Easy Stages


Bodie found Doyle aggravating, yet fascinating. During the three weeks they'd been together they'd spent most of their time testing each other, cautiously looking for any weak spots in the other man's make-up, and Bodie had reluctantly been forced to the conclusion that Doyle was highly motivated, totally committed to CI5....and also very good at the job.

But that was small recompense. He'd nearly had heart failure when Cowley had told him he was to be teamed permanently with Doyle. He'd been ready to jack it all in and tell him what he could do with his job....

A mere ex-cop, after the kind of men Bodie was used to working with? Bad enough he had to be teamed with anyone, but a common or garden ex-detective constable? No way. He'd been furious. He took it as a personal insult Cowley should even consider such a pairing.

He knew Doyle was older than him by a couple of years, but he looked like a kid....like some elfin-featured fallen angel, despite the wary precision of the expressive green eyes. And there was nothing to him physically. Looked like he'd break in the first strong wind. Acceptable to CI5 or not, he was so slight Bodie had assumed he'd be able to render him senseless with a single punch. Mistakenly, as it turned out. He'd already tried that on their fourth day together after a blazing row when he'd overslept....much to his cost. He reckoned the honours had come out more or less even, but he'd discovered one thing about Doyle. The ex-cop certainly didn't lack guts....

But even that hadn't done anything to lessen his dislike of the man. Lurking beneath that dislike was the belief that Doyle disapproved of him....or at least of his past activities. Puritanical little sod.... Bodie had no time for moralists or people who set themselves up in judgment over others....

He was angry with himself too....not liking the way Doyle could get to him. Bodie wasn't used to allowing himself to be affected by anyone. Non-involvement was his creed. That was how he'd managed to survive on this earth for 27 years, and that was how he'd continue to survive.

Doyle was a puzzle though, and an intriguing one at that. Bodie hadn't yet decided precisely why Doyle had the ability to get him so uptight, but he had every confidence in being able to do so before long. Those unfathomable green eyes hid a lot - Doyle didn't give much away, moody and over-emotional as he was. But Bodie was sure he'd unravel Doyle's elusive personality given time. He'd always managed to search out weaknesses and gain the upper hand before, and this was no different.

But after three weeks about the only thing he was sure of was that the dislike was mutual. The frequent dirty looks and biting, sarcastic remarks he got from Doyle were proof enough of that. And too often he'd caught those aggravatingly piercing eyes openly assessing him....as if Doyle was still busy trying to work him out too....

And for some inexplicable reason Doyle's evident dislike saddened him, though he had no idea why.

What did it matter? Doyle was small fry. All he'd ever known was the seamier side of London's underworld. Compared to Bodie's exploits that was peanuts.

The only thing in Doyle's favour as far as Bodie was concerned was his attractiveness. And Doyle knew it too. Real little poser at times - widening his eyes and swinging his hips when he walked, until Bodie had sometimes suspected he was being given the come on.

But he was prepared to admit he fancied that lean, slim, graceful body....the full, sensual mouth....those curls....

He glanced across at Doyle, draped elegantly in the passenger seat next to him. Yeah, very nice too. There was an innate gracefulness about him that Bodie approved of. He was never awkward. Even in repose he never looked ungainly, and in action he flowed as smoothly as an athlete. An indication he'd probably be at least interesting in bed....Bodie's stomach tightened at the very thought of that....

But strangely, it was a different reaction to what he normally experienced. More complex. Not so much pure physical lust....more the desire to get under Doyle's skin and find out what really made him tick.

It was late evening and they'd made an early start. A full day of surveillance, and they hadn't made much progress at it either.

The most frustrating and tiring of CI5 work because it was so boring.

Bodie could see the exhaustion etched on the expressive face, the bruised looking hollowness of the eyes, the lines of tension and fatigue round the mouth.

So what? He didn't feel much better himself. It went with the job and if Doyle wasn't strong enough to take it, well that was his problem. But he acknowledged there was a difference in their approach. Doyle always gave 101% to whatever he was doing, wearing himself out in the process. Bodie had to admire that, while still disapproving. Not that he didn't give a lot to the job....but he still made sure he held at least a part of himself back....nothing was worth that much effort... But if Doyle was fool enough to do it he only had himself to blame when he got over tired.

"How about a drink?" The question was almost as much of a surprise to himself as it was to Doyle. Bodie put it casually, his tone suggesting he couldn't care less if Doyle accepted or not. He wasn't sure why he was even bothering to ask. Doyle's company wasn't exactly the most thrilling in the world. But perhaps it was because he knew the open antagonism between them couldn't continue if they were to survive these first few weeks together. And Bodie had his own brand of morality, feeling he at least had a duty to try and improve their relationship.

Doyle's face was both surprised and wary, his tone sarcastic. "What's brought this on? You don't normally want to socialise."

Bodie held his rising irritation firmly in check. Doyle only had to open his mouth sometimes to annoy him. Right now he was so aggravating Bodie felt like picking him up and shaking him.

"I didn't ask for an interrogation. I asked if you fancied a drink."

"OK," Doyle said, shrugging, "don't mind. You paying?"

Bodie gave a weary sigh. "I offered, didn't I?"

"Oh, well, in that case...." Doyle said with rare humour, face breaking into a cheeky smile.

He should do that more often, Bodie thought. Makes all the difference....transforms his face.

"Take the next on the right. Let's try the Red Lion," Doyle suggested conversationally.

"One of your regulars, is it?" Bodie asked, as he swung the car smoothly round the corner as instructed.

