…And Lovers, Long Ago


The ground was still muddy underfoot and the wind was like ice, blasting down off the North Sea in sharp gusts that made Doyle's face ache. His teeth were throbbing but he had ceased to notice it amongst the general pain he felt from head to foot. Every joint hurt and his head was burning. Stupid idea, letting Bodie cajole him into hiking so early in the year--maybe the SAS enjoyed this kind of masochism, but Raymond liked his comforts.

He could, at that very moment, have been home with his feet up, a glass of gin in one hand, a good book, Beethoven on the hi-fi, maybe Bodie collapsed in an arm chair, full of lunch and drowsing through the afternoon. Their usual Sunday routine in winter; too cold to go out, too expensive to pick the girls up for the day, since they were trying to save enough between them to buy a yacht, and had to count the pennies.

Dating was a thing belonging to the night; the longer you had a girl out and about, the more money she spent for you, and you ended up with nothing to show for it, Doyle reflected a little sadly. The jacket he had bought as a gift for Cynthia had cost a fortune; she wore it occasionally and had invited him home to bed a few times in thanks, but--

The Liverpool supporter's scarf he had bought for Bodie at the start of the season had cost next to nothing. Bodie had been swathed in it since November, used it in his jokes, and played silly games with it, enjoying it enormously, and never more than when he could involved his benefactor in the fun. He had used it to lasso his partner on Christmas Eve, precipitating a wrestling match that had had them on the floor in gales of hysterics.

Bigger and heavier, Bodie had pinned Doyle to the carpet, but Ray had not complained. It was seldom enough that he could get Bodie to touch him. Propping each other up when they had had a few too many; applying cream to a roasting sunburn; sticking bandaids on a forearm scrape when he'd come off the bike on gravel; wrestling for the keys to the new car... Ray smiled in spite of himself, called himself an idiot, and hoisted his haversack up on his shoulders. Time to get moving before Bodie was half a mile ahead.

As yet Bodie had only made twenty yards on him. He was heading up a rabbit track, and Doyle trudged dutifully in his wake, pulling his grey wool cap down over ears that were aching in the wind. He was coming down fast with something, he knew--a chill, most likely, after the repeated drenchings and freezings of the last two days. Bodie had not noticed and Ray was not going to say a word till he did; there was a sense of competition between them that precluded genuine complaint, but when honest concern entered the picture they had learned to open up. Acceptance of another man's caring had taken years, but it was a fact of life now, a part of life.

It was nice when Bodie offered up a crumb or two of concern; he would touch more often when he was aware that his friend was hurting--and if Doyle had said nothing about what was wrong, suffering in silence, Bodie would often castigate himself and allow the tenderness he normally kept buried to show through... It was worth suffering in silence for, Doyle thought ruefully. Matey affection was one of life's little pleasures; better than being with a girl, unless he was desperate for sex, which was not all that often these days; after twenty years of rolling around in bed with so many women he'd forgotten most of them, the friendship and rapport he shared with Bodie meant more than a few moments of pleasure with an almost total stranger. One day, there would be someone to love, he kept telling himself; one day. But that day never seemed to get any closer, and almost unconsciously, he had stopped waiting. Bodie's company was almost always preferable to that of women, anyway; Doyle never relaxed for a moment when with a girl, and ended up as tired from keeping up his guard as from the sex. With Bodie he was relaxed at once, especially if they were in a good mood, a little mellow, and especially if Bodie would touch him.

There was a nice feeling when that happened. A sort of tingling awareness, familiar, warming, not unlike being aroused, except that it couldn't be arousal, because neither he nor Bodie was gay. If it wasn't arousal -- and it couldn't be -- Doyle didn't have a name for it, but it liked it anyway. He had never actually turned on, but so often it felt strangely as if he was about to, as if, if Bodie just touched him one more time, or in a more sensitive place, he'd feel the kick of excitement, the rapid pulse, the quick breathing, the glorious tightening in his groin. But Bodie always took his hands away, and --

Right now all he was feeling was pain, lethargy and weakness. Up at the top of the rabbit track, Bodie was admiring the view, standing in the teeth of the gale, and he didn't see Doyle come trudging up behind him, head bowed, gloved hands stuffed into the pockets of his jacket. As he came up onto the low ridge the wind hit him in the face and he bit off a moan, turning his back on it while his teeth ached anew.

"Smell that air," Bodie was saying, impervious to the cold and gazing out across the moorland; it was green with new heather, brooding under the grey pall of the overcast, limestone cliffs in the distance, scots pines sheltering in the crevices of the rolling landscape like dark smudges against the green. Curlews were calling far away, and there was a tang of the sea in the air; no part of England was ever very far from the ocean. Only a line of high tension cables gave testimony to the fact that the Twentieth Century had even taken place. Otherwise, the Vikings could be marching in from Iarum, on the Tees, the Romans could be driving a band of Brigante slaves under the whip, building the road that ran up to the wall, Venutius could be on the warpath against the invaders, early in the First Century.

"Hrummph." Doyle sank down to sit on the damp heather, rummaging in his pockets for the last of the Dispirins he had been crunching like candy.

Bodie looked down at him, digging through his own pockets for chocolate and nuts, and it was the crumpled foil in which the tablets came packed that drew his attention. Ray was still silent --- if he hadn't been looking he would never have seen the white soluble aspirin go from foil to mouth to be crunched and swallowed with an expression of resigned distaste. "Ray?" Bodie went to one knee beside him. "What's up? Popping pills?"

"Just aspirin," Doyle muttered, stuffing the empty foil away. Have to buy more -- these were the last two. Good thing they'd be in the village by nightfall... Oh, to lie in a hot bath with a cup of Irish coffee, and then get into bed and pull the blankets up over his head...

"You feeling bad?" Bodie asked. Doyle closed his eyes, sinking down, chin-first, into the roll neck of his fisherman's jersey and the sheepskin of his collar. He was flushed and pinched about the nose and mouth. Bodie kicked himself -- Ray would never speak up even if he was going to die, and he had been too busy reliving old memories from years gone by to notice. Bodie pulled off his right glove, put his hand on Doyle's forehead, watched him jump as he was touched. "Hey, you are under the weather," he muttered. "Got a temperature."

"Got a chill," Ray said, aware that he was shivering. "Been wet and frozen too often these last couple of days."

"So why didn't you bloody well say so?" Bodie demanded angrily, though most of the anger was directed at himself. "I'm not clairvoyant!"

"And I don't whine," Doyle grumbled. "Lay off, Bodie, I don't want to fight with you."

"Sorry," Bodie sighed, "it's me I'm mad at anyway, not you. Should've seen it coming on... Reckon you can make it as far as Osmotherly?"

"How far's that?" Doyle asked, hugging his chest.

"Fix or six miles. Maybe seven."

Ray gave a groan. "I'll have to, won't I? Can't stay out on the moor all night -- a chill's one thing, double pneumonia's something else." He got his feet under him with a supreme effort, more of will than muscle, and put out a hand for balance.

Bodie took him by the arm and Ray sighed. Always so right when Bodie touched him, even when he was feeling like death warmed up. He sagged toward the offered support as his head swam. "Fever's making you dizzy," Bodie observed, trying for clinical detachment and not managing it. "Look, maybe there's a farm or a cottage around here somewhere. All we want's a phone; call for a taxi into Osmotherly, have you in bed in no time." He watched Doyle struggle to get himself going and bit his lip, calling himself five kinds of fool, and vicious to boot. On the street, on the job, they were so ultrasensitive to one another that he could guess when Ray was thinking about sneezing, but off the job, they did not need the painful edge of awareness, let it ebb away, until this sort of thing happened. Here was Doyle, pushing one foot infront of the other and about to keel over, and Bodie had been miles and years away, with the lads of his unit of 3 Para, ignoring him. A large pang of guilt hit his nerves... Ray was worth more than that, and deserved a damned sight better; he'd only come on this hiking trip to please his partner.

He'd wanted to stay at home, lazing by the fire, eating and reading and relaxing, as they usually did on Sundays and long weekends since they had started the savings account for the yacht. Bodie did not begrudge one penny of the money that went into the account; the thought of actually owning something together with Doyle was nice, the fact that the bank account was jointly in their two names often made him smile.

It would have been just as nice at home, Bodie thought wryly. Watching the little monster sprawl out on the couch, hook one ankle over the back of it, and go to sleep like that, all tousled curls and long legs, his manhood so innocently flaunted, one long fingered hand lax on his thigh. Little monster, Bodie thought fondly; he had absolutely no idea of what his body language was saying. So often, it was as if that body was on offer, relaxed in invitation, and warm with the promise of welcome.

So Bodie took care to sit on his hands and look somewhere else whenever he could. It was too nice touching Ray on the few occasions he thought he could get away with it. If he inadvertently annoyed Doyle, it would never be possible again -- and that would be a shame, because he knew how much Ray liked to be touched. Platonically. In a matey fashion. Playfully... It was frighteningly nice when they touched, and he had no intentions of relinquishing the right to that subtle contact. The green eyes would smile at him, sometimes become brighter than was normal, other times languid, sensual. But Raymond Doyle was a ladies' man, a macho little spitfire, and Bodie had the distinct impression that, hedonist though Doyle was, if he didn't at least try to keep his hands to himself he'd get his head bitten off in one snap.

It was easier to shut him out, hide behind the wall of matey good humour, and most of the time that worked well, maintaining the safe distance that made it possible for them to live and work, so close, without arriving at the confrontation Bodie sometimes worried was all too near. But it did not work well all the time. Today, it had done them both a disservice. Ray had his face cupped in both hands, rubbing his cheek bones, and Bodie guessed that he was aching. Looking back on the day, he hadn't said much since breakfast. He had been slow crawling out of bed too, and Bodie hadn't seen him eat a bite. So he had been feeling bad all day and pushing himself hard--

For me. Bodie bit his lip. "Why the hell didn't you tell me, you clot?"

"Told you," Doyle grunted, "I don't whine."

"Don't bloody talk much either, do you?" Bodie touched his knuckles to Ray's forehead. "You're burning up. And it'll be getting dark soon. Don't fancy your chances of making seven miles that fast, do you?"

"Hrrumpth," Doyle said, shivering.

Bodie looked at him and had to smile. There was a ten-year-old-stubborn aspect about him, emphasised by the straggles of auburn hair that were escaping from the grey wool cap, and the huge sniff, and the blotting at his nose with the back of his hand. "Mucky bugger," Bodie murmured, and dug for a handkerchief. Then, as Doyle blew his nose enthusiastically, he said, "Come on, let's get moving. There's got to be a farm or something. Get you warm. Hot bath, a drop of the hard, you'll live."

"No kidding," Ray muttered, shuffling his feet, which felt numb. He stuffed a damp square of linen into his pocket. "Okay, Christopher bloody Columbus, which way?"

"Oh... southwest," Bodie said, casting about to get his bearings. The day was already beginning to grow dim with twilight, so deep was the overcast. He slipped the shoulder straps of Doyle's haversack off his shoulders. "I'll carry this, for a start."

"Bodie--" Doyle protested, feeling that he must protest though he was more grateful than he would had admitted.

"Shut it," Bodie said bluffly. "And come here." He slipped his free arm around Doyle's waist. "Lean on me, for chrissake, and get your feet moving."

So nice when Bodie would touch him... Doyle smiled in spite of his aches and pains, and the words popped into his mind and escaped through his lips before he could stop them. "Whither thou goest, I shall go."

"Eh?" Bodie blinked at him curiously, feeling the jolt of meeting those remarkable, elven eyes at such close proximity, feeling the warm draft of breath on his cold face. Close enough to kiss him -- He shook himself hard.

"Oh, nuthin'," Ray said, blushing, though the extra colour was lost among the flush already brought on by the chill. "Lead on, McBodie."

Suddenly beset by a feeling of disquiet, Bodie got moving. What the hell had Doyle meant? Was he joking? He had to be joking: that was a vow of fidelity he'd just let slip. No -- he was feverish, that was all. Bodie smiled ruefully, shaking his head. The daftest thing he could do would be to take seriously anything either of them said or did on the subject of sex. They told artful stories, crafty lies, ribald jokes, straight and gay alike, but it was all just banter, for laughs. He had seen Doyle making love once, on a holiday they had taken together with two girls, in Devon... Stark naked, flat on his back across the foot of a double bed under a raven-tressed young beauty, hips lifted off the quilt, deep inside of her, hands cupping her breasts, working hard at her pleasure as well as his own... Doyle was a natural born lover; he got a lot of sex for his efforts--

But no love, Bodie thought, frowning as they skirted a stand of touch scots pines and headed toward a bridle path. Odd, that one so attractive and loving as Ray Doyle could be one of those in the unenviable 'nobody loves me' bracket. His family was miles away and his only friends were the people with whom he worked -- the job precluded any others. Me , Bodie thought, and Murph, and Jax, and precious few others. The women were just that. Women. There for the times when he had to have sex or explode; and it was a bloody expensive exercise, dinners, flowers and shows costing what they did.

