Stealing Home
by Sandy K Herrold

Doyle sighed loudly. A week ago, the two of them being offered a quiet day like this to catch up on things would have seemed a luxury, a gift from God. Today, after two such days, he at least was running out of gratitude. He smiled to himself and glanced at his stack of reports. At least, by some happy not-quite-accident, all of the hard ones had ended up on Bodie’s pile.

He peeked at his partner, industriously scribbling away. Bodie looked good today, his usual sleek elegance intact, but his short hair had a cowlick, a dark whorl just behind Bodie’s right ear. He laughed to himself. Bodie had it trimmed every verse end so it wouldn’t curl, and his own body fought him on it.

Bodie must have heard his earlier sigh. He threw his pencil down on the borrowed desk in disgust, eyeing Doyle and the roomful of equally-bored agents. "Christ, today, I feel like a civil servant."

From deep within an overstuffed armchair, Anson eyed him back. "Aw, Bodie’s all depressed ’cause he hasn’t got to shoot anybody today."

Bodie and Doyle both turned to glare, Doyle because Anson had taken the words out of his mouth. "Piss off," they said in unison, and then smiled at the coincidence.

"Two point three for content," Murphy replied, "nine point seven for execution." He threw his biro down as well.

Bodie asked, "Your bird making you watch those poofter ice skaters again?"

Happy to answer for Murphy, Doyle said, "Nah, it was him that taught her to appreciate them. It’s the tight pants on them he likes."

"Yeah, and those big boots they wear. Come with their own knives they do."

As Murphy stood, prepared to threaten a little physical violence, they all heard Cowley yell, "Bodie, Doyle!"

"You bellowed?" said Bodie in tones carefully too quiet for Cowley to hear.

Anson said grumpily, "Ask him to free the rest of us, too."

Bodie nodded, grabbed Doyle’s arm—spilling hot tea over his hand—and dragged him, complaining, the length of the hall.

But once in Cowley's office, a blind man could tell Cowley wasn’t in the mood for it. Doyle tugged his sleeve free and watched Bodie come to semi-attention.

"Bodie, do you know this man?" Cowley handed Bodie a black and white photograph of a man in cricket gear.

Bodie said warily, "Are we guarding him, or after him, sir?"

Doyle grabbed the picture. "Like that, is he?" The picture wasn’t much help. Tallish, big, light-brown or dark blond hair—hard to tell in a black-and-white—nice enough looking in a burly sort of way, Doyle supposed. Thirty-ish?

"Let’s just say, nothing he could do would surprise me." Bodie said quietly.

Doyle glanced over, but Bodie had his company face on.

"How well do you know him, Bodie?"

Bodie was looking front and center. "Not well, sir. In the same place at the same time once or twice."

Taking the picture back, Cowley read out of the file, "Donald Carnaby—"

He saw Bodie twitch, and wondered if Cowley caught it.

"—sometime weapons consultant, ex-Spanish Foreign Legion, ex-who knows what. Seems to have been all over the place." Cowley rapped the file in front of him and glared at Bodie. "There are a lot a missing pieces here. Anyway, he’s formally refused Her Majesty’s protection, but I have been asked to make you available to keep an eye on him for a couple of days."

"Why just Bo—?"

Bodie cut him off. "What’s our interest, sir?"

Doyle gave him a look out of the corner of his eye. Not a question you wanted asked, eh?

"Never you mind, Bodie, that’s strictly need to know."

What a bloody farce. Bodie obviously knew someone he didn’t want Cowley to know he knew, Cowley knew something he didn’t want Bodie to know, and nobody was telling Doyle anything. He hated operations like this.

"He’ll tell you if he wants to," Cowley continued. "You’ll be guarding him, not too obviously; you’re to act as if an old friend has come to visit. Stay at this hotel," Cowley handed him a brochure, "and order enough alcohol from the desk that you’ll have an excuse to stay over—"

Doyle raised an eyebrow at Bodie. His partner seemed a little underwhelmed at the chance to be drinking on Cowley’s pence.

"You don’t have to drink it, but I feel sure you will. I don’t suppose you can completely poison yourself in just a night or two." Doyle thought that seemed a bit rich from a man who’d been known to have his first dram before 11:00 am. "And you, Doyle, you’ve got tomorrow off, but I want you to stay in close touch. Don’t leave London, and keep your RT with you. Bodie may need ‘unofficial’ backup at any time." Cowley stared back at Bodie. "You were asked for specifically—I assume because they knew you could positively i.d. him. Even if it gets rough, I expect Mr. Carnaby to turn down the offer of ‘official’ back up. Don’t get yourself killed listening to him." He paused, looking at both Bodie and Doyle. "But, calling us in officially could—"

Bodie interrupted. "Muck up the works?"

Cowley’s frown shut Bodie up. "Have consequences."

Doyle whistled silently to himself. Sounds political. Uneasily he wondered, how political? When Cowley got pressured from above, sensible agents worried.

"He, um," Doyle faltered, "doesn’t have to turn in his RT or anything, does he?" From Bodie’s horrified glance, he hadn’t even thought of the possibility.

"No, this is not quite an Operation Susie." Cowley fell silent, looking off into space.

"Sir?" Bodie asked tentatively.

"Are you still here? Get cracking."

For once, Bodie left quietly. Doyle followed, close. It would be just like Bodie to try and ditch him after a briefing like that. He waited only until Kristy shut the door behind them to ask, "So what do you know about this guy?"

"Not much."

Doyle stopped in the hallway and glared at him. "Cowley seemed to believe you, but don’t try that on me!"

"Well, he’s a little hard to describe," Bodie equivocated.


"Oh all right." Bodie leaned against the wall, waiting for Stuart to pass them by before continuing. "My old captain said of him once that even his friends don’t like him. On the other hand, he has a lot of friends." Bodie turned into the rest room, and poured them both coffee. "You know how they say about some people, to find them, just find the biggest commotion, and they’re in the middle of it?"

"Yeah." Doyle thought that wasn’t that wasn’t a bad description of Bodie himself.

"Well, you’d actually find him off to the side watching it, but you’d know he’s the one that started it."

Doyle tried his coffee and regretted it. The bitter sludge wasn’t even hot. "Try and avoid commotions this weekend."

"I’d rather avoid him. Hoped I’d seen the last of him after last time."

"Like that, eh?" Last time? Bodie was a closed-mouthed sod, but he never seemed to mind Doyle trying to pry, and Doyle could never help trying. And the more Bodie hid, the more Doyle needed to know.

"Should just be the weekend, though." Bodie tasted his own coffee and copied his grimace. "Weekend, weekend…" As they headed back to the crowded workroom, Bodie hit his forehead. "Oh, ’Becca!"

"No, me name’s Doyle." He pasted a witless look on his face.

"Very cute. Rebecca and I were going to a show tonight. And I was going to get breakfast in bed tomorrow."

"And I’m sure you’ll still get it. ’air of the dog that bit you… ’alf-full bottle of scotch just within reach…" Doyle taunted, borrowing Benny Hill’s accent.

Bodie made gagging noises as he reached their desk and grabbed for the phone.

"Give me that."

"What?" Bodie looked back at him.

"I said, give me that." Doyle grabbed the phone out of his hand. "I’ll ring her, make up some excuse about you being called out of the country unexpectedly. Turn her up sweet for you later."

Bodie smiled—the rare grin that belied his tough-guy tone. "I take back all those rude things I said about you, old son."

Doyle picked up the phone, saying, "What rude things?" knowing Bodie wouldn’t stick around.

• • •

Doyle reset the cheap lock and pulled the apartment door shut quietly behind him, the satisfied smirk of a job well done stretched across his face. What a night!

Rebecca had been everything Bodie had claimed, and he was definitely looking forward to letting Bodie know that. But how best to let it slip? He was running out of innocent reactions, he thought, bounding down the stairs and jumping the banister at the foot. He’d used the "Oh, I thought you were done with her," line a couple of times too many already.

Doyle jogged to his car, the early morning air helping him wake up. He’d planned to go home and lie in on his day off, but the morning was bright and sunny and suddenly he was full of energy.

He started driving towards the CI5 gym, but reluctant to see workmates, turned abruptly (and illegally) and headed for the small sports club he and Bodie belonged to. He stretched as best he could in the cramped bucket seat. Yeah, what he really needed to do was work the kinks out. Last night had been great; when Bodie said a bird could cook, the bird could cook. Could hold her end of a conversation too; it was good having Bodie in common—gave them something to talk about instead of the deadly safe ‘jobs and family.’ As he inched along through the morning peakhour, he smiled to himself, remembering teasing her into revealing Bodie’s exploits. The things she said Bodie got up to. Must be some truth to her brags; Bev had said the same things.

His stomach started growling, and he started looking for a breakfast cafe. It wasn’t his part of London, but it didn’t take him long to find one nice enough for his requirements . He parked, wandered in and grabbed a table, still thinking about his partner. Too bad Bodie was busy; it’d be a great day to wake him up for squash if Cowley hadn’t had him squiring around suspicious looking characters for God and Queen. Bodie looked so amazingly dopey when first woken up.

Course, if Cowley hadn’t assigned Bodie to baby-sitting, it would have been Bodie with ’Becca last night. Doyle smiled to himself. Part of the fun of dating (and bedding) Bodie’s girls was chatting them up right under Bodie’s nose. Silly Bodie, he always looked happy that they were getting along. It was fairly easy to do when he played gooseberry for a lunch or movie; but he’d even pulled it off a couple of times with his own date right there listening to the early stages.

