Return to Neverland
Banner by Agent Xpndble for summer_of_78
Written for the summer_of_78 livejournal fic exchange.
The street was quiet, suburban, and the house itself seemed as ordinary as it was possible for a house to be: red brick, white sills, tiled roof. Grey path, tatty grass and a sad looking bush or two in the front garden, nets at the windows, a scrubby mat on the front step, a crack in one of the paving stones. And absolutely no movement. For the last six hours. At all.
Doyle felt his eyes drooping, widened them behind the eyepiece of the binoculars and made himself take a deep breath.
"Tired, are we?" Bodie asked from the bed in the corner, ostentatiously flicking over another page of Private Eye.
"Don’t flatter yourself, mate," he said automatically, wondering if it were possible for your eyes to actually cross and stay that way from too much staring at net curtains, "I’m bored out of my mind here. What the ‘ell bee’s up Cowley’s bonnet now, landing us with this?"
Doyle knew he was repeating himself, that it wasn’t the first time in their twelve-hour shift that Bodie had heard those words, and it wasn’t likely to be the last either. This was their third stakeout in a fortnight, and they were both beginning to wonder if they’d pissed the old man off without realising it. "Would you rather be in Records?"
"Believe it or not, I think I would..."
"What, without me?"
Doyle jumped as he realised that Bodie was suddenly right behind him. He was probably the only person in the world who could do that. Something about the way they were so comfortable around each other. Trusting. Trusted. Safe.
"All alone in the dark...?"
Maybe not so safe. He felt Bodie’s hands, warm and heavy on his hips, felt them slide around and slowly down his thighs... Christ!
"Bo-die..." he wiggled against them, earning himself a slap on the rump, but then he was free again. He could feel Bodie grinning behind him.
"Not on the job," he said, at the same time as Bodie did, and he smiled in spite of himself. Bloody clown. Yeah, maybe he would rather be here than in records...
"Oi, there you go!"
"What? He turned the binoculars further up the street to where a woman was getting out of a navy blue Metro. Long dark hair swung down to her waist, as she considered something inside the car, and then they were treated to a rather special view as she bent over and leaned across to the passenger seat.
Bodie snatched the glasses from him, a smirk twisting at his lips, and Doyle watched him indulgently. Even from a distance the girl was nice, good figure, great arse, but it was funny how he could really care less these days, and he knew Bodie felt the same, deep down. Nice to look still, but...
"Oi," Bodie said again, paused. There was something odd about his voice. "Isn’t that...?" He paused again. The girl was standing straight once more, rummaging in her bag.
"Isn’t that who?"
"Thought it was someone for a minute,"
"It is someone, you prat. Give me those!" Doyle took the glasses, as much to annoy Bodie as anything, and with an amused glance in his direction -- and a quick one at the house, where still, unsurprisingly, nothing had moved -- he trained them back on the girl.
Oddly enough she did look familiar now, even in quarter-profile, with all that hair sliding about her shoulders. Who..?
A pause. "Mmn."
"Bodie that’s that girl from... You remember!" From that mad op where Cowley’d been out to kill them all for some bizarre governmental cover-story. Escorts Unlimited, that was it, and Tinkerbell...
"Leia. I remember." Bodie had gone back to Private Eye, was nonchalantly flicking pages again. "Yeah, I thought it was her."
"Wonder what she’s doing back in London?"
"Keep an eye on the house, would you? Be just our luck they’d choose this minute to leave with a crateload of M-16s. Could walk out right under your nose now, couldn’t they sunshine?"
"Eh?" But he swung the binoculars obediently back to the house. Nothing had changed. "D’you think she..."
"I think it’s a coincidence, mate, but if you want to go running down the street and ask her, be my guest."
Bodie hadn’t liked Leia, he remembered that now too, even though they’d never seen her after that day. Doyle hadn’t so much as dated her. Turned him down flat, she had. Shame that, she was an amazing bird. A face and figure like that, she could shoot straight, stay calm in a crisis and manage to figure out what was going on, which was more than they’d been able to do at the time. If there had ever really been a time when he might have married a woman, Leia would have been perfect. Funny how the good ones had all been foreigners.
Just for a minute he wondered what she would say if he ran down and caught up with her now -- the binoculars had wavered and were following her retreating figure down the road, until she turned the corner onto the high street. Would she be as surprised as he’d been? He forced his eyes back to number 23.
I wanted her.
"What the ‘ell would I do that for?" he asked Bodie, trying to remember what was going on in her little patch of the desert. "Didn’t they have a coup there not long ago?"
"’Bout a year back," Bodie confirmed, perking up slightly, "Her mate Hanish took one in the chest." This time Doyle heard him sliding off the bed, padding over to stand shoulder to shoulder, gazing in the opposite direction to his own.
"It’s gotta be change-over time by now."
"Keep your shirt on. Nearly," Bodie half-muttered, and Doyle felt him stiffen ever so slightly. "Thought you said you weren’t gonna go chasing after her?"
Doyle rolled his eyes, took a breath. "I’m not, you moron." He shoved the binoculars at Bodie’s chest, and Bodie automatically took them, lifted them to his own face. After a moment Doyle slid behind him, wrapped his arms around Bodie’s waist, and let them stand there, together, hidden from the world by their own set of nets at the window. A kind of peace.
"You really are a prat, you know," he said finally into Bodie’s ear, softening the words with a gentle bite to his earlobe, a trail of kisses down his neck.
Bodie nudged him away, disciplined eyes trained on the house. "Yeah," he said, "I know."
Doyle gave him a last squeeze, let himself drop down onto the bed, and chose a magazine at random from a scattered selection. Cosmopolitan. What joker had brought that along? Ah, Ruth maybe, she’d been here last night.
The hours drifted on.
Anson’s op broke the next day, and it seemed that their dry spell of stakeout after stakeout had come to an end. As Doyle hunkered further down behind the crates, his trainers seeping water from the puddle he was crouched in, one bullet left up the spout, and his only clips scattered empty around him, he wondered if he should regret that. And then there was a whistling above his head, and the ra-tat reverberation of shots fired at him, hitting the side of the warehouse instead, and he knew he never would.
His mind raced, a dozen different strategies considered and rejected, the one perfect decision bursting above them all, thought becoming action before he was consciously aware of either. This was what they were made for, him and Bodie, this was what they were good at. They were cordite and they were adrenalin and, as Bodie’s magnum blazed out to his left, giving him time to dash between stacks of crates to one of the dead men, to loosen the Walther from his fingers and to turn it against his once-friends, he knew as ever the only truth. They were together.
Through the haze of gun smoke he counted another three bodies, making seven total, and heard the cries of men outside. Lucas, McCabe. The Scottish burr of their boss. That was it, the warehouse was covered. He placed the last three fighters, felt Bodie still to his left, knew him to be well-supplied with ammo, and took a breath to shout.
"You’re surrounded, you know! Might as well give it up!"
Movement to his right. A fourth man. Nah, couldn’t be, there were only three left. But there he was, an old Luger in his hand. Strange to see one outside of Bodie’s collection. Not your weapon of choice these days. He wondered vaguely if it was 9mm or one of the really old ones? Bodie would know. A roar past his ears, and a burning in his shoulder.
The sound of a single shot rang out, but two blew the man’s chest apart, from his own weapon and from Bodie’s, and Doyle could breathe again. There was a clattering to his left as the others threw their guns to the ground, then footsteps and shouts at the entrance. He closed his eyes.
A rush of air, the smell of him, and then Bodie’s hands were on him, one raising his chin the other brushing aside the shoulder of his jacket. He looked up into the grim face, tried a smile but it came out lopsided.
"I’m fine." He looked sideways to where the bullet had torn through three layers of fabric and one of skin. "’S just a crease."
There was blood all down his back though, he could feel it, sticky and warm. And there would be bruises on his arm later, just the perfect shape and size of Bodie’s fingers.
"Bloody idiot, Doyle!" he was being shaken now, "Didn’t you see him? What the hell’s wrong with you?"
"Get off me, Bodie!" He tore himself loose, ignoring the sharp pain and the feel of more blood trickling down his skin. So he should be in pain, after what he’d done. How the hell had he not counted four of them? Getting old, maybe. Or getting cocky, as the old man was always telling them? Either way if Cowley found out about it he’d be lucky to avoid being sent to the range for testing. Even luckier if all he got away with after that was a refresher. What if it’d been Bodie in the firing line? What if it’d been Bodie and I didn’t see him and I didn’t make the shot in time?
"Alright, alright." Bodie had taken his arm again, gently this time. Why was he being gentle with him? He didn’t deserve that... "Can’t even let a bloke have his righteous indignation, can you? Gotta get that look, every time..."
"I should’ve seen him."
"He came out of nowhere. Could’ve happened to anyone."
