Doctor on the Squad


Or ...
Blue Jeans And True Genes, or...
Cupid Was A Welsh Doctor, or...
The Courting of Raymond Doyle

Murphy offered Bodie his hand to help him out of the left side of the Escort, and Bodie was glad to take it. His left knee was giving him hell, and when he put his weight on it, it was as if there was a knife sunk hilt-deep under the kneecap. There would be a wonderful, technicolour bruise there soon, and another on his rump; but, all things considered, he had been lucky. A dive down a flight of steps and a twisted knee, or a bullet through his head: no contest. Murph had taken out the gun runner a split second after he had dived away, and Bodie rated the younger man's performance as top notch. If Doyle had to go to Paris for a dirty week or two once in the year, then Michael Patrick Murphy was top of the list of replacement choices.

Still, Bodie missed Ray. After living up to sixteen hours a day in Doyle's mercurial company for four years the job just didn't seem the same without him. There was a particular filthy guffaw Ray had, produced infrequently when he had heard an equally filthy joke, and Bodie had stored up several, looking forward to eliciting that obscene laugh. Murphy laughed just as hard, but it didn't sound the same; he had a ribald chuckle, but... Ray's sexuality was that much closer under the skin, and a really good dirty story would often produce a physical result too, that Bodie liked to see.

He would be back in four or five days -- hung over and exhausted, in all probability... Paris tended to have that effect on the nervous system. Bodie smirked, imagining it all, as Murphy helped him out of the car. He'd been to Paris himself last year, and had a high time of it. One of these days he and Ray would go over there together, hire a couple of good time ladies whose talents were off the scale, jump into a giant four poster and amass a parcel of memories to warm their hardening arteries in old age.

If I live that long, Bodie thought angrily as he took his weight on the abused knee and limped toward the lifts. Murphy had bought his life for him, because the big automatic in his right hand had cycled a round badly and jammed. Stoppages were rare but they happened, and when they did they were enough to take ten years off your life. He remembered the look on Ray's face the last time that had happened to him -- eyes closed, brow puckered, mouth open, ashen. Shock. It had been that close to all over.

"You going to make it?" Murphy asked. "Lean on me, will you?"

"Ta," Bodie muttered, accepting Murphy's offer. "Take me gun down to Armoury, will you, Murph? Won't take long to fix the knee up."

"How long can it take to amputate a leg?" Murphy grinned. "Give me the shooter, then." They stopped at the lift. "Sure you can walk?"

"Walk, no. Limp -- I'll 'ave a bash," Bodie muttered. "Good for a couple of days off, you reckon?"

"Could be, if you can talk your way around the new medic."

"New man?" Bodie asked. "Christ, not a woman?"

"Nah, it's a bloke. Nice chap, from what I've heard -- haven't seen him yet, though. He was signed to the squad last week, started two days ago."

"What's his name?" Bodie asked, thumbing for the lift.

"Doctor Evans. Huw Evans, I think it is -- Welsh."

"Oh, Irish, Scots, Welsh," Bodie grinned. "Haven't got too many English on this squad, have we?" The lift opened and he limped inside. "See you later, Murph."

The lift went up three floors at its agonizing rate, and then Bodie was limping toward a familiar frosted glass door. How often had he been there, and Ray? Cuts and bruises, the odd wrenched joint, a torn ligament. It went with the job and he thought no more about it than Doyle, who had collected almost as many scars as he had himself.

The frosted glass door clicked shut behind him; the Infirmary was deserted and he called, "shop? Anybody at home?"

At once a husky voice with a Welsh accent little diluted by English answered from the adjoining dispensary, "be right with you, take a seat."

There was something pleasantly familiar about that voice, for all the accent, and Bodie did as he was told, perching on the edge of the table and glad to take the weight off his leg. Bottles and packets rattled in the dispensary, a door slammed, and the first thing he saw as the new medic appeared was a pair of legs clad in tight brown slacks. Nice, long legs attached to a little backside that made Bodie blink in surprise. It was almost as familiar as the husky voice. The new medic was backing out of the dispensary, pulling a trolly table loaded with oddments -- rearranging the whole set up of the place to suit himself. Resident's prerogative. Bodie's brows tugged together in fascination that deepened when the man turned around.

Green eyes danced at him and the medic gave him a cheeky grin. For a moment Bodie blinked, then genuine suspicion got the better of him. The only real difference between this Welsh medic and his partner was the hair which, though wavy, was not curly. But the colour was the same. For a second he honestly suspected a practical joke and speculated that the uncurly auburn thatch was a wig. Doyle was famous for practical joking.

The look on his face must have been priceless, because the doctor gave a groan. "Before you start," he said quickly, "my name is Evans, Huw Evans, and I'm not Doyle. Ray's my third cousin on my mother's side, and I haven't seen him since we were nineteen. They told me he's in Paris on holiday."

Bodie blinked. No, it wasn't Ray -- thank God -- but the likeness was enough to take his breath away. He offered his hand. "Bodie. Any cousin of Ray's is a mate of mine."

"Nice to know." Evans shook Bodie's hand firmly. "What can I do for you?"

"Took a dive down a flight of steps," Bodie told him. "I've done my knee, and my hip. It's giving me some stick."

"Short life and a gay one," Evans grinned, and without skipping a beat said, "off with your pants, then."

Something terribly familiar in the cheeky way he spoke made Bodie blink. He had his pants half off before he realised the word that was out of place. Shot life and a merry one, he thought; what made him say --? He shot a glance at the Welshman as he folded his slacks. Evans was frowning at the bruising on his hip, "You have given yourself a nasty bump, haven't you?" He said. "Hop up on the table, boy, let me look at you."

Bodie did as he was told, feeling oddly selfconscious under the gaze and hands of someone so very like his partner, clad as he was in pale blue briefs and a black roll neck sweater. If he didn't know better, he'd swear Doyle was having a joke at his expense -- but he knew Ray was in Paris, and not even for a joke would Doyle go to the trouble of having his hair straightened. "Ouch?" He yelped as Evans explored the knee. "Careful."

"Sorry." Evans patted his thigh. "Didn't hurt you too much, did I?" The green eyes were teasing.

No, the green eyes were flirting.

Bodie bit back his surprise, then hid a grin. Flirting? Okay, two could play at the game. He wondered if Ray knew that his third cousin was a flirt. "Nah, I'm just a bit tender here and there," he said innocently.

"Oh, yes?" Evans' mouth had a disquietingly Doyle-like quirk. "and whereabouts would that be?"

"You're the doctor," Bodie said glibly, "you tell me."

Evans laughed quietly. "Well, your knee for a start, Bodie. You've bruised the cartilage, haven't you? Going to take a while for the swelling to go down. All you can do is rest it, stay off it for a few days, you hear?"

"Stay off it," Bodie groaned.

"Sit on your bum for a couple of days," Evans said sternly, then grinned, like an imp. "Or take to your bed. On your back," he added.

Was Bodie wrong, or did the words drool meaning? He met the Welshman's cat's eyes and noticed that his heart was running a little too fast. Damn. If Doyle's third cousin was flirting --

Of course he was flirting.

In which case, if Bodie played his little game... Christ, he thought, suddenly struck by the implications of it, it'd be like going to bed with Ray!

"On my back?" He echoed, letting a smile crook one corner of his mouth.

"Give your knees a rest," Evans agreed. "Knee, that is. Singular."

"Of course." Bodie's blue eyes captured the green ones, held them for a long moment, and then he broke into a snort of laughter. "You're a bloody tease, aren't you? How did you know I wouldn't duff you up for it?"

Evans shrugged. "Well, I'm not going to pretend to be what I'm not. If people don't like it they can say so. Some do, some don't."

"And what about George Cowley?" Bodie asked, fascinated. "You're a bi, are you? Any number of bis on the squad, I'll grant. But they... We don't flaunt it."

"Neither do I when Cowley's around," Evans admitted. "It's no different to working in a big hospital... I used to live with a bunch of students, Waring, Stewart-Clark, Collier. There was a bit of experimentation, you know. I liked it then, I like it now." He paused. "You said 'we,' Bodie. You're...?"

"About as bi as anyone else," Bodie said noncommittally. "Or, about as straight as any bloke could be when he's got Raymond Doyle for a partner."

"Ray?" Evans did a double take. "Ray's your partner?"

"Yep. 4.5 to one and all. You'll meet him when he gets back from Paris."

"Gay Paree," Evans chuckled. "What d'you mean by that -- 'as straight as any bloke could be' around Ray? You and he aren't...?"

But Bodie shook his head. "Nah. More's the pity. He's a sexy little bugger but he's as macho as I don' t know what. A rake -- three birds on a string at the same time. Never seen him with a bloke, and he's certainly never given me the come on."

"And you wish he would," Evans asked shrewdly.

"Oh, maybe," Bodie admitted. "Long time since I did it with a fella. But he makes me remember what it's like that way, makes me want... Christ, listen to me! You've got me confessing the secrets of my heart, and I've only just met you! 'Cause you're so much like him, I fell like I know you, I expect. Do all you Doyles tease?"

"I'm an Evans."

"You're a Doyle. That's what your genes say, irrespective of who your mum married. A Doyle by any other name, you know." He paused, brow crinkling. "How well do you know Ray?"

"Not all that well. I knew him on and off when we were kids. He was studying art and I was at Saint Swithins. Then he went off to be a copper and we lost track of each other."

"Then you wouldn't know if Ray... I mean, if he..."

"If Ray's a bi?" Evans shrugged eloquently. "Lot of us around, aren't there? Did you ever ask him?"

Bodie blinked. "And get my teeth kicked in?"

"Oh, he's like that, is he?"

"That," Bodie sighed, "is putting it mildly." He stirred. "Can I put my pants back on, or are you standing there with your hand on my knee for some specific reason?"

A moment of electric good humour crackled between them. Evans squeezed his knee and stood back. "Well, maybe later... But you a drink, sailor?"

"Why not?" Bodie grinned, getting his slacks on with difficulty and making a face as his knee stabbed at him. "Got to stay off this for a bit, have I?"

"A few days, then it'll be fine again."

"Right. Hey, there's a match on, on Saturday. Rugby -- Swansea against Cardiff. Want to bring a few beers around to my place? Get the address from the dispatcher -- I'm 3.7, by the way."

The squad medic agreed with an expression of pleasure. "Sounds good. I'll warn you, I barrack for Swansea and I drink Guinness."

"Suits me," Bodie said, trying his weight on the leg. "I've got a report to write... See you on Saturday. Huw, is it?"

"That's right. Didn't catch your first name."

"Don't use one," Bodie told him. "Just Bodie."

"Suits you," Evans said. "You look like a Bodie. Whatever that is."

It was Thursday, and Bodie had two days to worry about it. The more he thought about it, the more disquieting it became. Huw was an incorrigible flirt and almost as attractive as Ray, the difference being the curls. Ray had the extra plus of that hair, which made him look like an angel, somehow complimenting those eyes and that incredible mouth, but Evans had everything else, and Bodie knew full well, even then, that he would not be able to resist the temptation to have Ray without exactly having Ray. Okay, so they were too different personalities; but their genes were so similar...