Recently, there had been fewer women; Bodie had noticed this but said nothing. Doyle was off on one of his introversion kicks -- 'springcleaning' his head after the winter. There was no way to stop him thinking, but he usually righted himself, given time and a bit of friendly patience. As they walked, Ray leaned heavily against him and he felt an arm go about his waist, under his own backpack, companionable, nice. If it had been a girl, it would have been a gesture of invitation.

But it wasn't, and Bodie kept on going until Doyle pulled them both up in the lee of an outcropping of moss-grown slat. "Got to take a breather, mate," he said, obviously, winded, and sank to sit on an ancient, crumbling rock. He looked knackered, and Bodie sank down beside him, one eye on the sky; they were making slow time. It would be dark soon, and it looked like rain. Damn; if they were out here all night, and wet into the bargain, the chances of a chill turning into pneumonia were not so far fetched.

Retreating into his jacket and jumper like a startled tortoise, Doyle blinked dopily at Bodie, enjoying the attention, the concern, and the touch as Bodie put a palm on his forehead again. Bodie was really worried, and it felt good that he could have that effect on the bigger, undeniably stronger man. Shamelessly, Ray set out to play the stranded kitten, wondering how far it would get him. He shivered, and Bodie put his arm around him, pressing close for warmth. He sagged heavily against the larger body and Bodie propped him up. Doyle closed his eyes, wishing he felt better so that he could make the most of it, because right at that moment he needed propping up and holding. He turned his face into Bodie's throat, seeking warmth for his aching teeth, wondering if Bodie would push him away out of distaste at what was very nearly a caress, but instead a large, warm hand, recently ungloved, cupped his cheek and drew him closer. Well, I'll be damned --

"Hey, I can smell smoke," Bodie said abruptly. "Just a tick. Stand up, Ray. It can't be coming from far away or the wind'd have dispersed it." He climbed up onto the fracturing slate and gazed over into the valley on the south side of the track. "Hey, there's a bunch of motor caravans down there, ponies, dogs. Tinkers, by the looks of them.

"Tinkers?" Doyle echoed. "Of course -- heading for the fair in Osmotherly tomorrow. Sell the ponies there."

"Right." Bodie clambered down and gathered Doyle in to his side again. "How about a wee drop of moonshine and a bowl of rabbit stew beside an open fire?"

"Beggars can't be choosers," Ray said, trying to be dry and hardly managing it for his chattering teeth. "Which way down there?"

They struck out along the bridle path. It wound down the tortuous hillside, through a sparse wooded nook where the ground was treacherous with mud, and just a few hundred yards from the Tinker encampment Bodie's fears were realised; the heavens opened and rain pelted down, icy cold and soaking them to the skin in moments. Doyle moaned abjectly, Bodie felt his shudders running through him, and hurried him onward.

A pack of skinny mongrels set up a furious barking as they approached, alerting the wandering people, and they watched as the door on the nearest of the big motor vans swung open and a dark haired young man in a flat cap looked out to see what was wrong.

"Hello," Bodie called hopefully. "We're hikers -- my mate's sick, can you help us?"

Hospitality was the unwritten rule of the road. The young man beckoned and Bodie propelled Doyle toward the moderately expensive mobile home. There must be a decent living to be made from breeding, training and selling ponies, he thought as the door opened wide and the man in the flat cap stood aside to let them in. It was bright, warm, humid, slightly aromatic and very chaotic inside. Two women were cooking in the back over a hissing propane stove; three children under five were squabbling over toy cars on the floor; two men, one ancient and one middle-aged, were playing chess by a paraffin heater, and an old woman sat gazing up at the strangers out of one good eye, while her blind eye stared at nothing. They were dressed in denim and wool, all of them neat enough, but the aroma of seldom washed bodies was noticeable at once.

And who the hell would want to get wet too often on the road in this weather? Bodie demanded, remembering what it was like to be out in such conditions. The women blinked at the strangers, the children scattered away, and it was the middle-aged man who left the chess board and stood up, looking at Doyle with a frown; he spoke with a burr that had to be Dublin or Wexford.

"What ails him?"

"Got a chill," Bodie said quickly. "Been rotten weather lately. And he's wet through."

"You both are." It was the old woman who spoke now, her voice throaty and broken by age, and she was leaning forward toward them, peering up at them for all the world as if she knew them. Her accent was purely Gaelic, thick, and she spoke English only haltingly. "Get through in the back and get your things off, both of you. Dinny's clothes'll fit the little one, Joe's'll fit t'other... Fetch some, Michael."

"Yes, Grandma." The young man who had let them in nodded quickly, and Bodie watched him duck out of the big caravan before he steered Doyle into the rear compartment and drew the curtain across to close it off.

Ray was numb from head to foot, his fingers clumsy, unresponsive, and Bodie watched him try to undress for a moment before he knocked his hands away from the task and did it for him, stripping him deftly and to the skin. A pile of blankets lay in the corner and he picked up the top one, scrubbing at Doyle's pale skin with it to warm him. "You okay? Stupid question, right?"

"Dumb," Doyle agreed. "No, I'm not okay. Thanks for askin'."

"Well, what's a mate for?" Bodie tucked the blanket around him and set about getting his own clothes off. "Bloody British weather."

Weary to the bone, Doyle slumped onto the bench among the stacked blankets, head against the wall, reflecting on the ludicrousness of it. Bodie had just touched him more in five minutes than he had in the last five years, and now was stripping naked two feet away from him, and all he could feel was the cold, the aches and the lethargy. He chuckled, despite his woes, as Bodie took off his cammo pattern pants.

"Glad you think it's funny," Bodie muttered, tossing his sopping underwear down on top of the pile of his clothes and reaching for a blanket.

"S'not funny. I'm funny," Doyle corrected. "I mean, you just undressed me, like..." Like a kid tended by his mum, or like -- like a lover. A jolt ran through Doyle's innards and he blinked at Bodie. So nice when Bodie touched him, like -- like--

The dark blue eyes were fixed on him, wary but open; Bodie was worried. "You look terrible, Ray," he said honestly.

"Oh, thanks a lot. Haven't had time to put on a lick of woad."

"No, I mean you look ready to drop, you twit!"

"I am ready to drop." Doyle forced a smile. "But at least I'm getting a bit warmer." He paused and had to frown, his eyes on Bodie's rear. "Hey, do you know you've got a bruise on your bum?"

"What? Where?" Bodie twisted, trying to see it. "Oh, that. Sat down rather hard on the slope yesterday, remember." He rubbed at the bruise; now that his attention was drawn to it, he could feel it. Doyle was still frowning at it, and he raised one brow in speculation. "Why the sudden fascination with my rump?"

"Nice little rump, isn't it?" Doyle muttered, trying to make a joke out of it. But he was not feeling much humour, and the aches and pains receded a little as it hit him, full force. Of course it was nice when Bodie touched him! Of course he wanted to get Bodie to touch him whenever he could, and of course he hadn't minded standing there while Bodie undressed him, because no touch was enough, because what he wanted was a caress, a kiss, he wanted it all.

Again, he chuckled, shakily. What a place for it to finally dawn on him! No way to pursue the matter here, no room for a seduction, and besides, he felt like hell. Bodie wrapped himself in the blanket, hand on Ray's head. "Laughing's not rational in circumstances like these, mate -- you're delirious."

"Am I?" Doyle met the blue eyes levelly, his own eyes smoldering and intense. "When we get out of here, and back home, maybe I'll tell you why I'm laughing at myself. Ray Doyle, Detective Constable, so slow on the uptake. Two years with the Vice Squad, and he can't even recognize a simple little vice when he sees one!"

"I'd be lyin' if I said I understood that," Bodie muttered. "Don't suppose you feel like explaining?"

"Not now," Ray sighed. "Feeling too bad, got too much company. Don't even know if it's wise to think about it, let alone say it to you. I don't want my teeth busted, you see, and you might wind me up a belt that'd knock my fillings out."

"What in God's name are you on about?" Bodie demanded.

"Forget it." Doyle suppressed the shivers as the caravan's door was opened again, admitting a blast of cold, wet air. Michael was back, bringing with him an armful of jeans and shirts that were handed through the curtain. "Hope they've got a drop of the hard stuff," Ray said, working out which denims were the smaller and pulling them on. They fit like gloves, and had been brought out of a clean laundry bag, for which he was grateful. There was a green check shirt too and he put it on, not bothering to tuck it in, rolling the sleeves up as he watched Bodie dress.

It was unusual to see Bodie in jeans. As a rule he never wore them, but he ought to, Ray thought. There was nothing like the way a pair of jeans hugged a shapely rear. Little did he guess that Bodie was thinking the same thing as he smiled at the fit of Dinny's clothes on Doyle. Decent again, they pushed through the curtain and into the cramped communal living area; the Tinkers sat looking at the strangers with curious expressions. Bodie wondered what could be the matter, but Doyle was too preoccupied with his worries to notice the scrutiny; he held his hands to the heater, accepting a shot glass of poteen with gratitude.

A similar glass found its way to Bodie's lips, but he had not drunk from it before the old woman who Michael had called 'Grandma' spoke up.

"You're Irishmen," she said, "your faces say so. Curly is a Kerry man, no doubting it, but you're from Waterford, aren't you?' Cork, is it?"

"Liverpool," Bodie corrected. "And he's from the Midlands."

"Aye, but your fathers came from the old country." The old woman's good eye roamed over Doyle as he drank the raw potato spirit. "Sit you down, there'll be food shortly."

They sat on the floor by the heater and Doyle was shaking inside of the rug he had laid claim to. Bodie took his wrist, grunting at the rapid pulse. "Going like a fist full of castanets, mate," he said drily.

"I know," Doyle muttered. And he was well aware that the chill was not the only reason for that. He blinked dopily at Bodie's fingers where they grasped his wrist, felt the warmth of Bodie's thigh against his, and felt a hysterical chuckle build up in his throat. All these years, straight as a die, then along comes the tall, dark, handsome stranger and oh, but you want him to touch you! He swallowed the poteen and gagged, and Bodie thumped his back while Michael refilled the glass. Slowly the warmth seeped back into his bones, and as it did the notion of what he was feeling became less startling. So Bodie was a man. What did that matter? He wasn't a prude, and in his days with the Met he had dealt with gays of all descriptions as part of the job. But -- to be one? No - bi. Bi I can live with, he thought as the drowsiness of alcohol, temperature and weariness began to overtake him. I mean, when I was painting I used to think men were just as beautiful, didn't I? And Bodie - now, there is a ravishing beauty! God, will he kill me if he finds out? Do I even want to risk telling him?

Colour flushed up in Doyle's face as Bodie watched him thaw out, and his eyes grew heavy, his chin sinking down onto his chest as the warmth soaked in and the shaking stopped. He heaved a deep sigh and seemed to doze while Bodie kicked himself again for sheer insensitivity. There were times when Raymond Doyle was an inch under his skin, when he was painfully aware of every shift in mood, every line and plane and hollow of the face and body he lived half his life looking at; there were other times when he had to shut him out before the closeness became too close and they regretted it. And other times when the past crowded in on him, and Doyle was temporarily thrust aside by the memories; that could happen at the stupidest times -- like today.

Guilt raked its claws over Bodie as he realised how much Ray had suffered without a word -- to please him. An act of friendship -- even incongruous because Doyle could be prickly as a cactus and as a rule never hesitated to stand up for his rights. So why the hell would he hurt himself just to fulfil a promise he had made rashly that, yes, they would go hiking over this long weekend? Bodie frowned at the bowed profile, reached out and brushed a strand of drying hair back off his face, watched him wrinkle his nose and stir awake again. Green eyes blinked sleepily at him, and he did a double take --

If a girl had looked at him like that, with lowered lids and the faintest of smiles, he'd have been making tracks for bed. No -- it must be the chill. Drowsiness and comfort after hours of being frozen and aching. Bodie smiled ruefully at him as he put his chin down again, and it was some time before he became aware that the old woman was watching them. Hell's bells, what would she make of the little caress, and Doyle's answering gaze? He looked up into her one 'good' eye, realising that even that was not much short of blind, and waited for her to speak.

Her face was pale, deeply etched by lines that told of a long, hard life, and her hair was like silver wire, tied back loosely above a grey shawl. Hands knotted by arthritis lay on the arms of her chair, but for all that, Bodie had the impression of a young person looking at him out of the ancient body. A person who somehow existed outside of the prison of time. She wore a deep, intent frown as she looked from him to Doyle and back again. "I know you, don't I?" The words were no more than a whisper.

