No-Limit Stakes


"'Escort Mr. Cordoba to the airport and report back here to me.'" Bodie repeated the words with disgust, in a voice carefully gauged not to carry to Cowley's ears. "Bloody hell. Do you know what that means?"

Doyle, walking beside him as they followed Cowley and Cordoba down the stairs, pursed his lips. "That you're about to lose half your paycheque trying to make it up to Melissa?"


Doyle looked at him in surprise. "What happened to Melissa?"

"There never was a Melissa, you berk," Bodie said with remembered grievance. "And don't think I've forgotten what happened when you met her, either." In the hallway before the door to Groveland Manor, Cordoba was in conversation with the Minister and Cowley, flanked by one of his bodyguards, Pablo Ortiz. Bodie and Doyle stopped a discreet distance away.

"Well, Melissa, Miranda, anyone could've made a mistake like that."

Bodie nodded in spurious agreement. "Oh, yes, mate, of course."

"Anyway, who was it told you not to make plans for this evening?"

"What about you and what's-her-name?" The group by the door was moving out of the house now, so Bodie urged Doyle forward.

"Melissa," Doyle supplied over his shoulder, grinning.

Bodie gave him an old-fashioned look and pushed Doyle through the doorway.

"Made my plans for tomorrow night, didn't I?" Doyle was evidently not bothered by the few extra steps he was required to take. "Well, you couldn't seriously expect to be free of this little job before then, could you?"

"Why not? The bloody summit ended last night." Bodie took a deep, appreciative breath of the fresh autumn air. A quick glance at the sky confirmed that the intermittent rain of the morning was gone. He saw Cowley and the Minister, still in animated discussion with Cordoba, at the side of the black Mercedes sedan. At this rate it would be another half hour before they'd be able to get on with it. Bodie settled into a comfortable stance next to the Capri, prepared to wait.

Beside him, Doyle leaned against the car in a familiar slouch. "Ah, but Cowley arranged for the use of this place through tonight. He wants to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape when the owners return tomorrow."

Bodie looked at his partner in horror. "Who's going to put it in tip-top shape?"

Doyle's smile was angelic.

Bodie moaned. "Don't tell me, just don't tell me. Ignorance is bliss."

"Cowley was most pleased to hear you'd volunteered for the duty," Doyle assured him.

"You what?"

"He even smiled benignly. Pity you missed it."

"And I suppose you're off for town when we drop Cordoba off?"

"Ah, no, not exactly." Doyle looked despondent.

Bodie rubbed his hands gleefully. "Hoist by your own petard, eh?"

"A slight miscalculation."

"Tut-tut. I'm disappointed in you, Raymond."

Doyle slanted a look at him. "Well, I couldn't abandon my partner when he's about to be cut adrift by his bird, now could I?"

Bodie crossed his arms. "She'll be back. Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

"Or the head softer."

Bodie smiled and watched a gesticulating Cordoba trying to make a point with the Minister. "So when did you find out about Cowley's schedule? Last I knew you were making plans with...Julie, that was her name!"

"Oh, those plans." The trace of guilt in Doyle's voice was more than enough to draw Bodie's attention. Doyle, catching the look being directed at him, shrugged. "When I broke the news to Julie she said that was it. She's tired of my work interfering, you know how it goes."

"The eternal cry of the CI5 agent, yes. Still, rather quick, wasn't it?"

Doyle shrugged again, his eyes on the group by the Mercedes. "Better this way, isn't it. Keep it simple and light, that's what you told me. No commitment."

Bodie looked away. "Yeah, so I did."

"Decided to take a page out of your book. 'A Thousand and One Ways to Keep the Birds Away,' that's what you should call it."

"Nah," Bodie disagreed promptly, "don't want to keep 'em away, mate." After a moment he continued, "Just make it clear what's on offer. No one gets hurt."

"Yeah." Doyle nodded, his eyes distant. "No involvement, no sentiment. No holding hands in the dark just for the comfort of it. That's what you said, after Ann."

"Good advice. You seem to have taken it to heart."

Doyle turned his head and met Bodie's eyes. "Oh, I have."

"Then why the guilt?"

Doyle's gaze lingered for a moment, then he turned back to watch Cowley. "Haven't quite acquired your skill for it, that's all."

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "It's not like you haven't done it before, Doyle. You've gone through the birds same as I have. Played the game."

"Yeah. Thought I was through with all that." Doyle's voice was bitter.

"Look," Bodie began roughly, but Doyle interrupted, the words coming quickly from him.

"No, you were right, Bodie. Absolutely. I'm much happier now. Just would've liked to have stayed with Julie a bit longer."

"She'll be back." Bodie allowed his eyes to roam over the profile presented to him. "Good looking lad like yourself, how could she resist?"

A smile creased Doyle's cheek. "I believe she's finding me very resistible."

Bodie leaned closer to his partner. "I have a suggestion for what we could do tomorrow night to help you along."

Doyle didn't turn. "Already have plans, weren't you listening?"

"The next night, then," Bodie said rapidly, before he could stop himself. "C'mon, mate, you know it'd be fun. Just you and me, and no one gets hurt."

Doyle shook his head. "Nah, wouldn't want to run the risk of forming a habit, would we?"

"Takes more than twice to do that, Doyle."

