Love Is Wealth


A Professionals Romance

This story is for you:
Don't let the tear drops rust your shining heart.

Part One

And if you're heartless and hard
Then this has made you what you are.
--From "Little Hitler" by Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn

Cowley patted his shoulder with clumsy concern and turned away. Doyle didn't respond, sitting still and hollow-eyed beside the bed. The doctor had given up asking him to move--he was no trouble, made no noise and kept out of the way when they needed to minister to the patient, but his determination to stay by that bedside went beyond stubbornness. A kindly nurse had brought him some supper that he ate because he knew he had to keep going. A cup of tea was received in the same spirit.

The hospital day was winding down now, night sister pausing in her rounds to spare a sigh for the poor young man so badly injured, and for his colleague, sat silent and desolate beside him.

He managed to snatch a few hours sleep, hovering for the most part in a troubled doze that left him unrested. As the morning rounds began, he took one long look at Bodie and turned to face the world again.

The report, delivered in the grey dawn as he drove Cowley out to the airfield, was received in silence. A cool wind blew, still heavy with the smell of smoke, as they stepped from the car and moved over to join Murphy and the rest of the team engaged in the clearing up operation that had gone on since yesterday afternoon. One lone fire officer was picking his way through the debris of the old hangar, the smoke making the place seem like a surrealistic film set. The bodies, Doyle was glad to note, had been removed. He didn't bother looking for the blood. He brought his wondering wits back as he realized that Cowley was talking to him.

"How many times did you shoot him, Doyle?" Cowley asked sharply.

"Four sir, no sorry, five, I missed with the last one."

"Wanted to make quite sure of him, eh?" This was said with no emphasis at all.

"Yes, sir, I wanted to make very, very sure of him," Doyle responded, as tonelessly as Cowley. A long look was exchanged between the two of them, then Cowley said, turning away,

"Go along with you man, you look all in. Murphy here can drive me back to the office. Report to me at 0800 hours tomorrow. Doyle," he added, calling after him, "how is he?"

Doyle's face twitched suddenly, then hardened.

"He'll live."

"Aye?" Cowley looked the question.

"Badly beaten of course, a couple of broken ribs, some terrible bad bruising, a split lip and two lovely black eyes. But he'll live sir." Doyle seemed reluctant to discuss it further and turned away but Cowley was really concerned and did not like this reticence at all. He put his hand on Ray's arm and turned him back. Ray stood, dogged, in Cowley's path.

"And?" Cowley prompted, knowing something else was wrong, something else to provoke the mood of mourning.

"And? And he was raped," Ray finished, as bleak as winter.

The nurses didn't seem surprised to see him and neither was the doctor, a gentle faced Indian lady whose sari lent a note of rather dignified gaiety to the bleakness of Intensive Care. A specialist had been consulted, he was told, and would conduct an exploratory exam later that morning. The ribs were strapped up, the cuts and bruises bound and swabbed and an analgesic administered to keep the patient pain-free and hopefully asleep. There seemed no permanent damage, but of course the urologist would be able to let them know properly after his exam. The doctor was tactful and Doyle didn't wince as the messy details were explained.

"At the moment, Mr Doyle," the doctor said gently, "the best thing your friend can do is sleep." Her gaze was compassionate and Doyle felt ridiculously near to tears by such simple kindness. He pulled himself together with a small effort and thanking the doctor he returned to the bedside. The background hum of the Care Unit settled around him and as the day drew on, he finally allowed himself to remember.

"He'll believe me," Bodie assured them with that arrogance that was such a part of his character. His confidence was catching; Bodie seldom seemed to have any doubts and never about his own abilities. Almost unconsciously, Doyle had come to share that confidence. Bodie was without doubt the best, quite simply the best that the Unit had. Had Krivas believed him, he wondered? Believed his old un-friend from African days was ready to try a bit of the hot spots again, tired of civvies, tired of the humdrum?

It was a little scary, Doyle admitted. The character that Bodie assumed was disturbingly different from the partner he thought he knew. Was this how Bodie had been in that long ago time, that dark time he never spoke about? Was this persona just a part of Bodie that he hadn't seen before?

He'd seemed older somehow, a brittle shell settling over him, even his face seemed different, less mobile, less inclined to either smiles or frowns. It was like watching him assume a disguise piece by piece. He was still Bodie, still recognizable at each stage of the transformation, but then all of a sudden at the end of the process, he was someone Doyle had never met. Bodie assumed the role as one would an overcoat; it seemed to fit him, perhaps a little too well.

He'd reported in at odd hours, taking no chances that the cut throat crew to which he now belonged would catch him. Doyle had laid low, changing cars, rendezvous, fallbacks. It seemed to be going smoothly, the information Bodie was getting out to him was accurate and detailed; Cowley was pleased and the whole squad was getting ready to swing into action, to round up the gang in the very act. And then Bodie had disappeared.

Doyle remembered waiting around in the dingy pub off a side street down by Limehouse, half empty after the two thirty curfew for the lunch time crowd, moving back to their fortress-like office blocks, incongruous against the still undeveloped warehouses, rising from the great building site that was now the London Dockyards. A whole sub-culture gone, Doyle mused, his social conscience easily aroused. Two tonic waters later, Bodie still hadn't showed. He made the fallback with time to spare, eating a stale bun in a seedy cafe near Kings Cross. Bodie wasn't there. That was the first day.

The panic began slowly, a growing nagging in his stomach, a prickle along the back of his neck; copper-smart he knew, he just knew that something was wrong. He reported in to Cowley, recognizing the look of smothered concern on his boss' face--he'd seen the same look in the mirror. The gang had been hiding out at various boarded up squats and rundown bedsits down the riot-prone Coldharbour Lane; all were checked out, all were empty. That was the second day.

He'd checked back then through the reports, fine-tooth-combing for a scrap, a speck of information, any indication at all as to where the gang would go, any bolt-hole they would use. He got a pounding headache for his pains but not much else. A division wide alert was issued, priority--find 3.7. That was the third day.

On the fourth day, waking early from a troubled sleep on his own sofa; he'd been too tired even to make it to bed, a random thought drifted up from his subconscious, a memory, a half memory no more, of Bodie talking about Krivas and their time together.

"It was funny really, he had his pilot's license and everything, but he was afraid of heights. I had to throw him out of the plane once, he just froze there at the door with all the other blokes waiting to drop lined up behind him. He hated parachuting, hated me because I loved it. Moody bastard. Good though, mean as a snake but bloody good."

A pilot's license? A pilot's license.

Vague memories coalesced into gut-certainty. He showered, grabbed the fastest cup of coffee on record and was out the door, driving down back street rat-runs to beat the morning traffic, talking to Cowley over the radio as he made his way into the office.

"An airfield you say? Aye, well, it's a chance. If'n they want to get away fast, an airplane would be ideal. Miss Coulsen?" this to his assistant, yet another ravishing blonde, "Get a list of all private airfields within a fifty mile radius of London--disused airfields especially. Ex Ministry of Defence, private clubs, that sort of thing." Doyle was relieved, at last they were doing something, at last action could take the edge off his tensions. He knew, deep down, they were on to something here. They just had to be.

The hours had dragged--possibilities were checked and double-checked, cross referenced and coded, the smooth machinery of computer detection running at a peak of efficiency. At last a chance, a very possible looking possibility. Doyle was out the door even before the report had finished scrolling off the teletype from the local force.

The grey spring afternoon was airless and stuffy, the endless suburban road out into wildest Essex relatively traffic free so early. Dual carriageways turned to "A" roads connecting dreary little commuter towns, all looking exactly the same. And then the marshlands, the long sweep out to Southend and Margate, north just a little and it was there.

He'd called Cowley as he had progressed, got a team scrambled, liaised with the locals. This was his show, though, Cowley assured him. He'd go in first--it was his right after all. The team would hold back, awaiting his signal, if...if....

"He's here sir, I just know it." Doyle had assured both Cowley and himself.

The airfield was marked by a faded and badly out-of-date signpost. Tall nodding weeds grew all over the place, creeping up between the cracked concrete paving around the Nissen huts, where so much had been owed by so many to so few. Broken windows, an air of utter desolation; a lonely, almost ghostly place, no colour at all, even the weeds looked grey.