Mesmerising. Bodie gazed up at her, unable to look away, unable to find his thoughts for some moments. "I don't think so," he said at last. "I'm just a Liverpool Irishman. Must be someone who looks like me you're thinking of."

But she shook her head. "No, no. It's him too, Curly. And you. I know you, both of you... Aye, and maybe I dreamed you."

"Dreamed...?" Bodie asked softly, wanting very much to understand.

It was Michael who answered. "Don't let Grandma worry you; she's fey, but the dreams do no harm, not these days. She sees things, often true things -- they'd have burned her for a witch a few hundred years ago." He grinned, white toothed and handsome. "There's no harm in her dreaming, and her treasures."

Bodie smiled. "Treasures?"

"Old, old things," the old woman sighed. "Things from the past, long ago. No, not a few years, boy. Not a lifespan or ten... Things from the old, wild days when the Earth was young and free."

The words, the voice, the woman, made Bodie shiver. He looked at Ray's gentle, drowsing profile. "And you 'dreamed' us?"

She nodded. "Many times, and years ago... Och, I'm too old to keep my memories need and tidy, but I'll think of it... Aye, and I know you. And him. You're the two. Always the two."

A clatter of dishes interrupted her and the younger women began to hand around hot food. Fresh bread, stew, apricot jam, strong tea. Doyle roused himself with an effort, savouring the meal which, because it was hot, banished the aches in his face. He ate methodically, surprised by how good the simple fare was, waking up as he began to revive, and taking more notice of his company. The Tinkers were all one family, there was no doubt of that: Grandma, whose name was Judith, the middle aged man, her son; Michael, his wife, her mother; Michael's children and his old uncle, who said nothing, as if he found the English language difficult. Other family members would be scattered through the dozen other caravans -- sisters and brothers and their spouses and children.

The life of the wanderer, the nomad, was fascinating; there was something wild about these people, something that seemed far from the Twentieth Century, especially the old woman, who more than any of them harked from a bygone age. The Tinkers were not Gypsies, Doyle remembered; when the English went into Ireland and dispossessed the Celtic nobility, the Irish royalty had two choices left to them. Stay on as servants on the estates where they had once been the lords of the manor, or take to the road. Many of them chose freedom over servitude, and many Tinker families, poor and shabby though they may have been went by names such as Tyrone and Armagh. It was not an idle boast when they claimed to be descended from royalty: they were. But it was a wild, nearly barbarian kind of royalty --

The past tugged hard at Doyle. Not for the first time he felt the hunger for freedom. They called it the call of the wild, and for sixpence, in that moment, he would have elected to forget all about the city, the smog, the killing and cruelty that was his way of life, and go where he was beckoned, be free for the first time in his life. A glance at Bodie's face showed him that his partner was thinking the same thoughts, and they shared a rueful smile... It was a dream, but an impossible one.

Judith was murmuring beneath her breath, her eyes closed. Fey, said Michael, and Doyle was inclined to accept that without reservation. She was nearly blind, but all her attention was fixed on the strangers, and though she did not speak up while they ate he could literally hear her mind ticking over. As the dishes were removed the younger women gathered up the children and left the caravan to put them to bed in their own vehicles. The old uncle lit up a reeking pipe and Michael brought out the moonshine. Two glasses later, the woes of the world did not seem nearly so bad, and Doyle leaned back against an upturned crate, content to watch Bodie as the lights were turned down low and the atmosphere became mellow.

After a while Bodie looked up, perhaps feeling the green eyes on him, and they studied each other in silence, each trying to fathom what the other was thinking, feeling. For himself, Doyle knew what he wanted, and the more poteen he drank the more sensible it seemed that he should want to be cuddled up in Bodie's arms. He was half drunk, and he knew it; he was more than half way in love, and he knew that too. But -- Bodie? What the hell would Bodie say? What was he thinking now, as he looked back across the paraffin heater with wide, dark eyes? What did he want?"

The soft lighting played about Doyle's unusual features, playing tricks on Bodie's eyes. One moment he was elven, the next an angel, the next satanic, but always heartstoppingly beautiful... Thoughts like that were nothing new to Bodie; he had always been aware of the incredible physical beauty Doyle commanded; he had features most women would kill for, green eyes that were wide and slanted with curling lashes, a perfect nose, lips that were irresistible. He had often wondered what Ray must have looked like before the hardcase with the beer bottle smashed his cheekbone and chipped the tooth, the two flaws that made him human, made him real. Too good to be true, probably. Take away those flaws and what was left belonged on a Sixteenth Century canvas. Often, Bodie was reminded of Leonardo's and Bellini's angels and cherubs, and of 'The Madonna Of The Rocks'. He feasted his eyes on his friend as the poteen relaxed his taut nerves, let him feel properly again. Beauty was there to be possessed, and Bodie's acquisitive nature made him want to reach out to Doyle and, even if for just a little while, own him. Hold him. Have him.

Dangerous , he told himself. Friendship is one thing, lust is something else, and if you put the two together... Christ, I'll end up loving him! The thought was, on the face of it, absurd. And then Doyle stretched, yawned and rubbed his nose with the back of his knuckles, a gesture that was so innocently vulnerable that he might have been nine years old, and Bodie's wayward heart gave a leap in his chest and beat faster. He groaned without a sound. Jesus, I already love him, who am I kidding? He smiled, not realising that he was doing it until Doyle smiled back, and if Bodie had collected that smile from a girl he would have been expecting a night to remember, with rumpled sheets and tangled limbs --

"Och, and it's a fool I am, in me old age!" Judith exclaimed suddenly. Doyle and Bodie looked at her expectantly. She was nodding vigorously at them. "Now I know you, and oh, I've dreamed you often." She leaned forward. "You," pointing one arthritic finger at Bodie. "Kinnamus. The Iron Hand. The warrior. Aye, the reaver, the slayer, the dealer of death... And you," turning to Doyle, "you, Bran. The raven, the bard, the warrior whose great heart is pain, the one who set aside his art to fight... Aye." She smiled, satisfied. "Warriors, the two of you, on many a field of battle; hard times, with pain and death and little love but what you found together."

Doyle blinked. Had he heard that right? "Love? What... What do you mean?"

The nearly blind eyes closed. "The Earth was younger and the Legions came, and we fought... The Bridge of Sand -- oh, and the wren was the match of the eagles! Such battles there were, so long ago, and you... Kinnamus and Bran. You were there, warriors, and brothers..." She strained after the memory, fighting for it, finding it. "And lovers, long ago."

A jolt of electricity shot through Bodie's nerves and he met Doyle's eyes sharply. If they had both been sober perhaps it would have been disquieting, but as it was they were lulled by the stuffy heat of the caravan and the moonshine, and the rain drumming on the roof, and instead of a fretting horror a great warm sensation crept through Bodie's veins. He could only guess at Ray's reactions, but the heavy eyes were warm and the mouth he had desired for so long, barely half recognising it, was curved into a smile.

"Grandma," Michael remonstrated quietly, "you shouldn't say such things."

"'Tis only the dream," Judith crooned. "Only the dream. Fetch my box, lad."

Obediently, Michael went to bring a small, carved wood chest from the back of the caravan, and set it down on the old woman's knee. The lid went up and the distorted fingers rummaged within. Doyle crooked one brow at Bodie, and Bodie shrugged, but before they could ask what it was all about Judith had found the object and brought it out. It was a green stone, pierced at one end, flat and chipped and unimaginably old. She held it to the light and it sparkled. Ray's eyes were drawn to it, as if hypnotised. "This belongs to one of you," the old woman told them. "I don't know which, but it's yours. Here, lad, take it." She passed it into Doyle's long fingers as he reached out for it, and Bodie watched the frown draw his brows together.


"It's -- I dunno." Doyle hesitated, turning the green stone over and over in his hands. It was warming against his skin, and the more it warmed the better it felt. "It's like I know it, like I know the feel of it. Like..."

"Bran," said Judith, smiling. "'Tis the dream."

Warriors and brothers, and lovers long ago. The words rang clearly through Bodie's head and he swallowed. And again -- what were they now, but warriors? And for six years they had been closer than brothers ever were. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy: how long had he wanted to be Ray's lover? And if it was all fate, or destiny, and he was just drunk enough to consider the possibility seriously, what did Doyle want?

Doyle was gazing at him with wide, soft, doe-eyes, his face serene and gentle, flushed with his temperature, and alcohol and the idea of it, and Bodie saw a great tenderness there. If he had seen revulsion he would have laughed it off, made a joke of it; but there was no revulsion, just a gentle fascination that tugged at him hard.

And lovers, long ago , Doyle was thinking vaguely, caught and held by the blue eyes he knew so well. Christ, were we? And here am I, tonight, thinking how strange it is to look at a man and want him! If the old woman's really fey and not just harmlessly insane -- oh, Bodie, will you lie down with me? Will you touch me? Will you come with me, in me? Would you want to? The rapt look on Bodie's face said he would, and Doyle shivered.

The Tinkers seemed to attach no importance to it, as if the idea of two men being in love was nothing to get upset about -- an age-old tradition that went back as far as the human species. Perhaps it did. In a few minutes it was all forgotten; Judith was dozing, Michael was reading the paper, the older men went back to their chessboard, and Doyle and Bodie considered each other in silence, a comfortable, close, intimate silence that was better than words. Slowly, hesitantly, Ray smiled, and Bodie read the acceptance of the idea in the expression. He caught his breath sharply, raising a questioning eyebrow; and Doyle nodded.

And lovers, long ago. Bodie closed his eyes, feeling the wave of disbelieving emotion come up over his head: love, lust, tenderness, friendship, curiosity, all intermingled until they were one and the same. Jesus, I want him , he thought, not for the first time feeling himself grow hard in response to his partner... but this was the first time it was of any consequence. Ray had nodded in answer to the unspoken question. He'll do it -- he'll come to bed with me, he'll love me! Damn! He opened his eyes to find the green ones smiling at him, heavy lidded, bedroom eyes, drowsy, a little drunk, very warm and speculative.

Still they said nothing, and had not said another word an hour later when Michael got up, stretched and yawned. "It's getting late and we'll be on the road very early," he said. "Time to call it a day, I think... You can have Barry Flannagan's 'van if you like. He's gone whoring in whatever fleshpots he can find and won't be back till God knows when. I'll put your clothes to dry and you'll have them back by morning. Are you feeling better now, Ray?"

"A bit." Doyle got his feet under him. "I'm dizzy and weak though -- got a chill, s'all. Be better tomorrow. We'll be able to push off by then."

"Och, don't worry, Come up to Osmotherly with us, you can catch your train from there," Judith offered. "Here, take a bottle with you, it'll keep out the cold."

Bodie took the milk bottle from her; it was half filled with poteen and had a cork hammered into the neck. "Thanks. Which is Flanagan's 'van?"

"I'll show you," Michael offered, and headed outside.

The rain had stopped and the moon showed her gibbous face through a break in the overcast; Michael led the way to a small caravan still coupled to an old Land Rover, Bodie and Doyle a pace behind. Ray's teeth were chattering, though he still had the rug clutched about him; his bare feet were numb in a moment, for the cold was striking after the warmth of the family caravan. Flannagan's vehicle was not locked, and Michael snapped on the light as he left them.

"Thanks," Bodie said, "for everything."

"The law of the road," Michael said dismissively. "Have you got matches for the heater?"

"In my pack," Bodie said, "forgot to bring 'em over."

Michael handed him a box. "Keep him warm, for God's sake -- he's turning blue. 'Night."

The door slammed into place and Bodie gave Doyle a glance of concern before going to his knees by the paraffin heater and swiftly lighting it. "Come on, mate, I'll get you another rug. Toast your toes and drink some more before you keel over."

Pulling a chair up to the heater, Doyle did as he was told, and as he rethawed Bodie saw that he still had Bran's green stone in his hand, and was looking at it with a deep frown. It caught the line as he turned it this way and that, mesmerising, strange. Both of them studied it, and when Ray looked up his eyes were velvety with dilated pupils and Bodie's heart skipped a beat.

"What d'you reckon to the dream, Bodie?" he asked, voice low and very husky, almost broken in his throat.

"Old Judith's as fey as they come," Bodie said carefully, pulling another folding chair up to the heater, determined not to rush any of this.

"But the dream. Kinnamus and Bran... Christ, she had the two of us down pat, like she'd known us all our lives. I mean, you, the Iron Hand, the death dealer --"

"And you, the bard who became a warrior. Us. Brothers."

"And --" Doyle swallowed. "And lovers."

"Yeah." Bodie met the doe eyes and had to smile; Ray looked nervous. "So? What d'you reckon?"

"I..." Doyle let a smile escape. "You first."

"But I asked first," Bodie argued.

Doyle sighed. "You're not laughing at the idea."

