The Tangled Web
by Jack Reuben Darcy
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove
Oh, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
Without doubt he was in his own way - which was about the only way he would allow - quite extraordinary and quite unique. But as much as she loved him and the friendship which had grown between them, there were times when he had an odd ability to scare her. Like today.
Oh, he did it quite deliberately, she knew - even as she knew he wasn't trying to scare her exactly, but the others in the training room; the new recruits who had signed on to test themselves against the highest expectations of any unit of its kind in the country. He certainly scared them - and with cause. But her fear grew from other issues, things the men and women in this room would never see in those blue eyes, a history that was quite beyond them and of which they would remain ignorant until the day they died.
But Kate Ross was the holder of secrets, as his friend, his associate - and the only person alive who had ever got close enough to him to know. She was not unaware of the unique position she had in his life, nor insensitive to how easily she could loose it if she said the wrong thing, pushed him in the wrong direction - or found some other way to betray the fragile trust he'd placed in her. Bodie was not a man to forgive lightly - if at all.
As he stood before the recruits and gave his first introduction speech as the new Controller of CI5, Kate remained in the background, leaning against the wall beside Jack Dean, head of training. She held her slim briefcase against her stomach, both hands lightly gripping it, doing her best to ignore the faint warnings edging her awareness. Even though she knew the cause. Even though she knew there was no cure.
It was her job to know - to be on the watch for things like this. Especially in the eyes of a man who had so much power in his hands.
Bodie spoke well in front of his audience, his voice firm, laced with his often assumed cultured accent. His words were chosen without much deliberate attention - but that was largely because he knew his subject so well; preparation was not really an issue with a man of Bodie's experience. His tall frame and faintly arrogant bearing dominated a room already filled with self-made men who could handle themselves in any situation. But as tough as they were, she could see each subconsciously wondering if they could measure up against him.
Bodie, of course, was deliberately behaving in such a way as to make them ask themselves exactly that question.
Many years of practice kept the smile from her face as she watched him. He was so very good at this, a born natural. Back in the days when he'd been an operative agent in the squad under George Cowley, he had always had an essence of idle intimidation. It was a cloak he wore when those around him bored or threatened him. When he was relaxed, he gave the distinct impression of being little more than a cuddly bear, with a big soft heart.
Both images were false and perhaps the saddest thing of all was the simple fact that Kate was possibly the only person in the world who knew.
However, for all that, Bodie was unquestionably the second most dangerous man she had ever met. The most dangerous was long dead now.
Bodie turned and paced a small distance in front of the listening recruits. Each absorbed every word he spoke, hanging on his every gesture, his calm, deep-seated confidence, his careless ability to move with such grace, such assuredness. With every second he instilled in them a conviction of his position as master of all he surveyed, the one Voice of Importance, the man whose Word was Final. As with most natural leaders, Bodie inspired trust in those around him not by what he said, but how he said it.
They were generally a good twenty years his junior, but Kate knew which she would put money on in any kind of contest between Bodie and these green folk. They were already the best in their own fields - but Bodie was the best in all of them, a past master - and they knew it. Bodie's reputation always seemed to precede him, like a gentle bow wave. Not that his public profile gave rise to such fame - but he'd been in this business a long time and when his appointment to the squad was made official two weeks ago, after a month of working in the background, word had flown about the traps, allowing much of Bodie's hidden background to be whispered and exchanged - even if some of it was largely made up.
And Bodie had done nothing to clarify the questions. He preferred the mystery. Quite deliberately, too. He'd never been much of a one to talk about his past, as though he cared so little about it simply because it was past. He gave the impression of living only in the present with little thought to either what had been before or what would be to come.
But Kate knew otherwise - and that was why watching him today unsettled her so. It was the past she could hear echoing in Bodie's smooth delivery, see it framing his steady gaze. It was the past and his memories of it which scared her so much. Bodie's inability to deal with his ghosts had always bothered her. Largely because one day she knew, the whole terrible mess would catch up with him and whether he survived to tell the tale or not seemed to depend entirely on chance. He made no reference to it, refused to acknowledge he had a problem. He saw it as all one seamless thread running through his life; he would take whatever came his way - then move on.
And he was moving now, finishing his speech with an exhortation to the recruits to simply try their best and that failure didn't mean the end of the world. Then he dismissed them and for a while there was nothing more than the noise of voices rising, chairs moving and people leaving the room. Bodie came through the chaos and stood before Kate and Jack.
"Well? How did I do?"
"Scared the crap out of me," Jack replied with a laugh. "Think any of them will still be here tomorrow to start training?"
"If not," Bodie replied with a smug grin, "then you'll be out of a job. What time are you starting?"
Jack waited until the last recruit left then nodded, "Three am - but I've told them five. That way they'll all go to bed later than they need to and get up all fuzzy-eyed and bad- tempered."
"Oh, god," Kate breathed.
"Just the way he likes'em." Bodie laughed. "Just don't break too many bones on the first day, Jack. I want some of them to qualify."
"Whatever you say, Sir." Jack nodded and left them and Bodie turned to Kate.
"Are you staying on here or heading back to London?"
"I suppose you're rushing off again?" She led him into the corridor and he walked alongside.
"Well, I am supposed to be working. I have a briefing at Central," he glanced at his watch, "in half an hour. I'm going to be late as it is."
"And you're leaving tomorrow night?"
"As soon as I can get out of that damned budget meeting that's scheduled to go all day, yes. Why? Want to have dinner?"
Kate glanced aside at him, "I want to talk to you."
Bodie pushed the door open for her and they emerged into the early summer afternoon. Before them stretched the outdoor training field, ringed by woods on every side. The carpark was half-full and Bodie's car was waiting, his driver, Skinner, leaning up against his door, patiently waiting. Every man on the squad did a three month stint as driver for the Controller. It was a job some hated - others enjoyed. Few understood the importance; the Controller's driver was not only chauffeur - but bodyguard.
"This briefing could take a couple of hours - and then I have to pop in and see the minister. I'll be finished late." Bodie strode towards his car, long legs taking him ahead of Kate. She made it a point of never hurrying to catch up - rather, she made him wait. A small battle of wills, but one she never lost. His refusal to comment on it was an aspect of the cuddly bear she saw every now and then.
"What about after the meeting tomorrow?"
"Well," Bodie glanced at his watch again, nodded at Skinner then turned back to her, perfectly benign. "I do have to leave right after. Can't it wait until I get back?"
Oh, yes, he was so damned good at this. If she hadn't known him so well, she would never have guessed that he was doing his best to avoid the conversation he knew they had to have - before he left London. "You know damned well it can't, Bodie. You've been avoiding me for the last week. Ever since you planned your itinerary."
He let out a sigh, looking away, those deep blue eyes narrowing, his lips pursed, "What's wrong with now? Give me a quick precis."
She let out a short dry laugh, dropping her voice so Skinner wouldn't hear, "Bodie, my dear, do you really want to talk about it here, in the open?"
His gaze shot back at hers then, harder than before, reaffirming her quiet fear. No, he didn't want to discuss it with her - and therefore, with anybody. "How about we assume I already know what you're going to say?"
"No. I'll be at Central at seven tomorrow night. We can talk then. You can leave after that."
He raised an eyebrow - then his expression softened a little, an ironic smile gracing his handsome face. "I had a strange feeling, when I agreed to take this job, that somebody would stop me actually being boss. I should have known it would be you. See you at seven, then."
Kate smiled, satisfied at last, "Enjoy your budget meeting."
Alison only glimpsed the face once, through the crowd, but that was enough. With a smile and a few brief words, she left the men she'd been talking to and squeezed her way through the cocktail drinkers, past the buffet table overburdened with seafood and other delicacies, until she reached the windows.
Alan Cade was enmeshed in conversation so she held back, waiting for the right moment to approach him. He looked well; tanned, his hair a little longer than usual, but still short and a little too severe for his face. His green eyes were alight with laughter, his gestures all that she remembered. His suit was perfect, a crisp white shirt contrasting beautifully with his tan. Idly, a part of her whistfully watched him with the eyes of one who could appreciate genuine attractiveness in a man. Especially one who seemed to have no idea of the affect he had on women.
At the sound of laughter, she moved closer and put a hand on his arm. He turned in surprise - then grinned, "Alison!" Instantly, he gave her a chaste hug, planting a kiss on her cheek. "I didn't realise you were here. How are you?"
"I'm well thank you." She replied, with a smile matching his own. "It's been a while."
The others excused themselves and the two of them were as alone as they could be under the crowded circumstances.
"Indeed it has. What is it? More than two years, I should think."
He watched her with the same intensity she remembered, an unusal quality that gave the impression his entire concentration was on her alone - as well as on something else just slightly out of sight. Two years ago, when they had briefly been lovers, that look had had the power to turn her insides all soft - and she realised with faint surprise, that she was still not immune to it now.
"Yes, something like that." She gathered herself together. "I didn't know you would be here. I knew you were on the guest list, but I'd heard you were out of the country. Working?"
"No," he shook his head, gesturing with the glass of red wine he held. "For a change, I was actually on holiday."
"Oh? Anywhere interesting?"
"Africa. Kenya. Three weeks."
"Really? How wonderful. Did you enjoy it?"
His eyebrows rose, "It was... incredible. Nothing like I imagined it would be. I've always promised myself I would go one day. Elena was supposed to come with me but cancelled at the last minute."
"How is she?"
"Fine, fine. In Canada at the moment. She got into a summer course in Torronto and left early to see her mother. She'll be back at the end of August. I - " he paused, glancing around them. "It's awfully hot in here, don't you think? Let's get out into the garden."
He led her through the crowd until they reached the doors leading into the cool evening. Already a number of others had come to the same conclusion and were wandering in small groups, enjoying the fresher air and the first stars dotting the darkening sky.
"I've always loved this time of the year," Alan murmured, coming to a halt and looking up. "Spring is over, summer is here and months of it yet to come. Winter seems so far away when the nights are like this."
"I've heard the skies in Africa are like nowhere else."
"Incomparable," he replied, his smile drifting, his gaze - oddly - shifting, becoming more inward bound. As though he'd forgotten she was there, he said nothing for a few moments and she took the opportunity to study him. There had always been something of the philosopher about Alan Cade, something of buried pain she had never been able to reach. But never before had she seen it so quickly exposed, so fresh on the surface.
He started abruptly and turned with an apologetic smile, "Sorry. I only got back last night and I'm still a little culture-shocked."
"Last night? What are you doing here, then?"
He grinned, boyish, his old self once more, "What do you think? The Lord Mayor's annual bash is not something I can afford to miss. Too much gossip is passed on at these affairs."
"I wouldn't have thought the Chief Constable would listen to gossip."
"Oh," he gestured expansively, "you'd be surprised the things I learn - even though, to a large extent, I generally find the company a little tedious. Glad to see you're here, though." Again he gave her that intense gaze and she shifted a little uncomfortably. She knew what that look meant - but the worse part about it was, she wasn't sure she wanted to refuse.
But would it do any harm if she didn't? When they'd parted, they'd done so as friends and she had seen him occasionally in the months afterwards and there'd been no animosity between them. Would it hurt if she took the opportunity for another night with him?
"Did you come... alone?" He said quietly, allowing her to read his intent.
"Yes," she replied simply, a warm smile crossing her face. Everything that had once attracted her to him, did so again. That incredible smile, those piercing green eyes, that sense of otherness about him, as though he always kept some part of his soul in some place she could never see. He had always been the most alone man she had ever met and two years ago, she had enjoyed being there to soften it for a while. For so private a man, he let others in only with great care and she liked being one of those. Even though she knew it was that same privateness that had kept them from ever forming any kind of permanent relationship.
But that was not what was on offer - nor was it what she was looking for.
Moving a little closer, his gaze held hers and she knew she was doing the right thing, that this would not wound their ready friendship. "Do you want to stay longer?"
"No. If you go now, I'll follow in my car."
A one-sided grin was his only reply.
The faint flutter of curtains at the window held her gaze as gentle dawn light filtered into the bedroom. Alan lay beside her, his stomach pressed against her back, one arm around her. Idly, her fingers caressed the fine hairs on his forearm as she dwelt in the last few moments before she had to leave.
It had been wonderful, as she'd known it would be - so why did she now feel so damned empty? He had made love to her with all the passion she could have asked for - but the truth was, the depth of his need had scared her a little. In the weeks they had been together, she'd not noticed that intense quality. Had it been there, then? Or was it something new?
And as though he'd known he was exposing too much of himself, he had abruptly hidden it, burying it beneath all the layers of walls he'd built up over the years. Walls he would never let down for her. Not two years ago - and not now.
But would he let them down ever? Or would he, like so many work-driven men, live out the rest of his life alone, filling his days with toil, his nights with loneliness?
"I'm awake if you want to talk about it."
His voice startled her but she kept her reaction in check. She shifted slightly, taking his hand in hers. She didn't turn. She wasn't sure she wanted to see his face at this moment. "Alan," she began carefully, threading together her genuine motivations until she was sure what she wanted to say - and why. "This was just a night, wasn't it?"
He took his time replying. "I think it should be. Don't you?"
"Yes." She bit in her lip and breathed deeply. "It was nice but..."
"I know." He pulled her a little closer, touching her shoulder with a brief kiss.
"I'm worried about you."
She struggled, but could find no way of saying it without getting entangled. "You work too hard."
A half-laugh, half-moan split the ensuing silence. "I've just had three weeks off - and I haven't been anywhere near the office since I got back. Today is Sunday and I'm not going in until tomorrow."
"And how many holidays have you had since you came to Eastland?"
"For how long?"
"A week at a time. Really, Alison, you don't need to worry."
"Oh? Why? Because you can always find somebody like me to share your bed when you need to kill the lonliness for a few hours?"
His body went tense against hers and she held her breath. Then slowly he moved, letting her lie back. He raised his head and rested it on his hand so he could look at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
In the months she'd known him before, she hadn't often seen the look that now filled his gaze - and before, it had always been directed at others. It was a gaze Sean had described as quite capable of splitting oak at a hundred paces. Now she could see why.
She swallowed and framed her words carefully, "Alan, I wouldn't say this if I didn't care about you."
"Are you going to live like this for the rest of your life?"
He frowned slightly, "Like what?"
"I don't live alone. Elena lives with me."
"And in a couple of years, when she's finished her degree, she'll move away and you'll be alone again. She's your daughter, Alan, not..."
"That's not what I mean and you know it."
"What do you mean?" his voice was low, a faint edge of warning about it. She was treading on an area she'd never been near before. Two years ago she'd been too afraid. Now, time had lent her courage.
"I mean, apart from Elena - you have nothing in your life but work. Everything you do - like tonight's cocktail party - revolves around it, around talking to people who can help you, about helping others, about achieving your ambitions. Worthy though they are, they alone do not make a life."
"I have everything I want."
"Do you?" She gazed at him searchingly, hoping to find some chink in that obsidian armour. "Two years ago, we talked about luggage and life. You said most of yours was still in storage, not yet unpacked. Has anything changed?"
"Alison," He rolled over and laid back. "You know how I feel about my work. Few men have the opportunity to do what they really want to do, to have the chance to make a difference. I'm not afraid of making whatever sacrifices are necessary. You'd be surprised how fulfilling it can be. I don't see my life as being wanting."
"But you do miss having somebody to share it with."
He turned his head and raised his eyebrows in that hopelessly vulnerable gesture that always melted her in the past. "We can't all have everything."
"So you make up for it by this kind of behaviour."
He hissed in a breath, "And it's so easy to find someone who would fill the space, isn't it?"
"God, you can be a bastard when you want to be!"
He closed his eyes a moment then turned back on his side, "Look, I'm sorry, but really, think about it. I'm forty six, sitting at the top of my profession, enjoying a degree of success. I've worked all my life to get here - and I have a wonderful daughter around reminding me of what really matters. I don't need to ask for more."
"But do you want more?"
His reply was so long in coming, she almost prodded him. "There is no more. Not for me. I lost that chance a long time ago. It won't happen again. I can live with that."
Could he? Before tonight, she might have believed it. But now? The way he worked the conversation on two different levels, keeping one forever hidden with years of practice? That he felt he needed to was not unique. That he didn't realise he shouldn't, was.
Awed by the things she suddenly saw in him, she whispered, "Alan, have you been in love? Ever?"
His gaze froze, hooking hers with a force she'd never seen before, dragging her down with every second. But it only lasted moments before he released her, losing the driven aspect but keeping her still. "Once."
"No." He frowned slightly, his gaze going inward. "Someone else. Before that. We were only together a few months."
"We were separated by work."
"Someone intervened. Then ... she ... died."
Alison stared at him though he seemed oblivious. Was that it? Had he, unwillingly, given her the key to his pain? A lost love? Long ago? Something he would never look for again? "Alan, I'm sorry."
He looked back at her again, the gaze shifting to the present, losing it's lost appearance. In that moment, the walls closed in around him again and the tenuous connection slipped from her grasp. He smiled gently, forgiving, wonderful and everything the man he showed to the rest of the world. "Alison, I know you care about what happens to me, but really, I'm content with what I have. Yes, I suppose it would be nice to have someone permanently in my life and if I found somebody who could put up with me and the work I do, then yes, I suppose I would consider myself the luckiest man alive. But it would be luck. At my age, the odds are against me. And with age comes the realisation that perhaps I don't need someone as much as I would have thought twenty years ago. Really, I wish you wouldn't worry. There's no need."
She gave him a smile, though inside, her heart was sinking. He would never find somebody because he didn't want to look. He was alone because, for all his fine words, that was the way he wanted it, as though in penance for what had happened the last time he fell in love. With a faint sigh, she moved closer, putting her arms around him. She kissed him softly then shifted back. "I have to go. I have a meeting to prepare for."
"On a Sunday?" His smile let her off the hook a little too quickly, a little to happily. "And you tell me I work too hard."
But he let her go and she got out of bed, dressing ready to leave. He got up and put a robe on, seeing her downstairs to the door. Outside, the air was fresh and cool, the new sun splitting the ground with sharp long shadows, warning of another warm day to come. She paused at the door and gave him another brief kiss.
"Keep in touch, Alan. And good luck with your confrence."
His eyebrows rose, "And how did you hear about that?"
"I'm working with Chief Constable Fleming, in Edinburgh. He wondered how the public would take it if word got out."
"What did you tell him?"
"I think they would be horrified - but that doesn't mean I don't want you to succeed. I hope you do. For what it's worth, I think you're right about the whole thing - but don't tell Fleming I said that."
Alan smiled, knowing he could trust to her discretion, as she could trust his. "I won't say a word. Goodbye."
And then she was in her car and driving off, knowing that in all liklihood, it would be another two years before she saw him again. But she would still worry about him, no matter what he said. He was the kind of man who needed somebody to worry about him. But either way, Alan Cade would survive, no matter what. That was what he was best at. Surviving.
Of course, really living was another matter entirely.
After five hours, the meeting room got so stuffy, Bodie ordered the windows opened - despite the abrupt roar of traffic noise. In a way, it pushed matters along a little, encouraging those with something to say, to make it more brief; nobody liked having to shout over the top of such a cacophony.
Not that it made much of a difference. In the six weeks he'd been back in the squad, the bulk of his time had been devoted to this bloody budget and despite the fact that CI5 now had its own accountant, the wrangling for money between the various departments was no less bitter than it had been fourteen years ago, when Cowley had ruled the roost.
Back then, the Old Man had fought tooth and nail for every penny of government money, using the worst cases CI5 managed as perfect evidence of the need for the squad's existence. Now days, Cabinet needed no such proof - but still they believed adequate cover against terrorism and organized crime could be purchased for less than the price of a few BMWs. But that was their job - as politicians. His job however, was to make sure they paid whatever price Bodie decided was necessary - and one way or the other, by the time he retired, he would make sure they did.
He sat back in his seat, turned away from the sun streaming through the windows, and surveyed the long table before him, at the faces, the papers and coffee cups scattered around. They were a good bunch, more or less; at least to the extent where he knew he could knock them into shape. That was, after all, why he had been approached for this job rather than anyone else. Over the last couple of years, Sir Lionel had lost a considerable amount of his grip and the powers that be had made the correct decision that the squad needed a man tough enough to pull it back into shape. They'd gone out on a limb with their choice - which only proved that they could make the hard decisions every now and then.
Of course, this squad was very different to the one he'd spent six years in. There was more sophistication in the operational planning, more subtlty in intel gathering - but ultimately, it all came down to finding and catching bad guys and that was what Bodie did best - despite his ensuing years in MI6. Even there, he had carved for himself a niche to fulfill the role he'd wanted to play; in the long run, making him the perfect, perhaps only candidate for taking over CI5.
And what would Cowley have said to find him, of all people, sitting here, doing this job? A few years ago, Cowley had admitted that he'd expected Bodie to replace him when he retired. But events had not run along that course and Bodie had not been around - nor in the squad - when Cowley had finally called it a day. All the same, Bodie felt a certain satisfaction knowing that the Old Man would have been content to know Bodie was finally here, unavoidably hearing echoes of the Scot in so many of the decisions he made. Cowley had formed the squad, it was only fitting that one of his choice should take it into the new century.
But what would Cowley say to the trip he had to make that evening? Now there was a question. Probably much the same as Kate planned to - should Bodie give her the opportunity. And despite her fine words, he did know what she was going to say and therefore, didn't really feel like listening. She was a treasure, that much was certain, and he wasn't entirely sure he could have made it through the last ten years if it hadn't been for her - but all the same, her warning was predictable and she knew it. She simply wanted the opportunity of watching him react.
Shaking his head, he turned his attention back on the current subject and sat forward to say his piece. He had plenty of time to worry about Kate later, when this was all done with.
The same could be said for his impending trip.
Alan Cade leaned forward and shook the loose earth from the seedling before placing it carefully into the small hole he'd dug in his flower bed. The warm sun beat down on his back as fine rivulets of sweat ran down his face. Through the windows, he could hear the Mozart sonata he'd put on the CD softly melting in the background while the noises of the city seemed far away.
Sunday at home.
Quite deliberately, he'd turned down the couple of invitations he'd had for this day off - and again deliberately, he'd made no attempt to phone the office to see how things were. No matter what Alison said, he wasn't so obsessed with work that he couldn't take a day off now and then.
He filled the hole with fresh dry earth and patted it down, sitting back on his haunches to survey the effect. He didn't really need to garden himself - he paid somebody to come in and cut the grass, pull weeds etc - but today, he'd felt some subtle need to come out here, spend the day outdoors doing something indescribably normal.
Well, alright, perhaps not normal for him - but for anybody. He'd always liked the odd bit of gardening, even before this life had taken him over. He'd enjoyed getting his hands into the dirt, feeling the warmth of it, the things growing in it. He'd kept a few pots on the window ledges of whatever flat he was living in, usually only growing tomatoes and the like and there'd always been something satisfying in making something grow from nothing.
Finished, he stood and grabbed the hose. He turned it on and gently sprayed the entire bed, giving each of the seedlings he'd planted a good soak. He concentrated on each one, focussing his gaze, all his thoughts on what he was doing. But that couldn't stop Alison's comments from infringing on his mood once more.
Damn her! All day he'd been plagued by what she'd said. After she'd gone that morning, he'd tried to get some sleep but that had only been haunted by images he had hoped he'd forgotten. In the end, he'd risen, restless, to spend a few useless hours wandering about the house, tidying up, cleaning things that weren't dirty; trying to fend off the darkness. Gardening had been his salvation - though even that seemed to be failing.
What did she want him to do? Advertise for a companion?
As if that would make a difference. As if he could actually share his life with anybody. There were too many things he couldn't do - and what she expected of him was right at the top of the list.
He'd known all along it would be that way and in so many ways, his choices had led him to this point quite deliberately.
So why was he suddenly so unsettled? It wasn't as if nobody else had ever said similar things to him. Elena mentioned it from time to time, asking him if he was going to spend his entire life alone.
But then, he hadn't been to Africa before. He hadn't gone and seen the place with his own eyes, hadn't smelt the heady aroma of the African plain, heard the noises at night, been captured by the intruiging mystery of the place.
He hadn't ever made the attempt to confront the truth before.
With a sigh, he turned off the hose and sat down on the verandah step, spreading his hands before him to stare at his tan. It still felt odd being back, as though three weeks had left a mark on him so much deeper than this world would allow. But hell, that was why he'd gone, wasn't it? So that he could see for himself, try and understand the place where it had happened. Even so many years later, it couldn't have changed so much that he couldn't imagine what might have happened - even if he'd found no trace, no evidence that it had.
Not that he'd really expected to. Not after so long.
And would he be feeling any different if he had found something? A story? A grave? Would that make a difference to him now?
And really, he knew the question he should have been asking himself - why go now after so many years? Why stay away for so long and then suddenly decide he must go? The ghosts were all long gone, he'd made a success of this life, he'd put the past well and truly behind him.
A vague chuckle escaped him and he leaned back to put his face towards the sun. The eternal problem with hiding was always that you could never hide from yourself - the one person most necessary to hide from.
The reason had been as simple as the sunshine: it had been time to go. However, rather than help put it all away finally for the last time, instead, what he was left with were memories tainted with bitterness, words from a friend that cut right through him, a desire to tell the truth and be done with it.
Tell the truth - and have his world collapse around him for a second time?
No. Not now. Not even after going to Africa. He could never tell the truth. He could never let it go, never put down the burden. After fourteen years, it was too ingrained in him, too much a part of everything he was now. If he let it go now, he would lose the last threads of himself that still survived.
And if he couldn't tell the truth, then any relationship he had would always be founded on a lie and as much as he wanted someone to be with, he could never do that to somebody he cared that much about.
He'd known that, too, all those years ago when he'd made the decision. Pity he hadn't known what it would do to him.
With half a laugh at his own silliness, he got up and collected together the gardening things. If being constructive wasn't chasing the demons away, he would shut them off; sit out in the sun with a good book.
Bodie pulled his papers together as the others rose from the table. For the third time in an hour, he glanced at his watch. He was early finishing with the budget meeting. If he was quick, and Richmond didn't have too much for him to take care of, he might even be able to get out of the city before dark.
He left the meeting room and headed down the corridor towards his office, files tucked under his arm. He knew he was being a bit juevenile - but if he could just get out of the place before Kate turned up then he would feel a lot better about having to go in the first place.
Richmond was waiting for him and scrambled to his feet the moment Bodie appeared at the door. He dumped his files on his desk and glanced at the messages waiting for his attention. Nothing urgent. He glanced up at Richmond and nodded. "Well?"
"As far as I can tell, things are going as well as they could be. But really, we still need another couple of men up there to be on the safe side. Our intel is too vague. Sets my teeth on edge."
Bodie frowned, "Do you think something will happen in then next couple of days?"
"No - and if it does, I'll be very surprised."
"Surprise is not something I can afford. If you don't think you can handle things for the few days I'm going to be gone, I expect you to say so right now."
Richmond, a hard man at the best of times, shook his head, "No, Sir. I'm just not convinced we can handle this alone - not with the other operations we've got running. I'd just like to have another couple of men up there, as backup."
"We can't all have what we want. We'll just have to make do and hope it doesn't blow up in our faces. Nevertheless, I expect you to keep right on top of it. If we can nail Farakan and his mob, we'll be letting the big boys know we mean business. If we need to call in outside help, I want to know about it." The phone rang and he snatched it up. "Bodie." He listened for a moment, mentally filing the information for action later. "Right. Call Mason and Bruce off standby. They can take care of it."
Bodie put the phone down and turned back to Richmond. Absently, he began packing up his laptop, collecting together the files he would need; the most important he put on the top. The label said Eastland. "One way or the other, I'll be back on Friday. I can get back much quicker if I have to. I expect you to keep me informed if anything so much as sneezes in the wrong direction. As for Farakan, if anything blows up while I'm in the area, I'll commandeer some of the local lads to help."
Richmond snorted his opinion of that idea. Bodie continued regardless, "No, I wouldn't give a rats arse for the skills of the local constabulary in our game - but we don't have any choice and you know it. With the finance ministers' meeting on the weekend, we have no other men we can spare. If anything happens, you let me know immediately."
When Richmond rolled his eyes, Bodie paused, collecting up everything he needed. "Are you telling me this never happened when Sir Lionel was in charge?"
"Come on man," Bodie snapped, not in the mood for this. "I'm not interested in coy evasions. I doubt there's a man in this squad who owes any real loyalty to my predecessor."
"Then you can't be unaware of the limitations he imposed on the operations we got involved with. To be honest, he would never have sanctioned anything so far from London unless he was certain it would be the biggest arms haul in history."
Bodie straightened up and made for the door. "For all we know, it might be. Nevertheless, I expect you to make it clear to the entire squad that things have changed now I'm here. Bitch about me as much as you like - but make sure they understand - this is what CI5 is for and we're never going to have the money or the resources we need to do anything in a calm and relaxed manner. It just won't happen. Cowley knew that when he started the place and nothing's changed since. I'll call you first thing in the morning for a shipping update."
He left Richmond and strode out into the corridor, briefcase in one hand, laptop and files in the other. His car was waiting by the front door and he climbed in without a word. His luggage was already in the boot and he settled in for the drive north. He pulled the window down to let a little cool night air inside; the summer had been too hot in London. It would be nice to get out of the city - if only on the pretext of work.
Work, work and more bloody work. It never seemed to end - and he'd never really bothered too much with making himself a life outside of work. Not for the last fourteen years, at least. Never seemed to be any point. But the work still remained demanding. Not that he'd had any illusions when he'd been offered this job - at least, not on that level. Strangely though, he'd never really considered turning it down - though he'd wondered if they were sure they knew what they were getting when they appointed him. Oh, he'd been open and candid about everything - but you can never tell just how closely people are listening. There was always the possibility afterwards for someone to cry 'but I didn't realize you meant that!'.
He settled back into his seat as his driver, Skinner, concentrated on negotiating the city streets. Three hours it would take - and then he could snatch a few hours sleep before his first meetings.
Idly and cautiously now, he turned to that top file, picked it up with a vague tremor of hesitation. Eastland.
The Chief Constable was already something of a legend though he'd only been in the job little more than three years. A man many in the government considered a dangerous radical, a liberal they could well do without because he'd too often exercised a rare ability to think for himself. There was no doubt he was one of the most important thinkers in the force and the only one who had had the courage to put his ideas into practice. It wasn't difficult to get opinions on the quality of Eastland's chief - at least, not on a professional level. His public profile was high - the exact opposite of Bodie's - and he'd gained both praise and critisism for his actions on a number of different levels.
It was all there, in the file Bodie held in his hand. Of course, sitting alongside all the black scrawled text was a newpaper cutting, a photo of the Chief, in uniform, at some event now forgotten - and it was the face that drew Bodie's gaze again. Just as it had the first time he'd seen this picture.
It was uncanny and even now, a year later, the resemblance was no less astonishing. And tomorrow Bodie would meet the man in person, face to face for the first time.
How would the man himself match up to the photo - and how would Bodie react? He had no photos of Ray to compare Cade with, no link to the past he could touch upon to remind him of what was real and what wasn't. There was just his memory. He knew it was no longer clear and untainted. He'd tried to place too many others over it, in a way, trying to dull the reality. He could no longer recall the smell, the taste, the touch of the only person who had ever meant anything to him. He'd done it deliberately, finding, in the long run, the only way to live with the pain of losing Ray forever. Smudge the memory, smudge the reality and perhaps one day, the feeling would die as Ray had.
He put the file down and rested his head back. The view outside the car now encompassed darkness as they travelled along the motorway. Little flecks of light from farmhouses dotted the landscape - but of everything else, he was blind.
His mobile phone bleeped and he hit the button.
"Kate," he said with a smug smile. "How nice of you to call."
"Where are you?"
"On the M4, I think."
"So you've left already?"
"Damn you, Bodie, I knew you'd do this."
"Do what? I'm working."
"You said you'd wait so we could talk."
He chuckled, resting his elbow on the door, "You worry too much. I told you I'd be a good boy. I won't do anything I'm not supposed to do."
"Why don't I believe you? Alan Cade is..."
"Kate, I'm not an idiot - nor am I so indiscreet. Please, stop worrying."
"I would worry less if I didn't know you so well." She paused then added, "Just make sure you're prepared to be shocked. I know I was when I met him. His resemblance to Doyle is remarkable."
"And I'm well aware of it. Please, Kate, go home, go to bed and stop worrying. Call me tomorrow night if you like."
"Alright. Goodnight, Bodie."
He tossed the phone onto the seat beside him and rested his head back again. Kate Ross had always been far too perceptive for his own good. But for some strange reason, he'd never minded the way she could look right through him. Not even that night ten years ago when she'd caught him in a bar in Soho.
Exactly what CI5's resident shrink had been doing in such a place had never really been examined. However, at the time, he'd been rather too preoccupied to ask.
"Exactly what do you think you're doing, Bodie?"
Her dark gaze had glinted in the subdued light of the members-only club. Bodie had been a little startled to find her there but he'd covered it quickly. "Having a quiet drink, what else?"
She gave him that almost-smile that usually made men quake in their boots. "You can't bring him back you know."
He'd been tempted for a second, to hit her. "I damned well know that!" he'd hissed. "I also know it's none of your business. I'm MI6 not CI5 now - so you can just get out of my private life, alright?"
She moved closer so only he could hear the whispered words, "You can't bring him back to life, Bodie, and doing this is only going to make you miserable. You know that as well as I do."
"Oh yeah, and what am I doing?"
"Looking for another Ray Doyle."
"So why have you spent the last ten minutes chatting up that lovely fellow with the blistering green eyes?"
"The one who's keeping his distance, wondering if I'm your wife or something."
At that, Bodie had frowned and almost walked out - except that she'd done something very strange. She'd gone up on her toes and kissed his cheek, whispering, "I understand, Bodie. It's okay."
And then he'd looked into her eyes again and realized that it was okay. She did understand. She understood what he'd been doing all these years and instead of calling him a fool, she was trying to prevent him from getting hurt again. She wasn't to know that the part of him that could be hurt by anything had died that day, four years before when he'd found out Ray had been murdered.
"Come on, I'll buy you a coffee," she'd said - and in those words, offered him friendship in a way he couldn't refuse.
They'd ended up back at her place where they'd sat for hours, simply talking. That's when she'd admitted she'd long believed that there'd been something between him and Doyle not strictly regulation. He'd laughed at the way she'd put it; allowing himself to laugh had been wonderful. And so he'd told her the truth; of how he and Ray had finally taken their relationship to its most wonderful conculsion, how it had only lasted a few months before he'd been seconded to MI6. He'd talked about how they had hidden it from Cowley, the games they'd played with trying to live together without it looking that way, how they'd worried somebody would find out, how precious it had been to keep it secret for the first few months.
How they had been happy.
That night he had won a friend - and some peace he'd not known for a long time. Somehow, admitting it all in the open had made it more bearable, stopped him from gnawing at it all, allowed him to grieve a little.
Of course, it didn't stop him searching - and she knew it. Oh, he still went out with women but every few months he would find himself in a similar place to that Soho club, seeking among the crowds, occasionally taking someone home with him, burying himself in the illusion of a face or a body that reminded him of Ray. He didn't do it often and never if he thought there was a danger of discovery - but he also knew he would never stop doing it. After fourteen years, he was too old to change. Kate had, despite her opinion, understood nonetheless. They'd stayed friends since, growing closer. Some days he wondered if she was in love with him - but he could never ask. That would be too much for both of them - especially since she knew he would never return the feelings.
So he had let her in - and kept everybody else out. There had never been anybody else apart from Ray who had won his trust like that. Now days, she was like a sister and looked after the part of him that still admitted to any kind of vulnerability. The dry and shrivelled part that remembered he'd once loved someone.
He closed his eyes against the dark night. He had time to get a little sleep - and he needed to. Tomorrow would be tough in any respect - but most of all because he would meet a man who could have been Ray's twin.
But only on the surface - as all the others had been. Even as he resisted the idea, deep down he knew, he would never find Ray - because he was dead and nothing would change that, no matter how hard he tried.
Ray was dead - and in his own way, so was Bodie.
The timer lights were on when Cade pulled up into his driveway, giving the house that lived-in look. Except that it was empty. Elena wouldn't be home for another month and at this time of the night, the place felt like a hollow cave, gaping for some sign of laughter, noise, anything to do with people.
He shut the door behind him, automatically switching off the alarms and turning up the heating. Even in the middle of summer the nights grew cold this far north. Only in London did the heat gather at this time of the year.
He tossed his jacket onto the stair rail and wandered into the kitchen. He should have something to eat but he wasn't really hungry. Instead, he drifted into the lounge and poured himself a hearty whisky, sinking into the deep sofa to lean his head back.
His gazed drifted over the white walls of his elegant living room, touched on the artwork, the simple but stylish furniture he'd chosen when he'd bought the place. At the time, he'd believed Marie-Pierre would have shared it with him, but she'd left him too - just like all the others.
He took a deep mouthful of whisky, letting the liquid burn his mouth, sear his throat. He didn't drink scotch very often; it always brought about too many memories - but tonight, with Alison's words still in his ears, perhaps it was time to remember a little. Perhaps it would make it easier. Perhaps, once acknowledged, with the memory of Africa still fresh in his mind, he would be able to lift himself out of the mood that had haunted him all day.
Even if the memories were painful.
Then again, love and betrayal were always painful. No other way around it.
And in the process, he'd lost Bodie.
Was it really only fourteen years? It seemed like a lifetime - and yet, at moments like this, it seemed only months in the past, only the blink of an eye since he had gone by another name, lived another life - the life that had belonged to him, before Alan Cade had given him an escape from an unbearable existence.
His gaze fell on a photo on the mantle. Alan Cade's graduation. Young, fresh-faced, innocent. Already leaning towards law enforcement, one of the brightest students at his college, his tutors disappointed when he'd chosen to enter the police force. They'd had high hopes for him; a career at the bar, perhaps, going on to become a QC, or a judge. Anything would have been possible.
Except that reality had stepped in and severed that life before it had really begun - and the tradegdy of it was, nobody knew anything about it. Nobody knew that Alan Cade had died in Liverpool over thirteen years ago and that the man who walked in his shoes, did the job he'd been destined to do was in fact an imposter.
The ultimate lie in amongst all the others. To the world, Alan Cade had not died but had survived the savage beating he'd received that night, in the backstreets of a crowded city. He'd survived - and Ray Doyle had died in his place. An unhappy chance had given him an escape route, a means by which he could stop being himself and become someone else, someone who didn't have that pain inside him. So Ray Doyle had died and Alan Cade had lived.
But the pain had never really gone away. Instead, he'd lost the opportunity of ever talking about it, of ever really exorcising it. To this day, the loss of Bodie left an ache inside him he could only drown with a large scotch or two.
He drained his glass, kicked off his shoes and poured another measure. If he needed to wallow, he was damned well going to be comfortable.
So why did thinking about Bodie always make him want to wallow? Because he was alone? Or because the only time when he could wallow was when he was alone? Certainly the only time he could think about Bodie was when he was alone.
It was the emptiness of the house that echoed back to him; a dark spectre writhing in the background, taunting him and his attempts to live his life as though nothing hovered in his past. It was the emptiness that came back to him at times like this, breathing cold and blistering up the past like a ghost in the shadows. A ghost that never really left him. Unlike Bodie.
Willis, MI6 and some secret mission Cowley had been powerless to prevent. Cowley - powerless. Two words which, until that day, had never seemed to belong in the same sentence. Blackmail had been involved - as usual. Deals made behind closed doors - and Bodie had been taken from him, abruptly wrenched into another life, never to be seen again.
Doyle had hit the roof, threatening murder. Cowley had suspended him. In the last few snatched seconds he'd had with Bodie, they'd talked - briefly - of running away together, Bodie's heavy blue eyes dark and serious. Cowley had prevented it. In the end, Willis, smug and self-righteous, had won and they'd been torn apart that very day.
Without even a proper chance to say goodbye. Without even a moment to hold each other. Bodie had simply touched his face, uncaring of the eyes upon them both. And then he'd gone.
Six years together. Three months in love, astonishing and wonderful, still learning, still wanting, still afraid of what the future might hold for them, still wondering if they could make it work, still wanting to ensure it would.
All to nothing.
And the final day, a month later, when Cowley had come to him and told him what had happened. Willis's own words, bleating feigned sadness and contrite apologies. An accident. Bodie had disappeard in Africa. Body had been found days later, and buried in some dusty plain. No killer caught.
Just death on the job.
He sucked in a breath and held it, forcing calm into his body. After all these years, it shouldn't still hurt so much.
But it did hurt, remembering that day, and the one after when he'd told Cowely he was quitting. The Old Man had fought him, arguing hard - but they'd both known it was the end. Saddened, Cowley had let him go and for the next few months, he'd drifted, doing nothing, drinking sometimes, letting himself wallow some days, get angry on others. But he never went near Willis - that had been the only promise he'd given Cowley - and that reluctantly.
And then, almost two months after that terrible day - two months since he'd last touched life, he'd met Cade in Liverpool.
He opened his eyes and gazed blearily at the clock on the mantel. The bottle was almost empty and he would have to get up for work in a few hours. With a sigh, he rolled off the sofa and stumbled upstairs to bed, without even turning the lights on. He just stripped off and climbed between the cool sheets. Even then, tired as he was, the memories kept drifting back to him, like old friends, both wanted and denied at the same time.
Bodie had gone with Willis, gone to do some damned job in Africa that MI6 simply couldn't handle on their own. They'd needed Bodie - and they'd taken him.
And Bodie hadn't fought it. Not really. Not the way Bodie should have fought it. Oh, Doyle had seen the anguish in his eyes as they'd parted - and he'd seen the love so clearly, anybody could have picked it up. But all the same, Bodie hadn't fought as he should have done. Instead, he'd gone, managed to get himself killed.
Even though he'd promised.
Doyle had never asked for such a thing; believing somehow that Bodie would never want such comittment expected of him. But Bodie had promised, the morning after their first night together.
They'd laid together in his bed, wrapped around each other, their bodies sated for the moment, deliberately dwelling on the warmth between them, the closeness, the surprising rightness of it. And Bodie had spoken words he would never forget as long as he lived.
"Never really thought much about it. Never had a reason I guess but now I think about it - and I can't seem to think about anything else - I have to tell you, in case you ever wonder, or in case I get shot tomorrow and die without it being said - I love you, Ray. I know guys like me aren't supposed to fall in love - and certainly not with their partners, but there it is and I'm damned if I can do anything about it. Now I know we had a good time here tonight - but if that's all it was to you, say so now. Give me some warning so I don't get me fragile little heart broken. I can cope if you tell me now - but don't change your mind next week, or next month or in a year. If you tell me now then I won't go planning the rest of my life around being with you and I won't be disappointed when it doesn't happen. But if it does mean something to you, if you think that you might be able to love me - then I have to say, I want this to be forever. For me, it will be."
He remembered his response with a smile. In the dark bedroom, fourteen years later, the smile was the only light he needed for the moment. He'd rolled Bodie over on the bed and pinned him down, arms and legs, kissed him for long wonderful moments and then spoken his own words of love. And then, as though it were their own version of wedding vows, they had made love again, only this time, their joint yearning and need had driven them to become one. Doyle, shocked and bewildered by the incredible depth of his own feelings, had opened up to Bodie, had taken the pain along with the pleasure, wanting it desperately with a force that had brought tears to his eyes at the moment of release. His tears, like his love, had not been alone that morning.
Months, days, hours. Too few of them and yet now, he remembered every one, allowing his body to respond to the ghost he carried with him, deliberately reliving that wonderful morning with an echo of the pleasure and the love. And his body did remember, fashioning desire from imagination alone, driving him forward with an urgency he could not control, bringing him to the edge of a precipice over which he tumbled, falling back into the grief that had never left him.
Empty both physically and emotionally, he closed his eyes again and allowed the pain to send him to sleep.
"Morning!" Cade called to Dianne as he breezed into his office.
"Good morning, Sir." Dianne smiled. "Did you have a nice holiday?"
"Facinating. Amazing place, Africa. I'll bring the photos in and show you."
Dianne's smile widened - it came so easily to her, "Coffee?"
"Yes please. And ask Sean to come in when he gets here."
