Getting to Know You


First of four parts, followed by Getting to Know All About You, Getting to Like You, and Getting to Hope You Like Me, Too

The doorbell was ringing. The doorbell. Or was it the phone? Perhaps he'd left the cooker on and the timer (which was shaped like a pear) was skittering across the kitchen work surfaces... Maybe it was just tinnitus. He'd give anything to have it be tinnitus and not the sodding doorbell.

No, it was the doorbell.

Doyle raised the pillow off of his head, and turned an ear reluctantly in the direction of the vicious noise to try and get a better grasp of it. It was definitely the doorbell. Whoever it was would need a particularly fine set of body-armour if they kept on: it was supposed to be Doyle's day off. His first day off since signing up. Eight months ago.

He pulled himself up into a half-sitting position, blinking blearily at the bedroom he didn't quite recognise for a few moments. It very well could be tinnitus. They'd been practicing with the magnums recently, and they didn't half pack a bang.

There it went again. The thought that perhaps he should actually stand up and go see if there was someone at the door drifted sluggishly across his half-awake consciousness.

"Oh, right," he said absently to himself.

He stood up, but he was too quick for his brain to contend with, and he wobbled dangerously, just managing to keep his balance.

The doorbell went again, for the umpteenth time, screaming impatiently, and Doyle snarled as he made his way across the flat to the front door. "Alright, alright, keep your fucking hair on! I'm coming, alright?"

He flung the door open, and there was the stuff of his nightmares... Bodie, dressed impeccably in a suit of fine black moleskin and blue roll-neck, stood on his doorstep, smirking at him.

"Morning," he said, in a gleeful drawl that tore across Doyle's morning-time nerves. "Good to know you're just as ratty at home."

Doyle prickled at the words, and Bodie surveyed him with a cool stare that swept from his bare toes, all the way up to his too-tousled bed-hair. Doyle gritted his teeth as he saw the glimmer of amusement in the man's eyes.

"Oh, yeah? What's so good about it?"

Bodie looked back up at him, his mouth opening slackly for a split second, before another puckered smile took it. "I was getting worried. Thought it was just me you were a son of a bitch to."

There was a nasty pause.

"What do you want?" Doyle asked savagely, holding onto the door tightly, as if he were going to slam it back into his supposed-partner's stupid face any second.

Bodie wasn't even bothering to look at him anymore: had his eyes trained on a spot moving off to one side of the road. When he spoke, his voice had shifted back to the deep, odd-sounding accent that belied nothing of his origins. It was a queer thing he sometimes did, had done it for the first month of their acquaintance, and it intrigued Doyle more than he ever let on.

"Cowley wants to see us. Told me to come get you at once."

"Right," Doyle nodded. He rubbed his eye, wondering what to do next. In the end, the manners his mother taught him wouldn't back down to his desire of wanting to kick Bodie in the shin and run away. It was with a heavy heart that he offered his hospitality.

"You can come in and make yourself a cup of tea while I get dressed... If you want," he added lamely.

Bodie looked at him, with barely-concealed contempt, one of those eyebrows raised infuriatingly. "No, thanks. I'll pass." And with that, he turned curtly, and marched across to the Capri, parked on the street in front of Doyle's ground-floor flat.

Doyle was left, standing in bewilderment on his own doorstep, freezing in his pyjama bottoms. He stomped back into his home using every curse in every language he could think of, and a few he came up with all on his own.

The car journey had been cold and tense.

Bodie didn't venture any further conversation -- if what he'd done at Doyle's this morning could be called 'conversation' -- and Doyle would have been grateful for that, had it not been Bodie. They sat, inches from one another, glaring at the same windscreen, each lost in their own vengeful thoughts.

They reached the current Ci5 headquarters in minimal time, and raced one another joylessly to Cowley's office, neither breaking their silence and each trying to kid the other that there wasn't a competition taking place. Doyle faltered on the stairs, and Bodie had knocked on the boss' door before he could get there.

Doyle bit the inside of his cheek in frustration.

"Enter," Cowley's gruff voice brought them forward into the room.

Their leader was sitting at his desk, nursing a scotch and a set of papers. As they came to stand in front of him -- Doyle saw Bodie settle into the quasi-military stance that had succeeded in annoying him every single day since they were paired. In his own defiance, Doyle slouched back against one of the filing cabinets, crossing his arms purposefully. This earned him a withering glare from Bodie, but he didn't see it.

Cowley, on the other hand, did see it, and it made him grin behind his hand. It had been just as he'd expected, which meant he had been entirely right to call them in.

"You two."

Bodie stood, if it were possible, a little straighter at being addressed. Doyle rolled his eyes visibly.

"I have a job for you. Your first job out as a team."

Each, unseen by the other, winced at the word 'team'.

Cowley, once again, congratulated himself on such an incredible combination of agents. He wasn't sure what was going to happen -- he had a strong suspicion that one of them would eventually tear the other's throat out -- but it was incredibly interesting to watch. Useful for future reference, in any case. What happens when one combines chalk and cheese.

"You're to complete surveillance on this address." He threw a file unexpectedly at Doyle, and was pleased when the ex-policeman's lighting-quick reflexes saved it from flying beneath his legs.

"I expect this mission to last three days, I will allow it to last no more than one week... You're to stay until I say so."

Bodie, who knew himself a bit better than Doyle did -- or so Cowley suspected -- balked as Doyle flipped through the file. "Not a babysitting job! Sir, you know how good I am -"

"And oh-so modest," Doyle piped up from behind him, not taking his eyes off the photographs in the brief.

Cowley smirked as Bodie blinked in astonishment.

"What I'm saying, Doyle," Bodie put a certain something into his partner's name that wasn't very friendly. "Is that we're two of the fittest men in the squad -- physically, anyway." Here, he eyed Doyle's curly head with dramatic suspicion. "And I just don't think we should be wasted on such a cop-out job."

