Set against the backdrop of a bombing case, this is a novel about chance, choices, and life-changing revelations. In many ways, I'd still like to wish it into the cornfield, but the masses have spoken, so here it is.

I wrote this, and other Pros stories, long before I had access to Brit-checkers; I apologize in advance for flagrant Americanisms.

Let me tell you about this torch I carry,
It's not much of a career
And it won't make my fortune, I fear
But it stays alight and won't be buried,
And it's brighter year by year
Some day it will surely disappear.

When it does I'll know I've laid to rest
The ghost of your unhappiness...

--Everything But the Girl
"Shadow on a Harvest Moon"

Chapter 1

Ray Doyle was exhausted when he arrived home after the long flight from Santa Barbara. There were two gifts awaiting him on the table in the foyer: a small spray of lovely spring flowers with a note of condolence from Bodie; and a bottle of very old, very expensive scotch from Cowley.

He smiled at the thoughtfulness and set his bags down heavily. He might just take the scotch to bed and never get up again. He picked up the flowers for setting in a vase and noticed under them a small frame with a picture inside: Gillian and Bodie, she having just jumped on his back and clutching wildly at his neck, he laughing hysterically as he nearly toppled over the railing of the pier they were standing on. From their day trip to the sea those few years ago. He pocketed the frame and let the flowers lie on the table.

Doyle felt the hot tears creep back into his eyes. Time for the scotch. He grabbed the bottle and went upstairs. Everything still smelled of her, everything still looked like she lived there.

He lay down on the bed and took out the snap Bodie had left for him. The way those two got along, he mused. You'd think they'd been separated at birth. He took a deep pull from the bottle and rested the photograph on his chest.

He was torn between calling Bodie and just leaving it alone for now, readjusting to British time and space. On the back of the frame he noticed a note taped there. "We all miss her, mate," it said. In Bodie's tightly curved handwriting. Leave it to him to know just what to say, and just what to give him. Leave it to Bodie ... isn't that what Gil had said to him?

"If you ever need help or someone to lean on and I'm not around, let Bodie take care of you. He loves you more than he'd ever let on, you know. " She'd said it with a knowing, gentle smile. Doyle knew she meant even more than that, but he left it there between them. Yeah, he thought. Separated at birth, those two. Why he loved them both.

The memorial service had been a nightmare. They had not anticipated the sheer volume of well-wishers and the curious onlookers who come to the services of the famous or mildly famous. Everyone in the family, including Doyle, had been trying to settle in to this newfound sense of loss, as was to be expected, but none had experience with grief, and were newcomers to the world of funerals, sorrow, and the odd sense of community that springs up among friends and relatives of the dead.

Because Gillian traveled so much, in strange places and often away from normal modes of communications, it was as if they were all still waiting for her to get back. There was such a heightened sense of unreality about the whole thing that it wasn't until a few days later, standing on the beach with Gil's sister Fiona, that he realized she was truly gone for good. He watched the blue-grey waves of the Pacific crash against the shore, looked out at the wide expanse of blinding, sun-bright blue sky, and felt her absence so keenly -- as if he were to travel the width of that ocean and know she were on the other side, yet could never reach the land she stood upon.

Not that he hadn't already known she was gone, at least intellectually. When Fiona had first called trying to reach him, he'd been working on the Manchester drugs case and hadn't been home for days. He and Bodie were surveiling two suspects holed up in an abandoned terraced house. It didn't take much to know something was wrong, Cowley so rarely bothered them without something specific. He'd known it was wrong, all wrong, the minute he heard the old man's voice. "It's about Gillian..." the old man had said, leaving it at that.

Three journalists in an exploded Jeep. A sniper, possibly, or a land mine. The Nicaraguan government played it close to the vest, refusing more details, a job Cowley took on because of his diplomatic skills.

Cowley had been kind and understanding. "It's your wife," he'd said, in a gentler voice than Doyle had ever heard him use. "She's been killed. She and two other journalists. In a village near Managua. I'm so sorry." They just sat in his office, neither one moving. "I've taken the liberty of making arrangements for her ... body ... to be brought home to London. I will of course make all the other necessary arrangements for you, and her family."

Doyle had nearly finished the bottle of scotch. He was beginning to drift off, the bottle slowly slipping out of his hand, rolling off the side of the bed and to the floor. Before he fell asleep he looked at the photograph in the frame and smiled.

"You two are babysitting Miss Bailey until the trial is over. I estimate it to last two weeks. One of you will take days inside safe house eleven, the other will have nights. Murphy and Anston, Lucas and McCabe will take perimeter stations outside. I can't emphasize how important her testimony is to putting Hamad behind bars for the rest of his life."

"Gillian Bailey? The journalist?" Doyle asked, obviously intrigued.

"GIL-- lian, with a hard g. Not Jill." Cowley tossed papers his way. Doyle was annoyed at the need to be reprimanded about something so trivial as a pronunciation mistake. He flashed a vexed glare at his boss and looked at the file.

"So you've met her?" he finally asked, still sulking.

"No, merely spoken with her on the phone. We've talked often since the incident."

Cowley was shoving papers into Doyle's hands as the car sped to the airport. Doyle only glanced at the photo. He'd seen her picture in the Times once when she was promoting her first book about modern religious fundamentalism and the growing tide of religious terrorism.

Bodie nodded approvingly. "She's okay. Attractive enough." He gave the photo a quick glance as he sped along. Not his type, but okay enough. Might be fun to get stuck with in a safe house for a few days, but not someone he'd want to grace his arm for an evening at the Royal Albert.

"Mmm, yes, you would say that," Cowley mutteredd, giving him a sideways glance of disgust, partly paying attention to Bodie and partly making notes to himself.

"Yeah, not your type at all, mate. Her IQ's bigger than her bra size," Ray commented. Bodie's eyes met his in the rear view mirror, and he mouthed "hah hah," while moving his head back and forth in sarcastic disgust.

Doyle settled into the back seat and closed his eyes. "What the devil are you doing?" Cowley snapped at Doyle.

"Well, if we'll be baby-sitting, might as well get some shut-eye now before we end up pulling night duty. Besides, if she's a journalist, she's bound to be a talker." He flapped his fingers and thumb open and closed a number of times.

"Rrmmm," Cowley growled. He was doing his best to ignore the two agents. Both had been getting up his nose in the past few months. Something about their behavior had changed after Doyle's shooting, and it annoyed Cowley that neither he, Macklin, nor Kate Ross could identify just what it was. There was almost an arrogance in the way they shut themselves off from the rest of the world. As though they were alone, together, and the only two on earth who mattered.

What Cowley had begun to understand, although he would not go so far as to link their isolated behavior to it, was that Bodie had developed an infatuation for Doyle. It had been clear to him after the Lin Foh case, a sudden change in Bodie almost from the moment the situation had wrapped up with the death of the girl. It had surprised Cowley to realize that this did not bother him, that if anything, he saw it as an interesting development. He did not have a prejudice against this, not where consenting adults were involved, and in fact had two other homosexual agents in CI5, albeit quietly. But never two agents partnered together; in any case, he did not suspect Doyle to be either aware of or reciprocating Bodie's feelings.

When they reached the airport they went through security to a cordoned-off area. "Miss Bailey's plane is due to arrive with heavy guard. She will have FBI agents with her, who will then entrust her to our care. And I do mean care," Cowley barked the last word.

Bodie and Doyle habitually made light of nursemaid duty, but this time he would have none of it. Not when he finally stood the chance of getting the terrorist leader who had bombed the TWA flight to New York those two years ago. The one person who could secure a conviction was Gillian Bailey, and he'd be damned if those two would ruin this for him.

"Her testimony is crucial in this case, and I don't doubt that anyone connected to Hamad's cell wouldn't do anything to stop her from reaching that courtroom." He paced nervously around the door area.

"Isn't that a double negative?" Bodie quipped, oblivious of the angry face that whirled around to glare at him.

"You know, sir, what I'm having trouble with is why she's talking about something told to her in confidence," Doyle commented. "I thought American journalists would do anything, including going to prison, to protect sources."

"That's the neat trick of the whole thing," Cowley said, smiling. "She didn't make contact with him to discuss any future actions on his part. She was interviewing him for a magazine piece about the conflict of Western ideology and Middle Eastern beliefs. The issues of bargaining for terrorists, that sort of thing. She made it clear when he began talking of his plans to bomb an airliner that she would under no circumstances keep such information protected. There is a rule of law in America that attorney-client privilege extends only to past criminal enterprises." The craggy face split in a grin.

"The discussion of ongoing or future criminal enterprises is not privileged communication. Repeatedly, she emphasized that journalists follow those principles. Yet he told her anyway. And now we've got him by the short and curlies."

Bodie stuck his head down and snickered. It never failed to amuse him when the usually diplomatic old man used vulgar expressions in gleeful tones.

"And so she called you," Bodie said.

"A great many people -- she was obviously very concerned. We first spoke over four years ago when she first met him. It took him more than two years to act on his plans, and nearly two more before his arrest."

The plane taxied toward the terminal and the airway was attached. When Gillian stepped out of the airway Doyle almost burst out laughing. She set her luggage down and reached out to shake Cowley's hand. "Miss Bailey ..." Cowley positively purred at her. Both agents shook their heads in amused disgust. It was nauseating to watch him butter someone up; they preferred him barking at them, in some ways.

"Please, call me Gil." She flashed Cowley a charming smile.

There was something predatory about it, Bodie decided. Calculated.

"These are the two agents who will be assigned to bodyguard duty for the duration of your stay. Bodie, and Ray Doyle."

She reached out to shake hands, stopped for a moment to stare at Ray, and laughed, too. They were wearing the same green flight jacket. "You have excellent taste in clothing."

Bodie burst in, taking her hand. "Very pleased to meet you."

She smiled at Bodie as she shook his hand. "Is it just Bodie?"

"Well, I never use the word "just" when I'm describing myself. But yeah, that's what I'm called."

"Bodie it is, then." She was grinning at him as they locked eyes, and Doyle immediately thought, well, there goes another female victim.

Cowley finished a brief conversation with the FBI agents. He turned to them, motioning for movement. "Let's go. I only have so much influence where I can cordon off an entire wing of Heathrow."

There was a sense of recognition for Doyle when he first spoke to her, as if he'd been merely waiting to meet her and, oh yes, here she was. But he had not been able to identify it then, this sense that she was someone he already knew; in fact, could not identify it until much later. She did not look so much like Bodie -- though they both had dark hair, blue eyes, and milky skin, she was thin, tall, and gangly -- as seem like him, exuding a sly sense of humor, a quiet confidence, a lack of concern for the situation she was in, and a toughness that likely concealed loneliness. All this Doyle could grasp only emotionally, some time later, when he watched them together. Not seeing it intellectually at all, he could understand that there was something about her that drew him in, just as he felt drawn to Bodie, without ever having understood why.

Light was dimming in the house when Bodie walked in. He still had keys, having taken care of the place while Ray went to Santa Barbara. He leapt up the stairs two at a time, almost colliding with the suitcase when he reached the top hallway that led into the bedroom. Ray was sleeping, he could see, or else was passed out drunk, sprawled across the bed in an interesting, twisted position.

He bent down to pick up the dropped bottle and put it on the dresser, then took the framed snap from Ray's hand, taking a moment to look at it before setting it down.

Bodie stood above Doyle's sleeping form, a warm, almost tingling sensation rising up around his heart, through his chest. He was glad to see his partner asleep, even if it was alcohol induced. Ray's face was restful, the lashes feathering over his high cheekbones, the full lips parted slightly, a fist curled under his cheek. That would hurt once he woke up, Bodie thought, and then reached down with gentle, precise fingers to move the hand out from under Ray's face, slowly uncurling the fist.

Even asleep his friend was as tense as piano wire. It was probably the first time in the past three weeks the poor fella had been asleep, Bodie acknowledged. When this nightmare had begun, Doyle had stayed at Bodie's flat until he went to Santa Barbara for the family's memorial. He hadn't been alone to deal with this, not even for a moment.

During the first few days after the news, Doyle had been in a perpetual state of dazed confusion, responding to cues from others in a mechanical way, as though he were a child dutifully following the orders of adults. Bodie's flat was a revolving door of people -- CI5 colleagues, old friends from the Met, Gillian's contacts and news bureau cohorts who were all strangers to Bodie and Doyle but equally welcomed.

With news of death came food, flowers, and small trinkets or tokens of remembrance such as each person felt important, and Doyle automatically thanked everyone in turn. Yet while they hovered, hoping for conversation from him, something more than bewildered silence, they were disappointed.

Each person had come bearing their own brand of sympathy or advice on the situation, and Bodie watched all at some point offer vague sentiments of help and willing response to any need, however great or small, which Doyle accepted in the perfunctory way a bereaved spouse does. Bodie, however, jealously guarded Doyle and any talk of his immediate future, the guard at the gate of Ray's life, his paladin.

During the few hours they were alone, when the need for sleep had become apparent to the guests, Ray would pace around the flat for hours, jumping back onto the sofa, pretending to be asleep if Bodie stirred or came out to check on him. And Bodie checked on him frequently. He'd even thought of going to Santa Barbara with him, just to keep an eye on him, but realized that Doyle's almost pathological need to handle it alone would end up causing a huge row, so he'd never broached the subject. He'd talked to Fiona enough to know she would keep an eye on his friend.

The California sun seemed to have done Ray some good at least. Doyle's face had a bit more color, and now at least he would have a little rest, trying to get used to being back in the half-empty house.

An aching gnawed at Bodie; he longed to reach out to Ray, to wipe away all the pain that was consuming him. Bodie knew early on he was not faring much better after the loss of Gillian, who was as much his friend as Ray was, and wondered helplessly how much assistance he could really offer Doyle in the long run. If Ray recognized that Bodie himself was grieving, he had not said anything about it, and Bodie tried as hard as he could to manfully hold them both up, while at the same time wanting to shout, "What about me?"

If I could just hold you, he sighed to himself, as he looked down at his sleeping partner. I would ease it away, I would make you want to go on with life. Almost shocked at his maudlin thoughts, the felt himself begin to go cold.

What if this whole ordeal sends him away from me? What if he withdraws? Please don't leave me, Ray, he thought. Please don't go away without me.

Doyle began to stir, perhaps sensing Bodie's presence. He reached out a hand, the long thin fingers grasping Bodie's strong hand, curling slowly around it, his eyes still closed, half asleep on his side. Bodie remained motionless for some time, drinking in the sounds of Doyle's slow breath, the sight of his parted lips, the feeling of his warm skin against Bodie's own.

No, he won't leave me, Bodie thought, calmed. He won't leave me because we belong together. I know this, I just know this.

In the years that Ray had been with Gillian, Bodie had watched him grow as a person. He'd become more accepting and open with people, less likely to judge and dismiss. The Ray he'd known of old didn't want to be caught out by letting too many people into his heart. He would walk away when what he really wanted to say was that he cared. But Doyle had been forced to change, having two people in his life to care for who were even harder to get to know than Doyle himself was.

Bodie had felt, more than seen, the changes, as Doyle pushed Gillian to open up and let him into her life. It was something he recognized from his own past with Ray, the slow wearing down of the walls and screens he hid himself with. This mature openness, this strength of love that had grown in Doyle the past few years had, of course, only served to draw Bodie further and further into love with Ray. Always the silent watcher, wondering if he would ever grow enough to be worthy of Ray's love.

As he gazed at him, his partner stirred again. Ray moved a hand over his mouth and slowly opened his eyes. "Bodie?"

Bodie released his hand. "Yeah, it's me, mate. Come on then, up and at 'em." He pulled Doyle into a sitting position, and fluffed the pillows behind him, then lay him back slowly.

The soft, deep blue of Bodie's eyes was comforting to Doyle. He looked at Bodie for some time before speaking. "You're a sight for sore eyes," he said, his voice breaking and tears forming in the deep jade.

"I'd say those eyes definitely are sore," Bodie said gently, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "And I'm not sure," he continued, pointing at the bottle, "that that's exactly the way to cure the condition."

"I know," Doyle said, casting his eyes down. "It just seemed the thing to do ... at the time. First time I've come back to the house all alone." He brushed the tears away and wiped his hand on his jeans.

"I would have picked you up at the airport if you'd let me. You insisted it was what you wanted." He patted Doyle's knee, lightly.

"I did. At the time. I'm glad you're here now." Let Bodie take care of you. He heard her voice as if she were sitting next to him. "I was dreaming, or remembering ... I'm not sure which. Of the first time we met. At the airport, d'you remember? She had the same jacket on. Probably for the best, she would've pinched mine eventually anyway." He steadied himself on the bed as he tried to shift up, get more of his weight onto his legs.

"Oh yeah, I remember. Who could forget? The hormones were flying so thick you'd think we were trapped in fog. Even Cowley commented on it later." Bodie's eyes drifted slowly to the other side of the room, as the gentle haze of memory took over.

"Did he? You never said."

"Yeah, well, didn't seem appropriate at the time, did it? He remarked that 'It looks like our Miss Bailey has an admirer.' " Bodie's impression of Cowley could be deadly accurate at times, mimicking the low, plummy voice and the softened Scots burr.

Doyle laughed softly. "Leave it to him. He was pretty smitten himself."

"Yeah, well, she's a professional charmer. It's her job, y'know, and she can always do it when she wants to. She's like a cat that way." His mouth snapped shut. "God, I'm sorry." He winced and moved away. "This place smells like a distillery."

"Gift from the old man. Medicinal, y'know."

Bodie made a face of suspicious disbelief. "Well! Tell you what. I'll unpack your stuff, cook you some dinner ... I know, you're not much up to eating, but you've got to put something in that scrawny body because it's getting scrawnier by the day ... and you take a shower. You'll feel better. I've brought a few videos, we'll watch them and it will be complete mindless entertainment so you won't have to think of anything. Okay?" He gave Doyle his most piercing look, and rubbed his hands together as if cooking up a plan.

A listless shrug was all Ray could muster. "Yeah, whatever you say." He put his hand to Bodie's arm and squeezed it. There was more to say about that touch than he was prepared to deal with, but for now he had to make some kind of physical contact with his partner. "Thanks, Bodie. I really need your friendship now more than ever."

In his chest Bodie felt a stabbing, an opening wound. Oh, the green eyes. In them the sun, the stars, a constellation.

Bodie patted his hand lightly. "You've got me, Sunshine; I'm all yours. She left me some personal responsibilities, you know, and I have to see to them." He winked.

Ray stood and was met immediately by a blinding headache. "Oh God, here's the whisky talking. Great. Just what I need. Grief and a hangover, there's a charmin' combination."

Bodie chuckled softly as he hauled one of the bags onto the bed. "You're way ahead of the game if you can make jokes, though." He began to sort through clothes, putting some in the drawer and others in a pile on the floor. As Doyle grabbed a robe, Bodie pulled a grey envelope out of the small fold on the inside of the suitcase.

Doyle suddenly lunged at him and grabbed the envelope from his hand. "No! Don't!"

"Hang about, I wasn't going to read it!" Bodie said, his voice rising higher. "What the bloody hell is the matter?" he said, much softer than such words deserved.

Doyle put the envelope into a drawer. "It's a letter from Gillian. Fiona gave it to me a few days ago. Gil gave it to her about a year or so ago. Told her that if anything ever happened to her to give it to me. I can't bear to open it. I just can't right now."

He sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, his head hanging down. Bodie reached over and gently stroked the dark auburn waves salted here and there with grey. "It's all right, mate. No one will make you. You read it when you're good and ready. It's okay."

In another time and place, Doyle would have pulled away from Bodie's caressing touch. But now it felt warming. Much like the time Bodie had first done something like it, stroking his partner's head while he lay near death in hospital, shot near the heart.

Bodie clenched every muscle in his body to keep from trembling as he touched Ray. A small tornado of emotion whirled around him, his mind and body fighting not to take advantage of the situation, of Ray's grief, and push for too much. I owe it to Ray, and to Gil.

Bodie let his hand lie for a moment on the other man's head, then took it away and went downstairs. He had practiced for years the art of loving someone just enough, and knowing when to let go. There could be more in the future. For now it was time to let go.

Ray Doyle sat for a few minutes alone, staring at the drawer that held the letter. How could he ever read it? He knew well enough what it would be about: loving him, going on without her, making a good life. As if he could, he acknowledged bitterly.

But he did want to do right by her memory. She would want him to work, to have good times with friends, to go forward. And for her sake he had to. Yet he was flooded with memories almost every time he breathed, painful memories that took on more significance than they possibly deserved each time he thought of them. Or sudden flashes of things, things he hadn't remembered or given pause to for years. Things he'd buried that now wanted to crawl out of his brain.

Of the way her black hair flowed like satin down her neck. Her typing madly away when possessed by a story. The curve of her back as she lay sleeping. The slow, sardonic smile. The bad things, too -- the outrageous temper tantrums, the petulance, her general recalcitrant nature. Not so charming, but memories all the same...

Was it so wrong to be consumed by memory? Or was it healing, like Cowley had said it would be. Revel in her memory, the old man had said with avuncular certainty. Perhaps he was right. But memory made such a bad substitute for the real thing.

Doyle had always been slightly mesmerized by her in his life -- his wife had been more than an enigma to him. He sometimes realized, at odd occasions, that he was in fact married, that he'd made a commitment to another human being. From the beginning he'd tried to make sense of it, but had realized early on that there was no sense to love. Startled at times by his own ability to feel it, but content to have it there.

He had been, he knew, in awe of her. Not only for what he saw as her sheer raw talent, but also because of her energy, her complete focus on what she wanted, and her mystery. She rarely spoke of her own feelings, kept things at a distance; going to her family's in Santa Barbara had been important to Doyle partly because he saw them, or talked with them, rarely, so separate was she in her own life.

What he'd not known, and would never know, was that she was equally in awe of him. What at first had been a breathlessness at his beauty and rough magnetism turned quickly to an admiration for his mostly self-learned intelligence, his wit, his ability to go out each day to an uncertain future, his strong belief in his ideals.

It had never occurred to Doyle that anyone could see him the way Gillian saw him, and be moved by it. And he was as unaware of Bodie's own devotion as he'd been of Gillian's, understanding only that there was something about him they appreciated, and that was enough.

Doyle rubbed a hand over his face, then went into the shower, loosening his muscles in the heat of the water cascading upon him. What were the stages of grief? He tried to remember: denial, anger, acceptance. Wasn't there another one? And where am I? Somewhere between anger and acceptance, he assumed, although he'd be hard pressed to figure out what. How could you begin to know when you'd passed from one to another, he wondered. Where did it all fit in?

Here, all around him, small signs of her. The scent of shampoo, a half-used bar of soap, her razor. He picked the silver tool up, moved it around in his fingers, then quickly put it back on the shelf. Before he even knew it, his chest filled with racking spasms, silent sobs hiccuping through his body. Doyle leant against the cold tile, pressed his face and chest against the shocking iciness. His fingers mashed against wet tile, grasping, as if he were trying to claw his way out. After a time, the sobs slowed to deep gasping, then to slow breaths.

Dimly he became aware that the water was still running. He stuck his head under the spray and washed tears away. Why'd you leave me? he asked silently. Why'd you go and do this?

He finished the shower and wrapped a towel around himself. It still smelled of Gil, of her perfume. He breathed in the scent of the towel, went into the bedroom and opened the drawer that held the letter. He touched it, felt the paper and smelled it. No perfume. Very businesslike, this. Then he put it away and quickly pulled on a light cotton sweater and jeans for this gentle spring evening, put on a strong face, and went down to Bodie.

Bodie, only the most basic cook, managed to deliver a decent fettucine Alfredo. By the time Doyle had come downstairs, hair damp and clinging to his head, the house smelled warm and inviting again. They ate in relatively companionable silence, then Bodie made them both tea and sat them down in front of the television for some makeshift cinema.

They commented off an on about the film, made jokes over the coppers-and-villains escapades of the two lead characters, but both had thoughts that took them elsewhere.

At one point, Bodie brought up work. "When you're ready mate, some interesting things going on at work. But I'm not pushing you. Just saying I miss your expertise."

Doyle smiled. "Probably will try it out soon. Don't know how much of this I can take, being round here all day. But not tomorrow or the day after, eh?"

Bodie nodded. They went back to watching the videos.

It was towards the end of the second film that Bodie noticed Ray's hands in his lap, sitting there together, lifeless, palms up. He hadn't moved in over an hour. His watchful gaze traveled upwards to Doyle's face. Again, the head was bowed, a dark glistening in the eyes. Bodie moved over next to him on the sofa, and slowly, tentatively put an arm around his shoulder.

Half expecting Ray to move sharply away from him -- for this was much more than the usual physical contact the two had engaged in over the more than ten years they'd been partners -- he was genuinely shocked when Ray leant nearer him, turning his face into Bodie's warm neck and resting his head there in the crook between neck and shoulder.

Bodie could feel the wet eyes against his shirt, and he brought his hand up tighter round Ray's shoulder, pulling him close. Ray's hands still didn't move from his lap, but Bodie felt him give slightly, turning into the supporting embrace.

They sat that way for some time, neither hearing the television as the videotape clicked off. Bodie felt the gentle heat of Ray against him and his heart almost burst from the longing. For years he'd dreamed of a day when he could hold Ray this way, touch him without the guise of just-best-mates or partners ruling their lives.

Having learned to accept that that day would like as not never come, this closeness, this perfection pulled at his insides until he thought Ray could surely feel the pain inside him. This was what he'd wanted: not sex, not just comradeship -- although they were certainly a part of his dreams -- but this physical closeness, the trust of true friendship and love, the fact that Ray needed him and would allow him inside his tightly covered heart.

Doyle's crying was slowing now, the silent tears beginning to dry up. Let Bodie take care of you. Needing this contact and comfort right now was too important, and Ray would not be bothered with thoughts or memories of the way he knew, deep inside, that Bodie felt about him. Let Bodie take care of you. His thoughts turned to a different time, before Gil, before any of this.

It took him back to the time Bodie took care of him. When his world changed, and Bodie's. The aftermath of his shooting.

Chapter 2


Life had been, for Bodie, ordinary until that day. If he'd been able to reflect on it, he would have been shocked that such a commonplace day could change everything so dramatically in his life. The loss of his best friend, his partner; the realization that Doyle was everything and more to him; the knowledge that his life no longer belonged just to him, but to Ray as well.

He'd gone in to buy a paper. Just a paper, to check out the horses. The beeping, the flashing light on the radio transmitter could in no way mean that Ray was really in trouble. It would be a mistake, and he remained methodical in his approach to Doyle's flat, certain everything would be fine. Nothing would change. It was only when Bodie reached the top of the fire escape and saw the window open, that he realized everything in life had been shattered.

Bodie had felt so helpless in the face of his partner's possible death, a feeling that was not common to his life. To find him on the floor like that, breathing shallowly, looking for all the world like a wounded animal, was too much to bear. He had done everything his CI5, para, and SAS training had taught him: stanch the flow of blood, clear the airway, make sure they don't move. But he'd of course forgot his R/T, done other stupid things that lengthened the time it took to get help for Ray.

And then to watch as Ray fought with himself whether to live or die, the hours stretching into days until he gained enough strength to tell Bodie, by the slightest motion, who'd done this terrible thing. When Bodie knew he'd come out of the woods, he couldn't be budged from Ray's side. Still, there were nights when it was dangerous going. Infections, the weakened muscle of Doyle's heart, all took a heavy toll on him and Bodie wondered if his friend would ever get better.

As Doyle slowly regained some speech, he would try to talk some, Bodie leaning close to listen carefully. Mostly full of recriminations for his own stupidity. Bodie had seen it before. Blame himself for the invention of gunpowder, Bodie had said about him. And Doyle would. How can you give confidence to someone, he wondered? Especially someone who is lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines and who has just come from looking death in the face.

Sometimes he questioned himself: Was Ray aware of the times Bodie spent by his bedside while he'd been raving, hallucinatory, nearly comatose? Did he know that Bodie had sat silently, weeping to himself, for his beloved friend?

Part of Bodie wished that he did. And the other part of him, the loner, the stone-faced man who couldn't let anyone into his life, wanted to be certain Doyle never knew.

That first night, holding his hand as the machine beeped quietly, Bodie had rubbed Ray's long, tapered fingers against his cheek, pressing them to his mouth. "Don't you die on me, you son of a bitch. Don't you dare leave me." He had stayed there almost as long as Cowley would allow. Everywhere were tubes and wires, Ray's chest bandaged tightly and wrapped in layers of gauze. Tears sometimes fell from Bodie's eyes, dropping onto the sheet.

And he was alone, confronting a feeling he'd never imagined he'd had.

Bodie had begun to realize, slowly, that there were other feelings growing inside him. He'd come unglued plenty of times over things with Doyle, but the utter rage and helplessness he'd felt when Doyle lost contact during the Van Niekerk affair had convinced him something was very, very wrong with his emotions. He'd been willing to risk everything, throw CI5 away, the one good thing that had happened in his life. All because he couldn't help the one person he cared for most in the world.

Now that man lay helpless on a bed in front of him, had lain in a pool of his own blood, dying. And all Bodie could do was will him to survive, and he wasn't sure that was enough.

Could a man like him really love someone this much, anyone? Let alone another man? Bodie had questioned himself. Did it really matter if it was another bloke? It could never be another one, anyway. It was only Ray.

Bodie had always felt alone, even though that solitary part of his life had really only started when he was seven. It wasn't enough that fate had separated him from his family, but that he later chose to isolate himself as he grew older. He began to rebel against the world in first small, then larger ways. He developed a bleak, black sense of humor that manifested itself at the most exquisitely inappropriate moments, bringing dismay and discomfort to anyone around him. That only further served to separate him from others, completing his detachment.

He later developed a toughness that he projected throughout his body, with a set mouth, shuttered, cold eyes, and a hard, muscular form. As an adult, he looked to all the world as though he could never have been a child, never been soft and needful. The shield effectively separated him again from anything in his past.

Running away to join the merchant marine while still a teenager, then later to join a gang of mercenaries, only severed completely any ties Bodie had once had to family or friends, and an innocence of childhood.

Not that he had become an automaton. He had at times allowed himself the luxury of feeling, developing easy-going friendships with shipmates or a few of his fellow mercenaries. And he had loved Isabelle, before Krivas had taken her life.

Bodie had once more opened his heart to Marikka, but it was a casual if intense affair, renewed again only briefly in the machinations of a political plot, its brutal ending engineered by the type of ruthless men Bodie had seemingly always worked for or with. In his few attempts at building a bridge to someone else, he had become more convinced that it didn't matter, that it was impossible to breach the distance between people. He hadn't counted on meeting Ray Doyle and watching years of camaraderie develop into the strongest bond he'd ever known, causing a continual struggle within himself against the dissonance of loving someone, and knowing love was fatal.

Doyle's casual, easy charm, blatant sexuality, gentle, open nature and fiery temper all combined in a way that Bodie found irresistible, even though he had tried hard to resist most people throughout his life. In a way, the struggle to understand and connect with one so different than himself helped lead him to the feelings first of friendship, then of love, then desire.

Gradually, he had found himself confronted by something that he could not name, an emotional response that eluded him night after dark night until Cowley had named it for him. That day, some time before Doyle's shooting, Bodie had lost all semblance of sanity, threatening to quit, threatening everything for the way CI5 had endangered Doyle's life in an undercover operation. Cowley had quietly pointed out how important his partner obviously was -- and that Bodie had finally learned to need someone. And it sometimes frightened Bodie half to death to realize that Cowley was right.

As much as he'd tried to keep his thoughts to himself, Bodie noted that he'd begun slowly, cautiously wanting something different from his partner.

There was a sexual undercurrent, certainly. He'd begun to see small signs. The day they took their new bikes out, the huge-engined monsters that forced you to lean far forward. Bodie had noticed himself staring fixedly at Ray's bum, shocked to find an erection growing that wasn't helped by the throbbing of the bike's engine. Or the way he always wanted Ray's approval or presence, that no longer was a date alone good enough -- Ray had to be there. The way he wanted to keep his hand on Ray when he touched him, fingers tingling.

But there was also a feeling of tension, of fighting not to be sucked into Ray's world. It wasn't a strain in their relationship, but something else. More like an annoyance at what Bodie felt he was losing, of wanting other things but not having the right words for them. An annoyance with himself. Why couldn't he put what he was thinking into words?

Articulating these thoughts and feelings was not a skill he had been taught in his long, lonely life. Give him a knife and set him loose in a jungle and he could do anything. Give him love, and he didn't know what to do; blind, stumbling, lost.

Until that day, seeing Ray so still and bloody on the floor. Then suddenly knowing it wasn't about words or learned knowledge. It was only something from the heart, and he would have to feel his way along this as though he were lost in the jungle, at night, alone.

He wanted Ray, he loved him. Built on friendship, it was so much more. A surprise, realizing that you could be someone's friend and yet still more. So different than loving someone in your family -- not that he'd experienced that much. Something deeper. Trust that only a partner could feel for someone who watched his back in the most dangerous of situations. Caring for someone who was kind and gentle, funny and intelligent, temperamental and challenging, giving and supportive. Desire for someone who was beautiful, sensual and stimulating. All the things that made Ray lovable -- lovable to Bodie.

At first the realization of what he was feeling was too dark for Bodie to accept. But as he sat beside Ray hour after hour he knew that his ideas of acceptable feelings and standards of desire had been built on a faulty foundation.