"Nah....bit far from my neck of the woods, but I've heard it's OK."

Doyle was being remarkably....approachable for a change, Bodie decided suspiciously, wondering if there was an ulterior motive behind it. It never occurred to him Doyle might have been having the same thoughts about their relationship and welcomed the chance to talk too....

It was a Tuesday night and the pub was quiet. They settled with their drinks near the fire and drank in uneasy and wary silence for a couple of minutes, Bodie surreptitiously enjoying the play of the firelight over Doyle's face. He was very aware of Doyle's closeness, of the smooth texture of his skin and the softness of the thick, curling hair...

Yeah, he was finding the ex-cop altogether a very attractive package....too attractive. It was a problem....something that might lead him into trouble if he wasn't careful. Normally Bodie wouldn't have been so sensitive to the potential dangers of the situation. He'd long ago accepted the duality of his own nature, and it didn't worry him. It wasn't a thing he was desperate about....he could live without it....but since he couldn't fight it, he allowed himself to enjoy it occasionally....as long as there were no strings attached....

For Bodie had learned that there was a much pleasure to be had from a man's body as a woman's. A different, but equal pleasure. And in many ways it was easier with men. Less hassle....the relationships burnt themselves out quickly....not like it was with girls. Men made fewer demands on him and concentrated their energies more on the physical rather than the emotional....or so it had always been in Bodie's experience....

But this was a tricky one. With anyone else he would simply have declared himself and sat back to await acceptance or rebuttal. It was a very straightforward procedure. But with Ray Doyle it wasn't quite so easy. For a start they had to work together, at least for the time being, and Bodie had never found it a good idea to mix business with pleasure. And, apart from the instinct that warned him of Doyle's unquestioned straightness, there was also the problem of the non-fraternisation clause Cowley cleverly manoeuvered into CI5 contracts. Not that that in itself bothered Bodie overmuch. He'd never been one to play by the book. But the old man was no fool. He understood the inevitable result when two men worked together so closely. What else....when both depended on the other for their very survival? You didn't get a closer relationship than that. What you could have with a woman paled by comparison.

But if he made a move there was always the possibility Doyle might be the type to go running to 'teacher' telling tales and get him busted. And Bodie wasn't quite ready to give up on CI5....not just yet.

He studied Doyle across the table. Yeah, it was certainly interesting to speculate if nothing else, wondering just how Doyle'd react if he tried it on. Say, if he tried brushing that full, tempting mouth with his own....ran his hands through the thick, clustering curls....

From what he'd gleaned about Doyle so far Bodie assumed he'd probably jump like a startled rabbit.... outraged....the idea amused Bodie. There was a part of him that'd enjoy getting to Doyle like that.

"Are we gonna make it, do you think?" Doyle asked suddenly, forcing Bodie out of his reverie, "Don't like each other much, do we?"

"At least you're honest about it," Bodie said evasively, looking down at his drink, curiously discomfited by Doyle's admission, finding himself strangely depressed by it too.

"Best way to be," Doyle said, shrugging, "Thing is..." he had picked up a beer mat and was playing with it idly, slender fingers pushing it to and fro across the table top. "It's a pity if we can't make it on a personal level, 'cos I get the feeling we could work well together. We match somehow. What do you think?"

"Haven't really thought about it," Bodie lied, uncomfortable with the direct line of Doyle's questioning. He had got out of the habit of revealing exactly what he was feeling about anything over the years, and evasion was a way of life with him now. Looking up and meeting the green-eyed gaze, he had the unpleasant feeling Doyle could see right through him and knew exactly what was in his mind.

"Maybe you're right," Bodie conceded, "we've done OK so far, but we haven't really been tested yet, have we?"

"Suppose not," Doyle said casually, "it's been pretty tame. Must be hard on you. With you being used to a lot of action."

So, he understood about that, did he? Bodie hadn't given the ex-cop credit for so much insight. But Doyle was fishing too, and Bodie wasn't having that. Very much on his guard, he said nothing, but it was obvious Doyle took his silence for assent. "Yeah," he said, in a friendly enough way, with a deep chuckle, "George Cowley has an evil sense of humour...and a sense of the ridiculous too. Bet that's why he teamed us."

That drew a response from Bodie and he laughed too. He was personally beginning to suspect George Cowley was mad to have imagined they'd make a team when they were such opposites. It was good Doyle realised it too. But maybe that was the idea all along, Bodie thought, with typical mistrust. Cowley had a vindictive streak. Who was to say the old man wasn't getting a kick out of his little joke? Fit the two halves together and let them battle it out, and see who wins? Yeah, that was Cowley's style all right...and if that was the case, Bodie decided there was no way he was gonna turn out to be the loser...

"Don't have a very high opinion of me, do you?" Doyle was saying.

Bodie was again disturbed by the directness. Maybe it was Doyle's apparent honesty that made him more direct himself, but he heard himself say, "No, I didn't have..."

"Thought so," Doyle cut in, nodding. "Understandable... ex-copper, all of that. Probably thought it'd be Dixon of Dock Green that'd turn up."

The insight was there again, and Doyle suddenly went up in Bodie's estimation.

"Maybe," he admitted, "but you're not that. Drugs Squad, wasn't it?"

"Among other things," Doyle said, evasive himself now.

Bodie decided to move onto the offensive. He didn't like the way Doyle was capable of surprising him and catching him off guard. That was something else about the ex-cop. He certainly wasn't predictable.

