Paul Valera wiped his eyes and sat back heavily on the sofa, leaving Bob Tate spread out on the floor, sweating and flushed with embarrassment.
"Shit!" Bob hissed, sitting up and quickly burying his face in his hands.
Falling foul to another fit of laughter, Paul bit his lip painfully and attempted to pull himself together.
"Sorry," Bob's pathetic voice whispered.
Paul smiled lovingly at the big man who was writhing in embarrassment, "Don't be. It was my fault, I pushed you too far too quickly."
"God I'm a prat."
"Bob, it's okay. It takes time to get used to being touched that way."
"But I screamed."
Paul began to lose his self control again, "Yeah...You did."
"An' it was such a girly scream," Bob sighed
The younger man immediately succumbed to the laugh almost bursting from his chest, "Oh yeah...it was that."
Looking up at the sniggering young man, Bob felt himself smile through his shame.
This was all proving harder than he ever thought possible. After all, he loved Paul, passionately and deeply, but the physical side of the relationship was more complicated than he'd ever dreamed it could be.
Paul had insisted that it was merely his pig headed, heterosexual conditioning denying that he was feeling what he was feeling for another man and that he needed to get over the mental block before he could conquer the physical one.
Somehow, Bob knew what was wrong; it was the secrecy and the lies.
Having gone back to work and tried to carry on as though nothing was wrong, Bob found himself having to lie about what was going on at home.
Oh Charlie had guessed, but he hadn't actually had the balls to say; 'I'm in love with another man and we're trying to make it work.'
It just wasn't that easy, you see. Not after all these years of skirt chasing to suddenly come out to your mates that you've turned into a shirt lifter instead.
That was another thing that Paul got pissed about, Bob thought with a sigh. The way he used such crude euphemisms for just being plain 'homosexual'. Like if he used 'bad' words, it somehow excused how guilty he felt about the whole thing.
It wasn't easy for a lifelong homophobe to fall in love with another man.
"Come here and sit down you big idiot," Paul smiled and patted the sofa beside him.
Bob climbed to his feet before dropping down beside Paul. He took the younger man's hand and squeezed it, "Sorry, mate."
"You don't have to be sorry about anything. It was my fault, I pushed you. It's okay Bob, really." Paul stroked his hand down Bob's face and rested his head on the older man's shoulder, "We're making progress. We're sleeping together."
"I told you, that's okay. It's a first step."
"You deserve more."
"I don't 'deserve' anything. Just stop beating yourself up over this and we might get you relaxed enough to enjoy yourself."
Bob lay his head back on the sofa, "You don't think I enjoy being with you, do you?" he asked suddenly.
"Of course I think you enjoy it or you wouldn't be here!"
"I love you, you know."
Paul slid his arm around Bob's wide chest and snuggled in, "I know you big prat!" he teased, "Now stop worrying and turn the TV on, Celtic are playing Lazio tonight and I want to see them kick the shit out of that smug Italian centre half."
Laughing, Bob clicked on the TV and settled Paul across his chest, "In your dreams mate!"
"Okay chaps!" Charlie grinned at the women in the room, "We have a very nasty little number going down here. Some poor bloke walking his dog found this young gentleman tied to a fence this morning.
The young man was already dead; he was a barman at The Fisherman pub, nineteen years old, no criminal record. We also discovered that the local jewellers had been done over at about the same time and the security guard there had been bashed with a similar blunt object as the kid; SOCO have just said that it looks like the same weapon for certain. The boy was also spotted chatting to a group of men last night, no one recognized them, they weren't regulars, but they all left together at closing time.
Now we don't know if the two crimes are connected, all we do know is that this young man was gay, so we could be looking at a group of gay-bashers or maybe he just picked up the wrong bloke in a pub and got in the way of the jewellery job or he could even have been involved and just ran out of luck with his partners in crime.
However, someone took time-and pleasure-in making this young man suffer before he died. He had a fractured skull, broken ribs and pelvis, his face was almost caved in, he'd been stripped, beaten and sexually assaulted.
This is not pretty, but look and learn, I want your opinions. We've inherited this off CID because of possible links with the jewellery job, lets show those cocky bastards we can solve this one!"
