Saints and Miracles
by Jack Reuben Darcy
In every heart, there is a room,
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along
It was silent in the corridor as Murphy paused. Silent and cold. Hard linoleum beneath his leather soles echoed up his legs, his back and into his neck. A faint sound of breathing from his own mouth was all his ears could detect, like a whisper of memory, here and gone. Central was empty - or about as empty as it could ever be. And as silent.
Odd that the bustle of London failed to penetrate this sanctum with warm suggestions of life outside. There was no sound-proofing in these inflexible walls, no soft furnishings, no carpet or curtains. Stark and simple, grey and practical. CI5.
Murphy turned his head just once to glance down the long grey tunnel to where a thin film of light caught the immobile figure of George Cowley. The Old Man stood by his office door, suit neatly pressed, glasses in one hand, the other half-raised as though in mid sentence. He must have sensed Murphy's hesitation. Another heart-beat and Cowley raised his glasses, indicating the next, inevitable step forward.
Murphy nodded but doubted Cowley would see it from this distance. His gaze turned back to the door in front of him. He raised a hand and let it rest on the handle, putting all his focus on the image visible through the clear and polished glass.
The rest room. Windows opposite heaving grey winter light into a room without heat. A bench along the right wall, cupboards above, tea things and mugs scattered across the flat surfaces. Pale green ancient paint, white formica mottled with gold thread, scratched from use. In the centre of the room, a table, a chair almost parallel to it - and on the chair, a figure.
Black had always been Bodie's colour. The shade of his hair, his best clothes, his occasional moods. Black now surrounded him, enveloping those heavy shoulders, neither hunched nor rigid. Bodie sat in perfect profile to Murphy, upright on the uncomfortable chair, his feet flat on the floor, his chin lifted, those famous blue eyes level and studying the wall opposite, looking into a distance invisible to Murphy. One hand alone rested on the table before him. Fingers spread out, utterly immobile.
Murphy swallowed and pushed the handle down. The door swung wide at his touch, soundless, like the rest of the building. Bodie didn't even acknowledge his existence. For long moments, Murphy waited, giving the other man a chance to notice the change in the air, to register even if only on a subconscious level, that he was no longer alone. Then he moved forward and stopped beside Bodie. Gently he lifted a hand and placed it on the other man's shoulder.
Movement, fractional and almost imperceptible. Then Bodie's head turned and raised, his gaze almost meeting his friend's. "Time?"
"Yeah, the Old Man's waiting. Car's downstairs."
Bodie nodded once then unfolded his large frame from the chair. Murphy stood back.
"You'd better bring your coat." He swallowed, not wanting to say it but having no choice. "It's snowing."
The only reaction was Bodie's hand reaching for the thick black coat draped over the back of his chair. Then he was past Murphy, his footsteps smacking down the passage like a tattoo of accusation. Quickly, Murphy followed.
Cowley was waiting in the car, seated in the back. Without a word, Bodie chose the front, taking his place beside the driver with a face closed of expression. As soon as Murphy was in place next to Cowley, the driver let out the clutch and the engine roared into life, breathing more heat into the confined space.
Murphy shot a glance at the Old Man as they moved out into traffic - but Cowley either didn't notice - or chose not to. His gaze rested out the window, on the roads as they slipped by, on traffic congested between streets too narrow for modern transport. His mouth set in a thin line, his pale blue eyes reflecting the grey day; there was little of the Whitehall-shaking hellion about George Cowley to be seen. His hands were clasped together - but the fingers of one hand kept tapping against the back of the other and Murphy would have liked to have smiled. Even the Cow wasn't as hard as he pretended to be.
Relaxing into his seat a little, Murphy turned his gaze on Bodie - but the face was averted leaving only enough for Murphy to see how Bodie's eyes watched the flutter of snowflakes down the side window. Of everything else, he appeared ignorant.
One grey street after another rolled by, page after page, each as the last until, without preamble, the car turned into a driveway lined by bald trees and sketchy grass. Gravel crunched under the tyres as the driver slowed and stopped beside other cars parked in the gathering snow. Bodie was the first to get out and Murphy followed him, always an eye to orders given and meant. Footsteps gouged into the gravel as they reached the church door, Cowley following behind - and then they were inside, Bodie striding ahead as though he would rid himself of his shadows. Arbitrarily, he took a seat three rows from the front, folded his arms and settled back, his face set and immobile.
With a last glance at Cowley, Murphy sat beside him leaving the boss to sit at the front; his duty, his place.
The small church was almost full - though Murphy would have had trouble putting names to more than a few faces. Kathy was there, sitting with Susan and Sally. She gave him a weak smile of encouragement but she knew where his place was. His attention was caught by the lilting phrases of a Beethoven organ piece. Not much, just the introduction. A rustle of movement and the priest, white-robed, book in hand, took his place before the lectern.
The music drifted to silence. People settled. Murphy lifted his attention from Bodie to the words the priest spoke, clear and distinct, echoing against hard stone walls empty of hope.
"Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and stars. You have a right to be here." The priest let his gaze wander among those seated before him. "Words favoured by the man we have gathered here today to honour and remember. To honour because he was a voice in the darkness, a soul prepared to fight for and give his life for what he believed in. To remember because he was also a man, a human like us all, with his virtues and his faults. A man who, despite the violence of his work, managed to touch us all with his love and his humanity. In this memorial service today, we will remember and honour a man who was taken from us without warning and without goodbyes: Raymond Doyle."
Murphy withdrew his hands from his pockets, clasped them together and blew on them. It had to be below zero outside - but at least the snow had stopped. Already street lights were coming on, resenting the short winter days with bleak yellow warnings. Thick clouds loomed in the sky above, pressing down on the leafless trees as though they would crush the world beneath them.
Just about everybody had left now. Kathy had already gone, given a lift home by Sally. Taggart and Fields had rushed off on a job. Only Jax, Anson and Susan waited by their cars, Cowley with them - most likely talking about work. Not really the time or place but Murphy wasn't about to say anything to the Old Man.
As though reading his thoughts, Cowley chose that moment to leave the others and cross the carpark to where Murphy waited by the door.
"He's still in there?"
"Would I be standing out here freezing if he weren't?"
"I'm in no mood for flippancy, 6.2."
"No, sir," Murphy only just kept the irritation from his voice. "Should I get him?"
"Not if he's praying."
"Bodie?" Murphy let out disbelieving grunt. "Doyle was the believer of those two, sir."
Cowley took his gaze from the church door and pinned it to Murphy with the accuracy of a Class A marksman. "Then why do you suppose he's still in there, half an hour after the service finished?"
Murphy could only shrug.
"Aye, well leave him until he's ready to come out. Then take him home. Susan will drive you. Don't worry, she's an eye to his mood and won't try to draw him out. All the same, 6.2, your assignment for the next four days is to stay with 3.7. I don't want him to be left alone to do anything but visit the bathroom."
Murphy shot one look at the church door and the sliver of pews he could see inside. "Is such close observation really necessary, sir? It's not as if Doyle was killed on the job. There's no murderer for Bodie to go flying after, is there?"
"Does there need to be?"
The sharpness in Cowley's voice made Murphy turn back to him. "What are you getting at, sir?"
"Doyle was his partner, Murphy. You're his friend. Stay with him and keep him out of trouble. You're the only man I have available who's big enough to keep him in order."
For a moment, Murphy studied Cowley, seeing past the crisp instructions and gruff voice to where the genuine concern waited in those hard grey eyes, barely acknowledged. CI5 had lost half of its best team - but Cowley had lost a man, a good man. Doyle would be missed and in more than just a professional manner.
"Should I expect trouble, sir?"
Cowley raised his eyebrows, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth. "Have you known a day on this job when you shouldn't?" He gestured to his driver to bring his car around. "Stay with Bodie, 6.2. Watch him and have him in my office by 9.00am, Friday."
With that, Cowley turned and climbed into his car. Murphy glanced across at Susan who shrugged, happy to wait. Well, perhaps they would have to wait - but who said Murphy had to do it outside, where his feet were quickly forming the particulars of iceblocks at the end of his legs.
He headed back inside, just inside the door. A heater blasted ineffectually against the winter and he almost took up residence inside it.
Bodie had moved. He now stood in the centre of the isle, between the two front pews as though afraid of moving closer to the altar. His hands rested by his sides, flesh covered by black gloves, shoulders covered by woollen coat, head angled down, as though he were studying the medieval tiled floor. There was a stillness about him, about the church that sent a chill of a different kind through Murphy and all his instincts were alerted at the same time.
That left hand clenched suddenly and almost lifted. Murphy stiffened, ready for some assault - but then Bodie relaxed again and Murphy let out a breath -
And almost missed the harsh sound whispered in the silence. A voice. Words, coming from Bodie. The tone filled with fury; barbed wire scraping across the floor.
"You bastard, Ray. Why didn't you just say?"
"Good God, Bodie, what the hell do you think you're playing at?"
Doyle's half-laugh, half-rage, barely infringed on Bodie's concentration. At least, not that he would show. Instead, he carefully peeled the paper from his bacon sandwich, took another mouthful and kept his gaze attentively on the newspaper in front of him, effectively ignoring Doyle waiting outside the car, his arms full of grocery bags.
"Oi! Open the bloody door before I drop the lot!"
"Mmm?" Bodie murmured, pretending to study the racing pages with all the application of a lab assistant over a microscope.
A harsh thud rocked the car, making the cup of tea he had resting on the dash slurp liquid over onto his paper. "Hey! What was that for?"
With a grin, Bodie left his paper and reached over the back seat to unlock and push open the back door. Grumbling, Doyle dumped the bags on the back seat, slammed the door and climbed in behind the wheel. "Bloody arms were ready to drop off."
"Thought you'd be doing weight training with them, mate," Bodie quipped, his eyes once again on his paper. "You're always telling me how strong you are."
Doyle said nothing but simply started the Escort's engine and with a sly grin in his partner's direction, gunned the car into motion. With a shriek, Bodie made an ineffectual grab for his tea - only to find it splattered all over his paper, his hands - and his lap.
"What are you doing?" Frantically, Bodie brushed the hot liquid away from his more sensitive parts, spearing Doyle with a look of burning hatred. "That was uncalled for!"
"Oh, stop whining, Bodie, the paper caught the worst of it and you know it. Besides, if I did do you any damage, the female population of London would send me a reward - and I'm a bit strapped for cash at the moment."
Still tidying himself up, Bodie collected his bacon sandwich and pulled off a bit of soggy bread. Fortunately, the rest had survived unscathed. "That's because the only way they'll climb into the sack with you is if you take'm to one of those high class restaurants. Expensive way to get a bit of sex if you ask me."
"Better than taking them to the local caf like some people I could mention."
At Doyle's chuckle, Bodie glanced at him and settled for a grunt. He didn't much feel like arguing today. It had been a long week already. Two days, two cases, two shoot-ups - and four dead. Funny how they could work half a dozen cases for weeks at a time, long dragging jobs filled with intel gathering, obbos and speculation - and then within twenty-four hours, have three of them explode in the squad's face. At least he and Doyle had been spared the other case. The bomb. Seven wounded - though nobody dead. Did it have to be like that? Nothing for weeks, almost months - then too much, too quickly?
Maybe he was just getting old. How long had he been at this caper? Five years in CI5 and partners with Doyle that whole time. Good god, that was about the longest he'd stuck with anything his entire life. School, street kid, merchant navy, mercs, Africa, army, paras, SAS. And after all that, he ends up with a 'career' in CI5. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Getting old? Nah! Not yet. Not by half!
And now they had a morning off. A whole bloody morning. Just enough time to pick up laundry, buy a bit of food, see what the outside world looked like - and then go back to work. Hardly worth the bother, really.
"You'd better stop off at my flat. I'll have to get changed."
"Oh, it's not so bad," Doyle said, glancing with feigned concern at the wet patch on Bodie's lap. "I shouldn't think anyone will notice."
"Yeah, they bloody will, Doyle and you know it. Then I'll have to put up with a week's worth of jokes about getting over excited and not being able to save it for the birds so you can just stop by my place and let me get changed or I'll really give you something to complain about." Bodie finished with more of an edge to his voice than he'd intended. He didn't look at Doyle but instead, finished off his sandwich and settled back in his seat, prepared to close his eyes.
Doyle said nothing.
Bloody hell, why couldn't he stop doing that? What once would have been nothing more than a joke they could both laugh at, now became something that really irritated him deep down. No, he didn't want to look at Doyle. Didn't want to even guess what he was thinking. Didn't want to hear those words asking if anything was wrong. Didn't have an answer. At least, not an answer he wanted to think about.
Yeah, well maybe he was getting too old. Maybe five years was enough for any man. Plenty of time to get shot at and blown up and knifed. Breaking bones, collecting bruises and concussions. What a way to earn a living. A career in gradual self-destruction, that's what this was. Keep going until one day there's nothing of you left for them to target.
"Is something bothering you?"
Yep, there it was. The question. Phrased differently each time, but nonetheless, the same question. And Doyle never taking his response for the truth, as though he didn't trust Bodie to even know the answer, as though he needed Doyle to help him work it out.
"There's nothing bothering me apart from a pair of wet trousers." Bodie filtered out the sigh but said nothing else. Doyle would know not to ask again. At least, not today.
With some surprise, Bodie sat up and looked about him. Doyle had found a park right outside his building.
"I'll wait here. Just don't take too long. I have to get this stuff back to my place before we go back to work. Don't forget your laundry."
Bodie collected the bag and dashed out into the cold. He leapt the stairs to his door, key already in hand. More slowly now he went up to the first floor, opened his flat up, absently turning off the alarms. He came to a halt in the lounge, by the window where a crack in the lace curtains gave him a spy hole on the Escort. The laundry bag dropped from his hand, forgotten.
Doyle was out of the car, his jacket collar pulled up around his ears. Two kids were making little snowmen along the front brick wall and Doyle was helping them.
Five bloody years. What the hell was wrong with him? Didn't five years mean anything any more? How many times had Ray saved him from death or injury? Or worse? Like last month when those Dutch gangsters had made the best attempt CI5 had ever seen at framing an innocent man for murder. If it hadn't been for Doyle, Bodie would even now be rotting in a cell on the Island, waiting for his enemies to take turns peeling slices off him.
For five years their partnership had been based on mutual trust. They ruled the top of their profession, their record of success unmatched by any other team. Their skills unquestioned, their strange shared wavelength almost incorporated into basic training for the new boys. They were the best.
Trust. Yeah. So what the hell was wrong with him? And how could he stop it? Leave? Well, that was one way out of it, but not his preferred choice. What else? Couldn't say anything - to anybody. Ignore it? Not working so far. Hadn't for the last two months. In fact, it had only become worse.
"Damn it, Bodie!" he hissed into the silence. "Just leave it alone."
As though Doyle sensed his confusion from below, he rolled up a ball of snow and fired it at Bodie's window. Knowing he wouldn't be seen, Bodie stepped back - then strode into the bedroom to get changed. Minutes later he was setting the locks and leaping back down the stairs to the cold outside, determined to shrug off this mood once and for all. Oddly, Doyle didn't complain about his tardiness and instead, simply swung out into the traffic.
"You are comin' to the pub tonight, aren't you?"
Bodie glanced aside - and only then did he remember and instantly grinned, "It's Murph's birthday, isn't it? Yeah, I'll be there."
"Good. You'll enjoy it."
"So you said last week - but I s'pose you still won't tell me what you've arranged?"
"Aha. Does Kathy know?"
"Didn't tell her." "But it'll be good?"
Doyle chuckled with delicious wickedness. "Yep. Murphy's gonna kill me - - so don't you get drunk. I'll need you to watch me back."
"Like hell. You've dropped yourself in this one, sunshine. I'll be busy elsewhere."
Again, Doyle sniggered, "You're assuming I invited some birds."
Bodie decided not to take the bait. "And the boys would hang around for about five minutes if you hadn't. Don't try that one on me."
Yeah. Perhaps a night at the pub was just what he needed.
Murphy was not now - nor ever had been - a match for Raymond Doyle. Nor was Bodie, on this particular occasion, of a mind to help the Smurph out. He valued his own skin far too highly.
No. It was far more enjoyable - and infinitely safer, at least for the moment, to stand back with everyone else and simply watch.
The pub was crowded with as many agents as could get the night off. Murphy's cool, laid-back attitude made him popular with just about everybody and most of them had snatched at least a few hours off. Many had girlfriends and wives with them, Murphy included. But right now, Murph had been separated from his lovely Kathy and was sitting blindfolded on a chair, handcuffed and completely stuck.
At least Doyle had let Murphy keep his clothes on.
Everyone else kept a safe distance, a neat if hysterical circle around the poor man. Kathy stayed beside Bodie, unable to stifle her giggling.
"He's going to make me pay for this you know, Bodie. He'll never believe I didn't have anything to do with it."
Bodie grinned, "I'll back you up, sweetheart. We'll just blame it all on Doyle. Let him take the heat."
How Murphy had managed to let his guard down enough for Doyle to get the cuffs on, Bodie couldn't imagine. But it was done now and although Murphy pleaded to be set loose, Doyle was having none of it. Instead, he stood behind Murphy's chair and reached into a bag he'd brought with him. Almost soundlessly, Doyle, his mouth set purposefully, lifted a huge card up for everyone to read, turning it this way and that to make sure they all saw it clearly.
'Act like there's a stripper coming in.'
Almost on cue with the roars from the delighted crowd, music cranked up all around them. Typical stripper's music, bump and grind - only nobody appeared. Doyle held up another card.
'She's dancing in front of him.'
Whistles and calls. Encouragement for the phantom lady to do her worst.
Bodie began to laugh.
Murphy's face was priceless and even Kathy had to clamp a hand over her mouth so her love wouldn't hear her enjoying his discomfort.
Another card. 'She's removing her upper garments.'
More roars. They were playing along and loving it. Poor old Murphy was yelling at Doyle to take the blindfold off but Doyle, savouring every wicked moment, simply held up another card.
'She's getting ready to finish her act.'
From the bag, Doyle produced a filmy scarf and innocently brushed it over Murphy's face. The crowd screeched with laughter. Then the scarf disappeared and Doyle held up one last card.
'The stripper has left the building. Applaud.'
As though they'd just seen the best show on earth - which in a way, they had - all of CI5's finest put their hands together and whooped and yelled their approval. The music, almost drowned out by this barrage, grunted to a close.
Doyle held up his hand, encouraging them on. Over the noise, Bodie could hear Murphy shouting.
"'C'mon, Doyle, give me a break!"
"You wanna see the stripper?" Doyle yelled back.
"Don't be an idiot."
And Doyle grinned, his green eyes sparkling. He nodded to somebody behind Bodie and then there was a press in the crowd as a man stepped forward.
Tall, perfectly built, well-fed muscles defined by body oil and a scanty singlet. Tight leather pants and heeled boots finished the outfit off. The man took up a pose right in front of Murphy, taking the scarf Doyle handed him - and Bodie had to hold his stomach against his laughter, knowing what was coming.
With a flourish, Doyle removed Murphy's blindfold.
Murphy blinked, focussed - and his jaw fell open.
Kathy turned and buried her head in Bodie's shoulder, her whole body shaking with laughter.
Murphy was instantly on his feet, taking the chair with him - and suddenly Doyle had disappeared. It was up to others to steady their laughter and unlock the cuffs - a few of them having to hold the Smurph back from hunting out Doyle, no matter where he'd gone. Kathy chose that moment to go back to him. It was only her calm and repeated insistence that prevented cold-blooded murder.
His face aching with mirth and feeling better than he had in a long time, Bodie headed for the bar and another beer. He collected it and spied Doyle hiding in a booth on the other side of the crowded room. Their eyes met and they grinned. He bought another pint then squeezed through the press of people and landed on the empty seat opposite his partner.
Doyle took the drink with a nod of thanks, his gaze understandably, on the other side of the room, keeping an eye out for a surprise attack. His face was a picture; wariness combined with blissful satisfaction. It would take some time before that smug smile wore off. Time - or Murphy finding him in the next five minutes.
"Don't worry, mate. He'll save it for later."
"Yeah, that's what worries me." Though Doyle's grin made it a lie.
Bodie shook his head. "Jesus, Ray, you do like living dangerously! If Kathy hadn't been there..."
"If Kathy hadn't been there, I wouldn't have blindfolded him - and it would have been a real stripper."
"You mean, the guy isn't?"
"Nah," Doyle chuckled. "Just a bloke who does a little modelling for the art classes I used to do. Offered him a tenner and a few drinks. He was game. Loves a laugh."
Bodie raised his eyebrows. "A model?"
"Yeah." Doyle's eyes were still on the other side of the room.
"A gay model?"
"Dunno. Never asked."
Bodie turned his attention back to the crowd and eventually spied Murphy somewhat mollified by the delectable Kathy neatly wrapped around him. Music had boomed up again and a few couples were now dancing. Murphy dragged Kathy to a little space on their own and they danced, close up, creating their own world amidst the noise and crush. By the look of him, Murphy had already forgotten Doyle's prank - though without doubt, he'd remember tomorrow.
"He won't last the year."
Bodie frowned and glanced back at Doyle. "Eh?"
"Murphy." Doyle took another drink and met Bodie's gaze. "Was talking to him yesterday. I think he wants to get out."
"It's not her, exactly. She loves this mob - strange girl that she is. I think if young Michael Patrick wasn't already in the squad, she'd think seriously about leaving the Met and signing on. No, I think Murph's decided he wants the quiet life for a while."
"Serious then, is it?"
Doyle shrugged, "Well, you know him better than I do."
"But he never said anything about this to me."
Doyle's glance grazed against his awareness and vanished, buried in the action of taking another hearty mouthful of ale.
Strangely piqued, Bodie sat up straight and put both arms on the table. He fixed all his attention on his partner. "Well?"
"Don't play games with me, Doyle. What was that look for?"
Now it was all innocence - but not the fanciful kind that warned of some incoming joke. No, Doyle expected Bodie to buy this.
He didn't. "Has Murphy said something? About me?"
Doyle grimaced and shook his head. "Look, Bodie, nothin's been said. Just forget it, okay?"
"No. Tell me what's going on."
"Nothing is going on." Doyle gave him an exasperated sigh and shook his head again. "Jesus, you tell me I obsess over stuff. Just trust me and forget it."
Bodie fell silent but the moment was far from forgotten. He wrapped his hands around his glass and let his gaze drop into the depths of the remaining amber nectar. He tried to dust away the cobwebs of that fleeting look, but it just wouldn't work. They stuck there, attached to a mental image of Murphy and Kathy together in their own world on the dance floor and buoyed afloat by his dark mood of that morning. Slowly, all the laughter of the practical joke fluttered away as though it had never been and he was left feeling hollow, grey and raw.
Slowly he raised his head until his eyes met Doyle's. In the murky pub light, there was little visible of the usual vivid green. Instead, he was met with hazy brown, brows drawn up in that odd movement that appeared to make Doyle look so vulnerable.
The gaze that met his was searching and not a little gentle - and caught Bodie at the back of his throat. After a moment, Doyle took a breath, "Bodie, you're my best mate, right? You're the best partner I could have had even though I thought Cowley was mad the day he teamed us. Can't you just trust me and leave it alone? Please?"
Bodie gave a short shake to his head. "But?"
"No buts, Bodie. That's it." He grabbed his glass and put a hand on the table to push himself up but Bodie caught it, forcing the hand down on the flat surface.
"Answer me. But what?"
A flare of anger flashed across those eyes, to be instantly quelled. Even so, Bodie didn't let go. While Doyle's ire was not something he would normally choose to face, and in fact, would go some distance to avoid, right now he was willing to take the risk. Another heartbeat floated by and Doyle relaxed with a sigh, draining the last of his beer.
"Bodie, you're a stubborn SOB and if you were anybody else, I'd flatten you."
"Look at me and tell me." Bodie still kept a firm grip on Doyle's wrist.
"That's just it, mate. You know what we've been through together over the last five years. If I was ever in trouble, I'd come to you first for help. But Bodie, I hate to say it - you're just not the kind of bloke it's easy to confide in."
Sharply winded, Bodie released Doyle's wrist and sat back. He couldn't take his eyes from that face he knew so well. Inside, his stomach rocked a block of lead from side to side, squashing flat every tumbling morose feeling he'd had all day, for the last few months. If somebody was to throw a punch at his solar plexus right now, they'd break every bone in their hand.
Doyle swallowed and idly, Bodie watched his Adam's apple move up and down. "I'm sorry, mate," Doyle murmured, only too aware of the hurt he'd inflicted, even though he'd tried to avoid it. Knowing Doyle, he'd do the whole guilt thing now. "You didn't want to hear that and that's why I didn't want to tell you. But you do it to yourself. Hell, when Marrika died, you just cut yourself off, even from me. It took you weeks to get around to talking to me about anything - and still you never said a word about her. I still don't know if she was the love of your life or just somebody you had some vague sentimental feeling for. It sounded like she betrayed you once before, but I'm only guessing. And as for that dark distant past of yours? Oh, I know there are things you don't want to talk about, and you laugh at the stories the boys make up about Africa and everything - but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about Murph and Kathy, Anson and Susan. Me. Your friends. You keep us shut out."
Bodie didn't move. Some small part of his mind, safely objective, noticed that that had been just about the longest uninterrupted speech Doyle had given him in over five years.
Stiffly, he lifted his glass to his lips and spoke before drinking, "What do you want me to tell you? My life's bleedin' story or something?"
Doyle sagged a little, "Christ, no, Bodie. But you know what I mean. Hell, I was there at your side when we took on Krivas and his mob - and yet all you ever did was hint at why you hated him so much. Who was the girl? Did you love her?"
Bodie could have laughed - if there'd been anything left inside that wasn't already diced and shredded. Gathering more of himself together, Bodie finished his beer and laid the glass back down, prepared to do battle. "Yeah, I know what you mean, Doyle. I've seen you do the same thing to me every day for the last five years." "What?" Doyle was thrown, instantly confused and it showed all over his face.
"Last year, the day you got shot." Bodie's words came out stunted now, and a little harsh, failing to completely hide the still-buried anger and fear that episode had cost him. "When we left the inquest, I asked you to the pub, to wind down - because I knew you were in a mood. I knew you needed it - but what did you do? You shut me out and went back to your flat alone. And May Li was waiting for you and almost killed you."
Doyle's mouth hung open and Bodie had to drag his eyes from it to meet Doyle's gaze. The distraction only served to darken his mood. "But..."
"But nothing, Ray." Bodie leaned forward, his voice a low growl. "I'll make a bargain with you, sunshine. I'll tell you about any episode in my life, if you tell me the story of how you got your cheekbone smashed."
Doyle snapped back at this. A look of something sped across his face like lightning, all twisted and grappling with past and present. A conjunction of realities too sharp and too tender to express in words. He hid it all behind disbelief - but Bodie had seen it. And Doyle knew it.
Depressingly satisfied now, Bodie got to his feet. "Tell Murph I said happy birthday." Without another word, he turned and pushed his way through the crowd and out the door.
He was three streets away before he even noticed how cold it was. Didn't matter. His flat was only around the corner and he'd left his car at Central, expecting to drink tonight.
The streets were quiet as he pounded along them, feet crunching on fresh falls of snow. Along the gutters and fences, snow had turned to grey muddy slush making the place look more dirty and foetid than it normally did. He crossed at the corner and stormed past doors, windows where a little light shone out into the night. He could hear radios and televisions, people's lives prattling on around him, oblivious to the silent menace stalking past.
One building from the corner, he turned and stomped up the steps. He shoved the key in the lock so hard, it almost broke. More stairs and then his front door. Only at the last moment did he remember to turn the alarms off. The door slammed shut behind him with such force, the living room windows rattled. He dropped his keys on the floor and sank onto the sofa, elbows on his knees, head in his hands.
In the darkness, he silently urged calm upon himself. He took deep breaths and willed the muscles in his shoulders to unlock, to mentally picture the tension flowing out of them and away. He focussed on the knot in his stomach and worked at it, easing it loose again. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on a plain blank wall, to drown in it.
Exercises learned over years of fight training. Take only a perfectly clear mind into battle with you. Never aim a weapon with anger in your heart. Emotions of any kind spoil your aim. Feelings of any nature get in the way of the job and you risk losing your life by being unable to concentrate on why you're there.
And he was good at it. Not perfect, true - but pretty damned good.
So why wasn't it working this time? Instead of calming him, the exercises only fed his disquiet and unease and drove him eventually to his feet.
Grabbing his keys, Bodie strode to the door. He'd set Doyle straight once and for all.
This time he didn't notice the cold at all. The fire inside him burnt enough to keep the whole of Chelsea toasty for a week. Ready to storm into the pub and haul Doyle out by the collar, Bodie was pulled up in the shadows on the opposite side of the street, by the sight of various people leaving for home in happy clumps. Bodie paused warily. He hadn't realized it was so late already. He looked at his watch. 11.10pm. Doyle's car was still there.
Before Bodie could move, the man himself backed out through the pub doors, Murphy and Kathy with him. Doyle led them to his car and unlocked it for them. That's right; he'd offered to give them a lift home. Even from his hiding place, Bodie could clearly hear Murphy's half-drunk warning of what the morning would play for Doyle. It was Kathy however, who made sure Murphy got into the car without smacking his head on the roof.
Bodie was about ready to head back home when he saw something else that stalled him. That guy - the stripper - exited after Doyle, warmly rugged up with a long coat and scarf. He came around the car before Doyle could get in and placed a proprietorial hand on his shoulder.
"I'm glad you called me," the model said with a grin. "That was worth coming out into the cold for."
Doyle nodded, "Yeah, thanks for doing it. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."
Bodie couldn't take his eyes from that hand, the grip. His mouth went dry but his feet for the moment seemed unable - or perhaps unwilling - to move.
"I had a ball. Listen, Ray, we should go out for a drink sometime. Catch up."
Doyle laughed, a husky disavowal. The man ignored him and went on. "Oh, come on, Ray." Now he was smiling too, as though he knew what Doyle was thinking. He dropped his voice a little but Bodie would have heard the next words if he'd been standing a mile away. "You know I think you have the most gorgeous arse I've ever seen. Are you sure you won't even think about changing sides?"
Again that laughter from Doyle. He gave the man's shoulder a friendly pat, "Sorry, Jeff, but you're just not my type. But I will buy you a drink sometime just to show there's no hard feelings."
Jeff dropped the hand and stepped back from the car. "Oh, but there are, my sweet, there are. Drive carefully. Goodnight."
Bodie drew back further into the shadows as Doyle pulled out from the kerb and drove past. Jeff shook his head and turned for the opposite direction. Bodie was frozen to his hiding place, struck by two overpowering thoughts, one treading so hard upon the other, his breath was snatched away.
Bodie was jealous and -
Doyle had lied to him.
As the pub emptied, Bodie turned and walked back down the street, his hands deep in his jacket pockets, his mind abruptly emptied by that stormy intrusion. In what seemed like only a few moments, he found himself climbing the stairs to his flat again. He went in with only a vague feeling of a change in surroundings. Absently he turned the heaters up and dropped his jacket on the back of the chair. He looked down at his hands and was surprised to find them almost blue.
Shower. He needed to have a shower to warm up. He'd never sleep like this.
The bathroom filled with steam quickly and stripping off, he stepped under the pounding spray, closing his eyes and turning his face into it. As the heat seeped into his flesh, his mind began to work again, slowly cranking up into a fury of thoughts he could neither contain nor control.
Doyle had known Jeff was gay - but he'd lied about it to Bodie. Why? Had he thought Bodie would make an issue of it? Was there some element in his shady past he wasn't willing to admit to? Even to Bodie?
Did he really want to know?
With a groan, he put his palms high on the wall and leaned forward so the water would pummel his back and he could rest his forehead on the cool smooth tiles. Even before the next thought was completed, he dreaded it.
So it was true. All that jealousy, all that rage and anger. All that hiding and snapping, slapping Doyle back every time he tried to get close. But it wasn't really Doyle he'd been hiding from. No. Bodie had been hiding from himself and the knowledge that he wanted something from his partner that he was never likely to get. Now it stared him in the face, unavoidable and inexcusable. Hiding - even ignoring it would do no good any more. Hadn't done to begin with.
Christ, why was this happening to him? From the age of fourteen, when he'd jumped on that ship out of Liverpool, he'd been faced with countless opportunities to climb into bed with a man. Sometimes, in the merchant navy, it had been all he could do to fight them off. He could have been flattered, but as a raw teenager, all he saw was the affront to his masculinity. Not once had he ever been tempted - not even from curiosity. Not that it would have bothered him, really - but since he'd never wanted to, he'd never thought about it.
And then Africa. Oh, sure, plenty of opportunities there too. The mercs in his unit. The local girls either unwilling or too scared of the white soldiers - and Bodie had never been one to force a girl if she didn't want it. He'd made do with those who had wanted him and while not exactly scattering his wild oats, he'd managed to get by. Then there had been that night in Dakar when all his caution and skill had almost failed him. Luck alone had saved him from certain violent rape. That incident on it's own should have been enough to put him off for life. The army and SAS had reinforced it. Everybody knew it went on in the ranks, but nobody talked about it because the fact was, if a man got caught in the wrong bed, the only future was a dishonourable discharge and a life spent having to invent excuses.
But Bodie had never been in danger of any of that - because his passions had always been wholly and completely focussed on the fairer sex, no matter how hard to catch.
And two months ago, that had all changed, against his will, against even his conscious desires. Oh, he knew the exact moment, the precise second his lifetime view of Doyle had abruptly altered, ruining his peace.
All so innocently. On the job, trapped between a warehouse wall and a truck, Doyle close behind him. The men they'd been following for a week were too near for them to risk moving and they were stuck for almost twenty minutes. Crammed up together in a tiny space, their feet hidden by the back wheel of the truck, unable to go back or forward, not even to speak.
After the first rushed seconds, as the stark reality set in and Bodie had realized they had to stay put, he'd relaxed a little - and that's when it had happened.
Slowly, creeping from one part of his being to the next, like a kind of poison, he'd become aware of Doyle's body pressing close to his side. Doyle's breath on his neck, feeling the heart beat from his chest. He'd caught a glimpse of those green eyes, the full lips parted to breathe silently, the hair tousled by the wind streaking down the alley. Doyle was there, touching more of him than any casual matey gesture could ever manage, ignorant of the effect he was having on his partner - while every fibre in Bodie's body, every thread of his soul shrieked a wanting he couldn't begin to put words to.
His arousal had sent a wave of deep, violent shock through him which to this day, he could recall without any trouble at all.
Impossible and yet -
Not impossible at all.
And standing outside that pub tonight, he'd felt it all again, watching Jeff place a hand on Doyle's shoulder, making the offer with a smile, having it turned down without offence.
What would Doyle do if Bodie played the same game? Would he receive the same chuckle, the same secure smile? Or would Doyle smack his teeth in for making such an assumption, for betraying a friendship they both relied on so much.
And why had Doyle lied?
Bodie turned off the shower and dried himself. He threw on a robe and stomped through to the kitchen. He put on the kettle for a cuppa he didn't really want - but he couldn't quite bring himself to go to bed just yet. There were too many suggestions in that action, too many ways for him to trap himself as he had done so many other nights since that day in the alley.
And it hadn't all ended there, either. Minutes after they'd finally squeezed themselves free of the alley, they'd caught up with the traffickers, trapping them mid-deal. Oh, they'd brought them in without too much trouble but there had been a moment there, when Doyle had almost vanished from his life altogether. Again. A gun brought to bear on him, Bodie too late to shout a warning, his own weapon terrifyingly slow but managing to bring the man down with a single shot. Doyle had been philosophical about it as usual, but that day it had been Bodie in shock, for hours after, replaying the incident in his mind's eye, conjuring up an alternate ending for the day - to walk out of the morgue, facing a world without Ray Doyle.
That day, over a year ago now. The alarm on the R/T. The frantic drive, the climb up the fire escape to look through the window and see the sight.
Never, no matter how long he lived, would Bodie ever forget that first split second. In that second, that moment in time - which to him, dragged for an eternity - Doyle was dead. Gone, his presence no more than an emptiness. Lying motionless on the carpet, covered in blood.
And then Bodie had cracked through his ice-bound horror and fallen at Doyle's side to find a weak pulse. The hours, days and weeks after that had never seemed quite so bad as that first moment, even though for a while there, it looked like Doyle might not survive surgery - or the first two days after.
Nothing ever as bad as that moment.
The kettle whistled and Bodie pulled out a cup, stuck a spoon of coffee into it. The steaming water burnt his fingers but he paid no attention as something else drained into him with the aching ice of a cold bath. A dismal realization so awful, his mind couldn't contain it in silence.
"Christ, no!" he breathed into the empty kitchen. "No."
No, no, no.
"Please, don't let it be love!"
Yes, he could accept that he lusted after Ray Doyle and would do just about anything save risking the partnership to get him into bed - but please, not love. Anything but that.
Lust he could live with. Like the pains of a gun shot or a knife cut, the agony was physical. He had learned ways and means to curb it, to reduce the affect it would have on him. He could still function, do the job, live his life. He might be a little bad-tempered every now and then, but it wouldn't destroy him, wouldn't change the life he'd worked so hard to get.
A fate worse than death. Words like pain and agony, distress and torment were volleys of soggy paper against a wall of obsidian rock. To love was to give oneself up, hand one's heart into the care of another in the vague and vain hope that it would be given back unbruised and unbroken, still whole.
Physical pain Bodie could cope with, even the thought of a long and painful death scared him only a little in comparison. And he knew. As a child and as an adult. So he'd learned to shelter his heart against that onslaught. Marrika had come close - but her world had always been at odds with his, and his deep-rooted survival instincts had warned him off giving more than a little of himself. As it was, that small part had been charred to a cinder with her betrayal and would never see daylight again. She had been the last; he had promised himself so.
But - was he still so inured against the hurt? Did he still protect himself so perfectly? Or had Ray Doyle, mercurial, guilt-driven and blindingly honest, found a away through the rat-maze with his unswerving loyalty, his heart-felt ideals and a smile that nearly melted Bodie every time he saw it.
No, this hadn't been going on for only a few months. This condition - serious as it appeared to be now that he looked at it - had been developing for a year, perhaps longer. Doyle had been getting to him for a long time. Perhaps even from the beginning.
When truth is revealed, it is generally done so completely and Bodie now looked back on five years and saw all the things he had blinded himself to before. The laughter, the jokes, the nights watching football on the telly, the quiet afternoons spent reading papers, long nights on obbo duties. Days spent working with somebody he could trust with his life - not lightly, but seriously. Times when they horsed around and others when the peace was all they needed.
In a crowded room or in response to a joke, Bodie would always look for Doyle's gaze first. He would seek and find those cat-green eyes, wide and open, trusting, the eyebrows drawn together or raised slightly, affecting vulnerability. The quirky smile which accompanied the deadpan voice, light, lilting and absolutely not to be taken seriously. And the opposite, the husky growl, the warning, the anger and rage, the danger.
Ray Doyle was a man of contrasts and it was not unknown for him to display most of them in the space of an hour. But Bodie knew them all. Every one.
Every one except the lie.
But did it have to be love? Did he even know what love was any more? Was this what it felt like? This aching in his gut, this fear of going to sleep, this torment rolling ever onwards in his head, this almost overpowering desire to go straight to the man's flat and use every ounce of his superior strength to get Doyle into bed, to open his eyes and see that the two of them together could be so much greater than the sum of their parts. To show him, really show him, how important it was that they be together. Was that love - or was he just thinking and feeling with his balls and making too much of everything else?
And if he did, if it was love, if he gave anything away this time, if he so much as glanced in that direction, there would be nothing left of him to recover. Too many years of protection had left him with no immunity. But would hope alone save him from that fate - or was it already too late? Had he already given his heart away for Doyle to crush in his innocence?
Maybe that's why Bodie'd been so thrown tonight in the pub. So hurt so quickly. So deeply. He was already in danger.
Abruptly restless, Bodie took the coffee and poured it down the sink. He strode into the living room and picked up the bottle of scotch he kept by the telly. He screwed the lid off and swallowed twice of the burning fluid, seeking satisfaction in the searing of his throat. He put the bottle away before he could finish it off. He turned to go to bed - and stopped. No, that was a little too dangerous tonight. Dreams and fantasies would get tangled and confused and right now, that was the last thing he needed. No, the sofa would do for tonight.
Tomorrow he would have to get himself an answer. No matter what. He had to know what he was doing here.
For the second time in six hours, Doyle found himself sitting in his car, freezing and watching the windows of Bodie's flat. At the moment, it was all dark, but soon a light would come on, then another and half an hour after that, Bodie would come down the stairs ready to be driven to work.
At least, that was the original plan. The one they'd worked out last night - before they'd had that small disagreement.
Doyle brought his hands together and tried to blow some heat into his sheepskin gloves - and failed miserably. With a groan at this self-imposed discomfort, he stuck them back under his arms, put his head against the rest and stared out through the crack of window he'd left open.
Christ, he'd been an idiot last night! His instincts had warned him to stay right away from any subject Bodie might be touchy on - and what did he do? Put his foot right in it - and then, as frilly icing on the cake, he'd brought Marikka and the Krivas girl into the discussion.
No wonder Bodie had swiped back with the crack about his cheekbone.
Hypocrite! After complaining that Bodie shut himself away from people, Doyle had been unable to say a word. Jesus, Doyle knew as well as anyone that his partner had good reasons for keeping his thoughts to himself, reasons buried under years of pain and learning to find a way to live with it. He'd never intended to imply he wanted Bodie to open up and tell everything.
And taking that kind of tack could quite possibly be the exact opposite way to get Bodie to open up. Especially now.
Last night had been his big chance. Knowing he would love the joke planned for Murphy, Doyle had planned on plying Bodie with alcohol, going back to his flat for a nightcap - and then applying just enough pressure to get Bodie to explain what had been bugging him for the last few weeks.
Doyle wasn't exactly sure when the moods had begun to change. After all, Doyle wasn't the only CI5 agent capable of mercurial shifts of humour. Bodie had had plenty over the last five years - but his were always short-lived, generally endable with a few beers and a game of darts, a round up of the latest dirty jokes Doyle had collected. Never before had he seen Bodie so fixated on what appeared to be one single problem.
No - he had seen it before. Once.
That mess with Williams and the bikies. Cowley had threatened to kill Bodie - and he'd meant it. And if he had, it would have been Doyle's fault for not sticking with Bodie in the first place, for not making an effort to find out what was behind the depression, for not staying with him and watching his back. For not being a friend. Bodie had needed Doyle and Doyle had failed him.
Cowley wouldn't have killed Bodie - Doyle would have stopped him. Yes, even if it would have meant the end of CI5. Cowley had never seen it at the time, so concentrated was he on getting Bodie to release his hold on the bikie, King Billy - but Doyle had stayed close, ready and prepared, watching Cowley's eyes for the subconscious flash of intent that always heralded the press of a trigger, a split second before it came. Doyle had done it before, would no doubt do it again. As a marksman himself, he'd made something of a specialty of knowing how to tell that moment. He would have seen it coming and he would have kicked the gun aside. Bodie might have been injured - but he would have survived and to hell with George Cowley.
Yes, there were some similarities between that depression of Bodie's and his current apparent state of mind - only last time, his work had suffered. Now, Bodie worked just fine, no better and no worse. No, really the only obvious thing was the way Bodie dealt with the people around him.
Yesterday, Murphy had said as much to Doyle. That's why he'd confessed his plans rather than to Bodie. Always a little apart from those around him, in the last few months, Bodie had become positively isolated. He still went down the pub, still played darts, still partook of the usual jokes and bitches about work but whereas once, he had been a driving force behind such behaviour, these days, he sat back, injecting only the occasional dry comment. Susan had been the first to notice, drawing Doyle's attention to it about two months ago.
Not that Doyle hadn't asked Bodie - and more than once at that. Every time the same response. Nothing wrong. No point talking about it, no point asking.
And then there was last night.
After he'd taken Murphy and Kathy home, Doyle had returned here, in the pitch of icy night. He'd sat in his car for an hour, watching the lights in Bodie's flat, debating with himself the advisability of going up there and beating the truth out of his partner, but some subconscious sense of unease had kept him in his car long after the lights had gone out.
And again this morning. Up extra early, yawing his head off, he'd come by to talk to Bodie before work - and yet still, he sat here, getting colder, waiting for Bodie to come out on his own.
Never realized he was such a coward before. Or - was he too afraid Bodie would press the issue about his damaged cheekbone?
Unable to stop himself, Doyle chuckled dryly into the icy morning. No, he wasn't that selfish. He could put up as much defence as he needed to. Bodie was never going to hear that tale if he lived a hundred years. Nobody ever would.
No, it was something else. Something that rippled warnings on a dozen different levels of his awareness. Something that told him to tread very, very carefully this time.
Bodie would still be angry about last night - but neither of them would want to turn up to work in that state. The Old Man noticed such things and had a bad habit of asking awkward questions - and getting answers under the most inappropriate circumstances. No. No matter the warnings rumbling in Doyle's stomach, he would have to face Bodie this morning. Now.
He pushed the car door open and was gratified to note a light go on in Bodie's living room. He got out of the vehicle and waved his arms around a bit, jumped up and down to get his circulation going. Then he jogged across the road, up the steps and pressed the buzzer.
The answer came quicker than he expected. "Yeah?"
"Bit early. Come up." The lock on the door was released and Doyle took the stairs two at a time, his first thoughts on warmth. The flat door was open ready for him, the kettle already on. Doyle made straight for the gas fire in the living room, hearing the shower with the part of his brain not affected by cold.
Still waving his arms a bit, he made tea then for good measure, put a plate of toast on the table beside it. When he was done, Bodie appeared, dressed and rubbing his cropped hair dry with a towel. His eyes flickered over Doyle before moving on.
"Jesus, somebody's hungry."
"Hungry and cold." Doyle poured tea out as Bodie grabbed a slice of toast and leaned back against the kitchen counter.
As Doyle warmed his hands against the cup, he tried to gauge the mood of the man opposite him. So far, Bodie's tone had been noncomittal - to anyone else, that might mean that everything was fine. But Doyle knew Bodie too well to be fooled by it. For a start, Bodie hadn't actually looked Doyle in the eye once so far. But was that because of last night - - or whatever else it was bothering him.
And should he say anything about either?
He couldn't help himself. The diligent worrier inside him demanded action and he had no choice but to make the attempt. "Bodie, are you okay?"
The response was instantaneous. Bodie rolled his eyes, swallowed hard and set his cup firmly back on the bench, "Christ, Ray, if you ask me that once more..." Then he was walking out - and for a second, Doyle thought he must be mis-hearing because he distinctly heard... laughter. Wry, a shade bitter perhaps, but laughter nonetheless. Another moment later, Bodie reappeared with his coat on, ready to go.
He grabbed another slice of toast and waved it in Doyle's direction. "Well, don't just stand there, sunshine. We don't want to keep George waiting, do we?"
On the way to the car, Doyle set his most searching gaze on his partner and found all the classic Bodie-signs present. All those hundreds of subtle nuances that had taken painstaking hours to compile. The set of the shoulders, the exact pace of his walk, the angle of his head, the tilt of his chin - right down to the precise tone of voice used and the degree of glitter in those all-too-blue eyes. Doyle knew it all so well because he'd seen it all before. Too many times.
Bodie had chosen to ignore the whole thing. As usual. No fight, no argument, not even a discussion. Nothing. As if last night hadn't happened.
Exactly like that - and if it hadn't been for Doyle's expert knowledge of Bodie's hiding techniques - he would have begun to wonder if he hadn't imagined that tense moment in the pub, the fire flung at him from those extraordinary eyes. The challenge unconsciously given - now to be withdrawn.
Bodie would bury the whole thing again, stretching out the distance already developing between them. It was only a matter of time before Bodie succeeded in isolating himself so perfectly that their working relationship would start to suffer. And once it did, they'd never find a way back.
It was enough to make a man scream.
For a moment, starting up the car, Doyle was tempted to tell Bodie to go to hell - but he'd done that once before, over the bikie gang. No, he'd let his partner down once in five years. He would have to wait five more before he got another turn. No, Bodie needed help - even though Doyle had no idea how to do that - what he did know was how to stick to somebody.
After five years, Bodie meant too much to Doyle. Too much to just walk out on him because he was a shrivelled up, cantankerous, self-opinionated, egotistical, self-deluding, stubborn SOB.
Too much by far - and Bodie deserved more than a couple of months worth of patience even if, in the end, Doyle ended up with an ulcer.
Hell, it was a dangerous job; maybe they'd both get blown up before he'd have to worry about it.
Bodie lounged in the chair before Cowley's desk, his fingers nimbly tying strands of elastic bands together. Doyle waited beside him as Cowley finished off his phone call. With a final word, the handset was replaced and the Old Man turned back to them.
"Well, you two managed to make the most of your day. Well spotted, Doyle. It's not every day you accident upon the load up of two tons of stolen ammunition. If you hadn't noticed the registration of the truck, we wouldn't have known anything about it until the locals started getting picked off with 9 mil. Can't say I realized Jimmy Sumner had got out yet - though obviously all promises to stay on the straight and narrow have been rescinded."
"Right well, you may as well get off home, both of you. Here tomorrow for round up at 8.00 am."
As Doyle got to his feet, Bodie leaned forward, ignoring him. "Actually, sir, I might be a couple of hours late. I have an appointment."
"Well change it, Bodie."
