The Persistence of Memory
by PR Zed
Doyle sat back in his chair, took a sip of watered down beer and examined the motley mixture of locals and late season tourists inhabiting the Riverside Hotel's pub. The locals had been giving him unfriendly looks since he arrived two days ago, and the tourists, particularly an older couple from Slough, God help them, seemed to want to get far too friendly. Doyle closed his eyes and wished he were somewhere else. London, preferably. Christ, the Outer Hebrides might even be more fun than Pwllheli.
Fucking Cowley, sending him to Wales at the end of October. And for what? To chase down rumours that a former IRA bomber had set up house here? Hardly seemed worth it. Connor McGowan had disappeared years ago, when Doyle had been only a junior CI5 agent, and taken a tidy sum from the IRA war chest, if rumours were to be believed. Doyle thought it more likely his former comrades had topped him than that he'd buggered off to northern Wales. But his was not to question why...
It might almost have been tolerable, if Bodie'd been here with him. They could have moaned and whinged together, taken the piss out of the locals and downed a few pints at the end of the day. But Cowley hadn't even allowed him that much comfort. He'd sent Bodie to the other side of the country, to East Anglia, to chase down a similar, equally unlikely rumour.
Cowley had a lot to answer for, sticking him here without his partner. Not that he'd seen much of Bodie anyway, in the past few weeks. Cowley'd had them working different ends of things for a while now. The joy of being senior agents, he reckoned, but it was beginning to pale. He was starting to miss Bodie, damn it. He'd got used to seeing more of him than he did of his birds, not that he'd bothered to pull many birds of late. It was like losing a limb, not having Bodie beside him.
And that didn't bear thinking on.
Doyle shook his head and downed the last of his pint. Nothing wrong with missing Bodie. Was his best mate, after all. Nothing at all unusual about missing your best mate.
Nothing at all unusual about it, unless you wished he were more than your best mate, a traitorous voice whispered in his ear.
Not worth thinking on, that. No good would come of it.
He stood and picked up his jacket. Time to make an early night of it. One more day of poking around for stray IRA bombers and he could head back to London. Tell Cowley it had all been for naught. Tell him to stick his next solo assignment up his arse. Go out with Bodie and get pissed. Pull a couple of birds. Forget about any unnatural feelings he'd been having about his partner.
Or forget about pulling the birds and treat himself to a few of those unnatural feelings, the whispered voice said.
Doyle shrugged into his jacket and wondered when it was he'd lost his mind. He was nodding goodbye to the bartender, a nice enough bloke for a Welshman, when movement at the door caught his eye. He turned automatically, and his jaw nearly hit the floor.
Entering the pub, shaking the rain off his coat, was Gav Logan. Not the IRA member he'd been sent to look for, but a far bigger catch. Logan was a bullyboy, an enforcer, and an ugly big man into the bargain. Rumour attached him to a number of killings in Belfast, but no one had ever got enough evidence to arrest him, let alone convict him. He and Bodie had questioned the bastard once or twice, but never got anything useful out of him. And here he was, in the same Pwllheli pub as Doyle.
It was a bloody odd coincidence.
Doyle began to wonder if Cowley'd been right about McGowan being here. Would make sense, if Logan had been sent to teach McGowan a lesson for disappearing.
But it wasn't McGowan in this pub. It was Logan, and Doyle suddenly had double cause to wish Bodie were here. Be nice to have backup if he was going to take in a villain who was likely to be tooled up and not fussy about shooting innocent bystanders.
No way he could confront Logan in the pub. End up with some dead civilians that way, wouldn't he. No, softly, softly was the way to work this one.
Hoping not to attract Logan's attention, he pulled up the collar of his coat and made for the door, keeping his face turned away from Logan as much as possible. He got out the door without Logan seeing him, and made it to his car without getting too wet. He settled into the driver's seat, zipped his jacket up to his nose and cursed Gav Logan for arriving in Pwllheli on a cold, miserable, rainy evening. At this rate, he'd die of hypothermia before Logan emerged from the pub.
For an interminable amount of time, Doyle kept his eyes firmly on the Riverside's front door, wishing the whole time that Bodie was here, whingeing about the cold, grumbling about the IRA and generally helping the time go more quickly. Barring Bodie's sunny presence, he wished his fucking R/T had enough range that he could inform London about Logan. Or that he could trust the local plods to assist. But the R/T wouldn't reach from here to Swansea, let alone London, and asking the local constabulary to help trap an IRA gunman would be like asking a grade school teacher to catch a man-eating tiger. You'd end up with nothing in the end but a very dead teacher and a very full tiger.
So he sat in the cold, watching punters enter and leave the pub, the light streaming from the pub's windows a constant reminder of the warmth inside. He was only too happy to see Logan emerge from the pub two hours after he'd gone in. Doyle pulled his hands out of his pockets and got ready to turn the car key as Logan wandered over to his own car and got in. Doyle waited a decent interval after Logan pulled away, then followed, hoping his pursuit wasn't too obvious, and that he didn't lose his prey.
Logan took the A road that led northwest to the other side of the Lleyn peninsula. Doyle gave thanks as the rain finally eased up and stopped. They passed a few other cars on the road, so Doyle reckoned his presence wouldn't look too suspicious. But then Logan swung onto a B road, then a strip of narrow tarmac, and finally a bumpy, dirt road that was barely more than a cow path, and Doyle feared he'd been rumbled. He pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car, watching Logan's taillights disappear in the distance.
He slammed the door and kicked at the gravel at his feet. Bloody bad situation to be in. No one knew his location and here he was, chasing after an Irish nutter who probably knew there was someone on his tail. Not for the first time, he wondered why the fuck he was doing this job. Still, there wasn't anyone else around to do it...
Doyle locked up the car, pulled his gun out of his holster and began walking in the direction Logan had taken. The moon was new, just a thin crescent, and cast only enough light to keep him from tripping over his own feet. Each step was like taking a step into the void, and more than once he cursed himself for a fool and nearly turned back. But duty kept him going, duty and Bodie's voice, chiding him for being afraid of the dark like a big baby.
He'd been walking for perhaps five minutes, though it was hard to judge time in this dark abyss, when he thought he heard something besides the crunch of gravel beneath his feet and his own breath in his lungs. He stopped and held his breath, listening for signs of Logan. Ahead, he heard the muted roar of the surf and could barely make out the dim glistening water of Canaerfon Bay. Two small buildings loomed on his right, the toilets for the campsite he'd passed the signs for a few miles back, the place deserted now that the weather had turned cold.
He released his breath and continued walking, passing one structure as he kept his eyes and ears open. He was coming up on the second when another sound stopped him. He was close enough to the building that he could feel it against the sleeve of his coat. He put out a hand to steady himself, and the cold of the rough wood seeped into his fingertips.
He didn't hold his breath this time, could hear it sounding steadily in his ears as he strained to suss out what it was that had alerted him this time. Then there was a rush of movement behind him and it was too late.
He was slammed face first into the side of the building, his gun arm twisted behind him, his attacker's other arm digging brutally into his neck. His gun was taken away, thrown far into the darkness, and then the other man pried Doyle's wallet out of his back pocket, before flipping him around and driving a fist firmly into his gut.
"Who have we here?" Logan said, as Doyle doubled over and struggled to breath. A torch was flicked on and looking up, Doyle could see the smirk on Logan's face. Logan tucked his gun in his waistband and quickly flipped through the wallet till he found Doyle's ID. Another smirk and he tossed away the wallet and trained the gun firmly on Doyle. "Ray Doyle. I thought I recognized a CI5 rat at the pub."
"You're the only rodent I see, Logan," Doyle gasped out. Logan rewarded him with a staggering blow, this time to the side of his head. Doyle dropped to his knees. He could feel the damp of the ground seeping through his jeans as he shook his head, trying desperately to retain a hold on consciousness.
"You want to be more polite to a man who holds your life in his hands."
Doyle kept his mouth shut and looked down, searching for a way out of this and wishing even more that Bodie were here with him. Then it'd be Logan looking down the end of Bodie's gun.
"The only question is, why are you here?"
"Oh, you know, Gav. Taking in the sights, enjoying a bit of sun." Which was a laugh, the way it'd been pissing down rain the last three days. For his insolence, Logan cuffed him across the head, lighter this time, though still hard enough that Doyle saw stars.
"Don't piss about." Logan shone the torch in his face, making Doyle's eyes water. "What are you doing in Wales?"
"Looking for you."
"Nah, don't believe that. You looked a bit surprised to see me, there in the pub. And I don't think your boss'd send you after me without that great lummox of a partner of yours."
"How do you know Bodie's not here?"
"Me with a gun on you? He'd have come in mob-handed by now."
"He's a patient man." Doyle knew he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by keeping Logan wondering about whether Bodie was here.
"That must be a different Bodie." Logan laughed unkindly, but Doyle did notice that his eyes flicked slightly off to the left. "And you still haven't told me why you're here. Unless you're after the same prey as me." The dim light from the torch gave Logan's smile a nasty cast.
"And what prey would that be?" Keep Logan talking, Doyle reckoned, and maybe he'd find a way out of here.
"Connor McGowan," Logan said. "Friend of mine from way back. Took something of ours, and I've come to collect it. You must have heard of him?"
"Nah," Doyle said, keeping his expression neutral. "Must be a small fish. Not like you Gav."
"I wonder..." Logan said, his eyes narrowing as he examined Doyle closely. Doyle glared back at him. "But not that much." Logan thumbed back the hammer on his gun. Doyle tensed, realizing he had mere moments to live unless he came up with something fast. "They didn't send me here to kill you, but I bet I'll get a commendation for doing it."
Logan raised his gun, and Doyle acted. "Bodie!" he screamed, looking off to his right. As he'd hoped, Logan followed his eyes, looking to his left and allowing his aim to drift slightly. Hoping his body didn't betray him, Doyle sprang to his feet and ran at Logan, hitting out at his gun hand. Logan recovered from his surprise quickly, too quickly, and struggled with Doyle for possession of the gun.
It wasn't nearly a fair fight. Logan outweighed him by at least three stone, most of it muscle. At the best of times, Doyle would've been hard-pressed to defeat him. But this was not the best of times. He still felt like his brain had been scrambled from the blows he'd taken, and Christ knew where his own gun was. If he stayed here, in Logan's grasp, he knew he'd go down in mere seconds. And Logan wasn't going to give him another chance. There was only one thing to do.
