into darkness where pain was unknown.

Doyle's eyes opened reluctantly. He'd done this too many times. Returning to consciousness usually meant a return to pain, but at least pain meant he was still alive.

"Ray?" Ben Stuart moved next to the bed. "It's all right. You're in hospital. Don't move too much. You've broken your arm and cracked a couple of ribs, not to mention having enough bruises to cover a rugger team."

"Not surprised. Din' exactly walk down the stairs gettin' out."

"Not to mention exiting in such sartorial splendour." Stuart winked at the patient.

Doyle tried to grin at his friend, but even that hurt. "Did they find the reels of film 'n the hidey hole behind the book shelves?"

"Don't know what they found, but I can check."

"Do that, will you? Gabriel filmed his victims. Should make for interesting viewing."

"Jesus! He really was sick. You're lucky to be alive."

"Can't deny that," Ray admitted. "Thought I'd had it 'til I saw you comin' through that gate."

"Gate? I went in the front with the rest of the squad. Soon as I saw you in those blue Speedos, I put in the call to Cowley."

Doyle blinked. He didn't understand. "Wasn't that you standin' there?"

"No, it was Bodie. When he found out what was going down, he showed up at my obbo. Soon as he saw you moving across the lawn, he headed for the gate whilst I went with the mob in the front."

"Bodie? Couldn't be. He's in Liverpool."

"He was in Liverpool. Got back late last night. Seems Cowley made the mistake of telling him some of the details about your undercover assignment. Next thing I know he storms in on me. I'd just put the call in to Cowley so I was expecting back up, but he soon let me know he didn't give a damn about Gabriel or the assignment."

Doyle closed his eyes. "Don't want to know more," he whispered. "Thanks for alerting Cowley. Thought I was dead."

"My job, wasn't it? After all, I was the rejected lover." Stuart took his right hand. "I'm sorry Gabriel hurt you."

Doyle shivered. " saw it, din't you? Me in the red Speedos I mean. Knew you must have been watching."

Taking a deep breath, Stuart lied. "Just saw the red of your briefs. Knew that meant you'd found the information. Distance was too great to see anything more."

Doyle wanted to believe Ben was telling the truth. It made his humiliation easier. "Glad to hear that. Wasn't pretty."

"Main thing is that you're safe now. Once you give Cowley your report, it will be all over."

"Yeh, all over." Doyle gave a fleeting thought to his partnership with Bodie. Shifting slightly, Ray winced. "Think I could use something for the pain. Could you ask the nurse to come in?"

"Right away. Do you want Bodie to come in next? He's waiting outside. Said I should see you first."

"Don't...don't think I can face him now. Maybe later. Tell 'im, will you?"

"Sure. By the way, the doctors said you should be out of here in two days if you behave yourself. I know that will make you happy." Stuart squeezed the hand he was holding. Back in a minute."

As soon as Stuart left the room, Bodie was right there at his side. "How's Ray?"

"Awake and in pain. I need to find a nurse to give him something."

"Did you tell him I was out here?"

"Yes, I did, but he said he'd see you later. He's still confused you know. Gabriel was pretty rough on him."

Bodie's eyes filled with pain. "Yeah, I know. He shouldn't have gone undercover without backup."

"I was his backup and he volunteered to do the job." Stuart didn't appreciate Bodie's implied criticism.

Bodie's hands clenched at his sides. "Guess he had his reasons."

"He did. Now if you don't mind, I think I'd better find that nurse."

Bodie just stood there. For an instant, he was tempted to see his best mate anyway. He had questions to ask, questions which needed the right answers or the partnership of 3.7 and 4.5 was at an end. Turning abruptly, he left Doyle to Stuart's care.

Two days later Stuart picked Ray up at hospital. Doyle was relieved to be going home since he loathed the lack of privacy accorded patients, particularly the questions which the doctor had asked about Gabriel's assault. Realistically, he had known that he would be questioned, but the personal nature of the inquiries and false sympathy rubbed him the wrong way. Even an offer of counselling grated on his raw nerves. He had tried to give all the right answers, knowing what the doctor wanted to hear, but at that moment he wanted only to be on his own.

Doyle said nothing to Stuart during the short drive to Ray's flat. Hurting more than he cared to admit, he was looking forward to a cuppa and his own bed. It had been so long since he'd been able to relax without the fear of Gabriel wanting his body.

"Are you sure you don't want me to go up with you?" Stuart glanced at the other man out of the corner of his eye.

"No thanks. I appreciate your gettin' in some supplies for me. 'm gonna sleep for twelve hours, eat something and then sleep for another twelve hours," Ray confessed.

"Best thing for you. Give me a call if you need any help. It's not going to be easy with your arm in plaster."

