One of Those Days


Six o'clock in the morning is not the best time of day to hear a jackhammer in full song; especially when you hadn't hit the sack before two, and hadn't enjoyed a night's uninterrupted sleep in a week.

There was an emergency on the road -- of course. A burst water main bringing council employees to rescue the residents of Chelsea from flooding. The truth is, that morning, I would have told the old darlings to load up the dinghies and head for the high seas. I woke with a start, every nerve alive at the first jarring cry from the big pneumatic drills on the road. Beside me, Ray gave a groan, turned over and pushed his face into the bed. If anything, he had had even less sleep than me.

The case we had been on had sickened us both. Child pornography is not a subject most people like to think about, and always worse when it takes place close to home, in your own country, own town. Own street. There was a little boy in hospital that morning, as we woke up to the sound of the road being torn up. He had been a prisoner for six months; how he lived through it beats me. His father was Sir Jeffrey Welles, of Welles and Haverleigh Engineering. They make tank engines, top secret stuff. Sir Jeffrey had been the victim of blackmail, and he had refused to play games with his son's abductors, on the advice of the police.

The kidnappers' threats were not the usual ones. What use to kill the hostage? Paul was ten years old, and a pretty little kid. Dead, he was no more use to the men who had taken him off the corner of his school's cricket field. Alive, he was a lever to move his father, and a source of revenue. Child pornography.

The photos started showing up in the slimy, sleazy underworld about two months after the kid was taken. Sir Jeffrey had played it by the police game plan, and both he and his son paid the price. The kidnappers made damned sure Sir Jeffrey got copies of the photos; and because of the nature of his work, they found their way onto George Cowley's desk, and into my hands.

Ugly pictures of a little boy in leather harness, manacles, collar, his body tied and bound, slung up in various ways while it was caned, beaten, and raped. My stomach turned as I looked at the images. Ray's face was just set into a mask like concrete, and Cowley looked fit to kill, as if, if he did not hit out, he would have the heart attack his doctors have been promising him for years. I was with Cowley. I wanted to hit -- hard and fast. Ray was white, his lips compressed; I know that look. He saw a lot of this when he was with the Met, and it still haunts him. I don't think he will ever forget it.

The tank engines were destined for top NATO vehicles, and HMG wanted them kept out of the hands of terrorists, Soviets and Libyans alike. And Welles was at breaking point, we knew. Cowley had him and his poor wife taken into a sanitorium for their own sake, and the dirty work fell to us.

It was a matter of working backwards one step at a time. The photos were finding their way into the underworld sleaze market, so our first step had been into the mud. You can still buy kiddie-porn, along with every other kind of porn you can imagine; the question is to know where. Ray had a good idea, and I learned a lot in the three days following that I never wanted to know, and wish to God I could un-learn.

A mealy character running a sex shop in a cellar sent us to a black market photo studio. We surprised what seemed to be a chorus line of bunnies stripping for an orgy, and I have never heard such satisfaction in anyone's voice as Ray's as he said those two magic words: "you're nicked!" We took in the photographer, Reilley; the photos of Welles' son were not his work, but he knew whose they were...

And after some digging we found ourselves at a old converted warehouse -- me, Ray, Murphy, Lewis and McCabe and Anson, and Cowley himself. The night was cold and wet and we were in mud up to the elbows by the time we had crawled around the place, sneaking like thieves, terrified that a poor kid would end up very dead if the men inside the house heard a sound from us.

Midnight, and the shooting party started, over in the same minute. None of them were armed, and there was only one survivor apart from the prisoner. I stood back while Murphy snapped frames of the bodies and Cowley went over the place with the forensics men. I just stood aside and watched my lover be father, mother, brother, friend and saviour to a child who was afraid of every man he saw. He had welts and scars from God only knows what beatings, and the collar had been on his neck so long there were callouses. Ray held him while he cried, and at last Cowley called an ambulance to take Paul Welles to a decent hospital in town. He didn't want to let go of Ray, so we rode with him in the ambulance. From St. Vincent's I R/T'd Cowley, and he gave us the all-clear to buzz straight home, leave the paperwork to him.