"Your count's off, it'd be three. And according to you, the birds are hooked after one night with you, sunshine."



Bodie turned away, suppressing irritation. "Yeah, okay, suit yourself, then."

"I shall."

Cowley's voice summoned them, and they moved forward to join the group by the Mercedes.

"Whose turn is it?" Doyle whispered.


"Bloody hell, are you sure?"

"Of course."

Doyle's muted groan went a long way to restoring Bodie's equanimity.

"If you two are quite ready," Cowley said dryly. "Mr. Cordoba has a plane to catch." He turned back to Cordoba once more. "They will look after you, Luis; I hope you have a pleasant flight."

"Thank you, George. Minister, it has been a most enjoyable few days. Your English countryside is much to be admired. I had no idea how pleasant it would be or I would have made a visit much sooner." Cordoba smiled at Cowley mischievously. "You, my friend, have been holding out on me."

"Oh now, I seem to recall telling you of the beauties of England," Cowley demurred.

"I do not believe it was the landscape you were speaking of, George. Now, which of these gentlemen will accompany me on the drive?"

Bodie read the expression in Doyle's eyes and controlled another grin. Mr. Cordoba, representative from Colombia, was a highly influential man, well respected at home and abroad, but he also had a fondness for conversation. Doyle would be riding in the Mercedes with Cordoba and his driver, while Bodie would be with the blessedly silent Ortiz in the Capri.

With the ease of many years' practice, Cowley had them sorted out and on the road within five minutes. Bodie kept the Capri close behind the other vehicle as they drove through the countryside. The roads were drying from the earlier rain, the sun's light fitful under the influence of fast-moving clouds. He could see Doyle quite clearly in the back seat of the Mercedes, a curly head turning from time to time in answer to remarks made to him by Cordoba.

Obtaining Luis Manuel Cordoba's presence at the summit had been a coup for Cowley, and was based on a friendship that dated back to Cowley's days in Spain. How the voluble Cordoba and the dour Scot had become such close friends was a source of constant, and libellous, speculation for the squad--but no one was any the wiser about it.

The small invitation-only summit on international terrorism had been a success, making even Cowley ebullient now that it had ended. The participants, experts on terrorism, wielded enough power in their home countries to effect real change in international agreements--provided the diplomats could be as easily convinced. Cordoba's insight and experience was with internal terrorism, based on drugs and greed rather than idealism. Which was worse? Terrorism in the name of ideals or terrorism in the name of commerce? It all came down to the same killing as far as Bodie could see.

CI5 had been in charge of security for the summit, along with an army contingent guarding the perimeter. After an initial sorting out of pecking order, Bodie had quite enjoyed working with the army again. It had reminded him of why he'd left in the first place, while providing endless opportunity for pointing out the superiority of the army to Doyle.

Doyle. Bodie's hands tightened on the wheel. His attention remained focused on the Mercedes, and on the light traffic and countryside around them, yet always in the back of his mind, following well-worn and circuitous paths, were thoughts of Doyle.

Stroppy, irritating bastard that he was. Just like Doyle to allow the sex one night and then refuse to repeat it. Why the hell did he put up with him? And why did he set himself up to be turned down by him? Again.

The Mercedes turned onto the road that would lead them to the main motorway, and woods replaced the fields on either side.

Right, no more offers. Doyle had made it clear that it had been a one-off, one night, nothing more. One night and one morning.

"Stupid bastard," Bodie muttered to himself, ignoring Ortiz's look of inquiry.

Doyle was back to his old self, Ann long forgotten. In fact, Doyle was better than before in some ways--less prone to moodiness when he switched birds. He should be glad. Bodie had never understood why Doyle had been prepared to make a commitment with Ann. He was better off without it, especially in their line of work. About time Doyle accepted that. And it only made sense, now, that they might turn to each other for pleasure. It had been good, very good--Doyle had certainly enjoyed it. Nothing had changed between them because of that night. Nothing except that he remembered the feel of Ray Doyle on heat, and wanted to experience it again. And why shouldn't he? What was Doyle afraid of?

Scanning the road ahead, Bodie saw a blue car stopped along the right side of the road, and a white lorry approaching down a lane perpendicular to the roadway, also on the right. It had been nearly two months; surely Doyle could see nothing had changed.

Ortiz's cry coincided with his own recognition of danger as the lorry came full tilt at them from the lane. His instinctive acceleration was all that saved them from a full side crash as the lorry nipped the back end of the Capri. Bodie hung on as the Capri swung around, coming to a stop with the front end angled toward the same lane the lorry had come from. For a second Bodie sat there, dimly aware that the lorry, too, had stopped, half-off the road next to them. Then he turned to look for the Mercedes, saw it stopped along the side of the road, and saw Doyle lunge at Cordoba's driver.

"Down!" he shouted to Ortiz, pushing at the man as automatic gunfire broke out and the Capri's windows shattered. It sounded like an entire army regiment was firing on them. Bodie grabbed the Ingram from beneath his seat and fired through the empty windows at movement in the woods, ahead on his right. Beside him, Ortiz used the butt of his gun to break through the remaining glass. Bodie flattened himself, cursing, as bullets struck the car just over his head from the direction of the lorry. Then he heard Ortiz's gun barking from beside him. Bodie twisted around and saw that the driver of the lorry was no longer a factor. Ortiz and he shared a grim smile.