Bodie sometimes smiled thoughtfully to himself. Oh, if only the Cow could hear the thoughts running through his brain these nights! If there was one thing Bodie was, it was practical. His calm acceptance of the rotten way the world worked had got him through more than a few bad episodes in life.

And he knew that this one perfect person, Ray Doyle, would not be perfect enough to accept Bodie loving him, and to love him back. Whatever would happen, Bodie thought, I have to deal with it myself, come to terms with this, and learn to live with it.

The closeness of the job, of relying so much on one individual who sometimes held his life in your hands, was partly to blame for these feelings, he knew. And it would probably only make dealing with those feelings over time even more arduous. But Bodie had been through worse. Worse was right now, waiting for his friend, his partner, his soul mate, to come round and get well, to return to the living.

When Doyle had first come round, able to focus for more than a few minutes at a time, it had been his great relief to see Bodie there at his side. He'd motioned for something to write on, and shakily scrawled, "Feel awful." Bodie had laughed out loud.

"Oh, you're back amongst the land of the livin', aren't you, Sunshine?"

Doyle managed a weak smile and a slight nod. Bodie had been holding his hand before, Ray now took Bodie's and squeezed it. Everything in the room had suddenly turned to gold right in front of Bodie, so bright and perfect.

"Now listen, Ray. You're going to take a long time to get better. You don't go rushin' into anything, you take everything slowly and do just as the doctor ordered. And the nurse," he added as a pretty blonde woman entered the room to check on Doyle. The quizzicalness in the other man's eyes made his heart ache. Clearly Doyle was trying to piece the fragments of the past few days together.

"You know what happened? You were shot nearly in the heart. And the back. It's been pretty touch and go, but now you're back you have to take care. Because this one'll be a long recovery, not like the other times you've been in hospital." He squeezed Ray's hand again, as "mate-like" as possible so he wouldn't convey truer feelings, and then let it fall to the bed.

He would come every day, as much as Cowley let him get away without interfering in his ability to do the job. Temporarily he was partnered with Murphy, and Bodie would burst in each day, full of news of what was happening with the squad, what ridiculous thing Murphy had done that day, what new bird he'd been stringing along as the latest victim of his charm. But underneath the talking, what he really wanted to do was sit quietly with his partner, with his newfound sense of longing, and just be with Ray as much as he could.

Yet, to keep to conventions, he talked and joked, helped Doyle move around and work on getting his atrophied muscles back into shape, enough to hold himself so he could leave this awful place.

First Doyle had been moved from the critical care ward to a regular room, then to another room nearer physiotherapy, as he would take a long time to get back into shape. Bodie sometimes showed up when Ray had therapy, the woman's skilled hands helping him work the torn and wounded muscles of his back and shoulder. Bodie was shocked at how much of Doyle had wasted away.

Always slender, he bordered on skinny now, the normal strong curve of bicep and sinew of forearm wasted away as his body had lain there, consuming energy to recover. It made Bodie's heart twinge to see the sharp pain movement often caused Doyle; always lithe, energetic, he was now stiff, awkward and visibly slowed. Constantly Bodie fought the urge to run to him, pull him away from the therapist's hands, to hold him and keep him in comfort. Yet this was what had to be done if he wanted Ray back to full condition; he wanted him back in his life.

Doyle would fight hard anyone who tried to help him, Bodie knew that. Yet there was a look about him, something of the waif, that just screamed out to Bodie for help and comfort. He often found Ray looking at him, as though figuring out some difficult equation, and Bodie wondered if he were anticipating, even aware of, Bodie's desire to coddle him.

In fact, Ray would think to himself, watching Bodie helplessly dance around the therapy room as though a fire were lit under his feet, that Bodie was changing before his eyes. Something off, not quite as dramatic as the change that came over him when Marikka had shown up in town, but a slightly off-kilter way of speaking, of just being around him.

Sometimes, when Bodie had gone for the evening and Doyle was alone with his thoughts, he found himself going back over the same events to things he couldn't quite remember for sure but believed had happened. He clearly remembered being brought in in the ambulance, he remembered the shooting, and he remembered some of the events surrounding the surgery. He certainly remembered the dark nightmares as he struggled to live, turning over and over in his mind what kept him on this earth in the first place.

But had he really remembered Bodie stroking his hair, stroking his cheek with such gentle loving? Did he really remember the strong fingers as they played along his parched lips, or as they covered his hand with warmth? Would Bodie really have brushed the sweat-soaked curls away from his forehead and kissed him gently above his eyes? Could Bodie actually take his hand and kiss the back of his fingers? Or was it all feverish imagination, wishful thinking?

Doyle had never before considered the possibility that Bodie could feel such a way about him. It pleased and comforted him to think Bodie might care about him as more than just a mate, yet troubled him.

So alone all his life. Could someone like Bodie really put aside the walls that blocked him from everyone and everything, including Doyle? Could Bodie open himself up to caring for one person so much that he showed such tenderness?

Or maybe ... it had all just been his dream state.

Bodie never took thank yous or obligations seriously. How could Doyle ever say the appropriate words for saving his life, for his devoted caregiving during all these days? He thought back to the time his gun had stopped as another man's pointed directly at him; Bodie had arrived in the nick of time and blown the other man away. When Doyle tried to thank him he ignored it and went about his duty, neglecting the look of gratitude in Doyle's eyes. How could he begin, then, to say thanks for returning him from death?

And if he wasn't living for Bodie, who for, then?

But did that mean Bodie should love him?

As the days went by and Doyle began to feel stronger, he waited for some sign that Bodie had somehow changed in his feelings. He couldn't ask him, no matter how much he wanted to, whether Bodie had ever truly exhibited such tender caring.

No sign would be forthcoming, not if Bodie could help it. Sometimes he wondered if Ray had ever been conscious of his actions as Ray lay fighting for his life. What if his partner was aware of how much guard Bodie had let down? Would it affect their partnership?

Bodie was determined that it wouldn't. It would be far better, he reasoned, to live with these feelings, to keep them like bright jewels tucked neatly away, than to lose Ray forever if he couldn't cope with the changes in Bodie. Nothing would hurt Bodie more, not even flat out rejection. Just please, he thought, please let him stay around me, forever.

The days grew into weeks as Doyle progressed with physical therapy, soon to be released. Each day, Bodie urged him on to more strenuous work, sometimes hanging just out of reach so Doyle would have to sprint forward to try to wrap his hand around Bodie's neck for some remark or other. "All this aggro is good for you, mate!" he'd cheerfully taunt.

Over time Doyle graduated from a wheelchair to a cane, then to his own two feet. Bodie would sometimes try to get the injured man to chase him back to his hospital room. The nurses were driven to distraction by Bodie's games, but whenever one tried to chastise him they were immediately put under the inimitable Bodie spell, and eventually all left him to his devices. Secretly they were pleased to see Doyle recovering so well with this friend's help. When Bodie left each day, they noticed the melancholy that overtook Doyle.

Doyle had, while part of a reasonably large family, learned early on that he was alone. Constitutionally different from almost all his siblings, and polar opposites from his working class, conservative parents, he had dreamed of something different and found himself ridiculed for his goals.

So he had learned to be his own best friend, often finding a companionable solace in pens, charcoals, pads of paper, and tubes of oil. He developed an artistic talent even as he developed a reputation for arguments and fist fights with other kids. While he was encouraged by some teachers to continue his artistic pursuits, he found himself drawn towards the police rather than art school, without ever really fathoming why.

But even as he became a police officer, he continued his friendship with paints, brushes, and canvasses. He met women constantly through the classes, and his striking looks, lithe, wiry frame, and green, wide, feline eyes meant he was never at a loss for dates or models to sketch. Because he seemed so open and friendly, many people mistakenly thought they knew him well, but it was a fact -- which Doyle considered only rarely -- that people only knew the surface of his life, even his beat partner.

He came to realize how alone he truly was one night when he was leaving a pub frequented by his artist friends and was attacked, artwork scattered everywhere, by a gang of toughs who had decided he and his friends to were too queer and arty-farty. Although trained in self-defense and an expert at kendo, he was no match for the sheer number, and Doyle awoke hours later in the alley, his cheekbone shattered, his tooth chipped, a concussion drumming rhythms of devastating pain in his head. No one had noticed he'd been missing a night and morning, he realized as he dragged himself to a hospital; as it was his day off, he had no one to notice the long absence.

He gradually tried to open himself up to more long-term relationships, but was still the self-contained, solitary man until his joining CI5. It was here he felt himself almost physically choose to follow a new path. That path led to Bodie, and its eventual destination was trust.

It had been Cowley who had seen the same characteristic in both men. A desire to avoid needing, trusting anyone else. And it had been obvious to him that pairing them was the only way to teach them that need and trust were not necessarily evil things. At first they would detest each other, he'd known, but he was as certain they'd recover from that as he was of his own life.

Had he not known Bodie, Ray often wondered, could he have taken the steps toward loving someone, loving Ann, in the one true relationship he'd ever really had as an adult? He had doubted that, since he could honestly say he'd not truly loved anyone, not even his family. Until he'd realized that he'd given himself over to the exasperating, arrogant, elegant, childish and mysterious man who was his partner. There could be trust with another human, he discovered, and it didn't have to hurt.

Bodie cold barely stand the anticipation of knowing Doyle would be back. Turning his energy into something positive, goading Doyle into a speedier recovery, was the only way he knew how to make his nervous energy work for him.

He had been taking care of Doyle's flat, had it cleaned and swept free of every reminder of the shooting.

The first time he'd faced the white rug where Doyle had lain, bleeding, Bodie had felt like throwing up. He'd quickly arranged to have the rug disposed of.

Part of him had wanted to completely move Doyle away from the place, start clean with no hint of what had happened. But Ray had not liked that idea. Get back on the horse, he'd said. So Bodie did the best he could to make sure it would be welcoming for him.

Doyle had started slowly into the foyer, then carefully moved into the lounge. He felt hot suddenly, weak. Bodie was right behind him, he could feel his warmth and strength. He pushed further into the room. Then he suddenly turned to Bodie.

"It's hard to believe it happened. I can remember so much, but I don't remember the pain."

Bodie laid a hand on his shoulder. "Don't you think that's for the best?"

Doyle almost cracked a smile. He looked at the hand out of the side of his eye. "Bodie ...."

Bodie took the hand away and moved towards the kitchen. "Yeah."

"When I was out of it ... I thought you were there at my bed. I thought I remembered you ... taking care of me." That was as close as he could come to saying it.

Bodie's insides were suddenly gone. He felt lighter than air, helpless, no substance. "I was, mate. You needed some very serious looking after."

"Did you ... take my hand?"

"Yeah. Seemed the thing to do at the time." He stared at the faucet, trying to remember what he was doing. Oh yes, getting a glass of water.

"Well, I want you to know... it made a difference to me. You made a difference."

And Bodie knew it would be all right. It wouldn't be what he wanted, but it would be all right. They'd almost spoken about the unspeakable: Doyle knew. The fact that he hadn't rejected Bodie said everything, and he could live with that.

Doyle's breathing had slowed as he had fallen into sleep, remembering the aftermath of the shooting and the beginning of Bodie's feelings. It shouldn't have comforted him as he fell into dreaming, but it did.

Bodie took his arm away from Doyle eventually, pulling the thinner man gently away from his shoulder and laying him down on the sofa. He stared for a few moments at the sleeping form, then quietly got up to find a blanket. He put the blanket around Doyle and turned off the television, then silently let himself out of the house to go home.

His step was light as he walked to his car, the confident bouncing on the balls of his feet that marked Bodie's whole attitude about life.

For so long he had wanted to touch Ray in the way he had tonight, to offer him this most intimate of emotional contact. It had begun out of grief, but Bodie knew that in time, it would change. This was the first, the easiest of distances to bridge. There would be more in the future, he was certain.

Chapter 3

It was Saturday and Bodie had no special case to follow, so he sat around his flat for a few moments before deciding. Not that Ray would feel even remotely happy about what he wanted to do, but he felt compelled to do it anyway. It wasn't that he was worried Ray would jump off a bridge or anything, just that Bodie wanted to see what he was getting up to, keep an eye on him to make sure he was okay. And right now, okay for Ray seemed very far off to Bodie.

Caring for Doyle was always treading a fine line. On the one hand, he had expectations that you would acknowledge in some way events in his life, decisions that were difficult, personal problems. If you didn't, he sulked. But woe to the man, or woman, who cared too much. He would curse you for babying him, take you to task for attempting to smother him, and shut you out completely. And an annoyed Ray Doyle was not pleasant to deal with.

Very few people managed to tread so carefully, to know just how much to take care of him, share concern and comfort, and yet give him the breathing room he required. Gillian complained over and over that she had never got it quite right; Bodie sympathized because he was still trying to puzzle it out. The capriciousness that was Doyle was both appealing and endlessly exasperating.

Bodie pulled up outside Doyle's house about half eleven, and settled in to wait. Not long after noon, he saw the door open and Doyle came out, locked the door, and walked off down the street. If he wasn't taking the car, Bodie figured, he was likely headed for the park. Bodie got out of the car and quietly tailed Doyle.

He did in fact walk over the bridge to the park, found a bench along the water, and just sat. That was okay with Bodie, he found a spot farther away and behind, and sat down himself, his eyes on Doyle.

Doyle had had to get out of the house. It wasn't that he couldn't live there anymore, he would stay there, but right now the quietness and emptiness were too much for him to cope with. All the skills they taught you in CI5, but the death of a loved one wasn't one of them.

Ray was still thinking back to the lovely dream, remembrance, of yesterday, of when they'd first met. How he and Bodie complained whenever they pulled nursemaid duty -- and how different this one had turned out to be.

He smiled at the thought of how annoyed he'd become when he drew the short straw for night duty. Two men outside the safehouse, one in, two shifts. He'd gone home after the airport, to get some sleep and ready himself for an allnighter. Gillian had been asleep when he got there, tired from talking to Bodie and dealing with severe jet lag. She'd flown through a tremendous number of time zones in the few days before London, coming home hurriedly from Tokyo, then going from Washington, D.C. and the FBI headquarters there, to London a few days later. But she'd wakened in the middle of the night, hungry, completely off schedule.

She had come out of the bedroom, just off the safe house's lounge, wearing a large men's shirt and not much else, Doyle had supposed. She started, having forgotten someone would be there. Then she went to the kitchen. "I'm starving, I think I'll have some breakfast. Would you like something, Mr. Doyle? I'm not much a of a cook, but breakfast I'm pretty good at."

"I might take you up on that. Haven't had much besides a sandwich today, in fact. And please, it's Ray. Mr. Doyle's me father -- Ms. Bailey."

She'd laughed, insisted on Gil. A laugh like champagne, sparkly and full of light. A smile like a sliver of moon in the dark. She moved around the kitchen as if she'd lived there for years, picking things up, mixing, moving pans around. There was a quiet confidence about her, he noticed immediately, and liked it. He'd never enjoyed small talk, but it was tolerable now.

They'd had a pleasant time, talking about books, music, the many small things that make up a conversation between people thrown into unusual circumstances. She would fix him occasionally with a serious blue stare, as though assessing him for his value. It was disconcerting, reminded him very much of his first meeting with Bodie, who had spent more than a few moments sizing him up, seeming to think Ray was wanting in certain areas. Was she thinking the same, he'd wondered?

She'd retired again, worn out from the time changes. But when he left in the morning, he realized with a slight jolt, he looked forward to coming back that night.

Bodie and she had been laughing when he got there. Sitting close together on the sofa, face to face, curled up, both of them nearly teary-eyed from laughter. Bodie had been telling his tall tales again. Doyle felt a pang of disappointment -- Bodie would like as not sweep Gillian off her feet. He didn't stand a chance against that Liverpool Irish charm. Most of the time the two were happy to flirt with the same women, sometimes even trade girlfriends. It was mildly disturbing to Doyle to realize that this did not feel like one bird he'd want to share, almost as much as he'd tried to keep Ann to himself the first few times he'd gone out with her. As though he were taking a stand to himself, away from Bodie and his fatal charm.

He thought of how they'd stayed up to talk, how the conversation seemed never to end. How she'd looked as she moved around the kitchen, graceful and intent, creating another meal for him. How they'd brush against each other occasionally, his body catching fire when she passed closely -- the touch of an arm as it grazed his chest, the feathering fingers as they whispered over his when he handed her something.

When morning had come and she'd gone off to sleep, how crushed he'd felt that it was over. Realizing how alive he'd been that night, more alive than any night since he'd nearly lost his life to a bullet in the chest.

How the next night when all hell broke loose she'd handled herself exactly as the agents had instructed her to in case something went wrong. The attack on the safe house had begun when she heard a sound at the window. She had used the R/T they'd provided her, whispering to Doyle: "Someone's trying to come in. I'm under the bed."

Doyle had tapped the door open, rolled to the floor, hitting the man in the window with at least four slugs. Then night had erupted into chaos. And it was all over within moments, but the cleanup went on for hours. He'd reported to Cowley; they'd agreed to move her in the morning and beefed up the perimeter patrol to four agents. Cowley was furious at the mistakes, the very fact that someone had discovered her whereabouts, convinced there was some kind of leak. By the time it was all over, it was nearly dawn. He had forgot to check on her, after the first commotion had died down and he'd been assured she was all right.

He remembered how she'd been sitting up on the bed, wearing that same man's shirt, one leg up, one down, making notes on a manuscript. How he had sat down on the bed, putting a hand on her forearm, which she did not shake off. "Are you all right?" he had asked, and remembered the clear, steady blue of her eyes. The warmth of her skin.

"Apart from having lost all the hearing in my left ear, I'm fine," she'd replied, her face moving towards his. He kissed her softly, her lips parting under his. He had drawn away, feeling almost as if he had become paralyzed from his neck down, so on fire was his body.

She had spoken words he'd never heard before. "You are the most beautiful man I've ever laid eyes on." The fingers stroked his cheek. "The cat eyes, the mysterious face, the way you move. Your character." She had kissed him softly, her arms moving to encircle him. Then coming up for air and feeling the world suddenly spin him around.

He had stared at her for what seemed like hours, fingers playing in the silken hair, caressing the rounded shoulder. Struggling with words he felt he had to say but were like nothing else he'd ever said or thought in his life.

Doyle had kissed her again, running his numb hands over the smooth skin of leg, hip, neck. And then he'd kissed her and kissed her, falling down into a bright, white light, farther and farther into love.

Doyle rubbed a hand across his eyes as he sat, the sun warming his face, drying the tears that streaked his cheeks. What was the good in all this, he wondered. What the hell was it worth remembering for? How would he ever get back to work if he remained in such a sorry state about every little thing?

Bodie was forgiving, but this kind of maudlin remembrance could affect his judgment, put Bodie at risk. He had to get over this! He knew it would annoy Gil to see him so dispirited. She'd had such a forward-thinking outlook on life, not like him; he who liked to churn things over and over, who seemed to carry guilt with him for everything.

Joie de vivre, Bodie had said about her. A good antidote to Doyle's own seriousness. Bodie had appreciated that quality in her most. His partner hated sulking, had no patience for guilt and worry. Life just had to be dealt with, and he preferred being around people who wanted to get the most out of it. They'd both had that in common, among other things.

Bodie had laughed that morning when he'd returned to duty at the safehouse, when he'd found out that Ray was in the bedroom getting dressed. He could hear the two of them. The way Bodie had paused for the longest time after she'd said "in there...", then he saw, through the crack in the door, Bodie take her face in his hands, shake her head a tiny fraction, and laugh, "Be gentle with him!"

They had moved to the kitchen and he couldn't see what was happening. When he came into the room she was holding Bodie's shoulder, staring intently at him. Another twinge of jealousy stabbed his heart, worrying that he might be losing to Bodie's allure, then Bodie grabbed Gillian and hugged her tightly, chuckling. It had seemed to be lighthearted.

Doyle realized later, as time went on, that that moment had been the beginning of a strange friendship between Gillian and Bodie, something he never could understand or penetrate. He'd tried, through the years, to pinpoint what exactly they knew about each other that made them respond so quickly as friends. Knowing they were keeping it a secret between them only made him more curious.

He'd thought Bodie would be hurt by a new relationship. Things had sometimes been iffy between them when Doyle had been with Ann; there was the underlying tension when they didn't know her level of involvement on the case, and he'd hated Bodie briefly for trying to pull information from her. Doyle still struggled with the feelings that had permeated their friendship, those expressed -- and unexpressed -- desires that Bodie had shown Ray during his recovery. Yet Bodie seemed accepting of what had happened that night.

What would happen between the three of them in the future? Doyle had wondered as Bodie and Gillian both had turned to look at him, then burst out laughing. It was something he knew instinctively even then he would have to get used to.

Bodie had always been amazed at the strength Doyle could put into being sad. He himself was beginning to ache from sitting so long, he couldn't imagine how Doyle had remained virtually motionless for hours, except to wipe at his eyes with his hands. He detested stakeouts, which was almost what he felt like he was doing. Just as he was beginning to give up and head off home, Doyle moved, and Bodie got up stiffly to follow. Right then, his R/T bleeped. "Bloody...."

"Base to 3.7 ."

"3.7." He hoped Doyle wouldn't hear the damn thing, even at this distance the man seemed to have radar ears.

"Alpha one wants to see you in his office. Something important. And pick up 6.2 on your way."

"Right, 3.7 over." Well, duty called, and Ray would be on his own. Whatever it was, Bodie hoped it wouldn't take overnight time, so he could get back to check on Ray by evening.

He went back to the car by another route so he wouldn't run into Doyle, in case he'd decided to return to the house. He gave one last backward glance to see Ray, but couldn't find him in the crush of people out to enjoy a lovely spring afternoon. It would have to wait.

Doyle, who usually preferred to hole up in silence when troubled, was enjoying the surge of people out enjoying their Saturday. It reminded him that there were in fact lives being led. He tried to smile at people as they passed, sometime succeeding, sometimes not. His heart would leap occasionally at the sight of long black hair, then sink as realized it was not Gil. Would not ever be Gil again.

After a while he realized he'd come back to his car. He got in and found himself driving to the cemetery. At first he balked as he realized what he'd been doing unconsciously, but then kept on. If his heart were directing him here, he should follow.

He pulled in at the spot nearest her grave. He hadn't been here since the service. Two services had been two too many. This first one, to bury her here in London, was a blur to him. He could not remember anything but the sight of the grave. The memorial in Santa Barbara, he had remembered that. By then, he had grown more conscious of what was happening.

Of course, this grave wasn't what she'd have wanted. She once joked that he should just put her in the backyard to feed her flowers. Doyle had ignored her more serious wish to be cremated, selfishly. But he had wanted a grave. He wanted a physical, tangible place to find her name, her memory, when it might otherwise be scattered on the wind.

He knelt at the small, unassuming marker. "Gillian Bailey Doyle. 1952-1986. Live each day as if it were your last, for one day, you're sure to be right." Bodie had seen to it that got put there. It was perfect; Bodie had known. They were both such hedonists. Neither one of them could be bothered thinking about the future, and no matter how many times Doyle tried approaching them, they shrugged him off. Bodie had put it succinctly: "What's the use in planning anything? I could never have planned the way my life turned out. If I'd have tried, I'd probably not have ended up here with CI5 and you." Whenever Doyle tried arguing with Bodie, Gil usually defended him.

She had never legally taken his name and it looked strange to him on the grave, but Bodie had assumed to use it. Somehow neither of them had ever bothered to discuss it or do something about it; Ray had merely presumed that she wasn't the kind of woman to take another's name. But Bodie had decided to use it, and the thought touched Ray deeply.

And yet when the time came, Doyle had been in no condition to decide anything about what do; now, at least, the marker seemed very right. There was a profusion of flowers atop the marker, which he tidied up. From Bodie, no doubt about that.

After a while, he realized that his legs had grown numb and sore from squatting for such a long time. He stood uncomfortably and looked down at the marker. Without realizing it, he had shredded the petals from one of the carnations.

"Well, love, guess I have to go for now. I'll be back though. Still haven't read your letter. I'm sorry, but I just can't right now. Will when I'm up to it, but you understand, don't you? Bodie's been helping me out. Just like you said. Hope he'll be by tonight." He kissed his fingertips and blew the kiss to the ground. "Be back." He turned on his heels, and went home to his lonely house.

Bodie and Murphy entered Cowley's office and sat down, uninvited. Bodie and the old man had developed such a funny relationship, Murphy pondered. They were very much like an uncle with his favorite, but nevertheless annoying, nephew.

"And just what took you so long, 3.7?" Cowley asked, without looking up.

"I was... keeping an eye on Doyle, sir."

"Oh? And how's he doing?" Cowley asked, with true concern.

"He's toughing it out. But it's taking a lot out of him. He's not in the best shape."

"Aye, well, it's taking a lot out of all of us, I daresay." He looked straight at Bodie.

"Yes, it is sir. But right now how I feel takes less precedence than Doyle's well-being." Sometimes he hated the way the old man seemed to know what was going on in his mind.

"Yes ... you have a point there, Bodie." Cowley tossed a folder his way. "Three bombings in the past eight months. Initially, no one believed they were connected. In fact, the reports of them have barely trickled out of their respective areas. One in Birmingham, one in Portsmouth, one in London. All letter or parcel bombs. And not a hint of a why or a wherefore. "

"If you don't mind me asking sir, why a CI5 case? Wouldn't this be more..."

Cowley cut him off, as usual. "Not until today. All three have been connected to the courts ... two barristers, and today, a judge. One a prosecutor, the other a private defense attorney. What connection could there be? Is it terrorist? Is it a revenge killing for a criminal case? I don't have any answers for these questions, and that is why it's a CI5 case. Right now I want you two to begin finding out. Let's have a chat with people who knew the judge. I don't want another one of these parcel bombs anywhere in this country."

Bodie glanced through the file. "Right. We'll get what we can." He and Murphy stood, Murphy as usual making his presence known without uttering anything.

"Oh, and Bodie... while I stress the urgency of this information... I won't insist on twenty-four-hour duty." Cowley had put his glasses back on but was studiously avoiding looking at the two agents.

Bodie and Murphy smiled at one another as they left the room.

All the way to the victim's home, the two agents had tossed ideas back and forth about what a motive could be for the rash of parcel bombings. It eventually degenerated into the topic of blackmail and just what a judge could be doing in chambers, or what he'd been wearing under his robe.

However, Bodie sobered quickly once they'd arrived. The front door area was a shambles, the family a helpless bundle of wailing grief. Murphy immediately focused on the fact that according to the file, all the bombs had been delivered to the victims' homes, not to their offices. With the events of the past month, Bodie had a hard time not flashing back to Gillian's death.

"Their vehicle exploded ... and they careened off the road..." Cowley had told him later, out of earshot of Doyle. She had survived long enough to crawl from the jeep before it exploded. The burns and destruction weren't as bad on her body as the others, but they were bad enough. Bodie had specifically kept Doyle from seeing her body, knew that Doyle could not handle it.

Bodie said a silent prayer that Ray wasn't too keen to come back to work. This might send him over the edge. Not that it was doing Bodie any good. He surveyed the area and saw the small but deadly destruction a bomb like this brought, then thought instantly of Gil, what it must have been like for her to crawl away from the vehicle in those few seconds she lived. He shuddered and banished the thought for the time being.

After questioning the family, getting what little they could, they moved on to talk to colleagues. CI5's forensics expert was there, poking around, talking with the local police. He raised an eyebrow at Bodie and Murphy. Typically that was all anyone ever received; Bill was not a friendly man and had a short fuse for the field agents, whom he thought of as rather thick.

"What've you got?" Bodie asked cheerfully, bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands in pockets.

"Typical homemade bomb. Little clever with the wiring but otherwise nothing special. Your basic recipe: black powder, blasting caps, a fuse, and -- pow!" He clapped his hands together and Bodie winced. "I'd like to know where he got the caps, though. They look like black powder caps from the old guns, but I need to examine this more."

"Isn't a letter bomb sort of unreliable?" Murphy asked laconically.

"Not if you know what you're doing, and our friend obviously does." Bill turned his attention elsewhere and left in his usual brusque manner. In all his years with CI5 Bodie had not once heard him say so much as a "hello," "good morning," or "goodbye."

Murphy and Bodie looked at each other with wry amusement and moved off to talk with some of the local police to find out what they could about the family. Being a Saturday, they had trouble finding all the individuals they sought, and Bodie seemed to grow more exasperated with each phone call they made from their make-shift office at the local constabulary. Seemed half of them were golfing or away for weekends in the country, Bodie'd grumbled to himself, growing even more agitated as it grew closer to evening.

Finally, Murphy said, "Hey, let's call it an evening, shall we?" His dark eyes stared into Bodie's heart, and his hand rested lightly on the other man's shoulder.

"Yeah, okay. Should probably get back home, have a date tonight."

"Aw, come on Bodie. You're going to check on Ray and you know it, and I know it. It's not so terrible to want to take care of the guy, you know. Won't start any rumours about you, I swear. 'Bodie actually has a heart! ' That sort of thing." He grinned.

"Okay, okay, you're right. But don't let this get around. People might start thinkin' I'm a caring sort of fella." They got in the car and drove quickly back to town, Murphy noticing that Bodie was speeding even more than usual.

Bodie enjoyed working with Murphy whenever they were together. He appreciated Murphy's low-key style, his athleticism, and his utter, rock-solid reliability. While he wasn't as military-precise as Bodie preferred in a partner, he'd grown used to an appearance of sloppiness through his years with Doyle, and he accepted Murphy's on face value because he knew Murphy was so dependable.

He also knew, without it ever being spoken between the two of them, that Murphy had long since sussed out Bodie's feelings for Ray, and said nothing. Murph teased him sometimes, in a friendly way, but never gave away what he thought of such a thing. Neither Bodie nor Doyle knew much about Murphy's private life, other than that he'd joined CI5 quite young, only a few years out of university with a few years in Intelligence under his belt.

For all Bodie knew, Murphy could be so accepting of Bodie's devotion to Ray because he himself was gay. Murphy simply never talked out of turn about others, refused to gather in the gossipy circles that seemed to spring up in the rest room at headquarters, and kept his own private life extremely private. "Don't see any reason to kiss and tell," he'd said simply once, shrugging in his usual way. Bodie felt good about calling Murphy his friend, and counted him as once of the few people he'd trust his life with.

Now, speeding back to the office with his friend in the passenger seat, he felt comforted by his presence, and hoped that when all this was over, he could find a way to get up the courage to tell Murphy how much he appreciated him.

Bodie pulled up outside Doyle's house and killed the engine. A part of him was almost afraid to go in. After the closeness of last night, would Doyle be welcoming to him? It would be like him to pull back, go on the defensive. He'd be met with that green fire flaring at him, telling Bodie to back off, he'd get by on his own, thanks very much.

Bodie sometimes envied Doyle's self-containment. He was melancholy often, funny and wicked other times, but no matter his mood he seemed aware of himself, of who he was. His expectations of what others wanted from him were minimal, but he was always ready to give to others. It didn't mean he let them in, just that he was willing to share of himself.

For Bodie, this was something both admirable and a little fearful. He'd been so alone his whole life, had built a series of satisfactory walls that kept everyone, including his latest girlfriend du jour, away. Except the odd person who seemed to pass some mysterious test even Bodie had no idea of the rules of: Isabelle, Marikka, Susan to some degree, Doyle, Gillian, Murphy ... and possibly Cowley. What a small circle of people he'd let into his life! And three of them dead, three lovely women who had stormed Bodie's fortressed heart only to leave him alone, unprotected, empty.

Doyle was the world now, completely. Picking up the grocery bag, he shut the car door and strode confidently to the house.

He didn't enter on his own this time, pressing the buzzer to be let in. Doyle answered, looking relatively unscathed from his day out. Dressed in jeans and a white shirt, his hair still wet from the shower, but, Bodie noticed, with dark circles under the jade eyes, the cheeks looking hollow.

"Brought some more grub," Bodie said cheerily, barging past Doyle to the kitchen. "Thought you might not be eating again, so Nanny Bodie is here to see you do."

He began pulling items out of the bag. Doyle followed him to the kitchen and stood staring at him, a slight smile playing across the full lips.

"Promise I won't try to shove a beefsteak down you, but I do want to see you get something in that scrawny body of yours."

Doyle sat down on one of the dining room chairs. "You're a good nanny, Bodie," he said quietly. "Thanks."

"What did you do with your day?" Bodie tried not to look at Ray. Why is it he could spin elaborate yarns to perfect strangers but he had to be so very careful not to give away the slightest fib to Ray?

"Oh, this and that. Went out for a while, just walked. Went to the cemetery."

Bodie rolled his head, his eyes crinkling shut and a grimace playing across his mouth. "Oh, Jesus. I'm sorry. I shouldn't..."

"No!" Doyle interrupted. "It was fine. I think I needed to be there. I like what you put on the marker. I know she would, too."

Bodie looked seriously at Doyle. "You really all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Fine as I can be, considering. I'm not saying it was an easy day but I have to get on with this thing." The unspoken phrase in both their minds: She'd have wanted me to.

Bodie began cooking dinner and Doyle stared off into space. He set the table around Doyle, worrying whether he should move him into the lounge or not. But Doyle was enjoying the activity, it made him feel more like this was really home again. The house had been too empty today.

As they began to eat, Bodie tentatively began to speak, his mouth slightly open, then he closed it, then opened it again. At least five times he tried to speak, but thought better of it, and went back to the business of his food.

Finally, Doyle couldn't stand it anymore. "Please, if you've got something to say, say it. I can't take all this treading on eggshells. It's worse than talking about it."

