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Music of the Heart
by Elessar


Title: Music of the Heart
Author: Elessar
Author's Website: none
Fandom: The Professionals
Pairing: Raymond Doyle / William Bodie
Rating: NC-17 (m/m sex)
Author's Disclaimer: They don't belong to me...



In the music of the heart
Nothing is as it seems.


Prelude


"All right, gentlemen, it's time to discuss our problem candidates." George Cowley sat back and waited for one of the other three men in the room to comment. He didn't want to prejudice their remarks with his opinions.

Jack Crane decided to wade in. "Well, George, we started out with a couple of dozen top notch recruits in this intake, and we've cut nine, with half the training to go. Don't you think we've eliminated enough for now?"

"This is a special group; we've more power in our brief than has ever been bestowed before. We don't dare risk letting someone through that isn't up to the demands. One bad op, one major slip in the next couple of years, and CI5 will be dead in the water before it ever really begins. You've worked with them for the last eight weeks; who are the problems, and should we remove them now before we waste any more resources on them?"

MacMurtry, the psychologist Cowley had insisted on bringing in, spoke. "Right now, based on field reports and my testing, I'd say you've got four problems: Baker, Bodie, Doyle and Perkins.

Baker and Bodie are loners and their psyche profiles indicate that they aren't likely to be successfully partnered. Baker doesn't like people and he doesn't trust -- anybody. He wants in CI5 solely because he likes the adrenaline rush of danger and thinks that this is the best legal way to get it."

"I don't want men high on danger for danger's sake. Much too likely to up the ante instead of backing off when the situation merits restraint. CI5 won't survive the first year with men like that. He's out." The Controller of CI5 was decisive; he'd brook no arguments, but looked around the group to see if anyone disagreed. No one did.

Cowley moved swiftly on to the next man on MacMurtry's list. "What about Bodie?"

"Well, he likes the adrenaline, but in the job you're training 'em for you're not likely to find men who don't, at least not that can do the job without freezing up. His SAS records show that he's not likely to intensify when the situation would be better served by backing off. He's still a loner though. Coming from the SAS, they work in four man teams, so he knows how to work with others; but he doesn't let anyone close, nor is he good at the give and take involved in a partnership. He can go in, do his job, and get out, but that's it; no involvement. He might do all right with solo ops, but I don't think he'd handle a partnership well. It risks getting involved, and that's something he avoids at all costs. With his childhood and experiences in Africa it's hardly surprising."

"Hmm... I suppose I can use him there." Cowley didn't sound too pleased with the idea. "Still, this early on, I'd prefer men who work well in teams. What's he look like in training, Jack?"

"Very good, Major. Better than anyone else at just about everything in the military realm. Weapons, tactical, explosives, all the physical stuff as well. SAS training is top notch there. He's weak in police procedure and dealing with people. Been too long in structured environments where everyone follows orders. First in the merchant navy, then as a merc, and from there into the army -- paras, SAS -- he doesn't know how to work round people to get them to cooperate. Just tries to bluster his way through using intimidation." Jack paused at this point and Cowley was quick to realize that there was an observation he was reluctant to make.

"Out with it," Cowley pushed.

"Well, Bodie's good. Damn good and he knows it. He's arrogant and cocky and menacing; most of the other trainees are afraid of him -- think he's a bit of a nutter -- sometimes they aren't far off. I'm concerned that he's too distanced from the group, and that he won't be able to work closely with those he considers inferior."

"MacMurtry?" Cowley questioned.

"Given his history it's a valid concern. He doesn't talk about his childhood. He states the basic facts, and when asked how he feels about his father's drinking or his mother's death, gives a standard textbook reply. If I were a betting man, I'd say he's done some reading on the subject so he knows what we want to hear. He's smart, George, a lot smarter than he lets on, and he's been through a lot. I get the feeling that he's playing with my tests. Giving me just enough of the picture to satisfy but not really letting me get in to what's really inside. Hell, he might not even know, it's been walled off for so long. Given his childhood, it's amazing he's progressed as far as he has, and that he's as balanced as he is. But I don't know how close to a knife edge that he's walking... in truth I don't think he knows," the psychologist concluded.. "You want my opinion. I'd keep him for now. He needs grounding, but with the qualities and skills he's shown I think he's worth the risk."

Cowley nodded and turned to Jack Crane. "He's too damn good to lose. Keep him, but keep a watchful eye on him."

"Doctor?" The new Controller of CI5 questioned the physician, who had been silent until now.

"Physically he's A1. Keep him."

"Very well, gentlemen. It seems that Bodie has a temporary reprieve. Who is next?"

"Doyle," MacMurtry informed him and went on to present Doyle's profile, "Mentally -- he's a tough call. There's a lot of pain, guilt, and anger there. Also, he's got a quick temper that could cause you trouble in the future."

"So, youre suggesting dropping him?" Cowley asked for clarification.

"No. I wouldn't go that far. He's working very hard to control the temper and seems to be managing quite well -- most of the time. The anger has a basis in the way he was treated his last few months in the Met before beginning training with us. I'd say his anger is justified, and as long as he doesn't view CI5 as betraying him, you shouldn't have a problem keeping him in line. There's always a risk that the anger he feels could turn to bitterness; he could decide to sell out, but I don't think so. Give him a cause he believes in, treat him with respect and the events and perceived betrayals of the last year will probably fade into the background, you'll have yourself a top notch agent."

Jack picked up the thread, "He's damn good in police procedure and can get just about any witness to talk. He reads people very well and presents himself in the best manner to get them to relax and open up. I think he'd make an excellent undercover operative. As for the rest, well, of course his training in demolitions, weapons, all that, isn't on par with those coming from a military background, but he's a quick study, damn good with a rifle, and better than anyone, including Bodie, with a hand gun."

Here the trainer chuckled as he explained. "Bodie's not happy being bested by Doyle -- not at all. A simple copper out shooting him got up his nose no end first time it happened. Made him work all the harder; he'd been slacking back since he was so much better than most of the rest. Then Doyle outshoots him -- cold..." Jack chuckled again before finishing his story, "After that Bodie attacked everything with a vengeance. Still hasn't been able to best Doyle with a handgun however.

Doyle's also been involved in martial arts for several years and does very well in hand-to-hand. He's not the killing machine that the SAS men are, but he can hold his own against them in a fight, and he's not easily cowed." The training instructor smiled before concluding, "Actually, if you're keeping Bodie, you're going to have to keep Doyle as well. He's the only one left not intimidated by him and who is willing to take him on in hand-to-hand. You get rid of Doyle, and I'll have to spend my time sparring with Bodie. All the others are too intimidated to give him a run for his money."

Cowley turned to look at the doctor. His reply was the same for Doyle as for Bodie, "Reaction times are excellent, physical health A1. No medical reason not to keep him."

"All right," Cowley summarized their decision, "Doyle stays for the time being as well. And, as he's the only one who seems willing to stand up to Bodie, they can go through the partnership exercises together. Next..."

And the discussion continued...

***

William Bodie barreled through the training center offices, heading towards the outside. Behind him trailed a curly haired man who shrugged in apology at their fellow trainees as they hurriedly got out of his 'partner's' way. The way everyone swiftly moves when they see Bodie coming, Ray thought, the man could give lessons to a Centurion tank. Partner! Bloody hell, just what I need! What did I ever do for God to have such a down on me? Trying to be as honest with himself as possible, he really couldn't think of a thing. I've tried to be good. Honest! Yeah, well, there was that time ..., but still it really wasn't bad enough to deserve William Bodie as my just desserts... Was it?... No! he decided. It definitely wasn't.

Doyle reached out to stop another trainee from falling, when he stumbled trying to clear out of the way of that nutter -- the nutter who was now his partner! Only eight weeks, surely I can make it to the end alive? It's only training after all. He just wished he felt more secure about his longevity over the next few weeks, more exposure to William -- just call me Bodie -- was not what he needed right now. He sighed as he headed outside. They'd have to talk, to come to some sort of understanding. Arrogant, tight arsed, prick! As he followed the man towards the now empty barracks to have it out, he played a game of thinking up other unflattering adjectives to describe this new 'cherished' gift from the powers that be. Bet they'd have put coal in Mother Theresa Christmas stocking, as well. Some Christmas present! If it's all the same I'd prefer the lump of coal.

Bodie was furious. He didn't want or need a fucking partner. Especially some anal-retentive copper whose only point in his favor was that he could shoot. All right. Maybe he was decent at hand-to-hand as well, but how would he be in a real fight, under real fire? Probably piss his pants that's what!

The SAS was bad enough but at least you had a team... didn't have to get soding close to them. Just work with them. And they were well trained -- not a copper with a mere two months of real training. FUCK! Bodie had disliked coppers from childhood. As far as he was concerned, they were either bent or power mad -- he definitely wasn't about to trust one as his sodding partner. He thought back to the lecture they'd received from the old man that morning just before partner assignments had been handed out. Cowley had said a partnership was just like a marriage, that in point of fact it was often closer than most marriages. Well, I'm not marrying Doyle! He slammed into the barracks on that thought and was surprised when he tried to bang the door shut behind him to find that the copper had followed him from the meeting.

His anger at its peak, he attacked Doyle, "Fuck off, copper. I'm not going to be your bleeding partner."

Doyle glared at him, then the next thing Bodie knew he was looking up at the brown haired man and his jaw ached like hell. Seeing that the copper had backed off and wasn't going to pursue the attack, Bodie decided not to move. Yet. Doyle nodded at him before speaking.

"Good, now that I've got your attention, we're going to get a few things straight. I know you don't want me as a partner -- actually, you've made it pretty obvious that you're so superior to the rest of us poor sods that no one meets your high and exacting standards -- well tough shit. You're stuck with me for the next eight weeks so learn to live with it, Mister Sweet Tempered Bloody Sunshine."

He continued, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "You're not on the top of my list as partner material either. In fact, you'd run a distant second to Jack the Ripper. He at least had a sense of humor. But I want this job. I want to work in CI5, and if I have to make do with the devil himself to get in, then I bloody well will." His tone made it quite clear that he thought the devil would be an improvement over the man on the floor in front of him.

"So, Perfect Soldier Boy, do the fucking job and don't get in my way. I'll pin your balls up on the notice board if I don't pass the training course because of you. After that, you can fuck off for all I care, and we'll be done with each other."

Ray Doyle spun on his heels and headed for the door, but was stopped halfway through opening it by the sound of laughter coming from the floor. He turned to see Bodie doubled up on himself, overcome with amusement. Doyle felt like beating the crap out of him and before he could think, moved to do just that. The dark haired man sat up, sobered up a bit, and held up his hands, palms out, in surrender.

He said, trying to contain his laughter, "God, but you're a sharky little sod when you're riled." He laughed again and, as Doyle shifted, possibly to have another go at him, he rubbed his sore jaw and continued on a more serious note, "Give it a rest, Doyle. I'm not going to sit still and let you have another go at me. One free shot is all you get, and we'll both be kicked out if we start a brawl here in the barracks." The copper just glared at him as he went on, "Okay. You win. I'll cooperate and we'll work together to pass the rest of the training. After that we're on our own, and you'll back me up when I request to go solo. Deal?"

Staring hard at the SAS man, Doyle finally nodded and reached down his hand to help him up. "Deal. For the next eight weeks we're partners; after that you're on your own."

***

He'd passed!! Raymond Doyle was ecstatic. CI5! The best of the best. He wished his dad was still alive to be proud of him. First he'd tell Bodie -- Bodie's bound to have made it, he was at the top of the class -- then he'd call his mum... An unpleasant thought intruded to take some of the shine off the day.

Bodie. He'd promised him back at the beginning of the partner training that he'd support his petition to go solo. He wouldn't go back on his word, but it was going to be damn hard to make do with anyone else when he'd had the best. Smiling, he remembered slugging Bodie to get his attention that first day as partners. Never try that now, have my head on a platter, he would. Now that Doyle thought about it, he was surprised that he'd got away with it the first time. But that punch had won him the ex-SAS man's respect, and they'd worked well together. It was a damn shame that Bodie didn't want to be partnered 'cause, after the initial adjustments, he'd made a damn good one.

Well, it's not the end of the world, and I imagine I'll get to work with him on and off anyway. 'Sides, working that close with him just might not be a good idea. Doyle headed out to find his ex-partner and then a phone.

He'd made it -- was there ever any doubt? Bodie paused to realize that there might have been. A couple of the other trainees with a military background had washed out because they couldn't adjust to dealing with people who didn't have to take orders. Arms, combat maneuvers, and physically, they were fine, but trying to take a statement, getting a witness to talk, following police procedure so that some criminal wouldn't be let off on a technicality, they hadn't been able to preform at the level George Cowley demanded. Bodie knew that the only reason he'd been able to was that Doyle had taken a lot of extra time helping him with those areas. Bodie still wasn't anywhere near as good as the curly haired golly, but he'd passed because of him.

What was most surprising to the new 3.7 wasn't that he'd needed help to pass but that he'd been able to take the help without resentment or feeling threatened. He couldn't ever remember not feeling threatened by needing that much help, nor not being hostile to someone who'd tried to help him as Ray had -- much less letting them actually help -- Bodie didn't like having to depend on anyone. But for some reason it'd been different with Doyle. Maybe the fact that Doyle had been willing to admit to his own weak areas and accept help from him as well. Bodie didn't know, and wasn't in the mood for self examination, but he owed the man one and was going to let him know it.

Finding Doyle on the phone, he stood by and listened as four-five received congratulations from his mother. He had to fight not to snicker. Ray's mother was obviously cuffed and was being rather effusive about it if his partner's reaction was anything to go by. The man's look as he talked on the phone was one of embarrassed humility. At the rate he's going, he's going to scuff his shoe across the ground at any minute. Only a mother could do that, Bodie smirked to himself.

Seeing Bodie standing nearby, Doyle managed to cut the call short with a promise to call later on that weekend.

Bodie spoke first. "So I take it you passed?"

"Yeah. You too? As if there was ever any doubt."

"Was a lot of doubt and you know it. I owe you one, Doyle, and I pay my debts. So what do you want?" Bodie hated to be beholden to anyone.