"It's not funny," Bodie said levelly. "Not to me, anyway."

"And you're not furious at the idea."

"Should I be?"

"Can't see why." Doyle shrugged. "I'm not that repulsive, am I?"

Bodie laughed gently. "You're not repulsive at all. In fact, you're quite..." He let the sentiment die unspoken.

"Quite acceptable? Quite nice?" Doyle wondered. "Quite drunk?"

"Well, you certainly are half squiffy," Bodie grinned. "But I was going to tell you you're beautiful. Seems silly to say it to a man, though."

The green eyes lit up, dancing. "Not if the man's your lover."

"But you're not," Bodie said pointedly.

"Yet," Doyle added. He took a swig from the bottle. "Christ, I'm dying, Bodie. The way I feel, I'll be lucky to live till morning. I'm so cold, and I bloody well hurt."

The catch in his voice raked at Bodie's nerves. "And it's all my fault," he growled. "Damned stupid idea, hiking in this weather!" He turned away, hunting for blankets and, as he found them, noticing that Barry Flannagan's caravan had only one bed. "Er, Ray."

"Mm? What?"

"There's only one bed."

"So?" Ray blinked curiously at him.

"You don't mind sleeping -- alongside of me?" Bodie avoided the usual phrase, with all its sexual connotations, with a last minute effort.

Doyle chuckled. "I wouldn't even mind sleeping with you. What's the matter, Bodie? Look, if the old woman's said something that bothers you, forget it. It doesn't bother me, but I can forget it if you want me to. I mean, I'd like -- I want -- oh, Christ. I mean, yes, I'm interested, but I'm not desperate. Well, not so desperate I'd push you if you didn't want to bother... I'm not all that repulsive, though, surely."

"Got a short memory, haven't you?" Bodie dumped the blankets onto the bed and came back to the heater. "I told you three minutes ago that you're beautiful." He reached out with one hand, cupping Doyle's face. He was whiskery and hot and clammy to the touch. "Come on, you'll be better if you settle down and get some rest."

"Yeah." Doyle got to his feet and Bodie saw that he was shaking.

"Hey, Ray... Are you ill, or... Or are you afraid of me?" He asked, very quietly. "If you don't want me to sleep in the bed, I'll just curl up by the heater there."

"Oh, Bodie!" Trembling hands grabbed Bodie by the shoulders. "I'm feeling like death warmed up, you clot. Afraid of you -- of you? Don't be --" And he leaned forward, dispelling forever the idea that any such fear or apprehension existed by pressing his mouth on Bodie's. Bodie jumped in surprise at their first kiss, mouth opening at once as he gasped. It was nothing like the first kiss he had been imagining for years; it came out of nowhere, unexpected, unplanned, hard and hot and sweet, clinging and deep -- no hesitant, gentle brush of lip on lip as he coaxed and cajoled Doyle into opening his mouth and surrendering to the intimate pleasure. There was only a moment of hesitancy, then Ray's tongue was in his mouth, seeking his and finding it, then drawing back and inviting Bodie's tongue to delve into the hot, dark haven of his own mouth. Bodie's arms went about his partner, tightening into a punishing embrace, which was just as well: a moment later Doyle's knees went out from under him and if Bodie had not had hold of him he might have fallen.

The kiss broke and Doyle buried his face in Bodie's neck, clinging to him. "Not scared of you, you big, daft thing... Just feeling bad. Got to lie down before I fall down, Bodie. Help me?"

Help you? Bodie thought, dazed and blinking on scalding tears. For the rest of your life, with anything, with everything, any time you ask -- even as the thoughts fled unbidden through his mind he saw the absurdity of them, and he said nothing, just grabbed his cold, skinny partner in a bear hug and kissed his ear before setting about the task of undressing him. Ray was shivering and hugging his chest; there was nothing in the least romantic about it, which made both of them laugh a little hysterically.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Bodie," Doyle said through teeth that were still chattering as he stepped out of Dinny's jeans. "This is no way to sleep together for the first time, is it?"

"Doesn't matter, sweetheart," Bodie said fondly, fetching Flannagan's coarse bath towels and using them to scrub at Ray's pale skin in an attempt to get his circulation going. "It's all my fault anyway. If we'd stayed at home this whole long weekend and you'd run true to form, ambling about the flat half naked and falling asleep in compromising positions, maybe I'd have broken at last and made a pass at you anyway."

"You--" Doyle blinked at him. "You mean you've been fancying me like that? How long?"

"About three hundred years," Bodie said ruefully. "S'what it feels like, sometimes. Into bed with you, Raymond. I'll bring the moonshine -- you could use some central heating."

Obediently, Doyle climbed in among the blankets. "So cold."

"Drink," Bodie told him, watching him swallow a draught of the poteen.

"I'm half drunk. If I drink much more I'll have a hangover tomorrow."

"So, tomorrow we'll be in the village, you can get whatever you like for it, there's bound to be a Chemist, and if there isn't these Gypsies--"


"--can probably point us to the nearest one." He watched the shivering bundle of misery and sighed. "You look terrible. Still cold?"

"Freezing." Ray's teeth were chattering to prove it.

Bodie smiled. "Don't scream in outrage, will you? I only know one way to warm you up, but--"

"Bodie, will you shut up and get into bed?" Doyle said, even his voice shaking. "You'll like a giant hotwater bottle. Come on, before I die."

So Bodie turned off the light, brought the paraffin heater a few feet nearer the bed, took off his clothes and slipped in between the coarse blankets -- Flannagan did not seem to possess any sheets. He yelped as Doyle's cold body pressed against him. Ray had stripped to the skin and hadn't been wearing any underclothes to begin with, since they had been as sopping as the rest of his clothes. The shock of going from a first kiss to the close press of two naked bodies in such a short time was only partially softened by the fact that Doyle was feeling too bad at that moment to offer or want anything to do with sensuality. "You are cold, aren't you? Come here, you silly bugger. Why didn't you say something this morning before we left the pub? All you had to say was, 'Bodie I don't feel well,' and I'd have been all over you like a mother hen."

"I don't whine," Doyle said, snuggling close, face pushed into Bodie's shoulder and inhaling the absolutely unique scent of him. Clean and musky and male and Bodie. "You're so warm. Hold me?"

"Thought I was holding you," Bodie said breathlessly.

"Tighter, then. Come on, I won't break." In a desperate effort to get warm Doyle pulled Bodie half on top of himself and only then went limp beneath the living blanket. "Oh, that's better, that's so nice."

Nice was an understatement. Bodie could barely breathe. His nerves were singing and his heart was thumping so hard that he knew Ray must be able to feel it. Arousal tingled through his groin, but the body beneath his was so feverish, aching, cold and trembling, that the desire somehow transmuted itself into an upwelling of tenderness; the urgency passed quickly and he was content just to hold the other man, feeling the warmth gradually get into his bones.

Alcohol and exercise had taken their toll of Bodie too, and not long after Doyle breathed a heavy sigh and relaxed completely, he felt the tug of drowsiness and followed him into sleep. The last thing he consciously noticed was a little sharp dig at his right shoulder, and he realised that Ray was still holding onto the green stone that had belonged to the bard, Bran, in the days when the Earth was younger, when they had been warriors, brothers -- and lovers, in a fey old woman's dream...

Mist swirled in formless eddies, coiling into half-recognised shapes before dissembling again, but Doyle was not cold and for all the desperation of the day he was strangely at peace. He lay still not striving for orientation, just letting it come back a little at a time until he knew where he was...

His nose told him his exact whereabouts before he opened his eyes: he lay in his lover's arms -- of course. Sheepskin was soft against his bare back and a warm draught of breath blew across his neck. He opened his eyes, but it was almost dark and he had to wait for the room's forms to become apparent in the low, flickering illumination of the hearth, a hollow in the centre of the floor where a single log burned brightly. Above his head, the thatch smelt smoky and he could hear birds rattling around there; somehow, he knew that it was just short of dawn. And this was his home.

Everything clicked into place and he propped himself one elbow to look around at the familiar place. It was a simple house, with one room and a floor of swept earth. The tools of his trade were propped against the wall -- two light, hunting javelins, a round, iron-bound shield with a lethal boss, newly sharpened, two swords, a dirk with a jewelled hilt, and the war spear, longer than he was tall with its bright, brass collar and mantle of feathers below the quadruple-edged blade, half the length of his arm. Beside his weapons were others, just as well worn, just as familiar. With a smile he looked down into his lover's sleeping face. White, perfect skin, brushed by black lashes, faintly flushed with warmth; the long hair so dark that it was almost black even in strong sunlight, lay half over his face, and he combed it away with his fingers, straightening the uneven fringe and stirring the sleeper. The long lashes fluttered open and blue eyes blinked up at him, dreamily, before the smile was mirrored and they sought a kiss, an old, familiar sensation, longed for because of the wealth of its comfort.

For a moment Doyle fought for orientation as the other's tongue found its way into his mouth, but it was all so natural... Kinnamus... Bodie... Kinnamus. No difference, for all the gulf of time that separated the two, and as he let the kiss besiege him the other world receded, faded out, until all he knew was his home, his love, and the day to come, which both knew would be wonderful and terrible as no other had been.

Orientation was easy as the low, vibrant voice murmured his name; it called him Bran. Of course. The kiss grew harder and there were hands on his buttocks, pulling him closer than close. He felt the familiar surge of heat along every nerve and when teeth fastened on his right nipple he sighed, letting his wanton body arch toward the heat of the beloved mouth.

His senses began to swim with passion, always fresh and new no matter how often the rite was repeated, and soon he found himself on his knees, head pillowed on his folded forearms, while a soft, lapping tongue sent waves of delight through him. His closed eyes freed his mind to wander, summoning images of fantasy, and his lips crooned the name not of Bodie but of Kin, making a caress of the sound as he began to rock on his knees, waiting for the gift of joy, feeling the love that swirled about them both, almost physically tangible. A strong hand cupped him, massaging his swollen cock and his balls with sweeping caresses while the tongue plundered his last secret.

He was on the brink of pleading when he felt the hard, hot nudge of his lover's shaft, and he strained to open, to invite the most intimate of all caresses, striving to make himself one with the object of his love. He threw his head back as the rigid heat filled him, and Kin's strong arm slid about his chest, lifting him up and back until they knelt, back-to-chest, unable to move much, suspended on the fine line between ecstacy and agony, before they tumbled forward again and rocked together for a long time.

It was heartstoppingly familiar as they came. Doyle/Bran panted in the scents of the sheepskin against his face, and the mingling scents of two men in love. Kin/Bodie went down onto his back, kissing him, the long, dark hair sweeping across his cheek as he turned his head toward the soothing mouth.

Outside, it was dawn, and as they drowsed they heard the call to arms, a braying of horns over the encampment that was on the move with the first glimmer of daylight. Bran slipped out of their soft bed of hides and skins, dabbing away the cool trickles as they escaped, and as the warhorns clamoured again he and Kin girded on their swords and collected their weapons. The hearth was almost dead now and the cold or early spring washed into the house; clad in leather, they were to march with the warband, less a day's journey from the Bridge of Sand, where the scouts said the Roman commander, Juvenal, was already in Eriu, searching for gold and a source of slave labour. The horns blared again, and Kin caught Bran's head to kiss him before they relinquished the sanctuary of home for the vicious chaos of the world without.

Thunderheads were boiling over the hills and it was raining before noon. The host was a thousand strong, warrior men and women, hastening to a confrontation they knew would send half of them past Death into the land of Magh Mar. The bards sang of the next world, promising its riches, and the tribesmen who marched against Juvenal laughed off the notion of Death. It meant nothing to them, for Magh Mar was the reality and life just a proving ground for the warriorkind. Bran and Kinnamus were sure of it. They lay in the heather, eating mutton and black bread, while the scouts went out to find the Roman forces. An expedition dispatched by the butcher, Julius Agricola, commanded by a young soldier poet who was destined to meet, full force, the enchantment of the land that could teach magic to Persia.

The Druidai wore their swords today: white robes and the green stones of the island's ancient religion were to be seen everywhere among the ranks. Bran fingered the green stone he wore on a thong at his own throat and remembered the days of his youth with a smile; the days when he thought he too would have been a bard. His boyhood was a vivid memory, long, hot days on the island of Mona, learning among the Druidkind until it came to the time of choosing... Holy Mona, or his lover. Bran had chosen to take up the sword, and he had not regretted it for a moment; he and Kin were still young, the love still vibrant between them, and yet they knew without doubt that neither of them would see old age.

Warriors, the beloved of the gods, died young and journeyed to Mahr Mar--

There to love again in the lands that made the Plain of Fal seem nothing much to see. Bran gave Kinnamus a reckless smile as the scouts returned with news that Juvenal's troops had been seen, their scarlet hackles marching in from the sea behind their golden acuila. The host rose up out of the heather and swordsteel rang, first one pealing chime, then a hundred, bell-like and clear on the wind as the old world and the new met in a welter of blood.