Raising a knee, Doyle caught Logan in the goolies. Not a direct blow, not enough to put him down, but enough that he cursed and stumbled and let go of Doyle's jacket, if not of his gun.
He ran out into the darkness, towards the sea and away from the nutter with the gun. He heard Logan scream out his name, and then heard the shots, but the darkness was his ally. Shots came close, but nothing hit him. He began to hope.
If he could stay away from Logan, put some distance between them, maybe even get to a house with a phone, then maybe he could survive this cock up. Maybe he'd live to share the story with Bodie over a pint in his local. Maybe...
Maybe not. Because looming in front of him was a cliff's edge that was closer than he'd expected. He skidded to a halt, turning toward Logan and twisting one foot underneath him just as another shot rang out and this time the bullet didn't rip past him but slammed into his shoulder.
And then he was stumbling, and falling, his arms windmilling as he went over the cliff's edge, as he fell through darkness toward the roaring surf below. Impact with earth and rock drove the breath out of his lungs, drove more pain into his body. Then shadow closed over and around him, eradicating even the faint glimmer of the stars and the thin glow of the slivered moon, eradicating all traces of Ray Doyle, and leaving only an insensible and broken shell.
Bodie bounded up the HQ stairs two at a time, for once not put out that the bloody lift was out of order for the fifth time this month. After too many hours stuck in traffic on the way back from Ipswich--Ipswich, for Christ's sake--he just wanted to move. And if that meant running up three flights of stairs, so be it.
The building was even more deserted than usual, his footsteps echoed in the hall undisturbed by any other sound. Like a bloody ghost town, he thought, passing empty office after empty office. Finally, he heard a murmuring coming from the rest room, and made for it. With any luck, Doyle'd be there. They could share stories about the pointless fucking assignments the Cow had sent them on. Bodie had plans that involved skiving off early and heading for the nearest pub, Doyle firmly in tow. After the bloody boring week he'd had, Bodie reckoned he was owed at least a night at the pub with his best mate.
And maybe, just maybe, this was the night he'd finally do it. Wrap an arm around Doyle's shoulder with more than matey good cheer. Drag Doyle back to his flat. Push him against a wall see if he ended up on his arse or with Doyle in his bed. Worth the risk, that, having Doyle naked in his bed. Worth so very much, if only he found the courage to try.
He smiled as he reached the door of the rest room. Poking his head inside he found not Doyle, but Murphy and Jax.
"'Lo Murph. Jax."
Murphy started at his voice and looked at Bodie with surprise.
"Yeah. Finally. Last time I let Cowley send me to Ipswich. Boring doesn't cover it." Murphy didn't rib him and Jax gave Murph a look that he should have known was completely wrong. But Bodie was tired and bored and he didn't realize till later that Jax's expression was equal parts sympathy and pity, and all of it directed at him. "Either of you seen Doyle?"
"Doyle?" Jax looked surprised, as if Bodie'd asked him if he'd seen the bloody Loch Ness monster.
"Yeah, you know. Curly-haired bloke, likes to call himself my partner. Doyle?" Neither Murphy nor Jax answered. Jax bit his lip, and Murphy looked down at the ground. "Listen, any of this sound familiar to you?"
Murphy finally looked up, though he wouldn't meet Bodie's gaze. "Cowley hasn't talked to you?"
"No he hasn't talked to me," Bodie said, frustrated that his colleagues were behaving like right prats and still not realizing how odd it was. "I just got in. Thought I'd track down Doyle first before I sought out our lord and master to tell him he sent me on a wild goose chase."
"You should talk to Cowley, Bodie." Jax's voice was gentle, the sort of voice Bodie'd heard him use to break bad news to people. To wives and girlfriends. To partners...
Bodie felt sick, felt wrong, felt as if his skin had suddenly become two sizes too small.
"What the fuck is going on?" He let anger overpower the fear travelling up and down his spine and coiling around his diaphragm, making breathing impossible.
"Cowley should tell you," Murphy said.
"Tell me what?"
"Bodie!" Bodie turned and Cowley appeared behind him at the door. Their boss looked as if storm clouds had taken up permanent residence over his head. "My office, Bodie."
"What's going on?" Bodie planted his feet firmly on the ground and his hands on his hips, determined not to move till someone told him what the bleeding hell was going on.
"My office, laddie. Now." Determined as he was, Cowley was clearly more determined. Clenching his jaw, Bodie brushed by Cowley and headed to his office.
Cowley closed the door behind them and went straight to his drinks cabinet. Never a good sign, Bodie thought as he took a tumbler of amber liquid from the Cow and slung himself in a seat across from him.
"What did Murphy say to you?" Cowley said.
"Nothing. Just asked if I'd talked to you. What the hell is going on? Sir." The last word was added at the last minute and automatically.
"What?" Bodie felt as if the world had shifted under his feet, leaving him reeling.
"He was due back yesterday, but never made it. And he'd missed two call-ins before that. We asked the local police to check in on him yesterday afternoon. He hadn't slept at his B&B the night before. He was last seen at a pub that night, but no one remembers anything unusual happening there."
"Doyle's been out of contact before. Gets to following up a lead and forgets the time."
"That's not all, Bodie. A local farmer found his car this morning, abandoned on a dirt road. The police retrieved his wallet not far away, at a campsite that's closed for the season."
"Christ," Bodie said, looking down at the now empty glass in his hand.
"And there's one more thing." There was an odd catch in Cowley's voice that made Bodie look up. "The campsite where his wallet was found is right next to a cliff."
"No," Bodie said, shaking his head, not wanting to hear the rest.
"If someone got the drop on Doyle, as it appears they did, they could have thrown him over the edge. His body would have been washed out to sea. We might never know..."
"No." The word emerged from Bodie as an explosion, an angry flare of denial. "Not Doyle. That couldn't happen to Doyle."
"It could, laddie. It could happen to any of us."
"I'm going up there."
"Of course. But not on your own. I've had one agent disappear, I'll not lose another for lack of backup."
"Murphy and Jax?" Bodie suddenly could see why the two agents had been waiting in the rest room, why they'd asked if he'd seen Cowley.
Cowley nodded. "They'll do the driving. You're to check into the same B&B as Doyle was staying at. Find out what happened. Find Doyle."
"Don't worry, sir. We'll find him." Bodie stood and headed for the door. "I'll bring him back, if it's the last thing I do."
He marched down the corridor, long strides eating up the distance to the rest room, trying not to think about the worst case scenario: finding Doyle dead. Or even worse than that: never finding him at all.
No, they'd find him, whole and alive and kicking. And when Bodie found him, got him alone, he'd wrap his arms around the annoying, infuriating bugger and never let him go.
The sun was beginning to set, casting long shadows and forcing the man inside the small cottage to flick the lights on before he resumed filling the kettle.
Brian Reynolds had lived on the Lleyn Peninsula for five years. Five years during which he'd sought only to live a quiet life, no excitement, no adventure, and with as little attention paid to him as possible. And he'd succeeded, until yesterday morning, when a walk with his dog had turned up more than the usual birds and sheep. When he'd followed Banshee's barking to peer over a cliff and found a man, bruised, bloody and unconscious, sprawled on a ledge nearly fifteen feet below.
He should have walked away, forgotten what he'd seen. Or, if conscience had pricked him, informed the police of his discovery. Anonymously. What he should not have done was clamber down the cliff side and check the young man for signs of life. He should not have strained his fifty-odd year old body wrestling the scrawny but surprisingly solid man to the top of the cliff on a path fit more for mountain goats that human beings. He should not have left him with Banshee while he ran back to the cottage for his old Rover. Should not have taken him home, should not have called Denny to take a look at him, should not have sworn Denny to secrecy.
Should not have an unconscious young man with a bullet wound in his shoulder and no identification taking up space in his guest bedroom.
He wasn't entirely sure why he'd done it. Empathy, perhaps? God only knew he'd had his own trials, been wounded and alone and beset by enemies. It was why he'd settled down here. Sick of the fighting, sick of the blood, sick of not knowing who to trust.
Here he was just that nice Mr. Reynolds from Dublin. His Welsh neighbours tolerated his Irishness and thanked Christ he wasn't English. And no one knew who he really was, no one but Denny, who'd escaped Ireland himself to set up a country practice here. Denny, who'd helped him out more than once in Belfast when he'd needed patching up. Who'd found him this cottage when he'd needed, once and for all, to get away from the insanity of Belfast.
Denny'd pulled the bullet out of his guest, dressed the wound, checked him for other injuries and told Brian to keep an eye on him and that he'd be back once a day to check on his patient. He hadn't said anything else, but his eyes had spoken volumes. Told Brian he was a fool to risk his own skin for a curly-haired stranger.
Brian had only shrugged, told Denny he'd call if the man woke up. Or got worse. Then sent him on his way.
He heard a sound and turned his head to see Banshee scurrying towards him, his nails ticking on the wooden floor. Brian had never had a dog before, had never wanted one, but Banshee had turned up not long after he'd moved here. He was big and black and shaggy, lab mixed with God knew what else, and he'd howled outside like his namesake until Brian had finally relented and let him in for the night. And the next night. And before he knew it, he was owned by one very possessive dog.
Banshee was very proprietary, very protective, and he didn't trust easily. He was another reason that Brian hadn't been able to leave the young man on the ledge to either his fate or the authorities. Most people, Banshee'd growl at or worse, but not this man. He'd sat on the cliff, standing guard over his unconscious charge, refusing to be shifted until Brian returned with the car.
Banshee didn't like many people and trusted even fewer--Brian reckoned he'd ended up howling outside his cottage because he'd either been abused or abandoned or both--so the fact that he'd taken on the unconscious man as his personal charge was the best reference the man could have had.
"Well, boy," Brian said to the dog. "What do you want now? Found another stray for me to take in?"
Banshee gave him a mournful look, whimpered and butted against his leg, pushing him out of the kitchen.
"Is our visitor awake?"
Banshee bumped against him once more and whined in a way that yet again made Brian think the dog was an old soul trapped in an animal's body. A soul that understood every word he said.
"C'mon, then." He reached down and scratched Banshee's ears as he began walking down the hall. "Let's go hear what our visitor has to say."
