"Ruthless old bastard." The words slurred as Ray Doyle stared into the mirror, his face drawn and tired. Behind him, the locker room remained empty except for his exhausted partner. "Should have at least warned us. He's a treacherous sod, that's what."

"You're repeating yourself, Ray. It's late. Time to go home."

"Deserves repeating. Ruthless old bastard almost got us killed. Again."

"Comes with the fine print."

"Not the way he bloody well does it."

Bodie leaned his head forward into his palms, the pounding more persistent, the spinning more pronounced.

"Shut it, Ray. We're alive. Just go home and leave off."

"Leave off?" Turning, his attention more directed at Bodie, he demanded, "How can you bloody well sit there and not be angry? You haven't said one word about any of it since it happened. I mean, the old bastard set us up to be gassed for christsakes."

"What's to say? He did what he had to, didn't he." Rubbing his forehead, his voice barely pushed the words, his throat still aching from strain and irritation of the suffocating fumes. He shuddered at the memory of choking, the blackness taking him under. Speaking, he avoided the fear of failure, the haunt of losing face all over again. "Mind you, I'm surprised he told us as much as he did. He didn't have to."

"More bragging than telling."

The sudden coughing brought Bodie's hand up to his heart as he struggled to control the tight pain gripping his chest. A few seconds later his partner touched his shoulder. "Sounds bad, sunshine. Let's get you down to infirmary. That grenade must've done some damage looks like."

Shrugging off the attention, Bodie shook his head, his words still breathy. "I'll be all right."

"Sounds like you're spitting up a bloody lung. Can't hurt to be sure, can it."

"I hate doctors. Waste of time."

"Not if there's something wrong."

"Leave off. Jesus." Biting back the frustration, Bodie barely stopped the flood of curses just on the verge of escaping. He scrubbed his face with both hands before he spoke again. "I'm just tired. You're fine and I will be after I sleep it off."

Ray crossed his arms, his eyes focused entirely on his partner. "Okay, but I'm taking you in for a check up straight away if you're not."

"I don't need a minder, Ray."

"You need a minder more than my baby niece, Bodie. You look done in. I'll drive you home."

"You can't drive yourself home. You're drunk. Come to that, so am I. Think Murphy's about the place somewhere. Better give out a call, eh."

Offended, Ray stood more straight, the exaggeration almost comical. "I'm sober as a bloody judge, mate."

"An Irish judge, maybe. Now, go see if you can find Murphy, or call somebody. My head's a right terrorist bomb ready to explode any minute."

He waited for his partner to argue, only to find quiet instead. Opening up one eye, he spied Ray's stare. "Yeah?"

"You don't look good, Bodie. Bit greenish, really."

"Don't feel good either. Now go find a bloody ride to the flat."

"You'll be all right until I get back then?"

"Ray, my gun's still loaded."

"God, you're a surly bastard."

Before he could snap back a good one, his partner left the room, the silence behind him a blessing. As soon as he checked the door, he staggered to a stall, kneeled quickly, and let the retching take over. The fine malt Scotch that tasted so soothing in Cowley's office burned as it seared his throat coming up. Long heaving strained his gut and only rested after the last of the bile finished.

His commander's voice startled him as he settled back on his haunches, his head leaning against the wall, "Bodie? Lad, are you all right?"

"In a minute, sir." Another round of coughing caught him by surprise, his whole body wracked, his belly twisted and rebellious enough to try to gag him once more with vomiting. Completely empty, his stomach still tried to find its way out of his body. After several more moments, he slumped down, exhausted and shaking. A wash of cold sweat bathed his clothes, his cotton shirt soaked and clinging to his back. Carefully, he stood to unlock the door and moved unsteadily to the couch, Cowley by his side.

"Why didn't you tell me you were sick?"

"I'm not sick, sir."

"You call this well then?"

Swallowing hard, painfully clearing his throat, he shook his head, "Well, I'm not that either."

"Aye." Putting his hands on his hips, Cowley shook his head. "You're a brave lad, Bodie, but sometimes you're too bloody minded for your own good. Sit still while I call the doctor."

"I don't need a doctor, sir."

"Save your breath, .37, and pray you don't need a hospital as well. You should've told me sooner."

Cowley stepped to the table and dialed a number, barking orders Bodie failed to hear. His head back and eyes closed, he concentrated instead on surviving the threat of another bout of coughing. His chest ached at the weight of stubborn air, the chill forcing involuntary shivers. He found the floating sensation disconnecting his head from his swelling brain no real comfort either.

"Bodie? Sit up, lad. Aye, that's it."

Hands held him upright as they took off his shirt, a series of medical checks to follow. In the distance he heard the two voices, one Cowley's, one Dr. Barkley's, as they whispered and hissed, fussing about what to do next. He just wanted to breathe and sleep for a bit. Soaring on cloudy layers between both hot and cold, sweet air dodged his lungs nicely. "Bodie, look at me."

He forced his head up and his eyes to focus on Cowley's face so near his. "Sir?"

"Dr. Barkley wants you in hospital. You're having a delayed reaction to the gas, lad. It's not good."

Too weary to argue, but fighting down the rising panic, Bodie shook his head. "Hate bloody hospitals." The sluggish words rasped against the air, his throat muscles jerking inside his neck.

"I know. That's why he's going to give you a few shots and then some medicine to take home. You're going to need to be quiet for a bit, but with a little rest and no more complications, you should be fine."

Squeezing his eyes shut, a bolt flashed behind his eyes, the yellow blinding. He forced his voice past tense muscles. "What about Ray?"

"I sent him home. Murphy's going to stay with him just in case something happens, but we don't expect it. Doctor says this sort of reaction is rare."

"Lucky me then, eh, sir."

"Aye, lad. You've always been lucky or you wouldn't be here, would you. Now, lie down. Doctor wants a good aim."

"Bloody sadist."

"Aye. But, he's working for our side, so humor him. Drop your pants, .37, and try to relax."