It was cool this morning but the sun streaming through his blinds bled a little warmth into the room. He dropped his briefcase beside the desk and pulled out the file he'd glanced at over breakfast. Oddly, despite the few hours sleep he'd had, he felt fine. Perhaps a little gentle wallowing was exactly what he'd needed.
Before he could even gain his chair however, his private line rang and he picked it up.
"Elena? Where are you?"
"At mum's. How are you? How was Africa?"
"Amazing - and when you see the photos you'll kick yourself."
"Don't remind me. Did you have a good time?"
"Wonderful," he lied - but smiled with it. "Actually, I was miserable without you."
"Oh, Dad!" she laughed, choosing not to believe the truth. "Well, I just called to say hi. I'll be home in six weeks. Can you survive without me till then?"
"More to the point, will you be back in time to start your next semester?"
"Of course. I'm already doing my reading."
And he didn't believe that for one second. "Well, you relax while you're there. You've got a heavy workload on this coming year. I don't want you fazing out after the first six months."
"Yes Dad. I've gotta go; this is costing a fortune. Love you."
"I love you, too."
And then she was gone, a fresh breeze on a summer's day. Still, he felt even better now.
Dianne appeared with the promised coffee. "You certainly look well - though I'm afraid you don't get much time to catch up today."
"Why?" He glanced up.
"You have an appointment in an hour - but it's only a meet and greet."
Dianne glanced down at one of the piles of untouched paper on his desk, "The new head of CI5 is doing a quick tour to visit the regional chiefs. We're his first stop. He only wants a few minutes for a quick chat before next week's confrence."
Cade paused with a frown, "New head? What happened to Sir Lionel?
"Oh, there's a memo from division there, in yesterday's pile. I put it on top. Sir Lionel retired just after you left on holiday. Ill health, I'm afraid. He'd been deteriorating for some months. As it was such short notice, they had to bring somebody in from MI6."
His frown deepened. Not another bloody spook. Not Willis, thank god. He'd died twelve years ago, from a stroke, not suffering anywhere near as much as he should have. He reached for the pile Diane indicated, rifiling through the stack until he found something with Division letterhead - but he needn't have bothered. Diane supplied the remaining detail.
"His name is Andrew Bodie."
Something frail inside him snapped.
"Andrew Bodie?" A harsh whisper, from somebody else's strangled throat.
"Yes, sir. He'll be here in about an hour. Can I show him in?"
She left, closing the door behind her.
For the first five minutes, he couldn't muster anything to make himself actually move. Then his legs gave way, letting him sink to his chair, like an airless balloon drifting to the ground.
No. Fate couldn't be so cruel as to give somebody else the same name. A coincidence like that would have given Cowley a fit.
No. It couldn't be. Had to be somebody else.
Had to be.
His breathing shortened as his eyes dragged themselves from the blank wall opposite to the sheet of paper in his hand. It took a moment for them to focus. W. Andrew Bodie.
Early member of CI5 under its creator, George Cowley. Top agent in the field. Moved on to MI6. Worked there for last fourteen years. Top operative, top controller. Second in command of ops at 6. Temporary assignment at CI5 pending ratification from Cabinet. All congratulations, best wishes on success in new position, give all assistance etc etc etc.
"No!" Thought came to an abrupt halt, his mind ceasing all operation as his entire world stopped dead.
But... it had to be a mistake.
It had to be.
Had to be
His tortured lungs screamed for mercy and he heaved in an almighty breath. For long seconds, his heartbeat raced dangerously as his eyes stared at nothing at all.
Willis had lied. Bodie hadn't died on assignment.
And Bodie was coming here - in forty-five minutes!
He came raggedly to his feet, almost stumbling towards the small ensuite. There he splashed cold water on his face, desperate to get a grip on himself, to still the sudden nausea which threatened, the shaking which rattled through his whole body.
Willis had lied and they'd never known. But why? Why would he do something like that?
And they'd never known. How could they? Bodie had been on top secret assignment in Africa - and those were the only details Cowley had ever been able to glean. At least...
At least for the time Doyle had remained in contact - until he himself had 'died' and taken Cade's place.
Oh, Christ - and Bodie thought he was dead!
Shock made his hands shake and he left them under the cold tap. Half an hour and Bodie would be here. Half an hour and he would see Bodie again, see the man he'd thought was dead all these years.
His stomach staggered with horror and the most absurd joy. Blinking, tumbling in unreality, he looked up in the mirror at the face he wore.
But this was Alan Cade's face.
Not Ray Doyle's.
Would Bodie recognize him? Know he'd been living a lie all these years?
Would he remember?
Would he care?
No! This was Alan Cade's face! The broken cheekbone and chipped tooth were the results of the beating he'd received while on that undercover mission in Liverpool. Medical records proved it. Scars on his back from a knife attack three months later. After a year undercover, he'd pulled apart the drug ring and was largely responsible for the arrest and conviction of twenty-three pushers and dealers. Then he'd had three months off to recouperate. Three months to put together a life that had never been his. Using the subtle trauma of long-term undercover work to ease himself into relationships and work he was unfamiliar with. He done it and nobody had ever questioned. Never. He'd done a perfect job. He'd even managed to avoid Cowley until the Old Man had died eight years ago. Even that chance meeting with Kate Ross had passed untroubled.
Until now, there'd been nobody to question, nobody left alive who knew him well enough to tell the difference.
And now he would have to make Bodie believe. He would have to be every part of Alan Cade, every ounce of the man he'd created over fourteen years. Bodie would be shocked by the resemblance - but nothing else.
Of course, if he already suspected, there was nothing to be done about it.
But he would worry about that if it ever happened.
Straightening up, he dried his face, pushed his tie back into place and deliberately fashioned his expression to suit Alan Cade, Chief Constable of Eastland. As he had done from the first moment, he forced down all the open reactions he would normally have shown, allowing himself to quake only deeply on the inside. Bodie wouldn't have a clue. He wouldn't guess because he would be given nothing to go on. Nothing but a vaguely familiar face.
Gathering himself moment by moment, he left the bathroom and downed his coffee in one go. He could have done with something stronger - but it wouldn't do for Bodie to smell alcohol on his breath this early in the morning.
Damn but he would have to concentrate hard, do all he could to forget who this man really was, pull out the best acting performance he'd ever managed.
But even as he turned to glance out of the window, he couldn't stop the smile creeping across his face.
Bodie hadn't died in some African jungle. Bodie was alive and that was more than he'd ever hoped for.
It was enough.
Bodie hadn't slept well once he'd arrived at his hotel. Skinner had done all the necessary room-checking and security stuff as he'd been trained, then taken the room next door. The CI5 Controller was a perpetual target these days and Bodie wasn't immune to the danger. But when he'd been left alone, anticipation had kept his mind working, filling his doze with flights of memory, of stolen moments with Ray, of days long before they'd got together, snatches of jobs they'd done. It had been a long time since his memory had played such evil tricks on him so he didn't get up in a particularly good mood.
And then he'd remembered who he was to see first off - and his mood abruptly improved. He'd had to do all he could to contain his urgency over breakfast and even now, sitting in his car, he had to school his features carefully, keep his hands laced together to keep them still.
Eastland's constabulary dwelt in a classic Victorian building which sat opposite a rather nice park. As his car pulled into the courtyard, Bodie looked up, wondering if Cade's office overlooked this direction.
Only then did he remember Kate's warning. This was not Ray - - and he needed to remember that or he was likely to get himself into trouble.
He was checked into the building and ushered upstairs by a uniformed officer. There he was faced with a pleasant woman by the name of Dianne. She asked him to wait a moment then disappeared behind a white door. Moments later she reappeared and asked him if he would like coffee or tea. Then she showed him in to the office and he strode ahead, his hand already outstretched, a smile on his face before he really took a good look at the man who stood to meet him.
"Alan Cade? I'm Bodie." The words were prepared and out before he had a chance to react. Cade nodded, forming a smile, his eyes glinting with something only snatched, then waved him to a seat.
Only then did Bodie notice his heart was racing...
Thank god he'd been prepared. If not, he'd be sitting here with his mouth agape.
"Welcome to Eastland. Did you drive up last night?"
Bodie nodded, again forming words already prepared and memorized in case he might react this way. "Long way from nowhere. Never noticed how flat the land is around here. How do you put up with it?"
Cade smiled slightly, tight and uncomfortable. At first glance, he appeared a little cold, a little impersonal. "To be honest, I don't really notice now. It did bother me when I first came here. Since then, I've been a little distracted."
Then Dianne interrupted them to bring in a tray of tea and Bodie had his opportunity to study the man before him.
He could have been Doyle's twin. If Ray had lived these last fourteen years, this was most likely what he would have looked like. The hair was short of course, cropped and kept away from his face, grey here and there. Lines on the brow were visible along with a few around the eyes. But those eyes - as green as a forest, silvery in shadow, beligerent and evasive, wearing an old inner disquiet there had never been in Ray's eyes. So different and yet so much alike it was uncanny. The nose was the same, as was the mouth beneath, though the smile was uneasy. Even the broken cheekbone was in the same place.
How could two men look so much alike and even manage to get the same wound?
Of course, he'd researched; Cade had done a long stint undercover and six months into it had received a bad beating. The broken cheekbone had been one casualty.
Christ, Cowley would have rolled over in his gave! Cade was speaking, "Mr Bodie? Are you alright?"
"I..." Bodie cracked out of his amazement slowly, in bits and pieces, not bothering to hide some of it. "Sorry." He said, offering his most disarming smile. "I didn't mean to stare. It's just that you... look like somebody I used to know."
"Oh?" Cade murmured, as though it were a pleasant opener to their discussion. "What's his name? Perhaps we're related."
"Doyle. Raymond Doyle."
Cade shook his head slowly, "I don't recall any Doyles in the family tree. Though I have to say, if he looks so much like me to get a reaction like that from you, I feel it my duty to meet him."
"He died," Bodie murmured, easily, eyes taking in the rest of the room. "Fourteen years ago."
"I'm sorry. Then you must feel like you've seen a ghost."
Bodie shook his head, unable to staunch his good mood now that he'd actually met the man. Memories of Ray kept him boyant, "You could say that. Are you sure there are no Doyles in your family?"
"Positive. Maybe there were some Cades in his?"
Shaking his head, Bodie sat back a little, folding his hands together. Working with this man was going to be interesting to say the least. Especially considering there was some obvious reluctance there - something for him to work on. Well, he'd always claimed he could charm the pope into bed. Surely Alan Cade wouldn't be entirely immune?
The echo of Kate's warning was harshly silenced. No, he wouldn't be that stupid - but he needed Cade to gain some trust of him or their working relationship would be a pain to say the least. Anything else - for the moment - had to be put aside.
At least Cade appeared ready to make some sort of effort. "Congratulations on your appointment. I'm afraid I was expecting Sir Lionel. I was on leave when he retired. I hadn't realized they'd even replaced him yet. I understand you were with CI5 in its early days, with George Cowley?"
"That's right. Did you know him?"
"I met him once or twice. He was not a man to be underestimated." Bodie shook his head, half-laughing, "Certainly not. To be honest, I don't think the place has been the same since he died."
Cade smiled, the first genuine one Bodie had seen. The expression lit Cade's face in the most extraordinary manner. "Does that mean you intend to return it to its former glory?"
Taking it all in his stead, Bodie grinned slyly, "Something of a loaded question, Mr Cade."
With a nod, Bodie took a mouthful of tea, almost burning his mouth. Then he glanced up, "Andrew - but my friends just call me Bodie."
"I wouldn't have thought they'd be too easy to come by in your line of work," Cade countered, reserved and yet his gaze still level. "You were with MI6 a long time. Do you feel it a bit odd, returning to criminal work after so long?"
Bodie shrugged, "Actually, I always preferred it. So much easier to see the effects of what you're doing."
"Really?" Cade was silent for a moment, his gaze suddenly turning piercing in a way that didn't resemble Ray at all. "And what would you say those effects are?"
A part of Bodie trembled a little under that scrutiny - the part that had garnered the same response when Cowley had studied him the same way, years ago. In a way, he was a little pleased he hadn't grown so arrogant he was immune entirely to the force of another strong personality.
With ease, he shrugged again, deliberately shying his response away from anything too serious - despite what Cade might want. This was a brief meet and greet only; in depth arguments could wait until the confrence next week. "I didn't say there were any effects - merely that they're easier to see."
To his surprise, Cade grinned, "I see you have been with MI6 a long time. Most of the bods I encounter in Whitehall can't evade a question so skillfully. So where do you go from here?"
"Yorkshire," Bodie replied, his mood abruptly dampened a little. What was it about this man? There was something there, hidden carefully behind that level gaze, something intruiging. Worse still, Bodie wanted to know what it was and for a moment, idled with the idea of trying to find out.
Then Kate's words came back to him and he left it alone. The conversation flitted around a dozen different work-related subjects before Bodie finally glanced at his watch. He didn't really want to leave but he had to. Still, he would have another chance to talk to this unusual man next week.
He stood and shook Cade's hand again, feeling the strong grip. "I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on the role of CI5 next week."
Another reserved smile, "And I look forward to hearing how you'll respond. Till then."
And Bodie was walking out, feeling like he'd left something of himself behind in that comfortable, elegant office.
Long after the day was over, Cade returned to his empty house and threw together a pot of noodles and vegetables. He sat in the peace of the kitchen, eating at the table, a glass of red wine for company. For once, he was glad Elena wasn't home; he didn't want to have to pretend for anybody tonight. Right now, being alone was all he wanted.
Alone and yet not alone at all.
How could he be unhappy to find Bodie was alive after all - unbelievable though it might be? Unhappy that Willis's lie had kept them apart all these years, yes - but not that Bodie was alive.
And he looked just the same. Sure, a little older - but those eyes had gazed back at him with the same deep azure he remembered, with the same light that had plagued his dreams only last night. And the charm was there as well; as he'd tried to make an ally of Eastland's Chief Constable. The smile was Bodie's, all boyish camaraderie. The rest of him showed little of the years, perhaps a little around the waist - but hardly noticeable. He'd looked after himself, that much was certain.
But delight in seeing him again after so much pain had been tempered with his need to keep himself hidden and under such tight control. Even though a long-dead part of him had been yelling in the darkness, demanding attention, wanting so desperately to throw his arms around the man and simply feel the reality of his existence.
The shock was going to take some time to wear off. Thank God Bodie was gone now and wouldn't be back till next week. He needed that time to put himself together properly - rather than the rushed job he'd managed this morning. Christ, Bodie must have thought he was a cold bastard - he'd not been able to smile properly for the first ten minutes; for some reason, parts of his face had stopped working.
With a sigh, he pushed his plate aside and lifted his glass high - and for the first time that day, he let it go, unravelled the tangle of conflicting emotions he'd kept such reign on for so many hours. He took a big mouthful of wine and began to laugh, stupidly, erratically and a little hysterically - but he didn't try and stop. Just as he'd needed to wallow in grief last night, today he needed to drown in delight.
Bodie was alive and that's all he'd ever wanted.
"So, how did it go?"
"How did what go?"
"Bloody hell, Bodie you can be obtuse when you want to."
"Darlin' you've always known that. Why complain now?"
"Don't change the subject."
"You were the one who mentioned my obtuseness - a failing I might add, which makes me invaluable in my job."
"Stop avoiding the issue. How did your meeting with Cade go?"
"Very well, thank you."
"Are you alone?"
"Of course! My, you must have an awfully high opinion of my seductive abilities. I'm sitting here on my bed in this sumptuous hotel room, with a wee dram and a few sandwiches. Skinner is fast asleep in his room next door and I intend to finish up a little paperwork and catch some shuteye myself."
"Sometimes I really hate you."
"No, you don't."
"He's amazing isn't he?"
"Words cannot describe him."
"I knew it!"
"Don't you dare go putting thoughts into my head, my sweet. You know how easily led I am."
"I know nothing of the sort. However, I do know how predatory you are with anybody who bears the slightest resemblance to Doyle. It's called a psychosis."
"Oh, rubbish! You know as well as I do that there's nothing wrong with me short of a little wishful thinking. Can I help it if the man is unbearably attractive?"
"In the same way Doyle was?"
"Bodie, are you okay?"
"Would you believe me if I said yes?"
"Then I won't waste the lie."
"It must have been difficult meeting Cade."
"Actually, at the time, it wasn't difficult at all."
"It all set in. Sorry. I know I should talk about it but..."
"Don't worry about it, Bodie. I just wanted to make sure you were alright - even though I know you're not."
"I'll survive. I'm off again tomorrow. Won't have to see him again for a week. By then, it won't be a problem."
"Just be careful will you?"
"Of course, I've got Skinner here, looking in every nook and cranny."
"That's not what I mean."
"Yeah, I know. Listen, you really don't need to worry."
At first, the week passed with aching slowness as Cade dived back into his work. Between everything else were the checked and re- checked arrangements for the conference - but fortunately, Sean was handling most of it. But as the day grew closer, time began to fly when he'd feared it would drag. His anticipation to be once more in the same room with Bodie acting like a lure towards a target. The more he wanted it, the faster it approached.
And then he was in his car, driving across the flat lands towards the coast and the Victorian estate now converted to a plush golf retreat. He'd chosen this place deliberately, wanting as few distractions for the delegates as possible. He had hopes of achieving some consensus over this coming week and with the greens and the view of the sea in the distance, the delegates would have to concentrate or lose out.
Of course, plenty would play the odd game - but that was also part of his plan - so they wouldn't feel trapped, wouldn't feel like he had them in prison until he could convince them to try out his drug scheme on a larger scale.
The security was impressive - but not overdone. Sean had kept an eye on making it appear relaxed while keeping the villans at bay. And the hotel was quite lovely without being ostentatious the way American places were.
A few delegates had already arrived and Cade met them briefly before doing a quick tour with Sean as guide. He voiced his approval before retiring to his room to glance once more over his speech for tomorrow. Tonight was a relaxed affair, casual with a few drinks. Enough to get everyone in a frame of mind where he could convince them of the impossible.
At around six, he showered and dressed and wandered downstairs, unable to help glancing around to see if Bodie had arrived. He knew it was silly and he knew he was perfectly under control now - but there was something important about making sure that day a week ago hadn't simply been a figment of his imagination. He would never really settle until he was certain it was real.
But it was impossible to see anyone in the press of men and women. Already the drinks were flowing and he had to play the dutiful host, welcoming those he'd not seen for a while, introducing himself to those he'd not met before. It was a good turnout. Every invitation he's sent had received a positive response - giving him a sliver of hope that he might actually be able to achieve something good and lasting.
It was an hour before he'd worked his way across the room and heard the first shiver of laughter he'd been waiting for. He looked around until he caught sight of the tall figure in the crowd, raven hair untouched by age in this light. In profile, deep in conversation, Bodie seemed unaware of the grace he exuded; the years had taken none of that away. In fact, it seemed more settled within him, as though his confidence had grown as his arrogance had receeded. Now he knew he was good at what he did because he had many years behind him to prove it - and now that he could prove it, he no longer needed to.
A sudden pang of loss assailed him and he turned away, taking his drink to the French windows where he could get a few moments alone. Yes, it was real - and now he was going to have to face that reality. Learn to live with it. He could never tell Bodie the truth, never reveal how a web of lies had parted them and kept them away from each other for fourteen years.
And perhaps that had been for the best. Looking at him now, it was difficult to imagine they'd ever had anything else between them, that their fledgling love could possibly have survived all this time if they had been allowed to try. It was certain neither of them would be in the positions they were in today if they had been able to stay together - look at how much they each would have lost. How the country would have lost their contributions. No, for the first time in his life, he allowed the idea that their split had been for the better. At least now he understood it.
Though it was a damned good thing Willis wasn't still alive - - or he wouldn't be today!
"I've heard," a familiar voice murmured at his side, "that more deals are done on the golf-course than in any board room. I can't help wondering if you're subtly trying to achieve the same percentages."
"Well, if you guessed so easily, I can't have been too subtle." His insides clenched together with the shock and unconscious delight that the man himself was standing so close. Without turning, he sipped his wine, keeping his gaze on the long shadows across the carefully manicured greens. Tall oaks swept the course on the left, while on the right, a water trap and a bunker dipped into the undulating ground. "And if you guessed, I can't think everyone else will be too far behind."
"This lot? I should think they're all far more interested in five days of first class accommodation and meals, a few relaxing rounds and then home to the wife and kiddies."
"So you don't think they'll do much work while they're here?"
"I didn't say that. From what I've heard about you, I should think tomorrow they'll be in for a sharp surprise."
He couldn't help it. He turned with half a smile on his face to find Bodie grinning at him. The expression was so familiar it sent a pang of regret straight through him, laced with the now-customary delight that he should have the chance to see it again. "And what have you heard about me that leads you to such a conclusion?"
"You'd be surprised," Bodie replied conspiratorily. "The things I hear in my position don't often bear repeating."
"I can imagine."
"Yes, I bet you can."
For some inexplicable reason, his heart did a quick backflip - then continued beating normally as though nothing had happened, offering up no explanation. To cover the momentary discomfort, he lifted his eyebrows, and spoke, "So, are you settling into your new job?"
Bodie gave him a pained expression and drained his glass, immediately catching the eye of a waiter for another, "Do we have to talk about work? I thought the point of tonight was to give us all a chance to get chummy and friendly - you know, before we start ripping each other's throats out tomorrow."
Cade laughed. Nothing could have stopped him. When Bodie handed him a fresh glass he took it, shaking his head. "Very well, what should we talk about?"
"Well, the statistics say that the average man talks about only two subjects. Football and women."
"Oh? I'm afraid it's been years since I followed football."
"Never had too much interest in it myself. And women?"
Cade raised an eyebrow, deliberately schooling his expression. "I'm afraid I have no words of wisdom to impart on that subject either."
"Why," Bodie replied without hesitation. "No success or no interest?"
Cade nearly dropped his glass. He swallowed heavily and did his best to present the appearance of a man slightly shocked at being so interrogated by the head of CI5 - which indeed he was.
Bodie read it as it was written, "Now don't get all riled, Alan - " and the sound of his name from Bodie's lips made it all the more awful, "- it was just a question. Don't worry, I'm not taking notes. Trust me, if there were any dark skeletons in your closet, I would have found them out long before I came here. It's just that I did notice in your files that you never married. You know how minds work in the dusty halls of government. Questions do get asked."
Cade knew that if he didn't answer, the subject would be left uncomfortably open for the rest of his life. "I'm afraid I cannot add to the rumour factory on that score. My problem lies with too much work and too little time to polish my success rate. As I said, I have no wisdom to offer on the subject of women. The fact that I have never married should prove it beyond doubt."
"Or it could prove that they have no success with you." Bodie offered a brief smile before turning his gaze out the window, his demeanour all affability.
Damn it, if Cade hadn't known any better, he'd suspect Bodie was trying to flirt with him!
And wouldn't it just be the most tragic piece of irony if he was!
Was it possible?
Once, fourteen years ago, Bodie had been attracted to him - would anything have changed in that time? Did Bodie still remember their brief time together?
He had to know. "What about you?"
"Eh?" Bodie glanced back, cobalt blue pinning him in a second.
"Yes. Once, briefly."
For the first time the gaze flickered - then steadied, "Three months. It was a long time ago now."
Cade could say nothing. Stunned to his core, he could only meet that gaze as steadily as his tumbling emotions would allow - not to mention a room full of noisy people behind him.
Bodie shrugged, his aspect changing again, now lighter, as though to brush it all off, "I hardly remember what it was like any more. Never found a woman since who could come close."
He knew it was a big mistake to ask - but he was in control of his expression and so used to playing Alan Cade he was in no risk of giving anything away - but he couldn't stop himself making that one final enquiry, phrasing it as nominally as he could, allowing Bodie a way out. "What happened to her?"
Bodie's eyebrows rose fractionally. "She died. While I was overseas on assignment."
"I'm sorry," he breathed, meaning more than Bodie would ever know.
Another shrug followed, "Didn't find out until the job ended three months later. By then it was too late."
Cade was stunned again; Bodie had never in his life been so open about his past. In the six years they'd worked together at CI5, Doyle had had to put Bodie's history together from a mess of tangled hints pointing in a dozen different directions. That he was prepared to open up so easily now said an awful lot.
About what, however, was another matter.
"I'm sorry, really. I shouldn't have asked."
"That's okay," Bodie smiled slightly, his gaze briefly gathering in the room full of people before returning. "Probably about the closest thing to truth anybody is likely to speak in this place tonight. You know what rubbish coppers can talk when they've got a few under the belt."
"Yeah," Cade nodded, doing his best to bring his tone back to normal. "That's why I thought we should start of with something like this. Let them get it off their chests before starting in on the hard stuff." He glanced away for a moment, watching the shadows lengthen across the golf course. In another hour it would be dark.
"So," Bodie murmured, his voice dropping low, "how do you handle the lonliness?"
The question darted right under his guard and straight into his soul. For a second, he couldn't form any kind of response. Then he hastily collected one and turned ready to give it out - but his gaze was snagged by Bodie's and this time, his imagination was set alight with what he saw there. Open and warm, Bodie offered him an invitation; without question; displayed a carefully framed suggestion of desire nobody else in the room would read.
Cade opened his mouth to respond but for a moment, he was dumbfounded - that Bodie might still want him - or at least, a man who looked like him - and that the head of CI5 should be prepared to make such an unveiled proposition to a man he hardly knew. A man in a similar position to his own.
He quickly looked away, afraid a peak of his own desire might leak though his gaze. Harshly he forced his heartbeat to return to normal from the ragged beating it was pealing in his chest. Bodie couldn't be serious. It had to be a setup. There was no way a man in his position would risk being so indiscreet without hoping to trap him.
And as though Bodie had read his thoughts, he moved a fraction closer until Cade could feel his breath upon his neck. "A brief respite is sometimes all a man needs to keep the lonliness at bay. I know - and I'm not out to trap you. You have but to voice a simple refusal to be sure no mention is made of it again."
He stuggled but his good sense won out in the end. His voice was harsh as he turned, "Bodie, I..."
But he never got to say it - for at that minute, Sean came pushing through the crowd to his side, "Sorry, Sir but there's been a breach on the south side. I thought you should know."
Like a machine, Cade snapped into character. "What happened?"
But even as Sean detailed the events, he felt Bodie leave him and melt back into the crowd. With an internal sigh, Cade followed Sean to look into the matter. By the time he was finished - having discovered that it was nothing more than a pair of poachers (and boy, did they make a mistake) it was too late to go back and give Bodie his simple words of refusal.
Assuming he'd actually been able to say them.
"I'm sorry, Kate, I've had a long day and I'm tired. I don't want to talk right now, okay?"
"You bastard. You did it, didn't you? You made a move on him?"
How had he ever allowed somebody to know him so damned well? "Of course I didn't."
"Well if you're going to be like that you can go to hell."
He pulled in a breath and sank onto the side of his bed, reaching over to switch the lamp on. "Look, I'm sorry, love. You just don't..."
"Know how hard it is? Christ, Bodie, we've been friends for ten years - you think I don't know how much you still miss him? I doubt we would ever have become friends had Doyle lived."
He had to smile, "If Doyle had lived I wouldn't have gone cruising for lookalikes in that bar so no, I think you're probably right there."
"That's not what I mean and you know it." Her voice softened then before she continued, "Bodie, I'm just scared for you."
"Look, even if I get lucky and tumble the man, do you honestly think he'd ever say anything about it?"
A thick sigh came clearly over the phone. "If I was only worried about a one-night stand, my dear, I wouldn't be ringing you at this time of night."
"What do you mean?" He stretched out on the bedspread, kicking his shoes off.
"You know already."
"Bodie, Alan Cade is not some man you met in a bar, someone looking for a few hours of distraction before returning to his normal life. You can't treat him like that. He's a real person who looks, walks and almost sounds like Doyle. If you're not careful..."
"If I'm not careful?"
Another sigh, resigned this time, "If you're not careful, you'll fall for him."
His answer came out without thinking, "Never."
"Oh yes? And I suppose you never thought you'd fall for Doyle - until it happened."
"But I did fall for Doyle."
"Bodie, only a fool thinks lightening can't strike the same place twice. You'll fall for him and you'll get hurt. I don't want to see that happen."
"Alright," Bodie stuck a pillow under his head and got comfortable, "let's assume you have a valid argument and I did make a move on him and he didn't knock me down flat, and assuming something does happen - and I'm not saying for one second that's even remotely likely - what makes you think I'll only get hurt? For all you know, Cade could be my soulmate and we could live happily ever after. You don't know that it will all end in misery."
"No," her voice was patient, "but I can read your guilt a hundred miles off. You've always blamed yourself for Doyle getting killed in the first place. If you find you actually start feeling again - for somebody else - guilt will kill it all off for you. You won't allow yourself the reward for being so obliquely faithful all these years. I'm sorry, Bodie but you know I'm speaking the truth here. You've said as much to my face many times."
"Yeah," he breathed, admitting it to himself at the same time. "But it's just that..."
"He's amazing, you know? I spent an hour in the same room with him tonight, nowhere near him and yet, I felt so close to him I could almost hear his heart beat. I had to deliberately wait until I'd calmed down before I dared speak to him. I really never thought I'd..."
Again she prompted him, "What?"
And the words came out of him, rushed and reluctant, "He's like me, Kate. Alone and needs someone. I can see it in his eyes, whenever he looks at anybody. It's like he's looking for somebody he's given up hope of finding. I know I sound like a sap but there's something there that makes me want to be that thing he's looking for. Christ, I sound pathetic!"
A gentle murmur was her first response. "Then I guess I'm already too late."
He blinked at that, "God, it doesn't mean anything."
"No? Then I suggest you try doing something you do your best to avoid. Try remembering what it felt like those first few days when you and Doyle got together. Remember how you felt when you first realized you were in love with him. You do that and then you tell me again not to worry."
"I'm sorry, Kate but you've got it all wrong. Sure, I want to be with Cade, give just about anything to get him into bed - but I don't feel anything like I felt with Ray - and don't make the mistake of assuming I do." There was a sharpness in his voice he hadn't intended. "I'm sorry. I really am tired. I'd better go."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Be careful."
"No." A pause, "Be sure."
He was up early the next morning, finished breakfast before the rest came down - and then went out for a run around the course. He waved and smiled at every uniformed security he could see - and then for good measure, checked up on his own men he had stationed in between. Cade hadn't liked the idea of extra external security, but Bodie had made sure Richmond negotiated without compromise. There was a whole world of difference between the training police received - and that of CI5 agents - and Bodie knew which he trusted the most.
It was a lovely day, even so early in the morning and the golf course the perfect place to be taking a run. But in the end, he had to get back inside, shower and dress ready for the first session - at ten am, so as not to frighten the drinkers from the night before.
Already anticipating the most interesting day, Bodie took a seat near the back of the small confrence room. There were almost seventy delegates at this confrence; the best turnout he'd ever seen to a gathering of this kind - that is, something not demanded by the Home Office. Cade's reputation for making things happen had run the length of the country and many of those here were present purely because they wanted to see the man in action - - as did Bodie.
Like a consumate professional, Cade himself appeared on cue, dressed quite deliberately in his uniform, as though he wanted to remind everybody what he was. Silently, Bodie admired the quiet beauty of the man. Then Cade took the podium and began to speak. His rich voice, lightly amplified, carried the length of the room and after a moment, Bodie relaxed back into his seat, for once, making the most of the fact that he didn't need to find an excuse to watch that wonderful face. What was it about Cade that had caught him so quickly? How much time had they spent together so far? Perhaps an hour; certainly little more than that. So what was it that drew him in so completely that he'd made that foolish offer last night? Even at his most desperate, looking for Doyles in hazy nightclubs, he'd spent more time than that to make his decision. That Cade was different to all those others was obvious - but how was he different? What had he given out of himself in so short a time that engendered such a reaction in Bodie? It was certainly more than just the look of Doyle. No, it was something in those eyes, in the way Cade looked at him. Something that tugged at Bodie, made him want to see it again.
But even so, he was intruiged by what Cade had to say - and so, by the look of them, were the rest of the delegates. A program of gradual de-criminilization of own-use drugs, a program of support and rehabilitation for users, public access to information on drug programs and youth initiatives in the worst areas. More interesting however, were the figures he presented, the results of his trialling this program in Eastland for the last six months.
They were incredible to say the least and brought sighs of amazement from more than one delegate. A drop in drug-related crime of fifty percent. Burgluary, breaking and entering and muggings had all shown an appreciable drop. Late night chemists had started opening again because the drop there had been eighty percent. Bodie sat up at this, almost aching to get his hands on some figures. He'd come here expecting to hear some politically incorrect ideas and a little vague blustering. He should have paid more attention.
Cade - wisely - didn't go on for more than half an hour. He merely dropped his bombshell, thanked everyone for listening then detailed the morning's workshops. The artful bastard even included a shy apology for keeping everyone off the golf course on such a lovely morning - then perfected it by promising a free afternoon after lunch. For open discussion, he said. Yeah, right.
Without hesitation, Bodie chose the workshop Cade himself was chairing and again took a seat in the back. Despite the presence of the man who intruiged him so, he became wholly engrossed in the discussion, noting those who were obviously predisposed in favour of a broadening of the program country-wide - - and those who were not. The number as yet undecided were far in the majority. Not a bad result for the first morning.
And then lunch. Bodie deliberately kept his distance from Cade - quite meanly, at that. He was well aware that last night, before his man had interrupted them, Cade had been on the point of turning Bodie down. He wasn't about to give him the opportunity to voice that refusal. At least, not yet. Not until Bodie had had a chance to convince him otherwise.
And yes, he knew he was behaving like an idiot - but he was also completely aware that he would get no sleep for a month if he simply walked away from Alan Cade. Not much of an excuse - but it was the only one he could manage under the circumstances.
The afternoon session was a little different - but Bodie managed to remain on the fringes once more. This examined in depth, the effects ecconomically, of the drug trade on a community, the money spent not only on pursuing offenders, but on cleaning up afterwards, insurance claims, the drain on the Health Service, on broken marriages, on securing schools, on education and unemployment benefits. Although he almost knew these statistics off by heart, it was obvious not too many people in the room shared his familiarity with them. Again Cade allowed others to do the talking, keeping himself aside, ready to steer the topic on its course. At no point did he ask anybody exactly what they thought of his proposals.
But it was awesome to watch him. It was doubtful there was a delegate in the room who was not affected by the quiet essence of power about Cade, an atmosphere generated by his low firm voice, his considered words, the clarity of his thinking, the strength of his convictions and the passion with which he pursued them. This man was indeed a legend in the making. Nobody would leave here completely untouched by what they had heard.
The evening was filled with more workshops but Bodie spent the time in his room on the phone and working. His notepad however, was filled with thoughts from the day's sessions, small scribbled words with questionmarks, numbers circled a dozen times. There was indeed a lot to think about in Alan Cade's proposals.
Fortunately, there was no knock on his door as the night drew in, no apearance of the man to tell him the refusal he knew he would get. But he was patient; he knew Cade would find a way to say no - even though it seemed there was in his eyes, a desire to say yes.
Of course, he'd been an idiot to make the offer in the first place. It was not only stupid but dangerous. Cade could, if he wanted, make some sort of fuss about it - though it wouldn't get far; the Cabinet was already well aware of Bodie's sexual preferences - he'd made sure of it during his first interview. They'd been a little shocked at his openness but after warning him of the need for discretion - as if he'd never thought about it - they'd somehow decided they needed him more than they needed a perfect reputation. Besides, as Controller of CI5, his public profile was very low - deliberately so - and the powers that be wanted to keep it that way. So did he.
But nevertheless, for all that Cade could shout about what he'd said, Bodie didn't think the man would do such a thing. For a start, it would raise questions about his own involvement which a man in his position couldn't afford. Secondly, and much more importantly, Cade was a liberal. Even if he was as straight as they came, he didn't appear the kind of man who would condemn Bodie for making a pass at him - in all sincerity.
Satisfied with his first day, Bodie relaxed and climbed into bed and did his best not to think of either Alan Cade - or Ray Doyle. It didn't work entirely.
The next day was more of the same, though the subjects of the workshops changed direction, becoming more focussed on the implementation of programs and the more political side of changing the laws. In the afternoon was an hilarious session about how to sell the idea to the public - at least, Bodie thought it was funny, and he wasn't the only one laughing. After all, it was one thing to use discretion on the beat, another thing entirely to stop the country thinking the police had gone soft on drugs.
In the evening, Bodie sat at dinner with Cade and a dozen others, engaging in as much non-work related talk as he could manage. It had come about accidentially - but he'd ended up sitting next to Cade. Not that he minded, but he would have rather been a place or two away, to avoid the exact conversation that rose between them immediately after coffee - while the others were listening in to a story from the other end of the table.
Fortunately, the rest of the dining room was full with the same kind of raucous noise, sheltering Cade's quiet observation from too much scrutiny.
"You've been avoiding me."
Bodie poured a little more milk into his coffee and replied without looking up, "Have I?"
"You know you have."
"I've been busy, attending workshops - just like I'm supposed to."
"Oh," Cade murmured, his voice low so only Bodie could hear him. "So you're going to make it hard for me, are you?"
Bodie's gaze shot up and met Cade's before he could stop it - nor could he stop the instant flash of a grin at the unintended pun. Cade's eyes widened as he realized what he'd just said - and then suddenly they were both chuckling softly.
After a moment, Cade sucked in his bottom lip - and it was all Bodie could do not to lean over and kiss it for him - and shook his head, coming up with a rueful smile, "Perhaps I should rephrase that."
"No, that's okay," Bodie replied easily, still grinning. "That works for me. I'd love to."
Cade, master of every situation and absolute ruler over this entire gathering of the powerful and mighty, actually blushed. "Bodie, please!"
"Then let's go." Bodie said this without hardly moving his lips, enjoying Cade's discomfort. That he could make the man blush gave him his first shred of real hope.
Cade shook his head again, deliberately not looking at Bodie. "You are unbelievable."
"I didn't mean it as a compliment."
"Another of my talents. I have others I'd be happy to... discuss."
Cade's glance eased back to him - for just a second - and the depth of it wiped the smile from Bodie's face. But then it was gone and Cade's attention was torn away by the other men around the table. Bodie sat back, feigning interest in the general conversation, reliving that brief moment.
Yes, there was desire there in those incredible green eyes - - but there was also something else. A shadow of the lonliness Bodie had so blithly referred to in his clumsy attempt at a proposition.
Cade wouldn't give in - but he wanted to. More than that, he knew he'd let Bodie see that.
A little shocked at his own reaction, Bodie didn't stay much longer at the table. As a few others started to drift off to bed, he rose also, said his innocent goodnights and got back to his room and made the usual round of phone calls to make sure the squad was still functioning despite his absence.
His dreams that night were filled with faces.
Cade watched Bodie leave the dining room with a strange mixture of relief and sorrow. It was so weird having him at this thing, seeing him day after day; the same smile on his face, the same frown of concentration, the same boyish charm he used on everybody.
And on him in particular.
He'd forgotten. So very much. What it was like to be attracted to Bodie - how it actually felt, inside. What that steady, revealing gaze did to his body. How the slightest suggestion at something so forbidden sent a swirling wave of desire through him so strong he could hardly form proper thought.
Bodie was seducing him with every look, every word - both consciously and unconsciously and Cade would have been solid rock not to respond.
But memories of the past worked against him. What they'd had together - both the three months and the six years before that, what they'd shared; what would become of that if he gave in, found some way to keep his secret from Bodie while sharing his bed for a night?
Fourteen years before, their relationship had begun with friendship and then love - and developed into sex. Could he now in all conscience, contemplate the opposite - knowing that love would never happen? That Bodie would now never go so far as to offer friendship? Back in CI5, they'd been thrown together by Cowley, forced to be partners - though Bodie had been against the idea at first. Friendship - real friendship had developed later - and slowly. And there had been bad moments, too. Bodie had always been a loner, only allowing Doyle in with the greatest of effort.
But he had got in and they'd grown closer over the years until that day when Doyle had realized - with very little surprise - that he'd actually fallen in love with the great lout. His reaction upon discovering the same in Bodie had been more of delight than shock. Why shouldn't they fall in love? Hadn't they been life and death to each other already?
Was this the same man who had held him that night, kissed him so gently, putting so much of his soul into each touch? Was this Bodie, fourteen years later, the same who had vowed love until the day he died? The same who had coolly offered Cade a quick roll in the sack in exchange for a few hours without lonliness?
Yes, Cade was glad Bodie had retired for the night. Yes, he was delighted to have him around and yes, he wished everything could be different so he could leave the table and go straight to Bodie's room without a single question disturbing his thoughts.
But even as he knew he could never do that - he was also afraid that if the moment ever came, he would find it very difficult to turn down the opportunity to feel once again, for a brief moment, everything he'd lost so long ago.
The next day was yet another development on the previous two and this time Bodie made a point of not attending every workshop Cade was running personally; he didn't want to make it obvious to everybody what he was doing. He exchanged greetings with Cade over lunch, but only within hearing of other delegates, not allowing Cade his opportunity for refusal.
His afternoon was filled with a chat around the bar with a few of his contemporaries. He said little but listened intently to the opinions voiced, interested to discover that after three days, many of these people were beginning to see that Cade had many things to offer the whole drugs question. Whether they would go so far as to support him outright was another matter - but they were no longer completely against it.
It was one of the most surprising afternoons he'd ever had.
Bodie made himself scarce during the free hours afterward. Besides, he needed to clear his head - not to mention check up on what was happening at Central. Richmond gave him a concise round up and he countered with a few new orders but basically, things were running about as smoothly as they ever did, which wasn't saying much. Then he caught up on a bit of paperwork, had a shower and a short nap - and then it was time to go down for dinner.
This was a formal affair and everybody had dressed accordingly. The dining room looked a picture and as one of the highest ranking delegates attending, Bodie got to sit beside Cade at the high table. However, the pressures of the night prevented him from having to say more than a few words to the man - and yet he noticed that Cade was having difficulty meeting his gaze.
And what that meant was anybody's guess.
There were of course, speaches between courses - though thankfully, Bodie had not been approached to make one. He would have said no in any case. The topics were fairly low key and innocuous enough, barely touching on the harsh subjects they'd dealt with that day.
The night drew long and Bodie, in between chatting with his nearest neighbours, managed to find more than a few moments to observe Cade in a different light again. Now he got to see the smile more, open and giving, heard the laugh that was so like Ray's. Watched that so-familiar and yet so different face in all it's moods. Kate was right; he was already in trouble. By the end of the night, he was sure.
He no longer wanted a few hours in the sack with the man; he wanted more. A chance to get to know him properly, perhaps even to love him.
He got up from the table with an abruptness which startled Cade. Those incredible green eyes gazed up at him in surprise and concern.
"Sorry," Bodie grunted, "but I've got headache. If I don't leave now, I'll embarrass myself. Goodnight."
"Bodie?" The small voice, genuine worry. That more than anything hastened his feet.
"I'll see you in the morning." With that, he gave a firm smile and left them to it.
It wasn't until he reached his room that he realized he was as close to tears as he'd been since he'd heard Doyle had been murdered. He dived into the sanctuary of his room and locked the door behind him, leaning back on it, gasping in breaths.
That's what she'd said.
And in his arrogance, he'd paid no attention to the genuine reasons behind her thinking.
Yeah, it was. Way too late. Like a star dropping from the sky, he'd fallen for Cade. So bloody quickly, too. Like he'd been waiting for it. Wanting it.
He stumbled to the bed and collapsed upon it, wrestling with demons he thought he'd never quite been able to leave behind. As his eyes shut tight, the face came to him. Not Cade's - - but that other face, the one he missed so damned much. Flashing emerald eyes, long unruly hair, lips as soft as dew, a body to melt against his, a heart to hold and cherish. Fourteen bloody years trying to erradicate the damned memory and still he could counjre it up when he had to.
"Christ, Ray, I'm sorry," he breathed into the silence. "I should have stayed. And now... now..."
He couldn't finish. Couldn't let himself even think that he might come to feel for Cade what he had always felt only for Ray. It just wasn't possible. Not in the same life.
And yet, even as his mind drifted into slumber, he knew Kate had been right: it was too late.