"Didn’t though. Happened to me."
"Ah, leave it out Ray. You’re fine, I’m fine, it’s a beautiful day, and just for a change it’s your own shirt you ruined."
Doyle peered down at the dark blue check, swallowed and made himself play along. "Got news for you, sunshine..."
Despite his protests Bodie steered him straight to the ambulance, where he was patched up and summarily dispatched to Cowley’s lecture on being more careful.
"Damned expensive to replace," Doyle frowned in a passable imitation that Bodie smiled dutifully at, bending to brush broken glass from the passenger side of the Capri. "Do it again and Macklin can have you for the month!"
"Got away with it all ‘round then," Bodie declared, swinging himself behind the wheel. "Fancy a beer to celebrate?"
Doyle glanced at the hole in his jacket, decided that if he kept it on he’d be able to hide the blood on his shirt, and nodded. "Yeah," he added, realising Bodie couldn’t see him as he wove the car through the clean-up team. "Drop this off first?"
"Suppose so. Frank isn’t going to like it. Second one this month."
"Well then he can come and be shot at." Doyle suggested, angling himself more comfortably into the corner and closing his eyes. Hard to sleep with the wind rushing at him like that, mind. Windscreens were definitely handy things to have...
What with one thing and another -- Frank’s latest lecture and a restorative pint at the pub -- it was late enough to be almost dark by the time they headed home. The sky was cloud-stretched sunset, a glory of orange and red and gold reflecting across the silver of the new Capri. Doyle watched as Bodie’s skin was tinged with the same light, his fingers dancing with it on the wheel.
Bodie caught him looking. "What?" he asked, self consciously half-belligerent, "Got a smear down my cheek?"
For a moment Doyle wished he still painted, wished he could take the moment and put it on canvas so that he would always have it, always have him.
"Get us home, Bodie," he said instead, turning away to hide his own face, knowing there was too much showing in his eyes. One day at a time, he reminded himself, shrugging his shoulder to pull the skin, all we’ve got is one day at a time...
And it was then that he saw her again, waiting to cross the road as they pulled up at the traffic lights, and this time she heard him say her name through the rolled-down window, and she turned and their eyes met. The world seemed to go quiet for a minute after that, as though all the city was waiting to hear what happened next, he thought, and then she was smiling and walking over to the vehicle, and Bodie was sighing beside him.
"I remember you!" Leia said, and her voice had the same rich, exotic twist that he remembered. "Ray. And..?"
"Bodie," Doyle managed. "It’s Leia isn’t it? One woman security operation?"
She smiled, remembering perhaps how he had tried to flatter her with that as she sat on the tailgate of the ambulance. "I am still Leia, but now I am smarter. I no longer work in politics. A woman cannot, forever..." She nodded at his shoulder, eyes quickly finding the bullet hole. "I see however that you are still being shot at."
He blinked once, then nodded ruefully. "Still not worked out why, either." He glanced over at Bodie, who was watching the exchange silently. "Look, we’re on our way home, d’you have time for a coffee?"
Leia smiled again, shook her head. "Tonight I must study." She paused, seemed to consider him for a moment. "But maybe tomorrow..?"
"Great. Give me your number." He watched as she rummaged in her bag for paper and pen, refused to turn his head to take in Bodie’s hard stare, though he could feel it between his shoulder blades as he leaned to take the scrap from Leia’s fingers. "I’ll give you a ring in the morning."
"I shall look forward to it," she nodded, turned and walked away, as though she had seen them just the day before. Calm. Straightforward, despite her former job, its twists and turns and deceptions. He appreciated that in a woman - in anyone come to that.
"Can we go now?" Bodie asked beside him, throwing the car into first without waiting for an answer, and accelerating fast enough that Doyle was jerked back against the seat. Just what he needed. A jealous Bodie. He felt his lips tightening, his mood darken just enough to be tangible. He was tired, he didn’t want to go through this now.
"She’s just an agent, Bodie."
"So was Sally. So," Bodie added tonelessly but viciously, "Was Kathy Mason."
"For god’s sake, I’ll talk to whoever I want! Besides," he willed himself to say, "You’ll be there with me the whole time. What chance does she have against that?"
"Why will I be there?"
"Why..? You mean you won’t come?"
"Got better things to do with a day off, mate."
"No. Seriously." Deceptively light of voice now, "You go and have a good chat. She never liked me anyway."
"Course she did. You saved us both." As soon as he said it he knew it was the wrong thing, but it was too late to take it back. Us, as though there had ever been any other us than him and Bodie.
"I’ve got chores to do. I’ll see you ‘round."
Abruptly Doyle realised they were outside his flat, that Bodie wasn’t parking, was sitting waiting for him to get out. He started to turn towards him, caught Bodie’s eyes dark upon him. Fine.
"Right then," he got out, slammed the door and started to lean down, some pithy comment about trust and partnership on the tip of his tongue, but it was too late. He watched orange tail lights dwindling in the twilight, stood until they merged into the sparse traffic at the end of the road and vanished altogether.
Despite himself he was up early the next day -- not much point lying in on your own after all -- and by ten o clock he’d got his flat in order, his bills paid, and his book half finished. He toyed idly with the thought of calling Bodie, suggesting a pub lunch in some beer garden before the end of the summer closed in around them, but he found himself sitting instead, staring out the window at the sky, flicking Leia’s phone number over and over between his fingers.
There was nothing wrong with talking to the woman, for god’s sake, colleague to colleague, why couldn’t Bodie see that? If he didn’t know by now how Ray felt about him, how he would never risk their relationship... But Bodie had to give a little as well. He had to trust him.
Doyle swung his feet off the couch, reached over for the telephone, and twenty minutes later he was on his way.
The café Leia suggested was one Doyle himself might have chosen. Quiet, unpretentious, all the tea and coffee, scones and cakes you could want. He’d have to bring Bodie sometime, his eyes would light up at the amount of cream they piled on... It was also near her college, for Leia had indeed left the bullets and double-think behind her, and was enrolled as a student.
"It was one of the few reasons I could find to leave home," she said, stirring sugar into her black coffee. "Once Hanish was gone it was... difficult to continue where I was. And I knew it would not be long before even that chance was barred to me."
"Not very liberal then, your new government," Doyle suggested, knowing full well that the regime had come down hard on the opposition groups and in particular on any former supporters of Rashid Hanish. He was surprised that Leia had managed to escape it herself.
"Oh, they took me in for questioning a time or two, but my father, you know, was quite high up in the military, and they wanted his support,"
"Your father supported the coup?"
Leia snorted, "He supported whoever had the power," she said contemptuously, "Just because one shares blood does not mean you agree on the ways of the world."
"True, true," Doyle nodded, "Then again, sometimes it’s more..." he twisted his lips at his choice of word, used it anyway, "Politic to bend with the wind?"
"Not this wind." For a moment her eyes blazed passion, hatred, and something Doyle couldn’t quite put his finger on. Not fear... "These new men are intent on subjugating my people, on bringing them to their knees. If you are not from the right clan, if you don’t have the right connections, then you have no protection at all. It is what Hanish fought against his whole life."
"I’m sorry," Doyle stilled her hand, which was whirling the coffee to froth, threatening to spill it over the fine white china. He closed his fingers around hers, until she looked down. "He must have been a good man."
"I am the one who should be sorry. That is history now, and I am starting a new life here." She met his eyes again. "My fiancee’s family was taken by the new police force. We thought they would be questioned, then released, but... No one saw them again." She shook her head. "It is hard to forget things like that, even here, so far away."
"You shouldn’t forget it," Doyle told her, feeling his heart twist. She was still brave. "But keep your friends close."
She gazed at him, still serious, nodding slowly. "When the term starts I am sure I shall make many good friends."
"And until then the old ones will do?" he asked, teasing gently, trying to lighten the mood once more.
"Until then I want to catch up on my reading. It is a long time since I was last a student."
"You should see London as well, while the weather’s nice."
"I’d like that," she said, and he realised that he’d made it an invitation. Well why not?
"Maybe some of our stately homes?"
She did smile at that and he felt on safer ground again. "Now those I have seen. I think I would like some new memories of London. An art gallery perhaps? My fiancée was always trying to impress upon me the importance of art..." But she said it without bitterness, with just a little wistful humour, and he let himself be drawn into a discussion on the merits of this sculptor and that painter, and a promise that on his next day off he would prove his argument at the Tate.
Without consciously thinking about it, Doyle found himself at the market, jostled by the early afternoon crowd, eying beansprouts and mange tout with a speculative gaze. He hadn’t heard from Bodie since the night before, and as far as he was concerned that was more than enough time for them both to cool off, to stretch themselves and shake off the cobwebs and nightfears.