"It's not the first time. Only it was me right arm that time. Had to save an old flame of the Cow's." Doyle grimaced at the memory.

"Cowley had a girlfriend?" The dark-haired man asked incredulously.

"Yeh, real serious at one time. She dumped him. Went back to the States."

Stuart shook his head. He'd thought nothing could surprise him. "Well, you take care. I'll call later."

Doyle nodded. "Thanks for everything, Ben. I'd never have been able to do the job without your support."

"My pleasure. Was nice to live my dream for awhile anyway."

"No hard feelings?" Doyle inquired softly.

"No hard feelings. I went into this with my eyes wide open. You never promised me anything."

Doyle climbed stiffly out of the motor and then walked into his building. Five more minutes and he could lie down.

Grateful that Stuart had retrieved his keys from the Gabriel mansion; Ray locked the door and set the alarms. Debating whether he could stay awake long enough to drink a cuppa, he started for the bedroom when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. There was someone else in the flat.

"Fancy a cup of tea, sunshine?" Bodie walked out of the kitchen and into the centre of the lounge to face his partner.

Speechless, Doyle shook his head, wincing as he did so. The pain from the bruising still resonated through his skull.

"No? Then sit down we need to talk." The voice was meltingly soft, but the eyes were chips of blue marble.

"Don'...can't now. 'm tired." Swaying, Ray tried to walk past the bigger man.

"I want to talk now. You've been running this little farce long enough."

It seemed too much of an effort to protest so Ray slumped onto the settee. At least he was off his feet.

Towering over him, Bodie made every effort to rein in his temper. It would have been easy to lash out. Heaven knows he wanted to. He'd been a seething mass of anger since Cowley had given him the briefest of details about Doyle's undercover mission.

"Always knew you were good at undercover, mate, but this was your best. Even fooled the whole squad into believing you were suspended," Bodie observed calmly.

"'S right. Made it easier to explain my absence," 4.5 replied wearily.

Bodie went on, ignoring the interruption. "Except for Stuart of course. You trusted him enough to tell him the truth. Right?" When there was no answer, Bodie repeated, "Right?"

"Needed someone to act a part. Thought he'd suit." Doyle confessed.

"Of course! Makes sense to use your lover to play the part. Could really get into the role then. How many times did he fuck you on Cowley's time, Goldilocks?"

"Dozens if you must know!" Adrenalin coursed through Ray's body. "'Course that was nothing compared to Gabriel. Man really knew how to have it off!"

Bodie grabbed Ray's right arm. "You tart! Saw you go into that upstairs room with Stuart. Couldn't believe you'd take such a chance with your career."

"My career? What the hell does my career have to do with it? Cowley wanted a job done. I fit the bill. Offered up my arse to make this island smell more of roses 'n lavender! Just be grateful the bastard had gone off pretty brunets with blue eyes. Wanted my type this week." Shifting painfully, he hunted through the pockets of his light jacket for the bottle of painkillers the doctor had given him. He was ready to cry when he couldn't get the bottle open with one hand.

"Let me," Bodie offered. Easily flipping off the top, he handed one and then another to the injured man. "Be right back with some water."

Doyle sprawled on the settee, eyes closed. Everything seemed too much of an effort.

"Drink this 'n here are your pills."

Ray swallowed them gratefully, waiting for the pain to ease.

"Maybe we should leave this until later?" Dismayed to see the ashen look on Ray's face, Bodie had rethought his timing.

"'M fine or I will be soon. Let's just get this over with so you can tell Cowley you want to be reteamed."

"Is that what you want, angelfish? Has Stuart made you a better offer?" Bodie demanded.

"Ben's my friend. Used how he feels 'bout me to get what I needed. 's all. Prob'ly hates me by now," Doyle mourned.

"Don't think so. Least he didn't he seem to when he waylaid me at my local yesterday."

"Yess-ter-day?" The pills had begun to work.

"Walked in there like he owned the place. Asked me to go outside with him. Was just plannin' to level him when he told me to stop making a prat of meself."

Doyle tried to focus on Bodie's face. "Impossible that. Made a career of it."

"Ta for the vote of confidence, sunshine." Bodie's face darkened momentarily until he realised that Doyle had a point. "He told me that he was just helpin' you out on an assignment. Admitted he wanted you, but you gave him the cold shoulder."

When Doyle said nothing, Bodie sat down beside him. "Are you asleep, Ray?"

"Yes, now will you leave?" The soft voice answered.

"I may be a prat, but 'm not a moron. Why'd you lie to me just now? Why did you want me to think you were fuckin' Stuart?"

"None of your business! Jus' go home," Doyle ordered. In despair, he continued, "'ve had enough of you 'n Cowley. Man uses people. Knew my weakness so he played on it. He wanted to get Gabriel so it had to be either you or me. C-couldn't let 'im do that, not to you."