Doyle's mouth spoke before his brain could engage, "Stay my partner." He clamped his lips shut, refusing to beg, and, not wanting Bodie to think that he was breaking their bargain he changed directions, concluding, "I'll go with you to Mr. Cowley's office and request a new pairing. Should make it easier for you that way."

Stay with me. The words seemed locked in Bodie's brain, echoing over and over, and he knew there was only one answer. He didn't want to analyze why, refused to look at his motives or reasons, didn't let himself think before speaking.

"All right, Sunshine, we're even. You've got yourself a partner." The smile that met his statement brought back old memories and desires. Doyle should smile more often. Does wonders for his looks.

Without thinking, he put his arm across his new partner's shoulder and steered him towards his car. "You don't have any wheels down here so I'll give you a lift back to town. Got all your stuff in that bag?" He nodded at the duffle bag that Ray had bent to pick up.

"Yeah, all set to go; was waiting on the bus to take me back. Car would be a treat."

"Fine. What say when we get back we get cleaned up and go for a pint? Know this pub, it's near this office that's mostly all women, very nice hunting on a Friday night." He rubbed the palms of his hands together and raised his eyebrows in an unmistakable leer to indicate the type of hunting he was referring to.

"Sounds just the thing, partner," Doyle agreed.

George Cowley watched in bemusement and irritation as Bodie and Doyle exited his office Monday morning after having received their first assignment. It was a very simple, low priority surveillance of a minor Bulgarian official -- that may or may not be involved in espionage. And they hadn't protested at all. Bodie'd looked pained, of course, but not a word came out, and Doyle just nodded in a very professional manner and took the file containing the details. Their lack of protest was a bit surprising. Psyche profiles for both agents indicated that they'd want to jump in at the deep end, so calm acceptance of such a low priority assignment was out of the norm.

But the aspect that threw him the most, and got up his nose, was that neither man had requested re-teaming. The Controller had already lined up a new partner for Doyle and a solo op for Bodie at the end of the week. Nothing very risky, he wanted to give his agents time to get used to how CI5 was going to operate before putting them on high risk jobs. But instead of the demand for splitting the team that he'd expected -- especially from Bodie -- they took the case quietly and functioned as if they planned to remain paired.

Here I am willing to be flexible and they decide they don't want re-teaming. He felt indignant at the fact, like he'd been cheated of the chance to show that he wasn't the autocrat that he'd been accused of being. Cowley quickly shifted mental gears and chose different operatives for his other assignments, deciding to let Bodie and Doyle stay together for a bit longer. They just might make an efficient team after all.

***

Overture


The woman on the tape finished speaking, her voice fading out to be replaced by Doyle's voice. Bodie heard just two words, "Sorry, Bodie." Then nothing more. Ray had never doubted him, nor Cowley either. They'd covered his back and saved his arse on faith alone. The whole situation still stank, hurt like hell, but their belief in him made it bearable.

Bodie shut off the tape, got up, returned it to the pile on Cowley's desk, and headed out of CI5 headquarters. It had been a little over twelve hours since he'd had to watch his old lover gunned down in a plot to place an MI6 mole deep in East German Security. He'd waited 'till he was sure everyone would be gone to come in, read the reports, and hear the tapes. Bodie didn't want to face anyone yet; he needed to get a handle on his emotions first. If not for his own skills, and Doyle and Cowley's support and maneuvering, it would have been him dead or in jail.

He checked his watch and realized that the pubs were closed, it was after two, so he drove around aimlessly for an hour. That was all he seemed to have been doing since it happened. Tomorrow -- no, today -- he'd have to go in and give his report. Admit to everyone that he'd been an easy mark when Marikka had shown up. The irony of it was that he wasn't even sure that he really loved her, at least not anymore; he'd just wanted to recapture a time when he felt connected to someone, loved by someone. He needed to care and be cared about.

Cowley's use of him and Doyle as Judas goats for a fake Arab politician had affected him more than he realized at the time. His partner could have been killed, and he was still furious about the incident. Marikka had been a chance to escape back to a simpler time. Some escape. She was dead and he felt more alone than ever.

Pulling the car over and stopping, he realized that he was outside Doyle's flat. Three-bloody-fifteen in the morning was not a time for social calls. As he put the car in gear to pull out, he noticed that there was a light on. Maybe he should have left well enough alone, but at the sight of that light he found himself at Doyle's door and ringing the buzzer before he was even aware of getting out of the car. A curtain twitched back into place and the door was swiftly opened.

Doyle didn't seem in the least surprised to see him, and it was obvious from his attire and alert look that he hadn't yet been to bed. Must have been waiting up for me. Gee thanks, Mum, he thought to himself but held his tongue; he'd left his partner standing over twelve hours ago and Bodie was well aware that prolonged worry would not have improved Ray's mood. His partner was still a sharky little sod at the best of times.

God, I feel so tired, Bodie thought. Can't remember when I last slept.

He opened his mouth to say something but snapped it closed because he found nothing to say. Ray pulled him inside and pushed him down into an old armchair that had seen better days. Bodie looked around the room. Looks like Ray's finished unpacking; this place is one of the dumpiest he's had yet. Bodie hoped for Ray's sake that he wouldn't be stuck here long.

Doyle didn't seem in the mood to talk either; instead, he set about making tea and a sandwich for Bodie. He ate in silence. When he'd finished, Doyle pulled him to his feet, took him to the door to the bog, handed him a pair of pajamas, and left him to get ready for bed. Bodie came out to find his partner waiting for him. Ray steered him to the far side of the bed, climbed in beside him and turned out the light. Both men were quickly asleep. Bodie's last thought as he drifted off to sleep was that he'd finally come home.

The next eighteen months saw Bodie more content with his lot than he had been before. It hadn't come as a startling revelation but as a growing gentle awareness that he was happiest with his partner. They did their usual round of dating, but the times he enjoyed most were those he spent with Ray.

The only cloud on his existence was the fact that he felt he cared for Raymond Jeremy Doyle more than his partner cared for him. Bodie knew that he appeared detached. Had rarely let anyone close since his days as a merc in Africa, but he had realized early in their partnership that Doyle, who on the surface seemed more accessible, was just as bad if not worse for letting anyone get close to where it really mattered.

He doubted that Ray was aware of the distance he maintained from everyone, but part of him seemed desperate to tear down the walls he had constructed around himself. It revealed itself in his over-riding need to commit to some woman. It'd certainly gotten worse of late, and Bodie could see the cycle. Doyle would seem to fall, get serious for a bit, and then the bird would give him the shove. Curious after what seemed the dozenth time it had happened, he arranged to date a couple of his partner's old girl friends. The answer was always the same -- the job got in the way. But Bodie being Bodie dug deeper and realized that, although his partner gave that impression, the real reason had something to do with both women not feeling that Ray would let them close to him. They'd subconsciously felt that he held them at a distance and that the relationship was going nowhere: thus they were unwilling to tolerate the broken dates and odd hours. Bodie had sighed to himself upon reaching that conclusion. He knew just how they felt. Unfortunately he was too deeply involved with the golly to willingly get out.

He loved the cold sod, and if being with him meant that he was always standing on the outside looking in, well, being with Ray was worth it, and, besides, it allowed him to maintain some distance from the person he knew could hurt him most. So they did their jobs, hunted birds together, and Bodie was content.

At least until King Billy and then Ann Holly came along.

Bodie knew that Doyle was mad at him. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that his partner was going to rip into him when they finally got alone in Bodie's flat. It had been only hours ago that Cowley and Doyle had stopped him from killing the sodding bastard. Yeah right! As if I could, he thought to himself.

Medical leave, for the next week at least, with probably months of talking to a trick cyclist. Bodie wasn't in the mood, but he'd never get away with not letting the head shrinks at him... not without telling the truth and he wasn't about to do that. The truth was more than likely to get him fired, and he was chagrined to find that that really did matter to him after all. Being fired would mean losing Doyle, and he was quickly coming to the conclusion that if that happened he really would have a death wish.

Doyle pulled up outside his flat and parked. There goes the hope that he's so mad at me he'd drop me off and head home in a snit, Bodie sighed to himself. Just one more lie to tell.

Once inside the flat, Bodie decided on embarrassed penitence.

"I'm sorry, Doyle. I just lost it."

"Don't! Don't even think about lying to me, you fucking bastard, or I'll finish what those bikers couldn't do." Doyle absentmindedly rubbed his gut, the memory of Bodie's hitting him still obviously fresh in his mind. He was not happy with his partner; not one little bit.

"I'm not lying. I just lost perspective..."

Ray shoved him hard against the door. "You can fool Ross. This time you even fooled Cowley into thinking that you'd cracked up, but don't try that bullshit on me. I know you, Bodie, a lot better than you think, and I know that you planned this from the very beginning. Each and every step of the way. I'm the man that's out there with you every day, and I know what you're capable of." His partner emphasized every word with a poke to Bodie's chest. "You want everyone to think that you're just dumb muscle, but you can be one of the best damn tacticians when you want -- So don't give me any more crap!" Ray gave him another, harder, poke and then pushed off and started prowling around the room. He reminded Bodie of a big cat on the look out for dinner, and he had a feeling that he was going to be Doyle's meal tonight.

"All right, so I planned to get Billy. Probably even kill him. I know you don't understand the need to avenge a mate, but, damn it, Ray, Williams didn't deserve to die like--"

"You shut me out," Doyle shouted at his partner. "You should have let me help you, let me know what was going on in that stubborn head of yours."

"Why? So you could stop me?"

"No, God damn it, so I could help you."

"You wouldn't--"

"Damn it to hell, Bodie, don't you know by now that I'd kill for you." Ray's voice was soft and harsh and all the more fearful for that. The words rang of truth. "Haven't you figured that out yet? If you'd have told me your plan -- you're right, I'd have stopped you -- not because of the plan to kill Billy but because I know that you'd never be able to go though with it. You almost got yourself and that girl killed because you can't kill in cold blood like that." Doyle paused a minute to get a handle on the fear that almost overwhelmed him. It'd been too damn close! "To save my life or an innocent person -- yeah. But to set up a murder so that you'll look like you lost your rag, got yourself into trouble and had to kill defending yourself. No way.

"You'd always know that it was a lie." Doyle walked back to Bodie and grasped his shoulders. "I know you think you're a hard man, but you aren't a murderer." Ray shook him. "You'd have had to be damn near dead before you'd let your instincts take over and really take those men out. By that time it might have been too late, and you would have ended up dead.

"You're just lucky the Cow found out. Me, I couldn't figure out what was going on; I knew you were up to something, but I was stupid and naive enough to think that if it was really serious you'd confide in me. I thought our partnership meant something. That when things got really bad we could ask each other for help. That we would ask!" Ray moved away from Bodie and paced some more. He was hurt. The closeness he'd thought he had with Bodie was apparently one-sided. He could and had relied on Bodie, turned to him when he needed help, but Bodie was still on his own, refusing to turn to him when he needed someone. Needing to adjust to this new revelation, he turned to say good-bye to his partner, but Bodie had moved and was staring out the window, lost in thought. Maybe we can talk tomorrow? Ray thought as he headed out the door. The pain was too sharp and fresh to face tonight.

Bodie, who was trying to adjust to the reality that Doyle cared more than he'd ever realized, cringed as he heard the door softly close. He spoke to the closed door. "I do care, sunshine. I just didn't want to drag you down with me if something went wrong." Gazing out the window, he watched Ray climb into his car and drive away. He knows me better than I know myself. He was not comforted by the thought; too much baggage went with it.

Turning, he headed for bed, depressed at the realization that the caring that he'd wanted from Ray had been there all along. He'd just been too locked in to the belief that Doyle didn't feel the same way and had therefore missed all the signs of just how deeply his partner felt. Giving their relationship a few weeks to get over the King Billy incident and settle back into a more normal pattern seemed like a good idea to Bodie right now. They could talk about things in a few weeks...

Bodie went to bed.

***

He couldn't stand still, and he couldn't concentrate. Bodie wanted to know what was going on between Ann and Ray. He glared at Cowley's back. The old man had said not to interfere between four-five and his girl. Let them work it out. Well, he damn well didn't want them to bloody work it out. He wanted Ray for himself, and he'd been a fool to let things come between them like he had the past month.

The King Billy incident had been bad enough, but then Bodie'd been taken prisoner by a group of terrorists and had a bomb strapped to his chest. When CI5 had sprung their trap Bodie'd run away from Doyle to keep his partner from getting blown up along with him. He couldn't bear the thought of Ray dying. Unfortunately it had driven them even further apart. He still could hear his partner's words just before he'd stormed off. "Didn't it ever occur to you that I'd rather go out trying to save you than be left on my own having watched you being blown to bits?" He'd tried to stop Ray, but his partner had shoved him away and stormed off, and, before Bodie could move to follow, Cowley had called him, Doyle was gone when he'd finally gotten free.

First mistake had been lying to Ray about Billy, second was deciding to back off to let them get their perspective back, third was to run from Doyle instead of turning to him for help -- yet again -- and the final one had been to back off again to give things time to settle. He hated to fight with his partner so he tended to want things to calm down. Trouble was that Ray took it as rejection, and in his returned loneliness reached out to the first reasonable option he could find. It all added up to the Holly bitch. He knew that wasn't fair. She was a beautiful woman and might have done well with Ray if he hadn't already belonged to Bodie. But belong to him he did since the day that Doyle had knocked him flat on his arse and made Bodie realize there was more to the copper than he'd bothered to notice. Like grit and determination and... beautiful green eyes that looked too deep into his soul. Bodie shook himself; that kind of distraction he did not need right now. But!

Ray was his, and one way or another he was going to make sure that Ann Holly was cut out of Doyle's life ASAP.

Looking out the window again, he watched her drive away. He didn't give a damn what Cowley said, he was going to Ray now. She'd missed her chance, and when she changed her mind later, she was going to find out it was too damn late.

Joining Ray, he tried to touch him and give some comfort. Ray shrugged him off, and, even though his gut told him it was a mistake, he started to walk away yet again to give Doyle the space he seemed to need. He'd not gotten very far when he heard his partner call his name. Stopping, he waited for Ray to catch up with him and was surprised to find an arm around his shoulders giving him a hug.