Cade left the last of the dinner guests aruging over the port. Most had turned in, ready for the next day's offerings. Though he was exhausted himself, his feet didn't take him to his own door - but to Bodie's. He needed to know if the man was alright. But he wouldn't intrude. No.
The corridor was empty as he stood before the door. His hand completely steady, he knocked softly. At first there was no response - then abruptly a voice called to him. "Who is it?"
Suddenly the door was open and Bodie stood before him, the room softly lit behind. Stunning blue eyes watched him warily, perceiving and judging - and none too happy about what he saw.
Cade shifted under that scrutiny, suddenly feeling like he really should be anywhere but standing before Bodie's door. "Er, I just wanted to see how you were."
"Come in." Bodie's order was not to be disobeyed but it wasn't until Cade was inside the room and the door closed behind him that Bodie offered any further explanation. "I've a feeling you've got something to say to me that really shouldn't be said out there."
Without looking at Cade, Bodie went to the minibar and poured them both a scotch. Cade took his and immediately swallowed, suddenly unsure of why he'd really come. Bodie, far from pressing the issue, turned for the window and pushed it open until he could stand on the small balcony. After a moment, Cade followed, coming to stand beside him, gaze going up to the clear sky and the stars above.
"Quite a spot you have here." Bodie murmured after a minute.
"Productive I think."
Silence then - but strangely, it was comfortable - just as the silences had been years ago, long before they'd fallen in love. Back when they'd been friends, the best of friends. In so many ways, it was the friendship he missed more these days than anything else.
"How's your headache?"
Silence again. Bodie sipped his drink, breathing in the cool night air and Cade watched him in profile, stunned again by how Bodie's beauty had not faded over the years.
But it was more than that - and he had the sense to know it. It wasn't as though Bodie was just some man he'd found attractive. There'd certainly been a couple of those over the years - but never once had he done anything about it. The price had always seemed too high to pay, the liklihood of any real joy coming from it, too slim.
No, it was simply because it was Bodie, and in the guise of Alan Cade, he was presented with an opportunity to see the man as a stranger would - and what he saw only drew him further in, caught him with a breathtaking desire to get closer, to scratch beneath the surface of the warm charm and easy smile.
On the other hand, that had been exactly what had drawn him to Bodie in the first place, back in the days when they'd first met. Sure, they'd had their arguments and fights, but always, without exception, even before their relationship had developed further, there had been an invisible connection between them which now seemed unbroken despite so many years and so much pain.
And in reality, that's why it had hurt so much and for so long.
Now, coming full circle, they were once again at a crossroads; that link just as strong as it had ever been, that attraction just as powerful. Bodie had offered - and the need was almost overwhelming.
Christ, he wanted to say yes! He wanted to feel those arms around him just one more time, allow himself to say the goodbye he'd been denied fourteen years before. Would it matter so much if he did?
Well, Bodie might discover the truth if he tried. There might be a few years since the last time they'd slept together but it was damned sure Bodie would remember a few tell-tale marks on his body, those that hadn't faded with age. Was it really worth risking the truth for a few hours of comfort - especially the comfort they both needed so much?
"It wasn't a woman," Bodie's voice came out of the darkness. "When I told you I'd been married? It wasn't a woman."
"Just thought you should know. He was... that friend I told you died. The one who looked just like you." The admission knocked Cade flat. He swallowed heavily and looked up to find Bodie's eyes on him, boring into his soul. "I loved him."
Trembling, Cade forced himself to respond in character; it was all he had left now, teetering as close to the edge as he was. "That's why you... I mean... me... and..."
Bodie nodded slowly, "I guess so. I'm sorry."
"Don't be." The words were out before he could stop them and Bodie's eyes widened. His reaction was simple. He reached up and brushed his fingers over Cade's cheek, forcing a tremor to rumble through his whole body. He stepped back quickly, "Don't touch me."
Instantly, Bodie frowned. "I'm sorry. I just thought you... well, you look at me like you want..."
"Not out here." He was mad. Insane. Certifiable. He shouldn't be doing this no he shouldn't he had to be mad and damn it he could lose everything he shouldn't be doing this he had to be absolutely insane!
But he was also in thrall of a memory of love and had been for a long long time.
Bodie stared at him, his breathing coming shallow and intimate. His gaze was searching and tempting. His expression changed slowly then without a word, he took Cade's hand and dragged him back inside, pulled the curtains closed and turned to face him. Only one frail light by the bed gave any illumination. Then, his eyes locked onto Cade's, he moved closer, reaching out again to touch his face. Again Cade shivered, this time with the memory of the last time Bodie had touched him that way. Long ago. So long ago.
Bodie's voice was soft, alluring, "Have you ever been with a man before?"
Cade couldn't answer. Words had left him. Instead, his body spoke for him, drawing him closer to the warmth before him, feeling Bodie's face come close, buried in against his throat.
He moaned and bit his lip. He was mad. He wanted this too much. He would give himself away and then he would lose everything he'd fought for all these years.
Bodie's face moved again, his lips coming closer. At the last second, Cade turned away, forcing himself to deny the kiss. Anything but that. If he was going to give in, he would make himself miss that. That was the price he would pay. He had to - to remind himself of the pain. He had to remember the pain or the morning would bring too much of it's own.
For they both knew this was a momentary thing. Bodie had said as much - and Cade could offer no more.
And in not kissing him, Cade took away the one thing that would give him away more quickly than anything else. If bewitched enough by the image to believe the lie, Bodie would remember Doyle's kiss.
Bodie said nothing however, simply brought his arms up and around, drawing Cade closer, bringing their bodies against each other. The sheer longing he felt within that safe haven made his knees tremble, his heart race. Cade could hardly breathe with it, his arousal was already sharp and clear - and he could feel Bodie's match it.
Christ, what was he doing?
But logic and reason had no place here. Instead, death and longing and so many years without this governed his actions, his movements and suddenly he was holding Bodie to him, closing his eyes and drowning in the illicit relief of a grief he'd kept hidden for a third of his life. If only he could have shared it, allowed Bodie to share his own, both of them, openly. If only...
Bodie was drawing him to the bed and half stumbling, they fell upon it. Before he could lose himself, Cade rose for air. "Please. Turn out the light."
Bodie's voice was a little hurt, "That won't make me a woman."
"I bloody know that! Do you think I'd be here if I was that stupid?"
Meeting his gaze, his breathing coming hard and fast, Bodie murmured, "Say you want me."
"Christ, Bodie," his voice came strained now and suddenly he couldn't remember why he was here or why he shouldn't be here and why he wanted to be here and why he never wanted to be anywhere else. "Of course I want you. Now shut up and turn the light off before I change my mind. Please, I'd love to look at you but I just don't feel comfortable. Can you try and understand that?" Only with the light out did he dare be himself - and he needed to be himself to make love to Bodie.
"Then this is your first time with a man?"
With the light on, Cade replied, "Yes." Then the light went off and Doyle added in the silence of his own mind, No, it's not. God, I love you so much, Bodie. I've missed you so much.
And thinking him a virgin, Bodie took it slowly and gently, undressing Doyle with so much care it was all he could do to hold back tears. His body was lavished with kisses but every time that mouth approached his, he turned away. He knew he hurt Bodie by the denial - but he simply couldn't risk it. He was going way too far as it was but with any luck, the years and his body subltly altered by age and the darkness would blind Bodie to any further clues.
Hope was all he had and he clung to it like a lifeboat.
Bodie's hands were like torches, lighting fires all along his flanks, burning into his gut, twisting his heart and shredding it into tiny pieces. Only when Bodie brought him to the brink of insanity did he force himself to move - before it was too late. He pushed Bodie back and began to work his mouth on that smooth chest, the muscles still hard and unyielding beneath, the nipples so ready to rise as his tongue raked over them, elliciting a groan.
The years fell away like scythed wheat. Suddenly they were in Bodie's flat again, some night after a long day at work when they were both tired and yet keyed up by stress and adrenalin. Doyle loved Bodie's body as he had always done, no longer able to keep up any fa?ade that pretended he was an innocent.
Then his hands found the stiff errection which pressed against his thigh and he shifted until he could take it in his mouth. Bodie cried out as he was buried inside the warmth and at last Doyle heard the name he'd wanted to hear. A breathed whisper, as quickly stifled.
Yes, Bodie, I'm here. I'm here and I'm making love to you. I love you. Please remember I always loved you.
And he wanted to take that love, draw it out of Bodie, take the love Bodie so desperately needed to give.
But Bodie stopped him before he could, drawing his mouth away to pull him back until Doyle lay on top of him. Pausing a moment to catch his breath, Bodie stroked his back, felt down to his buttocks, forced them to simply be together before moving on again.
"Why?" he murmured in the darkness and Doyle wished he could have left the light on. He'd always loved watching Bodie make love to him. "Why won't you kiss me?"
"Sorry. Just can't."
"I'm not thinking about him..."
"I don't mind if you are. Really." He swallowed a moment before letting himself get so close to the truth. "You loved him. I don't mind, I promise you. Let me be him, at least for a moment. Let me give you that."
"Call me Ray."
"Please, Bodie," Doyle allowed his voice to be firm. "Guilt is something neither of us can afford. Be with him. That's what you need." With that, he brushed his fingers over Bodie's lips. In response, Bodie kissed them - then sucked, bringing the urgency back with a rush of heat.
With a moan, Bodie rolled him over again, his hands going down to find the hard shaft begging attention. Doyle arched up at the touch, then reached down and pushed Bodie's hand further between his legs, pressed the fingers up against the entrance to his body. Unresisting, Bodie found the tight knot of flesh and rubbed gently.
"You want me to?"
"Yes." Doyle breathed, danger and love mixing him completely.
"Don't care. Do it. Please."
And Bodie shifted until he knelt between Doyle's legs. He brought a hand up to Doyle's mouth and sank two fingers deep inside. Doyle lathered them with his saliva and then they disappeared again. In the darkness, he had no warning - and suddenly his body was being invaded by first one finger and then another, gently, softly, lovingly.
He spread his legs wide, urgent now yet knowing it had to be taken slowly. He'd not had a man inside him since Bodie had left. Still Bodie used only gentleness, relaxing him, preparing him carefully, easing him open until he was ready.
Bodie shifted, taking his weight on his elbows. "Are you sure you want to do this? Most men refuse the first time they go to bed with another man. I want you to be certain."
"I am," Doyle breathed raggedly. "I know you won't hurt me."
"I'd never hurt you."
"Then do it."
Bodie said nothing then, lifted Doyle's legs before he pressed the head of his cock against the opening. Slowly he pushed and Doyle deliberately relaxed, knowing he would feel some pain but knowing also that it would be fleeting.
And then he was sliding in, deeper and deeper and Doyle almost cried out with the relief of it, the sheer dizzying joy of finding Bodie alive after so long, and now in bed with him buried inside his body.
Fully sheathed now, Bodie held him, covering his face with kisses his lips had denied - and slowly he began to move in and out.
Doyle was having trouble breathing. His heart and body were finally at one and he thrust up with his hips to meet every move, desperately seeking more. Bodie continued slowly to make sure Doyle enjoyed it. Then his hand came around and took Doyle's shaft, a thumb rubbing over the head, teasing him with a feeling so good he almost passed out. Doyle reached up and caught his teeth on Bodie's ear, knowing it would send him crazy. Suddenly Bodie's movements quickened, his thrusts coming harder and he began to moan, breathing sounds that were almost words until they were words, harsh from his belly out.
"Too late... love you... Ray..."
It was too much for Doyle. With a cry, he arched his back and took the deepest thrust yet. With Bodie buried deep inside his body, he shook and spurted his seed all over Bodie's hand and their bellies. Bodie rode out his climax, thrust once more and sent his semen deep into Doyle, again and again, whispering with each wave.
With a gasp, he fell forward, his lips pressed against Doyle's throat. In the darkness, Doyle felt tears on his cheeks but made no immediate move to wipe them clear.
It was a long time before either of them moved. Then, all gentleness again, Bodie withdrew and slipped to lie along side him, gathering him up in his arms, planting soft kisses on his eyes, his nose - but making no move towards his mouth.
It was a good thing, really - Doyle would have made no move to stop him this time.
And there, bathed in the warmth of the man he loved more than his own life, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
He woke an hour later to find Bodie still wrapped around him. He took a long moment to look, to enjoy the feeling of unbelievable closeness - and then he forced himself back to reality. He had to get back to his own room before anybody noticed he was missing. He could afford to be gone a few hours - but not all night.
Hating it, but knowing it was necessary, he gently disengaged Bodie's arms and legs, careful not to wake him. Then he gathered up his clothes and put them on, making sure he was dressed perfectly before making any attempt to leave. Still Bodie slept on. He wanted to pause to give him a kiss - but he'd already taken too many risks tonight. Instead, he crept to the door and let himself out.
His room was cold and empty by the time he got there. But he didn't mind. Tonight, he had warmth inside him and with any luck, it might indeed keep the lonliness away.
Just as he had done for the last twenty years of his life, Bodie woke on the breath of dawn. He lay flat on his back, his eyes opening to gaze at the ceiling. He didn't need to reach out to know the bed beside him was empty.
He stretched carefully, easing out the knots of sleep from his muscles - but the movement turned into a shiver. Deliberately, he rolled over onto his side, away from where Cade would have been lying - if he'd stayed the night.
Fresh cold light seeped through the cracks in the curtains and he focussed on that and on the day ahead, on the work he had to do. Only then could he get himself out of bed and into jogging clothes. He slipped out of the hotel and did his rounds of the golf course without really seeing anybody. Then, showered and changed, he turned up for breakfast.
With a shock, he realized Cade was already there, seated at a table with the only other delegates up so early - and unfortunately, there were chairs empty. Bodie couldn't avoid sitting with them.
He gave them all the same level nod goodmorning, his glance staying no place longer than any other, then faced his food with little enthusiasm. The discussion continued, covering ideas broached in the previous day's workshops, hinting at further today. While forcing food into his mouth, Bodie let his gaze sweep over the others as they talked, giving him permission to also look at Cade.
The man looked positively happy. There was no other word to describe it - and yet, even so, he kept it well banked, not allowing himself to display too much. But Bodie was no fool - especially since he had a damned good idea why.
Bloody idiot! Why couldn't he have simply listened to Kate? Why had he so smugly blinded himself to the danger? Cade was an innocent - even though his performance in bed last night had hinted at a willingness long held at bay. Bodie should have listened and kept clear. Cade would never have made any kind of move towards Bodie on his own.
And yet, Cade did look happy and there was a quiet voice inside Bodie whispering how good it was to have been in some way responsible for it.
"How's your headache this morning, Bodie?" Cade was looking at him, his deep green eyes giving nothing away.
"Much better, thank you." Bodie managed to make his voice sound as normal as Cade's. "Looking forward to today's little excitements."
Cade nodded and smiled - then got up from the table. The others moved also and Bodie took the opportunity to get out of there. He had more than an hour before the first session of the day so he headed outside. Already there were a few eager punters on the course, getting in a few holes before work. Bodie kept to the fringes, away from everyone else, not moving far, simply breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sunlight on his face.
"Are you alright?"
The voice startled him but he didn't show it. He glanced aside to find Cade wandering towards him, hands thrust deep into his trousers, a forest green sweater over his crisp white shirt. Too damned sweet by half.
"Why shouldn't I be?"
Cade came to a halt, watched Bodie for a moment, then turned his gaze out to cover the golfers. "You don't need to worry."
"I won't cause you any problems."
"Make youself clear, will you?"
Cade lifted an idle shoulder, "I know last night was a one- off."
"Oh?" Bodie's ire was ignited immediately, having simmered since he'd woken alone that morning. "Why? Decide you didn't like getting fucked on your first date?"
Cade froze but didn't look at him. The cool control of the other man only drove Bodie's anger further.
"Didn't feel like that to me last night, while I had my cock inside you. Especially when you were lying there like a hooker, begging me to do it."
"Bodie..." the voice was low, warning but he paid no attention.
"What did you expect? Sweet nothings in your ear? A bunch of roses?"
Cade slowly shook his head, pulling in his bottom lip - the lips Bodie had not been allowed to kiss last night - even though he'd wanted that more than anything else. The sight sent him black inside. "You're either the greatest actor I've ever seen - or you screw around a lot. A virgin usually only gives something like that to a man he loves!"
Now Cade turned - but away from Bodie. His feet took him two steps and then paused, head shifted slightly to murmur sword- like words in return. "How do you know I didn't?" And then Cade left him, walking back towards the hotel, his shoulders stiff, his head held high.
After a long day filled with talking and listening, of arguments and posturing and complaints about budgets and manpower, Cade needed some respite from the bustle downstairs and took himself up to his room before the evening's events.
He couldn't be displeased however; it was obvious that there were more than a few delegates who were coming around to his way of thinking - some were reluctant, others greedy for any idea that might alleviate the problems in their own areas. If nothing else, he'd certainly set the cat amongst the pidgeons.
Whether anything concrete would come out of this week was another matter. He could talk until he was blue in the face - but unless a few of these people could find the courage to try the program on their own patches, he would have wasted five days and a pile of money from his already stretched budget.
And he knew as well as anyone did that any solution he might have would still need to be supported on a political level. No Chief Constable had the power to decriminilize drugs just like that. But he had no desire to. He simply wanted to show these people that were were alternatives - and that continuing to fight the drug war the way they'd been doing all along was a waste of time, money, resources - and ultimately, lives.
He unlocked his door and slipped inside, dropping his jacket on a chair as he passed. He didn't bother turning lights on. He simply kicked off his shoes, threw his tie onto the bed and pushed the French windows open wide to let in the warm fresh breeze. His room was on the seaward side of the hotel, opposite to the golf course. He could smell salt on the air but in the darkness, could see nothing of the ocean in the distance.
He looked down to the lawn before the hotel where an open pavilion on the left was half full of delegates. One of the Americans had offered to give a talk on open drug programs in Atlanta and the turnout looked promising. Supper had been a light affair with two other discussion groups scheduled for afterwards. In the shadows of his balcony, Cade idly wondered if he could get away with not making an appearance at either of them.
He was tired. Bone tired. Head spinning with words he could only half understand. If he didn't slow down a bit, he'd be burnt out before the confrence was over. He needed to remain fresh and sharp or they would take his flagging energy as a sign he didn't really believe in what he was doing.
A small movement to his right caught his eye. From two floors up, he had to concentrate hard to make out the figure - but within a second, he knew who it was. A brush of light from the pavilion made Bodie appear like a ghost, sitting on a park bench, alone.
Knowing he couldn't be seen from below, Cade took the opportunity to study the man, his eyes growing accustomed to the dark until he could see more of that face, read more of the body language.
Bodie had avoided him all day, choosing to attend workshops where Cade himself was absent. Unlike yesterday, when he'd been all too aware of Bodie's silent gaze, today, he'd missed it - but not allowed himself to be distracted by it. Only during the breaks between sessions had his gaze reluctantly cast about for the other man - to little effect.
Now, gazing down at him, he felt again the awful well of darkness inside, threatening to engulf him. He'd lost Bodie's respect and was horrified to find that it was almost as painful as losing the man himself had been fourteen years before.
Had it all been just a ploy, designed to control him? To hurt him? Would he find it used against him in the future?
He had no doubt Bodie was ruthless enough to use it if he needed to - and his own part in the matter need never be alluded to; the head of CI5 was nowhere near as public as a Chief Constable, only nominally answerable to the people. Bodie had in his hands, the means by which he could ruin Cade - and they both knew it.
He should never have gone to Bodie's room! He'd behaved like an adolescent and the price was still in negotiation. Whatever reasons he'd had, whatever causes, no matter how deeply buried - meant nothing now.
So why did a part of him still want to go down and talk to Bodie? To find some way to make it better?
Why was he stupid enough to think he could?
Unbidden, Bodie's viscious words rekindled his shame, reducing last night from a thing wanted and cherished to nothing more than a sordid tumble. Bodie hated him for giving in so easily, for being willing to play Doyle - for caring enough to do so.
Bodie had always been a hard man and it had come as no surprise - all other considerations aside - that he would be chosen to run CI5. More than once, in the six years they'd worked together, he'd seen the sharper side of Bodie's character; but back then, he'd grown to understand it, sensed the experiences which had led him down that path. But back then, Bodie had still been young enough to care. Fourteen years appeared to have driven all that away.
He'd only wanted to bed Cade because he looked so much like Doyle. Now used, he would be dispensed with and Bodie would move on, looking for another victim.
Cade sighed and leaned back against the window. Below, Bodie sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, oblivious to the gaze that watched him with such sadness. Then suddenly he moved and Cade heard the bleeping of a mobile phone reach him on the breeze. Bodie held the phone to his ear - then came to his feet, his stance abruptly changing. Swiftly, he began walking towards the building and he disappeared from sight.
Leaving his balcony, Cade turned inside and headed for a quick shower. He would have to make an apearance downstairs at least once. With any luck, he wouldn't have to speak to Bodie again tonight.
Refreshed, his weariness held at bay a while longer, he decended through the hotel heading for the confrence room. He was crossing the foyer when Sean caught his attention, approaching with a frown. Behind him, Cade could see a car pulled up to the front door of the hotel and a familiar figure standing on the opposite side, putting something in the back seat.
"Ah, Chief, Mr Bodie has asked me to pass on his apologies. He's had to return to London urgently."
"So I see," Cade murmured. Bodie got into the car - but not before his gaze met Cade's for a brief second. The anger in those blue eyes shook him. And then Bodie was driving away and Cade gathered himself together. Suddenly he knew he could do this, finish the week off without a problem. He gave Sean a smile, "I want to congratulate you on the work you've done. None of this would have happened without your efforts. You've done Eastland proud - and made me look very good in the process. Thank you."
Sean's face crinkled with a weary smile, "Thank you, sir - and if we're both lucky, we may even see some results."
"Indeed we may. Come on, let's give the next session a miss and I'll buy you a drink."
Bodie stormed into his office and waited only long enough to get the report in full before he gave vent to his pent up anger. "Jesus Christ, Richmond! How the hell did you manage to fuck it up so well! Twenty-four hours ago, you said the op was running smoothly. Bates was in, nobody had twigged his identity and the drop was going ahead as planned. Now you tell me Bates has gone missing and the drop has been delayed by four days. Bloody hell, I knew I shouldn't have gone!"
Three hours in the car had done nothing to still his temper. He rumaged through his briefcase and pulled out the file, grabbing the newer papers from Richmond's hand before the other man could say a word. Too keyed up to sit, he took a map from a drawer and opened it out on the desk, frowning down at it, tracing the coastline from Harwich north.
The only sound came from the clock ticking on the wall and Bodie ignored that as he usually did. Of Richmond, he gave no other sign. Finally, he grunted, "How long since Bates' last contact?"
"Two days. He was supposed to meet with Harrington this morning but never showed up. Harrington hung around, taking a look at the place before reporting in. Bates knew that if he couldn't make a contact, he had to leave a sign in the B&B window. It never appeared. That's when he called me - and that's when I called you."
Again, Bodie grunted. "How many men have we got available?"
"With the minister's confrence, not enough to go in and take them. Not unless you want to pull a few off Cade's little party."
"No." Bodie replied shortly. "There's too many precious heads up there. With these bastards so close, we can't afford to slacken off. What about Serious Crime? Can they spare us anyone?"
"No - and I did ask."
Bodie sighed and looked up, deliberately allowing his gaze to freeze the man to the spot. "You've really dumped me in it, you know? We've got two days to find Bates and be ready to grab the guns on the beach - and we're gonna need help."
"Yes, sir," Richmond nodded, swallowing. "I should have called you earlier."
"Yes you damned well should have!" He turned to the door and yanked it open, yelling for coffee. Then he turned back to his Second, shaking his head, his voice low and cruel. "Cade is going to kill me."
The drive back from the hotel to home should have been relaxing - but in his car alone, Cade had to do all he could to stop himself from yelling out loud with the sheer stupidity of it all. Richmond had left it to the last minute to call and he'd at least been able to finish the confrence properly. Leaving the last night would do nothing to endanger the fragile agreement he'd won. Nobody would miss him on the last morning - and Sean could handle what he'd left undone.
But now he had to go back and clean up the mess CI5 had left on his doorstep. It was an hour's drive back to town and by the time he pulled up in the carpark, his fury was well-stoked - and if Bodie had the courage to face him personally, so much the better.
He slammed the door as he entered the building. At this hour, there shouldn't have been so many men on duty but he hardly noticed them as he took the stairs two at a time. Down the corridor and he found Dianne ready for him.
"Mr Bodie and his people arrived a few minutes ago, sir. They're waiting in your office."
"Right. Call Sean and let him know what's going on and tell Rose we'll meet her in the briefing room when she's set up."
"Yes, sir." Dianne was already picking up the phone when he turned for his office door. He pushed it open and strode inside. Four men came quickly to their feet. He sent a searing gaze over all of them before stopping behind his desk. He paused only a moment before turning at last to Bodie, keeping his anger leashed in.
"I sincerely hope you have a damned good excuse for pulling a stunt like this. You had four days at the retreat to give me ample warning that you had an op running on my patch and yet you didn't say a word - and now you expect me to pull people in, hash together a raid out of thin air - all in the space of twelve hours. What kind of game are you playing?"
Bodie's gaze narrowed, harsh and uncompromising, "Games are not my business, Mr Cade. Catching terrorists is. What kind of outfit do you run here if you can't manage to sort out a little aid at short notice?"
"The kind that has sweeping responsibilities that go beyond a few hours running around on the beach, Mr Bodie!" Cade came around his desk, keeping his gaze squarely on the other man. "This is a flagrant abuse of regulations about intel sharing and because of your behaviour, I must now risk my own men to save your hide! Men who do not have the training your own have - as you well know. I should have been told about this weeks ago, at the planning stage."
"We didn't have that long to plan it," Bodie snapped back, his own temper flaring. "And I am not answerable to you nor any other Chief about the ops I run - no matter where they are. Try reading the fine print on my authority."
Cade could have hit him, "I know all about your damned authority and don't give me that old story about responsibility - there's a reason for the rules and you know it. You are no more immune to them than I am. You should have told me before now. Christ, and you people wonder why the police don't like working with you!"
"Probably because we're more interested in doing the job than finding a scapegoat." Bodie replied, half turning away.
That was it. Cade had had enough and he was not prepared to stand here and listen any longer. "My Ops Director has a briefing organized in the meeting room two doors down. If the rest of you will wait in there, your... boss and I need to have a quiet word."
Silently the others filed out while Bodie turned to him, a vague edge of fear around his eyes. Yes, he would be afraid - as well he should be.
Cade approached him, silent fury burning through every muscle in his body. He came to a halt, perfectly contained and perfectly dangerous. He took in a breath and spoke, keeping his voice level and unstrained. "Bodie, I don't give a damn what your personal opinion of me is and if I'd known what would happen, I would have kicked you out of here the first day you showed your face - but whether you like it or not, I will have your professional respect. You speak to me like that in front of your men again - or if I find you speaking out of turn to anyone during this op - I will snap you back so hard your bones will break. Do I make myself clear?"
Bodie lifted his chin but said nothing.
Cade continued, his voice still flat, "We have eleven hours and counting to find your man, get him out alive and pull these terrorists in. Now if you can't manage to work without your personal dislike of me getting in your way then you're obviously not the man I thought you were - and you're not half the man Cowley was."
Bodie's anger flared again - but only in his eyes. He contained it sharply and gave a brief nod. "Let's get to it."
Mercifully, the briefing ran for only twenty minutes; Rose had done her work well. Bodie - his behaviour perfectly moderated, made small adjustments to her efforts but basically approved the plan for the raid - while insisting those who were actually going in carry weapons. Cade hadn't argued; he'd done this sort of thing before.
Then they were moving. Bodie and his men heading straight out to the coast, Cade back home only long enough to change. He stopped off at the office to draw his own weapon, then drove on into the night alone.
He'd chosen to wear a holster and the Walther sat beneath his left arm, a bulk oddly comfortable, like an old friend he hadn't realised he'd missed. He hadn't worn a gun since his last day at CI5, hadn't had much chance to practice - and when he had done, he'd needed to keep his skill as cloaked as the rest of his secret past. Cade had never had much training in weapons - no more than the average copper; it wouldn't look good if he suddenly turned out to be a Class A marksman.
And how odd to be going on a job with Bodie - even if it was a Bodie who hated him. Of course, they would both stay back from the action. Rose had squared off a set of empty farm buildings half a mile from the beach from where they would direct the raid - and be able to cut off any escapes.
As always, the adrenalin began to surge as he got closer to the action. Strangely, it was only at these times that he missed it. It was getting harder to remember that he'd once revelled in it.
He parked in a wood not far from the farmhouse and walked the rest of the way alone. He was challenged before he even got sight of the building. Then he was inside and trying to get his eyes to adjust to the dark.
Bodie and Rose already had everything set up. Radios crackled with short coded messages, men taking up positions, coast guard reports, weather reports, observation post reports. So far so good.
Rose saw him and gave him a brief smile. "We've got another four hours before the boat is due on the horizon, sir."
"Coast guard sighted it yet?"
"Aberdeen was the last sighting - but she was on course for our position six hours ago. There's no reason to think it won't appear right on schedule."
Cade raised an eyebrow, not looking at Bodie seated beside the radio desk. "Unless Bodie's man has broken."
"Yes, sir." Rose glanced once more at the radio. "I organized some coffee and sandwiches. I'll go and get them from my car. Back in a minute."
As she left, Cade took a moment to familiarize himself with the building. Smallish, a crumbling wall on his right, a rotting roof above, a second smaller room beyond an open doorway. Two windows sat close by, overlooking the road. It stank of rotting straw and rat droppings. Not the best place he'd stayed in - nor the worst.
"Bates won't break."
Bodie's voice slotted into the near-darkness like it belonged there. Cade wandered to the window and did his best to ignore all the things he wished time and convenience would allow him to say.
"He's too good to break." Bodie added, almost as an afterthought.
"No man's that good," Cade replied, testing the window's view of the road. He pulled at a broken shutter until it came away in his hands. Then he began clearing the debris away from the floor, so if he needed to get to and out of the window quickly, he could.
"He's trained to be that good. CI5 doesn't accept people unless they are that good." There was nothing of the boast about Bodie's words, not even an old pride in his own outfit; simply the facts as he knew them to be. "That's why we do what we do and you lot don't."
"Except that my lot are doing it tonight, aren't they?" Cade continued working, clearing the window ledge, leaving one unsteady shutter in place as cover. When he was done, he began on the other window. "Training isn't everything."
"Yeah? And I suppose you worked out how to secure an observation post all on your own, eh?"
Oops. Oh well, Bodie could just damned well wonder for all Cade cared. "And you with the training and all are sitting there just watching. Yes, I suppose training is more important than I realised."
"What the hell would you know?"
Bodie got to his feet and wandered to the window Cade had finished with. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, gazing out into the darkness.
Something unrecognized in Cade made him speak, though he didn't stop working. "We don't know Bates has been taken."
"You mean he could already be dead?"
"No, I mean he might have been put in a position where his cover would be blown if he kept his contact. You know that as well as I do." He finally finished and came to a halt, half- sitting on the empty window ledge. Carefully, he took out the Walther and pulled back the release, felt the satisfying click as a cartridge snapped into the chamber.
"Careful where you point that."
Cade glanced up but Bodie wasn't looking at him. He'd returned to his seat, holding an earpiece up to listen and monitor reports.
For a moment, Cade forgot the stinking building, the tension of the op, Rose on her way back - even the gun in his hand. Just looking at Bodie sitting there, all shuttered in, closed off from the rest of life, forced a memory into him - of two nights ago. It was so hard to belive that a mere forty-eight hours ago, they had been in bed together, conjuring up the semblance of love. A wave of bitter despair rocked against the darkness.
Yes, he'd given himself the chance to say goodbye - and strangely it appeared the man he'd loved had left that night, as though himself, waiting for such a thing.
Deliberately, he turned and watched the road, turning his thoughts away from all that, knowing that if he didn't concentrate, their lives could be at risk.
"Your superintendent is taking a long time coming back."
"Knowing Rose, she's probably checking up on your sentries," Cade replied without budging.
"You intend to fire that - or are you just going to sit there and play with it?"
Cade glanced down to realize he still held the Walther in his hands. Making sure the safety was on, he tucked it carefully back beneath his arm. It was about the only comforting thing he had with him.
"You had much experience with firearms?" Bodie's question shot across the dark, an arrow intended to find a mark.
To shoot you from where I sit, he thought to himself. "We're not likely to see any action sitting here so what's the point of asking?"
"There's always a point, Cade. If you don't intend to fire the thing, you shouldn't carry it."
"I'm prepared to fire it - I just don't plan to. There's a difference."
"So how much experience have you had?"
With a sigh, he replied, "I qualified two years ago. Like a good little copper, I go back every six months for retraining."
"But do you practice?"
"Once a month, for Christ's sake! Why all the fuss!"
Bodie grunted and settled further into his seat, "Just want to know in case my life depends on it. I once had the best partner alive, the best shot in the business - and he got murdered because I wasn't around. It's a CI5 rule - know if your backup is capable of watching your back."
And the words sent Cade completely silent with enough memory to make him want to avoid talking to this man from now on.
As mistakes go, he'd broken every rule in the book and it was obvious he would pay for them for the rest of his life.
Bodie made short work of his share of sandwiches, gulped some hot coffee then wandered out into the dark to do his own check on his men, leaving Cade alone with the efficient superintendent. He had to admit, Cade's operational staff were pretty good, though hopelessly outclassed by the opposition. He only hoped none of them would get caught in the crossfire.
Damn Cade and his self-righteous attitude! He had no idea what he would be facing - and being ignorant might just get him killed.
Bodie passed a log and gave it a vicious kick. Damn Cade - and damn himself for being such an idiot and putting them into this position in the first place.
He did the rounds and found his men awake and attentive, all where they should be, all getting cold and saying nothing about it. He walked back slowly, unwilling to spend any more time with Cade than he absolutely had to.
Instead, he used the minutes to do something he'd not had time to do since this whole op had blown up.
He'd ruined everything. In his need and yes, his desperation to find something he'd lost so long ago, he'd destroyed something fragile he should have taken greater care with. And the worst part about it was that if he'd bothered to wait, if he'd just taken the time, put the effort in, he and Cade could have been friends - real friends. As lovers, they'd never had a future - but as friends they could have lasted. But instead, he'd allowed the bad habits of the last decade and more to govern his actions, his sense.
All because he could never really let Ray go. He'd known and lost so many people over the years, had been able to grieve for them and go on with his life - but not Ray. Ray had always been his anchor and since he'd died, Bodie had felt more and more like a ship tossed on the tide, no way of making himself stop and take hold, the anchor chain drifting, searching for another to grasp it.
By rights, Alan Cade was the one to do that. It was there inside him - Bodie was sure of it. But even so, he simply couldn't put the past behind him. After so long, it was impossible. Dead or alive, Ray would stay with him for the rest of his life, just as much a part of him now as he had been that moment, years in the past, when they'd finally found each other.
Bodie returned to the building, stuck his head through the window to let them know he was back - then found a log beside the wall and sat down, resting his head back. Slowly now, he closed his eyes and allowed the memory to come forth, untouched by anger or need or self-hatred.
There were good weeks behind them, a few successful jobs, they were riding high on it, sensing without saying it in words, that it only took a moment for it all to fall to pieces. They'd been happy - and out for a drink before commencing a well-earned four days off. They'd each tried making plans for the free time but in the end, had agreed to go to the country for a few days peace and quiet, willing to spend the time together.
So they'd gone to the pub and they'd had a few drinks, the wave of freedom keeping them bouyed all night. They'd flirted with a couple of girls and then, wanting to get an early start the next day, they'd gone back to Bodie's place where Ray had left his bags that morning.
But they'd not been able to sleep and instead, had sat side by side on the sofa long into the night, carefully working their way through a bottle of the best eight-year-old. They'd talked, about all sorts of things, nothing really important, the telly drifting on in the background. Tired, Doyle had let his head slip onto Bodie's shoulder and Bodie had shifted to accommodate him, feeling again the welcome touch of a live body on his own. For some reason, that had always meant a lot to him; to be able to show affection for Doyle. He hadn't done it often, but enough to keep the cold at bay, remind him that there were other human beings in the world, those he could trust.
And the night had worn on and Bodie had found his arm tightening around Doyle until the other man had shifted, looking up at first in simple companionship - and then, as the seconds ticked by and their gazes never really disengaged, Bodie had seen quite clearly something he'd never seen before in Doyle's eyes - and knew it was being reflected by his own. Like a true child of innocence, he gave no thought to his next move. He simply leaned his face closer and found Doyle's lips rise to meet his. With a delicious twist of fear and excitement, they kissed. So sweet and warm and tender. So loving, that first kiss, that first moment. Then without pausing, Bodie had pulled him closer and Doyle's arms had gone around him and together they had stretched out on the sofa, deepening the kiss, making it permanent.
In those few precious moments, Bodie had fallen in love. Totally and utterly, as though he'd never fallen before - even though he realized hours later, that he'd been in love with Ray for a long time. He'd just never seen it that way before. For an hour or more, they had laid there, simply kissing, holding each other, sharing the warmth and the comfort and the understanding. In that hour, everything Bodie had ever believed in had been turned around, inside out and back again, as though his whole life was subject to Ray Doyle's kisses.
It had been Ray who had made the next move, his hands drifting down to touch Bodie's body, slowly, giving him time to object should he want to. Of course he didn't - and sent his own hands working in reply. Still no words were spoken until, tangled and breathless, half-undressed and bordering on insanity, Doyle had gazed deep into Bodie's eyes and said, "Let's go to bed."
And they had made love and Bodie had flown with the sheer dizzying confusion of it, reeling before the sensuous attentions of his partner, soaring to heights where the air was thin and his soul burned bright. In the stratosphere he met Ray again and they merged together, tumbling down the beautiful slope as one. And it was all so wonderful and so surprising and so right he knew at that moment that he would never love anybody the way he loved Ray.
In the morning he had said as much, keeping his words a little distanced for fear of treading on himself too harshly. Fragile and so afraid he then heard Ray's reply, then felt it with his body and once more they flew together and this time became one in body as well as spirit.
For the first time in his life that morning, Bodie had felt tears from his own eyes and was unsurprised. When they'd finally emerged from the flat to drive south, Bodie had been a little shocked to find the world around them unchanged by such momentus events.
And they had kept their little secret. From everyone. Including Cowley. The Old Man had never guessed. The only person who did was the one person who should never have known.
A blackbird cheeped in the tree overhanging the road and Bodie opened his eyes to look around. He glanced at his watch; he'd been sitting there five minutes only. Just five minutes it took to remember so much. All those years spent trying to forget; all a waste. He should have known better.
A rustle of movement from inside the building and Cade stood there at the door, a ghost in the darkness. Bodie didn't look at him but instead, put his head back again and closed his eyes. After a long pause, Cade moved and sat beside him. Without a word, he reached out and took Bodie's hand, holding it gently between his cool fingers.
And in that moment, Bodie knew he'd been a fool to think he would never love anybody again - even though it had taken somebody so like Ray to make a liar of him. But Cade held his heart now as surely as he held his hand, and as dangerously - even though Bodie would never say so, never admit to it and never, ever let go of Ray. He would make himself let go of Alan - simply because he loved them both.
Working hard, he gathered the threads of himself together and mustered a whisper so low he was worried Cade might not hear it. "Christ, Alan, I'm so sorry."
There was no sound from the other man for so long, Bodie had to turn and look. Cade was staring at the ground and slowly, he nodded. "I know. So am I."
Before Bodie could say another word, Rose moved inside the building and Cade's hand slipped from his. She came out the door, hand radio held aloft. "Time for me to join the boys, Sir. Mr Bodie, I would appreciate it if you make sure the Chief gets back in one piece."
"Do my best," Bodie replied in a perfectly normal voice. "Good luck."
"Be careful," Cade added.
"You too." And then she was gone in the darkness - and then Cade was gone too, back inside to man the radio.
Bodie took another moment to clear his head, to focus back on the job as he needed to. Time to think about Doyle and Cade later, when his life no longer depended on it. Coming to his feet, he stretched, pulled out his weapon, checked it with movement borne of many years' practice, shot one up the spout and took the safety off. Then, his mind crisp and ready for work, he headed back inside.
The radio traffic came in fits and bursts and more than once, Cade had to glance up at Bodie for confirmation of what he was hearing. The boat had appeared right on schedule and was approaching the shoreline. A lifeboat was being lowered and men moved into position. Bodie shortened the orders with crisp ones of his own, cooly commanding the op with obvious skill, keeping his and Cade's men perfectly in line. Like blind men they heard descriptions of those aboard the boat - one of them identified as Bates.
Bodie's ridiculous grin at hearing the news was visible even in the dark shack.
The lifeboat was loaded with boxes and rowed ashore, unloaded and then returned for another lot. Three times this was repeated before Bodie gave the order for the coast guard to move in ready to snatch the ship as it headed out to sea. With the load of arms waiting on the beach, they heard vehicles rumbling down the road and they kept very still as they went by the hut. Still the whispered, static reports came in and Cade's insides twisted as they approached the climax of the night.
And then all hell broke loose. Gunfire had Cade up at the window, his eyes searching for some sign. He could see nothing but the odd flash. He heard yelling over the radio but Bodie avoided giving orders that would mean nothing in the firefight. The chaos lasted a full ten minutes before abrupt silence greeted them. Then a voice over the radio.
"All clear, Alpha. Five captives, now unarmed, one in flight. 7/1 and 3/9 in pursuit."
"Direction?" Bodie shot back.
"Towards the road. Don't worry, sir, he's wounded. Won't get far."
"Secure the position. I'll be down shortly."
Cade stayed where he was and almost jumped when he heard another shot much closer than before. His heart pounding, he relied on reflex, pulling out his weapon as he had always done, slipping it into his right hand to feel the comfort of it, ready if the action should get this close. Then another shot, clear and sharp, followed by a grunt no closer than fifty yards away. Then another voice on the radio.
"We got him, sir. We'll take him back with the others."
Bodie's voice was clipped as he turned the radio off. Cade released the safety and put his weapon away, only gradually starting to relax. Taking in a deep breath he eased himself away from the window and turned -
Bodie slammed into him, shoving him hard up against the wall. His greater weight and size used to advantage, he grabbed Cade's hands, crushed them to the stone, pinning him, helpless. Outraged, Cade drew in a ragged breath, "Bodie, what the hell are you..."
Then he saw Bodie's eyes, wide and open, enough light coming through the window for him to see the horrified, disbelieving expression.
Bodie was shaking, his breath shaking along with the rest of him, coming in short sharp gasps, one at a time, measured, as though he had no control over them at all. Cade couldn't break free, Bodie held him so tight - and he stopped trying, his gaze glued to Bodie's frozen face.
For long moments, nothing happened, then Bodie's eyes left his, grazed over the rest of his face, fractionally, painfully, agonizingly, again and again, over the same small distance, back and forth. Then, still shaking, he leaned his head closer until his cheek pressed against Cade's, cold and hard, and one single word was spoken into the harsh silence.
Cade's whole world came to a halt. His stomach lurched and icy fear ran the length of his body. Bodie's stunted breathing fell into his ears, counting out the seconds, each one a year, each one a betrayal, a lie. He stood on the edge of time, bereft of speech, empty of all but simple terror. His breathing still short and ragged, Bodie lifted his head again, to rest his forehead on Cade's, his eyes closed now, his grasp lighter. "Christ, Ray!"
The whisper, more harsh and loud than any bellow, tore Cade apart with the agony of keeping the secret, of the history behind it, of the desperation in which it had been born and of the life that had ended to give it creation. He wimpered under the onslought and abruptly, Bodie pulled back, letting him go. He stood there, staring at him with eyes black in the night - then without warning, he swung his hand. The force of the blow was so strong Cade stumbled against the wall. Then, before he could say anything, Bodie was gone.
Numb and trembling, Cade straightened up and put a hand to his mouth. He felt blood. Carefully, he wiped it away, pressing to stop the bleeding. Already, a part of his mind was preparing an answer to the question when it came. Stumbled on debris in the shack. A scratch, nothing more.
