Life Goes On
by Joana Dey
This is a sequel to Gentle On My Mind by Kathy Keegan. Gentle On My Mind features a scenario in which Ray Doyle has been involved in a car accident and suffered severe injuries. He's brain damaged. A lot of his memory has gone and his "problem solving" abilities are jeopardized. Ray is "intellectually challenged," and with Bodie's help is fighting back.
Newly released from hospital, Ray goes home....to a new home with Bodie. Their friends from CI5 are most supportive, especially when Bodie is still at work and in harm's way. Ray's uncle invites them for a short holiday on the farm "out west," and Ray rediscovers motorbikes. Slowly he's regaining a sense of self and purpose while filling in the blanks in his memory with new memories.
Here is the "Holiday In Rome" chapter, where the high point of the story is the two weeks in Italy where Ray's horizons are broadened. He's working again, at a Sports Club; Bodie gives him all the space he needs to grow and learn. Then some men CI5 are searching for turn up at the very club where Ray is working...
In this chapter Ray is really getting his feet back under him. He's spending more time at CI5 and he's studying for a new job under the watchful eye of George Cowley. Imagine Ray and Macklin as allies and pals! But Towser's not so nice to be around, and Bodie's work is taking him into danger.
It's Christmas, and Ray is back at work. He's developing in every way, and not only is he 'aware' of women, well, women are aware of him, too. Bodie is amused, but the situation blows up when a girl makes a heavy pass, not at Ray, but at Bodie. Meanwhile, Murphy's about to become a father, and Brian Macklin, Ray's good friend and sometime tutor, is ailing.
Ray and Bodie are working full time...busy, productive, positive and optimistic. In fact, they're working so hard that the time has come for a good vacation. They take the opportunity to go out to Uncle Albert's farm, where Ray has his horse. And then, as always, trouble. Bodie and Ray do some detective work and uncover a snake pit of trouble that will land Bodie in the hospital, and Ray behind the wheel of a car, driving on the open road for first time since the accident where he almost died.
Chapters one through three are all novel length, while chapters four and five were published in Encore One and Two. The entire series is available from Nuthatch Press.
"Life Goes On" takes place after chapter five of "Gentle On My Mind." This zine was originally published by IDP Press on January 2001 and is now out-of-print. "Life Goes On" was written and published with the kind consent of Nuthatch Press.
Ray set the steaming casserole dish on the table and slid into his chair. Smiling across at Bodie, he filled his plate. "Mum called. She wants to know if we can pick her up at the station next Sunday. Uncle Albert's all mended and she's ready to come home."
"Did she say what time?" Bodie helped himself to his own large helping of the savoury chicken.
Ray's brow creased in thought. "No, she didn't know yet." He paused, teeth worrying his lower lip. "Bodie?"
"Mmm?" When Ray didn't continue, Bodie set his cutlery down and eyed him curiously. Ray's lips were pursed, and he was marching his fork through his meal like a soldier on manoeuvres. Bodie waited; something he'd learned to do even before the car accident.
"I've been thinking, Bodie, maybe I could go out to the farm for a while? I've got those two days holiday, and since you have to work and all..." Ray kept his eyes on his plate.
"Ray? Pet? What's wrong?" Bodie was puzzled. It seemed a simple enough request.
"I'd like to stay here with you, only you'll be at work, and I just thought... Then I could come home with Mum?" Ray finished in a rush, tilting his head just enough to watch Bodie's reaction from the corner of his eye. "I'll miss you, and it'll be really lonely in bed all by m'self, but I'll have Buck, and..." he broke off as Bodie started chuckling. "Bodie, don't laugh at me."
"Looks like it to me," Ray commented dryly.
"I was afraid you were going to tell me something horrible, from the look on your face. We'll need to check with Mum, but I certainly don't see why you can't stay at the farm for an extra couple of days. We can ring up Peter and Laurie. They can drive up for the weekend, too, and then take me back. You can have those two days, and I'm sure Mum won't mind staying a little longer with you there. She can bring you back in our car, or Laurie's." He smiled at the eager look on Ray's face. "Sound like a good idea to you?"
"Yeah. I'll miss you, though."
"You'll have Mum, and Buck. And Uncle Albert and Jim and Irish and..." His voice trailed off as Ray groaned.
"'S not the same thing."
"I should hope not," Bodie huffed, in his most offended tone. "I'd hate to think you'd give me up for a dog or horse."
Ray's face lit up. "Bodie, honey." He stopped, licking his lips. "I'd never, ever give you up."
Bodie felt his face flush, and he quickly stuffed a piece of chicken into his mouth. Ray had the damnedest ability to get him going and without even being aware of what he was doing. Just the way he said, "honey," his voice going all low and husky.
At the abrupt question, Ray glanced up, startled. Seeing the look on Bodie's face, he let his fork slip to the plate and stood, gathering the dirty dishes, a secret little smile appearing on his lips.
"I've got to put the leftovers in the refrigerator, Bodie, or Buck'll eat 'em."
"Let him. I want you now." Bodie followed Ray from the table, and reached for him, his hands sliding over tight buttocks, mouth nuzzling a curl-covered ear.
"Bo-die..." Ray's eyes closed, and he turned, lips blindly searching for Bodie's.
The casserole dish sliding from Ray's almost nerveless hand brought Bodie back to reality, and he grabbed for it just in time to prevent it from shattering on the floor. He snorted as Buck plonked his haunches down on the floor, the collie's long, drooling tongue disappearing back into his mouth.
"Bodie? What's funny?"
"Buck. Thought he was about to get a chicken dinner, didn't he?"
"Oh." Ray wasn't paying much attention. His hands tried to force Bodie's face back towards him, wanting kisses.
Bodie grabbed his wrists, stopping him. "You were right, Ray, we have to put the food away."
Ray stepped back, sighing. "I wish you'd make up your mind, then."
Chuckling, Bodie quickly popped the food into the refrigerator before reaching for his lover. "So, what're you waiting for then? Thought you were feeling randy?"
"I am." Ray walked towards the stairs, bum twitching back and forth. He twisted around to glance at Bodie, a saucy grin on his face. "You coming?"
"Not yet, but I will be. You'll see to that."
Bodie reached forward, his fingers waggling, and Ray took off up the stairs, laughing hysterically.
The first half of the week had been very slow, and Bodie sincerely hoped the next two days would pass by with a bit more speed. He and Murphy were in their office, ostensibly going over the paperwork on the new recruits. Neither one of them had their minds on the job, however.
Bodie rose and opened the small window to let in the warm summer breeze. As the strong city stench floated in, he closed it again. He was half listening to Murphy as the proud daddy recounted little Silvia's latest gurgle and coo, but his brain was on the trip to Albert's farm this weekend.
"...she smiled right at me and said 'dada'." Murphy was glowing.
The buzzing intercom interrupted both Murphy's raptures and Bodie's thoughts.
"Three-seven?" It was Betty. "Mr Cowley would like to see you as soon as possible, please."
"Right. On my way."
He left Murphy busy with the computers and walked briskly down to Cowley's office, wondering what could be on the controller's mind that didn't concern Murphy. Cowley usually spoke to both of them when it came to new operations. Unless it was something to do with Ray. Bodie lengthened his stride until he was almost running by the time he got to the door.
Betty raised her head, eyebrows arching as he burst through, and he slowed, straightening his jacket.
"You did say as soon as possible," he reminded her.
"Yes, I did." She smiled before returning her gaze to the papers on her desk. "You can go right in."
Bodie did so, closing the inner door quietly behind him. The expression on his face must have betrayed his worry, for Cowley took one look and frowned.
"Och, everything's fine, Bodie." He waited till Bodie had settled into a chair before continuing. "Kate Ross has to return to Ireland, and they're sending us Dr McFarlaine in the interim."
"Bloody Roger Ram-jet," Bodie muttered under his breath before raising his voice. "He's not going to have anything to do with Ray, is he? Ray's not due for testing, and Psychology has nothing to do with Physiotherapy."
"The only time they should even see each other is in the canteen or passing in the halls." Cowley shifted in his chair. The Old Man was looking a little pinched about the mouth, and Bodie reckoned it was about time for his afternoon rest break. "No, Bodie, I think we're safe from a repeat of last time. I thought you'd like to prepare Ray, so he's not taken unaware if they do meet up."
"That's kind of you, sir. When does he arrive?"
"Tomorrow. I understand Ray has the coming Monday and Tuesday off. McFarlaine will be here for the remainder of this week and an additional three more."
"I'll tell Ray in a bit." One more precaution came to mind. "Sir, will you be saying anything to McFarlaine regarding Ray?"
"Yes." Cowley showed one of his rare smiles. "Don't worry, Bodie. I'll speak with the doctor."
"Thank you, sir."
Bodie stood and left the office, wondering how to tell Ray one of his worst nightmares was about to reappear in his life. He was so preoccupied that he found himself back at his office with no recollection of the journey there.
Murphy stared at Bodie as he entered the room. "Everything okay? You seem puzzled."
Bodie passed on what Cowley had told him.
"What does this have to do with Ray?" It was Murphy's turn to look confused.
"Remember the first time Ray came back to work, and he didn't stay?"
"It was while Ross was working with 3 Para somewhere in Ireland, wasn't it? You said he was under the weather or some such. No?"
"No. He took the tests with McFarlaine. Ray knew the answers; it just took him too long to work them out. He wasn't familiar with a computer keyboard then."
Murphy nodded, understanding spreading across his face. "And for Ray, that was tantamount to calling him a failure. You must have had quite a job picking up the pieces."
"Yeah." Bodie reached for the phone to ring Ray. He listened to the buzz on the other end, and was just about to hang up when Ray answered.
"It's me. What have you been doing? You sound out of breath."
"I was working with Marriott; he's still sore from that fall last week, and I heard the phone ring. I had to run to answer it," Ray explained.
"In the bog. What's up?"
"Oh, I felt like a break about now and wondered if you could use a cuppa, too," Bodie said. "I haven't seen you all morning."
"I should be able to. Let me ask David. He's back now." There was a clatter as Ray set the phone down on the desk, then the quiet murmur of voices before he came back on the line. "'S okay. I'll meet you in the canteen, then. I miss you, too," he added softly.
Frowning, Bodie replaced the receiver, flapped a hand at Murphy, and shot out the door. He made it to the canteen in no time at all, a little surprised to have arrived before Ray as the surgery was much closer to it than his office. Joining the queue, he picked up two teas and assorted biscuits, then headed for a table tucked away in the corner. He looked up to see Ray, a frown marring his face, pause in the doorway.
As Ray approached, the smile Bodie was attempting died. He stayed quiet as Ray sat down across from him and poured some tea. When the silence had stretched to an uncomfortable length, Bodie finally asked what was wrong.
"That man's coming back." Ray stirred his tea vigorously. "McFarlaine."
"How did you find out?"
"I heard David on the phone to Dr Ross. She rang up right after you," Ray said, his tone slightly bitter. "When was someone going to tell me?"
"I only just found out, Ray. It's what I was coming to tell you. Mr Cowley told me a few minutes ago; I rang you the instant I got back to my office," Bodie said gently. "You shouldn't have anything at all to do with him, so there's nothing to worry about." He handed Ray a shortbread.
"I know there isn't. I won't even have to see him, not really." Ray absently took the biscuit. "It's just...he makes me remember how stupid I am and--"
"You are not stupid." Curious heads swung their way, and Bodie lowered his voice. They had to share the canteen with other departments, and not everyone knew who they were, or what had happened to Ray. "You're not stupid, Ray. How many times do I have to tell you that? You're a walking miracle. You could have been dead instead..." He stopped, his voice breaking.
Even now, Bodie's gut tightened when he remembered that day: the car crushed almost beyond recognition; the blood--Christ, so much of it--everywhere, thickest where Ray's head had smashed into the dashboard. And the days, the weeks, of watching Ray in a coma...
...not knowing what would be left of the man when he awoke. If he ever did...
Ray's harsh whisper broke through his memories, and Bodie looked up into wide, concerned green eyes.
"I'm sorry, Ray. It's okay." Bodie hastened to reassure him, wanting to wipe the worry off his lover's face. He spoke softly, privately. "You've come so far, and it bothers me when you call yourself names like that. We've gone over this before. If you weren't as quick as you are, you'd still be sitting in the window at Mum's house waiting for me to come home every day. You wouldn't be taking the test to be a physio, and you wouldn't be working here. Do you think David would let you work on the agents who come in with sore muscles and sprains? Do you think Cowley would hire someone stupid? Do you think someone stupid could have done what you did this past spring, taking us all to hospital, driving the van, putting my shoulder back in its socket?"
Ray shook his head, not saying anything.
Bodie reached over and ran his thumb quickly, softly, against the back of Ray's hand before taking up his teacup again. "Ray? What is it?"
"Why're you mad at me?" His voice came out low and confused.
"Mad? I'm not..." Bodie paused. "I'm not mad at you, Ray, not exactly. I want you to understand this and believe it. I'm upset that you keep saying you're stupid when you're not. Stupid people can't do all the things you do. You're different. You're a little slower than most people are, but do you really believe you're stupid? Ray? Honestly?"
"I can't do what I did before. 'M different."
"Since when did different mean stupid? Think of all the things you can do that you couldn't do last year. Or the year before."
The shortbread was in pieces, and Ray busily made tiny crumb piles as he pondered what Bodie had said. Finally he heaved a great sigh and lifted his head.
"I can read. I pick up supplies for the surgery; David says they never used to get the right things before I was here, and I can..." He gazed defiantly at Bodie. "And I can drive on the main road, if I have to."
Bodie nodded solemnly. "Yes, you certainly can. And what about Roger Ram-jet?"
"Reckon he's the stupid one," Ray mumbled.
"Different isn't stupid, and I'm not stupid, just different."
Bodie bent close and whispered, "You're beautifully different, and you're alive, which is the most important thing." Straightening, he began gathering up the debris from their tea.
Bright and early Saturday, Bodie and Ray were in Irene's small car and on their way to Devon, Buck's nose poking out the back window. Peter and Laurie would be driving down on Sunday to visit and take Bodie back with them.
He glanced over at Ray, who was slumped down in his seat, eyes half-mast. "Oi, sleepy-head, wake up."
One green eye opened slowly. "'M awake. Just resting m'eyes."
"Tired, are they?"
"Yeah." Ray's lips twitched and were still. His lids lost their battle to stay up and long lashes settled on his cheeks.
Bodie rolled down his window, wishing he could copy Buck and stick his own head out to take advantage of the fresh air. He needed it. After last night...
Bodie thought it probably wasn't just Ray's eyes that were tired this morning. Ray had taken the dominant role in their lovemaking the previous evening, and it was almost like the Doyle of old. Bodie's lips tightened, remembering. Four-bloody-five, out to stake his territory. They'd barely got the supper dishes out of the way, before Ray was dragging Bodie into the bedroom, stripping him of his clothing, and pushing him onto the bed. Ray's own clothes had marked a trail to their bedroom.
Ray'd used his hands, mouth, and hair to coax Bodie hot and hard. Then he'd lavishly applied the lubricant and straddled Bodie's eager cock, one hand steadying himself, the other reaching for Bodie's tight balls, pulling them down, over and over until Bodie was ready to scream with the need to come.
Ray rode him, faster and harder than he would ride his horse, Irish, over the hills of the farm. Rode him till they were both howling with anguished ecstasy. Rode him until they finally came together, exhaustion sending them tumbling into a satiated sleep that neither woke from until morning.
Bodie squirmed in his seat and willed his overactive glands to calm down. They were in sight of the farm, and it wouldn't do to climb out of the car, flagpole waving. He jabbed his finger into Ray's ribs as they stopped at the gate, waking him.
"Think you can stir yourself long enough to open the gate for me?" Bodie turned his head away. He wanted to keep the image of the strong, self-assured four-five in his mind a little longer.
Ray eyed him curiously. "Is everything all right?"
"You've got a funny look on your face. Is it... Did I do something wrong? Was it last night? I'm sorry--"
"You were great last night. Open the gate for me, sunshine, please."
"It's all right, pet; just open the gate before Buck goes crazy." The dog had started up a furious barking. Bodie pasted what he hoped was an uncomplicated grin on his face. From the look he received in return, his attempt wasn't very convincing.
Ray slid slowly out of the car, his thoughts in a jumble. He thought he'd done well last night. He didn't know why he'd taken over the way he had, but wasn't that what Bodie wanted? Things to be the way they used to be? He'd felt...powerful and in control last night. It was usually the other way around, so it was a strange feeling. He thought Bodie had liked it, but... He opened the gate and got back into the car.
The door to the house opened, and Irene came out to greet them, a smile spreading across her face. Ray was out of the car almost before it stopped again, running to give his mum a hug. His voice floated back to Bodie, who followed more sedately.
"...can take you around the farm on m'bike, if you like, and we can ride Irish, only you can't stay on for very long or you'll be sore." Ray blushed slightly. After all, it was an ache he knew from personal experience.
Irene laughed and leaned over to give Bodie his own hello kiss. Bodie's lips quirked as he watched Ray standing there bright-eyed, a faint breeze ruffling his curls. Ray seemed to have forgotten the conversation in the car. At least, Bodie hoped he had.
"Don't think Mum's quite up to a spin on your bike, Ray."
"Bet she'd like it if she tried it," Ray insisted.
"I don't have the proper clothes for it, Ray, but thank you." Irene nipped the protest in the bud. "I'd look rather silly up behind you in a dress, wouldn't I?"
Both men agreed with her, then turned as Albert came up from the barn. Bodie was glad to see him up and about, moving naturally. He was paler than normal and thinner, but alive and in one piece.
They exchanged greetings before trouping into the house and tucking into the early afternoon tea Irene had prepared for them. Bodie peered around the table at the faces surrounding him and counted his blessings. Who'd've ever expected him to be so contented in a situation like this? He was no more the same person he'd been when he joined CI5 than Ray was.
In those days, Bodie'd been a loner. No family he wanted anything to do with, no friends. Oh, there were the men in his squad in the Paras and SAS. And his fellow mercs. He was the only one left now, but his life went on; their passing barely made a ripple any more.
Once, he'd been free to do whatever he wanted, whenever the mood struck him. Nobody would've missed him, and he'd had no one who required even a second thought. And now?
He glanced around the table again. Buck was begging for scraps at Ray's feet, while Irene gently admonished her son for the millionth time about feeding dogs from the table. Albert sipped his tea, watching them with a gentle smile on his face.
Now Bodie had Ray, who depended on him. Ray, who'd said he would just lie down and die also, should Bodie be killed. That was a burden he'd never expected to have to carry, even before Ray's accident. Now, there were also Albert and Irene and Laurie, and even Peter, all trusting him to take care of Ray.
Now that it couldn't be changed, did he really want it any other way? Bodie's heart swelled with love for his "family." He hoped no one was paying any attention to him; he could feel the soppy look spreading across his face, and knew a strong blush would follow should anyone comment on it. Life was different now: it couldn't change, and he knew there were aspects of it he wouldn't alter.
Ray was trying to decide whether to ride Irish that afternoon or get his bike out and tear around the countryside. He was still attempting to persuade his mum to do one or the other with him. It seemed to Bodie that she was being won over.
"What's fun about riding around on two wheels, love?" she asked her son, eyebrows raised. "I like to have something separating me from the elements."
"It's... I don't know. It's like being free. You could wear Bodie's leathers, Mum."
"I didn't bring them, " Bodie interjected.
"Oh." Ray's face fell.
"She could do with my old overalls," Albert offered helpfully.
"She could, couldn't she? Mum?" Ray's eyes shone hopefully at his mum. Bodie had a feeling Irene wasn't going to be able to get out of this one. Certainly he wouldn't be able to say no to the look on Ray's face.
Neither, apparently, could Irene. She gave a resigned sigh and smiled at her son. "I can wear Albert's overalls."
"I'll meet you out front then." With that, Ray was out the door, Buck running eagerly after him.
"You were a big help." Irene glanced at Albert out of the corner of her eye before turning her gaze on Bodie, who was trying to look as sympathetic as possible. "And you weren't much better."
"I tried. Outside earlier, Irene, you know I did. He just was not going to give up." Bodie smiled. "It's really not that bad, love."
"Easy for you to say," she commented over her shoulder as she followed Albert out of the room.
When she came back, dwarfed in Albert's overalls, Bodie had the tea things put away and was standing by the window watching Ray tinker with the bike. Irene stepped close.
"I know you're not a religious person," Irene said softly. "But I am, and every day I say a special prayer asking God to keep you safe for Ray. He loves you so much. We all do. I'm glad you're a part of our family, Bodie. I don't think I've ever really told you that."
Bodie had to clear his throat before he could respond. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here." He felt the truth of the words as they left his lips and gave her a quick hug just as Ray burst in.
"Mum? Oh, there you are. Come on." He eyed them quizzically. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing at all, love," his mum reassured him. "I was telling Bodie how happy I am to have him in our family."
"Oh." Ray's glance darted from his mum to Bodie and back again. His brow wrinkled. "Yeah, but..."
"You don't want me in the family?" It was a poor attempt at a joke, and Bodie knew it wouldn't work even before he finished speaking.
Ray cocked an eyebrow at him. "You know I do. But--"
"I'm glad," Bodie interrupted. "Now hadn't you better get moving before the light's gone? You've barely got Mum to agree to this as it is. Don't think you'll get far in the dark."
"Yeah," Ray glanced at his mum, who smiled bravely as she followed him outside.
He straddled the bike, holding it steady as he showed her where to sit. She climbed on behind him, wrapping her arms tightly around her son's waist.
"I won't go fast, Mum," he promised, twisting to look over his shoulder. "And not very far."
"I appreciate that, Ray." She buried her head in his shoulder.
"Mum? You need to watch. That's half the fun."
"Right." Up went her head. "Let's go then, son."
"Wait!" Bodie was running towards them, holding something in his hand.
"What?" Ray called out.
Sliding to a stop next to the bike, Bodie held up their camera. "We need to have a photo of this historic event. Something to look back at on those cold winter nights. Smile, kids."
Bodie snapped the picture: two curly heads with bright green eyes, wide smiles, Irene holding on firmly to her son. Another one just to be sure...
"All done," Bodie said, smiling and backing away. We'll make new memories, Ray.
"Hang on!" Ray kicked hard and they were off, bouncing slowly over the path past the caravan, towards the open field.
Later that evening, Ray had a short ride on Irish before coming indoors for dinner. While he'd been able to get Irene on the back of his motorbike, he couldn't manage to convince her to ride Irish. She'd fallen once, many years ago, she'd explained gently, and had never got back on a horse since
After the meal they settled in the living room. They hadn't talked for long, though, before Ray began nodding off. The early departure combined with all the fresh air and the activity at the farm had tired him out. To be honest, Bodie was finding it hard to stay awake himself.
"Are we keeping you up, Bodie?" Irene asked, a small smile on her face.
"Hm? I think it's time for Ray and me both to get some sleep." Bodie got up from the settee, nudging Ray as he did so. "Up you go, my lad. It's rude going to sleep when you're someone's company."
"Aren't company," Ray murmured. "We're family. Night, Mum, Uncle Albert."
It is family, Bodie thought, and smiled his own good nights as he followed Ray out to the caravan.
Once inside, Bodie turned on a light so they could see. Buck was sniffing around, reacquainting himself with familiar smells. Ray fluffed the blankets on the bed before curling up in one corner and eyeing Bodie curiously.
"What?" Bodie glanced down at himself.
"You had a soppy look on your face tonight. What were you thinking about?"
"I did? When?" He sat down on the edge of the bed.
"During tea." Ray tilted his head. "You were watching us and...I dunno. You had this look on your face."
"Oh." Bodie did blush then. "I was hoping nobody'd noticed. I was thinking how great it was having a family. How glad I was to be part of yours."
"Wouldn't be a family without you," Ray said, as Buck jumped op to join them. "Or Buck. Down, Buck!"
Bodie signed and stood. "Come on, Buck, let's put you outside for a bit. Run off some of that excess energy."
"Yeah," Ray added. "We don't need him in bed with us at the moment."
"No?" Bodie turned from opening the door. "Got something planned, have you? Out with you, dog."
"Sleep." Ray burrowed under the covers.
"In your shoes?" Bodie asked dryly.
The mound in the middle of the bed shook. First one dirty trainer, then another shot out onto the floor. Two socks soon followed. A shirt. Then the covers came down and Ray's tousled head appeared.
"Is it okay, Bodie?"
"Is what okay?"
"If I want to make love with you?"
Bodie sat down on the edge of the bed. "What are you talking about? Since when did you ever have to ask me that?"
"You were so strange today. I was afraid it was because of what I did last night. I dunno. Forget it." Ray's lips tightened and he lay back down.
"What you did was wonderful. I was just surprised because you're not usually like that. It's good that you take control sometimes. That's what lovers do. They share." Bodie watched the expressions flit across Ray's face. Confusion, pride, guilt, determination. "Talk to me, Ray."
"You going to take your clothes off? Only, I want you inside me, and you can't do it wearing trousers," was his only reply.
"Bodie." Doyle's chin jutted out. "Take off your clothes right now." The hard look on his face melted away to be replaced by confusion. "Please?"
Bodie didn't bother to ask again what was bothering Ray. Obviously now wasn't the time for facing up to troubles. He took a deep breath and banished his melancholy mood to the back of his mind.
"What about you, eh?" Bodie asked as he began peeling off his jumper. "I didn't see any jeans or pants come flying through the air earlier." He undid his trousers and slid them off. "Be a bit difficult for me to do anything unless you--"
Before he could finish, the jeans were on the floor, and pants warm from Doyle's flesh landed neatly across Bodie's face. A quick toss of his head, and the pants joined his own on the floor. He crawled in next to Ray.
