Doyle, Later


(A sort of sequel to "Without")

It had bothered him the whole of the day. After a night of the fitful sleep he'd grown used to in the past few months, the next morning he woke well before he needed to and lay on the lumpy mattress in the shabby one-room flat that they were using for surveillance, and thought about the man he'd seen the morning before, slipping around the corner from one sordid street to another and vanishing almost before Doyle had noticed him. He relieved Turner a few minutes ahead of time, absently taking his place at the window without responding by either groan or obscene rejoinder to the other's would-be witticism about eager beavers. While he sat on the wooden chair in front of the grime-streaked panes of glass, watching the entrance to the building on the opposite side of the street, he rocked back and forth minutely, the chair's uneven legs being suited to this, and remembered the breadth of shoulders as the man had moved quickly out of sight. Later, back at base, typing up his report, remembering to reach up and unstick the "w" every time it stuck--and swearing under his breath every time as well--he thought about the way the man had moved. It had been Bodie. No question about that.

Home, finally, with thirty-six hours off-duty ahead of him, courtesy of the new rules which had come down from above after Ross's scathing report on the damage which could be done by an agent living on the edge of exhaustion, he boiled water for coffee, and then sat staring blindly at the opposite wall while the cup cooled to room temperature between his palms. The light faded from the window as the sun set and twilight crept across the sky. Doyle sat in the sullenly gathering darkness, remembering.

Bodie. The man he'd worked with for years. The man he'd thought of almost as his other self. The man who'd saved his skin for him more times than he could count. The man who'd counted upon him to save his skin with such absolute trust that he rushed heedless into danger, time and again, to do what needed to be done, relying upon Doyle to back him up. His partner.

No more.

King Billy, dead. Cowley, livid. Bodie--gone. No, he'd left something out of that sequence: Himself, lashing out at his partner with all the frustrated anger which had built up over days, weeks of being shut out, with all his fury at having been used by his partner for a purpose which had ended in something which had seemed too close to cold-blooded murder and in the shattering of a partnership which had seemed unbreakable.

But he hadn't been able to believe that it would just end. Like that, with years of being closer than brothers dumped in the rubbish as if they meant nothing. And the last he'd seen of Bodie had been the door closing behind him that last day at Headquarters. Until yesterday. The long months between those two days stretched emptily in Doyle's recall like a vast expanse of stony desert, monotonous, vacant, dry and dead.

He'd known almost at once that he would miss his partner more than he'd imagined he might. Whether it was his imagination which had failed, or the fact that he'd deliberately avoided thinking about the possibility of their parting, the reality of it had--crippled him. Doyle nodded minutely, his hands tightening around the smooth, cool pottery of the mug in front of him. Couldn't describe that feeling of loss, of incompleteness in any other way. And it hurt.

What was it Jim Reilly had told him all those years ago, when he'd gone to visit him? It had been three months after Jim had got out of hospital, where they'd patched him up as well as they could after the motor accident which had mangled and severed his left arm. He'd found another job of work by then; told Doyle that he was learning to get along with only one arm--and hoping to be able to learn to use the artificial one the rehabilitation people were supposed to fit him up with. But it still hurt, he said. Not the stump--that was healed over. No, it was the arm that was missing that ached and throbbed and kept him awake at night. Phantom limb, they called it.

Bodie's absence was like that. The place where his partner had been was an empty place that hurt.

He'd thought, even after he'd come to realise how large a hole Bodie's leaving had rent in his life, that eventually it would get better. He'd thought he would get used to it, learn to cope. But that wasn't happening. If someone else had suffered this kind of loss, Doyle knew all the reassuring platitudes he could have uttered--and perhaps for someone else they might have offered some comfort. But when Ross sat him down in her office and ran her little psychological stability studies, and then prompted him to remember why he'd joined up with CI5 in the first place, when Cowley pushed a glass of single malt across the desk at him, sighed, and remarked in a brogue a little more marked than usual that it couldn't have been helped, Doyle found himself possessed by a tiredness so immense that he wondered that his heart kept beating. He made it in to work each day, and he did his job, but nothing else in his life seemed worth the effort. His co-workers asked him to join them in a drink after work now and again, but after a few weeks, the invitations had stopped, and Doyle had to admit that he was not sorry. And as for women--he just didn't seem to be interested any more.

His life had become a dull daily grind, punctuated by the occasional moment of danger--which did not much alarm him these days. Bodie was gone, and it was at least partly Doyle's fault, and there'd been nothing he could do about it. A man who left CI5 the way his partner had done would never be back. Doyle had come to accept that, for though he might tilt at an occasional windmill, he knew better than to take up lance and shield and set himself at the equivalent of a nuclear power plant.

He sat up straighter in his chair. So. Bodie wasn't his partner any more. Wouldn't be coming back to CI5. Had seemed to drop off the end of the earth when he'd left Headquarters that day, leaving his flat deserted, his belongings abandoned. Didn't mean that he was dead, did it? Not now that Doyle had seen him in the flesh--even so very briefly, and by chance. And since he was alive, there must be a way Doyle could fit him back into his life. Somehow. Unsure of just how that might be done, though vague thoughts of pints enjoyed together in pubs, of days spent together driving--racing along the highway or motoring leisurely down country lanes--of just sitting and talking the way they'd used to do wandered across his mind, Doyle nevertheless knew what he had to do.

He stood up, the abruptness of his motion jarring the table and causing cold coffee to slosh onto the wooden surface. Bodie was out there in the city, somewhere, and not, as Doyle had thought--feared--gone away to some foreign place where he might never be found. Here. And that meant that he could be found. Would be found. Doyle knew people in the city who could make that job easier--people who owed him favours. He glanced over at the phone, but thought better of that almost immediately. CI5 flat. CI5 phone. This was not anything he wanted CI5 involved in. There were better, safer ways, even if they would take a bit more effort.

The first rule when trying to find someone who didn't want to be found--and going by Bodie's swift evasive action of the day before, he was less than anxious to be discovered--was to adopt a guise which would not arouse apprehension in the person you were seeking. When Doyle left his flat a half-hour later, he was apparently a couple of inches shorter, at least a stone and a half heavier, and myopic to boot. His hair had been slicked down and back with a generous application of oil, making his ears appear to stick out from his head like a pair of cup-handles--aided by the judicious application behind them of a pair of flesh-coloured wedges of plastic. His eyebrows were darker, and appeared much thicker, following a curve less graceful than their wont. The subtle tinting of the glasses he wore turned the green of his eyes to a muddy hazel. His clothing, blue jeans, a nondescript T-shirt, and a jacket Bodie had never seen him wear, had been chosen with the aim of helping him to fade into the background.

