A Struggle In Choice

By: Joana Dey



"I wan' out." Doyle's words slurred ever so slightly, which didn't surprise Bodie in the slightest, considering the amount of scotch he'd poured down Ray's gullet the past few hours.

"Out of what, mate?"

"Bloody job, that's what."

Bodie settled himself more comfortably into the sofa, toeing a throw pillow off the other end to make more room for his feet and looked at Doyle's morose expression. A few days ago Doyle'd had the unhappy task of informing June Cook that her husband --and his friend -- had been killed in an ambush. When he'd returned, the only remark he'd made was to ask Bodie if he'd take Cook's dog, since June wanted it shot. Bodie was quiet as Ray continued.

"Know what she said to me? Was my fault. He had a wife, kids, and I haven't got anyone -- I can play cowboys for the rest of my bloody, miserable, selfish life. Bit nasty, that."

Bodie kept his face carefully neutral. "She was upset, Ray--"

"But she was right. It was my fault; I talked him into it. This job -- turns me into an assassin. All the killing and dying; I can't trust anybody..." he leaned his head back against the sofa.

Doyle hadn't given any indication that Cook's death had upset him as much as it had. Oh, he'd been a bit quieter than was usual for him, but nothing that would lead Bodie to expect one of his more earth-shattering guilt trips. After he'd chewed the heads off three of their fellow agents this morning, Bodie had asked for, and received, permission from Cowley to bring Ray home and 'straighten him out.'

Hiding a grin, Bodie watched him re-arrange his legs, which had somehow become wedged under the coffee table between drinks number five and six. After a moment, he casually reached out and ruffled unruly curls before quickly snatching his hand back, not wanting it bitten.

"Readin' an awful lot into a few words, aren't you, sunshine?" Bodie glanced at him again from the corner of his eye, unsure of the coming reaction, only knowing one was imminent. "Glass is empty, mate, have some more."

Bodie passed the bottle down to his partner, who looked at it derisively, before upending it into his mouth. Bodie grimaced at the crash seconds later as it connected with the wall across from them; he knew he'd have a time collecting that mess.

Bodie swung his legs over and reached down to pull his partner up onto the couch. //Christ, you're awfully heavy for such a little runt!// Grunting and giving a final heave, he succeeded in maneuvering Ray's seemingly boneless body onto a precarious perch next to him.

"Listen to me, mate, just for a tick. What June said to you -- she was upset. She'd just found out her husband was dead, and you were the handiest one around to take her anger." Ray tucked himself more firmly on the settee, elbows resting on his knees and laying his head in hands, but didn't acknowledge his partner's comment. Bodie reached over and gently pried slender fingers away from a flushed face, holding tightly to the wrists as Ray tried to bring them back up.

"It's not your fault," //seems like I've been saying those words most of my life now,// "even if she tried to make out something's wrong with you. Yeah, you told Cook about the job, but it was his choice on whether or not to apply. You didn't make him sign the contract." He looked closely into blank eyes and let out a gusty sigh. This wasn't working.

"Right. Okay, Raymond, exactly what are you? You called yourself an assassin. Don't think so; ever killed anyone who wasn't out to get you first?" The second it left his mouth, Bodie knew it had been the wrong illustration to use.

Doyle yanked his wrists out of Bodie's grasp. "Paul Coo-- "

"Bloody HELL, Ray, you didn't kill Coogan, his brother did! And even if you had, HE came after YOU! And it was an accident besides!"

Doyle just shook his head and leaned back into the sofa, curly head turned away from the intense gaze Bodie was pinning on him. Bodie rested his own head against the cool leather, wishing he knew what to say to the pitiful pile of bones curled up next to him. He reached out and gently pulled Ray's chin -- that very stubborn chin -- around so they were eye-to-eye.

"You are the most conscientious man I know. Your biggest weakness is blaming yourself for all the world's ills. Most of what happens isn't your fault..."

Doyle jerked his head away from Bodie's grasp with such force he almost toppled from the sofa, slapping hands away when Bodie moved to catch him. "Christ Bodie, what do you know? You think you're so know-it-all smart, taking care of poor little Ray in his time of need. Poor Ray, got someone killed -- again..." He stood abruptly, swaying slightly. Bodie quietly watched the weaving figure as it moved around the room, the eyes wide, and blazing with emotions too complex to be unraveled at the moment.

Arms waving like a windmill, Ray continued his one-sided argument, totally ignoring the silence from the room's other occupant. "I know I can't solve all the problems everywhere; you think I'm that conceited, that much of an egotist, to think I can? What's wrong with wanting to make things better for people? With not enjoying seeing women and children hurt or killed because they got in the way of someone? What -- I'm not supposed to feel badly when I have to kill someone who's shooting at me? Or you?"

Bodie started to rise, but stopped as confused eyes turned his way. "Leave me alone, Bodie. Just don't... you have no idea... Jesus, Bodie, it could have been you lying there." As he heard the plaintive catch in Doyle's voice, Bodie shut his eyes, wishing desperately for the proper words to pour magically from his lips. There was so much mixed up in that scrambled ranting of Ray's, Bodie wasn't sure what part to attack first.

He watched Ray walk carefully back to the sofa, one foot set firmly in front of him before raising the other. A long-fingered hand was carefully planted on the arm of the couch, the other on Bodie's shoulder. "You, Bodie, are an idiot. I kill people for a living. I snoop in their lives, and I can't trust anyone..."

"Anyone?" Bodie almost held his breath as he waited for Ray to finish, staring at the incredibly shaped mouth hanging in the air above him.

"Well, you obviously. Or I wouldn't be walking into deathtraps all the time with you guardin' me back, would I? It's just too bad I'm not..." he stopped abruptly and pushed back, running a shaking hand through his hair, tugging furiously as fingers were caught in tangled curls. "Doesn't matter, as I'm not into marryin' YOU!"

"Should hope not, angelfish," Bodie gave back as blandly as he could. "However, if you're not gonna drink anymore, then go to bed, before you pitch over on your head. You can crawl under the covers, have a good cry, and..."

He broke off at the sight of Doyle's face, and suddenly knew where the term -- if looks could kill -- had originated. His mind worked frantically, trying to figure out what he'd said wrong this time.

"That would be a sight, then, wouldn't it? Me, off sobbing my little heart out; something everyone at HQ would think a great joke!" He backed up a little, almost tripping over the coffee table, as Bodie sprang up, suddenly realizing exactly what Ray, deeply lost in his irrational self-pity, was intimating.

"You just shut you're sodding mouth. We're partners, Ray, you hurt, I hurt; I'm sure as hell not gonna hang our private laundry out for the other blokes to see. I've never done it before; you've no reason to think I would start now!" Bodie knew the hurt and anger was plain to see on his own face now, but he was beyond caring. He clutched Ray's shoulders, strong fingers digging into muscle, and started shaking him back and forth.

"Cookie and June were your friends. One died and you had to give June the worst news you can give a wife. It makes it harder that you were all friends and that June is pregnant. It's normal to grieve for something like that. Jesus Christ, Ray, you make ME want to cry FOR you!"

He slowly stopped jerking Doyle back and forth and leaned his forehead against the top of sweaty curls, heart aching as he felt the slim form next to him begin to shake from sobs he was trying so hard not to let out. Gradually they slid to the floor, Ray's legs no longer able to hold him up, as exhaustion gave way to angry tears. Bodie held him tightly, strong arms cradling Ray as he cried out his pain, anger and frustration.

Eventually the sobs dwindled down to small hiccoughing sniffles, and Bodie gently cupped Ray's face, thumbs smoothly erasing the tears from his cheeks. Doyle peered up at him from under his lashes, green eyes shimmering damply. Bodie tensed, wanting nothing more than to press his mouth against the still quivering lips in front of him, but knowing this wasn't the proper time. Stretching, he rose to his feet in one fluid movement, extending a helping hand to Ray, who looked at it blankly before grasping it. Giving a hard tug, Bodie pulled his partner off the floor, ruffling the curly head as it passed by.

"Time to pour you into bed, mate," he said softly, turning Doyle in the direction of his bedroom and giving him a slight nudge. Ray limped off, leaving a shoe behind him on the floor, while the other remained firmly in place.

Bodie picked up the lone shoe and entered the room to find a very tired man curled up on the bed like a cat, soft snores issuing from his slightly open mouth. // Even with a red nose and sniffling, he's beautiful, // he thought wistfully as he bent over to remove the other shoe. His fingers ran feather-light down the shattered cheekbone, before he finally tucked the duvet snugly around the slight figure.

He left the door partially open as he went out and began to pick up the shattered glass from Ray's burst of temper. Knowing his partner, Bodie had no doubt Ray would wake up and promptly step in it. //Ah, sunshine, what am I going to do with you?// He knew what he wanted to do, but that would have to wait until this current crisis had run its course.

He listened to the tinkling glass as it fell to the bottom of the dustbin. Giving the rest of the flat a cursory glance, he went out into the night, making sure the door was firmly locked.


Bodie walked up the path to Doyle's block of flats. The past week with Ray had been tense and uncomfortable; Bodie never knew when an innocent remark would set him off. Ray holed up at home when he wasn't working, and Bodie was determined that the pity-party would end today.

The scene from a week before had helped some, but still Doyle seemed to be holding himself back from showing any type of excess emotion; almost as though he'd built a wall around himself that said 'keep out'. Bodie pushed repeatedly on the buzzer until an irritated voice came through the speaker.

"What do you WANT, Bodie?"

"Just let me in mate, got a surprise for you, haven't I?" He shoved against the outside door as soon as the buzzer sounded and waltzed down the hall to the flat's door, which opened as he arrived. Doyle stood looking woodenly at him, hair on end, jeans and T-shirt even more rumpled than usual.

"What do you want, Bodie?" he repeated wearily.

"Got a couple of birds lined up for tonight. One for me and one for you. Little bit of pub-crawling, dancing and..." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Don't say no, Doyle, I'm in no mood for that."

"I'm in no mood for it either, Bodie. No." He started to turn his back, but Bodie grabbed hold of his shoulder, then quickly let go as he felt muscles begin to bunch up under his hand.