But not the jeep parked in front of what could only be the main hangar. That gave an unexpected splash of deep khaki, a combat vehicle, here where it had no right to be, almost forty years too late. Doyle signalled to the assault team leader, whispering into his radio as if someone might overhear him, and with natural stealth honed by training, he moved closer to the hangar.

His heart hammering, he got to the doorway, listening hard for any sounds. Silence. He jumped into the partly opened doorway, gun poised. No one. A twin prop plane loomed up out of the hangar's interior darkness, the smell of diesel heavy in the still air; fuelled up then, ready for take-off. He reported in to the assault team and set off to investigate the nearest hut.

Crouching down, he got under one of the empty spaces where a window had been, careful to avoid the splinters of glass that lay everywhere. He moved up slightly to get a look inside; a small, obviously long disused room, what looked like a pile of dirty grey blankets in one corner. He bobbed down suddenly as the door into the room opened. Krivas.

He could hear him moving about, he seemed to be talking to someone, then he heard the sound of a blow and a muffled cry. Casting caution to the winds, he looked in again.

What he'd taken to be a pile of blankets was Bodie. A naked, pitiful figure, blood streaked in smears down his back, buttocks and thighs, hands tied behind his back, on his knees before Krivas; Krivas looking faintly ridiculous in his jungle combat gear, pointing a small, deadly looking pistol at Bodie's head. Doyle felt rage, protectiveness and a million other emotions seethe through his stomach and then--and then--

Krivas reached out, pointing the tip of the barrel between Bodie's eyebrows and with the other hand, quite casually, undid the front of his combat trousers. He fondled himself, face contorting with the pleasure, bringing his cock out, already erect. Now he rubbed the barrel of the gun up and down his prick, his other hand snaking round to grasp the back of Bodie's head and bring it forward.

"Kiss it, you bastard," he hissed, his harsh South African accent adding to his sinister tone. "Kiss it. Kiss it." His fingers bit warningly into Bodie's neck and with a sob that Doyle could see shook his shoulders, Bodie opened his mouth. Krivas threw back his head in triumph, burying himself deep in that defenseless throat, the gun once more at Bodie's head, as Krivas began to thrust himself into Bodie's face.

"Ah, that's better. You like that don't you, you like the taste of a real man, bet you've never had anyone bigger in you, eh? Well, suck it good, because you know where it's going next don't you, William? Oh, yes, you know. And then, maybe then, I'll let the others have a turn." He laughed as Bodie gagged, struggling to get free, despite the pressure of the cold steel barrel at his temple. "Or maybe not, eh, precious one? Maybe I'll keep you all for myself eh? Always wanted you, you know that don't you, you little tease. Right from the first, I've wanted your arse--well, now I've got it, eh?" He pulled back then, his cock red and steaming, wet from Bodie's mouth.

With a vicious blow, Krivas knocked Bodie forward, his forehead hitting the concrete floor with a sickening thud. His bare arse was now presented, open, unguarded. Krivas got to his knees behind him and with a low, guttural scream, plunged his well lathered cock into Bodie. He stopped still, savouring the tightness, then circled his hips slightly, drawing hoarse little grunts of pain from the man before him, impaled upon a living spear of flesh.

It was then that Doyle shot him.

The nightmare kaleidoscope of the next few moments never fully resolved themselves. Doyle remembered diamond sharp images; himself pulling Krivas out and off Bodie, kicking him even though he knew he was dead; reaching to cover Bodie with his own jacket; shots, shouts from beyond as the assault team pounced; the strafing sound of machine gun fire, the hideously loud explosion as the plane blew up. But most of all he remembered Bodie's face, horribly battered, smeared with blood and tears, eyes closed wearily.

"It's alright, mate it's alright, it's alright," he repeated over and over, swathing him in blankets, trying to get him up off the cold bare concrete, trying not to hurt him too much. Bodie was unconscious, or seemed it, dazed perhaps, unheeding, unmoving. At last Doyle managed to get him untied, bringing his arms back to his front. The pain of the movement provoked a cry that cut Doyle to the heart.

"It's alright, mate, ambulance on its way, it's okay, it's me, it's Doyle, I'm here now." The words were a murmur of comfort, reassuring the wounded, stricken creature before him.

Eyes, bluer than sapphire, blinked up at him and a cracked voice whispered: "Doyle, is it you? I prayed, I prayed for someone to come, to make him stop, but there was nothing, no one. I prayed, I prayed..." the voice drifted away.

Doyle bit back an endearment, even though Bodie probably wouldn't hear him, cradling the broken man, wrapping the blankets around him tighter, his own arms hard around him, bringing him into Doyle's body, flesh of his flesh. Doyle could feel Bodie's shivers subside as blessed unconsciousness claimed him, but he just sat, silent, rocking him slightly backwards and forwards, his cold gaze resting bleakly on the man he had killed, wishing he were still alive so Doyle could kill him again; and again and again and....

They were still locked together when the ambulance men came to take Bodie away. Doyle released him reluctantly; white faced and silent took his place beside Bodie in the back of the ambulance. He couldn't face the rest of the squad busily clearing up the operation and no one tried to stop him. He couldn't face any of them right now, and he couldn't--wouldn't--leave Bodie. Ever.

Cowley had met him at the hospital, listened to his preliminary report in stony silence, making no judgements, making no comment at all. Bodie did not recover consciousness and after taking a look at him, Cowley had left, after ordering Doyle to take him out to the airfield tomorrow morning for a full de-brief.

A nurse was offering him some more tea he realized, dragging his thoughts back. He accepted the offer mechanically, watching the silent figure. The specialist had examined him by now, tutting at the extent of the bruising. Doyle didn't really understand the jargon the doctor had used, but gathered the small comfort that there was nothing seriously wrong, nothing at least that time and rest wouldn't heal.

About the middle of the afternoon, Bodie opened his eyes, blearily, blinking at his strange surroundings. Doyle was beside him at once, taking his hand, wanting to feel Bodie, wanting Bodie to feel him.

"Hello, blue eyes," he said, his tone light and bantering. "Honest to god, I let you out of my sight for five minutes and look at the state of you." Doyle smiled, his throat tight with tears of reaction. Despite all the doctors' reassurance part of him had thought, horribly, that Bodie would die. The eyes focussed on his face slowly; as recognition dawned a frown creased Bodie's bruised forehead.

"You--you were there, weren't you, Ray? Or did I dream that too? Did you kill him for me, Ray?" these last words said urgently, desperately.

"Oh, yes, blue eyes, I killed him," Doyle said seriously, for once all humour gone between them. Bodie's hand squeezed his, in gratitude? and then Bodie drifted off to sleep again.

Work continued, as it has the habit of doing. Bodie was in Intensive Care for two days, then moved to a private room for a further two days observation. Doyle visited him every day, as did Cowley. Murphy popped in once with a bunch of grapes that he ended up eating himself. Bodie was transferred to light duty roster for four weeks and then was expected to return to the active list. Doyle had expected some strangeness at first in their relationship; Bodie's injuries, the simple fact that he'd been away so long, would make a difference. He'd promised himself he'd be understanding, accepting. Bodie gave him no chance to be anything at all.

A frost something, very slight but very chill, came between them now. Little things gave it away. No more half-joking camping it up with the lads. No more drinks after work. He was as ready for a laugh as he'd always been, ready to talk about football, or cars, or the latest case. But nothing personal, nothing personal at all. Doyle, given to romantic and whimsical thoughts at times, decided it was as if the sunshine had gone out of his heart. The hardness that Bodie had worn as a disguise was creeping upon him day by day now, until it became almost natural.

Murphy noticed it too; he and Doyle sometimes exchanged looks of puzzled concern, neither one quite knowing what was wrong, only knowing something was. And the biggest difference was that in the past, Doyle could have challenged him about this, confronted it with humour or bad temper or whatever, but this careful skating around the subject--this was almost as unnatural as the change in Bodie's character.