Rubbing a hand over his weary eyes, Bodie said, "I got something in the post. I just don't know if it's a good idea to bring it up right now." He looked up sheepishly under the dark brows, his head bowed slightly, only one eye cocked up towards Doyle.

"Well, what is it?" Ray seemed genuinely curious.

"It's from Fiona. Something that once belonged to me. It was in Gil's personal effects when ... you apparently asked her to take care of them ..." he let his voice trail away, awkward and confused about how to say this. He put his hand in the pocket of his beige cords and pulled out a silver chain with a gold ring attached.

Doyle took it from his hand, gently, with eyes wide in awe and pleasure. "Oh, the ring!" He played it around in his long, beautiful fingers, the gold glinting in the light, contrasting sharply with the silver chain. He looked up at Bodie, emerald eyes alight.

"You know, I'd forgot she had it. Totally forgot. I never imagined she'd have worn it all this time," Bodie said. "Something old, something borrowed. Only she borrowed things like this and she never gave it back."

"Yeah, she kind of took it for granted that once she got something, it was hers for life. Territorial."

"God, that was a wedding, wasn't it? Never seen anything like it in my life and I doubt I will again." Bodie's indigo eyes were dancing. He took the chain from Doyle's hand. "William Andrew Philip Bodie," he read aloud from the inside of the ring. The words fit perfectly inside the ring, not a space lost. "It was my grandad's. Mum and dad wanted this for when I was older, because I was named after him. Always wondered how they engrave so small and so perfectly circular..."

"I remember now when you gave it to Gil."

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."

"What was the blue? Oh yeah, the garter. Which you caught." He grinned devilishly at Bodie. "Only you pushed everyone else out of the way."

Bodie smiled back. "She told me to."

Doyle threw back his head and laughed. The sound of it once again filled Bodie with inexpressible joy.

"God, you two,"Doyle said. "Sometimes I think you should have married her."

"Naw, too much alike, we were. Can you imagine? Couple of emotional cripples, whining and complaining all the time."

They both went back to eating. Bodie's heart was lightened considerably to see that Ray was still smiling.

"Wherever did you get all the sabers, anyway?" Doyle asked suddenly. When they'd left Cowley's house, where they were married, they went out under the crossed sabers of all the CI5 agents, perfectly lined up, just like a military wedding. He had nearly lost it over that one. Bodie's idea once again.

"Stage props and collectors," Bodie said smugly. "You have no idea how hard it was to do that. We practiced for days. And it was very steep -- some people still owe me. But you had to figure something unusual, or she wouldn't have gone through with it. I suppose it doesn't give you much in the way of elegant photographs, but it sure gave us some great memories."

"Yeah. Great memories."

Bodie waited for some time to see how Doyle would accept this conversation. When after a while his partner didn't move, he spoke, slowly and deliberately.

"You know, I have only a few memories of my family. My dad was a bastard, not much worth remembering. Mum, she was special. I suppose today I might have been angry ... or disappointed in her ... at how she took his abuse. But as a kid, I thought the sun rose and set on her. I only vaguely remember my sister. It was all gone in a flash, quick as that," he snapped his fingers, "took just one car. Now, why was I the only one who didn't go out that day? Why was I left alone? I had only a few memories, this ring, some clothing. I chose to push those memories away. It wasn't until I was older that I realized those few memories were my friends, not my enemies."

Doyle looked up at him with gleaming eyes, a tear pooling in the corner of one, quavering, before finally spilling out on the flawed cheekbone.

"That must have been hard."

Bodie knew exactly what he meant -- Doyle was not crediting Bodie's ability to get by as an orphaned child. He was acknowledging the difficulty of opening up, telling this story.

"I've told only three people anything about my childhood. Isabelle, before Krivas... butchered her. Gillian. And you."

They were silent a time, before Ray finally spoke. "I don't mean to canonize her, y'know. She was, to put it kindly, a bit of a task. But it was usually worth it to me, to put up with her."

Bodie nodded. "Yeah. She was a right pain in the arse. A lot of the times. I've never known anyone who could be such a pain in the arse and so charmin' at the same time."

"I have," Doyle said, a kind but sly gleam in his eyes. "Sometimes I wondered if it was because she was American. I mean, let's face it, she looked at things a bit differently."

"Oh, listen to you! The United Nations of dating! You had a thing for foreign girls."

"What d'you mean?" Ray squinted at him skeptically.

"Oh! Well, for starters, Gillian wasn't the only Yank you ever slept with. There was Shelly, the air hostess-stroke-terrorist --"

"No fair! That was in the line of duty!"

" -- and then there was fair Meghan, the Irish-American lass from Boston, and then Anita Cabreros, and Birgitta the Swedish au pair girl -- which, I might add, was barely legal -- and that lovely Australian bird, whatever her name was. Oh, and don't forget Esther from Hong Kong."

"And what, those saucy foreign girls like Marikka and Isabelle don't count?" They both stared at each other, eyes wide, as tension crackled in the air around them. It was a joke Doyle had not really thought about, and the two of them looked away from each other finally, and down at the table, aware of how much they'd lost in their lives.

Doyle reached out and squeezed Bodie's fingers. Bodie's heart leapt in his chest as though he'd touched a live wire. "Would you do me a favor?" Doyle asked.

"Anything." He tried to make it sound casual, but he worried that his voice was betraying him.

"Would you stay here tonight? I could throw some sheets on the sofa. I won't be miserable all night, I promise. I could just ... use the company." He looked at Bodie with timid eyes.

"Of course." He tossed the remark out casually. But inside his heart was aching with the need to comfort Ray. He would do anything Ray asked. "I am completely at your disposal. " He squeezed the elegant fingers in return.

Bodie found himself dozing in the overstuffed chair as the football match droned on. Usually alert, he didn't hear Ray get up and wander over to the window.

Doyle had been attracted by the sound of rain pattering quietly on the window. He pressed his face against the cool glass, stretching slim fingers against the pattern forming in the light from the street. She always liked the rain, he thought. As long as she was safe inside, the rain was wonderful, a comforting sound that made her feel cozy, locked up tight with him.

Gradually the hot tears fell down his face, then the soft crying turned to choking sobs. Bodie snapped awake and looked wildly around for Doyle, then caught sight of him standing against the window near the kitchen. He jumped up and went over to stand behind Ray, placing warm fingertips against the thinner man's shoulder. Doyle attempted to reign in a heavy gasp, and then his knees suddenly buckled under him.

As he slipped down Bodie's reflexes took over, and he caught Ray under the arms. Bodie's own heavily muscled arms wrapped tightly around Ray's too-thin body, and he supported the other man gently as they sank to the floor. Bodie knelt behind Ray, holding fast to him as Ray gradually ceased crying, his legs sprawled in a half-out position. Bodie pressed his cheek into Ray's hair, resting there, allowing his warmth and solidness to work their comforting magic on Doyle. He said nothing, made no soothing noises, at first, just held him tight.

Finally he whispered, his cheek next to Ray's ear, "You know I told you earlier about when my mum died?"

Ray nodded slightly, his hair tickling Bodie's nose. "I went to live with my aunt Janice for a few months at first. They told her that she was too young to keep me, but I got to stay with her for a while, anyway. We still write to each other, and she lives in Miami now. But when I was sad, or wouldn't talk, she'd play a game with me. She made me list off some of the things I loved about mum, so I wouldn't forget the good things in all my anger."

Ray sat silently for awhile, absorbed in Bodie's strength. A faint noise like a hiccup escaped from Doyle, which Bodie took to be assent and that Ray was thinking this over. "She had beautiful big blue eyes, with that funny yellow ring in the middle."

A slight smile crept to Bodie's lips, which Ray could feel against the side of his forehead. Bodie began a slight rocking motion.

"She played Monopoly better than anyone else, but she was terrible at poker. So you could win more money from her." This time a low, rumbling chuckle burbled up from Bodie's chest.

"She loved my work and wasn't fussy about it."

"Mmmm, that's true," Bodie said, petting Doyle's shoulder. "Anything else?"

Doyle sighed heavily, wearily. "She loved you," he said, as his slim fingers came up and wrapped themselves around Bodie's heavy wrist, tightening. Bodie battled to control his trembling. "Yes, she did, didn't she?" and Ray laughed out loud, followed with a quick sniffle. They sat that way for a time, until Ray was able to shake it off and get up, moving slowly towards the sofa. Neither said a word, pretending to watch the match.

When Doyle had fallen asleep in front of the television, Bodie actually picked him up and carried him upstairs to put him under the covers. He took off Doyle's shoes, pulled the shirt off over his head, but left him in his jeans. He lightly brushed fingers through Ray's salt and pepper waves, then turned out the light. "You and me against the world," Bodie said softly as he left the room.

Later, trying to sleep, Bodie tossed the ring around and around on the chain, watching it catch the gleam of streetlights from the window. He still remembered what had led him to give it to Gillian. It had happened long before the wedding, before anything, almost.

It was only the third day of nursemaid duty. They had been talking, laughing through a game of chess which neither of them could really remember how to play well. He had thrown out a tidbit about being a mercenary.

"A mercenary! No shit!" Her eyes were wide with excitement.

"Not a glamourous life," he'd said, seriously.

She had fixed him with a doubting look and it took his breath away. It was exactly a mirror of the way he often looked at people when he was prepared to distrust or question them. The same cocked eyebrow, the other eye slightly squinted. The lips playing at a smirk. The blue of the eye. And he knew then that she knew all about him, could see him as if he held a glass up to his life.

"Don't you think sometimes we may as well just wear a badge on our chests?" she'd asked. "We seem to recognize each other, anyway. But then everyone would know, just like a scarlet A."

He'd finished her thought for her. "Lonely, miserable children." He was suddenly reminded of Susan Grant, how she had also pegged him as another one who'd grown up alone and too early.

"Well. Someday tell me your story. I'll tell you mine," he'd said.

And he had told her. About being orphaned, living first with relatives who didn't want him, then home after home with total strangers until he joined the merchant marine. Of hating everyone who tried to do anything for him. Of abuse everywhere he went, a pretty young boy with vicious, older men. Of finally belonging, first in the SAS, then CI5. Feeling like, yes, this is where I belong. Of finally knowing trust with Ray Doyle.

He recognized that scarlet letter in her, too. But never pressed for the story, until one day while the two sat baking in sun, watching Ray wander his way along a hot beach, she had said suddenly with no warning about the conversational turn, "My father was a raging alcoholic, so was my mother. I watched him beat her to death. I was seven."

He had turned to look at her, his steady gaze falling on her like heavy fog. "I went to foster homes ... I don't know if they have those here, or call them that. I ran away, time after time. I lost my sister, she went to different homes. Then Sean and Margaret Bailey got it in their heads they wanted to adopt a troubled kid. Had two of their own -- Fiona and Peter -- but wanted to help someone else. He'd picked me up for being a runaway a number of times. Decided that a little fourteen-year-old with a good Irish name like Riordan -- that was my original name -- was a perfect fit. Took me years to learn to trust them all."

Bodie had reached out, taken her face, delicate and fair-skinned, in his hands and kissed her forehead. "And here we are, the members of our little club," she'd laughed.

He had never felt so connected to people before: Ray with him always, his soul mate; Gillian and their strange bond; his admiration for the almost paternal Cowley. He knew what it was like then to say, finally, "I have loved ones."

He showed her the ring, which he kept in a pocket. She had understood immediately its connection to his past life.

"We're not alone anymore. You're not alone anymore," Bodie said darkly.

"And that's enough for you, isn't it?"

"It's more than I ever thought I wanted. Or needed." And he'd squeezed her hand.

Now, as he lay in the silent darkness of Ray's lonely house, he put the chain and ring into his pocket, and wiped the tears that were damming up inside the red edges of his tired eyes.

"Oh Gil," he said aloud. "Why'd you leave? And how can I fix Ray when I can't even fix myself?"

Chapter Four

Cowley was momentarily taken aback when he stepped off the lift to his office, and ran into Ray Doyle.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, almost annoyed. He maintained his brisk pace. "I hadn't received word that you were intending to return to duty."

"No sir, I just decided this morning. I'd really like to get back to work. I think it's what I need."

"I'm not confident that you are ready. I'd like to have you evaluated before I return you to anything more than desk duty. Will you speak with Dr. Ross?"

They had reached Cowley's office, where Bodie was just entering to present Betty with something for the controller of CI5. He seemed visibly shocked to see his partner. "What are you doing here?"

"Will everyone please stop saying that?" Doyle demanded testily. "I need to get back to work if I'm going to keep my sanity. Is that acceptable to everyone?" Betty quickly looked down at her paperwork. Bodie shrugged.

"Spend a few moments with Dr. Ross. Then come back and see me at eleven a.m. We'll discuss the matter then." He looked quizzically at Doyle. "Are you certain you want to do this?"

Running a hand through his unruly hair, he tried to rein in his exasperation. "I'm certain sir. I have to get out of the house, I have to be doing something that matters."

He turned and left the room to head downstairs to Dr. Ross' office. In some ways, he looked forward to talking with her. There wasn't much she hadn't heard before when it came to grieving people. He liked her more when she was in the normal headshrinker mode than when she was conducting those bizarre personality tests during evaluations. It would almost be a relief to be honest with her, for once.

"So you think you're actually ready to return," the dark-haired woman asked, distractedly. She had been in the middle of squad evaluations and hadn't planned on taking the time to talk to him.

"Look, it's like getting back on the horse. I can't just sit around bemoaning my fate, now, can I? Besides, it's not the best way to honor her memory, being a basket case and all." He looked at her hard, to see if anything he was saying was penetrating.

"What do you think you'll do if you encounter a victim of an explosion? Or a gunshot, say? How do you think you'll react?" She shuffled papers from one file to another and punched in some numbers on her computer.

"Why do I get the feeling you could tell me the answer to that?" His long-time antagonism of her had grown into a fairly friendly sparring match after his marriage, as though some of his sexual energy had been channeled away from her and she felt more comfortable bantering with him. But now, she was more formal.

She fixed him with an irked stare. "Don't try to play mind games with me. I'll beat you every time."

"I reckon you would. Okay. I guess it would be hard. I still fixate on a lot of memories. I think about her all the time, and I keep playing the first few days of our relationship over and over in my head. I hate what happened and the fact that I couldn't protect her eats away at me. But isn't it better that I admit all that? Shouldn't it help that I recognize it?"

Ross smiled softly at him. When you looked at her away from work, Doyle thought, she really could be very pretty. "Yes, you're actually quite right. You've obviously thought about it a lot." She snapped a file closed and stuffed it in a drawer. "Look, I'll call Mr. Cowley. Go see him in a few minutes." She left the room and Doyle realized he had no idea what her prognosis had been.

At eleven, Doyle returned to Cowley's office as instructed. The old man was waiting for him, offering him a scotch. Doyle took it without comment on the early hour.

"Dr. Ross has indicated she thinks it will be acceptable for you to return to work. She did indicate, however, that you may have negative reactions to...certain types of assignments. This concerns me. The case your partner is currently assigned to is a series of bombings. If this is too close an area for you..." Ray knew the next words without them being spoken. Desk duty was always a possibility.

"No, sir, I think I'll be fine. Really. Bodie's talked a little about it. I want to deal with this. I want to get back to work."

"If that's truly the way you feel, then I'll allow it. I will still continue to have Murphy assigned to this case as well. And I want you to know...they have strict instructions from me to watch you for any signs that this is getting to you in any way. If they think you can't handle it, I'll have you taken off active duty. Is that understood?"

"Yes sir," Doyle said, smiling. "Thank you, sir." He made for the door, but Cowley stopped him with an abrupt clearing of his throat.

"I want you to know, Doyle, that we are all very sad about your wife's death." He quickly put his glasses back on and looked studiously at his papers.

Doyle opened the door. "It's been easier to deal with this knowing I have such support and friendship." And he was gone quickly, not used to talking like this with the old man.

Everyone was at attention when he went into the rest room. "Welcome back!" they shouted in unison, a few back pats, arm squeezes here and there, before they all just as quickly dispersed. That left Bodie and Murphy sitting casually across their chairs, smirking at him.

"Well, are we just going to sit here, drinking tea, or are you going to fill me in on this case so we can get going?" They did fill him in, and they did get going.

He enjoyed being back in the car again, racing along, doing things that felt important. Murphy and Bodie were in the front, he sat relaxed in the back seat. The two of them bantered back and forth and Doyle enjoyed listening to it, passively.

He closed his eyes. It reminded him of the day he and Bodie had taken Gillian to her first day of testimony. She and Bodie had already been going at it when he got in the car after checking their route with Murphy.

"Boot." Bodie had put the car in gear.

"Trunk," she'd said back.




"Well, now that always mixes me up. Is the bonnet the front or," she motioned to the top, "this up here?"

"The front."

"The hood. No self-respecting American would ever name a car part anything as silly as a bonnet."

"La di da!" Bodie had said sarcastically.

"Would you mind telling me what you're doing?" Doyle had asked, feeling the intruder.

"I'm practicing my Americanisms."


It was the childishness of both of them that had made him laugh, hours later when it flashed into his brain suddenly during her testimony, earning a glare from Cowley that made his insides shrivel. He now sat in the back seat enraptured by the fragrance of the past, before realizing Murphy and Bodie were still up front, bickering.

He realized he'd always liked watching Bodie interacting with other people, when he could have fun with them. He enjoyed teasing, did Bodie. And it made Doyle's heart feel light, seeing him, remembering all the times he'd watched Bodie have someone on.

Being in a car again with his friends was just right. He knew Murphy and Bodie were keeping an eye on him, wondering if his reluctance to banter with them was a sign he was still too weak, but he didn't mind. He smiled at Bodie in the mirror, and the concerned blue eyes suddenly flashed with the smile that was growing on Bodie's face. "I'm all right, mate," Doyle was telling him, comfortable with just a look that spoke volumes. It would be good again, he knew.

The next few days were like light breaking through morning clouds. Doyle felt as though he'd been a drowning man coming to the surface, rescued from waves of dark blue and grey, swimming slowly to the glittering edge of water helped by an unseen hand.

Bodie had helped him climb to the surface, and Cowley, and Murphy. He was coming closer and closer to breaking free, to feeling air in his lungs and the tug of gravity releasing him. Now the rest of the desperate grapple towards the surface would have to be his own.

They had spent days questioning everyone. Putting together scraps of information about lives, about habits and confidences, cherished memories and deeds, now lost to someone's mad scheme. Doyle concentrated on putting the puzzle pieces together, focusing on the task of solving a crime. He left the piecing together of lives to Bodie and Murphy, knowing it was too soon for him to sit with bereaved family members or colleagues and hear them tell of the people who were now dead. He remained removed but involved as much as he could bear, concentrating on the forensics of the case. He knew his strength had always lain in dealing with people; more so than either Murphy or Bodie he was quick with a kind word or a protective arm. But this time he left it to the other two agents, keeping a distance so that he could remain on the case and not break down in front of anyone.

Nights and weekends, Bodie would come over to the house, keep him company. They would take in a film, see a football match, play squash or practice fencing. Bodie worked almost as hard at keeping Doyle busy as he worked at his job. Doyle could tell it was fatiguing Bodie to keep both ends of the candle burning. He hadn't had a regular date in months, Doyle knew. And yet he couldn't relax his selfish hold on Bodie's life.

Keeping Bodie near him had never been so important; even when he had been shot he did not feel so strong a need and attachment. And at the back of it all was the letter, the avoidance of reading what Gillian had wanted of him. As long as Bodie was keeping him busy and work taxed him, he had not to go back into that pull of deep, dark water that called to him, stealing life and light.

It had been going on for weeks, and still they were no further in the bombings. Until Cowley came in at them, waving paper.

"Once more! It's happened once more, and I said it wouldn't happen again if I had anything to do with it!"

They had barely entered the building when the old man had charged past them, his hands going through his hair over and over, a sure sign of worry.

"Where?" the partners had asked in unison.

"Right under our noses! Right here in London. Again!"

The agents steered him towards his office. Bodie grabbed the paper and read the message. A parcel bomb had gone off in a barrister's -- a prosecutor -- home. The parcel had apparently waited in his office at home all day, brought in by his daughter. Both the man and the child had been killed, he instantly and she dying four hours later in hospital.

Cowley sat down in his chair, hard. "I can't accept this," he said, quietly. "I want you over there, go over his life with a fine-tooth comb, I want everyone he's ever known and everything about him." He paused, visibly shaken. "I've put an agent on each case individually. When each of you, McCabe and Lucas, and Murphy, have gathered every single detail of each of these lives, I want to put this together. We will start charting the patterns of the victim's lives. We are going to find out what -- or who -- this is all about." He ran his hand through thinning sandy hair, eyes squinted as the sign of a headache came on. "Everything, about everyone who's been killed by this madman."

"Or madmen," Bodie said quickly.

"Yes, Bodie. That is a possibility. But I won't discuss theory now. Get going!"

Another two days passed and they were nowhere further. After acquiring as much information about daytoday activities, files, names, dates and places as they could, they began coordinating the information in an operations room. Each agent, including Lucas and McCabe, was assigned an individual as his case. They began drawing up charts and graphs with Ruth's assistance. Each point of possible intersection was charted. Then they would be checked out.

Cowley was using the most basic of premises: that someone, or some group, was targeting legal people who had some connection. The problem was that the connection was utterly elusive. Some prosecuting barristers, a judge, a defense attorney. Three from different cities. How could they be connected to the same person?

As the search became more grueling, Doyle felt the weight of the past few months creeping up on him. His mind would sometimes wander down paths of light where memories dwelled. It did not take Bodie long to recognize it; although there were no obvious signs to anyone else, he was attuned to Doyle's slight shifts in mood.

After one late, exhausting evening, Bodie drove Doyle home.

"You want me to come in?" he asked, cheerily, although he felt as far from cheery as he could be. The faint distraction in Doyle's eyes was like a hair trigger. The slightest flinch, and it could turn into complete withdrawal, Bodie knew.

"You know, I don't know." Doyle's fingers went up to his lips, he chewed absently on the thumb and nail of his index finger. His eyes were unfocused.

"I can leave you off here. That's okay."

For a moment Doyle paused, then answered. "Maybe it's time to be alone for an evening." He turned suddenly to look at Bodie. "I think I have some things I must deal with."

Bodie's heart had been suddenly encased in dry ice. He felt the words come out of his mouth, but it was as though they came from a far-off galaxy. "No problem, mate. I understand."

Doyle opened the door, then snapped his head round to face Bodie. His eyes glinted forest green in the dark of night and yellow streetlamp. They bored into Bodie's soul.

"It's not you. I want to be with you, I need your support. But there is something I have to do. I have to do it alone. There are some things that need...clearing up."

Bodie could only nod, words having left him. Then Ray was gone, fading into the shadow of the doorway. Bodie put his head on the driving wheel and fought back the bitter tang of tears. If he shuts me out I've failed him, he thought. I've failed Gil and I've failed Cowley, and most of all, I've failed myself. His knuckles white on the wheel, he raised his head and put the car in gear, and began driving automatically as though programmed, unaware of where he headed. Somehow he ended up in a pub unfamiliar to him and drank mechanically, replaying the fear of losing Doyle to this pain over and over in his mind.

Doyle sat for a while on the edge of the bed mentally gearing up for the task. First, he would begin by putting clothes in the boxes that lay scattered around. Those would go to charity. Then he would collect all the things that were totally hers, not shared, and box them up too. Last would be jewelry, keepsakes. He would keep photos, letters, manuscripts. But he would box them, put them in the closet.

And when he was done, only when he was done, would he read the letter. Even if it took all night. He knew each thing would be cried over, that memories would wash over him like dark water. But he had prepared for this; it was time to do it.

The snapshots and videos of their holidays together were hardest to deal with. He looked at and labeled each one, carefully putting them away in a box and placing them in the back of the closet. In most of them there seemed to be Bodie, only a few holidays were ever taken by the two of them alone. She enjoyed Bodie coming along with whatever girl he was seeing at the time; Gillian usually liked his girlfriends enough to tolerate them for weekend trips. But it seemed odd, now, as he looked everything over, to notice this ongoing triangular pattern.

At first he'd been a little frightened of Bodie and Gillian's friendship, then it had turned to jealousy. In the back of Ray's mind was the running thread that women and men just couldn't be friends. Oh sure, he was friends with Susan and Sally, perhaps even Betty to some degree, but he had grown up in an era that saw male/female friendships as suspicious. Women got along with their husband's friends, but that was it -- tolerance. Things had changed somewhat as he got older, many men and women were friendly in art school, he knew, but he never felt like ringing up a woman to go out and see a match and have a pint later, as he would a bloke.

But then, he realized, he'd never really felt that way about any man either, until he'd met Bodie. And Bodie's fatal charm with Gillian kept him on edge until he realized one day what was going on with them.

Comprehension hadn't sunk in for some time. He'd watched the two of them banter and bicker and had recognized right away that there were great similarities in their behavior, their outlook on life. But then the daring started, and the pranks, and everything settled in the relationship. Bodie had ignited it by daring her to go parachuting once; she accepted immediately and, naturally, ended up with a dislocated shoulder. Gil reciprocated by making him go to a posh, very frou-frou salon to get his hair cut and a manicure. It went on like that for months, some of the dares bordering on absurdity, until the day Ray, in complete exasperation, tried to prevent a practical joke. He realized, as they both descended on him in anger, that they enjoyed this tremendously and had no intention of quitting.

They were, he'd finally figured out, like little kids, having a sibling rivalry they'd never had the chance for before. Because of their similar personalities they were accepting each other as family, creating a relationship where they existed as siblings to no one but themselves. After that, he let them have their games, and tried to enjoy them as best he could, all the while feeling as though he'd somehow become their father rather than friend and partner.

Most everyone in CI5, as they got to know Gillian, watched the constant give and take between her and Bodie with amusement. Doyle found he liked their amused acceptance. As one of the few married agents, he valued their reception of her, their tacit approval of his choice. He had never known himself to be the kind of person who needed reassurance, but in this instance, it did comfort him to see how her eccentric relationship with Bodie, and with him, was taken.

Ray wondered, casually, if Bodie had ever thought much about the way the three of them interacted. Judging from the pictures and the videos, probably not. They were usually too busy laughing.

It was past 4:30 a.m. when he finally finished, and could avoid his promise to himself no more.

With trembling fingers, he pulled the envelope out of the drawer. It was sealed and he pulled the knife out of his pocket and slit it open, shaking and breathless.

Dear Ray,

I suppose it seems morbid to sit down and write a letter for your death, but with the running around we both do, it seemed important to tell you so many things I may not have time to say.

You are my life. I've never known so much happiness and joy at any time as I've known with you. You take my breath away almost every time I look at you. And it makes me sad to write this, to know that the reason you're reading these words is because I can never know that joy again.

But I want to be happy thinking of you being happy. I know you. Don't hate yourself or hate life because I'm gone. You're too valuable to this world and too wonderful a heart to lose. You've touched so many people, you need to touch so many more.

So here comes the strange part.

I once told you to let Bodie take care of you if something happened and I wasn't around. I hope you do. But there's something more important here than just letting him care for you. I know there is more to Bodie's love for you than just partnership, just friendship.

And I think you know it too, or at least, knew it once before.

I myself think sexuality is kind of strange, an odd way to define ourselves. For most of us, we box ourselves into rigid roles -- I'm this, I'm that.

You two are together for a reason. For years Bodie's recognized that reason, but it was the wrong timing. Maybe now it will be the right timing. Only that is up to you.

He once told me that you couldn't really share the same feelings. And he was fine with that, he has a tough heart. But what if, alone, you changed your mind? Oh, I can hear your objections. But the simple fact is, there are no rigid rules to our feelings. They just are. It's what we impose on ourselves from outside that makes us say: this is right, this is wrong.

Didn't you ever wonder why you chose to love the things about us that you love? Doesn't that sameness between me and Bodie that you always comment on make you wonder: is it just that I was packaged properly, and Bodie wasn't? What if the packaging didn't matter any more? Is it such a leap to make, to think of him that way?

You deserve nothing but happiness. Nothing but love, devotion, adoration. I miss you, Ray. Wherever I am, I miss you, and whatever my last moments were, know I was thinking of you. Please, think of me and smile when you do. I had a great ride.

How could anyone die unhappy knowing you cared for them? So take what's there, take all the love you can get. It's right there at your feet if you want it.

All my love, Gillian

Doyle walked out into the faint pink of early dawn, down the cold streets with their few cars moving about at that hour, to the park. He welcomed the chill, huddled into his jacket. It kept him braced and awake, a light shiver tremoring through his wiry frame.

When he reached the bench he'd been sitting on the same day Bodie followed him from afar, he sat down and stared ahead. A few brave early morning joggers flashed by, but for the most part it was silent as the world around him slowly woke up.

He could not come to grips with the letter. Oh, he'd expected the advice on getting his life in order. He had not expected that the advice would contain instructions to become Bodie's lover. Even to the last, she was full of surprises.

Doyle thought back to Gillian and Bodie's friendship. At times, he almost thought they were lovers, they became so close. When Doyle wasn't around, or didn't want to do something she eagerly wanted to do, she inevitably brought Bodie. This also often caused jocular speculation from the other CI5 agents, but Doyle always shrugged it off with a smile. He enjoyed the fact they got along, his worst fear before his relationship with her had really started was that Bodie and Gillian would hate each other. How wrong he'd been on that, he'd found almost immediately.

It was there in the odd smiles, the odd glances, that try as he might he couldn't pierce. Not at all in the way a friend interacts, more like the way a lover would. Yet he felt strongly that they couldn't have been lovers. Besides, they often behaved like five-year-olds when they were in each other's company, enacting their sibling roles, which once he'd figured that out, made him quite happy. Both had a tendency to complain endlessly about almost everything, could whine in the most charming way possible, were greedy, confident to the point of arrogance, and often displayed badly inappropriate humor for the situations they were in.

And both were steadfastly loyal, tough survivors, lifeloving hedonists with generous spirits and yes, joie de vivre, as Bodie always called it. People were drawn to them, yet they kept most people at a safe enough distance. Except for me, he thought.

Is that it? Would Gillian tell me that I should love Bodie because they were so alike, I might as well have one as the other? He couldn't believe that, couldn't believe she could argue something so sophistic. No, she would only tell him such a thing if she truly believed he harbored sentiments deeper than he'd ever been cognizant of. She knew him better than anyone else, even sometimes better than he knew himself, except maybe for... Bodie. Well, there it was again.

He rubbed frozen fingers across his mouth, lost in concentration. The sun had fully risen now, but he was unaware of it slowly beginning to spread its warmth.

What is love all about, anyway? Did Gillian really think feelings were so interchangeable, so malleable that he could just happily jump into a new romance, especially with another man? He certainly could never go back to work with Bodie without constantly thinking about the contents of that letter. And she'd known that when she wrote it, he was positive.

All the time she had spent alone with Bodie. Had they talked about these things, gone over Bodie's feelings in minute detail? What secrets did she know that she never shared with him? Only once had she ever hinted at an understanding of what dwelled in Bodie's heart. It had been in the midst of an argument.

Doyle had shut her out, refused to discuss a particular case they'd worked on. He said she couldn't understand. The cop's daughter had exploded in his face.

"Have I ever made you feel as though you couldn't share your work with me? Have I worried excessively about the danger you face every day? I don't think so. I figure I'm pretty darn lucky to have found you and whatever you choose to do with your life is your decision, just so's you come home to me when it's over. I have never complained about your time away from me, and I expect you to do the same for me. But don't tell me that I can't expect to understand, when you don't tell me what it is!"

She had looked down at the floor. "Sometimes I think that it's a way to keep Bodie to yourself. That this whole, 'no one outside CI5 truly understands us' is just a way to keep everyone at arm's length, and get even closer to your partner. I've seen it with cops before. Don't tell me it's not like a marriage of its own." Her voice became suddenly quieter.

"If you shut out everyone, you're going to make it very hard for Bodie. He can't maintain something like that and not want it all. And if what you really want is that private life with Bodie then take it all, don't do it halfway, because yes, he does understand you in ways I never will."

And she had left the house, leaving him no room to discuss it. When she had returned, he'd told her about the case. And all the time he wanted to ask what she meant, to find out what secret was being shared away from him. But when he probed, she had only answered, "It's just past minutes from the meetings of the Ray Doyle fan club."

The fan club. If two people could share feelings for him, could he share feelings for two people already so dear to him, he wondered?

What is it about someone that makes us fall in love with them? Is it the slight turn of the head or the brush of hair from the forehead? The curve of lip as it changes into a smile?

Do we fall in love with the flash of a blue eye in the sun, or the milky white of skin as it glows in moonlight?

It can't be merely a chemical reaction, the fire of pheromones as they break through the senses of another, mingling, creating a new chemistry.

Or is it in the way a finger feels brushed against the cheek, that sends nerve messages racing through to the mind and the heart? The way a hand grasps another hand, squeezing it tightly, that binds one soul to another?

Why love? Was there really need to feel more than sexual urge? To feel his heart stop at the sight of hair cascading over his pillow as he woke in the morning. To feel his breath escaping as a soft, gentle finger played across his lips. To feel his bones disappear, leaving him paralyzed, as a voice breathed tender fire in his ears, whispering his name.

What was the purpose of such feeling? And could it happen again, now, so differently?

Chapter Five

Bodie could get no answer for his incessant ringing of the bell. He finally pulled out a key and went in, calling out Ray's name. No answer.

