Building to Last


(First story in the Building to Last universe)

For C.L. who encouraged me to write

"...and William Shatner's arse..." I could hear the hushed reverence in Karen's voice as she invited her friend Tracey to contemplate that portion of the American actor's anatomy. Ray and I had taken the two women out to see the new Star Trek flick, and now all they could seem to talk about was the American film stars.

I almost ran into Ray as he stopped to slant a look of laughing disbelief back over his shoulder. The scrum round the bar was so thick that I'd been letting the bionic golliwog lead the way back to the table where we left the birds. I grinned back at him, then leaned down to lick spilled lager off the back of one of my hands.

Tracey sighed soulfully as we slid into our chairs. Then she earnestly entreated Karen to think about, "...Ricardo Montelban's chest."

I put my arm round Karen's waist and looked across the table at Ray and Tracey. "I'm beginning to get an inferiority complex. All these two can talk about are a couple of actors." I tried hard to look ill-done-by as I asked Karen, "What have they got that I haven't?"

Ray looked up from contemplating his date's chocolate almond eyes and answered, "William Shatner's arse..."

"...and Ricardo Montelban's chest," I completed.

Tracey and Karen broke up. While they were sniggering into their pints, I exchanged a conspiratorial grin with my mate. It was nice seeing Ray so relaxed. He'd been going through a bad stretch lately, trying to take on all the ills of the world. Even his curls seemed to have a tired droop to them.

"Makes you wonder what they talk about when there are no men about, dunnit?" Ray asked.

"Don't even think about it, mate," I replied. "The very thought'd be enough to put two high-minded young lads like us to the blush." Out of the corner of my eye I saw our dates exchange mischievous glances.

My red-haired air hostess put her arm round my waist and said, "You're right, Bodie. It's much better not to think about it."

Later I drove Karen over to her flat to pick up her overnight bag. She was scheduled to crew the early morning London to New York flight for British Air, and was very excited about winning the bid on that route. It meant she'd be able to spend a few days with her friend Carrie, who worked as an editor for a New York City publishing company. I listened with half an ear and tried to grunt in all the right places.

Fortunately there was a parking space near my flat. After I'd parked the Capri, I took Karen's case up the front steps. When I was half way up a compact black shape passed me at a swift lope.

"I didn't know you had a cat," Karen said from behind me.

"It's not my cat," I said defensively. "It's just a stray that I feed sometimes."

"What's his name?"

"How should I know? It's not my cat and it didn't come with a label."

Karen gave me a puzzled look as I held the door open for her.

"Why don't you have first turn in the loo?" I suggested. "I'll take care of the little bugger and be right up." I planted a quick kiss on her mouth (it's the easiest way of distracting a bird).

"Okay," Karen replied. "Better give me my case then."

When I got to the kitchen the stray tomcat was already sitting by the two plastic bowls I'd put in the far corner of the room. He looked up at me with those big green eyes and 'mrrowwred' at me.

"'Ang on a bit, mate. I just got here," I muttered as I bent over to rummage about in the fridge. I found the open tin of tuna and dumped the remaining fish in one of the bowls, and then I washed out the other one and filled it with fresh water.

As I crouched there on the floor scratching behind the tattered ears and watching the tomcat devour his dinner, I thought about how much the green eyes reminded me of Doyle. And the table manners weren't much better, either. I snorted in amusement.

It was a good thing we were only on a watching brief for the next few days. I hate stakeouts, but the rest would do us good. We might even unwind enough to enjoy our upcoming holidays.

When the stray finished the tuna he scrubbed about my legs a bit, and then headed for the front door. I followed him out into the hallway and found the little sod standing there twitching his tail in impatience. He quickly oozed past my legs and out the door I opened for him. As he did I warned him, "Watch yourself, mate."

After I checked the security system I went upstairs to the bedroom. Karen was bent over her case rummaging through the contents. She had on my thigh-length dressing gown and the thin toweling material stretched snugly across her arse. It was totally irresistible, so I cat-footed it across the carpet and ran my hands over the lush curves.

Karen jumped half a foot and knocked her case over, spilling half the contents over the carpet in front of my favorite overstuffed chair. "Bodie!" she yelped indignantly. Her blue eyes flashed with all the temperament of the typical red-head.

I pulled her into my arms and kissed her. She wasn't terribly enthusiastic at first, but I persisted. Soon we were tangled in a sweaty, semi-nude knot on the bed.

I enjoyed sex with Karen. She was enthusiastic and adventurous. It was a pity that I'd soon lose her, but every time I got called into CI5 or had to break another date brought me closer to the time when she'd pack it in, decide that the rewards weren't worth the aggro, and leave. Until then I'd enjoy her.

I didn't really wake up when Karen left next morning, though I vaguely remember a peck on the cheek. Hours later the bloody door chimes jerked me out of a sound sleep. Had to squint to read the figures on the bedside clock. l0 a.m. Bloody hell! I'd forgotten to set the alarm. Should have been up half an hour past. Was probably Ray leaning on me door chimes, come to pick me up for work.

It took me a moment to find my dressing gown. It was a crumpled ball by the side of the bed. When I keyed the intercom Ray's voice answered.

"Morning, Bodie."

Two sets of green eyes met mine when I opened the door. Doyle stood on my doorstep holding the stray tomcat upside down in the crook of his left elbow. With his free hand Ray scratched behind the battered ears. "Interrupting something, are we?" he asked as he peered around me.

"Nah," I yawned as I leaned back against the doorframe. "Karen had an early flight this morning."

"You going to keep me hanging about out here in the cold?" Doyle asked plaintively and gave a semi-theatrical shiver.

I grinned and invited the daft bugger in. It wasn't that cold outside. We were having a very warm spring. But I always enjoy Ray's predilection for drama.

As I followed Doyle down the hall to the kitchen I commented, "Don't know how you manage that."


"Handling that animal like that. If I ever tried to pick up the little sod I'd end up bleeding all over the furniture."

"You ever try it?" Doyle asked.

"Course not. M'not bloody stupid, am I?"

"Matter of opinion," Ray said with a grin as he turned from the cupboard where he'd been rummaging in vain. "All right," he said. "I give up. Where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"The cat food."

"I'm sure you can find something it'll eat if you look in the fridge. Or you can open a tin of sardines."

"Bodie!" Ray said in exasperation. "You've had this bloody animal for two weeks. Haven't you bothered to get him any food yet?"

I could feel myself coming all over defensive. "It's not my cat."

"You feed him. He lives here. He's your cat." Doyle made it sound like a mathematical formula.

"It doesn't live here," I said firmly. Ray's look of not-so-polite disbelief goaded me into continuing. "All right. Sometimes I share a bit of grub with the furry sod. If it's around when I am. But it doesn't live here. And... it's NOT. MY. CAT." Doyle still looked puzzled. "Besides, if what I eat isn't good enough for the little bastard, he knows what he can do about it."

Doyle snorted, gave me a pointed look, and then resumed his search for food to feed the cat.

"Oi!" I said. When Ray looked at me, I continued, "When you're finished feeding the bottomless pit you can brew us a cuppa. I'll be in the shower."

I'd just finished my shower when Ray carried two mugs of tea into the bedroom. The stray followed him into the room, jumped up on my unmade bed and started to wash himself. I sighed in exasperation and Doyle just grinned at me.

Ray put my mug down on the bureau, and sat down in my overstuffed chair. As he did his foot hit something half-hidden beneath the ruffle round the chair's legs. Doyle took his usual juicy slurp out of the mug, and placed it on the floor so he'd have both hands free to investigate the obstruction under the chair.

I'd been taking all this in out of the corner of my eyes as I finished drying myself and started dressing, but Doyle's reaction to the two bound manuscripts he pulled out from under the chair made me focus my attention on him. Ray practically did a double-take, and even from across the room I could see his green eyes turn almost black as they dilated in shocked surprise. I saw his glance dart from the manuscripts, to me, back to the manuscripts. Ray shook his head in that 'no, it couldn't possibly be' motion. He took a deep breath, got a grip on himself, and then opened the covers of one of the mysterious bundles.

"I didn't know you were a Star Trek fan," Doyle said, a shade too casually. I couldn't figure out what that had to do with the two mysterious objects in Doyle's lap, so it took me a moment to respond. "Because of the film last night? That was Karen's idea. She and Tracey are fans. Don't know much about it myself."

Doyle looked over at me. He had on his 'copper hot on the scent' expression. "Wasn't talking about that," he said.

"Oh?" was the most intelligent remark I came up with.

"Nah," Ray said. "Was talking about these," and he thumped the cover of one of the manuscripts.

"What are they?" I asked.

"C'mon mate," Doyle said impatiently. "They were sitting on your bedroom floor."

"Never set eyes on them," I protested. "Have something to do with Star Trek, do they?" I padded barefoot over to where he sat.

"See for yourself." Ray turned the cover towards me.

Two obviously male, obviously aroused figures lay pressed together spoon-fashion. The man in the back had a close resemblance to the Vulcan first officer on the Star Trek program, pointed ears and all. The man in front was a fairly good rendition of the American actor whose arse Karen so admired last night. The drawing was explicit, erotic and totally fascinating, if not to say shocking.

"Didn't know you were that way inclined," Ray said.

"What?" I muttered absently.

"I said," Ray enunciated clearly, and quite a bit louder, "I didn't know you were interested in that sort of thing."

"WHAT?" Ray's words had finally penetrated.

"S'not your usual run of reading matter, is it?" Doyle observed. I could tell he was enjoying himself.

"Reading matter?" I blinked. "You don't think?.... I've never set eyes on these before!" I was totally indignant.

Doyle cocked an unbelieving eyebrow at me.

"For all I know," I said steadily, "you planted them here yourself." Not that I really believed it, of course. But sometimes the best defense is an attack.

Both of Ray's eyebrows arched in surprise. "And where would I get my hands on something like that?"

"You think I'd know how to get my hands on 'something like that,'" I asked reasonably.

Doyle scowled. He hadn't expected me to turn the tables on him. "Someone must have put them there... Maybe there's a clue inside."

I opened the cover to the title page, which read, 'Stroke by Joanna Wesley.' Neatly printed in blue ink on the top right hand corner of the title page was the name 'Carrie Warner' and a New York City street address.

"Stroke," Doyle chortled filthily. "That's very suggestive considering the art on the cover."

I grinned back, but most of my mind was on trying to figure out where I'd heard the name Carrie mentioned recently.

Doyle opened the cover of the second manuscript, the one with the plain brown cover. The title page stated that it was 'Bondmates ed. by Laetia Remington, published by Shuttlecock Press.' Again in the upper right hand corner in blue ink was the name Carrie Warner, and the same New York City address.

This time I remembered where I'd heard the name. "Carrie. That's the name of the friend Karen stops with when she's in New York. She's an ex-air hostess. I think she works in publishing now." I looked down at Doyle. "Karen must have left them here this morning."

"Ah," Doyle said with a mischievous gleam in his eyes, "Then it's Karen who has the kinky taste in reading material. That's a relief."

"It is?"

"Umhmm," Doyle murmured. "When I thought it was you put them there, it did occur to me that you might be trying to tell me something."

I grinned. "You mean, trying to break the news, ever so gently, that I'm bent? Or trying to say I fancy that scrawny body of yours?" I continued as I tapped suggestively on the cover of Stroke.

"Yeah," Ray said cheekily.

"Not likely!" I snorted.

"Nah," Ray agreed with a sigh. "Thought it was a bit subtle for you."

You calling me unsubtle?" I asked.

"Nah," Ray's face twitched in an effort to disguise his grin. "I'm calling you bloody unsubtle."

I practically smirked. "The rest of that as bad as the cover?"

"Some of it's worse," Ray replied. "Gives me a whole different view of Karen. She that kinky in bed?"

"She's not kinky," I protested as I started to leaf through the volume. "She is creative," I admitted as I came to an illustration of Captain Kirk french-kissing Spock while fondling the pointed ears. "Now I know where she gets some of her ideas."