The waiter’s return interrupted his musing, and he perused the menu again. If he ordered a big breakfast (alone, without Bodie to steal the good bits), the gym would be quiet by the time he finished and he could go work it off.

The buttered eggs were good, though he missing having to defend his sausages from Bodie’s predations. He sprawled out in the booth and sipped his coffee, happily spilling food bits all over his Saturday paper. He noticed the clock on the café wall. 9:47. Wonder what Bodie’s doing now? Trust Bodie to get a job where he could drink scotch on the clock…

He shoveled in the last few bites and pulled out his wallet, frowning at the VAT added on the bill. The waiter took his charge card and handed him a pen. Lovely man — hadn’t said a word to him except "Cream or sugar?" the whole time he’d been there. Crumpling his receipt, Doyle headed back out to the car. The morning rush on the London streets was dying down, and he made good time out to Eastside Nautilus. He smiled to see the parking lot only two-thirds full.

Doyle grabbed his gym bag out of the boot, hoping for once he’d cleaned his clothes after he’d worn them last. "Hi, Charlie," he greeted the counter man. He’d decided months ago it was easier to learn the guy’s name than fumble for his membership card each time.

"Hey, Doyle. Been awhile." He waited for his towel and lock, looking around. No one he knew—too bad, he was up for some squash. Maybe he should have gone to the CI5 gym. He thought about signing up for with anyone available as he wandered back to the changing room. The mirror caught his eye as he rounded the corner. Ugh. Should have stayed and showered at ’Becca’s. He ran a quick hand through his curls to straighten them, and frowned at the complete lack of effect. Giving up, he pulled his shirt off through the mess, and stretched a little as both shoulders complained. And worth every moment, he thought, rubbing at his biceps. Best exercise in the world.

Hmm, weights first, or a jog? He pulled his briefs off and his jock on, arranging the elastic straps around his thighs. He pawed through his bag for his cup before giving up, thinking, without Bodie I probably won’t need it. Shorts, socks and shoes followed, and he finally padded out onto the gym floor. A small knot of men were huddled around the far wrestling mat. He wandered over to see the appeal.

He raised up on tiptoes to see two men wrestling. There was something about the arm and shoulder, and hair—


Doyle couldn’t help his surprised call—and it distracted his partner just long enough for his opponent to escape the lock Bodie’d had around his shoulder. Doyle watched, caught, as Bodie and the guy in Cowley’s picture— Carnaby? —worked their way through the standard wrestling holds, and a few less standard, before Bodie ended up pinned to the mat.

Doyle rolled his eyes. Bodie didn’t like to lose at the best of times, and the way he’d been talking about that man yesterday, he bet he was really pissed off now. Doyle considered running as the match ended, but he was too interested in meeting Bodie’s charge. The man offered Bodie a hand up, and Doyle watched Bodie pause for a beat before taking the help. They both laughed. The bloke grabbed Bodie’s shoulder and kept hold as they walked off the mat.

"Good match," Bodie said.

"Yeah, you’d have gotten me, except for him." They stopped in front of Doyle, the other man’s arm still draped around Bodie. They certainly seemed tight. He wondered what had happened to, "…hoped I’d seen the last of him…"

"Jerry, this skinny prat," Bodie not-quite-mock-punched his stomach, "is my partner, Ray Doyle. Ray, this is Jerry Darkin."

As he unfolded from around Bodie’s fist and shook Jerry’s hand, Doyle looked him up and down unobtrusively. His first impression was, smooth, but with the muscle to back it up. He answered the "Nice to meet you," patter absently as he tried to make sense of it all. He hadn’t been listening all that closely, but he damn well knew that Darkin was not the name of the man Cowley had assigned Bodie to be taking care of right now. And he never would have thought Bodie’d bring someone he was guarding to their gym. But Jerry, that sounded familiar—he was positive Bodie’d mentioned him before. And whatever his name was, he was definitely the man he’d seen in the picture in Cowley’s office. Though what had looked like fat in the picture seemed like bulky muscle from close up. He’d certainly managed Bodie well enough—after Doyle had helped, anyway.

Doyle tracked back to Bodie’s question and said, "Just got here, haven’t done weights yet. You?"

"We warmed up a little before starting to spar, but we haven’t been here long either."

Doyle saw Bodie was still panting a little, and gave him a push, starting them all over towards the drinking fountain. "Three’s an awkward number; which of you wants a spotter?" He wouldn’t mind a moment to ask what Bodie’d found out about the situation, but he really wanted the chance to get to talk to this Jerry person. Old friends of Bodie’s were thin on the ground. This was an long-awaited opportunity to get some questions about his partner answered, and he intended to make the most of it.

Jerry smiled, transforming his rather angular face. "That’d be great. Just show me where the free weights are. By the way, I’m just the opposite of this nutter." Doyle grinned at Bodie—seemed all of his friends agreed he was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. "I like my first name and hate my last. Call me Jerry."

Doyle raised his eyebrow, but nodded. Too many years in foreign climes, he figured. Bodie nodded at him before he walked off, cocking his head at Jerry. The message, if message it was, seemed to be "watch out"; Doyle just smiled and led Jerry to the circuit he used.

Jerry quickly chose a bar and weights, and settled in for bench presses. A pretty serious weightlifter, Doyle thought. He stood close, ready to spot, raising an eyebrow at the size of weights. Was Jerry showing off a little? To his annoyance, the other man seemed to have no trouble as he pressed the weight first up off the rest then down to within a hairsbreadth of his chest. Doyle looked up and caught Bodie’s eye across the room, sharing a grin with him. Jerry showing off reminded him of the first time Bodie and he had come to the gym together. They’d almost outmacho’d each other to death. He wondered if Bodie was remembering it too.

He helped Jerry off the bench, and watched him set up another bar for curls. He waited till Jerry jerked the bar up before asking, "So how long have you known Bodie?"

"A day or two."

"Those would be very loooooong days, eh?"

"Would you believe since before Bodie pulled his first bird?"

Doyle snorted. "Can’t have; according to Bodie he pulled the nursing sister in his delivery room."

Jerry laughed hard enough Doyle had to steady the bar. "OK, you got me," he grunted between reps. "Long enough to know all his first names."

"We all know those, mate. I was hoping for something juicier."

"Juicier, eh?" Jerry leaned, slightly, and Doyle moved in to help him lower the weight. Smiling, Doyle tried to look trustworthy. Jerry was a tougher nut than his initial grin and "Call me Jerry" had made him seem. Doyle had made his move a little too early. He’d have go slower, and actually plan out an attack. He was hazy on the details, but step one was definitely to get invited to stay with them after they left the gym; maybe a boozy pub lunch would loosen Jerry’s lips.

He looked across at Bodie again, grunting his way through the Nautilus. This time, Bodie was doing his usual: staring at the lycra-clad bums of the women on the treadmill machines. He’d claimed more than once that they were the only thing that got him through exercise; Doyle figured they were the reason that Bodie was willing to pay money to a gym when CI5 had its own. He hadn’t figured out how Bodie’d convinced him to pay money too.

He bided his time, taking his turn lifting and spotting through the different weight stations. Having to remove a weight or two each time he took over from Jerry was starting to get on his last nerve but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He’d volunteered. Halfway through he decided maybe Jerry wasn’t doing it on purpose: he was just a big man. Still, Doyle was inwardly relieved to lean back on the abs chair: last one. He grabbed the weights and really put himself into it, concentrating on the pull and release of each muscle.

Jerry’ quiet question startled him. "Wha?"

"Do you want to wrestle? You’re warm now." Jerry helped him put the bar back on the rest, and stepped back to let him stand up. "Bodie deserves his revenge. Old guy like me—" Doyle looked at the creases around his eyes, remembered his effortless lifting, and scoffed internally, "—needs to rest." He laughed at Doyle’s dubious look.

"I wrestle Bodie all the time," Doyle said repressingly.

"Would it make it more interesting, if I wrestle the loser?" Jerry’s smile was annoyingly compelling.

Doyle frowned. There were few enough sports where he and Bodie were evenly matched, and wrestling wasn’t one of them. Bodie probably won three times out of four, but he didn’t like Jerry’s patent assumption Bodie would win. He sighed; with Jerry already on his way to fetch Bodie, he didn’t see any way out of it.

Bodie’s only comment on their way back to the mats was a pointed look at his crotch. "Taking your life in your hands like that with this one about, Doyle."

Without quite knowing how, Doyle was sprawled arse-down under Bodie before he could say boo. Damned if he’d let Bodie take him this easy. He struggled, and twisted Bodie’s head to him till Bodie’s mouth lay close to his ear. He was almost buried by the other man; his world was the weight of Bodie’s hot body on his, the warm panting of Bodie’s breath on his neck, and the damp silk of Bodie’s hair across his face. "We’re attracting a crowd, shweeheart." Bodie didn’t answer, just continued to strain against him, crushing him more firmly into the yielding mat. He thought, not for the first time in this position, what a strange thing wrestling was: two men struggling atop each other, other men watching and cheering. All his attempted detachment aside, he was losing, and fast.

"Thanks for getting him ready for me, Bodie." Jerry, jeering from the sidelines.

Annoyed anew at Jerry’s presumption, Doyle tried one last grapple, twisting his shoulders while pulling Bodie’s arms back. To his own astonishment, it worked, pulling Bodie half-under him. Shit, I might just pull this off—, he thought in amazement.