"You gonna hide away forever? You keep brooding over Cookie and June, but it isn't gonna change anything. I'm tired of telling you it wasn't your fault. If you'd stop and think straight, you'd realize it. I don't imagine June will keep blaming you either. At least not as long as you're gonna be blaming yourself." Bodie stood back, ready to duck the fist he fully expected to come flying towards his face.

Doyle took a quick step forward, eyes narrowed. His hands were clenched, but kept firmly at his sides. "'s not your business..."

Bodie pushed through the doorway, stepping hard on Ray's toes to encourage backward movement. He kicked the door shut and stood still, face inches away from Doyle's. "It is my business, PARTNER. It's about time you came back to life and stopped feeling sorry for yourself!"

He stabbed a finger repeatedly into Ray's shoulder, meeting tensed muscle. There was only one possibility he knew of that might get Doyle to face reality. "What happens if you're brooding about Cookie, and 'what ifs' in the middle of an op? You could get us both killed; and while you may not care, I do!"

Ray slapped the offending digit away, and shoved mightily against a slightly off-balance Bodie, sending him crashing against the wall. "Don't push it, Bodie!" he hissed in a low undertone. Doyle stepped back as Bodie slowly sat down on the carpet, keeping his eyes locked with rapidly-blinking green ones.

"Doesn't matter. Nobody cares. Don't have wife or kids--haven't got anyone," Doyle muttered as he turned for the sitting room, his defenses lowered once Bodie showed no desire to continue the melee. "Nobody'd care if I died; wouldn't be leavin' anyone behind. You don't really care either, not about me, just about keeping your back in one piece."

It was too much. Bodie sprang up and followed his pitiful cohort into the other room, feeling his face flush with anger. //Telling me I don't care; well, he's gonna find out just how much I do think of his self-centered hide.// He cannoned into the unsuspecting back, knocking him easily onto the carpet, Bodie's heavier bulk keeping him pinned as the surprise wore off.

"Don't push it, Bodie," he mimicked, and Doyle paused in his struggles. The anguish in Bodie's voice and eyes seemed to leave him bewildered. "I'm tired of this; tired of watching you beat yourself over things you can't control. And I'm gonna push it, Ray, because I...have...had...enough."

Doyle's eyes widened as Bodie lowered his head and covered Ray's lips with his mouth. He did push it --hard-- and mashed Ray's lips into his teeth so completely, Bodie fancied he could feel the chipped tooth cutting through. Doyle struggled again, arching his back in a renewed effort to free himself from beneath Bodie's weight.

Bodie's knee resting lightly on Doyle's crotch halted his attempts, and he relaxed slightly as Bodie lifted his head, eyes narrowed in anger. "How dare you say I don't care? Do you think you're the only one in the world hurts when they lose a friend?" He felt a momentary guilt as he saw the spot of blood on Ray's lower lip and he carefully licked it away before gently brushing his own lips across Doyle's. "The only one who's had to tell a woman she's a brand-new widow? You think I wouldn't care if you died?"

"You stupid berk. You selfish, self-centered little bastard. You're so wrapped up in yourself you can't even see what's standing right in front of you!" Bodie moved his knee away from Doyle's tender genitals and finally released him. "Christ, Ray, you drive me barmy!"

He started to rise, but clutching hands stopped him halfway, and he paused, leaning back on his heels. Eyeing the man on the floor, he quirked an eyebrow and bent his head, trying to catch the strangled whisper coming from Ray's mouth. "Don't what? Stop? Go? What, Ray?

A pair of extremely confused green eyes looked up at him. "Bodie, what are you doing? What the hell's going on?"

"What do you think's going on, Doyle?" Bodie asked in a tired voice. "Why don't you ponder these past few minutes in that pea-brain of yours, and when you've figured it out, give me a ring. Just don't you ever tell me again that I don't care. I care more than you'll ever imagine." He stood upright, keeping his face as neutral as possible.

Turning for the door without a backward glance, he picked up the sound of Ray's rapid scramble to his feet. He wasn't surprised to feel a tentative touch on his shoulder, and pivoted to meet Ray's anxious eyes. "Let go, Ray."

"But...."

"LET GO." Bodie stared implacably at Ray, who slowly let his hand fall and stepped back. "Think about what I said, sunshine. The world doesn't revolve around you, and your feelings. The rest of us can hurt, too. You're supposed to be so smart; use your noggin for a change. Make some kind of decision here, or find a new partner."

The quietly closing door sounded like an explosion to Ray's stunned ears, and he slowly leaned against the wall, wondering how his life could have turned upside down so quickly.


Doyle stood impatiently on the sidewalk outside the block of flats waiting for Bodie to arrive. Head down, fists stuffed into the pockets of his sheepskin jacket, he sniffed and watched his breath cloud in the cold dawn air, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet as he tried to make the blood move faster and create some warmth. //Damn Bodie, anyway!// He thought. //Ring me up, all in a rush, just to leave me standing here freezin' me goolies off!//

He squinted in the pale morning as a single headlight came tearing around the corner, screeching to a stop in front of him. He glanced in the window as Bodie leaned over and unlocked the passenger door, then settled back into his seat, fingers lightly tapping at the steering wheel.

"Missin' a headlight." Ray slid into the Capri, glancing over quickly, hoping to gauge his partner's mood. Bodie stared straight ahead, although his fingers ceased their dancing to clench the wheel more tightly. "Bodie--"

"I'm gonna say this once, Ray, then I don't wanna talk about it anymore today, OK? I can't change what happened the other day; I wouldn't if I could. But--"

"'s all right, Bodie, won't change anything. We're still partners, that won't change. 'm certainly not gonna be worrying about you wantin' to jump me or something. We'll be fine, go back to the way things were..." Ray interrupted, wanting to re-assure him, and it all came pouring out, trickling to a stop as Bodie slammed his palms against the steering wheel. He shut off the ignition, turned and looked at Doyle.

"Ray. Do you think you could shut your yap long enough to hear what I have to say? We have to go to work today. We have to stake out that bloody bank and hope it's not the one due to be knocked off. I don't want to spend 10 hours in this car with you analyzing my actions Saturday night. Do you think you can do that?" He paused and Ray slowly nodded his head in affirmation.

"Yeah, but Bo--"

"RAY!" Bodie turned the car back on and moved away from the kerb. "We will talk. But not now. I want to get this job over with, then we can have the weekend -- I hope -- to hash this out. All right?"

"Yeah." Ray glared at him for a second, then scrunched down in his seat. "Think you can get some heat in here? About turned into a bloody icicle waitin' for you to get me." If Bodie wanted to pretend nothing had happened this past weekend, then fine, he would humor the touchy sod. But they would definitely have it out the minute this job was finished, or Bodie could be the one to find a new partner!

They hadn't driven more than three miles when flashing lights in the mirror forced Bodie to pull over. He didn't say anything as he watched the police office climb out of the car and saunter towards them.

"Bet it's the headlight," Ray muttered from the side of his mouth.

"Shuddup, Doyle!" He rolled the window down and looked up at the officer, their breath mingling in the frosty air reminding Doyle of an abstract painting he'd once seen. "Morning."

"Were you aware your left headlight is out?" Ray squirmed a little in his seat at that, wanting to laugh, knowing Bodie was gonna be miffed if he got a ticket. The motion caused the policeman to bend over a bit more and peer into the car. Doyle leaned sideways so the man could see him better.

"My partner's just this minute picked me up, and I told him about it. We'll be turning it in at work for a new one."

"Partner?"

Bodie flashed his badge. "CI5, and we're on our way in to trade cars." He waited till the officer stepped away and turned back towards the patrol car, before he wound up the window and started back down the street.

Ray started laughing, then stopped when he noticed Bodie wasn't joining in. "Bodie--"

"Not NOW, Ray!"

"But...." the bleeping of the car radio stopped whatever he'd been about to say, and Ray picked up the radio. "4.5."

"4.5, you and 3.7 are to proceed to HQ for re-assignment immediately." There was no mistaking the harsh Scots voice of their boss, and Bodie turned around at the next circle.

"Yes, sir. 4.5 out." He placed the mike back in its slot and looked over at Bodie's closed face. "Wonder what happened to the bank?" Getting no answer, he mentally shrugged and slouched down, arms crossed on his chest, eyes staring out the window. He shivered; not only was the headlight out, apparently the heater was broken too. //Oh, this is gonna be a great day!//


They stood in front of him, his two best men, both tense and uncomfortable. Something was going on here, but whatever it was they weren't going to share it with him. It was obvious he was going to get an argument on the new case, at least from Doyle, judging by the way the green eyes were narrowing. Probably considered it police business.

"It's police business, sir." Doyle spoke up quickly.

"I've made it our business, now." Cowley retorted.

"A murder in Hastings has nothing to do with us." Ray continued. "Don't see why we have to go haring off..."

"Shuddup Doyle." Bodie's voice was very quiet, and Cowley almost wouldn't have heard him if he hadn't been looking at the man and seen his lips move. Even more surprising was the reaction from Doyle, who actually closed his mouth. Teeth clenched, obviously, by the way his jaw muscles bunched up, but not a single argument to his partner's demand passed his lips.

"Actually, Doyle, I can do as I choose with you and not inform you of my reasons. However, in this instance I want you to know exactly what's happening down there. This concerns Lord Jonathan Rickards." He paused looking closely at them, waiting for any further outbursts before he continued.

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir," came simultaneously from two mouths and what Cowley sometimes suspected was one brain.

"Lord Rickards has a cousin; ye do know who he is?"

"Lord Rickards or the cousin, sir?" Doyle threw out.

"Don't play games with me, Doyle! Rickards!" Two brief nods and he went on. "The cousin, who is gay, was found dumped in Hastings by the castle ruins yesterday evening, tangled amidst some bushes as though the intent was for him to go over the cliffs." He passed some photos over to Bodie, who looked at them expressionlessly, then passed them on to Doyle.

No-one said a word as Doyle studied the pictures, then looked up at the Scotsman, face grim. "Bit messy, isn't it?"

Cowley ignored Doyle's slight shudder and answered the question he knew would be next. "It's our business because Lord Rickards is on the Atomic Defense Committee and as such has access to some very important information. There's a vote coming up next week, and our concern is whether this murder -- and it's definitely that -- is an attempt to soften him up for something, or just a bit of hate bashing by homophobic citizens."