Where was the bloody bugger, anyway? They were horribly late, Cowley would have their heads for this, he knew. Of all the cases, this was not the one to be late for work on.

He went upstairs and saw what looked like to him an un-slept-in bed. Something else was wrong, he thought. The place was missing something...he looked wildly around the room and realized there were empty spaces that had not been there yesterday. Gillian's clothes! He peered into the wardrobe. So that's what last night had been about. He'd been putting away her things.

Bodie didn't know whether to feel glad or miserable. The finality of those empty spaces where her jewelry box had been, the way the wardrobe suddenly seemed so large... It held a remarkable sadness for Bodie that the funeral had not. This was more permanent, more barren.

For all the emptiness in the house, it was remarkably untidy. Again, he felt her absence very clearly. She had been a nearly pathological housekeeper, much like Bodie -- everything in its place and a place for everything. It had always been obvious when she was out of town, the place gradually got sloppier and sloppier with Doyle left to his own devices.

He sat down on the bed and heard paper crinkle. Standing up, he reached down for the paper, thinking it a note from Ray, then realized with a shock that it was Gillian's sloped, sloppy journalist's writing. Oh Christ, the letter.

He saw one quick phrase before he dropped it as though burnt by a match. "Is it such a leap to make?"

He walked out of the bedroom. He would not, absolutely not, breach this trust and read this letter, no matter how much he wanted to understand what that meant. Always a curious person, an opened letter near Bodie would be like putting meat in front of a hungry tiger. But with Ray's unrelenting ability to keep secrets, Bodie knew the only information forthcoming to him would be completely up to Ray.

Looking over to his left as he closed and locked the door, he saw a rustle of fabric in the house next door. He'd ask Mrs. Mills if she'd seen Ray. She always watched the comings and goings in this house.

Bodie had formed an odd attachment to the old woman. At first, when Gil and Ray had moved here, he found himself growing increasingly annoyed at the way the old woman would constantly watch them from behind her curtains until one day, when Gil told him that in fact Mrs. Mills had rather a crush on Bodie. Finding this amusing, he finally went up to her on a rare day when he caught her outside.

It turned out they had a great deal in common. She had been born shortly before the end of the Great War, where her mother had been a nurse in France, and her father killed in combat. She had carried on the tradition by becoming a nurse, volunteering in Spain and then serving during WWII in north Africa, later living all around what was called, in her day, the Levantine, and in many of the African states Bodie had been in. They compared information on Jordan and the Congo, and she gave him a wonderful perspective on the war that Bodie had never gleaned from his military history books.

Mrs. Mills and Gillian had also formed a great friendship, and Mrs. Mills frequently gave her gardening advice; the two would often sit amidst the flowers discussing the late Mr. Mills' peccadilloes, particularly his sexual ones. Yet Mrs. Mills never failed to blush whenever Bodie came by.

She saw him coming up the walk and opened the door immediately, still in her matronly dressing gown, which she clutched at the throat.

"Have you seen Doyle this morning by any chance, luv?" Bodie asked in his most throaty voice.

"Oh, I did. He left a while ago. He had flowers in his hands, from the garden. I think he was going to the cemetery. I'm ever so glad he's home, but I do worry about him so much."

"Well, between you and me, we'll take care of him, eh? Ta luv. I've got to go find him, we're going to be late for a very important date." He leant down and kissed her cheek, as always. She blushed furiously. Bodie didn't know that as he bounced away, Mrs. Mills was watching his behind with great scrutiny.

Ah, that's it, he thought. Where else would he go after reading that letter? He ran out to the car and drove to the cemetery. Dawn had now swept gray light across the sky, but it looked like rain. Morning traffic was as obnoxious as usual, and Bodie would have to call in his whereabouts at least to let them know he wasn't going to be punctual. The military man in him hated tardiness. As he drifted through the streets, attempting to drive as slowly as his natural tendency towards speed would allow, he thought of the letter.

What if she were telling Doyle about Bodie's feelings? What if she were giving away all the secrets he'd shared with her? He wouldn't put it past her. He remembered every word of their conversations about Ray. She would think it perfectly suitable to tell Ray to consider Bodie; he could just see the sparkle in her eyes, cast sideways and up, a "butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth" expression on her face. That professional charm. She used it all the time to get information from people, could turn it on and off at a whim. It had been her most disconcerting feature to both him and Doyle from the beginning, and Bodie had never failed to fall victim to it even while knowing it was as calculated as a lie.

He shook his head. What if... God, how would Ray respond? She adored shocking him, always said someone so coolly confident about life deserved to be shocked, as often as possible. But would Ray believe it? Would he reject an idea like that out of hand? This will drive me crazy, Bodie thought. Gil, you liked to mix it up. And you knew all my secrets.

Bodie had found that all through the wedding reception, he could not take his eyes off Doyle. At least during the wedding, he'd had things to do, a role to play. But now there was just idle conversation with guests, nothing to keep his mind from wandering down paths he knew he daren't take.

He had never seen Ray look so exquisite. The salt and pepper hair, now longer and loose, waves curling down over his neck. The huge, slightly canted emerald eyes alight with happiness. A beautiful charcoal suit Bodie had picked out for him, from Italy, definitely not English tailoring. The snow white of the shirt offsetting the lightly tanned skin of Ray's heartshaped face. The riotously colored tie Bodie had given him, all full of purples and blues and greens, so perfectly Italian once again. It took Bodie's breath away, the completeness of him, the ease with which he flitted among guests, seraphic, contained in happiness.

Bodie thought that if it hadn't been for the slightly chipped tooth that set off the perfect whiteness of the smile, the damaged cheekbone -- still so mysterious to Bodie -- Ray would have looked too perfectly unearthly. The rakishness saved him from an almost toosweet beauty.

Suddenly he looked away, aware that he had not heard a single word his companions were saying, and that they would certainly become aware of how desperately he looked at Ray, if they hadn't already. His eyes swept across the room and for a brief moment, lit on Gil. She was dancing with an obviously very drunk Murphy, happily ensconced in his embrace. She looked right at Bodie then, her gaze locking onto his like a laser sight.

He suddenly lost all the breath in his lungs, then turned his attention to his companions. She knew. Within a heartbeat, she was there at his side.

"Ah. As bad as all that, then."

He stepped slightly away from the others, closer to her. Gillian's eyes bored into his, filled with an expression he couldn't name. Pain? Concern? Or just confusion? Bodie stared back at her.

She moved her head slightly and then he knew the expression. Bewilderment, and love so strong and sharp it could shatter diamonds.

No need to answer that, Bodie thought. He took her hand, and led her to the alcove off the hall's main floor. He stood behind her, and put both arms around her, squeezing tight. Gillian put her arms over his, and leant her head backwards onto Bodie's shoulder.

"Well, I always guessed you knew, but you never said anything," he said thoughtfully. "I assumed Ray would never speak of it."

"He doesn't, not in so many words. But I've heard about the shooting, about your caring for him. Isn't hard to put two and two together. And really, until today, I had never been sure. Wishful thinking, I guess. Makes it a bit awkward, doesn't it?"

"Please do not pity me," he whispered fiercely.

"Oh, I don't. I could never pity you. I adore you. It's only..."

"Only what?"

"Only...the expression on your face when you looked at him. Now I know what I must look like when I look at him."

Gillian turned around, into his arms, facing him. "Is this the most miserable day of your life? Bodie, please forgive me, I didn't know how much -- "

Bodie put soft, tender fingers to her lips. "This is a great day. Because there is nothing in this world I want more than to see Ray happy. God, look at him. He's practically beaming." He shook her shoulders lightly. "Look. I realized long ago that what I wanted in life wasn't always what I'd get. Life is too short for recriminations." He stroked her hair, realizing that for all intents and purposes, they looked like the lovers marrying today. "And I knew a long time ago that what was important was Ray's happiness. He couldn't give me what I wanted, so what I need for him is to be happy. Hell, just being around him day to day is good enough for me."

Burrowing her face in Bodie's neck, she soaked up the warmth of him, scented lightly with aftershave, a spicy smell that comforted her whenever she caught the aroma. She sniffed, trying to fight back tears.

"What about all those girlfriends you're always bringing around?"

"I enjoy the hell out of my life. Like I said, it's too short to go round moaning 'what if?'" He pulled her face up to his, kissed her cheek. "Besides, I get the benefits of both of you. Just don't mind me every once in a while giving a little sigh over the what if, okay?"

"Well, this is turning into a bummer of a day."

Bodie grabbed her shoulders and shook her sharply, suddenly full of anger and frustration. He shook her so hard her teeth snapped together. She looked at him in stunned alarm. "Pack it in, will you Gil? If you keep acting like this I will start to get angry that you got him, okay?"

They were both staring at each other, wideeyed with tears, when Murphy suddenly appeared, put out a hand, and pulled on Gillian. "You cut my dance short."

"Murph, you've monopolized her for the last three dances," Bodie said cheerily, trying to regain control.

The tall agent tugged on Gillian's arm and she let go of Bodie, but quickly put a hand up to his face. Nearly hissing with vehemence, she pointed a finger at him and whispered, "Don't you ever leave my life, or his, not for any reason." And she was gone, practically carried away by Murphy.

Later Bodie watched from the wall as Doyle, now weary of being the center of attention, stole his new bride away from the others and whirled her out to the dance floor. He had asked the band to play Stardust, and they danced slowly, staring into each other's eyes with a look that seemed stolen out of a romantic film. And Bodie felt his heart break with an undefinable anguish; having let these two people into his heart, he knew love and it didn't bring him much joy. He watched them, a hopelessness in his heart that he was looking at two people he was crazy about who were crazy about each other, and he didn't know which one he was more envious of.

Pulling into the cemetery, Bodie was fighting for a moment to remember where exactly her grave was. He had not been back since the burial. Oh yes, near that tree. He pulled the car in but there was no sign of Doyle. He almost drove away, then something called to him to stop the engine, get out. He walked over to the correct area, hunted for a few minutes, then found it. There were fresh flowers, couldn't have been more than a day old. Freesias. It must have been Ray, he always liked the smell of them.

He rested on his heels above the marker, brushed his fingertips over it.

Then Bodie was off like a shot, but when he returned to Doyle's house there was no sign of him, again. Shit! he thought. Am I going to have to chase you all around London, Ray?

Whipping the car out into the street, he sped over to his own flat. It was tradition, they always, always rode into work together. Ray wouldn't go in on his own, but his car was not there at the house -- it's either my flat or somewhere else entirely that I'll never find him at, Bodie thought miserably. He was still clinging to the fear he'd felt the night before, the haunting feeling that as Doyle grew less needful of his support, the friendship would change, drift apart. And now to throw in the letter, well...

When he pulled up outside the nondescript row of buildings he saw the white car. And there on the steps was Ray, sitting placidly, head resting on hands, musing.

Ray's head snapped up when he heard the tires squeal; it was always easy to hear Bodie coming round any corner. A smile spread across his wide face, his eyes lighting up. He'd been almost a little afraid that after last night, Bodie would desert him, realizing only after he'd gone into the house that Bodie couldn't fathom his need to clean out the detritus of a past spent together with her, which must now be a single life.

He hopped into the car quickly and settled in, sprawled out with legs wide and his body slouched down. "Make yourself comfortable," Bodie said irritably. He noticed Doyle was back to wearing his most ripped up pair of jeans and a green tshirt; lately he'd been slightly more formal (for Doyle, anyway), Bodie thought wryly.

"Thanks. I'm tired, mate." He closed his eyes and rested his head against the window, yawned in his most jaw-cracking fashion. Bodie was having none of this.

"We are going to be late, thanks to you. I've been chasing over half of greater London trying to find you." He whipped the car around a corner fast, jolting Doyle's head. A green eye glared at him sideways, then closed with the other one.

"I had to put Gil's things away last night," Doyle said with some gentleness in his voice, knowing that at this point Bodie needed to hear the thoughts and feelings that drove his actions, or Bodie would fill in the blanks, however incorrectly.

In their years partnering, they had become fairly attuned to each other's emotions, and while Bodie's mask of disinterest and cool removal from the world fooled almost everyone else, Doyle alone knew that Bodie held deep fears of being shut out by people he cared for. His thoughtful nature, coupled with the loneliness of his life, had caused him to walk a knife edge of emotion all his life -- keeping detached, yet wanting desperately to care for, and be cared for by, someone else. It had been obvious to him because of the way Bodie took to Gillian, to any of Doyle's girlfriends, actually. And it had taken him a few years to figure it out, that Bodie enjoyed Doyle's affection. He'd also realized that that was why Bodie clung to him. There was really no other reason why a man like Bodie would get along with, even care for, someone like him. Nearly polar opposites, yet...there the friendship was.

"I saw the house. It looked... somewhat empty." Bodie stared straight ahead, afraid of giving too much of his worry away to Doyle. While still relieved that he'd found out Doyle was not, in fact, rejecting his help, Bodie still felt as though Ray could fade away from him much too easily. Taking care of him had taken on much more importance, each day. Bodie knew it was the only path to having Ray in his life that way, the way he wanted him.

"I don't know. It just's been a while since I got back, since the whole thing happened. I felt like I had to do it." No mention of the letter.

"You could have told me. I'd have understood." Bodie shifted by holding onto the stick. This was always a clue to Ray that he was feeling nervous, tense. His usual method was a light touch on the gear knob, as effortless as a racing driver.

"Well...y''s just that you've spent so much time taking care of me lately, you haven't had any social life at all. I bet you haven't even had a date since I got back. And I want to get back on my feet. Get you back into having a life. It's not fair of me to monopolize your time."

"I'll bloody well decide how much time I want to spend on you myself, Doyle!" Bodie shouted at him. This face, this angry face, occasionally scared Ray. He'd seen Bodie out of control before and he damn well didn't ever want that rage directed at him. Cowley may have mastered the art of gentling Bodie back into calm; Ray preferred to stay as far away as possible. Doyle pulled his head back and stared at him with narrowed eyes.

Bodie was acutely conscious of how terrible he sounded. And he suddenly flashed back to a time before when he had bellowed at Ray in rage, covering for what he really wanted to do -- hold him tight, whisper over and over that things would be all right. Don't die on me, I need you, was what he'd really wanted to say that time. Instead he loomed over Doyle, who was helpless, breathing into an oxygen mask. Bodie had shouted at him. "For crissakes, Ray, tell me who did it!" Not what he'd wanted to say. What if they'd been his last words to this one man above all others who he cared for?

"Look. Right now, spending time taking care of you is what I want to do. Do you think you're the only one grieving?" His voice was rising but he couldn't stop it. Doyle clutched the dash, afraid Bodie would hit someone at this rate. "I loved her too, you know, she was my friend. I know you were her husband, but I loved her too. You got to spend time with her family. You have had time away from work. But I've had to sit this out by myself and cry by myself, and if now I want to have something to focus on, to help you get over this, then I will sodding well do it. How in the world could I possibly go out and sit there making idle chitchat with some bird I picked up in a pub or something, someone who doesn't even know Gil or why I loved her, and try to explain why I'm grieving for someone else's wife? Why would I even want to? I would rather be with someone who loved her and be miserable!"

By now Bodie was screaming at him, but instead of recoiling, Doyle sat passively, almost smiling.

They were nearly at the anonymous grey building that housed CI5.

Softly, he said, "I can't imagine you crying, ever." Bodie's head whipped around at him. Blue eyes like the ocean in a winter storm pierced Doyle to the core.

"You have no idea, Ray," Bodie said quietly, ardently. He pulled the car over to the corner.

Doyle, almost unaware of what he was doing, moved to put his hand up to Bodie's cheek. He wanted very much to touch this angry, almost shaking man. The thought sent his heart into cartwheels. Right now he wanted to make contact with Bodie, get inside his pain. "No, I think you're right. I have had no idea."

Bodie quickly snapped Ray's hand down, but held it firmly. "I do cry, Ray. I'm not a machine. You can't even imagine the amount of tears I lost over you when I watched them rip your ribcage open and start cutting into your chest. Or when I could see you literally struggling to decide to live or die. I've had too much time to myself since Gil died and I've spent most of it trying to hold myself together, but it doesn't always work. At least if I cried in front of you, you'd know where it was coming from." He squeezed Doyle's hand. "We're late enough, Sunshine."

They got out of the car and went into the building. Doyle dropped back a moment, and Bodie turned to see him looking at him with an odd mixture of befuddlement and amusement. "You called me Doyle just now. You never call me that 'less we're working on a job." He started smiling now. "I do remember you crying. I remember you telling me you needed me." He moved towards Bodie, their faces close, feeling heat upon heat. "I'd like to take care of you, too. I'd like you to need me, again."

Then he was off, down the hall and into the office, before Bodie could catch back the air that had left his lungs in such a hurry.

Cowley virtually ignored them when they entered the room. That alone made Bodie highly nervous. The pair's continuing punctuality problems were a source of extreme irritation to Cowley, and Bodie had learned to be very wary when their lack of timeliness wasn't mentioned. It was likely he would hit them with something else later when they weren't expecting it.

The old man merely waved at the table, a silent order to sit down and get to it. "Law schools." He was staring at the board, watching Ruth writing all the information on the grid. Lucas and Murphy answered, flipping through their files. Bodie hurriedly picked his up -- Martin Moore, the judge. Papers slipped out as he furiously looked through the notes. Doyle bested him with his file first, on the Plymouth barrister. No connections. "Where did their wives get their hair done?" The men began checking their lists of information.

For the next two days it went like that. Desperately trying to make connections that weren't there. Over and over each other's paperwork. Going over the interviews with family, acquaintances. Endless telephone calls, endless comparisons.

Throughout, Bodie noticed Doyle constantly staring at him. He would suddenly turn to look at the man beside him only to catch him look away. Even when he would stare at his papers, head down, and turn his eyes surreptitiously to Doyle, he would catch a brief glimpse of the cat's eyes watching him, then they would quickly flit away.

It was beginning to drive him slowly crazy. He noticed Doyle paying less and less attention to the case, and he noticed it in himself as well.

And there were no connections, on the third day. The board was a mishmash of names, places, dots that could not be connected. Cowley ran fingers through his hair, took his glasses off and peered out at the grey day. "Let's start in again on private lives. If they went curb crawling every once in a blue moon, I want to know about it."

By late afternoon the room began to smell of the odor of tired men in close quarters. Cowley was repeatedly rubbing his eyes, all the agents were getting edgy. There was nothing, no connections of prosecutions, of business dealings, of anything gone awry. Betty had arranged sandwiches for them, Doyle lazily picked at the remains of his as he stared at the two files in front of him. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about them -- Blake, the Plymouth barrister, and Moore, the judge -- bothered him. He drifted off in the sounds of everyone still munching away. Bodie had consumed a cake in one bite and seeing Ray's wool-gathering look, quickly picked up the other man's food and stuffed it in his mouth. Doyle was so used to Bodie stealing his food that he didn't even look at him.

"Why are you being so agreeable lately?" Bodie whispered to him.


"Why are you so agreeable? You're never this nice when I pinch your food." He took the last bite of Ray's cheese sandwich and smiled. Doyle merely stared at him with the same inscrutable look he'd been driving Bodie crazy with the past few days.

"Got used to it the past few years. Between you and Gil it's a wonder I ever ate anything at all."

He looked away and Bodie watched the drifting expression creep back on him.

Deductive reasoning... Doyle thought. Something about it, the way they were looking at this. He'd once talked about that with Gil, hadn't he?

"Well, you know, we just look at things differently. That's why we're always at odds with each other...not you and me, I mean, the press and police organizations." Gillian had looked at him semiseriously, shrugged her shoulders. They had been arguing about the press coverage of the trial of an American serial killer.

"How do you reckon that?" Doyle asked, suspicious.

"Well, it's deductive versus inductive reasoning. In deductive reasoning, which I think is primarily what cops would use, you're making conclusions from the general idea, creating a specific. Jane Doe is murdered, there's our general situation, now we work backwards to the specific. Who did it? How was it done? You start with a general -- the mystery -- and work inward to solve it.

"But in inductive reasoning, you derive general principles from particular facts or instances. So journalists tend to say, this woman was murdered, did her husband do it? Was he abusive? If so, why wasn't she helped, was she trying to get away from him? How is it that society allows such things as spousal abuse to happen? Once you nail the guy who did it, what everyone wants to buy a paper for is, why? So we go around poking into the missing pieces of the big picture. We just work forward, you guys have to work backwards."

Working backwards, he thought. Maybe that's what the problem is. We want to find the missing pieces but maybe the answer is more in the big picture. He stared at the files, flipping the words over and over in his head. Finally he looked up.

"Sir," he said to Cowley, almost meekly. Everyone turned their attention to him, his voice was oddly soft. They were used to the rougher Doyle, the one who never asked, only told.

Cowley looked at him with tired eyes. "Eh?"

"What if we're looking at this in the wrong way?" he said.

He was met with an exasperated glare. "What are you getting at, Doyle? Just spit it out, I haven't time for games."

"Well, I mean...what if we looked at this, and said, 'what's missing,' rather than, 'what have they done that connects them.' Maybe it's not something they've done at all, or somewhere they've been, but something they've failed to do." He saw he now had Cowley's attention.

"This is sort of what I mean. I've looked at these two files for the past hour, and I keep noticing these two cases. Totally different yet -- " He pulled out the paperwork and laid it on the table. "Both of these men were involved in child molestation cases within the past two years. Here, the judge allowed a dismissal of this case for lack of evidence. And Blake, the barrister, defended a child molester who was acquitted. That man later murdered a child. What if it's something they didn't do that connects them? What if all these men in some way, for instance, were involved in a molestation case, and what if...well, those people went free? A lack of a conviction, say, or a judge throwing out the case?"

Everyone was staring at Doyle with dawning belief. Cowley sat up straight and grabbed the papers. Each agent looked at his file. "I don't see anything in this case log right now, but let me go to computers and get more information on his files," Lucas said, excited.

Cowley stared hard at Doyle. "I think you have a very good idea there, laddie," he said, a smile quirking his lips. "A very good idea indeed." It was times like this, he reminded himself, that he was in fact glad he'd hired those two.

"It's the bigger picture, sir. Remember Mickey Hamilton? Something like that? Only on a more...moral level, a personal problem gone bigger. He thinks he's saving society, not just getting revenge like Mickey."

Murphy looked up from his file. "I've got another one sir. The London attorney. Unsuccessfully prosecuted a child molestation case three years ago. In front of...the honorable Justice Moore. It's just a footnote here." He looked up at Cowley, then at Doyle. The tension level and excitement had risen one hundred percent in the room. Ruth immediately called to the computer room, started giving them instructions.

Cowley looked at all the agents. "I want every case on file for all these men in the last -- say, five years. And I want everyone involved in this -- police, CID, everyone. We want to look for any letters to police or the victims that may be on file, telephoned threats against any individuals involved, letters to editors of newspapers about such topics, anything that fits this. My guess is this man -- or these people -- have not acted anonymously. It wouldn't fit their intentions to randomly kill people without first attempting some sort of warning or threat. They want to change the world, so there must be some message out there."

Looking hard at Doyle, he snapped up the files and then cracked a very broad smile. "I don't know what wee bit of insight led to this but I think I owe you one very large Scotch."

Doyle shrugged. "I guess I could say I was just inspired." He noticed Bodie looking at him from the corner of the room, standing there with files in his hands. A wonderful, wry smile played over his lips, and his eyes were fastened tight on Ray.

Doyle smiled back, aware that Bodie was quite striking in his black poloneck sweater. His blue eyes blazed with what Doyle would have sworn was pride. As Cowley moved toward his office, Bodie cocked an eyebrow at him. "Well, Sherlock, looks like you've done it again."

His best "it was nothing" nod didn't earn any points with Bodie. "Oh, you're too modest, old son. Pretty soon you'll have cracked this case. We may make a detective out of you yet." He walked to Ray, put a warm hand on Doyle's shoulder. Bodie always had warm hands, Ray thought. His shoulder tingled. He realized, as he watched Bodie move toward the door, that his face was flushed red. Bodie paused at the door, looking over his shoulder at Ray, a hint of something on his face, but Ray couldn't place what. Then Bodie was gone, and Doyle put a hand up to touch his cheek, which was quite hot.

Embarrassment? No, he thought, it was the way he complimented me. My god, I'm acting like a schoolgirl.

Suddenly he was acutely aware of his actions and responses to Bodie. This is why someone thinks I'm capable of being in love with Bodie. This is exactly what she must have meant.

It was definitely time to get back to work.

Chapter Six

The CI5 building was abuzz with activity. Bodie informed the CI5 controller that most of the expected information would arrive from all points by midday tomorrow. All the other departments they had contacted had put people on the search, and promised reports immediately.

The old man smiled at Bodie and Doyle. "Ah...good lads. You've earned an evening off. Why don't you go on home tonight, you deserve the rest. Then get back here in the morning -- promptly!" He took his glasses off and looked hard at the two agents.

"Yes, sir," Bodie said in crisp military style, happy to be alone with Ray. He'd had a good feeling about this evening.

Cowley couldn't help but smile after them as they left. They were often unorthodox; Bodie was a loose cannon and Doyle had not only a terrible temper but a moodiness as well, yet they were the best agents he had ever chosen for CI5. He spared a moment to think of their futures. It had been over ten years now that they were partnered together, and they were both reaching an age where running about chasing criminals could be too taxing -- or too dangerous. Cowley tended to view street operatives the way the sports world viewed athletes -- once past thirty-five things went downhill; after forty you were completely marginalized. Yet he himself never minded a bit of field work, even at his advanced age. He would have to think about what to do with them now that the time had come to consider it. They were too valuable to lose, but at that age... And truth to tell, I'm terribly fond of them, he thought.

"Like the sons you never had," Gillian had remarked once, watching the way he looked at them with a mixture of vexation and admiration, after her testimony had been finished. And she had been right, only he'd never have admitted that to her, he thought, a small smile tracing his lips.

It had been no secret to either of the agents that once her usefulness was up, Cowley had not been terribly attached to Gillian Bailey. He considered her constant challenge to the rules and order he'd created in the CI5 world a nuisance, and had not liked the feeling that at any time, she could paste CI5 all over the pages of the newspaper if she so desired. He knew that was unlikely, but Cowley had never been at ease around the press, and knowing a journalist personally did not change his uneasiness one bit.

George Cowley was a pragmatist, if anything, and knew that his agents cared little for achieving any knowledge of his personal history, or of achieving a personal knowledge of him. He was the controller, in more ways than one, and he recognized their fear of him, tinged with a dismissal of his private life. To them, he had no private life, he was the boss, and insofar as he made the rules, that was all they needed to know. The closest any of them had come to knowing him was Bodie and Doyle's discovery of his past with Annie Irvine, but even that had stopped at the end of that case, and they had never bothered to find out about his young life as a husband, soldier, a man with hopes and dreams and a future. For all they knew, he was born this age, and would die exactly as he was now.

This suited him to some degree, yet there were times, like this, when he wished he could express the almost paternal regard he held for his top team. But there were rules, Cowley had created them, and he followed them to the letter.

"I think this calls for a drink," said Bodie, squeezing Doyle's shoulder. "C'mon, let me buy you a round. Then we'll put it on the expense chit and the Cow can pay for it." He grinned widely, his eyebrows wiggling up and down.

"You're on!" It was the first time that Doyle had felt like being in public, in a pub or anyplace else noisy and full of life.

They entered the busy pub, crawling with afterwork types, Bodie spying one lone tiny table in the back corner. He moved quickly to grab it. Doyle watched him then weave through the crowd to the bar, pick up the drinks and weave back, never spilling a drop. The grace of the man, Doyle thought admiringly. He's like some jungle cat, never loses his footing, never loses his style and skill.

Snapping fingers in front of his eyes brought him out of his reverie. "Earth to Doyle." Bodie sat down and pushed the drink in front of Ray. "Where were you, Sunshine?"

"Actually..." He decided to go for broke. He was in a jolly mood after the heady success at the office. "I was admiring your gracefulness. You move like a cat. I've often thought that when you run."

And Bodie found himself drawn back in the most ugly way to something he preferred to forget, when Gil had said nearly the same thing to him. He'd been leaning over Gillian's hospital bed, staring tiredly at the face almost covered with tubes. Doyle was now asleep in the next bed, dozing fitfully, in and out. They had been so stupid, Cowley had shouted, more at himself than at the agents. How could they have let their guard down just because her testimony was over? It wouldn't be the first time a terrorist group had killed just for retribution.

And they had acted, shot at them when they were moving out of the safe house, hitting Gillian in the chest just as she was getting ready to step into Bodie's car.

Bodie had run after their car, senselessly, opening himself up to being shot as well.

At her hospital bedside, he had watched her, feeling he'd let her down, let Ray down. Momentarily her eyes had flickered, then opened on him. A trace of a smile played across the pale lips. "Hey," she'd whispered.

"Hey yourself," he'd said, trying for cheer but realizing he was failing miserably.

The eyes closed, then opened again. " 'm I gonna be okay?" Her eyes tilted toward him but she did not seem strong enough to move her head.

"Oh yeah, you'll be up and around soon. Bullet hit just under your collarbone, above the heart. Enough to spin you around and put you right out of harm's way." He stroked her hair.

"You're a real ball of fire, y'know?" A long pause for breath. "I remember you running and shooting. You look real good doing that." She'd tried for a chuckle but it wracked her with spasms.

"You should really try to rest," Bodie said. It seemed he was spending too much time recently leaning over wounded people he cared for.

"Where's that cute guy with the green eyes?"

Bodie'd nodded in the direction of the other bed. "Fell asleep. Been up round the clock the past two days wearing holes in the lino." She hadn't turned to look but shifted her eyes in that direction.

"Let him sleep." A deep intake of breath. "I'll catch up with him later." Then she drifted off. "You look real good running, you know..."

"Earth to Bodie," Doyle said sharply, snapping fingers in front of the dark man's face. "Now it's your turn. Where were you?"

"Thinkin' about Gil. She once said something like that, too. 'bout the running." A flush of embarrassment colored the high, proud cheekbones. In profile, in the low light, Doyle thought: he's too beautiful. The embarrassment only made him seem more attractive.

Doyle wiped a hand across his eyes. Jesus. I am not going to do this. Not just because she put this thought in my head. This isn't the way it should be.

Both of them were silent in their reveries for a few moments, drinking. Then Doyle said, "Oi. How 'bout another round?" Bodie obediently got up and went to the bar. Ray watched him go, again, admiring him from behind, how tight his black cords were. He'd never seen Bodie in blue jeans and wondered what he'd look like. Then just as quickly put the brakes on. This is absurd, Doyle thought. Get a grip.

"About what you said..." Bodie began. "About being graceful. Thanks. It's nice to get a compliment like that from you."

Doyle looked very seriously at Bodie, expecting to see his smirk, finding instead only a genuine smile. The deep blue of his eyes was turned black by the low light, the rich pout of mouth exaggerated by shadow. Was it really so hard to imagine caring for Bodie that way? He already felt such a strong love for him as a friend, as his most trusted companion. Could it be so impossible to make another step forward, to imagine him as more than friend?

A part of him wanted to curse Gil for putting such an insidious little thought in his head; the other part of him wanted to see just what she was on about. She always did know me better than anyone else...except for Bodie.

And there was the crux of the matter, Doyle thought. What was he looking for? Did he love Gillian because she was a female representation of Bodie, and therefore more acceptable to him? Or did he now have feelings for Bodie because he was just another version of Gil? Were the two interchangeable to him? Maybe it was all based on some strange chemical order in his brain. What was he looking for, a type? The cockiness, the risqué humor, the takechances attitude, the quiet, secretive nature, the cool, detached air hiding passion and fire, the blue eyes, milky skin, aristocratic face, hypercharged sexuality? Was that all there was, and any variation, male or female, would do?

He couldn't believe it was so cut and dried. It was more than that, had to be. But he knew the very things that drew him to Gillian were now drawing him to Bodie in a way he'd never imagined.

Or was it all just because they'd spent such an intense time together recently, Bodie pulling him out of the deep, dark water of grief he was drowning in? Why did you leave me to this? he thought angrily. His fist clenched and smacked the table.

Bodie drew his head back and blinked his eyes twice, then opened them in exaggerated surprise. "What's all this, then?"

Unclenching his fist, Doyle answered slowly. "I guess... I'm angry at her for leaving me. Is that terrible, to be angry with her?" Bodie shook his head in response. "I didn't want her to go to Central America. I thought things were too...violent there. We argued about it. And now, it's like, our last words were harsh words. I can't forget that, and it makes me angrier still. That I never got to tell her I was sorry we fought. It seemed like we did that a lot." Bodie had, in fact, begun calling her terrible temper the spontaneous combustion. She had been known to blow up, stalk out, and not return for hours, sometimes days. The last one had been like that. He paused, searching for something else. "I feel like I'm having a lot of things swooshing around in my brain right now. Conflicting messages."

"Like what?" Bodie asked softly, leaning in. He was wondering if this had to do with the letter. Mustn't push too hard, though.

Doyle thought for a moment. Well, here goes. "About you and me. About something Gil said, about how close we are. About how much I loved her and how I don't want to just replace her in my life. I miss her so much!" His voice rose sharply on the last note and a number of other drinkers turned to stare at the two men. Ray rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyes.

Bodie stroked a hand lightly over Ray's arm. "I know. I know. It's going to be all right. It will all sort itself out." A pause, in which he thought, oh you little minx, you really did do it, didn't you? You told him. "What did she say?"