Who was it, Ray?
He woke slowly, drifting up through layers of darkness and fog, through shouting and the cracks of explosions. Through pain.
Well, then, the next time, you can be the monkey on a string...
He was nearly there, nearly awake, nearly knew who he was, knew where he was. He grasped at the knowledge, tried to hold fast to it.
And then it was gone, all gone, like mist blown away by a crisp morning breeze.
"Do you think he's awake, Banshee?"
The voice intruded on his dreams, jarring him fully awake, and making him gasp as a burning pain lanced into his right shoulder.
"Easy, son." A hand pushed him gently back onto the bed where he found himself lying. He opened his eyes and found himself looking at an older man, fifty or more. His expression was concerned yet friendly looking, his eyes and mouth surrounded by laugh lines, his hair going grey in a fatherly way. "You're safe."
"Where am I?"
"In my cottage. My name's Brian, and this is Banshee." He looked down and found a black beast of a dog licking his hand. "Don't mind him, he doesn't bite."
He scratched the nearest ear and was rewarded with a wagging tail.
"How did I get here?" He struggled to sit up, more slowly this time. His host, Brian, hoisted him gently by his good shoulder and then propped him up with pillows before taking a seat at his side.
"I found you a few miles from here. Or rather, Banshee did. You'd fallen from a cliff."
"Fallen?" He struggled to remember a fall, a cliff. Anything.
"Yes." Brian's eyes narrowed slightly and he looked at his shoulder. "And you'd been shot."
He winced, realizing now why his shoulder felt as if it were on fire.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"No." He shook his head, then realized what a bad idea that was as a wave of dizziness overcame him. "I don't..."
"Do you remember what you were doing there?"
He shook his head again, more carefully this time. "I can't remember."
"That's all right, son." Brian patted his arm. "I'm sure it'll come to you. Is there anyone I can call? Let them know you're all right?"
"No," he said. "You don't understand." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, fighting against the panic that was beginning to overwhelm him, to swamp him like a dinghy caught in a north Atlantic gale. "I don't remember anything."
The drive to Wales was six hours of unremitting boredom and constant anxiety.
With Murphy and Jax taking turns at the wheel, Bodie had nothing to do, nothing to keep his mind off what might have happened to Doyle. He occupied himself with reading the file Cowley had given him. It was the same file Doyle had been given, outlining the career of Connor McGowan, IRA bomber and all round bastard. He was the bloke Doyle had been looking for. McGowan had disappeared years ago and not been heard from since. Bodie wasn't sure why Cowley had devoted any agents, let alone Doyle, to follow up a slim lead that the man might have been seen on the Lleyn Peninsula, possibly around Pwllheli. But then, Cowley always did like to have his T's crossed and his I's dotted. Probably hated the fact that McGowan's file was still open.
There was little enough in the file. A picture that, from the look of it, was likely ten years old. A list of known associates, most of them in gaol or dead. A description of the bombings McGowan was thought to have engineered, including his last: the school bus. The bus had been nearing the end of its run, but there had been five children remaining. All of them and the driver had been killed. Bodie spent no time looking at those pictures. He'd seen enough horrors in his own time in Ulster.
The sun was setting as they crossed the border into Wales, so rather than strain his eyes in the fading light, Bodie threw the file on the seat beside him. Leaning his head back against the seat, he closed his eyes and tried to clear his thoughts, to exist in the moment, like Shusai was always encouraging him to do.
He couldn't, of course.
Doyle's face kept springing to his mind. Doyle laughing with him; Doyle laughing at him; Doyle snarling in rage after a nasty op; Doyle looking smug after beating his score on the shooting range.
Doyle, his face gone grey, bleeding out on the floor of his flat. Doyle, connected to too many tubes and wires, letting a machine breathe for him.
He didn't want to go through that again. He'd only survived it the first time by putting Doyle out of his mind and doing his duty, doing what he had to, and not stopping until Mayli Kuolo was dead and Ray Doyle was very much back in the land of the living.
Doyle'd survive this time, as well. He had to.
As if he could read his colleague's thoughts, Jax chose that moment to turn around. Bodie opened his eyes at the sound of rustling and found Jax staring at him. "We'll find him," Jax said, though to Bodie's ear there was more hope than conviction behind the words.
"We bloody well better," was the only response Bodie could make.
It was dark when they arrived in Pwllheli, driving straight to the B&B where Doyle had been staying. The owner, a retired widow named Maggie Call, was considerate and anxious, concerned both about her missing guest and the impact it might have on her trade. Bodie left it to Murphy to reassure her, claimed the key for Doyle's room and ascended a narrow staircase.
He opened the door with trepidation, as if he was entering the scene of a crime, but the room he found was utterly ordinary. There was a bed, with a flowered spread, a wardrobe that had seen better days, a small desk with tea making supplies, and a hideous armchair in the corner. The only sign of Doyle's occupancy was the suitcase sitting in the middle of the bed. He took two steps in and stopped, concentrating on the details of the room, looking for some sign of what might have happened to Doyle, where he might be.
There was a clattering behind him and he turned to find Mrs. Call leading Murph and Jax up the stairs.
"I thought he might have skipped out on me, your Mr. Doyle. Except that didn't make any sense, since he'd paid for three nights up front." She pointed at the suitcase. "He left that, all packed up, in the wardrobe. I didn't touch it except to put it on the bed. Was that all right?" She looked worriedly at Bodie, but he was already moving toward the mute piece of luggage.
"That's fine, Mrs. Call," Murphy said. "We'll let you know if we need anything more from you."
"You do that." She wiped her hands on her dress in what was clearly a nervous gesture. "I hope you find your friend," she said before disappearing back down the stairs.
Without a backward glance at his colleagues, Bodie snapped open the suitcase and started to carefully sort through its contents. There was absolutely nothing unusual, and nothing seemed to be missing, except Doyle's gun, which he should have had with him anyway. Sighing, he repacked the case and snapped it shut once again.
"Anything?" Jax asked.
"Nothing." Bodie slung the case into the corner and sat on the bed himself. " Not a bloody sausage."
"Be nice if he'd left us a note," Murph said. "Off to visit the IRA stronghold in Aberdaron. Be back soon."
"Or even Don't trust Mrs. Call. She is not all she seems," Jax added.
"I'm sure they'd laugh the IRA out of Aberdaron, and Mrs. Call is exactly what she seems," Bodie said, fatigue seeping into his bones. "Doyle's gone, and fuck knows where he's got to."
"C'mon, Bodie," Murphy said. "Let's go down to the pub and get a pint. Put it all in perspective."
"'M not in the mood, Murph."
"It's the last place Doyle was seen," Jax reminded him. "And the regulars should all be there by now. We can have a pint and start asking a few pointed questions."
Bodie stood, feeling if not energized, then at least like he had a purpose.
"C'mon, then, you two. What's keeping you?" He headed for the door, leaving Murphy and Jax to catch him up.
"I bloody hope we find Doyle soon," he heard Jax say quietly to Murphy. "'Cause I'm going to slap Bodie, if I have to work with him for long."
His second waking was easier.
There were no nightmare images, no screaming, no explosions. Only the return of the pain in his head and shoulder, the ache of countless bruises, and the return of the knowledge that he had no idea who he was.
He opened his eyes and found himself in a small but pleasant bedroom, plain white curtains on the windows, plain whitewashed walls surrounding him.
Gritting his teeth against the pain, he pushed himself up with his good arm. His head swam slightly, but his headache was already receding into the distance.
There was a whining sound from the floor, and he started, his flight or fight instinct coming on full, until a mournful-looking dog's head appeared on the blanket beside him.
"Guess I didn't dream you, did I boy," he said, patting the large black head. The dog gave him several enthusiastic licks in return, until Doyle pushed him away.
"Sorry about Banshee," a stranger's voice said. "Gets a bit too excited sometimes." He looked up to see the man from last night--at least he hoped it was only last night--looking down at him. "Come here, Banshee." The dog looked at him reluctantly, then at his master, but he finally moved away from the bed.
"You're name's...Brian?" He frowned as he struggled to remember the night's conversation, mixed as it was with half formed images of violence and fear.
"That's right." The man scratched the ears of the dog. "Have you remembered your name yet?" The question was asked lightly.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Not my name, not where I come from. Nothing." He bit his lip and wondered if this was what it was like to lose your mind.
"It's early days yet," Brian said cheerfully. "And that's quite a bump on your head. I'm sure it'll all come back to you soon enough."
"There hasn't been anyone asking about me?" He tried desperately to think of a way to break the mystery of his identity. "The police haven't said anything?"
"The police..." Brian started, before cutting himself off. "I haven't exactly told the police you're here." He looked somehow both sheepish and unapologetic.
"Better if I show you." He disappeared from the room for a minute before returning with a tangle of leather and webbing dangling from one finger. "You were wearing this when I found you."
"A holster," Brian confirmed. "Minus the gun, I might add."
"I still don't understand," he said, struggling to comprehend what difference it could possibly make whether he was wearing a holster, knowing somehow that wearing it was second nature to him.
"Then let me explain." Brian sat down in the ladder back chair beside the bed. "Most fine, upstanding citizens don't go around carrying guns. Not in Wales. Not even in London, unless things have changed a lot since the last time I was there. And they don't turn up with bullet holes in them either. And it's not just that new wound. You've got a few other scars that are fairly impressive as well."
"I could be police," he said, grasping at the easiest explanation, the one that felt almost right.
"If a policeman went missing, it'd be all over the news. There hasn't been a word of any such thing."
He frowned. "You think I'm a villain?" That didn't seem right at all, but then where did those images of violence and destruction in his head come from?
"That's a bit harsh." In spite of the seriousness of their conversation, Brian smiled. "Let's just say that you may not quite be on the side of the angels."
"If you think that, then why didn't you report me?"
"Well, there's Banshee there, for a start." Brian nodded at the dog, who took the opportunity to jump up on the bed and lie down at his feet.
"He likes you. Good judge of character, is Banshee."
"You haven't taken me in on a dog's opinion?" Brian seemed normal enough, not the sort of eccentric given to accepting the opinion of beasts.
