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The Tangled Web
Part 2
by Jack Reuben Darcy


Title: The Tangled Web - Part 2
Author: Jack Reuben Darcy
Author's Website: none
Fandom: The Professionals (X-over with "The Chief")
Pairing: Raymond Doyle / William Bodie
Rating: NC-17 (m/m sex); drama
Author's Disclaimer: They don't belong to me...
Series/Sequel: Part 2 of "The Tangled Web"



II.



Bodie pulled the curtains closed without actually showing his face at the bedroom windows. Ray locked the doors downstairs, then put on a light in the spare room, just in case. Then he came in and Bodie turned to look at him, astonished all over again that this was indeed Ray.

Willing, eagerly, Ray came into his arms, kissing him with the ferocity of old, the passion he'd always loved in his partner. Demanding and yet yielding, Ray drew him to the bed and undressed them both.

The light was left on.

Now Bodie could look and touch and feel as much as he wanted to. And he went slowly, exploring every facet of Doyle's face with loving kisses before drawing him down onto the bed. He kept his eyes open, even during the kisses, wanting to recall and remember who it was he was with. For now and for later. He wanted to make a new memory, to replace all those old ones where he'd tried to erase the pain of losing this man. From now on, there would be no more. Never again would he go looking for someone to kill the pain, to replace what he'd lost. It was here, in his arms now, even if this was the last time they could hold each other. No young lookalike would ever replace this so no other man would ever share his bed again. For there were no other men -- there never had been. There had only ever been Ray.

His hands moved eagerly over that wonderful body. Carefully and joyfully, he traced old familiar scars then happily found a few new ones. With each discovery, he made Ray tell him the story in full, ekeing out the pleasure with laughter and truth. He meandered over the past, the years missing between them, collecting not facts, but honesty in his travels. Doyle held nothing back, giving him what he needed with the same openness he'd always loved in the man. And still he worked his way across skin and muscle, across the soft fur on the chest, down to the hardness at the groin. There he lingered, tasting, feeling, enjoying, bringing Ray to the brink twice before moving upwards again. With a smile, he rolled Ray over onto his stomach and began all over on his back, kissing and stroking, finding the marks of the surgery from that shooting so long ago. Down to the perfect buttocks, still taught after all these years. Down the legs and the hard muscles before going back to that incredible rear.

"Do you," he murmured between kisses, "Still wear jeans?"

A rumble of laughter was muffled by the pillow around Doyle's face. "Occasionally. Why?"

"Good thing I never saw you in them."

"Why?"

"I would have recognized you from behind."

More laughter. "God, I love you, Bodie."

In response, Bodie sank his teeth gently into the smooth flesh, making Ray groan. Then he slid his fingers between the crack, raking over the intimate pucker of flesh. Instantly, Doyle spread his legs to give Bodie greater access. Bodie explored further, only just able to contain his growing urgency. But he had to -- he knew what he wanted and he knew it would take time.

Deliberately he raked his fingers over the soft sac, pressing his thumb to the entrance to Doyle's body. Involuntarily, Doyle humped his hips into the bed.

"Slowly, now."

"I know," Ray whispered hoarsely. "But Bodie, you're killing me. You have no idea what it's like being wanted by you. That's why I couldn't refuse you at the retreat -- even though I knew I should. Nobody has ever touched me the way you do."

"You mean, you've never slept with other men? Apart from Cade?"

"No, never. And that night with Cade was far more innocent than anything we used to do together."

Stupidly pleased, Bodie kept up his attentions, making Doyle groan again. Knowing he wouldn't last much longer, Bodie rolled him over again and settled between his legs, stretching out over him before kissing him once more. The kiss more than anything scored up memory, made it the present, burned itself into his memory. Then, as Ray tried to move against him, Bodie broke off and moved south again. There he cradled the hard shaft between his hands and took the head in his mouth. Instantly, Doyle arched into him, and he began to suck, hard and rough. He worked his hands on the balls, sent a finger into the anus but still his mouth worked strong, taking the love as it was given to him. All the while, he kept his eyes open, watching Ray writhe on the bed, his fists clenching the sheets, his back arched, thrusting into Bodie's mouth, crying out, panting, whimpering.

Bodie's heart sang. With a sudden jerk, Ray twitched and hot liquid flew into Bodie's mouth, again and again. He drank it down greedily until there was no more, draining Doyle and leaving him a limp mess. With a grin from ear to ear, he spread himself beside the man, head up on his arm and waited for the recovery.

It began with a kiss, Doyle tasting himself in Bodie's mouth. Then arms came around him and words of love whispered, words of old, the way they'd been before, years ago, when they'd been happy.

And then Bodie was swept away by the inexorable flood of Ray's passion. Now on the receiving end, he relaxed back and let Ray ravage his body - but after sucking Ray, he was already too near. Ray backed off a bit, resorting to innocent massage to bank the flames. When he could, Bodie reached for Ray's half erection again, working it and making it full. Groaning, Ray pinned him down, planting moist kisses along his jaw, nibbling on his ear.

"What do you want, Bodie?"

"You." Bodie smiled, more content that he'd been in fourteen years. "That's all I've ever wanted."

A dry chuckle rumbled through Ray's chest, "And how do you want me?"

A spike of thrill sent his erection trembling, the image in his mind enough to almost set him off. With only the greatest effort, he bit his tongue and kept silent.

"On my back?"

Bodie moaned but said nothing. Torture could be exquisite.

"Can I take you in my mouth?" Doyle worked each word with deliberate seduction, knowing full well the effect he was having.

Bodie could have laughed -- if his urgency hadn't been so near-painful. Between his thighs, Doyle moved gently, sending shivers cascading over his body. Then a hand went down, brushed over his erection, across this balls and beyond. Then that deep voice came again, wanting and alluring, dizzying and full of love.

"That's what you want, isn't it?"

Bodie could only nod.

"Is it?" Doyle insisted, catching his teeth playfully on Bodie's jaw. "Tell me you want me to fuck you."

"I want you to fuck me." Bodie replied automatically, only realizing seconds later, that Doyle was already between his legs, lifting them apart, pushing his fingers in that place, slick with something Bodie hadn't noticed him preparing. Instantly, Bodie raised his hips and waited, breath held, until Doyle slid into him. The pain was sharp, necessary and fleeting. It had been a long time; he'd never let another man take him like this, this alone was Ray's. He felt filled both inside and out, overtaken completely by the delicious sensation of Ray within him, dwelling on it, wanting it, needing it. A moan, deep and raw, fell from his lips just before they were caught by Doyle's. Buried inside him now, Doyle didn't move, simply contenting himself with commanding Bodie's mouth, tugging the now bruised lips.

"Please, Ray," Bodie whispered between kisses. "Please move. I can't take much more."

"Tell me you love me."

"I love you. I love you, Ray. I love you so damned much."

And Doyle began to move, slowly and deliberately, elongating the pleasure for both of them, easing himself in and out, touching things inside Bodie he'd forgotten all about. With each thrust, he inched closer to the edge, desperate for release, but not wanting it to end. He held Doyle to him, hands on those perfect buttocks, urging Doyle with him. This was his Ray inside him now, making love to him, joining them, tearing away the years with every murmur. He was complete now, no longer empty, no longer wandering across that wasteland, lost. They moved together, always together, slowly, stretching time until it seemed endless. Then -- then, long after he thought he would die from it, Bodie felt the flesh inside twist together, his soul crying out, matching pace for pace, controlling him from within, tightening and flooding forth.

With a harsh groan, he jerked in Doyle's hand, flooding his abdomen. Still Doyle's thumb worked over the head until there was nothing left. Only then did Doyle thrust once more and with a cry, Bodie's name on his lips, he emptied himself deep inside Bodie again and again until he was empty. Little more than a limp rag now, he carefully withdrew, fell on the bed alongside Bodie and gathered him up in his arms.

"Always loved," Doyle murmured into the perfect silence, "watching you come. I love you, Bodie."

"I love you, Ray." And Bodie pulled him closer, ignoring the fact that in a few short hours, he would have to leave. They might make love again before then -- probably would -- but ultimately, it didn't matter. For the moment -- and for the rest of his life, he had all he wanted right here in his arms.

And with any luck, that might just be enough.

***

Alan Cade turned off the kitchen tap, put his mug into the dishwasher and headed into the hallway. He shrugged on his jacket, picked up his briefcase and headed out the door to where Jack awaited him. The late summer morning was grey and overcast, warning of a sweltering day to come. The worst of it was, he would spend it in some dreary hall in London, wiling the day away with endless discussions on various points of police procedure.

Jack smiled goodmorning and then they were off. For a change, Cade sat in the back; he had papers he wanted to look over on the journey and he knew he would make a mess. Jack kept up his usual light conversation, only talking when he knew Cade wanted to, keeping silent when Cade had his head down. After an hour, it began to rain heavily and Jack had to slow down on the motorway.

Finished with his work, Cade settled back in his seat and watched the countryside slip past as the rain lightened to a drizzle. Passing cars lifted the water up in a hazy mist, their lights flashing past as small yellow beacons.

Elena was due back tomorrow. He could hardly contain his anticipation -- and found meetings like this one today, more and more tedious. He understood their importance in the long run, but it was sometimes hard to remember that these small things were part of the larger picture, imperative to his ability to do his job well.

Inevitably the subject of his drugs project would come up during the discussion breaks. Now, two months into the second trial, figures were beginning to present themselves -- and it all looked good. Not that anything concrete had been proved; nobody would assume that. No, it was more that there was now growing evidence to suggest a full scale trial in a couple of the larger cities -- with government approval. He'd already had some tentative suggestions put his way; a few words murmured over dinner, the odd scrap on a division memo. It was going to happen. Soon. From all he had seen so far, he felt reasonably confident there could be some kind of constructive move made. If they could get Glasgow, Edinburgh and perhaps Birmingham in on a proper year-long trial, there would be sufficient data presented to prove his case. And if that happened...

No. Best not to get too far ahead of himself. There was still a chance of too many things going wrong.

But Elena would be back tomorrow. She'd been gone three months and so much had happened in that time -- not that he could tell her about most of it. He couldn't mention a word about finding Bodie again, about falling in love all over again -- and then denying all possibility of a proper relationship. If she asked him again why he didn't find himself somebody, he already had his answer prepared.

But he could tell her about the drugs program and he knew she would be pleased. She'd want to know all about it -- and some of the things the public didn't know. So far the public response had been quiet -- a kind of wait and see attitude he rather liked. Not only that, but since it became public that he had started the trials in the other regions, his popularity had increased within Eastland; as though the people were rather proud that their Chief was leading the country in the drugs battle.

Oddly, though his own officers had been less than enthusiastic in the beginning, they too had begun to see the benefits of the program - and since it had started in the other regions, they too had been proud to know that they had broken new ground on what was otherwise a blatantly hopeless struggle.

The grey outskirts of London approached and his thoughts turned again, as they always did now, whenever he came into the city. Would Bodie be at the meeting today? Would they get a chance to talk? Would he feel just as bad again when they parted -- as he did every time?

Seeing Bodie was both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Since that night after the arms bust two months ago, he'd seen the man five times. Each time had been the same. They'd made an effort to build a friendship, to talk as they'd once done, to find some middle ground they could occupy safe from the scavengers. There'd also been a few phone calls, particularly in the first couple of weeks after they'd parted. Long phone calls where each had talked long about difficult things they'd not spoken about before. Clearing the air in a way they couldn't afford to do face to face.

As the car threaded its way through the city towards Whitehall, Cade couldn't stop that sense of anticipation that grew inside him. Hell, if Bodie wasn't there, he'd be so disappointed. And then he was there, the rain had stopped and he was getting out of the car.

The building was as grey as the sky and he went in, found the meeting room and spent the first twenty minutes shaking hands and catching up with people. He tried not to look for Bodie. But in the end, he didn't need to.

"So you emerge from the dark north at last."

The words cut into the silence left over from a conversation just ended. Cade was alone and turned slowly to look at the other man. Bodie wore a dark suit, a crisp white shirt adding perfect contrast, stunning as always. Those blue eyes studied him without giving anything away and Cade, ever mindful of where he was, reached out and shook the proffered hand. "It's good to see you again, Bodie. How have you been?"

"Oh, the usual. Too much work, too little money to play with, too many boots that need licking. Can't say I ever thought I'd be playing this game at my age."

"You mean you prefer getting shot at?"

Bodie smiled and Cade saw a lot of interesting shared history in that look. "Yeah, well, if I could do all this and avoid getting shot at at the same time, it might be bearable -- but the bastards still think I'm a target so now I'm doing two jobs. What about you? Isn't Elena due back tomorrow?"

Cade nodded and tried to ignore the fact that people were taking seats and these precious few seconds would be over soon. "That's right. I'd like you to meet her. You should come up for lunch or something."

A pale frown creased Bodie's brow, his gaze moving to take in the rest of the room. "Perhaps."

And then they had to move apart and take their seats, concentrate on the work of the day, get things accomplished, do their jobs. But as every moment of the day wore on, Cade became more certain that Bodie would never go to Eastland, would never meet Elena, would never allow himself the chance to be alone with Cade.

And he knew why.

So, at least now he knew he wasn't alone in the way he felt about these brief meetings. And why the phone calls had dropped off. He'd not called Bodie lately either. It was as though they were both backing off, to give themselves time to put some distance between everything that had happened between them -- so they could live with the reality that they would never be together again.

But did that mean they couldn't try to be friends? There was no reason they shouldn't. Every reason they should. But if being friends meant they would both feel like this -- should they try? Wouldn't that only make it worse?

Perhaps Bodie was right; perhaps they should make as clean a break as their jobs would allow. Perhaps they should just back right off and hope that six months, or even a year would help them learn to live with it.

When Bodie spoke to him again at the end of the day, he didn't mention lunch with Elena. The conversation remained on work and as he left, Cade realized he hadn't seen Bodie smile again since that first moment in the morning.

It was only as he was on his way home that he noticed he hadn't smiled either.

***

As Bodie drove up the long avenue and caught his first glimpse of the house, he let out a low whistle. Doyle had certainly made some interesting friends in his long and chequered career. Sir David Lowe was a banker from a long distinguished family. Four generations back had built this house, more recently added to by David and his father. Now, the mansion stretched out among glistening green gardens littered casually with ancient oak and spruce. He even had his own private golf course on the south side of the building.

Tires scattered gravel as he parked in the shade alongside a few other expensive vehicles. There was a man to greet him and show him inside and this time he controlled his reaction to the high painted ceilings after Giotto, the gilt framed Holbiens along the passage and the Ming China in the cabinets. With a quiet word of announcement, he was shown into a parlour facing the golf course where twenty or so people turned to welcome him. Sir David introduced him to a few others before bringing him up to Doyle -- or Cade as he had to remember now.

Musn't call him Ray. Must call him Alan. Have to remember. That's all gone now. Nothing left but the pain. This is Alan and Alan can't afford to love Bodie.

No matter how much Bodie loves Alan.

A glass of white wine was pressed into his hand and he turned his attention to Doyle for a moment, taking in as much as he dared before gazing out of the window. Gentle conversation flitted around him but he was largely deaf to it. In the three weeks since he'd last seen Doyle, he'd thought of nothing else in his spare hours. Now that he had something to fill them with, they suddenly, after so many years, seemed much longer and much emptier.

Never know what you've got till it's gone.

Twice.

"I didn't think you'd come." Doyle said evenly, turning to stand beside him, his gaze ostensibly ranging over the lawn bathed in morning sunlight.

"Why not? I don't work all the time -- that's your job, not mine."

"Yeah?" Doyle smiled, "I never thought Cowley ever took time off."

"That's because Cowley didn't trust anybody to do his job when he wasn't there."

"And you do? I thought you didn't trust anybody."

"I don't." Bodie flickered a glance at Doyle before adding. "Except you."

"Then why did you come?"

"Why do you think?"

He felt Doyle's gaze on him but didn't turn. Fortunately, Sir David announced that lunch was served and the exodus split the two of them up. Bodie found himself cornered by a beautiful blond and used it as an excuse to stay away from Doyle. Damn him -- he'd bloody come all this way so he could see Doyle and now he couldn't bear to talk to him.

But the blond was good company and over lunch, he deliberately worked to make himself relax and enjoy the day. Seated around a long table, Sir David made little effort to govern the conversation -- rather he seemed to prefer to hear the opinions of the influential people in his company. The conversations flitted from one topic to the other but Bodie noticed Doyle taking little part in any of them. Right up until somebody asked him about the drugs program.

It was extraordinary. As though he simply stepped into another persona, Doyle changed visibly. He warmed to his topic, choosing his words carefully to gain the maximum effect. Questions were thrown at him, some of them quite hostile -- but he fielded them all, never losing control of the discussion, never ignoring an important point, always appearing to listen and consider any opposing opinion. Without ever expressing any certainty about anything, Cade nevertheless gave the impression of believing deeply in what he was trying to do, his passion for his cause obvious to everyone at the table. Once again it seemed obvious that with his quiet determination, Cade had won a few more supporters without even realising he was doing it.

Sir David turned the conversation to something else, keeping Cade involved -- and Bodie continued to watch without ever becoming involved. He found he could talk to the blond without losing track of where Cade was, what he was saying -- even though they sat at opposite ends of the table. For his part, Cade never once looked at Bodie and for that, he was glad. This was hard enough as it was.

But, god, it was wonderful to watch him! To just be in the same room with him, breathe the same air, listen to that voice, see those green eyes in so many different moods.

Ray had changed over the years. Some of the changes were fundamental, others more subtle but strangely, none of them detracted from the man. Instead, they appeared more as an enhancement to the character he'd been so attracted to years before. They added a depth to Ray that mere time could never give.

The fire that had always burned inside Ray had perhaps lost the worst of its fireworks, but instead it was now a permanet glow of bright coals, bringing warmth to more people in the process. Ray had been right in one way -- Doyle no longer existed -- but neither did Cade. No, it was more that Ray lived on in this Cade -- as Alan lived on in this Doyle. Somehow, over the years as he'd grown, Ray had managed to make himself more than the sum of this two parts -- and with a belated twinge of regret, Bodie realized he was hopelessly in love with both of them.

After coffee, people wandered outside. The majority sauntered off in the direction of a small outbuilding where Sir David kept his golf equipment. Something of an obsessive on the subject, he kept shoes and clubs and balls and everything, often holding these lunches mainly as an excuse to get people over to play. Bodie wasn't so keen. Instead, he found himself standing on a portico, gazing down at a fountain surrounded by a low wall. Tiny neat hedges bordered a circular path around the fountain before heading off into bigger trees and something of a small wilderness. Feeling the sun on his shoulders, Bodie took a few steps down towards and turned back to look at the elegant mansion. With his eyes on the ornate porticos and the lead lined roof, it was a moment before he realised he wasn't alone. Ray wandered towards him, a knowing smile on his face.

"Grandeur or decadance, Bodie -- what do you see?"

"I," Bodie shrugged, "see both."

Doyle nodded, shooting a glance of his own towards the house. "I didn't think you'd want to play golf."

He couldn't help it; he smiled. "Oh? And why not?"

Doyle came down the stairs beside him, his hands stuffed into his trouser pockets. Together they made it down to the fountain. "Nothing so tame for you."

Bodie risked a glance around -- they were entirely alone. Then he turned his attention to the man beside him and for the first time, took note of every aspect from the light tan trousers to the deep green sports shirt. That hair was still too short -- but perhaps a little longer than the last time he'd seen. The face, so damned beautiful, so captivating, was tanned from the long summer, the green eyes light with the afternoon sun. Doyle appeared wholly relaxed and totally at home.

"What about you?" Bodie asked, coming to a halt before the fountain. "I would have thought golf would be good for your career."

"Oh, I play every now and then."

"Any good at it?"

Doyle glanced sideways at him, a half-smile, half-grimace on his face, "Sir David refuses to play with me now."

Bodie had to laugh. "So was it you who got me the invitation?"

"What? Here? Oh, no mate, that wasn't me. Sir David wanted to meet you -- and so did a couple of the others."

"And you had nothing to do with it?"

Doyle laughed, "Christ, Bodie, I'm not Machievelli. David asked me if I thought you would come. I said it was unlikely knowing your schedule. He asked me to try and persuade you -- but then you accepted and I didn't need to."

"But why should he ask you to convince me?"

Doyle sat on the low wall and looked up at him, "I told him we're friends. He knows how important you are and the fact that, in some ways, going from 6 to CI5, you've come in from the cold. He likes to be a bit of a power broker, introducing all the right people to all the right people. During the week, he plays with money, on the weekends, he plays golf. Basically he's harmless."

Bodie nodded, "And I'll bet you're on excellent terms with fifty Sir Davids."

"Well," Doyle shrugged, "you can't be a Chief Constable without rubbing shoulders with his kind. Don't dismiss him, Bodie. It's men like Sir David that make things happen higher up. The politicians are the short haul players. It's the corporate managers, the high rollers that make all the big plans. If you want to get something done, show somebody how they can make a profit out of it and they'll be on your side."

Bodie nodded again, folding his arms, "So, how can you make your drugs program into a money making venture?"

With a snort, Doyle replied, "Not sure I can -- but I can make it look like it is -- or rather, a means by which people can stop losing money -- the same thing in the long run. What about you? I've heard you've been having a few problems?"

Bodie shrugged and glanced away: it was just like Doyle to know stuff nobody outside the squad would know. Time to change the subject, "Has Elena come back safe and well?"

There was a long pause before Doyle replied, "She started back at classes this week. The house seems full and noisy all of a sudden. I'd gotten used to being alone again."

Unable to stop himself, Bodie's gaze returned sharply to Doyle - but he didn't pursue his first line of thought. No. That was off limits. Forever. "What's she like?"

Doyle's eyes took on a light he'd never seen before. It was nice. "Funny, vivacious, full of the passion of youth. She'll make a damn fine lawyer one day -- though how she finds the patience to do the work never ceases to amaze me. I..."

"What?"

Doyle looked up, "I would like you to meet her. It just might make it..."

"A bit easier?" Bodie replied softly. As if anything could.

"Something like that."

Bodie could only nod, knowing exactly what Doyle meant. "Yeah, well, maybe one day. But not yet."

"I understand."

God, why did every conversation they had these days, end up like this? Down in the doldrums. Bodie hated it. Hated knowing that he couldn't make Doyle really smile any more, couldn't do anything to break down that perpetual wall of isolation Doyle carried around with him everywhere. That protection he needed to keep the secret of his past. Bodie knew all about it now and Doyle shouldn't have to remain quite so isolated. There were things he needed to share and Bodie wanted to do that sharing, wanted his shoulders to be the ones to lighten the burden. Christ, why should Doyle have to do the whole thing on his own? Couldn't he have a chance at a little peace, a little trust? Bodie knew everything; Doyle didn't need to pretend with him -- and yet, here they were, trying to build a friendship that could never be as it was simply because, of necessity, both of them had to deny a vital part of themselves in the process. They lied to each other with every word -- even though it was the truth that kept the lie before them.

