by &

The 1st Prof effort we did and A.N.O's only one.

"Wannanother drink."

"You've had enough."

Doyle scowled at his partner, jaw jutting with the belligerence-on-the-edge-of-violence that had been with him all evening.

"You don' tell me when I've had enough," he snapped. "You don' run my life." He got to his feet and aimed himself at the side board, eyes more or less focused on the two-thirds empty bottle of Scotch sitting on the top. Bodie checked his lurching advance with a strategic jerk at an elbow that veered him to the couch in an untidy sprawl.

"You've had enough," he repeated evenly. "Now for Gods sake drink the coffee."

"Stuff the fuckin' coffee!" Doyle yelled, thrashing wildly under the restraining hand. "Drink what I want--s'my place, not yours."

"Oh, Christ." Bodie sighed. "Doyle. This is my pad. Mine. Right? I live here. And that's my whiskey you are trying to home in on."

"Oh." An expression of owl-like amazement fixed itself on the pale face under the tangle of hair. "You sure?"


"Oh." The scowl returned, more vicious than before. "Then I'm going back to my pad. Right? An' my booze. An' no-one's goin' t'stop me drinkin' whatever an' whenever I like. Right?"

"Wrong," said Bodie. "I don't give a purple damn if you live in Buck House, mate, you've had enough to pickle what little brain you've got left, and you're not having any more. Now drink this coffee before I tip it down your throat myself."

"Try it!" The uncoordinated swing sent the mug flying out of Bodie's hand to smash against the wall, leaving a dark swathe of coffee staining across rug and wallpaper. "Go on. I dare you. Try it!" And laughed up at him.

"You bastard," Bodie said between his teeth. "You'll pay for that."

"Yeah? You gonna make me?" But the jeering savagery evaporated suddenly, and Doyle slumped back. "Oh, Christ. She didn't have t'do that. Did she? Couldn't she unnerstand? We could have worked something out--oh, Christ. I feel sick."

"Not in here, you don't," Bodie snarled. "Or I'll rub your bloody nose in it." Hauling the limp weight to its feet, he steered it up the stairs and into the bathroom. They barely made it in time before Doyle was attacked by spasms of vomiting that successfully emptied him of an evening's solid drinking. "Always knew you couldn't hold your liquor," Bodie grunted, wringing out a towel and mopping the white, sweating face.

"--cold--" Doyle mumbled. "Wanna drink--"

"Not bloody likely. You never learn, do you?" He supported the weak-kneed creature towards the bedroom. "You think you feel lousy now, wait until tomorrow morning hits you."

"Wanna die," Doyle told him earnestly.

"You'll want to tomorrow, that's for sure." Bodie grinned.

"Know somethin'? I hate your guts. You're a dirty, stinking, backstabbing sadist." Doyle pronounced each adjective with careful precision.

"Took you long enough to work that out."

"Always known it. You're not even human. Shoulda stayed out in that bloody jungle." Doyle thrust himself away from his anchor, clutching at the door-frame. "M'goin' home an'm'gonna drink ev'ry bottle I c'n find. So get out'f my way or I'll rip your guts out."

"Yeah, yeah." Bodie got a half-nelson on him without difficulty. "You're going to bed, and you're going to sleep it off, Briar Rose. And tomorrow, when you're making sense, we can talk about it."

The unexpected offer froze Doyle's elbow inches from impact with Bodie's ready-tensed stomach.

"Why couldn't she understand?" he repeated. "Wasn't a question of trust. Not really."

"Guess that's what she couldn't see," Bodie agreed. "We can't trust anyone. Not part of the job."

"Yeah." The tension drained out of him, and he slumped in Bodie's hold. Who did not relax his grip, not trusting the passiveness. "Can't trust anyone. Not you, not Cowley, not me. Anyone," the injustice of it all making his voice shake.

Bodie groaned. "We'll talk about it in the morning." Giving him a shove.

"No. I'm goin' home."

"Stubborn bastard." Bodie half-lifted him, grunting with the effort, propelling him towards the bed. "And don't you dare throw up on my sheets."

"I'll do what I like on your flamin' sheets!" Doyle was galvanised into sudden action, none of it coordinated. "'M goin'--"

"To bed," Bodie cut in, spun him round and chopped him on the neck with enough force to drop him dazed and semi-conscious across the quilt, wondering as he did it why he hadn't done it sooner, and saved himself a hell of a lot of trouble. Flipping the unresisting body over, he hauled out the shirt and unbuttoned it, peeling it off. Doyle grunted as he was moved, but made no other objections. Shoes and socks followed the shirt, unhampered by the jerks as the man struggled to hold on to awareness, and Bodie swung his legs onto the bed, straightening out limbs and body. "It's like laying out a corpse," he told him, loosening his belt and unfastening the jeans waistband. "Which could be prophetic of me. You may or may not survive." And he reached out to fold the quilt over the recumbent form. Then decided he'd better turn him to three-quarter prone. If he was going to throw up again, he'd choke if he was flat on his back.

He took hold of the lean shoulders, and was struck suddenly by the stirring of an unmistakable urge. The flesh under his hands was hard muscle laid over a lean, whipcord frame, no softness there at all. But the skin was smooth, silken, pale gold from last summer's tan, and as if scales had dropped from his sight, he was seeing Ray Doyle through new eyes. It confused him, so he automatically shoved it forcibly into the only compartment in his life that seemed to fit it. The Game. His fingers slid over Doyle's skin in a light caress that changed abruptly to a steely grip. Doyle gave an inarticulate yelp, half-stifled as his face was pressed into the pillow. Sharp teeth sank into the side of his neck, Bodie's weight pinning him, he struggled, shocked into near-sobriety, and Bodie's voice half-laughing, said, "Yeah, that's it, Ray. Fight me, boy. Make it good."

"Wha--?" Doyle gasped, straining to throw him off. "What're you playing at?"

"Games," said Bodie, and bit again, teeth finding the big shoulder muscle. Doyle yelled and bucked like a goaded horse, heaving himself partially free, and struck out. "Bloody maniac!" he shouted. "You gone crazy?"

"Yes," said Bodie succinctly, eyes on the clear indentation his teeth made in the firm flesh. Doyle's fist jarred against his mouth, and he swore, laughing again. "That's the way, boy--" caught his wrist and twisted, anchoring it above the curly head.