The second rule was that someone who didn't want to be found might well be unwilling to stay found. Doyle had been considering that while he changed his appearance. He had not only to find Bodie, but also to ensure that he had a chance to knock some sense into the pigheaded idiot. Running away like that--or staging a strategic retreat, as Bodie would probably put it, had been stupid. Stupid to have left CI5 the way he had--not even giving anyone a forwarding address; stupid to have run away from Doyle the day before. He ought to have known that Doyle wouldn't put up with it. But convincing Bodie to stay around and be told so might be difficult. When Bodie didn't want to see sense, he wouldn't. He wouldn't stay and listen, willingly.

Doyle would have to make him stay. That could get--complicated. Could even be dangerous. Bodie in the frame of mind Doyle suspected he was, Bodie constrained against his will? Bodie had never seemed to hesitate when he'd had to kill in the line of duty, or to have second thoughts after doing so--perhaps a legacy of his varied background--but now he'd proven that he was capable of killing when angry, even when doing so was certain to bring him dire trouble. Admittedly, King Billy had given Bodie ample provocation, but would Doyle be doing so much less? In Bodie's eyes, perhaps not. The situation would take careful planning and even more careful handling to take both of them safely through it, and Doyle knew he'd best be well prepared.

There were groups which could legally constrain a person to stay somewhere when he wished to leave, and which had the resources to do so: schools, any prison, the Police, the Army, and to a degree, any of the security organisations who strove to preserve the country's safety and stability. If he didn't want to bring CI5 into this, Doyle didn't qualify--but legally was not the only way to keep Bodie from bolting. Doyle knew where he could go to find people who would be willing to supply him with what he needed. They weren't the sort of people whose company he usually sought out by choice, nor were their methods those of which he generally approved, but pragmatism dictated his actions in this case, and he found that he was not inclined to worry overmuch about the means he chose to use. He'd worry about the end justifying the means later, if at all.

Arranging the acquisition of the materials he needed took a few phone calls. He'd called in a few favours, too, which took a little longer. There would be more than just his eyes looking for Bodie, and for a price which was not very much more than would have been reasonable, there was also a phone number which he could call at intervals to see if his ex-partner had been located. The odds were good that Bodie's tastes hadn't changed very much in a few months. Doyle began his search by renewing his acquaintance with a few pubs.

He struck gold late in the evening, at The Spotted Dog. Slipping inside behind a trio of young toughs, Doyle found himself an inconspicuous place near a corner and surveyed the room. A band of thick smoke hovered in the air just above eye level, and the smells of stale sweat and spilled beer fought for primacy with other less wholesome odours. Hunched over a pint glass at the far end of the bar was a figure whose very familiarity was shocking. After nearly six months, surely Doyle ought to feel something less or something more--something different to what he felt: Bodie's here. Where else would he be? I'm here.

Then, he looked a little more closely at the man sitting there, and he knew that there had indeed been changes in the past six months. The Bodie he'd known had been capable of acting the hard case; this Bodie wasn't acting. The very way he sat at the bar--something in his body language--gave any onlooker the clear sign that this was a man to avoid, someone who, if disturbed, might as easily pull a knife and use it as snarl his displeasure and turn away. A prickle of unease traced its way down Doyle's spine. Was there anything left in this man of the partner he'd thought he'd known?

He shook himself slightly. Of course there was. Had to be, didn't there. He moved to the bar, choosing a point well away from where Bodie was seated, and lifted a hand to gain the bartender's attention. The man finished drawing a pint, set it down on the bar, and took the money offered him before moving in Doyle's direction.

Under average height, carrying a couple of stones worth of over-eating and over-drinking around his belly, balding, the bartender cocked an eyebrow at Doyle and said, "What'll it be?"

Doyle sized him up, using all of the skills he'd cultivated in his career in the Police and CI5. The approach had to be tailored to the subject. Whether the risk was that of alienating a possible source of information or of leaving himself open to retaliation--legal or otherwise--from his former partner, the way Doyle went about achieving his aim could improve his chances of succeeding--or ruin them. "A pint of bitter," he said. When the glass slid across the bar in his direction he held out a folded bill, watching the barman's face as he took in the denomination. There was just a glint of avarice in his eyes as he glanced from the bill to Doyle's face and back again--but that was enough to decide Doyle on his course. Where he might, with a different man behind the bar, have used his position with CI5 to pressure him, with this one he'd use the corrupting influence of money.

"You have change for that?" he asked. The barman started to answer, but Doyle interrupted him. "Never mind. Can keep it for yourself if you're willing to do a bit of a...favour for me."

The barman's gaze sharpened. "Depends on what you have in mind. Some things come dearer than others."

Oh, yes, money had been the right tool to use with this man; that and a little assurance that the rest of the world was just as venal as he. Doyle gave a conspiratorial wink, and nodded. "Don't I know it. But this's just a little joke I'm going to ask you to help me out with. Something to take the piss out of an old mate, you might say."


"Yeah. Now if I was to give you this," Doyle reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a small vial half-filled with a colourless, crystalline substance, "and ask you to put it in the next drink that bloke in the leather jacket buys--the one at the end of the bar," he added, as the barman seemed prepared to protest that there were no few men present who met that description, "with the short dark hair--do you think it'd be worth your while?"

"Depends." The barman moved away to serve an importunate customer, then came back. "Wouldn't want to be involved in nothing the filth might be taking an interest in, later on."

"Nah. No worries there, mate," Doyle said. "Just a joke, like I said. 'E's made a wager with 'is missus that he'll be sober as a judge when he gets home, every night this week. That stuff I gave you is just the ticket to make sure he loses. Won't 'urt him--except in his wallet. An' she's a bit of all right," Doyle sketched a shape in the air and leered at it, "and an old...friend of mine, and she said she'd make it worth my while if I'd see he lost. "

"Worth your while, eh?" The barman's expression showed that he had no doubts as to the form any payment would take, and counted it to Doyle's credit that he'd been able to finagle it for himself. He reached out, took the vial Doyle still held, and tucked it away in his palm. "Done."