Kin was the first to go down, split rib from rib and separated from his lover by the furious, chaotic eddies of the battle. He crawled off the field, feeling the life's blood pumping out between his fingers, and the blacksmith's lad went quickly in search of Bran, finding him counting his own wounds, white with pain, his leathers slick and red.

He limped after the blacksmith's boy, away from the din and reek of battle. Kin lay in a nook in the lee of an old, wind-stunted tree, and his eyes were misted, betraying the struggle it took to wait, to hang on to the tenuous thread of life long enough to feel Bran against him, one last time.

The battle seemed far away as Bran stumbled into his arms, cold and numb and weary, recognising the telltale signs for what they were. There was not much time, for either of them. The blacksmith's lad left them in peace, and they tossed away the swordsteel, finished with it, sheltered from the wind, the embrace close and warm, the kiss alive, exquisite and desperate with the knowledge that it was the last, until the mortal drowsiness swept over them and they sank into the darkness, the peace, a moment not of parting but of the final joining, life's ancient covenant with sleep...

Bodie woke with a start as Doyle called his name, tossing fitfully. He was not awake, but the dream must have been too vivid to be borne; the dampness of tears chilled Bodie's shoulder. He gathered the thin, hard body against him, shaking him gently. "Wake up, Ray, you're dreaming. Ray!"

And Doyle came awake, the shock running through him. He was trembling again, but not from the chill. Bodie pulled the blankets tighter about them, wishing a light was within reach. The caravan was in pitch darkness, but at least he could feel that Doyle was warm again, and as he withdrew from the dream he relaxed, clutching tight to Bodie as if to reassure himself that he was there. "Nightmare?" Bodie asked softly, holding the curly head against his own.

"No," Ray murmured. "Just strange... But not strange. I dreamed... old Judith's dream, I think. You and me. Bran and Kinnamus. The love... Christ, Bodie, I've never felt love like it. We fought together, we -- we died together." His fingers bruised Bodie's arms. "It was us."

"Shhh," Bodie crooned into his hair. "It was just a dream."

But Doyle was not so sure. "No, it wasn't. It was us, Bodie, we lived then, we were everything she said. Warriors. Brothers. Lovers." His voice broke on the last word.

"Don't torment yourself, Ray," Bodie whispered. "You're safe, you're warm, you're stronger now you've got the chill half beaten. Warriors? I guess we are. Brothers? We always have been, haven't we? Lovers?" He drew a caress about the unseen face, tracing the shape of it, dwelling on the shape of lips, the straight, perfect bone structure of nose, the soft-sheathed oddity of battered cheekbone. Doyle was smiling under his touch, he felt the expression as a blind person might have, 'seeing' through his delicately tracing fingertips... The blind were definitely on to something, he thought. "Loving you is simple, Raymond Doyle. It feels like I was born loving you. It feels..."

"You were born loving me," Doyle sighed. "Oh, I dunno. Maybe tomorrow all this will be back in perspective -- maybe I'm just drunk or delirious, but here in the dark... I know the old woman's right. You can tell yourself a whole pack of lies in the blue light of day; it's easier to tell the truth in the dark."

"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "Much easier. I love you, Ray. I think I've loved you for ages, just didn't wake up to myself until it was engraved on a six inch nail and driven into my thick skull." He paused, settling Doyle more comfortably in his arms. "Will you kiss me?"

Doyle was still remembering Kin's mouth as he searched for Bodie's in the darkness. Bodie's was the same, hot and sweet and possessive. He felt the love come up and drown him, and called himself a fool. It was stupid to feel like this about anyone, not safe, not wise. But then he was on his back and Bodie was lying heavily on top of him, and he wasn't thinking anymore. The memories of Kin's loving were feverish and he felt the throb of arousal, felt himself quickly grow hard, felt his hips lift with a will of their own, pressing the two of them together. Bodie was already gasping, and it was far too fast, a headlong plunge into swift ecstasy, racking and bewildering.

The tide of desire had come out of nowhere. Bodie was shaken by his own hunger, disquieted by the suspicion that, if Ray had not wanted it to happen, he would have been overpowered by Bodie's sheer weight and physical strength... The notion dried his mouth. Simple rape. So much the better that Doyle had not held back one erg of response. The effort of it exhausted Ray and Bodie was sure he passed out rather than falling asleep, burning up again with his soaring temperature, his heart fluttering like a bird. Bewildered but ecstatic, Bodie smiled into the tangled curls, remembering a few words Ray had spoken earlier: Christ, Bodie, I've never felt love like it. "You will," Bodie murmured, unheard, "oh you will." He caressed the limp, satiated body, discovering the feel of bone, muscle, fine skin, silky body hair, the soft stickiness of genitals, the soft-hard heat of him, the musky, masculine smell, so beautifully, sinfully erotic in the aftermath of lovemaking. He drew the blanket over their heads, inhaling deeply, smelling the essences of both of them as he buried his face in the soft curls.

Later, he would learn the taste and texture of every part of him -- Ray would withhold nothing. Bodie shivered, realising everything that that meant. His nerves tingled as he knew. The long, dancer's legs would spread for him, Ray would welcome him at last, and it was like... He struggled to define the confused feeling. It was like coming home. To love. Coming home, after a long, long absence, as if they had just begun to wake from a long sleep. Bodie closed his eyes, wondering, remembering the verse: I only rest a while to keep/ Life's ancient covenant with sleep... Warriors, brothers, and lovers long ago.

Past lives...

And once again.

A Tinker encampment in a rainstorm was a funny place to find your true love, but Bodie had to wryly admit, no place was more fitting in this case. He fell asleep with his face in Doyle's soft hair, nursing a measureless content.

A cockerel welcomed the sun from the roof of Flannagan's caravan, and they stirred awake with a shared groan, blinking in the fragile daylight. Bodie got one elbow under him, watching Doyle rub his eyes and yawn. He was blue about the jaw and flushed, but he looked much better. "Hello, love," Bodie said, very quietly, and kissed his nose.

"Hello, love," Doyle echoed, and licked Bodie's lips, inviting a kiss. He stretched as it broke and mirrored Bodie's smile. "Did I dream it, or did we... make love last night?" He ran a palm across his stomach, felt the crusting of their life's essences, dried there. "Yes, we did." And he blushed darkly, his eyes smiling into the blue ones.

"You forgot?" Bodie sounded miffed.

"No; I did so much dreaming I just wasn't sure..." He frowned. "I dreamed us as lovers. I mean, real lovers. You know. Technically, all we did was bring each other off -- crude as that sounds. I dreamed us as lovers, Bodie. You know what I mean. You took me. All of me."

"Inside you," Bodie whispered. "You want that, Ray?"

Doyle closed his eyes, shivering. "Yeah. They reckon it hurts, but it didn't in the dream."

"It doesn't hurt too much if you're careful," Bodie said slowly. "Only if you're too dry or too fast or too rough, or if you're scared and tense. And after a little while it doesn't hurt at all."

"Scared? Of you?" Ray made a scornful face. "No way, mate... Mate. That's just about accurate now, isn't it? The word's got a whole new meaning." He put his head down on Bodie's chest. "I wish you could have shared Judith's dream... There was love like you wouldn't believe."

"You can always show me," Bodie suggested softly.

"Show you?" Doyle sounded surprised. "You mean, you want all of that? The love?"

"I want anything you'll give me," Bodie told him. "I'll take lust, but I'd sooner have love."

The shiver coursed through Doyle again, reaching every nerve. "I'll show you, then. A bit at a time, over years and years. Loving's not like sleeping together. I could love you and never touch you. S'not sex."

"I know," Bodie smiled. "I want you for years and years, you clot. Come and live with me. If Cowley doesn't like it he can lump it. If he asked me to choose between you and CI5, there's be no choice, would there?"

"None," Doyle said emphatically, "at all." He stretched. "Feel better, love. It's Monday morning, isn't it? Four day long weekends are exhausting... Got to be back in London by tonight. We could catch the train down by lunchtime, and..." He chuckled. "And go to bed. Your bed, wider than mine, lovely mattress."

"Sheepskin underblanket, sheepskin coverlet. Keeps the warm in," Bodie said wisely.

"Yeah, I know," Ray murmured, remembering the bed of soft hides and skins in their little house on the eastern shore of Eriu. "Listen, the Tinkers are up and about. Time to get up, maybe. Reckon they'll give us breakfast?"

Bodie sat up and stretched his arms above his head. "Oh, I expect so. And a ride into the village." He smiled at the caress on his back. "Train up to Middlesborough, Intercity back home to bed. It's a pity we hadn't decided to do that in the first place -- would have saved us money and saved you being ill. Cor, what a night we could have had last night!"

"Doesn't matter," Doyle shrugged, his fingers finding the green stone that had been lost in a fold of the blankets, turning it to the sunlight. "This was Bran's... It's mine. It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"So wear it," Bodie said huskily. "Goes with your eyes. Get a chain for it."

"A thong," Ray corrected. "It's a Druid stone, you know."

"And you dreamed that as well, did you?"

"Yeah. I dreamed it all. The way we lived, fought, loved. And died." He blinked up at Bodie almost blindly. "You died in my arms -- and I in yours."

The strangest thrill caught at Bodie's heart, squeezing it tightly in his chest, and he stopped to take Ray's mouth again, ignoring the morning whiskers, revelling in the way Doyle opened to him at once, made him welcome. "No more talk of death and dying," he said, sliding out of Flannagan's blankets. "I've just woken up to the fact I'm in love, and I don't want it spoiled, Ray." He had pulled on the borrowed jeans when knuckles rapped at the door; opening it, he saw Michael there.

"Morning to you," the young Tinker said with a smile that was dazzling. "Here are your clothes, nice and dry. There's a bit of breakfast cookin' if you want it -- and it's a fine day. Rain's gone over."

So it had. The moor was still cold and wet but the sky was blue and the wind sprang out of the south, a few degrees warmer. "Thanks, we'll be there in a jiff," Bodie told him, taking the armful of clothes. They were still warm, as if he had just scooped them up off the floor beside Judith's paraffin heater. Bodie closed the door again, and dumping the lot on the foot of the bed, sorting his from Doyle's and dressing quickly.

Ray sat up, staring gloomily at his clothes. "I'm sorry, Bodie, really I am."

"For what?" Bodie blinked at him, wondering what in the world he meant.

"For last night. That was a stupid way to be together for the first time... The first time's supposed to be special. Slow and -- I dunno. Special."

"It was special," Bodie remonstrated. "Christ, I never cuddled any girl that tight for that long. They usually yell about suffocation, but you? You wouldn't let go any more than I would. How often do I fall in love? Last time I loved anyone, I was a kid, young and green and silly. Didn't mean that." He snapped his fingers. "I mean, I got over her death in two seconds flat, didn't I? Whereas, every time you start talking about dying I want to howl."

"Sorry... I'll try to remember that," Doyle said with a faint smile. "I just didn't want to let go, last night. I was cold, and... How often do I fall in love? Last person I loved was Ann, and that was over so fast it'd hardly got started so it doesn't really count. It's almost as if... As if all my affairs had to be temporary things, just there to tide me over till it was time to wake up, time to find out way here in the rain. That make sense?"

"A lot of sense," Bodie agreed. "So much, it's frightening." Fully dressed, he sat on the bed and smiled. "Look at you. Bloodshot eyes, whiskers and hair like a bird's nest, and I still fancy you! Come on, love, get dressed and get some breakfast into yourself. It's nearly seven and -- we've got a train to catch."

The Intercity, back to London , he thought as he watched Doyle standing in the lee of the big family caravan where Judith's brood lived, a mug of tea in one hand, his electric razor whirring through the stubble on his jaw, his grey wool cap pulled down over his ears, his collar turned up, very pale in the cold air, the eyes green as a Seer's. Bodie smiled; it should have been strange loving a man, but it wasn't. Not by a long stretch of the imagination could Ray Doyle be thought of as anything less than a hundred percent male, yet there was so much about him that transcended gender. He was slight and gentle and emotional much of the time, all of which appealed immensely to Bodie; he was blessed with features that were timeless, less human than elven, perfect skin and a husky voice that would have made a laundry list sound like an amorous advance, to 'come up and see him sometime.' The wonder of it was not in why Bodie could love him and fancy him; it would have been more to be wondered at if he could not find love in his heart and a fire in his nerve endings.