"Oi!" Doyle said and poked a sharp elbow in my ribs. "Best be getting on our bikes. We're due to relieve McCabe and Lucas in 25 minutes. Take us that long to get there."

"Yeah." I put the manuscript down and retrieved my shoes and socks. As I sat down on the bed to put them on I caught sight of the stray cat sprawled in the sheets. "Ray? Put the cat out, will you?"

"Okay," Ray replied. As he got up from the chair he picked the two Star Trek stories off of the bureau and tucked them under one arm.

"Just where do you think you're going with that lewd, lascivious literature?" I sternly intoned.

"Taking them with us, aren't we," Ray replied. "You know how bloody bored you get on stakeouts. This will help pass the time." He picked the tomcat off of the bed with his free hand, and started down the stairs.

By the time I recovered from this surprise, Ray had put the cat out and was making 'hurry up' noises from the bottom of the stairs. I quickly put on my shoulder holster, gun and jacket, and then joined him.

As Ray drove us to the bed-sit where we had the stakeout set up, I noted the two Star Trek manuscripts tucked between the bucket seats. "Uh, Ray?"


"You really intend taking those things with us when we relieve Mac and Lucas?"

"Nah," Ray said. "I intend to leave them in the motor. After they leave, I'll retrieve them."

That was a great relief to me. Didn't fancy those two stumbling across Karen's choice of reading matter. "What's the matter?" I asked, unable to leave anything alone that might get up Ray's nose. "Afraid they'll get peculiar ideas bout you if they see you with them?"

Ray shot an amused glance at me. "Nah. Afraid they'll get queer ideas about us ."

I almost choked trying not to laugh. Had to go ahead and let go when Doyle's semi-lewd chuckle set me off.

The CI5 stakeout was in a grey stone building. Most of the other structures 'round it had been turned into bed-sits. At one time the neighborhood had been fairly nice. Now it was yet another victim of urban blight.

As I followed Ray up the steps of the surveillance flat, I found myself noticing how well the lithe body moved. To my embarrassment my eyes focused on the tight curves of his arse.

Over the years I've heard the CI5 female personnel discuss the Doyle derriere in terms more suited to either an art work or a blue film. It's known far and wide as 'the cutest bum in CI5.' Viewed in a purely esthetic light, it is a work of art - and the little sod knows it, and displays it shamelessly. Sometimes I wonder how Doyle can bend over or sit in his trousers - as tight as he wears them, I'd expect them to do him an injury.

Right now I was not looking at his arse in a purely esthetic way. Maybe it was all that gay art, but I found myself wanting to reach out and touch his bum. Made me feel right peculiar.

The sound of McCabe's voice brought me back to what I was suppose to be doing, which was working, not mooning over my partner's best assets.

"You're late!" Mac said accusingly.

"Anything happen?" Ray ignored Mac with the ease of long practice.

"It's been quiet," Lucas replied. He was packing his gear, getting ready to leave. "The old bird hasn't stirred from her flat. One of the neighbors brought her her shopping."

"Don' t forget," Mac reminded him. "Half an hour ago we had a real thrill. She changed the paper in the budgie's cage." McCabe was obviously in a very bad mood. I looked at Lucas, and he just shrugged. He didn't know why his partner was acting like a berk any more than I did.

"Ta, then," Lucas said. "Try and leave the place like you found it." He looked pointedly at Ray. All of CI5 knows of Doyle's less than tidy habits. McCabe just growled and headed for the door.

"I'll take the first watch," I said as I walked past the unmade bed and over to the chair by the window. Ray followed me over and we both watched McCabe and Lucas drive off in a green Escort.

"Mind the shop," Ray said as he dashed out of the flat. He returned a few minutes later with Stroke and Bondmates, securely wrapped in an old jacket.

We were there to watch a 70 year old lady whose son was one of the terrorists who had escaped a CI5 operation a week or so earlier. They'd been smuggling semiautomatic arms to IRA cells in Great Britain. The op had been bungled by the local authorities and CI5 had been called in to pick up the pieces. Several men from Special Branch, four terrorists and a CI5 agent wound up in hospital. No one expected Rourke to contact his partially blind and aged mother, but Cowley was not about to take any chances. That's how Ray and I found ourselves trading 12 hour shifts with Lucas and McCabe.

All in all, it was a typically boring assignment and it gave me much too much time to think. My mind, and my eyes, kept wandering back to Ray Doyle. I'd never seen him interested in another male, yet here he was pouring over the homoerotic literature my date had left on my bedroom floor. It didn't figure.

"Y'know, sunshine. I don't think that's physically possible," Doyle commented.

"Don't think what's physically possible?" I asked as I walked over to where Doyle was sprawled across the unmade bed.

"This," Ray replied as he held up the copy of Stroke. The drawing had Spock on his knees with Kirk prone in front of him. The Captain's right leg was caught between the Vulcan's knees. The human's hips were twisted so that his left leg was angled up the Vulcan's torso so that the heel of his foot projected over Spook's right shoulder. The first officer's cock was buried in the human's arse.

I stared at the piece of art. "Don't remember seeing that one. Looks a bit painful ."

"And bloody impossible," Ray snorted. "Have to be double-jointed or you'd dislocate something."

"Probably," I agreed as I wandered back to my post by the window.

During the rest of my first shift, most of my attention was focused on Doyle and his reactions to the two manuscripts. When we switched positions Ray handed the two bundles to me.

"What am I suppose to do with these?" I asked.

"Educate yourself," Doyle replied. "They'll broaden your horizons."

I must admit that it was much more than boredom that made me open the cover of Stroke. Watching Doyle for the last two hours had only increased my own unwilling fascination with the two stories.

The two hours of Doyle's watch raced by and we were changing places again. Ray curled up on the bed with the Star Trek literature and for a while all I could hear was the rustle of pages burning.

The unmistakable sound of Ray's filthy chuckles broke the silence. "'Quivering tower of jade'," he gurgled. "The bird who wrote this has an interesting turn of phrase."


"Yeah. She describes Spock's cock as 'a quivering tower of translucent jade'," Ray quoted.

"'Quivering tower'...?" I said incredulously.

"...'of translucent jade'," Ray finished. He got up off of the bed and brought Stroke over to me. Doyle crouched by my chair and opened the manuscript to a particularly lascivious illustration of Mr. Spock with an impressive and physically out of proportion erection. Ray's mouth twitched with the effort of subduing a small bubble of laughter. In his scruffy jeans and yellow t-shirt, Doyle could have been any adolescent male sharing his da's dolly mag with his best mate. The unholy mischief in his green eyes and that mop of curly hair only contributed to the illusion.

I grinned back at Ray. "Hardly your standard equipment."

"Nah," Doyle agreed. "But then, Mr. Spook's not your standard model, is he?"

"I'll say," I replied. The small bubble of warm fellow feeling spread through me and settled into a pulsing throb in my groin. Sheer shock froze me in position. I didn't even notice when Doyle returned to the bed.

I'd never been aroused by the sight of the male body. Sometimes I'd been terrified by the sight. Often I'd been indifferent. But I'd never been aroused. And the worse part of it was that I didn't know whether it was the erotic artwork or whether it was the sight of my partner crouched at my feet that caused my reaction. The rest of my shift passed in a blur. I spent part of the time trying to figure out why I responded as I did, and the rest of it trying not to think about it.

Ray had the last watch so I spent most of those two hours reading Bondmates. The story started out as a power struggle between Kirk and Spock. As soon as I realized that was what was going on I almost stopped reading. I was altogether too familiar with that sort of behavior.

As I continued reading the relationship began to change. The power struggle had been a masquerade--both Starfleet officers had been afraid to show how they felt about one another. To hide their vulnerabilities they'd taken refuge in aggression.

I was so bound up in the Star Trek universe I almost forgot to keep track of the time. About 45 minutes before we were due to be relieved, I suddenly noticed how late it was getting. Reluctantly I put aside the science fiction stories and started work on our daily reports.

The first day we'd been assigned to the Rourke stakeout Ray had noticed that the flat's sparse furnishings included a battered portable typewriter. Next day we brought typing paper. From that day forward the partner not on watch during the last hour of our shift started typing our daily reports. Then all we had to do was sign the bloody things and drop them off at HQ on our way home. It saved us thirty minutes to an hour at the CI5 offices each night.

I'd almost finished typing the final paragraph on the last report when I heard McCabe and Lucas start up the stairway. Doyle jumped up from his post by the window and demanded, "Where are they?"

"Where are what, sunshine?" I asked absently.

"The Star Trek stories!" Ray said as he searched the bed.

"Getting bored, are we?" I asked as I rolled the paper out of the machine.

Ray pounced on the manuscript sitting on the bedside table. "D'you fancy having that lot catch you with this?" he demanded as he flourished Stroke in front of my nose.

I could feel the blood drain out of my face. No, I did not bloody well fancy having McCabe and Lucas finding me reading that.

"Thought not." I could hear the satisfaction in Doyle's voice as I hurriedly found Bondmates and thrust it into his arms. Ray quickly bundled the two manuscripts into his jacket, and not a moment too soon.

McCabe was still in his rotten humour. Lucas must have blamed his partner's mood for Ray and my's incredibly fast departure. For some reason I kept expecting one of them to say something. Felt like I had the word 'pervert' tattooed in three inch letters 'cross my face.

When we were finally safe in the Capri, I felt a gurgle of laughter rising in my chest. I heard a choked sound from the passenger seat and when I looked over I saw Ray shaking and choking in an effort to suppress his mirth.

I broke up. That set Ray off and the two of us sat there sniggering, snorting and hooting for a good ten minutes. Good thing the local met didn't come by-- a more suspicious looking twosome would have been hard to find.

Finally we calmed down--exhaustion more than anything. As I pulled our motor out into London traffic Ray made a suggestion.

"How does takeaway chicken sound?" he asked.

"My place?"

"Yeah," Ray agreed. "Have to feed the moggy."

"The moggy can take care of himself," I retorted.

"'E probably can," Ray agreed. "But given the choice of a dead mouse or takeaway chicken, which would you prefer?"

"Don't get too revolting," I told him. "Or I'll have you take your supper with the cat."

Doyle glanced at me in reproach. "You wouldn't!"

"Don't bet on it, mate," I told him in my best heavy man accents. I was rewarded by a glint of humour in Ray's green eyes.

We dropped the reports off at HQ; stopped at a takeaway emporium for Chicken, and chips; and finished with an off-license where we bought lager. We then took our booty back to my flat.

I wasn't a bit surprised when Ray left me to carry everything. Over the years I've grown used to being Doyle's personal beast of burden. It's not like it wasn't my own fault, because it was. When we first were teamed both Ray and I had done the butch act, trying to intimidate the other. Ray had soon seen the funny side of the whole thing and had started exploiting it for his own good. Took me awhile to catch on, but I finally did. Nowadays Ray rarely tries to manipulate me quite so blatantly, but he still has a tendency to use me as a draft horse cum manservant.

I reached the top of the stairs and was trying to get my key into the lock without dropping anything when a black feline streaked across the roadway and swarmed up the stairs. The stray immediately began stropping himself against my ankles while 'chirruping' plaintively. Ray crouched down and offered his hand for a sniff. Then he scratched underneath the animal's chin. The tom abandoned my ankles and leaned into Doyle's caress. His purr sounded like a rusty generator.

After I got the door open, Ray and the cat disappeared down the hallway headed towards the kitchen. By the time I reset the locks and joined them, Ray had put the kettle on and was just refilling the cat's water bowl.

Two pairs of green eyes speared me as I came through the doorway. It was disconcerting. "Least you could do is get out the plates," I told Ray as I put the food and lager down on the counter. "And mind you wash your hands before you touch them. Never know where that animal may have been." I sniffed in my best put upon civil servant imitation.

"Yes, mum." Ray grinned, but he obediently washed his hands before retrieving the Melmac and placing it on the table. I added silverware. By that time the tea was ready, so we split the food and carried our plates into the sitting room. There was an old Errol Flynn film on the telly so we sat down to watch it.

