The Convalescent Cat


(Story 5 in The Building to Last Universe)

I was leaning against the doorway, finishing my lager and watching Ray sunbathing in a disgracefully brief bikini, when I heard something crashing about in the peonies at the end of the garden. After I dumped the empty tin in the dustbin by the door, I strolled over to see what was making all the racket. As I passed Doyle, my shadow fell across his face and woke him.

Sleepy green eyes blinked open. "Wassup?" he muttered around a yawn that exposed most of his back molars.

"Something's trashing your peonies, sunshine," I told him as I continued towards the noise. Just as I got to the end of the lawn, a familiar black tom-cat staggered out of the brush and fell over on one side, shaking his head.

I knelt beside Raven and began looking for injuries. My first horrified thought was that he'd been hit by a motor and had crawled home to die.

"Bodie?" I felt Ray come up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. "What's wrong with the cat?"

"I don't know." Couldn't say anything else because fear was causing all the muscles in my throat to tighten up.

Raven tried to struggle to his feet, but couldn't make it. He shook his head and complained in a loud, bewildered voice. "He's not bleeding," Ray commented as he knelt beside me and began to run his long-fingered hands over the black fur. "Doesn't seem to hurt anyplace."

"But he can't stand up," I said.

"I'll call the vet."

I heard Ray get up and start for the door to the flat. A few seconds later, he was back with the rug he'd been lying on.

"Here. Wrap this round him. Keep him warm and still," Ray told me. Then, he was off once more.

Raven tried to get up again, but settled down after I wrapped the rug around him and held him in my lap. He even tried to purr a bit when I scratched behind his ears.

"Bodie?" Doyle called from the doorway. He'd stopped long enough to pull on a pair of old jeans. "Bring Raven in here. The vet wants us to answer a few questions."

I carried our cat into the flat and sat down on the straight- backed chair we keep by the phone.

"Hang on a bit. I'll look," Ray said into the receiver. He leaned down to peer into one of Raven's ears. "Yes," he continued. "It's pretty filthy-looking. Lots of black specks." He listened for a few minutes, then answered, "We'll bring him right over, then."

As he put down the phone, Ray gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Jean doesn't think it's too serious, but she wants us to take Raven into the surgery so she can treat him."

"What'd she say it was?" I asked him.

"She didn't. Told she doesn't diagnose over British Telecom. Said she'd tell us after she's seen the patient." Doyle knelt down beside me and scratched Raven under the chin. "Take it easy, mate," he told the cat. "We'll have you feeling better in no time."

Raven blinked his green eyes and gave a throaty, "mrowr." I looked down into Doyle's eyes, and except for the shape of the pupil, I could hardly tell them apart from Raven's.

Ray looked up at me and said, "Jean's got a full surgery, but she'll try to fit us in as fast as possible. I'll put on a shirt and get the cat carrier. You keep him quiet." With a brief pat on my knee, Ray was up and gone.

All the touching Ray had been doing told how upset my lover was. Not that he doesn't touch, though I'm usually more inclined that way than he is. It's more that Ray usually confines physical displays to two occasions--when he's feeling sexy and when he wants to reassure me. By no stretch of the imagination could he be feeling turned on, which meant he thought his lover was in desperate need of reassurance.

He was right. I was feeling scared and totally helpless. A lot of people would say it was ridiculous to get that upset over the fate of any animal. I don't trust people like that. They're the types who believe that small children should have goodness and morality beaten into them. Doyle once told me that his mother had always taught him that a child who abused animals often grew into an adult who abused children or other helpless victims. I'll always regret that I never met Laura Doyle, but she died before Ray and I were partnered.

Doyle was soon back with the cat carrier we'd purchased after the debacle we'd had the first time we'd had to move Raven to a new flat. It had more than paid for itself in the year or so we'd had it. We no longer had to fear Raven breaking loose in the motor while we were transporting him. The only problem we still had was the hassle of getting the obstinate devil into the plastic case.

Today, Raven didn't even put up a struggle. He let me put him in the carrier with a single "meow" of protest. I looked at Doyle. "He didn't even try to get away."

"No." Ray put both arms around me in a hug. "Don't worry, love. He'll be all right."

I hugged Ray back, grateful for the comfort. "Thanks, sunshine."

Doyle drove us to the vet's surgery. Dr. Jean Westbury had a practice in a small, stone building near the last, but one, flat Ray and I had lived in. She'd treated Raven for various wounds and had given him all his shots. In some ways, having a pet is a bit like having a kid. In our case, we were lucky that Raven and Jean got on so well. Our cat doesn't seem to hold grudges for the various times he'd been poked, prodded or injected. Then, too, Jean seems to like Raven. She once told me that he might look like a ragamuffin, but, most times, he acts like a gentleman.

I could have told her that it runs in the family. For years, I've been partnered with a man who acts and dresses like one of London's tattier hard men. Actually, that's no longer totally true. In the last year or so, Doyle has started dressing better and paying more attention to his hair. Unless Ray is feeling particularly low or extremely narked, The Urchin rarely makes an appearance now.

Jean's surgery was crowded with two or three cats, a couple of dogs and a grey-haired lady with a cockatiel on her shoulder. It was a small surgery, so the few animals with their owners almost burst it at the seam.

I sat down with Raven while Doyle signed in with the receptionist, who doubles as a veterinary assistant. It never failed to surprise me how relatively little trouble there was between the cats and dogs in the surgery. I suppose that the fact that all of them were out of their own territory probably had something to do with it, but I would have expected more aggro than I usually saw.

We were there an hour and a half before the receptionist could fit us in to see the doctor. Ray flipped through a couple of very old magazines (are there ever any other kind in a waiting room?), but I could tell his mind wasn't on what he was doing. I just watched people and animals come and go. Raven lay quietly in the carrier.

Jean was built in the Barbara Woodhouse mould--square, practical and very authoritative. Her first question was, "Has Raven been scratching his ears a lot lately?"

Ray and I both admitted we'd seen Raven digging about his ears frequently. We hadn't thought much of it.

Jean examined the insides and outsides of both ears. After she'd snapped off the little light she'd used and had patted Raven's dark fur in an absent- minded fashion, she announced, "He's got ear mites."

"Ear mites?" Ray said in surprise.

"Yes," Dr. Westbury replied. "Or ear mange. It's caused by the same sort of parasite as mange. They begin feeding on the membranes of the ear canal. That's why he can't stand up. It destroys his balance."

I felt a bit queasy. "Can you do anything?"

"We'll start treatment now, but first, I'll show you what to look for, so if it starts up again, you can catch it before it gets this far."

Ray and I took turns peering into Raven's ears. The insides of both ears were encrusted with dirty brown flakes.

Then, Jean had Ray hold Raven's body and me hold his head, while she dripped liquid into both ear canals. Raven didn't like the feeling of the drops dribbling down inside his ears, but he loved the time Jean spent massaging the base of his ears once the medication had been applied.

"You do this once every other day," Jean told us as she handed aver the ear drops. "These you give him three times a day," she continued as she brought out a bottle of pills. "Now, watch me." She held Raven's head with one hand so that her thumb and fingers forced his jaws open. With her other hand, Jean flipped one pill down the cat's throat. Then, she held his jaws closed and massaged the throat until Raven swallowed.

"When you get him home, you wash him with this disinfectant shampoo." Dr. Westbury added a bottle to the pile of medications. "That is to be repeated once more in two days' time. We want to kill all the parasites that are both in the ears and on his coat. In the meantime, Raven will have to be kept inside for at least a week."

After Ray drove us back to the flat, he offered to do the rounds of the local shops. "If we have to keep Raven in the flat, we'll need cat litter. We used the last of the old bag the last time we moved flats."

"Yeah," I sighed. "Reduced to charring for a bloody feline," I said with feeling. Ray grinned at me, flashing that endearing, chipped front tooth.

"But don't expect to get out of helping bathe Raven," I told my partner sternly.