And when Ray came back from Paris? After being with Huw, what would it be like working with Raymond Doyle, all innocent and uninvolved? Bloody good question, Bodie told himself. Next thing he needed was a bloody good answer.

He limped about the flat, brooding about it until the chimes summoned him to the door, and then Huw Evans was in his living room and suddenly it didn't seem to be a worry anymore. They drank the beer, ate hot dogs and chips and called the referee uncomplimentary names; Swansea beat Cardiff hands down, but it was a good match. Bodie thumbed the remote, turning off the set, and contemplated his guest with smouldering blue eyes.

Green eyes looked back, laughing, but Evans yawned. "Don't know that I feel in the mood," he said indifferently.

Bodie blinked, then saw the other's mischief and mirrored it. "How'd you like to get yourself chucked across the table and ravished within an inch of your life?"

"Oh, kinky, kinky," Evans chortled. "Often have these fantasies, do you?"

"You're not a shrink as well, are you?"

"No, but I'm wondering how you keep your hands off Ray if you're so keen to have me," Huw grinned.

"Iron self control, mate," Bodie said drily, and sighed.

"It's Ray you'd rather have, isn't it?" Evans sounded philosophical.

Bodie looked up at him and felt the urge to explain. "Look, I've worked with Ray for four years and even if you do look like him, and even if you are his cousin, you're a stranger. You're jumping into my bed fast enough, though."

"I like you," the doctor said dismissively. "Liked you as soon as I saw you -- and I've seen you with your pants down, boy, so I'm not that much of a stranger. Oh, what's the difference? You'd pick up a bird at the pub, have a few drinks and a quick tumble."

"And that's all you're looking for, a quick tumble?" There was something down under Bodie's heart that was disquieted, uncomfortable.

"Course," Evans shrugged. "My name isn't Doyle, I don't know you yet, now can you expect me to start murmuring love into your ear?" He stopped and frowned. "Hey, Bodie, that's not what you want from Ray, is it?"

The question caught Bodie by surprise. "I -- I don't... Christ." He shook himself hard. "I've never really thought about it."

"Well maybe it's time you did, going by the way you sound! If you want to hear him say it you'll have to make him say it. He won't come across on his own now -- not if you've been together for four years and it hasn't come to wine and roses by itself."

There was more than a grain of truth in that, and Bodie nodded. They were silent for a long moment, then the medic stirred. "Hey, you want me or not? I can shake your hand and leave just as easily."

It brought Bodie back to the present and he smiled. "What do you want?"

"Me?" The familiar Evans grin was back, so much like Doyle's cheeky smile that it was troubling. "I came 'round for a bit of tun, but it takes two to make that kind of fun, doesn't it? So it isn't up to me, it's up to you."

Bodie returned the grin. "All right, why not? You're on, mate. Bedroom's that way."

It was not in the least romantic, but excitement tingled along every nerve as Bodie watched Evans undress and couldn't credit how much like Ray Doyle he was, but he didn't smell like Doyle. He noticed that at once as Evans dumped him on the bed and pounced on him, and then they were laughing as they rolled and bit and wrestled until they were breathless and fiercely aroused. Bodie had got on top by virtue of being bigger and stronger, and as he felt the passion lick along his nerves he lifted his head, looking down into the other's pleasantly flushed face. No, it wasn't Ray, he wished it was, but Huw was almost as lovely and just as warm and furry. Bodie put his head down and kissed him, and Evans stilled, concentrating on the kiss, fingers laced at the back of Bodie's neck. In a moment the kiss became a duel, and they fought until they were laughing again and it broke. Evans dug his fingers into Bodie's buttocks, pulling him down hard against his own groin, and suddenly the heat leapt up in Bodie's nerves and he began to thrust in earnest. The combat between them was sweet and furious, and they were both scratched, bruised and sore before they finished, but they came with a deep, singing ferocity and it was good.

When it was done they rolled apart, panting, laughing again at each other and themselves. Evans was groggy and sated, so was Bodie, but Bodie was also sad. It wouldn't have been like that with Ray, would it? A wrestling match, a struggle, no room for a cuddle afterward? He watched Huw yawn and smiled with a kind of affection, but it was nothing like what he felt toward Ray. Evans dropped off quickly but Bodie was wide awake. How nice it would have been to kiss properly, to snuggle up in the afterglow, to pet and play beforehand... But that was the way you treated a girl or a person you loved --

The notion hit home with all the force of a body blow. Christ, Bodie thought, but I want to do all that with Ray. And if he's not a girl, then... All right, he could live with that. After four years of being with Ray, the kind of tumble for laughs he'd just had and enjoyed with Evans was not what he wanted from Doyle. There was a kind of love between himself and Ray and it had been there for years. It was fraternal at present but, bring sex into it and it would become something else.

Something nice, Bodie thought, watching Huw sleep. he drew his palm down Evans' smooth arm, loving the feel of skin so hot. All right, he'd had the cousin. Now, how the hell to woo Raymond Doyle?

Ray came back on Monday. Bodie put his head down, closed his eyes and began to hatch plots.

Ray's flight got in at six on the Monday afternoon, and the first step in Bodie's game plan was to be there to meet it. Evans was in the lift on the way down to the carpark when Bodie stepped into it, his first day back at work after the minor injury.

"'Ullo, Bodie," the Welsh Doyle grinned, then took a deep breath. "Can I smell half a gallon of Brut 33? Who's getting seduced tonight, then?"

"None of your business," Bodie said drily, then relented. "If you must know, your cousin gets back in an hour's time."

"And you're out to seduce him?" Evans' smile warmed and the chuckle Bodie had expected to hear did not issue from his throat. "Be careful, Bodie."

"You mean, beware of Ray?"

The doctor shook his head. "No. Beware of yourself."

"How'd you mean?" Bodie was honestly fascinated.

"Well, it's just a wild guess, but I think Raymond's further under your skin than you think he is, boy." Evans winked at him. "Do you know you called me 'Ray' when you came, both times?"

Bodie did a double take. "I did? Why would I do that?"

"Because you wished it was him, and he was on your mind -- Christ, you're not half thick, Bodie, are you?" Now Evans did chuckle. "Beware of yourself, mate, before you start seducing Ray --"

"If I can seduce him," Bodie said moodily.

"Aye, there's that in it too," Huw admitted. "But it's your own fingers that'll be getting burned if you don't watch out..." He fell silent as the lift opened. "See you later, then, and good luck to you. You might need it!"

With that Evans was gone and Bodie was pacing out to the silver Capri, keys in his hand, set to battle through the rush hour traffic, out to Heathrow. As he drove he could only admit that Huw was not far wrong; he had dreamed about Ray twice since his tumble with the squad's new doctor, and the more he thought about it the more important it was becoming to him. Having Huw Evans had done more to disquiet him than satisfy his curiosity; if he had wanted Ray half-unconsciously before, now it was a very conscious yearning. And what he wanted from Doyle was not a quick roll around for laughs.

His dreams made that abundantly clear. In one of them he and Ray had not even been making love; they had just been holding each other in a close, tender embrace, warm in bed, drowsing together -- absolute truth, absolute contentment. That dream had seen off his clean sheets, and after that he had wanted Doyle with a vengeance -- and no, Evans would not do in his place. Evans was a delightful, giggling, writhing bundle of mischief, a great lay and a barrel of laughs. But you wrestled with him, you didn't cuddle him, you didn't kiss, you bit him, you didn't love him, you laid him.

And what Bodie wanted from his partner was in all ways different. The dream came back vividly as he parked the car, reinforcing what Evans had said. Doyle was two inches under Bodie's skin, and had been for years.

The Air France 737 airbus was two minutes late and Bodie scanned every face, waiting to spot the right one, as the passengers debarked... There was Ray, looking like an itinerant artist in blue denims, running shoes, his brown leather jacket and white tee shirt, a haversack over one shoulder, an overnight bag in his right hand, windblown and suntanned. He looked terrific, and Bodie told him so as he grabbed him by the hand in greeting, cuffing his ear.

"Bodie," Ray grinned, "whatcha doing here?" But he was obviously delighted to be welcomed home.

"Came to meet you, 'cause I missed you," Bodie said, not quite glibly. "Come on, sunshine, let's go for a drink and you can tell me all about your travels. Bedroom scenes and all."

Ray gave that rich, dirty chuckle. "You're a letch."

"And proud of it." Bodie headed for the licenced restaurant, skirting a knot of Indian and Asian tourists. "Hungry?"

"As a horse," Doyle affirmed. "Tea and bickies on the plane didn't help."

"I'll buy you dinner, then," Bodie offered, taking a sidelong look at his partner. He had had a high time, he suspected.

"You're very solicitous," Doyle observed suspiciously.

"I told you, I missed you," Bodie shrugged.

"I heard. Is this going to be a set up?"

"That's gratitude for you!" Bodie steered Doyle toward a corner table and scraped up a chair. "Isn't a guy allowed to miss his best mate?"

Across the table, Doyle's remarkable eyes warmed by degrees. "I suppose so. Missed you as well, if it comes to that. Would've been fun if you'd been there too." He grinned. "The things we could have done!"

They ordered drinks and scanned the menu. Bodie chose steak and Ray opted for the fish, gossiping at some length about his exploits, some of them mild and innocuous, some outrageous. There was the tourist itinerary, and the clubs, the follies, the inevitable French whore with the black underwear and the scarlet garter. Bodie laughed, delighted, honestly pleased that Ray had enjoyed himself. And as they settled down to eat and chat he let his expression soften, begin to smoulder, with lowered lids and long, lingering eye contact.

Doyle had seen that look a thousand times before, and not infrequently on Bodie... But never directed at him from Bodie, and he checked in surprise, wondering if he was mistaken. But no, he was right. Bodie managed to touch his hand as he filled his glass with white wine, and the blue eyes strayed often to his mouth. Stunned by what he was sure he was seeing, Ray lapsed into silence, wondering what he could do to salvage the situation.

It was so sudden, and to his knowledge this wasn't like Bodie at all. It had to be a bet. That was it -- Murph and Jax were having a joke at his expense. They probably bet Bodie twenty quid or so that he couldn't kiss his partner right on the mouth. They wouldn't push the bet any further, would they? Murph's private life was a thinly veiled secret, half-disguised for the sake of the press and media who swarmed all over CI5, looking for arrows to sling at them -- boys and girls all liked Murph, and he liked them. But Jax was as straight as a bunch of rulers. They might make the bet for a kiss, but Ray doubted they'd get suckered into more, even by Bodie, who was the original Man With A Past. One always had to beware of Bodie, he was full of surprises and had done it all.

The seductive expression did not waver and Doyle sighed. It looked like he was going to either get kissed or wind him up a crack in the teeth, and he was hesitant to do the latter. Split his lip, give him a painful bruise, maybe loosen a tooth, all over a kiss and a silly bet? It didn't seem worth it, especially since Bodie had a nice mouth that smiled attractively and promised to be rather pleasant to kiss. Ray shook himself hard. He had done it that way once or twice out of curiosity, years before, but his partners had left him feeling used -- sore, aching and angry, and he had decided that if that was all there was to it, then they could keep it. A sore backside, pulled tendons in his groin and annoyance he could do without -- there were easier ways to get off, without getting hurt and annoyed, and it was nicer to be able to kiss properly and cuddle up afterwards, which you could do with a girl but were never allowed to do with a bloke who just wanted to use your tender anatomy as a means to a satisfying end. No, not for Ray, he had decided by the time he left art school, and he had not looked at another man as an object of desire since then.