As Bob lifted the photographs and leafed through them he felt his stomach lurch. The young man in the picture could have easily passed for a younger version of Paul. Small, slim and blonde with what must have once been delicate features.
"You all right, mate? You've gone as pale as milk!" Charlie rested his hand on Bob's shoulder.
"Yeah, I just...this is a mess."
"Don't I know it, the poor old bloke who found him had to have hospital treatment for shock."
"Why? Why the hell do this?"
Charlie shook his head, "Is this the Bob Tate we know and love? The same one who once said 'bastards don't need reasons'?"
"I know, but Christ, Guv, he was a kid."
"Like that makes a difference? You know the score, Bob. He was a gay kid in a straight world; that put him at a disadvantage before he started. Then he was in this area at about 2am, which was stupid in its self. I know hardened coppers who won't patrol that area alone. He was under ten stone, pretty and vulnerable."
"So you're saying he deserved it?"
"No I'm bloody well not!" Charlie gasped, "I'm saying that he had the odds stacked against him before he met whoever did that to him."
"Well it still stinks!" Bob raged, throwing the photos onto the desk.
"Tell me about it! So get out there and find these bastards and we'll make them pay!"
It had been a lousy day, not just depressing but the rain was pissing down and no one had seen anything as usual.
Bob made his way home, letting himself into the flat wearily, "Paul?" There was no sound from anywhere in the place, "Paul?" he shouted a little louder.
Why he wasn't sure, but he could feel the panic setting into his stomach, the wild fluttering, accompanied by sweating as he moved from room to empty room.
"Paul, goddamnit, answer me!"
Almost at his wits end he grabbed the phone; but whom exactly was he going to call? And what was he going to say? Excuse me but my gay lover is missing, I left him alone for a few hours and now he's not here?
Suddenly something fluttered to the floor from the side of the phone. Bending down Bob picked up a piece of paper. Written on it was:
I got a job! They needed a mechanic right away down at O'Mara's garage so I said I'd take it. You know how I hate being a kept man.
See you later
Hands trembling, Bob replaced the still purring receiver and sat down.
"Kept man or not, I'm buying you a bloody mobile phone!" he growled slamming the note onto the table.
It was only when he leaned back and thought about it that he realised O'Mara's garage was a few streets away from the murder scene, right in the heart of the gay community. No way was he letting Paul walk home through there tonight; he'd go pick him up.
The fact that he had no idea what time he was finishing didn't matter as Bob headed back out of the door without even stopping for a drink or a sandwich.
Pulling the car to a halt across the road from the garage, Bob shut off the engine and settled in to wait for Paul to show.
There were those, including everyone who ever knew Bob Tate, who would say that he was acting a little irrationally over Paul, but each time he closed his eyes, visions of that boy strung up on the fence, battered and bleeding drifted into view and he thought 'screw 'em'. He was protective over Paul Valera and right now he didn't care who knew it.
Suddenly someone rapped on the car window, frowning Bob wound the window down to see a young man, no more than seventeen or eighteen standing there. Tall, but still slender, he leaned into the car, "Hello. You looking for company?"
Irritated slightly by the kids sheer stupidity, Bob frowned, "How old are you?"
"Eighteen, why you got a problem with that?" the youth pouted.
"Make that: 'you got a problem with that 'officer'," Bob pulled out his warrant card and the young man backed off like someone burned.
"Hey, I was just saying hello, mate!"
"Do you know that a kid about your age was murdered around here last night?"
"Don't look at me, I was with my mates..."
Bob shook his head and sighed, "Go home kid, where you're safe. This game's not for little boys like you."
Ignoring the angrily spat profanities as the boy raced off, Bob rested his head back wearily. This damned job twinned with the secrecy surrounding his relationship with Paul was beginning to tell on him.
It wasn't like he was ashamed of Paul or anything, he just didn't want his business spread all over the cop shop to give the homophobes a good giggle.
'You mean like you always did' a voice in his head taunted, 'Oh yeah, you were always so supportive of your colleagues with 'alternative lifestyles' weren't you Bob? Like when Sergeant Liz Patterson made the announcement that she was moving in with Constable Pam Rider, you were very supportive. Suggested that they rename the house 'Dyke-Land' I seem to remember.'