Doyle smiled, belying the nervousness he felt. He'd set this sequence of events into motion; it was what he'd planned, what he had to do, but it felt very like going into action against a nutter with a gun. Unpredictable and dangerous, no matter how good you were. "Nice doing business with you." He watched as the man moved off down the bar, and propped his head on his hand, obscuring his face, watching Bodie. Bodie had nearly drained his glass; soon he'd either ask for another drink, or leave. Doyle's palms were sweating. He picked up his glass, the smooth surface slippery in his hand, and took a sip; it eased the dryness in his mouth only briefly.

Bodie had ordered another drink. Doyle didn't see the moment when the vial's contents went into it. Either the barman was very good at the sleight of hand--practise, maybe?--or he'd find that it was not good for one's health to promise what one did not intend to deliver.

Bodie lifted the glass and drained most of its contents, the amber liquid glinting as it caught the light. Setting the glass down on the bar, he gazed down into it, his expression shuttered, for long moments. Doyle began to wonder whether he was going to drink the remainder, and if not, whether what he'd already had would be enough to fuddle him. Bodie raised his head, staring ahead at the wall behind the bar; Doyle didn't think he was seeing the shelves and bottles. Then, finally, Bodie grimaced and seemed to come back to himself. He drank the last little bit from his glass, then set it down, a little unsteadily. His head came up abruptly and the expression on his face made the hair on the back of Doyle's neck stand on end. It wasn't a snarl; it was a grim, set aspect which promised dire consequences for someone--and Doyle was unhappily certain that the someone might well be him.

Bodie put his hands on the bar and stood--or attempted to. He swayed, his knees wobbled under him, and Doyle reached him just in time to catch him before he hit the floor.

Out cold. As planned--but why did it feel as if he'd done something horribly unforgivable to his partner? No time to worry about that right now. Doyle smiled at the other denizens of the pub, some of whom were looking on with amusement, some of whom were obviously eyeing the situation with a view towards what gain they might make from it--heaven help anyone who passed out in here without someone friendly to drag him away--and took a firmer grip on the limp weight in his arm.

"Just a little too much to drink. I'll see he gets home." Doyle dragged Bodie out of the bar, refusing an offer of help from a burly individual who looked as if he might be considering trying his chances against one conscious and one unconscious opponent. His car was nearby, and he found that he was attracting very little attention from the occasional passer-by as he lugged his partner's...ex-partner's weight down the pavement. Salubrious neighbourhood. It was quite a struggle getting Bodie into the passenger seat, but experience gained by doing nearly the same thing a time or two before, after a particularly inebriated evening out, served Doyle well.

The hotel he'd chosen was just a few minutes' drive away. There were only two people there to see him come in: an old man sitting and dozing over his Daily Standard, and the clerk at the desk--who repaid the tip Doyle had given him earlier that evening by taking no interest in the sight of one man going up the stairs with another, unconscious, draped over his shoulder. Damned steep stairs, too. With some difficulty, Doyle unlocked the door of the centre room of the three that he'd paid for, and went inside. He dropped his ex-partner on the double bed, to the accompaniment of complaining bedsprings, and straightened his back with a sigh of relief. Bodie was no lightweight. Doyle stood for a moment, looking at the features he knew so well. Looked as if his ex-partner had been leading a hard life for the past six months; there were lines about his eyes and mouth which had not been there before. To some extent, they matched those Doyle had seen in his mirror the past few weeks. Hadn't been good for either of them, this separation.

With that thought firmly in mind, Doyle left his ex-partner lying unconscious on the bed and went back downstairs. He used the phone in the foyer to call off the others who had been keeping an eye out for Bodie; no point in putting himself further in the debt of those who had been doing so as a favour to him--and he had no desire to pay those whose motives were more immediately mercenary any more money than necessary. Then he went outdoors to get the things he'd left in the boot. The carrier bag wasn't full, but it was heavy, and it clanked. Once back in the room, he set it carefully on the floor and took out the items he needed, laying them out neatly, one by one. He gazed at them for a moment, frowning slightly, then with a decisive movement, he picked up the first pair of handcuffs.

The iron bedstead, currently painted a dingy brown, but having been many other colours during its lifetime--as demonstrated by the varied shades revealed on its chipped surface--was less decorative than practical. It served to support the mattress upon which Bodie lay; it also served as a sturdy place to attach the cuffs which secured Bodie's wrists and ankles to the head and foot of the bed. Not standard Police issue handcuffs, these fetters allowed a little more range of motion, though they were just as effective a restraint upon free movement. Short lengths of chain fastened around the bedstead, the ends secured with lock and key to sturdy, reinforced leather cuffs. Doyle gave the placement of the chains very careful consideration, gauging his own safety against Bodie's comfort--or, more realistically, lack of it--and finally settled upon an arrangement which would not have been secure enough for any long-term confinement, but which shouldn't be too uncomfortable for his ex-partner. He tugged experimentally upon the bedstead, testing its strength. It protested, but did not give way. Strong enough--he hoped. He collected the ladder-backed wooden chair from its corner and set it next to the bed, sat down, and prepared to wait.

It took a little less than the six hours he had estimated before Bodie showed signs of rousing from his drugged sleep. Doyle had decided after a couple of hours that his chair must have been designed by a spiritual descendant of Torquemada, and had alternated sitting and pacing until he was sick of both. He did leave the room once, early on, to visit the bathroom, whose less than delightful ambience was much as he'd expected. The tap dripped, the sink was filthy, and the toilet unspeakable. He averted his eyes from the bath before further horrors could make themselves known to him. The lino on the floor was worse than sticky; Doyle gave it another week or so before spontaneous generation occurred. He stepped around a particularly loathsome area, noting the way the floor sagged as his weight came upon it, and peered into the fly-specked mirror. What was left of its silver backing was severely tarnished, and between that and the meagre light shed by the dusty bulb hanging from the ceiling it was difficult to make much of the reflection it cast. He moistened the end of the small towel he had brought with him and scrubbed some of the hair-dressing out of his hair, then removed the plastic wedges from behind his ears and stuffed them into a pocket. The adhesive had made his skin itch; he rubbed at it absently as he closed the door behind him and walked back to his room.

He was looking out of the window at the brightening dawn sky when he heard a snuffle from the bed behind him. He turned around. Bodie's chest rose in a deep inspiration, then he gave an abortive stretch, the movement halted abruptly as the handcuffs jangled against the bedstead. For an instant, Bodie was motionless, as still and deadly as a predator waiting to strike, then he relaxed, deliberately, muscle by muscle, his head going back down on the dingy pillowslip. His eyes opened, flat blue.