It was the one thing about Bodie that still managed to surprise him, his possessiveness, his... yeah, his jealousy. Not what he would have expected from his super cool partner, especially when surely he knew that it was right between them. He had to know, just as Doyle did.
Then again, things were often straightforward with Bodie, black and white even. So if he was jealous, he was jealous and it needed to be fixed. Simple. Right. Realising that his gaze had moved on to the tamarinds and lychees, he shook his head and snorted in pure amusement at himself. And the right combination of food for Bodie did not include anything as exotic as beanspouts, he decided ruefully, picking out a dozen spuds for chipping instead and turning back to the butcher on the corner.
By the time he’d finished shopping and been home to shower and change, the sky had clouded over again and a thin drizzle misted the streets. Perfect. No excuse for Bodie to drag them out to the pub, he would just have to succumb to Doyle’s plans, be wined and dined and bedded and made up to. Nice, Doyle thought, and simple.
Except, of course, that it wasn’t.
"What d’you want Ray?" Bodie asked over the intercom, as the drizzle settled into Doyle’s hair and slid itself coldly down his collar.
"Let me up, you berk, it’s wet out here."
"Is it? Why?"
"Thought you were out with what’s-her-name."
"That was hours ago. And you could have come you know. She did..." a large drop splashed its way from his hair to his nose, trickled down his cheek. "Bodie will you let me in and we can argue about it when I’m not drowning?"
"Now, Raymond, I’m sure you’re exaggerating," Bodie sing-songed, but he buzzed the door open at last, and Doyle pushed through and stood in the foyer for a moment, shaking his head and sending spray across the floor tiles and unknowingly into the face of the woman stepping out of the lift. Giving her his best apologetic beam, he started up the stairs two at a time, carrier bags held high, bottles of wine and olive oil clanking.
The door was on the latch, and Doyle went straight through to the kitchen, pulled out a saucepan and filled it with water, and then rummaged for a corkscrew.
"Oh, please, make yourself at home," Bodie said behind him, and Doyle turned to see him leaning against the kitchen door, one elbow on the lintel.
"Thanks, don’t mind if I do." He held out a bottle of wine and the corkscrew, released his breath when Bodie reached out to take it from him. "Steak and chips?"
"Sure. As long as you don’t try and sneak in anything green or nutritious."
"Thought never crossed my mind."
"Hmm," Bodie rolled his eyes and went back into the lounge, and a moment later there was a pop of cork and the satisfying glug of wine being poured. Doyle concentrated on the potatoes, on rubbing garlic into the steak, and slicing onions for frying. In the background he heard the television flicked on, and a sudden gust of wind throw rain up against the window.
He didn’t realise Bodie was behind him again until he turned, sniffing hugely and wiping at his eyes with the heel of one hand, knife waving in the other.
"Ray?" Bodie peered at him, clutched at his wrists and held them where he couldn’t cover his face, "Ray-mate, what’s wrong?" He took the knife out of Doyle’s grasp, laid it on the counter, and raised a thumb to trace tears down his cheek.
"Wrong?" It took him a moment to realise what had happened, and he was almost tempted to play up to it. He buried his face in Bodie’s neck, gave another sniff, and mumbled something into the warm skin, letting his lips tickle, his breath sigh.
"Ray, look, I’m sorry..."
Doyle’s shoulders shook despite himself, and Bodie took him by the upper arms, pulled back, and stared at him.
"You little bastard, I thought you were crying!"
"Of course I was crying," Doyle managed, still trying not to laugh, "I was chopping onions for your tea, you moron." He hooked his fingers into the waistband of Bodie’s cords, pulled him close and tipped his head to look at him. "But it was a nice excuse..."
"Excuse for what?"
"This..." Doyle leaned in and nuzzled at his neck again, one of Bodie’s weak spots, trailed kisses along his jaw and over his lips, coaxing, tempting, wanting. After a moment Bodie’s lips opened to him, and arms pulled him closer.
"Bastard," Bodie repeated, when they both paused for breath.
"But a bastard who comes bearing steak and chips..."
"Just might forgive you then, I suppose..." Bodie leaned his face in so that they stood forehead to forehead, eyes closed, then tilted them closer together, noses, cheeks, lips again...
Doyle pulled away suddenly. "Would you forgive me if I burned the lot?"
"The dinner..." smoke was rising from the garlic he’d left to sauté in the pan, and the potatoes bubbled ferociously, steaming up the room and spilling over the edge in random, sharp, hisses. Bodie stood back to taunt him from a safe distance, and Doyle managed to juggle both cooking and retorts, a tentative smile beginning inside him. It might just be alright after all.
Dinner, full of artery-clogging goodness and finished off with sherry trifle and brandy, left them fit for nothing but lazing on the couch, glasses in hand, the box a vague entertainment in front of their eyes. Mostly Doyle listened to the soft murmur of Bodie’s voice disparaging the late night movie, and enjoyed the warmth of their limbs pressed together, of Bodie’s absent-minded caresses.
After a while, he slid himself down to the floor, switched off the television, and stilled Bodie’s protests by kneeling in front of him and sliding the leather of his belt very slowly from its buckle. Just as slowly he slipped the button, and unzipped the fly. Bodie’s breath was slightly uneven.
Doyle bent down, rubbed his face once across the hard-soft bulge, then reached up to tug on the waistband of Bodie’s trousers. Bodie lifted his hips to help, wriggled further down on the couch, and Doyle ran his hands teasingly across his stomach, leaned in close again, did nothing more than run his tongue the length of Bodie’s cock.
Bodie moaned. "Ray..."
With a sigh he opened his lips and closed them just over the head, let his tongue play, sucked gently, teasing. He felt Bodie’s hands on his face, his fingers on his lips, and in a single motion Doyle took in the length of him, tasting sweet-salt, the size of him in his mouth a turn on by itself. He let his fingers follow his lips, as Bodie pressed in and out, until they were slick with it, reached under Bodie to nudge carefully against another opening, and then Bodie was coming, and he was swallowing, and he was coming himself just because it was so right.
"You know it was just coffee, Bodie," he whispered later, as they lay entwined in bed, wanting to make sure, needing to be certain. "I don’t..."
"I know." Bodie dropped a kiss on his head, ran a hand the length of his spine and back up. "It’s alright, sunshine, I know."
Cowley split them up the next day, and much to his disgust Doyle found himself in Records, researching a string of names that produced no connections he could see. He was on the verge of throwing the whole lot in when Lucas stuck his head around the door.
"You’re wanted ten minutes ago."
"Oo by?" Doyle asked, pushing back the papers and sliding the pencil behind his ear. He reached his arms above his head, stretched until his spine loosened, and his muscles ached with it, and the wound on his shoulder stung. He shrugged it, irritably. He’d forgotten all about it until Cowley had used it as an excuse to send Bodie out without him.
He opened his eyes to find Lucas eying him dubiously.
"Quite finished? By a very angry Scotsman with a very loud bellow."
"Let ‘im bellow," Doyle muttered, feeling rebellious, but he stood nonetheless and made his way upstairs.
Nodded through by Cowley’s latest secretary -- was it Colleen? -- Doyle was surprised to see his partner slouched in front of Cowley’s desk. The man himself was pouring tea into rosy china cups, one of which he held out to Doyle, gesturing with the other hand in the direction of sugar and milk. Doyle settled himself in the other chair, spooned in three sugars and ignored Bodie’s raised eyebrow. Everyone was allowed one vice, surely... He realised he was stirring the tea, staring at Bodie’s black-covered thighs, and he half-smiled. Well, maybe two.
"Quite ready, 4.5?"
He looked up to find Cowley frowning at him, Bodie openly grinning.
"Yes sir. Sorry sir." Sometimes discretion was the better part... "What’s this all about, sir?"
"When you need to know that, 4.5, I’ll tell you. Right now I need to know what you found this morning."
"Not a thing. I can’t see anything that connects any of those names."
"Aye, as I thought."
Then why have I just spent hours trying to do it? "Sir?"
"It was a possibility, nothing more. There are others."
Cowley ignored him, as he’d expected. "I think one of the juniors can handle the paperwork for a while. I want the two of you in Midland Court this afternoon. SW4. Surveillance on number seventeen."
"Anyone in particular we’re surveill-ing, sir?"
"Anyone and everyone who enters or leaves that building, 3.7. If the next door cat comes to visit, I want to know."
A pause, but for the rustling of paper as Cowley picked up a file. They exchanged a glance, and the movement caught his eye.
"Well? What are you waiting for?"
Eying the tea regretfully -- he knew better than to try and take it with him -- Doyle led the way to the door, felt Bodie right behind him.
"Okay, we must have done something," he said, as they pulled it to behind them.
Colleen looked up at them enquiringly. "Not so blue-eyed today?"