Did it have to be like this? Wasn't there some way they could have what they wanted -- and be together at the same time?

"I see you made a friend at lunch," Doyle said into the silence.

Bodie glanced down to see Doyle watching his feet. Bloody great idiot. As if Bodie could seriously contemplate being with anybody the way he felt at the moment. Nevertheless, it might give him an angle he needed. "Yeah, well, you know how the ladies love the charm."

It worked. Doyle glanced up with a grin. "It's the power they love, Bodie, not the face."

Well, you love this face, Bodie replied silently. Out loud, he added, "But it's the charm that kills them. C'mon, let's give this golf thing a go. After your brave claim about your friend, I have to see just how good the Doyle aim is after all these years."

Doyle nodded and stood up. "Obviously I don't need to play you at golf to see how the Bodie ego is going after all these years."

Bodie laughed outright and together they walked towards the small hut. By now, everybody was out on the greens, at various different stages of their games. The hut was empty and Doyle led Bodie inside.

It was a little dark after the sunshine and Bodie had to let his eyes adjust -- and he let out another low whistle. Along one wall was a rack, floor to ceiling, with shelves with golf shoes of all sizes. On the opposite wall were three sets of clubs in neat roller carts -- space for another dozen empty beside them. Umbrellas and a battery powered buggy stood against the remaining wall. "This guy really is obsessed, isn't he?"

"Like you wouldn't believe. Here, let's get you some shoes. David won't have street shoes on his greens." Doyle began wandering along the rows, checking the sizes as he went. He pulled out a pair, knelt down and placed one alongside Bodie's right foot. Not happy, he put them back and took out another pair. He tried again.

Bodie, couldn't help but laugh at the situation. "Now this is one for the tabloids, sunshine."

"Eh?" Doyle murmured, concentrating on what he was doing.

"CI5 Controller has Chief Constable on his knees, kissing feet."

A rumble of husky laughter filled the small hut as Doyle rose, his head shaking. With one shoe, he slapped Bodie's behind -- none too gently at that. "You must learn to take these things seriously, mate, or Sir David will never invite you back."

"But I am being serious," Bodie replied, deadpan. "If the shoe fits?"

Another laugh and Doyle turned back to the rack. "For your feet - or your ego? Dunno if they make them that big." Deliberately, Bodie crowded close, peering over Doyle's shoulder. "I want a pair of green ones. I won't play if I can't wear green shoes. It's my favourite colour. Only green shoes."

Doyle's shoulders were shaking -- and then suddenly he grabbed a pair and turned swiftly, pushing them into Bodie's chest. "There, a pair of green shoes, as ordered." He was gazing up at Bodie then, his eyes dancing, a smile on his face -- which Bodie matched--

For a long, long moment time stood completely and utterly still. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe. He knew his smile had gone -- for his expression was mirrored in Doyle's abruptly sober eyes. The seconds ticked away as they stood close to each other, silent, the air full of tension. Desperately, Bodie tried to fight it, warning his body not to react, to forget who this was, to take the shoes and step back -- but at the same time, his heart was screaming at him to simply wrap his arms around the man and hold him tight. Never let him go.

Never let him go.

And what would Doyle do if he did? Push him away? No. At least, not judging by the look in those emerald eyes. Wanting and waiting, afraid and bold, all at the same time. A hopeless conjunction of fear and anticipation glazed Doyle's eyes dark and velvety, shortened his breath. Still, they stood there, saying nothing, letting the silence compound.

Finally, Bodie could stand it no longer, his whole being twisted around a stroke of fate he no longer had any will to resist. He hissed in a breath, his chest ached. He formed words, short and harsh and from his gut.

"I want to kiss you."

"No." A wisp of air, no more, from wanting lips that barely moved.

"I know, but I still want to kiss you." Unconsciously, he found himself leaning towards Doyle -- as the other man moved towards him. The ache inside threatened to flood every fibre of his being, drowning the fractional self-control that kept his hands to himself.

He wanted to -- but knew he couldn't. Wanted to pull Doyle to him, chance somebody coming in and seeing them, damn the country, the whole universe. Wanted to hold that face and kiss it, let them be one again as they had always been destined to be. But he couldn't. Not even once. Couldn't even entertain the idea. Things were bad enough as it was -- but if he so much as touched Doyle, it would become insufferable...

Would become? Hell, it already was!

With a moan, he tore himself away. Four quick strides and he was out of the hut and into the sunshine. He didn't wait, he simply kept walking, knowing Doyle wouldn't call him back, knowing there would be excuses of some sudden work made for him. He had to leave. He couldn't do this any more. Wasn't sure he'd ever been able to do it. It was impossible. Just as impossible as their being togther.

More so. For if they were together, they could face anything. Separate, they couldn't even face each other.

No, there had to be another way.

***

Cade stowed his things in the back of the landrover and glanced over his shoulder as Sir David came up to say goodbye.

"A pity you can't stay on for dinner. After the golf today, I should think it will be a bit of a party."

Cade gave him a smile, practiced, smooth and seemless. Nothing to indicate the darkness inside him, a darkness he feared now would overflow and seep out from every pore. Odd that nobody but Bodie had ever been able to see it. "I'm afraid I have things to do at home, and tomorrow I have meetings from 7am. Need to get a little sleep."

David nodded and stood beside the car, glancing idly over the sleek lines. "A pity Bodie had to leave so soon. I was hoping to see him show his hand at golf. I'm surprised you managed to talk him into it."

Again, Cade kept the smile on his face by sheer willpower. "He was sorry to go -- but you know how work is with us law enforcement types. Never wholly predicatable, even less so with him."

David glanced at him then turned to view the house in the evening light, the remaining guest cars parked in orderly lines. Pursing his lips, he frowned slightly, "I wonder..."

"What?"

Shooting a quick glance at him, David continued, "Do you think he's the right man to be running CI5?"

Without hesitation, Cade replied, "About the only man, I think. Especially with his background."

"Have you known him long?"

They'd prepared a response to this question, knowing nobody would believe the way they spoke to each other was the result of only a few month's acquaintance. "We met a long time ago, briefly. It was through work. Didn't meet up again until the conference three months ago."

Not necessarily content with this response, David kept his gaze level. "How well do you know him?"

"About as well as anyone. Why?" This was an odd set of questions coming from this man. Where were they leading -- and what trap was being set for him?

For a moment, David appeared to be making up his mind about something -- then he formed a reply, "Look, I don't want to speak out of turn and I know you won't repeat this, especially as he's your friend -- but did you know he's not... I mean, he isn't... straight?"

It was a few seconds before Cade understood the question. Unconsciously, his jaw dropped a little and David hastened to explain.

"I'm sorry. It's not exactly a state secret and I'm not implying the man has unsavoury habits with young boys or anything. Nothing of the kind. I just wondered if you knew."

Finally, Cade could speak, "Why?"

David shrugged, appearing a little uncomfortable, "Well, it's just that he was watching you so carefully at lunch -- and well, you were in the cabin with him and then suddenly he left." A little cough preceded the next inevitable statement. "I couldn't help wondering if he... had behaved inappropriately."

If this had been any other day, Cade would have laughed -- but he didn't even bother making the attempt. It would look too forced and David would be suspicious. Instead, Cade shook his head, opened the driver's door and put the keys in the ignition. "No, David, Bodie did nothing inappropriate, believe me. It's like I said earlier; I was finding him some shoes and he got a call on his mobile, calling him back to London."

"But he was watching you."

"Yes, I suppose he was." Cade paused, selecting some truth to cover the lie. "I probably shouldn't tell you this but Bodie has never once openly discussed the drugs program with me. He was at the conference, has been kept up to date with the latest developments -- but we've never actually talked about it."

"And you think he's preparing to oppose you?"

"I hope he isn't -- but that doesn't mean he won't. I don't need to tell you how important it is that I have the support of someobody in Bodie's position."

"He couldn't bring the program to an end, could he?"

"No -- but he's a man of action, not words. He prefers to take the hard line -- one of the things that makes him the perfect man to run CI5. But as such, the idea that we would ignore some drug dealings in order to focus on others goes against everything he believes in."

"So, what can you do?"

"Convince him otherwise." Cade shrugged and got into his car, pulling the door closed and winding down the window. "I'd rather he supported the program than have it foisted upon him."

David nodded, standing back a little, "Well, I hope you weren't offended by what I said."

"Of course not. Actually, it's rather nice to think you were concerned for my virtue."

With a laugh, David waved. "Have a good trip home -- and next time, you must bring Elena with you."

Cade nodded and pulled out onto the drive. It took him little more than an hour to get home but by then it was dark. Elena was in Nottingham for the weekend so he had the place to himself -- and he was glad. He needed a little time, a little space to himself. He needed to find some thing, some thought, words to say to himself that could make the afternoon go away.

It hadn't -- not on the whole drive back. Over and over it replayed in his mind; the words before lunch, feeling Bodie's eyes on him through the meal, the difficult conversation beside the fountain, Bodie's admission on the subject of Elena -- and then, more than anything else, the moment in the cabin.

He knew now, as he'd known in those long agonizing moments, that if Bodie had kissed him, he would have done nothing to stop it.

Bodie had always been an attractive man, beautiful and dark, charming and elegant with that ever-present hint of danger lurking behind those vivid blue eyes. Doyle had been attracted to him for a year or more before they had ever got together. And three months ago, he'd gone through it all again -- but today, in the cabin, it hadn't been the physical that had frozen him to his spot. Just seeing the longing and the pain in Bodie's eyes had done that. Feeling it burning though his own soul had only made it worse.

No, he had been a fool to think they could go back to being friends -- and in six months, or a year, they would be no better. In fact, they would only be worse.

Leaving only one light on in the living room, he wandered out onto the portico with a glass of red wine. The air was cool but sweet, the last of the roses giving out perfume to drift on the cloudless night. He sat on the low wall, letting his feet dangle over the edge to brush the tops of the lavendar bushes. Before him stretched the garden, too little used. Behind him sat the house, too big for him alone, even for Elena. Too big and too empty. Around the edge of the garden stood the real reason why he'd bought the place; tall elms and oak, between which sat smaller bushes. A wall of privacy he had known he would need. His neighbours couldn't see him and he couldn't see them.

A wall of privacy. A wall of trees. All to protect him from the world outside. But what was going to protect him from the world inside?

In all the last fourteen years, he'd been happy to pay the price for taking on Alan Cade's life. He'd been proud to carry on where his friend had left off, fulfilling a destiny that had been manifest in the character of the man he'd known in those six short months. And he'd done so much with it all. Alan would have been proud.

Even though now the price was getting so high he could no longer see the end of it.

Bodie was gone and he wouldn't come back. He'd seen what he wanted and knew it was being denied him by a series of circumstances neither of them could change. A few more meetings like that and they'd start fighting, arguing about things that didn't matter because they weren't allowed to talk about the things that did.

God, how he'd wanted Bodie to kiss him!

But it would have been a disaster. Even if they'd not been discovered, they would have held on to each other, then formed some plan to get away from the place without questions being asked. Then Doyle would have brought Bodie back here and they would have gone to bed together and they would have both regretted it afterwards and yet the very next time a similar occasion happened, the same thing would ensue and between these flashes of desperation, would be darker, deeper wells of black regret and hideous fear, wondering if they would be found out, watching the papers, the news, for any word. Each time they would promise each other that it would be the last time -- but they would know it couldn't be because there was no end to it. There was no point at which they had stopped loving each other, stopped wanting each other. It would just go on and on without ever finding a mark at which to find peace.

And Bodie wouldn't do it any more. Wouldn't play the game of innocence, continue to pretend there wasn't anything more between them. Doyle had seen it in his eyes as he'd turned to leave the cabin. Bodie had reached his breaking point -- and then passed it. There was no going back -- and no hope of going forward.

It was a terrible thought, but in so many ways, it had been easier when they'd both believed the other was dead -- not better, but easier. A shadowy past was a simple thing to deal with in comparison to a sharp and bitter present.

He sipped his wine and held the glass between both hands, gazing out at the darkness beneath the trees. Only the faintest brush of light glowed across the lawn, enough to bring a little shape to certain features, but no more.

So how could he learn to live with it now? If only there was somebody he could dare talk about it with. If only there was somebody he trusted that much -- as much as he trusted Bodie. But there was nobody. That in itself was part of the problem. Did Bodie have anybody he trusted? Would he find a way to live with it? Or would it continue to burn away inside him, eating at the things he'd spent so much time carefully building up. He'd changed so much over the years, deepened as a person, developed strong convictions, found a means of focussing that blistering determination. All to the good. Bodie had done so well out of a collection of events that would have destroyed most men. But Bodie had done it and he had survived. He'd come out the other side without being bitter and hating the world. It had been a long struggle for him, so didn't he deserve something better now? Couldn't he have what he wanted now, after it had been taken away out of sheer spite?

Doyle didn't even want to think about Willis and what Bodie might or might not have done to him. Whatever it was, Bodie wasn't going to tell him -- and he knew he was better off not knowing. But it seemed that, despite the death of the man so long ago, he would win in the end. He had struck out to hurt Bodie, had tried to get him killed -- twice. Now, long after it no longer mattered to anyone, the legacy of his hatred was a life of pain for the only two people left who remembered.

Two lives destroyed for the price of one. Three, including Marikka.

No. The truth was, there was no answer, no glib words to make anything different. He would live with it simply because he had to and for no other purpose.

"They won't kill us, you know?"

The voice intruded on his thoughts so softly that at first, he thought he'd imagined it. He didn't turn for fear that he had and that it wasn't Bodie who wandered towards him from the darkness of the trees on his right. He hadn't heard so much as a twig break.

"They'll survive. So will we."

For long moments, Doyle just listened to the voice, a shriek of relief flooding through him with a swiftness that almost made him dizzy. Bodie hadn't gone. He was here! Then the words began to sink in and Doyle turned his head a little to see the shadowy shape waiting a dozen feet away, familiar face touched by the light from indoors.

Bodie was smiling. "In the long run, they'll get the idea."

Swallowing, Doyle gathered himself a little. "Bodie, what are you talking about?"

"Can't say I think too much of your security here. You've grown a bit slack over the years. I've been within firing distance for twenty minutes or more and you didn't hear a thing. That's what happens when you don't have me around to watch your back."

Unable to stop staring, Doyle took in a short breath, wholly caught by the soft gentle voice, the cool and casual elegance, the simple presence of the man. "I... thought you'd gone back to London."

"Yeah, well I was going to -- was on my way -- and then I thought, fuck it."

A small involuntary laugh escaped Doyle before he continued, nervous, pleased and yet, terrified all at the same time, "What are you doing here?"

"You know you've been sitting there for an hour?" Doyle could just see an eyebrow lift -- and then Bodie was coming towards him, climbing each step to the portico slowly. Doyle didn't move as Bodie came behind him and stood close. "You know as well as I do why I'm here."

"I'm not a mind-reader, Bodie," Doyle replied, half afraid to turn around, way too afraid to say more.

Then Bodie moved until his legs pressed against Doyle's back. "We tried it your way, the safe way -- but it didn't work. Now we're going to do it my way."

Strung up high above it all, Doyle couldn't really take this in. "We are?"

"Yeah." Bodie replied, determination reeking from his few words. "We are."

Doyle pulled in his bottom lip -- but couldn't stop himself leaning back against Bodie's warmth, his strength. But then, hadn't he always done that -- in the past? Wasn't that what he'd lost, fourteen years ago? His rock? Idly, a hand brushed against his cheek, caressed the side of his neck and he turned his head into it as Bodie continued talking, his voice soft again.

"We've both worked for this country almost our entire adult lives. We've been out there on the firing line, putting our lives in danger, willing to sacrifice our futures in the cause of theirs. We deserve something back."

"Like what?"

"Acceptance."

"Bodie... you can't be serious." Doyle's voice came out as a trembling murmur but he was held utterly in Bodie's thrall and felt no desire to climb out of it. He needed to go on feeling Bodie's presence behind him, those cool fingers on his face; a caress so gentle it threatened to melt him.

"I am serious, Ray. Deadly serious." Bodie paused before adding, "There's no point continuing this charade, sunshine. We're just going to keep tearing ourselves apart. I don't know about you but I can't take a repeat of today. We are already together -- we'll always be together. Keeping our lives separate is a mistake neither of us can afford, let alone live with. We've been doing this for too long. We've forgotten why it's important to love somebody. For all that we've each achieved with our careers, unless we can have each other, we don't really have anything at all."

"But that's just... philosophy. It means nothing out there."

"So?" There was an edge to Bodie's voice now. "See, I went along with your decision because I respected the risk you take -- and for that matter, the work you do and how much it means to you. But you were -- and still are -- looking at it from a worst-case viewpoint. There's no guarantee anybody will ever find out about us -- and there's equally no guarantee that it will all blow up and be a mess."

Doyle couldn't listen to this; it was all too tempting to believe in the dusky light of night -- expecially with Bodie so close -- and too impossible to predict in the cold light of day. He couldn't afford hope; losing it would cleave him in two. With a sharp sigh, he twisted around, forcing Bodie back. He swung his legs back over the wall until he could look up at the man. "We've been through all this before, Bodie. You know I want us to be together -- but I can't risk everything I've worked for. I couldn't put Elena through the tabloid circus it would become."

But Bodie was just shaking his head, a light smile on his glorious face. "You're still assuming it will all work out badly. Now I know we took your line because my way is irredeemable -- but the point is, we should try. We just need the courage to pursue it."

Frowning Doyle shook his head, "What are you talking about?"

Bodie sat beside him, their shoulders lightly touching. Carefully, he reached out and took one of Doyle's hands, held it loosely between his own. "Your radical drugs program has almost reached critical mass -- probably has already. In another month or so, there'll be figures on the table - facts you will have had nothing to do with directly. Other minds are already attached to it and support for the idea is growing from so many quarters that before long, you will no longer be the only one speaking up for it. If you fall, if the papers do make a martyr of you, the program will be able to speak for itself, and other voices will rise to champion it. It can't be broken if they take you out."

Eyes wide, Doyle could only say, "How do you know this?"

"I told you; there's very little that happens in Whitehall that I don't know about. So far the beavers have been content to sit back and watch, expecting it to fail and being happy to let you go down with it if it did. But now it's obvious it won't fail and they're champing at the bit to get involved, catch a bit of the glory themselves -- be seen as the one vital link in the chain that really got the thing off the ground. All Europe is watching. They want that kind of stuff written under their names in Who's Who. You've worked hard, Ray and you deserve the success and the credit -- but if anybody finds out we're together, it will be in their interests to keep it quiet."

"And if it isn't?"

"The work will still go on. You might not be allowed a part in it -- but it will survive. That's what you really care about, isn't it?"

Bodie was studying him with grave eyes and Doyle could only nod. Despite all his reservations, what Bodie was saying was pretty much true. A brief smile brushed over Bodie's mouth before he continued. "So our only other real problem is Elena. You'll have to tell her about us. I can't come up here and spend the night with her around wondering what's going on. I know you love her and she means a lot to you. I wouldn't do that to her. So you'd have to tell her. How do you think she'll take it? Finding out her father is in love with another man?"

Half a laugh escaped Doyle as he shook his head. What was it about Bodie that gave him this gift of sweeping aside all unnecessary considerations? More to the point, why wasn't he fighting it harder? "I have no idea. But Bodie, you can't really mean all this. My career will be as good as over if the papers find out."

"They might not. If we're careful, we could keep it secret for months, perhaps even years. Who knows what might happen in that time?"

"But if they do, they'll crucify me -- and you -- and Elena, Eastland Constabulary, everything." He had to pause to breathe carefully. Too much fear was warring inside him. Fear of what might be -- and what could be. "And if they find out... if they go after me..."

He couldn't finish -- but he didn't need to. Bodie watched him carefully with those blue eyes he loved so much. Gently and softly he said, "What if they find out your other secret?"

Doyle nodded mutely.

"They won't."

"You don't know that."

"Yes I do."

"How?"

"Because there is no secret any more."

"What?"

Bodie lifted his eyebrows and smiled lightly. "You've always had a rather charming ability to underestimate me. What do you think I've been doing over the last three months, eh? Watching your back, that's what."

"Bodie..."

"It's actually quite a simple thing to go back and check records, pull up old case files, switch copies of fingerprints and the like. It's actually frightening how easy it's been to cover your tracks. I saw you'd done a bit already, back when you first left Liverpool. I just finished the job. Now, they can hunt as long as they like, they won't find a thing you don't want them to find. I even doctored your dental records -- your old ones. I buried it all amongst a big review of CI5's past history. I can get away with it because I used to be in the squad and then had fourteen years away. I was just catching up on stuff I'd missed -- all to do my job better, of course."

"Of course," Doyle murmured faintly. For some reason, the night had changed colour, the air held a different scent and all of it trembled with possiblity. "You did that? For me?"

"Ray," Bodie dropped his voice, and his smile along with it. His expression took on a hardness seemingly directed entirely at himself. "Fourteen years ago, I couldn't fight to keep you. I wasn't given the chance. But I cannot now, nor ever will let Willis have the last word. I'm older and wiser now. I know what I have to do and believe me, I'm prepared to make any sacrifice to keep you in my life. I'd even resign if I thought it would do any good."

Doyle stared, his mouth open. Then, overwhelmed, he dropped his gaze to where their hands were entwined together. "Jesus, Bodie!" Was all he could say.

"The only real problem, as I said, is how Elena will take the news. Especially since she won't be able to tell anyone about it. That could only make it worse. From what I've read, kids sometimes need a bit of counselling. If it does become necessary, I could always ask Kate to talk to her."

"Kate?" Doyle looked up. "Kate who?"

"Kate Ross. She's... er..."

"What?" Doyle could hardly bear to hear the answer.

"A friend. A good friend. I trust her completely."

"How completely?"

"Well..." Bodie tilted his head a little, an engaging grin hinting around his eyes, "I haven't told her I'm in love with you -- but it's only a matter of time before she guesses something is going on."

"How much time?"

"Not a lot. She's very perceptive. But don't worry about her. Like I said, I trust her. She's a friend."

Kate Ross? Bodie's friend? "But how..."

"I'll tell you all about it another time. But I do need to know what we should do about Elena."

From absolutely nowhere, a rumble of laughter erupted from Doyle, low and satisfying. Bodie just watched him, a quizzical frown on his face. Eventually, Doyle shook his head, taking in a huge lung of air before letting it out in a noisy sigh. "Christ, Bodie, you are incredible! Do you know, you've always made decisions for both of us? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you're still doing it now."