"Doyle." There was no surprise in the word, nor anger, nor anything other than the level, uninflected pronunciation of his name. Bodie was giving nothing away.

"Yeah." Doyle took a breath. What now? Where to start? "Sorry about the headache. Want an aspirin?"

"All right."

The aspirin bottle was in the carrier bag, along with a couple of cans of Coke. He opened one can, set it down, and then tipped two white tablets onto his palm before going back to the side of the bed. "Open up."

Bodie looked first at the contents of his hand, then at his face, before complying. Doyle paused for an instant. "It is aspirin, you know." Bodie didn't say anything to that, but kept his eyes hard on Doyle's face. His lips were dry and warm against Doyle's thumb and forefinger, but his chin was prickly with beard stubble. His legs moved restlessly; metal clanked against metal. Doyle picked up the can of Coke and held it for Bodie to take a few awkward swallows. In his supine position Bodie had to strain to raise his head off the pillow far enough to drink, and Doyle was careful not to tilt the can too far and spill the brown liquid.

He still didn't know quite how to start, but it was obvious that Bodie was not going to give him an easy opening by asking why they were here, by demanding to be released, or even by swearing at him until he'd exhausted some of his anger. For Bodie was angry, as well as suspicious. That much was plain to Doyle. He'd expected it, but he was still a little angry himself. He'd thought that beneath Bodie's anger there might have been a little relief at seeing him. Something to say that Bodie had missed him, even worried about him. But that would be expecting something unreasonable, wouldn't it? Bodie wasn't the one who'd had someone walk out on him; he'd done the walking out. He hadn't been left behind, wondering, with no way to find the answers to his questions.

"I did see you the other day, on the street," Doyle said, and heard the accusation in his own voice.

"Thought so."

"You what?" Doyle's voice rose in pitch and volume. "Why the hell didn't you stop, then?"

"What for."

"Goddamn it, Bodie, we used to be partners! We ought to have something to say to each other."

"We used to be partners. Now, we're not." The blue eyes didn't waver. Bodie's face was pale; the aspirins couldn't have had time to start to relieve the horrendous headache he must be suffering.

"Uh-huh. And that's something worth talking about, I'd think."

"What for."

Frustrated, Doyle put his hands on Bodie's shoulders and shook him where he lay. The bedsprings squeaked. "Don't just keep saying, 'what for,' like there's nothing left! Why do you think I went to the trouble of tracking you down once I knew you were still in the country? Why the hell else do you think you're lying there trussed up like a Christmas goose? I wanted to be sure you'd hold still long enough that we could sort it out between us."

"Don't know why you'd want to."

"You don't?" Doyle was incredulous. "What about the fact that we used to be friends? I've bloody missed you, you know!"

"What's that to me?" Bodie asked. "Get used to it, Doyle. Life goes on. People change. You know all the clichés. Are you still trying to pretend they're not true?" He laughed shortly. "Hate to break it to you, mate, but Father Christmas turned up his toes a long time ago.

"We both used to work for George Cowley, but now you do and I don't. Far as I can see, that's that. I don't see that there's any reason to go on about it. I've carried on with my life--and what I've got suits me. If you're unhappy, that's your problem. And I've learned not to get involved in other people's problems. Makes life too complicated."

Doyle stared at the man who had been his partner. He'd always known Bodie was pragmatic about most things, but he hadn't thought that his bloody-minded practicality ran quite this deep. To put a friendship of years aside without a second thought--it betrayed a flinty disregard for any closeness they'd shared. For any closeness Doyle had thought they'd shared.

"Nothing to say, have you?" Bodie rattled his handcuffs impatiently. "How about letting me loose, then. You're wasting my time. Yours, too, for that matter."

Doyle almost reached into his pocket for the key. Almost--but he stopped his hand before it moved. He just couldn't quite believe that Bodie had left behind every vestige of friendship for him. If he'd really put it behind him, he wouldn't still be angry. And despite his cool words, despite the measured way in which Bodie had denied any interest in him, there had been a thread of anger tracing through those cool words. It was perceptible to Doyle, but he didn't think that anyone who hadn't known his ex-partner as well as he would have been able to pick it up. Bodie was trying to hide it. Was he hiding more than that? If the anger was there, perhaps the friendship was still there as well, only hidden a little better. If he could get Bodie to admit to the anger, and to release it, maybe they could then talk honestly--and sort out what they'd had and what they'd lost. And maybe what they could build again--though thinking of that was crossing a bridge which wasn't even under construction yet. Doyle was uncomfortably aware that he could well leave this room in an hour or a day, having lost any chance ever to regain a friendship whose loss he'd regret for the rest of his life. He grimaced.

"Not that easy, Bodie."

Bodie's lips thinned. "Shouldn't have expected you to see reason. All right. What the hell do you want me to say before you'll let me loose?"

"I want you to talk to me. Do you remember what it's like to talk to a friend? Or do you even have a friend to talk to these days?"

"All kinds of people out there to talk to if I wanted to talk, Doyle. Don't need 'em to be friends to do that. Never did."

"I see. You're saying that's the way it was before you left, too?"

"Dancin' around the idea the way you always did when it was one you didn't like, aren't you, sunshine." Bodie smiled, but his eyes stayed cold and watchful. "You want me to say it for you? All right. We weren't ever friends."

"The hell we weren't!"

"Yeah? Reckon it depends on your definition."

"I always thought a friend was someone who'd stick by you."

"You're proving my point for me, Doyle."

"The hell I am!"

"And repeating yourself, too. What's happened to your way with words? Don't remember your having this trouble the last time we talked. Seem to recall you going on for at least five minutes, describing the defects in my character. Didn't repeat yourself once. Out of practise now, are you?" Bodie asked politely. "Lacking for someone who's willing to put up with your idea of bein' his friend?"

Doyle took a deep breath and let it out, trying to hold his temper in check. It was Bodie who was supposed to be getting angry, not him. "My idea of being your friend is not to let you walk away from me for good and never give us a chance to work out the things we both did wrong. Admit it, Bodie, killing King Billy was stupid. You must have known Cowley couldn't let you get away with it. What did you expect him to do? Cover up for you?"

"Nah. Cowley's Cowley. Was a little surprised he didn't shoot me himself when he got there and saw what I'd done. Father figure, you know."

Doyle's jaw sagged a fraction, but he recovered quickly. "This isn't about you and Cowley. It's not about what Cowley did or didn't do. It's about you and me and what we did, and what we're going to do about it."