Doyle worried about him constantly; was he eating enough, sleeping enough? But Doyle was too sensitive of his own vulnerability where this man was concerned to let it show. Because now more than ever, he couldn't tell him. It was a hell of a way to waste your life, Doyle reflected, to spend it loving someone, another man at that, who didn't care a row of pins about you.

Part Two

When there's no point in staying, you just go.
--From "Politics Aside" by Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn

"I just don't believe you did it, Bodie. You stupid, half Irish...." Doyle's voice was briefly smothered in the glass of gin and tonic, an unwilling gesture of hospitality from his unwilling host. "You've pulled some crazy stunts in your time, but this? You must have known the Cow would go spare when he found out." Doyle faced him, the width of the room separating them, but they were much further apart than that. Doyle drank again, anger making him dry as always, and glad of something to do with his hands, apart of course from strangling Bodie with them.

"It was an obbo, Doyle. Nothing special. I let Whitey get on with it." Bodie shrugged, sitting at his ease in the corner of his chesterfield sofa.

"You let a rookie sit out an obbo alone, Bodie. You could be sacked for that; if you weren't Cowley's blue-eyed boy, you bloody would be." Doyle was furious, the more he thought of his partner's stupidity, the angrier he got.

"You got a death wish or something?" Doyle continued, cataloguing the list of Bodie's follies. "You've been late on duty twice, didn't show at all to one briefing, you've been drinking heavily, screwed your way through half of Reports Typing, God knows what else. What is it with you these days?" Doyle moved restlessly about the room, seeking release from the tension between them in physical activity. Again, Bodie just shrugged, not looking at him, seemingly indifferent. "You want to be sacked, that it? Want out, but ain't got the guts to resign?" Doyle goaded.

"If I want to do anything," Bodie said, a voice bleached of all emotion, "I do it."

"You want to end the partnership then, go into the active pool, be assigned as and when?" Doyle replied, praying that Bodie would say 'no, don't be daft'. Bodie did nothing. After a few minutes, Doyle sat down wearily at the other end of the sofa. Even that much closeness seemed too much and Bodie immediately stood up and went into the kitchen.

"Another?" he called through into the living room, with that distant politeness that was so unnatural, so hurtful.

"Please," Ray replied, anything to fill the void between them. It was getting worse, he reflected, not better. Nowadays, Bodie could hardly be in the same room as him, didn't sit by him as he used to, never under any circumstances whatsoever touched him. Not even a friendly hand on the shoulder, a touch to the arm, nothing.

They sipped their drinks together, what should have been a companionable silence between them. Doyle had control of his temper by now and tried once again to reach his partner.

"What is it really Bodie?" he asked quietly.

"Oh, stop harping on about it all," Bodie exploded, with something like the old heat. He calmed himself visibly, Doyle watching him as he deliberately relaxed his shoulders and his jaw.

"I'm not daft, Bodie, and I'm not fooled for one minute by this silent treatment. Is it," taking a deep breath, "is it what happened with Krivas?"

"I'm over that, Doyle." Bodie's answer was so carefully neutral, Doyle knew he was on target.

"Look mate, I was there remember? I saw--god, I wake up sweating at what I saw."

"You think I don't?" Provoked into a response, Bodie's voice dripped sarcasm.

"Well it would be hard to bloody tell, wouldn't it? You've been closer than a clam; stiff upper lip time, is it?" Doyle was scathing, drowning his gin and fetching himself another, bringing the whole bottle of Gordons with him this time and sod the tonic.

"I don't want to talk about it, Doyle."

"Of course you soddin' do, you stupid git," Doyle replied promptly, wringing a reluctant smile from that stony face.

"Let's just say I don't want to talk about it with you." The brutality of the words hung in the air, Doyle staring into his gin as if he'd never seen such an interesting sight in his life before. Bodie smiled his apology, aware of his mistake.

"That didn't come out quite the way I meant it to, Ray."

Doyle was quick to note the use of his first name, something Bodie had taken to avoiding doing lately. "Why not? I'm your partner, I saw what was done to you; if anyone would understand Bodie, surely I would." The hurt was there, careless mistake or not, and Doyle let Bodie see it.

"You didn't see it all, not by a long chalk." Bodie poured a large measure of gin for himself, surprising Doyle. It wasn't his usual tipple at all; a small gesture of companionship perhaps. Doyle would take it as such.

"Right, this is it then, William Andrew Philip." Doyle was brisk now, full of anger again and love and pain and just plain irritated with Bodie's attitude, fed up to the back teeth with all the crap. "You're going to tell me what happened, get it off your chest, or you can go on report to Cowley as unfit for duty. And don't think I won't, because we both know I'm spiteful enough."

Bodie half smiled, acknowledging the truth of Doyle's words. He took a deep gulp of the gin, grimacing at the bitter tang of juniper. He drew a deep shuddering breath and managed to speak at last.

"I--want to, in a way. I really think I do. But I--just--can't--do--it."

"Have another swig of the bloody gin then. Ha, you make me laugh sometimes, you know. Think you're the only one with things on his mind, eh? Think it's just hard for you right now? What about me?" the last word almost a squeak, but Bodie didn't laugh. "It's like you bloody died, Bodie." Words were coming easily now, Doyle leading the way into the dark, dangerous territory of feelings and longings and admitting to things. "You've changed, gone hard and brittle and--cold. You were a mean son of a bitch before, god alone knows how any of us put up with you, but there was some--fire--there. You cared about things; that's why you got angry, it showed you cared." Doyle was actually shaking with the emotional reaction of saying this out loud, part of him amused at himself; he took blood, death and glory in his stride but just saying what he really felt reduced him to a jelly.

"Oh no, son, you were always the bleeding heart of the duo." Bodie repudiated the slur that he could ever, really, care about anything.

"Don't be simple, Bodie. Of course you care--or you did."

"I enjoyed it, Ray," Bodie said simply, and got up and walked out.

Doyle found him in an empty pub off Seven Dials, opposite a newly refurbished theatre still dark despite the millions spent on its update. He was sat over in the far corner, away from the juke box and the video games, drinking pints of black and tan with Irish whiskey chasers. Doyle stopped at the bar on his way over and ordered two more of the same--he'd be ill later, black and tan never agreed with him.

He took his place opposite Bodie and sipped his drink with distaste. Bodie didn't acknowledge him beyond a small nod of greeting and settled down to the serious business of drinking.

"So," Doyle said conversationally, under cover of the piped musak, "do you mean you enjoyed it all, the beatings, the buggery, the cock-sucking, or do you mean you got an erection." Bodie almost choked and set back his pint glass with care.

"Doyle," he said in a shocked tone.

"Oh, I'm no virgin, Bodie, I've seen it all and heard it all." Done most of it too, he added silently, but this was no time to let Bodie into that particular secret. "If you don't tell me, properly, I'll sit here and guess until I get it right. So, did he urinate on you and you enjoyed it? Did he...."

"For God's sake stop," Bodie pleaded, Doyle's gallows humour getting to him at last. "I'll tell you." Another sip of the pint. "I'm sorry, you know, for not telling you before. I was disgusted with myself enough for both of us."

"I won't be disgusted, I promise." The sincerity was plain in Doyle's voice and he continued, still calm. "But is this the place?" Bodie acknowledged this ruefully and they finished their drinks in silence and left.

"I've had too much to risk the car," Doyle explained and hailed a taxi. They went back to Doyle's place, it being nearer and their conversation was strictly neutral until they arrived. Doyle double locked the door; Bodie wouldn't be walking out on this one, and poured drinks, knowing they would need alcohol to oil the wheels on this particular run-away train.

"Well, isn't this where I came in?" he asked brightly, settling himself down on the sofa next to Bodie, close enough, but not too close.

"I'm sorry I walked out like that--it was stupid. I just--" Bodie stopped, confusion surging through him.

"I think I understand--look, let's forget it eh? So," taking a sip of Dutch courage, "where do you want to begin?"

