With a Slow Fuse

by


Written for the Bonfire Night "Discovered in a Skyrocket" challenge on the discoveredinalj Livejournal community.

With thanks as always to Sheila for the beta. And I had to twist the timeline a bit to fit in with the Bonfire Night theme, as in canon I would say that the time of year that Doyle was shot was probably early October, looking at the trees in the early part of the episode...




Through God's great mercy they were taken
With a slow fuse and a dark lantern

(Traditional Bonfire Chant)


Afterwards, Bodie wondered sometimes if they would ever have got together if it hadnít been for those damned fireworks. Not that they hadnít been heading that way for a long time; only neither of them had actually realised it until that night.



"For Godís sake, Bodie, will you shift your arse! Weíre going to be late again, and if Cowley finds out heíll probably shove us both in records for a month, and I for one have had enough of that bloody dungeon to last me a lifetime."

"Alright, alright. Iím coming. Donít know what youíre complaining about, anyway. All those weeks in a nice, warm office, surrounded by nice, quiet bits of paper, while I was stuck on boring obbos with Anson chain-smoking in my face." Casting a quick look sideways at his fuming partner, Bodie rashly decided he could risk pushing it a bit further. "I donít know. Some people will do anything to get out of fieldwork."

Even as the words left his mouth, he realised heíd made a mistake. Aside from Doyleís instant stiffening beside him, the sudden hot surge in his own guts would have warned him he was an idiot. A total, utter idiot.

"Ray --"

"Forget it." The voice was emotionless, his partnerís movements transformed into a rigid parody of his usual (and, thank god, almost entirely restored) fluidity.

"Doyle --"

But the only answer was the click of Doyleís heels descending the uncarpeted stairs in the common hallway of Bodieís latest flat. Cursing himself under his breath, he grabbed his jacket and swung out after him, but by the time he had set the locks and got downstairs, Doyle was already behind the steering wheel, engine revving, exhaust steaming in the early darkness that was late October. Bodie hadnít even got his door properly shut before the handbrake was off and Doyle was pulling out into the rush hour traffic.

They barely made it to the observation post, and sure enough, Cowley was on the R/T within two minutes of the handover time, ostensibly with new information to share. Bodie couldnít quite shake off the impression that the timing of this new information was something other than accidental, but perhaps he was being paranoid. Cowley was hardly likely to mess about withholding information on a potential IRA cell simply to needle two of his agents.

Doyle had taken first turn at the window. He still hadnít spoken to Bodie since leaving the flat so precipitously. Heíd grunted at the agents they were relieving, grabbed the binoculars, and parked himself down in the wooden chair placed carefully to one side of the window in the dark little room that offered the best view of the house they were to watch.

Bodie sighed, picked up the records left by their predecessors, and took them into the back bedroom to read, dutifully keeping his torch shielded as a precaution. Nothing. Just the usual milkman, postman and cold-callers. All checked out, all confirmed as being just what they said they were.

"Absolutely nothingís happened all day," he returned to the other room, record book in hand. He hoped Doyle would at least acknowledge him, but there was no response.

He tried another couple of openers over the next few hours, but the response was just as lacking as the comforts in the dark room. Finally he gave up. God, Doyle could be a right pain sometimes. Mind you, he had only just got signed off by CI5ís various medical personnel the week before for a full return to active duty.

There had been times during the long, painful months of recovery from Mayliís bullets, that Bodie had doubted he would ever have his partner back with him. Not that heíd ever allowed that thought to escape within Doyleís hearing, but the man wasnít stupid and Bodie knew Doyle had to have had his doubts too, although, like Bodie, he had never expressed them out loud. At least, not to the man he had been partnered with for all these years. Longest-running partnership in CI5, they had. Not that it did to dwell on that either, Bodie thought gloomily. He wasnít superstitious, but why tempt fate?