"Not for weeks," Bodie perched himself glumly on the corner of her desk. "What’s up with ‘im then? He’s always been a bit..."
"Terse," Doyle interrupted quickly
"...terse" Bodie repeated, with a derisory glance in his direction, "But he’s been like this for nearly a month."
Doyle thought back to the last time he’d seen Cowley smile at them, even one of his disapproving, tight-lipped smiles. Bodie was nearly right, it had been over a fortnight at least.
"He’s busy," Colleen suggested.
"I wish we were..." Bodie began, but was interrupted by a muffled shout through the door.
"Are they still there, Miss Kershaw?"
Shaking their heads at her, fingers to their grinning lips, they tiptoed into the corridor.
"Stakeout," Bodie said, clapping him on the back and letting his hand rest a moment longer than he might have with anyone else.
"Stakeout," Doyle agreed gloomily.
Seventeen Midland Court was, if anything, more ordinary than their last assignment. It seemed to be a shared house, professionals rather than students. A woman arrived home around four o clock -- "Teacher" Bodie said, knowledgably -- two men and another woman a couple of hours later, all swinging briefcases.
How is it, Doyle wondered, that there were times when the world barely slowed down enough to let them breathe, when dodging bullets and avoiding knives and bombs was practically an hourly occurrence, and then weeks would eke by with nothing more than make-work to keep them occupied? Times like this, he thought, that he should have been able to relax and enjoy it. Some of the other teams managed it, some of them even seemed to prefer it.
"Yeah, and they’ll be on B-squad before you know it," Bodie declared when Doyle voiced his thoughts, "Or worse..."
"What, we’re so geared up that we can’t relax or we’d be dead?"
"Something like that," Bodie grinned, "Although we manage a bit of relaxation occasionally..."
Doyle smiled absently at him, intrigued by the new thought. "So, you’re telling me that the only reason we’re Cowley’s top team is that we’re defective?"
"Speak for yourself! No. We’re Cowley’s top team because we’re the best," Bodie was being serious for a change, "And he knows it. So what we’re doing stuck out here... He could at least have put us on standby and given us some time off. This morning was a complete waste of time..."
"Who were you tailing, anyway?"
"Who knows. Not like he tells us anything. Some Arab or other..."
"We just might be able to do a better job if he let us in on the details now and then," Doyle agreed, distracted by the old complaint. "Let us use our brains for something other than paperwork."
"What, and overheat all those lovely curls?" Bodie leaned over and ruffled his hair and Doyle let himself enjoy the brief weight of his hand. Reminded him of lying in bed, stretched out together after sex, Bodie stroking his head as though he were some oversized cat.
"Gerroff," he managed instead, not moving. "What d’you want another day off for, anyway? Just had one."
"One," Bodie wiggled his eyebrows, "Is never enough, is it? Thought we might try out that new beerkeller down by your place. It’s got a garden as well, hasn’t it?"
Doyle smiled. Same wavelength, as ever. "Could do. Looked fairly lively when I walked past it the other day. Could take a look after the Tate."
Ah, he hadn’t actually told Bodie yet, had he? "I promised Leia I’d take her to the Tate on my next day off," he said as casually as he could. "She’s always wanted to see it, but she was a bit busy last time she was over."
Fine? He turned away from the window and looked up at Bodie. "You should come with us..."
"Oh, I’ve been to the Tate. Lot of over-rated scribbles. I’ve seen better in the window of the local nursery. But thanks for the invitation."
"No, really. I’d hate to interfere."
"Bodie, for god’s sake! I thought we sorted this out!"
"We did. It’s fine."
"It’s obviously not..."
"Two women leaving. Both with handbags, one A-4 size, the other small-bomb size."
Business as usual. Doyle scribbled furiously as Bodie described the activity, and by the time it was quiet again, he was tense from head to toe. He tapped the pen against the notepad, glaring at his partner’s impassive profile as he continued to stare diligently out the window.
"Isn’t it about time you grew up?" he asked, knowing he was being vicious, not caring.
A muscle twitched in Bodie’s neck, but otherwise he didn’t move. "I said it was fine, Doyle. Have a nice day, whenever it is."
And that was the thing. They were arguing over something that hadn’t happened yet, that might not happen, that... He took a breath, let it out slowly. "You either trust me, or you don’t, Bodie."
"I trust you," Bodie said, and there was nothing more to say. Something settled in the room, heavy and dull around them, and even when they spoke it felt as though the words were coated and false. The hours lengthened and became almost unbearable, the dark closing around them as they watched.
The worst thing was, he had no idea why Bodie felt the way he did. Bodie did trust him, he knew that was true, just as he knew that Bodie would never leave him. In his worst nightmares, the ones where Bodie raged and hated and walked away from him, he still felt Bodie’s eyes on him, darkly possessive, watching him from the shadows, from the corners and the murky depths of their world. Relentlessly, always there. Bodie wouldn’t leave him, he knew that. But Bodie wouldn’t be with him either, and that was what scared him most.
The week passed in a whirl of small assignments: more paperwork, tailing, the odd interrogation, surveillance. Occasionally he and Bodie worked together, more often separately when the jobs did not require two of them. Cowley was snappish, Bodie was surly, and Doyle was at the end of his tether. If he didn’t know what the problem was, and Bodie continued to insist that there was no problem, then how could he fix it?
He’d envisioned scenario after scenario, trying to justify Bodie’s apparent feelings, but none of them felt right. Marikka, Claire -- he didn’t remember Bodie acting possessively of anybody. Protective, yes, tender, secretive, mad with rage and sorrow when they were hurt, but nothing like this.
It was him. It had to be. He’d done something to lose Bodie’s trust, no matter what he said. He racked his brain, raked through every minute they’d spent together, alone, with women, with the lads. A few things sprang to mind, twisted at his conscience. King Billy, the odd stolen girlfriend. The way he had never trusted Martell or Keller, no matter what they’d done for Bodie, the way this tainted the way he looked at some of Bodie’s other non-CI5 mates. But nothing that hadn’t been resolved, nothing they didn’t understand about each other. Not like this.
By Thursday they were granted a day on standby, and Doyle phoned Leia as promised, and arranged their trip out. He didn’t tell Bodie, and Bodie didn’t ask, and just before six they were free of the drudgery and standing together on the worn stone steps outside HQ. Normally at this point one of them would suggest a beer, or a take away, a night out maybe, instead they stood awkwardly, shoulder to shoulder, facing away from each other. As though they were each covering the other’s back. Maybe they were.
It took Murphy and Lake, passing on their way to the pub, to breathe them back to life.
"Darts down the Lion, lads?" Lake asked, stepping between them and clapping a hand on each shoulder. "Show Murphy here how to do it?"
Bodie nodded, and followed more or less enthusiastically, and so Doyle trailed along, chatting desultorily but dutifully. If one thing was true, he did at least fancy a drink. Something long and comforting and maybe even enough of them to make the last week seem a long time ago. He thought vaguely, and yet again, that maybe he would be able to talk to Bodie for long enough, civilly enough, to figure it all out.
He missed him.
The pub was smoky and close, full of the noise and cheer of almost-Friday. Doyle lost to Bodie and Murph at the dart board, downed a couple of pints, argued with McCabe, and wondered what he was doing there. Other agents had filtered in as their own duties came to an end, and Bodie was carefully keeping himself in the company of others. It was impossible to look his way without prompting a barrage of snipes and taunts, let alone talk to him.
"You watch those two," Murph was saying to Kent, one of the newest batch of agents, "They read each other’s mind and they could hustle for England."
"Not true," Bodie replied jovially enough, "Don’t believe a word he tells you. This one," he gestured at Doyle with his pint glass, slopping some over the side, "Not got the brains for it, poor lad."
Doyle realised that Bodie was on the edge of being drunk already -- how had he managed that? -- and something in his heart lurched, even as he spoke and heard himself sounding normal. "’E just has trouble picking up his cues," he said to Kent, "Not big on subtlety, our Bodie."
Now the hidden, the black and secretive, Bodie managed without any effort at all. Doyle was tired suddenly, as washed out as though it had been a week hard on the streets. He wanted to go home, and he wanted Bodie with him, and he wanted to forget it all and go back to normal.
Bodie had turned away to point out someone else, clever tongue playing off Lucas and McCabe, Kent listening, rapt. Doyle had a feeling that Kent was about to be taken in by something big, but it was beyond him to stay and watch it play out. One last try.
"I’m off for something to eat," he said, resting a hand on Bodie’s shoulder in either invitation or farewell. Bodie made it the latter, flashing a quick grin at him before carrying on with his story.
Right. Doyle left to a cheerful, taunting chorus of goodbyes, took a deep breath of evening air at the door, and began the long walk home.