"And I suppose you think that gathering evidence to supply in court is a waste of your effort, too!"

If he had a mind to, Cowley would have said precisely the same thing. As it was, Doyle got there before him. He sat back, keen to get an image of what this new young copper thought -- perhaps he was just contradicting Bodie because it was Bodie and therefore anything he said was wrong. Perhaps he just liked arguing, especially with Bodie. But there was something to the way he said it, the imperious look in his eye as he started forward, that made Cowley think he genuinely meant it. In any case, it was enough to make Bodie rock back slightly on his heels in surprise.

"You what?" He said with a scowl, and Cowley was pleased to hear a touch of Scouse creeping back into his voice. Doyle had him rattled.

Doyle completely ignored him. He stepped forward smoothly, file in hand. "I don't think surveillance is beneath me, Mr Cowley. Will that be all, sir?"

Cowley nodded and Doyle, touching his forelock in an amusing mock, turned and swaggered past Bodie, thrusting the file at him as he did so.

Bodie looked, for all the world, like a wee baern in the playground, trying to work out whether to laugh or cry. But it only lasted a split second, before he set his jaw and his eyes went hard. He looked up at Cowley.

"Bit keen, innee?"

Cowley smirked, but wouldn't let him see it. "You should be just as keen to prove to me your worth."

Bodie looked outraged, a mocking tone of betrayal entering his voice. "I have, sir. When I was two weeks in, I was just as agreeable as our pig is being. And just as fake."

"It's called following orders, Bodie. I wouldn't expect you to know it."

"It's called sappy, sir."

He left before the file hit him.

Another ride in the car ahead. Another trip of mind-numbing irritation, compounded every time Bodie tried to make small-talk with the sod.

"We should probably pick up some stuff."

Doyle glanced at him scornfully over his shoulder. "I should think we'd probably need it... A week's worth."

Bodie bit down hard on his tongue and tried not to answer back. He quickened his pace, trying both to catch up with Doyle, and succeed in putting himself a few inches closer to the car than him. Because then he would be a real man.

"I live closer than you; we'll go there first. I'm driving." Bodie reached the car first and was in the driver's seat before Doyle had a chance to protest. He watched, with empty triumph, as Doyle had to re-circle the car to get in the passenger seat.

Bodie set the car into gear smoothly, and they swerved through the car-pool.

Doyle was probably just trying not to look impressed.

About five minutes had elapsed in total silence -- Doyle staring out the window like some moody 18th century poet, Bodie busy navigating them expertly through London's traffic -- before Doyle went and broke it.

"You think it's a test?"

"You what?" Bodie frowned.

"You heard," Doyle said. Firmly, as if it had been a threat.

Bodie ran through what had just happened in his head, and tried to work it out logically. "The surveillance?"

"Yeah," Doyle rolled his eyes.

Wanker, Bodie thought suddenly. Vicious little wanker.

That's all he was: a vicious little wanker sent to spy on Bodie, see if he had really reformed and was safe to approach or if he was still just a heart-beat away from snapping someone's neck. He had to be one of Cowley's little jokes. It had to be a test: no way could someone be that infuriating off their own back. He couldn't be real.

He sniffed, lifting his chin up a little. "No."

Bodie could almost hear Doyle's blood bubbling. "Why not?"

He smirked. "Know the old man, don't I? It's not his style. It's not a test."

The sound of Doyle's teeth grinding together filled the car, and Bodie felt a bit better.

Naturally, there was no speaking for the rest of the trip. About ten minutes later, Bodie pulled into the garage of his downstairs flat, with just as much grace as when he'd left Ci5. Doyle failed to comment.

Not waiting for the other man to get out the car, Bodie unlocked the front door and stepped inside, leaving the door open for Doyle to join him. He went through the flat, straight into his room, retrieved his holdall from inside the wardrobe, and began to pack.

When he wandered back into the living room, intent on finding a certain discarded jacket, not three minutes later, Doyle was slouching on his sofa, drinking a cup of tea and flicking disinterestedly through a book of poetry Bodie had left on the coffee table. Bodie felt a flash of irritation that the man should have taken such a liberty.

He cleared his throat, Doyle looked round, absolutely bare-faced.

"Comfy?" Bodie asked, the sarcasm thick in his voice.

Doyle shrugged. Bodie was losing ground rapidly.

He back-peddled, picking up the jacket from the back of the armchair, hefted his bag onto his shoulder, and strode across the living room.

Doyle looked up. "Where's the fire?"

"Cowley said we were to leave promptly, if you remember... And here was me thinking you wanted to make a good impression." Bodie was being snide, and he knew it was beneath him, but the game was getting away from him and the bets were rising.

He quite enjoyed seeing Doyle's deep green eyes flash like that. But he filed the thought away to relish later, because Doyle was advancing across the room. And while Bodie was in no way scared of him, he'd seen what the little lad could do on the mats. He'd at least have to put his bag down.

Doyle walked right up to him, til they were nearly nose to nose.

It suddenly struck Bodie what a weird face the bloke had. He'd never really noticed anything about his face before, he'd always been too fascinated by the crushed cheekbone to bother sneaking a peak at anything else. But he did have one of those faces you couldn't place. And if Bodie was interested in anything, it was in things you couldn't place.

There was a sudden breeze as the heavy front door slammed shut.

Moody sod had stalked off again. Probably gone somewhere quiet to untwist his knickers. In an odd way, Bodie was disappointed the game had come to such an abrupt halt.

He stood, looking around the silent room for anything he might have missed in the rush. There was nothing, of course, and after a moment he left the flat, switching the light off as he went.

The curly head was turned the other way when he got in his car, no doubt trying to think up a way to get him back.

Think on, son, he thought to himself with a grin. He'd won -- fair and square.