Unsteady, Bodie rose enough to strip quickly and sit back down, Cowley's arm bracing his position. He lay on his side, his naked body trembling from the strain of breathing and moving at the same time. Glancing over just as the doctor swabbed down his hip, he flinched with the first injection, the sting intense. "Bloody hell. What's in that?"

"That one's for bronchial dilation to help with breathing. The others will be an antibiotic, some medication to counteract the gas, and another for nausea. Drink plenty of water, and sleep as much as you can for a few days. I'm giving Mr. Cowley the other medications and directions." Barkley stood straight as he reached to prepare another needle while he continued to talk. "He's assured me you'll be following them to the letter."

"Aye, he will." Cowley's blue eyes never left Bodie's.

Uneasy, the younger man looked away and found the next shot even more painful. "Sod all. Feels like a bloody spearhead."

"Yes, and it's going to make you very sleepy before long." The doctor rubbed harder, the injection site still sore. "As soon as I'm finished, I want you dressed and taken home. And no more drinking fine malt Scotch either, not until I've cleared you for duty. Is that understood?"

Before he could answer, Cowley reached over, resting a hand on his bare shoulder. "Everything's clear, doctor. Bodie here will be the model patient."

Tutting out loud, Dr. Barkley shook his head as he leaned over with another shot. "Pardon me, and with all due respect, George, but he never has been before, so why expect it now? Bit optimistic, isn't it?"

"Aye, but this time's going to be different."


"Aye. He's going to have a minder."

"Sir, a minder?"

Impossible to ignore, his boss's hand gripped harder. "Aye, Bodie. A minder. Now, grit your teeth, .37. We're almost finished."

The next two shots came quickly, but hurt just as much as the others. His head on the lurch and his bum throbbing, he sat up and reached for his clothes, the light blurred around his eyes.

"George, I still think putting him in hospital would be better."

"Maybe, but it's my decision. If he gets worse, I'll consider it."

"He's already worse. Hope this man you're using is someone with medical training."

"He's had some experience, don't worry. Now, leave us alone while I get him dressed and home."

"I'll check with you in the morning then. Make sure he takes the medicines. All of them, George. Understand?"

"Aye, Kenneth, I understand."

The doctor paused for a moment and raised a finger. "You know, George, it's a good thing I'm not a betting man."

"And why's that?"

"He's a stubborn bastard, our man Bodie. I'd lay odds whoever watches him won't be able to manage."

"I'll take that wager. Make it a tenner."


"Aye, really. Now, why don't you go call and see about Doyle."

"Right, George. In the morning it is then."

As soon as he left, Bodie groaned. "Sir?"

"What, Bodie?" The softness of the voice so near his ear surprised him as he sat barely holding himself upright.

"Hope you can afford a tenner."

"Won't have to, will I, Bodie. I'll take it out of your wages if you pull some runner. Don't think I won't either."

He ran his fingers through fine dark hair, the touch both affectionate and electric. Bodie swallowed hard and changed the subject. "Do I know this minder then?"

"Not as well as you think, lad, but, aye, you know him."


"I'll tell you later. Now, before you pass out, could you do me a wee favor?"


"Let go of my other hand while I pull on your trousers."

"Yes, sir."

Flushed and embarrassed, Bodie took a shallow breath and tried hard not to faint as George Cowley dressed him as gently as one might dress a baby. Closing his eyes, he shook his head, grateful that the lack of oxygen kept him from getting hard. The soft strokes of thighs and arse teased his drowsy cock, the ache between his legs even stronger as the older man pulled on his shirt. An easy hand brushed at his groin and hushed his breathing.

"There's a good lad then." The light pat to his bum as he stood confused him and he turned to stare into concerned blue eyes, his own unfocused and fuzzy.


"You still with me, lad?"

"I think so, but I think I'm a bit barmy with all those drugs doctor gave me."

"Barmy? Why's that?"

His tongue thickened, his brain numbing even as he stood still. "Nothing, sir." As he draped his arm around his boss's shoulders for support, he allowed himself to imagine the delicious lie down he really wanted. Once they reached the car, he let his mind wander until the circle of light narrowed into a more pleasant warmth and darkness.

And from a short distance he heard a familiar voice whisper, "Aye, .37, barmy it is then."

Floating up, his body groggy and dull, Bodie opened his eyes slowly, the vision of grey light muted and unclear. Licking his dry lips, he blinked several times and cleared his throat. Dragging flesh over splintered glass would've been easier and less painful than breathing.

"Good morning, .37."

Startled by the unexpected voice, he turned his head, the movement jarring his swollen brain. Sudden flares exploded and his whole body jerked up with spasm. Gritting his teeth, the intensity of every muscle in his back firing spikes all at once stunned him. After several moments, his mind cleared enough for him to mutter, "Bloody hell, sir. What's happening?"

"Sit up and drink this for me."

Strong arms lifted him, the shifting sending the stabs down deeper, his spine rebelling against tendons and tissue, the nerves waging war against his back. His own groans echoed and vibrated through every bone. Even his fingers and toes ached for relief, the throbbing sharp and regular. "God, sir. It hurts."

"I know, lad. Now, carefully. Drink this down."

The bitter smell turned his stomach, but the cup touched and tilted, the liquid stinging his lips and tongue. Throat clenching against the noxious flavor, he forced himself to swallow without puking. "Tastes like bloody pond scum."

"Aye, smells like it, too." The cup pressed forward again, the rest even thicker and more tart. His stomach rebelled, but settled queasy, the slow heat erasing the rolling sensation, his head already more numb.

"There's a good lad. Try to keep it down for a minute, eh." A kind hand wiped his mouth before Cowley put the cup and cloth on the bedside table.

Closing his eyes, the waves of nausea hit him again. "Don't feel very well, sir. Sorry."

"No need to be. I'm the one who should be apologizing. The sickness and muscle cramps are a side effect of the gas. I had no idea you'd react like this or I'd never have risked it."