That left the unknown gunmen in the woods, behind the blue car, who were firing on the Mercedes. Bodie, with Ortiz following, eased out of the Capri, using the car for cover. They set down a firing pattern into the trees, pushing the gunmen to duck behind the blue car, and keeping them from another attack on the Mercedes. To Bodie's right were the attackers; to his left was an empty meadow before the trees closed in again where the road curved. At this angle, with the Capri for cover, they could protect the Mercedes until help arrived. While Ortiz kept up the pressure, Bodie reached for the radio in the Capri.

"3.7 to base. 3.7 to base, come in."

"Base, 3.7." It was Murphy's voice.

"We're under attack, pinned down on Wendover Lane. Can't see anyone in the Mercedes." A sudden spray of bullets from the woods forced him down beside the Capri. "We need backup, now!"

"On our way, base out."

Bodie dropped the radio and fired into the woods. All was quiet from the black car--too quiet. Bodie pushed the thought from his head as he reloaded and then fired into the woods again. He was grateful for the presence of the Ingram.

No one was in the meadow next to the Mercedes, but the trees at the curve weren't far away. It wouldn't be difficult for one of the attackers to make his way through the woods, cross at the curve, and come up on the other side of the Mercedes. Where the fuck was Doyle?

On the thought, Bodie found himself running, firing the Ingram in a sustained burst that he knew would only last 2.6 seconds, not enough time to reach the Mercedes. But with Ortiz's help, he'd make it, he had to make it--

He slid to cover beside the flattened rear left tyre of the Mercedes as bullets pelted the ground behind him. "Doyle!" he shouted as he jerked out the empty magazine from the Ingram. Movement caught his attention and he looked up to see a man on the edge of the meadow, his rifle coming into line to fire. He'd been right was Bodie's only thought as he stared at his death, his hands still smoothly moving to fit the new magazine into the Ingram. No time.

And then he was nearly deafened by the sound of Doyle's Walther close above his head, and watched as the man with the rifle fell. Bodie slid the magazine home.

From behind him gunfire broke out again from the woods, and he curled closer to the shelter of the Mercedes. He heard Doyle cursing above him, and grinned into the side of the Mercedes, exultant.

When the gunfire stopped, Bodie raised himself up and sent off another round over the back of the Mercedes, towards the blue car. He saw Ortiz doing the same from behind the Capri. His own bullets found a target as one of the attackers misjudged the angle of protection.

Silence fell, a hush as everyone paused to reassess. Then the rear door of the Mercedes opened and Doyle slipped out. A bloody, angry Doyle.

"Check him out," Doyle said shortly as he settled next to Bodie, steadying the Walther.

Bodie ran to the man Doyle had shot, and found he was no longer a threat to anyone. Seeing no others in the near vicinity, Bodie retrieved the rifle and returned to Doyle.

"They didn't think far enough ahead," he told his partner.

Doyle nodded. "Cowley would've sent more than one there."

"That's why we've an advantage. How's Cordoba?"

"Alive. His driver's not so lucky. He was one of them. That leaves those others over there," Doyle added.

"They've been quiet as mice for three minutes now."

"Might be waiting to trap a cat."

"Cats are smarter than mice. C'mon, kitten, help me to put on a show." Bodie eased forward along the Mercedes' side.

Doyle's hand grabbed hold of him, hard. "It's my turn."

Bodie looked at him. "Not anymore. Not with that blood dripping down your arm."

Doyle shrugged. "Crease."

"Keep me covered, Raymond." Bodie moved to the front of the Mercedes. He heard Doyle swear, and saw him signal their intent to Ortiz.

"Ready," Doyle said in a flat voice.

"Now." Bodie sprinted across the road to the woods.

Gunfire. So the bastards had been playing dead. Bodie ran, trusting in his luck and in Doyle. He heard a cry from the direction of the attackers and then he was safely into the woods, behind the protection of a tree. Silence again. Bodie moved through the woods, carefully. He came upon the attackers within minutes, all of them dead, or looking like it. He signalled to Doyle, and waited with cover between him and the gunmen, keeping the Ingram on them. Within minutes Doyle was beside him.

"Cover me," Doyle said, moving toward the attackers. There were three of them sprawled next to their guns; six altogether, counting Cordoba's driver. Bodie watched them carefully as Doyle moved forward. If there was even a twitch...but there was nothing, and Doyle began collecting the guns. Bodie joined him.

"Where's Ortiz?"

"Went to check on Cordoba." Doyle handed one of the Uzis to Bodie, holding on to two himself.

Bodie reached out to gently grip Doyle's left arm, peering at the wound he could see through the torn jacket and shirt. "You sure this is just a crease?"

Doyle pulled his arm out of Bodie's grasp and started walking back to the road. "Yeah. Now you can tell me what the hell you think you were doing back there." His voice hadn't risen, but the anger was clear.

Bodie sighed. "Leave it, Doyle. They sent a man around, your back wasn't protected."

Doyle glared at Bodie. "Didn't you think I'd thought of that?"

"I didn't know what to think, didn't hear anything from the car, did I? Anyway, what does it matter now?"