Doyle gave me a look that indignantly denied he'd had any thought of shirking his duty. It didn't work. I know Ray too well. The slight twitch of his lower lip and the way his eyes kept sliding sideways told that he was trying hard not to laugh. Reminded me of a naughty kid caught smoking in the loo at school.

I put an old rug down in the kitchen for Raven to lie on. He kept trying to stagger to his feet. Every time he almost managed it, the stuff the vet put down his ears would start to bother him and he'd shake his head to try and get rid it. Then, he'd fall over. Finally picked him up and carried him into the sitting room. Scratching behind his ears seemed to help him a bit and while he was on my lap, he wasn't trying to move about and maybe hurt himself.

Ray found us sitting on the settee together when he got back from the shops. He smiled indulgently, kissed me quickly on the mouth, and then scratched behind Raven's ears. Afterwards he went off to put the shopping away and to set up the litter box.

When he'd finished, Doyle came bouncing into the sitting room with a disgustingly cheerful look on his face and a devilish glint in his eyes. I knew immediately that I wasn't going to like it, whatever it was.

"Are we ready for our bath?" he crooned impartially at Raven and me. He knows how much I loathe that particularly saccharine note some people get when they address their pets and Ray reproduces it perfectly.

"You are not going to take a bath," I said. "You and I are going to give Raven a bath."

"That's what you think, mate," Ray said in his usual, slightly acerbic tones. "You ever given a cat a bath?"

"No," I admitted.

"I guarantee we'll get as wet as the bloody animal," Doyle said in the tone of one resigned to his fate. "I've got the shampoo. You bring Raven. We might as well get it over with."

When I got to the bath, Ray was busy pulling all his clothes off and piling them just outside the door. He stopped long enough to advise me to do the same, "...unless you want them to end up dripping."

Raven tried to escape when I put him down on the floor, so I waited until Doyle had stripped down to a rather indecent pair of turquoise bikini pants before I handed him the cat.

I didn't expect Ray's rather suggestive imitation of a saxophone strip-tease instrumental. My blush must have continued down to my toes. Doyle's earthy (if not to say, obscene) chuckle made it even worse. I stood there in my cotton pants and an all-over blush. If I didn't love him so much, I'd probably strangle the not-so-little sod. Then again, if I didn't love him so much, I wouldn't have been stripping down in front of him.

"You are a prude," Ray murmured, before he nuzzled my ear. I was just relaxing enough to enjoy it when Ray abandoned me in order to catch Raven before he sneaked out of the bath. It's pretty hard to sneak when you keep falling over every two or three steps. Poor bastard.

"Hold up, mate," Ray said as he picked up the cat. "This won't hurt... much."

"It'll probably hurt us a lot more than it hurts him," I replied as I reached out to scratch behind the cat's ears. I found myself wishing for a full set of astronaut gear--or chain mail, at the very least. The next few minutes were not going to be pleasant.

Ray gave me a wry, sympathetic glance as he carried Raven over to the bathtub. "Close the door, Bodie," he said.

I made sure the door was firmly fastened, then turned back to see Ray lower the cat into the tub. Raven didn't like the feel of the cold enamel beneath his feet. He couldn't get enough traction on the smooth surface to scramble out from under Doyle's hands, so he extended his claws. It was a bit like listening to a piece of chalk on a squeaky blackboard; made my teeth ache.

"Here," I said to Ray, holding out an old towel. "If we put this under him, maybe he won't try so hard to get away."

"I knew there must be something underneath all that silky hair," Ray said approvingly. He lifted Raven and I slid the towel beneath the cat. When Ray set the animal down, Raven was not happy, but he wasn't as dead-set on escaping, either.

"How are we going to do this?" I asked my partner. I was perfectly happy to let him take the lead in this endeavour.

"Thought we'd use the spray to wet him down and rinse him," Ray replied. He nodded towards the long plastic hose with the spray head that we'd recently purchased. It worked a treat for rinsing off on the odd occasion when either of us decided to indulge in a bubble bath or a long soak, instead of our usual hurried shower.

"Okay," I said. "I'll get the temperature right first." It took me a little bit of fiddling to attach the spray hose to the taps, and then, to adjust the water so that it was neither too hot nor too cold. "Hold on to him," I warned Ray. When I saw he had a good grip on the cat, I started to spray Raven's back.

The second the water hit him, Raven made an explosive attempt to abscond. The towel skidded on the slick surface of the bathtub. Ray lost his balance and fell directly into the stream of water just as he opened his mouth to curse. Water filled that luscious cavity, Doyle began to splutter and his grip on the cat loosened. Raven wiggled out of his hold and tried to scramble out of the tub. I dropped the hose and lunged towards Raven just as my partner tried to grasp the escaping feline. Our heads met with a dull thump. Just then, the water pressure in the abandoned hose sent it skittering across the tub and up the wall, squirting randomly in several directions.

By the time I got the hose back under control, Ray had managed to bundle Raven's feet into the folds of the towel. Both cat and man looked distinctly disgruntled.

"Do you think he's wet enough for the shampoo?" I asked, in an attempt to be helpful.

Ray rolled his eyes in that give-me-strength gesture of his. "Yeah." The word dripped dry sarcasm. "I'd say he's wet enough. Everything else certainly is." I could hear a ragged note of exasperation in his husky voice. Large drops of water dripped off his moisture-laden curls and ran down his face.

I couldn't help myself. The grin just wouldn't be suppressed.

Ray scowled. Then, his own sense of the absurd surfaced. A muffled snort was followed by a full-blown cackle. "You should see yourself," he gurgled. "Look like the Lady of Shallot, you do."

I grinned back at him. "I haven't the figure for it."

"No, you don't," Ray said slowly as he ran his lascivious eyes down my nearly-naked body. His appreciation was evident in his warmly sensual smile and in the burgeoning bulge in his tiny pants. Having Ray as my lover is great on the ego. He arouses so easily and for the oddest reasons. Who else would find drowned Bodie a turn-on?

My love, besides being infinitely sexy, is also eminently practical. While my mind wandered among thoughts of apricot thighs and russet curls, Ray was back to thinking of the matter at hand.

"Oi?" he called to get my attention. "I think we're ready for the shampoo." I shelved my thoughts and turned the water off. The shampoo was an evil, muddy blue and smelt like the product of miscegenation between a bar of industrial-strength antiseptic soap and a jar of pine tar.

"Cor! That pongs something awful!" Ray said. I could see his nose wrinkle.

"Yeah," I agreed, rubbing the shampoo into Raven's fur. "I'm glad I'm not the one with mange."

"Nah," Doyle grinned. "You're too tall, dark and incredibly handsome for that."

It always embarrasses me when Doyle calls me handsome. It's okay when I do it, because, more often than not, I'm being sarcastic. When Ray says it, he means it. Personally, I think he's the beautiful one.

Raven's growling brought me back to what I was doing. The beleaguered animal had tried to escape several times while I shampooed his fur, but Doyle had a pretty good grip on him and Raven hadn't been able to break it. Now, he just sat, partially wrapped in soggy towel, and growled at me. I was a bit surprised. I'd expected him to try and bite one of us, but he didn't. I said as much to Doyle. "'E probably knows we're trying to help him," Doyle speculated. I looked skeptical.

Ray put on his best lecturer-to-the-intellectually-impoverished persona. "Animals do, you know."

"Do what?" I interrupted.

"Know when someone is trying to help them," Doyle continued. "I had a ferret once. He liked to bite. One time, he got into it with the neighbour's dog. Tore his side open, he did. We couldn't afford a trip to the vet, so me mum used needle and cotton to sew him up. I held him while she did it. He didn't try to bit us even once. He knew we were trying to help him."

"You had a ferret?"

"Yeah. Called him The Artful Dodger. Got him just after Mum had finished reading Oliver Twist to me."

"Did he survive the surgery," I asked, intrigued by this small window into Ray's past.

"Yeah. I had him for years. Just had to keep him away from the family cats. They didn't get on too well."

I was a bit envious of Ray. My mother had never allowed me to have pets, other than a few guppies. She disliked anything in fur or feathers. Raven was the first pet I'd ever had that didn't have fins.