His feet carried him outside and onto the road. Car lights ahead showed him where to go. He followed them dumbly, no outward sign of his crumbling interior. So much practice playing the role gave him enough foundation not to crack now. He found the squad clearing up, crates opened, their contents examined. Six men lay on the pebbly beach, on their stomachs, hands clasped behind their heads. Three of them were bleeding - but the wounds weren't life threatening. No other casualties.
As though he were a man in perfect control of his life, he listened to reports, gave a few orders and handed out congratulations - all within hitting distance of Bodie. Not once did the man so much as look in his direction.
When it was time and not before, Cade handed the rest of the cleanup to Rose and headed back up the road, stepping aside for the ambulances to drive past. He continued on until he reached his car. Without pausing, he climbed in, turned the engine on and drove into the dwindling night, heading west.
The 4am dawn followed him, catching him as he drove into his driveway. He was just in time to watch the timer light flick off. He turned off the alarms, stumbled into the lounge and fell onto the deep couch.
Beyond caring about anything any more, he let himself go straight to sleep.
The phone woke him. Bleary-eyed and confused, he grabbed it, his voice not working properly, "Cade."
"I'm sorry, Sir," Dianne's voice, gentle, apologetic. "Superintendent Penfold just wanted you to know that she's holding the debriefing of last night's operation at midday. Did you want to come in for it?"
"What time is it now," he replied, not bothering to sit up or even open his eyes.
"No - not after the week at the confrence. Tell her go to go ahead and call me if she has any problems. Pass on my congratulations to her, will you?"
"Don't call me again unless world war three breaks out."
A short laugh, "No, Sir. Sleep well."
She was gone and silence reigned. He dropped the phone on the floor and turned over, determined to get back to sleep. Time enough later to catch up on all the horrors waiting for him.
He dozed fitfully, flashes of gunfire drifting in and out between images both old and new, all so confusing he couldn't catch hold of any of them. Towards the end, he sensed the danger mixed among them, a warning buried deep, a suggestion of something he should be aware of -
Waking suddenly, he realized that it wasn't a dream. He could hear noises - soft - but noises nonetheless. He remained where he was, his mind clearing instantly. Now he listened carefully, pinpointing the direction of the sounds; the garden doors.
Slowly, he sat up, peering over the back of the sofa. Shock washed him wide awake as he saw Bodie standing there, pulling the door closed behind him.
"You could sleep though a train crash, Doyle," Bodie said by way of greeting. "I've been sitting out there for an hour, waiting for you to wake up. Thought I'd come in and make myself another cup of tea. Want one?"
As though he owned the place, Bodie sauntered past, his cup in his hand, heading for the kitchen.
For a second, Cade didn't move. Then, like man breaking in new muscles, he levered himself up from the couch until he could stand. Absently he noticed he'd slept in his shoes and he kicked them off, rubbing a hand over his face. When he heard the kettle whistling, he gingerly walked through into the kitchen and came to a halt in the doorway.
Bodie had made himself at home, pulling things from the fridge to place on the central table. Cade could smell toast grilling, heard the hiss of water poured over tea but the air of unreality about the scene kept him to his place. It felt like he was still asleep, and this nothing but a dream. A glance at the clock told him it was 11am. He'd slept since four - and yet it seemed like only a moment since he'd fallen onto the couch.
Bodie dumped a mug on the bench in his direction and turned back to his toast. "Still into the healthy stuff, I see. Nice to see some things don't change."
Finally, he got his voice to work, "What are you doing here?"
No glance in his direction gave anything away. "Considering you must think me the biggest idiot alive, that's a dumb question, coming from you. Why do you think I'm here?"
"I... don't know."
"You tea's getting cold."
Absently, he moved forward only close enough to pick up the mug. He blew on the surface and took a hesitant sip.
"You can sit, you know. I won't take another swing at you."
Everything about Bodie appeared to be quite normal, as though nothing unusual had happened in the night. Doyle had always been the one famous for his mood swings - but this far surpassed anything he'd ever managed. Carefully, he moved a little closer, pulling out a chair so he could sit. As soon as he was down, a plate appeared before him, steaming toast piled high. Bodie sat opposite and set about demolishing half of it.
"Yeah," Bodie continued, as though they were in the middle of a commonplace conversation, "I admit, now that I know what I'm looking at, I can see how you did it, how you managed to pull it off for so long. Somebody would have had to have known you very well - really well - to pick anything odd in the setup. Let's face it, I didn't - and who knew you better than me?"
Another proper mouthful of tea and he could form a response, "How... did you..."
"Work it out?" Bodie half-smiled, but the look was bitter and the eyes were full of a dangerous glint he'd not noticed before. He'd been right to be wary. "When you pulled your gun. I've been in this business for almost thirty years, Doyle and I've never met or seen or even heard of anybody who pulled his weapon from a left holster with his left hand first before he transferred it to his right ready for firing. I worked alongside you for six years and almost never saw you draw your weapon any other way." He took another mouthful of toast, munched for a second before continuing. "'Course, it was a lucky glance. I'd only just looked up when you did it. If I'd been a second slower, I would have missed it and your secret would still have been safe."
Adrenalin, the unconscious movement, never requiring the need to alter that one old habit. One simple reflex had blown away fourteen years of lies.
"So," Bodie continued, his gaze flinty and hard, "tell me how you did it. I realize there must have been an Alan Cade - not even you could manufacture a whole carreer in the force."
"No? Then who was he?"
"No, I don't want to talk about it now." He sighed and ran a hand over his face again. He needed more sleep - but he could hardly just walk out on Bodie.
"Actually, I don't really want to talk about it now, either," Bodie nodded, putting his cup down. "That's not why I'm here."
"I think we should go to bed."
Doyle sprang to his feet, taking a step back. "What? Are you mad?"
Bodie rose and came around the table, his gaze deep and unfathomable, harsh and unyielding. "Yeah. I want the chance to see what I missed, to finish what we started."
Doyle backed away but Bodie was fresher, more determined and cut off his exit. "Bodie..."
The eyes gazing at him reeked sheer fury. "When I fucked you, I thought you were somebody else - but you knew who I was. Now I want a rematch. Figure I deserve it for the little game you've been playing. Had a good laugh, have you? My, it must have been such a treat to have a chance at your old sack-mate without having to take responsibility for it."
"I'm not laughing, Bodie."
"No?" Bodie arched an eyebrow, inching his way closer. "Not on the outside, maybe - but then you always were a secretive bastard, Doyle." With that, he lunged and Doyle wasn't quite fast enough to get out of the way. Bodie caught his arm, dragging him back, pinning him against the wall with an arm across his throat.
Doyle froze, only too aware how easily Bodie could kill him from this position. Already it was getting hard to breathe, impossible to swallow. "Bodie, please..."
"Yeah, that's what you said to me that night," Bodie hissed pure venom. "Please, you said. Do it. Let me be him for you. Let me give you that. Like words of love they were, got me right in. Great bloody idiot I was, all these years."
Doyle brought his knee up and sank it into Bodie's stomach. The other man pulled away and Doyle hit him hard enough to make him stumble. Instantly, he sprang for the door but he was barely a foot down the passage before Bodie caught him around the waist, throwing him to the ground. He struggled, but Bodie's greater weight had him pinned.
A face full of hatred came close to his, "Yeah, all these years I thought I loved you and only now do I see the man I loved as he really is. Cold, hard, manipulating. Selfish. That's what you are, Doyle. Selfish."
Doyle struggled again but Bodie simply held him harder, his voice coming out in harsh slashes, "I stood there and told you about the long lost love of my life and you simply hop into bed with me for a quick one- night stand. Enjoy it, did you? Like old times was it? Make you feel good to fool old Bodie so completely? To treat me with such contempt? Lights out, no kissing. Yeah, I was fooled. And you know why?"
There was something in that terrible gaze which froze Doyle's struggles.
Bodie swallowed, "Because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe I could love you, that I could feel like that again. Some stupid part of me thought you might love me. I fell in love with Alan Cade, Doyle. Damn you, you made me fall in love with you - twice!"
"Bodie, I tried..."
"No you damn well didn't!" Bodie yelled. He pulled Doyle's wrists in tighter, his grasp burning. "You didn't say a fucking word! You sat there and watched me walk into your office like I was the bloke next door. Fourteen fucking years, Doyle! I thought you were dead for fourteen years and you didn't say a fucking thing! Christ!"
Very scared now, Doyle twisted his body, gaining a few inches, "Bodie, let me go..."
"Or you'll what?" Bodie spat. Then abruptly, he let go and sat back, disengaging himself as though he would rid himself of something repugnant. "Believe me, Doyle, you couldn't possibly hurt me now."
Finally free, Doyle scrambled to a crouch, his own anger simmering to the boil inside him, a seething mess of half- imagined plagues and way way too much stress. "You bastard!"
Bodie barely glanced at him.
"How dare you presume to know what I did and why!" Ignoring the danger, he reached out and grabbed Bodie's collar. "How dare you!" He pulled Bodie's face close, gasping in breaths, painful and harsh, "You said you would never hurt me. What's this, Bodie? A playfull romp? You fucking bastard."
Bodie slapped his hands back, "So bloody self- righteous! Always hated that in you."
"So you hate me now? Fell in love with me twice and now you hate me? So damned simple, isn't it? You walk into my office and within minutes start trying to charm me. You moaning about the love of your life - trying to screw the first person you meet who looks like me? Great way to show love. Bodie, you seduced me! "
"You didn't have to say yes!"
"Didn't I? And how the hell could I have said no!"
Bodie's gaze became brittle, his jaw clenched, "You could have told me the truth."
"And how could I do that, Bodie? How, exactly? Just waltz up to you and say, hey, mate, it's me, alive after fourteen years?"
Doyle let him go, pushing him away. Unsteadily, he climbed to his feet, struggling to gain some control over his breathing. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
Bodie scrambled up, facing him squarely, "I deserved to know the truth."
"You don't deserve the time of day." Doyle turned for the stairs. Empty, drained, he needed a shower. He needed sleep. He needed to get away from Bodie before he did do some real physical damage.
"Doyle!" Bodie caught his hand against the stair rail. "You tell me what happened or I'll..."
"What?" One step up, he looked down sadly, deliberately parodying Bodie's own words. "You'll hurt me again? Believe me, Bodie, you couldn't possibly hurt me more than you did the day you went with Willis. The day you left me."
With that, he pulled his hand away and went upstairs. Blindly, he tossed his clothes on the bedroom floor and buried himself in the shower, craving the burning hot water on his flesh. For a long time he stood under the spray, welcoming the solid pounding against his aching muscles. Then finally, he turned it off, dried himself and threw on a t-shirt and loose trousers. Not giving a damn whether Bodie stayed or left, he climbed onto the bed and closed his eyes.
Bodie stumbled into the living room and sank onto the couch, burying his face in his hands. For some reason, he couldn't stop shaking. He tried relaxing his muscles, tried tensing them - but it did no good.
He'd come that close to...
Jesus fucking christ. He'd come so close to killing Doyle.
How could he do something like that?
What had happened to him?
How could so much love turn into so much hate in the space of a few seconds. For fourteen years he'd wanted nothing more than to find out that Ray's death had been a mistake - and now that he'd discovered it was, his insides were filled with nothing but this seething blackness threatening to swallow him whole, making him shake from his head to his boots.
But worse than that was the ache inside. The pain that took his breath away. Worse, so much worse than anything he'd ever felt before. Almost as bad as when he'd heard Doyle was dead.
Ray had never loved him. Never. It had all been some kind of game, easily tossed aside, easily picked up again when the quarry returned.
The day you left me...
He clenched his fists and pushed them against his temples.
The day you left me...
He took in a ragged breath and held it, trying desperately now to stop the trembling.
The day you left me.
With a start, he opened his eyes and stared blindly at the fireplace.
You left me.
"God, Ray!" He whispered into the silent morning. "What have you done to me?"
Doyle never slept. He tried but failed. Instead, he laid on his bed, eyes closed, and tried to still the raging battle going on in his head. Birdsong reached him from beyond the window, shattered sunlight bled across the floor and through his eyelids. Bodie was still downstairs - there'd been no sound of him leaving.
If only he would just go. Couldn't he see that it was all just a terrible mistake? That dragging it out only prolonged the agony for both of them? There was no point to any of this. Every second they spent together now would only make it worse. Bodie just had to go.
And he would. Doyle knew that much. It might take him an hour or more, but eventually, Bodie would get in his car and leave. Leave Doyle. Just like he'd done fourteen years before.
A great wave of heavy restlessness crashed through him and he rolled over, away from the door, tried to get comfortable again.
If only he hadn't been so stupid, allowed himself to be so vulnerable. What kind of fool tries to rekindle the memory of a love so old and so tortured? Bodie hated him - and with good reason. It was all his fault. He should have stayed away. He should have been more prepared to let Bodie go.
He should have fought harder to make him stay.
He lifted his head, punched the pillows a few times then tried to settle once more.
Damn you, Bodie. Why did you have to do this to me? My life was fine until you came back into it. Alan Cade didn't have a secret lost love. His life was well ordered, structured and determined. His work fulfilled him. He didn't need anyone else. He... didn't... need...
Like a slicing blade, pain swept through him, making him gasp, holding him in a vice, clawed and torn. A cascade of memory tumbled over him, tearing him apart, scattering pieces of Alan Cade and Ray Doyle to the far winds until he could no longer discern which was which. Desperately, for dear life, he clung to whatever he could find, snatching bits together, trying to make a whole out of the mess.
But it was useless.
It didn't matter anyway. Nothing could alter the simple fact which stared him back in the face: he loved Bodie just as much now as he'd done so many years before and no matter how hard he tried, how much Bodie hated him nor even how impossible the entire situation was, nothing was ever going to kill that love.
Was that why he'd determined not to tell Bodie the truth? For fear of wanting to love him again? But who was doing the loving? Cade or Doyle? Doyle wanted Bodie close - but what did Cade want? Was he the one who needed to be solitary? Or was Doyle simply afraid that he would love Bodie again only to lose him again? Had Doyle reached out for Bodie only to have Cade push him away?
What would Cade have done? What did Cade want? No, hell, he was Cade! Ray Doyle was dead! He was Alan Cade, damn it. He was... he was...
A creak from the stairs cut through his despair. He didn't dare turn. If Bodie thought he was asleep, perhaps he might just go after all. Go and let everything settle down, let Doyle/Cade work out where the lines were. He had to - and he had to do it now, before it was too late.
He felt a pressure on the bed behind him as Bodie sat. He could hear nothing but the other man's breathing, soft and steady, no longer forced and controlled. Every part of him screamed release, crying silently into the afternoon with words that no longer kept pace with any form of reality. Like the scales of justice, he balanced on the arc, ready to fall either way.
But no matter where the panic pulled him, in the forefront of his mind sat the knowledge that this was his Bodie. Lost and regained, and now lost again. But Bodie nonetheless.
A long silence filled the room during which he dared not move, where he tried vainly to keep his breathing steady. Eventually, without words, Bodie shifted, coming closer until he laid alongside, wrapping one careful arm about him.
The words, whispered in his ear, soft and determined and so full of regret, caught him off guard. He caught in a breath and stiffened.
"Don't move," Bodie urged gently. "Please. I won't hurt you. I just want to... apologize. I want to make it right. I know I can't... but I ... need to try. Please, Ray."
Swallowing, he tried to speak, "Bodie... I..."
"Shh. It's okay. Really." Carefully, Bodie shifted again until he held Doyle closer. Hesitantly, Doyle lifted his hand until his fingers touched against Bodie's wrist. Bodie took a deep breath and continued, "I'm so sorry, Ray. I didn't mean to hurt you. It's just ... you know, such a shock... that it's really you and... you were alive all this time. It's unbelievable. I just can't... I didn't want to hurt you... it's just that... I was so angry that you'd... you'd..."
"Yeah. Can I ask just one question?"
Doyle nodded, not really sure if he wanted to answer anything.
"Fourteen years ago, before I left, when we were together - did you... did you love me?"
Doyle's eyes widened and before he could stop himself, he twisted out of Bodie's grasp and rolled over to face him. "What do you mean, did I love you? I told you often enough, didn't I? Of course, I bloody well loved you!"
Serious blue eyes gazed back at him with uncertainty, revealing a vulnerability Doyle hadn't seen since that time long before. Something in that gaze caught him unawares and without thinking, he reached up and touched Bodie's face with one finger, tracing a line from cheekbone to jaw, a caress born of the present rather than the past.
For long seconds their eyes locked, as Doyle's heart thudded in his ribcage. He knew he shouldn't be afraid - Bodie wouldn't hurt him again - but he also wasn't sure that that was all there was to be scared of. And Bodie kept looking at him, watching, waiting - hoping, perhaps - and also afraid. Afraid that everything he'd said was true, despite Doyle's words. Afraid that what he was looking at was no longer somebody he knew, or worse still, some kind of cruel nightmare from which he would awake cold and alone once more.
Mesmerised by what he saw, Doyle let his hand move again, dusting the backs of his fingers along Bodie's cheek and down across his mouth - and there Bodie caught the hand with his own, pressing his lips to it in a kind of prayer.
Bodie needed reassurance - and there was only one way to give it to him, and oh, how Doyle wanted him to have it. Slowly, achingly, he brought his face closer, taking their hands away, entwining his finger's with Bodie's. And then he brought their lips together; a touch, an invitation, no more.
He felt Bodie's whole body stiffen - but he didn't move away. Instead, arms caught tighter, drawing Doyle closer. Again, Doyle kissed him, more deliberately this time and for a second, he thought Bodie might resist - but then suddenly he was crushed against the other man, mouth devouring his, a moan, deep and mournful splitting the silence.
And Doyle held him in return, like Bodie, remembering with every touch, gathering in the hurt, the wounds, the agony from so many years and trying to dispel it in only moments. This was his Bodie, in his arms, alive and for those few brief moments, that's all he really gave a damn about.
Finally, the need to breathe broke them apart and Doyle opened his eyes to find Bodie watching him steadily, the vulnerability still there, but in the background, now. Eyes wide, Bodie shook his head slightly, once more, gazing at every facet of Doyle's face. "So incredible, Ray. Thought I was goin' crazy when I saw you draw that gun... but it is you - and you are alive. So incredible."
And then Bodie held him again, kissed him again, deeply, gently with all the longing of fourteen years. Doyle relaxed into the embrace, content for the moment, to forget all the other things that needed to be said. Just feeling those arms around him was enough. He waited until Bodie's heartbeat gradually returned to normal, his own along with it, waited for the desperation of their kisses to subside a little. Then once more, Bodie was studying him with those blue eyes, and the expression changed slowly, as he recalled all the little things of the reality around him. His voice quiet but level, he said, "Tell me about Alan Cade."
Doyle groaned. "Bodie, please."
"I need to know what happened."
"I know, I know but - "
Doyle bit in his lip, unsure whether to go on - or whether he could actually talk about it now. He'd never spoken a word to anyone in all these years. Though he knew he had to do it, he also knew it wasn't going to be easy.
"Let's go downstairs first. I think I'm going to need a drink."
With a shadow of humour in his eyes, Bodie nodded, "Me too." Reluctantly, he let Doyle go and together they went downstairs - not quite hand in hand, but never too far away from each other. Doyle poured drinks and then they settled on the sofa, at either ends, watching each other. Bodie laid his arm across the back, his land laid flat against the soft surface, his deep blue eyes watching Doyle with unveiled expectation.
Taking a small sip of whisky, Doyle turned his attention from the man before him and deliberately tried to calm his mind, to set free the memories he'd kept hidden for too long. He took his time and only when he was ready, did he begin to speak.
"You were right, there was an Alan Cade."
"How did you meet him?"
Doyle's gaze drifted to the mantle and the picture sitting there. "It was all an accident, a twist of chance."
"You... know what happened in London?
Bodie's voice was low and harsh, like gravel, "Cowley told me. He said you received the news of my supposed death in Africa very badly. He took you off duty but the next day you came back in and resigned. He argued with you but you didn't stick around long enough to let him change your mind. Then you left London. He kept track of you for a few weeks, just to make sure you were okay - but then you went underground and he lost you completely. The next time he saw you was in the morgue."
Doyle glanced once at Bodie, "Did he blame himself?"
"What do you think?" Bodie raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his drink. "It was even worse after I turned up eight months later, alive and well. He pulled out all the stops to find you but all to no avail."
"Know about us?" The ghost of a smile flashed across Bodie's face and was gone. "No. But I told him. A few years later, just before he died. I didn't want him to go, believing it was all his fault."
"And what about Willis?"
"No," Bodie shook his head. "You tell me about Cade. After Cowley lost track of you, where did you go?"
Doyle swallowed again - but he knew it was time. "Liverpool."
A wash of pain drifted over Bodie's eyes, "Jesus," he whispered. Doyle simply shrugged. "I met Alan a month or so after I left London. In a pub. I didn't realise it at the time, but he was in the early stages of a long-term undercover op, infiltrating a drugs ring operating in Liverpool. Anyway, I was sitting on my own, busily working my way through another pint when he walked in. He got a drink from the bar and turned to survey the room, obviously looking for someone. That's when I saw his face - and he saw mine. We just looked at each other like a pair of idiots." Doyle couldn't help smiling at the memory. "He walked across to my table, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. The rest of the night we sat there talking, trying to find out if we shared any ancestors."
"I think so. There's a couple of years' difference - but we appear to have shared two sets of grandparents from different sides of the family."
Doyle glanced up to find a weak smile on Bodie's face. "Why?"
"I always shared Cowley's distrust of true coincidences. Go on."
"Well, we agreed to meet up again - then it became a bit of a habit. As I got to know him, I noticed certain things about him, the company he kept, the things he didn't really say, about what he did for a living and everything. After a few weeks however, I cooked him dinner and he opened up about his job and what he was doing there. Then it all made sense and to be honest, I was rather relieved. Then he admitted that he'd checked up on me and that's why he felt safe telling me the truth. You see, he was really deep undercover. His contacts with his control were sporadic. He was right out there on his own..."
"Without a friend in sight except for Raymond Doyle."
Again he glanced up but Bodie's expression was shuttered. "Something like that."
"So what happened?"
Doyle shrugged again, "We became friends. I think he needed me - needed somebody to trust, some one he could be himself with, who wasn't mixed up in the dirty work of drug dealing. I didn't see him every day - but just about. I got some work on a building site under an assumed name and we met up at a different pub or he'd come over to my place so I could get some food into him."
"It must have been strange looking at somebody wearing your own face."
"Like you wouldn't believe. But he wasn't identical to me - not completely. His hair was short, like mine is now - and he didn't have the cheekbone either. I had to incorporate that later."
"Of course. And?"
"And what? We became friends."
"You said that. What else?"
Suddenly restless, Doyle turned away. "He talked about his work, the people he was getting close to. Some nights he'd get to my place riding on the edge. We'd stay up for hours just talking it out, getting him fit to go back out there. Sometimes I was worried sick because I wouldn't see him for days on end - and then he'd knock on my door at three am, exhausted and hating himself for what he was doing and the people he had to deal with. It really ate away at him."
"Then you were real friends," Bodie murmured, almost in satisfaction. "Did you tell him about me?"
"Yeah? What did he say?"
Doyle closed his eyes, trying not to remember - but having to. "He was sorry for me. He was... good about it, not fazed by the fact that you were a bloke. It didn't bother him at all. Not even..."
Bodie leaned forward, "Not even?"
Doyle took in a deep breath, steadying himself, "Six months after I'd found out you were dead, I... got a little upset one night. Drunk. He... stayed with me."
"You slept with him?"
"Yes. Just once. I think we both needed it."
"I'm not bloody surprised!"
Doyle had to look up to see the force of the words expressed on Bodie's face. For some reason, that single look made him feel a little better. At least for a moment. "It wasn't long after that when it all came to an ugly end."
"He went missing again - for longer this time and I was worried sick. After five days, I went looking for him. It took me a whole night to find him, following up leads he'd given me over the months. I found him in an empty warehouse, way out of his own area. From what I could tell, he'd been there a couple of days." Doyle paused, swallowing down the lump already forming in his throat. But Alan deserved the story to be told - at least once. "He was alive - barely. Enough to tell me a rival gang had abducted him to get information on the group he belonged to. They'd beaten him to within an inch of his life then dumped him in the warehouse to die. His face was a mess, teeth broken, cheekbone, ribs, right arm, ankle. Internal injuries. The lot. How he'd hung on so long was anybody's guess. I wanted to get him to a hospital but he insisted on talking first, in case he didn't survive. Then..."
He paused again, trying to get control of feelings too long bottled up, "Then he told me how much my friendship had meant to him, that he'd never had a friend he'd trusted so much. He asked me to look after his daughter and then... I held him as he died in my arms."
A drop of moisture hit his hand and he looked down to find it was a tear from his own eyes. He wiped his face clear but didn't look at Bodie. "I'm sorry. It's just that, I've never told anyone this before. Nobody knows he's dead, you see. Not even Elena. There was nobody but me to mourn him and I've had to do it in silence all these years. And he didn't deserve that. He deserved more. So much more. He was a good man, a friend and yeah, I loved him as a friend. By that point, I knew what that meant, I understood it, appreciated it for the incredible thing it was. But I still lost him that night and I still regret not being able to help him more."
Bodie was silent, letting Doyle climb back from the edge in peace. Then, his voice soft, he added in the rest of the details, "So you put your ID on his body, got a car from somewhere and drove him four hours south of Liverpool to dump him in a park beside a church for the vicar to find after Sunday services. With your ID on him and him bearing such a strong resemblance to you, you figured Cowley wouldn't bother fingerprinting to identify the body. Then without batting an eye, you went back to Liverpool and became Alan Cade. You took over his work, playing sick for a while as the injuries from your alleged beating healed - and then you took over his life. Just like that."
"Don't!" Doyle turned savagely, "Don't you ever say it like that! You have no idea! I didn't do it on some whim!"
"Then how?" Bodie's gaze held him, drawing the story out from the depths of his being.
"I wanted to get the bastards who'd murdered him! I wanted to make them pay for taking him away from me like... I wanted to finish the job for him - nothing more. Not at first." He took a breath to calm himself, to steady the hideous rattling inside. "Do you have any idea what it's like to lose somebody like that - twice? Do you, Bodie?"
"Yeah. I do."
Doyle met his gaze and what he saw there turned him cold inside. It was enough to get the last of the story out. "After the first few weeks, it got a little easier. Nobody really suspected anything. Alan had told the gang he and I were cousins but that I wasn't involved with his work in drugs. As Cade, I told them my cousin had been beaten up by the opposition, thinking it was me, a case of mistaken identity. That secured my position within the gang. From there on, I was so deep into it I didn't have time to question what I was doing and what I would do when it was all over. I knew enough about Alan to carry it off - and after a year, we pulled them all in and I had enough evidence to convict the three men who had killed him. By then, I was Alan Cade through and through. Ray Doyle died and Alan Cade lived. I preferred it that way. Especially when..."
"When a year after that, Elena's mother got in contact and told me I could see my daughter for the first time, that I could be a father to her properly."
Bodie watched him with a shuttered expression, his eyes hooded. "I don't believe you."
"I don't believe it was an accident. You haven't really told me why you did it - just what you did. I want to know why you were there in the first place. Why were you so happy to kill yourself off and leave your old life behind. Why, Doyle? Why?"
"Jesus, Bodie," Doyle put his head in his hands, shaking it from side to side, "Can't you work that much out on your own?"
Bodie paused and leaned close, dropping his voice, changing it completely. Softly now, he said, "I didn't leave you, Ray. I promise you, I didn't leave you."
Doyle couldn't take it any more. He stood abruptly, putting his glass on the coffee table. Restlessly, he stode to the mantle, placing his hands on it and bowing his head. "Please, Bodie, we don't need to go over it. It's all history now. We both know what happened. Willis seconded you, sent you off to Africa then lied to Cowley that you'd died. What more can we say? It happened. Perhaps it was..." he paused, pulling in a breath.
In a second, Bodie was off the sofa and standing beside him, "Perhaps it was for the best? Is that what you're going to say? After fourteen years, you're finally going to let Willis win?"
Doyle spun around, "I told you I don't want to talk about it any more. Jesus, Bodie, I can't do this any more! You don't know how much..." he swallowed, raw and treading that precipice so close now he would fall any second. "Yeah, maybe it was for the best. We would never have lasted together. I know that now."
Biting his lip and trying desperately to get a hold on his ragged breathing, Doyle spared his reply, "We just wouldn't have."
Clipped and determined, Bodie shot back, "How do you know?"
"Because... because you left, Bodie!" Doyle snapped. "I know Willis didn't give you much option, but you did leave with him. What else could I think but that..."
"That what?" Bodie's gaze bore into him, intense but not dangerous.
Doyle didn't want to say anything else, but under that scrutiny, had no other choice, "You didn't really believe in it. In us. We were so happy those three months and then the first chance you had to get out, you took it."
"You really believe that?"
"What choice did I have, Bodie? I've had fourteen years to think about it and all I can be sure of is the fact that when Willis pushed you, you didn't fight back - and you didn't fight hard enough."
"So it's all my fault."
"I didn't say that!" Doyle shouted, gulping in air to quench the tears that threatened. "It's my fault too - I didn't fight to keep you. I wish I had. I wish I'd known what would have happened. I just thought that if you really needed to get away from me for a while, I should let you, that holding you would only make me lose you sooner. I didn't know, Bodie, I didn't know he was going to lie and tell me you'd died! I didn't know!" And with a gasp, he dropped over the edge, tears skinning down his cheeks, huge sobs wracking his body. Bodie said nothing, but reached out and held him tight. Carefully, Bodie led him back to the sofa, making him sit within the confines of strong arms.
Slowly he came back, easing the tightness in his throat, wiping the wetness from his face. Bodie just held him, smoothing down his hair, remaining steady regardless. But then, Bodie's moods had always been like that. Sharp and close to the surface, easily voiced and then quickly extinguished, as though the brief flare was all he ever needed to maintain control.
Bodie leaned forward and grabbed his glass, holding it up for Doyle to take a hearty mouthfull. Then he settled back, his arms encompassing once again. As they settled into the quiet, Bodie spoke softly. "I didn't leave you, Ray. I loved you. We were happy. I loved you and I didn't want to be anywhere but with you. I want you to understand that and believe it."
His throat still tense, Doyle murmured, "So why did you go?"
A long silence followed, ended only when Bodie replied, voice flat, "He found out."
Doyle frowned, "Who found out what?"
Another pause, then, "Willis. He found out we were sleeping together."
"What?" Doyle sat up, turning so he could see Bodie's face. "How?"
"How do you think?" Bodie shrugged. "That last morning, remember I'd stayed the night at your place? I left early to go home to get a change of clothes. Outside your flat I saw the same car that had been parked outside my place the night before."
"Yeah. We'd been at your place that night. Willis's men?"
"Exactly. I didn't say anything and was going to do something about it when we got into Central, but then that bank job blew up and we were on our feet for the rest of the day. By the time I thought of it again, it was too late." Bodie's glance came back slowly, darkness shadowing his eyes. "As Willis was on his way in to see Cowely that evening, I met him on the stairs. You were a little way ahead of me so you didn't hear what he said."
"I remember him talking to you - I was worried it might be some reference to Marikka."
"It was - in a way. He said, 'I killed one of your lovers off - if you put up any resistance to my demands, believe that I will kill Doyle just as easily.'"
Doyle's mouth opened but for a moment, words completely failed him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, things took shape, made sense for the first time in longer than he could remember. "He threatened me? He... did that? Bodie, you wouldn't lie about something like this..."
Bodie shook his head sadly, "No. Ten minutes later, we were called into Cowley's office and you know what happened then. He told me I just had to go to Africa for a couple of months, to set a deal up before he could get his own people in there. He needed somebody with my background, my time in CI5 to make it believable. Then I would be allowed to come home. Except that he never intended for me to come out alive. He set it up so I would get killed on the first meeting. Only problem was, I got suspicious and went to ground for a while. Not that I suspected Willis immediately - that came later. However, by the time I found out, it was too late. I'd tried to send you messages, but I know Willis never passed them on. By that point, he'd told Cowley I was dead - and you'd gone off and done the deed in Liverpool."
"And... what happened after you got back?"
"Cowley wanted me to return to CI5 but by then I knew Willis had set me up - the problem was, I couldn't prove it. Willis, true to his nature, didn't want to let me out of MI6 so I decided to stay on, find enough evidence to prove once and for all what the bastard had done to me out of spite. Willis died not long after Cowley - and by that point, I no longer wanted to go back to the squad. Not without the Old Man there."
Numb now, Doyle shook his head, "I... Christ, I wish Willis was still alive!"
"And you a copper, too." Bodie replied with some dark attempt at humour.
"Bastard didn't deserve to die of natural causes. A stroke was too good for him. He didn't suffer anywhere near long enough."
"Willis," Bodie said, his eyes fluttering away, "didn't die of a stroke."
Doyle froze, his gaze fixed to Bodie's face but Bodie said nothing.
"Are you telling me... you..."
"I'm not telling you anything." Bodie said evenly. "Except that Willis didn't die of a stroke."
"Bodie," Doyle said, tone full of warning. "Did you..."
Now Bodie turned and took that gaze full on. "Ray, all you need to know is that I didn't leave you. But I knew that if I didn't go, Willis would find a way to get at you. He would have done it simply to get at me. He hated me that much. When I found out you'd been murdered, I assumed he'd had something to do with it. Then I found out he didn't - but in the end, he caused your death, just as surely as if he'd given the order himself. His lie sent you away. He only did it to hurt you, knowing it would hurt me - because I'd so inconveniently managed to stay alive. I'm sorry, you're right, I should have fought harder - but all I could think about was what Cowley would say if I tried to tell him. And what evidence did I have to back it up? The Old Man would have believed me - but what could he have done without evidence to move against Willis? If I'd simply ignored Willis, there was no way I would have been able to do enough to keep you safe. Somewhere along the line, Willis would have found a moment when I wasn't around and you would have been dead. Ironic, isn't it? In an effort to save your life, I ended up killing you."
But Bodie just held up his hand, "I just wanted you to know. I don't want you blaming yourself - or me, for that matter. Neither of us could control what happened. It just did."
Slowly, Doyle shook his head, for the first time in a long time, the pain of old, lifting from his insides and finally, he could say the words he should have said a long time before. "I'm sorry, Bodie."
"Look, didn't I just say..."
"For not telling you who I was. I'm sorry." Doyle looked away then, finding a thread on a cushion his fingers could play with. Feeling suddenly very small, he said, "I went to Africa, you know."
"Got back just over two weeks ago."
"Why?" Bodie's voice was soft, surprised and very close.
Doyle could only shrug - but when Bodie took his hand, lacing their fingers together, he tried to answer. "Wanted to find you. Wanted to... find some mark of you, some, I don't know - - maybe some evidence of you. Something I could understand. Something I could..."
At that, Doyle looked up to see a wealth of understanding where, for some reason, he'd expected mockery. "Yeah. I suppose so. Was it... bad... for you? Over there? Were you hurt?"
"Nothing I couldn't deal with." Bodie blinked twice, his face giving away more than usual, a complex layer of pain and determination, things, feelings that words had no business with.
But this time, Doyle couldn't bare to leave it like that. He had to know, had to be sure because everything was so crazy, so unreal, there had to be something in all this he could hold on to. "Don't dismiss it, Bodie, please. Tell me?"
For a moment, Bodie held his gaze, as if judging if he could be trusted, or if he wanted to talk about it, or if it really mattered one way or the other. Then he ducked his head a little, shrugged a little and shifted his grip until he held Doyle's hand more firmly, the way he always used to, when they were alone, or sitting in a car late at night, on duty. When they could allow themselves no other gesture, no word or sign of how they felt, they would always simply sit and hold hands within the shadows, never distracting them, never interfering with anything. At first, it had seemed so simple a gesture - but soon it became as important as everything else, a daily reaffirmation of their connection, something never shared with anybody else.
Something so strong, even Bodie noticed. "You held my hand, outside the shed, last night. I suppose, if I hadn't already been so distracted by you, I probably would have realised who you were then."
"I think in that moment, if we hadn't had the op on, I would have told you the truth."
Bodie shrugged again, "Doesn't matter really, does it? I know now. In Africa... I... got shot... twice - "
"Bodie!" Doyle sat up but didn't get the chance to say anything more as Bodie held up his other hand, not breaking their connection.
"The second was little more than a scratch. The first got me in the leg. I was out of action for three weeks. Got an infection - you know the drill. Found an ex-army doctor who fixed me up without asking too many questions. Could've been worse though - the bullet was meant for my head. Spent a lot of time drifting, trying to keep out of just about everybody's way. Then... then I... heard... you know... I er... heard you were dead and I..."
As Bodie drifted into silence, Doyle reached out until his hand could bring Bodie's face around, so he could see - something raw and unhealed bleeding out through Bodie's clear gaze, a layer of tears unshed in his eyes, everything open for Doyle to see - before it was closed down again, the protective walls back in place, though not harshly. Enough for him to go on breathing, talking, living, no more. When he finally spoke, his voice was low, a little bitter, a little weird. "I promised all sorts of things. Begged, really. Begged a god I didn't believe in to make it all a mistake. That I would get back to civilization, get in touch with Cowely to find you couldn't come to the phone simply because you were out on a job, safe and sound. There was a lot of begging for a while, a lot of drinking and some stuff I don't remember too well. I did a few stupid things but my friend the doctor pulled me through those first weeks until I was ready to think about what might have happened. Blaming Willis was part of what made me survive long enough to get back. Of course, what I came back to was... worse. It took me two weeks before I could bring myself to sleep in the bed."
"Kept thinkin' about how we'd made love there, two nights before we were split up."
In the faintest whisper, Doyle said, "Did you hate me?"
A pale shift of the eyebrows and Bodie nodded slightly, "Yeah. How'd you guess?"
"Some part of me hated you, for going, for dying without me beside you. It's natural."
"I suppose so. Didn't make me feel any better to know that at the time."
"No, no better at all."
Bodie's response was a small smile, "Never told anyone, you know, about that part of it. Didn't seem right."
"Not even Cade?"
Doyle shook his head, "No, not even Cade."
The smile grew a little wider, Doyle coming up with his own to match it. For just a moment, they stayed like that, living it, breathing it, making it as real as it could be under the circumstances. Then Bodie let out a low-voiced chuckle.
Bodie shook his head, "God, Doyle, all this talk - I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!"
Unable to help himself, Doyle got to his feet, taking Bodie's hand and pulling him up. With Bodie trailing behind, he went into the kitchen, pushed aside the things left from the morning and began putting together the best meal he could with the scant things in the fridge. Twenty minutes later, a plate of steaming stir-fry and noodles sat on the table between them. Bodie helped himself, his first mouthful bringing an instant smile.
"Good, very good. So you can still cook."
Doyle laughed - not entirely sure why. They ate in silence, finishing half a bottle of wine between them as the light outside began to fade. When the plate was empty, Doyle rose and gathered things together in the sink. Abruptly somber now, he filled it with hot water and slowly washed each plate, as though it would make time stretch out. He heard Bodie get up from the table, saw the last of the dishes join the others in the water - and then Bodie was standing beside him, his hand left hand in the water, finding Doyle's, his touch silky soft and wholly seductive. Gently, he took the hand while his other arm wrapped around Doyle's waist.
Without thought, Doyle forgot the dishes and leaned into the embrace, unable to stop himself drawing on that solid strength, that awesome familiarity which leaked back over so many empty years. His hands stilled in the water as his head rested against Bodie's. A soft kiss pressed against his temple before words were whispered into his ear.
"So, where do we go from here?"
Closing his eyes against the new pain, Doyle shook his head, "Nowhere."
"Please, Bodie," Doyle murmured, breathing in the scent of the man. "Don't play dumb."
"But you love me."
"Yes," Doyle breathed, dejected. "I love you."
"And I love you. So why?"
Opening his eyes to gaze out of the window before him, Doyle replied, "Do you have any idea the risk I'm taking, standing in front of this window with your arms around me?"
"I'm the Chief Constable of Eastland, Bodie - not some agent in a shady criminal organization. You know what would happen if anybody found out about us. It would be splashed all over the papers."
"They can't sack you."
"They'd bloody well try."
"Then I'd slap a D-notice on it."
"Bodie!" Doyle turned to face him. "You can't abuse your position like that!"
"Why not?" Bodie replied with a smile. "MP's do it all the time. You'd be surprised the number of them who share illicit beds. The papers know all about it but it's considered a security risk to have it published - so they can't say a word."
"I don't believe you."
Bodie pulled him close again, once more wholly captivating. "I can prove it, if you like."
"No. It wouldn't work. I'm not an MP. I'm a police officer - - no security risk at all. On top of that, even if you could silence the papers - they're not the biggest problem. The powers that be are. How do you think they'd like it to find a chief constable and the new head of CI5 in bed together - literally. They'd have a collective fit."
"As if anybody would notice - or care."
"I care!" Doyle said firmly. "Look, you can break the rules whenever you like in your job - but you're not immune to the problem yourself."
"Well, er, actually, strictly speaking, I am. I told the cabinet all about my sexual preferences on my first interview. They just warned me to be discrete."
Doyle shook his head; Bodie was still not taking this seriously enough. "Fine, you can live with the furore when it blows up. I can't. My force won't accept me if they find out and though you may have forgotten it - I do have a daughter to think about. I couldn't do that to her." He took in a breath as Bodie frowned. "I couldn't do it to myself. I'd lose everything I've worked for."
Bodie's gaze narrowed. "So it's the job, is it? The job means more to you than I do?"
With a sigh, Doyle dropped his head to rest against Bodie's chin. "God, you're an idiot, Bodie. Of course not - but it's not just the job. You were at the confrence. You know what I'm trying to do. It's not simply a case of me throwing employment out the window. I'm trying to help those people - and this is the best way I can do it. I can't abandon them now. Not after all this time." He paused, not wanting to go on, but having no choice. "Not even for you, for this."
Slowly, he lifted his head - and then he was kissing Bodie, slow and deep, drawing them together close, as though nothing would ever part them. Bodie held him tightly, after a moment, speaking in a whisper, "Please, Ray, don't do this. I've just got you back. I can't lose you again. Not now."
"You won't ever lose me, Bodie, I promise. I love you. If I've learned anything over the last few weeks, it's that nothing is ever going to change that. I just can't risk us being together. But we can still see each other. We can be friends, can't we? Like we used to be? Surely we can make that work, if we try."
"I want you in my life, Ray, in my bed. I know I'm being selfish but I can't help it. I love you. I want you. Is that so hard to understand?"
"No - because I want the same thing - but I'd rather have you in my life as a friend than nothing at all. And maybe, when we've both retired, when nobody gives a damn any more, we can be together - if we still want it."
Bodie lifted his head and gazed steadily at him. He swallowed, then nodded. "Well, if I can't have a future with you, let me stay tonight. I don't have to be in London till the morning. Let's just have this much, okay? Then we can try being friends. For tonight, let's leave everything outside and just be together. I want to make love to you - not Alan Cade - you. Properly - the way we didn't the other night. After fourteen years, I think we deserve it. That is, if you want me?"
"I was right the first time," Doyle half-smiled and pressed his body up against Bodie's. "You are an idiot."
Bodie pulled the curtains closed without actually showing his face at the bedroom windows. Ray locked the doors downstairs, then put on a light in the spare room, just in case. Then he came in and Bodie turned to look at him, astonished all over again that this was indeed Ray.
Willing, eagerly, Ray came into his arms, kissing him with the ferocity of old, the passion he'd always loved in his partner. Demanding and yet yeilding, Ray drew him to the bed and undressed them both.
The light was left on.
Now Bodie could look and touch and feel as much as he wanted to. And he went slowly, exploring every facet of Doyle's face with loving kisses before drawing him down onto the bed. He kept his eyes open, even during the kisses, wanting to recall and remember who it was he was with. For now and for later. He wanted to make a new memory, to replace all those old ones where he'd tried to erase the pain of losing this man. From now on, there would be no more. Never again would he go looking for someone to kill the pain, to replace what he'd lost. It was here, in his arms now, even if this was the last time they could hold each other. No young lookalike would ever replace this so no other man would ever share his bed again. For there were no other men - there never had been. There had only ever been Ray.