Doyle's struggles had turned him onto his back, and Bodie didn't prevent it. Just leaned his weight on the elbow joint of the free arm and bent his head, and despite Doyle's frantic twisting on the pillow, trapped his mouth beneath his own, biting at lips that refused to open for him, tasting the blood and hearing the muffled grunt of pain and horror. It felt very good, and his hips ground into Doyle's, using the man's desperate writhing to enhance the straining urgency in his groin. Something close to blind panic was showing in the smaller man's eyes now, and he gasped for breath as Bodie lifted his mouth.

"For Chrissakes get off me!" he blurted. "Bodie--"

This time his target was the throat encircled by the slender silver chain, where the flesh was soft and vulnerable over the great vein, and he felt the leaping pulse of it as he nipped at the skin, a fast flutter like something trapped; then a hard knee drove into his thigh and Doyle wrenched away, half-rolling from the bed.

He lurched to his feet, grabbed up his shirt, but Bodie pounced on him, swift chops to neck and kidneys dazing and hurling him back to semi-consciousness, dropping him to the floor.

"No, please. For God's sake--" he whimpered. "--gonna be sick--"

"No, you're not," Bodie hissed, kneeling over him, "Not until I'm finished with you. Come on, Ray, fight me." There was almost a plea in the sibilant command. Some deep instinct in Doyle picked it out and understood it.

"No," he wheezed. Startled and disappointed, Bodie sat back on his heels.

"Why not?" he demanded. He got no answer. Doyle's head was turned away, his breathing gusty and uneven. With its layer of sweat, his skin gleamed more clearly golden, and the bite-bruises stood out with startling clarity. "You're just going to lie there and let me rape you?"

"What?" Outrage, disbelief, and anger mixed in Doyle's reaction. "You're crazy!"

"You've already said that. Okay, if that's the way you want it, I'll be happy to oblige you." And he reached down to Doyle's jeans, pushed down the zip, and thrust his hand inside. Doyle yelled and lashed out with hands and feet. "Yeah, I thought that'd do it." Bodie laughed, and ducked a wild swing.

Doyle scrabbled to his feet, but did not attempt to reach the door. He was panting heavily, but anger had given him some coordination and a purpose, an outlet for the aggression that had been growing in him since he'd stood alone in that empty street.

They were crouched, yards apart, two savage animals, and there was a deadly intent in Doyle's green eyes, a feline tautness in his lean frame.

"I'm going to kill you," he promised, voice silky, soft. "Hear me, you perverted bastard? You're going to die for that."

"Melodrama," Bodie drawled, his own eyes burning with a feral need. He could take Doyle and he knew it. Whenever he wanted. He was faster, heavier, stronger, and not so drunk. He smiled, showing his teeth under the arrogant curl of lip. "You want to kill me? Go ahead and try it. Fight all you want; it won't do you any good, but it'll suit me. Changed your mind, boy? Going to admit you liked what I did?"

Doyle reacted with a yell and lunged; Bodie simply side-stepped the body-charge, spun and caught him in a choke-hold, fore-arm hard across the throat, tightening as Doyle gagged and fought for air, fingers clawing at his partner's arm, at the increasing pressure crushing him out of consciousness. Black specks danced in front of Doyle's eyes, spreading like inkblots on wet linen; he thrashed weakly in the implacable grip, strength draining out of him, and he hung limp on the edge of oblivion, hardly aware of the long-pile carpet under his cheek as Bodie let him slip to the floor and dragged off his jeans. There was a brief pause, and he heard the slither of fabric as Bodie stripped off his own clothes, then hands grasped his hips, lifting--and pain shredded the veil of numbness, ripping into him so that he screamed. But there was no mercy for him, only the lancing agony that thrust into him with all the driving force that Bodie could deliver. He screamed again, denying the violation, unable to fight it but refusing to submit to it. Refusing to believe the reality--this couldn't be happening to him. Sick, disoriented, burning pain in his vitals, he vaguely heard the groan of release from his torturer, and then the pounding ceased and the weight lifted away from him, leaving him broken and battered and used and unclean...

Bodie slumped beside him, breathing heavily, heart racing, sweating, shaking slightly with reaction. This was the way he had learned to like it during his mercenary days--a contest, a battle of strength and will, winner take all.

"You're a pretty good lay," he remarked casually.

No answer, only the other man's ragged gasping for air. Bodie glanced at him, saw that he hadn't moved from the spread-eagle position of humiliation, fingers still clawed into the carpet. His face was averted, half-hidden by his outstretched arm, but his eyes were squeezed shut, and an almost imperceptible tremor was running through him.

"You'll get over it," Bodie said, slapping the nearest buttock. "It's no big deal." He stood up and stretched, dug his bathrobe out of the cupboard and pulled it on. "Want that drink now?"

Still no answer. So he shrugged and went downstairs, poured two large Scotches and returned. Doyle had not moved. But the tremor had become a racking shudder.

"Here," he said. "Drink this." Nothing. "Ray?" Bodie said again. "Hey, come on, mate. No need to act the shrinking virgin." He ran his eyes appreciatively down the strong curve of back, buttocks and thighs, hard with muscle--but he had been the victor--then noticed the blood staining dark down on the thighs and frowned slightly. "Ray?" He touched his shoulder and Doyle flinched away, but not before Bodie had discovered the chill wetness there.

He'd been pretty rough with him--put him down with chops twice, choked him out--mustn't damage government property too much. Cowley would have his hide. He reached for a wrist, took a firm hold before Doyle could jerk free, and found the pulse. Fast, thready. Shock, all right. Then, Christ, what have I done? It could not be called remorse, nor was it quite guilt, but instead of handing out bracing, abrasive instructions for Doyle to pull himself together, he fetched water and towels and began to wash away the blood and the chill sweat. He did not speak as he did it, but his ministrations were unaccustomedly gentle. Even so, Doyle flinched at every contact, and the shakes did not ease. Bodie dried him off, lifted him onto the bed and tucked the quilt over him, sitting on the edge and looking down at the white shuttered face. Doyle's eyes were still shut tight, tension lines crinkling temple and brow. His lips were swollen, teeth marks plain on the darkened bruise. Bodie wiped away the thread of drying blood, then glanced away. A man shouldn't look that vulnerable. Like an undernourished kid.

"Ray?" he said quietly. "Uh, how do you feel?" A damn stupid question, that. It didn't deserve an answer, and didn't get one. Then Doyle moved, a sudden convulsive folding as spasms of dry heaving hit his empty stomach. Reacting by instinct, Bodie grabbed hold, held onto him until the bout of painful retching was over, leaving Doyle spent and gasping for breath, and eased him back onto the pillow. "Mild concussion and shock," he said to green eyes that stared up at him, horror frozen in their depths. "You'll be okay." He tried a smile. "A good night's sleep--" His voice died away on the trite phrase, and Doyle's eyes closed, a bitter twist on his mouth. Bodie waited for a moment, but the man on the bed did not speak, so he shrugged and started for the door. A lot of fuss about nothing. Okay, Doyle had been a virgin. Maybe. Well, so had he been, once. And he could more or less remember his own first experience when he'd lost the contest--it had hurt, but not that much, and beyond the pain had been pleasure. After all, if you lose, you pay, so you may as well get what you can out of it.