When I started washing Raven's head, Ray put one hand over the cat's eyes to prevent shampoo from leaking into them. After we'd finished the upper part of his body, we rinsed the suds out of his black fur. Then came the most ticklish part of the operation --washing Raven's tum.

Some animals love having their belly scratched. Raven won't tolerate it. Ray says it's because he's worried about his balls. I didn't believe it, at first, but when Doyle wasn't around one day, I experimented a bit. Sure enough, the closer my hand got to his furry organs, the more Raven objected. I ended up with a lovely set of claw marks on my arm that day.

Ray solved the problem for both of us. "I'll roll him over and grab his front feet. You get his back feet. That'll leave us each one hand free to scrub or help hang on with."

It made sense to me. Especially the part about Doyle taking the end with all the teeth. I once saw a merc die from a monkey bite. We were too far from hospital and the poor bloke died of gangrene.

Raven didn't like being turned on his back. He liked it even less when we spread-eagled him and hosed down his tum with the warm water. An indignant, "Growwrl," was followed by constant growling and tail-lashing. But he didn't try to bite and his efforts to escape were half-hearted at best. Maybe there is something to Doyle's theory, at that.

When we finished washing and rinsing the cat, I got the honour of drying the little bugger off, while Doyle started wiping up the excess water we'd left dripping from walls, ceiling and bath fixtures. Later, I'd give the whole room a thorough cleaning.

After I'd towelled most of the moisture out of the black fur, I let Raven go. He stomped out of the bath with his ears tight to his head. The dramatic exit was spoiled by the way he kept lurching over to one side every few steps.

As Doyle and I dried off and put our clothes back on, Ray remarked, "I suppose we should have locked away all the breakables before we let him go."

I probably looked sick as I recalled how Raven had gotten even with us for stuffing him into a box the first time we moved him from one CI5 flat to another. First, he'd stomped about the flat, lashing his tail; then he deliberately knocked a china lamp off an end table. I'll never forget the expression of pure satisfaction on Raven's furry face as he surveyed the million bits of broken china.

"It's too late now," I sighed. "If Raven wants to destroy something, he's already had enough time to do it."

We found the cat sitting on his haunches in front of the telly. His ears were almost flat against his head. His tail lashed back and forth. The broad, furry back was firmly presented to us.

"What's the matter with him?" I asked Ray.

Doyle's eyes danced with suppressed laughter. "'E's sulking, he is."

"Pull the other one, mate," I snorted.

"I'm serious," Ray protested, looking anything but grave. "He's sulking. That's why he's got his back to us; to show us he's mad at us."

"But why do it out in the middle of the floor?"

"If we couldn't see him, then how would we know he was sulking?" Ray's tone was that of someone stating an incontrovertible fact.

I cracked up. It's no wonder that people often talk about their pets like they've got human emotions. The bloody animals often act just like people. Doyle was right; there's no point in sulking if nobody knows you're doing it.

When I finished sniggering and sat up, my mate was griming back at me, but not laughing himself.

"Bad move," Ray told me, "That only made it worse."

"What are you nattering on about, Doyle?" I asked him lazily.

"Cats hate to be laughed at. Now, it'll take him even longer to calm down." Ray pointed to the tomcat on the floor.

When I looked at Raven, I noticed that the tail-lashing was even more pronounced than before and the ears were held even more tightly to his head. It certainly looked as if our cat had taken offence at my hysteria.

"How could he know I was laughing at him?" I was indignant. "I mean, for all he knows, I could have been reading the Sunday colour supplement."

"He knows," Ray intoned solemnly. "Cats always know when it's them you're laughing at and they don't like it much. Very easily offended, they are."

Sometimes, I can't tell when Ray is being serious and when he's just having me on. This was one of those times.

"That's ridiculous. He's only a cat."

"Ah," Doyle said. "But cats are mysterious creatures. They've been witches' familiars, and in Egypt they were once worshiped as gods. The Egyptians used to mummify then and bury them in tombs..."

"The Egyptians also mummified birds, bulls, hippopotami and anything else they could get their hands on," I interrupted. Sometimes, Ray can be an irritating sod when he gets up on his soapbox. 'S'why I often start snoring when he starts going on about Life with the Met or When I was with Drugs Squad. Other times, I just let him know that I've read a bit, too. The only other way to shut him up is to kiss him--which wasn't a half bad idea.

I pounced on my partner's loosely sprawled body. As I slowly pressed Ray back into the corner of the settee, I began a thorough exploration of that gorgeous mouth of his.

Doyle was startled at first, but his sensual nature soon won out. He returned my kisses with enthusiasm and a natural brilliance that soon had me wishing I'd waited to remove my trous before I'd started this. I was so aroused that my clothing would soon do me an injury. From his breathy moans and rancorous accents, I surmised that Ray was finding himself in similar difficulties.

Just then, the telephone rang. I cursed. Ray groaned.

We'd both recognized that it was the CI5 phone ringing and not the regular handset. I doubt that we could have stopped ourselves to answer a telephone salesman or a wrong number.

I carefully got up, trying not to bash Ray in the goolies as I did so. Before I answered the phone, I had to adjust myself inside my trousers. If I hadn't, I would have damaged myself.

As I expected, we were being called back to HQ. We collected our guns and started for the CI5 offices.

There was a minor flap on, but it didn't come to much. Ray and I spent several hours sitting about the restroom drinking lukewarm tea. Afterwards, we were sent home with instructions to report back at 10 am the next day.

The whole squad was tensed up, waiting for the go order on a major arrest of illegal arms dealers. We'd been put on standby alert three times in the last week, only to be ordered to stand down each time. It's harder to keep your edge while waiting than it is when you're doing something. I almost envied Murphy his position as inside man on this op--but only almost. The group we were dealing with was a nasty piece of work.

When we got back to the flat, I checked for damages, in case Raven had destroyed anything in retaliation for the bath. He hadn't. I found him curled up on his favourite chair with his paw over his nose. The little sod was snoring, so I left him there and joined Ray in the kitchen, where he was putting on the kettle for tea.

"How would you like to take up where we left off?" I asked him as I put my arms around Ray's waist and pressed my body against his back.

"Uumm," Ray said. "That'd be nice. D'you want to wait for tea or should I just take the kettle off?"

"Take the kettle off," I whispered, nuzzling beneath his ear.

Ray turned the cooker off, then squirmed around so that he could get his arms around me. His mouth was warm, wet and tasted slightly of Polo Mints. We took our time, letting things build.

Necking in the kitchen may not sound terribly romantic. True, it's not. Necking with Ray Doyle, however, is a sensual experience that has to be felt to be believed. I was just thinking about suggesting we adjourn to the bedroom when Ray reminded me we hadn't given Raven his evening pill. That was a real passion killer.

"Couldn't we could do that after?" I suggested.

As I expected, Ray gave that idea short shrift. He looked at me as if I'd suddenly said that a Martian had landed in the garden. "You bloody well know we'd never get to it after," he retorted.

Of course, I bloody well knew that. That was the whole point of the suggestion. Throwing pills down that animal's throat didn't rate very high on my list of things I loved to do.

"All right," I sighed, giving in to the inevitable. "Where are the pills?"

"I put them in the medicine cabinet with the shampoo."

"I hope I don't mistake the shampoo for mouthwash some dark morning," I groused.

Ray sniggered. "Not bloody likely, the way that stuff smells."

I had to agree. "You get the tablets. I'll get the cat."

Ray nodded. "Meet you in the sitting room." Then he added, "And, Bodie?"


"Get a rug to wrap him in. I don't fancy chasing that damn cat all over the flat tonight."


I collected the old rug off the floor of the kitchen where I'd left it next to the litter box. Then, I went through to the sitting room and wrapped Raven inside its folds.

The tomcat was slightly indignant at having been woken from a sound sleep, but he settled down when I started scratching underneath his chin. He kept moving his head so that my fingers would get the exact places that needed the most attention.

I wondered if cats dreamed and if they did, did they have wet dreams? Did male cats have nocturnal emissions?

