AUTHORS' NOTES: This story originated on Monday evening October 23, 1989 after a very long journey from Scotland down to Salisbury. Lucy & I feeling under the weather (sick as dogs) went to bed early to rest Unable to sleep Lucy asked, (while sneezing) tell me a story. And so I did. It wasn't till one year later when Kris & I stayed at this same place that I told her the tale of VALE VIEW. -Noel

This story started for me very, very late on that same night Noel & I stayed at Vale View. She kept me up way past my bedtime so she could relate the tale of Ray of Vale View and Bodie. (Brewsterfield is one of my additions.) Anyway, thanks to her depriving me of sleep, and my interest in the story, you now have the chance to read it. -Kris


The last of the art books was carefully packed into the closest box. The nearly empty room echoed. Ray sat among the boxes and suitcases. It seemed such a short time since he'd moved in, unpacking these same suitcases. Almost a year ago. A year of living on his own for the first time, of art classes, of meeting people from all over the country, all over the world. It was what he'd dreamt of since he'd graduated from school last year, the class of 1965. Leaving was difficult but he knew it was the right thing to do.

Ray's father owned a small farm that raised pigs and corn. Three years ago they had also opened their house as a bed and breakfast. Ray and his father worked the farm while his mother, Sheila, did most of the work required in running the B & B. The money from the B & B was what allowed Ray to attend university. Then, five months ago, Ray's father died. Sheila had insisted Ray stay in school but he knew it wasn't possible. Alone with the farm and B & B to run, his mother would have to hire help. There would no longer be money for school. Ray finished the year, finding a part time job to cover his expenses. It was only a temporary measure. He knew his place was at home helping his mother.

So here he was amid boxes full of the last year of his life. Soon one of his neighbours would arrive with a truck to help him move home. He'd met a lot of people over the last year, some of whom had become good friends. People he found he had more in common with than most of his friends from Woodfalls. Few of them had any ambitions beyond their farm, their families and what they already knew. It would be difficult to return and be happy.

The atmosphere in the library was tense. The two antagonists, aunt and nephew, were on opposite sides of the well-appointed room. The heat from the fire did not dispel the inner chill Claire felt. Her nephew had changed in the two years since she'd left him on his own to move to France with her new husband, the Marquis de Villiers.

"Phillip, I just want to know the truth."

"I prefer Bodie, Aunt Claire."

"With three Christian names to choose from, couldn't you pick one of them."


"Alright," she knew this wasn't important enough to argue about. "I'll try to remember. Now, will you tell me why I'm receiving letters about you. Jeffers seems concerned that you're running wild with no supervision, the rumours I've heard do not persuade me otherwise."

"Jeffers is worse than a nanny. Besides, they're not true."

"I don't doubt that. But rumours, whether true or false, are dangerous."

Bodie paced away from his aunt then back before saying -- "Sharon."

"Sharon Regis?"

"Yeah. She sees herself as lady of the manor. I ruined her plans."

Claire smiled slightly. She knew the girl well enough to intuit what had happened. If the girl's plan was thwarted she would be vindictive. "You haven't yet learned tact," she stated.

"I never promised her anything."

"Bodie, please, sit down." Claire pointed to the chair beside her. "I wasn't sure about leaving you alone with only Jeffers as guardian -- no, listen -- I think you've done very well. Some things just can't be handled alone."

"She's just getting revenge. She never saw David and I doing anything."

"What you were or have done or not done with David is a discussion for another time. Right now we need to decide the best way to handle this situation."

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"You're old enough to live alone, you need to make your own decision. I can offer some suggestions." Claire leaned back in her chair and sipped her brandy. She watched her nephew carefully. Despite his bravado she knew he was hurt by the rumours.

"Ok," he finally asked, "What would you suggest?"

"Well, you could prove the rumours false."


"Date every girl in the county."

Claire laughed at Bodie's inevitable reaction. He'd grown up knowing all the girls in the area. Some were friends, none were a possible romantic interest.

"Or you could close the house and move to school. A number of your friends board there. Or ask one of your cousins, your older cousins, to live here with you."

"I don't like my cousins."

"The other option is to come home with me. Your French is passable. You could take some extra schooling in French and complete any courses you need to be ready to start university in France in the fall."

"And live with you?"

"Yes. You would still be free to come and go, but I'd expect you to live with us, at least at first."

Claire accepted the lack of a negative response as a good start. "Think about it. We can talk more later if you like."

Bodie poured himself a very small brandy and sat back in the large overstuffed chair he preferred. His life had been growing complicated lately --his parents had died just over six years ago when he was almost ten. His divorced aunt had moved into his parents home to take care of him. The woman and the boy had grown close over the years. He had been sad when she had married the Marquis de Villiers and moved to France. She had tried to convince him to go with her but Bodie's ties to the family home had been too strong. He'd been lonely with only the estate staff to act as guardian, but his time had filled with his friends, his school, studying and taking care of the estate.

His parents' death had forced him to grow up quickly. it wasn't until his aunt moved away that he reclaimed some of that lost childhood. Mindful of his position and his title his behaviour was never overtly rebellious. He just learned independence. He also loosened up, began to learn to live for himself rather than for others. A large part of this was his acceptance of his sexual preference. He liked male companionship better than the company of women. He'd bedded a woman and enjoyed it but his explorations with David had been beyond simple enjoyment. Even at fifteen he knew what he liked and wanted. Now that preference was beginning to cause problems. He would have to give up a bit of his freedom if he returned with his aunt to France but he loved her and respected her opinion. And she didn't seem disturbed that he might prefer men. It was the wisest choice. It was only left to accept Aunt Claire's offer.

His aunt accepted his sexuality, with the reservations one would expect. He studied French and finished his schooling with little difficulty. He enjoyed the challenge. He liked France and the estate of the Marquis became a second home to him. The only problem was the Marquis himself. Over the seven months he'd been in France he'd come to know Christien de Villiers and didn't much like the man. De Villiers was an alcoholic who kept secrets from his wife. Bodie was sure he had a mistress and suspected the man was involved in illegal activities of some type although he couldn't prove anything. He protected his aunt as much as possible but knew it was a temporary safety. In the fall he would be leaving for university. That time was only five months away and then she'd be alone. As excited as he was to be moving to Paris he was worried, too.

For now he had to be satisfied with watching and waiting. Perhaps sometime this weekend he'd talk with the man. He and de Villiers were alone for a few days while Aunt Claire was staying in Paris shopping. Bodie was on holiday from school. His formal studies were done, he could graduate now except that he was staying for the extra months of French lessons. Conversational French was not enough to get by in university studies. For now he was planning on doing some riding before going to join his aunt for two days in the city. The Marquis, uninterested in shopping or any other excitements Paris had to offer had stayed at home. Tonight his drinking had started hours before dinner.

By the time dinner was over he was reaching total drunkenness. He was in a state of over-friendly concern. "Bodie, come have a drink in the parlour," the Marquis asked, taking Bodie's arm. Bodie went, it being easier to go along than protest. The Marquis poured two large brandies.

"So, I expect you're excited about leaving us this fall."

"I'm excited about starting university," Bodie corrected. "I have to decide what to read still."

"Yes. I know your Aunt is proud of you. She wants you to do well."

"May I go to bed now. I'm going riding early tomorrow."

"Stay, please. I know we have our differences. I'd like to be friends at least. For your Aunt." The Marquis sat on the sofa beside Bodie. He took one of Bodie's hands in his. "I think we could be good friends."

Bodie pulled his hand away and got up from the sofa. The Marquis followed, cornering Bodie at one side of the room. "Don't walk away from me," he warned. "I want to be friends." Holding Bodie still, he leaned over. Bodie could clearly smell the liquor on his breath, then the wet lips touched his own. He turned his head and struggled against the greater strength.

"You'll like it boy." One hand rubbed at Bodie's crotch then grabbed the buttocks and pulled him close. The Marquis was only slightly taller than Bodie, who had already reached much of the height he would have as an adult, but he still outweighed the boy by two stone. He held the struggling young man, grinding his groin against Bodie's pelvis. Bodie tried a new tactic, relaxing slightly. When the Marquis' mouth approached his own he didn't turn away; he bit the man's lip then broke and ran to his room. The door was locked behind him. He stripped, showered and went to bed, shaking with fear and anger.

The soft click of key in lock didn't waken the young man. The door was slowly opened, as slowly closed. The Marquis moved quietly across the room shedding his robe. He lightly touched Bodie's shoulder. The gentle contact didn't wake him as the covers were pulled back. The Marquis indulged, ran his eyes up and down the nude body lingering on the rounded ass. Then he climbed into bed, laying half on top of the young man. At the feel of the intruder Bodie woke. He didn't immediately realize what was happening. Forcing himself more fully from sleep he felt the hand fondling his cock, the semi-erect organ pressed into his ass.

"Get out of here!" Bodie yelled. "Don't touch me."

"Relax. You'll enjoy this if you relax." The man's words were slurred and slow. Bodie's initial fear turned to anger. But the Marquis was bigger, stronger. Even drunk. Bodie's anger was useless. It would take cold planning to keep from being raped. It was not easy. His instincts screamed at him to react. To yell, to hit, to run. Or conversely to retreat in terror at the knowledge he could not win. The man pinning him to the bed was larger, more powerful. And he had the important attribute of being an adult. A voice in Bodie's head taunted him -- Adults are to be respected and obeyed --. The voice brought a measure of rationality. He'd been on his own too long to mindlessly accept what an adult said or did simply because of his age. Calmer, he was able to plan his escape. He let the Marquis fondle him. He could feel that the man's cock was still not fully hard. Thanks to the liquor no doubt.

"I know you like men," the Marquis mumbled into Bodie's shoulder. Bodie had no idea how the Marquis knew this; he wouldn't deny it. However this was in no way what he wanted.

"Relax. I could hurt you if I wanted. I don't want to, but I am going to have you." The Marquis' weight lifted slightly and the young man moved. He flipped onto his back and jerked his knee into the man's crotch. The angle and force were not enough to do much damage. It was enough to give Bodie the chance to jump out of the bed. He grabbed the robe from the floor as he ran from the room. Noticing the key in the lock he used it before the Marquis could reach the door. Once safe outside he pulled the key from the lock and threw it down the hall. Wrapping the robe around himself he hid in one of the unused servant's rooms.

The next morning before the servants were awake, Bodie left his hiding place, packed a large suitcase full of clothes, put the key to his room where it was sure to be discovered and left. It took longer than usual to get in to the city due to the early hour. He spent the train ride deciding what to say. Or what not to say.

Claire was surprised and pleased to see Bodie. "Why are you so early? Come in, have breakfast. What happened to your horseback riding?"

Bodie put his luggage down and sat at the table in the sitting room. "Aunt Claire, I'm sorry."

"You and Christien argued again."

"Yes. I tried not to. Really. But he wouldn't let me just go to my room." Bodie held the coffee cup tight, steadying his hands.

"No, dear, I'm sorry. He isn't easy to get along with sometimes. I know. It'll be nice to have a few extra days all to ourselves. We'll straighten things out when we get home."

For now it seemed easier to agree. Bodie needed time to relax, time for the fear of last night to fade. Then he would calmly convince Claire that he should move to university now rather than wait until the fall. When she learned how much he wanted this she was sure to allow it.

Throughout university he dated mostly women. They were nothing more than expedient, Bodie knew his desire was fixed on men. it was not so simple to act on the knowledge, not after de Villiers. The few times he'd had sex with men had been nothing but sexual release, nothing more. It had been quick and less than fully satisfying. One man had shown more than a casual interest but as soon as that relationship threatened to become sexual Bodie left. It wasn't until graduating from university that he became involved with a man. He had been friendly with Andre in university. They took some of the same classes but Bodie had never allowed the friendship to go beyond that. At the time the other man seemed content with this. Almost a year after graduating they'd met by accident, or so Bodie had assumed at the time. They went out to dinner, talked, and found that they still had much in common. Bodie was still unsure; Andre's gentle, patient insistence eroded Bodie's defences. By the time Andre suggested they go to bed together Bodie practically insisted.

That had been almost two years ago. Now Bodie wandered through the streets of Paris, enjoying the spring air, wasting time until he and Andre were together again. He was lonely. While he and Andre had never lived together, seldom spent every day together, their recent separation had been over a month long. Bodie had missed his lover. Missed their long talks, their strolls through the countryside, their lovemaking. He was hoping to convince Andre to take a holiday with him. Monte Carlo, or Greece, or San Francisco. Spend time together. Alone. Away from Andre's family, who disapproved of Bodie's influence.

It was Andre's family that had kept his lover away for the past five and a half weeks. They had been trying to exert their influence for the past year. Ever since they learned of the affair. Noticing the time on a nearby clock tower Bodie increased his pace. He had just enough time to get to the cafe he and Andre preferred. It was near Andre's flat and not much further from the flat Bodie kept in the city. For the next few days he was not going further than the two flats without Andre.

Andre was not at the cafe so Bodie ordered two espresso's, a basket of croissants and sat at a table in the front. Ten minutes later he was beginning to worry. He watched the sidewalk and finally saw Andre, walking slowly towards the cafe. The worry increased. He'd expected his lover to be as excited as he to be reunited.

"Andre, your espresso's cold. I'll order some more." Bodie gestured to the waiter.

"Thank you."

Bodie watched Andre closely. Something was troubling the younger man. Bodie knew Andre would tell him only when he was ready. So he sipped his espresso and talked of other things.

"I missed you," he said quietly when the conversation ran down.

"Bodie, I'm moving out of Paris." For the first time Andre met Bodie's eyes. "I'm sorry ."

"What d'you mean -- oh, your parents. This is their fault. What did they do to you? You don't have to--"

"Bodie. I'm getting married."

"This isn't a good joke." Bodie looked carefully at his lover. He wasn't joking. "You love me."

"I can't fight my family anymore. I'm sorry Bodie. I knew you'd be disappointed in--"

"Disappointed!" Bodie only just kept his voice low. "Maybe we'd better speak English. I must not have understood you."

"Bodie, I'm not happy either."