Some of them were bloody attractive, though -- he would have to be blind not to see the goods Bodie had to offer. But letting Bodie make him sore and angry was the furthest thought from his head. Bodie was the best mate he had ever had, and that was too valuable a consideration to botch it all up with a wrestling match in the raw because Bodie had an attack of the randies.

A little defiance sprang up in the green eyes as he decided to ignore the problem as if he had not seen it. He talked on about his holiday, ate his dinner, finished the wine and covertly watched as his partner regrouped to try a different approach. So Bodie was going to be stubborn and not take the hint? A bet. It had to be a bet. Dumb, but the typical stupid joke they were all famous for. He sighed. Okay, so he got kissed. No harm in that. He had resigned himself to that as they left the restaurant, heading out into the carpark.

It was dark, chilly, and the reverse thrust of a 747 rolled over Heathrow like a thunderstorm. Bodie opened the car and turned on the heater as Ray slammed the door. "Back to my place for a nightcap?" He asked, voice husky.

Alarm bells clamoured in Doyle's head. "No -- thanks all the same, but I'm tired."

"Back to your place for a nightcap, then," Bodie said, starting the car.

The alarm bells rang louder, and Doyle sighed. "Okay, okay." At least at his place he was the boss. He could chuck Bodie out any time he liked.

On the drive back, Bodie's eyes kept searching him out in the floods of illumination, and Ray did not know whether to bask or wriggle under their sultry scrutiny. Damn, but Bodie could be a seductive animal when he wanted to be. All the more reason to beware -- Doyle had no desire to let his partner's whims take a four year friendship out and junk it, which was what would happen if he was grabbed and used as a commodity. Raymond Doyle was a person, not an object, a man, with pride, not a scrubber, and he did not belong on his knees providing quick, easy orgasms for randy ex-mercs whose glands had temporarily got the better of their brains. In the morning Bodie would be back to his senses, as guilty and embarrassed by what he had done as Ray was sore and angry: friendship, partnership, good nature, everything, stood to be lost. And for the sake of what? A tumble in bed that should never have happened in the first place.

The front door clicked shut and Ray busied himself, getting the heating on, stowing his bags. If he told the truth it was much more pleasant to come back into the cold, dark, deserted flat with someone. Bodie poured scotch and handed one glass to Ray as they sank into chairs by the gas heater, one lamp alight in the corner and the sudden heat making the room seem cosy.

"You look tired," Bodie observed.

"Been busy," Ray said with a smirk.

"I'll bet. You look nice and brown too. Been suntanning?"

"Whenever I could," Ray nodded.

"Bet you're honey brown all over," Bodie speculated.

"Most of me," Doyle said carefully.

"Best bits still lily white?" Bodie grinned. "How terribly cute."

Doyle tensed up, ready for the verbal battle. "Couple of girls thought so."

"Lucky girls." Bodie studied him seriously. "Very lucky.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Bodie shrugged. "Just that. You're not to be sneezed at, sunshine."

'I'm glad you think so," Ray said, draining his glass and setting it down.

"In fact, you're not to be taken in vain at all," Bodie elaborated. "You're the nicest thing I've seen all day, Raymond."

Abruptly, Doyle got to his feet. "What's this about, Bodie? Cut a long story short, will you?"

Bodie followed him up, put his glass down and shrugged. The lamplight disguised the colour that was flushing up in is fair skin. He levelled his voice. "What do you think it's about? You're a stunner, Ray, I've always thought so. Built like a dancer, face like an angel, randy as a pack of hounds after a bitch in heat."

"Thanks a lot," Doyle said drily. "I'm supposed to be flattered, am I?" In fact, he was flustered. Christ, Bodie meant it.

"Not flattery. Truth," Bodie said throatily. He took a step forward, hooking his fingers around Ray's neck and massaging the nape. "You like your vicarious thrills, don't you? Nice and warm and all excited. You'd get going fast, I bet, keep going for ages, 'cause your fit. Nice hair, nice skin, nice eyes. Lovely, every bit of you."

"Bodie?" Doyle murmured, trying to remonstrate and liking the rubbing at his nape way too much, and smelling the tang of Brut 33 and Bodie, so close. Oh Christ, here it comes. Here's the bit where he wins his bloody silly bet. He's going to kiss me. Butterflies skittered around in his stomach in flocks as Bodie took another step closer.

The kiss began as a lick at Ray's sealed lips; in a moment Doyle's mouth was soft and moist with Bodie's warm saliva, and the teasing tongue coaxed his lips open, first a fraction, then wide apart. The pressure of Bodie's mouth increased and the heat came up fast as Ray felt the gentle, intimate exploration of his teeth; his own tongue crept forward to touch Bodie's, sliding, circling, caressing it, and vaguely he knew that Bodie was holding him, that he had his palms on Bodie's shoulders, feeling sharp collar bones and tense muscles, and that his groin had begun to throb with the demanding aches of arousal.

No! It was not going to happen. So he'd been kissed -- and nicely, so very nicely, at that -- and Bodie had won his rotten bet; and it was over. Ray pushed hard on Bodie's chest, shoving himself away and escaping. He was breathless and light headed already. "Okay, you won. How much? Twenty? Thirty?"

"How much what?" Bodie was panting, confused by the eager response to the kiss and the sudden rejection. "Whatcha talking about, Ray?"

"The bet. You bet someone you could kiss me, didn't you?"

"No, of course I didn't bet anyone -- what makes you think that?"

Doyle frowned at him. "So why did you do that?"

"Because I wanted to. Because I fancy you. Good enough?"

For a moment Doyle gaped at him, then he took a step backward. "Good enough for you, maybe, but I'm not playing, Bodie."

"But why?" Bodie was growing more confused by the moment. "Christ, you kissed me. You've got a fantastic mouth."

"So the girls keep telling me," Doyle said aridly. "Okay, so I kissed you. You... You've got a great mouth yourself. But that's it Bodie. That's the lot."

"Why?" Bodie demanded. "Holding you was nice. I want --"

"I know what you want," Doyle muttered. "Fixing like a French poodle."

"Want to take you to bed," Bodie corrected huskily.

There was a brief silence, then Ray shook his head. "No, Bodie."

"Is it me, specifically, that you don't want?" Bodie wondered, the surprise and disquiet effectively dampening his arousal.

Doyle sighed. "Yes and no. Oh, you're very attractive, you don't need me to tell you that. If I didn't care about us I'd probably take you up on the offer, but I do care about what happens to us, and it's foolish, you hear? I'm not some kind of toy, Bodie. I'm not there to be used, by you or anyone else. Not this way. You're my mate and my partner -- that's more important."

"Use you? I don't want to 'use' you," Bodie protested. "I want to make love to you, you dope."

"And I said no," Doyle repeated emphatically. "I've had it that way a couple of times, years and years ago. All I got out of it was a half way decent climax, a lot of aches, pulled tendons, bruised muscles and soreness. And anger," he added. "I get angry when I'm made to feel like a commodity. You do that to me, Bodie, and I'll kick your teeth in, and that's a promise."

Bodie blinked at him: he was absolutely serious. That damned Doyle pride and stubbornness. "But I don't want you like that," he protested quickly.

"Oh no? Then what way do you want me?"

"Well, gently, with... affection," Bodie said lamely.

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "With affection?"

"Yeah. The kind of affection we've subsisted on for years. You've felt it, haven't you? Jesus, it can't be just me and my imagination!"

"No, I've felt it," Ray admitted. "All the more reason not to leap into bed like a couple of March hares. If it went wrong it'd wreck that too!"

They were silent for a moment, then Bodie cleared his throat. "Fair enough. So what do you want to do about it?"

"Well.. Maybe it isn't wise to do anything," Doyle mused.

Bodie laughed shortly without a shred of humour. "I'm already frustrated to hell, mate. Reckon I can work with you, day in, day out, and do nothing?" He watched Doyle's eyes transfer to his groin, saw the frown appear, puckering his brows as he saw the evidence. "Oh yeah. So?"

"Look, Bodie," Ray said, trying to be reasonable and speak gently as he was well able to see Bodie's honesty, "I've always had men wanting me that way. Must be the way I look. They used to say I looked like a girl till I started to shave and got my cheek bone busted. I appreciate what you're feeling, I really do, but..." He sighed. "I just don't think it's worth the risk. You'd hate me and yourself in the morning. All right, I know you think you want me --"

"Think?" Bodie demanded brashly.

"Yeah, think," Doyle repeated. "Let yourself cool down. Think with your brains instead of your balls for a while. Then see what you feel like later."

"And if I still want you, later?"

"I... Dunno," Ray muttered.

"You want courting?" Bodie asked shrewdly. Doyle looked up sharply at him. "I'll court you if you like."

"Bodie, don't be ridiculous!"

"I'm not being ridiculous. If you want courting, courting you'll get."

"Flowers and dinners and wine and shows?" Ray grinned in spite of himself.

"You've already had dinner and wine," Bodie said blandly, "which is a good start, isn't it?" He took a step toward Doyle. "Ray, please. Can't you see I'm hurting with it?"

But Doyle shook his head sadly. "Yeah, I can see. But I can see as far as tomorrow, and next week. I can see us as enemies. No, Bodie. I can't do it, and I won't."

The rejection was gentle but final, and Bodie accepted it with grace. He drew away to the door. "All right, mate... It's just too fast. You're right." He opened the door and turned back for a moment. "So I'll court you. It's only what I'd do for a lovely woman I wanted, and you're worth ten of them. Goodnight, sweetheart. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite. See you at work tomorrow."

With that he was gone and Doyle stood blinking at the closed door. No, it wasn't a bet or a joke, he had been hurting, aroused, frustrated and confused, and only blind terror had kept them apart. Courting? Courting? Against his will and better judgement, Doyle's fascination came alive. This he had to see. He licked his lips, remembering the kiss, and allowed himself to shiver... Bodie was absolutely bloody determined by the looks of it. And he kissed like something out of a fantasy.

"Morning, Bodie," said a husky Welsh voice, just behind him in the passage that led up to the computer facility, and Bodie turned to see Huw Evans' leprachaun grin. "So how'd you fare with my cousin?"

"I didn't," Bodie said gloomily. "He turned me down."

"What -- flat?" Evans blinked. "Took the huff and hit you, did he?"

"Well, no, I managed to kiss him," Bodie admitted with a smile.

Evans' grin was back. "Oh, yes? And what was it like?"

"I don't kiss and tell," Bodie protested.

"Why not?" Evans demanded. "Go on, he's my cousin, you're practically an in-law now."

"It was nice," Bodie said, knowing that he was understating the experience.

"Oh, just nice." Evans nodded wisely. "Well, Ray never did have that much talent where it counted, did he?"