"What do you mean? I've never made any decisions about us without consulting you first."

"No? You were the one who put your arm around me that first night, fourteen years ago. You leaned forward first to kiss me. You decided to make it love, to make it lifelong. You decided we should keep it a secret from Cowley even when Willis threatened you. You decided to make a pass at me at the conference even though you knew it was a bad idea."

"Ray," Bodie warned, "This isn't the same at all."

"Isn't it?" Doyle smiled and shook his head again, "Do I look like I'm complaining?"

Bodie raised an eyebrow at that, one corner of his mouth going up in tandem. "No. Does... that mean... you'll ... that you're saying yes?"

Doyle swallowed, "I won't lie and say I'm not scared."

"I know." Bodie became utterly still, holding Doyle's gaze without urging. "But you will say yes, won't you?"

His insides fluttering like a bed of leaves in an autumn wind, Doyle found himself nodding, parts of him inside already flying away, "I'll probably regret it -- but I don't want to regret saying no."

Bodie's reply was a huge smile, his hands squeezing Doyle's and for a long minute, he said nothing at all. Then he pulled in air and let it out with vigor. "Then in that case, I'd better get going."

"What?" Doyle almost jumped. "Now?"

"I have to get back. It's eleven now. It'll take me three hours to get home and I have a 6am training session I have to attend."

"Well..." Doyle was lost for a second. "Just come inside for a moment."

"Oh no," Bodie shook his head vigoursly.

"I just want to hold you for a moment. Jesus, Bodie -- you promised me a kiss this afternoon and I'm sure as hell not going to do it out here."

"And I'm not going inside."

"Why not?"

"I don't trust you."

"What?" Doyle almost laughed at the feigned look of seriousness in Bodie's beautiful eyes.

"Nope. I may have been the one who always made the decisions for us -- but you were always the one who got us into bed."

"Always?"

"Well, okay, perhaps not always -- but my self control has already reached and passed its limits today. We get inside closed doors and I know I'm going to miss my training session."

"Oh?"

"I'll turn up late, without an excuse, bleary eyed, relaxed, shagged out and blissfully happy. It will take my team about a quarter of a nanosecond to work out why. It's going to be hard enough to cover my good mood as it is. Besides, I have my reputation as a complete bastard to consider. I don't want to give them a head start on the gossip. They'll have all the time in the world to work out that it's not some good woman who's worked the miracle -- but a wonderful, bad tempered, beautiful golli who really should grow his hair a little longer because the man he loves really wishes he would."

Doyle actually blushed and laughed at the same time -- but he didn't care any more. He was seized with a strange and unfamiliar desire to get up and do a bit of shouting and dancing about -- a desire that for some reason, didn't seem even remotely at odds with the serious and grave life he led as the Chief Constable of Eastland. Oddly however, he managed to contain himself. "But I do want to just kiss you."

"Yeah? Just once?"

"Well, no," Doyle laughed, unable to resist Bodie's charm, and finding no damn good reason why the hell he should, "perhaps not just once."

"And there lies the road to hell." Bodie pursed his lips, successfully restricting his smile only to his eyes. "No, anglefish, we'll just have to contain ourselves for a bit longer. Now; tell me what we're going to do about Elena."

We? Our problem? God, this was going to happen! Scrambling his thoughts together, Doyle nodded. "Well, she'll be away Monday and Tuesday then she's back at class for the rest of the week. I know she's planning to study here on Saturday and then she's down in London from Saturday night for two weeks studying the magistrate's court. If you come up for lunch on Saturday, you can meet her."

"Will you tell her before then?"

"No -- and I won't tell her afterwards either. I just want her to meet you, get to know you a bit first. I'll tell her later, when she knows who I'm talking about."

"If you're sure."

He nodded, "Yes. That's the best way."

"If you say so." With a nod, Bodie got to his feet, not letting go of Doyle's hand. "You'd better show me to my car. I'm not sure I can see further than your face at the moment."

"And I can see further than yours?"

Bodie grinned and Doyle stood. Hand in hand they went down the stairs slowly, then onto the lawn. They took the path around the house where tall trees stood on either side.

"Bodie?"

"Yeah?"

"Will you stay Saturday night?"

"You want me to?"

"God, I could hit you sometimes."

"Yeah, but you don't -- no matter how much I deserve it -- and that's why I love you."

"Then you will stay the night?"

"Well, I won't promise something with work won't crop up in the meantime -- but yes, I'll stay. Sunday too, if you want."

"I do."

They walked slowly, so very slowly, Doyle could hear every footstep with senses hightened almost to painful levels. How would he last for another week?

Because it would be just one week.

And after that? "Bodie?"

"Yes, love?"

"How are we going to manage it?" Other thoughts intruded on his peace, bringing his feet to a halt. He turned and faced Bodie. "Your schedule is worse than mine. We're both on call 24 hours a day. When are we going to see each other? I don't want to be snatching a few minutes here, a couple of hours there. God, this is going to be impossible!"

Suddenly, he was pushed into the shadows and up against a tree, Bodie's arms around him, holding him. Then hands came up to cradle his face tenderly. In the darkness, Doyle could see nothing, but his mind's eye filled in the details. Then Bodie's head lowered and his lips met Doyle's, lightly caressing, tingling, promising. Then harder and Doyle opened to let him in, kissing him back with a fierceness that took his breath away. He closed his eyes and let himself drown, let his body absorb the reality of the moment; heady and intoxicating. His heart pounded in his chest, his arms held Bodie and never wanted to let go.

When their lips finally parted, he remained where he was for a moment, his eyes still closed, his breathing still harsh. He didn't want the moment to end.

"You okay?" Bodie whispered against his cheek.

"Better than in my whole life."

He felt Bodie smile against his face. "Yeah, me too. Now I want you to listen, and listen carefully. We will find time for us. I'll come up here, you'll go down to London. I have a safe house near the coast we can spend time in, away from prying eyes. We'll go away together, we'll talk on the phone. We'll make it work because we want to. I don't want to ever hear you say that again. Do you understand me, Ray?"

"Hell, I know, Bodie. I'm just scared I'll lose you again."

"I know, love, I know. It's not going to be easy and there'll be plenty of times when we want to be together and we can't..."

"Like now."

"Yeah. But we will make it work. We'll put aside Sundays from now on and build from there. We'll need to see what works as we go. Promise me, Ray."

"I promise. But you can't keep calling me that."

A low chuckle rumbled in Bodie's chest. "I know -- but trust me, I'll never use that name except when we're completely alone. I'll call you Alan if I have to -- but to be honest I don't care what I have to call you. I know who you are, inside, and I love you whatever your name is."

Then Doyle brought Bodie's face close and kissed him deeply and lingeringly, drawing Bodie in and then giving him back. Yes, they could make it work -- and they would because they wanted it -- and most importantly of all -- they needed it.

"Till Saturday, then," Doyle murmured against Bodie's lips.

"Yeah," it was Bodie's turn to sound rough and husky. Carefully, he disentangled himself and drew Doyle back onto the path. They turned the corner of the house and stopped beside Bodie's car.

"Ring me when you get home? So I know you got back in one piece?"

"It'll be 2 in the morning."

"So wake me. It never used to bother you before."

Bodie grinned, "Then don't get all grumpy when I do." Giving Doyle's hand a final squeeze he got into his car. "I'll see you on Saturday."

"And Bodie?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you."

"I know. Just make sure you remember that."

And then he was driving away and turning into the road. Doyle watched him go without moving, listening to the last noises of the engine in the quiet night. Long after the last had drifted away, he turned and went back inside. For the first time since he'd bought the place, the house didn't feel empty at all.

***

Bodie was exhausted by the time he got home and let himself into his flat. As he walked through, switching on lights, he couldn't help noticing how different everything looked. This morning, it had all looked the same as it always had -- and now it didn't. What had changed? Nothing had been moved, there'd been no break in.

Or was it that Bodie had changed rather than the place where he lived.

No. He didn't live here any more. He lived up north, in Eastland.

The smile that grew stayed on his face as he had a shower and got ready for bed. He was tired but he knew he wouldn't sleep until he made the phone call. He finished everything quickly, set the alarms and locks then climbed into bed, lying back with his mobile phone in his hand; that was unfortunately the only way he could guarantee their calls would never be intercepted. With the press of a single button, he dialled Doyle's number.

Two rings only -- and there was a groggy voice huskily replying. "Bodie?"

"How'd you guess?"

"Thank god."

"Why?"

Coming a little more awake, Ray's voice cleared a little. "Well, other people do ring me in the middle of the night but it usually means some kind of emergency. It would have looked nice if the first thing I said was your name."

Bodie grinned, "So why did you?"

"Was dreamin' about you."

"Oh? Nice dreams?"

"Not telling."

Bodie chuckled, "Oh, that kind of dream." Despite his weariness, several parts of his body responded to the image that fluttered across his thoughts briefly. Damn the distance! Then again, it only proved he'd been right to leave when he did -- not that he needed such evidence. It had taken the last shreds of self-control he'd had available to him to leave Ray standing in his driveway.

"I didn't say that. It was all very innocent."

"Okay -- but be sure I'll wrest the truth from you on Saturday."

"You can try."

Bodie laughed outright. "The battle is half the fun."

"What's the other half?"

"You, my sweet, you."

His laughter bubbling down the phone, Doyle said, "God, you're an idiot, Bodie. Go away and let me get some sleep. Some of us have to work, you know."

"Goodnight."

"Goodnight, love."

And it was. The very best night of all.

***

It was all he could do not to go all out for the meal. All week his idle thoughts had strung together one potential menu after another, each only to be discarded as too obvious, too much, too unusual. He'd always enjoyed cooking and Elena knew that, but she would also think it a little strange that he would put so much effort into making a meal for somebody who was only supposed to be little more than a casual acquaintance.

In reality, it wasn't until Saturday morning that he actually made the decision -- while he was at the market, gazing at the selection of foods arrayed before him. He'd got up early so he would have the best choice but in the end, decided upon only one complicated dish and the rest little more than a couple of eastern salads. Bodie liked eastern food, he knew that much. But then again, it was a long time since he'd cooked for Bodie -- had his tastes changed?

For long minutes he waivered at the market -- but then he saw the time and made a snap decision. Striding around the market he bought all he needed and took off home. Elena was already up when he returned, sitting like a fluffy bear in the kitchen, hair a mess, eyes only half-woken up. He kissed the top of her head as he passed then began to put some things away, leaving out the stuff he would need first.

"How many people are coming for lunch today?" Elena murmured with one eye open.

"Oh, we're in that kind of mood this morning, are we?" Doyle replied with a smile, putting some fresh-brewed coffee on. "Haven't you got some study to do before then?"

"I did most of it yesterday. I have an essay I need to review before I hand it in. I was kinda hoping you'd look at it for me. God, I wish I didn't have to go to London tonight. I could do with a week's holiday."

"Well, why don't you go and have a shower now, get dressed, then bring your essay down and read it to me while I cook. Then we can go over it together." He turned and faced her as he said this -- and she sat up, brightening visibly.

"Yeah?"

"Go on. The coffee will be ready by the time you come down."

She paused only long enough to flash him one wonderful smile -- and then she was gone with the speed of youth. Laughing to himself, he turned back to the bench and began chopping vegetables.

It wasn't long before Elena came back, wet hair around her face, eyes alight, arms full of papers. He made a space for her at the table, poured her a cup of coffee and put his mind to the work. Damn, but she was good -- especially for someone still so young. The essay had a few minor flaws but basically, it was a damned sight better than anything he could have written -- even with his twenty-five odd years experience with the law. Two hours later, having gone over it four times, Elena got up and refreshed the coffee pot. Doyle was ready to take a tray out of the oven but when he put it on the bench, he realized she was watching him.

"I guess the reports on the drugs program must be pretty good."

"Oh?"

She shrugged, "Well, you've been in such a good mood all week, I figured they had to be. I don't want to pry -- I know you've got to keep it all pretty secret until you can make some kind of announcement."

A good mood? Was that what this was? Even though he'd tried so hard to damp it down? Well, she was his daughter and they had been living together off and on for over two years. He shouldn't be surprised.

What would she say? If he told her the truth? There was no way he could bring himself to hurt her -- but how could he avoid it? But perhaps it wouldn't work out that way.

He realised he hadn't said anything and covered it with a smile and a shrug, turning back to his work. "Let's just say I'm more optimistic than I have been since I stood up at the conference."

For one split second, there was something else in her eyes, some shadow of doubt -- but then she nodded and began packing up her things. "I'm really sorry I didn't go to Africa with you. We never seem to spend any time together. Not like this. But you're always so busy and I've always got my head stuck in a book."

Doyle stopped, glanced at her, then stood before her, wrapping his arms around her. "You know I love you, don't you?"

"Sure." Her voice was muffled against his shoulder but her body was stiff against his.

"But?"

"Why don't we do this more often? Have people over for lunch? I've got a few friends at college who would love to meet you... and I'd like to meet some of the people you work with some day. You know, so I know who you're talking about. I know I've met Sean and Rose and Dianne."

"Well," Doyle paused, going very carefully, "you'll get to meet Bodie today."

"But you don't work that much with him, do you?"

"No, not really." She lifted her head to look at him and he kissed her forehead. "But you are right. I do work too hard and I don't do enough of this sort of thing. So I make you a promise. From now on, you pick me out the odd day here and there, and we'll do something. I don't really mind what -- even if I have to put up with your friends picking my brains for an afternoon."

Elena giggled at that and shook her head. "I'll make you sorry you said that."

"I can take it. Now, you go and get your things together. I still have the table to set before our guest arrives. Oh, hell -- I forgot desert!"

Elena picked up her things and paused by the door, "I can go out and get something, if you like?"

"Er... yes." Quickly he scribbled down a short list, handed it to her and watched her go. He would keep his promise, he knew that now. Bodie was right -- all these years they'd forgotten why it was important to love someone. Well, he would remember from now on -- and not just Bodie, either.

He was clearing up when he heard the door bang shut. Grabbing what he needed, he went into the dining room and began setting the table. He was just finished when the doorbell rang. It couldn't be Elena -- she'd taken her keys with her or she wouldn't have been able to drive.

Wiping his hands on a tea towel, he went into the corridor and opened the door. He was grinning like an idiot before he realised it. Bodie stood before him, two packages under his left arm. He wore a powder blue soft cotton shirt which only made his eyes more luminscent. His dark hair was cropped short as always, the rest of him immaculate. Dazzingly georgous. However, the smile on his face could only have been described as tentative.

"Relax," Doyle said after a long moment. "She's not here."

Bodie rolled his eyes and held out his packages. "These are for you. One's to have with lunch -- the other isn't."

Doyle stepped back and let him in, closing the door behind him. Bodie stood in the hallway, glancing in the direction of the other rooms as though expecting trouble. Doyle couldn't help grinning; to think Bodie was reduced to such nerves on account of a nineteen year old girl was more than he could bear. That Bodie would be so anxious about making a good impression on his daughter was wonderful.

"Where is she?" Bodie murmured as Doyle put his packages down.

"Just gone out to get me something. She'll be back in five minutes."

"So, we're alone?"

"Yeah."

Bodie changed then, turning slowly and Doyle's insides did a backflip. Bodie stood close, put a hand beneath Doyle's chin and immediately Doyle brought their lips together. The touch was exquisite and turned Doyle's stomach to jelly. Bodie kissed him with such sweetness, Doyle couldn't hide his own reaction, his own longing, his own eagerness. But for all the promise held beneath it, the kiss was remarkably chaste -- not long -- but also not brief -- and for the length of it, Bodie did nothing more than hold Doyle's chin.

When they parted, Doyle's heart was beating fit to cause an arrest. He opened his eyes to find Bodie smiling at him. "That was worth the wait."

Doyle smiled, shaking his head. He took a step back -- not wanting to -- but having no choice at the moment. He picked up the packages. One of them was obviously a bottle of wine. The other was a black leather case, about a foot square. He opened it up to find a piece of familiar electronic equipment.

"What's this?"

"A bug detector." Bodie replied deadpan. "There's no need for us to be caught without a fight, is there?"

"A bug detector?"

"When was the last time you had this place swept?"

"I don't know. A while."

"Good. I'll do it later, when Elena's gone. Just so we're sure."

Nodding, Doyle put the case into the hall cupboard and led Bodie down to the kitchen. Suddenly he felt a bit awkward, not really sure what he was doing now that the man had actually arrived. In a strange way, this felt like a... date. They'd never been on a date before. Not like this.

"Stop it, Alan, you're making me nervous."

Doyle glanced back at Bodie standing by the other kitchen window, his arms folded across his chest, his face the essence of relaxation - and he had to laugh.

It was going to be alright.

***

Bodie had had a lot of practice deliberately impressing people. He did it with ease, enjoyed it but knew all along there was something of the actor involved and those with more than a little perception usually saw right through him. Kate had been like that.

Which was why he didn't even bother with Elena. Besides, he had a feeling that if she saw him like that, as some ego-boosted glory seeker, she would be very upset to find her father in a relationship with him. No, despite his instincts, he played it very cool, giving her the opportunity to draw him out rather than trying to charm her. As a result, by the time they got to coffee, they were both enmeshed in a heated discussion about civil rights and police carrying guns.

Like a trouper, Doyle stayed clear. He clarified, added background, nodded and agreed when necessary -- with either of them -- but basically, he kept to the sidelines, displaying an awesome ability to sit on the fence Bodie had never quite noticed before. At first, he'd been a little irritated by it -- but he couldn't help noticing the pride with which he watched his daughter successfully bait Bodie, and again, how Bodie successfully avoided a multiplicity of traps. After the first hour, he found he was actually enjoying himself.

Of course, Doyle's food was excellent as usual. If anything, the years had made him a better cook than before. He couldn't wait to get Doyle down to the flat in London and show him how he had learned to cook over the years. Perhaps not quite a spectacular as this -- but good enough.

Long after the last of the coffee was drunk, Doyle got up and began clearing plates. Finishing off her last rejoinder, Elena collected a few and followed her father into the kitchen. Rather than help, Bodie continued to play the guest and, with his wine glass in hand, he wandered out onto the portico to enjoy the afternoon sun.

***

Doyle stacked the plates into the dishwasher only because he didn't want to have to do it later. Elena handed one after another to him, silent now after her long discussion with Bodie. It had gone well. Much better than he'd hoped. Bodie had done him proud, allowing her to see him as he was and not the shallow charmer he showed to the world as a kind of wall of security. Bodie had made one more sacrifice for him -- the list was getting very long indeed. He only hoped he could make it worth the trouble.

"Dad?"

"Yes?"

Elena's voice dropped a little, "How well do you know Bodie?"

"Fairly well. Why?" He straightened up and began to put more coffee on. But her next words brought his movements to a halt.

"I don't like the way he looks at you."

Slowly he turned to see her eyes locked on his, frail concern hedging a deeper worry.

"You don't like him?"

"No," she shook her head, glanced over her shoulder to make sure they were alone, then continued, "it's not that. Actually, I do like him. He's very interesting. It's just that..."

Half afraid to ask, Doyle murmured, "What?"

"Well... it's hard to put into words -- but he looks at you like... he... kinda owns you."

Doyle frowned.

Hastily, Elena came closer, raising her hands. "No, that's not what I mean. I'm sorry, I mean... well..."

Keeping himself tightly reigned in, Doyle nodded, infusing his voice with the calm certainty she always responded to. "It's okay, love. Just tell me."

Elena nodded, "Okay, but it's going to sound weird. Bodie... well, he looks at you like... like... he... likes you. A lot."

"A lot?" Doyle only just stopped the words from becoming a squeak.

"Like..." Elena went on, drowning now in embarrassment. "Like he... loves you or something."

Doyle clamped his jaw down tight and took in a deep breath. Elena was looking up at him, watching every single inflection on his face. Should he tell her? Let her go from one misery to another?

Hell, there was no point now in trying to draw it out. She'd guessed enough to make further hiding impossible. Easing out his frown, he took in another breath and spoke, hardly raising his voice. "Bodie."

It was a few seconds before Bodie appeared. He'd obviously been outside. He came to the kitchen doorway and stopped, his gaze going from Doyle to Elena and back. Doyle kept his eyes on Elena as he said, "Sorry, Bodie, turns out you're not as good an actor as you thought. You've been found out."

From the corner of his eye, he could just see one of Bodie's mobile eyebrows raise slightly. Bodie knew.

But it was Elena he gave all his concentration to now. Over the space of a few seconds, her eyes widened -- then darted to Bodie -- before coming back to Doyle. Her mouth opened but it was a moment before she said anything.

"You... knew?"

Doyle nodded, "Yes."

"And you... don't mind?"

"That he loves me?" Doyle shook his head, a faint smile on his face -- which he quickly removed. "No."

Again she frowned, shooting another glance at Bodie who remained -- wisely -- still in the doorway. Turning back to Doyle she murmured, "You... you're... Dad! You can't be serious!"

He sensed Bodie tense in the doorway but didn't address it. He hoped Elena didn't react too strongly or Bodie's natural desire to protect Doyle could ruin it for all of them. Instead, Doyle raised his hands in a gesture of quiet, keeping his expression calm and composed, his voice level despite the fear rattling around inside him. "I didn't expect you to guess so quickly. I was hoping to tell you in a couple of weeks, when the moment was right."

"The moment? Are you joking?" Elena backed away from him a few steps, until she could see Bodie without turning. "You... you two are... together, right? I mean, tell me if I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion. I wouldn't want to get it wrong."

"No," Doyle replied evenly, "you're not wrong."

"But, Dad," she frowned again, shaking her head with incomprehension. "You've never... been interested in men, have you?"

The self-doubt in her voice was not something he could ignore but he also didn't dare approach her. She would only feel trapped. Instead, he opted for the only thing open to him; the truth. "Sweetheart, I want you to understand what's happened. Please, sit down. I 'll tell you whatever you want to know."

For a second, he thought she would refuse. Then she nodded, "Does he have to be here?"

"Yes," Bodie replied before Doyle could. For some reason however, the reply seemed to calm Elena a little. Absently, she pulled up a chair and sat. Doyle sat beside her, Bodie opposite.

For long minutes, Elena stared only at her hands -- then eventually, she looked up, not at Doyle, but at Bodie. "You love my father?"

"Yes."

"Are you sleeping together?"

Bodie blinked once then nodded.

"Is this some kind of casual fling?"

"No."

"Are you sure he loves you?"

"Positive."

Silence a moment, then she added, "You must be crazy."

"For loving him?" Bodie tilted his head, "Yes, I suppose I must."

"You know what I mean!"

"Yes, I do."

"And you don't give a damn about his life here, his career?"

Bodie's eyes took on a hard glint and Doyle swallowed, unable to still the fear rumbling inside him. But he could say nothing. Bodie had to do this on his own.