It was two when we hit the hay at last, and we were exhausted. The last fortnight had been trying and we had promised ourselves we would sleep till noon, get up, eat, go back to bed and sleep again. We were due three days' leave, and we planned to spend it fishing, loving, eating, doing anything at all that had nothing to do with CI5.

We should have known better. The water mains burst at five; by six the council flying squad were stuck in, and we were wide awake, bleary-eyed and droopy-tailed. Emerging from the pillows like a hibernating dormouse, Ray looked up at me with his best woebegone expression. "Tell me this isn't happening."

"If that is what you would like to hear, my poppet," I said with acid indulgence. "It -- isn't happening."

But the noise was undeniable, and he sat up, pulling his hands through his hair. "Yes it is."

"I know," I agreed miserably. "Not going to get much kip, are we?" I offered him my arms and hugged him tight. The feel of his body against mine always gives my glands ideas, and as he yawned into my neck I started to turn on. Delicious, glorious, wanton feelings coursed through me, and I set about him, wanting him with a kind of fever that could have been the animal in me busting loose, or could have been the result of a week's unplanned abstinence... We had not had the chance to do anything more than share a chaste kiss in that long.

He was already hard, but wriggling in discomfort as I kissed the snub tip of him and sucked. He moaned, but it wasn't a sound of passion, and I lifted my head, waiting. "God, I need to take a Jimmy," he said with rueful honesty

I gave his cock a stern look. "With a hard-on like that? You'll be lucky. Be easier if you have it off first --"

"Christ, I can't stand so much romance," he muttered. "Have it off? This, from a man I cooked dinner for, and spent five quid on scented red candles for!"

"Oh -- shut up," I said bluffly, and took him in my mouth again. Six in the morning, when you're startled awake, wrung out like a dishrag and itching for sex is not the best time for making Mills and Boon small talk. I might have told him so, but I had my mouth full of something hard and hot, and he was moaning again.

He was stubborn that morning, and I knew he wasn't going to come easily. Sometimes Ray is a cracker, sometimes his body seems to take over and wants to go slow, and I knew when he resisted my determined suckling, this was one of the latter times. The longer I sucked him, the more fiery my own passions became, and in the end it was me moaning. Needing.

He hates it when I manhandle him, but I did, then. I physically flipped him over and fumbled for the jar of lubricant. I had two fingers in him, making him ready, when he yelped and wriggled out of my hands. "Bodie, stop it! Bodie -- not now!"

"What --?" I caught my breath, watching him squirm out of bed and abandon me. "Ray?"

"Nature calls," he said, frustrated and anguished, and fled.

The sight of his bare backside, glistening with lubricant as it twitched through the bedroom door on its way to the bathroom, did me in... I came alone like a schoolboy and punched the pillows in that kind of frustration only a man could understand. Bloody water mains -- bloody council workmen! But for thee, we would have slept in, he would have woken me with a cup of coffee, and there would have been sweet release, wriggling around together. I sat glaring at the evidence of my frustration, slick in my palm and going cold.

It was going to be one of those days. I just knew it.

We were out of milk. There had been no chance to do shopping in days, and neither of us remembered that we were out of almost everything until the coffee was made. I can't drink coffee black, it curls my toenails up. Ray sat at the kitchen table, reading the back of the cornflakes packet --an abortive attempt at breakfast -- and happily sipping the bitter, scalding black poison.

"What about me?" I demanded.

He looked at me over the top of the box. "What about you?"

"No coffee, no sex, no sleep, nor cornflakes!" I grumbled. The workmen were still hard at it. I hoped the burst mains drowned the lot of them.

He set down his cup and assumed that look of mock patience. "You want a cup of tea? I'll make one."

If there is one thing in this world I can bear less than black coffee, it is black tea. And he bloody knows it. I got to my feet, marching into the bedroom, knowing he would trail after me; he did, and stood in the doorway, still drinking the coffee while he watched me dressing and packing. I waited for him to ask.

"Going somewhere?" He inquired as I shoved my feet into shoes.