In premature triumph he grinned up at Jerry, only to have Bodie pull him over again, this time pinning him securely. He tapped out, furious, and almost immediately laughed at himself.

Bodie laughed too, relaxed atop him. "Silly nutter." His mouth was almost as close as it had been earlier in the bout; Doyle could still feel each word as a separate puff of breath. He could feel their hearts racing, pressed chest to chest as they were.

Doyle pushed Bodie up. "Oy, you’re heavy."

"Sore loser." Bodie scrambled off, and waved Jerry at him, smiling, "OK, he’s all yours."

A few people had gathered to watch. Doyle got up quickly, brushing the dust off his shorts. "I’m ready," he said without enthusiasm.

Jerry nodded OK, but walked off. "Rest up a second, I’ve got to use the bog."

Bodie, in watchdog mode, started to follow him into the loo, but desisted under Jerry’s mocking gaze.

Doyle watched the by-play, more than a little confused, but glad to get Bodie to himself for a minute. "‘s he piss shy or something?" He strolled over and held up the wall beside Bodie. "I mean, you are supposed to be protecting him."

"Don’t you start. He doesn’t like being guarded too close." At Doyle’s appalled stare, Bodie just nodded. "Never guarded a friend before; it’s driving me spare."

Doyle laughed; frustration sat well on Bodie's broad shoulders. "You look like you’re having a great time, given your attitude yesterday. I thought you two were—" He searched for the right word, wary of Bodie's quick temper.

To his surprise, Bodie looked a little abashed. "Oh, you know how it is. He’s hard to stay mad at."

• • •

The showering, drying, and dressing process was enlivened by Bodie and Jerry’s argument over their plans for the rest of their day. Jerry asked Doyle twice if he was coming with them; he answered—untruthfully—"It depends on what you’re going to do." Actually, he wouldn’t miss this show for anything. He rarely got to see Bodie with old friends; he guessed this quiet ‘sit back and be entertained’ style was a characteristic the Bodie he knew had all but left behind.

It was more than a little strange hearing Bodie play mother hen; everything Jerry suggested Bodie nixed for security reasons: the horses at Haymarket, the zoo, his own idea of horseback riding at Hyde Park. Of course everything Bodie proposed, Jerry objected to as too boring or indoors. "It’s a beautiful day, Bodie. If I wanted to stay cooped up indoors for security reasons, I’d have taken the protective custody, and got all my meals on the Queen."

Doyle stayed out of it, except for trying not to laugh at Bodie’s pout.

Snapping at Bodie’s backside with a towel, Jerry said cheerily, "Hampstead Heath? There’s usually a football or cricket game looking for people. You’d have to be an Olympic-class shooter to make that long a shot, and we haven’t played there in years."

Doyle swallowed hard. "You knew each other in England?" That hadn’t occurred to him.

Jerry raised an eyebrow and walked away, leaving Bodie to say what he would. Of course, Bodie didn’t say a word.

Doyle wasn’t worried; he’d played dripping water to Bodie’s stone before.

• • •

When they got to the Heath, there was no cricket or football in sight, only loud (and loudly-dressed) Americans playing baseball. Doyle expressed his displeasure vehemently.

"No, that’s softball." Bodie interrupted.

"What do you know about it?"

"We used to play hardball in Africa with the American mercs."

"Yeah and don’t forget Aussie-rules football that time with the ANZACs."

Doyle tried not to goggle; when he thought of Bodie in Africa, sports were not the games that first came to mind. He laughed to himself. Maybe that’s why Bodie didn’t talk about Africa muchnothing exciting to say.

Jerry kept walking towards the field. "They look as if they’d take more players—"

"No gloves?" said Bodie, looking for an excuse.

Doyle wasn’t all that excited about it himself, but noticed, "They’ve got a pile of extras over there."

"Come on, it’ll be fun." Jerry turned back and tugged on Bodie’s arm. It was strange to see someone leading his stubborn partner around. Wished he knew Jerry’s secret, but it probably had something to do with being over six-foot tall and built to match.

Bodie took on the look of a man walking to his death. "Yeah, like that time you knocked me out throwing to third?"

Doyle added the reference to the growing list of stories he was going to beat out of Bodie if necessary. As they walked across the grass, Doyle looked for someone more or less in charge, pretending to ignore Bodie and Jerry’s wrangling. The man on the pitcher’s mound had a real-looking baseball shirt over hideously bright shorts. What the heck. "Taking more people?"

"Sure." To Doyle’s surprise, the pitcher sounded as English as they were. "But could you split between teams? We’re pretty evenly matched right now."

"Well, one of you is meant to be guarding me," Jerry said quietly, with a smile.

Doyle eyed Bodie’s undecided look and laughed. "You can show me how it’s done, Jerry. Couldn’t trust Bodie," he said more confidingly to Jerry, "I’ve never quite made sense of cricket after his lesson."

Bodie grabbed a mitt and headed out on the field as Jerry started explaining the rules. He listened with half an ear while watching his partner warm up. Despite his earlier air of reluctance, Bodie was grinning like a loon, showing off, catching and tossing the ball in one elegant move. Doyle took the bat Jerry handed him, hoping Jerry was as good. It was strange to see Bodie playing on the opposite side. At CI5 parties they never got to play on opposing teams— people said they couldn’t be trusted not to help each other. He didn’t see it himself. People didn’t realize how competitive they were—even when they were on the same side they did side bets on who’d make the most goals or baskets or points…

• • •

Doyle eased into the hard pub seat with an over-loud sigh, grateful to be off his feet; he’d had fun, but he figured even his bruises had bruises. Baseball had never looked that physical on BBC2.

Bodie set a pint in front of Jerry and handed one to Doyle. "You look clapped out."

Doyle thought Bodie should talk: he looked more disheveled than Doyle’d seen him in months. Apparently determined to show up his Yank teammates, he’d done a full slide into more than one base, and his old cords showed it.

Doyle took a healthy swig of his ale. "I blame myself for agreeing to go to Hampstead Heath, but I blame you two for everything that happened there." He ignored Bodie’s scoffing sounds and grinned at Jerry. It had been a good day today, but all he’d found out from this guy was that he was a manipulative son of a bitch who was almost impossible to stay mad at. He’d been dangling bait out all day, but Jerry had never risen.

Even being on the same team with him hadn’t been much help. They couldn’t talk when they were out in the field (Doyle was still not clear on what a shortstop was, but he knew he was never doing it again), and when their team was up to bat, Jerry spent most of his time pumping him for Bodie stories and laughing at Bodie’s occasional mistakes and balls-to-the-wall style as second baseman. Doyle was annoyed to realize how much talking he’d done about Bodie, while Jerry avoided his attempts at subtle interrogation effortlessly.

"So where did you guys meet?" he said, giving up indirection.

Jerry started, "I think it was a pub—"

"—one very like this one, in fact." Bodie finished for him.

"Yeah? When was that?"

"Have to use the bog; be right back." Jerry tried to ruffle his hair as he went by; he ducked as he always did when Bodie grabbed for it.

Doyle called after Jerry, laughing, "You can run, but you can’t hide!"

Bodie just smiled, seemingly unworried at Doyle’s attempted ferreting. "After all the stories I’ve told you, you seem to think I’m hiding things from my past." Bodie held his hand to his forehead melodramatically.

"‘Stories’ is right. Talk about rewritten history," Doyle said skeptically.

"Nope, all true, and all the good bits guaranteed."

"Yeah, but what I want are the embarrassing bits."

Bodie grinned at him, wrinkling his nose and motioned towards the absent Jerry. "Should have known you two’d get along. Wish I’d called you last night; you could have shared our Cowley-approved scotch."

Doyle felt a twinge of guilt over his activities last night, but nowhere near enough to require a confession. He felt some apprehension as well: he wasn’t sure that this day spent together was exactly what Cowley meant when he’d told Doyle to stay in touch. But after all, he might help Bodie entertain an old friend from out of town—though he realized suddenly, he never had before. Any old friend of Bodie’s he’d ever known, he’d met because of work, just like this Jerry/Donald character. He frowned, but turned it into a brilliant smile as Jerry came back from the loo, deciding to go back to his first plan: charm and distraction.

He mentally riffled through their non-classified cases and found the perfect one. "Thanks for driving today. It’s bad enough that I have to risk my life driving with this loony when I’m on the clock."

"I’m a great driver," Bodie protested. "Safe as houses!"

"I’ve quietly watched him run into trees, buildings, people—both innocent and guilty—" he winked at Jerry, ignoring Bodie’s objections, "and never once complained, but I drew the line the day he ran over an innocent little writing desk."

Bodie easily caught his cue—they’d told this story countless times. It was working like it always did: Jerry, caught between them, was turning his head back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match.

Bodie passed the story back effortlessly, and Doyle followed it up with another. Jerry barely got a word in edgewise except when Doyle or Bodie stood to get a round. The Bodie and Doyle show, he called it to himself. It had worked on petty crimos and pretty ladies, hard men and Cowley himself, more than once.

It was how he’d caught Laura, Bodie’s girl before ’Becca. After watching them interact for a while, retelling their worst cases as if they’d been Avengers episodes, complete with silly bad guys and strange technology, she’d laughed, "You’re like bookends!" When Bodie’d got up to check in (one of the joys of being on standby), Doyle had just leaned forward, smiled and said, "Think that’s true? You won’t know until you try us both."

He turned that blissful thought into a smile at Bodie’s triumphant conclusion, smiling happily at his partner-cum-competitor in love and war, taking Jerry’s laughter as their due.