"He--he knew, right from the start, he knew it was a set up. God, I was so arrogant, thinking I'd pulled the wool over his eyes. No chance. He was on to me right from the beginning. Laughed about it, he did." The words, so long in coming, were a deluge now, spilling over themselves, desperate to tell, to share. "He got the others to hold me down, then he pistol-whipped me and cut my clothes from me. I don't think, at that stage, I'd guessed what he was going to do. He left me alone for a long time, hours at least. Then he came and--gloated over me. That's the only word I can think of to describe it. He--fondled me, talking about what he would do to me, how he'd always wanted me." Bodie stopped and took a deep gulp of brandy. "Well, you heard some of it."

"Yes, I heard," Doyle said expressionless. "So, how do you reckon you enjoyed it, mate? You can tell me, honest. Did you get off on the bondage and violence? Lots of people do like it like that you know, nothing to be ashamed of."

"He--he made me, Ray. I mean, he would hold me and stroke me and--suck me, so that I would get hard, you know? Then he'd tease me, going on and on until he'd make me beg. God, this is so hard to say." They both paused, Bodie breathing deeply, calming himself, committed to confession now, ready to tell all: Doyle turning himself into the perfect listener; mirroring Bodie's movements, leaning forward slightly, looking at Bodie, nodding encouragement.

"You've taken that first step, mate, go on, you need to finish it now." Bodie's face acknowledged the truth of Ray's words.

"He'd gloat all the more when I--begged. He'd get me hard then just leave me there, just stop and laugh in my face. God, the humiliation." For a brief moment, Bodie hid his face, then recovered and continued. "He brought the others in to see as well, let them watch while he wanked me off. I couldn't stop him, Ray, I couldn't stop myself." The last word almost a cry; despair overlaid with disgust. Doyle sat quietly for a few moments, and then into the smoking rubble of the ruin, Bodie threw another bombshell.

"Part of me didn't want to stop," he whispered, deadly pale, looking as if he were going to throw up on the spot. Doyle took some more of his drink, needing it badly to steady his nerves; whatever he had expected to hear, it had not been this.

"Forgive yourself, Bodie," Doyle said at last. "No one else can do it for you. There are worse things in the world than enjoying sex with another man." Doyle knew Bodie was listening to him; how much comfort he could give, that he didn't know.

Cowley looked at the pair of them over the top of his glasses. The report file open on the desk before him made sorry reading--or at least, Cowley thought so.

"I expect better of you--you should expect better of yourselves," he finished the tirade, voice as cutting as a blade of ice. They stood, looking sheepish, or in Doyle's case, lambish; but the wide-eyed innocent ploy was completely wasted on this particular audience.

"Still, I suppose one can't deny that you got a result of sorts." Bodie perked up immediately at this faint praise--he'd thought they'd done bloody good; okay, so they'd busted a few heads and completely stuffed the local police commissioner, but since when was that anything to write home about?

Cowley closed the file with a weary sigh and sat back in his chair, now swinging his reading glasses by one stem. "Aye, well, considering," he didn't say what consideration exactly, "I'll chalk it up as a success--partial success." Bodie downright grinned now and even Doyle heaved a sigh of relief. "But don't go jumping the gun like that too often. It paid off this time, but next time? You're good, both of you, but don't get cocky. An arrogant agent is apt to turn into a dead agent." They accepted the homily in stoical silence and being dismissed, they slouched out of the Cow's office.

"Not so bad, not so bad as some," Bodie concluded as they collected their gear from the locker room.

"Yeah, let us off quite lightly, really. Think he's going soft in his old age?" Doyle replied, voice muffled as he delved deep into his kitbag to emerge with a rather battered chocolate bar.

"You are not going to eat that, are you?" Bodie was disgusted.

"Why not?" and Doyle proceeded to demolish the offending article in three well chosen bites.

"Fancy a beer?" Bodie asked nonchalantly as they left the anonymous office block that houses CI5.

"No thanks, mate, see you later." Doyle's reply was cool but polite, and he set off home, not sparing a backward glance. Bodie watched him go, a frown creasing his fine forehead. That was the fourth invitation Doyle had turned down lately. He tried, quite successfully, to shrug off the disappointment, and set off to the Seven Oaks to join Murphy and Jax and a few kindred spirits over a few other sorts of spirits. Even Cowley stopped in later and bought his round like a good 'un. It was a good night--shame Doyle hadn't been there, Bodie mused as he turned in, sometime after midnight. Shame.

Doyle meanwhile lay stretched out in bed, listening to the sounds from the bathroom as Tony cleaned himself up. The sex had been good between them and Doyle pondered the imponderable responsibility of asking Tony to stay this time. The change this would bring to their casual liaison was something that needed careful thought; not some post-coital-wish-to-please-spur-of-the-moment thing. Doyle knew, without vanity, that Tony was already half way in love with him, finding solace for his own more effeminate and yielding personality within the understated macho scene that Doyle offered. But he felt bad enough sometimes at his own callousness in using Tony like this. It wouldn't be fair--to either of them. He loved someone else and would till he died and that was that.

Tony returned to the bedroom, smelling faintly of lavender water as he always did. Ray smiled at him, watching fondly as he dressed. Pale linen suit, paler blue shirt and rather daringly patterned pink tie were assumed, then his lime green socks. A combination of colours that on anyone else would have looked garish but on Tony looked like a dream.

He was good looking too; Ray would never entertain anyone who didn't have some physical attractiveness, and face it, Ray, he told himself sourly, that's the only reason you picked him up in the first place, that and his rather daringly tight trousers and come-hither smile. The spiteful wit and sense of humour that went with this glamorous package were not as easy to like; unless you shared them, as Ray did.

"Lover, you are something else," Tony purred sleekly, giving Ray a very saucy wink through the mirror as he stood before his reflection, ensuring his tie was straight and his lone platinum earring well fastened.

The taxi arrived some twenty minutes later and Doyle bid Tony goodbye with a kiss in which friendship, gratitude and lust were nicely mixed.

"See you?" Tony asked, as he always did and Doyle just smiled, as he always did. They both knew all Ray had to do was call and Tony would be there.

Doyle returned to his bed, trying not to feel guilty, again, that he was just using Tony. He needed the sex, God knows; a day spent in Bodie's rather devastating company made him hard and hungry. Tony was available, sex-hungry and well aware that what lay between them was completely no-strings-attached. But he still felt as guilty as hell.

Resigned to it, he turned over and tried to get some sleep, something that eluded him lately. He'd really wanted to go with Bodie tonight, wanted it more than anything. But he knew, for the sake of his own sanity, he couldn't. To be with Bodie was asking for trouble--the last thing Bodie would want would be some panting queen after him, and Doyle knew he couldn't keep up the pretense of being as straight as the proverbial die if he were to spend too much time with the sweet danger that Bodie had become.

Funny, he thought without any humour at all, before Krivas, I think I'd have chanced my arm by now, I want him so bad. And now look at us--he trusts me enough to tell me what he can hardly face in himself--how can I now betray that trust with my own damning truth?

Doyle got up out of the bed at last; sleep was far away and his thoughts too painful. A sour kind of anticipation filled him--he was almost looking forward to wallowing in his own particular brand of gluttony.

He headed for the living room, re-lit the lamps, tidied up the remains of the supper he'd shared with his--bumboy, he supposed was the correct title and pouring himself another drink, one of one too many, he listened to some music, a boy and girl duo singing smokey, jazzy, bittersweet songs about love and death and infidelity and socialism. They were Bodie's favourites--he didn't much care for them himself. He picked up a book of verse; Kipling, again Bodie's choice, not his own.

On the coffee table in front of him was the framed photo he'd stolen from the file and had copied, a lovely photo showing a younger Bodie, utterly scrumptious in his paratroopers uniform, an expression of fierce pride on his face, look at me, the new sergeant. He loved that photo dearly, gazed at it for hours sometimes, studying the face with minute concentration, fingertip sometimes touching the lips he kissed in his dreams.

But it wasn't working tonight--filled with anger and bitterness and an absolute agony of lust, even the usual ploys couldn't help. He felt saturated by Bodie's presence, remembering how he'd had to sit, here on this very couch, and listen while Bodie, poor sod, spilled his guts. Common humanity demanded his sympathies for Bodie's wounds; but his own--who could he ever tell about them? About the four days of utter terror when Bodie was missing, the terror of finding him, like that, and the terror now, every day, of loving someone so much it was a pain.