He was troubled by an incessant buzzing, which rattled its way into his dreams, writhed beneath his skin, made his breathing a rasp, and scraped at his heartbeat. It stayed with him no matter how he tried to move, where he tried to go, until with a gasp he turned over and woke up.
The door. Someone at the door. He fumbled for the lamp, squinted at his watch. Two thirty.
Of course it was Bodie.
"WhaddayawantBodie?" he asked huskily, leaning his head against the wall above the intercom and rubbing at his eyes. He was too tired for this now...
"Wanna come up and see you." Even through the tinny box Bodie sounded loud and drunk and demanding.
"I’ll see you tomorrow Bodie. Go home and get some sleep."
"’Simportant. ‘Svery important. Havta come up and see you."
"No... not tomorrow. Might not be tomorrow."
Might not..? "Bodie..."
"’Simportant, Ray. Promise. Then’ll go home."
Doyle sighed. Thank god they had the day off. He was getting too old for this.
He buzzed to release the lobby entrance, leaving his finger on the button longer than normal, just in case, then undid the safety locks and stood waiting at the door. At least he was only one flight up this time. No matter how much he’d had to drink, his partner should be able to manage that.
"This’d better be good," he growled, as Bodie appeared on the stairs. He was slightly uncoordinated, but less so than he’d sounded, and he stepped past Doyle without a word and headed straight for the lounge. By the time Doyle had done the locks again and taken a couple of deep breaths, Bodie was standing by the bookshelves, a whisky in hand, for all the world as though he was looking for a little night reading. Then he turned and nodded at a second glass he’d left, half-filled, by the open bottle. With a sigh Doyle took it, swallowed, and watched in trepidation as Bodie came to stand in front of him.
"You..." Bodie poked his chest, "You love me."
Doyle nearly choked.
"You do," Bodie said carefully, watching Doyle steadily, "And you -- you only love me."
A thousand thousand thoughts swept Doyle’s mind, then fled, leaving it empty and clean and clear.
"Yes," he heard himself say, "I do."
"No. I do... love you."
"Nononono. What I mean is..." Bodie paused again, searching for words. "What I mean is. Don’t."
Bodie poked him again, but this time he left his finger against Doyle’s chest, flattened it so that his hand lay against him, warm. "’Sbest not, Ray," he said softly, "You like Leia."
"Yes but only..."
"Shh. Shhhh." Bodie’s hand slid down to Doyle’s waist, as though he was going to pull him close, and Doyle waited, wanted. "Leia’s a nice girl."
"Leia," Bodie continued, as though he hadn’t interrupted, "Is a nice safe girl, and you like her, and that’s why I don’t mind."
"You don’t mind?"
"She’s safe," Bodie reiterated, and this time he did pull Doyle to him, spoke into his hair, "So you and Leia go away and make babies and get married. No... No, married first. Keep Cowley happy that way round."
"Bodie what...?" A word penetrated. "She’s safe?"
"Sh’won’t get you killed," Bodie said against his ear, "You’ll be safe with her."
"I’m safe with you," Doyle managed, "You’re the one who watches my back, remember?"
Bodie shook his head, shaking Doyle with him. "Can’t. Not’ny more."
A chill went through Doyle, and he pulled back so that he could see Bodie’s face, but Bodie’s eyes were lowered. "Why not?" The chill turned to anger, burning slowly through him.
Better than that cold, any day.
Bodie was going to leave him.
"Why not, Bodie?"
"Jus’ can’t. You sh’d go find Leia..."
"I don’t want Leia. I told you before. I want you."
A whisper. "You’ll die."
"You’ll die," Bodie said clearly, raising his head at last. "I saw you looking. In the car the other day. YoulovemeandifyoulovemeandIloveyouthenyou’lldie." All one word, and he had to stop to take a breath. "That’s just the way it works, sunshine."
"’Ts the way it works, Ray." Bodie was gazing at him sadly, as though having discovered the truth the world would now end, and just for a minute, Doyle thought with his new clear mind, just for a minute he’d thought it might too.
"Moron," he said when he could speak. Bodie wasn’t going to leave, wasn’t going to run screaming inside to another country, another world. He just thought he was. "Bodie come to bed."
"Yes. If you come to bed now, I’ll think about what you said."
Bodie eyed him with the natural suspicion of the drunk to the sober. "Can’ jus’ think about it Ray. ‘Strue, and you and Leia have to..." his gaze clouded over just a little, and Doyle wrapped an arm around him, steered him towards the bedroom.
"Right. We will in the morning." Bodie loved him. And he was jealous of Leia because he thought he was going to be giving Doyle up to her tender mercies. And Bodie loved him and that was why he was jealous.
He let Bodie down onto the bed as gently as he was able, wrestled his clothes off, the covers on, and then sat down beside him.
And I love Bodie. Didn’t even think it out loud before. Didn’t think to say it before. Not to Bodie. He stroked a hand through the cropped hair, dropped a kiss on a pale cheek, and went to fetch water and aspirin and bucket. Now we both know.
The pile of misery in the bed gave a moan around ten a.m., and attempted movement. A hand snaked out from beneath the duvet, found the glass of water, and vanished again under the covers with it. Doyle watched from the doorway, wondering whether to try for mockingly amused or chummily sympathetic. In the end he wasn’t given the choice of either.
"Still here am I?"
"Physically yes. Mentally..?"
"When are you meeting Leia?"
The trouble with a drunk Bodie was that he was rarely so drunk that he forgot the night before.
"We’re meeting her in a couple of hours."
Silence, and then the pile moved again, and Bodie’s bleary face emerged. "Didn’t you hear anything I said to you last night?"
"Are you still drunk?"
"Answer the question."
"Yes I did hear, as a matter of fact, and my answer still holds."
"You’re a moron." Bodie drew himself up to respond, so Doyle continued before there was any chance of Bodie’s tongue catching up with his brain. "You think you know just how it is, but you’ve got no idea. You think you can just send me off with a woman -- a woman -- and I’ll just forget that you’ve watched my back for the last seven years, and kept me sane for nearly half that time." Bodie opened his mouth, and Doyle crossed the room in two strides and sealed it for him by the simple expedient of kissing it. When he stopped for air, he carried on with his speech instead. "If you think this is just us being partners and you can drop it as soon as you like, well you’re wrong. And if you think I’m going to let you go without a fight, then you’re even stupider than you want Cowley to believe."
"Got it all worked out have you?"
"Better than you managed."
"You realise that you’ll die?" Said harshly, meant to shock perhaps, meant to frighten.
Wise now to the idiocy behind it, to the fear and the desire and the love, Doyle rolled with it. "Yes. One day I’ll die, or you will, or if we’re really lucky we’ll go together. Until then..." he trailed off. Hadn’t thought that part through.
"Until then?" Bodie had caught his uncertainty, mocked him with it.
"Until then, we make do with this." And he kissed him again, tasting the stale whisky, smelling the old cigarette smoke, knowing again what was true, trying to make Bodie believe it.
To Doyle’s surprise, Bodie did accompany them to the gallery, where he made fun of the art and the people wandering around looking at the art, and of Doyle and sometimes, gently, of Leia. Knowing full well it was a ruse, that he hadn’t won yet, Doyle pretended he was taken in, knowing too that Bodie wouldn’t believe him and that the double-think would continue until Bodie could see it for himself, just as he had.
"Beerkeller?" he suggested, as they stepped back out into the world of sun and wind and roaring engines.
Leia looked self-conscious. "I don’t drink, but..."
Doyle could have kicked himself. "Sorry love, didn’t think. But dinner somewhere?"
"Tell you what," Bodie interrupted, "Why don’t we let the lad prove himself? I’ve got a fridge full of stuff back home, and he’s always saying he can cook..."
Ah -- prove himself domesticated, good husband material perhaps? Doyle saw through it, could block it and send it right back where it belonged.
"Alright," he smiled at them both, "Got nothing in at my place, been on takeaways all week. Could just about manage a home cooked meal for a change. And," genius struck, "We can pick up some beer on the way back." Him domestic? Sensitive? Not if he could help it, not this time...
But there was nothing he could do about the fact that he could cook, enjoyed cooking, and he wasn’t stupid enough to ruin a good meal for the sake of it. So he tossed spaghetti in a tomato and courgette sauce, lettuce in olive oil and lemon juice, and spread garlic butter over a French stick, listening, amused, as Bodie continued to charm Leia.
"So what is it you’re studying?"
"Current affairs, journalism." Bodie must have looked encouraging, because she continued, "It makes sense for me, I have always been interested, and I already know some of the background, the ins and outs. Perhaps it is a way that I can make people aware of what is going on..."
"A dangerous job, still," Bodie suggested.
"Yes, it could be. If I went back to my country, certainly. The new government does not take kindly to criticism..."
"Is there a lot to criticise?"