Jerry upended his pint. "In Africa I’d have paid to hear stories told that well—next round’s on me!"

"Hah, make it sound special; you know it was your turn to buy a round anyway!" Bodie taunted him. Jerry lightly punched him and then headed to the bar.

"Should make you buy every round to make up for beating us like that." Doyle leaned back in his chair, feeling at charity with the whole world.

"If I had to treat you every time I beat you at sports, I’d have to ask Cowley for a raise."

"You’d like to think so." They shared a grin.

"Are you guys still fighting over the game?" Jerry handed them their pints. "Admit it, it was fun."

"If that game had lasted one more inning, I’d have slit my throat." Bodie made elaborate throat-cutting motions, almost decapitating a weedy-looking student type at the next table.

Doyle shook his head, agreeing with Jerry.

"Wait, you said you were tired, too." Bodie pouted a little as the other two disagreed with him.

Doyle couldn’t help teasing, "Nah, I’ve got more endurance than you do. It’s all that bulk, it slows you down."

"That’s not what Laura said." Bodie filled Jerry in, "Laura was a bird of mine that Ray accidentally ended up dating too."

"Thought you were done with her," Doyle said virtuously.

Bodie rolled his eyes, "Give it a rest. Anyway, she said I was better."

"That’s not what ’Becca said." Immediately, Ray could have kicked his own arse. This was not the way he been planning to play it.

"Last night? The two of you went out? You son-of-a-bitch." Bodie’s words were angry, but the tone was more bewildered.

It was so far from what he’d expected, he was reminded again how little he knew Bodie at times: Here Ray was, caught stealing his girl, showing him up in front of his old friend, and Bodie just looked…. Abruptly it no longer seemed such a lark. Doyle barely met his eyes. "Well, she was lonely last night," he said lamely.

Jerry interrupted. To ease the tension, or add to it? Doyle wondered sourly. He liked the bloke, but couldn’t quite say he trusted him. Jerry gave off just a whiff of hidden motives and his job made Doyle oversensitive to the smell.

"Didn’t realize you were busy last night when I asked your lovely Mr. Cowley if I could borrow you."

"And would it have stopped you? Not for a heartbeat." Bodie answered his own question, but he was smiling at Jerry, apparently successfully distracted. "Why are you here? Why am I watching you, anyway?"

"Shh, little pitchers."

Jerry looked around the crowded pub as he said it, but Doyle got the feeling Jerry was referring to him. He still felt a little awkward. It was worse when Bodie didn’t get mad all at once; he could feel the blowup hanging over him. He let their rehash of Bodie’s best play wash over him while he tried to think. They’d been drinking pretty fast since they’d gotten to the pub, but a few quick pints were no excuse for being an idiot. What was he trying to prove?

He needed some food to blot up some of the alcohol, and bulldozed the other two into ordering pub grub. Bodie was in pig heaven getting to steal food off of more than one plate. Jerry just glanced at Doyle and shrugged, "He’s always been like that. As a kid, I swear he could eat his bodyweight each day."

Having Jerry explain his partner to him annoyed him a little, but he couldn’t help wondering, As a kid? How long has Jerry known Bodie? He suspected Jerry was just winding him up, but a look at Bodie gave no clues.

As they finished their crumbs, Jerry challenged them both to darts. Soon, Bodie and Jerry were competing as much in their derisive comments about each other’s throws as through the actual dart scores. Doyle nursed a quiet run of bad luck and watched their interaction.

He noticed Bodie give him a questioning look as they headed back to their table. He’d been quiet too long. "So what’s the plan for the rest of the evening?"

"I’m trying to talk him into a film, since girls are out." Bodie raised his glass in the direction of the best-looking women in the pub.

Jerry said, "Girls are out?" giving a Bodie an exaggerated look of surprise.

Doyle questioned with an eyebrow, dumbfounded when Bodie turned a little pink and muttered, "Since I’m supposed to keep him in sight at all times—"

"Depends on the birds, doesn’t it?" Jerry included Doyle in his wicked glance about.

Bodie looked exasperated. "England’s not like some of the places we’ve been, Jerry. They don’t exactly come with signs on their chests saying ‘don’t mind a bit of a group scene’ you know."

Doyle felt his jaw start to drop and shut it with a snap. It didn’t seem like they were exaggerating for his sake; they weren’t even looking at him. Bodie’d said something, god, years ago, about maybe sharing a girlfriend, and Doyle’d figured it was a put-on; wouldn’t even listen to him. What had he missed?

Jerry said slyly. "This time they don’t need to like groups, Bodie. I was just going to let you watch and learn a few things—"

"—Oh, I let him do that once in a while," Doyle threw in awkwardly, recognizing his cue, but damning Jerry’s sense of humor, or timing. "It’s improved his technique to no end."

Jerry smiled wickedly at him, helping him tease Bodie. "Make his girls write you thank-you notes, do you?" Too bad Doyle didn’t want the help. Last thing he wanted was to remind Bodie again.

He quickly finished his pint and held up his empty glass. "Another round?" He flipped two fingers at Bodie’s mock-amazed look and dug for his wallet. The crowd was thick as he fought his way back to the table and he circled behind Bodie and Jerry. He could barely hear Jerry over the crowd, "So I thought you said he wasn’t…?" Doyle stopped. Wasn’t what?

He heard Bodie laugh and held his breath. "Would I lie to you? I’ve been faithful in my way."

A man with four pints on a tray bumped into Doyle’s arm. Steadying the glasses, Doyle missed Jerry’s comment, and looked up to see them staring awkwardly at him.

Bodie said, "Shut up," to Jerry and took his pint.

Nothing much he could do about the sudden silence, or the guilty look on Bodie’s face. "Here you go." He set the pints on the table.

Conversation picked back up, but he noticed Bodie down most of his pint in a couple quick swallows.

Bodie planted his near-empty mug on the table. "Another round, or should we go?"

"It’s still early—look, it’s not even dark yet." Jerry waved inaccurately at one of the pub windows.

"Hey, what happened to the films idea?"

"Does that mean you’re coming back with us, or not?" Bodie sounded a bit impatient.

"Uh, sure." He hadn’t realized there was any question.

"I know a place where we can stop and grab some video tapes. Jerry’s about six years behind in his film watching and there’s a machine in the hotel room, so we can choose a bunch of our favorites, eh?"

"For a second there, I was afraid you meant video nasties." The words were out before he could recall them, and he had no clue where they’d come from. He could feel himself turning red, and reached for a distraction. "The hotel’s just around the corner, right? You know, I could protect him while you go get the movies. If you don’t have any objections," he said to Jerry. "We can take our shoes off, get comfortable, and drink Cowley’s scotch while he traipses all over London trying to find this mythical nighttime video rental store."

Jerry gave him a rather measuring look before smiling and saying, "All right with you, Bodie?"

"Oh fine, don’t mind at all." Bodie put one arm in front and one in back in a classic B movie butler style. "Would the gentlemen like anything else whilst I’m out?"

"Cute, Bodie." Doyle finished his drink and made a unsuccessful feint at the last of Bodie’s. As Bodie threatened awful vengeance Doyle hid behind Jerry, grabbing Jerry’s back.

"You’re supposed to be protecting me, not crushing me." Jerry threatened to pour the last of his pint over his back onto Doyle. The reminder that this was a job sobered them slightly, and they grabbed their coats to go.

Bodie saluted them good-bye at the doorway.

"Don’t talk to any strange men."

Bodie raised two fingers in their general direction and headed down the block. Doyle heard what sounded like, "They don’t come any stranger," and snorted agreement.

The pub really was around the corner from the hotel, a circumstance that had a lot to do with why they’d been drinking there at all. Doyle followed Jerry through the lobby and up the stairs, but held his hand out for the key at the door. "Sure, there’s not much chance, but think how stupid I’d feel if Bodie came back and found us dead." Jerry handed the key over with a laugh.

He opened the door quietly, and did a quick survey of the suite, checking behind the bedroom and bathroom doors, and peeking in the closet. Without surprise he noticed Jerry follow him in and shut the door, coming to stand behind him with a raised eyebrow.

"All clear, ossifer?"

Doyle ignored the joke and took a second slower look around. "This is nice." The small sitting room didn’t have enough room to swing a cat, but it was nice, actually. Oversized stuffed sofa, art on the walls, soft lighting, wooden chairs and a table (holding, to his complete lack of surprise, an all but empty bottle of single malt); it was nicer than his flat.

"Yeah, it’s not bad. All the mod cons. They said the couch folds into a bed, too." They said? Where’d Bodie sleep? He looked around the sitting room, thinking, if Bodie’d been so far gone he couldn’t operate a fold-out sofa and ended up sleeping on this miniature thing, or worse, the floor, it was no surprise he’d needed the gym this morning to work the kinks out.

He walked past the couch and pushed the interior door open. On second look, the bedroom was nice too. Big bed, maybe even a king, with lights and tables on each side, and a TV/VTR.

"You’re never getting Cowley to spring for this?"

"Yeah, that’s the beauty of it. I’ve been trying to figure out for a while how to retrieve something I’d lost in England a few years back, and this is what I came up with.

"I think I outdid myself this time. All it took was letting the right people know I had acquired a certain set of information, while making sure the wrong people knew that killing me would expose the information to the world. So your side wants to chat with me badly enough to bring me over and set me up in the lap of semi-luxury," Jerry gestured widely at the room, "And the other side’s afraid to kill me, so I’m in no real danger." He smiled, "Sorry if you’re disappointed."