And now, against all the odds, Doyle was back. This was what they had both wanted, so why the hell couldnít they just be back to normal? His remark earlier hadnít been anything other than a joke, and the old Doyle would have taken it as such, and probably come back with something worse. He certainly wouldnít have launched into this frigid silence.

It was Bodieís turn at the window, but the street, promisingly named to Bodie's chocolate-centred mind Kitkat Terrace, was empty of all but the occasional car, the cold, wet night deterring anyone from stepping outside who didnít have to. With the ease of long practice, Bodie kept his eyes on number 75 opposite, and a fraction of his brain engaged on noting any hint of movement, while the rest continued to worry about his partner. He wanted Doyle back, like he had been before the shooting, but he was beginning to think it would never happen. Ray had never discussed his compulsory sessions with Kate Ross, but he had clearly convinced her that he was psychologically fit to be back on active duty.

Bodie was beginning to wonder just how the hell Doyle had pulled that off.



It was half an hour before their relief was due when Doyle finally spoke. Then it was only to offer Bodie the last of the tea from the thermos, but Bodie accepted it in the spirit in which it was meant. But the long hours of silent tension had left him with a clear resolve. As soon as this job was out of the way, he was going to pin his partner down until he talked to him. Really talked to him. Bodie needed to know that Doyle wanted to be back on A squad, that he wanted to be back as partners. Because if not, he wanted to know now. Before either of them did something really stupid that could end up getting either or both of them killed.



No chance presented itself for the next few nights. The obbo continued, fed by snippets of information Cowley passed on, gleaned from god-only knew where. Their shifts were still quiet, but more amicable, and Bodie at least was grateful for that. But after a couple of nights he realised he was picking up odd moments of tension from his partner. They didnít seem to be related to anything Bodie did or said, and it took him two shifts after first noticing to pin down what it was.

Fireworks.

Doyle seemed to tense up every time someone let off an early firework.

Of course, in the run-up to Bonfire Night, there were always a few people who couldnít wait for the right night and let their fireworks off early. It wasnít something that Bodie had ever really paid attention to before. But like a sore spot on the gum, once he had become aware of it, he couldn't ignore it. Even not knowing why Doyle should be bothered by them, he winced in sympathy with every bang.

He wondered if he should say something, but it didnít exactly take him long to work out that there was no way of saying "Oi, mate, you scared of fireworks, then?" that wouldnít more than likely terminate their partnership on the spot. He was going to have to leave it.

There was only one problem with that. How would Doyle handle Bonfire Night if every firework that went off made him close a little further in on himself? Bodie didnít need to know why to know that it would be a big problem.



Doyle curled up under the bedcovers, trying to get warm. He had piled extra blankets on his bed, and the heating had been on until just an hour ago, so there was no reason to be cold. But he was. Sometimes, he thought he would never be warm again, not inside, where it counted.

Had he been a fool to want to get back onto active duty? He had resolved to settle for nothing less in those first days after he had finally woken up in hospital, to discover that, unexpectedly but indisputably, he was still alive. He had clung to that aim blindly, with rigid determination, even after the full extent of his injuries was disclosed to him. He had refused to countenance anything less than a full recovery, and until his return to the job last week, thought this was what he had achieved.

So why the hell was he flinching at fireworks?

Tugging the blankets higher and tighter around him, he finally faced the truth. Every small explosion of gunpowder brought back the moment in time when he had lain, ears ringing from the first shot, incapacitated by injury and excruciating pain, helplessly waiting for the second bullet to put an end to his life. For a split-second after every bang, he was back on that carpet, the smell of spilt milk strong in his nose, pain wrapped around his body.

It was ridiculous. Heíd been shooting at the firing-range for weeks now with no problem, had handled the assessment sessions with similar ease, only to be frozen witless by bloody fireworks. His skin crawled as he thought of what Ross would make of it. Or Bodie. He knew his partner had guessed something was wrong; it was one of the reasons that they worked so well together, this ability to read one another without language interfering, but Doyle could have done without it just now. He was just grateful that Bodie hadnít picked up so far on the other thing that was occupying Doyleís mind when it should have been wholly focussed on the job.