"I give a damn about everything your father is involved with. That's what being in love is."

"But you're prepared to risk everything he's achieved so you can be with him?"

Doyle groaned but Bodie was prepared. "I'm prepared to risk whatever is necessary to make him happy."

"But they'll crucify him!"

"No, they won't. I won't let them."

"Oh, yeah, and how can you stop it? When word gets out..."

"It won't. The only three people in the world who know about it are sitting in this room."

"God, how can you of all people be so naive?"

Bodie kept his calm, shook his head slowly and sat forward to fold his hands together on the table. "Alan and I have been through the whole thing a dozen times. There is a way we can be together and not risk his career. The only real, genuine risk he has to live with -- is losing you in the process."

Elena's eyes widened at that and slowly she turned to look at Doyle. Her mouth opened once, shut, then opened again. "But I'd never... oh, Dad! How could you think that I'd throw you out because of... him!"

"I didn't." Doyle replied softly. "But I didn't want to hurt you. I know this has come as a shock to you."

"No kidding!" An involountary, bitter laugh escaped her and then she turned in her chair so she could face him properly. "Look, I just have to know, or I'll be worried he's done something horrible to you: have you ever felt this way about other men? I mean, have you always been like this or is it something new?"

For a moment, Doyle couldn't control his reaction. He shook his head, rubbed his hand over his face and came up with a weak smile. He couldn't tell her the whole truth -- but enough of it to make sense for her. "Yes, I have occasionally been attracted to men over the years -- not that I ever did anything about it. But the truth is, I met Bodie a long time ago, before you were born. We..." he paused, shooting a glance of confirmation at Bodie before continuing. "We were together for a brief time. Then we lost track of each other and both of us put it in our past. There'd never been any men before him. But when Bodie and I met again, well, I suppose you could say it was love at first sight."

"Oh, Dad!" Elena huffed but didn't look away. "You're not going to tell me you've been waiting for each other all this time?"

Doyle raised an eyebrow and turned to Bodie. The other man was sitting there with one of his infamous smiles -- not needing to say a word. "Yes, I suppose I am. What's wrong? I thought it was the young who liked romance."

"Jesus, Dad, be serious!"

"I am," he turned back to her. "I'm not sure I've ever been more serious about anything in my entire life. Bodie and I have spent the last three months trying to find a way to live without each other. Last week we realized the futility of it. You're the first to know."

Elena frowned, pinning him with a searching gaze, "I know this is what you're supposed to be saying to me -- which is why I'm saying it to you. Are you sure this is what you want? For all that Bodie seems to think he's superman--"

An involountary chuckle escaped Bodie.

"--I need to know that you want this. That this is what will make you happy. If you are happy, I can live with it -- even if it does make the papers. I... don't want you to be alone for the rest of your life."

Doyle took in a deep breath and took her hands in his, "Sweetheart, I love Bodie. I've always loved him and whether we're together or not, I'll love him till the day I die. I don't know whether we'll be happy together -- maybe we won't. We could just end up being miserable. I can't foretell the future. But there are two things I won't do. One is hurt you. The other is to pass up the chance that it might make me happy. Can you understand that?"

A small smile lit her eyes and she nodded, "Yeah, I get that. But Jesus, did he have to be a man? And the head of CI5 as well?"

"Well," Bodie said into the silence, "I can't do anything about the former, but if necessary, I can change the latter."

Elena turned to him with wide eyes, "Are you serious? You'd give up your career for my father?"

"A small price to pay."

"Bloody hell!"

"Yeah," Doyle murmured, smiling at Bodie with all the love he felt in that moment, "and him such a tough guy, too."

Elena was silent a moment -- then burst out laughing. She got to her feet, shaking her head. "I can see exactly what's going to happen. That's what that promise was about this morning, wasn't it? You're going to give yourself a life now because Bodie is going to force you into it? You're going to stop working so hard so you can get some time together, learn to relax, get out of the office a bit more. I just hope I still have a part in there somewhere."

"If you want it?" Doyle replied, standing, not sure how to take this. "I don't want you feeling uncomfortable around Bodie. I mean, if he's staying here, staying the night, you know... I don't want you to think that... I do want you to be around. Will it? Make you uncomfortable if he's here? Knowing we're sleeping together?"

Elena glanced from Doyle to Bodie and back again. She gave a slight shrug. "I honestly don't know, Dad. But I'm not going to make some horrible big fuss about it. You just let me know if you don't want me here, okay?"

"Elena, you live here as much as you always did. Having Bodie here isn't going to change that. I made that promise this morning with you in mind, not him. But you're right; our decision prompted the promise. I've seen a lot of things in a new light over the last three months. But if it makes you uncomfortable..."

"Oh, Dad!" Elena grouched, "Stop worrying. Yeah, I guess it'll be strange for a while -- but I can live with it. Not being able to tell my friends my father has fallen in love at last will be hard, but I'll get by. There's just one thing I have to say though."

"What?"

"Not to you, to him." She turned to Bodie and met him eye for eye. "You hurt him, desert him when it gets tough or in any way do anything to harm him or his reputation and I swear you'll wish you'd never met him."

Bodie, strangely, just nodded. "Warning taken."

Elena waited a moment longer then turned back to Doyle, "Look, I have to get going. I've got to be in London by seven and I'll be late if I don't go now. I wish I could stay and talk longer but..."

"We'll talk when you get back. Call me tomorrow."

She nodded, hovered in the doorway for a moment, then disappeared down the hall, shouting, "I'll just get my bags."

Feeling suddenly drained, Doyle reached out for the back of a chair, sagging a little. For a moment there -- several moments, in fact, he'd thought he might lose her. But, little imp that she was, she'd taken it mostly in her stride -- though he was sure there would be more forthcoming after she'd had a chance to absorb it. Well, there was always Kate Ross if she was needed.

"You okay?" Bodie murmured, pushing back his chair and standing. "You look like you've been through a wringer."

"You mean I haven't?"

Bodie chuckled and came around the table. He put his hand on Doyle's and brought it to his lips. "I love you."

"Oh, Bodie," Doyle sighed and willingly fell into the arms Bodie held out. The warmth and security he felt there was like nothing else in the world. He wasn't sure he could live without it now, even if he had to. He gave those sensuous lips a brief kiss then simply stood there looking at the man. "You were pretty good there, answering some tough questions."

"I've had a lot of practice." Bodie tried to shrug it off but there was just enough residual tension in his shoulders for Doyle to feel.

"I was proud of you, how you spoke to her and everything. I've never seen you do that before."

"Maybe you just weren't looking, sunshine. Now, how about we open another bottle and go and sit out on your wee terrace. It's too nice to stay indoors."

Doyle began to nod when he realised they're weren't alone. He went to leave Bodie's arms, but the other man held him hard, determined to keep hold. Doyle blinked, but gazed into Elena's eyes nonetheless. Only after a few seconds did Bodie finally release him. Elena's expression was quizzical.

"I'm sorry," Doyle began -- but she didn't let him go on.

"No, it's okay. Actually, I think it makes it better. You look... right together. Is that weird?"

"God, I hope not," Bodie replied with a laugh.

Elena grinned and went up on her toes to kiss Doyle's cheek. Then abruptly she threw her arms around him and he held her tight. She turned to go, then went back to Bodie. "Well, come on, give me a hug, too. That's what families are supposed to do, isn't it?"

"Dunno, never had one before." For a second, Bodie was thrown completely -- then he gave in to the steamroller that was Elena and swept her up in a big hug. He set her down a little breathless and she gazed up at him with witchery in her eyes.

"And if you think I'm gonna call you Mom, you've got another thing coming."

She tried to make a quick exit, but Bodie was too fast for her. The flat of his hand hit her behind and she squealed. With a laugh, she dashed down the passage and out the door, flinging a final farewell into the air as though it were a school hat at the end of term.

***

For a long time, Bodie did nothing but sit and listen to the crackle of the fire and the gentle rattle of wind against the french windows. The day had stayed warm but the moment the sun had gone down, the tempreature had dropped like a stone. Ray had lit the fire some time after eight but since then, Bodie had lost track of time. With the windows closed, the curtains drawn, they had curled up on the sofa, sipping port and just being quiet together.

Bodie wasn't sure he'd ever felt like this before. It was an odd sensation. For hours now he'd been aware of it creeping up on him from behind, elusive, untouchable. Long after the tension of Elena's discovery had drained from him, he'd begun to relax and that's when it had begun.

But was it something physical? The kitchen was cleaned up. He'd swept the house looking for bugs -- and finding none. He'd shown Doyle how to use the device so he could check for himself on a weekly basis. The locks and alarms were set, the answering machine on. But really, there was nothing there that he didn't have at home.

Well, with the exception of the man who had an arm around him. Bodie was stretched out on the sofa, his head against Doyle's shoulder, listening absently to the gentle thud of the heart beneath the flesh. So quiet, here. So peaceful. It was quite possible that if he could, he might never want to leave this spot, this room, this sofa.

These arms.

Yeah, that's what this was: peace.

For the first time in... how many years? Ever? Had he ever felt this peace before?

What about when they'd been together, fourteen years ago?

No. Not like this. Sure, they'd spent many hours just like this, watching telly, or simply talking, stretched out together on the sofa, or bed -- or even floor. But there was something about this that made it different. Maybe it was the years or maybe it was simply because they'd had to fight so hard and for so long to have this that made it the more precious and the more welcome.

He felt Doyle shift beneath him to take another sip of port. Without thinking, Bodie smiled, tilting his head up to look at that beautiful face. Doyle met his gaze with half-closed eyes.

"And what are you thinking about?"

"Nothin'," Bodie lied.

"Yeah? So why are you smiling."

"Nervous tick. Always get it when I'm happy."

Doyle's eyes opened a fraction, in surprise. "Are you?"

"Yeah. You?"

Doyle nodded. "Now the worst is over with Elena. Of course, I still have to pass the test with Kate."

"Oh, don't worry about her. I told you I trust her."

"Yeah, but she knows you. And she used to know me. She's no fool. What do I do if she starts probing?"

"She can't find anything."

"But if she's looking, that'll mean she's suspicious."

"Then, perhaps we should tell her about Cade now and be done with it."

"No."

Bodie frowned and sat up a little, putting his glass down. "What's wrong?"

Doyle bit in his lip and shook his head. "Something got lost along the way, Bodie. Something I never really talked about -- but I have to say something now. But I don't want to ruin this."

With a smile, Bodie replied, "You can't. Go on."

Carefully, Doyle sat up properly and Bodie sat with him. "It's why you have to make sure you call me Alan -- not Ray. Oh, I know you have to sometimes and if we're in bed, I don't really mind. But the rest of the time... Well, you don't know how hard it is for me to be him."

"But you're not him. You're you."

"No, I am Alan Cade -- in every sense of the word. But when I'm alone with you, I'm me -- whoever that is. Sometimes I find myself getting confused about what I'm supposed to be doing and saying. And I can't afford to be confused. Not when other people are around."

"So, I'll call you Alan."

"And I can't tell Kate. Not outright. You don't know how much effort it takes to be Cade. So many things I have to suppress. If I have two people who know, that will double the risk I might slip one day. I know you've buried the evidence of it -- but it only takes suspicion to ruin everything. And then I'd have much more to worry about than the world finding out I'm sleeping with a man."

Bodie nodded and put his arm around Doyle's tense shoulders, pulling him close. "I understand."

"I'm sorry. I know she's your friend but..."

"And what if she guesses?"

Doyle looked up at that. "Is that likely?"

"Well, she'd done a dozen phyche tests on you in CI5. I should think she'd have a head start. I'm not saying she will -- but I think you should be prepared in case she does."

"I'll think about that. Worry about it when the time comes." Doyle emptied his glass and leaned back into Bodie's arms. "Hey, you were going to tell me how you became friends with Kate."

Oh, oh. With indecent haste, Bodie's quiet peace shattered and there was nothing left but tiny shards around his feet. Rather predictably, Doyle instantly sensed something was wrong.

But to tell him now? Was that such a good idea?

And to keep it from him would be to make another lie.

Doyle hadn't moved, but his voice spoke volumes, "Bodie? Whatever it is, you'd better tell me now."

"Okay. But I warn you, you're not going to like it."

"Go on."

"Well," he could prevaricate all he liked, but in the end, he would just have to come out with it. "You remember when I made that pass at you?"

"How could I forget?"

"Well, it wasn't the first time I'd done something like that."

"I didn't think it had. Keep going."

"Well," Bodie swallowed, unsure now more than ever. "After I got back to England and found out you were dead, I... er -- well, needless to say, I was a trifle upset. Anyway, it took me a long time before I could look at anybody -- and then when I did, I found I was looking for you."

Doyle turned, leaving the closeness of Bodie's embrace a little. "What does that mean?"

Raising his eyebrows defensively, Bodie continued, "Every now and then, I'd go looking for you. In clubs and bars. I'd... find somebody who looked like you and..."

Doyle was silent before supplying his own answer, "Take them home with you?"

"Not exactly -- but you get the gist."

Doyle's eyes never left his. "Why?"

Suddenly restless, Bodie looked away, "Dunno, really. Kate caught me at it one night, in a club in Soho. She dragged me outa there and back to her place. We talked all night and basically... I told her everything. She understood and I guess... became the only friend I had -- I could afford to have. Because she'd known you, you see?"

"But she didn't stop you doing it?"

"How could she? Didn't do it that often. I mean, the going home part. Maybe a dozen times over the years. Truth was, there aren't that many men in the world enough like you. Suppose that's why I never settled with any of them."

"And it was only men who looked like me?"

"Yeah. Silly, eh?"

"But why do it? I mean, if it wasn't just male companionship -- alright, sex, you wanted. If it wasn't just any man. Why look for me? When you believed I was dead?"

"Maybe because in the back of my mind, I thought that if I looked long enough and hard enough, I would find you. And of course, the weird thing is, I did." Bodie ran his fingers through his hair. "Jesus, Ray, I don't know. I'm sorry. I should have told you before."

He would have got up but Doyle got hold of his hand and forced him to stay where he was. "Why only men who looked like me, Bodie? Why?"

Bodie took in a breath, flashes of memory crowding in on him, memories of another sweet night when he'd taken the Chief Constable of Eastland to bed in a quiet room by the east coast. A man he'd not recognized for who he was -- though he should have. "I... wanted you back."

"Yes?"

"But I also... wanted to forget you." Doyle caught in a breath but said nothing, forcing Bodie to continue. "I wanted to be with you but the only way I could do that was to be with those others -- and at the same time, I could try and erase from my memory how you felt, sounded, tasted and smelt. I wanted to put you behind me -- but I kept failing. Every time I went to bed with a man, I could only think of you. Kate," he paused here to stop his voice from shaking, "Kate said I had a psychosis. I laughed at her but I knew she was right."

"And... what about women?"

"Oh, there were plenty of those. In every size shape and colour. They were as necessary to my image as the other was to my sanity. I'm sorry."

"For what?"

It was a moment before Bodie could look up into those hazy green eyes, "That night at the retreat. I should have known who you were. Hell, I know now why you wanted the light out and everything and we've been over that as much as we need to -- but the thing is, if I hadn't tried so hard to forget what you were like with the lights out, I might have remembered. I should have remembered. I..."

"What?" Doyle's voice was little more than a whisper.

"Wouldn't have been so cruel to you the next morning."

"And why were you?"

"Because... hell, because you stood there looking so damned wonderful, completely happy and totally content that what we'd had the night before was nothing more than a one-night-stand!"

"But that was what you'd wanted, wasn't it? What you'd always done? With those before me?"

"Christ, Ray! Don't you understand?" Bodie turned on the sofa, facing Doyle squarely. "I'd spent fourteen years looking for you -- and then found you in the guise of another man! I didn't know it was you -- but it sure felt like it at the time. I thought I was going mad. And, Jesus, I felt so damned guilty because I was falling in love again and it wasn't you. I didn't think I'd mourned you long enough. I didn't want to love anyone again. But I couldn't help it -- and yet you didn't seem to give a damn about me, about what I wanted. You just shut me out and gave me what you thought I wanted. I lashed out and I'm sorry."

"Ssh," Doyle murmured, placing a finger against Bodie's lips. "I know you're sorry. And it's just as much my fault for not asking -- but my problem was, I couldn't afford to have a relationship with you because you would find out who I was. I couldn't afford to feel anything for you, to let you close enough. God, it was bad enough just going to bed with you. You have no idea how scared I was -- or how little control I had in the end. It was callous of me to do it in the first place -- since I had some idea of how you would be feeling. But I just kept telling myself you couldn't possibly still love me. It was only when we were in the middle of it that I realized I'd made a big mistake. That's why I told you I understood it was a one-off. So you wouldn't have to go through it again."

Bodie frowned and shook his head, "But I still should have remembered enough of you to be able to tell. Christ, Ray, I was inside you. How could I not remember? If I hadn't been so damned determined to forget you, I might have."

Doyle shrugged, brushing the backs of his fingers against the side of Bodie's face, "And how could I be upset to find out that, in your own way, you've been faithful to me all these years?"

"Faithful?" Bodie was thrown completely, his raging emotions halted by a single word. Oddly, the shadows of that wonderful peace began to infringe upon him again, just outside his vision.

"Yeah," Doyle leaned forward and touched his lips to Bodie's cheek, soft and pliable. "We both did the same thing but in opposite ways. I never slept with another man -- except for that one night with Cade -- and that was in memory of you. You slept with as many men you could find who looked like me. That sounds a little twisted -- but a lot like faithfulness to me."

"And you're not angry?"

"No."

"No?"

"No." Doyle's hand snaked inside Bodie's shirt and brushed against his skin, making him shiver. "You once told me, guilt is a luxury only the rich can afford. Well, neither of us has grown so successful over the years, we can honestly call ourselves rich. Bodie, I love you. We both made mistakes, we both did things we regret. Let's let the past die now. Let's make the present work."

With that, Doyle leaned closer and kissed him, lingering over each lip, sending flashes of delight and expectation all through Bodie's body. Without thinking, Bodie pulled him closer, then drew him down until he was lying beneath Doyle, the kiss continuing.

After a long breathless moment, he gazed up at Doyle with a distracted smile; just watching those incredible lips drove most thoughts from his mind, "Don't you think we should go upstairs before this gets too involved?"

"Nope," Doyle shook his head, undoing Bodie's shirt buttons, letting his lips follow his hands down Bodie's chest. "I want to make love to you right here. The curtains are closed, doors are locked, we've checked for bugs, Elena's gone and won't be back for a week. More importantly, I'm here, I love you and I want you right now. If I wait till we get upstairs, I might change my mind."

Bodie just simply had to laugh. How could a man argue with logic like that? Especially when there were hands working their way down to his tender regions. Bodie gave in and stretched out, already growing hard with Doyle's efforts. With some pushing and squeezing, he found himself naked, Doyle almost so, their clothes draped over different parts of living room furniture. By the time he noticed, he didn't give a damn. Doyle's lips worked on him like fire, burning him up. But more than anything, it was the simple joy of being able to do this at all that brought him close to the edge. And sitting beside that joy was the peace he'd taken so long to notice.

Peace with Doyle beside him, making love to him.

When they came together, the joy exploded into a thousand tiny suns, each drifting down through the haze of peace. Like a soft blanket, it wrapped itself around them and kept them warm while they slept where they lay.

***

The constant drone of traffic out the window held the superficial level of Bodie's attention. He leaned his elbows on the sill and watched the city traffic grind past, the air filled with smells of so many cars and people, all squeezed together in such a tiny space. London had been overcrowded since Roman times and didn't appear to be changing any time soon.

Icy cold air filled his lungs and made his fingers go numb but he didn't move from his position. Waiting for the phone to ring had never been one of his best loved passtimes, but today, after hours of pacing up and down, of trying to find other things to do to fill in the horrible gap, he'd lost patience completely. His phone was no more than three feet behind him. He would get to it before the first ring had finished -- when it finally decided to ring.

As though caught on a perpetual treadmill, he again mused at what Ray would do if the response was as he hoped. The possibility of sheer fury was always there, in the foreground. The temper that always lurked beneath the surface of his mecurial lover, would find plenty to play with if everything went to plan -- but that was always assuming Ray would actually work out what Bodie had done. If he didn't, there was still the question about how he would react. Fortunately, there was no time for him to go to Norwich, no time for Ray to speak to him face to face, none at all with which to postphone the answer.

A flurry of March wind caught a sheet of newspaper and tossed it along the cold street. Even from two floors up he could read the large black headlines of a few days ago. He didn't need to get closer to know what the story was about. The only story that had occupied the papers, both tabloid and broadsheet, for the last few weeks.

Ray had called him about it -- almost daily. In the six months they'd been together, this was the first time they'd not seen each other for a whole three weeks and Ray had been worried. Worried about the long break -- but more so, worried on Bodie's behalf. Not that Bodie could explain anything, of course. No. This had taken too long to set up, too much effort to keep under wraps. There was not a soul alive who had any idea of what he'd done, nor for that matter, why. If Ray guessed, so be it -- but if he didn't, Bodie had no intention of saying a word.

And what if Ray said no?

Bloody treadmill. Why did he always come back to that question?

Because it was the most important.

If Ray refused, then all the plans, all the sacrifices he'd made would all have been for nothing.

No. Not for nothing. For Ray. Always for Ray. Never anyone else, not in a long, long time.

And this last six months had been hardest on him. Day after day, week after week, watching over his shoulder for that unfamiliar face in the bushes, the glint of sunlight off a camera lens, reading the papers every morning with a brush of fear for what he might find.

Of course, he'd tried to hide his worry from Bodie and whenever the subject came up about the press cottoning on to their relationship, Ray had done his best to change it. But Elena, taking Bodie's side on the matter, had spoken to him at great length about how Ray was when Bodie wasn't around. The pressure was getting to him and they all knew it.

The worst thing about it was, that that single consideration aside, neither of them had been happier. It was of course, always hard to part after only a day or so together -- and there had been the most wonderful week at his house on the coast to look back on. Seven days without anybody else around at all. Seven days of blissful peace and quiet when they'd been able to love and talk and be themselves. Hours spent running along the rocky beach, or sitting by the fire. Nights -- and days spent in bed, slowly making love, getting to know each other again, allowing the passion to build, reinforcing it into the present. There'd been so much time to catch up on, so many years to sweep away -- the one week had given them a lot back, but it had been too short.

About fourteen years too short.

And afterwards, Ray's nerves about discovery had only frayed the quicker. Word came back to Bodie, via his extensive grapevine, of Alan Cade's friable moods, his impatience with things he'd always been content to leave, his complete disinterest and distrust in anything to do with the press.

He'd tried to hide -- but for twenty years, Bodie had known the ins and outs of that shuttered mind. Ray could run, but he could never hide from Bodie. Not any more.