"Don't knock this dog, boy-o. He's sussed out more than one scoundrel in his day. But no, Banshee's good opinion wasn't everything." His face lost its smile and became suddenly serious. "Let's just say, I know we all sometimes have to do things we're not proud of. Doesn't mean we should hang for them."
"I find it hard to believe you've done things you're not proud of."
"You didn't know me back in the day." He shook his head and then shrugged. "But that's years ago. Another lifetime. No use dwelling on it." He stood and shooed Banshee off the bed. "You ready for some breakfast? You hardly ate a bite last night."
"I wasn't up to eating then." He'd nearly heaved up the little soup and sandwich he'd tried to eat last night. "But I'm better now. Could stand a little tea and toast."
"Tea and toast it shall be, boy-o." He moved to the door and then stopped abruptly. "I can't keep calling you boy-o. You need a name."
"Why don't you pick one out?" He shrugged. "It doesn't make a difference to me."
"Hmmm." Brian gave him a considering look. "How about Mike? Had a cousin named Mike. Not a bad sort and you look a bit like him."
He nodded. Mike was as good a name as any.
"Fine, Mike. The bathroom's down the hall, if you want to wash up. I've left some clothes down there that should fit you. Denny left them last night. He's got a son about your size."
"He's the one who patched you up. And don't you worry, he's as discreet as I am."
"He Irish too?"
"All the best people are," Brian said with a laugh. "Present company excepted."
Doyle smiled as Brian headed for the kitchen, his head not being up to full laughter at the moment. As he stood, he had a brief flash, a moment of panic and fear, the sounds of sirens in his ears, the stink of a hospital in his nostrils. Bodie, you half-Irish son of a bitch, what'd you want to go and do that for? He put one hand on the wall to steady himself, and wondered if Bodie was the dark-haired man he kept seeing, and just what Bodie had done to make him so mad.
It was after dark when Bodie entered the Riverside's pub, Murphy and Jax behind him. In no mood to face the bar himself, he sought out an empty seat in the corner, trusting that Murph'd get him a pint.
It had been a long day. They'd spent it poking around Pwllheli and the immediate area, retracing Doyle's steps. And they'd turned up nothing. No trace of Doyle, no hint of what had happened to him. They hadn't even found any sign of McGowan, the reason that Doyle was here in the first place, though one or two of the locals had made an odd face when they'd been shown the bomber's picture.
Bodie could see the loss of hope in Murphy and Jax's eyes. He could tell what they were thinking. That Doyle had been taken by surprise on that cliff, by person or persons unknown. That he'd been overpowered. That he'd been tossed over the edge and into the sea. That they'd never find the body.
But Bodie refused to believe that. Doyle was too mean to die that way. Too mean to die at all. Not before... Christ, Bodie stopped himself before he went bloody soft. Doyle was alive, and they'd find him, and that's all there was to it.
He looked up as Murphy arrived with his pint. Taking the glass, he downed a long, satisfying swallow.
"Either of you have any brilliant ideas?" Murph said. "Because I'm fresh out."
"We keep looking," Bodie said with grim-faced determination. "We scour every inch of the peninsula until we find Doyle. And if that doesn't work, we start in on the rest of Wales."
"That'll take forever," Murph said. "I thought Doyle was the PC Plod of the team." Bodie met Murph's attempt at humour with a steely glare. "Christ, you're not kidding, are you?" Murphy's eyes widened.
"No, I'm bloody not."
"Before we search all of Wales," Jax broke in, "what do you say to trying this lot again?" He nodded at the pub-goers surrounding them.
"They didn't know anything last night, Jax."
"Someone might not have been here last night, Murph. Or might have remembered something since. Worth a chance, eh Bodie?" Jax looked to him for affirmation.
Bodie nodded, willing to do anything if it would find them Doyle. "Worth any chance."
"C'mon, then," Murphy said, resigned. "Let's spread out and work our magic."
Bodie took another sip of his pint for luck, and then rose and began chatting with the customers, the locals and a few stray tourists. As they had last night, most remembered talking to Doyle, even the older couple from Slough, up here visiting their daughter, but none remembered seeing him leave the pub that night.
Sighing, Bodie made another trip back to the bar. If it was going to be another futile night, at least he could do it with another pint inside him.
"Did you fellows say you're with the police, then?" the bartender asked him as he pulled Bodie's pint.
"We didn't say," Bodie said, letting his gaze sweep the crowd for anyone he hadn't talked to. "But we're CI5."
"CI5? Sort of like MI5?"
"Sort of." Bodie turned back to the man. "But don't let my boss hear you say that. We like to think we're a better sort of service."
"I can understand that." He passed Bodie his pint and Bodie passed him a fiver. The man got his change but then held onto it rather than turning it over. "Only I've just sort of remembered something. From the night your friend disappeared."
Abruptly, Bodie turned his full attention on the man.
"What is it?"
"This Irish bloke turned up that night. Think it was after your friend left. Unpleasant sort. No one wanted to talk to him. Had a few pints, made a nuisance of himself and finally left."
"Why didn't you mention that before?"
"It was after your friend left, so I didn't think it was important."
"Everything's important." Bodie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the picture of McGowan. "Is this him?"
"No. Nothing like. This man was big. Taller than you, and broad in the shoulders. Ugly as sin, as well."
"Any idea where he went, after he left?"
"No. It was late, so he must have been staying somewhere close. But not in Pwllheli. I'd have heard if anyone like that was staying in town."
"Thanks, mate." He gestured at the change, still clutched in the bartender's hand. "Why don't you keep that." He'd pay a lot more than a fiver for information that led to Doyle, and this might just.
He pulled Murphy away from the elderly matron who'd cornered him and waved Jax over to an empty booth.
"What's up?" Jax asked.
"The bartender's remembered something. An Irishman came into the pub after Doyle left."
"Was it McGowan?"
"No. He said this bloke was big and ugly. Ring any bells?"
"Christ," Murphy said, his thoughts clearly going in the same direction as Bodie's had.
"Fill me in, why don't you?" Jax said.
"You're thinking it's Gav Logan, aren't you?" Murphy asked him.
"Who's Gav Logan?" Jax looked from Murphy to Bodie.
"He's an IRA enforcer," Murphy said. "One of the nastiest. We ran him in last year while you were on that undercover op in Liverpool."
"And Doyle and I interrogated him," Bodie said. "Fucking hell."
"If he saw Doyle..." Murphy said.
"Or Doyle saw him," Jax added.
"Fucking hell," Bodie repeated, his mind shutting down at the possibility of Gav Logan getting his hands on Doyle. The bastard was a complete sadist. If he had rumbled Doyle...Christ. Being tossed into the Irish Sea would be a pleasure compared to some of the things Logan had done to his victims.
"It might not be Logan," Murphy said, putting a hand on Bodie's shoulder. "And he mightn't have seen Doyle."
"I hope you're right," Bodie said, taking a deep breath. "I hope to fuck you're right."
After a week of grey and miserable weather, the morning arrived with sunshine and blue skies. Brian had checked in on his guest--still sleeping, and looking as guileless as a small boy--and then taken Banshee for his morning walk. It had been a pleasure, feeling the rising sun on his face and not worried about drizzle or worse getting down the back of his collar. He made it back to the cottage feeling better than he had in weeks, if not months.
It was while getting breakfast ready that he heard a car turn into the driveway. He froze, as he always did, and listened to the sound of the engine. There'd been more than one time that knowing the sound of different cars had saved his life, and he'd never lost the habit of paying attention to such small details. But now he was in Wales, not Northern Ireland, and it wasn't the RUC, come to drag him away for yet another round of questioning, but Denny in his old Peugeot, rumbling up the driveway.
It was unusual, Denny visiting this early, but not unheard of. He reckoned that Denny must want to look in on his charge; he'd been equal parts concerned and curious about the man since Brian had called him two days ago. He automatically put the kettle on, knowing that whatever the reason for his visit, Denny would more than welcome a cup of tea.
The back door clicked, and Brian looked up as Denny let himself in and entered the kitchen. Denny was a big man, though not as imposing in his sixties as he'd been in his youth. He smiled as much as he ever did, though he wasn't smiling this morning. Brian steeled himself for another lecture about their guest and how it was foolish for him to get involved in something that was none of his concern.
"Tea?" he asked.
"Yeah. That'd be lovely." Denny looked around without even an attempt at subtlety. "He's not up yet?"
"It's not even gone eight. And Mike's recovering from a gunshot. He needs his sleep."
"Mike? Did he remember his name?" Denny looked hopeful.
"No. He hasn't remembered a thing, but I had to call him something. I thought he looked a bit like my cousin."
"He does a bit. But I hope he's not a tosser like your cousin."
"No one's as big a tosser as Mike McGowan."
"You're right there."
They sat in comfortable silence as the kettle started whistling and Brian occupied himself in putting the tea on to steep. They talked of nothing in particular, the weather, old Mrs. Jones' arthritis, as Brian poured them each a cup and then put the right amount of sugar, but no milk, in Denny's tea.
Denny took an appreciative sip and then sat back and looked at Brian.
"How's Mike doing?"
"Coming along. His headache had gone by last night. The bullet wound seemed clean when I changed the dressing."
"Mmm." Denny's answer was automatic and Brian could tell he wasn't paying a lick of attention to him.
"He grew a second head overnight," Brian said, wanting to catch Denny out. "But he seems to be adjusting."
"That's good," Denny said distractedly.
"All right," Brian snapped, his patience abruptly vanishing. "Out with it."
"Out with what?"
"Whatever's bothering you. You're not going to tell me you only came over here for a cuppa."
"I could have."
"But you didn't."
"All right." Denny took another deep sip of tea. "You do make the best tea, though."
"Spit it out."
"Fine. I was in at the Riverside in Pwllheli this morning."
"A bit early for a drink. Even for you."
"Not to drink, you idjit. Davey's mum's not well. He's the manager at the pub."
"I know who Davey is," Brian said impatiently.
"Well, you're so seldom out of this cottage I wanted to make sure you hadn't forgot. Anyway, he was tending bar last night and these three blokes were in. Up from London. They're staying at Maggie Call's place."
"What do I care where they're staying, Den? Get to the point."
"The point is that they're looking for Mike."
"Worse. Davey said one of them told him they're CI5. Fucking CI5, Brian."
"Christ." He clutched his cup of tea harder, wondering that it didn't shatter in his grasp. "Did they say what he'd done?"