I certainly hadn't had that problem in the time since Ray had become my lover. We both like sex and indulge in it frequently, though not as often now as when we'd first become lovers. Sometimes all we need, now that we're more comfortable with one another, is a warm cuddle and a little light necking. Other times, the warm cuddle escalates into action that would rival that of the most explicit blue flick. But even in our most torrid clinches, Ray and I have something extra that no film or one- night stand ever had--something that can only be called love.

I snorted to myself. Here I sit, tough CI5 bastard and all, doing the Barbara Cartland bit. Next thing you know, I'll be dressing up in knee britches, wearing a wig and bringing Ray roses. I bet that a nice tight pair of Eighteenth Century buskin trous would look a real treat on Ray. Specially, if he wore one of those white shirts with the billowy sleeves--maybe unbuttoned to his waist so that you could see all that glorious hair on his chest...

"Bodie?" Ray shouted, beside me. "What're you doing?"

"What d'you mean, sunshine?" I responded, all innocence.

"You were sitting there, leering like a sexually deprived satyr and cackling like a chicken who'd just laid an egg."

"Was imagining you as an Eighteenth Century pirate and wondering whether Raven ever has wet dreams," I replied.

Ray rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I don't even want to hear about it."

I raised one eyebrow in enquiry. My Spock expression, Ray calls it.

"I don't want to know how Raven's wet dreams and me being dressed like a pirate go together," Ray elucidated. "You have a weird imagination, mate."

"And you love me for it," I smirked.

"Nah," Ray replied after a moment's consideration, "I only love you for your incredibly sexy body." He leered at me. I grinned back.

"You got a good grip on him?" Ray asked, his mind back on business.

"Yeah." I tightened my hold on the Raven.

Ray tried to pry the cat's mouth open. Raven wouldn't cooperate. "How did Jean do that?" he asked in exasperation.

"She used her thumb behind his jaw," I said helpfully.

"Okay." Ray managed to get Raven's mouth open this time, but lost his grip when Raven struggled. On the next attempt, he kept his hold long enough to flip one mustard yellow pill down onto Raven's tongue. Then, he held the cat's jaws shut and massaged his throat until Ray was sure that Raven had swallowed it. "Well, that's it for tonight. D'you want the shower first?"

"Nah," I replied. "You go ahead. I have a few things I need to do first."

"Don't be too long, love. I'm likely to fall asleep on you." Ray started for the bedroom.

I tidied up the sitting room--Ray is not the neatest flatmate in the world. Then, I made sure that Raven had food and water.

By the time I reached the bedroom, Ray had finished his shower and was drying his hair with our new hair dryer. I took a quick shower, used the dryer myself, then joined Doyle in bed.

We were both feeling affectionate. Sometimes, I think Ray Doyle likes being kissed even more than he likes sex. He's very good at both.

Things were progressing quite nicely when a plaintive, "Mew," interrupted us. I tried to ignore it and concentrated on the feel of Ray's warm skin against my body.

The next, "Meowrrr," was more plaintive than the first and quite a bit louder. This time, Doyle giggled. I know that it was because of my expression and not because of the bloody cat. "What's the matter with that bloody animal?" I muttered.

"I dunno," Ray said. "I'll have a look." He rolled over in bed and peered over the mattress. "He wants up here with us," he reported.

"Then why doesn't he just jump up like usual?" I demanded in exasperation.

"Probably afraid he'd misjudge it," Ray replied. "After all, he can hardly walk straight at the moment."

A third, "MEOWRRRR!" in Raven's strident, Siamese-accented voice interrupted us. "I suppose you'd better give him a hand up, then," I said in resignation. Ray boosted the cat up on the bed. Raven planted himself firmly in the middle of the mattress, just between Ray and I.

I picked the furry intruder up off the bedcovers and put him just as firmly to one side. The slit-pupiled eyes gave a reproachful glare, but I ignored them. Turning around, I gathered Ray into my arms.

"Poor baby," Ray murmured. "He's feeling sick and wants some company."

"He can have the company," I replied. "But I won't have the little sod coming between us, mate. He's worse than a kid, sometimes." I reached for Ray and he recoiled.

"You're never going to try and have it off in front of the children?" His voice resonated with shock.

"Don't be a prat, Doyle." He knows me better than that. "Just want a little bit of a cuddle before we go to sleep." I put on my best pathetic, little boy voice, the one guaranteed to make Ray go all soft and loving. It worked nicely, indeed. We had a lovely, warm good-night cuddle and kiss before we went to sleep.

Raven didn't pay us any attention. He was used to our goings on. Just as I fell asleep, I could feel the movements of him washing behind his ears.

The next couple of days were a repeat of the previous week. Ray and I did a bit of work in the file room, ran a few errands for the Cow, but mostly, we sat around the restroom on call.

At home, the two of us took turns changing the litter box and pilling the cat. The latter operation went quite well the first three or four times, then Raven decided he wasn't going to cooperate. The first time we had any indication that things were not going as planned was one evening after dinner. Instead of swallowing the antibiotic, Raven waited until we released him, then promptly spat it out on the kitchen floor. Have you ever tried to pick up a pill that's been partially dissolved in cat saliva? The only thing nastier is cleaning up after a truly sick cat.

I was outraged. "How the hell did he do that?"

"Probably caught it on his tongue," Ray philosophized. "Used to do it myself when me mum wanted me to swallow something I didn't like."

"How do we make him swallow it?"

"Do like my mum did--make sure we get it so far down his throat that he can't catch it on his tongue and he has to swallow it."

We tried again and this time, the pill stayed down. But from then on, we had to be very careful in administering Raven's pills. Even so, we still misjudged things occasionally and had to retrieve a partially dissolved pill off the kitchen floor and start over. Our worst showing was the night it took us three tries to get the nasty thing down him. By that time, most of the pill had dissolved in Raven's mouth. The look on the cat's face as he tried to get the residue off his tongue almost made up for all the aggro.

In contrast, the second time we bathed Raven went much like the first. I think he was still feeling pretty sick or he'd have put up more of a fuss. This time, we managed not to squirt water all over the ceiling, walls and floor.

Days passed, and Raven became more assured in his walking. He regained some of his balance. He didn't particularly like it when we put in the ear drops, but he did enjoy the massaging of his outer ears, and he was eating more and sleeping less.

Finally, the evening came when Raven insisted that he wasn't going to use the litter box again. He'd followed Ray and me to bed, as usual. This nightly ritual was beginning to put a crimp in our love life as I objected to putting on a show for the bloody animal. Ray had let me get away with confining our bedtime activities to semi-chaste snuggles, but both of us were becoming frustrated at the curtailment of our conjugals. I contemplated arranging a cat sitter and inviting Ray to slip away with me for a dirty weekend. Anyway, this evening, instead of demanding to be put up on the bed, Raven kept crying piteously, then pacing towards the bedroom door.

"That sounds serious, that does," Doyle commented.


"Yeah. One of us had best see what he wants." Ray began to climb out of bed, but I pushed him back down.

"Don't move, love. I'll take care of it," I said. I put on a bathrobe and a pair of carpet slippers, then followed Raven out of the bedroom and down the hall. He was still listing slightly to one side, but was much better than he had been. The animal walked right past his litter box and demanded to be let out the door into the garden.

"You don't want out there, mate," I told him. "It's pissing down rain and has been for hours." Raven just looked from me to the door and back, demanding to be let out.

"Hold on a bit, then. Can't let you out on your own in this weather." I dug up a torch and an old umbrella. By the time I got back to Raven, he was getting impatient. He saw me coming and reared up on his hind legs so that he could bat at the doorknob with one paw. It was not a very good idea, considering his condition. He lost his balance and almost ended up in a heap on the floor.

"Okay, you stupid sod," I muttered. "Out, we go." I opened the door and Raven slipped into the wet garden. After I turned on the torch, I followed him. Several cold raindrops ran down the collar of my bathrobe before I got the umbrella deployed.

So, there I stood in a rainy garden in the middle of the night, waiting for my cat to do the necessary. I felt no end the fool. Besides, my feet were getting soaked. Carpet slippers are not exactly waterproof.

