Gideon had promised Lee a beautiful spring. A spring that would roll a carpet of green moss and turf right up to the door, if Lee would come with him and survive a Bodmin winter in his flat on the edge of the moor. This first day of February had risen in a tender blaze of gold, the cutthroat Atlantic wind easing at last, swinging round to bring scents of warming earth from the south. Gideon could keep his promise sooner than he’d thought. Bodmin had rolled out her carpet, and the doors – the beautiful French ones that led from their bedroom onto the old stone terrace – were open wide.

“Birds,” Lee said unexpectedly. He was comfortably settled on the window seat, thighs wrapped round Gideon’s, arms around his neck. He was stark naked, and should have been chilly in the breeze – the morning wasn’t that warm – but a diagnostic touch to his spine told Gideon he was fine, radiating heat like the wood-burning stove they’d just had installed in the front room. “What birds am I seeing?”

 

Too early for the curlews. Gideon had driven under a dappling flight of lapwing on his way back home. Lee’s back was to the window, though, his eyes closed against Gideon’s cheek. And Gideon had learned not to take his questions at face value. “The feathered kind? Or the sort that flap around that cavernous skull of yours?”

Lee chuckled, the sound and the brush of his breath raising fine hairs on Gideon’s nape. “The skull sort. Seagulls, actually. But little silver ones, like a kid would draw.”

 

Gideon got it straight away. This was an easy one. Over the last month he’d helped Lee with two cases, staying in the background, listening to him, helping him lift off the masks from his monsters and beasts. This was less urgent. Let Lee figure it out for himself. “No idea what you mean,” he said innocently, hoisting him against his body. “Hey, you put up more wallpaper. Top marks for effort, but you do know the pattern’s upside down, right?”

“Only took me four strips to work it out. Wallpaper’s your job, mate – I just hold the ladder. Now, these birds...”

They were staring him right in the face. Gideon shook with repressed laughter. He’d just walked into the house five minutes before, found Lee in the bedroom, pulling off his paste-daubed T-shirt and jeans, and he’d seized his opportunity. “Sorry to have jumped on you without even taking my clothes off. Still, it’s more than a bit sexy, isn’t it – you bollock naked, and me still in all my kit?”

“Mm. I love your kit – even your scratchy dress jacket.”

 

“What about this jumper? How do you feel about that?”

 

“Lovely. Prefer what’s under it, though... What are you laughing about?”

 

“You. Missing the obvious.”

 

Lee pushed back just far enough to look him over. “Something about the jumper,” he said, closing his hands on Gideon’s shoulders. “Oh, hang about. Is this a new one? Didn’t you just have your collar number on your epaulettes here?” He took a handful of the wool, examining it. “What’s with these little silver V shapes?”

 

“Birds, maybe. Or my sergeant’s stripes.”

 

“What?” Lee shoved him to arm’s length. “Gideon bloody Frayne... Did you get promoted?”

 

“Yes. But it’s not a big deal, so close that gorgeous mouth before you catch a fly. I took the exams last year – one batch in March, and I did the OSPRE in September, just before I met you.”

 

“You did an osprey? Christ, no wonder they gave you these birds.”

 

“Objective Structured Performance Related Examination.” Gideon wiped an imaginary bead of sweat off his brow at having got that out straight for once. “They’re phasing it out, but lucky me – I still got to do it. Five roleplays with an actor. My Truro boss is a right bastard, too – he gave me a streaker.”

 

“Oh, my God. What did you do?”

 

“Why, I concealed his manhood with my headgear in the traditional fashion, led him off and told him where to seek counselling.”

 

Lee exploded into laughter. “And was that the right answer?”

 

“One of ’em, I suppose. Anyway, I passed.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me, Gid?”

 

“Well, like I say, all this happened before you came along. And it doesn’t work like you might suppose – you’re not technically promoted even once you’ve passed. You have to wait for vacancies, for a sergeant to be made an inspector. There’s no ceremony or anything. No secret policemen’s ball.”

 

“I should damn well think not. I’d have wanted to lead you out for the first dance.” Lee gave the silver birds a last admiring pat, took hold of the hem of the sweater and lifted it over Gideon’s head. “So what happens now?”

 

“You take my shirt off too, I hope.”

 

“No, you moron.” Lee began unbuttoning anyway, careful with his new-made sergeant’s crisp cotton. “With your promotion. Do you have to abandon the village?”

 

“No, I’ll still be putting in shifts here. A bit more admin, a bit more time behind a desk in Truro, and I’ll have a couple of officers under me for training. Honest, there won’t be much difference. I wouldn’t have gone for the exams at all, only the top brass don’t like you just sitting festering at constable’s rank forever.”

 

“Well, congratulations.” The shirt was neatly undone. Lee pushed it back, gave an appreciative onceover to the powerful chest and shoulders he’d exposed. “And as someone who’s been... under you on several occasions now, I can guarantee you’ll be great. I’m so bloody proud of you.”

 

Gideon shivered in pleasure. He really hadn’t cared about the examination process while he’d been going through it – hadn’t cared about much on his own account at all. But that had been before fate had swept Lee Tyack into his life. Now a promotion might be worth something. “Thank you. There’s a pay bump that goes with it, too. So I was thinking, if you didn’t want to go through with your latest TV gig, you don’t have to.”

 

“Wow, Sergeant Rockefeller.” Lee brushed a smiling kiss over Gideon’s mouth and set about unfastening his belt.

 

“You mean you can afford to keep me and replace all the wallpaper I’ve destroyed?”

 

“Yeah, I reckon. Seriously. Your last job was rough for you – why don’t you have a break, or go work down at the marina for a while?”

 

“This project’s different. I got back too late last night to tell you about it, but Anna has it all worked out. Allegedly haunted sites in West Cornwall – not houses but standing stones, ancient circles, things like that. And not the well-known ones. Real off-piste stuff that nobody’s studied before.”

 

“Sounds good. Better than bodies tumbling out of a wall at you, anyway.”

 

“Yeah. That Island thing was rough on Jack and Anna too. I really ditched out on them, and then they missed all the exciting bits. I can make it up to them now – got a brilliant place for them to start at, out near Drift. A fogou.”

 

“A what?”

 

“Fogou.”

 

“I thought you were enjoying yourself.” Gideon waited until Lee had stopped laughing. “Is that how it’s pronounced? It’s terrible for a Cornishman not to know, but Pastor Frayne wasn’t keen on all your hippie pagan nonsense. I don’t think I ever heard it said.”

 

“Well, like that. Drop the first O, more or less, and throw the stress on the last syllable. F’gou.”

 

“Oh, okay. And what does it do, this f’gou?”

 

“Nobody knows, not really. They’re tunnels in the earth. A lot of old Cornish farmsteads have them, and...” He paused, and lifted a flushed face to Gideon. “And do you mind if I tell you about them at some other time?”

 

“Got something else on your mind, have you?”

 

“We have to get a cushion for this window seat. My arse is going numb.”

 

“And what do you want me to do about that?” Gideon waited, listening to Lee’s quickened breath. He loved to hear him state his desires, to use the words Pastor Frayne had forbidden or denied, creating a kind of cold storage in his son’s mind where they remained frozen, potent, ready to melt. “Tell me, sweetheart. Please.”

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