He wanted Bodie.

Wanted him not just in his bed, although God knew the thought of that was enough to keep Doyle awake for hours, restless and hurting, but wanted him in his life, always. A partner off the job as well as on.

Heíd wondered, once or twice during his recovery, if he could see the same feeling in Bodieís eyes, but then his partner had started taking girls out again and Doyle had lost his nerve. He must be mad even to think about Bodie like this, let alone to hope that it might be reciprocated. But it wouldnít go away, and Doyle knew it was going to affect their working relationship if he didnít get his act together, and quickly.

And now, this damned stupid firework thing as well.

God, life was a bitch sometimes.



Eventually recognising that sleep was just not going to happen, Doyle dragged himself out of bed and under the shower. The grey light of an early November afternoon struggled to light the living room as he wandered in, clutching a cup of tea.

It was strange, being back on the job after so long away. Part of him felt as though the last months were nothing more than a bad dream, scuttling away even as he tried to recall it, but the sensations and memories were locked tightly down in his mind. He had forced them away as soon as he could, trying to deny them any power by wrapping them securely away, but like the contents of Pandora's box they were chittering and squeaking for escape.

Maybe Dr Ross is right, and I should talk about it to someone.

The thought sent a tendril of ice straight into his brain. He could not, could not, talk to Ross about it. He just couldn't. It hadn't been a problem to describe what had happened; that was easy. All he had had to do was imagine that he was giving a report to Cowley - which he had been required to do anyway, as soon as the doctors allowed it. It was the emotions behind what had happened that he was having trouble with, although he knew he had managed to convince Ross they wouldn't interfere with his job.

Yeah, you even fooled yourself there.

Slowly drinking his tea, feeling light-headed with lack of sleep, he let his mind wander back to those first few waking days in hospital, when the hours between one dose of painkiller and the next were longer, so much longer, than the relief they provided. Such hour-long minutes of steadily building agony, when it took more endurance than he had known he possessed not to beg the nurses to come earlier.

Bodie had been there when he could, and at first Doyle had tried to send him away as he felt the drug wearing off, the slow increase of pain gathering in his chest, making each breath an effort of will he was unsure he could repeat. He hadn't wanted Bodie to see him like that. But Bodie had stayed, gripping his hand, muttering words Doyle couldn't focus on. He heard only the sound of the familiar voice. It was enough to distract him for a second, maybe two - long enough, at least, to give him some momentary relief.

Sometimes he thought that without Bodie there, he would have screamed.

As he started to heal, Bodie was there less. Not through inclination, but Cowley was working him hard, pairing him off with all and sundry, and though he protested, they both knew he had no choice. The hollow space it left in Doyle's already empty days was appalling, and with that came the realisation that he did not want to spend time apart from Bodie. So he had to get back to work, back to full fitness. There was simply no other choice.

He worked harder than he had ever done before at regaining his lost health, too exhausted most nights to think at first. But gradually, as his strength began to return, he would wake up in the small hours and think about his life. He knew it was a common reaction after a near-death experience, but he was still surprised to find himself reacting to type. Those hours of introspection were unnerving, revealing an aspect of himself he had never previously recognised. Finally, he could take it no more. Carefully, clearly, inside his head, he articulated the words he could never bring himself to admit out loud. I love Bodie. I love him. The world didn't fall apart. No wrath of God descended upon him.

Firmly, he had locked the thought away. He could never act on it, so it was time to move on. To get on with getting well. And because it was so tied up with Mayli, he had lumped everything in together. The shooting and his self-discovery. He couldn't release one without the other.

Fool, he thought bitterly. Did you really think you could bury it away and it would stay buried?