"I can't, I'm afraid. It's personal."
Cowley sat back, pursing his lips, but since they'd brought in Summer and his boys without shedding a drop of blood and collecting the stolen ammo in the process, he could hardly complain about a couple of hours. "Very well. Ten and no later, Bodie."
"Yes, sir, thank you sir."
Bodie was up and out the door before Cowley could change his mind. Doyle strode beside him as they headed down the corridor. For a moment, Doyle said nothing. Then, just before they could hit the freezing outdoors, Doyle paused.
"This appointment, Bodie?"
"Does it have anything to do with what's been bothering you lately?"
Bodie raised an eyebrow, rolled his eyes - and shook his head for good measure. "I told you, nothing's bothering me. But since you asked, yes it does. Now can we please get out of here? I'm hungry."
"Fancy a quick pint?"
"Not tonight, thanks. Just drop me home."
The journey passed in a haze of inconsequential chatter about Jimmy and guns and stolen vehicles - and Bodie sighed some relief when Doyle, still bemused, drove off into the winter dark. All day it had been too easy to go back over last night, the questions about Jeff rattling off his brain like machine-gun fire. But every question had it's own back up; why should Bodie care about Doyle's past? So what if he had gay friends. Did it matter in the long run?
All in all, the last thing Bodie wanted right now was to get into that one conversation. Not at least until he knew whether he really needed to have it or not. Not until he found out, once and for all, what he really wanted. Bodie paused on his doorstep a moment to make sure Doyle was really gone, then rushed inside with no lack of haste. He showered, changed, grabbed his most unremarkable coat and scarf, collected the keys to the Capri - then headed back out into the cold. He could grab something to eat on the motorway north.
Birmingham. In winter. Cold and wet. Not a place many people would choose to spend an evening - but then, wasn't choice what this was all about?
God, when had he learned to get so maudlin? Questioning was Doyle's thing. Maybe he had been around CI5 too long.
See, that's exactly the problem! Thinking things like that! Hell, Bodie was the arrogant one. The beautiful and engagingly modest one. The one the ladies couldn't resist.... Well, perhaps best not to follow down that line of thought.
Bodie did a left turn down a badly-lit street and abruptly began to laugh. This was so silly. So stupid. Coming up here in the dead of night - he could get himself killed - all to answer a simple question. Well, granted, it wasn't that simple exactly - but it was only the one question.
Hell, if Doyle knew what he was doing Bodie would be minus a few teeth by now.
Yeah, Doyle. Bad-tempered, moody little sod. All laughter and smiles one moment, dark slashing anger the next. Capacity for guilt the size of Spain - and yet, the only person Bodie had ever met who continued to care for him no matter what happened. Even now, after months of bad temper from Bodie, Doyle had used all caution and gentleness this morning, asking how he was, knowing Bodie would be upset by last night, wanting to talk it out, make it better, stop his partner from hurting. Doyle cared, alright. Cared a lot.
And no, it wasn't just duty, either. Doyle could never be accused of being so shallow. No, the exact opposite. There were depths to Doyle Bodie had only ever glimpsed. Those he had seen wove together to form a personality and character of extreme complexity and yet at times, he was as easy to understand as a year one reader. He had walls - pretty solid ones at that - and they came down when he wanted. Slammed down in fact - especially over his question about the cheekbone. But there was always something about Doyle that attracted a more than it repelled, something in that angel's face and green eyes. Bit by bit until, over the years, Bodie found he couldn't imagine being teamed with another partner, trusting anyone else as wholly - or any kind of life that didn't have Ray Doyle enmeshed within it.
It was almost invisible - and only somebody who got really close would ever see it - but Doyle had a fine narrow healthy streak of honour and somewhere along the line, it had sliced right through Bodie and lodged in a place he couldn't touch, himself.
But was that love? The kind that scared him the most? Since last night, he'd gone over this so many times, it had begun to make him dizzy. What did he want from Ray? Friendship? Sure, always. Partners? Absolutely. Nobody else. Sex? This time the answer was slower but no less positive. Yes. He wanted to hold Ray, touch him, kiss him, feel the depths of passion match his own. Yeah, he wanted sex with Ray. So much it hurt - but - Love? No matter how many times he went the circuit, how many times he asked himself the same questions, in the end he was left with the same hollow pit in his stomach as the last, painful truth revealed itself. He wanted all of that from Doyle. But he also wanted something else. Something he couldn't name. Something that both terrified and excited him at the same time. Something that held promise and dire warning and yet still drew him onwards. He could only think of it one way. He wanted something more.
Bodie left the car parked at the end of an alley and turned down, hands thrust deep into his pockets.
How long did he have? Two hours to get back, get some kip and be at work by 10. That gave him an hour or so to play with.
Would he need an hour?
Garish neon scrawled above the door led him to the place. Deliberately refusing to hesitate, he walked straight inside, through the second door keeping the heat in. It was even darker inside than out. There was a bar opposite, the usual configuration of bottles, glasses and crisps arranged along the wall. Between Bodie and the bar were tables crowded with people, all talking at the same time, almost yelling over the sound of music coming from a dance floor somewhere in the distance.
Yeah, there were a few women here - but the rest were men and more than a couple glanced in his direction as he paused to get his bearings.
Well, he was here now. Best to make the most of it.
His normal arrogant bearing made crossing the room a breeze and he reached the bar with his dignity in tact. He ordered a gin and tonic and managed to pinch a table by the wall as it suddenly became vacant.
So far so good. But so far had only been the easy bit - and it wasn't yet too late to back out, head for home question unanswered - but still in one piece. Sanity would still be in tact - more or less. He wouldn't really have to risk anything.
No. Stay until there is an answer - regardless of what it is. Doyle deserves that much.
Smoke and noise suffocated any liberal atmosphere the club might have achieved with dcor. This was one of those places best not visited during daylight hours; no eye could stand that kind of bleak, deliberate seediness.
But it wasn't in London and the chances of Bodie being recognized here were limited in the extreme. Both gun and ID were safely at home. If it came down to it, he could always claim he was following up a lead of some sort. Hell, he knew enough seedy characters to fill three places this size...
Check and double check. Take no chances, risk nothing. What an idiot! What was he doing here if not to risk something? To take a chance! Or at least to risk something he could bear losing. His heart would have no part in tonight's activities.
With half a grin to his own idiocy, Bodie raised his glass and took a sip. One drink would be enough if he had to drive back to London in the early hours. He let his gaze drift across the darkness, noting without pausing the knotted couples touching, holding hands, arms around each other. Even kissing. Intimacy. Between men.
He'd seen it before but not this open and despite his purpose, there was something oddly unsettling about the sight. If the club had been filled with hetro couples, would they be touching each other like that - - or would they be content to wait until they got home?
A pair of eyes snagged his. Dark eyes on a face younger than his. Spanish perhaps.
Bodie didn't look away but couldn't ignore the sudden flutter inside. Fear? Hell, yes. But fears had to be faced, didn't they?
Bodie looked up to find another gin appear on the table before him and an elegant hand pull a second chair up.
"Mind if I sit?"
"No." Bodie managed, keeping his voice level. Those eyes bored into him again and... and for the first time, he allowed the intent to go further than his head. The back of his throat ached, his shoulders cramped, his gut tumbled over like a flapjack in a pan and his cock did a small leap before settling to wait for the next jolt.
Years of working in a violent profession kept the stress from Bodie's voice, stopped him from swallowing too much. He drank again, waiting for the other man to make the next move.
And he wanted it. That next move.
"No," Bodie replied, his gaze catching the sheen of silky hair, shoulder length, arms sinewy and strong. Mouth parted enough to suggest... the tip of tongue darting to one corner, as if in anticipation.
"Get a lot of army in here. Nowhere else for them to go, is there?" The other man glanced around the room once, briefly then turned back to Bodie, delivering the next desired jolt. "If we leave our drinks here, the bar will hold them for us."
A thrill of fear splashed through Bodie, and hard on its heels was the wash of excitement. It was going to happen. Tonight.
He nodded and the other man stood. Bodie came to his feet also and let the man lead him through the room, between bodies jumping about the dance floor, to a door at the back. A long corridor stretched into the distance, draped with a few bodies on display - but the Spaniard didn't go far. He turned into one of many doors on the left and Bodie found himself inside a small booth, about six foot by four. An unmistakable smell of musk told him what it was - and warned him what was about to happen.
He turned to find a finger tracing the line of his jaw down to his lips. Unthinking, he touched his tongue to the tip, then drew the finger inside his mouth, sucking gently. The Spaniard smiled.
"I thought so." With his other hand, he deftly unclipped Bodie's buckle and pressed his hand against the bulge beneath the cloth.
Bodie couldn't suppress the moan which escaped his lips. It felt like he'd been hard for months with no relief in sight. This wasn't going to take an hour.
His fly was unzipped quickly and then his erection was released into the man's hand and for a moment, Bodie abandoned himself to the sheer pleasure of feeling. Hot breath seared his face but he didn't turn for a kiss. That wasn't why he was here. Instead, his hands sought out the other man. He had to feel, had to know what he was doing - or the whole thing would be pointless.
On any other day, he would have smiled at the silent pun, but his blood was pounding in his ears as his body stumbled over the lines between desire and reality, custom and familiarity. He'd never done this before and his wanting increased through the essence of forbidden pleasures, mysteries as yet unknown. His cock strained for release, pumped gently but firmly by this wanton creature. Bodie found the zipper and pulled it down, discovered a lack of underwear and paused only a second as his fingers touched hot flesh. He pulled it free and wrapped his hand around it. It was incredible. So firm, so real. A cock in his hands, the head straining, the ridge along the top already seeping pre-cum onto his skin.
Bodie smiled. With a kind of perverse joy, he looked down and watched as his strong hands set to work, squeezing the other man's balls, fingers pressing the ridges on the tender underside, pulling harder and faster. The breath against his cheek became staccato, a grunt no more. Bodie squeezed harder, revelling in the power, knowing orgasm was seconds away. His own cock was left forgotten but he didn't care. All he wanted was this thing in his hand, a weapon belonging to another man.
With a guttural moan, the Spaniard jerked and came and Bodie felt the triumph roll over him. Taking only a few moments to recover, the Spaniard then lifted his eyes to Bodie's long enough to give him a sated smile - and then he dropped to his knees.
Abruptly, Bodie pulled in a breath of shock as his cock was taken into the Spaniard's mouth. Again his eyes travelled south, watching that masculine face suck on him, eyes closed, enjoying it. The sight and sensation was extraordinary, and before he realized it, he was holding the man's head against him, thrusting deep into that mouth, savouring tongue and lips and teeth as they grazed against his flesh.
He froze, his eyes snapping open. No. He couldn't do it. Not like this. Not so empty and callous and quick and harsh and cheap and so damned lonely. It was too much - too far. With the wrong man.
Carefully but firmly, Bodie pulled the face away from his crotch and offered a half-hearted smile. "Sorry. Not tonight."
"You sure? I mean, you deserve it. Your hands were damn good."
"You can have my arse if you'd prefer."
Bodie bit his lip to stop himself from replying. Instead, he shook his head and urged the man to his feet. In control again he smiled, "I enjoyed watching you come."
The man frowned at him as though he'd just discovered a new and rather bizarre fetish - then gave a quick shrug. "Your choice." With that, he turned and left Bodie in the booth alone.
Swallowing, Bodie gazed down at his erection. He could either do something about it himself now - or get the hell out of here and back to London.
He had his answer and for the first time, after all those months of pondering, he knew exactly what he was afraid of.
I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretence
And still I feel, I said too much,
My silence is my self defence
Doyle ran as hard as he could, dodging one man after another, keeping the ball slipping from one skilled foot to the other. He kicked hard and it bounced off a tree in time for him to knee it back down and head for the makeshift goal. But it was getting crowded down here. His head came up, his eyes searching for help. With a cry of triumph, he made a feint for the park bench - and kicked the ball sharply to his right. Murphy deftly stopped it, hoodwinked the defence and sent it flying between wrought-iron armrests into the back with a smack of satisfaction. His team let out a yell of delight and ran to both of them, slapping their backs - and then the ball was in play again. This time, Doyle jogged off the muddy field and headed for refreshment.
Bodie sat on the sidelines, wrapped up in his thick black coat, a smug grin on his face. "Well done, sunshine. You'll be playing for Man U next season."
"Where's the beer?"
"In the box."
"You not drinking?"
Bodie reached out and grabbed the blanket from the picnic table. "Get that around you before you freeze to death. Sweat on a winter's day will kill you. And what do you mean, am I not drinking? What do you think this is?"
"A mug of tea?"
"Well, it might have been - in a different reality. Now it's something much better." With a sly smile, he lifted his other hand out of his pocket just enough to reveal a small flask of the best brandy. Doyle laughed and took a seat beside him.
Bodie had never been much of a one to play at sport. Always happy to watch, but rarely could he be coaxed onto the field. However, he did make the best home crowd supporter, yelling both praise and abuse from the sidelines - in equal measure and volume. Today, he'd been right on his best and Doyle was glad.
The last couple of months seemed to be fading into history. Never before, for months on end had Bodie seemed so distracted, so distant and so quick to anger. But he'd taken those couple of hours off last week and since then, was basically back to his usual pig-headed, arrogant, loud, obnoxious and lovable self.
Bodie was still worried about something though, and for all that his mood had returned to normal over the last week, there was, in odd moments, a look around his eyes that hinted at more. But still, not a word. Doyle had decided not to mention it again for the moment. If Bodie had been in a hole and was now climbing out the other side, Doyle wasn't about to shake the foundations purely for his own curiosity. Time enough to ask about it later, when it was all over. If there was still a need. If Bodie would let him close enough to ask.
Fat chance. Bodie was good like that. Gave everything he had except something of himself. Forged a bond with Doyle no one else had ever bothered to make, stuck by him, stood his ground against the infamous temper, offered a much-needed sense of perspective. And the occasions he had defended Doyle against one kind of attack or another were now legendary. It had given Doyle a breathtaking sense of self-worth he'd never really had before, knowing Bodie was always there, at his back, a bastion against the world. Odd that a man like Bodie would bother with someone like Doyle - and yet be so frozen within himself that he couldn't give anything else.
Doyle had long ago given up expecting him to change. He knew Bodie and understood him; as much as anybody could understand what went on under that raven hair. Bodie needed to protect himself. Always. If he ever lost that shield, he'd be a dead man - and probably Doyle along with him.
Do the job. Stay cool.
He'd never forget that dream as long as he lived. Him, fighting for his life after being shot, a vision of Bodie standing apart, untouched.
To the pure, all things are pure.
No, never forget those dreams and the voice that had brought him back. Never.
Another roar from the men on the field brought his attention back - to discover that the opponents had scored an equaliser. Doyle should have got back out there but it was better here, in the relative peace and quiet. They didn't often get this kind of time off - especially after the last week's work where between the two of them, they'd probably averaged about three hours sleep a night. Smiling, he turned his gaze on his partner, saw the frown of concentration there, the dark brows pulled together over eyes so luminous with blue it was hard to believe. Never seen a colour quite like that anywhere else.
Bodie's gaze snapped to his for a split second before returning to the game. He bellowed out an obscenity at Anson then lowered his voice. "What are you staring at?"
Doyle almost laughed, "You."
Doyle pulled the blanket around his shoulders, took a mouthful of beer and replied, "You know, I never realized it before, but you actually have a good face. I'd like to draw it one day - if you'd sit still long enough."
Another sideways glance, acidic this time, "A good face? And what's that supposed to mean?"
Pursing his lips with the old joke, Doyle said, "What do you think, sailor?"
"Yes, very nice," Bodie shrugged, casually nonchalant, "but I tell you, Ray, I'm wounded."
"Why? I just gave you a compliment. Doesn't happen every day."
"Too bloody right. We've worked together for five years and only now you realize how devilishly handsome I am? Haven't you listened to a word I've said all this time?"
"Nope. You've grown on me."
Bodie tilted his head, and they both added the old punchline, "Like a fungus."
Bodie elbowed him with mock ferocity and turned his attention back to the game. After a moment, his tone altered slightly, he spoke again. "How's the chest?"
Doyle hadn't realized his fingers were scratching the old scar - and stopped himself abruptly. "Feels fine, Bodie. I told you, I'm all mended. It's been a year."
"And the doctor told you you could open up a lesion just by yawning the wrong way. Just think what football could do to you."
Bodie turned with a superior gaze, raising himself up so he could look down his nose. "Well, if you're going to play the penitent son, sonny, you can pour me another wee measure out of that thermos."
"On the condition that you tell me where the food is."
"Hell, Doyle, in the bloody box, under the beer." Bodie turned back to the game with a painfully aggrieved smile. "You don't listen do you? There's chicken and bread and potato salad and olives and some of that green gunk you like."
"Yeah, Greek stuff. In the plastic container."
Doyle finished rummaging around for food and brought the thermos back to pour Bodie the promised tea. He'd gone to some effort. The food was good. He must have paid a few quid for it. "Not bad this. I could get used to it."
"Hah! What choice did I have with you pulling obbo duties all day yesterday. And you'd better not have something on tonight."
"And when would I have had time to organize anything for tonight?" Doyle paused, bread and chicken half way to his mouth, "Wait. Oh my god, Bodie - you haven't... cooked have you?"
"But... that's perilously close to domesticity! What's got over you?"
"Oh, don't have a convulsion," Bodie replied dryly. "Just a phase I'm going through. Thought I'd give it a try and see what it is I've been avoiding all my life. Don't worry. After last night's mess in my kitchen, it's not likely to happen again. I'll go takeaway any day. I remembered why I love the easy life so much."
"So why are you still in CI5?"
For the first time that day, there was a split second's hesitation in Bodie's response, a sharpness in the glance he couldn't hide from Doyle. Then he shrugged, yelled another urge to the players and settled back into his seat.
Doyle said nothing - but that glance brought up all the old worries again - this time with more focus.
Was Bodie thinking about moving on?
After five years?
Was that why he'd settled down over the last week? Because he'd made the decision to go?
All his previous promises to himself evaporated like ice in a desert, driven by an abrupt and unfathomable panic. "Bodie?"
"If... you had something important to tell me, you would, wouldn't you?"
"What?" Bodie feigned distraction but five years proved it wouldn't work.
"You'd just come out and say, wouldn't you? I mean, that's what I'd want you to do. If you had something important to say. I wouldn't want you to tie yourself up in knots or anything. Just..."
"What the hell are you on about, Ray?" Bodie turned a level stare on him, everything else buried beneath walls decades in the building. Doyle searched his eyes but he couldn't find anything useful, nothing to base even a guess on. A little embarrassed, he disentangled himself and turned back to the game.
Bodie waited a moment, nodded briefly and settled back. "And Ray?"
Bodie stamped his feet once more on the hard frozen ground in an effort to get his circulation going. Carefully he packed the food and plates back into the box and snapped the lid back down. He had his back turned to the others but he could hear the laughter of the guys, replaying the match in that classic post-game mood of exhilaration. A couple of years ago, when the boys had first started playing football in this flea-bitten park, they'd nagged Bodie to join them; but team sports had never interested him - at least, not to play them. There was too much that needed to be given up, too much to be revealed to create a team, make it good. It had taken enough out of him to accept being partnered with Doyle - but to sign himself on with ten other men was more than he could manage.
He turned with a half-suppressed smile to find Doyle, finally rugged up in his great honey coloured coat, favourite Man U scarf around his neck, waving his arms to demonstrate to Anson and Fields how they'd completely stuffed up the defence.
The wild curls caught the last of the winter sunlight, streaking auburn and gold and for a moment, Bodie imagined this was what angels looked like after a friendly game. Then Doyle let out a wicked chuckle at Fields's expense and Bodie had to grin. No, Doyle was no angel - though his face belied it sometimes, when he was asleep. Now the full mouth was pursed, dubiously listening to something Taggart was saying. Bodie heard a comment from Murphy and abruptly, Doyle burst out laughing. He turned to Bodie to share the joke and when he saw Bodie watching, he smiled. Wide and open, showing off his chipped tooth, the sun dusting his hair in an incongruous halo, his eyes a pair of forest green lightening streaks shooting straight through the centre of Bodie's heart.
The effect on Bodie was devastating. His face froze and for a whole second, he thought his knees would collapse completely, tossing him to the frozen ground without a thought to his dignity. Only rigid determination kept him upright.
Almost immediately, Doyle's smile faded as he obviously worried that he'd done something wrong - and quickly, or as quickly as he could manage under the circumstances, Bodie scrambled together an answering grin and Doyle appeared mollified.
Have to stop that. Have to stop staring at him like that or somebody's going to notice.
But he was so bloody beautiful.
And Bodie was in love with him.
Doyle waved his goodbyes to the boys and crunched through the frost to Bodie. He grabbed one end of the picnic box as Bodie took the other. Together, arms weaving about madly to keep their balance on the icy ground, they tramped through the park to the car. By the time they got there, Bodie had regained his composure completely.
"Great," Doyle replied, setting the box down before attacking the snow built up on the Escort's boot. "Pity it snowed so much though. I can't see the Old Man being too happy if half his squad comes down with pneumonia in the next week."
Bodie grinned, "It would almost be worth it to see the look on his face."
"Almost," Doyle gave a throaty chuckle, his attention on the boot.
This time, Bodie had a good excuse to look at him - but chose not to. Instead he turned a sweeping gaze across the open park, the mud the boys had been playing in and the leafless trees lining the perimeter.
His choices were too few. And sure, he knew what he was going to do - even though he had no idea what would happen when he did. But he also knew what he couldn't do, what he would never do, not even for Doyle.
Especially not for Doyle.
Rejection scared him, but nowhere near as much as handing his heart over to have it crushed by the man most dear to him in the world. Bodie trusted Doyle with his life; however this was entirely different and infinitely more dangerous. This wouldn't kill him - it could destroy him instead. Bodie would do anything, say anything, prove anything - but he would never say a word about love.
Well, Bodie had never been a slouch and the meal proved that even he could cook when he put his mind to it. As Doyle lounged on the sofa, he ran his tongue around his teeth, remembering. Soft tender meat in a delicious wine sauce, vegetables firm and fresh, just the way he liked them. And the desert - creme brulee! When had Bodie learned to make crme brulee!
The wine, too. A couple of whiskeys to start, then a fine Chardonnay followed by two bottles of what was arguably the best claret Doyle had ever set his lips to and now, tastebuds tingled with a lively but classic port to sit beside the fresh-ground coffee. Doyle didn't want to move an inch for fear of disturbing the glorious sensation of being so perfectly fed. Didn't happen often enough for it to be taken for granted.
Bodie weaved his way out of the kitchen with a pot of fresh coffee balanced between his hands. His lips were pursed in concentration as he lowered the pot to the table in front of Doyle. Having let got of it, he sank to his knees with a self-satisfied grin. "Told you I'd make it."
Doyle chuckled, no less inebriated than his partner - but he'd at least had the sense to stay seated. "I owe you ten p then. Take a marker?"
"Yeah, but you pay interest."
Bodie collected the port bottle, refilled his own glass before waving it somewhere near Doyle's - but nowhere near close enough. Doyle, sighing with vexation, levered himself up to the edge of the sofa and held out his empty glass. Bodie began to laugh - and then Doyle did too. Bottle and glass never got any closer. Soon Doyle could no longer sit up straight but in trying to lean back, his bottom half slipped off the sofa altogether and he landed in a giggling heap on the floor.
"Jesus, Ray, don't let Macklin see you drunk. He'd fail you on everything from hand-eye coordination to self-defence. That was a very elegant move, you know." This was said straight-faced - but the words were overwhelmed with more laughter as Bodie continued to seek out Doyle's precariously balanced glass. Doyle didn't bother getting up. Wasn't sure his legs could take it anyway. Instead, he held the glass out, his elbow locked. Almost in desperation, Bodie pushed the coffee table out of the way, grabbed Doyle's wrist with one hand and poured the port with the other. The bottle landed on the rug between them, a kind of truce line they could both reach when they needed.
Doyle finally got another mouthful of port and smacked his lips. When he looked up he found Bodie grinning at him. "What?"
"And you say I enjoy my food!"
"Well, I have to add here, to be fair, that I enjoyed your food tonight, too."
"Yeah? Good. I hope you made the most of it. Was a one off, that one."
"Oh, come on, Bodie," Doyle wheedled, deliberately putting on a pout, "Couldn't you do it just once more?"
As Bodie lifted his head to respond, Doyle added, "Every week?"
When Bodie's eyebrows shot up, Doyle dissolved into laughter - literally. His body gave up and he landed stretched out on the rug, one weak hand desperately holding his port glass aloft for safety.
The heater was on, his shoes were off and as the laughter slowly died away, he felt a great depth of warmth seep into him. Good food, good wine, good company. The kind of safe, undemanding haven he always got from Bodie. A kind of peace it wasn't really possible to have outside the front door. Here, they could take their armory off because those inside this room didn't fire deadly shots at each other.
Bodie crawled across the rug to sit beside him, his glass raised to see the firelight through it. "A good day today."
"Yeah. Great." "Pity we have to work tomorrow."
Like a wash of cold air, Doyle's mood shifted and focussed on the shadow of darkness that had abruptly reappeared around Bodie's eyes. Bodie sat cross-legged beside him, neatly in profile, his classic face clear of expression, his eyes reflecting firelight, lids half-closed, breathing slow and regular.
After a moment, Doyle realized he hadn't responded. "Well, if you feel like that," he began carefully, "why don't you take some time off? Have a proper holiday. Go somewhere and sit in the sun for a week."
"Me and the sun haven't gotten along since I left Angola."
"Alright." Doyle moved, took a sip of port and let his head drop back to rest on his arm. "Why don't you go up north? Do a bit of skiing. I've a mate who works up at Aviemore. He could put you up for a few days."
Bodie turned, amusement flickering at the corner of his eyes. "Tryin' to get rid of me now, eh? So that's the reward I get for cookin' you dinner. I knew there was a reason I never did it before. Damn, if only I'd known." As Bodie held the gaze, the amusement died away, leaving his expression bald and open - but suddenly full of meanings he'd never noticed before.
The breath caught in Doyle's throat as Bodie still didn't turn away. Time stretched out as neither of them moved nor said a word. Doyle felt a gnawing compulsion to shift or say something to break the moment, but something in that deep blue gaze made him pause; as though a message were written there that he would be able to read if he just looked long enough.
As though sensing his hesitation, Bodie raised an eyebrow and took the glass from Doyle's fingers. Doyle moved to object but one look from Bodie froze him. Before he could utter a word, Bodie stretched out on the rug beside him, brought his face close and brushed his lips across Doyle's.
Stunned, he couldn't move, couldn't even think. In those empty seconds, Bodie kissed him again, lingering, soft and yet still chaste. As though he were giving Doyle time to think, to feel. As though he were giving him a choice.
Bodie lifted his head and gazed steadily at Doyle. His eyes were as blue as a dusklit sky and as deep. So deep Doyle was tempted to simply lose himself in them.
As the eons stretched between them, Doyle finally found words, choosing them almost at random, his voice nowhere near as demanding as it should have been. "What... are you doing?"
"Something I've wanted to do for a long time."
"You told me this afternoon that if I had something important to tell you to just come out and say it. I thought actions would speak louder than words."
"But you kissed me," Doyle replied hoarsely, some of his shock reaching his voice at last.
"And I want to do it again."
Doyle couldn't think of a response, something that made sense. This was ... impossible! Bodie had never been interested in men - ever! Certainly had shown no sign of wanting anything more from Doyle than friendship. Had he gone mad? How was Doyle supposed to respond? Bodie had obviously spent a lot of time thinking about this, deciding what he wanted to do. Wasn't Doyle allowed the same grace?
He moved slightly in an effort to get up but the alcohol acted on muscles tired from the day's exercise. Instead, Bodie pressed a hand to his chest then leaned close again and Doyle could do nothing to stop him. This time the touch of Bodie's lips was warm and inviting, not so innocent, suggesting other sensations, other longings buried deep in a past and present he would never speak about in words. It was a touch Doyle would have responded to if he'd been dead for six months and again, the alcohol played against him, opening him up inside, leaving him exposed to whatever it was Bodie was playing at.
Was he playing? His eyes closed and for a moment, he surrendered himself to the simple touch of the kiss, parting his lips to allow Bodie's tongue space to explore. He tasted of port and coffee; masculine tastes. His lips pressed to Doyle's wanting more, demanding and yet still seeking what he hoped to find, confident and yet vulnerable, leaving a swirling eddy in the wake of his tongue, his movements, his declaration of desire. Enfolding together in a complex pattern, Bodie left a trail of clues in his kisses; clues Doyle, even in his drunken haze, could read and understand.
Bodie's hand came up his throat, the thumb pressing on his chin, urging a deeper commitment, his body shifting closer. The thumb on his chin was a gesture too erotic by far, the flesh touching his with a burning heat so sharp it was almost painful. His heart pounding now, Doyle couldn't help noticing the hardness pushed up against his thigh, his own body involuntarily moving against it, driving nearer.
Without thinking, his hand came up to the back of Bodie's neck and still the kiss went on. Doyle felt he was drowning but any desire to rise for air seemed beyond him. Was this what the dinner, the good wine and everything had been for? Had Bodie planned this night? All to seduce Doyle?
A wave of shock washed through him, followed by fear-laced anticipation. Both landed in a tangled confusion at his groin. Bodie. His Bodie was trying to seduce him. And he wasn't trying to stop it. No, he'd never thought of doing this with Bodie but for some reason, there was nothing repugnant about the idea - in fact, quite the opposite. The closeness, the smell and taste of Bodie seemed at that moment, in his alcohol-infested mind, the most natural thing in the world. But it wouldn't end with a kiss, would it?
What did Bodie want?
With a moan, Doyle pushed against Bodie's shoulder, forcing his head back to look into those fathomless eyes again. His heart pounded like a freight train and his breath came almost in gasps - but he had to know.
Even now, Bodie appeared to read his thoughts.
"I want you, Ray. I've wanted you for a long time. I think you want me - - at least, that's what your body is telling me. If you don't, say so and I'll leave you to sleep on the couch. I'll never say another word about it and I promise I won't lay a hand on you again. But if I'm right, let me take you to bed and show you how much I want you."
The whispered words acted like fire on Doyle's flesh, making him burn. Want? Did he want Bodie? With this furnace of desire flowing from his toes to the tip of his head, how could he want anything else? Blinding, surprising, shocking desire that tugged at memories of the last five years and the strange almost impossible bond they'd always shared. Doyle had never wanted a man before, though he'd had plenty of offers. Women had always been enough.
Bodie's hand was on his face again, fingers brushing over his eyebrows and lips, demanding and yet prepared to wait for an answer.
But this was Bodie! His partner, his... partner. Life and death, side by side, almost every day for the last five years. How could he just want to touch, to feel the hard body laid beside him, to desire the fruits so readily offered? Why so suddenly?
Because it was Bodie - and because he was here, now, watching him with veiled expectation and no little fear of rejection, for the very first time opening up to him a little in a very personal and important way that touched him deeply. But Doyle didn't want to reject him. No. He wanted to go on feeling this odd twist of excitement unfolding in his gut, the prickles of anticipation darting into his arms and legs, the way the booze enjoined his flesh and bone to melt against the strong figure beside him. The hardness at his thigh begged something. Curiosity and yes, lust too. Sex with Bodie would be nothing less than an adventure.
Doyle let his hand slip from Bodie's neck to touch the side of his cheek, shaking a little with a tumble of emotions. In one brief, twisted moment, they settled and let him gaze upon that familiar face with something he recognized had existed a long, long time. It had taken Bodie's courage to make it physical.
That's why it felt so easy, so natural, to be touched and kissed by Bodie. That's why it felt right.
Hissing in a little breath of curiously delighted joy, Doyle lifted a corner of his mouth in an attempt to smile. In one blinding jolt, Bodie's hesitation was gone as his eyes lit up with pleasure, replaced by a burning hunger setting his body alight. Suddenly those lips were on his again, crushing and sweet, hard and demanding. Doyle felt himself go under again and this time, revelled in the cascade washing over his body.
Without his volition, his hands began to move, pulling Bodie closer, feeling the hard flesh beneath the shirt. Suddenly, he didn't want the cloth in the way. Fumbling, he began to undo buttons and Bodie paused in his assault on Doyle's mouth long enough to help. Then Doyle felt the skin, smooth and soft to the touch, solid and ferocious against him.
And Bodie was undressing him too but Doyle barely noticed until his own shirt was off and their half-naked bodies pressed together for the first time, electrifying every nerve in his body.
Groaning now and dizzy with desire, Doyle began to kiss Bodie in return, allowing his craving to fuel his movements. From the short breaths in Bodie's chest, it was obvious he was barely containing his own desire. His mouth left Doyle's and travelled south down throat and shoulder, stopping to lick and kiss, to bite and linger. Doyle didn't know what he was doing - but he no longer cared. This was too right, too perfect to stop.
Bodie had been right. Doyle did want him. Did want this. With Bodie.
A deep-throated groan escaped him as Bodie's tongue lapped across one nipple, drawing it firm and upright instantly. Soon the other joined it and Doyle's head began to pound. He was hot and feverish - but this was no sickness. He allowed his hands to slip down Bodie's chest to finally rub against that mound of flesh between the thighs, that hidden knoll of secrets begging to be discovered. Begging for Doyle to be the one to discover them.
But Bodie grabbed his attention so swiftly, he gasped. Strong hands now touched him where he burned, deft fingers undoing the zip on his jeans. Involuntarily, his hips rose in anticipation and in one fluid movement, Bodie had his cock free. Instantly, Bodie shifted to his knees, both hands palming the hard shaft before him.
"God, Ray," came the breathed words, distressed and harsh. "You are so beautiful."
Then, before Doyle could utter a word, all thought was stripped from him as Bodie raked his tongue across the straining head. Doyle bucked in response and Bodie took the whole head into his mouth. Then the rest, sucking hard, giving no quarter. Doyle half sat up, one hand's fingers digging into Bodie's shoulder, the other taking his weight. He watched, knowing the moment would come soon - too soon - and he would give himself up in abandonment. But just for a moment, he wanted to see, to know and remember that this was Bodie, the man he had loved for so long without even realizing it.
Yes, love. Want and love and desire, all wrapped up into one clear bundle. This wasn't just sex. This wasn't even the alcohol. This was making love. Doyle knew. He'd done it before with more than one woman. Even so, nothing before had prepared him for the sharpness, the dazzling certainty that this was right. He did love Bodie - and even if the other man had physically repulsed him, Doyle would have gone to bed with him if only to make him happy -
Doyle bit in a lip, his eyes going wide. His hand slipped from Bodie's shoulder.
Did Bodie feel love? He'd never said anything. Only about wanting and desiring. Was that all it was to him? Simply sex?
Was that what had been bugging Bodie for the last couple of months? Coming to terms with a change in his sexuality? And Doyle was the experiment? Somebody Bodie could trust? Was that all?
In all the last five years, Doyle had never seen Bodie in love. He'd only ever seen this side of him. The sensual side that caught and trapped women by the dozen, like a proud beautiful spider inside a cold deadly web.
And tomorrow -
Tomorrow they would have to face each other, remembering what they had done tonight...
No, for all that it felt right and so wonderful, Doyle couldn't just lose himself in it. There was too much else to loose. The partnership. The best friendship he'd ever known.
And in the end, he'd lose Bodie.
With a cry, he pulled away, scrambling to his knees. He had to get out, now, before it was too late. They needed time to think, to decide - - to know what it was they both wanted. This wasn't something they could idly and drunkenly fall into. Sex now would only confuse everything. He had to get out.
"Ray?" Bodie was coming to his feet, his hands out ready to stop Doyle.
"I'm going home." Already Doyle had his clothes straightened, shirt back on, one shoe on his foot. Finding the other, he shoved it on, not bothering with laces. Jacket, there by the door.
"Ray, wait!" Bodie grabbed him but Doyle twisted away.
"No, Bodie. I have to go home. Now!"
"You can't drive. You've had too much to drink." Bodie was following him to the door.
"Get a taxi." Then Doyle was outside and running down the stairs so fast he almost stumbled. He arrived on the pavement half-afraid Bodie would follow him but there was no sound from the door. Turning swiftly, he headed down the street, his feet breaking into a run. At the corner, he managed to flag down a taxi and he jumped in, spiking a glance back up the street. Bodie was there, barefoot in the snow, just watching. A second later, the taxi moved off and Doyle lost sight of him.
Cowley's voice raked down the corridor like a call from hell and Bodie paused mid stride. He'd spent half an hour so far trying to find out if Doyle was anywhere in the building without actually asking anybody. Not the easiest thing to do. But he had to be here - he certainly wasn't at home because Bodie had checked there first.
He had to find Doyle. Had to talk to him, had to explain, make him understand, try and find out why the hell he'd run off like that when it was so obvious he'd wanted... At least, that's what it had looked like at the time...
He turned slowly, keeping his movements quiet. With any luck, Cowley might think he hadn't heard. The truth was, the last thing he wanted to do today was face George Cowley in that kind of mood. Well, perhaps that wasn't exactly the last thing he wanted to do. Second last. The other would have to wait.
"Sir." No, no way out of it now. Bodie suppressed a sigh and headed back for Cowley's office. Why was the old bastard so cranky today? There were no desperate measures being planned, no ground-breaking cases in the offing. Everything on the boil had pretty much been wrapped up last week.
Hell! Had Ray said something about last night? Would he do something like that?
Bodie reached the door and peered inside. No sign of Doyle and from the look on Cowley's face, no word from him either.
"What time of day do you call this, 3.7?"
"Er, about nine oh eight by my watch, sir." Bodie stayed outside.
Cowley's expression came back so flat, Bodie quickly stepped through the door and presented himself before the desk, upright and ready for whatever. "You called, sir?"
Cowley pulled his glasses off and dropped them on the desk. He sat back and let out a noisome sigh, deliberately designed to communicate the precise level of dissatisfaction without actually having to quantify it with words.
"Late night, 3.7?"
"Not really, sir. Just not much sleep."
"I hope the young lady was worth it."
"Lack of sleep?"
Lady? If only it had been so simple - but Bodie didn't have the energy to bother. "No question, sir."
Another sigh, this one more a combination of satisfaction and disparagement. "Very well. You can relieve Jax at the Willard house. You'll be alternating with him for the next week."
Bodie frowned and glanced down at the Old Man. "What about Doyle, sir?"
"He's requested a few days off to make the most of the recent heavy falls of snow in Scotland. Since he's owed more days than even you, 3.7 and since we've not got a lot happening at the moment, I thought it prudent I give my permission."
Bodie's mouth had gone dry and he had to swallow before speaking. Something unpleasant was jumping around in his stomach, upsetting his concentration. "Scotland?"
"Doyle has gone skiing, Bodie," Cowley replied with a crispness usually reserved for men possessing limited intelligence. "A holiday? You remember those?"
"Not too well, sir," Bodie replied from habit, his mind racing. Doyle had run off, really run off - so far that Bodie couldn't follow him, couldn't explain, couldn't apologize. What would happen when he came back?
Would he come back?
"He asked me to tell you he'd call you - but why you both suddenly think I'm your message service, I don't know."
Bodie's thoughts were still with Doyle so at first he didn't notice the way Cowley had risen to his feet. Abruptly the haze cleared and Bodie nodded quickly, already turning for the door. "Willard House, sir. Relieve Jax. On my way, sir."
The clock on the mantelpiece ticked harsh and sharp into the silence of the empty night. Bodie counted the markers, one after another, blind and deaf to all else but that steady rhythm, the counterpoint to his own pulse. His feet and hands were numb with cold but inside, where the whisky swam, he was warm and cosy. The only warm part in his entire flat.
He sat on the sofa, his legs stretched out, feet resting on the coffee table beside the empty bottle. The glass remained in his fingers, empty also. He didn't want to let it go, didn't want to loose something else that was empty besides him.
Doyle hadn't called. And he wouldn't. Bodie had blown it in the worst possible way.
Jesus, why had he just run off like that when it was so obvious he'd wanted to keep going? What mercurial thoughts had struck that woolly head so violently he'd broken off before they'd really got started on this new relationship?
Had he changed his mind?
And that would change everything. If it had only been a single kiss, they might have survived it - but Bodie had shown how he felt - and Doyle knew and had felt the same, if only for a moment. Feelings like that wouldn't stay submerged for long. No, they'd resurface in odd moments, when rage at other things snagged their discipline. They would snap at each other, resentment and anger flying in the face of the only friendship Bodie had ever really valued.
Doyle would know this as surely as Bodie did.
And just as surely, Bodie knew it was over. All of it. Five years of effort.
He'd taken that risk, believing - or perhaps only hoping - that it was the right thing to do, that since Doyle did care for him at least, he might take it in the spirit it was intended. That if he wasn't interested, he would just say no.
But he hadn't. He'd said yes. Bodie had seen it in his eyes; acceptance first, then a wanting almost equal to his own. He had seen it. And felt it. Doyle had kissed him in return, had taken equal part - until some idea had struck him, some wave of revulsion perhaps, and then he'd got up and run away. Just like that.
And just like that, it was all over. Everything.
But try as he might, no thought of what he should do next sprang like hope into his mind. Instead, his head was as empty as his glass. He was frozen in a single moment in time, unable to move forward or back, to want or desire anything at all.
He was tired. So tired now he couldn't sleep. The last four nights had given him snatches of unconsciousness but no rest. Simply moments when his brain had switched off out of sheer desperation. Blessed moments when he no longer had to think, to reflect on how easy it was to throw away something so important, so necessary to every way he saw his life now.
It had taken him twenty-six years to find a home. Twenty-six years looking for the place where he could belong and still be himself, do the things that mattered, in the way that was natural to him. George Cowley had changed his life that day he'd spoken to Major Freddy Nairn. A step sideways from SAS to CI5 had brought focus to the haze, sharp reality to a life filled with angry prevarication. Pointlessness had threatened Bodie more than once until that day. Then old George had made the suggestion. Join CI5 and do something with all that angst. Find a tangible way to fight back.
Until the words had actually been spoken, Bodie had never even realized that was what he'd needed. Give it all some purpose, some meaning, some reason to be. A reason for Bodie to be.
So CI5 had become the place for him to be, his home - but almost from the first, the soul of that home had been Ray Doyle. He had the reasons - - all of them, and he beat them into Bodie, day after day, year after year, and love had been born that way. Teaching him without realizing it, making him understand that the reasons were very real and worth believing in, and Bodie had discovered the first threads of a faith in himself that he could understand and see with his own eyes. Doyle's reasons became Bodie's reasons and he put roots down in his new home and felt no wish ever to move from this place.
Oh, yes, he'd known this would happen. Months of thinking hard thoughts, of wondering and discovering feelings he wouldn't normally bother to question. But because they'd involved Doyle, he had questioned, wanting to make sure, to be positive. Doyle was worth that much. Worth so much more.
And so Bodie had given Ray a small piece of his heart, afraid to trust, but doing so anyway. And Ray had taken it in, crushed it and tossed it back in his face.
Yeah, he'd known it would happen. But knowing didn't make it any easier, didn't make the hurt duller, didn't make it go away. What he needed right now was some way to freeze-dry the rock that had taken up residence in the middle of his chest, so much worse than Marikka. Carve that part out of him so he could forget it quicker. Had to forget because remembering made it hard to live, to breathe, to think. Even the booze did little more than soften the edges. They were still there and drew blood every time he touched them.
An idiot. After all these years, he should have known better. Should've had the sense to walk away when he could. He pulled in his bottom lip and swallowed against his dry throat. With heavy muscles, he hauled his feet off the table and got up. He held out a hand to steady himself against the wall as he wound his way into the kitchen. He thrust the glass under the tap and filled it with water. He guzzled the whole thing down in one go and refilled it immediately. He drank again and it was only when he was finished that he noticed the other noise intruding into the blanket silence.
The door buzzer.
For a moment, hope slapped against his face, sobering him just a little. Doyle?
Still holding the glass, he whirled around, nearly loosing his balance. Grabbing hold of the kitchen bench, he steadied and made for the front door. He stuck a thumb to the intercom, like a man reaching for a lifebelt.
He frowned. Didn't sound much like Doyle. No, sounded more like Cowley. But what was he doing coming here at this time of night? "Sir?"
"Open the door, Bodie. I need to talk to you."
"Okay." Bodie replied, uncaring. The Old Man wouldn't be impressed by the empty bottle on the table but since Bodie was leaving CI5 it didn't matter much, did it?
Time to grow up and leave home.
Footsteps outside made him turn back to the door. He'd almost forgotten Cowley was out there. God, he needed some sleep. With any luck, the Old Man wouldn't stay long - especially if there was nothing to give him to drink.
Half teetering on his feet, Bodie reached out and undid the locks, swung the door wide. Cowley wasn't alone. Murphy stood behind him, a shadow without expression. Bodie waved them in then forgot them as he turned and stumbled his way back to the living room. He didn't sit. That would show disrespect to the boss and the boss didn't think much of disrespect. Wouldn't look good on Bodie's reference would it? Failing to show proper respect when handing in resignation. Was probably a hanging crime in some countries. Was England one of them? He couldn't remember.
Cowley was back, standing in front of him, wavering from side to side. And he seemed to have a problem with fuzziness. So did Murph. Was it foggy outside? Bring it in with them?
"I see you've been having a drink, 3.7?"
"Yessir," Bodie replied, suddenly realizing he still held his empty glass. Coming up with a boyish smile, he clasped it to his chest like it was his only friend left in the world. "Sorry, I can't offer you one. Would've got a second bottle if I'd known you were comin'. S'this a social call, sir?"
Cowley glanced at Murphy then turned back to Bodie, "No, it is not. I hadn't expected to see you drunk - but then again, perhaps it's for the best. Sit down, Bodie."
"Fall asleep, sir. Not polite. Better standing."
"Aye." Cowley pulled in a breath. "I've got some news, Bodie. Bad news, about Doyle."
For a second, Bodie could do nothing but blink. Little sod has gone and done it, hasn't he? Resigned before Bodie could. Typical! Probably blames himself for the whole damned thing. Always had a way with guilt. Never mind that sometimes things were Bodie's fault. Like this one. All his fault. Should've left his armour on. Should've...
"There's been an accident."
"Uh huh?" Bodie tried to keep track of this. Doyle resigning was an accident?
"Monday afternoon, Doyle was out skiing off piste with his friend and two others. There was an avalanche. They were all caught. Only Doyle's friend, Sam Cocrane, survived. He's in hospital now with multiple injuries. He regained consciousness long enough to tell Search and Rescue that he saw Doyle and the others caught in the direct line of the snowfall. So far no bodies have been recovered."
Bodie stopped breathing.
"Doyle and the other two men remain missing, buried beneath a hundred foot of snow. Teams have been trying to get into the area since but last night the search was officially called off due to further falls of snow. Bad weather is expected to continue to the end of the week. They hope at that point to go back and recover the bodies." Cowley came to an end, his voice grey. "I'm sorry, Bodie."
Bodie blinked slowly, exhaustion and booze weighing like lead on his eyelids, on his brain. A growing pain in his chest woke him a little and with vague surprise, he allowed air into his lungs. Odd; he'd never had to think about breathing before -
His knees folded beneath him and he sank to the floor, the glass still clasped between his hands. His mouth opening to speak, he lifted his face towards Cowley - but nothing coherent came out. Just some rasping sound.
And then the words. "Doyle? Dead?"
Cowley, suddenly devoid of his fuzziness, nodded slowly, "Aye, laddie. I'm sorry."
The glass snapped between his hands but it wasn't until Cowley dashed forward and grabbed the pieces that he looked down and saw the blood. Doyle's blood. No, his blood.
But Doyle was the one who'd died... Shot. In his flat. Two bullets... No. Cowley had said Doyle had been killed skiing, in Scotland. Under a ton of pure snow. So why was there blood on his hands?
"Murphy, get a cloth so I can stop the bleeding! And put the kettle on. He needs some coffee. Quickly man!"
"It's all right, Bodie. Just keep still. The cut is deep. You'll need some stitches. Murphy? Call the doctor and get him to bring his bag over."
I'm so sorry. And now you're dead. So very sorry. Sorry.
"Lean on me, laddie. Let's get you to the sofa. You'll be more comfortable there. That's right, keep the hand elevated. Now, just let me wrap this around it. It will hurt while I put pressure on it."
My fault. I loved you. My fault.
"Doctor will be here in ten minutes, sir. Coffee's on it's way."
So beautiful. Impossible not to love you. Ray?
"Better get the heating on in here. Don't know what the man's been doing, sitting here in the cold. See if there's a blanket in the bedroom."
Ray? Answer me.
"Just lean forward, Bodie and let Murphy put that round your shoulders. There, that's better. I think you chose the right night to get drunk, laddie. With any luck it will dull the pain a little."
Bodie gazed ahead into a night blacker than the pits of hell and from deep within the yawning abyss rose a tidal wave of sheer, consuming, blinding terror.
And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose
Murphy picked up the last paper, checked the number on it and slotted it into the right space in the file. He signed the cover sheet just as Anson and Taggart came into the office. Taggart went straight to his desk but Anson paused, tossing a glance into the corridor to make sure it was empty.
Murphy raised an eyebrow, put the file on top of a larger one and came to his feet. "Nothing yet."
"Jesus, Murph, what do you mean, nothing yet? It's been a week! How long can it take?"
"Calm down, mate," Taggart grunted.