"You know as well as I do that your best bet was to stay with the Capri. You radioed Cowley didn't you? There was no fucking need for you to come up like that."

They were approaching the car, where Ortiz was helping a shaken Cordoba out of the Mercedes. "Yeah, well, I called it like I saw it." Bodie heard the defensiveness in his voice. It was over and they were alive; why couldn't Doyle be content with that?

Doyle stopped walking. "You'd have been dead if I hadn't been there."

Bodie turned back to Doyle. "Lucky for me you were there, then."

Doyle's face was expressionless, but his eyes flickered, then raked over Bodie. "Yeah, lucky you." He moved forward, stalking past Bodie to the waiting Ortiz and Cordoba. He spoke in an altogether different voice to the Colombian official. "Are you all right, sir? Not injured?"

Cordoba smiled a little. "No, I am well, thanks to you, Mr. Doyle. You and your partner and Pablo."

Bodie turned back to the Capri, leaving Ortiz and Cordoba with Doyle. He reported in to Cowley, receiving the order to stay put until reinforcements arrived. Surveying the damage to the Capri and the Mercedes, Bodie replied that they wouldn't be travelling anywhere soon.

"Aye, I gathered as much," Cowley said tartly. "You'll no doubt be pleased to know that your situation has also been reported by several motorists. We should arrive within five minutes. Alpha out." Bodie thought back and realised he had seen a couple of cars on the periphery during the fight. At the time he'd just been grateful that they had retreated quickly.

He returned to the Mercedes where Cordoba was sitting on the back seat again, with the door open, while Ortiz dragged the body of the driver away.

Doyle was examining the rifle Bodie had retrieved from the sniper. He looked up as Bodie approached, then showed him a cartridge from the rifle. "Incendiary. Would've gone up like a torch if he'd reached the petrol tank." His eyes, wide and too clear, were on Bodie. "I doubt I'd have stopped his first shot, without you being there."

Bodie resisted an urge to touch him. "Lucky for you I was there, then."

"Yeah, lucky me." Doyle tossed the rifle to Bodie and turned away to talk to Cordoba.

With meticulous care, Bodie placed the rifle with the other collected guns. Sirens had been growing steadily louder and soon there were two police cars, Cowley's car, and an ambulance all vying for room in the same stretch of roadway. Cowley limped over to Cordoba immediately, followed by Murphy, who stationed himself next to Bodie.

"Are you all right Luis? Is any of that blood yours?" Cowley leaned down to speak to Cordoba.

"No, my friend. Thanks to the quick wits of your agents, I am fine." He nodded at Doyle. "He saved my life in the car, and he," he gestured towards Bodie, "apparently kept me from a fiery death. I am most grateful."

"Aye, as are we all." Cowley straightened and motioned for Bodie and Doyle to approach. "Report."

Doyle spoke first. "Not much to it, sir. The driver was in on it. When the lorry crashed into Bodie, the driver stopped the car, naturally enough. But instead of moving on when I told him to, he reached for a gun. He attempted to ensure Mr. Cordoba's death. I stopped him."

Cordoba added his own words to Doyle's. "He deflected Juan's aim, causing injury to himself before he was able to fire his own gun. He shoved me to the floor and, with Juan dead, protected me from the terrorists with his own body. The blood I have on me is his."

"Injured, Doyle?"

"A crease, sir, nothing more."

"Nevertheless you will have it attended to." He signalled to one of the ambulance crew.

While Doyle was being led away to the ambulance, Bodie gave his own report to Cowley.

"Well done," Cowley commended him afterwards. "Your methods may be questionable, but the results are more than satisfactory. You and Murphy will now accompany Mr. Cordoba to the airport, in my car. He still has an aeroplane to catch."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you, George. It seems I am always in your debt, does it not?"

A genuine smile lit Cowley's face. "I would prefer that it remain so, Luis." He escorted Cordoba and Ortiz to the car, with Bodie and Murphy trailing behind. Bodie glanced over at Doyle and indicated the situation to him. Doyle nodded, then grimaced as the medic cleaned his wound.

Bodie won the coin toss and settled behind the wheel of Cowley's car, with Murphy beside him. Ortiz and Cordoba would ride in back.

Cowley said a cordial goodbye to Cordoba, then turned a baleful glare on Bodie. "Don't bring my car back looking like these two."

There were no further incidents on the way to the airport, and it was with some relief that Bodie saw the last of Cordoba and Ortiz at the airport security check. With the adrenaline ebbing in his blood, he was aware of a feeling of depression settling on him--typical after brief and furious action, he told himself. It had nothing to do with Doyle.

"Looks like the rain's coming back," Murphy commented as they started back from Heathrow.

Bodie murmured an agreement and wondered if Cowley had sent Doyle back to London.

"Convenient of it to clear up for the shoot-out," Murphy said. Bodie nodded. Sighing, Murphy settled into silence, gazing out of the window, and leaving Bodie to his thoughts.

They centred on Doyle. Bodie remembered how it had started that night, between Doyle and him. The two of them had been stretched out side-by-side on the settee, watching a game, drinking beer and making rude remarks about each other's teams. Doyle had grown progressively more silent, retreating into himself as he'd been in the habit of doing ever since Ann had left him. Tired of hearing about Ann, knowing that was what was causing Doyle's depression even when he didn't speak her name, Bodie had finally asked him what he'd hoped for from her.