Grimly, he dragged his mind back to work. CI5 had been watching the same house for nearly a week now, without a sign of any activity that could be construed as suspicious. Yet there was something about the place that set off alarm bells in Doyle's mind, if he could only narrow it down. If it was an IRA cell, they could be busy planning their Christmas bombing campaign, but why do the planning in London, where the risk of being spotted was always higher?

The IRA weren't stupid. Ruthless; yes. Stupid, no. So if it wasn't that, what could they be plotting?

He let his mind drift over the obbo, knowing from past experience that sometimes ideas needed to be ignored before they would drift up from the subconscious. There was something, he knew it, but what? Something he had heard? Seen?

The street. Something about the street.

Grabbing an A-Z, he flicked frantically through the pages until he found the right one. It jumped out at him immediately.

They wouldn't...would they?

Hell, they might.

Speaking urgently into his R/T, he was already halfway to the door.

"4.5 to 3.7."

Only a crackle greeted him. By now, he was in the car, engine running.

"3.7, where are you?"

"3.7 to 4.5. What's your hurry? We're not on for another hour."

"I'm coming to pick you up. I'll be there in ten minutes. Make sure you're ready. 4.5 out." It was always best not to give Bodie time to argue.

Seven minutes later he was screeching to a halt outside Bodie's flat, glad to see his partner already waiting for him. Barely giving him time to get in, he launched off in the direction of the observation post, talking rapidly as he drove.

"Knew there was something about that street. Just looked it up. There's a chunk of wasteland behind it, backing right on to the house, and there's going to be a huge fireworks display there, with a bonfire and everything, all free. I remember now seeing the signs up on the lampposts every time we drove up and down the street. It's the last one, because it's going to be built on next year, so the Council's making a really big thing out of it. There'll be loads of people there, families, it's being televised..."

"God." Bodie grabbed the R/T. "3.7 to Alpha 1."

Doyle's hands tightened on the steering wheel as he pushed the car as fast as he dared through the heavy traffic. Already the light was fading, dusk wrapping itself around the streets like a soft blanket.

"Alpha 1."

"Sir, Kitkat Terrace - has anyone been watching the back of the building?"

"There's no safe place to maintain a watch from round the back, as you should well know, 3.7." Cowley's exasperation came through the static clearly.

"That's what we thought, sir. So it would be easy to bring stuff in round that way - and to bring it out again, especially if there were a lot of people around, and it was dark and-"

"What are you talking about, man?"

"4.5 just pointed out that there's to be a big, free firework display tonight on that patch of waste ground round the back of the house. A nice open space, with lots of people milling around getting things ready, a bonfire, fireworks going off that would mask the sound of explosions, the place packed with families..."

"Hell! You're on your way there now?"

"Yes."

"Let me know what you find. I'm sending backup, but there's no time to wait for them to arrive."

"Sir." The transmission ended, Bodie looked across at his partner. Doyle's face was taut with concentration, the steady build-up of rush hour traffic making it impossible for him to put his foot down as he clearly wanted to. Despite the urgency of the situation, and its potential for disaster, Bodie was aware of a sense of rightness that had been missing all the time Doyle had been off work. He had got along alright with the other agents, but he and Doyle were a team and he couldn't work with anyone else the way he did with Doyle. Seeing him there, attention fully focused on the road ahead, Bodie felt comfortable at last. The awareness was fleeting, but the sense of coming home remained, even as they pulled up by the side of the waste ground on the far side from the house they had been watching so futilely from the front. They still had no evidence that there was anything sinister going on behind those curtained windows, but Bodie knew Doyle was right. It was the same instinct that made them so good at their job.