But then, Ray Doyle didn't know the rules. And the first rule of the Game was, make sure both contestants know what the rules are. Slowly, he came back to the bed.

"Look," he said lamely. "I'm sorry. Okay?"

"Kill you." It was a croak of a whisper. "Bastard, pervert, I'll kill you, first chance I get!"

"You can try it," Bodie snapped. "Any time you're ready," and slammed out of the room, anger and relief mixed in equal measures in his head.

He went back down to the living room, fixed himself a stiff drink and knocked it straight back, poured another. He was hungry, he realised, and drifted into the kitchen. Sex always left him with an appetite, and it had been very good with Doyle. Maybe he should make sure he learned the rules. But then found the memory of the vulnerability, the horror Doyle had not been able to hide. Hadn't really tried to hide. He cut off a wedge of cheese, sandwiched it and pickles between two slices of bread, and wolfed it. Hell, he'll get over it. Tough as old boots, was Doyle. Probably wasn't his first time, either.

Who are you trying to kid, Bodie?

Baffled, he stared at his cheese sandwich. A twinge of conscience was a rare thing in his life--doing what he did for a living, he couldn't afford twinges. So cut it out.

Oh, no. You don't get away with this so easily. It was his first time and he doesn't understand the Game--didn't have any idea of what was expected of him. How could he? He'd done his living in the civilised jungles of London. Didn't let that stop you, though, did you? They didn't call you the stallion for nothing, out there in those jungles. Fuck anything that moves. And Doyle's tight assed resistance had given you one of your best times for a long while. In fact, that's the only way you can make it with a man--using sex not as an act of pleasure, but of domination. Sure, you won the Game nine times out of ten, you made damn sure of that. But what of the tenth time, when you lost? Didn't like it so much then, did you?

"Fuck off," he said to the sandwich, and bit it, savagely.

But conscience and memory were not through with him. From out of the past, from the darker recesses of his mind, came another fragment. His first defeat; knowing the score, knowing what was at stake, and knowing he was losing. What had he felt then? Fear, a kind of excitement, certainly, and as his defeat became inevitable a sudden rush of disbelief, denial, rejection of what was about to happen to him--but it had happened, and once the pain had gone, swamped by pleasure, he'd forgotten the backlash of emotion. Until now. Doyle wouldn't be forgetting. He was trapped in it, caught by the knowledge of self-defeat, humiliation, sexual subjugation, a negation of his own masculinity. For a brief moment Bodie had the jungle-stench in his nostrils, wet-earth, rotting vegetation, strange flower-scents, stale human sweat rank in the damp air. Could feel the hardness of the ground against his battered body, feel the sickness, the impotent rage of the vanquished, and then the first agonising thrust--

"Oh, sod it!" Bodie exploded, and slammed the remains of the cheese sandwich onto the fridge-top. "You're going back to your own place, Doyle. You can languish there to your heart's content!"

He took the stairs three at a time, jerked open the bedroom door. Doyle was sitting on the edge of the bed, jeans on and belted, fumbling with the buttons of his shirt.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Bodie blared, decision instantly reversed.

"Getting out of here," Doyle husked. "I'm going to pick up my gun and come back and blast your balls off. Then make you eat every last slug in the clip."

"Yeah? You and whose army?"

"Just me." He finished fastening his shirt and stood up, swaying. His face was starkly pale, running with sweat, and his eyes did not quite focus.

"Okay," said Bodie, turned and walked out. Judging time and distance to a nicety, he waited halfway down the stairs. He'd got it right to a step, and caught Doyle neatly enough when his knees gave under him and he passed out cold.

He dropped the body back onto the disordered bed, stripped it, and bundled the quilt over the untidy sprawl. He was not gentle. Then he picked up an outflung wrist. The pulse was still fast, and the shivering hadn't let up.

"What in hell's name am I going to do with you?" Bodie demanded, resentful and angry. "I need my head read. Why should I give a shit about this?" But he climbed into bed and pulled the limp body into his arms, rough and awkward because he did not know why he was doing it. Only that he wanted to do it. Needed to do it?

Hell, no! He didn't need anything from anyone--and what he wanted, he took. As he had wanted Doyle, and taken him. But what, for Chrissakes did he want now? He just did not know.

He settled Doyle's head more comfortably on his shoulder, tucking the quilt securely about them both. He was clumsy, since Doyle's weight was on his right arm, but the unconscious man did not stir. Finally having things arranged to his satisfaction, Bodie leaned back against the pillows, squinting down at the dark tangle of hair below his chin. The oddly dented angle of Doyle's right cheekbone caught his eye, the shadows from the dimmed light making it more of a flaw. Something twisted in his stomach.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, and meant it. "It shouldn't have happened." There was no response, of course, and he didn't speak again. The warmth of his body gradually lessened the shivers, took away some of the chill from Doyle's skin, and he himself was relaxing towards sleep. Then he felt the subtle change in the body he held. The muscles were no longer quite so slack, and the breathing pattern altered fractionally. Doyle was coming round.

The head on his shoulder turned slightly, eyes still shut, a frown pulling down the strangely arched brows. Bodie held his breath. He didn't want to fight him again, but if--

"Cold," Doyle muttered, half-aware of the contrasts of cold and warmth and instinctively seeking the latter. He burrowed closer, face into a warm neck, arm sliding across warm ribs, thigh across warm thigh, and relaxed from the semi-conscious into a drowse. Bodie did not move, struggled to hold his breathing steady, taken totally by surprise by a sudden ambush of emotion, a new and unexpected dimension in his feelings linked to a growing enjoyment in the unthinking contact. He let his arms tighten around Doyle, and with a tenderness he had not known he possessed, held him close, resting his face in the untidy curls.

"Take it easy, boy," he murmured. "It'll be all right." He could feel the length of Doyle's body lying against him, was aware of every lithe inch of him, as if his own skin had become hypersensitive, and he did not want to have to let him go. But this wouldn't--couldn't last. Just as soon as he woke and remembered, this strange time of--trust--would be gone in hate and resentment, and he would have lost not only a valued partner and companion, but something he couldn't put a name to. He and Doyle had never been particularly close, not like some teams. They were friends, certainly, and they worked well together, even in the first abrasively uncomfortable weeks when Cowley had decided they should be paired. Two strangers thrown into each other's company for their working day, resenting each other, contemptuous of each other's totally separate backgrounds. Beat-cop and mercenary. Detective and Para, SAS.