"Think it's about time we talked. Don't you, sunshine?" Ray asked.

Bodie leaned into the hug and nodded. Ray'd forgiven him, and this time he was not going to blow it. His throat was suddenly so dry that words wouldn't come.

"My place or yours?" Doyle finally queried when it became obvious that Bodie wasn't going to say anything.

"Mine," was the one word reply. Bodie did not want to be reminded of Ann Holly while they had this talk, and he sure didn't want Ray reminded of her.

They didn't talk much on the drive over. A few inconsequential topics: sports, traffic and the like. They studiously avoided any mention of the case or Ann.

Bodie took a shower while Ray prepared breakfast, and then, as Bodie cleaned up the kitchen after they'd eaten, Ray showered. When his partner came out of the bog, three-seven was surprised to see that he'd put on an old bathrobe rather than the spare pair of jeans that he kept at the flat.

Ray smiled at Bodie's obvious confusion and motioned for him to sit down on one end of the couch. Ray then sat in an arm chair next to him. This way they were close and could easily look into the other's face, yet weren't distracted by touching. Then he started talking.

"We haven't been communicating very well of late. Have we?"

"Not very -- no. Both our faults, I suppose," Bodie reluctantly admitted.

"Truth time?" He waited for Bodie to nod his agreement before continuing. "You didn't know till King Billy how I felt about you, did you?"

Bodie wasn't comfortable with discussing how he felt; how they felt. He tried to avoid the subject, "We're best mates." He wouldn't meet Doyle's eyes.

"It's more than that, sunshine, and by now you should damn well know it." Ray grabbed Bodie's knee and squeezed it.

"Yeah, Ann told me a whole lot," Bodie snapped at his partner, the hurt still very fresh.

"She ought to have. 'Twasn't me that mentioned marriage."

Opening his mouth to protest, the dark haired man stopped when Doyle held up his hand for Bodie to listen. "You mentioned it. I just didn't disagree. Liked her, might even have loved her a bit, but I think she was more an attempt to get under your skin." He paused and glanced up into dark blue eyes. "Seems to have worked. Just wish I'd realized at the time what I was doing. Wasn't fair to any of us." A little grin crossed his face.

Glaring at Ray, Bodie was still inclined to argue. "And what was this for, then?" he queried, rubbing his jaw, the memory of the pain inflicted both mentally and physically still lingering.

"Was mad at you--"

"No kidding--"

"Not like that, you dumb crud. Was mad that you wouldn't admit how you felt. Used Cowley to give you an excuse to snoop though -- didn't you?"

Bodie knit his brow, considering Ray's accusation, his head tipped to one side. "Maybe... Never gave it much thought. I wasn't the only one," he glared accusingly at Doyle.

Their telepathy worked again -- Ray knew exactly what he was referring to. "Marikka was the old man's idea--"

"You could have told me--"

"Well, if I hadn't been so damn worried about you, I would have done, but your head was somewhere else -- wasn't sure I could get through, and you could have mentioned her to me. Only reason you told me about Ann was to get up my nose."

"I told you 'cause you were getting up the Cow's nose."

"And to cause trouble." Doyle wasn't about to let him off the hook on this one.

A little boy grin crept across Bodie's face. "Was being nasty -- wasn't I?"

"You know how to get up my nose faster than anyone else. Must mean I care more for you than anyone else." Ray grinned back.

As a declaration of undying love it wasn't very coherent, certainly far from explicit, but Bodie got the message. "Feeling's mutual, Ray." He took a deep breath and debated his next statement. He was tired as hell, the whole day had taken on a dream like quality, but he didn't want this chance to get away. Didn't want them to have time for second thoughts and backing away. "So you going to spend the rest of the day sitting over there?" He raised his eyebrow at the end in invitation.

Ray didn't need a second offer. Before Bodie could say another word, he found his partner had relocated himself to the couch beside him. After that, it just seemed natural to take his green-eyed love into his arms, and their lips met in a kiss.

It was gentle at first; Bodie kissed Ray's lips and pulled away before the kiss could deepen. He then began to kiss the rest of Doyle's face: forehead, eyelids, cheeks, then back to his lips. Bodie wanted to avoid thinking -- thinking, he knew, would lead to fear and panic, and he didn't want to blow what might be their only chance. Neither he nor Ray handled caring very well. Too many betrayals, too much loneliness, for either to be comfortable with real commitment. But committed they were, and if they could just make it over this last hurdle, then they'd have something that might last -- maybe even a lifetime. For the first time in a long time, Bodie was willing to take the risk. He pulled back and looked hard into his partner's eyes. The smile and contentment he saw there told him that Ray was ready to take the same risk as well.

Ray's hand came up to cup the side of Bodie's head, letting his thumb tease the soft surface of his partner's lips. The dark haired man opened his lips slightly and sucked the thumb into his mouth. He heard Doyle sigh. Bodie let his hands roam over his partner's body: down his arms, over to his chest -- he felt a nipple harden under his probing fingers -- down to his belly, and finally, to the erection swiftly hardening between Ray's legs. Whatever trepidation his partner had, had been overcome by the strength of their attraction and caring.

"God, Bodie, I love you." The words escaped from his lips before his brain had time to analyze them.

Bodie's body responded to those words with a steel hard erection; his heart melted. His lips let go of the thumb, and he shoved Ray down on the couch, covering his body with his own and capturing his partner's lips. He nibbled first on Ray's lower lip and then allowed his tongue to explore his delightful mouth. As his hands tried to explore his partner's body he sighed in frustration. There was not enough room on the sofa to reach all the good bits. At least not without bumping into everything or falling off. Their first time should be special, he decided, not a quick grapple on the couch, and for that they needed more room. "Bedroom, Sunshine?" Bodie questioned.

Ray's only answer was a broad smile as they stood up, he turned, and led the way to his partner's bedroom.

They entered and began to undress. Nervous, Doyle made idle conversation. "So what happened to that fur thing you used to have on the bed?"

When Bodie didn't answer right away Ray turned to look at him; he was surprised to see the bigger man looking chagrined.

Bodie knew by the look on Doyle's face that he'd have to tell his partner something. Ray could never let anything go -- especially where it concerned his partner. He opted for short and to the point.

"This bird I dated a couple of months ago... well... ummm... she liked whip cream and cherries..." Bodie's voice faded off, hoping that Doyle would fill in the rest. By the look of confusion on his partner's face, he still hadn't a clue. Damn it, Ray, don't be so naive.

"She liked to eat her dessert off something besides a dish. Okay? Cherry juice makes a big mess so I put the fur up and never got round to getting it out again." Bodie turned away, not wanting to meet his partner's look and teasing.

Glancing back, he saw Ray heading towards the bedroom door. "Hey, where you off to?"

"Saw some left in the fridge..."

Seeing the grin on his partner's face, Bodie took two steps, and, grabbing Ray, he pulled him into an embrace. "Get back here, Goldilocks. Save the dessert for when we've had a little more of the main course. And when we get around to it, you can be the first dessert plate special."

"S'long as it's not Cherries Jubilee," Doyle snorted in reply.

Bodie's confession had released the tension in the room and restored their lost comradery. The pain and hurt of the last few weeks slowly faded. Each knew this was not someone he had to impress, to put on a show for; it was his best mate, someone who knew all the good and all the bad about him. No masks were needed; they could be themselves. They discovered that love was best this way.

Neither man spoke again for a very long time. They used their bodies to communicate all the love and caring that they couldn't bring themselves to express verbally.

Finally, naked, they stretched out side-by-side on the bed. Two strong, tough, men; two tentative, gentle, lovers. They'd waited so long, wanted so long, that now that they were finally touching it took on a dream-like quality. Bodie was the first to gather his wits and desire about him. He pushed his partner onto his back and cuddled up close to his side. One of Ray's arms was around the bigger man and could only stroke the blue-eyed man's back and buttocks -- he took full advantage of the opportunity -- with his other arm he reached up to touch the body to the side and slightly above him. Bodie shoved the arm down to his side, briefly holding it there.

"Lay still. You can have your turn in a minute." With that, Bodie leaned over and began to nibble on his lover's neck. His lips slid slowly down to one of Ray's nipples; his hand was not idle -- it was stroking up his partner's thigh to his groin. He avoided the hard shaft -- he wanted this to last -- and concentrated on his partner's balls and inner thighs, with first touches light as a feather, then strokes, and finally, gentle squeezes. His lover's legs fell apart to give him better access. Never one to pass up an opportunity, Bodie allowed his hand to sink lower, teasing the delicate ring of muscle, pushing gently into the tight channel. Ray arched up and groaned as one finger penetrated him, tossing his head from side to side.

Not yet, sunshine, but soon. Bodie smiled to himself in anticipation. He'd been with men before -- not in a long time, but still, one never quite forgot -- that had been sex, this was love, the difference between vinegar and champagne. He'd never had the champagne of love before and he found it had gone to his head -- he was drunk before he'd barely begun.

Moving his finger slowly in and out, the dark-haired man continued his assault on Ray's chest, leisurely moving down with gentle kisses until he could lick the head of his lover's penis. However, before he could take the hard organ into his mouth, his partner gave a shout, and hot liquid shot out across his belly.

Bodie sighed, "That's wasteful, you know."

He snickered, as one green eye popped open and glared at him; it closed quickly, and a groan came from Doyle's lips. After a couple of deep, shuddering breaths, Ray spoke, "You don't want it to go to waste, don't be so damned sexy. God, that was heaven!" He snuggled in closer to his partner and pretended to be going to sleep.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Bodie queried, amused at his lover's gentle teasing. He felt the mouth that was resting in his arm pit smile.

"Don't know, am I?" Ray mumbled into his chest.

"This wasn't supposed to be DIY -- you know?"

The snicker that his lover released tickled Bodie's pit. He complained, as he shoved Ray's head away, "Give over. That tickles."

Doyle rose up and rolled on top of his partner. The broad teasing smile changed, as he looked down at the man stretched out beneath him, to one of yearning hunger. No longer willing to wait, he pounced, "My turn now, lover."

Where Bodie had been gentle -- almost hesitant -- Ray was wild with an all consuming hunger. He bit, and licked, every inch of skin that he could reach; his hands stroked, then kneaded the flesh beneath him. As he slid down his partner's torso with his lips, his hands grasped Bodie's arse -- one hand pulled him tight and the other slid round to spread his lover's legs and enter him. As the digit penetrated him Ray's mouth closed over the blue-eyed man's erection. The finger probed deep, the mouth sucked hard -- once, twice -- and Bodie screamed, as he shot hot velvet into his partner's waiting mouth.

When he came back to himself he looked down the bed at Ray. His lover gave a gentle lick to Bodie's shrinking organ and raised up; a trace of semen trickled out the side of his mouth, a tongue flicked out to lick it away. He looks like a tiger finishing off a dish of cream, Bodie mused to himself. Doyle was looking very self-satisfied. Bodie smirked back.

"Enjoy your dinner, mate?" the dark-haired man asked.

"Best ever, lover," was Ray's arrogant reply. "Shan't ever want anything else." It was a vow.

"Spoiled for anything else -- are you?" A tentative query from Bodie. He wanted this to be more than a one-off.

"Aren't you?" Ray wanted to commit, but words always came hard to him -- especially, after the last few days. He leaned in, and gave his partner a long, deep, kiss of commitment. "Nothing else will ever be as good."

Bodie smiled, satisfied, he drifted off to sleep.

Ray snuggled in close to his partner and smirked. Ending up like this made the last few weeks worth all the anger and pain. He quickly followed his lover into sleep.

***

"Ah, shit!" The ring of the phone beside the bed was the last thing Bodie wanted to wake up to. And it'd been such a lovely dream, too. He sighed, wishing that someday he and Ray would have the courage to actually do something about how they felt. He rolled over and answered the phone, still far from fully awake and coherent.

"Bodie," he identified himself, giving the niceties a pass. At the same time as he spoke, an arm came around his waist, a warm body suddenly pressed along his back, and a sharp nip at his neck made him realize that he was not alone. He strove to remember the name of the bird and glanced down at the arm for a clue. One look at the hairy, muscular arm beginning to stroke his cock shocked him. It hadn't been a dream! An expletive escaped him, ignoring the fact that someone was on the line. "Bloody hell!"

The voice at the other end of the line registered irritation. "Mr. Bodie, this is Ann Holly. Is Ray there?"

The bottom started to fall out of his world. He wanted to deny her a chance back into his partner's life. But what could he offer compared to a beautiful, intelligent woman? Besides, Ray was close enough to hear who it was and who she wanted. He sat up, pulling away from Doyle, and handed him the phone. As he tried to stand to get away from the pain of losing Ray back to her -- after all, his partner would have to be nuts to chose a man who was terrified of commitments, who had failed at every serious relationship he'd ever tried, and whom a liaison with could get him fired from his job -- Doyle's arm snaked again around his waist and held him tight. He couldn't move without starting a wrestling match, and the strength of Ray's grip told him that that's exactly what would happen if he tried. He stopped struggling, resigned to listening to his own execution.

"'Lo, Ann. What can I do for you?"

"I've been thinking. We need to talk."

Of course she's been thinking, Bodie thought sarcastically, She'd have to be bloody stupid to give up Ray, and stupid is not a name I'd call her.

Bodie fought to keep his rising panic down and to listen to the conversation. Ray's answer was cautious, "Thought we'd said it all this morning."

"I was mad and upset. I don't like being used ..."

"I never used you to get to your father, but when I saw the picture connecting him to a drug runner, I couldn't very well ignore it. Do you have any idea the kind of damage drugs do, especially to kids?"

"Yes. And I'm sorry. I'd like for us to try and work this out. Maybe now that you know I'm not involved you can start to..." Obviously realizing how that sounded, she amended what she was going to say, "We can learn to trust each other." When he was slow to reply she pleaded, "Please, Ray."

Ray sat up and Bodie attempted to use his movement to get away, but his partner was too fast for him, his arm was quickly back around Bodie and pulling him up close against his body. The dark haired man surrendered and leaned back against the strong, warm body. He listened in relief to Ray's reply.