About the time Captain Blood was sailing his own pirate ship we finished the food. The lager tins were already empty, and most of the tea was gone. To my surprise, I was finding the sight of Ray Doyle sprawled across my furniture much more interesting than Flynn's swashbuckling adventures.

Ray sprawled with boneless grace across one corner of the settee. The stray, well stuffed with bits of both our suppers, lounged across Doyle's lap while my partner stroked the cat's dark fur. Idly I wondered how those hands would feel stroking me.

The throb of pleasure in my prick shocked me back to the present. God! I couldn't actually be thinking about having it off with another man--especially not my sarky, heterosexual partner? The thunder of blood in my ears almost blocked the sound of Ray's voice.

"Bodie? Those Star Trek stories. Do they bother you?"

"Ummm?" I muttered. Well, I wasn't at my best, was I? Was still trying to recover from the shock of finding out that I wasn't quite as straight as I thought I was.

"The sex," Doyle specified. "Does it bother you, two men having it off?"

I almost had hysterics. Little did the poor bugger know! "Nah," I finally managed to say, after I regained control of myself. "Doesn't bother me. Does it bother you?"

"No," Ray said in dismissal. "Nothing much two people do together bothers me, as long as no one gets hurt and they both enjoy it."

Curiosity got the better of me. "You ever try it on with another bloke?"

"No," Ray replied slowly. Then he looked at me and said, "Not that I didn't have offers, especially in art school. But I discovered birds at an early age. Was always too busy to ever look at another bloke." Ultra casually he asked, "You ever try it on with a fella?"

"No," I said abruptly, and I felt all of my muscles tighten up as the bad, old memories rushed in. When I finally looked up Ray had that closed-in expression -- the one that meant I 'd hurt him and he was pulling back into himself.

I hate that look. I'd do almost anything to keep it off of his face. So I started talking, knowing I'd only get one chance and if I blew it this subject would never be mentioned again.

"I was fifteen when I stowed away on a freighter bound for Cape Town. The first mate found me. He tried to rape me. The bastard was a bloody pervert!" I looked straight at Doyle. "I don't mean that he was homosexual. Don't think it would have mattered what sex I was, or how old. The bastard was into hurting people."

"What happened?" Doyle asked softly. I could see shadows of empathic horror in the sympathetic green eyes. Ray has a soft spot for animals and kids.

"The captain stopped him. He was a decent bloke, the captain. Had a son near my age. Gave me a job as general dogsbody. Acted more like a father than my father ever did." Had to stop for a moment as bitter memories almost choked me. "Then there was a storm and the captain was injured. They took him to hospital in Cape Town. I jumped ship. The first mate was put in charge and I already knew what he was like," I said dryly. "Eventually I became a merc. Learned to defend myself, and I stayed away from the really sick groups."

"Sick groups?"

"In Angola, there were a couple of groups where they played what they called 'The Game' . One merc'd challenge another--bare hands mostly, though I heard that a couple of them used knives. They'd fight til one of them beat the other insensible, then raped him. Real nice sort of a Game." I could feel my voice shake as I remembered just how close I'd come to being a victim of that particular practice. Krivas' group was bad enough, but if it hadn't been for Colonel Darby taking me on I could easily have been persuaded to join the Dutchman's Group or Dantine's Mob before I found out what sort of perverts they housed.

"But you never let yourself get into that, did you?" Ray's voice was gentle as it prodded me back to the present.

Felt a bit as if a large part of my skin was missing, leaving all of my nerve ends raw. Abruptly I asked Ray, "D'you want a drink? Think I could use one.

"Sure." Doyle's voice was soft and rather flat. I knew he'd picked up on the fact that I didn't want to talk about it any more. At least I'd succeeded in keeping Ray talking. His body language told me that he was willing to talk, but that he respected my wishes not to continue. The most important thing was that he hadn't closed himself off from me.

By the end of the film we were both tired. Doyle gave one of his open-mouthed yawns--the sort where you can see every cavity in every tooth he owned. "Well, old son. I'd best be off."

"Why don't you stay the night?" I suggested. "Save one of us having to get up early enough to pick the other one up tomorrow." Truth was, I didn't want to be alone tonight.

Ray must have picked up on that because he tried to diffuse the situation with humour, "And we all know whose turn it is to get up early. Flip you for who uses the loo first."

"Age before beauty," I grinned at Ray.

Ray looked pained, but headed towards the stairs. "I'll try and leave you some hot water."

I put the dishes in the sink, checked the locks, and put the cat out of the flat. When I got upstairs to the bedroom, I found Ray's clothes dropped unceremoniously all over the carpet. I folded them neatly across the back of the chair. Then I pulled the duvet off and folded it at the foot of the bed.

A blast of steamy air proceeded Ray out of the bath. He had one towel around his waist and another in his hands. "'S'all yours," he told me.

For the first time in ages I felt awkward undressing in front of my partner. I was too conscious of him. So I almost tore my clothes off and bolted into the loo.

The water felt good on my too hot skin so I stayed under it too long. When it started to run cold I got out, dried myself off, and brushed my teeth. When it came time to go back into the bedroom I hesitated for a moment, then removed the towel from my waist and hung it on the nearby rail.

I found Doyle sitting on the bed toweling his hair. He could tell something was bothering me so he asked, "D'you want me to take the settee?"

"No. You'll do yourself an injury if you do. You're much better off in the bed."

"You sure?" I could see doubt in his face.

"Yeah." I smiled at him. "Unless you're afraid those stories have given me ideas. Afraid for our virtue, are we, 4.5?" I took refuge in clowning.

Doyle grinned at me and relaxed. "Bit late for that, mate. Technically speaking we've been sleeping together this last 4 years or more. Don't have a shred of reputation between the two of us."

I laughed. "Set the alarm?" I asked Doyle as I crawled into bed.

"Yeah." He carried the towel over to the wash basket, then crawled into the other side of the bed. "Night, Bodie," he said as he snapped out the light.

"Night, Ray," I replied.

I was back in Angola. With Dantine's Mob. They played the Game.

There was a new recruit. I'd seen him arrive. All greyhound grace, and red-brown curls. His name was Doyle. And I intended to have him.

Praeger started moving towards Doyle. I stepped into his path and scowled at him. The German backed off.

I moved past the rest of the men. None of them dared challenge me. Those who had tried it had been beaten, and more than one of them had died.

Doyle knew something was wrong, but he didn't know what. His wary green eyes watched me as I approached.

"Hallo, sunshine," I drawled. "It's time to play the Game."

"Game?" Doyle asked as he stood up to meet me.

"Yeah," I replied. "As in, you fight me and whoever wins does whatever he wants to the loser."

"Why should I fight you?"

"Because if you don't fight I'll still do whatever I want to you. If you do fight, at least you have the chance of winning."

"And what is it you intend to do with me?" Doyle asked. "Provided you win?"

"Oh, I'll win, sunshine. You can count on that," I told him as I swept an insolent gaze down his body. "And when I do I intend to fuck you legless," I added crudely.

I could tell that that wasn't the answer Doyle expected. His eyes widened and became almost black as the pupil dilated in shock. He swallowed nervously and asked, "What are the rules?"

"No weapons. Fighting continues until one of us gives up, is unconscious, or is dead," I stated, and then I swung a fist that would have connected with his gut if Doyle hadn't jumped backwards at the last moment.

The other mercs formed a twenty foot circle around us. In the center was the camp fire.

At first I played it easy, making token attacks, trying to suss out Doyle's fighting style. Almost got me head knocked off when the curly-headed sod launched an all-out attack. I think he broke my nose.

Then I saw an opening and managed to hit Doyle in the face. He went down to his knees, a trickle of blood running down his forehead and into his eyes. I relaxed a bit, which was a mistake. The little bastard came up off the ground and almost buried his fist in my gut. Even as I wheezed for breath, I managed to sweep my left leg along the ground and scythe Doyle's legs out from under him. Then I dropped on top of him as he hit the ground. As my knees landed on his body I could feel at least one of Doyle's ribs go.

As I knelt on top of my victim my hands automatically reached for his throat. Doyle's face was a gory mask. His thin chest heaved as he laboured for breath. He struggled weakly, trying to claw my hands away from his throat.

My mind replayed the memory of breaking into Ray's flat and finding my partner gasping for breath as he bleed his life away in a pool of spilled milk and his own blood. This wasn't how things were supposed to be. I couldn't hurt Ray! He was my partner, my best mate!

I took my hands off of Ray's throat. My head dropped back as I screamed in denial, "NO!"

It was dark, and cold; and I was naked, and lost, and very ashamed. I sat with my arms wrapped around my legs and my head down on my knees. Somewhere, far away, I heard someone keening in anguish. And I realized that that someone was me. I'd lost Ray. I'd done the unforgivable--I'd hurt him and Ray would never trust me again.

A warm hand touched my bare shoulder. "Bodie?" Ray said. "What's wrong, mate?"

I turned towards Doyle's warmth. Both of my hands clutched at his body.

Ray put his arms around me. He sat there and rocked me as his strong hands stroked my back, and I cried.

"'S'okay, sunshine. 'S'okay. Everything's going to be all right." Ray almost crooned.

The warmth of Doyle's body, and the affection in his voice finally got through the cold layer of shock. I relaxed and stopped sobbing.

"What is it, mate?" Ray asked. "Whatever it is, we'll set it right."

There was a cold lump in my stomach as I confessed, "I hurt you."

Ray looked puzzled when I looked up at him. "You'd never hurt me, mate," he said affectionately. "You spend so much time guarding me arse that sometimes you forget to guard your own. 'S'why I spend so much time watching your back. Don't want you getting yourself killed."

As I lay there in his arms it seemed natural to tell Ray, "I love you."

Doyle gave me one of his rare, sweetly affectionate smiles. "Love you too, sunshine." Then he kissed me.

My blood raced. I could smell Doyle musk and oatmeal soap, a combination more arousing than any woman's perfume. The crisp curls on Ray's chest teased my suddenly erect and sensitive nipples. Ray licked my lips and when I opened my mouth his tongue slipped inside to explore. I felt my cock swell and harden as Ray pressed me flat on the ground, and spread himself on top of my body. My hands roamed across his back, then came to rest on the taut mounds of his perfect arse. I could hear Ray moan as he arched his back and ground his groin against mine. The hot, hard, sweat-slick glide and press of his body against mine was perfection. It could never feel this right with anyone else....

I woke up wrapped around Doyle's body like a bloody octopus. At first it seemed only an extension of the dream.

But in the dream I hadn't had to piss so badly that it felt like my bladder would burst. That practical, every day discomfort finally convinced me that I was really awake--and plastered against Ray like a second skin!

Slowly I loosened my hold and eased towards the edge of the bed. Ray murmured a protest and I froze until he settled back into a deep sleep. I quietly got out of bed and headed towards the loo.

I was so hard. and aroused that I couldn't piss. In desperation I turned on the faucets and tried to think of water falls, running streams, babbling brooks.... Finally my erection subsided and my bladder emptied itself.

As I stood in front of the mirror I was still cocooned in shock. Did I really want Doyle sexually? My cock gave an emphatic affirmative twitch.

Those damn Star Trek stories had triggered this. Before reading them I hadn't looked at Ray as a sexual object.

Actually, I had to admit that that wasn't quite true. I'd always known Ray was a sensual creature. Just watching him with one of his birds was a turn on. I'd even noticed the infamous Doyle arse long before Karen misplaced her reading materials. Before now that awareness of Doyle was on a sub-conscious level--a non-threatening, impersonal awareness. Now, the Star Trek literature and the bloody dream had dragged that awareness out into the light of day. I was all too bloody aware of Ray and his sensuality. I just hoped that I could cope with my newly discovered feelings and that they wouldn't destroy our friendship.

I've never seen Ray show sexual interest in another male. I'd no idea how he'd react if I told him I fancied him. But I might have to tell him.

Last night wasn't the first time we'd shared a bed. It probably wouldn't be the last. If I didn't talk to my partner about my suddenly changed feelings towards him biology might take a hand. Next time I had a wet dream I might wake up wrapped around Doyle, dry humping him. Not the best way to tell Ray. The only problem was figuring out just how to tell him. I was not looking forward to it. To tell the absolute truth, I was bloody terrified!