And so Bodie had begun to plot and plan, scooping up current events and problems along the way, framing things together in a Machievellian manner Cowley would have been proud of. Yes, Bodie had done well, and he could afford to admit to himself, that he'd had two good teachers: Cowley -- and Willis.

It would be the most delicious of victories if he could win this one. To win it on his own terms. All it really required was a phone call.

And Ray's response.

Bodie rubbed his hands together and gazed up at a bleak winter sky. The days were just starting to get a little longer now but even so, the night still came down too quickly. He'd promised to meet Ray in Cambridge this weekend. They'd booked rooms in a discrete B&B. Somehow, he had the feeling that they wouldn't make it that far.

He let out a big sigh. There was the other worry he could think about for a while, to make a change. Kate. She'd absorbed the story of his falling for Cade without a murmur, expressing only a little concern that both men be prepared for what might happen -- and only fueling Ray's worry more. Aside from that, she'd largely left them alone. Ray had been very careful never to be alone with her and Bodie knew that in reality, Ray was doing all he could to avoid Kate altogether. They'd had dinner at Bodie's flat a couple of times largely because Bodie didn't want to shut her out, knew that if she saw the two of them were happy, she wouldn't worry so much. But on both occassions, Ray had been so nervous of saying the wrong thing, of giving too much of himself up to her preceptive gaze, he'd hardly said a word, clamming up almost completely until the woman had left them.

Bodie had tried talking to him about it but it was useless. And what could he say -- in reality? Every day of his life, Ray walked a tightrope, balanced carefully between two hopelessly connected lies. If one of them were discovered, he was positive, the other would be as well. He was convinced the consequences would be catastrophic -- so much so, that lately, Bodie had begun to question the wisdom of their being together at all.

Not that he would ever give Ray up, no. But six months ago, in the last brush of summer, it had seemed so right for them to acknowledge their relationship, learn to live with it, enjoy it -- and damn the papers, the whole world. Ray had trusted him and, to be fair, he'd been right. It wasn't the world that bothered Ray -- it was his own conscience. He felt guilty that he was perpetuating another lie and somewhere along the line, if Bodie didn't do something about it first, Ray would find a way to trip himself up, thereby fulfilling his own dire predictions.

Either that, or he would tell Bodie that their relationship would have to end. That wasn't a guess, either. Bodie had seen the signs, knew enough about this Doyle to know what was coming, somewhere down the line. Another six months of this kind of stress and Ray would crack. And that, above everything else, was the one thing he would not allow.

So Bodie had put his plans into action, letting them run their full course and now, as he settled on the window ledge, his knees against the radiator, all he needed was that one phone call and he would be ready for the final step.

As long as Ray didn't say no.

***

Cade came up the stairs with his eyes on the papers in his hands, while Rose spoke quietly beside him. He nodded a few times, once again amazed at how he could read and listen effectively at the same time. Rose was talking about an incident in the Parks last night, the papers told him of the latest figures on the drugs programs running concurrently in different parts of the country.

At last, it was the evidence he needed. But how to capitalise on it was another matter. There was only so much he could do in his position. The rest would be up to others.

Rose finished speaking as they arrived at the landing before his office. He thanked her for her report, gave her a few instructions she didn't really need then glanced up at Dianne who stood waiting to speak to him. As Rose walked away, Dianne nodded her head in the direction of his office.

"Mr Crimmond is here to see you, sir."

Cade frowned, "There was no meeting scheduled, was there?"

"No, sir. He called about twenty mintues ago to say he would be here in ten. You left instructions not to be disturbed in your briefing so I asked him to wait."

"Good job," he gave her a superficial smile -- but couldn't help wondering what the Man from the Ministery was doing here unannounced. Nigel almost never left the confines of London if he could help it. Their dealings almost always were completed over the phone. With a nod, he turned for his office and went inside to find Crimmond relaxed in a chair by the meeting table. He glanced up as Cade entered.

"Good afternoon, Chief. I trust your briefing went well?"

"Thank you, yes." Cade went around his desk and slotted the papers inside a file where Crimmond wouldn't be able to see them. "To what do I owe the honour? Not like you to come crawling out from under your rock in the middle of winter."

As usual, Crimmond only gave one of his unamused smiles at the small jibe. They'd had four years to work out how their relationship would function -- and, for all that Cade didn't much like some of the things the civil servant did -- nor why -- he had concluded that the other man wasn't so bad, and a hell of a lot better than some he could mention. Still, he always felt a little needling was required before they got down to business. Besides, he wanted to call Bodie with the lastest figures -- and see how he was doing.

He'd tried his best to find out if there was actually some kind of political plot bubbling away in Bodie's background -- but all he ever met were deadends. All he did know was that Bodie was in trouble and on the hour, he pondered the advisability of him simply going down to London himself to find out what it was. Besides, he missed the rotten bastard. Three weeks was too long in anybody's book -- and after fourteen years apart, each day had seemed like an eon.

Then again, perhaps Crimmond was here because of Bodie.

The thought settled him immediately, especially when it was followed hard by another thought, even more worrying: had Crimmond come to tell him the secret was out? Had someone found out about him and Bodie?

Keeping his face composed, he left his desk and came to the table, sitting opposite Crimmond. "Well? It must be something serious or you wouldn't have come in person."

"It is," Crimmond nodded, his face giving away nothing at all. "However, before I tell you, I must stress the confidential nature of what I'm about to say. Things have been placed in motion and they must needs follow a particular course. If you speak to anyone about this before the right moment, you could ruin everything. Most particularly, the press is to know nothing about it until tonight."

"What's happening tonight?" Cade asked, too confused to begin to guess what was really going on.

"That will become evident." Crimmond rested his hand on the table, drumming his fingers lightly and fixing a clear gaze on Cade, open and yet giving nothing away at all. His voice quiet, he said, "Before I begin, I need to know the nature of your relationship with Andrew Bodie, head of CI5."

***

Bodie had his hands buried beneath his armpits to keep them warm -- so when the phone finally did ring, he actually had some feeling left with which to pick up the receiver.

"Bodie." He said, short and clipped, knowing he was holding his breath.

The voice on the other end sounded a little faint, as though the speaker didn't really want to be making this call. "Oh, right, you're there. I wasn't sure if..."

"Get on with it, Donald. I haven't got all day."

"Yes, I know." A pause, then, "Look, Bodie, I did my best but... I'm sorry, the news isn't good."

As the man began to postulate some more, wriggling on the line like an apolegetic trout, Bodie, his fingers warming more with each second, slowly began to smile.

***

Cade didn't respond for a second. He even managed to stifle any reaction at all bar the sudden thumping in his chest. He was amazed when Crimmond didn't instantly leap up and order an ambulance for a Chief Constable obviously about to have a heart attack.

Allowing a small frown to form, Cade replied, "In what respect?" Good response, non-comittal, giving nothing away, assuming nothing. Came from so many years of lying.

"I understand you met him the first time some years ago?"

"That's right." Again, no reaction shown other than mild interest. Good. Keep it up.

"But you have only really got to know him in the last year. He was at your conference on the coast was he not?"

"Yes." Then, as though he would normally do under any other circumstances, he leaned forward slightly, "Look, Nigel, what's this about?"

"Would you say you were friends?" Crimmond ignored his question and followed his own train of thought, his gaze never wavering from Cade's face.

"Yes, I would. Why?" Heart pounding even harder now -- but he had to know, the suspense was killing him.

Crimmond raise a single eyebrow, "You've seen quite a lot of him over the last six or so months."

"Is my social life under some kind of scrutiny?" Cade asked acidly, knowing he no longer wanted to hear the answer.

"Not as such, no. But you know I have to keep my eye out for all sorts of things." Crimmond stopped drumming the table and folded his hands together on his lap. "What I really want to know is -- do you think you could work with him?"

For a second, Cade thought he'd misheard. The frown that crossed his face was completely involountary -- though perfect for the moment. "What?" was all he could manage.

"Do you?"

Crimmond was obviously not going to give an inch until Cade first gave an answer. So he did, understating the situation far more than the other man would ever know, "I think I could. Again, why?"

Nodding slowly, Crimmond took in a deep breath, ready to talk now, "You will know that for some years now there have been some moves within the more liberal corners of Whitehall, to do away with CI5 altogether. There's always been a kind of attitude that the squad uses tactics that are far too heavy handed. Under the direction of George Cowley, there had been a few delicately balanced moments. One in particular when one of his agents, Raymond Doyle, was reported to have deliberately hit and accidently killed the younger brother of a famous boxer. The enquiry which ensued was both public and condemning -- but enough to convince the government that there was indeed a real need to keep the squad's funding in tact."

Cade only nodded. What else could he do?

Crimmond continued, "Then Cowley died and Sir Lionel took over. For the first few years, he seemed the best man for the job but after a while, his health began to suffer and in turn the squad suffered with it. The edge Cowley had given it had gone, leaving it somewhat like a toothless tiger, all muscle but no bite. Again, the question was raised about the continued existance of an otherwise thorny protusion in the side of our country's law enforcement. Which is exactly why Andrew Bodie was brought in. His long career as an active agent first in CI5 and then in MI6 gave him the best background we had on hand."

"But?"

Crimmond shook his head, "No buts. Bodie does the job and does it well -- as good as Cowley at his finest."

It was all Cade could do not to smile proudly at that; Crimmond didn't compliment anything much at all. Such praise for his Bodie was praise indeed. "But there is a problem?"

"Yes. Unfortunately, you, rather indirectly I might add, have unwittingly contributed to it. But at the base of the problem lies Bodie himself - and the fact that he does indeed do his job very well."

Cade leaned back in his chair, his concerns about unwelcome revelations put aside for the moment. This was about Bodie -- and he wanted to know everything. "So far you've only managed to confuse me. Come on, Nigel, get on with it. Why should Bodie doing a good job be a problem?" Just a little of the famous Cade irritation.

"Because he does it too well -- in a political atmosphere that has recently begun to change its attitude on the subject of drugs."

Cade's eyebrows rose at that. "Go on."

"Bodie has been approached a number of times but all to no avail. He is determined to continue down the track CI5 has always followed; hit hard and fast and take no prisoners, so to speak. However, now that your drugs program has begun to show such promising results--"

How did Crimmond know that?

"--there are noises being made to take some action."

Noises? Cade blinked, hardly able to believe what he was hearing. Had Bodie been right all along? "What kind of noises?"

"The kind that make things happen." Crimmond paused -- entirely for effect. "In tonight's budget speech, the Chancellor for the Exchequor will announce the formation for the long-awaited National Crime Division."

"Christ!"

"Exactly. We've all been waiting for it so long we thought it would never happen. The precise areas of its brief are still to be negotiated -- but one thing for certain is that CI5 will be included as one department within it. What I have come here to ask you, Alan, is if you would be willing to head the new Division."

***

Bodie put the phone down and sank into the chair behind him. For the life of him, he couldn't wipe the damned grin off his face. At some point over the following few mintues, his secretary came in and handed him some messages, a few files and something else he didn't pay any attention to, but she could have done so singing and dancing for all the difference it made to him.

After a while, he turned back and glanced at the phone. He had a small bet running: would Ray do exactly what he'd been told not to do - and ring Bodie? If he did, then it was certain he'd guessed what had happened. If he didn't, this particular secret was safe -- and would remain so.

But for the life of him, he really wished it would ring. He would have given almost anything to hear Ray's voice right now.

With a contented sigh, he turned his gaze from the phone and onto the messages left for him. He'd have to make some effort to work today or somebody might notice.

***

"Let me get this right," Cade sat frozen in his chair, all his best hopes, and some of his worst fears all coming together in the one moment. "You want me to head up the new Division and thereby take CI5 under my wing so I can make it more politically correct?"

"Something like that." Crimmond smiled, "As I said, the details have yet to be worked out."

"But why?"

"Why what? You know why we need a national police force -- especially on the work of containing the drugs problem. But it's more than that, now. As you, yourself have proven, there are other ways to tackle the drugs trade -- and you've impressed enough of the necessary people in the process. You've garnered support from a whole range of places -- and almost universally, those who are supporting the National Crime Division will only contemplate funding it if you are in charge." Crimmond paused to shrug, "The fact that you're friends with Bodie is an added sweetner. You may not have noticed, but the man can be damned difficult at times. He's managed to rub a lot of people the wrong way over the last few months. Unfortunately, something of the trouble leaked to the press -- and they've been having a field day."

"Yes, I had seen it."

"Did he mention anything to you?"

"Of course not," and Cade really wished that had been a lie -- but Bodie, in his usual secretive manner -- had not said a bloody word about the problems he'd been having! But he focussed on the question at hand, "And what about the drugs program?"

"Well, one idea being touted is that you will initiate a nationwide study on the prospect of putting a policy together."

Cade's draw dropped open. "Are you joking?"

Smug now, Crimmond merely shook his head.

Suddenly restless, Cade got to his feet. If he'd ever been given a chance to say exactly what he wanted to do with all this, Crimmond had just offered it to him on a silver platter. Everything. Just as he'd always secretly dreamed. And in the process, he would be able to work with Bodie -- though it would mean leaving Eastland of course -- but he could go back to London and... and...

And...

The sneaky, secretive, conniving, lying bastard!

Oh, this was just too rich! It couldn't be an accident. It simply couldn't be. Bodie wouldn't be that stupid to get himself into so much trouble by accident. No, it had to be deliberate.

But why?

Well, there was one way to find out.

He turned and faced Crimmond who had been waiting for him to think. "When do you need an answer?"

"Right now, I'm afraid. I have to phone the Home Secretary before I leave here. If you accept, the Chancellor will make the announcement tonight -- though your name won't be mentioned immediately. We'll let that leak out over the next couple of weeks."

"Oh?" Cade murmured absently, not really concerned. "Why?"

"To take the edge off the idea that Bodie is being taken under your wing, so to speak."

Cade raised an eyebrow at that, "And we both know the arrangement will be nothing of the kind."

"Precisely. The problem with CI5 has never been that it has a job to do -- but that the job is done without the rules and regulations of the police force behind it. By bringing it under the auspices of the National Crime Division, it will be collected within the establishment in a way that will quieten all the liberal rumbles. There is no real political intent to take away any of the special rules under which CI5 operates. In reality, nothing will change. But on the surface it will. You are considered to be one of the few men around -- and certainly the only one available -- who is capable of working alongside Bodie so that we can all get what we want."

"I see," Cade nodded, for want of something better to say. But he couldn't give an answer right away. He had to talk to Bodie first, just in case it wasn't all his doing. He had to know what Bodie would think about him going to live in London, about losing the frame of independence he had always enjoyed in CI5. He turned away from Crimmond, "I need an hour. Dianne will organize some lunch for you, if you like -- but I can't give you an answer until I've had a chance to think about it."

Crimmond got to his feet. "I can afford an hour -- no more. I'll leave the papers here so you can have a look at them. I'll need a signature before the HS will be prepared to make any kind of announcement. It's just a draft, of course. We'll have to nut out all the details later." He placed a sheef of papers on the table and left.

Absently, Cade ordered some lunch for Crimmond -- and himself. It was late and his stomach was complaining. Then, when he was sure he was completely alone, he pulled out his mobile and dialled Bodie's number.

***

Of course, he'd been waiting for the wrong phone to ring. Bodie almost jumped when the noise came from his right instead of his left. Frantically, he grabbed his mobile, pressing the button before really thinking what he would say.

"Bodie."

Silence for a moment, then Ray said, "Yeah, I thought so."

A triffle nonplussed, Bodie frowned, "Any particular reason?"

"I had a feeling I would be able to hear the truth in the first word you spoke. Turns out I was right."

Swallowing, Bodie tried to keep his sudden nerves from his voice, "It's nice to hear your voice, sunshine. How's things?"

"You rotten lying bastard. Don't you dare play the innocent with me now -- of all times!"

"But..."

"Oh, I can just imagine your face right now. The picture of innocence. How could you do it, Bodie? How?"

"I'm sorry, Alan, I have no idea what you're talking about." Bodie tried the stiff response -- but failed completely when he heard a low growl of laughter at the other end of the phone. Rather pathetically, his heart started again.

After a little while, Ray's laughter subsided and for long exhausting seconds, he said nothing at all. Then, "I just need one question answered right now. The rest can wait for later."

Ready, Bodie nodded, "What?"

"Did you just do it for me?"

Now silence reigned on Bodie's end and for a second, he really couldn't find a short reply.

"Bodie?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Look... Alan, so what if I did? It's the right thing to do -- for the drugs program, for CI5 -- for the damned country. So what if it's also the right thing for us. I mean, it is the right thing for us, isn't it?" Suddenly unsure, he waited breathlessly.

"Of course it bloody well is, you idiot! That's not the point."

"You're afraid it will make it harder to keep us a secret, is that it?"

"You know it will -- but again, that's not the point."

Settling back into his seat, Bodie propped his feet up on the top of the radiator. "And would sir care to tell me what the point is?"

When Ray's voice came back again, it was quiet, solemn and a little husky, "It's a bloody big job. I'm not sure I can do it."

Bodie smiled, "Would I have dropped you in it if I didn't think you could do it?"

"Yeah, but you're biased."

"Again, I ask, so what? Besides, it's not just my opinion now, is it?"

"No." This came reluctantly and again Bodie was left hanging, waiting for the next question. "Bodie, are you sure about this? About us, I mean. If I'm in London, we'll see each other more but... do you think we can take that much pressure? What if it doesn't work out between us? What if I'm no good at the job? What if we find we can't work together any more? What if..."

Bodie sat silently and let the questions run out all by themselves. Unpredictable in so many areas, Ray was the exact opposite in others. "Like I said six months ago, we'll make it work -- and let's face it, we'll have a much better excuse for spending time together than before. In the long run, it will actually make it easier for us to keep the secret than before."

"Yeah," again, the voice was subdued. Then, surprisingly, he added, "Bodie, I do love you, you know that?"

"Sure, sunshine, I know that."

"I'd better go. Crimmond is waiting for an answer."

"Call me tonight?"

"Yeah, maybe. I'll see how it goes. Bye."

And then he was gone and for the first time, Bodie began to worry that he'd done the wrong thing after all.

***

For ten long minutes, Cade sat with his back to his desk, staring out the window, the phone still in his hands. Then he made one more phone call, to Elena, this time. He didn't tell her anything in particular; he just wanted to hear her voice, just to make sure that he was making the right decision. It would affect her just as much as anyone else. But he had to be sure. Because once Crimmond came back in, there would be no going back, no changing his mind, no hope of rescue if it all went wrong.

When he was finished, he called Crimmond back in and stood by the table, a pen in his hand. Crimmond raised an eyebrow.

"And?"

"How binding is this contract?"

"In itself, completely. As you can see, there are plenty of clauses to the affect that specific details of the new Division are still to be worked out."

"Why?"

"Because we assumed you would want to be making a few of the new rules, yourself." Crimmond finished this off with a smile -- and Cade replied with a stiff one of his own. Then, without another word, he signed his name at the bottom of three sheets of paper and the other man came forward to take them. "I had a feeling you wouldn't refuse."

Cade put the pen down. "When can I tell people?"

"Not before the budget speech begins. Any time after that -- though keep the numbers small for the moment. At least for the next week. I'll call you when I get back to London, to pass on the congratulations of the HS. For the moment, Alan, you have mine." With that, he held out his hand and Cade shook it, feeling none of the enthusiasm he knew Crimmond was expecting.

He did manage a smile of sufficiently convincing proportions that Crimmond left him content. However, after he was gone and Cade had returned to his chair, he began to shake, from head to foot and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

***

"Jesus Christ, Dad, you can't be serious!" Elena stood on the other side of the kitchen, her dark eyes alight with disbelief. "When is this going to happen?"

"The announcement is being made as we speak. By the end of next week, I'll be tied up in meetings thrashing out the details. Crimmond called me back from London to tell me that the HS wants me there from Wednesday onwards. I'll have three months to get the Division up and running."

"But -- hell, that's no time at all!" Elena came around the table, filled a glass with water from the tap and turned to face him, swallowing without taking her eyes from him. "And what does Bodie say about it all?"

"Ah, and therein lies the problem."

"Why?"

Cade shrugged and sipped the whiskey he'd poured himself an hour ago as he'd waited for her to come home.

"Dad? Why is it a problem? You two are okay, aren't you? I mean, you always seem pretty happy when you're both here -- or do you keep your fights for when I'm not around?"

"Elena," Cade began with a half-hearted laugh, "I wouldn't inflict our fights on my worst enemy, let alone you."

But she didn't smile. Instead, she came up to him with deep concern in her eyes. "But you are okay, aren't you? You're not going to split up or anything?"

With a soft smile, he took her hand, "Come on." He led her willingly through to the lounge and sat her down on the sofa, putting his arm around her shoulders. "You know there's a lot of things I can't ever discuss with you, about what I do -- and why."

"Sure -- and I've always appreciated the fact that you do discuss a lot of stuff that you probably shouldn't -- so I don't feel completely left out."

"And you've been good to your word and never spoken about them to anyone else. Well, when I get to London, that's going to get ten times worse. On top of that, I'll be selling this house."

"Yeah, but Cambridge is closer to London than here -- unless you don't want me..."

"Of course I want you with me!" He drained his whiskey and put the glass down carefully. "No, this is about something else. About Bodie and me. Something you and I have never really talked about. And it has everything to do with this new job."

"Go on."

"Well, in exactly the same way I can't tell you about my work, I can't tell you the hows or whens or whys of it -- but I want you to understand how Bodie feels about me -"

"Dad," Elena began, as though talking to a child. "I'm not blind. I've seen how much he loves you. You don't need to say anything..."

"And how I feel about him." Cade finished, seeing a serious look graze across his daughter's eyes. "I can't tell you the background, but I can say that Bodie, whether it's a good idea or not, will do everything within his power to protect me. Now, he has his reasons -- and to be honest, I'm not always sure I even know all of them -- but what I'm getting at, is that he is prepared to go to any lengths necessary to keep me in one piece. I... suspect that it has become the most important thing in the world to him and I think I might know why."

He paused and took a breath, keeping reign on what he could tell her and what he had to, from necessity, leave out. "You know I love you and that I would never do anything to hurt you."

"Sure."

"And you don't know how happy I am that you've accepted my relationship with Bodie."

"Well, the truth is, if he'd been a bastard, I wouldn't have."

Unable to help himself, Cade replied, "Oh, but he is -- and now I have proof."

Elena laughed a little, "So, what's the problem?"

"When I go to London, things are going to change -- for you -- but mostly for me and Bodie. Sure, he'll be around more often -- at least in the beginning."

It was so hard to say, he had to stop again. Sensing his distress, Elena took his hand, "What is it, Dad?"