'Funny how things come back to bite you on the arse really, isn't it?' Bob sighed. If anyone had ever even hinted that big, butch Bob Tate would fall in love with a man, he'd have beaten them senseless.
Admitting that you're wrong is never easy. Admitting that the ideals you've clung onto all of your life are just plain misguided is the hardest thing in the world to do.
In the past few days he'd even begun to wonder if he could always have been attracted to men, or if Paul really was a 'one off' thing? A part of Bob Tate didn't really want to even think about stuff like that.
He was straight.
Yeah, a straight man living and sleeping with another man.
'Do me a favour!' the voice taunted. 'I suppose when he's yanking on your dick you're thinking of Pamela Anderson?'
'No,' Bob answered himself, 'I'm thinking of Paul Valera.'
"Oh fuck...I'm gay," Bob said aloud.
Suddenly there was a tap on the car window making Bob jump. Looking up he saw Paul at the window with a puzzled expression on his face.
"What are you doing here?" Paul asked as the window slid down.
"Waiting for you."
"Why not? Come on get in, I'm starving. We'll pick up a curry on the way home."
Paul slid into the passenger seat, still frowning, "So, come on, why are you here?"
"Look, there was a young bloke murdered around here last night and it's not safe for you to be out wandering the streets."
"Are you my mother? Bob, I'm a big boy."
"I know, its just that he was...erm.."
Paul glanced over and an angry look shadowed his face, "He was what, Bob?"
"It was a very nasty beating and murder and I just didn't want you..."
"He was what Bob?" Paul demanded.
"He was gay, all right? He was a young, slim, blonde gay kid and they beat him unrecognisable, sexually assaulted him, killed him then strung him up on the fucking fence like some sacrificial offering!"
Paul swallowed hard. It was rare for Bob to be so angry and so upset over anything, but it was clear that this had hit a little close to home for him to handle alone.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Paul's voice was almost a whisper, "Thanks for picking me up."
"It's okay. How did it go?"
"Fine, seems like a good place. It'll do for now and at least I'll be able to pay my way."
"Bob, I didn't mean it like that, I know you've never asked me to, but I want to. I need to be independent."
Bob threw Paul a brief smile, "Yeah, I know."
"But you're still buying the curry tonight because I don't get paid for another week!"
The laughter in the car dissipated the tension and anger, letting both men relax at last.
Lying back on the sofa with Paul dozing blissfully against his chest, Bob turned the phrase over and over in his head. 'I'm gay'.
How did it happen? When did it happen? Was it always there, just lying dormant waiting for a vulnerable, fragile man like Paul Valera to wake up the feeling? Or did Paul just stroll into Bob's life and change his lifelong orientation?
Bob groaned as the thoughts almost sent him insane, it was like going around in ever decreasing circles.
"Stop it," Paul's sleepy voice mumbled.
"Whatever it is you're torturing yourself with. I can almost hear the gears in your brain grating. Pack it in!"
"I was just thinking."
"Don't be ridiculous, you're a copper!" Paul opened his eyes and grinned.
"I could always take you to bed and ravish you?"
Bob glanced down at the smirking face resting against him, "Yeah?" he said warily.
"Or you could ravish me, that would be very nice."
"Yeah," Paul pushed himself up and moved into Bob's arms, "I'd keep my hands to myself this time!"
"I know, I was just kidding."
"No, I was going to say, let's give it a try?" The expression on Paul's face made Bob laugh, "What?"
"Are you serious? You do mean...'sex'?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure I could be on the receiving end...not yet anyway."
Paul tried to scrabble up from the sofa, "No, I mean...that's okay, no problem. I don't mind being...er...having...er, come on then."
"I'm not going to change my mind, if that's what you think."
"No, no." Paul helped Bob to his feet and headed for the bedroom at breakneck speed.
Trying not to laugh out loud, Bob followed him in and watched him quickly strip off his jeans and tee shirt.
"That's the best you can do to as a strip to turn me on?"
"Wha..? oh, sorry!" Paul stood stark naked staring at the jeans and underwear in his hands.
"Paul, I've given this a lot of thought, I'm not going to change my mind, just relax," Bob took the clothes from his grasp and threw them onto the chair, before wrapping his arms around Paul playfully.