Stomping feet and loud voices outside the door heralded the arrival of several agents coming in from the slushy snow for the morning briefing. Cowley glanced at the clock, then motioned for the two in front of him to sit down. He stood up and handed them each a folder, before sitting back in his chair.

"Murphy and Jax will be handling the Defense aspect of this; you two will be in Hastings investigating the homosexual possibilities. I've arranged for you to stay in the townhouse he was living in. In your folder Bodie, is all the information we have on the cousin --his name was David Harback--"

"Oh, had a name did he?" Ray asked, eyes wide and innocent.

Bodie turned towards him quickly, putting on an astonished face. "What? You thought he was called 'Lord Rickards' Cousin' ?"

"I'm glad to see you both find this so amusing!" Cowley leaned forward in his chair, resting his arms on the antique desk. "I'm sure his lover isn't laughing at this moment."

"Lover?" Doyle's voice sounded slightly strained and Cowley frowned when Bodie snickered.

"Yeah, Ray, that's what ends up in bed next to most people. Has something to do with tenderness and ..."

Cowley stood, shoving his chair behind him. "That's enough, both of you. I don't know what your problem is, but I want you to solve it -- on your way to Hastings. In that folder, Doyle, is a history of Stephen Orin, Harback's lover. He's living in the house --temporarily, until the will is probated -- and knows you're coming. Now get out of here, both of you. And don't let whatever is stewing in your small brains mess up this job or I'll have those brains for breakfast!"

Both men shot out of their chairs and stumbled over each other to be first through the door. Cowley watched them silently, a slight smile playing across his lips, before he frowned, wondering what was bothering the two of them. He listened to their voices as they disappeared down the hallway. //Och, whatever it is, they'll work it through. They always do,// he thought briefly before heading out to go over the day's schedule with the rest of his men.

"We've got to get a different car, Bodie, do you know how cold it is down there this time of year? I'm not riding all that way with no heater!" Doyle shrugged into his jacket, goosebumps rising in anticipation.

Bodie glanced over at Doyle and smirked. "You just keep talking and we'll have all the hot air you need, sunshine." He pushed open the outer door and shivered at the blast of cold air that came rushing in. He was halfway down the steps before he stopped and turned around. "Doyle?"

His missing half was standing in the foyer, nose pressed against the cold glass, as he watched Bodie stop and turn. Clouds formed around Bodie's face, and Doyle could almost hear the sigh he saw puff from those cold lips. Rolling his eyes, Bodie trudged back up the steps and tugged open the door.

"Are you planning to stand here all day? Or do you think you might join me on this little job Cowley's assigned us?" Ray winced slightly at the sarcasm dripping from Bodie's voice.

"Bodie, I want to know..." He couldn't figure out why Bodie was bent on ignoring the little scene from Saturday. If that was what he wanted, though, then Doyle was certainly not averse to life going back to normal. The small dig about finding a new partner rankled a bit, however, and he did feel the need to discuss that.

"Damn it, Ray, not here." Bodie opened the door wider and grabbed hold of Ray's arm, tugging him outside. "You don't really want to discuss our kisses in the hallway, do you?"

Doyle set in his heels. "What do you mean-- OUR kisses?" He shivered, and pulled away from Bodie, zipping up his jacket, then followed him down the steps. "Bodie!"

"We'll get the car -- with your bloody heater -- and we'll drive to your flat and collect your clothes. Shut it Ray"-- Doyle rapidly closed his mouth, swallowing the objections he'd been about to voice -- "then we'll go to my flat, collect my clothes and then we'll talk. Am I making myself clear here?"

"Sod off, Bodie." Ray stomped off towards the garage, leaving Bodie to follow or not.

Once settled in the car, Ray shrugged out of his jacket, wrist knocking against the side of Bodie's head as he did so. Bodie just moved slightly away until Ray was finished squirming. They had the car -- with heater -- and Ray was all set to begin the promised talk. Clothes were stashed in the back, and they were finally on their way to Hastings. Point of fact, they had been on their way for the last hour, and Doyle's patience, limited at the best of times, had just about run out.

"Wonder what we'll find down there," he began in his most pleasant conversational tone. All he'd gotten from Bodie in the past 60 minutes had been grunts and growls as he steered the car through the London traffic. Now that they had safely moved from the M25 onto the 21 he expected much more in the way of responses.

"Don't know." With those two words, Bodie didn't betray by look or gesture what he was thinking.

Doyle took a deep breath. "All right, Bodie. We have the car. We went to your flat and picked up your clothes. We went to my flat and picked up my clothes. We did NOT talk. We're in the car, on our way to Hastings, and you're not talking. You said we'd talk. You told me to shut up -- all day you've been telling me to shut my mouth and I have! Time's up, Bodie."

Bodie shrugged, and glanced quickly out the corner of his eye. "So, talk, then."

"I don't have to talk, you stupid berk. You do. You have some explaining to do and I'm getting tired of waiting for you to decide what you're gonna say! And when!"

Determinedly, Ray twisted around in his seat until he was facing Bodie's tense profile and waited. Tapped his foot against the carpet and waited. Waited as he listened to the wipers flinging the damp snow from the windshield. Turned down the heater, and stopped waiting.

"Bodie?" Very quietly, with his jaw clenched Ray tried for some attention. "Bodie, stop the car."

His answer was a push against the accelerator as the Capri speeded up.

"Bodie, dammit, stop this car NOW!" He made a grab for the door handle as Bodie took him literally, slamming down on the brake, causing the car to fishtail in the slush. Ray watched as Bodie's hands were wrenched from the wheel, then his head banged against the side window, curls making a poor barrier against the pain. The car slowly spun before finally coming to rest at the side of the road, inches from a sign announcing the city of Lamberhurst, 5km away.

Ray leaned against the car door, his chest heaving as he gulped air into his shocked lungs. He stared across the car at Bodie, who took a deep breath and turned until they were facing each other.

"You okay?" Bodie asked quietly, then continued when Doyle nodded slowly. "Right. Hear me out, Ray; I'm only going to say this once. You can dissect it in your head as often as you want later, but I won't be rolling around there with you. I love you. I am also in love with you; I have been for a long time. I'd like nothing better than to spend the rest of our -- probably short -- lives together, preferably as lovers; but if that's not what you want, then I'll take us just the way we've been so far."

Doyle didn't know what to say. After the other day, he'd been expecting something like this, but still wasn't prepared for the reality of what Bodie was throwing at him. "You're putting this all on me, then, aren't you, mate? Regardless of what I decide, the future -- ours as partners in CI5 or anything else -- will be my fault, won't it? That's not fair, Bodie.".

Bodie shrugged, his expression apparently unconcerned. "Fine, we'll go on as we have been."

Ray watched as Bodie faced forward again and restarted the car, his mind running around in several different circles. Tentatively he put out his hand, resting it briefly against a hard forearm and Bodie waited to put the car in gear. "'s not what I meant, Bodie. I don't not want to love you, I do love you, I just can't. I mean, I care about you, but... you're my best mate, my partner, I just..."

"Doyle?"

"Hm?"

"Shut-up." The wheels spun slightly as Bodie finally put the car in gear and carefully pulled back onto the road.

"But-- " Ray protested. Lately it seemed every time he tried to say anything Bodie closed his ears.

"No. You weren't making much sense to begin with and I don't want to keep re-hashing this. I already told you that. You think all you want in that scrambled brain of yours, but don't do it where I can hear."

Doyle just snorted at that and crossed his arms against his chest. If that was what Bodie wanted, then fine. He was perfectly capable of keeping his thoughts to himself if necessary. Ray leaned his head back and smiled slightly. He figured Bodie would get tired of the silence eventually and then they could finally get this silly business straight -- //well, maybe that's not the right word,// he thought in amusement -- get this business figured out and life back to normal. First long-legged, well-stacked bird that hopped by and Bodie would forget this silly obsession he was on.

He took a deep breath and settled lower into the seat, the swishing tires making him drowsy. He chanced a glance at Bodie, eyes following the profile down to pouty lips. Doyle figured his partner had the most kissable lips in CI5 -- according to the typists, of course. He quickly closed his eyes and tried to think of something else. He could care less if Bodie's lips were kissable or not!


Doyle's first sight of Stephen Orin, bereaved lover of David Harback, almost caused him to swallow the breath he'd been about to take. Jerking away from the elbow Bodie dug into his ribs, he quickly slid through the open doorway, embarrassed at his momentary lapse of concentration; he should know better than to assume someone would look a certain way just because of who they slept with. He held out his hand, staring into the brown eyes of their host.

"I'm Doyle, that's Bodie." He looked from Orin to Bodie and back again, before continuing. "We're sorry about your..... about David," he amended. He watched Bodie roll his eyes, and looked away, jaw clenching.

Orin smiled bleakly as he shook hands first with Doyle, then Bodie. " I think you're partner's a bit surprised with me, Mr. Bodie."

Bodie grinned. "Think he was expecting someone a bit....smaller. Do a lot of working out, do you? And it's just Bodie, sir.

"And I'm Ray. We're not disguising the reason we're here, but we don't want to broadcast it either." Ray said. Smaller, more effeminate was exactly what he'd been expecting, and he made an effort to erase his earlier faux pas. "Just pretend we're friends of yours -- nosy friends. We'll tell people who we work for as the need arises. Umm, there isn't anyone else staying here is there?"

"Come along and I'll show you to your room," Orin led the other two down a brightly lit hallway to a room nestled at the end. "No, it's just me at the moment, although...David's...brother will be here in the morning. We never got around to changing our wills, so his brother gets the house now. They weren't close anymore, his brother didn't approve, but it's an old will and he..."

Ray could see tears beginning to form in Orin's eyes, and he quickly routed the subject to a more immediate topic. "Could really do with the toilet right now, Stephen. If you'd point me in the proper direction?"

"Be happy to help you 'point properly', sunshine. Don't need to impose on our host for that!" Bodie said softly, having also noticed the emotion.

Doyle caught the cautionary look in his eyes and decided not to take offense as he'd been about to. Instead, adopting a pose, he leaned up against Bodie, rubbing his shoulder briefly on a suddenly tense arm, and whispered, "think I can manage that on my own, mate, but ta anyway."