"Not your fault, sir." He raised a hand and held his head, the swirling even worse as he sat with his eyes squeezed shut.

"Bodie, I need to give you something more for your stomach."

"Don't know if I can hold it down just yet, sir. Give me a minute."

"You won't have to hold it down, lad. Just shift down and roll over. Try to relax."


"This will make you feel better, but a bit sleepy."

He heard the sound of plastic and foil and opened his eyes to see Cowley holding the suppository in a gloved hand. "No way, sir. No bloody way."

Shaking his head, his face stern, but sympathetic, Cowley's voice stayed firm. "Don't be stubborn, Bodie. It's just medication. Aye, I know it's a bit embarrassing, but I don't have the injections, and you're too weak to do it properly yourself. Now, it's either this or we go to hospital. Doctor's orders. Which is it?"

Still shaking, Bodie worked to control both the anger and the frustration at feeling helpless. "I don't want to do this."

"I understand, but it's necessary. I promise to be as easy as I can. Now, let's get this over with." Reluctantly, Bodie slid down and rolled on his side with his back to Cowley, his whole body tense. With the bedcover lifted to the side, one hand soothed his naked hip while his boss's voice remained solid. "Just relax, lad, and pull your legs up for me. Pretend I'm a bonnie nurse if it helps."

"Be a bit hard to do that, sir. Nothing personal, but you don't look like a Linda or Susie." He positioned his knees higher, the exposure to the air chilling, his thighs freezing.

A finger touched his arse, the slick lubrication cold against the skin. The immediate shudder sent another series of spasms though his back and shoulders. One hand held his cheeks apart while the intrusion inserted itself, pushing in still deeper while his sphincter closed around the finger holding it in place. The heat of the medicine burned inside, searing up through his belly almost immediately. His cock stirred and he cursed under his breath as he put his hands down to hold and cover himself.

Cowley patted his bum with his free hand and spoke in a whisper as he withdrew the other from inside him. "It's all right, lad. It should stay in now and you'll feel better in no time." The comforter settled around him as he stayed curled in a ball, his boss's voice soothing despite the unsettled tingle and fire in his gut. "I'm going to wash up. Be back in a minute."

Biting his lower lip, Bodie worked to keep his mind blank, to remove the sensation of having Cowley touch him, to enter him from behind. He refused to revisit the other officers who'd ordered him to lie still, to take it without a fuss, to enjoy the special privilege of their intimate touches. The conflict of wanting and not wanting, of yearning and not yearning, brought on a deep shudder. He never expected the game coming from Cowley, but should have. Why should he be any different?

"Bodie, are you all right?"

"Fine, sir."

The mattress sagged as Cowley sat down, the back of his hand stroking his wet cheek, the same soft caress he faintly remembered from waking before. "Sir?"


"I know it's not your fault about the gas."

"You'll be better soon, .37, I promise."

"You're my minder then, eh?"

"Aye. Just rest now."

The soft strokes continued along his face, fingers walking along his whiskers, a thumb sliding casually to hold his chin for a moment. His voice trembled as he spoke, his whole body both aroused and too tired to respond the way he wanted and most feared.

"Is that an order, sir?"

"You're a good soldier, Bodie. If it's an order you want, then consider it done. Go to sleep for me."

As he closed his eyes, the world suddenly much more calm and dozing, he mumbled, "Sleeping all the way, sir."

From his side he heard the hushed voice that crooned almost like summer music from the shadows, "Aye, a bonnie soldier, my Bodie. A bonnie soldier, indeed."

Swimming up from sleep, his head still floating with a definite spin to the left, Bodie tested the light with only one eye. The muted colors around him slanted with the shadows of late afternoon as he turned his head. At the window, Doyle stood staring back, his arms folded across his chest, his serious face unamused.

"Just what the hell are you up to then?"


"A fine thing, you lying about. You're a right mess, you are, sunshine."

"Where's Cowley?"

Tilting his head, his eyes hard to see clearly in the dim light, Ray stepped closer. "He's at headquarters for awhile. Had me come over to play medic for a bit." Sitting on the edge of the bed, his voice softened. "So, what's this then, this delayed effect?"

"You know as much as I do, Ray." Grunting as he pushed himself up, Bodie propped himself against the headboard, his breathing still labored. Sweat beaded his forehead despite the chilling wash freezing his skin. Still naked beneath the covers, he brought the comforter up to his shoulders to fight off the cold. Speaking forced him to swallow harder, each word a slow burn. "How long have I been out?"

"Since the night before yesterday."

"That long?"

"Yeah. Looks to me you'd be better off in hospital."

Running a hand back through his damp hair, he registered the heaviness of his limbs, the slow pull of unused muscles lifting bone. Weariness closed his eyes while he spoke, the effort almost more than he could manage. "I'll be fine. Just got to get this bloody stuff out of my system."

"And how long's that going to take?

"Don't know, do I?" Opening his eyes, he glanced around the room, but didn't see what he needed. "Ray, would you look behind the door of the loo and bring me my robe? The blue one."

"Blue one? You've got more than one then?"

"The white one's Debbie's."

"Didn't think your birds needed robes, mate. Must be falling down, eh?"

Ignoring the joke, his head throbbing as he shifted his legs off the side of the bed, Bodie fought against the hacking that doubled him forward.

"Jesus, you sound ragged."

His breath still heaving, he lifted his arm. "Hand it over.""

Letting the robe find a home, Ray's studied him with concern. "You need any help?"

"I can make it."

"In this century?"

"Funny, Doyle." He wrapped the front together before he stood up. The room tilted and narrowed quickly, the sinking like falling into winter ocean.

"Bloody hell, Bodie."

Ray steadied and lowered him back to the bed, his whole body collapsing back. While his head stayed on the pillow, the vertigo whirled his world behind closed lids. His arm over his face, he complained, "Jesus, Ray, I think I'm going to be sick."