"But you're doing it. When?"

"Next week."

Bodie picked up his cup. It was empty. He returned it to the saucer. "They're not wasting any time," he said to himself. "Is it worth it? Is she worth it?" Bodie could see the tears sparkling in Andre's eyes. "You're a fool, but I suppose you know that. I love you Andre. And I hate you for this." Pulling together every bit of dignity and nobility he owned or could simulate, Bodie got up from the table, put down money for the food and left. He was three blocks away before the first tear fell onto his cheek.

Claire wasn't sure whether to cry or scream. Bodie had given up his flat in Paris and moved back to the estate. Since the Marquis death, only eleven months after Bodie had moved to Paris and University, her nephew had spent almost equal amounts of time there and at the estate. Now he'd had been home for almost two months and in that time he'd not left the estate. He wandered aimlessly, or sat doing nothing, for hours at a time. He'd told her the reason for his depression. She'd known of Andre, that had been no shock. She was, not shocked, but very concerned when he didn't seem to get over the boy.

She didn't often interfere in Bodie's life. He had long been too independent for that. It was time to make an exception. When Bodie went to his room early as usual, Claire started making calls to some of her old friends in England.

From the distance of the barn Ray watched the new guests arrive. A newlywed couple, so his mother had told him last night. He was both pleased and disappointed. Pleased because newlyweds were always good guests. They didn't expect or want much attention and were always happy. His disappointment was for his mother's inevitable reaction. Sooner or later she would wonder aloud when he was going to get married. The same question she'd been asking for almost eight years. In the past year or two the question had changed to 'if'. Ray would give her the same answer each time. When he found someone to love he'd get married. To himself he admitted that marriage was unlikely. He'd never felt the urge to spend his life with a woman, in general or in particular. Meanwhile the farm took up most of his time and energy. Anything left went to helping his mother with the guests or helping the neighbours with their crops as they would help him when more than one set of hands was required.

Squealing pigs brought his attention back to his work. The animals were impatient for their food. He dumped the grain in the trough and watched for a minute. Sometimes he had to settle disputes, to make sure everyone got their fair share. Today all the pigs were content to eat peaceably. Ray walked down the hill towards the house, washing up before going in to the kitchen for his own midday meal.

"Our guests awake yet?" Ray asked late the next morning, noticing the teapot heating water.

"Yes, they've gone in to Salisbury forty five minutes ago. They're so in love. It's a joy to watch."

"Please mum." Ray brought the sandwiches over to the kitchen table.

"I know sweetheart. I wasn't going to mention you."

"Yes you were," the young man sounded weary rather than angry. "Go ahead, get it over with."

"I'm only worried. It's not just that you're not married. If you don't want to marry, well, I'd be disappointed but it's your life. I worry that you're alone. You spend all your time working on the farm. We won't starve if you spend evenings with your friends."

"I'd rather stay in, read. Really mum. Drinking lager and talking about corn prices and manure isn't what I want to do of an evening. I'd rather talk with our guests."

"And girls?"

"I have dates. Susan. Charlotte. Tina."

"I don't need the whole list, dear." she sighed. "You're twenty five, you'll do just as you like."

Ray finished his sandwich. "I'd feel better if you didn't worry."

"It's something mothers do." Sheila smiled. "I'll try not to do it too often."

Ray kissed his mother on the cheek. "Ta mum."

Riding on the tractor Ray thought about his mother's worry. The last three dates had been at his mother's insistence. Ray hadn't minded. He'd enjoyed the chance to get out, have some pleasant female company. Unfortunately the conversation had been less than exciting. Only one of the three had taken 'A' levels in school. Even she had only done it to please her parents. They were all very nice, and of no interest. He hadn't asked any of them out again nor did he plan to. It would be unfair to them and him. He missed the type of people he'd met at university, men and women. He missed the all-night discussions on anything and everything under the sun.

That night, after the guests had retired for the evening, Sheila told him of their next guests. An old school friend of hers was coming over from her home in France to spend three or four weeks.

"I thought you were planning on keeping those weeks free."

"I was. But Claire's an old friend. She married a Marquis and moved to France. She's a widow now and I haven't seen her in years. It'll be like a holiday for me too. I can show her around, catch up on her life. She's bringing her nephew. She's his guardian. I guess it's been years since either of them have been back -- he's English too."

"Ok mum. It's your decision."

Ray sat on the fence of the pigyard taking a break. The weather was not warm enough for him to have worked up a sweat but he was warm enough to be thirsty. A large glass of water would have gone down well, or ale for preference. Looking down at his filthy clothes he could hear his mum if he walked into the kitchen. As he climbed down to finish cleaning out the pigsty for the new shipment of piglets, he saw a large black limousine pull into his driveway. He didn't return to work, preferring to watch.

--Lost-- he decided before he remembered. His mother had reminded him this morning of the arrival of their guests. The wife of the late Marquis and her nephew. He watched in impressed amusement as the woman was helped from the car by the chauffeur. She didn't look infirm, just used to the attention. Vale View was either going to be a pleasant change for the woman or a very short visit. He was startled when a man followed the woman from the limo. From the distance it was impossible to tell the man's age but he was fully grown, not the boy Ray had expected. --I wonder what he expects to find to do here-- Ray thought as he returned to work. --A man used to chauffeured limos won't find much of interest in a small farm village like Woodsfall. I wonder if the chauffeur is stopping here, too.--

Bodie unpacked then stood at his window. It was a pleasant house, a comfortable room and was so far from everything. If his aunt wanted him to forget his problem he would have been better served in London. Or any other large, busy city. Out here there was probably nothing to do but read or think.

Sheila and his aunt had immediately started talking, catching each other up on their lives. Except for a pause to show him his room, they had talked continuously since their arrival. Not wishing to intrude on their reunion, Bodie decided to look around the property. Perhaps a walk into town for a pint.

The house was situated on the side of a hill. Access was a dirt road at the bottom of the rise. The barns and pens were up the hill and to the side of the house. Bodie walked up towards the barn hoping for a good view of the area. He didn't go near enough to speak to the man working in one of the pens, covered with dirt, or worse. Tattered jeans, hair curled and messy. Well-built -- he could tell that much even through the dirt and clothes, but he'd have nothing in common with a scruffy farmhand even if he was curious.

--And Andre? -- he chastised himself silently --Is he so easy to forget after all?-- Turning down the hill he headed in the direction he hoped was the way to town.

Two pints later he decided it was time to go home. Sheila had mentioned a late supper and he was getting hungry. Maybe tomorrow he'd find someplace to borrow or hire a horse and go riding. And one of the men at the pub said most visitors visit Salisbury -- both the cathedral and the town. His days might not be as empty as he'd feared.

Bodie got back to the house just in time to clean up for dinner. He joined his aunt at the table as Sheila carried in the last plate of vegetables and sat down.

"Ray'll be right down. He's cleaning up."

"Ray?" Aunt Claire had told him Sheila's husband was dead.

"My son. He runs the farm."

"I saw one of the men up at the barn this afternoon."

Sheila smiled, "Oh no, that'd be Ray. He does everything here."

Bodie tried to hide his surprise. The man he'd seen entering the house, the same one he'd seen earlier had looked even more grimy and disreputable than before. He managed to hide his disdain. The door opened and all eyes turned in that direction.

"Sorry," Ray said quietly.

"Claire, you finally get to meet my son, Ray. Ray, this is Claire de Villiers and her nephew William Andrew Phillip Bodie. Did I remember correctly?"

"Yes," Claire smiled, "but he prefers Bodie, pleased to meet you Ray."

"And you, Ma'am. Bodie."

"Claire, please. No need to be formal."

"Thank you."

Bodie hoped no one expected him to speak. He was stunned into silence. The scruffy, grimy farmhand had transformed into an exotic green-eyed siren. His body was as nicely made as he'd guessed. Broad shoulders and muscular chest above almost nonexistent hips. The hair was an auburn halo encircling the round face. Spring green eyes glittered above full lips curved in a smile. The not-quite-symmetrical face 'drew one in to look closer. Bodie did so.

"Bodie?" Claire prompted.

Bodie looked at her, breaking the spell. "Sorry." He tried to think of an excuse for his lack of attention and failed. He looked down at his plate, hoping someone would rescue him.

"You really do need a holiday," Ray said quietly.

Bodie looked at the other man. The face showed polite concern, nothing more. Both men remained quiet through out dinner. Claire and Sheila gladly monopolized the conversation, still chatting about their present life and shared past. Bodie listened, gaining information about this family and their life. About the man he found inexplicably fascinating.

"--and I despair of him ever finding a wife," Sheila continued to Claire.

"Mum!" Ray protested.

"Maybe we should leave, before they get to the really embarrassing bits," Bodie suggested.

"They haven't even started on you yet," Ray said in return. Nevertheless, Ray left the table, then excused himself to go out and check the animals before going to bed. Bodie was relieved. His fascination was unwelcome, he wanted no opportunity to pursue it. He knew himself. His sex drive was still very much alive. He couldn't stop the automatic reaction to a good looking man, he could however refuse to act on it.

The sun was not yet above the horizon when Ray awoke to feed the pigs and cows, his mind never more than half on the job. The other half was thinking about Bodie. He was intrigued by the man; his dark brooding good looks, his strange accent, a mixture of English and French, the almost straight dark brown hair and blue eyes, the well formed body. All these interested him. He was also envious. Bodie had never needed to give up what he wanted in order to support himself or his family. Probably had never done more than watch real work. The biceps, chest and narrow waist Ray had noticed probably the result of Nautilus rather than lifting, shovelling and carrying. All this did nothing to detract from his appeal. The pouting lower lips were particularly attractive.

Doyle hesitated in his repairs to the barn window. He'd never denied that he could find men attractive. He would be less of an artist if he denied seeing beauty in everything. But it had never been more than a philosophical belief until now. Until Bodie. He wondered what it would be like, loving a man.

Resuming his work Doyle let his fantasies run free. He and Bodie kissing, touching, warming each other. Including guests in his fantasies was a pastime he'd enjoyed often over the years. His fantasy life was greatly enriched by them, no one was hurt, and that was as far as they were allowed into his life. Bodie was no different from any of the others, except for his sex. He would have a major role in Ray's dreams for a time to eventually be replaced by a new visitor. That was the usual pattern. Ray had some doubts as to the ease with which he'd be able to remove this man from his mind. The unique and forbidden aspect of Bodie's masculinity was enough to fuel many nights of erotic dreams.

Reality intruded; mooing from inside the barn. Ray finished the window and checked his watch. Another twenty minutes before the cow needed milking. He brought out his tools to finish preparing the barn for winter.


Doyle spun around to confront his fantasy come to life. The unwelcome intrusion put a scowl on his face. "Aren't you on holiday?" he asked, unable to keep the aggression from his voice.

"Yes," tentatively.

"It's early. I figured you to sleep in." Doyle turned back to the barn. "Need to finish this."

"Sorry. Don't let me interrupt. I thought I'd look around the farm before breakfast."

"Enjoy yourself." Doyle started hammering.

"Is there anywhere I shouldn't go? Don't want to damage anything."

"Damage anything? It's more likely you who'll be damaged." Doyle relented slightly and half-smiled at Bodie. "The Carstons have a mean bull. Just stay out of any fields with barbed wire." Doyle went back to work. Twenty minutes later he put his tools down. Time to milk the cow. He grabbed the short stool and sat on it at her side. His thoughts drifted back to his fantasy. Bodie, sweaty from a day of harvesting grain, working side by side with Ray, then throwing off his clothes as they cooled down at the nearby pond. Ray grinned. It was beyond fantasy. He'd seen Bodie's disdain at his appearance yesterday. And the way he'd carefully picked his path up the hill this morning avoiding the muddier spots.

"She mind an audience?"

Doyle jumped at the unexpected voice. "Do you always sneak up like that?" He hoped this city boy would tire of farm life soon. Otherwise it was going to be a long three weeks. Ray wasn't sure his temper would last through even one week of inane questions or the superior attitude he felt from this guest. "She never has done." He answered Bodie's question then leaned his head against the cow's warm side and started milking.

Bodie leaned against the stall. "You have any free time today? I'd appreciate it if you would show me around."

"Sorry." Ray didn't look at Bodie. "This's a working farm. Means I have to work."

"Maybe I could help."

Doyle started to laugh at the idea. "Christ. I don't have time for this." he muttered to himself. He had to get rid of this man somehow. "You could bring this in to me mum. She'll be needing it," he handed Bodie the three quarters full pail.

"Je vous remercie beaucoup!" Bodie snapped. He didn't care that Doyle wouldn't understand the words, he was sure the sarcasm got through. He took the pail and went into the house feeling patronized. The bloody- minded little bastard. A right egotist. He determined to avoid the stupid sod from now on whenever possible. The few times they had to interact would undoubtedly end his fascination.

Sheila looked out the bedroom window in puzzlement. Ray was standing on the crest of the hill looking down the drive where Bodie had just walked off towards the garage. Ray had always been difficult for her to understand but today he was incomprehensible. He seemed to teeter between deep contemplation and frenzied activity. Claire's nephew had talked with him this morning. She wondered what had been said, if there was a problem between the two young men. If so there was nothing she could do unless asked. She returned to making the bed. Perhaps later she'd ask Claire if Bodie had confided in her.

When she'd finished the few chores that had to get done she went into the parlour. She and Claire had made plans to go into Salisbury, visit the cathedral and do some shopping. Bodie had shown no interest in their plans yesterday, but now he was talking with Claire about accompanying them.

"Bodie," Claire said reasonably. "You don't want to spend hours in a cathedral. Why don't you stay here. Work off some of your excess energy. I imagine Ray might appreciate some help?"

"No he wouldn't!" Bodie said heatedly. "Doesn't want any help, does he? Wouldn't want to anyway. Farm work? Parbleu!" Bodie stormed out of the room.

Sheila looked after him. "Maybe I should apologize for Ray? He does get stroppy sometimes."

"No. Bodie can be very pushy, let them work it out." Claire smiled. This holiday had been the right idea. She hadn't seen Bodie so emotional in months.