Bodie could have been a journalist himself, Doyle thought, as he laid places at the table and brought the food over. He could get around anybody, and when his natural affability and gallantry failed he could menace with a single look. Leia was explaining again about the new regime, and Bodie looked both interested and intelligent. He asked questions, listened intently, and it was only Doyle who could possibly know that he couldn’t make himself like the woman. And that it was nothing to do with her.
By the end of the evening they were both feeling mellow, and Leia seemed more relaxed than he’d ever see her. It must be hard, starting again, especially with all that behind you... Despite himself, despite Bodie’s eyes on him, he made plans to meet up with her for lunch sometime in the next few days, and they chatted idly about going walking some weekend.
Finally they saw her into a taxi, watched as it drew off into the twilight, and then climbed back upstairs to finish off the beer and see the evening out. Bodie seemed to assume that he would be staying over, and that suited Doyle just fine. It felt like weeks since they’d been comfortably alone together, anticipating the night ahead of them, and he meant to make the most of it.
He closed the door behind them, leaned on it, watching his partner loosen his collar with one hand, clear a couple of plates from the coffee table with the other. It was almost painful the way he wanted Bodie, and Bodie, aware he was being watched, knew it, probably always had. Doyle had wanted him the very first time they’d laid eyes on each other. He’d thought it would die down over time, he’d expected it to vanish completely once he’d actually had Bodie, lain on top of him, skin across skin, strength to strength, once he’d taken him, been taken by him. But it hadn’t. If anything, it was worse than ever.
Bodie left the plates by the sink, walked calmly across the room, undoing the buttons on his shirt as he went, and paused in the bedroom doorway, looking back at Doyle, pouted smile, eyebrow raised. Doyle smiled back, he couldn’t help it, and followed. Bodie’d stripped his shirt off completely by the time he got there, had turned and was waiting for him. When Doyle started to take off his own shirt, Bodie captured his fingers, staring mischievously into his eyes, and then manoeuvred Doyle’s arms behind his back, holding his hands in place, leaning in to kiss him lightly, then harder, more rapaciously. So that was how he wanted to play it...
Doyle stood obediently, as still as he could manage, as Bodie’s lips left his, and he began a sharp, hot-breathed path across his jaw, up to his ear. Doyle shuddered, heard a sound from the back of his throat that was part gasp, part whimper, as Bodie, still restraining him with one hand, slid the other around his hips, tugged the button of his jeans open and the zip down. His mouth was taken again, deeply, demandingly, and at the same time Bodie insinuated a palm down the back of his jeans, grasping, squeezing, teasing until Doyle thought he would come just from that.
Bodie heard the depth and raggedness of his breath though, pulled away from him with a final, almost gentle kiss, and stilled his hand. Doyle moaned, tried to lean in again, was held away.
"Not yet, Ray..." Bodie whispered into his ear, his breath hot, his own muscles trembling against Doyle’s. "I want you naked on the bed," he pulled away to gaze into Doyle’s eyes again, "Now."
Yes. This was right. Today he would do whatever Bodie wanted him to do, he would show Bodie that it was more than just sex and desire and need between them, that no matter what Bodie thought was true, this was.
And so he looked back into Bodie’s eyes, unwavering, and heeled off his trainers, slid out of his socks, and then, stripper-slow, peeled his jeans free and stepped away from them. No underwear. He stepped forward to Bodie, rubbed himself, naked, against his half-clothed body, felt his hard arousal. For him. Then he pulled back, slipped around him, and lay down on the bed.
Bodie turned, but remained otherwise where he was, and Doyle’s skin tingled as he found himself the subject of such a study, every inch of his skin caressed with a look, an attention, a wonder.
"That’s love, Bodie," he managed huskily, staring back as though the sunset was on them again, as though all the dancing light of the world was there with them, out-blazing every star and moon, singing through their blood, their bodies, their souls.
"I know," Bodie said. "Turn over."
And when he did, and when the weight of Bodie settled on him, and in him and through him, the light screamed, and the world ended, and when their breath gentled, it began again, anew.
At least this time they had a name: Zaffir al-Hamid, and not only that, they had a description, a photograph, and a reputation by which to recognize the man.
"Born in Libya, resident of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, France -- in fact, take your pick of half a dozen countries. Current whereabouts -- we suspect -- London. This address." Cowley swept a scrap of paper at him, and Doyle glanced at it then passed it across to his partner.
"And what’s he done in particular, sir?" he asked, "At least -- why do we want him?"
"Nothing. At least, not yet. And nothing’s been proven against him in any country, but he’s never far away from trouble, that one."
"Shall we pick him up if we do spot him?"
Cowley was quiet for a moment, tapping his glasses gently against his thumb, then he nodded briskly. "Aye, 3.7. Aye I think this time we will."
"If he’s there," Doyle suggested, and Cowley transferred his attention from the file in front of him.
"That’s right, 4.5. If he’s there."
And so they were back to stakeout, snug this time in the Capri while a cool wind blew, sending clumps of white clouds scudding across the sky and away to the horizon. This time, however, they didn’t have time to draw breath and complain about the sorry state of the summer before their quarry emerged from the terraced house and stood at the door talking jovially to someone inside.
"Casual," Bodie noted, reaching to loosen his jacket, ready for action.
"Maybe he ‘asn’t actually done anything this time..."
"Yet. You saw his file."
"Yet," Doyle conceded, "Shall we give him this one on account then?"
Bodie grinned at him, and as al-Hamid called a final farewell and turned towards the gate, hands tucked in pockets, they slid from the car and wandered casually into the street behind him. After a moment, he knew they were there, but he didn’t pause until he felt a restraining hand under each elbow, and then he withdrew his hands, empty, from his pockets, and splayed them wide, placatingly.
"How may I help you gentlemen?"
"Can’t help us," Bodie said amiably
"Lost cause," Doyle agreed, nodding. "Especially him."
"Especially..." Bodie trailed off, "You what?"
"Well, there were those custard tarts yesterday, for a start,"
"Morning tea. Very civilised."
"And elevenses an hour later?"
"Not when you have lunch an hour after that. And you had pudding then too."
"Spotted dick," Bodie agreed happily, "I’m a..."
"Gentlemen?" al-Hamid interrupted, "As fascinated, and of course diverted, as I am by your private lives, I must insist on an answer. You are not police, I think."
"Nah," Doyle shook his head, "Not really."
"Special Branch perhaps?"
"There is," Bodie said, taking a sort of pity on the man, "Someone who is very keen to see you..." and between them they turned him around, led him to the car, and bundled him unceremoniously into the backseat, hands cuffed behind his back.
To their disgust, Cowley refused their help in interrogation, sending them instead back to Records to track al-Hamid’s latest known associates.
"Quicker to ask him," Bodie grunted, settling himself in one of the old wooden chairs with a groan, "Be easier on my back too..."
"Dunno what you’re complaining about," Doyle responded ruefully, but caught his eye and grinned, a satisfied, cat-with-the-cream smile that stretched his face. He was still a little tender -- and sleepless, come to that. Bodie quirked a smile back at him, and they settled to their task in companionable silence.
Two hours later they were feeling less companionable. A stack of files labelled variously Ahmed, Ahmmud and Achmed lay scattered on the table between them, matched on the floor by a series of Zahids, Akhbars and Faroods.
"This is impossible," Doyle complained, throwing his latest attempt at matching family connections across the desk, where it fell onto Bodie’s writing hand and was unceremoniously knocked aside.
"What was that you were telling me the other day?" Bodie asked, "Ninety-five percent of all good detective work..."
"Yeah, yeah..." he was in no mood to be reminded of past self-righteousness. "But I can’t see making any solid connections between him in there," he tilted his head in the general direction of the interrogation room where Cowley was still, presumably, ensconced with al-Hamid, "And..." he paused to count, "Twenty-seven men called "Mukhtar, all spelt differently!"
"Told you it’d be easier to ask him..." Bodie muttered, closing a file and then leaning back in his own seat, carefully stretching his spine and yawning loudly before coming to a relaxed slouch. He glanced at his watch and wrinkled his nose. "Nearly two o clock? No wonder I’m hungry..."
"You’d be hungry if it was eight in the morning and you’d just had breakfast."
"If it was eight in the morning, and I had my way..." Bodie trailed off, leering at him across the table.
"Moron." Doyle replied lazily, automatically. "What d’you fancy doing tonight then?"
"Why don’t you ring Leia, like you said you would?"
"Might do..." But there was a change in the atmosphere, and he looked up to see Bodie hard-faced, intent upon his answer. "I thought you’d given up on that?"
"You know me, never say die."
But... Doyle had known it wouldn’t be easy, that it would take more than one night to eradicate Bodie’s fears, but he hadn’t realised he was still so close to the starting point. "Neither do I," he said stoically, matching Bodie for tone, "You were the one who got drunk enough to admit it, and..."