I love him and I can't go on, he decided in the lucid calm of the early morning after too much alcohol and loveless sex. I'll explain--part of it anyway--to Cowley and to him. And I'll just leave. While I still can.

Part Three

Staying till the evening's wrecked
By saying things just for effect.

--From "The Dustbowl" by Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn

Doyle had not expected any great emotional scene, which was just as well because he didn't get one. Nothing is such a blow to the pride of the man who thinks he is indispensable as to find that everyone seems quite prepared to live without him. And happily ever after at that.

He'd been quite a big honcho in the Met. after all, and they'd seen him go without a murmur, beyond the usual insincere 'drop by for a pint when you get the chance mate' at the leaving-do piss up. He still had the card the girls from the typing pool had got for him to wish him good luck, even though he couldn't now remember the faces that went with the hastily scrawled names of "Karen" and "Tracy" and "Dawn". He'd learned his lesson well from that; Personnel received his notice with unconcern--he'd expected no less.

Cowley though grilled him good and proper about his decision, taking the unusual step of insisting on the full three month's notice period. He'd asked Doyle not to tell the others; a question of morale, always delicate in the division.

"Can I--er--should I tell Bodie, sir?" he'd asked diffidently, not sure which answer he hoped George would give.

"No, not yet. You've given me your word you'll think about it again when the three months is up--why upset people if there's no reason? You may change your mind--oh, I know, you think you have made up your mind and I've no desire to make you stay if you don't want to. But Bodie's your partner and after what he went through.... I'm bloody grateful to you, Doyle, for what you did with him. I could see fine well he was going off the rails, and it was you alone that stopped him, after that Krivas disaster." Cowley looked almost as surprised as Doyle felt at such an admission from the usually stony hearted Cowley. "He'll miss you, you know, if you do go," Cowley added.

"He won't miss me enough sir," Doyle replied, considering that he owed the old sod that much at least.

"Like that, is it?" This was the nearest that George would ever hint to what he knew, and Doyle knew, was written on his personnel file. "Aye, well I thought it might be. It was playing with fire to put you together, I suppose." Cowley seemed suddenly old, his face betraying the tiredness and pain that he was so adept at concealing. Doyle didn't think he could stand much more and with a hastily murmured excuse, he left the office.

"Can't you see," he said, carrying on the conversation inside his head, "I've got to go while I still can. I've got to leave now, make a clean break, or it'll just drift on and it'll break my heart."

Three months can pass with either agonizing slowness or the speed of light--and sometimes both at once. Doyle didn't withdraw his resignation; Cowley hadn't really expected him to. Breaking the news to Bodie was something Ray both dreaded and welcomed; welcomed because it would be the end, dreaded because it would be the end.

It was the start of the final two weeks. They were both off duty for a whole seventy-two hours and for once, Bodie hadn't made any plans to see Ann-Marie, his current flame. Their shifts finished early and they both left the building, Doyle was careful to keep the banter light between them. Bodie responded with his usual good humour, blue eyes glinting with that devil of mischief. God, he's beautiful, the rogue thought passed through Doyle's mind; even if I didn't love him to bits, I'd still have to admit he's one bonny lad.

"Bodie," Doyle said after a very deep breath indeed, "do you fancy--I mean, how about a takeaway lunch back at my place?" His tone was surprisingly serious for such a casual invitation and Bodie shot him a puzzled glance before he accepted with just the right degree of enthusiasm.

They'd bought the takeaway from the usual place, arguing good naturedly on whose turn it was to pay and why Bodie was so boring and always chose the same thing. While Doyle had waited to collect their order, Bodie had nipped next door to the Off License, emerging under a small mountain of beer cans, determined to get the leave off to a good start.

When they finally got to Ray's place, there was a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing getting plates and forks and beers, before settling down, one on either end of the long sofa, the music on the stereo Bodie's favourite duo again.

A contented silence descended, broken by "pass the soy" and "another beer?" until both were full and the by now half-empty boxes were stacked away in Ray's fridge to be fried up later--"waste not, want not," as Ray cliched, tidying up in a half-hearted sort of way.

Bodie leaned back with an uncouth grunt of satisfaction and drank deep from his beer. Ray joined him, wiping his damp hands on the back of his jeans and took a swig of his own brew, delaying the moment just a little. The song on the stereo came to an end and uninvited, Bodie got up and turned the disc over to listen to the other side.

"Mmm, I think Tracey's got the loveliest voice I've ever heard," he said, to no one in particular and resumed his seat.

"Bodie," Ray began, relaxed by the beers to some extent, "Bodie, I've resigned."

"Oh, yeah?" Bodie asked, not really listening and certainly not appreciating.

"Do you hear me? I've resigned--from the squad. I leave in two weeks."

"What kind of joke's this? Come on, what's going on?" Bodie replied, his attention caught and ready for the gag that would surely follow. Doyle just looked at him stone faced and silent.

"I'm sorry, there's no joke. I resigned three months ago, I've just been working out my notice period. Cowley will publish it tomorrow to the rest of them. I wanted to tell you myself." A million contradictory expressions seemed to cross Bodie's face in a few seconds, leaving only a baffled look of stunned amazement behind.

"I--I don't know what to say. I mean--Ray, really? You've resigned?" A nod from Doyle, tight lipped but definite, confirmed the unthinkable. "But why for God's sake? What's the problem? What did Cowley say?" Bodie spoke quickly, surprise still his strongest emotion.

"I told him I had--a personal reason for not wanting to continue in the squad. He asked me to reconsider at the end of the notice period and I said I would. I did, too, but my decision stays the same. I leave on the eighteenth. A Friday." Doyle marvelled privately at how calm and sensible he sounded when all he wanted to do was throw himself on the ground and howl like a child.

"Have you got another job?" Bodie asked, his face and tone evidence that it still hadn't really sunk in.

"Not yet, I've got some holiday pay due so I thought I'd take a break for a while, maybe three months or so and then think about it later." Doyle shrugged this off--to be honest, he hadn't given a thought to what he'd do later.

"I still can't believe it," Bodie spoke up, putting down his beer can and turning to look at Ray. "What is it really mate? You said some personal problem--can I help? I mean, what is it? What's up? You're not," suddenly pale, "you're not sick or something are you?"

"No, Bodie, I'm not sick, nothing like that. And," Doyle, worn out by feelings, could sense his temper slipping away, "I didn't say it was a personal problem, I said it was a personal reason." It took a few minutes for that barbed little comment to sink in; Doyle watched with dour pleasure as the penny dropped and Bodie's face tightened as he realized the full implications of the remark.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked tightly.

"Look, Bodie, I do have a very good reason but it is personal. It's not that I won't tell you, it's that I can't."

"Does it involve me?" Bodie said, dangerously quiet. Doyle half smiled at his arrogance before answering tiredly.

"In a way, yes. But," here Doyle held up a hand, imperative that Bodie let him finish, "not in the way you probably think."

"What way am I supposed to bloody think? If it sickens you that much to be partners with me, then get yourself bloody well reassigned. You don't have to leave the service for Christ's sake." Bodie's voice was scathing.

"What Krivas did to you sickens me; you don't sicken me. I just," here Doyle stopped, horrified to find his voice going wobbly. Oh, the hundreds of times he'd rehearsed this scene, it never, never went like this.

"You say it's not that--God I thought we were friends, Ray. After what I told you, what can there be in the whole world that you can't tell me?" Bodie waffled off into silence but Doyle, not even pausing to fetch breath, had suddenly and simply had enough.

"I was there for you wasn't I? Oh, yes, Ray-bloody-dopey-Doyle, I was there when you needed somebody, when you were so wrapped up in it all you didn't even know you needed somebody. And what about me, eh, Bodie? What about me?" This he almost spat at him, a look of shock spreading across Bodie's face as the truth, final, brutal, ugly, burst out of his partner.