"Hoped for?" Doyle had repeated, with a derisive laugh, disturbing the beer can resting on his stomach.

"Yeah, hoped for. Longings? Dreams? Aspirations?"

"Yeah, I get you. Well, sex, for one."

Bodie had grunted and finished off his own beer. "Have plenty of that, with or without her."

"She was good," Doyle had protested.

"Lots of 'em around, mate. Anything else?"

"What else do you need?"

"You tell me."

"All right. Love," Doyle had admitted, hand tightening on the can.

"Meaning what?"


"Meaning what? What's love?"

"What is this, twenty questions?"

"Yes. Answer the question--there's a good lad."

"Well, companionship. Someone there for you. Sex too, of course."

"You have that right here, without all the complications." And when Doyle had looked at him, Bodie had reached out, running his hand down Doyle's chest to his groin, his intentions clear. Doyle, without a word, had placed his beer on the side table.

He had started it, Bodie acknowledged, but Doyle had participated fully, had responded as if starved for touch. And it had been Doyle who had led them to his bed.

Bodie, remembering the touch of a caressing hand, shivered.

"What do you plan to do with your week off, then?" he asked Murphy abruptly. Murphy stirred and answered and they debated the best climbing sites in England and France for the rest of the journey.

They arrived back at Groveland Manor to find it swarming with activity. All of the security precautions and devices were being dismantled by teams of army and CI5 personnel. The owners would return to a Groveland unmarked by its use as the meeting place of the summit.

They parked Cowley's car by the side of the small guest house that had been the headquarters of the joint security operation. The remaining men would spend the night there, sleeping in the large main room. The guest house had once been the stables for the manor, but thirty years ago the owner at the time had had them converted to a guest house, with a fully functional kitchen, two bedrooms, and the main room. It was still a scandal for the surrounding countryside. "Poor bloke fled to Australia," Murphy had told them.

Cowley, along with Major Garnett, was overseeing the security clean-up. He sent Bodie to find Sergeant Betton, who was working on the perimeter of the house, while Murphy was sent inside to find Doyle. Having been told what he needed to know, Bodie went to find Sergeant Betton without further comment.

He liked Betton; he reminded him of the best of the sergeants he had worked with in both the Paras and the SAS. He knew his job, knew his men, and he had them working at a high standard. For the next hour Bodie worked alongside Betton, removing wires, testing equipment, and checking on the work of a couple of the younger soldiers.

"Another bloody night in sleeping bags, you realise," Betton said as they watched young Benedict climb the trellis to the roof, seeking the wires running along one of the chimneys.

"I've slept in worse places."

"Yes, on manoeuvres, or when necessary, but there's a whole bleeding house going begging for occupants tonight. Why are we stuck out here?"

Bodie turned shocked eyes on Betton. "Don't want to make extra work for the servants, do we?"

"Yes, we do."

Bodie grinned but said nothing. They watched as Benedict struggled on the roof. "Training's got a bit lax when it comes to climbing, has it?"

Betton didn't answer that, but he sent young Glancey up to retrieve and assist Benedict.

"Heard about what you and Doyle did on the road," Betton said.


"Yeah. He's an obnoxious bastard, your partner, but he knows his job, doesn't he?"

"Took a while, but I managed to train him."

Betton snorted. "Must've been quite a task. He's good, though."

"CI5 doesn't hire incompetents."

"He's still obnoxious."

Bodie, well aware of Doyle's habit of calling every army man "corporal," regardless of rank, smiled. "Makes the job interesting," he said.

Betton turned his head at that, giving Bodie an assessing look. "Can see how well you work together. Good partnership." Then he turned back to Glancey and Benedict on the roof. "It's the chimney on your right, lads!"

Bodie continued to watch the two young men searching the maze of chimneys. Good partners. Yes. Doyle's voice flitted through his head: "Partners in everything now." Bodie blinked, frowned, and shouted to Glancey to watch his bloody footing before he fell from the roof.

The sun was setting, and the rain beginning to fall again, as they completed the clean-up and reported back to the guest house. In the corridor between the side door and the kitchen, they removed their jackets, and carefully wiped their shoes--all too aware who would be cleaning the mud off the floor tomorrow. They filed into the kitchen to find tea waiting. Bodie snagged three of the prepared sandwiches, a can of beer, and the last of the crisps--much to Benedict's vocal dismay.

"Rank and all that, my son," Bodie said cheerfully, then followed the sound of voices to the main room. He entered it to find the rest of the army contingent and CI5 agents milling about, eating and drinking, some of them already on their after-dinner smokes. In the far corner, Cowley and Garnett sat before a chess board, intent on their game, ignoring the hum of conversation around them with practised ease.

A quick recce of the room revealed Doyle leaning against the wall next to the fireplace, in conversation with Murphy. Doyle had changed his bloodied clothes, and was dressed now in jeans and a beige shirt, sleeves rolled up as usual on his arms. Bodie detected the slight bulge of a bandage on the left arm. He began to edge his way to his partner, then Doyle raised his head and looked at him. Bodie felt the impact of that look all the way to his groin, and altered his course away from Doyle, nearly dropping his sandwiches. Bloody hell, what was Doyle doing looking at him like that here?