"I can't explain it." He looked down at the table, drawing a shaky hand over his eyes. "'d have to see it...for yourself. Read the letter, I mean." Huge green eyes that held all the promise and pain of love stared up into Bodie's.

"D'you want me to? Is that really what you want?" He took his hand away, and under the table put it gently on Ray's left hand, which rested on a knee. "You can decide to turn back, if that's what you want. I can pretend we never had this conversation."

"No." Doyle shook his head, the long grey and auburn waves floating loosely around his lovely face.

Right now, Bodie thought, I know I have never seen anything so heartshatteringly beautiful as this face. "C'mon then, let's go back to the house."

The two stood up to leave, stepping out of the smoky bar and into the warm air of early summer. For Bodie, the darkness was alive with color and light.

As they walked, Doyle wondered if she had always known something about him, about them, that he couldn't see. It had completely slipped his mind until last night, the time he had first seen the knowing look on her face. She'd come round a corner of Doyle's flat; she was staying with him at the time, just back from Africa. Bodie had said something to egg him on, and Doyle had leapt upon Bodie, beginning a friendly tussle that involved much flailing of limbs. He had looked up suddenly, half his shirt being pulled off by Bodie, the other man's body turning under him in order to flip him over. Gil was simply standing there, arms folded across her chest, the slow smile that was her trademark inching her lips upward.

Doyle froze, embarrassed at being caught out like a schoolboy by the headmaster. Bodie looked up, then quickly stood and smoothed out his shirt. She had looked at Bodie for some time, the smile turning into a grin, then outright laughter. Finally she turned her gaze to Doyle, shook her head and walked back around the corner. "Boys will be boys."

Oh, I bet you thought that, Doyle now said to himself. You were thinking this whole thing through even then! He shook his head, a laugh beginning to bubble up inside him. Even from the beginning you were plotting this out.

Not that it should have surprised him, Ray realized. He'd always liked Gillian's tendency to rile people. When he'd thought about it, it was something he'd been drawn to in any of the people he stayed around for longer than a few days. He'd liked Ann's combative disagreement when no one else had, and had been amused by Anita's nervy prickliness; of course, the girlfriends who didn't last longer than a date or two always had that air of helplessness or girlishness about them, were too sweet or agreeable. And there was his relationship with Bodie, he thought as he watched him walk beside him -- his verbal sparring partner, his match in sarcasm and explosiveness. Obviously, no matter what he liked to admit, there was a pattern in his life.

He had enjoyed watching the changes in Bodie over the past few years. Bodie had learned to open up, to give more of himself to people than just his cynicism and goofy humor. Part of it, Ray assumed, was his own friendship with Bodie, the way Bodie felt about him. But he would also attribute it to the trust necessitated by Cowley for the organization, that made him more willing to give something back to those he knew. And knowing Gillian hadn't hurt -- it was as though Bodie had become aware of his own closed disposition by seeing it mirrored in her, and he had matured into someone more open because of that awareness.

At Doyle's house, Bodie felt such tension in the air it far and away exceeded the nerves he often had on stakeouts or bodyguard duty. Much more was at stake here, he thought wryly, than someone's life.

Doyle threw keys down and went to the kitchen to pour another drink.

"Maybe you should make that coffee, mate," Bodie said with softness. Doyle's hand, suspended in midair with a bottle, stopped, then he put the bottle down.

"Yeah, probably a good idea." While he began making coffee Bodie noticed something large and white out of the corner of his eye, something he'd never seen before.

"What's this? Mind if I look?" But he was already picking up the oversized sketchpad before Doyle could respond.

He lifted the cover before realizing he might be stepping in private territory. On the top page was a charcoal drawing of Gillian. Bodie sat down hard on the floor, staring at it. "My God, Ray, it's beautiful. You did this?"

Doyle handed him a steaming mug. "Yeah. A long time ago. Thinking of framing it."

"You should," Bodie said admiringly. "It's really lovely, Ray. It captures everything about her."

It was from the arms up, in front of a typewriter, one hand moving through upswept hair that refused to stay in its trappings, tendrils falling on her face and neck. The eyes looked off to the left, obviously concentrating on something far away. A pencil was nestled in the hair above one ear, and her lips were parted slightly, as though she might say something at any moment. The strokes were bold but faded lightly into the edges of the picture. Bodie had seen some of Doyle's paintings before, a few figure sketches, but never one like this.

"I took a quick snap once when she wasn't looking, with one of those instant camera thingies. She was furious right after I did it. Writing that book about the shooting."

Lips curling into an ironic smile, Bodie said, "That was so typical of her. Don't waste money on a headshrinker dealing with your problems because you've been shot; just write a book about it and get over it that way."

"Was a good book though, wasn't it?"

Bodie smiled at him and shook his head slightly. They were sitting next to each other now on the floor, the sketchpad on Bodie's lap. "Trust you, Sunshine. You and your scruffy clothes, your stories about your tearaway childhood, your playing at being some yob who'd as soon beat you up as look at you. And who do you marry but an author?"

Doyle smiled down at the sketch.

"How did you know, Ray?" Bodie asked, suddenly serious and quiet. "How did you know when she was the one?"

"Dunno. I guess... I guess it was the morning after our first night together. She could see my scar in the light. She touched it ever so slightly, and then she just said, "That looks like it was very painful for you." That was it. No questions about how or why. And I s'pose I was thinking, she fits right in. Just like no one in CI5 would think to question you about stuff like that. They would accept you as you are and move along. You have never asked me about my cheekbone. No one there has. And there she was, just accepting that what I did was painful and yes, dangerous, but it was okay. Almost would."

Bodie turned the page of the sketch book and looked at another drawing of Gil, then turned the next page and sucked in his breath sharply. A black and white sketch, all shadow and light, of him. The tight cap of wavy dark hair, the downcast eyes, almost closed, his head bent slightly as though considering something of great importance.

He turned his face up towards Ray's, their eyes meeting in fiery impact. Doyle's fingers were pushed against his own lips, his face pensive.


"Once when we were on surveillance. You were so tired. I couldn't get the image out of my mind, the way you were lit from the street. It was beautiful."

Bodie stared at him, heart shattering in a million pieces and carried away on dove's wings. He couldn't speak, but he wanted to cry. He had never imagined anyone seeing him this way. Finally Ray got up, extended a hand. "Come on upstairs. Something you should see." Bodie followed him, fingers faintly touching Doyle's, held near him as though on some fine silver thread, and with his eyes glistening with too many teardrops.

In the bedroom, Ray dug around in the chest of drawers until he found the letter, and sat down on the floor next to the bed. Bodie flopped, stomach down, on the bed, his head nearly even with Doyle's. The scent of Ray next to him made Bodie slightly giddy. Steady old son, he told himself. Don't go losin' it now. For a while Ray played with the envelope, then finally took out the letter and handed it to Bodie without looking at him.

The darker man read for some time, carefully and without comment, before handing the letter back to his partner. Vixen, he thought. You always liked to make trouble.

They were both silent. Bodie's arms were starting to ache dully from supporting himself on his elbows, but right now, nothing would make him move short of a gun to his head.

"How did you know, Bodie? When did you know I was the one?" He said it very cautiously, being sure that Bodie would not think he was mocking his earlier words.

"Dunno." This Bodie said almost lightly, trying desperately to anchor his heart from flying away again. Doyle half turned then, looked at him slightly sideways. Their faces nearly touched. "I suppose it was from the beginning. But I only confronted it when you were shot. Ray, I'm not some fainting flower who pines away for you. You're my best mate, the closest friend I've ever had. I wouldn't jeopardize that for the world."

Now Doyle stood, putting the letter back on the dresser and beginning to pace around the room. Bodie flopped over onto his back, head dangling off the side of the bed. He watched Ray, slightly upside down, his eyes shifting to follow the other man's path.

"Didn't it bother you? Feeling...that way about...a man?"

Bodie shook his head. "Well, at first I wondered what the hell got into me. But look. I've been around the block a few times. I've done things... well, let's just say that when you spend a lot of time with men in a jungle there's not much nature still has to teach you."

Doyle stopped pacing and stared at him. "And it doesn't bother you." This was not a question. Bodie's calmness, his utter casualness about this whole subject unnerved Doyle tremendously.

"One thing does. It's the idea of loving someone so much you'd stand in front of a bullet for them. It's contrary to everything I've taught meself. Sex with another man, who cares. I've been there and done that. But loving another man, loving anyone...well, that makes it a different equation."

Shaking his head to clear it, he turned over and stood up. Then he walked to where Doyle stood rooted to the carpet. "You're a couple years older than I am. I thought you're supposed to know everything," he said in his black velvet voice. A smile played across Bodie's lips, and he cocked an eyebrow at Ray. Then he put one hand up to the side of Ray's face, smoothing his thumb over and over the flawed cheekbone. If there was anything more breathtaking in the world than those catlike green eyes, Bodie didn't know what it could be. "It's been only a few months, Ray. You'll not be over this for a long time." His fingers played music on Ray's skin.

"I'm not going to lie to you. I'd give my life tomorrow for just one night to love you, to hold you and touch you in the way I've always dreamt it. And don't think I haven't dreamt it. But you're grieving, I'm grieving, and I'm not going to take advantage of it no matter how tempting. If something happens to change how you feel about me, I'll be the happiest man on earth. But it has to be when you're capable of making those decisions, when your view isn't colored by your feelings for Gil. And if you don't change your mind, then that's okay. I won't jeopardize this partnership -- I've done it this long, I can keep up doing it."

Then he leant forward and brought his lips to Ray's full mouth, gently pressing his heated skin against Ray's. Every muscle in his hard, strong body was clenched, fighting against the trembling that wanted to overtake him.

Ray drew into the kiss, parting his lips to let Bodie's strong mouth control him. Quivering with fear, and what he was beginning to recognize was desire, he moved a hand up to place it on Bodie's waist. His fingers clutched at the black cotton of Bodie's poloneck, wishing he were connecting with skin instead.

Then Bodie pulled his ripe mouth away, moist and nearly red from the pressure of Doyle's own voluptuous lips. Ray opened his eyes to stare at Bodie's face, the eyes shuttered closed against him. Bodie was reeling, using all his skill to stay on his feet. He brought both hands up to cup Ray's wide-open, trusting face. His fingers laced through the silken waves of Ray's hair, sending tremors through the other man's body. Ray suddenly, joltingly, brought both arms up to circle around Bodie's, clutching him tightly. Bodie sank his face into the soft, scented hair, breathing heavily and creating a mist of condensation around his mouth.

"I love you, Ray. I always have done and I always will." He brought his face forward, sapphire eyes locked on green flame. "In your time, come to me. I can wait."

And he kissed the exquisite mouth again, lightly, soft butterfly kisses over each inch of lip, kissed the flawed cheekbone; and then Bodie went from the house, leaving Ray standing there spinning from a tornado of emotion and raw hunger he thought had left him, buried with his wife.

Chapter Seven

Doyle lay on the bed, head swimming from the evening's complications. In his wildest dreams, he'd never anticipated the night going this way; first his willingness to let Bodie see the letter, then the shared kiss.

I can't afford another sleepless night, he thought. I'll be useless to anyone if this case breaks tomorrow. But try as he might, he was assailed by thoughts of what had happened, what would happen. Bodie was right -- he'd been grieving over Gil's death for only a few months, not even that really. It wasn't time enough to come to decisions. Or was it?

Wasn't this what she'd tried to engineer? I doubt she had a timeline in mind, Doyle thought wryly. He got up off the bed, turned on a light and went to the bookcase, pulling down the one thing he'd not dared look at since he first received news of her death. It was too distressing to read the dedication, to see over and over the words that described her pain and fear. And that photograph Bodie had taken for the back cover, her face so alive, smiling.

He flipped the pages to the first paragraphs, always uncomfortable for him, remembering the helplessness he felt at not being able to protect her.

"We never count two seconds in our lives, not in the day to day collection of minutes and hours we must pass. But I imagine now all the ways in which a life can be changed by two seconds: the person crossing the street as the light changes to walk, not seeing the car speeding through the signal; the man who walks under darkened clouds, and doesn't see a lightning bolt rocketing through the air to strike him; the bullet that rips from a gun into your chest.

"Two seconds, and a life is changed forever."

Doyle thought of his own two seconds so many years ago, walking into his flat after stupidly forgetting to set the locks, only to hear the sharp whizzing of bullets hitting him in the chest. And of Gil's last two seconds. He flipped to the end of the book.

"I've learned that life is too short. It demands attention, down to the seconds. We can never know what is coming around the corner, whether it's the speeding car, the lightning -- or the bullet. We have to take what it offers us at all times, because two seconds may be really all we have."

Ray lay back down on the bed. She'd been telling him all along, he thought. Don't wait for it to come to you, because you never know. Take it. He saw her smile as though she were in the room with him. Don't wait around for me, she said. You don't know what can happen. Find love now and take whatever comes, but take it now. Life's just too damn short.

Doyle pulled the duvet up over himself and fell into sleep. He woke up at five a.m., sweating, shouting out first Gillian's name, then Bodie's. They were in a car that had exploded in flames as they pounded on the windows, screaming his name, begging him to save them. In the morning he could not remember the dream; but a feeling of extreme unease stayed with him.

Bodie picked Doyle up for the drive into work, full of cheery bonhomie, as though nothing had happened the night before. Ray decided to take his cue from his friend's behavior and fell into a casual discussion with him over the merits of carrot juice for breakfast as opposed to orange juice.

Doyle had always liked it when Bodie was extremely up and full of life. He had a childlike air about him -- childish, was what Doyle always called it -- that contrasted sharply with his own more sensitive, serious nature. Not that there wasn't much give and take between the two agents; ribbing and needling each other, making lewd jokes, playing pranks were as much a part of their relationship as covering each other's backsides in a fight.

But when push came to shove, it was usually Bodie who had the ready laugh for nearly anything, Bodie who had all the other CI5 agents doubled over with laughter merely telling them what had happened in his day, Bodie who could cheerfully crack jokes while trying to dismantle a bomb. Sometimes, Doyle thought, he was like a teenager, bouncing along on the balls of his feet, full of nervous energy, using often-misplaced humor in sticky situations.

The contradictions about his tall, handsome partner beguiled Doyle. As macho and violent as he could be kind, he was also almost courtly; at home in a tuxedo or a track suit, as comfortable at an embassy dinner as playing darts at their local, or as adept at picking a fine wine as stuffing a Swiss roll into his mouth in one bite. Nothing about Bodie fit with people's preconceptions. Doyle himself had learned that the hard way, through years of gently chipping away at the mortar of Bodie's brick wall.

Sometimes, Ray thought, the wall was as much a contradiction of Bodie's real personality as the moronic jokes and silly pranks. No, he thought, the real man is somewhere in between both worlds. He's not completely removed and detached, nor is he just wild and oafish. And I think I'm the only one who knows that, Doyle thought with a shock of recognition.

They pulled up at the anonymous office once more, and as he sat musing over the mystery of his partner, the indigo eyes suddenly flashed his way and Bodie smiled, then gave a wink. A brief, safe reminder of yesterday.

Inside, piles of computer reports, police reports, phone messages awaited them. They both wilted. "Well, might as well get started. Got a mad bomber to catch," Bodie said in jaunty tones.

But to their surprise, they had it in hand fairly shortly. A whistle escaped Doyle's lips, and he handed a group of papers to Bodie. "Looks like we have a winner," he said.

Bodie read the copies of letters to two victims, each given to their local police precincts. They were from a group called Parents Against Sexual Predators, and were involved in attempts at changing laws about sexual predators. It seemed they had an uphill battle. One signature in particular appeared on a number of the letters the group had written to newspapers, prosecutors, and judges. Another piece of paper was an angry letter to the chief prosecutor, written by only one man, whose signature appeared on all the others. All signed by the same man, all similarly indicating that soon people would have to wake up and realize what was happening to this world of defenseless children, and that weak-willed legal representatives would be sorry.

"See what you can find on this bloke," Bodie said to Doyle, who called down to computer records. When the information was returned, Doyle looked at Bodie with arched eyebrows and gave him a thumbs-up signal.

Both agents sprinted for Cowley's office. Bodie, always the fairhaired boy in Cowley's world, handed the paper to the older man. "I'd say we don't just have a link here sir. I'd say we have a suspect. And look at this." He handed Cowley another report, a computer sheet. "He's an engineer, electrical engineer. Used to work for Philips, until almost three years ago. When his son disappeared. The kid was found five months later in a stream, sans clothing, molested and strangled. Everything fit the M.O. of one Lester Price, then recently released from Her Majesty's care. Looks like as soon as he got out he did it again."

Cowley looked up at the two. "Aye...I remember that one. A tragic story." He looked over the information.

"And get this," Bodie said. "He's a black powder gun collector. Have a lot of caps with those, you'd think."

"I want you two, McCabe, Lucas, Murphy, up there now. I think you should bring our Mr. Long in for a chat."

They drove outside the city toward Long's suburban home. Doyle could not shake the sense that this was all happening too fast. "I mean, what do we know about him? We haven't looked into anything yet, we're just all heading up there like the bleedin' Seventh Cavalry and he could be a few steps ahead of us already. We know he's pretty clever. I dunno." He shook his head. "I just have a bad feelin' about this."

"Look, Butch Cassidy, we have to at least check this out. What do you want us to do, ring him up and ask him to come down?"

"No, it's just that...I just have a bad feeling, that's all." Two seconds. The words sped through his mind for a moment but he shook it aside.

Bodie shrugged and then commented, "I know you like to think you've got the gift of sight, Ray, but we're pretty well armed here, we're fairly clever too, and I think things'll be okay. Don't let's worry, or you'll just get in a muddle." He motioned to the back seat. "I'm hungry, would you hand me one of those chocolate thingies?"

Doyle scrunched his face up and scowled at Bodie. "You'd eat in the middle of the bloody apocalypse, you would."

"Would have to. Got to keep your strength up if you'll be arguin' with God about whether he should let you in or not."

"Charmin'," Doyle countered in aggrieved tones.

They came to the address, a nice country home, surrounded by hedgerows. It kept the house fairly secluded, the only entrance a treelined drive. Doyle did not like the narrow entry. "Looks like someone had money in the family. Wasn't he married, before? Wonder if she's the one with the bread." He peered towards the house. "He could easily see us from here, be watching if he's home."

"We'll know soon enough, eh?" Bodie flipped the concern back to him.

"We're dealing with a bomber here, Bodie. Remember that," Doyle said sharply.

The two cars pulled up, Bodie and Doyle getting out first, slowly surveying the grounds; Murphy, Lucas and McCabe then exited their car. Doyle motioned for them to move around toward the back of the house.

There was a motor in the garage, Doyle noticed. I bet he's home. I bet he's just watching and waiting to see what we're on about. As Bodie moved towards the front door, Doyle saw a flicker of light off to the side of the garage. Then an engine started, and as Doyle quickly drew his gun he suddenly thought: he's making a getaway.

Why the thought occurred to him, he couldn't pinpoint, even later. But as the car skidded out of the garage onto the gravel drive, he knew they'd walked into a trap. He knew Bodie was in danger -- only he didn't know why, or how.

Immediately, Doyle sprang towards the house, screaming, "Bodie! Get outta there!"

Bodie turned towards him, a hand outstretched towards the door. He saw the panic in Ray's face and stepped a few steps away from the doorway, but it was too late. The entire front of the house abruptly exploded in black fragments, Bodie blown backwards. It was as though the whole thing happened in freeze frame, each terrifying second drawn out for minutes at a time. Doyle could hear nothing, no sound, no blast, just the thudding of blood in his ears.

He could only step slowly, tentatively toward Bodie, lying covered in blood, shards of glass and wood, one arm stretched up and outward, the other pinned helplessly under his back. Not Bodie, not now....

Murphy had now jumped in their car, taking off in pursuit of Long. Lucas screamed at him, "Get an ambulance!" Doyle brushed glass and wood off Bodie's body, wiping blood away from his face. Oh my God, Ray thought. His eyes. The eyelid was nearly torn off one eye, the other shut and smothered in blood. He felt for a pulse at the neck. Lucas and McCabe bent over Doyle, anxious. "Well?" Lucas barked, startling Doyle with the sudden sound. Bodie's leg was bent back under him.

"He has a pulse." He felt gently along Bodie's chest and legs, searching for fragments that could have pierced him. Hesitant to lift his comrade, he gently turned him so that he could run hands along the body to see if there were anything there. He pulled a twoinch long shard of glass from under Bodie's left shoulder, then kept him in his arms, trying to clutch his motionless body to him. Lucas grabbed at Doyle's arm, shouting at him.

"Put him down, don't move him!" He tried to lower Bodie to the ground but Doyle would not let go. "Doyle! Will you let go of him! You're not doing him any favors like this, he needs to lie still." Again he grabbed but Doyle would not let him. This time McCabe clutched at Doyle's arms, taking him in a shoulder lock, and Lucas took Bodie and lowered him gently to the ground.

Doyle started kicking and fighting with McCabe, until Lucas grabbed him as well. Ray kept trying to pinwheel his arms at them, but they held him until he finally seemed to calm down. "Doyle, get off him! You're only going to make things worse if you keep manhandling him!" Lucas shouted in his face, until Doyle began to realize what they were saying.

He dropped to his knees beside Bodie and stared at the bloody pulp his friend had become. God, not again.

Neither aware nor caring that the other CI5 agents were there, Doyle took Bodie's hand and caressed it gently. "Oh Bodie love, you did it this time. Don't you dare die on me! Don't you dare. You just hang on, okay mate? Just hang on." He did not notice the tears spilling off his own cheeks and dropping upon Bodie's face, mingling with the blood.

"It looks very bad," the doctor was saying to Cowley and Doyle. "I feel I must be honest with you. He has massive internal bleeding, lacerations and contusions too numerous to count, his left arm is shattered just above the wrist, his left fibula has a compound fracture and the ACL -- anterior cruciate ligament -- of that knee is torn away, and he has an extremely bad concussion. But there are two things that worry me most." He searched the controller's face for signs of whether he should go on. Cowley nodded gravely.

"His right eye was damaged. We've managed, I think, to safely repair it but what it will do to his vision right now is anyone's guess. Worst of all though is that he has a lacerated liver and his spleen isn't much better. I cannot tell you how dangerous this is. The next forty-eight hours will be crucial to his survival. There isn't a lot you can do for damage to the liver. It's like...a wet tissue. The more you try to repair it, the more it tends to just...shred."

Doyle rolled his head back and forth on his shoulders, like a wounded animal. "Ah God. This just can't be happening." The weariness of a few days without much sleep would have overwhelmed him anyway, but now he looked as though he were near death himself. Eyes were sunk into black sockets, stubble darkened his chin, and his hair flew wildly around his yellowed face.

"Thank you, Doctor," Cowley said in his most diplomatic tones.

The doctor tried a smile on for size. "One thing. Does he have anyone... special or important to him? I think right now it would be a good idea for him to hear friendly voices. He's very much unconscious but... we do believe patients can be helped by hearing their loved ones or friends."

Cowley looked at Doyle with a paternal gaze.

"That would be me," Doyle said. He met Cowley's penetrating stare head on.

"I don't recommend visiting too much," the doctor said, staring at Doyle's blood-soaked shirt and ashen face, "but do go in often, say some positive things to him. I'd say, in about an hour you can go in, if everything's clear." He looked at his watch, nodded, then briskly walked away.

Doyle sat down heavily on the chair behind him. Cowley joined him, leaning his elbows on his knees. Eventually he glanced at the younger man beside him.

"It's not your fault." He had come to know Doyle very well in their years together, and while he felt more paternal toward Bodie, the older man greatly admired Doyle's courage and caring in life. He was a thinker, much like Cowley, but also much more sentimental.

"I know." But Doyle was shaking his head. "But I had such a bad feeling about the whole thing. Why couldn't I have stopped him in time?"

"You couldn't, none of us could. Just thank God we got the lunatic who did this to Bodie."

Ray looked at Cowley. He hadn't even been aware of what happened after the explosion. Cowley nodded. "Murphy chased him down. He wasn't hard to catch, he may be clever with bombs but he's not too smart about anything else. Forensics say the house was like a mini bomb factory. Stuff everywhere, newspaper clippings about such cases, lists of potential targets. It would be nearly impossible not to convict him. The door was rigged to explode with a kitchen timer. I think as soon as he saw you coming he set it for a few minutes and ran, hoping to give himself some time to get away. Whether anyone was there or not wasn't a concern."

Doyle put his face in his hands. Cowley moved a hand up to Doyle's shoulder, squeezed it for a moment.

"I've been spending too much time in this situation." He looked over at Cowley, his green eyes full of tears. "My shooting, then Gil's being hit. Now her death. And what will be the aftermath of this? Am I going to be at another funeral? I don't think I can take this, sir. I really don't know how much more of this I can take." His voice broke on the last word and his chest heaved with a quivering, deep breath.

The older man rested his hand on Doyle's shoulder. He spoke in a voice kinder, softer than any Doyle had ever heard from him.

"Have you ever thought why I consider you my top team? Why I teamed you two together?" Doyle shook his head, but did not look at him. "I have enormous respect for you both, even though I often think you're thick-headed and irresponsible. Which is what sons are like to a father. You're often proud of them one moment, furious with them the next." Doyle looked at him with something approaching shock.

"Oh, aye, I send you on the most dangerous stunts, I bark at you, but it's because I have higher expectations of you than any other agents. Your wife called me out on that, I might point out. 'The sons you never had,' she said, and she was more than a bit right."

The older man looked away down the hall, sighed heavily. "I'm not sure, sometimes, how much more I myself can take. I've lost a fair number of agents in these years since I began CI5. I've grieved over each one. But I confess, none as I've grieved over you two. You frightened me quite a bit once, now it looks like Master Bodie is having his turn." He ran a hand through his sandy hair. "Each time I think, as well, that I can't take any more. I think I do die a little when something like this happens. I've hardened myself to this life because I believe in what I do, but it doesn't make the loss of some young man or woman with a strong future any easier."

The two sat staring at the floor for some time before Doyle spoke. "I can't lose him, not now. I can't lose another one."

"I think Bodie will live. He has a lot to live for." The controller looked at Doyle, a world of knowledge in his eyes. The younger agent looked back at him for some time.

"You think he's living for me?"

"I believe...a great many things are important to Bodie. You, most of all." The complete idea was there on Cowley's face. Doyle read it and acknowledged it.

"This doesn't bother you? It doesn't offend you, or some CI5 rule, that two agents might be..." He trailed off, not sure of the thought himself, what exactly his relationship was with Bodie.

"Och, man, I've told you before. I've spent my life fighting bigotry of one kind or another. Why should Bodie's feelings for you make that any different?"

He felt as though he should be troubled by having this conversation with Cowley, a little like talking about sex with your parents. Yet, the old man seemed to be on friendlier terms with him now than in their entire history. And it didn't surprise him nearly as much as he might have thought, to think Cowley had twigged Bodie's feelings long before he himself had. Not much got past the old man. "But..."

"But. One of the most important men I've ever known in my life, my uncle, died at his own hand because he couldn't fit in with what society expected of him, what the military demanded of him. What matters to me is what's inside the person. Do you think that Bodie would be the only person in CI5 with such...tendencies? Don't be daft."

Doyle stared at him in awe, his jaw dropped slightly.

"And close your mouth, man, you look as though someone hit you on the head."

"Gillian always said you were full of surprises and that someday I'd learn to appreciate you."

"A very astute woman, your wife." He smiled, then, the old devilish Cowley coming back to life.

"I don't know what's going to happen, so maybe it's speculation anyway, sir."

"Right now the important thing is to get Bodie well and on his feet again. Whatever happens after that, it's not important now. I want you to know. You've probably given some thought to what you'd do if you got...too old...for street jobs. Whatever happens to Bodie in his recovery, whatever happens in the next few years in fact, you will always have a place in my organization."

Doyle felt his heart twist in his chest, a knot of emotion tying it tighter and tighter. "Thank you, sir," he said hoarsely.

"And if you ever repeat a word of this conversation to Bodie or anyone else, I'll deny it ever happened," the old man said menacingly, then winked at Doyle. "Go home right now, get cleaned up, before you come back here. Then you'll need some rest. You'll do no one good if you're a mess. If anything happens, the doctor will call us."

Doyle returned to the hospital somewhat cleaner, but more haggard-looking than ever. As he walked into the room, the nurse watching Bodie looked up, then walked silently out of the room. He was glad not to have conversation.

A gasp escaped his lips as he looked at Bodie's face in the now dark room. His head was almost completely covered in bandages, the eyes swathed heavily, the scalp hidden beneath layers of gauze so there was no sign of Bodie's dark hair. The undamaged arm lay above the blanket, and Doyle sat down on the chair, then took Bodie's hand and stroked it gently, keeping away from the IV needle inserted there.

Within a few moments the doctor was standing behind him. Doyle didn't look up.

"Don't be too shocked by the bandages on the eyes. It's better to keep them both closed for now. I'm assuming vision is important in his line of work. This way one eye won't overcompensate for the other as it tries to heal. We'll see how it goes in a few days if he...when he regains consciousness."

Doyle merely nodded silently. "Thanks. If I'm here I'll try to explain that to him when he wakes up. I'm afraid he might panic a little."

The doctor made a noise of agreement. "Your Mr. Cowley is having a chat with the specialists who handled the surgeries. He can probably tell you more tomorrow." Then he went out, and Doyle was left with the bleeping of the machines and the soft, labored breathing of his partner.

A few moments later he was aware of an imposing presence behind him. He turned slightly to see Murphy out of his peripheral vision. "What's the verdict?" he asked in his quiet voice.

"It's a mess, Murph. His eye's all torn up, he has lacerations in his internal organs, for chrissakes, he has a shattered wrist, a broken leg, torn tendon in his knee, concussion. I didn't even think to ask about his ribs or anything else, it seemed like such a laundry list. How can he get through this?" he asked in a weak, far away voice.

"He's the toughest man I know. He'll get through it. After all, he got through all the things that happened in Africa, he can get through this."

Doyle looked at him in puzzlement. "What things in Africa?" Bodie was always vague whenever Doyle asked about his mercenary and gun-running days.

"Got pretty beat up in jail in the Congo. Fairly bad -- more like torture, really. Got shot in Dakar, left for dead in an alley. Has nine lives, I sometimes think. If you get him in the mood, and a little pissed, he'll tell you. Sometimes it's hard to sort out what's real and what's not, but the way he talks about those things, I'd warrant you they're real." Doyle could only smile that there were still things about Bodie he didn't know. More to explore later, he hoped.

"Thanks for getting the bastard who did this, Murph. Thanks for coming by. It means a lot to me."

Murphy squeezed Doyle's shoulder with large, strong fingers. "Check in on you later. He'll be okay. He wouldn't leave you when you were shot; I know he won't leave you now."

He'd better not, Doyle thought. Don't you dare go on me. I have so much for you to live for.

Chapter Eight

In his dream, Bodie was standing in a dark tunnel, no sign of light, wall, even ground, in sight. Everything seemed covered in dark, heavy fog. His body ached everywhere. Where am I? he thought, becoming slightly panicked. What can this be?

He tried to walk forward, his leg almost buckling underneath him. Where's Doyle? I need some help here, might be injured.

Suddenly he heard a voice. "Bodie!" it shouted.

A woman's voice. He tried to find the direction, looking around wildly, but saw nothing. Then a light, far away from him. A figure in the light. But the light was behind it, and he couldn't see a face. It was coming closer. A woman's shape. A hand waved towards him, high, frantically.

"Oh, Bodie! It's you!" Gillian. It had to be.

"Gil?" He tried to step forward again but found himself rooted to...what? There was no ground that he could see or feel. She was coming closer, but he still could not see her face, the light from behind was so bright, outlining her in beams shooting every which way.

She ran towards him now, then abruptly stopped. "Oh're not supposed to be here." She sounded sad, mournful.

"Where is here? What is this place? This doesn't make any sense." He clutched at his arm, now throbbing with pain.

"Bodie love, you have to go back. It's not your time. You're not supposed to be here. I'm sorry. But you have to go back."

"Gil, I don't understand. What's going on? Am I dead?" The pain in his body was increasing hideously. The light behind her was fading.

"Love, trust me. You have to go back. For everyone. For Ray. You can't stay here." Then he felt himself sucked backwards, as though by a riptide in water. He was smothering, trying to call out for her. "Gillian..." But the light was gone, the air was gone, and he was in darkness.

At once he woke and could see. They were in a hospital. She stood at his bedside, a smile on her lips, sunset from the window glinting off raven hair. A finger to her lips, silencing him. "You'll be all right now, you're back where you're supposed to be. Just rest. You've got a ways to go." He felt his eyes growing heavy and the room was darkening quickly. Her voice feathered across his ears. "Just go to sleep. It will be all right." A light touch on his forehead. "I love you." And then sleep.

"I think you underestimate the amount of trouble you're in," Cowley was saying to the unmanageable suspect, sitting at a table in the dark basement of CI5 headquarters. "You see, the police don't even know right now where you are and what you are doing. They think we're still searching for you." His voice was thick with feigned kindness and understanding. "You haven't been cautioned, and you haven't seen a solicitor yet because...they don't know where you are."

Long merely stared at the table. He ignored completely the shadowy figure standing in the doorway.

"But you see, not only have you successfully killed a number of people you deemed...unfit...for existence, but you severely injured one of my best men. I don't take kindly to that, not at all. And neither, I daresay, does his partner." He turned in Doyle's direction and the younger man stepped out from the shadow. "But perhaps I will let him explain that to you. Then, maybe, you'll see fit to tell me who you mailed the last parcel to before we came to your house."