"What about your opinion of me?" he challenged. "Untrustworthy...no loyalty...in it for the money...a professional killer, right?"

Doyle flushed and looked way. "Something like that."

"Yeah, well I am...all of that," Bodie said smoothly, determined to give nothing away, "so don't ask me why I was crazy enough to sign on with this outfit. Must have been mad."

There was a probing, disconcerting look in Doyle's eyes as if he didn't believe a word of it. Yeah, Bodie thought warily, it looked like he'd have to be very careful with this one. Doyle was too quick and clever by far...

"Wanna try and make a go of it then?" Doyle asked. "I'm willing if you are."

He was totally sincere, Bodie realised, holding those piercing eyes with his own. Straight as a die...no edge at all. Christ, he actually meant it, or he was the best actor Bodie had ever come across. Bodie wasn't used to that kind of honesty, or to being dealt with so straightforwardly, and it took him aback. It occurred to him he'd perhaps spent too many of his formative years in the company of men who'd as soon put a knife in your back as look at you...

"OK," he said eventually, as if he couldn't have cared less. "Let's try it and see what happens."

"Yeah, but there's got to be a minimum level of trust between us," Doyle went on earnestly, "there hasn't been so far, and I can't operate any other way. Can you cope with that?"

"You're a fine one to talk," Bodie countered aggressively. "Don't seem to be exactly the trusting type from what I can see."

"I'll try, damn you!" Doyle said angrily. "Will you?"

Doyle was pressing him hard, and he was being very determined about it too. Bodie didn't take kindly to that kind of pressure, and wondered vaguely why this business with Doyle wasn't bothering him as much as it should have done. "Dunno," he stalled, "never have before. Prefer working alone."

"I guessed that," Doyle said with a hint of sarcasm, "you don't exactly make a person feel welcome."

"OK...OK," Bodie conceded, "so I've been difficult, but you're not so easy to be with either, you know."

"Well?" Doyle persisted, "what's it to be?"

"Yeah, OK," Bodie sighed, amazed to hear himself even agreeing to this. "Let's give it a whirl. Three months, OK? And if it's not right by then, we'll speak to Cowley and get him to split us?"

"Fine by me." Doyle had been leaning forward in his seat during the conversation, his manner intense, but now he lounged back, visibly relaxing, looking strangely pleased with himself to Bodie's eyes. Bodie was instantly suspicious again. He had the uneasy feeling he might just have been very cleverly manipulated. Disconcerted, he motioned to Doyle's empty glass. "Want another?"

"OK." But as Bodie started to rise, Doyle pushed him back down in his seat. "I'll get 'em."

"Thought I was paying?" Bodie accused, pointedly.

"Not his time you're not...partner," Doyle said, emphasising the last word, smiling at him over his shoulder as he made his way to the bar.

Bodie sat back bemused, feeling he had just passed some kind of test and was now being awarded a prize. The ex-cop certainly had nerve...

Partner? Maybe, he thought reluctantly, a part of him unable not to respond to that cheeky smile of Doyle's. It was a weird concept for him to get used to though...the idea of having a partner. But Doyle wasn't as bad as he'd thought. Yeah, after tonight, the relationship had distinct possibilities. But not in the way he'd at first assumed. No, he wasn't gonna try that on with Doyle; fanciable as he was, not if they were really gonna have a try at working together. It had been fine while he'd still been thinking of all this as a temporary thing...but not now. And if he wanted or needed that kind of diversion there were plenty of places where he could find it. But not with Doyle. As of tonight, Doyle was his....partner...

Yeah, why not? He'd give it a whirl like he'd said. And if it still didn't work out, well, if the worst came to the worst, he could go back to some of his earlier and more dubious pursuits, couldn't he?

It was a crisp October afternoon and it was cold, even with the heater on in the car. Bodie turned his collar and snuggled down in the seat, pushing his hands into his jacket pockets. They'd had the word from the local police that there was a situation here of possible interest to CI5 a good three hours ago, and Bodie was both bored and frustrated by the inactivity by this time. They already been here over two hours, and seemed to have done nothing except sit around and wait...

He glanced across to where Doyle was standing talking to the Special Branch officer. He was so slim...almost too slim, Bodie thought. You wouldn't think there was any strength in him at all. And that impish, appealing face, topped by all those curls...

But Bodie now knew the stupidity of going by appearances alone where Doyle was concerned. He'd learned there was absolutely nothing effeminate about Ray Doyle. Christ, he went through girls almost as fast as Bodie for a start, and that was saying something.

The three month deadline had long since come and gone, and that mistrustful evening in the pub seemed a lifetime ago now. Neither of them had so much as mentioned the possibility of going to Cowley about a re-teaming since that night. And Bodie was well pleased with that because Doyle was going up in his estimation all the time.

He had to admit he wasn't even missing the old army life either. CI5 was turning out to be more than interesting. A bit of a challenge in fact, with as much action as Bodie could have wished for.

He was surprised though. Although he'd agreed to give it a try all those months ago he hadn't really expected it to work out. And to be honest there were times when Doyle still aggravated the hell out of him, with his pushy, ex-cop ways. But by and large, he was forced to admit Doyle had turned out all right.

Bodie had learned that his partner was worthy of his respect too. He'd only met Doyle's like once or twice before, as far as nerve and guts were concerned and he'd come across some pretty varied characters in his time.

