Out of the Woods


Despite the fact the Controller had left them standing in front of the pub and driven off with Dr. Ross, they were still expected to report to headquarters. Bodie's actions were going to require a great deal of paperwork and the debrief was likely to be painful. Doyle was called in first, and was surprised that the meeting was short, to the point, and that he was essentially ordered not to wait for his partner.

Bodie stood at a crisp parade rest in front of the Controller's desk twenty minutes later in a dark jumper, having shed his mud covered leather jacket. George Cowley let the man stand in silence as he gathered his thoughts. The old soldier in him felt a certain kinship for the lad and fully understood the operative's emotions, though not his actions. The Controller, on the other hand, was very unhappy -- and more than a bit hurt -- that Bodie had not seen fit to come to him when he'd learned Williams was dead. "Why didn't you tell me, lad? Did you think I wouldn't help you?"

"T'was personal, sir. It didn't involve CI5." Erect and stiff as any soldier upon inspection, Cowley wasn't surprised at the response.

"May I remind you, 3-7, that you belong to CI5, so anything and everything that concerns you is CI5's business." That comment garnered no response, so he continued. "And what about 4-5? Did you not trust him either?" The flinch made the Controller smile. So his blue eyed boy wasn't as impervious to feelings as he would like the world to believe.

"Wasn't a question of trust," came the bitter response, blue eyes fixed on a point somewhere over the older man's shoulder. "Didn't want him involved...didn't want him to get hurt."

"You hurt him far more by keeping him out." He let that thought sink in before continuing. "By rights I should throw you out."

"Yes, sir."

"Not so fast, 3-7, I have no plans to let you off that easily. Thirty days at the training facility. Daily sessions with Dr. Ross, and the rest of the time you'll help Jack with the training. You will do everything they ask if you wish to continue under my employ...understood?"

"Understood, sir."

"Good. 7-3 will drive you to your flat so you can pack and then he'll drive you to the center. I'll see you in thirty days."

Bodie hesitated before heading for the door; blue eyes finally meeting the older man's. "I am sorry, Sir."

Cowley read the truth of it, and nodded, "I know, lad. Now off with you."

Bodie kept to himself at the training center, dutifully going to his sessions with Kate Ross, and carrying out every task Jack Crane threw at him. The physical exhaustion at the end of the day was welcome as it allowed him to sleep.

Dr. Ross remained concerned with his aloofness. She was well aware that 3-7 had led a difficult life -- his file was three times thicker than any other agent's -- and that life had taught him not to rely on anyone but himself. She had thought, though, that he had changed after he'd been partnered with 4-5.

So she was as confused as the Controller and his partner that he had failed to share any of his thoughts or feelings, or even the fact that there was a problem. She asked Jack Crane about what she saw as his unnatural attachment to his former SAS mates. Crane, a retired Royal Marine, shook his head and explained there were simply no words to explain the bonds formed when your daily job involved life and death. What did she think, he asked, Bodie would have done if it had been Doyle who'd been killed?

Raymond Doyle was angry at the world -- specifically at his bastard partner who'd gotten himself exiled to the training center, and the Controller who'd ordered him there. It did nothing to improve his normally less than sunny disposition, and many a groan was heard when his fellow operatives learned from the duty board they had the pleasure of being partnered with him for the day.

Three weeks into Bodie's time at the training center, Doyle was sent out for a session with Dr. Ross. She watched him park the car and saunter in, green eyes cataloguing the people he passed on the way. "You won't find him here," she began as soon as he entered her office. "He's out playing fox to a group of Jack's young hounds." He didn't even pretend not to understand her opening gambit.

"How is he?"

"That's confidential."

"Bloody hell, he's my partner! I have a right to know."

"Funny, a few weeks ago you weren't so sure you even wanted him. Told George Cowley you wouldn't take him on a Grade 7 call out."

"That day!" Ray came out of his chair, fists planted firmly on the large oak desk.