"It's alright for you," Anson said over his shoulder, "you and Doyle weren't exactly mates."
"And therefore I shouldn't give a damn if they don't find his body till spring? Is that what you're saying?"
Anson shook his head, "No, of course not. I mean..." he shook his head again, glancing at Murphy in something of a plea. "I mean... we have to do something. We have to..."
"Say goodbye?" Taggart added without moving.
"Yeah," Anson breathed.
"And that's hard to do without a body to bury."
Anson frowned. "It's not just that. Murphy, you know what I mean."
Murphy picked up his file and nodded. "Yeah, I know." He headed for the door but one last question from Taggart made him pause.
"You know we've been on this damn case all week. Tell me, how's Bodie doing?"
With his gaze on the corridor and Cowley's door a few feet away, Murphy could only shrug. "No idea."
"We do need to do something, Murph," Anson added. "Tell the Old Man, will you?"
Murphy sighed but said nothing more. He headed towards Cowley's office and knocked. A word from within and he opened the door.
"Is that the report?" Cowley looked up with a deep frown, his glasses perched on the edge of his nose as they usually did when the CI5 Controller got too tired to notice.
"Yes, sir. As complete as it can be at this stage."
"Well, sit you down while I take a look."
Cowley opened the file with a shred of impatience, sifting through the paper without taking time to read Murphy's summary. Murphy sat in the uncomfortable chair and openly wished to be anywhere else. Anywhere but back up north. That had been hard enough once already.
He'd not been able to get within fifty miles of the mountain where Doyle had been killed. For the last week, blizzards had swept central Scotland cutting off huge sections of the country. Roads were impassable, lakes frozen, services suspended. The pundits were already calling it one of the worst winters in recorded history.
And that was the one Doyle had chosen to go skiing in.
It had taken Murphy two days to get from Glasgow to the mountains - and still not close enough to where Doyle had died. He'd spent hours questioning the Search and Rescue men, gleaning their candid opinion of the conditions and finding out every detail of their attempts at rescue and recovery. Five attempts had been made to go back but each had failed due to a bad turn in the weather. The Commander of the area had now put a moratorium on any further attempts until the blizzards died down - now not expected for another five days. By that time, the sky might have dumped another fifty foot of snow and any hope of finding Doyle and the other two men before it melted would be gone.
"And how is Sam Cocrane doing?"
Cowley's voice dragged Murphy back from his thoughts. "Not too bad, considering. He only spent one night on the mountain and he managed not to lose his backpack in the fall. He's an experienced mountain man and had survival equipment with him. However, having heard his story first hand, I'd say his survival was due more to luck than anything else. He's got a few broken bones and some internal injuries but the cold slowed his metabolism down and basically saved his life."
"A lucky man indeed. And he saw Doyle and the others go under the snow?"
"Yes, sir. They'd climbed the mountain early in the morning with the intention of skiing down to the valley and then staying in an old bothy the S&R people keep stocked with fuel and emergency supplies. Cocrane does this kind of thing every year. Both the Highlands and Cairngorms are scattered with these shelters. I've stayed in them myself, when I've gone climbing in the summer."
Cowley put the file down and took off his glasses. He lifted a hand to rub the bridge of his nose. "Go on."
"Well, Cocrane took the group out before dawn and they reached the summit at around 1pm. Cocrane knew they were pressed for time so he insisted they not stick around for more than a quick photo. He pointed out the route they would ski down and warned them that they'd have to do it in stages as there are some sheer cliff faces which cut off the longer slopes. He went down each section first to lay a trail. Then he'd wait for them to join him. He'd completed the second section when the avalanche began. He was actually watching the slope above when the snow began to move. He saw the three men in a line, then lost all three in the whiteout. He realized he was going to be next and launched off at a tangent in an effort to miss the worst. He said he was moving all of ten seconds before his legs were knocked out from under him. He doesn't remember too much after that until it was dark. He was injured but not buried. He had a radio with him but it took some time before he got a call through for help. Search and Rescue arrived about an hour after sunrise but Cocrane was unconscious by that point. They got him out by helicopter and as you know, three hours later, the weather closed in and nobody's been able to get near the mountain since."
Cowley closed his eyes and let out a long breath. He was silent a long time but then he picked up his glasses again and glanced down at the file. "You've done a good job on this, 6.2. I appreciate how difficult it must have been."
Difficult? Going all the way up there to do what amounted to an inquest on the death of a good friend? A man he'd known for almost six years? No, that wasn't difficult - coming back without a body was difficult. Knowing he would have to explain it all to Bodie was difficult.
And what to do about the photo, eh? Give it to Cowley to stick in his file - or keep it and give it to Bodie when he thought the moment was right. How long would it be before Bodie could face looking at a picture of Doyle on top of the mountain that killed him, mere minutes before he died?
How Cocrane's camera had survived could be described as something of a miracle. More so was the fact that of the eleven photos on the roll, only the one of Doyle had survived in tact. Murphy had had the film developed more as an adjunct to the inquiry. He'd not expected to find the only result to be a smiling Doyle surrounded by white and grey, enjoying his last of life.
Murphy frowned and shook his head. As usual, he kept his silence, knowing Cowley didn't want to know how he felt, what he was thinking. Death on this job was a daily risk - but simply because of that, everyone got to believing that when they were away, on holiday or something, they were immune to danger.
Strangely, a memory came to him from years ago. One day in the first weeks after he'd joined CI5. He'd met up with Doyle and they'd gone for a drink somewhere. Halfway through the evening, Murphy had explained how his mother didn't like the idea of him belonging to such a violence-loving squad, taking the opinion that if a policeman carried a gun he could expect to get shot at. Doyle had taken the comments seriously and replied that sure, the job was dangerous - but any of them, gun-carrying or not, could go out their front doors tomorrow and get hit by a bus.
Murphy's mother had not been impressed by such advice.
A glass appeared on the desk before him, a familiar amber fluid splashed into its depths. Murphy hadn't even noticed Cowley had moved. Without speaking, he collected the glass and downed the whisky in one swallow.
"Aye, I thought you might need that." Cowley took his own glass back around to his chair. "Have you spoken to Bodie since you got back last night?"
"Only to let him know they've not found Doyle's body."
"How was he?"
"Okay I guess - though it was a good thing I didn't expect anything more than monosyllables from him."
"No more than anybody else has had from him. Doctor Ross has observed him from a distance."
"She's worried - as am I. Bodie has always been one to get things like this off his chest. But not this time. I've had someone watching his place since the news came in but Bodie has not left his flat in a week. Susan took pity on him and took him some groceries. She stopped by yesterday to see him but he'd hardly touched them. She also said he'd lost weight and obviously hadn't been sleeping."
Murphy frowned and put his glass back on the desk. "So what can we do?"
"About the only thing we can do. We have to end this, here and now. Bodie has to have a line drawn for him. If not, he'll go under. He's too tough a character to allow any of us close enough to drag him to safety. I'm afraid it's only at times like this that we begin to appreciate just how much partners rely on each other."
"You mean, if Doyle was alive, he wouldn't let Bodie do this?"
"Exactly - and no, the irony hasn't escaped me, either. No," Cowley rose to his feet and turned to the window, "we need an end and we need it now. I have organized a memorial service for next week. Hopefully by then we might have Doyle's body - but if not, we'll have the service anyway. We all need that line drawn, 6.2."
When Cowley said nothing more, Murphy rose to his feet and headed for the door. Kathy was waiting for him at home, but he really had to go and see Bodie. Somebody had to try.
The flat was a mess - at least, outside it was. Boxes and bags piled up along the landing, organized and chaotic at the same time. Murphy carefully picked his way through it all to find Bodie's front door open.
The man suddenly appeared with another box in his arms and Murphy had to press himself up against the wall to get out of the way. Bodie dumped the box down and went back inside. Murphy followed.
Yes, the flat was a mess inside as well. Paper was strewn everywhere, bits and pieces pushed under things, the table turned on its side to make way. The sofa was pulled out from the wall and two of the pictures which normally hung above the fireplace were standing against the wall. The kitchen was about the only room untouched - but even there, cups and glasses were stacked high, unwashed. Notably absent were plates or any other sign that Bodie had been eating.
Murphy gingerly stepped among the debris to find Bodie rummaging through a wardrobe in the bedroom, totally immune to Murphy's presence. "What are you doing?"
Murphy nodded, glancing around. "Lotta mess for nothing."
"But that's supposed to reduce mess, not increase it."
Bodie appeared, stuffing things into a plastic bag. He didn't so much as glance in Murphy's direction. His face was pale, his eyes feverish and bright against dark shadows beneath. His lips were pursed in a thin line as though concentration on the task at hand were the only thing he was interested in. Murphy was about as important as a lamp stand.
Bodie wore a thin sweater with holes at the elbows and stomped around barefoot in jeans ripped at the knees. The heating was blaring but all the windows were open, curtains knotted up and out of the way. There were no sheets on the bed and only a single pillow sat in the middle of the mattress. Murphy could see no signs of blankets.
"Are you moving out?"
Bodie didn't respond, only pushing past him to the hall cupboard.
"Bodie? Are you moving out?" Murphy trailed behind him. This was what he'd feared most. "Bodie, answer me!"
At that, Bodie stopped, dropped the bag and turned to face him. The tone was level though without any form of expression. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the man's face. It teetered between bored apathy and ragged desperation. Bodie was walking close to the edge - and he knew it. "Look, Murphy, I've had to put up with the whole of CI5 traipsing in here over the last week, all offering their sympathies as though that was going to change anything. Doyle's dead, okay? So can we just leave it?"
"No." Murphy didn't move. Instead, he blocked Bodie's passage back to the door. "I want to talk to you."
"Why? Found Doyle's body yet?"
"Then we've nothing to talk about, have we."
"Don't you want to know how it happened?"
"I know how it happened." Bodie turned back to the cupboard, dismissing Murphy. "Doyle ran away and died. End of story."
As Bodie began hauling things off the upper shelves, Murphy frowned, "What do you mean, Doyle ran away?"
"Bodie?" Murphy began, softer this time, daring the other man to respond. He reached out and touched his arm - and Bodie threw him off with a savagery that sent Murphy up against the opposite wall. The moment Murphy's hands were off him, Bodie turned and resumed his work, hands trembling as each article was retrieved from the shelves, examined and replaced in a different spot.
"C'mon, Bodie," Murphy tried again, keeping his distance and his voice quiet. "Leave me alone."
"You need to talk."
Bodie kept working, picking up things he'd already looked at. "Oh? And you're prepared to listen are you? Just like everybody else who's been here? Asking how I feel? Not wanting to know the answer? Sure, who does? I mean, we live a dangerous life. Any day we could get shot or knifed or blown up - so we don't talk about it, do we? Because the moment we start thinking about fear, and forming it into words, we make it real and if we did that, none of us would be able to do our jobs any more. So tell me, Murph, do you really want to know how I feel or are you just like everyone else? You just want to hear the clean version?"
Lifting his chin, Murphy replied steadily, "What's the clean version?"
"I feel fine." Clipped, hard, brittle.
Murphy swallowed, "Then, yes, I really do want to know how you feel."
Bodie said nothing for a moment, but began shoving things back into the cupboard with a barely contained violence, the tremor in his hands now transferring to his voice. "Doyle ran away from me. I did something and he ran away to Scotland and got killed in an accident."
Silence reigned for some seconds before Murphy ventured another question. "So you think Ray's death is your fault? What did you do?"
Bodie stopped abruptly, pulling air into his lungs. Then he turned swiftly and headed for the bathroom, but the answer floated after him like a shadow of accusation. "I lied to him."
He'd had to get the spare keys from Central because he couldn't find the set Doyle had given him when he'd moved in here after he got out of hospital. Cowley had organized a nice open, spacious first floor flat without too many stairs because he knew that it would take Doyle a long time to get his fitness back and much of that time would be spent inside, in this place.
Of course, Ray had gone off the deep end with boredom. When they'd operated on him to remove the bullets, they'd cracked his ribs and the muscle damage alone was enough to keep him immobile - so any kind of exercise was almost impossible. Physiotherapy was the only thing left to him, but even that, in the first weeks had been an agony of almost indomitable proportions.
Bodie remembered. He'd been there, helped when he could, offered support when he couldn't. Most of all, he'd simply been there.
The front door stuck a little as he turned the key. He put his toe against the bottom and pressed and with a groan of complaint, the door opened. The air beyond was cold and a little damp. Two weeks without heating in the middle of winter was usually all it took in a building of this age.
He turned directly into the kitchen, knowing he was looking for something that couldn't be there. Doyle and his cooking. All that veggie stuff, some quite unimaginable, almost as bad a some of the things Bodie had been forced to consume in Africa, though Doyle's stuff tasted better. Doyle had never quite understood why Bodie insisted on the luxury of junk food, as though having been deprived of it for so many years wouldn't make him appreciate it all the more.
He opened the fridge. Instantly the smell assailed him and he shut the door again. Do that last. For now, leave everything in there - the stink along with it. Empty it later and take the bag out as he left.
The sink had dishes in it, unwashed but rinsed. He couldn't see any dust on the counter surfaces but it was so dark already, that didn't mean there wasn't any there. Resisting the need to switch lights on, Bodie picked up a knife and placed it with the dishes. Do those later, too. Leave the easy stuff till last.
No. He wasn't here. Even in the darkness, shades of streetlight bleeding through the windows, there was nothing in this room to suggest Doyle had just popped out for a moment. It looked like he was never coming back.
He left the kitchen. The living room in this place was wide and square, with two bay windows along the street wall. The curtains were pulled and fat patches of light gave the carpet an unusual pattern. He switched on a lamp, low enough not to glare, bright enough for him to see where he was going. At least, in this room.
Doyle had cleaned before going to Scotland. He'd at least thought to do that much. But when had he done it? Between fighting off Bodie's advances and flying up to Scotland? Or before that, before he realized his life was about to change forever, permanently?
Everything was as he remembered. The Da Vinci print above the fireplace, the twin sofas opposite, no coffee table between them, but a rough antique three legged ledge perched to the left of Doyle's favourite corner seat. A coffee mug ring was clearly visible from where he stood, yet to be wiped up.
The bookcase on his right drew his gaze. Tall and crammed with tomes both weighty and light. Bodie touched none of them. His fingers would have burned.
On he went, down the short passage to the bathroom door. He switched on the light here, but Doyle had removed most of his toiletries for his trip north. Only the remnants of a tube of toothpaste and half a stub of soap lay where he could easily see it. Without thinking, Bodie picked up the dried soap and breathed in the familiar scent. Instantly, sharp pain stabbed down his throat to his stomach and he dropped the thing like it was poison.
Leaving the bathroom behind, he didn't hesitate when he should have and found himself crossing the threshold of the bedroom. Here the curtains were drawn but light from the hallway drew a sharp rectangle across the floor, bed and onto the wall opposite. Bodie stopped.
There on the floor before him, crumpled and trodden on as though from distaste, was the shirt Doyle had worn to dinner at Bodie's place. Discarded on the return home, Doyle would have flung it off, perhaps had a shower to wash away the touch of Bodie on his flesh. Then, busy with packing, Doyle would have walked all over it, back and forth, every time he'd entered this room.
There was nothing else lying on the floor. Other than that, the bedroom was spotlessly tidy. Only the shirt had suffered.
Bodie stepped over it and sat on the edge of the bed, studying the faint sheen of cloth in the distant light. His body bent forward, his fingers collected it, lifting it from its graveyard, felt the small neat buttons, the softness of the fabric.
He remembered that softness when Doyle had last worn it. A deceptive softness that had covered the hard muscles of Doyle's chest and back. He remembered touching the cloth, touching the skin, touching Doyle and suddenly he couldn't breathe any more. His throat constricted so tight, he was in danger of suffocating. He left the shirt draped over his knees and, blank and empty, he buried his face in his hands.
For long minutes he just sat there, forcing air into himself, almost wishing he could deliberately fail, for each breath only hardened the pain, sharpened it, brought it back to life, fed it and harvested it. The produce of love, the crops of failure, the fruits of guilt.
The whispered word brushed against his awareness but he didn't look up. He knew who it was but for the life of him, this one time in his life, he couldn't summon the strength to hide what he was feeling.
Kathy remained by the door for some seconds before coming to kneel before him. Wisely she didn't lay a comforting hand on him. She just waited, allowing her patient presence to filter through his despair. Then, before the silence could drag, she spoke, softly and evenly, "Michael told me you might come here tonight. He was worried about you. He would have come himself but he got called on duty. Even so, I wanted to come instead. I loved Ray, too."
Swallowing hard, Bodie shook his head within his hands, unable to look at her, to acknowledge what she'd said. She was a treasure, this one, a woman Murphy was obviously determined to keep hold of and with very good reason. People like Kathy were hard to find.
"Sorry, Kath," Bodie finally found words, but hardly had the voice to speak them, "but I just can't do this."
Now she did touch him, gently, a few fingers on his forearm. Not enough to be demanding or threatening, just enough to be real, close. "What can't you do, Bodie?"
"This. Here. Goin' through his stuff, sorting it out, getting rid of it. Pulling his existence apart piece by piece. I can't do it."
He felt her hands on his, pulling just enough to free them from his face, making him look at her, at the compassion in her lovely eyes, at the absence of pity, and instead, the presence of shared grief. Yes, she had loved Doyle. They'd known each other from his days in the Met and in fact, had been responsible for her and Murphy meeting. She was hurting too.
Faintly, Bodie reached out and pressed fingers to her cheek, an acknowledgment, no more.
"Bodie, you don't have to do anything. His things can wait. Cowley won't do anything for a couple of weeks at least. He's not quite as insensitive as you boys make out, you know." This was ended with the suggestion of a smile which Bodie tried to mirror. Then she was reading his gaze steadily, strong and determined but not threatening. With surprise, Bodie felt a brush of the same safety he'd always felt in Doyle's presence. "Tell me what happened, Bodie. Tell me why Ray ran away."
Mesmerised and caught by the simple directness of the question, Bodie released one single band of steel strapped across the inside of his chest; he told the truth. "I kissed him."
Amazingly, Kathy didn't so much as bat a single eyelid. "And then he ran?"
"No." Bodie swallowed again, moistening his mouth. Her quiet, her strength and peacefulness were hypnotic and he willingly followed along. "I tried to seduce him."
"He didn't stop you?"
"Not in the beginning. He never even tried. It was incredible."
"I let him think about it and he decided pretty quickly. Then he was as involved with it as me. I mean, he wanted me too and I felt so...good... And then..."
"We were in the middle of... Well, we were..."
"And he ran?"
"Yeah. Just got up, threw his clothes back on and ran out. I couldn't stop him. I never saw him again. At six the next morning, he got on a plane for Scotland and was dead three days later. I sent him up there, Kath. I killed him."
There. He'd said it out loud at last. Now he did feel better. At least, he should be feeling better - but the air suddenly choked in his lungs. "Dear God!"
And then Kathy was holding him tight, smoothing his hair, staying with him as dry sobs racked his body, ignoring his useless attempts at control. But he didn't cry. Not a single tear.
And he never would. Never give himself that release, that forgiveness. That was his life sentence. Life without Doyle, life without tears. He would kill one as efficiently and completely as the other.
Kathy rose and sat on the bed beside him, not letting go and not giving him pathetic platitudes about how one day he wouldn't feel so bad and how it wasn't really his fault. This woman had the sense to avoid such drivel, instead relying on the one thing Bodie could trust; silence.
Eventually, he shifted and put his arms around her instead, drawing her back to greater comfort on the bed. Showing more wisdom than he would have given anyone credit for, she made no move to stop him, simply allowing him to wrap his arms around her and remain there in companionable quiet.
With her head on his chest, Bodie gazed up at the ceiling above, keeping himself very aware that this was Ray's bed they were lying on, this was his room, his flat, his sheets. The soft feminine body felt nothing like Ray, but Kathy was alive and here with him now. He held her and for a few brief, lovely minutes, allowed himself to imagine what it would have been like to simply lie like this with Ray. Without sex, without lust and passion - but simply with love and companionship.
Yes, he had made a mistake. A big mistake. He'd fallen in love. He'd placed his own wants and desires ahead of Ray's, giving him only a few moments to make a decision which would affect the rest of his life - after it was already too late.
And that was why he'd run away, wasn't it? Because he'd gone along with it to please Bodie, because Bodie had already shown how much he wanted it. Ray had always cared for him. He should have known Doyle would do that, no matter how much the idea repulsed him. He went along with it until he couldn't stomach it any more.
Then he'd run away. Far away where he wouldn't have to look at Bodie any more.
"You gonna marry Murph?"
"Pity." Gentle laughter against his chest brought the shadow of a smile to his face. "You're too good for him, you know."
"I hope not."
Bodie paused only a second, "Doyle was too good for me."
"You really believe that?" came the soft response.
"Never would have worked. We're both Alpha males. We'd have done nothing but fight all the time."
"You managed to build a friendship without fighting. Why couldn't you have built a love?"
Bodie almost laughed but instead opted for pressing a brief kiss on the top of her head. "Because Ray would never have loved me. Not like that. And love is not something I can give to anyone."
He paused before speaking again, venturing the question with more than a little care. "Are you shocked? About me and Ray?"
Her head moved on his chest, "No. Not at all. And I won't tell Michael. I won't even tell him about tonight, if you don't want me to."
Bodie thought for a moment, then sighed, "No, you go ahead and tell him. I don't want him finding out by accident and then you getting into trouble for helping me."
Kathy said nothing, then carefully moving his arms so she could see his face, she replied, "Come on, let's get out of here and I'll buy you dinner. By the look of you, you haven't eaten for the last two weeks and I won't have you fainting away and ruining that beautiful face of yours."
Slowly, Bodie nodded, almost smiling. He kissed her forehead and let her get up. He stood and went to move - but noticed the shirt lying on the bed. He picked it up and tossed it in the corner before taking Kathy's hand and leading her out of the flat.
One of the streetlights outside Bodie's flat was ready to flicker its last night. Every now and then, Bodie would watch as Murphy's gaze drew to the window. Illumination drew square shadows on the building opposite, gaping holes, wet with drizzle, slick and ghostlike. Every now and then, the light would blink off and plunge the living room into darkness.
They sat on the floor, side by side against the wall; the last of a bottle of vodka stranded between them. Bodie hadn't wanted to drink but Murphy had given him enough gentle encouragement. It was okay really; Murphy missed Doyle too.
Something of a wind had sprung up some time after sunset. As though a warning of the world outside, it splashed a fist full of rain against the window but the sound was more like sand against the glass.
Bodie brought a knee up and rested his elbow on it, throwing a glance towards Murphy. "The Old Man wants you to stick with me, doesn't he?"
"Yeah. What else did you expect?"
"I know the drill."
Silence enveloped them again as it had done for long periods since their return from the memorial service. People had spoken to him in the church but now he could hardly remember what any of them had said. He could remember Kathy holding back tears and Cowley grim-faced, speaking of how CI5 had valued the man now lost. But now, hours after everyone had gone home, there was just the silence. Bodie had never been much of a one for quiet - but the years with Doyle had taught him how to do that too and he'd realized that silence wasn't so bad when shared with somebody else who understood it. Murphy was good like that. Only talking when the situation required it.
The man beside him shifted, his gaze resting on the aberrant streetlight once more. It was their only source of illumination; Bodie found a little comfort in the darkness.
"I'm gonna miss him," Murphy began quietly as though the thought had just occurred to him. "He was good company. Good backup. Good on birthdays."
Out of the corner of his eye, Bodie could see a faint smile flash across Murphy's face. Bodie couldn't manage one. That night had too many painful memories. Harsh words, regretted in daylight. Doyle had wanted to talk the next day but Bodie had shut him out, pretending nothing was wrong, proving that what Doyle had said was true.
"You know," Murphy continued, "he was the first mate I had in CI5. The first one who bothered to talk to me like I was a human being and not some hopeless rookie. Susan had a terrible crush on him for more than a year."
"Yeah?" Bodie murmured, vaguely amused.
"Yeah. She did think about asking him out once but at that stage, she was too afraid Cowley would find out and sack her. She didn't have as much confidence then as she does now. I guess none of us realized just how damn good she'd end up being."
"She is that."
Murphy let out a loud breath, "Remember Wakefield?"
"Yeah." Remember? How could he ever forget? Nearly getting blown up in that caravan. And the day before, making a phone call at his flat - and the unpleasant sight of some unnecessary plastic on the top of his phone. Doyle had been so casual. Deftly taking the phone apart while Bodie's finger stayed firmly in the dial. Keeping up a light conversation as Doyle cut and removed the detonator. All done with a minimum of fuss, a light smile, green eyes full of gentle mischief. Never would have known from that steady gaze that he held both their lives in his nimble hands. "Yeah, I remember. Nearly killed us both."
"He told me you gave him a real fright."
Bodie said nothing but turned his gaze on Murphy.
"That bomb in the ruined warehouse. You were knocked out and for a moment, he thought you were dead."
Bodie closed his eyes. "He told you that did he?" Yeah, told Murphy - not Bodie, his own partner. His best friend. "Look, Murph, I'm sorry, but I'm just not in the mood to reminisce about Doyle. I can't. I can't think. Don't wanna laugh about it yet. Can't remember how. Okay?"
They fell silent again but the emptiness wasn't quite so easy this time, as though they'd opened Pandora's box and neither could quite decide to close it up again.
"Tell me," Murphy said eventually. "If they don't find the body until spring, how will you handle it?"
Bodie shook his head. "Dunno. Wait and see, I suppose. What about you?"
"Dunno either. Not sure I'd want to look at it by then."
Another long silence, this time leaving Bodie unsettled. "Murph?"
"You said..." Numbness made the words thud to a halt in his throat but he forced himself to continue. This was important. "The other day, when Kathy told you... about me and Doyle... well, you said you couldn't see how it was my fault."
Murphy didn't turn to look at him, "Well, I can tell you that if it was you up on that mountain and Ray back here mourning you - he'd be blaming himself."
"And he'd be wrong, too."
Bodie could feel rather than see the shrug of the shoulders next to him. "That night when you told him how you felt, you are sure he felt the same? Or something close?"
"I thought so, for a while."
Murphy grunted, "Until he got up and left you without a word of explanation. Jesus, Bodie, you didn't tell him to go to Scotland. That was his choice - just as you didn't tell him to run away. If he didn't like the way you felt, he could have just told you - or even hit you if he was angry enough. We both know he's done that before."
Something vaguely resembling a laugh coughed out of Bodie's throat. "I actually thought he would that night, too, you know. I couldn't believe it when I saw he wanted the same as me. I mean, for a minute there, it was..." Too wonderful, like everything he'd ever wanted in his whole life.
He broke off, no longer able to find the breath to talk about it. At moments like this, it almost felt like Doyle was there, in the room with him - and Bodie didn't believe in ghosts.
"Hey," Murphy was looking at him, nudging him gently with an elbow. "You okay?"
Bodie took a second, then nodded, "Will be when I get this half ton of lead off me chest. Dunno how people are supposed to live with this kind of shit. Never had any trouble dealing with it before."
"You never lost Doyle before."
"No. On the bright side, I won't have to do it again."
No - but he had almost lost Doyle before. Three years ago. Bullets and scars, months in rehab, occasional nightmares. Words floated to him in the darkness. Doyle's voice, deep and husky, shocking and yet accepting on a level Bodie had never fully understood until now. Something about having died once and how it would be easier next time.
Easier for Doyle, maybe.
"Bodie," Murphy's voice stole across his thoughts. "I don't want to begin to guess what was in Ray's mind that night he left you. What I can tell you is what I saw with my own eyes. You two were together a long time - and partners don't last in this business unless there is something very much like love between them. Perhaps not on the level you were talking about, but definitely there. There was always a part of Doyle that was attached to you, like an anchor - and that part loved you. Even if there was never anything else, that much needs - deserves - - to be remembered. Five years demand you remember."
Half a smile creased Bodie's face and he nodded, "Soul of a poet, you, mate."
"Yeah," Murphy drew the word out long and tired. Then he shifted and reached into his suit pocket. He pulled out an envelope, took Bodie's hand and placed it inside. "I'm going home. I know Cowley's orders are for me to stay but you've been bugged with people since word about Doyle first arrived. I think you need some time alone. I'm glad to see you've cleaned the place up, too."
Using Bodie's knee as a lever, Murphy got to his feet and stood looking down at him. With half a gesture at the envelope, he added, "You put the light on and take a look at that when I'm gone. I'll leave you in peace - but if you want me to come back, or Kathy, you only have to call. I'm five minutes away, okay?"
Relief and fear tumbled together inside Bodie but he just nodded. "Thanks, Murph."
"Call me tomorrow and we'll get our stories straight for the Cow."
Murphy turned and made for the door. In the darkness, he disappeared quickly, leaving only the click of locks in his wake. For long minutes, Bodie sat on the floor in the shadows, his eyes on the envelope. Was it a letter from Ray? Some after-death message Murphy had been entrusted with? Did he really want to read it?
Gingerly, he pressed his fingers along the smooth surface, trying to guess the contents - but it was useless. Well, he could at least open it up and see whether it was hand-written or typed.
With a lunge, he leaned over and flicked on the lamp and squinted in the sudden light, though it was soft. Only then did he peel back the flap and looked inside the envelope.
Not a letter. A photo.
He drew it out, unconsciously turning it towards the light to see -
A flat mountaintop glowered upon by low hasty clouds. In the distance, more peaks of light and shadow, snow as far as the eye could see. Doyle in the middle of the shot, ski poles in each hand, blue padded trousers and green parka, scarf wrapped around his neck, hands covered in gloves. Hair tousled by the wind, a strand sneaking across his forehead, the rest leaving his face clear for the photo. A smile, wide, showing off the chipped tooth, pulling a mild shadow across the damaged cheekbone. The green eyes, clear in the shot, so very green and missing the smile on the rest of the face.
Bodie glanced away for a moment, then looked back just in case it was his imagination.
No. There was no smile in those eyes. Doyle hadn't even left him that much.
"God, I'm sorry, Ray," Bodie breathed into the mountain air. "I should have just told you I loved you."
Bodie was up, dressed and ready by the time Murphy knocked on the door. He'd also washed the dishes, put a load of clothes in the machine and taken the rubbish out. Crisp and new. All of it.
He knew he'd looked a bit crazed when he'd cleaned all that stuff out of the flat - and admittedly, he'd taken a substantial amount of it back once he'd calmed down a little. But all the same, the burning need to clear his life of so much junk had been overwhelming - even though he knew that deep down, what he was trying to do was clear his mind of the pain.
But today was the day and he was ready. Murphy looked a little surprised when Bodie met him at the door but offered up a smile of encouragement before leading him back down the steps to the car. They'd been on the road ten minutes before either of them said a word.
Yeah, Murph was good with the silence thing. Perhaps a bit too good.
Bodie cleared his throat but kept his gaze on the road ahead, "Listen, mate, I wanna thank you for the last week or so. You've been a good friend. Not too sure I deserved it."
Murphy shrugged, "Deserts had nothing to do with it, Bodie and you know it. Blame Doyle if it makes you feel any better."
His gaze lingering on his hands a moment, Murphy refocussed on the road, "Doesn't matter. S'complicated."
"No, tell me."
The silence this time was full of a lot of things Bodie could only guess at. Eventually, Murphy sighed, "I'm no kid, Bodie. I've been around a bit - but I picked up a few points about friendship from you and Doyle, okay? Just leave it at that."
"Okay. But I'm still sayin' thanks."
"Okay." Then Murphy grinned and Bodie nodded. Grins were still beyond him.
Central carpark was only half-full when they arrived. Bodie got out of the car and turned to Murphy. "I'll see you later. I need to go up on my own."
"Sure." Murphy nodded and let him go.
Keeping his strides even and purposeful, Bodie reached the doorway and stepped inside. The second's hesitation he felt was more instinctive than anything else, but then he pushed past it and made for the stairs. Never bothered with the lift any more. He reached the second floor just as his watch ticked over three minutes to nine. He waited there for two of them to pass then strode the last few steps to Cowley's office where he knocked twice.
"Come in, Bodie."
On any other day, Bodie would have smiled. Instead, he pushed the door open and waited before the desk. Cowley was writing, his gaze shifting back and forth between two open files. Another glance, more scrawl and still he said nothing. In the end, Bodie decided to take the initiative.
Bodie frowned. "What?"
Cowley still hadn't looked up and his writing continued undisturbed. More than a little irritated, Bodie tried again. "I don't understand."
"I'm sure you've heard the word no before - and from my lips, 3.7. Are you telling me now after all these years, that you never understood what it meant?"
"To what," Bodie replied, gritting his teeth, "does the word apply?"
Cowley paused long enough to turn a sheet of paper in one of the files, then continued writing. "To the question you were about to ask me. The answer is no. Dismissed."
Bodie had had about enough for one day. He stuck out his chin and fought to keep his temper. "I'm not going anywhere until I know what the hell it is you're talking about!" Bodie added, "Sir!"
Finally, Cowley stopped writing and glanced up over the rim of his glasses, "No, Bodie, I will not accept your resignation. You will return to duty as of midday, today. Dismissed."
Bodie met his gaze for another long moment, stunned speechless. When he didn't move, Cowley rose menacingly to his feet, "Dismissed, 3.7! Out! Now!"
Bodie backed out the door, shutting it behind him to find Murphy, Anson and Jax staring at him from outside the restroom. Anson was grinning and even Murphy managed a smile.
Jax, bless his soul, simply waved his hand, "C'mon, Bodie, tea's up."
As ambulance sirens wailed at the other end of the street, Bodie leaned back against the lampost, rubbed his elbow and tried hard to catch his breath. There would be a choice bruise there before the end of the day. Fortunately, the knee was only twisted; walking had taken away the worst of the pain - but they way he'd fallen from that balcony he was lucky he hadn't broken the elbow. It had made the same sort of crack his ankle had done years ago when he'd done that parachute jump and got into trouble for breaking bones while off-duty. Perhaps he should get an x-ray.
He gazed up at the smoke filled air, where particles of dust still fell towards the ground, and struggled to get his thoughts in order, straighten them out, make some kind of sense of them before anybody asked. It was one thing for him to know he was in trouble - another to go showing it around to anybody who looked into his wild eyes.
He stopped rubbing the elbow when he saw Cowley striding towards him, Anson in his wake.
"Nothing much more than I told you before except Ricardo didn't have the money. My guess is he'd already done the deal. The bomb was more of a warning to anyone else who might cross the Sherringhams."
"Aye, and three people had to get injured to press the point. You should have seen it coming, Bodie."
"Sir, I did get everyone out before it blew."
"And nearly blasted yourself sky-high too, according to Anson. I don't want to hear you trying another trick like that balcony, 3.7, or you might find yourself doing a long refresher with Macklin."
"And Towser?" Anson murmured, almost hopeful.
Cowley only favoured him with a baleful stare. "Very well, you two, see to the clean-up here then back to Central. I want to know how the Sherringhams planted that bomb without Ricardo knowing about it - and I want to know where that money has gone."
"Yes, sir." Bodie said to Cowley's retreating back.
"You should get that elbow looked at."
Bodie glanced up to find Anson watching him. "You made your report awful clean."
Anson watched him for another moment then turned and headed back towards the smoking ruin already roped off by the dozens of police that had gathered in response to Bodie's call for the bomb squad. It could have been worse - much worse - and those injured would recover quickly.
The question was, had Anson done him a favour? In not telling Cowley what had really happened, was Bodie any better off? If it happened again, Anson was sure to say - and then get them both into trouble for not reporting it sooner.
No, Anson was giving him the benefit of the doubt - hoping that the moment of sheer rage in which Bodie had nearly demolished the room where the bomb had been hidden was a one-off. An anger at life's recent jibes that simply needed a single expression and was gone forever.
Only Bodie wasn't so sure. He'd felt it take over. Felt it simply step inside him, his mind, his body ruled by something he couldn't control - didn't even want to try.
He'd snapped. For ten minutes, his self-discipline had taken a vacation and in the process, he'd torn a whole room to shreds with a violence usually enjoyed only by those on hard and terrifying drugs. Anson had only been able to stand back and watch.
Even now, half an hour later, tumbling emotions strangled together inside him, each battling for dominance in a place no longer numb with shock. If only he could be numb. Such a blanket of non-feeling would seem like a heavenly release after today. Bloody lucky he hadn't set the bomb off in the process or there wouldn't have been a report to worry about, clean or otherwise. And Anson would have paid the price.
He looked down at his hands. They were cut and scraped from his tirade - - but now rock steady.
Anson should have said something. Made Cowley understand why Bodie had wanted to resign. This wasn't going to go away. Not in a few days or weeks - and it would only be a matter of time before Bodie would hurt somebody.
He began walking down the street, his hands thrust into his jacket pockets.
Yeah, it was going to happen again, he knew. Happen every time he got into something and realized that Doyle was no longer there, watching his back. No longer there to fill the gaping void in the pit of his stomach. Not there to make him laugh at himself, easing his tension with a smug smile or the careless lift of a shoulder. There were too many ways he could miss Doyle - and at work, he saw every one of them from one minute to the next.
When Cowley had been so adamant about him staying, he'd been willing to give it a try - but after three days, it was obvious, he'd been right all along.
Now he just had to tell Cowley and get Anson to back him up - without ever having to go near Kate Ross.
It took hours to clear the police, check the building, gather the forensics reports and arrive back at Central. Cowley wasn't there. He'd left in a hurry with his driver, some urgent business somewhere - as usual. Bodie settled down with the files, ready to keep himself busy until the Old Man returned. With any luck, this would be his last day at CI5, the last time he had to sit in the office without waiting for Ray to stick his head in the door. Odd that the mere absence of something could bring about such dread.
Murphy dropped by after an hour or so - when Anson had ducked out to get them some takeaway. It was well-dark outside as Murphy perched on the edge of the desk.
"Heard you had a fun day."
Bodie nodded absently - then glanced up, his eyebrows raised, "Anson tell you what happened?"
"All of it?"
Nothing more was said for a moment, then Bodie laid down his pen. "Will you back me up? With Cowley?"
"How? By telling him what went on between you and Doyle before he flew off to Scotland? Sure he'd sack you for that alone - but is that really the way you want to go?"
Bodie stopped for a moment, hearing the ringing of a phone in Cowley's office and latching onto the sound like a kind of mantra. When he replied, his voice was low and full of every ounce of truth he could muster after this afternoon. "I just want to go, Murph. You know I don't want to be here any more. It's just too hard without Ray. If Cowley doesn't let me go tonight, I'll leave anyway. I just can't do the job any more. My mind's not on it. It's dangerous."
The phone stopped ringing a moment - then began again. Murphy shifted off the desk and turned to the filing cabinet.
"You think I'm wrong? That I'm being hasty?"
"I didn't say that."
Again the phone stopped ringing - and began again. Bodie frowned and kept his concentration on Murphy as he pulled a file out of the cabinet and sat behind his desk, ready to read it.
The other man raised his eyes and locked onto Bodie's. He breathed steadily, relaxing his hands flat on the desk. "I think if you want to pay a penance, Bodie, you're going to do it whether we try and stop you or not. And if you are, I'd rather you weren't out there with a gun in your hand, doing the job. You're right, it's dangerous - and not the way I would prefer to remember Doyle, or you." He swallowed, "I don't want you to go, mate, but I will back you up with Cowley if you need it."
"Thanks," Bodie breathed. The phone had gone quiet at last and he sat back to finish off his report. Then the phone started again and in an uncharacteristic gesture of frustration, Murphy sprang to his feet and strode down the corridor. He shoved open Cowley's door and disappeared from Bodie's view.
The ringing phone stopped.
Bodie got two more words written on his report when he heard Murphy's voice.
"Bodie? Up and out!" Murphy was coming back, an irritated frown creasing his brow. "That was Jax. Cowley wants you at Stanfield Base an hour ago."
"Hell!" Bodie groaned. "What now?"
"He didn't say. Apparently Cowley had called him to tell you to get over there. Don't ask me."
"But it's on the other side of bloody London! I won't get home till midnight!"
"Or dawn if you don't start now."
Grunting, Bodie tossed his file to one side and got to his feet. Alright, perhaps one more day in CI5 - but no more after that. Enough was enough.
Like most military bases, Stanfield was set apart from any centre of civilisation, surrounded by fields of green and leafy trees - except now, when it was black and cold and more like some icy reincarnation of Valhalla. Bodie saw lights from a long way off, flickering between the bare trees, signs of manned sentry posts and firing ranges. His years in both army and SAS had shown him how important such things were, his years outside had borne in him an impatience of them.
His ID got him past the first checkpoint and another minute's drive brought him to the gate. A corporal shone a torch at his ID, then on his face, blinding him for a moment. Then the man stood at attention.
"Mr Bodie? Lieutenant Scott."
Another man came forward, uniform crisp in the harsh lights. He wore no greatcoat as though he wasn't expecting to be outdoors for long.
"Mr Bodie? Major Cowley asked me to meet you. If I may get in your vehicle, I can direct you through the camp."
"Sure." Bodie shrugged and waited for the man to get in. Then the gates opened and he drove through, pausing for each speed trap. He had to be careful with those; the Capri had a habit of going airborne if he wasn't.
With Scott's instructions, he drove through the quiet camp, already bunked down for the night. His credentials were checked twice more before Scott pointed out where he could park beneath a weak lamp stuck out from the side of a bleak-looking building. He turned the engine off to hear two helicopters fly low overhead. He got out and watched them disappear, navigation lights blinking, reminding him of years passed, of friends long gone.
"Mr Bodie?" Scott interrupted his thoughts. "Major Cowley is this way."
"Cowley's here?" Bodie frowned, turning.
"Yes, sir. He's expecting you. I'll take you in."
Shaking his head, but unable to care one way or the other, Bodie followed the man into the building and along a semi-darkened corridor. A short flight of stairs and then another turn and only then did Bodie notice the smell. This was the base hospital.
Dread suddenly seized him and it was all he could do to force his feet to keep moving.
No, Cowley would have warned him if a body had been found. He would have heard about it before now. No, he calmed himself, this was just another job. No need to panic.
By the time he reached the end of the corridor, he was back under control. Scott pushed aside a double door and let him go through alone. Cowley was at the other end of another corridor and Bodie walked straight down, only slowing when he realized the Old Man was watching him with sombre eyes.
Now the panic came back full force and now there wasn't any rationalisation he could latch onto for support. He stopped some feet away from Cowley and the door he stood beside. Tiny noises reached him from the rest of the hospital but they were subdued, along with the lighting. Bodie was glad it was dim; he didn't want Cowley to see the fear in his eyes.
"They found him, Bodie." Cowley's voice was gravel. "He's in there."
"No." The word came out from his gut, forced and riding on a wave of adrenalin. "I don't want to see him." Not now. He'd be cold and blue and frozen and... rotting. After three weeks? No. Not now.
Something about Cowley's eyes might have softened - but it was probably more a trick of the light. "Go in, Bodie. That's an order."
When Bodie began to shake his head, Cowley added, "He's expecting you."
"He's expecting..." Bodie's voice trailed off as his mind screamed to a halt, emptied completely of all thought, all fear, everything. Time came to an end there, and faded into nothing. He waited, suspended between moments.
And then time began once more and he took in a deep, desperate breath. His mouth barely moving, he murmured, "He's... alive?"
Cowley lifted a hand, "See for yourself."
In a flash, Bodie was at the door, pushing it open, striding inside to see a bed surrounded by equipment, bright lights everywhere, some flashing, others steady, coloured and plain. Beeping split the silence with a Morse code only the doctors could read. Bodie ignored it all.
He stopped feet from the bed and looked down. It was not a pretty sight - but it was Doyle - and therefore, by definition, the most beautiful sight he had ever beheld.
He reached out a shaking hand to steady himself against the back of a chair. The movement brought Doyle's eyes open and he turned his head, deep green gaze locking on Bodie's.
He was alive - though injured. Patches on his thin face were red, smeared with some sort of grease. Both hands were bound up, an IV line leading from his left arm. A support frame sat over his right foot while the left was suspended in traction. Every breath Doyle took was laboured and matched by a beeping machine - but the eyes that gazed steadily at him were the same sea green he knew so well.
Alive. Somehow alive.
Bodie gripped the chair hard and forced himself to speak. "Ray? How do you feel?"
A slow blink warned Bodie of drugs they must have given him. Doyle swallowed and ran his tongue over his cracked lips before replying. "Felt better. You?"
"Fine. Just fine." Bodie replied, feeling nothing of the kind - and exactly that - both at the same time. Half his brain seemed to have gone to sleep while the other half was dancing a jig to the whistling of a madman located somewhere near his right temple. Any second now the overload would cause a short to the system and he'd either start babbling or laughing with uncontrolled hysteria. He felt a presence at his side and turned to see Cowley.
"Come, lad. Leave him be for a bit. He's doped to the eyeballs. He'll make more sense in the morning."
A hand on Bodie's arm urged him away. Doyle gave him the slightest nod and Bodie gave in. Outside in the corridor and Bodie was ready with questions - but Cowley held up a hand for quiet and led him down to another door. Inside were more bright lights, tables and lounge chairs. Coffee-making things and a machine which sold evil-looking sandwiches.
Hospital food was the same, in or out of the army.
Cowley immediately began making them cups of coffee but Bodie was beyond anything so normal. It was almost impossible for him to stand still. "What happened?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Cowley allowed himself a smile, "Something of a miracle, I should imagine. They found one of the other men with Doyle. The last is still missing. His chances of survival are slim - especially after what Doyle's been through."
Bodie sank into the nearest chair, his eyes wide and staring. Ray was alive. Really alive! In a room only a few yards away. He had to be dreaming.
Coffee appeared on the table before him and Cowley sat opposite. Bodie took a mouthful, ran his hands over his face in the hope it would wake him from his daze, then gazed steadily at the Old Man.
"You bastard! Why didn't you say anything?"
A snort of displeasure escaped the Controller - but he chose not to respond to the epithet and instead answered the question. "I didn't want to say anything until I'd seen him myself. Both men were unconscious when they were found and neither had ID. On top of that, they were both close to death. I didn't want to get your hopes up until I was sure. Until I'd seen him myself."
Cowley developed half a smile and took a sip of coffee, "And having had to endure the look on your face when I told you Doyle was dead, I felt I'd earned the right to see you when you discovered he was alive."
Bodie coughed - and then began to laugh. Not loud or long, but a laugh nonetheless. The first for more than three weeks. "Tell me what happened."
"I don't have all the details as yet but as far as I can tell, Doyle and the other man were buried by the avalanche but due to the fall of the ground, they ended up in a pocket of space between two boulders. The other man was knocked out but Doyle was conscious the whole time. He was injured and couldn't move too much but managed to create a space around them and prevented them suffocating in the first few minutes. Doyle found a ski in the space with them and used it to make an air hole in the snow above. Chances are, if the weather hadn't closed in when it did, Search and Rescue would have found them fairly quickly. Doyle believes he slept and woke when he heard the wind. It took him hours to dig a way out to the top - about fifteen feet as far as I can tell. Then he got the other man out. By that time, it was night and he made a kind of igloo to keep them warm. When he woke, it was snowing again, but it cleared in patches, giving him seconds to orient himself. The other man was conscious only in snatches so Doyle, with the map only in his head, struck out for the bothy, dragging man behind him." Cowley sat forward, his voice low, "S and R say the distance was something like five miles, the snow on average four foot deep. How Doyle made it, we'll never know - but he did. It took him more than a day."
"But..." Bodie paused, calculating. "That's still two and a half weeks. Were they stuck in the hut all that time?"
"No." Cowley smiled and shook his head in amazement. "For ten days only. Until Doyle realized his friend, Russell needed serious medical treatment and the supplies were about to run out. The hut had a radio but the ariel had broken in the blizzard and Doyle couldn't fix it. So, he made a sled, wrapped up his friend, packed as much food as he could - - and set out for the nearest town."
"It took him five days. He says he got lost more times than he could count because every time he got his bearings, another blizzard would come down and obscure his landmarks. He lost his map on the second day. On the third, he fell badly and knocked himself unconscious. He woke up to find his friend screaming his name. By sunset on day five, they'd both collapsed from exhaustion and hypothermia - but fortunately close enough to a town for somebody to see them. The weather closed in again that night but by morning it had cleared enough to get a helicopter to them - Army was the closest. They were taken to hospital. Doyle was flown down here this evening."
Bodie sat back in his seat, letting out a great whoosh of air in the process. He wanted to get up and jump around a little, let off some energy, remember that he was still alive and that -
He needed to do something. But what?
"There's just the one small problem, Bodie." Cowley drained his coffee cup and came to his feet. "The Doctor's aren't sure when it happened but er... Doyle appears to have some serious gaps in his memory."
Bodie looked up with a frown, "What do you mean, serious gaps?"
"Well, that was part of why it was hard to identify him in the beginning - he couldn't remember his name. They had to wait until his friend regained consciousness to tell them. He can recount vivid details of the avalanche, some of the day before that, he knows he was born in Derby and once prompted, he remembered he worked for CI5."
"The rest is a blank."
Bodie pursed his lips in something between a grimace and a smile. "But he will remember, won't he? When he's recovered a little?"
"The doctors believe so. Most of it, eventually. Perhaps all." Cowley put his cup back on the bench in a gesture that warned Bodie he hadn't heard the worst.
Bodie got to his feet. "He doesn't remember me, does he?"
"Yes - and Jax and Susan."
"But not me."