"Now what?" Bodie asked from his vantage point above Ray. Both their cocks were hard against each other.
"Now I think I'd like you inside me. Please," Ray panted, giving a little wiggle.
Bodie sucked in his breath. "Do that again and there won't be anything left to put," he warned.
Ray immediately stilled.
"That's better," said Bodie. "Where's the lube?"
"Here." Ray waved it under his nose. "Hurry up."
Taking the tube, Bodie applied a lavish amount to his cock, before preparing Ray for entry.
"I could do with some help here... Lift up a bit," Bodie grunted. Long legs settled themselves on his shoulders. "Yeah...like that..." and Bodie's cock slid inside.
Ray's heels beat a short tattoo on Bodie's back as they lunged together, lost in a haze of passion. With a short howl, Ray came; the strong anal spasms were enough to send Bodie over the edge.
Later, after they'd cleaned up and let Buck back in, Ray asked: "Do you think the caravan shakes when we make love?"
"I'd imagine it does, pet, why?"
"Do you think they can see it from the house?" he asked in a whisper.
"No, we're over a hill, remember?" Bodie whispered back.
"Why are we whispering?"
"I've got no idea," Bodie answered with a smile.
Peter and Laurie showed up early Sunday morning. Surprised, Bodie watched them drive in.
"Did you stop and stay the night somewhere?" he asked, as they climbed out of the car.
"Yeah. Over in Yeovil." Laurie stared at him archly. "You thought maybe we were going to drive down, collect you and leave? We'd like to spend some time with Mum and Uncle Albert, too"
Bodie just smiled and followed them into the house.
"Where's Ray?" Laurie asked after greeting her mother.
"And Buck?" added Peter.
"Out riding Irish," Bodie said.
Peter grinned. "It must be a bit crowded with two of them on that horse. When did Buck learn to ride?"
Bodie affected a yawn. "Ha ha. Planning to join up with Monty Python, are you?"
"Not me, mate." Peter continued to watch him, and Bodie finally relented, his mouth spreading in an answering smile. They followed the ladies indoors, settling themselves around the table as Irene finished brewing some tea.
They'd barely got their cups filled when Ray came through the door, Buck following noisily. He gave Laurie a hug and glanced at Peter.
"You got here fast. I suppose you stopped somewhere last night, then?"
"Smart lad. That's exactly what we did," answered Peter.
Ray smirked and pulled a chair in next to Bodie, helping himself to Bodie's cup at the same time. Bodie raised an eyebrow, and Ray grinned.
"There isn't an empty cup anywhere," he explained blithely.
Bodie's return smile was half-hearted at best. It seemed every time he turned around lately, he was being reminded of "old times." How often had four-five swiped three-seven's cup of coffee or tea in the restroom or on an obbo? He reached over and retrieved his drink, forcing himself out of the past before Ray noticed his preoccupation.
Luckily, Ray was busy nattering on about his horse. While he hadn't been able to convince his mum to go for a ride on Irish, Laurie accepted the offer with alacrity. She downed the last of her tea, and they were out the door in a flash.
"It's almost like when they were small, and we'd come down for a holiday," Irene reminisced. "They'd be outdoors all day, wearing themselves out, then sleep so soundly."
"Doesn't sound like much has changed," Peter reflected.
"No, I suppose it hasn't," Irene said a little sadly.
"He's alive and happy, Irene. Be grateful for that," Bodie reminded her gently.
She smiled softly and gazed out the window to where her two offspring were disappearing into the barn.
"I tried to get Mum to come for a ride, but she didn't want to," Ray said, as they walked to the barn, Buck running in circles around them. "Got her to go on my bike with me, though. I think she had fun."
Laurie giggled. "I can't imagine Mum on the back of your bike."
"Bodie took some pictures, so you can see when we get them developed."
Irish nickered as Ray opened the big, heavy door and let his sister in. There was enough light coming in through the door and windows to see by. Irish was gazing at them over the top of her stall.
"Hey, girl," Ray said quietly, walking up to the horse. He gently stroked her nose. "I've got a treat for you. D'you want a carrot? Come on, Laurie."
His sister came to stand next to him and slowly reached out to the horse, murmuring softy. Ray broke off a piece of the carrot and handed it to Laurie. She gave it to Irish, who crunched happily.
"Irish likes you. I knew she would," Ray said. He left Laurie talking to both horse and dog to haul out the tack, saddling Irish in no time at all. Laurie closed the stable door after he'd led the horse out.
Buck was waiting on the pathway for them. Ray mounted the horse, reaching down to haul his sister up. They set off at a brisk pace, Buck racing along beside them.
The winds gusting over the fields were brisk, almost too cold for comfort, and Laurie hugged Ray closer.
"I won't let you fall off," Ray hastened to assure her.
"Don't worry; I was just trying to get warmer."
"We can go back if you're cold," he offered. Fresh breezes blew his hair and he turned his face to the wind, breathing deeply of the crisp, fresh air. It was cooler here than in London. No smelly petrol fumes, either.
"No, that's all right. This is nice after the stink of the city."
Ray sighed contentedly. "'S just what I was thinking."
He turned Irish so they were heading into the wind, using his body to block most of it from Laurie. He loved the wind, the fresh air. Sometimes he wished he could stand on a mountaintop forever and let the breezes blow past him. As long as Bodie were with him, of course.
"I can show you where Bodie and I found Scott. And where Bodie and Uncle Albert got hurt. If you want?" Ray offered.
"Okay," she agreed. "We were all proud of you, you know. The way you drove everyone to the hospital and took care of Bodie."
A warm glow suffused him as she spoke. He'd never told anyone, not even Bodie, how scared he'd been that day. A big cramp had taken hold of his stomach the minute Bodie'd started fighting with those men, Robinson and Marsden, and hadn't really disappeared until they'd got safely home days later.
"It took a lot of courage to do what you did," Laurie continued. "I'd've been terrified myself."
"I was," he admitted.
"Then it was doubly brave," Laurie said firmly.
"Why?" What was so brave about being afraid?
"Because you did it anyway, even though you were frightened," she explained. "That's what real bravery is."
Ray was silent, thinking it through. "So courage is doing something even though it scares you."
Laurie's arms hugged him briefly. "Yeah, that's it exactly."
"D'you want to run?" Make the wind go faster past his face.
Laurie tightened her grip. "Let's go. Not too far, though; it's bumpy back here."
Ray gave Irish's sides a squeeze with his heels, clucked to her, and off they went. Buck barked behind them before charging ahead, then coming back and starting the whole scene over again. If they had wings, Ray knew they'd be flying.
When the ground started to become uneven, Ray slowed them down. He pointed off to the right. "That's where the bus people were, and where Bodie and Uncle Albert got hurt."
"I'm glad you were there," Laurie said.
"Me, too. I hate it when Bodie is somewhere without me, where he can get hurt or something."
"I imagine he feels the same way about you."
"Eh?" Ray was confused. "I don't go to bad places."
"Bodie's probably scared every time you get into a car he's not driving," she explained. "If Bodie'd been hurt the way you were, wouldn't you worry?"
"Yeah." Ray was silent, thinking about what Laurie had said. It'd never occurred to him that Bodie might worry about simple things like that.
Turning around, they headed back at a walk. Ray pulled Irish to a stop by the barn to let Laurie slide off first. He quickly followed, and they both led the horse inside.
"Laurie?" Ray unbuckled the saddle and took it off.
"Are you and Peter going to get married?" He handed her a brush and she began rubbing the horse down.
"My goodness, Ray, where did that come from?" She paused mid-stroke, brush raised in her hand.
"I was just thinking. You and Peter, you can get married, but you're not. Me and Bodie can't get married. D'you know it's against the law for two blokes to marry, even if they love each other?"
"You'd like to marry Bodie, wouldn't you, Ray?"
"In a flash. Do you want to marry Peter? I know you...er...only... I was just curious."
Laurie smiled gently at the red face in front of her and put the brush down. "Yes, Peter and I do make love together, just like you and Bodie. We live together after all. And I don't know about getting married. I was once, remember? And it didn't work out. We'll just wait and see, I suppose."
"Oh." He patted Irish on the nose, then turned to leave the barn, Laurie behind him. It didn't make sense to be in love and living together, but not get married. To be allowed to marry and not do it? He tucked the curiosity into the back of his brain in the special place he kept for questions he needed to ask Bodie.
They walked into a warm kitchen redolent with the smells of chicken and various pastries baking. Irene was bustling around, getting an early supper ready to serve. Bodie, Peter, and Laurie would be leaving for London right after they finished eating.
"Mmm, smells great, Mum." Ray stuck his nose over her shoulder, lifting the lid off a pot. He laughed as she slapped at his hands.
"You want to be useful, you can go and wash and then come and lay the table," Irene instructed him.
"Yes, Mum," he said obediently, still smiling as he headed for the loo.
Dusk fell as they ate, their light chatter filling the air. Ray glanced up as Laurie began teasing their mother about her ride on Ray's bike.
"If you're not careful, Mum, you're going to turn into one of those "motorcycle mamas" they talk about in the States."
"I doubt one ride, hanging on very tightly to my son, will make me one of those." Irene tweaked Ray's ear.
"She was holding on so hard, I thought I was going to split in two," Ray remarked. "She was smiling when we stopped though. I knew she'd like it if she tried it. You'd like riding Irish, too, Mum."
Irene smiled at him gently. "I love spending time with my children. I'll watch you ride your horse, love."
"I can drive you around the farm in Uncle Albert's van, tomorrow, if you want," Ray offered.
"We'll see. We have plenty of time," Irene said. She glanced around the table. "The rest of you'd better be on your way if you want to get home before tomorrow."
As everyone rose from the table, Ray groaned, realising exactly who was going to get left with the washing up. He wrinkled his nose as Bodie sniggered.
Peter and Laurie said their goodbyes and slid into the car. Bodie and Ray were standing out of sight around the corner of the house, taking advantage of the little bit of privacy.
"I'm going to miss you," Ray admitted, twining his arms around Bodie's neck.
"You can always leave with us now, you know." Bodie licked the tip of Ray's nose.
"Nooo... 'S only two days. And Mum should have company when she drives back," Ray reminded him.
"Yeah. Now, hush and kiss me goodbye before they come looking for us," Bodie demanded.
"They wouldn't!" Ray protested, before doing exactly as he'd been told.
Later, he stood with his mum and uncle in the fading light, watching as the car disappeared down the lane. Just for a minute, he'd wanted to run after them, exactly the way Buck was doing, but he reminded himself that staying on the farm had been his idea, after all.
"Come on, Ray." His mum tapped him on the shoulder as Buck trotted back up to them. "I can do with some help with the washing up."
"Unless you'd rather help Jim and me with the cows," added Albert with a chuckle.
Ray gave a brief thought to the smell of the cow barn and politely declined his uncle's offer. "You have Jim so I'd better give Mum a hand."
"Thought you might see it that way." Albert grinned at them both as he headed off to the barn.
Irene wrapped her arm around Ray's waist as they returned to the house. Gallantly, Ray held the door open and ushered her inside. The door led directly into the large kitchen. Back in the days before electricity and central heating, a warm kitchen had been the main gathering place.
"Would you like to wash or dry, Ray?"
"I usually wash and Bodie dries, and we both put away. Can we do it that way?"
"Of course." Irene began gathering the dirty dishes.
Ray squirted Fairy liquid into the sink and turned on the hot water. "At first, it was easier for me to wash the dishes. If I dropped one, it didn't have as far to fall." He tested the water and added some cold.
"Bodie doesn't know I know this," he confided, "but we did it together because I couldn't remember where everything went at first. It took me a long time to work out what he was doing. Now we do it together because we like to."
"Bodie is an amazing man," Irene commented softly. "We're lucky to have him."
"I know. I think, if I didn't have Bodie, I don't know what I'd do." He turned off the taps and began sliding the dirty dishes into the soapy water.
"You'd still have Laurie and Peter and me," she reminded him.
He was quiet for a moment, swiping absently at a dirty cup. There was something in the back of his head he wanted to say, but wasn't sure how to make it sound...not stupid. Beside him, his mum waited quietly. Finally, he got it.
"I love you, Mum. And I'm really glad I've got you and Laurie and Peter. Even with Bodie, I still need you." He stopped what he was doing, and turned his head so he could see his mother. "It's not the same, though, is it? When dad died, you still had Laurie and me. You loved us. But wouldn't you rather have had Dad?"
"Not if it meant losing you and Laurie," she immediately protested. "But I see what you mean. You love Bodie the way I loved your father. It's a different kind of love."
"Right." He eyed her a moment longer, making sure she was all right with not being first on his list of people he loved. He was a bit worried she might be hurt.
She smiled at him tenderly. "It's all right, Ray. That's the way it's supposed to be."
He blinked, surprised. "You read my mind."
"No, I read your face. It's what mothers do, love. And after all these years, yours is an open, well-read book to me."
Bodie pottered around in the kitchen, turning the kettle on, setting the leftover cake and biscuits out for tea. Ray and his mum were due back from Albert's at any moment.
It had been a strange couple of days with the house all to himself and the big bed empty and cold. He hadn't even had the consolation of the dog. Bodie wasn't used to the solitude any more. Since the accident, he'd grown used to having Ray near him, depending on him. Needing him.
A niggling finger of guilt poked him, and he recalled a question Cowley had asked him last year: did he want Ray to have stayed the way he was, straight after the accident, childlike and dependent on Bodie for everything?
The answer then, as now, was "no". It was just the strangeness of being at home alone that was making him feel so at odds with everything.
Ray had rung up both Monday morning and evening; even though he was enjoying himself, he still missed Bodie and was glad to be coming home. So Ray still needed him.
All afternoon and evening Bodie'd been tied up near Harrods with a bomb threat. They'd managed to capture the madmen before anyone had been injured, but Bodie'd been hoping to get home sooner, anticipating a phone call from Ray saying they were on their way.
A car drove by and he glanced out the window, disappointed when it continued past the house. The phone chose that instant to ring, and he wandered over to answer it.
"Bodie." Lauren's voice was shaking, tears interspersed with sniffles coming down the line.
"What? Is Ray all right?" His mind slowed to a stop and his face felt flushed with heat, even as his body turned cold.
"Yes. Mum--" Sobs interrupted her words.
"What? Laurie, what?" He closed his eyes, shivery goose bumps breaking out on his arms.
Slowly the story came out between gasps for breath and sniffling sobs.
"They reckon she lost control. The car went off the road and hit a tree. Oh, God, she was dead right away, Bodie. I don't know--" Her voice was beginning to shrill.
"Laurie, give me the phone, love. Come on..." In the background, Peter's voice was dull as he tried to calm her down.
Her words continued tumbling over one another. "Oh, Bodie. We tried to contact you, but the man on the phone said you couldn't be disturbed. Mum... They took Ray to hospital. Said he hit his head again. Bodie..."
A loud rushing in his own head drowned out whatever else Laurie was saying, and it wasn't until the sound of Peter's deep voice came over the line that he snapped back to reality.
"Bodie. Bodie? It's not like the last time, mate," Peter tried to reassure him. "It's just a small bump on the other side. He's okay, Bodie. He's okay." Quickly Peter filled him in on what little else they knew. It wasn't much, since Ray was the only survivor and currently sedated.
Bodie was finding it hard to pay attention while his mind struggled to take in things he couldn't believe had happened. Again.
"Where is he?" Christ. Ray.
"St. Mary's." Not even in the city yet.
Bodie set the receiver in place and ran out the door. How he managed not to get into an accident of his own was anybody's guess. The last thing his mind was centred on was the traffic around him.
He was directed to Ray's room without any trouble. Peter had called ahead to let them know he was on the way, and the resident neurological specialist, Thompson, was there to reassure him. They'd done x-rays immediately and, after speaking with Peter, had contacted Ray's old doctor, Hayes, and spoken with him. There was no new damage.
Bodie thanked the doctor absently and carefully eased open the door to Ray's room. The ball of dread nestled in the pit of his stomach took him back to the last time he'd been in this same position, and he paused before walking softly across the floor.
Ray was asleep, curled into himself with one arm laid out straight, an IV tube attached. The bruises on his face and along the inside of the outstretched arm showed up lightly purple. In a few days they'd darken and he'd be multi-coloured.
Bodie resisted the temptation to stroke the ruffled curls poking out from under the light blanket. Ray'd spent most of the past few hours sleeping according to the doctor, who'd also assured Bodie the unconsciousness was due to shock and emotional trauma only. Bodie kept reminding himself of those words.
Peter's words from earlier came back to him. Unless Ray could tell them what had happened, they'd probably never know, since Irene was the only other one who'd been there. Christ. Irene. According to Peter, the first person on the scene said it looked as though her seat belt had broken. She'd died from massive chest trauma acquired when she hit the steering wheel. By some miracle, the tree branch that had punched through the windscreen had missed Ray.
Snuffling sounds from the mound in front of him notified Bodie that Ray was waking up, and he grabbed a chair, pulling it close to the bed. Halfway into it, he glanced up to find drowsy eyes blinking at him blearily.
"Bodie?" Ray's voice was hoarse.
"It's me, sweetheart. How do you feel?" Bodie scooted the chair closer and took hold of the slender hand held out to him. Bodie had no idea how much, if anything, Ray remembered, or if he even realised his mum was dead.
"What hurts, pet? Do you remember what happened?"
Foggy green eyes looked at him. "Sleepy."
"Can you stay awake for just a minute? Tell me what happened?"
"Did I crash m'car? Think so. Think... Where's Buck? He was in the car."
"Buck's fine." Bodie suddenly realised he had no idea what had happened to the dog.
"Did I hurt my head again?"
"No, your head's fine, pet."
"Wha' happened, Bodie?" A frown was beginning to appear.
"You were in an accident again. Coming home from Uncle Albert's--"
"Mum. Bodie, where's Mum? I want to see her." Tears were flooding Ray's eyes, beginning to slide down his cheeks. "Mum?"
Bodie got out of the chair and sat down on the bed, carefully pulling Ray into his arms. He held tight to the slender body, one hand wrapped around the curly head.
"Mum's dead, poppet." No easy way to say it. His own throat filled. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"No, she came to see me, Bodie. My head was hurting. She read me stories." He looked earnestly into Bodie's face, willing them both to believe.
"That was last time, when you crashed your car and hurt your head."
"No. Bodie, no." Ray tightened his hold on Bodie's shirt, fingers digging deep into the fabric, skin, and muscle. "No. Mum."
They cried together then, sharing the loss. Ray was exhausted when the tears finally stopped, his eyes red and swollen, his nose stuffed up. Bodie wasn't feeling much better himself. A noise at the door made him turn his head to see Peter and Laurie tiptoeing in.
"Sleep now, poppet. Sleep and I'll be here when you wake up again." Bodie gently let go as Ray slid back against the pillow.
"Hush, it'll be all right." He gently brushed his fingers through the rumpled curly hair, staying well away form the darkening bruise on Ray's forehead. Bodie let his thumbs dry the tear dampened cheeks. "Close your eyes, that's my good lad. I love you, sweetheart. Quiet now. Shhhh. Go to sleep."
He waited until Ray's breathing had deepened and steadied out before he got up and faced the others. Motioning them out of the room, he followed, giving one last glance at his sleeping lover.
With the door securely shut, it was safe to talk. Bodie reached out and took Lauren into his arms, feeling her shoulders shake with barely suppressed sobs. He hugged her tightly, his own eyes tearing up again, before releasing her.
"You told him?" she asked, fumbling in her handbag and pulling out a handkerchief.
"Yeah. He asked after Buck, then it all came back." Bodie's jaw clenched. "How is Buck? I didn't even think about him."
"Fine. The police said there was a pile of blankets and rugs in the back seat that must have cushioned Buck when they..."
"Did Ray say what happened?" Peter asked. Laurie was silent, her lower lip caught between her teeth.
"No, we didn't get that far. I need a cuppa," he said, as he moved off towards the machines in the other room. "You two?" They both shook their heads. He was back in seconds with a cup full of tea. "I need to go back inside. Said I'd be there when he woke up."
"Wait, Bodie. The police want to talk to Ray when he's able." Peter looked unhappy.
"They think the car was forced off the road. They asked me what condition it was in, paint-wise, and didn't look happy when I said it had just been re-sprayed."
"They had a reason for asking?" Bodie asked tightly. He turned the cup around in his hands, not drinking.
"Green paint on the wing."
"Yeah." Peter sighed. "The PC spoke with the doctor earlier, and I told them you were with CI5. They asked that you please contact them as soon as possible."
Laurie was standing quietly, staring at the floor. Bodie gently touched her arm.
"Why don't you got home, love, and get some rest. Ray's asleep, and there's really nothing for you to do here. You look absolutely shattered."
"I am. I think... Peter, I'd like to go to Mum's."
Peter's face was concerned. "Are you sure? It'll be terribly empty."
"Not if we're there. I want to go home, Peter, please."
"Right. Bodie, ring if you need us."
"I will. I'll ask Ray about the accident next time he wakes. I'd like to have a look at the car myself, too. Oh. Would you ring Cowley, tell him what's happened. Please." Bodie blindly held out his untouched tea as he turned to go back into Ray's room. Peter quickly took it from him, and he and Laurie headed for the way out.
Bodie sat back down in the chair he'd vacated earlier, eyes glued to the still face on the pillow. He laid his own head down next to Ray's, his eyelids falling. Irene dead. Could've been Ray. So close. And how was Ray going to react? Christ. What a...it could've been Ray...
Fingers gently combing through his hair woke him, and he opened his eyes to see Ray lying on his side, one hand poised over Bodie's dark hair. Sometime during the night or early morning, a nurse had come in and removed the IV from Ray's arm.
"Hi," Ray whispered.
"Hi yourself, sunshine."
Tears formed in Ray's soft green eyes, and he blinked them away furiously. "Bodie."
"I know, pet, I know." He straightened, grimacing as his neck and shoulders protested at the position he'd forced them into. "How do you feel?"
"Tired, sore. Sad. Mum." He swallowed.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"No. We were talking. Then Mum got angry, I don't know why. Buck was barking really loud. Then I was here and my head hurt."
A nurse came in pushing a breakfast trolley, and Bodie stood. "I'm going to look for the doctor, see when I can break you out of here, okay? I'll be back soon."
He left Ray staring despondently at runny eggs and cold toast. Dr Thompson was just down the ward at the nurses' station, going over a report, and Bodie stood by, waiting to be noticed.
"You want to take Mr Doyle home, I suspect." He smiled soberly at Bodie's emphatic nod. "Well, there's no need to keep him here. As I told you, he's fine physically except for the bumps and bruises. His blood pressure is a little high; you should keep an eye on that. Otherwise--take him home, Mr Bodie."
"Thank you." Bodie held out his hand and they shook. "I appreciate all you've done for Ray." He turned away, the doctor's response behind him, and trudged back to Ray' room.
"Good news, Ray." Bodie looked around to make sure there was no on else in the room and gave him a quick kiss on the mouth. The uneaten eggs and the toast were congealing together on the plate. "I can take you home with me now."
"Good." Ray pushed the tray away, shoved back the covers, and paused. "Where are my clothes?"
Bodie looked around. Opening a drawer in the bedside table, he pulled out a plastic sack. Inside were jeans, trainers, socks, and a bloodstained t-shirt. Bodie carefully bundled up the last item and tucked it down inside the small rubbish bin before holding up the rest. "Afraid you'll have to wear the hospital gown home, pet, along with the jeans."
"Where's my shirt?" Ray slid gingerly to the edge of the bed.
"I tossed it out, love. It was filthy. Here're your shoes." Bodie waited silently as Ray slowly got dressed. "Ready?"
Ray nodded, his lips pressed together, mouth turned down. "Where's Laurie?"
"I wanna go there, Bodie."
Bodie opened his mouth to argue that Ray should go home to bed, then snapped his lips shut. There was no reason not to let Ray go to Irene's house to be with his sister. It would also give Bodie a chance to talk to the police. This was one of those moments he was grateful to CI5 since it kept Ray from having to deal directly with the police himself.
"How about we stop off at home first and get you a clean shirt--"
"No." Ray's voice broke. "Bodie."
"Right." Bodie looked at the slight figure standing by the bed. Rumpled hair, baggy hospital gown, and a day's growth of whiskers. He wanted to grab Ray and hold him to the end of time. To go back a week to when Ray'd asked if he could spend his two days off at the farm; and please God, don't ever let him make the connection between his request, and the fact his mum would have come home on the train if not for him.
They left the hospital quietly, Ray climbing into the Land Rover without hesitation. There was no conversation on the drive to Irene's house although Ray clutched Bodie's thigh tightly the entire way, and cried silently, tiredly, off and on.
Buck was peering out of the front window when they pulled into the drive, barking furiously as he recognised the sound of the car. Ray climbed out and walked slowly towards the front door, pausing on the top step to wait for Bodie.
"Okay?" Bodie asked gently, his hand rubbing soothingly against Ray's back.
"I don't want to go in." Ray's eyes filled again, and he sniffed loudly. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and caught Buck as the dog lunged for him. Kneeling down, he buried his face in the dark fur, crouching low so Bodie could step over him on the way through the door.
Lauren came out to the hall, and Bodie wrapped his arms around her. Peter came up behind her and gently stroked the back of her head.
"How's Ray?" he asked. Bodie just shook his head as Lauren eased out of his arms, her eyes settling on her younger brother.