"Fishing," I said frostily. "And so are you. For three whole days, at a cottage hotel without workmen digging up the road outside, and with enough milk to make a bloody cup of coffee!"

I slammed my bag into the bed and had begun to stuff underwear into it when I felt his arms go around me. "Oh, Bodie, I'm sorry, love. I really did have to go. The places you were putting your hands were sheer murder -- nice, but not just then!" His lips brushed my ear. "I love you."

Trust him to smooth my ruffled feathers... No coffee, no cornies, no sleep. But here was Ray with his hand between my legs and I could feel myself falling into his thrall... not wanting to fight it, not caring whose turn it was to do what to whom. My jeans were down around my ankles, and he was opening his robe. There were fingers moist between my cheeks and I leaned over the bed, opening myself to them. Oh, the sheer bliss of being filled by three long, slender fingers that twisted and made promises of more. Promises I was longing for to be fulfilled. I felt the heat of his cock against my hip; it traced across my right buttock and nudged against the tight, clenching ring of slickly lubed muscle --

The knocking at the door returned both of us to the present with a start. "Ignore it," I growled, humping back. He moaned, clutching at me, and did as I asked. He nudged into place and had given a push when the knocking came again. He withdrew with a muttered curse. "I said ignore it, Ray!"

It was Mrs. Devereaux, the old lady from across the hall. "Ray? Ray, are you there?" The knocking was insistent. "Ray! It's important! It's Benji!" She was crying. Is there any more awful sound than an elderly woman reduced to tears? "Oh, Ray!"

I felt close to tears myself -- though not of the same kind. Ray withdrew and closed his robe, belting it tightly. "You can still see it," I warned him, looking at the outline of a stubborn erection under the thin red silk.

He looked down at himself and cursed. "Time cures all."

I gave the bed another punch, yanking up my jeans and arranging myself in them; it was uncomfortable but as he said -- time cures all. He was standing at the door, speaking through it while he waited for the morning's excitement to subside. "Yes, Edith, what is it? Benji?" Benji was her Skye terrier, a nasty, snappy little dog who hated me but who was on decent enough terms with Ray for some reason; possibly Ray's habit of feeding the brute Mars Bars. I wondered if his teeth had suddenly fallen out on Mrs. Devereaux's hearth rug.

"He's ill," she sobbed. "I don't know what to do. I've got him here."

So Ray opened the door and the old lady stepped inside with her dog wrapped in a bath towel, cradled in her arms like a baby. Ray has always been good with dogs. Me? I never liked them. I nodded hello to the neighbor and watched my lover look at the terrier. Warm, dry nose, panting, glassy eyes, even I could see that.

"He's very feverish, Edith," Ray said. "When's the last time you had him to a vet?" She didn't seem to remember. "Ah, here, see?" He was holding up one of the dog's feet; the nick was only a small one, I might have missed it myself. "Rusty nail, probably. Look, you're going to have to give the vet a buzz as soon as they open. What he needs is a tetanus shot!"

"Poor little lad," I said, momentarily diverted, and reached over Ray's shoulder to stroke the terrier. Or try to. Benji was not so far gone that he didn't have the energy to nip my finger. Ray snickered rudely. "Er, Edith, you haven't got any milk going spare, have you? We're out, and we're gasping for a cup of tea."

"I've got powdered," she offered, preoccupied with the dog.

Powdered milk in tea. I gave a groan of despair but Ray was saying politely, "that'll be fine. Bodie'll go along with you while I get some clothes on. Give the vet a ring as soon as you can, eh?"

I brought back a cup of powdered milk as soon as I could get out of the lady's flat. Ray had finished our packing and had the kettle on. By then it was half past seven and I was beginning to wake up properly. My eyes felt gritty after so many sleepless nights and as he stirred the powder into the cups I was laying plans... If I couldn't lay my lover, what better to lay? A quick sprint up the motorway, I thought. The hotel was waiting, since we had booked by phone. By noon we could have a smashing ploughman's lunch inside of us, hooks baited, and be sound asleep on a blanket beside the babbling brook, in the peace and quiet. I made a face both at the continuing din of the council workmen and the semipoisonous tea. "Peace and quiet," I said, lifting the cup as if in toast.