Long neither looked up nor acknowledged Cowley had left the room. But in a blur of movement, he was forced to pay attention as Doyle grabbed him by the throat, slammed him up against the wall, and shouted into his shocked face. "You bastard!" he screamed. "You nearly killed my partner! I don't give a damn about your personal reasons or your vendettas or your grief. D'you think that gives you the right to kill innocent people? Bodie might be blind because of you!"

Long had not paid attention to the man until now, but it took him only seconds to realize this was a more dangerous man than he could have anticipated. He had not expected to get caught. He had expected...what? To leave the country? Now the police were beginning to look safe at this point, he thought.

Doyle slammed the smaller, stockier man repeatedly against the wall. "You'll tell me where that parcel is going or so help me, I'll make you hurt so bad you'll have to die to feel better. I will not let you do this to another person!"

In a moment of lucidity, Long realized his actions recently hadn't always been clear, or seemed sane. But he was a paragon compared to the madman standing half an inch away from him. Choking against the hand around his throat, he nodded, tried to tell the crazed green eyes staring at him that he would talk. It took an eternity for the man to ease his grip. Long collapsed on the floor, gasping for air.

Doyle stood above him and kicked him hard, shoving him into the wall with the flat of his foot. "Now you will tell me everything," he said in slow, measured tones, "and when we're done here, maybe, just maybe, there will still be enough of you left for the police to haul away."

Cowley did not ask how Doyle got the information, he cared only that he had a name and address. He called all available agents and the bomb squad to action, hoping to intercept the parcel before it arrived in its victim's hands.

He peered at Doyle from beneath his thick glasses. "Well? Is there something more?"

"Nothing, sir. Just not sure...not sure I liked myself very much in there. I wanted to kill him with my bare hands." He shook his head.

"Emotional involvement." Cowley did not add anything, merely looked at Doyle with one of his patented all-knowing, all-seeing looks.

"Yes sir. I was thinking of Gillian, too. Not just Bodie. So much violence. Both of them doing something they believed in but...completely destroyed for their trouble. What if Bodie is never the same again? He'd die if he had to live an ordinary life."

"What we do does make a difference. I won't say we're not just as bad sometimes, but I do believe the job we do makes it somewhat better odds for most people that they won't be touched by that violence. Now, don't you have a hospital visit on your schedule?" And he was gone, moving briskly through the corridors.

He woke to stifling darkness, trying to open eyes that would not. A warm hand was gripping his. He began to flail about in the bed, wanting to uncover his eyes. The pain in his head was unreal.

"Shh," someone murmured.

"Who-- " he tried to speak but his words were choked off, his throat dry and cracked.

A hand stroked his cheek. "One who loves you."

He lay back in the bed, suddenly calmed. A few seconds passed, then he whispered frantically, "Ray?"

"Only me, Sunshine. Shh. You need to rest."

Again he jolted, trying to sit upright. Doyle's hands gently pushed back on him. "I can't see! I'm-- "

"You're all right, Bodie. You're not blind. You had some damage to one of your eyes. They're both closed to help the damaged one. Gonna have a sexy scar on that eye but it'll be okay." He hoped the doubt in his own voice wasn't betraying him.

"What happened?" Bodie ran a dry tongue over his cracked, white lips but it didn't help. Every part of his body throbbed with pain.

"I'll tell you everything, love, but you have to promise me that you won't talk or move any more." Bodie squeezed his hand gently to acknowledge his submission.

And Doyle stayed with Bodie, telling what had happened, speaking soothing words, comforting him until Bodie finally drifted back to sleep. At first afraid to go home, he was finally ordered there by Cowley, who extracted a promise that he would at least attempt to sleep for the night. It had been three days, with Doyle catching catnaps on the empty bed or a chair, and now that it looked like Bodie would come through it, Cowley wanted this agent at least partially presentable and fully awake.

Murphy appeared in the doorway as Doyle fussed over leaving Bodie. He leaned casually against the door, a pose that was as much Murphy as his dark Irish good looks. He smiled laconically at Doyle, and jerked a thumb toward the hall. "I'll hang in here with him, if it makes you feel better. Someone to watch over him, and all."

"Thanks, Murph. I guess I should rest. It's just that...well, I feel like I might be the thing that keeps him going. It's been sort of touch and go."

"So I hear. But Bodie's a fighter, I told you that. He won't let go. He's already been through an awful lot, he can fight this. Besides, like you said, he's got a lot to live for."

Doyle looked up at the tall man, puzzled. "What d'you mean?"

"Ray, it's no secret he's absolutely devoted to you. I've teased him quite unmercifully about it lately, before you came back to work. He'd walk to the ends of the earth and back for you. I don't think he's gonna die now."

Doyle did not even have the energy to argue about it, or deny anything. This was becoming all too labyrinthine for him, everyone seeming to know something about someone else, and he the last to figure it out. He patted Murphy's solid shoulder. "Keep an eye on him. I think he's having bad dreams. It's helping that he can't see when he wakes up -- maybe because he can't see how messed up he is, but he shouldn't wake much more tonight. He's pretty well knocked out."

Murphy squeezed his tense shoulder, gently, and Doyle looked up at him again with bleary, bloodshot eyes. "Don't be back soon. You really need to rest." He gave Ray the gentlest, most concerned look Doyle had ever seen from him. Murphy usually distanced himself from others through his humor and casual attitude, which Doyle knew belied an intense personality and a fierce dedication to people he cared about. Not much fazed Murphy, but when he felt something, he felt it strongly.

Bodie drifted in and out of sleep, often waking when the nurse came to adjust some tube or other or poke him with a needle. He was not aware that Murphy was beside him, thinking the presence he felt was Doyle. Could he really have heard what he thought he'd heard? Did Ray really say, "One who loves you"? Was he really holding my hand, stroking it?

Through his pain it made the cracked white lips curl in a slight smile, and he could drift back to sleep, thinking of the words he'd waited years to hear and yet never dared hope for.

Doyle paced nervously back and forth across the small room. He'd already put in about half a mile's worth of walking just in that room alone.

A dry, quavering voice came from behind him. "You're pacing again." Ray turned instantly on his heels to see Bodie smiling slightly. Bodie brought a bandaged hand up to his forehead. "Ooohhh. That hurts."

Doyle chuckled slightly. "Well, you're getting better, aren't you?"

Bodie's heart leapt in his chest. "Knew it was you." He reached the hand out into the air, making circles, trying to find Ray's hand. Doyle clasped it and squeezed.

"Right here, Bodie." His voice was gentle, strong. Bodie visibly relaxed in his presence. "How are you doing today? I see they took the oxygen tube away."

"I'm...all right. I hurt a lot, a lot more than I would've thought. This morphine keeps me pretty doped up, though, eh?" He noticed that Doyle was not letting go his hand, and that was just fine with him.

"I'll be here with you as much as I can."

"How many days has it been, anyway? No one seems to want to tell me how long I've been out."

"Only five days, this is the fifth. You're doing great, considering." He smiled but realized, Bodie can't see that. His heart sank. He did not want to contribute to Bodie's anxiety but he was terrified that his partner might completely lose the sight in his damaged eye, despite the doctor's encouragement.

"What about Long?" Even in pain and half asleep, Bodie could no more forget about acting the agent than Doyle could.

"Apparently he sent another parcel out before we...before we got him. Cowley was having a little trouble getting him to chat friendly-like until I had a brief conference with the nutter. Got it before it was too late -- barely."

"Must have been some conference." A brief smile played across Bodie's scabbed lips, and his head listed slightly to the side. Doyle remained silent until he could tell by the other man's breathing that he had fallen asleep. Just then a nurse came in; smiling shyly at Doyle, she took Bodie's hand away from him and took his pulse. After checking other things in the room, she gave another shy smile to Doyle, wrote some things on a chart by Bodie's bed, and left the room.

Bodie would wake off and on throughout the rest of the day and night, starting each time, then calming upon finding Ray there. When he would drift off to sleep again, Doyle found his eyes wet with tears each time. "I don't want to lose you, Bodie," he said at one point, thinking Bodie was asleep.

"Don't want to be lost," Bodie had murmured back, squeezing Ray's hand as tight as his damaged body would let him.

Doyle had stroked the soft, slightly bruised skin of Bodie's cheek and let him fall into his healing sleep.

Bodie dreamt of explosions. Body twitching, he kept murmuring something like "No, stay away," although his dry cracked lips seemed stuck together and the sounds were trapped behind his mouth. Ray, exhausted from being up the past few days, slept through the spasming.

"You're sitting up!" Doyle said as he entered the hospital room laden with tapes for a portable cassette player.

"Well, I don't know that I'd call it sitting," Bodie responded. He was getting some color back in his face, what wasn't bandaged at least.

"I'm impressed. Every time I turn my back you make progress."

"The doctor was talking about taking the bandages off the eyes." Bodie's voice sounded weary and full of trepidation.

"You don't sound so sure." Doyle neatly stacked the tapes on the stand next to Bodie's bed.

" still hurts a lot. I'm not sure it's a good idea, if they still hurt this much."

Doyle recognized that tone. It was Bodie's defensive reflexes in high gear. He had doubts about what would happen when the bandages came off but he was damned if he'd let on he was afraid. It was difficult for Doyle to tread the line between pushing Bodie into one of his black rages or holding back and letting Bodie dive into something he'd regret.

"If the doctors are saying it's time, shouldn't you trust them to know what they're talking about?"

The conversation was interrupted by a visit from Cowley, who stood for awhile chatting amiably with Bodie until he motioned for Doyle to follow him out as he left.

"How is he really doing?" Cowley asked with grave concern.

Doyle shrugged. "As well as can be expected. I think he's afraid right now of getting the bandages off his eyes. It's taking all his energy just to talk, to sit up like this, and I hate seeing him waste more strength worrying about all this. I really think he thinks he's going to be blind, or at least have damaged sight, and then be cashiered right out of the squad."

"Och, well, there's no need for that," Cowley said in his best avuncular tones. "Is that something I should stress to him right now?" The older man looked back into the room. "I agree with you, he needs all his energy to get well. He's still in very bad shape."

Doyle turned his hands palm up and shrugged again. "Well, in any event, he's asleep now. Maybe we can worry about it tomorrow; they weren't going to do anything until then."

Cowley patted Ray's shoulder a few times and then took his glasses off, stuffing them in a pocket of his impeccable suit. "Well, we can discuss it tomorrow then." He gave a sharp, military style nod and was off. Doyle stood outside the door to Bodie's room and stared inside, searching for the strength to help his friend find the courage he would need.

He walked quietly back in and smoothed the pillows under Bodie's back, trying to ease him into a more comfortable sleeping position. It was difficult with the bandages and casts to move him, and Doyle eventually gave up, pulling the chair up next to the bed so he could rest his head on his arms, while he watched Bodie sleep.

Bodie was twitching and breathing heavily. He was dreaming.

Bodie was on a sunny beach and he was walking in the sand. Everything was bright, blurred white as though he were staring into the sun. She was there again, standing on the beach. Her feet were bare, the water washing around them as it ebbed and flowed on the sand. She held her arms across her chest, the loose sweater and the long, flowing flowered skirt she wore floating out behind her in the breeze. He could taste salt air.


She stared out at the ocean, then slowly turned towards him, smiling gently. She didn't speak this time.

"Is that you? What are you doing here?" Suddenly there was a flash of bright light, then blackness. He grew dizzy before his sight returned to him. He shielded his eyes with his arm, then looked at her.

She was facing him, her hands held out. In them were blood-soaked bandages. He jumped backwards. She smiled at him, then slowly let her hands fall towards the ground, the bandages dropping at her feet, into the water. The tide pulled them away. Bodie watched them go, then looked back to Gillian. She covered her eyes with her hands, then took them away, smiling the whole time. He grew dizzy again and then everything went black.

Doyle jumped almost out of the chair as Bodie came awake, his voice catching in his throat and his body twitching violently. He clutched at the air until Doyle managed to shake the sleep out of his own head and grab at Bodie's violently grasping hand.

"It's okay, Bodie, it's okay. I'm right here." He soothed with soft meaningless sounds until Bodie drifted back into sleep. Doyle did not let go his hand for the rest of the night, even as he himself fell asleep leaning on the bed.

Later, in the earliest hours of the morning, Bodie dreamt the same thing again. This time as she held the bandages toward him, he could hear Doyle's voice behind him. "Time's short, mate." A whispering, but he knew it was Doyle. The bandages grew bloodier still before she dropped them.

He woke, jerking violently, covered in sweat. "Jesus Christ!" he swore, waking Doyle, who clutched at him, trying to hold him down. Bodie flung an arm up and over his eyes, as though fighting a vision. "Jesus!" He finally seemed to be fully awake, as Doyle whispered soothing nonsense words. "What is it Bodie, what are you dreaming?"

Still groggy, Bodie could only shake his head. "Just a bad dream."

"Are you dreaming about the explosion?" He stroked Bodie's head, around the shaved skull, over the bandages. It killed him to see his partner so mangled.

"No...just a bad dream. Have to check with Mr. Jung...find out what it means." He tried to joke, but the pain was intense, he felt queasy with sharp, stabbing pains all round his abdomen. They'd warned him it could be like this, but he still wasn't prepared. Doyle was mopping sweat from his face, neck, and shoulders. One thing about being bandaged up, he couldn't cry, which was what he wanted to do very much right now. Go away Gillian, go away, he said to himself, over and over, as though if he made it an incantation it would happen. Just please go away. "A very weird dream." He muttered a few times before finally falling asleep again, full of fear about what he'd see this time. He did not want to sleep. He wanted only to stay awake and be comforted by Ray's warm presence, but he couldn't keep awake no matter how much he tried. Here at least there was Ray; in the darkness of sleep it was the voices of the dead and the dying.

In the morning Bodie woke first to feel someone's weight against his good arm. It took him a few moments to realize it wasn't another nurse performing a test of some kind or a doctor poking him. As he moved his arm, he realized it was Ray's head resting against his forearm. Doyle was instantly awake, squeezing Bodie's hand tighter than ever.

" 'S okay. Just me."

"Morning, Sunshine. Stayed here all night?" Doyle brought the cup of water close to Bodie's mouth, helping him find the straw to sip from.

"Yeah. Got a terrible kink in my neck now, though," he said, rubbing his shoulders for show. "How are you feeling today?" He watched for a sign to see if Bodie would acknowledge the terror of his dreams first.

"Oh, it's hard to tell," Bodie said casually, but Doyle could tell there was still tension in his partner's voice. "I was thinking. Maybe I will get those bandages off today. If that's still the plan."

"What changed your mind?"

Bodie paused for a very long time, long enough that Doyle almost thought he wasn't going to answer. "Just thinking that maybe it's time to see what future awaits me. I want to see that lovely face, too."

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Doyle said, patting his good arm. "I'm going to go home, have a shower and shave, then I'll be back and we'll see if they still want to do it." He would not push Bodie to see if the dreams had anything to do with his change of mind. Had Bodie dreamt terrifying things because he couldn't see, and did that make them even more frightening, because he couldn't tell if it was night or day, if he were alone or with a friend? Or was he dreaming about losing his sight?

A few hours later Doyle was back. Bodie could hear Doyle discussing things with the doctors in the hallway. They came in shortly, one on each side of him.

Bodie was exceptionally tired, but he focused all his energy on sitting up and getting through this. He knew that as much as he might want, and as much strength as he needed from it, Doyle would never, in the presence of so many strangers, grasp his hand. He left it lying on top of the bedcovers, nevertheless, and was shocked as the eye surgeon began talking to him, to feel Doyle's familiar elegant, smooth hands take hold of his fingers and curl them through his.

"...and we may find that once the swelling is lessened you should have normal vision. At least, I'm quite hopeful about this, Mr. Bodie."

Bodie realized he hadn't heard a word, so strongly was he enveloped by the warmth pouring from Doyle beside him, like being wrapped up in a warm, cozy blanket.

The nurse brought in a small basin and some implements. Slowly, the doctor began cutting Bodie's bandages away. Doyle gasped in a breath as he saw the extent of the bruising and swelling. He'd seen Bodie banged up and then some throughout their partnership together, but nothing like this. Bodie's forehead and the area around his brows was a pulpy-looking purple and black, with numerous red lines of cuts healing slowly.

"So bad it's breathtaking, eh?" Bodie joked, then squeezed Doyle's hand.

"Sorry, mate," Doyle answered sheepishly as the doctor cut away the last of the bandage. The two doctors stood looking at Bodie's eyes, silently; Bodie kept them shut for fear of what the silence meant. Doyle was queasy with looking at the greasy gel all over the mangled flesh around Bodie's once-beautiful eyes.

"I might suggest you open them, Mr. Bodie," the doctor prodded gently. Bodie heaved a sigh and then prised one, then the other eye open. The damaged one was hideously swollen, and only a tiny slit of deep, dark blue and very bloodshot white showed through the mass of flesh, accented by the stitches of the black thread. The other, slightly bruised, as though Bodie had only been punched in the cheek, followed, and Bodie looked towards Doyle first.

"I can...see Doyle pretty clearly." His voice sounded surprised, but his face remained emotionless. He then looked towards the doctors and nurse, squinting at the brighter lights behind them. "I can see you, but the light makes things...blurry." This lent a note of worry to his voice.

"That's just fine, that's just as it should be for right now. All in all, I'd say you were doing quite well. What I think we'll do now is let things take their natural course and just keep testing your vision throughout the next few days. At least now you can watch the football match on television," the doctor said cheerfully. "We'll check back later this evening, Mr. Bodie."

"Thanks, doctor," Doyle said with heartfelt gratitude. He felt such a load off his shoulders, knowing that Bodie would be okay, that he would not be taken away from Doyle because he could no longer operate as a CI5 agent. Doyle knew he did not want to leave CI5, not just yet, but the idea of staying there without Bodie was a completely foreign idea to him. CI5 simply didn't exist for him without Bodie.

"Looks like you're still stuck with your job, Sunshine," Doyle smirked at him. "Can't get out of it if your eyesight's not shot, eh?"

Bodie turned towards Doyle again as the staff left the room. He was so very tired, and glad now that he could let some of the defenses down in front of one person. "It looks pretty bad, though, dun'it?" His tone was strained, anxious.

"You're a bloody mess, yeah," Doyle said, trying to be jaunty and failing miserably. "Oh, Bodie," he said, still grasping the hand, "it's bad now but it'll get better. They said there's wonders they can do with plastic surgery to minimize the scarring. You'll still be tall, dark and beautiful; it's not that bad."

"And don't forget -- suitably modest." Doyle chimed in with him on the last bit, a habit from long ago. "Can I have a mirror?"

"Don't see one around," Doyle said, scanning the room. "Have to go get one." Bodie nodded at him and Ray left the room in search of a hand-held mirror. When he'd returned, Bodie was asleep. Doyle put the mirror down. In the meantime he wandered back to see the ward sister, asked her about Bodie's condition and how the invisible internal injuries were progressing. She explained about how long Bodie would be weakened from the damage, how long it would be before he could be moved about, when he would be able to put pressure on the broken limbs, and all the other things Doyle had put aside in his concern over Bodie's sight.

After she finished explaining, she cocked her head quizzically and looked hard at the handsome man in front of her. "Your dedication to your friend is amazing, Mr. Doyle." It wasn't a question, but Ray felt there was something else to it.

"We've been through a lot together. He kept me going after I'd been shot a few years ago."

"I know. You probably don't remember me at all, do you?" She didn't wait for him to answer. "I was the critical care nurse assigned to you during the day. I remember you very well. Broke many hearts, you did, when you left here."

Doyle laughed, white teeth flashing, head thrown back. It felt good to laugh like that after so many days.

"I daresay Mr. Bodie will break a few more. Everyone watched him when he stayed by your side during your recovery, and every single girl on this floor was disappointed that he only had eyes for you."

She smiled broadly at him, picked up some charts. "Your friendship is remarkable. I hope your wife realizes how lucky you are to have each other. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to work." She flashed him a very knowing look.

Doyle glanced down at his wedding ring. He'd forgotten completely about it. "My wife...died earlier this year," he said absently, playing with the unusual silver band.

"I'm so sorry," the nurse said, her hand flying up to cover her mouth, as though she could erase the mistaken comment.

"No, it's okay. But yes, she did think we were lucky to have each other. I still do." He smiled back at her, tapped a finger lightly on the side of his nose, and winked at her. She laughed out loud, and was gone down the hall.

Well, he thought, everyone seems to have figured out our feelings except me. Jesus! Am I the only one who didn't see this coming? Or has it just taken all this rubbish in my life to make me want to see it? He shook his head at the thought of it. Cowley had once called him obtuse. Maybe he really was.

Or maybe he was just lucky. How often does love come along twice in someone's lifetime, love like that anyway? He thought about it as he walked down the corridor to Bodie's room. Maybe you're right, Gil. Maybe it's all mine for the taking, if I'm open to it.

Chapter Nine

"You've been so quiet lately. I'd've thought you'd be happy, being on the mend." Doyle peered cautiously at his partner, who wore a lost expression and stared vacantly out the window.

Bodie turned slowly in his direction. "Hmmm?"

"What's going on, Bodie? You've hardly spoken to me in days." The two were in the sunroom of the hospital, Bodie now able to get away from his bed in a wheelchair for short periods of time. He was still often weak, and tired quite easily, but he enjoyed getting out of the stifling grey room as much as he could. The sun shone down on them warmly, the bright summer day perfect with blues and greens and yellows.

"Whatever it is, you can tell me. You know that by now, don't you?" He leaned close and Bodie could feel the heat of him, smell the unique scent that always identified Ray to him, a warm, fresh smell that sometimes made Bodie's eyes droop closed with longing, head swimming.

Bodie's mouth opened and his shoulders lifted, then sagged again, mouth closing. Then he did it again, and a third time. Doyle watched this little pantomime for a few minutes and said exasperatedly, "Bodie! I promise I won't laugh, or get angry, or mock you, or whatever is stopping you from telling me." He had been watching Bodie slowly shrivel up with quietness for the past few days, and it was killing Doyle. This behavior was too much like the early days of their partnership before Bodie had begun to trust him.

"What is it? Just tell me." Doyle touched Bodie's arm lightly, trying not to make too much of a show here in a public area.

"I had these nightmares. First of Gil. It was like she was really there. I would have sworn I spoke to her." He dropped it like a dead weight, staring at Doyle, daring the other man to scoff at him.

"Really?" was all Doyle said.

Bodie took a deep breath. "It was like she was really there. At the time, it was -- wonderful."

He looked away, waiting for Doyle to hoot with laughter, but none came. Only green eyes gazing intently at him.

"I know this sounds crazy." His voice was rising, it obviously troubled him a lot. "Then she was in a dream, I think. We were on the beach and she told me, without speaking, to take the bandages off my eyes. She held out bloody bandages to me, tried to let me know everything would be all right. It was really spooky, Ray. Am I going barmy?"

Nah, you already are, Doyle almost said, then cut himself off. This wasn't the time for banter. Bodie was laying out emotions that he rarely confessed to anyone and Doyle needed to tread carefully.

"It's not so crazy. Sometimes I'd swear I see or hear her. I thought you didn't believe in ghosts?"

"I don't! That's what's so weird about it! I would swear to you, Ray, that I saw her, but I don't believe it's possible."

"Well, she always did like directing the traffic of everyone's life. And she's been doing a pretty good job of directing ours since she left-- " the first reference either had made to the night before the explosion "-- so why shouldn't she be telling you where to go when you're troubled and confused? You just needed a friend."

Bodie laughed quietly, the first time in days. "Yeah, I wouldn't put it past her to lurk around in my subconscious. So you don't think I'm round the twist? I mean, Ray, I'm talking to someone who isn't there. I'm having whole conversations with her." He shivered a little.

"No. If anything, I guess I'm jealous. I'd like to have seen her. I never dream of her, I sometimes think I hear her voice or feel like she's a presence near me, but I can't seem to see her face anymore. I envy you that."

"I'm going to try to get better as fast as I can, Ray. You've been through too much lately, you don't need to add taking care of me to that burden." Bodie stared hard at him, the blue steel eyes glinting in the sunlight. Doyle was happy to see the swelling gone so far down, Bodie looking almost normal now, not much worse than if he'd been in a bad fight.

Ray gave him his warmest smile. Bodie always felt like it would be worth paying money just to see that smile. "I like taking care of you. Gives me something to do," Doyle said in a voice smooth and rich as Glenfiddich. "We're on our own, now."

He looked around, noticing that most people had gone and the room was virtually empty now. Reaching into a carrier bag, he pulled out a box and put it on his lap. "Got you a pressie."

Bodie gleefully tore open the wrapping with his good hand to find an oiled wood box of impeccable quality. Doyle always loved the way Bodie responded to gifts, it was like having a kid of your own. Bodie opened the box and gasped in surprise. "Ray..."

He pulled out a large handgun, gleaming in the sunlight with exquisite craftsmanship. It was a Glock 17 9mm automatic, with a clip that fired seventeen rounds. Bodie turned it this way and that, trying not to be too obvious with it in case someone were to come in.

"I can't believe you did this." He looked at his partner with gleaming eyes.

"Well, your other one was, to use Gil's favorite phrase, toast after the accident. I thought this might make you feel better." He flashed Bodie a wild smile.

"But this cost a fortune."

"Don't I know it! But it was worth it, just to see your face. I know you bought the .357 with your own money."

"I don't feel like I can possibly use this beauty on the street."

"Well, there's always the armoury."

Bodie met his eyes with a 'no way, mate' look.

Ray reached over and laced his fingers through Bodie's, briefly, and squeezed. "Anything to see you smile."

And Bodie smiled, putting the gun away, holding onto Ray's hand as long as he could.

The physiotherapist was pushing Bodie to flex his knee just one more time. Bodie was red-faced with exertion, and Doyle was doing his best not to hover, but he kept finding himself moving slightly forward at the waist, as though to spring in to help his partner, then pulling back because he knew she was only forcing Bodie to do what was necessary. Ray had been here before, and now it was Bodie's turn.

Given any chance, Bodie would avoid exercise even when it was something he found pleasurable, such as martial arts. When it was something decidedly unpleasant, such as the leg exercises designed to regain the flexibility of his knee, he was fighting with every ounce of strength he had left. Although prone to weight gain when he didn't exercise, Doyle noticed that Bodie was almost as thin as he was himself.

The bruising of most places on his body had healed considerably. Here and there the pale skin was tinged with a yellowish color, and a few spots of purple still remained, but for the most part he looked relatively unscathed, save for the cast on his arm and the large blue brace strapped along his leg from top of the thigh to ankle.

His face was the only place it was still obvious, after these weeks in hospital, that Bodie had suffered serious injury. Bright red scars laced the area around his eyes, one long wound running from the bottom of his right ear almost to his clavicle, and many smaller ones visible under the short-cropped hair if one truly scrutinized his face. In the future, after things had healed as well as they could, Bodie would have small surgeries to remove or minimize the scarring. The doctor was hopeful that Bodie's famously lovely face would be just as attractive to the ladies, as he put it, as it had been before the explosion.

Soon, he would be free to go home, finally, assuming he would have a caretaker. Still not mobile without assistance -- the inconvenience of having both his left arm and left leg damaged made it impossible for him to get around on crutches -- he would have to get some kind of a minder. Mrs. Mills had agreed to come by during the day if Bodie were to stay at Doyle's house, a point Doyle had already taken care to secure before asking Bodie. Doyle fretted as he waited for his partner to finish. While he was relatively certain Bodie would want to stay there, the events left undone the night before the explosion might have made Bodie change his mind.

Bodie looked over at his friend, sweat trickling down from temple to jawbone. "She's worse than Macklin!" he exclaimed, as he tried to move the knee into a sixty-degree flex. The pain was too much for him and he threw his head back, then collapsed onto the table, cradling his shattered wrist in his good arm. The therapist lowered his leg lightly onto the table.

Doyle fought the urge to rush over to his friend. So this is how it must have been for Bodie to watch me, day after day, during my long recovery. When I'd get so winded and helpless just from trying to walk down the corridor to the therapy room. He chewed on his lower lip, squinting hard at the therapist.

"You're doing very well, Mr. Bodie," she said, smiling at Doyle. No matter what all the other women in the hospital said about the two of them, she couldn't take her eyes off the beautiful, green-eyed man who was almost always with Bodie. Especially since she'd heard he was in a vulnerable state after the death of his wife. The right moment would surely come along if she waited long enough.

"I know tomorrow they're going to work on those cuts, but if you have the energy, I think we should still continue these exercises. You're almost up to sixty degrees, we'll get there soon. Don't forget to do your exercises tonight before sleep." She gathered up her materials, wrote some things on a chart, and with one last, very longing look at Doyle, she left. Doyle had promised to wheel Bodie back to his room.

"Not many more days and you'll be out of here, mate." Doyle helped Bodie into the chair.

"Yeah. My prison term is up!"

"You given any thought to where you're going?" Doyle asked casually, as he moved Bodie through the corridors.

"Well, home, I thought..." Bodie suddenly jerked around to face Doyle. "Why? Does Cowley have some idea of putting me in some convalescent facility?"

"No! Nothing like it. I just...I dunno. That flat of yours is on the second floor, and it's going to mean you can't really go out without a lot of trouble. I was thinking, maybe, you could come stay at my place. Mrs. Mills can keep an eye on you, too. I bet she'd love to dote on you for awhile."

Bodie shifted his eyes sideways. "Your place." He didn't say it as a question, merely repeating it for effect.

"Yeah. On the ground, it is, and then I'd be around most of the time to take care of you, when I'm at work she can come in..." He looked down at Bodie's face to see if there was at least a flicker of interest.

They reached his room, and Doyle helped Bodie out of the chair and onto the bed. Bodie slung his good arm around Ray to get a slight lift up, then Doyle hauled him by the waist out and onto the bed. This little routine was beginning to get to Bodie, no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on other things. The fact remained, the merest touch or whiff of Ray made Bodie's heart stall.

He lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. "Yeah. Sounds good, I think. Sounds reasonable." He opened his eyes again to see Doyle's own jade ones staring back at him. "You going to scrub my back when I take a bath?" He smirked just a little, hoping not to scare Ray away. They had only danced around the topic of the kiss and confession of the night before the accident. Bodie was continually walking the line, careful not to step over and push Ray into the withdrawal that inevitably occurred when Ray felt embarrassed or anxious.

"If you need it, I might consider it," he said, his wicked smile flashing quickly, followed by his decadent laugh.

Hope surged once again in Bodie's heart. "Don't worry, you're safe. I can't do much to you with all this heavy equipment."

"Can't put a good man down," Doyle said airily, then got up. "Gotta go, old son. Even though I'm on light duty there's still villains to be sorted out, reports to be made..."

"Places to go, people to see..."

"That's the general idea." He let his fingers brush Bodie's close-cropped hair, even closer cut now because it was just beginning to grow back from being shaved for his injuries. "You take care. Be back later tonight, most likely." Bodie closed his eyes, reveling in the touch.

"Yeah, see you soon." He didn't open his eyes, preferring instead to focus all his attention on the fingertips, Doyle's fingertips.

For a few moments he continued to caress Bodie's head, gently, sensuously, as Ray watched Bodie's face soften into utter abandonment. He found the sight unbelievably arousing, something quite unexpected.

Then the hand was gone, and Bodie was alone.

Doyle walked along the corridors, towards his car, thinking about how this had all played out. He himself had been in such a similar situation not many years ago, and it was Bodie who got him through it all. Ray had never told Bodie how it had been the sound of his voice that had pulled Doyle back into consciousness, into life, like a rope pulling him back. A rope back to the living.

Ray had never felt such a connection to another human before that voice saved him, and the only thing since then had been his connection to Gillian. Bodie had, quite simply, kept him alive. What would he do if their jobs led them to another crossroads like this, only with a different ending? What if next time one of them didn't make it?

What good was loving someone if all it took was two seconds for them to be taken away from you? Ever since this whole annoying thought had come into his head, he'd struggled with the idea of giving himself over to someone again. It wasn't that he didn't already love Bodie. He had loved him for years, the best friend he'd ever had. But there were layers to love, different levels that you dug through to reach the top or the bottom. Friendship was one layer. On top of that, another, the things he was realizing he'd felt for Bodie but never had the desire to acknowledge.

Doyle wasn't afraid of the consequences of what it meant to have sex with another man, for surely that would happen if this were truly a different layer in his understanding of love. It was the caring and the giving of oneself so completely to another that created the complications. The job would be compromised, his relationships with others, his own feelings about himself.

But on the other hand...there was Bodie, and the possibility of a life without him. Once Ray had met Gillian, he used to wonder about how he could live without her, and found he simply couldn't imagine it. The world didn't exist that he could live in without her. Yet, here Doyle was without her, and still living. Could he get by all right without Bodie?

Again, he found himself drawing a blank. He tooled the car through the city streets, barely noticing the pattern of summer raindrops on the windscreen. Before he'd met Bodie, life had been...well, an empty slate. He ate, he slept, he worked, and he met and discarded girls. He kept himself at a comfortable distance, friendly but self-contained, happy in his removal from the world. But Bodie had changed all that.

Bodie was almost pathologically diffident, and not by comfortable choice. He'd taken that road as a defense mechanism, and thus was never quite satisfied with it. He was hopeful of connecting with people, yet pessimistically convinced that no one could be connected to him, or worth his while, at least. Until, Doyle thought, I broke through the shell. When Bodie loved someone, he loved them passionately, fiercely, exclusively.