"Davey said they told him he was a friend of theirs, but they would do, wouldn't they? If CI5 are looking for him, he's a bad one. Not someone you should be involved with."
"I've talked to him, Den. He's a good lad."
"A good lad who has the spooks after him. And if they find him, they'll find you."
"Brian Reynolds is a law abiding man."
"It's not Brian Reynolds I'm worried about."
"Connor McGowan died five years ago. And anyway, I can look after myself."
"Connor McGowan is the other problem."
"What other problem?"
"The CI5 fellows. Davey said they had a picture of you. An old one, but he just about recognized you."
"Jesus Fuck." Brian, no, Connor, no Brian, felt the solid foundation he thought he'd built for his new life begin to shift under him. He'd always known that someday, someone might find him--the authorities, the IRA, a family member of someone he'd blown up--but he'd started to hope...
"You have to leave, Brian. Leave the cottage, leave Mike, even leave Banshee. Get out before they catch you up."
"No." He shook his head. "I'm not going to leave."
"You have to. If you don't..."
"If I don't, I'll get what I deserve. Maybe that's what should have happened all along."
"No one deserves what you'll get, you stupid bastard." Denny's dudgeon was up, his voice was ragged and his eyes were glassy. "You never could look after yourself. No fucking sense, that always was your problem. It was why you had to get out."
"You know why I got out, and that wasn't it."
"You stubborn..." Denny stopped in mid-rant and turned to the door. Brian followed his gaze, and discovered Mike standing there, wearing the jeans and sweater he'd given him yesterday to replace his wet and torn clothes. His feet were bare, his hair was still tousled from sleep and he was wearing a look of concern and worry.
"I'm sorry to bring trouble to you, Brian." His voice seemed to crack on each word. "I'll leave right away."
"Good," Denny said, just as Brian blurted out "You can't!"
Denny turned a look on him that was as disapproving as any he'd managed since he was a teenager and Brian was an awestruck ten-year-old, following him around with a serious case of hero worship. Forty odd years later, and Brian was amazed that Denny could still make him feel like a right fool. It didn't make him back down, though.
"You're not going anywhere, Mike. You don't have anywhere to go. Not unless you've remembered who you are. Have you?"
Mike dropped his eyes and shook his head.
"And you," he whirled on Denny. "Call yourself a doctor and you want to send a man out the door who's just had a bullet pulled out of him?"
"You said he's getting better."
"He's got a hole in him, Denny. It'll take more than a good night's sleep and a cup of tea to heal it."
Denny stared at the ceiling, and Brian felt a brief surge of power at finally silencing the man.
"Now you," he pointed at Mike. "Sit down and I'll make you breakfast. And you." He directed the finger at Denny. "Finish your tea and get back on your rounds. I'll not have your patients saying it was me that made you late."
"No buts. Mike's staying and so am I. The folk around here don't trust outsiders. It's taken them this long to accept me. I doubt anyone will tell CI5 I'm up here. And if they do, well, I'll take that as it comes. But in the meantime, I'm staying in my home. Now get going."
Denny, clearly knowing when he'd been defeated, drained his cup and left without further word. Mike sat at the table quietly while Brian poured him a cup of tea, then busied himself with making oatmeal for them both. The silence between them wasn't a comfortable one.
Brian struggled to appear calm, even as he felt panic welling up inside him. CI5 in Pwllheli. As he choked down his breakfast around a golf ball sized lump in his throat, he hoped they didn't catch up with either him or Mike. The object of his concern sat stock still, curly head bowed, his breakfast untouched.
Brian finished his oatmeal, threw the bowl in the sink with a clatter and then stood staring at his guest.
"You need to eat. You won't recover without fuel in your system."
"I should turn myself in," Mike said, his head still bowed. "They won't find you if I just turn myself in."
"They won't find either of us, if you stay put."
"Never argue with the Irish. They'll have the last word every time."
That finally got a smile out of Mike.
"I'll stay. But only until my memory comes back."
"Have you remembered anything?"
"Bit and pieces. One man in particular, a smug bastard with dark hair and blue eyes, but I can't tell if he's friend or foe. I always seem to be yelling at him. Or him at me."
"Definitely a friend. An enemy'd never put up with that." Mike laughed, and rich, throaty sound that did Brian's heart good to hear. "Don't laugh too hard. You don't want to open up that wound again. And eat that oatmeal before it turns into glue."
"Yes, mum," Mike said, before he got stuck into the bowl.
Brian smiled in spite of the anxiety that beset him. It felt right to keep Mike here, keep him safe. And keeping someone safe, someone who seemed a decent man in spite of having Her Majesty's bullies on his trail, seemed a noble thing to do.
The previous day, they'd started their search from Pwllheli. This day, Bodie, Murph and Jax started from the place Doyle's car had been found. The car was still there, the local police not having got around to towing it away yet. Bodie searched the car, finding nothing more than a discarded Cadbury wrapper and a few stray footprints that might have been made by Doyle's trainers.
They walked to the campsite where Doyle's wallet had been found. There was a confusion of footprints, there, though Bodie picked out a few that matched the ones at the car. He ignored the fact that several of those footprints led toward the cliff. Murphy did not. He gave Bodie a determined look, then made his way to the cliff's edge, checking the area thoroughly while Bodie waited at the campsite with Jax.
Bodie refused to believe that Doyle had gone over the edge. It couldn't have happened and he wouldn't behave as if it had. Murphy returned from the cliff without a word, which was both a relief and a curse. He'd have said if he found evidence one way or the other. No evidence meant they were still in the limbo of not knowing a fucking thing.
They headed back to the car and spent the day checking every farm and cottage they came across. Unlike the area close to Pwllheli, no one here had seen Doyle before, though Bodie noted that a few gave the picture of McGowan a second look before assuring them that they'd never seen him before in their lives. No one had seen a big, ugly Irishman, either.
They drove to Aberdaron for a pub lunch, then back to the main road to begin their search again. And then, in the late afternoon, when the sun was beginning to descend toward the horizon, they caught a break.
They were at a farmhouse outside a tiny village with too many L's and W's in its name. Neither the farmer nor his wife had seen Doyle nor anyone who looked like Logan, but the wife sparked up when she saw McGowan's picture.
"Look, Jim." She pointed at the picture. "Doesn't that look like..."
"Nothing like him," Jim said quickly, cutting off his wife before she could complete her thought.
"No, I definitely think that looks like Mr. Reynolds," she continued on, oblivious to the black looks her husband was giving her, even if Bodie wasn't. "A few years younger, and a stone or so lighter, but it's him."
"Is he Irish, this Mr. Reynolds?" Murphy asked carefully. He and Jax had taken on the duty of talking to the locals after Bodie snapped at the first rambling farmer they'd run into. Not that it was Bodie's fault if he hadn't wanted to listen to the problems of a fucking sheep farmer before the man got around to answering his fucking questions.
"Yes. Moved here from Dublin, wasn't it?" Her husband gave a reluctant nod. "Nice man, Mr. Reynolds. Retired accountant."
"And where does Mr. Reynolds live?" Jax took the lead this time.
"Just go back to the main road and drive north. You'll want the second right and then the first left off that. Mr. Reynolds' cottage is the first one on that road. But you'll have to hurry if you want to beat the fog."
Fog. Bodie nearly laughed. The crap weather of the past week had finally broken and it have had been sunny all day. But then he saw Murphy's face and turned to the west where he was looking. It was as if the world ended five hundred yards from where they stood. An impenetrable bank of grey fog rose from the ground and seemed to entirely envelop the sky. It was eerie how completely it hid everything inside its mass.
"Gets like that, sometimes," the woman said. "Rolls in off the Irish Sea and seems to swallow everything. The wind will blow it away in a few hours, but the driving'll be hard until then."
They thanked the woman and quickly made for the car, politely ignoring the screaming match that was taking place between husband and wife as Jax took the wheel and drove away.
"I don't think she was supposed to say anything," Jax said.
"You know places like this," Murphy said. "They look after their own. Don't want any Londoners making trouble for their neighbours."
"Even if their neighbours are IRA bombers." Bodie was in a murderous mood, the encroaching fog only adding to his fury. If he couldn't vent it on whoever had taken Doyle, he'd take it out on Connor McGowan.
"Cool it, Bodie," Murphy said. "This bloke might really be a retired accountant from Dublin."
"And I might be a fucking panto genie. You've seen the looks the locals have given that picture of McGowan. This has got to be him. And if it is, then maybe he knows something about Doyle."
"Maybe it's him, and maybe he knows about Doyle," Murphy said, his eyes fixing Bodie with a hard stare. "But remember, we follow the rules, Bodie."
"Oh, I'll follow the rules," Bodie said, bitterness infusing his voice.
"See that you do." Murphy turned back to face the road, leaving Bodie to spend the rest of the drive in silence, nurturing the urge to fight, to hurt, to do something, anything, to make sure Doyle was safe.
Connor McGowan didn't have a fucking chance.
After breakfast, Mike spent the better part of the morning on Brian's sofa while Brian puttered about in his shed, tuning his aging Land Rover. It had packed it in shortly after Brian had rescued him from the cliff and hadn't run since.
He'd taken one of the pain pills that Denny had given him and it had left feeling muzzy and stupid. He'd liberated a thriller from Brian's shelf, but it spent more time splayed open on his chest than being read. Doped as he was, he could barely follow the story, with its square-jawed hero and the dewy, drippy girl who loved him. He did wonder, however, how he knew that the writer's portrayal of a ruthless African mercenary was utter bollocks. Maybe Brian was right. Maybe he was a villain.
Lunch was a friendly affair, soup and sandwiches that Mike put a token effort into helping prepare, though he couldn't do much with one good arm. During the meal, Brian complained about his repairs, swearing he was going to drive the Rover off a cliff and be done with it.
"Can I help?" Mike asked. Even with the pills wearing off, his shoulder was paining him less than even this morning and inactivity was beginning to wear on him. Whoever he was, he doubt he'd gone in for the quiet life.
"No you can't." Brian's voice raised in outrage. "Quite apart from the fact it's a stupid idea, Denny'd have my head if I put you to work when you've just had a bullet pulled out of you."
"Two days ago."
"No." Brian was firm.
"What if I just watch? Supervise what you're doing?"