He'd just pulled out of his street, when those eyes were on him again. "You've got a nice flat. Warm, like. Really welcoming atmosphere."

Even without the irony-laden tone of voice, Bodie could spot the piss-take a mile off: his flat was blank, bare and beautiful, just how he liked it. No clutter was permitted anywhere, and there was not a single item out of place when he left in the mornings. It was only him -- and the occasional bit of skirt -- and he knew how to look after himself in a tight space. What's the point in messing a place up when you'll only have to tidy it later? And, after so many years, he was good at keeping to the essentials and nothing else.

Still. It annoyed him that Doyle had noticed in the first place. Stupid, eagle-eyed, pernickety...

"I expect you get lots of compliments on it," Doyle was smiling now, as Bodie's silence stretched on.

"The cells at the station are looking for a lick of paint, perhaps you could spruce them up a bit?"


"Add one or two personal touches?"


"Make it a bit more homely."

"Left here?"


And that was that. Doyle seemed a bit cross that Bodie hadn't risen to the bait. When would he learn that Bodie never rose to any bait that wasn't his own? As soon the jumped-up ex-copper realised that, Bodie reckoned they'd get along a bit better.

Not that he wanted to get on any better with the man -- he was an arse -- but it would probably end up affecting their work. And when stuff affected Ci5 work, people got killed. And Bodie wasn't about to be one of them.

So he kept himself in check when Doyle shoved open the red front door to his own flat, revealing a dusky green room, covered in ornaments, books, bits of bric-a-brack, clothes, dishes. Scrap bits of paper adorned with Doyle's horrific scrawl, hundreds of empty record sleeves, a set of weights at the foot of the sofa... It was tidy enough, but somehow it seemed exactly the opposite. As if a whirl-wind had wreaked havoc in a charity shop, but then set everything straight again. Every available surface was being employed to supply space for something.

Doyle, nonplussed, walked in and threw his jacket and keys at an over-stuffed and slightly battered-looking chintz armchair, hidden in one of the window recesses. The keys bounced harmlessly on the cushion, and immediately looked like they'd been there forever. That that was their place.

There was an odd cough, and Bodie looked up to see Doyle standing somewhat awkwardly in the doorway of what he assumed was the kitchen (there was a pelican-infested Guinness poster across it).

"Look, do you want a cup of tea? I might take a bit." That last part was said with some reluctance, but Bodie couldn't really be arsed to pick up on it. He'd won the car fight: that was enough to sate him for now.

"Nah, you're alright. Just get on with it."

Doyle scowled at him suddenly, turned on his heel, and disappeared down one of the labyrinth-like corridors. Bodie tried to work what he'd said wrong now. He hadn't said anything, Doyle was clearly just wanting a strop today... As he did most days.

Bodie shook his head, and continued surveying the living room. Personality practically leaked out of every corner, and everything he saw prompted a hundred questions: the charcoal-smudged green teapot, sitting on top of a sketchbook on the coffee table; the ornaments, from big wooden ships to small china dogs, which festooned sideboard; the bright red socks drying on the radiator by the window; the record player surrounded by masses upon masses of records, none of them in their sleeves... Something caught Bodie's eye, and he drifted towards the shelves in between the two big windows.

Keeping an ear out for Doyle, who was thudding about down one of the corridors, he carefully lifted the closest book from the shelf -- a hard-backed and tweedy-looking Sherlock Holmes collection -- and let it fall open in his palm. It was pristine. He tried another with the same result. A quick scan revealed what he suspected: none of them had even been thumbed through.

Confused, he took a step back to look at the books. But his gaze was caught instead by the photographs, lined up across the different levels of the shelves, and pinned up the wall. All he could see for a second was merely a mass of curly heads.

He grinned to himself: he always loved seeing other peoples' families.

These images of his new partner fascinated him: none of them looked like the ratty and ill-humoured Doyle he'd become acquainted with. There was one of Doyle, looking like he was about to burst with pride, graduating from the police academy with his arms around two newly-uniformed friends, their little hats all askew, all holding bottles of champagne and big fat cigars in their mouths. Bodie chuckled.

A beautiful, red-haired woman -- all curls and curves -- was holding a giggling baby in another, smiling quizzically at the camera. Bodie knew at once that that was Doyle's mum: she had the same shaped eyes. Another, of a much younger Doyle -- all round-cheeked, boyish happiness and no scars -- with his arms wrapped round another boy. They were both grinning from ear to ear, their cheeks scrunched up against one another.

Bodie leaned in to get a closer look: could have been twins, those two. Clearly it was Doyle's younger brother -- the curls were blonder, but just as corkscrew.

Doyle beaming at the camera, showing off a newly-chipped front tooth, with the aid of another set of hands, which helpfully pointed at his mouth; a double thumbs-up over a birthday cake while the mum stood watching in the background; the two young lads asleep on monstrous-looking sofa, all scraped knees and deserving slumber; awkward, gangly, teenage-Doyle trying not to smile at the camera as his brother capered about behind him...

And then, suddenly, the bubbly blonde boy was gone. Bodie searched the shelves for him, but he couldn't be seen.

What Bodie could see, were images of a Doyle more resembling the one he knew. Glaring, shifty-looking lad, with a huge, angry-looking scar suddenly blooming across his face, an eye forever changed into a squint.

One of this same lad sitting unhappily between two unfamiliar people, and then beside another couple, and then behind another family... Five sets of parents, and not one of them the curly, curvy woman, and the blonde Doyle disappeared.

The sound of a crash and some colourful swearing alerted Bodie to the fact his partner was returning. He didn't move away from the shelves, though: he was too curious to give the game up that easily. Doyle wandered into the room with a bulging bag, set it down on the sofa, and tried battering the contents back into it.

"Who's this?" Bodie was nothing if not efficient, and he pointed at the blonde boy, careful to make his voice neutral, so as Doyle wouldn't take offence. He was genuinely interested, though he had no idea why.