"Oi, Bodie," McCabe waylaid him, a sceptical-looking Glancey by his side. "Explain to the lad here that Liverpool hasn't a chance."

"Don't listen to him," Bodie advised Glancey. "He hasn't been right in his head since he was idiot enough to tumble off a roof a month ago." A furtive look found that Doyle had turned back to his conversation with Murphy. All his imagination, that look. Must have been.

"You pushed me, you bastard," McCabe protested to Bodie.

"We were being shot at," Bodie reminded him, taking a bite out of his sandwich.

"Would rather have taken my chances with the shooter than that dog we disturbed in the garden."

"Who, Pumpkin? Nice dog, wasn't he?"

"He bit me."

"Excellent taste."

"All he did was laugh," an aggrieved McCabe told Glancey. "Some partner. Don't know how Doyle puts up with you, mate."

Bodie grinned. "Saved you from the sniper, didn't I?"

"It's like Doyle says, you need a keeper."

Bodie's eyes flickered to Doyle, still safely engaged by Murphy, and back. "Lucky I have one then, isn't it? Saved my skin today--and his." But the picture that formed in his mind wasn't of the road and the fear of death; it was of a body entwined with his, held close in his arms. Bodie's eyes were drawn back across the room, to find Doyle staring at him, his face enigmatic. Dammit. Bodie swallowed and turned back to McCabe and Glancey. Benedict had joined the group as well, along with one of the other army men, Tubbin.

"We've been meaning to ask you something," Glancey said, after a nudge from Benedict.

"And what's that, my lad?" McCabe asked, attempting to snatch one of Bodie's remaining sandwiches and getting his hand slapped.

"Well, you have, um, female agents in CI5, don't you?"

McCabe smiled. "Ah, do we ever, and beautiful every one of them."

"Did someone mention birds?" Anson joined the group, cigar in hand.

"Of the agent variety," McCabe told him, pushing the cigar away.

"Oh, my beautiful Susan," Anson rhapsodised. "Saved my life once, she did."

McCabe groaned. "Now see what you've done," he complained to Benedict. "We've heard this," he said more forcefully to Anson.

Anson ignored him. "Beautiful she was, like a tigress, and when she came upon me, fallen in the line of duty, tears sprang to her eyes." McCabe made a sceptical noise, while Bodie noticed that Doyle and Murphy were approaching the group now. He concentrated on Anson. "She leaned over me, checked to see if I was still breathing, and placed those luscious, beautiful lips--"

"--Right next to your ear and said, loudly enough for us all to hear, that you were a manipulative, evil-smelling bastard, and she'd deball you if you ever tried that again," Murphy said. He observed McCabe's grin of delight and Anson's look of chagrin. "I was there, remember."

"But," Benedict interrupted McCabe's snicker, "can you really work with a bird? I wouldn't want one guarding my back."

"Don't underestimate them," Murphy said. "They hold up their end. I'd rather work with Susan than a couple of the men we've had on the squad. Real nutters, some of them."

"CI5 attracts them," Tubbin muttered.

Benedict was doubtful. "But what about...I mean isn't it natural...that is...." He sent a rather hunted look toward the corner where Cowley and Major Garnett were concentrating on destroying each other.

"What?" Murphy asked with a grin. "Speak up, lad!"

"Relations," Bodie supplied helpfully. "Fornication. In the vernacular, fucking."

"Falling in love," Benedict said loudly, earning an inquiring look from his major. He blushed.

"It doesn't happen." Doyle's voice interrupted the laughter. Bodie looked across at his partner and found piercing green eyes on his. "Love and work don't mix. I've been told that on good authority." The muscles in Bodie's stomach tightened sharply, but he didn't look away.

Benedict seemed unconvinced. "But, what if it does?"

Doyle glanced at him. "You don't allow it to happen, son." And with a last knowing look at Bodie, he sauntered away to observe the chess game.

"Unless you're very, very discreet," Anson amended, looking smug.

Murphy rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Lothario, I came over to see about starting up a poker game." Anson's eyes lit with pleasure. "Yes, I knew you'd be thrilled. How about it, Bodie?"

Bodie, who had allowed his attention to wander Doyle's way, blinked and looked back at Murphy. "Yes. By all means."

Six of them sat down to cards: Murphy, Bodie, and Anson for CI5; Benedict, Betton, and Tubbin for the army. Immediately side bets were placed over whether the army or the CI5 men would fare better as a group.

Bodie accepted his cards and put in his bet for the first round mechanically, too aware of Doyle settling in to read on one of the settees near the fireplace. His senses were alive to Doyle's every movement. It felt as if Doyle was watching him, yet every time he glanced that way Doyle was absorbed in his book. Love and work don't mix; yeah, he'd said that to Doyle. He'd been talking about Ann. Hadn't he?

"How many do you want, Bodie?" Anson's voice was a shade impatient.


"Right, two to the ever-vigilant merc. Betton?"

"Merc?" Benedict asked.

"Don't ask," Murphy said. "He doesn't like to talk about it. Very unpredictable. Remember what I said about nutters?"

"Three," Betton replied to Anson, with a sigh.