Bacon was frying by the panful, and from the dozen or so motor caravans appeared no less than five dozen Tinkers, all milling around, feeding the dogs, rubbing down the ponies, which had sheltered under their tarpaulins, fetlock-deep in cut heather, overnight. Doyle had one eye on the time as he ate, gauging the time it would take them to shuttle into Middlesborough and make the connection with the Intercity Express. As much as he felt oddly at ease with these people, he was eager to be moving, to get back home. To bed? He smiled. Deep in his left pocket, his fingers were curled around Bran's green Druid stone, and his eyes followed Bran's tall, smouldering, beautiful lover. Bodie knew he was watched and looked up with an oddly selfconscious smile, nearly shy but not quite, his blue eyes darkening with promise.

As the Tinkers broke camp, old Judith came out to bid them farewell before heading for Michael's four wheel drive. She walked badly, bent with arthritis, and was more nearly blind than they had realised. She clutched a shawl about her against the wind, her silver hair teased loose by the gusts, and squeezed their hands. "God keep you well. And take care of each other," she said to both of them, and then, to Bodie added: "Guard him closely, lad; he has the soft, foolish heart of a bard, has your Bran, a great heart but one that gives him pain."

"I will," Bodie promised, looking up over the old woman's stooped shoulders at his partner... his lover. Doyle wore a frown of perplexity and said nothing. "Look after yourself, Judith. Maybe we'll meet up again some day."

They rode in the back of a wagon with several of the dogs and three noisy children, and hopped down onto the road before the Tinkers' vehicles headed for the fairground. When the caravans and four wheel drives had gone the world became quiet and still, and Bodie led the way across a paddock, the shortcut to the rural station where they would get a train to connect with the Intercity.

The sky was blue now, and larks were singing high up; half way across the paddock they stopped to listen to them, and Bodie shook his head ruefully. "It's a pity we have to get back to all that noise and smog. It'll be nice up here today." He gave Doyle a cheeky grin. "Nicer at home in bed, though, eh?"

"I hope so," Doyle said fervently. "I'd hate to think that getting laid in the cold, damp grass with an audience of cows and magpies is as nice as it gets."

Bodie laughed out loud and caught his face between gloved palms to kiss him. "You're a virgin, aren't you?"

"Well, unless last night counts, yeah," Ray admitted. "And last night you didn't, well, take me, did you? So I expect I'm a virgin. What about you?"

"Haven't had a bloke since Africa," Bodie told him honestly. "Never wanted one. Men were just necessary in the bush, unless you were going to live like a monk, and -- Jeez, I was a kid, I'd have popped my cork. Nah, I never really wanted a bloke until I met you. Then I fell in love. Feel a bit of a twit saying it, if you want to know."

"Don't," Doyle murmured. "There's nothing stupid about loving. I'll show you, when we get home. I'm a virgin, yeah, but... I dreamed Judith's dream I know what it's about as surely as if I've been falling into your arms at every verse end, and loving's a big part of it. Sex is just sex. Let me show you, Bodie."

And Bodie was delighted to comply. They ate British Rail's idea of lunch and dozed on the train, then took a taxi from the station to Bodie's flat. As they closed the door and dumped their hiking gear Doyle was chuckling. "Did you mean what you said when you asked me to come and live with you?"

"Of course I did." Bodie took off his jacket and got the heating on, turning up the gas fire. "I make it a policy to say what I mean... unless it's expedient to lie." He turned back to Doyle, watching him pacing around the flat with an odd expression on the elven features. "Yeah, take a good look. You'll never see it this tidy again; as soon as you move all that junk of yours in, you'll have the place looking like a second hand shop, and an untidy one, at that... You're feeling better, by the looks of you. You look just about over it."

Doyle nodded, wrinkling his nose affectionately at the concern in Bodie's voice. "Just about. I'll be fine by tomorrow."

"And what about now? Want a cup of tea?"

"A pure malt'd hit the spot, if you've got it."

"Coming up." Bodie poured two, tossed his own down while Ray sipped at his, and put the empty glasses on the silver tray beside the bottle. Very deliberately, he took Doyle in his arms. "We've got some unfinished business to attend to, haven't we?"

"Nice way of putting it." Ray looped his arms around Bodie's neck. "I want to see if it's like the dream. Us together, I mean."

"Oh? And how was that?" Bodie asked, not for the first time envying Ray that damned dream.

"Beyond my powers of description," Doyle smiled. "You know, it's turning me on like blazes just holding you like this." He caught his breath as Bodie pressed his hips forward, feeling the hardness of arousal there. "You too?" Ray returned the pressure, feeling the electricity coursing through him, and put his head down on Bodie's shoulder. "The bed, the sofa, the floor or the dining table," he murmured. "I do hope you'll say the bed."

"Raymond, you're wicked," Bodie chided fondly, cuffing his ear and following him into the bedroom. "Come on, and maybe I'll admit how many times I've lain in this bed pretending and wishing you were there with me."

"You mean--" Doyle blinked. "You, um, did yourself, thinking about me?"

"Shocked?" Bodie raised one brow.

"Flattered," Doyle corrected. "I wish you'd said something instead of... Oh, hell, Maybe it was better letting it take its own time. Better for both of us this way." He came to rest beside the bed and turned, stepping into Bodie's embrace. "Lovers long ago. Lovers... Funny little word, isn't it? So much meaning. So much --"

As Bodie began to touch him, Doyle let the words run out. The tightening in his groin and chest robbed him of his breath, and as Bodie licked his ears he began to tremble. Two time frames were fighting to drop into alignment -- the glorious familiarity of Kinnamus' love, and acid-sweet strangeness of Bodie's. He was painfully aroused and gasping for breath as Bodie slid the shirt from him and gathered him in, one hand tucked into his crotch, massaging there. His pulse hammered in his ears and the tingling ran up into his abdomen and down into his thighs, a sensation as terrible as it was wonderful. His knees seemed to weaken and he clutched at Bodie for support as he felt the jeans unzipped; he wriggled, uncomfortable and with a growing fever of desire.

Bodie watched his lover, bemused, and wished with all his heart that he could have shared the dream. Ray was reliving it now, he was out in a world of his own, behaving not like a virgin but like one whose love had returned after a long separation. In a moment he would reciprocate the ardour he was feeling through Bodie's hands. Bodie knew that when he did it would sweep them both away. He bit his lip, praying that he could remember to be careful, gentle, but his ears were singing and his blood pressure soared to match his pulse rate --

And when Ray drifted back from his dreams and began to return the loving he was bowled over as completely as if he had been hit over the head. The fingers were practised, the lips knowing, the kisses and caresses tender and educated, every last erg lavished on him without hesitation... Kinnamus, Bodie thought. Was I? He thinks I was... My body thinks I was... It's so familiar, it's so fine... Ray was on his knees, his cheek pressed to the white, rippling abdomen, his fingers tracing patterns across Bodie's flanks and buttocks, his breath a warm, tormenting draught across the throbbing heat of Bodie's cock.

The first kiss nearly had Bodie off his feet. A lick, and he was barely strong enough to stand, and as Ray began to suck him he swayed. How many women had done this for him he no longer knew, but it was different now -- it was him. There was liquid delight surging along every nerve, a fire in his groin and an ache in his balls, and he moaned, at once wishing that Doyle would stop yet never stop. Then his legs went out from under him and he found himself sprawled across his bed.

The mattress depressed under Doyle's knees, and he sat back, waiting for the blue eyes to clear, reading the anguished expression on his lover's face, loving him in that moment without reservation or question. As Bodie swam back to his senses Ray stretched out, cat-like, inviting, and the game began again, with Bodie the tormenter and Doyle his willing, helpless prey. Gently biting teeth drew a whimper from him and Bodie licked soothingly at the marked shoulder before he combed through the silky hair on Ray's heaving chest and began to suckle.

Inarticulate murmurings passed Doyle's lips, little pleasured sobs, yelps, gasps for breath. Bodie barely had to learn what pleased him most. There was a sense of familiarity, as if this had been their secret longing since the beginning -- perhaps it had -- and lived in dreams so often, with such finesse, that making it real was gloriously simple. Doyle's arms went around Bodie and they held each other with a great, tender yearning. Tumbled over, Bodie was pressed down beneath the heat and weight of his lover's slight body.

Barely realising what he was doing, he spread his legs: his body knew what it wanted. Ray caught his breath as he realised what he was being given, and his heart skipped a beat. Desire blazed through him like a flash fire, making him shake, and he held back, clinging to his sanity with an effort. Bodie had his breath back now, the blue eyes closed as he lay waiting, and Doyle paused to stroke the dark, velvety shaft with delicate fingers, making his face twist with the agony of delight.

"Ray," Bodie panted hoarsely, "Ray, do it, do it, please."

"Shh, relax," Ray crooned, "I will." Then he reached down between them to touch himself, gathering enough of his sticky, pearly pre-ejaculate to make them both slick. First one finger, then two, slipped easily into Bodie, caressing his prostate delicately until he cried out, a wordless plea for release. Torture had never been on Doyle's mind, and he responded at once.

Bodie cried out again as he was pierced; there was a burning discomfort, the sharpness of pain, half remembered from many years before, but not enough to make him howl as he did; the cry was one of disbelieving joy as he realised that he and Doyle were one, for a brief time in the same body. The deeper the impalement, the less it hurt, and then pleasure began to strum across his nerves as if he was a musical instrument, there to be played.

The melody was rapture, and Ray knew it well. The dream of Kinnamus and Bran filled his head as Bodie filled his senses. He fought his every instinct to keep still, winning the battle until Bodie, unable to bear the exquisite tension any longer, had to move or die, and began to heave beneath him. Then Doyle lifted his hips and trust again, slowly and delicately, lest they tumble over the brink too soon. The whole cosmos contracted to the confines of their own aching need, the knowledge that they were one, the helpless tide of love, the struggle to make it go on.

It ended when fatigue clawed at Doyle, when his muscles would barely serve him any longer, and the spark of desperation shot through him, bringing him to flashpoint with a groan of tortured delight. Bodie was a second behind him, yelping as the heat of Ray's coming lanced deeply into him, before he too surrendered to the deep, surging orgasm. Doyle collapsed heavily on him, spent, his breathing ragged, his skin sheened with perspiration, his ears barely hearing the endearments that were sobbed into his hair.

Slowly, they came down off the high, drowsing, less than half conscious, aware that they were aching and sore and still flying. For a few moments they must have slept, Doyle was sure, because he came to with a gentle start to find himself cradled in the crook of Bodie's arm while tissues tickled across areas still to sensitive for comfort. Heavy blue eyes smiled at him, and Bodie kissed his mouth again.

"You sure you were a virgin?" Bodie asked wryly.

Doyle smiled. "In which life?" He caressed Bodie's face tenderly. "Why? Did you want me to be blushing and coy and submissive for you?"

"You?" Bodie laughed. "Never -- can't even imagine that. It's just... You were fantastic."

"So were you," Ray added. "Bloody wonderful. Best I've ever had."

"Honest?" Bodie asked, kissing his nose.

"Honest. Cross my heart and hope to have Cowley find out. S'worse than the prospect of death."

A broad smile lit Bodie's features. "I used to dream about having you underneath me, love. Was just as nice the other way around."

"So we take it in turns to be on top," Ray yawned. "Got all the time in the world, haven't we?"

And Bodie nodded. "So we have. Because tomorrow night, after work, we're packing your stuff a bit at a time, and fetching it all over here. I'll have to think of some way to discourage Julia... Y'see, Julia's someone I sleep with when I need to, but I don't love her. Never did, never will, which isn't to say she's not a nice kid -- she is. But I'm just not in love with her. And if I'm in love with you, which I am, it's you I want, not her."

"Logical," Doyle said, smiling, "Luckily, I haven't got a regular girl just now."

"So I've noticed. You haven't been getting much of it lately -- haven't been trying to get much lately, have you?"

"No. Was nicer being with you."

"What -- just as friends?"

"Yeah. God, Bodie, I've been rollin' around in bed for the better part of twenty years... I can't even remember their names, their faces. It's just one long blur with the odd highlight here and there. A woman I really cared about. Love? I'd started to think it was a myth. Something out of magazine stories, the kind of dream you have when it's raining outside and you're on your own and a bit low, and wishing you had someone there who'd hold you while you hibernate... Silly, really."

"You think so?" Bodie murmured.

"Not particularly intelligent, is it? I mean, out of four billion people on this planet, how many d'you think find someone who loves 'em -- really loves 'em? Not just likes 'em and lays 'em. About half a dozen, I reckon! I won't say I'd 'gone off' sex, but I will say the novelty wore off. After a while the endless blur of casual tumbles got to mean nothing. Could have got just as much out of a do-it-yourself job, and sometimes more. I was looking for -- oh, I dunno. Companionship. That make sense? Someone who'd talk to me, know what I'm feeling -- not just when I'm aroused, but all the time. Someone who'd be kind to me for the sake of it, instead of it being a means to an end. You know?"