Doyle looked up in surprise, and Bodie didn't miss the narrowing of his eyes, before he looked down at the bag again. "That's Stuart, my little brother."

"Looks a lot like you. Could be twins."

Doyle chuckled as he re-rolled a jumper. "That's what everyone said. He was a couple of years younger than me."

Bodie didn't miss the past-tense, even if Doyle didn't seem to notice what he'd done. He stood, indecisive for a moment: should he push this now, when Doyle seemed to have forgotten that he hated Bodie -- he might never get another chance -- or was it too personal? For some reason, Bodie was interested... Curious almost to the point of itching.

Doyle looked up and caught his eye, and Bodie was glad he'd said nothing all of a sudden. In silence, he followed him out to the car, and they set off.

He leaned back against the window with a sigh he didn't notice.

Bodie glanced at him with a raised eyebrow, but said nothing. It was a long way to Manchester, and Doyle was feeling worse with every mile they put behind them. He was, probably, going to have to spend an entire week in the company of only this man.

He didn't know if he could do it.

Bodie was the only man who could get Doyle's blood boiling with the smallest tick of his face. On bloody purpose, and all. That was the worst thing: the fact that the great bleeding bruiser actively enjoyed seeing Doyle losing his temper, actually went out of his way to irritate him every single day.

And Doyle knew it -- how could he miss it when that smug smirk gleamed up at his face every other minute. But he just...couldn't help it. The bloke was so infuriating, and Doyle could safely say he hated absolutely everything about him. From his naff roll-necks to his stupid faux-RP voice to his hateful eyebrows, which went up and down more times than a barmaids arse at New Year...

In short, Doyle hated Bodie.

Bodie. Ridiculous name in the first place. And had he even told his newly assigned partner his first name?


Next to him, Bodie cleared his throat and shifted in his seat, hands flexing on the steering wheel as he stretched his back. He seemed preoccupied with something: the motorway afforded a lot of thinking time.

Calming slightly, Doyle reflected on his sudden inner rant. He knew he was being unreasonable: but that was what made it worse. In front of Bodie, Doyle lost all control on himself and ended up just looking like a right fool.

Not that Bodie had anything on him. Nothing like that. Doyle was the better shot and had a couple of years on him, too. It was just that...he seemed so capable. He glided into rooms and Mr. Cowley would ask him his oh-so-superior opinion on things, and Doyle just had to stand there and take it. Like he was the scum's sodding sidekick or something. As far as he could tell, Bodie had only been there about a year more than him but he still made Doyle feel as if he was just the new kid at school, scuffed knees and all.

Doyle let out another long breath, resting his head back against the foamy car seat.

He missed the force. Stupid, so it sounded even in his own mind, but he did.

He missed knowing exactly where he was, knowing exactly who he was: the best. Not always in the DCI's good books, but still the best. And now, it seemed like this man who'd apparently appeared out of nowhere knew a good deal more about the world and it's ways than he did. And they both knew it. Everyone did.

A feeling of intense misery and defeat swept over him suddenly, taking him slightly by surprise. Why did his chest hurt whenever he thought too much about work? Why did he always come off like the bad-tempered child in their fights? Why was he so bothered?

Because, he answered himself, this had been his chance. And now some jumped-up ex-Scouser was going to piss all over it.

He had to get through this week-long exercise. And then he had to go back to that place. The place he'd worked so hard to get into and now absolutely abhorred, a mere month after finishing training that nearly killed him. He had to go back there and try to work alongside the blue-eyed golden boy who could do no wrong with anyone.

Anyone except him.

They arrived at the second address they'd been given in the early evening, the stars beginning to form in the cooling sky.

"Ah, well," said Bodie as he turned the ignition off. "Doesn't look too shabby, this."

They'd pulled up to the back of a smart line of terraced houses, snaking away up the road -- not exactly plush, but not exactly anything else, either. Bodie was smirking, but Doyle didn't say anything: it looked a lot nicer than any of the houses he'd been familiar with, and he balked at the memories.

They got the bags from the car and, picking their way through a yard full of scrap metal, they let themselves in the back door, picking the locks without really noticing. Inside, the house was dark and forbidding, as if it knew they were intruders. Bodie darted away, leaving Doyle alone in the dark, clutching his bag, feeling very silly.

Just as he was about to shout something not very kind, the lights suddenly blazed on and blinded him. He squinted up and saw Bodie emerge from the cupboard under the stairs, brushing his hands free of dust.

"Trip-switch." Bodie looked very pleased with himself. Doyle couldn't be bothered to tell him he had a big fat cobweb in his hair.

"Smashing," he said numbly, feeling as if his vocal cords had rusted over with lack of activity. They'd not really spoken on the way up, each man preferring his own company to that of the person sat next to him.

Fine by him. This was all fine by him. His life in Ci5 would just be a series of extended silences. That was fine. Not like you needed to talk while working, was it? That was what friends were for. Pity, then, that he'd somehow never really managed to keep any.

Doyle coughed abruptly and started up the uncarpeted stairs, letting Bodie follow him as he pleased. A small thrill of satisfaction ran through him when he heard his boots on the stairs behind. They wound their way to the top floor, then dropped back down one for a better view. The room facing the house they were to watch was just as bare as the others, a few newspapers and one sprung armchair was all there was in the way of furnishings. It was dank, empty and fairly bleak.

"Should suit you, son," Doyle went to the window, feeling the daggers as they thumped into his back.

The house opposite was almost identical, four floors of faceless windows glinted back at them. All dark -- no car, no litter, no sign of life.

"Great," Bodie's voice gusted from somewhere behind him.

"It's not my fault," Doyle snapped and turned to face him. Bodie was stood a lot closer than he'd been expecting.