His hands moved eagerly over that wonderful body. Carefully and joyfully, he traced old familiar scars then happily found a few new ones. With each discovery, he made Ray tell him the story in full, ekeing out the pleasure with laughter and truth. He meandered over the past, the years missing between them, collecting not facts, but honesty in his travels. Doyle held nothing back, giving him what he needed with the same openness he'd always loved in the man. And still he worked his way across skin and muscle, across the soft fur on the chest, down to the hardness at the groin. There he lingered, tasting, feeling, enjoying, bringing Ray to the brink twice before moving upwards again. With a smile, he rolled Ray over onto his stomach and began all over on his back, kissing and stroking, finding the marks of the surgery from that shooting so long ago. Down to the perfect buttocks, still taught after all these years. Down the legs and the hard muscles before going back to that incredible rear.
"Do you," he murmured between kisses, "Still wear jeans?"
A rumble of laughter was muffled by the pillow around Doyle's face. "Occasionally. Why?"
"Good thing I never saw you in them."
"I would have recognized you from behind."
More laughter. "God, I love you, Bodie."
In response, Bodie sank his teeth gently into the smooth flesh, making Ray groan. Then he slid his fingers between the crack, raking over the intimate pucker of flesh. Instantly, Doyle spread his legs to give Bodie greater access. Bodie explored further, only just able to contain his growing urgency. But he had to - he knew what he wanted and he knew it would take time.
Deliberately he raked his fingers over the soft sac, pressing his thumb to the entrance to Doyle's body. Involuntarily, Doyle humped his hips into the bed.
"I know," Ray whispered hoarsely. "But Bodie, you're killing me. You have no idea what it's like being wanted by you. That's why I couldn't refuse you at the retreat - even though I knew I should. Nobody has ever touched me the way you do."
"You mean, you've never slept with other men? Apart from Cade?"
"No, never. And that night with Cade was far more innocent than anything we used to do together."
Stupidly pleased, Bodie kept up his attentions, making Doyle groan again. Knowing he wouldn't last much longer, Bodie rolled him over again and settled between his legs, stretching out over him before kissing him once more. The kiss more than anything scored up memory, made it the present, burned itself into his memory. Then, as Ray tried to move against him, Bodie broke off and moved south again. There he cradled the hard shaft between his hands and took the head in his mouth. Instantly, Doyle arched into him, and he began to suck, hard and rough. He worked his hands on the balls, sent a finger into the anus but still his mouth worked strong, taking the love as it was given to him. All the while, he kept his eyes open, watching Ray writhe on the bed, his fists clenching the sheets, his back arched, thrusting into Bodie's mouth, crying out, panting, whimpering.
Bodie's heart sang. With a sudden jerk, Ray twitched and hot liquid flew into Bodie's mouth, again and again. He drank it down greedily until there was no more, draining Doyle and leaving him a limp mess. With a grin from ear to ear, he spread himself beside the man, head up on his arm and waited for the recovery.
It began with a kiss, Doyle tasting himself in Bodie's mouth. Then arms came around him and words of love whispered, words of old, the way they'd been before, years ago, when they'd been happy.
And then Bodie was swept away by the inexorable flood of Ray's passion. Now on the receiving end, he relaxed back and let Ray ravage his body - but after sucking Ray, he was already too near. Ray backed off a bit, resorting to innocent massage to bank the flames. When he could, Bodie reached for Ray's half errection again, working it and making it full. Groaning, Ray pinned him down, planting moist kisses along his jaw, nibbling on his ear.
"What do you want, Bodie?"
"You." Bodie smiled, more content that he'd been in fourteen years. "That's all I've ever wanted."
A dry chuckle rumbled through Ray's chest, "And how do you want me?"
A spike of thrill sent his errection trembling, the image in his mind enough to almost set him off. With only the greatest effort, he bit his tongue and kept silent.
"On my back?"
Bodie moaned but said nothing. Torture could be exquisite.
"Can I take you in my mouth?" Doyle worked each word with deliberate seduction, knowing full well the effect he was having.
Bodie could have laughed - if his urgency hadn't been so near-painful. Between his thighs, Doyle moved gently, sending shivers cascading over his body. Then a hand went down, brushed over his errection, across this balls and beyond. Then that deep voice came again, wanting and alluring, dizzying and full of love.
"That's what you want, isn't it?"
Bodie could only nod.
"Is it?" Doyle insisted, catching his teeth playfully on Bodie's jaw. "Tell me you want me to fuck you."
"I want you to fuck me." Bodie replied automatically, only realizing seconds later, that Doyle was already between his legs, lifting them apart, pushing his fingers in that place, slick with something Bodie hadn't noticed him preparing. Instantly, Bodie raised his hips and waited, breath held, until Doyle slid into him. The pain was sharp, necessary and fleeting. It had been a long time; he'd never let another man take him like this, this alone was Ray's. He felt filled both inside and out, overtaken completely by the delicious sensation of Ray within him, dwelling on it, wanting it, needing it. A moan, deep and raw, fell from his lips just before they were caught by Doyle's. Buried inside him now, Doyle didn't move, simply contenting himself with commanding Bodie's mouth, tugging the now bruised lips.
"Please, Ray," Bodie whispered between kissses. "Please move. I can't take much more."
"Tell me you love me."
"I love you. I love you, Ray. I love you so damned much."
And Doyle began to move, slowly and deliberately, elongating the pleasure for both of them, easing himself in and out, touching things inside Bodie he'd forgotten all about. With each thrust, he inched closer to the edge, desperate for release, but not wanting it to end. He held Doyle to him, hands on those perfect buttocks, urging Doyle with him. This was his Ray inside him now, making love to him, joining them, tearing away the years with every murmur. He was complete now, no longer empty, no longer wandering across that wasteland, lost. They moved together, always together, slowly, stretching time until it seemed endless. Then - then, long after he thought he would die from it, Bodie felt the flesh inside twist together, his soul crying out, matching pace for pace, controlling him from within, tightening and flooding forth.
With a harsh groan, he jerked in Doyle's hand, flooding his abdomen. Still Doyle's thumb worked over the head until there was nothing left. Only then did Doyle thrust once more and with a cry, Bodie's name on his lips, he emptied himself deep inside Bodie again and again until he was empty. Little more than a limp rag now, he carefully withdrew, fell on the bed alongside Bodie and gathered him up in his arms.
"Always loved," Doyle murmured into the perfect silence, "watching you come. I love you, Bodie."
"I love you, Ray." And Bodie pulled him closer, ignoring the fact that in a few short hours, he would have to leave. They might make love again before then - probably would - but ultimately, it didn't matter. For the moment - and for the rest of his life, he had all he wanted right here in his arms.
And with any luck, that might just be enough.
Alan Cade turned off the kitchen tap, put his mug into the dishwasher and headed into the hallway. He shrugged on his jacket, picked up his briefcase and headed out the door to where Jack awaited him. The late summer morning was grey and overcast, warning of a sweltering day to come. The worst of it was, he would spend it in some dreary hall in London, wiling the day away with endless discussions on various points of police procedure.
Jack smiled goodmorning and then they were off. For a change, Cade sat in the back; he had papers he wanted to look over on the journey and he knew he would make a mess. Jack kept up his usual light conversation, only talking when he knew Cade wanted to, keeping silent when Cade had his head down. After an hour, it began to rain heavily and Jack had to slow down on the motorway.
Finished with his work, Cade settled back in his seat and watched the countryside slip past as the rain lightened to a drizzle. Passing cars lifted the water up in a hazy mist, their lights flashing past as small yellow beacons.
Elena was due back tomorrow. He could hardly contain his anticipation - and found meetings like this one today, more and more tedious. He understood their importance in the long run, but it was sometimes hard to remember that these small things were part of the larger picture, imperative to his ability to do his job well.
Inevitably the subject of his drugs project would come up during the discussion breaks. Now, two months into the second trial, figures were beginning to present themselves - and it all looked good. Not that anything concrete had been proved; nobody would assume that. No, it was more that there was now growing evidence to suggest a full scale trial in a couple of the larger cities - with government approval. He'd already had some tentative suggestions put his way; a few words murmured over dinner, the odd scrap on a division memo. It was going to happen. Soon. From all he had seen so far, he felt reasonably confident there could be some kind of constructive move made. If they could get Glasgow, Edinburgh and perhaps Birmingham in on a proper year-long trial, there would be sufficient data presented to prove his case. And if that happened...
No. Best not to get too far ahead of himself. There was still a chance of too many things going wrong.
But Elena would be back tomorrow. She'd been gone three months and so much had happened in that time - not that he could tell her about most of it. He couldn't mention a word about finding Bodie again, about falling in love all over again - and then denying all possibility of a proper relationship. If she asked him again why he didn't find himself somebody, he already had his answer prepared.
But he could tell her about the drugs program and he knew she would be pleased. She'd want to know all about it - and some of the things the public didn't know. So far the public response had been quiet - a kind of wait and see attitude he rather liked. Not only that, but since it became public that he had started the trials in the other regions, his popularity had increased within Eastland; as though the people were rather proud that their Chief was leading the country in the drugs battle.
Oddly, though his own officers had been less than enthusiastic in the beginning, they too had begun to see the benefits of the program - and since it had started in the other regions, they too had been proud to know that they had broken new ground on what was otherwise a blatantly hopeless struggle.
The grey outskirts of London approached and his thoughts turned again, as they always did now, whenever he came into the city. Would Bodie be at the meeting today? Would they get a chance to talk? Would he feel just as bad again when they parted - - as he did every time?
Seeing Bodie was both wonderful and terrible at the same time. Since that night after the arms bust two months ago, he'd seen the man five times. Each time had been the same. They'd made an effort to build a friendship, to talk as they'd once done, to find some middle ground they could occupy safe from the scavengers. There'd also been a few phone calls, particularly in the first couple of weeks after they'd parted. Long phone calls where each had talked long about difficult things they'd not spoken about before. Clearing the air in a way they couldn't afford to do face to face.
As the car threaded its way through the city towards Whitehall, Cade couldn't stop that sense of anticipation that grew inside him. Hell, if Bodie wasn't there, he'd be so disappointed. And then he was there, the rain had stopped and he was getting out of the car.
The building was as grey as the sky and he went in, found the meeting room and spent the first twenty minutes shaking hands and catching up with people. He tried not to look for Bodie. But in the end, he didn't need to.
"So you emerge from the dark north at last."
The words cut into the silence left over from a conversation just ended. Cade was alone and turned slowly to look at the other man. Bodie wore a dark suit, a crisp white shirt adding perfect contrast, stunning as always. Those blue eyes studied him without giving anything away and Cade, ever mindful of where he was, reached out and shook the proffered hand. "It's good to see you again, Bodie. How have you been?"
"Oh, the usual. Too much work, too little money to play with, too many boots that need licking. Can't say I ever thought I'd be playing this game at my age."
"You mean you prefer getting shot at?"
Bodie smiled and Cade saw a lot of interesting shared history in that look. "Yeah, well, if I could do all this and avoid getting shot at at the same time, it might be bearable - but the bastards still think I'm a target so now I'm doing two jobs. What about you? Isn't Elena due back tomorrow?"
Cade nodded and tried to ignore the fact that people were taking seats and these precious few seconds would be over soon. "That's right. I'd like you to meet her. You should come up for lunch or something."
A pale frown creased Bodie's brow, his gaze moving to take in the rest of the room. "Perhaps."
And then they had to move apart and take their seats, concentrate on the work of the day, get things accomplished, do their jobs. But as every moment of the day wore on, Cade became more certain that Bodie would never go to Eastland, would never meet Elena, would never allow himself the chance to be alone with Cade.
And he knew why.
So, at least now he knew he wasn't alone in the way he felt about these brief meetings. And why the phone calls had dropped off. He'd not called Bodie lately either. It was as though they were both backing off, to give themselves time to put some distance between everything that had happened between them - so they could live with the reality that they would never be together again.
But did that mean they couldn't try to be friends? There was no reason they shouldn't. Every reason they should. But if being friends meant they would both feel like this - should they try? Wouldn't that only make it worse?
Perhaps Bodie was right; perhaps they should make as clean a break as their jobs would allow. Perhaps they should just back right off and hope that six months, or even a year would help them learn to live with it.
When Bodie spoke to him again at the end of the day, he didn't mention lunch with Elena. The conversation remained on work and as he left, Cade realized he hadn't seen Bodie smile again since that first moment in the morning.
It was only as he was on his way home that he noticed he hadn't smiled either.
As Bodie drove up the long avenue and caught his first glimpse of the house, he let out a low whistle. Doyle had certainly made some interesting friends in his long and chequered carreer. Sir David Lowe was a banker from a long distinguished family. Four generations back had built this house, more recently added to by David and his father. Now, the mansion stretched out among glistening green gardens littered casually with ancient oak and spruce. He even had his own private golf course on the south side of the building.
Tires scattered gravel as he parked in the shade alongside a few other expensive vehicles. There was a man to greet him and show him inside and this time he controlled his reaction to the high painted ceilings after Giotto, the gilt framed Holbiens along the passage and the Ming China in the cabinets. With a quiet word of announcement, he was shown into a parlour facing the golf course where twenty or so people turned to welcome him. Sir David introduced him to a few others before bringing him up to Doyle - or Cade as he had to remember now.
Musn't call him Ray. Must call him Alan. Have to remember. That's all gone now. Nothing left but the pain. This is Alan and Alan can't afford to love Bodie.
No matter how much Bodie loves Alan.
A glass of white wine was pressed into his hand and he turned his attention to Doyle for a moment, taking in as much as he dared before gazing out of the window. Gentle conversation flitted around him but he was largely deaf to it. In the three weeks since he'd last seen Doyle, he'd thought of nothing else in his spare hours. Now that he had something to fill them with, they suddenly, after so many years, seemed much longer and much emptier.
Never know what you've got till it's gone.
"I didn't think you'd come." Doyle said evenly, turning to stand beside him, his gaze ostensibly ranging over the lawn bathed in morning sunlight.
"Why not? I don't work all the time - that's your job, not mine."
"Yeah?" Doyle smiled, "I never thought Cowley ever took time off."
"That's because Cowley didn't trust anybody to do his job when he wasn't there."
"And you do? I thought you didn't trust anybody."
"I don't." Bodie flickered a glance at Doyle before adding. "Except you."
"Then why did you come?"
"Why do you think?"
He felt Doyle's gaze on him but didn't turn. Fortunately, Sir David announced that lunch was served and the exodus split the two of them up. Bodie found himself cornered by a beautiful blond and used it as an excuse to stay away from Doyle. Damn him - - he'd bloody come all this way so he could see Doyle and now he couldn't bear to talk to him.
But the blond was good company and over lunch, he deliberately worked to make himself relax and enjoy the day. Seated around a long table, Sir David made little effort to govern the conversation - rather he seemed to prefer to hear the opinions of the influential people in his company. The conversations flitted from one topic to the other but Bodie noticed Doyle taking little part in any of them. Right up until somebody asked him about the drugs program.
It was extraordinary. As though he simply stepped into another persona, Doyle changed visibly. He warmed to his topic, choosing his words carefully to gain the maximum effect. Questions were thrown at him, some of them quite hostile - but he fielded them all, never losing control of the discussion, never ignoring an important point, always appearing to listen and consider any opposing opinion. Without ever expressing any certainty about anything, Cade nevertheless gave the impression of believing deeply in what he was trying to do, his passion for his cause obvious to everyone at the table. Once again it seemed obvious that with his quiet determination, Cade had won a few more supporters without even realising he was doing it.
Sir David turned the conversation to something else, keeping Cade involved - and Bodie continued to watch without ever becoming involved. He found he could talk to the blond without losing track of where Cade was, what he was saying - even though they sat at opposite ends of the table. For his part, Cade never once looked at Bodie and for that, he was glad. This was hard enough as it was.
But, god, it was wonderful to watch him! To just be in the same room with him, breathe the same air, listen to that voice, see those green eyes in so many different moods.
Ray had changed over the years. Some of the changes were fundamental, others more subtle but strangely, none of them detracted from the man. Instead, they appeared more as an enhancement to the character he'd been so attracted to years before. They added a depth to Ray that mere time could never give.
The fire that had always burned inside Ray had perhaps lost the worst of its fireworks, but instead it was now a permanet glow of bright coals, bringing warmth to more people in the process. Ray had been right in one way - Doyle no longer existed - - but neither did Cade. No, it was more that Ray lived on in this Cade - as Alan lived on in this Doyle. Somehow, over the years as he'd grown, Ray had managed to make himself more than the sum of this two parts - and with a belated twinge of regret, Bodie realized he was hopelessly in love with both of them.
After coffee, people wandered outside. The majority sauntered off in the direction of a small outbuilding where Sir David kept his golf equipment. Something of an obsessive on the subject, he kept shoes and clubs and balls and everything, often holding these lunches mainly as an excuse to get people over to play. Bodie wasn't so keen. Instead, he found himself standing on a portico, gazing down at a fountain surrounded by a low wall. Tiny neat hedges bordered a circular path around the fountain before heading off into bigger trees and something of a small wilderness. Feeling the sun on his shoulders, Bodie took a few steps down towards and turned back to look at the elegant mansion. With his eyes on the ornate porticos and the lead lined roof, it was a moment before he realised he wasn't alone. Ray wandered towards him, a knowing smile on his face.
"Grandeur or decadance, Bodie - what do you see?"
"I," Bodie shrugged, "see both."
Doyle nodded, shooting a glance of his own towards the house. "I didn't think you'd want to play golf."
He couldn't help it; he smiled. "Oh? And why not?"
Doyle came down the stairs beside him, his hands stuffed into his trouser pockets. Together they made it down to the fountain. "Nothing so tame for you."
Bodie risked a glance around - they were entirely alone. Then he turned his attention to the man beside him and for the first time, took note of every aspect from the light tan trousers to the deep green sports shirt. That hair was still too short - but perhaps a little longer than the last time he'd seen. The face, so damned beautiful, so captivating, was tanned from the long summer, the green eyes light with the afternoon sun. Doyle appeared wholly relaxed and totally at home.
"What about you?" Bodie asked, coming to a halt before the fountain. "I would have thought golf would be good for your career."
"Oh, I play every now and then."
"Any good at it?"
Doyle glanced sideways at him, a half-smile, half- grimace on his face, "Sir David refuses to play with me now."
Bodie had to laugh. "So was it you who got me the invitation?"
"What? Here? Oh, no mate, that wasn't me. Sir David wanted to meet you - and so did a couple of the others."
"And you had nothing to do with it?"
Doyle laughed, "Christ, Bodie, I'm not Machievelli. David asked me if I thought you would come. I said it was unlikely knowing your schedule. He asked me to try and persuade you - but then you accepted and I didn't need to."
"But why should he ask you to convince me?"
Doyle sat on the low wall and looked up at him, "I told him we're friends. He knows how important you are and the fact that, in some ways, going from 6 to CI5, you've come in from the cold. He likes to be a bit of a power broker, introducing all the right people to all the right people. During the week, he plays with money, on the weekends, he plays golf. Basically he's harmless."
Bodie nodded, "And I'll bet you're on excellent terms with fifty Sir Davids."
"Well," Doyle shrugged, "you can't be a Chief Constable without rubbing shoulders with his kind. Don't dismiss him, Bodie. It's men like Sir David that make things happen higher up. The politicians are the short haul players. It's the corporate managers, the high rollers that make all the big plans. If you want to get something done, show somebody how they can make a profit out of it and they'll be on your side."
Bodie nodded again, folding his arms, "So, how can you make your drugs program into a money making venture?"
With a snort, Doyle replied, "Not sure I can - but I can make it look like it is - or rather, a means by which people can stop losing money - the same thing in the long run. What about you? I've heard you've been having a few problems?"
Bodie shrugged and glanced away: it was just like Doyle to know stuff nobody outside the squad would know. Time to change the subject, "Has Elena come back safe and well?"
There was a long pause before Doyle replied, "She started back at classes this week. The house seems full and noisy all of a sudden. I'd gotten used to being alone again."
Unable to stop himself, Bodie's gaze returned sharply to Doyle - but he didn't pursue his first line of thought. No. That was off limits. Forever. "What's she like?"
Doyle's eyes took on a light he'd never seen before. It was nice. "Funny, vivacious, full of the passion of youth. She'll make a damn fine lawyer one day - though how she finds the patience to do the work never ceases to amaze me. I..."
Doyle looked up, "I would like you to meet her. It just might make it..."
"A bit easier?" Bodie replied softly. As if anything could.
"Something like that."
Bodie could only nod, knowing exactly what Doyle meant. "Yeah, well, maybe one day. But not yet."
God, why did every conversation they had these days, end up like this? Down in the doldrums. Bodie hated it. Hated knowing that he couldn't make Doyle really smile any more, couldn't do anything to break down that perpetual wall of isolation Doyle carried around with him everywhere. That protection he needed to keep the secret of his past. Bodie knew all about it now and Doyle shouldn't have to remain quite so isolated. There were things he needed to share and Bodie wanted to do that sharing, wanted his shoulders to be the ones to lighten the burden. Christ, why should Doyle have to do the whole thing on his own? Couldn't he have a chance at a little peace, a little trust? Bodie knew everything; Doyle didn't need to pretend with him - and yet, here they were, trying to build a friendship that could never be as it was simply because, of necessity, both of them had to deny a vital part of themselves in the process. They lied to each other with every word - even though it was the truth that kept the lie before them.
Did it have to be like this? Wasn't there some way they could have what they wanted - and be together at the same time?
"I see you made a friend at lunch," Doyle said into the silence.
Bodie glanced down to see Doyle watching his feet. Bloody great idiot. As if Bodie could seriously contemplate being with anybody the way he felt at the moment. Nevertheless, it might give him an angle he needed. "Yeah, well, you know how the ladies love the charm."
It worked. Doyle glanced up with a grin. "It's the power they love, Bodie, not the face."
Well, you love this face, Bodie replied silently. Out loud, he added, "But it's the charm that kills them. C'mon, let's give this golf thing a go. After your brave claim about your friend, I have to see just how good the Doyle aim is after all these years."
Doyle nodded and stood up. "Obviously I don't need to play you at golf to see how the Bodie ego is going after all these years."
Bodie laughed outright and together they walked towards the small hut. By now, everybody was out on the greens, at various different stages of their games. The hut was empty and Doyle led Bodie inside.
It was a little dark after the sunshine and Bodie had to let his eyes adjust - and he let out another low whistle. Along one wall was a rack, floor to ceiling, with shelves with golf shoes of all sizes. On the opposite wall were three sets of clubs in neat roller carts - space for another dozen empty beside them. Umbrellas and a battery powered buggy stood against the remaining wall. "This guy really is obsessed, isn't he?"
"Like you wouldn't believe. Here, let's get you some shoes. David won't have street shoes on his greens." Doyle began wandering along the rows, checking the sizes as he went. He pulled out a pair, knelt down and placed one alongside Bodie's right foot. Not happy, he put them back and took out another pair. He tried again.
Bodie, couldn't help but laugh at the situation. "Now this is one for the tabloids, sunshine."
"Eh?" Doyle murmured, concentrating on what he was doing.
"CI5 Controller has Chief Constable on his knees, kissing feet."
A rumble of husky laughter filled the small hut as Doyle rose, his head shaking. With one shoe, he slapped Bodie's behind - - none too gently at that. "You must learn to take these things seriously, mate, or Sir David will never invite you back."
"But I am being serious," Bodie replied, deadpan. "If the shoe fits?"
Another laugh and Doyle turned back to the rack. "For your feet - or your ego? Dunno if they make them that big." Deliberately, Bodie crowded close, peering over Doyle's shoulder. "I want a pair of green ones. I won't play if I can't wear green shoes. It's my favourite colour. Only green shoes."
Doyle's shoulders were shaking - and then suddenly he grabbed a pair and turned swiftly, pushing them into Bodie's chest. "There, a pair of green shoes, as ordered." He was gazing up at Bodie then, his eyes dancing, a smile on his face - which Bodie matched -
For a long, long moment time stood completely and utterly still. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe. He knew his smile had gone - - for his expression was mirrored in Doyle's abruptly sober eyes. The seconds ticked away as they stood close to each other, silent, the air full of tension. Desperately, Bodie tried to fight it, warning his body not to react, to forget who this was, to take the shoes and step back - but at the same time, his heart was screaming at him to simply wrap his arms around the man and hold him tight. Never let him go.
Never let him go.
And what would Doyle do if he did? Push him away? No. At least, not judging by the look in those emerald eyes. Wanting and waiting, afraid and bold, all at the same time. A hopeless conjunction of fear and anticipation glazed Doyle's eyes dark and velvety, shortened his breath. Still, they stood there, saying nothing, letting the silence compound.
Finally, Bodie could stand it no longer, his whole being twisted around a stroke of fate he no longer had any will to resist. He hissed in a breath, his chest ached. He formed words, short and harsh and from his gut.
"I want to kiss you."
"No." A wisp of air, no more, from wanting lips that barely moved.
"I know, but I still want to kiss you." Unconsciously, he found himself leaning towards Doyle - as the other man moved towards him. The ache inside threatened to flood every fibre of his being, drowning the fractional self-control that kept his hands to himself.
He wanted to - but knew he couldn't. Wanted to pull Doyle to him, chance somebody coming in and seeing them, damn the country, the whole universe. Wanted to hold that face and kiss it, let them be one again as they had always been destined to be. But he couldn't. Not even once. Couldn't even entertain the idea. Things were bad enough as it was - but if he so much as touched Doyle, it would become insufferable...
Would become? Hell, it already was!
With a moan, he tore himself away. Four quick strides and he was out of the hut and into the sunshine. He didn't wait, he simply kept walking, knowing Doyle wouldn't call him back, knowing there would be excuses of some sudden work made for him. He had to leave. He couldn't do this any more. Wasn't sure he'd ever been able to do it. It was impossible. Just as impossible as their being togther.
More so. For if they were together, they could face anything. Separate, they couldn't even face each other.
No, there had to be another way.
Cade stowed his things in the back of the landrover and glanced over his shoulder as Sir David came up to say goodbye.
"A pity you can't stay on for dinner. After the golf today, I should think it will be a bit of a party."
Cade gave him a smile, practiced, smooth and seemless. Nothing to indicate the darkness inside him, a darkness he feared now would overflow and seep out from every pore. Odd that nobody but Bodie had ever been able to see it. "I'm afraid I have things to do at home, and tomorrow I have meetings from 7am. Need to get a little sleep."
David nodded and stood beside the car, glancing idly over the sleek lines. "A pity Bodie had to leave so soon. I was hoping to see him show his hand at golf. I'm surprised you managed to talk him into it."
Again, Cade kept the smile on his face by sheer willpower. "He was sorry to go - but you know how work is with us law enforcement types. Never wholly predicatable, even less so with him."
David glanced at him then turned to view the house in the evening light, the remaining guest cars parked in orderly lines. Pursing his lips, he frowned slightly, "I wonder..."
Shooting a quick glance at him, David continued, "Do you think he's the right man to be running CI5?"
Without hesitation, Cade replied, "About the only man, I think. Especially with his background."
"Have you known him long?"
They'd prepared a response to this question, knowing nobody would believe the way they spoke to each other was the result of only a few month's acquaintance. "We met a long time ago, briefly. It was through work. Didn't meet up again until the confrence three months ago."
Not necessarily content with this response, David kept his gaze level. "How well do you know him?"
"About as well as anyone. Why?" This was an odd set of questions coming from this man. Where were they leading - and what trap was being set for him?
For a moment, David appeared to be making up his mind about something - then he formed a reply, "Look, I don't want to speak out of turn and I know you won't repeat this, especially as he's your friend - but did you know he's not... I mean, he isn't... straight?"
It was a few seconds before Cade understood the question. Unconsciously, his jaw dropped a little and David hastened to explain.
"I'm sorry. It's not exactly a state secret and I'm not implying the man has unsavoury habits with young boys or anything. Nothing of the kind. I just wondered if you knew."
Finally, Cade could speak, "Why?"
David shrugged, appearing a little uncomfortable, "Well, it's just that he was watching you so carefully at lunch - and well, you were in the cabin with him and then suddenly he left." A little cough preceded the next inevitable statement. "I couldn't help wondering if he... had behaved inappropriately."
If this had been any other day, Cade would have laughed - but he didn't even bother making the attempt. It would look too forced and David would be suspicious. Instead, Cade shook his head, opened the driver's door and put the keys in the ignition. "No, David, Bodie did nothing inappropriate, believe me. It's like I said earlier; I was finding him some shoes and he got a call on his mobile, calling him back to London."
"But he was watching you."
"Yes, I suppose he was." Cade paused, selecting some truth to cover the lie. "I probably shouldn't tell you this but Bodie has never once openly discussed the drugs program with me. He was at the confrence, has been kept up to date with the latest developments - but we've never actually talked about it."
"And you think he's preparing to oppose you?"
"I hope he isn't - but that doesn't mean he won't. I don't need to tell you how important it is that I have the support of someobody in Bodie's position."
"He couldn't bring the program to an end, could he?"
"No - but he's a man of action, not words. He prefers to take the hard line - one of the things that makes him the perfect man to run CI5. But as such, the idea that we would ignore some drug dealings in order to focus on others goes against everything he believes in."
"So, what can you do?"
"Convince him otherwise." Cade shrugged and got into his car, pulling the door closed and winding down the window. "I'd rather he supported the program than have it foisted upon him."
David nodded, standing back a little, "Well, I hope you weren't offended by what I said."
"Of course not. Actually, it's rather nice to think you were concerned for my virtue."
With a laugh, David waved. "Have a good trip home - and next time, you must bring Elena with you."
Cade nodded and pulled out onto the drive. It took him little more than an hour to get home but by then it was dark. Elena was in Nottingham for the weekend so he had the place to himself - and he was glad. He needed a little time, a little space to himself. He needed to find some thing, some thought, words to say to himself that could make the afternoon go away.
It hadn't - not on the whole drive back. Over and over it replayed in his mind; the words before lunch, feeling Bodie's eyes on him through the meal, the difficult conversation beside the fountain, Bodie's admission on the subject of Elena - and then, more than anything else, the moment in the cabin.
He knew now, as he'd known in those long agonizing moments, that if Bodie had kissed him, he would have done nothing to stop it.
Bodie had always been an attractive man, beautiful and dark, charming and elegant with that ever-present hint of danger lurking behind those vivid blue eyes. Doyle had been attracted to him for a year or more before they had ever got together. And three months ago, he'd gone through it all again - but today, in the cabin, it hadn't been the physical that had frozen him to his spot. Just seeing the longing and the pain in Bodie's eyes had done that. Feeling it burning though his own soul had only made it worse.
No, he had been a fool to think they could go back to being friends - and in six months, or a year, they would be no better. In fact, they would only be worse.
Leaving only one light on in the living room, he wandered out onto the portico with a glass of red wine. The air was cool but sweet, the last of the roses giving out perfume to drift on the cloudless night. He sat on the low wall, letting his feet dangle over the edge to brush the tops of the lavendar bushes. Before him stretched the garden, too little used. Behind him sat the house, too big for him alone, even for Elena. Too big and too empty. Around the edge of the garden stood the real reason why he'd bought the place; tall elms and oak, between which sat smaller bushes. A wall of privacy he had known he would need. His neighbours couldn't see him and he couldn't see them.
A wall of privacy. A wall of trees. All to protect him from the world outside. But what was going to protect him from the world inside?
In all the last fourteen years, he'd been happy to pay the price for taking on Alan Cade's life. He'd been proud to carry on where his friend had left off, fulfilling a destiny that had been manifest in the character of the man he'd known in those six short months. And he'd done so much with it all. Alan would have been proud.
Even though now the price was getting so high he could no longer see the end of it.
Bodie was gone and he wouldn't come back. He'd seen what he wanted and knew it was being denied him by a series of circumstances neither of them could change. A few more meetings like that and they'd start fighting, arguing about things that didn't matter because they weren't allowed to talk about the things that did.
God, how he'd wanted Bodie to kiss him!
But it would have been a disaster. Even if they'd not been discovered, they would have held on to each other, then formed some plan to get away from the place without questions being asked. Then Doyle would have brought Bodie back here and they would have gone to bed together and they would have both regretted it afterwards and yet the very next time a similar occasion happened, the same thing would ensue and between these flashes of desperation, would be darker, deeper wells of black regret and hideous fear, wondering if they would be found out, watching the papers, the news, for any word. Each time they would promise each other that it would be the last time - but they would know it couldn't be because there was no end to it. There was no point at which they had stopped loving each other, stopped wanting each other. It would just go on and on without ever finding a mark at which to find peace.
And Bodie wouldn't do it any more. Wouldn't play the game of innocence, continue to pretend there wasn't anything more between them. Doyle had seen it in his eyes as he'd turned to leave the cabin. Bodie had reached his breaking point - and then passed it. There was no going back - and no hope of going forward.
It was a terrible thought, but in so many ways, it had been easier when they'd both believed the other was dead - not better, but easier. A shadowy past was a simple thing to deal with in comparison to a sharp and bitter present.
He sipped his wine and held the glass between both hands, gazing out at the darkness beneath the trees. Only the faintest brush of light glowed across the lawn, enough to bring a little shape to certain features, but no more.
So how could he learn to live with it now? If only there was somebody he could dare talk about it with. If only there was somebody he trusted that much - as much as he trusted Bodie. But there was nobody. That in itself was part of the problem. Did Bodie have anybody he trusted? Would he find a way to live with it? Or would it continue to burn away inside him, eating at the things he'd spent so much time carefully building up. He'd changed so much over the years, deepened as a person, developed strong convictions, found a means of focussing that blistering determination. All to the good. Bodie had done so well out of a collection of events that would have destroyed most men. But Bodie had done it and he had survived. He'd come out the other side without being bitter and hating the world. It had been a long struggle for him, so didn't he deserve something better now? Couldn't he have what he wanted now, after it had been taken away out of sheer spite?
Doyle didn't even want to think about Willis and what Bodie might or might not have done to him. Whatever it was, Bodie wasn't going to tell him - and he knew he was better off not knowing. But it seemed that, despite the death of the man so long ago, he would win in the end. He had struck out to hurt Bodie, had tried to get him killed - twice. Now, long after it no longer mattered to anyone, the legacy of his hatred was a life of pain for the only two people left who remembered.
Two lives destroyed for the price of one. Three, including Marikka.
No. The truth was, there was no answer, no glib words to make anything different. He would live with it simply because he had to and for no other purpose.
"They won't kill us, you know?"
The voice intruded on his thoughts so softly that at first, he thought he'd imagined it. He didn't turn for fear that he had and that it wasn't Bodie who wandered towards him from the darkness of the trees on his right. He hadn't heard so much as a twig break.
"They'll survive. So will we."
For long moments, Doyle just listened to the voice, a shriek of relief flooding through him with a swiftness that almost made him dizzy. Bodie hadn't gone. He was here! Then the words began to sink in and Doyle turned his head a little to see the shadowy shape waiting a dozen feet away, familiar face touched by the light from indoors.
Bodie was smiling. "In the long run, they'll get the idea."
Swallowing, Doyle gathered himself a little. "Bodie, what are you talking about?"
"Can't say I think too much of your security here. You've grown a bit slack over the years. I've been within firing distance for twenty minutes or more and you didn't hear a thing. That's what happens when you don't have me around to watch your back."
Unable to stop staring, Doyle took in a short breath, wholly caught by the soft gentle voice, the cool and casual elegance, the simple presence of the man. "I... thought you'd gone back to London."
"Yeah, well I was going to - was on my way - and then I thought, fuck it."
A small involountary laugh escaped Doyle before he continued, nervous, pleased and yet, terrified all at the same time, "What are you doing here?"
"You know you've been sitting there for an hour?" Doyle could just see an eyebrow lift - and then Bodie was coming towards him, climbing each step to the portico slowly. Doyle didn't move as Bodie came behind him and stood close. "You know as well as I do why I'm here."
"I'm not a mind-reader, Bodie," Doyle replied, half afraid to turn around, way too afraid to say more.
Then Bodie moved until his legs pressed against Doyle's back. "We tried it your way, the safe way - but it didn't work. Now we're going to do it my way."
Strung up high above it all, Doyle couldn't really take this in. "We are?"
"Yeah." Bodie replied, determination reeking from his few words. "We are."
Doyle pulled in his bottom lip - but couldn't stop himself leaning back against Bodie's warmth, his strength. But then, hadn't he always done that - in the past? Wasn't that what he'd lost, fourteen years ago? His rock? Idly, a hand brushed against his cheek, caressed the side of his neck and he turned his head into it as Bodie continued talking, his voice soft again.
"We've both worked for this country almost our entire adult lives. We've been out there on the firing line, putting our lives in danger, willing to sacrifice our futures in the cause of theirs. We deserve something back."
"Bodie... you can't be serious." Doyle's voice came out as a trembling murmur but he was held utterly in Bodie's thrall and felt no desire to climb out of it. He needed to go on feeling Bodie's presence behind him, those cool fingers on his face; a caress so gentle it threatened to melt him.
"I am serious, Ray. Deadly serious." Bodie paused before adding, "There's no point continuing this charade, sunshine. We're just going to keep tearing ourselves apart. I don't know about you but I can't take a repeat of today. We are already together - we'll always be together. Keeping our lives separate is a mistake neither of us can afford, let alone live with. We've been doing this for too long. We've forgotten why it's important to love somebody. For all that we've each achieved with our careers, unless we can have each other, we don't really have anything at all."
"But that's just... philosophy. It means nothing out there."
"So?" There was an edge to Bodie's voice now. "See, I went along with your decision because I respected the risk you take - and for that matter, the work you do and how much it means to you. But you were - and still are - looking at it from a worst- case viewpoint. There's no guarantee anybody will ever find out about us - and there's equally no guarantee that it will all blow up and be a mess."
Doyle couldn't listen to this; it was all too tempting to believe in the dusky light of night - expecially with Bodie so close - and too impossible to predict in the cold light of day. He couldn't afford hope; losing it would cleave him in two. With a sharp sigh, he twisted around, forcing Bodie back. He swung his legs back over the wall until he could look up at the man. "We've been through all this before, Bodie. You know I want us to be together - but I can't risk everything I've worked for. I couldn't put Elena through the tabloid circus it would become."
But Bodie was just shaking his head, a light smile on his glorious face. "You're still assuming it will all work out badly. Now I know we took your line because my way is irredeemable - but the point is, we should try. We just need the courage to pursue it."
Frowning Doyle shook his head, "What are you talking about?"
Bodie sat beside him, their shoulders lightly touching. Carefully, he reached out and took one of Doyle's hands, held it loosely between his own. "Your radical drugs program has almost reached critical mass - probably has already. In another month or so, there'll be figures on the table - facts you will have had nothing to do with directly. Other minds are already attached to it and support for the idea is growing from so many quarters that before long, you will no longer be the only one speaking up for it. If you fall, if the papers do make a martyr of you, the program will be able to speak for itself, and other voices will rise to champion it. It can't be broken if they take you out."
Eyes wide, Doyle could only say, "How do you know this?"
"I told you; there's very little that happens in Whitehall that I don't know about. So far the beavers have been content to sit back and watch, expecting it to fail and being happy to let you go down with it if it did. But now it's obvious it won't fail and they're champing at the bit to get involved, catch a bit of the glory themselves - be seen as the one vital link in the chain that really got the thing off the ground. All Europe is watching. They want that kind of stuff written under their names in Who's Who. You've worked hard, Ray and you deserve the success and the credit - but if anybody finds out we're together, it will be in their interests to keep it quiet."
"And if it isn't?"
"The work will still go on. You might not be allowed a part in it - but it will survive. That's what you really care about, isn't it?"
Bodie was studying him with grave eyes and Doyle could only nod. Despite all his reservations, what Bodie was saying was pretty much true. A brief smile brushed over Bodie's mouth before he continued. "So our only other real problem is Elena. You'll have to tell her about us. I can't come up here and spend the night with her around wondering what's going on. I know you love her and she means a lot to you. I wouldn't do that to her. So you'd have to tell her. How do you think she'll take it? Finding out her father is in love with another man?"
Half a laugh escaped Doyle as he shook his head. What was it about Bodie that gave him this gift of sweeping aside all unnecessary considerations? More to the point, why wasn't he fighting it harder? "I have no idea. But Bodie, you can't really mean all this. My career will be as good as over if the papers find out."
"They might not. If we're careful, we could keep it secret for months, perhaps even years. Who knows what might happen in that time?"
"But if they do, they'll crucify me - and you - and Elena, Eastland Constabulary, everything." He had to pause to breathe carefully. Too much fear was warring inside him. Fear of what might be - and what could be. "And if they find out... if they go after me..."
He couldn't finish - but he didn't need to. Bodie watched him carefully with those blue eyes he loved so much. Gently and softly he said, "What if they find out your other secret?"
Doyle nodded mutely.
"You don't know that."
"Yes I do."
"Because there is no secret any more."
Bodie lifted his eyebrows and smiled lightly. "You've always had a rather charming ability to underestimate me. What do you think I've been doing over the last three months, eh? Watching your back, that's what."
"It's actually quite a simple thing to go back and check records, pull up old case files, switch copies of fingerprints and the like. It's actually frightening how easy it's been to cover your tracks. I saw you'd done a bit already, back when you first left Liverpool. I just finished the job. Now, they can hunt as long as they like, they won't find a thing you don't want them to find. I even doctored your dental records - your old ones. I buried it all amongst a big review of CI5's past history. I can get away with it because I used to be in the squad and then had fourteen years away. I was just catching up on stuff I'd missed - all to do my job better, of course."
"Of course," Doyle murmured faintly. For some reason, the night had changed colour, the air held a different scent and all of it trembled with possiblity. "You did that? For me?"
"Ray," Bodie dropped his voice, and his smile along with it. His expression took on a hardness seemingly directed entirely at himself. "Fourteen years ago, I couldn't fight to keep you. I wasn't given the chance. But I cannot now, nor ever will let Willis have the last word. I'm older and wiser now. I know what I have to do and believe me, I'm prepared to make any sacrifice to keep you in my life. I'd even resign if I thought it would do any good."
Doyle stared, his mouth open. Then, overwhelmed, he dropped his gaze to where their hands were entwined together. "Jesus, Bodie!" Was all he could say.
"The only real problem, as I said, is how Elena will take the news. Especially since she won't be able to tell anyone about it. That could only make it worse. >From what I've read, kids sometimes need a bit of counselling. If it does become necessary, I could always ask Kate to talk to her."
"Kate?" Doyle looked up. "Kate who?"
"Kate Ross. She's... er..."
"What?" Doyle could hardly bear to hear the answer.
"A friend. A good friend. I trust her completely."
"Well..." Bodie tilted his head a little, an engaging grin hinting around his eyes, "I haven't told her I'm in love with you - - but it's only a matter of time before she guesses something is going on."
"How much time?"
"Not a lot. She's very perceptive. But don't worry about her. Like I said, I trust her. She's a friend."
Kate Ross? Bodie's friend? "But how..."
"I'll tell you all about it another time. But I do need to know what we should do about Elena."
From absolutely nowhere, a rumble of laughter erupted from Doyle, low and satisfying. Bodie just watched him, a quizzical frown on his face. Eventually, Doyle shook his head, taking in a huge lung of air before letting it out in a noisy sigh. "Christ, Bodie, you are incredible! Do you know, you've always made decisions for both of us? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you're still doing it now."
"What do you mean? I've never made any decisions about us without consulting you first."
"No? You were the one who put your arm around me that first night, fourteen years ago. You leaned forward first to kiss me. You decided to make it love, to make it lifelong. You decided we should keep it a secret from Cowley even when Willis threatened you. You decided to make a pass at me at the confrence even though you knew it was a bad idea."
"Ray," Bodie warned, "This isn't the same at all."
"Isn't it?" Doyle smiled and shook his head again, "Do I look like I'm complaining?"
Bodie raised an eyebrow at that, one corner of his mouth going up in tandem. "No. Does... that mean... you'll ... that you're saying yes?"
Doyle swallowed, "I won't lie and say I'm not scared."
"I know." Bodie became utterly still, holding Doyle's gaze without urging. "But you will say yes, won't you?"