"No." Cowley met his gaze and nodded slowly. "Get some rest, 3.7. I've been told you can sleep in here, if you like. I'm staying at an hotel in the village. I'll be back in the morning. You do want to stay here, don't you?"
"Yes sir," Bodie grinned. "I do. See you in the morning."
Shaking his head, Cowley headed for the door as Bodie made for the nearest couch. As the door closed, Bodie flopped down - then turned on his stomach and buried his face in layers of thick cushion. Taking a deep breath, he let out a gut-wrenching screech of pure joy, sinking his whole body into it.
Moments later, the door opened and Cowley stuck his head in, "Did you say something, 3.7?"
"Er, no sir," Bodie replied a little sheepishly. "Good night sir."
"Good night, Bodie."
But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break
Bodie glanced at his watch as the nurse came in to do her quarterly obs. Five minutes late this time - she must be a bit busy. She glanced up once at Bodie as she began her work but they'd long since exhausted their supply of small talk and didn't make any further effort. Instead, Bodie settled back in his chair - the one he'd nicked from the rest room down the corridor - and stuck his feet up on the coffee table in front of him (also nicked - or rather borrowed). He put his elbow on the arm rest and gazed out the window to watch faint flecks of snow drift into the compound.
Less than twenty four hours ago, such a sight would have sent him spiralling into a black depression. Now, he could only imagine Doyle's incredible journey.
Never over the last five years had he ever had cause to question Doyle's courage - but now, he could only be awed by it. It was the kind of story that earned bravery medals and newspaper reports. Already, the CO of the camp had been in to pay his respects - even though Doyle hadn't actually woken since last night.
Cowley had been in too, just after breakfast. He'd had a few words with the doctor then shuffled off back to work with instructions of how Doyle was to be moved to a London hospital that afternoon. Bodie was to stay with Doyle.
Yeah, well, sometimes even Bodie got good orders to follow.
It had only taken him an hour to get to sleep last. An hour during which his mind had only slowly drifted down from the peak at which it had been resting for the hours before that. But there had been this blind comforting presence in a room a stone's throw away and apparently, that had been all his subconscious had required to give him the first decent sleep since that awful night when Doyle had walked out on him.
But right now, he didn't care about any of that. It was over. The nightmare was over and Doyle was alive - pretty much in one piece - and would get better. One day, some time in the future, Bodie would hear that wicked laugh again, would see those eyes flash with one of his moods. It would happen.
Knowing he was grinning like an idiot, Bodie turned his gaze back to the bed as the nurse finished up. Doyle's face looked a little healthier in the daylight streaming through the window and Bodie gazed at him knowing for certain that he had never seen anything more exquisitely beautiful in all his life. The auburn locks were clean and laid out on the pillow, a softer down that the one wrapped in linen. The straight nose was a little red along the ridge, probably from windburn. The full lips were still cracked from exposure, but already looking better than last night. Bodie wished he could kiss them better. The nurse left the room and closed the door quietly behind her but even so, the noise brought some life to Doyle. His eyelids flickered briefly, stilled - then opened. Bodie was close enough to see the gaze was much clearer now.
He resisted the temptation - as he had since he'd first come into this room - to grab Doyle up in a hug. No need for such things. Not now.
Doyle blinked and turned his head. He stared for a moment before making any response. "Morning."
Bodie got up. He reached under the bed and pulled the lever to raise the angle a little. Doyle watched him the whole time. Feeling no pain at all, Bodie grinned, "I'm Bodie."
"I figured you had to be." His eyes left Bodie for a moment, looking for something.
"Thanks." Bodie lifted the glass and put the straw up so Doyle could drink.
"Thanks. Much better." Again the eyes were on Bodie, cool, serious and patient - so he pulled up a nearby stool and sat down.
"How do you feel now?"
"You came last night, didn't you?"
"Cowley got you here. You're my... partner?"
"You're not bothered that I don't remember you?"
Bodie shrugged and ventured a smile, "Won't say I'm not a little wounded. We are talking five years here." Five years and one evening in particular. Was it possible that not only had Doyle been brought back to him - but that he would be mercifully unmindful of the events that had driven him away in the first place? Would Bodie get a second chance? An opportunity to undo the mistake he'd made? Two miracles for the price of one? Living without Doyle's love was a lot easier than living without him at all.
"I don't understand," Doyle said into the silence.
"If we were together five years, why don't I remember you? When I saw you last night, I swear it was for the first time - but I remembered Cowley, the moment I saw him. I knew exactly who he was, could even remember getting told off by him a couple of times."
"Was I in any of those scenes?" Bodie asked gently.
"Should you be?"
"Well, we usually got told off at the same time."
"But not always?"
Doyle swallowed again and Bodie helped him to some more water. He sat back and allowed his gaze to drift to the bandaged hands.
"Frostbite." Bodie glanced up to find Doyle's green gaze on him again. In a way, it was a little unsettling - there was no sign of recognition there at all. Where Bodie was ready to slip back into their old patterns of speech and communication, Doyle had nothing. Bodie was a complete stranger to him. He'd have to tread carefully for a while. At least until Doyle began to remember more.
"Is it bad? The frostbite?"
Doyle frowned, "They say I won't lose any fingers or toes, so I guess I've been lucky on more than one score."
"You and me both, sunshine," Bodie murmured before he could stop himself - but Doyle only smiled - then raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"I remember... sunshine. Somebody calling me sunshine. Would that be you?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Bodie grinned again. Perhaps this wouldn't take so long after all. In perhaps only a few weeks, Doyle would put all the pieces back together again and then there would only be the weeks of physical rehab before Doyle could be back on the job and life could start again. Except - Doyle would put all the pieces back together. Every single one. God, what idiot makes an assumption that mistakes can be undone! Of course Doyle would remember - and things would never go back to the way they'd been. Yes, Doyle was alive - and that was more important than anything in the world - but Bodie staying around here was only going to hasten that one memory's return. He came quickly to his feet.
"What's wrong?" Doyle was frowning at him, those steady green eyes holding him in his place for a moment. For three weeks, he thought he'd never see those eyes again - and now he was getting ready to walk away by choice. Was he really that stupid? No! He couldn't take back what had happened, but he sure as hell could make certain he didn't compound the error. He'd already made the mistake once, of putting his own needs ahead of Doyle's. He wasn't about to do it a second time. And when Doyle did remember, there would be a replay of the rejection, the tearing up of his heart. He didn't need to go through a repeat performance to know it hurt too much. This whole thing: it had hurt too much.
"Nothing's wrong." Bodie hid his thoughts and smiled genuinely, and at that face, it wasn't difficult. "I just have to go to the little boy's room. Back soon." Bodie reached the corridor and stopped, twisting the thing around inside once more, just to make sure it was the right decision. He had to be certain because half of him wanted to go straight back in and be with Doyle - regardless of how painful the consequences might be. No. There was only one thing he could do, decently and with any honour he might have left. What he'd meant to do from the beginning. Resign.
Doyle closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of this new hospital, the third in as many days. For all that he remembered hating hospitals, this one didn't sound too bad. Lots of squeaky rubber shoes on vinyl, laughter echoing down the corridor, metal trays and trolleys and children playing outside below his room. At least this place felt alive. Stanfield had been positively maudlin - especially with all the damned senior officers in the place trouping in to salute his courage.
Beyond the walls he could hear sounds from London, a rumble lying beneath everything else, a permanent counterpoint to life in general - and his in particular. Oh, yes, he remembered London.
He'd asked them to move his bed close to the window and now he opened his eyes and gazed out at the darkness. The nights were still so long, even though March was only a week away. From here, he could see the dome of Saint Paul's lit with a yellow glow, other points sparkling behind it. To the left, the famous gold statue above the Old Bailey; Justice, her eyes blinded, her hands meting out fairly to all.
Almost obscured at this angle was Tower Bridge, lit like a Christmas Tree, the Tower itself a white block beside it.
All familiar, just as it should be.
So why were there still those tendrils of fear wrapped around his gut? Why could he not shake off the feeling that one of the things he was forgetting was so important, that his life depended on remembering it?
He'd asked Cowley, of course. The Old Man had turned up minutes after he'd settled in here. He'd asked Doyle a few questions, testing his mental agility against yesterday, probed to see if any more memories had surfaced and had prepared to go. That's when Doyle had asked if he'd been involved with any important cases over the last couple of months. Anything that might give him this feeling. The answer had been a disappointing no.
Then Cowley had gone and Susan and Jax had turned up with flowers and fruit and a card signed by the whole squad. Doyle had looked at the names, only remembering a few - though some of the others pricked in the background, comforting him that he would certainly remember soon.
It had been Susan who had told him of the memorial service held in his memory, of who had turned up, what people had said.
It was a little weird, but Doyle felt a little comforted after they'd gone. Not too sure why.
And then an hour ago: Murphy.
For the first minute or so, Doyle had struggled with a name, knowing the long lean face and pale blue eyes were familiar - but then the man had smiled and almost immediately, Doyle had picked it all up. Still a few gaps - but it was mostly there.
Murphy had shown him the newspaper. Page 4. A picture only of Russell - - not Doyle - and his account of how his skiing companion, an unnamed CI5 agent, had saved his life. Truth was, seeing it all in print like that made it seem so much more heroic that it had felt at the time. At the time, it was just bloody hard, day in day out. Every minute not knowing if they would live or die. Heroics just hadn't come into it.
"Would've been front page," Murphy had said, "but the Old Man squashed it - as well as refusing to let them print your name. When they give you a medal, mate, it will all be behind closed doors."
"Knowing Cowley, I'd be lucky to get that much."
Murphy laughed, "I can see your memory's not in too bad nick. How's the frostbite?"
"Better than it could have been. Sam made me buy quality gear before he'd let me anywhere near the snow - so in my mind, he's the real hero."
Murphy came around the bed and peered closely at the traction equipment, "And this?"
"Simple bad luck," Doyle replied with a grin. "As they were taking me off the chopper at Glasgow, one of the porters slipped on the ice and I fell, wrenching my knee. It'll be up like that for another day, I'm told. If I was in any condition to be walking, I'd be doing it on crutches."
Murphy laughed, "Considering you could have broken every bone in your body, I think I'd call it good luck. You know most broken bones in this country result from skiing accidents. That's why I never go. Don't like danger, myself."
"So why are you still in CI5?"
As Murphy chuckled and turned to spy the view, Doyle experienced a vague frisson of fear, of dj vu. Where had he heard those words before and why would they bother him since they'd obviously been said to a fellow agent?
"Do you know... Bodie?"
"Sure. As long as you have."
The other man had turned now and was facing him with a languid expression that didn't appear to be quite as honest as it should be.
"Do you know where he is now?"
"Dunno. I assume back at Central. Why?"
Doyle frowned, "Well, Cowley said we were partners - but I don't remember him at all. He came to Stanfield last night, was there in the morning when I woke up, said he was going for a pee - and never came back. Nobody has said a word about him since and I can't help wondering if something has happened and there's a conspiracy of silence because I'm sick. If something's happened to him, I'd rather like to know. I mean, it's pretty safe. I don't remember anything about him so if he's been killed or something, you won't spark off a relapse."
Murphy was watching him with a rigid expression, eyes bright and wide and hiding a whole host of things. Eventually, he swallowed and nodded, "Nobody's hiding anything from you, Ray. Bodie is alive and well, I promise you."
Yes, Doyle could believe that, read it from Murphy's eyes. "And?"
"And I don't know any more than that."
Which was a lie.
"But," Murphy put his hand up, reading Doyle's expression, "I heard him in Cowley's office this afternoon. They were having in argument."
"I don't know. I just heard the shouting."
And Murphy wouldn't say more, no matter how Doyle prodded him. Eventually, Murphy, promising to bring Kathy with him tomorrow, had left him alone to gaze out the window at the wonderfully familiar sight of London.
It would be at least a week before the doctors would let him get up and walk - and until then, painkillers would be his staple diet. Then would be a long stretch of rehab, then retraining and retesting as Cowley determined if he was fit enough - physically and mentally - to rejoin the squad.
Four or five weeks. Perhaps a little longer. But what would be waiting for him? A partner he didn't remember?
And what would happen if he never remembered? Where would he go home to then?
Cowley arrived back in his office and would have happily slammed the door behind him if Kate Ross hadn't been waiting for him. Astute woman that she was, she instantly read the anger on his face and refrained from commenting on it immediately. That gave Cowley the moment he needed to get his ire under control so she wouldn't be unfairly inflicted with it.
He got behind his desk and sank into his chair. He removed his glasses, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then put them back on.
"And when was the last time you had a holiday?"
Kate Ross's voice spread across his mood like honey onto fresh bread. The woman had little extraverted personality, but she could be as cunning as a fox when she wanted and as smooth as any politician. She knew people. That was, after all, her job.
Cowley treated the question as rhetorical. He sat back, laced his fingers together and said, "Your report on Doyle?"
She smiled and shook her head, accepting the evasion, "Preliminary only at this stage of course. I will need to spend some time with him to help him over the psychological effects of his ordeal - plus there's a bit of testing and observation to be done with his memory. However, considering everything he's been through, he's remarkably fit."
Kate shrugged, "It's really only at times like this that you, George, begin to see just how tough these men of yours are. Not just physically. If I hadn't already marked him as such prior to this, after the last three weeks, I would immediately point Doyle out as perhaps the strongest character on your squad."
Cowley couldn't avoid wincing and glanced away. The drinks cabinet sang to him from the corner and he hesitated only a moment before getting up and heading in that direction. He was always very careful about drinking in front of Kate; she had a habit of watching everybody she was around - and didn't spare him simply because he was the boss.
She continued talking, "You have seen him since he transferred to London. What do you think?"
"Och, I agree with you wholeheartedly."
"Then what's the matter?"
Cowley poured out two slim measures of Laphroig and turned to face her squarely. "The matter is his other half, Master Bodie - the man who is in competition for Doyle's title as the toughest man on the squad."
Kate rolled her eyes, took the glass from him and touched the liquid to her lips. "Well, what has he done now?"
"What?" Whisky forgotten, Kate now sat forward as Cowley regained his seat. "Whatever for? I would have thought he'd be well on the way to recovery now that Doyle is back. What did he say?"
Cowley shrugged, "That he was tired of the job and didn't want to do it any more."
"That's what I said."
"But he did try to resign before Doyle came back, didn't he?"
With a big sigh, Cowley nodded, "And it wasn't the first time he's tried that on me. I've been in this job long enough not to take everything that young man says too seriously."
"So what did you do?"
"I suspended him. Told him to go back to the hospital and help Doyle regain his memory and once he was back on his feet, we'd sit down and have a wee chat about Bodie's future with this organisation."
Kate's eyes sparkled with anticipation, "And?"
"As I discovered, that was about the worst thing I could have said - though I'm damned if I know why. Och, Bodie's been a minefield for months now. I've lost count of the times I've told him to go see you. Somehow in the back of my mind, I thought Doyle would sort him out - but then, Doyle disappeared, didn't he? And the problems we had with Bodie suddenly became so much more serious."
"Yes, I know."
"You do?" Cowley glanced up, more than a little surprised. Did Kate Ross have sources he was unaware of?
The good doctor probably read his thoughts but instead of answering directly, sat back and steepled her fingers together. "When you put those two together at the start, you knew what was going to happen."
"What do you mean?"
"They balance each other out. It was always there, in their personalities. We all saw it, we all knew that it would be a good and productive teaming. I'll grant you, it has probably developed beyond what any of us could have imagined and I suspect that might have something to do with Bodie's problem now."
"I'm sorry, Kate," Cowley shook his head, "you'll have to explain it more than that."
"Bodie has always had a problem confronting how he feels about things. He admits it openly - when he doesn't feel threatened. That's why he ran away from home, why he left Africa, why he left the SAS. Each progressive step has marked a change in his attitude - not just towards something new - but away from something he didn't like."
"Are you telling me he runs away?"
"That's one way of putting it."
"And another way?"
Kate Ross smiled in her own special way, "He believes the actual solution to most difficult emotional situations is to physically remove himself from the action. To not be there any more. To pack up and start again elsewhere, where those problems do not exist, where he no longer has to feel the way he does."
"Is that what he's doing now?"
She shrugged, "I don't know. Perhaps. It could be any one of a dozen different reasons - but the point is, his resignation is proof that he considers this a problem of serious proportions and that he can see no other way out. Neither you nor I believe he really wants out of CI5 - but he's willing to sacrifice the squad to solve this problem."
"Then I was right and this is serious." Cowley nodded and emptied his glass. "I'm a little comforted to know that all that anger I saw from him this afternoon wasn't entirely meant for me alone."
A small laughed escaped Kate. "So? What happens now?"
"What would you suggest - since nothing I say appears to be having any affect. I do want those men back, I promise you. As much for their sake as the squad's."
Kate remembered her glass and this time, took a good swallow. She placed the unfinished whisky onto the desk before her and folded her arms. "I'll work with Doyle as discussed. I'll reserve my complete judgement until I've spent more than an hour with him, but at this stage, I think the key is getting Doyle up and well - with his memory in tact."
"Will that help Bodie?"
"Absolutely. If Bodie is trying to avoid Doyle for some reason, he won't be able to once Doyle is up and moving around. That's where we concentrate our efforts. In the meantime, I'd keep an eye on Bodie if I were you. Suspended or not, he could get himself into a lot of trouble."
Yes, Cowley remembered. All too well. "Aye. Well, let me know how Doyle is going and I'll worry about Bodie."
By this time, he should have developed some kind of aversion to the bitter cold of the outdoors - at least, that's what Kate Ross had told him - but all the same, Doyle could only stand sitting inside the hospital for a few hours at a time before he badgered and cajoled either a nurse or one of his visitors to wheel him outside to breathe in the not so fresh London air.
And he would have still another week at least where he had to depend on those around him to do the simplest of things. Feeding himself was impossible, walking was unthinkable - and as for the really personal things? Well, nurses just didn't get paid enough, and that's all there was to it.
But he was healing. Slowly, but surely. Of course, the doctors marvelled at his rate of recovery, but when you're stuck inside a cold room with painted concrete walls and everything you do has to be done by somebody else, the rate of recovery, no matter how fast, was always going to be too slow for him. They'd promised they'd try taking the bandages off his hands this afternoon and he couldn't help it, he kept glancing at Kate Ross, wishing she would finish with her damned questions and let him get on with it.
Of course, she sensed his impatience. "Whether it's done now or in an hour, Doyle, won't make any difference. It's not as if my questions aren't equally important."
They sat on the roof of the hospital, in a small sheltered alcove right next to the helipad. The doctor had about three coats on, a big scarf and a thick woolly hat pulled down almost to her eyes. The nurses had also rugged Doyle up and the truth was, he was glad; it was damned chilly out here today. Almost as cold as...
He looked up blinking. "Pardon?"
Her voice dropped, "Today is as cold as?"
He knew she was here to help him, with Cowley's blessing, but sometimes, her probing questions left him more unsettled than otherwise. It was hard to see how it could do him any good, prattling on about the days spent trudging through the snow, dragging Russell behind him, not knowing whether he'd live or die.
With a sigh, he looked away, his gaze ranging across the grey bleak London skyline. "I think I've had enough."
Not one to push too hard, Kate nodded and rubbed her hands together for circulation. "We can start again tomorrow."
"No. I mean, I think I've had enough permanently."
He got no response and turned to look at her. She didn't appear hurt, merely speculative. That made him even more uncomfortable, forcing him to elaborate. "Am I gonna be a basket case if I don't talk about it any more? Christ, this is worse than any damned de-briefing I've had before."
"Do you think you remember the whole ordeal?"
"I remember about as much as I care to. It was terrifying, harsh and life-threatening every moment - but I survived. I can live with that, if you'll let me."
The faint suggestion of a smile played about her eyes and she nodded. "Very well - but only on the condition that we do a follow-up in say three weeks, once you're back home - and if you have any problems, or nightmares, you promise to give me a call. Deal?"
She got up and took the handles of his wheelchair. With practice, she pushed him towards the doors and inside away from the cold. The lift opened quickly and soon he was back in his room, with her taking the blankets from him. He stayed in his chair, his mind on bandages. However, before she could go, he stopped her.
"Would you answer a question for me?"
"If I can."
She faced him with confidence, folding her hands together on her lap.
Her eyebrows rose, "Why do you ask?"
Doyle kept his patience in check, "Because - as I have been told - he is supposed to be my partner. I haven't seen him since Stanfield, more than a week ago. Cowley hasn't said Bodie is on assignment or anything. I was just curious. I would have thought partners would support each other at a time like this."
"They do, yes."
"Then why isn't he here?"
"I'm not sure. I haven't asked him."
"Then," Doyle gritted his teeth against his irritation, "could you please ask him?"
As though satisfied she'd got that exact reaction, Kate nodded and moved a little closer. "Do you remember anything more of him?"
"No - what bearing does that have?"
"None. Just curious."
She would have gone on but at that moment, a doctor and nurse entered with a tray of things and Doyle left her to attend to removal of his dressings. It didn't matter; she wasn't going to help - he could see that much. Perhaps it was just this hospital, or maybe his ordeal or something - but there were days, like this one, where it was easy to believe there was some kind of conspiracy going on regarding Bodie.
Like they'd never been partners in the first place and that the whole thing was designed as some kind of memory test for him? See if he'd keep working to get all his missing memories back? Perhaps it was standard procedure or something...
But the truth was, Bodie bothered him and he knew it.
Ignoring the pain, Doyle laid his other hand out and let the nurse gently remove the dressing.
Bodie bothered him because of his absence - and because of the presence he'd sensed in those few short minutes they'd been together. If it was a conspiracy, then Bodie was an actor of awesome ability. It would be hard to feign the recognition he'd seen in those blue eyes. Bodie had been happy to see him returned alive.
No, happy wasn't a good way to put it. Relieved? Delighted? No. There didn't appear to be a word that perfectly described it - but whatever it was, he'd seen it clearly in Bodie's eyes.
And how had this partner then, the one that been so glad to have him back alive - how had he dealt with the supposed death of one so close to him? Was that why he didn't come back?
"There you go, Mr Doyle," The doctor stepped back and nodded happily. "Now you'll have to be careful and not go rummaging around in anything that could give you an infection, but I should think your hands will work as planned from now on. The skin will still be a trifle raw for a while, but you were terribly lucky; the frostbite was so mild."
Doyle lifted his hands and flexed his fingers gingerly, unable to avoid smiling. "And what about my feet?"
"Another few days and we'll take a look." The doctor beamed and ushered the nurse out of the room.
Alone, Doyle was left to stare out of the window at heavy black clouds congealing in the west. More snow.
Sam had rung again that morning. He was up and around now - but then he'd had three weeks more of medical treatment than Ray had had. He was planning on coming down to London in the next week or so. It would be good to see him. Russell was still on the serious list. He would survive but it would be a long time - if ever - before he would go skiing again.
Yes, there were a few wayward flakes drifting down across the glass now. They landed on the window sill and instantly melted. But a few more and they would stick like glue and within an hour, a faint rug of white would layer the ledge, giving the impression that there were no cracks in the concrete, that it didn't desperately need another coat of paint. That's why people loved snow so much - especially in the cities; it hid so many things without any effort at all. While it lasted, the dirt and decay beneath simply didn't exist.
"Jesus you must be getting bored by now."
Doyle turned to find Murphy standing in the doorway with a grin, a plastic carry bag in his hand. "You don't wanna know."
Murphy made his way to the window, depositing the bag on Doyle's lap on his way. "Thought you might like a few more books. Kathy picked them out so don't blame me if you don't like them. Hey, no bandages on your hands! They don't look too bad either. You'll be on your feet in no time."
Doyle smiled and shook his head. Just about everything Murphy did came out in the same laconic style of one so laid back he was almost horizontal. To see Murphy seriously upset by something was a genuine rarity - to be witness to him losing his temper was impossible. Understood to never have happened. Not once.
Except... Birthday. Stripper. Handcuffs and a guy in leather...
Doyle frowned, grasping at the frail details as they straggled before him, squeezing the life out of them by trying too hard.
"Hey, Ray, you alright?"
Murphy had knelt in front of him, his brows drawn together with unveiled concern.
"Yeah," Doyle breathed evenly, as Kate Ross had told him, tried to relax and let the memory take him. "Just something I remembered. Did you have a birthday with a stripper?"
Murphy's face was a picture. First surprise, then horror which evened out to a resigned smile. "Yeah, that's right. A couple of weeks before you went north." He stood and pulled up a chair, sitting - or rather, lounging in it, prepared to wait, to answer, to talk.
Doyle stared down at his healing hands and brought forth the image he'd seen, described it to Murphy. "But there was no real stripper, just this guy - I think I knew him. Kathy was there, and Jax and Anson, Taggart. Lucas and McCabe. Fields and Susan. Cowley wasn't. Oh, everybody."
The sudden stillness in Murphy's question brought Doyle's gaze up. Murphy, Kathy and many others from the squad had made the last week bearable by dropping in all through the day. Some for an hour or so, others for just a few minutes. The variety, the relaxed company had been a balm to his impatience. He would have gone around the twist by now if it hadn't been for these people he remembered as being his friends.
But he had just about had enough of the Bodie mystery.
"What the hell is going on, Murph?" The words came out with such force, the other man appeared startled for a moment. "Am I exhibiting symptoms of being brain dead? Have I gone from being one of the best on the squad to being the thickest rookie? Do the injuries on my hands and feet mean I can't think for myself? Come on, tell me!"
Rather typically, Murphy just raised his eyebrows and picked the real question out of the multitude, "What do you want to know?"
"Where the hell is Bodie?" Doyle almost yelled this - but remembered at the last that he was in a hospital. "Why won't anybody tell me why he isn't here, why he hasn't appeared since I turned up in one piece and why is everybody always asking me if I remember anything about him? Hell, I remembered you once I'd got a good look at you. Every time I see you I remember more and more. Soon it'll all come back - but with Bodie it's still a blank. How the hell am I supposed to remember, to get my head back in one piece if he won't come near me? What's wrong with him? Does he want me to remain ignorant? Damn it, Murphy, I want an answer!"
Murphy, not entirely insensitive to Doyle's mood, raised his hands in a calming gesture. "Look, Ray, we all want you to get better as soon as possible. We want you up and around and back on active duty."
"But?" Doyle snapped, unrepentant.
"But Bodie was, well,... he had a few problems when we heard you'd been killed."
"So? I'm not dead. What's his excuse now?" Doyle would have gone on - but another thought intruded, an alternative explanation. "Before I went to Scotland - did I do something wrong? To Bodie, I mean? Did I fail him or something? Endanger his life? So that he's glad I'm alive but is still angry or something?"
Murphy pressed his lips together but said nothing.
"Jesus, Murph, I'm guessing here. I don't remember the man, don't know him from a bar of soap. I don't know how his mind works. You tell me. Is it possible?"
Still Murphy said nothing, merely getting to his feet and facing the window. With a sigh, the wind left Doyle and he sat back in his wheelchair. "Please, Murphy, I really need to know the truth."
"I can't tell it to you, Ray. But I will try and do something about it for you." He turned, a resigned smile lifting his grey eyes. "I'll find Bodie and see if I can get him in here for a visit. I won't promise - I'll just try."
Doyle let out a big breath of relief. "Thanks, Murph."
Of course, he wasn't going to make it easy, was he? Murphy had spent more than an hour waiting outside Bodie's flat in the cold and dark last night before he'd chucked it in and gone home to Kathy. A few phone calls received no response and he'd given it up as a bad idea.
And this morning, after another phone call, he'd gone to the flat again, to find it empty. Being on suspension, Bodie no longer had the silver Capri so Murphy couldn't even put out a call on it. He was about to head in to work when a thought struck him. He pulled out his R/T.
"Go ahead, 6/2."
"Is 3/7 still on suspension?"
"Has he notified you of any change of location?"
"Do you know where he is now?"
"3/7 phoned this morning to say he was going out for 2 hours and would be back at his flat for the rest of the day."
Murphy had to smile - suspended or not, Bodie was scrupulous about following procedure. He knew as well as any of them that if something big blew up around them, he'd be back on duty and in the thick of it and they'd worry about his active status after the clean-up. It was a good sign; about the only one Murphy had seen so far.
"Any idea where 3/7 was heading?"
"Negative, 6/2. I'm not his bloody nursemaid."
"Thanks, Central," Murphy chuckled. "6/2 out." It seemed Bodie was getting up a few more noses than usual.
Trotting back to his car, Murphy paused with his hands in his pockets, his gaze drifting down the street to where the bare trunks of a dozen oak trees hedged the road. There was a park down there, where Bodie and Doyle would go running more often than not.
Taking a chance, Murphy headed towards the trees. The grass was flattened by last night's snowfall, and patches of greeny-grey still survived the morning. The sun had barely risen let alone melted any of it. Still, it wasn't icy for a change and he could walk the dirt path without trouble.
He followed it down the slope towards the river. A pedestrian bridge crossed over and into the woods opposite. He was just coming out into the open field beyond when he saw a lone figure running towards him. Dressed in jogging gear, puffing out great wads of steam with every stride, Bodie didn't notice Murphy at first. Then, while still twenty feet away, he came to a sudden halt, alarm all over his face.
"What's wrong? Is Doyle okay?"
If Murphy had been given to extravagant displays of emotion, he would have rolled his eyes heavenward, heaved out a big sigh, folded his arms and shook his head. As it was, he contented himself with a brief grunt. It appeared enough to quell Bodie's immediate worry. He came closer, his face now perfectly schooled.
Murphy fell in beside him as they walked back towards the bridge. Small fingers of sunlight were now clawing their way through the barren branches above, making the first efforts to dry the damp path.
"Surprised to see you're still here."
Bodie glanced aside at him with half a frown, "Why, where else would I be?"
"Dunno. You were the one who resigned, mate."
"Yeah, well, Cowley wouldn't let me. I did think about just taking off but I knew he'd have a tail on me and I figured it would be easier to stick around till he got sick of me. No sense in goin' to all the trouble of losing the tail and going underground when I can get what I want through peaceful means."
Murphy chuckled at this convoluted logic.
"Fine." Murphy allowed the silence to develop, knowing the question had to be asked and being determined to actually make Bodie ask it. It didn't take as long as he'd expected.
Bodie stopped at that and fixed Murphy with one of his most piercing stares. If he hadn't already been so angry, Murphy might just have felt a little intimidated by it. As it was, he met it squarely. Bodie didn't flinch as Murphy continued. "He thinks he's done something to offend you and that's why you walked out on him at Stanfield, why you haven't been back since. He thinks there's a conspiracy of silence about you."
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing." Bodie's gaze didn't budge. It was only the anger in Murphy's stomach that kept him where he was. "You have to go and see him."
"No." Instantly, Bodie was striding away. Murphy caught up but refrained from reaching out to stop the other man. He wasn't that stupid.
"You must. I don't give a damn if you tell him a pile of lies, Bodie - but you have to tell him something. Think up a reason why you haven't been back. You have to do it in person because he won't believe anyone else."
"No." Bodie had reached the bridge by now as Murphy hurried along behind him.
"Bodie, I'm warning you," Murphy came to a halt as Bodie stopped and turned, his gaze thunderous.
"Or you'll what?"
They'd talked about this last night, Murphy and Kathy, about how he should approach Bodie. She had volunteered to do it - but Murphy had come, fearing a violent reaction. Not that Bodie would ever hurt Kathy.
Now that the moment had come, Murphy found the anger cooling to ice. "I know what you're thinking. If you stay clear of him, he'll forget that anything ever happened between you. You can make it all go away. Well, mate it doesn't work like that. If he doesn't get his memory back, he'll never regain his place on the squad."
Bodie lifted his chin at that but remained defiantly silent.
"Don't you understand, Bodie? He's confused. He doesn't remember anything about you and yet all he can do is blame himself for your not being there to help him through this. Jesus, he may have lost some of his memory but he's still the same person. He chewed me out yesterday because I wouldn't tell him anything."
Bodie turned away at this, placing his hands on the bridge rail. After a moment, he replied, "I've hurt him enough. Going back will only make it worse."
"For you or him?"
The words were out before Murphy could stop them - and then Bodie was bearing down on him so fast he had to back away. "You really think I could be that selfish? Of course I bloody want to help him, like a partner is supposed to!" Bodie demanded, his voice rough like sandpaper. Abruptly he came to a halt, hauling air into his lungs and breathing it out in clouds. "Sure, you know all about what happened between him and me but I'm sorry, Murph, you don't know shit about anything else. You don't know how well we know each other, how we can predict almost to the letter, whatever way the other will react to something. I've almost lived with him in my pocket for five damned years, Murph! Do you think I've learned nothing in that time? If he ever finds out the truth, about that night, about his running away, about the lives he endangered along with it and the hurt he caused as a result, how the bloody hell do you think he's going to react, eh?" Bodie paused to catch a breath, dropping his voice to a menacing growl, "I'll give you a hint - he sure as hell won't be blaming me!"
"C'mon, Bodie, it won't be that bad."
"You have no idea the depths Doyle's guilt can sink to. He nearly chucked it all in over that damned Coogan affair - even after it was proved he didn't kill the man. What you and I can brush off without turning a hair, sinks claws into Doyle which draw blood every time he breathes. Christ, Murph, a man died on that mountain. If Doyle hadn't gone north, he might still be alive."
"But that's not his fault."
"Of course not. But Doyle will think it is. Trust me, Murph. I know him better than he does himself. He's better off not knowing."
All the anger had died from Bodie's eyes now and he turned once more to resume his path. Murphy followed a little behind, holding onto the silence for his own peace of mind more than anything else.
There was little doubt that Bodie's assessment of Doyle had to be accurate. Bodie would never stoop so low as to lie about something like that - but all the same, the whole thing had the imperious taste of a rationalisation to it. Of course, confronting it was impossible - not if he expected to keep his front teeth. All the same, he couldn't just leave it like this.
Taking a deep breath, Murphy came to a halt on the path by the river, where a few trees stood alone. "You will go to the hospital and see Doyle."
As though not sure he'd heard right, Bodie continued a few steps longer before turning slowly to face him. Murphy continued before interruption could turn his course. "You will go, some time before he gets out next week so he doesn't have to come looking for you. You have that much time to think up some reason, some excuse to give him that will suit both our purposes. You go and see him, spend no less than an hour with him and then you can leave and never go back."
Bodie stared at him, understanding completely. "And if I don't?"
"Then I'll tell him the truth. The whole truth."
His breath little more than a whisper, Bodie replied, "You don't know the whole truth."
"I know enough to damn you. It's your choice."
Bodie nodded slowly, his gaze reappraising and caustic at the same time. He drew himself up and stuck out his chin. "Yeah. Funny, that's exactly what I thought it was. Strange how choice means something different to you, isn't it?"
With that he turned and walked away.
"Bodie, I'm serious!"
"Go to hell, Murphy!"
Doyle sucked in another breath and held it. Trying not to bite his lip against the pain, he shifted his right foot and gingerly transferred his balance, putting real weight on it. His foot felt like it was on fire.
The physiotherapist beside him held out his hands, ready to catch Doyle if he fell but determination kept him from reaching out. Slowly he took the weight, shifted the crutch under his arm and put his left foot out.
His hands felt a lot better and taking weight on them wasn't as difficult as it had been over the last week, but still walking wasn't pleasant. They'd not wanted him to try too much yet, but if he didn't get up and move around soon, he was sure he'd start to look like the place. While his memory still sported huge gaps, he could remember enough to know he'd never liked hospitals - so now was not the time to change.
He took another step and this time couldn't suppress a groan at the pain.
"Come on, Mr Doyle. That's enough for now. You can try again later this evening if you like."
"No," Doyle grunted, taking another step, his eyes fixed on his bandaged feet. "I'll keep going." He just wanted to get as far as the door. Then he'd happily sink into his wheelchair. The door or nothing.
Another step and another. Odd, but after a while, the pain didn't get any worse. It simply hovered around the level of excruciating without giving any hint as to when it might drop down to merely unbearable.
The physio fussed like an old woman but Doyle didn't look up. It took all his effort to concentrate on moving each foot, to lean his weight gently, to spare his hands as much as possible - and still manage to make himself breathe at the same time. Just another two steps and he'd be there.
He stopped when a pair of boots barred his way. Frowning, ready to growl, he looked up -
Into a pair of the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
Bodie was watching him and from the look on his face, had been doing so for at least a couple of minutes. For a second, Doyle didn't know what to say. This was just about the last person he'd expected to see. Taking his silence for hesitation, Bodie raised an eyebrow and said, "That must hurt."
Involuntarily, Doyle half-laughed, "No kidding."
Saying nothing more, Bodie cast a quick glance around the room to land back on Doyle. There was an awkwardness in his gestures overlaid with a kind of easy charm that seemed to be habitual. Together the impressions only served to confuse Doyle more and he frowned before he could stop himself.
Fortunately, Bodie took it as a sign of fatigue. He slipped into the room and grabbed the wheelchair, bringing it up behind Doyle so he could sit. Ignoring the physio completely, Bodie then took the crutches and helped him get comfortable. The crutches were put beside the bed, the physio dismissed and Doyle was wheeled to the window and a glass of water placed in his hand before he had a chance to object to any of it. Then Bodie was glancing through his things sitting on the table, idly picking up books to feign an interest in the author - and unconsciously giving Doyle the chance to study him.
Bodie was a big man without being beefy. A few inches taller than Doyle, no more, and where Doyle was fine, Bodie was solid - though there was nothing spare on his frame. Broad shoulders were covered by a black leather jacket, underneath, a thick black polo-neck. His trousers were also black leather; for a motorbike, though he carried no helmet. With those startling blue eyes, ringed by thick lashes, the perfect nose above a sensuous mouth, Bodie was a man who would be noticed in any crowd. Handsome in a kind of exotic and self-assured way, he bore himself in a manner that demonstrated his awareness of it. An attitude bordering on arrogance which for a moment, tempted Doyle to prejudgement. But this wasn't just any man - this was somebody with whom he had worked for over five years. Perhaps that arrogance had a cause, or perhaps it was just for show. Either way, in the end, Doyle found it more intriguing than anything else. Intriguing enough to want to find out how he had put up with it for five years.
Doyle took a mouth of water, swallowed and said quietly and evenly, "How long?"
"How long do you think you have to stay before you can safely get out of here without seeming rude?"
Bodie paused at that but didn't turn around. "Another forty-seven minutes by my calculation. Do you have a different figure?"
Despite himself, Doyle smiled. He let it go for a moment then added, "You can make it five if you answer one question."
"Oh?" Bodie's glance flickered over him without stopping. "What question is that?"
"Why do you want to get out of here in the first place?"
"I hate hospitals."
"Not good enough."
"I've always hated hospitals."
"Still not good enough."
"I answered the question."
"What kind of answer is that?"
"Damn it, Bodie!" Doyle's voice rose and he struggled to keep hold of his temper. He drained his glass of water before looking up at the other man again - just in time to catch a fleeting look of something he couldn't name. Abruptly, Bodie turned to the window, leaving his back to Doyle.
What was wrong with the man? Why couldn't he just talk? Answer a few simple questions? Why all this bloody evasion and why had it taken so long to get him here in the first place?
But yelling at him wasn't going to do any good. He would have to try much craftier tactics than that.
Taking a deep breath, he put the glass down and rested his aching hands on his lap. "I take it you saw Murphy?"
"He must be either one threatening bloke or a really good mate."
"To have forced you into coming here."
Bodie said nothing, simply keeping his gaze on the window. Obviously, Doyle was going to have to try harder. "He doesn't strike me as the threatening type, so I guess he must fall into the good mate category. Don't envy him though. Getting caught between you and me can't be much fun."
Bodie froze, didn't even so much as take a breath. Fully aware of the effect his words were having, Doyle continued, "I mean, I've been nagging him for more than a week about what's been keeping you away and why and he so obviously knows more than he's telling, but can I get him to say a word about it?"
The smallest, almost imperceptible shift of the shoulders, the tiniest relaxation.
"But I figure he must have arrested you and dragged you here 'cause I don't think you would've come under any other circumstances."
Nothing. No movement at all.
Very well, time to go in for the kill.
He said the words softly and gently, sending them out towards Bodie with both genuine regret and sincere fury. Like a true marksman, they hit their mark with deadly accuracy. Bodie started, whirled around and opened his mouth to reply, his eyes wide with instant denial but Doyle didn't give him a chance.
"I'm sorry for whatever it was that I did. I know I can't remember it but it must have been pretty bad for us to be best mates one minute and then for things to get so bad you have to be blackmailed into coming to see me for five minutes. So, I'm sorry and if you'll tell me what I did wrong, I'll do my best to make sure it never happens again. Why did you resign from CI5?"
Bodie looked like a man caught between shifting realities without having any idea which one he'd started in. He stumbled for a moment, like a first-time skater on ice, then quickly pulled himself together. He lifted his chin, put on his best expression and shook his head, "I've been suspended." He tried hard but in the end, the faade couldn't be maintained. With a sigh, he sank down onto the nearest chair, folding his hands in front of him. "I want to say this just once, and then hear no more about it, okay?"
"Don't expect me to be making any promises, Bodie. You don't deserve them yet."
Bodie didn't argue. When he spoke, his voice contained a month of stress, anguish and force but at no time rose above a whisper, "Doyle, I want you to understand and believe this: you have nothing to apologize for. Nothing at all. You've done nothing wrong. I'm glad you're alive and in one piece and I apologize for not coming in to see you sooner and for not being here to help you get better. All I can say is, I have my reasons."
"But you won't tell me what they are?"
Bodie looked up at that, meeting Doyle's gaze with unfathomable blue. >From nowhere, Doyle clipped an image of looking into those eyes some other time but the circumstances eluded him. "No, I can't tell you."
Bodie pursed his lips but kept his gaze steady, "You might remember one day, you might not - but the truth is, we can't work together any more. That's why I resigned. I won't change my mind. I just don't want you feeling guilty about it when it's not your fault, okay?"
"And I'm supposed to just take your word for it, am I?"
Doyle snorted and looked away. He knew those eyes were hiding a thousand things but he just couldn't look at them any more. This was ridiculous. He was never going to get anywhere unless Bodie helped him remember, helped him fill in the bigger gaps. His wounds would heal soon, he was going home in two days - but he'd end up useless to the squad because he couldn't remember what he was doing this time last year.
Well, best mates or not, he was not about to let this arrogant, pig-headed man to ruin the rest of his life. Not if he had the power to force him to change his mind.
"So we can't work together any more, eh?"
The reply was gravel, both full of regret and determination at the same time. "No, we can't."
"In that case, it can't do any harm for you to help me remember, can it?"
Bodie's head dropped.
"Well? I mean," Doyle continued mercilessly, "if we're sunk as partners anyway and you have no intention of returning to the squad, what does it matter if I remember whatever it is that you're hiding? So, following your logic, if you just help me remember the rest, I can get better quicker and the Old Man will let you go all the sooner."
"No." Bodie darted to his feet, his fists clenching tight, his head shaking from side to side. "I'm not coming back here."
"Yes you are. Tomorrow morning. 11am. We can sit on the roof and talk."
"No." He moved to walk out but Doyle caught his wrist, ignoring the pain in his hand.
"Yes, Bodie - because if you don't, I'll discharge myself from here tomorrow and turn up at your place. I'll camp on your front step until you agree to help me. And if you think I'm making an idle threat, then you're going to be surprised tomorrow afternoon."
"Jesus, Doyle!" Bodie didn't make too great an effort to get his wrist back. "It doesn't matter! It means nothing. It's not worth remembering!"
"I damned well hope it is if it's enough to split us up. Tomorrow, Bodie, 11 am."
With a hiss, Bodie snatched his hand back and stormed out, leaving Doyle in a room suddenly empty of an otherwise overpowering presence.
Despite his anger, that impression was the one that stayed with him the longest.
He slept off and on, dozing and then waking. His neck developed an ache from sitting in the wheelchair and he kept forcing himself to his feet to keep the circulation going in his legs. Then he would sit again and sleep.
Things would come to him in his dreams. No way to tell which was imagination and which was memory. Sometimes the image would vanish the moment he woke up, at others, it would linger, often disturbing him deeply.
It had been the same since they'd found him on the mountain. There were moments even now, when he drifted on that precipice between slumber and awareness, when his body floated weightless, unattached to the world, and he would think he was still up there, buried in the white blanket of promised eternity. He'd lived a whole life on that mountain; each day lasting a year on it's own; each hour ticking away with a lazy stubbornness, empty of rescue, devoid of hope. The outside world and in fact, life itself had finally crystallised into black and white, the clean lines of day and night providing the delimiter.
Only now could he remember those days, those freezing nights as he tried to keep himself and Russell warm, tried to eke out the meagre food, tried to stop the hut from getting snowed in. But he only remembered it in parts, in a single dimension, as though he were wearing only one shoe or looking at the story through a telescope. He knew the rest was there, somewhere, buried underneath the concussion - but reaching it, touching it, seeing it was beyond him.
He dozed again, setting his mind to warmer climates, deliberately allowing his subconscious to pull forth whatever memory it chose. Good memories, anything, it didn't matter which.
A spring day, warmish with a sun drifting in and out of hazy clouds. He had some time off work, a few hours, couldn't work out why exactly. Didn't matter. Went home, grabbed the laundry bag, then back out again. Put the laundry in, felt the sun on his face, nice and warm after a cold winter. Down the shops, bought some cheese, some olives, a paper and a couple of pints of milk. Then back home for a cuppa and a read. Didn't get to read the papers at his own leisure too often. Back up the lift, open the door, go inside...
"What are you doing here?"
Jesus, she's got a gun!
Too late. Falling slowly. Pain filled him, seeped red out of his body onto the floor, carpet soft beneath his cheek, hard to breathe, so hard, sharp, go shallow, still hard, can't move, she's still there, gun ready, back of the head, love, back of the head, that's where it belongs, gun shifts and fires again, don't feel it, already dying, already dying, already...
Doyle woke with a start, sucking in air with a dagger of half-asleep panic. Totally disoriented, he struggled to escape the chair but his legs couldn't manage and he began to fall -
Strong hands caught him, lifted and steadied him. His legs straightened and he looked up, his heart still thumping, head still not clear.
"It's okay, Ray, you're okay. You were only dreaming." The voice steady and warm, confident and assured, hands firm on his arms, supporting. "Listen to me, Ray, you're fine. Nothing to worry about." Totally devoid of doubt. Doyle latched onto it and forced his breathing to slow a little. After a moment, he nodded and Bodie helped him back into the wheelchair.
Doyle swallowed, better now but still unable to shake the images still hurtling around in his head. He put a hand to his eyes and pressed, trying to drive them away, suppressing the nausea threatening his stomach. It was no good, the dream wouldn't budge. So it had to be a memory. But, Christ, what a memory!
Again his breathing shortened and he felt dizziness fringe his vision.
Hands reached out and grabbed his wrists, "Doyle? Look at me. Look at me!"
He opened his eyes and tried to focus on those close before him. That blue again, framed with long black lashes on a face serious and determined.
"Now breathe steady and even. Come on, do it. In. Out. In, out. That's it. Concentrate on the sound of my voice. That's it, steady and slow, just concentrate. You'll feel better in a minute."
He listened, obeyed, keeping his gaze on Bodie, not daring to shift for one second, not even to blink. Eventually, the grip on his wrists loosened as Bodie relaxed a little, sinking down onto his haunches. Not letting go, he kept his voice level, "What was the dream?"
Doyle opened his mouth but had to force the words to come out, "Did I get shot?"
Both Bodie's eyebrows rose at that, "You've been shot a couple of times. Once in the leg..."
"In the chest, and the back, by a Chinese woman?" Doyle frowned, still ghosting the memory, haunted by it, afraid Bodie would let his hands go. He needed some earthly contact, some proof of life physically touching him. "She tried to kill me! And I... I..."
"Her name was May Li."
Yes. That was it. "Where is she now?"
"Dead," Bodie replied quietly.
"Did you kill her?"
"No. Fields shot her. I held her hand while she died."
"You held her hand?"
Doyle searched that face for the arrogance he'd seen yesterday - but there wasn't a trace of it. Nor pride, nor selfishness. "Did I know that?"
Bodie shook his head slowly, "No. I never told you."
And the tremors died away. Blinking, Doyle let out a slow breath, feeling his body once more under his control, the images for the moment, put to one side.
Sensing the worst was past, Bodie let him go and got to his feet. Doyle looked up and noticed the same black leather gear of the day before. He met Bodie's gaze with faint surprise, "So you came?"
"Yeah. Don't get a squad car when you're on suspension."
"Must be cold."
"You get used to it. You feel okay? Want me to get a doctor?"
Doyle shook his head, running his fingers through his hair, "Nah, I'm fine now."
"Yeah, I'm sure."
Bodie nodded, taking a step back with a vague speculative gleam in his eyes. "Really okay or just saying it?"
"Is there something wrong with your hearing?"
"Nah," he replied offhand, "Just thought you might like to bust out of here for a few hours but I'm not letting you on the bike if you're gonna go all crazy on me."
Doyle almost leaped out of his chair, "No, I'm really fine, I promise!"
Bodie kept up the sceptic's faade for a moment longer, then allowed something of a grin to creep across his face. With a nod, he strode to the door and picked up a bag he must have left there before. He dumped it on the floor at Doyle's feet.
"I stopped by your place and picked up your bike gear. Can you manage on your own while I keep watch?"