Stephen laughed weakly with the other two, and opened the door next to the bedroom. "All the mod cons, gents, at your service. You'll have to share this with Alex -- David's brother -- but for tonight it's all yours. I'll see you in the morning. "

Ray watched him walk away before sticking his head into the bathroom. "God, Bodie, look at the size of this bath! You could scrub the entire royal family in here!" He moved out of the way as Bodie bumped hips with him for a better look. "Tonight I think I'll wash myself though! After that little trick with the car today, I'm a bit stiff -- what did you say?"

Bodie shook his head. "Nothing, mate. Take your bath. I'm a bit stiff meself, but I'll make do with a quick shower when you've finished your soak." They went onto the bedroom, Bodie carrying both suitcases, while Ray brought along the radio case.

"Bodie!" Ray's nose met the back of a hard head as Bodie came to a dead stop three feet through the door. "What'd you stop for? Oh."

In the center of the room was a large, four-poster, canopied bed, complete with what Ray suspected, at the very least, was a feather mattress. A small, round Queen Anne table with two matching chairs, a wardrobe and standing mirror completed the ensemble. Ray glanced at the inscrutable expression on Bodie's face and sighed. Wasn't a whole lot they could do about it at this stage.

"Well, after all, it's not like we haven't had to share before," Doyle said flatly. "Put the suitcase down, will you? I need my gear." He ignored the pitiful groans Bodie made as he swung the cases on to the bed, opening his own and quickly retrieving his robe and other items before beating a hasty retreat.

Doyle could hardly believe the size of the tub. He suspected he might actually be able to sink into and cover his entire body in water without having to become a contortionist. Opening the taps, he rubbed at the condensation building up on the mirror and studied himself critically. He was finding it difficult to believe what Bodie had told him earlier this evening.

//How can he love this face? Too round. Broken cheekbone. Nose is too big, eyes too small.// He ran a hand through his hair and grinned, rubbing at the mirror again. //Got a great arse, though! //

He switched off the water and slowly sank into the hot, steamy tub. Yep, just as he'd thought; plenty of room. He stretched his legs out in front of him and planted his toes on the rim, getting rid of the kinks from the car mishap.

Ray didn't think he'd ever been quite so confused in his life. Even throughout that disastrous time with Ann Holly, he'd at least been sure of what he wanted from the relationship. But the emotional fracas he was tangled in with Bodie was beyond anything he'd ever expected to experience. It was a helpless feeling he didn't particularly care for. The warmth of the water was slowly easing away his aches and pains, relaxing tensed muscles. He wished he could soak his head; the thoughts racing around his brain, along with the thump on his head, had conspired to give him a raging headache.

Even though he'd long ago left his mother's church, the first fifteen or so years of good, solid Roman Catholic upbringing was still hidden in his subconscious, and tended to pop out at very inopportune times. 'Men don't love men' was hammered into him from day one; it was a sin, good Catholic boys don't do 'it' with one another. His own uncle was dead from 'it', and roasting in hell, according to his little Irish grandmother. Although why it should bother him now, when he hadn't been inside a church -- for religious purposes -- in over fifteen years...

He idly swirled the bath bubbles around in the water, half-forgotten memories emerging from his childhood. The day his mum caught him peering through the keyhole at his older cousin, comparing his tiny, six-year-old penis to the one hanging on the half-grown man. Mum'd smacked his ear so hard he couldn't hear properly for days. Yelled at him about turning into his Uncle James and going straight to hell.

Couple years later a chance heard remark from one of his aunts had caused him to whack his curls off with his mum's sewing shears. Something about his resemblance to 'that poofter James'.

The one thing he was sure of -- Ray couldn't envision his life without Bodie there beside him, and he wasn't sure where that left him. Carefully laying his bumped head against the back of the tub, he closed his eyes.

The cold water woke him quite a bit later, and he dragged himself out of the tub and quickly toweled off. He was surprised that Bodie hadn't come in and rousted him out for his own turn at the shower. He yawned and quietly padded down the hall into their bedroom, stopping in the doorway.

Bodie was sprawled across the side of the bed, one foot still on the floor, neatly folded towel lying on his stomach. Soft snores issued from his slightly opened lips, and Doyle felt a sharp stab of guilt pierce him. Dropping his dirty clothes on one of the chairs as he walked past, he stood looking down at the sleeper.

// Ah, Bodie, what are you doing to me?// Carefully pulling the towel from under Bodie's hands, he tossed it across to a chair, before lifting the other leg onto the bed. He started to take off a shoe, then peered closely at Bodie's face. Satisfied that he was truly asleep, Ray finished removing the shoes and looked around for a cover to lay over him, finally finding one in the bottom of the wardrobe.

He tucked it securely around Bodie, then lightly fluffed the front of his hair, marveling at how silky soft it was. He looked so relaxed when he was asleep, all the tension and worry erased from his face; Doyle wanted nothing more than to share that contentment and...

Realizing where his thoughts were leading him, he straightened up, and satisfied that Bodie was as comfortable as Doyle could make him without waking him, he pulled the covers back and crawled into his own side of the bed. It was a feather mattress, all right. Mattress, comforter, and pillows; he curled up and snuggled into a nest. A bloke could drown happy in all this fluff.


Coming out of the shower the next morning, Bodie came face-to-face with someone he sincerely hoped was the expected Alex, brother to the deceased David. If not, then Bodie was in a sticky spot, as the man standing in the hallway could have given Towser himself a challenge. He tensed and looked at the stranger, eyebrows raised in query.

The man smiled slightly. "So sorry, didn't mean to startle you. I'm Alex Harback; got in very early this morning. You must be one of Stephen's...friends."

The deliberate pause between the last two words rankled and Bodie deliberately wiped any welcoming expression from his face. "I'm Bodie. Excuse me."

"Of course. Wouldn't want you to catch a chill would we?" Alex moved just enough for Bodie to squeeze by, before going inside himself and closing the door.

//Great. This will really help Ray make up his mind about us.// Bodie quietly shut the bedroom door and leaned against it, watching the mound of blankets in the bed stir briefly and a curly head pop up before snuggling more deeply into the mattress. He quickly dressed, and headed off to find the kitchen, his stomach announcing loudly to one and all that it wanted attention.

Food proved relatively easy to locate, as the town-house wasn't that large. Bodie found their host seated at a small dining table nestled in a large bay window, munching a slice of toast. Stephen looked up at the sound of footsteps and attempted a half-hearted smile.

"It's all right, don't play the cheery one for me. No-one expects you to anyway and--" he broke off as his stomach gave a loud rumble, causing Stephen to flash a genuine smile at him.

"I do need to feed you however, whether I do it with a song-and-dance or not." He pointed to a sideboard across the room which held a toaster, various jams, breads and teapot, carefully covered in a cat-decorated cozy. "I'll show you where everything is in the kitchen and you may do anything you like for hot food." He paused as Bodie popped in some toast and poured tea, holding the pot towards Orin, eyebrows raised. "No thanks. I need to warn you about..."

"Alex. We met in the hallway." Bodie buttered toast and carried his hoard over to the table, settling down across from Stephen. "Was a bit of an understatement wasn't it? Telling us he didn't 'approve' of you and David."

Orin nodded, eyes on his tea. "Hmmmm, yes, I'm afraid so."

"Have to ask you some questions, you know, Stephen." Bodie cleared his throat awkwardly. Damn, but he liked this man.

"Yeah, thought you might. Where was I? Here at home. David had gone out to do some shopping, and I was feeling a chill starting, decided to stay here. If I hadn't...if I'd gone with him, then maybe..."

"'If' and 'maybe' never did anyone any good, mate. m' partner goes on about it all the time." He paused a moment, making sure Stephen had regained his composure, before continuing. "You were both getting along all right? No tiffs, quarrels, anything?"

"None."

Both men looked up as Ray came over to the table and examined the remains of Bodie's toast. He glanced over at Stephen, an impish look on his face, and Bodie groaned, knowing what was coming. "Hate to tell you this, mate, but he needs more than this to make it through the day. Better show us the larder, we may have to go out and stock up! Tea?"

Bodie pointed and watched as Ray sauntered over, his backside tightly packed into a relatively new pair of blue jeans. He looked back at Stephen to find the man looking at him in amusement. God, was he that obvious? Doyle pulled out the chair closest to Bodie and plopped down with his tea.

"Since you're both down here, am I to assume the bloke in the bathroom is Alex?" He carefully took a sip of his tea, slurping as it passed his chipped tooth.

Bodie watched Doyle's eyes dart quickly between the two of them, as he set down his mug. Doyle's face was serious, and Bodie suspected he was going to ask more about Alex when the man himself came through the door.

"Well, quite a cozy tea-party we're having here, isn't it, ladies?" The tone was nasty and Bodie watched with sinking spirits as Doyle's face tightened. "This must be your other half, eh, Bodie? Such a lovely head of curls, reminds me of David. Doesn't it you, Stephen?" A heavy hand came out to play in Doyle's hair, and Ray jerked away, almost upsetting his chair, as Bodie, pushing his own back, started to rise.

"Don't touch me. Bodie, sit down!" Ray stood facing Harback, and it reminded Bodie of a terrier facing off against a mastiff. He watched carefully as Ray spoke evenly. "Name's Ray Doyle. I don't like to be touched, especially by strangers, so I'll thank you to stay out of my hair." He sat down again, to all appearances calm, and picked up his tea.

Bodie could tell from the way his lips were pressed together that Ray was very close to swinging out at Alex, and he carefully tapped his foot against the trainer closest to him. Doyle looked up, eyes smoldering, then smiled at the worry Bodie was showing.

Bodie relaxed slightly and looked over at Stephen who'd been sitting silently through the entire exchange. "I think we could put together a palatable bit of nosh, if you'd like to show Ray where everything is. He's a great cook!"

Stephen stood and laughed, although it sounded a bit forced to Bodie. "I like that--WE could put together, but RAY'S the cook! Come this way, then. Sausages, eggs, tomatoes, it's all in here. Alex, you want any? "

"No. I'm heading to town for the day. Leave you three alone to play house. There IS a funeral to organize, you know, or had you forgotten?" Without waiting for an answer Alex headed out the front door, slamming it as he went. Stephen sagged against the wall, tears springing to his eyes.

"Forget? How can I forget? He's all around me here. Alex hated David, you know; they were half-brothers. I don't know why he's playing the bereaved sibling now." He straightened and headed for the kitchen. "Let's see what we can find to eat."