Raven took his time, chose the perfect place and did his business. Why the bloody animal decided that he had to go out in the rain when he had a perfectly good litter box...

Just as we started back towards the flat, Raven put his ears flat to his head and spat at something out in the darkness. I swung the flash over to where Raven was looking and caught a glimpse of the yellow tiger-striped tomcat that lives down the street. Tigger, his name is.

Tigger must have decided that we had him outnumbered, because he took off running for the garden gate. Raven was only a couple of hops behind him.

By the time I started after the two cats, Tigger was on the other side of the fence and Raven was squeezing himself under the gate. The only thing I could do was follow the daft bugger.

I tried to open the gate, but it was stuck; the wood has a tendency to swell in wet weather. I finally gave it up as a bad job and climbed over the wall. In the process, I had to abandon the brolly and I lost one of my carpet slippers.

Normally, a garden wall wouldn't present any problems to someone who had been through Macklin's charm school. Unfortunately, the rain had turned the garden into a slippery bog and I wasn't properly dressed for commando work. More than once, I wished that I'd stopped to put on trous. A pair of pants would have been a great help. As it was, I had to take extra care that I didn't smash the family jewels as I scrambled over the six-foot wall. Had it been daylight and had anyone been about, they would have gotten quite a thrill. The local Met would have arrested me as part of the dirty raincoat brigade. I'd never had a desire to be a flasher, but I made a pretty good job of imitating one.

As I dropped down on the other side of the wall, my feet slid out from under me and I landed on my hands and knees in the mud. After I retrieved the torch from where I'd dropped it in a puddle, I looked around for the cats. I saw Tigger halfway down the street, running for his life, Raven only half a jump behind him.

The black tom was running with a definite list to one side. Every time he made a grab at Tigger's hindquarters, Raven almost lost his balance. These delays were the only thing that kept the yellow tom out of Raven's grasping, little paws.

I sprinted after the fleeing felines. My bare foot was cold on the pavement and the wet slipper on the other foot was almost as uncomfortable as no slipper at all.

Finally, Tigger ran up a fence post, but Raven didn't follow him. He just sat at the foot of the fence and screamed cat curses and threats of violence up at the yellow torn. Tigger jeered down at Raven from the safety of his perch.

I picked Raven up off the ground and started back to our flat. He put up a token resistance, but didn't extend his claws. I think the silly sod was glad to see me. He was tired, his fur was wet and his tum was muddy from squeezing under the gate. I wasn't in much better condition.

When I got back to the gate, I used the intercom to call Ray out to help get the bloody thing unstuck. It was almost a pleasure to make him share the misery of having to cross the boggy garden in the rain. It took a few minutes and a couple of hard kicks, liberally accompanied by four-letter comments from my mate, to get the gate open.

When we got back to the flat, I used an old piece of towelling to wipe most of the mud off Raven's tum. He snarled and complained every time I got near his goolies, but he put up with it. He was probably glad to get rid of the muck without having to lick it all off himself.

Ray suggested that I take a nice, hot shower. He joined me half- way through and used his best techniques to unkink the muscles in my back and neck. I love it when Doyle decides to pamper me. He even insisted on carefully drying me off and putting me into bed. Ray pointedly shut our bedroom door before joining me on the mattress.

"Don't want that muddy animal on our clean sheets, do we?" he said with a disdainful sniff. The sensuous gleam in his emerald eyes told me that keeping the sheet clean was the very last thing on his mind. I could feel my body respond to the blatant invitation radiating from his sexy body.

As I moved toward him, Doyle reached out and pulled me on top of him. His legs moved apart and I carefully fitted myself within their grip. Keeping most of my weight on my elbows (as any gentleman would), I leaned down to kiss those cupid's-bow lips.

I suppose it was inevitable: the bloody R/T began to bleep.

Ray glared over at the bureau where the R/T sat, while I climbed off him and went to answer it.

All CI5 personnel were being called in to HQ for orders. This time, it really sounded as if the balloon was about to go up.

Within twenty minutes, Ray and I had dressed and started for headquarters. When we got there, it was controlled chaos; CI5 agents were everywhere you looked.

We checked in, were told there was a briefing scheduled in half an hour's time, then collected extra ammunition from the armaments section. From force of habit, Doyle and I field- stripped our weapons to make sure they were in working order. When we got them reassembled, it was time to report to the briefing room.

Most of the briefing was a repeat of the previous occasions we'd been put on alert. The agents were divided into reserves, support staff and five action teams. Ray and I were members of the team assigned to take the Brixton warehouse. The attack groups were to coordinate their movements so that all five targets were hit simultaneously. Everyone on the premises at each location was to be arrested and transported to CI5 offices for interrogation.

After the briefing, Cowley called Ray and me aside. "The two of you have an additional task. We have information that agent 6.2's cover may have been compromised. The last time he was sighted was early this morning at the Brixton location. I want you to concentrate on finding Murphy. Search the warehouse. Question the prisoners. But find out where he is. On your bikes."

For all his gruff, no-nonsense attitude, I could tell that the Cow was worried. He hates to lose agents. The Smurph is both a good agent and a potential candidate for the CI5 controller's job. Rumour has it the Cow is carefully grooming him for the position.

For the most part, the attack on the Brixton warehouse went very smoothly. The only really tense moment was when one of the strong-arm boys took a shot at me.

Ray spotted someone with a gun standing on a catwalk near the roof. I heard him yell, "Bodie! Down!"

I dropped flat, so the villain's shot missed me by a good two feet. Doyle had better luck with his aim. I saw the gunman fall like a sack of lumpy potatoes.

"You okay?" Ray asked as he crouched next to me, his gun and his eyes still fixed on the fallen shooter.

"Yeah, sunshine," I replied as I stood up and dusted off my dark slacks and jacket. "Just a bit dirty."

"Get down, you berk!" Ray yelled, jerking on my trouser leg.

"He's dead, Ray," I stated positively.

"Seen his death certificate, have you?" Doyle asked sarcastically. "Or have you suddenly gone psychic?"

Doyle can get really ratty when he's upset and few things upset him more than someone trying to kill me. I tried to be patient with the annoying little bastard, because I know how badly I react when someone is shooting at him.

"You can't fake that totally lifeless sprawl," I told Doyle. "He was dead before he hit the catwalk."

Ray looked dubious, but got up off the floor. We kept our guns ready as we continued to look for Murphy. By this time, we'd covered most of the main floor. The only places left to look were a series of small offices and locked rooms. Ray and I took turns at being either the person who broke in the door or the one covering him. It reminded me a lot of those American cop shows on the telly. In the next to last room, we found our missing man.

Murphy was lying on his side with his knees drawn up almost to his chest. Someone had tied his hands behind his back. Bruises and cuts covered most of his face, but what I could see of his skin was a pasty grey. I didn't like the laboured rasp in his breathing, either.

Doyle holstered his gun and checked the pulse in Murphy's neck. "Thready," he said. "Best call an ambulance. He's been gut-shot." The strong, slender hands were gentle and Ray tried to move the hurt agent as little as possible as he examined the damage, but I heard Murphy moan as I got on the R/T.

I rode with Murph in the ambulance. If I die in the line of duty, I want one of my mates with me when I go. Ray stayed behind to help our lads and some of the local CID with the clean-up.

At hospital, Murphy was taken directly to the emergency operating theatre. He was still in there when Ray brought Cowley into the waiting area two hours later.

"How is he?" Cowley asked me.

"Dunno," I replied. "He's been in surgery since we got here. All the staff will tell me is that he's lost a lot of blood."

"That fits," George almost-muttered. He looked directly into my eyes and continued, "One of the minders is talking. According to him, Van Dreisen shot 6.2 at least two and a half hours before our raid on the warehouse. Then, he had Murphy locked in the roam where you found him. Van Dreisen didn't want to finish him off. He left him to bleed to death and every so often, made 6.2 a visit to see whether he was still alive."