His insides fluttering like a bed of leaves in an autumn wind, Doyle found himself nodding, parts of him inside already flying away, "I'll probably regret it - but I don't want to regret saying no."
Bodie's reply was a huge smile, his hands squeezing Doyle's and for a long minute, he said nothing at all. Then he pulled in air and let it out with vigor. "Then in that case, I'd better get going."
"What?" Doyle almost jumped. "Now?"
"I have to get back. It's eleven now. It'll take me three hours to get home and I have a 6am training session I have to attend."
"Well..." Doyle was lost for a second. "Just come inside for a moment."
"Oh no," Bodie shook his head vigoursly.
"I just want to hold you for a moment. Jesus, Bodie - you promised me a kiss this afternoon and I'm sure as hell not going to do it out here."
"And I'm not going inside."
"I don't trust you."
"What?" Doyle almost laughed at the feigned look of seriousness in Bodie's beautiful eyes.
"Nope. I may have been the one who always made the decisions for us - but you were always the one who got us into bed."
"Well, okay, perhaps not always - but my self control has already reached and passed its limits today. We get inside closed doors and I know I'm going to miss my training session."
"I'll turn up late, without an excuse, bleary eyed, relaxed, shagged out and blissfully happy. It will take my team about a quarter of a nanosecond to work out why. It's going to be hard enough to cover my good mood as it is. Besides, I have my reputation as a complete bastard to consider. I don't want to give them a head start on the gossip. They'll have all the time in the world to work out that it's not some good woman who's worked the miracle - but a wonderful, bad tempered, beautiful golli who really should grow his hair a little longer because the man he loves really wishes he would."
Doyle actually blushed and laughed at the same time - but he didn't care any more. He was seized with a strange and unfamiliar desire to get up and do a bit of shouting and dancing about - a desire that for some reason, didn't seem even remotely at odds with the serious and grave life he led as the Chief Constable of Eastland. Oddly however, he managed to contain himself. "But I do want to just kiss you."
"Yeah? Just once?"
"Well, no," Doyle laughed, unable to resist Bodie's charm, and finding no damn good reason why the hell he should, "perhaps not just once."
"And there lies the road to hell." Bodie pursed his lips, successfully restricting his smile only to his eyes. "No, anglefish, we'll just have to contain ourselves for a bit longer. Now; tell me what we're going to do about Elena."
We? Our problem? God, this was going to happen! Scrambling his thoughts together, Doyle nodded. "Well, she'll be away Monday and Tuesday then she's back at class for the rest of the week. I know she's planning to study here on Saturday and then she's down in London from Saturday night for two weeks studying the magistrate's court. If you come up for lunch on Saturday, you can meet her."
"Will you tell her before then?"
"No - and I won't tell her afterwards either. I just want her to meet you, get to know you a bit first. I'll tell her later, when she knows who I'm talking about."
"If you're sure."
He nodded, "Yes. That's the best way."
"If you say so." With a nod, Bodie got to his feet, not letting go of Doyle's hand. "You'd better show me to my car. I'm not sure I can see further than your face at the moment."
"And I can see further than yours?"
Bodie grinned and Doyle stood. Hand in hand they went down the stairs slowly, then onto the lawn. They took the path around the house where tall trees stood on either side.
"Will you stay Saturday night?"
"You want me to?"
"God, I could hit you sometimes."
"Yeah, but you don't - no matter how much I deserve it - and that's why I love you."
"Then you will stay the night?"
"Well, I won't promise something with work won't crop up in the meantime - but yes, I'll stay. Sunday too, if you want."
They walked slowly, so very slowly, Doyle could hear every footstep with senses hightened almost to painful levels. How would he last for another week?
Because it would be just one week.
And after that? "Bodie?"
"How are we going to manage it?" Other thoughts intruded on his peace, bringing his feet to a halt. He turned and faced Bodie. "Your schedule is worse than mine. We're both on call 24 hours a day. When are we going to see each other? I don't want to be snatching a few minutes here, a couple of hours there. God, this is going to be impossible!"
Suddenly, he was pushed into the shadows and up against a tree, Bodie's arms around him, holding him. Then hands came up to cradle his face tenderly. In the darkness, Doyle could see nothing, but his mind's eye filled in the details. Then Bodie's head lowered and his lips met Doyle's, lightly caressing, tingling, promising. Then harder and Doyle opened to let him in, kissing him back with a fierceness that took his breath away. He closed his eyes and let himself drown, let his body absorb the reality of the moment; heady and intoxicating. His heart pounded in his chest, his arms held Bodie and never wanted to let go.
When their lips finally parted, he remained where he was for a moment, his eyes still closed, his breathing still harsh. He didn't want the moment to end.
"You okay?" Bodie whispered against his cheek.
"Better than in my whole life."
He felt Bodie smile against his face. "Yeah, me too. Now I want you to listen, and listen carefully. We will find time for us. I'll come up here, you'll go down to London. I have a safe house near the coast we can spend time in, away from prying eyes. We'll go away together, we'll talk on the phone. We'll make it work because we want to. I don't want to ever hear you say that again. Do you understand me, Ray?"
"Hell, I know, Bodie. I'm just scared I'll lose you again."
"I know, love, I know. It's not going to be easy and there'll be plenty of times when we want to be together and we can't..."
"Yeah. But we will make it work. We'll put aside Sundays from now on and build from there. We'll need to see what works as we go. Promise, me Ray."
"I promise. But you can't keep calling me that."
A low chuckle rumbled in Bodie's chest. "I know - but trust me, I'll never use that name except when we're completely alone. I'll call you Alan if I have to - but to be honest I don't care what I have to call you. I know who you are, inside, and I love you whatever your name is."
Then Doyle brought Bodie's face close and kissed him deeply and lingeringly, drawing Bodie in and then giving him back. Yes, they could make it work - and they would because they wanted it - and most importantly of all - they needed it.
"Till Saturday, then," Doyle murmured against Bodie's lips.
"Yeah," it was Bodie's turn to sound rough and husky. Carefully, he disentangled himself and drew Doyle back onto the path. They turned the corner of the house and stopped beside Bodie's car.
"Ring me when you get home? So I know you got back in one piece?"
"It'll be 2 in the morning."
"So wake me. It never used to bother you before."
Bodie grinned, "Then don't get all grumpy when I do." Giving Doyle's hand a final squeeze he got into his car. "I'll see you on Saturday."
"I love you."
"I know. Just make sure you remember that."
And then he was driving away and turning into the road. Doyle watched him go without moving, listening to the last noises of the engine in the quiet night. Long after the last had drifted away, he turned and went back inside. For the first time since he'd bought the place, the house didn't feel empty at all.
Bodie was exhausted by the time he got home and let himself into his flat. As he walked through, switching on lights, he couldn't help noticing how different everything looked. This morning, it had all looked the same as it always had - and now it didn't. What had changed? Nothing had been moved, there'd been no break in.
Or was it that Bodie had changed rather than the place where he lived.
No. He didn't live here any more. He lived up north, in Eastland.
The smile that grew stayed on his face as he had a shower and got ready for bed. He was tired but he knew he wouldn't sleep until he made the phone call. He finished everything quickly, set the alarms and locks then climbed into bed, lying back with his mobile phone in his hand; that was unfortunately the only way he could guarantee their calls would never be intercepted. With the press of a single button, he dialled Doyle's number.
Two rings only - and there was a groggy voice huskily replying. "Bodie?"
"How'd you guess?"
Coming a little more awake, Ray's voice cleared a little. "Well, other people do ring me in the middle of the night but it usually means some kind of emergency. It would have looked nice if the first thing I said was your name."
Bodie grinned, "So why did you?"
"Was dreamin' about you."
"Oh? Nice dreams?"
Bodie chuckled, "Oh, that kind of dream." Despite his weariness, several parts of his body responded to the image that fluttered across his thoughts briefly. Damn the distance! Then again, it only proved he'd been right to leave when he did - not that he needed such evidence. It had taken the last shreds of self-control he'd had available to him to leave Ray standing in his driveway.
"I didn't say that. It was all very innocent."
"Okay - but be sure I'll wrest the truth from you on Saturday."
"You can try."
Bodie laughed outright. "The battle is half the fun."
"What's the other half?"
"You, my sweet, you."
His laughter bubbling down the phone, Doyle said, "God, you're an idiot, Bodie. Go away and let me get some sleep. Some of us have to work, you know."
And it was. The very best night of all.
It was all he could do not to go all out for the meal. All week his idle thoughts had strung together one potential menu after another, each only to be discarded as too obvious, too much, too unusual. He'd always enjoyed cooking and Elena knew that, but she would also think it a little strange that he would put so much effort into making a meal for somebody who was only supposed to be little more than a casual acquaintance.
In reality, it wasn't until Saturday morning that he actually made the decision - while he was at the market, gazing at the selection of foods arrayed before him. He'd got up early so he would have the best choice but in the end, decided upon only one complicated dish and the rest little more than a couple of eastern salads. Bodie liked eastern food, he knew that much. But then again, it was a long time since he'd cooked for Bodie - had his tastes changed?
For long minutes he waivered at the market - but then he saw the time and made a snap decision. Striding around the market he bought all he needed and took off home. Elena was already up when he returned, sitting like a fluffy bear in the kitchen, hair a mess, eyes only half-woken up. He kissed the top of her head as he passed then began to put some things away, leaving out the stuff he would need first.
"How many people are coming for lunch today?" Elena murmured with one eye open.
"Oh, we're in that kind of mood this morning, are we?" Doyle replied with a smile, putting some fresh-brewed coffee on. "Haven't you got some study to do before then?"
"I did most of it yesterday. I have an essay I need to review before I hand it in. I was kinda hoping you'd look at it for me. God, I wish I didn't have to go to London tonight. I could do with a week's holiday."
"Well, why don't you go and have a shower now, get dressed, then bring your essay down and read it to me while I cook. Then we can go over it together." He turned and faced her as he said this - and she sat up, brightening visibly.
"Go on. The coffee will be ready by the time you come down."
She paused only long enough to flash him one wonderful smile - and then she was gone with the speed of youth. Laughing to himself, he turned back to the bench and began chopping vegetables.
It wasn't long before Elena came back, wet hair around her face, eyes alight, arms full of papers. He made a space for her at the table, poured her a cup of coffee and put his mind to the work. Damn but she was good - especially for someone still so young. The essay had a few minor flaws but basically, it was a damned sight better than anything he could have written - even with his twenty-five odd years experience with the law. Two hours later, having gone over it four times, Elena got up and refreshed the coffee pot. Doyle was ready to take a tray out of the oven but when he put it on the bench, he realized she was watching him.
"I guess the reports on the drugs program must be pretty good."
She shrugged, "Well, you've been in such a good mood all week, I figured they had to be. I don't want to pry - I know you've got to keep it all pretty secret until you can make some kind of announcement."
A good mood? Was that what this was? Even though he'd tried so hard to damp it down? Well, she was his daughter and they had been living together off and on for over two years. He shouldn't be surprised.
What would she say? If he told her the truth? There was no way he could bring himself to hurt her - but how could he avoid it? But perhaps it wouldn't work out that way.
He realised he hadn't said anything and covered it with a smile and a shrug, turning back to his work. "Let's just say I'm more optimistic than I have been since I stood up at the confrence."
For one split second, there was something else in her eyes, some shadow of doubt - but then she nodded and began packing up her things. "I'm really sorry I didn't go to Africa with you. We never seem to spend any time together. Not like this. But you're always so busy and I've always got my head stuck in a book."
Doyle stopped, glanced at her, then stood before her, wrapping his arms around her. "You know I love you, don't you?"
"Sure." Her voice was muffled against his shoulder but her body was stiff against his.
"Why don't we do this more often? Have people over for lunch? I've got a few friends at college who would love to meet you... and I'd like to meet some of the people you work with some day. You know, so I know who you're talking about. I know I've met Sean and Rose and Dianne."
"Well," Doyle paused, going very carefully, "you'll get to meet Bodie today."
"But you don't work that much with him, do you?"
"No, not really." She lifted her head to look at him and he kissed her forehead. "But you are right. I do work too hard and I don't do enough of this sort of thing. So I make you a promise. >From now on, you pick me out the odd day here and there, and we'll do something. I don't really mind what - even if I have to put up with your friends picking my brains for an afternoon."
Elena giggled at that and shook her head. "I'll make you sorry you said that."
"I can take it. Now, you go and get your things together. I still have the table to set before our guest arrives. Oh, hell - I forgot desert!"
Elena picked up her things and paused by the door, "I can go out and get something, if you like?"
"Er... yes." Quickly he scribbled down a short list, handed it to her and watched her go. He would keep his promise, he knew that now. Bodie was right - all these years they'd forgotten why it was important to love someone. Well, he would remember from now on - and not just Bodie, either.
He was clearing up when he heard the door bang shut. Grabbing what he needed, he went into the dining room and began setting the table. He was just finished when the doorbell rang. It couldn't be Elena - she'd taken her keys with her or she wouldn't have been able to drive.
Wiping his hands on a tea towell, he went into the corridor and opened the door. He was grinning like an idiot before he realised it. Bodie stood before him, two packages under his left arm. He wore a powder blue soft cotton shirt which only made his eyes more luminscent. His dark hair was cropped short as always, the rest of him immaculate. Dazzingly georgous. However, the smile on his face could only have been described as tentative.
"Relax," Doyle said after a long moment. "She's not here."
Bodie rolled his eyes and held out his packages. "These are for you. One's to have with lunch - the other isn't."
Doyle stepped back and let him in, closing the door behind him. Bodie stood in the hallway, glancing in the direction of the other rooms as though expecting trouble. Doyle couldn't help grinning; to think Bodie was reduced to such nerves on account of a nineteen year old girl was more than he could bear. That Bodie would be so anxious about making a good impression on his daughter was wonderful.
"Where is she?" Bodie murmured as Doyle put his packages down.
"Just gone out to get me something. She'll be back in five minutes."
"So, we're alone?"
Bodie changed then, turning slowly and Doyle's insides did a backflip. Bodie stood close, put a hand beneath Doyle's chin and immediately Doyle brought their lips together. The touch was exquisite and turned Doyle's stomach to jelly. Bodie kissed him with such sweetness, Doyle couldn't hide his own reaction, his own longing, his own eagerness. But for all the promise held beneath it, the kiss was remarkably chaste - not long - but also not brief - and for the length of it, Bodie did nothing more than hold Doyle's chin.
When they parted, Doyle's heart was beating fit to cause an arrest. He opened his eyes to find Bodie smiling at him. "That was worth the wait."
Doyle smiled, shaking his head. He took a step back - not wanting to - but having no choice at the moment. He picked up the packages. One of them was obviously a bottle of wine. The other was a black leather case, about a foot square. He opened it up to find a piece of familiar electronic equipment.
"A bug detector." Bodie replied deadpan. "There's no need for us to be caught without a fight, is there?"
"A bug detector?"
"When was the last time you had this place swept?"
"I don't know. A while."
"Good. I'll do it later, when Elena's gone. Just so we're sure."
Nodding, Doyle put the case into the hall cupboard and led Bodie down to the kitchen. Suddenly he felt a bit awkward, not really sure what he was doing now that the man had actually arrived. In a strange way, this felt like a... date. They'd never been on a date before. Not like this.
"Stop it, Alan, you're making me nervous."
Doyle glanced back at Bodie standing by the other kitchen window, his arms folded across his chest, his face the essence of relaxation - and he had to laugh.
It was going to be alright.
Bodie had had a lot of practice deliberately impressing people. He did it with ease, enjoyed it but knew all along there was something of the actor involved and those with more than a little perception usually saw right through him. Kate had been like that.
Which was why he didn't even bother with Elena. Besides, he had a feeling that if she saw him like that, as some ego-boosted glory seeker, she would be very upset to find her father in a relationship with him. No, despite his instincts, he played it very cool, giving her the opportunity to draw him out rather than trying to charm her. As a result, by the time they got to coffee, they were both enmeshed in a heated discussion about civil rights and police carrying guns.
Like a trouper, Doyle stayed clear. He clarified, added background, nodded and agreed when necessary - with either of them - but basically, he kept to the sidelines, displaying an awesome ability to sit on the fence Bodie had never quite noticed before. At first, he'd been a little irritated by it - but he couldn't help noticing the pride with which he watched his daughter successfully bait Bodie, and again, how Bodie successfully avoided a multiplicity of traps. After the first hour, he found he was actually enjoying himself.
Of course, Doyle's food was excellent as usual. If anything, the years had made him a better cook than before. He couldn't wait to get Doyle down to the flat in London and show him how he had learned to cook over the years. Perhaps not quite a spectacular as this - but good enough.
Long after the last of the coffee was drunk, Doyle got up and began clearing plates. Finishing off her last rejoinder, Elena collected a few and followed her father into the kitchen. Rather than help, Bodie continued to play the guest and, with his wine glass in hand, he wandered out onto the portico to enjoy the afternoon sun.
Doyle stacked the plates into the dishwasher only because he didn't want to have to do it later. Elena handed one after another to him, silent now after her long discussion with Bodie. It had gone well. Much better than he'd hoped. Bodie had done him proud, allowing her to see him as he was and not the shallow charmer he showed to the world as a kind of wall of security. Bodie had made one more sacrifice for him - the list was getting very long indeed. He only hoped he could make it worth the trouble.
Elena's voice dropped a little, "How well do you know Bodie?"
"Fairly well. Why?" He straightened up and began to put more coffee on. But her next words brought his movements to a halt.
"I don't like the way he looks at you."
Slowly he turned to see her eyes locked on his, frail concern hedging a deeper worry.
"You don't like him?"
"No," she shook her head, glanced over her shoulder to make sure they were alone, then continued, "it's not that. Actually, I do like him. He's very interesting. It's just that..."
Half afraid to ask, Doyle murmured, "What?"
"Well... it's hard to put into words - but he looks at you like... he ... kinda owns you."
Hastily, Elena came closer, raising her hands. "No, that's not what I mean. I'm sorry, I mean... well..."
Keeping himself tightly reigned in, Doyle nodded, infusing his voice with the calm certainty she always responded to. "It's okay, love. Just tell me."
Elena nodded, "Okay, but it's going to sound weird. Bodie... well, he looks at you like... like ... he ... likes you. A lot."
"A lot?" Doyle only just stopped the words from becoming a squeak.
"Like..." Elena went on, drowning now in embarrassment. "Like he... loves you or something."
Doyle clamped his jaw down tight and took in a deep breath. Elena was looking up at him, watching every single inflection on his face. Should he tell her? Let her go from one misery to another?
Hell, there was no point now in trying to draw it out. She'd guessed enough to make further hiding impossible. Easing out his frown, he took in another breath and spoke, hardly raising his voice. "Bodie."
It was a few seconds before Bodie appeared. He'd obviously been outside. He came to the kitchen doorway and stopped, his gaze going from Doyle to Elena and back. Doyle kept his eyes on Elena as he said, "Sorry, Bodie, turns out you're not as good an actor as you thought. You've been found out."
From the corner of his eye, he could just see one of Bodie's mobile eyebrows raise slightly. Bodie knew.
But it was Elena he gave all his concentration to now. Over the space of a few seconds, her eyes widened - then darted to Bodie - before coming back to Doyle. Her mouth opened but it was a moment before she said anything.
Doyle nodded, "Yes."
"And you... don't mind?"
"That he loves me?" Doyle shook his head, a faint smile on his face - which he quickly removed. "No."
Again she frowned, shooting another glance at Bodie who remained - wisely - still in the doorway. Turning back to Doyle she murmured, "You... you're... Dad! You can't be serious!"
He sensed Bodie tense in the doorway but didn't address it. He hoped Elena didn't react too strongly or Bodie's natural desire to protect Doyle could ruin it for all of them. Instead, Doyle raised his hands in a gesture of quiet, keeping his expression calm and composed, his voice level despite the fear rattling around inside him. "I didn't expect you to guess so quickly. I was hoping to tell you in a couple of weeks, when the moment was right."
"The moment? Are you joking?" Elena backed away from him a few steps, until she could see Bodie without turning. "You... you two are... together, right? I mean, tell me if I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion. I wouldn't want to get it wrong."
"No," Doyle replied evenly, "you're not wrong."
"But, Dad," she frowned again, shaking her head with incomprehension. "You've never... been interested in men, have you?"
The self-doubt in her voice was not something he could ignore but he also didn't dare approach her. She would only feel trapped. Instead, he opted for the only thing open to him; the truth. "Sweetheart, I want you to understand what's happened. Please, sit down. I 'll tell you whatever you want to know."
For a second, he thought she would refuse. Then she nodded, "Does he have to be here?"
"Yes," Bodie replied before Doyle could. For some reason however, the reply seemed to calm Elena a little. Absently, she pulled up a chair and sat. Doyle sat beside her, Bodie opposite.
For long minutes, Elena stared only at her hands - then eventually, she looked up, not at Doyle, but at Bodie. "You love my father?"
"Are you sleeping together?"
Bodie blinked once then nodded.
"Is this some kind of casual fling?"
"Are you sure he loves you?"
Silence a moment, then she added, "You must be crazy."
"For loving him?" Bodie tilted his head, "Yes, I suppose I must."
"You know what I mean!"
"Yes, I do."
"And you don't give a damn about his life here, his career?"
Bodie's eyes took on a hard glint and Doyle swallowed, unable to still the fear rumbling inside him. But he could say nothing. Bodie had to do this on his own.
"I give a damn about everything your father is involved with. That's what being in love is."
"But you're prepared to risk everything he's achieved so you can be with him?"
Doyle groaned but Bodie was prepared. "I'm prepared to risk whatever is necessary to make him happy."
"But they'll crucify him!"
"No they won't. I won't let them."
"Oh, yeah, and how can you stop it? When word gets out..."
"It won't. The only three people in the world who know about it are sitting in this room."
"God, how can you of all people be so niaive?"
Bodie kept his calm, shook his head slowly and sat forward to fold his hands together on the table. "Alan and I have been through the whole thing a dozen times. There is a way we can be together and not risk his career. The only real, genuine risk he has to live with - is losing you in the process."
Elena's eyes widened at that and slowly she turned to look at Doyle. Her mouth opened once, shut, then opened again. "But I'd never... oh, Dad! How could you think that I'd throw you out because of... him!"
"I didn't." Doyle replied softly. "But I didn't want to hurt you. I know this has come as a shock to you."
"No kidding!" An involountary, bitter laugh escaped her and then she turned in her chair so she could face him properly. "Look, I just have to know, or I'll be worried he's done something horrible to you: have you ever felt this way about other men? I mean, have you always been like this or is it something new?"
For a moment, Doyle couldn't control his reaction. He shook his head, rubbed his hand over his face and came up with a weak smile. He couldn't tell her the whole truth - but enough of it to make sense for her. "Yes, I have occasionally been attracted to men over the years - not that I ever did anything about it. But the truth is, I met Bodie a long time ago, before you were born. We..." he paused, shooting a glance of confirmation at Bodie before continuing. "We were together for a brief time. Then we lost track of each other and both of us put it in our past. There'd never been any men before him. But when Bodie and I met again, well, I suppose you could say it was love at first sight."
"Oh, Dad!" Elena huffed but didn't look away. "You're not going to tell me you've been waiting for each other all this time?"
Doyle raised an eyebrow and turned to Bodie. The other man was sitting there with one of his infamous smiles - not needing to say a word. "Yes, I suppose I am. What's wrong? I thought it was the young who liked romance."
"Jesus, Dad, be serious!"
"I am," he turned back to her. "I'm not sure I've ever been more serious about anything in my entire life. Bodie and I have spent the last three months trying to find a way to live without each other. Last week we realized the futility of it. You're the first to know."
Elena frowned, pinning him with a searching gaze, "I know this is what you're supposed to be saying to me - which is why I'm saying it to you. Are you sure this is what you want? For all that Bodie seems to think he's superman - "
An involountary chuckle escaped Bodie.
"- I need to know that you want this. That this is what will make you happy. If you are happy, I can live with it - even if it does make the papers. I... don't want you to be alone for the rest of your life."
Doyle took in a deep breath and took her hands in his, "Sweetheart, I love Bodie. I've always loved him and whether we're together or not, I'll love him till the day I die. I don't know whether we'll be happy together - maybe we won't. We could just end up being miserable. I can't foretell the future. But there are two things I won't do. One is hurt you. The other is to pass up the chance that it might make me happy. Can you understand that?"
A small smile lit her eyes and she nodded, "Yeah, I get that. But Jesus, did he have to be a man? And the head of CI5 as well?"
"Well," Bodie said into the silence, "I can't do anything about the former, but if necessary, I can change the latter."
Elena turned to him with wide eyes, "Are you serious? You'd give up your carreer for my father?"
"A small price to pay."
"Yeah," Doyle murmured, smiling at Bodie with all the love he felt in that moment, "and him such a tough guy, too."
Elena was silent a moment - then burst out laughing. She got to her feet, shaking her head. "I can see exactly what's going to happen. That's what that promise was about this morning, wasn't it? You're going to give yourself a life now because Bodie is going to force you into it? You're going to stop working so hard so you can get some time together, learn to relax, get out of the office a bit more. I just hope I still have a part in there somewhere."
"If you want it?" Doyle replied, standing, not sure how to take this. "I don't want you feeling uncomfortable around Bodie. I mean, if he's staying here, staying the night, you know... I don't want you to think that... I do want you to be around. Will it? Make you uncomfortable if he's here? Knowing we're sleeping together?"
Elena glanced from Doyle to Bodie and back again. She gave a slight shrug. "I honestly don't know, Dad. But I'm not going to make some horrible big fuss about it. You just let me know if you don't want me here, okay?"
"Elena, you live here as much as you always did. Having Bodie here isn't going to change that. I made that promise this morning with you in mind, not him. But you're right; our decision prompted the promise. I've seen a lot of things in a new light over the last three months. But if it makes you uncomfortable..."
"Oh, Dad!" Elena grouched, "Stop worrying. Yeah, I guess it'll be strange for a while - but I can live with it. Not being able to tell my friends my father has fallen in love at last will be hard, but I'll get by. There's just one thing I have to say though."
"Not to you, to him." She turned to Bodie and met him eye for eye. "You hurt him, desert him when it gets tough or in any way do anything to harm him or his reputation and I swear you'll wish you'd never met him."
Bodie, strangely, just nodded. "Warning taken."
Elena waited a moment longer then turned back to Doyle, "Look, I have to get going. I've got to be in London by seven and I'll be late if I don't go now. I wish I could stay and talk longer but..."
"We'll talk when you get back. Call me tomorrow."
She nodded, hovered in the doorway for a moment, then disappeared down the hall, shouting, "I'll just get my bags."
Feeling suddenly drained, Doyle reached out for the back of a chair, sagging a little. For a moment there - several moments, in fact, he'd thought he might lose her. But, little imp that she was, she'd taken it mostly in her stride - though he was sure there would be more forthcoming after she'd had a chance to absorb it. Well, there was always Kate Ross if she was needed.
"You okay?" Bodie murmured, pushing back his chair and standing. "You look like you've been through a wringer."
"You mean I haven't?"
Bodie chuckled and came around the table. He put his hand on Doyle's and brought it to his lips. "I love you."
"Oh, Bodie," Doyle sighed and willingly fell into the arms Bodie held out. The warmth and security he felt there was like nothing else in the world. He wasn't sure he could live without it now, even if he had to. He gave those sensuous lips a brief kiss then simply stood there looking at the man. "You were pretty good there, answering some tough questions."
"I've had a lot of practice." Bodie tried to shrug it off but there was just enough residual tension in his shoulders for Doyle to feel.
"I was proud of you, how you spoke to her and everything. I've never seen you do that before."
"Maybe you just weren't looking, sunshine. Now, how about we open another bottle and go and sit out on your wee terrace. It's too nice to stay indoors."
Doyle began to nod when he realised they're weren't alone. He went to leave Bodie's arms, but the other man held him hard, determined to keep hold. Doyle blinked, but gazed into Elena's eyes nonetheless. Only after a few seconds did Bodie finally release him. Elena's expression was quizzical.
"I'm sorry," Doyle began - but she didn't let him go on.
"No, it's okay. Actually, I think it makes it better. You look... right together. Is that weird?"
"God, I hope not," Bodie replied with a laugh.
Elena grinned and went up on her toes to kiss Doyle's cheek. Then abruptly she threw her arms around him and he held her tight. She turned to go, then went back to Bodie. "Well, come on, give me a hug too. That's what families are supposed to do, isn't it?"
"Dunno, never had one before." For a second, Bodie was thrown completely - then he gave in to the steamroller that was Elena and swept her up in a big hug. He set her down a little breathless and she gazed up at him with witchery in her eyes.
"And if you think I'm gonna call you Mom, you've got another thing coming."
She tried to make a quick exit, but Bodie was too fast for her. The flat of his hand hit her behind and she squealed. With a laugh, she dashed down the passage and out the door, flinging a final farewell into the air as though it were a school hat at the end of term.
For a long time, Bodie did nothing but sit and listen to the crackle of the fire and the gentle rattle of wind against the french windows. The day had stayed warm but the moment the sun had gone down, the tempreature had dropped like a stone. Ray had lit the fire some time after eight but since then, Bodie had lost track of time. With the windows closed, the curtains drawn, they had curled up on the sofa, sipping port and just being quiet together.
Bodie wasn't sure he'd ever felt like this before. It was an odd sensation. For hours now he'd been aware of it creeping up on him from behind, elusive, untouchable. Long after the tension of Elena's discovery had drained from him, he'd begun to relax and that's when it had begun.
But was it something physical? The kitchen was cleaned up. He'd swept the house looking for bugs - and finding none. He'd shown Doyle how to use the device so he could check for himself on a weekly basis. The locks and alarms were set, the answering machine on. But really, there was nothing there that he didn't have at home.
Well, with the exception of the man who had an arm around him. Bodie was stretched out on the sofa, his head against Doyle's shoulder, listening absently to the gentle thud of the heart beneath the flesh. So quiet, here. So peaceful. It was quite possible that if he could, he might never want to leave this spot, this room, this sofa.
Yeah, that's what this was: peace.
For the first time in... how many years? Ever? Had he ever felt this peace before?
What about when they'd been together, fourteen years ago?
No. Not like this. Sure, they'd spent many hours just like this, watching telly, or simply talking, stretched out together on the sofa, or bed - or even floor. But there was something about this that made it different. Maybe it was the years or maybe it was simply because they'd had to fight so hard and for so long to have this that made it the more precious and the more welcome.
He felt Doyle shift beneath him to take another sip of port. Without thinking, Bodie smiled, tilting his head up to look at that beautiful face. Doyle met his gaze with half-closed eyes.
"And what are you thinking about?"
"Nothin'," Bodie lied.
"Yeah? So why are you smiling."
"Nervous tick. Always get it when I'm happy."
Doyle's eyes opened a fraction, in surprise. "Are you?"
Doyle nodded. "Now the worst is over with Elena. Of course, I still have to pass the test with Kate."
"Oh, don't worry about her. I told you I trust her."
"Yeah, but she knows you. And she used to know me. She's no fool. What do I do if she starts probing?"
"She can't find anything."
"But if she's looking, that'll mean she's suspicious."
"Then, perhaps we should tell her about Cade now and be done with it."
Bodie frowned and sat up a little, putting his glass down. "What's wrong?"
Doyle bit in his lip and shook his head. "Something got lost along the way, Bodie. Something I never really talked about - - but I have to say something now. But I don't want to ruin this."
With a smile, Bodie replied, "You can't. Go on."
Carefully, Doyle sat up properly and Bodie sat with him. "It's why you have to make sure you call me Alan - not Ray. Oh, I know you have to sometimes and if we're in bed, I don't really mind. But the rest of the time... Well, you don't know how hard it is for me to be him."
"But you're not him. You're you."
"No, I am Alan Cade - in every sense of the word. But when I'm alone with you, I'm me - whoever that is. Sometimes I find myself getting confused about what I'm supposed to be doing and saying. And I can't afford to be confused. Not when other people are around."
"So, I'll call you Alan."
"And I can't tell Kate. Not outright. You don't know how much effort it takes to be Cade. So many things I have to suppress. If I have two people who know, that will double the risk I might slip one day. I know you've buried the evidence of it - but it only takes suspicion to ruin everything. And then I'd have much more to worry about than the world finding out I'm sleeping with a man."
Bodie nodded and put his arm around Doyle's tense shoulders, pulling him close. "I understand."
"I'm sorry. I know she's your friend but..."
"And what if she guesses?"
Doyle looked up at that. "Is that likely?"
"Well, she'd done a dozen phyche tests on you in CI5. I should think she'd have a head start. I'm not saying she will - but I think you should be prepared in case she does."
"I'll think about that. Worry about it when the time comes." Doyle emptied his glass and leaned back into Bodie's arms. "Hey, you were going to tell me how you became friends with Kate."
Oh, oh. With indecent haste, Bodie's quiet peace shattered and there was nothing left but tiny shards around his feet. Rather predictably, Doyle instantly sensed something was wrong.
But to tell him now? Was that such a good idea?
And to keep it from him would be to make another lie.
Doyle hadn't moved, but his voice spoke volumes, "Bodie? Whatever it is, you'd better tell me now."
"Okay. But I warn you, you're not going to like it."
"Well," he could prevaricate all he liked, but in the end, he would just have to come out with it. "You remember when I made that pass at you?"
"How could I forget?"
"Well, it wasn't the first time I'd done something like that."
"I didn't think it had. Keep going."
"Well," Bodie swallowed, unsure now more than ever. "After I got back to England and found out you were dead, I ... er - well, needless to say, I was a triffle upset. Anyway, it took me a long time before I could look at anybody - and then when I did, I found I was looking for you."
Doyle turned, leaving the closeness of Bodie's embrace a little. "What does that mean?"
Raising his eyebrows defensively, Bodie continued, "Every now and then, I'd go looking for you. In clubs and bars. I'd... find somebody who looked like you and..."
Doyle was silent before supplying his own answer, "Take them home with you?"
"Not exactly - but you get the gist."
Doyle's eyes never left his. "Why?"
Suddenly restless, Bodie looked away, "Dunno, really. Kate caught me at it one night, in a club in Soho. She dragged me outa there and back to her place. We talked all night and basically... I told her everything. She understood and I guess... became the only friend I had - I could afford to have. Because she'd known you, you see?"
"But she didn't stop you doing it?"
"How could she? Didn't do it that often. I mean, the going home part. Maybe a dozen times over the years. Truth was, there aren't that many men in the world enough like you. Suppose that's why I never settled with any of them."
"And it was only men who looked like me?"
"Yeah. Silly, eh?"
"But why do it? I mean, if it wasn't just male companionship - alright, sex, you wanted. If it wasn't just any man. Why look for me? When you believed I was dead?"
"Maybe because in the back of my mind, I thought that if I looked long enough and hard enough, I would find you. And of course, the weird thing is, I did." Bodie ran his fingers through his hair. "Jesus, Ray, I don't know. I'm sorry. I should have told you before."
He would have got up but Doyle got hold of his hand and forced him to stay where he was. "Why only men who looked like me, Bodie? Why?"
Bodie took in a breath, flashes of memory crowding in on him, memories of another sweet night when he'd taken the Chief Constable of Eastland to bed in a quiet room by the east coast. A man he'd not recognized for who he was - though he should have. "I... wanted you back."
"But I also... wanted to forget you." Doyle caught in a breath but said nothing, forcing Bodie to continue. "I wanted to be with you but the only way I could do that was to be with those others - and at the same time, I could try and erase from my memory how you felt, sounded, tasted and smelt. I wanted to put you behind me - but I kept failing. Every time I went to bed with a man, I could only think of you. Kate," he paused here to stop his voice from shaking, "Kate said I had a psychosis. I laughed at her but I knew she was right."
"And... what about women?"
"Oh, there were plenty of those. In every size shape and colour. They were as necessary to my image as the other was to my sanity. I'm sorry."
It was a moment before Bodie could look up into those hazy green eyes, "That night at the retreat. I should have known who you were. Hell, I know now why you wanted the light out and everything and we've been over that as much as we need to - but the thing is, if I hadn't tried so hard to forget what you were like with the lights out, I might have remembered. I should have remembered. I..."
"What?" Doyle's voice was little more than a whisper.
"Wouldn't have been so cruel to you the next morning."
"And why were you?"
"Because... hell, because you stood there looking so damned wonderful, completely happy and totally content that what we'd had the night before was nothing more than a one-night-stand!"
"But that was what you'd wanted, wasn't it? What you'd always done? With those before me?"
"Christ, Ray! Don't you understand?" Bodie turned on the sofa, facing Doyle squarely. "I'd spent fourteen years looking for you - and then found you in the guise of another man! I didn't know it was you - but it sure felt like it at the time. I thought I was going mad. And, Jesus, I felt so damned guilty because I was falling in love again and it wasn't you. I didn't think I'd mourned you long enough. I didn't want to love anyone again. But I couldn't help it - and yet you didn't seem to give a damn about me, about what I wanted. You just shut me out and gave me what you thought I wanted. I lashed out and I'm sorry."
"Ssh," Doyle murmured, placing a finger against Bodie's lips. "I know you're sorry. And it's just as much my fault for not asking - but my problem was, I couldn't afford to have a relationship with you because you would find out who I was. I couldn't afford to feel anything for you, to let you close enough. God, it was bad enough just going to bed with you. You have no idea how scared I was - or how little control I had in the end. It was callous of me to do it in the first place - since I had some idea of how you would be feeling. But I just kept telling myself you couldn't possibly still love me. It was only when we were in the middle of it that I realized I'd made a big mistake. That's why I told you I understood it was a one-off. So you wouldn't have to go through it again."
Bodie frowned and shook his head, "But I still should have remembered enough of you to be able to tell. Christ, Ray, I was inside you. How could I not remember? If I hadn't been so damned determined to forget you, I might have."
Doyle shrugged, brushing the backs of his fingers against the side of Bodie's face, "And how could I be upset to find out that, in your own way, you've been faithful to me all these years?"
"Faithful?" Bodie was thrown completely, his raging emotions halted by a single word. Oddly, the shadows of that wonderful peace began to infringe upon him again, just outside his vision.
"Yeah," Doyle leaned forward and touched his lips to Bodie's cheek, soft and pliable. "We both did the same thing but in opposite ways. I never slept with another man - except for that one night with Cade - and that was in memory of you. You slept with as many men you could find who looked like me. That sounds a little twisted - but a lot like faithfulness to me."
"And you're not angry?"
"No." Doyle's hand snaked inside Bodie's shirt and brushed against his skin, making him shiver. "You once told me, guilt is a luxury only the rich can afford. Well, neither of us has grown so successful over the years, we can honestly call ourselves rich. Bodie, I love you. We both made mistakes, we both did things we regret. Let's let the past die now. Let's make the present work."
With that, Doyle leaned closer and kissed him, lingering over each lip, sending flashes of delight and expectation all through Bodie's body. Without thinking, Bodie pulled him closer, then drew him down until he was lying beneath Doyle, the kiss continuing.
After a long breathless moment, he gazed up at Doyle with a distracted smile; just watching those incredible lips drove most thoughts from his mind, "Don't you think we should go upstairs before this gets too involved?"
"Nope," Doyle shook his head, undoing Bodie's shirt buttons, letting his lips follow his hands down Bodie's chest. "I want to make love to you right here. The curtains are closed, doors are locked, we've checked for bugs, Elena's gone and won't be back for a week. More importantly, I'm here, I love you and I want you right now. If I wait till we get upstairs, I might change my mind."
Bodie just simply had to laugh. How could a man argue with logic like that? Especially when there were hands working their way down to his tender regions. Bodie gave in and stretched out, already growing hard with Doyle's efforts. With some pushing and squeezing, he found himself naked, Doyle almost so, their clothes draped over different parts of living room furniture. By the time he noticed, he didn't give a damn. Doyle's lips worked on him like fire, burning him up. But more than anything, it was the simple joy of being able to do this at all that brought him close to the edge. And sitting beside that joy was the peace he'd taken so long to notice.
Peace with Doyle beside him, making love to him.
When they came together, the joy exploded into a thousand tiny suns, each drifting down through the haze of peace. Like a soft blanket, it wrapped itself around them and kept them warm while they slept where they lay.
The constant drone of traffic out the window held the superficial level of Bodie's attention. He leaned his elbows on the sill and watched the city traffic grind past, the air filled with smells of so many cars and people, all squeezed together in such a tiny space. London had been overcrowded since Roman times and didn't appear to be changing any time soon.
Icy cold air filled his lungs and made his fingers go numb but he didn't move from his position. Waiting for the phone to ring had never been one of his best loved passtimes, but today, after hours of pacing up and down, of trying to find other things to do to fill in the horrible gap, he'd lost patience completely. His phone was no more than three feet behind him. He would get to it before the first ring had finished - when it finally decided to ring.
As though caught on a perpetual treadmill, he again mused at what Ray would do if the response was as he hoped. The possibility of sheer fury was always there, in the foreground. The temper that always lurked beneath the surface of his mecurial lover, would find plenty to play with if everything went to plan - - but that was always assuming Ray would actually work out what Bodie had done. If he didn't, there was still the question about how he would react. Fortunately, there was no time for him to go to Norwich, no time for Ray to speak to him face to face, none at all with which to postphone the answer.
A flurry of March wind caught a sheet of newspaper and tossed it along the cold street. Even from two floors up he could read the large black headlines of a few days ago. He didn't need to get closer to know what the story was about. The only story that had occupied the papers, both tabloid and broadsheet, for the last few weeks.
Ray had called him about it - almost daily. In the six months they'd been together, this was the first time they'd not seen each other for a whole three weeks and Ray had been worried. Worried about the long break - but more so, worried on Bodie's behalf. Not that Bodie could explain anything, of course. No. This had taken too long to set up, too much effort to keep under wraps. There was not a soul alive who had any idea of what he'd done, nor for that matter, why. If Ray guessed, so be it - but if he didn't, Bodie had no intention of saying a word.
And what if Ray said no?
Bloody treadmill. Why did he always come back to that question?
Because it was the most important.
If Ray refused, then all the plans, all the sacrifices he'd made would all have been for nothing.
No. Not for nothing. For Ray. Always for Ray. Never anyone else, not in a long, long time.
And this last six months had been hardest on him. Day after day, week after week, watching over his shoulder for that unfamiliar face in the bushes, the glint of sunlight off a camera lens, reading the papers every morning with a brush of fear for what he might find.
Of course, he'd tried to hide his worry from Bodie and whenever the subject came up about the press cottoning on to their relationship, Ray had done his best to change it. But Elena, taking Bodie's side on the matter, had spoken to him at great length about how Ray was when Bodie wasn't around. The pressure was getting to him and they all knew it.
The worst thing about it was, that that single consideration aside, neither of them had been happier. It was of course, always hard to part after only a day or so together - and there had been the most wonderful week at his house on the coast to look back on. Seven days without anybody else around at all. Seven days of blissful peace and quiet when they'd been able to love and talk and be themselves. Hours spent running along the rocky beach, or sitting by the fire. Nights - and days spent in bed, slowly making love, getting to know each other again, allowing the passion to build, reinforcing it into the present. There'd been so much time to catch up on, so many years to sweep away - the one week had given them a lot back, but it had been too short.
About fourteen years too short.
And afterwards, Ray's nerves about discovery had only frayed the quicker. Word came back to Bodie, via his extensive grapevine, of Alan Cade's friable moods, his impatience with things he'd always been content to leave, his complete disinterest and distrust in anything to do with the press.
He'd tried to hide - but for twenty years, Bodie had known the ins and outs of that shuttered mind. Ray could run, but he could never hide from Bodie. Not any more.
And so Bodie had begun to plot and plan, scooping up current events and problems along the way, framing things together in a Machievellian manner Cowley would have been proud of. Yes, Bodie had done well, and he could afford to admit to himself, that he'd had two good teachers: Cowley - and Willis.
It would be the most delicious of victories if he could win this one. To win it on his own terms. All it really required was a phone call.
And Ray's response.
Bodie rubbed his hands together and gazed up at a bleak winter sky. The days were just starting to get a little longer now but even so, the night still came down too quickly. He'd promised to meet Ray in Cambridge this weekend. They'd booked rooms in a discrete B&B. Somehow, he had the feeling that they wouldn't make it that far.