"About you being right and me being wrong. Sorry. I'm not interested in playing that game any more. Know you're disappointed. Must be dreary for you."

"Dreary?" Doyle said, at a loss for words.

"Yeah. Deprived of your favourite pastime. Can't do or say what the bloody hell you want, and blame it on your bad temper later, and then go all guilty and get points for being sensitive. I'd advise you to find someone who'll put up with your manipulative little ways--that'll make you feel better."

"You can't believe that!" Doyle exclaimed.

"Oh, but I do. You're the kind of person who needs to jerk other people around for entertainment, likes to see 'em dance to your tune. Gives you a sense of your own worth, doesn't it."

"I'm not like that and you know it!" Frustrated, Doyle drove his fist into the mattress beside Bodie's shoulder. "I know I yelled at you the day you left CI5, told you a few home truths, but try to see how it was for me! My partner, the man I'd been used to trusting with my life, had gone off the rails. He--you--used me to help you get at King Billy, then killed him in cold blood. Oh, you can claim that it wasn't premeditated if you want; I'm not sure you were thinking clearly enough to know what you were planning or not--but you knew exactly what you were doing when you pulled that trigger. Don't try to deny it."

"Did I ever?"

"No. I'll give you that. But you caught me by surprise. With everything that'd happened, I felt like I didn't know you any more--and I wasn't sure I wanted to."

"You told me so, then."

"And then you up and left! I tried calling at your flat the next day, and you'd already gone, and I couldn't find out where--though I tried. For a while I did think maybe you'd just show up one day and give me hell and I'd give you hell and then we'd compare bruises and sort things out over a bottle of single malt, but you never did. And I missed you, you son of a bitch! Saw you day before yesterday, and knew I had to find you again and make you listen to me."

"You're proving my point again, Doyle. You enjoying yourself yet? It's all about you, isn't it."

"Damn it, it isn't!" Doyle bunched up his fists and stared down at the man on the bed. Fury etched itself through his veins and his temples pounded in sympathy with his heart. Bodie lay there looking back at him with what seemed ironic detachment, refusing to see the truth. "You're going to listen to me now, and you're going to see sense."

"And you're not going to let me go until you're satisfied that I have, is that it?" Bodie tugged on the handcuffs. "Got to give you credit, mate; you know how to get what you like. I never met anyone better at fine-tuning his scruples. It's one of the reasons I was happy to leave, but you've got me where you must've always wanted me now, haven't you? Doesn't it make you feel like you're in charge? Like you're a man? Too bad you're only a poor imitation of one. Must be hell only bein' able to get your kicks by pushing people around. "

Pushed beyond his limit by this deliberately needling attack, Bodie seeming to know exactly how best to drive him past a reasoning response, Doyle gave an incoherent shout of rage and threw himself at the supine form of his tormentor. He had his hands around Bodie's neck, thumbs pressed into the flesh on either side of his windpipe and squeezing with sinew-wrenching fury, before he became aware of his own actions. He let go, horrified at what he was doing, filled with self-disgust by the way he seemed to be proving Bodie's words for him. Was it all true? He'd thought he wanted to reclaim his friendship with Bodie. What kind of friend was he, then? He looked at his hands, still poised above his ex-partner's neck; he looked at the darkening marks on Bodie's throat, and listened to the sound of Bodie coughing, then the rasping sounds of his renewed breathing. Couldn't beat that for evidence. Bodie was looking up at him with bloodshot eyes--waiting for him to finish the job at hand? The room was stifling; the air catching in his lungs as if he were trying to breathe hot glue. Could hell be any worse than this?

Doyle stood up, fished in his pocket for the key. He unlocked the padded cuffs which secured Bodie's ankles, then put the key in Bodie's still-cuffed right hand, aware the whole time that his ex-partner was wholly capable of using his newly-freed legs to deliver a kick which would break his neck for him. He couldn't find it in himself to feel much concern over the prospect.

He went over and stood by the window, his eyes open but unseeing. The grey pre-dawn light draped over drab buildings and grey pavement like old, dirty cobwebs, but as far as Doyle was concerned, it could have been midnight or noon outside; the window could have looked out onto a park or a desert or a tropical jungle. He heard the sound of metal against metal and the protest of the bedsprings. For a moment, the room was silent, then the floorboards creaked. Cold hard hands closed about his throat and squeezed. Doyle stood there passively, wondering briefly, in a distant sort of fashion, how long it would take him to lose consciousness.


Someone was shaking him by the shoulders and seemed to be trying to get him to walk somewhere. Backwards. His ears buzzed, and all he could see was a kind of sparkle-shot darkness. His knees and ankles felt rubbery, but he staggered along anyway, sitting down abruptly when some solid object hit the backs of his knees.

"Doyle! C'mon. Wake up. I know you're in there. Ray?"

He blinked and tried to focus his eyes. Bodie stopped shaking him and squatted back on his heels. Doyle looked beyond him at the tawdry room and blinked again, trying to put the place and the person together in some way that made sense. It didn't take long. He'd never been quite as good at forgetting unpleasant things as he could have wished. Besides, he was sitting on the bed and his hand was resting on one of the handcuffs. He pulled it back as if had been scalded, and put it on his knee.

"I'm awake." His voice felt scratchy and his head was pounding. He cleared his throat.

"You all right?"

"Oh, yeah," Doyle said, "I'm just fine. Couldn't be better." He raked his hands through his hair. "Look, I was wrong. I'm sorry. Leave if you want, but I think it'd do us both good if we could talk for a little while before you do."

"Talk?" Bodie asked. "I just tried to choke the life out of you."

"Mustn't have tried very hard," Doyle said, "and anyway, fair's fair. I didn't put those marks on your throat by accident."

"You couldn't have put much effort into it either; I'm still breathing. D'you reckon that might mean something?" One of Bodie's eyebrows quirked upwards with the first glimmer of humour Doyle had seen in him so far.

"Just means we're both luckier than we deserve to be. You know how chancy a choke-hold can be." Doyle felt a chill trace itself down his spine as he spoke; it was far too easy for someone to die that way. The pressure on certain nerves could cause the heart to stop; a crushed windpipe would do the same, only it took a minute or two longer.

"Yeah, well, maybe it's like you said. I made some mistakes; you did too. Doesn't mean we can't try to put things right, does it?" Bodie reached out and touched Doyle's hand.

Doyle blinked hard. "Some things can't be put right. I--"

"No, you don't!" Bodie reproved him. "You're not going to go into a fit of the pea-blue megrims. Not right now, anyway."