Respect and friendship had grown grudgingly. And eventually one or the other would occasionally volunteer confidences and anecdotes from a past largely undiscussed. With increasing frequency they had met socially for double-dates, drinks, or workouts in gym or on track. Finally they were good friends, able to function as a smooth, highly efficient team in the field--as Cowley had always known they would--able to speak in half-sentences and have the unspoken understood, able to exchange a particularly caustic and inventive brand of repartee that amused some, shocked others, exasperated most that heard it. Bodie hadn't wanted a friend. But it had grown that way, so he worked at keeping it all at a safe distance, and Doyle did not attempt to close that distance, understanding without being told the reasons for the walls Bodie had built around himself. Mercenaries are very expendable--as are CI5 agents. Get close to someone and you are hurt when they die. Bodie had long ago armoured himself against that, before he'd become a mercenary, and that episode in his life had reinforced the walling to massive proportions, even as it had expanded the not-so-latent killer instinct in the man, stunted the growth of compassion, of basic humanity. His spell in the 19th Airbourne and subsequently in the SAS had served to underline it all. But what of now? Lying warm and comfortable in his bed, the unfamiliar hardness of a male body stretched against him in unconscious trust did not fit in at all with any aspect of the Game, nor into his personal preference for the softer curves of the female form. Nor did it belong anywhere in the pattern of his relationship with Ray Doyle, a pattern that had grown and set over three years of mutual risk and confidence. But then, the Game was a substitute. He never treated any girl with that kind of violence during love-making. The Game wasn't about making love. And what price now for friendship, teamwork?

He discovered he was stroking his hands over Doyle's back, a slow, light massage aimed to soothe, to postpone the inevitable backlash when he woke. Nor was it entirely altruistic. He liked it. It was a different and very pleasant experience, and while part of him desperately added more bricks to the tottering wall, part of him wondered how it would feel if Doyle caressed him like that. Not that he ever would, save with the business end of a gun. Not after the Game had been inflicted upon him. So--make the most of it, Bodie, he told himself, before he wakes up, because you may have to kill him to stop him from killing you.

Make the most of it. Easy enough said. But, wide though his experience was, this situation was outside of it. Couldn't treat Doyle like one of his girlfriends, could he? 'How in hell's name do I go about this?' he demanded silently. 'I know what I want--I think--but--' He did know what he wanted: Doyle's rape to be counteracted by pleasure, to have his body responding willingly to his skills. Only he didn't have any skills. Not in this area. Even so, he intended to try. After all, he had nothing to lose. It was already lost.

Carefully he eased Doyle onto his back. The man stirred, frowning, and muttered indistinctly.

"Ssh," Bodie whispered, voice no more than a breath. "It's all right, Ray. Go back to sleep." The brown head turned restlessly on the pillow, then stilled as sleep deepened.

Slowly Bodie leaned down, and touched his lips to that flawed cheekbone. There was a sweet melting feeling deep in his gut that was more than just sexual arousal, but he was not prepared to inspect it more closely at the present time. All his concentration was on the sleeping man, willing him not to wake--not yet. All he needed was a little time--

He kissed the cheekbone again, trailed his lips to Doyle's throat, avoiding the bruised mouth. His skin tasted faintly salt, and he smelt of alcohol, of Aramis aftershave, cigarette-smoke, and soap. Not what Bodie would normally call an erotic mixture of scents. But this did not belong to the everyday world. His fingertips stroked gently over Doyle's chest, over the firm shallow curve of pectoral muscle with its pelt of fine silky brown hair. He was surprised at the texture, expecting coarseness and not finding it, and repeated the caress, slowly, savouring the contact. Doyle did not stir, so he continued the movement of his hand down across abdomen and belly. The quilt hampered him, so he lifted it away. The room was centrally-heated warm, Doyle's chills were gone, and he wanted to be able to see what he was doing. At the same time he got rid of his bathrobe, and settled back on one elbow, free hand resting lightly over Doyle's navel. He'd seen him naked before, but not with such clarity. Had not appreciated the light-boned elegance-with-strength of his body until now. Despite his own extra inch of height and fourteen, fifteen pounds of weight, he knew that if Doyle had not been drunk, he would not have managed to put him down so quickly. If at all. They'd sparred often enough for him to know that. But with Doyle at a disadvantage, he'd forced submission--it had been good, yes, but he had an instinct that willing cooperation would have been better. Well, he could pretend, couldn't he? And deliberately slid his hand down to cup Doyle's genitals, then explored the satin of inner thigh, lowering his head and with lips and tongue tracing patterns on the unconscious chest.

Exhaustion, physical and emotional, alcohol, and his partner's violence, had dropped Doyle into a sleep so deep it could have been drug-induced, but gradually discomfort won through. There was a dull ache at the nape of his neck, another in the small of his back, his throat felt raw, bruised, and his mouth hurt. Familiar enough symptoms--he'd been in a fight--on the receiving end of a few fists. Whose fists, however, an erratic memory he couldn't identify. Ann had gone, walked out of his life. He could remember that, remember standing alone in the dank street watching after her long after she'd departed, feeling incredibly, painfully, hollow inside, and somehow anchorless. Then Bodie had appeared, would not be walked away from, so he'd stopped, waited, and they'd gone to the nearest pub. Soon after that the evening had become a blank. Or had it? He had a vague recollection of fighting someone, couldn't remember who, nor if he had won or lost. Won, probably, because if he was in a fight, so was Bodie, and Bodie would make sure they won. He did not try to hunt the memory down--it would return in its own good time, as these things usually did, and besides, it was not important beside the magnitude of his loss. Ann had left him, because she could not understand. Or had she? New sensations were making themselves felt, counter-balancing physical discomforts with a growing awareness of enjoyment. He wanted to say her name, but didn't. His tired mind identified the sources of pleasure as fingertips, lips, warm hurried breath, and he didn't want to interrupt her in case she stopped. But there was something that didn't feel quite right, didn't equate with Ann. Her hands on his body had been teasing, inviting his exploration of her rather than seeking to know him. These hands were oddly unsure in their caresses, the lips hesitant, and their joint aim seemed to be an encompassing voyage of discovery linked with the intention to bring him to the maximum pitch of arousal--not that he had any quarrel with that, had no ambition to fight for his virtue--fighting? Memory slid into his head, a mocking Judas-figure with a face he knew as well as his own. Nor did it take much intuition to name the owner of the hand that was stroking up his inner thigh with a trace of wild-fire. The knowledge should have killed desire, but it didn't. So should the loathing, hate and rage that churned in his skull, but none of them could.