"You can't remember your own name. How could you repair a car?"
"I know that much. How to repair a car." He frowned, remembering taking apart an oil pan while his dark-haired, blue-eyed companion stood by his side. "Well, a motorcylce, really, but the principles are the same."
"It might help me remember more. Being around something I'm familiar with." He gave Brian a hopeful look and prayed he wasn't overplaying it.
"All right." Brian pointed a finger at him. "But you don't so much as lift a spanner. And the slightest twinge and you're back inside." He made a move to go outside, then turned back. "One more thing. If Denny asks, it was all your idea."
"It was my idea."
"Just make sure he knows that. He may not approve of you staying here, but he'll have my bollocks if you suffer a setback because you were working on my car."
Bundled in one of Brian's old jackets, he spent an hour looking over the Rover's engine. He watched as Brian checked the oil and then showed the older man how to adjust the idle. He supervised Brian checking the radiator, where they found a minor leak, and was in the middle of helping Brian decide whether to try and fix it or order a new one from the garage in the village when they heard a sound coming from the road.
"Is that Denny?" he asked. They'd heard no other cars come this close all day.
"No," Brian said, radiating a sudden tension. "His car doesn't sound like that." Brian started wiping his hands with rag and moved carefully out of the shed. Mike followed, afraid that the dreaded CI5 might have landed on their doorstep.
They couldn't see anything at first. While they'd been in the shed, a thick, grey fog had rolled in from the sea and surrounded them. Mike could barely make out the bulk of the cottage, twenty feet away. They could hear the engine, though, getting closer and closer, and finally slowing down.
There was a gust of wind as the vehicle made its way up Brian's long drive, and the fog parted enough that he could see it, however briefly. It was a ramshackle, pea-green Ford Cortina. Not CI5, then, though he wondered where the sudden knowledge that a CI5 agent would be driving a late model Capri came from.
The fog swallowed the car again almost immediately.
"Did you see who it was?" he asked Brian.
Brian didn't respond, didn't move, but only kept on watching the place where they'd last seen the car with an intensity that was disturbing. The sound of the engine finally stopped.
The fog broke again, and he saw a big man get out of the car and start walking toward them. Another gust and the man disappeared.
"Mike, I want you to walk back to the house." Brian spoke calmly, but he wasn't taking his eyes off the place where they'd seen the man.
"No arguments. Go up to my bedroom and look on top of the wardrobe. There's a shotgun there."
"Shut up, Mike. The shells are in my sock drawer. Top left. Load the gun and wait in the bedroom."
With Brian following him, Mike began walking back to the house. He didn't know who the man approaching them was, but he knew Brian did. He also knew, using an instinct that didn't bear thinking on, that the stranger meant them harm. They were perhaps ten steps from the door when the fog swirled one last time and they saw the man less than twenty feet away from them.
"Run," Brian said quietly. Then much louder, "run!"
Heart pounding, breathing harsh and fast, Mike ran. He knew Brian was following him, and their uninvited guest not far behind them both, but he didn't look back. The wound in his shoulder throbbed and tore with each step, each breath, but he ignored it as unimportant.
As he reached the back door, he heard the first shot, wide and over his head. He gave thanks for the fog as he ran through the door and headed straight for the bedroom upstairs as Brian burst through behind him and locked and barricaded the doors, front and back.
It took some doing, reaching it with only one good arm, but the shotgun was where Brian had said. It wasn't the weapon he would have chosen, covered in dust and looking like it hadn't been cleaned in eons, but beggars couldn't be choosers. He rummaged through Brian's drawers till he found the shells and began quickly loading it. He had two shells in when there was an explosion of gunfire and breaking glass downstairs. Brian bounded up the stairs as he pushed home the last shell.
He wished he had his own gun. He wished he had backup. He wished Bodie were here.
Ray Doyle glanced up as Connor McGowan entered the room, Banshee in tow.
"The doors are locked and barricaded, but that won't hold him for long. He'll be through the windows soon enough. We'll have to keep him from getting up the stairs." He petted the whining, growling dog as he looked down the stairs.
"Who is he?" Doyle said, clutching the shotgun's barrel hard enough that he could feel it digging into his palm.
"I've no idea," Brian said. He looked at Doyle with narrowed eyes, his mouth thinning to fine line. "What's going..."
"Is it Gav Logan?" Doyle pulled back the gun's lever, loading a shell into the breech.
"How do you know Gav Logan?"
"Everything." Doyle tried to raise the gun to firing position as there was another crash against the front door. He winced as the wound in his shoulder pulled with the action. He'd overdone it--going outside, running to the house--and he was going to pay for it now. With his life, if he wasn't lucky. "I'm CI5."
"You can't be." McGowan went white and clenched his jaw.
"I can be, and I am. I was sent here to find you, in fact. But Gav Logan found me first."
"Gav shot you?"
"And threw you off the cliff?"
"Well, no. I did that to myself. Stumbled in the dark."
"Bloody CI5," McGowan said to himself.
There was a bigger crash from downstairs, this time of breaking glass, and a thump and then it all went quiet. Doyle strained his senses, while beside him, Banshee growled and tried to pull away from McGowan's grip.
"Logan's in," Doyle said in a whisper. He crouched at the doorway, taking what cover he could from the wall and waved McGowan down. "Keep behind me, and don't let go of Banshee."
He pulled the gun up once again to firing position. The pain was excruciating, and he found his vision greying out at the sides and narrowing in to a pinprick.
A hand caught him as he began to sway.
"Stupid English bastard," McGowan said, even as he was taking the gun away and easing Doyle back into the room. He pushed out the wardrobe, so if offered more protection, and got behind it with Doyle and the dog. "You can barely hold the bloody gun. The recoil'll probably kill you."
"I'm all right," Doyle insisted, ignoring the fact that he very clearly wasn't.
"Shut up." McGowan took position at the door. "Shut up and keep my dog safe, would you."
Doyle crouched behind McGowan and wrapped his arm around Banshee's neck, while keeping a firm grip on his collar with his other hand. The dog was reassuringly warm and alive under his touch. He only hoped they all stayed that way.
They sat like that for several long minutes, the only sounds Banshee's panting and the soft crunching of feet walking on broken glass as Gav Logan prowled around downstairs.
"So, is he after you or me, our Gav?" McGowan finally whispered, breaking the silence.
"You, I think. He seemed surprised to see me before. But it would make sense if he got the same tip-off we did that you might be up here."
"I don't suppose it'll make a difference. He'll kill us both if he gets up here."
"Cheery thought." Doyle looked around the room. "Don't suppose you have a second gun up here. Or a phone?"
"No other gun. You won't believe it, but I've never liked the things. Only got the shotgun for rabbits, and I've barely had the heart to use it on them. The phone in the kitchen's the only one. And since Gav's a thorough sort, he's probably cut the line."
The sound of the movement downstairs changed. This time they heard the creak of a foot on a stair tread.
"Here he comes," Doyle said, holding his breath, even as he held Banshee tightly.
"Wish me luck." McGowan didn't look back, but Doyle could see him take a deep breath and relax his shoulders. Then there was the clatter of Logan running up the stairs and Doyle wondered if it would be easier or harder, dying knowing who he was, knowing who wasn't here with him, knowing how alone he was.
"Oh, Bodie," he breathed out into Banshee's ruff, and then there were bullets zinging through the air and punching into the wall behind him and no more time to think of love lost or love missed. There was only time to duck and hide and hope.
They nearly didn't find the Reynolds cottage. They'd barely gone two minutes when the fog caught up with them. Unable to see more than a few feet in front of them, Murphy slowed the car to a crawl. Even at a snail's pace, he managed to miss the first turn off twice.
The slowness of the trip only fuelled Bodie's rage, his impotent fury at not being able to find Doyle. He cursed the fog and Wales, George Cowley and Connor McGowan. Most of all he cursed Ray Doyle for putting him through this, for leaving him alone, for leaving him not knowing if he were alive or dead, the stupid bastard.
They only noticed the cottage when the fog parted briefly to give them a glimpse. Murphy turned up the drive, to find a battered Cortina parked ahead of them.
"Reynold's car, do you think?" Bodie asked, looking for signs of trouble in the dense, unyielding fog.
"Possibly." Murphy eased out of the car, he gun drawn. Bodie and Jax followed suit. They moved carefully toward where the cottage had appeared, occasionally seeing its dark shadow in the fog. Then the wind stirred again and the cottage became briefly visible.
"I see it." Murph's voice was low and serious. The front window of the cottage had been smashed in. Looking closer, Bodie could see the front door had been banged up as well, though it appeared to have held.
Bodie's anger evaporated in the face of coming action. Never go into a fight angry, his first sergeant had told him. It only makes you stupid and guarantees your opponent will win.
They approached the cottage in skirmish order, each covering the others in case someone opened fire from the windows. When they reached the cottage, Bodie automatically took the lead, clearing the glass out of the smashed window and rolling in through the empty frame. He covered their approach as Murphy and Jax followed him.
They were all three in the room when there was clattering from outside the room, and then the first shot was fired.
Bodie moved, his actions honed by years of training and experience. He ran from the room, heading in the direction of the gunfire, even as he was categorizing the shots. Handgun, then shotgun, probably small shot. Then the handgun again.
He moved through the house quickly, gaining the hallway with no interference, and climbing the stairs, pushing himself to take three at a time. At the top of the stairs was his first target. Gav Logan was turned partially away from him, firing into what must be a bedroom.
Bodie didn't hesitate, didn't call for the man to stop. He simply put three bullets into him and dropped him where he stood. Then he moved into the bedroom that Logan had been shooting into.
At first, he could only see a large wardrobe pushed out into the room as a makeshift barricade. Then a man peeked around the corner, a shotgun aimed firmly at Bodie. Connor McGowan, he realized after a moment.
"Drop it, McGowan," he said, taking firm aim at the man and placing his finger lightly on his trigger. It was a battle of wills, and not one Bodie was planning on losing. But just when he'd decided he was going to have to pull the trigger, McGowan was pulled out of the way and another man stepped in front of him.
"'Lo, Bodie." Doyle emerged from his hiding place, one hand raised, the other hanging limp at his side and a grin on his face.
The fury that Bodie thought he'd banished rose up once again within him as he struggled with the knowledge that not only was Doyle alive, he seemed to have formed some sort of alliance with Connor McGowan.