"That man is incredible," Doyle whispered.

"Stephen?"

"No, Alex. His arcane attitude. Reminds me of...Chives, and the lot up north, remember?" Bodie nodded at that; they'd helped a man being harassed for trying to set up a Gay Youth Centre, in a town run by a homophobic police force. The verbal taunts had quickly turned physical, centering on the two of them in their undercover role of a gay couple.


Later that same day found Bodie and Doyle up in their bedroom, Bodie fiddling with the radio and Doyle cleaning his gun while he waited. Doyle looked up as Bodie attempted to get through to HQ.

"You gonna have them check on Alex Harback?" Ray curled his lip, disgusted. "I don't trust him as far as I could throw him, and since he's a big as Towser, that wouldn't be far at all!" He watched as Bodie smiled, but whether it was at his comment or success at reaching Cowley, Doyle couldn't tell. He continued putting his gun together, listening to Bodie describe their first day in a low voice. His hands stilled at Cowley's next question.

"Have you two solved whatever trouble you were having in my office yesterday?" Bodie glanced quickly at Doyle, face expressionless.

"Whatever problems we have, they never interfere with our performance. Sir."

"Just answer the question, Bodie!" Cowley's demand coincided with Doyle's neatly whispered mimic and both grinned at each other at their boss's expense. Ray reached over and snagged the microphone from Bodie's hand.

"Everything's fine, sir. No troubles at all." Doyle rolled his eyes at Bodie, returned the radio, and went back to his weapon, as Bodie signed off.

Closing the case, Bodie slid it under the bed before leaning back into the pillows, eyes on Doyle. Ray craned his head around to watch Bodie watching him. "What? You're staring so hard I'm gonna get holes in the back of my neck!" he teased.

"Nothing, sunshine, just admiring the view." Bodie let one side of his mouth quirk up in a mockery of a smile, and Doyle stopped his joking.

"Oh Bodie," Ray said softly. He popped his gun into the case, then pushed it under the bed with the radio and Bodie's gun. Standing up, he walked over to the window and looked out into the garden. He heard the bed creak as Bodie got off and joined him, his breath lightly caressing the back of Doyle's neck.

"Ray."

Doyle's arms tensed as Bodie laid strong hands on his shoulders, and gently nudged him around so they were facing each other. Doyle held his breath as he looked into sad blue eyes. "Sunshine, I can't just turn my feelings off and on for you like a water tap. I love you. I'm gonna look at you, I can't help it; you're beautiful."

"You're crazy, Bodie. I'm a lot of things, beautiful isn't one of them!" He moved away from the window and leaned back against the wall. Bodie's hands came up and cupped Ray's face, roughened thumbs lightly rubbing the sides. His hands were warm and seemed to fit Doyle's face perfectly, index finger behind his ear, little finger on his neck. Doyle shivered at the sensation of ten tiny strokes all happening simultaneously, and quickly ran his tongue over lips that had suddenly gone dry. "Bodie..."

"What, Ray?" Bodie leaned in closely, mouth a scant inch from Ray's lips. Doyle's heart was pounding straight through to his head, and he was almost afraid to move. His entire being was centered on the blue eyes staring into his, and he closed his own, slowly moving forward.

Bodie's mouth was soft. And warm. And wet. Ray opened to a tongue tip that was slowly teasing its way around his lips, and lightly touched it with his own, surprised at the smoothness. He felt Bodie's hands leave his face to slide muscled arms around Doyle's waist. Tentatively Ray looped his own arms around Bodie's neck and hung on as his knees seemed to disappear.

A hand cupping one half of his arse caused his hips to arch forward, almost of their own will, and he swallowed a groan, as Bodie pressed closer to him. Doyle pulled his head back and broke the kiss, taking in great gulps of air as he did so. Bodie was looking at him, eyes half mast, lips swollen, keeping completely still as Ray attempted to regain some sense of reality.

"Stop. Bodie. Stop."

Bodie smiled gently at him, and let his arms fall to his side. "I'm not doing anything, angelfish. You're the one with his arms still around me neck.."

Ray quickly let go, and wriggled out from between Bodie and the window, walking aimlessly around the room. Behind him, Bodie continued talking. "I won't do anything you don't want, Ray. I already told you whatever happens is up to you. But don't expect me to be made of iron when you stand there with a mouth just begging to be kissed and offer it to me. Besides, sunshine, you kissed me first."

"I did nothing of the sort!"

"No? What would you call two mouths plastered against each other?" He paused. "I suppose you're gonna tell me you didn't like my kissing you, either?"

Ray was silent for a long moment. Of course he'd liked kissing Bodie. His body thought it was the greatest experience it'd had in months. He took a deep breath. "'course I liked it. You know me better than that! I just... Bodie, it's wrong!"

There was quiet behind him, then Bodie walked to the bed and sat down. "Come here, Ray."

"Un-uh."

Bodie laughed lightly. "For God's sake Ray, I just want to talk. We can do it better sitting here than with you standing against the wall like a martinet."

Ray perched on the edge of the bed waiting for Bodie to begin. He watched in fascination as the small muscle in Bodie's jaw clenched briefly. "How's it wrong? And what's 'it'?"

Squirming slightly on the bed, Ray decided he'd better tell Bodie everything. He'd done a lot of thinking in the bath last night, at least until he'd fallen asleep, and finally figured out what Bodie had been getting at the other day when he kept telling him to shut up. He chewed his bottom lip, and watched Bodie from the corner of his eye. Wiggled a little more, clutched one of the lovely feather pillows in his lap and finally jumped in.

"Had an uncle once, well, have lots of uncles I suppose, but this one was mum's younger brother. And he was queer. He was ever so nice, always brought me sweets and stuff when he came to visit. I remember I was never left alone with him though. When he was around, and the adults had to go somewhere, Gran or Mum always stayed home with us. My cousins -- I'm the youngest, the next one closest to me was about five years older -- my cousins would always make jokes about fairies, and poofters, and three pound notes. I didn't know what they were getting at, as I was only six or seven at the time, but Uncle James would either look very sad, or else walk away." He paused to look over at Bodie and see how he was taking this long saga of Doyle's-past-life.

The gentle sadness in Bodie's eyes encouraged Ray to go on. //At least he's not laughing his head off at me.// "One day, I think it was someone's wedding anniversary, the police came 'round asking for Uncle James, something about what he was doing in the park with another man. At that point, mum dragged me into the house, so it wasn't till I was older that I realized exactly what was going on." He stopped, swallowing hard past the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat, his emotions surprising him after all this time. Bodie was still quiet, so encouraged, Ray continued.

"Bottom line, is, Uncle came home that night. Gran told him the coppers were after him. Next morning I went to the gardening shed for something. Don't even remember what. Uncle James had blown his brains out. Was laying there in his own shit and piss with his blood and brains and gore spattered all around. Mum spanked me for going out to the shed." His face felt hot as he held his breath, stomach churning in confusion. He felt like a prat, behaving so stupidly over something that had happened a quarter century ago.

The bed bounced as Bodie moved over next to Ray and folded him into his arms, ignoring the stiffening spine. "That was what, 25 years ago? It was illegal, back then, but not wrong."

"It hurt my uncle. It killed him." The confusion and fright buried in a small child's brain was reappearing, and he was having just as much, if not more, difficulty now dealing with what he'd seen when he'd walked in and found what was left of his uncle. The sympathy he was feeling as an adult seemed to make it worse; apparently his uncle'd had a 'Bodie' of his own.

Bodie's arms hugged him closer. "'It' didn't kill him, sunshine, he killed himself. Because of the intolerance of his family and society, and maybe out of some misguided notion to spare his family the shame of a trial; that's why he killed himself. Not because it's wrong to be gay."

Ray was silent while he pondered Bodie's words. He relaxed back onto the hard chest. "I know you're right. My heart agrees with you completely, but this little voice inside me doesn't."

Bodie's deep chuckle reverberated through Ray's spine. "That little voice, my son, is your six-year-old self connecting all that happened to your uncle, with your mum spanking you for going into the shed."

"Oh, thank you Dr. Ross!" Ray smiled at the 'diagnosis', and snuggled deeper into Bodie's arms, tossing the pillow aside in order to cuddle the arms clasped around him. "Bodie?"

"Hmmmm?" His breath on the side of Ray's face was warm and smelled faintly of tea and toothpaste.

"I do love you," he whispered and was pleased when Bodie hugged him and planted a light kiss on his temple. "Need some time, though..."

"I know you do, Sunshine. Just have to wait for you to think it all through in that complicated way you have, and come to a decision." Ray was jerked upright as Bodie stiffened and craned his head around to look at Doyle with a worried eye. "That is what you mean isn't it?"

Ray flashed him a small grin. "Yeah." He pulled away from Bodie, and slid off the bed. "We'd best get to work, hadn't we? Got a lot of questions to ask."


Several hours spent trekking around the stony ruins of a thousand year-old-castle in the freezing wind blowing off the channel, wasn't Ray's idea of enjoyable detective work. Nor was sitting next to Bodie in a hard-back chair listening to the local Chief Inspector ramble on about how he really didn't need help from CI5 in this case, so why didn't they just tumble themselves back to London?

"We're here at the bequest of Lord Rickards, in a private investigator capacity. Has nothing to do with the competence of your police force or his lack of faith in your ability to find who murdered his cousin." With great difficulty, Ray kept a smile from showing as the words flowed from Bodie's mouth. His appearance didn't give one the idea that intelligence was lurking under that dark hair. "We have no intention of getting in your way, and while we would appreciate your not formally announcing our real purpose here, we did feel the need to notify you of our presence."

Ray looked down at his dirty trainers, then bent over to re-tie the laces. Anything to keep from meeting Bodie's eye; he knew if that happened he'd be unable to keep his amusement hidden. So many people thought his partner was a bit dim; if they could only hear him now. A few more minutes and he'd have the constable licking their bootstrings. A foot nudging his brought him upright, and he stood with Bodie, ready to leave. The Inspector was actually smiling as they walked out, assuring 'Mr. Bodie' that their secrets were safe with him.

The outer door closing softly behind him, Ray stopped and stared at Bodie, arms crossed in front of his chest, hip jutting out. "Are you sure we didn't quit school as early as we claimed, Mr. Bodie?"

