Flick. A dab of shaving soap plopped to the bottom of the shower and with it a bit of whisker, skin and blood. Perhaps there had been no need to shave, but Doyle desperately needed to feel clean.

He had stepped into the hot, pounding water of the shower sometime before letting its torrent soothe and soak away the dirt and sweat of the day. Unfortunately, it couldn't do much to wash away the memories of the past twenty-four hours: the smells of the interrogation room where the reporters, John Coogan and his bully boy, the men of law, the shysters, the zealots, and the Minister had sat in judgment on one Raymond Doyle.

Technically of course, it was not 4.5 who held their interest but the organization he served: CI5 and its master, George Cowley. As Bodie had so forcefully reminded him, Cowley was fighting for the survival of his creation and rather than wallow in self-pity, Doyle should do all that was required of him to rectify the situation.

Flick. Another pink-stained globule hit the floor to be washed down the drain. Flick. And another. He really wasn't even sure why he was shaving. His work was done for the day and he certainly had no plans to go out, unlike Bodie and Cowley who had merrily set off to celebrate at a pub of choice. Or at least Doyle supposed that was their destination as he had watched them in his rear-view mirror. The two men shared a love of scotch and what more natural way to celebrate a victory, a very narrow victory over Geraldine Mather and John Coogan?

Poor Henry Parker, it wasn't likely that he was enjoying himself with a pint. Most likely he would have been returned to hospital to recuperate from the near fatal beating at the hands of Coogan and Frank Williams. Such a small, frightened rat to actuate so much grief. Still it was the way of informers, playing a deadly game for a few quid and not much thanks. Doyle wondered if Bodie would even go to visit his former grass. It wasn't likely that the man would ever be privy to information again.

Flick. Almost done. Good. His face felt raw from the straight razor he had borrowed from the box that held Bodie's birthday present. The polished silver had gleamed as he had removed it from the box along with the leather strop. His thumb still spurted blood from where he had tested its sharpness. The smell of the leather had excited him, so masculine, so daring, just like Bodie himself.

The two men had been partnered for only two years, but he had come to trust, to depend on Bodie being there when he was needed. That had become part of their persona--to know at all times where the other man might be found as well as what he would do in battle against England's foes. They had clearly become Cowley's best.

Flick. Doyle grimaced in pain. Of course, Cowley might not see it that way after the near debacle of Paul Coogan's death. Bodie, naturally, was blameless, except for a moment of carelessness which had nearly cost them Henry Parker's life, but in the end, it had been Coogan's savagery that had destroyed Mather's carefully-wrought case against CI5.

The same couldn't be said for Ray Doyle, who in a moment of anger lost control of all that he believed himself to be. Cool, calm, pragmatic Bodie had tried his best to assuage the guilt engendered by Coogan's death and certainly his partner had a point, but it had not been Bodie's tightened fist that had sunk into the big-mouthed villain's mid-section. A shrugged "No big loss" might have done for the ex-merc, but not Ray Doyle.

Flick. The water started to turn cold, running in red rivulets down the furry chest. Exhausted from the effort and emotions of the past few days, Doyle sank down to his knees then onto his bum to allow the pulsing chilled water to wash away the last of the soap, whiskers and blood.

He was so knackered, but the tap seemed so far above his head. Better to wait until he revived some and then crawl out onto the mat that was already sopping with wetness. Too bad Bodie had chosen to go off with Cowley. He would have reached in and with one quick turn, the freezing water would have been off. He might even have handed him a towel, warm from the heated bar on the opposite wall. But Bodie wasn't here. Could Cowley have needed him more than Ray did?

Doyle shook his damp, matted hair. No one needed Bodie more than he did. The younger man was the only one who could have helped him through this nightmare. He had already done so much. Perhaps he just couldn't do anymore. Bodie never liked to probe, to dig, to think about the complexities of life. It was enough to survive every day.


Doyle blinked the icy water from his eyes.