"Pea-blue?" Doyle asked, distracted despite himself from his absorption in how badly he'd screwed up what he'd intended as a fresh start for him and Bodie. "No such thing."

"If there was, you'd have the patent on it." Bodie said. He made an uncomfortable movement, then stood and walked over to the door. Doyle watched him go, and his heart dropped towards his boots.

"Where's the bog?"

"Oh." Doyle took a breath, telling himself that he mustn't assume more from Bodie's question than that he needed to relieve himself. It didn't mean that everything was all right, even if the prosaic inquiry did seem to bring back so many occasions in the past when they'd been the best of mates. "To your left, down the corridor," he said. "Watch out for the floor, too; I don't think it's to be trusted."

Bodie nodded, and left the room, closing the door quietly behind himself.

Doyle bowed his head and studied his clasped hands, feeling the ache behind his eyes intensify with every heartbeat. It could only have been a little while before he heard Bodie's footsteps approaching the door, though it seemed much longer. The door opened, and Doyle looked up.

Bodie came into the room, shaking his head, then caught sight of Doyle and came over to him. "You look a little under the weather. Can see that it'd be natural enough to feel a bit less than joyful and carefree around this dump, though. Whatever made you pick this place for a reunion celebration?"


"It could be. You want to start over?" Bodie rose to his feet and pulled Doyle up to face him, retaining his grasp on his right hand and shaking it vigorously. "If it isn't Ray Doyle. It's been too long. You want to come back to my place and we'll have a drink or two?"

"You berk." Doyle shook his head at the absurdity of it. He smiled, unwillingly; his face felt stiff. "Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. Should have suggested it myself."

"Instead of makin' me an offer I couldn't refuse?" Bodie asked. "Never mind. Let's get out of this place." He bent and picked up the carrier bag. "Coming?"

Doyle followed him out of the room. They took Doyle's car back to The Spotted Dog, then Doyle followed Bodie as he drove his own vehicle back to his flat. It was still early enough in the morning that traffic was relatively light, and it took less than a half hour to reach their destination. It was not what Doyle would have called an upmarket area.

Manipulating key and lock, Bodie shouldered his front door open. It protested, the moisture-swollen wood dragging across the jamb with some reluctance. Doyle's eyes flicked around the room he found himself in. It was clean, as he would have expected, but the furnishings had long since been worn to shabbiness. The carpet had lost most of its nap in the centre, and the corners of the sofa cushions were frayed. There was a rumpsprung armchair in the corner opposite the ancient-looking television. Bodie motioned him to it.

"'S more comfortable than the sofa," he said, moving to a cabinet against the far wall. "Drink?"

Doyle sat, and grimaced as the cushions gave beneath him, leaving him with his rear end suspended only a few inches above the floor and his knees barely below the level of his eyes. "Rather have a cuppa, if you don't mind."

Bodie straightened. "It'll take a few minutes. The kettle's seen better days." He went through the doorway next to the drinks cabinet and Doyle heard the sound of water splashing and the rattle of crockery. "You and your tea," Bodie said, standing in the doorway. There was a faint smile on his face.

Somehow, the familiar complaint wrenched at Doyle in a way no reproach from his partner could have. He stood up, with some effort, and looked blindly around the room. "Where's the loo?" he asked in a tight voice.

Bodie pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the other doorway in the room. "Through there."

Doyle went through the doorway Bodie had indicated, finding himself in a very abbreviated hallway with a door to either side of him. The door to his right was ajar, and the smell of pine cleaner came plainly to him from within. He went inside and closed the door after him. He stood in the darkness for a moment, the darkness softer than light would have been on eyes which felt dry and too hot, then he felt for the switchplate, finding it without difficulty. The light glared at him from the wall above the sink, and the mirror was as merciless. He stared at the apparition of his own reflection. Red-eyed with lack of sleep, sallow-skinned, lines about his mouth and in his forehead--in his time he'd seen healthier looking corpses. Happier looking ones, too. He turned on the tap. The water ran rusty for a little while, but cleared rapidly. Doyle doused his face with the icy liquid, then blotted it dry with a towel from the rack behind him. He used the toilet and washed his hands, then, without any reason to put it off longer, he went back out to the other room.

Bodie was in the kitchen, pouring the tea into brown pottery mugs. Doyle walked up behind him, being careful to make a little noise as he moved. "Smells good."

Bodie handed him one of the mugs. "Yours."

Doyle sipped, feeling the hot liquid slide down his throat, and followed the other man back into the main room, taking his seat in the chair once more. Bodie seated himself on the sofa.

"It really is more comfortable," Bodie said. "No use your making that face at me. You may have your arse practically on the floor, but there are two springs trying to bore their way out of the cushion I'm sitting on and into me."

Doyle smiled. It wasn't a great success. He sipped his tea. That went a little better. Bodie was watching him. He tried to sit up a bit straighter, but there was such an aching weariness in his bones that it was difficult.

"You're tired, aren't you?" Bodie asked, taking a swallow of tea from his own mug.

"Been worse," Doyle answered.

"Thought so," Bodie said, as if Doyle had admitted to being exhausted. "You supposed to be at work today?"


"I have a bed. Why don't you lie down and see if you can grab a bit of a zizz."

Doyle gave him a look, not quite certain what to make of this offer.

Bodie said, "I'll be here when you wake up."

"Yeah?" Doyle hadn't meant the word to hold as much scepticism as it did; it came out almost as a challenge, and heaven knew he didn't want to set himself and Bodie at odds again.

"Yeah. I will."

"All right." Doyle struggled up out of the chair, and stood there holding his mug, uncertain what to do with it. Bodie came over and took it from him, then set both mugs down on the little table which stood beside the sofa.


The bed was made up with crisp white sheets and warm, woollen blankets. Doyle looked at it and felt his eyelids drooping almost at the very idea of lying down in it. He heeled off his trainers, shrugged out of the jacket he had forgotten to take off when he came into the flat, pulled off his T-shirt, skinned out of his jeans, and gratefully crawled into the bed. Bodie was looking down at him. Doyle mustered the little energy he had left.

"Thanks. Just give me an hour or two, okay?"

"All the time you need, mate." Bodie pulled the shades and left the room. Doyle was asleep almost before his eyes closed.