Looking away from her, he shook his head slightly, "I can't begin to tell you how much he means to me. I'm not sure what I'd do if I lost him now. He is... well, to just say that I love him doesn't even come close -- and this... business only makes it worse. And when I get to London, he'll go all out to make sure that in the nasty city, my back... will be covered at all times. It might get a little uncomfortable for a while, until I can settle him down. But..." how could he say it? The truth was, he couldn't. Not until it was all over. "But when that does happen, there might not be a Bodie in my life any more."

"What?" Elena sat up. "Dad, what are you talking about? You're going around in circles and I want to know!"

He quietened her by taking both her hands in his. "You don't know the sacrifices he's made for me. Going back a long way. Things that... happened and shouldn't have. Things that people did. He's going to try and make up for it because, despite what he says, he will always blame himself for the fact that we split up in the first place. You know Bodie; he's a freight train and with a good head of steam, nothing can stop him. I'm just warning you because there's going to be a fight -- between what I want to do and him wanting to protect me. I don't want us to split up -- Christ, I promise you, I don't -- but I know him. It might end up coming to that. I just want you to know, in case you might decide to stay in Cambridge for a while, until things settle down."

Elena shook her head vigoursly, "He'll never leave you."

"Sweetheart," he reached up and caressed her cheek, "he's done it twice already -- so he could protect me. Twice before he's sacrificed our relationship so that I would be safe. Like I said, it's become the most important thing in the world to him. I know, just as sure as we're sitting here, that should the moment come again, he would do the same thing a third time. And the third would be the last."

"No." But she was no longer certain.

"I just wanted you to be warned."

She watched him with grave eyes for a moment then said, "I'm coming to London with you. I don't care if there are going to be fireworks. You'll have to have somebody around you trust to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong."

"I don't want you getting hurt. I know you're fond of Bodie."

"Damn it, Dad! I'm not a fragile petal! I love Bodie and I love you and if there's any way I can make sure you two stay together, I'll take it. I can cop a little flack along the way if necessary. Don't worry about me -- just concentrate on Bodie and this new job. God, I'm so proud of you!" With that, she gave him a hug -- and that's when he realised how much he'd needed one.

***

A bitter wind whistled through the french windows and across the floor of the living room but Cade did nothing about it. He was hot and exhausted and the wind kept him from overheating.

The house looked like the wind had been blowing for a week. Half packed boxes were scattered across every room, pictures were down from the wall, vast quantites of paper and every other conceivable piece of rubbish covered every horizontal surface. He hated moving -- and this was the major reason why.

In CI5, he'd moved house on average once every nine months. After the first three moves, he'd learned not to accumulate too much stuff. But when he'd come up here and bought this house, he'd thought he'd be here until retirement -- so he'd lashed out a bit, bought furniture and a whole host of other stuff. Now he was moving again and instead of creating order, packing only made more mess.

Elena had been a help over the last week -- but she had exams on and so Cade had banished her to her shared flat in Cambridge so she could get some undisturbed study time. Still, when she had been around, they'd talked a lot -- perhaps more than at any other time in their chequered relationship. Somehow they'd grown closer than before and for that, he could only be grateful.

It had been a tough and stressful few weeks since the budget speech. The press had whipped up the whole thing in the first few days after his name had been mentioned -- but now it had all settled down. He'd managed to get some work done in London, steering as clear of Bodie as he could manage -- though that in itself, had been very difficult. They'd not spent any time alone in six weeks now, certainly not slept together. He knew Bodie was concerned about the sudden distance Cade was putting between them -- but he also knew it was necessary for the moment.

He had an office, in the building adjoining CI5's. Other space was being organized and they would all move in about six months. He also had a staff of twenty -- not much but enough to begin with. He had ideas of a few people he wanted with him but he would get to all that later.

And hell, it was exciting, putting together a National Crime Division from scratch, being able to make the rules as he went along. Not that he'd been given a completely free hand -- but it was enough. More than enough.

Extricating himself from Eastland had proved harder than he'd expected. For all that he was going on to bigger and better things, he found his emotional involvement in the place had run a lot deeper than he'd thought. Sean was running things now, but Cade still had some work to do with him, things to hand over. It would take the Police Committee at least three months to find a permanent replacement for him. With the running around in Norwich -- together with constant trips back to London, Cade was exhausted, almost brain dead and ready for a holiday before he'd really begun.

He left the boxes in the living room and went into the kitchen to make himself yet another cup of coffee. He would only do a little more packing today then get dressed and ready to head back to London. The removals company would do all the rest -- though where they would take all his stuff was another question.

Bodie had mentioned he had it taken care of, but they'd not really had a chance to discuss it. One thing was certain, Bodie wasn't about to suggest they live together.

A pity, really.

He'd just finished filling his cup with boiling water when he heard the doorbell go. With a moan that it might be press, he turned and headed along the corridor. He opened the door to find, to his surprise, Kate Ross standing there.

"Oh!" He said, taken completely by surprise. "Er, hello."

She smiled a little, somewhat hesitantly, "I'm sorry to barge in on you like this. I should have called but I couldn't get your number."

"Er, come in." Cade backed away then closed the door behind her, showing her the living room. What was he supposed to do with her? Why the hell was she here? "Sorry about the mess. Just push some stuff off and take a seat. What can I do for you?"

"Well," Kate said evenly, finding a chair to sit on. Cade took up the only spot left on the end of the sofa. "I've come about a couple of things. The first is that, I'm handing in my resignation."

"What?"

She nodded, barely glancing at him, "Since you are now officially my boss, I thought I'd better tell you in person."

"But why? Have you got an objection to the new Division?"

"Not at all. I think it's a perfect solution. No, it has nothing to do with that. I've been thinking of leaving for a long time and," she paused turning her gaze on him, "now that I know Bodie won't be alone any more, I think I can get away with it."

Cade swallowed, "What will you do?"

"I've been offered a professorship at Oxford. There's a couple of books I want to write. I'll keep very busy."

"But you'll be leaving Bodie behind? Are you sure that's wise? Have you told him?"

"Not yet, no. But I won't be far away if he needs me." She kept her gaze on him, her eyes searching his face in a way that suddenly made him very uncomfortable.

Taking a guess, Cade sat back a little, "You don't approve of him and me, do you?"

"Approve?" Her eyebrows rose at this and she shook her head slightly, as though considering the question for the first time. "It's not for me to approve or otherwise. He's committed himself to you and he seems happy."

"Seems? You don't sound too sure."

"I'm not."

Her blunt admission gave him cause to stare back at her. He didn't say anything however, and the silence stretched between them for a long time. Then finally, Kate laced her fingers together on her lap and lifted her head a little. "You're not Alan Cade, are you?"

His heart stopped.

"You're Raymond Doyle," she added in a whisper.

Utterly unable to form any kind of reply, he did nothing at all.

His silence forced her to continue. "Of course, your first question is how I worked it out. I suppose it's only fair I should tell you before I decide what I'll do about it. Again to be fair, I'll say that you gave nothing away. Neither did I do any great rummaging around in records to find concrete evidence. I guessed you would have made sure there wasn't any by this time -- just in case somebody like me guessed. And that's all it was -- a guess. But you see, Doyle, I'm not a detective -- I'm a psycologist. I study behaviour, not physical evidence. And though your behaviour was without fault, Bodie's has been the exact opposite. I've not said anything to him about this simply because I had to ask you something first. Does he know who you really are?"

Still bereft of speech, Doyle could only nod. After almost fifteen years of hiding the terrible secret, it was out at last -- and he couldn't hide his terror.

"He does know?"

"Yes."

Kate nodded and gave him a little smile. "I thought so, but I had to be sure. How many others know?"

"Apart from you, nobody."

"Not even Cade's daughter?"

"No!" Again, Kate nodded and Doyle found words coming to him. "What are you going to do?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On why you did it and whether you were responsible for the real Alan Cade's death."

Doyle swallowed and bit in his lip. Bodie said he trusted this woman and from the sound of their relationship over the years, he had reason to do so. But could Doyle trust her, that was the question. Then again, he didn't exactly have much choice.

Abruptly, from nowhere, the courage to tell the truth came to him and he took in a breath. "Okay, I'll tell you everything. But you need to understand that I won't ever speak about it again. What is said in this room will never leave it."

Kate gave no sign of agreement -- but he went on anyway, detailing the whole horrible tale right from the story of Marikka and Willis, through the years to when he and Bodie first got together, through Willis' blackmail, his time in Liverpool. Everything -- even the night he and Bodie had together at the retreat. The only things he left out were the more sordid details. He told the whole thing, right up to when Crimmond came into his office. When he was finished, Kate sat in silence and he left her briefly to make them both some coffee, giving her a chance to think about what he'd said. He brought her cup back and handed it to her, taking his seat once again.

"Well?"

"Well?" She replied quickly, her sharp gaze raking over him like hot coals. "I can't believe Willis would do such a thing. On the other hand, Bodie has given me the same story about that event so I know you're not lying."

"And what are you going to do?"

She took a sip of coffee and pulled in a breath. "Nothing."

He frowned, "Why?"

She gave him a small smile and tilted her head sideways, "Because I love Bodie, that's why. Do you honestly think I'd stoop so low to hurt him by revealing your lie to the world? God, he'd kill me!"

"Of course he wouldn't."

"Don't kid yourself. Remember, I've been with him all these years. I know how he feels about you, how deep it runs. I know better than anyone just how much he needs you. I'm sorry," she said after a moment, for the first time, her gaze softening a little. "I had to be harsh about it so I could get the truth. I didn't think you would tell me otherwise. Of course, I would have looked like a great idiot if I'd been wrong, wouldn't I?"

"So what gave it away?"

"Bodie."

"How?"

"For the last ten years or so, I've been the only person in the world who knew how he felt about you. I saw his depression, his dark side, his guilt. He blamed himself for getting you killed. He blamed himself for causing Cowley pain in not telling him the truth about Willis. And then, strangely, I saw him fall in love with a complete stranger, without warning. The fact that the stranger looked so much like Doyle was a big worry. I thought he was deluding himself. For three months he was an absolute bear, grouching at everybody, including me. I couldn't get a word out of him -- and then suddenly he's happy again, like a little boy with a new toy. That's when he told me you were together. I confess, I was a little surprised as I'd figured he'd fallen for you but you'd said no. I couldn't work out why you'd suddenly changed your mind. So I began to watch him and how he behaved on the days after he saw you, on the days before he was to see you. And then I saw him go through one step after another to bring about this new Division with you at it's head. He had a lot of reasons for doing it, but the biggest one was to protect your relationship with him from being discovered."

"I know."

"Good. You should. But that was the biggest giveaway of all. I know Bodie -- and I know there was only ever one person who meant enough to him to go to such lengths to protect. I knew that person wasn't an Alan Cade who was such a tentative part of a new relationship. Bodie doesn't commit himself that lightly. I confess it was a gut reaction, but I just knew who you really had to be. The moment I thought of it, I knew I was right. Everything Bodie has done over the last seven months only confirms it. But I won't say anything because I love him. And let's face it, it doesn't really affect anybody else, does it?"

"Except Elena."

"Exactly."

Doyle sipped his coffee quietly for a moment, his eyes on the woman. Then, taking a chance he said, "Are you jealous?"

She simply raised an eyebrow.

"Of me and Bodie?"

"Believe me, I gave up any hopes I had with Bodie about ten years ago. Yes, I do love him and if it was ever within his power to look at me that way, I'd give it serious consideration -- before I said no."

"Why say no?"

The first real smile she'd shown him, crossed her face briefly, "I guess because I don't think I could ever love him as much as you do." She got to her feet and picked up her bag. "I'd better get going. I'll be seeing Bodie tonight, to tell him about my resignation. Will I see you at his place?"

"I don't think so."

Perceptive brown eyes met his, "You'd better not be planning to break his heart."

He couldn't answer that directly. He got to his feet with a shrug, "Come on Kate, it took me fourteen years to get him back. I'm hardly going to throw it all away after only six months, am I?"

"I don't know, are you?" She turned for the door and Doyle followed her. "I have to say, from a purely scientific point of view, I'd like to talk about those fourteen years. There's a few questions I'd like to ask you about personality integration."

"No. I won't talk about it again. And, if you don't mind, I'd rather you pretended you knew nothing about it -- even if we're alone. Do you plan to tell Bodie that you know?"

"Do you think I should?"

"Well," Doyle smiled as he opened the door, "he did warn me you might guess. I suppose he knows you pretty well, too. If you want to tell him, it's your choice."

She nodded and made for her car. Doyle stood there for a moment, then joined her before she got in. "Listen, Kate, I want to apologize. I think I've given you the wrong impression."

"Oh? You have?" She asked dryly. "I can't think why you'd say that."

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry. I was afraid you'd remember me and guess who I was. But I just want to say... well, that I don't want you running off. You mean a lot to Bodie. He loves you. Your loyalty and your friendship has kept him going for a long time. I don't want to be the cause of that ending. Whatever happens between him and me, well, I want you to feel that you're still a part of his life."

Though she didn't say much, he could tell his words had found their mark. She smiled briefly, "Well, I think we'll leave that up to him -- after I tell him what I'm doing. I'll probably see you tomorrow then."

"Yes. Drive safely."

And then she was moving away, pulling out into the street and Doyle wandered back inside. He took one look at the living room and quickly decided against doing any more today. There was a warm hotel room that had his name on it.

Or maybe he should see Bodie -

God, he missed him! Missed everything about him, his coarse humour, his eclectic attitudes, his warmth, his arms, his laughter. Keeping away from him for the last few weeks had been so difficult and the strain was beginning to wear on him. All he really needed was a few hours alone with the man, to shut out the world, to just simply be himself with the only person in the world who could understand. Just seeing Bodie over a meeting table was enough now to make him ache inside. Things were okay between them, even with the... separation -- but even so... Perhaps he should call Bodie, go to see him tonight -

No. Not yet. He wasn't quite ready -- especially after today. No, Bodie would have enough on his plate with Kate's resignation and her leaving. Doyle should stay well clear of that for the moment.

Instead, he went upstairs, had a shower and packed the last of his personal things. Then he locked the house up and got into his car. He paused for a long time, looking at small details on the house that had been his home for so long, the memories within it, up till that night with Bodie when it seemed that he'd lost everything.

Now he was perched on a similar precipice but this time there would be no going back.

It was true. He didn't want to do this. But he also knew without a shadow of a doubt what would happen if he didn't -- and he couldn't do that to Bodie any more. Just couldn't. Even if it meant everything would be over between them.

The lying had to stop somewhere.

***

Bodie sat in his car and tapped his fingers on the top of the steering wheel, again and again. However, the street before him was still empty. What could be keeping them? Why did it take so bloody long?

A shuffle of movement from beside him did nothing to ease his impatience -- nor did he glance aside. But Kate spoke nonetheless, "You're still angry with me, aren't you?"

"No. It's your decision. Why should I be angry?"

"Perhaps because you think I'm deserting you."

Bodie lifted an eyebrow and glanced aside at her, "Are you?"

"Only if you think so."

"Never a straight answer with you doctors," Bodie wanted to laugh, but waiting for Ray to turn up kept his impatience on the simmer. "Like I said, I just don't want you thinking we don't want you around any more."

"Bodie, I only told you I knew who he was last night because I didn't want you walking around on tiptoes waiting for me to guess. You know it doesn't change anything."

"Oh yeah? And would you be leaving if he wasn't around?"

She met his gaze for a long moment, and nodded, "Yes, eventually. Bodie, I won't be gone for another month -- and I won't be far away. You know that. Please, don't give me a whole lot of grief over it. That's not the way I want to go, okay?"

He caught up her hand and kissed it, "Sure, sweetheart. I just don't want you to leave, that's all."

"Why?" She asked dryly, a genuine smile crinkling the corners around her eyes, "So we can all be one big happy family?"

He chuckled, "Something like that. What do you think of Elena? Little spitfire, eh?"

"Her father's daughter."

Bodie grinned harder, "Yeah, exactly."

"Bodie?"

"Yeah?" His gaze was back on the empty street and his fingers had resumed their tapping.

"Is everything okay between you and Alan?"

"Sure. Why do you ask?"

"Well, you can't have seen much of him in the last month."

"Haven't. For longer than that. But he's been busy -- so have I. We both knew there'd be a settling in period once this job came up. Actually, I'm planning to cook dinner for him tonight at my place. Elena's getting the train back to Cambridge."

When Kate said nothing, the hairs on the back of his neck rose a little. So he turned his head to find her staring hard out the front window of the car.

"What is it?"

She shook her head, her mouth forming a tight line. He knew that look; it was the one he always got when she wanted to say something but was trying not to.

"What?" Still the silence. "Look, if you don't tell me, I'm not letting you out of this car -- ever."

Instead of smiling, she frowned, "You'll just argue with me, so what's the point?"

"Bloody hell, Kate!"

"Look," she turned and faced him. "I love you, Bodie and I don't want you to get hurt. As much as you live eat and breathe protecting Alan, I feel much the same way about you. But my problem is, you won't allow me to do that. So I have to say nothing."

"Protect me? From what?"

"From him."

Bodie froze. "What does that mean?"

She shook her head slowly, "No more than what I've been saying all along. I wish you'd just be careful -- but I know it's too late for that. You're head over heels in love with him and you have this blind spot a mile wide. You simply can't see trouble before it hits you on the head."

"Oh? And what kind of trouble is Alan going to give me?"

She shrugged, "I don't know. But... has he really been so busy he couldn't possibly have found a few hours for you two to be alone? Every night he's been in London, he's stayed at that hotel. Is this working out the way you wanted it, Bodie?"

His jaw open, he could say nothing for a moment. Then he gathered himself and shook his head, "You're imagining things."

"Like I said, there's no point in saying anything."

"Kate..."

"No, Bodie, I don't want to talk about it any more. You're not prepared to listen so let's just pretend I didn't say anything. Besides," she added with a short sigh, "he's coming now."

Bodie glanced through the window to see Ray's landdrover driving towards them, slowing to find a park. Quickly he turned back to her and gave her a smile. He didn't want this day to start on a bad note. "We'll talk about it later, eh? And I will listen, I promise. Okay?"

She didn't move for a second -- but when he kissed her cheek she smiled. "Okay. Let's get in before we freeze."

***

Doyle locked the car and followed Elena up the road to where Bodie and Kate were standing. Kate gave him a weak smile and without thinking, he gave her a brief hug, making her laugh.

"How did it go last night?" he murmured in her ear.

"We survive," she replied without raising her voice.

He nodded and turned to the man who stood beside her, wanting desperately to give him a hug too -- but of course, being entirely unable to, he simply smiled. Bodie's returning grin was worth all the summer sunshine for a year. He raised his hand, jiggling keys in the air.

"Come on, before it gets too dark to see anything."

"Too dark to see anything of what?" Doyle replied -- but Bodie just shook his head and turned through the gate of a house that stood behind him. It was an elegant Georgian terrace on a street lined with leafless oaks. A very nice area.

Bodie strode up the stairs and unlocked the door, standing aside for them all to enter. Elena went in first, followed by Kate.

"Wow!" Elena said, her feet clattering on the bare floors, her voice echoing in empty rooms. "Hey, this is nice."

Kate murmured agreement so Doyle was warned before he even got inside. He stopped in the entrance hall, his jaw dropping. Bodie closed the door and came up behind him, his close presence warm enough to heat the entire house. Without thinking, Doyle turned his head and breathed in the scent of the man. Six weeks, going on seven since he'd been able to do that.

Bodie either sensed his mood -- or felt exactly the same way himself. He immediately put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, squeezing hard. "What do you think, sunshine?"

"About what?" Doyle murmured, forgetting where he was for a moment. Instead, he reached up and took Bodie's hand, turning to face him.

The love that shone out of Bodie's eyes in that moment took his breath away, making him twist inside with the sheer wonder of it all. Doyle heard Elena's feet clattering up the stairs, Kate wandering towards the back of the house -- and so took the opportunity he had before him, leaning forward to give Bodie a soft kiss.

Instantly, Bodie pulled him in tight, an arm around his waist. Another deeper kiss followed and Doyle thought he was about ready to melt, right there in the front hall, making one big puddle.

"Mmn," Doyle whispered, his stomach fluttering as though it was the first time Bodie had ever kissed him. "Don't do that."

"Why not?" Bodie murmured against his cheek.

"'Cause it's been too long and we have company."

"Okay -- but you're having dinner at my place tonight, okay?"

"Okay." Doyle nodded and forced himself to step back.

"Well," Bodie kept smiling, "Take a look around. Tell me what you think."

Keeping hold of Bodie's hand, Doyle walked through empty lounge and dining room, kitchen and terrace. Then upstairs just in time for Elena to pass them on her way back down. Room after room they wandered through until they reached the back bedroom, where a tall pine commanded all the view from the window. There Doyle stopped, leaving Bodie by the door. The garden was lovely, with trees around every side. The place was perfect. But for what?

"Bodie?"

"Yes, love?"

"What is this?"

"Your new home, if you want it."

"Bodie..." he began, his voice low with warning.

"Oh, don't get all upset. It's not my doing. It belongs to the Ministry of Defense. It's actually a safe house they use for visiting dignitaries -- except they've been using it for a few years now and it's time to sell. I thought you might like to take a look before it goes on the market."

"Take a look?" Doyle murmured, knowing exactly what Bodie was thinking.

"You could move in tomorrow if you like."

Doyle could only shake his head and smile, "You're spoiling me, Bodie."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Bodie replied, coming up behind him again. This time, he put his arms around Doyle's waist, planting a kiss on his neck and making Doyle shiver. "I got you a new job and a house and now you think I'm ruling every part of your life but really, I'm just trying to..."

"Look after me?"

"Something like that," Bodie's reply was muffled into Doyle's hair. He'd deliberately let it grow a little longer and Bodie knew it.

"God," Doyle breathed, holding Bodie's arms to him, leaning his head back against that solid strength. "What am I going to do with you?"

"Well, to be honest, I have a few ideas I'd like to discuss with you after dinner -- at some length. Perhaps even repeatedly."

"I'll be you have," Doyle laughed.

"Well, what do you think? It's not as big as your place in Norwich -- but you and Elena could rattle around here for days without seeing each other -- a necessary requirement I should think, with her around."

"And your place is only ten minutes away?"

"Five." Bodie chuckled, not embarrassed about being found out. "I timed it yesterday."

"Going normal speed -- or your normal speed."

"What do you think?"

Doyle just shook his head and let the silence catch them for a moment. He could hear Elena and Kate downstairs -- but both of them had enough sensitivity to leave the two men alone for a while. As the silence drew on, Doyle's warmth faded into the background -- and he knew it was time. He left it a moment longer, enjoying the last of the peace while it continued: only because he knew it wouldn't when he'd had his say.

"Bodie?"

"Yes, love?"

"Dinner tonight?"