"Amen to that," he agreed, and drank on it.

We were out and going a quarter of an hour later. And we made all of twenty miles before the car got that hard-to-handle feeling so well known to any intrepid motorist. We were getting a flat. I pulled over and we got out of the Capri, giving the deflating tyre a disgusted look. Ray pulled out a coin and sat it on his thumb. "Call it."

"Heads," I said, already reaching for the tools, never expecting to win -- I never do.

He laughed rudely as I set about changing the wheel, but pitched in to help anyway, as I knew he would. It was a nice morning at least, and we were heading westward, which could only mean better weather, so the TV weathermen had sworn. We were in better spirits when we were well out of town, and we tossed again for who was going to pay for the transport cafe breakfast. Greasy bacon and eggs, brown paint in a teacup, cardboard toast and orange glue. By then we were so ravenous, it tasted wonderful.

The cottage hotel that was expecting us stood outside a village called Motherwell. The fishing was on private property, and we would have been there by noon if there hadn't been a broken beer bottle in the road. The spare tyre blew out with a report like a rifle crack, and the Capri slewed across the road, almost landing in a ditch. I kept her wheels out of it with a bit of decent rally driving, and Ray thumped the dash in pure frustration.

"What now, Tarzan?" he demanded, looking at the wooded hills through which we were driving.

"Map," I grunted, leaning over to open the glovebox. It was folded in all the wrong directions and we struggled with it, getting it the right way up with a maximum of cursing. "Well, Motherwell's about three miles over that hill, according to this, or nine miles by road." I gave the hill a hard look. It looked like the Eiger from where I was sitting.

Ray brought out the coin again. "Toss?"

"Not," I said sweetly, "on your bloody life. Out, mate! If we go, we go together."

"Where's your spirit of self-sacrifice?" Ray demanded. "You're supposed to willingly lay down your life for me."

"Willingly lay you, maybe," I muttered. He heard and gave us a sultry look over one shoulder as he slammed the door and headed off across country. We could always phone for a tow from the hotel, have them pull the car into Motherwell, to the garage there.

The bracken was crisp and shoulder deep by the time we were half way up the hill; the sky was dull -- when are English skies anything but? I caught Ray around the hips, rugby-fashion, and dumped him into the deep shelter of the bracken. He wrestled, laughing, loving it, and I had his mouth captive before he could complain. "Yield," I charged him, pinning his hands to the springy turf.

"Been off fighting dragons, have you?" He panted.

"On Sir George's business," I quipped. "Well, do you yield or don't you?" I wiggled one eyebrow at him and gave him a suggestive nudge with my hips. He was hot for it, I could feel him throbbing clean through two pairs of jeans.

"Faint heart never won fair maiden," he told me.

"Who's faint hearted? And there's no maidens 'round here, Raymond!" I bit his ear. "Yield, I tell you."

"Or else --?" He bucked his hips under me.

"Or else... I'll be very disappointed." I said honestly, and with that woebegone look of my own that he likens to a kicked spaniel. It worked. I had his jeans down around his knees when we heard the first drum roll from far away. I thought it was a big lorry on the road at first and ignored it. The wind was getting up too, beginning to toss the bracken, cold on my bare and uplifted backside.

Then another drum roll, not quite so distant, and the daylight became that certain shade of blue. "Bodie," he said between kisses; I was biting his lips, gently, as if he was bruised fruit, succulent and tender. "Bodie!" He thumped my shoulder to get my attention. I lifted my head with reluctance, looking down into his face, seeing what I had done to his mouth. His lower lip was the colour of ripe strawberries. "In case you haven't bloody noticed, it's going to rain in two minutes! If we make a dash we can get to the hotel. Finish this properly, in style."

I rolled onto my side, looking at his groin and mine. Two almost twin erections were throbbing, crossed like swords. "You fancy the hike, like this?" I demanded disbelievingly.

"No, but --" He began, and stopped as the first raindrops began to pelt down. Big, fat, cold drops of water. the old theory of cold showers is not too far from the truth. We wilted before my very eyes and I gave some sort of sob of frustration as I got to my feet and zipped up.