Doyle was very subdued, almost introverted over breakfast. I wondered what his agile little mind was picking apart this time.

It was my turn to drive. When we reached the stakeout we found McCabe glowering and sullen, still in his rotten humour. Lucas just shrugged at us as he hustled Mac out the door. Evidently McCabe's partner was still in the dark about the source of Mac's problem.

Ray took the first watch. He seemed to be wrapped up in his own thoughts so it was a good thing nothing was happening across the roadway in Mrs. Rourke's flat.

Doyle had bundled both Star Trek manuscripts into his old jacket, then smuggled them up the stairs. I spent most of my free time reading them, hoping to get some ideas on how to tell Ray that I was sexually attracted to him.

As the day passed I noticed that Doyle was no longer brooding. He seemed to have made a decision about something. Evidently it had nothing to do with the job because he'd have mentioned it if it had. I had the feeling it had something to do with me because every time Ray looked at me I saw a speculative light in his green eyes.

My guilty conscious was working overtime. If Ray hadn't been asleep this morning when I woke up wrapped around him and hard as a rock, I might be in for a very dicey time this evening.

Doyle finished typing our daily reports a few minutes before our relief arrived. Mac was still in a foul mood, but defensive with it. Lucas was in a skittish mood, trying not to laugh, and teasing his partner. Evidently he'd finally found out why McCabe had been acting the way he was.

McCabe practically pushed Doyle and me out of the flat. It looked like he was afraid Lucas would pass on his information.

As we walked down the stairs Doyle asked me, "D'you fancy Chinese?"

"My place or yours9"

"Yours," Ray replied. "Think the cat likes shrimp?"

"I think you spoil the bottomless pit," I told him.

"Had a lot of practice feeding bottomless pits," Doyle commented as he looked pointedly at my tum.

"I think I've been insulted," I said.

"Always knew you were a bit thick. If you weren't a bit thick," Doyle explained, "you'd know you'd been insulted." He sprinted for the motor.

I grinned and followed him at a slow lope.

The stray thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp. Now he lay sprawled across Ray's lap.

Errol Flynn was again performing feats of daring-do on the telly. This time he wore a cavalry hat and carried a sword.

I was busy trying to figure out how to ask Ray if he'd be interested in a homosexual relationship. Was also trying to figure out what I'd do if he came all over sarky on me. If worse came to worse there were plenty of places outside of CI5 that could use my talents.

All in all I was making myself feel totally miserable.

Ray jolted me back to the present with the bald announcement, "I had a dream last night."

"What about?" I asked him, prepared for just about anything other than what he said.

"I was back in art school," Ray began. "It was a Friday night and I was at one of those parties that seem to last all weekend. My girlfriend had left me, and I'd gone to the party to pick up a bird."

"A wild party, was it?" I prompted him when he paused.

"Nah," Ray grinned. "We thought it was wild, though. Mostly alcohol and a lot of heavy petting." He paused. "But at this one, I just couldn't get involved. Everything was bright lights and sharp edges, but I felt a million miles away from it." Ray looked into my eyes. "Then I saw this man across the room. He was dressed in black. A predator in a room full of sheep--dark, beautiful, and dangerous. And he was watching me. I looked into his eyes. Beautiful, they were. The colour of the night sky just after the sun has gone down. I could feel them pulling me across the floor." Ray stopped talking.

"What happened?" I asked.

"When I got over to where he was standing he said, 'hello, sunshine.' I didn't say anything, I just reached up and touched his face. His eyes closed. If he'd been a cat he'd've purred. When he opened his eyes they were hot, and dark, and I knew he wanted me. Then he kissed me."

"He kissed you?" I asked in surprise.

"Yeah." Ray's eyes dropped to his lap where his hands nervously turned his empty mug. "And I kissed him back." He paused again, but I was too surprised to say anything. Ray continued. "When I opened my eyes we were back in my flat, standing in the bedroom with our arms around each other. His arms were the only thing keeping me upright, my knees were that shaky. I looked into his eyes and said, 'Let's go to bed, Bodie'."

"It was me?"

Ray gave me the ghost of a grin. "Took you long enough to figure it out. Thought I'd given you enough clues."

"What clues?"

"'Eyes the colour of the night sky', 'dark, and beautiful, and dangerous'," Ray quoted.

"Is that how you see me?" Wasn't how I saw myself at all.

"Yeah," Ray replied shortly. He was watching me like a cat at a mousehole.

"What happened then?" I was still a bit stunned.

Ray shrugged. "Took turns undressing each other, then we went to bed."

Curiosity got the better of me. "How was it?"

Doyle flushed, then grinned. "Ruddy fantastic!"

"Ray?" I said tentatively.

"Yeah?" He sounded a bit subdued. Evidently I'd not reacted the way he'd hoped I would.

"I dreamed last night, too," I told him.

"Oh?" Doyle looked up at me and I saw a spark of interest in his eyes.

"Yeah. I was back in Angola, in one of the merc outfits that played The Game. There was a new man, all russet curls and green eyes. His name was Doyle." I could tell I had all of Ray's attention. "I challenged him..." I took him all the way through the entire dream.

Doyle was absorbed in what I was saying, but I could tell that his mind was busy picking it all apart, reading behind what I said. When I finished we sat silent for a moment.

"What do you think it means?" Ray asked softly, "the both of us dreaming like that?"

I was scared, but I had. to tell him. "When I woke up this morning I was wrapped around you like a bloody octopus. I was hard, and I wanted you more than I've ever wanted anything in my life."

Ray's eyes were wide with surprise. "I thought that was just part of the dream," he murmured.

"What?" I was confused. Ray wasn't reacting the way I expected.

"This morning... before the alarm went off. I remember feeling your arms around me. Felt nice. Thought I'd dreamed it all."

My throat closed up and I couldn't speak. Don't know if it was sheer funk, or what.

"D'you think that's what this is all about. Us fancying one another?" Ray asked.

"D'you fancy me?" I asked him.

"Thought I'd made that plain. Yes, I do fancy you. D'you fancy me?"

"Yes," I said. "Couldn't you tell by the way my body was acting this morning?"

"Told you. Thought it was a dream. Bodie?"


"Why the merc fantasy? Why the fight?"

It took me a moment to put it into words. I've not had a lot of practice explaining myself to other people. There aren't many people I care about enough to make that kind of effort. "Most of what I've seen in the way of homosexual relationships has been ugly, like the first mate on that freighter, or some of the things I saw in Angola. When my subconscious tried to tell me that I fancied you, it used the only images I have for all male liaisons."

"It wouldn't be that way with us," Doyle said.

"No. Even in the dream I knew that."

"Bodie... What do you want?"

"Want to keep you safe," I told him. "Want to make you happy."

"I love you, you know," Ray said as he slid the cat off of his lap and onto the floor. He ignored the feline's disapproving grumbles as he slid across the settee and put his arms around me.

It was nice knowing Ray loved me. It was nice knowing that Doyle was committed enough to forget his usual caution. My partner usually analyses things to death. The only time I'd ever seen him move this fast with a relationship was with Ann Holly. That'd been a right mess. I'd no intention of allowing this relationship to fall apart. Things were moving too fast and I needed to slow them down. I needed to have things spelled out--preferably in words of one syllable--so that there'd be no mistakes.

"Ray," I said. "We need to talk."

Doyle took a deep breath and rested his head on my shoulder. A helpless chuckle shook his body. "I know, mate. This is too important to rush into. But it's hard to be practical when you feel like this." He took my hand and placed it on the hot, hard bulge in the front of his jeans.

"Because of me?" I asked.

Two warm green eyes smiled at me. "Yeah," said Ray softly before he sat up and moved a decorous three inches away from me. "But you're right. We need to talk. A relationship like this can so easily get screwed up, and, whatever happens, I don't want to muck up our friendship or break the partnership. I almost didn't tell you about my dream. Was half afraid you'd belt me one and ask Cowley for a new partner."

"Know what you mean," I admitted. It was reassuring that I wasn't the only one with doubts and cold feet. "Was trying to work up the bottle to tell you how I felt. Hadn't found the nerve yet. Was glad when you told me about your dream."

"Couple of tough CI5 agents too scared to talk to each other," Doyle snorted.

"S'easy to be tough when someone's shooting at you," I replied. "Emotions are much harder too handle." We sat silent for a moment. "What do you want, Ray?"

"Just told you." Ray ticked each point off, "First, to stay friends. Second, keep the partnership workable. Third, if we can do it and still keep the other two, become lovers."

"Can we be lovers and still keep the rest?" The doubts were back, fluttering about in my tum like erratic butterflies.

"I don't know," Ray said honestly. "But I'd like to try. Me mum always told me that marriages should have good foundations--and we've certainly got those. We've been partners and friends for five years or more. We know most of the major things about each other. Then she'd explain that you had to build on the foundation, and you had to do it bit by bit, day by day. Both people had to work at it constantly if they wanted it to last and grow and change--and relationships do have to change, or else they stagnate and die."

"Building to last," I mused. I looked over at Ray. "You mentioned marriage. Are you proposing to me?"

"Bloody right, I am," Ray replied. "I wouldn't risk what we've already got for anything else than that type of commitment. It won't work without both of us working at it, wanting it, needing it. That's what I want. What do you want, Bodie?"

"I want you, Ray," I said honestly. "Any way you'll let me, for as long as you'll have me."

"That won't work, Bodie," Ray protested. "We're partners. We're equals. It says so in the fine print, and have you ever known George Cowley to be wrong about anything like that?"

"Ray, you've been calling the shots in this partnership for a long time," I told him.

"I have?" Ray said in a small voice.

"Yeah," I told him with a fond grin. "You have."

"You mean, you've been letting me push you around, make you do things you didn't want to ....?" Ray sputtered indignantly.

"No," I interrupted him. "S'more like... you've been leading the way... and I've been following."

"And I've been pushing you into this, too, haven't I? If I hadn't told you about that bloody dream...."

I could tell Ray hadn't heard a word of what I said. He was upset and was working himself into one of his more spectacular guilt trips. I put my hands on his shoulders and gave him a good shake. "You haven't been listening, sunshine. You've never pushed me into anything I didn't want. You're not pushing me now. S'just that sometimes you figure it out before I do and I follow your lead. Guess I'm too lazy to bother working it out myself most times. It's only the really important things that I pay that much attention to, and mostly we agree on them. When you do take it in mind to go off in a direction I'm not fond of, I generally dig in my heels. S'why we have so many arguments."

"You sure?" Doyle said uncertainly. "I don't want to push you into anything you don't want."

"I want this, Ray. I need it. Permanent. Exclusive. I really would marry you if I could. Instead we'll have to concentrate on building the sturdiest, most solid relationship that anyone's ever seen."

Ray was still troubled but he came eagerly into my arms when I gave him a tug. We just sat for a while, holding each other. I could feel both our bodies slowly relax.

Soon, holding wasn't enough. Ray made the first move. He lifted his head off of my shoulder and began to lay a path of kisses across my jaw. I stroked Doyle's back with my hands, learning new things about his body. I turned my head until my lips met his.

As kisses go it was not spectacular; but to me it was a revelation. I seemed to melt inside. Part of it was desire--I could feel a tightening in my groin. The rest of it was five years of trust, affection and friendship. And so far all we'd done was a fairly chaste brand of kissing!

I opened my eyes to see Doyle blink in owlish amazement. He closed his eyes again, and cupped my face in his hands, holding it still as he leaned in to kiss me again. This time I felt his ripe lips part. A warm, rough tongue moistly outlined my lips, asking my permission to take the next small step in our relationship. I opened my mouth and softly licked his lips. For the moment Ray let me take the lead and explore his beautiful mouth, inner lips, chipped tooth, and the bumpy roughness on the roof of his mouth.

Ray began to wriggle, so I pulled back. "S'matter, sunshine?"

"I'm a bit ticklish there," he said sheepishly.

"Where? On the roof of your mouth?"

"Yeah. Stupid, innit? But if you keep mucking about I'm likely to have hysterics or come all over me jeans." His voice was full of self-deprecation.

