They had finished a strenuous 10 day assignment working an 18 hour day, split shift; together for 8-10 hours, the rest of the time spent in the company of Lewis and McCabe or Murphy and Stuart. The paper work had been completed, Baalbeck was under wraps and the rest of the organisation deported courtesy of H.M.G.

Now looking forward to spending some time with his partner under more relaxed circumstances, Doyle rang the bell to Bodie's flat as he let himself in.

"What, not ready yet? Thought you'd be all ready and raring to go," Ray said as Bodie put his head round the bathroom door, face all covered in shaving cream.

"Traffic; there'd been a pile up on the roundabout. Shan't be long, nearly finished, then all I have to do is shower and dress. Help yourself to a drink and make yourself at home," Bodie said as he went back to his ablutions.

Doyle poured himself a drink and before sinking down onto Bodie's new couch pushed the button on the hi-fi. Having taken a sip of his drink, he put it on the coffee table, then put his feet up on the end of the couch and lay back to enjoy the music. After a while he found it difficult to keep his eyes open; the combination of soft music and lighting, with an overly comfortable couch on an exhausted body and mind, wove their own spell and before Bodie was ready, Doyle was sound asleep.

"Sorry I've kept you waiting," said Bodie as he came into the lounge slipping his jacket on. "Decided where we're..." Bodie stopped when he saw Ray asleep, "...going?" he finished softly. "Ray?" A loud whisper. It received no reply. Bodie smiled to himself as he removed his jacket to lay it on the back of a chair. Then sinking down to the floor, his back supported by the couch, he reached for Ray's drink. As he sipped, he turned to look at his slumbering partner. The soft curls framing a hard face, sleep had not yet had the chance to relieve the pressure and tension of the last 10 days. He knew exactly how Ray felt; he had noticed the same hard lines as he shaved earlier. A night out on the tiles away from all thoughts of work was supposed to remedy that, put the sparkle back. Tomorrow would be soon enough for that now. It looked almost as if Ray was settled for the night.

Bodie finished the drink, then sat twirling the glass, lost in the tranquil atmosphere they had created.

Ray sighed in his sleep and let his hand fall from the couch to dangle mid-air. Bodie put down the glass and picked up the hand intending to place it comfortably across Ray's middle. Instead, he held it lightly between his own, having expected the hand to be relaxed as it had fallen; he was surprised to find how leaden it really was. Moving so he was more comfortable on the floor, he began to massage the hand, starting with the nails of each finger and working towards the wrist. After a few minutes, he felt the hand relax.

"Mmmm, that feels good." Bodie was surprised by Ray's sleepy voice. "No, don't stop. Mmm, sorry I nodded off, didn't mean to."

"Don't worry about it," Bodie said, continuing the massage. "You always get this tense?"

"Don't know, sometimes, never really noticed, but I can sure feel the difference now you've started that." Bodie had moved onto the other hand.

"Well, if you like," Bodie said tentatively, letting go of Doyle's hand, "I could give you a proper massage."

Ray looked up. Bodie was serious about the offer and if the sample he had just received was anything to go by, he knew it would be good. "Would you mind?"

"No." Bodie got up from the floor and held a hand out for Ray. "Bedroom and get stripped off. Oil or powder?" he asked, going into the bathroom.

"Don't know, don't mind, whatever you think best," Doyle called as he began to undress.

After a couple of minutes of looking through the bathroom cabinet and airing cupboard, Bodie found what he was looking for, then went through to the bedroom. Doyle had nearly finished undressing. Bodie put the bottle of oil on the bedside table, then folded the duvet over to the other side of the bed, laying a large bath towel over the exposed sheet to protect it from the oil. He threw a smaller towel at Doyle.

"That's to cover your modesty; I did say everything off. Then, on the towel, front side up." Bodie put the bedside lamps on, then turned out the main overhead light. When he came back, Doyle was waiting. Bodie sat on the edge of the bed, lifted Doyle's left hand and removed the watch before pouring a spot of oil onto the palm of his hand, rubbing his hands together to spread and warm the oil.

Starting again with each hand he worked his way up to each shoulder, then down the chest to each leg, ankle and finally the toes. It had been a slow journey; kneading and stretching tight knots of muscle, skimming and smoothing until they were completely relaxed. Conversation had been practically nil, the comfortable silence broken by Doyle's grunts and groans as Bodie found points of tension, and then given the final release to a sigh of pleasure.

Wiggling the last toe, Bodie told him to turn over. Ray was practically asleep again, heavy lidded eyes opening to confirm that Bodie had actually asked him to do something. At Bodie's nod, he turned, sighing and stretching. As he did so, he dropped the small towel on the floor.

"You all right?" Bodie asked as he started to work on the backs of the legs.

"Marvelous, feels marvelous," was his sleepy reply, followed by a huge yawn.

"Well, don't fall asleep," Bodie said, but of course by the time he had worked his way up to the neck and shoulders, Ray was sound asleep.

Momentarily disorientated, Ray Doyle woke up to discover he was pinned down by the weight of his partner's arm. Careful not to disturb him, he managed to slide out of bed and make his way to the bathroom. Coming back, he was pleased to see he hadn't woken Bodie; in fact, he hadn't moved. Glancing at the clock, Doyle was surprised it was so early, he felt as if he had had a good eight hours sleep. Then he remembered the massage and how wonderful it had felt. Smiling at the memory, he made to get back into bed, then paused. The digital clock gave enough light to see Bodie clearly. He was shocked to see the sad expression, almost as if he had been crying. It reminded him as he settled under the duvet, why he had suggested they go out last night. Bodie had changed over the past couple of months, nothing that most people around would notice, not even Cowley. Work-wise it was the same old Bodie. No, this was something Ray had noticed during time that they had spent together off duty. He'd almost missed it but for something one of the girls on a double date had said to him. Then, a lot of things fell into place and he'd made up his mind to help if he could.

Bodie gave too many people the impression he couldn't be hurt: that he was hard as nails, tough as old boots, nothing mattered. You had to get close to him, for Bodie to let it slip that he was hurt. Now he had made barriers so high, worked it out that if you only 'gave' to a relationship, that if you didn't 'take' anything, you wouldn't get hurt when it was taken away.

Doyle couldn't guess at how many times Bodie had been hurt, he only knew of three. The girl Krivas had killed in the time he had wished he could have said something more appropriate, but they had only just got their working relationship on an even keel and Bodie had closed the subject before he could.

Bodie turned over, then back again, a hand reaching out, resting lightly on Doyle's shoulder. Having reassured himself Ray was still there, the hand started to move away. Doyle stopped him, remembering that when he had woken up, Bodie's arm was lying across him.

'If only you could ask for this when you're awake, you know I'd help. I've told you often enough. Christ, when I finally caught up with you that night after Marikka had been killed...I tried and if I'd persisted more, I know I'd've got my head knocked off, but after that I think you would have given in and let me help. You're too stubborn for your own good.

'Then when you took up with Claire, I thought at last you had found someone that was right for you; six months together's a long time and she seemed to understand the odd hours that we have to work, no bother. You survived the crisis over the restaurant bombing. I can't understand why, if when she got out of hospital she was going to leave you, she kept you hanging on so long. Then just to move away, leaving only a letter for explanation...'

Bodie stirred, moving closer. Doyle could see he was looking more relaxed, the expression on his face softening as sleep was beginning to heal. Ray reached out and smoothed the cropped hair, settling to massage the back of the neck. Bodie moved nearer to rest his head on Doyle's shoulder.

'Maybe things will be better now, if I can get you to admit your need when you're awake.' And Doyle, too, drifted back to sleep.

-- THE END --

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