He let out a big sigh. There was the other worry he could think about for a while, to make a change. Kate. She'd absorbed the story of his falling for Cade without a murmur, expressing only a little concern that both men be prepared for what might happen - and only fueling Ray's worry more. Aside from that, she'd largely left them alone. Ray had been very careful never to be alone with her and Bodie knew that in reality, Ray was doing all he could to avoid Kate altogether. They'd had dinner at Bodie's flat a couple of times largely because Bodie didn't want to shut her out, knew that if she saw the two of them were happy, she wouldn't worry so much. But on both occassions, Ray had been so nervous of saying the wrong thing, of giving too much of himself up to her preceptive gaze, he'd hardly said a word, clamming up almost completely until the woman had left them.
Bodie had tried talking to him about it but it was useless. And what could he say - in reality? Every day of his life, Ray walked a tightrope, balanced carefully between two hopelessly connected lies. If one of them were discovered, he was positive, the other would be as well. He was convinced the consequences would be catastrophic - so much so, that lately, Bodie had begun to question the wisdom of their being together at all.
Not that he would ever give Ray up, no. But six months ago, in the last brush of summer, it had seemed so right for them to acknowledge their relationship, learn to live with it, enjoy it - and damn the papers, the whole world. Ray had trusted him and, to be fair, he'd been right. It wasn't the world that bothered Ray - it was his own conscience. He felt guilty that he was perpetuating another lie and somewhere along the line, if Bodie didn't do something about it first, Ray would find a way to trip himself up, thereby fulfilling his own dire predictions.
Either that, or he would tell Bodie that their relationship would have to end. That wasn't a guess, either. Bodie had seen the signs, knew enough about this Doyle to know what was coming, somewhere down the line. Another six months of this kind of stress and Ray would crack. And that, above everything else, was the one thing he would not allow.
So Bodie had put his plans into action, letting them run their full course and now, as he settled on the window ledge, his knees against the radiator, all he needed was that one phone call and he would be ready for the final step.
As long as Ray didn't say no.
Cade came up the stairs with his eyes on the papers in his hands, while Rose spoke quietly beside him. He nodded a few times, once again amazed at how he could read and listen effectively at the same time. Rose was talking about an incident in the Parks last night, the papers told him of the latest figures on the drugs programs running concurrently in different parts of the country.
At last, it was the evidence he needed. But how to capitalise on it was another matter. There was only so much he could do in his position. The rest would be up to others.
Rose finished speaking as they arrived at the landing before his office. He thanked her for her report, gave her a few instructions she didn't really need then glanced up at Dianne who stood waiting to speak to him. As Rose walked away, Dianne nodded her head in the direction of his office.
"Mr Crimmond is here to see you, sir."
Cade frowned, "There was no meeting scheduled, was there?"
"No, sir. He called about twenty mintues ago to say he would be here in ten. You left instructions not to be disturbed in your briefing so I asked him to wait."
"Good job," he gave her a superficial smile - but couldn't help wondering what the Man from the Ministery was doing here unannounced. Nigel almost never left the confines of London if he could help it. Their dealings almost always were completed over the phone. With a nod, he turned for his office and went inside to find Crimmond relaxed in a chair by the meeting table. He glanced up as Cade entered.
"Good afternoon, Chief. I trust your briefing went well?"
"Thank you, yes." Cade went around his desk and slotted the papers inside a file where Crimmond wouldn't be able to see them. "To what do I owe the honour? Not like you to come crawling out from under your rock in the middle of winter."
As usual, Crimmond only gave one of his unamused smiles at the small jibe. They'd had four years to work out how their relationship would function - and, for all that Cade didn't much like some of the things the civil servant did - nor why - he had concluded that the other man wasn't so bad, and a hell of a lot better than some he could mention. Still, he always felt a little needling was required before they got down to business. Besides, he wanted to call Bodie with the lastest figures - and see how he was doing.
He'd tried his best to find out if there was actually some kind of political plot bubbling away in Bodie's background - but all he ever met were deadends. All he did know was that Bodie was in trouble and on the hour, he pondered the advisability of him simply going down to London himself to find out what it was. Besides, he missed the rotten bastard. Three weeks was too long in anybody's book - and after fourteen years apart, each day had seemed like an eon.
Then again, perhaps Crimmond was here because of Bodie.
The thought settled him immediately, especially when it was followed hard by another thought, even more worrying: had Crimmond come to tell him the secret was out? Had someone found out about him and Bodie?
Keeping his face composed, he left his desk and came to the table, sitting opposite Crimmond. "Well? It must be something serious or you wouldn't have come in person."
"It is," Crimmond nodded, his face giving away nothing at all. "However, before I tell you, I must stress the confidential nature of what I'm about to say. Things have been placed in motion and they must needs follow a particular course. If you speak to anyone about this before the right moment, you could ruin everything. Most particularly, the press is to know nothing about it until tonight."
"What's happening tonight?" Cade asked, too confused to begin to guess what was really going on.
"That will become evident." Crimmond rested his hand on the table, drumming his fingers lightly and fixing a clear gaze on Cade, open and yet giving nothing away at all. His voice quiet, he said, "Before I begin, I need to know the nature of your relationship with Andrew Bodie, head of CI5."
Bodie had his hands buried beneath his armpits to keep them warm - so when the phone finally did ring, he actually had some feeling left with which to pick up the receiver.
"Bodie." He said, short and clipped, knowing he was holding his breath.
The voice on the other end sounded a little faint, as though the speaker didn't really want to be making this call. "Oh, right, you're there. I wasn't sure if..."
"Get on with it, Donald. I haven't got all day."
"Yes, I know." A pause, then, "Look, Bodie, I did my best but... I'm sorry, the news isn't good."
As the man began to postulate some more, wriggling on the line like an apolegetic trout, Bodie, his fingers warming more with each second, slowly began to smile.
Cade didn't respond for a second. He even managed to stifle any reaction at all bar the sudden thumping in his chest. He was amazed when Crimmond didn't instantly leap up and order an ambulance for a Chief Constable obviously about to have a heart attack.
Allowing a small frown to form, Cade replied, "In what respect?" Good response, non-comittal, giving nothing away, assuming nothing. Came from so many years of lying.
"I understand you met him the first time some years ago?"
"That's right." Again, no reaction shown other than mild interest. Good. Keep it up.
"But you have only really got to know him in the last year. He was at your confrence on the coast was he not?"
"Yes." Then, as though he would normally do under any other circumstances, he leaned forward slightly, "Look, Nigel, what's this about?"
"Would you say you were friends?" Crimmond ignored his question and followed his own train of thought, his gaze never wavering from Cade's face.
"Yes, I would. Why?" Heart pounding even harder now - but he had to know, the suspense was killing him.
Crimmond raise a single eyebrow, "You've seen quite a lot of him over the last six or so months."
"Is my social life under some kind of scrutiny?" Cade asked acidly, knowing he no longer wanted to hear the answer.
"Not as such, no. But you know I have to keep my eye out for all sorts of things." Crimmond stopped drumming the table and folded his hands together on his lap. "What I really want to know is - do you think you could work with him?"
For a second, Cade thought he'd misheard. The frown that crossed his face was completely involountary - though perfect for the moment. "What?" was all he could manage.
Crimmond was obviously not going to give an inch until Cade first gave an answer. So he did, understating the situation far more than the other man would ever know, "I think I could. Again, why?"
Nodding slowly, Crimmond took in a deep breath, ready to talk now, "You will know that for some years now there have been some moves within the more liberal corners of Whitehall, to do away with CI5 altogether. There's always been a kind of attitude that the squad uses tactics that are far too heavy handed. Under the direction of George Cowley, there had been a few delicately balanced moments. One in particular when one of his agents, Raymond Doyle was reported to have deliberately hit and accidently killed the younger brother of a famous boxer. The enquiry which ensued was both public and condemning - but enough to convince the government that there was indeed a real need to keep the squad's funding in tact."
Cade only nodded. What else could he do?
Crimmond continued, "Then Cowley died and Sir Lionel took over. For the first few years, he seemed the best man for the job but after a while, his health began to suffer and in turn the squad suffered with it. The edge Cowley had given it had gone, leaving it somewhat like a toothless tiger, all muscle but no bite. Again, the question was raised about the continued existance of an otherwise thorny protusion in the side of our country's law enforcement. Which is exactly why Andrew Bodie was brought in. His long career as an active agent first in CI5 and then in MI6 gave him the best background we had on hand."
Crimmond shook his head, "No buts. Bodie does the job and does it well - as good as Cowley at his finest."
It was all Cade could do not to smile proudly at that; Crimmond didn't compliment anything much at all. Such praise for his Bodie was praise indeed. "But there is a problem?"
"Yes. Unfortunately, you, rather indirectly I might add, have unwittingly contributed to it. But at the base of the problem lies Bodie himself - and the fact that he does indeed do his job very well."
Cade leaned back in his chair, his concerns about unwelcome revelations put aside for the moment. This was about Bodie - and he wanted to know everything. "So far you've only managed to confuse me. Come on, Nigel, get on with it. Why should Bodie doing a good job be a problem?" Just a little of the famous Cade irritation.
"Because he does it too well - in a political atmosphere that has recently begun to change its attitude on the subject of drugs."
Cade's eyebrows rose at that. "Go on."
"Bodie has been approached a number of times but all to no avail. He is determined to continue down the track CI5 has always followed; hit hard and fast and take no prisioners, so to speak. However, now that your drugs program has begun to show such promising results - "
How did Crimmond know that?
" - there are noises being made to take some action."
Noises? Cade blinked, hardly able to believe what he was hearing. Had Bodie been right all along? "What kind of noises?"
"The kind that make things happen." Crimmond paused - entirely for effect. "In tonight's budget speech, the Chancellor for the Exchequor will announce the formation for the long- awaited National Crime Division."
"Exactly. We've all been waiting for it so long we thought it would never happen. The precise areas of its brief are still to be negotiated - but one thing for certain is that CI5 will be included as one department within it. What I have come here to ask you, Alan, is if you would be willing to head the new Division."
Bodie put the phone down and sank into the chair behind him. For the life of him, he couldn't wipe the damned grin off his face. At some point over the following few mintues, his secretary came in and handed him some messages, a few files and something else he didn't pay any attention to, but she could have done so singing and dancing for all the difference it made to him.
After a while, he turned back and glanced at the phone. He had a small bet running: would Ray do exactly what he'd been told not to do - and ring Bodie? If he did, then it was certain he'd guessed what had happened. If he didn't, this particular secret was safe - and would remain so.
But for the life of him, he really wished it would ring. He would have given almost anything to hear Ray's voice right now.
With a contented sigh, he turned his gaze from the phone and onto the messages left for him. He'd have to make some effort to work today or somebody might notice.
"Let me get this right," Cade sat frozen in his chair, all his best hopes, and some of his worst fears all coming together in the one moment. "You want me to head up the new Division and thereby take CI5 under my wing so I can make it more politically correct?"
"Something like that." Crimmond smiled, "As I said, the details have yet to be worked out."
"Why what? You know why we need a national police force - especially on the work of containing the drugs problem. But it's more than that, now. As you, yourself have proven, there are other ways to tackle the drugs trade - and you've impressed enough of the necessary people in the process. You've garnered support from a whole range of places - and almost universally, those who are supporting the National Crime Division will only contemplate funding it if you are in charge." Crimmond paused to shrug, "The fact that you're friends with Bodie is an added sweetner. You may not have noticed, but the man can be damned difficult at times. He's managed to rub a lot of people the wrong way over the last few months. Unfortunately, something of the trouble leaked to the press - and they've been having a field day."
"Yes, I had seen it."
"Did he mention anything to you?"
"Of course not," and Cade really wished that had been a lie - - but Bodie, in his usual secretive manner - had not said a bloody word about the problems he'd been having! But he focussed on the question at hand, "And what about the drugs program?"
"Well, one idea being touted is that you will initiate a nationwide study on the prospect of putting a policy together."
Cade's draw dropped open. "Are you joking?"
Smug now, Crimmond merely shook his head.
Suddenly restless, Cade got to his feet. If he'd ever been given a chance to say exactly what he wanted to do with all this, Crimmond had just offered it to him on a silver platter. Everything. Just as he'd always secretly dreamed. And in the process, he would be able to work with Bodie - though it would mean leaving Eastland of course - but he could go back to London and... and...
The sneaky, secretive, conniving, lying bastard!
Oh, this was just too rich! It couldn't be an accident. It simply couldn't be. Bodie wouldn't be that stupid to get himself into so much trouble by accident. No, it had to be deliberate.
Well, there was one way to find out.
He turned and faced Crimmond who had been waiting for him to think. "When do you need an answer?"
"Right now, I'm afraid. I have to phone the Home Secretary before I leave here. If you accept, the Chancellor will make the announcement tonight - though your name won't be mentioned immediately. We'll let that leak out over the next couple of weeks."
"Oh?" Cade murmured absently, not really concerned. "Why?"
"To take the edge off the idea that Bodie is being taken under your wing, so to speak."
Cade raised an eyebrow at that, "And we both know the arrangement will be nothing of the kind."
"Precisely. The problem with CI5 has never been that it has a job to do - but that the job is done without the rules and regulations of the police force behind it. By bringing it under the auspices of the National Crime Division, it will be collected within the establishment in a way that will quieten all the liberal rumbles. There is no real political intent to take away any of the special rules under which CI5 operates. In reality, nothing will change. But on the surface it will. You are considered to be one of the few men around - and certainly the only one available - who is capable of working alongside Bodie so that we can all get what we want."
"I see," Cade nodded, for want of something better to say. But he couldn't give an answer right away. He had to talk to Bodie first, just in case it wasn't all his doing. He had to know what Bodie would think about him going to live in London, about losing the frame of independence he had always enjoyed in CI5. He turned away from Crimmond, "I need an hour. Dianne will organize some lunch for you, if you like - but I can't give you an answer until I've had a chance to think about it."
Crimmond got to his feet. "I can afford an hour - no more. I'll leave the papers here so you can have a look at them. I'll need a signature before the HS will be prepared to make any kind of announcement. It's just a draft, of course. We'll have to nut out all the details later." He placed a sheef of papers on the table and left.
Absently, Cade ordered some lunch for Crimmond - and himself. It was late and his stomach was complaining. Then, when he was sure he was completely alone, he pulled out his mobile and dialled Bodie's number.
Of course, he'd been waiting for the wrong phone to ring. Bodie almost jumped when the noise came from his right instead of his left. Frantically, he grabbed his mobile, pressing the button before really thinking what he would say.
Silence for a moment, then Ray said, "Yeah, I thought so."
A triffle nonplussed, Bodie frowned, "Any particular reason?"
"I had a feeling I would be able to hear the truth in the first word you spoke. Turns out I was right."
Swallowing, Bodie tried to keep his sudden nerves from his voice, "It's nice to hear your voice, sunshine. How's things?"
"You rotten lying bastard. Don't you dare play the innocent with me now - of all times!"
"Oh, I can just imagine your face right now. The picture of innocence. How could you do it, Bodie? How?"
"I'm sorry, Alan, I have no idea what you're talking about." Bodie tried the stiff response - but failed completely when he heard a low growl of laughter at the other end of the phone. Rather pathetically, his heart started again.
After a little while, Ray's laughter subsided and for long exhausting seconds, he said nothing at all. Then, "I just need one question answered right now. The rest can wait for later."
Ready, Bodie nodded, "What?"
"Did you just do it for me?"
Now silence reigned on Bodie's end and for a second, he really couldn't find a short reply.
"Yeah, I'm here. Look... Alan, so what if I did? It's the right thing to do - for the drugs program, for CI5 - for the damned country. So what if it's also the right thing for us. I mean, it is the right thing for us, isn't it?" Suddenly unsure, he waited breathlessly.
"Of course it bloody well is, you idiot! That's not the point."
"You're afraid it will make it harder to keep us a secret, is that it?"
"You know it will - but again, that's not the point."
Settling back into his seat, Bodie propped his feet up on the top of the radiator. "And would sir care to tell me what the point is?"
When Ray's voice came back again, it was quiet, solemn and a little husky, "It's a bloody big job. I'm not sure I can do it."
Bodie smiled, "Would I have dropped you in it if I didn't think you could do it?"
"Yeah, but you're biased."
"Again, I ask, so what? Besides, it's not just my opinion now, is it?"
"No." This came reluctantly and again Bodie was left hanging, waiting for the next question. "Bodie, are you sure about this? About us, I mean. If I'm in London, we'll see each other more but... do you think we can take that much pressure? What if it doesn't work out between us? What if I'm no good at the job? What if we find we can't work together any more? What if..."
Bodie sat silently and let the questions run out all by themselves. Unpredictable in so many areas, Ray was the exact opposite in others. "Like I said six months ago, we'll make it work - and let's face it, we'll have a much better excuse for spending time together than before. In the long run, it will actually make it easier for us to keep the secret than before."
"Yeah," again, the voice was subdued. Then, surprsingly, he added, "Bodie, I do love you, you know that?"
"Sure, sunshine, I know that."
"I'd better go. Crimmond is waiting for an answer."
"Call me tonight?"
"Yeah, maybe. I'll see how it goes. Bye."
And then he was gone and for the first time, Bodie began to worry that he'd done the wrong thing after all.
For ten long minutes, Cade sat with his back to his desk, staring out the window, the phone still in his hands. Then he made one more phone call, to Elena, this time. He didn't tell her anything in particular; he just wanted to hear her voice, just to make sure that he was making the right decision. It would affect her just as much as anyone else. But he had to be sure. Because once Crimmond came back in, there would be no going back, no changing his mind, no hope of rescue if it all went wrong.
When he was finished, he called Crimmond back in and stood by the table, a pen in his hand. Crimmond raised an eyebrow.
"How binding is this contract?"
"In itself, completely. As you can see, there are plenty of clauses to the affect that specific details of the new Division are still to be worked out."
"Because we assumed you would want to be making a few of the new rules, yourself." Crimmond finished this off with a smile - - and Cade replied with a stiff one of his own. Then, without another word, he signed his name at the bottom of three sheets of paper and the other man came forward to take them. "I had a feeling you wouldn't refuse."
Cade put the pen down. "When can I tell people?"
"Not before the budget speech begins. Any time after that - though keep the numbers small for the moment. At least for the next week. I'll call you when I get back to London, to pass on the congratulations of the HS. For the moment, Alan, you have mine." With that, he held out his hand and Cade shook it, feeling none of the enthusiasm he knew Crimmond was expecting.
He did manage a smile of sufficiently convincing proportions that Crimmond left him content. However, after he was gone and Cade had returned to his chair, he began to shake, from head to foot and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"Jesus Christ, Dad, you can't be serious!" Elena stood on the other side of the kitchen, her dark eyes alight with disbelief. "When is this going to happen?"
"The announcement is being made as we speak. By the end of next week, I'll be tied up in meetings thrashing out the details. Crimmond called me back from London to tell me that the HS wants me there from Wednesday onwards. I'll have three months to get the Division up and running."
"But - hell, that's no time at all!" Elena came around the table, filled a glass with water from the tap and turned to face him, swallowing without taking her eyes from him. "And what does Bodie say about it all?"
"Ah, and therein lies the problem."
Cade shrugged and sipped the whiskey he'd poured himself an hour ago as he'd waited for her to come home.
"Dad? Why is it a problem? You two are okay, aren't you? I mean, you always seem pretty happy when you're both here - or do you keep your fights for when I'm not around?"
"Elena," Cade began with a half-hearted laugh, "I wouldn't inflict our fights on my worst enemy, let alone you."
But she didn't smile. Instead, she came up to him with deep concern in her eyes. "But you are okay, aren't you? You're not going to split up or anything?"
With a soft smile, he took her hand, "Come on." He led her willingly through to the lounge and sat her down on the sofa, putting his arm around her shoulders. "You know there's a lot of things I can't ever discuss with you, about what I do - and why."
"Sure - and I've always appreciated the fact that you do discuss a lot of stuff that you probably shouldn't - so I don't feel completely left out."
"And you've been good to your word and never spoken about them to anyone else. Well, when I get to London, that's going to get ten times worse. On top of that, I'll be selling this house."
"Yeah, but Cambridge is closer to London than here - unless you don't want me..."
"Of course I want you with me!" He drained his whiskey and put the glass down carefully. "No, this is about something else. About Bodie and me. Something you and I have never really talked about. And it has everything to do with this new job."
"Well, in exactly the same way I can't tell you about my work, I can't tell you the hows or whens or whys of it - but I want you to understand how Bodie feels about me -"
"Dad," Elena began, as though talking to a child. "I'm not blind. I've seen how much he loves you. You don't need to say anything..."
"And how I feel about him." Cade finished, seeing a serious look graze across his daughter's eyes. "I can't tell you the background, but I can say that Bodie, whether it's a good idea or not, will do everything within his power to protect me. Now, he has his reasons - and to be honest, I'm not always sure I even know all of them - but what I'm getting at, is that he is prepared to go to any lengths necessary to keep me in one piece. I... suspect that it has become the most important thing in the world to him and I think I might know why."
He paused and took a breath, keeping reign on what he could tell her and what he had to, from necessity, leave out. "You know I love you and that I would never do anything to hurt you."
"And you don't know how happy I am that you've accepted my relationship with Bodie."
"Well, the truth is, if he'd been a bastard, I wouldn't have."
Unable to help himself, Cade replied, "Oh, but he is - and now I have proof."
Elena laughed a little, "So, what's the problem?"
"When I go to London, things are going to change - for you - - but mostly for me and Bodie. Sure, he'll be around more often - at least in the beginning."
It was so hard to say, he had to stop again. Sensing his distress, Elena took his hand, "What is it, Dad?"
Looking away from her, he shook his head slightly, "I can't begin to tell you how much he means to me. I'm not sure what I'd do if I lost him now. He is... well, to just say that I love him doesn't even come close - and this... business only makes it worse. And when I get to London, he'll go all out to make sure that in the nasty city, my back... will be covered at all times. It might get a little uncomfortable for a while, until I can settle him down. But..." how could he say it? The truth was, he couldn't. Not until it was all over. "But when that does happen, there might not be a Bodie in my life any more."
"What?" Elena sat up. "Dad, what are you talking about? You're going around in circles and I want to know!"
He quietened her by taking both her hands in his. "You don't know the sacrifices he's made for me. Going back a long way. Things that... happened and shouldn't have. Things that people did. He's going to try and make up for it because, despite what he says, he will always blame himself for the fact that we split up in the first place. You know Bodie; he's a freight train and with a good head of steam, nothing can stop him. I'm just warning you because there's going to be a fight - between what I want to do and him wanting to protect me. I don't want us to split up - Christ, I promise you, I don't - but I know him. It might end up coming to that. I just want you to know, in case you might decide to stay in Cambridge for a while, until things settle down."
Elena shook her head vigoursly, "He'll never leave you."
"Sweetheart," he reached up and caressed her cheek, "he's done it twice already - so he could protect me. Twice before he's sacrificed our relationship so that I would be safe. Like I said, it's become the most important thing in the world to him. I know, just as sure as we're sitting here, that should the moment come again, he would do the same thing a third time. And the third would be the last."
"No." But she was no longer certain.
"I just wanted you to be warned."
She watched him with grave eyes for a moment then said, "I'm coming to London with you. I don't care if there are going to be fireworks. You'll have to have somebody around you trust to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong."
"I don't want you getting hurt. I know you're fond of Bodie."
"Damn it, Dad! I'm not a fragile petal! I love Bodie and I love you and if there's any way I can make sure you two stay together, I'll take it. I can cop a little flack along the way if necessary. Don't worry about me - just concentrate on Bodie and this new job. God, I'm so proud of you!" With that, she gave him a hug - and that's when he realised how much he'd needed one.
A bitter wind whistled through the french windows and across the floor of the living room but Cade did nothing about it. He was hot and exhausted and the wind kept him from overheating.
The house looked like the wind had been blowing for a week. Half packed boxes were scattered across every room, pictures were down from the wall, vast quantites of paper and every other conceivable piece of rubbish covered every horizontal surface. He hated moving - and this was the major reason why.
In CI5, he'd moved house on average once every nine months. After the first three moves, he'd learned not to accumulate too much stuff. But when he'd come up here and bought this house, he'd thought he'd be here until retirement - so he'd lashed out a bit, bought furniture and a whole host of other stuff. Now he was moving again and instead of creating order, packing only made more mess.
Elena had been a help over the last week - but she had exams on and so Cade had banished her to her shared flat in Cambridge so she could get some undisturbed study time. Still, when she had been around, they'd talked a lot - perhaps more than at any other time in their chequered relationship. Somehow they'd grown closer than before and for that, he could only be grateful.
It had been a tough and stressful few weeks since the budget speech. The press had whipped up the whole thing in the first few days after his name had been mentioned - but now it had all settled down. He'd managed to get some work done in London, steering as clear of Bodie as he could manage - though that in itself, had been very difficult. They'd not spent any time alone in six weeks now, certainly not slept together. He knew Bodie was concerned about the sudden distance Cade was putting between them - - but he also knew it was necessary for the moment.
He had an office, in the building adjoining CI5's. Other space was being organized and they would all move in about six months. He also had a staff of twenty - not much but enough to begin with. He had ideas of a few people he wanted with him but he would get to all that later.
And hell, it was exciting, putting together a National Crime Division from scratch, being able to make the rules as he went along. Not that he'd been given a completely free hand - but it was enough. More than enough.
Extricating himself from Eastland had proved harder than he'd expected. For all that he was going on to bigger and better things, he found his emotional involvement in the place had run a lot deeper than he'd thought. Sean was running things now, but Cade still had some work to do with him, things to hand over. It would take the Police Committee at least three months to find a permanent replacement for him. With the running around in Norwich - - together with constant trips back to London, Cade was exhausted, almost brain dead and ready for a holiday before he'd really begun.
He left the boxes in the living room and went into the kitchen to make himself yet another cup of coffee. He would only do a little more packing today then get dressed and ready to head back to London. The removals company would do all the rest - though where they would take all his stuff was another question.
Bodie had mentioned he had it taken care of, but they'd not really had a chance to discuss it. One thing was certain, Bodie wasn't about to suggest they live together.
A pity, really.
He'd just finished filling his cup with boiling water when he heard the doorbell go. With a moan that it might be press, he turned and headed along the corridor. He opened the door to find, to his surprise, Kate Ross standing there.
"Oh!" He said, taken completely by surprise. "Er, hello."
She smiled a little, somewhat hesitantly, "I'm sorry to barge in on you like this. I should have called but I couldn't get your number."
"Er, come in." Cade backed away then closed the door behind her, showing her the living room. What was he supposed to do with her? Why the hell was she here? "Sorry about the mess. Just push some stuff off and take a seat. What can I do for you?"
"Well," Kate said evenly, finding a chair to sit on. Cade took up the only spot left on the end of the sofa. "I've come about a couple of things. The first is that, I'm handing in my resignation."
She nodded, barely glancing at him, "Since you are now officially my boss, I thought I'd better tell you in person."
"But why? Have you got an objection to the new Division?"
"Not at all. I think it's a perfect solution. No, it has nothing to do with that. I've been thinking of leaving for a long time and," she paused turning her gaze on him, "now that I know Bodie won't be alone any more, I think I can get away with it."
Cade swallowed, "What will you do?"
"I've been offered a professorship at Oxford. There's a couple of books I want to write. I'll keep very busy."
"But you'll be leaving Bodie behind? Are you sure that's wise? Have you told him?"
"Not yet, no. But I won't be far away if he needs me." She kept her gaze on him, her eyes searching his face in a way that suddenly made him very uncomfortable.
Taking a guess, Cade sat back a little, "You don't approve of him and me, do you?"
"Approve?" Her eyebrows rose at this and she shook her head slightly, as though considering the question for the first time. "It's not for me to approve or otherwise. He's committed himself to you and he seems happy."
"Seems? You don't sound too sure."
Her blunt admission gave him cause to stare back at her. He didn't say anything however, and the silence stretched between them for a long time. Then finally, Kate laced her fingers together on her lap and lifted her head a little. "You're not Alan Cade, are you?"
His heart stopped.
"You're Raymond Doyle," she added in a whisper.
Utterly unable to form any kind of reply, he did nothing at all.
His silence forced her to continue. "Of course, your first question is how I worked it out. I suppose it's only fair I should tell you before I decide what I'll do about it. Again to be fair, I'll say that you gave nothing away. Neither did I do any great rummaging around in records to find concrete evidence. I guessed you would have made sure there wasn't any by this time - - just in case somebody like me guessed. And that's all it was - a guess. But you see, Doyle, I'm not a detective - I'm a psycologist. I study behaviour, not physical evidence. And though your behaviour was without fault, Bodie's has been the exact opposite. I've not said anything to him about this simply because I had to ask you something first. Does he know who you really are?"
Still bereft of speech, Doyle could only nod. After almost fifteen years of hiding the terrible secret, it was out at last - and he couldn't hide his terror.
"He does know?"
Kate nodded and gave him a little smile. "I thought so, but I had to be sure. How many others know?"
"Apart from you, nobody."
"Not even Cade's daughter?"
"No!" Again, Kate nodded and Doyle found words coming to him. "What are you going to do?"
"On why you did it and whether you were responsible for the real Alan Cade's death."
Doyle swallowed and bit in his lip. Bodie said he trusted this woman and from the sound of their relationship over the years, he had reason to do so. But could Doyle trust her, that was the question. Then again, he didn't exactly have much choice.
Abruptly, from nowhere, the courage to tell the truth came to him and he took in a breath. "Okay, I'll tell you everything. But you need to understand that I won't ever speak about it again. What is said in this room will never leave it."
Kate gave no sign of agreement - but he went on anyway, detailing the whole horrible tale right from the story of Marikka and Willis, through the years to when he and Bodie first got together, through Willis' blackmail, his time in Liverpool. Everything - even the night he and Bodie had together at the retreat. The only things he left out were the more soridid details. He told the whole thing, right up to when Crimmond came into his office. When he was finished, Kate sat in silence and he left her briefly to make them both some coffee, giving her a chance to think about what he'd said. He brought her cup back and handed it to her, taking his seat once again.
"Well?" She replied quickly, her sharp gaze raking over him like hot coals. "I can't believe Willis would do such a thing. On the other hand, Bodie has given me the same story about that event so I know you're not lying."
"And what are you going to do?"
She took a sip of coffee and pulled in a breath. "Nothing."
He frowned, "Why?"
She gave him a small smile and tilted her head sideways, "Because I love Bodie, that's why. Do you honestly think I'd stoop so low to hurt him by revealing your lie to the world? God, he'd kill me!"
"Of course he wouldn't."
"Don't kid yourself. Remember, I've been with him all these years. I know how he feels about you, how deep it runs. I know better than anyone just how much he needs you. I'm sorry," she said after a moment, for the first time, her gaze softening a little. "I had to be harsh about it so I could get the truth. I didn't think you would tell me otherwise. Of course, I would have looked like a great idiot if I'd been wrong, wouldn't I?"
"So what gave it away?"
"For the last ten years or so, I've been the only person in the world who knew how he felt about you. I saw his depression, his dark side, his guilt. He blamed himself for getting you killed. He blamed himself for causing Cowley pain in not telling him the truth about Willis. And then, strangely, I saw him fall in love with a complete stranger, without warning. The fact that the stranger looked so much like Doyle was a big worry. I thought he was deluding himself. For three months he was an absolute bear, grouching at everybody, including me. I couldn't get a word out of him - and then suddenly he's happy again, like a little boy with a new toy. That's when he told me you were together. I confess, I was a little surprised as I'd figured he'd fallen for you but you'd said no. I couldn't work out why you'd suddenly changed your mind. So I began to watch him and how he behaved on the days after he saw you, on the days before he was to see you. And then I saw him go through one step after another to bring about this new Division with you at it's head. He had a lot of reasons for doing it, but the biggest one was to protect your relationship with him from being discovered."
"Good. You should. But that was the biggest giveaway of all. I know Bodie - and I know there was only ever one person who meant enough to him to go to such lengths to protect. I knew that person wasn't an Alan Cade who was such a tentative part of a new relationship. Bodie doesn't commit himself that lightly. I confess it was a gut reaction, but I just knew who you really had to be. The moment I thought of it, I knew I was right. Everything Bodie has done over the last seven months only confirms it. But I won't say anything because I love him. And let's face it, it doesn't really afffect anybody else, does it?"
Doyle sipped his coffee quietly for a moment, his eyes on the woman. Then, taking a chance he said, "Are you jealous?"
She simply raised an eyebrow.
"Of me and Bodie?"
"Believe me, I gave up any hopes I had with Bodie about ten years ago. Yes, I do love him and if it was ever within his power to look at me that way, I'd give it serious consideration - before I said no."
"Why say no?"
The first real smile she'd shown him, crossed her face briefly, "I guess because I don't think I could ever love him as much as you do." She got to her feet and picked up her bag. "I'd better get going. I'll be seeing Bodie tonight, to tell him about my resignation. Will I see you at his place?"
"I don't think so."
Perceptive brown eyes met his, "You'd better not be planning to break his heart."
He couldn't answer that directly. He got to his feet with a shrug, "Come on Kate, it took me fourteen years to get him back. I'm hardly going to throw it all away after only six months, am I?"
"I don't know, are you?" She turned for the door and Doyle followed her. "I have to say, from a purely scientific point of view, I'd like to talk about those fourteen years. There's a few questions I'd like to ask you about personality integration."
"No. I won't talk about it again. And, if you don't mind, I'd rather you pretended you knew nothing about it - even if we're alone. Do you plan to tell Bodie that you know?"
"Do you think I should?"
"Well," Doyle smiled as he opened the door, "he did warn me you might guess. I suppose he knows you pretty well, too. If you want to tell him, it's your choice."
She nodded and made for her car. Doyle stood there for a moment, then joined her before she got in. "Listen, Kate, I want to apologize. I think I've given you the wrong impression."
"Oh? You have?" She asked dryly. "I can't think why you'd say that."
"Yeah, well I'm sorry. I was afraid you'd remember me and guess who I was. But I just want to say... well, that I don't want you running off. You mean a lot to Bodie. He loves you. Your loyalty and your friendship has kept him going for a long time. I don't want to be the cause of that ending. Whatever happens between him and me, well, I want you to feel that you're still a part of his life."
Though she didn't say much, he could tell his words had found their mark. She smiled briefly, "Well, I think we'll leave that up to him - after I tell him what I'm doing. I'll probably see you tomorrow then."
"Yes. Drive safely."
And then she was moving away, pulling out into the street and Doyle wandered back inside. He took one look at the living room and quickly decided against doing any more today. There was a warm hotel room that had his name on it.
Or maybe he should see Bodie -
God, he missed him! Missed everything about him, his coarse humour, his eclectic attitudes, his warmth, his arms, his laughter. Keeping away from him for the last few weeks had been so difficult and the strain was beginning to wear on him. All he really needed was a few hours alone with the man, to shut out the world, to just simply be himself with the only person in the world who could understand. Just seeing Bodie over a meeting table was enough now to make him ache inside. Things were okay between them, even with the... separation - but even so... Perhaps he should call Bodie, go to see him tonight -
No. Not yet. He wasn't quite ready - especially after today. No, Bodie would have enough on his plate with Kate's resignation and her leaving. Doyle should stay well clear of that for the moment.
Instead, he went upstairs, had a shower and packed the last of his personal things. Then he locked the house up and got into his car. He paused for a long time, looking at small details on the house that had been his home for so long, the memories within it, up till that night with Bodie when it seemed that he'd lost everything.
Now he was perched on a similar precipice but this time there would be no going back.
It was true. He didn't want to do this. But he also knew without a shadow of a doubt what would happen if he didn't - and he couldn't do that to Bodie any more. Just couldn't. Even if it meant everything would be over between them.
The lying had to stop somewhere.
Bodie sat in his car and tapped his fingers on the top of the steering wheel, again and again. However, the street before him was still empty. What could be keeping them? Why did it take so bloody long?
A shuffle of movement from beside him did nothing to ease his impatience - nor did he glance aside. But Kate spoke nonetheless, "You're still angry with me, aren't you?"
"No. It's your decision. Why should I be angry?"
"Perhaps because you think I'm deserting you."
Bodie lifted an eyebrow and glanced aside at her, "Are you?"
"Only if you think so."
"Never a straight answer with you doctors," Bodie wanted to laugh, but waiting for Ray to turn up kept his impatience on the simmer. "Like I said, I just don't want you thinking we don't want you around any more."
"Bodie, I only told you I knew who he was last night because I didn't want you walking around on tiptoes waiting for me to guess. You know it doesn't change anything."
"Oh yeah? And would you be leaving if he wasn't around?"
She met his gaze for a long moment, and nodded, "Yes, eventually. Bodie, I won't be gone for another month - and I won't be far away. You know that. Please, don't give me a whole lot of grief over it. That's not the way I want to go, okay?"
He caught up her hand and kissed it, "Sure, sweetheart. I just don't want you to leave, that's all."
"Why?" She asked dryly, a genuine smile crinkling the corners around her eyes, "So we can all be one big happy family?"
He chuckled, "Something like that. What do you think of Elena? Little spitfire, eh?"
"Her father's daughter."
Bodie grinned harder, "Yeah, exactly."
"Yeah?" His gaze was back on the empty street and his fingers had resumed their tapping.
"Is everything okay between you and Alan?"
"Sure. Why do you ask?"
"Well, you can't have seen much of him in the last month."
"Haven't. For longer than that. But he's been busy - so have I. We both knew there'd be a settling in period once this job came up. Actually, I'm planning to cook dinner for him tonight at my place. Elena's getting the train back to Cambridge."
When Kate said nothing, the hairs on the back of his neck rose a little. So he turned his head to find her staring hard out the front window of the car.
"What is it?"
She shook her head, her mouth forming a tight line. He knew that look; it was the one he always got when she wanted to say something but was trying not to.
"What?" Still the silence. "Look, if you don't tell me, I'm not letting you out of this car - ever."
Instead of smiling, she frowned, "You'll just argue with me, so what's the point?"
"Bloody hell, Kate!"
"Look," she turned and faced him. "I love you, Bodie and I don't want you to get hurt. As much as you live eat and breathe protecting Alan, I feel much the same way about you. But my problem is, you won't allow me to do that. So I have to say nothing."
"Protect me? From what?"
Bodie froze. "What does that mean?"
She shook her head slowly, "No more than what I've been saying all along. I wish you'd just be careful - but I know it's too late for that. You're head over heels in love with him and you have this blind spot a mile wide. You simply can't see trouble before it hits you on the head."
"Oh? And what kind of trouble is Alan going to give me?"
She shrugged, "I don't know. But... has he really been so busy he couldn't possibly have found a few hours for you two to be alone? Every night he's been in London, he's stayed at that hotel. Is this working out the way you wanted it, Bodie?"
His jaw open, he could say nothing for a moment. Then he gathered himself and shook his head, "You're imagining things."
"Like I said, there's no point in saying anything."
"No, Bodie, I don't want to talk about it any more. You're not prepared to listen so let's just pretend I didn't say anything. Besides," she added with a short sigh, "he's coming now."
Bodie glanced through the window to see Ray's landdrover driving towards them, slowing to find a park. Quickly he turned back to her and gave her a smile. He didn't want this day to start on a bad note. "We'll talk about it later, eh? And I will listen, I promise. Okay?"
She didn't move for a second - but when he kissed her cheek she smiled. "Okay. Let's get in before we freeze."
Doyle locked the car and followed Elena up the road to where Bodie and Kate were standing. Kate gave him a week smile and without thinking, he gave her a brief hug, making her laugh.
"How did it go last night?" he murmured in her ear.
"We survive," she replied without raising her voice.
He nodded and turned to the man who stood beside her, wanting desperately to give him a hug too - but of course, being entirely unable to, he simply smiled. Bodie's returning grin was worth all the summer sunshine for a year. He raised his hand, jiggling keys in the air.
"Come on, before it gets too dark to see anything."
"Too dark to see anything of what?" Doyle replied - but Bodie just shook his head and turned through the gate of a house that stood behind him. It was an elegant Georgian terrace on a street lined with leafless oaks. A very nice area.
Bodie strode up the stairs and unlocked the door, standing aside for them all to enter. Elena went in first, followed by Kate.
"Wow!" Elena said, her feet clattering on the bare floors, her voice echoing in empty rooms. "Hey, this is nice."
Kate murmured agreement so Doyle was warned before he even got inside. He stopped in the entrance hall, his jaw dropping. Bodie closed the door and came up behind him, his close presence warm enough to heat the entire house. Without thinking, Doyle turned his head and breathed in the scent of the man. Six weeks, going on seven since he'd been able to do that.
Bodie either sensed his mood - or felt exactly the same way himself. He immediately put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, squeezing hard. "What do you think, sunshine?"
"About what?" Doyle murmured, forgetting where he was for a moment. Instead, he reached up and took Bodie's hand, turning to face him.
The love that shone out of Bodie's eyes in that moment took his breath away, making him twist inside with the sheer wonder of it all. Doyle heard Elena's feet clattering up the stairs, Kate wandering towards the back of the house - and so took the opportunity he had before him, leaning forward to give Bodie a soft kiss.
Instantly, Bodie pulled him in tight, an arm around his waist. Another deeper kiss followed and Doyle thought he was about ready to melt, right there in the front hall, making one big puddle.
"Mmn," Doyle whispered, his stomach fluttering as though it was the first time Bodie had ever kissed him. "Don't do that."
"Why not?" Bodie murmured against his cheek.
"'Cause it's been too long and we have company."
"Okay - but you're having dinner at my place tonight, okay?"
"Okay." Doyle nodded and forced himself to step back.
"Well," Bodie kept smiling, "Take a look around. Tell me what you think."
Keeping hold of Bodie's hand, Doyle walked through empty lounge and dining room, kitchen and terrace. Then upstairs just in time for Elena to pass them on her way back down. Room after room they wandered through until they reached the back bedroom, where a tall pine commanded all the view from the window. There Doyle stopped, leaving Bodie by the door. The garden was lovely, with trees around every side. The place was perfect. But for what?
"What is this?"
"Your new home, if you want it."
"Bodie..." he began, his voice low with warning.
"Oh, don't get all upset. It's not my doing. It belongs to the Ministry of Defense. It's actually a safe house they use for visiting dignitaries - except they've been using it for a few years now and it's time to sell. I thought you might like to take a look before it goes on the market."
"Take a look?" Doyle murmured, knowing exactly what Bodie was thinking.
"You could move in tomorrow if you like."
Doyle could only shake his head and smile, "You're spoiling me, Bodie."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Bodie replied, coming up behind him again. This time, he put his arms around Doyle's waist, planting a kiss on his neck and making Doyle shiver. "I got you a new job and a house and now you think I'm ruling every part of your life but really, I'm just trying to..."
"Look after me?"
"Something like that," Bodie's reply was muffled into Doyle's hair. He'd deliberately let it grow a little longer and Bodie knew it.
"God," Doyle breathed, holding Bodie's arms to him, leaning his head back against that solid strength. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Well, to be honest, I have a few ideas I'd like to discuss with you after dinner - at some length. Perhaps even repeatedly."
"I'll be you have," Doyle laughed.
"Well, what do you think? It's not as big as your place in Norwich - but you and Elena could rattle around here for days without seeing each other - a necessary requirement I should think, with her around."
"And your place is only ten minutes away?"
"Five." Bodie chuckled, not embarrassed about being found out. "I timed it yesterday."
"Going normal speed - or your normal speed."
"What do you think?"
Doyle just shook his head and let the silence catch them for a moment. He could hear Elena and Kate downstairs - but both of them had enough sensitivity to leave the two men alone for a while. As the silence drew on, Doyle's warmth faded into the background - and he knew it was time. He left it a moment longer, enjoying the last of the peace while it continued: only because he knew it wouldn't when he'd had his say.
"I might not be able to make it."
Instantly he felt Bodie stiffen behind him - but the voice remained mild, "Oh? Why not?"
"I have a meeting."
"Then come afterwards."
"It could be late."
"I don't care. I want to see you. Tonight."
"But it could be very late."