"I'm sorry, but it wouldn't work. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life apologizing for my job. We're able to make a difference, and I'm proud of that. Your attitude towards the necessities of the job--"

"It's not like that... I never meant you to... it's true that I don't like the violence, but still... Ray, I love you."

"No, love, you only love part of me, not all of me. I need someone who loves me, every last little bit, not someone who needs to wear blinders to avoid the unpleasant bits." With these words Bodie felt a gentle kiss on the back of his neck and Ray's arm tighten around him. He couldn't stop a grunt from escaping -- Ray was very strong.

Ann, hearing it, felt fear and anger. This should have been so easy, if she could forgive Ray then he could surely forgive her, after all she was the wronged party! She struck out. "Is that Bodie? Couldn't he give you a little privacy?"

I wanted to, sweetheart, this front row seat was lover boy's idea, Bodie thought to himself with vexation. Ray had not lessened his hold one little bit.

She went on, "Well. Don't we even deserve a face to face meeting?"

"'M sorry but there's really no point..."

"I suppose that you think CI5's enough... Well, just remember when you're lonely in your bed at night and reach out in the dark to find no one there, that you gave up on us -- not me."

"I'm sorry, it just won't--" Before Ray could say more, Ann attacked in hurt and anger but made the mistake of going after Bodie instead of Ray.

"That thug you call a partner isn't likely--"

Doyle saw red. Nobody, but nobody, was allowed to hurt or criticize his Bodie. He interrupted her tirade with one of his own. "That so called thug has more compassion and caring and genuine acceptance than you could ever hope to know. And as for a cold, lonely bed, you're the only one that has to worry about that. I've found someone to fill my nights. It's over, Ann, let it go." He hung up to the sound of silence.

Bodie sighed, "You didn't have to be quite so hard there. She's hurting and didn't mean--"

"I know just what she meant, and no one says that about you." Ray used both arms to pull his partner into a tighter hug. "No one."

"Shhh. 'S going to be okay. She can't hurt me, not unless she takes you away from me, and I'm beginning to get the feeling that there is no chance of that?"

"Only you for me, Sunshine. Now and always." Ray's words were a solemn vow.

Bodie answered, "Now and always."

No more words were spoken as they sealed their love with their bodies. No matter what came, they would face it together.

***

Symphony
First Movement: Duet


Ray Doyle woke abruptly, feelings of dread and depression settling about him like a cloud. It didn't take long to remember the source of his distress. Cowley. They were going to see their old boss today. He wanted to hire them for a consult. All the pain, hurt, anger and sense of betrayal of twenty months ago threatened to engulf him again. He rolled over and snuggled up against his lover's back. Bodie was taking this much better than he was -- ironic, that.

If anyone had asked him two years ago who would be hurt most by Cowley's giving them the boot because of their homosexual relationship, he'd have said Bodie. But Bodie had weathered the storm much better than Doyle. They'd both been hurt and surprised by their boss' actions, and angry -- because whatever Cowley claimed, he wasn't telling them the real reason for their dismissal. There was no way that he'd ever belief that George Cowley was homophobic or that he couldn't pull a few strings to allow them to stay -- even if it was against traditional policy. The thing that had upset Ray the most was he felt that after all their years serving CI5 they at least deserved the truth. But Cowley was less than forthcoming -- as usual -- he just had to play his games...

Ray's mind drifted back to that day a little under two years ago when it had all changed.

He and Bodie had been together just under eight months and had decided that it was time that Cowley be informed of their marriage.. The first few months they'd worked to maintain their stud image by double dating and arranging to be seen out with various birds by their fellow agents. No one noticed that they went home not with the women but with each other. The act paled after awhile; they didn't want to be with anyone else on their off duty time and had began to resent the time spent in other's company. So, by the end of their fourth month as lovers, they gave up the pretense of dating.

The funny thing was that they'd never even discussed the decision, the last date had just occurred and then neither one made any more. It was weeks later that both men realized that there were no longer any women in the picture. They'd laughed a little at the discovery but had done nothing to change it. Instead, they'd retired early to bed and made love long into the night. Neither needed nor wanted anyone else.

The job had been unusually hectic at the time, so it had taken another three months for anyone to begin to notice that the super studs of CI5 were no longer involved with women. But the last month had seen too many comments and raised eyebrows from the other agents to ignore any longer. Cowley would have to be told; if he didn't already know, that was. The last couple of weeks both he and his partner had had the feeling that they were being watched and had even caught a glimpse of Stuart lurking outside of one of their flats one day. They'd discussed cooling it for awhile, but both had decided that they no longer wanted to live in hiding. They wouldn't go out of their way to advertise their relationship, but they weren't going to go out of their way to hide it from anyone who chose to snoop either. And that included George bloody Cowley.

They went into a meeting, called by their boss, well aware of the likely subject of discussion but unsure as to the stand he'd take. He generally preached tolerance, and wasn't adverse to breaking the rules when it suited him, so both men had felt that they stood a chance of keeping their jobs.

They'd been wrong.

Cowley, never one for the social niceties when something was on his mind, cut right to the heart of the situation.

"It's been brought to my notice that the two of you are spending an excessive amount of off duty time together, even to the exclusion of your normal dating routine. While I encourage partners to depend on each other I think you've crossed the line and need to develop other interests. Do I make myself clear?" Cowley's gaze met each of theirs and then returned to the files on his desk with the assumption that the subject was over.

Bodie's confused look met his own, and Doyle realized that he'd have to be the one to confront their boss.

"I'm sorry, sir, but that won't be possible. We're committed to each other and intend to remain exclusive. There won't be any more women."

"Ach, man, neither of you know the meaning of the word commitment," Cowley's disbelief was evident.

Bodie stood up straight and looked the older man in the eye before replying, "We do now."

The CI5 Controller glared up at him, Bodie looked determined, and then turned to look hard at Doyle as well, he glared back, looking stubborn, his eyes shifted under the old man's continued glare. "Even if it means that you no longer work for CI5?" Cowley questioned.

There had been no hesitation on either man's part.

"Yes," Doyle had quietly replied.

And Bodie's voice had echoed, "Yes, sir. Even then."

"You know government policy on this matter?" Cowley queried.

"Yes, sir. But we thought--?" Bodie, always the blue-eyed favorite, spoke for the pair.

"What? That I had some sort of leeway no other operational head has? I'm sorry, Bodie, but I do not. If you persist in this relationship, I must ask for your resignations."

Both men nodded their understanding but their instincts were telling them that Cowley wasn't giving them the full truth -- neither man believed for a moment that the Controller wouldn't change the rules when it suited him. Why it didn't suit him in this instance, neither man had a clue.

Cowley concluded, "Very well, gentlemen. You have one week to clear out of your flats and turn in your cars. I'll take your badges and guns now."

They exchanged a look with their boss and saw his determination, then a look with each other and nodded. Silently they handed in their guns and badges and turned towards the door.

As Ray reached to open it, Cowley's voice called out to them, Doyle and Bodie paused but did not turn around. "Bodie, Doyle, when you're ready to give up this relationship your places on the squad will be waiting. There will always be a place for you with CI5."

They nodded but said nothing. Both knew that that day would never come.

Yet, Ray thought, In a way it has. Just not how any of us would have predicted. And on our terms, not his. He found some satisfaction in that fact, but was still frustrated that they were no closer to knowing why he'd dismissed them as he had. They'd both expected him to try and talk to them, reason with them, hear them out, so that when he did none of that, they'd been thrown. It's almost as if he didn't think we'd be gone very long? Still, as Doyle mused over the last couple of years, he realized that Cowley had done nothing to make things more difficult, in point of fact when they needed his silence, he'd given it, and when they needed him to speak, he'd spoken. What was the old bastard up to? he asked himself for the millionth time, doubting that he'd ever get a satisfactory answer.

The first six months after their 'resignations' had been difficult.

Living on love. Ray had thought the idea was romantic dribble, until they'd actually done it a couple of times. They'd both got a bit saved up but had been determined not to dip too far into it -- it was reserved to keep their new business going. They'd taken what odd jobs they could and had tried to set up a security firm. But while their CI5 credentials might mean something in certain circles, their departure under a silent cloud out weighed the value their training could offer. And those who didn't care about the cloud -- well, those jobs were often too far on the wrong side of the law to be considered. So while they had managed to get a few security jobs, the income provided wasn't even enough to make expenses for the small office they'd rented.

Despite the difficulties of those first months Doyle remembered them fondly. Not working regularly had meant more time to spend together. They couldn't afford much of anything, but there were a lot of free things to do in London if you knew where to look; and if you were in love, those were just as nice as the most expensive vacation. They explored the city and worked odd jobs when they got the chance, always together and always watching the other's back.

He remembered one particularly rough day that had ended in a trip to the London Zoo...

They'd been out of work about six weeks. Jobs had been scarce, there'd been a cold wave and the manual labor work had dried up temporarily, funds were running very low. He and Bodie were in the middle of their first real fight. There'd only been enough food left for a breakfast of two slices of toast and one egg. Ray had fixed it and served it to his partner, letting Bodie think that he'd already had his, instead having only tea for himself. Bodie needed to eat more than he did; Ray felt he could make do for a few hours. Unfortunately, Bodie discovered what his lover had done and hit the roof.

"Damn it, Doyle." Being called by his last name by his lover was always a bad sign -- it'd been happening more and more the last couple of weeks as the money got scarce. "You need to eat as much as I do."

"Used to skip breakfast all the time when we worked--"

"That was by choice, not need, and you'd probably had a big dinner the night before, not just an order of fish and chips--"

"Still, I can do okay without--" Ray had started to insist.

Bodie interrupted angrily, "For how bloody long? We're out of money and food. Mother Hubbard had more in her cupboards. We're in this together and should have shared equally the last--"

"We've got a couple of construction prospects--"

"And it's cold as a bat's arse out there. Not going to be hiring any temporary laborers today."

"And what about that check we're due from our one and only client?"

"Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or in a couple of bloody months. She has to wait on her divorce settlement and we have to wait on her." Bodie was determined, "That's it? I'm going to the bank to pull some money out of savings--"

"We agreed to use it only to keep the business going, not for living expenses--" Ray was just as determined.

"Well we can't work if we're not eating -- can we?"

"If we pound the pavement today we're bound to find some temp work. We agreed that the savings was not for--" Doyle was becoming pedantic.

"Cut the crap, and let's cut to the chase."

Ray just glared back at his partner, "What chase?"

"That into the reason you don't want to dip savings is that it's mostly my savings from before the squad and you don't want to feel like you're living off me." His partner opened his mouth to repudiate it, but Bodie beat him to it. "Don't try to deny it, Ray, you know it's the truth."

Doyle turned away, walked to the window, and stared out, not saying anything. What could he say, it was the truth, and they both knew it. He'd always been independent, and had been raised to believe that he'd be the one to support a family, now he was going to have to be the one supported. As much as he loved Bodie, he hated the thought of being kept by him.

He sensed his partner come up behind him; Bodie refrained from touching him. "Ray, do you want to go back to CI5?" Bodie's voice was soft and unemotional.

"That would mean not being together. Knowing the Cow, he's likely to send us to opposite ends of the country to keep us apart. Probably let one of us start a one man branch in the Shetlands." Ray hurt at the thought that Bodie'd had enough and was ready to break up; he tried to hide that pain behind humor. It didn't work. When only silence answered him he finally asked, "Is that what you want? Us to break up so that we can go back to CI5"

"'S not what I asked you."

He turned in anger, ready to strike out at his lover who was so willing to give up the best thing they'd ever had. The look on Bodie's face stopped him cold. His lover had been able to keep the pain out of his voice, but not his expression. The blue eyes glistened with the effort not to cry. Ray took one step forward and drew Bodie into a fierce hug. He squeezed until he heard an 'Oomph' from his lover, then relaxed his hold and leaned back so that he could look into the his face, raising his right hand to cup the side of Bodie's head, he allowed his thumb to gently brush away the tear that had overflowed on to a pale cheek.

"'S going to be all right, sunshine. My pride's not worth giving us up. Just try to understand that it's hard for me to be kept," Doyle reached out with his words.

"I do know, Ray, but we can't starve." Bodie paused to steal a kiss from the sweet lips before him. "So here's what we're going to do: we're going to sign up with an answering service so that we can commit to longer term jobs if necessary, I'm going to take enough money out for us to eat over the next couple of weeks, and then we're taking the day off from pounding the pavement and going to the zoo." Doyle opened his mouth to speak but before he could say anything Bodie covered it with his hand and said, "No arguments. We need the break."

"Wasn't going to argue, just going to ask if we were going to be visiting your relatives?" At Bodie's confused look -- he had no close living relatives -- Doyle kidded, "Well we are going to the ape house -- aren't we?"

Bodie'd whacked him none to gently up the side of the head and they'd headed out.

Even now, so many months later, that day stood out among the rest as a special one, a turning point. It'd been the day he'd realized that nothing was more important to him than his lover, and that he had to learn to take as well as give.

The trip to the zoo had been an inspired idea on the part of his partner. They'd rediscovered laughter after too many weeks of strain.

At the ape house there was a keeper cleaning out one of the habitats, Bodie'd nudged him and pointed, "Looks like the Mather's twin -- don't she?" Then he'd pointed to a dark haired monkey looking through from another area, "'N that's me wishing she'd just get out. And there you are over in that corner, feeling picked upon." He pointed to a small brown primate that was also watching the cleaning operation.

Ray had chuckled before replying, "Nah, mate, that's me mooning over the fact that I can't get at your sweet arse with her in the middle." Bodie'd looked quickly around to see if anyone had overheard. No one was in sight, so he'd pinched Ray's arse.

"I'll be getting it tonight then," his partner had leered at him, then winked. They'd both shared a dirty laugh.

He'd drug his lover to the Ape House; Bodie drug him to the Children's Zoo. They'd had more fun there than just about anywhere else. The pigs had fascinated them both, city boys that they were. There was a sow in a sty with babies, thirteen little pink wigglers that squealed to high heaven. At one point, Mom had apparently had enough of nursing for the time being, and had left them to grab a bite to eat for herself. Said departure did not go over well with the little ones, and they'd yelled so loud and long that both men hadn't been able to stop laughing for five minutes. For the rest of the day any referral to it would set them off again.