Bodie headed away from the town walking quickly. This holiday had been a stupid idea. He still missed Andre, would often see something that reminded him of his lover or think of something he'd tell Andre the next time they were together only to remember they wouldn't be together. Andre was now in Italy on his honeymoon.

And Ray Doyle. The man might be appealing, even sexy but his personality was irritating. He would never be able to relax with Ray hanging about the place, making him feel useless and unwanted. Not a proper holiday at all. Bodie slowed his pace enough to look around. He'd taken one of the main roads leading away from town.

Hedgerows bordered the road, broken by gaps leading to farm houses or barns. The leaves had not yet started to turn. The weather was pleasant, a cool breeze kept him from overheating after his unplanned exercise. Calm now he was slightly embarrassed. He knew his aunt would understand but he would have to apologize to Sheila when he returned. Then maybe he could convince Claire that he'd have more of a holiday in London. Three weeks in London; it would be great. And he wouldn't have to put up with an overbearing farmhand with delusions of superiority.

Ray finished his chores early. It was strange to walk into an empty house. His mother was seldom away; more usual was a house full of guests and friends. He poured a glass of lager and went into the parlour. The sun was an hour from the horizon. It wasn't really cold enough but knowing how much his mother loved a fire he built one and lit it. He sat back in the easy chair. The day had been long. He felt bad about his behaviour towards Bodie.

It wasn't Bodie's fault Ray found him captivating. Nor that Ray refused to act on that feeling. He decided that the fantasies were likely only exacerbating the problem. Fantasizing about the man only made it harder to deal with him rationally. Why this should be true with Bodie and not with any other guest he'd used in this way, he didn't understand. Nevertheless, it was true.

So he would forego his fantasies until Bodie left. And this evening he'd apologize and offer to show Bodie around the area after chores tomorrow. The man could hardly help the fact that he'd never been a farmer. Having done his duty to his mother's guest he could then try to ignore him.

Bodie and the women arrived together back at the house. In the bustle Ray managed to escape out the back door to the barn. Almost three hours later the four were gathered together in the parlour with coffee and dessert. Ray had offered his services as tour guide, Bodie had accepted and the men had talked for a short time before Ray made his excuses and retired to bed. Bodie followed shortly. Tucked under the covers, Ray decided tomorrow would not be as much of a chore as he'd feared. They had talked about a number of things tonight, Bodie was personable and knowledgeable. It was the most enjoyable evening Ray had spent in many months.

Bodie woke when the sun gave him no choice. He rolled out of bed and looked out the window. The sun was well above the horizon. He could see Ray walking towards the barn from the hillside. He hurried into his clothes, worried that if he was too late Ray might cancel. As it was likely he'd be staying here, at least until he could convince his aunt otherwise, he wanted to get the feel of the area. Getting lost in the wilds of Wiltshire did not appeal.

"Bodie," Sheila stopped him as he came down the stairs, "Breakfast will be ready in about five minutes. Will you go tell Ray? He didn't hear me call."

"I'll be right back," Bodie promised. The air was cool, the breeze playing in his hair and sneaking through his shirt starting a chill. He'd need a jumper when they went out later. A few clouds floated slowly across the expanse of blue sky. A perfect day. Bodie ran up the hill, full of energy. He found Ray in the barn working on a small engine.

"What's wrong with it?"

"I think it's just old. We have a new diesel generator but I'd like a standby. You know anything about engines?"

"Autos and motorbikes. Never worked on anything like this." Ray stood and wiped his hands on a rag. "Well it'll not be fixed today anyway.

"Your mother sent me to get you in for breakfast." Bodie allowed himself to stare while Ray continued cleaning his hands of grease. The jumpsuit he wore was worn and dirty but it fit in all the right places. The soft cotton moulded biceps and ass, covered but did not conceal the well-packed groin. A very pleasant sight. Last night the other man had shown himself to be intelligent and amusing too. He looked forward to his promised tour, forgetting Ray's other, less endearing, personality traits.

"Breakfast," Ray reminded, starting down the hill. Bodie followed. Sheila and Claire had already started their tea and scones when the men came into the kitchen.

"The plates are in the oven," Sheila said. Ray took them out and brought them to the table. Bodie usurped Sheila's role and poured out tea for both of them, warming the women's cups as well.

"What are you doing today, Aunt Claire?"

"Nothing. A short walk this morning, perhaps. A good book this afternoon. Complete relaxation. Both of us." The last sentence was an order directed at Sheila. The woman being commanded smiled and continued eating. "What are your plans?"

Bodie looked to Ray. "If I helped with your chores we could begin sooner?"

"Yes," Ray said, "Ok. Then we'll drive into Salisbury, look around, whatever."

"Sounds exciting," Bodie couldn't conceal his irony.

Ray hurriedly finished off his tea. "Then we'd better get started. Excuse me." He went out the door.

Bodie stayed in his seat. He didn't know whether he was supposed to follow, he didn't know what he'd said or done, he only knew he'd managed to annoy Ray. Again.

"Please forgive him, Bodie," Sheila put a hand on his arm. "He's rather possessive of this place. Sometimes gets help and interference confused."

Bodie smiled. "Thanks. Nice to know it's not just me."

"Bodie--" Claire's warning was clear.

"I'll be good. Mum." He followed Ray out of the house. On the short walk up to the barn Bodie considered cancelling the days activities. He hesitated before opening the door. "Ray?"

"In here." The voice called. Bodie followed the voice into the feed room.

"Ray, let's forget this. I'll find something else to do. We don't have to go out later either. I can look around by myself."

"I said I'll do it."

"Non. Merci." Bodie turned to go.

"Bodie. Wait. Please?"

Bodie did as requested.

"I'm sorry. I've been -- preoccupied lately. I'll try to behave."

The sincere apology, together with a sweet, tentative smile, worked magic on Bodie. "I'll wait then, 'til you're done?" Bodie accepted part of the apology.

"Unless you think you can fix that generator?" Doyle asked. "I have to prepare one of the fields for winter. Only takes one person."

Three hours later covered in oil with a bruise on one finger and a cut on his hand, Bodie pulled the generator's starter. It coughed out a cloud of black smoke, choked twice, then purred into life. Bodie looked at the machine in satisfaction. Letting it run long enough to be sure it wouldn't quit, he then stopped it. He needed to find Ray and tell him of his success.

Ray was at the near side of a newly turned field. He took one look at Bodie and started laughing.

Bodie gathered his patience about him until the laughter stopped. "What's funny?" His voice was level.

"You look like a Red Indian in war paint. Did the generator win?"

"No." Bodie wiped at his face, his hand coming away covered in oil. "I'd best clean up."

"Nah, don't bother. You'll fit right in, around here." Ray jumped up onto the tractor. "Climb on. I'll give you a ride down to the barn. We can clean up there. Mum doesn't approve of oil and dirt in the house.

Bodie climbed up and stood behind Ray. As the tractor jerked forward he grabbed for the only safe hold: Ray. His hands clamped onto Ray's arms, probably bruising. He enjoyed the contact more than was comfortable. The tractor bounced down to the barn. Bodie jumped off as soon as it slowed.

"I'd better change, as well," Bodie said as they cleaned up side by side at the large feeding sink. "My clothes are almost as greasy as I was."

"Nothing too flash. We're going to Salisbury, not Paris. Or even London."

"Right," Bodie went down to the house to change, struggling to keep Ray's comments from bothering him. Ray was making it very easy to ignore his attractions. Bodie was near to abandoning any further attempts at amity.

Ray changed his clothes. He felt ridiculous. Every time he talked to Bodie he said something stupid. Something that made manifest his envy, or his desire. The rest of the day promised to be long and disturbing. Grabbing up his favourite jacket he went downstairs.

Bodie was waiting in the small foyer, looking at the corkboard covered with tourist information. "Where's this then?" he pointed at a colourful flyer for a carnival.

"Sherborne. Wrong time of year if you fancy that sorta thing. Summer carnival down at Christchurch's much better."

"Haven't been to a carnival in years," Bodie offered.

"You'd probably be disappointed. Let's go." Ray went down to the basement. He opened the garage and got into the car. By this time Bodie was waiting in the passenger's seat. The two men were silent until they were ten minutes from the house. Almost into Salisbury.

"Am I forgiven?" Bodie asked.

"For what?"

"Don't know. Liking carnivals? Fixing the generator? Having a title?"

"You have a title?" Ray knew he shouldn't be surprised.

"Just a small one," Bodie smiled, "Does it matter?"

"You mean can I get any more sarky?" Ray smiled back, glancing at Bodie for a moment before returning his attention to the road.

"Can you?"

"Probably," Ray admitted. "Right now I need to find a place to park."

They drove past the church. There were a number of parking spaces along the road which followed a small stream. Ray pulled to the side of the road and stopped. They started walking back towards the church, Bodie going slowly. The stream they followed was iii the midst of a small park. The trees shaded soft, green grass. A small wooden bridge spanned the water. Bodie wanted to stay but Ray was already past the park. He ran to catch him up, passing a real estate office, a clothes shop and an office of some type. Side by side he and Ray took a right down a narrow street bordered by tourist shops, bridged by an ancient stonework. It wasn't possible to tell if it was buttress, bridge or a simple doorway into the church precinct.

They walked under the stone into a large courtyard. Three sides were protected by houses, the fourth opened onto grass and walkways leading to Salisbury cathedral.

"It's magnificent."

Doyle stood silent, letting his companion feel the awe. He never really saw the old cathedral unless he was here with a visitor. He came to Salisbury at least once a week and usually drove past the cathedral but never stopped or even really noticed the steeple reaching towards the sky. Familiarity bred -- not contempt -- but indifference. Then he would bring someone to see the building and his companion's wonder would infect him. He followed Bodie now as the man strolled up the walk to the front of the church. There weren't many people, either in the yard or inside. Doyle was startled when Bodie went into the nearest pew and knelt. Doyle stood by while Bodie bowed his head for a short time then rose. He shrugged at Doyle's raised eyebrow.

"Habit," he whispered. "Let's look around."

Ray had expected to be bored long before Bodie was done. But his companion didn't linger anywhere for very long. He read a few of the information boards around the church, looked at one of the carved tomb covers. Most of his time was spent in the small churchyard enclosed by the church, walkway and parish house. A building that had once housed the lesser monks and priests of the cathedral.

Once Bodie had explored everywhere they were allowed to, and a few places they weren't, the men went into the city itself. Their first stop was a pub.

"Pinta bitter?" Ray asked.

"Lager," Bodie corrected. "Still getting used to beer instead of wine." He explained when Ray returned with the drinks. "I've lived in France for ten years. Didn't really start drinking 'til I got over there, so I got used to drinking wine.

"Rather have wine?"

"No. This is fine." Bodie took a sip from the pint. "Where do we go after this?"

"There's lots of great old buildings, around the town. Or there's an old Roman fort an hour or so away.

"You like ruins?"

"Some farmers do think of more than weather and pork prices." Ray said defensively. "I spent a year at art school."

"Just a year?" Bodie's joked, but his voice held a slight edge. "Dropped out or kicked out?"

"You implying I couldn't make it?" Ray snapped.

"How the hell do I know?" Bodie retorted viciously. "You ashamed?"

"No!" Ray realized shame was exactly what he felt. At having - at being - less than this man he'd been burdened with. He still felt deprivation at his simple, unsophisticated upbringing. Bodie had money, position, everything it seemed. "We couldn't afford it after my father died," he admitted.

"I'm sorry," Bodie allowed Ray's admission to cool his temper. "My parents died when I was nine. I know how terrible it is."

The two sat joined in sad memory, closer than either would have believed. But the moment passed.

"Another?" Bodie asked.

"Nah, let's look around."

A pleasant fall weekday, most of the pedestrians were tourists. The men wandered through the town, no destination in mind. Bodie enjoyed himself immensely. Despite all the years he'd been away he recognized the ambiance of an English village. It made him feel secure and warm, as when he was a child. Ray kept him mostly away from the tourist areas. They visited places that were no less old, but less commercialised. They also visited the newer shopping district and residential areas. Shadows had lengthened by the time they had returned to the area of the city where they'd left the car.

"Ray, wait," Bodie stopped him with a hand on his arm. "I forgot. I wanted to get a Thank You gift for your mother, and something for Aunt Claire. Is there anywhere I could get something nice?"

Ray almost took offence, then realized Bodie had meant something other than the cheap tourist shops they'd passed.

"Jewellery? Clothes? Antiques? A bottle?"

"Jewellery. Aunt Claire loves new earrings."

So Ray brought Bodie to a jewellery store nearby. He occasionally had purchased presents there himself and knew they had a good selection. The wide price range they carried was something he discovered only when Bodie started looking around. He managed to pick the pieces that cost more than Ray normally spent in total on Christmas gifts for everyone he knew. Uncomfortable at the thought of anyone spending so much money, he left Bodie to choose the gifts while he went to buy a couple bottles of wine for dinner.

The ride home was quick, the sky dark as they pulled up the driveway. Ray closed them into the garage and switched on the light. Bodie was waiting at the entry into the house.

"Thanks for the tour," Bodie said. "I enjoyed it."

"Yeah. Was nice, havin' an afternoon away from here." Ray started to pass Bodie to enter the house. Bodie wouldn't move out of the doorway.

"I.. .uh. . . I got you something. A thank you."

"Oh." Ray took the small unwrapped box. It was from the jewellery store. He realized Bodie was standing only inches in front of him. One hand slid behind his head and pulled him into a kiss. It was as skilful as any he'd known, gentle and full of passion. Tender and persuasive. Welcome. His initial startled hesitancy disappeared and he responded in kind. The rising intensity was too sudden and both men pulled away.

"Why'd you do that?" Ray whispered.

"I wanted to," the answer popped out, "You wanted to."

"You don't know that."

"No," Bodie admitted. "C'etait un erreur." He backed up another step. "Open it." Bodie nodded to the box still resting in Ray's palm.

Ray opened the box. Inside, nesting in a cloud of cotton, was a chain of fluid silver.