"When I needed somebody? You didn't know, did you? Didn't fucking care, what's more. You were hurt, Bodie, and I was bloody sorry and I did my best to help but I was bloody gutted, me. Them four days was bloody nightmare time for me--afterwards was even worse, but does the great warrior care? Not fucking likely. If I have to listen to you feel sorry for yourself one more time for getting off on rough sex, I'll finish what that Krivas cunt started and I will leave you for dead."

Doyle was on his feet by now, though he couldn't remember getting there; Bodie rose up also, turning a little pale with shock, hearing but not really understanding what he heard. He looked at Ray, a stranger suddenly, a positive Furie, his face white, even his lips were bloodless, the only colour his eyes that Bodie had never seen so dark a green.

"But, Ray, mate, what--" Doyle stopped him with an almost animal growl and lunging at him, hustled him towards the door.

"Get out, just get out, you bastard, get out get out get out!" He was yelling, hitting, beyond reason, beyond clinging to an already shredded dignity. He felt suddenly glad; he didn't care, he told himself, he really truly didn't care. He'd finished with this, this half-life half-marble love that was his feeling for Bodie. He was free of him now.

They'd fetched up at the door at last, both breathing deeply, Bodie angry but concerned, not fighting back, containing his own response, his own impulse to knock Ray's teeth down his throat.

"Get out now, Bodie, before you hear something you'll regret," Doyle said, as quiet as distant thunder and as dangerous.

"I won't regret this mate, you will." A tight anger was breaking through Bodie's guard now, worn down by the unexpectedness of the attack.

"Oh, don't think I don't regret it already, sunshine. I regret every fucking stupid wasted moment. I should have done this ages ago, gone out and found myself someone, found myself some hope, some future. Well, it's still not too late and I'm getting out now. I'm over it already, William fucking Bodie, and you can just rot, you cold hearted bastard, because I don't care. I've wasted enough time carrying a bloody torch, nearly two bloody years with you, you bastard, and now it's over."

There was a silence over the face of the whole world, a silence that seemed to become a physical thing, to grow out from the corners of the room. Doyle stood, unheeded temper-tears on his cheeks, a free man at last, in pieces but free; and Bodie, Bodie just stood, appalled.

"Now will you kindly get out, you son of a bitch?" and Doyle opened the door and slammed it after him and he didn't even listen as Bodie walked quickly away, almost stumbling down the stairs. He returned to the living room and quite calmly picked up the phone.

"Yes, Tony please." A slight delay, then, "Tony? Hi, it's me. Look, how about dinner tonight? My place if that's ok? About seven? Great."

They'd lingered over the wine, neither one in any hurry. Tony had lots to talk about, he'd finally heard that his promotion had come through at work. Ray was pleased for him and joined in an animated discussion on the relative merits of the cars that Tony could choose from now he'd made it to the manager grades.

He'd told his own news quietly, not explaining and making it plain the subject was not open for discussion. Tony had been the soul of tact and had asked no questions, a reticence for which Ray was grateful.

They sat on the sofa to drink their coffee, close together but not too close; the best thing about their relationship being that distance did no harm. They had more coffee later, cuddled together now, for once Tony taking the lead, wrapping Ray in his arms in an almost impersonal hug as they sat in silence for what seemed like a long time.

At last, Tony spoke. "I think, Ray my darling, that you've just made a very big mistake," he said, quietly and sincerely.

"What?" Ray was surprised, drawing away a little to look at him.

"I think you've made a mistake," Tony repeated. "I think you should take back your resignation. And, I don't know why I'm cutting my own throat, you should tell this man that you love him." Tony smiled at him, leaning forward to kiss him gently. "And don't, for fucks' sake, say 'what man?' because it's as plain as the nose on your face that's why you're really leaving." Tony, made wise by love, looked at him shrewdly.

"Do you want to tell me about him?"

"I'm not that much of a bastard," Doyle growled, feeling uncomfortable, unused to this much assurance and poise from the usually lighthearted, shallow, rather malleable Tony.

"I'm very fond of you, Ray, you know that. And, given half the chance, I could love you. But it's still not too late for me, to walk away relatively heart-whole. But you don't have to be psychic to see that this bloke of yours has got you sewn up like a kipper. So, go on, tell Auntie Tony."

Doyle, his emotional state still uncertain from the traumatic scene earlier, was too vulnerable to kindness right now and Tony's sincerity was just too appealing.

"He's someone I work with--worked with. His name is--well never mind. He was a soldier and he's seen some dark places in his time. He's also as straight as a fucking die. He--cares--about me, quite a lot I think, but only because I'm a good mate. You know, I make him laugh, I listened to him when he--well, when he went through a bad patch. Oh, I'm not explaining it very well." Ray ran a distracted hand through his curls. Tony imprisoned his hands gently and sat, holding him.

"I think I understand. So why couldn't you tell this big dark man that you love him? Would he be disgusted? Is he some kind of fascist? A queer-basher?"

"No, I don't think he'd be disgusted exactly, but how could I, Tony? How could I tell him I'm in love with him and expect it to not make a difference?"

"You couldn't wally-brain! Of course it would make a difference, and how much of a difference would be up to him and you to sort out. But is a little pride, a little loss of face, too much of a price to pay to be with someone you love?"

"Tony! Don't! I've got more pride than to hang around like some pathetic panting queen. He'd be terrified I'd jump on him one night when I've had too much to drink."

"Well, it seems to me you've condemned the poor sod without a hearing. Tell him the truth, even if you do still leave. At least let him know why." Tony got up and poured more coffees and added a generous splash of brandy to Ray's. "You know, even if he doesn't love you, I bet he'll be flattered. I read in a book somewhere what some old French guy said--'we may say no, but we always like to be asked'. So, go on, cast yourself on his manly bosom and if he says fuck off, you've lost absolutely nothing." Tony smiled and reluctantly, Ray smiled back.

"You never struck me as a coward," Tony added, deliberately provocative, and laughed as he dodged the half-serious blow Ray aimed at his head.

"Why are you so bloody nice?" Ray asked in wonderment.

"I'm just an angel sent down from above," he replied, dead-pan. "And, I really should be going. No," as Ray began to object, "I really should. We're great friends, Ray; we had a lovely love affair but that must belong to the past now. I'll get off home. You've got some thinking to do, love." Ray couldn't deny the sense of this and although, in some obscure way, he'd been hoping Tony would stay and force some big emotional scene, he was truly glad their affair was ending so sweetly.

"Thanks," Ray said and meant it, as they stood together in the doorway. Tony smiled and said, "You know Ray, when it works, when it really works, there's nothing better in the whole universe. So it's got to be worth it, eh? Take the risk." They kissed, friends always, and Tony left.

Yes, well how easy to say 'take the risk', but knowing his Bodie, if he went round there now, he'd get his block knocked off. Or an apology accepted in frigid silence. And he still had most of his seventy-two hours leave to get through and this--just--couldn't--go--on.

He returned to the living room and automatically put some music on the turntable--that bloody ubiquitous album that Bodie loved so much. Ray smiled at his own sentimentality and decided to hell with it and after a lot too much to drink, managed to get himself to sleep.

Part Four

Pleasure is a pretty thing,
Oh, but love, they say, is wealth.

--From "Careless" by Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn

It was probably the bravest, or stupidest, thing he'd ever do in his life, he decided.

He had to ring three times before the door opened. He knew Bodie was in because his car had been parked outside, otherwise he might have chickened out. Bodie looked at him in complete surprise; whoever he had expected, it obviously wasn't Ray.

"I need to talk to you, Bodie," Ray said in a toneless voice and rather taken aback by his serious expression, Bodie stepped aside to allow him to enter. Bodie had obviously just finished an exercise session; he was in sweat-bottoms and vest--Ray absolutely refused to even think about how wonderful he looked.

"What is it, Ray? I would imagine we've got nothing more to talk about after yesterday." Bodie's voice was icy and offended.

"We do. I have to tell you the real reason I'm leaving," Doyle replied, feeling just like he had when he was a kid and had stood at the side of the swimming pool, just before taking his first dive. He moved on through into the living room. Bodie followed and threw himself onto the sofa, not offering Ray a seat.

"Well? Talk then," he growled.