"Ray?" She knelt down beside him and touched his arm. "Come into the kitchen, love, and I'll make you a cuppa." Ray shook his head, face still buried in Buck's furry coat. "Come on, Ray, you can't stay here on the floor."
Laurie raised her head, tears sparkling in her eyes, and shrugged at Bodie. He motioned her aside and squatted down in her place.
"You need to get up and come inside, pet." The curly head shook again. "Ray, there are things to do. I've got to go and talk to the police and look at the car. You need to come in and rest. You wanted to come here. Ray!" He made his voice as firm as possible, and Ray finally lifted his head.
It took all Bodie's determination to keep his face stern and not give in to the woebegone bundle that was gazing at him with red, swollen eyes. The hospital gown was hanging half off his shoulder, and there was a light crease in his cheek from where it had been pressed against Buck's collar.
"Let's go, Ray." Bodie stood and held out his hand. Eventually, Ray took it, allowing himself to be hauled to his feet. Once upright, he clutched Bodie's hand tightly. Bodie reached over and straightened the gown around his neck.
Laurie and Peter had gravitated towards the living room, and slowly Bodie shuffled Ray in that direction. "Laurie's going to need your help, you know. It's her mum, too, and she's feeling sad."
"I know." He turned bewildered eyes in Bodie's direction. "I don't know how to help her though. Bodie?" His voice cracked.
"Think she'd like a hug, don't you?"
"Maybe. I think so. I don't know."
"Try it." Bodie was finding it hard to speak around the rapidly growing lump in his throat.
As they walked through the doorway, Lauren looked up from where she was cuddled with Peter on the settee, and opened her arms wide. Bodie gave Ray a slight nudge, and he settled on the cushions next to her, gathering her up and holding on tight. Peter disentangled himself and got to his feet, leaving the grieving brother and sister to themselves.
"I've got to go to the police," Bodie said quietly, moving towards the door, his eyes on Ray.
Peter followed the direction of his glance. "He'll be all right, mate, here with Laurie and me."
"He's so...lost," Bodie said vaguely.
"Don't worry. He's doing fine. You go and take care of the police, and we'll watch over Ray." Peter smiled reassuringly, although Bodie doubted the optimism was heart-felt.
"Thanks." Bodie looked back at Ray, who was now patting his sister on the back, then turned and went out to his car.
As he drove along, his thoughts tumbled back and forth between the accident, the weekend at the farm, and the inevitable "What if..." that everyone asks after a death. Eventually Ray would want to know what had happened, would ask the unanswerable question: Why? It was something Bodie also wanted to know.
He pulled into the Police Station and parked. A helpful PC pointed him in the proper direction, and he went out to the yard, joining up along the way with the Inspector in charge of the case.
Bodie could almost hear the pounding in his head as he stared in shocked disbelief at the ruin of Irene's car. There, on the right wing, were bashed in streaks of bright green paint that had not been there when he left the farm on Sunday.
"So what do you reckon happened, Mr Bodie?"
"Eh?" The strident voice pulled him out of his silent reverie. "I don't know. It looks as though they were forced off the road. But why?"
"Ray doesn't remember anything, then?"
"No. Do you know the Doyles?" Bodie asked.
"Yeah. I grew up in the house down the road. Dated Laurie a few times. A shame, this, happening after their earlier troubles."
"It could be a simple hit-and-run," Bodie commented. Or someone out to get agent four-five, he added to himself.
If only Ray could remember.
Not that Bodie really wanted Ray to remember everything. No, all Bodie needed to know was why "Mum got angry" and what made Buck start barking loudly enough for Ray to comment on it.
"You'll keep searching for the other car?" Bodie asked.
"Of course. We've got men checking all the garages. We'll catch the bugger, Mr Bodie, have no doubt about it."
Bodie just nodded. Giving the car one last look, he headed out to the Land Rover and back to Irene's house. Now Lauren's, he supposed. He radioed in to Headquarters and asked to be patched through to Murphy.
"Bodie. How's Ray?" Murphy's voice was concerned.
"He's fine, at home with Laurie and Peter. I just finished looking at the car. Can you run a check and see if anyone's been released--"
"Already did, mate. Nothing. Could have been a lousy driver, or a drunk."
"Yeah, thanks, Murph."
Bodie slid the radio microphone back into its slot. His mind was a million miles away as he drove. He'd grown to love Irene like a mother, and if the truth were told, he was wishing there was someone who would hold him while he cried for her. For a moment, just a brief second, Bodie really wanted the old four-five back, hard and strong, and not needing Bodie to be his rock.
He forced the thought from his head. How many times had he gently lectured Irene on counting her blessings? Now here he was wishing for the impossible himself.
As he pulled up in front of the house, he noticed Ray and Buck sitting on the front step. Ray was absently stroking the heavy, dark head where it lay on his knee. The corners of his mouth tilted up slightly when he saw Bodie, and he stood.
"Did you know Laurie and I lived here when we were kids?" he asked as Bodie came up the walkway.
"Oh. I didn't remember, but Laurie said we did. She said we have lots of old stuff in the attic, toys and things. Bodie?" Haunted eyes looked up at him.
"What is it, pet?"
"Peter says we have to plan a funeral. I heard him and Laurie talking. I don't think I remember everything that happens at one. Will I have to say anything? Only, I don't think I can talk about Mum in front of lots of people," he said, blinking furiously.
"You won't have to talk, sweetheart. You'll have to wear a suit, I'm afraid."
"Is that all?"
"No, the priest talks, then other people get up and talk about what a good person Mum was, and there's music--"
"Can I help pick the music? I want it to be nice stuff. And will you talk for me? About how Mum was a good mum and all? Oh, Bodie."
"I know. Of course I'll speak." Bodie moved to open the door. "Are we going to stand out here much longer? I could do with a cuppa. Would you like to pamper poor, tired old Bodie and make me one?"
"Pamper? What's that?" Ray followed him into the house, Buck at their heels.
"Means to take care of nicely."
"Bodie." For a second Ray seemed to forget his sadness and smiled shakily. "I always take care of you nicely."
Bodie closed the door behind them and took advantage of their solitude to plant a kiss on the tip of his nose. "Yes, you do."
Ray walked on into the living room. "I'm going to make tea for Bodie. Do you want some, too?" he asked his sister and Peter. Receiving affirmative nods, he left the room.
In the kitchen, Ray quietly set about getting the tea ready. It felt strange, standing in Mum's kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. He glanced over at the door. She should come through it really soon, to see how he was doing, and maybe cut up one of her cakes. She should... Ray bit at his lower lip, as his eyes filled with tears.
He'd sat there at the table, right after he'd hurt his head and come home, and Mum had shown him how to make the banana cake Bodie loved so well. They'd gone over the recipe together, Mum reading it out slowly, and showing him all the dishes, and explaining the measuring cups and the baking. Laurie didn't like to cook. Only him and Mum did.
The kettle began to squeal, and Ray turned the heat off, gathering the tea things together. He looked around the room. There wasn't any cake.
It hadn't taken Bodie long to relate his visit with the police. If possible, Lauren's face saddened even more.
"I don't want to think it's someone out for revenge, but if it was a drunk driver, or just someone being reckless... God, Bodie, it seems so senseless. What a pointless way to die."
"Death usually is pointless," Bodie said bluntly. "Listen, Laurie, Ray wants to be in on the plans for the funeral. He said so outside. He wants to help pick the music."
"Of course. What's wrong, Bodie? You didn't think we were going to leave him out, did you? Peter's been watching him carefully to make sure we don't put too much stress on him."
"No, of course not, I... Nothing. I'll miss her too, you know." The rattle of crockery announced Ray's arrival with the tea, and Bodie quickly changed the subject. "Did I tell you, Ray, that Murphy's running around the office telling everyone that Silvia can say 'dada', now?"
"No, but he stopped me in the hall when I was on my way for a break with you and told me all about it. He's so funny, Laurie." Ray settled down on the floor, in front of the chair Bodie was sitting in. "He looks like a cockerel with his chest all puffed out." No one smiled.
After a moment, Bodie said, "Silvia's a pretty little thing. Murphy deserves to be proud."
"Reckon Gillian is, too," added Ray, handing a cup back to Bodie. "After all, she's the one did all the hard work." His face dropped even more as he poured his own tea. "I reckon Mum really wanted me and Laurie to do that twice, eh?"
"I imagine she did," Bodie said softly. "I know she loved you very much and was just as proud of the two of you as Murphy is of Silvia."
Everyone was silent after that. As far as Bodie could tell, each was lost in their own thoughts and memories, and he left them to it, his mind on other things. Ray leaned his head against Bodie's thigh and closed his eyes. Presently, he was breathing deeply and evenly, sound asleep. Eventually Bodie set down his empty cup and stretched, before gently shaking Ray's shoulder.
"Mmm?" Eyes heavy with sleep blinked up at him.
"Time for us to go home, pet. Even Buck's tired, and you were asleep."
Ray started to rise, then stopped abruptly. "Ouch. Everything hurts. Why... Oh." His jaw tightened tightly as he remembered. "Are Laurie and Peter going to stay here?"
"No, we're going back to our own house," Lauren said.
"Then who's going to live here?" His question was punctuated by a wide yawn.
"I don't know. That's something we can talk about later. Right now, you're for bed, my lad, before you go back to sleep standing up," Bodie said.
"Okay. G'night." Ray gave his sister a hug and raised a limp hand in Peter's direction before shuffling off to the front door. Buck jumped up from where he'd been stretched out in front of the fire and followed.
"We'll see you tomorrow, then," Bodie said, receiving his own hug from Laurie. Tomorrow, to plan a funeral and reorganise their lives in an attempt to fill the void.
The night before the funeral, Bodie watched as Ray wandered aimlessly around their living room. After having picked up a book from the shelf, he carried it around with him for a bit before setting it down on the coffee table. He finally stopped in front of a framed photo of himself with his mum and Bodie, running his fingers over the edge.
"It's not fair."
"I know. Life's not fair. Your first accident wasn't fair."
"Why? Why my mum? Why not someone else? Why did it have to happen at all?" Ray's fingers clutched convulsively around the photo as he picked it up and turned to face Bodie. "Why? She was a great Mum. She never hurt anybody. She wasn't old, so why?"
"I don't know."
"I don't know, Ray."
"No. Why don't you know? You know everything." He looked at Bodie angrily. "Tell me why."
"Tell me why!" Ray flung the picture across the room and stomped over to Bodie.
The sound of glass shattering broke what little control Bodie had left of his temper. He looked back at Ray standing in front of him. Eyes glittering furiously, face set and flushed, Ray looked ready to tear someone apart.
"I don't know, Ray." Bodie angrily pushed himself off the settee. "I don't have the answer to every bloody question you come up with. If I knew why she died... But, I don't. It's a moot point. I don't know why." He listened to the heated words coming out of his mouth, unable to believe he was actually yelling at Ray like this.
"It's not fair," Ray repeated loudly, glaring at Bodie. Ray wanted an answer, he wanted someone to explain it to him, and Bodie was the only one here. Right now Ray didn't care that Bodie was angry.
"I know it's not fair. It's not fair she died. It's not fair you crashed your car the first time. It's not fair you're not the same as you were. Nothing's fair. Life's...not fair. Christ. Ray." To Bodie's utter horror he felt tears welling up, clogging his throat, spilling from his eyes. He didn't want to cry, not in front of Ray. But he was so tired. He turned away, trying to hide his face.
Ray watched in confusion and dawning understanding as Bodie moved away from him, the normally strong face crumpling. He wrapped his arms around Bodie, stopping him. "Oh, Bodie, you miss her, too."
"Of course I do, "Bodie said, still upset. Everything was upside down; he'd shouted at Ray, something he'd sworn he'd never do again.
"I didn't think. You've been doing everything, and I... I'm sorry, honey. I'm sorry." Ray eased them both down on to the settee without loosening his clutch on Bodie. "I'm sorry. For everything. I love you."
The last was whispered in choked-off tone and that was all it took. Bodie was unable to stop the huge great sobs from pouring out of his mouth, ugly sounds he couldn't believe came from him. He was aware of little else other than Ray's arms wrapped around him, holding him tightly; a lifeline keeping him from drowning in all the pain and sorrow from the past few years.
It wasn't until he was having trouble breathing that he opened his sore eyes. Ray was holding out a rather damp handkerchief. Bodie took it, noticing the pinkness of Ray's eyes.
"I'm sorry, Bodie."
"So am I, poppet.
"I was so busy missing Mum, I forgot about you. You miss her, too and I was being selfish. I'm sorry," he repeated.
"It's all right. I've had a good cry," Bodie said.
Ray smiled sadly. "You certainly have. My shirt's all wet. 'S okay though," he hastened to reassure before Bodie could say anything. "I've soaked yours often enough, haven't I?"
"Yeah. That's what a shoulder's for."
"It still isn't fair, though," Ray said a few minutes later.
"No, it isn't. But that's life, sweetheart. We don't get perfect answers to our questions every time we ask."
"I asked Laurie why Mum had to die," Ray confided.
"You did? When?"
"What did she say?"
Ray sighed. "About the same as you, I reckon. There isn't any answer. We have to believe there's a reason for everything even if God doesn't let us in on it."
"Laurie said that?"
"Partly. Peter said the bit about God."
"That sounds like Peter."
"I knew you didn't have the answer, either. I don't know why I yelled at you like that," Ray admitted.
Bodie hugged him tightly. "Frustration. Sorrow. Anger. All of them combined. It's normal to ask 'why' when someone dies. Especially when it happens by accident and not old age."
"When I die, I'm going to have strong words with God about this."
"I'll be right there with you, Ray."
Bodie knew he hadn't managed to answer Ray's questions satisfactorily--it was impossible to, and he was sure the subject would come up again. All he'd done was defuse the situation a little. The ache inside him grew bigger; he wanted to know "why", too, and not just the why of Irene's early death.
The sombre sounds of organ music filled the small church. Bodie listened to the muffled shuffle of feet as the mourners came down the aisle to find a seat. He sat next to Ray in the front pew reserved for family. Laurie was beside her brother, her hand clutching Peter's. Uncle Albert had arrived the previous day and sat next to Peter, arms crossed against his chest.
A heavy hand settled on Bodie's shoulder, and he turned around to see Murphy and Gillian sitting down. Taking a seat in the back were Cowley, Betty and Brian Macklin. David Henderson was already seated. Bodie wondered how many people were here today out of love and concern for Ray. Certainly neither Betty nor Brian had ever met Irene.
The organ was soothing, the Bach Fugue floating out over the congregation. Lauren had given Ray carte blanche with the music, and he'd immersed himself in the task, stereo headset on, playing record after record, to find just the right pieces.
The priest was speaking now, all about a life well lived, cut short. Bodie glanced down and saw Ray's left hand clenched into a fist. The other hand clasped his sister's. Bodie reached over and gently straightened the curving fingers, entwining his own around them. Ray looked up, startled, and Bodie knew what was going through his head. Mustn't touch in public, and here they were in a church... Bodie smiled gently at him and tightened his hand. Somehow he didn't think this was a time to obey the "rules."
Lauren went up and read a poem about motherhood, managing not to break down although she became tearful. Then it was Bodie's turn. He and Ray had talked at length that morning about what Bodie should say, and the words, short and sweet were engraved in his heart.
He looked out over the gathering of friends and family, his eyes finally settling on Ray, who was looking up at him with luminous green eyes.
"Ray asked me to say a few words about his mother. Irene was a remarkable woman. She raised two children, trained them and taught them, then allowed them to choose their own lives, accepting the choices they made. She welcomed Peter and me into her home and family; she was Mum not just to Ray and Lauren, but also to us. The love we felt for her was returned to us tenfold, and we'll never be able to fill the space she's left in our lives."
There was a smile on Ray's face, wobbly but recognisable. Bodie stepped down and took his place next to the man he loved more than life itself, the remainder of the funeral going on around him as he took comfort in the warmth pressed against him.
Afterwards, while they waited outside for the coffin to be loaded up for the journey to the cemetery, Murphy pulled Bodie away from the rest of the family. Ray gave him a questioning look, then turned back to the priest who was talking to him.
"What?" Bodie asked.
Murphy sighed. "I heard from that inspector just before I left to pick up Gillian. They found the green car. It was a couple of kids out for a spin while their old man was on his hols. It took him two days to get the story out of them when he got back. Two foolish kids, Bodie. He rang the Met to see if an accident had been reported. He was sick when he found out Irene'd been killed. Sorry, Bodie."
"At least it wasn't a nutter out for revenge," Bodie said. "I'll tell Ray later tonight. Thanks for coming, you two. It means a lot to us."
"Yeah. See you at work tomorrow, mate." He and Gillian headed for their car as Bodie went back to Ray, Laurie and Peter.
In the privacy of the car, Bodie quietly told them what he'd learned from Murphy. For several moments no one spoke as they took it all in.
"What a stupid waste," Peter said flatly.
"A couple of kids?" Ray asked. "Do they know what they did?"
"If they don't know now, they will soon. Their father knows." Bodie shrugged his shoulders. "They broke the law, Ray, and killed a human being. Don't you want them punished?"
Ray was silent as he pondered the question. Finally he said, "No. They made a mistake. It's a bad feeling living with the fact you've killed someone."
Even when you don't remember doing it, Bodie thought.
"I reckon for kids it would be even worse," Ray continued. "What will happen to them?"
"We'll probably never know," Bodie answered. Crimes perpetrated by children--however accidental--was not a discussion he cared to enter into right now.
More than anything, Bodie wanted this day to end.
Ray squirmed a little in his chair and looked around for Buck. The dog was curled up near the hearth, head on paws, eyes alert and watching. At Ray's whispered call, he got up and trotted over, settling on his haunches, head on Ray's knee.
"Good boy." Ray scratched behind the soft ears, in the place Buck liked best. It was so... comfortable doing this. Ray thought maybe he liked it as much as Buck did. "Bodie?"
"I've got a problem."
Bodie looked up from the book he was reading. Ray was curled in the easy chair, eyes on his fingers where they were tangled in Buck's fur. His brow was furrowed.
"What kind of problem, sweetheart. Can I solve it?"
"Nooo, I don't think so. Think I have to do it myself, and I don't want to. Not really. But it's part of my job, so I have to do it."
Bodie gave his head a small shake. Ray's reasoning was a bit convoluted sometimes. "What's 'it', then?"
"Talk to Dr McFarlaine." Ray finally looked at him, his mouth pursed.
"It's Marriott. I think he's lost his nerve, and I need to know what Dr McFarlaine thinks since Marriott finished his tests yesterday."
"What makes you think Marriott's lost his nerve?" Bodie asked carefully.
Ray straightened up in his chair and began to explain. "Do you remember when he fell from the fire escape last month and pulled some muscles in his leg? He's been coming in for me to massage it and help him with exercises. Only he should have been back out on the street a fortnight ago, while I was at the farm with Mum ..." He paused, then hurried on. "...but he's still coming in. Says it still hurts and maybe he should be doing a desk job now. He says it like he doesn't want to, but why else would he keep coming back?"
"Maybe he fancies you?" Bodie teased.
"Bodie. I'm being serious now."
"Yes, you are. I'm sorry, Ray." Bodie erased the smile from his face. "Do you want me to talk to McFarlaine?"
"Yes. No." Ray frowned. "It's my job, Bodie. I have to do it. I just don't want to. What if he doesn't believe me? Or maybe I'm wrong.
"Do you really think you're wrong?"
"Then go and talk to him. If he doesn't believe you or treats you with disrespect, then you come to me or Mr Cowley, or Murphy if we're not around, and we'll have a meeting. An agent losing his nerve is a very serious matter and not something we want to ignore. Marriott's a good man. I'd hate to force him back out on the street just to see him get himself killed."
"I might be wrong."
"Yes, you might." Ray's eyebrows shot up at that, and Bodie quickly explained. "I trust your judgement, but you're not infallible."
"Means never making mistakes."
"Oh." The new word was carefully placed in his brain. "So if I'm not infallible then I still make mistakes."
"Yep. In fact, you once told me the only person who's infallible is the pope. Do you remember?"
"No." He looked sad. "When was that?"
"After an Israeli Prime Minister was kidnapped and we had to find him. Rode around on the buses for hours, we did, complaining all the way."
"Did we find him?"
"We certainly did. We burst into the house they were using, guns blazing. Mr Cowley was quite pleased with us. Until you asked him about our overtime pay." He looked back at Ray, the smile on his face fading as he saw it wasn't returned. "Ray?"
"I wish I could remember. I forgot so much about when I was little with Mum, and now she's not here to remind me of stuff. It's not fair." Ray said angrily. "I can't remember lots of things with you, and I'm afraid--" He broke off whatever he was going to say as his voice started to wobble. At his feet, Buck whined softly, picking up on the mood.
Bodie got off the settee and walked over to Ray's chair, perching on the arm. He reached out and gently tugged a curl before rubbing the back of his hand down a broken cheekbone. "You're afraid?" He nudged.
"You'll die, too," Ray whispered softly.
"I'll die some day, Ray; so will you," Bodie reminded him, his fingers moving down to massage the base of a slender but tense neck. He wanted to get Ray's mind off death.
"I know. But what if you die before I remember?"
Bodie was totally confused now. "Remember what, Ray?"
"Everything we used to do before I crashed my car."
Christ. Bodie's fingers travelled through the curls on Ray's head, gently rubbing his scalp. "Those memories are all gone, sweetheart. They were destroyed when your brain bled. Remember Dr Haynes explaining all that to us?"
"Ye-es. But sometimes I remember stuff and maybe..." his voice trailed off. "This is being foolish, isn't it?"
"No, it's being...regretful, maybe. Or it's wishful thinking." Bodie brushed the hair off Doyle's forehead and kissed the scar left from the first accident. "It'll never be the same as it was, Ray. You know that."
"Yes, but...I love you, Bodie." He leaned his head back against Bodie's chest.
"And?" Ray arched his neck back, the better to see Bodie's face.
"And?" Tired, Bodie looked down to see green eyes watching him. "Oh. I love you, too."
"Bodie?" Ray's long arms reached up and his hands pulled Bodie's head down.
"I'm knackered, poppet." Bodie said when his mouth was released.
"Do you want to go to bed?"
Bodie sighed. "Yes."
"All right." If that's what Bodie wanted, it was fine with Ray. He got up out of his chair, gave Buck a final pat on the head and walked off to the loo.
Bodie was already in bed when Ray finished his ablutions. Quickly removing his clothes, he crawled in next to Bodie, nuzzling his ear, and sliding his hand down towards Bodie's genitals.
A steely hand grabbed his, stopping him.
Ray stilled immediately. "Bodie? What did I do?"
"Nothing. I had a busy day today, that's all, and I could do with a good night's sleep. So could you. Sleep. It's what people do when they're tired." Bodie turned on his side to face Ray and from somewhere summoned up what he hoped was a reassuring smile.
"You don't want to make love?"
Bodie grappled with a simple way to explain that he just didn't feel like sex at this particular moment. There wasn't one. He settled for repeating that he was exhausted.
Ray examined Bodie's face, then carefully turned over and moved closer to his edge of the bed. He lay without moving for several minutes, but when Bodie didn't say anything more, turned back around. Bodie was asleep. Maybe Ray really hadn't done anything wrong, then. Maybe Bodie really was just tired.
Carefully Ray inched across the bed until he was close enough to rest his forehead against Bodie's shoulder. Gently patting Bodie's arm, Ray closed his eyes.
The clock showed 3:00 am when shouts woke Bodie. His eyes snapped open, and he moved just in time to evade Ray's flailing arms. He grabbed a wrist as it flew past his nose. At the side of the bed, Buck was barking.
"No!" Ray's eyes were scrunched shut, and his hair was matted in sweaty ringlets against his forehead and neck.
"Stop it, Buck. Wake up. Ray." Bodie leaned over the writhing body, stilling it by sheer weight. Then, as confused green eyes opened, he said quietly, "It's all right, poppet. You're all right. Buck, shut up."
"It's all right." Thankfully Buck had subsided, his snout resting on the bed, brown eyes watching the two men.
"I know, sweetheart. You're all right now. You were dreaming."
"Drea... It was a dream? Mum?"
"No, that's real."
"Bodie." Ray's eyes filled and the tears overflowed.
Bodie held him tight, letting him cry. It was better if he let it out. It was better if they both did. Bodie felt his own throat begin to close up. He didn't know which was more painful, the ache he felt missing Irene, or the hurt that hit him in the gut each time Ray cried.
Eventually Ray quieted down and went back to sleep. What had caused this? The dread of confronting McFarlaine? Their talk just before bed? Normal grief? The thoughts buzzing around in his head kept Bodie from falling straight back to sleep. When the alarm went off later that morning, he felt as though he'd spent the night drinking and was now being punished. Ray was curled against his side, one leg drawn up over Bodie's thighs, their heads sharing the pillow. As Bodie moved, Ray shifted to bury his head under the covers.
"Up Ray. Work." Bodie tugged the blankets down.
"Ungh." Ray's hand reached out, face burrowing into the pillow, fingers searching blindly for the blanket Bodie was holding just out of reach.
"That certainly made sense." Bodie commented as Ray and turned and opened one eye to glare up at him. The skin around both eyes was still swollen and bruised-looking. "Come on, Ray, shift yourself."
"I am." Ray didn't move.
"Ray." Bodie's head hurt and he was not in the mood to play games. A big sigh wafted out from under the tent Bodie'd created.
"All right." Ray sat up, scowling. He rubbed his eyes and sniffed. "'M all stuffed up."
"Go and have a shower. That should help."
Ray looked at him curiously, a small worry beginning to show in his features. "Bodie? Are you all right?"