"Race you!" Ray offered, and was off like a hare with a pack of hounds behind it. Little bunny's rump twitching in front of me as I chased him, up to the top of the hill. We stopped there in the lee of a spinny of trees, and looked down on the rooftops of Motherwell on the other side. The white walled building with the red shingles was the hotel.

We were drenched by then. There was little point in hurrying down, and in any case the bridle path we were following was a mud slide. And we were wearing Nike sport shoes that cost a bloody fortune. Ray was grumbling fluently as we made it down onto the road at last. The service station, with its big, illuminated Esso signs, was at the side of the Four Tons, and we stopped there first.

The mechanic was a lad with carroty red hair, his overalls greasy and black, his hands oily, the phone in his hand, a Honda running on the bench while he shouted over the engine instead of turning it off. Thunder pealed again; the storm was getting closer and the red haired lad yanked the phone away from his ear with a yelp. "Bloody 'ell!"

"Shouldn't use phones in a storm," Ray said wisely. "Likely to get a belt off 'em."

He gave us a dirty look and went back to screaming into the phone while he rubbed the side of his head. At length he hung up and fixed me with a murderous expression. "What can I do for you?" Broad Yorkshire accent, you could cut it with a knife.

"Any chance of getting a tow?" I asked, trying to be pleasant. As my dear old Aunt Flo would say, you'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I've always wondered what in heaven's name people would want to attract flies for.

The carroty red head shook negatively. "Not a chance. There's been a big crash up by the town, every tow truck in the district's there, trying to make sense of it. It'll be tonight before we get it pulled apart."

And our baggage was in the car. We were drenched and I was having daydreams about getting a bath and a change of clean clothes. I looked at Ray, and he looked at me, and at last he just rolled his eyes to the sky. "Yeah, well, whenever you can manage it," I said resignedly, and gave him the details.

"Cost you fifty, from there," he said, reckoning it up with a pocket calculator.

"Fifty quid --?" Ray was so incensed he was soprano. "We're not askin' you to pull it in with your bare hands!"

Again, that murderous look, and I pinned on a smile, stepping between my lover and the mechanic before it could come to blows. "That'll be perfectly acceptable, sir. Don't mind my friend here -- he's half Scottish, on his mother's side. There's moths in his wallet that haven't seen the light of day in ten generations. You can find us at the hotel when you've got the car back. Would you like the money in advance?"

Just as well he said no, because as I felt for my own wallet (in which moths have been known to hibernate from time to time; paydays can be a long time apart) I realised I had left it in the car. Mollified, the carrot- headed young mechanic let us go, and we hurried in under the hotel's creaking signboard, thinking fondly about a drink, a bath, towels.

The register lay open on the counter, and an elderly lady with a hearing aid was minding the fort as we came dripping into the lobby. A public bar opened off to one side, and a gent with the walnut-face and bent body of Methusela's grandfather was waiting at the foot of the stairs for baggage.

"It's Doyle and Bodie," I said. "We booked by phone a few days ago. A room, a double room, with a bath. Can we get drinks sent up? We're a bit on the drowned side. Could do with a warming up."

She put on her glasses and consulted the register. "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't seem to have the booking."

"You don't...?" Words failed me. I stood dripping at the counter and just gaped at the lady. "You don't --?"

"We don't," she clucked, shaking her head ominously. "Did you book on Tuesday? Oh, that would be when Mavis was on. Roger, was Mavis on last Tuesday?" The old gent shuffled closer; pebble glasses teetered on the end of his nose as he peered at her, as if lip reading. "Was Mavis on last Tuesday?" She repeated, louder.

"Oh, aye, that'd be right," he agreed.

"That's it, then," the lady of the house said apologetically. "Mavis never could remember to write nothing down. I'm sorry."

I was still speechless, and Ray took charge. "Doesn't matter, we'll take another room." I knew by the look on her face that we were in deep water, and getting deeper. "What is it?" Ray asked apprehensively. I just held my breath.

"Well, what with the tractor fair and all, there isn't anything left," she told us, trying to sweeten it with a smile.