Doyle just nodded furiously and as Bodie left the room, he hauled the things out of the bag. Black and red, these were, well-oiled and worn but top quality. He had a bit of trouble with the zippers between his fingers but not so much that he couldn't manage. Ten minutes later, Bodie reappeared with a questioning glance that quickly turned into a genuine smile - almost instantly suppressed. Doyle would have questioned the change but he just wanted to get the hell out!
He could walk with the boots on - but only for about a dozen steps. In the end, they rugged him up with a blanket as though they were heading for the roof, then took the lift down. With an arm under his shoulders, Bodie helped him outside and onto a big sleek motorbike parked illegally outside the front entrance. Amazingly, there was no ticket attached yet.
Bodie dashed back inside and reappeared moments later with two helmets. He handed one to Doyle, put his own on then climbed on and kicked the engine into life. The first acceleration was gentle and demure, allowing for the hospital carpark and sick people close by and everything, but then they were out the front gate and on a stretch of straight road almost empty of traffic - and Bodie opened the throttle.
Doyle roared and held on to the bar behind him, revelling in the power of the machine, the bleak sun above and the sheer freedom of being outdoors and alive.
And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows
Amnesia or no, Doyle wasn't sure he was ever likely to remember a time when he'd felt so warm and comfortable and entirely contented. He sat outside at a picnic table in the garden of a pub. Before him, lined with leafless willows and elms, stretched a canal with a couple of colourful barges tied up a few yards away. Behind him, frequently stoked against the winter's day, sat a pot-bellied boiler of Victorian vintage. The publican had told them he'd rescued it from a condemned factory because he knew it would work wonders in the garden in winter.
It was perfect for Doyle for whom the cold was something he still had difficulty dealing with - but who simply couldn't face sitting inside anywhere right now. Nobody had said anything, but after the first pint, the publican's wife had brought out a blanket and left it sitting on the table. Bodie had pointedly shown no interest in it so Doyle took it, to make her feel better.
He worked his way slowly through the second pint - but only because Bodie had warned him there would be no third. Instead, he folded his arms on the table, pulled the blanket further around his shoulders and watched the reflection of intermittent clouds on the icy canal water. Not a single duck to be seen anywhere. They wouldn't be back at least for another couple of weeks. Pity, it would have made the scene completely perfect.
The landlady returned once more, this time carrying a plate of toasted sandwiches and another pint for Bodie. She gave them both a smile and retreated indoors where it was warmer. Here, away from the city, the cold had a real individual bite to it. Still, bad as it was, it was never so cold as...
"Here, you better eat something or the beer and the drugs will knock you out." Bodie pushed the plate across the table at him. He was already munching on a sandwich of his own though the beer remained untouched.
Doyle wasn't really hungry but he knew he had to eat something after the alcohol. He bit into a ham and cheese and found it unbelievably tasty. He'd finished it before he realized it, reaching immediately for a second. By the end of that, his appetite had dulled a little and he turned to watch Bodie consume his share with relish - and not the kind found in a jar. Relaxed and not wanting to argue, Doyle chose his moment carefully, "So, what changed your mind about coming back?"
Bodie's head-shake was distracted; his attention on his food. "Decided you were right."
"That if we're not going to work together any more it doesn't matter if I remember?"
"It doesn't matter."
"So I couldn't have you haunting my doorstep until I gave in. I have neighbours to think about."
The shadow of a smile crossed Doyle's face, "And you're not going to let me off the hook and tell me anyway?"
"No - and don't ask me again." Bodie kept his voice free of anger. "Now give me a break and drop it and be happy I'm here at all. If it had been anybody else, I'd have been long gone by now."
Doyle tore his gaze away and sipped carefully of his beer. The action distracted the smile warming his face. So they hadn't been lying. He and Bodie had been best mates.
He was important to Bodie after all.
Warmer on the inside too now, Doyle broached a different but no less difficult topic. "When I was shot?"
"Tell me what happened."
Bodie frowned, "Your doctor said I shouldn't tell you things you don't already remember."
"Yeah, but this is different." Damned right it was. How was he going to deal with every painful memory if he had a panic attack with each one? "I need to know. This morning was..."
"Yeah," Bodie nodded, the frown fading a little. He pursed his lips and sat back on his seat, stretching his long legs out before him under the table, missing Doyle's by inches. "But that came on you while you were asleep. You weren't prepared for it and all you had was a dream of getting shot with no context to place it in. That's enough to scare anybody."
As Doyle watched, the play of expressions over Bodie's face was almost an entertainment in itself. He had a million fine variations of movement between the faint lift of a single eyebrow to a declaration of complete disgust. Laughter was not something he appeared to indulge in often. The short cropped raven hair acted like a frame to this interplay of visual languages; the amazingly blue eyes, the directing force behind them. If Bodie had been an actor, Doyle was certain he would have gone to see every film he made. Taking a breath, he said, "Tell me. Give me the context. When did it happen?"
"Summer last year."
Bodie settled with a nod, "You remember May Li shooting you. Do you remember anything after that?"
There was no response for a second but the subtle shift in Bodie's expression didn't require memory to interpret. "Funny, we never really talked about that day, either. Well, after she shot you, she left via the window and set off the alarms. Central called me and I drove straight to your place. I didn't have a key so I had to go up the fire escape. Some old bag yelled out that I was a robber but I didn't stop until I got to your floor. I could see you from the window, lying in a pool of blood." Bodie paused long enough to take a swift, large mouthful of beer. When he continued, there was absolutely nothing different in the way he told his story. Nothing at all. "I tried to stop the bleeding, called an ambulance and went with you to the hospital."
"Did you hold my hand?"
Bodie blinked, "What do you mean?"
"Like I said. You held May Li's hand after she almost killed me."
"Jesus, Doyle, don't make me regret telling you that."
"Sorry," Doyle backed down warily. They settled into silence and though he was turned to face the canal, Doyle found his gaze returning to Bodie's face, now in profile to him. That face and its expressions weren't familiar to him - but yet on some level they were.
He hadn't pushed Bodie for an answer because he just knew it would be one push too far. But how could he know if he had no memory? It seemed his subconscious was working for him, handing him meanings behind words and gestures, pauses and inflections. It was strange, like suddenly being able to speak a foreign language without every having learned it. The exercise was intoxicating, heady and powerful and yet frightening at the same time.
An edge of familiarity then, something not wholly unexperienced. Something he could safely tell himself he could count on. What else?
"Did we do this a lot then?"
Bodie glanced sideways at him, "I'm not supposed to tell you."
Doyle couldn't control the temper that rose instantly, "Christ, Bodie it's just a simple damned question! It already feels familiar, I just wanted confirmation. Bloody hell, why do you have to make it so hard?"
Bodie's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, his lips drawn together in a thin, intractable line - but he gave nothing away. Not a hint, a glimmer, a suggestion. Nothing. The man was a stone wall without a single crack. How the hell had they managed to become friends when Bodie would give absolutely nothing of himself away? Had he been hurt before? Badly? If he -
Yes, he had! Bad. Twice... but...
No. No details yet - but he knew, for sure. Something of Bodie was seeping through his memory.
But the man himself faced Doyle now, his gaze dark and thunderous and Doyle wondered whether he should be afraid. He felt like he should.
"I'm not the one making it hard, Doyle. I told you I didn't want to do this. I resigned my job so I wouldn't have to but, I'm here because you asked - so don't go complaining when I can't give you answers. I warned you yesterday I wouldn't. Jesus!"
Bodie stood up and paced his way to the edge of the canal, his hands thrust into his jacket pockets. Without turning he added, "You wanted to know about when you got shot and whether I held your damned hand in the ambulance. I leave the story wide open for you to ask a hundred questions I'd be happy to answer and yet you don't." He paused, not losing the bitterness in his voice, "You nearly died on the operating table. It took you six months to get back on the active list and up until a few weeks ago, when you took a dive off a mountain, you still used to scratch the scars on your chest whenever something was bothering you. You never noticed; I always had to remind you to stop."
"Bodie, I..." Doyle came to his feet but Bodie held up his hand.
"You were always self-absorbed, Doyle. You've changed from the man I knew, before you went away, but even back then you weren't this bad." Now he turned slowly, his big shoulders hunched down, as though he were protecting himself, "You wanna know how I got that bike gear of yours? Why I happened to have the keys to your flat? Because it was my job to go through your things. Always the job of the surviving partner to take care of the affairs of the deceased."
Doyle stared. The words were full of reproach but there was nothing vulnerable in Bodie's face, no display of hurt, no invitation for Doyle to ask further, to seek out the wound and deal with it.
This was insane! One minute it was obvious he held some importance in Bodie's life, the next, it appeared he wasn't worth a damn. Which was it - and which should Doyle address? With careful movements, he walked around the table and approached Bodie slowly, his feet dictating the pace. But he didn't get too close; the guardedness in Bodie's eyes warned him not to.
Yes, he'd been right to be afraid.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"For what?" Bodie snapped back. "For nearly getting yourself killed again? Or failing to?"
"You think I had a death wish?" Doyle's temper began to rise again.
"Sure, you were busily telling May Li to finish you off with a shot to the back of the head!"
"But I never said..."
"And it took you two days to decide whether you were gonna live or die. You're getting slower, Doyle, this time it took you three weeks!"
Without thinking, Doyle swung at Bodie but the other man caught his hand easily, holding it in a vice-grip. They glared at each other for several long moments, then Bodie broke it by pushing Doyle's hand away and stalking off. Pulling in lungs full of air, Doyle watched him, the black jacket, the impenetrable hunch to the shoulders, the outcast look, the loner, the dark and mysterious past...
"Bodie!" The other man ignored him so Doyle took off after him, ignoring his feet as best he could. "Bodie! Wait! It wasn't me with the death wish, it was you. And the bike and some girl and Cowley holding a gun to your head and..." Doyle stumbled, no longer seeing where he was going, the memory now flashing back to him so fast it took his breath away. "And he was going to kill you... 'cause you were going to kill someone, some bikie and Cowley had this gun and ... it was my fault. My fault 'cause I didn't listen, didn't try to help... my fault..." He came to a stop, blinded by horror. Bodie had tried just as hard that time to keep him locked out and as a result, he'd nearly been killed by their own boss.
"Wasn't your fault, Doyle," Bodie responded crisply. "You were always one for the big guilt trip."
Doyle pulled in his focus, felt his breathing steady and looked up at Bodie standing a few feet away from him, gaze wary, still angry, still forbidding. And yet, Doyle had glimpsed inside, just for a moment - if only through memory.
He answered his own question. "You don't want me to remember, do you?"
"Of course I do."
Bodie lifted his chin at that, a dozen pale infinitesimal shifts of the eyebrows and mouth as unreadable thoughts scattered across the silence. Then, voice level, lighter than before, betraying nothing at all, "Seems you haven't changed so much after all. You better get back to the fire before you freeze to death." With that, Bodie brushed past him, heading indoors.
"Where're you goin?"
"Loo and to order some coffee. Fire, Doyle, now!"
Inside was dark and took Bodie's eyes a few moments to adjust. There were a few locals sitting around the fire, watching him as he walked in and ordered coffee. Then he saw the sign for the toilet and ducked through the door, locking it behind him. Only then did he sink back against the wall, willing calm into himself, desperately, urgently, violently. Calm, for Christ's sake, calm!
God he looked so thin and pale and sick and fragile and yet the spirit inside was just as strong, unbroken by his ordeal. And hurting so bad. Needing Bodie's help, desperately. Even without his memory, even thrashing about in the pits of confusion, Doyle was a formidable adversary. The same one Bodie had learned how to face five years ago. Same principal as martial arts: never take the blow head on, always deflect the force one way or the other.
Years of training and years of memory gave him the upper hand - just - but even so, he had nearly blown it. Nearly given in, nearly allowed Doyle to see beyond the barricades.
Because the old Doyle would have wanted to, would have done all he could to get Bodie to open up and talk about those three weeks, tried every trick in the book to soothe whatever pain Bodie was hiding. Ray Doyle the friend would have done that, without even thinking about it.
And Bodie missed that friend. Needed him and had the sense to know it.
Pulling himself together, he turned on the tap and stuck his hands under the cold water. Then he dried them vigorously on the towel and went back into the pub. He paused at the door for a second to check where Doyle was. Seated on his chair by the boiler once more, two cups of coffee on the table before him, blanket around his shoulders. His hair was long now and well due for a cut. It was the only thing about him that still had any colour. Even his eyes, usually so green, appeared as subdued as the forest opposite the canal. Would he too, blossom in spring?
Doyle chose that moment to put his head back and look up at the sky and the simple abandonment of the action sent a surge of regret and longing through Bodie; but it wasn't strong enough to turn him from his path - merely to keep him to it. It was the only thing he had left to fight with.
He would make Doyle hate him if it was the last thing he did.
London sounded like the beach on a gentle day. In the middle of the night, the traffic moved evenly and quietly and at this remove, Doyle found it difficult to distinguish between the soft sounds.
He lay on his side in bed, his pillows folded up, his head resting. He had slept for a few hours after Bodie had brought him back. Then nurses had brought his tea and he'd slept again - but for the last two hours, slumber had eluded him completely and instead, he watched the faint stars through the window, listened to London at night and let the whole of his life wash over him like silk sheets on a bed, caressing and touching but not allowing him to really feel.
Every hour that went by allowed him to remember more; not just of Bodie but of his childhood, time in the Met, girls he had taken to bed, pets he'd had, fights he'd won and lost, cases he'd twisted his guts over, friends found and lost.
A life. Not complete yet, but getting closer. Even now, an image would come to him, fresh and familiar, travel a distance - then stop completely and he had no way of making it move again. So he would go on to the next one.
So much coming back to him now and yet still, so little of the one person it seemed it all hinged on. A few snapshots here and there; the two of them perched on a window sill on a bleak London night, trying to imitate burglars; speeding along a river chasing somebody in a boat; crouched down in a disused railway carriage as gunfire spitted all around. Good sharp memories, but no context, no idea where they fitted in. Any one of them could be the one Bodie was hiding.
Yes, Bodie did hide things; he remembered that much. Bodie didn't talk about his past, about his feelings. He didn't let people in. Faint memories - and present experience matched on that score. But all the same, none of it answered the larger questions: why couldn't they work together any more - and why was Bodie helping him if he didn't care?
Perhaps he should just let it go. His memory was reconstructing itself at a nice pace. In a few weeks he'd be able to get back to work without a problem. If Bodie was so determined to leave, perhaps Doyle should just let him. Give him his freedom, let him remain as isolated and as solitary as he appeared to desire. Why should it matter to Doyle if Bodie wanted out?
Not really a good question to play with idly because Doyle couldn't find an answer why. All he knew was that it did matter. A lot. Bodie mattered a lot.
And every day he mattered more.
Every day Doyle felt a greater desire to get behind that barrier, not just to find whatever it was Bodie was hiding, but to see the man lurking in the shadows - because he was certain that man was there and he was the one Doyle knew. That was his missing partner. Until he found that man, Doyle wasn't prepared to let Bodie out of his sight, let alone out of his life.
And stranger and more subtle yet were his own reactions to Bodie. The instant and easy instinct to stand up against any attempt the other man made to bulldoze him, the quick anger and determination he produced almost every time Bodie stonewalled him. Doyle hadn't been like that with any of the others who had traipsed in here, welcoming him back to life. More often than not, he found himself not only listening to what Bodie said, but what he didn't say; allowing his senses and his subconscious to feed him information that his memory lacked - and he did it all with a kind of hunger that stunned him.
But of all of that, every surprise buried inside that enigma, the oddest and the most disturbing were the reactions he couldn't name, could barely even describe or notice at the time. Only afterwards could he see what he'd done, how he'd felt. Yes, feeling most of all. His contradictory feelings were the most disturbing of all.
An abrupt restlessness seized his body and with a rustle of linen, he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Central heating kept the room warm so he was comfortable padding over to the window in only his pjs. There he paused, placing his hands flat on the glass, his forehead pressed to the cold surface. A dull black sea faced him, landmarked by dots of light marking out streets and buildings, character shapes of the city. From here he couldn't see each of the streets individually but he could see the personality of the place as a whole, gain an impression of its size, its flavour, its mysteries.
He imagined Bodie in that city, probably asleep by now. Awake, riding that bike, slicing through the traffic with the ease and grace of a tiger, his face cool in concentration, completely attuned to his environment, perfectly suited to the life he had chosen. A tough, hardened warrior who had drawn his first blood in the wilds of Africa, then brought his skills back to his own country, developing them further to the point of perfection. He was the best at what he did. But if he left CI5, would he be able to translate those skills back to a place like Africa? Or would Bodie, after tasting a life filled with goals he could believe in, suddenly hate the emptiness of a mercenary's day?
Doyle closed his eyes and breathed deep and slow. He could ask himself the same questions a dozen times and still get no more answers. Until he found a way to cut through Bodie's armour, he would ... be ... no
He clutched the window as dizziness assailed him. He forced himself to breathe, understanding now what was happening to him. But that was all the control he could muster as the violence of the images burst upon him with the force of an avenging angel. Gasping, he sank to the floor, blinded.
Bodie. Jesus Bodie! Why did you have to go and do a dumb thing...
Blood. Ambulance. Some guys in a gasworks. A knife. Deadly. Wanted Bodie dead. Stabbed in the back. Left to bleed to death.
Ambulance. Bodie. Blood, pale, blue eyes pale, pain in those eyes, pain and anger, hatred for those who had done this to him, Doyle following the trolley, taking Bodie's hand, telling him off...
Bodie you idiot, you could've got yourself killed, have to be more careful, don't you know I...
And the doctors taking Bodie away, tearing them apart, leaving Doyle alone with the agony while Bodie fought for his life without his partner to help him.
And no partner to help him when he got caught by those German terrorists and wrapped in a pile of explosives so that when they went off there would be nothing left of Bodie not even a memory a smile a laugh a friendship nothing at all nothing for anyone to even bury just the idea that he had run off to take the danger away rather than risk Doyle -
He opened his eyes, breathing sharp, his arms wrapped around himself, cheeks damp from tears he'd not realized he'd shed. Bodie had survived that day. Doyle had run after him, hauled him to the ground even as Bodie had struggled to get away. Doyle had caught him and pulled the explosives off just in time to save both their lives.
Absently Doyle reached up to the side of his face, fingering the dented cheekbone.
Bodie had been prepared to sacrifice his own life. Had tried to do just that to spare Doyle. He had ignored Doyle's calls to stop. He had nearly died trying to save Doyle's life.
Slowly now, he got to his feet, not needing to steady himself against the wall. Tomorrow he would get out of hospital and back home and tomorrow he would do something about getting to the heart of the Bodie mystery. He owed it to himself to find out the last of what was missing.
But more than that, he owed it to Bodie to kill off whatever it was he was afraid of.
Paperwork. For some reason nobody ever seemed able to understand, the world revolved around paperwork. Bodie had to stand by and watch Doyle, who still found it hard to hold a pen in his hand, sign one paper after another, fill in details here and there and generally waste a whole pile of time before the jailers would let him out of hospital.
But then finally he was free and Bodie pushed the wheelchair for the last time. He had a car today too, his usual silver Capri - but only because he'd volunteered to pick up Doyle; Cowley was still not talking to him and was unlikely to ever forgive him for resigning.
The day was as grey as an accountant but Doyle didn't let that put him off. Rather predicably, he was grinning like a schoolboy as they drove through the wet streets and over the river. His mood was infectious though Bodie made a bigger effort to hide his feelings than he usually did. He knew more than Doyle, just how dangerous this next twelve hours was.
Dangerous? Any more than the last few days? Are there degrees of danger? Risks he was willing to take and those he was not? Every moment he spent with Doyle chanced the return of a memory he would have given almost anything to take back. A big risk indeed. But worse still was the other, more insidious risk that within each of those precious moments spent with his partner, Bodie might betray himself with a look, a word, a gesture. Moments when, for several heartbeats, he could not take his eyes from those of forest green, when he watched those lips in speech, remembering how they had felt to kiss, when his hands ached to reach out and hold the other man, ease his confusion and pain, assure him that everything would work out, that his whole world had not been destroyed by a single misguided action on Bodie's part.
Sometimes the effort of keeping himself in check, of constantly analysing everything he said and did beforehand caused his temper to fray. His nights were spent sleeping in snatches of a couple of hours at a time, the rest bound up in endless thoughts of a man who had come to mean everything to him and who he would lose forever in a matter of days. A few weeks like this and he would start showing the strain. But it was likely Doyle would remember before then and banish him anyway.
It was an odd kind of risk that had so much certainty attached to it. He imagined it would have felt the same to the criminal with the rope about his neck. For every second he was alive, he understood the danger he was in - yet for every one of those seconds he knew the end was close by. It was only a matter of when.
He'd not had a lot of time to plan for what he would do when that day came. For a start, he'd have to do something about looking for another job - not a task he'd honestly envisaged ever doing again. Not that he really needed to work; his Swiss bank and a few other investments would look after him for the rest of his life if he wanted. But he would never choose that path; after so many years being active every day, a lazy life would be the end of him. He was too young to retire.
But what else he'd do with himself was another matter.
"Hey," Doyle interrupted his daydream. "Better stop off and get some milk and stuff."
"Nah, we're nearly there. I can pop out later and get whatever you need." Bodie replied convincingly. Doyle was about to object when Bodie pulled the car to the side of the street and turned off the engine. Then he turned in his seat and watched Doyle until he met the gaze. The green eyes were wary; excitement tainted with trepidation, but even now, with no memory and no experience to back him up, he still trusted Bodie completely. The realization kept Bodie's next words in his throat a moment longer than he intended. Then he said, "Okay, sunshine, out you get and see if you can tell me which door is yours."
Doyle barely blinked for a moment then nodded abruptly. A second later he was out in the street, coat pulled tight around him, head tilted back to look up at the series of Victorian red-brick buildings. Nice block this one, a place Bodie wouldn't mind living in himself.
"That one?" Doyle was pointing and Bodie joined him on the footpath.
With a frown, Doyle nodded, "Yeah, but don't ask me how."
"Congratulations," Bodie grinned. He got the bags from the car and followed Doyle to the front door. Then they were inside and away from the grey and the cold and climbing stairs slowly, giving the injured feet a chance. Doyle reached the door of his flat, stuck the key in - but paused before going further. Bodie said nothing; he had a pretty good idea about the hesitation.
"What if I don't remember?"
"Why don't you go in and see first, worry about not remembering then."
Doyle shook his head, a short sharp movement. Bodie couldn't see his face but he could guess the expression. For a moment, he indulged in a small fantasy of putting the bags down, wrapping his arms around Doyle and promising that no matter what happened, Bodie would never leave him.
Of course, he did absolutely nothing of the kind. Instead, he put on his best voice, the one this new Doyle responded to most effectively, "Something you always used to tell me - thinking about it mate, that's worse than doin' it. Just go in."
As though he'd pressed exactly the right button, Doyle turned the key and pushed the door open, striding inside as quickly as his healing feet could manage. Bodie waited a moment before following. He dropped the bags by the door, kicked it closed, then paused a moment for himself.
He stayed in the hallway, the kitchen and lounge visible from where he stood. Doyle was in there, moving around, looking at things in detail. Bodie allowed his eyes to half close, to blur the edges of his sight, blend the image of Doyle against this background, put him back in the place where he belonged. This was Ray's home. Here he was surrounded by the things he loved; from the framed photos on the mantle, the DaVinci cartoon on the wall, to the African harvest mask standing on it's own in the corner. Bodie had given that to him just this last Christmas. He'd had it imported especially, it had cost a small fortune but he'd gone to the effort because he knew Doyle would love it.
And he had loved it. Bodie remembered how the green eyes had lit up and how he'd recalled that image so many times over the ensuing months before he realized how his feelings for Doyle had changed. But understanding had brought fear, and fear had brought determination - and determination had brought about catastrophe.
Doyle had come to a halt in the centre of the room, his shoulders stiff with tension. Slowly, he turned and faced Bodie, his eyes dark, the anticipation gone completely, replaced with something else. "Bodie?"
"Was I... ever a coward?"
Bodie's jaw dropped, his response automatic, "What the hell are you talking about?"
Confusion flooded Doyle's face and he turned quickly to hide it. "Forget it. Not very cold in here. I hope I haven't had the heating on in here since I went away. I'll be payin' the bill off till next Christmas. The bedroom's down here isn't it?"
As he vanished down the corridor, Bodie leaned back against the door jamb and folded his arms. This was getting ridiculous! How many subtle warnings would his subconscious give him before he took notice and cleared off! Here he was, stuck in Doyle's flat, trapped between a desperate need clawing him in two different directions: to make Doyle hate him - and to help him in any way possible. He should just get the hell out now, while he still had some self-respect left.
"Well, the good news is that it does look vaguely familiar." Doyle reentered the lounge and made for the kitchen. Bodie didn't move from his spot. Instead, he watched Doyle move around, without minding for his feet too much, watched him brush the hair out of his eyes, watched the expression on that too-vulnerable face dusted with puzzlement and faint recognition as he examined bits of the kitchen, labels and other things he should know. When he spoke again, his voice was light but etched with that same something half-buried. Not once did he look at Bodie. "Why do you keep staring at me?"
Bodie lifted a shoulder idly, "Still keep thinkin' I'm seeing a ghost."
"Oh yeah?" Dry, disbelieving.
"You were dead for three weeks, remember?"
"No, I don't. How did you find out?"
"What happened? He go to your place and tell you?"
"Tell me what happened."
"I'd like to know - and don't give me any of that rubbish about my memory. I wasn't there so I can't have forgotten."
Bodie's gaze drifted unconsciously to the floor. "No, you weren't," he murmured without thinking.
He looked up to find Doyle standing with a hand on either side of the kitchen doorway. Warning bells thudded in his deaf ears. "Nothing."
But Doyle wasn't prepared to let it drop, "Nothing like hell, Bodie. Tell me what happened. What time of day was it? How much did he tell you? How long had I been missing by that point? When did you decide to hold a memorial service? Why didn't you get around to going through my stuff? How did you feel when you thought I was dead?"
Jesus Christ! Bodie couldn't move, couldn't even blink. All of his muscles were suddenly set in concrete. The quickfire questions caught him off guard, fencing him in to a point where he had nowhere to go, slicing straight to the heart of his private pain. And there was that something else in Doyle's gaze that held him even more than the questions. Snared completely by those eyes, Bodie's mind stopped producing reason and simply allowed his body to react. His pulse doubled, his palms got damp and something inside warned him that now would be a perfect time to run away. The urge to simply take Doyle in his arms and kiss him was almost overpowering. Sensing he was onto something, Doyle stepped closer until he was only a foot away from Bodie, eye to eye. "Tell me what happened. I want to know how you found out your partner of five years was dead in a skiing accident."
He was so close, so near, Bodie could inhale the scent of his shampoo, see the fine lines about his eyes, the pulse at his throat. The gaze still held him, unblinking. Was this how rabbits got caught on the road at night? Watching the delicate features with deliberate care, noting tiny defects, the tilt of the eyebrows, the precise shape of the mouth, the dent in the cheekbone. Before him stood the enticing form that haunted his dreams, waking him hard and frustrated. Everything he'd ever wanted was there, a few inches away. But he could say nothing; his silence a condemnation for his own heart, his own fear and his own, only solution.
Doyle's voice dropped almost to a whisper, as though he were deliberately tempting Bodie to do something. "I need to know what happened, Bodie."
The demand in that voice and face was not something Bodie could deny at that moment. He had just enough will to force a response, "When?" Almost no voice. More an expression of breath.
"The night you found out I was dead. Tell me about it."
"Don't remember too much about it. Ask Cowley." Hard swallow, tear the gaze away. Do it! That's better. Bodie finally detached himself from the wall and forced himself to wander about the room, loosening up his body before making his exit, suppressing the memories, the pain - always the pain. Have to get rid of the pain. Too unbearable otherwise. Love and pain, too mixed together. Afraid Doyle would still be standing there watching him, he took his time. When he finally turned back he was surprised to find a smile on Doyle's face - which was quickly dropped. He had to get out of here. Quickly. He was riding too close to the edge, too near to that spot where he would happily throw everything away and drown himself in that agony, tell Doyle the damned truth and be done with it, anything - just to be allowed some closeness of some kind with him - even if it was anger. Anything was better than this. Yes, he had to get away. Irritated more at himself than anything else, Bodie strode forward. "Look, I have to get moving. Got some stuff to do. There's food in the fridge for a couple of days. I'll stop by on Friday and get you some things if you like. I'll leave you to settle in."
"You're not staying?" Doyle asked this like a five-year-old whose favourite toy had just inexplicably broken.
"What for? I just picked you up from the hospital. Jesus, Doyle, you're not a child. Even you need to learn to be alone - and I think tonight is a perfect opportunity. I'm not your bloody keeper." Harsh voice, harsh words, soft underbelly. If Doyle had said please, Bodie would have melted like butter before a blowtorch.
Again that same confusion in Doyle's eyes - and more than a little anger. However, before he had an opportunity to express it, the door buzzer filled the silence. He turned swiftly and pressed it. "Yes?"
"Doyle? I take it you're back in one piece? May I come up?"
"Certainly, sir." Doyle kept his voice even but pressed the buzzer with all the anger he would have used against Bodie.
Bodie remained in the lounge, balanced on the balls of his feet, ready to take the first opportunity to flee. Then Cowley was at the door and Doyle was letting him in. Both came into the lounge, Cowley favouring Bodie with the barest flicker of interest, in the same manner as one would notice a bug seconds before one stepped on it.
"Are you all settled in?" Cowley was saying, keeping a genial smile on his face.
"Er, yes thank you, sir," Doyle replied. "Some things are still a little strange but I'm getting there."
"Aye well, I just wanted to welcome you back. I'd like to see you in my office Monday next week. We need to review your progress. In the meantime, I want you to get some rest and do all you can to recover your memory. I sincerely hope Bodie has been doing his best to help."
Before Bodie could utter a word, unconsciously Doyle stepped between them, his hands slipping into the back pockets of his jeans in a gesture of old. "Bodie's been doing an excellent job, sir."
Bodie nearly groaned. First at the instinctive protective gesture of Doyle's, then at the underlying warning in his voice - and lastly, at the faintly pleased smile on Cowley's face as he recognized the gestures himself. No, it wouldn't be long before Doyle was back to normal, all his old memories faithfully restored.
"Well, I have a meeting to attend. I just wanted to drop by." Cowley was already heading for the door. "Bodie? A word."
Cowley was outside and Bodie following behind when Doyle caught his sleeve, forcing him to stop. He met Bodie's gaze with solid determination. "You go and do whatever stuff you need to get done and then you come back here for tea. I'll cook something - but you make sure you come back."
For a moment, Bodie wondered how quickly Doyle would change the ultimatum if Bodie simply leaned forward and kissed him. Sometimes, it seemed like the best way to put them both out of their misery. Just get the truth out in the open, get the yelling and screaming, the anger and betrayal all out in the open - and then they could go their separate ways and leave all this agony and waiting behind.
But then, there would be no more stolen moments and Bodie needed to store as many of them as possible away for later, when he no longer had Doyle in his life. So he gave a muted, deliberately irritated grunt in response, twisted out of Doyle's grip and headed out of the flat in pursuit of Cowley.
The Old Man was waiting in the street, breathing clouds of steam into the cold afternoon. Already it was beginning to get dark.
"How is he doing?" Cowley asked without waiting.
Bodie shrugged, "Not bad, considering."
"And will his memory return? In full?"
"I should think so."
Bodie glanced away, pulling the car keys from his pocket, "Then he'll be raring to get back to work."
"The question was not directed at Doyle, 3/7. At this moment, my interest is in what you plan to do."
Bodie kept his reaction in check. He shot a glance at Cowley but didn't say anything immediately. Cowley took his silence as an invitation.
"I have to say I'm disappointed in you, Bodie. I don't know why, but I expected better."
"Don't interrupt me, Bodie. I'd have thought five years would have left me with some influence over your attitude and at least the semblance of loyalty but I see I was misguided in my appraisal." Cowley paused and turned to signal to his driver to bring his car around. "I'm glad you've finally had the sense to help Doyle out. Doctor Ross has assured me that the amnesia requires your kind of input to be reversed. What I want to know however, is what you intend to do afterwards."
Bodie lifted his chin, a frail protection against the quiet, purposeful attack. But his reply required no consideration, "You already know what my plans are, sir." With that, he turned and headed for his car, gratified to discover that Cowley didn't call him back. He wasn't entirely sure what he would have done if he had.
For the first hour, Doyle deliberately concentrated on practical things. First, he had a shower and changed into some old familiar clothes, things he could definitely recognize. Then he fingered through the record collection and put on something he knew he could hum. A Mozart sonata. Then he turned on all the lights, turned the music up and proceeded to sort out the kitchen. In the back of his mind a meal began to form, ready for when Bodie returned. He was half-way through preparing it when the door buzzer squawked again.
Wondering if Bodie had suddenly had a change of heart, Doyle pressed the button. "Yeah?"
"Ray? It's Sam. Can I come up?"
Sam Cocrane was exactly what everyone imagined a mountain man to be. Rugged, good looking, steely grey-blue eyes and unheavy square chin. Longish straight brown hair and a fan of fine tan lines around his eyes gave him that ageless look. Even the sling and cast on his arm only added to the picture. He got through the door and instantly gave Doyle a big hug, slapping his back a few times with a hearty laugh that would have echoed around the glens. Doyle was delighted to see him.
"God, you look well!"
"Yeah, well I only spent the one night on that mountain. You don't look so bad - but you're too thin. Haven't they been feeding you?"
Sam followed him into the kitchen as Doyle pulled them out a couple of beers from the fridge. "No stopping them. I'm told it'll be a few months before I'm back up to strength. Something about prolonged trauma and dropping of metabolic rate. Can't say I paid too much attention."
"Well you should," Sam shook his head. "That's the kind of thing that keeps you alive."
"Not likely to give it another try in a hurry, am I?"
Sam sipped his beer as Doyle picked up his knife again and began chopping. "Any nightmares?"
Doyle shrugged. "You?"
"No more than you'd expect. They'll wear off."
"I've heard Russell is doing better now they moved him closer to home."
"Yeah, but it'll be a while before he's up and walking around. You were damned lucky you didn't lose a few toes at least." Sam raised his eyebrows in a softly mocking gesture, "You know you've been nominated for one of the Chief Constable's bravery awards?"
"Christ," Doyle laughed, "that's all I need!"
"But you deserve it."
Doyle glanced sideways at him, "Would you take it?"
"I didn't save a man's life."
Doyle grunted and shook his head. He still didn't remember enough of his ordeal to say one way or the other. But Russell, whose injuries had nearly killed him but who was now well on the road to recovery, remembered everything and had told the story far and wide of how Doyle had brought him home to safety. But a bravery award? "Can you stay for tea?"
"Afraid not," Sam stepped forward and peered closely at what Doyle was preparing. "I have a train to catch so I can only stay a few minutes. How many are you cooking for?"
"Just me and Bodie. He eats like a horse."
Sam chuckled and leaned back against the bench. "I should get around to meeting this legendary partner of yours one day. You've told me so much about him."
Sam raised his eyebrows and for a moment, Doyle forgot his cooking. He turned and faced the other man squarely, "When I went up to Aviemore, did I talk about Bodie at all?"
Pursing his lips, Sam shook his head slowly. "No. Truth is, you didn't say much at all."
"Was that normal for me?"
"No - but I've seen you in one of your moods before. I didn't try and get anything out of you. You would have just snarled and told me to mind my own business."
Doyle couldn't help smiling at that and Sam grinned back. Idly, Doyle turned back to his cooking but didn't actually do anything for a moment. There were too many things rattling around in his head and none of them made any sense. His most recent encounter with Bodie had left him raw and unsettled and he had to find some equilibrium before the man returned. He had to get a handle on this.
"Look, Ray, if you want to talk, go ahead." Sam said into the silence. "I don't know if I can help, but I'll try."
Talk? About Bodie? Put all this confusion into words? Wonderful idea - but completely impossible. At least, in the way Sam would understand. Doyle carefully picked up a carrot and ran the peeler down the side. "Can I ask you something without getting a whole pile of questions in return?"
"Before the avalanche," Doyle began quietly, his heart suddenly pounding with a rush of adrenalin, "did I go... I mean, was I ... straight?"
"What?" Sam's frown was in his voice as much as his face. Doyle couldn't look at him.
"You know, straight; as in did I only sleep with women?"
"Ah, sure - at least, as far as I know." Sam took a quick mouthful of beer and shook his head, "But you're not going to tell my why you asked, are you? Or even if it has something to do with the mood you were in when you went to Aviemore?"
Swallowing, Doyle dropped his head and shook it. Senseless, all of it. Finally, he came up with an apologetic smile. "Look, forget it will you? It was just a thought."
Sam looked dubious but didn't pursue it. He finished his beer and looked at his watch. "Well, I gotta go or I'll miss my train. I'll call you next week."
Doyle saw him out, wishing his friend could stay a little longer. Then, his mind still not on what he was doing, he busied himself in the kitchen again until his feet began to give him trouble. Then he opened a bottle of red wine and sat down in front of the fire, lit a match to the kindling and settled back as the dark evening drew in. But though his body was stilled, his mind raced like the wind, roaring through empty caverns creating vacuums and howling at the silence.
There was no doubt about it; he was attracted to Bodie.
Sipping his wine slowly, he allowed himself to absorb and accept the realization, let it filter through his fractured knowledge of himself and his past. The effort caused him no pain and only a little discomfort. Perhaps he still had too much to learn of his other life, perhaps when he remembered, he would like the idea so much less.
But he did accept it, letting it sit inside him with peace. Doing so made other things fall into place. So many things.
The music came to an end but now he was content to sit in silence.
He was attracted to Bodie. Strongly. This afternoon, while pushing him for answers, Doyle had deliberately moved closer, disguising it in his concern for the other man's feelings on a delicate subject. But the moment he got so close, other things had clouded his vision, other sensations in his body that his mind had conveniently ignored till then - - and he'd been assailed by one single overpowering thought and that was just how extraordinarily, breathtakingly beautiful Bodie was. With his proud chin, sensuous and expressive mouth and those blue, blue eyes which bored into him like twin daggers, seeking out his soul.
Then other thoughts crowding on top; how it would feel to touch him, to be with him, to kiss him, to feel those arms around him, to make love to him. To touch that face and somehow find a way to make Bodie smile again.
Awareness of it all made him dizzy with trepidation. He was now walking in unfamiliar territory and it was scary - but he'd been doing that since he got off the mountain.
He brought his glass to his mouth but now didn't drink any. Instead, an idea struck him with more force than mere alcohol could muster.
Is that what happened?
Was that what Bodie was hiding?
Had Doyle felt this before going to Scotland? Had he told Bodie - or made a pass at him? Something that had forced Bodie to decide they couldn't work together any more?
It fitted with the facts. Bodie was happy to be around him but not willing to give anything of himself back to their long friendship. Bodie refused to talk about whatever problem they'd had - while maintaining that it wasn't important - even though it was splitting them up. And today, as Doyle had approached him, Bodie had responded as though he were afraid of Doyle being that close to him, physically.
Yes, it had to be that! It was the only thing that made sense; not only of the past, but of the present, of Doyle's feelings now, of why he'd been so obsessed with solving this mystery, why Bodie had become and remained so important to him. Bodie had been right all along. The answer: in the end, it did neither of them any good to have Doyle know it.
When the phone rang, he ignored it. When the first crack of thunder smacked against the windows, he didn't get up to pull the curtains closed. He didn't even notice when the rain began to fall.
Bodie came down the stairs at Central one at a time, his steps heavy with exhaustion, his mind clogged with names, dates and places firmly fixed in the past. Eight hours of it, non-stop and all with very little to show for it.
Murphy had called him the moment he'd got home, asking for a favour. The case he was working on needed somebody with Bodie's experience to do some file searching. Considering the problems he'd caused Murphy lately, Bodie didn't feel in a position to turn him down.
They'd kept it quiet from Cowley of course. Bodie didn't want another lecture or another frown of disappointment stabbed in his direction. It was hard enough having to endure Doyle's censure let alone Cowley's. You'd think the two of them felt they owned him the way they pulled at him from every direction. It was unlikely either of them thought for one minute that Bodie was only twenty-four hours away from leaving for good. That hangman's noose was getting pretty tight now.
Bodie didn't bother handing the car back to the pool. He still had one more item of CI5 business to take care of: Doyle.
He'd tried three times to ring and let him know that dinner was off. No answer each time. Now, that didn't necessarily mean something was wrong, but Bodie was getting so used to worrying about Doyle that he didn't give it a second thought this time. Instead, he dashed through the rain to the Capri, slipping inside liberally sprinkled and damp. The downpour was already hours old. By dawn there would be nothing left of the snow which had all but covered London for the last two months.
He pulled out of the carpark, glad for once that it was so late; there would be little traffic slowing him down. He could stop by Doyle's, check there were no lights on then get home and get some rest. He had some arrangements to make, a few things to take care of and then he would be free.
It had always been the most important thing in the world to him. His ability to pull up his roots and shift realities had always surprised and pleased him. Such a tough and hardened skill, carrying with it a philosophy that had developed from within, principals becoming more clear as the reality of his actions began to repeat themselves. He was free because he could walk away. He could always walk away. No scene, no matter how heavy, how dangerous or how desperate could keep him in a place once he'd decided to go. Never had, and now he knew, it never would.
For the truth was, if he'd ever met anybody who could keep him in a place, it was Ray Doyle. But that keeping had made Bodie vulnerable, had kept him trapped until he was too easy to wound, to scar and mark for life.
No one, no matter how bad, needed to experience what he'd been through over the last six weeks. He was starting to suspect that if he ever looked close enough, his soul would resemble a piece of Venetian glass after a rather sour argument with a meat grinder. And the worst part about it all was that it was his own fault. From beginning to end. Nobody to blame but himself.
Rain slated sideways across the road, forcing the lorry he was following to slow right down. Bodie didn't mind. He was on mechanical now. No rush. Everything would get done in its proper order, in its right way.
It wasn't as if he'd not known what he was doing. If anything, that had only made it worse. He'd known what love did to him, how those in love tore each other apart, how love gave one person the ultimate power over another.
And Ray had hurt Bodie. More sharply and more deeply than he'd ever been hurt before. All of it unwittingly, too, to add bitter irony to the rest. Doyle would have had no idea of the bonfire he was adding to that morning he'd packed to go north. No idea that his leaving was the worst possible thing he could ever have done to Bodie.
But it was all too late now. The damage was done. Bodie knew now that the moment he left, he would begin to recover - but not until then. The wounds would never heal over, never close up while he was here, in London, near his tormentor. No. He would make Doyle hate him and then leave, allowing his own heart to hate in return. Only that way could he harden himself enough to live again. He knew it would work; he'd done it all his life, starting with his mother. Not once had he ever been tempted to go back and find her. And she had never looked for him. Hatred was the miracle worker. Designer hatred, made to order, would bring him back to the man he'd been before CI5, before Doyle; hard, talented and invulnerable. And never again would he let himself fall in love.
He turned over Chelsea bridge then left along the river until he got to Doyle's street. He pulled up opposite the flat and leaned across the car to get a good look at the windows. There were lights on everywhere - - but no sign of movement.
A faint flutter of warning pricked at the back of Bodie's mind. Doyle had always been a bit of a conservationist and leaving a flat full of lights on all night could only mean one thing; trouble.
Crisp and objective now, Bodie pulled the collar of his jacket up about his neck and climbed out of the car. He dashed across the street and pulled out his keys. Without pausing, he let himself into the building then paused in the hall, listening. After another moment, he climbed the stairs and paused again before Doyle's door. Nothing. Not a single sound.
He ignored the second flutter of warning in his gut and rapped the door hard with his knuckles. The noise echoed in the stairwell and he glanced around once before knocking again. From beyond the door, the faintest rustle of movement suggested he knock once more. Then footsteps clearly from beyond the timber and he stepped back a little.
The door was wrenched open and Bodie couldn't help frowning. Doyle stood before him, fully dressed, hair wild, eyes red and puffy from sleep, shadows beneath - and surprise followed by horror plastered across the face before it was clumsily hidden beneath surliness. "Bodie! What are you doing here?"
For a second, he didn't quite know what to say. Then, gathering himself, he replied, "You didn't answer your phone. It's procedure to check."
"I'm not on call so you can forget procedure. Goodnight."
Bodie put his hand out, stopping the door, "Are you alright?"
Doyle paused, his gaze first on Bodie, searching and raw - then dropping to the floor. "Fine. I'm fine, Bodie, just go away and leave me alone."
"You don't look fine."
At this, Doyle looked up, his face suddenly flushed with anger. "Look, Bodie, I said I'm fine. I don't know why you're even asking since you don't really give a damn. Why don't you just go home - or better still, get the hell out of London like you're always threatening to do. Either way, get away from my door and leave me the hell alone!" With that, he stepped back and slammed the door in Bodie's face.
Bodie was turned and down the stairs before he could get a hold of his fury. He was back in the car and pulling away from the kerb before he could see straight. He was over the bridge before the flutter of warning in his guts turned into a flood. Without pausing he did a sharp u-turn and headed back over the river. This time he parked a little distance from Doyle's place but in a position from where he could see something of the room beyond the curtains. The lights were still on.
Half afraid to stay and watch, Bodie settled down to wait. It didn't take anywhere near as long as he'd expected. After ten minutes, he caught the sight of a shadow moving near the window, to be replaced by Doyle, obviously pacing up and down, oblivious to everything else. Another ten minutes and the pacing stopped. Then nothing.
Bodie waited, not realizing he was holding his breath until his chest began to complain. Then a flicker from below the window and he realized Doyle was coming out the door. He had a parka on and the hood pulled over his head. He turned into the street and began walking quickly. Bodie waited until he'd reached the end and turned the corner before taking off after him. He approached the corner carefully, with lights off - in time to see Doyle flag down a taxi and climb in.
He followed, keeping his distance. He was probably being too cautious - - Doyle in this frame of mind was unlikely to be paying too much attention - but he didn't want to risk it.
The journey lasted another ten minutes and then Doyle was out, paying the driver and running towards the door of a house. There he stood in the rain, belting the knocker so loud Bodie could hear it from the Capri across the road. Then lights came on in the house, one then two and suddenly the front door was wrenched open.
Bodie went cold.
Doyle was welcomed with an embrace, taken inside - by his friend from Murphy's birthday party, Jeff.
The door was closed and lights downstairs switched off while Bodie sat in his car, stunned and immobile.
He had no idea how long it took him to move again and when he finally looked at his watch, he realized without surprise, than an hour had gone by. He glanced across to the house again to find more lights on. Then another car was coming up the street. It stopped outside the door and Doyle came out, giving his friend another hug before getting into the taxi. Under cover of the rain, Bodie drove off after it.
He didn't pay too much attention to where they were heading until the streets began to look oddly familiar. He watched the taxi take one more turn then stop before his own flat. This time he drove on a little further and watched Doyle through the mirror.
Dismissing the taxi, Doyle climbed the stairs to Bodie's door and pressed the buzzer. Again and again he pressed it, getting wetter each moment. Bodie should have got out of his car. Should have moved, done something, anything; but all he could see in his mind was the face of Jeff and sheer blinding jealousy swarmed up and consumed every drop of sense in his body.
Doyle had lied about that man - and now he had gone to him in the middle of the night.
Eventually Doyle turned away and walked down the street, away from Bodie. It wasn't until he turned into the park that Bodie could bring himself to move. Now he left his car and followed on foot, ignoring the rain as it pelted down on his head. All he knew was he had to keep Doyle within his sights.
The path was awash with water but Doyle paid no attention. Fortunately there were lights on in the park, lining the pathways. It made tracking Doyle easier and stopped Bodie from slipping and tripping in the mud.
Doyle wandered aimlessly, heading for the small wood by the river, where the path led to the bridge. Bodie hurried a little to catch up. If he lost Doyle in the wood, he'd never find him again in this weather.
But suddenly there was no need to worry. Just as he got to the line of the trees, some inner sense must have warned him - or perhaps he'd been paying attention after all. Doyle stopped and turned around, seeing Bodie instantly.
For a long minute, they simply stood there watching each other. Then, inexorably, Bodie found his feet taking him closer, until he stopped within talking distance of Doyle.
In the light of the park lamp, he could see Doyle's face dripping with water. The hood had come down and the curly hair was drenched. Doyle's face was pale but his eyes were bright, as though he were on some drug - - but even so, there was no light of accusation in those eyes, no hint that memory was driving this sudden madness.
"Come back to my flat before you get pneumonia." Was all Bodie could think of to say. Jealousy and anger and fear and frustration and betrayal and love were all tangled together inside him, making mincemeat of any reasonable thought. All he knew was Doyle was in danger - and that allowed him to operate on instinct.
"You liar!" Doyle roared. Bodie stepped back at the rage suddenly directed towards him - but Doyle wasn't letting him go. He strode forward, his gaze a beacon in the night. "You damned liar! You said it didn't matter if I didn't remember! You said it wasn't what was making you leave." He paused hauling air into his lungs with difficulty, "You said I did nothing wrong. Liar! You know I did something wrong - why couldn't you just tell me? I would have understood. I wouldn't have blamed you. Why did you have to let me work it out on my own?"