Doyle was tough all right...both on the job and off it, with a vicious temper that needed very careful watching. Bodie had learned to tread very carefully because Ray Doyle wasn't a man to cross either if you knew what was good for you. If you did cross him he never forgot, just bided his time till he could take his revenge. Bodie had already seen him in action with a few of the petty criminals they came across in their CI5 work, some of whom Doyle had known since his police days, and there was no way he wanted to be on the receiving end of that kind of treatment...

Doyle's face was serious and very intent at the moment as he chatted to the cop, and Bodie had to subdue an indulgent smile. Doyle was so earnest...full of good intentions and deep-rooted convictions, and he took the job seriously, too seriously at times to Bodie's way of thinking.

But he had to admit that all in all Doyle was coming to mean quite a lot to him, and, for all his admiration of the man, Bodie still wasn't quite sure why. He only knew he wanted Doyle's company...was even beginning to feel protective towards him...

And he'd long since stopped thinking of Doyle in purely physical terms. Oh sure, he still fancied him, but there was more to it now. He wasn't used to having 'friends' in the accepted sense of the word...people he trusted and could depend on, and who depended on him in return. That had always been a sign of weakness as far as he was concerned, for Bodie had learned at an early age that the main thing in life was to remain independent and look out for yourself because, ultimately, no one else was gonna do it for you.

As a result there'd been hardly anyone in his short life he could say he'd trusted. In the Army, yeah, but that was because the job demanded it, and at the end of each day, he'd still gone his separate independent way. Life had been too hard for him to assume anything else was possible, and most of the men he'd mixed with had been intent on only one thing anyway - personal survival at all costs. But Doyle was different...

Bodie had never met anyone quite like him. He was a fascinating paradox for a start. He had more brute violence in him than many of the mercenaries Bodie had known, and yet he could be soft and sensitive too, particularly when it came to other people's feelings...He made allowances for others, did Doyle...certainly made allowances for him, Bodie realised. He knew he wasn't easy to be with at times, but Doyle took it all, and kept on coming back for more...

Bodie still hesitated to use the word, but yeah, perhaps for the first time in a long time he considered he'd found himself a friend...

Looking back, he wasn't quite sure when the turning point in their relationship had occurred...when the balance had shifted from active dislike to tentative liking. But maybe the Davis case had a lot to do with it. It had certainly been the first sign that Doyle's opinion of him was changing. He remembered Doyle had opened up a lot more with him since then, been more relaxed with him somehow.

Bodie had shrugged it off at the time. To him it hadn't been anything special...no big deal, but Doyle'd seemed to think so, and Bodie supposed he had technically saved Doyle's life that day...

It had happened about six weeks ago...a straightforward, routine job. Three gunmen, trapped out in the open, using their car as a shield. But Davis and his mob were no match for the CI5 men. Bodie reasoned all they had to do was sit it out and wait patiently for him to make a mistake.

He and Doyle had initially been taken unawares though. Doyle had been able to manoeuvre himself into an outside position, behind their open car door before the shooting started, but Bodie was still sprawled on the front seat of the car, and at a serious disadvantage as far as taking aim was concerned.

The desultory, sporadic shooting had gone on for about ten minutes, and Bodie was still biding his time. The next thing he knew the impulsive little sod had suddenly signalled he was going in and that Bodie should cover him. No patience, that was Doyle's trouble...

Bodie had shaken his head at him emphatically, but as usual Doyle hadn't taken a blind bit of notice and gone haring in there. Bodie had heard the hail of bullets coming in Doyle's direction, and instinctively, without even thinking about it, had hurled himself out of the car on top of him, giving him the ultimate in protective cover, managing to get Davis and his two cronies at the same time.

When it was all over and he'd given Doyle a stern talking to, angrily telling him exactly what he thought of his mock heroics, he remembered Doyle had just stood there for a minute, looking at him in a puzzled kind of way, as if he was more than a little amazed. Then, his eyes had sort of misted over a bit, and he'd squeezed Bodie's shoulder and muttered, "Thanks," very awkwardly, before he walked off, presumably before he started getting too emotional about it...

Bodie had found the whole incident excruciatingly embarrassing, and had never admitted to himself what it was Doyle was making such a big fuss about. It had been nothing special...he reasoned Doyle would have done exactly the same thing if their positions had been reversed. He trusted Doyle enough by now not to doubt that...but since then Doyle had started treating him like a proper mate, not just like someone he worked with every day...not that Bodie objected to it...he found he didn't mind at all...

Doyle had finished talking to the cop and was making his way back over to the car, thinking hard, striding along in that easy way of his. He moved well, and had the quickest reflexes Bodie had ever seen.

"Three of them, holed up in the farmhouse down the road," Doyle informed him, leaning down and speaking through the open car window.

Bodie nodded, looking through the windscreen at the belt of trees ahead of them which shielded the house from view.

"And they're good, Williams says," Doyle went on, "the best. At least two machine guns he reckons. They've got grenades too."

"Have they now?" Bodie observed, interested.

Doyle paused, still looking at him, gauging his thoughts. "What's the word from Cowley?"

Bodie took in the fierce concentration on his face. "We go in," he said simply, "it's a CI5 job. Diplomatic connections as they say..."

"Yeah, thought so," Doyle said, standing up and walking round to the other side of the car. He opened the door and got in.

"Tricky," Bodie added.


Bodie took a deep breath. "Right then, Batman, let's give it a whirl."