I considered walking outside to scream. I considered running amok. A thousand outrageous and delicious variations on your basic murder fled through my mind as we stood dripping by the counter and wondered who the hell Mavis was, and how we could wreak some kind of vengeance.

"There's always number thirteen," old Roger suggested, whistling through his dentures.

"Oh, they wouldn't want that," the lady remonstrated.

I didn't care what the number was -- or what the room was. If it had a roof, a door and a bed, we would take it, and I said so. The lady looked at me as if I had gone mad and shrugged, handing us the key. It was up on the top floor at the back, overlooking the publican's yard. Roger looked around for our bags and Ray gave him the tale of woe. Blow-out, tow truck, rainstorm... I was already half way up the stairs.

Number thirteen was a shoe box with a window. And one single bed. And no bath, no chair, no table. But it did have a dartboard on the back of the door. At the sight of it, Ray started to laugh. Hysteria? Maybe. The door closed on the tiny room and we fell into each other's soggy arms, hugging and laughing, until I smothered him with a kiss. "I wonder where the bathroom is from here?" He said as we unglued ourselves and stood back to take stock of the situation.

In fact, it was on the floor below; and it was busy. We waited for two ladies and a tractor salesman, and then grabbed it, quick. Both of us in together before there could be any more interruptions. Ray was naked and I was half way naked before I thought about what we were going to put on when we got out of the water. The thought of getting back into cold, clammy jeans was enough to make me shudder.

"I could go and ask Roger if we can borrow a bath robe," I said doubtfully, watching with envy as Ray slid into the steaming water.

"One bath robe between the two of us," he said as he lay back in the tub. "That should make for interesting sports apparel."

"Towels?" I examined the hotel's bath towels speculatively; they were the size of yacht sails. "These would cover a multitude of sins."

"Towels," he agreed, catching my wrist, and his voice became that sultry growl. "Get on in here."

The water was near the boil and he was already pink, and getting pinker. We spooned together, sharing the tub, laughing quietly, very much aware that what we were doing could get us arrested. Two men in the same bath is one thing. Two men screwing in the same bath is something else. Not that we got as far as screwing. My balls were in knots after the day's limitless frustration, and I was off in two seconds. Ray was right behind me, groaning eloquently as he came in my hand.

One instant later, while Ray was still softening in my hand and I was still twitching in his, someone tried the bathroom door. A haughty woman's voice said, "really, you've been a long time in there!"

"Won't be a minute," I sang, pulling the plug and lifting myself out. I could have languished in the tub for an hour, but as it was I was warm to the bone marrow again, and I could still taste Ray's kisses. I was happy.

We towelled fast, gathered our wet clothes and tucked the towels into place. Ray's hips are boyish, so slender, accentuated by the innocent seduction of a towel loosely tucked around. Especially when you know bloody well he's naked underneath, and there is always that one percent chance the towel might come loose and succumb to gravity.

The haughty bird was waiting outside. The look on her face was snooty and disdainful until Ray emerged from the steamy atmosphere. You could hear the gulp, I swear it. Pale blue eyes widened. 'There you go, love,' I thought maliciously, giving her a saccharine-sweet smile as I followed my lover, 'that'll steam your glasses up for you!' How old was she? Fifty? Sixty? Old enough to be mother to either or both of us. Lust knows no such restriction in my experience.

I knew where our clothes were going. Ray padded behind me, barefoot, hanging his jeans and shirt with mine, over the radiator on the landing down from our room. And then we ducked back into privacy and sat on the bed, looking gloomily at the accommodations.

"I'm cold," he said after a minute's silence.

I draped my arm around him and pulled him close. "Warmer?"

"A bit. I'm hungry," he said then. "And there isn't a phone to send down for room service -- if you think old Roger could make it up the stairs without having a coronary!"

As he spoke I heard footsteps and the unmistakable drag of a vacuum cleaner outside. I left him, going to open the door a crack. It was a young girl, a maid with a scarf tied around her head. "Excuse me, miss --" Then I remembered that I was only wearing a towel. Thank God I never blush. "There isn't a phone in the room, and we need to get a meal sent up. You couldn't take a message down, could you?"