While one hand pulled him to his side, another supported the back of his neck, gently massaging the tight muscles. "There's a bowl here if you need it. Just try to relax."

After several long minutes, his clenched gut eased slightly, the awful spinning more settled. "Thanks."

"You should be in hospital, Bodie."

"Cowley's taking care of me."

"Is he?"


"A right considerate bloke, our Cowley."

The tight tone brought his attention up to Ray's face, the expression solemn. "What, Ray?"

"You don't see it?"

"See what?" His body more stable, he edged himself away from his partner's lap and pulled the covers up to his chin. The cold scraped at him, unyielding, the tiny shivers growing stronger as he lay on his side.

"Well, if it hadn't been for him, you wouldn't be sick, would you?"

"It's not his fault. Nobody knew I'd react like this."

"But he should've done. He's always spouting about advancing to triple think, ruthless old bastard, so he should've known this could happen."

"Hell, I didn't even know it could happen." He hugged himself, his hands in his armpits, his teeth near chattering. "And enough of the old, eh? Just leave off."

"How can you defend him?"

"Because I respect him."

"Respect, is it? You sure about that, mate? You sure there's not something more to this let Lord Cowley do whatever he bloody well chooses attitude you've got lately?"

Too weak to make much of a fist, he grumbled low instead. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"I hate to say it, mate, but you're acting like some lovesick prat. High and mighty Cowley's lap dog, that's what. He lies and manipulates with bloody impunity as far as you're concerned, and I'm damn sick of it."

"Sod off, Ray. What I feel about Cowley is none of your bloody business."

"It is if it concerns us. You're my partner. If that's going to change, I need to know it."

"What the hell are you on about, change? You're a daft bugger, Ray. Nothing's changing and there's nothing between Cowley and me."

"Not yet maybe."

"You're wrong. You're worried about nothing."

Before he could say anything else, the key in the lock signaled their boss's arrival. Ray stood up still frowning and shook his head. "I hope so, Bodie. I just hate seeing you like this."

From behind him Cowley's firm voice filled the room. "And how is he, .45?"

"He'll say he's fine, sir, but he's not. He about passed out trying to go to the loo and he's got a fever with chills along with nausea. Feels dehydrated as well. How long does it take for someone to get over this kind of reaction?"

"Barkley said 48 to 72 hours."

"It's been about 36."

"Aye. Then we're half way there then." Cowley moved to the end of the bed, his eyes scanning Bodie. "So, how are you feeling, .37?"

"I'm fine, sir."

Ray shook his head and turned to leave, pausing with his hand on the bedroom door. "He's all yours, sir."

"Aye, Doyle. He is."

Bodie watched his partner stiffen at the tone and the words, his stare first on Cowley and then meeting his. Without speaking, he frowned, nodded once, the green eyes narrow and displeased before leaving. The urge to call Ray back fled completely when the bed sagged beside him and warm, familiar fingers brushed back his hair.

Turning onto his side, he grunted into the pillow, the tightness in his throat less than before, but still sore. His whole body generated a solid dull ache, nothing shut down completely, nothing quite working without complaint either.

"Feeling any better, Bodie?"

"Ready to fight a whole terrorist army, sir."

"Aye, that's a fine offer, lad, but let's try getting you upright first, eh?"

Bodie opened his eyes slowly to see Cowley put the tray on the bedside table. Taking a deep breath, he rolled back over and then heaved himself up awkwardly. The expected spin didn't come, but he still proceeded with caution, the sweat from the effort already coating his skin. Every movement and breath taxed him more than it should as he tried to arrange his bedding and get comfortable.

A helping hand pushed him forward, fluffed and piled the pillows, and then efficiently settled him back. "Slow down, lad. There's no race. Just relax. You're better, but you're not well yet. No need to over do, is there."

"Sitting up isn't over doing, sir."

"After what you've been through the last few days, it could be." Cowley pulled a chair by the bed side and sat down. "I've got tea and biscuits. Ready to see if that notorious stomach's on the mend?"

"I should probably go to the loo first. Then, yeah, that sounds good."

"You think you can manage on your own?"

"I should bloody well hope so, sir. Otherwise, just shoot me. This being an invalid game is a right pain in the arse."

Smiling, Cowley crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, his eyes crinkled with amusement. "Aye, but it sounds like you've moved on to stage two this morning."

"Stage two?"

"Convalescent complaining."

Bodie looked away, his face burning, his whole body suddenly tense. "Sorry, sir. I just hate being dependent."

"Part of your nature, lad. No reason to be embarrassed." Cowley reached to the end of the bed and handed him the blue robe lying there. "Here. Put this on and don't be too shy to let me know if you get dizzy or need any help."

"Yes, sir."

As he swung his bare legs over the edge of the bed, he slipped the robe on and tied the sash. "Bodie."

"Yes, sir?"

"Look at me."

Glancing up, he noted the clarity of the blue in those eyes that studied him so closely. "What is it, sir?"

"You can stop calling me sir when we're not in headquarters."

"Yes, sir." He smiled and shook his head. "Sorry. It's just habit. Don't know if I can break it."

"Don't know if I want you to either." The tone sounded almost wistful and as he watched, Cowley's face flushed as he continued speaking even more softly. "But I'd like you to try, Bodie. When we're not on duty and alone, I'd like you to think of me as George, not Mr. Cowley. I want you to see me as your friend, not your boss."

The simple words carried a power that touched him. His breathing stalled and then labored, not with damaged lungs, but with his own hesitation, his own fear spiking the air. He worked hard to calm his heart and to keep his tongue on target. "I'd like that."

"Aye, lad, so would I."