"Can't have that," I said as I stroked his battered cheekbone. "Any other places I should be careful of?"

"Not that I can think of, but I'll let you know," Doyle said solemnly. Then he kissed the tip of my nose. Felt strange. No one's done that since I was six or seven.

Ray turned in my arms so he could settle back against my shoulder. He had always been bloody good at making himself comfortable. Was just as well he had his back to me. Meant he couldn't see the fatuous expression on my face.

"When do you think we should tell the Cow?" Ray asked idly.

I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut. My partial erection wilted. "About us, you mean?" I finally managed to say.

Ray turned slightly so he could see my face. "You do think we should tell him, don't you?"

"Hadn't thought about it," I admitted. "You want to tell him?"

"M'not looking forward to it." Doyle's voice was wry. "But it's only fair. Homosexuality may not be illegal, but it's still frowned upon, especially in civil service. We'd be prime candidates for blackmail unless it's already in our records."

"Makes sense. But I'm with you, mate. M'not looking forward to telling Cowley."

"Think he'll turf us out?"

"Nah. He knows we're his best team," I said with a lot more confidence than I really felt.

"Hope you're right about that. Don't fancy job hunting just now."

"We'll have to sooner or later," I said thoughtfully. "Being a field agent's a young man's game. Don't know about you, but the morning after a tough op I sometimes wake up feeling like I'm a hundred and five."

"How old do you feel right now?" Ray teased.

"Feel about sixteen and randy as hell. You?"

"About the same." Ray's eyes sparked in mischief. "Shall we do something about it?"

"Ray?" I could hear the uncertainty in my voice. "Can we take this a bit slow? Don't know if I'm ready for anything heavy, yet."

Ray turned in my arms and gave me a reassuring smile. "Know how you feel. This is new to me, too. Besides," Doyle said as he did his best to look pitiful, "all this emotional turmoil has worn me out. Don't think I'm good for anything but a long kip." His open-mouthed yawn leant at least a hint of credibility to that last statement.

I smiled and suggested, "Let's go to bed."

We took turns in the bog. Then we gave each other chaste good-night kisses and turned out the lights. Much to my surprise, I fell asleep almost at once. Neither one of us remembered to put out the cat.

My awakening was almost a replay of the day before. I was wrapped around Ray and one of my legs was between his knees. Springy curls tickled my nose.

I felt relaxed and alive. My cock was partially hard and it felt good just lying there with Ray in my arms.

A soft stretching movement told me Doyle was awake. Sleepy jade eyes opened. "Morning, love," Ray said, then a yawn overtook him.

"Morning, Ray." I waited until he'd finished, then I kissed him. It started out sleepy and gentle, but it soon warmed up. I could feel Doyle's partial arousal turning into something more urgent, and my own body started to respond.

A soft 'mic' preceded the stray tomcat. He jumped up on the bed, then hopped up on top of Ray. The feline intruder walked the length of my lover's body until he could poke his bewhiskered face into Ray's.

"Gerrof!" Doyle yelled and rolled onto his back. With all the practiced ease of a champion log-roller, the cat nimbly moved his feet so that he was always on the upward portion of Ray's body.

I sniggered helplessly at the sight of Ray's disgruntled green eyes peering into the curious emerald eyes of the battered tomcat. Doyle turned his head and glared at me.

"S'not funny," Ray muttered indignantly.

I just grinned at him. For all his seeming ill-humour I noticed that Doyle made no effort to evict the cat. Instead he put one hand on the animal's back and pushed him down so that the stray lay on his chest. The he stroked the soft ebony fur.

"Now that we're family," Ray began, "it's time to name our cat."

"Suppose we could call him 'Trouble'," I said.

"Nah," Doyle replied. "He's not that much of a pest."

"Then how about 'The Bottomless Pit'."

"One bottomless pit round here is enough." Ray looked pointedly at my waist. "Besides, if we did he'd only end up as 'Bottom', and that's no name for a self-respecting feline." There was a moment of silence. "Bodie?" Ray asked. "You ever had a cat before?"

"No. Me mum hated animals. I was once offered a black kitten, but she wouldn't let me have it. Said cats were messy beasts, always shedding over everything. And black cats were the worst of the lot. They were symbols of bad luck, like ravens. Always thought that 'Raven' might be a good name for a black cat." I felt Ray take my hand in a strong grip. I looked up to see warmth, affection, and sympathy for that long ago child reflected in his eyes.

"Raven it is." Ray looked down at the newly christened cat. "Hello, Raven."

I reached over my free hand and petted the dark fur. "Raven," I said softly, trying it on to see if it fit.



"Why didn't you want to name him before?"

I thought for a few minutes, trying to put it into words. "I guess that I didn't want the responsibility. Bloody stupid. I've been feeding him and all, but I guess I felt that if I didn't give him a name, then I wasn't responsible for him. Then it wouldn't hurt so much if he disappeared."

"And now?" Ray asked anxiously.

I smiled at him. "Seems to be my week for making commitments and taking responsibility. I think I'm ready for it now."

Ray's eyes glowed. I could see that he knew I was committing to much more than pet ownership.

Just then the alarm went off and Raven leaped off of Ray's chest, leaving four sets of claw marks on the furry skin. Doyle cursed. I turned off the alarm and tried very hard not to grin.

"The joys of pet ownership," I murmured as I leaned over to kiss the small wounds. "C'mon, sunshine." I got out of bed and reached down to give Ray a hand. "Let's go wash up and I'll put something on those. Don't want you coming down with an infection just before the start of our honeymoon."

Ray accepted my hand, then asked me, "That how you see it--as a honeymoon?"

"What else would you call it?"

"Guess we'll have to count yesterday as the anniversary," Ray said.

"Kind of soppy, innit?" I was getting a bit self-conscious. It's one thing to murmur sweet nothings in the ear of some bird, quite another getting soppy with my partner, best mate, and here-to-for heterosexual partner.

"Don't mind being soppy with you," Ray said seriously. "But only with you, mind!" he continued belligerently. "C'mon, we'll be late for work."

Today McCabe was in a deep blue funk. He had the light of desperation in his eyes. Lucas had to almost push him out of the surveillance flat. As he left, Lucas popped his head back to tell us, "Mac has an appointment to have a tooth pulled. Expect he'll be back to normal after the swelling eases off."

After the other team left Doyle turned to me and said, "I've never seen anyone more afraid of a visit to the dentist."

"Wait until the first time you have to drag me kicking and screaming to a dental appointment," I told him.

"Didn't know you were afraid of dental work," Doyle said in surprise.

"I expect we'll be finding out all sorts of things about each other."

Ray sighed, "Guess I thought I knew you better after five years of working together."

"Working together is one thing; living together is going to be something else."

"We are actually going to be living together, then? Under one roof and all?"

"If you think you can put up with me," I told him.

"I guess we're both hell to live with," Ray said thoughtfully. "We've had enough birds tell us that. But I know more about you than most of them did, and none of it's enough to drive me away."

"You know more about me than any of my birds," I corrected him. "But, you're right. We're both walking into this with our eyes open. I think we can make it work."

"I'm sure we can make it work," Ray said emphatically. He brushed his knuckles along my jaw, and then walked over to the post by the window. "Time to get down to business. Probably be another exciting day. Wonder if she'll change the paper in the budgie's cage?"

"Don't even think about it," I advised him. "The excitement might be too much for you." Only half my mind was on the exchange of banter. The rest of it was savoring the fact that Ray had practically caressed me, and during working hours at that! I'm the one who does most of the touching in this partnership. It's rare that Ray gets physically affectionate, even with his birds. And especially not when he's on the job.

The day was quiet, though Mrs. Rourke did change the paper in the bird cage. It was a good thing that nothing much happened because both Doyle and I had a tough time trying to concentrate on the surveillance. We were too aware of one another.

Jax and Stevens (one of the new intake of agents) arrived at noon to relieve us. Ray and I were assigned to HQ for the last few hours of our shift. We decided to stop for lunch before we tackled the pile of paperwork that faced us before we started our leave.

There is a small cafeteria not far from the CI5 building. It serves several governmental offices, ours included. It was convenient and the food was fairly good, so we decided to lunch there.

Ray managed to choose a vegetarian casserole, salad and tea; and to pay for his meal before I'd quite decided what I wanted. I finally settled on Swiss roll, tea, and bangers and mash. Then I spotted the very thing to complete my meal.

After I paid for my food I looked around the crowded room and finally spotted my partner sitting at a small table with Murphy. I made my way over there and set my tray on the table. Then I had to find a spare chair. As I sat down I noticed the frank look of disbelief on Ray's face as Doyle gazed with fascinated unease at the small bowl of lime gelatine cubes sitting on my tray.

I suppressed a grin and greeted 6.2, "Hello, Murph. What has the Cow got you working on?"

Murphy started a hilarious story about the pitfalls of bear-leading Saudi diplomats through London's wilder nightlife. I enjoyed the witty and somewhat scurrilous tales while I demolished swiss roll (always eat dessert first!), then the bangers and mash.

I noticed that Ray kept one eye on the, as-yet-untouched, gelatin. Never one to let a joke die a premature death, I left that bowl to last. Then I neatly stacked the green cubes into a symmetrical structure in the middle of my empty plate.

As my translucent green tower took form, Doyle lost all interest in Murphy's stories. His eyes grew dark and he pressed his lips together in an unsteady line.

I knew it wouldn't take much more to set may partner off. So, with exaggerated grace, I used my fork to pluck the topmost cube from the quivering edifice. Slowly, I raised it to my mouth. I kept my eyes focused on Ray as I opened my mouth and lasciviously licked the lime tidbit. Then I voluptuously sucked the cube into my mouth.

A choked snigger forced it's way out of Doyle's throat. The green eyes were squeezed shut and a single tear leaked from under one eyelid and slowly trickled down his cheek. Ray began to shake with laughter.

Murphy's voice trailed off into silence. Poor, bewildered 6.2 looked first at me, then at my partner. "Ray?" he said, "you okay, mate?"

An uncontrollable snicker forced itself out of my partner's throat. It was followed by a bout of full-blown chuckles as Ray rested his head on his arms and howled.

Must admit, I was having a mild bout of hysteria myself. Things had gone even better than I'd hoped.

Murphy was thoroughly confused. Finally he just shook his head and muttered, "Partners, who needs one!" as he took his empty tray back to the serving hatch.

Finally Ray recovered enough to sit up and wipe the moisture from his eyes. "I'll get you for that!" he threatened.

"Promises, promises!" I grinned.

We spent the rest of the day clearing up paperwork. Some of it was several weeks old, as neither of us particularly like to type.

At five o'clock we signed out for our holidays. Our first atop was the local Tesco's.

Back at my flat we unloaded the Capri. I noticed that Doyle was scanning the roadway and asked, "See something interesting?"

"More something I don't see," Ray replied. "Was looking for Raven."

"He'll be round when he wants feeding," I assured my partner.

While we were putting things away in the kitchen I could tell that Doyle was still worrying about the cat. "Don't fret, sunshine," I told him. "Raven can take care of himself."

Ray put his arms around me, and I held him in a loose embrace. After a moment my mate chuckled. "Bloody stupid worrying over the little sod."

"He's family," I told him. "S'never stupid to worry about family. In fact, it's expected."

Ray turned his head slightly and kissed me. It was very pleasant so I returned it with enthusiasm. Things were heating up very nicely until my stomach rumbled and broke the mood.

Doyle leaned back and gave me a wry look.

I shrugged. "S'been a long time since lunch."

"I can see my role in life," Ray declaimed, "chained to the cooker, enslaved by your tum."

"You are a much better cook than I am," I said with a grin. "But I can see how you'd get bloody narked if you had to do it all of the time."

"When I don't feel like cooking we can always eat out or get takeaway," Ray said. "I mostly like cooking. Cleaning, on the other hand, is a flaming bore."

"That's okay, then," I told him. "I don't mind picking up and running a duster over the furniture every now and then. If you'll take the kitchen, I'll do the rest of the flat."