"Give off, Ray, didn't notice you jumping in with hearts and flowers. Man was a bit ticked at us being here, in case you hadn't noticed. We needed to know what information he had, and make sure he didn't grouse to everyone that we were here poaching in his territory. Now let's get out of here; my stomach's been talking to me for hours."

Doyle chuckled. "Yes, sir, Mr. Bodie, sir. Running all the way, sir!" He patted the shoulder next to him and took off down the steps, blithely ignoring the amused, if irritated look Bodie was giving him.

There was silence for most of the drive back to Orin's house, each man busy digesting what little news they'd received from the local police. There hadn't been much; in fact most of what they'd heard had been in the folders Cowley'd given them. Ray shifted in his seat, and turned the heater up another notch. Could they be on the wrong track completely? A case he'd been involved with in his first year with the Met came back to him, and he told Bodie to stop at the next pub or tea-house so they could discuss it away from both Alex and Stephen.

Bodie sniffed, and made a comment about copper's noses, but did as requested. Once they were seated in a secluded corner of "Mary's For Tea", Ray quickly began to speak; he could see Bodie's patience was about gone.

"There was a case I was on, one of my earliest; someone was going around offing gays. Turned out to be the brother of someone who'd been attacked and killed in a gay-bashing. Instead of going after the ones who did it, he was erasing what he considered the reason for his brother being killed in the first place: the people who'd 'turned' him from the straight and narrow."

He talked faster at the skeptical look on Bodie's face. "I know, this isn't exactly the same; I really can't see Alex killing his step-brother for a reason like that. But something similar?"

Taking a sip of his tea, he made a face at it's coolness, and Bodie passed him the hot water. "Ta. I'm not making sense here. But something tells me this has nothing to do with Lord Rickards, or Defense; that it's something closer to home."

"You saying you think Stephen killed his lover?" Bodie's voice was skeptical. "If he did, he's a damned fine actor. I'm more inclined towards that bloody Alex, m'self."

"'Most Murders Are Committed by Someone Close to the Deceased.' Chapter 3 in 'How to be a Good Copper'." Ray grinned and tapped the side of his nose. "I don't want to believe it's Stephen either. He's too easy to like. Much rather it was that behemoth brother. But..."

"But, you think we should check out Stephen, anyway?" Bodie asked quietly. "If you're right, we can't rule out anyone, no matter how grief-stricken they may seem. Ray?" Fingers lightly touching his hand made Ray look up. Eyes glued to Bodie's face, he spoke softly, wondering at the lump in his throat that had suddenly appeared.

"I can't imagine doing to you, what was done to Harback. I can't imagine ever being angry enough, or that you would do anything, to make me want to do 'that' to your body. I don't even want to think of life without you, let alone be the one to do the 'dirty deed'." He turned his hand over in Bodie's and clasped his fingers tightly, but briefly, before withdrawing. "But, yeah, we gotta check Stephen out, also. This copper's nose of mine won't be happy until we do."

Bodie reached over and confiscated the last slice of tea cake, popping it in his mouth before Ray could blink. "One of these days, Bodie..." He jumped up from the table and patted the firm stomach currently digesting the majority of their tea. "Shan't always be so hard, if you aren't careful, my son. Don't forget to give the nice lady some money. " He trotted out the door, chortling. After all, Bodie'd eaten most of it; he could pay for it.

Busy watching over his shoulder for Bodie to follow, he wasn't paying attention to where he was going. A thudding sensation connected with his hip, jarring his insides with a nauseating rush. He caught a glimpse of wide eyes and open mouth that was Bodie, as he went flying by, and thought briefly that he'd never heard Bodie scream like that before and wondered what is was going to feel like when he hit the garbage bin that was moving rapidly towards him.


The first thing he felt was the pressure on his hand. This gradually developed into fingers clutching his, strength that said 'Bodie', to his fuzzy mind. He cautiously opened his eyes a crack, and started to turn his head. The resulting agony that stabbed deep into his entire body thrust him back into painless unconsciousness, his last coherent thought on the hand still holding his.

He was more careful the next time he struggled back to awareness, opening his eyes without moving anything other than heavy lids. The hand was still there, and as he stared at the ceiling, feeling the bile rise in his throat, he swallowed frantically, and let his eyes close until the nausea quieted down. When he opened his eyes again, a tense, worried Bodie was hovering above his head, seemingly bodiless, his mouth contorting into expressions Ray assumed were words, though he couldn't hear them over the rushing in his ears.

Hoping it looked re-assuring, Doyle pulled his lips into a smile and exerted a gentle pressure on the hand glued to his own. He tried unsuccessfully to wet his lips with a dry tongue, gratefully sucking at the straw suddenly thrust under his nose. "Bodie?"

"I'm right here, sunshine. Never left." Ray wasn't sure if it was the faultiness of his hearing or if Bodie really was on the edge of tears, as the breaking in his voice seemed to indicate. He tried, very slowly, moving his head to the left, relieved when Bodie's blue eyes came into focus with little pain on his part.

"Did you pay the lady for our tea?" He couldn't understand the confusion that spread over Bodie's face at the question. "What?"

"You get walloped by a car, thrown through the air, land in the garbage, and all you want to know is if I paid the lady for our tea?" The laughter that followed bordered on hysterical, and Doyle tugged on Bodie's hand, worried. "Oh Christ, Ray. Do you know how it felt to walk out that door and see you hit? To see you flung through the air like a ragdoll? I didn't know how bad, I didn't know....anything. All I thought was, this could be the end. You'd finally...and all we'd done was... kiss, and how could I stand it if....Why the hell can't you watch where you're going, Doyle!"

"Maybe if you'd tell me exactly what happened, it might help jog my memory a bit. All I know is we were having tea, you were going to pay, and I'm lying here with a head the size of a pumpkin and every bone in my body protesting what happened." Doyle carefully shifted so he could see Bodie more clearly, wincing at the myriad stabs of pain lancing throughout his body.

"You stepped against a car driving too fast out the parking lot; it sideswiped you and threw you up into the rubbish bin. Doctor said you were quite lucky; if you hadn't landed in the garbage, the pavement would've probably fractured your skull and broken some bones. You did smell a bit ripe though."

Ray grinned at the smile on Bodie's face. Obviously he was going to live, and stay in one piece, or Bodie wouldn't be joking about the smell. "So how soon can I get out of here? I hate hospitals!"

"Aside from a slight concussion, and a very bruised hip and left leg, there really isn't anything else wrong." Unnoticed by either man, the doctor had arrived sometime during the earlier conversation, and smiled as he walked over to the bed. "You'll have aches and pains all over, as your body reacts to the shock, but you're quite the lucky young man, Mr. Doyle. The fact that you didn't see the car coming kept you from tensing your muscles, which could have caused a lot more damage when you finally landed --in the garbage or elsewhere!"

"So I can leave now?" Ray started to sit up, then sank back down, wincing at the hammer that started thudding around inside his skull. Bodie placed a hand against his shoulder. "What?"

"Doc says tomorrow morning. Give your hip time to bruise properly, and they can check it again."

"But--"

"Actually, Mr. Doyle, you'll probably be grateful to have one more night in here. Once you start moving around on that hip and leg, you're going to wish you'd stayed here. While's there's nothing irreparable done to it, the muscles are severely bruised and they'll complain -- quite incessantly -- once you start moving around again. I'll be around to see you in the morning; until then, you both might try and get some sleep."

Doyle watched the Doctor walk out, carefully closing the door behind him, then turned indignantly to Bodie. "But..."

Bodie smiled at him, and kissed his forehead, lips languidly nibbling their way towards his lips. "Shuddup, Ray." He loosened the ugly hospital gown and slid his hand under it, softly rubbing against Doyle's chest, thumb teasing first one nipple then the other, as his lips eventually followed his wandering fingers.

"Oh ch...christ, Bodie," Ray reached blindly down until his fingers made contact with short, silky hair, and he tugged gently, bringing Bodie's head up on a level with his own. He'd been a silly sod; how could this be wrong? Or a sin? To love someone so much? He gingerly stretched an arm around a well-muscled neck, sure his body was melting into a puddle of wanton desire.

As Ray turned his head for more kisses, his hips arched up irrepressibly, sharp pain cascading into his awareness; his painful scream was swallowed deeply by Bodie's mouth. He lay there panting, trying desperately to draw enough breath to speak, as Bodie recoiled, dismay and concern wrinkling his brow.

"Bo--die. OK. I'm. All right." He could feel his heart pounding against his chest as he slowly regained control of his breathing, and he held out his hand in demand for Bodie to come back. He grabbed hold as soon as Bodie was close enough, and tugged weakly, lifting his mouth for another kiss. "It's okay, sunshine. I'm all right; just got a bit carried away there. "

The look on Bodie's face made Ray cringe inside, a knot appearing where his heart had been a moment before. Forehead wrinkled, brows drawn together, Bodie was a caricature of himself when angry, and Doyle had a sneaky suspicion that anger was directed inward. His fingers climbed up Bodie's arm, pulling him down, refusing to relinquish the slight hold they had, until they came to his neck. A slight tug brought Bodie's face within reachable distance and Ray carefully kissed the lower lip Bodie was unconsciously attempting to chew into a pulp.

"Bodie!" Ray smiled up at him, trying to put the sparkle back in the blue eyes. "Stop worrying. Now, go back to Stephen's and don't forget to pick me up in the morning!"


"This is bloody ridiculous. We've been here four days, and we're no closer to figuring this mess out than we were when we left London!" Bodie paced the room like an angry animal, the desire to bite someone's head off strong in his blood. Unfortunately, the only available head was half-sitting, half-lying on the bed, pillow elevating one very colorful hip. Just his luck; now that Doyle'd finally decided it wasn't wrong to love another man, the accident rendered him -- temporarily, thank God -- incapable of indulging that love.

Last night was the first time he'd really seen the bruises, as he helped Ray into the steaming hot bathtub. The hip was literally black, with blotches of green and mauve spiraling down towards his ankle. The skin around the ribs on his right side and stomach area were a sympathetic purple. Bodie felt sick himself each time he thought of the 'might-have-been'. Sternly he brought his mind back to the present. "Do you want to join the others for dinner tonight, or stay in here again? Doctor did say you needed to keep that hip moving."