The room was dark, not with the impenetrable darkness of full night, but with the darkness of drawn shades and dim, cloudy day. Doyle knew where he was even without opening his eyes. He knew how he'd got there. He also knew, with shattering certainty, how very close he'd come to fucking everything up. It was only blind luck, or some unconsidered softness in Bodie's nature, which had averted catastrophe. Doyle's mind went round and round the same cycle of unwelcome but irrefutable ideas which had occupied it before he'd slept.

How could he have thought that anything positive could come out of his constraining Bodie against his will? Doing it for his own good? That was the phrase used by the kind of self-satisfied, smug, hypocritical individual Doyle had always professed to scorn. It had been an unwelcome shock for him to realise that he was such a person. Those things Bodie had said to him, while said in the heat of anger and intended to hurt, were more true than not. He did manipulate people. Put him in a situation where he needed the support of someone who disagreed with him and there wasn't any tactic he was above using. He'd argue or wheedle, coerce or cajole, and if none of those worked, creating confusion would occasionally let him get his way. And whatever he did, he excused himself because his choice was the right choice. And if it was the wrong choice--but expedient nonetheless--then he'd find some way to vindicate himself later. Doyle thought of all the times he'd chosen to take what he'd considered to be the high moral ground--in retrospect, after the necessity for acting without qualms had passed. It was as if by agonising over his actions, he could avoid all of the blame for them, passing it to someone who did not appear to agonise--like Bodie, or Cowley, or anyone else who happened to be handy. Had he ever once thought of what he was doing when he'd done so? And who or what had appointed him the arbiter of right and wrong for all the world? No one and nothing, and yet he'd gone on as if deciding the justice of any particular course was his responsibility, and his alone, and that anyone who disagreed with him must be morally deficient.

It was amazing that Bodie had stuck it as long as he had. Why on earth would he want to have anything more to do with him now?

He wouldn't. Doyle couldn't think of any reason to deny that conclusion. That unexpected softness Bodie could sometimes show him might be responsible for this brief truce, but it wouldn't last.

Bleak thoughts, those. Doyle would have liked to forget them for just a little while, to let sleep wash over him. Who knew, he might dream of a world more to his liking, but tired as he still was, sleep seemed beyond him. No use fighting it. Doyle opened his eyes.

Dark shapes in the dimness of the room were the bureau, the wardrobe, the door. There was another dark shape standing nearer than any of those, a shape Doyle knew well. Not a yard from the bed, head bent, still and silent, Bodie stood watching him.

Doyle stirred under the bedclothes. "You all right?" he asked.

Bodie's head nodded. The planes and angles of his face, shadowed and indistinct, were not revealing, but Doyle knew the expression it bore. Sombre and unsmiling, it could have been the face of a statue if not for the dark gleam of the eyes. He could hear the sound of his own breathing, but not Bodie's. Neither of them said anything for what seemed a long time.

Finally, Doyle said, "Came to say good-bye, then?"


"Is that, 'No, not yet'?" Doyle asked, "Or if I hadn't been awake were you just going to leave without saying good-bye?"

"I'm not leaving, Doyle. Told you so, earlier."

"Said you'd be here when I woke up, that's all."

"And I am." Bodie looked down at himself and then at Doyle. "See?"

"Yeah, but I don't understand."

"Understand what?"

Doyle sighed. "All of it, I suppose. Why you're here. Why you're still here. Why you didn't just leave, and leave me trussed up and unconscious on the floor of that hotel room."

"What's all this crap about me leaving?" Bodie moved closer to the bed, his knees almost touching the mattress. "I tried that. Thought that it was what I wanted. Almost had myself convinced that it was. And then I woke up with a headache so bad it made my toenails hurt, chained down to a bed in a fourth-rate hotel room, and you were there, close enough to touch if I'd had a hand free."

"I'm sorry about that." Doyle didn't know if he was apologising for drugging Bodie and for chaining him up, or for all the times he'd misjudged him or taken advantage of him.

"'S all right. Came out right in the end, didn't it?"

"If you say so." Doyle moved uneasily, encountering chilly cotton where his body heat hadn't warmed the bed. He pulled the blankets more snugly around his neck and shoulders, then looked over at Bodie, who had his hands tucked into his armpits. The room was cold.

"Central heating not working?" he asked.

Bodie gave a muffled snort. "Might say that. Never did work very well. Used to make funny noises; now it's stopped."

"Don't you get cold?" Doyle stopped, shook his head. "Of course you get cold. And this bed's the warmest spot in the flat, isn't it?" He flung back the blankets, shivering as the cold air hit his skin. "Climb in, damn it, or I'm getting out--and I'd really just as soon stay here."

Bodie stared at him, then turned and sat on the edge of the mattress. There was the one-two thump of his shoes hitting the floor, and then the bed rocked as he turned and slid beneath the covers, pulling the blanket up under his chin.

The bed was not over-large. The cool fabric of Bodie's clothes brushed against Doyle's right arm and leg but warmth grew between them as the moments went by. Doyle folded his arms across his chest; the fingers of his left hand just brushing against the leather of Bodie's belt. He sighed, feeling more at ease than he had in months.

"What's that for?" Bodie asked.

"Eh? Oh. Dunno," Doyle said. "Your headache gone, then, is it?"

"Mostly. Damned Mickey Finn."

"Said I was sorry," Doyle said with honest contrition. "You knew what it was, then?"

"Had a pretty good idea when the room started spinning around me," Bodie said dryly, "but by then it was too late."

"I won't do it again," offered Doyle.


"You still angry?"

"Some." Bodie stretched his legs, and a billow of cold air curled down around Doyle's shoulders and chest. "Not much. It'll work itself out. Before, I was angrier than I was glad, or I wouldn't have said what I said to you. I wanted to make you angry enough to set me loose. Now, I'm gladder than I am angry, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah," said Doyle, with heartfelt sincerity. He closed his eyes and lay there for a moment. Bodie was still annoyed, but he wasn't showing any signs of leaving. Maybe their friendship could be salvaged after all. He made a silent vow to try to be more deserving of that friendship in the future. Might be difficult, but the idea was not unappealing. Bodie would be there; that'd make the effort worthwhile. Doyle could feel the warmth of him all down his side, and it was still and peaceful in the room, just a faint murmur reaching them from the clamour of the city.

"I'm glad, too," Doyle said quietly. He reached one hand out under the covers and touched Bodie's chest. "I've missed you." Compelled by his conscience to truthfulness, he added, "I still think it was one of the stupidest things you've ever done, killing King Billy, but I should have said so and let it go at that. You were in enough trouble as it was; you didn't need me heapin' abuse on you as well." His thumb rubbed back and forth across the solidity of Bodie's breastbone.