"Work it out?" Bodie almost laughed. "Well, Jesus, Ray, maybe I thought you might be a bit upset. Perhaps I was just trying to save you a bit of pain and agony. And maybe I was trying to help by not telling you anything you didn't already remember - you know? Like the doctor told me?"
Doyle's eyes flared at that and he stormed forward, his fists raised, "You damned filthy liar! How could you just keep lying, even now." The fists hit Bodie's chest without force. "After five bloody years I can't believe I did so much wrong in one night that even you could hate me so much!"
"Christ, Doyle I don't hate you!" Bodie bellowed back, suddenly not entirely sure Doyle had worked it out.
"God! Another lie!"
"I promise you, I don't hate you. Why in god's name would I hate you?"
Doyle's pathetic beating came to a halt but he said nothing, his breathing harsh and ragged, his gaze never wavering from Bodie's eyes. Suddenly he swallowed and said, "For this." Then abruptly his hands gripped Bodie's face, and his lips were crushing Bodie's with a sweet violence that sent a streak of terror through his whole body.
But he was finally beyond any control now; no part of his mind registered the surprise that Doyle should be doing this, that he had got it all around the wrong way. As Doyle kissed him in anger and frustration, Bodie swiftly caught him in his arms and returned the kiss, his own desperation and six weeks of suffering bound up in long stolen seconds he knew he would pay for in a minute. Even the rain was nothing to him as he held Doyle tight, threatening to crush bones. Doyle kissed him as though he would never stop. Bodie didn't want him to, would happily have stayed like that forever, his whole body, his whole life, pressed up against Doyle's - but it was never going to last.
Suddenly, Doyle stiffened and he jerked away. Bodie did nothing to stop him. Doyle took another step back, his gaze on the ground, his hands going to his temples. He shook his head, stumbled another step back then shook his head again. Bodie could only wait. He already knew what was happening. He'd known all along he couldn't stop it.
For a full minute, Doyle simply stood there, his head bowed, fingers pressed against his temples. Then slowly he looked up, his eyes wide, his mouth open in surprise. Simple, perfect innocent surprise. His lips moved but it was another minute before any words came out. "Bodie... I remember."
Bodie kept his silence. This was the final act of a play he'd been performing for too long already. He was ready for the finale.
"I remember... football... and dinner and wine and port. I remember..." he came closer, childlike wonder on his face, "I remember everything, Bodie. All of it. All the years I lost. Jesus, Bodie, I remember you! It's wonderful!"
Driven, Bodie nodded, "You remember dinner and wine and port? And after that?"
Doyle frowned slightly, still smiling a little, "I remember the fire and you... and then you... kissed me. You kissed me! You said you wanted me!" Now he came closer, his eyes happier than Bodie had seen them before. Doyle's hand came up to touch Bodie's cheek but he didn't move. Still couldn't. Doyle continued, "Then I kissed you back and we began to make love. We did, didn't we?"
"Yes," Bodie allowed the short reply.
"And I remember thinking why hadn't we done this before and then I..." Abruptly Doyle sucked in a breath, his smile fading to nothing as the full horror of that night finally sank into his conscious mind. His hasty exit, his trip north, the avalanche, his disappearance, the death - - and this whole roller-coaster nightmare they were still riding. His hand dropped to his side as Bodie took a few steps backwards, bracing himself for what had to come. The next words, when they came out, were filled with all the dismay Bodie felt ripped from his own soul. "Jesus Christ, Bodie! What in god's name did I do?"
And Bodie broke.
Too much for too long and never a breath of hope.
Blindly he turned, willing himself to get as far away from all this as he possibly could. He stumbled in the mud, slipped and staggered to get his balance. He could hear Doyle call his name but he was as oblivious to it as he was to the rain. Urging his feet to move faster, he sloshed through the mud without caring where he went. Away was all he wanted. A rumble of thunder groaned across the sky, a mournful elegy to his wasted hopes of survival and invulnerability. Too much for way too long. His whole life.
His foot slipped and he went down, hands scrambling for purchase in the oily mud. Then he was sliding downhill, over the bank of the river and into the water and nothing could stop him. Swollen with more than twelve hours rain, the river dragged him down into its icy depths, spewing him back up as he approached the bridge. Up to breathe once more and to knock his head hard against the bridge as he passed. Then there was just the cold and the darkness and then nothing.
Doyle moved but he just couldn't move quick enough to catch Bodie before he fell. Then he disappeared and Doyle almost died.
Frantic, he dashed along the river bank, heedless of his own danger, searching for some sign. He ran all the way down to the bridge, all the while screaming out Bodie's name. Then a sight. An arm, his head. Up above the water. Then a crash as Bodie's head hit the bridge support and his body went limp.
Doyle ran, his feet sinking into mud up to his calves. There were bushes by the bridge and he used them for purchase; if he fell in now, Bodie wouldn't survive more than a few minutes. The water was icy but more than that, it was cold, so cold, the same way... Suddenly his mind refused to work, baulked at taking him further into the cold. That cold. Bleak and empty and now he remembered it so very well every moment every second of that torture so icy and dead inside standing on that mountain lonely and desolate and now he was walking into it again and Bodie would still leave him alone and bleak and empty because Bodie might want him but Bodie would never ever love him... never love him...
With a cry he stumbled forward. With one hand desperately clinging onto a sturdy bush, he leaned into the river, stretching to grab hold of Bodie's jacket. He got his fingers around the collar, tight and solid then, sure he wouldn't lose his grip, he pulled steadily. Bodie was trapped against the bridge support, balanced against the flow of water. The moment that balance changed, he became a heavy dead weight the water tried desperately to drag away.
Doyle was having none of it. He kept his hold, pulling steadily, evenly, keeping his weight back, holding onto the bush, the water swirling around his knees. Slowly, sluggishly, Bodie moved towards him, his mouth below the water line, his nose constantly drowned by the movement. Now Doyle put some more effort in, dragging harder until at last, he fell back with Bodie half out of the water. He turned Bodie over so his face was clear, then proceeded to drag him the rest of the way out.
The effort nearly made him faint - but he did it. Rolling Bodie onto his side, Doyle cleared out his airway and made sure he was breathing. Then he sat down for a second and caught his breath, allowed his heart to slow and calm before he broached the next inevitable journey. He didn't bother looking across the park. He knew it was a long way; though nowhere near as long as the snow.
But Bodie was unconscious and weighed a third more than Doyle - and Doyle was still recovering from that last ordeal. Really, he should go and get some help - but one look at Bodie's face, pale in the lamplight, forced him immediately to his feet. He grabbed Bodie's hands and pulled them over his head. Using the slick mud for his purposes, Doyle dragged Bodie back up to the path where the land flattened out a little more. He had to pause again to get his breath back then once more he gritted his teeth. With a fireman's lift, he swung Bodie up onto his shoulder and carefully and steadily climbed the path to the road. Along the road to Bodie's door. Fish in his pocket for the key. Not in the jacket. In the trousers. Lucky they hadn't fallen out in the river.
Doyle leaned against the door as he undid the lock. Then inside, closing the door behind him. He took the stairs to the first floor, one at a time, his legs shaking with the effort, threatening to collapse. Then the flat door, another key and inside. Instinct guided his hand to the light switch and his feet to the sofa. There he finally knelt and lowered Bodie down.
Almost spent, Doyle allowed himself to collapse for a moment, desperate to get some strength back into his bones. Bodie wasn't out of danger yet. He had to move - and move quickly.
But actual speed was completely beyond him. The best he could manage was purposefulness. He rose and stumbled into the kitchen, kicking off his boots and coat as he went. He filled the kettle and switched it on. Then into the bathroom to fill the bath with hot water. Then back to Bodie to feel the pulse, find the hands and feet frozen and blue.
He knew all this so well. Too well and too recently. But Bodie would be okay. He had to be. He'd wake up soon and tell Doyle off for fussing. He would be okay.
Doyle lifted Bodie enough to pull off the waterlogged jacket, shoes and socks, but his own strength was thinning now so he didn't bother with the rest of Bodie's clothes. Instead, he lifted him on his shoulder once more and took him into the bathroom. He tried to lower him gently into the bath, but his arms gave up and the splash drenched everything. Doyle was beyond caring. He got Bodie safely settled with his head clear of the water then headed back into the kitchen and the boiling kettle.
He filled a cup with hot water and three big spoons of honey. He almost burnt his tongue as he sipped, stripping off his own clothes right there in the kitchen. Fortunately, beneath his jacket he was still mostly dry and after that heavy work, not even cold. Still drinking he padded through to the bedroom, dragged a towel over himself to dry off and grabbed a robe from the back of the door. He then made another cup of honey water and stepped back into the bathroom. He checked Bodie's hands and feet and relaxed a little to find them already warming up. The pulse was a little stronger, too and a faint brush of colour had appeared in Bodie's white cheeks. He was going to be alright. Knowing he shouldn't - but being entirely unable to stop himself, Doyle leaned over and brushed his fingers across Bodie's cool cheek. He didn't stir so Doyle leaned forward and risked a brief kiss; nothing more than a touch of I'm so glad you didn't drown and god I love you so much Bodie I'd do anything for you even give you up if I have to.
He pulled up a stool and settled down to wait, exhaustion planing every muscle in his body. He emptied his cup then started on the second. When he finished that, he made another and brought it back with him. Soon after he sat, Bodie moved. A slight flutter of eyelids, a moan, an inarticulate mutter - and then he was awake, his eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling. A moment passed, then another and then he turned his head until he saw Doyle.
"Ray?" His mouth hardly moved as he began to shiver. "God, I'm cold! What happened?"
Doyle wanted to laugh and hug him at the same time but contented himself with a gentle smile, "You took a dive off the bank and hit your head against the bridge."
"It saved your life, mate. How do you feel? Can you move? I'm afraid I won't be much help at getting you out of the bath. That's why I had to leave you there till you woke up. Here, drink some of this."
Bodie took a sip and instantly screwed up his face, "Agh! Where's the brandy?"
"Alcohol only makes hypothermia worse. Lowers the body temp when you're in that bath to bring it up. I'll put some more hot water in."
He forced Bodie to finish the drink, then brought another and made him drink that, too. Only then, when he'd checked Bodie's fingers and toes and pulse once more, did he allow the man to climb out of the bath. He brought towels and a robe hot from the drying cupboard and left Bodie to get changed while he threw together some food. Bodie wouldn't feel like eating but he had to. Doyle sent him to bed and brought the plate in with another hot drink. Bodie was still shivering so Doyle piled the blankets high as he cajoled him into eating everything on the plate. Every minute saw some more colour come back into Bodie's face, a little more life in his blue hands, a little more strength in his shaky voice. Finally, when he finished eating, Doyle left him alone to clear up the kitchen, hoping Bodie would drop off to sleep.
It was only when he'd piled the muddy clothes in the washing machine and the last plate and knife was put away that he stopped, leaning up against the kitchen wall. Abruptly, he began to shake and he wrapped his arms around himself as tears tipped over his cheeks. He closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip, making the pain steer the tears away to another place, stored against another time. He was too tired now, too raw. He had to check on Bodie and then he had to get some rest. A few hours on the sofa and then he'd feel better about leaving Bodie alone for the rest of the night. What little there was left of it. Pulling himself together, he wiped his face clear and headed back into the bedroom.
Bodie was lying on his side facing the door, his eyes half-closed, his whole body shaking uncontrollably. Should have left him in the bath a bit longer -- but it was too late now. Slipping out soundlessly, Doyle put the kettle on and rummaged through the linen cupboard until he found the pair of hot water bottles he'd seen there last year. He filled them up, grabbed the first aid kit and crept back into the bedroom to find Bodie wide awake. He knelt down by Bodie's head and slipped the bottles under the blankets. Then he leaned forward to look at the spot on Bodie's left temple where a shallow gash was surrounded by a lovely purpling bruise.
"Thought you'd gone home."
"In your bathrobe? I don't think so." He cleaned the wound, feeling Bodie's eyes on him the whole time.
"How does it look?" Came the ragged question.
"Not too bad considering."
"Considering I should be dead?"
Doyle paused only a moment before replying, "Yeah."
He added antiseptic cream then fished around for a small dressing. He pressed the pad to the skin and taped it down. Probably wouldn't last too long, but it would do. As he went to move back, Bodie caught his wrist, forcing him to look into those eyes. The grip was firm but had no real strength. Doyle could have broken away at any time. But he knew Bodie had something to say and he knew he had to listen.
"You lookin' after me." Bodie turned Doyle's hand and looked at it closely, studying the marks of still-healing frostbite, red welts against pale skin. It would take another month or more before they were gone completely.
"What else would I do?"
Bodie's gaze shot to his but after a moment, he let Doyle's hand go and buried himself back under the blankets as a mighty shiver took over his whole body. "Just can't seem to get warm." Yeah. And there was only one thing for it. Clenching his teeth against the reaction he knew he'd get, Doyle moved around the bed and pulled the covers open enough for him to get in. Instantly Bodie rolled over to face him, his eyes wide.
"What are you doing?" "Getting you warmed. It's the best way. The only way."
"No. It's okay. The bottles are good. They're working. You don't need to..."
Doyle shook his head and moved closer, his hand reaching for Bodie's shoulder. "Look, just shut up, Bodie and let me get you warm. I'm too bloody tired for an argument. I'm gonna fall asleep in a minute."
When his fingers touched Bodie's shoulder, they felt rigid muscle beneath the woollen fabric. Bodie made no move towards him and Doyle sighed. He was going to make this as difficult as possible. Still, Doyle had come this far, he wasn't about to stop now. Using the last of his strength, he pulled himself closer to Bodie, wrapping his arms around the other man, trying not to think about the fact that this was his Bodie and how much he'd wanted to do just this and how obvious it was that Bodie wished he would just go away. But he persisted and eventually, tiredness and physical shock forced Bodie's muscles to relax, a little at first, and then more. Doyle took the opportunity to get comfortable, his head resting on the pillow beside Bodie's, his eyes closed, his legs wrapped around the other's, his arms encircling Bodie's back.
Inexorably, the shivering stunted and faded and Doyle allowed himself to drift, paging his thoughts away from recent memories of Bodie falling into the water, of dragging him to safety. He just concentrated on feeling the solidness in his arms, enjoying the feeling of Bodie so close, almost captive for a few brief moments. After weeks of trauma, uncertainty, of frustration and anguish, this was too nice to ignore. He floated, suspended above reality, his whole body drinking in the heady fantasy and without thought, it responded. His head moved up and his lips found Bodie's, taking a kiss from instinct alone. Bodie's lips tasted cool and soft and so very wonderful. The reaction was slow at first. In the beginning, Bodie's mouth devoured his, unconsciously, eager and hungry but too soon -- heartbreakingly soon -- he withdrew with a hiss.
Doyle opened his eyes. He'd left the lamp on and he could see Bodie quite clearly, see the fear and anxiety written all over that beautiful, arrogant face, see the dismay fill those glorious eyes. He wanted to overwrite that fear, replace it with confidence, with love, with trust. Even though he knew Bodie would never love him, would never allow himself to. Again, Doyle moved, his arms holding Bodie in place as he caressed Bodie's chin with his lips and tongue. Bodie moaned then jerked his head out of the way.
"I said stop it!"
A wild, chancy mood swung across Doyle like a cloud clearing from the sun.
"No, you said 'don't'. Not the same thing." He dropped his voice to a husky whisper, deliberately seductive. "You'll have to be more specific. Tell me what you like, what you don't like. Tell me what you want. I'll do anything, Bodie, anything."
With that, he dropped his head and brushed his lips over Bodie's throat, licking along the tender windpipe, sending shivers of something other than cold all up Bodie's body. Another moan escaped.
"Please, don't do this." Pure anguish now.
Doyle ignored him for a moment, tasting the fresh skin on Bodie's shoulder, breathing in the smell of him, the slowly growing warmth, the firmness beneath, the shape of bone under muscle. Almost dizzy with desire, he had to come up for air. He found Bodie's eyes shut against what might have been unspeakable torture. Still taken with the odd wildness, Doyle pressed his lips to Bodie's ear, let his teeth nibble gently, moving his hands away to undo the belt of his own robe. Bodie could feel what he was doing and instantly sought out his hands, grabbed and stopped them before they could go too far.
"Ray, stop this now."
Instead, Doyle lifted his head a little until his lips just touched Bodie's. There he paused and waited. For long seconds, Bodie didn't move, the pain and confusion within him evident on his face. Then Doyle pulled his hands away and removed his robe. Naked now, he took Bodie's hands back and placed them on himself, made Bodie feel his body, touch him the way both of them wanted so much.
With another moan, Bodie swore, "You're trying to kill me."
"No I'm not," Doyle replied in a whisper. "I'm trying to finish what we started. I'm trying to give us what we both need so much, especially after the last six weeks. I'm trying to make love to you, Bodie. Just for the next hour, stop fighting me. Please. Let me make love to you."
Bodie swallowed, his breathing short and shallow, leaving Doyle an opportunity to move again. He slipped his hands onto Bodie's chest, beneath the robe. He pushed it open wide, letting his hand drift south over the smooth skin and flat belly, down to the warm darkness of soft hair and hard flesh. Bodie grabbed his hands again, this time hard, his eyes flaring with anger -- but he didn't say anything. Doyle could feel his heart pounding in his chest, fast. His grip was so tight, Doyle frowned at the pain but he didn't fight; he simply waited, breathless; sweet anticipation twisting every part of his body, rolling through his gut and making him nervous and ravenous at the same time.
Slowly, so very slowly, Bodie came to him, mouth moving closer until his lips collected Doyle's in a merging of such aching tenderness, Doyle could have wept. It lasted only moments -- and then he found strong arms gripping him in a vice, that mouth plundering his, seeking, drinking him in, driving his lust between them like a hunter would its prey. Doyle responded, flinging open the floodgates of his own desire and longing. Matched perfectly, they moved together, equally hungry, equally devouring the other, expressing with hard swift motion, passions too long stored, too long ignored. Robes were pulled out of the way, bodies entwined and lavished with moist kisses, sucked and bitten, greedily and lovingly. Hands found each other's hardness, swiftly bringing sharp focus and a breathless pause, a moment of sheer stratospheric expectation. They faced each other, eyes wide, both suddenly fearful. Then Doyle smiled with the wonder of it all and Bodie kissed him lingeringly, toying playfully with each lip in turn -- but then the rollercoaster resumed its ride and Bodie shifted and pinned Doyle beneath him. Now they moved together in perfect time, their mouths sealing the compact with a mutual need voiced without words, a language of bodies living and thriving together, a history as long as either wanted to remember; two souls joined for one single weightless moment.
Together they plunged over the precipice, enjoining the last joyous seconds with a final kiss lasting only until they were utterly spent.
Mindless for long minutes, Doyle finally forced himself to shift Bodie a little, so he could breathe. He could feel their warm stickiness between them and stilled his movements. His fingers caressed Bodie's back gently, simply feeling, acknowledging, loving, no more. Bodie lay silent but from his breathing it was obvious he hadn't fallen asleep. Then Doyle felt something on his cheek and he frowned. He raised his hand to touch it and instantly Bodie clambered off him, rolling away to the other side of the bed, leaving him suddenly cold. Tears? From Bodie? Abruptly afraid, Doyle reached out a hand to Bodie's shoulder but the flinch that greeted his touch made him withdraw. For a moment, he laid there, a silent debate raging in his head. Then quickly he got up, pulled one of the blankets off the bed and walked out, closing the door behind him. He curled up on the sofa, wrapping the blanket about him as though it would replace Bodie. Tears of his own pricked the backs of his eyes and he squeezed them shut, denying release. But he was too exhausted for more torment and he found himself drifting off, memories of the last hour reverberating within the corridors of his mind. Pleasure. Cold chased away. Love. Bodie.
March 17. Thursday, 2.10pm
It was the smell of coffee which woke him. Fresh coffee brewed the way he liked it. Thick tendrils of the bitter scent rose towards him and he breathed them in, unwilling to move and break the perfection of the moment. But discomfort and memory brought him to the surface properly. Slowly he opened his eyes. He was lying on his side on the sofa, the coffee table had been moved close to his head, a steaming mug placed only inches from his face. He could see nothing else -- but some other instinct warned him that Bodie was close by.
Carefully he turned a little, keeping his movements as small as possible -- and there was Bodie, seated on a big chair by the window, his legs up over one arm, his elbow planted on his thigh, his chin resting on his fist. With his eyes gazing out of the window, Bodie appeared to be a kind of reclining 'Thinker', so intent was he on his ruminations. He was showered and dressed and apart from the bruise on his temple, appeared none too bad for his brush with death. But something in the way he sat told Doyle it wasn't the plunge in the river that drove Bodie's contemplations. Still keeping as quiet as possible, Doyle shifted and collected the cup, bringing it carefully to his mouth to sip. All the while he kept his gaze on the man by the window. He was halfway though the cup when Bodie glanced in his direction. Abruptly, the expression changed. "Oh, you're awake." Doyle nodded, keeping his voice on an equally noncomittal level. "What time is it?" "Going on for 2.30. I guess you must have been tired." "How long have you been up?" "A while." Bodie shrugged and turned back to the window.
'A while' probably meant since 6 am! Doyle had to bite back the urge to get angry even though he wanted to scream and shout and thump Bodie and ask him what the hell was wrong. Stupid. Especially since he now remembered everything about his partner, all the way back to the very first day. He knew enough now to avoid making mistakes like that out of ignorance. No. If he was going to make any mistakes, he would do so deliberately. Even though he suspected... no -- believed -- that he was going to lose Bodie anyway. The thought caught him momentarily breathless. The idea of life without Bodie was... was... Probably a lot like a life without Doyle had seemed to Bodie. He drained his coffee and let the bitter fluid calm him.
"How do you feel?" Bodie replied without moving. "Head hurts, the rest of me feels like I was hit by a train. What about you?" "Me?" Doyle allowed a half-grin. "I could do with a shower." With that, he got up, ignoring the shift of Bodie's gaze, the abrupt discomfort on that brow. He pulled the blanket around him and headed for the bathroom. It was only once he was in there that he realized he'd kept his body demurely hidden from Bodie's eyes. Once under the water, his muscles hastily reminded him of the abuse he'd given them last night. In reality, it was a damned miracle he'd been able to get Bodie back here in one piece. But the water felt good and a part of him inside felt even better and he kept it safe from the rest of him that would drown it beneath stark reality. For a moment last night, for a short blissful while, riding an urgent need too swiftly expressed, Bodie might have loved him, heart and soul. If that was all he could take with him, he would protect it and keep it safe from the ravages of cynicism.
When he got out he found fresh clothes on the floor by the door. He dressed and left, rubbing a towel through his hair. It really needed a cut but he kind of liked it this long. Gave him something to hide behind.
Bodie had made breakfast - or a meal, at least considering the hour. A plate of omelette, mushrooms and tomatoes waited for him on the coffee table. Of Bodie himself there was no sign.
Another little note left, another unreadable message.
He ate, washed up, waited in the lounge - then decided to risk looking for Bodie in the bedroom. He arrived to find Bodie had just finished changing the sheets. Getting rid of the evidence of their night together. Quickly Doyle slipped back down to the lounge before Bodie could see him. Suddenly he just wanted to get out of here. He stalked around the lounge, looking for his jacket before he remembered he'd left it in the kitchen. Bodie had hung it in the drying cabinet, despite the mud soaked into it. Doyle grabbed it, fishing in the pocket for his wallet and keys. He could get a cab from the corner. If he slipped away now, Bodie wouldn't have to face him again, wouldn't have to try and find something to say - that said nothing at all.
But when he got back into the lounge, he found Bodie back on his chair as though he hadn't moved, as though he never would, as though he was trying to make time stop in this one place, in no-man's land - because that was the only way he could face the situation he was in.
Doyle didn't bother holding his anger back now. He stood by the lounge door and spoke, his voice harsh and crisp, but not loud, "So, I was right all along. It was just sex you wanted from me."
For a second, Bodie didn't move. Then suddenly his head snapped around, a frown already forming, "That's what you thought." A flat statement without inflection - not a question.
"Was I to think something else?" Doyle shot back. His heart pounded as he waited for a response - but Bodie's focus had shifted, his eyes playing over the coat Doyle held.
"That needs cleaning," he said, as though that was the next thing he was supposed to say and he said it because he was trying so hard to do what he was supposed to do. Bodie was trying hard even though he knew he was failing. The coffee, the breakfast; words, empty and yet evasive, trying to establish some kind of neutral ground that didn't involve love or even sex.
The anger inside Doyle drained away. Bodie was still operating in the same way as he had from that first night when the chopper had brought him back from the north, back from the dead. At the time - and until last night, he hadn't realized that Bodie was trying to do the right thing, as he saw it.
But what did Bodie want? From the look on his face, his body language, he wished Doyle a hundred miles from here, from his life. How could this be the same man who had made love to him last night? Who had held him and cherished him and sang to him with his body, even as he'd held so much back.
Doyle wasn't going to give up. Not today and not tomorrow. He would not give up Bodie without a fight. He was far too precious, far too important to Doyle's every breath even if he was a stubborn, pigheaded misguided fool who didn't have the sense to see that Doyle adored the ground he walked upon.
No. Even if fighting meant letting him go. Losing him.
Taking in a deep breath, he pulled his coat on. "Come for a walk. You'll feel better with a bit of exercise."
Bodie stared at him then nodded slowly, almost with relief. He unfolded himself from the chair, grabbed a long black wool coat and then herded Doyle out of the flat.
Outside, Doyle was surprised to see the day completely fogged over. After all that rain, too. While he paused on the footpath, Bodie strode ahead - aiming for the park. Doyle hurried after him.
The inevitable return to the scene of the crime - but what puzzled Doyle more than anything else was the distance he'd carried Bodie. It took him nearly fifteen minutes to get as far as the bridge in the daylight, walking quickly, keeping track of Bodie. No, next time it can be somebody else who gets injured and they can carry Doyle uphill in the middle of winter, in a thunderstorm. Yeah, somebody else.
That somebody was standing on the footbridge, looking down at the inky swollen river. It wasn't really a river, even. More a deep brook. But it had been enough to nearly kill Bodie.
Doyle approached, his boots making hollow noises on the wooden slats. He stopped and put his hands on the rail, leaned over and glanced down. The place where he'd pulled Bodie out of the water was several feet beneath the waterline now. If the level rose any more, the bridge would be covered.
"You saved my life," Bodie murmured into the watery quiet, his eyes fixed on the rippling, flowing mass in front of them. "You know, it's odd, but I've never said thank you. Not in all the times you've done it. I only ever told you off when I thought you'd taken too big a risk with my neck. Like that sniper at Wimbledon. You said you were worried you might miss and hit me. But you never miss, do you?"
Bodie pursed his lips and nodded as though he were thinking this over. Then he lifted his chin, his gaze taking in the featureless grey sky. "How did you get me back to the flat?"
"I carried you over my shoulder."
A frown then, sharp with a flash of something in the sombre blue eyes. "You're one of a kind, Doyle." Ironic, a little bitter. Bodie leaned his arms on the railing, taking care not to look anywhere but directly ahead. "Nobody'll give you a medal for dragging me out of this one."
Doyle laced his fingers together, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"That night, before I left for Scotland, that dinner, everything - you were trying to seduce me, weren't you?"
A long silence, ended with a sigh, "It was a mistake. Like last night. It should never have happened."
Now Doyle turned to look at him but there was no sign of recognition from Bodie. Simply the same steadfast wall he'd shown all along, the armour, the protection shielding him from anything Doyle could say or do. Only last night, when he'd touched Bodie, had there been any other reaction - reluctant then - regretted now.
A mistake. Bodie thought it all a mistake. He wished none of it had happened. He saw it all as the manifestation of a moment's weakness on his part; the seduction, the flight north, the weeks of mourning, the recovery and worst of all, last night.
The leaden weight in Doyle's stomach lurched lower. He saw that strong, beautiful face with eyes dreading the future, with a heart that longed for the past. For five years his world had revolved around this man, had indeed continued because of him, because of his protection, his dedication, his unswerving loyalty, his unquestioning acceptance of everything Doyle was - the only person in his life ever to do so. Despite their diverging backgrounds, ideals, tastes, moods - everything; they had become friends. Doyle swallowed, "You're leaving me, aren't you?"
Bodie gave a short nod, "Yes."
Turning back to the river, Doyle held his reaction in, using brute force. No amount of pleading would change Bodie's mind, no heartfelt declaration of love would make any difference. So simple, so easy to throw it all away; to denounce everything that meant something to him.
To both of them.
There were a few people in the park, a man walking his dog, a couple wheeling a pram. Few people out to make the most of this hideous grey day. Another in a long line. All of them grey and cold.
No. Bodie would never love him. He would never allow himself to be so vulnerable, so weak. He would never give something of himself like that, allow himself to need - and he would go the rest of his days just as isolated, lonely and alone as he was at this moment, as he had been all his life. That was the way he wanted it and Doyle couldn't stop him.
Struggling to keep himself under control, Doyle turned then, finding no words to express the sadness overwhelming him. Instead, he simply shook his head and walked away, long strides taking him to the other side of the bridge where the path would lead him down to the main road.
He didn't. He had to keep going or he was going to lose it completely and that wasn't the way he wanted Bodie to remember him.
"Ray, stop!" Pounding feet on the damp ground. "Damn you, Ray..." A hand grabbed his elbow and turned him around roughly. "Why are you always walking out on me?" Bodie glared at him, those eyes blue enough for the whole grey sky.
"You don't want me, Bodie," Doyle growled back, barely holding it in. "You just want it all to go away and me with it. We've got nothing more to say to each other. It's over, so just let me go and we can get on with our lives, forget all about this stupid mistake!"
"Damn you!" Bodie grabbed both his arms and shook him, his voice savage. "Is it so hard for you to understand? Of course I bloody well want you! Christ, I want you so bad it's killing me! That's why I have to go." A hand came up and gripped Doyle's face, harshly rubbed a thumb over his lips. "God, I want to kiss you so much. Last night was so...god, Ray, I just want you to understand. Can't you at least try?"
"Understand?" Doyle hissed, shock and anger now permeating every bone in his body; the touch on his face sparking off something terrible inside him. "I understand too bloody well. I knew you'd do this! You can't love anyone - and the moment you get close, you just leave. The great, invulnerable Bodie can walk away from anyone. And you keep doing it again and again because you're so damned terrified. And what did you do that night? You tried to seduce me! Tried to get me to give you a little of what you needed without having to explain why, to take a chance, to actually risk something. But I ruined it, didn't I - because, unlike you, I've never looked upon our relationship as being disposable!"
Doyle paused, gulping in air. Bodie stood stock still before him, like a tree waiting to fall.
"How could you do that to me, Bodie!" Doyle bellowed, not caring a whit if anyone else in the park could hear him. "Was I always just some body you could use when you wanted and then toss away, along with five years of friendship? Are you really so cold? You probably think you were better off while you still thought I was dead!"
Bodie snapped back at that, his eyes suddenly filled with a darkness wholly unnatural. "Don't ever say that, you hear me?" The tone low and menacing, his fingers digging into Doyle's arms. "Never!"
But Doyle wasn't going to stop now, "So you got hurt. I'm sorry, really I am - but I can't take it back..."
"And you're going to promise me you'll never hurt me again? Christ, Doyle, do you think I'm a fool?"
"Promise? Only a fool expects guarantees in love! And you're the biggest fool I know!" He would have gone then but Bodie's grasp tightened, twisting him back around. He then put a hand on the side of Doyle's neck, the fingers compressing the muscle there, instilling so much in that strong gesture.
For long seconds, Bodie held his silence inside, his chest heaving with the effort. His eyes locked onto Doyle's, holding him as much as the hand on his shoulder. Then he gathered voice, determination and something else bordering on desperation and hopelessness. "Tell me," he hissed, harsh and raw. "Tell me you love me."
Bodie gripped harder. "Say it!"
Doyle shook his head, a great emptiness inside swallowing all the anger, returning him to the dark and cold he'd hoped Bodie had rescued him from. "It's too late, Bodie. I can't make it all right for you. You don't trust me. You don't trust yourself. Please, just leave me and get it over with. I don't want to be a part of this any more." Tears now falling unchecked down his face, Doyle twisted away, turned and ran, making sure he didn't stop or look over his shoulder.
This time, only the silence followed him.
So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break
Long dark shadows striped across the road, grown from a full moon bright in the heavens. The air was crisp and sharp, it's edges shared with the shadows, a single breath for each one. The street was empty, a few cars parked either side, noises of the city banked in the distance, and a cat mewling from somebody's door. Doyle's boots made the only other live sound as he made his way towards his front door, bag slung over one shoulder.
Worn out, exhausted and aching in almost every muscle, he climbed the stairs to his flat, dumped the bag inside the hall and sank onto the sofa, unwilling to move. Moonlight streaked in the windows, dappled by the net curtains, suffused into a hazy blue glow, wonderfully soothing after a day like today.
Macklin had it in for him; he had proof now. Only Macklin would expect him, after a three-week ordeal, to return to normal fitness in the space of a fortnight. And if he didn't, Macklin was making damned sure he wouldn't get the blame for it.
Okay, so maybe Macklin wasn't expecting that much - but it sure as hell felt like it. Worse still was the diet they had him on: high protein, body building stuff. He'd already put on 5 pounds and they wanted more. Always more. No accounting for some people.
Heaving a delicious sigh to indulge his own self-pity, Doyle climbed to his feet and wandered into the kitchen. The good thing was, with all this exercise, he had got his appetite back completely. The food didn't taste that great, but he hardly noticed some days. He switched lights on, turned the telly on in the hope of catching the late news. He'd eat, shower and then sink into blissful sleep - he had another day with Towser tomorrow, reflex training if he remembered correctly.
He opened the fridge and pulled out a beer, enjoying the first mouthful especially because Macklin had forbidden him any such luxury until his retraining was over. Then he poked around for some leftovers. Murphy and Kathy had come over for dinner the night before and there was still some lasagne left. He pulled out the tray and stuck it on the bench, digging in with a fork, eating it cold. He almost preferred it that way.
It had been a funny night, with Murph and Kathy here. A good night - but odd in that all three of them had avoided discussing Bodie. Not even once. Because of that, and simply because he'd not got up the bottle to ask, he still couldn't work out how much they knew. He was aware that it had been largely those two who had helped Bodie through the first weeks after the avalanche - but whether tight-lipped Bodie had told them the truth was another matter - and Doyle couldn't exactly come out and ask them.
And he wasn't sure he wanted to.
He took the tray and his beer into the lounge and sat in front of the telly, volume down so he could just hear it.
Bodie had gone.
At least, that's what Central had reported. A number of attempts to phone him had failed and then somebody had gone to his flat to find it in a mess, sufficient clothes removed to suggest he had gone without leaving word, even to Cowley. The Old Man had been tight-lipped and anybody who knew him well, could see he was genuinely hurt by Bodie's inexplicable behaviour - but Cowley had also been up to his ears with government submissions for next year's budget and work had been flagrantly busy with one thing and another - so Cowley had put the entire matter aside, pending further investigation. In a way, Doyle knew, Cowley was hoping Bodie might sort himself out and come back of his own accord.
In a few weeks, Doyle decided, when he could face the subject again, he would have a quiet word with the Old Man and explain the reality - without getting into too much detail. It was only fair. Or at least, fair to Cowley.
Perhaps by then, Doyle might just be able to think of that day, that night, without taking the whole weight of it upon him. Such feelings had threatened to drown him every day and only the sheer discipline of training had kept him from that. It filled his days with backbreaking physical torture - but at least it filled his nights with sleep - even if his dreams sometimes took him to places he knew he couldn't afford to visit.
But he was determined. After coming so close to death - a second time - - high on that mountain (regardless of what had driven him up there in the first place) he was not about to let his life be destroyed for anyone. No, not even Bodie. Especially not Bodie.
Yet, for all his discipline, he couldn't stop himself thinking, remembering - not just over the last few weeks, but over the years before. Bodie had always been with him - not on absolutely every job, perhaps - but there, in the squad, available to talk to, to have a drink with. Simple company like no other. His sense of humour had always had a good effect on Doyle, his sheer persistence had more often than not, kept Doyle from sinking too low. Now he was on his own and he had to try harder to keep his own balance. But it didn't feel right; instead, it felt empty. Empty and cold.
In a way, he missed the friendship more than anything else - largely because anything else hadn't really happened; at least, not in pieces he could understand. But the friendship was something else - and he'd been trying to protect it when he'd left and gone to Scotland. Now, he'd not only lost his chance at love - but he'd also lost the best friend he'd ever had. Training was also, in a way, more painful because Bodie was not there with him. They'd always worked together against Macklin and if one of them was retraining after an injury, the other would come by and give support, buy a beer afterwards. That was one of the unspoken, unwritten rules of partnership.
Of course, one of the others was - don't fall in love with your partner.
For a moment, he forgot the telly, forgot his meal and his aches and pains as he was sharply assaulted by a stab of deep regret, of an agony that went so deep he didn't dare even glance at it. It pulled him in so swiftly, he was caught unprepared and all his aches and pains coalesced towards an image of Bodie. Holding him, kissing him, making him believe in some kind of love, no matter how frail and fragile. Steadfast, he hauled in a breath and forced himself to relax, to let it go.
Even if he could never let Bodie go.
Again, the pain shifted into the background, where it lived day and night and with a rueful smile at his own wilfulness, he drained his beer and headed for the bathroom.
The door buzzer went. Doyle paused with a frown, glancing at the clock. It was way too late for anybody to be visiting. Swiftly, he turned and made for the door, putting his thumb to the intercom button.
"Come up, Murph."
He stood there and waited, with the door open as the other man took the stairs two at a time. Murphy saw him and came to a halt, obviously in something of a hurry. "Sorry, Ray but it's Bodie. He's had an accident."
"An hour ago. He came off his bike - but he's not at death's door or anything."
Doyle was already reaching for his jacket. He slammed the flat door and followed Murphy down the steps, trying not to panic. "How do you know?"
"He rang me from the hospital."
"He rang you? From where?"
"Guys. Ambulance took him there."
"Cowley's gonna kill him."
Murphy reached the street and glanced over his shoulder at Doyle, "Cowley doesn't know - nor will he. Bodie didn't have his ID on him so the hospital didn't know to call CI5." He led Doyle to his car and opened up the back passenger door. Kathy was sitting in the front as Doyle climbed in.
He sat as Murphy started the motor and pulled out from the kerb. Everything that had been so neatly settled inside him was now fluttering about, gusted out of place with a breeze of uncertainty, an icy chill of fear. "Are you sure he's okay?" he heard himself ask, though the voice didn't sound like his at all, all choked up and strangled as though he were trying to kill off a month's worth of tumbling emotions.
"No, I'm not sure. He sounded very strange. That's why we thought we'd pick you up on the way."
Doyle nodded, his gaze going out of the side window. It was a moment before the words actually sank in and he glanced up to see Murphy's face in the mirror. "He told you not to tell me, didn't he?"
Murphy didn't bat an eyelid but Kathy turned in her seat. "Michael told him he'd call you and Bodie hit the roof - but Ray, I spoke to him and he did sound very odd. Not like him at all. We're worried, both of us. He's been through a lot lately."
Doyle nodded vaguely, his gaze meeting hers, seeing only compassion in her eyes, and some degree of understanding. "So you do know."
She nodded, "He told us a little of why you left for Scotland."
"I see." Doyle clipped back, turning to look out the window again, deliberately shutting her out.
Great, the bastard could talk to Murphy and Kathy, spill his heart, but he couldn't bring himself to say a word to Doyle, couldn't come to him and talk, even explain in simple words why they couldn't be together, why he had to run off, why he had to make life so damned unbearable it was likely to get them both killed one day.
And now he'd come off his bike and got himself injured and now he didn't even want Doyle to know about it, shutting him out again, rejecting him again, closing him off because he either mattered too much or didn't matter enough...
Or because... of what? Reasons - did they really matter? Was any reason really good enough, sufficient to explain everything, to shut down the ungodly mess raging inside Doyle's head? No, it didn't matter any more why Bodie had made his decision, all that mattered was that he had. Any other questions were a waste of time.
His jaw clenched as he forced the anger back down. Weeks of discipline played him well, helping him to avoid punching his fist through the car window. Then Murphy swung the wheel and pulled into the carpark of Guys. Together they hurried into Casualty, inquiring at the desk for Bodie. They were told he couldn't have visitors just yet as he was in x-ray so they were forced to sit in the waiting room. Murphy and Kathy sat, holding hands, patient, quiet and ready to wait. Doyle, on the other hand, paced up and down, barely containing his urgency to find Bodie and knock his stupid, stubborn, pigheaded block off.
Finally, after an hour, his energy left him and he sank to a chair by the door, putting his head in his hands. His brain simply refused to work any more. A hard day with Macklin had made him ready only for eight hours sleep - not this kind of stress. Then there was an arm around his shoulders and Kathy was pulling him close, murmuring nothing in particular to him. A moment of peace in amongst the madness. Doyle wasn't immune to it. He kissed her cheek and let her go. She met his gaze with something like a smile and he nodded.
Odd how some people just have a knack with understanding others. Murphy was a lucky, lucky man.
But Doyle was still going to kill Bodie.
Murphy went off and found a doctor who knew something, bringing her back to the waiting room. She was young but obviously knew her stuff, a pair of glasses perched incongruously on her forehead rather than her nose. She studied the three of them before lacing her hands together.
"He's just about to come down from x-ray. I doubt the arm is broken but I wanted to make sure. His other injuries are minor. He's a very lucky man. If that truck hadn't stopped in time..."
"Truck?" Doyle squawked before he could stop himself.
"Yes. It hit the railing instead of your friend. Damage to the truck - but Mr Bodie doesn't look like a pancake as a result."
"Was anybody else hurt?"
"And Bodie? Will he have to stay overnight?"
"I don't think so, assuming the x-rays come back without a problem. He had his helmet on and managed to avoid getting knocked out. You'll be able to take him home as soon as I've seen the s-ray." She turned to go then paused. "I have to ask this, what kind of work does he do?"
"Why?" Doyle replied without glancing at Murphy.
"He has a lot of scars - some of them I'm sure are gunshot wounds. But more than that, he's in a state of hyper exhaustion. I was really wondering what kind of hours he works. I don't think he's getting enough sleep."
"Well, er, he's not actually working at the moment."
"I see." She nodded and took her glasses off her forehead as though she'd only just realized they were still there and not on her nose. "Well, I'd say that's probably why he came off his bike. The average person needs a minimum of three hours REM sleep every night. Now some people can push that for a few days, perhaps even a week - but after that, it starts to have a strange effect on both mind and body. We did blood tests and everything as a matter of routine when he first came in here. I also did a few others. Everything about his physical condition suggests hyper-exhaustion. Normally I'd prescribe a number of days in hospital together with some sedatives to get him to rest but something tells me he's the kind of man who won't sit around a hospital for long if he can help it. I hope one of you can make sure he gets the rest he needs?"
"Uh, sure," Murphy replied because Doyle couldn't say anything. The doctor was gone and they were alone again before Doyle could so much as move. Then his feet took him to the window and he gazed out blindly, unsure now whether he should start crying - or laughing hysterically.
Kathy laid a hand on his shoulder. "Ray?"
"He said he was leaving me. They told me he'd gone. What am I supposed to do now?"
"Ray," she continued, her voice gentle but firm, "you must try and understand what he's been through. He thought he'd killed you."
Had he? Had he really believed that? Really taken so much guilt upon himself? That couldn't be all there was to it. "I still don't know what I'm supposed to do." Empty, that's all he could muster now. Just emptiness.
"I bloody know that!" Doyle snapped, the fury back again - with a vengeance. "And I'm not? But I can't help him - he won't let me. He didn't leave CI5, Kathy, he left me." Abruptly, he hauled in a breath and turned with an apology. Kathy shook her head and held up her hand - again, so understanding. Incredible. "I still don't know what I should do."
"Well," Murphy crossed the room to join them. "I can tell you what you're going to do. You're going to take my car keys, collect Bodie and take him home, make sure he gets a good night's sleep if you have to knock him out with your bare hands. Kath and I will get a taxi home. She has an early start and I've had a long day."
"And you don't want to be here when he realizes you brought me with you?" Doyle added, trying for humour instead.
Murphy nodded, supplying his own wry smile. "You'll never know the fine line the rest of us tread with Bodie. Here." He handed Doyle his car keys and taking Kathy's hand, he left and Doyle was alone once more.
Starting to be a habit, this.
Swallowing down his bubbling anger, he headed out into the corridor, received directions and finally found Bodie's cubicle. The curtain was already pushed aside and he was lying there, eyes closed before Doyle even realized it was Bodie.
He looked awful. Skin deathly white, stretched over bones suddenly too big for his face. A black line of stubble edged his chin while deep grey shadows sat beneath his eyes. His shirt was cut back from the accident and a number of bandages and dressings had been applied to his chest, shoulder and back. His left arm was in a sling. The bed was raised up so Doyle could see it all and the vision left him dizzy. He stepped back, clutching at the wall for support.
He'd had no idea... Understand? Bodie had asked him to understand but he'd made no attempt to try - but now he could see the evidence with his own eyes.
It was killing him - and but for a moment's luck with a truck driver - tonight it might just have succeeded.
Doyle's mind refused to think further for a moment as he surveyed the damage of his own selfishness, his own need. Somehow, in loving Bodie, he had blinded himself to what was really going on. How could he have done that? How could he have so willingly ignored all the warnings Bodie had given him? This wasn't just one hurt - this was a whole host - - and every minute brought a new one, wrapped up in the love Doyle so much wanted to give him. Pulling himself together, he moved forward, for the first time since this whole thing had begun, finally knowing what it was he had to do.
He approached the bed slowly and quietly. Even so struck down, Bodie retained all his beauty, all his royal bearing and as Doyle looked at him, he knew he had never seen anything in his life he loved more than this man.
They could never have had a life together. Cowley would have thrown them out for one thing. Nor would their colleagues have accepted them as a couple - and trying to keep their relationship a secret from the whole squad would have been impossible. Murphy and Kathy were great - but they were also unique.
No, it would never have worked and Bodie had been right to stop it - even if he'd done so for all the wrong reasons.
Steady now, Doyle reached out and touched Bodie's hand. Instantly the eyes flew open - and Doyle had to suppress a gasp of shock. The blue was hazy and grey, almost totally drowned by the red suffusing the whites of his eyes. And there was a wild, uncontrolled appearance to them, as though they only moved towards him with the greatest amount of effort.
Bodie frowned, "What are you doing here?" The voice, flat, dead, empty, but the pitch was a little higher than normal, forced.
"Came to take you home, mate," Doyle replied warmly. Bodie needed to know he was safe. And he was; couldn't possibly have been more safe and secure. "Doc says you're ready, no bones broken. Come on."
"Got called off on a job," Doyle lied happily. "Let's go." He took Bodie's elbow and helped him off the table. He grabbed the remains of the leather jacket, put it around Bodie's shoulders and sat him in a wheelchair. Bodie didn't say a word as they extricated themselves from the hospital, nor did he speak as Doyle drove him back to his flat. He simply sat in the passenger seat, his eyes closed, but the constant tapping of his fingers against his knee told Doyle sleep had not overtaken him.
Not pausing to explain, Doyle took him into the living room, turning on lights and surveying the mess Bodie had left behind. Somebody must have cleaned it up - and strangely, the rest of Bodie's stuff was still here. Cowley might not have got around to ordering it all cleaned away. Didn't matter anyway, not for tonight.
Bodie was standing, swaying in the middle of the room, unable to force himself to move. Doyle took his arm and led him into the bedroom. He sat Bodie on the edge of the bed, ignoring faint echoes of the last time they'd been in this room together. He removed the bike boots, socks then pushed Bodie back onto the bed. There he unzipped his jeans and pulled them off. Bodie didn't say a word the whole time. When Doyle pulled the cover up to his neck, Bodie finally moved to speak.
Almost smiling, Doyle nodded. He collected a glass of water from the kitchen and brought it back, helping Bodie to sit up a little and drink. Bodie laid back down again, his blue/red gaze locked on Doyle as it had been since they'd come in to the bedroom. There was about him such a look of the little boy lost, Doyle could hardly speak.
Bodie blinked, "You goin' home?"
"Yeah. You get some sleep."
"Can't." Bodie's voice made him sound like he was drunk, slightly slurred and almost careless. "Can't sleep."
"Well, you can't have anything stronger to drink than water; the doctor said so."
Those glowing eyes didn't shift. Doyle was in a quandary. He could give Bodie a back massage - but if he touched Bodie now, he'd scare him, make him afraid there'd be a repeat of that other night. Still, Bodie watched him - and so he decided to take a chance. Anything was worth it to get Bodie to sleep.
"Would you like a back massage?"
Bodie rolled over onto his stomach before Doyle could so much as move. Carefully, to avoid the injuries, Doyle sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the duvet back. With practiced fingers, he began to kneed and press the muscles on Bodie's back. All his injuries appeared to be on his chest, making it a much easier job. He worked his way down the spine, fanning out before going back up again. Each time, he increased the pressure more, easing out the kinks of stress brought on by the fall off the bike. He wondered what condition it would be in - and where it was now. Then slowly, eventually, he brought the massage back down, finishing with a featherlite touch he would normally continue for a few minutes longer - but it was too tempting to make it a caress and he didn't trust himself that much. He sat back, hoping by now that Bodie was asleep - but the moment he stopped, Bodie rolled over again to face him.
"You going home now?"