Full dark had fallen on the journey through the crowded streets, and Bodie had to strain his eyes to see the figures busy on the muddy ground before them. Ten, maybe twelve people, all dressed in dark clothes, were putting the final touches to the huge bonfire in the centre, while a handful of others were setting up the industrial-sized fireworks. On the far side, there was more activity, which Bodie guessed would be stalls selling jacket potatoes and toffee apples. Without speaking, Bodie headed for the people clustered around the bonfire while Doyle skirted the edge of the ground, making for the back of the house. The rear of Kitkat Terrace was separated from the open ground only by a low chain and post fence, although some of the residents had planted hedges too. There was no easy way to identify exactly which was the house in question, the long terrace running without break across the whole side of the bomb site. In the darkness, it was hard to count along the windows, two per house, but eventually Doyle settled on one which was in almost a direct line with the bonfire. Moving slowly, his own dark clothes making him blend with the workers setting up the site, he made his way to the garden of the house adjacent to the one he had decided was number 75. Careful to keep under the windows, despite the drawn curtains, he crept as near as he dared to the boundary fence and listened. No sound came, either from the window above him, or the building next door. Thankful that the fence was low, he was about to cross over into the garden of number 75 itself when he heard a key turn in the back door just beyond him. Dropping like a stone, he kept his face just above the earth and strained his ears.

The door opened, but the kitchen behind it was unlit, and peering up through his hair, careful to keep his face hidden from view, Doyle was unable to see anything other than the outline of two people as the walked down the tiny garden. But he could also see the outline of what they were carrying so carefully between them. The shape was nothing, muffled in what could have been old fabric and hidden by the gloom, but the care with which the two figures handled it told him his instinct was right. These two silent figures were not carrying fireworks, but something far more deadly.

He didn't dare risk using his R/T so close to the terrorists' base, and Bodie was too far for him to signal to. He had no choice but to follow them himself. Casting a quick glance round, hoping that there were no watchers behind the windows in the darkened house, he pushed himself slowly to a crouch, slid sideways along the way he had come, and slipped into the night, trying to look like part of the workforce.

Although the display wasn't due to start until 7.30pm, people were already beginning to arrive, gathering in little clusters around the edges of the ground, watching the activity. It made it harder to keep track of the two men. Cowley would no doubt be doing his best to keep people away, but the area was impossible to close off, open as it was on three sides. Doyle didn't dare get too close to his targets, but maintaining a safe distance meant that others got in the way, blocking his view. He sped up, needing to see where they planted the bomb. He couldn't tackle them at the moment, not while they were carrying the thing, but as soon as they put it down, that would be his moment. He would have to time it just right, make sure that they were too far away from it to cause it to go off, while close enough to get them both before they made their escape. He just prayed it was on a timer, not set to go off until later. That would give the Bomb Squad time to get there and defuse it.

Still shadowing the two figures, he was suddenly aware that he himself was being followed. For one heart-stopping moment he thought he had been seen by others in the house, then his Bodie-instinct kicked in, and he knew who was with him.

He spoke without taking his eyes off the shadowy figures ahead. "Two men - you see them? See how they're carrying that thing between them? Has to be a bomb."

"Cowley's got the Bomb Squad on their way over now. He knows these two are out of the house; the rest should have been picked up by now. The coppers are trying to keep people from coming onto the ground, but they can't do anything about the ones already here without tipping off those two that they've been spotted."

"Yeah."

Just then, the two men paused, lowered their burden cautiously to the ground, and looked around. Bodie and Doyle were already flat on the ground, oblivious to the damp grass soaking them. The two figures, relieved of the weight of the object they had left behind, hurried back the way they had come. Doyle let them get within speaking range before leaping up, startling the bombers enough to gain a momentary advantage. It was all that was required. Before either of the two could speak, Bodie's gun was out and Doyle was behind them, snarling at them to lie face down on the ground, NOW.

Reluctant to draw attention to the capture in front of the growing crowd, Doyle was relieved that the two terrorists put up no fight. After a rapid search, which yielded nothing more dangerous remaining on each than a penknife, he grabbed his quarry, pulled him to his feet even as Bodie reached for the other, and together they frog-marched them grimly back to number 75 and handed both over to Murphy.