"Talent?" Bodie spluttered. "He's got more talent than... Oh damn. You've suckered me. All right, you rotten little tease. He was sweet to hold and kissed like you can't imagine. And then he told me to buzz off."

"And after you doused yourself in Brut 33," Evans tched. "Ungrateful sod."

"And I bought him dinner," Bodie added, "No, Huw, he's right. It's too fast for our own good."

"Fast? You've been going out together for four years --"

"We've been partnered for four years!"

"So you're practically married." Evans gave Bodie a shrewd look. "If he kissed you he's taken the bait. What's next? You're not going to let him wriggle off the hook?"

Bodie smiled a little smugly. "I think he wants courting."

"That'd be right, he always was an emotional twerp," Evans said drily. "So you'll be courting him, will you, Bodie? What a waste, all that time and money and energy, when you could get your bones jumped free."

"Oh yes?" Bodie grinned. "Where?"

"In my bed," Evans chortled, patting him on the backside. "It was fun, Bodie. Ought to give it another whirl sometime. Got to go, boy. See you later."

Bodie watched the doctor head off toward the Infirmary and checked the time. He and Doyle were due at a briefing at nine.

All anyone wanted to say to Doyle was, "hello Ray, have you seen your twin up in the Infirmary?" Finally, it was Murphy who offered up the name of the squad's new medic, which made Doyle do a double take, because Murph was talking about the newcomer with a look on his face that was lecherous to say the least. Ray gave Murphy a shrewd, sidelong glance and headed fast for the lifts; a minute later he was striding up to the Infirmary. He had not seen Huw since he had been a student at art school and Evans had been slogging his way through Saint Swithins. They had met at a students' rally and Huw had been there with a crowd of his loony mates -- Waring, Stewart-Clark, Upton, Collier. Doyle had spent an hilarious afternoon with them and still remembered them clearly. He had followed Huw's checkered career through the family grape vine, but his sudden appearance here was right out of the blue.

The Infirmary was quiet but for a voice singing in the dispensary. The tune was 'If You Ever Go Across The Sea To Ireland,' but the words were outrageous, alluding to students' boozing habits. Ray grinned: Huw hadn't changed, which probably explained Murphy's lecherous look. He leaned on the door of the dispensary and folded his arms, watching his mirror image. "Morning, Doctor. Cured the common cold yet, have you?"

Evans whirled, then laughed in delight. "Ray! God, you haven't changed a bit. You still look just as 'orrible!"

"And you, mate," Doyle shot back, taking Huw's hand. "So you're on the squad."

"Aye. Filled out my application and got the job. George Cowley did the hiring --"

"And he'll do the firing if you get up to your old tricks," Doyle warned glibly.

"Old tricks?" Evans shrugged. "I don't drink any more than the rest of you reprobates, and I'm less of a philanderer than some of you."

Doyle laughed aloud. "I see you've mended your ways."

"Maybe I grew up," Evans admitted. "Nice working here, innit? You meet some great blokes. Murphy and Jax, and that partner of yours, Bodie."

"Oh, you know Bodie?" Ray asked, surprised.

"Examined his knee last week. He almost died, you know."

"With his knee?" Doyle frowned.

"No, he was nearly shot. Had a stoppage, whatever that is. Sounds like constipation of the Browning. Young Murphy saved his bacon, or I'd have been putting him in a body bag. What a pity that would have been... Got a lovely body has your Bodie. Noticed that, have you?"

"I've been working with him for four years, 'course I've noticed," Ray said acidly. The news of Bodie's close call tightened every nerve along his spine."

"Love body," Huw repeated. "Smooth, you know. Muscles everywhere."

Doyle gave his third cousin a hard look. "You're still at it, are you? You've been having a go at my partner? Made a pass at him?"

"I cannot tell a lie," Huw grinned. "Had to take his pants off to let me look at his knee, you know."

"And he didn't belt you -- for making a pass at him?"

"Of course he didn't," Evans scoffed. "Bodie's a nice lad. Not at all up tight, like you. Thought he was seeing things when he first saw me!"

"I'll bet," Ray chuckled. "So he didn't mind -- when you made a pass?"

"No, why should he?"

"He's not gay," Doyle growled.

"Oh, who the hell is?" Evans said dismissively. "Cowley doesn't hire any nancies. I like the girls as much as anyone else, you know me. I like everybody. I like your partner too," he added slyly. "Bet he'd be good in bed. You ever slept with him?"

Ray should have been aghast but he knew Evans and Bodie too well to even be mildly shocked. And besides, it had nearly happened last night. "No, I haven't. D'you expect I would have?"

"Well, why not? He's a nice bloke, loving nature, lovely body. "Why not?"

"Because he's my partner," Ray sighed heavily.

"You mean, he's the bloke who goes out and risks his neck for you?" Evans put his finger unerringly on the pulse of the question. "All the more reason for you two to be close as fingers in the same mitten, boy. You find him attractive, don't you?' Or d'you need glasses these days?"

"Well, yeah, he's attractive," Doyle admitted. "But..."

He lapsed into silence and Huw Evans chuckled richly, digging out a coin. "Tell you what, Ray, I'll toss you for him. Call it."

Now Doyle gaped. Toss -- for Bodie? Heads, I take him to bed, tales, I stand back and let Huw take him to bed? Lose him, once and for all? As if Bodie was a commodity that could be won or lost? Lose him, Damn, he thought suddenly, looking into his mirror image -- if I turn Bodie down flatly and he wants me so much, he'll go to Huw on the rebound. Huw's already made a pass and him and not got thumped!

"All right, I'll call it," Evans said. "I call tails, naturally. Tails, I get him." He flipped the coin but it never found its way into his palm.

Doyle plucked it out of the air. "No, mate, I'm not tossing for him!"

"Oh, you want him yourself!" Evans asked shrewdly.

The confusion showed in Ray's face. "Dunno."

"Then leave him to someone who does."

"He's my bloody partner!"

"Possessive, aren't you?"

"Maybe," Doyle growled. "Look, let me make up my own mind. He... I... Last night he kissed me, Huw. Oh, don't laugh at me. I haven't got the kind of bloody experience in this sort of thing you've got. He took me to dinner, then he took me home and kissed me."

Evans smiled, pocketing the coin. "Sounds like he's courting you, boy."

"Funny," Ray blinked, "that's what he -- Why would he do that?"

"Christ, you're a dodo," Huw said, laughing. "He wants you."

"Wants to have it off with me."

"Maybe. Nah, you don't go courting for a quick rave up."

"So what does he want?" Ray frowned. "More than a tumble? A 'deep and meaningful' relationship? Bodie?"

"What's so strange about that?" Evans demanded. "Bodie's got a heart."

"And the glands of a rabid tomcat," Doyle added. "It's sex he wants, Huw, and... I'm not game for that. It'd bust up our friendship, finish everything."

"But you said he was courting you," Evans said quickly.

"Yeah," Ray admitted. "S'what he offered." He stirred. "Look, leave it alone, will you? If he's as good as his word... We'll see. He's batting on my wicket, and he'll probably get bored in ten minutes."

For some reason Huw just smiled. "It's going to be nice working with you Ray," he said evasively. "And Bodie."

And for one moment Doyle wanted to snap at Evans to keep his beady green eyes off his partner. He bit it off at the last moment. It was irrational.

Wasn't it?

There was a single red rose threaded through the steering wheel of the gold Capri ghia. Ray blinked as he slid into the car, lifting the long stem out and holding its half open blood to his nose. It smelt beautiful but a thorn pricked his thumb deeply, symbolic of the danger of the whole situation. He sat gazing at the flower and the blood, one as red as the other, until the left door opened and the suspension depressed under Bodie's weight. He looked up in time to see his partner's blue eyes finding the little wound. Unexpectedly, Bodie took his hand, dipped his head and sucked the blood from his thumb, all done so quickly that Ray had no opportunity to pull away. Not that he would have.

"Thorns are sharp, love," Bodie said quietly. "Got to be careful." He met Doyle's eyes with a smile, almost gentle, almost teasing, almost wicked. "You like roses, I know. You like Italian food and wine. Dinner tonight, at Gino's?"

"Well ..." Doyle was on the point of begging off, quoting a girlfriend even though he had not yet set up a date, when his mind went back to Huw Evans. Kick Bodie in the teeth, and Huw would have him in bed faster than it took to tell.

"Lasagne, chianti, gelati?" Bodie coaxed. "Ray?"

Doyle smiled. "Okay, why not?"

"Why not indeed," Bodie agreed. "That's settled, then. I know where I'm taking you tomorrow night too. If you'll go out with me, that is."

Fascination prickled under Doyle's skin. "Oh, where?"

"A film. A classic film, one of your old favourites. They're having a festival, I've booked by phone already." Bodie smiled into the confused green eyes. "Drive, Ray. We're at work, remember."

At ten o'clock they were parked by the embankment, bored with the job as leads dried up and they waited for data from Central. They stood by the wall, the wind fresh in their faces. It blew Doyle's hair about like a tousled halo, which Bodie liked. "Paris did you good," he said. "Good times? Good food, good wine, good sex?"

"Very," Ray nodded. "Cost a bloody fortune, too."

"Cheap at twice the price," Bodie shrugged. "Like to take you over there myself one day, love."

"Bodie, will you stop calling me that!"

"Calling you what?"

Ray coloured a little. "'Love.'"

"Why should I stop?"

"Because... Because you don't mean it."

"I do mean it," Bodie said quietly. "Who shall I call 'love?' Someone I'm fond of, who's cute and cuddly, and lovely to look at and be with and kiss? That's you, you dope. If you don't like being loved, you'd better get an appointment with a shrink, pronto."

"Of course I like being loved!" Doyle said, exasperated.

"But not by me?" Bodie pressed; Ray did not answer and he went on, "yeah, I'd like to take you to Paris. Nice old hotel, expensive champagne, big bed with a feather mattress and four posts, both of us a bit squiffy, a bit giggly, just the two of us and let the whole world drop dead while we learn who we are."

Doyle sighed, feeling the pull of the whole idea. "Bodie, what are you trying to do?"

"Court you," Bodie said promptly, as if it was obvious.

It was, which made it all the more difficult for Doyle to accept what was happening. "but why?" Ray turned to face his partner seriously. "In four years you've never mentioned any of this. Why now?"

"Because... I sort of woke up one day, and there you were," Bodie shrugged. "You're so arrogant, so damned macho, took me a while to scratch the surface and see the barrel of passion underneath. Oh, I fancied you right away, but I have more respect for my teeth then to speak up! Then... Well, I twisted my knee last week. Went up to the Infirmary, and there you were with a Welsh accent and a bedside manner somebody ought to patent."

"My cousin made a pass at you," Doyle grinned. "He told me."

Bodie's nerves jumped. How much had Huw said? If he'd told the whole story it could wreck everything, make Ray assume all he was out for was a rave up for fun one Saturday afternoon, and that was absolutely not the case. He'd had that with Huw and, nice as it had been, Bodie had been left disappointed; it wasn't anything Huw had done or said -- on the contrary, he was a dab hand in bed. It was just that he looked so very much like Ray that --

"You didn't thump him," Ray was saying. "So you're not bothered by it." He gave Bodie a curious frown. "You'd go to bed with him, wouldn't you, if it suited you to."