"We'll have to set aside a day of our hols to move my gear over here," Doyle said practically.

"Or we can move my stuff over to your flat," I offered.

"Raven's used to this place. Besides, the bed is bigger," Ray's mouth twitched as he suppressed a smile.

"The way CI5 moves us about Raven will have to get used to another flat sooner or later."

"I know. But the longer we put it off the better settled with us he'll get, and the easier it'll be to move him to a new place."

"Know a lot about cats, do you?" I asked.

"A bit. We always seemed to have a cat or two hanging about when I was a lad. Mum said they kept the vermin under control."

"S'a good thing one of us knows what we're doing," I remarked.

Ray laughed helplessly and rested his head on my shoulder.

"What's caught your wicked fancy this time?" I asked him.

Doyle tipped his head back and looked into my eyes. "Don't think either of us knows what we're doing. A bit like being a virgin again."

"A virgin!"

"Well, neither of us have ever done it with another bloke, and I expect sooner or later we'll get around to trying it."

"You mean sodomy?" I asked.

"Not exactly. Meant gay sex in general. But I expect that one or the other of us'll get curious about that, too."

Doyle was right. It was a bit like being a virgin--repelled, yet attracted by the unknown. I noticed that Ray was waiting for me to say something. "We'll work on it, sunshine. Want to know what pleases you, what gets you going."

"You do," Ray said and pressed his jeans covered erection against my groin.

"That's nice," I murmured. "Makes it mutual." I kissed the side of his lush mouth.

Then my stomach growled again. Ray started sniggering in my neck.

"Can't take you anywhere," I grumbled at my impatient gut.

"You finish putting away the shopping, and I'll start the fillet steak," Ray suggested. "We'll have to take care of him first, or we'll have no peace," and he patted my tum.

I tried to scowl. But I ended up with what I knew was a besotted expression on my face.

Ray seasoned and grilled the meat while I put the rest of the shopping away. I was bent over stowing vegetables in the fridge when I felt a proprietary hand stroke over me arse. A wave of heat turned my face scarlet, but I didn't move. After a moment Ray returned to the cooker.

I was going to have a little trouble adapting to Ray's newly acquired tendency for physically showing his affections. It always had been much easier to touch someone else than be touched by them. But I liked it when Ray touched me. I just wasn't used to it.

As I set the table I made sure that I kept Doyle in sight. Ray finally looked over his shoulder and caught me eyeing his bum. Cheeky little bastard just grinned at me.

I decided to break out a couple bottles of a particularly fine Burgundy I'd recently purchased. Ray put our supper on the table just as I started on the second cork.

The window in the sitting room rattled noisily. "Ray," I said, "you'd best open the window for Raven before he gets too impatient."

"That's Raven doing that?"

"Yeah. And he gets bloody narked if you don't let him in right away. Starts drawing his claws down the windowpane. Worse than squeaky chalk, that is." I shuddered.

By the time I finished removing the last cork Ray was back and Raven was with him. The black tomcat walked over to me and said 'mic', which seems to be his version of 'hello'. Then his whiskers vibrated as he sniffed the air.

"You can have my shrimp, or my chicken, but it's paws off the fillet, cat," I told him as I knelt to scratch under his chin. I could see by his eyes that the furry bastard didn't believe that for a moment.

"I'll give him a bit of the liver," Ray said. Raven followed him over to the fridge. Doyle cut the liver into chunks and gave part of it to the cat. The rest was rewrapped and plopped back in the fridge. Raven almost choked himself trying to wolf it all down at once.

I lit the candles and turned down the lights. Supper was quiet. We didn't say much but we spent a lot of time looking at each other.

After the meal I started the washing up and Ray brewed coffee. Then Doyle dried while I washed and rinsed.

When we'd finished in the kitchen we took our coffee into the sitting room. As we sat next to each other I draped an arm over Ray's shoulders. A well-fed feline hopped up on the other end of the settee, and the three of us settled down to watch Errol Flynn shoot down German aviators.

After a time I gave up on making much sense out of the film. Instead I sat and watched Ray. He has a beautiful face, but it's not the kind of beauty that other men appreciate. My more regular features are much more attractive to the type of male that is interested in other men. No, Ray's looks are the type that are more appreciated by women. And by me. I think the bionic golli is bloody gorgeous.

A long finger stroked across my mouth, jolting me back to the present. I looked over to see Ray smiling at me.

"Happy thoughts?" Doyle asked.

"Was thinking how beautiful you are," I told him.

Ray blushed and said, "Not half as gorgeous as you "

"Yes, you are," I said. "It's just not a classic beauty. You're more exotic." I leaned in to kiss him. Ray pressed closer and opened his mouth. His tongue outlined my lips and I opened them so he could explore my mouth.

Doyle pulled me away from the settee cushions and wrapped both arms around me. My hands stroked down the thin material of his cotton shirt, feverishly exploring the taut body beneath the cloth.

I could feel a surge of blood in my cock. My breathing was erratic, and I was getting lightheaded. Finally I had to pull back from the kiss in order to breath.

Ray panted in my arms. He, too, was winded. But he recovered before I did and began nibbling at my throat. He radiated sexual heat. The green eyes were dilated, his mouth was swollen. Should be illegal to look that good!

I reached down and pulled the tail of his yellow shirt out of the waistband of his jeans. Slowly I unbuttoned the garment, starting at the neck. As I parted the edges of the shirt I leaned forward to explore Ray's skin with my mouth. I could feel the lightly furred chest heave as I nuzzled one nipple. The rosy nub hardened into a taut peak beneath my lips. Ray sighed deep in his throat as I opened my mouth and nursed the tender flesh. I ran my thumb across the crest of the other nipple and Ray moaned and clutched my shoulders.

Then Doyle erupted in my arms. He pressed me back into the corner of the settee, jerked my polo-neck up under my armpits, and licked my chest. As Ray straddled my hips his jean clad erection brushed against my groin and we both lost control.

We were a sweaty tangle on the settee. Our grip on each other was so hard I knew we'd have bruises tomorrow. Erratically we thrust against each other, unsynchronized and frantic. I panted, moaned and thrashed beneath Ray. He moaned and murmured as he ground his groin into mine. I could feel the heat pour off of my lover's body. Sweat pooled in my groin, armpits, and where my body pressed against Ray.

Every time Ray thrust against my groin the sensation was incredible. The pressure and the friction of my cords rubbing against my swollen prick had me flying so high I almost stopped breathing. Then it was too good, too much. My back arched. My buttock's clenched. I thrust upwards as I felt my balls contract in spasms--once, twice, three times.

I may have passed out, or maybe my I just shut down with the overload of sensation. When I finally became aware of my surroundings, I could feel Doyle thrusting against me, trying desperately to find the sensation that would trigger his own orgasm. I felt warm with afterglow. My hands curved around Doyle's arse and I used my grip to help Ray as he thrust. It didn't take much. A couple of frantic thrusts, then Ray froze, back curved in ecstasy, crying out his release.

Doyle slumped on my chest and snuggled his curly head into the curve of my neck. I still had my hands around his beautiful bum. A large wet spot spread between our bodies. I chuckled softly.

Ray stirred and his head moved until his sated, sleepy eyes could look into mine. "Share the joke, mate," he invited.

"Haven't been that quick on the trigger since I was fifteen and desperate for it," I told him.

Ray grinned, closed his eyes and put his head back down on my shoulder. "We are a bit old for fast sex on the settee," he yawned.

"Yeah. We'll have to learn to slow down."

"They do say that practice makes perfect," Ray suggested sleepily.

"Ummm. I have a perfectly good bed. If you think you're up to a second round."

"Might be fun to try," Ray replied. He opened his eyes and tilted his head so he could look at me. "Need to get out of these bloody jeans anyway." His nose wrinkled in distaste.

"Yeah," I agreed. "You did make a bit of a mess."

"Me?" Doyle's eyes were wide with indignation. One nimble-fingered hand investigated my crotch. "Feels like you contributed more than your share."

I stared solemnly into the sea-green eyes. "I've been saving it, I have." Ray looked skeptical. I took one hand off his arse and flicked an errant curl away from his face.

"Haven't had the time or energy for sex lately," I told him. "Thought it was just exhaustion or that I was coming down with something. But it might have been because I was falling in love with you." I don't know whether Ray believed me, but it was the truth. Casual pickups no longer interested me, and my dates had been increasingly infrequent. I still enjoyed birds, but the sex wasn't as necessary or as urgent. At first I'd thought it was just because I getting older, but my reactions to Ray were not only urgent, they were overwhelming.

"I love you, too," Ray told me. "D'you think this might have happened even if we hadn't read the Star Trek stories?"

"I don't know," I told him. "I think I must have been in love with you for some time, only I was to scared to let my conscious mind in on it."

"It scares me too," Ray admitted. "But I'm more afraid of losing the closeness than I am of anything else."

"Me, too," I said and I kissed him. The only thing that ended the kiss was the fact we both needed to breathe.

"Let's try that bed," Ray suggested. And I swear the sultry little sod was trying to get me going again.

"You may have to help me off the settee," I told him.

Doyle managed to get up without too much difficulty. He gave me his hand and half pulled me to my feet. He had the nerve to grin at me when I pulled my polo-neck back down over my bare tum. Had to do it with one hand because Ray kept his grip on the other one.

As we started for the stairs I gave Raven a severe glance and said, "Don't wake us too early cat. I've a feeling we'll need our beauty rest."

Ray sniggered vulgarly.

Once we reached the bedroom Doyle let go of my hand. Had to, didn't he? Otherwise I'd never've been able to get my polo-neck off.

I threw my trousers, Ray's jeans, and my pants in the wash-basket. Ray, the sexy bastard, wasn't wearing pants beneath his jeans. When I turned back I caught him looking at me with what can only be described as lustful appreciation.

I blushed.

"Why does it bother you so much for anyone to look at your body? It's beautiful, but you've always got too many bloody clothes on. Won't open a button in a heatwave."

"Part of it's that bastard who almost raped me," I told him. "Always figured the easiest way to avoid that sort of situation was to put temptation out of the way of anyone that way inclined, and the easiest way to do that was to keep all my clothes on at all times. The rest of it is mainly habit. When I first got back to England I wasn't acclimatize. I near froze my balls off that first winter. It always seemed to be cold and damp."

"Do you mind me looking at you?" Doyle asked.

"Like the way you look at me," I said. "S'just that it'll take me a while to get used to it. It's hard to change the habits of a life-time."

Ray moved closer and reached out to hug me. "It's hard to change some habits," he agreed. "But I think I'm going to find it easy to love you."

"I do love you, Ray," I told him.

"I know," Ray replied and he kissed me. Finally Doyle let me go, but only after we'd both had a bit of practice holding our breath. "We'd best clean up," he said.

As I washed my sticky tum and groin I noticed that my cock and balls were sore. Rubbing against my clothes had damn near taken the skin off of them. Ray was also acting a bit tentative as he washed his genitals. Those bloody jeans must have been worse than my cotton pants.

I folded the duvet and we both crawled into bed. At first we cuddled sleepily. Then I found Ray's mouth. As we explored each other's mouth I could feel Ray's hands stroke across my back and shoulders. I petted Ray's backside and inevitably my hands fit themselves around the muscled curves of his arse.

Ray murmured and I felt the heat in his face as he buried it in my neck. His breath came in uneven gusts against my skin. I felt his lean hands work themselves down my body until they cupped my bum, and Doyle used that grip to pull me closer.

I gasped as my prick pressed against Ray's thigh. It was already growing hard.

Doyle gave a quick wriggle that pressed our groins together. He was hot and hard against me. The feeling of his cock rubbing against my already sensitive organ made my toes curl in pleasure. I thrust against Ray. He thrust back. Our pricks dueled with each other.

I could hear soft moans and curses, but I couldn't tell which were mine and which were Ray's. Nothing existed beyond the exquisite thrust of my cock against Ray's belly and groin.

A drop of pre-ejaculation wept from the head of my prick and spread over my organ. The lubricating moisture helped ease the friction and increase the pleasure I felt as we rubbed against each other. I caught Ray between my thighs and lunged my cock against him.