Bodie lay quietly for a moment, then his hand covered Doyle's. "Yeah. I didn't." He moved restlessly. "It hurt, Ray. I knew I'd been off my head to go as far as I did--especially when Cowley knew what I was up to. I knew I'd just thrown away a good job for the sake of seeing that King Billy got what he deserved, but I didn't think about its costing me you, too."

"It didn't," Doyle assured him. "Or not for good." He rolled onto his side, facing Bodie from scant inches away. "I'm here. You're here." He took a sudden gasping breath, put his arm around Bodie and pulled him close. "Didn't think I'd ever be able to say that again," he mumbled into Bodie's neck.

"Hey, it's all right," Bodie said, putting his own arms around Doyle and holding him tight. "Don't take on so."

Doyle heard him, but the words didn't mean anything compared to the reality of feeling the solid physical presence of his partner against him. It was a remedy for all those dreadful days and weeks of knowing Bodie was gone, and an antidote to the corrosive doubts which whispered that all could still be lost once more. It felt good. He wriggled a little closer, breathing deeply, inhaling the scents that meant Bodie. There was soap and shampoo and aftershave, and Bodie's cheeks were satin smooth--must've showered and shaved, tidy bastard--and beneath it all, some scent which was just plain Bodie. The feel of the strong arms wrapped around him and the feel of Bodie's chest rising and falling against his own were making him feel warm clean through. He breathed a little gusting sigh of contentment into Bodie's neck.

Bodie jumped as if he'd had an electrical shock. For a moment, he didn't even breathe. Doyle pulled back a little so that he could see his face, but upon doing so, he found that he didn't really need to. The reason for Bodie's shock was obvious. Palpable, verging on rigid, it was a part of Bodie of which Doyle had not expected ever to make such a close acquaintance. Bodie's face was a study in mixed feelings. Doyle knew how he felt, but after the first immediate shock of it, he decided that it was mixed good feelings, not mixed bad feelings--despite what society might have had to say about it--and that he hoped that Bodie felt the same way.

"You all right, mate?" Doyle asked.

Bodie looked at him, one corner of his mouth bent upwards in what could have been taken for a smirk by someone who didn't know him. "Fit as a fiddle--or haven't you noticed?"

"Oh, I've noticed, believe me." Doyle smiled slowly. He wriggled, demonstrating to his partner that Bodie's reaction had not gone unreciprocated.

"So you have," Bodie said slowly, as his face lit up. He caught Doyle to him and held him so tightly that Doyle found it difficult to breathe. The pressure of Bodie's erection against his own was shockingly pleasurable, even through his pants and Bodie's cords, but after a moment or two, Doyle squirmed to try to free himself.

"Hang about just a minute. You've got to be strangling in those cords," Doyle said. He tilted his head and added wistfully, "An' I'd like to be able to touch you, too, if you don't mind."

Bodie ran a fingertip lightly down his chest, stopping at the waistband of his pants. "I don't mind. Do you?"

Doyle shook his head dumbly, astonished by the thrill of pleasure which had rippled through him at Bodie's touch. He reached out and tugged at Bodie's pullover. "Help me with this?"

It took less than a minute to divest Bodie of his clothing. Pullover, roll-neck, cords, pants, and even socks--at Doyle's insistence--were dropped in a heap on the floor. Doyle's pants came to rest, with a flourish, on top of the pile, as Bodie let them fall from an outstretched index finger. Warm and cozy under the readjusted blankets, with nothing to impede the touch of skin against skin, Doyle found that this intimate closeness was something to make his head spin. Free to stroke and to caress, that freedom was almost more exciting than the knowing touches which moved along his own body, teasing and arousing him so that he gasped and swore when Bodie paused for a moment.

"Wait--just wait," Bodie said, panting. "C'mere, it'll be better like this." He tugged at Doyle, urging him to move on top of him.

Better? Once they'd got their clashing knees sorted out, it was probably better than he'd ever known before--except that Doyle knew that he was in no fit state to make comparisons. The feel of Bodie writhing under him, the wicked urgency of the hands moving across his face, through his hair, over his back and his buttocks, these were enough to have him half out of his mind and altogether beyond any reasoned response. His body spoke for him, attesting to his desire for his partner, and arguing his eager hunger. By his actions, Bodie was convinced--his body spoke not of rebuttal, but of fervent agreement, and they rolled and heaved together for a time, building pleasure upon pleasure, until heat became incandescence, and much too much to withstand.

The aftershocks of pleasure died away after a while, and Doyle opened his eyes. Bodie was looking at him, eyelids heavy. "You going to want to do that again?" he asked.

Doyle lifted the blanket a couple of inches and looked down the length of his body. He shook his head sadly. "Not right away, I'm afraid."

Bodie suppressed a laugh. "All right. How about this, then?" He reached out with one hand and cupped the back of Doyle's head, pulling him nearer until their lips met in a long kiss. Perhaps Doyle oughtn't to have been surprised, but the sheer affection in the way Bodie's mouth played over his startled him, before he returned the sentiment, with interest.

"Nice," he breathed, when his mouth was his to use for speech once more. He smiled his happiness at his partner, and noticing the darkened area on Bodie's throat, he bent to brush his lips gently across it in belated apology.

"Yeah, nice," agreed Bodie, and yawned.

"Want to get some sleep?" asked Doyle.

"Mmm-hmm. Maybe. Unless you want to talk some more."

"We'll have time tomorrow if we need it, won't we?" Doyle said, another question loitering behind the one he asked.

"All the time we need," Bodie said, answering both.

"All right, then. Tomorrow morning, I'll tell Cowley that I'm quitting. Under the circumstances, I don't think he'll make me work out my two weeks."

"Which circumstances are those?" Bodie asked.

"However much of the truth it takes," Doyle said.

"You sure about that? You always told me that working for CI5 was a way you could do some good in the world. Has that changed?"

"No," Doyle said, "but I have. I think I'd like to find a safer way to do a little good in the world--and make a living, of course." He paused. "That is, if you think that might be a good idea, too."

"One of the best ones you've had today," Bodie said vehemently.

Doyle thought a minute and then leaned up on an elbow and glared down at Bodie. "That goes for you, too, you understand! You think you can find some way of earning a living that doesn't put your neck on the line every other day?"

Bodie nodded his smug agreement. "Have an incentive now, don't I!"

-- THE END --

Originally published in Dark Fantasies 4, Maverick Press, 1996

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