He was interrupted by a door slamming further down the corridor, a single roared word: "Bodie!"
"Coming, sir," Bodie climbed to his feet, eyed Doyle for a moment, then leaned over and ruffled his hair.
"There’s love and there’s safety, mate," he said, "Don’t confuse the two." And he strode across the room and out the door to answer Cowley’s summons, before Doyle could say another word.
He was still trying to puzzle his next step that evening, as he parked the car a few streets from Bodie’s flat, intending to get dinner on for them both. If the Cow let Bodie off the leash this side of midnight. He wasn’t distracted enough that he failed to notice the group of men behind him. He was distracted enough that he presumed they were just friends on their way out for the night.
Jewels, he was lying amidst a scattering of jewels, great bulbous emeralds and sapphires in front of his eyes, in such colours... No, that couldn’t be right. He snatched at words drifting past, tried to build them into a world.
He blinked his eyes a few times to squeeze the dream out of them, felt his thoughts extend further along his limbs. Sore. Very sore. He gathered his muscles carefully, pushed himself up with his hands and squinted into the day. Dawn, he thought, a cold orange sun slashing at his eyes. Nothing moved. He leaned against the car -- peacock blue Cortina -- and took inventory, grabbing at fragmented memories at the same time, dragging them kicking and screaming into their rightful order. Christ his head hurt.
The car was slewed across one corner of a meadow, both its doors open and the front passenger seat flung forward. The boot was up too -- hadn’t he been in the boot? -- and a few feet away parallel lines of mud had been churned. He had been in the boot. He’d got out, but the beautiful milky moon had given him away, and after a wild but brief scuffle, they’d bent him back over the car. He’d watched the stars while they hit him, in the detached way you do when your body stops obeying your every desire, and he thought he’d seen a shooting one before he passed out. Wish upon a falling star...
Bodie. Where was Bodie? His hand went automatically to his pocket, fumbled for his RT. Gone. Bodie had been in the boot with him, their limbs jumbled together, their breath mingling. There’d been blood. Bodie’s blood. My god...
He forced himself to stay calm, to still the trembling that threatened to take him over, to keep his eyes wide and dry and focussed. To walk to the back of the car and to gaze into the boot.
Bodie had been unconscious but alive when Doyle had managed to undo the catch, and since he was no longer there then he must still be alive, somewhere. There was no point dragging a corpse from one part of the country to the next, was there? He kept his mind solidly closed against the many reasons he could think of for doing so, for all they hammered and writhed their way behind his eyes, flashes of horror upon horror. Too many enemies, both of them. No. Bodie was still alive. Had to be. And so was he, and there must be a reason for that too.
He managed to stretch his arms up, muscles protesting, and pull the boot closed, went around and tipped the front seat back, closed the door. He felt mechanical, not quite real, but for one thought. He had to get a call to Cowley, find out what was going on. Wrapping an arm around his ribs, he lowered himself into the driver’s seat. Maybe find a bandaid or two.
A flood of nausea washed its way through him, and he closed his eyes.
Had to get to Cowley.
Halfway through hot-wiring the ignition he spotted the car keys on the passenger side floor. He stared for a moment, wanting to work it out, his thoughts rushing and tangling, and then he gave up and revved the engine to life. Its roar was clean and loud, startling a flock of crows from the wheat-golden field next to this. A murder of crows his treacherous mind corrected him. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, spun the wheels, and aimed determinedly for the gate.
By the time a team had been dispatched to examine the field and the car, to debrief Doyle of what little he could tell them, and to take him back to HQ and patch him up -- in that order -- Cowley had already had the phone call.
"A small group," he explained, as the CI5 doctor wrapped bandages tightly around Doyle’s battered ribcage, "Not one I was expecting to cause this sort of trouble. It doesn’t make sense..."
"Who is it?" Doyle asked, torn between rage and panic, trying desperately not to let either show. He wasn’t likely to fool George Cowley -- the man could read a blank face just as well as a book -- but if he could get it past the doctor, past Murphy and McCabe and anyone else he saw, well then he might be able to hold on. "What group, sir? And why weren’t we warned?"
"You weren’t warned because there was nothing to warn you about. As I said, I wasn’t expecting trouble from them. Ach," he took his glasses off, ran his eyes up and down Doyle assessingly, "A small group, who’ve been hoping I would do a favour for them."
"A favour?" The doctor had finished, and Doyle started to pull his shirt back around him, ignoring the blood and other stains.
"Aye. They hoped I’d look the other way while one of their number took a shot at their President."
"What? " That didn’t sound like nothing. "And you didn’t take them seriously?"
"There’s no way they can get into the ceremony without my help, security will be far too tight. Besides, the venue was changed at the first hint of a threat. "
Standard procedure. "But still..." he wasn’t sure what to complain about now, but he had to say something, had to do something. "Why did they think you’d be sympathetic to them? They didn’t have any hold over you when they first approached you?"
Cowley looked, strangely, somewhat abashed. "We’d been sympathetic to their cause before," he said, "They presumably hoped I could take them further than the regular channels."
"Home, 4.5," Cowley ordered, more in hope than expectation.
"Right. Files it is."
"We know who it is, we know what they want -- we don’t know where they are. The lab is processing the car as fast as they can, Linguistics is assessing the phone call. The only thing for you to do right now is to track possibly connected addresses."
"Fine..." He was too keyed up to be much good in Records, but he also knew that he couldn’t sit at home waiting, and not even in the Rest Room. Too much to bear, the looks of sympathy, the jokey attempts to jolly him along.
Half the files for checking belonged to people he and Bodie’d been examining the day before, and he read them again with hard eyes, a frozen heart.
Bodie still thought they shouldn’t be together, thought Doyle would somehow be safer if they kept it light, casual. If he didn’t love him. It was a pattern to his life that only Bodie could see, get too attached to him and you were bound to end up dead. Dumb crud.
The file blurred before his eyes, and he slapped it back on the table impatiently. There was nothing here. None of them lived outside of London, none of them owned property outside of London, and if they did the odds were thousands against that the property had left distinctive marks upon the abandoned car. If it had ever even been there. Or maybe Bodie was in London, and the whole trip to the country had been a ruse...
He rubbed his eyes, glanced at his watch. Nearly twelve. They’d had Bodie... how long now? Something nagged at his brain. Twelve. Lunchtime. Shit. He’d arranged the day before to meet Leia for lunch today, one thirty. He’d have to call. She’d understand, of course, she’d remember what it was like...
"Doyle!" a voice behind him, "The old man wants you. He’s had... er... he’s had a delivery..."
Doyle was past Anson and in Cowley’s office before his brain had a chance to catch up with his feet. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think. A delivery.
"Sir?" he asked, struggling to be professional, to keep his voice steady, his body still. Calm. A delivery.
But the envelope on Cowley’s desk was flat, there were no fingers, no ears, no blood, and in the photographs Cowley handed him Bodie was unquestionably alive. Beaten, but alive. In one of the pictures he was barely conscious, untended, but in the other two his cuts and bruises had been seen to, he was clean and bandaged and in one of them, despite his hands being tied in front of him, he was irrepressibly holding up two fingers to the photographer. Doyle snorted, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
"They claim he will be well looked after, as long as Hanish is given his pot-shot at the President this evening."
"Hamid, you mean," Doyle corrected absently, still staring at the pictures. Bodie’s eyes looked fine, he didn’t seem concussed, and his injuries looked fairly superficial. They’d had worse.
"No, 4.5, if I meant Hamid, I would say Hamid. I mean Hanish, Dr Rashid Hanish who was displaced from their government twelve months ago in a coup."
Doyle looked up.
"What? What is it, man?"
Bloody Bodie. Safer, eh?
"I think I know how to find him..."
She sat in the window of the café, studiously reading, and so Doyle saw the moment that the waitress handed her the telephone message, saw every expression that crossed her face through his binoculars, and not one of them was suspicion. There was, after all, no reason that it should be. The note said that he’d had an accident at work -- which she would know -- and that he would call her later. Nothing unexpected. No, nothing unexpected at all, he thought, as she calmly placed her order and continued to read. His cancellation was not any surprise to her at all. He took a deep breath, let it out. Maybe one day he would learn to read women. Maybe.
"Report, 4.5," his RT crackled to life.
"No movement yet, sir. She’s finishing her lunch."
"Aye, she’s plenty of time before their deadline. Anyone else watching her?"
"Not that I can see. She won’t be expecting trouble."
"No, I suppose not. And the next time you start chatting with a foreign agent on British soil..."
"Yes sir," Doyle cut him off, "Subject moving, sir."
"Good. Stick with her, 4.5."