He tried to shout a denial, but Bodie chose that moment, accident or design, to change the field of his operations, and the lips that had been moving over his chest suddenly closed on the erect, straining shaft now held in Bodie's hand. The shout came out as a gasping, wordless cry, and his hips rose involuntarily to push himself further into the enveloping mouth. Then:

"No! For God's sake--" he managed, "--kill you for this--" But his body betrayed him again and Bodie's hand tightened its grasp, gently working. "Stop it!"

Slowly Bodie released him, lifted his head.

"All right," he said quietly. There was something that might have been a shake in his voice, and he leaned back on his elbow, not quite meeting Doyle's gaze. "Don't suppose it means much if I say I'm sorry for what happened the first time?"

"Bastard," Doyle croaked. Both men's breathing was hurried, erratic, and Bodie finally met the angry, confused eyes. Arousal and frustration were nearing the level of pain, but even so, he knew himself to be defeated. He smiled, a hurting, bitter, self-mocking grimace.

"You know where I keep my gun," he said. "I won't stop you." It was a calculated risk, since he knew that Doyle, unlike himself, would not normally kill an unarmed man, but he did not care particularly either way. This defeat was far more emphatic than he'd thought it would be.

Doyle groped for the quilt, pulled it over him to cover his nakedness, made more so by the erection that would not subside. That action was a mistake, he realised. On two counts. One, it meant using stiffened muscles. Two, it implied he was staying. What he should have done was get out of that bed. "Won't stop me?" he jeered. "That's rich, that is! You won't get a chance, mate!"

Bodie rolled away, got to his feet and took a few steps away from the bed. He stopped, his back turned to Doyle, and picked up one of the glasses of liquor on the dressing-table.

"I said I'm sorry." He was surprised to hear his voice so even. "You've got the right to take whatever action you see fit. Though Cowley might be a bit annoyed if we start putting bullets through each other."

"Why?" Doyle shouted savagely, the question having nothing to do with Cowley's probable reactions. Bodie heard the harsh note of pain, and underneath it the dazed confusion of the betrayed. He turned his wince into a shrug.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," he drawled.

"I know you're a lot of things, but I didn't think a bloody animal was one of them!" Doyle blazed. "Why? Dammit, there has to be a reason!" Bodie shrugged again.

"Does there?" he muttered, suddenly too weary to keep up the facade. "Do you still intend to kill me, or will my resignation from CI5 be enough?"

"What?" blankly. "Resign, hell. You'll go out in a box, mate."

"Courtesy of Ray Doyle?" Bodie picked up the second glass, brought it to the bed, held it out. "Can't say I blame you. But if you're going to do it, it had better be soon. Tomorrow I may decide to make a fight of it."

The bleak bitterness in the clipped tones got through to Doyle as nothing else could. The bastard was sorry. Was genuinely regretful--and defeated. Bodie--defeated?

"Just tell me why?" he demanded. "Never had you pegged for a queer."

"I'm not."

"No? Try looking at it from my point of view."

"That's--well, that's the way it was, a while ago," Bodie said after a pause. "Mercenaries can't be choosy--jungles and native girls don't always go together, you know, and a guy gets fed up with his own right hand. It was a contest, you see. Winner take all. It was the only way I could get it up for a man," he added, voice dropping to a whisper. "You had to take part in the Game--you just had to make sure you won. Never wanted it or even thought about it since I packed it in and came back to England--joined the Paras, then CI5. Until you--I--"

Doyle drew in a deep breath and took the Scotch from him, knocked it back in one straight swallow.

"Okay," he said, the spirits grazing the croak back into his speech. "That explains screwing me through the floor. But it doesn't explain what woke me up." If the remembrance maintained the fire in his loins, the quilt hid it adequately. All Bodie saw was the belligerence in the set face, each variant feature settling into a common pattern of aggression. "Well?"

It was a question he could not answer, and a dull slow flush stained his skin.

"I--don't know," he muttered, then shame became anger, "I don't know!" he repeated, voice cutting. "All I know is for the first time in my life I wanted a man. No. Not any man. You. I wanted you. And I still do. Does that answer your question?"

Doyle's jaw dropped, and he gaped up at the flushed and furious face as if Bodie had suddenly transformed himself into an alien creature.

"If you're aiming on rape again, you're a dead man," he said, quiet and lethal.

Bodie made an impatient gesture. "No," he said. "That's got nothing to do with it. I want--did you think you were being raped when you woke up?"

It was Doyle's turn to flush.

"No, but--"

"You were enjoying it."

"Until I knew it was you--"

"Liar!" Bodie suddenly saw the truth and pounced on it. "You knew!"

"I did not!" Doyle yelled back, sitting bolt-upright and forgetting his aches and pains.

"Oh, yes," he countered. "I had you really going there."

"No way! You keep your jungle-games for the bloody monkeys, mate!"

"This doesn't belong to the jungle. It's between us. No one else." It was said with a startled intensity that widened Bodie's eyes, took away anger, shame, defeat--and slid an insidious fear into Doyle.

"No way," he repeated, but the steady ache in his groin was still there, and his uncertainty showed. Slowly Bodie leaned closer.

"I reckon," he said softly, "if I kiss you now, you'll go up like tinder."

"Like hell I will!" Doyle yelped his defiance and scooted across the bed away from him. Or started to. Bodie's hands shot out and clamped on his shoulders, and his mouth came down on Doyle's. Doyle froze, and the hard grip left his shoulders, but Bodie did not break the kiss. Suddenly Doyle gasped and his lips parted, his eyes closing. Like tinder, Bodie thought deliriously, tasting the liquor of an eager mouth, his hands seeking out the heated urgency of the body that arched to meet him. Oh, God, a whole bloody continent of tinder, enough to burn us both--

Doyle jerked his head away, panting for breath, hands braced against Bodie's chest.

"No--" he said unsteadily. "This has gone far enough. Bodie, for God's sake, cut it out--"

"What are you afraid of?" Bodie whispered, watching the pale face with a new, rare tenderness. "I have to apologise for hurting you--what better way? Besides, I--" his voice faltered, and he drew a lungful of air, letting it out in a sigh. "I won't do anything you don't want me to, Ray."

"You have to be crazy," Doyle gulped. "A right nutter. Just back off and let me get out of here."

"Okay, I'm crazy. But don't go. Please?"