"Never said it was, did I?" Bodie said coolly, that infuriating smile tugging at the sides of his mouth. "You shouldn't be so quick to scold."

"I'm not scolding."

"I'd say different."

"You bloody would," Doyle muttered, and pushed past him. After spending most of the day cramped in a car with him, Doyle wanted to put as much distance between himself and Bodie as possible. Bodie, clearly, had other ideas.

"You're a right ratty bugger, you, aren't you?" He said in a wondrous tone as he followed Doyle over to the bags, lying in wait in the corner of the room. "I've known you four weeks and still haven't heard you say two nice words together."

"You won't," Doyle assured him pointedly, pulling his sleeping bag and book from his bag with a rough tug. He took the campers' lamp and lit it with hands which were shaking ever so slightly with fury.

"No, don't suppose so, neither," Bodie said simply. Doyle looked up at him, confused. But he couldn't read his partner's face at all -- it was like there was nothing there, the absence of an expression.

He sighed in frustration, feeling foolish. "Don't bother talking to me, then." He seized his book and bag, and stomped over to broken armchair.

Doyle inspected it closely, and wasn't much heartened: it was scabby and torn, and one of the arms had collapsed, so it leaned rather heavily to one side. Didn't look at all promising. Doyle prodded it experimentally, and found the springs still yielded.

That'll do, he thought, and flung himself down into it. It creaked dangerously, but held him up quite comfortably.

"Oi!" Bodie shouted, sounding injured. "What if I'd wanted that?"

"Don't be daft," Doyle said as he opened his book. "Couldn't hold your weight." He looked over the top of the book, and hid his smile as Bodie's chin went down slightly. It had been mean, but anything to take the wind out of his sails had to be a good thing.

And the silence swelled up once more, covering them.

Bodie was bored -- he was three hours into his six-hour shift, and there was only so much silence one could take when staring at an empty house. Stepping away from the mounted binoculars, he leaned back against the window and looked at Doyle.

Doyle was still reading by the dim camp light, his eyes skimming across the lines. Every so often he'd turn a page with the flick of a quick finger. That had been the only sound for the past three hours: endless turning pages. So apparently he did read -- just not any of the books he had at home.

"How can you be so horizontal?" He heard himself say the words out loud, and winced.

Doyle looked up at Bodie's question, and then down at himself. He'd slowly sunk down into the broken armchair until his head was against the back, his body almost flat on the seat, the ankle of his right foot resting on the knee of his left. It looked like all the bones in his body had dissolved while he was busy reading.

He shrugged. "Just getting comfy."

Silence. Doyle went back to reading.

"You a creature of comfort, then?" Bodie wanted conversation, and he didn't care if he had to force it out of the little bastard: he didn't feel like it very often, after all.

Doyle looked at him warily, then dropped the book so it rested on his chest, still holding the page he was on. He shrugged again. "Yeah, I suppose so."

"Why do you 'suppose' that is, then?" The tone of his voice was a lot sharper than he'd intended it to be -- Bodie wondered why he'd said it like that.

Because, already, Doyle's shoulders were up, and his body had tightened -- he flicked the book upwards, shielding his face from Bodie's. "I 'suppose'," he said nastily, teeth grinding, "it's because I didn't get a lot of comfort when I was a nipper, so I like it even more, now."

A pause, a sharp turn of the page, and then a sniff. "'Spect that's the flat opposite of you, eh?"

Bodie hadn't been expecting that, but he didn't react. "That what you think?"

"Yeah, I reckon," Doyle nodded, a nasty smile showing off his chipped tooth as the book lowered slightly. "Reckon you're one of those rich kids who runs away from everything -- just happened to end up in the army... Like this chap," he stabbed at the book, back on his chest now, with his forefinger.

Bodie forced a smile, but didn't say anything. He hated Steinbeck.

But Doyle was warming to his theme, and he raised himself up on his elbows slightly, the chair wobbling dangerously at the effort. "I reckon I've got you, haven't I? What was wrong? Public school too dull for you, was it? All a bit too easy, eh? Needed to find a challenge, am I wrong?"

Bodie felt his neck tightening in anger -- he managed to push his grin further, but it hurt. "You are. Entirely."

Suddenly he didn't feel quite like talking, and he turned back to the window.

A cold, frosty morning crept slowly through the terraced streets. Entire households, up and down the road, blinked awake and began their day. A new dawn, a new beginning, all the possibilities in the world just waiting round the corner. He missed feeling hopeful in the mornings.

Doyle watched with tired eyes as husbands went to work, mothers went to school, and life was reassuringly boring in general for Joe Public.

He rubbed his arms, trying to keep the chill seeping in through the window off his skin. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad after all, that. Settling down to build a life out of bricks and mortar; a safe, secure life where no one bothered you, no one minded you, and you definitely didn't have to kill people for a living. You were boring and totally ignorable.

People like Doyle didn't even exist in the minds of the people he saw marching in the grey street below him. He was an outsider, a hawk -- a predator in society, picking off the weak and evil. And they didn't even know he existed, his line of work existed.

It made him feel invisible, unworthy -- dirty, almost. Like he wasn't supposed to be there, in this life. Maybe one day he would have even liked to go down that sweet, dull road towards marriage and babies, despite how long and petty that particular avenue appeared to him, now.

But it hardly seemed right, anymore -- how could he go on to become a father when he'd killed so many sons? He'd only been there a month, and his first one in the mob (the third in his life) was by far the toughest... The other two had been accidents or pure bad luck. The third one had been to stop Bodie getting blown a new hole through his chest. He didn't even like the man.

He hated feeling the loss of something so bland.

There was a loud grunt as Bodie woke up in the short, sharp way he did. Doyle barely resisted a groan. He could not be bothered with the man, today. He'd promised himself to wake up with a new face every day -- no point in nursing bad blood and making himself feel worse about the whole sorry escapade that was his life... The only problem was, he hadn't been to bed, yet.