"Well --" Bodie searched for words.

"He wishes you would," Doyle said seriously. "Fancies you something rotten does Huw. Would you make love to him, Bodie?"

"Sooner make love to you," Bodie muttered. By the sounds of it Huw had said just enough to arouse Ray's curiosity, and not so much as to make a ruin of it all... Bless him.

"But if I told you to get lost, I expect you'd go with him?" Doyle pressed.

"What d'you expect? He's like a xerox copy off the Doyle original, to look at. He's not you -- doesn't smell the same, won't taste the same, but he'll do if you break my poor old heart for me. What do you want me to do, wreck his love life the way you're wrecking mine?"

In answer Ray gave a cheeky chuckle. "Haven't turned you down yet, have I?" He demanded with a grin that was disquietingly Evans-ish. But he sobered fast.

Bodie frowned at him. "Are you... You're not afraid that I'll hurt you, are you, Ray? I mean, sometimes it can hurt like the very devil, but you have to be clumsy or cruel to hurt, and I'm neither of those things. Worst that can happen is that you'll need a swab of ointment afterwards, and I'll see to that for you, and kiss you till you forget about it."

Colour blushed up rosily in Doyle's cheeks giving him the 'wild Irish rose' look that Bodie so loved to see. "I know you wouldn't hurt me deliberately," he said, averting his eyes.

"But someone did, a long time ago," Bodie guessed.

Doyle shrugged away from the wall. "Had nobody to blame but myself," he said. "Come on, Bodie, let's get going, we're getting behind time."

Bodie picked him up at seven -- and wore a tie. Doyle laughed aloud as he saw it, and collected another red rose -- just one, in green tissue paper -- at the door. Bodie accepted the humour with a smug grin and swept him out of the flat. He had a table booked at Gino's, and the atmosphere felt good, relaxed, happy. Ray was starting to have fun. It was costing Bodie a quid or two, but no more than he would have spent on a girl, and the reward was worth it... Doyle was accepting the courting with good graces and enjoying it, and the longer it went on the less skittish he would be.

It had become a game, an elaborate ritual they both appreciated. It was wonderful to see Ray having fun. Bodie had never done this with a man and it amazed him, how good it felt to cradle a balloon of brandy and watch the candlelight dance in those green eyes. Beautiful eyes, almond shaped and smiling at him, catching his heart, arousing him as he imagined how it would be to hold Ray as he had in that dream.

They spoke seldom over dinner, joking, talking shop, then retiring into a companionable silence to study one another. Doyle watched Bodie unwind and turn on him the smile that had melted a thousand women's reluctant hearts... If it was sex he wanted, he was going the right way to get it, he thought ruefully. He was a flirt himself, he flirted with every bone in his body, and it was easy to sit there speculating on his prowess as a lover.

Lover! God, what a thought! A festival of memories fled through Doyle's mind. Times shared, danger, grief, fun, arguments and laughter, losing money to one another on horse races and cricket matches, double dating, drinking sessions and shared hangovers. Friendship, deep and permanent... A lot to risk for the sake of a night's pleasure.

Pleasure. His nerves tingled beautifully. If Bodie was as good with a willing bloke as he was with his women... Without realising it, Doyle returned the seductive smile, and Bodie's heart skipped a beat as he saw it.

On the way back to Ray's flat they were nearly silent, and the air crackled between them. Courtship. A mating ritual. The precursor to the joining of two bodies. The thought of mating and being mated by someone so near, familiar and cherished aroused them both, and the game proceeded to the second set. Bodie walked him up to the flat, and Ray poured a little more brandy. They stood looking at each other in the lamplight and Bodie took the initiative again.

"It's late, sweetheart," he said throatily. "Got to be at work early in the morning, remember. Film tomorrow night -- pick you up at seven and we'll get a bite to eat first, okay?" He put down the empty brandy glass and stepped up close.

Doyle held his breath, waiting for it, a steely embrace, a kiss that was intimate. When it came he felt the tingling in every nerve. Bodie's tongue caressed the inside of his mouth while he felt himself crushed against the warm, muscular body. He closed his eyes, letting himself drown in the kiss, until Bodie pulled away and headed for the door, smiled a goodnight and was gone.

He stared at the closed door, disbelieving. Bodie meant it, and Raymond was shaking. When he kissed it was slow and deeply, with tenderness and much skill. The expressions that chased across his face were of fondness and real wanting. It meant a lot to him to woo his partner into bed, and if he invested half as much in the sex as in the seduction it would be...

Devastating, Ray thought helplessly, trying to stop the trembling. Suddenly, he did not know whether to be fascinated or terrified. If the sex was as good as he imagined, then friendship would turn into love in an hour or two in bed, and the idea of loving a man, even if it was Bodie, was petrifying.

Or was it that he was afraid of loving anyone? Afraid for his independence or his tender feelings... And that was irrational.

There was a third long stemmed rose on the passenger's seat of the silver Capri and Ray picked it up carefully as he got into the car. A tiny card was tied to the stem and he opened it, reading,

"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

Grab all that life will give you, while you can, he thought. Oh, wise. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.

A moment later Bodie appeared, slamming the car door, and the smile on his face was warm, wistful. "Dreamed about you last night, pet," he said by way of greeting.

"I'll bet you did," Doyle said drily, sniffing at the flower. "Something nice, was it?"

"Very. Want to touch you for real now. Just hold you, for ages, nice and warm. Would you like that? Just holding?"

"I'm only human," Ray sighed. "All humans like to be held. Makes us think somebody cares about us."

"Loves us," Bodie added.

Doyle shot a disbelieving glance at him. "Don't you dare tell me you love me, Bodie!"

"Why not?" Bodie frowned. "Lots of kinds of love in the world. Kids and puppies, old ladies and kittens, fathers and daughters, best friends. 'Course I love you. Always did."

"But you're talking about bedmates," Ray said, confused again by his feelings and Bodie's perverse logic at such an early hour.

"Well, when best friends go to bed there'll be twice as much love, 'cause they are best friends." Bodie started the car. "Jeez, you look nice this morning, Ray. You wash your hair or something?"

"Yeah." Doyle chuckled. "You're bloody determined, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Bodie admitted. "Also, now it's out in the open I can say things like that. I've been thinking them for years but couldn't say them."

"Oh?" Ray's smile warmed perceptibly. "For years?"

"Years." Bodie pulled out of the carpark. "Can't wait to take you to the film tonight. You're going to love it -- it's one of your old favourites."

"What is it?" Doyle coaxed, enjoying the game more by the minute.

But Bodie shook his head. "It's a surprise."

Late in the afternoon, while Ray ran an errand to the computer centre, Bodie grabbed a cup of tea in the deserted cafeteria. Preoccupation coloured his mood and he sat staring into the cup as if it was a crystal ball. Doyle was a sexy little animal, and if he'd tried it with men before, surely he'd try it again? Except he hadn't seemed to take to it, then. Badly handled as a kid, Bodie speculated -- that'd put anyone off, even if they were bi. How many girls were hurt the first time and spent years believing themselves frigid -- or became lesbians to get some satisfaction without getting roughed up?

So, if I go slowly and carefully, Bodie reasoned, and make sure he's having the time of his life --

"Hello, 3.7, you got a fit of the moody blues, have you?"

The wry Welsh voice brought Bodie back to the present and he watched Huw take a seat on the other side of the table. "Well, not really, but... Doyle's got me a bit worried."

"Not playing your little game?" Huw asked, biting into a doughnut.

"He's playing," Bodie conceded, "but I don't know where we're going."

"He hasn't asked you to bed, then?"

Bodie grimaced. "Passion at lightspeed is the dumbest thing we could do, mate. He's right. At least he's interested, though. He kissed me last night, didn't argue, like he wanted to kiss me."

"Oh, now there's a thrill," Evans said drily.

"As a matter of fact it was," Bodie muttered. "He kisses me, you bit me."

"I was there for fun, not a scene out of a Greta Garbo film," Huw said, chuckling. "If we'd kept on going we'd have calmed down by now, got used to each other... What is it, Bodie? You just don't fancy the Welsh?"

"Don't fancy?" Bodie guffawed. "You're the sexiest little raver on the squad, right after Doyle, you don't need me to tell you that."

"You're not so bad yourself," Evans laughed. "You're very nearly the sexiest jock on the squad, Bodie."

"Very nearly/" Bodie was slightly miffed. "Who pipped me at the post?"

"Well, as sexy," Huw admitted. "But he's available, and you're not."

"Who?" Bodie demanded, trying to guess.

Huw chortled wickedly. "That temporary partner of yours, the one you were careering about with while Ray was on holiday."

"Murphy?" Bodie spluttered. "You fancy him -- he fancies you?"

"He made a nice little pass at me thismorning in the locker room," Evans said with an obscene leer. "Pinched me bum for me."

"And what did you do?"

"Pinched him back. He's coming around to my place next weekend, watch the Wolves-Liverpool game --"

"And then have fun," Bodie finished.

"Well, why not? It's harmless and it is fun," Huw said. "I like him, you know. He's out for laughs, same as me. You're too broody, Bodie. Know what I think? I think you love that cousin of mine. S'why you're carrying on like Rudolph bloody Valentino mooning over some bird in black and white."

"Huw," Bodie said threateningly, but had to hide a grin.

"'Going to wine and dine him tonight?"

Bodie nodded. "I'm taking him out to a film."

"Oh, Deep Throat? Bedroom Mazurka?"

"No, you clot. His old favourite. And it's a secret. You run off at the mouth too easy, so I'm not saying what it is."

Evans made a mock-insulted face. "Well, you can tell me all about it in the morning. All the juicy details."

"Maybe," Bodie said warily. "I'm not too sure about you. I don't want my love life novelised and pinned to the noticeboard." He drained his cup and got to his feet. "I've got to go. See you later, Huw."

"Aye, and best of luck on the hunt," Evans called after him. He watched Bodie out of sight with a shrewd expression, wondering if the field agent even knew what he was getting himself into. He might not have woken up to it yet, but his fingers were burning even now, and if Raymond Doyle decided to be a prima donna and refuse to play, then Bodie was going to start hurting, and badly. Evans chewed on the problem, beginning to blame himself for making a play for Bodie and pushing him into this. His doughnut was still forgotten when he saw Murphy amble into the cafateria and smiled a greeting at him.

Collecting tea and chocolate cake, Murph slid into the chair Bodie had lately vacated. "You look worried, Huw, anything the matter? If it's about our scene in the locker room thismorning, forget it. I'm not pushy."

"Nah," Evans said dismissively. "It's Bodie I'm worried about."

"Bodie?" Murphy blinked. "He's as tough as nails."

"Not where his long lost love's concerned," Huw observed. "Soft as a bag of marshmallows, mark my words."

"His long lost who?"

"Doyle," Evans said, hiding a smile.

Again Murphy blinked. "Bodie's out after Ray's virtue? I'll be damned!"

"Why so surprised?" Huw demanded. "You made a move on me as soon as Bodie backed off, and that means Ray would turn you on just as fast."