Crazy as it seemed, it still felt right to use the nicknames somehow...more and more in fact as time went on. It was almost second nature to Bodie by this time. Bodie knew why he did it too. Knew it was a way of using endearments without giving anything away...as close to open affection as he could come, for Bodie had long since admitted to himself that he was beginning to feel a great deal of affection for Ray Doyle. It was like calling a girl 'darling' or 'sweetheart,' only he couldn't do that with Doyle, so he had to make up other names instead. He wouldn't have done it of course if Doyle had acted like he minded...but he didn't seem to...took it all in his stride...

Bodie parked the car by the edge of the trees, making sure they had a decent view, but that it was also well hidden from the house.

"What happens now?" Doyle asked, obviously willing to take his lead from Bodie. Bodie realised, with some pride, that they really were working as a team. He'd believed himself incapable of it, but with Doyle it seemed anything was possible.

"We wait," he said smoothly, "for back-up to arrive. Cowley was very specific about that. No heroics."

Doyle sighed impatiently. "How long?"

Bodie shrugged, his attitude more philosophical than Doyle's. "Dunno. An hour or so he said. Get some rest. I'll watch first."

Doyle nodded reluctantly. "Yeah, OK." He curled up on the seat, not arguing. "Let me know when you want a break."

There was a blanket on the back seat of the car. Bodie paused, considered, then reached for it, and draped it as casually as he could over Doyle. Sentimental, he knew, but there was no clever comment from Doyle as he snuggled down underneath it.

Bodie knew he didn't mind the sitting, waiting, biding his time like this, half as much as Doyle did. In fact over the last few months he'd even begun to actively enjoy these times, when he was on watch and Doyle was sleeping by his side, and he could hear his deep, even breathing and feel his closeness.

After a few minutes he turned to look at Doyle, muffled up in the blanket. He was very definitely asleep, only his face and the curly head showing. Bodie smiled, openly studying him. Why not? There was no one there to see.

Doyle looked very young when he was asleep. A tiny frown line always appeared over the bridge of his nose though. It was there now, as Bodie had expected, as if a part of Doyle was still conscious and alert, waiting, ready to spring, even when he was asleep. Not for the first time, Bodie had the urge to put out a finger and smooth the frown line away. But he didn't. That wasn't on and he knew it...

It occurred to him he'd never felt such tenderness for anyone in the whole of his life, including all of the girls he'd known. Doyle seemed to have aroused the kind of feelings in him he hadn't even known he possessed. It just went to show...you were never as hardened as you thought...

It was deathly quiet - no sound from either the house or the woods. Bodie watched the shadows lengthen, and darkness fall, but he had no real difficulty in staying awake.

He'd been aware of an inexplicable tension in himself all day. Not the usual physical signs which warned of over tiredness. This was something else. A nagging apprehension at the back of his mind that something was wrong...or very soon would be.

He wasn't given to such musings as a rule and it irritated him, as did any sign of supposed weakness. And he had no worries about this particular job...no more than usual anyway...but the apprehension was still there...

He shrugged. At least it had one advantage. It was helping to keep him awake.

An hour later, though he was reluctant to disturb him, he leaned across to Doyle. He'd been going to tap him on the shoulder, but at the last moment changed his mind and ruffled his hair instead.

Any excuse...he thought, amused. But it was a special, secret pleasure of his, feeling that soft, thick hair against his hand.

Doyle came awake instantly, eyes darting open. He yawned and stretched, rubbing at his eyes. "What time is it?"

"Half six, give or take a few minutes," Bodie informed him.

Doyle looked outside. "Christ, over an hour already? No sign yet?"

"Nope. I radioed Cowley. They're on their way... insisted we don't go in alone. Too much at stake, he said."

"Typical," Doyle complained, shifting restlessly in his seat, "and while we're waiting, following orders, the bastards might just get away."

Bodie glanced across at him worriedly, took in the tension and frustration in the lean body. "Hey, calm down," he said softly, "they're still inside, OK? No problems. And Cowley's right. Too much for us to handle by ourselves and be sure of nabbing them."

"Yeah, but why does it have to be CI5 back-up?" Doyle said more heatedly. "What's wrong with straightforward police back-up for Christ's sake?"

"Oh, come on, Ray, don't be stupid. Country cops? They're not equipped to deal with this kind of situation," Bodie pointed out disparagingly. "Be more of a hindrance than a help."

"Yeah, OK, OK..." Doyle said, trying to regain control. "Just so bloody frustrating, that's all..."

He looked across at Bodie, managed a wan smile. "My turn anyway. Might as well take advantage of it," as he unselfconsciously tucked the blanket round Bodie instead. His hand accidentally grazed Bodie's as he did so. "You're cold."

"I'm OK," Bodie said dismissively, then, indicating the blanket, "How about you? Wanna share it?"

Doyle shook his head, still tucking it round him. "I'd drop off again."

It was very pleasant to be looked after like this, Bodie decided, not that he'd ever have admitted it to Doyle.

"Refusing to share my blanket, eh?" he said drily, going into his routine. "Not often I get turned down like this. You gonna make a habit of it?"

"You bet," Doyle assured him, used to this kind of patter. "Close your eyes and shut up, Bodie."

"Giving orders too," Bodie commented, but he was smiling, enjoying the playful teasing.

"Do as you're told," Doyle said bossily, moving back to his own seat. He looked over at Bodie, took in his cramped position behind the steering wheel. "You all right there? You haven't got much room. Wanna swap sides?"