Ray had no doubt that if he were to connect with this often enigmatic man in that way, that Bodie would never desert him if he had any control over it. Hell, he'd already shown that. He'd hung on to feelings for Ray for years, even through a marriage. But what if Doyle had no control over it? What if another shot to the heart, or exploding booby trap, or any of the other things they faced daily, took Bodie away from him?

"I dunno, Gil. Is it really worth it to care for someone this way, to let myself go like this again?" he asked, needing to at least hear himself ask the question out loud, if only to convince himself his doubts were unnecessary.

And he heard her voice from a long time ago, before they'd married, whispering to him with laughter, "It really is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Think of all the cool stuff you'd miss." And the whisper was gone again, instantly, and with it his doubts.

They set the passenger seat all the way back in order to get Bodie into Doyle's car, the leg brace making it difficult to maneuver him in any narrow space. With a lot of "ooophing" and "mmmphing" they stuffed him in the car, then Doyle slowly joined traffic as though he were driving on ice.

"I wonder if you could go any slower?" Bodie asked peevishly.

"I don't want to take any chances. You don't want to be in an accident again." Doyle deliberately didn't look at him, he didn't want to get angry. Bodie had been scowling since he'd come to the hospital to pick him up. Thinking Bodie would be happy to leave after all those weeks, Doyle had been shocked to discover the other man's incredibly bad mood.

"The rate you're going, we will get in an accident because we're going sooooooo s-l-o-wwww-llll-yyyyyy."

"Fine." Doyle set his mouth in a hard line, then punched the accelerator, whipping through traffic, changing lanes right and left, cutting off other drivers and tailgating more. The two did not speak again until they got to Doyle's house. He jumped out, and helped Bodie climb out of the car with great difficulty. His partner had refused the wheelchair again, preferring to lean on Doyle as though he were crutches, a fact Doyle didn't exactly enjoy. Even as thin as he'd grown, Bodie was still heavy.

"Let's get you inside, Prince Charmin'," Doyle said, yanking on Bodie with each step. He wasn't being as gentle as he had in all those weeks at the hospital. When they finally got Bodie settled on the sofa, Doyle stuck his hand out. "Give me your keys. I'm going over to your place and get some of your clothes and anything else you need that you didn't have at hospital. Is there anything I need to pick up at shops or anything?"

"Make sure you get my other track suits. That's probably all I'm going to be able to wear for awhile."

Doyle moved to the door, then stopped, bowing his head. "D'you mind telling me why you're so stroppy today? I thought you'd be happy to be out."

Bodie looked away. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed, before finally sighing. "I dunno. I guess just coming back here to be taken care of by you. It wasn't exactly my plan."

Doyle knew this wasn't the reason, but he didn't want to fight it. When Bodie decided not to tell you something, pliers couldn't drag it out of him. He turned round to face Bodie. "I'm happy to take care of you, I told you that. Anything to see that you're getting better."

"I know." Bodie still would not look at him. "Look, it's all just water under the bridge anyway. Everything's changed now. I'm knackered. Think I'll just have a liedown."

Doyle closed the door and went on his errands. Bodie knew why he'd been so stroppy, but had difficulty placing the thoughts into a coherent whole. In hospital somehow he had not felt as much fear, the atmosphere had been one of healing, of hoping to get out. Now he was out, in Ray's care, and was feeling the weight of all that had gone before. It was almost too heavy for him to bear.

Thirsty, he decided to try for the kitchen to get some water. Bodie rolled sideways, feeling pain shoot up his leg and into his stomach, but grabbed at the arm of the sofa with his good hand, and hauled himself up. He hobbled to the kitchen, got the water, before realizing he could not carry it back to the lounge because he had to hop too much. So he settled for a bottled orange juice instead.

As he bounced back to the sofa, he noticed a videotape sticking out of the VCR. Curious, he pushed it in and grabbed the remote, then flopped gently down onto the cushions and pressed the play key. A sharp gasp escaped Bodie's mouth as he realized what the tape was. Their holiday in the Bahamas, a few years ago. They had spent the day snorkeling in the waters off Freeport, and after arriving back at the UNEXSO building, famished, Bodie and Gillian had gone off in search of food at the upstairs bar. Ray had stayed behind at the dock, Bodie remembered, to film the dolphins swimming happily in the open pens. He had been driving both of them to distraction with the camera throughout the entire trip.

Bodie rewound the tape a bit and caught the conversation he'd had with Gil while Ray, thinking himself quiet, tried sneaking up on them behind the stairway wall behind their table.

"No really," she was saying, the back of her wet hair shining cobalt in the light from the far window. "It's called Bucksnort. I swear to God."

He saw his own face look back at her with laughing skepticism. "Yeah, right."

"It's true! It's off the highway, not too far out of Nashville. On the freeway to Memphis."

Bodie was paralyzed at watching this play out, holding his juice halfway to mouth, unaware that tears were forming in his eyes. The camera circled a little and part of Gil's face was now visible. She jerked her head minutely in Doyle's direction; Bodie nodded slightly in return.

"We could go there on the way back. Stop in Nashville, rent a car and I'll prove it to you."

Bodie waved his hand at her. "Okay, I believe you."

She smiled back at him, the look saying she knew he did not believe her.

Bodie marveled at seeing her face again as it came into full view of the camera. She was now watching Doyle with a cocked eyebrow and a half smile on her lips. How cruel videotape is, Bodie thought. At least with a snapshot, the person is frozen in time, and you can hold onto that image. Videotape threw in all the other intangibles -- voice, movement, the essence of the person. He realized he was sitting on the edge of the sofa, the fingers of his good hand clenching the bottle so hard he might shatter it, and he put the bottle down.

By now she had risen from the table and was looking at her husband. She pulled an incredibly innocent face, eyes wide, and said "No comment," then put her hand in front of the camera. Bodie quickly pushed the freeze frame button before she obscured her face. He sat back and stared at the image, suddenly feeling empty and afraid. Tears had been streaming from his eyes and he became aware of them now as they trickled down into his collar. He wiped absently at them and stared transfixed.

After a few minutes he turned off the freeze frame and was about to press "stop," when the image on the tape jumped to another setting. Gil was standing at the edge of the water, the tide wrapping around her bare feet. She wore a flowered skirt and loose, short sweater, and everything seemed to flow behind her in the tropical breeze. Bodie choked and sat forward. It was her, from his dream. He had not remembered this being videotaped but must have seen it before. They were getting ready to leave for Miami to catch a plane home, and she looked sad at the prospect.

"Oh God," Bodie said aloud, a hiccuping sob escaping his lips. He realized then that like witchcraft, he had conjured her into his mind as he fought desperation and fear. Just as Ray had said, he had wanted a friend.

Bodie doubled over and sobbed, the gates that had held him in suddenly opened, and a flood of emotions poured out. He fell to the floor, oblivious of the pain rocketing through his leg, and held both arms over his head, curled into a fetal position. He lay like that for some time, crying loudly to himself, for himself, for loneliness and loss and the pain of the past months. He did not hear the door open or Ray throw things on the floor and rush to his side.

Strong arms picked him up and cradled him, careful of the wounds. "Bodie, what is it?" Ray asked, smoothing Bodie's still-spiky hair.

He rocked him gently, but Bodie continued to choke in air, attempting to control the sobbing and failing miserably.

"Is it the explosion? Are you remembering what happened?" He looked down at Bodie's flushed face and felt himself shatter inside, having never seen his partner like this before.

Bodie shook his head no, gradually pulling himself into some kind of control. Then Ray spotted the videotape still playing on the television.

"Oh..." he said, running his hands along Bodie's shoulders. "You shouldn't have done that, Sunshine." He pressed his forehead to Bodie's and smoothed his hands against Bodie's face. "A lot's happened, hasn't it?"

Bodie nodded, swallowing. "I miss her, Ray. She was my best mate."

"Hey! Thought I was your best mate!" He smiled at Bodie, and pulled his face away to look down into the teary indigo eyes.

Bodie wiped at his eyes again and smiled wanly. "No, you're a little more than that."

"When you said you cried I almost didn't believe you. When you cry you really cry, don't you?" he said, chuckling.

"You're right, so much has happened. I know I should be grateful I'm still alive, but I felt so hopeless coming back here. And then to see her, actually see her smiling and talking and laughing..."

"I know, it had the same effect on me." He helped Bodie to the sofa and they sat down. "I'm here for you, Bodie. I will take care of you, don't worry." He pulled Bodie into an embrace and allowed him to fall asleep against him, turning off the television and the tape machine. He felt a strange mixture of privilege and shame, knowing that Bodie had finally let go in front of him, yet had exhibited such a helplessness on the floor. Bodie hated the idea of depending on anyone, Ray knew. He had opened a cloistered part of his heart to Ray, and it was now Ray's obligation to honor that private world with his love.

It had been the hectoring tone in Doyle's voice that started getting up Bodie's nose first; then the wheedling way he prodded Bodie to do the exercises. Each day Doyle would come back from work and check on Bodie; but no matter how surreptitiously he tried to do it, Bodie was more than aware of what Doyle was doing.

First he'd look carefully at Bodie to see if the track suit were mussed -- a sure sign that he'd been moving about -- and then he would look over the house, checking to see if any of the resistance equipment was moved. He would then gently ask Bodie when he wanted to work on his knee -- before or after supper? Bodie wished, once in a while, that Ray would treat him as Macklin treated him. At least that was honest, and realistic.

He felt somehow too fragile, a feeling that was completely alien to him. There was a nagging quality to this gentleness in Ray, an "I know what's best for you" tone, that made Bodie bristle. It had not been a part of their relationship before, at least not while he was on the receiving end of it. And it seemed to grow worse every day.

At times he would lie on the floor, staring up into Doyle's worried face, and think of giving him a swift kick with his good leg. Just to see what would happen. Doyle wore a perpetual frown, brows knit together, as he pushed against Bodie's leg or massaged the muscles as he'd been shown. The anxiety he radiated carried over to Bodie, and by the end of each evening session, they fairly vibrated with annoyance at each other.

Television watching had become a silent affair by that time, and Bodie would feign tiredness in order to have Ray leave for bed early. He knew Ray would stay up for a while in his room reading, he'd seen the light go out sometimes hours after Ray'd gone upstairs. At times during the long nights he played with talking about it; but then he'd see Ray's face the next morning, anxious about leaving him once again, the green eyes traveling over the scars that Bodie knew still showed dark pink on his face.

And it would start again as he looked at Ray's face, the feeling that he was powerless, trapped, needy, and babied.

Mrs. Mills came over each day to tidy up, look in on Bodie, and bring food, which in most cases was going untouched. She enjoyed doting on the young man, but it pained her to see him holding back on something that was bothering him. She stopped Doyle one night before he went into the house, carrying Bodie's favorite Chinese takeaway.

"Mr. Doyle, I'm so worried about Mr. Bodie," she said. "He just seems to lie there, like he doesn't care about a thing in the world."

Doyle ran fingers through his thick hair. "I know. I've got to confront him about it, but I guess I just haven't had the courage. I know what it's like, to be recuperating and wondering what your future holds. But he's not doing himself any favors, is he?"

She shook her head. "Well, I just wanted to tell you that I'm worried about him. He used to laugh so much with Gillian. I wonder if that's what's making him so blue."

"Something like that, love," Doyle said, patting her shoulder. "Something like that. Don't worry, we'll get him sorted out and he'll be right as rain soon. You just keep taking care of him."

In fact, each night Doyle was diligent in making Bodie do his exercises, and each night Bodie was more distant, sometimes sullen. It was important for Doyle to see Bodie get past each obstacle ahead of him, but he also had reports to make to Cowley on a nearly daily basis. Without good, measurable progress, Cowley would be likely to take Bodie out of Doyle's hands and put him in someone else's, a stranger's.

In exasperation, Doyle finally pointed out this unpleasant fact to Bodie.

To his surprise, Bodie didn't say anything at first. "Well...maybe that's the way it should be. Maybe having someone cracking the whip over my head would be more productive."

Doyle gaped at him. "I can't believe you're saying that!" he bellowed. "After all I've done for you. Don't you know all I want is for you to get better? I'm trying to help you and you act like I'm in your way!"

"You worry too much. It's hard to bear all this worry of my own and bear yours, too." Bodie looked away, ashamed to be hurting Ray, yet at the same time relieved to have finally said it.

Doyle opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water. For weeks, the two of them had been going through this daily routine of working, exercising, eating, more exercising, watching the box before going to sleep, both of them constantly staring at each other with knit brows and creases forming in their foreheads. Now he was being blamed for the whole thing!

"I have absolutely no bloody idea what you're talking about." He sat back on his heels, wrists resting on knees. Bodie stared at the long, elegant fingers dangling off the jeans-clad knees. He noticed Doyle was not wearing his wedding ring.

Lying back on the floor, closing his eyes, Bodie thought, Well, now it's time to get it all out.

"Look. When you were shot, I felt horrible. I wanted to take care of you, treat you like porcelain. I got angry every time that therapist made you wince, every time Macklin pushed you too hard. I couldn't stand to look at your chest, see that scar. The first few days we were back on the streets were murder for me, I wanted to coddle you so. But I knew how very much you'd hate that.

"You had to be pushed because that's the way you do things. Cowley once said he'd hate to be on the receiving end of your wrath, God knows he's warned enough villains about just how bad they could expect things with you on their case. You want it tough, and woe to anyone who tries to take care of you. God forbid anyone should show you some fucking kindness when you're down." He pushed at the short fringe of hair on his forehead, wiping sweat away.

"Hasn't it occurred to you that you're doing the exact thing to me that you hate so much? You don't want me pushed to my limits, not really. Because you're too bloody worried about something bad happening to me. If you lose one more person in your life, if one more bad thing happens...that's what you're thinking. The bad thing already happened, Ray. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. You can push me and make me say 'Ow' because that's what I'm supposed to do. Not this pussyfooting around. You don't want me in physical pain, you don't want to talk about us, as in you and me, for fear of emotional pain, you just want me better in the safest way. Sometimes things have to get bad to get better."

Ray had no answer. He sat down on the floor with a thump, and twisted his hands together. Bodie was right, and he knew it. He had avoided pushing Bodie, worried about making things unpleasant or at worst, physically painful. Worried about losing him.

After some time, Doyle sighed. "Okay. You've got me there. D'you want me to start hurting you now?" He grinned his most wicked grin, the chipped tooth that lent him such a rakish air catching a glint of light from the window.

Bodie lisped at him, "Oh, would you please? Forty lashes."

Doyle collapsed in laughter, falling down on the floor next to Bodie. Finally, wiping a trickle of tear from his eyes and trying to stop laughing, he looked over at Bodie, whose head was already tilted towards the slim man next to him.

"So what's next, then?"

Bodie stared back at him, a look of such exquisite promise and assurance that Ray's heart lurched in his chest. "Start with something easy. Hold me."

Doyle was not sure how things had instantly changed from anxiety to tender intimacy, but he was content to dive into it and let it pull him in.

Shifting closer, Ray rolled onto his side. He put a hand out tentatively and ran it softly up and down Bodie's arm, over the cast and onto the biceps, then over the shoulder. He moved his other arm between Bodie's neck and the floor, snaking around to caress the muscled back. His left arm moved over Bodie's other shoulder, and his face inched over onto Bodie's chest. There was a musky scent about this dark man, warm and strong. Bodie's good arm shakily moved around to drape over Ray's own back. They lay that way for some time, feeling the warmth of each other's breath, the beating of hearts.

The silence was broken by Bodie. "And now, promise me that you'll be as hard on me as you'd expect me to be on you. Because right now this is about as far as I want go with all this stuff on, but I want to get better so this isn't where it all ends."

Doyle sighed softly into his partner's chest, sending hot shivers of desire running through Bodie. Ray pulled his face up to look into Bodie's. "I'm not used to taking care of people. You and Gil never seemed to have much need or tolerance for it. I'm doing my best."

Bodie brushed wayward curls from Doyle's forehead with his plaster-imprisoned fingers. "You just keep going the way you're going. We'll get there." He sighed contentedly. His dream was coming true, and he had all the time in the world.

Chapter Ten

"I'm sorry?" Bodie stared at Doyle in open-mouthed surprise.

"Do you? Want to sleep upstairs? It's a simple question." He feigned indignation and impatience because at that moment he was barely controlling his shaking. The question was terrifying to him, putting him on the first uphill climb of a roller coaster where you know you can't get off, but what's ahead is stomach-churning.

"In the same bed with you?"

"Yes. Look, you yourself said it's not like you can do much with all that stuff on. It's seems like an...easy way to..." He ran a hand over his face. Bodie's enjoying this, he suddenly realized. "Oh, bugger it. Just forget I asked."

"No!" Bodie almost leapt off the chair, as much as his heavy brace would allow. "I mean, yes, I'd like that. On my honor, I'll behave myself."

Ray was shocked to realize that the thought passing through his mind was actually, I hope not.

"Okay, that's settled. Are you ready to go to bed now or were you planning to stay up? I know it's hard for you to sleep, you're so housebound. But me, I'm knackered."

"No, I'm sure I'll sleep like a baby." He smiled lasciviously at Doyle and the two burst out laughing, tension easing a bit. Doyle put an arm under Bodie's, and they began a slow and sometimes awkward ascent of the narrow stairway.

Doyle had already turned down the covers, and the room was dim, lit only by a small, low-watt lamp. After what seemed like half a lifetime of dreaming this, Bodie suddenly felt boyish, embarrassed and clumsy. He didn't know if he should move toward the bed first or not. Doyle settled things by moving over by the bed and taking off his shirt. Both of them moved stiffly at first.

Bodie sat down on the edge of the bed, began the work of peeling off the brace covering his track suit. He surreptitiously watched Doyle finish stripping, down to his underpants. His eyes traveled over the wiry back which belied strong, powerful muscles, to the firm, round buttocks in the tight fabric. Bodie had looked at Ray's body before, both casually and with lust, but he had never felt such a strong appreciation for the form and supple smoothness of his entire body. That's the most beautiful bum I've ever seen, Bodie thought, smiling, then quickly wiped the smile off his face. I'm supposed to be behaving myself.

Doyle turned to him, wearing only very small underpants and the silver chain, which lay on his chest, slightly covered by soft whorls of brown hair. Bodie stared up at him, speechless. Ray knelt beside him.

"D'you need help with that?" He tugged gently at the cuff of the track suit bottoms.

"I could just sleep in 'em, the bottom half, anyway." He looked quizzically at the other man. Suddenly he reached out and put both hands on Ray's face, running his thumbs gently along the curve of Doyle's cheekbones. "I feel so silly. All my macho posturing, and right now I feel like all the wind's been knocked right out of my sails. It must have taken a lot for you to ask me about this."

"Is it better to sleep with something on under that brace? I do have some pyjama bottoms around here somewhere, I'm sure, that some relative or another gave to me for Christmas or something." He rubbed his soft hand gently over Bodie's knee where the bright red scar was, then down to the fractured area.

Bodie closed his eyes. "Mmmm...that's nice."

After a few moments he was brought out of his reverie. "Yeah, why don't you find them." Doyle burrowed around in drawers until he brought out a very old, very striped pair of pyjamas, tossing the bottoms to Bodie.

"This would dampen anyone's ardor," Ray said in his sinful voice.

Bodie stood and made fast work of changing, aware that he was turned away from Ray, trying to hide his half-developed erection. He also felt suddenly pale and sickly, knowing his weight had gone down dramatically in hospital and that compared to the warm brown skin of Doyle, he looked decidedly ghostlike.

Just then, Doyle's hands were on his shoulders, gripping them hard. He gently turned Bodie round to face him, then, sensing Bodie was going off-balance, he put his arms around him and slid his cheek along the pale, smooth skin, then pushed Bodie gently into a sitting position on the bed.

"It's all going to be all right," Doyle said, bringing his face close to Bodie's and sitting down next to him.

"I'm not sure it is. Maybe I should stay downstairs." His voice was weak.

Bodie trembled as Doyle continued to stroke his skin. He put his hands to Ray's face and tightened the pressure on Doyle's face, lifting Ray's head up so Bodie could look into his eyes.

"This doesn't have to happen. I really meant what I said before coming up here. I don't want to let anything happen that you don't want."

"You won't," Ray said, husky-voiced. He closed his eyes and leaned his face against Bodie's strong good hand, soaking in the warmth, feeling the slight shiver. He stayed that way for some time, both of them remaining motionless, lost in the sensation of closeness.

"I love you, Ray. I love you so much," Bodie said in a faraway voice, a catch in the end of the statement.

"I--" But Bodie stopped him, put gentle fingertips over his lips.

"No. Don't. I don't have any expectations of you. You just give what you can give. That's all." He moved fingertips over the face of his friend -- now, perhaps, his lover.

Eyes closed, he read Ray's face like it was Braille -- first the full lips, then the straight, fine nose, the stubble of his beard along the jaw, then each cheek, round and smooth except for the damaged bone on the top right. The perfectly arching eyebrows. Gradually Bodie's hands came to rest again on either side of Ray's face.

His arms were trembling, the cast resting cool against Doyle's neck, the only thing that was not on fire between them.

"I'll take care of you." Ray moved his face away, staring into the cool blue gaze. Then he pressed his lips to Bodie's, seeking them at first gently, then more hungrily, willing them to open to him. Bodie kissed him back, parting his lips to draw in Doyle's flickering tongue. Kissing, Doyle's hands roamed delicately across Bodie's lower back.

"D'you need that?" he asked, his voice throaty with anticipation, nodding toward the brace on the floor. His exquisite fingers, so long and fine, traced patterns on Bodie's thigh, causing a strange, tickling fire to grow near Bodie's groin, and then up into his chest.

Bodie couldn't take his eyes away from the beautiful face. He shook his head. "I can go without it for awhile. Do when I bathe, things like that."

Doyle pushed him back onto the bed, softly, moving his hand onto Bodie's chest. He could feel the other man's heart beating wildly. He leant over Bodie, his upper torso pressing against Bodie's chest, the side of his hip felt Bodie's sex growing against him. Doyle ran his hands idly across Bodie's smooth chest and stared hard into the heavy-lidded eyes in front of him. He had never felt skin like this -- not so smooth and fine as a woman's, yet still silky, and hotter than anyone else's he'd ever touched.

"Bodie, I--" Bodie suddenly tried to sit up, almost knocking Doyle backwards, who held on as hard as he could. "What the--"

"Look, you don't have to do this. I'm sorry, I said I wouldn't--"

Doyle pushed him back down. Bodie's face was twisted with what Doyle thought was shame. "What's the matter with you?" He put as much weight as he could across the other man's body. His fingers pressed into the shoulder muscles, taut with nervousness. Slowly he massaged his friend's shoulders, hoping to gentle him into calmness.

Bodie looked away, eyes staring blankly at the wall. "Ray... I'm sorry. Look, just let it go. I know what you were going to say."

"No, you don't."

"Look, I know you don't want to--"

"Bodie!" Ray pressed his lips to Bodie's neck, then to his collarbone, then his shoulder. "I was just gonna say, I don't know what to do. I just...don't know how this goes." He kissed Bodie softly, his lips dancing seductively across, around and over Bodie's own. Bodie closed his eyes and slowly relaxed his grip, his good arm moving to embrace Doyle even tighter. He felt an overwhelming surge of emotion at the almost childlike tone of Ray's voice, something he'd never heard before. The feeling was so strong he couldn't, at first, think what to say in response.

"It's basically the same -- only a few details are changed. It looks like you're already doing a great job!" He gathered Ray into a fierce, bruising kiss. They both came up for air after a few minutes, gasping. Ray had slowly inched his way up until his body was completely on top of Bodie's. He could feel Bodie's thick cock hard against his own growing one, separated only by thin cloth.

"I don't want to hurt you," Ray said in a whisper, his eyes traveling over the fine-chiseled face, his right hand weaving through the close-cropped dark hair. The touch sent a deep shiver down Bodie's spine, and his slight wiggling caused a reciprocating shiver in Doyle.

"I promise, no gymnastics," Bodie said, smiling at the divine face in front of him, flushed slightly red with passion. "Let's take it slowly. That's the best way, anyhow." He breathed heavily in Ray's ear, his tongue snaking around the outside before darting back and forth inside it, then grabbing Ray's earlobe in his teeth and gently biting it.

Doyle breathed heavily against his neck, almost laughing. "Tickles," he muttered into Bodie's chest. Bodie nibbled the soft neck around Ray's ear, causing laughter that Ray tried to muffle by digging his face into Bodie's neck.

All this time, Bodie had imagined that if he ever had Ray like this, somehow it would all be wordless, picture-perfect romantic, wild with passion. He hadn't expected to have dodgy limbs, discussions about the mechanics of it all, and Doyle laughing helplessly as he tickled him with love bites. It was sublime this way, Bodie smiled to himself. So real, so much him and Doyle as they always were together.

Bodie's hands came down to cup the firm buttocks, his hands snaking inside the waistband of the underpants, gently sliding them down. He tried not to rasp the cast against Doyle's skin. Fingers traced over the smoothest skin, up and down, up and down, feathering over the tight muscles.

Ray sighed as Bodie then pressed further into him, their cocks grinding hard against each other. Ray reached down, shifting his body up slightly, and slid the unwanted fabric away. Then he did the same to Bodie, his hands traveling slowly up every inch of Bodie's body, from toes to groin. His hands stopped just before reaching Bodie's aching shaft, and Bodie closed his eyes in desperation.

"Bodie, I... I was thinking." Oh god, Bodie thought, not now. Leave it to Ray to suddenly decide to analyze this and destroy everything. He opened his eyes with trepidation, still unbelieving that this delectable body was hovering above him, golden tan legs straddling his own. "I want you to know that I want to do this. I'm not doing this to please you or because I'm desperate and lonely. It's because I want you as much as you want me." Then he dove down to smother Bodie's lips with his own, and Bodie was so shocked that he couldn't move or return the kiss. There never seemed to be an end to Doyle's surprises, not even after more than ten years together.

Then his own arms went around Doyle, nearly squeezing the air out of him. Bodie felt tears beginning to form in his eyes, and tried to shake them out but couldn't. Doyle finally broke the kiss, and gazed at Bodie with his inscrutable cat's eyes of emerald green. Bodie brushed Ray's cheek with the tips of his fingers, the cast making him feel unwieldy. He gazed back at Ray in a look approaching awe, and Ray bent down, kissing the tears that trickled slightly out of Bodie's eyes.

"I love you, Ray. I've never felt this way before. So...excited and hot and so...happy."

"I know. I'm so glad I could make you feel that way." His hands cupped Bodie's face, fingers stroking lazily over fine skin. He leant down and kissed his lips again, then moved down his neck to chest, then stomach, tracing circles with his lips and tongue across Bodie's hot flesh. His hand reached down to stroke Bodie's throbbing cock and Bodie gasped. Ray brought their bodies together, their cocks together within his hand, and knew that neither of them would last long as they melted together, heat against heat, bodies moving slowly but rhythmically into a climax that left them paralyzed, gasping mouth against mouth, and then finally into warm, sleepy embrace.

Bodie drifted in that dark space of almost-sleep, aware vaguely of Ray's head on his shoulder, the hair that tickled his lips and nose, Ray's finely-muscled arm slung loosely across his chest. After some minutes, what seemed like hours, he was wakened by Ray's voice, muffled into his throat.

"Bodie. Bodie."

"Yes?" he whispered back, trying to find his voice, which only choked out weakly. He moved his good arm softly up and down Ray's smooth, solid back.

"Feels good to hold someone again." Fingers tightened gently around Bodie's shoulder.

"I know," Bodie answered, and felt his best friend, his lover, sigh deeply and fall back into the rhythmic breathing of contented sleep.

Bodie woke when he heard the door shut loudly downstairs. He quickly glanced at the pillow beside him -- no Ray. He ran a hand up over his face. I knew it had to happen. He'll probably never want to look at me again, Bodie thought miserably. Why did I do this?

Sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he felt his heart sinking in his chest. He grabbed for the leg brace, mechanically putting it on, then began hobbling toward the door. Just then the door opened. He was met with a surprised Doyle, wrapped in a thick white robe, holding a tray of breakfast.

"What are you doin'?"

Bodie's mouth opened and closed. He was doing a lot of that lately, Doyle thought with amusement. "I -- I thought you'd left..."

Doyle held up the tray, pointed to the cream pitcher and said, "Milk float. Was out. You drink your tea with milk, yes?"

Bodie began laughing, a slow chuckle that burbled up from deep inside his chest. Bodie rarely laughed out loud, and Doyle always loved the sound of it, it was such a treat. He moved toward the bed, aware suddenly that he was completely naked save for the brace. For all his bragging about sex and his willingness to try almost anything, Bodie was also surprisingly modest about his body. Ray had never seen him in anything approaching casual summer clothes, until Gillian had forced him to go to the beach with them one summer, and Bodie finally had to actually wear shorts in public. It hadn't been easy to do. Even when they worked out, his exercise clothing was usually tidy, and very very covering.

"I thought... I thought you'd got disgusted and left." He shook his head, and began pulling the brace off. "And here you're making me breakfast in bed."

Doyle looked aghast. "This isn't for you, mate, this is mine." He sat on the bed and leaned against the wall, putting the tray into his lap. He slowly took up the knife and fork and began cutting into a sausage, as Bodie joined him on the bed. Then he looked at Bodie, whose helpless eyes caused him to burst out laughing. "Okay, it's yours." He plunked the tray onto Bodie's lap.

Picking up the knife and fork, he paused with them in mid-air, and looked over at Ray, his face soft and gentle, a look Doyle only rarely had the privilege to see. He had a vague feeling pass through his mind that he would be seeing more of this look in future. "You said you didn't know how to take care of me. I can't imagine anyone ever having done a better job."

Ray leant back against the wall, eyes closed and a smile faintly playing over his mouth. "Doesn't take as much work as I thought. A little food, a little're fairly easy to please."

Bodie laughed in spite of a mouthful of eggs. After he finished his breakfast, enjoying the comfortable silence between the two of them, he put the tray down on the floor and reached over, taking Ray's hand in his.

"I have no expectations of you. I just want you to know that."

"I do. I mean, have expectations of me." Ray paused, scrunching his face up, the look of thoughtfulness familiar to Bodie as the beginning of a stream of Doyle conjecture. It was one of Ray's characteristics that both amused and annoyed him, depending on the situation.

"Y'know, I thought a lot about this before I let anything happen. I've known about your feelings for a long, long time, and I never wanted to acknowledge them because to do that would mean that I might... understand. I wanted the lines of our relationship to be drawn very clearly."

"Until Gil put the notion in your mind."

"But she didn't, you see? She didn't at all. She just...kicked me into gear. I've thought about it over and over, and I can see it very clearly. The more you took care of me, the kindnesses, the closeness. I wanted that all, and more. You two were so much alike -- and I kept thinking of that over and over, too. What was I looking for? What did I want? And what I wanted was the same things that made me fall in love once before. And they're here, right in front of me. That's what did it. The letter was just the...the little prodding I had to have to put it all together." He looked hard at his friend.

"Bodie, I know how you felt all those years. At least I think I was aware of it, just in the back of my mind. I don't mean this to sound cruel, but I could never have felt this way before. It just wasn't in me to look at you this way, to need you this way. I had to make the choices I made."

"I know," Bodie said, reaching the plaster-encased hand over and brushing the fingertips across Ray's damaged cheekbone. "It was a surprise to me back then to realize what I felt. I never expected you to do the same. It was just all the things combining, making me have to know what I felt for you. Things just happen when they happen, because they're supposed to happen."

Doyle closed his eyes.

Bodie clutched Ray's hand tightly, with his good arm. "So you don't regret last night?"

"Nah. Not in a million years, Bodie." Ray leant over, pressed his lips gently to Bodie's. The other man returned the kiss, his eyes open, searching Doyle's face.

When they finally broke to take a deep breath, Bodie asked the other question. "What about the next time? If you want it to never happen again, I'll understand."

"Do you honestly think anyone would be surprised if our friendship and partnership turned into something more? Maybe we'd be the only ones surprised. I can't imagine my life without you now, in any way. You're everything to me."

Bodie smiled and moved the tray to the end of the bed, then pulled Ray over on top of him. "Prove it."

Ray did.

They lazed the day away, reading the papers, eating now and then, cuddling. Ray felt it was definitely different, cuddling a man, but not bad. Not the soft curves, certainly, but a comforting solidity. He liked the feel of Bodie's smooth, creamy skin, was mesmerized by the scar along his shoulder blade, the mole on his eyebrow. All things considered, it was not a bad way to spend the day.

"Ray?" Bodie sounded far away, dreamy. Doyle put down his newspaper and looked over at his partner. "I need to tell you something. It may change how you feel about me."

Doyle's heart gave a slight lurch, seemed to skip its rhythm a bit. "What could you possibly have to tell me that I don't know about?"

"Lots, Ray. Lots. And I promise to tell you all about my past, every bit of it. But, this is about Gil. We did talk about you. We talked about how I felt about you. I know you'd hate that, so I need to be honest with you."

"I'm surprised you two didn't get into fisticuffs, then." Doyle frowned at his friend but hid the fact that he had already decided long ago the two must have discussed his feelings in detail.

"She didn't have a spontaneous combustion, if that's what you mean. But at the wedding, she got me to admit my feelings. Was very hard to do. Later she said something I never forgot. 'I'm not all sweetness and light, you know. It's not like I'd just let you go after him if you suddenly decided to do that. Boy, would you get a fight.' She felt threatened. I understood that. She said there was an understanding between you and me she could never share, and sometimes it bothered her."