"You stupid fucker," Bodie raged. "Where the hell have you been? Dropping out of sight with not a word, and now we find you here with this bastard." Bodie aimed a finger at McGowan, though he didn't take his eyes off Doyle.
"Sorry," Doyle began, only to be cut off.
"Sorry? We find your car abandoned and your wallet near a cliff and all you can say is sorry? What the fuck were you thinking, Doyle?" Furious he might be, but even as he was yelling, Bodie was evaluating Doyle's condition: face bruised, contusions on hands and face, left shoulder bleeding, though he'd guess the wound wasn't fresh.
"Wasn't thinking at all, as it turns out," Doyle said, nearly sheepishly. "Got a bump on my head, falling from that cliff. Couldn't remember a blessed thing. Not until Logan showed up here just now. I'm still only half making sense of it all."
"Jesus." Bodie felt the wind abruptly taken out of his sails and stood there gaping at Doyle, trying to process the roil of emotions surging through him.
"He on your side?" McGowan asked, as Murphy and Jax entered the room. He seemed unconcerned about the handcuffs Murph put on him, concentrating instead on Doyle. Bodie felt a strand of jealousy join the anger and fear and worry racing through him.
"Yeah, he's on my side." Ray Doyle moved toward him, battered and bloody, but alive, goddamn it, alive. "He's my partner."
"I hope he's smarter than he looks."
"Only just," Jax said as he and Murphy took hold of McGowan. "You'll have to come with us, McGowan."
"Could you wait a minute? Just long enough for me to have a word with Mike...Christ, I don't even know your real name, do I?"
"It's Ray Doyle."
"Ray, would you look after Banshee? See he finds a good home?"
"'Course I will. He saved my life, didn't he." He shook one of McGowan's shackled hands. "You both did."
"Come along, Mr. McGowan," Murphy said, pushing McGowan out of the room before looking back behind him. "We'll be waiting downstairs, you two."
Bodie stood staring at Doyle, still struggling to find the words to say, the words that would adequately convey what he was feeling. Which was bloody difficult when he had no idea what that was.
"'Aven't you got anything to say, Bodie?" Doyle was close enough now to take hold of Bodie's elbow, his grin sliding into a look of concern.
Bodie swallowed and stared and then finally thought of something he could say without looking like a complete idiot. "Who's Banshee?" he asked, just as a great black beast of a dog sprang from behind the wardrobe.
"This is Banshee." Doyle grabbed at the dog's collar, wincing when he tried to pull away from him and snarled at Bodie. Doyle calmed the creature with a sure hand.
"That creature saved your life?" Bodie was sceptical. Banshee looked more capable of snapping a man's hand off with one bite than saving anyone.
"Yeah." Doyle crouched at the dog's side and enthusiastically petted his ruff. "Twice over. Found me on the cliff and then convinced McGowan I was worth saving."
"I take it McGowan didn't do that." Bodie nodded at the shoulder, with the slick of blood showing through.
"Nah. That was Logan. Bastard shot me and left me for dead." He stood, looked down and poked experimentally at the bloody mess. "It was healing nicely."
"Keep your mucky hands away from it." Bodie grabbed at Doyle's hand, meaning at first only to stop Doyle inflicting any further damage on himself--he didn't have the sense of a small child some days--but then found himself holding the hand with both his own, concentrating on Doyle's warmth, the feel of his skin, the life of him.
"Bodie..." Doyle started, and suddenly Bodie knew he couldn't talk now, not yet. Not when he was still sussing out how he felt. Not when he wasn't sure if Doyle was going to make another joke or share his darkest secrets.
"We need to get you to town," he blurted out. "That shoulder needs seeing to."
"It's not so bad." Doyle carefully flexed the shoulder, grimacing only slightly with the movement. "The bloke who patched it up didn't do a bad job."
"It's bleeding, Doyle. Probably opened up again. That's bad enough."
"Bloody nursemaid, that's what you are."
"That's what you need."
"Christ." Doyle gave a great exhalation and fixed Bodie with a clear, evaluating gaze. "All right. I'll get it seen to. You'll only whinge on about it if I don't. But only if you stay with me. Jax and Murphy can see to Brian...I mean McGowan. I don't think he'll give them any trouble."
"Friend of yours, is he?" Bodie struggled to stamp out the flare of jealousy that lit up inside him once again, and failed.
"I know what he's done, Bodie. But he's a decent sort for all that."
"A decent sort." Bodie couldn't help but explode. "He blows up a bunch of kids and you call him a decent sort."
"We've all made bad choices, Bodie. He's made worse ones than most of us. But I think he knows it."
"Never thought I'd hear you make excuses for a man like McGowan. Next you'll be telling me Gav Logan was only misunderstood as a boy."
"Nah. Logan's an utter bastard, through and through. Or he was." Doyle glanced through the door and must have seen Logan's body. "That your handiwork?"
Doyle's face took on a particularly grim cast. "Good," was all he said. Then he grabbed Bodie by the jacket and pulled him downstairs. "C'mon, then. If I'm going to let some bloody Welsh witchdoctor patch me up it might as well be sooner as later."
Bodie followed meekly, still reeling at how events had turned out and not entirely sure how it was all going to end.
They formed a convoy to Pwllheli, with Jax and Murphy taking McGowan in their car, followed by Bodie, Doyle and Banshee in Logan's appropriated Cortina.
Doyle slumped down in the Cortina's passenger seat, content to let Bodie drive as he concentrated on not thinking about the pain in his shoulder. And not thinking about the man beside him. He focussed on listening to Banshee try to get comfortable in the back of the car, on trying to penetrate the fog and see the fields and cottages he'd become so familiar with in his few days here.
He was nearly asleep by the time they arrived in Pwllheli, the pain draining his energy more than he'd like to admit. He'd have been happy to simply go to sleep on any convenient surface and deal with his shoulder in the morning, but Bodie wouldn't hear of it. The annoying pillock dropped Banshee with the local coppers--McGowan'd been glad to see him and one of the PCs said his family was looking for a dog-- asked them where the nearest doctor was, and then drove them two miles out of town to the nearest hospital.
The place turned out to be little more than a day surgery and not at all promising. The nurse had already gone for the day and the doctor was closing up when they got there. As Doyle watched, Bodie used his not inconsiderable charm and his rather considerable menace to convince the doctor to turn everything back on and stitch Doyle's wound back up.
Doyle suffered through it all as silently as he could, which is to say with gritted teeth and the occasional choked off scream. By the time the doctor started with the sutures--he needed four of them to repair the damage inflicted by the day--Doyle felt like an old suit of clothes being patched up by a none too gentle tailor.
When he'd done with the sutures and applied a new dressing, the doctor tried to convince Doyle to go to the hospital in Llandudno for an overnight stay. Doyle was having none of it.
"Just want to go home," he said, fighting the fuzziness of exhaustion made worse by the painkillers the doctor and Bodie had both insisted upon.
"I'm not driving to London tonight," Bodie said forcefully. "So you can forget it."
"Not London, you pillock. Pwllheli will do. You got a room booked there?"
"Yeah. Your old one at the B&B, actually. Your bag's there and all."
"I really should insist..." the doctor began, but Bodie staved him off with a raised hand.
"Don't waste your breath. Our Raymond is a stubborn sort. But I'll look after him."
There was a tone to Bodie's voice, something beyond the indulgent good humour, that made Doyle look at his partner. Made him notice his eyes, cobalt blue and somehow simultaneously hard and tender, cold but with the promise of an underlying heat. It made him wonder...
He didn't say anything, kept mum as the doctor gave Bodie instructions for his medications, the antibiotics that he'd take, and the pain pills that he'd take only as long as they were necessary. He stayed silent as Bodie packed him into the car and made the bumpy drive back to the B&B. He didn't say a word as Bodie gave him the first of the antibiotics and a stern lecture about taking the pain pills if he needed them, a lecture that was rich coming from Bodie, considering he'd turned avoiding pain medication into a fine art.
The first time he said anything was after Bodie'd tucked him up in the room's queen-sized bed and turned away from him.
Doyle reached out and grabbed Bodie's arm before he could slip away.
"Where you sleeping, then?" Doyle asked.
"Thought I'd take the chair." Bodie pointed at the chintz-upholstered monstrosity in the corner.
"Don't be daft. You'll do your back in, sleeping in that. There's plenty of room in the bed."
"I don't want to jostle you."
"You won't jostle me." Doyle pulled at the hand he still had hold of, even as he moved over to make room in the bed.
So they ended up side by side, Doyle finally allowing himself to drift on a wave of medically approved narcotics, Bodie beside him, shifting about as if he were sleeping on a bed of nails.
"Go to sleep, Bodie." Doyle put a hand on his partner's shoulder, feeling the tension in the muscles.
"Told you this was a bad idea," Bodie said, sitting up.
"It's not." Doyle made a quick grab at Bodie's arm, ignoring the pain that radiated through his own body at the sudden movement.
"Let go, Ray."
Doyle never knew what was responsible for his next actions, whether it was the doctor and his pain pills, or his increased awareness of how fragile life was, or simply an attack of bloody-minded stupidity on his part. In the end, it didn't really matter what was to blame. What did matter was that he sat up, pushed Bodie back down to the bed, leaned over him and kissed him.
It wasn't a great kiss. He was tired and hurting and desperate and searching for the reason why he didn't want Bodie to leave the shared warmth of the bed. Epic poems would not be written about this kiss. Even the two participants would remember it only as clumsy and awkward and astonishing beyond words. But it did serve one purpose: it stopped Bodie from running away.
Bodie lay beneath him, still at first, then moving slowly, opening his lips slightly to allow Doyle to taste him, bringing a hand up to gently touch his broken cheek. Finally, when he was certain Bodie wouldn't run, Doyle broke off the kiss. He pulled back and looked down at his partner in the muted light of the bedroom.
"What'd you want to go and do that for?" Bodie asked, his voice sounding almost plaintive in the dark.
"Don't know why," Doyle said honestly. "Just had to." He let his own hand drift up to brush across Bodie's lower lip.
"That's not good enough."
"Probably not." Doyle stilled the hand exploring Bodie--the curve of his throat, the join of his shoulder, the feel of his skin--fought off the pain and fatigue that was trying to pull him under, and considered Bodie's question.