Ray arched his back in a moan of ecstasy. I leaned forward and sucked the soft skin at the base of his throat. The curly head tossed feverishly.

Doyle used his grip on my body to increase the pace of his thrusts. He nuzzled the soft skin beneath my ear. I turned my head until my lips could capture his. Ray opened his mouth and thrust his tongue between my lips. I sucked its velvety roughness until my lover pulled his mouth away from mine with an inarticulate cry.

Our thrusts were faster, less coordinated, as we rushed towards climax. Ray was glowing with sexual heat. I licked some of the sweat from his chest and gripped him tighter between my thighs. My lover moaned, thrust, then froze as he arched his back and screamed his pleasure. I felt a warm spurt, then another.

With a sigh, Ray became limp in my arms.

I thrust into the slippery warmth of Doyle's groin. Then I thrust again, harder. A third thrust and I climaxed, pulsing in waves of pleasure. Bright colours spiraled behind my closed eyelids.

A few minutes later I lay limp and exhausted, wrapped partially around my partner. Ray chuckled and it shook his body.

"Wha..?" I said sleepily.

"You sound like I feel," Ray's voice murmured.

I opened my eyes and noticed a sated, slightly groggy look in my lover's green eyes. "Was good, wasn't it?" I slurred.

"Was fantastic," Ray replied.

"Mmm," my eyes drooped shut, and the last thing I remember was another of Ray's indulgent chuckles.

When I drifted awake I felt Ray snuggled against my back. He was semi-erect and his cock erotically stroked against my back and bum. A slightly more vigorous thrust brushed Doyle's cock along the moist cleft in my arse and gently grazed the tight ring of muscle hidden there.

I gasped in startled surprise. A jolt of pleasure tightened my nipples and cock. If I hadn't been exhausted my prick would have stood to attention.

I turned around to face Ray and discovered the randy toad was still asleep. "Can't leave it alone even when your asleep," I muttered as I drew him closer.

Ray murmured softly so I stroked him softly until he dropped into a deeper sleep. Not too much later I joined him in slumber.

The next time I surfaced Doyle was plastered down my back again. He had one arm draped over my waist and one leg familiarly inserted between my knees. The bed smelled like the aftermath of an orgy--male musk and semen mostly. I sniggered as I remembered some of yesterday's goings on, especially the sweaty wrestle on the settee.

"Wasso funny," Doyle murmured sleepily.

"Was just thinking it was a good thing no one saw us last night. Would have destroyed our reputations as CI5 super studs."

"It would that," Doyle agreed as he stretched against my back. "Does it worry you, other people knowing about us?"

I turned 'til I could see Ray's sleepy, thoroughly debauched face. "No," I told him. "We've never been too conventional. But our making love together wasn't what I was talking about--more the way we did it."

"What was wrong with the way we did it?" Ray opened one indignant eye.

"Rabbits have nothing on us," I explained to him. "We had all the finesse and technique of a couple of frantic kids."

Ray chuckled and squirmed until he found a comfortable position, one of his legs edged in between mine. "See what you mean. But we improved on it the second time." He nibbled along my collar bones.

"Was a bit better." I rolled my mate over onto his back and leaned down to look into Doyle's half-closed eyes. "This time I want to explore every mole and birthmark. Explore all of you."

The green eyes opened wide with interested attention. "Plan on picking me out of a line-up, do you?"

"Not if you behave yourself."

"I'm always good." The sultry look in the jade eyes told me exactly what Ray thought he was good at, and it wasn't being virtuous.

I grinned down at him and drew one hand over his chest. "I've always envied you your fur," I told him.

"I've always envied you your smooth chest," Ray told me as he swept one hand down my front. "You look bloody gorgeous. Must go down a treat with the birds."

"There aren't going to be any more birds, are there, Ray?" I asked him. Even I could hear the insecurity in my voice. I'd always known that I'd be the monogamous type if I ever found the right person. Of course I'd always pictured myself as a one-woman man. Was strange finding out that that special person was another male. Was also strange finding out what a coward I was. It was easier to ask Ray about birds than it was to ask my real question.

Ray answered it anyway. "No, there aren't. And definitely no other blokes."

I shuddered, part relief and part revulsion at the idea of any other male in my bed. "Can't even think about having it off with another man. Makes me feel sick."

"Me, too," Ray admitted. "Bit of a relief, really. That's what convinced me it was love and not just curiosity. I don't want any other man in my arms. It's not your gender, it's you that I love."

"Forsaking all others, and til death do us part," I said facetiously, but I know that Ray knew I was serious about it. S'just that things were getting too intense and I was uncomfortable with it.

Doyle turned sultry seducer, holding my eyes with a come-hither look as he drew my head down and kissed me. I was so involved with exploring the lush curves of his beautiful mouth that I didn't even notice when Ray reversed our positions. Things were a bit hazy for a minute but when I opened my eyes I was looking up into my lover's exotically slanted eyes. They were hot and dark with desire. I shivered slightly.

"Cold, love?" Ray asked quietly, but what he really meant was, 'was I scared'.

I smiled at him. "It's just the way you look at me... the way I feel about you..." I'm not very good at expressing some of my emotions.

"Love you, too," Ray whispered as he began an almost delicate exploration of my body. The tips of his fingers brushed over my chest, followed by soft lips leaving butterfly kisses, and the occasional lick or nibble.

At first I just lay there in a haze of warmth, letting Ray do whatever he wished. But when he started to suckle my nipples I couldn't stay passive. My body arched up off of the mattress.

Doyle's firm arm pressed me back down on the sheets. A soothing hand stroked across my stomach. "Didn't know your nipples were so sensitive," Ray murmured.

"They weren't always. Had a girlfriend once who liked to suck them." I felt my face heat up in a blush that ran all the way down to my toes. "The more she did, the more sensitive they seemed to get." Then my insatiable curiosity got the better of me. "How about you? D'you like being touched there?"

"Yeah, I do." Doyle was a bit pink about the ears.

I put my arms around Ray, then rolled us over until he lay on his back. After I gave him a quick kiss I bent lower and licked one roseate nipple, wetting it with my saliva. Then I circled one finger over and around the moist, taut peak while I softly sucked on the other fleshy bud.

Ray moaned. I could feel his excited cock bob against my thigh as I lay half on top of him.

"You do like that, don't you, sunshine."

"Told you," Ray whispered.

My fingers traced the soft whorls of hair across Doyle's chest. I brushed my lips down the narrow line leading to his navel. Ray's lower stomach and groin were lightly dusted with brittle flakes of semen. I licked some of them but couldn't really tell what it tasted like.

After I dipped my tongue into Doyle's navel, I licked my way across both his thighs. By then Ray was murmuring softly, and his head thrashed on the pillow. His rosy cock stood proudly erect, bobbing slightly with each breath he took.

I was curious. I was also scared. Finally I leaned forward and hesitantly licked the engorged prick.

Ray sobbed. His body thrashed on the bed. I held his hips flat on the mattress until he lay quiet. Then I leaned forward and sucked the swollen cock's-head into my mouth.

Liquid drops of pre-cum wept from the tip of the organ. I sucked the tip of Ray's cock and explored the rest of it with my fingers, using them to ring the smooth wand while I pumped gently.

Ray convulsed and cried out. His hands tightened on my shoulders as he orgasmed. I barely had time to taste the slightly salty semen before Ray's frantic thrashing pulled the spurting cock from my mouth.

I moved up on the bed and drew my trembling lover into my arms. As I stroked across his back Doyle began to calm down from the frantic peak of orgasm.

"That was..." Ray's voice shook. "I don't have the words for it... Never thought you'd want to..."

"You're beautiful, Raymond," I told him. "Want to touch all of you."

"It's my turn," Ray said as he tugged me over onto my back. "Lie down and let me at you."

One long-fingered hand stroked over my sweat-streaked tum. Ray leaned closer and I had to close my eyes when he licked one of my nipples. The wet, rough friction of Doyle's tongue against me sent a bolt of pleasure shooting from my nipples to my cock. I moaned softly and Ray shifted his attention from my nipples to my mouth. He made a thorough meal of it, probing and plundering, licking and sucking. When Ray moved his mouth moved down to explore my throat he left my lips stinging and swollen from the contact.

I moved my head to one side so that Ray could explore the soft hollow between my collar-bones. His lips browsed over my pulse-point then wandered lower on my chest. Every so often Ray paused to lick, kiss, or suck part of my anatomy. All the while I felt his slender hands stroking, rubbing or tickling random bits of my body.

My whole body was shivering when Ray swirled his tongue across the length of my cock. I still had my eyes closed, so I wasn't expecting it. Ray held me down as I practically convulsed with the pleasure. His lean hands soothed me until I regained some of my control.

When Ray turned me over onto my stomach my arse clenched in the primitive fright reaction. Doyle kneaded my shoulders until I relaxed. Then a warm wet tongue started exploring my spine. Slowly Ray worked his way from my shoulders down to my lower back. I was shivering again when two thumbs parted the curves of my arse and a wet tongue probed my anus.

I cried out helplessly in pleasure and my legs seemed to melt apart. The tight sphincter muscle relaxed and Ray's tongue probed the soft tissues inside.

I couldn't think and there wasn't any room for fear. All I could do was feel the throbbing pleasure. I thrust backwards, trying to impale myself on the moist probe. Then I had to thrust forwards, rubbing my swollen cock against the cotton sheets beneath me.

I whimpered in frustration when Ray withdrew his tongue from my arse. Ray turned me on my side so that I couldn't hump the mattress either. I cursed softly and opened my eyes to find Ray's flushed face only inches away.

"Why'd you stop?" I demanded.

"Liked that, did you?" Ray asked smugly.

"Yes. Was about to come all over the sheets," I admitted.

"S'why I stopped," Ray replied.

"What d'you want, Ray?" I asked him.

"Lie on me, please?" he pleaded.

Ray was hard with desire as I tipped him over to lie on his back. His eyes glowed with a feverish brilliance as I covered his body with mine. The long-lashes wavered, then closed over the emerald eyes. Doyle gasped softly as my cock brushed against his.

"Tell me if I get too heavy for you," I told him. I was trying keep most of my weight on my elbows and knees.

Ray put one hand behind my head and drew my lips down to his. His knees moved apart and I knelt between them. As I leaned down to kiss him again Ray put his arms around my waist and pulled my body down to lie between his thighs.

Doyle thrust upwards as most of my weight settled on top of him. The friction of our cocks rubbing together was more than a little bit painful. In fact, it bloody hurt!

Ray flinched an moaned, and I rolled off of him. We looked over at each other.

"Feels like it's been buffed with sand-paper," I said mournfully. "Must have happened while I was humping the bloody sheet."

"We're both used to partners with more natural lubricants," Doyle replied. "Speaking of which, do you have any?"

"Yeah," I told him. I reached across Ray and opened a drawer in the bedside table. I took a small, partially-used tube out of the drawer and handed it to Doyle.

Ray looked at the label. "KY Jelly?" he said in surprise. "Thought only gays used that."

"Lots of married folk, and not-so-married folk use it as well during the times when nature needs a bit of help."

Ray grinned. "Usually use Vaseline Intensive Care myself."

"KY won't leave an oil-slick on the sheets. It's also a lot more... sensual," I told him.

"Oh?" Ray cocked his head like a curious robin. "Think it'll help us?"

"Won't know 'til we try." I reached over and twisted the cap off the tube. Then I held my hand out and Ray squeezed a bit of the clear lubricant onto my fingers. I leisurely covered Doyle's cock with a slick coating. Long after I knew that every bit of skin was well-covered I continued stroking the springy flesh.

Soon Ray was so fully aroused that I had to take my hand away as I knew it wouldn't take much more to trigger another orgasm. Ray sounded like a bloody cat. His breath rasped over his vocal cords in what was almost a purr. He was glazed about the eyes and it took a few moments and a couple of deep breaths before Doyle could continue.

After he squeezed a healthy amount of KY into his palm, Ray tossed the tube onto the bedside table. He turned towards me and began smoothing the cool gel over my prick.