"I saw you looking at them," Bodie explained into the silence. "Wanted to get you something. Thank you for today."

"And buy me for tonight? That what this is for?"

"That wasn't the intent."

"Too right, mate. You're not buying me." Ray thrust the box into Bodie's hand and shoved his way past into the house and up the stairs.

Bodie was too surprised to move. He let himself be pushed to one side, automatically bending to rescue the chain which had fallen to the cement. It was carefully returned to its box and hidden in a pocket. Bodie retreated to his room. Once alone behind locked door he threw the other presents on his bed and put the rejected gift on the nearby dresser. He thought he'd chosen the thing so carefully. A thick, durable chain that could be worn doing farm work without danger of breaking. Not so expensive that Ray would be hesitant to wear it, or come to the wrong conclusion.

--So much for being careful-- Bodie thought as he let the chain run through his fingers to the dresser. -- C'est la vie. I shall convince Aunt Claire, if necessary, to let me go up to Brewsterfield. And tonight? Tonight I'm going to make the sod sorry he's such a conceited, self-important bastard.-- Bodie dressed for dinner, changing into light grey soft cotton slacks and a deep green silk shirt that turned his eyes to light blue. And showed off his other assets. Approving of the image in the mirror he left his room. His Aunt was at the head of the staircase.

"I thought I'd heard you come in. Did you enjoy yourself?"

"Yes," Bodie motioned Claire to precede him down the stairs. "I did. But I think I've done everything there is to do around here."

"Relax. Enjoy being out in the country. I'm sure you'll find something, or someone, to occupy your time." Claire missed Bodie's grimace as she walked into the parlour.

He poured a gin for himself and a brandy for her. "What I should do is go to Brewsterfield. See that everything is as good as Benjamin writes to us."

"You've decided to stay here in England then?"

"No. But there's no reason to stay here. You have Sheila for company. And I could use some time alone there to decide if I should stay. You and I can have some time alone together at the house when you arrive."

Claire looked into her glass as if it were a crystal ball. "Maybe you're right. Let's talk about this tomorrow. If you still feel the same you can go. N'est ce pas?"

"Oui. Merci, mon chere tante."

"Oh lord that makes me feel old." Aunt and nephew laughed, sharing an old joke.

"I guess I don't need to ask if you're enjoying yourselves." Sheila said as she entered the room.

"Oh, Sheila, Bodie's just reminding me of my age."

"And he seemed so polite when we first met."

"Another drink?" Bodie asked his aunt as he handed a full glass to his hostess. He'd learned short hours after arriving at Vale View that it was unwise, as well as useless, to say anything once these two started teasing.

"Dinner will be ready in five minutes. I have to go finish bringing it out." Sheila said to her guests after finishing her drink.

"I'll help." Claire left Bodie to himself in the parlour. He sat in the easy chair, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The door opened, barely audibly. Bodie's eyes stayed closed. He knew who it had to be.

"Bodie. I didn't mean to disturb you. I came in to get a drink."

"It is your house." Bodie waved a hand as if in permission.

"Yes. Sometimes wonder if you've forgotten that."

"With you to remind me constantly?" Bodie stood up. "I won't bother you anymore. I'll most likely be leaving in the morning."

"I thought you'd be quickly bored out here." Doyle's tone was not friendly. "Couldn't find anything to catch your interest?"

"Oh no. I found something very interesting." Bodie let his eyes slowly roam Doyle's body. "But as it doesn't seem to be on offer I may as well go."

Ray turned his back on the infuriating man.

"I do enjoy the view." Ray spun back to face Bodie. "Don't worry. Wouldn't dream of insulting you any further." One finger gently brushed Doyle's right cheek, then Bodie left the room.

Doyle didn't follow immediately. But he had no excuse to miss dinner and his mother would be worried and suspicious if he didn't go in.

Dinner was a trial. Bodie behaved as the perfect dinner companion--bright, witty and genial to Claire and Sheila. He was politely correct to Ray when the women would notice. Out of sight he was behaving unforgivably. It had started with a few glances. Ray had frowned and ignored them but Bodie only changed tactics. He began to make sly comments, innuendos that grew less subtle until Ray could no longer ignore it. At his silent pleading Bodie stopped the words. Over the main course Ray had felt a shoe-less foot caressing his thigh. Before dessert Bodie had excused himself and on his return passed behind Ray and run fingers lightly over his shoulders and neck. By the time Bodie relented, Ray was contemplating murder. There were any number of deadly accidents that could occur on a farm. Especially to someone unknowledgeable about farming. That his discomfort was heightened by more than a small touch of desire only caused him to plan the potential murder to be more painful to the intended victim.

"You're very quiet Ray," Claire said.

"Just thinking of all the work I need to do tomorrow." Ray smiled faintly at her. "Forgive me?"

"Of course. It's the least I can do, as you fell behind in your work to show my nephew around your city."

"My pleasure. If you'll excuse me, I have to get up early. I'd better check the animals and go to bed." With a kiss for his mother, Ray escaped. He made sure the animals were bedded down for the night, then took a quick shower and prepared for bed. Once horizontal with the blankets snug around him, Ray was wide awake. Awake to listen to all the sounds of the house. Awake when he heard Bodie enter the bathroom that was next to Ray's bedroom. The sound of the shower caused an unwanted scene to appear in his mind. Bodie, water sluicing down his naked, soapy body. His large hands rubbing a face cloth down his chest, over his flat belly, soap hiding dark pubic hair in white foam. Ray's blood heated. Tremors touched his muscles, gathering at his groin. His hand, traitor to his mind, moved down to seek pleasure. At the first touch his cock jumped.

The shower turned off. Five minutes later he heard Bodie return to his room. He released his hard cock and rolled, carefully, onto his stomach. He didn't want to cum with Bodie's presence so close. He wanted very much for it to be Bodie who caused that orgasm.

It wasn't long afterwards he heard the third step from the landing creak. The bathroom was used then the bedroom door just down the hall closed. Claire going to bed. He listened further but the sounds of the house subsided. The outdoor noises began to seem louder. Noise which was usually like a lullaby; tonight they were only noises. Hours later he was still unable to sleep. His mind circled over the same thoughts again and again. For no sane reason, he was attracted to Bodie. Bodie was attracted to him. They could barely talk to one another without fighting. And if he didn't do something about it, tomorrow Bodie would probably be gone. Thinking was doing nothing but depriving him of sleep.

Forcing his mind from thought and his body into action, Ray threw back the covers, put on the closest thing to hand, his worn overalls, and quietly left his room. Taking care to miss the floorboard just outside Claire's room, he stood outside Bodie 's door. As soon as he realized that action had again metamorphosed into thought he put his hand on the doorknob and turned. Once inside with the door tightly shut he froze. From the door he could see half the room. The dresser against the wail to his left, the window with its curtains open and a half moon shining in.The moonlight was enough to show that the far bed was occupied, not whether the occupant was awake.

"I'm not asleep." The moon-limned body moved.

"I woke you?"

"No. You kept me awake."

"I did?" Ray wasn't sure what Bodie was trying to say.

"I want you."

"What do you mean?"

Bodie chuckled. "You must know."

"I have some idea."

Despite his words, Ray bumped against the door when Bodie got out of bed and stood in front of him. He shrank back further against the door when Bodie reached out a hand, touching his shoulder then hair before it returned to Bodie's side.

"Then why did you come in here?" Bodie asked quietly, moving back to give Ray some room.

Still unable to speak, Ray unhooked one suspender of the overalls. Unhooking the other he let the garment drop around his feet. He knew the faint light highlighted his nudity. Bodie was looking at him but it was impossible to see the expression.

"Oh God," Bodie whispered and held out a hand. Ray took it, trying to keep Bodie from feeling the shivers he couldn't control. Bodie led him over to the bed near the window. The slightly taller man stripped off his y-fronts as Ray watched. Bodie's skin almost glowed in the cold white light. He sat on the bed at Bodie's coaxing. The bed was an old single, the mattress higher from the floor than a more modern bed. Bodie only had to bend a little to kiss Ray. The kiss was hot and gentle and ended too soon. Ray wanted to reach out and bring Bodie's lips back to his own. He found he was unable to move.

"Just being here isn't enough," Bodie said as he played with Ray's curls. "I'd likesome encouragement."

Ray licked his lips. He put one hand on Bodie's hip. The skin under his hand was smooth, warm. He rubbed small circles over hip and thigh. Emboldened by his first move he stood up and initiated another kiss. His tongue pushed into Bodie 's mouth. Strong arms brought him close against the naked body. Bodie thrust his erection against Ray's slowly engorging penis.

"Bed's more comfortable." Bodie sat, bringing Ray again into his arms. Together they stretched out on the bed. Bodie let his hands roam, careful to slowly excite his lover. Ray was clearly not experienced; it would be easy to frighten, or hurt, or repulse him. Bodie wanted to do none of these things. Besides being a thoughtful lover, Bodie had found that his near rape so many years ago still dominated his actions. He shrank from mixing violence and sex, even in play. It had occasionally even caused problems. Andre would start wrestling, Bodie would respond at the start then he'd freeze, his erection would disappear. After the first few disasters Andre had stopped this sort of game. Bodie had never asked for more.

It was easy for him to go slowly. He was relishing this chance to explore the unknown, desired man. So many months and years since he'd taken a new lover. The uniqueness was rousing in itself. Looking at the man beside him, giving himself so fully, Bodie realized he had not yet begun to find the limit of his intoxication. The search promised to be all he could wish.

His hips surged forward as a warm, unexpected hand brushed his belly and cock. He squeezed Doyle's ass, coaxing him closer, rubbing cocks together. Doyle's need had matched his own. Uninterested in sex for two months, Bodie was overwhelmed by the rush of sensation he couldn't control. His orgasm was devastating and unexpected. Before the final spasms subsided he took Ray's head in his hands.

"You ok? Sorry. 'M usually not that precipite -- uh -- premature."

"'S Okay." Ray felt at the cream that sprinkled his crotch and belly. He brought the finger to his mouth and tried it with the tip of his tongue.

"Christ." Bodie took Doyle's hand, sucked on the finger himself for a moment before resuming the kiss he'd ended. A reminder of Ray's need pressed against his hip. With a caress to Doyle's face, Bodie positioned himself to minister to that need. Ray was pushed flat on his back and Bodie moistened the cock from head to base with his tongue before engulfing it with his mouth. He leaned over Ray until he finally had, a bit at a time, taken the cock deep into his mouth and throat. He looked up. The moonlight shone on Ray's face, highlighting the near absence of colour in his eyes. His breathing was deep and quick. Bodie accepted the accolade to his skill and released the cock from his throat. One hand pumped the shaft while his mouth suckled on the head. His reward was not long delayed. With a yell, prudently muffled by the nearest pillow, Ray poured his seed into the eagerly waiting mouth. Warm cream coated his throat. Bodie swallowed eagerly. He kissed his way up Doyle's body to take the man in his arms.

"You taste great," Bodie said into Ray's neck.

"So did you," Ray voiced his surprise. "That was amazing."

"Needn't sound quite so surprised." Bodie nibbled on Ray's ear.

"Was better even that I'd imagined."

"You've been fantasizing about me?"

Doyle was embarrassed to admit the truth. "Isn't that what you wanted?"

Having gotten just what he wanted, Bodie was benevolent. "Yes. I wanted this. And I want it again if you do too."

Doyle's hand, which had started to caress Bodie's arm and side, stopped. "I hadn't thought further than this."

"No need. I don't want any promises. Just some pleasure. A chance to get to know you."

"Why? I haven't been very nice."

"I love a challenge." Bodie hugged Ray to him and gave him a deep, thorough kiss. "I enjoyed today. I like you. I wasn't trying to buy you, y'know."

"Sorry. I do know that." Doyle played with Bodie's hair, then kneaded his shoulder. "Did I really just make love to a peer of the realm?"

Bodie stilled, afraid Doyle's temper had turned again. But Doyle was smiling, continuing to pet Bodie. "Yeah. Baronet Brewster. Now, can we think about more important things?"

"Mm, Like what?" Doyle nuzzled Bodie's cheek.

"Sleep, Ray. It was a long day. We have plenty of time."

Ray was too tired to argue.

As usual Ray woke before his alarm so he was able to drift in that half-aware state he indulged in before starting the day. It was soon after that he noticed more than the time of day. He was in the guest room. In a small bed crushed up against another person. A man. Bodie. He enjoyed the feel of Bodie warm against his side. The arm curled tight about his waist. Waking early became even more pleasurable. He turned so he could hold Bodie in his arms. Last night had been so good. He wanted to just relax in the sensation for a bit longer. Bodie only half woke and returned the embrace. His erection rubbed against Ray's hip.

"Bodie, I have to leave," Ray kissed his new lover. "Work."

"'S early."

"I start early."

"So'd I." Bodie pushed his hips harder into Rays's side. "Don't you want--?"

Ray put Bodie's hand on his own hardness. "Yes I do. But I have to work."

"Won't take long," Bodie promised him, hands and mouth assuring that Ray would not be neglected. The men established a fast rhythm. Orgasm was strong, mostly silent and nearly simultaneous. Bodie recovered first, got a face cloth, wet it in the room's sink and returned to the bed. He gently cleaned Ray.

"Ready for work now?"

"Not immediately," Ray smiled. He took the cloth to return the favour. At the first touch of cotton against Bodie's skin he jumped back.

"Sorry, cold, was it?"

"Freeze it off, you won't get anymore," Bodie warned as he got back into bed. "I'm going back to sleep."

"Unfeeling sod." Ray dropped the cold cloth very carefully in the middle of Bodie's chest and jumped out of bed. Once dressed he quietly made his way downstairs and out of the house.

"Bodie, are you coming down for breakfast?" Claire knocked on the closed door.

"Come in," the voice called. Claire went into Bodie's room. The curtain was drawn over the window and Bodie was sitting in the middle of his bed.

"Is something wrong? You're usually awake and wanting breakfast long before me."

"Just tired. All this fresh air, I guess." Bodie stretched. "I'll get dressed, be right down."