She giggled, and her eyes quartered me from head to foot. Is this what chorus girls feel like, high-kicking in front of an audience full of boozy blokes? Were my cheeks warming? Damn. "It's too late for lunch," she told me. "But I can see what they've got I'll... bring it up personally. If you like."

And she winked. I smiled my thanks. "I'm afraid I can't tip you -- I'm still waiting for my baggage. It's in the car, waiting for a tow... Flat tyre and..." She giggled again and departed. I closed the door and returned to the bed, sitting miserably beside Ray.

"Could be worse," he said bluffly, nuzzling my ear.

"Go on." I was waiting, determined not to agree with him no matter what he suggested, short of earthquake or nuclear war.

"Could have been old Roger chatting you up," he said glibly, and bit my ear.

The insane humour of it reached in and tickled me, and I laughed, flopping back into the bed. A single bed with squeaky springs, sagging under our double weight. Making love in it would sound like half a timpani section playing boogie. I pinned Ray under me and kissed him hard. "You're mad," I told him, loving him.

"Got to be to stay sane," He was cold now, skin starting to come up in gooseflesh, and I improvised, rolling him in the quilt just as the girl returned and gave us a discreet knock.

I opened the door with a bright smile, yanked the tray out of her hands, said "thank you, miss, how very kind of you!" And closed it again. Bad manners? Ray snickered, opening the cocoon of quilt and inviting me into his warm space. I joined him, taking ham rolls and apple danish with me. Thunder rumbled overhead and the gale that was hammering out of the north rattled the window. It was so dim in the room that, mid afternoon or no, we could have done with the light on to see properly.

We ate the makeshift lunch, washing it down with the bottles of ginger ale, and squeezed in on the bed. Ray was drowsy, yawning into my neck as the accumulative effects of so many sleepless nights began to catch up with us. It seemed a century since the council had come out to fix a water main in Chelsea at six. Sleep was tugging at me also.

What the hell? I surrendered, going down fast and pressing my face into the musky warmth of my lover's armpit. We stirred occasionally as thunder pealed; the storm must have gone right overhead. But we were sound when the banging on our door began. I shot out of bed like a startled rabbit -- terrified, in that instant, that whoever it was would have a pass key and burst in, finding two bachelors in what is so charmingly described as a carnal embrace.

It was Roger. "The lad from the garage says your car's been towed in. You owe him some money," he told me.

"Oh, right, thanks," I groped after my towel and rendered up an approximation of decency before leaving the shoe-box room. There was the radiator. Where in blazes were our clothes? Roger was on his way down the stairs and I called after him. "We left our clothes on the radiator to dry -- someone's walked off with them!"

"Oh, that'd be Mavis," he called back. "She's a good lass, but she hasn't enough brains to give herself a headache." He continued down the stairs without a thought for our plight.

"Um -- we need them back," I called hopefully.

"Oh, aye." Roger stopped and looked up at me in my towel. The look on his face made me wonder if I was as decent as I had hoped, and I must have stood with my legs clamped together, because he chortled. "She'll have taken them down to the laundry. I'll see if I can find them."

"Does Mavis do the vacuum cleaning?" I speculated.

"Yes, three afternoons a week," Roger affirmed.

So Mavis had had her revenge after all, and would likely as not be enjoying the fantasy of two good looking men getting chucked out of the hotel, naked in the night, for disturbing the peace, running about in the nude, or near- nude. Bloody woman. It was all her fault. I climbed back to our room and slipped back into Ray's cocoon to wait.

To his credit, Roger was as good as his word, and we were dressed in stiff denim and creased shirts a quarter of an hour later. It was still trying to drizzle as we scooted across to the garage. The Capri was up on jacks, the wheel off, a new tube going on, and the carroty-headed lad was holding his hand out for fifty for the tow and twenty for the tyre change and tube. I paid him with a smile, at that moment wanting nothing more than to get behind the wheel and go home -- the fastest route possible.