"I'd better. I have a date with Towser in the morning."
Bodie nodded, vague, as though he knew he should remember Towser, but just couldn't for a moment. Then a hand came out and hooked onto two of Doyle's fingers. Bodie blinked, his breathing short, hesitant. "Stay."
Doyle glanced down to where their hands were joined, oddly struck by the gesture. Bodie gripped his hand a little harder and repeated, "Stay." With a pale frown, Doyle looked back at Bodie - and instantly Bodie let go his fingers as though Doyle had just burnt him - but still the gaze held, "Stay with me while I sleep."
Deliberately, Doyle eased the frown from his face and nodded before Bodie was forced to say please. That would be too much - for both of them.
He moved around the flat, setting the locks, filling Bodie's water again, going to the loo, then he went back to the bed and stripped off his jeans and boots. The moment he climbed into the bed, Bodie reached out and took his hand, settling immediately into a position for sleep, his eyes already closed. The simplicity of the gesture completely knocked the wind out of Doyle.
For several long moments, he laid there, simply watching Bodie - but then he moved, shifting the uncomplaining man until they were wrapped around each other, Bodie's head against Doyle's shoulder, his body almost a pillow. They settled, eased into comfort and almost instantly, Bodie's breathing became even and steady as he slipped into much-needed slumber. Doyle, for all his physical exhaustion, lay in the bed, wide awake.
For more than an hour he stayed where he was, not moving a finger to disturb Bodie. His gaze played across the ceiling where it was lit from thin strands of light bleeding through the heavy curtains. Bodie had chosen ochre velvet for the bedroom. He'd said it kept the heat in better and the sounds of the city out - and the ladies loved the idea of expensive velvet being used to cover windows. Doyle had helped him hang them six months ago, amidst a string of jokes about changing jobs to become an interior decorator and wouldn't the birds be disappointed by it when they found out he'd changed sides.
Despite everything, Doyle smiled with the memory. That had been a good day for both of them. Doyle had just about recovered from the shooting, Bodie was in a good mood because they would be working together again soon and Cowley had given him a few days off. They'd gone for a drive to Cambridge, punted on the river, then picked up a couple of local birds and taken them to dinner. Completely comfortable with the day, they'd dropped the girls at home then gone back to London. The sun had shone, the meal and the company had been delightful. A day of total contentment, a rarity in the kind of work they did.
When had it happened? When had Bodie begun to look differently at him? Where had it all changed so that they could find themselves here, in this awful place, snuggled up close to each other, but about as far apart as two people could possibly be and still be on the same planet.
"God, I'm so sorry, Bodie," he whispered, dropping his head to leave a brief kiss on that matt of dark hair. "I'm sorry I ran away. But I had no idea you would end up like this."
Now he shifted a hand until he could gently run his fingers over Bodie's head, across and down one warm temple. He could feel the stubble on the chin, the cool smooth flesh on his nose and brow. Bodie didn't move, sleeping on in blissful ignorance.
"You tried to warn me but as usual, I didn't listen. I thought you were just being pigheaded and arrogant. But this really is killing you, isn't it? If we can't find some way to finish this, you're gonna find some other way, aren't you? But what do we do? You've tried leaving - and you can't sleep. You won't let us be together yet you know we can't go on being partners with things as they are. And I... I haven't made things easy for you. I demanded your time and attention when you knew it was a bad idea. I insisted you talk to me, spend time with me. I thought if we slept together, it would finally bring us closer together. Instead, it's just driven us apart."
He swallowed, taking a fresh breath, easing out the tension in his chest. Still Bodie did not stir, sleeping on soundly and peacefully. Doyle let his face drop a little until his lips rested on Bodie's forehead, a featherlight caress.
"I wanted you to see what we could have, so you would change your mind. I never realized you really can't give anything like that. I didn't believe you. I didn't trust you. You don't belong to me - you never did - and I was wrong to try and make you mine. I'm sorry you can't love me, Bodie. I wish you could - but I won't keep you prisoner any longer. I'll leave you alone. You go or stay - whatever makes you feel free. You need that more than you could ever need me. I understand now. I'm sorry it took me so long."
Doyle fell silent then, kissing Bodie's forehead one last time then closing his eyes as tiredness blanketed him. Bodie slept on in his arms, not knowing his fate had just been decided for him. But Doyle didn't mind. He would know soon enough.
Bodie would be free.
Turn and roll over again. Pull the covers up. Get the pillow just right. Now, back to sleep, back to dreaming soft and warm, comfortable, regain the image, the softness and warmth, floating in between worlds of glowing clouds where the warmth is a person, his hair soft like glowing clouds, his eyes emerald, his body wanting and with him, warmth inside those eyes, inside that soul, drift where he is, where his warmth is, be there, stay there, love.
Bodie opened his eyes with some degree of irritation. His bladder needed emptying again and once more the physical had overridden his dreams. Now he'd never get them back. Already they were receding and by the time he got back to bed, he'd have forgotten all about them and have to start again.
With an aggrieved sigh, he pushed the duvet back and climbed out of bed. Almost instantly, his shoulder sent a warning shot down his back - and he remembered again that he had to be careful. He pulled on a robe and stumbled into the bathroom, trying to keep his eyes closed just a little bit longer. But it was no good; peeing always made him wake up. By the time he was washing his hands, he was alert enough to see his face properly in the bathroom mirror.
The sight made him come to a complete stop.
Slowly, gingerly, he reached up and felt four - perhaps five day's growth on his face. His eyes were bloodshot and as though feeling left out, his stomach chose that moment to let out a huge growl of protest.
But - how long had he been asleep?
Wait a minute -
He turned quickly and dashed back into the bedroom, cursing as he went, suppressing panic - but there was no sign of Doyle. Nor in the lounge or kitchen. The whole flat appeared notably empty. He came to a halt in the middle of the lounge - and that's when he saw the note on the table. An envelope, his name on the front. He picked it up, turned it over in his hands. The back was glued down but it was obviously from Doyle. Who else would seal an envelope but somebody who had things to say not to be viewed by the casual beholder.
Bodie dropped the envelope unopened and set about making some breakfast. With surprise, he found fresh bread, milk, cheese and eggs in the otherwise empty fridge.
Maybe that's what the note was for: a bill for the groceries.
Bodie ate. Then he showered. By the time he was dressed and shaved, he was hungry again and he ate again. Only then did he turn on the telly for the breakfast news - and discovered that he'd been sleeping almost two days.
He sank back into the sofa, sipping fresh tea, watching something about a famine in Africa. More poor bloody kids dying because the boys in charge didn't give a rat's arse about them. Even now, after all these years, it was the kids he remembered most about Angola. Playing football with them, chasing them off when he was reading and they felt like mucking about, having them help him carry firewood back to the camp. They were always so terribly trusting, and he'd both loved and despised them for it - because he knew they would be betrayed in the end, that the soldiers who'd come to help them fight their war would one day leave them to it because there was no longer enough money to pay them.
And that's exactly what had happened. They'd been left to fight their own war. Even now, so long after, Angola struggled to survive each day - - and those children would never trust anybody again, they would teach others that trust was a fool's game only the weak played. Trust revealed a vulnerability designed only to be taken advantage of. And he'd helped them to that understanding, knowing all the while exactly what he was doing.
What kind of cynic did that make him?
He got up, collected his dishes and took them back into the kitchen. When he picked up his mug from the table again, he noticed the envelope still lying there. For long moments he stared at it, wondering if it would go away all on it's own. Then he sat by the phone, picked up the handset and dialled, the envelope in front of him.
"Yeah, it's Bodie. Is Cowley there?"
"What time do you expect him out?"
"And after that?"
"Sure - if you speak to him. Tell him I want to see him. Thanks."
He replaced the phone, his gaze still on the envelope. Nope, it wasn't going anywhere. Not unless he helped it along.
He stood and sauntered into the bedroom to pick up his old bike jacket and helmet, collected his keys and went out.
The envelope remained on the table.
He waited in Regent's park where newly returned birds squawked in the budding trees overhead while blustery clouds tumbled over the sky like great white bowling balls across the heavens. What sun there was peaked out for whole minutes at a time, reminding him of how long it had been since any had touched the earth. In all his life, he couldn't remember a longer or worse winter.
He'd managed to get his bike back and luckily the damage was more cosmetic than anything else. Murphy had arranged for it to be picked up and repaired enough to run, good bloke that he was. Now it sat by the footpath, scraped red paint displaying scars to the whole world - if the whole world cared enough to look.
Of course, it was a foregone conclusion one George Cowley would look.
Bodie sighted him the moment he came through the door opposite. Cowley paused on the Defence Building steps, frowned at the park in general, Bodie in particular, then waved a pause at his waiting driver.
Bodie stayed where he was, on relatively neutral territory. He waited patiently as Cowley crossed the road and crunched over the gravel footpath to where Bodie leaned against a grey-barked tree. For long seconds, Cowley looked him up and down, his hands holding his slim leather case in front of him. On another person, that gesture would have been interpreted as a sign of defence, of insecurity.
Bodie wasn't that thick.
Then Cowley's gaze rose to meet his, sharp grey pinning him to the spot - and to silence. After another minute, the Old Man nodded slowly and spoke. "It's Doyle, isn't it?"
Only allowing the faintest ironic smile to shift across his face, Bodie nodded.
Cowley glanced away, seeming to watch some tourists taking photos of the park.
"How did you know?" Bodie murmured into the silence.
"Who else could do this to you?"
"Doyle's done nothing..."
"Och, don't get all defensive on me, laddie," Cowley cut him short. "You know damned well what I mean."
"Yes, sir." Bodie kept his response quiet.
"And I take it his answer is no?"
"I haven't asked. I'm not sure I can."
Cowley's gaze snapped back, "Well you'd better if you want to see the inside of CI5 again. Or are you going to walk away again, solve everything by decamping to another life where things aren't so complicated?"
Bodie didn't answer that. Instead, he dropped his gaze, hoping Cowley wouldn't press further - at least, not yet.
Cowley stepped closer, his voice harsh in the strange quiet. "I tell you something, Bodie; a man can only give his full loyalty to a handful of people in his lifetime - but the first and always the most important, is to himself. If you can't do that, I don't want you back."
"No, sir." Bodie looked up, unable to deny that gaze or the justified anger behind it. In that moment, he would have done almost anything to take the whole damned mess back, just to remove that look of disappointment from Cowley's face. The force of his reaction momentarily took him by surprise.
"And you do want back in?" Cowley grunted.
"I dunno. It depends."
"No it doesn't!" Cowley snapped. With a rough gesture, he ordered his car brought up. Then he turned one of his best glares on Bodie. "You have one week, Bodie. One week until Doyle is certified fit for duty. If you have not resolved this by then - one way or the other - your position in my organisation will be terminated and I will entertain no discussion on the matter. I don't have time for this, laddie - as you well know. If you weren't so damned expensive to replace, I'd have tossed you out on your ear weeks ago!"
"Yes, sir," Bodie nodded. "I'm sorry, sir."
Cowley's eyes blazed anger but there was just the smallest twitch of a smile at the corners of his mouth. He nodded and turned for his car, pausing with the door open to reaffirm his determination at Bodie. "I never expected this to happen to you, Bodie - but that was my misjudgment, not yours. One week."
"Yes, sir." Bodie replied though Cowley wouldn't have heard it over the roar of his car as it pulled away. He had to smile; it took years to understand the oblique manner of Cowley's speech, longer to comprehend the myriad of meanings behind it. No, it didn't surprise him that Cowley had guessed what had been going on, nor did it surprise him that Cowley didn't appear to care one way or the other that one of his men had briefly and unsuccessfully pursued a relationship with another man. What surprised him was that Cowley had spoken to him at all, that he seemed prepared to take Bodie back into the squad. Even wanted him there, regardless of Doyle's response.
Of course, they wouldn't be working together any more but that was impossible anyway, wasn't it?
Would he ever be able to stand alongside Ray, day after day and not think about what had happened between them, what could never happen between them? Was it possible for them to sit in a car, for hours on end without Bodie rememebering what it had felt like to hold the man in his arms, to taste his kisses, to feel his body respond to Bodie's touch?
Would he ever be able to forget how it felt when those eyes looked at him, deep and green and so much everything Bodie had ever dreamt of - without wishing, even for a moment that he could somehow have it?
Most importantly, would thoughts like that impose themselves when least needed, exposing them to danger simply because Bodie didn't have that kind of discipline?
Bodie wandered over to his bike and sat astride it, taking the helmet off the handlebar and placing it on the seat between his thighs. Then he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the photo, resting it on top of the helmet.
Crisp mountain air and a Ray Doyle about to change his life forever. But that hadn't been the point where his life had changed. There'd been the choice to go skiing, the choice to go north, the choice to run out on Bodie, the choice be with Bodie in the first place, the choice not to reject - and so on and so forth, backwards in time. There was never one single moment, never a solitary earth-shattering second where the paths of time met and diverged, where one choice meant joy, the other despair. It was all part of the same weave, the same path and all the choices he'd ever made in his life had brought him to this moment, sitting on his bike, staring at a photo of Ray Doyle.
A man who smiled without involving his eyes.
If Bodie asked, Doyle would say no. He knew that as surely as he knew he was sitting there. He would say no because he would not trust anything Bodie could say. Because Bodie couldn't tell him the truth, couldn't give him anything. Because, after all this, whatever he'd felt for Bodie, would have turned to hatred by now. The existence of that note said as much. Doyle would say no - so did Bodie really want to ask him? Had Cowley given him a choice?
Yes, he had. Ask and get an answer - or leave CI5; not blackmail - but a pair of diverging paths. Cowley simply wanted the matter resolved. Bodie's decision would alter his life forever, but it wouldn't be taken in isolation. It would simply be one of many.
And how many times in his life had he made this decision? Whether to stay or leave? Whether to take a risk?
Most of his working life had involved mortal risk. Even daily life in Africa had been survived largely by chance - the environment made it so. But those were calculated risks, things he could measure against his own skill, his own determination, his own ability and instinct for survival.
Which was why every part of him told him to leave now.
Now, while he was lucid, awake and aware. While Doyle was nowhere near him, confusing and distracting him.
But what was the risk? If he left, it would hurt. Not just leaving Doyle - but CI5, Cowley. Murphy, Kathy and everyone else. Hurt meant he'd become attached to them - but he'd known that for a long time. So, leaving them would hurt. It would take him a long time to forget.
But he would, eventually. Probably. Maybe not Doyle, but everyone else. Probably.
And what would he risk in staying?
If by some miracle, Doyle didn't kick him out, if Doyle still wanted him - assuming he did in the first place - what would Bodie risk losing?
He'd been right all along; love hurt too much. And he'd fallen hard for Doyle. Harder than he'd thought possible.
He would have to give something this time that he'd never risked giving anyone else in his entire life. The small parts he had given away before had been destroyed. Losing Doyle on that mountain had been... But did he dare try it again? Already knowing the risk of failure? Already aware that if he did fail, there would be nothing of him left to run away with?
Doyle stared up at him from the photo but now he saw more of that gaze than he'd noticed before. A typical Doyle gaze, the one that saw straight through brick walls and scared the daylights out of strangers because it struck straight through the mess of irrelevancy and right into the soul.
No, Bodie knew nothing about love. Nothing that really gave him a clue as to what choice he should make - especially when that choice had such an effect on so many people he hadn't realized he'd cared so much about.
He didn't understand love at all and after all of this, perhaps he was really just too old to learn. Too old, too cynical, too afraid. Loyalty to himself, first, Cowley had said.
Only a fool expects promises and guarantees. Then again, wasn't it only fools who fell in love?
And there was no getting away from the fact that he was in love with Doyle. Completely, hopelessly and permanently.
Very well then; no promises, no guarantees.
And no more questions.
Doyle put his hands beneath the end of the long sofa and lifted. Grunting, he inched it off the floor and shifted it to one side. With another grunt he straightened up, bending the kinks out of his back. He picked up the vacuum and proceeded to clean the dust and rubbish that had collected over the last year. He worked, whistling to the music he couldn't now hear on the radio. It was a kind of game he played, listening until the music was drowned out by the vacuum, whistling - and then seeing if he was still in tune and in time when he turned the machine off. An idle game but it kept his mind occupied while he worked.
He was officially on rest days now. There was just the damned dinner tonight, then tomorrow he was planning to go down to Somerset where Kathy and Murph had invited him to stay for the weekend. The cottage was almost on the cliffs and it would be an opportunity for him to clear his head, to do a spot of drawing and generally do all he could to forget.
And he needed to. The shadow of Bodie hung around him all day now, every day. Whereas before he had some degree of control over how he felt, now he had little. It seemed that in giving Bodie his freedom, Doyle had consigned himself to hell. His fitness test was scheduled for Monday but he had no doubts that he would pass it; Macklin had said as much. Kate Ross, of course, had said much less - but even there he knew there wouldn't be a problem. The only nightmares he had now had nothing to do with spending 3 weeks stuck in the snow - and he didn't tell her about those.
No, his life was about to return to normal and that was always the kind of thing to put a man's mind to rest, give him something to whistle about - if not to - and if there hadn't been any rumours to worry about, he could almost believe he was content on the surface. Almost. Happy was not something he even thought about any more.
But there were rumours and since he couldn't do anything to confirm them one way or the other, spring cleaning was the only option left to him - much as he hated it and it was really too early anyway. Still, it was a good day to be doing it - unusually warm for April, a bit breezy but quite a bit of sunshine there to be had. He had opened most of the windows to air the place out, his curtains were down at the laundry, cushion covers with them. He did the works; who knew when he'd next get the opportunity? Of course, going by his usual luck, the Old Man would probably choose next week for Doyle's next rotation of flat shifting. Cowley always maintained that the best way to avoid forming habits was to do everything according to whim. His whim. So, whenever he felt it was time one of his agents should move - they did. Doyle had been in this flat since he got shot in the last one. Probably was about due for a move - especially if Cowley found something he didn't like in Doyle's return to work, like his decision to work without a partner - no matter the rumours.
When had he first heard them? Monday? Tuesday? At the pub. He'd met a few of the boys for a drink after training and somewhere in there, in the background was the suggestion. Sure, nobody actually said anything to his face - they weren't that silly - and so Doyle had been unable to do anything, himself. He'd just had to sit there, pretending nothing was wrong. But the following night, the same thing had happened and the rumours persisted.
Bodie was coming back.
That's what they said. Been seen training with Towser, on the firing range, given back his ID and weapon, the silver Capri was no longer in the car pool looking for a new owner.
Doyle knew that last to be untrue - he'd checked it out himself. Bodie's old car was still sitting where he'd last left it over a month ago.
And nobody had actually seen him at Central - though Cowley's driver had hinted he'd seen the Old Man talking to Bodie and Cowley hadn't shot him on sight. In many respects, the rumours were supported by the long-held view that Cowley had some kind of soft-spot for Bodie.
Fortunately, the same was not being said of Doyle.
It threw all his plans into chaos. How was he going to go back to work if Bodie was there? How was he going to handle it if they ever had to work together again? It was one thing to behave in a professional manner, to put personal feelings behind him for the sake of the job - but this was not just any small problem that could be glossed over long-term. Hell, it was already eating away at him and he didn't even know if the rumours were true! And how would Bodie react, having read Doyle's letter? Would he understand? Agree? Hate him?
At least it seemed he was well again now. Cowley wouldn't have let him anywhere near the squad if he hadn't been. The training with Towser was just as likely to be Cowley's revenge than anything else.
But could the rumours be true? Had Bodie decided not to leave after all? It seemed impossible.
Doyle finished vacuuming and got himself a beer, drank half of it then emptied the vac into the rubbish bag. He tied the bag up and headed outside to dump it in the big bin. He was down stairs and on the pavement when he heard the noise. Unmistakable noise. He'd heard it enough times over the last year - he'd never forget it. It sent his insides tumbling down a precipitous slope.
Roaring up the street. Doyle stopped, dropping the rubbish bag without thinking. It was Bodie alright. In full black bike leathers, new helmet on his head, huge gauntlets on his hands. He slowed as he passed Doyle, roared on down to the end of the street, did a u-turn and came back, coming to a bone-breaking halt two feet away from Doyle.
He couldn't move. Astonishment and something bordering on a sense of vague unreality hindered any reaction he might otherwise have gathered. He just stood there and stared at Bodie as he pushed the visor of his helmet up. Bright blue eyes gazed at him, eyes so beautiful Doyle couldn't look away from them.
"Mornin' sunshine," Bodie yelled over the noise of the motorcycle, "don't get all worried. I just came by to give you this." He fished into his left gauntlet and extracted a sheet of paper - no, an envelope.
His envelope. The letter he'd written - unopened!
Bodie reached out, grabbed one of Doyle's hands and slapped the envelope into it. "I've never stooped so low as to leave somebody a note on the pillow. I expected better of you, Doyle. Don't ever do that to me again."
Then he was revving the bike again, glancing over his shoulder for traffic - and suddenly the air was filled with deafening noise and the thick stench of fumes as Bodie made his mark on the otherwise quiet residential street. He was gone from sight within seconds.
It was easily a full minute before Doyle shook himself and tore his gaze away from the now-empty street. Absently, he picked up his bag of rubbish and dropped it into the bin. He turned and made for the stairs back inside - but as he put his hand to the railing, he noticed the envelope.
Bodie hadn't read it; so Bodie didn't know. And if he didn't know, how could he just decide he was coming back and why hadn't he read it and god how was he going to face work next week and...
"Don't ever do that to me again...
Bodie's words intruded on his thoughts in the way the bike had intruded on the peace of the street, on that of his mind.
"Don't ever do that to me again...
What did that mean? What damned game was Bodie playing at now?
Doyle crumpled the letter in his hand and went back inside. He didn't have time to worry about it now. It was almost 5 and Murphy was picking him up in little more than an hour. He had to shower, shave, tame his unruly hair - then climb into the tuxedo and be brushed and scrubbed by the time his lift arrived.
Damned bloody ceremony! If it wasn't for that, he had a good mind to go around and sort Bodie out once and for all, some kind of solution that would involve kicking, screaming and perhaps even a black eye for good measure.
But the Chief Constable of East Scotland wanted to give him a medal - and the minister had chosen the night for it, deliberately combining it with the Home Secretary's introductory bash. This new HS wasn't too dazzled by CI5 and Cowley had impressed upon Doyle, Murphy and the three other agents attending, that they were duty bound to do all they could to change the man's mind. Future funding - their pay - depended on it. That Doyle was about to receive a bravery award between main course and desert only did them all a favour.
So Doyle headed off to the shower, forgetting all about Bodie...
Well, he tried. Hard. He tried very hard, indeed.
And failed miserably.
The hum of conversation filled the glittering room along with the chink of cocktail glasses. The gathering was relatively small; the cabinet, Prime Minister, heads of both MI5 and MI6, Special Branch - and of course, CI5. Along with them a further fifty or so people, making movement through the room a little awkward.
Cowley had already arrived, in his usual debonair dark suit, playing the courtier to the Home Secretary and their own Minister. Doyle watched them from the other side of the room. His trained eye noting how Cowley smiled at all the right times, how his gaze met the Minister's every now and then, to share an unspoken thought, how the HS didn't notice.
Doyle stuck to one side of the room, less uncomfortable in these surroundings than Murphy. He kept tugging at the collar of his shirt and sipping his champagne a little too quickly.
"Relax," Doyle murmured with a smile. "Somebody might think you don't belong here."
"You do to the eyes of the security men in the room. I doubt the Old Man would appreciate it too much if you ended up getting accosted by somebody from Special and asked to show you credentials. Don't worry. It won't be long before they troop us in to dinner."
Murphy raised his eyebrows and made a visible attempt to relax. However, he still managed to drain his glass and collect another from a passing waiter. "All I can say is, it's a good job they're giving you this damned award."
"Gives me an excuse to be here. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Doyle frowned and turned his gaze on the taller man. Murphy's expression was as shuttered as usual, giving rise to a glimmer of discomfort in Doyle. "But it's just a damned stupid gesture. It's not like I really did anything."
Again Murphy's eyebrows rose and he surveyed Doyle like one would peruse the stocks and shares pages of the Financial Times. "I wasn't there, so I can't really say - but I did go up there to investigate your supposed death - and I saw the conditions you were operating in. Now you and I both know the real ins and outs of bravery - but I have to say, what you did still deserves a medal in my book."
Murphy shrugged, "You didn't give up. You didn't just leave Russell for dead. You got back alive - and brought him with you. Sounds simple I know, but to men like this, courage is simple. They want to think it is. They want to believe that there are courageous people out there - and they want to reward it when they see it. Personally," Murphy added, with a typical twinkling smile, "I think you've got a lot of courage - but don't tell anybody I said it."
Doyle couldn't respond to that and after a moment, he looked away to find Cowley signalling him over to meet the HS. Like an obedient child, he did as he was told, shaking the man's hand, murmuring the right words in all the right places, shrugging off his nominated actions, ignoring the voice in the back of his mind that reminded him he'd done things that would rate as far braver in his normal run of the mill day at work. Unfortunately, he couldn't say anything about that to the HS - nor could he tell the man that he knew somebody far braver than himself and that sometimes courage crossed the line of physical risk and battered at the doors of the soul itself. Any man who could weather that storm deserved a medal much more than Doyle did.
Ironic that he was being given a medal for courage for getting out of a situation brought about by his own cowardice.
That would wipe the smiles off their faces - if he told them all the truth. The thought almost made him grin as he turned away, dismissed for the moment. His face froze however, as he left them and noticed somebody standing on the other side of the room.
Bodie stood alone, a glass of what looked like water in his hand. His formal tuxedo, bristling black, complimented the shade of his neatly cropped hair. His bearing was one of pride, broad shoulders back, stance tall and graceful. Elegance personified. So damned good-looking he drew the glances of more than a few women in the room. So damned gorgeous - but what the hell was he doing here?
The normal shift of people between them hid Bodie for a moment and, suddenly terrified, Doyle took the opportunity to move away, find another spot in the room where he wouldn't have to look at him, or worse still, talk to him. He found a corner where a Grecian urn filled with a spray of flowers could hide him until the call into dinner. With any luck, Bodie might not have seen him, might not find him until it was too late. His heart pounded in his chest and his fingers grew cold and damp. He finished his drink and quickly replaced it with another, downing half that before he could stop himself.
He was being foolish, he knew. He'd only seen Bodie that afternoon - why should he be reacting like this? Now?
What was Bodie doing here?
"One of these days," a low melodious voice behind him murmured, "I'm going to find a way to stop you running from me."
Doyle started, swallowed hard - but couldn't stop himself from turning. Bodie stood about three feet away from him, beyond him the rest of the room spread out, oblivious to the sudden tension between them. Doyle finished his drink before he could bring himself to meet Bodie's gaze.
Electric blue zapped through him hard. For a moment, he couldn't breathe. Carefully casual, Bodie lifted another glass from a passing waiter and handed it to him, disposing of the dead one. Doyle took a heavy mouthful, his eyes unable to look away from Bodie now.
The dark eyebrows were raised slightly, but the expression on his face was anything but mocking. His gaze burned into Doyle, flaying him alive, peeling back every layer he'd rebuilt over the last few days, every rationalisation that promised he could live, eat and breathe without this man in his life - and even those frail ones which promised he could survive working in the same organisation.
It was hopeless - just as he'd suspected it would be. The only way either of them would survive to old age was if they parted and never saw each other again...
"You look beautiful enough to kiss," Bodie murmured, unconcerned by the people milling behind him.
Doyle's heart did a massive thump and returned to its now-normal hammering.
"But then you always did, even in your faded jeans and old t-shirts." Bodie's expression gave absolutely nothing away, displaying nothing, hinting nothing. Totally inscrutable. "Though tonight, in that getup, you look particularly appealing. Don't know how anybody could keep their hands off you."
Vaguely, Doyle noticed the tenor of the murmuring voices had changed. People were moving into the dining room. He tore his gaze away from Bodie for a moment, desperation driving his strangled voice, "What do you want?"
Bodie's gaze shifted slightly, raking over Doyle from head to foot, drinking in everything he saw, openly hungry. "I want to take you to bed."
Doyle's stomach did a flip, a not entirely unpleasant sensation - then was abruptly filled with butterflies. But fortune smiled upon him, preventing him from having to find a reply. At that moment, the announcement was made and he took his chance. He darted past Bodie and headed for the door to the dining room, finishing his drink on the way.
Pressed in on all sides by people in suits and evening gowns, Doyle lost sight of Bodie. He entered the dining room and found Murphy already seated. Name cards dotted the round table and he sat in his place, heart slowing a little as he determined to settle himself. Murphy, the bastard, said nothing at all - though he obviously knew the source of Doyle's nervousness.
The escape didn't last long. A minute of peace - and then Bodie was at his side, pulling a chair out from the table beside him. Belatedly, Doyle noticed a name tag for him right there, beside his.
This just wasn't fair!
Bodie greeted his fellow agents warmly. The six of them had the table to themselves and the others looked determined to make the most of this luxury. Normally, Doyle would have joined them in making a real night of it. Now, all he could think of was how long it would take to get to the presentation bit and how quickly and cleanly he could get away afterwards.
Bodie sat, his left thigh colliding with Doyle's. He tried not to flinch - but then Bodie moved, reaching for the jug of water. He poured, offered it to the others, then sat back again - this time, bringing his thigh right up hard against Doyle's.
He could feel the warmth through two layers of cloth, searing his flesh, sending unwelcome signals to other parts of his body. Even as his mind cried out with anguish, his body remembered the touch of Bodie against him, welcome, heated, wanting and desired.
He was being given an award for bravery - when the man sitting beside him scared the hell out of him -
Because he knew that if Bodie made a move towards him, he would never be able to resist, never find the strength inside to reject the chance to make love to Bodie one more time, to feel at least the illusion of intimacy, of love. He wanted it too badly, wanted Bodie too much. Loved him too much.
Did Bodie know? Did he have any idea the effect he was having on Doyle?
Bodie continued conversation with the others, his voice giving nothing away. He was his usual charming self, catching up with the others on current jobs, past glories. Doyle couldn't listen. He was too busy counting the minutes, concentrating on how to get out of the building without having to be alone with Bodie, all too aware of that touch against his leg.
The first course of the meal arrived and Bodie tucked into his, while Doyle picked at a lettuce leaf. Till now, always his greatest ally, his body was now betraying him. Every muscle, every sinew strained taught against the presence beside him. Every part of his soul longed for what Bodie offered - even as his mind shrieked warning.
It would be just like before. Just like the last time and the aborted time before that. Hadn't Bodie learned that just going to bed together was the biggest mistake they could possibly make? Hadn't they made it twice already?
Hadn't Doyle learned?
So why did he want it so much? Why did he still want Bodie so much?
The plates before him changed as more inedible food was brought around. Doyle kept to the alcohol but after the first glass of wine, Bodie glanced at him, boring into him again with those eyes so full of heady suggestion, of lingering desire, smouldering just below the surface.
"You'd better be careful with that. Don't want you to be incapable when the time comes."
Doyle started, nearly spilling his wine.
Bodie smiled slightly, knowing Doyle read the suggestion, "You know - when they call you up to give you your award."
Doyle couldn't stand it any more. "Why are you here?"
"I told you," Bodie murmured softly so nobody else could hear, his gaze steady, drawing Doyle in, revealing open desire. "I want you in my bed tonight." Then Bodie shrugged, hiding again, his voice returning to normal, "Besides, we were the best team on the block. How would it look if I wasn't here to applaud your courage along with half of Whitehall? You know me, if there's any glory going around, I want to be basking in it. Later, over port and cigars, I'll tell them all how I taught you everything you know."
"Don't believe a word of it, Doyle," Anson said around mouthfuls of roast beef. "He's here for the food, nothing else."
"Exactly," Bodie added, his gaze once more, only for Doyle. "Good enough to eat."
Doyle felt a flush growing up from his collar and he tore his gaze away, pinning it to his plate. But he couldn't do anything about the rush of warmth at his groin, nor the shift of Bodie's leg against his, increasing the area touched
Unwanted images sprang into his mind, of Bodie wrapped around him, naked, hot and hard. Of Bodie's hands on him, his mouth. The promise of exotic pleasures he'd only dreamed about. He swatted at them, but they wouldn't shift.
He looked up. A hand moved in front of him, taking his untouched food away.
"It's time. The Minister has introduced the Chief Constable. Do you want me to straighten your tie?"
Doyle met Bodie's gaze again but this time he saw something different there and the brief touch reached his heart, melting him. Wordlessly, he nodded and his reward was a smile so small, anybody else would have missed it. Then Bodie was fixing his tie and Doyle was coming to his feet amid a hale of applause as his name was spoken.
How he reached the small podium, he didn't know. But then things moved quickly. The Chief, a man his own height with a firm handshake and steady all-seeing eyes, handed him a small plaque and stepped back, offering him the microphone. For a second, Doyle was tempted to turn it down and make a hasty retreat - but then, something stronger came over him and he stepped forward, clearing his throat.
"Prime Minister, Cabinet Members, my lords, ladies and gentlemen," he began, just as Cowley had trained him. "That it is an honour to receive this award, almost goes without saying - but so much goes without saying these days, we miss out on too much. I do appreciate this award but I feel it leaves so much unsaid - of the Search and Rescue teams who scoured the mountain looking for those of us still missing, risking their own lives to save ours," he paused as applause filled the room. When it silenced, he continued, "of those men and women who work each day risking their lives to keep our society safe from crime, who display each day a courage I couldn't begin to emulate." More applause. He paused, listening, his gaze going inexorably to Bodie. "I wouldn't honestly recommend spending three weeks on a snowbound mountainside to anyone as an object lesson - but in that time I learned more about courage than I thought possible. I wasn't brave; I was just trying to survive, to get Russell to safety. I didn't think about it in terms of fear and courage. I wasn't afraid of the mountain - but it taught me," he paused again, swallowing, suddenly realizing how hard it was to say this to a room full of people. "It taught me that courage was feeling the fear - but going on anyway. My thanks go to the Chief Constable and to the people of the mountains, without whom many more would die from the cold each year."
He stepped back from the microphone to resounding applause - and a standing ovation. The Chief shook his hand again, Cowley came forward, shook his hand and said something he didn't hear - and then he was walking back to his table, shaking inside. As he regained his seat, another speech began and desert was being served. Anson, Murphy and all the others shook his hand, slapped his back and generally made a rather silly fuss of him until he could get free of them and sink back into his seat. He reached for his drink - and found it handed to him.
The brush of Bodie's fingers over his set him alight all over again and he looked up, knowing his desire shone in his eyes. Bodie read it and smiled, sensuous, lingering and driven. "I'm proud of you, sunshine. Sip only. Then coffee I think."
Doyle nodded, all will emptied out of him in that one second. He would be Bodie's tonight - and they both knew it.
Bodie watched the speaches, the award, the applause, the crowd, the waiters moving around the room, but none of it had any impact on him at all. For long moments, moments that had him drifting in time, standing apart and isolated, it seemed as if everything else in the room faded to dim grey shadows, leaving him alone with Ray.
Every small shift in the man's expression, every tiny change in his voice wound Bodie tighter until he knew that if he didn't do something soon, he would explode. But this tension had none of the old confusion to it. No. None of it. This, what he was feeling here, amid so many strangers, was nothing more than pristine and absolute clarity. Ray was his treasure, his prize, his goal.
Dressed in his sharp suit, hair clean and shining, Doyle needed no bravery award to turn heads in this place. But Bodie couldn't have cared less. His every breath, every thought was concentrated on the man beside him. Never before had he felt so alive, so wired up, so perfectly in tune with his partner.
Oh, yes, he saw the fear in Ray's eyes - but he also saw the desire, the need. Alongside it all was the courage. Bodie only hoped there would be enough for both of them to get through this. God knew he had none of his own left.
So he breathed the same air as Doyle, watched him, watched over him and counted the minutes until they could be alone, without these shadows surrounding them.
Doyle had hoped that once he'd got his award, he might be able to slip away without anyone noticing - especially not Bodie. A silly hope perhaps, but of course, things were never going to be that easy. As soon as the speeches were over, Cowley collared him, taking him on the political rounds, introducing him here and there. More handshaking, more nodding and smiling and saying all the right things. He downed one cup of coffee after another, supplied by a Bodie who kept appearing at his left elbow, somewhat like the devil but infinitely more attractive. After an hour, he began to get hungry and strangely enough, Bodie handed him a fresh buttered bread roll. Another followed and still the rounds of introductions continued.
The stress of the whole night started to take its toll on him. He'd drunk far too much on an empty stomach - and the coffee was beginning to go to war with the alcohol. After too many trips to the bathroom, he began to feel lightheaded, found his smile a little too fixed - and then Bodie appeared again, murmuring some words he didn't hear to Cowley. With a nod, Cowley released Doyle from further responsibilities and suddenly Doyle found himself being steered out of the room.
Panic struck him.
Bodie kept a firm grip on his elbow as they passed through the first room where small knots of people now spilled out from the dining room. Most likely, the evening would end up some kind of drunken revelry - but Doyle was beyond it. He was out the door into the entrance hall before he could get Bodie to stop. Even so, coats were handed to them, Bodie helping Doyle put his on.
"Why?" Bodie replied, thanking the attendant. "You wanna stick around a bit longer?"
Bodie glanced at him. "Come on. We'll grab a taxi." When Doyle didn't move immediately, Bodie took his elbow again and they left the building. With a wave of his arm, Bodie hailed a taxi and they climbed in. Seated in the back, Doyle tried to hide in the darkness, but Bodie's leg rested against his again, his hand now half on Doyle's thigh. As the dark city streets slipped past, Bodie's fingers gently caressed his leg and once more his body responded, betraying him.
Bodie didn't say anything. It seemed Doyle's complicity was expected, that he needed no words, no explanation, that the last few nightmare weeks had never happened, that all the turmoil had no cause. No, it appeared Bodie believed Doyle would go along with this, spend the night in bed with him and then pretend it never happened.
It didn't seem to matter to Bodie that Doyle didn't want this, that he didn't want another empty tumble with Bodie, that going along with it was tearing him apart because he knew he had no choice, that his body wouldn't let him say no. That even as these thoughts flew across his mind, he wished Bodie would lean close and kiss him - and damn the taxi driver.
Bodie kept himself steady throughout the taxi ride only because he knew it wouldn't take long. But having Ray sitting so close to him, making no move to get away, made the ride so sweet, he almost wanted it to go on. More than once, he allowed his fingers to idly caress Ray's thigh, wishing that he was brave enough to turn his head and take those lips in a tender kiss, something that might communicate something to Ray, to settle the fear Bodie knew was rolling around inside him. He wanted that fear to end, wanted to see Ray smiling at him, wanted to see Ray want him, wanted to share the terrifying clarity with him.
But he did nothing. Instead, he simply sat there and allowed the warmth of the body beside him to seep into him, to feed him, to calm him. He needed to be calm. He would never survive this otherwise.
They turned a corner and the taxi pulled up before a glistening doorway Doyle didn't recognize. It looked like a hotel.
Great - they couldn't even bring themselves to do it in the warmth of their own flats. This had gone beyond the realms of danger and into the sordid.
Except the hotel didn't look particularly sordid. In fact, it looked luxurious. Bodie paid the taxi and again, took Doyle's elbow, leading him through the foyer to the lift. There however, Doyle's luck turned; at the last second, an elderly couple got into the lift with them and he was not alone with Bodie. All the same, Bodie stood a little behind him, managing to bring a hand to Doyle's shoulder, unseen by the couple. There a thumb gently caressed the side of his neck, heightening the tension already flowing through his body. Any more of this and he'd snap like a twig.
The doors opened and they left the couple behind. Like a child, Doyle let Bodie lead him along a plush corridor and around a corner. There he paused before a door, unlocked it and ushered Doyle inside.
The sighted that greeted him took his breath away.
On the wall opposite was a window that stretched the full width of the room and there displayed for him to view was the whole of London laid out, glowing in night lights and glistening with soft rain. His feet took him to the window without thinking. There was a small balcony beyond and he pushed the French doors open, letting the cool night air touch his face, wake him up from this strange dream.
From up here, London didn't look at all like the city they'd toiled the last five years to keep clean of drugs and guns and terrorists. >From up here, it looked beautiful.
Bodie watched Doyle cross the room, heard the short intake of breath as he saw the view. With the soft lights picking up the auburn glints in his hair, he looked so beautiful to Bodie, it was all he could do not to instantly take the man in his arms, hold him and cherish him, make love to him, right there.
Surely Ray would understand. He had to. He knew Bodie, understood him like no other ever had. He simply had to understand - or Bodie would be lost forever.
For a second, panic assailed him but he kept his gaze on Doyle and allowed that presence to steady him again. Again. As it always had. Only then, when he was ready, did he finally move.
Doyle felt a presence beside him. Bodie handed him a glass of champagne. He took it, sipped briefly, then spoke, his voice filled with the awe he was feeling. "It's incredible. This must have cost you a fortune."
His answer was a vague shrug.
Doyle turned to look at the room - or rather, the suite. They stood in the living area where crisp cream and gold dcor flashed against dark honey carpet and subtle olive trim. Antique furniture graced the corners while a huge comfy sofa stood in front of a fireplace. To his left was another door open to the bedroom. Even from here he could see the size of the bed and suddenly he remembered why they were here. "Bodie?"
The voice that spoke to him was very close, "Just say no, Ray. That's all you have to do. You don't need to run - just say you don't want me and I'll take you home."
Doyle struggled for a moment, then turned, catching Bodie's gaze on him. Those blue eyes bored into him, sending a spike of anticipation right through his soul to his groin. Of course Doyle couldn't say no. That's why Bodie had gone to this trouble, this expense.
Taking his silence for agreement - which of course, it was - Bodie reached up and placed his hand against Doyle's face. The touch was cool and gentle and so very welcome. Then he leaned forward and buried his face against Doyle's neck. Involuntarily, Doyle moaned. How could he want this so much - and yet not want it at the same time? Why couldn't he be just like Bodie and take the sex and run? It would be incredible, he knew - so why did it bother him so much? Was love really so important? If Bodie could live without it, couldn't he?
The forgotten glass was taken from his fingers and put aside as Bodie continued his seduction. Kisses were left across his throat and up onto his jaw, bringing his flesh alive with tingling. Hands rose to undo the tie. It fell open at his collar like a flower opening to the sun. Then the buttons of his shirt, one at a time, slowly, deliberately. When Bodie's hand slipped beneath the cloth to touch his skin, he shuddered, leaning closer despite the war going on inside his head. Another moan escaped him. His arms moved around Bodie's neck, his eyes closed and then without warning, Bodie's lips were on his, touching deftly, lingering, soft and wanting, strong and hard all at the same time.
It was a good thing Bodie was holding him because Doyle's knees chose that moment to weaken. With a little laugh, Bodie pulled him closer, deepening the kiss, drowning Doyle and for a moment, blotting out all the arguments he'd ever had in his entire life.
God he was good at this. And so beautiful; what choice did Doyle have but to love him to distraction? So damned wounded and deprived, and needing the love Doyle would have given him so freely, if only he'd ask, if only he wanted it.
At last Bodie drew away, his arms around Doyle, his eyes gazing steadily, deep, deep blue, so devastating, Doyle wanted to live in them and forget forever all his reservations.
Bodie brushed the hair from his face, "Bed."
Like a creature without will, Doyle let Bodie take his hand and together they walked into the other room. Bodie shed his jacket as they stopped before the bed then turned to slip Doyle's from his shoulders. Then they were on the bed, lying side by side as Bodie gathered him up again, pressing more moist kisses into his throat, down to his chest. The shirt was spread open and Bodie's mouth took the first nipple he found.
Doyle stiffened, biting back a groan but Bodie had already moved on, his hands feeling the flesh beneath them, wanting, searching and seeking, finding. Doyle had no choice but to respond. Already hard, his breathing now worked in tandem with Bodie's movements as the other man gently loosed more of his clothing. Each step he took, brought them closer to damnation - and Doyle knew it, felt it with every bone in his body - even as he craved it so badly. If a man was to go to hell, this was the best - the only way to do it.
But now he could make no move of his own - and now he understood how Bodie had felt that night after the river incident. Wanting and not wanting. Needing and yet rejecting. Fighting with every breath, complicity in silence.
All he had to do was say no - and yet all he wanted to do was say yes.
Bodie kissed him again, once more hushing the raging thoughts. His lips were sweet and tasted of champagne. More than that, they tasted of Bodie, of the man he loved more than his own life. They tasted of pain and passion, of loss and desire, of longing and belonging and the depth of it all broke Doyle's heart utterly. As Bodie moved on again, Doyle pulled in a breath, his whole body stiff against the onslaught.
"Christ, Bodie," he whispered, tears stinging his eyes. "Just fuck me and get it over with."
Slowly, Bodie's head came up, his gaze steady, locking onto Doyle's without a hint of mercy. "You want me to fuck you?"
"Yes. No. I mean yes... I mean..."
Something like surprise wafted across Bodie's face - then it disappeared into a frown. He gently disentangled himself and got off the bed. Without a word, he turned to the window and pushed it open wide, bringing cold air into the warm room. He stood with his back to Doyle, saying nothing.
Doyle saw his chance to leave. If he got up now and walked out, Bodie wouldn't stop him.
But it would also be the last time he ever saw him.
He'd run away before. But to go to him now? He didn't know what to do. This was a mood he'd seen before and while it scared him, he couldn't just leave Bodie to drown on his own.
He slid off the bed and walked carefully towards the window. He could have stopped there, but he needed to see Bodie's face, needed to read what was there. He turned to find Bodie's gaze ranging across the view for a moment. Then it hit on Doyle again. Resignation, confusion and a kind of anger turned completely inwards. The gaze searched Doyle's for long minutes, achieving little but making Doyle more concerned with every second.
"Bodie, I'm sorry."
Bodie stiffened and hissed in a breath, the words acting like an open flame to a fuse wire. He turned away, shaking his head, his shoulders a solid wall. "Don't you damned well start apologising to me. Do you hear? It's not your bloody fault, Ray, it's mine! This whole stupid thing, from start to finish! You apologize one more time and I'll bloody well hit you!"
In a flash, Doyle's bewilderment vanished, replaced by simple fury. "Well, what the hell am I supposed to say? You told me to say no if I wanted."
"Yeah but you didn't, did you?" Bodie still kept his face averted. "You just told me to fuck you, reducing it all to just... making it out like it was..." His voice trailed off, compressed anger bringing in hoarse breaths.
"Sordid?" Doyle supplied, unable to help provoking the anger further. "What did you expect, Bodie? You tell me you want to take me to bed, you bring me here - and yet it's all just like before, isn't it? All one great big seduction. Did you want me to run off again? So you could blame me? Make it all my fault? Or did you want to be able to blame yourself, like you blamed yourself for my supposed death?"
Bodie whirled around at that, his eyes wide and for a moment, uncomprehending, savage with a self hatred so overwhelming, Doyle lost his own anger completely. "Jesus, Ray," Bodie hissed, his voice coming from the depths of hell, "don't you understand - I could have killed you! I almost did! For three weeks, I had! All because I couldn't bring myself to..."
"To what, Bodie?" Doyle replied, keeping his voice level, even as the rest of him was falling.
Bodie frowned, his mouth pressed in a thin line, his eyes darkening, "Why?" he said, almost to himself, "Why can't I resist you?"
"Then take me to bed and let's get it over with," Doyle growled, hope dying in each word. "I won't say no, Bodie. I'll give you what you want. I should have done it the first time." Suddenly the words were getting difficult to say, his throat constricting as he fought back the depths of his despair. Tears pricked at his eyes but he ignored them. "If sex is all you want, then let's do it."
Bodie stared at him, mouth open, unmoving as Doyle's words sank in. For a moment, he said nothing, then he shook his head slowly, the anger fading with each second. Then, his voice soft and full of wonder, Bodie murmured, "Christ, Ray, I don't want your body."
Doyle looked away. He couldn't stand there and watch Bodie again, watch him try to find some new way to remove love from the question. Perhaps he should have just gone, when he could. "You expect me to believe that?"
Bodie's hand came up to Doyle's cheek, touching softly, his voice low and open. "Yes, I tried to seduce you that night. No, I didn't give you enough time to think it through. But I need to know, Ray. I need to know why you're saying no."
Wanting to lean into that touch but afraid to, Doyle kept his face averted and tried to keep his lungs bringing in air. Something heavy was settled on his chest and energy was required to keep him going - energy he no longer had at his disposal. Words were beyond him.
Bodie came closer until Doyle could feel the breath on his cheek. "You do want me, don't you?"
"You didn't read the letter."
"I already knew what you wanted to say."
"And what was that?"
Bodie's voice dropped to little more than a whisper, "Do you want me?"
The touch against the side of his face made Doyle's skin burn; the voice made him die with each word spoken. A cold, worse than that coming through the windows, was filling him inside, hard and deathly, just as he'd always feared. An empty abyss he would have to live with for the rest of his life. Tears welled in his eyes again as he shook his head, a denial of what he knew to be true. Hoarse words came out of him, condemning them both at the same time. "Please, Bodie, just let me go."
"Then..." Doyle stood there, stripped of every sense he had, stripped even of his soul. "Then let's go to bed and we can finish it. Please, Bodie. I can't take any more. It hurts too much."
"You run away from me again and it will be over."
"Oh, Bodie, it already is. It was over almost the moment it began. Can't you see that?" Doyle could hardly see the city below, his eyes were glazed with tears he couldn't stop shedding.
