The Price of Courage
(Written for the_safehouse livejournal quote challenge (Quote: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." -Ambrose Redmoon))
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There is one allusion to another show...can you find it?
My extremely talented friend created a banner for this story and I humbly thank her. Tana, thank you, you are a treasure. Also the author's name is Akin, however I feel it should be probably Vesta. That's my wonderful beta reader, you are the best and I have never met anyone as good as you. You are a soulmate to any striving author. And no words can thank you for the job you've done. Nevertheless, Thank you. That's all I can offer.
Primus inter pares: The first among equals
I should go home and get some sleep. Instead I'm sitting here at HQ casually flicking through TV channels. There's nothing on the box really. I'm staring at it wearily.
That last case was bloody terrible.
James Keller. Bloody Jimmy fucking Keller.
He rattled us, hard. And he hurt Bodie really badly.
I can't continue the string of mental curses at his name because Anson's sardonic face appears in the doorway.
"Oi, Doyle. Is it right that the Cow offered Bodie a second Scotch?"
No idea who spread that nugget around, but I'll tear their tongue out when I find them.
"Guess it really hit home this time. Bodie and his lousy mates."
Murphy, who is sitting next to me, puts down his papers and looks up. "Sod off, Anson. Keller was SAS. He turned rotten. It happens."
Murph's a good mate. He'd be a good mate if the sod let him become one.
Anson grunts, but takes the hint. That's good because I was about to rearrange his teeth. He leaves and I start flicking the channels again.
Murphy looks at me like he's about to say something, but then carries on reading.
"Sheik Samir died," he comments.
I make no sound.
"Hope I'm not assigned to babysit his son. He's an arsehole."
I'm only half-listening, nevertheless realise it's not like Murph to complain.
I glance at the door to Cowley's office. Bodie's in there. With the Cow. Why, I have no idea - the old man could be just giving him a dressing down for all I know. I shift nervously.
Suddenly the door opens and Bodie walks out woodenly. I can't read him. His eyes are guarded, his back ramrod-straight.
Murph looks at me strangely. I know what they all expect - I should put my hand into the fire and settle him again.
Bodie "off" isn't a pretty sight. People on his good side can get nervous around him, even on a good day. Loyalty - that's the key. If you don't have his, you better watch your tongue.
Keller had it. Bodie's loyalty I mean.
I sneer at the thought, but it comes back along with another one: Why could Keller hurt him and get away with it?
The question's in everyone's eyes, but I'm not going to play a hero and ask. I'm not cold, tired and hungry enough.
I nod to Murphy and follow Bodie, knowing I have to catch up with him before he goes to earth to lick his wounds.
I catch him in the car park. He seems okay again.
"Where're you off to, then?"
He looks up from the car. His face and voice are expressionless. "Home."
"Want a lift?"
No idea why I ask, but he accepts. That means two things: I'll have to drive him in tomorrow - and I've lost it. Off my rocker, I am. Completely. I'm reachin' into fire right enough.
Bodie slumps in the passenger seat. My fate's truly sealed.
"What happened there?" I gesture to a lump on the back of his head. "Keller?"
His eyes stay controlled, he only nods slowly. By the size of the lump, he's got a killer of a headache.
"Got a few other blows too," he growls.
"Keller." The accusation grates between my teeth like sand.
"Nah. A killer who was after him."
"Another mate to keep you company?" I dig deeper.
"The bastards just love to kill us, they do."
"It's the SAS charm, I reckon. I could kill you every other day myself."
"I'm out of your league, sunshine," he smirks darkly and closes his eyes as I drive off.
"You okay, mate?"
"Yeah. Head's buzzin', is all."
A field agent with five years experience is a field doctor too.
"Nah. Just a lump." After a moment he cracks one eye open. "Won't get rid of me that easily."
"More of that SAS charm?"
"Tough soldiers. Hard to beat, we are."
"All brawn, no brain," I joke. Bodie winces and I could kick myself.
"Stay at my place, your head could get worse." I blurt. "I'll cook us a real dinner. We can crack a few beers and watch a bad movie."
Even with his head buzzing, Bodie's Bodie, and the thought of food will appeal to him.
Instead of an answer there's a long pause and I'm starting to think he might refuse.
"Why not. Day can't get much worse, I guess," he shrugs
There it is. Finally. A confession that he's feeling lousy. At the start of our partnership I would've had to beat the admission out of him. He would never say it, probably thought it would make him appear human or something.
I look at him askance: even with his eyes closed I don't risk a direct look -- he has this animal instinct of knowing when he's being watched. For the job, a great thing. In private, one whiff of someone getting too close and he's off, and you'll never catch him.