"I cannot tell a lie," Murphy chortled. "But Doyle doesn't flirt like you. I've been looking at Raymond for years, but you I can jump." He sipped at his tea. "And I'm going to, on Saturday after the match... Got Ray's hairy chest, I presume?"

Huw laughed aloud. "You're keen. Why wait till Saturday?"

"'Cause I've got night shift," Murphy said gloomily. "I'm not a big fan of quickies. Like to take my time." He paused, took a bite out of the chocolate cake, lowered his lids at Evans and added, "when I'm eating."

Huw guffawed. "I expect I'll find out about that. Meanwhile, Bodie's treading on eggs. If he rubs Ray up the wrong way he'll get hurt."

"If he gets to the stage where he's rubbing Ray anywhere he's home free," Murphy said with a ribald chuckle. "Doyle's on heat fifty-two weeks a year, from what I've seen. Like you."

"Oh, thanks ever so," Huw moaned, but was flattered all the same... It ran in the family. "No, I mean Ray could slam the door on Bodie's fingers, really hurt him."

"And will he?" Murphy asked quietly. "I mean, I didn't even know Ray was a bi, or I'd have tried the big seduction scene ages ago --"

"And been flattened by Muscles Bodie," Evans snorted. "Possessive, is 3.7, or haven't you noticed? He's like Ray's shadow."

"Yeah," Murphy smiled, "I've noticed. Ah well, Bodie's a bit lad. If Ray hasn't tuned him out already it means he's nibbling at the worm. Bodie'll turn on the charm and he'll take the hook, you watch. Me? I'm just glad you arrived. Would've been rotten finding out Doyle's a bi too late to make a move on him and not having the other bookend to go at."

"Oi, I'm a person, remember, not a thing," Huw protested.

"Yeah." The smile on Murphy's face became a Bodiesque smirk. "And a luscious one. Bet you're a raver on the quiet."

Evans rolled his eyes heavenward. "I give up. I can't win, can I?"

"Not with me," Murphy assured him glibly. "Maybe with Bodie you'd win, 'cause he'd mix you up with Doyle and let you win. But you're not Doyle, and I'm not Bodie, Saturday's going to be a treat. If it works out well..."

"Bloody sure of yourself," Evans muttered.

"Certainly." Murphy pushed back the chair, getting to his feet. "Lots of practise, sunshine, and plenty of vitamins. Got to get back to the salt mine, sad to say... Catch you later, boyo."

With that Murphy was gone, and Evans grinned impishly after him. No doubt about it, the lad had it all where it counted. Irish charm, long, lean body, beguiling eyes, the lot. If he was even half as good as he thought he was, it would be a treat. And losing Bodie to Ray wouldn't sting. Huw finished his doughnut and headed back to work, his thoughts returning to Bodie as he wondered how it would all turn out... And what he could do about it.

The phone bill, the gas bill, a postcard from Aunt Jean in Scotland, three items of junk mail, and a letter. Ray tore the envelopes as he juggled with his keys, releasing the CI5 deadlocks. The bills were not too bad, the junkers went straight into the bin, and the letter turned out to be a card. On the front was a classical Chinese painting he recognised -- 'The Butterfly Lovers,' a story so beautiful and so sad, he knew it well. Inside, he recognised Bodie's handwriting and stopped dead on the threshold, reading the verses in honest amazement. Not only did Bodie like to read the stuff, he was a dab hand at writing it too -- hidden truths, it seemed.

The words were calculated to find him, and they did:

"Fair is my love, with eyes like the sea
And hair that I'm longing to coil --
Tight 'round my fingers, stealing a kiss
From my one love, my Raymond Doyle.
Sweet blows the wind on a heart rapt in love,
A smile makes my wild passions boil!
Dreams in the night are not nearly enough -
My sweeting, my fair Raymond Doyle!
He wounds me with humorous jibes, but I live,
Somehow I survive as his foil -
Aching, tormented, but how could I leave
My true love, my cruel Ray Doyle?
Sleeping alone, I'm lapped soft in the dreams
That on the bright morrow he'll spoil,
When he tears out my heart with rejections once more,
Yet still, how I love thee, Ray Doyle!"

Floored by surprise and moved by this gentle, literary nudge in the right direction, Ray did not hear the phone until it had rung half a dozen times. When he picked it up at last he heard his cousin's voice. "Hello, Ray. Doing anything tonight? Thought you might like to come to the pub for a few."

"No -- thanks, Huw," Doyle said evenly. "I'm going out."

"Lucky bird?" Evans chuckled wickedly. "What's she like?"

"About six foot one with blue eyes and a smirk."

"Sounds like a dog,"Evans snorted. "No it doesn't, it sounds like Bodie!"

"You're clairvoyant," Ray quipped drily.

"Double dating, are you? We could make it a triple."

"No, he's taking me out to a film."

"Oh... So you're courting," Huw said wisely. "Be saving you a quid or two I expect. Mind you, you'll get the bill sooner or later. Repayable between his sheets... You playing his game, Ray?"

"None of your business, you nosy sod," Doyle chuckled. "My love life's my affair. Why -- still thinking of tossing for him?"

Evans' sigh was audible over the phone. "He's your partner, 4.5. And besides, there's a lovely bloke called Murphy who's made me an offer."

"Murph?" Ray spluttered. "He fancies you?"

"Certainly. Why not?" Huw demanded.

"You're like a xerox off me," Ray said loudly. "Christ, if he damned well fancies you that means he probably fancied me!"

The Welsh doctor laughed wickedly. "Probably. Never made a pass at you? No, obviously not."

"Why obviously?" Ray asked sharply, expecting an insult.

"Because Bodie would have thumped him. If you're straight, that's fine, but if you're bi, you're Bodie's. Don't need a degree in psychology to work that out. Slow on the uptake, aren't you, boy?"

Ray looked at the card in his hand. "Maybe, Huw, but I'm catching on. Hey. You know, it was you and your pass at him that made him realise how much he wanted me. Maybe I ought to thank you. He's courting nicely."

"You like it?" Evans chuckled. "If you like his loving, what's next? Marriage and a cottage by the sea, raise Irish Wolfhounds, will you?"

"Oh, knock it off, Huw," Doyle said, pained. "Why don't we double date one day, you and Murph and me and Bodie. Might be nice."

"Christ, the four of us in the same bed?" Evans sounded aghast. "We're cousins, is that incest? Nah, third cousins doesn't count, does it?"

"I said knock it off!" Ray was aghast. "I'm not going to bed with Murph or you. Loving I can take, nervous breakdowns I can do without. Amuse yourself with Murphy like a good lad and leave Bodie to me."

"Ah, so you do want him," Evans concluded.

"Well, yeah, I suppose I do at that," Ray admitted. "Scares me a bit, mind you. I could end up in love with him and I've got this terrible feeling he's just having a bit of fun with me. If it's nothing but a game I'm going to get chewed up unless I'm very, very careful."

"So be careful," Evans said wisely. "Okay, I'll see you later, Ray. Got to get all poshed up if you're going out with your paramour. You can tell me about it in the morning -- and incidentally, I want you in the Infirmary at your earliest convenience. Want to look at the ribs you had broken last year, and the old gunshot wounds. That'll keep, though... TTFN, boyo, have fun."

Nosy devil, Ray thought wryly as he put the phone down. He propped the card up on the mantlepiece above the gas heater and headed for the shower, shaving and washing his hair; then, for the first time in years, he consciously deliberated over what to wear to make an impression. He had a brand new pair of Bluegrass denims, very tight, not even washed yet, so very dark. It was probably a mistake wearing them -- if Bodie got him aroused he'd strangle, but he decided to risk it. He brushed his black suede boots and surveyed himself in the long mirror in the boots, jeans and silver chain. Okay so far. Now, which shirt? The loose white one, because it made his tan look all the more golden, and because it was thin and clung here and there, and sometimes his nipples showed through it. Wicked, Ray, he thought as he put it on, leaving it open to display his chest. He would wear his oatmeal sports jacket over it, but it was too warm in the flat to put it on.

His hair was dry by the time he heard the door and let Bodie in. He was pouring a cup of tea in the kitchen and made a second cup as Bodie shut the door. Stirring Bodie's two sugars he turned toward his partner, seeing with a great deal of satisfaction that the money had been well spent on the jeans and shirt. Bodie was shaking his head ruefully. "You're evil, Doyle."

"Hm?" Ray pretended innocence, his own gaze appreciating the other man's basic black -- black slacks, black roll neck, black leather jacket. So elegant, so deliciously informal.

This time Bodie just couldn't wait and he prayed that Ray wouldn't shy away as he stepped forward. He was breathing heavily and caught Doyle's head, gently urging the smaller man to raise his lips, which Ray did, trying to disguise how eager he was for it, but his mouth was his betrayal, for the kiss was hungry. Bodie moaned as he felt the hunger, and their tongues caressed, made love with a curious blend of ferocious desire and shyness, as if, now the hunger was openly reciprocated, they were cautious. They clung tightly together, oblivious to the desperation betrayed by the clinging, and the kiss lasted a long time.

When it broke Bodie pressed his lips to his throat and neck and licked his ear, and felt Ray shiver against him. "You taste nice," he said against his hair, "whatcha been eating?"

"Cheesecake," Doyle said huskily. "Want some? Why don't we eat here and go straight to the cinema? You're making me guilty, paying for everything. Feels like I should be chipping in with you."

"You're paying your way," Bodie said softly, drawing back. "In kisses."

'Kisses are cheap," Ray scoffed.

Bodie's eyes darkened by shades. "Yours aren't. Got to win your love. I know that. Nothing so good gets given away free -- don't worry, pet. I'm not complaining for a minute."

"I know you're not," Ray said, fetching cheesecake, scones and a block of Dutch cheese from the fridge, and setting them at the table. "Your card arrived in the mail. Poetry... You're very good at it, aren't you. Good at that as well."

"As well as being good at what?" Bodie asked, smiling faintly.

Ray blushed a little. "At courting and kissing."

"Then again. I'm good at all sorts of things." Bodie set about a slab of cheesecake, aware that Doyle was watching his mouth. "You make this yourself?"

"Yeah. Cottage cheese, eggs, dried fruit. Heaps of nutrition."

"And nearly as delicious as you are," Bodie smiled. "You do the cooking and I'll write the poetry, and maybe we can find something to do together."

"Don't excite me, these jeans are too tight," Ray laughed.

"Thought you'd slipped a disc and needed a subtle truss," Bodie quipped. "Anyway, drink your tea or we'll be late. The show starts in half an hour."

Curiosity burned in Doyle until they got to the Regency Cinema and he saw the posters. Then he swore beneath his breath and wanted either to kick Bodie or smother him with a kiss on the spot. It was Brigadoon. The music of Lerner and Loewe, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, laughs and whimsy and an achingly beautiful story of hopeless, hopeful love that went wrong and then came right because of that timeless longing. The only more ruthless deed Bodie could have inflicted on him would have been Camelot.