"Oh, yeah." Bodie folded him into a closer embrace, his hair rustling on the pillow as he nodded. "They take a look at you when you proposition 'em. They eye you up and down -- 'yeah, this one's good for two or three slap up dinners, a few dozen roses, couple of shows, few days boating on the river, shopping spree or two, maybe a weekend in Paris. And look at that body, bet he'd be a good screw in bed too. Frosting on the cake. Nice boy-toy to play with till it gets boring, then dump him and push off to pastures greener...'" He sighed heavily. "Stupid, when you put it like that, isn't it?"

"Loony," Doyle agreed. "So I decided to save the money and stick it in the bank for the yacht. Y'see, I'd have you to myself when we went yachting. Had that in mind all along, unconsciously. Nice days on the water, you and me and the fresh air, few beers, getting mellow. Peace and quiet. Warm, so we'd start to take our clothes off sooner or later..." He chuckled. "It would've happened next summer, when we'd got the boat. This way's better, though. now we can go out knowing what we're going to be doing instead of stumbling around wanting something we can't quite seem to catch on to." He smiled against Bodie's shoulder. "The way I've been stumbling around for ages... I think I've been in love with you for some time, Bodie." He was serious. "I'm just slow at realising these little things."

Bodie kissed him. "You're bloody backward, never mind slow, mate. I'll get the Cow to give us authorisation to live together tomorrow."

"And what about Julia?"

"Oh, I'll just break a couple of dates, she'll take the huff and leave, they all do. She's seeing an airline pilot as well, when I'm working."

It had been happening to them both for years, as if they had been destined never to find anyone who would tolerate the vagaries of the job for them. They were, Ray came to realise in that moment, very, very lucky to have one another, because there was little or no chance of there ever being anyone else. He wriggled closer to Bodie and put his head down on his lover's chest. "Jeez, I'm sticky. Feels like we need a shower."

"Not yet," Bodie purred. "We're going to be a helluva lot stickier in another couple of minutes if you keep on wriggling that way." He laughed. "We're going to spend the next three months in a continual state of exhaustion!"

"What makes you think three months'll slow us down?" Doyle chuckled.

"Never you mind, my pet," Bodie told him. "I'll buy you a packet of vitamins -- with ginseng and Vitamin E." He yawned as Doyle settled against him, all movement ceasing as his breathing levelled out. "Going to sleep already, are you? Resisting my charms?"

"Just wrung out," Ray said softly. "Being ill does that to you. Won't be all that chipper for a couple of days."

"I know, just teasing." Bodie rolled them in the sheepskin coverlet and fluffed the pillows. "Could do with a kip myself, if it's all that same to you... Ray? Ray?"

His reply was a gentle snore, just one, as Doyle beat him to sleep.

The wind among the heather spoke with the voice of a wild creature, a rushing cry, wild and free, and the sky was as blue as cornflowers. Bodie woke, blinking on the brightness, but though he knew that there should have been a vast disorientation he felt greatly as peace. He recognised the line of the hills, the sounds of the stream that babbled over the rocks close at hand --

And the voice that was laughing and teasing with Rua just a little way behind him. He rolled over in the springy heather, the smells of the earth rich in his nostrils, and smiled. That voice was like a caress to his ears, low and husky, and there was Bran, clad in his scuffed leathers and sheepskin, hair tangled by the wind, rolling over, locked in mock combat with the big red hunting dog. The prize was the last leg of rabbit -- the three of them had been hunting all morning and had eaten well on the profits of the trip. Rua had more than his share, but Bodie knew Bran would let him win --

Bran. The name that came to his mind was not Doyle's, but it did not seem to matter. For a moment Bodie struggled to align the two worlds, but it was not possible, and the longer he tried the more unreal the other world became. This was his time, his home, he knew, and his name was Kinnamus Iron Hand. He was a warrior; there were scars on his arms and shoulders, callouses on his hands and a gall on his left forearm from the war shield carried there.

There were scars on Bran's skin, too: he knew them all. Bran, of the sweet, slender body, the laughing eyes and silky voice. Kin laughed at the wrestling. The dog was winning. He was as big as Bran anyway, and probably as strong, and not adverse to sinking his teeth in, albeit gently. Then Bran would bite back, nipping an ear in vengeance. Kin propped his chin in his palms, watching his lover and their dog at play.

With a final twist, Bran let the dog have the leg of rabbit and rolled over in the heather, exhausted and happy. Rua pounced on the meat and wolfed it down as if he had not seen food in a week, bone and all, and Bran sat up, brushing the long, red dog hairs from his leathers. Catching Kin's eye, they shared the humour, and Bran came back to the rough hearth by which Kin had dozed, sprawling down beside him.

Life felt fine, the air was clean and the sun was hot. They watched Rua chasing rabbits, watched the shaggy ponies grazing by the stream, and watched each other for the pleasure of it. Kin teased the heather debris from Bran's hair, making him yelp, and threatened mayhem on him when he swung a playfully defensive fist that skimmed the bigger man's jaw. Bran never took threats seriously and felt free to shave another mock-punch over his lover's jaw as Kin yanked his hair again.

They were wrestling then, and Kin was winning -- not because he was bigger and heavier, he was sure, but because Bran was laughing too hard to fight well, and because he had every intention of surrendering the struggle when it suited him. On the field of battle, Bran was as much an Iron Hand as his lover: fools looked at him, saw the stature of a bard, the face of a Seer, and challenged him unwisely, but those who knew him knew better.

And Kin knew him better than anyone alive. He knew Bran's every mood, could read the slightest expression that chased across his face, knew every scar that marked his body, every moan that would pass his lips when he was touched, even his dreams. Like most bards, Bran was as fey as he looked, which was why the Druidkind had taken him to their hearts and into their ranks, to be educated on the island of Mona. Holy Mona. Would Bran have worn the white robe one day? Perhaps.

But he had given it all up, left the sanctuary of Mona forever and taken up the sword, following the love of his young life into danger time and again. Still, they were safe, and their battles were not so frequent that they were worried yet. They were young, strong, as mad as the warriorkind had to be, and the same love that had made Bran turn his back on Holy Mona ten years before made him surrender in the heather today.

Kin did not mistake or underestimate the gift he was given, and he took it gently, wondering again at the gods' strange decree, that he should lie with a man and cherish him before all of the women who had been his. Bran had had no women; on Mona, the students were governed strictly, and one so young as he had been was not permitted to go with girls. Then, before he had had time to learn the favours and pleasures of the women who would have gladly welcomed him, his wayward heart warmed in love --

And not for a girl. There was heather in the curly hair again, and Kin removed it carefully while his lover was still purring and content. Ten years since they had met, since Kin, already a warrior, had swept the young bard off his feet that Beltane. Bran's first feasting... At Imbolc he had been too young, and by Lugnassad and Samhaine he would be abroad as an apprentice, not an observer. But that Beltane the boy had been allowed to attend just to watch... To watch? Kin smiled. Swept off his feet, he had defied his teachers and coupled in the shadows with the tall, white skinned warrior who took his breath away. There was lovemaking everywhere that night; no one noticed one more mating beyond the firelight, and at dawn Bran could have gone back with his teachers, back to Mona, to study and the solitary life of the ones who wore the green stones and vowed their lives away to the occult.

But dawn saw them rolled in a yellow calf hide, asleep among the ashes, curled about each other and content. Bran already knew enough about the warrior's arts to learn the rest of it quickly from the swordmasters and from Kin himself. He could ride and knew the healing arts too. But killing came hard to him, and Kin often watched him punish himself with guilt for what he had chosen to do, what he now had to do. More than once, Kin had offered him his freedom, thrown open the door to let him go, though to watch him leave would have broken his heart.

Perhaps the offer of freedom made it easier for Bran to stay. Kin had the power to exorcise the pain from his heart as no other could, an exorcism of gentle words and soft kisses, hard hands and pleasure-pain that quickly became rapture as he offered himself to be broken on the rack of his own lust and instead of being broken was made stronger, made whole and calm.

The dog, barking into rabbit warrens too small to be squeezed into, roused them from the drowsy reverie and they ambled to the stream, scooping up handsful of water to wash. Bran yelped as Kin threw a freezing shower over him, prickling his sun-hot skin; for a moment they were about to start the game again, but before it begin the love came up to overwhelm them, and instead of wrestling they just held on, naked by the bank of the stream, oblivious to the world and wrapped up in their dreams.

It was for times like this that Bran had spurned the Druidkind, Kin knew, thinking back to the night when he had searched for a partner in the firelight, someone fit for a warrior to drink with and love with. There were dozens of unattached girls and women, he could have had any of them, but it was the boy who sat staring into the fire who took his attention. Slight, shy and so beautiful that the warrior was ensnared by his own appreciation of beauty. The shyness lasted half the night, until the stunned amazement at his own body's wanton behaviour wore off, and then Bran had learned the language of love quickly, speaking it fluently with the fingers of a musician and lips of a bard.

By dawn, Kinnamus was in love, and they had not been apart for more than a few days since. Ten years: more like ten weeks, and if they died tomorrow they could not count themselves short changed. And, as warriors, Magh Mar would welcome them, they knew, there to live again, and love, beyond the reach of old age and Death. It was the warrior's code, the basis of his honour and faith, without it the call to arms would have been a cause for fear, and Kin's only real fear was that Bran should be killed and not he -- or he and not Bran. To be apart was worse than to die, for Death was nothing.

Still, the battles could not be denied, and the call to arms was due too soon. The Romans were there, off the east coast of Eriu, searching through the cold, wet jungles of the mainland for the Bridge of Sand. When they found their way into the island there would be fighting, glorious and terrible, and perhaps he and Bran would live to see the day out; and perhaps they would not.

Unconcerned, Kin wrapped his life's partner up in his love. It did not matter what happened; there would be partings, but not forever, not for long, and they were born of a patient race, they knew how to wait...

"Wake up, Bodie. Bodie, you're dreaming!"

Bodie swam back up to his senses with a start, blinking in the flood of early evening sunlight and seeing the concern in the green eyes. It took him a moment to feel the sharp little dig of the green stone against his shoulder: he had been lying on it. His fingers shook as he picked it up and handed it to Doyle. "Yours, I believe... And beware of that, love. It's deadly."

"What d'you mean?" Ray held the stone tightly; it was rich with the heat of Bodie's skin. "Bran's Druid stone?"

"It's --" Bodie struggled to remember. "It's a dreaming stone." He shivered. "Oh yeah, I dreamed us. Old Judith's no fool, is she?"

Ray blinked at him. "Kinnamus and Bran?"

"You. You wild young creature." Bodie smiled. "You told your teachers what they could do with their rules and regulations and came with me."

"Yeah," Doyle nodded, flushing a little, wondering just how much Bodie did know.

"I seduced you," Bodie said softly. "One night, in the shadows on the brink of high summer."

"I went willingly," Doyle murmured. "We were in love."

"We are in love," Bodie corrected, gathering Doyle against him and kissing him. "One of these days we'll share that stone when we've both got hold of it, and see what happens. But for now..." He plucked it from Doyle's grasp and put it on the bedside table. "Go back to sleep. You've got blue rings under your eyes. Not time to get up and make dinner yet."

Obediently, Doyle put his head down on Bodie's chest. "You... You felt the love, did you?"

"There's all the love I can handle in this bed," Bodie told him quietly. "Shush, like a good lad, will you? Time to play around in the past -- their past, our past, whatever -- later. Sleep now."

"Later," Doyle said stubbornly. "Have to talk to you now."

Bodie sighed. "What about?"

"About us. I..." Ray took a breath and began again. "I want to tell Cowley about us." He felt Bodie stiffen from head to foot and pressed on. "No, look, it's only fair, isn't it? The department's not popular with the press, they love to roast us alive. We know we're not gay, but I shudder to think what the real world out there's going to think. We're going to live together, for a start, and it's going to show in the way we look at each other, isn't it? Sooner or later the secret's going to be out of the bag and... I think Cowley ought to know ahead of time. That way, he can sack us now if he wants to, or sack us later when he has to. It's the only thing that's fair to the rest of 'em, love, isn't it? We could be used to discredit the whole lot of them, and... I don't want that on my conscience. Okay, maybe we'll get booted out of the department, but rather that than be used to destroy the department some day."

"And if Cowley knows about it, it'll solve everything?" Bodie sounded dubious.

"No, of course not. But he'll have the decision to make, whether we stay or go, and no matter what goes wrong in a year, two, three, he'll have the contingency plan drawn up. He'll probably hand us to the press on a silver salver, and they'll probably behead us in the scandal sheets, and we'll be notorious." Doyle laughed quietly. "Hey, we're not gay, are we?"

"We're us," Bodie said emphatically. "We must've fallen in love somewhere along the line, but since we don't seem to fancy other blokes... Oh, bisexual, aren't we? Just now I don't really give a damn."