Bodie remembered that morning after, waking to find Doyle held fast in his arms, and watching him. Doyle had obviously wanted to talk, and Bodie, fearing a session of Doyle self-analysis, had begun an assault on his senses designed to distract. It hadn't been much of a battle, Doyle soon arching into Bodie's mouth, surrendering to their mutual satisfaction.

"I'm out," Benedict said with a sigh, folding his cards together. Bodie raised when it was his turn to bet.

Doyle had banned the idea of a repeat. Had cut off Bodie's suggestions with a curt, "It won't happen again." He recalled the smell of frying bacon, and the feel of Doyle as he slid his arms around his waist, only to be shrugged off.

"Full house," Anson said with disgust, pushing money towards Bodie. "Would you believe it?"

Bodie won, and he continued to win. Wasn't there an adage about that, being lucky at cards? He cut off that line of thought.

Cowley and Garnett finished their match in a draw, each congratulating the other with perfect civility, each clearly believing it was a fluke. They retired to their respective bedrooms, after leaving the order for each group to be prepared for the final cleanup at 5:30. The air above the card table grew increasingly hazy and blue with unfettered conversation.

Doyle wandered from the settee to the window, standing with his hands in his back pockets, gazing at the darkness without. Bodie couldn't keep himself from watching him, wanting him, paying little attention to the game. He lost.

Doyle turned back to the card table, his movement abrupt. "Rain's cleared," he said to the group at large, but his eyes were on Bodie. "I'm going to the kitchen for a beer, want one, mate?"

Bodie placed his cards down. "Deal me out. I'll join you, Doyle."

"Just like a CI5 man to leave while he's ahead, and as his luck's changing." Betton picked up the cards and shuffled.

"Mum always told me not to be selfish," Bodie said. "Maybe now the rest of you will have a chance."

"Deal already," said Anson. "Goodbye, Bodie."

"I'll miss you, lads, and your money." Bodie pocketed his profits and followed Doyle to the kitchen.

Bodie closed the door behind them, expecting Doyle to turn, but he continued walking forward, passing the refrigerator, and opening the door to the corridor beyond. Bodie followed, and closed that door as well, leaning back against it. The corridor was dark, lit only by the moonlight, as fitful as the sun had been all day. The smell of the rain and drying cloth permeated the air. Bodie waited.

Doyle came to him, stopping directly in front of him, close. Bodie's skin prickled, his nerves reacting to Doyle's presence and his own thoughts, but still he waited. It was Doyle's move.

Suddenly reaching for him, Doyle began unfastening Bodie's trousers, pushing the poloneck up with urgent fingers.

Bodie co-operated, pushing his pelvis into firmer contact with Doyle's hand as his own left hand sought Doyle's body, moving in an ungentle caress down to his genitals, feeling the heat of him through the material of his jeans. Bodie's right hand began working on Doyle's shirt buttons. Desire surged within him.

"Is this what you want?" Bodie whispered in a rough voice. "Is this what it's all been about tonight?" He pulled sharply on the buttons, and squeezed at the heat under Doyle's jeans. "You said no."

Bodie's mouth fastened on one of the nipples he had revealed and Doyle moaned, throwing his head back as his arms locked around Bodie's waist, pulling them closer together. "Yeah. I want it. Want you." There was resentment in Doyle's voice, and Bodie, gentling his touch, stroked the confined cock--eliciting a curse that spoke only of urgency. He pushed Doyle back step by step until he was against the wall of the corridor.

In short order, Bodie had the button of Doyle's jeans undone and the zip lowered, and he pushed the material away, jeans and pants alike. No word was spoken, no sound but their harsh breathing as Bodie left Doyle's chest and kneeled in front of him, taking his engorged cock into his mouth. Above him, Doyle hissed and his pelvis moved forward in reaction, his hands curling into Bodie's hair, clutching.

Bodie sucked, stroked with his tongue, and sucked again, one hand at the base of Doyle's cock, the other pushing the jeans down further, caressing, touching Doyle's balls and then seeking his arse, that tantalising bit of flesh and the entrance he wanted to explore. Would explore. The feel of him in his hands was just as he remembered. Better.

It didn't take long. Somewhere in Bodie's mind it registered that Doyle had to have been as much on heat as he, in order to come so quickly and so explosively. But most of his attention was on swallowing, on drawing every drop from Doyle, on holding on to the quivering form, easing the way as Doyle slid down the wall.

They were still for a short time, Doyle's knees drawn up, head flung back against the wall, eyes closed; and Bodie kneeling before him, feeling his own driving need, yet nevertheless content to savour the moment. Finally Bodie reached for his trousers, freed his own cock. Doyle's eyes opened at the sound, gleaming in the murky light, and drawing him like beacons. "C'mere," Doyle ordered, his voice ragged.

Bodie raised himself up, straddling Doyle, and placed his hands on either side of Doyle's head. He moved his cock towards the mouth he so wanted to feel on him. Just short of penetration he stopped, breathing heavily with his blood pounding in his veins, waiting. There was a pause, and then Doyle's mouth opened and he took Bodie within him, accepted him, sucked him. Doyle's hands went to Bodie's arse, caressed, and Bodie, with no more than that, came.