Bodie ran a hand through his short hair. "I've got a terrific headache, Ray. Go and have your shower and I'll make us breakfast. I'll probably feel better after I've had something to eat."
"I'll make breakfast if you want to have a shower first," Ray offered. He wasn't sure what to make of this. Bodie didn't have headaches, and he was never tired, and he didn't ever not want to make love.
"If you want." Bodie took a deep breath, and tried again. "That would be great, Ray, thanks."
"I'll go do it now, then," Ray said quietly, still confused, and left the room. He wasn't any clearer on what was happening by the time Bodie finished his shower and walked into the kitchen.
All through breakfast, Ray kept giving Bodie puzzled glances, until Bodie finally put his fork down and asked straight out what was wrong.
"Nothing." Doyle buttered a slice of toast and stuffed half of it in his mouth.
"You're giving me odd looks, Ray. What is it?"
"Are you sick?"
Bodie reached for his own toast. "No. I didn't sleep well last night--"
"I'm sorry," Ray interrupted.
"It's all right. You didn't have a nightmare deliberately, did you?" At Ray's vehement denial, Bodie continued. "Then don't worry. I'll be fine."
"I'll go and have my shower now," was Ray's only comment.
They were silent for most of the drive in to work. After dropping Buck off with Laurie and Peter, the problem of Marriott and McFarlaine came up again. Bodie reiterated his offer to talk with the man, but Doyle turned him down.
"'S my job, Bodie," he said as they walked from the car park. "I can do it."
"I know you can, Ray. I just worry sometimes, all right? Humour me." Bodie smiled briefly and ruffled his hair. Ray was giving him a questioning look. "What?"
"Humour you? Make fun of you?"
"No, but that's one of the meanings. It also means indulge." Bodie didn't explain further watching Ray puzzle through it.
"Let you have your way nicely." Two eyebrows lifted in satisfaction.
"Right." They were at the door to the surgery. "See you later."
"I'll ring you when I have a break. If I don't have to go and get supplies." Ray was quite proud of the fact--understandably--that he was the one who went for medical supplies when they needed stocking up. He had a driver of course, but he was in charge.
Bodie headed for his own office. As he passed by Cowley's rooms, Betty stuck her head out of the office.
"Bodie. Mr Cowley wants to see you."
He stopped in his tracks and turned into the office. "What about? Do you know?"
"Not me." She walked back to her desk. "How's Ray doing?"
"Holding up. Better than I expected really."
"I'm glad." She looked closely at him. "How are you?"
"Do I look that bad?" Bodie asked. "I miss her, too." His jaw clenched. "We'll make it though. I appreciate the concern, love."
He knocked lightly on the door to the inner office, opening it at the called response. Cowley was sitting at his desk, face buried in papers.
"Good morning, Bodie. Sit down. I just want to finish..." His voice trailed off as he continued reading. Bodie sat patiently.
Finally the old man looked up. "You know we have Tyler in York, working with that pseudo-IRA group. He's in with them now, and they're ready to buy, but they want to talk with the head man."
Bodie nodded, not sure what this had to do with him. "Has something happened?"
"Not that Tyler's aware of. They just seem overly suspicious, but he assures me he hasn't done anything untoward." Cowley took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"When did you come in this morning, sir?" Bodie asked.
"I'll be leaving early, three-seven; don't fuss."
"Sir." Bodie shifted in his seat. "I assume you want me to take this on?"
"Very good, Bodie; there's hope for you yet. Tyler will be ringing us in fifteen minutes. You'll be the one to take the call."
"You don't know what they want." It was a statement, not a question.
"I'm afraid you'll have to rely on instinct. You at least know enough about arms and munitions to be convincing. Tyler has already laid out the proposition." Cowley handed a sheet of paper to Bodie showing the prices for the different articles they were "selling" to the terrorists.
Bodie whistled. "Shame it's not real. We could retire happily on this."
The intercom beeped and Betty's voice came over. "I've got Tyler on hold, sir."
"Put him through." The phone buzzed and Cowley picked it up, handing it over to Bodie.
"Sir, it's Tyler."
"What do you want, Tyler?" Bodie made his voice sound as cold as possible.
"We've just about completed the deal, sir, but they want to talk to my boss."
"Are they there with you now?"
"Then give them the phone, Tyler. I don't have all day." There was a rustling sound and a muffled thump, before a strange voice came over the receiver.
"Who is this?" Bodie demanded. Cowley frowned slightly at the tone in his voice and Bodie shook his head. He knew how to handle men like this.
"O'Malley. You want to sell to us."
"No," Bodie corrected. "You want to buy from us. There's a world of difference. My man's given you the prices for what you want. Do we have a problem?"
There was a pause before a new voice came on the line. "No, I like to know the man at the top."
"That's me. And you are?"
"Your counterpart. Mitchell. The prices are fair. We'll finish our business with your man here."
A click and the connection was severed.
Slowly Bodie replaced his own receiver and looked at the real "head man." Cowley re-wound the tape he'd set up to catch the conversation.
"I don't like this, sir."
"Nor do I."
"This isn't the way the arms business is run. Do we know who this Mitchell character is?" Bodie asked.
"No, this is the first I've heard of him. Tyler hadn't mentioned him before."
"So it's possible he only met him today. I'll have Records search out what they can on any terrorists named Mitchell." He paused, eyeing Cowley shrewdly. "I think you ought to go home, sir. You're looking a bit grey. I can ring the surgery and have our physio come and take a look at you--"
"Och, that's enough out of you, three-seven. You've work to do. Best be about it. Don't be threatening me with doctors and physios." His voice was hard, but his mouth was smiling. "I began turning grey the day you and four-five first appeared in my office, and all your antics have only contributed to it. Now off with you."
"Sir." Bodie smiled and nodded his head slightly in tribute before rising and leaving the office. Everything he needed to do marched through his head as he went down the corridor, and he lined each duty up carefully in a row. First he needed to talk to Records, then....
"David?" Ray poked his head into the supply cupboard.
"Can I talk to you a minute?"
"You can talk to me for more than a minute, Ray. What's up?" Dr Henderson came out of the small room and perched one hip on the desk, giving Doyle his undivided attention.
"I need to... I think Marriott needs to come off the street. I need to talk to McFarlaine and see what he thinks. Marriott had his evaluation the other day, and I have to find out what he thinks."
"What McFarlaine thinks?"
"Yeah. Only, I wanted to tell you where I was going. Just in case... Just so you'd know." Ray worried the corner of the folder he was holding.
"Would you like me to come with you?"
Ray was momentarily silent before taking a deep breath and shaking his head. "No. I can do this on my own. I only wanted to tell you first."
"You're sure about Marriott?" David asked gently.
Ray didn't hesitate. "Yes."
"Then go and talk to McFarlaine."
"Right. I'm going now, unless you need me?"
"No, you go ahead. Oh, hang about. One of my teachers gave me some advice when I was nervous about talking to a group of people. She said, imagine them all sitting in front of you naked. It worked for me."
"Thanks." Ray smiled a little uncertainly.
Clutching the folder to his chest, Ray left the surgery and headed through the building to Dr Ross' office. He wished she were back. She always seemed to know exactly what he was trying to say, and she never called him stupid or retarded.
He paused on the way into the lift. He could wait for Dr Ross to come back. It would only be one more week maybe. The door tried to close on him and he stepped inside. No. Can't wait. What if Marriott went out on a job and got killed? It would be all Ray's fault because he was scared of the psychiatrist. Four-five wouldn't've been afraid.
That thought held him right up to the door of the psychiatry lab. He knocked.
Slowly he turned the knob and poked his head through the small opening. McFarlaine was sitting at Dr Ross' desk marking a piece of paper. After a moment he glanced up and frowned.
As he watched the eyebrows come together and the forehead wrinkle, Ray almost lost his courage. Catching his vanishing nerve, he went inside.
"Well?" McFarlaine's frown deepened.
"I need to talk to you about Marriott." Ray swallowed nervously and quickly sketched a cartoon McFarlaine in his head. Calmly he drew in a set of pointed fangs.
"Yes. He's been coming in for treatment on his leg. It should be better by now, but I think he's procsti.. .procvasti..."
"Yes." Ray blushed. "His tests show the leg is okay, but he says it still hurts and--"
"And you think you have the capability to make a decision like that?" McFarlaine interrupted bluntly.
"Like what? Oh. Yes, I do." Large, pink donkey's ears sprouted from the cartoon head.
"I don't happen to think you do. You're not a qualified physiotherapist."
"But you're not qualified. Not allowed to work without a real doctor present. What exactly do you want with me?"
"I think he's lost his nerve." Doyle said, trying to calm the guts twisting into circles in his stomach. His imaginary artist placed drops of blood from fangs to chin.
"Since you gave him his evaluation the other day, I thought he might have said something that-- What?" Ray suddenly realised McFarlaine had was agreeing with him.
"I reached that conclusion on my own. I've already sent my report and recommendations to Cowley."
"Oh. Okay. That's fine, then." Ray turned to go, stopping as McFarlaine continued speaking.
"This doesn't mean I've changed my mind about you, Doyle. I still don't think you belong here. It's the worst case of favouritism I've ever seen. However I have my orders. And in this one instance we happen to agree."
Ray straightened his shoulders. "I'm not going to get into a row with you. Only, Mr Cowley and Dr Henderson are very clever men, and, if they thought there was anything wrong with me, they wouldn't have me here."
Calmly Ray opened the door and walked through, closing it quietly behind him. Bodie would be proud. He'd not backed down. He sauntered down the corridor, the smile plastered across his face still in place when he entered the surgery.
David Henderson looked up from his desk as the door squeaked. He smiled. "From the look on your face I'd say it went well."
"Yeah. He agreed with me. Only he didn't say it in a nice way." Ray's hands shook slightly and he quickly clasped them behind his back. "That's okay, 'cause he thought the same as me. He's put it in a report to Mr Cowley."
"Yeah. David?" Ray moved all the way into the room and perched on the edge of a chair next to the doctor, hands tightly clutching the metal arms.
"Should I... I think maybe I should do a report for Mr Cowley, too."
"You certainly should. A report from our physio backing up what McFarlaine says will help Mr Cowley a lot when he's trying to decide what to do about Marriott."
"I'll do it now," Ray decided. "Unless... Have you got anything you need me to do?"
"Not a thing right at this moment. I will need you to go for supplies this afternoon, though."
"Okay." Ray smiled, then jumped up from the chair and went to his own desk, where he very carefully began to type his report. He would have David double-check it when he was through to make sure everything was correct.
It was quiet in the room for the next hour or so, the tapping of the typewriter the only sound as Ray worked on his report. The dictionary was given a good workout as Ray went through it looking for proper spellings.
Bodie'd be proud of him when he heard what Ray had done today. So would his mu... Oh. Ray's fingers stilled. He'd forgotten. For that little bit of time he'd forgotten his mum was dead. How could he?
There hadn't been a minute gone by in the past couple of weeks when he hadn't thought about her. So many things he wanted to tell her, to share with her. It just wasn't fair. It wasn't. She was the best Mum in the world.
Ray didn't want to cry in front of David, but he could feel his throat beginning to clog and his head start to hurt from keeping back the tears. He was going to miss his mum forever and ever. A tear broke free and began to slide down his cheek, followed quickly by more.
David stood behind him. Ray hadn't even heard him come over. A hand settled on his shoulder and he stiffened, taking a deep breath, trying to stop crying.
"What's wrong, Ray?"
"Missing Mum. I'm sorry."
"It's all right to cry."
"Men don't cry," Ray said thickly and sniffed loudly.
"They bloody well do. Who told you a daft thing like that?"
David pulled a chair over and sat down. "Look at me." He was silent until Ray'd turned his face towards him. "Your mum was killed, Ray. You loved her. It's all right to cry because she's dead, and you miss her."
"It hurts. In here." Ray slapped his chest. "Like I swallowed something really big, and it got stuck, and..." He stopped, chewing on his top lip. "It hurts," he whispered.
"Of course it does. This won't help you now, but it hurts less as time goes by."
Ray shook his head.
"Yes, it will. Trust me. You'll be able to remember the good times you all had, and you'll do it without crying."
Ray still wasn't convinced, but he didn't argue. Instead he took a deep breath, dug a tissue out of the box on his desk and blew his nose.
"I've finished the report." His head hurt. It always did when he cried. He rubbed at it irritably. "Will you look at it, please, before I give it to Mr Cowley? And can I ring up Bodie and see if he wants to have a break?"
"I'm sure your report is fine, but I'll glance through it for you. And of course you can go for a cuppa. You don't need to ask." David smiled gently at him.
"Ta." He reached for the phone and dialled Bodie's extension. David moved back to his desk as Ray waited for someone to pick up. Finally Murphy answered and Ray asked for Bodie.
"He's not here, Ray, he's in talking to Cow-- Hang about, here he is."
"Ray? What's up?" Bodie's voice. Ray was surprised at the feeling of relief that suddenly swept through him.
"Can you take a break ? I can meet you in the canteen."
"I could do with one about now. There're some things I need to talk to you about."
"What things, Bodie?" Ray could feel the worry start.
"Nothing bad. I'll see you in a few minutes, all right?"
"Yes," Ray said and slowly replaced the receiver. Nothing bad. Nothing to worry about. He wished his head would stop aching. Maybe he should let David check his blood pressure after he talked to Bodie.
He walked down the hail so slowly that Bodie beat him to the canteen. Bodie had something on his mind, and it wasn't good, not really. Ray could tell by the way Bodie got that little line between his eyes.
"What's the matter?" Ray cocked his head and raised his eyebrows.
"Nothing. You want anything with your tea?" That line grew a little deeper as Ray watched.
"No, just tea. Are you still tired? Bodie--"
"It's all right, Ray. Find us a couple of chairs and I'll be over in a tick."
As Bodie turned away, Ray glanced around the room, searching for somewhere private. Tucked in the corner was a small table just then being vacated by Betty and one of the girls from the typing pool. Ray walked forward, and took possession of the two chairs.
He watched Bodie make his way across the floor, dodging chairs and people, his hands full of tea and what looked like a packet of shortbread. The little line between his eyes was still there as he sat down.
Ray didn't say anything as he stirred sugar into his tea, waiting for Bodie to start talking first. Half the shortbread was gone before Bodie finally sighed and looked up at Ray.
"You're very perceptive, my lad, aren't you?"
"Huh?" Ray was confused.
"Perceptive. Observant. Aware. You notice things around you. You can tell that something's bothering me," Bodie explained softly.
"Oh, that. It's just, I know you Bodie. I can tell when something's wrong, like this morning. You going to tell me or what?"
"Yeah. You know the case we have going up north with Tyler?"
"Yes. The one with the guns." Ray poured more hot water in his cup and motioned at Bodie's cup.
"No, thanks." Bodie shook his head. "It looks like I may have to get more involved in it than we expected. Mr Cowley called me into his office this morning because the man Tyler's been dealing with wanted to talk to the boss. Cowley chose me since I know about arms dealing. I'm afraid they may end up wanting to actually meet me."
Ray was silent for several minutes. Finally he sighed. "Means you'll have to go to York, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it probably will."
"I don't want you to go."
"I don't want to go either, Ray, but sometimes there's no choice in the matter.
"Like Mum had no choice." Ray glanced up to find Bodie's worried eyes fixed on him.
"Ray ... are you okay? Your eyes are swollen."
"Miss Mum," he answered in a whisper. "Y'know, Bodie, I talked to McFarlaine, then to David, and I forgot about Mum for a while. I didn't remember she was dead."
"That's a good thing, Ray."
"No, it's not. What if I forget, then don't remember? What if you go to York and don't come back, and I forget? What if--"
"--you haven't got a choice and don't come back and die..." His head was thumping, little men inside his skull were pounding, trying to break through. Ray closed his eyes, his hand moving up to rub against the old scar.
A strong hand grabbed hold of his wrist and Ray opened his eyes to see Bodie's face inches away from his own. The blue eyes were big and round and shiny and Ray thought perhaps Bodie was going to cry. That wasn't right. Bodie shouldn't have to cry because of him.
"What?" Ray lowered his arm, wanting to hold on tight to Bodie's hand, knowing they couldn't here in the canteen. His finger brushed softly against the callused palm as he reached over to pick up his cold tea. "Bodie."
"Is your head hurting you?"
There was silence for a few seconds. Then, Bodie said incredulously: "You're lying to me, Raymond Doyle. We never lie to each other."
"Let's go." Bodie stood up.
"To the surgery. I want David to take your blood pressure."
Ray's chair shook as Bodie jiggled the back of it. Slowly, Ray pushed away from the table and stood. "I'm fine, Bodie. You worry too much."
"We never lie to each other, Ray, never." Bodie's whisper was fierce.
Without answering, Ray headed towards the door, leaving Bodie to follow behind. Halfway down the hall, Ray stopped and turned around.
"I don't see why it has to be you going to York. Let someone else do it." His hand was halfway to his head, when he saw Bodie's eyes on him, and he lowered it. "It doesn't have to be you."
"Yes, it does. Ray, let's not have a row about this in the hall."
Bodie reached for his shoulder, but Ray jerked away. "I'm not arguing."
"Fine. Let's discuss this later." Bodie's eyes narrowed.
"I don't want you to go." Now he did rub his head, not caring that Bodie was watching.
"Later. You'll be gone later."
"I may not have to go. Ray. Please. Let's go and see David and get your blood pressure checked." The line between Bodie's eyebrows was very deep now.
"I'm fine," Ray mumbled, but continued down the hall towards the surgery.
David looked a little surprised when they walked in. He glanced from one to the other before looking searchingly into Ray's face.
"What's the matter? Is your head hurting you, Ray?" He stood up from the desk and walked over to them.
"I'm fine," Ray insisted.
"He needs his blood pressure checked," Bodie said at the same time.
"No, I don't."
"Why don't we check it anyway, just to make Bodie feel better," David suggested. Ray looked at him, suspicion darting around in his head adding to the pounding pain already there.
It was too hard to argue now. Too much to think about. Silently Ray held out his arm. David got out the equipment and efficiently took a reading. He exchanged a quick glance with Bodie, and Ray sighed. Without a word he went over and lay down on one of the beds, curling up onto his side. He kept his back to the room.
"It's 190 over 108," David said softly.
"Should he take a tablet?"
"I'd like to see if it goes down on its own first. Let him rest for a while. It's been a busy day for him, and he was thinking about his mother again."
"I suppose I didn't help much by telling him I may have to--"
"I can hear you. I'm stupid, not deaf." Ray turned over and glared at the two men hunched together. "Stop talking like I'm not even here."
Bodie looked at him. There was no expression on his face. Even the worry line was gone from his forehead. Something stronger than pain flooded through Ray and it took him a moment to identify it. Fear. Though of what, he didn't know.
For a moment longer they watched each other, ignoring the doctor.
Bodie took two steps towards Ray, then stopped and spoke very softly. "I love you. I'll see you tonight." He turned and left the room.
Ray's eyes flickered to the doctor, then closed. "We aren't supposed to say that in public."
"I'm not 'public', Ray."
"I know." The tears were coming back. He could feel them building in his chest, working their way up into his throat. Why did they come that way instead of from behind his eyes? A cool hand touched his forehead and he lifted his lids. It was funny, now David had Bodie's little line between his eyes.
"I'm going to give you some paracetamol and then I want you to rest for a while," the doctor said.
"I'm all right, really. 'S only my head hurts a little bit," Ray protested.
"I know. You've had a lot of things happen to you in the last few weeks. That creates stress, which you know makes your head hurt, and raises your blood pressure which makes your head hurt even more," David collected the tablets and a glass of water as he spoke. "It's a no-win situation, mate. Make Bodie and me happy and have a short kip, all right?"
"Okay." Ray sat up, swallowing obediently before lying back down. Curling up on his side, he closed his eyes and waited for the headache to go away.
He had to tell Bodie he was sorry for lying to him. And for arguing with him. He didn't want Bodie to go. He wasn't going to say it, but he was very afraid something bad would happen if Bodie went. Bad things had been happening a lot lately.
He loved Bodie so much. More than anything in the whole world. Bodie was his world. Without Bodie there was nothing. How could he get cross at Bodie like that?
When he woke up Bodie was sitting quietly beside the bed, watching him.
"Wha' time is it?" Ray asked. He was feeling sort of fuzzy, but at least his head had stopped hurting.
"Half past four. Are you ready to go home?"
"Yeah. Bodie?" Ray stretched, pointing his toes till he heard his bones crack.
"I'm sorry." He sat up, eyes fixed on Bodie's face, hoping for a smile.
There was no smile, but at least that horribly blank expression was gone. Ray sat up, raising his arms high. More stretching. He was stiff from the earlier tension. One last deep breath and he slid off the bed. "Can we go home, now?"
"That's why I'm here."
Ray was quiet on the drive home. David had checked his blood pressure once more before they left, and it was back down to its normal level. Bodie sighed. He knew they were going to have another row when they got home; there was no way around it.
If Bodie had to go to York, then he'd have to go, whether Ray liked it or not. There really weren't any options here. And how anyone expected Bodie to do his job properly while worrying about Ray and how he was coping was a question no one had asked. Luckily. Right at this moment, he felt as if the entire universe was resting on his rapidly shrinking shoulders.
There were many times--and this was one of them--when Bodie desperately wished Ray were still the ratty, cantankerous sod he'd been before his original accident. Doyle would rant and rave about the bloody job and bloody Cowley. He'd tell Cowley, and whoever was in hearing range, that Bodie wouldn't be going up to York without him, Ray Doyle, to watch Bodie's back
Then Doyle would take him home and, still howling against the unfairness of the job and general injustice the world over, would fuck him senseless. Afterwards, allowing the gentleness he hid from everyone but Bodie to emerge, they'd lie there together and say silly things that they'd deny had been spoken should someone ever hear them...
He slowly became aware of Ray's voice.
"Bodie?" Ray was looking at him, an expression of puzzlement and worry lining his face. Looking around them, Bodie saw the reason for the confusion. Without his being consciously aware of it, they'd arrived home and were stopped at the house. Bodie frowned.
"I was just thinking, Ray." Bodie wasn't exactly lying. He tried to distract the green eyes staring at him so intently. "You going to sit there all night or come in for some supper?"
Ray gazed at him sceptically before answering. "Supper. 'S my turn to cook."
"How about I cook tonight?" He really didn't want Ray pottering about in the kitchen after this afternoon.
"I'd like to, that's all." Bodie opened the car door and stepped out onto the drive.
"You hate cooking," Ray protested.
"I'll cook," Bodie said firmly and walked into the house. Ray shut his mouth with an audible click of his teeth and followed.
Supper consisted of Spaghetti a la Bodie, one of the few things he knew how to make safely. It wasn't until after the dishes were washed, dried and put away that Bodie again brought up the subject of his going north.
Ray refused to listen. He played with Buck, making the dog bark in excitement, and Bodie ground his teeth in frustration.
"Buck's getting bigger I think, don't you?" Ray carefully kept his eyes on the dog.
"Maybe. Ray, we--"
A rubber ball flew past Bodie's nose, and Buck enthusiastically trod all over Bodie's legs as he followed after it.
"Sorry, Bodie. We'll go outside. Come on, Buck."
Before Bodie could draw another breath, man and dog were through the door and in the back garden.
Bodie sighed and closed his eyes. He hadn't felt so helpless in a long time. He wanted to tear something apart. He didn't know how to deal with the Ray who'd suddenly appeared after Irene's death, and if Irene were here, he'd ring her up and... If Irene were here, they wouldn't be having this problem to begin with.
Angrily, Bodie punched the wall, throwing himself onto the couch. Problem was Bodie was having the same contradictory feelings, which made it harder to deal with Ray.
The back door opened and shut quietly. Buck's toenails clattered across the kitchen lino followed slowly by Ray's squeaking trainers. Bodie moved his hand away as Buck's cold nose poked his palm.
"Come away, Buck," Ray said softly.
Bodie finally raised his head. Ray was tucked into the armchair, the dog at his feet. Both were gravely watching him.
Bodie said nothing, waiting.
Ray's gaze wandered around the room before settling again on Bodie. Still Bodie waited. Whatever happened next was up to Ray. Bodie was right out of ideas.
A heavy sigh split the silence. Bodie just looked at Ray.
Bodie settled back into the cushions, letting his chin drop back down and his eyes close. His normal urge to hold Ray, to shield him from any hurt was still strong. So was the pain he was feeling himself. He just could not let it go though. Not this time
Out of the darkness came a small voice. "I'm sorry, Bodie."
"For what exactly?"
"For not listening to you tonight after supper."
It was hard to keep his eyes closed, but Bodie decided it was much easier than actually looking at Ray while they worked this out.
"What do you think I was going to say tonight?"
"I don't know, but I'm still sorry."
"You're sorry, but you don't know why?"
"Ray, it's not my fault I might have to go to York. Do you think I want to go? Do you?"
"No," Ray said softly.
"Then why are you blaming me?"
"Bodie. Don't yell at me. I'm sorry." Ray reached blindly for Buck and began scratching the dog's head.
Bodie took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He hadn't realised he'd been shouting. With an effort, he lowered the tone of his voice. "Why are you blaming me then?"
"I'm not, I... I'm just... I'm angry, Bodie!" Ray's own voice rose.
Now Bodie opened his eyes.
"At me? Why?"
"Not you. Because I can't do anything about what's happening. I shouldn't be angry and yell at you because I'm cross with myself. That's why I'm sorry." Ray's eyes filled. Blinking rapidly, he looked over at Bodie helplessly. "I hate not being able to make things okay. I don't like you having to go away and maybe get hurt, and I'm not there to help you. That's why I'm angry."