"Yeah?"

"I might not be able to make it."

Instantly he felt Bodie stiffen behind him -- but the voice remained mild, "Oh? Why not?"

"I have a meeting."

"Then come afterwards."

"It could be late."

"I don't care. I want to see you. Tonight."

"But it could be very late."

"I don't care if it's six o'clock in the fucking morning, Ray," Bodie hissed. "I'll cook you breakfast if I have to. I want you there."

"I know," Doyle soothed, holding Bodie's hand but not turning around. It wasn't going to be good telling him -- but it would be better if Bodie didn't have to watch him say it. "But that's not the only reason why I might not be able to come."

"Then what?"

Doyle took in a deep breath and tried to keep calm. "Bodie, I have to tell you something. It's about the meeting I'm going to -- and you're not going to like it."

***

Kate was downstairs in the kitchen when she heard the first shout.

"No!"

It was Bodie -- and it was all she could do not to run upstairs to him. Instantly, Elena appeared from the dining room, her gaze going upwards, but her expression nowhere near as surprised as it should have been.

Then Bodie was shouting again, "You are crazy, you know that? No, no bloody way!"

The other voice came in then, but Kate couldn't hear the words. But Bodie wasn't listening -- as usual.

"No! I won't let you do it!"

"No, damn it! Listen to me!"

"If you do, I'll..." But the rest was lost as Elena grabbed Kate's hand and dragged her out the back door. Kate resisted but Elena had a strong grip.

"What's going on up there?"

"I don't know," the girl said with determination. "But I don't think we should interrupt them right now. Let's look at the garden."

Once on the grass, Elena let go and Kate turned to look back at the house. From this angle she could see only a crack of the back bedroom window. Bodie stood there, his stance stiff and terrible, his expression dark. He was speaking but she could no longer hear. Of Doyle she could see nothing.

Every instinct she had screamed at her to get back inside and stop whatever was going on. But one look from Elena stopped her in her tracks. No, she couldn't interfere, the girl was right.

But that didn't make it any easier.

***

"Or you'll what?" Doyle said evenly, his stance, everything about him reeking determination.

Bodie shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. "You've already made up your mind, haven't you? Don't I get a say in this? Doesn't it matter what I think?"

"Bodie, you know I'm right."

"I don't know any damn such thing!" Bodie spun around to the window. He could see the girls out there, pretending nothing was going on inside. He couldn't look at Ray any more. It was getting too tempting to take him and shake some sense into him. "You've made the decision and no matter how it affects me, you're just going through with it. I'm surprised you even bothered to tell me beforehand -- or is it already too late?"

"No," Doyle replied carefully, keeping his temper. He came closer but Bodie didn't turn. "That's what this meeting is for this afternoon."

"I... can't believe you're doing this. After everything we've been through." Bodie came to a halt, closing his eyes, not wanting to do it but finding no other way. "Ray, if you do this..."

"What?"

Bodie forced the words out through gritted teeth. "Then I'll make sure you have nothing to tell them."

A sharp intake of air greeted this and almost instantly, Bodie wished he could take it back. But now it was out there, between them and he couldn't think of any way to make it disappear.

"You'd do that, Bodie?" A whisper, no more. "You'd leave me?"

"Yes." Leaden. Dead.

"Why?"

"Because I have to stop you."

"Why?" Disbelief, horror, agony.

"Because... because you'll be destroyed."

"Bodie," Doyle grabbed his arm and turned him around, green eyes flaring with emotions that ran too deep and too close to the surface. "You can't protect me from everything! You have to stop trying. I promise you, I won't be destroyed."

"But... do you have to tell them about us? Do you have to come out to the whole damned world? Christ, Ray!"

Doyle only gripped his hand tighter, breathing hard, "Bodie you have to understand, I'm sick of this! I'm so tired of running and hiding and keeping everything in separate little places. I've been doing it too long. I love you -- and I don't care if the whole world knows it. I don't care if they sack me and I sure as hell don't care if they sack you. Neither do you. We are what's important -- and we both know that if I don't tell Crimmond and his lot, they'll find out eventually and probably at the hands of some tabloid creep who doesn't give a damn how many lives he destroys. If I do it this way, then nobody gets hurt."

"They'll crucify you -- especially now. God, Ray, I didn't do all this so you could just throw it all away!"

"I know -- but it's like you said, the higher up I go, the more it is in their interests to keep it quiet. I won't be coming out to the whole world, just a few Whitehall rats."

Bodie shook his head, his voice coming out harsh and abrasive. "And you know how long it will be a secret?"

"I don't care."

"But why?" Bodie knew his fear was showing, but he simply couldn't help it. The urge -- the need -- to protect ran far too strong. "Why do it at all?"

Bodie waited, heart pounding, as Doyle came closer, reaching up a hand to brush over his cheeks. Bodie couldn't stop the tembling at the gentle pressure against his skin. Doyle had always had the power to seduce him with no more than a look.

"Don't you know why?" Doyle whispered. "I'm doing it because I love you, because I want to be with you. I don't want us to be checking the street every night and every morning. I don't want you to leave my bed before the sun comes up just in case some one might be out there with a camera. I don't want to be wondering if people at work are watching us, if Crimmond is going to turn up in my office one day and tell me what he knows."

"Ray..."

"You know the main reason why this kind of thing is traditionally kept a secret? To stop blackmail. Well, you and I are in very powerful positions. How long do you think it would take before the first photos arrived, the first demands were handed in? Trust me, if I could, I'd tell them everything. But I can't -- and the truth is, the only real reason why I won't is because I don't want to do that to Elena. But I will tell them about us and they will learn to live with it."

"Please don't do this, Ray." Bodie pleaded, one last time.

The fierce whisper continued, full of a passion Bodie hadn't heard for a long time. "I have to. I can't go on like this any more -- and you shouldn't have to either. We've both been through too much over the years. Being separated, having to deal with death, having to fight the world to actually be together in the first place. For nearly fifteen years we were kept apart because somebody else didn't want us to be together. As far as I can see, this is the best way to make sure Willis can never win." He came close and brushed his lips over Bodie's, cradling his face in one hand. "Please, Bodie, understand. Don't leave me. Not now."

"God, Ray," Bodie breathed, absorbing every facet of the man he loved. Wretched, aching and torn. "You have no idea..."

"Don't leave me, Bodie -- please." Raw, unfettered need expressed in each word, a need echoed in Bodie's heart.

And at that Bodie broke, pulling Ray close, closing his eyes and burying his face against sweet-smelling skin. His whole body shuddered as Ray held him tight and slowly, he shook his head, "No, Ray, I won't leave you."

"Oh, god, Bodie!" The relief in Doyle's voice was profound, making Bodie's next words come out more thickly than he intended. "I can't leave you again -- not even if I think you're mad."

Leaning back a little, Doyle's expression was a little shaky, his voice along with it. He pressed a thumb to Bodie's lips and murmured, "I love you -- and I'm not mad, Bodie. Quite the opposite. Besides,"

"Besides what?" Bodie whispered, no longer steady on his feet. His anger was draining out of him as each second drifted by. His heart was filled with dread -- but with Doyle so close, he couldn't bring himself to fight any more. Doyle never changed his mind once it was made up -- and despite his threat, there was no way he was going to walk out on the man, even to stop him doing something so drastic. It wouldn't do any good - Doyle would still go and tell them and then Bodie's sacrifice would have been for nothing. He couldn't lose Doyle like that.

He couldn't lose him at all. Ever again.

"Besides what?" he said again when he got no answer. He lifted his eyes to find Ray looking at him, with more than a little trepidation.

"I have another reason why I want to get it out in the open."

"What's that?" Bodie frowned.

Doyle swallowed, "I want us to live together."

For a second, Bodie simply couldn't move. Then, his heart hammering in his chest, he said, "What?"

"I'll buy this bloody house, Bodie, but only on the condition that you live here with me."

"Live together?" Bodie asked, half his face smiling while the other half remained frozen. And in some small forgotten place inside him, things were tumbling around, as though down a flight of stairs. It was a weird feeling. "Us? You and me? Sleeping in the same bed? Every night?"

"Yeah," Doyle smiled, "Every night when one of us isn't tied up at work."

"Never happen again," Bodie whipped back. "And breakfast, too? Every morning? And days off? Just like... like real people?"

"Exactly like real people. Everything. Washing dishes, housework, fights over bills, about who takes out the rubbish and who mows the lawn, complaints about dirty clothes on the floor. The works."

"Huh." Bodie's gazed traced over Doyle's face, captured every contour, every line, every shape; the familiar and the beloved. "And you want that? With me?"

"Yes, I want that, with you."

Bodie just shook his head, something inside him lifting and flying away on wings of sheer disbelief and unutterable joy. "And Elena too?"

"And Elena too."

"What will she say?"

"She'll love the idea. What I want to know, love, is what you say."

Bodie didn't bother voicing his reply. He simply pulled Doyle to him and kissed him long and deep and slow, his arms wrapped around a warm hard body encased in far too many layers of clothing.

Then Doyle was laughing and Bodie was laughing with him. They came apart slightly and Doyle looked at him with those huge green eyes and Bodie wondered if anybody else in the world had ever felt this damned happy. "You want me to come to this meeting with you?"

"Thanks, but I think for the moment, you'd better go home and start cooking my dinner."

His protective instincts not entirely happy, he said, "Are you sure? I mean..."

"Yes, Bodie, I'm sure."

"Well," Bodie hesitated, not wanting to leave Doyle's arms. "I guess we'd better go down and tell the girls the good news."

"I think we'd better."

***

Kate saw the door open and Doyle wave them inside. Close to freezing, she didn't wait too long. Elena followed close behind but the two men had already gone into the living room. They stood beside the fireplace, side by side, their hands linked two fingers each. For some reason she couldn't pinpoint, they both looked ridicuously happy. Despite her unease, she found herself warming to Doyle again. Whatever it was that had aroused her instincts, seemed to have been resolved -- for the good.

"Bodie tells me he can have the power and gas on by tonight." Doyle began, looking at them both. "It'll take a couple of days for all my stuff to arrive but with any luck, I'll be settled in enough for us four to have a housewarming dinner on Saturday. If you'll join us?"

"Us?" Kate murmured, suddenly having a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"Yeah, Bodie's moving in, too."

Elena let out a screech of delight and lept into Bodie's arms. Then she gave Doyle a hug too. "God, you're both absolutely mad! But I wouldn't miss this for the world!"

"Kate?" Bodie turned to her, his eyes communicating all he would never say aloud. "You'll come?"

"Sure," she shrugged and headed for the door. The others followed her out and Bodie paused behind to lock up. Kate waited for him on the path. He stopped before her, gazing steadily at her.

"Yeah, I know, I should be careful. But hell, sweetheart, I've spent my life taking one risk after another. And now look what it's got me."

"The love of your life?" She asked dryly. "You really think it's going to be that easy? Just moving in together?"

"Of course not," Bodie sighed. "But I don't really care if it isn't. It's been a long road, these last fourteen years. I'm not sure I would have made it this far if it hadn't been for you."

"Oh, don't be silly," She tried to brush him off but couldn't hide the tears in her eyes. Without a word, he pulled her close and she buried her face against his padded shoulder.

"Oh, you prune, Kate. Do you still have no idea how dear you are to me? I really don't want to lose you and I know you're afraid Ray will only hurt me. But I ask you, beg you to trust him. Remember what he and I used to be like, all those years ago. We kept each other alive day in, day out. We're just the same now only with less gunfire in the way. Please, be happy for me."

She nodded her head. "I am, Bodie, I am. You'll never know how much."

"Then you'll come on Saturday?"

"Of course. Maybe by then I'll be in a better mood to celebrate with you." But for now, it was going to take a little time -- because no matter how he chose to look at it, she was losing him. Losing him to Doyle. She would miss him and yes, miss him needing her so much, but it was good to be moving on. Especially when she knew Bodie had everything he'd ever wanted. "Sure I'll be there."

"Good. Let's go. I've got to get everything organized for the move -- and Alan has a meeting to attend."

***

Even though he'd been terribly busy the whole time, the hours still seemed to drag by. However, Bodie did manage to get the house sorted out ready for the next day -- and get home in time to cook. He left things sizzling in the kitchen as he set the table by the big window, the one that looked out over the river. He'd always liked this flat -- but it had always had an air of being a little too impersonal which he'd never been able to get rid of. He hadn't even been there that long. A year was it? Well, nice as it was, he wouldn't miss it.

Assuming everything went as planned.

He laid two places at the table -- and didn't even think about putting a rose in a vase between them. But he did set candles out, turned the lights down low and fluffed up the cushions on the couch. Half way through he began to laugh at himself. He was being such an idiot -- but he couldn't help it. It had been a long tough life so far -- he'd learned long ago that it was best to take these moments as they came and enjoy them for what they were. It was impossible to tell if any more would come along.

When he was finished with the table, he dashed back into the kitchen for one last check of the food, then raced into the shower. He came out refreshed and clean and put on his most perfectly blue shirt -- the one he knew matched his eyes so well. All the while he kept laughing at himself -- simply because he knew Doyle would have laughed at him if he'd been here.

Yeah, he was being silly -- but god, it was fun!

Dressed and ready now, he went back into the kitchen and opened a bottle of the red wine he'd bought on the way home. A classic vintage to tempt even Ray's refined tastes. He poured out two glasses and set them on the coffee table. Then he stood there for a moment, nonplussed.

The problem with having so much fun was, he really needed somebody to share it with.

Nevertheless, he went back into the kitchen and tried to still his impatience. He washed up the dishes, trying not to think that the longer the meeting went on, the worse the outcome was likely to be. Really, he should have gone along, to present a united front.

Besides, he'd always enjoyed watching Ray at work with a group of potential enemies. They never came out quite the same as when they'd gone in. It was a talent the little golli had -- another of which Bodie loved him for.

With the kitchen clean and shining except for the dishes cooking, he again came to an end of what needed to be done. He was about to go and put some washing in the machine for want of something better to do -- when he heard the door buzzer go.

In a flash, almost tripping over the hall rug, he reached the door and yanked it open, a smile already on his face. Doyle stood there, looking something like a drowned rat -- but he'd been prepared for that. Without a word, he reached out and grabbed Ray's arm, pulling him inside. He then wrapped his arms about the man and kissed him until there were a few signs of life.

Only when Ray began to struggle, did Bodie consider letting him up for air. Then he let go and carefully peeled the thick coat away from the smaller man. "Well," he said quietly, "how did it go?"

"Bunch of bloody wimps," Ray said gratingly. "Just hold me, Bodie."

Like a good boy, Bodie did as he was told. They stood there, in the hall for long wonderful minutes -- until Bodie remembered the food. "Come on. Tell me about it while I serve up dinner. Or do you want to have a shower first? Wash off the Whitehall grime?"

"Yeah," Doyle nodded. "Did I leave some clothes here?"

"In the wardrobe."

Kissing him again, Doyle headed off to the bathroom and Bodie to the kitchen. Ten mintues later, Ray reappeared looking more like himself, and Bodie decided the choice of sea green shirt had been quite deliberate. Immediately, he blew away half a dozen of his biggest worries in that moment. He handed out a glass of wine and got busy with the food. "Well?"

"Like frightened chickens, they were. The HS even accused you of deliberately seducing me as some kind of political powerplay. Hell, if they'd known what else you'd done, they would have crucified you instead of me."

Bodie turned slowly, a tray held between his mittened hands. "What does that mean?"

"It means that they had a field day with me. They threw everything at me they could think of: you know, I have to end this relationship - they said it like it was a swear word -- immediately. I was betraying my country -"

"Jesus!"

"I was renegging on the contract I'd signed. How could I do this to them. The National Crime Division was the government's shiny new flagship -- and I was sullying it before it had even set sail. I think you can guess the rest."

"And what happened?"

Doyle deliberately didn't look at him then, feigning interest in the type of oven Bodie had. "I told them to fuck off."

"What?" Bodie began to laugh. "You didn't."

"I did. In exactly those words. Then I reminded them that I had signed a legally binding contract and that if they wanted to break it now, I would take it through every court in the land -- extremely publically. I would shout from the highest yardarm that the government had sacked me simply because I was in a relationship with a man -- which is not even remotely illegal. I then went on to tell them that I had actually seduced you - which, strictly speaking, is true -- and that if I went, so would you."

Bodie swallowed and began to put food onto plates. "And what did they say to that?"

With a short laugh, Doyle shrugged, "That's when I got the biggest surprise of my life. The HS burst out laughing and shared a look with bloody Nigel Crimmond."

"What?"

"Yeah. Course, they already knew about your orientation -- and they apparantly weren't a bit surprised to see you'd... had your way with me." A husky chuckle accompanied this and it was all Bodie could do to keep his hands off the green-eyed imp. "They claimed they had only torn stips off me to make sure I was committed to my position -- but considering that politicians are more changeable than the London weather, I didn't buy that for one second."

"So they didn't already suspect?"

"Actually, I think Crimmond did -- but only recently. I'm sure he didn't say anything. I know genuine surprise when I see it."

"So what happens now?"

Bodie took the plates into the dining room and Doyle took his place. "Mmn, this smells good. What happens now is that you'll have to pack up in three days because I don't want to live in that big house all alone. I'm afraid I'll get scared in the dark."

Bodie already had food in his mouth when this was said -- so offhand and lightly. He nearly choked and had to swallow large quantities of wine before he could speak. "Are you joking? You mean, they didn't throw us out?"

"Well, they couldn't, could they?"

"Of course they could."

Doyle met his gaze, green matching the colour of his shirt, looking entirely too wonderful for his own good. "Yeah -- but they didn't. We've got a few rules we need to follow, but nothing too harsh."

"Rules? I don't like the sound of that. What kind of rules?"

"No hosting of huge gay parties, no openly consorting where there is to be large quantities of press, no making statements about the government's position on gay rights -- the usual stuff. Oh, and no promiscuous behaviour. We're expected to be an exclusive pair, displaying all the fidelity of a married couple."

"Shit, that's going to be hard to do," Bodie replied straightfaced. He was rewarded with abrupt laughter from his other half.

"You do realise news will get out eventually."

"That's what I tried to warn you about this afternoon."

"Yeah, but this way, when it does, the government is already committed to supporting us. There'll probably be some flash of interest for perhaps a few weeks -- then, as long as we keep our heads and act like nothing's wrong, they'll get bored and go away."

Bodie nodded and watched Doyle for a moment, "So, it's going to happen."

"Yeah," Doyle replied, sobering. "Not too late to back out."

"It was too late to back out fifteen years ago when I kissed you that night." Bodie replied, finishing his meal. He waited for Ray to finish his then collected the plates. He took them back into the kitchen and picked up bowls of dessert. "Come on, let's go into the living room."

They settled on the sofa and Bodie put his bowl of chocolate mousse on the table. With Doyle's in his hand, he scouped out a spoonful and put it in Doyle's open mouth. Then, as Doyle swallowed, Bodie kissed him, tasting the chocolate. "Mmn, you taste nice."

"So do you," Ray murmured, melting into him. With his hands full of things, Bodie could only wrap his arms around Ray as his lips met those others again, tasting, touching, drawing in deeply, drinking his fill.

"God, I love you, Ray."

"Love you too, Bodie. I'm so bloody tired, though."

"Don't worry, love. Let me do it for you." Carefully putting his things down, Bodie turned back, putting his hand on Doyle's thigh to move it slowly up. Beneath his touch, Doyle shivered. "What's wrong?"

"Nothin'. Just been so long."

Bodie nuzzled Ray's neck, his tongue enountering clean soft flesh over hard muscle. Ray moaned beneath his touch, setting him on fire -- but as much as his desire fought him to move quickly, he wanted this to last, to make the most of this perfect night.

So he took it slowly, letting his hand rest on the hardness at Ray's groin, doing nothing, simply being there. With his other hand, he carefully undid each of the buttons of the green shirt, then pulled it wide so he could get at that furry chest. His tongue licked at each nipple, bringing it up and again, a moan issued from Ray's throat, deep and grating at Bodie's deliberation. That sound alone was almost enough to bring him to the edge. Moving on, he opened the trousers, taking the zipper down carefully over the bulge. Ray stiffened as fingers touched his erection and Bodie took the head in his mouth.

Ray almost melted onto the couch. "Oh, god, Bodie, stop! You have no idea how close I am. Please, not yet."

Only a little disappointed, Bodie let the shaft leave his mouth. He caught those seductive lips again and Doyle wrapped his arms around Bodie's neck. Softly now, Bodie whispered, "What do you want, love?"

"You," came the soft reply, "I want you."

"You have me."

"Yeah, I do, don't I?"

"Forever, angelfish."

"And tonight?"

"Especially tonight."

"Then tonight I want you inside me. I want to do you, too but I don't think I have the energy. So take me. Here and now. On the floor. I can't wait any longer."

All Bodie's best intentions were swept aside with that brief demand. With a moan of his own, he captured Ray's mouth again, and, holding him carefully, allowed their bodies to slide to the floor. Barely able to contain his urgency now, Bodie stripped Doyle naked, then removed his own clothes. He grabbed the tube of lube he'd hidden beneath a cushion and prepared the entrance to Ray's body, watching with joy, the face of the man beneath him, the eyes half-closed with passion, the soft whimper coming from the mouth. And then neither of them could wait any longer. Doyle lifted his legs over Bodie's shoulders and Bodie slid into him, taking those lips again as he buried himself.

Finally complete, he began to move, taking Doyle's aching shaft in one hand. Ray held his shoulders, urging him on with every breath, his voice alone taking them to dizzy heights, joining them in a tangle of sweating limbs and words for them alone. Bodie could almost see the love in the air around them, breathe it into his own lungs. And it all came from the man beneath him, so open to him, so wonderful, so beautiful. It filled the room, making the air sparkle, captivating it, bringing it alive with electricity. And it all happened so quickly.

Doyle gave another deep moan and Bodie felt him jerk. As hot liquid splashed over his hand, his own body reacted to the muscles clenched around his erection, and with a cry, he emptied himself deep inside his love, giving him the only physical gift that had any real meaning. Drained, they collapsed togther on the rug and Bodie wrapped his arms and legs around Ray, drawing him as close as possible.

Long, long after they'd drowsed, Bodie turned his head to take one small kiss. Ray smiled, his eyes closed, his face the picture of contentment.

"Next time," Ray said, his voice sounding very unsleepy considering the hour, "I think we should actually try the bed."

"Oh?" Bodie murmured, touching his next kiss to the damaged cheekbone. "Why?"

"I think I prefer being on something soft when you fuck me."

"And I'm going to fuck you again tonight, am I?"

"Yes." Ray paused as Bodie planted a kiss on his chin. "In about fifteen minutes. That's why I'm warning you that I want to be on the bed next time -- in case you get carried away again."

