Author's notes: fic. A very merry Christmas, – hope my story pushes at least some of your buttons… I did my best to hit them! 🙂 Check list: h/c, post-ep, the lads being LADS, verbal friction, no syrupy hospital scenes, weak, watery waiflike Doyle with Big Butch Bodie

It had happened gradually, so there was no way CI5's finest (at least according to himself) William Andrew Philip Bodie could pinpoint one moment as starting point for the whole thing. Not that it mattered, really. All he knew was that, somehow, sometime along the way, he had come to love his partner as he hadn't loved anyone in his whole eventful life.

The few women he had allowed into his heart could definitely not compare, not even Marika, although it hurt to admit this, considering all the trouble that affair had gotten him into. There just wasn't a way to measure his love for Raymond Doyle – it had taken roots deep inside, in that part of himself that Bodie kept carefully guarded. His feelings for Ray (great agent, good friend, springy curls, green eyes, slightly-manic giggles, occasional tears, man-parts and all) had become so entwined with everything Bodie was that sometimes Bodie feared he would simply stop to exist should he be robbed of his love for some reason.

Oh, he would continue to breathe, that he knew – Bodie wasn't such a fool to believe that people actually went and died of things like a broken heart – but without Ray, Bodie's life would stop being worth living. Quite a pathetic insight, but one that Bodie had come to accept as one of the basic facts of his life: Fight hard, obey Cowley (mostly), and keep Ray alive. Which was why seeing Ray on that operating table was almost more than Bodie had been able to take.

Yet he had kept watching, had had to – both as a punishment for having failed the most important of his three commandments and because a part of him was completely convinced that Ray would come back if only Bodie stayed.

And come back Ray did, waking up to find Bodie hovering behind the nurse, not even pretending to ogle her, pretty as she was (of course). Instead, when Ray's eyes opened, Bodie was at his side in a flash, hands aching to hold the twitching fingers. He held back – barely, and he knew it showed, despite his efforts to hold up a manly front. Therefore, and because he knew his partner so well, he was not really surprised at Ray's first words: "Always knew you were a big softie, Bodie."

The insulted was too relieved to hear the familiar voice to protest – his Ray was alive, that was all that mattered. For now at least. He'd be sure to retaliate as soon as the shock wore off and he was his normal, stoic self again. So he just shrugged, smiling with too-bright eyes, and muttered: "Great choice of first words, mate – sheer poetry!"

If he was honest with himself (a habit he had only recently developed, brought on by hours spent waiting around in a variety of hospital rooms), Bodie was a bit hurt at the lack of feeling Ray displayed. One would think that, coming back from the dead, Doyle might have had an epiphany (regarding the wish to spend the rest of his life with Bodie), or at the very least realized what he had in his partner and said something appreciative. Obviously, despite being the artistic one, Ray Doyle lacked a certain… post-death experience etiquette, Bodie mused.

His musing (and secret pouting) was interrupted quite rudely by the aforementioned offender, who was completely oblivious and only snorted: "What did you expect? A declaration of love?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, mate, but I think the nurse is married." The terse reply left a ashen taste in Bodie's mouth. Ray's flip words had hit a little close to home, and Bodie pulled back behind his usual front, tucking those pesky romantic feelings away to that corner of his heart where they'd lain safely hidden before he found Ray lying in a pool of his own blood.

"Oh, I bet she'll be less married when the right guy asks her out…" Ray's grin was smug, and Bodie conveniently forgot that only hours ago he would have been over the moon to see that smile again.

Things went downhill from there – during Ray's struggle with death, Bodie's subconscious had obviously suppressed the knowledge of how annoying his partner could be. While he tended to display a disconcerting lack of regard for his personal safety while on the job, Ray had the habit of complaining incessantly and demanding a lot of attention as soon as he was out of grave danger. Bodie normally didn't mind this, but after days of being spread thin between his CI5 investigations and hours at the hospital, even Bodie's nerves (which he normally claimed were non-existing) were starting to be frayed.

It took two days of Ray being on his worst behavior (demanding and rude to Bodie while flirting incessantly with anything in a skirt, and even Murphy when he came by), and Bodie almost wished his partner had died on that table. Of course, right after catching himself thinking like this, Bodie felt guilty, because, no matter what, he still loved the guy and woke up at night from nightmares in which Ray's heart stopped beating – and Bodie did not like feeling guilty, as it did not go at all with his self-image.

The emotional rollercoaster even began to take a serious toll on his legendary appetite, a fact that a part of him hoped wouldn't go unnoticed by Ray (although he of course did his best to hide it). Still there was no word, no look, not the smallest sign that his sufferings mattered in the least bit. Bodie grew more and more resentful, while Ray continued to mend and heal at his usual unnaturally speedy rate, soon starting to talk about returning back to his flat and active duty. And when Bodie expressed his concern that Ray might be overdoing it in physical therapy, all he got was an expressive eye-roll and an annoyed: "Quit mothering me, Bodie! One could start thinking you didn't want me back out there with you…"

This would have been the perfect opening for a confession of Bodie's true feelings, instead Bodie grunted something that was meant to express his disdain for the remark but only led to Ray shooting him yet another dark look and Bodie leaving on a fictional errand from Cowley. All too soon he was back at the hospital, though, unable to resist the urge to check that Ray was doing fine. This pattern was followed faithfully by both of them until the doctors declared Ray to be ready to go home, as long as he had someone to look in on him every day. Not surprisingly (hospital stays were hard on the budget, after all) Cowley agreed and gave the task of looking after 4.5 to his partner (who, admittedly, only put up a token protest).

So Bodie brought Ray to his new, uncompromised place, which he had made sure beforehand was equipped with all his partner might need or want. Then (ignoring the voice in his head that kept screaming at him not to leave Ray alone) Bodie bid his good-byes and promised to be back the next morning after the briefing at CI5.

Ray was lounging on the couch (pretending hard not to be tired although Bodie could tell) and shot him a disbelieving look as he approached the door: "How can you be so dense, Bodie? You're of course staying here."

Bodie could feel his eyes pop out of his head. He had thought Ray would be glad to be rid of him and have some time for himself. "Did I miss a memo from Cowley about more budget cuts or what are you getting at, mate?"

Ray shook his head in exasperation so that his curls went flying, but his voice remained calm (too calm, a dangerous sign): "Bodie. I was shot only recently. I'm still hurting. Maybe this has clouded my ability to speak clearly." He sat up on the couch and flinched, causing Bodie to step closer almost against his will. "But probably you're thick skull is getting in the way of understanding what should be clear to everyone: I want you. Have for a while. And after all that has happened, I have no intention of letting you get away from me. So, if you have even a bit of compassion, you won't make me get up and kick your butt but get said butt (which is very attractive, by the way) over here and come to bed with me."

Bodie was shell-shocked. He had never doubted his ability to attract sexual partners (although admittedly they were normally female), but he had completely missed this. And now Ray was sitting there, looking at him impatiently. Finally his finely honed instincts kicked in and he closed the gap between them, leaning down and claiming Ray's (oh so inviting) lips hungrily. Wouldn't do to let him get away, after all.

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