"It's the way life is, Ray," Bodie said tiredly.
"I know but..." He stopped, shoulders drooping. No one said anything for several moments and finally Ray stood up and headed for the bedroom.
"Come on, Buck. I'm tired, Bodie; I want to go to bed." He stopped near the door when Bodie made no comment. "Good night?"
"Good night, Ray."
Some time in the night, Ray woke up to a bed empty except for himself and Buck. Where was Bodie? For a moment he was disoriented, then he remembered the argument after dinner.
Bodie hadn't followed him to bed. Why? Had he made Bodie that angry? Was Bodie even still in the house? What if he'd left? What if he'd gone out and crashed the car like Mum? What if...
He jumped out of bed and hurried to the living room, not bothering to pull on his robe. Part way across the room he stopped. Bodie was asleep, half sitting and half lying on the couch, where Ray had left him several hours ago.
Receiving no answer, Ray walked over and gently shook Bodie's shoulder. "Bodie. Wake up."
Bodie opened his eyes and sat up with a snort, looking around with a dazed expression on his face.
"Come to bed, Bodie; you'll have an awfully stiff neck in the morning," Ray said softly. "I'm sorry I made you cross. Just please come to bed."
"I didn't mean to stay out here." Bodie ignored Ray's second comment and stood, grimacing and rubbing his neck. "You're right, I'm already stiff."
"Do you want me to rub it for you?" Ray offered.
"No, I'll be all right." Bodie waited until Ray turned to go back to bed before following him.
Neither of them mentioned their disagreement when they got up that morning. Ray quietly set about preparing breakfast, more subdued than normal. He deliberately didn't bring up the possibility of Bodie's going to York. Maybe if he didn't think about it, it wouldn't happen. No, he knew better than that. That was being stupid. Something else he didn't say out loud.
Bodie was silent during the drive into HQ. He was really at his wits end with Ray. Here he was, wishing it were Doyle sitting next to him, yet when Ray got angry and yelled, Bodie turned around and wanted the complacent lover he'd been living with for the past couple years. He was so confused himself, it was no wonder he and Ray were having troubles now.
The day passed without Bodie being forced to head for York, a fact Bodie was extremely grateful for, and they left for home in better spirits than they'd arrived.
"I saw the paperwork changing Marriott's status went through today, "Bodie said. "Did you know he's going to be helping Macklin?"
"No. Is that what he wanted to do?" Ray asked, interest perking him up.
"Yeah. Mr Cowley gave him a choice between Jack Crane and Macklin."
"Good. He'll be much happier off the streets," Ray said as they pulled up to the house. Inside, Ray wondered around, apparently aimlessly, while Bodie threw together a meal of chips and frozen fish fingers. On Ray's third turn through the kitchen, Bodie finally asked what he was looking for.
"I'm looking for the post. I think I saw my bank statement come yesterday."
"Eat, then you can look for it. It should be with the newspaper," Bodie said.
"Yeah, but where's the paper?" Ray muttered as he helped himself to hot fish and chips. Bodie didn't bother answering, and as soon as Ray finished eating, he started his search again.
Bodie went into the living room and settled himself on the couch. A quick glance around the room showed neither the newspaper nor yesterday's post anywhere in sight.
Ray came back into the room and tossed Bodie the newspaper before settling on the floor at his feet.
"It was on the floor by the bed," Ray explained.
For a while the only sound in the room was the crackle of paper and the click of the calculator. Buck was flaked out on the rug, lost somewhere in a doggie dream.
"Bodie?" Ray looked up from where he was tucked in between the settee and the coffee table. He'd been diligently working on his cheque book for the past half hour.
"What?" Bodie peeked out from behind the paper he'd been reading.
"Don't you wish I was the way I used to be?"
For a moment, Bodie couldn't say a word. Although they'd often discussed Ray's feelings about himself over the years, they hadn't really come out and discussed how Bodie felt. At least not deeply, and not for more than a year. Bodie tried to avoid it at all costs, both verbally and in his thoughts, although he hadn't been too successful with the latter in the past few weeks.
"What brought that up?" Carefully Bodie kept the guilt he was suddenly feeling out of his voice.
"How are you doing with your cheque book?" Bodie tried to change the subject. They hadn't really resolved the first argument and Bodie did not want to get into another--especially this one-- right now.
"I can't find three pounds." Ray picked up the offending article and waved it in the air, frowning.
"You double-checked everything?"
"Yes. I would've been able to do this easily before." Ray slapped the cheque book back on the table.
"You didn't bother to do it before. Would you like me to help you?" Bodie rarely asked this, believing that if Ray really needed help with something he'd ask for it.
"No. If I was clever like I used--"
"For Chrissake Ray." Bodie threw the paper on the floor, trying hard to rein in his temper. At the shocked look on Ray's face, he took a deep breath and said a little more quietly, "We've been over this before, pet. Why are you bringing it up now? Did something else happen at work? Something you didn't tell me about?"
"No. Only, I wish I wasn't like this. I wish I was normal." Ray turned his head away.
"You are normal, Ray," Bodie said.
"Not like I was before."
"No, not like you were before. But there's nothing we can do about it. What happened, happened, and we have to live with the result. I've told you before I'd rather have you this way than have you dead and buried."
"Like Mum," Ray whispered.
"Like Mum," Bodie agreed. "So?"
"I wanna be normal."
There was no way around it. Bodie was tired, heartsick. He'd loved Irene, too, and missed her. He missed four-five--the 'old' four-five--even though it was true what he'd told Ray. He'd rather have him like this than not at all.
"I've told you I love you, Ray. I've told you over and over. I'm going to say it one more time, then I don't ever want you to bring it up again. Do you understand?" Bodie realised he was doing exactly what he didn't want to do, and something that Ray hated, treating him like a child. But Bodie was too tired to work out a more adult way to get the point across. He closed his mind to the widening eyes staring at him.
"I love you. You. The way you are now, the way you were, however you will be in the future. I've never come right out and said this, but, yes, I do miss the 'old you.' Sometimes I miss you so badly it's a bloody pain in my chest. But there's nothing we can do to change what happened any more than we can change the fact that Mum died in her crash. You're the way you are, and I'm damned grateful for it." Bodie paused, taking in a deep breath. Ray hadn't moved a muscle, his eyes still fixed firmly on Bodie's face.
"I'm also proud of you. You've learned so much more than the doctors ever thought you'd be able to; they were afraid you'd stay a baby forever. You struggled and fought to learn everything you could. Now can we please stop this? We've argued more since Mum died than in all the years we've been together."
"So am I."
"Bodie?" Ray's head was turned away.
"Will you help me find the three pounds, please?" There was a little catch in his voice on the final word.
"Oh, Ray. Of course I will." Bodie slid off the settee, moving the table out a little so they both could fit beside it. He reached over and took the paperwork away from Ray. Fingers busy on the calculator, he quickly found the error. "See here? You carried over the three, but forgot to add it in. Easy mistake to make."
"Stupid mistake," Ray groaned.
"No, an easy one. I had to add everything twice, too. Did you see? I didn't catch it the first time either," Bodie reassured him.
Ray silently gathered his papers up into a pile. "I think I wanna go to bed now."
"I'm going to have a shower first. If you're truly that tired, Ray, I'll take care of Buck," Bodie offered.
"No, I'll do it. Thank you," Ray added. Clapping his hands and whistling, he herded Buck outside.
Bodie watched as they disappeared through the door before trudging up the stairs to the loo. It took no time at all for him to flip the water on, shed his clothes and relax under the hot spray.
They'd all wondered what losing his mother would do to Ray, but no one had thought to include Bodie's own reactions. He'd had no idea his own temper would become so short, or that he and Ray would begin arguing almost as much as they had when they first met.
The shower curtain was pulled back and a slim body slid in behind him, strong arms wrapping themselves around his waist and chest. Fingers tugged on a nipple, while another hand groped for his genitals.
Bodie tried to turn around, but the arms tightened, holding him in place. Ray moved in closer, his hard cock nestling in the crack of Bodie's buttocks, and began sliding his body up and down, the rough, wet hairs of his chest scouring Bodie's back.
"Ray." Again Bodie tried turning, and again Ray stopped him. A hot tongue was inserted into his left ear, and Bodie shivered. Steely fingers played along his cock, racing up and down in rhythm with the movement of Ray's body behind him.
Ray was breathing heavily, panting wetly into Bodie's ear as he moved faster and faster. His cock was slipping around Bodie's arse now, sometimes hitting his testicles, often poking at his anus. Each time Bodie pressed back, wanting it inside him, Ray moved.
Suddenly he was being shoved up against the tile wall, Ray pressing hard against him, his hand clutching Bodie's penis convulsively. Bodie could feel the jutting hip bones as Ray slammed up and down against him, once, twice, then stilled for a brief second. As Ray howled his release, Bodie joined him, their seed mingling with the water.
Ray let go of Bodie's now limp cock and slowly slid down his back, biting one buttock as he sat down in the shower. It was all Bodie could do to stay standing. It was almost like the old Doyle. Bodie could pretend for a second that four-five had just finished with him.
After a few moments he turned around and looked down.
Drowned cat. There was no other way to describe the hairy bundle curled at his feet. As though he felt Bodie's perusal, Ray lifted his head, his eyes wide and confused.
Quickly they finished rinsing off and dried themselves. Ray was done first, and left the room.
Bodie walked into the bedroom to find Ray curled up in bed, a tangle of wet curls showing above the blankets. Quickly he slid between the cool sheets, snuggling up against Ray's warm body.
"You awake?" Bodie whispered.
"You don't know?" Bodie ran his hand over a soft hip and cupped a semi-hard cock. "You feel awake."
"Mmm. I'm waking up fast." Ray wiggled his bum. "I think I want to finish now."
"Finish what... Oh." Before Bodie could finish his question he was unceremoniously shoved out of the way.
Ray squatted beside him. "Finish you." Reaching over to the bedside table he pulled out a crumpled tube. Squeezing a lavish amount of the cream onto his fingers he gazed down at Bodie. "Spread 'em. Up."
Slowly Bodie raised and opened his legs, grabbing hold of his thighs to keep himself open. An excited shiver ran down his spine as he waited for Ray.
Keeping his hand in the air, Ray leaned forward and began kissing Bodie on the forehead. Working his way down, nothing but his lips making contact, he left damp trails on Bodie's hot skin. The tendons in the back of his legs were beginning to shake by the time Ray's tongue dipped into Bodie's navel.
"Can I put my legs down, Ray?" Bodie moved his hands and started to lower his feet. Strong hands forced his legs back up.
"Turn over." Ray's voice was hard.
Bodie tried to lower his legs again, and turn on his back, but his hands were shoved away, and his legs pushed back up.
"Ray? You're hurting me." Bodie was confused now and in pain. His hard-on was gone. Ray wouldn't look at him.
"I wanna fuck you rigid." Ray's voice was high and strained.
"Ray. What's wrong?"
"I wanna... I want to..."
"You're frightening me, sweetheart." Bodie rose up and grabbed hold of Ray, quickly flipping him onto his back. He crawled over on top, careful not to squash him. "Talk to me. What's wrong? Where did you hear about fucking someone rigid? Not from me."
The green eyes below him were filling with tears, but the face was set in lines of frustration. Oily fingers started to reach for Bodie's face then stopped. Ray looked as though he didn't know what to do with his hand.
Bodie managed to grab some tissues, and Ray cleaned his fingers, then lay placidly under Bodie.
"Talk to me," Bodie said softly.
"I wanted to be like I was before. I thought if I could do it here, then maybe... I'm sorry."
Bodie wanted to cry. He wanted someone to hold him, and he wanted to scream and shout and rage against the injustice of life in general. He loved the man beneath him more than his own life. Christ, how he loved him. Slowly he let his head sink down unto Ray's shoulder; wrapping his arms tightly around him, he rolled them both over so they were on their sides. Bodie could feel the tears as they started to leak from his eyes.
He wanted to cry quietly. He didn't want to cry at all. Bodie could hear the loud, whooping gasps coming from his own mouth and was embarrassed. He had to stop; this would frighten Ray. He couldn't afford to let go like this. Not again. His throat contacted painfully as he let out another howling sob.
"...ight, honey, 's going to be all right."
Slowly Bodie began to realise Ray was talking softly and holding him tight against his chest. Moving slightly away, Bodie raised his head. Ray was holding him, taking care of him. Bodie's nose was blocked; he could taste the snot running over his top lip, and his head was pounding.
Solemnly Ray held out a tissue. "You were right, Bodie. We need to talk. Can I start? You all right now? I'm so sorry."
"It's all--" Out of habit Bodie began to reassure him, then stopped. "Yes, you can go first."
"I was thinking while you were crying. I know I can't be the way I was. I know this, Bodie. I get frustrated too, 'cause I... I have to say this, but I don't want to, but... I love you so much." He stopped.
"That's what you had to say?" Bodie asked thickly.
"No." He started to turn away, but Bodie grabbed him.
"No, sweetheart. We're doing this talk face to face. No more secrets."
Ray took a deep breath and it all came out in a rush. "When I first got hurt, and came home, and you had to take care of me all the time with Mum helping and all, that was all right. And then I got a job, and now I'm going to be a real physio, and..." Here he faltered. Swallowed. "And you're still taking care of me. I can take care of myself. Oh, this isn't... I'm not saying this properly. It doesn't make any sense."
Actually it did. Bodie understood perfectly what Ray was attempting to get across. And more importantly, that Ray was correct.
"I've wrapped you in cotton wool and you're stifling," Bodie said simply.
"Ye-es. What's stifling? Just tell me, Bodie, I don't want to get up for the dictionary."
"Smothering, suffocating. I'm holding you back, keeping you from growing."
Ray blinked. "I...yes."
"I won't break, honey," Ray said softly.
"No." Bodie was so tired.
"I don't like it when you worry about me."
"No. I can't help it."
Ray gently kissed the tip of his nose. "No. You can't. But, Bodie? Don't show me you worry. Only, I worry too and I think maybe I can't do something I should be able to."
"In the shower, that was okay, wasn't it? But I was wrong in bed. I'm sorry. I love you, Bodie."
Ray pulled him closer and tightened his hold. "I worry about you, too, but I never told you before. You could get killed just like Mum, doing nothing, and worrying doesn't help, but I can't stop it either. But I never said."
"No, you didn't. I wish you would in future."
"No. I can't stop what's going to happen." Ray was quiet and Bodie let him think. "Bodie?"
"Have we finished talking now?"
"What do you think? Do you have anything else to tell me?"
"Noooo." He drew it out, as though uncertain. "Are you angry with me?"
"No. You needed to tell me this. It was something I had to know." Bodie blinked his sore eyes. It was the truth. "Do me favour? When I start to smother you or hold you back or look worried, will you tell me?"
"But what?" Bodie asked.
"Good night." Bodie fell asleep wondering what Ray's "but..." could possibly be.
Bodie had barely opened his eyes the next morning when the C15 phone began ringing. He fumbled for the receiver, putting it to his ear and crawling back under the warm blankets.
"I need you in here now, Bodie. There's bad news from the north." It was Cowley, sounding very subdued.
"Shall I ring Murphy? Or do you need only me?"
"I'll take care of Murphy. Now, three-seven."
"On my way, sir. Just need to arrange a way to work for Ray."
"Of course." The click on the other end finished the conversation.
Bodie stuck his arm out and attempted to hang up the phone without having to leave the bed. After falling short several times, he gave it up as a bad idea and sat up. Next to him, Ray's curly head poked out of the nest of blankets and green eyes blinked sleepily at him.
"I've got to go in early. That was Mr Cowley on the phone. Something's happened to the op up in York and he needs me in the office as soon as possible."
"Did somebody die?" Ray peered over at the alarm clock. "'S only 6:00 am."
"I don't know what happened. Cowley will tell me when I get there." Bodie climbed out of bed and headed for the shower. "Why don't you give Peter and Laurie a ring and see if one of them can take you to work this morning? Or maybe Dr Henderson can pick you up on his way in.
There was no answer and Bodie paused in the act of turning on the taps. "Ray?"
The voice was right behind him, and Bodie jumped.
"Sorry. Did I scare you?" Ray asked.
"You startled me," Bodie said dryly and turned the water on. "I thought you were still in bed."
"Gotta spend a penny." Ray suited words to action as Bodie slid behind the shower curtain. "And I have to feed Buck."
"Don't forget to ring M. . . someone to take you to work." It was going to take a while before 'Mum' or 'Irene' stopped coming automatically to his lips.
"You're worrying, Bodie," Ray reminded him. "I'll be fine. I'll ring up Dr Henderson first and..." The cascading water drowned out Ray's voice as he left the room.
Bodie quickly lathered his hair and rinsed it clean before stepping out of the shower to shave. He had a bad feeling about the call from Cowley.
The scent of toast wafted back to the bedroom, and Bodie sniffed appreciatively as he dressed. The kettle squealed briefly before Ray got to it, and Bodie walked out to the kitchen to be greeted by hot tea, buttered toast and a kiss, all handed out by Ray.
"Thanks, love." Bodie sipped the hot brew gratefully. He noticed the frown marring Ray's brow and hurried to reassure him. "It'll be fine, sweetheart. Don't you worry. Tyler probably needs to ask his 'boss' a question and get an answer back immediately."
"And you're the boss."
"And I'm the boss." Bodie smiled briefly.
"I'm going to phone David as soon as you leave." Ray leaned over, tongue darting out to lick away the stray crumbs around Bodie's mouth. He finished off with a big kiss. "Go to work, honey, I'll see you later."
"David. I will, Bodie; now go." Ray deftly grabbed the empty cup out of Bodie's hand before pushing him out the front door.
As it closed behind him, Bodie heard the locks click. Ray would be fine. Don't worry. Don't you worry. Bodie had the feeling it was going to be their new mantra for some time.
Ray sighed, the smile disappearing from his face as he set the cup in the sink. So many things to do this morning. He had to shower and shave, put on clean clothes ... phone David. Phone David first.
He went back to the bedroom and pulled his special little black notebook out of his jacket pocket. David's address and phone number had been carefully entered when Ray started back to work at C15.
The phone rang four times on the other end before it was finally picked up.
"8964." A sleepy voice answered.
"David, it's me, Ray." He extended a hand for his tea, forgotten on the side table when Bodie left. Couldn't quite reach it.
"Ray? What is it? Is everything all right?" David came alert quickly.
"Nothing's wrong. Only, Bodie had to go to work early. He's gone, and I wanted to know if I could have a lift with you?" Carefully stretching the phone cord as far as it would go, he tried again for his cup, fingertips grazing the side.
"Oh, of course, Ray, of course."
"We'll need to drop Buck off with Peter and Laurie, is that all right?"
"Of course it is."
"Ta, David. I'll be ready for you. Do you know where our house is?" With a sigh, Ray gave up on his tea.
"Yes. Half past seven, Ray, all right?"
"Ta." Ray set the phone down and collected his tea. It was barely warm. Heaving another great sigh he put it back down and went off to take his shower.
Under the hot water he wondered if Buck minded staying at Peter and Laurie's house during the day. Since they couldn't leave Buck with his mum any more, they'd had to leave him with Peter who took him to the fitness centre when he went into work. He decided Buck probably didn't notice the difference.
So much had changed so quickly. Ray felt the tears building up behind his eyes and was glad Bodie wasn't here to see him cry. Bodie was always unhappy when he cried and sometimes Ray couldn't help it.
Like now. He sniffed loudly.
He missed his mum. He switched the shower off. It wasn't fair, really. His mum wasn't even old. Those kids driving the car when they shouldn't have been.... Ray still couldn't remember everything about the accident, although little bits and pieces kept popping up when he wasn't expecting them.
He reached for a towel and began rubbing his head. Yesterday, he was standing outside waiting for David to bring him something and the wind blew that tree and the branch had moved and suddenly he remembered the other branch coming through the windshield. He'd forgotten to tell Bodie that.
He glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was almost quarter past seven. Galvanised into action, Ray began pulling on his clothes. He wanted to be ready when David arrived. It wasn't a polite thing to make someone wait when they were doing you a favour. His mum had pounded that into him when he was a kid. She must've had to say it over and over since it was something he could remember after his first accident.
A car horn sounded outside, stopping Ray's train of thought, and he grabbed his jacket. Glancing quickly around the kitchen to make sure he'd put the milk away, he tugged open the door. Setting the security locks, he ran down the drive, Buck at his heels, to the patiently waiting Dr Henderson.
Murphy was already in Cowley's office when Bodie arrived. Both men looked angry. It wasn't difficult for Bodie to add it all up.
"Tyler's dead." He didn't make it a question.
Cowley nodded. "He was found floating on the River Foss. He'd been shot. The night man recognised the death photo when it came across and rang me immediately."
Sitting down, Bodie sighed. "There's no other way to do this, is there. Right." He picked up the phone and dialled the number they had for the man up north.
The phone was picked up after three rings. "Thomas."
"This is Bodie. Put Mitchell on. Now." There was clatter as the phone was apparently dropped. Then Mitchell's voice came over the line.
"This is Mitchell."
No clue in the voice. "What the fuck's going on up there, Mitchell?"
"Tyler was fished out of the Foss late last night. I repeat: what the fuck's going on up there?"
"Sorry about your man. Maybe he slipped and fell. I can ask around, but I don't think anything'll come up. Unless he was messing in something he shouldn't've been?"
"The only thing he was 'messing' in was this little deal we have going with you."
"You sending someone else to finish off?"
"Yeah. Myself. I take it personally when one of my men shows up suddenly dead. I'll be up to see the job's finished properly." Without waiting for an answer, Bodie hung up.
"You'll leave this morning?" Cowley asked.
"This afternoon. Although this isn't a good time, sir." Bodie glanced over to Murphy, then back at Cowley.
"I know, Bodie, and if there was anybody else... But you're the one they opened the negotiations with. We can't afford to make them suspicious this far into the operation if they aren't the ones who killed Tyler." To give him credit, Cowley did look unhappy with the situation.
"And if they are the ones?"
Nobody answered him.
"Yes, sir." Bodie sighed. "I'll need some time to arrange for Ray to be taken care of, and I will not leave without explaining to him exactly what's happened. That is not negotiable, sir. Not at all."
"I wouldn't expect you to just disappear, three-seven," Cowley said dryly.
"No sir, of course not. Sorry, sir."
"Unless I'm needed in the field, I can ferry Ray back and forth until you return, Bodie," Murphy offered. "You shouldn't be gone more than a couple of days. Is Ray all right on his own?"
"Normally I'd say yes, but with Irene's death, and McFarlaine here now, and... This isn't a good time for me to be away." Bodie stood abruptly, frustration making his spine stiff and his fingers clench.
He tramped over to the window and gazed out on the car park below him. Dr Henderson was just pulling in, Ray's curly head an auburn mass seen through the passenger window. "We had a disagreement last night--several, in fact. I have to let him be on his own while I'm gone, or he'll think I think he can't handle it. Just so soon after... Peter and Laurie can have him over... Murph, if you could collect him in the morning, or maybe David could do it, and..." He leaned his head tiredly against the cold glass. "Damn."
"He'll be fine, Bodie. There are too many of us around keeping an eye on him for him to come to any harm," Murphy reassured him.
"Yeah. I know. Just don't let him know you're watching him. Ta, mate." Bodie turned back to smile tiredly at Murphy before transferring his attention to Cowley. "If you've nothing else, I'd like to go and tell him. I've a lot to do and not much time to do it in."
Bodie left the room quickly, his mind churning with disquiet. Ray was still having bad dreams about the accident; the other night he'd woken up afraid Bodie was dead instead of his mum.
Add in the mess from last night, and Bodie wanted to run away and hide. Instead he walked slowly to the surgery
When Bodie opened the door, Ray was hard at work over the computer, his fingers moving carefully across the keys. David looked up as Bodie entered.
"Morning, Bodie. Need to talk to Ray for a bit?" David asked.
"I'm afraid so. Thanks for collecting him this morning. I appreciate it."
"Any time," David offered as Ray finished what he was doing and turned around.
"Tomorrow morning? And maybe the day after? You or Murphy?" Bodie grimaced. "I'm going to have to go up north. Come for a cuppa Ray, and I'll fill you in.
Ray slowly got up from the desk and silently followed Bodie out of the room. The cafeteria was empty when they arrived. They collected their tea and found a table set off in the corner. Bodie was silent, wondering where to start.
Ray beat him to it. "So, it's York, then."
"When?" Ray asked.
"There's a problem, and I have to be there. Tyler had an accident and drowned in the river," Bodie explained tersely. He didn't feel Ray needed to know the exact details.
"Did he crash his car, too?"
"I don't know."
Ray was silent.
"Penny for 'em," Bodie said softly.
"I'm thinking that I'm not worried," Ray replied, a smile that didn't quite meet his eyes appearing on his face.
"I'm not either," lied Bodie.
"Will you be able to ring me up while you're there?"
"I won't know for sure until I get up there, but if I can I will," Bodie promised.
"What time do you have to leave?"
"After lunch, soon as I've packed."
"Okay," Ray said softly. "I'll ask David if he can take me back and forth. What about Buck, though? Only, I don't know if David will want to take Buck over to Laurie's every day."
Bodie started to say he'd talk to David, then rearranged the words before they left his mouth. "Why don't you ask David if he minds? I doubt he will."
"Okay," Ray said again. "Bodie?"
"Stay away from the river." Matter-of-factly Ray began gathering up the debris left from their tea.