"The Bomb Squad here yet?" Murphy shook his head, and Doyle cursed. Looking at Bodie, he snapped, "You stay here until they get here. You can show them where to go. I'll go and keep an eye on it; make sure no-one goes anywhere near it." Fixing them both with a glare visible even in the gloom, he added, "For God's sake, make sure no-one starts letting off any fireworks. The buggers planted the bomb right in the middle of them. One spark, and they'll get a damn sight more than they bargained for." He swung on his heel, the damp leaves hissing slightly under his feet, and was gone before Bodie could protest.



An hour and a half later, it was all over. The Bomb Squad had successfully defused the device, dismantled it and taken it away. The organisers of the firework display were still arguing with the police about whether it could go ahead or not, but CI5's involvement was over, at least on the scene. There were still the interrogations to do, but Cowley had those in hand. Bodie and Doyle found themselves released from duty until the next morning.

Trudging across the muddy grass towards the Capri, neither spoke. Doyle felt bone-weary, as though he had slogged his way through a battlefield in hand-to-hand combat, not just sat near a dark, ominous shape until the experts arrived.

"Bit of a baptism of fire, wasn't it? First job back? Or re-baptism?" Bodie's voice sounded loud, as though he too was not quite as in control as he appeared.

"What? Oh, yeah. Suppose so." A rocket whistled into the air above them, exploding in a disappointingly small shower of green and gold sparks. Doyle flinched at the bang. Bodie's arm reached out towards him before falling back without making contact. He watched as his partner hunched a little deeper into his leather jacket and strode a little faster towards the car.

Climbing into the passenger seat, Bodie decided he needed to get to the bottom of this. He couldn't remember Doyle reacting like this to fireworks in the past. Not that they made a habit of attending fireworks display, but they'd been partners for years now, and every November, without fail, fireworks would go off around the country. Only this year did they make his partner edgy.

He didn't speak on the drive back, too busy trying to work out just what the hell was going on. What was different about this year that would...?

God. Was he stupid, or what? What was different about this year, indeed.

Only the minor fact that his partner had nearly died, that's all. Just the small, insignificant fact that he had been shot, in his own home.

Right.

"Pull over just up there, mate."

Doyle glanced across at him, but did as he was asked. Only when the car was safely parked did he say, "What's the problem?"

"No problem. I'm going to treat you to a take-away. Celebrate the successful conclusion of your first case back." He was out of the car before Doyle could argue. This was not going to be up for discussion. He needed to talk to Doyle, and tonight was as good a time as any.



The meal was eaten, and still they had yet to talk about anything but inconsequentials. Bodie was trying to think of an innocuous way into the subject he needed to raise, when matters were taken out of his hands.

The building housing Doyleís current flat had small gardens at the back, the property of the ground floor residents. Now it seemed that one of them was hosting a late fireworks party. Bodie had been dimly aware of voices from outside, but it was only when the first rocket shot past the window and exploded with a crack that he realised what was going on. Doyle had been clearing the plates, and one slipped from his hands to land with a dull thud on the carpet.

Bodie bent to retrieve it. "Lucky that was clean. Scampi dansak would leave a hell of a stain." Another rocket whistled past. Bodie half dropped the plate on the table and reached out to Doyle, this time grabbing his arm and turning him so he could see the wide, blank eyes. He shook Doyle gently, then, when there was no reaction, a little harder. Doyle blinked, winced as yet another firework exploded nearby, and then grimaced, not quite managing to meet Bodieís eyes. He pulled away and Bodie let him go, saying nothing.

The silence that followed wasnít long, but to Bodie it could have measured the entire duration of their partnership.

Then Doyle shrugged and turned away to gaze out of the window. "Stupid, isnít it?" His voice was so soft, Bodie had to strain to hear it. Moving on silent feet, he stepped closer, until he could see Doyleís face reflected in the dark pane of glass.

When nothing more was forthcoming, he said, almost as quietly, "Whatís stupid, mate?"