By now I was wary. I checked all four wheels, I checked the petrol gauge, I counted the money in my wallet, I checked that the headlights were working, and I listened to the weather report while Ray went and paid for the use of the room, bath and lunch. The sky was still stormy but the BBC swore the storm had gone on and was beating the devil out of Cornwall now. Since we were headed east we were safe.

"London," I crowed as I started the car. She misfired twice and Ray got out half a wail of anguish; she started on the third try and I dropped her into gear. "London. Smog, grime, crowds, traffic --"

"Here we come," he finished as I pulled out of the garage, out of Motherwell, and headed up toward the motorway.

The shops were shut by the time we remembered we were still out of milk and there was not so much as a slice of bread in the flat. I gave the world a grimace and pulled in at an Italian takeaway, buying everything we could eat and more besides, and several bottles of chianti. "Tea? Who needs it?" I muttered as I shoved the bottles into Ray's hands and headed for home.

We ate the lot, and drank two out of the three bottles, pleasantly squiffy as we watched half of MURDER BY DEATH on telly and dozed through what the Radio Times critics swore were the best parts. Such is life. We had slept several hours in the afternoon but my eyelids' only ambition seemed to be to glue themselves shut. Ray was dozing with his head in my lap, almost but not quite snoring, and I smiled down at his face. He looks like a cherub who has been worked over; like a fallen angel.

"Beddie-bies for all good lads," I suggested as he stirred, jarred awake by an advert for hamburgers.

"Lets me out, then," he yawned, reaching over to turn off the set. "A good lad is one thing I never was."

"All bad lads, then," I amended. "This bad lad's going to fall on his face in two seconds."

"On his face, with his lovely, round arse up and begging," Ray growled.

I laughed. "Want it?"

"Try me." He was yawning, but he let me shepherd him to bed and there he fell on me with diligence and enthusiasm.

It was what I had wanted since seven o'clock that morning... Fingers in me, slick with lube... cock in me, big and hot and pushing, deeper... fleeting twinge of pain, because my Ray's a big lad, where it counts... and then waves of pure delight, anguished rapture and all such drivel, till I was humping back to screw him into me, and coming with a shout... Down, down, into the sleep of the just, the sleep of the innocent; warm, dark, sweet, gentle oblivion --

It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog -

Ray shot up, elbowing me in the chest as the music shocked us awake. I groped after my watch, peering at the time. Midnight. And The Beatles were giving it some stick. We heard laughter, slamming doors, a car in the street. Someone was having a party and the music was coming out of a ghetto blaster. Ray gave a wail and fell onto the mattress, punching it with both fists.

"Tell me this isn't happening!" He begged.

"If that is what you would like to hear, my poppet," I said with the same acid indulgence of eighteen hours before, "it -- isn't happening."

But The Beatles seemed to be warming to their subject; certainly the volume was getting louder. I stretched out and kissed the middle of his lovely, warm velvet back. "How long since I told you I love you?"

"Can't remember," he muffled into the pillows.

"I love you," I said dutifully. "Love me too?" I was trying to make him laugh. Two eyes glittered in the light from the streetlamp across the road as he looked up at me.

"Oh, Bodie." He turned over and opened his arms. "God, what else can happen?"

"Nothing," I said blithely, tapping my watch as I settled down on top of him. "It's midnight. It's tomorrow. It was yesterday that was -- one of those bloody days."

"And one like that was worth three ordinary ones," he finished. "Feel up to ravishing me again?"

"I... doubt it," I said honestly. "Rain check? In the morning?"

"In the morning," he agreed as the car doors slammed and the ghetto blaster was shut off abruptly after everyone in the street must have been awake. "This time I'll trot off to the bathroom before we start. Promise." He lifted his head, eyes closed. "Listen to that."

I strained my ears. "Listen to what?"

"That." He pulled up the quilt and went limp. "Silence."

"Right." I slid one arm out of bed and knocked the phone off the hook. "Where's your R/T?"

"On the mantelpiece, far far away," he breathed. "Where's yours?"

"Turned off," I said glibly. "Say goodnight, Ray."

"G'night, Ray," he said in a pretty good impression of Gracie.

I gave him enough space to breathe and capitulated without a fight. Know when you're licked, is my motto.

-- THE END --

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