When the black sheep was dead and midnight drew near, and the tale began to hurt with its bittersweet buildup to the conclusion, and Tommy and Fiona knew it was now or never, Bodie took Ray's hand in his, knitted their fingers and held on. A thrill ran through Doyle's nerves and he didn't dare look at Bodie because he was choked up already... Too bloody sentimental, that's my problem, he told himself sternly, but the lecture did no good... Bodie was trying to tell him something, something nice, something that was very mutual, and priceless, and frightening.

Just before the house lights went up Bodie's fingers slipped away, but by that time Tommy and Fiona were together and Brigadoon was gone forever, and the original Happy Ending was a smile on everyone's face. The smile lasted all the way home, and when Ray shut the front door behind them he shook his head at Bodie. "That wasn't fair."

"All's fair in love and war, my lad," Bodie shrugged, watching Doyle lounge against the closed door like a siren set to lure rational human beings to their doom. He sighed heavily. "You're so bloody beautiful," he murmured. "Did I ever tell you that?"

"You told me I was skinny, ugly and inept," Doyle chortled, "so pull the other leg, mate."

"I lied," Bodie admitted. "And I'd like to pull something, at least." He checked his watch. "Christ, is that the time? The Cow wants us there at eight in the morning, love, remember. It's been a great evening. Take you for a slap-up Chinese tomorrow, if you like."

Doyle's voice was low and husky. "Enough's enough, Bodie."

"Huh?" Bodie checked in surprise.

"I said, enough's enough. Dinners, film, flowers, the card."

"You wanted courting," Bodie said warily. "S'what you're getting. I thought you were enjoying yourself, Ray."

"I am -- so much I'm starting to feel guilty. Either you let me take you for a Chinese tomorrow, or..."

"Or?" Bodie prompted, wondering what in heaven's name he was talking about.

Exasperation made Ray throw up his hands. "Ask, you lunatic!"

"Ask what?" Bodie echoed, blinking at him in the lamplight.

Doyle gaped at him. Confusion or teasing? It was impossible to tell. The nerves in his abdomen were tingling and there was a throb in his groin as he met Bodie's eyes. He felt his nipples contract and deliberately shifted his shoulder so that the expensive shirt displayed them. It was getting hard to breathe. Bodie's eyes roamed across his chest and he swallowed. "Ask," Ray said throatily, wanting to hear it now, needing to hear it at last.

But Bodie shook his head. "It's still to soon. Later."

The Bluegrass denims were exacting retribution; it made him feel as if a warm hand had hold of him, cupping and squeezing him, as he grew fully aroused, and Doyle sucked in a breath. "Christ, Bodie, look at me!'

"I'm looking," Bodie assured him with a smile that was fond. "But it's too soon, yet, isn't it? I thought you wanted --"

"You want me to ask?" Ray growled. "I will, if you like."

Electricity crackled between them, literally lighting up the room, and Bodie swallowed again, hard. "Go on, then," he said breathlessly.

Doyle took a gasp for air. "Stay with me tonight. Sleep with me. Take me, I want you. I want your hands, I want your mouth, and all the rest of it. Please."

Maybe it was the film, or the slow, steady courtship, or the way Ray was standing there suffering, or maybe it was what he had been feeling for a long time and denying, but in tandem with the consuming wave of desire Bodie felt a great wave of tender affection, an entirely alien emotion that swamped him. In a moment he had his partner in his arms, face buried in his throat, and was murmuring apologies. "I'm sorry, mate, I didn't mean to make you do that, swallow your pride and say it like that."

"Oh, Bodie, that doesn't matter," Doyle said breathlessly against his ear. "Turned me on even more to say it, somehow. Made me want you even more... Come on, let's go to bed. We can have supper later, if we're still alive." He towed Bodie into the bedroom and turned on one lamp before stepping back into the embrace.

He had expected to feel Bodie's hands stripping him at once, but Bodie kissed his neck and ears and said, "what do you like, Ray? I need to know what you like -- I'm in this to please you, because I don't want you to need me tonight and dump me tomorrow, I need you to want me next month and next year. So tell me what you like."

Shivering under Bodie's lips, Ray clung on tight. "To be honest, I don't really know. I've done it this way a couple of times, but years and years ago, and, well, I got hurt a bit. A lot, actually. I wasn't well for days afterwards."

Bodie drew back with a frown. "You weren't loved, you were mauled. It's not supposed to be like that... Ray, do you trust me?'

"Course I do," Doyle said, smiling dreamily at him as Bodie's hands stroked his chest, finding his ribs and nipples with unerring accuracy.

"No, I mean, do you trust me with your body? To touch it everywhere, every bit of you, even inside you? You know what I want to do, and how... I won't hurt you, you know that."

"I know you won't," Ray said seriously. "If it hurts, I'll yell anyway -- but I know you. You're a big softie, with your poetry and your big, warm heart that you try to hide. You should see your face right now! You're having a wonderful time worrying about what you're going to do with me -- it's worrying you more than me!"

"So you trust me," Bodie concluded, relieved, believing.

"With my body," Ray smiled. "Not with my heart. I don't mind if you hurt me a bit --"

"I won't," Bodie said vehemently.

"I don't mind a bit of hurting," Ray repeated, "I'm not made of porcelain. But if you get my heartstrings in a tangle I'll kick your shins... You can have the rest of me though. Bodie? Say something!"

"Can't think of anything," Bodie said huskily. "Talk later, love."

The shirt whispered about Doyle's smooth limbs as it came off, and Bodie stood back to look at him in the jeans and boots and silver chain, bare, furry chest heaving slightly, the denim at his groin stretched tight about his arousal, his neat little brown nipples hard, his skin golden in the lamplight. Outrageously beautiful and largely unaware of his charms was Raymond Doyle. Bodie coaxed him down onto the bed, made him lie down and straddled him, kissing his throat before his lips, tongue and teeth covered his chest methodically.

Perspiration sprang out on his skin, tangy, salty, and as Bodie lapped at it the narrow hips beneath him bucked. He sat a little more weight on them, holding him down while he bent his head to suckle until Doyle could hardly bear it. Then he straightened and pulled off his black roll neck, wanting to feel skin on skin, and lay heavily on Ray, furry chest tickling smooth one, lips seeking a deep kiss. Doyle raised one knee between Bodie's legs, rubbing the insides of his thighs in a slow, coaxing rhythm, and Bodie pressed back into the denim, bone and muscle each time Doyle lifted the knee, loving the caress and dipping his tongue into Ray's open mouth in the same rhythm.

At length Doyle wriggled in desperation. "Bodie, I'm going to spoil it all in a minute, let me undress, will you?'

Bodie lifted his head and climbed off his panting lover. "Shouldn't wear your jeans so tight... Glad you do, though. Does wonders for your legs. Here, let me." He unbuckled the brown leather belt, opened the snap and drew the zip down, then turned his attention to the expensive suede boots. Groggy, Doyle just lay still and watched as the boots came off, and his white sport socks, and the jeans were tugged off his hips, sliding off and leaving him cool and comfortable in a scrap of yellow cotton that accentuated rather than concealed his arousal. Bodie knelt astride his legs, brushing his fingers over the fabric, tracing the shape of him through it, and Doyle bit his lip, desperately wanting to feel the caress on his skin. He choked off a groan, trying to be still, watching Bodie's rapt face as he drew the cotton off at last, allowing the proud, hard shaft to bob up. Doyle stretched luxuriously, unconsciously wanton, glad to be comfortable, and smiled up at Bodie, who was drawing his fingertips from ribs to hip bones to thighs in a complex pattern, creating delicious shivers that threaded into his groin like pins and needles.

"Touch me, Bodie," he murmured, when Bodie stubbornly avoided the focus of the sensations; his eyes closed, his hips lifted off the bed; his own fingers itched to touch himself, bring himself the sensations he needed, but the wanted it to be Bodie's hands, and when it came the caress nearly sent him over the edge. He sucked in a breath and held it as Bodie's fingers drew spiralling patterns on him and one fingernail drew slowly from ridge to ridge from the base of his tormented cock to the head. Bodie took him in a firm grip then, pulling gently, and suddenly there was an urgent ache in his balls, the warning that he couldn't take much more. His fists clenched, Bodie saw and stopped, and Doyle gasped in a huge breath, at once grateful for the respite and sobbing with the sweet frustration of it.

Eyes glazed over with the fever of desire, he watched Bodie get to his feet and finish undressing, but he couldn't move a muscle, as if he was paralysed at the center of the web of tortured pleasure. He drifted back from the edge as Bodie knelt on the bed beside him, but was breathing easily for only a moment: Bodie ruined his respiration again with a single lick where he was tenderest, and he was holding his breath again, quivering, hoping that Bodie would suck him but not able to find the breath to ask.

He didn't have to. Bodie knew what he wanted and showed pity a moment later. Wet heat engulfed him and Ray howled as if in agony, feeling tongue and teeth exploring him. He sank his fingers into the quilt and hung on until he knew it was almost too late, somehow finding his voice to call Bodie's name. It should have been a cry but was a hoarse whisper, and Bodie drew away from him, lying beside him, propped on one elbow, his eyes roaming along the wanton sprawl of his lover, beautiful from his tousled hair to the thick, demanding cock, dark and throbbing with arousal, to the long, honey coloured legs. Doyle's eyes cleared again as he watched, and Bodie bent to kiss his mouth gently.

Muscles quivering, Ray got an elbow under himself; his fingers itched to discover Bodie, to command the pale, hard body for just a while, and he heard his partner's gasp with hazy satisfaction as he began to touch, exploring his chest and belly, licking and biting everywhere until Bodie caught his hands and captured his mouth to stop him before it was all over too soon. Weak and shaking, Ray fell against him, arms looped about his neck, breath a hot draft on his chest. Pre-ejaculate pulsed in a steady trickle onto Bodie's left thigh as he rocked Doyle back and forth to soothe him, and he debated which way to take him to make it easiest for him. He didn't want to take him on his knees -- it was a beautiful way to come, but it was an attitude of submission too, and the time for that was later, when Ray was at ease with it, when he knew that submission and surrender had nothing to do with it.

He cuddled Doyle against him, curling about the slim, hard body to explore his back a muscle at a time. One hand cupped under a buttock and squeezed lightly, and Ray gasped. He gasped again as he felt the brush of fingers at his anus, stroking over the knot of muscle. Pleasure rippled through him in unbearable waves as Bodie licked down his spine, and he was flying high when he was turned over to lie on his belly. Bodie waited till he was aware again, wanting him to feel it all, then stooped, kissing his buttocks, reaching between them with long, deft fingers to caress his testicles, making him jump. The slim hips bucked as he ground himself into the quilt, setting up a slow, driving rhythm that was involuntary, and Bodie lay on him to stop him, whispering into his ear, "keep still, love, keep still."

"I can't," Doyle groaned. "I -- I'll try." He was shaking like a leaf now.

Bodie's fingers went trailing down his spine, kisses dropping wetly in their wake, and they did not stop when they reached his tail bone, but carried on into the center of him. The fingers went away for just a second and then were back, and he felt the slickness of them at once, a warm wetness, part of Bodie, pulsed out a drop at a time as if his body knew it was needed. The pressure at his anus was exquisite, but Bodie did not force his fingers inside. He waited, kissing Ray's back and legs until he began to open freely.