The fear grew in Doyle's eyes again, and Bodie knew it was there because he wanted to stay, to reach out, and was terrified of the implications. It would be so very easy to change his mind now, but afterwards, in the sanity of the morning light?

Bodie smiled. Damn the consequences.

"Ray," he murmured. "Don't go." And cupped the angry, panicky face in his hands. Doyle tried to pull away, but the movement lost its impetus as their lips met and the hands that had been braced against him slid tentatively round his shoulders, and their bodies merged together, twined, fell back onto the bed.

It was more than intoxication, more than delirium, and horrified by his own response, Doyle made one last effort to break free. But his limbs were leaden, uncoordinated, and all the time his blood was turning to lava, flowing hot and fierce in his veins, fuelled by the weight of the urgent body that held him down, by the mouth that fed on his. His struggles became helpless writhings, moving to the increasing tempo set by Bodie, and all the heat of his need was centred on his groin, on the straining erections trapped between them.

A tongue invaded his mouth and he welcomed it. Hands slid over buttocks and thighs and he moaned aloud with the shock of pleasure, hips lifting, driving up to meet the sleek, hard-muscled strength that was Bodie, every part of him needing, wanting, desperate for the release that was building up inside, like storm-water behind a dam. Orgasm struck through him as a tsunami meets the land--a crescendo of turbulence that shattered and tossed and lifted him, sent him spiralling towards a kind of oblivion, hot fluid spurting between their twisting bodies, and his own drawn-out wordless cry echoing on and on in his ears.

An age of the world later, he collapsed back on the pillows, crowing for breath, drained and shaking and still burning. All thought of protest, of resistance, seared away, he lay sprawled on the bed and did not care that Bodie was laughing in breathless triumph, that the world was rocking in its axis, and that his mouth was bleeding again. Floating high on the back-eddy of euphoria, he reached out for the source of that incandescent pleasure and found him quivering in the painful tension of held-down desire. He glided his hands down the sweat-slick flanks, and gently took shaft and genitals in his grasp. Bodie caught his breath and swore, hips bucking.

Slowly, Doyle leaned over him, touched his mouth to the glistening hollow of throat, tasted salt and skin, and trailed his lips across the hard smooth chest to each nipple. Bodie gasped his name, and he moved down to the rippling stomach muscles.

The scent and the taste of spilled semen filled his head, and before the hands in his hair could guide him, he drew the rigid shaft into his mouth. A sobbing cry broke from Bodie, a convulsive shudder ran through him, and he clutched at Doyle, urging him on.

He did not need the encouragement, was barely aware of it; he was enclosed by the thunder of his own pulse and their gasping breaths, all he knew was the instinct to take what had been taken from him, to give what had been given, and claim the very essence of Bodie into himself. Liquid filled his mouth and he swallowed, riding out the wild thrashing of the man he clung to, all of it part of his small, gyrating world.

Hands caught at his shoulders, pulling him to meet a shaking, hungry mouth, and he sighed against the lips, closed his eyes and relaxed, replete and content.

For a while.

Until sanity and sobriety began to creep back and taint it all.

But neither sanity nor sobriety could evict the traitor in his blood.

When their breathing had steadied and sweat was drying chill, Bodie's hands and mouth began the slow tracing of desire again, and none of his protests, curses, threats, pleadings, would make him stop. Nor could any amount of attempted self-control check the lava-flow that surged under each clever caress.

He was drowning in the flood of sensation, and the only storm-anchor he had was the man who was causing the maelstrom--so he stood no chance of holding ground, and again was swept away by the riptide.

The rattle of milk-bottles, the revving of engines, doors slamming; early morning sounds that dug Bodie out of a deep sleep and left him floating in a warm, comfortable haze, halfway between awareness and drowse. There was no hiatus in his memory, no missing areas. All that had happened from the time he brought Doyle home to the moment he fell asleep was etched indelibly on his mind.

A slow, sated and complacent smile curved his mouth. If he'd known what it would be like with Doyle, he'd have made his move sooner. Month, years, sooner. all that wasted time--except that he hadn't known he wanted him.

The smile became a grin. Well, he had him now. On a piece of string. He knew exactly which buttons to push to get Ray Doyle going, in spite of his objections, and there had been plenty of those, when he had the breath to voice them.

The grin became an almost silent chuckle. Unfortunately for Doyle, regardless of what his head said, his body had other ideas, and Bodie had found a great deal of delight and satisfaction in winning a sensual abandon from him that had taken them both by surprise, and clearly had scared Doyle into near-panic--while he still had some control left, which was not long.

Not that the initiative had been all one-sided, and he recalled the time when his own brief fantasy had been fulfilled; Doyle, of his own volition, had caressed and explored with hands and lips and tongue. And, Bodie remembered with a growing sense of unease, the depth of his reaction had been cataclysmic. No one had ever made him feel like that, emotionally or physically.

Damn the consequences, he'd thought, and gone ahead, thinking said consequences would be coping with an enraged and outraged Doyle in the morning. But they could be something else entirely. Something a lot more dangerous. Like commitment. Ray Doyle could become a lot more than a good working partner and a fantastic lay. Had become?

Carefully, Bodie propped himself up on one elbow, looked down at the sleeping man close beside him. Close, but not touching. There was a fullness about the relaxed mouth that had nothing to do with the fading bruise and the swelling around it, and Bodie felt that unfamiliar melting in his stomach again, a strange bitter-sweet sensation. It did not soothe his unease, rather it increased it.

"What have you done to me?" he whispered. There was no response. Nor was he entirely sure he wanted him to wake up. He'd have to face the anger, loathing, fear, bewilderment, all over again. He knew his partner well enough to know that there would be no easy acceptance of what had occurred between them, he would have to convince him over again that it was okay--no, convince him, period. All he'd won was a partial surrender, not acceptance, reconciliation.

You can win every battle, and still lose the war.

Bodie eased himself out of the bed and shrugged into his bathrobe. He was ravenously hungry, thirsty enough to drain the Thames, and in desperate need of a cigarette. He also did not want to be around when Doyle opened his eyes. So consciously, he took the coward's way out and went downstairs to the kitchen.

Even so, he was torn by two opposing impulses. Don't get involved. Casual sex is great, and that's all it need be, regardless of who the bed-partner is. Sure, they made a first class team; Doyle was a friend, a top line agent, a colleague, nothing more. But the enemy said other things--he is your conscience, your humanity, and you need him. Need his friendship, his loyalty, his sense of humour, his understanding. You need him at your back or at your side when there's trouble. You need him in your life and in your bed, because last night he made you feel truly alive for the first time in your adult life.