"Cowley will, though," Doyle said a little bleakly.

"Maybe," Bodie mused, "maybe not. He's ex-Army, remember."


Bodie cuffed his ear gently. "Wakey, wakey, Raymond. You know what the Armed Forces are like on the quiet! And the Public Schools, and the colleges, and all your prisons, and the Merchant Navy. Cowley's been around the block a time or two. He's seen it all, same as I have. You... Maybe you've still got a bit to learn, sweet'eart, but you're catching up fast. Like lightning."

"I'm a quick learner," Doyle muffled smugly against Bodie's shoulder, biting him there. "So we tell him and take the consequences."

There was a long pause, and then Bodie assented. "Yeah. That'd be wisest in the long run. I'm not ashamed of us, and what we feel, and what we do, you see. I'm not going to hide it away from the world. Okay, we won't flaunt it -- it looks stupid in public anyway. D'you see those loons in San Francisco, flaunting it to the TV cameras? Two queens in raggy jeans and chains, kissing in the street in broad daylight look ridiculous, so bloody silly they make a mockery out of the whole thing. Makes what we have -- not dirty, but a bit unacceptable to the public mind. Know what I mean."

"I know," Doyle sighed. "And you're right. So we behave ourselves in public, don't annoy the 'normal' people out there, and keep it for quiet moments, wherever we can find them... And if the Cow gives us the sack, we might be finding a lot of them!"

"We'll see," Bodie conceded. "Now, having sorted out the practicalities, will you close your eyes and go to sleep?"

"Not sleepy anymore," Doyle chuckled.

There was a note of wickedness in that voice, and Bodie shivered, trying not to think about Bran, and about the night he had seduced the boy in the shadows. The more he thought about it, the more Kinnamus became a part of himself, and he suspected that Doyle must be feeling the same way about his -- his other half. "Ray," he said, mock-threateningly, trying to remonstrate before his partner got going.

But it was already too late.

George Cowley pencilled in an appointment time for them amid his busy schedule, and their half hour allocation became forty minutes. He sat on the other side of his littered desk, hands about a cup of tea, his calls held at the switchboard, and heard them out. Bodie did most of the talking, a monologue that began haltingly, became defiant and then resigned, and during its course not a word or an expression issued from the Scotsman.

"We've been closer than most families for years, sir," Bodie had begun, his voice quiet, confidential, his face a guarded mask. At his left, Doyle was studying the ceiling. "In this job, it happens, you know that. You depend on each other, you come to care for each other, never stop thinking about your other half. Friendship gets a lot deeper than it should, probably, but there's sweet bugger all you can do about it, other than chuck the job. It's the same in the ranks, in the Army, isn't it? The more danger you get into, the closer you get. Friendship gets to be affection. A lot of people would call it love.

"We call it love, sir." There was a hint of defiance in his voice now, as if he half expected the boss to butt in with some outraged argument. "I suppose there's always the chance -- risk, if you like -- that when two people spend so much time together, in danger, it'll happen. Falling in love, I mean. Doesn't seem to make much difference that it's two men -- never did, either, if you've read your history books. So that's it, sir. It sort of crept up on us a bit at a time over years, and..."

Doyle took up the monologue as Bodie let it lapse. "And finally, one day, it dawned on us what we were feeling, what we wanted. I was ill, sir, out on the hiking trip. Could've got pneumonia out of it, and that was the final straw, I think. It gave us the final shove, brought us together. We... We've already consummated it, sir, so it's too late for lectures and reprimands."

"Yeah," Bodie said as Doyle fell silent. "I don't know if you can understand what we mean, but... Look, if it was lust we'd have ignored it, probably. Lots of birds we fancy that we can't have too, if it comes to that! But it isn't lust. S'not that simple, I..." His tone became one of pure resignation, as if he fully expected the firing to come soon, and the dole application to be in first thing in the morning. "I love him, I want to live with him, I want to stay on the job, and I think you can trust me. Ray'll have to speak for himself."

"You can trust me, too," Doyle said softly. "I'd like to stay with the department, but... Don't make me make the choice between CI5 and my life, sir. If I have to, I'll make it, but I'd rather not. A contract's just a piece of paper, a job's just a job, much as I respect the role we play, the work we do. Like I said, you can trust me, and we know how to be discreet. We'd both like to stay on, but --" He glanced at Bodie and found a smile. "We're only asking for your authorisation to live together, technically. Anything else that takes place in our lives is our business, no one else's. Sir."

Then there was silence, and they studied the carpet with expressions that gave nothing away. Cowley looked the two of them over and sighed quietly. They were embarrassed, disquieted, defensive, eager not to offend but just as keen to stand up for what rights their contracts allowed them. And willing to resign, if they had to. He let them suffer for a full minute before speaking, and levelled his tone carefully. "It's an old tradition, isn't it? Comrades in arms. I've seen enough of this to follow your arguments, but I won't lie to you: what you're doing is dangerous in the sense that you'll make targets of yourselves. The odds are good that you'll be crucified one day, and I'll make myself clear right now. You'll not take this department down with you. You go to the wall at the first breath of trouble, do you understand?"

"Sir,"Bodie said, hardly daring to believe what he was hearing -- they were not getting the sack, and Cowley was talking as if --

"Yes, sir," Doyle said. "So you don't mind?"

"Oh, I mind," Cowley told him acidly, "but there's nothing I can do about it, is there? If I tell you to drop the whole thing, you'll tender your resignations. Well, if I'm going to lose your services I may as well lose them for some good reason. At present there's no harm done. Two field agents living in the same flat? Nothing there to get excited about. Discretion will take you a long way, if you're lucky, all the way; not being clairvoyant none of us can be sure. Och, you two can scrounge together enough brains between you to manage a kiddy's crossword puzzle, so I expect you can contrive not to make a complete mess of this. Think yourselves lucky that you're the best at what you do. That I need you. Or you'd be out on your ears and in the dole queue!" He looked them over, and Bodie was sure he saw the boss' mouth twitch into a half smile. "I might have expected it of you two, anyway, so I don't know why I'm surprised. And it'll save the department the costs of securing one of your flats, so you're not costing us money."

Scot, Doyle thought aridly. He stood up, needing to move. "You'll sign an authorisation for us to live together, then," he concluded, "and chuck us to the wolves if anything goes wrong."

"Aye," Cowley nodded. "But it goes into your psychological profiles, 3.7, 4.5. Confidential data, certainly, but it goes on record. If you two start botching up on the job for any reason at all, I don't want our psychologists guessing in the dark."

Bodie gave an agonized groan. "Kate Ross will eat us alive."

"Doctor Ross is a professional," Cowley said drily. "If it's any consolation to you, she has a reputation for eating everyone alive; it may be part of her job. An understanding of human nature is the foundation stone of her profession... You may not like her or approve of what she does, but I'm sure the news that the two of you have discovered this revelation of yours will come as no surprise to her. She'll have been expecting it, based on your test results over the past years since she arrived on the squad." For a moment Cowley studied them over the rims of his glasses, and then he pulled open one desk drawer, rummaging for a blank form, and scrawling on it with a fountain pen that sounded scratchy in the room's sudden stillness. Filled in, it was pushed across the desk and Doyle picked it up.

It was their authorisation; he folded it and fed it into his inside pocket. "Thank you, sir. We appreciate it."

"I'm sure you do." Cowley snapped the cap back onto the fountain pen and checked the time. "Now be off with you. You've got me behind schedule."

The door clicked shut behind them and Ray drew a hand across his brow in a theatrical expression of relief. "You know, I really thought he'd chase us for our lives," he admitted.

"So did I," Bodie murmured with a wry grin.

"But you still went along with it?"

Bodie shrugged. "What else was I going to do? Drop you like a hot potato and pretend you didn't exist from now on? Working with you would be absolutely bloody impossible. So that'd mean getting a new partner. Nah, not for me... Never wanted a partner in the first place; made an exception in your case, but I can't see myself making an exception in anyone else's. Don't trust my back to strangers -- sooner stick my finger in a pencil sharpener. And knowing you were trusting your back to a stranger would have been worse!"

"So that little melodrama was the lesser of two evils," Ray concluded.

"Decidedly the lesser." Bodie pinned on a rakish grin. "Besides which, it worked. Only fly in the ointment is that Kate Ross is going to be privy to the wedding bells."

"Yeah." Doyle sighed. "But Cowley's right; she is good at what she does, goddamn her for it. She'll probably shriek with laughter and crow in triumph. Yell 'I told you so' at us. Y'know, this might be why she's been giving us a hard time all along. She could see it in the test results."

And Bodie made a face. "Now you mention it, she'd be less than proficient at her work if she couldn't see it. Damn! Raymond, we're thick."

"As bricks," Doyle agreed happily. "And it's knocking off time, and I want to get out of here and start packing up to move. Want to stop off at the library on the way over to my pl-- my old place, too."

"Library?" Bodie frowned. "What for?"

"Want to look something up," Doyle said vaguely, and wouldn't elaborate.

An hour later, Bodie was leafing through a monumentally boring copy of 'Time' while Ray buried his nose in a stack of books, going from index to index in search of a snippet of information none of them seemed to contain. When he came across what he wanted at last the 'eureka!' was audible. Bodie looked up from the magazine as a book was shoved under his nose. He read methodically at first, then with a dawning fascination, and at last in disbelieving delight.

Before leaving the library, he put the page on the photocopier, not creasing the copy, which was destined for the back page in his photo album. From the library they drove to Doyle's flat; on this trip, he collected all his clothes and personal effects, a box of books, his portable TV and radio, the record player off the hi-fi stack -- and the Capri's hatch would hardly close. The car was low on its suspension and Bodie laughed.

"Have to call a truck to take the rest of your junk, I think."

"Junk?" Doyle said indignantly. "There's a thousand memories locked up in that flat. Unlike you, I don't throw my memories in the bin."

And if it had not been broad daylight in a public place, Bodie would have kissed him on the spot. Instead, he squeezed his hand in the privacy of the car. "I've never had any memories worth keeping, so far," he admitted. "Army, Mercs, strings of girls -- can't even remember the faces of most of them now. Whole bunch of things I'd sooner forget, to be honest. S'why I don't have much stuff to my name."

Doyle smiled, the green eyes softening beguilingly. "Yeah. Well, all that's going to change now, mate. It's all going to be different now." He held Bodie's fingers tightly. "You realise what you said before?"

"Said a lot of things," Bodie muttered. "Which bit?"

"About Kate Ross," Ray reminded him. "Who's going to be privy to --"

"To the wedding bells," Bodie finished. "That bothers you? Christ, Ray, this hasn't exactly been a whirlwind courtship. Makes me shudder every time I think about how many years I've been 'courting' you! Time we settled down, isn't it? Don't you think?"

"Yeah,"Ray agreed, colouring slightly. "Yeah, I do. So take me home, will you? Oh -- there's an off license at the corner, pull up and I'll buy us a bottle of champagne to celebrate."

"I," Bodie said, expression sultry, "can think of better ways to celebrate."

"So can I," Doyle chuckled. "But we'll get to that later."

While Ray was pouring the champagne, Bodie was slipping the xerox into the back of his album. The pages were filled with old snapshots, Army friends, a few girls, clippings from newspapers. Slowly but surely, he knew, they would all be ousted in favour of new photos, memories he wanted to keep. It just grieved him that there would never be any photographs of Bran and Kinnamus in the album -- a silly thought but one he treasured. He touched his glass to Doyle's, swallowed the French champagne and caught his lover's head to kiss him thoroughly.

The album was forgotten, standing open on the table, a blotched xerox copy telling many a truth neither of them would ever be able to share with others.

In the year 80 A.D., the soldier poet Decimus Junius Juvenalis, then only twenty years old, led an expeditionary force of the Roman Army, under orders from Julius Agricola, the Governor of the province of Britain, to seek out the Bridge of Sand and strike into the heart of Ireland in search of the gold legend held to abound there. His troops met fierce resistance and were defeated, but Juvenal survived, leaving the island and returning to Rome, discredited by the fact that he had 'gone native.' Spurned as a soldier, he spent the rest of his life in Rome, becoming a satirical poet, denouncing the snobbery and corruption of the Roman aristocracy, and always maintaining that he was as one with the ancient gods of Eriu, the Wren King, the Heron Queen, the Silver Hand. The Bridge of Sand was washed away forever, by what forces, no one knows.

Brigantia: the kingdom, or tuath, in the north of Britain, below Caledonia, at this time ruled by Caris(s)mandua, or Aricia, a Queen loyal to Rome. Eriu: Ireland. The Romans called it Hibernia. Mona: the island of Anglesy, the Druid stronghold, the seat of Druidic learning. Even Druids from Ireland were educated there.

-- THE END --

May 1986

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