His concern made Bodie feel curiously warm and pleasant inside. He wasn't used to anyone caring about his welfare in this way, tried to remember if in fact there had ever been anyone who had done so...certainly not his parents. They hadn't been able to get rid of him of him quick enough. No love lost there...that was the main reason he'd left home so early in the first place.

He continued to search his memory...no, apart from a couple of ex-girlfriends, and he didn't count them anyway, because they were just passing fancies, no, there hadn't been anyone, until Doyle came along...

Even so, his automatic response to Doyle's worried question was an irritable, "No, stop fussing, Ray."

He could have bitten his tongue off as soon as he'd said the words. But it was still so difficult sometimes. He wasn't used to having to deal with people on such a close personal level, for Christ's sake. He was out of practise, having been stuck in a succession of jungles for God knew how many years, where the only thing that mattered was surviving from one day to the next.

But he knew he'd hurt Doyle. He looked across at him, checking. Yeah, Doyle was offended all right. He covered the reaction quickly, but Bodie saw it.

"Thanks, anyway," he muttered awkwardly, trying to make amends.

No, it wasn't easy with Doyle at times. You had to be very careful with him. Bodie stored the incident away for future reference, determined not to hurt Doyle's feelings in that way again.

"Go to sleep," was all Doyle said, apparently mollified, eyes scanning outside the car.

Satisfied he was OK again, Bodie closed his eyes, but not intending to sleep. He was very pleasantly aware of the warmth of the blanket and Doyle's closeness and was relishing both, content merely to doze now and again. But he must have slept properly because he came round to find a warm hand on his shoulder, Doyle's insistent voice in his ear.

"Bodie...come on. Signs of life. Think they might be on their way. Just driven a car out of the garage...and gone back in the house leaving it running..."

Bodie had been trained to sleep wherever and whenever he could and to be instantly alert. If anything, Doyle's words made him come round even faster than usual.

"No back-up yet?"

"Nothing. Come on, mate...get a move on...gotta go in..."

It had to be a joint decision of course...but there was no doubt in Bodie's mind...

They moved quickly and quietly, and had reached the outer perimeter of the farmhouse within seconds. They split up, moving stealthily in a wide arc, joining up one each side of the front door.

The door presented no problem to an expert lock picker like Doyle, and once inside the hall all was quiet. But that was when the trouble started.

There were three doors to choose from - one ahead of them at the end of the hall and one on either side. Assuming the door at the end of the hall was the kitchen and the least likely to be occupied, they split up again, Bodie taking the right hand door, Doyle the left, nearest the stairs. But they were wrong. And, quiet as they were, they must have made some sound for the next moment, the door at the end of the hall opened a fraction. Neither of them saw it, and by the time they had and had each taken one of the two armed men behind the door, a third man on the landing had hit Bodie.

Doyle dodged under the stairs for cover to get at the man on the landing, and his aim was good, but by that time Bodie was sprawled on his back in the hall, a thick, red stain spreading through his sweater over his chest and stomach.

Doyle raced upstairs to check the rest of the house. As he flew down the stairs back into the hall he took one quick look at Bodie, yelled, "Hold on," and raced for the phone in the lounge.

He came tearing back within seconds, panting, and knelt at Bodie's side.

"Ambulance on its way," he said breathlessly, taking hold of Bodie's hand. It was ice cold and Bodie didn't seem able to grip his in return. Doyle warmed his hand in both his own for a second or two, then covered Bodie with an overcoat he'd snatched from the hall.

Bodie took it all in in a haze of agonising pain and shock. His vision was blurred, but he could see Doyle's face above him...concerned...caring...

He wanted to speak, to tell Doyle he'd had a funny feeling something like this might happen today, but it was so hard to make his lips move. There was something else too, more important than that. Christ, life was so unfair...why now...why at just this time in his life, when he finally had everything going for him...when he had Doyle.

The need was so desperate he finally managed to make the words come.

"Don't rush..." he said, labouring over each syllable, "Not gonna make it..."

Doyle didn't protest, and Bodie admired him for that...

He could feel Doyle tucking something round him, and experienced a weird sensation of deja vu, remembering it had been a blanket a while ago...

He tried to make his lips form Doyle's name...struggled to find his hand again, and finally succeeded, or rather Doyle succeeded in finding his. He knew Doyle was holding his hand hard because he could feel the reassuring, warm pressure, even though he couldn't return it.

"What, love?" Doyle said, seeing he was distressed, smoothing a hand over his forehead, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to use the endearment.

"Bloody stupid that..." Bodie whispered, with as much feeling as he could muster... "Shouldn't have done it...like a couple of amateurs."

Doyle's face swam into view very close to his own. "Yeah, I know," he said softly, "but don't think about it now. Don't try to talk."

Bodie was very cold. The pain, amazingly, wasn't too bad anymore, but there was a dark curtain visible in the back of his mind and it was getting closer with every second. He wondered if the fear had shown on his face, for the next minute Doyle had squatted on the floor by his side and put an arm under his shoulders, lifting his head a little.

"Not gonna move you," Doyle was saying very gently, "just lie still and let me see if I can hold you without making the bleeding worse."

A pair of strong arms went round Bodie, hugging him from behind and suddenly all of his fear was gone. So stupid to be afraid of dying when Ray was there. He managed to pillow his head in the warmth of Doyle's lap, and rested there contentedly, even though the pain was getting bad again.