Curiosity blooming, Claire looked around the room before leaving. Nothing seemed out of place in Bodie's room but something was different. Perhaps it would be best to let Bodie leave, as he'd asked. Claire found Sheila in the kitchen and asked if she would mind leaving her and Bodie alone at breakfast.

Once Sheila served the eggs she left the two alone. Claire had been watching Bodie carefully since he'd come downstairs. He was quiet, contained and more relaxed than he'd been in months. She had her suspicions but the most likely cause also seemed the least possible. Bodie had been subtle in his attack on Ray at dinner last night but she knew her nephew. Well enough to have felt the tension between the two, heard the meaning in the casual remarks Bodie had thrown at Ray.

"I must be getting used to this place," Claire remarked. "I didn't even hear Ray go out this morning."

Bodie looked up but nothing showed on his face. "I did, but I went right back to sleep."

"I guess with only the two of them, both he and Sheila have to work every day. Not much time for holidays or time off. It was very nice of Ray to show you around yesterday."

"Yeah. He told me."

The words were right but the tone was not what Claire expected. The relationship between the two boys was changed. The next question of course, was how.

"I thought about what you asked. I think maybe you should go. If you're really bored here, it might be better to go on to Brewsterfield. This was to be your holiday too." Claire thought she recognized confusion in Bodie's face before he turned partly away from her.

"I was thinking about that too," Bodie said slowly. "If I go to Brewsterfield I'll have to work." He met her eyes. "Another two weeks won't make much difference to the estate and I'll be more relaxed. Ready to get into it."

Claire couldn't resist pushing, just a bit. "Have you found--something that caught your interest, then?"

"Nothing specific." Bodie averted his eyes again. "But --well -- I'm sure I can find something to do." Finishing the last of the bacon, Bodie excused himself.

Claire waited until the door closed before she allowed the grin she'd been controlling to appear. She hadn't seen Bodie so embarrassed and confused in a long time. Her nephew was often too mature. She was always startled when he behaved as the young man he was, rather than the adult he usually acted.

Sheila put her head in the door. "I saw Bodie. Are you done so soon?"

"Come in. Have breakfast with me? I have been abandoned."

"Bodie was on his way to the barn, I think," Sheila said as she came in and sat down. She was too polite to intrude and too curious not to let Claire know she wanted to know what was happening.

"Bodie was planning on leaving. Now he's changed his mind. Or something changed it." To herself she amended -- or more likely someone.

Bodie berated himself for his cowardice all the way up to the barn. Would it have been so terrible to just tell his aunt the truth? But he was still unsure just what the truth was. The sex last night had been great but he and Doyle were scarcely best friends. He suspected they could become close -- if he didn't kill the irritating little sod first. To be fair it was equally likely that Doyle would kill him first. Or try.

For now he had other things in mind for him and Doyle to do. He found the object of his thoughts behind the barn adding to the compost heap.

"Hope you don't want any help," Bodie leaned against the barn out of the way of any stray compost.

"Wouldn't want you to get dirty."

"I will if you like," Bodie smiled as Doyle finally looked at him. "I want to spend time with you. Even if it means shovelling pig shit."

"Cowshit." Doyle corrected, returning the smile. "The pigs are next."

Bodie grimaced as Doyle handed him the shovel. "I'll learn to keep my mouth shut." Despite his protest he did indeed help. He watched Doyle for three or four minutes then tried to emulate him but as the morning passed and the work moved from barn to field Bodie realized how arduous farm work was. He tired sooner than he wanted to admit. His arms grew heavy, his back began to hurt. It wasn't the burning ache he was used to from working out. This was a dull pain that spread through his whole body. He was relieved when Doyle stopped him for lunch.

"Bodie, we're not trying to turn the whole field today."

Bodie leaned against his shovel. "Does that mean we're not done?"

"Enough for today," Doyle squeezed Bodie's bicep. "Let's go have lunch." Doyle started down towards the house.

"Lunch? Inside?"

"Usually. Why? You want to eat in the barn."

"I'd rather not eat with my aunt. She's too perceptive."

Doyle stopped and Bodie almost bumped into him. "You don't want her to know about us?"

"Not yet," Bodie admitted. "She'll just think it's 'sweet'. Or say I told you so."

"She will?"

"Well, maybe not. She's got more class than to actually say it. But she'll think it."

Doyle thought about this. Thinking, perhaps for the first time, about the reaction of the people close to him.

"I'll go get a couple of sandwiches. We can have a picnic."

Doyle washed his hands and rummaged through the cupboard and refrigerator, came up with some ham salad sarnies, a large bag of crisps and a couple cans of lager. Bodie had cleaned up too and they took the food to the side of the house. Doyle spread a towel on the ground and laid out the food. "Your aunt knows you like men?"

"I'm gay," Bodie replied. "I've known since I was sixteen. I came out to Aunt Claire almost as soon as I knew."

"What did she say?"

Bodie smiled at the memory. "She said I shouldn't make a decision like that too quickly. And if it's truly what I wanted she supported me totally."

"That's all?"

"No, then I got a twenty minute lecture on discretion, my position as a peer and the possible problems of a homosexual lifestyle." Bodie finished off his sandwich in three bites and started on the crisps.

"My mother won't have all that to worry about at least. I don't have a title, or any desire to go into politics."

Bodie was startled, though he should have expected this. If he'd noticed anything about this man it was his tendency to go over the top on things. "You've never made love to a man before, have you?"

"I thought -- you didn't know?"

"Not for sure. You have made love to women?"


"And liked it?"

"Yes. Why? Taking a survey?"

"Coming out isn't easy. Aunt Claire is an exception. Just don't want you to start telling people you're gay, uh, unnecessarily."

"So what was last night? You couldn't tell I was enjoying myself?"

"Maybe you're bisexual. Maybe it was just lust. Maybe you just couldn't resist my overwhelming masculine charms."

As he was supposed to, Ray laughed. "You always so modest?"

"It goes with the title."

"Yes, m'lud. If it pleases m'lud, it's time to get back to work."

While working Doyle thought over what Bodie had said. He had seldom been sexually attracted to men, had never gone further than looking. The attraction he felt for Bodie was more than that. He didn't know if it made him gay, bisexual or just confused. That Bodie was concerned about him showed that he felt more than just lust, too. Also, he was most likely right. It wouldn't be easy to tell his mother. She'd probably twig soon enough anyway.

As last night had been nearly unendurable, so tonight was for totally different reasons. Bodie was as charming, but with none of the teasing of last night. The glances between them held nothing but friendship. Every attempt by Doyle at suggestive looks or innuendo was met by silence or at most a slight grin and quick change of subject. After dinner the foursome moved into the parlour to talk and watch the telly. Doyle tried to manoeuvre Bodie onto the sofa, unsuccessfully. So he perched beside the fireplace and tried to understand.

By the time he went to bed he was still in the dark. He waited in his room, hoping Bodie would knock on the door, wondering why that knock never came. Had Bodie changed his mind? Was he really just interested in a quick fuck? Maybe he just liked virgins. Or last night had been an effort to overcome his boredom. The quiet of the house highlighted the absence of footsteps in the hall. Doyle's impression of rejection turned to anger, propelling him out of his room to the other end of the hall where Bodie slept.

Presence of mind cooled his anger enough that he knocked and opened the door quietly. He walked into the centre of the room and was suddenly caught in a tight embrace.

"I'd thought you'd decided not to come tonight," Bodie chuckled at his own pun, kissing Ray's neck. Doyle pulled out of the embrace.

"What the hell are you playing at?"

"I want to be 'playing' with you." Bodie grabbed for Ray but the smaller man stepped out of reach.

"You sure? After this evening I thought you'd changed your mind."

"Christ," Bodie sat on the bed. "I was just using a little discretion. If you'd rather, we can hold hands during supper and neck on the sofa after."

"No --"

"I don't want to hurt you. I know what I want, you have to decide if you do too. How we handle this, if we continue at all, it's your decision." Moonlight shone on Bodie's smile. "Of course, I do plan to persuade you to continue." Bodie held out his hand.

Doyle took it and sat beside his lover. "It's gonna be hard, sneaking around. I've never lied to mum."

"Don't start. Unless Aunt Claire mentions it, Sheila'll probably not suspect anything. But if she does, tell the truth."

"Yeah. I guess that's for the best. For now." Doyle took Bodie's face in his hands. "We still have most of the night."

They fed on each other's mouth. Desire was volatile, needing only a spark to ignite into conflagration. It was never clear who provided the spark.

"Ray." Bodie touched his lover's shoulder. He regretted having to wake the man. Ray slept so soundly it would have been nice to lie in bed and watch him. The sun was brightening the sky, the first bird song was intruding into the dawn. The pigs out in the back were making the first snufflings of morning. It was time to start the day. Ray would not be happy if he was allowed to stay asleep. "Doyle, your pigs're calling."

"They're always hungry," Doyle muttered into his pillow.

"Ok. Stay here." Bodie pulled Doyle to him, enjoying skin against skin. "We'll make love again."

Doyle's head emerged from the pillow and he kissed Bodie's cheek.

"And have breakfast in bed."

Doyle stopped kissing. "Oh, Christ. You had to say that."

"You don't want breakfast?"

"Not in bed. Got this picture in me head of Mum bringing us the food."

Bodie snickered. "Not on, right?"

"Yeah," Ray pushed himself up and started to dress. "I haven't a lot to do today. We could go riding this after. You do ride, don't you?'

"Yes. Don't you want help with the work?"

"No, Bodie. It's your holiday. Relax."

Bodie felt that he was being patronised but it was so nicely done he could hardly take umbrage. So he did as he was told. He re-woke just in time for breakfast. Sheila and Claire were driving to Sherbourne to look, or shop. Bodie had been paying attention to Ray and only half listened to what the women were saying.

After breakfast everyone went off and Bodie was left alone. He wandered around the house from parlour to breakfast room to kitchen and back. Then upstairs to his room, his aunt's room. He walked down to the end of the hall -- Ray's room, attracted by the sunlight. Usually the bedroom door was closed but now it was wide open. The sunlight from the window lit the room and brightened the normally dark hall. He looked inside. The room itself was not much bigger than his own. The double bed was pushed against one wall, a dresser was against the opposite wall. Curiosity overcame judgement and he went in. The room was clean and cluttered. Clothes were draped over one of the two chairs. The dresser was covered with brush, comb, cologne, magazines and what looked like parts of a machine.

His attention was caught and held by a covered stand resting in one corner by the window. He approached and lifted the piece of towel which covered a canvas. It wasn't yet a painting. Some of the base coat was still visible. Some of the trees were finished while others were simply rough patches of greens and browns. The river was just a grey-blue patch across the canvas while in the dam blocking the river, each twig and rock in it were detailed perfectly. Faint chalk lines were still visible where two figures had been sketched in the foreground then erased. Even incomplete as it was the painting evoked emotion. Bodie saw peace, serenity and loneliness. He wondered how long Ray had been working on this piece and if he'd worked on it recently. The loneliness called to him, he wanted to end it. Imagination supplied Ray's reaction to this intrusion into his space. Bodie knew he would have to approach the subject carefully, if at all.

Re-covering the painting Bodie went downstairs, found a book and tried to direct his attention to the story until Ray finished his work.

"Bodie, mum left some cheese and bread for lunch."

"And pickles?"

"Yeah. 'N if you're real good, chocolate gateaux for afters."

Bodie grinned and put down his book. "Your mum is great." He grabbed Doyle, kissed him then let go and headed for the kitchen. Doyle followed, somewhat bemused. It had been so long since he'd received simply affection from anyone other than his mother. A place in his heart that had been empty was warmed and filled. The emptiness was not eradicated but it was decreased. A need was satisfied that would now always be full.

In the kitchen Bodie had found and was putting out the china and silver -- actually stoneware and stainless steel. Doyle set the food out. In what seemed moments, only crumbs remained.

"Where do you go riding?" Bodie asked as he put the last of the dishes in the dish washer.

"Our neighbours across the street. Since Ben got married and Jill went to University the horses don't get enough exercise. I go over whenever I get a chance."

"Great. Let's go." Bodie headed for the front door.

"Bodie, wait--" he stopped. Bodie was already outside and probably halfway down the front walk. Doyle just grabbed a jacket and his down vest and followed. The two walked side by side down the drive and up the street to a small white house with brown trim and black slate shingles. To the right of the house and close to the road stood a small modern four stall barn. Ray went inside and pointed out where the brushes and tack were stored.

"They're both friendly. You get started, I'll let Marcia know we're going out."

Bodie was less than certain of his reception. He hadn't lied; three years of lessons as a child ensured he knew how to ride. Over ten years had passed since then, five since he'd been on a horse. He could only hope he found his seat before he acquired too many bruises and aching muscles. He grabbed a soft brush, curry comb and hoofpick and went into the nearest box. The animal was calm so he slipped the halter over its head and started rubbing with the brush. The horse stood willingly until he reached her neck. She gently but insistently stepped around until all he could reach was her rump. Two more tries elicited the same action.

"You are not going to win," he told the recalcitrant mare as he led her out of the box and cross tied her in the centre of the alley between the stalls.

At that moment Ray came back.

"Marcia says we should enjoy ourselves." Ray handed over a warm muffin. "She was baking." Bodie grabbed it out of Ray's hand before the horse could take it. She snuffled at Ray's empty hand while Bodie stood out of reach to finish his second dessert.

"You want Cassy or Turk?" Ray asked as he brought the other horse, a gelding, out of his stall.

"I haven't even been introduced.''

"You're brushing Cassy -- Casino Girl. This is Turk -- Don't know what it stands for, if anything."

"She and I have been getting along fine," Bodie said as he started to tack up. "Except she doesn't like her head brushed."

"She's a little head shy." Ray agreed. "She also tried to eat your muffin, don't forget."

Ray was bending over picking out his mount's hoof. Presented with such a clear opportunity Bodie gave in. He went over and put a hand on either cheek and rubbed. "I like muffins."

Ray jumped forward, dropping both hoof and pick. "Bodie. Don't!"