"I remembered you." He rested his hand over Bodie's chest where he could feel the rhythm of his heart. "Didn't know who I was or what I was meant to be doing, but I remembered your face. I knew you were important to me."
"'Course I'm important," Bodie said. "I'm your partner."
"You're more than that."
"I'm your mate."
"More than that."
"Listen," Bodie said, and Doyle could detect the beginning of hysteria in his voice. "You're not going to start chucking flowers and chocolates at me, are you? It's bad enough when you do that with your birds.""
"Shut up, Bodie. I'm trying to tell you..."
Bodie stopped his words with a finger to his lips. "Don't say it, Doyle. Don't say anything you don't mean."
"I do mean it, Bodie. Every bloody word you don't want to hear. I've meant it for a long time, even if it took forgetting myself to realize it."
"Daft bastard," Bodie said, but there was no sting in the words, only affection. Doyle lay down on the bed and smiled as Bodie settled down beside him.
"If I feel this way about you, I must be."
"If you weren't hurt, I'd thump you for that."
"Promises, promises," Doyle mumbled, even as he stopped fighting the drugs and allowed all his defences to drop.
"You'll be the death of me, Ray Doyle," he heard Bodie whisper. Which wasn't quite right, he thought as he drifted off to sleep. The way he reckoned it, they'd be the making of each other.
Bodie entered his flat with a bounce in his step and a grin on his face. He could hardly believe they'd made it. A month since Ray'd been shot and today he'd be done with the physio and ready to be back on the squad full time. And none too fucking soon, either.
Since Doyle had been out of commission, Cowley had been getting his jollies by sending Bodie out on assignment with every member of the new intake of agents. He'd given Bodie some old bollocks about training him to evaluate new personnel. Well, you couldn't evaluate someone if he or she were dead, and if he had to go out with one more wet-behind-the-ears infant, he was going to throttle him. Or her. They'd all seemed bloody hopeless to him, male and female alike.
But as of tomorrow, there'd be no more of wondering if his partner was going to drop his gun, or trip over her own feet. As of tomorrow he'd be back working with Doyle. And tonight...
He was going to make sure tonight was very special indeed.
He entered his kitchen and put down the sac he'd been carrying. A six pack of lager went into the fridge and the two bottles of a very nice red plonk Doyle was fond of stayed on the counter. He'd better be fond of it, at the price of the stuff. Still, he didn't grudge the cost. Not when it was going to be drunk celebrating the fact that Doyle was alive and well and ready to be his partner once again. And if they celebrated by doing a few other illicit things they'd been practicing for a few weeks now, so much the better.
But no need to get ahead of himself. First things first. He threw his jacket over the kitchen doorknob, pulled cutlery out of the drawer and had the table set by the time there was a buzz at the door.
"What's the password?" he said, knowing it had to be Doyle.
"Hit the fucking button, Bodie, or I'll kick your fucking door in," Doyle said with no preamble.
Bodie buzzed him in with a grin. Even Doyle in a temper couldn't dampen his spirits today.
He was waiting at his open door when Doyle appeared two minutes later.
"Your lift's out," he said, before shoving a carrier bag full of takeaway cartons into Bodie's hand. "Here. They'd run out of pakoras so I had to get samosas. And I decided to get saag lamb instead of the tandoori chicken."
"How was your day, Bodie?" Bodie put on his poshest accent, the one guaranteed to get up Doyle's nose. "Smashing, Doyle. How was yours? Just wonderful."
"Shut it, Bodie. I'm knackered and I'm not in the mood."
"Not in the mood?" Bodie abandoned the accent and put on his best little boy lost expression. Had gone down a treat with the birds. And it worked every time with Doyle.
"Oh, not that way," Doyle said, still cross, but getting less so by the moment, Bodie could tell. "Here, give that over." Doyle took the bag out of Bodie's grasp and deposited it on the floor, a bit cavalierly for Bodie's liking
"Oi, watch the food."
"You watch it," Doyle said, and then proceeded to throw his jacket on the floor, push Bodie against the nearest wall and kiss him rotten. Bodie considered fighting him to rescue the badly treated takeaway for all of five seconds. Then he gave up, wrapped his arms around Doyle, and revelled in the feeling of the scrawny little bastard grinding against him.
It didn't take long before he wanted more. He used the hand not on Doyle's arse to pull the shirt out of his perpetually too tight jeans. It took some doing, but his payment for the effort was an expanse of gloriously exposed skin. He ran a hand up the bare back while the other squeezed Doyle's arse. His efforts were rewarded when Doyle arched back, his groin and swelling cock pushing into Bodie's own.
"Oh, Christ," Doyle gasped as he pulled his mouth away from Bodie's, then pushed Bodie away and pulled his poloneck off in a single easy motion. "That's better," he said as he dragged both hands down the front of Bodie's chest, sending sparks down Bodie's nerve endings all the way to his cock.
"If that's the way you want to play..." Bodie lunged at Doyle, initiating a struggle that ended in the lounge, with both of them on the sofa and not a stitch of clothing between them.
"You were saying?" Doyle straddled Bodie's hips and leaned into him, pressing their swollen cocks together even as he moved forward and delicately licked first one nipple, then the other.
Bodie thought the top of his head might come off from the sensations blazing all through his body. He moaned and tried to move in to kiss Doyle, as his skin screamed its need.
"Oh no, you don't," Doyle said, pinning his arms to his side. A month ago, even a week ago, Bodie would have let the greedy bugger have his way. He'd never have risked inflicting pain on Ray, not when he was recovering. But now, with Doyle healed and cleared by CI5 to return to duty, he reckoned all was fair in sex and war. He wriggled, freeing one arm, then the other. Before Doyle could respond, he'd wrapped him in an unbreakable hold with arms and legs, then twisted and rolled them both onto the floor. Doyle broke his fall, and his furry bedspread--thank Christ he'd let Doyle talk him into moving it to the lounge--broke Doyle's.
"Christ, you weigh a ton," Doyle complained, though he was smiling.
"Me? Nah, I'm a delicate flower, me." Bodie kissed Doyle, deeply and mercilessly, even as he stretched his body till every inch of skin possible was in contact with Doyle's. His breathing sped up and almost all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart.
Bodie writhed sinuously and moved one hand down, then took both their cocks in a firm hold. Doyle moaned and thrust into his grip, driving his cock against Bodie's own, and sending Bodie's reactions spiralling ever higher. He thrust his hips to match Doyle's rhythm, found the sounds he was making complemented Doyle's own. One last push, and he felt himself break through that invisible barrier, felt his bollocks tighten and his cock pulse. And then he was coming, his seed coating Doyle's belly and his own, with Doyle not far behind him.
As the last shudders of completion swirled through him, he rolled off Doyle, sprawling beside him with what he imagined was an all too satisfied smirk.
"Think you're marvellous, don't you?" Doyle graced him with a grimace.
"Yeah," Bodie said, in no mood to deny the obvious.
"You're bloody lucky you're right." Doyle stood and started looking around the lounge. Bodie propped his head up on one hand as he was treated to a completely unselfconscious display of male flesh. "Now, where are my fucking pants?"
They retrieved Doyle's pants, draped over a table lamp, and the rest of their clothing, and rescued the food from the hall. Bodie whinged about them having let the food get cold, more because he knew Doyle would expect it than from any real ill will. Doyle tossed the foil packages in the cooker to warm up, to shut Bodie up, he said, though the kiss he gave Bodie did that even better.
They spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking, flirting, and making ever more outrageous double entendres that they both knew would end up with them in bed. Only this time they would take their time, do things properly. And as often as they could both manage. Bodie sometimes felt as if he'd been handed the ultimate winning ticket in the football pools.
Not that it was all hearts and flowers. Even in a month, they'd had a few scraps, the odd screaming row. But then they'd always had that. Just went to show that they were both men of strong passions. But now a large portion of all that passion was directed firmly at each other. Thinking of the plans he had to focus that passion tonight, Bodie felt a smug smile creep across his face.
"What are you thinkin'?" Doyle asked from where he sat sprawled on the sofa, his legs draped comfortably over Bodie's lap, an empty wine glass dangling loosely from one hand.
"How do you know I'm thinking anything?" Bodie stuck out his tongue and crossed his eyes, but Doyle wouldn't be distracted.
"I can always tell when your brain's working. I can smell the smoke."
"Ha ha," Bodie said, but he couldn't suppress a chuckle. And he decided to indulge Doyle with an answer to his question. "Was thinking I might send a wreath for Gav Logan's grave, actually."
"Are you stark raving mad?" Doyle put the wine glass on the floor and sat up, clearly outraged. "He nearly killed me."
"Yeah, but if he hadn't tried to kill you, and if you hadn't knocked your head on that cliff, we might not be where we are."
"On your sofa?" Doyle was clearly enjoying taking the piss.
"No, you daft pillock. I meant we might not be doing this." Bodie leaned over, took Doyle's already crumpled shirt in one fist and gave Doyle a thorough snog.
"Oh," Doyle said with an infectious grin. "That." He licked his lips and Bodie had a sudden suspicion that if they didn't make it to the bedroom soon, the lounge floor was going to see a repeat of their earlier performance. "You'd do better to thank Connor and Banshee for that. Logan only tried to kill me. They saved my life."
"Perhaps I'll send Connor a care package in prison."
"You'd do better to send one to that PC in Pwllheli. I hear Banshee's eating him out of house and home."
"I'm not surprised. That great beast probably eats his weight in food a day."
"You're one to talk, the way you put away the saag tonight." Doyle leaned in to run a tongue along Bodie's ear.
"I'm a growing lad," Bodie said, taking the bait even as he turned his neck to allow Doyle greater access.
"But what part of you is growing?" Doyle ran a hand down Bodie's side, letting it linger on his crotch, where something was indeed swelling.
Bodie growled deep in his throat, even as he grabbed Doyle's hand. "Wouldn't you prefer the bed to the floor?"
Doyle grinned in reply. "Thought you'd never ask."
They made the trip down the hall in record time, shedding clothes as they moved. Bodie pulled Doyle down on top of him, his body marked by one more scar and yet still beautiful for all that, and set about making a memory that even a fall from a cliff wouldn't banish from either one of them.
-- THE END --