He watched as Ray pondered the question; fancied he could almost see the gears in the active brain moving around, weighing the pros of getting up -- more detective work, to the cons -- it bloody hurt him every time he moved. A deep sigh, and Bodie knew they'd be dining 'formally' tonight.

"With the others; then I can stay with them, while you radio The Cow and see if they've found out anything more on what Alex and Stephen were doing the night Harback was offed. We've got to get somewhere on this; funeral's tomorrow."

Bodie tried to stop the frown he felt appearing on his face before Doyle could see it and correctly interpret its reason for forming, but he was too late. Lips clamped together Ray gave him a stony look as he started to lever himself off the bed. Bodie stood right where he was, assuming -- rightly -- that a helping hand at this moment would more likely be bitten than accepted.

"You, Bodie, are worse than a mother hen with her baby chick," he grunted, drops of sweat appearing on his forehead as he carefully straightened up. "Which I am not. I can survive an evening downstairs with Mr. Homophobe Alex; he's not going to have me for dessert. I'm a grown man, for Christ's sake!"

Bodie watched him inch towards the door, being very careful to keep any worried looks from his face this time. "You realize, don't you, that it will look extremely odd if I don't help you hobble around like the considerate lover Alex seems to have assumed I am?"

"And we certainly don't want to disappoint the idoit, do we? Okay, we may as well practice the helping bit now," and Bodie relaxed at the tired grin and slightly shaky hand Ray held out to him. They made their way to the dining room, Bodie's arm securely around Doyle's waist, Ray's arm clutching Bodie's neck.

Dinner was a strained affair; between Alex's snide remarks, Stephen's preoccupied distress at the coming funeral, and Doyle's troubled silence, Bodie wanted to bury the first two and retreat with Ray as far away as he could. Unfortunately, not only could they not escape, but he had to leave Doyle down here while he went to radio HQ. Quietly excusing himself, he ruffled Ray's hair and left them, a foreboding building in his gut.

As he began to work the radio, he couldn't help but worry about what was happening in the other room.


"Think he looks a bit like David, eh, Stephen?" Alex's face was carefully void of expression, and Ray watched him warily. Stephen looked up, glancing briefly at Doyle before getting up from the table.

"They both have...had curly hair. Lay off, Alex; I'm going for a walk. Ray, do you ... no, of course not." He turned and faltered blindly towards the door. Ray tried to imagine how he'd feel if it were Bodie they were burying tomorrow, then quickly shoved the thought to the back of his mind as his stomach threatened to discharge its contents then and there. He jerked his attention back as Alex stood.

"You do look like David, you know. Same curly hair, same wide-eyed innocent, I'm-pure-as-the-driven-snow look. Both small; I could snap you in two with very little effort, you know." Doyle sat very still as Alex came around the table and bent over him. "How does it feel to know you're committing a sin? That you're going to hell for fucking another man?"

Ray wanted nothing more than to do some of his own breaking in two at this very minute, but while he'd certainly be capable of giving as good as he'd get normally, he knew he was basically helpless should Alex decide to get physical right now. He quietly damned whoever had run him down; there was nothing he hated more than being unable to defend himself properly.

Alex put a pointed finger under Ray's jaw and pushed his head up so they were looking eye-to-eye. Doyle tried to turn his head away before the finger came through the bottom of his mouth, but Harback grabbed the rest of his jaw with a heavy hand and held him still.

"You, and Stephen, and David, and that know-it-all lover of yours are a filthy smear in this world. You don't belong here, doing your unnatural acts, thinking you're as good as the rest of us." Ray brought his arms up to free his jaw, when a sharp knee connected with his sore hip. He gasped and dropped his arms, sweat appearing on his face as he struggled not to cry out.

"Tell me, little flower petal, how does it feel when the big man rams his cock up your arse-hole, eh? Do you fight to be on top? In control? Or are you the little lady of the couple, happily spreading her legs for the man of the house?"

Doyle sucked in a quick gulp of air as the hand around his jaw tightened and slid lower, jerking him off the chair and onto his feet. The ache from the jarred hip competed with the pressure around his throat for attention. Trainers tangled in the toppled chair as Alex slammed him against the wall, his eyes watering when his head was bashed about for the third time in almost as many days. Blinking rapidly to clear his vision, Ray wrapped both hands around the muscular forearm attached to the hand slowly choking him, his toes scrabbling for the carpet.

"I talked to David last week, did you know that? He was going to ask Steven to leave. Guess he'd finally seen the error of his ways." Alex's eyes were slitted.

"You're wrong...about us." Ray forced the words through his strangling throat. "We're CI5...investigating...find the murderer..." suddenly Ray dropped to the floor as Alex was abruptly yanked away.


A very quiet, very angry voice spoke up. "How would you like it if I tore you apart? Right here, right now? And don't think I can't, Alex, I'm every bit as big and strong as you are." Stephen was flushed, whether from the cold air outside, or anger, Doyle couldn't tell.

Bodie appeared a second later, eyes narrowing when he saw Ray in a tumbled heap on the floor. Watching him step towards Alex with clenched fists, Ray tried to call out, then blushed at the painful whimper he felt come from his mouth. He knew his face was probably showing every mixed-up emotion he was experiencing right now, but all he wanted was to get back to their room where he could relax. Bodie stomped over, elbow shoving Alex away, and carefully helped Ray to stand. Silently half-carrying Ray out of the dining room, down the hall and into the bedroom, he kicked the door shut with his foot, carefully turning the lock with one hand.

He helped Doyle lie down, then stood towering over him, hands on hips, looking like the wrath of God incarnate, and Ray couldn't help laughing. Bodie wasn't finding it the least bit amusing however, and wanted to know exactly what had happened.

"Tell me." Ray had a hard time ignoring the demand he heard in Bodie's quiet voice, but the last thing he wanted to do was tell him EVERYTHING that had just happened. "Ray, dammit, talk to me. Don't lock yourself away. What's wrong?"

"Don't know, sorry. Christ, what a prat I am." Slowly, Ray told Bodie everything, wincing as the face in front of him became grim.

"Think Alex was telling the truth? About David wanting to leave Stephen?"

Ray looked at him, shrugging thoughtfully. He contemplated a lifetime without Bodie; the way Stephen was now, without David. No more jokes about golliwogs, and skinny knees and elbows. No one to calm him when his temper got the better of him. No one to tease about swiss rolls and candy bars and taking food from Ray's plate.

"Don't know. Can't imagine me telling you to bugger off." His matter-of-factness disappeared as he reached out his arms. "God, Bodie, I'm half a person without you. No matter what people say, regardless of -- Oh Christ, Cowley's gonna kill us! -- nothing could be worse than being alone, without you."

He felt Bodie rub his thumb over his jaw, up and down as though drawing a picture. "You're gonna have bruises there, sweetheart." He leaned down and systematically kissed every mark Alex had left on Doyle's face, Ray helpfully pointing out the finger print under his chin, and mentioning the jab in the hip. Before Bodie could progress much farther, Ray started inching his way to the center of the bed, little grunts coming out of his pursed lips. He stopped at the puzzled look on Bodie's face.

"Well, it's just a bit uncomfortable with you perched on the edge of the bed like that, isn't it? I want you here, beside me," and he patted the mattress next to his good hip, grinning at the sappy look brightening the face above him. Bodie carefully spread out on his side next to him, one arm snaking across Ray's chest, fingers playing in the chest hair peeking from the top of his sweatshirt.

Ray took a few short breaths; this was right, this was where he was meant to be. His eyes half-closed, he turned his head, mouth searching for a piece of Bodie, sighing when their lips connected.

"Know some good exercises for your hip," Bodie murmured as he leisurely ran his fingers around a quivering belly. Carefully he pulled Doyle's sweatpants off.

"Yeah?" Ray kept reaching for Bodie's head, trying to bring it back into kissing distance, but it kept alluding his hands, as it nuzzled amongst the hairy chest. When had Bodie pushed his shirt up? He jumped when a hot mouth attached itself to his nipple and began sucking. "GOD!"

"No, 's just me." Bodie grinned at him briefly before settling between slightly spread legs. Very gently, he bent Ray's knees, pushing them slowly and carefully up and farther apart, stopping as Doyle hissed in pain. "Do you good, sweetheart, just wait."

"Bodie!" Exercise was right; Ray's hips couldn't resist joining in on the up and down rhythm of Bodie's mouth once it fastened itself to his throbbing cock and began sucking. It was hard to distinguish the pain of his injuries from the pleasure/pain that was rapidly escalating in his groin, and soon he was flying higher than he'd ever imagined, before the world disappeared.

When he opened his eyes, Bodie was cradling him in his arms, smiling happily, and he grinned back him drowsily. "Best exercise around, mate."

"Not the BEST," Bodie answered back. "But we'll save that till we're home again."

They lay quietly, arms wrapped around each other for quite a while, until Ray remembered what Bodie had originally been up here doing.

"So what'd Cowley say?"

"Not gonna like it, sunshine. Alex has a rock-solid alibi; dancing the night away as Best man at a wedding up in York. Spent the weekend there, and enough people saw him at different times to convince Cowley he couldn't have gotten down here, murdered his brother and gone back to York without someone noticing his absence."

"What about Stephen?" Ray asked quietly.

"Nothing. No one saw him anywhere. Of course, no one saw him kill David either, which doesn't really mean much, does it?" Bodie nosed around the curly head, and Ray jumped when teeth nipped at the top of his ear.

"Bodie! 's enough." He laughed at the little-boy pout Bodie affected. "What'd Jax and Murph find out about the Committee?"

"Nothin'. Had the vote yesterday, and nobody went near Lord Rickards to ask him to change his decision or anything. Cow's about decided the two have nothing to do with each other."


Appropriately enough, the morning of the funeral was overcast and misty, dampness collecting in little rivulets on the window. Doyle watched Bodie staring out and grinned at the sour-lemon look on his face. "Don't know which is more dismal mate-- you or the crud outside!"

Bodie let out a pent-up breath and padded over to sit on the edge of the bed, tweaking the narrow toes sticking out from under the coverlet. Tilting his head slightly, Ray peeped up at him, forehead wrinkling in concern. He knew why Bodie was feeling gloomy today; truth was, he wasn't terribly cheery himself.