Ray took a deep breath and then another and then, tightening his hands into fists deep in his jacket pockets, he condemned himself to the truth.

"I'm leaving the service because I can't be with you any more and not tell you how I feel, about what I am. I'm gay--I always have been. And I love you, have been in love with you since we were first partnered. And I can't go on lying, to myself or to you because you mean too much to me. And that's the truth." The silence was as loud as thunder. "Now you can spit in my face or kick my head in, but at least now you know." He didn't believe he'd said it at last, out loud and to Bodie of all people. But he had. I must be braver than I thought, Ray smiled to himself, with absolutely no humour at all.

Bodie had gone very still and very quiet and Doyle just stood, waiting for some sort of reaction, not strong enough right now to just walk out. At last, with a slow, jerky movement, Bodie waved for Ray to sit down. He sensibly chose the chair furthest away and sat on the edge, hands still in pockets, shoulders hunched defensively.

"Is--" Bodie stopped and cleared his throat and started again. "Is this true, Ray? Is this the reason?" His voice gave no clue as to what answer he wanted to hear--did he want Ray to laugh and say 'no, sorry, bad joke' or 'yes, sorry, no joke'? So Ray told him again. "Yes it is true. Honestly."

They both sat in silence then, quiet no burden between them for once. Bodie got up eventually, suddenly realizing his lack of manners and poured drinks. He didn't offer coffee, he knew alcohol was needed by them both at this point. Ray sipped his drink gratefully and didn't look at Bodie as he sat over at the other side of the room. The longer this went on, the worse it was getting.

"Bodie?" he ventured at last, hesitantly.

"I--Ray--I thought a lot about what you said to me yesterday and some of it--well, just didn't make sense. And, then, God forgive me, some of it made too much sense. Your feelings for me--"

"I'm sorry, Bodie, but I had to tell you," Ray choked out, at the end of his tether. He put his glass down and almost bolted for the door, clumsily. It hadn't worked then. Had he ever, really expected it to work? But something was barring his way, a something that he suddenly realized was Bodie.

"Don't go, Ray. We do need to talk about this." And quite tenderly, Bodie led him back into the living room.

"You know, I thought about what you said before--how you were there for me and what a selfish bastard I was." Ray began to object wildly; heat of the moment, didn't mean it. But Bodie continued. "No, you were right Ray. I was a bloody selfish bastard and for that at least I'm sorry." Bodie led him to the sofa and, bless him, sat beside him.

"Do you--I mean, can we still be partners, knowing what you know now?" Bodie didn't reply and Ray's heart sank even further. "I'm sorry. Stupid to ask really."

Bodie took his hand.

Ray sat absolutely still, too scared to move, to breathe.

"You're my best friend, Ray. What else can I call the feeling I have for you if it isn't love? But I don't know...after, well after Krivas; I'm scared." Ray's face was dumb with horror and Bodie hastened to continue. "Scared of myself mate, not of you, never ever of you."

"It's just that I--want--you so much sometimes, it hurts," Ray confessed, feeling shamed by his own desire. A long moment passed and then Bodie said, quietly and firmly, "I think I want you as bad. We're already more than friends, Ray. It may take me a while to get used to you in my bed, but I'd like to give it a try." He smiled, at once shy and randy.

Ray felt old and sin-sodden and debauched all of a sudden; this tender debutante was not the Bodie he knew, the fighting swearing drinking ex-merc love 'em and leave 'em dare-devil with flashing blue eyes and a go to hell mouth. But the hearts and flowers were torn by a flash of sheer lust as, with his usual arrogance, Bodie took Ray in his arms, drawing them both back in to the comfortable depths of the sofa. Ray sank down into the siren-song lure of such warm, manly smelling nearness, irresistible, especially when it's all you've dreamed of and all you hoped it would be.

"Oh, William," he murmured, sinking into the dark safety of Bodie's shoulder and closing his eyes in tired bliss. An odd, curling sort of warmth coiled through Bodie's stomach at the use of his name, the name no one ever used. He never thought of himself by that name, but perhaps this was just one more thing he'd have to reconsider. And Ray's closeness seemed right and inevitable and very, very nice indeed.

He tightened his hold fractionally, shifting them so they lay more snugly. Ray was a mass of liquid bone and muscle in his arms, turning to Bodie's heat as a sunflower follows the sun. Ray's arms came around him in practiced embrace, holding him so firmly that Bodie was surprised at first. He suddenly realized how nice it was to be held so firmly and recalled how his many girlfriends had enjoyed such a closeness--he understood it better now, this desire for a man's strength, demonstrated so gently. The contrast was piquant and unexpectedly sweet.

He returned the embrace, holding Ray firmly with a steely grip that was heaven in itself. But now he drew back a little as Ray moved to release himself; he felt a sense of loss and then hissed sharply as Ray returned into him, his cool steady hands sliding up under the sweat-soaked vest and seeking the iron curves of Bodie's chest, smoothing over them and finally coming to rest over the suddenly hard nipples. Bodie's head fell back into the sofa under the assault, his arms falling away to his sides, offering himself up, a willing sacrifice to Ray's exploration.

It was his shoulders now, Ray stroking their tenseness, resting his cheek, his forehead, then his lips against their hardness, their safety. His vest was slowly peeled from him and tossed aside, revealing the ladder of a well muscled abdomen, black hair contrasting with the alabaster skin. And Ray's hands were everywhere; and where they were not, his lips did just as well. The bullet wound from the Congo was kissed better, the winged dagger tattoo that told its own tale of Bodie's past, worn in direct contravention to security, was nuzzled and licked. Then his hands, his hard man's hands, were cupped together as Ray buried his face between them, breathing in his scent, resting his cheeks against the warm hollow of the palms that curved to cup his face closer.

They were half lying, half sitting on the sofa by this time and now, with his own wiry strength, Ray shifted them so that Bodie lay, fully stretched out, Ray swift to lie at his side. Bodie opened lust dazed eyes, as blue as monkshood, shocking against the sooty eyelashes, and looked deeply and fearlessly at his--lover. Ray gave him look for look, jade green locking with sapphire blue. And then, like a ship coming into harbour, Ray's lips touched his for the first time and his eyes closed and his mouth opened in an inarticulate cry of relief.

This was right, this was how it was meant to be; his soul knew this was what he had always sought and never found in the fleeting relationships that were all he knew of love. Ray's lips, the even pressure of another man's mouth, dry, inescapable, thrilling in their mastery, in their skill. He melted further, more and more, before the furnace heat of that kiss, and spared a thought to wonder at that which could so sweetly wound, so sweetly heal.

And then the hot, flickering tongue, striking like a snake, taking his mouth, his tongue, running over his teeth and then deeper, a storm of sensations, another man, in him, on him, plundering, leaving nothing behind but a sighing, groaning mouth that hungered for that possession again--and again. Bodie caught at him, bringing him back for kiss after kiss, pushing back with his own tongue now, giving Ray the thrill of weakness, taking the power of command. Now it was Ray that was kissed, with a fierceness that was thrilling, with a skill that promised, sinfully. Seconds or years passed and then both drew back, half afraid and not knowing why, but the kisses, like in fairy stories, had worked their magic, and Ray was all the charm and Bodie was dashing as any prince and they looked at each other again, not with the famine of before but with the certainty of feast.

Ray stood and took Bodie's hand to pull him up to stand beside him. He smiled slightly at his partner, conscious of their hands, still locked together, liking the feel of their fingers twining around each other. Bodie's eyes reflected the smile, though his face remained still.

"Bed?" he enquired softly and needing no reply to such a stupid question, led Ray by the hand into the large, airy bedroom. Ray's footsteps slowed behind him as they crossed the bridal threshold and Bodie turned back, looking the question.

"It's alright," he assured the other, understanding that Ray's hesitation was on his behalf. And looking at Bodie, Ray knew it was all alright; no shadows of memory clouded the sky of Bodie's eyes, only a passion that turned the blue to a flame.