No use to say 'I don't want that depth of involvement.' He was already committed, three years ago, as soon as the unwilling friendship took root.

Looking back over the years, Bodie could pick out too many times when Doyle had been in danger, or hurt, or both; and what he had felt then was not indifference. More like pain, and homicidal rage, and the blind impulse to rescue, protect--

The phone jarred in his ears, and he jumped like a startled cat, snatching at the receiver.

"Yes?" he snapped into the mouthpiece.

"Good morning, Bodie," said a mellifluous Scottish voice, and he groaned inwardly. "I trust you are wide awake and fit, this fine morning?"

"Uh, yes, sir," he muttered.

"Good. What state is Doyle in?"

"Doyle?" Bodie repeated, foolishly.

"Yes. The curly-haired loon I teamed you with." There was a hint of exasperation in Cowley's tones. "What state is he in?"

"I--uh--don't know for certain," he answered guardedly.

"Ach, come on, man," Cowley snapped, acid now. "It's unnecessary to cover for him. I'm well aware of the condition our belligerent drunk was in last night, and where he is now."

"Oh," said Bodie.

"How sober is he?"

"Not sure, sir. He's not awake yet."

"Hmph," a knowing grunt. "Did you have much trouble with him?"

"No, sir, not a lot," Bodie muttered, and a devil of amusement suddenly sat up in his head. That was, after all, perfectly true.

"Hmph," Cowley said again. "He'd better be in full working order, Bodie."

"Oh, he is, sir, he is." Bodie's voice oozed virtue. "Would I abuse government property, sir?"

"Aye, like a shot, if you thought you could get away with it. I want the pair of you in my office in half-an-hour for a briefing. Awake, alert, and capable of taking an intelligent interest in your jobs. Understood?"

"Yessir," Bodie said crisply, saluting, with military precision, the pin-up calendar above the fridge in lieu of his commanding officer.

"I stress, Bodie, both of you," Cowley went on. "I'll leave Doyle in your expert hands--but if either of you are less than attentive, I'll have the pair of you sweating out another refresher course." And the line dead with a decisive click.

"May your haggis never grow less," Bodie said, and replaced the handset.

At the same time he became aware of eyes boring into his back, but he did not turn immediately. Apprehension and anticipation tightened his stomach, and he schooled his face into a mask before moving.

"Do you feel up to the Bodie Patented Hangover Remedy?" he asked lightly, opening the fridge for milk and eggs. Doyle did not answer, so he glanced round, keeping it casual.

The starkly pale apparition that propped up the door-post made him wince in sympathy. Doyle was wearing his spare bathrobe over his jeans, and had made some attempt to wash himself by the traces of soap that clung to his sideburns, and the dampness of all visible skin.

"You look," Bodie told him, "Like a six weeks corpse. For God's sake, sit down. That was Cowley. We're wanted for a briefing in half-an-hour."

"You are," said Doyle, in a savage mimicry of his lightness, "an amoral, callous bastard who doesn't give a purple damn about anyone or anything. Least of all what you did last night. What kind of sadist are you, partner?" the last word spat out with concentrated loathing.

"Ray, I--" Bodie started.

"Doesn't mean a thing to you, does it?" anger, disgust--self-disgust, Bodie recognised--choked Doyle's voice. "Not a bloody thing. Three years of working together and you can do that to me? And not turn a bloody hair afterwards? --Christ, my head--"

"You're wrong," he said quietly.

"Sure, sure." Gingerly, Doyle slumped into the nearest chair, and Bodie, who had been expecting active aggression, hangover or no, knew that if he played his cards right now, he might yet salvage something from the war. And that was very important to him.

"I mean it, Ray."

"You expect me to believe that?" Doyle sneered, supporting his head in his hands. "Not your usual style, is it? I know you, remember? Or I thought I did." It ended as a shaky rumble, and Bodie found himself at Doyle's side, reaching out for him. "Clear off!"

"Listen to me, Ray, what we did--"

"What you did!"

"No. We. Us. You--"

"I was drunk!" a flinching shout of protest.

"I wasn't," Bodie said softly. "Neither are you, now."

"You raped me."

"Yes, the first time, but--damn it, we haven't the chance to talk it out with Cowley waiting on us. As soon as we're off-duty we'll clear the air. But remember this. Drunk or sober, I wanted you last night, and, God help me, I still do. You're not a one-night stand," he added, managing a travesty of a smile that Doyle did not see. "Shuttup and stay there. I'm going to fix you up with a blockbuster of a cure for that hangover."

"It's not going to happen again!" Doyle yelled, clutching at his bursting skull. "Not in a million years! You're off your rocker!"

"Shuttup!" Bodie bellowed. "We'll talk about it later."

"Like hell we will." Doyle folded his arms. "I'm getting out."

"Shuttup," was all the response he got, and moments later a murky concoction was pushed under his nose. "Drink it. All of it. I'll get some clean clothes you can wear."

They made the briefing in Cowley's office by a matter of seconds, and though undeniably frail in appearance, Doyle was alert and intelligent enough to pass muster.

The subsequent shadowing detail and pickup also went smooth as silk, and the questioning procedure achieved its desired result. But Cowley, spending most of the day in their company, was aware of new undercurrents that may or may not have had anything to do with Doyle's shattered romance with Charles Holly's daughter. Bodie was treating him with a cool delicacy that Cowley rarely saw him exhibit, while Doyle, uncharacteristically, was rejecting every supportive move with a viciousness not entirely explained by the after-effects of his alcohol-intake the previous evening.

An interesting situation, Cowley decided, knowing far more about both men that either would have thought possible.

Consequently, he was not surprised when Doyle appeared in the outer office asking for a few minutes of his time. A Doyle still pale, still marked about the face, wearing trousers, shirt and sweater from Bodie's wardrobe.

"Sir," he said without preamble. "I request another assignment. Out of this area. Solo."

"I see." Cowley leaned back, steepling his fingers. "I was half-expecting your resignation."

"I'm not resigning," Doyle said.

"Implying someone else is? Or should? Request denied. You and Bodie are too good a team to split on a whim."

"A whim!" he gasped, outraged.

"Yes, man. A whim. Whatever grievance you have, you'll get over it. Take that as an order. You will get over it."

"In that case, sir, I'm handing in my resignation."

"Request denied."

"I'm not requesting! I'm telling you!"

"The devil you are!" Cowley barked. "You are in CI5, Doyle, until I retire you, evict you, or bury you. Is that clear?"


"No buts. Why?"

There was a momentary silence.

"Ann," he said finally.