"We have to consider it, Bodie; wouldn't be doing our job otherwise. I found it pretty easy to like Stephen m'self. Just because I have trouble imagining myself doing it to you, doesn't mean Stephen isn't capable of killing his lover. Doesn't take much, you know, and once it's done...can't be fixed. And Alex did say David was gonna break it off with Steven."

The phone rang in another part of the house, and soon Stephen was knocking on the door. "Phone's for Ray, or you, Bodie, if Ray's not available. It's the Inspector; says he has information on the car that ran you down. You can get it in the library or kitchen."

The library was closer, so they opted for the telephone in there. Ray picked it up, sitting gingerly on the edge of the desk chair.

"Doyle."

"Ah, hullo, mending well?"

"Much better, thanks very much. Stephen said you had more information on the car that hit me?"

"Yes. A lady in the tearoom was looking out the window just as the car came up. Got a bit of the license 'GIT' and that a blonde man was driving it. Ran a list of cars with 'GIT' as part of the registration and came up with 72 in this area. One of them belongs to Stephen Orin. Wanted to let you know, just in case."

"We've been having our own ideas about him for the last few hours. Thanks for the update."

He slowly replaced the receiver and looked at Bodie sadly. "Hate it when this happens, you know? Really wanted it to be Alex; I don't like him."

A knock on the door interrupted them, and Steven stuck his head in again. "We'll be leaving in about an hour."

"Ta. We'll be ready, just need to have a shower." Bodie turned a pensive gaze on Doyle after the door shut. "How would you feel; no, what would you do if I told you I didn't love you anymore, and wanted to leave?"

"Die." He stared at Bodie, watching the blue eyes widen, and start to cloud. Carefully he stood up, teeth clenching as he tried to ignore the throbbing in his hip. He contemplated the hand held out to him, before he smiled and grabbed Bodie's shoulder, looping the arm around his waist. "But then, you aren't, so I won't, right?"

"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't ya, sunshine?" The twinkle in Bodie's eyes assured Ray he was being mildly teased. Nibbles on the back of his neck made him shiver, and he elbowed Bodie gently in the ribs. He wasn't about to have Bodie start something that couldn't properly be completed with this damn hip aching.

"Nah, just sure of you!" He grinned as they headed toward the shower, his mind busy contemplating the upcoming funeral and Stephen's possible guilt, but mainly his attention was on the man he was leaning into so contentedly. He still couldn't believe all that'd happened to them -- ......and to him, so quickly.

Bodie propped him in the shower stall, and left him to it, before heading back to the library to nose around. Working as quickly and carefully as possible, Doyle lathered himself up and rinsed off, before turning his attention to his hair. He'd always found it rather amusing how much Bodie liked his curls, but in the past few days he'd decided it was more of an obsession than anything.

Once in awhile he had considered barking or meowing when Bodie started petting him, but controlled the urge. He actually enjoyed the feel of fingers running around on his head, massaging the tensions away and gently pulling tangles apart. He did wonder how Bodie felt about eating mouthfuls of hair every night, but as the man persisted in sleeping with his nose buried in a mound of curls, Ray figured it couldn't be entirely unpleasant.

Doyle painstakingly climbed from the shower and dried himself off, then hobbled slowly back to the bedroom. It was getting easier to move around, but it was nice to lean on Bodie; though he'd never, ever give him the satisfaction of knowing it, not with his infernal over-protective streak. Given half a chance, Bodie would cheerfully spend the rest of his life trying to fight Doyle's battles for him, and Ray smiled a little, warmth spreading through him; finally he had someone who actually cared enough to worry about him.

A gunshot reverberating through the house caused him to stumble slightly, and he sagged against the wall as Bodie came charging out the library door, eyes wild, gun clutched in his hand. He paused at the sight of Doyle wrapped in his towel, then continued cautiously down the hall. Limping as quickly as possible into the bedroom; he struggling into his jeans, trying to ignore the pains from his various bruises, his only thought being to get his gun and go find Bodie.

Gasping, he dropped to his knees and pulled his gun case out from under the bed. He turned abruptly as Bodie came pounding down the hallway, and had to grab hold of the bed when his hip gave out under him. He stared up at Bodie, not sure how to interpret the blank expression his face.

"He's dead." The tone of his voice matched the dazed eyes, and Ray's skin grew clammy. "He used your gun, Ray. He shot himself with your gun, Stephen did."

Ray shook his head slowly in confusion. "My gun's here, Bodie. Here, in my case, see?" Shifting positions slightly he opened his -- empty -- case, staring inside with disbelief. "I know I locked it. Are you sure, Bodie?"

"Christ Ray, of course I'm sure. At least I'm sure he's dead and holding your gun!" He tramped over and hooked a hand around Doyle's upper arm hauling him to his feet. "Come along and see for yourself then. I've already called the Inspector; this is his business now."

" Ow! Careful Bodie, you'll do me a bigger injury if you're not careful! Go on, then, I'll be right behind you." Ray followed closely behind Bodie, who walked a bit slower than was his wont. They paused outside the kitchen door, and taking a deep breath Doyle went through.

"Oh Christ." He looked away quickly, swallowing, then allowed his eyes to slowly travel around the room before once again settling on the slumped form in the corner. It was definitely Stephen, and Ray imagined he was very dead, what with the wall being splattered with bits of brain and blood. Rather reminded him of an abstract painting he'd seen once; couldn't remember when, and he hadn't really liked the painter, although she'd been more than willing to show him the rest of her artwork.

Gradually the sound of Bodie's worried voice broke through the rushing in his ears, and he turned blindly, wanting to get as far away from the body as possible.

He brushed aside Bodie's grasping hands and stumbled back to the bedroom, the scene next to the stove superimposing itself onto a similarly bloody, quarter-century old setting in an old shed. Images of his uncle's face alternated in his mind with that of Stephen's, and he barely made it to the bedroom door before a red haze covered his eyes and he tumbled to the ground, the floor suddenly disappearing beneath him.

At first he thought he was back in hospital, the sensations similar; spinning head, fingers clutching his. Gradually he realized this bed was much too soft to be industrial, and the noises he usually associated with the medical arena were missing. He carefully opened his eyes to see Bodie peering intently at him, worry lines creasing his forehead. A smile erased most of the concern as his eyes connected with Ray's open ones, and he carefully ruffled curls.

"How're you feelin', sunshine?"

Doyle didn't say anything for a moment as his befuddled brain worked through the happenings of the past few...what? Hours? Minutes? Couldn't be days. He started to ask what happened before realizing how trite it sounded and changed it to a question of how long he'd been out.

"Maybe half an hour or so. Police got here right after you walked out, then I came up here and found you sprawled on the carpet. Gave me quite a scare, you did!"

"Sorry. Never did that before! It reminded me, you know...my uncle, and seeing the mess on the wall; I guess my feeble brain decided it didn't want to think, and...sorry." He pulled his fingers from Bodie's grasp and turned his head away, feeling shame at his weakness surge through him. A gentle tug on an errant curl brought his face back around and he looked at Bodie, expecting ridicule. Instead, finding himself facing a look of such compassion, he swallowed hard, stubbornly refusing more tears.

"Not your fault, sunshine. None of it was, so don't you get started on one of your guilt trips. Got powder burns on his hand and forehead, so he definitely shot hims--- what?"

"My gun." He was sure he'd locked the case after he'd cleaned the weapon when they first got here. It was second nature to him; there was no way he'd forget. Although, with all that had been on his mind that day, it might be possible he'd forgotten. "My mind was on you, not the job; what if I forgot to lock it and --"

"RAY! God, sweetheart, will you shuddup and listen to me?" Hard hands clutching the sides of his face finally got through to Doyle and he wound down, waiting for Bodie to speak. "He had your keys, they were on the floor beside him. Probably got them while you were in the shower and I was wandering around the library. He could have taken mine just as easily if the situations had been reversed. Not your damn fault!"

"Right. Sorry, mate, I'm tired." He supposed they were done with the job now, and could finally go home, but one thing still puzzled him. "So did Stephen do it? Kill David, I mean? Do you think he heard us talking last night?"

Bodie shrugged. "No idea, but that's police business now. Had nothing to do with Lord Whos-its, vote's over and nobody bothered him, so it has nothing to do with CI5 anymore. We can pack up and be on our way just as soon as you get out of that bed. "

Ray grinned at him, mind running along all sorts of pleasant tangents. "Hm, yeah. And the sooner we get home, the sooner this hip will get back to normal, and the sooner we can--" He grinned as Bodie starting laughing.

"Oh, sunshine, we certainly can -- all that and more -- as soon as you can move. " He gently outlined Ray's mouth with the tip of his tongue, and Doyle nipped it as it passed by on the second go-round. He was all set for a serious exploration of Bodie's mouth when a knock on the door caused his heart to skip. Bodie quickly jumped up and opened the door to reveal the Inspector.

After inquiring about Doyle, he settled into the chair next to the table and proceeded to fill them in on what had been found so far. Or rather, what hadn't been found. No note crying out his remorse for murdering his lover, or claiming he couldn't live alone forever, nothing to clear up all the questions.

"We will, of course, continue our investigations, but I imagine this will eventually go into the 'unsolved file'. I did have a man out checking his car. Found a dent in the front that could have been made by a body hitting it, but... " From the disgruntled cast to his mouth, it was easy for Doyle to see that this didn't sit easily with him. But then, unsolved crimes -- especially murders -- were a thorn in the side of any good copper, and he could sympathize easily. There were entirely too many files like that in the country, and it irked him that people could literally get away with murder. This particular thorn wasn't for him and Bodie, however, and all he wanted to do now was get as far away from Hastings as he could.


Epilog

Laying in the bed next to Bodie, Ray was feeling both exhausted and high as a kite. He nestled closer to the man who'd just finished loving the stuffing out of him, and sighed. Bodie's arms tightened around him, nose buried in sweaty curls.

"You're thinkin' again, aren't ya, sunshine?" The smile Ray knew was on Bodie's lips was apparent in the voice. "Wanna share?"

"Hmm. Was just thinking about Cookie and June; how if it hadn't been for her, there wouldn't be an us. Guess I should be grateful to her, huh?" He squirmed around until he was facing Bodie, and tried pinching his legs with bony toes.

Bodie, laughing, moved deftly out of the way, and the wrestling match began in earnest, both men knowing they'd each come out a winner.

END

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