I could see the angry scowl on Ray's face. He hadn't seen as much of that sort of nastiness as I had. The whole story reminded me of some of the horror I'd seen committed in my youth, both as a merc and as a lad growing up in Liverpool. It made a bigger difference that I knew and liked Murphy. I felt it all much more now than I would've then. It was another reminder of how much I've changed from the young mercenary I'd once been. He wouldn't have felt sick to his stomach.

"What happened to Van Dreisen?" I asked.

"He was taken in the raid," Cowley replied with some satisfaction. "With the testimony of the minder, I think we can put him away for a good long time."

Just then, a doctor in soiled surgical scrubs came into the waiting area from the hallway leading to the emergency operating theatre. "Mister Cowley?" he asked.

"Aye," the Cow replied. "How is Mr. Murphy?"

"He lost a lot of blood and we had to remove part of his spleen, but he should recover." Cowley and the doctor moved off to the far part of the waiting room while they discussed Murphy and how long he'd be in intensive care.

"Has anyone notified Chris?" I asked Doyle.

"I don't think so," he replied. "I'm afraid I didn't think about it. Still can't get used to the idea that Murph's bisexual, let alone that he's involved with another agent."

I grinned at him. "I suppose a lot of people have the same problem with us."

A brief grin appeared on Doyle's face. "No!" he drawled in a patently false, mocking tone. "I don't understand why they should."

I moved closer and practically muttered in his ear. "No. I don't, either. We were always such delicate, little flowers." It was the first time since we'd started our relationship that I'd felt free to joke about it in the campy tones I'd often used with Doyle. Even now, I wasn't about to do it in company or where someone could overhear me. Given our relationship, some people would be bound to misinterpret it.

Doyle smiled slightly. Then, he grew solemn as he asked, "D'you want to do it or shall I?"

I looked a bit blank.

"Bodie," Doyle muttered in the exact tone of exasperated affection that my favourite teacher used to use when she caught me day dreaming in Geography. "D'you want me to call Chris or do you want to do it?" Doyle patiently spelled out what he'd been trying to get across.

"D'you know where he is or do we need to go through Central?" I asked Ray.

"He's at HQ," Doyle replied. "The Cow's having him interrogate some of the prisoners from the shop in Kensington. I think the old bastard is trying to keep him away from the Brixton lot, so he won't find out about Murphy until we're sure how he's doing."

"Does George know about him and Murph?" I asked Doyle quietly.

"I think he knows something's going on between them, but I'm not sure even Murphy and Chris really know where that relationship's going," Ray replied.

The Cow usually knows when his agents have romantic involvements, but he isn't omniscient. I think he was surprised when Ray and I told him about us.

"I'll call Chris," I said. "See if you can find out when Murphy will be out of intensive care."

I'd been both honoured and surprised when Murph had told Ray and me about his involvement with Chris Atwood. It was the first time, but not the last, that someone in CI5 came to us for advice on achieving the settled gay relationship. That was a bit of a laugh--neither Ray nor I had even suspected we were bi until we suddenly found ourselves in love with one another. The people asking for advice had a lot more experience with homosexual relationships than we did. Maybe that was all to the good--from what I'd heard, the gay lifestyle is hard on commitments.

Chris took the news about Murphy very quietly. It helped that I was able to assure him that the doctors believed that he would recover. The CI5 operation was winding down and Atwood was no longer needed at Headquarters. He said that he would have someone drive him to hospital.

I rejoined Ray in the waiting area. He told me Cowley had been called back to HQ. Betty had picked him up in the green Rover. Murphy was still sedated, but he would start coming out of it in a few hours.

We spent most of the night drinking institutional-strength dishwater passing itself off as tea and sitting with Chris. He may not have been with CI5 for very long, but he was Murphy's lover and Murph was a good friend to both of us. Other CI5 agents drifted through the waiting area while we were there.

As a whole, the squad had come off very lightly. There had been one other gunshot wound--a crease really, and one broken leg. As far as the opposition was concerned, there was one dead--the man Doyle had shot--and three others in hospital with injuries. The only serious injury was the man that Stuart had been fighting when the two of them fell off a loading platform. Stuart had broken his leg. The villain had landed on the bottom, breaking their fall and fracturing his pelvis.

Toward dawn, Murphy started to come out of the sedation. The hospital stretched a point and allowed Chris to see him briefly before they turfed the lot of us out with orders not come back until visiting hours. We dropped Atwood off at his flat and continued to our own.

Ray and I were both too keyed up to go to bed immediately. As tired as we were, we couldn't have gone to sleep. Before we became lovers, our solution would have been to pick up a couple of accommodating birds and drag them into bed. That kind of sex is a bit like taking a sleeping pill--you do it to dissipate the leftover energy so you can finally come down off the adrenaline high.

It was a good thing that we were both in the same condition, because I didn't even let Ray get as far as the bedroom. I attacked him in the sitting room, grabbing him and pulling that gorgeously sexy body into my arms while I thrust my tongue into his mouth. He grabbed me right back and had my jacket unbuttoned and off my shoulders before I'd had time to start on his clothes. We probably broke records for stripping to our skin.

When we were naked, we clutched each other and frantically rubbed our two bodies together as we fell to the carpet. Orgasm was a release of tension, but hardly a pleasure.

By the time we got our breath back, I could see Ray was not going to be satisfied with sleeping pill sex. Part of his earlier mood of sensual abandon had returned and Doyle wanted to make love, not just relieve our biological urges.

He rolled me onto my back, then leaned over my body and began to nibble and suck at my lips. Slowly, his lips and tongue explored my face and neck.

I lay back and closed my eyes--revelling in the sensations of warm, wet tongue and soft, dry lips. Then, one gentle finger ruffled across my eyebrows.

I opened my eyes and looked up into the green-eyed darkness of Ray's desire-dilated eyes. His face had the look of someone totally absorbed in a beautiful work of art. To my mind, he's the work of art--something sensuous and slightly decadent by one of the gay, old masters.

I reached up and ran my thumb across his slightly parted lips. Ray half-closed his eyes and turned his head so that he could suck the thumb deep into his mouth. At first, he nursed it gently. Then, he began to nibble up and down its length with a delicately precise touch of teeth. Suddenly, he bit down hard-- not hard enough to break the skin, but just hard enough to bruise it.

Almost immediately, Ray released the injured digit and went back to delicately nursing and nuzzling its length.

I felt every sensation sparking along my nerves. Despite my recent sexual release, I could feel a throbbing in my groin. My cock lengthened, thickened and stood to attention. It was almost as if Ray's ministrations to my thumb created phantom echoes in my penis.

My other hand cupped Ray's battered cheekbone. I used my grip on his face to draw his mouth away from my thumb and up to where I could reach those gorgeous lips with my mouth. My tongue thrust into his willingly-opened mouth. I think I growled as I drew Ray down between my legs and pressed my groin into the swollen nest of his genitals. As I arched my hips upwards into my lover's body, I wrapped my legs around his hips and thrust.

Ray chuckled filthily. I could feel the warm puffs of his breath against my lips. My eyes had fallen closed as I savoured the feel of his silky skin and crisp body hair against my chest and groin. I opened them and looked into warm, green eyes and a laughing face.

"We've got to quit meeting like this," Ray said in a husky, thoroughly seductive voice.

"Shurrup and kiss me," I ordered.

Ray obeyed with alacrity. It's too bad that he doesn't follow my orders more often. But if he was obedient and tidy he wouldn't be my ratty, adorable Doyle.

While our tongues duelled with each other, I reached around to cup Ray's bum in the palms of my hands. Besides offering me a great grip to use in manoeuvring the bionic golly's body against mine, it also felt marvellous. Ray's arse is a work of art with a strictly R-18 rating*. Smooth, elastic muscles cover blood warm, silky skin. It's probably the first thing you notice about him if you approach him from behind.

Ray murmured deep in his throat and arched his head back in pleasure when I drew one finger down the slightly damp cleft in his bum and gently grazed the tight sphincter muscle. He was very sensitive around his anus and had been very responsive the few times I'd gotten up enough bottle to ask him if I could love him that way. Ray had never taken me. A couple of times, I could see in his eyes that he wanted to have me, but he'd seen how scared I was and he'd never asked.