"Why do you think he didn't tell you about Williams?" She asked, leaning back in her chair, pleased she'd managed to pierce his laissez faire front.

"No clue, I've never claimed to understand how his mind works. Most self-contained bastard I've ever met. Never needs anybody but himself."

"Oh, he needed you, 4-5. He just didn't know how to ask, since he was convinced you'd turn him down."

"I wouldn't have."

"Oh no? Seems to me your partnership is pretty one sided. You call the shots and all is well as long as 3-7 dances to your tune. On the rare occasion he refuses, you verbally abuse him -- often physically as well -- and withdraw until he either sees things your way or you need something from him."

"He did not tell you that!"

"He didn't have to. I've seen you in action often enough."

"You're wrong -- dead wrong. You have no clue about our partnership," he sat back and forced himself to relax, realizing that the good doctor had been trying to draw him out. There was no way he was going to discuss their relationship with this woman. She wanted to play games, that was fine, but he'd be damned if he was going to play by her rules.

Bodie looked at his flat and wrinkled his nose at the dust that had accumulated over the last thirty days. He was physically and emotionally drained but forced himself to drop off his laundry, and do a bit of marketing before collapsing on the sofa.

The buzzer woke him, though it took a minute for his tired brain to process where he was. He knew, without asking, who had come calling so he hit the button; knowing there was no point in avoiding the confrontation.

Ray Doyle stood in the doorway staring at his partner. The man was leaner then he'd ever seen him -- muscles clearly defined against the ever present polo neck. The drawn face kept him quiet until he was seated in his usual place, the only comfortable chair in the room. "We need to talk."

"Know what you have to say, Doyle. And you don't have to worry, I won't object to your reteaming request." Bodie had taken a position by the window; his back to his visitor.


"You deserve the best."

"What are you prattling on about?"

But Bodie had rehearsed what he needed to say and was afraid if he didn't just spit it out he'd right now, he never would. "I should have told you -- know that now. It's just...you've always believed I was nothing but a hired killer; which is alright with you as long as I'm your hired killer -- yours and the Cow's.

Keith, he was a good bloke; a mate you could trust to watch your back. He had it all going for him -- a good job, a woman he was going to marry and we'd been through hell and back together ...when I found out I was the only one left -- felt... abandoned as bloody stupid as that sounds. But I was willing to let the law handle it -- really, only they didn't. Was wrong, I know that -- think I always did. I was just too angry to think it through. I'm sorry, Doyle, truly sorry."

It was the longest speech Ray Doyle had ever heard his partner make. "Why didn't you tell me what was wrong?"

Hooded blue eyes turned from the window. "You never asked."

The older man hesitated for a moment, knowing what he said next would determine the future of his relationship with this man -- his best mate. "You're right, Sunshine, I never did. And for that I'm sorry. I should have realized you were hurting. I was too caught up in myself to pay attention. But I don't want another partner. You said I deserve the best -- well that's you, Bodie-mate."

"Not even sure I'm still on the squad. Have to see the Cow first thing tomorrow."

"Don't worry, Sunshine. If he was going to let you go, you'd have been out on your arse a month ago." The two men looked at each other, a dozen thoughts passing between them in the ensuing silence.

Finally, the older man leaned back, a smile lighting his face. "Didn't Jack bother to feed you? You're practically skin and bones. Why don't I go out and get some Indian take away and I'll see if I can round up a Swiss roll while I'm at it. Can't have my 800 pound gorilla looking like a four stone weakling. Got any lager in?"

"Yeah...Ray?" The confusion in the blue eyes earned him a bigger smile.

"It'll be alright, Sunshine. Next time you have a problem, you tell me or I'll ask, and we'll work it out together. My word on it."

"Ta, mate."

"Don't thank me just yet, you're getting first watch on the stakeout the Cow has planned for us -- old tool shed out in the middle of the country: no bog; no heat; and the forecast calls for a week of rain."

A tentative smile warmed the blue eyes. "'Tis good to be home, Sunshine."

-- THE END --

July 2008

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