"Donít tell me you havenít noticed?" The tone lacked the anger Bodie had half-expected to hear. If anything, it was remote, disengaged. "The way I fucking jump a mile every time a firework goes off?"

"Not stupid. Normal reaction, Iíd say, given what youíve been through this year."

Doyleís knuckles were white with tension. "Yeah. Maybe."

Bodie waited to see if he was going to continue, before asking, "Why fireworks, when youíre okay with guns?"

"How the hell should I know? Itís bloody stupid, thatís what it is. Itís -- itís because I canít anticipate them."

"The fireworks?"

"Of course the bloody fireworks! Guns -- well, theyíre part of what we do, arenít they? Even in the practice sessions, it was fine, because Iím used to using guns there, hearing them go off." One hand was clutching the window sill so tightly, Bodie expected to see the wood splinter. "But those damned fireworks -- they just go off, no warning, nothing. One minute youíre just getting on with life, the next..."

"The next, someoneís in your flat with a gun," finished Bodie softly.

Doyle turned slowly. His gaze met Bodieís and finally he gave one small, tight nod. "Yeah. She was just -- there. You know? I wasnít thinking of anything, really, just having an afternoon off, in the sun, catching up on chores. Walked back into the flat with my arms full of shopping, balancing those fucking milk bottles. Couldnít think what she was doing there, but I recognised her straightaway. I said something to her -- not sure what, something like ĎWhat are you doing here?í or ĎHow did you get in?í, but you know what? She didnít say a thing. No explanations, nothing. Just shot me." He swung round to the window again, his breathing suddenly harsh in the quiet room.

Bodie kept his silence. If Ray was starting to talk at last, he didnít want to derail him.

"I remember falling, the smell of milk everywhere, not able to move. Funny, really, it didnít even hurt at first. Just numb. But I could feel her coming up behind me, and I knew, just knew that she was going to finish me off. And -- I wanted her to. I couldnít feel much, but I could tell it was bad, and I just wanted it over with. I was almost urging her on. I couldnít really see her properly, but I saw when she moved the gun away, down. It was deliberate, Bodie. She chose not to put that final bullet in the back of my head, and I donít know why.

"The sound of the gun going off -- I donít think Iíll ever forget that sound. She had a silencer, but it sounded so loud to me, and I thought it was going to be the last thing Iíd ever hear."

Bodie couldnít stand it any longer. Taking the extra couple of steps to bring him close to his partner, he put an arm around Doyle and simply held him.

"Díyou remember anything else, sunshine?"

Doyle shifted in the curve of his arm. Bodie could feel the slight release of tension in the still-thin body. "Nah. Not really. Just the smell of milk -- still makes me feel sick now -- and...I dunno, weird dreams; at least, I think they were dreams. I canít really remember, but you were there, and Cowley..."

"Where was Ďthereí?"

"A graveyard," Doyle whispered. "I saw my funeral."

Stifling the curse that came to his lips, Bodie spun Doyle round to face him. Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself, his eyes raking fiercely over every inch of the man in front of him. It had only been a dream, but sometimes he saw the same thing in his own nightmares...

"Just a dream, Ray. It was only a dream. You made it, and youíre back. And next time I suggest we go for a drink, Iím not taking Ďnoí for answer, got it?"

Doyle looked rather pointedly at Bodieís arm, still holding him close. "Uh, Bodie. I think you could let go now."

Sink or swim. Bodie knew, without doubt, this was the best opportunity he would ever have. Before he could think himself out of it, he took the plunge.

"Donít think so, mate. In fact, Iím not planning on letting go for a long time. Unless you really want me to, that is?"

Another rocket whistled past the window, and Bodie noticed absently that Doyle didnít even twitch. Holding the clear gaze with his own, he tilted his head to one side and leant forward...



So now, they celebrated Bonfire Night as their anniversary, and if all the fireworks that went off did not come boxed in cardboard and labelled ĎStandardí -- well, only they knew that, didnít they?

-- THE END --

November 2006

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