I like the feel of Ray's hands exploring my arse. The touch of his fingers exploring around and inside my bum is often enough to make me come all over the sheets. Tonight, it was enough to make me want to feel all of Ray inside me.

I touched his face and said, "Ray?"

"Hmmm?" Ray murmured.

"Love me, please?" I asked, suddenly shy.

"Do love you, sunshine," Ray said. Then, he kissed me again.

"I know you do, sweetheart," I replied, when I got my breath back. "Want you to make love to me."

"Thought that was what we were doing," Ray said, his eyes becoming more alert.

I could feel myself blush and I couldn't meet those still puzzled, green eyes. "Want to feel you inside me, Ray, love. Want you to make me feel what you feel when I take you. I want you to..."

Ray covered my mouth with one hand. "Think you've made it pretty clear what you want. Are you sure, Bodie-mate?" He hid his hot, red face in my neck as he confessed, "Be sure, love. I want you so much that I might not be able to stop if you changed your mind."

"Love you, Ray," I said and turned my head so I could kiss the tip of one ear (always thought they'd look good with points on the tip, but I'll never tell Ray he looks like an elf in a kid's storybook). "I want to feel you make love to me. You're the only person I'd ever trust to do that to me," I whispered back at him.

"All right, love," Ray said. "But not here. Your first time is going to be on clean sheets, in a proper bed. Not on the carpet in the sitting room, being watched by a fuzzy voyeur."

"What?" I said. I raised my head as far as I could with most of Ray's weight still pinning me to the carpet and I looked over Doyle's shoulder and down the long, smooth curve of his back. The cushions of the settee were barely visible above the taut mounds of the Doyle derriere. Sitting on the settee, watching us through slit eyes, was Raven, the Fuzzy Voyeur himself.

I let my head drop back to the carpet. My swollen cock began to wilt.

Ray slipped off to the side and propped himself up on one elbow so he could look down at me. A rueful, but humorous, look crossed his face. "Nothing like killing the mood, is there? I shouldn't have said anything, but I decided you'd kill me if you ever found I'd let the little sod watch."

"You think I'm silly, don't you?" I asked.

"Nah." Doyle wrinkled his nose in denial. "'S'just one of your endearing little quirks. Everyone has them." His free hand was rubbing my chest in lazy circles.

I could feel myself hardening despite a bad case of terminal embarrassment. "Let's go to bed, sunshine," I suggested as I levered myself off the carpet.

"D'you want to shower first?" Ray asked as he got to his feet.

"We can shower after," I suggested as I put my arms around Ray and drew his body close enough to mine that he could feel my erection nudge his engorged cock. The green eyes were wide with amazement. Ray had been sure that I'd changed my mind about having him show me the joys of sodomy. He looked searchingly into my eyes. "After what?" he asked cautiously.

"Raymond, Raymond. How could you forget?" I said in mock reproach. "After you do me, of course," I added softly.

"I thought you might have had second thoughts about that," Ray admitted as he used one hand to stroke my back. The other arm was loosely curled around my waist.

"I haven't," I replied.

"Then, what are we waiting for?" Ray demanded, tugging me towards the doorway, keeping his arm about my waist. "Let's go to bed."

I stole one more kiss, then let him lead me into the bedroom. Doyle kicked the door closed behind us, then drew me into his arms. He began laying a series of light kisses over my face as he slowly backed me towards our bed.

One of my hands found a grip on his springy curls and I held his head still so I could kiss him properly. We became so engrossed in the kiss that we forgot where we were heading. When the bed hit the back of my knees, I lost my balance and fell backwards onto the mattress. Doyle landed on top of me, one of his elbows punching me in the tum. All the air left my lungs in a loud whoosh

After he considerately removed his weight from my body by rolling off to my right, Ray lay there on his back, sniggering. When I could breathe again, I leaned up on one elbow to glare at the little guttersnipe. It just set him off worse than before.

In disgust, I flopped down on my back. "I'll never manage to loose my virginity at this rate," I complained.

Ray quit gurgling and sat up. I could still see a hint of laughter beneath his expression of wanton sensuality. He practically purred as he leaned over and licked the corner of my mouth.

"Don't worry, sunshine," Ray said in a voice husky with desire. "After tonight, it'll never trouble you again."

I could feel the wet velvet of his tongue tease past my lips. My mouth opened to give him more access. With a slow, sinuous motion, Ray rubbed himself against me. I reached around his body and cupped both mounds of his beautiful bum in my hands, then pulled his lithe body on top of me.

Ray pulled his lips slightly back from mine and I could see the lazy arousal in his clear eyes. "It might be easier if we tried it with you on your knees," he suggested diffidently. "The book says it's easier that way the first time."

I remembered the passage in The Joy of Gay Sex that said that very thing. "We rarely take the easy way, though," I said. "I love to watch your face when I take you. Now, I want to see you while you have me."

"Oh, love," Ray murmured, then energetically kissed me, thrusting his tongue deep into my mouth. His hands stroked insistently until my legs parted. Doyle knelt for a moment between my parted thighs and just looked down at me. Then, he lowered his body back down on mine, pressing our engorged chocks together. As he kissed, nuzzled and bit his way down my neck, he also initiated a slight rocking movement that provided exquisite pressure to my penis. But it was when he began to suck my right nipple and rub my left nipple between his fingers that he almost drove me over the edge.

"Ray," I said as I drew his lips from my chest, "I want you inside me. Now."

Ray's face was fever bright, his eyes slightly glassy. "Haven't prepared you," he muttered.

"I'm too close, sunshine," I said. "Do it now."

"Where's the jelly?" Ray's eyes were becoming more aware as he took control of himself.

I fumbled the tube off the bedside table, almost dropping it twice before finally getting it into Doyle's hands. He was quick to unscrew the cap and press a liberal amount of the clear substance onto his fingers. Those same fingers then spread cold lubricant between my legs, only part of it actually landing where it would do any good. For all his seeming coordination, Ray was in almost as bad a shape as I was.

I took the tube from his other hand and squeezed a large dob of the stuff onto my fingers. Doyle held out his hand, so I squeezed a bit more of the gel onto it. As he made another try at placing the lubricant where it would be useful, I used my portion of it to anoint Ray's throbbing cock. While I was smoothing the liquefying ointment over that taut organ, my lover finally succeeded in finding the entrance to my body. As a slick, gel- laden finger spiralled past the slackening muscles around my anus, my hand tightened around Doyle's cock. I could hear him moan softly.

I had to take my hands off Ray's sex. He was too close to coming and I knew that another orgasm would make it totally impractical for me to expect to lose my virginity this night.

Ray slipped another finger into my rectum and I could feel my muscles relax to admit it. By this time, my head was thrashing on the pillow. Doyle sensed that it was now or never and drew back long enough to place a pillow beneath my hips. I spread my thighs wide in wanton invitation.

Ray positioned himself with his cock at the entrance to my body. His face was tight with concentration as he slowly pushed within the tight muscles around my anus.

I wrapped my legs around his waist and used their grip to help draw Ray within my body. Slowly, bit by bit, I felt his hard male sex enter me. As it did, I felt my internal muscles being stretched. Ray sensed my discomfort and froze until I could adjust to the new sensations, then resumed his slow impalement of me.

It was incredible. I never knew that there were so many nerve endings inside my body. I wondered if women felt like this when they had sex. By the time Ray's cock was buried up to the hilt in my arse, I'd stopped thinking altogether.

Ray began to move within me, the press and glide of his slick organ within my guts the most intense sexual experience I'd ever had--with the possible exception of the first time Ray had let me make love to him. Every time his blunt flesh caressed my prostate, it sent a blaze of feeling across my nerves and down into my cock. The feelings grew, became better, too good. I came in short, intense bursts. As I did, I felt my guts contracting around Ray's cock.

Ray paused for a moment, then a flurry of swift strokes sent him into orgasm, as well. Deep inside myself, I felt a warm splash as he came. Then, Doyle collapsed on top of me, totally exhausted.