As he stood, he put a hand out to the wall, bracing himself briefly to get his bearings. A few steps inside the loo, he closed the door and leaned back, his eyes squeezed shut, his mind shuttered. A collage of images ambushed him, men from his past, hands grabbing and holding him, pain swelling like an ocean's icy wash against helpless sand. Shaking his head, he closed off the parade of slams to his equilibrium and forced himself to deal with his present needs. He relieved himself and washed his hands before leaning forward to rinse out his mouth. Splashing his face with cold water, his whiskers burned his palms, the stubble rough and harsh against the callused skin. He looked into the mirror, the haggard reflection not real, not quite Bodie. Turning away, he reluctantly walked back into the bedroom, wondering if he could survive another friend.

Sitting at the kitchen table, Bodie played with the spoon, his fingertips running back and forth along the thin metal.

"You're too quiet, Bodie. Are you feeling poorly again?"

"No. Just thinking."

"Want to share the thought?"

"Nothing to share, sir."


"Sorry. George. My mind's on leave. Kind of blank, really."

His boss leaned forward against the table, his eyes focused and clear. "Out with it. I know brooding when I see it, .37."

A sudden anger spilled into his words, the taste bitter on his tongue. ".37 is it? Are we on duty or off?"

Sitting back, slightly startled, Cowley tilted his head and studied him. "We're off duty, lad. What's wrong?"

Bodie put the spoon down and stood, walking to the window, his arms crossed around his middle. "I'm not sure."

"Not sure about what?"

"About you. About what you really want. I like being in CI5. I don't want to mess about and spoil it."

Nodding, his face only slightly more pinched, Cowley spoke evenly, unperturbed. "And you think I'm asking you to do more than work in the squad in order to keep your job, is that it?"

"Something like that."

"You can be more clear than that, Bodie. You think I'm just after a quick shag, eh?"

"Shag, sir?" Despite his own discomfort, he couldn't help but smile. "I've never heard you use that word before."

"It's a coarse word, but you get my meaning. Now, don't piss about. Is that what you think?" The voice held no anger, just questions tinged with a touch of hurt.

"Are you saying all this minding you've been doing is just to get me fit for duty?" He clenched his jaw, the muscles flexing several times before he spoke again. "Because I don't believe that. Not with the way you touch me."

"And how do I touch you?"

"Like you mean it."

Keeping his seat, Cowley put both hands palm down on the table, taking great pains to push himself away slowly and maintain control. He sat there several moments before he finally spoke, his voice still steady. "It is more than minding for the squad. I'll admit that." He held up a quick hand before Bodie could break in. "But, it's not what you think. I'm not after anything quick when it comes to you. I should've been more clear. Given your history, I should've expected you to react like this once I made the offer."

Another rush of rage flooded through him, his whole body trembling inside the cotton robe. "Given my history? What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Don't pretend, Bodie. It doesn't become you, lad. We both know what you've been through before."

"With all due respect, sir, you don't know a bloody thing about what I've been through."

"Wrong. I know exactly what happened with your other squad leaders as well as what happened in that Congo prison. You can't get into CI5 and keep too many secrets."

"Bloody hell." He turned, his arms braced on the counter, his head down. "I don't fucking believe this."

A hand touched his shoulder, pulling him around and stopping the fist before he could land it. "Settle down, Bodie. I am your friend, whether you want to believe that or not."

Shoving the older man away, he went to the other side of the kitchen, the world suddenly too narrow. "Leave off, sir. Don't touch me."

"I won't."

"Not now anyway, eh? Not until it bloody well suits you." He held his head in his hands and fought back the dizziness.

"Not ever, Bodie, not unless it's what you want. I don't want to lose you."

"Anything for the mob, eh, sir? Damn. I hate this." A cold darkness wrapped his body as the ringing in his ears grew louder.

Cowley helped him to the chair, the warm hand at the back of his neck pushing his head down. "Just breathe slowly. That's it."

After long moments, the swirling settled, the sinking sensation transformed to stillness. Blackness greyed to light as he opened his eyes to find Cowley kneeling in front of him despite his bad leg, one hand still on his shoulder, the other on his exposed thigh. "You need to go back to bed, Bodie. You're still not well. Let me help you."

"I'm not sure I can do this, sir. You're not like the others."

A smile graced the serious face staring into his. "No, I'm not, Bodie. Glad you noticed. And there's nothing you have to do. I won't ever ask you to do anything you don't want to do. Not now, not ever."

Swallowing back his own hesitation, the risky desire rising up like a prize, he whispered, "I'm not sure what you want."

"I want a lot more than a bonnie soldier to warm my bed, Bodie." Cowley sandwiched his hand between his own.


"I want you. Forever."

"Bloody hell, sir. Don't want much, do you."

"Aye, Bodie, I want it all."

"Greedy bastard."

He smiled as Cowley grinned and stood, pulling him up and leading him to the bedroom, the soft chuckle in his ear like a promise.

Waking slowly, Bodie enjoyed the ease into awareness with the delicious ache of heat between his legs. The gentle throbbing paced itself with the steady stroke of a hand pumping his cock. "God, sir, that's nice."

"Feeling better, then?"

"Much." The rhythm faltered and he begged, "Please, don't stop."

Cowley rolled him on his back, his hand still wrapped tightly around him, his other hand behind his head. A tongue pushed between his lips, the tangy slickness unexpected and arousing. A leg slid across his thigh as George moaned, the rumble vibrating his chest. His whole body tingled as the older man moved back to speak. "I don't want to scare you, Bodie."

"I'm not afraid."

"Aye. Me either. Terrified more like."

Startled, Bodie's head turned to look into the eyes so close to his. "But why?"

"You're a dangerous man."

"So are you."

"True, but I know what I want, and that means taking a risk. I want you to know I'm not taking it lightly."

His erection twitched and begged for attention and he shoved his hips to signal for the stroking to continue. George smiled and kissed him lightly before he whispered, "You want it then, too, eh?"

"Yeah, I do. The risk is part of it, innit."

"I suppose it is, but I don't want it to be all there is."