Doyle sniggered.

"Wasn’t hard to convince the government that I might talk if I wasn’t pressured. Then I asked someone to ask someone to ask your Mr. Cowley if I could have Bodie assigned to keep me safe." He wandered into the bedroom, not raising his voice, assuming Doyle would follow, and kicked his shoes off and under the bed. "So I get my vacation paid for by Her Majesty while I make my arrangements, and best of all, Bodie couldn’t refuse to see me like he did last time." Jerry took off his wristwatch and set it on the chest of drawers with his keys.

Doyle couldn’t help thinking what a piece of work Jerry was, even as he was entertained by the story. He wasn’t finding out anything he wanted to know, and realized with some apprehension that just by listening to this blather, Jerry’d probably implicated him in the scam. He damn well better come across with some information now. "When were you here before?" Doyle sat on the bed and started taking his own shoes off, trying to look casual.

"It’s been a while, now. Over a year, certainly."

"Why didn’t he want to see you?" Doyle lay back on the bed and bounced gently a few times, smiling at Jerry, then pulled his shirttails out of his jeans, scratching at his belly. What he really wondered was how Jerry’d got Bodie to forgive him. In his experience, it took a lot to make Bodie really mad, but it took even more to get him over it.

"That I really can’t tell you," Jerry mumbled through his toothbrush. "Not my story to tell." He kept brushing his teeth while wandering around the room, putting his wallet away, rolling his socks off and throwing them in the bathroom.

"Wouldn’t think that would stop you."

Jerry spit a couple of times, and gargled before coming out of the bathroom, turning off the light behind him. "Catch the lamp, will you?" Doyle rolled across the bed to oblige, stretching a little, and Jerry turned the overhead light off. In the softer lighting, he seemed completely uninsulted. "Well, I could tell you a good story, but not tonight. Everything I’ve just told you is the truth."

"Can’t imagine you make a practice of that," Doyle said dryly. "Why now?"

"Figured it was fair recompense for what you were going to give me." Jerry winked and sat on the bed next to him. "Come ’ere. Bodie’s not going to be gone that long you know." Jerry leaned down over him, caging Doyle within his arms, and licked at his upper lip.

"What?!" Doyle’s heart was pounding, but he didn’t move.

"No need for that. We both know what we’re doing."

To his amazement, Jerry kissed him. There was a second, maybe a heartbeat of pure I can’t believe this is happening, shock, before adrenaline surged through his body, and he jerked back. He jabbed viciously at Jerry’s arm to free himself and rolled quickly, his mind churning. He caught himself just before falling off the bed, and stumbled back a pace, breathing loudly. "What the fuck?" He could still feel the warm imprint of the other man’s lips on his.

Jerry merely sat there rubbing his arm. He looked more amused than anything. "Ooh, straight boy get in over his head? Decided you wanted it until you were getting it?"

"Fuck you. What the bloody hell are you talking about?" He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this mad. He could barely hear Jerry through the pounding in his ears.

"Good act, sweetie, as good as I’ve ever seen, but it’s a little late now, isn’t it? You’ve been flirting with me since the gym. Looking me up and down, sitting next to me, using those big eyes and that pretty smile." Jerry brushed past him and poured a scotch. "Want one?"

Damn his casualness. Doyle’s fingers were trembling with the strain of holding himself back. He wanted to smash every ludicrous word Jerry’d said back down his throat, and wipe the superior smile off his face in a permanent and painful fashion. Jerry poured another. Furious, he took it, and drained it in one angry swallow, determined to deny every sweetly rational word Jerry spoke.

"You know who it was that arranged for us to come back here alone together." Jerry smiled superiorly. "You don’t know what you want, do you?" He topped up both their glasses, his garden-party manners a sarcastic counterpoint to his verbal accusations. "Hope this isn’t how you treat all of Bodie’s friends: chat them up, booze them up, get them alone, move in for the kill—then run like hell when they say yes."

Doyle spat, "Does Bodie know about you?"

"Does Bodie know about you, I wonder?"

He was spared making an answer by the knock on the door. Bodie’d been very quick. He walked to the door, ignoring Jerry’s sneered, "Just as well, eh?"

Bodie walked in looking blessedly normal: hunched a little against the cold, tapes in one hand, already unzipping his coat with the other. Doyle wanted to grab him and leave, he wanted to scream, "Your friend is a lunatic," he didn’t know what he wanted.

"What’d you get?" Jerry pushed past Doyle to relieve Bodie of the videos, then handed them to Doyle with a smirk, and gave Bodie the bottle of scotch in exchange for his coat. "One last tot in this one, then we’ll need the next bottle."

Doyle dropped the tapes on the nearest table and retreated into the loo. He didn’t want Jerry to think he was running away, but he by god didn’t want Bodie asking him what was wrong. He stared into the mirror. "Using those big eyes and that pretty smile…" What was Jerry talking about? All he saw was his face, ordinary, and more importantly, masculine. Right now it was flushed and red. He put his hands up to his face to cool it off, and counted to ten before flushing the bog and walking back out.

Bodie’d made it into the bedroom and was opening one of the two remaining bottles of scotch. "I never thought we’d get through all this."

"Wha? Oh, the scotch." Jerry was acting so much like nothing had happened he was almost a parody of himself. "Well, I’ve got another three days here—that gives us plenty of time, right?"

"Three days? Does Cowley know that? What happens then?" Bodie’s voice started to rise. "What the ’ell is going on, Jerry?" Jerry looked a little annoyed, but didn’t answer. Bodie visibly restrained himself, taking a couple deep breaths. "You can get right up my nose, Jerry."

Jerry laughed, obviously not taking him seriously. "Yeah, but you always forgive me."

Bodie frowned, but visibly decided to let it go. Noticing Doyle’s and Jerry’s stocking feet, he said mildly, "you guys look comfortable." He heeled his shoes off, threw them back out into the sitting room, and sat down on the bed, hitching himself up so he could lean on the headboard. "So which movie are we going to watch first?"

Neither Doyle nor Jerry answered.

Bodie looked back and forth between them. "What’s going on?"

Doyle looked at Jerry, who shrugged. "Nothing."

"Yeah, right. Jerry, I don’t get this whole trip. Why are you here, and don’t give me that ‘want to relive old times’ guff. You don’t have a nostalgic bone in your body. The good old days weren’t that good, anyway."

"Because I miss you?"

Bodie stared at Jerry, an unreadable expression on his face. "Don’t confuse the issue, mate."

Doyle felt completely at sea. He didn’t understand what their spat was over, and at the moment he didn’t care, except to be glad that Jerry’s distraction kept Bodie from noticing Doyle was upset. This was his chance to get out of here.

"You know, I don’t think I’ve got time for a movie tonight. I just remembered I’m meeting some guys at 9:00. I’ve barely got time to make it if I hurry."

"Some guys?" Jerry’s insinuation made Doyle spitting mad again, but Bodie seemed to miss it entirely.

"Not bloody likely. Come on, Ray, don’t leave on account of us bickering. We used to do it all the time."

"You’ll have more fun without me." He was proud of his calm tone, but he couldn’t control his eyes. If there were any justice in the world, Jerry’d have been shriveled by them.

He grabbed his shoes and went out onto the sofa to put them on, needing some room. Bodie, blessedly predictable, padded out to make sure he wasn’t upset. Good thing Bodie couldn’t read him as well as he could Bodie.

"You all right?"

"Yeah, just tired." He concentrated on the shoe in his hand, refusing to look up. Bodie was close enough that Doyle could feel his warmth through his thin t-shirt. Backing him up, as ever, even though Bodie didn't seem to know why he needed it.

"You really don’t have to go."

"I know."

"Don’t let him get to you." Maybe Bodie saw more than he realized.

Jerry sauntered out to stand behind Bodie’s shoulder. He was all but touching him, and smiling at Doyle.

Another wave of anger swept through him. Doyle stopped, one shoe off, one shoe on. If Jerry thought he was running away…

Jerry leaned forward and rested his chin on Bodie’s shoulder and Bodie, damn him, didn’t even seem to notice.

No way was he leaving now; he wasn’t giving the bastard the satisfaction. "Aw, hell, it’s probably cold out there. You’re right, I don’t want to go." He kicked the one shoe back off, and set down the other. "But if I’m gonna stay, no more fighting you two," he managed, proud of the lightness of his tone. Jerry narrowed his eyes behind Bodie’s back and headed back into the bedroom without a word.

Bodie smiled and grabbed Doyle’s shoulder, playfully pushing him into the bedroom.

"So what movie are we going to start with?" Bodie joined Jerry at the VTR; Doyle went straight to the bed. He knew he’d made the wrong decision; he knew equally well that if he’d left, he’d be thinking the same thing. He pulled the pillows out from under the duvet, and leaned them against the headboard, staring sourly at Bodie and Jerry, heads down and shoulder to shoulder, trying to figure out the intricacies of the VTR. Damn them both.

He refilled his glass of scotch, took his own piece out of the middle of the bed and lay down with all the enthusiasm of a man on his death bed. He’d had a chance to run away, and he hadn’t taken it; now he had to face the consequences of staying. He took another swallow of his scotch, hissing softly at the bite. Jerry must feel like a wolf with his own tethered goat having him sitting here staked out on the bed. He should have let Bodie have the middle, but felt too self-conscious to move.