It had been especially bad near closing when a harassed mother with four little ones had tried to sit for a few minutes on a bench and drink a cuppa. Every one of the kids, from the baby in the pram to the seven-year-old, had continued to interrupt and complain about the break. They'd leaned against a railing and watched for awhile, and then Bodie'd leaned into his ear and whispered, "'S all the same. Bet she's glad that she doesn't have thirteen little squealers."

That had started them both laughing again, and they chose to leave before someone decided that two hysterical men were up to something and needed talking to. Doyle didn't know what he'd do if some copper came up to them and asked, 'What's all this then?', but he'd be willing to bet that he'd have to pick Bodie up off the ground he'd be laughing so hard. The term squealer had stuck with them, however, and it, or a mention of pigs or pork, was now their code for someone complaining too much about nothing.

After that day, surprisingly, rather than getting on each other's nerves -- being together so much and in such strained circumstances -- their bond had actually deepened. They'd finally taken time to actually talk about themselves. Up until then, each knew only the bits and pieces of the other's history that had slipped out during the course of their investigations or on late night drunks. Over those six months during long walks, many of them in the rain, they'd shared their pasts until no dark painful corners were left unrevealed. Ray'd found the process to be cleansing, and he knew that Bodie had as well. To be fully known and totally accepted as you were was a gift that neither man had before experienced. It was very liberating.

Six months out of CI5 they'd found themselves dipping more and more into savings just to last out the week, with few long term job prospects, and both happier than they could ever remember being. Had either been asked if the price for being together was too high they'd have said, "No way. It was more than worth it."

The six month mark did see one improvement in their circumstances. They'd pulled in every favor they had coming to get licences to own handguns; it was at this point that the approval had finally come through. With the dangers from old enemies they'd put away and the need for arms to protect their charges when they could get bodyguarding jobs as justification, and several strings pulled by old friends, they'd managed to finally acquire the permission needed to carry concealed weapons. They were careful never to abuse their use and to keep their skills up to their usual superior standards, so that there could be no excuse to revoke the licenses. Those magic, legal tickets had meant more jobs and more money coming in, the hand-to-mouth existence finally eased.

For a time they became hired muscle for many of the dignitaries that came to England on unofficial business. Most had their own bodyguards, but the presence of armed men from the host country meant a much better chance of surviving an attempted kidnaping or assassination plot. They didn't like being hired stooges, and chose carefully whom they would work for -- one Columbian 'official' was turned firmly down -- but the jobs paid the bills and kept the office door open giving them a chance to build up a decent business.

Their next bit of luck had come two months later. James Guthrie, who they'd helped recover some stolen tank plans when they worked for CI5, recommended them to a friend of his whose multinational corporation was moving into England and needed a security system set up. It would be the break they needed if they could only get the contract. This wasn't just installing alarms but involved establishing security protocols and employee screenings to prevent industrial espionage from taking place. The job was up for bids because the last security chief had been fired for incompetence after the successful theft of some important research material, and everything was to be done from the ground up. There were several firms bidding on the job, and only Guthrie's recommendation had allowed them to be included.

Ray thought back on the interview...

***

"Well, I trust Jim's opinion a lot, but this is a major security installation, and I need assurance that..."

Bodie spoke up -- they wanted this job, it was the first real shot they'd had at what they truly wanted to do. "We both still retain our top secret clearance. It's never been revoked."

"I'm aware of that, Mr. Bodie. But what puzzles me is why you left CI5. It obviously wasn't for the money -- you've turned down several very lucrative job offers in the past eight months because of who you'd be working for." He held up a hand as Bodie started to interrupt.

"Don't get me wrong. Of the ones I've heard about I don't blame you at all for turning them down. Drug lords and gangland bosses are not the best of employers. However, if money was your prime motivating factor those jobs would have been accepted.

"And I don't think your departure was planned. My sources tell me that both yourself and Mr. Doyle were left scrambling for work, a place to live, and transport, and that CI5 was left trying to fill the gap that your resignations created. A gap, I might add, that my source says has yet to be adequately filled. The news reports are not always very informative, but CI5 has suffered several major set backs in the months since you left."

Bodie and Ray exchanged looks. They knew the man was questioning their loyalty. Doyle replied, "It wasn't our idea to leave. Our boss thought it would be better for the organization."

Ronald Dale, head of R. D. International, studied the men across from him carefully. They were perfect for what he wanted. All reports on them indicated that they were the best, better than he could hope to find anywhere else, and Jim recommended them very highly. Men who couldn't be bought, with ideals and principles, who loved their country, and who knew their business -- yet why had they left CI5 and George Cowley?

His inside information said that up until eight months ago they had been the man's right and left hands, absolutely loyal, putting their lives at risk without question and without anger even when they were placed in dangerous situations without a full briefing. Yet one day they had walked in, given, or been asked for, their resignations -- to the detriment of both themselves and CI5 -- and left in silence. And to this day no one but the two men before him and George Cowley knew the reason. Without the answer to why they had left there was always a risk in employing them. He decided to confront the issue head on.

"I'd like to hire you but I'll be honest; I, like just about everyone else who looks at your firm, want to know why you left your former boss and job." He rubbed his temple in frustration; he needed them to open up and trust him, "I don't like to pry -- it's your business -- but you'll have to concede that the reasons for your departure could have direct bearing on the job I wish to hire you for."

Sighing, Doyle knew it was time to be honest. The answer couldn't cost them anymore contracts than their silence had thus far. He didn't even have to look over at his partner to know that he felt the same way.

"Our boss asked for our resignations because we are in a monogamous, homosexual relationship with each other." Doyle stood tall, shoulders back; he refused to apologize for something that had brought him so much happiness. He'd rather starve than give his partner up. There it was out and didn't hurt near as much as I thought it would to say it, he concluded.

Dale looked hard at them before questioning, "That doesn't sound like the George Cowley I've heard about. He's always preached tolerance." Doubt shaded his voice.

Bodie spoke before Doyle had a chance to. "Not the man we'd come to know either. But it's the truth. Our jobs are waiting if we're willing to give up each other." The man behind the desk still looked doubtful. "Call him up and ask him if you don't believe me."

Ron Dale nodded, "Very well, I'll do that. You'll have my answer tomorrow."

They'd left in trepidation. Even if they were believed, who'd want to hire a couple of nancy boys to design a whole new security protocol for a multinational corporation?

The answer was that Ronald Dale damn well would. He'd called them into a meeting the next day and informed them that he didn't give a damn who they slept with as long as they did the job. Cowley had confirmed their claim. In fact, the supposedly taciturn head of CI5 had been a bit on the chatty side. It wasn't until after he'd gotten off the phone that Dale realized that he'd been carefully interrogated as to the health and well being of William Bodie and Ray Doyle. Apparently their ex-boss was still concerned about them, and in reviewing the conversation Dale maintained the impression that that concern was more than just professional. He wondered what minister was so anti-homosexual that he'd forced the resignation of CI5's best team. Cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Abruptly, overnight, they went from not making ends meet to being very well off. The primary job took over seven months -- they were still paid retainers -- and they'd gone from a business with just themselves as employees to one with twenty-four men and women working for them. R. D. International, Dale's company, had broken the blacklist, and within months they had more companies trying to hire them than they could handle. Bodie and Doyle had decided not to try to expand too fast to meet the need but to pick and choose the contracts they would take. By the end of their first year in operation, their company was considered the best in the business for speciality jobs -- at least in the UK -- and it wasn't because of their history with CI5 that they were so in demand but because they got the job done better than anyone else.

Including, much to the government's chagrin, several of their own security organizations. It was becoming quite common for Bodie and Doyle to be hired to consult on matters of security even when the government was supposed to be providing it. MI5 had been particularly hostile on several occasions early on, but the new head of that organization was much more cooperative. The old head had been replaced when an operation he was in charge of had soured, and it came out that he'd ignored Bodie and Doyle's recommended improvements. Ray smiled at that memory. No one dared ignore their advice again.

'Twas kind of nice having them jump through hoops. Of course, several spectacular successes hadn't hurt either. They'd stopped one kidnapping attempt, some special back up security devices they'd installed at one company had caught the perpetrators of a bit of industrial espionage, and they'd managed to recover some silver, stolen from a very wealthy peer, before it had gone to the black market or been melted down. Ray grimaced at the memory of that particular job. Marge Harper had been the one to help them out. Then he smiled as he remembered how that particular consult had ended.

They'd reclaimed the family's silver, it had just left in the insurance company's custody to be returned to the peer. All that was left was to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's, say thank you very much to Marge, and arrange for her check. Doyle'd been backed into the corner of her couch waiting for Bodie, who was on the phone to the insurance company, organizing payment of her finder's fee so that they could leave. Ms Harper had always been fond of Ray Doyle, too fond as far as he was concerned, much to the previous amusement of his partner. Bodie had come into the room to see her hand slipping slowly up Doyle's thigh a slightly panicked look on his mate's face. Young women, and all types of men Ray could handle -- no problem -- but give him a motherly type with a crush on him and he was suddenly out of his depth. Up until this point, Bodie'd found both Marge's interest and Ray's befuddled discomfort quite amusing. Suddenly, now that they were a couple, Bodie discovered that he no longer found it funny.

"Tsk, tsk, Marge. Hands off. Those bits are on reserve," Bodie had quietly stated, sitting on her other side, gently removing her hand and giving it a gallant kiss on the back before releasing it into her lap.

"And who's reserved them?" she'd asked indignantly, "I don't see no ring."

"An oversight, I assure you," Bodie had informed her. He'd then moved his look from her hand to Ray's eyes and dropped his professional guard just a bit as he said to Ray, "She's right, sunshine, we'll go ring shopping when we're done here. Discourage anymore misunderstandings." He grinned and winked at his startled friend and lover.

Doyle, who could remember the last time he blushed very clearly -- he was sixteen and his Mum had just come in on him getting his end away with his current girl -- felt his face getting suddenly hot and knew that he had to be turning bright red. Bodie, of course, was quick to confirm this.

"That's not a particularly attractive color for your face, luv. Red and green always make me think of Christmas."

Ray looked over at Marge to see a distressed look on her face. "Ah, sweetheart, couldn't you have done better than this lout?" She poked Bodie in the ribs with her elbow before concluding, "You're wasting yourself on him, you are."

Up until then Doyle had been befuddled and confused by Bodie's jealous revelation, but suddenly he understood his partner's need for someone to know what they meant to each other. And in spite of appearances, Marge could be very discreet. He stood up, turned, reached down with one hand pulling Bodie up beside him and gave his lover a quick one armed hug. "He suits me just fine, Marge, and I'm lucky to have him watching my back." He winked at her emphasizing the double meaning of what he'd just said.

The woman studied the two men hard as she rose from the sofa, noting the flush and touch of embarrassment stealing up the taller man's cheeks. "You two aren't kidding -- are you?" she sounded surprised to conclude. "Bloody hell!" Marge watched both men for a few more moments before she spoke again addressing Bodie, "He's special," she nodded at Doyle, "You take good care of him."

As she turned and walked out the door Bodie's soft reply echoed in the room, "Always."

Marge sighed, and left the room mumbling something under her breath about, "damn if that old cliché wasn't true after all."

He fingered the ring on his left hand as he remembered the scene. Both he and Bodie now wore wedding rings thanks to Marge.

Back to the business at hand, he mused allowing his mind to return to their company. B and D Security Consultants was a thriving business with enough contracts to keep everyone working full out for years. And that was a problem. They didn't want to overwork their people -- tired people got sloppy -- and currently they still needed to hire at least half a dozen more to maintain their current work load, but they'd kept their standards high and where having trouble filling the positions. The job was fun -- they'd always liked setting up and testing security systems and operations, but the administrative side was a bitch.

They had several ex-Met men whom Doyle knew and could vouch for, also half a dozen ex-SAS -- Bodie or his connections had vouched for them, and even a few CI5 and MI5 agents also worked for them, but finding more that they could trust was becoming difficult. They paid well so they often got the first crack at people looking for a change, but they demanded not only top notch skills but absolute reliability. Anyone they hired had to be vouched for by someone they knew and trusted. And those were getting harder to find. The best source would have been CI5, but they refused to do that to their old organization and boss.

They'd not gone recruiting among its ranks -- in point of fact, they had at first turned down the CI5 agents who'd shown an interest in working for them. Bodie and Doyle did not want to antagonize their former boss by stealing from his already under-manned squad -- but in the end it was the same story. They where married men who'd had enough of the risk and danger: one whose wife was pregnant with their second child and another whose wife refused to even consider having a child until her husband was in a less dangerous position and a third whose fiancé had said CI5 or him -- the woman had chosen to stay engaged and go job hunting. So they'd given in. They needed the manpower, and these people would leave CI5 whether B and D Security hired them or not.

Doyle sighed. With the hiring of the CI5 agents they'd finally heard the truth about what was going on in their old organization. The news from inside was not good. He thought back to the night that they'd taken their two new hires out for celebratory drinks their first day on the job.

***

"S'how'd you like your first day, Kaye? Think it'll offer enough challenge?" Doyle had asked the woman as they sat down at a table at the back of the bar. Bodie and the other new hire had gone to get the drinks.

"Oh, I think so Mr. Doyle--"

"Told you to call me Ray," he remonstrated. As she started to protest he added, "At least when we're relaxing or in private. Mr. Doyle has me looking around for my dad."

She'd given him a cocky grin and nodded her agreement. "At least I won't have the same problem with Bodie. Can't see him telling me to call him William." Ray had choked, laughing so hard, at the very idea. Pam sat back in her seat with a smile.

Pamela Kaye was a bright and efficient, she'd shared Betty's job for the last three years, first as her assistant and then on her own whenever the work load got too heavy -- of late that had been all the time. She wasn't young -- Doyle hadn't a clue as to her age, he'd guess early forties -- she was pleasant looking, and at first seemed quiet, and a bit shy; but he and the rest of the squad had learned quickly on not to get up her nose, 'cause the sparks would fly. He grinned at the memory of the one time he'd actually heard her tell Cowley off.