"Won't be." He kissed him back for the first time, his whole body winding tighter, his very bones building pressure inside his skin. Groaning with each grind into George's hand, his head fell back against the pillow. "Can we talk about this later? God, that feels bloody perfect."

A quick dip and George attacked his nipple, the fire into his belly instant. Flashes leveled his thinking to nothing as he begged, "Please, I want you in me."

"Roll over."

He followed orders to find himself face down and his arse raised high with the help of strategically placed pillows. "Relax, lad. I won't hurt you."

"I know that." He humped the fabric beneath him, his own sweat an itchy sting.

Oily fingers entered him, greasing the entrance, the intensity of need electric. His whole body shook as the blunt push forced him open, tiny thrusts shoving the huge cock into him harder and harder. Cramps grabbed his belly, the terrible ache strong. "God, wait."

"Relax. Almost there." The husky voice growled as the pumping continued, the body behind him determined.

"I can't. Wait. Please."

Half way inside of Bodie, George Cowley stopped, his breathing ragged. "What's wrong?"

"I need a minute." His lover's weight draped forward, adding heat and comfort, the spasms of his stomach muscles easing. "Okay. Now."

Without speaking, George drove his cock deep inside, his balls slapping the back of his arse. Steady and with a long, intense rhythm, sweat slicking his thighs, he pumped his own body, dancing with Cowley's. The long drag of painful spinning wound down through his spine into his belly, the searing heat bringing on the flashing shudder that blasted his brain into an explosion of color, red and green mottled with yellow. His whole body jerked back, paralyzed and powerless beneath the continued pounding. Suddenly whipped back, his whole body sputtered as George shook and fell forward, the throaty moan raking his ear.

His body ached from the shock of release, even his deep muscles drained and pleading for rest. A quick kiss to the back of his neck followed by George withdrawing startled him back to the present. "Thank you, Bodie." A strong hand caressed his cheek as his lover settled beside him. "I love you, lad."

He shivered as George drew him near. "You cold?"

"A little."

"Here, then. Let me warm you."

"You already have, sir." But he didn't resist the arms that drew him closer, the arms far stronger and more scary than he ever imagined.

Capable hands stroked his back, the soothing round circles calming his flesh, slow and easy. He lay face down, George straddling his legs, leaning forward into the effort of the massage. "Feels good."

"Aye. Feels good from here as well, lad. Looks fine, too." A kiss tickled his neck as fingers teased the crease of his arse.

"You're a randy sod, sir."

"Complaining already, Bodie?"

"Not bloody likely at this point, George. Well shagged, more like. Best medicine I've had in bloody ages."

"Don't be crude." A sharp smack across his bum surprised him, but he groaned from pleasure when a hot tongue licked the burning skin.


"No blasphemy either." Nibbling followed the next slap, the nipping growing more forceful, nearly bleeding the skin. Suddenly cheeks parted and a slick finger entered, the pleasing in and out motion stealing his breath. His whole backside quivered as his belly tightened in anticipation.

A husky voice barely formed the taunting words, the playful challenge clear. "Got something bigger than a finger, sir?"

"Is that what you want, lad? More than a finger?"

"Think you can manage it again, eh?"

Movement stopped as the older man withdrew and shifted off his body. Shoving Bodie's legs apart, he repositioned himself between the parted thighs and commanded, "Tell me you're sure you want it."

Taking a deep breath as he rubbed his erection into the mattress, he complained, "Of course, I bloody well want it. Wouldn't be lying here like some damn whore if I didn't, would I?"

The hands rubbing up his thigh and kneading his right arse cheek stilled. "What did you say?"

"I said do it."

"No, you didn't. You called yourself a whore." George slid to the side and pulled the covers up around his waist, his voice tight and sad. "Is that how you see yourself, as my whore? You think you have to do this to stay in CI5?"

A chill ran through him as he eased himself over, the heavy ache between his legs throbbing in frustration. He avoided the eyes trained on his every move. "I didn't mean that."

"What did you mean then?"

"Nothing. I mean, I've got no blood in my brain, sir, so I don't know what the hell I'm saying, do I." He bit his lower lip as he brought both hands up to scrub his newly shaved face. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it."

"I know you didn't, not consciously anyway."

Turning his head, he looked at the solemn eyes. "I'm sorry, sir."

"I know." Scooting closer, sliding down to lie beside him, he wrapped him in an embrace and kissed the top of his head. "We'll talk more about this later, but right now I'm tired."

"Me, too." An involuntary shiver shook his body as he tried to lie still, the effort draining. His cock withered and protesting, he sagged into the strong arms holding him, his whole body suddenly limp.

"Just rest, Bodie." Fingers feathered the short hair at the base of his neck, the warming tickle like darkness dripping shadow into his soul. Closing his eyes, he encircled the waist, resting his weary head on the solid chest, hoping to outlast the war of dreams until morning.

"I've ruined it then, eh?" Bodie continued to stir his tea while he talked and looked out the window, his mind focused on a world nowhere in the present.

"You haven't ruined anything." Sitting across from him, Cowley finished his morning drink and rose to carry the empty cup to the sink.

"Then why haven't you touched me?"

"Just giving you time, lad. You need to know what you want."

"Is this some kind of game then? You get me started, lure me into thinking you care, and then just stop? It's been three days. I go back to work tomorrow."

Patience settled across the pale face as George turned and leaned back against the counter. "It's not a game, Bodie. You should know better than that."

"How would I?"

"Because you're smarter than you're acting right now."

"Oh, that's bloody lovely, that is." He threw the spoon across the room, the metal clanging as it bounced as loud as a ricochet against the wall and floor. "You're an arrogant bastard. I knew this was a mistake."

"Did you?" Arms stayed crossed and Cowley didn't move, ignoring the fit of temper as he waited quietly for an answer.

The calm tone angered him even more, his nerves all firing at once, his ears filled with his own roar. His right hand balled in a fist as he hammered the table a solid blow to control his anger. "If I didn't, I bloody well should have."