"No one's looking except two horses and I don't think they care."

Doyle stood facing him. Bodie gave Doyle the chance to stop him. He wasn't stopped. He pulled the smaller man into his arms, kissed him thoroughly then just held him. Bodie wasn't used to his lover being so reticent. He and Andre had often walked down a street arm in arm, kissed in public. Vale View was not France. Was not even London, where it might have been accepted if not approved.

Bodie was first to relax the embrace. "The horses are watching," he teased.

"Maybe they'll learn something." With a quick kiss to Bodie's cheek, Doyle finished tacking the gelding. "Let's go."

The riders soon left the roadside for a path through an empty field. Bodie's hands, arms and legs remembered their job before his mind. He was relaxed and confidant when Doyle's mount started to trot. A squeeze of his legs and his own horse followed. A little more pressure and Cassie cantered, catching and passing Tuck and Doyle. He slowed as they approached the trees at the edge of the field. Doyle was only seconds behind.

"Cassie's always been faster," Doyle said, laughing.

"You're too competitive." Bodie reined Cassie close to Tuck so he could pet Ray's arm. "I'll let you win next time, if you like."


Bodie smiled at the doubt in Ray's voice and face. "Probably not," he admitted. "But I'd try."

"Berk." Doyle took a swing, his tone affectionate. Tuck moved down the path into the trees. The wood was old, the trees tall and full, blocking most of the sunlight even on the wide gravel trail. There were few bushes or brambles even off the path. Further along the trees were lined precisely along the trail. Perhaps this had once been the entry to a mansion or stately home. Gone now except for the living memories. As they turned off the gravel Bodie heard a river mumbling in the near distance. As the sound grew louder the trees became less dense. Past a partially tumbled stone wall the men and horses entered a clearing. Shaded by willows was a river which had been blocked to form a small pool. The water was only slowed, it ran through and over the rocks and branches of the man-made or child made, dam.

Bodie dismounted and joined Doyle beside the river, letting the horses drink. "It's just like the painting," Bodie said to himself.

"What!?" Doyle grabbed Bodie's arm. For a moment Bodie thought he was going to be hit, then Ray dropped his hand and turned away.

"Merde," Bodie hissed. "I saw the painting in your room. I apologize. The door was open." Bodie was taken by surprise when Ray jumped on his horse and took off along the river. He was slow to follow, not knowing the trail - or if following was the right thing to do. When he caught up would Ray yell, or ignore him, or hit him? None of the options were pleasant. Bodie was soon lost. Nothing looked familiar and he wasn't even sure in which direction he would find Vale View. He kept Cassie at a trot. Around a high, untended hedgerow he saw Doyle and Tuck about 50 yards ahead, stopped at the side of the trail. Without prompting Cassie walked over to her stablemate and nuzzled his shoulder.

"Can I apologize again? Please forgive me?"

"I knew you wouldn't find your way home." Doyle pulled Tuck's head around and they set off at a walk. Bodie gave Cassie her head and she followed. The first cool breezes of evening were drifting through the trees though the sun was still hours above the horizon. Bodie snapped his jacket closed. Ray's jacket. It made him feel a little better to have something of Ray's on his body. It seemed appropriate somehow that it was Ray's clothes protecting him from the chill that was mostly caused by Ray. Anger or resentment he'd have understood. Given Doyle's temper, if the man had felt either Bodie would have heard about it. This cold disregard hurt. Bad. Back to civilization, riding along the side of the road, Bodie had to turn his attention to the ride.

Once back at the stable they untacked the horses, accepted a plate of muffins from Marcia and walked back to the house. Doyle brought the muffins to the kitchen.

"I'll make tea for those," Sheila decided. "We'll eat late tonight."

"I'm taking everyone out to dinner," Claire said as they ate the muffins. "Wherever you like."

"Chez Nico." Doyle mentioned his favourite place, then smiled at his mother, "I'll be back in a minute."

"What's Chez Nico? Or where?" Claire asked of Sheila.

"A very nice, very expensive French restaurant--"

"Price isn't important."

"In London."

Bodie chuckled at his aunt who was trying not to look worried. She'd stand by her offer if she had to fly them all to Hong Kong, but she wouldn't be easy with it.

"It was Ray's favourite restaurant when he was at university. He didn't really mean it."

"Maybe we could go at the weekend," Claire suggested. "Spend the day in the city."

"You'll spoil us, Claire. Dinner at the White Horse is more than enough."

Bodie sipped at his tea and ate another muffin. Unless Doyle accepted his apology they would be sharing another uncomfortable dinner.

The White Horse Inn was in Woodfalls, only about three miles from Vale View. From the outside it was a stereotypical Olde English Country Inn. Dark brown, deeply weathered wood made up the walls and roof, the windows were leaded in a diamond pattern. A pub sign hung over one door, a smaller sign signalled the inn s entrance. Doyle let Claire and Sheila out of the car at the front and drove around to the car park in the rear of the building.

"Ray, can we talk?"


Bodie jerked the car door open and jumped out. Frustration begat anger, which caused him to strike at the closest safe object. A six foot high wooden fence which surrounded the car park. A board cracked, his knuckles split. Pain throbbed up his arm. Bodie pulled a splinter from his fist and blotted at the small amount of blood with his handkerchief.

"Bodie?" Doyle had come near'.

"I need a pint. No, I need three or four." Bodie looked up. "I'd better clean this up first. Show me the gents?"

Doyle led the way towards the inn. "Maybe next time you should just hit me." His voice was very quiet but Bodie heard.

"Less painful than the substitute."

Doyle almost stumbled before gaining his balance and going inside. They entered a hallway which passed by the kitchen on the right, into the dining area directly in front of them and to the left. To the right in front of the kitchen was an open counter to the kitchen, a small work area for the help. Closer to the front of the building was the bar and pub area. Sheila and Claire were already seated at a table by the front window. Doyle pointed Bodie towards the loo and brought a round of drinks to the table. A pint of cider for Claire, a lager for himself and his mother and a large glass of wine which he set at the empty place.

Bodie returned to the table, sat at the empty seat and then noticed his drink. He looked at Ray, ready for ridicule. Ray's half smile reassured him; he raised the drink in a silent toast, the glass in his left hand to hide the evidence of his anger from the women. "Thanks, mate."

"Sorry, it's not French."

"Just so it's not Californian," Bodie shared a look with his aunt. "Our friends back home wouldn't approve."

"Then you do call France home now?" Sheila asked the question Ray wanted to ask and dared not.

Bodie had to consider the question. He'd spoken without thinking. Home had always been just a word, the definition of which changed as necessary. "Guess it depends," he finally replied. "Wherever I live is home. When I'm in France, I go home to where my aunt lives. But my flat in Paris is home, too. My real home is Brewsterfield. I belong at there, even if I'm not living there."

"Are you thinking of coming back to stay then?"

"Yes." Bodie looked directly at Ray. "Forgot how much there was to miss here."

Ray coloured under Bodie's continued scrutiny.

"And you Claire?" Sheila didn't notice, or ignored, the undertones. "Do you like de Villiers mansion so much?"

"No," she admitted. "I have thought about moving back. To a nice little flat in London perhaps."

"Aunt Claire," Bodie returned his attention to the conversation. "I thought you'd live with me at Brewsterfield."

"That's yours now, I would never intrude."

Bodie snorted, almost spilling his wine. "Don't be absurd. You belong there as much as I do. You're family, you belong in my home no matter where it is."

"Thank you." Claire took a sip of her cider. "Well then, perhaps a room at the house and a flat in London. With enough room so Bodie can have a place in the city too."


"You'll need a place when you're in London for Parliament."

"Oh Christ. I'd rather raise pigs."

"I think you'd better stick to what you know," Doyle added his opinion.

Claire and Sheila laughed at Bodie's glare. Any response was interrupted by a tall, very English looking gentleman. "So, Mrs. Doyle, you couldn't stay away from my wonderful establishment any longer. I was beginning to think you'd gone off my trifle."

"Oh, Peter, I was here just two weeks ago. Claire, Bodie, meet our host, Pete Roberts."

"Host, cook, dogsbody. The menu is on the wall there." He pointed to a chalkboard above the serving counter. "You can go up to the counter to place your orders. Everything is excellent. Of course, I have to say that. I run the place. But you can ask anyone." Roberts turned to the next table. "Right Christine."

"The food is great," the woman agreed. "And he doesn't pay us much to say so."

"Oh, thank you," Roberts said, "Now Sheila's guests won't want to eat here. Well if you order anything you don't like, just give it to Ray. He's always been too skinny."

Bodie laughed loudly.

"I wouldn't laugh too quickly, Bodie was it? Strange name. Still, you look like you'd eat anything. I hope you can appreciate the fine food we have here."

Pete walked away, leaving the men looking stricken and the women laughing.

The meal was excellent as advertised and the company enjoyable, enlivened occasionally by the proprietor of the establishment who presided over the dining room like a warm up man for the main act. For all the camaraderie of the evening, there was still a measure of strain between Bodie and Ray. Bodie was not as unrestrained as usual and Ray was almost verbose, except that most of his talk was not directed at Bodie. If either woman noticed Bodie's hand they didn't mention it.

They lingered over dessert, staying until shortly before closing time. Once back at Vale View both Claire and Sheila opted for an early night. Ray had gone out to check the animals. Bodie took a small brandy into the sitting room. It was likely tonight would be spent alone. A sobering thought -- a thought he did not wish to entertain in a sober condition. Despite the wine before, during and after dinner and now brandy, he felt the liquor not at all. Any more spirits and he'd have the hangover tomorrow without the pleasant tipsiness tonight. He finished the last few drops and went upstairs.

A knock on the door brought him out a liquor enhanced doze. A second knock was scarcely louder. Bodie tugged on a shirt over his briefs and opened the door.

"Please, can I come in," Doyle whispered.

Bodie moved away from the door, not issuing an invitation but giving permission. Doyle shut the door behind him but only entered far enough to see the whole room.

"Let me apologize for today. I. . .over-reacted."


"If we know each other much longer, we'll be spending all our time apologizing."

"There are better ways to spend our time." Bodie sat on the bed, legs spread and forearms resting on his knees.

"I want to."

"You want to share my bed, but I can't share your life? This is just a holiday affair then? A diversion?"

"No." Doyle denied quickly. "I mean I don't know. I like the sex. I like you, god knows why. I want us to get to know each other."

"Then why --?"

"It's stupid."

"Tell me anyway."

"I wanted to show you the art myself. Stupid."

"Not very logical," Bodie stood and moved close enough to touch Doyle's face. "And I understand. I'm sorry too."

Doyle returned the caress. "Take me to bed," he whispered. Bodie helped Doyle strip, leaving the clothes draped on the chair and lay on the bed pulling Doyle on top of him. Their love was an easy release. Doyle's cock squeezed tight between Bodie's legs, the pressure against Bodie's balls and the friction on his cock, trapped between Ray's belly and his own enough to satisfy both.

Recovery was equally slow and easy. Doyle rolled off Bodie, cuddling close in the small bed.

"Tell me about your art," Bodie asked.

"Not much to tell. I was only at school for a year. Not enough time for more than the basics."

"Did you want to stay on, then?"

"Oh, yeah. I did the right thing but I really miss it. The city, the university atmosphere..."

"People interested in more than farming and pigs."

"Yeah. The people around here are good people but they don't have a wide variety of interests, most of them."

Bodie nibbled Doyle's ear. "I'd like to see the rest of your work."

"The oils are mostly still life and landscapes. I also do portraits and figures in pen and ink and charcoal. I'll show you. Some of them."

"I'll try not to snoop anymore." Bodie's voice was deep, slow. His kisses grew fewer.

"Sleep," Doyle kissed Bodie's shoulder. "G'night."

Bodie's morning was spent staying out of his aunt's way. Too long in her company and she was sure to ask questions. Like why he seemed content to stay at Vale View doing next to nothing, or why his right hand was black and blue. So he found a book in the parlour, took it out to a nearby tree and spent the morning reading.

At lunch Doyle asked if Bodie wanted to go swimming. He almost refused; thoughts of what he could get up to with Ray, in the water, changed his mind. They walked to the same pond they'd visited by horseback.

"How likely are we to be visited? Neighbours, or kids?" Bodie asked. The area was well protected by trees and bushes, but everyone in the town must be well aware of the pond.

"Not very. The kids're in school, everyone else is working. C'mon. Strip off."

Bodie watched instead as Doyle stripped down to Y- fronts. It was a sight he knew he'd never tire of.

"Bodie, you can't go in like that."

Bodie was much slower disrobing. By the time he was down to his briefs Ray had already shed his remaining scrap of cloth and was splashing around in the pool. Bodie quickly joined him. He hadn't often had the opportunity or desire to swim so unencumbered. The water felt wonderful, the currents playing around his cock and balls cooling the heat. The effect was only momentary however as Ray swam up close. He was splashed, wetting that part of him that was still dry. Retaliation was quick. Bodie dived into the water past his tormentor and before Ray had a chance to do more than turn around, grabbed him about the waist and pulled. Ray lost his balance and fell on top of Bodie, both of them falling under the water. They fought, each trying to get the upper hand and stay above water. Neither was able to win this game. The physical contact turned the fight into something altogether different. Bodie came up from the last dunking and again grabbed Ray. This time he just held on letting their naked bodies rub together.

Ray kissed Bodie, holding on tight while Bodie's hands teased down his back.

"Is there anyplace a little less conspicuous?" Bodie asked when his mouth was released. "Somewhere nearby and a little more comfortable?"

"You're worried about comfort?" Ray tried to sound scandalised.

"If we come, here, standing up, we're both likely to drown."

Ray couldn't deny the possibility. He led Bodie out of the pond grabbed up the large towels and the rug they'd brought along and moved towards a grassy area that was protected on three sides by willow trees.

Bodie helped Ray spread the rug and then fell onto it. "Join me?" Bodie asked.