Their boss had come down rather hard on Betty for not having something done that he'd requested hours before. Betty had left quickly to retrieve the file; the minute she was out of sight and ear shot, Pamela had lit into him in her own subtle and inimitable way. "Next time you want someone who can do eight things at once, I suggest you hire an octopus."

The Controller had turned startled eyes towards her and she proceeded to list, in great detail and exacting terms, all that she and Betty had accomplished that day. Kaye then proceeded to point out that each and every item had been a crisis according to their illustrious leader. God, what Ray would have given to see Cowley's expression when she'd called him that to his face, but hidden around a corner he didn't dare peak again, 'cause he wouldn't miss hearing this for anything. She'd then finished the old man off with, "If you've got this many emergencies, I recommend you look at hiring another assistant."

Ouch, Doyle thought, Right where it hurts him most -- in the wallet. Chuckling at the memory he studied the woman before him.

Amazingly, in only one day on the job, Doyle had watched order spring from chaos at the mere touch of her fingers. Cowley was going to miss her sorely, but there had been no way to talk her into staying with CI5. The man that she'd been keeping company with for the last several years had finally come up to snuff and popped the question. Unfortunately, he'd made it clear that a job where: bombs exploded in the boss' office and a hit man killed the security guard and went after that same said boss, was not a man he wanted his future wife working for. Her fiancÚ worked for the Home Secretary and so had full knowledge of the more notorious incidents in CI5's short history. The danger, coupled with the long hours involved with working for George Cowley, had led him to suggest a job change. Pamela, also wanting to spend time with her soon-to-be husband, acquiesced and sent out her resumé. She'd been in high demand and Doyle and Bodie had been surprised and vastly pleased when she'd accepted their offer.

Shortly they were joined by Bodie and their other new recruit from CI5, Terry Wilfred. They chatted about the new jobs, the direction that Bodie and Doyle hoped to take their year-old company in, and how Pamela's wedding arrangements were going. Mercifully, for the sake of the men listening, she hadn't gone into any great detail. Ray then casually broached the subject that was uppermost in his and Bodie's mind.

"So, how are things going on the squad?"

Terry and Pam exchanged glances and opted for the truth. Terry replied, "Not very well. We've lost three agents in the last year since you've been gone. Got some new up and comers, but no one up to the requirements of A-squad yet."

"Mr. Cowley is trying to restrict what CI5 takes on, but there's so much to do, and so many problem areas, that its resources are stretched to the limit almost constantly." Pam elaborated, "One of those agents we lost was shot in his own apartment as an act of revenge. He died on the way to the hospital. The shooter's dead too. Turns out she was just a pawn in a bigger game, and, of course, the men who used her got off scott free."

"And that doesn't count several cases that have gone very sour." Wilfred did not look very happy at the memory. "When two of our operatives ended up shot by another Brit agency -- well, that's when I figured the wife was right and it was time to change jobs to one with a longer life expectancy."

Doyle and Bodie hadn't pressed for details -- neither man had wanted to hear more -- but the gist of it was that Cowley was hurting without his best team to support him. Ray hadn't realized how much he had depended on them, and he hated to hear that things were going badly, but he also refused to feel guilty. It had been Cowley's choice, and whatever his reasoning, he was paying the price of that decision.

***

Checking the time again, he stretched over and shut off the alarm before it could jar his lover awake. There are much nicer ways to wake Bodie up.

First Ray nibbled his ear, then down to his neck and shoulder; his partner was sleeping soundly -- they'd not got to sleep until very late. Nerves over seeing Cowley again for the first time in almost two years had left both men too taut to find sleep easily. Doyle's gentle caresses merely caused Bodie to wiggle a little, nestling Ray's cock more firmly into his crack.

Ray smiled to himself, If that's how you'd like to wake up, sunshine,'s fine by me.

He reached over and grabbed the lube from the nightstand and, pulling slightly away from his partner, quickly greased himself up. Then he shifted their bodies slightly and inserted himself into Bodie in one long smooth stroke. Damn, bloody marvelous, Ray thought as he paused to enjoy the sensation. His lover apparently agreed with the sentiment because he spoke after a few minutes.

"Well, I'm not Sleeping Beauty and that's not a kiss, but I'd recommend it as a wake up call any day." Bodie stretched and shifted a bit before continuing, "You going to spend the rest of the day like this or are you going to fuck me through the mattress?" He tightened his anal muscles causing his partner to moan in pleasure, "Your choice, but if I get a vote, I'd cast it for a bit of action."

"Your desire is my heart," was Ray's somewhat muddled reply as he began to move deep within his lover's body.

"Ahhh... that's perfect... wish you could do that all day, mate." Bodie groaned as he met Ray stroke for stroke. Doyle's hand reached around and grasped his partner's cock knowing that his dark-haired, blue-eyed lover would not last long under the dual assault.

He didn't. Less than a minute later both men came with groans.

Bodie saw fit to complain, "Why'd you go and do that? Could have drawn it out just a bit longer."

"And made us late for our meeting with the Cow? No way," Ray replied.

"Suppose. Still, if he made any comments, I'd have loved to tell him just what we'd been doing."

"Know it still hurts, luv, but if we're going to do this consult job, we've got to remain professional. And telling our client that we were late because I was screwing you does not project the right image."

"Pity. Still, it'd almost be worth it."

"Booodddie!" Ray's voice held a bit of a threat.

"I'll behave." He shifted and rolled to look at his mate. At the skeptical look he saw on Doyle's face, he added, "Promise." Of course, the big grin and wink that he threw his lover when Ray nodded his acceptance did nothing to assure the green-eyed man.

***

Second Movement: Trio


They'd been in their meeting with George Cowley for almost two hours, and Ray Doyle was getting angrier by the minute. He finally lost it.

"No! No! And NO!! Absolutely not!!! We are not going to be your Judas goats again." Doyle paced across the small room and slammed his fist into a file cabinet. "You know damn well that the assassins are going to go for the bodyguards first and then the Sheik. It's the Parsali business all over again. We were lucky once; you can't pay us enough to take that risk again. We'll advise, run security screens, but you use your own people as bodyguards."

"I would if I could--"

"What's wrong," Doyle goaded, "No one stupid enough to play at being a martyr?"

"No. No one good enough. If I thought any of my people stood a chance, I'd put them in the line of fire -- even if I knew it'd most likely mean their lives -- but after Sinclair was killed and Wilde resigned, I don't have a pair that could stop the hit men. Anson and Murphy will be on sick leave for another four to six weeks at least, and there is no one else."

"Well, then you'll just have to make do with what you have because we don't hire out as targets any more. We're not expendable!"

At the underlying accusation, Cowley for once lost his cool, "You never were expendable! At least not to me. But you were the best, bar none, and no one could touch you. I don't have a team that comes anywhere close--"

"And whose fault is that?"

Doyle's question/accusation hung in the air. All the hurt and confusion that had been buried deep was suddenly brought to the fore. Before anything else could be said Doyle concluded, "We're not taking the job and that's it. We aren't going to risk dying for some Arab who's suddenly decided it's better to talk than fight and as a consequence is now under fire from his old associates." With those words he turned and stormed out the door, slamming it behind him.

Cowley was glad that this one was solid wood -- a glass panel would be in pieces on the floor. He turned to the still silent Bodie expecting to hear his accusations and indictments before he stormed out as well.

Bodie surprised him. He looked up from studying the site plans and spoke, "It's a good plan, sir. I think we can carry it off -- with a few of our own modifications, of course." He let a small grin appear. "It shouldn't be as risky as you think, if we're careful and if we make some changes. For example, you can bet that there is someone on the inside -- absolutely above suspicion, naturally -- who is feeding the assassins information. Our mistake with Parsali was to trust his judgement of his people."

Cowley listened in shock as Bodie continued with his plan. The Controller had come to think of Doyle as the planner of the pair and was suddenly forced to realize that there just might be a more equal distribution in that area than he had previously suspected. It's nice to see three-seven living up to his full potential for a change. I wonder if this is new or have they always shared the responsibility? He shoved the question to the back of his mind and concentrated on what Bodie was saying. He would consider the implications later.

"No one knows why you called Ray and I here, right?" At Alpha One's nod, he continued, "We'll keep it that way. You go on setting up everything as planned, and we will leave as if nothing had been resolved. Just a couple of ex-employees visiting to catch up. Then we'll set up an alternate site, and when the time comes for the meeting our people will take the Sheik and the PM there, and CI5's people will continue with the op just like you've set it up here. Once the major parties have been redirected, then you monitor all communications and hopefully catch the traitor before he informs the assassins; thus they walk into a trap, or fail to make their move. Either way we get the Sheik in and out of the country alive, and his people are responsible after that. If they kill him on his turf, that's not our lookout. And if we happen to help them catch a traitor, well, that will just put him in our debt -- not a bad position to be in."

"That asks a lot of trust, Bodie." Both men were well aware that if Ray and Bodie decided to sell out and arrange the deaths of any of the major parties they could be set for life.

"You've trusted us before, sir. And we were making a hell of a lot less then. I think you know that you can trust us now. Besides, I'm not suggesting that they leave their own security behind, only that no one but us be informed of the real site for the meeting until they actually arrive there. And then no outside communication is to be allowed for the four to six hours you estimate that the meeting will take. If it runs longer than that there could be problems, so try and make it clear to the PM that quick resolutions could mean the difference between life and death, and of course we'll have to make sure that no tracking devices are used on any of the party -- or our own agents for that matter. It's not hard to bug someone without them knowing it, as you should well know." Cowley glared but didn't argue; Bodie had bugged and followed him on more than one occasion. He decided to address his major concern. "Be that as it may, there is no us here right now?"

"Doyle will come round."

Cowley very much doubted it but only said, "You talk to your partner and I'll think about what you propose. Shall we meet in... say... three hours at the Red Lion?"

They shook hands and Bodie left.

George Cowley brooded about what he would do now. It was a good plan and he might even try to execute it, even when B and D Security turned him down. And he had little doubt that turn him down they would. Doyle had always led the partnership, and when he'd left Cowley's office the Controller could tell his mind was made up and that nothing was about to change it. Bodie would follow as always.

He got up and decided to consult CI5's doctor about how much work Anson and Murphy could do. It was possible that while they couldn't work as bodyguards they could set up a safe house for the meeting to be switched to at the last minute as Bodie had suggested. No one was likely to be watching them while they were out on sick leave. Exiting his office, he debated between the lift and the stairs and decided that the way the lift had been running of late the stairs were the more reliable alternative.

Quietly opening the door while lost in thought, he started down the stairs. Before he had got very far Cowley was surprised to hear four-five's voice. He stopped to listen; apparently Bodie had just found his partner.

"You told him we'd take the job, didn't you?" The voice held no anger, no protest, only resignation.

"He needs us, sunshine." Bodie's voice was calm and assured.

"Know that, luv. But I need you, too. You know who's most likely to buy it if anything goes wrong, don't you?" Both men knew that Bodie, who'd be the closest bodyguard to the sheik, would be in the direct line of fire with Doyle a close second as the background guard.

"Well, I've got a few plans, plus I'm going to insist on those new vests from the States: lighter weight, yet stronger, not supposed to slow you down like the ones we've got, and even dum dum's can't do any damage if they can't get into your body. Could still get hurt but most likely not fatal."

"And what about a head shot?" Doyle was not going to surrender easily.

"A professional hit man, with all the security we'll have on, and only one or two shots possible before being stopped. No way, mate. That kind of shot is just too likely to miss. He, or they, will go for the body."

Doyle nodded, surrendering. There had never been any doubt anyway. Bodie wanted it and whatever his partner really wanted he got.

"You just remember if you're wrong to wait for me on the other side. I won't be long in following."

Cowley risked a glance around the corner. Ray was seated on the landing, his back to the wall and his knees drawn up. As he watched, Bodie knelt down beside him and pulled him into his arms. Ray leaned against his mate and rested his head on the dark-haired man's shoulder, his arms came up to pull Bodie closer. Both men giving and receiving the needed comfort.

The embrace lasted no longer than half a minute, but it was enough. Doyle lightened the mood as he pulled away, "So who's springing for the vests?"

"The Cow, of course." Bodie grinned at his partner, "And not just two vests but four. One for you, one for me and one each for the Sheik and the PM."

Ray chuckled, "That's going to go over like a lead balloon with all parties concerned. And what about the old man's budget?"

"Bugger the budget. Cowley wants us; those are the terms of employment." The kneeling man grinned at his seated partner, "Sortta nice being able to dictate terms."

"And if he doesn't spring?"

"Then we don't play." Bodie stroked Ray's hair before continuing, "I want to help the Cow but not at the cost of either of our lives. If he's not willing to spend the money to give us the equipment we need then he's not the man I thought he was and we walk. I won't argue. Deal?"

"Deal," Ray conceded. "So when and where do we meet him again?" he asked as he stood, stretched, and reached a hand down to his partner.

Bodie allowed Ray to pull him up and began to discuss the up coming assignment as they continued on down the staircase, oblivious to the fact that they left a very surprised man standing on the stairs above them whose only thought was, How could I have read him so wrong?

***

Third Movement: March


The operation had gone like clock work. The Sheik and Prime Minister had had a successful, uninterrupted meeting. The Sheik's step-daughter had been caught trying to contact the terrorists with the change in location, and the assassins had walked into CI5's trap. Two dead terrorists, one injured, and no major CI5 casualties, just a few nicks and scratches and one shoulder wound that would keep Stuart off duty for a couple of weeks. B and D Security had lived up to their reputation; Bodie and Doyle were justifiably proud. And any doubts that still remained about whether they could be trusted with high security contracts had been removed by Cowley's hiring them for this job.

CI5's controller was torn between pride -- he'd helped to train them -- and sadness -- he missed them and not just as agents but friends as well. In his job, people he could trust and rely on were few and far between. These two had come as close as anyone in a long time. The sad part was that he doubted that they would feel the same. Yet had he ever really known them?

As George Cowley watched Ray Doyle walk away, he commented to the man beside him, "It seems I didn't know either of you as well as I thought I did."