"Just stop, lad. Don't say anything else until you've heard me through."

"Listen to what? More lies?" The anger still ran just beneath the surface, melted stone running and bubbling up, blistering the skin. "Doyle was right about you. You're a ruthless old bastard and I'm the buggered fool."

"Enough, Bodie. Enough." Cowley stepped to the table and sat down, his blue eyes narrow, his face twisted in pain. His voice snapped a command. "You're going to shut it and listen, understand?"

"Yes, sir." The words automatically came to his lips, the need to say them conditioned over the years. He stared down at his hands, his whole body on alert and at attention.

"Good. Now tell me, lad, how do you work for a man you don't respect?"

Startled by the question, he shook his head. "This isn't about that. I do respect you, sir."

"Do you?"


"Then how can you call me a liar?"

Stunned by the solemn force behind the words, Bodie lifted his head and stared into the face of the man he admired more than anyone else, a man he let touch his very soul. The pain he saw stabbed at his own chest, the slivers slicing away his rage into brittle bits falling away. "I never called you that, George."

"No, but you're thinking I'm blackmailing you into giving me your body and playing games with your feelings. Doesn't sound like trust, does it?"

The words choked in his own throat. "It's not you." He stood up and walked to the window, his arms crossed tightly as he leaned his shoulder against the wall. He refused to look at his lover while he spoke, his tongue thick and fighting against being tamed. "I have trouble trusting anyone."

"But you trust Doyle."

"Yeah, well, that's different, isn't it."

"You can trust your partner, but not me?"

"I'm not sleeping with Ray."

"Did you trust me before we slept together?"

His weight settled harder against the wall, the need to explain even greater and more difficult as he wrestled with the right words. "I did and still do." Turning slowly, arms still clasped together, he avoided looking at George and worked to keep his voice even. "It's just this is new to me, this idea that you could want more than just a quick leg over. I'm not used to anyone saying he wants more than that and meaning it. I'm a bit baffled by it really."

"Baffled because I said I love you?"

"Well, that and the fact that you stopped touching me. Doesn't quite make sense, eh? If you love me like you say, why stop? I don't understand what you're playing at, sir."

Shaking his head, George took a deep breath before he spoke. "You've been badly used, lad. It's made you doubt others, but worse, it's made you doubt yourself. I'm not playing at anything, Bodie. I didn't stop touching you because I wanted to, but because you're not ready to be with me yet."

"But I've been with you. I'm sorry I spoiled it."

"You didn't, and I'm not talking about being with me in bed. I'm talking about being with me emotionally. We can't be together if you don't trust yourself to go with your instinct."

"What's bloody instinct got to do with it?"

"It's got everything to do with it, lad. You either trust me or you don't. There's no middle ground."

Standing up, George walked out of the kitchen and Bodie followed, watching the older man pick up his coat. "Where are you going?"

"Back to work. I'll see you at the infirmary tomorrow morning when you check in."

"You can't just leave. We're not finished."

Hand on the doorknob, George shook his head. "No, we're not finished, Bodie. Not even close."

"So, why are you leaving then?"

"Because you need to decide what you want. Until then, I'm back to Mr. Cowley. Whatever happens between us, happens here, not on the job. The work comes first. Understand?"

"Completely, sir."

As his lover walked out and closed the door, Bodie stepped to the sofa and sagged down, his head in his hands. "I'm bloody well done for, that's what."

Bodie shoved the folder across the desk, his face neutral but his muscles tired. "Sign it and we're finished."

"Yeah, and I'm bloody glad about that." Ray grabbed a pen and wrote out his signature with a flourish. "How about a pint or two on me then? Murphy and some of the others want to celebrate that we're all still breathing thanks to you." Green eyes met his, hopeful.

"Just luck, Ray. Could've been you going in first."

"But it was you, sunshine. Makes you the hero de jour, doesn't it."

"Just doing the job."

"Just doing the job? Right, same as shifting forms saving your mates, is it?" Ray settled back, but didn't relax. "Couldn't hurt to just have a few. Play up the hero bit, just for show, eh."

"I'd like that, but I'm a bit tired really." He rested his head on his raised hands, his eyes closed and clenched against the pounding headache.

"Nothing on with Debbie then?"

"I haven't seen Debbie in weeks. What about you and Darlene?" He asked the question, but his mind wandered back over the day, the gunfire, the bodies, the report to Cowley. He squeezed his eyes shut harder to avoid thinking of the stolid man behind the desk being the same person in his bed just a week ago, the man he still wanted.

"You okay?"

"What?" Startled, he brought his head up and his attention back to his concerned partner.

"You're right knackered, mate. Let's get you home. The pub can wait until later."

"I'm fine, Ray."

"Considering you ran up twelve flights of stairs and killed two terrorists before they could shoot me or Murphy and bomb the rest of the squad, yeah, you're doing okay, but you're still bloody done in. Just let me drive you home. Be a right shame to have you smash into a wall after surviving all those foreign bullets, eh?"

Rubbing a tired hand across his face, he made a fist to contain the shaking. Adrenaline drained, he suffered the aftereffects of surviving danger once more. "Thanks, but I'll drive myself."

A hand touched his shoulder lightly, the voice pleasant but firm. "You couldn't push an empty pram right now, Bodie. I'll drive."

"Not necessary, .45." Cowley's voice surprised him as he looked up and saw his boss standing in the doorway, his face unreadable as usual. "I'll take your partner home."

"Thank you, sir. I'd like that."

"I'll wait downstairs, Bodie."

As soon as Cowley left, Ray turned, his eyes pinched with disbelief. "I don't bloody believe it."

"It's just a ride, Ray. Go play with Murphy."

"Damn it, Bodie, I sure as hell hope you know what you're bloody well doing. Playing with fire, that's what."

A smile broke his stubborn frown for the first time in days. "I'm not playing."

"What's so funny, you daft bastard?"