"I don't care if it's six o'clock in the fucking morning, Ray," Bodie hissed. "I'll cook you breakfast if I have to. I want you there."
"I know," Doyle soothed, holding Bodie's hand but not turning around. It wasn't going to be good telling him - but it would be better if Bodie didn't have to watch him say it. "But that's not the only reason why I might not be able to come."
Doyle took in a deep breath and tried to keep calm. "Bodie, I have to tell you something. It's about the meeting I'm going to - - and you're not going to like it."
Kate was downstairs in the kitchen when she heard the first shout.
It was Bodie - and it was all she could do not to run upstairs to him. Instantly, Elena appeared from the dining room, her gaze going upwards, but her expression nowhere near as surprised as it should have been.
Then Bodie was shouting again, "You are crazy, you know that? No, no bloody way!"
The other voice came in then, but Kate couldn't hear the words. But Bodie wasn't listening - as usual.
"No! I won't let you do it!"
"No, damn it! Listen to me!"
"If you do, I'll..." But the rest was lost as Elena grabbed Kate's hand and dragged her out the back door. Kate resisted but Elena had a strong grip.
"What's going on up there?"
"I don't know," the girl said with determination. "But I don't think we should interrupt them right now. Let's look at the garden."
Once on the grass, Elena let go and Kate turned to look back at the house. >From this angle she could see only a crack of the back bedroom window. Bodie stood there, his stance stiff and terrible, his expression dark. He was speaking but she could no longer hear. Of Doyle she could see nothing.
Every instinct she had screamed at her to get back inside and stop whatever was going on. But one look from Elena stopped her in her tracks. No, she couldn't interfere, the girl was right.
But that didn't make it any easier.
"Or you'll what?" Doyle said evenly, his stance, everything about him reeking determination.
Bodie shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. "You've already made up your mind, haven't you? Don't I get a say in this? Doesn't it matter what I think?"
"Bodie, you know I'm right."
"I don't know any damn such thing!" Bodie spun around to the window. He could see the girls out there, pretending nothing was going on inside. He couldn't look at Ray any more. It was getting too tempting to take him and shake some sense into him. "You've made the decision and no matter how it affects me, you're just going through with it. I'm surprised you even bothered to tell me beforehand - or is it already too late?"
"No," Doyle replied carefully, keeping his temper. He came closer but Bodie didn't turn. "That's what this meeting is for this afternoon."
"I... can't believe you're doing this. After everything we've been through." Bodie came to a halt, closing his eyes, not wanting to do it but finding no other way. "Ray, if you do this..."
Bodie forced the words out through gritted teeth. "Then I'll make sure you have nothing to tell them."
A sharp intake of air greeted this and almost instantly, Bodie wished he could take it back. But now it was out there, between them and he couldn't think of any way to make it disappear.
"You'd do that, Bodie?" A whisper, no more. "You'd leave me?"
"Yes." Leaden. Dead.
"Because I have to stop you."
"Why?" Disbelief, horror, agony.
"Because... because you'll be destroyed."
"Bodie," Doyle grabbed his arm and turned him around, green eyes flaring with emotions that ran too deep and too close to the surface. "You can't protect me from everything! You have to stop trying. I promise you, I won't be destroyed."
"But... do you have to tell them about us? Do you have to come out to the whole damned world? Christ, Ray!"
Doyle only gripped his hand tighter, breathing hard, "Bodie you have to understand, I'm sick of this! I'm so tired of running and hiding and keeping everything in separate little places. I've been doing it too long. I love you - and I don't care if the whole world knows it. I don't care if they sack me and I sure as hell don't care if they sack you. Neither do you. We are what's important - and we both know that if I don't tell Crimmond and his lot, they'll find out eventually and probably at the hands of some tabloid creep who doesn't give a damn how many lives he destroys. If I do it this way, then nobody gets hurt."
"They'll crucify you - especially now. God, Ray, I didn't do all this so you could just throw it all away!"
"I know - but it's like you said, the higher up I go, the more it is in their interests to keep it quiet. I won't be coming out to the whole world, just a few Whitehall rats."
Bodie shook his head, his voice coming out harsh and abrasive. "And you know how long it will be a secret?"
"I don't care."
"But why?" Bodie knew his fear was showing, but he simply couldn't help it. The urge - the need - to protect ran far too strong. "Why do it at all?"
Bodie waited, heart pounding, as Doyle came closer, reaching up a hand to brush over his cheeks. Bodie couldn't stop the tembling at the gentle pressure against his skin. Doyle had always had the power to seduce him with no more than a look.
"Don't you know why?" Doyle whispered. "I'm doing it because I love you, because I want to be with you. I don't want us to be checking the street every night and every morning. I don't want you to leave my bed before the sun comes up just in case some one might be out there with a camera. I don't want to be wondering if people at work are watching us, if Crimmond is going to turn up in my office one day and tell me what he knows."
"You know the main reason why this kind of thing is traditionally kept a secret? To stop blackmail. Well, you and I are in very powerful positions. How long do you think it would take before the first photos arrived, the first demands were handed in? Trust me, if I could, I'd tell them everything. But I can't - and the truth is, the only real reason why I won't is because I don't want to do that to Elena. But I will tell them about us and they will learn to live with it."
"Please don't do this, Ray." Bodie pleaded, one last time.
The fierce whisper continued, full of a passion Bodie hadn't heard for a long time. "I have to. I can't go on like this any more - and you shouldn't have to either. We've both been through too much over the years. Being separated, having to deal with death, having to fight the world to actually be together in the first place. For nearly fifteen years we were kept apart because somebody else didn't want us to be together. As far as I can see, this is the best way to make sure Willis can never win." He came close and brushed his lips over Bodie's, cradling his face in one hand. "Please, Bodie, understand. Don't leave me. Not now."
"God, Ray," Bodie breathed, absorbing every facet of the man he loved. Wretched, aching and torn. "You have no idea..."
"Don't leave me, Bodie - please." Raw, unfettered need expressed in each word, a need echoed in Bodie's heart.
And at that Bodie broke, pulling Ray close, closing his eyes and burying his face against sweet-smelling skin. His whole body shuddered as Ray held him tight and slowly, he shook his head, "No, Ray, I won't leave you."
"Oh, god, Bodie!" The relief in Doyle's voice was profound, making Bodie's next words come out more thickly than he intended. "I can't leave you again - not even if I think you're mad."
Leaning back a little, Doyle's expression was a little shaky, his voice along with it. He pressed a thumb to Bodie's lips and murmured, "I love you - and I'm not mad, Bodie. Quite the opposite. Besides,"
"Besides what?" Bodie whispered, no longer steady on his feet. His anger was draining out of him as each second drifted by. His heart was filled with dread - but with Doyle so close, he couldn't bring himself to fight any more. Doyle never changed his mind once it was made up - and despite his threat, there was no way he was going to walk out on the man, even to stop him doing something so drastic. It wouldn't do any good - Doyle would still go and tell them and then Bodie's sacrifice would have been for nothing. He couldn't lose Doyle like that.
He couldn't lose him at all. Ever again.
"Besides what?" he said again when he got no answer. He lifted his eyes to find Ray looking at him, with more than a little trepidation.
"I have another reason why I want to get it out in the open."
"What's that?" Bodie frowned.
Doyle swallowed, "I want us to live together."
For a second, Bodie simply couldn't move. Then, his heart hammering in his chest, he said, "What?"
"I'll buy this bloody house, Bodie, but only on the condition that you live here with me."
"Live together?" Bodie asked, half his face smiling while the other half remained frozen. And in some small forgotten place inside him, things were tumbling around, as though down a flight of stairs. It was a weird feeling. "Us? You and me? Sleeping in the same bed? Every night?"
"Yeah," Doyle smiled, "Every night when one of us isn't tied up at work."
"Never happen again," Bodie whipped back. "And breakfast, too? Every morning? And days off? Just like... like real people?"
"Exactly like real people. Everything. Washing dishes, housework, fights over bills, about who takes out the rubbish and who mows the lawn, complaints about dirty clothes on the floor. The works."
"Huh." Bodie's gazed traced over Doyle's face, captured every contour, every line, every shape; the familiar and the beloved. "And you want that? With me?"
"Yes, I want that, with you."
Bodie just shook his head, something inside him lifting and flying away on wings of sheer disbelief and unutterable joy. "And Elena too?"
"And Elena too."
"What will she say?"
"She'll love the idea. What I want to know, love, is what you say."
Bodie didn't bother voicing his reply. He simply pulled Doyle to him and kissed him long and deep and slow, his arms wrapped around a warm hard body encased in far too many layers of clothing.
Then Doyle was laughing and Bodie was laughing with him. They came apart slightly and Doyle looked at him with those huge green eyes and Bodie wondered if anybody else in the world had ever felt this damned happy. "You want me to come to this meeting with you?"
"Thanks, but I think for the moment, you'd better go home and start cooking my dinner."
His protective instincts not entirely happy, he said, "Are you sure? I mean..."
"Yes, Bodie, I'm sure."
"Well," Bodie hesitated, not wanting to leave Doyle's arms. "I guess we'd better go down and tell the girls the good news."
"I think we'd better."
Kate saw the door open and Doyle wave them inside. Close to freezing, she didn't wait too long. Elena followed close behind but the two men had already gone into the living room. They stood beside the fireplace, side by side, their hands linked two fingers each. For some reason she couldn't pinpoint, they both looked ridicuously happy. Despite her unease, she found herself warming to Doyle again. Whatever it was that had aroused her instincts, seemed to have been resolved - for the good.
"Bodie tells me he can have the power and gas on by tonight." Doyle began, looking at them both. "It'll take a couple of days for all my stuff to arrive but with any luck, I'll be settled in enough for us four to have a housewarming dinner on Saturday. If you'll join us?"
"Us?" Kate murmured, suddenly having a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Yeah, Bodie's moving in, too."
Elena let out a screech of delight and lept into Bodie's arms. Then she gave Doyle a hug too. "God, you're both absolutely mad! But I wouldn't miss this for the world!"
"Kate?" Bodie turned to her, his eyes communicating all he would never say aloud. "You'll come?"
"Sure," she shrugged and headed for the door. The others followed her out and Bodie paused behind to lock up. Kate waited for him on the path. He stopped before her, gazing steadily at her.
"Yeah, I know, I should be careful. But hell, sweetheart, I've spent my life taking one risk after another. And now look what it's got me."
"The love of your life?" She asked dryly. "You really think it's going to be that easy? Just moving in together?"
"Of course not," Bodie sighed. "But I don't really care if it isn't. It's been a long road, these last fourteen years. I'm not sure I would have made it this far if it hadn't been for you."
"Oh, don't be silly," She tried to brush him off but couldn't hide the tears in her eyes. Without a word, he pulled her close and she buried her face against his padded shoulder.
"Oh, you prune, Kate. Do you still have no idea how dear you are to me? I really don't want to lose you and I know you're afraid Ray will only hurt me. But I ask you, beg you to trust him. Remember what he and I used to be like, all those years ago. We kept each other alive day in, day out. We're just the same now only with less gunfire in the way. Please, be happy for me."
She nodded her head. "I am, Bodie, I am. You'll never know how much."
"Then you'll come on Saturday?"
"Of course. Maybe by then I'll be in a better mood to celebrate with you." But for now, it was going to take a little time - because no matter how he chose to look at it, she was losing him. Losing him to Doyle. She would miss him and yes, miss him needing her so much, but it was good to be moving on. Especially when she knew Bodie had everything he'd ever wanted. "Sure I'll be there."
"Good. Let's go. I've got to get everything organized for the move - and Alan has a meeting to attend."
Even though he'd been terribly busy the whole time, the hours still seemed to drag by. However, Bodie did manage to get the house sorted out ready for the next day - and get home in time to cook. He left things sizzling in the kitchen as he set the table by the big window, the one that looked out over the river. He'd always liked this flat - but it had always had an air of being a little too impersonal which he'd never been able to get rid of. He hadn't even been there that long. A year was it? Well, nice as it was, he wouldn't miss it.
Assuming everything went as planned.
He laid two places at the table - and didn't even think about putting a rose in a vase between them. But he did set candles out, turned the lights down low and fluffed up the cushions on the couch. Half way through he began to laugh at himself. He was being such an idiot - but he couldn't help it. It had been a long tough life so far - he'd learned long ago that it was best to take these moments as they came and enjoy them for what they were. It was impossible to tell if any more would come along.
When he was finished with the table, he dashed back into the kitchen for one last check of the food, then raced into the shower. He came out refreshed and clean and put on his most perfectly blue shirt - the one he knew matched his eyes so well. All the while he kept laughing at himself - simply because he knew Doyle would have laughed at him if he'd been here.
Yeah, he was being silly - but god, it was fun!
Dressed and ready now, he went back into the kitchen and opened a bottle of the red wine he'd bought on the way home. A classic vintage to tempt even Ray's refined tastes. He poured out two glasses and set them on the coffee table. Then he stood there for a moment, nonplussed.
The problem with having so much fun was, he really needed somebody to share it with.
Nevertheless, he went back into the kitchen and tried to still his impatience. He washed up the dishes, trying not to think that the longer the meeting went on, the worse the outcome was likely to be. Really, he should have gone along, to present a united front.
Besides, he'd always enjoyed watching Ray at work with a group of potential enemies. They never came out quite the same as when they'd gone in. It was a talent the little golli had - another of which Bodie loved him for.
With the kitchen clean and shining except for the dishes cooking, he again came to an end of what needed to be done. He was about to go and put some washing in the machine for want of something better to do - when he heard the door buzzer go.
In a flash, almost tripping over the hall rug, he reached the door and yanked it open, a smile already on his face. Doyle stood there, looking something like a drowned rat - but he'd been prepared for that. Without a word, he reached out and grabbed Ray's arm, pulling him inside. He then wrapped his arms about the man and kissed him until there were a few signs of life.
Only when Ray began to struggle, did Bodie consider letting him up for air. Then he let go and carefully peeled the thick coat away from the smaller man. "Well," he said quietly, "how did it go?"
"Bunch of bloody wimps," Ray said gratingly. "Just hold me, Bodie."
Like a good boy, Bodie did as he was told. They stood there, in the hall for long wonderful minutes - until Bodie remembered the food. "Come on. Tell me about it while I serve up dinner. Or do you want to have a shower first? Wash off the Whitehall grime?"
"Yeah," Doyle nodded. "Did I leave some clothes here?"
"In the wardrobe."
Kissing him again, Doyle headed off to the bathroom and Bodie to the kitchen. Ten mintues later, Ray reappeared looking more like himself, and Bodie decided the choice of sea green shirt had been quite deliberate. Immediately, he blew away half a dozen of his biggest worries in that moment. He handed out a glass of wine and got busy with the food. "Well?"
"Like frightened chickens, they were. The HS even accused you of deliberately seducing me as some kind of political powerplay. Hell, if they'd known what else you'd done, they would have crucified you instead of me."
Bodie turned slowly, a tray held between his mittened hands. "What does that mean?"
"It means that they had a field day with me. They threw everything at me they could think of: you know, I have to end this relationship - they said it like it was a swear word - immediately. I was betraying my country -"
"I was renegging on the contract I'd signed. How could I do this to them. The National Crime Division was the government's shiny new flagship - and I was sullying it before it had even set sail. I think you can guess the rest."
"And what happened?"
Doyle deliberately didn't look at him then, feigning interest in the type of oven Bodie had. "I told them to fuck off."
"What?" Bodie began to laugh. "You didn't."
"I did. In exactly those words. Then I reminded them that I had signed a legally binding contract and that if they wanted to break it now, I would take it through every court in the land - extremely publically. I would shout from the highest yardarm that the government had sacked me simply because I was in a relationship with a man - which is not even remotely illegal. I then went on to tell them that I had actually seduced you - which, strictly speaking, is true - and that if I went, so would you."
Bodie swallowed and began to put food onto plates. "And what did they say to that?"
With a short laugh, Doyle shrugged, "That's when I got the biggest surprise of my life. The HS burst out laughing and shared a look with bloody Nigel Crimmond."
"Yeah. Course, they already knew about your orientation - and they apparantly weren't a bit surprised to see you'd... had your way with me." A husky chuckle accompanied this and it was all Bodie could do to keep his hands off the green-eyed imp. "They claimed they had only torn stips off me to make sure I was committed to my position - but considering that politicians are more changeable than the London weather, I didn't buy that for one second."
"So they didn't already suspect?"
"Actually, I think Crimmond did - but only recently. I'm sure he didn't say anything. I know genuine surprise when I see it."
"So what happens now?"
Bodie took the plates into the dining room and Doyle took his place. "Mmn, this smells good. What happens now is that you'll have to pack up in three days because I don't want to live in that big house all alone. I'm afraid I'll get scared in the dark."
Bodie already had food in his mouth when this was said - so offhand and lightly. He nearly choked and had to swallow large quantities of wine before he could speak. "Are you joking? You mean, they didn't throw us out?"
"Well, they couldn't, could they?"
"Of course they could."
Doyle met his gaze, green matching the colour of his shirt, looking entirely too wonderful for his own good. "Yeah - but they didn't. We've got a few rules we need to follow, but nothing too harsh."
"Rules? I don't like the sound of that. What kind of rules?"
"No hosting of huge gay parties, no openly consorting where there is to be large quantities of press, no making statements about the government's position on gay rights - the usual stuff. Oh, and no promiscuous behaviour. We're expected to be an exclusive pair, displaying all the fidelity of a married couple."
"Shit, that's going to be hard to do," Bodie replied straightfaced. He was rewarded with abrupt laughter from his other half.
"You do realise news will get out eventually."
"That's what I tried to warn you about this afternoon."
"Yeah, but this way, when it does, the government is already committed to supporting us. There'll probably be some flash of interest for perhaps a few weeks - then, as long as we keep our heads and act like nothing's wrong, they'll get bored and go away."
Bodie nodded and watched Doyle for a moment, "So, it's going to happen."
"Yeah," Doyle replied, sobering. "Not too late to back out."
"It was too late to back out fifteen years ago when I kissed you that night." Bodie replied, finishing his meal. He waited for Ray to finish his then collected the plates. He took them back into the kitchen and picked up bowls of dessert. "Come on, let's go into the living room."
They settled on the sofa and Bodie put his bowl of chocolate mousse on the table. With Doyle's in his hand, he scouped out a spoonful and put it in Doyle's open mouth. Then, as Doyle swallowed, Bodie kissed him, tasting the chocolate. "Mmn, you taste nice."
"So do you," Ray murmured, melting into him. With his hands full of things, Bodie could only wrap his arms around Ray as his lips met those others again, tasting, touching, drawing in deeply, drinking his fill.
"God, I love you, Ray."
"Love you too, Bodie. I'm so bloody tired, though."
"Don't worry, love. Let me do it for you." Carefully putting his things down, Bodie turned back, putting his hand on Doyle's thigh to move it slowly up. Beneath his touch, Doyle shivered. "What's wrong?"
"Nothin'. Just been so long."
Bodie nuzzled Ray's neck, his tongue enountering clean soft flesh over hard muscle. Ray moaned beneath his touch, setting him on fire - but as much as his desire fought him to move quickly, he wanted this to last, to make the most of this perfect night.
So he took it slowly, letting his hand rest on the hardness at Ray's groin, doing nothing, simply being there. With his other hand, he carefully undid each of the buttons of the green shirt, then pulled it wide so he could get at that furry chest. His tongue licked at each nipple, bringing it up and again, a moan issued from Ray's throat, deep and grating at Bodie's deliberation. That sound alone was almost enough to bring him to the edge. Moving on, he opened the trousers, taking the zipper down carefully over the bulge. Ray stiffened as fingers touched his errection and Bodie took the head in his mouth.
Ray almost melted onto the couch. "Oh, god, Bodie, stop! You have no idea how close I am. Please, not yet."
Only a little disappointed, Bodie let the shaft leave his mouth. He caught those seductive lips again and Doyle wrapped his arms around Bodie's neck. Softly now, Bodie whispered, "What do you want, love?"
"You," came the soft reply, "I want you."
"You have me."
"Yeah, I do, don't I?"
"Then tonight I want you inside me. I want to do you, too but I don't think I have the energy. So take me. Here and now. On the floor. I can't wait any longer."
All Bodie's best intentions were swept aside with that brief demand. With a moan of his own, he captured Ray's mouth again, and, holding him carefully, allowed their bodies to slide to the floor. Barely able to contain his urgency now, Bodie stripped Doyle naked, then removed his own clothes. He grabbed the tube of lube he'd hidden beneath a cushion and prepared the entrance to Ray's body, watching with joy, the face of the man beneath him, the eyes half-closed with passion, the soft whimper coming from the mouth. And then neither of them could wait any longer. Doyle lifted his legs over Bodie's shoulders and Bodie slid into him, taking those lips again as he buried himself.
Finally complete, he began to move, taking Doyle's aching shaft in one hand. Ray held his shoulders, urging him on with every breath, his voice alone taking them to dizzy heights, joining them in a tangle of sweating limbs and words for them alone. Bodie could almost see the love in the air around them, breathe it into his own lungs. And it all came from the man beneath him, so open to him, so wonderful, so beautiful. It filled the room, making the air sparkle, captivating it, bringing it alive with electricity. And it all happened so quickly.
Doyle gave another deep moan and Bodie felt him jerk. As hot liquid splashed over his hand, his own body reacted to the muscles clenched around his errection, and with a cry, he emptied himself deep inside his love, giving him the only physical gift that had any real meaning. Drained, they collapsed togther on the rug and Bodie wrapped his arms and legs around Ray, drawing him as close as possible.
Long, long after they'd drowsed, Bodie turned his head to take one small kiss. Ray smiled, his eyes closed, his face the picture of contentment.
"Next time," Ray said, his voice sounding very unsleepy considering the hour, "I think we should actually try the bed."
"Oh?" Bodie murmured, touching his next kiss to the damaged cheekbone. "Why?"
"I think I prefer being on something soft when you fuck me."
"And I'm going to fuck you again tonight, am I?"
"Yes." Ray paused as Bodie planted a kiss on his chin. "In about fifteen minutes. That's why I'm warning you that I want to be on the bed next time - in case you get carried away again."
"Me get carried away?" Bodie replied, lightly. With only a little force, he put his teeth to the nearest earlobe and tugged. Ray moaned and Bodie said, "That's not the way I remember it."
"Conflicting evidence, m'lud. Neither of the two witnesses could decide who had done what."
Bodie took his tongue along Ray's throat and was gratified to feel the man shifting in his arms, turning to give Bodie a better angle. "Then perhaps what we really need is an action replay, to refresh our memories."
"Well that's what you get when you refuse to make love to me for seven weeks and three days." Ray said lightly but seriously.
"Oh, that was me, was it? I see. And..." Bodie was having a hard time not laughing here, "that was because I...?"
"You'd gone off me." Ray kept his eyes closed as he wove this tangled thread - but Bodie was captivated utterly.
"Uh huh? Hard to believe, you being so damned sexy and everything." "Yeah, I know - but it's true." Bodie now reached the base of Ray's neck, letting his tongue dip into the hollow there, knowing it was one of the most sensitive spots on this wonderful body. "So how come I'm making love to you now?"
"'Cause I drugged your wine."
"I should have guessed. And why did you do that?"
"Because I simply can't keep my hands off you and I had to have you even if you don't want me."
"And what happens tomorrow when the drug wears off?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you? It won't. You're stuck with me. Sorry."
"I forgive you." Bodie let his tongue find a single nipple, raking across the soft surface, making it hard and tasty. God this man was so delicious. Ray arched his back into Bodie's gesture. At the same time, Bodie felt hands smooth down his own stomach until they found what they were looking for.
"Now? Are the fifteen minutes up already?"
"Just about. Can't you tell? See, that's the problem with this drug: the mind is always a few steps behind the body. Down there, you want me - but up here, you're too busy talking."
"I am, am I?" Bodie was fast losing his ability to stifle his laughter. And he was only too aware of how he was feeling down below. However, simply because he was feeling that good, he shifted until he could look at the face again, the eyes still closed, the expression still wonderfully relaxed - and all of a sudden, he was utterly caught by the magic of the moment. It came so swiftly it dragged his breath away and he said the first and only words that came into his drug-infested mind. "Ray, will you marry me?"
"'Course I will, love." Doyle replied dreamily. "Thought you already knew that."
"But we never discussed it."
"Yes we did." Now it was Doyle's turn to do wicked things to Bodie's body, making his blood race.
"Long time ago."
"Yeah, but when?"
"When do you think?"
Bodie tried hard to think back, but every thought he formed was quickly snatched away by the sensations of Doyle's hands on his skin, teasing his errection deliberately. If they didn't get up and onto the bed soon, there would be another damned complaint about the floor being too hard for fucking. "Dunno. That first night we made love?"
"Nuh. Before that."
"Then when? We weren't in love till then."
"We were - we just didn't do anything about it."
That much was true. But still Bodie couldn't work out the moment when his life had been decided for him. However, he was fast losing the ability to care about it for the moment. "So tell me. When did you say you'd marry me?"
Finally, Ray opened his eyes, captivating Bodie with one single look, taking him back so far and yet joining it with the present. "Twenty years ago, on the day when I agreed to be your partner. We didn't say for better or worse, but that's what we both meant. Are you going to tell me now that you don't remember that day?"
Bodie could only smile and took the opportunity to sit up, drawing Doyle with him. On their feet, Bodie put his arms around the man and kissed him, deliberately. "Yeah, I remember."
"Good," Ray ran his hands down Bodie's back and pulled him close. "Now, bed, Bodie."
"Yeah. Your fifteen minutes are up. And you know I can't refuse you when you're so determined to have your way with me."
This time, Bodie did laugh - and didn't stop until he was on the bed, his glorious lover wriggling beneath him. Then the laughter died away as they made love again and this time, when Bodie came inside Ray, the peace settled around them once more - and didn't fade away with the morning.
The sun had barely risen when Doyle opened his eyes. He couldn't see much from the bedroom window but the day didn't look too bad. Between the arms of the spruce, thin shards of blue sky greeted him, sparkling in the spring morning.
He took in a deep breath and stretched carefully. When there was no movement on the bed beside him, he rolled slowly, making sure the covers remained around the man sleeping beside him. Doyle settled again and half- closed his eyes, keeping the drowsy cocoon of slumber with him. It was a Sunday morning and there was absolutely no need for either of them to get up early. No reason to do anything in fact, except lie here and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Within the peace, he could hear the sounds of the house around him, little noises he was slowly becoming familiar with. The plumbing wasn't so great that it didn't let off the odd groan now and then. Other sounds he could never quite pinpoint. But this place was fairly old and over the last three months, he'd heard a number of things he knew he would never actually name. Just part of the charm of living in such a nice house.
And it was a nice house. Much nicer than his place in Norwich. He'd bought new furniture, too - or rather, Bodie had. Far different to the stuff either of them had purchased on their own. Instead, this was all warm colours, light and dark and friendly. Elena had helped decorate - she'd wanted to stop the place looking too masculine, she'd said - and as a result, there were pot plants and persian rugs in odd places, drapey curtains and ornate lamp shades. All in all the effect was one of a place lived in; essentially, a home. It had been with some surprise when Doyle had realised that's exactly what he had here. The first one he'd really had since childhood.
And of course, it was never really the furniture and plants that made it that way. It had more to do with Elena's visits, Kate's visits - and the man asleep with his head on the pillow beside Doyle's.
Opening his eyes a little more, he took the opportunity to study Bodie in the soft morning light. His dark hair was tousled and messy, his thick black lashes unmoving on cheeks barely attended to by the lines of age. His mouth was open slightly, the lips relaxed and inviting - and it was all Doyle could do not to lean forward and kiss them when they looked like that. Or at any time for that matter.
A single bare shoulder was all that peaked out from the covers, smooth skin covering hard muscle. Just like Bodie, really. Smooth exterior, hard on the inside - unless, like Doyle, you could actually get beneath that layer and find that there was a soft side to this man nobody else ever really got to see.
Elena had found it - quite quickly too. It was odd the bond the two of them had. Doyle would sometimes come upon them sitting on the sofa together, giggling like a pair of ten-year-olds. At first, he'd found it a little disconcerting and he'd questioned Bodie. Rather predictably, Bodie's reply had been oblique. Something about how he and Elena had something in common. Doyle had decided to leave it at that. Nevertheless, the fact that they got on so very well, only made him more content with this new life.
A third life - and this one so different to those before - and so much better. He was learning, slowly and carefully, how to meld himself back into the personality of Alan Cade. A new start, a new lover, a new home. The people he worked with now knew little of Alan Cade and therefore didn't notice when he didn't behave exactly as he'd done for so long. It was a little scary - but he knew it was time to leave Cade behind and move on. Cade would never leave him completely but now he could afford to be himself more, he realised how much he'd missed it all these years.
And it was so hard not being himself when Bodie was around. He simply couldn't be anybody else. It seemed impossible, but Bodie had, both day and night, given him a kind of liberation he'd never known before. Both at work, and at home. Sure, they fought hard, argued and shouted when they had to - making people at work scurry sometimes - but when they came home, everything always came out right.
A small smile grew on his face as he looked at Bodie. So delightful and so irritating, all at the same time. Who would have thought twenty years ago, that they would end up like this?
And who would have thought just on a year ago, he'd found a fourteen-year-old nightmare come to an end?
What had he been doing this day last year? Feeling the terrible ache of lonliness, the darkness of buried grief, doing his best to survive without any thought of really living? All of that and more, much worse than words had ever been found to describe.
And so he remembered, clearly - and deliberately for the last time - the day he'd been told Bodie had died in Africa. How many times Cowley had murmured the word, sorry, he didn't know - but it was certainly more than a few. Oddly, he didn't recall too much of how he'd felt, only of the separate and intrinsic things that had gone on around him, the guys down the hall, sounds of traffic from beyond the office window, the look of genuine sorrow in Cowley's eyes as he'd imparted the news. It had been several minutes before Doyle had even acknowledged that the screaming he heard beneath all that, was something only he could hear, in his own head. Now, in the safe haven of knowing Bodie was alive and living with him, he could again acknowledge that the scream had never really stopped, not until that day when, like a beloved ghost, Bodie had walked into his office, a smile on his face, completely unaware of the damage his presence was inflicting, nor the healing it was offering.
Yeah, Doyle could still remember the pain of the years before that day - but the sharpness of it was gone, dulled by a newer, better reality. He knew one day he would have trouble remembering it at all but he no longer worried about when that day would come. The simple fact that it would come gave him breath to pause. But for one short moment in time, he might have looked forward to a life with that pain. A life without Bodie, without that smile, that sometimes-overwhelming presence, that short-hand wisdom and awesome confidence. He'd known how lucky he was to have Bodie as a partner, fifteen years ago. He'd also been keenly aware of how lucky they were that they had fallen in love, had had those three brief months of happiness together before tradegdy had struck.
But that fortune was blown away by the sheer blinding reality that everything they'd suffered had been undone, been replaced by a new happiness so much sharper and more poignent because of that suffering.
And he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he'd give it all up to keep Bodie. Everything. Yes, even Elena, if he had to. He'd give it all up because Bodie was everything to him now - always had been. Everything else had been a pale replacement for the life he really wanted, an empty escape from the knowledge that he would never have Bodie in his life again.
Yeah, he was lucky. They both were. Fortune never smiled on anyone like this. Only bringing about world peace would ever compare to this... and even then...
"Gonna talk about it - or are you gonna keep it to yourself?" Doyle started and Bodie opened one eye. "Well?"
"No kidding. What about?"
"Nothing. I thought you were asleep."
"Couldn't with those gears and engines grinding away beside me. Told you I'm a light sleeper. Should think you'd be used to it by now."
Doyle smiled, "Never get used to you."
"Good." Bodie shifted slightly, bringing an arm above the covers. He lifted his head enough to see the clock on the bedside table behind Doyle, then let it fall again with a generous sigh. "God, I thought it was nice and late. I don't wanna get up yet."
Bodie shook his head, his blue eyes open in narrow slits. "Cm'here."
Doyle moved until Bodie's arm was around his back, felt the depth of his thoughts warmed by the tactile reminder of that luck. Scratchy chin hair brushed against his cheek. "What do you want to do today?"
"Mmn, don't know. We could take a drive out into the country?"
"Yeah. Or we could take a boat trip on the canal."
Bodie was silent for a while - then shifted again, pulling Doyle closer.
"Well," Bodie murmured, getting comfortable, "we could just stay home. Haven't really done that for a while. Might be nice."
"You mean you might mow the lawn?" Doyle chuckled.
"Jesus, Ray, you goin' to ruin my Sunday morning with that kind of rubbish? I told you, I'm going to pay somebody else to do it."
Now Bodie opened his eyes, "So I don't have to."
Doyle opened his mouth to protest, and found it caught by Bodie's. Not wanting to look like he was giving in to the inevitable, Doyle rolled until he had Bodie pinned beneath him - making sure the kiss remained in tact through the whole manouvre. Finally, with Bodie squirming beneath him, he lifted his head to gaze into those eyes the colour of the morning sky. "Well?"
"Where were you last night?"
Bodie's eyes rose and he made a half-hearted attempt to get Doyle off him. "Working."
"We work together, Bodie. You weren't there - and you weren't here. Where were you?"
"Not where you think."
"No." Bodie met his gaze and shook his head, "Are you telling me that after all this time, you don't trust me to be alone with a woman for an hour and not take her to bed?"
"I didn't say that."
"Then why are you asking?"
"Because you're avoiding telling me." Annoyed, Doyle got off and lay on his back staring up at the ceiling. For long moments, the silence grew between them and for the first time, Doyle began to be afraid.
"Are you angry because I didn't get home until late - or because I was with a woman?"
"I'm angry because you can't seem to tell me what you were doing last night."
"I told you, I was working."
"In a hotel room, until three this morning, completely alone with a beautiful young woman who was obviously attracted to you the moment she saw you?"
"So," Bodie drew the word out, "you don't trust me."
"I didn't say that!" Now really angry, Doyle pulled back the covers and tried to sit up - but Bodie stopped him, grabbing his arm and pulling him back down. They fought for a moment, but this time, Bodie won, pinning Doyle beneath him.
"Tell me, Ray," Bodie said quite calmly, "do you think I went to bed with her?"
Gritting his teeth, Doyle shook his head, "No."
"Then what's wrong?"
Doyle screwed up his face and shook his head again, "Jesus, Bodie, don't you know?"
A smile grew across Bodie's face then and he touched a kiss to Doyle's nose. "Yeah, I love you too. Especially when you're jealous of nothing. God, your eyes go so green when you're angry."
"Leave off, Bodie!" Doyle tried to squirm away again - but didn't really put all the effort necessary into getting himself free. He wasn't really jealous - just angry. Last night had been the first night since they'd moved in when Bodie hadn't gone to bed with him. How could he not wonder if the honeymoon was over?
Bodie prefaced his question with a deep kiss - which Doyle only resisted for a moment. "I was supposed to stay with her the whole night - but I got someobody else in because I had to get home. Raised a few eyebrows, I can tell you."
"So, you great idiot, if you think I'm going to stray after only a few months of wedded bliss, then you've got another thing coming. I have fourteen years to make up for - so don't expect me to pack my bags until I've had at least every one of them paid back. Besides, who else would have the patience to love me the way you do, eh?"
Doyle found himself laughing - and when Bodie's fingers began to tickle him, he squirmed again, deliberately grinding his groin into Bodie's.
"Now, you're playing unfair," Bodie grinned.
"But that's the most fun." Doyle lapped his tongue out at a nipple close by and Bodie hissed.
"I'll make you pay for that!" True to his word, he took Doyle's mouth in a searing kiss, forcing his legs between Doyle's until their hastily growing errections pressed together. But Bodie didn't settle with that. Keeping the pressure up, he grabbed lube from the nightstand as kisses and the weight of his body kept Doyle prisioner. Bodie prepared him, not letting his mouth free for one moment. Doyle was having difficulty breathing now, his arms no longer fighting the man he loved, but joining him in this frantic, early-morning love-making. When Bodie mounted him, it was sweet, brisk and yet tender at the same time, delightful, lazy and still urgent. Neither of them lasted long, exploding together, gasping in air.
Afterwards, Bodie lay between his legs, touching kisses along his throat, a slow exploration, a loving meander. "God, you are so hard to resist. So beautiful. So damned sexy. Sometimes I don't know what stops me from simply throwing you down and raping you some days."
"Oh, Bodie, you could never rape me." Doyle replied huskily, warmed deeply by those soft-spoken words.
"I promise you, I could. Looking at you day after day. You get me so turned on sometimes - especially at work."
"But it still wouldn't be rape. I'd never say no to you."
"Well," Bodie smiled against his cheek, "you might change your mind next time we're in a meeting and I look at you that way. And I'm probably suffocating you right now, too."
"No, I'm okay. Don't move, please." Doyle replied, knowing that the moment Bodie moved, they'd be separated again. "You could stay there all day if I had my way."
"Oh? So, you don't want to go out?"
"Would you rather stay in?" Doyle replied, giggling.
"Well, it's been a while..."
"A week and a half." Doyle tried to shrug, keeping a straight face, "Can I help it if I find your arse too georgous to ignore?"
"I'd probably kill you if you did."
Doyle couldn't help grinning, "So you do want to stay in?"
"As it happens," Bodie affected noncholance, picked up his hand and kissed it.
"I do love you so much, Bodie, and sometimes, I really wish I could... help you understand what this... well, how this...
"Come on, Ray, out with it." Bodie watched him with a careful gaze, neither mocking nor serious. Simply attentive.
Doyle paused, trying to collect the jumble of thoughts scattered around inside, anchoring himself with the feel of Bodie's solid body lying the length of his. Then he took a breath, "You don't care who I am and that makes it... okay, you know? It's like..."
"What?" Bodie asked softly, letting him work through it.
"Like..." Doyle frowned, trying to piece it together so that it would make sense. "Like Cade's alive in me simply because you love me regardless and that... kinda defeats the lie. You know, like it's not a lie any more. I'm sorry, I know it sounds silly but..."
"No, it doesn't." A deep sound, comforting and warm.
"You make us one person, Bodie. You know the truth and that makes it okay for me to live with the lie. Does that make sense?"
Bodie smiled gently, "'Course it does, love. You always make sense to me - even when you don't."
Absorbing that rich gift, Doyle continued, "And I really didn't think you'd slept with that woman. I was just disappointed when you didn't come to bed last night. It was the first time."
"I know, love. I know. And it's going to happen every now and then. We just have to live with it - and with everything else we've got, I think we'll cope."
"Yeah, 'course we will. Sorry."
Another beautiful Bodie-smile was followed with, "Actually, I didn't mind the jealousy. I wasn't kidding about how green your eyes go. Now, about staying in today..."
His voice trailed off as they both heard the front door unlock and open - then slam shut, immediately followed by an exclamation.
"Sorry!" Elena's voice called up the stairs. "Dad? Bodie? Anybody home?"
"What's she doing here so early?" Bodie murmured.
"Don't know - but she is due back today."
"So much for staying in." Bodie grinned.
"Dad?" Elena's footsteps were coming up the stairs - and quickly but carefully Bodie withdrew from Doyle and rolled over on the bed. Doyle collected himself and tried to straighten up the covers, hide what they'd been doing.
"In here, Elena!"
Bodie was laughing at Doyle's efforts. He dropped his voice low, "Love, she knows full well what goes on in this bed. No point in trying to hide it."
"Shut up!" Doyle hissed.
"Can I come in?"
"Of course you can," Bodie replied. "We're decent now."
Hesitantly, the door opened and Elena's pretty face peered around. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't," Bodie smiled. "Sit."
Elena came close and perched on Bodie's side of the bed. Bodie sat up against the headboard and took Doyle's hand. "What are you doing back so early?"
"Um... I didn't... disturb anything did I?"
Doyle stifled a groan but Bodie grinned. "No, dear, you didn't."
She looked at each of them carefully then proceeded. "I was wondering if you had plans for the day."
"Not exactly. Why?" Giving up any attempt at being demure, Doyle settled in against Bodie's warmth and watched his daughter. Bodie was right, Elena had been around them enough to know what kind of sex went on in this room. They were both men, after all. Nevertheless, there were still the shreds of fatherly instinct left inside him that made him a little awkward at moments like this, when she'd almost caught them at it. When she stayed overnight - which wasn't that often, he found himself deliberately stiffling any noises he would normally make during the act of love. He knew it was silly, knew she loved them both, knew she knew what they were doing - and yet, he still found some small instinct to protect her. Wasn't sure it was ever going to wear off. Not even sure he wanted it to. Shrugging the thoughts aside, he gazed steadily at her as she sat on the bed. She was hiding something - and it wasn't just embarrassment at having almost caught them in the act.
"Well... I know you two are still pretty much a secret and everything but I was wondering, Dad if you would put togther one of your wonderful lunches."
"What about my wonderful lunches," Bodie frowned. "Not good enough for you now, eh?"
Elena smiled at that, always suseptable to Bodie's humour. "It's just that, well, there's somebody I'd like you to meet."
Doyle blinked. "Somebody? Special?"
Nodding, Elena said, "Yeah. Very. Would you mind?"
Doyle swapped a glance with Bodie then turned back to his daughter. "Of course not. What time should we expect this special person?"
"Twelve?" Elena looked worried for a moment. "I haven't told him about you living together - or even being a couple. But he's definitely not homophobic or anything. He's cool about it. But if you don't want anybody knowing, you know, I don't mind..."
"Rubbish," Bodie sat up, took her hand and squeezed it. "If he's as special as you say, he won't go blabbing about it, will he? And if he does? Well, it has to come out some time. So, am I really not allowed to cook - or is the matter negotiable?"
Elena began laughing and stood up, "God, Bodie you are incorrigable. No wonder my father couldn't resist you. I'll let you alone now and go and do some shopping. Be back in an hour." She was out the door before she added, "And Dad - don't let that man distract you! You've got work to do!" The door slammed shut after her.
Doyle was laughing uncontrolably by this point, and glanced up only to find Bodie watching him with a deadpan expression. "As if I'd distract you! Huh!"
Shaking his head, Doyle simply rolled over and kissed Bodie soundly. Then he looked at Bodie steadily. "You know, love, somehow I don't think losing fourteen years together has made one jot of difference, do you?"
"Nope." Bodie held him close, "Just all that much more catching up to do."
"Not to mention all that lawn mowing."
Now Bodie was laughing, too. "Okay, okay, you win. I'll go mow the lawn for our daughter's new man. But next week I'm paying somebody else to do it - so I can do some more of this catching up stuff."
"Is that a promise?" Doyle snuggled close, lifting his face to Bodie's.
Bodie nodded, somberly, "Absolutely." He paused, taking Doyle's hand in his, lifting it to his lips. "You know what today is?"
"Yeah," Doyle nodded, equally sobered. "A year since you walked into my office."
"Yeah," Bodie breathed, his eyes searching Doyle's.
Hesitant, Doyle paused, not sure if he wanted to remember - but knowing he couldn't ignore it completely. "How do you feel?"
"In a word?" Bodie's expression became about as serious as Doyle had ever seen it, "Humble."
Sudden tears pricked at Doyle's eyes, making Bodie smile gently. "Jesus, Bodie..."
"Yeah, I know, love, I know. There but for the grace of god."
Trying to release the sudden tension in his chest, Doyle pulled him closer, held him tighter, "How did you know?"
In answer, Bodie touched a finger to his lips, let it trail down to his chin, "I know I use all the words I can, but Ray, I don't think I'm ever going to be able to tell you what you mean to me."
"You don't need to, Bodie," Doyle whispered, a sob caught in his throat. "If it's half what I feel...
"So how could I not know what you would be lying there, thinking, first thing this morning? Why it was so important to both of us that I come home last night, so we could spend this time together?"
"But you did, Bodie," Doyle pressed a brief touch of his lips to Bodie's. He met Bodie's gaze once more, the heaviness lifting from him, powered by the look in those blue eyes. "You came home to me."
"Yeah," Bodie gave him a slow smile, bringing fourteen years of sorrow to an end in that one moment. "Yeah, I did. Always will." And with that, he deliberately did his best to distract Doyle with another deep loving kiss, one that not only sealed that promise, but everything else.
It was a tough life, but hey, somebody had to live it.
-- THE END --