"That bad, huh?" After five years of partnership I couldn't come up with something better? I hoped maybe Bodie would start talking on his own? Must be getting soft in the head.
He nods. "Worse."
I realise this questioning could take forever. All I'm getting are bits and pieces, not enough for the whole picture. We stop at the lights and I try again.
"Was the Cow bad?"
"Not much." He lifts his head from the headrest and nails me with narrowed eyes. "What's this all about?" His voice is steel. I look at him. He's angry, but I've never been one to step back from the fire. Never.
"He hurt you," I state clearly.
Bodie cocks his head and smirks. "He can get demanding."
"Not Cowley, you idiot."
He shrugs. "It's green. Go."
I fall silent and concentrate on London rush hour traffic. It gives him time to regroup and he uses it to think hard and fast. Finally, he scowls. "Just forget it."
"Not likely," I retort angrily. "Why, Bodie?"
"Why what, Doyle?"
"You didn't see through him? You'd check out Cowley's mother, but not him."
"I had to trust me partner, didn't I?"
"Because he's SAS?"
"Quit the SAS stuff. You applied and we didn't take you or what?" He fights dirty. So can I.
"We?" My one word stops him short. His loyalty is exposed too clearly. He sighs, defeated. "He's my mate."
Self-explanatory, innit? "So he's your mate. Undying devotion. That's it?" I'm working towards a dentist's appointment and I know it. Bodie's eyes flash and for a moment I think he's really going to clock me one. Then he falls silent.
I've blown it, big time.
Loyalty is the sunrise and sunset of Bodie's life and I've mocked him for it.
"He meant a lot to you. Keller." I try desperately to salvage the conversation.
"He did." He throws it right back at me.
"Wasn't worth it, apparently."
"Shut it, Doyle!" he warns. I'm dialling my dentist already...however, Bodie doesn't react, just closes his eyes.
We arrive at my place. Bodie marches ahead of me, but I don't hurry much to catch up. He can't go anywhere, anyway. He has the manners to wait for me by the door - either that, or he's forgotten his spare key. He's as stiff and rigid as a pillar. When I walk up to him, he defiantly looks away. He's bloody annoying, my own personal conundrum. I wonder why he came with me today at all.
I let him in and he goes straight to the couch as I head for the kitchen to make some tea. If I press too hard too soon, he'll close up on me: I have to give him time to calm down.
When I return he accepts the tea gratefully. "Ta, mate."
I notice he winces a little. "You hurt your arm?"
"Got one over with a pipe."
"Getting slow, are you?"
"Good that your mate covered your back."
"He saved my life."
"He betrayed you."
Bodie frowns and pushes back into the sofa. His eyes on me are totally unreadable.
He accepts the apology, but starts to stand up. "I'll go."
I reach out to stop him and accidentally brush his injured arm and he draws back with a hiss of pain.
"Sorry." I apologise again. For everything. "Don't go, your head might get worse."
His hand goes to the lump and he lifts an eyebrow cynically, but settles back.
"So how's he?"
He seems to hesitate a moment. "Yeah. I'm glad."
"He betrayed you." Bloody parrot, I am. My mind's brushing that thought over and over like a tongue is brushing against a broken tooth. It hurts, but you can't help doing it.
"Quit reminding me, will you?" he snaps tiredly.
"A good mate, was he?"
"I told you, he saved my life. Twice."
"So've I. So often I've stopped counting."
"You're different. Does that make you feel better?"
"No. It doesn't."
He snorts and I know I have to go deeper. "If I betrayed you, would you kill me?"
His eyes widen. "Probably," he says slowly.
"But not him."
"Wasn't time for that." His flippancy is forced. So is the shrug of his shoulders.
"One stoppage and there wouldn't have been anyone to save him from the killer. That's all it would have taken," I speculate shadily, while watching his expression intently.
He lowers his eyes. "I couldn't. He's...my mate."
I flinch as the truth dawns. Primus inter pares -- Keller. I'm Bodie's mate too, but not a mate.
I look at him for any indication that his admission isn't true, but he avoids my eyes. I realise I've just discovered a fundamental truth about William Andrew Phillip Bodie. I know where his loyalties lie, and weaknesses. With one word I could destroy this man. Make his world crumble. Ruin him and his career. Everything.
That's what I get for playing a hero. Yet in the face of your friend's pain, fear is not important.
I wasn't only playing with fire, I put my hand right into it and pulled out the key to Bodie's whole existence. Now, all I need is the key to his heart as well -- because I know that today, a little piece of it got free.
-- THE END --