He tucked the RT back in his pocket, waited until there were half a dozen people between himself and Leia, and then followed, a discrete distance behind, an American-style baseball cap pulled tightly over his hair, his face lowered and hidden by it. Behind him and around him, Susan, Ruth and Lake, in separate cars, ducked in and out of traffic and parking spaces in case they were needed, and at least two other agents kept pace with him, ready to give back-up on his word.
But Leia didn’t seem to be in any rush. She wandered down the street, stopped to browse a table of books, gazed at paintings in the window of a small gallery, but didn’t go in. She caught a bus, but alighted on a busy high street, and continued her meandering. Just after three she found a telephone box and placed a call.
Her face was subtly harder when she emerged, displeased with Cowley’s delaying tactics. But would she go back to wherever they were keeping Bodie? For the first time it occurred to Doyle that she might not, that perhaps she was staying out of that side of things. After all, Bodie knew her, would be able to identify her, it didn’t make sense to reveal herself...
And meanwhile, when they realised Cowley wasn’t going to accede to their demands... Would they have the guts to do it, these freedom fighters from the right side of the ideological tracks? He realised he was radiating tension, the quickest way to get himself noticed, and tried to relax his racing mind.
They were on quieter roads now, not too far from the main drag, somewhere as ordinary as everywhere else they’d been ... With a start Doyle recognized the street, the house that Leia was approaching, was slowing down at, knew exactly where there was a crack in the paving stone. It was the house he and Bodie had been watching over a week ago.
He had raised his RT, ready to alert Alpha One and the rest of the team, when Leia emerged again with an extra bag under her arm. Small-bomb size, he thought, on the edge of hysterical laughter, glancing up at the house from cover of the bushes in front of number twenty-seven. Was Bodie in there or not? Did he wait to find out, or did he stick with Leia to the bitter end?
The house was still, so he waved to 3.9 somewhere behind him, pointing to the building, and continued to follow after the woman. People were fewer now, and the street was changing from a reasonably residential area to something less salubrious. A couple of boarded up shops, a derelict petrol station, and a stretch of empty ground. No cover, should she turn around. Casually he checked his own back-up, Susan was hanging back by the houses in her Escort, he could just see Josephs on foot, pausing to light a cigarette.
And when he turned back to the road, a split second after taking his eyes off her, Leia had disappeared. He whirled, desperately. There was nowhere for her to go. He broke into a jog, eyes scanning the pavement, the two or three cars apparently abandoned by the kerb.
There. He nearly missed it. Boards aslant in a wooden fence, just room for someone to squeeze through. He peered through cautiously, one hand reaching for his Browning. It seemed to be the back of an old school, long abandoned to the vandals and the arsonists. One end was burned and blackened, there was not a single pane of glass left, and every window was boarded up. He radioed in a quick description, drew his gun, and crept through the fence.
Nothing moved. There was no sign of Leia. Heart in mouth, he crossed the broken tarmac and flattened himself against the red brick wall. Silence. He made his way to the single door on that side of the building, pressed his ear against it. Voices inside. At least two men and -- yes -- Leia.
There was no way he could see inside, so he made his way along the wall, ducking under each blocked-up window just in case, and around the side of the building. No clear windows here either, but there seemed to be another doorway at the far end. His radio buzzed static, and he jumped.
"Where are you 4.5?"
"Old school on Docherty Street, the less salubrious end. They’ve got Bodie inside." He hadn’t seen him yet, but he knew. He knew.
"Backup is on its way, 4.5. Hold until it gets there."
Doyle glanced at his watch, "There’s not much time, sir. It’s nearly four now."
"Aye, we’re expecting them to call at four. Plenty of time for the team to get in position."
Plenty of time. Was it?
"I’m going to check the layout inside," he said, and, knowing what it would be, switched the RT off without waiting for a reply. There wasn’t time. Not when they didn’t know what was going on inside.
The door was locked, but some enterprising individual had long ago taken its hinges off, and it opened, held carefully from the ground, both easily and silently. Doyle slipped through and froze, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. A miniature urinal lined one wall, but the ancient, stale smell alone was enough to tell him he was in the old boys' toilets, and he crossed to the other side of the room where a second door led into the main school corridor.
Voices echoed from his left, and as quietly as the debris-strewn floor would let him, he sidled along the wall to the nearest doorway and peered around it. Empty. No other access. He moved on. The second door was a store cupboard, bereft now of all but dust and mouse droppings, but behind the third door, pulled to, but not closed, the voices were louder.
The inch wide crack didn’t allow him much of a view, but he could see two men, their backs to him, and he could hear Leia somewhere to the right speaking rapidly and insistently. He took a chance, pushed slightly at the door, and the crack expanded just enough to reveal a corduroy-covered leg, either lying or sitting on the floor. He’d recognize those trousers anywhere -- they were ones he’d taken great pleasure in stripping from his partner many a time.
And then he recognised another sound, the sound of a safety being clicked off, a hammer being drawn back.
A voice behind him spoke loudly in some middle-eastern tongue, and he was propelled roughly into the classroom.
Unfortunately for him, his attacker hadn’t seen the Browning held close to his chest while he gazed into the room -- and as Doyle turned his dive into a roll he fired two shots at the man standing surprised in the doorway, one at the man inside who turned towards him, gun in hand, and one at the second man who had raised his own pistol to Bodie. When the smoke, dust and noise had cleared he found himself within arm’s length of his partner, his gun trained on Leia not six feet away.
Her hands were not holding a firearm, but a grenade.
"Oh, hello," said Bodie brightly, and Doyle spared a glance for him. He was bound, arms in front of him, a length of rope giving him some freedom of movement, but tied firmly around one of the supports of the raised wooden platform at the front of the classroom. His face was bruised, his clothing less than immaculate, but he didn’t seem to be in pain, and he had a smile for Doyle.
Doyle grinned back. "Alright mate?"
"Ah, you know, not too bad. Bit peckish."
"They not feeding you? And you a growing lad..."
Doyle switched his attention back to Leia, slowly stood up. "Come on love, you can’t win this. You know you can’t."
"There are more than this four of us," she replied, her voice strong, "I am still waiting for a telephone call from your boss, telling me that Hanish is in place."
"It’s not the way to do this, Leia."
"What would you know? You know nothing of what happens in my country. It is far away, and it does not affect you," her eyes flickered to Bodie, "If the only way I can bring attention to our cause is to make it affect you, then I will."
"If you let loose with that thing then you lose your chance at the President."
"Yes, but if we all die here then at least your government will pay attention, at least the reporters will ask questions, and pay attention."
"Put your gun down, and step away."
The gun still aimed straight for her heart, Doyle looked at Bodie, looking at him. Outside there was a rumble of cars on the road, of doors slamming. Leia held the grenade with two hands, ready, prepared for anything. Calm. She would do it. He started to drop his arms, let his right fall to his side, half-twisted and brought his left up again.
Even as he fired, one handed, and the shot hit her just above her slender wrist, he realised his mistake. She had already pulled the pin.
There was no way to throw the grenade out of the room.
Bodie couldn’t move.
With no other thought in his head, he threw himself towards his partner, half curled around him as he stared at Leia who had fallen to the ground; her death, their death lying between them, on the floor of an old schoolroom.
There was a flash, and a roar, and the scene was engraved across his retinas. Too late now.
After a while he realised that he wasn’t dead, that Bodie was solid and breathing heavily beneath him, that the world hadn’t ended after all and he didn’t know why. When he looked up the room continued spinning, and his vision was blurred. He shook his head.
"Stun grenade," Bodie rasped through the dust, somewhere near his ear.
It had been a bluff after all.
He could hear other voices now, closer, the slamming of rotten wood being punched through and doors being thrown open. They were nearly here.
And Bodie was still alive. They were still alive. He looked down into Bodie’s face, opening his mouth for some clever, relieved comment, and closed it just in time.
"What the hell do you think you’re playing at?" Bodie roared. His body felt hot beneath Doyle, and the shock of cold air when he was shoved away was almost worse than the explosion had been. "You could have been killed."
Doyle pushed himself up on his elbows, stared across at him. "Told you the other night. Both of us together, if we’re lucky."
Their own silence, the cries of other people around them sounding distant, part of another time, another world.
"You mean that, you mad bastard." He made it a statement, disbelieving and believing at the same time.
"’Course I do. You don’t get rid of me by dying mate. Or by marrying me off to some beautiful terrorist bitch."
Bodie looked back at him steadily for a moment, then his lips quirked upward a little. "Suppose I’d better stick around then, keep you out of trouble."
And that, he knew, was the closest he’d ever get to a proposal. Doyle smiled, leaned over and let his hand rest briefly over Bodie’s pounding heart, and then world intruded again and they turned around to face it.
Together. As ever.
-- THE END --