"Untrue. If it was her, the resignation would have come first. Therefore it is Bodie." A shot in the dark, but an edifying flush of colour took away Doyle's pallor, and Cowley's arithmetic made four.

Comforting the bereft got a little out of hand? was his thought; what he said was, "Your personal differences will be settled as soon as you are off-duty, and I expect no repeat of this interview. Nor will I tolerate any kind of tension between you that will endanger your efficiency as a team."

"You don't understand," Doyle muttered lamely.

"On the contrary, I do." Cowley permitted a measured amount of sympathy to enter his voice. "Self-knowledge is a sometimes painful, always useful commodity to acquire. You are young, and in a very unsafe profession. With the one proviso that the team is not adversely affected, I suggest you take all you can, while you can, and to the devil with the cost. Out, Doyle."

Bemused, Doyle found himself the other side of the door, facing the secretary's quizzical eyes, and feeling that the world was kicking his legs out from under him.

Avoiding Bodie, Doyle drove to his own flat, stripped off the borrowed clothes, showered, and dried himself sketchily, putting on the first clean garments that came to hand.

The situation would have to be talked out, faced up to and put aside, and forgotten about. Since there was no getting away from it, the team must stand, carry on as it always had done--Cowley was right in one respect--nothing must adversely affect the team's efficiency. Or, in other words, the safety of its two components. (His interpretation, not Cowley's.) Not that he gave a damn for the jungle maniac, it was his own skin he was concerned about from now on, no one else's.

He switched on the T.V., sprawled on the couch, and tried to lose himself in a current affairs programme. It didn't work. David Dimbleby's earnest tones could not hold his attention, and it was Bodie's voice he heard, Bodie's face before his eyes. 'That's the way it was'--'Mercenaries can't be choosy'--'You had to take part in the Game'-- How old had he been then? Late teens, early twenties? An age when most other kids were going to football matches, to pubs and discos with their mates. Poor bastard.

Okay. Look at it, accept it, put it aside. First the rape. A physical assault, comparatively trivial in itself. Only the fact that it was someone he had liked, respected, who'd committed the degradation and pain gave it some measure of importance. What had hurt him more was the helplessness, the humiliation. But the events that followed were a different matter; Bodie waking him to darkly illicit pleasures that fired him to a peak of ecstasy that repelled him with its intensity. Could he accept that? Accept what Bodie had shown him within himself? And having accepted it, could he then put it aside? Further, had Bodie merely used him for his own gratification, or had it been more than casual sex? And memory supplied the replay of Bodie's initial hesitancy, and the way he had set his, Doyle's, pleasure before his own. That did not belong with self-gratification.

All right, accept it. He made love to you, and you enjoyed it. And while you're on the subject, face up to the fact that one of your main objections is that you were forced into the passive part. Now put it aside. Call him up on the phone and tell him thanks but no thanks. Position as catamite, nancy-boy, resident queer, lover, respectfully declined. We Are Just Good Friends. Or we were.

He reached for the phone and the doorbell rang. In code. A shivering knot of wariness grew in his stomach, with something else added that he refused to put a name to. He hit the door-release.

"Come on in," he said, voice expressionless. But Bodie stayed on the threshold, hands in pockets, smiling, poised and confident. As always.

"Want to go out for a drink?" he asked, casually.

"No. Thanks."

"How about the pictures? Monty Python's on at the Imperial."

"Seen it. Are you coming in, or not?"

Bodie hesitated.

"Are you sure?"

"All we're going to do is talk!" he snapped, and felt his colour rising. Bodie made no comment, sauntered in and perched on the arm of an easy chair. Doyle frowned at him, hating the smooth immaculate hair, marble-hard face, and arrogant mouth. There was an elusive memory of that face and mouth softened with passion, but he squashed it quickly, before it had a chance to become concrete.

"Well?" Bodie drawled, one eyebrow twitching up. Doyle's hatred deepened. From somewhere came a small voice that whispered--it's a facade, Bodie's wearing a mask. He's unsure and hurting--but like the errant memory, it was flattened.

"What happened, happened, and that's it. As far as it goes," he said brusquely. "It isn't going to again. I suggest we both forget about it, and carry on--"

"--as if nothing had happened," Bodie finished for him, even and relaxed.

"Yes," said Doyle, relieved and showing it.

But Bodie was smiling his wolf-smile. "Running away from me, Ray? It won't work. I'm the jungle-hunter, remember?"

"What?" He stared at him, incredulous.

"It's simple," Bodie explained, patiently. "I'm not letting you get away."


"Not at all. Be reasonable about it. I'm not expecting you to change your life-style, give up your girls, any more than I will. But you'll come back to me. Every time, you'll come back to me." The monumental certainty stopped Doyle's breath, even knowing as he did, that it was, in part, a facade.

"Go to hell!" he spat.

"You're still running. What's the matter, Ray? That over-worked tag 'It's not a sin if you don't enjoy it'? Sorry, old son. You're one hell of a sinner. Now tell me you're resigning."

"I can't," he choked. "Cowley won't let me--"

"Not that it would make any difference if you did. You could emigrate to bloody Australia, Ray, but you'll still come back to me. Not because I'll make you, but because you won't be able to stay away. Come here."

Doyle shook his head, speechless, and sickeningly aware of the fire starting in his blood, the growing heat in his groin.

"Come here," Bodie repeated, but he did not move.

Bodie crossed the space between them in two swift strides.

"Tinder," he whispered, and kissed him, and Ray Doyle discovered that desire was a phoenix that rose from the ashes of his resolution.

Later, much later, after he had been forced to acknowledge time and again the power this one man had gained over him, he began to see that the knife cut both ways--or rather, the metaphorical leash Bodie had locked around his throat was as firmly buckled about Bodie's own neck. And deep in his head, something angry, hurting and vindictive, resenting the role chosen for him, promised a revenge. Two could play at that game, and if Bodie hadn't realised it yet, he would soon enough.

"And that's another thing," he said, for the first time consciously lying relaxed and at ease in his lover's arms. "Don't you ever call me 'boy' again."

"Oh? Why not?" Bodie murmured into his hair.

"A: I'm three years older than you. B: I don't like it. So watch it, or you'll find the tables turned. Boy."

"Promises, promises," Bodie snickered, but there was a certain huskiness in his voice, and it was perhaps as well that he did not see the smile that grew on Doyle's face.

If their relationship was going to continue along these new lines--and when Doyle thought about it calmly and objectively there was no reason why it shouldn't--then it would be conducted on his terms, not Bodie's. You wait, he thought. Boy.

-- THE END --

c. 1980-1981

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