Doyle swallowed it all, all of him, touching and stroking all the while, enhancing every sensation. It was with reluctance that Bodie slipped away when the shudders ceased. His breathing still uneven, he stared at the dark shape that was Doyle. They said nothing, but he sensed Doyle's tension and heard the quick breaths that didn't settle. The moment lengthened, hung, and the expression on Doyle's face that formed before Bodie's mind's eye was from that morning, on the road, when he'd told Bodie of the incendiary bullets. With a moan he could not control, Bodie leaned forward and fastened his lips on Doyle's. There was no hesitation; Doyle's mouth opened under his and Bodie's tongue pushed inside, claiming possession even as he surrendered. Too quickly, Doyle pulled away, leaving Bodie gasping.

"You win." Doyle's voice grated. "I'm hooked. A fish on your string, just like everyone else. I've no defence against you."

Fluctuating moonlight played across the corridor, changing features, too-easily deceiving. But Bodie knew what he would see, even under the glare of an interrogation lamp. He had seen it before--that morning, two months ago, when he had forced Doyle to be silent, and Doyle had succumbed to his lovemaking. The despair in green eyes then was a match to his voice now. He'd won? Bodie's breath caught in his throat.

The sound of voices in the kitchen broke the moment and pushed them apart, sending them scrambling to their feet, straightening clothing.

A moment later, the door from the kitchen opened and Benedict peered out at them, a little doubtfully. "Oi," he said, "wondered what had happened to you."

"Checking the perimeter," Bodie said, too heartily, and pushed past Benedict into the kitchen. "How's the game?"

"Winding down," Glancey answered him. He jerked a thumb at Benedict, "He's already lost it all, and I think the rest are soon to follow." Benedict ignored him, rummaging in the fridge for a couple of beers.

"Who's winning now?" Doyle asked, his voice normal to Bodie's ears, but his eyes, his eyes were hard, and devoid of expression. Nothing remained of what had filled them, and frightened Bodie, months ago. Nothing.

"Sergeant Betton. Your Anson was glaring at him when we left."

"Ah, best go see to keeping the peace then," Bodie said with forced brightness, moving quickly to the kitchen door, away from Doyle.

"Yes, but they still want to hang you," Glancey objected, following.

"Thought you came for some beer?" Benedict asked Doyle as they trailed behind.

"Drank it outside. Goes well together, beer and moonlight."

"If you say so, mate."

When they arrived back at the main room it was to find it as Glancey and Benedict had said. A few of the sleeping bags had already been spread on the floor. Doyle went to grab his own bag, while Bodie strolled over to the table to observe the last hand of the poker game, and tried not to think of what had happened in the kitchen corridor.

Futile hope. He wanted it to happen again. Often. He wanted to fuck Doyle, and by god, he wanted to be fucked by him. To hell with consequences or commitments.

"Come to let us gain our losses back?" It was Betton speaking to him. Bodie focused on him.

"Seems to me you did quite well without me." He glanced at Murphy and Anson. "And what do you two have to say for yourselves, eh?"

"It's part of the qualifications for making sergeant, isn't it?" Murphy asked mournfully. He nudged Anson. "We've been conned, mate."

"It's all right," Anson replied, blowing a smoke ring from his cigar. "We'll make him pay."

The poker game broke up and Bodie went to the loo for a piss and a sketchy clean up.

He'd kissed Doyle. This time he had been the one to seek that comfort, that closeness. He'd wanted it as much as he'd wanted the sex, more even. He wanted to find Doyle and do it again. Forever. Christ, he was a fool.

Bodie stared into his own eyes in the mirror above the sink. With painful clarity he relived that morning in Doyle's bed, when Doyle had wanted to talk, and when Doyle had sought to kiss him, and he had allowed it, but hadn't responded. He'd moved to overwhelm Doyle with sensation, to alter the kiss to sex, to stop the flow of words welling within Doyle.

That morning, it hadn't been Doyle who'd refused to acknowledge the truth. Oh no.


He'd fallen in love with Doyle that night, fallen for the touch of his hands, the sound of his voice, the love in his eyes. It had never been a one-off, a simple act of fun between two mates. It had been the beginning of everything between them, as Doyle had seen. And he had rejected it, rejected Doyle. Refused to listen when that husky voice had whispered to him in the dark, and told him he was loved.

Oh, bloody Christ, how could he have been such a fool?

Doyle wasn't the kind to give second chances.

And tonight? Bodie's face twisted in the mirror. He knew what tonight had been. Any chance he'd had was gone. He'd won, and the taste of it was bitter.

By the time he arrived back at the main room, everyone had settled and the lights were out. In the uncertain moonlight Bodie found his bag next to Doyle's, could see the outline of Doyle lying there, but he didn't speak. What could he say?

He lay down and listened as the others in the room gradually settled, but he couldn't sleep. Would Doyle believe him, as he turned 180 degrees around, changed the pattern of a lifetime? Would he care? He had to try. When they were back in London, alone, he'd try.

And then Bodie felt a feather-light touch on his arm, a hand travelling down to his hand, grasping it, joining them together. Doyle's hand. Bodie's fingers closed around it, tightly, and Doyle's fingers gripped back. They lay like that, hand in hand in the dark, while the snores of the other men rose around them.

Trapped, Bodie thought. And smiled.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Roses and Lavender 2, Allamagoosa Press, February 1998

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