"Ray, what did Cowley say?" Bodie prodded.

"Tole you! Said Gabriel liked brunets with blue eyes. Said he'd order you to be the mark. Din't want that. Knew it'd kill you to be taken that way. Then he said that the last blokes to disappear had looked more like me. I knew then what he wanted so I volunteered to go instead."

Bodie sat there stunned. Stuart had hinted that there had been more to Ray's acceptance of the assignment than just the job, but he hadn't known the details.

Taking up Doyle's limp right hand, Bodie whispered, "Ray? Do you hear me?" but this time Doyle seemed to be truly asleep.

Bodie sat there for some time, determined not to disturb his partner's rest despite being furious with Cowley's dictatorial attitude. Bodie had always known that when it came to duty, Cowley would use anyone to achieve his goals. This time the Controller had made a mockery of Doyle's loyalty to his partner and that Bodie couldn't allow.

Before Bodie could even take to his feet, Ray's hand tightened on his own. "Don't go!"

"Thought you were asleep."

"Almost. Don't want you to go." One green eye reluctantly opened.

"I'll be back. Something I have to do," Bodie explained.

"Don't go see Cowley, not when you're like this."

"And how am I?"

"Liable to say something you'll regret. Don't need you to defend my honour."

"Ray, he used me against you. I can't let him get away with it. Who knows what he might ask you to do the next time?"

"I was just doin' a job, same as when I took Van Neikerk's place."

Bodie flinched at the memory. "Didn't like your being used that time either. Lost my rag when he escaped. Even offered Cowley my resignation," he confessed.


"Was feelin' guilty for bein' caught like a rank amateur at the Hope place 'n then we found that young agent dead. Thought I was going to lose you too. Just lost it 'n said some things."

Doyle sighed. "Bodie, I can take care of myself."

"Sure that's why I had to drive out and pick you up in the middle of the country after those kids almost got you killed!"

The second green eye opened with a noticeable glint of anger. "So that's it? You think I need my big, brave partner to protect me, do you?"

"I protect you; you protect me. Isn't that what partners do?" Bodie pulled the slender man into a protective embrace. "Trouble is I want to do more than watch your back. When I saw you go into that room with Stuart, I was so bleedin' jealous that I wanted to kill him. Knew he'd been after you and I was sure you'd agreed."

"Jealous? You couldn't have thought I wanted Stuart as my partner?"

"Worse 'n that. Thought you were lovers 'n I'd lose you two ways."

Doyle snuggled closer to Bodie. "Wish you'd told me that before. Would have enjoyed sitting on your lap with my tongue down your throat at Chez Homme. Could have made use of that room upstairs for real too."

Bodie shook his head. "Wouldn't have minded that part of it, but there's no way I could have let you go off with Gabriel, feeling the way I do about you."

"How's that?"

"I love you, you berk! What do you think I've been trying to say?"

Bodie's hair stood up as Ray ran one hand through it. "Always knew you had a silver tongue, lover. Just thought you kept it for birds."

"Don't need birds if I have you. Do I have you?"

"'Course, you do. Why do you think I didn't want you to be the 'rejected lover' on this case? Couldn't take just pretendin' with you. Knew if I started kissin' those pouty lips, I'd never be able to stop. Wasn't ready to out my feelings in public anyway."

"Your bedroom's not a public place," Bodie reminded him.

"I," Doyle yawned, "know. Trouble is I can't keep me eyes open, not even for you. Need some sleep."

"C'mon then. I'll tuck you in. Maybe in the morning we can discuss this some more."

"Don't want to discuss anything, want to love you!" Doyle tried desperately to blink away the exhaustion that threatened to overwhelm him.

"So do I, but you've got one arm in plaster and tender ribs. I think we'll need to wait for a bit to try out anything too athletic."

"You spoil all my fun!" Doyle pouted.

"That's enough of that, sunshine. I'm not going to hurt you when all I want to do is love you. Besides, just think of all the fun we'll have when we walk into Cowley's office and tell him about us and that neither of us will ever accept another Gabriel type assignment again."

"You want to do that?" Ray asked incredulously.

"Don't you want to? I know he might give us the sack, but...."

"Always wanted to be in the sack with you," Ray announced with determination.

"Then we're in agreement. 'Sides I know I can survive a life without Cowley or CI5, but I can't survive a life without you."

Ray leant forward to kiss Bodie, but fell asleep before their lips touched.

Chuckling, Bodie carefully picked up his partner to carry him into the bedroom. "Guess I'll have to wait 'til tomorrow to demonstrate me manly charms to you, angelfish." Stripping off his own clothes, he climbed in next to Doyle and promptly fell asleep.

-- THE END --

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