"Hang on, that's my line, isn't it?"
'Just relax, everything's going to be fine," Paul laughed, "Oh hell, Bob. How did I ever fall in love with a copper. A big, tough straight copper?"
"Maybe not so straight after all."
"That's what you've been thinking about isn't it? Was I ever really 'straight' or always a bit 'bent'," Paul teased, knowing he'd hit the spot when Bob's eyes narrowed and a puzzled frown etched itself on his face.
"How did you know?"
"It wasn't difficult to work out, you had that 'Oh shit I think I'm gay' look on your face when you picked me up earlier. If you'd just get over the label you'd feel happier about us. You're still trying to put yourself into a 'straight' or 'gay' category and it's just not always that simple. Why stick to black or white when there are a thousand shades of grey to choose from?"
"I really hate it when you're right," Bob laughed.
"Aw, come here you big macho bastard!" Paul wrapped his arms around Bob's neck and began to kiss him, slowly at first, tenderly. He lifted the tee shirt over the older mans head and unbuttoned the jeans, pushing them to the floor.
"You know I love you?" Bob muttered.
"I'm going to tell everybody on the squad about us, finally 'come out', I think I need to stop making us a 'dirty little secret'."
Paul pulled back, "Shit!"
"Are you sure? It's a big step, Bob. You're a copper and I'm an ex-con."
"And I'm living and sleeping with you, I can't keep lying about that, Paul, it's doing my head in."
"Okay, if you're sure."
"No I'm not 'sure' I'm scared shitless, but I can't keep living this way pretending that you don't exist and that I'm not dancing to a different tune these days."
"Big Bob Tate's gone butter side up!" Paul teased as they climbed into bed and cuddled close.
Leaning over, Bob licked across Paul's nipple slowly, tantalizingly softly, sending shudders through Paul. "Yeah, it's your fault I've 'gone gay'," he laughed.
"Well, they warned you that it was contagious, you probably caught it off a dirty toilet seat."
"That or the 'enemy' is putting 'gay' drugs in the water supply to send all red blooded men queer so they can invade."
"I'll hit them with my fucking handbag if they do," Paul began to giggle helplessly as Bob's tongue tickled down his chest.
"Hey, don't laugh, I've met men who believe that kind of shit!" Bob sighed, "What am I saying, I was probably one of them."
"But I've taught you the error of your ways?"
"Something like that!" Bob's hand slid across the younger man's thigh, the flesh quivered and his cock bounced in response.
Paul ran his fingers through Bob's hair, enjoying the sensation of being touched so intimately at last.
Bob and Paul had slept together, kissed and touched but Bob had so far been unable to overcome his fear of touching another man's genitals. He'd been okay with Paul performing oral sex on him but the idea of doing it in return had filled him with horror. And when Paul had gently slid a finger into Bob as they'd been messing around, he'd yelled and shuddered.
Bob Tate was a prat.
That was his expert opinion; he was an idiot who risked losing someone who loved him because he insisted on clinging to his macho heterosexual ideas of what 'sex' was.
He cupped Paul's balls in his hand, stroking the sensitive skin with his thumb, then taking a breath, he slid his tongue along the length of Paul's quivering cock.
The younger man hissed out 'Shit!' and his body tensed.
Bob felt a thrill course through him, grasping the shaft he slipped his mouth over the head and gently sucked, teasing with his tongue, feeling it grow harder in his mouth.
He'd imagined that the sensation would be unpleasant, but far from it, it was incredible.
"Stop now, I kill you," Paul groaned.
Bob's laugh vibrated through Paul's body and suddenly he could see a whole new world of possibilities if something so easy could give so much pleasure.
Slowly he pulled back and Paul began to breathe again, gulping in air.
"Have you got everything there I need?" he murmured. Paul nodded and handed him a tube and a condom.
"If I screw this up, you'll let me know?"
"Too fucking right I'll let you know!" Paul's laugh became a sob as Bob nervously touched him with slicked fingers.
"You sure this doesn't hurt?"
"No, it doesn't, get on with it."
Taking his time, Bob worked Paul loose then began to massage the lube into his own lively erection, "You're sure?"