"I will. I'll come to the surgery before I leave and say good-bye." He led the way out of the dining area, Ray close behind.
They were silent as they walked through the corridors, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Periodically their arms or hands would brush against each other. Bodie felt fingertips lightly tap the back of his hand as without a word Doyle turned into the surgery.
Ray was punching data into the computer when Bodie arrived at the surgery to say goodbye. All Ray's attention was focussed on the keyboard in front of him, and he didn't look up when Bodie entered.
Standing there watching his lover concentrating so carefully on his job brought a warm feeling to Bodie. But for the grace of a God he never used to believe in, the man in front of him could be dead. Instead he was working in the place he wanted to be most of all: with Bodie in C15. Bodie chased the lump out of his throat with a short cough and smiled as Doyle looked up at the sound.
The smile that appeared on Ray's face was more a brave attempt at normality, than anything else.
"Time to leave?" Ray stood.
Bodie nodded. "Where's David?"
"Counting supplies behind the curtain," came a disembodied voice, followed on closely by the body. "You're off then?"
"Yeah. Came to say goodbye..." Bodie let his voice trail off meaningfully.
"Ah. You could always go and count bandages," David said as Bodie glanced over at Ray's face. "They're in the supply room," he added helpfully and disappeared back behind the curtain.
Bodie looked at Ray who was standing stiffly by the desk, the smile gone from his round face. "He always this helpful?"
A barely perceptible smile trailed the slight nod. Bodie clasped his hands together. "Fine, then. Shall we...count bandages?"
Ray jerked his head to the left. "Over here."
Bodie followed him into the small room and closed the door behind him.
"Nothing." Ray nestled up against the broad chest, wrapping his arms around Bodie's waist. Sighing, he settled his chin on a shoulder, as Bodie enveloped him tightly. They stayed like that for some time, absorbing each other's presence and storing it for when they would separate.
Finally Ray broke the silence. "David's going to give me a lift back and forth every day. I rang up Peter and he'll fetch Buck in the mornings and bring him back to me after work. Laurie said I could eat dinner with them if I wanted."
"I'll be home before you know I've gone, sweetheart," Bodie murmured.
"Chance would be a fine thing. I already know you're gone," and as Ray's voice broke on the last word he tried to burrow deeper into Bodie's chest, arms tightening.
"I'm sorry..." Bodie was helpless. Ray muttered something indistinguishable. "What? I can't hear you, pet."
"'S not your fault, I said." Ray's head came up. "I'm sorry. I wasn't going to do this. Wanted to be brave so you wouldn't worry."
"I'm not worrying, am I?" asked Bodie, as chipper as he could manage. "You've got it all sorted: David, Peter, Buck. All I've got to do is sort things out up north and come home. It won't take me any time at all. Right?"
"Right." Impossibly Ray's arms tightened even more.
"I'll ring you when I find out where I'll be. They can't monitor me all the time. I'll find a way to phone every night. Probably late."
Christ. "I promise." His own arms tightened around the slender body in his grasp, and he nosed into the curls by his head, storing up the smell that was Ray. "I have to go now. Give us a kiss to--"
Before the words were totally out of Bodie's mouth, his lips were covered. He opened his mouth to a frantic tongue forcing its way in, as Ray seemed to make an attempt at sucking out his very life. Gradually the kiss gentled, and, with a last little lick, Ray moved back.
"I love you."
"I love you, too." Softly Bodie brushed at a few errant curls, allowing them to wrap around his fingers before letting go. Lightly, he kissed the tip of Ray's nose then forced himself to release his hold and step towards the door. "I've got to go." He wasn't sure whom he was trying to convince.
Ray didn't say anything, opening the door and allowing Bodie to precede him out of the small room. Bodie stood in the middle of the room watching Ray return to his desk.
Giving one last look at his lover's stiff back, Bodie headed for the door.
"Bodie." A pain-filled whisper.
"I know." He answered the unspoken question softly and left the room.
Ray knew if he turned around before Bodie left the room that he'd break down and cry. He'd embarrass himself and Bodie acting that way. He wanted nothing more than to run over and grab Bodie and hold on tight. Not let him go to York.
"Bodie." He put it all there in that one word. All his fear, the love he felt, and Bodie, of course, knew already.
Then he left.
David came up next to him as the door closed behind Bodie. "Ready to go for more supplies? Steven'll be here presently to drive you down. Here's the list." He brandished one that was longer than usual.
Ray looked at it. "Have we run out of everything, then?"
"Close to it. You've time for a quick lunch if you hurry."
"I'm not hungry just now. Maybe later." Ray kept his eyes on the paper he'd been given.
"Would you run down and pick something up for me? I didn't have breakfast and my stomach's beginning to think me throat's been cut."
Ray set the papers aside and stood. "What would you like?"
"Sandwich and crisps are fine. Cheese and pickle if they have it, egg mayonnaise if they don't. Coke. Hang about, Ray. Here's some money."
"Oh." Ray came back from where he'd been halfway out the door and took the five quid David was holding out. He trundled back out the door, deciding a cheese and pickle sarnie didn't sound half bad.
After delivering David's meal, but leaving his own untouched, he met Steven, and they went off to buy the supplies. The rest of the afternoon passed busily, and, before Ray realised it was time, David was making going home noises.
"Do you need a lift anywhere before I drop you at home?" David asked as he started the car. "Got enough food to feed you? Bog paper? Biscuits for Buck?"
"Yeah, thanks. We did all that when Bodie realised he might have to go away for a while," Ray said quietly.
"He'll be all right."
"Yes." But he didn't know if he believed himself.
After that they were silent until David pulled the car up to the house.
Ray opened the door and climbed out. "Thanks, David."
He stood on the pavement watching as the car roared off. Glancing up and down the quiet street, he sighed. He'd have to go in sooner or later. Might as well be now. Don't think about Bodie not being there.
The house was silent and cold. He stood in the middle of the living room listening to nothing, then crossed over and quickly flipped on the telly. BBC 1 filled the room.
He wished Buck were here. He wished Bodie were here and wondered where he was just this second. Ray couldn't remember how long it took to drive to York; Bodie could be anywhere. He'd promised to phone though, Ray reminded himself. Bodie promised. Maybe later tonight.
Suddenly, Ray realised he was still standing beside the television. He'd make some tea, wait for Peter and Buck to arrive. Maybe make some buttered toast.
He padded into the kitchen, flipping on the light, and grabbed the kettle. The newsreader was talking about the IRA, and Ray listened with half an ear as he filled the kettle and plugged it in.
Toast. Get out the bread and pop it in. Butter's in the fridge. Ray opened the door and reached in, then stopped halfway. On the top shelf lay a red rose. He stared at it for a moment before slowly clutching it in his hand. Something pricked his palm, and he dropped the flower back to the shelf. Gingerly, he picked it up again and saw the note underneath.
Gently, he stroked the soft petals with a finger that trembled slightly. Mindful now of the thorns, he held the rose close to his chest. Bodie would be fine. Bodie would be home in no time. Ray wasn't going to worry. He wasn't.
The screeching kettle jerked him back to reality and he quickly turned the burner off and set about making his tea. He laid the rose and the note on a tray with his tea and carried it all into the living room.
He began flipping from station to station and stopped at what was apparently a documentary on the giant pandas. He sat there slurping his tea and chomping on his toast until he heard the welcome sound of Peter's old car in the drive.
Buck was barking furiously and shot outside the minute Peter opened the car door. He jumped frantically at the gate as Ray unlatched it.
"Oi, Buck, watch out. You're going to knock me over." He attempted to fend off the collie's rambunctious greeting while at the same time petting him and scratching behind his ears.
"He knows whose dog he really is, "Peter said. "Laurie wants to know if you'd like to come over for supper?"
"No, Bodie might phone me, so I need to stay at home. You can come here tomorrow night if you'd like. I'll make banana cake for afters," he added enticingly.
"I never could turn down your banana cake," Peter admitted. "Unless Laurie has planned something I don't know about, we'll be here. About seven?"
"About seven," Ray smiled. Buck had settled down and was sprawled on the grass, his nose resting on Ray's left foot. Ray jiggled his toes and Buck looked up at him. "Ready for some dog biscuits? Thanks for taking care of Buck for us."
"Any time, old son. If you need anything, give us a bell."
"Ta." Ray watched as Peter got back in his car and drove off. He reclaimed his left foot and went back inside, Buck trotting at his heels.
Back in the house, Ray stood watching the television for a moment; it was a programme about mercenaries in Central America.
"Bodie was one once, Buck. In Africa." Unimpressed, Buck wondered away. Ray watched a little longer before abruptly switching the set off.
Ray slid a tape into the stereo. He didn't pay much attention to what it was, wanting only background noise. Buck had done a thorough recce of the house, and not finding anyone else inside came back to the living room. He settled down on his haunches watching Ray.
"You know something's different, don't you? There's no Bodie." The dog barked once. Ray sat down on the settee and patted his knees. "Come here, Buck."
He grunted as Buck jumped up on the settee and settled half in Ray's lap and half on the cushions. "You don't need to worry, Buck, Bodie will be all right. He can take care of himself, can Bodie. You don't have to worry at all. He promised to phone us every night, and Bodie always keeps his promises. We'll just sit here and wait, and when the phone rings, it'll be Bodie. Don't worry, Buck."
A short woof and a lick with his long tongue was Buck's only reply to Ray's monologue. Ray stroked the silky head absently.
"He should be in York about now. I think. It's not that far, is it, Buck? Just a few hours. I reckon he's having his dinner about now. You know how Bodie's always hungry. I should make my dinner..." He didn't move though. His hand continued to caress Buck's soft hair.
The phone rang, and Ray was off the settee in a flash, grabbing the phone. He sank gracefully to the floor, Buck cuddling next to him.
"Bodie." He breathed heavily into the receiver.
"You knew it was me, did you, pet?" Bodie's voice carried hollowly down the wire.
"Yes. Me and Buck were talking...I was talking to Buck and I told him you were most likely having dinner about now. Was I right?"
"Spot on, love. Christ Ray, I miss you already."
"I missed you before you left." Ray one-upped him.
Silence as they listened to the soft sounds of each other breathing.
"Have you seen those men yet?"
"No, I meet with them tomorrow. I rang them up and told them I was here in town, but not where. They can't find me, pet, don't--"
"--worry," finished Ray. "I'm not. Buck was a little frightened when he got home tonight, but I told him you'd be all right. He feels quite a lot better now."
"Good for you. You just keep telling him that and everything'll be all right. What are you making for supper?"
"I had buckets of toast for tea, so we aren't actually hungry. I'm having Peter and Laurie over tomorrow night. I told Peter I was going to make them banana cake. He liked that idea."
"Save some for me."
"Are you coming home tomorrow?" Ray straightened in excitement. "I can make you chocolate-- what?"
"No, sweetheart, I won't be coming home tomorrow. I wish I was. You can make me all sorts of lovely things when I do get back, all right?"
"Yeah," Ray said softly. He wilted, resting his chin on his drawn up knees. He wasn't going to ask when Bodie'd be home. He wasn't.
"I love you," Bodie said.
"I love you, too."
"I have to ring Cowley now, pet. Tomorrow night you can tell me all about dinner with Peter and Laurie and what you did at work, okay?"
"Okay. You're going to phone tomorrow, then?"
"Tomorrow night. It might be late, because I don't know when I'll be finished with what I have to do, and I want to talk to you from my hotel, not a call box."
"Don't forget," Ray admonished.
"I'd never forget you."
Ray laughed at him.
"You were just having me on, weren't you, poppet?"
"Yeah. I love you, Bodie." At Bodie's answering "good-bye" he slowly laid the receiver back in its cradle.
"Come on, Buck, I'm going to have a bath. You can keep me company and play with the bubbles."
Set carefully on the edge of the tub was another rose.
Ray took it and placed it carefully with the first one.
After looking at the roses for several moments, he decided it might be a good idea to put them in water. "Don't want them to die, do we Buck?"
In the kitchen he filled a glass with water and carefully placed the two roses into it. He'd set it by the sink while he had his bath, then take it into the bedroom.
Later that evening he found a third rose in the centre of his pillow.
And that one was carefully placed with the first two.
Ray shot out of bed the second the alarm went off the next morning, startling Buck who'd been stretched out on Bodie's half of the bed. He chuckled as the dog scrabbled off the bed before gazing up reproachfully.
"We gotta hurry, Buck. Don't wanna be late for David and Peter." Ray was showered, shaved and fed in record time.
Buck watched from the window as Ray was collected by David. Peter would be along within the hour for the collie, so Ray had no qualms about leaving.
"Good morning," David said as Ray slid into the front seat.
"Morning. Bodie's in York," Ray announced.
"Yes, I know," David said, sounding a little puzzled. "It's why you're getting a lift with me."
"I mean he's in York. He rang me up last night from there," Ray clarified. "He was in his hotel."
"Ah, I see. Missing you already, is he?"
"Yeah. I miss him too. It was really quiet in the house last night. Me and Buck listened to the telly and the stereo."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. He'll be home in no time at all, Ray, don't you worry."
"I'm not worried. Bodie'll be all right." Ray hoped he sounded convincing.
"Of course he will," David said, a little too heartily. Ray's eyebrows disappeared under his curly fringe.
"Sorry," said David wryly.
Ray smiled at him. "That's all right." He settled back in his seat and silently watched the buildings go by for the remainder of the trip to HQ. The minute they arrived David set him to work filing away the forms and reports from the day before. The supplies he'd picked up yesterday had to be put away and the quantities entered into the computer.
Agents periodically appeared at the door over the course of the day complaining of sore muscles and various aches and pains. All of this contrived to keep Ray so busy he barely had time to grab a sandwich for lunch, and before he realised it David was dangling the car keys in front of his nose.
"Already?" Ray looked up from the keyboard where he'd been busily punching in details about Jax's sore shoulder. "I only just had lunch..." He glanced at his watch. "I suppose that was a while ago, wasn't it?"
"Yes it was. You can finish that tomorrow. I've an idea my wife has something special planned for tonight, so if you're quite ready...?" David grinned at him.
"Well, let's go then. What are you waiting for? I've been ready for hours," Ray said, as he shut down the computer.
David wasted no time dropping Ray at home and hurrying on his way. A little envious, Ray undid the C15 locks and entered the quiet house. He really hated this. While he was busy at work it was easy to pretend Bodie was in his own office, but once at home that pretence became impossible.
Tonight Laurie and Peter were coming to dinner, and Ray had decided to make spaghetti since it was simple. He'd do meatballs to go with it and knock up a salad, and that should be it. Oh, and the banana cake for afters.
Heading for his room, he paused in the hallway and looked at the phone. Maybe, if he wished hard enough, it would ring now and have Bodie at the other end... No. That was stupid. Bodie would ring after dinner like he'd promised. Ray continued to his room and tossed the jacket on the bed.
He grinned as he saw all the black dog hair on Bodie's side of the bed. Bodie hated sleeping in dog hair, and Ray really hoped he'd have enough notice to change the bedding before Bodie got home.
Pausing in the living room to switch on the television, he continued to the kitchen and set about preparing dinner. The sauce was a doddle to put together, but it would taste better if it could cook slowly on the stove instead of having to boil immediately.
Then came the cake, and Ray had made it so often he had the entire recipe memorised. He put it together in minutes, slid it into the oven to bake and was ready to work on the main portion of the meal.
Before he could continue, a horn in the drive signified Peter's arrival with Buck, and Ray hurried outside to collect his dog. After reminding Peter that he and Laurie were coming to dinner--with Peter smilingly reminding him about the banana cake--Ray and Buck disappeared inside to finish cooking.
The meatballs were the hard part, and something Buck loved to watch. Ray gathered together the meat, eggs and breadcrumbs, mashing them all together with his hands. To tell the truth he loved doing this: all the gushy meat and eggs sliding though his fingers...
Buck's plaintive woof stilled his hands, and he looked down to see an open, hopeful mouth next to his left knee.
"Big as the Mersey tunnel, that is, Buck. Maybe you think you're going to get some of this, but I'll have you know this is for dinner tonight. And it's not cooked. It would probably taste horrid, raw like this," Ray laughed as Buck finally closed his mouth. "After it's cooked, Buck, you can have one then. If Mum doesn't mi..."
His hands faltered. Slowly he began rolling the mixture into neat little balls and slid them into a frying pan. Another day had gone by when he had thought only a little bit about his mum.
He looked down at Buck, still by his leg, ever hopeful. "What do you think? Did David give me all those jobs so I wouldn't think about Mum and Bodie? I reckon that's rather clever of him."
He turned the meatballs and then set about putting together a salad. Peter and Lauren would be here any minute, and he wanted to have everything ready for them. Meatballs, salad...
"Oh, the pasta." Ray looked over at Buck in disgust. "You were going to let me make spaghetti without the pasta, weren't you? Fat lot of help you are, Buck."
A car pulling into the drive distracted them both, and Ray glanced out the window to see his sister climbing out of the passenger side of Peter's car. He quickly cleaned his hands and opened the door to let his guests in.
"Hi, Ray." Lauren greeted him with a kiss and patted Buck on the head. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Where's me cake?" Peter came in the door behind Laurie, fending off an affectionate Buck. "Oi, down, you idiot dog. You were just in my lap a few hours ago. Don't go playing long-lost buggers with me."
"Buck, get away. He's not an idiot, Peter; he's the cleverest dog there ever was. Buck, be quiet." Ray turned his back on the whole noisy lot and went to pull the cake out of the oven before it cooked to a crisp. "Laurie, can you lay the table, please?"
"Of course." She took off her coat and handed it to Peter. "Make yourself useful, my love, and take my coat--and the dog--into the other room."
"Keep your fingers away from the cake, Peter." Ray warned. "That's not for starters."
With Lauren's help, dinner was quickly on the table and conversation was muted as everyone ate their fill, including Buck, who sat patiently at Ray's feet scarfing the meatballs handed down to him. Ray looked up once to find his sister watching him, but she just smiled, not saying anything.
By the time they'd finished eating it was after nine o'clock and Ray was starting to watch the time. They retired to the living room to eat the banana cake and watch a documentary on BBC2 about wildlife in Africa.
Africa. Again. It made him think of Bodie. Of course, almost everything reminded him of Bodie. He glanced down at his watch again.
"Are you waiting for something, Ray, or are you tired? Would you like us to leave so you can go to bed?" Lauren asked.
"No. I'm sorry. Bodie's supposed to ring me up tonight. He promised. I'm just waiting for him. He said it might be late. Only, I'm wondering if it's late yet." He'd lost all interest in the programme by this point.
"He's most likely still working, pet," Lauren said soothingly. "I would think 'late' is closer to midnight, wouldn't you, Peter?"
"Yeah. He may have to eat dinner with whomever he's working with up there, which could take a while. And there's the chance he may not be able to phone you, or it may get to be too late and he won't do it in case you're asleep."
"He promised," Ray said simply.
"Yes. Well..." Ray frowned as Peter and Lauren exchanged glances. "Just don't be disappointed if something comes up and he can't call till tomorrow."
Ray didn't say anything. Bodie had promised to phone him and that was that. If it took all night and he couldn't get to his hotel until midnight or even later, it didn't matter. He'd promised. It wasn't something he could explain to Peter and Lauren though. It was just something he knew inside himself.
"Do you want to take some of the cake home with you?" Ray asked Peter. "There's too much for me and Buck to eat. I'll make a fresh one for Bodie when he comes home."
"That would be lovely, Ray, thanks," Peter said.
"I'll put it in a container for you." He jumped out of his seat, hurrying in to the kitchen. Laurie and Peter weren't far behind him. His sister smiled as Peter helped her into her coat.
"You know, Peter says no one makes banana cake as well as you do, Ray."
Ray sniggered. "It's probably a good thing, or Peter'd be as big as your house. What's going to happen to Mum's house?"
Lauren looked a little startled at the abrupt change of subject but answered readily enough. "I thought we'd sell it. Peter and I don't want to live in it, and I think you and Bodie are happy here, yeah?"
"One of these weekends when you and Bodie don't have to work, we can go over to the house and see what furniture we'd like to keep and donate the rest to jumble sale."
Ray could feel tears welling up in his eyes, and he blinked rapidly. "I know you're right. Bodie said the same thing. But I still feel sad. Do you know I was so busy today I almost forgot Mum and only thought about Bodie being gone a couple of times? I think David did it on purpose," he added.
"I wouldn't be surprised," Peter said. "Ta for the cake and grub. I'll see you in the morning."
"Bye, Ray." Lauren kissed his cheek. "Don't sit up waiting for the phone to ring. If you're asleep, I'm sure the noise will wake you."
"Yes, Laurie," Ray said politely, having no intention of doing as she said. He watched, keeping hold of Buck, as they got into their car and drove off. He slowly closed the door and looked again at the clock. Half past ten.
When would it be late? As far as Ray was concerned, "late" had arrived at least an hour ago. He eyed the dirty dishes piled in the sink. He could do the washing up; that would take some time. Maybe by then the phone would ring.
He filled the sink with water, squirted in a goodly portion of Fairy Liquid and watched the bubbles grow. He swished his hands in the water really fast, until there were more bubbles than water in the sink. Bodie said too much soap wasn't a good idea, and Ray tried to make the froth subside by slapping it down. Hurry up, Bodie.
Cutlery and plates slid into the soapsuds, and Ray aimlessly slid the dishcloth over them. Twenty to eleven. The glasses followed the plates through the bubbles, into the rinsing water and onto the drainer.
Pots and pans, cake tin. Finally everything was clean. It was quarter past eleven.
He could always clean his teeth and get ready for bed. He didn't have to go to bed. He'd be able to hear the phone from the loo, because it was really loud. First he went and put a tape in the stereo, turning the volume down low enough so he could still hear the phone when it rang. Laurie had turned off the telly when she and Peter left and it was too quiet now. He knew Bodie wasn't here; he didn't need the silence reminding him.
He cleaned his teeth to the Moody Blues' "Tuesday Morning," and by the time "Nights In White Satin" was playing it was almost midnight, and Ray was close to tears. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched Buck watching him.
"I'm tired, Buck. Why doesn't Bodie phone? It's really late now, Buck. I hate this. I hate that he's gone and I can't be there, and... Do you know, Buck, he doesn't have any backup? There's no one there to watch his back. 'S what I used to do before I crashed my car and hurt my head. I wish I was..."
He stopped as Buck crawled onto the bed with him and lay down in Bodie's spot. "I could lie here, couldn't I? The phone's right here, and I don't have to go to sleep. I can just lie on the bed." He nestled in close to Buck, running his hand down the furry back. "He'll ring, Buck. He promised."
When the phone did ring, it jerked Ray out of an uneasy doze. He knocked the receiver to the floor and slid off the bed as he grabbed it.
"Did I wake you?"
"No. Yeah, sort of. I was only a little bit asleep. You woke Buck. He was sound asleep. Bodie, what took you so long?"
"I said it might be late, poppet." Bodie's voice was low and tired. "I'm sorry, but I had to have dinner with them, and then they wanted to ask more questions. I've only just got back to my hotel."
"Laurie said that might happen."
"Did you have a nice dinner? I hope Peter enjoyed my banana cake."
"It turned out really good. I'll make you lots of cakes when you come home. Bodie..." He stopped.
"I don't know, sweetheart. Soon, I hope." Bodie answered the unspoken question. "Is Buck sleeping in our bed?"
"Yeah," Ray chortled. "He's leaving hairs all over it."
"You're going to change the sheets before I get back, aren't you?"
"Bodie. Certainly. I wouldn't make you sleep in Buck's mess, would I?" Ray began picking hairs off the bed.
"I should hope not. It's bad enough I have to sleep in your wet spot."
"My wet spot? It was only that once, and that was because you were in a hurry and didn't want to wait. Oh, Bodie."
"I know. I miss--" Bodie stopped, then continued quickly and quietly. "I have to hang up now, Ray. Someone's knocking at my door."
"Who? Bodie, are you all right?"
"It's probably the night porter with a question. I'll ring you up tomorrow if I'm still here. I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you, too, bye." The words had barely left Ray's mouth before he heard the click at the other end and knew Bodie had hung up. Slowly, he replaced his own receiver and crawled back into bed.
Bodie'd hung up very fast.
Don't worry, he thought. Don't worry. Oh, Bodie...
Bodie put the phone down and quietly reached for his gun. He hadn't told Ray the exact truth. They weren't knocking at his door. They were standing directly in front of it. He'd left the curtains open when he'd gone out this morning and the light from the full moon was shining in. It was actually bright enough that he hadn't bothered turning on a light, instead heading straight for the phone. It was the dimness that was giving his "guests" away.
The light from the corridor leaked in under the door and the two sets of feet outside were casting shadows on the rug. He stole silently over to the door, leaning back against the wall, gun ready, and waited. The doorknob twisted ever so slightly before a key was inserted and the lock clicked open. The knob moved again.
The door crashed open and Bodie moved fast, smashing his gun against the head of the first man through. Turning quickly he aimed at the next one, only to find himself face to face with the receptionist from the front desk, who was held tightly in the grip of a smugly triumphant Mitchell.
"Put the gun down, Bodie, and let us in. I think it's time we all had a friendly little chat." Mitchell shoved the receptionist further into the room, relieving Bodie of his gun at the same time.
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Mitchell? You must not want those guns badly."
"Cut the act, sunshine. We both know you're no arms dealer. Connor, get up." He toed at the man on the floor, who was groggily looking around, dabbing at the blood on the side of his face.
Mitchell shut the door and pushed the receptionist next to Bodie. Calmly he raised his silenced gun and shot the terrified man, smiling as the blood and bits of brain splattered across Bodie's face and shoulders.