"TV on, tape in, there we go!" Bodie rubbed his hands, happily proud of his ability to work the appropriate electronics magic on it, sitting down close on Doyle’s right as Jerry came over and all but snuggled up against his left.

"Isn’t this comfy." Jerry put his arm up along the headboard. Inwardly rolling his eyes, Doyle knew it was probably a matter of moments before it would accidentally fall down around his shoulders, and started planning his reaction. He took another determined gulp of his scotch, and held his glass out to Bodie for a refill. It was going to be a long night.

• • •

Next morning, Doyle slowly oozed his way to consciousness. He was cold, he was sore; he let a paltry crack of light steal between his eyelids and immediately regretted it. "Oh, my head." Looking around was his second mistake. He was still in Jerry’s fancy hotel bedroom. Worse, he was curled up on the floor with all his clothes on but his socks, the duvet lying uselessly next to him, and part of Bodie’s jacket wrapped around his hips. He painfully hauled himself up. "Bodie?"

His voice was a feeble croak through his swollen throat, and his stomach didn’t even bear thinking about. Last night he been drinking like they’d been paying him by the ounce. He groaned audibly. Last night was the last thing he wanted to think about. Talk about being careful what you asked for. Jerry had finally decided to tell stories—sexy stories, long, involved, "I know Bodie better than you" stories—just when Doyle could not have cared less. Not to mention the fact he would no longer believe Jerry if he said it was raining, unless he could see the drops pissing down on his smug face.

Neither Bodie nor Jerry was in sight. He crawled out to the sitting room. No Bodie, no Jerry. He’d barely thought to look for a note when he realized he could hear the shower running through the shut loo door. He wondered idly which of them was in there. Then he realized, no, Bodie wouldn’t have left someone he was guarding, and doubly, he wouldn’t have let someone he was guarding leave. He didn’t want to complete the thought, but some viciously perverse part of him wouldn’t let him stop. Inescapably he realized, they’re both in there. Together. "They’re f—"

He couldn’t finish the statement, but neither could he avoid the mental picture created. Ignoring his socks, he pulled his shoes on, cursing as he pulled one lace into a knot, scrabbled around frantically for his wallet, and grabbed the closest coat—Bodie’s—determined to be gone before either of them came out of the loo. He’d just made it to the door and was turning the handle when he heard the shower stop, and almost simultaneously Bodie’s voice call, "Ray?" He was on the other side of the door, down the hall and around the corner before his next breath.

It didn’t make his day any worse when he realized that he was actually on duty, and late, but only because he didn’t think his day could get any worse. He waited through Cowley’s standard lecture on tardiness, before offering how he’d spent his day off.

"Damn it, Doyle! I said ‘stay in touch’ not live in their pockets. What were you thinking of? We don’t know who might have him under watch." Throbbing was no longer a strong enough word for the pounding in his head, and he sat down mid-deserved tirade.

"That’s not the half of it, sir." If he was miserable, everybody should be miserable. "Carnaby said that the entire operation was a scam. He has no intention of talking; he just wanted a trip home to England, free hotel accommodations, and a chance to see Bodie." He rubbed his temples with both hands, evading Cowley’s searching glance.

"He told you this, eh?"

"Said it right out."

"Was Bodie there?"

Doyle rolled his eyes. Couldn’t he just drop them in it. "No, Bodie had left me guarding him briefly. He was only gone for a short time."

Cowley paused, giving him a long look. "You understand now what you did wrong then. That’s no use to me, Doyle. I need you to pay more attention to what you are doing, to what’s going on around you." He handed Doyle a couple of pages out of Carnaby’s file. "Read through these, and see if anything he said last night contradicts anything here. Make it quick, I want you to relieve Lake on the Camden watch."

Doyle sighed, but quietly. Definitely punishment detail, but more like a demerit than the lash. He knew damn well it could have been worse.

• • •

Through a supreme effort of will, Doyle’d managed to spend two days on the most boring obbo of the year, Cowley’s special gift to bad agents, without thinking of Jerry, or Bodie, or actually much of anything at all. He was beginning to think he must have been in shock, he’d been so successful at it. But however he’d done it, he’d lost the trick of it now. His day off today was more cruel than any other assignment this week.

He’d spent the last twenty minutes remembering Jerry’s kiss, playing it over and over in his head, working himself into a fury. How dare Jerry assume it would be welcome. How dare he! And how could he have been so blind as to not have seen it coming?

He remembered following Jerry into the bedroom, watching the man take off his shoes and socks, unbutton the cuffs of his shirt, getting comfortable. He remembered kicking his own shoes off and sprawling back on the bed, following Jerry with his eyes as he puttered around the room, stretching a little, trying to draw him out to talk about Bodie…helping him turn down the lights… Fuck! He didn’t want to be fair; he didn’t want to think about what it looked like from another point of view. He knew he had been acting no different than he always did. He had not been leading another man on!

Doyle sighed. He could just barely see how they had managed to cross signals there in the hotel room, but Jerry hadn’t any right to say those things afterward: "Chat them up, booze them up, get them alone."

What had happened before they moved into the bedroom? The dam broke with a vengeance, and all of the memories of last Saturday were picture clear, playing in slow-motion rewind for his viewing embarrassment. Each thought, each memory adding up. He laughed bitterly at himself. "‘Where did Bodie sleep?’ Where do you fucking think, Doyle?" How naïve he’d been.

He flashed on holding his hand out to Jerry for the hotel room door key. There was no difference between the way he’d done it Saturday, and the way he’d done it with countless girlfriends. It was a practiced move. He hadn’t even noticed. But Jerry had, of course he had. Jerry’s voice again, "And who was it that arranged for us to come back here alone together?" Damn the bastard for being right. He had been the one to send Bodie out after the tapes. Didn’t even have an excuse for that one, it just seemed easier for one person to go, and Bodie was the one who knew where the shop was.

He jumped off the couch, and looked around for something to do; anything to stop the movie in his head. The vacuum seemed perfect: he turned it on, hoping the noise would at last disrupt the sound track but instead it meshed perfectly with the cacophony in his mind. Now he remembered his big mouth at the pub. He hadn’t had that much to drink. Not enough to excuse the "video nasties" line, or worse, mentioning ’Becca. What had been the point of that? Had he wanted to hurt Bodie, or show off to Bodie’s friend? Or both, for god’s sake? And how could he not have understood Jerry’s private, "So I thought you said he wasn’t…?" He pushed harder on the vacuum, concentrating on each square of carpet, fruitlessly trying to stop the backwards replay of his day with Jerry and Bodie.

At the baseball game, who had volunteered to be on the same team? He didn’t even want to remember Jerry giving him batting help: Jerry with his arms around him showing him how to swing a bat, then moving his hands down to rest on his hipbones, pulling his hips back and forth, showing him how to counter balance the swing of the bat. He’d thought at the time that he just didn’t want to make a fool out of himself playing an unfamiliar game. He hadn’t realized how right he was.

And it started even earlier than that. Talking to him in the shower at the gym, wrestling with him, touching him while spotting for him, leaning back on him while he was being spotting. In fact, at the very beginning, he’d been the one to offer to work out with Jerry, instead of letting Bodie and Jerry spot each other.

He gave up on the vacuum and sat on the couch, head between his hands, flushed, mortified even in the privacy of his own mind. Go on, face it: volunteering to workout with him was not his first move. The very beginning had been him seeing Bodie and the man from the picture wrestling. And the very first thing he’d done was distract his partner, breaking up the bout.

His mouth was dry. He couldn’t have said the thought aloud if he’d needed to. Even saying it in the privacy of his own mind was difficult: from the first moment he’d seen Jerry and Bodie together, his very first instinct had been to split them up, putting himself between them in whichever way possible.

What a strange sort of jealousy he’d had; he hadn’t even allowed himself to think about taking Bodie away from women, so he’d taken women away from Bodie.

Now he could just add Jerry to Rebecca, Laura, Sarah, and before them, a list of names he was embarrassed to admit he didn’t even remember any more. Jerry’s accusation rang in his ears again and again: "Hope this isn’t how you treat all of Bodie’s friends: chat them up, booze them up, get them alone, move in for the kill—then run like hell when they say yes."

Except that he usually waited until the next morning to run like hell. Christ, he’d even waited till the next morning this time. He’d done everything exactly according to plan, except get his leg over. And even that was through no fault of his technique; it had obviously been flawless. Jerry, after all, had been more than ready to come across.

Why had he stayed the night? It’d been miserable. Jerry had a rare skill for the seemingly innocent phrase that flayed the intended victim while leaving innocent observers unaware. The combination of vicious digs hidden carefully in humorously snide comments and the intrusive near cuddling kept him at a state of low boil all evening. The scotch he’d drunk in an effort to put out the fire had only dulled his wits, not his awareness that he was being laughed at by a master. But he hadn’t left. He remembered lying there, miserable between them. Between them. Jesus, Doyle.

Now each revelation was bringing friends and relations along with it. Even with Bodie’s warning on Friday about Jerry, and his own initial misgivings about the man, he’d had a wonderful day with him. It was hard not to like someone who treated you like his best friend, who was intimate and warm and funny and flattering. And Doyle wasn’t that naïve, for God’s sake. He’d had men try and hit on him before. Why hadn’t he noticed that Jerry was flirting with him?

He didn’t think he could take another discovery, but this was too important to let go. Why hadn’t he noticed? Because it was comfortably familiar. Because Bodie treated him much the same every day. Looking him up and down as he put his tight jeans on in the gym and laughing at the patches, standing close; laughing at his jokes, no matter how lame; touching him casually, but frequently.