"Sir?" Bodie was surprised by the statement. If he thought anyone knew him, besides his partner, it was CI5's head.

"I never reckoned you'd live up to your full potential as a tactician. You always preferred to let someone else take the lead -- especially myself or Doyle." He turned and faced Bodie once Doyle was out of sight, a bit of accusation in his tone, "And you let us. Hid that skill, never volunteering... Makes me wonder why?"

They'd come a long way over the years and the last two-and-a-half years with Ray had given Bodie the secure foundation he needed to be honest. "Never wanted the responsibility that kind of planning involved. Was willing to take care of myself and my partner, but didn't want a lot of other lives resting on my decisions -- not if I could help it anyway. I've got better at assuming responsibility over the last couple of years -- has to do with support. Besides, Ray takes too much guilt into himself -- this way if I assume more of the responsibility it's not so hard on him if things go wrong."

Cowley nodded, still a little shaken. Learning this about three-seven had made him wonder just what had really gone on with Bodie's 'breakdown' and that motorcycle gang. Well, the only one that could answer that was Bodie, and maybe Doyle, but he doubted either man was going to talk. It wasn't relevant now anyway; there was something else that had to be said and for once he hadn't a clue how his agents would react. His agents? Yes, he still thought of three-seven and four-five that way. Maybe with the truth?...

"Doyle was always hard for me to read..."

Bodie waited for his ex-boss to continue, but Cowley seemed reluctant to do so. There was something the older man wanted to say; Bodie strove to encourage him. "I still have trouble at times--"

He was interrupted before he could go on. "His emotions appear to be very accessible, he gives the impression that what you see is all there is -- not at all like you. With you everything was buried deep, except how you felt about Doyle; that became apparent to me within the first six months of your pairing."

"Wish you'd told me. Took me a hell of a lot longer to figure it out than that."

"I didn't really think it mattered since four-five was never that involved."

"If you're going to try and tell me that Doyle doesn't give a damn--"

"I'd never try to tell you that; although that's exactly what I believed almost two years ago when I demanded your resignations. Ach, man, I know enough not to try and convince two people in love that it'll never work. No, I figured you'd work it out for yourself within a few months. A year at most."

Bodie angrily interrupted Cowley. He did not like what the Controller was implying about his partner, "You don't know a damn thing about--"

Cowley held up his hand to stop the tirade. "That's become very apparent to me over the last month since I hired the two of you back on this consult. Actually, that first day back when I overheard your conversation in the stairwell, I realized how badly I'd misjudged Doyle's attachment to you. It seems your resignations were -- unnecessary."

"We weren't going to give each other--"

"It was never the homosexual aspect that I objected to--"

"Then what the bloody hell was it?" For two years that question had preyed on his mind. Finally, Bodie realized, he might get an answer.

"I assumed that your relationship with Doyle would follow the same pattern all his other relationships had. I'd never seen any sign from him that his commitment to you was any more permanent than Miss Holly or a myriad of other women who passed through his bedroom with alarming regularity. Your bedroom had quite the revolving door on it as well, if I remember correctly, but it was my belief that you'd give that up for Doyle. I could not say the same for him. And it was my opinion that you would not take the inevitable breakup well. In your job... with the risks involved on a daily basis..." Cowley's voice trailed off and he shrugged, "I was afraid of what would happen as the relationship soured."

"In other words, you thought I'd blow an op and get myself killed in the process--"

"I considered it a distinct possibility, and that four-five's guilt would have him following you right into the ground. Not to mention any bystanders when things went bad. It just seemed wisest to remove you and Doyle from life or death situations until the relationship ended. And since no CI5 assignment is without risks..."

"You figured I'd come crawling back--"

"Not crawling -- never that. I assumed that the relationship would not survive the stresses of being out of work, and after it had fallen apart one or both of you would take some time to get your heads together and then rejoin the squad, working separately, of course. But while I'd loose my best team, I'd still have one or both of my top two agents."

"Well, you might have been right about everything else, but you missed the target a mile when it came to Doyle."

"Yes. You appear to be inaccessible, Doyle actually is. It must have been very difficult to get behind his walls."

"Not really. Don't have a clue as to how and when. Just one day woke up and realized I was there but still..." Bodie broke off. As close as he was to Cowley, what he and Ray shared was too private to discuss with anyone, even George.

The point of this discussion finally dawned on Bodie. "You want us back, don't you? That's what all this is about? You expect us to give up everything we've worked for over the last two years, to go back out and risk our lives on the streets again--"

Cowley interrupted, shaking his head, "No, not on the streets again. I heard Doyle that day on the stairs; he'd turn me down flat if I suggested something like that. He's not about to risk you on a daily basis like that, and if I can still read you at all, laddie, I'd say you feel the same way about him. But I do want you two back."

Explaining was difficult but the Controller was determined, "I'm in my late fifties. If I'm lucky, I can keep up this pace for another ten years, but that's trusting a lot to luck. I need backup I can rely on -- who understands what CI5's all about and who doesn't give a damn about gaining political power -- to help me run the organization both now and in the future. I also need top men to help plan ops and security and to help direct the teams. The job's getting to be too big for one man to do alone. There's more need for our brief now than there ever was before, and I just can't do it all. I think you and Doyle are the men I need to help me position the organization for the future. There is still some risk. I've been the target of more than one assassin, but it's not as dangerous as being out on the street, and the three of us can make a difference." The Controller of CI5 stopped there. He'd made his point. Bodie would take his message and reasons back to Doyle and they'd decide. The future of CI5 was again in the hands of his two most trusted agents.

"And what about the fact that we're involved?" Bodie still doubted that it wouldn't make a difference.

"Ach. As long as you're discreet, I don't give a damn, and I'll make sure the ministers don't either. I'm owed enough favors to guarantee that. You won't be the first pair of homosexuals in government and certainly not the last. I know about the relationship, so that means no blackmail potential. As long as you don't hit the gay bars nor go out dancing together--"

Bodie snorted at this last image. He didn't dance with birds; wasn't about to start with Doyle.

Cowley smiled, No, three-seven wasn't likely to take his partner dancing. He continued, "In this day and age, with the Princess making no secret of her gay friends, and the current more open climate towards gays, no minister is likely to take ousting them up as a cause if they can avoid it. Keep your noses clean, and it won't be a problem.

"And by the time I'm ready to retire in ten years or so -- well, I hope the policy will be that sexual preference is irrelevant." Cowley clapped Bodie on the back and concluded, "Just give it a little time and think about my offer."

Bodie nodded his agreement; he'd think about it. Still, there was one major problem, "I'll talk to Ray, but I'm not making any promises. He was a lot more hurt by your treatment than I was."

"I know. That was another surprise. Doyle's just so damn hard to read at times." The Controller shook his head; Ray Doyle was truly a puzzle box.

Bodie had to smile. Cowley was repeating himself. Doyle must really have him shaken, he decided. He could remember more than a few times he'd felt the same way. When Ray shut himself off like he sometimes did he could be a right pain. And getting an earful of Cowley's reasoning after nearly two years of silence was bound to set the little sod off. For once Bodie was glad that he was just going to be the messenger boy. Let the Cow and Doyle fight it out.

Bodie wined and dined Doyle that night. One of London's best restaurants, then a West End play that his partner had been dying to see, followed by dessert at a popular night spot. Cowley'd pulled the strings to get them tickets to the play, it'd been sold out for months -- whether it was his way of apologizing or he was trying to get on Doyle's good side Bodie hadn't a clue -- but he wasn't about to look a gift cow in the mouth. Then after the play he'd taken his partner for Cherries Jubilee at a nearby restaurant and finally a taxi home.

Doyle had enjoyed himself immensely and was, Bodie thought, relaxed, unsuspecting and ripe for the picking. He should have known better.

***

They'd let themselves into their flat, and as Bodie set the locks and alarms, Ray went into the kitchen to make tea. Sitting at the table waiting for the water to boil, Ray proved that his partner still couldn't put one over on him.

"Okay, mate. Give."

Bodie who'd been leaning with his back against the counter contemplating his feet wondering how to bring up the subject -- not to mention wondering what he himself wanted to do about all Cowley had told him -- looked up, startled. "Give what?"

"Dinner, a play, Cherries Jubilee... I don't get treated this well for me birthday." Doyle smiled at a sudden memory. For his first birthday that they'd spent as lovers, one of his presents had been the gift of Bodie's arse. It'd been at that moment that he'd finally accepted that this was it and for all time. It was a very fond memory. "Don't get me wrong, nothing can top my pressie when we first got together, but you're up to something, so?..."

Bodie sighed. He never could fool his partner for long. He cut to the chase. "Cowley wants us back as Deputy Controllers."

"He what!" Doyle's surprise was punctuated by the whistle of the tea kettle, which made both men jump. He stood to make the tea, but it was obvious that he was distracted by what his mate had told him. Bodie hoped he didn't burn himself.

"Damn!" Ray'd overfilled the pot and cussed as he jerked his fingers out of the way.

"Come on and sit down and let me finish that--" Bodie got up and took over from his distracted lover.

Ray leaned against the counter, staring hard at his partner. Anger at the nerve of the man started to surface. "Now let me get this straight. Two poofs aren't acceptable as agents, but they're just fine as deputy controllers? That doesn't--"

Interrupting before Doyle could get on a roll, Bodie explained, "Seems the homosexual aspect didn't bother him--"

"Well what the fuck--"

"Figured you'd break my heart. Get me killed, then yourself."

"Now why in hell--"

The tea done, Bodie put the cups on the table, then reached out and pulled his lover into his arms. "Seems that our George thought I was just another of your passing fancies."

As what Bodie was trying to tell him finally sunk in, Ray shoved away and paced the small room. Ranting at the world in general and about Cowley in particular. "Of all the stupid, idiotic, moronic, short sighted, narrow minded, penny pinching..."

The words poured forth. Bodie was impressed. Ray had quite a vocabulary when you got up his nose far enough. Cowley was far enough up for brain surgery.

After a couple of minutes, Doyle ran out of steam. Bodie sipped his tea, watching his mate calmly, then spoke.

"You fooled everyone, luv. I didn't know 'til you told me, and I'm a lot closer to you than he is."

"That's not the issue." Doyle was still pacing.

"Well, what--"

"What'd he think? That I couldn't figure out for myself what would happen to you if this went sour -- or me for that matter? Did he think my brains were in my balls!? Why'd he think I waited six bloody years--"

"What the hell do you mean six years? Just when did you start fancying me?" Suspicion laced Bodie's voice.

"The day you walked into the training center and turned your nose up at the entire class." Ray grinned at his flabbergasted partner. He'd thought that Bodie knew this already. Oh well, must have missed it during our heart to hearts.

"You're putting me on," Bodie crossed his arms, he was skeptical.

"Nope." Ray just grinned some more.

"But you knocked me flat on my arse. Acted like you didn't want to be my partner. You couldn't stand me." Bodie said with conviction.

"That was no act, mate, I didn't! Bloody hell! Never had a bent thought in my life, and suddenly this ego-on-legs walks in and I'm noticing what a nice body he has. And those blue eyes -- never seen quite that colour before, could've got lost in them, even back then. S'damn right I didn't want you as my partner." The smile on Ray's face got bigger as he remembered that day, "Got your attention and cooperation with that punch though -- didn't I?"

"You sure did that." Bodie rubbed his jaw in fond memory. "Anyway, that's what the Cow was up to when he demanded our resignations."

"So now he's convinced that I'm not going to dump you."

"Yeah. Guess he figures that two-and-a-half years is a good indication that this isn't one of our passing flings."

Doyle nodded. Finally things made sense. He was still pissed as hell at the old man, but at least he understood his reasoning better. And bottom line, he had been protecting them. True, he'd been wrong, but it made more sense than the idea that Cowley was homophobic. Still, there was a major unanswered question in all of this. He looked at his partner, their eyes met and knew.

He asked it anyway, "So what do you want to do?"

"Ray, love, I haven't got a clue."

Doyle had mulled, brooded, and meditated on all that Bodie had revealed about their ex-boss' motives and machinations. Now that he knew the truth -- as much as he was ever likely to -- he wasn't surprised that the old man hadn't wanted to be the one to tell him. Cowley avoided his temper whenever possible, and a shouting match between the two of them over Bodie would have accomplished nothing but to drive the wedge deeper.

In the end it all came down to three questions: one -- could he forgive the Cow, two -- was he willing to live with the added risk that being a deputy controller would entail, and, finally and most importantly, which job did he and Bodie want more? The answer to the first two was probably yes, but the question of the job was harder to decide.

As head of a well-respected and highly in demand security firm, he and Bodie could name their price, chose the jobs they wanted, and have a great deal of control over the handling of any operation. As deputy controllers they were back under George Cowley again, and there was no doubt in his mind that the biggest problem with that was that he knew for a fact that he couldn't trust the old man. If he thought it was for the good of their country, Alpha One would hang them out to dry again and again. Their six years in CI5 had proven that. There were less than a handful of missions that qualified, and he'd watched their backs when he could, but still... when it came down to it they were regarded as expendable. So going back would mean watching both his and Bodie's backs to make sure they were covered.

He was pretty sure that he could do that. Cowley had a conscience, and that boiled down to the reality that every time he'd set them up he'd telegraphed the fact. So if we're careful and keep an eye out... Still, do I want to sell out and take the CI5 job?

They'd had a couple of lucrative offers for their business since rumors of their possible return to CI5 had surfaced. Their firm with all its contracts was now quite valuable. If they invested the money wisely and didn't live too high on the hog, they could live on it for quite a long time -- fifteen, maybe twenty years. And if the pay for deputy controllers was added into the equation, they should be set for life. Money wasn't likely to be a worry in the future, and Cowley had even said that they could do consults for their old firm provided there were no conflicts of interest. That could bring in a pretty penny, too.

So it was back to the job and the risks involved.

It hadn't mattered back in his twenties when that shield of invincibility seemed to surround him, but loving Bodie and being loved by him had made life all that more cherished, and he wasn't sure that he'd willingly see his blue-eyed lover ever in the role of target again.