"Stupid fucking question of the millennium!" Paul grunted, pulling Bob close, "Get on with it you big bastard!"
With a smile and a silent prayer, Bob pushed himself against Paul, effortlessly sliding in. "Oh jeezus," he gasped as Paul gripped him tightly.
Long slender legs wrapped around him, holding him close. Deceptively powerful arms tugged at his shoulders, hauling him in for a sizzling kiss, a hand sneaked downwards, pinching his nipple; the pain jolting all the way to the wet head of his cock still buried deep inside.
Bob slapped the hand away as Paul reached down to satisfy his own need, taking the rock hard column in his own hand and pumping in time with his thrusts, he brought Paul to a screaming conclusion, the younger man's head and shoulders lifting from the bed as the powerful orgasm ripped at him, sweat trickling down his face, breath shallow and rasping, skin on fire, muscles turned to water; he flopped back against the bed, drained and sated as Bob pulled out and slumped down beside him.
Paul slipped his arm across Bob's chest and settled his head onto the bigger man's shoulde. "Were you okay with that?"
"Yeah, it was good."
"I don't want you doing anything just to please me, you know."
"So, if I don't it to please you, why do I do it?"
Paul pushed himself up slightly and glared, "You know what I mean."
With a smile, Bob pulled him close, "Yeah, I know what you mean. And I did it because it felt 'right', okay. We're together and I needed to take the next step."
"God, you're sexy when you're being noble!"
"Gobby little shite!" Bob pushed Paul back against the bed and began to kiss him, "You'll pay for that!"
"Ah, my kinda debt!"
Taking a deep breath before he walked into the office, Bob cleared his throat nervously, this was it: the big day.
He was greeted in his usual manner, exchanging insults with several members of the squad before heading for Charlie Scott's office.
Stopping in the doorway, he turned, "Oh by the way, if you lot want to meet me in the pub later, there's a free drink in it."
"Shit, Bob's paying, what's the event, end of the world?" someone laughed.
He grinned and nodded before knocking on the office door. They might be right, it could be the end of Bob's world.
"Can I have a word in private, Guv?"
"Yeah, Bob, come on in."
Closing the door, he wandered in and sat down gingerly. His stomach was turning over and he felt the urge to run, but there was no turning back, this had to be done.
"Guv, there's something I need to tell you."
"Bob, before you start, let me ask you one question. Is this about Paul Valera?"
Trying not to look shocked, Bob nodded mutely.
"Well, I'm sorry D.S Tate, but D.I Scott's very busy at the moment, you'll have to make an appointment if you want to discuss matters pertaining to your career. Thank you, good day." Charlie stood up and walked around the desk, "Right, now that officious bastard is out of the way, what can 'Charlie' do for 'Bob'?" he smiled.
"I think you already know what I'm going to say, but I need to tell you. Paul Valera is living with me as my er...my..."
"Boyfriend?" Charlie asked quietly.
Bob glanced up still expecting to see ridicule, but found none. "Yeah, he's my boyfriend, my partner, whatever you want to call it. I just can't go on pretending that it's not happening when I'm here at work and somebody throws a 'queer' joke my way expecting me to pick it up and run with it."
"Like you used to you mean?"
"Yeah, like I used to. It hits home these days and it...hurts. I am such a fucking hypocrite!" Bob rested his head in his hands, "How the hell it happened I don't know, but somewhere along the line, I fell in love with another bloke."
"So you do love him?"
"Well then, that's all there is to it. Oh and by the way, D.I Scott might be able to fit you in about a year from now, for that chat, okay?"
Bob smiled, "Yeah, okay thanks Charlie."
"Oh and do I still get the free drink tonight?"
"They'll understand you know," Charlie said with a smile, "I know you think it'll change everything, but it won't. They'll be okay with it."
"I hope so because I think it's real this time. No more fucking around, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. Best of luck mate, I mean it."
Taking Charlie's hand and shaking it, Bob smiled, "I know you mean it and that's important, really."
He looked out at the squad, thrumming with activity and sighed, "They are going to take the piss so bad," he smiled.
Charlie laughed, "Yeah well, you dished it out enough times, Bob, maybe you're about ready to have a taste of it yourself?"