I'd never tell him, but Ray looked no end cute as he concentrated on covering my sore manhood with clear lubricant. His eyes were wide and intent. He was breathing too fast. I could see just the tip of his tongue as he moistened his suddenly dry lips.

Ray's expression was almost as much of a turn-on as his nimble fingers stroking my cock. The two together had me on the edge of losing control in double-quick time. I murmured softly and reached out to still his busily working hand. Ray finally raised his gaze above my waist and I asked him, "Want to get back to where we were?"

Doyle grinned and I caught a glint of his chipped tooth. He rolled onto his back and spread his legs in invitation. "Think you can remember where we left off?"

"If not, I'm sure you can instruct me."

"C'mere, gorgeous," Ray grinned.

I eased myself between Doyle's parted thighs and slowly spread my body along the length of my partner's wiry body.

Ray wrapped one arm around my waist and the other cupped my head to bring it closer to his. He smiled softly and licked my lips. As he did the little sex maniac gave a sensuous wriggle that rubbed his hard cock against mine. The glide of our lubricated organs was an erotic experience.

I did a bit of wiggling myself. Ray moaned and arched up against my body. Was a bit like riding a half-broke horse. The little sod damn near bucked me off.

After I took a tighter grip on Ray's waist I thrust down against his groin, twisting my hips to increase the pressure and the sensation. I could hear myself groan with pleasure as my tender cock rubbed across Ray's stomach and prick.

One of Doyle's hands was cupped around my thrusting arse. I found out where the other one was when a gel-slick finger pushed through the muscles around my anus.

I panted and froze as my anal muscles spasmed, and then relaxed to allow the slippery digit to stroke deeper inside me. As my anus dilated a second finger joined the first. When Ray stroked across my prostate the sensation was so intense I quit breathing for a moment. Again Ray stroked that swollen organ. I cried and pushed backwards onto the exploring fingers, then forwards against Ray's cock and tum. Nothing existed except for the press of Ray's fingers deep in my arse, and the exquisite feel of my cock rubbing against my lover. I rebounded back and forth between the two sensations. When I came it was in spasms as my arse clenched around Ray's fingers and I spurted helplessly all over his tum.

My eyes finally opened. I found Ray's worried green eyes peering at me through a wild tangle of curls. "Ray, love. Is something wrong?" I asked.

"Are you alright, Bodie?" he asked anxiously, and his arms tightened around me.

"Feel like I've been filleted." I yawned. "That was bloody incredible!"

Ray buried his face in my neck. "Was worried about you," he said softly.

"Because I passed out on you?"

Ray nodded wordlessly.

"I don't usually do that," I told him.

"M'glad. It bloody well scared me."

I rubbed my face against his springy curls. "You may have to get used to it. You get me going faster than anyone I've ever been with. All you have to do is look at me and I bloody well lose control."

"You do the same to me, you know." Ray was relaxing a bit.

"Speaking about you, are you okay?" I reached down and checked Ray's quiescent cock.

Ray blushed as he flicked a look at me, then gave a studious gaze to my collar-bones. "I came when you did," he told me. "Was bloody sexy, you thrashing about and yelling like that."

I blushed at that. Ray looked up at me and grinned. He recovers from terminal embarrassment faster than I do.

We lay there, cuddling. I'd almost drifted back to sleep when I felt Raven land on my tum. I opened one eye and glared at the cheeky bugger. "I told you not to wake us up, cat."

Ray snickered into my shoulder. I turned to look at him.

"S'not funny!"

"Yes, it is," he contradicted me. He grinned and planted a kiss on my nose. Then he gave me a proper kiss on my lips.

I was so absorbed in the taste of Ray's mouth and the feel of my lover lying against me, that it was a rude shock when a furry face pushed itself into mine.

I cursed. Ray sniggered helplessly. Raven shifted a paw and hit a sensitive spot on my tum. I gave a muffled yell and pushed the furry body down on my chest so that Raven's weight was distributed over a wider area, not concentrated on the sore spot. "You weigh a bloody ton," I told him.

"It's all that takeaway you've been feeding him," Ray told me. "Don't worry. A proper diet'll soon have the both of you in better shape."

"They say that you're not supposed to diet without proper exercise," I said as I leered at him.

"They're right about that," Ray said cautiously.

"And they do say that sex is the best exercise."

"That's all right then." Ray's face was grave but his eyes were dancing. "I'll see that the both of us get plenty of it. But I draw the line at the bloody cat. He'll have to see to his own fitness program."

"I'd never think of inviting Raven into such activities," I said in shocked tones. "He's like a son to me. That would be incest."

Ray sniggered, then relaxed in my arms. "I suppose we'd best get up and wash. It's your turn for having first go at the loo."

"We could share," I suggested hopefully.

"Be faster if we didn't," Ray grinned. "We'd probably get carried away and the water'd run cold."

"Don't know about you, mate, but I don't think I'm up to much this morning. You've exhausted me."

"Don't care how knackered we are," Doyle said, "I don't trust us in the same shower together. Besides, Raven wants feeding. I'll see to him while you make yourself sweet." Ray kissed the side of my mouth then plucked Raven off of my chest and carried him out of the bedroom.

I lay on my back for a few more minutes, feeling warm and pleasantly tired. Finally I heaved myself out of bed and headed for the loo. As I washed I was careful not to muck about with my cock or nipples. They were a bit sore if not to say raw. I wondered if I could stand wearing pants today.

When Ray came back from the kitchen I was sitting on the lid of the loo slathering vitamin cream on the worst spots. "Save some of that for me," Doyle said as he stepped into the shower.

I raised my voice so that Ray could hear me over the sounds of the water, "We'll have to slow down a bit, or learn to take more precautions."

"Precautions?" Ray said. "Never say there's a chance that one of us'll end up preggers!"

"I certainly hope not!" I said in tones of mock shock. "Not unless there's some deep, dark, secret you haven't confided in me."

Ray laughed.

I left Doyle in the shower and went down to put the kettle on. Raven lay in a pool of sunshine on the kitchen floor. He was giving himself a thorough after-breakfast wash, paying particular attention to ears and whiskers. I found it a very soothing domestic scene.

I was sitting at the table with toast, tea, and the morning paper when Ray walked in. He looked like a teenager decked out in his father's clothes--all tousled curls and wearing cream trousers and a blue shirt borrowed from my wardrobe.

"Mind if I borrow these?" Ray asked. "My clothes are a bit gamy and I came all over me jeans last night."

"What's mine is yours," I told him. "But we'd best move your gear over here. If you start showing up at HQ in my togs someone's bound to twig sooner or later. And I'd rather Cowley heard it from us."

"Yeah," Ray said with a grimace. "Not that I'm looking forward to it, mind." Most of the tea and toast was gone when my doorbell chimed. I keyed the intercom. "Hallo?"

"Bodie!" Karen's voice sounded tinny. "Could I see you for a moment?"

"Come on up." I released the security locks.

When I opened the front door an agitated figure in a British Air uniform almost fell into my arms. "Bodie, did I leave anything when I was here last? A couple of fanzines?"

"Fanzines?" I asked as I walked her into the sitting room.

"Yes, fanzines. Hallo, Ray," Karen said in a distracted manner.

Ray was leaning against the doorway to the kitchen. "Hallo, Karen."

Karen turned her attention back to me. "Two 8 by 11 inch manuscripts..."

"Oh!" I said as the penny finally dropped. "Stroke and Bondmates! Yes, you did."

Karen went crimson at the mention of the two titles. "I'll go get them," Ray said and started towards the stairs.

"Would you like a cuppa?" I asked. "It's a fresh pot."

"No, thank you," Karen replied. She was still a bit red about the ears, and she wouldn't meet my eyes. I offered her a chair but she politely declined. She just stood there fidgeting. "I have to get to Heathrow... I've another flight to the states this afternoon. I tried ringing you yesterday..."

"Ray and I worked late. Then we had to go round the shops. I hadn't a thing in the flat."

"Oh," Karen said blankly. "Well. That explains it. I was quite upset when I arrived in New York and found I'd stupidly mislaid Carrie's property."

"I can see where you would be," I said sympathetically.

Ray loped down the stairs carrying the two fanzines. I made a mental note to try and remember the new word.

"Here they are, Karen. Please thank Miss Warner for the loan of them. We found them most educational." He handed them to her. Karen almost dropped the two manuscripts then she just stood there clutching them to her chest, her stricken eyes on my partner. "You... looked through them?" Her voice had a squeak in it.

"Read them," Ray corrected her, his eyes alight with an impish humour.

"Cover to cover," I added unhelpfully.

"Oh, Lord!" Karen wailed. This time I swear the blush carried on down to her toes.

"Don't take on so," I slung an arm across her shoulders. "It's not the end of the world." I was feeling a bit mean for teasing her.

"What you must think!"

"We think you're a nice girl with impeccable taste in erotic literature," I told her.

"Oh," Karen said weakly. "I must go. I have a million things to do. I couldn't think where I'd left them," she babbled as she started towards the door. "So glad to get them back."

I escorted Karen out to the curb where her taxi waited. "Have a good trip."

I handed her into the backseat. From past experience, I knew that her embarrassment would prevent her from continuing our relationship. It was just as well. Now that I had Ray, I didn't want or need anyone else.

I couldn't think of anything that would ease Karen's upset. In the end, I just let her go.

Ray was sitting on the settee when I came in. He was brooding.

I got another mug of tea and sat down close enough that I could feel Doyle all along my right side. "Poor Karen," I said. "She was embarrassed."

Ray sighed and looked at me in rueful apology. "Fraid I made it worse."

"We both did."

"Did it on purpose," Ray mumbled, his eyes fixed on Raven who lay sprawled across the carpet at his feet. "Was jealous," my partner confessed. "Wanted her to leave."

I put my mug down on the table and took Ray's mug away from him. I turned him to face me. Doyle's eyes were full of misery.

"You don't have to be jealous of anyone, love," I told him. "I love you. I've been in love before--Marikka and that girl in Africa. But it was never like this. You see, I didn't really know them. It was more like I was in love with being in love. It's not that way with you. This is real. It's not an infatuation that I'll outgrow. This is the sort of relationship that will last because it's based on based on friendship and mutual respect. Besides which, we can't seem to keep our hands off of one another," I gave a mock sigh and Doyle looked at me with a small smile. Then his face crumpled. He wrapped his arms around me and hid his face in, my neck.

"Love you," Ray whispered. I cou1d feel him shake. He was still feeling guilty, I knew. It was one of the few things about him that bothered me--this tendency to blame himself for everything.

"Love you too. Ray," I told him as I stroked his back. When he relaxed a bit I kissed him.

For a while we just sat on the settee and I cuddled Ray. In an effort to lighten the mood I said, "I'll miss those... What did she call them? Fanzines? Way I see it, they helped bring us together. Besides, there were a few things they mentioned that we haven't tried yet."

Ray chuckled and looked into my eyes. "You mean fucking?" he asked.

"Don't be crude, Raymond," I reproved him with a sniff.

"Anal sex, then. Sodomy. Buggery. That what you mean?" I could see that Ray was using crudity and levity to hide the question he really wanted to ask me.

"Yes," I told him. My face turned red, but I looked him straight in the eyes as I said, "Liked what you did to me this morning. Think I'll want it all, eventually."

"Liked what you did as well ," Ray said softly. "We'll take it slow til we're both sure." Doyle leaned back against my shoulder and I kept one arm about his waist. "Bodie? About the fanzines.."

"What about them?"

"You won't have to miss them. At least not for long."

"Oh? Had them taking lessons from homing pigeons, did you," I asked indulgently.

"Nah," Ray said. "I copied down the addresses of the people who produced them and sent off letters asking about prices." Ray looked over his shoulder at me. "For our wedding present," he explained.

I grinned at him. "Sentimental bugger!"

"Makes two of us," Ray replied. We both broke up.

A disdainful pair of feline eyes looked up at us from the carpet. I laughed even harder and held my lover close. It was nice to have a family again.

-- THE END --

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