Bodie bellowed a yawn as he rolled over, pushing his arms above his head until they clicked, dark eyes darting about the room until they found Doyle. "You still here, then?"

He never missed a chance, and Doyle could only nod in reply, unable to bring himself to say anything smart. He clenched his arms closer to his chest, and returned his gaze to the bustling street below, and the silent house beyond.

He felt totally defeated by the world -- he'd had all night to stew about it, and he simply could not see any way out of his current misery. If he jacked it all in, he'd go back to being a defeated sergeant (if that) who people would talk about and say he'd thrown his only chance of success out the window on a whim. If he continued, he'd continue feeling angry, frustrated, sad, humiliated -- just plain unbalanced -- forever and ever until some street rat got lucky and put him out of his misery. And he'd be stuck with this prat for ever, and all. There was literally no hope for him.

Doyle was so busy staring into the abyss of his own future that he didn't even notice Bodie slip out of the flat.

Ten minutes later, Bodie opened the door to the bedroom, and dumped a round of shopping unceremoniously onto the floor. This was what they needed: Bodie was a firm believer in the idea that a full stomach cured all. Even mopey gits hanging round windows like nancy rag dolls.

He knelt down next to the bags, and started sorting with quiet enthusiasm.

Doyle looked up from the window in something like surprise, his eyebrows shooting up somewhere under his curls. "What's this?"

"This is breakfast, Einstein," Bodie mumbled, concentrating on arranging piles as he emptied the bags.

"Oh," Doyle said, and Bodie looked up at once. Doyle's voice had sounded completely unlike anything Bodie had heard from him before. Just for a second, he'd sounded sort of...sad. But that was ridiculous: Ray Doyle didn't get sad, he got twitchy and evil. Bodie had him sussed, alright.

"Watch the window for me, then," Doyle muttered darkly, and started across the room, storming past Bodie, who turned.


Doyle paused and turned, hand on the door. He looked cross, and pretty exhausted. "Look, I haven't eaten for...about two days, and I'm ravishing. Don't be a bastard about this -- just let me go and get some breakfast, alright?" He banged his fist on the doorframe for emphasis.

Bodie frowned, confused. "But... There's some here." He indicated the half-destroyed plastic bags, and picked up two packages of something warm and squidgy and smelling oh-so wonderfully of sausages.

Doyle froze, then reddened ever so slightly. His eyes went bright which -- Bodie had learned, already -- meant he was deciding whether to rip Bodie's face off or flounce away. But then, the strained look left his face, and Doyle stepped away from the door, another thing Bodie had never seen him do.


"Yeah, 'oh'," Bodie said with annoyance, feeling mildly put out that Doyle had just assumed he was such a selfish son of a bitch. He threw the sausage bap down again. He didn't understand: two people needed food, so he'd got two sets of food. What on earth was Doyle's problem? It was basic, bog-standard survival. Why wouldn't he get Doyle food?

There was an awkward pause, and Doyle fingered with the waistband at the back of his jeans. He inclined a hand towards Bodie, palm-up. "Sorry."

"Don't be," Bodie said blandly, picking up his carton of orange juice and the morning paper.

He pretended not to watch as Doyle rubbed at his eyes and face, first with one hand and then with two. Then Doyle did something extraordinary -- he sat down next to him, right next to Bodie, with a sigh. His hands now rubbed nervously on his thighs, creasing his tight jeans.

"No, seriously... I've been a bit on edge and I just thought-"

"You just thought I'm a complete bastard, right?" Bodie was reading the match results. He was.

There was another silence. "Come on, be fair... You are. A bit."

Bodie glared upwards, and managed to catch the look on Doyle's face -- had Doyle not been smiling so sheepishly, watching Bodie carefully for his reaction, Bodie might have punched him for that. As it was, he chuckled, rather unexpectedly. Then caught himself.

"There's coffee in that brown bag," he nodded to it, and settled back to read the paper without another word. He kept finding, however, that his attention kept wandering back to his gelding partner.

Doyle was munching away at his sausage bap, and holding his coffee to his chest as if it was some sort of precious jewel. His hair looked as if he'd been running his hands through it all night -- he looked completely done in; Bodie tried to remember any time he'd seen Doyle look anything other than fighting fit...and furious, obviously. In actual fact, he hadn't. Even yesterday morning, Doyle had looked as if he could take a round with Ali before taking his shower. One night's surveillance couldn't have done that to him, surely...

Caught once again in a fit of curiosity, Bodie kept his tone as light as he could in an attempt to keep the almost-friendly atmosphere for as long as he could while getting some answers.

"So, come on, then. What makes you think I'm a bastard?"

Doyle laughed suddenly and loudly, the brash sound of it taking Bodie by surprise as Doyle threw his head back. He watched as Doyle raised a wagging finger from his coffee cup with a grin.

"Oh, no you don't, sunshine. We're not doing that."

Bodie tried to shrug it off. "Alright, then."

But inside, he burned with eagerness to know the answers, to know any answers. He struggled to keep any hint of it from his face and posture, focusing his mind on the newspaper, and he waited. Eventually, Doyle spoke, just like Bodie knew he would.

"I don't think you're a bastard... But I reckon you can be," Doyle said carefully, keeping his eyes down on his bread roll. "I reckon you can be the biggest bastard in town if you want to, and you know it... And other people know it, and all."

Bodie kept his eyes averted, as if disinterested. "Being a bastard comes in handy, doesn't it, though? Wouldn't be so good at the game I'm in if it didn't, know what I mean?" He popped a bit of bread into his mouth and concentrated on chewing.

Doyle looked sceptical -- his eyes went all squinty and he looked as if he was chewing on his tongue. It pissed Bodie off, even more so because he didn't know precisely why. "What?" he snapped.