"That could be you, sunshine. How do you feel about that? Connor, get your carcass off the floor, or I may choose to leave you there permanently."
"I don't suppose you'd care to tell me just what you're doing, would you?" Bodie kept his voice even and slightly sceptical.
"I'm going to kill you of, course," said Mitchell calmly. "Eventually."
"Why?" Don't think of Ray right now. "It'd be nice to know why, you know. Have you decided against your 'revolution?' Don't need the guns and munitions, then?" He raised the edge of his shirt and wiped his face.
"There never were any guns, were there, Bodie? You work for C15, just like that wet-behind-the-ears boy you sent up here first. It was too bad he decided to take a swim before he could tell you we'd sussed him out," Mitchell said. "Go and clean your face up, Connor, or I won't be able to tell which of you to shoot."
Connor had managed to clamber to his feet while his boss had been rambling on. Before doing as he'd been told, he glared angrily at Bodie, eyes narrowed. "I'm going to enjoy ripping your guts out."
"You can try," Bodie answered, his eyes never leaving Mitchell's.
"Oh, he will. And he'll take quite a bit of joy in it also." The gun never wavered from its trained position on Bodie's chest. "Now get back against the wall, sunshine."
Slowly, Bodie moved until he felt the doorknob poking him in his right buttock. He reckoned it would be a while before he'd be able to call Ray "sunshine" again without having Mitchell's sneering voice sound in his head.
"Not the door, the wall."
Bodie inched over until he was a foot away from the door. Connor loomed in front of him, a very nasty expression on his face.
Stay away from the river, Bodie. Don't worry, Ray, don't worry. He felt the first impact from Connor's fist only after he threw the second one, and Bodie realised his breath was not flowing back into his lungs like it should.
He gasped deeply and tightened his stomach muscles only to have the next punch smash his nose. Dizzy now, he was having trouble evading the blows. He had to keep a clear head to get out of this mess, back to Ray.
Why the hell was he standing here just taking it? He had to wake up, or he'd never make it home. Bodie caught the next thump on his raised arm and threw his foot out, catching Connor around the ankle. Standing here taking a beating was a certain way to end up dead. It was not something he wanted to happen any time soon. After all, he'd promised Ray he'd be all right.
Connor went down with a thud, obviously not expecting retaliation and in the background Mitchell laughed. Bodie was on Connor before he could get back up. Fists flying, he aimed unerringly for the man's already injured head.
Connor was the younger and heavier of the two, and Bodie had been off the streets for some time. He was no longer physically up for this type of combat, but the instinctive desire to live increased the adrenaline flowing through him. The skills learned in the wilds of Africa and the jungle that was London came back quickly, as one thought ran continuously through his head: Get home to Ray.
If he died, he killed Ray, too. Ray'd told him so, ages ago. He wouldn't want to live without Bodie. Ray'd once told him he'd just lie down, go to sleep and not wake up. I'm not a kid, he'd said. I can choose. I don't have to live without you. No one can make me. Ray had been adamant about that.
If that wasn't enough incentive for him to get out of here whole and in one piece, nothing was.
He gasped for air as thick fingers wrapped themselves around his neck and squeezed. Putting all his weight on one knee, he bounced heavily on Connor's groin, breathing deeply when the hands dropped as Connor squealed in pain.
Bodie grabbed hold of a burly head and neck, taking advantage of Connor' greater bulk. When the man made a convulsive effort to move out from under him, Bodie slid off but held on tight and allowed him to break his own neck.
Before he could move away from dead body, cold steel was boring into his neck, stilling him instantly. Oh Christ. Ray.
"Get yourself up slowly now, sunshine and move away from me. We're going to walk out of here really friendly-like. Remember, I've got the gun."
They went out into the corridor single file and headed towards the lift. There was no one inside when the doors opened, and Bodie stepped in, ever conscious of the gun in Mitchell's pocket. Turning in a tight circle, he positioned himself in the direct centre of the doors, Mitchell behind him.
"Push the button for the ground floor, please, Bodie."
Bodie did so.
"You know sunshine, I'm going to quite enjoy killing you. You and C15 have managed to destroy what took months for us to set in motion, although it won't be long before we'll be back in business again. Of course that won't matter to you, as you'll not be around to watch."
Bodie was silent. His muscles tightened as he waited for an opportunity to get away.
"Connor killed Tyler too quickly. I wanted to make it last longer, to make him suffer. I was very angry when Connor told me who he was, who he worked for. After all, sunshine..."
Bodie let him drone on as he listened with one ear. Every time Mitchell called him "sunshine," he wanted to throw up, remembering what the word meant to him and his own "Ray of sunshine." He watched the lights blink the floor and bent his knees as the lift slowed and stopped on the second floor.
When the doors opened there was no one there. Mitchell peered around Bodie's shoulder as the doors began to slide shut. Before they could close completely, Bodie rammed his elbow into Mitchell's ribs and slid through the opening. He took off down the corridor, leaving Mitchell behind.
Bodie found the door to the stairwell and was down the steps in a flash. He needed to get out, find a telephone box and ask for some backup. Go home.
The stairs ended at a door to the outside, and Bodie cautiously opened it. Feeling the loss of his gun keenly, he slowly stuck his head out for a quick glance. Nobody in sight. He opened the door wider and went out, keeping close to the wall. He was in a small car park fronting a row of terraced houses. There were trees, bushes and flowers decorating the landscape and, loveliest of all, a call box.
Without another thought he headed straight for it.
"Bodie!" Ray woke himself up screaming. Buck was sitting over him alternately whining, chewing on the blanket and emitting short barks. "Bodie. He's in trouble, Buck. I know it. I know it. What do I do?"
Buck began licking his face, and Ray realised he had tears on his cheeks. "I know something's wrong. Somebody has to go up there and help him."
He reached over and picked up the phone quickly, dialling George Cowley's number. He hated to wake the old man, but this was very important.
"Mr Cowley, sir, it's Ray Doyle."
"Ray? Is something the matter, lad?"
"Bodie's in trouble." Ray listened to the silence on the other end. "Mr Cowley? Are you there?"
"Aye, I'm here. How do you know Bodie's in trouble?"
"It was in my dream. You've got to send somebody up to help him, Mr Cowley. There's no one watching his back."
"Slow down, Ray, and let me get this straight. You dreamt Bodie was in trouble?"
Listening to his words repeated back to him, Ray began to realise how stupid they sounded. "Yes, sir," he said softly, then began to gather momentum. "I know it sounds daft, sir, but I know Bodie's in trouble. I can feel it."
"No, laddie, it doesn't sound that way at all. You and Bodie are close, closer than a lot of people. I'll get someone up there immediately."
"In the meantime, four-five, I want you to go back to bed and get some sleep. You've got a job to go to in the morning, and you won't be any good to me if you've worried yourself sick. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you." With his free arm, Ray hugged Buck to him.
"As soon as we hear anything I'll let you know. It won't be for several hours though," Cowley warned. "Good night, Ray."
"Good night..." Ray slowly hung up the phone. It was actually morning, half past five. He'd have to be getting up presently anyway. He'd just lie here with Buck for a bit and wait for the alarm.
He tried to ignore the churning in his stomach, but it wouldn't go away. He knew there was something wrong. He knew it. Bodie'd told him once they used to almost read each other's minds. That must be why Mr Cowley wasn't surprised when Ray told him he'd dreamed Bodie was in trouble.
If only... Life in a word, If... Where did that come from? Ray clutched Buck closer to him, hating his head, hating being stupid... Not stupid, no, just not as clever as he used to be... Hating that he'd crashed his car and life wasn't the same any more.
Hating most of all the fact that he couldn't go to York and rescue Bodie. And he was terribly afraid that Bodie was going to die.
"No." In his arms, Buck stirred uneasily, and Ray patted him on the head. "Sorry, Buck, I'm sorry. Only, I don't want Bodie to be dead. I want him to come home. He's not going to die, Buck. I won't let him be dead."
If Bodie were dead, he'd know. He'd be able to feel it, he knew he would. So Bodie's not dead, and he'll be home very soon and everything will be just fine.
"My head hurts, Buck," he whispered into the furry ear and closed his eyes.
The alarm jarred him back to wakefulness an hour later, and he sighed as he switched it off. Buck had stretched out so that his nose was the only thing still resting on the pillow next to Ray's head.
Ray lay without moving for several minutes. Finally he reached out one finger and gently drew it down Buck's silky nose. The collie's eyes opened to tiny slits and he whined, deep in his throat.
"You can tell, can't you. Buck? 'Cause you're a clever lad and can sense these things. That's what Bodie says. Just like our first Buck, who tried to protect me and got shot. Maybe you should have gone north with Bodie."
Ray slid out of bed, his hand rubbing absent-mindedly at his head, which still ached. It meant his blood pressure was going up again because he was worrying. "But how can I not worry, Buck, you tell me that."
He stood for some time under a hot shower letting it beat down on his head and shoulders. When he got out, he didn't feel any better than before. He dressed sluggishly, then wandered into the kitchen, trying to decide if he wanted to make something for breakfast or not.
The decision was taken out of his hands as David pulled into the drive. Startled, Ray glanced at the kitchen clock; he must have spent more time in the shower than he'd thought. Bidding a quick goodbye to Buck, he shot out the door.
David took one look at him when he got in the car and didn't pull away immediately. "What's the matter, Ray?"
"Bodie's in trouble." Ray paused, puzzled. "How did you know something was wrong?"
"You've got circles under your eyes that go half-way down your cheeks, your t-shirt is on inside out and you're not wearing any shoes."
Quickly Ray looked down at his feet, neatly encased in their yellow socks.
"Pardon me; I'll be right back." And with that Ray slid out of the car and hurried up to the door. Sticking the key in, he turned it and tried to open it. It wouldn't budge. He tried again. Nothing. "It won't open."
"Turn the key again, Ray," David called out. "Maybe you didn't lock it the first time."
Ray did as he was told and the door opened. Stupid... He peeled off his shirt and reversed it as he walked down the hall to collect his shoes. He heard Peter pull in as he tied his laces.
Low voices floated over to him as he went back outside, Buck bounding out ahead of him. This time he carefully locked the door. Peter turned to him with a worried frown.
"What's this David's just been telling me about Bodie? What's happened?"
"I don't know." Slowly Ray filled them both in on what had happened last night.
Whatever thoughts might be floating around in Peter's head, he kept to himself, only asking Ray to let them know when Bodie finally contacted him. He and Buck left after that, leaving David and Ray standing next to David's car.
"Do you want to stay at home and try to sleep?" David asked. Ray shook his head. "Then we'd better hurry before C15 starts without us."
David was quiet on the drive in, leaving Ray to his thoughts. Once they'd arrived at headquarters, David asked Ray to go on ahead and open the surgery for them. "I've got something I need to take care of. It should only take ten minutes. Then I'll want to check your blood pressure."
"I didn't finish the inputting yesterday, so I'll start on that, shall I?"
"Fine. I'll be back in a tick." He took off down the corridor, leaving Ray standing at the door.
"Hello, Betty, is he in?" David nodded his head in the direction of Cowley's office.
"Yes, Murphy's just now gone in. What did you need? I can let him know you're out here."
"It's about Ray. And Bodie."
Betty activated the intercom, letting Cowley know Dr Henderson needed to see him.
"Aye, send him in. I need to speak with him also," Cowley's voice came out of the speaker.
David went through to the inner office to find both men watching him with grim faces. He stopped in his tracks. "He's never dead?"
"We don't know," Murphy said stiffly.
"Close the door please, David," Cowley said.
He waited till David settled himself in a chair before continuing. "I sent McCabe and Lucas up to see what they could find out. Before they'd been gone two hours, the hotel manager rang up, telling us, rather incoherently, that there'd 'been a massacre' in our man's room and what was he to tell the police?"
"How did he know Bodie was C15?" David asked.
"Bodie's gun and ID were in the room," Cowley answered.
"I just got off the phone with Lucas." Quickly Murphy filled David in on the two dead men, and what he and Cowley thought had happened.
"So out there somewhere are Bodie and a man with a gun," David said. "And we've no idea if Bodie is dead or alive."
"Correct," said Cowley.
"Ray firmly believes Bodie is still alive but in trouble somewhere," said David sadly.
"And he may be right," said Cowley. "There's always been a bond between them. It survived injuries when they were still on the street. It remained intact when four-five was almost killed. I'll not sell Ray's intuition short, especially now."
"So what do I say to him?" David asked with a sigh. "I wish Kate Ross were here."
"So do I," Murphy admitted. "I'm not about to ask that twit who's sitting in her chair at the moment for his advice. How's he doing?"
"I don't think he slept much. I'd say not very well."
"Tell Ray we've not heard anything, yet, but that Lucas and McCabe are up there now," Cowley said after some thought. "He knows them, so it should make him feel a bit better."
Ray looked up from the computer as David entered the room. If anything, Ray's expression was even more morose than when they'd left the house. The last thing David wanted to do was add to his fears.
"I've just finished talking with Murphy and Mr Cowley," David began reluctantly. "They haven't heard from Bodie yet, but Murphy sent Lucas and McCabe up this morning. As soon as they have something they can tell us, they'll be in touch."
"Thank you," was all Ray said before turning back to his work.
"Ray? Blood pressure."
"Right." Without another word, Ray got up and went over to the equipment. Equally as silent, David ran the test, and read the result, before handing Ray a tablet and a glass of water. Ray took both and went back to his desk.
Ray had no idea how he was supposed to concentrate on anything. All he could think of was Bodie. He wanted... He should be there... He'd be useless and in the way, but... If only there was someone he could talk to.
If only his mum were here... But she wasn't. She never would be again. What if Bodie... No, he'd know it. After all, he'd known Mum was dead, hadn't he? Yeah, but you were there, said a little voice in his head. He didn't want to remember. The other day the wind blowing through the tree branches had brought a brief memory of a different, more deadly tree, and now, when he thought about it again...
"What's the matter?" David was suddenly beside him, a hand on his shoulder.
Ray was shaking badly, drawing in great gulps of air. Shrugging David off, he stood and began pacing the room.
"I remember, I remember. Little kids drivin' a car and they hit us and there was a tree... and the steering wheel... I shouldn't have gone to the farm. Mum should have come home on the train. Bodie. Why isn't Bodie here? Why didn't he tell me it was my fault?"
His pacing stopped as he banged up against the wall, the impact knocking the words out of his brain. Wrapping his arms around himself, he slid down to sit on the floor, leaning his head wearily against the wall.
"Why didn't he tell me?"
David came over and sat down next to him. "It wasn't your fault, Ray. It was an accident. The doctor said you might never remember--"
"The doctor was wrong. I remembered."
"Yes, you did." Right now David would almost happily change places with Bodie, no matter the other man's current condition. "Your mother was dead. We didn't want to add... Were we wrong?"
Ray thought back to the days after the accident. No. Yes. Bodie. "You should have told me."
David shrugged. "Hindsight is all very well, Ray, but at the time we did what we thought was best."
"Looking back at what's happened and saying: this is what we should have done."
"Oh. She only died because she stayed at the farm with me."
"It's not your fault. She may have died anyway, Ray, if it was her time. That's only something God knows."
They sat there quietly for several minutes before Ray made a move to get up. His eyes were surprisingly dry. Maybe he'd cried away all his tears, and there weren't any left. David's hand was on his wrist and Ray pulled away, climbing to his feet.
"I have to finish putting that stuff into the computer." He walked slowly back to his chair and sat down.
David followed his example, not saying anything.
As the morning progressed, David kept an eye half on Ray and half on his own work. After Ray'd rubbed at his head for the fourth time in ten minutes, David got up from his chair again and went over to him.
"Does your head hurt?" David asked.
"Yes," Ray whispered. "Will you check my blood pressure again, please?"
"That's why I'm here, old son. Let's have your arm."
Silently, Ray submitted to the testing. When it was over, David frowned. "I'd like you to go and lie down for a while and see if you can sleep. It's not as high as I thought it might be, but if we can stop it getting any worse, I'd like to try, all right?"
"Do you think Lucas and McCabe've found Bodie, yet?" Ray looked up at him wide-eyed with worry and fear.
"Cowley would've told us straight off, Ray."
"Yeah, I suppose... He's not dead."
"I didn't say he was. Ray, get over to that bed and lie down." David made his voice as stern as possible.
He must have mastered the art of commanding; Ray was out of his seat and flat on the bed almost before David blinked his eyes.
"Ta. Now close your eyes."
Long-lashed lids slid down over the green eyes.
"Thank you. Now please sleep," David said.
David stood there watching as Ray "tried" to sleep before heading back to his chair. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the endless stream of paperwork littering his desk.
The bed creaked every time Ray changed position. From the racket it was making, he'd been awake for the past 30 minutes. David got up and peeked behind the curtain, only to find rather dull green eyes looking out at him from beneath heavy, swollen lids.
"May I go down to the canteen and get some tea? 'M awfully thirsty," Ray asked.
"Of course. Will you bring me back a cuppa, too, please?"
"Yeah." Slowly, Ray pulled himself off the bed and stood swaying a little.
"I'm all right."
"I know you are. Just go slowly, okay?"
"Mmm." Ray carefully put one foot in front of the other; by the time he reached the door he was walking better and his back was straight.
"Don't forget my cuppa," David called out behind him.
Ray raised his hand in response and shut the door.
He didn't know how David expected him to sleep when he was worried about Bodie. He made an abrupt turn around and headed in the direction of Cowley's office. Maybe they'd heard something and hadn't had a chance to let him know yet.
There was no one at Betty's desk when he entered the room, and the door to Cowley's office was slightly ajar. He stood there, uncertainly, then gasped as he heard a familiar voice.
"...don't know how they sussed us, sir."
It was Bodie. Ray quickly opened the door, words of greeting on his lips. Cowley and Murphy looked up at him, startled. Stopping, Ray glanced around the room. Where was Bodie?
"Ray?" Cowley was watching him with concerned eyes.
"I heard... Where's Bodie?"
"He's not here."
"But I heard him. It was him, I know it was," Ray said stubbornly.
"It was a tape, lad, from a telephone."
"But I heard him," Ray insisted.
Cowley tapped the machine in front of him. "A tape. We heard from him about an hour ago."
"Where is he then? Is he coming home?" Ray started to raise his hand to rub at his head, but stopped. That was how they knew when his head hurt and no one would tell him anything then.
There was silence in the room.
"Is he coming home?" Ray asked again. "Sir...?"
Cowley sighed. "We don't know where he is, Ray, the phone was...disconnected before he could tell us."
"Didn't he ring back, then? He'd find another phone and ring back." Ray gave in and rubbed his sore head. As Cowley opened his mouth, Ray glared at him. "Yes, my head hurts."
"Then why don't you sit down, and I'll have Betty get us some tea. We can tell you what we know so far," Cowley suggested soothingly. He pressed the intercom. "Betty?"
There was no answer.
Cowley glanced at Murphy. "Six-two, see if you can locate her. Ray, that window seat is sunny and warm. A good place for a sore head, I think, don't you?"
Ray obediently sat in the window seat and watched as Murphy left the room. They sat quietly, waiting. Cowley busied himself with papers on his desk.
"Mr Cowley?" Betty was back; her voice came over the intercom.
"There's a phone call for you. He won't give his name. Do you want to take it?"
Cowley was silent for a moment. "I'll come out there," he said finally, with a glance to Doyle. "Did Murphy find you?"
"Yes, sir. He's bringing your tea."
Ray watched with disinterest as Cowley left the room. He'd been sure Bodie was here; for just a second he'd been so happy... His glance landed on the tape player. He was afraid nobody was telling him the truth about anything. What if Bodie had told them where he was and they just didn't want to let him know.
He got up and pushed "play."
"...Tyler somehow. I don't know if he gave himself away or if it was... Oh, bloody hell--"
There was the sound of the phone dropping and a loud bang, then nothing but the swish-swish-swish of the tape feeding through the machine.
The door slammed against the wall as Cowley burst through it, followed closely by Murphy and Dr Henderson. All three men stopped and stared at Ray standing by the desk.
"I'm sorry, David; I didn't get your tea." Ray was having trouble seeing them. Everyone kept moving around and disappearing into little black and white splotches. "I think Bodie shot somebody. 'S what it sounded like. I think... Where is he? Why doesn't he come home?"
"Ray, you need to sit down."
"I'm right here, Ray."
"I can't see you." He thought perhaps he was floating. When he hit the floor, it only hurt for a second...
"Carefully... Watch his head. There. His heart's too fast. His pulse is going like a bat out of hell. Watch him. I've got his doctor's number at my desk," David said. "I'll go and ring him up and see what he wants to do. Dear god, what a mess." He left the room at a run.
Cowley stood looking down at Murphy where he knelt next to Ray's still form. "I shouldna have left him alone like that. I was afraid the phone call was about Bodie, and I didn't want him to hear. It's our mistake to think him less clever than he truly is. Add to that his overwhelming need to know where Bodie is; I should have at least known to be cautious."
They both looked up as David came back into the room. Ray hadn't stirred. David knelt down and checked his pulse again.
"Ah, a little slower. Haynes wants him in hospital immediately. There's an ambulance on its way to collect him. Don't try to wake him; his pressure will go higher," David said softly. "What happened exactly?"
Quietly, Murphy explained about the tape and the shooting at the end of it.
"Christ," said David. He told them what had happened earlier in the day. "Add to that what he heard in here, and I reckon his brain has absorbed all it can handle. The subconscious is an amazing thing. It knows exactly how much we're able to take mentally and emotionally, and when the limit is reached it shuts down the body. I'm sure that's all this is."
Betty stuck her head in the door. "The ambulance crew are on their way up, sir." She looked down at the sombre tableau. "Is he going to be all right?"
"I'm sure he will be," Dr Henderson replied.
Everyone stood aside as Ray was loaded onto the trolley and wheeled out of the room.
"I'll follow in my own car and ring you as soon as I talk with Dr Haynes," David said. "Oh," it came as a sudden afterthought, "someone should contact his sister."
"Aye. I'll have Betty ring her immediately you let us know what's happening. It would be good to have something positive to tell her," Cowley sighed.
Once again, Bodie twisted the ropes holding him, gritting his teeth against the pain. It was a lucky thing he'd seen Mitchell sneaking up on him at the telephone box or the bullet would have done more than graze his arm and smash the phone. He dearly hoped the woman watching out of the window of the house behind them had rung the police.
Mitchell hadn't spotted her; his back was to the house. Bodie himself had seen her only as she ducked quickly out of sight. If she'd rung the police, if Cowley had sent someone up here to find him, if they connected with the local constabulary... If, if, if.
The minute Tyler'd arrived in York the case had been blown. Instead of C15 pulling in a major arms dealer, they'd ended up being the fall guy. Mitchell had revelled in the explanation.
"You remember the raid on the warehouse eight months ago? Down at the docks? You almost destroyed us then."
"So who'd we miss?" Bodie attempted a nonchalance he didn't feel.
"Conner. But not before--"
"Then I'm doubly glad I broke his bloody neck."
"--he had a butcher's at Tyler storming through the front door." Almost as an after thought, Mitchell back-handed Bodie across the face. "Don't interrupt me, sunshine. Conner got out through the side door. You didn't know it was there, did you? Did you ever find it?"
Yes, they had found the other door, eventually. And it had worried them all: had someone got away? Bodie kept still, as Mitchell went on.
"We knew the second Tyler showed up here that you were still after us. It's been so amusing, watching you play. I'm going to enjoy the next few days..."
So, now, here he was: stuck God-knew-where in the back of beyond, held hostage for by a right nutter. One who knew entirely too much about knot-tying, at that.
The room he was in was dark and damp and smelt like someone had been using it for their own private loo. Somewhere in the back, water dripped. He knew there was a door in front of him. He vaguely remembered Mitchell dragging him through it. Other than that, he'd not been able to discern any openings in the room.
What was happening back in London? Did Ray know what was going on? Hopefully, Cowley hadn't said anything to him. Ray would know something was wrong tonight when he didn't get Bodie's call. Why'd he been stupid enough to promise to ring Ray every night, knowing something could come along and prevent it?
It was ridiculous to tell each other they weren't going to worry. Right lot of nonsense that was. It was impossible not to, and he knew Ray would throw a wobbly tonight when his phone remained silent.
He heard loud footsteps heading towards his room and tensed. Mitchell coming back for more of his fun and games. Or to kill him. The door opened silhouetting the man.
"How are we getting on, sunshine? Comfortable? Got everything you need?" There was a click and the room was flooded with light. "I'm pleased to see you're awake now."
Bodie blinked at the brightness, trying to keep his eyes open. Whatever happened next, he wanted to see it.
"Get stuffed," he suggested politely.
"Now, that wasn't very friendly, Bodie." Mitchell drew his foot back and slammed it into Bodie's ribs with a sickening crack.
Despite himself, Bodie grunted in pain and drew in a cautious breath. It hurt, but not unbearably so; if a rib had broken, it wasn't impacting anything vital.
"Have you got anything else to say, sunshine?" Mitchell asked with a leer.
Bodie started to open his mouth for a "sod off," then shut it. There was no reason at all for him to sit here and encourage the mad bastard to beat the shit out of him. After all, Mitchell was most likely going to do it anyway, so why should he add to the man's satisfaction?
Some of the eagerness went out of Mitchell's eyes when Bodie didn't respond and it was almost with an air of boredom that he set about giving Bodie exactly what he was expecting.
Dr Haynes had listened carefully to what Dr Henderson had told him. They'd run a few tests on Ray, and, except for the frighteningly high blood pressure and some exhaustion, he was in the best of health.