"Me get carried away?" Bodie replied, lightly. With only a little force, he put his teeth to the nearest earlobe and tugged. Ray moaned and Bodie said, "That's not the way I remember it."

"Conflicting evidence, m'lud. Neither of the two witnesses could decide who had done what."

Bodie took his tongue along Ray's throat and was gratified to feel the man shifting in his arms, turning to give Bodie a better angle. "Then perhaps what we really need is an action replay, to refresh our memories."

"Well that's what you get when you refuse to make love to me for seven weeks and three days." Ray said lightly but seriously.

"Oh, that was me, was it? I see. And..." Bodie was having a hard time not laughing here, "that was because I...?"

"You'd gone off me." Ray kept his eyes closed as he wove this tangled thread -- but Bodie was captivated utterly.

"Uh huh? Hard to believe, you being so damned sexy and everything." "Yeah, I know -- but it's true." Bodie now reached the base of Ray's neck, letting his tongue dip into the hollow there, knowing it was one of the most sensitive spots on this wonderful body. "So how come I'm making love to you now?"

"'Cause I drugged your wine."

"I should have guessed. And why did you do that?"

"Because I simply can't keep my hands off you and I had to have you even if you don't want me."

"And what happens tomorrow when the drug wears off?"

"Oh, didn't I tell you? It won't. You're stuck with me. Sorry."

"I forgive you." Bodie let his tongue find a single nipple, raking across the soft surface, making it hard and tasty. God this man was so delicious. Ray arched his back into Bodie's gesture. At the same time, Bodie felt hands smooth down his own stomach until they found what they were looking for.

"Bodie?"

"Yes, Ray?"

"Bed."

"Now? Are the fifteen minutes up already?"

"Just about. Can't you tell? See, that's the problem with this drug: the mind is always a few steps behind the body. Down there, you want me -- but up here, you're too busy talking."

"I am, am I?" Bodie was fast losing his ability to stifle his laughter. And he was only too aware of how he was feeling down below. However, simply because he was feeling that good, he shifted until he could look at the face again, the eyes still closed, the expression still wonderfully relaxed -- and all of a sudden, he was utterly caught by the magic of the moment. It came so swiftly it dragged his breath away and he said the first and only words that came into his drug-infested mind. "Ray, will you marry me?"

"'Course I will, love." Doyle replied dreamily. "Thought you already knew that."

"Did I?"

"Sure."

"But we never discussed it."

"Yes we did." Now it was Doyle's turn to do wicked things to Bodie's body, making his blood race.

"When?"

"Long time ago."

"Yeah, but when?"

"When do you think?"

Bodie tried hard to think back, but every thought he formed was quickly snatched away by the sensations of Doyle's hands on his skin, teasing his erection deliberately. If they didn't get up and onto the bed soon, there would be another damned complaint about the floor being too hard for fucking. "Dunno. That first night we made love?"

"Nuh. Before that."

"Then when? We weren't in love till then."

"We were -- we just didn't do anything about it."

That much was true. But still Bodie couldn't work out the moment when his life had been decided for him. However, he was fast losing the ability to care about it for the moment. "So tell me. When did you say you'd marry me?"

Finally, Ray opened his eyes, captivating Bodie with one single look, taking him back so far and yet joining it with the present. "Twenty years ago, on the day when I agreed to be your partner. We didn't say for better or worse, but that's what we both meant. Are you going to tell me now that you don't remember that day?"

Bodie could only smile and took the opportunity to sit up, drawing Doyle with him. On their feet, Bodie put his arms around the man and kissed him, deliberately. "Yeah, I remember."

"Good," Ray ran his hands down Bodie's back and pulled him close. "Now, bed, Bodie."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Your fifteen minutes are up. And you know I can't refuse you when you're so determined to have your way with me."

This time, Bodie did laugh -- and didn't stop until he was on the bed, his glorious lover wriggling beneath him. Then the laughter died away as they made love again and this time, when Bodie came inside Ray, the peace settled around them once more -- and didn't fade away with the morning.

***

The sun had barely risen when Doyle opened his eyes. He couldn't see much from the bedroom window but the day didn't look too bad. Between the arms of the spruce, thin shards of blue sky greeted him, sparkling in the spring morning.

He took in a deep breath and stretched carefully. When there was no movement on the bed beside him, he rolled slowly, making sure the covers remained around the man sleeping beside him. Doyle settled again and half- closed his eyes, keeping the drowsy cocoon of slumber with him. It was a Sunday morning and there was absolutely no need for either of them to get up early. No reason to do anything in fact, except lie here and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Within the peace, he could hear the sounds of the house around him, little noises he was slowly becoming familiar with. The plumbing wasn't so great that it didn't let off the odd groan now and then. Other sounds he could never quite pinpoint. But this place was fairly old and over the last three months, he'd heard a number of things he knew he would never actually name. Just part of the charm of living in such a nice house.

And it was a nice house. Much nicer than his place in Norwich. He'd bought new furniture, too -- or rather, Bodie had. Far different to the stuff either of them had purchased on their own. Instead, this was all warm colours, light and dark and friendly. Elena had helped decorate - she'd wanted to stop the place looking too masculine, she'd said -- and as a result, there were pot plants and persian rugs in odd places, drapey curtains and ornate lamp shades. All in all the effect was one of a place lived in; essentially, a home. It had been with some surprise when Doyle had realised that's exactly what he had here. The first one he'd really had since childhood.

And of course, it was never really the furniture and plants that made it that way. It had more to do with Elena's visits, Kate's visits -- and the man asleep with his head on the pillow beside Doyle's.

Opening his eyes a little more, he took the opportunity to study Bodie in the soft morning light. His dark hair was tousled and messy, his thick black lashes unmoving on cheeks barely attended to by the lines of age. His mouth was open slightly, the lips relaxed and inviting -- and it was all Doyle could do not to lean forward and kiss them when they looked like that. Or at any time for that matter.

A single bare shoulder was all that peaked out from the covers, smooth skin covering hard muscle. Just like Bodie, really. Smooth exterior, hard on the inside -- unless, like Doyle, you could actually get beneath that layer and find that there was a soft side to this man nobody else ever really got to see.

Elena had found it -- quite quickly too. It was odd the bond the two of them had. Doyle would sometimes come upon them sitting on the sofa together, giggling like a pair of ten-year-olds. At first, he'd found it a little disconcerting and he'd questioned Bodie. Rather predictably, Bodie's reply had been oblique. Something about how he and Elena had something in common. Doyle had decided to leave it at that. Nevertheless, the fact that they got on so very well, only made him more content with this new life.

A third life -- and this one so different to those before -- and so much better. He was learning, slowly and carefully, how to meld himself back into the personality of Alan Cade. A new start, a new lover, a new home. The people he worked with now knew little of Alan Cade and therefore didn't notice when he didn't behave exactly as he'd done for so long. It was a little scary -- but he knew it was time to leave Cade behind and move on. Cade would never leave him completely but now he could afford to be himself more, he realised how much he'd missed it all these years.

And it was so hard not being himself when Bodie was around. He simply couldn't be anybody else. It seemed impossible, but Bodie had, both day and night, given him a kind of liberation he'd never known before. Both at work, and at home. Sure, they fought hard, argued and shouted when they had to -- making people at work scurry sometimes -- but when they came home, everything always came out right.

A small smile grew on his face as he looked at Bodie. So delightful and so irritating, all at the same time. Who would have thought twenty years ago, that they would end up like this?

And who would have thought just on a year ago, he'd found a fourteen-year-old nightmare come to an end?

What had he been doing this day last year? Feeling the terrible ache of loneliness, the darkness of buried grief, doing his best to survive without any thought of really living? All of that and more, much worse than words had ever been found to describe.

And so he remembered, clearly -- and deliberately for the last time -- the day he'd been told Bodie had died in Africa. How many times Cowley had murmured the word, sorry, he didn't know -- but it was certainly more than a few. Oddly, he didn't recall too much of how he'd felt, only of the separate and intrinsic things that had gone on around him, the guys down the hall, sounds of traffic from beyond the office window, the look of genuine sorrow in Cowley's eyes as he'd imparted the news. It had been several minutes before Doyle had even acknowledged that the screaming he heard beneath all that, was something only he could hear, in his own head. Now, in the safe haven of knowing Bodie was alive and living with him, he could again acknowledge that the scream had never really stopped, not until that day when, like a beloved ghost, Bodie had walked into his office, a smile on his face, completely unaware of the damage his presence was inflicting, nor the healing it was offering.

Yeah, Doyle could still remember the pain of the years before that day -- but the sharpness of it was gone, dulled by a newer, better reality. He knew one day he would have trouble remembering it at all but he no longer worried about when that day would come. The simple fact that it would come gave him breath to pause. But for one short moment in time, he might have looked forward to a life with that pain. A life without Bodie, without that smile, that sometimes-overwhelming presence, that short-hand wisdom and awesome confidence. He'd known how lucky he was to have Bodie as a partner, fifteen years ago. He'd also been keenly aware of how lucky they were that they had fallen in love, had had those three brief months of happiness together before tradegdy had struck.

But that fortune was blown away by the sheer blinding reality that everything they'd suffered had been undone, been replaced by a new happiness so much sharper and more poignent because of that suffering.

And he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he'd give it all up to keep Bodie. Everything. Yes, even Elena, if he had to. He'd give it all up because Bodie was everything to him now -- always had been. Everything else had been a pale replacement for the life he really wanted, an empty escape from the knowledge that he would never have Bodie in his life again.

Yeah, he was lucky. They both were. Fortune never smiled on anyone like this. Only bringing about world peace would ever compare to this... and even then...

"Gonna talk about it -- or are you gonna keep it to yourself?" Doyle started and Bodie opened one eye. "Well?"

"Just thinking."

"No kidding. What about?"

"Nothing. I thought you were asleep."

"Couldn't with those gears and engines grinding away beside me. Told you I'm a light sleeper. Should think you'd be used to it by now."

Doyle smiled, "Never get used to you."

"Good." Bodie shifted slightly, bringing an arm above the covers. He lifted his head enough to see the clock on the bedside table behind Doyle, then let it fall again with a generous sigh. "God, I thought it was nice and late. I don't wanna get up yet."

"Then don't."

Bodie shook his head, his blue eyes open in narrow slits. "Cm'here."

Doyle moved until Bodie's arm was around his back, felt the depth of his thoughts warmed by the tactile reminder of that luck. Scratchy chin hair brushed against his cheek. "What do you want to do today?"

"Mmn, don't know. We could take a drive out into the country?"

"Yeah. Or we could take a boat trip on the canal."

"Nice."

Bodie was silent for a while -- then shifted again, pulling Doyle closer.

"What?"

"Well," Bodie murmured, getting comfortable, "we could just stay home. Haven't really done that for a while. Might be nice."

"You mean you might mow the lawn?" Doyle chuckled.

"Jesus, Ray, you goin' to ruin my Sunday morning with that kind of rubbish? I told you, I'm going to pay somebody else to do it."

"Why?"

Now Bodie opened his eyes, "So I don't have to."

Doyle opened his mouth to protest, and found it caught by Bodie's. Not wanting to look like he was giving in to the inevitable, Doyle rolled until he had Bodie pinned beneath him -- making sure the kiss remained in tact through the whole maneuvre. Finally, with Bodie squirming beneath him, he lifted his head to gaze into those eyes the colour of the morning sky. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Where were you last night?"

Bodie's eyes rose and he made a half-hearted attempt to get Doyle off him. "Working."

"We work together, Bodie. You weren't there -- and you weren't here. Where were you?"

"Not where you think."

"Oh?"

"No." Bodie met his gaze and shook his head, "Are you telling me that after all this time, you don't trust me to be alone with a woman for an hour and not take her to bed?"

"I didn't say that."

"Then why are you asking?"

"Because you're avoiding telling me." Annoyed, Doyle got off and lay on his back staring up at the ceiling. For long moments, the silence grew between them and for the first time, Doyle began to be afraid.

"Ray?"

"What?"

"Are you angry because I didn't get home until late -- or because I was with a woman?"

"I'm angry because you can't seem to tell me what you were doing last night."

"I told you, I was working."

"In a hotel room, until three this morning, completely alone with a beautiful young woman who was obviously attracted to you the moment she saw you?"

"So," Bodie drew the word out, "you don't trust me."

"I didn't say that!" Now really angry, Doyle pulled back the covers and tried to sit up -- but Bodie stopped him, grabbing his arm and pulling him back down. They fought for a moment, but this time, Bodie won, pinning Doyle beneath him.

"Tell me, Ray," Bodie said quite calmly, "do you think I went to bed with her?"

Gritting his teeth, Doyle shook his head, "No."

"Then what's wrong?"

Doyle screwed up his face and shook his head again, "Jesus, Bodie, don't you know?"

A smile grew across Bodie's face then and he touched a kiss to Doyle's nose. "Yeah, I love you too. Especially when you're jealous of nothing. God, your eyes go so green when you're angry."

"Leave off, Bodie!" Doyle tried to squirm away again -- but didn't really put all the effort necessary into getting himself free. He wasn't really jealous -- just angry. Last night had been the first night since they'd moved in when Bodie hadn't gone to bed with him. How could he not wonder if the honeymoon was over?

"Ray?"

"What?"

Bodie prefaced his question with a deep kiss -- which Doyle only resisted for a moment. "I was supposed to stay with her the whole night -- but I got someobody else in because I had to get home. Raised a few eyebrows, I can tell you."

"So?"

"So, you great idiot, if you think I'm going to stray after only a few months of wedded bliss, then you've got another thing coming. I have fourteen years to make up for -- so don't expect me to pack my bags until I've had at least every one of them paid back. Besides, who else would have the patience to love me the way you do, eh?"

Doyle found himself laughing -- and when Bodie's fingers began to tickle him, he squirmed again, deliberately grinding his groin into Bodie's.

"Now, you're playing unfair," Bodie grinned.

"But that's the most fun." Doyle lapped his tongue out at a nipple close by and Bodie hissed.

"I'll make you pay for that!" True to his word, he took Doyle's mouth in a searing kiss, forcing his legs between Doyle's until their hastily growing erections pressed together. But Bodie didn't settle with that. Keeping the pressure up, he grabbed lube from the nightstand as kisses and the weight of his body kept Doyle prisoner. Bodie prepared him, not letting his mouth free for one moment. Doyle was having difficulty breathing now, his arms no longer fighting the man he loved, but joining him in this frantic, early-morning love-making. When Bodie mounted him, it was sweet, brisk and yet tender at the same time, delightful, lazy and still urgent. Neither of them lasted long, exploding together, gasping in air.

Afterwards, Bodie lay between his legs, touching kisses along his throat, a slow exploration, a loving meander. "God, you are so hard to resist. So beautiful. So damned sexy. Sometimes I don't know what stops me from simply throwing you down and raping you some days."

"Oh, Bodie, you could never rape me." Doyle replied huskily, warmed deeply by those soft-spoken words.

"I promise you, I could. Looking at you day after day. You get me so turned on sometimes -- especially at work."

"But it still wouldn't be rape. I'd never say no to you."

"Well," Bodie smiled against his cheek, "you might change your mind next time we're in a meeting and I look at you that way. And I'm probably suffocating you right now, too."

"No, I'm okay. Don't move, please." Doyle replied, knowing that the moment Bodie moved, they'd be separated again. "You could stay there all day if I had my way."

"Oh? So, you don't want to go out?"

"Would you rather stay in?" Doyle replied, giggling.

"Well, it's been a while..."

"A week and a half." Doyle tried to shrug, keeping a straight face, "Can I help it if I find your arse too georgous to ignore?"

"I'd probably kill you if you did."

Doyle couldn't help grinning, "So you do want to stay in?"

"As it happens," Bodie affected noncholance, picked up his hand and kissed it.

"I do love you so much, Bodie, and sometimes, I really wish I could... help you understand what this... well, how this...

"Come on, Ray, out with it." Bodie watched him with a careful gaze, neither mocking nor serious. Simply attentive.

Doyle paused, trying to collect the jumble of thoughts scattered around inside, anchoring himself with the feel of Bodie's solid body lying the length of his. Then he took a breath, "You don't care who I am and that makes it... okay, you know? It's like..."

"What?" Bodie asked softly, letting him work through it.

"Like..." Doyle frowned, trying to piece it together so that it would make sense. "Like Cade's alive in me simply because you love me regardless and that... kinda defeats the lie. You know, like it's not a lie any more. I'm sorry, I know it sounds silly but..."

"No, it doesn't." A deep sound, comforting and warm.

"You make us one person, Bodie. You know the truth and that makes it okay for me to live with the lie. Does that make sense?"

Bodie smiled gently, "'Course it does, love. You always make sense to me -- even when you don't."

Absorbing that rich gift, Doyle continued, "And I really didn't think you'd slept with that woman. I was just disappointed when you didn't come to bed last night. It was the first time."

"I know, love. I know. And it's going to happen every now and then. We just have to live with it -- and with everything else we've got, I think we'll cope."

"Yeah, 'course we will. Sorry."

Another beautiful Bodie-smile was followed with, "Actually, I didn't mind the jealousy. I wasn't kidding about how green your eyes go. Now, about staying in today..."

His voice trailed off as they both heard the front door unlock and open -- then slam shut, immediately followed by an exclamation.

"Sorry!" Elena's voice called up the stairs. "Dad? Bodie? Anybody home?"

"What's she doing here so early?" Bodie murmured.

"Don't know -- but she is due back today."

"So much for staying in." Bodie grinned.

"Dad?" Elena's footsteps were coming up the stairs -- and quickly but carefully Bodie withdrew from Doyle and rolled over on the bed. Doyle collected himself and tried to straighten up the covers, hide what they'd been doing.

"In here, Elena!"

Bodie was laughing at Doyle's efforts. He dropped his voice low, "Love, she knows full well what goes on in this bed. No point in trying to hide it."

"Shut up!" Doyle hissed.

"Can I come in?"

"Of course you can," Bodie replied. "We're decent now."

Hesitantly, the door opened and Elena's pretty face peered around. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't," Bodie smiled. "Sit."

Elena came close and perched on Bodie's side of the bed. Bodie sat up against the headboard and took Doyle's hand. "What are you doing back so early?"

"Um... I didn't... disturb anything did I?"

Doyle stifled a groan but Bodie grinned. "No, dear, you didn't."

She looked at each of them carefully then proceeded. "I was wondering if you had plans for the day."

"Not exactly. Why?" Giving up any attempt at being demure, Doyle settled in against Bodie's warmth and watched his daughter. Bodie was right, Elena had been around them enough to know what kind of sex went on in this room. They were both men, after all. Nevertheless, there were still the shreds of fatherly instinct left inside him that made him a little awkward at moments like this, when she'd almost caught them at it. When she stayed overnight -- which wasn't that often, he found himself deliberately stiffling any noises he would normally make during the act of love. He knew it was silly, knew she loved them both, knew she knew what they were doing -- and yet, he still found some small instinct to protect her. Wasn't sure it was ever going to wear off. Not even sure he wanted it to. Shrugging the thoughts aside, he gazed steadily at her as she sat on the bed. She was hiding something -- and it wasn't just embarrassment at having almost caught them in the act.

"Well... I know you two are still pretty much a secret and everything but I was wondering, Dad if you would put togther one of your wonderful lunches."

"What about my wonderful lunches," Bodie frowned. "Not good enough for you now, eh?"

Elena smiled at that, always suseptable to Bodie's humour. "It's just that, well, there's somebody I'd like you to meet."

Doyle blinked. "Somebody? Special?"

Nodding, Elena said, "Yeah. Very. Would you mind?"

Doyle swapped a glance with Bodie then turned back to his daughter. "Of course not. What time should we expect this special person?"

"Twelve?" Elena looked worried for a moment. "I haven't told him about you living together -- or even being a couple. But he's definitely not homophobic or anything. He's cool about it. But if you don't want anybody knowing, you know, I don't mind..."

"Rubbish," Bodie sat up, took her hand and squeezed it. "If he's as special as you say, he won't go blabbing about it, will he? And if he does? Well, it has to come out some time. So, am I really not allowed to cook -- or is the matter negotiable?"

Elena began laughing and stood up, "God, Bodie you are incorrigable. No wonder my father couldn't resist you. I'll let you alone now and go and do some shopping. Be back in an hour." She was out the door before she added, "And Dad -- don't let that man distract you! You've got work to do!" The door slammed shut after her.

Doyle was laughing uncontrollably by this point, and glanced up only to find Bodie watching him with a deadpan expression. "As if I'd distract you! Huh!"

Shaking his head, Doyle simply rolled over and kissed Bodie soundly. Then he looked at Bodie steadily. "You know, love, somehow I don't think losing fourteen years together has made one jot of difference, do you?"

"Nope." Bodie held him close, "Just all that much more catching up to do."

"Not to mention all that lawn mowing."

Now Bodie was laughing, too. "Okay, okay, you win. I'll go mow the lawn for our daughter's new man. But next week I'm paying somebody else to do it -- so I can do some more of this catching up stuff."

"Is that a promise?" Doyle snuggled close, lifting his face to Bodie's.

Bodie nodded, somberly, "Absolutely." He paused, taking Doyle's hand in his, lifting it to his lips. "You know what today is?"

"Yeah," Doyle nodded, equally sobered. "A year since you walked into my office."

"Yeah," Bodie breathed, his eyes searching Doyle's.

Hesitant, Doyle paused, not sure if he wanted to remember -- but knowing he couldn't ignore it completely. "How do you feel?"

"In a word?" Bodie's expression became about as serious as Doyle had ever seen it, "Humble."

Sudden tears pricked at Doyle's eyes, making Bodie smile gently. "Jesus, Bodie..."

"Yeah, I know, love, I know. There but for the grace of god."

Trying to release the sudden tension in his chest, Doyle pulled him closer, held him tighter, "How did you know?"

In answer, Bodie touched a finger to his lips, let it trail down to his chin, "I know I use all the words I can, but Ray, I don't think I'm ever going to be able to tell you what you mean to me."

"You don't need to, Bodie," Doyle whispered, a sob caught in his throat. "If it's half what I feel..."

"So how could I not know what you would be lying there, thinking, first thing this morning? Why it was so important to both of us that I come home last night, so we could spend this time together?"

"But you did, Bodie," Doyle pressed a brief touch of his lips to Bodie's. He met Bodie's gaze once more, the heaviness lifting from him, powered by the look in those blue eyes. "You came home to me."

"Yeah," Bodie gave him a slow smile, bringing fourteen years of sorrow to an end in that one moment. "Yeah, I did. Always will." And with that, he deliberately did his best to distract Doyle with another deep loving kiss, one that not only sealed that promise, but everything else.

It was a tough life, but hey, somebody had to live it.


~ End of "The Tangled Web" ~


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