Doyle pulled a face which achieved it's likely intention of pissing Bodie off as much as possible without having to say anything. Doyle always got that smug, superior look on his face: it was as if he was the only person who knew how the world should work, and everyone else was morally reprehensible just for not being him. If only he knew.

But he wouldn't know. He would never know.

Bodie concentrated on colouring in the crossword, black hole after black hole.

He was still sulking. Bloody tosspot was strung higher than a sail in springtime, and had Doyle known he never would have wound him up: wasn't worth the waste of breath.

Hours, they'd been like this -- sitting in pure silence, looking out the window, outside of which the sky was darkening with the mood. Every time Doyle glanced at Bodie, he had a face like thunder: his mouth was all thin and he glared out at the house beyond from underneath his eyebrows. Not a happy bunny.

Perhaps Doyle had been a bit too harsh to him? After all, it wasn't Bodie's fault they didn't get on. Well, actually, it was, but that wasn't for Doyle to say. Bodie likely found him just as -- if not more -- tedious and irritating to be around; Doyle knew his own manner too well to assume otherwise.

Essentially, they were just a couple of very awkward, stubborn men who had no hope in hell of working with each other -- their personalities just didn't fit. It was like trying to add chalk and cheese. Doyle liked vibrant people, people who were brave and brilliant -- he was a sucker for a dazzling artist or tortured writer -- and he was convinced that Bodie was some sort of anomaly in the universe: the anti-attention grabber. Stick him in a room chocked full of interesting people, with trailblazers and stars and icons (the odd genius or two, maybe) and Doyle would bet all the money he had -- not a great deal, obviously -- that Bodie would rather sit in that nigglingly-superior silence rather than reveal one single fact about himself.

"I just find it hard," Doyle blurted suddenly, his breath frosting on the mucky window.

Bodie looked at him, his eyebrows remaining firmly set -- couldn't even be arsed to arch them, the moody sod, Doyle thought. "What's that?" he said, but it was more of a statement than a question.

Doyle looked down at his fists, resting hard upon the wooden window sill. "I just find it hard to you." Well, that had sounded pathetic.

If Bodie was surprised by the outburst, he didn't show it -- oh, no, that would have been too easy for him.

"A lot of people do," he said, and turned his attention back to the window.

Frustrated, Doyle's temper was beginning to spike. "Oh, yeah?" he said. "And why do you think that is?"

Bodie remained silent.

Nice one, Doyle, he thought to himself; way to give him the higher ground. He sounded like a petulant, spoilt child. He sounded like Bodie.

The thought chilled him to his very bone, and he vowed, then and there, to never, ever let himself become like Bodie. Good at telling the occasional joke he might be, but Bodie was a void in conversation. A void in life -- there was nothing behind the eyes, and it depressed Doyle every time he looked into them.

He shook his head with a sigh, and looked back out through the window -- the house was, of course, totally and utterly still. There hadn't been a sign of life in the entire two days they'd been there. Same could be said for them, actually.

"I don't know why I bother," he muttered to himself.

"I'll tell you why. Because you're a do-good bloody boy scout," Bodie said with disinterest. "You're a nosy parker who doesn't like being told no. You've seen nothing, but you've got that world-weary thing down pat. Smashing act, that." Bodie drew a breath. "You know fuck all about me, but you've made your mind up, and that's that. Nothing to do with me, really, is it? Why should I waste the breath?"

And with that, he turned from the window, and wandered towards their supplies, helping himself to a biscuit. Doyle pushed himself away from the window with a snarl.

"Ho, now he speaks! I've had to make my own mind up about you, son! If you can't be arsed to tell people about yourself and engage in the normal, polite rules of society and that, then you run the risk of people filling in the gaps!"

Bodie swallowed the bit of pink-wafer he'd been chewing. "I'm not paid to be polite."

"That doesn't mean you can't be!" Doyle bellowed, feeling the end of his tether approaching like a freight train. It was like he pissed him off just on principle.

There was a pause, and the sound of Doyle's panting filled the room. Bodie's face remained impassive, but he still held himself as if he were about to make a run for the door, pink-wafer and all. But, instead, he got a really odd, closed look on his face, and he started walking towards Doyle, who felt all of his muscles bunch in anticipation.

"Look, Doyle," he said, making his name sound as silly and inconsequential as possible, his arms coming to fold themselves across his impressive chest. "You might be my partner by name, but I work alone. Got that? Alone." He paused, "Even if I didn't, I'd need someone a bit more to my style to match up -- I wouldn't need some over-fired mother hen with a guilt complex..."

Bodie paused and then, thinking of something, his eyes turning suddenly very hard and cold, his mouth twisting cruelly. "And I don't need a big brother, neither."

And with that, he turned and started strolling away. But it was too late, the red mist had already descended and Doyle lunged at him before he'd taken two steps, heaving him to the ground and following for the kill.

His closed fist crashed into the side of Bodie's head, knocking him flat, followed by his other -- Bodie's head snapped to each side before he managed to get his knees between them and kicked Doyle off. Doyle landed awkwardly, high upon his back, and Bodie followed through by leaping on top of him and trying to shove him down against the floor.

Doyle was furious -- he could see nothing but Bodie, and all he wanted to do was punish the man. He wriggled and squirmed beneath Bodie, avoiding being pinned by kicking all the soft bits he could, and managed to get a further few punches to him before Bodie -- who had the advantage of position considering their matched skills -- lost patience with Doyle and backhanded him. Hard.

Doyle's head smacked off the wooden floorboard with a force that shocked the pair of them, and for a moment everything was entirely calm as his fighting weakened with disorientation. Bodie was breathing hard, still sitting pretty much on top of Doyle, who was blinking away the fog from his eyes, holding the smaller man down by squeezing his knees and thighs tightly.