Doyle was talking to him - soft, soothing words. He couldn't tell what he was saying, but it didn't matter...just hearing his voice was enough. He could see Doyle's face above him quite clearly now...very white and shaken, and his eyes were wet. It shocked him to think Doyle might care for him that much. It wasn't something he'd ever considered. He'd assumed it was all one-sided. He wanted to tell Doyle not to cry...wanted to tell him how pointless it was, but this time he couldn't make the words come, no matter how hard he tried.

He didn't want to lose Ray, that was for sure. The only thing that mattered was not to be parted from him. He'd fight to hold onto that. It was too precious to lose. He'd been searching for it all his life...he couldn't lose it now, could he, not when he'd just found it...

He came round to discover he was lying in bed, in a room which seemed to be filled with too much bright light. There was no pain - only a heavy dull weight in his chest, and terrible tiredness. There were voices in the distance, but he couldn't hear what they were saying, and there was something warm in his right hand.

He managed to half open his eyes and look down. It was another hand gripping his. Doyle's hand? Please God...

He looked up, trying to find Doyle's face, still not able to focus properly. But Doyle must have surmised his problem because Bodie heard his voice say, "It's OK. I'm here. Don't rush it."

He did as he was told and took his time and within seconds his vision cleared and he found Doyle's face easily. He was sitting by the bed, and Bodie was shocked when he saw him. He looked ill...his face gaunt, the soft eyes huge and black-circled in the white face, lines of tension round the mouth.

Doyle smiled shakily at him, and he tried to smile back, but didn't know if he'd succeeded or not. He didn't know if he could trust his voice either, his mouth was so dry, tongue feeling thick and clumsy.

"Hello, sunshine...you still here?" he tried to say. He could tell his voice was more of a croak than anything else, but Doyle seemed to understand because his smile widened. His eyes were wet again. That was a bad habit of Doyle's, Bodie decided. He'd have to get him out of it once he was feeling OK again.

"Knew I'd be all right," he went on, not caring anymore how he sounded, "didn't want to leave you."

"Is that a fact?" he heard Doyle say, with another shaky smile, his voice tight with emotion. "That's good, because I wasn't gonna let you go anyway," but his voice was very far away all at once, and Bodie couldn't keep his eyes open. He fought against the tiredness desperately. He couldn't feel Doyle's hand anymore, and he needed to feel it...

"Go to sleep," he heard Doyle say softly, very close to his ear. "I'll be here..."

Oh well, in that case, he thought sleepily...

He didn't resist any longer. He was tired anyway...

Doyle closed the curtains and switched on the table lamp, glancing over to the sofa where Bodie was sprawled untidily, a self-satisfied languorous smile playing over his face. That was surprising, because Bodie looked less than his usual suave self at the moment...hair ruffled, shirt unbuttoned, shoes off...Doyle knew he didn't look much better himself...his own curly hair in disarray, shirt long since discarded.

Bodie was looking...very sensual at the moment, Doyle had decided, the pale skin of his face and throat glowing in the half light, wide, moist lips slightly parted...and slightly swollen too. Doyle supposed he was to blame for that, and a twinge of erotic pleasure shot through him at the thought...

The picture the two of them presented amused Doyle no end. It was more than two months since the shooting and if anyone had told him then he'd ever find himself in this kind of situation with Bodie...well, he'd probably have done one of two things - either punched them on the nose or laughed in their face.

God, when he thought back to how he and Bodie had been at each other's throats when they'd first been teamed too...

He didn't know about himself, but Bodie had changed almost beyond recognition since then. He'd seemed such a cold, hard bastard at first, and so arrogant, with his bloody superior, ex-Army airs and graces about being a 'real man' doing a man's job. As if the police did nothing at all with their time for Christ's sake...

But Bodie had turned out OK in the end. Softened up a lot since those early days, and allowed Doyle to see that underneath the casual surface manner, he wasn't so sure of himself at all. Pretty vulnerable and insecure in fact. Bit of a kid when you got right down to it, and, like any child, needing a lot of love and reassurance, however much it might pretend otherwise. Doyle'd suspected as much since they'd had their fateful talk that night in the pub when he'd finally persuaded Bodie to have a try at making the partnership work. Even that early on Doyle'd sensed it'd be worthwhile if he could get through to Bodie. That was the night he'd finally realised there was more to Bodie than what showed on the surface too. Thank God, he'd been proved right as well. Bodie had gone on to show him just how right he'd been when they'd had that little set-to with Davis and his mob a couple of months ago...

Christ, that had been amazing. A revelation to Doyle...that Bodie should so openly and willingly risk his life for him. He'd been able to return the compliment since then...more than once...but even so...that first time it'd been Bodie who'd saved him, and Doyle never forgot things like that...

As for the shooting, God, that had been hard to take, to say the least. Bodie didn't know it, but they'd nearly lost him on the operating table - not once, but twice, and Doyle had felt so impotent, unable to do anything but sit and watch and wait and worry.

That'd been when it had finally dawned on him just how much his stubborn, perverse, infuriating partner meant to him. He'd been forced to consider the possibility of what it would be like not to have Bodie around anymore...not to have his aggravating arrogance and childlike humour, and his cool, biting cynicism, and his warmth and the reassuring security he offered...and the hundred and one other things about him Doyle had come to treasure.

Doyle knew he'd never felt for another man what he felt for Bodie. And strong as his feelings were, they didn't worry him. He knew he shouldn't feel like this about another man...that it should have worried him, but it didn't. Bodie was...just...Bodie, and he was different. The man had somehow succeeded in getting through to him and striking a responsive chord within him in a way no other person ever had.