If Jerry treated him much like Bodie’d been treating him for years, and Jerry had definitely wanted him… His whole body shivered as if from a chill. He wanted a way to disregard, permanently, the logical conclusion of those statements. He took a deep breath, trying to ignore a feeling of creeping dread. But anything was better than guessing and not knowing. It was time to hear the worst of it.

The phone was in reach, and he dialed the duty desk without giving himself a chance to chicken out. Carl’s voice answered. Good, one of the old crowd. "Do you—" He had to stop and cough; his throat was dry and tight. "Do you know whether Bodie’s off assignment yet?"

"Who is this? Doyle? You sound terrible."

"Maybe a bit of a cold. Need Bodie to make me some chicken soup."

"Well, I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about his cooking, but if you’re that desperate, you may be in luck. It says here he had to drop someone at hospital an hour ago, but he should be back. You want me to get him?"

What did he want? A long bath, a good night’s rest, and to wake up tomorrow morning to find none of this ever happened, but he didn’t think Carl could give him that. He might as well get it over with. "Nah, just let him know I’m home, all right? Thanks."

It was even less time than he’d expected before the intercom sounded. The latch was slick feeling under his suddenly sweaty palm.

"So, how are you?" Bodie threw down his coat and perched himself on the edge of the couch. "Heard you were sick. Didn’t believe it; you’re already so cold, cold germs leave you alone."

Doyle stared at his partner fixedly. He knew this man like no other in his life. With Bodie sitting in front of him, looking hard, a little brassed off, his earlier thoughts seemed ridiculous, imbecilic. Bodie, interested in him? Sexually? Insane. God, what if Bodie knew what he was thinking? He felt a wave of heat go through him, and prayed he wasn’t blushing. He realized abruptly that Bodie was still waiting impatiently for him to say something.

"Uh, just a sore throat." He ignored Bodie’s skeptical look and offered him a beer. Pleasantries taken care of, there was an uncomfortable silence before Doyle finally couldn’t take it anymore. "Bodie, I—"

Bodie interrupted bluntly. "So, why’d you leave without a word Sunday morning? I called after you; don’t tell me you didn’t hear me."

"Didn’t want to get in the way of your fun," he said snidely. So much for staying calm.

"What’s that crack supposed to mean?"

"I mean you and Jerry. You obviously wanted to spend the big reunion in bed. I didn’t want to play gooseberry; I felt like I’d invited myself on a friend’s honeymoon." Bodie’s face had gone very still, but Doyle couldn’t quit attacking. "Couldn’t even wait until I left, eh? Both of you in the shower with me in the other room."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Bodie looked as confused as he did mad.

"Sunday morning. I woke up and you and Jerry were both in the bathroom with the door shut—"

Bodie laughed harshly. "Jerry was taking a shower as I was cleaning my teeth and shaving; we left the door shut so you could get some more sleep. Thought you needed it after trying to out drink the two of us like that."

He’d spent the day trying to figure out what to believe about himself, about Bodie. And right here was proof he couldn’t trust the conclusions he was coming to. God, how could he have thought that?

"You’re telling me, he was in the shower, and you weren’t—"

"Yeah, and you’d better believe it."

He glanced at Bodie out of the corner of his eye, mumbling, "Bodie, I’m sorry—"

Five years of reading Bodie. Five years of telling when he was happy, when he was mad, when he was telling the truth and when he was fucking hiding something. OK, not Sunday, but…

He felt rage pour through him. Damn Bodie for almost convincing him he was wrong. "What about Friday night? Why were you so brassed at Jerry Friday but everything was all better Saturday morning?" He was on the edge of his seat, almost spitting the words. How dare Bodie try to misdirect him like that—same as lying straight out. "How come that couch never got folded out into a bed?"

"Quite the little detective aren’t you, Doyle? Too bad for you, I’ve been finding a few things out myself." Bodie’s voice was deep and quiet; unfortunately Doyle knew him well enough to know that was when he was really pissed off. "A few hours ago, I did Jerry a little favor, and in exchange he told me a little secret. He told me what happened when you two were alone in the hotel room Saturday night. He says to me, he says, "Remember how he likes to steal your girlfriends: well, he tried to steal me too—put his tongue half down my throat he did, wouldn’t hardly take no for an answer. Good thing you came back when you did," he says, ‘‘I was starting to think I was gonna have to get rough with him.’" Bodie’s voice rose as he repeated Jerry’s words. "What do you say to that, Doyle? What do you fucking say?" Bodie had stood halfway through his speech and was towering over him, angry and red-faced.

Doyle, guilty and furious, "And you believed him?"

Bodie laughed derisively. "No, of course Jerry must have started it, but you just went along, didn’t you? Just because he was a friend of mine."

"No, I didn’t."

"Yes you did. You should see yourself. You look so guilty I should see whether your hands are red."

"Dammit, Bodie, I tell you I wouldn’t do that." Pleading was probably useless. It didn’t surprise him to hear he looked guilty; he felt guilty, even if not exactly for what Bodie thought.

"Don’t bother to tell me you wouldn’t; how many of my girlfriends have you moved in on? And the ones I actually cared about? Those were the ones you made a special effort on." Bodie’s voice was just one step up from disgust. "Don’t waste your breath."

He had to try one more time. He stood, inches from Bodie’s face, and put everything he had into it. "I was telling him ‘no’ when you showed up."

"Why do I trust people like you and Jerry who just fuck me around?"

He was not going to be compared to Jerry. "Bodie, remember what you told me about Jerry on Friday outside Cowley’s office? Well, right here is the commotion. Jerry set it up and stood back. The only surprise is he didn’t make it happen where he could watch. I bet he likes to watch."

Bodie wouldn’t meet his eyes, but his voice dropped even further to a hissed whisper. "That you would let that piece of trash touch you when you wouldn’t even let me."

Doyle heard the words, but they were so far from what he expected, it took him a minute to make sense of them. He’d spent all that time wondering if Bodie wanted him; why the hell hadn’t he spent a minute thinking about what he’d do if Bodie did? "You never tried."

"Like hell!" Bodie slammed an arm around him, and held him tight, almost spitting each word. "I could never decide if you were the most oblivious man in the world, or just ignoring it so we didn’t have to talk about it. But you must have thought it was the funniest thing in the world, me coming on to you."

"Bodie, I never noticed. Period." He stood, held close in the warm circle of Bodie’s arm, Bodie’s mouth inches from his. Bodie was still holding on tight, he hadn’t seemed to realize that Doyle wasn’t fighting to get away. Doyle took a deep breath, trying to still his racing heart. "Bodie, I never even considered us, um, doing it. Call me blindered, or stupid, or just heterosexual—" Bodie laughed a little. Good.

Bodie grabbed his arms, pushing him up against the wall. "Consider it now, Ray."

"What?" He laughed nervously, but Bodie didn’t seem to be joking. They were pressed so tight, he could feel both their hearts beating.

"Consider this." Bodie leaned down and kissed him, hard. His lips were warm, and when they parted, Doyle’s mouth opened too. He was short of breath, almost light-headed. I am kissing my partner, he thought, reeling. He remembered pumping ’Becca and Laura and others, learning their opinion of Bodie’s kissing, amazed to finally be in a position to find out for himself, wondering if this was what he’d wanted all along.

Bodie kissed him again. And again. And with each kiss, his contribution increased till it was more equal, less Bodie pushing something on him. Each kiss was an insidious advisor, telling Doyle to stop listening to his voice of reason and give in; find out what he’d obviously been wondering about all this time. Each kiss sent a wave of heat through his body, and a further cloud of desire through his brain. Each kiss pulled a moan of desire from him that Bodie echoed back.

Finally trusting him not to run away, or just trusting the weight of his body pressing Doyle into the wall, Bodie released his tight hold on Doyle’s arms and slid his hands between their bodies. Doyle couldn’t believe his own response.

Bodie laughed quietly when Doyle arched into his hands. Somehow, that laugh brought him back to reality: the hem of his t-shirt in Bodie’s right hand, the zip of his jeans in Bodie’s left, things were moving far too fast; or at least far too one-sidedly. He unbuttoned Bodie’s shirt, and started pulling it down his arms, ignoring Bodie’s mumbled complaints.

Bodie’s mouth never completely left his as they got in each other’s way trying to pull each other’s clothes off. He finally left Bodie’s shirt hanging from his shoulders, concentrating on removing, or at least lowering Bodie’s cords. How many times had he listened to a woman describe Bodie undressing her? Funny how this frenzied passion sounded nothing like the slow seducer of their reporting. He pushed Bodie back to get some room, and hesitated, looking at Bodie’s y-fronts. How many times had he hoped they would describe what Bodie looked like? Hell of a time for him to get coy. He put his hands on Bodie’s hips, and ran his fingers lightly around the edge of the material.

"God, Ray," Bodie mumbled through a kiss. "Don’t tease, not now." Bodie pushed his hands away hurriedly, and quickly pulled his own pants off, then Doyle’s, before again pressing Doyle to the wall. He barely even got a chance to look, but he could definitely feel the hardness pressing into his flesh, and his own pressing back.

The chill wall against his arse raised a shiver through his body. Bodie pulled him close, rubbing the sensitized flesh, adding to the internal fire. Doyle put his arms around him, pushing against him, stroking Bodie’s back and arse, touching every bit of skin he could get his hands on, pulling at the shirt Bodie was still barely wearing.