"Nothing. Can't a hero be happy?"

"Jesus." Doyle ran a hand through his dark curls before stopping, his face confused. "Hang about. You're happy?"


"Bloody hell, Bodie, why didn't you tell a body you took a blow to the head? You've gone barmy, mate."

"Nothing wrong with barmy." Standing up, energy renewed, he headed to the door, but stopped when he saw the hurt on his partner's face. His voice serious, he promised, "Nothing's changed between us, Ray."

"You're wrong. Everything's changed. It has to."


"Because he'll own you."

"Ray, he's owned me for ages."

"So, what's different now?"

"Because now I know it, and what's more, I want it."

"Crazy bastard."

"Yeah, well, I'm your crazy bastard, too, Ray, so sod off. Wish me luck, sunshine."

"Bloody hell. Why Cowley?"

He laughed and shook his head, his whole body lighter. "Couldn't rightly say. Just is."

"He's a ruthless old bastard. Don't forget that. He can't change what he is."

"Neither can I, Ray."

Inside his flat, Bodie shut the door behind him, the lights still off. Before he uttered a word, a body pressed him to the wall, lips capturing his. Urgency pushed against him as hands held his face, a tongue probing his mouth, slick heat jetting down to his groin. Swallowing groans, he drew back, complaining with a low chuckle, "Jesus, George. Let me breathe a bit."

"Plenty of time for that later." An arm snaked his waist, drawing his hips closer while the older man ran the back of his hand up his cheek. "I'm a starving man, Bodie."

"And I'm the tasty entree, eh?"

"Aye, if I'm lucky."

Passion laced the husky words, firing excitement through his middle. Fingers teased the back of his neck as they kissed again, this time more slowly, the muscular tongue licking his lips first before delving deeper, the faint trace of Scotch like nectar washing his throat. After a few moments, George pulled away, his whispers hushed in the darkness as he rested his head on his shoulder. "Thought I'd lost you today."

Running his fingers though wispy fine hair, Bodie kissed the top of the blond head. "Thought so, too, to be honest. Close quarters in the tower. Fired blind most of the time. Just lucky."

"Bloody minded more like."

Smiling in the shadows, he agreed. "Couldn't leave the squad without a good fight, that's true enough."

The body in his arms shuddered and then pulled back. "Duty comes first, you know that."

"I know."

A gentle hand stroked his face, the touches tiny flames searing his skin. "But no matter what either of us have to do for the job, I do love you, lad. Don't ever doubt that."

The sinking in his heart captured the forging power of truth in the words. Reaching up, he took the hand still tenderly touching his jaw. "I do believe you, sir."

Without saying anything else, he led his lover to the bedroom and proceeded to strip, first the jacket and shirt, and then the shoes and trousers. By the time he lay naked on the bed, stretched out and ready, George Cowley crawled in just as bare beside him. Silently, Bodie ran his palm along the fine chest hair, testing the right nipple already hard from his touch. Leaning in, he licked the salty nub and suckled while he grasped the jutting cock leaking near his thigh. Soft moans and shivers delighted him, the whimpers like pinches to his gut. Shifting back upward, he kissed the tight lips before he turned over on his side, pushing his ready arse back at the waiting cock.

Without speaking, George rolled him on his belly, legs spread wide. Slowly he pushed against him, slippery with pre-come, sliding between the cheeks. While one hand steadied his lifted hips, the other held him open. The blunt tip burned pushing in, the thrust hard and unyielding. Taking deep breaths, he worked to relax, the cramps striking without warning, but this time his lover stopped, his heavy breathing like a chant. After a few moments, he grunted, "I'm okay. Go on."

The long thrust into his arse fired his belly, the intensity both painful and delicious. His whole body shook as the pounding rhythm battered his backside, the pumping like a ring of magical smoke stealing his mind, hiding treasures behind mirrors, and delivering pleasure in waves along his spine to his heavy cock. Using his own hand, he matched the cadence of strokes, the heat like honey, sweet and thick, boiling up to his brain and spilling over. Huge tremors shook him, the spasms flashing between thunder and lightning as he came. Air turned to powder and spilled white ash across his vision, his eyes squeezed shut, his bones pale cinders beneath skin.

Still moving inside him, still hammering into him over and over, George suddenly stopped, and gave a low groan like a man being ripped apart, the torture near ending. Jerking forward, he collapsed and shoved one final time before lying still. After a few moments, the sweat cooling between them, he mourned silently as George withdrew and lay back.

Forcing his muscles to work again, he crawled over to lie with his head on the flat belly still heaving from exertion. He turned his head and kissed the fuzzy navel before speaking, his voice breathy and smug. "Still starving then, are we?"

Arms reached down and guided him upward before wrapping him in a tight embrace. After a long quiet moment between them, he heard the deep sounds of heavy sighing. "You're all right with all this then?"

"Didn't I feel all right?"

"I need to hear it, lad."

"I love you, George, but don't ask me why. Not a clue. Mind you, it might be the way you bugger me so bloody well, but I'm only guessing."

Instead of the smile he expected, he got a frown. "I'm serious, Bodie."

He raised his knees and curled in closer, bringing the comforter up to cover them both to the waist. He snuggled in, his eyes closed, his body languid in the connecting heat between them. "I know you are, George. But I'm not lying. I really don't understand it, but I guess I've always known. Ray knows, too, by the way."

"Doesn't surprise me. Doyle's a bright lad."

"He's worried about us, about me really. Thinks I'm barmy."

Hands ruffled his hair as he lay floating in the lush glow of comfort. "You are barmy, Bodie."

"No shame at being a nutter then, eh?"

"None at all, just as long as you have the right minder."

"Any rules about sleeping with the minder then?"

"I make the rules, lad, or hadn't you figured that out yet?"

Breathing deeply, the smile stretching his face, he cuddled close as he hugged George Cowley before he whispered, "And bloody fine rules they are, too, sir."

-- THE END --

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