Bodie, catching himself, let go of Doyle's wrists -- which he had been holding to the floor above his head -- suddenly, as if they had scalded him. In response Doyle slowly brought down his arms down and rested his hands lightly on his chest.

Nothing was said, but they both knew what had just occurred. The fight had been scrappy, but the intention to wound had certainly been there. Their breath mingled together in the space between their faces.

Bodie was looking at him -- Doyle could feel that heavy gaze on his face, but he couldn't bring himself to meet the man's eyes. He didn't know what he'd see there, and he didn't care. He just wanted to get as far away from himself as possible.

As soon as he felt Bodie's weight lift from him, Doyle kicked himself over and bolted for the door, barely hearing it slam as he escaped into the oblivious night.

Bodie stood still against window, which had darkened as the night had drawn close and over them, unable to see much out of it. Not that he was really looking at the house opposite, anymore.

He had slowly -- painfully slowly -- come to the conclusion that Doyle had been right. It had been a test, after all. And he failed on almost every count: not only had he not got to know his partner, but he'd also succeeded in infuriating the man so soundly that he'd driven him off. Bodie had assumed, upon realising, that he would feel pleased by this result; how wrong someone can be about themselves.

He didn't feel pleasure or satisfaction or triumph at the fact Doyle had been beaten -- or that he had been the one to beat him. Instead, he felt a small, hard nudge of guilt right in the pit of his stomach every time he thought about what had happened. The way Doyle had reacted to the brother jibe; the ferocity with which he'd struck Bodie; the absolute limpness of him under his hands. He'd been like a rag-doll with the strings cut, lying there where he'd fallen, quietly waiting for Bodie to release him. It hadn't been an honourable victory.

Bodie knew he'd won, but he was only just beginning to realise the cost. And it bothered him that he should realise it at all... He shouldn't care. He didn't, really, it was just... It was just that Doyle hadn't come back, yet, and the night was a cold one. Bodie wanted to get back to London, wanted to go to Cowley and give him a piece of his mind -- but he couldn't imagine the old man would be very impressed with him if he returned from a bonding mission without the man he was supposed to bond with.

Whatever he was feeling about the situation, it was an odd and unfamiliar feeling. And, logically -- for purely practical purposes -- there was only one thing to do about it.

With his mind made up, Bodie turned smartly on his heel and strode out of the silent room, down the stairs and into the street -- there was no one in the house they were supposed to be watching, so it hardly mattered now.

The sharp wind nipped at him, set his cheeks tingling, and he breathed out a cloud of smoke. He looked up and down the street, trying to decide which area of town to try first, and was astonished when he saw Doyle, sitting on the low front wall of the house next-door to their own. He had a barely-touched, probably-forgotten packet of chips in one hand, the other shoved deep inside a jacket pocket for warmth, and he was watching the house opposite, one foot jiggling up and down against the brickwork. Bodie felt a small smile ease across his face, but he got rid of it immediately.

With a cough intended to allow the other man escape if he wanted it, Bodie slowly walked towards Doyle, who pointedly ignored him, his eyes narrowed and really startlingly green in the faded night light.

Bodie didn't really know what to do next. Well, he did, he just didn't want to do it very much. But then he remembered that horrible, defeated look that Doyle had tried so hard to avoid him seeing, hands crossed over his chest like some bleeding martyr. His stomach kicked up into his throat, jarring his vocal cords into action on the way.

"Can I have a chip?"

Well, that hadn't been much of an apology. And the bag landed with a dull thud at his feet, and cold chips skittered ominously across the pavement.

Bodie sniffed. "Fair enough." He sat down next to Doyle on the wall -- which was really a little too short for both of them, their knees knocking together as Bodie lowered himself onto it. "I'll just have to apologise properly, then." He sounded like a twelve year-old.

Doyle shoved his other hand in his jacket pocket, his shoulders hunching against the coldness. "I didn't think you were paid to be polite," he said, his voice numb and unhelpful.

"No. But I get paid to be human... Mostly human, anyway," Bodie said as he looked up the road. The self-deprecating tone in his voice made Doyle glance at him, before turning away to look at his feet.

"So," Doyle mumbled, kicking at a spare stone from the wall, looking for all the world like a wronged schoolboy awaiting punishment. "Cowley's little plan didn't really work, did it?"

Bodie took a deep breath, swallowing his pride, his bile, and a whole other number of feelings he didn't want to examine right then and there. He swallowed them down with a throat that was beginning to close up. He cleared his throat and then sighed. He shook his head, chin brushing against his chest as he looked down momentarily. Then opened his mouth again, addressing the indifferent pavement. "I'm sorry."

Doyle's laugh was as cruel as it was bracing. "Good lord, all that theatre for that? Should get my money back."

"Well, what do you want from me?" Bodie asked, feeling hard-done-by. He looked up to find Doyle looking at him with something like amazement on his face.

"I want you to admit that you have been behaving not only like a prize fool, but also like an arrogant dickhead," Doyle said simply, as if this was a matter of fact and should have been obvious to someone like Bodie. "I want you to admit that you are, in fact, a git. Of the highest quality."

Bodie thought about this, and entertained the thought of admitting it for about half a second. But he didn't. He crossed his arms across his chest, and nudged Doyle with them experimentally. "Well... You are too."

Doyle chuckled -- only a little bit, but enough. Bodie was just pleased he hadn't been punched this time. He made a mental note as his ribs twinged unhappily that he needed to be on the opposite side of a room when he next baited Ray Doyle.

They sat on the wall in an easing silence, looking up at the big, empty house in front of them as it towered against the stars. Doyle leaned back on the wall, one hand resting slightly behind Bodie's behind, and sighed -- a huge, long explosion of frustration and vague, undefeated determination. And Bodie knew exactly how he felt.

"Ah, well," he said, almost to himself. "I suppose we deserve each other, then."

And they did, after all.

-- THE END --

April 2008

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