"What the hell are you doing sitting there in cold water?" Bodie demanded.

"Sh-shower," Doyle whispered, not sure he wasn't hallucinating.

Bodie reached out to shut off the jet of water then he carefully touched the face with its nicks and scratches and open cuts, most of which still oozed blood before removing the open straight razor from Doyle's clutched hand. Closing the extraordinarily sharp blade, he put it down on the shelf near the sink and then pulled Ray to his feet. In a matter of moments, Bodie had his partner wrapped in the warmed towel and under the blue duvet of the bed.

When Doyle tried to sink deeper into the softness, Bodie's strong arms pulled Ray up against his chest so that he could dry the thick curls. Doyle said nothing even when Bodie used the comb to smooth the worst of the tangles, his body and mind too tired to even register that or the gentle way Bodie daubed a cream on the many nicks and cuts before allowing him to slide down into sleep.

Two hours later Bodie looked up from the book he was reading. Even in the dim light he could see a pair of confused green eyes staring at him. "When...when did you get here?" Ray asked, not quite sure his visitor was real.

"Coupla hours ago. Found you in the shower with cold water running."

Doyle nodded. "Too...too done up to get out on my own. Cowley okay?"

"Seemed fine when I left him. Thrives in a fight, that one. Went back to headquarters. Said he was behind on his work because of this investigation."

"'S'pose that's how he keeps going," Ray guessed.

Bodie nodded, hesitated, and then asked, "Ray why were you using a straight razor with my initials on it instead of your battery-powered one?"

The pale face colored. "Ran out of batteries, mate. Bought you the blade for your birthday next month. Sorry I used it."

"'S okay. Just needs a good stropping. How are you feeling by the way?"

"Better. Needed to work things out. Thanks for stopping by."

"No problem. Now that I'm here, maybe I'll stay the night."

The delight on Ray's face left no question about the suggestion. "Need to make up the spare bed."

"Too knackered for that. What say I share with you tonight? Won't be the first time."

Doyle's full lips curved upwards. "Ta, it'd be nice to have the extra body heat. 'm still cold."

Bodie leapt to his feet. "No sooner said than done. Lemme go clean my teeth and the Bodie furnace will keep you toasty."

Ray giggled and then put his hand over his mouth to stop the annoying sound. "Sorry. Just surprised to see you. Thought you'd have had enough of me after the past week."

Bodie looked down with affection at the slender man. "That's like sayin' I've had enough of breathing. You know what the lads say--'Where Doyle goes, Bodie follows!'"

Doyle snorted. "Do not. It's more likely--"Where Doyle goes, Bodie eats!"

"Can't deny that. Say, would you like a cuppa? Help warm you up!"

"Just want to sleep," then Ray's voice lowered to a whisper. "Feel safe with you next to me."

Bodie grinned as his heart thumped loudly. "I aim to please. Just let me go clean the pearlies and I'll be right back to play hot water bottle."

Doyle almost purred with pleasure.

As promised, Bodie took only a couple of minutes to strip, wash up and clean his teeth. Closing the door to the small cabinet over the sink, he halted for a second when he caught sight of the battery razor Ray always used. A quick flick of the wrist and he heard the tell-tale buzz. Icy numbness flooded his body as he shut it off and tucked it back into position next to the KY Jelly.

Moving quietly across the carpeted floor, he slipped into bed and pulled the slim body to him tightly. "Ray?" he murmured into one ear.

"Nnmph?" Sleep had almost claimed the exhausted man.

"Tomorrow, we're both going to take the day off and talk. I want to tell you how much I need you."

The strain in Bodie's voice pierced the fog of sleep as Ray turned in the bigger man's arms. "N-need you too, mate. Always have, always will."

Bodie gently kissed the waiting mouth in front of him. "That's okay then because I'll always be here."

"Goes...goes for me too."

"I'm counting on it, love. I'm counting on it."

-- THE END --

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