It felt good, lying there, our sweaty bodies pressed together as the aftermath of orgasm lingered in our nerves. But Ray is a heavy little sod and my legs were starting to cramp. With a little prodding, I got him to slide off me and onto his own side of the double bed. By this time, a few more things were making themselves felt. I dragged myself out of bed and padded into the bathroom.

The major problem with sex, and especially anal sex, is that it's messy. After I used the loo, I took a damp towel back to Ray and used it to wipe up the sweat and semen. Afterwards, I gave it a toss, roughly in the direction of the laundry basket.

When I climbed back into bed, Ray cuddled into my arms. He was half asleep and almost purring with satisfaction. Our showers would have to wait until tomorrow.

Raven woke us next morning by scratching on the bedroom door and demanding to be let out. I left Ray blinking sleepily in bed while I padded out of the bedroom in my bathrobe.

The bloody-minded cat was determined to show me how narked he was at having been locked out of our bedroom last night. He wouldn't let me pet him, but insisted on going directly outside. After he'd done his business in the flower bed, he showed no sign of wanting to go back inside. Instead, he insisted on exploring every corner of our small garden.

At least it had stopped raining. It was still a bit cool to be out dressed only in my robe. This time, I'd slipped on a pair of boots instead of my slippers. While Raven was pretending great interest in sniffing about the peonies, I found the carpet slipper I'd lost the night before.

Finally, Raven must have decided he'd led me around long enough. He practically marched over to the door and stridently demanded to be let back in. The cheeky little sod looked at me as if I'd been the one stalling about and making him wait.

I opened a tin of cat food and gave Raven a good third of it before putting foil over the top of the tin and placing it in the refrigerator. By that time, it was too late to try going back to bed, so I showered, shaved and got dressed.

Ray stayed in bed until I was finished, and then he got up to give me a good morning kiss. "You all right, love?" he asked me.

I was a bit puzzled. "Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Not sore or anything?" Ray asked diffidently, but I could see the concern in his seawater eyes.

I hugged my lover and whispered into his ear, "I'm perfectly okay, love. A bit tender, but that'll just remind me of last night."

I could feel a lot of the tension flow out of Ray's body. He kissed us again, then went off to the loo.

When Ray finished dressing, he joined me in the kitchen. For once, I'd felt ambitious enough to start breakfast on my own, instead of letting Doyle deal with it. Ray sighed over my choice of fried food, but I noticed that he ate it.

After breakfast, Ray called hospital to find out how Murphy was doing. He was off the critical list and receiving visitors.

When we entered Murphy's hospital room, we found Chris Atwood already there, sitting by the bed. Murph was still pretty much out of it. He kept drifting off to sleep, and then waking up again.

We didn't stay long. When we left, Chris was still by Murphy's beside, though the nursing sister was making noises about turfing him out if he stayed much longer. As we walked out to the motor, Ray made a comment that knocked me for six.

"I've always admired the Smurph's taste in men," he said.

I practically did a classic double-take there in the hallway.

Ray glanced at me out of the corner of one eye as he continued blithely, "Haven't you ever noticed how much Chris looks like you?"

"Me," I said in my best hard man accent.

He looked totally guileless and about seventeen years old as he gave me an innocently enquiring look.

"What are you trying to say?" I asked him.

"Just that Murphy and I seem to have the same taste in men," he replied with just a hint of mischief lurking behind his innocent facade.

Couldn't make up my mind whether Ray was hinting that he found Atwood attractive or implying that Murphy might be interested in me. I waited until we were in the motor before I tried to pursue the matter.



"What did you mean back there when you said I looked a lot like Chris?" I was driving, which gave me a good excuse to keep my eyes off Doyle's face. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him turn toward me.

"I said that he looks like you. You're both tall, dark and incredibly handsome. And you both have blue eyes." Ray paused for a moment. "I think that's the type of man Murphy's attracted to."

"He's never done or said anything..." I started to say.

"Well, he wouldn't, would he?" Ray interrupted. "Murph'd never come on to a confirmed heterosexual, especially one that he worked with. And he'd certainly never proposition a married man and that's more or less what you are, now."

"D'you really think he used to fancy me?" I asked Doyle.

"Man'd be an utter fool--and blind to boot--if he didn't," Ray replied. "And there's no used to about it. I think he really fancies you. But he'll never do anything about it. You're too good a friend."

"I hope not," I said. "I like the Smurph, but he doesn't do a thing for my libido, unlike a certain, green-eyed sex maniac I could name."

Ray snorted. "You calling me a sex maniac is bit like the pot calling the kettle black, mate."

"Yeah," I agreed. "'S'nice we're both so well-matched." Doyle snickered almost all the way to our first stop. It being our day off, we had a bit of shopping to do.

When we got back to our flat, I fed Raven a few slices of fresh liver, and then helped Ray put away the things we'd bought. Trying to carry too many things, Doyle dropped a tin of peas and, as I leaned down to pick it up, I noticed something peculiar about Raven.

The cat was over by his dish and he had his back to us. Instead of turning his knob to see what had caused the noise, he just tipped his head straight over backwards. From where I was crouched, it almost looked like he'd had his head screwed on upside down and backwards.

"Will you look at that?" I exclaimed.

Ray looked over at Raven. "Silly sod," he said. "That looks right stupid."

I had to agree. We both dismissed the incident as one of our cat's odd quirks, like his habit of finding one place he likes to sleep in, using it every day for weeks, and then suddenly abandoning it and finding a new place to nap. If it hadn't been for an incident later that same day, I probably would have forgotten all about Raven's odd behaviour in the kitchen.

We were out in the garden. Ray was sunbathing again and I was enjoying the view.

Raven had been lying on the rug beside Doyle, but he must have decided that he wanted up on the wooden table over by my chair. Instead of jumping up on top of it as he normally did, he stretched up on his hind legs, put one front paw on the table, then put up the other front paw beside it. He wiggled and heaved until he got one hind foot up on the table, then, by main force, he dragged the rest of his body up onto the surface. Ray said later that it was a bit like watching a fat boy climb a fence.

I don't know what it was about the ridiculous performance, but it suddenly dawned on me that Raven was afraid to trust his balance. It all fit in with his unwillingness to turn his head. Jean had said that the ear mites attacked the inner ear where balance is controlled. Raven was learning to live with his limitations.

This thought led to others, more serious.

Being a CI5 agent can be dangerous to your health and no one lives forever, even if a certain, curly-haired male of my acquaintance seemed determined to put that adage to the lie. (If it weren't for the grey in his hair, I'd swear Ray hasn't aged a bit since the day Cowley teamed us.) Right now, Ray and I are in excellent shape--we wouldn't be in CI5 if we weren't. But the day will come when old age, a bullet or some unforeseen accident will sideline one or both of us. When it does, I hope that I react to my physical limitations in the same calm, accepting way as Raven has.

He's mostly recovered, now. But he still doesn't turn his head when he can avoid it. Raven's put on a pound or two and is much less inclined to go wandering these days. But the night Murphy was shot was by no means the last time I've seen our black tom chase some other feline marauder out of his territory. I'll never forget the little bastard chasing Tigger down the road, nearly falling over at every other leap, but determined to defend what was his.

Everything is back to what passes for normal round CI5. Murph got out of hospital last week. He's staying with Chris and going to physio every day. Only time will tell how well he recovers, but the doctors seem to think he'll be ready to face Macklin sometime in the near future. In the meantime, he and Chris still haven't exactly figured out where their relationship is going, but they're working on it.

Doyle and I are on a nice, boring surveillance assignment at the moment. We keep regular hours and mealtimes, which pleases Raven no end. Rays says the bloody cat takes after me in the way he likes his food plentiful and served at specific intervals. He also says that pets tend to take on the characteristics of the people they live with. I just hope that Raven doesn't start to take on some of Ray's less endearing character traits. One Raymond Doyle is about all I can handle.

-- THE END --

*R-18 rating: British equivalent of Triple-X.

Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 4, Whatever You Do, Don't Press!, 1989

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