Doyle had a sneaking suspicion George Cowley had a lot to answer for on that score. They were a matched pair, he and Bodie, and he was almost certain old George, with his uncanny eye for a good team, had no doubt realised it when he'd forced them together in the first place. They were, Doyle supposed, like two neighbouring pieces of a jigsaw puzzle...fitting together to make the perfect whole...needing each other that much...

He only knew that when Bodie had finally opened his eyes in that hospital bed and Doyle had known for sure he was gonna be OK...well, he'd found the whole thing more than a little overwhelming...

After that, of course, it had all started to get out of hand. A bit crazy in fact, and it was still like that now. But he'd had this irresistible urge to take care of Bodie all the time...

He knew he'd gone a bit overboard with it, but he'd sensed Bodie needed and deserved that kind of fuss anyway, however much he might protest. Doyle suspected it wasn't something Bodie had ever had too much of before...

And the wonder of it was that Bodie had actually seemed to give way and allowed him to look after him and make a fuss of him in the way he wanted. Doyle was amazed, knowing Bodie was so fiercely self-sufficient it wasn't something that could have come easily to him, ill as he was.

And the result of all that had been that here they were, at his flat, quite naturally and openly having spent the last few hours sitting, kissing and cuddling like a couple of kids...

Doyle knew it was ludicrous, almost beyond belief. He wasn't even sure how it had started. They'd just had a couple of glasses of wine, snuggled up together, and it had happened...

He couldn't remember which of them had initiated it either. On reflection probably both of them together, they seemed to be so perfectly attuned to each other tonight...

Not good for someone who was still technically convalescing, Doyle realised, but when the convalescent kept insisting on more, what could you do, except give way?

It was crazy. Here he was, virtually making love to another man and totally unperturbed by it. In a strange way, it was as if he'd been waiting for Bodie to come along all his life so he could do this with him...

They'd have to stop though. That was partly why he'd moved to switch the light on. They were both getting too turned on...

But even that didn't scare him...

He was still smiling to himself as he padded silently back to the sofa, Bodie opening sleepy, dark blue eyes as Doyle rejoined him.

"Want another drink?" Doyle asked.

Bodie shook his head.

Doyle's arms went round his waist, head back on its accustomed spot on his shoulder. "All very soppy this, isn't it?" he asked sleepily.

"Yeah, I should get shot more often," Bodie said, rubbing his cheek against Doyle's hair.

"Tempting fate, sunshine."

"Didn't know you were superstitious," Bodie said, looking down at him.

"I'm not...only where you're concerned."

"I see," Bodie said in his sexiest voice. "I'll have to remember that."

"Scared the life out of me," Doyle admitted.

"And me."

"Yeah, but you'd decided you were gonna be OK, remember?" Doyle accused. "I didn't know that."

"Well, we're certainly making up for lost time now," Bodie sighed. "And to think I couldn't stand the sight of you those first few weeks we were together. Now I can't get enough of you," as his hands stroked across Doyle's bare chest. "Furry little animal, aren't you?"

When Doyle's only response was an amused chuckle, he added, "I dunno Ray...all this kissing and cuddling. Quite degenerate...and me only just starting to get better too."

"Totally degenerate," Doyle agreed, lifting his head to kiss him.

"Interesting," Bodie said, when the kiss was over, with the air of a scientist conducting an experiment, "how many times would you say we've kissed tonight?"

"Dunno," Doyle replied, taking him seriously, thinking about it. "Seventy? Eighty?"

Bodie shook his head disparagingly. "Nah, more than that..."

"Think so?"

"Yeah, but let's see if we can make it an even thousand."

Doyle, co-operating, started giving him soft kisses all over his face and neck. Well, children had to be humoured now and again.


"Ray, for God's sake," Bodie protested weakly, when he could speak, "what're you trying to do to me? Stop, will you...can't take anymore...too much..."

"Oh, we can always do something about that," Doyle said impishly, stopping to look at him, not sure why he'd made the outrageous suggestion, only knowing that like everything else they'd done tonight, it seemed right somehow.

Bodie didn't seem to be overly perturbed by it either. His face didn't change expression anyway.

"Oh, can we now?" he asked in mock wariness, sounding very much in control of himself, but in reality hardly believing his ears. "You're very adventurous. That's a big step for two grown men to take, you know."

"Very big step," Doyle agreed neutrally. He paused. "We could always just lie in bed together and see what happens," he suggested innocently, knowing only how much he wanted this, praying Bodie might want it too.

"Yeah, we could do that I suppose," Bodie said, as if Doyle had just come up with a brilliant idea, but half afraid he might be dreaming and would wake up any second. When he'd speculated about sleeping with Doyle all those months ago, there was no way he could have imagined quite so sweet a prospect as this...Had he even though of Doyle as puritanical at one time? And now...Ray Doyle...ex-cop, partner, friends...and possible lover? It was too much to take in...

"I mean, nothing might happen," Doyle was saying just as innocently, shrugging, heavy lidded green eyes holding Bodie's.

Bodie pulled himself together as best he could. "Absolutely nothing," he agreed, sustaining the teasing mood, though his voice was less than steady. "Sure you know what you're doing here, Casanova?"

Doyle nodded at him confidently, smiling, added in the same tone, "And then again, something might..."

"It might..." Bodie said. "And I'll tell you something else...the way you kiss, I'm betting on it."

"That good, huh?"

"That good," Bodie assured him, taking another kiss to prove the point.

About twenty minutes later Bodie won his bet, a fact which surprised neither of them...

-- THE END --

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home