Doyle sighed. "You know, I always wondered if you two had got up to something. I sometimes felt a bit jealous of your friendship, y'know. Sometimes I just wanted you to be mine, and not hers, too. Once, when we were at Brighton, I looked up when I was walking on the shore, and saw you kissing her forehead, both of your hands on her face. It was very tender, and it made me feel sick inside. And I always wondered what that fan club stuff was about. I always thought I might lose her to the fatal Bodie charm. Silly, when what you wanted was me, but there you are."

He pushed hair off his forehead, which crinkled in dismay.

"This is all so strange to me, Bodie. I'm not sure I understand any of it." He looked down at the bed. "I'm not sure I'm always going to do the right thing or feel the right way -- the way you'd want." He ran a hand along Bodie's smooth cheek. "But just let me try. I'll be as good to you as I can. Let me try for you."

Bodie leant over and took Ray in a heavy embrace, kissed his forehead, his cheek, his lips.

"I'm glad you told me, Bodie. No secrets, okay? Ever."

"Never," Bodie said, and kissed Ray, his tongue flicking over the full lips, then moving down to his neck. Doyle rolled over onto the newspaper and took Bodie's face in his hands. "You do that and you'll get me started."

"That was my intention," Bodie said slyly, and closed Ray's mouth with a kiss.

Chapter Eleven

The two men lay in bed, late at night, Doyle resting his head against Bodie's shoulder and Bodie tangling his fingers absently in the other man's wavy, unruly hair. He would still find himself catching his breath occasionally, at least a few times each day, realizing that he could touch Ray, steal a quick kiss, hold him, share the night with him, with open freedom now. It was such a new world, to love someone and be loved back. He would sigh then and Doyle would always catch it, asking him, "What's wrong?"

Bodie could never quite answer back the right way, merely shaking his head and saying nothing. How could he explain that he was sighing because everything was right?

Earlier that week Bodie had got the cast off his wrist. He enjoyed moving the now-free fingers through Ray's hair, a decidedly sensuous feeling that never seemed to grow old for him. I'm besotted, he told himself.

"Bodie?" Doyle broke the reverie. His long fingers traced circles on Bodie's chest, teasing his nipples from time to time, then moving down just above Bodie's groin to the thatch of dark hair there before darting back up. It wouldn't take much more to get aroused again, Bodie knew, and whether or not Doyle was tired, if he continued this game there would be more playing that night, no matter what. These days all Ray had to do was look at him sideways and his trousers were too tight.

"Yeah?" He brushed his lips against Ray's forehead, back and forth, absently. He wondered if Ray would finally say it. He knew that words like "I love you" came hard to a man so used to being alone; for Bodie it had only been the years of waiting that allowed him to finally spit it out. But while he waited and wondered, he also knew Doyle would come to it in his own time.

He still wondered if he'd heard Ray really say, "One who loves you" in hospital, had never been able to ask Ray if it were true. But that was also different than blurting out the most important statement you could make to another human being. He'd been hurt, afraid. It was much harder to say the word love when the person was staring you in the face, completely conscious. Bodie had no doubt that Ray did love him. For the first time in his life, he was sure of someone's love for him.

"I was wondering. Why didn't you hate Gillian?"

Bodie waved his hand dismissively and smiled.

"Why should I? You were wonderful together. I'd be happy as long as you were happy." He traced circles around Doyle's earlobe, and Ray shook his head against the fingers, his ticklish reaction beginning. "Now, I don't know if I'd have felt that way if you'd picked some idiotic swot, but I've always liked your taste in girls. I liked Ann, although I didn't think she was completely right for you. But Gil...well, we had a couple of things in common."

Doyle looked up at him suspiciously.

"In case you hadn't noticed, we were a bit alike." He smiled warmly at the thought. "We were both loners by choice. Even though she loved her family, she chose to live halfway across the world and travel all the time. She liked it when you'd be gone on duty or stakeouts, just to be alone sometimes. I appreciated those qualities in her. I had people I cared for, but I made the decision to keep my lines clean and straight -- me, myself, and I on one side, and on the other side, everyone else. Until I met you. It was the same for her."

Musing on this, Doyle finally looked up at Bodie. "You said a couple things. What's the second?"

"We both think the sun rises and sets on you."

Doyle's hand moved up to stroke Bodie's face, and he scooted his body up to rest against the other man's. He kissed him longingly, as though he were drinking him in. Eventually their lips parted, and Ray began softly kissing him along his neck, moving down to his chest, flicking his tongue over taut nipples. Bodie gasped, and his hands began moving hungrily over Ray's firm back and shoulders.

The two had experimented to some degree over the past few days, but Bodie had been careful not to push Ray into situations he'd feel uncomfortable in. Now Bodie found himself staring into greedy green eyes as Doyle looked up at him, his mouth poised over Bodie's cock, flicking his tongue tauntingly over it. "Bodie." His voice was thick with want.

The other man swallowed but still couldn't answer.

"I want you in me. I want to know what it feels like." He flicked his tongue lazily over Bodie's cock again, making sure Bodie was as hard as a rock before he brought his body up to lie next to him, face down.

"Are you sure?" Bodie's hands trembled with desire and fear. I don't want you to go further than you're capable of.

Ray looked out at Bodie, the sideways cast of his eyes even more sensual than ever. "I want to know you every way possible. I told you that."

"Not everyone likes it that way, Ray. It's one of the big myths." Doyle continued to look at him, hooded eyes sending heated signals.

Bodie could feel his entire body become lighter than air, as though he would suddenly fly away. His heart thudded in his chest. "I won't hurt you."

"I know that," Ray said, taking Bodie's hand and placing it on his firm, smooth body. "That's why I love you."

"It's Long's trial date tomorrow. D'you want to go?" Ray eyed Bodie with a bit of trepidation. At times Bodie was utterly predictable and reliable in his reactions, but there were some subjects where you never knew which way he would go.

"What does the old man expect?" Bodie put the newspaper down and grabbed his crutches. It was still difficult to put weight on the one arm, but by now he'd got to a point of semi-hobbling while using the crutches, anyway. Doyle was just glad he was moving on his own at all.

He would sometimes catch Bodie working with a squeeze ball, trying to regain some strength in the once powerful fingers, or doing half-pushups to work his upper arms, and becoming weak and trembly after just a few attempts. Each time Doyle squashed his natural tendency to assist Bodie, to nurse him. Now that their relationship had taken a different turn, it was even more important that he not be motherly to Bodie, who was used to toughing everything out, as Doyle was.

"I think he wants it to be up to you. But the last thing he'd want is for you to start throwing fits in a courtroom. You don't have to give evidence. I do at some point."

Bodie sat pensive, staring at the paper in his hands. Finally he spoke. "Well, I guess I shall go. I'd like to see what happens to the man who may have completely changed my life."

Doyle sat down hard on the chair next to him and looked at him with huge puzzlement. "What d'you mean?" Why was he being so pleasant?

"Well, everything's changed now, hasn't it? Part of why we're together now has to do with the blast."

Doyle looked down at the floor, sighed heavily, his shoulders moving up and down. "The night before you were hurt. After you left here, after you...kissed me. I couldn't sleep. I pulled out Gil's book, and kept looking at that stuff about how your life can change in two seconds. And I thought, it was like she was telling me that time's short, life is short, and not to waste it. Waste it with you. I don't want to waste any more. I want every second to count. Sometimes I think about getting in off the streets, so I don't have to waste this time with you worrying, being afraid of what might happen."

"Ray, we could get hit by a car crossing the street even if we worked in a bank." Bodie looked at him sideways. "I told you, I'm not going anywhere away from you."

"It's not just that, Bodie. We're getting older. You said yourself, what happens if Macklin doesn't certify you back for the squad?"

"Ray, I don't wanna think about what ifs right now. Can't we just concentrate on me getting back on the squad, and worry about what if later?" He looked pleadingly at Doyle and it melted Ray's heart. There was little he could refuse Bodie, ever.

"You want me to take you to court?"

"Yes, let's. Perhaps the sight of me hobblin' down the aisle will be affecting." He grinned and took Doyle's arm, hoisting himself up with a grunt.

Bodie sat stone-faced through most of the trial, which was, Doyle thought, mercifully brief. There was Bodie the expressionless man and then there was Bodie the stone-faced man. Doyle never liked the look of the latter, he knew well enough that it was Bodie hiding his worst feelings. During Doyle's own evidence, his eyes never left Bodie even from as far away as the witness box. He saw Bodie visibly flinch when he described the scenario of the day they'd gone to Long's house, the description of Bodie's near demise. Doyle realized, as he told it, that he and Bodie had never really gone over the events detail by detail. He saw Bodie lower his dark head, chin nearly touching chest, and his hands grip his crutch tightly.

It was difficult for Doyle to talk about the whole affair, Bodie could tell. While it hurt him to hear the description of events he himself could scarcely remember (and all the better for it, the doctor had said: traumatic amnesia usually served extreme trauma victims much better than remembering would), it hurt him more to watch the way Doyle stumbled and hesitated in his descriptions of things. When asked about when Doyle realized there was an ambush, Doyle at first could not remember that the car leaving the garage was a Range Rover, and that the color was brown, stammering through a description. Not like the ex-copper he was, Bodie thought.

Bodie watched from the corner of his eyes as Cowley cringed when Doyle bumbled the statement. The case against Long was so airtight the trial was almost moot, but Cowley obviously didn't enjoy seeing one of his most detail-minded, organized agents fumbling his way through a court case.

When the day was over, they drove home, Bodie quiet in the passenger seat. After some time, Doyle said, "You surprised me. You didn't seem to be all that angry. I thought you'd be angry, more than anything."

"Yeah, well, I guess I feel sort of detached, don't I? In some ways, I can't really connect what happened to him. Not like some fella we picked up off the street or anything. I never really saw the bloke, and then next thing I know..."

"Yeah. I suppose it all does seem a little surreal."

"I'm not condoning what he did, mind you. But at the same time, I can see how he could have snapped. I mean, just looking at him there, he's completely out of touch with reality. I sometimes wondered if he knew where he was, what was happenin'."

"You feel sorry for him?"

"No. Just...doesn't seem like the same person could blow me up and kill a lot of other people. Seems -- pathetic. But at the same time, it infuriates me, what he's done to me, what he did to those others. Their families, all alone now."

Doyle paused for a while, concentrating on the crush of traffic as a light rain fell on the city, slowing everything down. He knew Bodie was thinking of losing his own family. About being a little kid with no mum and dad for comfort. As much as Bodie did not want kids of his own, he had a wonderful rapport with them. As though a part of him were forever locked into the years that he had missed, practicing to be a child. Doyle spoke finally. "Something else though, isn't there?"

Bodie looked at him out of the side of his eye. A slight smile danced across his lips, and he cocked an eyebrow at Ray. "I sleep with you a few times and suddenly you think you can read my mind?"

A throaty laugh escaped Doyle's mouth. "You're in my power now!" He flashed a quick, white smile Bodie's way. "No, really, I get the feeling something's percolating in that tiny mind of yours."

Bodie rolled his head back and forth a few times, trying not to laugh. He looked out the window at the traffic all around them.

"I guess I've been thinking about what you said. About not being able to take all this violence. Its been bad these past few years hasn't it, starting with you being shot? A lot of pain. You, then Murphy getting cut up so bad that one time. Then Gil. Now me. I'm surprised we're not a bunch of gibberin' idiots by now, what we've been through."

"Gil used to say that we chose risky professions for a reason, that they didn't find us, we found them."

Bodie mused on this.

"I knew a lot of journalists in Africa. You'd see them sometimes, following the civil wars. There was this kind of fearlessness about them, they were obsessed with getting a good story, a good photo. Bringing it home to Mr. and Mrs. Normal. Hell, they'd go places even a mercenary wouldn't. You have to wonder what motivates them, people like Gil. Or what motivates us. I mean, I'm starting to wonder what it's all about. What difference does it make whether Mr. and Mrs. Normal see the Sandinistas and the Contras? What difference does it make if we chase down a bloke like Long, or for that matter capture one of the Helmut Myer gang? More of them just creep up. Is all this violence getting us anywhere? Are we just putting ourselves on the line for nothing? Did Gil die for nothing?"

"You said yourself, she could have died crossing the street instead." Doyle looked at Bodie, the red of the stoplight casting a dark shadow across his cat-like face. He took Bodie's hand in his and stroked the fingers with gentle back-and-forth movements. "I'd like to think she died doing what she wanted. That matters. I'd like to think we're doing what we want, what we need to do. That matters."

Bodie looked at him hard, impenetrable blue eyes boring into him. "You matter."

Then they were at the house and Doyle pulled the car into the drive. He reached over, fingers caressing the sides of Bodie's face, then kissed him gently but firmly on the lips. Bodie pulled away instinctively, looking sideways and behind. "Ray! People could see!"

"I don't care. Just want to say I love you." Then he leant back and smiled seriously at the other man. "We'll figure it out," he said, pulling the parking brake.

Bodie looked over at the house next door as he got out of the car. "Oi! What do you think Mrs. Mills would say about what's going on behind our closed doors?" He waved to her in her window as she watered plants. She waved back, then Bodie blew her a kiss. He loved teasing her.

"D'you think we should tell her? If you're going to stay here, well...maybe we should. She was a nurse, I bet there's not much she hasn't seen or heard."

Bodie winked at her as they went in the door. "Well. Maybe we should just leave it. It would probably make her happy to know we were house sharing for economic reasons. You can just say you've taken me in as a lodger. Anything else might put her in an early grave. She's seventy, you know."

Doyle laughed wickedly at that. "Not if you'd heard some of the things about Mr. Mills I've heard her tell Gillian. Right swingers, in their time, they were." He wiggled an eyebrow at Bodie, who burst out laughing in a sputtering howl. "Remind me to tell you the story of how she got the rug burns on her face at the Ritz Hotel in New York."

Bodie stared at him incredulously. "Mrs. Mills? She never!"

Shaking his head and grinning, Doyle said, "You would be very surprised." They both laughed all the way inside.

Sometimes, Bodie thought, life could be very, very good, after all.

It was excruciating for Doyle to watch Macklin mangle Bodie. He was not supposed to be here, and had snuck in a back way, up a dilapidated fire escape and in a broken window, slithering along a high catwalk to a far corner of the disused warehouse.

Doyle always wondered where Mac found these places. It seemed he routinely rerouted them to new disused warehouses each time they were to be taken apart. Was there some directory of disused warehouses in London that only old spies had access to? he thought wryly, as Mac shouted yet more commands at Bodie.

As far away as he was, Doyle could see Bodie's color was drained. He couldn't interfere, but was afraid if he said nothing Macklin would work Bodie until he passed out. He was, after all, only three days off the cane. Disdaining the care that the doctor recommended, Bodie had willingly taken on Macklin's dare to start training to get back on the squad.

"Sloppy, Bodie. I've seen you do one-handeds better than that," Macklin said, leaning over him. Towser, as usual, stood off in the distance, lending his ominous presence to the little adventure.

Bodie collapsed onto the floor face down, covering his head with his hands. "Just take me away," he mumbled into the floor. Macklin squatted down beside him, a look of slight concern on his face.

"We can postpone this to when you're better qualified," he said.

Bodie rolled over onto his back. He was covered in a sheen of sweat, dark hair plastered against his skull. His chest heaved and he shook his head violently. Doyle couldn't stand it any more and quietly sneaked back out the way he'd come in. He got in his car and drove back to headquarters where he ostensibly had work to do, but what it was barely registered in his brain. He had to talk to Cowley.

Macklin continued to hover over Bodie's prone figure. They had been at this for hours. "Bodie..."

"Look, Mac, I know what you're goin' to say, but you don't understand."

"But I do, Bodie, I do. Right now you have to prove to me, to Cowley, to Doyle, and to yourself that you can be certified fit for active duty. This is the most important thing in the world to you, because if it wasn't CI5, what else could you do? Where would you go?" He sat down on the floor and waved his hand around, indicating the room. "But what if I told you there was an alternative to this?"

Face scrunched up in pain and complete bafflement, Bodie could only look at him. "You're the dungeon master. Everyone comes through the Bastille at some point."

"Have you heard about Willis?"

Bodie shook his head, rubbing his knee the whole while. It felt like someone was throwing matches at him, bringing little quick sizzles of pain to his flesh.

"He's out at MI6. As are a few of his top-level henchmen. Clean sweep. They are reorganizing, and the new head just happens to be an old mate of Cowley's, and mine. He wants me in his top spot to help that reorganization along. And I'm taking it."

Bodie had no love lost for Willis, and was concentrating on the fact that the bastard had finally got his due, not really paying attention to the sandy-haired man who was talking to him.

"He's finally gone!" Bodie tried to get up but his body was not obeying his brain's commands. Macklin offered him a hand and hoisted him to his feet. "Bodie, I've nagged you for years about your weight. I never thought I'd see the day you'd weigh as much as that scrawny partner of yours."

"He's not so skinny..." Bodie said distantly, then caught himself. He looked at Mac but the other man seemed to have taken no notice of Bodie's words.

"You just don't get George Cowley, do you?"


"Neither of you get it at all. To you, he's just an annoying old man, your boss. Someone you respect but not too much. He has no personal life, no personality beyond what you yourselves know of him. Bodie, he's been working for years to get Willis after that episode with Schumann and his wife. And you."

"What's that got to do with this?" Bodie looked as thick as a plank, and Macklin sighed heavily, running a hand over his eyes with exaggerated patience.

"George has had a very interesting history. I owe him everything. When my agency days were up, it was George who secured this job for me. He built CI5 on what he thought I could do with his agents. And it worked. It worked best with you two. He looks at you like the sons he never had." Macklin looked at Bodie with exasperation.

"He was married once, you know. He wasn't always this chronic workaholic you see each day. He met his wife in France, after the war. She died shortly after coming back to Britain with him. Brain cancer -- a very gruesome and sad death. But I daresay you've never bothered to find out anything about him."

Bodie thought about Cowley's reaction to Gil's death, and how unusually quiet he'd been, how gentle. That made sense. But what did that have to do with anything?

"I still don't get what you're trying to tell me." Bodie sat down heavily on the bench along the far wall, reaching for a flask of tea. Frankly, what I'd like right now is about a pint of Scotch.

"You and Doyle are complete vexations to him, but he's also proud of you. You're the best agents he's ever had come through his doors. George has been holding certain cards on Willis and his top people for some time, waiting for the right time to play them. Even through that Dawson mess, he waited for just the right time, through all their ups and downs. And it came. He knew your injuries might preclude you from getting certified for the street again. On the chance you couldn't, he wanted to make certain there were...opportunities for you to consider that would keep you within CI5."

Mac crossed his arms and waited for the penny to drop, if ever. Finally Bodie seemed to get it. "But why? George Cowley doesn't do anything just for the sake of being altruistic."

"No. But he believes he owes you. He once believed he owed me for what happened in Hong Kong. And he feels he owes you for your service. I realize it's a lot to swallow, to know that he was expecting you to fail today. But if anyone understands the extent an injury can change a life, it's George. And me."

Bodie let all this news sink in, sipping his tea and massaging the muscle of his leg.

"So Willis is out, Cowley engineers a perfect replacement for him and a new assistant, both of whom just happen to be very CI5-friendly, and now Cowley needs a recruiter and trainer." He smiled wickedly.

"Plural. Recruiters and trainers. It's a hard job, whipping layabouts like you into shape. That's why I took on Towser all those years ago. Can't imagine anyone doing it alone."

"I want to be back in shape." Bodie seemed pouty, resolute.

"You will be. You will be, believe me. But not right now. I'll get you ready to take this over if it's what you want. I will make damn sure you could take on all comers."

"Been a lot of changes in my life recently. Might as well make some more. But I'd like to think about it, all the same." He put a few things into his hold-all.

"Mac..." he began, and Macklin stifled a chuckle. He knew what was coming. "Some things have happened lately, with me and Doyle I mean. It's...well, things are the same, we're still a team, but-- "

As much as Macklin enjoyed watching people squirm, he knew this wasn't the time. "Bodie, I think I know what you're going to say. I think anyone who's ever spent much time around you two together knows that. I remember training you for that Parsali op. The way to get either of you to fight your best was to threaten the other." He smiled, the most paternal smile Bodie had ever seen on him.

"If I'm wrong about what you're trying to say, I apologize. But whatever it is with you and Doyle, if you're up front about it there's nothing much that anyone can do to you, aside from a few people who'll treat you as if you have the plague. You're not a security risk unless you're afraid of what comes out. If information is already out there, you can't be much of a risk. Besides, I hate to disillusion you, but you're rather small fish in a very big pond."

Bodie looked at him, for the first time ever feeling as though they were equals in the scheme of the CI5 universe. "It's never been anyone else. Just Ray, and Ray alone. Strange, huh?" He knew Macklin to have almost as low a tolerance for bigotry of any kind as Cowley, especially because Mac was in an interracial marriage.

Macklin shrugged. "Not so much. Life's full of very complex emotions; I don't know that people have ever truly successfully created tidy boxes to put everything into."

"Thanks, Mac. It's something to think about."

It took some searching to find the old man. Considering his age he moved around tirelessly, slept rarely, and never seemed to relax. Doyle didn't think he himself had that much energy and he was half Cowley's age. He was in the computer room, absently reviewing long sheets of green and white printouts.

"Sir," Doyle began, but Cowley continued to walk away from him, barely noticing his presence. "I'd like to talk to you about Bodie. It's his retraining with Mac."

Cowley paced briskly toward the lift. As the doors opened, he stepped inside and said, suddenly looking at Doyle and taking his glasses off, "Have you heard about Willis?"

Doyle was completely taken aback by this non sequitur. He blinked a few times, his eyes darting to the sides. He knew Cowley was getting to an age where he might start considering retirement, but senility was not something Doyle had ever connected to Cowley as even remotely possible.

He shook his head slightly. " sir. What about him?" He had detested Willis since the incident all those years ago when Bodie had nearly been killed, and Marikka had been, all so Willis could conveniently tie up his plot to install a friendly East German into power.

"Hmm." Cowley seemed to consider that Doyle was out of this loop. But he wasn't surprised, Doyle spent virtually no off time at the headquarters any more, the way he used to when Bodie was around. "Willis, I'm not sorry to say, is history. It seems his machinations have been once again carried too far, and the Minister has seen fit to have him 'retire early.' Along with a few of his top team."

Watching the craggy face as it split into a sardonic grin took Doyle off guard. "Did you have anything to do with this?" He tried not to smile, but he couldn't help it. Cowley looked insufferably pleased with himself. He thought back to a time many years ago when an assassin's plane had been diverted to a country not too friendly with his 'type,' all because of a convenient heart attack by a passenger. He had asked Cowley then, "Anyone we know?" and Cowley had smiled, but never answered. He dared think it was the same thing all over again.

"Och, I'd say anyone who knows me knows I can carry quite a grudge when I want to. And I've never made it a secret that what he did to Bodie was unacceptable. But I wasn't...directly involved." He drew out these last words slowly, for emphasis. Then he smiled, and they moved off the lift towards his office. He went in and closed the door, completely ignoring Doyle, who stood staring at Betty absently. She also completely ignored him.

Doyle stood this way for some time before finally leaving the office. Cowley was telling him something, he knew, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what.

When Cowley finally heard the fading of Doyle's footsteps, he took the luxury of smiling to himself. No matter how long he'd been in the job, he never tired of seeing his plans fall into place on his complicated machinations.

Ray wandered absently down the hall, bumping into Murphy, who asked him about Bodie's condition. Doyle merely shook his head and stared stupidly at Murphy.

"D'you think Cowley could be becoming senile?" he asked.

"No, he's sharp as a tack. Why?"

"I dunno. I just had the strangest conversation with him. He told me about Willis..."

"Good thing, that, eh? That bastard's deserved it for a long time, especially after what he did to Bodie."

"I guess. It's just that, oh well, never mind. I'll figure it out." He moved off down the hall, walking to the car park and then got in behind the wheel. If Willis were leaving MI6, what did it have to do with them? Why would Cowley so pointedly ignore his request to discuss Bodie to tell him about someone Doyle wouldn't waste the time of day thinking about? There was always a method in Cowley's madness, he knew that, it was just a question of figuring out what the madness was about.

By the time he reached the warehouse where Bodie was being tortured by Macklin he was thoroughly annoyed. He decided to just go in, whether Mac welcomed him or not. And was genuinely surprised to see the two of them chatting amiably, eating biscuits and drinking tea.

He stood staring in the doorway. He'd expected the two of them to be at each other's throats, the usual way Mac and Bodie worked together when training was going on. Bodie's lackadaisical lifestyle drove Mac nearly out of his mind; Macklin's unceasing hectoring to do more, better, faster made Bodie crazy, probably because he already thought he was the best he could ever be.

Had everything just suddenly gone crazy? Had he drunk something funny this morning?

Bodie's face lit up when he saw his partner. He motioned for Doyle to come forward and sit on the bench next to them. Macklin seemed completely at ease, not his usual tense, calculating self.

"Mac doesn't think I can make it back on the squad, not soon anyway," Bodie said cheerfully, pouring tea from the stainless steel flask next to him. He handed Ray the cup and smiled his sexiest, most charming smile.

That tore it. Doyle pounded the cup onto the bench, the liquid sloshing over the rim and spattering Bodie's track suit bottoms.

"What is wrong with everyone today? Are you people all insane?" he bellowed, exasperation creasing his brows.

Macklin cracked one eye open from his position leaning against the wall. He looked at Doyle. "Perhaps he's too tense to take this on, eh, Bodie?"

"Nah. I think he just needs time to absorb it, that's all. He gets this way. Doesn't like change." He nudged Mac in the ribs and they both laughed.

"Please do fill me in," Doyle said in dark tones dripping with sarcasm.

"You can ask him on the way home, Bodie. This has been a long day for me, I think I'm heading home. You should do the same."

Doyle gave Bodie a pleading, annoyed look. "Ask me what?"

Bodie marveled to himself how Doyle could manage to do those looks at the same time. Of course, almost everything Doyle did made Bodie marvel.

Macklin picked up his holdall and went to the door of the warehouse, waved a quick good-bye to the two agents, and threw keys to Bodie. "May be needing these soon," he said, and winked.

Bodie followed, motioning for Doyle to go first. "Thank you, David," Doyle said in his best upper crust accent, a running joke between them from long ago. Bodie locked the padlock on the warehouse door and bounced into the passenger seat of Doyle's car.

He waited eagerly all through the drive home for Doyle to ask him what was going on, but Bodie was disappointed to find Ray stonefaced and silent. He finally couldn't stand it any longer, and turned excitedly to his partner, rubbing his hands together gleefully. "Big changes ahead, my son!"

Doyle sighed heavily. "Would someone please tell me what is happening around here?"

"Willis happened, and Mac."

"Ah. That explains it, then." Doyle closed his eyes and for a brief moment Bodie was afraid he wouldn't open them up again, and he almost grabbed the driving wheel.

"Willis is out over at MI6. The bastard finally got his due. And a certain someone we know, someone with very good spook credentials, has been offered a top-level position in the new CI5-friendly MI6. All thanks to one Mr. George Cowley."

Bodie's wry, dramatic delivery of this news was starting to make Ray laugh, but he tried to keep it in check.

"Mac." Doyle looked over at Bodie, beginning to see where this was going. Bodie's face split into a wicked grin.

"And Cowley, and Macklin, think there are certain individuals who would make excellent recruiters and trainers. Individuals who have expressed a desire to move off the streets into jobs better suited for a couple of old 'uns."

"I thought you wanted to get certified to be back on the squad more than anything?" Doyle asked him, obvious concern showing in the wide green eyes. Bodie looked away, distant at first, a slight frown creasing his lovely face.

Then Bodie shrugged. "It didn't take me long today to realize that I'm months away from that, if ever. I honestly don't know if I could ever pass Mac's physical. The pin in the knee hurts, every time I bend it in the right -- er, wrong -- way. My hand is never going to hold a gun as sharply. And my eye...well, I don't know that I need spectacles but I don't think I'm what I used to be. Mac tried to be as kind about it as he could. He said maybe in a few months -- "

Doyle gave him a look of complete sour disbelief, shaking his head and squinting.

"No, it's true. He was honestly...matey about it."

"Pull the other one, Bodie."

Bodie ignored him and continued. "And most important, I knew he was right. A lot's changed about me, Ray, since the explosion. I used to believe I was Superman, but I know now life is more important than all this runnin' around dodgin' bullets and such. And then he told me about MI6. It all seemed to fit. I didn't even wait for him to ask if I'd like to do his job." He paused for a moment, feeling his eyes grow hot with unwanted tears. "It hurts, Ray. I hate thinking I'm not good enough. But..."

"So this is all set. With you and Cowley?" He sounded mildly peeved, and Bodie realized he hadn't been given any other details.

"No! You and me. We're a package deal, you once told Cowley that, remember? He knows that. No, it's ours for the taking, if we want it. I want it. If you don't, then I won't." He sighed, but Ray could not tell whether it was out of exasperation or weariness. "But right now, I don't think I can make it back on the squad, and that means I can't be your partner."

Doyle thought back to his own recovery, and the weeks of torture at Macklin's hands as he struggled to regain his status. Bodie had told him then that if he couldn't make it back, he would leave CI5 to go wherever Doyle was. Even then, even before their relationship had escalated. And now, was there anything he wouldn't do for Bodie? Not likely, especially not when the opportunity presented itself to do what he believed in, but not to deal with the day-to-day uncertainty of the streets.

He reached his hand over to Bodie's. "I came by today. I sneaked into the warehouse and saw you on the floor; you looked like you wanted to die. I even went to talk with Cowley but all he said was this cryptic nonsense about Willis. I confess, Bodie, that I didn't think you could make it back, at least not now." He ran his fingers along the top of Bodie's hand, tracing each line of small bone.

"Bodie, whatever you want, I want too. I want to be safe, and I want you to be safe." He smiled his widest, whitest flashing grin, the one Bodie had found so heart-stoppingly irresistible for so long. "I'm yours for life."

Bodie squeezed Ray's hand back. "What d'you think we'll be like, as instructors? D'you think we could ever be as awful as Macklin was to us?"

The two men laughed riotously in their car, and other drivers turned to stare at them as they sped past, obviously having the time of their lives.

When they finally pulled up at Doyle's house, Bodie paused outside the door for a moment. "Of course, there's always what the Cow will say when he finds out about us. I've been meaning to ask what we should do about permanent living arrangements. And maybe all this will blow up on us, anyways, when he finds out."

"Oh, didn't I tell you about the conversation we had when you were in hospital?" Doyle asked airily. He unlocked the door.

Bodie followed as he always followed Ray, head bobbing back and forth on his shoulders, mouthing annoyed statements that he never spoke openly, shoulders down wearily, and half smiling all the while.

"I think that's the last of it," Bodie said, as he brought in a box and set it down in the foyer, amongst a dozen other boxes. His clothes littered the room, draped over every available surface. "D'you think I have too many clothes?" he asked Doyle, who snorted in derision. It was early in the morning, very early. Somehow this moving excursion had begun late at night and was ending only just now.

"Wanted to ask you something," Doyle said, and motioned for Bodie to follow him upstairs. He pointed at the wall.

Bodie looked over to the wall opposite the window. Before there'd been a large mirror there, above the chest of drawers, and a few small framed snapshots. Now there were two framed and matted sketches, the one of Gillian, and the one of Bodie.

"Do you think you'd mind them there?"

Bodie's voice caught in his throat. He had not forgotten the night he saw them, the first time he'd kissed Ray. It still awed Bodie that Ray possessed this rare talent, so different from all the other things that made up his character.

"No. Not at all." He looked back at Ray, love so strong in his eyes. Such a deep blue, like water, a river of light, an ocean Doyle could fall into and drown in bliss.

"You don't mind having Gil's picture here? I could move it to the other room."

"No. Leave it here. I like it. Like she's keeping an eye on us. She'd want to do that."

Ray looked at him hard. "Never thought I'd be happy again after she left."

Bodie's heart thumped heavily in his chest. "I can't believe, still sometimes, that I'm the one who's able to make you happy."

"I still feel sad about her, y'know. I think about her all the time, and sometimes, when you're not around, I find myself crying all over again. Especially when it's something mundane, like finding a dry cleaning ticket in the pocket of my jacket -- which is what I did the other day. It's all so clear to me, as if it were yesterday. And it still hurts."

"I wouldn't be very happy myself if you didn't still cry."

Doyle looked at Bodie quizzically. "Why?"

"Well, it hasn't even been a year. If you'd got over someone you loved that much that quickly, I think I'd be a little worried about how fast you'd get over me. I've seen you in action before, remember. I know not a lot of people stay in your life that long. The fact that you still grieve over her, still think of her first thing in the morning and last thing before you sleep, means that you do stick with people."

Smiling to himself, Doyle said, "She's not the last thing I think about before I sleep."

Bodie's lips pursed and he made his sardonic face, as he put on his best "aw shucks" look. "Thanks." He looked at the pictures again and sighed. "Life's full of surprises, isn't it?"

"It's good that way. Gil said she had a great ride. That's what I want. To say at the end I had a great ride."

"I think we're well on our way."

Light began to fill the room as the day broke outside, and a new life for both of them dawned inside.

-- THE END --

Originally published as a zine by Deathless Pros Press, 1995.

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