"Then why are you still here?"
"We both know this will never be finished until we do it. That's what you wanted from the start." Doyle's voice faltered then. He'd already given his life into the hands of this man, his heart, his soul - why not his body. Even if it never meant anything, even if it destroyed him, he would do it because it had to be done. There was something in Bodie that needed this and Doyle no longer cared what it did to him. They had to be free of one another - and if that meant nothing more than sex, then that was what he had to give.
Doyle began to tremble as Bodie leaned closer, his lips brushing the side of his cheek. Terror warred inside him with a desire that failed completely to warm the ice in his heart. He would never touch love, not now, he would only ever glimpse it, see enough of it to know that he wanted it but would never have it.
But if a glimpse was all he could have with this man, he would take it, no matter how scared he was.
Bodie turned him, placing a hand on each side of his face, his eyes open with wonder, desire and something inexplicable. "Jesus, Ray," he repeated. "You are so beautiful. And you're still here." With that, he leaned forward and pressed a brief kiss to Doyle's lips. Fingers brushed away the tears as Bodie held him close, whispering in his ear. "Bravest man I ever met."
Unable to move, Doyle felt his voice catch, a sob sitting just below the surface. "Please, Bodie, just do it."
"Oh, god, Ray, I don't want your body," Bodie whispered into the silence. "I want you." Bodie kissed him again, lightly, holding his need in check, cradling Doyle's face like it was a thing so precious it scared him. "I want you, Ray. All of you."
Doyle looked up then, his fear making him shake within Bodie's hold. The blue eyes that gazed steadily at him no longer held anything but certainty, a deep well of it, a chasm so full of warmth Doyle wanted to bury himself in it. Shock held him frozen, parts of him desperate now to fall into that heat, warm the ice inside him. He needed it so much.
But Bodie simply shook his head, a gentle smile lighting the sky in his eyes. The silence stretched between them, long and empty as Bodie's gaze remained fixed on Doyle, his hands steady. Then his eyebrows rose a little, a tiny frown flashed into existence and was gone. Taking in a deep breath, Bodie murmured, "It scares the hell out of me. You scare the hell out of me... but..." Bodie paused, the smile returning, "but I do love you so much."
Suddenly Doyle couldn't breathe. He blinked, frowning, half his body making some strange effort to break away.
Bodie's smile simply widened. "Never thought I'd hear myself say it. Promised myself I wouldn't. But I should have done it a long time ago. I didn't bring you here just to seduce you - I wanted to try and show you that I love you. You needed to know even if I couldn't say it. Was never much good with words."
His whole body trembling out of his control now, Doyle couldn't find any words of his own to say. He wanted to - desperately - but he couldn't take his eyes from Bodie, from what he'd just said, from the surprise, shock, disbelief, damn it, everything that was making a complete unholy mess inside him right now. His whole body felt like a warzone and only Bodie's steadiness and calm kept him in one piece.
"But you were right," Bodie continued, softly, evenly. "Only a fool expects guarantees from love. And that's what I wanted, that's what I kept expecting because I was so scared of getting hurt again, of losing myself. I never realized that what I should have been doing all along was giving guarantees. Giving promises." Bodie smiled again, bringing his face close, touching his lips to Doyle's forehead, his voice low and thick with emotion. "I love you, Ray. I will love you every day of my life. If you want me, I'm yours, till death us do part."
"And..." Doyle struggled, fighting, going down, fighting and coming back up again. It was hard... but... "And if I don't want you?"
Bodie pulled him close, buried his face in Doyle's hair. "I'll still love you. Nothing will change that. But... if you don't want me... if you were only doing this because I wanted it then... I will take you home, now. I'll let you go. If you need to be free of me, then you will be."
"If I need...?" Doyle hissed in a breath as though he hadn't taken one since this night had begun. His head spun at the sudden infusion of oxygen but he kept his eyes open, his hands going to Bodie's arms, pulling him back so he could look into that blue again. A blue that was warm enough to melt the glacier. "You said you were going to leave me."
"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" Bodie half-smiled in that boyish way. "Couldn't. I kept telling myself I was just being weak, vulnerable - and yet the answer was sitting there, staring at me in the face. It was already too late."
Doyle shook his head, not understanding at all. "Too late?"
"This is my life. Here and now, with you. With Cowley and CI5. This is what I made it - and I made it because this was what I wanted. I could no more leave this - you - than I could leave myself. So much of what I am is what you made of me. And I wanted you to do that. I needed it. Does that make any sense?"
"I don't know." Doyle said nothing more for a moment as his gaze tried to absorb what his heart was desperate for. Bodie was standing there, telling him about love, about pain, about himself, about need and about wanting - and every sound, every touch soaked into Doyle, feeding him, bringing him alive. No man dying of thirst in a desert wanted that drink more. But he was still so scared. Scared that it might be a dream, that Bodie might be hiding something, doing or saying whatever he thought Doyle might want in order to keep him. Silly, foolish, unjust fears - but fears nonetheless. "Bodie, are you sure?"
"That I love you?" Bodie frowned a little, "Yeah, positive."
"Isn't it just possible..." Doyle picked his way through the minefield of words he could choose from, "that it is just sex?"
"No." Bodie shook his head, then paused, a shadow forming around his eyes, a plain display of his own fears. "No, I'm sure." He paused before continuing. "Ray, I never wanted to tell you this but - remember that day I went off, came into work late?"
"Well... I knew what I was feeling for you and I... well... I needed to know if it was just sex. I... er... went to Birmingham, to a gay bar and..."
"You picked a guy up?"
"Well," Bodie dropped his gaze, his hands holding Doyle's arms only lightly now. "It was more like he picked me up, but you get the idea."
Something inside Doyle wanted to laugh. Something really broken and shattered and now suddenly made whole again. He wanted desperately to laugh - but he knew Bodie would take it the wrong way - so he kept his voice steady as he asked, "What happened?"
"Not a lot." Obviously uncomfortable with the confession, Bodie didn't look at him. "I just wanted to know if a man... well, a man's body would really...you know, turn me on - in reality. Whether just any man would do or if it really had to be you."
"And did you find out?"
"Oh, yeah." Bodie nodded.
Bodie stayed silent so Doyle did the only thing he could do. He reached out, pulled Bodie in close and kissed him. Deliberately. Slowly. With everything he'd wanted to show Bodie but had been afraid of. When they parted, Doyle gazed steadily into that blue and repeated, "Tell me."
Blinking, Bodie replied, "I made him come and yes, his body, his touch did turn me on. He offered to... well, my... body wanted it but... I just couldn't, you know? Didn't want... him. Wanted to be doing it with you."
And Doyle smiled. He couldn't help it. The muscles on his face had a mind of their own and right at that moment, they wanted to smile and they just did. The gesture ran right across his face, up to his eyes, down his throat and into his heart. With an almost audible sound, the ice sealing him up, cracked and split open, leaving him raw and vulnerable, but not even remotely afraid.
"Do you... "
Hesitation, fear and vulnerablility flowed across Bodie's face then. "I mean... you don't have to say anything... I know I've been an ass and I don't deserve an answer... but I would like to know... whether you..."
"Yeah, I do."
"Want you." Doyle let his smile say the rest, then gathered Bodie into his arms and kissed him again and suddenly Bodie's arms were around him, holding him so tight he thought he might break. For long blissful moments, Doyle lost himself, let himself drown, coming up for air before going down again. He didn't mind. This was what he needed, this baptism, feeling the need in Bodie's arms, his whole body. Bodie kissed him with ferocious desire, blending them together, making a new whole, washing away the past with a determination for the future.
And then they were parted, standing there, like silly teenagers, grinning at each other, catching their breath and again, Doyle wanted to laugh.
Bodie smiled a little, pausing, needing and trying to find a way to express it. "Do you think maybe... you might... some day... love me?"
This time, Doyle let himself laugh, low and husky, his hands coming up to brush over Bodie's lips, something he'd wanted to do for a long time. "You're right, you are an ass. You never asked me why I ran away."
"No." Quiet, hesitant, unsure.
"Ask me, Bodie. Ask me why I ran away."
"What?" Confusion over that beautiful face made Doyle laugh again.
"Just ask me, Bodie."
"Okay. Why did you run away?"
"Because when you started kissing me that night, I discovered I'd loved you for a long time. Wanted you for a long time and just never knew it. I ran because I was afraid you couldn't love me and I didn't want to lose the friendship. I didn't want us to make love and then face each other the next day, knowing we'd ruined it all."
"Would we have?"
"Yeah," Doyle's smiled softened as he nodded. "We both would have regretted it because it would never have been what either of us really wanted - but neither of us was in a position to ask for that. We would have ended up hating each other."
"I suppose so," Bodie nodded. Then abruptly, he frowned, "Hang on, did you just say... you loved me?"
Half of Bodie's face rose in a silly smile, "Really?"
"Yeah. Of course, I was an idiot to run all the way to Scotland - but I was scared."
Bodie simply shook his head and pulled Doyle closer, "Yeah, me too. Doesn't matter now. You're here and that's all I care about."
"Really? That's all?" Doyle swallowed, feeling every inch of Bodie's body against his. Inside, the cold left him completely and was replaced with something that was singing - ridiculously - but singing nonetheless. Bodie - his Bodie - loved him! As far as he was concerned, his insides could sing all they damned well liked! Doyle's fingers came up and traced the edge of Bodie's jaw, his lips followed, breathing in the scent of the man. He let his body go very still, suddenly unable to do anything but say the words on his tongue, "So you don't want to fuck me?"
"Jesus, Ray, of course I do!" Bodie breathed, all smiles gone, replaced by an awed stillness which matched Doyle's. "But what I really want right now is to know what you want."
The devil in Doyle made him grin, "So you want to know if I want you to fuck me?"
Bodie stiffened and closed his eyes, letting out a moan of stifled lust, "Jesus, Ray, you could get a rise out of a man dead for ten years! Do you want me to rape you?"
"You," Doyle murmured, his smile softening as he touched his lips to Bodie's. "Can do anything you want with me."
"Ray," Bodie said, warning.
"You can do anything you want because I'd do anything to make you happy."
Bodie shook his head, "No. That's still only what I want. This isn't just about me. You tell me the truth."
In answer, Doyle took his hand and led him back to the bed. He pushed Bodie down and laid on top of him, allowing their matching desire to press together. "I love you, Bodie. I want you. Please fuck me."
A small laugh escaped Bodie then, but before Doyle could say another word, his mouth was caught hungrily, Bodie's tongue exploring the inside, hard and wanting. He felt Bodie's body stiffen against his, felt the hard cock push against his own. And he wanted it. All of it. The love, the sex, the togetherness - and the fighting and arguing and everything. He wanted it so much he could hardly think straight.
Bodie's hands claimed his body, pushing the shirt away to run his fingers through the soft down on Doyle's chest. Doyle for his part, made quick work of Bodie's shirt buttons and tie, briskly revealing that perfectly smooth chest and the skin he so loved to touch. Longing brought them both to the edge very quickly - and they were still half-dressed. Deliberately, Bodie slowed things down, taking his time over preparing Doyle. He pushed Doyle's hands away from him and shifted. Carefully, he undid Doyle's trousers, pulling the zip down over the stiff bulge. The act in itself was a caress, almost driving Doyle wild. Then the hands were on him, deftly releasing him from his clothes. In a flash, Bodie had him naked from the waist down, his hands claiming his cock and his balls hard, striking a thrill through his whole body.
Doyle arched up at his touch, moaning for Bodie to get on with it - but Bodie still took his time. His mouth came down, his tongue licking at the head, playfully, making Doyle moan again and again. Then Doyle took things into his own hands - literally. He reached for Bodie's groin, swiftly releasing the erection into his own waiting fingers. Now it was Bodie's turn to shudder. His movements stilled as Doyle's hands worked on him. Doyle leaned over and attached his lips to Bodie's right nipple and was gratified to feel the cock in his hands leap.
His mouth still touching Bodie, Doyle murmured, "I hope you came prepared."
"Mmn," Bodie murmured, coming out of his haze. "S'not a good way of putting it - but yes, I did."
With an uncoordinated movement, he reached across to the beside table and pulled the drawer open. He returned a moment later with another deep kiss. Then he was pressing a tube into Doyle's hands, "Only if you want me to do it."
Doyle didn't bother answering. He wasn't sure he had words anyway. He was entirely caught up with a long and deeply held need to be possessed by Bodie, properly and completely, wholly and totally, to give himself utterly. He needed Bodie inside him, needed them to occupy the one body, if only for a few minutes. Pain and pleasure were to him, at that moment, one and the same.
On his knees, he bent to give Bodie's cock some direct attention. Holding it between his hands, he ran the tips of his fingers up the tender under side, around the flared head, to the tiny opening at the top where a drop of fluid appeared. Gently, he touched his tongue to it, tasting it, feeling Bodie stiffen beneath him, hearing the moan. But Doyle had to do this first. Had to know this part of Bodie, had to look and touch and taste before it was put into his body.
Carefully, he let his tongue run around the head, slowly, gently. Then, feeling Bodie's hands in his hair, he took the head into his mouth, sucking only a little.
"God, Ray, stop." Bodie moaned.
Doyle took it from his mouth and let his tongue slide the length of the hard shaft from balls to tip, feeling the heavy ridge all the way. Now Bodie hissed urgently, "Ray, if you don't stop now..."
Reluctantly, Doyle pulled back and he shot Bodie a brief smug grin. Bodie was watching him, his eyes veiled, smoky with desire. Satisfied for the moment, Doyle turned back to Bodie's cock with a mind to preparation and again, his stomach twisted with anticipation at what was about to happen between them.
The tube came open and he smeared the cool gel the full length of Bodie's cock. Like a rod of steel, it sat up proudly and Doyle took his time lubricating it well, enjoying the touch and feel of the silky smooth skin, savouring the knowledge that in only a few moments, this part of Bodie would be entering a part of him never touched before.
Again reluctantly, he put the tube down and lay on his back facing Bodie. His eyes still dark with passion, Bodie took some lubricant on his fingers and slid his hand between Doyle's thighs. Without thought, Doyle opened to him, spreading his legs wide to permit the probing. Bodie's breath was coming in short pants now, Doyle's matching it. Then Bodie was shifting over until he lay between Doyle's open thighs. Again he kissed long and deep, his hand still pushing against the tight hole. He inserted one finger, then two and all Doyle could think about was what he wanted to happen next. The fingers slipped deep inside him, stretching him, warming him, making him want more. A third finger joined the others and Doyle began to moan softly. He couldn't take his eyes from Bodie's and the sheer open need expressed there, that Bodie needed to take him as much as Doyle needed to be taken. His hand slid down Bodie's arm, urging the fingers deeper into him and in response, Bodie took a nipple and sucked hard, his own urgency flowing through his body.
"Please, Bodie, now," Doyle managed.
"Yeah," Bodie grunted against his chest. "Now."
Bodie shifted again, putting his hand under Doyle's thigh to lift it slightly. Then, his mouth joining Doyle's he placed the head of his cock against the entrance to Doyle's body and pushed.
Doyle moaned as pain struck him but Bodie's gentle movements and constant kisses made him relax and he opened up, slowly but surely, taking Bodie into him, wanting him there. Bodie's cock entered him in one smooth stroke, filling him, joining him, completing him until at last, he was sheathed completely and they were one.
Doyle's arms came around Bodie as he lifted his legs to go around Bodie's waist. Then, abruptly awed by their actions, the whole night - the last few months, he gazed into Bodie's eyes and heard the words speaking to his own heart. "I do love you, Ray, so very much."
"Oh, god, Bodie, I love you, too."
Bodie's response was a kiss so gentle and profound, it brought tears to Doyle's eyes. Slowly he began to move inside, pushing against the pressure, creating heat, building the joy between them like a tidal wave. Bodie snaked a hand between them to grasp Doyle's cock, nearly making him climax at once. Then he settled into a slow steady rhythm, kissing Doyle's nipples one moment, nipping his shoulder the next. The cock inside him was so hard, Doyle gasped with every thrust, hearing faint whimpers of pure pleasure coming from his own mouth. The reality of this was so far and above what he'd expected. He'd known he needed it - that Bodie needed it - but he'd never realized it would feel so incredible to have Bodie moving inside him, pleasuring them both. He wanted to freeze the moment, to hold it right there, but he kept his eyes open, watching Bodie's face each time he withdrew, paused, then pushed deep inside Doyle again. Though nothing had been said, it was obvious that Bodie also wanted their first time to last as along as possible.
This was his Bodie doing this to him, fucking him, driving them both towards a climax that would be both the ending and the beginning of them. And his whole body wanted it, his hips raised to take each deep thrust, wanting more, deeper, further; his legs spread wide to give Bodie all the room he needed, his muscles holding him close, holding the cock inside him tight and hot. All the years before this came to him then, the years together, the struggles, the steps they had taken to be partners, the sacrifices, the pains, the deliberate compromises. The danger and the peace, the certainty that they had always been joined like this, always a part of each other, giving and receiving in like kind, two minds, one heart, one path, always the same, travelling together. Always a part of each other.
The incredible closeness and intimacy was too much. With tears falling down his cheeks, Doyle let out a cry, stiffened and spurted his seed into Bodie's hand, and immediately, Bodie jerked hard and shot hot semen deep inside him. Doyle felt every blast, their lips joined as they tumbled over the edge and fell together, gasping, fulfilled, sweaty and hard.
For long minutes, neither of them moved. They simply stayed together as long as they could. Then Bodie lifted Doyle's hand to his lips, kissed the palm. "Thank you."
"For giving this to me. I was afraid I would hurt you. That you wouldn't enjoy it."
"Oh, Bodie, I enjoyed it alright." Doyle chuckled. "Did I hurt you?"
"No." Doyle gasped as he felt Bodie slip from him. For a second, the loss felt unbearable. Then Bodie moved, pulling Doyle with him until they lay side by side again, kissing softly, touching, simply being together.
Eventually, Bodie moved back a little. "So I didn't hurt you?"
"No. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you'd done that before."
"Well, I have had the odd fuck over the years." Bodie said with a completely straight face.
"Have you fucked a man before?"
Doyle raised an eyebrow. There was just a hint of jealousy in Bodie's eyes. "Why do you ask?"
Bodie pursed his lips and glanced away, "That friend of yours, Jeff. You told me you didn't know if he was gay. You... lied to me."
Feeling the fine tension in Bodie's shoulders, Doyle snuggled closer, "I'm sorry, Bodie. I shouldn't have. Dunno why, really. I guess I didn't know what you'd think if you knew I had gay friends."
"That wasn't what I was worried about."
Doyle raised his eyebrows, "You thought I'd been with him?"
Bodie blinked once, hesitating for a moment, "I know he wanted you."
"He's been at me for years - as long as I've known him. But I never went to bed with him. I'd never been to bed with a man until I met you. There, it's all your fault."
But Bodie wasn't ready to leave it just yet. "So why did you go and see him the other night?"
"Before I went to your place? I guess I just needed confirmation, somebody to tell me what I should do about what I was feeling. Wait - how did you know..." Doyle caught in a breath, "You were following me."
Bodie shrugged, still not meeting Doyle's gaze, "I was worried about you. I'd rather not talk about it any more."
With half a grin, Bodie glanced up, "Because I have you and he doesn't so it doesn't matter a damn how jealous I was, does it?"
Doyle had to laugh. Seeing Bodie at his irrepressible best was something he'd missed over the last few weeks. Bodie nodded and got up, ignoring Doyle's moan of displeasure. He only got a few steps before he realized he was still half-dressed and his trousers were going to trip him over. Shaking his head, he stripped them off and padded into the next room with only his shirt flapping about him. He shut the windows in the other room and came back with the champagne bucket and the two glasses. He set them down beside the bed, closed the bedroom windows and settled back on the bed next to Doyle. He poured out more champagne and handed a glass to Doyle.
Doyle sat up a little, slipping into the comfort of Bodie's arm as he rested back against the headboard. The champagne was good; sitting on top of the rest of the alcohol he'd had that evening, it did even better. Now he glanced around the bedroom as he'd not had time to do before. If anything, it was even more opulent than the other room. Again he was seized by Bodie's forward planning - and his good taste. Doyle hadn't even known this hotel existed.
"How much did you pay for this?"
"Oh, a bit," Bodie replied evasively.
"A bit. Does it matter?"
"Yeah, it matters."
Bodie shifted a little and Doyle glanced up to see that fabulously inscrutable expression again. He had to smile as he remembered how afraid he'd been the last time he'd seen it.
"Actually, strictly speaking, it didn't cost me anything."
"You know, you're beautiful when you're trying to hide something."
Bodie glanced at him so surprised and quizzical, Doyle almost doubled up laughing.
"Come on, give."
Still sanguine, Bodie shrugged, "I give you my heart, my body, my soul - - and still you want more. Typical! Alright, it didn't cost me anything because I own it."
Doyle frowned glancing around the room again, "You own this? A hotel room?"
"Be exact." Doyle turned back.
Bodie raised an amused eyebrow and tried hard not to smile, "I own the hotel."
Doyle's jaw dropped.
Bodie added, "Except that as of this afternoon, you own half of it - so don't go breaking anything."
"I own..." Speech failed him and he stared open-mouthed at Bodie - who took the opportunity to kiss him. Far from fighting it, Doyle welcomed it - until it appeared they would spill their drinks all over the bed.
When Bodie had him settled again, he began to speak, "I told you before we got all hot and sweaty - I'm yours till death us do part. That includes everything I own."
"But you never have any money. How can you own something like this? This place must be worth a small fortune!"
"Yeah, but it earns its keep."
"But how could you afford something like this?"
Bodie reached over and topped up his glass. "Ill-gotten gains."
"Nothing illegal I hope."
"Hah! As if you'd let me give you anything purchased with crime money! Nope, all due to a few years fighting other people's wars in Africa - and some money my father left me. You have no idea how much they pay mercenaries, do you? Well, I didn't either and that's why I put up with it for so long. But then I chucked it in and joined the army - more fool me. In between leaving Africa and signing up, I only had a couple of months off. Not enough time to spend the money I'd earnt - and there was nothing to spend it on in Africa. So I invested it - with the help of a rather debonair Swiss Banker. The meagre shillings I earned in the Army and the SAS added to it a little, but my banker is a canny fellow. He suggested I buy this place a couple of years ago - so I'd have something to fall back on if I found myself invalided out of the squad."
Doyle felt a wonderful drowsiness come over him. Comfort and warmth and champagne and Bodie all contributing. Bodie especially. "So why are you telling me all this now?"
"Because I love you. Because I only loved Marikka a little - enough to get hurt. Because I didn't love the girl Krivas killed, Marice. Because he killed her anyway, even though I didn't love her. Because I've never had anyone to give anything to, never loved anyone enough. Because I want to. Because I want you to know I mean all this. Because I want you to know you have something if anything happens to me or your career gets cut short by some wound." Bodie paused, finishing his drink. "Mostly because I love you."
Stunned, Doyle twisted around in Bodie's arms until he could see that sombre face. "Jesus, Bodie, I don't know what to say."
Doyle moved then, putting glasses away and pushing Bodie down onto the bed beneath him, smothering him with kisses and drowning further talk. It didn't take long for his body to react again. Soon he had the remnants of their clothes tossed aside and Bodie was putty in his hands. Now the first fires of desire were dealt with, they could take it slower, learn more about each other. He wanted to spread his legs for Bodie again but he was held back by strong hands. Hands which directed him to another choice. Then Bodie was lying on his stomach beneath him, his hips raised with a pillow and Doyle was pushing into him, holding him, wanting him, once again, making them one.
The climb to the top of the peak took longer this time, was in its own way, more delicious as a result. Doyle held Bodie with one hand while the other gripped the stiff erection pressed into the pillow. Bodie moved with him, wanting him. Taking Bodie this way somehow made it right and complete and gave them both something they needed. Then Bodie murmured magical words.
"Love you, Ray. You're my freedom. Means nothing without you."
And Doyle tumbled into insanity, taking Bodie with him.
Sleep took them after that, Doyle resting in the safety of Bodie's arms, feeling none of the cold that had plagued him all his life.
Bodie woke to sounds of birdsong from beyond the window. He glanced across the pillow to find Doyle still there, beside him, fast asleep. Somehow in the night, they'd become detached and for a moment, Bodie was tempted to snuggle up again, the old fear abruptly rearing its head again.
But he fought off the temptation, normal bodily functions taking precedence. Carefully, he slipped out of bed and crept to the bathroom. He flushed the toilet and winced at the noise - but before he could go back to bed, he glimpsed sight of himself in the mirror.
He looked different.
Hard to pinpoint how - he just did. Different.
There were the same old blue eyes staring back at him, the same face - in need of a shave - but the same nonetheless. But still he looked different.
He turned and headed back into the bedroom and came to a halt beside the bed. Ray was stretched out on his stomach across the mattress, one leg bent, one arm over his head, naked as the day he was born, that incredible arse showing curves Bodie was only just able to keep his hands off. The auburn curls tangled around his head, long now, just the way Bodie liked them, caught in the sunlight coming from the balcony. The window eyes were shut, holding in sleep, the full lips slightly parted, the angelic face turned slightly towards him, displaying that mysterious shattered cheekbone.
What had happened to that face? And why did Ray never talk about it? Nobody seemed to know - not even Cowley. But still there was a story there, of deep, old pain, buried beneath the look of fear Bodie had seen that one time he'd asked, at Murphy's birthday. At the time, he'd been angry, in pain and had lashed out at the one thing he knew would hurt Ray. But a greater hurt had been done to him, to break that bone, a hurt Bodie wanted to know about, perhaps to help heal. But there was nothing more he could say to Ray to encourage him to talk about it - nor would he ever ask again. No, if Ray ever told him, the gift would be his alone to give, his choice, his desire.
And Bodie would love him either way, this man spread across the bed before him. A wild wanton creature of hidden passions and delicate sweetness. A man every inch the equal of Bodie. A heart that was his to hold and cherish.
And so incredibly beautiful, Bodie lost his breath and for a moment, couldn't bring himself to move.
So this was what he'd been afraid of all these years. Feeling this. And it was terrifying; would probably remain so for the rest of his life.
But somehow, he knew he could do it now. Even if Ray woke up and changed his mind about them; Bodie knew he'd deal with it, be able to go on living, would be able to keep hold of himself through the whole thing. And why?
Because in giving himself to Doyle, he'd been given something back; something infinitely more valuable and cherished than he'd ever imagined. And feeling this love filled all the emptiness inside him. It made him strong where he'd feared weakness, made him indomitable where he'd feared vulnerability.
He'd been right to be afraid - but what he should have been much more scared of was the prospect of never feeling this any time in his life. Once again, Ray had given him a reason; this time, the best reason of all.
A wave of awesome tenderness came over him from nowhere that he could name and he crept forward to get back into bed. He didn't want Ray to wake up alone.
Doyle shifted as Bodie put his arms around him, coming gently awake. Without asking, Bodie took that beautiful face in his hands and covered it with soft kisses, trying somehow to communicate the dizzy thoughts assaulting him so early in the morning.
But Doyle didn't argue. Instead, his strong arms came up to hold Bodie close, his mouth finding Bodie's, taking kisses in equal measure. For long minutes they simply laid there, making out like they were a pair of teenagers, flushed with the first breaths of spine-tingling sensation.
Then Doyle moaned softly, rolling over until Bodie was trapped beneath him. Bodie grinned and held him tight, planting a goodmorning kiss on his nose.
"How do you feel, sunshine?"
"Wonderful," Doyle stretched - then winced as he felt certain twinges he'd not felt before - in places he'd never felt them before. "Yeah, wonderful. You?"
"Never felt better in my life. Are you sore? I was a bit... rushed last night."
"A little sore - but I don't mind. What about you?"
"Don't tell me this hotel of yours has room service too?"
"Hotel of ours - and of course it has room service. Would I buy it if it didn't?"
Doyle chuckled, throaty and delicious, sending all sorts of things spiralling through Bodie. "Sorry. What's the choice?"
"Whatever you want."
"But I want you."
"For lunch and dinner."
"Might get a bit boring after a while."
Doyle paused, lifting an inquiring eyebrow, "Are you serious?"
Bodie did a classic double-take, "No - I didn't mean that as it sounded. At least, I don't mean it. You make up your own mind."
"Whether we stay together, as a couple?"
Doyle grinned, "Doesn't sound boring to me at all. I'm in. So what's for breakfast."
Bodie began to laugh, holding Doyle to him for safety's sake. This was getting way too ridiculous for serious thought. Things as good as this simply didn't happen in the real world. He quickly rattled off a suggested menu, rang it down to room service, then wrapped his arms around Doyle again. "You know, I think I'm going to kick myself at least once a day for the rest of our lives together."
"For not seeing the error of my ways sooner."
"Oi! Guilt's my trick! Get your own!"
Bodie dissolved into laughter again. When he finally sobered, he shifted until he was half sitting against the headboard, Doyle stretched the length of him, arms wrapped around each other. Bodie felt a strange but not unpleasant desire never to move from this particular spot for the rest of his life.
Doyle settled against him, growing quiet. Bodie waited, knowing something was bound to come out of last night.
"I love you."
"I know." He nodded. "But?"
"But... you are sure about this, aren't you? About us being together? Staying together? I mean, it won't be easy."
"Hell, it hasn't been so far. Why should the future be any different from the past?"
"Because something has changed, Bodie. We've changed. You know as well as I do that not everybody is going to be as happy about it as we are."
"Yeah, I know." Bodie stroked his hand slowly down Doyle's arm. "But we'll survive."
"But you are sure? Sure that you want to go through that?"
"Ray," Bodie said carefully, "there is no alternative. Not for me. I don't care what opposition we get. I'll fight to keep you as long as I know you love me."
Doyle sighed against him, "Then it's going to be a long hard battle. Of course, the worst part is going to be Cowley."
Bodie chuckled a little, making Doyle twist until he could see Bodie's smile.
"He knows already."
Doyle frowned. "What do you mean, he knows? You told him before you told me?"
"Hell, Ray, I didn't even tell me before I told you. No, he guessed. At least, he guessed that what was bothering me were my feelings for you. He didn't seem unduly concerned by it. Only that I find a resolution. Now, go on, I dare you."
"Dare me to what?" Doyle asked, knowing full well what Bodie was suggesting.
"I dare you to claim that I did all this just so I could get my job back."
"Well, I thought that much was obvious," Doyle replied with a completely straight face - and Bodie nearly died laughing. "After all, you did tell me you didn't want me for my body."
"Ah, you believed that too. Damn, I'm good at this lying thing! Wish I'd tried it years ago. I could have had you all this time. Guess I'll have to make up for it now." And to back up his words, he made a dive for Doyle, struggling until he had him pinned beneath him, a giggling, tousled mess of muscle and bone.
But even amidst the laughter there was desire and he felt Doyle rise as well. Things progressed rapidly, however, before they could get too involved, the door buzzer went off.
"Damn!" Bodie lifted his head reluctantly from Doyle's tender regions. "Food. How inconvenient."
Doyle blinked, shook his head and dropped his jaw in amazement. Then he began to laugh, "Well, now I really have heard everything!" Bodie simply grinned smugly and got off the bed. He grabbed a robe and headed off for the door, Doyle's delighted laughter floating after him. All this and room service too.
He wheeled the trolley into the bedroom as Doyle got up and put on a robe. They sat opposite each other on the bed, feeding each other, laughing and saying little - at least with words. Finally, with crumbs scattered everywhere, Doyle leaned back and gazed at Bodie, his eyes smiling enough to melt.
Doyle blinked and shook his head, "Where do we go from here?"
"Well, neither of us needs to be anywhere for the next three days. We could just stay here and... I'm sure we'll find something to do."
A husky chuckle was the first response. "Yeah, I'm sure we could."
"Well... it's just that Murphy and Kathy are expecting me at the cottage."
Bodie's face fell, "Oh. And you want to go?"
"I hate to say it, Bodie, but after all the time I've spent cramped up indoors, I really don't want to spend my last free weekend for a long time here, nice as it is."
"I see." Bodie got up and began clearing plates away, piling them back on the trolley.
A hard serious voice stopped him. "God, Bodie you really are an ass."
Bodie glanced over his shoulder to see Doyle get off the bed and come towards him. "You really think I want to go anywhere without you? Sure, if you want to stay here, we can. I just thought you might like to get out of London for a while, you know, get some fresh air, walk along the cliffs - especially since Murph and Kathy know all about us and don't give a damn."
Bodie ducked his head, not understanding where this sudden fear came from. "Are you sure they don't care?"
Ray came close, putting his arms around Bodie. "They care - and I think they deserve to know that we're okay now. Let me ring them and tell them we're coming."
Bodie couldn't answer. He just stood there, not looking at Ray, not doing anything.
"Come on, Bodie, talk to me. What is it?"
"Nothing." Bodie lied.
Ray reached up and kissed him, soft and gentle and at last Bodie moved, bringing his arms around the man. "Bodie, tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong, really." He struggled to put his feelings into words, words that would make some kind of sense. "It's just that, here, we're safe, you know? Nobody knows we're here. Not Cowley, not the real world. It's just you and me."
"And room service."
A small smile escaped Bodie then and he sighed. "Sorry. I know it's stupid."
"No, it isn't. I understand."
Bodie blinked, capturing those wonderfully green eyes as if for the first time. "You do?"
"Yeah. But you and me? We're not going back to that place. Ever. We're gonna make new places, together. You need to start trusting yourself, Bodie. I meant it when I said we've changed. But we changed because we wanted to. Yeah, the real world is going to try our patience with its prejudice and fear and hatred. But it won't break us up."
"No," Bodie began to smile at the famous determination he saw in Ray's eyes. "I don't think it has a hope."
"So... make the call - and I'll get a shower. Just break it to them gently, will you?"
Ray laughed, "As gently as I can."
The drive out to the coast was long and delicious. Doyle had stopped by his place long enough to throw a few clothes in a bag and to grab his camera. Bodie had almost disuaded him at one point, making noises about a certain bed that was calling to him, but Doyle had simply kissed him, pushed him out the door and locked it behind him. One more brief stop at Bodie's place - where the same comment was made about another bed making noises - and they were on their way.
The weather beamed at them all the way, a warm invitation to spring that made Doyle want to hang out the windows to enjoy it fully. He let Bodie drive largely because he didn't trust what a pair of unoccupied Bodie-hands might do if he didn't.
As the last hills began to rise and fall before them, Bodie glanced at him, "So what did Murph say?"
"Jesus, Bodie, that's taken you nearly four hours!"
Bodie chuckled, "I didn't want to appear anxious."
Doyle grinned. "No, I'll bet you didn't."
"Oh, you know Murph, cool as a cucumber."
Glancing aside at Bodie, Doyle smiled, "Actually, he was frantic with worry."
"Because he'd seen me leave with you last night and hadn't heard anything since. He'd tried ringing your place and mine."
"Christ, what did he think I'd done with you?"
"I didn't ask," Doyle replied dryly.
"So what did you tell him?"
"A carefully edited version of the truth."
"Well, didn't seem to be much point in telling him all the details." Doyle stretched - and winced as his elbow touched the roof of the car.
"Are you sure that's okay?"
"Positive. Just a small bruise."
As though he didn't really believe, Bodie reached out and took his hand, throwing him a smile, "Well, that'll teach you not to attack me in the shower without warning."
"I should have thought telling you I love you was sufficient warning. Besides, I didn't attack you - you attacked me. I just went in there to shave."
"Oh? You always shave under the spray, when somebody else is in there? Somebody who has such shameless designs on your wet, naked body?"
Doyle was laughing.
"I see," Bodie nodded, smugly. "I'll have to remember that."
"Not much chance you forgetting, is there?" Doyle glanced at the map, at the next road sign and pointed for Bodie to make a turn. "Next on the left. I think it's that house with the cliff behind it. Looks the way Murph described it. Bodie, are you sure you're okay with this? Us being together, with them around?"
"I mean, I don't want you to start feeling uncomfortable - or awkward about touching me or anything."
"Ray, I'm fine about it. I promise you. Remember, I was the one who told them about us in the first place."
Bodie pulled into the drive next to Murphy's car. Nobody came out to greet them but he wasn't surprised. Murph had said they should just go in as he and Kathy had planned to go out for lunch.
Leaving their bags in the car, they went inside the small cottage - and Doyle fell in love with it immediately. Bodie looked a little uncomfortable, as though the place wasn't quite big enough to hold him. Doyle just laughed at him, grabbed his hand and together they wandered through, up the stairs to find two bedrooms, one with a note on the door saying this was theirs. The room had a double bed and a window which faced towards the sea. For some reason, that made Doyle nervous and he turned and headed down the stairs before he could stop himself.
Bodie caught him in the kitchen, "Stop, Ray. What is it?"
As Bodie's arms came around him, Doyle shrugged, feeling silly. "My turn to behave like an ass. I guess..."
"You're more worried about coming out than I am, I think."
"Maybe. It's a big step."
"With two people who not already know about us, but appear to approve wholeheartedly? You're right, Ray, you are being an ass. Just relax." With that, Bodie held him close and kissed him, long and deep, making him remember the rewards for the risks, payment in full, the best prize ever.
"So it's true."
The voice from the door made Doyle start like a guilty creature. His head whipped around to find Murphy standing there, Kathy with him, a smile on her face. Close by, Bodie began to laugh. "Sure, it's true. Why, did you think I was holding a gun to his head while he phoned you?"
"Wouldn't put it past you." Murphy replied, his usual understated humour filling his eyes.
"Wouldn't have needed to from the look of them," Kathy laughed, coming forward to give Doyle and then Bodie a hug. "All I can say is, if it is true, then I'm happy for both of you. Really, I am. So is Michael."
Doyle looked into her eyes, then at Murphy, then back at Bodie. With a grin, Bodie put his arm around Doyle's shoulders, giving them a squeeze. "Relax, love. The worst is yet to come."
And that was enough to make Doyle laugh, emptying the residual nerves from his body. When Kathy suggested a cup of tea, Doyle insisted on making it.
It was the least he could do.
The nights were drawing out longer and Bodie was glad. Glad that the winter was finally over, that darkness gone, the terror, the pain and agony it had brought him. Even now, with Ray walking beside him, holding his hand, he wasn't sure he was ever going to be able to face snow again and not shiver with the memory of what it had, for a few weeks at least, meant to him.
Loss. Death. Not just Ray's - but his own along with it. But for a stroke of luck, a minefield of courage, he might have lost Ray completely. Not only missed what they had together now, but everything.
Of course, he could still lose Ray, one day in the line of duty. It might happen, no matter how hard Bodie might try to watch his back. It was a risk they both took - and yet, they both knew they couldn't stop working, couldn't change they way they were, how important the work was to both of them. Sure, it was going to be a battle to get Cowley to agree to them remaining partners - but Bodie would rather resign than leave Ray to somebody else to look out for.
And maybe, just maybe, Cowley would understand enough to know that they would be fine working together as well as living together. And they would be. Largely because, ultimately, nothing had changed, not deep down. All that had happened was they'd actually acknowledged the thing that had been growing between them all these years, the source of their bond, the specialness of how they worked together. It was all about love, always had been. They'd always protected each other fiercly - - and would continue to do so.
And now, if he lost Ray, he would at least have the memory of love to live on. Not the pain, not the agony - but the love. Enough to sustain him. That's what Ray had given him. He'd handed Ray his heart and had received it back, enriched and nourished with so much love, Bodie was staggered by it.
Staggered - and happy. An odd feeling, unfamiliar, but nice. Yeah, he could live with this.
They walked along the cliffs, following a path that took them up and down, pausing to gaze at birds as they hovered in the breeze, or to watch the heavy swell pound against the rocks below. They were utterly alone and Bodie was glad Doyle had suggested this. Outdoors was Ray's natural environment and he'd blossomed the moment they got out here.
Even now, Bodie smiled at the memory of Doyle's shock at them being caught kissing in front of Murphy and Kathy. Bodie didn't care. It kind of made it more real.
Ray came to a halt where a few boulders piled up at the cliff's edge. He sat and pulled Bodie down beside him, instantly snuggling into the arm Bodie put around him. Bodie glanced either way along the path, then turned Ray's face towards him, taking and receiving a gentle kiss for his troubles. For long wonderful minutes, they sat there in silence, listening to the gulls, the wind and the waves, watching the sky slowly edge towards sunset.
"'S'nice, this." Bodie murmured into Doyle's ear, his lips lingering, drawing in the scent of the man he loved. He shifted slightly, so Doyle could sit between his legs, lean back and have both Bodie's arms around him.
"Yeah, glad we came."
Doyle was silent a moment then said, "Do you think we'll be ready? To go back to work?"
"I think so."
Bodie almost smiled, having just had this conversation with himself. Doyle was a born worrier and nothing - not even a relationship with Bodie was ever going to change that. "What about him?"
"Well, you said he didn't seem too bothered about us. Are you sure? I mean, what if he won't let us stay partners."
Doyle shifted, expressing concern in his movements. "Are you sure? You know his rules about relationships within the squad as well as I do. Hell, you've broken them often enough. But then you were able to hide it from him."
"Don't kid yourself." Bodie grinned.
"Christ, Ray, he knew about you and me - and he hardly saw either of us. There's virtually nothing in this country that old man doesn't know about. How the hell do you think he's managed to survive so long? No, it'll be okay. We'll just tell him he doesn't have a choice and he'll learn to live with it."
Doyle chuckled, "Oh, yeah? Like we have the power to force him to agree."
"Ray," Bodie leaned close, "he wants us in. He said as much to me. He also said that if I wanted to stay, we had to find some resolution. We have - so why should he complain? He may bluster about us staying partners but we'll volounteer to give it a trial period, to prove to him that our work won't change. And even then, if he doesn't agree, we'll just threaten to resign."
Again, Doyle chuckled, easing back against Bodie, getting comfortable. "Can't wait to see the look on his face. I suppose he'll see the bright side."
"And that is?"
"If we're living together, there'll be money to be saved."
"His first thought, I'd bet."
The sun now crept towards the horizon but Bodie didn't want to move, not just yet. This was too nice, too real. Dinner was more than an hour away anyway so there was no real need to rush. He could find his way back to the cottage in the dark without a problem.
A long silence had Bodie a little worried. Doyle took his hands and held them against his stomach, as though he were afraid they might leave him. When it seemed he wouldn't speak, Bodie prompted him.
"Ray? What's wrong?"
Doyle held a breath for a moment, then let it out. "Before you talk to Cowley, there's something I have to tell you."
Another agonizing pause and Bodie's instincts were seriously aroused. But this time, he said nothing, allowing Ray the time to put it together on his own.
Eventually, the voice came to him, level, on a small gust of wind coming over the cliff. "I am sorry, you know, for lying to you about Jeff. I know it was important you to, especially at the time and you didn't deserve something like that - but, it was so hard to tell you, you know?"
"It's okay, Ray. I understand."
"No, you don't."
"Okay, explain." Bodie pressed a kiss to the side of Ray's face, a gesture of security he hoped would sink through the veil of worry clouding his partner. "I'm here, I'm listening."
"You know when... remember that night at the pub? Murphy's birthday? When I said you weren't easy to confide in?"
"I'll never forget it. It was the night I realised I loved you."
"Oh, Bodie," Doyle breathed, more sorrow than anything else. "I'm not surprised you were scared. I mean, there I was accusing you of never giving anything of yourself and I was busy doing the same. And then you found out I'd lied to you, about Jeff and well..."
A hushed silence came over Doyle then, a silence Bodie didn't like at all. He waited but again, had to prompt. "What?"
"You couldn't trust me. And with reason."
Something cold gripped Bodie on the inside. "About Jeff?"
"No, not about him. Nothing to do with him. Something much older, much worse. Something you wanted to know, something I've never told anybody." When Bodie would have asked further, Doyle stopped him by taking a hand and raising it to his face, to press Bodie's fingers against that dented cheekbone.
Instantly Bodie breathed, relief, whatever. Didn't matter. He pulled Ray close again, kissing his neck, instilling his whole body with reassurance. "It's okay, love. You don't have to tell me."
"I know - except that, I think that's why I have to."
Bodie frowned at this obscure piece of logic. "But if you've kept quiet about it so long, there's no need to..."
"Yes, there is, Bodie. You were right about giving guarrantees. About giving. I do have to tell you."
"Why didn't you?"
"Because... it hurt too much." The simplicity of the response made Bodie ache inside. "Please, love, don't..."
"I was sixteen," Doyle paused. Bodie wanted to hear the story - needed to hear it - but he didn't want Doyle to go through it unless he wanted to.
"Ray.." "Please, Bodie. Just listen. It's important." Doyle shifted until he could see Bodie's face. "I had this friend, Joe. We used to run the streets together. We were pretty wild, getting into everything."
"You told me a little about those days and how the cops never caught you."
"Yeah, well this time they should have. Joe had an older brother. He was into dealing. Anyway, Joe and I were pretty bored one day and broke into his brother's room. We took some of his stuff and ran off to an empty warehouse, a place we knew junkies hung out at night." Again, Doyle had to pause to take in a breath. Bodie said nothing, simply caressed his shoulder with one hand, held his other. "So it was almost dark and we couldn't make up our minds what to do with this stuff. I think we had it in mind to sell it then go do something with the money. Probably buy some booze or something. Anyway, it was after a couple of hours and nobody showed up so we decided that... that... well, the best way to work off a few hours was to... shoot up."
For a second, Bodie froze. Then he relaxed, letting his fingers continue the gentle encouraging caress.
"We knew how to do it. We'd seen it plenty of times. Joe went first, then he helped me push the needle in my arm. We thought we were pretty tough, imagining all sorts of things happening to us before the drug really had a chance to affect us. But then it did and well, you don't need to hear how it felt. After about half an hour, when we were on the point of being really off our faces, these guys came into the warehouse. Joe wasn't worried, but I was. I scrambled out of sight just in time to see Joe's brother find him.
He knew Joe had stolen the stuff - he was a mean bloody character, I tell you. The next thing I knew, he was kicking Joe, his mates joining in like it was some kind of bloody festival. Joe screamed for help but I couldn't move."
Bodie shifted until he held Doyle tighter, feeling the tension in that body, the horror of the story.
"He screamed and screamed and then he went quiet and I still didn't move. Then the guys left and I stayed where I was. My head was still spinning and I was all over the place but... after a while... I just got up... and ran off. I went home. I must have thrown up a dozen times on the way there. By the time I got to my street, I was pretty much over the heroin and sober enough to ring the cops from a payphone. Then I ran home and didn't leave my room for two days. When I did, I rang the hospitals until I found Joe."
Doyle ran out of words so Bodie prompted him.
"He was alive - but comatose. He recovered slowly but he remained pretty much a vegetable for the next three years. He died one night in his sleep."
"And your cheekbone?"
"His brother found out I'd been there - I don't know how. Joe must have screamed my name while they were kicking him to death. Anyway, a few weeks later, I was walking home from school and he caught me. He didn't do too much - he just threatened the same for me if I ever talked - then he pushed me down a set of concrete stairs."
"I didn't remember too much after that until I woke up in hospital a week later with my face all smashed in. Broke two ribs and fractured my collarbone at the same time."
"Damned lucky you didn't get killed!"
Doyle nodded then slowly turned and looked at Bodie. "Well?"
"Do you still love me? Knowing all that?"
Bodie sighed comfortably, "I told you, you idiot, I'm going to love you for the rest of your life. Jesus, Ray, I knew it had to be something pretty terrible or you would have talked about it of your own accord. That's why I wanted to know."
"But it really is terrible."
"Yeah. It's called a crime in the legal books."
"So what? You think I was a saint when I was a kid? Sure I never used drugs, I admit - but you know I had reasons why I ran away to sea."
"I'll tell you tomorrow. The point is, we don't end up in this kind of work because we twaddled about all day as kids, looking after old folk and taking care of our devoted mothers. We landed in this job because we aren't saints - but we've learnt which side we want to be on. We chose this side because - from experience - we know it's the right one. I learned that from you. So you made some mistakes. So did I. I can live with that. Either way, it sure as hell aint gonna stop me from loving you so you can get that idea out of your head right now."
Doyle stared at him, his gaze searching and uncompromising for long, deep seconds. Then slowly, he shook his head, "God, I do love you, Bodie. You are one of a kind."
"Yeah, well," Bodie grinned, "World couldn't take two of me, could it?"
"No, one is just enough."
"Are you sure?"
"One of you is all I want." With that, Doyle leaned close and kissed Bodie, putting his arms around Bodie's neck, holding him tight. Bodie kissed him back, revelling in the taste and feel of him, of being allowed to do this, of allowing himself the privilige of loving. It was rare and precious and surprising and totally intoxicating.
But it was also his.
As Ray settled against him once more, he gazed out to watch the last of the sun dip into a calm and undisturbed ocean. There would be days when the wind would whip up a fury, days when lives would be lost upon that sea and others when no breeze would scurry a whitetop. But that was the nature of the beast, the nature of the sea, the nature of life.
Bodie held Ray tight, pressed his face to the soft curls, left one more kiss beneath an ear, using each movement as part of a tiny ritual. Step by joyous step he let the last of it go in a long sigh. "Yeah, this is really nice out here."
He could hear the smile in Ray's voice. "Glad we came?"
"Oh yeah. You cold?"
Doyle shook his head, leaving an imprint over Bodie's heart. "No, Bodie, not cold at all."
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows.
-- THE END --