So what's the appeal of CI5? Why even consider Cowley's offer? He argued with himself, but he knew the answer -- they both did. They respected and admired the old man, believed in the work that the organization did, and thought that they could make a difference.

He sighed. It was time to talk to the Controller.

***

"I misjudged you. That's the mistake I made, but what would you suggest that I have done?" George Cowley wasn't apologetic nor defensive; he merely stated the facts.

"You could have tried talking to me privately about your fears. Given me a chance--" He saw the Controllers skeptical look and stopped, asking, "What?"

"I never doubted the existence of your feelings, only their durability. I doubt that there would have been anything you could have said at the time to convince me that Bodie wasn't going to be another--"

"There was a difference!"

"I know that now, but only time has convinced me of that fact." At Doyle's start of protest, Cowley hurried on, "Don't forget I've watched you through numerous relationships, and each time you'd appear to be deeply involved, but they never worked out, never lasted. There was no reason at the time to suppose that three-seven was going to be any different. While his level of commitment to you had been apparent since early in your partnership, your commitment to him never appeared to contain the same depth--"

Before he could go on with his evaluation, Doyle interrupted, "You're a fool, George." The Controller was stunned into silence by the man's use of his first name and his statement. Ray propped himself on the window ledge in the Controller's office and went on, "I suppose it never occurred to you that the reason none of my relationships with women worked out was because I was in love with Bodie."

"You showed no signs--"

"I should bloody well hope not!" Doyle's loud voice filled the room; he stood up, strode across the room, his palm slammed hard on the Controller's desk. "I'd had a couple of years doing undercover work with the drugs squad -- learned to hide any feelings I had by the time I joined the mob -- if I hadn't I'd have been dead many times over. And homosexual desires for another man were very high on my list of things to hide." A hard look met his former boss' scrutiny.

"Your psych tests--"

Ray calmed down a bit and perched a hip on the edge of Cowley's desk. "My psych tests showed that I was adaptable and somewhat liberal in my sexual behavior -- they're good, but not that good. They can read stress but not the cause, they can spot desire, but you can fool them about the object of that desire. I just misdirected the interviewer to some of my wilder exploits--"

"So, you'd had other homosexual desires and experiences?"

"Not a one. Shook me quite a bit when I walked into that first training class and fell flat on my arse in lust for one William Andrew Philip Bodie. Quite an awakening for a twenty-five year old heterosexual, I assure you." He paused to remember those first days, shaking his head at the memories, a small smile kissing his lips, then continued his explanation, "Figured it was just a passing thing; so I acted tough, stood up to the conceited sod, and screwed any female who'd let me on the weekends."

Doyle chuckled at the recollection. "Didn't help a damn bit. Fell in lust for his body and then his sense of humor made me fall in love." He pushed off his perch to pace, the memories making him tense as he continued his revelations. He wanted, needed, this man to understand. Without that understanding there could be mistakes in the future that could prove disastrous for all concerned. Cowley had to be aware that for Ray, Bodie came first. The younger man didn't regret the last two years in the least, but the misunderstanding that had led to them couldn't be allowed to repeat itself. It'd been costly enough as it was. Doyle didn't want to think of the people that might still be alive if he and Bodie had remained with the squad.

"I don't know... I've never been able to figure out the whys and wherefores..." Ray fought his natural tendency to hide his emotions as he strove to explain, "I tried to tell myself that it was just time to settle down. 'Cept that I'd been getting serious with a girl over the last few months before the training started and within two weeks of meeting Bodie had broken it off. Blamed it on the stresses of the new job and demands of the training program, but t'was a bunch of shit that. Was Bodie even then." A smile hovered on the younger man's face; the memories were pleasant.

"Figured I'd become a nutter and ought to have had m'self committed. I mean not only to fall hard for a man -- when I'd never been inclined that way before, mind you. But Bodie. I mean BODIE! Walking ego on legs, he was. Or at least that's what I thought until I got to know him."

Cowley sat silently, afraid that any comment he might make would stop Doyle's revelations. Never before had Ray given a glimpse of how his mind worked to the Controller. He doubted that the man had ever opened up to anyone this much -- except for Bodie of course; from Bodie nothing was hidden. This last month of working with the men again had demonstrated that their two-and-a-half years together had given both men the security and confidence to confront and deal with their emotions in a much more open and healthy manner than ever before.

Doyle continued his explanation, "Didn't know whether to thank God or curse the devil when you assigned him as my partner. In the end, I reckoned working that close should cure my adolescent infatuation. Instead, I finally got to see the real person." Ray leaned forward to drive his point home. "He was so scared he wasn't going to make it into CI5. Was the best at all the military and physical stuff, but the police procedures and working with people -- was really hard for him, that. He didn't want to let me see it... Hell, our first couple of weeks as partners, he covered with ego and bluster..." Doyle met Cowley's gaze, "You know what he's like when he's feeling unsure."

The Controller nodded. When Bodie was feeling uncertain, he covered it with posturing and bravado. It made those who didn't know him well think that he was overconfident; when, in truth, it meant that he was at his most insecure. Cowley finally spoke, "He covers well, but, yes, I know what you mean."

Ray nodded, shooting his boss another grin. "I was getting fed up by then, I can tell you, but when that army man washed out... Was almost as good as Bodie, he was. Could tell that that shook my partner.

He didn't say anything -- doubt he could even admit it to himself -- but this time when I offered to help he didn't make any cutting remarks, or smart arsed comments; he took all the help I could give him and worked with me. You know -- one more sarky word from him and I'd have let him hang -- but when he quit hiding and let me see his fear... I was lost. Head over heels in lust and love and it's never changed."

Doyle fell silent, but Cowley waited; he could sense that there was just a wee bit more to come. The final bit of truth was revealed, "All those birds... I'd just get tired of getting nowhere with my straight partner and try and give up on him... find someone else to love." Ray studied the floor and walls a bit then turned and faced his boss again. "I'm not a masochist, you know. Mooning over someone I can never have isn't my style. So I pretended to myself and them that they meant something -- all driven and intense, this had to be the one -- yet when it came down to it," Ray shrugged, "no one ever came close to Bodie." He shook his head, a sadness seemed to hang over him. "Guess I hid it too well. You never saw it because my behavior towards him never changed; I'd felt that way for him from damn near day one."

"Ach, laddie, I still don't see how I missed it..."

The younger man raised his eyebrows and smiled, asking, "You ever study magic, sir?"

Cowley looked puzzled, What the hell did that have to do with anything?

Seeing his boss' displeasure, Doyle shoved down a smile and went on to explain, "It's mostly a matter of misdirection. Making everyone watch your left hand, while it's the right that's picking the pocket."

The Controller nodded. The spy game was a lot like that as well. His irritation rose as Doyle seemed to change the subject yet again.

"Can twist Bodie around my little finger -- you know?"

Cowley nodded; that had been apparent from early on in the partnership. In fact, he'd found that aspect of their pairing very worrisome. Independent, bloody-minded, Bodie would almost never refuse anything Ray Doyle wanted. Even when he couldn't get three-seven to listen, Doyle could.

"Can read Bodie too. Understand him. Know when somethings really important."

Another change of subject had Alpha One ready to read the riot act to the younger man. Needs to learn to stick to a topic, not meander around hill and dale, he groused to himself. He still wasn't willing to get up Doyle's nose, he hadn't said he'd come back to CI5 yet.

The Controller's temper finally flared, "Your point?"

"I always made sure that Bodie got what he wanted. Just made sure that no one noticed that was what I was up to." His ex-boss looked skeptical. Ray elaborated, "Remember that restaurant bombing that injured Bodie and almost killed his current bird and how mad he was?"

"No one was going to get in his way on that..."

"I could have, you know. If I'd wanted to. We had it out, stared each other down, but I gave in and didn't fight him too hard on it. Then there was that time with the biker gang; let him get away with that, too, didn't I?"

"And what that did you let him--" Cowley was never one to pass up an opportunity to confirm his suspicions.

Doyle shook his head in denial. "Sorry, that's between Bodie and me. But I let him have his head and supported him all I could -- even though he wouldn't tell me what was going on.

"Was simple, really, to misdirect everyone. Just made my stands and won my battles with things that didn't really matter to him. When it counted, let him have his way."

"I'm surprised that I never caught on."

"Why should you? Wasn't you I was trying to hide it from so much as Bodie." Doyle had stopped his pacing and was perched back on the window ledge, his legs stretched out in front of him, he studied his trainers intently, "I knew early on, if he ever suspected how I felt, he'd either break the partnership or treat me like a doormat. Wasn't about to let either happen. Worked so hard at hiding it that I had everyone fooled -- myself included, most of the time."

Ray chuckled, "Eventually I realized that he was starting to care and tried to let him know how I felt; dumb crud missed all the cues. Finally had to practically hit him over the head with it for him to figure it out."

A huge smile appeared on Doyle's face as he concluded, "We got there in the end, and that's what counts." The revelations were over, and Cowley doubted that he'd ever again be given an opportunity to look so deeply into the heart of the young man before him, but once was enough. Only death would separate the pair of them.

Doyle moved the subject on, "So, Bodie says you want us back as operational coordinators?"

Cowley nodded, accepting that the subject of his agent's relationship was now closed. "I need you two. You're good. Best I've seen, and I think that together we could really make some progress. These last two years have been more standing still, or losing ground, than making any headway at setting up a genuine criminal intelligence organization. Not to mention not making headway against several terrorist groups. Our funding has increased significantly, yet I've not been able to make good use of the added funds: too many projects, too few agents, and no one else who has a clear grasp of the big picture. You two could do that."

"And risking us? Setting us up? Using us in dangerous situations because we're the best?" Doyle was still very leery of losing his mate.

"I can't promise never to do it -- the pair of you are too damn good -- but you can bet that it will be only in the most desperate of circumstances--"

Looking just the slightest bit hostile, Doyle stared his boss down. "Then I guess we'd better reserve the right in our contracts to turn down any operation we're not comfortable with--"

"Don't be ridiculous, Doyle; I can't grant you something like that."

"You will if you want us back. Look, neither of us has talked about it, but you'd better just assume that if you lose one of us, you're going to lose both." He watched the Controller carefully to see if he was getting the message. He was.

Doyle drove home the point, "If we end up that good in the jobs that you've got planned, then losing both of us is not something that CI5 could afford. It's part of our judgement call." As Cowley started to interrupt, Doyle held up his hand. "And don't try to tell us that it'll never happen. It's happened one too many times for me to believe that.

Besides, even if I trusted you, there are several ministers, heads of other organizations, the Home Secretary... Well, you get the idea. They just might consider us expendable, but if we've got a right of refusal clause... One, we've got a way out, two, it might discourage them from trying anything on, and, finally, if they do, you can point the clause out to them and tell them your hands are tied."

"And if I agree?"

"I never could refuse Bodie."

"If you're just doing it for three-seven's sake--"

"No. I want it, too. Maybe even more than him, but not if it means losing him. Or for that matter, having to live with that fear eating away at me on a daily basis. So what's it to be?"

"I'll have the contracts drawn up for the pair of you to sign. How soon could you be ready?"

Doyle thought about it. "Well, we've got a very good offer -- from a couple of good men, too. Ex-CI5 and ex-MI5, Smithers and Weston. One's too old, and the other's out on disability -- neither man wants to retire nor sit behind a desk and push paper. The security firm is a good compromise -- not as risky or physically demanding as being a field agent, yet you're not stuck behind a desk all day. Bodie and I had got to like it quite a bit, especially after Pamela came to work for us and took over the worst of the admin."

"They're good men," Cowley observed. "Not able to do the type of bodyguard work that the pair of you do, but they can either hire someone or concentrate on their corporate clients, and the spare government contract, of course. And as for Ms Kaye, you were very lucky to get her."

"Know that. You do know that we never hired someone that we thought would stay with CI5?"

"Aye, lad. The ones you hired would have left no matter what. CI5 isn't for everyone. I'll make good use of you and Bodie if you come back."

"Loaning us out to other agencies, you mean. Going to use us to accumulate some favors I'd be willing to bet."

"Ah, laddie, you've got to make wise use of your resources." Doyle thought that the Cow looked incredibly smug at the prospect of other government groups queuing up for Bodie and Doyle's services. Seeing four-five's look of mild disgust, he added, "Don't worry; CI5 plans to make full use of the pair of you. I'll be loaning you out only in very special circumstances."

George Cowley reached into his desk and pulled out a bottle and some glasses. Doyle grinned; this was the very best stuff. He watched as his future boss poured. Before he could put the bottle up, Ray said, "Better pour another one." At the old man's raised eyebrow, Ray glanced at his watch and elaborated, "Bodie's due in about three minutes -- assuming of course that he--" A knock on the Controller's door stopped him in mid-sentence.

Cowley pulled out another glass and poured a generous measure before raising his voice and calling, "Come in and have a drink, man."

Bodie opened the door, glanced at Cowley, then at his mate, and a huge grin appeared. He shut the door, walked over and grabbed his glass.

"So, when do we start, sunshine?"

The Controller answered before Ray had a chance to. "So, you two had already decided to take the jobs before my meeting with Doyle?"

"No, sir," Ray replied. Cowley looked puzzled. For all of Doyle's claims that his and Bodie's partnership was equal, he still seemed to be the one leading.

Realizing what was disturbing the older man, Bodie tried to give him some more insight into how he and Doyle worked together. "We both had our doubts, but I knew Ray would be the better negotiator, be able to explain things better. I could tell from his expression when I walked in that he'd got what we wanted, so he'd agreed for both of us. If he hadn't, I was here to join in the negotiations and keep tempers under control."

The smug look of superiority that Bodie shot his boss got right up Cowley's nose. He held his tongue. It was quickly becoming apparent that the old double act had risen to even greater heights. Ah, well, if nothing else, it'll keep me on my toes, he mused to himself. Better not let them think that they can get the upper hand.

Before he could say anything, Doyle raised his glass. "Don't know 'bout you two, but negotiating is thirsty work. How about a toast to the future?"

The three men raised their glasses in salute and then drank the liquor down, determined that together they'd make a difference.


~ C'est fini pour maintenant ~


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