Doyle pushed him back and held the shirt so he could see. Seconds ago he’d have sworn that nothing could have distracted him from what they were doing. But Bodie had a big hospital-style bandage around his upper arm with a little dried blood staining the gauze and tape. "What’s that?"

"Not now!" Bodie grabbed his arse with both hands, pressing their groins firmly together and started a rhythm between them, bending slightly to kiss him. The jolt of contact vibrated through him, and Doyle leaned his head back on the wall, letting Bodie control the kiss and the movement, completely overwhelmed. He remembered some old girlfriend of Bodie’s, Sue?, whoever, telling him about Bodie taking her leaning on a wall. He had been instantly excited, and had tried to visualize the two of them doing it more than once. But this time when he closed his eyes, he saw Bodie pressing against him. He heard Bodie talking to him. He felt Bodie’s hands rubbing him, holding him. He wasn’t imagining it; he wasn’t living it vicariously. Bodie was doing it all to him.

His legs were trembling as tension pulled his body tight. He grabbed Bodie all the tighter, letting the sensations take him, letting Bodie take him. Their rhythm increased, and Bodie mouthed, "Ray, I’m gonna…" and clutched him, moaning with every thrust, jerking faster, pulling Doyle along with him, shuddering and gasping as he came.

Bodie just came on me. The thought shattered what was left of his control. Sweat dripping off his face, sparks of fire in his chest as he could barely breathe, he stared into Bodie’s face, pushed one last sliding thrust against Bodie’s groin, and groaned as he came.

His legs slowly crumpled, and he towed Bodie down to the floor with him, landing in a intertwined puzzle of quite amazing complexity. He licked his lips and looked heavy-eyed at his partner, at the man he’d just…had sex with? Made love to?

Bodie looked exhausted, but quite amazingly happy. "I knew this was going to be dangerous. You better be careful where you use that look." He reached out and traced Doyle’s upper lip.

"This look—" He licked his lips again slowly. "—Or this?" Being in a crumpled, cum-covered, sweaty heap on the floor with his partner shouldn’t feel this normal.

Bodie smiled, exhausted. "I knew it was hard wanting you. It never occurred to me it would be hard having you."

Doyle reached between them and stroked Bodie’s still softening cock. "You call this hard? It’s barely a flicker."

Bodie ran his hand slowly down Doyle’s arm, then jumped as he caught sight of Doyle’s watch. "Oh my god, we’re overdue at Cowley’s office. He sent me to get you 40 minutes ago." Bodie was up off the floor without pausing, dashing into the loo.

So much for afterglow, Doyle thought smiling, watching Bodie’s every move, still sitting up against the wall. He saw Bodie check the bandage in the mirror quickly before wetting a flannel and throwing it at him. "What about your arm?"

"Not now!" Bodie’s clean-up had taken seconds, and his dressing was rivaling the speed of his undressing, except for a small pause spent searching for a stray sock. "Come on."

Doyle used the thrown flannel and set about finding his own clothes. "Sure go a bundle on your post-coital technique." Bodie shot him a worried-looking glance, but relaxed when he saw Doyle was smiling. A few hurried moments later Doyle set the locks and rushed after him down the steps out to the car.

After all their bustling, Bodie driving like a mad man, refusing to talk and running up the flights of stairs to Cowley’s office, of course Cowley made them sit and wait.

Doyle’s heart was pounding, and his mouth was dry from panting and nervousness. He had to force himself to sit still. He had just had sex with his partner. If he sniffed, he could smell Bodie’s musk still misted on his skin. But even with that proof, he almost didn’t believe it had happened. He wanted to blurt it out just to make it more real. He wanted to stare at Bodie and didn’t dare, but he could feel him a chairwidth away. Each time Cowley looked up from his files to stare at them, he worried about the expression on his face.

Cowley dropped his eyes back to his desk two or three times before he gave them his full attention.

"I am not pleased with the course of this operation. I don’t expect sloppy behavior such as this from my agents, and I will not put up with it in future. Is that understood?" Doyle saw Bodie nod his head and immediately copied the move, trying fiercely to look serious.

"After Doyle’s report on Sunday, I almost decided to withdraw Mr. Carnaby’s protection, but allowed the Minister to convince me to let it stand. After members of the MLF shot Carnaby—"

"Your arm!" The adrenaline surge was so fast, he abruptly felt queasy. He glared daggers at his partner, mollified when Bodie looked guiltily away. "You didn’t tell me you were shot."

"Doyle." Cowley cut him off testily. "After Carnaby was shot, he realized his understanding of the situation was slightly flawed."

"Why did the MLF want to kill him?" He wasn’t even going to ask what the MLF was, Cowley probably expected him to know anyway.

Bodie laughed wryly. "Everybody wants to kill Jerry sooner or later."

"Carnaby had let it be known that if he were killed, a cache of information would be released; this kept him safe from the people he’d stolen the information from, but it made him a target for the MLF, who’ve been desperate to get that information out."

"Outfoxed himself. Boy that must hurt." Doyle couldn’t help the gloating sound.

"The .45 caliber hole in the thigh probably stings a little too." They giggled together shamelessly.

"That will be enough. Bodie, I need you to write up your time with Carnaby; a full summary, including everything that was done wrong. Doyle, review it before he hands it in. It will doubtless be requested by the Minister that originally asked us for our assistance."

Even a full-force Cowley glare couldn’t dent their exuberance.

"And Bodie," Cowley pulled his attention back. "I understand Carnaby’s reason for coming to London was to recruit you to help him sell this information." Cowley took his glasses off and stared hard at Bodie. "Offers of other jobs are to be reported immediately."

Doyle glared at his partner, heedless of Cowley’s observation.

"Perhaps after you get the Carnaby report done, you’d like a refresher on the CI5 rules and regulations."

Abruptly, Doyle couldn’t take this conversation, this pretending nothing had happened. "I think I can refresh his memory on the pertinent sections, sir. Leave him to me." He was already pulling Bodie up out of his chair before Cowley’d had a chance to agree. His fingers dug painfully into Bodie’s uninjured arm as he drew him out in the hall.

He shoved Bodie against the wall, feeling a wave of heat through him as he realized, Bodie had me just like this… He eased up a little self-consciously. "Jerry was here to recruit you!"

"Didn’t I mention that?"

Doyle thought, not for the first time, that Bodie’s innocent look wasn’t even close to being as good as his. "No, that never came up in your conversation."

"Must have got distracted when something else came up." Bodie gave him a cheeky glance. To Doyle’s surprise, it melted him. "His proposed buyer was a mutual acquaintance of ours, but Hamal wouldn’t buy water from Jerry if he was dying in the desert. Jerry thought it’d work if he got me to front the deal."

Fiercely, pressing him harder into the wall, "And what did you think?"

"Does it matter?" Bodie smiled, eyes heavy-lidded. "I’m certainly not going anywhere now."

Doyle wanted to kiss him, wanted to drag him into his arms in the middle of the hallway at CI5. He wanted to take him home, right now.

They heard Cowley yell, "Get on that report!"

For a moment he couldn’t imagine going back into the crowded office with Bodie; having to act as though nothing had changed, wondering just exactly what had… Bodie followed his thoughts effortlessly. "It’s OK, Ray. We’ll be home soon. I’ll let you talk the whole thing into the ground—what it means, why I never told you, why you never noticed, you name it—in exchange for dinner. A good dinner, mind."

Doyle elbowed him for that. Bodie just grabbed the elbow and started dragging him down the corridor to the agents’ office.

They walked back into the messy office, and it was frighteningly as if the last four days had never happened. Anson was still scrunched down in the battered armchair, Murphy was still sitting at the end table, surrounded by a moat of half-full cups of cold coffee; Susan was the only addition to the scene, taking their entrance as an excuse to take a break.

Bodie frowned theatrically. "Cowley’s dutiful children."

"Just one big dysfunctional family—collect the entire set," Doyle managed.

Anson kicked Murphy’s leg. "They’ve heard about the incest," he whispered loudly.

"Isn’t that more like bestiality?" Bodie asked idly, straightening up his desk before getting started.

Doyle laughed, watching Bodie’s hands as he moved papers into piles and cleared off the candy wrappers. Though Bodie seemed completely unselfconscious, Doyle could tell Bodie was favoring his left arm. He frowned. One more reason to want Jerry dead. Determined to hear the full details of the shooting, he realized he was conspicuous staring at his partner, and started cleaning up his own desk.

Murphy said, "I will never be able to hear him called the Cow again with a straight face."

As Susan made gagging noises, Anson pointed at Murphy and said. "Then there’s the dog-faced boy—"

"Thought that was you."

Doyle held up an empty coffee cup and quirked an eyebrow at Bodie. At Bodie’s smile and nod, he headed for the coffee machine, ignoring Anson wreaking awful havoc on Murphy. Everything was so normal, it was disconcerting.

"And the Siamese twins…" Susan said, pointing at them as Bodie came over to collect his cup of coffee.

"Joined at the gun," they said in unison. Doyle turned. Of course Bodie was looking back at him. The office teasing had turned into free-for-all and no one was paying attention to them. He lowered his gaze, not wanting Bodie to see his disquietude.

"It’ll be OK," Bodie said quietly, low pitched.

How could Bodie know? Doyle reached for the reassurance Bodie offered, but finally caught the buried question in Bodie’s offhand comment, and swallowed hard.

But as long as they were both lost together...

"Yeah, it’ll be OK."


-The End-

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