"Oh yeah." Doyle stretched out beside Bodie. They touched, kissed, letting the desire build slowly, feasting on each other. Bodie moved, positioning his head at Ray's groin, his own aching organ near to Ray's mouth . He wouldn't ask Ray to suck him. It might take the less experienced man awhile to decide he wanted that. He would give him the opportunity.

For himself he wanted nothing more than Ray's hot cock in his mouth. To taste Ray's seed pouring down his throat. His full attention was on what he was doing. A small part of his mind knew that Ray was doing some exploration of his own. Hands rubbed his thighs and ass, played with his balls and pulled his cock to fullness. His mind suddenly switched direction when his foreskin was pushed gently back and a warm wetness covered the head. Intelligence disappeared. Muscles and emotion took over. When a finger began to rub behind his balls, tentatively pushing further back, Bodie gave a muffled cry. He tried to restrain his thrusting as he came. Ray was not as controlled. Bodie's mouth was bruised by Ray's orgasms.

Bodie also recovered first. "Trouvaille. That was fantastic, Ray." he whispered, kissing Ray's face.

"Mmmm." Ray wriggled closer.

"Getting cold?" Bodie pulled one of the towels over and cleaned and dried them both.

"It is cooling down." Ray finally observed.

"So let's get dressed and go home."

They arrived back at Vale View to find a note waiting for them on the kitchen table.

Ray, Claire and I have gone for a girl's night out. Plenty of food in the icebox - Mum

"Guess we're on our own tonight," Ray said as he handed the note to Bodie.

"That's unfortunate," Bodie teased. He pulled Ray into his arms. "What'll we do, all alone, together?"

"Well, I need to feed the pigs," Ray started as Bodie kissed his cheek, "And milk the cow," Bodie's lips went to Ray's neck, "and make dinner," on to shoulders, "Bodie--"

The kissing continued.


Bodie stopped.

"If I run out of chores are you going to stop?"

"No. Yes. Temporarily. Go do them and we can have the whole evening alone together." Bodie played with one of Ray's nipples through the heavy cotton shirt.

"I don't think I can do anything while you're doing that."

Bodie's hand jerked back. "Ok, I'm going to change."

"I'll go do the chores, you can find something for dinner." The men separated to their tasks. Ray came back into the kitchen to find Bodie making an omelette and warming some vegetables. He got a couple of beers from the cabinet and sat at the kitchen table, watching his lover cook.

"I got a note too." Bodie said when he took a minute away from the stove. He handed the slip of paper to Ray.

Bodie, Sheila and I will be out for the evening. Until at least eleven. Love, your aunt."

"Is this a hint?"

"Hint? Huh! I think it was an order."

"Does she often order you to make love to men?"

"In this case? She would."

Bodie dished the food onto two plates and set them on the table.

"What do you mean?" Ray took a forkful of omelette. "This is great."

"One of the few things I make very well." Bodie mostly played with the omelette. It was the perfect opportunity to tell Ray about Andre. He wanted and needed to tell him but it was not easy to begin. "I've been depressed the last two months. My lover, Andre, left me."

"What happened?" Ray asked gently.

"He loved his family more than me. They didn't approve of me, of our relationship. He wasn't strong enough to fight them."

"I'm sorry Bodie. Sorry you were hurt."

"Ta. But I'm over him now." The declaration was definite but Bodie could read the doubt in Ray's eyes. "Ok, mostly over him."

"How long were you -- uh -- together?"

"Two years. We'd known each other for years before that." Bodie forced himself to try the omelette he didn't really want. At the first bite his hunger asserted itself. Though he barely tasted the food, he cleared his plate.

"Dessert?" Ray asked.

"After." Bodie stood up, took Ray's hands and pulled him to his feet.

"What're we doin'?"

"I have a few plans. I was hoping you'd show me your room. I've had nasty thoughts about you and me and your double bed ever since I saw it."

"No etchings," Ray said, mocking sadness. "Paintings. Just not the same, is it?"

"I don't want to see them anyway, not till later."

Ray was almost dragged up the stairs. Once there the urgency calmed. Bodie continued with his attentions but Ray noticed that his eyes were wandering.

"Let me show you," Ray said.

"You don't have to." Bodie didn't dissemble well. He'd stepped back and was looking around the room curiously.

"I want to." Ray pulled the covering off the picture on his easel. The picture he'd stopped working on almost two months ago. He'd done nothing but pencil sketches since then. He'd never heard of artist's block but he was beginning to conclude it was just what he had. Nothing he'd started was outside his abilities. He just wanted to do a painting of his favourite place and to put himself and another person in it. Two people in love along a riverbank. The background work had gone well, enough of a start that he'd begun the figures. Over and over he'd tried to put people in the setting. They were always wrong. Something kept him from completing the scene.

"It's better than I remembered." Bodie told him. "How long will it take to finish?"

"Forever. I can't seem to make it do what I want." He went to his closet. "I have a few I've finished." He brought out three canvases. Three scenes of the area around Vale View. Bodie looked at all of them then chose one to really focus on. It was the house and barn seen from the driveway. He could see some pigs by the barn and Sheila was walking up to feed them. It was more than just an image, there was feeling behind it. Bodie could see the calm and love that he had come to associate with Vale View.

"There's something -- this painting is ..."

"What?" The defensiveness was clear in Doyle's voice.

"I like it," Bodie said quickly. "I see what makes this place special, just looking at it."

"It's yours." Doyle put the other paintings away.

"You can't just give it to me."

"OK, pay me for it." Ray grinned.

"What's a fair price?"

Ray refused to give the matter the serious consideration Bodie felt it deserved. "I'll tell you when I think it's paid for." He accompanied his words by unbuttoning Bodie's shirt, taking it off then starting on the rest of Bodie's clothes. Ray had not until now been so forward. Bodie was shocked into stillness for a moment. Then he recovered and performed the same duty for Ray. Naked, they lay side by side on the bed. Ray kept the lead. He was all over Bodie, hands, mouth, even feet playing on the body beside him.

"Ray, we have hours yet, slow down." Bodie coaxed as he grabbed Ray's hands. "If we come too quickly we can always start again." Ray tried to escape Bodie's grip and failed.

"Ray, please. I've been controlled for four days, after weeks of abstinence. I need a nice slow build- up."

Given the reason Ray was willing to comply. It was an opportunity to lose a few more inhibitions. Bodie carefully caressed or kissed or licked every part of Ray's body. His attention was returned in almost equal detail. Ray was still not as comfortable with his new- found sexuality.

The build-up was more than sufficient. Ray came first, then turned his full attention to teasing and coaxing Bodie, lifting him closer and closer to orgasm, never letting him relax yet never bringing him quite close enough.


The young man found compassion for the soft plea. One hand squeezed Bodie's nipple, the other tightened on the cock. He let the imminent orgasm explode into his mouth. The first pulse coincided with a yell. It sounded to Doyle as if Bodie were being tortured. He kept his hand around Bodie's cock but lifted his head. It also looked as if his lover was being hurt. The muscles in his face were straining, his eyes were shut painfully tight. The after effect went on for long seconds. Doyle moved next to Bodie, watching carefully.

"'S okay," Bodie mumbled. Small tremors still quivered over his skin. He opened his eyes wide a few times.

"I didn't hurt you did I?"

"No." Bodie hugged his lover. "That was totally fantastic."

"Sounded like I was killing you."

"Yeah." Bodie grinned smugly. "Always sound like that when I really fly. 'S why I had to control myself till now." A few small kisses gently touched Ray's mouth. "Can't really warn anyone."

"Guess not," Ray agreed. "Who'd believe it?"

The couple cuddled contentedly as the evening turned to night.

"Ray, are you awake?" a light tap on the door woke both men.

"Oh, Christ," Ray hissed, instantly awake. "Get under--" Ray pulled up his sheet and rug and threw them over Bodie's head.

The door cracked open. "Ray? Sweetheart?"

"Mmmm?" Ray feigned sleep.

"Just wanted to let you know we're home. Sleep well."

Sheila closed the door. As her footsteps tracked her away from the door and down the stairs, Ray turned over to find his bed occupied only by himself. "Bodie?"

"Here." A head appeared beside the bed. "I was hiding." He crawled back under the covers. "It's cold out there."

"You'll warm up."

"Why do we always spend the night in my room? On my single bed?"

"My room is closer to your Aunt's. And you're noisy." Doyle kissed Bodie.

"You didn't know that until this evening." Bodie protested. "Guess we'll have to stay here tonight, anyway. Be too noisy, both of us moving to my room."

"Yes Bodie. We can stay here tonight."

"Good. And as we're awake, we may as well make it worthwhile." An unresisting Doyle was pulled on top of Bodie. They rolled and tussled, quietly, until Ray ended up on top again with Bodie lying on his stomach this time. Both men were thoroughly excited. Ray took advantage of the situation and thrust against the bum underneath him. Before he realized that there was a problem he was sitting on the floor, bruised and confused.

"Bodie?" He stayed where he was, worried to move. After two minutes with no answer he tried again, kneeling up beside the bed. "Bodie did I hurt you?" The other man was sitting on the bed, arms and legs relaxed but not there mentally. Ray slowly got into bed and pulled the duvet over his legs and around his waist. "Bodie, what'd I do?"

"Nothing. It's my problem, not yours. Sorry."

"Why'd you throw me out of bed?"

"Automatic reaction. What you were doing, brought back some bad memories."

Doyle could hear how hard it was for Bodie to talk. He didn't like to push; he wanted very much to help. "You don't like to be fucked."

"I don't know. I've never been able to let anyone do me. Look, it's old news -- history. Forget it."


Bodie finally looked at Ray.

"You can't forget it, I won't either."

"Ok." Bodie paused and sucked in a breath. One hand began to twist the bedclothes into knots. "My aunt's husband tried to rape me. He didn't, but I haven't been able to let anyone fuck me. Even Andre. Took weeks before I'd even go to bed with him."

"Then I owe him. For now, why don't we just go to sleep."

Ray cautiously put a hand on Bodie's leg. When it wasn't removed he slowly took his lover into an embrace and coaxed him to lie down. It was moments before Ray felt the muscles in Bodie's arms and shoulders relax. Once sure that Bodie would be able to sleep, Ray let himself drift off.

Ray spent the morning on routine chores, freeing his mind to wrestle with last nights revelations. Bodie was not as experienced as Ray had assumed. And he had been badly hurt years ago, so much so that he was still not fully recovered. Ray was sure if a man had tried to rape him, he would never again have found men sexually attractive. He could only be thankful that, for whatever reason, Bodie did.

He had seemed fully recovered this morning, more than ready to indulge in a little foreplay before Ray had to get up. Ray was too astute to think this meant the trouble was over. Bodie'd been living with the problem for a long time. How long he wasn't sure. Bodie's account had been sparse of detail. Analysing what little had been said, the attempted rape must have occurred at least three or four years ago. The longer it had been, the more time Bodie had had to recover but it also meant that he would have been younger when it happened. A child would be scarred by a rape in a different way than an adult. It was more than Ray knew how to solve. He did know how he could help. He would be very patient with his lover, at least about sex. He hadn't even considered making love to Bodie in that way, he could easily refrain.

Having satisfied himself about Bodie, he could not stop the thought that kept teasing at the edges of his curiosity. Maybe Bodie couldn't let himself be fucked, that shouldn't stop him from being the dominant partner. Doyle found himself on edge - half scared and half desperate with desire. He wanted to offer this to Bodie. To give himself in this way. To satisfy his curiosity. The only thing was to convince Bodie of what he wanted.

Bodie had indeed recovered from the shock of last night but he still felt bad about his reaction. It had not been easy to tell Ray the reason. It was still not easy to think of. He hadn't been able to tell Doyle why he had never fucked Andre. His ex-lover had occasionally asked to be taken. Bodie had always refused. His memory of his uncle's pawing at him, telling him how .he would like it if he relaxed, his own lack of control during orgasm, all conspired to keep him tied to the abuse. Months passed before he even thought of sex. He had a few casual affairs in University but they were only casual. The lack of emotional intensity kept his demons from waking. Andre's entree into his life brought the demon awake. At first, he was unable to retain an erection at the thought of penetration. Later as he learned to control himself when necessary he began to believe he would be capable of the active role in sex. But Andre had shown little interest and so Bodie had never mentioned his belief. There were other methods of release that required no control on his part and they were more pleasurable for the freedom.

That night it was Bodie who sneaked through the hallway to Ray's room.

"I wondered if you'd get here before I could come to you."

"I couldn't let that huge bed go to waste."

"Then let's put it to use."

Despite his words Ray was hanging back, almost shy. Their embrace was not. Love sparked and warmed the two men with its heat. Without noticing the transition they moved from the middle of Ray's room, fully clothed to lie naked on the bed. Each man had come to know the other's body. Their loving was easy, knowledge adding to the pleasure they could give and receive. Ray was careful to not incite Bodie's demon. Bodie gave his best to make Ray forget last night's bruises.

"Bodie," Ray licked at a small, hard nipple. "I want you to make love to me. I want to feel you inside."

Involuntarily, Bodie s every muscle tensed. "How would you know that? You've never even had a finger up your ass.

"Yes I have," Ray meant to stop there but the look on Bodie's face made him want to explain. "I tried it. In the shower this morning."

Bodie grabbed Ray's hand, folded down all but one finger and measured the finger against his erection. "I won't hurt you."

Ray chose to ignore what Bodie had clearly meant and interpreted the words differently. "I know you won't. I trust you."

"Why? Hell, Doyle, in this I'm not much more experienced than you."

"Fuck me Bodie." Doyle gave up the soft approach. After their loving yesterday he knew he could tease Bodie into sex. The larger man would no longer be able nor want to resist. He used every move, every touch he'd learned and practised over the last few days. He took Bodie higher, harder, needier. Bodie was only controlled enough that he could pay some attention to Ray as well. When he thought he would explode if he didn't come, put a tube of cream in his hand and turned onto his belly.