Ray began to strip, slowly, never taking his eyes from Bodie, liking the way Bodie watched him. Shoes and socks were discarded then Ray began to undo his shirt, taking the buttons slowly, revealing himself to Bodie's hungry gaze. His hands came to his belt then, slowing even more, the anticipation deepening; a button gave, then a zip began its slow descent and denim was parted to show a cock that was hardening and pulsing, rising from brown curls, as lovely as the curls on Ray's head. Bodie licked his lips, dry with waiting and Ray froze, poised on the moment, eternity.

Bodie gave a small, wounded cry and snatched him close in a smothering hug. His hands came round to cup the sweet swell of Ray's arse, pulling him close, his cock hot against the growing heat of Bodie's cock, a hard and ruthless promise. A hand snaked to the fore, and at last, at last, Bodie was holding Ray, just holding, savouring the weight, the potency, the threat. Ray's hands smoothed over Bodie's back, tracing the line of ribs, the curve of the spine, then the fullness of buttocks.

Together, they were tangling, removing trousers, freeing each other to each other; now both bare, bold hands came again to touch, to learn the lines of each other. Kisses, on lips, earlobes, eyelids, cheek, forehead, anywhere and everywhere they could reach and then Ray swooped, catching a pert nipple as his prize, sucking so hard it was a pain, then licking, the texture like hot, wet velvet, a sensation at once strange and familiar. His head moved lower as he got to his knees, kissing Bodie's chest, belly, navel. His hands were still cupped around Bodie's arse, kneading the full, round treasure of his bum. And Ray could feel him, the heat of him, growing nearer, the iron of his thighs against Ray's chest as Ray leaned into him, finally, finally where Ray had longed to be, on his knees at Bodie's feet.

Bodie drew a deep shuddering breath, his hands carding through Ray's curls, resting on his shoulders and then his neck. A nuzzling caress and now Ray's curls were twining with Bodie's, Ray kissing and licking his thighs, the smooth inner whiteness a contrast of colour with the black of pubic hair and the scarlet of arousal.

For just one second, Bodie froze, a deep pit of memory opening before him and then he was himself again, and this was Ray, his friend, his lover, his life, Ray opening himself, sucking him in, holding him still in his hot mouth, tasting Bodie as Bodie grew harder and harder inside him, waiting until the hardness was complete before beginning a slow, torturing sucking that tore the breath from his lungs, his whole body quivering with the pleasure of that suction.

Deeper now, into Ray's throat, a swallow, then another, Ray eating him alive, devouring him. Bodie had never felt so hard, never felt so loved. The sensations were running through him, the roads of his passion all leading to the Rome of his cock, being sucked, being sucked, being sucked.... His hips were thrusting himself ever deeper into Ray; and Ray took him ever deeper down into himself.

"Ray!" he cried, fingers clutching convulsively in Ray's curls, straining, taut as a bowstring, pulled back and ready to fire--to shoot--now into the hot furnace darkness, pulsing, spasm after spasm, honey-rough cum erupting, splattering into Ray's throat, to be drank down with voracious appetite, quenching the parching thirst of lust in thrilling hot cum.

Ray released him, reluctant but breathless, sitting back on his heels, wiping his mouth with unsteady fingers. At once, Bodie reached for him and with that iron strength that was so much a part of the man, gathered him up and carried him, literally, to the bed.

Gazing down at the beauty that was Ray, Bodie felt stabbed by the force of his love for this man, lust, god, yes, but love as well, at last after all this time, love at last. He stretched out his hands to fondle him, paying homage to his lover, returning pleasure for pleasure. Ray's erection was hard and bobbing with the pulse of the great vein, a blind needing that begged for release; and Ray flaunted himself, letting Bodie look, letting him see just how much man he was. Bodie was beside him now, hands firmly milking his throbbing cock, drawing gasps and sighs from Ray, twisting him as he sought to escape the inescapable.

"Oh, god, Ray, Ray," he sighed into his ear, bringing him still closer to him, drawing him inside for good and all. "Ray, fuck me, now, now, this minute, I want you inside me, all of you. It's you and I want it and I want it, now, please, please..." his words were harsh, with desire and demand, the hollow inside him needing to be filled and only Ray, only Ray would do.

"Yes, yes," Ray assured him brokenly, too far gone in his own need to question or draw back, "suck me lover, get me wet, get me so wet I can fuck you, fuck you..." and no memories could dim the burn between them; the past truly another country, Bodie's body, heart and soul knowing only Ray.

And Bodie sucked him, with a strong, lingering passion that almost was too much for Ray, controlling desperately, wanting to come, but wanting to come in Bodie even more, even more than he'd wanted anything, ever.

Bodie was turned, helpless, willing, ready, spreading himself; first one wet finger then another, stretching him open, stretching, ready, waiting and then a long plunge and Ray was fucking him, hard, tender, soft, every way it was possible to be fucked and all at once, a tidal wave of lust, plunging into him, withdrawing, Bodie's muscles reluctant to let go, clamping down, enveloping Ray's cock, thrust and counter-point, possession and possessed, no time for pain or delay, Ray's urgent need, Bodie's urgent readiness. Again he thrust, soaring towards climax; a touch, there, almost, and Bodie called his name, cried out "Ray" and that tipped him over into a sunburst of cum, explosive, pumping, then lazy, a burning orgasm that went on and on, leaving him spent, worn and weary flotsam on the sea of Bodie's body. He slipped from Bodie's wet arse with regret, only the knowledge he would return soon made it possible.

All arms and legs tangled, mouth to mouth, hand in hand, a sweaty cramp-inducing bundle of barely satisfied lust and ever hungry love, they drifted off to sleep, together.

He felt uncomfortable, hungry, thirsty, and he badly needed to pee. He was happier than he had ever been in his life before.

Ray stretched, slowly, gently, not wanting Bodie to wake just yet. He slipped from the cocoon of the bed and padded silently to the bathroom and then the kitchen. Some few minutes later he returned, bearing two steaming mugs of coffee. He set the cups down and got back into the bed, to be captured at once by warm, strong arms that held him with a fierce tenderness that almost took his breath.

"Hey, wakey wakey," he said teasingly to Bodie and at last, navy blue eyes blinked open, a smile curling in their depths.

"Good morning, I love you," he said, then yawned. Ray laughed at the absurdity and replied with a kiss.

"Coffee," Ray stated, releasing himself with regret and handing one of the cups to his partner. Bodie slurped noisily, gulping down the strong black brew. He sighed his appreciation and handed back the empty mug before leaping from the bed and pounding into the bathroom. Ray could hear him singing "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep," a semi-tone flat, under the shower. If he wasn't already madly in love, he would have fallen right then and there.

Bodie emerged some fifteen minutes later, glowing. Ray had made more coffee and slotted some toast as he entered the kitchen. He smiled a greeting, a little hesitant now, prepared for some awkwardness, but Bodie just swept him close for a very smoochy kiss, before turning to grab more coffee. The way to Bodie's heart was definitely through his stomach, Ray mused, as he went off to his own shower and shave.

Nothing but inane mutterings were uttered over the makeshift breakfast; only as the radio announced the eight o'clock news did Bodie sober.

"Ray, what are you going to do?" he asked.

"Do?" Ray was surprised at the question and then realized the implications. "I'll go see Cowley right now--that is," he stopped, feeling wobbly all of a sudden. "You do still want us to be partners?" Bodie refused to dignify that with an answer, beyond a glower. "Okay, sorry," Ray smiled his apology, "I'll go see the Cow and retract my resignation."

Bodie nodded his satisfaction but continued, still solemn. "Yes, but what are you going to do? I mean," and Bodie actually blushed, something Ray thought he'd never ever see. "I liked waking up with you beside me, in fact," the blush deepened, "I liked every bloody thing we did last night. And I want it, you, again. Soon."

Ray grinned in simple delight and with a touching gallantry, brushed his lips across the back of Bodie's hand.

"So, no regrets?" He asked, needing to hear Bodie say it; but Bodie did one better and proved it, right there and then, and they kissed as if their lives depended on it; which when you come to think of it, was quite true.

The kitchen floor was hard and cold at first, but the bed was too far away so nature just took its course. Of course.

-- THE END --

Originally published in No Holds Barred 6, Kathleen Resch, May 1994

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