A cry the like of which Doyle had never made before escaped his throat and was muffled by the pillow as Bodie slipped two fingers into him, reaching in, in search of his prostate. Incredibly, as he was stroked in this tender, knowing way, his erection seemed to harden yet again, and his balls ached with their demands, quivering with a life of their own. He pushed back toward the intruding fingers; he had never felt anything even remotely like it, and when he tightened his muscles about them the pleasure surged through every nerve.

There was Bodie's weight on him then, pressing his burning cock into the quilt, and it was all he could do not to come as his lover lay on him, nibbling on his ear and slowly withdrawing his fingers. Ray spread his legs without realising what he was doing, trying to lift his hips toward the promise of completion, but Bodie's weight was gone a moment later and he found himself rolled over; he lay on his back, spreadeagled, crucified on the quilt, and somehow lifted his knees to present himself, hands clenching on Bodie's shoulders.

He was out on Cloud Nine, Bodie saw, his own eyes hazed by desire, his ears ringing with the effort of somehow holding on to control when every moan and every shiver that racked the beautiful, tawny body beneath him almost demanded his coming. When Doyle spread his legs and lifted his knees as if on a reflex, the urge to come was overwhelming and he had to wait a few moments before he dared go on. Ray's hands cupped his face gently, shaking, mutely pleading for an end to the torture. Bodie gritted his teeth, and as he took his weight on knees and elbows his cock nudged its way to the tight little opening to Ray's body and pressed. He held his breath, aching from head to foot, head swimming, as his slick, hot length slid in and in, Doyle opening wide to take him, all of hi, until his groin was pressed hard into Ray's loins and they were both sobbing with the sweet agony of making it last.

The heat welled up bewilderingly and Bodie tried to keep still as he went down onto Doyle's sweat-damp chest, feeling the pounding of his heart as he buried his face in his throat; but Ray was beyond control, heaving gently under him like long ocean swells and murmuring soft curses into his hair. Bodie lifted his hips and thrust into him again, grinding them together as Ray lifted to meet him, the heat and hardness of his cock rubbing between their bellies, and before he could lift his hips again Doyle's muscles spasmed around him and there was a scalding splash on his chest, the first of five long streams of fire that seemed to turn his lover inside out, and nudged Bodie over the edge himself. Ray howled as the heat of Bodie's coming reached into him, clinging with fingers like talons until the racking release was over and there was only the tingling, lingering delight left.

Head arched into the pillows, Ray fought for breath and felt Bodie carefully withdraw. He was dazed, wanted to find some way to say that it had been incredible, but he could not find his voice as he was wrapped in a warm, sticky, sweaty embrace and rocked like a child against Bodie's chest. He kissed Bodie's throat, seeking his lips blindly, and offered the surrender of his lips in lieu of words; Bodie took the capitulation with a breathless gentleness that melted Doyle once and for all.

He found the words he wanted on the verge of sleep. "God help me, Bodie, I love you."

Bodie smiled against Ray's tangled hair and hugged him, feeling the tremors gradually fading away. "Say it again, sweetheart."

"I said, I love you, Bodie," Ray repeated, soft as a sigh.

"I heard, both times." Bodie kissed his forehead. "I just wanted to hear it twice."

It was midnight when they woke, sticky and clammy, and Doyle gave a groan as he moved. Bodie was fully awake in a moment, still holding on, refusing to let go. "Ray? You're all right? Not hurt?"

"No, not even really sore -- nothing like as bad as I'd expected, and I knew you wouldn't hurt me anyway." Doyle smiled. "Last time I did this I was in agony for days -- didn't have the guts to tell anyone why. All bruises -- bruised prostate, I think."

"He must have been godawful rough," Bodie speculated.

"He was," Doyle nodded. "Using the loo wasn't fun, I'll tell you. S'funny, I never told that to anyone else! And speaking of the loo, we're in a mess, love." He stirred. "How about a quick shower before we tuck up? Be kinder to my sheets, if we do."

"Yeah." Bodie caught his head to kiss him. "You realise you just called me 'love,' don't you?'

"Certainly," Doyle said against his open mouth. "What else am I going to call the person I'm in love with? Damn you, Bodie, I knew you'd do this to me if you ever got me into bed." He got to his feet, pulling his lover up with him. "It was terrific, mate, that's what counts, don't start fretting. The look on your face is worth fifty quid!" Then he looked down at himself and Bodie and chuckled. "Yuck, look at the state of us!"

"Who cares?" Bodie yawned. "It was terrific, wasn't it? That's the main thing." He followed Doyle into the bathroom and watched him mix the water. "Do you want to do it again sometime, Ray?"

"Some time?" Doyle frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, do you think you'll want me again?"

"I should think I'll want you all the time," Ray said, blushing a little. "You don't mind, do you?" 'Cause, if you do, it's your own bloody fault."

Bodie smiled at him. "Mind? I'm not a fool. Want to share a bed with you, Ray, not just tonight, lots of times. Cuddle up with you, nice and warm... Together." He stepped under the hot water and lathered Doyle's chest, loving the way the soap worked up among the hair. "Together," he repeated. "Know what I mean?"

"Of course I know what you mean." Doyle stretched under Bodie's tough, revelling in it. "S'what I want too. We'll go out for Chinese tomorrow like you said -- but I'm paying for it."

"My treat," Bodie shrugged.

"I said I am paying," Ray insisted.

"But I want to --" Bodie stopped and chuckled. "Okay, you pay. And I'll pay for the treat after that, and so on. C'mere, love." He pulled the smaller man into a warm, wet hug and kissed him softly, amazed again by the way Doyle moulded against him, exactly the right shape, a little smaller than he was himself, somehow managing to be skinny and cuddly at the same time, and so warm."

"Christ, but you're nice, Bodie," Ray muttered, "all of your body, so bloody nice. I'm going to go over you an inch at a time, learn the lot."

"Tomorrow," Bodie pleaded. "I'm knackered, pet. Can you wait?

"If you cuddle me till I go to sleep," Doyle grinned, turning off the water and reaching for towels. "Will you do that?"

"Been dreaming about doing just that for days," Bodie admitted, towelling Ray's back until he was pink.

Five minutes later the lamp was out, they were chin-deep in cool sheets and falling asleep in a contented mix of satiation and shameless luxury.

The wind stirred through the trees and leaves were starting to fall now as autumn got underway. Above the shifting canopy of this secluded glade the sky was a deep blue, and Bodie gazed lazily up, stretching as he woke, very full of food and wine. He was listening to a friendly argument -- Murphy and Ray -- and gentle snoring, and as he turned he saw Huw curled up on the other side of the tartan rug, beyond the picnic basket, sound asleep, a glass still in his fingers and about to fall over.

The debris of the picnic was landing in the basket, bowled into it by Murphy, who was arguing 9mm magnum against heavier knockdown ammunition, while Doyle packed the glasses, plates and leftovers. Bodie smiled at them; they were as comfortable in each other's company now as family, and Bodie felt that Ray was family... And Huw too, if it came to that. His lover's cousin was as good as his own cousin. And his lover's cousin's lover? Bodie watched Murphy bowl a rolled up paper bag into the basket and smiled, enjoying the matey bickering. A month, since Ray had arrived back from Paris and collected his first kiss, and most of the ensuing nights had been spent in a giggling tangle of limbs, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce, sometimes hilarious.

Murphy slammed the lid on the picnic basket, fastened it all up and then noticed the glass in Huw's fingers, and swore. Bodie laughed as he watched Murphy pounce on his lover and nip his ear to wake him. Evans came to with a start and the beginnings of a tirade in some strange form of English, which Murphy smothered with a kiss until Huw subsided and returned the kiss with a vengeance, coaxing a chuckle out of Murph, Bodie and Doyle alike. "Look at them," Ray said, sitting down on the rug beside Bodie. "Disgusting, isn't it?"

"Oh, I dunno," Bodie grinned, one arm about Doyle and resting his head on Ray's, "they're happy, by the looks of them." He dropped his voice. "If both of you Doyles --"

"He's an Evans."

"He's a Doyle," Bodie said drily, "or I need glasses. If both of you Doyles fancied me... And if Huw fancies Murph... D'you ever fancy Murph, Ray?"

The question made Ray guffaw. "Of course -- he's almost as irresistable as you are. Almost," he added, kissing Bodie's ear. "But I'm in love with you, so you don't have to worry. Mind you, if both of you tall, dark, smouldery types fancied me, and if Murph fancies Huw... D'you ever fancy Huw?"

It was Bodie's turn to guffaw. "Of course -- he's almost as irresistable as you are! Almost. But I'm in love with you, so don't fret." He glanced over at the pair on the other side of the picnic basket; they were still engrossed in the same kiss, Huw lying on top of Murphy while Murph crooked one long leg about narrow hips that were clad in faded denims borrowed from Ray. "Reckon there's any love between them, or are they just out for fun?"

"Dunno," Ray yawned. "If they're anything like us it'll be years before they work it out and admit to how they feel. If they ever do. Glad we did, Bodie -- glad you made me admit it. If you'd left it up to me --"

"It was Huw's doing, really," Bodie said softly. "Okay, I had to make all the moves, do the courting, but it was him, he made me see what I wanted from you, made me realise that -- yeah, I wanted you, but for more than a quick rave up. For much more than that. I'm not going to lie to you; I've had other men--"

"If it comes to that, so've I," Doyle said teasingly.

"Doesn't count. You were a mere child and the gorillas damn near put you in hospital. Where was I?"

"Other men," Ray murmured.

"Mm. I've had a few, over the years, but you'll do me now."

"Oh, I'll do, will I? Thanks a lot," Ray muttered.

"What I mean," Bodie grinned, "is that I like you better than most of the girls too."

"Feeling's mutual," Doyle laughed. "So?"

"Oh, nothing really. I"m just not on the prowl anymore, haven't you noticed? Only caught on myself this week. I'm not trawling for birds anymore... Julia went to Canada and I'd have been looking for a new girl, before. Now, I can't be bothered looking. S'too nice cuddling up with you -- and you pay for the nosh and the entertainment half the time."

"Mercenary," Ray accused, punching his shoulder.

"Ex-merc," Bodie chuckled, glancing over the picnic basket at Murph and Huw. Murphy was on top now, and they were still kissing. "When the hell are those two goldfish coming up for air? Makes you randy just looking at 'em!"

"Tell me about it," Doyle said huskily. He lay down on the rug and tugged Bodie's sleeve. "Oblige me, will you?"

Bodie rolled his eyes as if in resignation and did as he was asked with great glee, lying almost on top of Ray. There was silence in the glade for a long time, punctuated by the occasional giggle. Once, Bodie and Murphy looked up over the picnic basket at each other, each of them pinning down a panting, wriggling bundle of mischief, a pair of bookends as different as chalk and cheese, and as alike as two peas from the same pod, one hell bent on fun, the other hopelessly in love, both lucky to find partners to match. Bodie and Murphy looked over the picnic basket at each other, chuckled until their lovers began to complain, and then relented, bending back to the task they had set themselves.

George Cowley thought the foursome had gone fishing for the day.

-- THE END --

April 1986

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home