"Sorry, Ray," All the excitement had suddenly drained form his body. He put the tube onto the bedside table and rubbed Ray's back and squeezed his ass. Ray turned onto his side in order to be able to see. The first thing he noticed was that the erection which had been seconds from orgasm was now only semi erect. Bodie followed the green gaze and smiled ironically. "Sorry. I want you, too. But if I'm going to love you that way--it's gonna have to be slow and careful. Otherwise my friend there goes on strike." Bodie touched his 'friend'. There was no hint of response. Doyle had to accept Bodie's warning. "Maybe we should forget this for now."

"No, we shouldn't." Doyle's hand replaced Bodie's. "I won't push."

Bodie arched into the caresses. As quickly as he had lost his erection it returned. The interruption slowed the proceedings enough that Bodie knew his control was back. Or as much as could be expected given his companion. Ray was the most enthralling lover he'd known, in or out of bed. He got turned on just watching the green-eyed siren.

Bodie retrieved the cream from the bedside table, squeezed a large glob into his left palm. He closed his fingers over to warm it and pushed Ray once again on his stomach. A fingertip's worth of cream was rubbed into the warm crease of Ray's ass. Heat, and Bodie's wandering hand spread it much further than necessary. The next dab of cream was left right on the clenched muscle. "Relax," Bodie whispered, licking Ray's shoulder. He put his fingertip at the puckered opening and slowly pushed in to the first knuckle, feeling only slight resistance. He continued bringing cream-laden finger to the appropriate spot, each time pushing further in until he felt no resistance. Doyle had begun to move, rubbing against the bed. Understanding Ray's fidgeting, Bodie spread the legs enough to kneel between then. His left hand, with some cream still in the palm slid under Ray's body and captured what he was seeking -- a hot, hard cock.

As Doyle began to hump into his hand he put two fingers at the entrance to the well-lubed ass and let Ray absorb the fingers as he thrust. The third finger was not as easy. Doyle stopped moving.

"Ok?" Bodie kissed the middle of Ray's back.

"Yeah." Ray's voice was deeper than usual. "Feels strange."

"Should I stop?"

"No. I want more than just a finger inside me."

"Three actually."

Doyle lifted his hips off the bed as if testing the truth of Bodie's statement. The fingers slid fully into the tight channel. He stroked the smooth, moist interior flesh. Bands of muscle squeezed and released the intruders, finally relaxing in acceptance. Bodie removed his fingers and positioned himself above the man spread and waiting. His cock poked at the opening to Ray's body, sliding past its target only to return.

Ray pushed back. Bodie thrust forward. The men connected. Bodie halted mid-thrust knowing that Ray would be feeling at least some discomfort.

"Doesn't hurt, Bodie," denial of Bodie's thoughts and beliefs, "do it."

Doubtful and unable to deny the need in Ray's voice and in his own body, Bodie sheathed himself. His hesitation to ensure Ray's comfort was very temporary. Their bodies began a simple dance, moving as one to a shared internal harmony. Nerve endings carried the melody, their thrusts set the beat. The tune was not complex but it was full of love and desire and beauty. The crescendo came quickly but neither man wanted to prolong the ecstasy. Their song soared to the heights then drifted slowly back to reality leaving the men content and replete.

Whispered endearments ushered in their sleep.

It was no surprise the next morning when Ray discovered he'd overslept. Thankfully so had the rest of the household. Once he'd checked that no one was likely to make an awkward appearance, he woke Bodie enough to get him back into his own bed then went out to his chores, leaving a teapot full on the kitchen counter. He was sure his mother would appreciate it, whenever she woke. An hour and a half later Ray came back inside. A new pot of tea was ready and waiting on the middle of the stove. He made a cup and entered the hall. He meant to go into the parlour and relax for a few minutes. Claire's voice coming from the dining room made him halt.

"--leaving early. I'd like to see a little more of the country before we stop at Brewsterfield."

"When?" his mother's voice asked.

"Oh, the end of the week."

Ray didn't wait to hear more. He dropped his tea cup in the sink on his way out the door. As always, the barn became his refuge. He wiped tears out of his eyes. Tears he told himself were caused by anger. Anger at himself for being taken in by Bodie. Allowing himself to think he could mean anything to a man like Bodie, in the situation, had been naive. He was a farmer, Bodie was a multi-lingual, sophisticated peer. They had known each other for less than two weeks, and those days had been often turbulent. The thought popped into his mind - I'm simply a substitute for Andre - and he couldn't crush it.

"Ray?" Bodie's voice carried into the barn. "Doyle? You up here?"

Ray desperately wanted to avoid Bodie but it seemed impossible. If he stayed here he'd have to see him, talk to him. In order to escape Vale View he'd have to at least confront the man. Confrontation would be easier than hiding.

Ray headed down the hill towards the house, specifically the garage.

Bodie intercepted him. "Ray, where're--"

"Leave me alone, Bodie," Ray said, avoiding Bodie's eyes. "Go away."

Bodie's shock lasted long enough for Ray to get to the car and drive off.

When Bodie had re-awakened in his own bed, his first thought had been of Ray. It was still early enough that the curly-haired man had probably not had breakfast. He dressed and went looking for Ray to share breakfast. Claire and Sheila were in the breakfast room but Bodie snuck by without paying them much attention.

Ray's words, his sudden departure were inexplicable. Having been so strangely deserted, Bodie went back inside. Claire and Sheila were sitting at the kitchen table over a cup of tea.

"Good morning, Bodie," Sheila greeted.

"Morning," Claire repeated as Bodie kissed her cheek. "I have a question. How would you feel about leaving early? Driving around the countryside a bit on the way to Brewster-field."

Suspicion began to form. "When did you decide to do this?"

"This morning. I was talking to Sheila and--"

Bodie was already out the front door.

He was in Woodfalls before he realized the futility of finding someone driving when he was on foot. If he'd had any sense he would have taken the rental car his aunt had hired a few days ago. He had been too preoccupied to remember it. Approaching the only place in town he recognized he went in for a drink. As it was still early he had to settle for a coffee. He wondered how long it would take for Ray to return to Vale View. And how long after that before he would be willing to listen to anything Bodie had to say.

Bodie's own concerns nagged at him. He knew better but couldn't help thinking that perhaps he was the cause of Ray's anger. Ray was probably sore after last night. Certainly the small amount of discomfort wouldn't upset him so. Of course, Bodie had fallen asleep almost immediately afterwards. Perhaps he'd been too caught up in his own pleasures and had hurt Ray more than he'd thought. He wallowed in his imagined guilt for a second cup of coffee then set it aside. Ray had run because he'd heard Claire talking about leaving Vale View. That was all. He would simply have to convince the stupid berk that he wasn't leaving. Claire's idea did bring a plan of his own to mind however. Maybe a small trip was just what was required.

Ray drove around most of the day. There was work to do back home but everything except the cow and pigs could wait for tomorrow. The pigs could be fed anytime and the cow didn't need milking 'til 4pm. When he finally felt under some kind of control he headed home. As he drove onto the gravel drive he received another shock. The rental car was gone. Every fantasy he had never let himself dream, every possibility he'd never considered, all were torn from his heart in that instant. The wound was too deep to feel, not yet. Habit took over. He put the car in the garage, closed the garage door, trudged up the hill. The pigs were fed, the cow milked without benefit of thought. Uppermost in his mind was the knowledge that tomorrow or the next day he was going to be very, very angry and hurt.

Chores complete he went inside.

"Mum, I'm home." The house was unusually quiet. The kitchen was clean, empty and nothing was cooking. "Mum?" The dining room and his mother's bedroom proved empty as well. The parlour door was closed. If the telly was on it was possible his mother just hadn't heard him. He walked in. Bodie was seated on the settee in front of a cheerfully burning fire sipping brandy.

"There's one here for you," Bodie said quietly. He brought the glass over the where Ray was still standing and put it in his hand. "Drink this, you look like you need it."

Ray finished the brandy in one swallow. "Bodie?"

Before the man had a chance to speak or move, Ray threw the glass into the wall near the fireplace and swung. His fist connected with Bodie's jaw, sending him sprawling back onto the floor. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I love you." It was evident Bodie was almost as surprised at these words as Ray but he didn't retract them. He stayed on the floor until he realized that Ray was in no condition to hit anyone again. Recovering his own unbroken glass, he filled it, put it in Ray's hand and brought the quiescent man over to the settee. "You should've asked instead of just running." Bodie came right to the point. "I didn't even know what aunt Claire was thinking of until after you left this morning."

Ray sipped at the drink without thought. "You're not leaving?"

"No." Bodie poured more brandy into Ray's glass. "Not now. Not for days. Not without talking to you."

"Oh god!" Ray put his glass down before his shaking spilled the drink. "I was -- I thought you didn't -- I'm sorry--"

Bodie gathered the man into his arms, wiping away the tears which spilled down his face. He held Ray until the shaking stopped then released him and returned the glass to his hand. "Drink up."

"Trying to make me drunk?" Ray's smile quivered.

"Just want you to relax." Bodie corrected. "I have a surprise for you."

"I don't think I can live through another surprise."

Bodie chuckled, a rich sound full of lewd intent. "You'll like this." He kissed Ray, a light contact of lips that became another kind of promise.

"You're right, I liked that. Not much of a surprise though." Ray said when they separated. "Where's mum and Claire?"

"Surprise." The word was whispered. "Your mother took my place on my aunt's travels around the countryside. I promised them the two of us could look after the farm and ourselves."

"Gone?" Ray's eyes lost a little of the sparkle the drink had restored.

"Ray, it's ok isn't it?" the worry in Bodie's voice brought Ray back.

"Ok? Leaving me alone here with you? Oh, Bodie," Ray threw himself on top of Bodie, knocking them both onto the floor. His emotions, anything but stable at the moment, exploded. He covered Bodie's face and neck with kisses in between trying to control giggles which were threatening to verge on hysterics. The love, the contact, the heat of the fire, inside and out, the caring between the two, the effects of the alcohol all combined to keep the emotional outbreak under control. Calm once again, he cuddled closer.

"Of course, I'm not sure the farm will last through your 'help'," he teased.

Bodie simply smiled.

"How long do we have the house to ourselves?"

"Ten days."

The sparkle of green eyes became incandescent emerald. "Wanna find out how loud we can get?"

Bodie's response made words unnecessary. Ray was an equal partner in the proceedings. He had Bodie's shirt half off before the man realized just what his lover had in mind.

"Supper's in the oven," Bodie mentioned, gently removing Ray's hands from his body. "Your mother left it for us."

Doyle look at Bodie quizzically for a moment. "I'll go turn it off."

Bodie followed Doyle, waiting at the foot of the staircase. When Ray came out of the kitchen he started up the stairs but Doyle stopped him. "Wait here."

Ray rushed up the stairs, pulled the rug from his bed and hurried back down.

"Why are you stripping the bed?"

"Don't worry, you're next." Without an explanation Bodie was taken by the hand and pulled into the parlour. Ray dropped the blanket on the carpet, took of f his clothes, and laid down spreading the blanket in front of the fire. "You want help, then?"

Bodie just looked down at the nude man, more shocked than excited. "Here, in the middle of the parlour?"

"No one's home. They won't be back for ten days." Ray grinned. "I've always wanted to do it in front of a fire."

"I'm going to check the doors."

By the time Bodie returned from his self appointed task, Ray had managed to control his mirth. Bodie still felt very uncomfortable but he stretched out on the blanket. "What're you smirking at?"

"You." Ray knew his answer was sure to cause trouble but he couldn't help the truth. "You're like a guilty kid. I thought France and sex were synonymous."

"I only lived there."

Ray stopped trying to seduce the Bodie-shaped block of ice beside him. Selfishly, he felt a surge of confidence. This man beside him may have had every advantage his money and position could offer, but he was also a bundle of neuroses. For some reason this knowledge made Ray less envious. "OK, let's go."

"Where?" Bodie continued to gaze into the fire.

"Up to my room. We can start our own fire."

Bodie finally looked at his companion. "Pretty stupid, huh?"

"I'm sure I have some equally strange aversions."

As is so often the case, the willingness to compromise made the actual compromise unnecessary. Bodie unbuttoned his shirt and draped it over the fire irons. He lifted his bum and pushed off jeans and pants. Even so close to the fire he was temporarily chilled. His nipples promptly responded. Ray offered further stimulation. Bodie pushed into the pressure, chest against Ray's hands, hips into Ray's thigh.

"Glad you came back, gave me the chance to explain," Bodie said. His lips explored the expanse of skin before him. "I would've been lonely here alone.

"I'd never let you be lonely," Ray promised. "Let me love you."

The fire flared. Bodie's fair skin glowed pink, Ray's was turned to dark honey, body hair reddened by the flames. The contrast was one more difference between them. A difference that was an excuse for celebration rather than discord. Neither man needed the excuse.

The love between them had already been half confessed. Ray acknowledged to himself his omission but wasn't yet able to return the avowal Bodie had made so easily. Not that his own feelings were inferior to Bodie's, he was simply less able to speak them. In the circumstance, speechlessness was not a problem. As daylight faded into evening, the fire grew brighter and the heat in the room increased, magnified by two men in love.

The physical expression of their passion was a slow ascent.

Ray peaked first, moaning his satisfaction into Bodie's thigh. Close behind, Bodie thrust into the offered mouth and yelled. Expecting the cry if not the volume, Ray took all that Bodie offered, then moved to hold the shaking man in his arms.

Bodie recovered to find Ray deep in thought, staring at his face with a strange, satisfied smile that hinted at something other than sexual satisfaction.

"Ray?" Bodie grabbed the finger which was drawing on his chest. Bodie waited until he was sure he had at least part of Ray's attention. "Something wrong?"

"No. Something's right. That picture you saw. The one I couldn't finish. I can finish it now. I know what I was looking for." Ray gave Bodie a blinding smile, letting show all that he found difficult tosay.

This time Bodie's words were deliberate. "I love you."

Warm, replete and complacent, Bodie cuddled the man in his arms. His past had gone a long way towards healing in the last eight days, the future looked auspicious and the present, well, 'sans peur et sans reproche', or more appropriate to the situation and country, brill. The sparkle in Ray's eyes let Bodie know the feeling was mutual. It was all the reassurance he needed.

-- THE END --


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