"I suggest we keep him in overnight to monitor him, and if necessary we'll sedate him to make him get some rest," said Dr Haynes. "The more stressed he becomes, the higher his blood pressure goes, which causes more stress. It's a vicious circle and one he can't control on his own."
"We'll contact his sister, then. I didn't want to do it before we had something to tell her."
"He's going to be fine. Provided they find Mr Bodie soon."
David just sighed and nodded, then went off down the corridor in search of a telephone. He rang up HQ, quickly filling Murphy in on what the doctor had said before asking if there'd been any news on Bodie.
"Nothing." Murphy's voice said it all. "I'll tell Cowley what you've told me. Are you going to stay until Lauren arrives? I reckon she'll be over in a flash."
"I'll stay. Someone he knows should be with him if he wakes before she can get here."
"Right. Cheers, David."
Slowly, David put down the phone and walked back to Ray's room. He sat there in the semi-darkness, patiently waiting for Ray's sister. He was alone with his thoughts for a mere thirty minutes before Lauren arrived, breathless and worried. She'd obviously not wasted any time.
She went straight to the bed with a nod to David as she passed. Her hand shaking slightly, she reached out and brushed the curls back from Ray's forehead. Lauren looked up to see David observing her gesture.
"When he was a little one, his hair used to drive our mum mad. He hated having it combed because of all the tangles in it. She had to promise him all sorts of treats to make him sit still for it."
"It does require keeping up, I suppose," said David softly.
Lauren's face crumpled. "Is this ever going to end? They've had enough heartache, the two of them. It's time for some good things to happen. They didn't have that much time before Ray's first accident, did you know that?"
At David's negative shake of the head, she continued sadly. "Only a little over a year, I think. Then the accident with the lorry. We were so sure Ray was going to die. When Bodie... Oh, God."
She lost her battle against the tears she'd been holding in, and David wordlessly pulled out a handkerchief and gave it to her.
"Why doesn't he wake up?" she asked, dabbing at her wet face.
"Simply put, his mind is tired. He can't absorb so much all at one time, Bodie missing, remembering the accident--"
"He remembered?" Lauren whispered, horrified. "How much?"
"Everything. A few minutes later he was in Cowley's office and heard the tape with the gunshot, and that was all it took. Too much grief, too many possibilities, and his brain shut down. He'll wake up when he's had time to absorb it all."
"Poor Ray." She looked rather aimlessly around the room.
David picked up his chair and carried it to the other side of the bed. "Sit down before you fall down. Will you be all right here, now? I need to get back to HQ."
"Yes, thank you," she smiled tremulously. "I'm glad you were here."
"Ray's special to all of us, Lauren. I wanted to be here. I'll let you know the minute there's any news of Bodie."
"Thank you," she said as he turned and left the room. She settled into the hard chair and took hold of Ray's hand. Wherever he was at the moment, she wanted him to know someone was here.
Ghetto means ...you can only depend on your own kind." "So you and me are a mobile ghetto, eh?"
"Since when did you ever handle anything on your own?" "Yeah, well, since when did you?"
"What are you two? Some kind of music hall act?" "Whatever we are, you made us." "Ta-da."
"Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I?" "Somebody just tried to kill me." "Oh yeah? I thought they hated the car."
"Replacements are expensive." Cowley?
"You scared?" "Yeah. You?" "Yeah. All the time."
"Sometimes I remember. Remember riding in the car. I used to drive, didn't I? Reckon I still could, but Mum won't let me."
"Bodie? Bodie. There's so much blood, so much. Bodie. The phone isn't working, I just remembered. But there's a box down the road. Oh, Bodie, don't die. My bike's just outside. Bodie."
"Would you have sent me away, if I hadn't got better?" "No. That would never have happened."
"Dunno how to live without you, Bodie. Wouldn't want to. If you were dead there wouldn't be anything left."
"I love you. Love you so much it scares me."
"I had to type on a computer. I said I didn't know how, but he wouldn't listen. He said I should be at home on a pension. Do I have to go back, Bodie? I don't want to."
"I've got to go to the club and practice. I'm shooting at the weekend. So's Peter, and if I don't practice he'll beat me. I can win two hundred quid, and I need the money now, 'cause I'm not going to work."
"Mr Cowley really wants me to come back to work. To be a physio like I was going to do before."
"Brian's getting pains in his back. He's getting stiff, too. I asked David what it was. I have to read about it tomorrow. I don't know much about it yet. Arthritis."
"I want to know everything."
"Bodie, I can drive the van."
"Doyle. My name's Ray Doyle. Like I said, I'm one of CI5's physios."
"Everyone dies someday, pet, and it's not the end of the world People left behind pick up their lives and go on." "I miss Mum, it's not fair." "Life's never fair, Ray, but it goes on."
Someone was holding tightly to his hand. It wasn't Bodie; the hand was too small. Slowly Ray opened his eyes; his sister was by the bed. She was resting her head on the hand that wasn't clutching his and looked up as he stirred.
"Hey. How do you feel?"
"Tired. M'head hurts a bit."
"Do you remember what happened?"
"Yeah." He really didn't want to talk about it.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Just then Peter strode through the door and pulled up a chair next to Lauren putting his arm around her. He patted Ray on the leg. "Had quite a day didn't you, old son?"
"Yeah." Ray blinked at him tiredly. "Has it only been one day then? I think it's been forever."
"Seems that way, doesn't it?" Peter smiled fleetingly. "There's been no news of Bodie," he added before Ray asked.
"There will be," Ray said confidently.
"Quite a lot of people are concerned about you," Peter chided gently.
"I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't've have listed to the tape after Mr Cowley left the office, but I wanted to know what was happening. No one ever tells me anything--"
"Maybe they didn't want you to know, because they were afraid of something just like this occurring," Lauren commented.
Having no answer to that, Ray chose to ignore it. "When can I go home?"
"After the doctor says you're all right," Lauren said.
"I'm fine. I have to be home tonight."
"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone right at the moment," Peter said as tactfully as possible.
"I'm not a kid, Peter; I know if I'm all right. I don't need a minder any more and I haven't for a while," Ray pointed out.
"You've been through a lot of stress these past couple of months," Lauren said practically. "What if something happens and your blood pressure goes up again, and there's no one to help you?"
"What could happen? Nothing's going to happen. It's going to be all right." Ray crossed his arms and stuck out his chin.
"We could find out tomorrow that something's happened to Bodie, Ray, then what?" argued Lauren. "That would certainly cause the same reaction as today, wouldn't it? And if no one is with you, what happens then?"
"Then I suppose I'd die."
"Do you think Mum'd want that?," Peter said softly.
"Mr Cowley told me you remembered the accident. If you give up and die, it's like killing her a second time." He didn't say any more, leaving it to Ray to reason it through.
"I still want to go home, but," Ray caved in suddenly, "maybe Laurie could stay with me? Only, what if Bodie phones and I'm at your house instead?"
Lauren nodded. "I think we can work with that, don't you Peter?"
"Yeah, if you'll take both of us, Ray?"
"Laurie gets to make the pudding this time, then," said Ray. "Can I go home now?"
"I'll go and find the doctor and see what he says," said Peter, getting up from his chair. Ray and Lauren were silent while they waited for Peter to return. Thoughts were running around in Ray's head like horses around a race track during flat season. What if Bodie were dead? Would he really know? Really be able to feel it?
If he were truly honest with himself, probably not. He'd known Bodie was in trouble, so why wouldn't he know if he was dead? But what if Bodie was dead? He spent several minutes trying to imagine his life without Bodie being a part of it. The big house, quiet and empty. Their special bed, empty and cold. Just like him. He'd be frozen. He'd have no heart, because Bodie was his life.
"If I didn't have Bodie, I'd die..."
"What did you say?" Lauren was looking at him strangely.
He'd said it out loud. How loud? Maybe not very, if she had to ask what he'd said. "Nothing. Only, I wish Bodie was here, that's all."
"I know, Ray, so do all of us."
He couldn't die though, could he? There was his mother. She'd died wanting him to be safe. He missed her, but sometimes he forgot. He would never, ever forget Bodie. Never. Wouldn't let anyone else forget him either. For some time now there'd been a rather large lump in his throat demanding release. He sniffed wetly.
"What if he doesn't come home?" he whispered.
"Until we know for sure, we have to believe he will, Ray. We have to hope."
"I'm hoping, Laurie, but, it's...it's...really hard," and he let the tears escape. He hadn't felt this lost and alone since Bodie'd been shot that day at Uncle Albert's farm and almost died.
Peter came back in just then, Dr Haynes in his wake. He stopped so suddenly, the doctor had to veer around in order not to knock him over.
"Ray?" Peter glanced from the tear-stained face to Lauren. "What's happened?"
"Nothing," Lauren answered softly. "Just a little dose of reality."
"How are you feeling, Ray?" asked Dr Haynes.
"I'm all right. I'd like to go home, please," he said calmly, then ruined the effect by sniffling loudly.
"And I'd like you to stay here for the night," replied the doctor. "Has anyone been in recently to take your blood pressure?" Both Ray and Lauren shook their heads. "Then we'll do so now. Arm please, Ray."
Dr Haynes pulled the equipment out of the bedside table. Everyone waited quietly until he was done.
"It's still very high. It would be better if you stayed here for the night so we can monitor it. If it's gone back to normal in the morning, then I'll be happy to release you. You need to rest, Ray."
"I have to go home," Ray insisted. "I have to be there tonight."
"I'll stay for you, Ray, shall I. That way if Bodie calls I can tell him where you are," offered Peter.
"No." Ray straightened up in bed, eyes widening. "Then he'll worry and he can't worry about me. He won't know where I am. He'll worry. He'll worry."
Dr Haynes stepped back from the bed, motioning for Peter to join him. "When Bodie is away or unavailable, who's Ray's temporary guardian?"
"Would she be able to stay with him tonight if I let him go?"
"We both would. We'd already discussed it."
"Fine then. I'll give you some tablets for him, to keep the blood pressure down as much as possible. Also something to help him sleep, if he has trouble resting."
"Right. Thank you, sir.
"Ray," the doctor raised his voice a notch. "I'm going to let you go home with your sister. I've given Peter instructions for your care, and you're to do as he says, understand? Otherwise you'll find yourself back in here, sicker than before," he added firmly.
"Yes, sir." Ray threw back the blanket and started to get up.
"Slow down there, old son," Peter said quickly. "You're not in a race here. Just take it slow and steady. I've got to find your clothes first."
"I don't know where they are. I didn't take them off."
"They're hanging here in the cupboard." Peter removed them and handed them to Ray, who frowned.
"They hung my jeans up. You don't hang jeans; you fold 'em." He started to untie his hospital gown, then his fingers stilled as he looked at his sister. "Lauren."
"What? Oh sorry, Ray. I'll wait out in the corridor for you, shall I?" She tried to smile, failed and left the room.
"No need to be embarrassed, you know. She used to change your nappies."
"I've been out of nappies for quite some time, Peter." Ray pointed this out with as much dignity as he could muster while standing in a hospital room wearing a too-short gown that showed all his dangly bits.
He was really glad to be going home.
They hadn't been in the house five minutes when the phone starting ringing. Moving quickly, Ray grabbed the receiver.
A moment of silence, then, the disappointment evident in his voice, Ray said, "Oh. Hello, sir. How are you?"
More silence, then: "I've got tablets to take, and Laurie's here with me. Peter went to get Buck and then we'll all be here. Mr Cowley, sir, have you heard from Bodie? Is that why you're ringing?" A cold, angry monster took up residence in his belly as he listened to Cowley's explanation..
"But the gunshot--"
Ray relaxed suddenly, almost sagging against the wall.
"Thank you for letting me know. Sir? I'm sorry I listened to the tape player." He twisted the phone cord as he listened. "Good night, sir." He gently replaced the phone and turned to his sister.
"Yes? I rather got the gist of it, but maybe you can fill me in on the bits I couldn't hear."
"They're going to find him, Laurie. They almost have. And the man shot the telephone, not Bodie. A lady saw it. I suppose she called the police. I'm glad. I think I'd like to go to bed now, all right?"
"Of course. You have to take a tablet first, though."
"I used to take them, did you know? When I first hurt my head. Haven't needed them in a long time." He sighed, went into the loo and filled his tooth mug with water, ready for Lauren when she arrived with the tablet. He swallowed it. "When Peter comes back, Buck can get in my bed. Only, he's lonely and it helps when he can sleep with me."
He padded into the bedroom and pulled the blankets down. "I'll have to change the sheets though, for when Bodie comes home. He doesn't like sleeping in dog hair."
He dug his pyjama bottoms out of a drawer. His lips formed a tiny smile. "Thank you for helping me come home and for staying here with me and all."
"You get a good night's sleep, and I bet Mr Cowley phones tomorrow to tell you Bodie's on his way home. Good night Ray."
When Bodie opened his eyes, he was dismayed to find Mitchell was still in the room. He had no idea how long he'd been unconscious, but he was still trussed up, and he hurt worse than ever.
"Ah, you're awake are you?" Mitchell spoke up from where he was leaning against the wall. "I do hate hitting someone who can't feel the blows. We can continue now."
And he smiled.
Bodie closed his eyes and waited.
When nothing happened, he opened them again.
Mitchell was still in front of him, looking at his left hand, an expression of pain on his face.
"What's the matter Mitchell, did you break a finger?" Bodie taunted.
"Why the hell don't you get on with it then? I'm getting just a bit bored and the floor's so cold my bollocks are about frozen."
"No." Mitchell took a deep breath, wheezing in the middle of it and clutching first his arm, then the front of his shirt. "No."
Bodie watched in amazement as he stood there gasping for breath, face turning grey and pasty. From where he lay, Bodie could see the sweat begin to drip down the sides of the other man's face. Mitchell looked at him in shock and for a split second their eyes met and held, Mitchell's filled with an agonised disbelief.
The disbelief was mirrored in Bodie's eyes, and he watched in astonishment as Mitchell dropped to the floor, fingers still tangled in his shirt. A few minutes passed and a putrid stench filled the air as the dead man's muscles relaxed and his body voided its waste.
"He's dead. He's bloody fucking dead." Bodie said it aloud, trying to convince himself.
Bodie wasted several minutes sitting on the hard floor trying to convince himself how lucky he'd been. Finally he shook himself out of the stupor he'd begun falling into and looked at the door.
So how do you get about with no hands or feet to speak off? The bitter sound of his laugh surprised him as it echoed in the empty room. Worms do it all the time.
Belly to the floor, head turned sideways to save his chin and nose, he began inching his way forward, straining the muscles in his chest, shoulders and thighs to the limit.
Several long minutes and quite a lot of sweat later, he'd managed to move some three feet. It took even less time to convince himself he was probably the biggest wally in the country. Had to do it the hard way, didn't he? Cursing breathlessly, he rolled onto his back and used his feet to push himself the rest of the way, stopping when his head bumped the wall.
"Got this far, mate, now what?" he mumbled to himself. His various aches and pains weren't being at all coy about making their presence felt.
Taking a deep breath, and instantly regretting it as his ribs protested hard and at great length, he sat himself up. Pressing his back against the wall he struggled up and teetered unsteadily on his bound feet.
And promptly fell back to the floor.
It's hard to stand when you can't feel your feet.
Again he forced himself up, eyes concentrating on his feet so he'd know when he was actually standing.
He made it. Now, to open the door.
His numb hands were tied behind his back. Nothing was ever easy. Craning his head back so he could see his fingers actually on the metal knob, he patiently began fiddling with it. While it was easy for his brain to command his fingers, it was much more difficult for the muscles to obey.
He had to stop often in order to balance himself on his wobbly feet. He could be playing with this damn door for the rest of his life...
Eventually it opened.
The corridor he faced was brightly lit. "Happy I don't have to pay your electricity bill, you stupid dead sod."
In front of him were the stairs he assumed led to the main part of the...house? He looked at them momentarily, then slid to his knees and shuffled slowly towards them. He plonked his arse on the third step from the bottom, breathing heavily. Sweat was running down his face, and his shirt was soaked. He'd be as skinny as Ray at this rate. Planting his unfeeling feet, he attempted to push himself up the stairs. The door at the top seemed a lifetime away.
Mitchell had been a master at inflicting pain. Bodie ached all over. He'd probably be all the colours of the rainbow before too much longer. He didn't think any ribs were broken, regardless of the kick he'd received earlier. Probably cracked, though, since it did hurt to move quickly.
Taking a deep breath he moved up another step, then groaned as he missed and sat on his hands, bumping his way back down to the bottom. Sighing, he began again, using his elbows this time instead of his hands. It was a little quicker.
Ray spent an uneasy night, plagued by nightmares and waking often. The next morning, when Lauren looked in on him, a look of consternation replaced the smile on her face.
"Did you sleep at all, Ray?"
"A bit. Dreamed too much," he answered.
"Would you like something to eat? I think you should stay where you are and rest."
"Yes, Lauren." He was so tired. One arm reached out from under the blankets, reaching for Buck. A wet tongue licked his fingers.
"Yes, Lauren? You're not going to argue with me?" Her eyes widened in amazement.
It felt so safe and cosy here in bed. Warm. "I'm not hungry, but would you please ring David and let him know I'm staying at home today?"
"Today and tomorrow if need be," Lauren said.
"No, I'll go back tomorrow," Ray told her, then sighed and closed his eyes.
"Lauren. I can't just lie here and do nothing. I have to work and be busy, or all I'll do is think about what's happening to Bodie. Besides," he added, cajoling, "David will be there and he can monitor my blood pressure."
"Crafty devil, aren't you? Very well, we'll do it your way. For now. But if you show the slightest sign of--"
"I won't." Ray turned over and burrowed back under the blankets, effectively shutting his sister up.
Ray woke up the next morning determined to go to work. Wisely his sister let him be, dropping him at work with the request he let her know what he found out about Bodie.
"Of course I will. Laurie, did you think I wouldn't tell you?" He paused halfway out of the car and looked her in hurt surprise.
"No, of course not. I'm sorry. I'm worried, that's all. About both of you."
"It'll be all right, Laurie." He smiled gently at his sister and finished getting out of the car.
"Of course it will, love. Just let me know."
"I will." He shut the door and watched her drive off before turning and going inside. He kept his head down as he walked through the corridors, not really wanting to be forced into conversation with anyone, or listen to them as they tried to cheer him up.
It was almost as though the people he and Bodie worked with couldn't make up their minds: was Bodie or dead or not? Do we act hopeful? Pretend? Ray didn't like it when they put on a false face and pretended.
David was already in the office, busy at his desk when Ray walked in. He looked up and smiled.
"How are you feeling this morning? Better?"
"Yes. They're going to find Bodie, David."
"I hope so."
"You don't mind that I came in to work today, do you?"
David looked at him in surprise. "Why would I mind?"
"Laurie thought I should stay at home. I told her I needed to be at work and stay busy so I didn't think of...things."
"Sounds sensible to me."
"That's all right, then." Ray said.
"I'll be back in a tick, Ray." David got up and headed for the door. "Reckon you can handle the place while I'm gone?"
"I suppose so."
He'd barely settled at his desk when the phone rang. He got back up to answer it.
"Ray." A wealth of feeling came across the phone line in that one word.
"Bodie! Where are you?"
"On my way to HQ. Lucas and McCabe collected me a little bit ago. Another couple of hours or so, and I'll be there. I couldn't wait any longer to let you know."
"Does Mr Cowley know?"
"McCabe just got off the phone to him. Two more hours, sweetheart."
"Bodie, can anybody hear you?"
"No. I'm in the call box, and they're in the car. I love you."
"I love you, too. Hurry, Bodie."
"We are. Soon, Ray".
"Soon," Ray repeated as they both hung up.
He turned as the door opened and David came in. "They found Bodie. David, they found him."
"I know, I heard. Murphy stopped me in the corridor; he was just about dancing a jig. Everyone's walking around with big smiles on their faces," David said.
"Not as big and smiley as mine," said Ray.
David pretended to examine the grin in question and solemnly agreed that Ray's beat them all. "Of course, you have the most to be happy about. Who told you? I was going to when I walked in. If you'll come over here, I'd like to check your blood pressure."
"Why? I'm happy." He walked over anyway and held out his arm.
"Excessive emotions are what does it," David explained as he worked. "Although negative emotions are worse." He paused, waiting for the seconds to tick by. "And you're doing all right. So how did you find out?"
"Bodie rang me up from somewhere. He'll be here in soon.
"Reckon you can work that long?"
"Of course." Ray immediately went back to his desk and sat down at the computer. He swivelled back around as David burst out laughing. "What?"
"I was just having you on, Ray. You don't need to start working right away. "
"It's all right. I need to keep busy so the time goes faster. You showed me that, did you know?"
"Did I?" David came over and perched on the edge of Ray's desk.
"Yeah. The first day Bodie was gone. Everyone was coming in for silly things, and you sent me out for supplies even though we'd just got some earlier. Then it was time to go home and I'd hardly thought about Bodie being gone at all."
"Clever lad, you working that out. I thought we were being rather sneaky. Although I didn't plan on having the various agents come in like that, they must have thought it out on their own. You and Bodie have a lot of friends here, Ray."
"I know. Sometimes I wish I could remember from before I hurt my head, but you know something?"
"I'm making new memories. And pretty soon I'll have lots to remember again and I won't miss all the old stuff. Well, not as much, anyway," he added honestly.
"Bodie's coming home," Ray repeated.
"Yes, he is."
"Bodie's coming home."
Almost two hours later, Ray looked up from his desk. "Do you mind if I go and see if Bodie's got here, yet?"
Receiving permission, he got up and left the room, closing the door softly behind him and heading off down the corridor. Betty wasn't at her desk, but Cowley's door was partially open.
This time he knocked.
"Come," Cowley's voice called out.
Pushing the door open, he entered. Cowley was behind his desk, having a conversation with Murphy and Macklin, who were seated comfortably in chairs beside the wall. There was no one else in the room.
"Hello, Ray. Are you looking for Bodie?" Cowley asked. A smile accompanied the question.
"Yes. I suppose it's too early isn't it?"
"Any minute now," Murphy said. "I saw them pull in to the car park."
Ray strode quickly over to the window and peered through the glass. He didn't know what he was expecting to see as he didn't know whose car they were using. Nor was there anyone down there other than the guard at the gate.
Without another word, he ran out of the room and turned for the stairs. Halfway down and around the corner:
Bodie. He was halfway up the steps, holding tightly to the rail. Even covered in cuts and bruises as he was, he was the most beautiful sight Ray'd seen in a long time.
"Bodie." It came out in a whisper, and he tried again. "Bodie."
Two seconds passed and Bodie took a step up. Ray quickly closed the distance between them. "Bodie."
Strong arms wrapped around Ray's body. "Bodie, we can't. You said. Never at work."
"I don't care. There's no one here. It's all right."
Ray's arms slowly rose and wound themselves around Bodie's neck. They stood there silently for quite some time. Finally Ray pulled away.
"You look like an angry rainbow. What did they do to you?" Carefully he patted Bodie's chest and ribs, stopping at Bodie's painful grimace. "Are they broken? What else hurts?" He placed his palms on either side of Bodie's head and carefully turned it from side to side.
"I'll be all right, Ray."
"Did you see a doctor, or did Lucas put those bandages on you?"
"I saw a doctor in York." Bodie let Ray fuss, knowing he needed the reassurance of Bodie's well-being. He carefully pulled Ray back into his arms, nestling one hand deep into auburn curls. The other arm settled around Ray's waist. "I love you," he whispered.
Ray grinned into his neck and settled his own arms around Bodie's waist, careful not to put any more pressure on sore ribs. "Me, too," he mumbled.
"Are you going to hog Bodie all to yourself, Ray, or do we get a chance to say hello, too?"
At the sound of Murphy's voice behind them, Ray jerked himself out of Bodie's arms. "Sorry."
"That's all right, mate. You can have him back later." Murphy reached out and grabbed Bodie's hand, gripping tightly. Neither said a word, letting their eyes speak for them.
"I reckon the Old Man wants to see me," Bodie said wryly. He started up the remaining stairs, Ray hovering behind him. "I'm all right, Ray."
"I'm making sure, Bodie. Don't argue with me." And Ray stuck close all the way into Cowley's office.
Macklin was there, hand out, and when that was finished Bodie turned to Cowley. "Sir."
"Bodie. I'm happy to see you in one piece." He took his glasses off and began to busily polish them.
"Replacements are expensive," Ray said. He slid his hand under the back of Bodie's jumper and grabbed hold of his belt.
"What?" Cowley looked up, surprised, as the other men all stared at Ray.
"You said that. Didn't you?" Ray was beginning to look uneasy. Had he remembered something wrong?
"Aye, that I did, laddie, but it was a long time ago," Cowley answered quickly.
"Yes, you did," Bodie said. "And I need to debrief while I still remember everything."
"Can I stay?" Ray whispered. Bodie looked at Cowley.
"Yes. You know not to talk about anything we say in here." Cowley hadn't made it a question, but Ray nodded anyway.
Bodie walked over and settled into the corner of a small settee under the window. Since Ray's fingers were still entangled in his belt, they both landed together. Bodie bent forward so Ray could rescue his hand.
While they'd been getting adjusted, Cowley'd brought out the tape recorder and had it ready. Bodie looked over at Ray. "You'd best get comfortable; this is going to take a long time."
Three hours later it was finished. Bodie's voice was hoarse, and they'd gone through four pots of tea and several sandwiches. All three men heaved sighs of relief as Cowley switched off the tape recorder.
"Some time off wouldn't go amiss right now, sir. For both of us." Bodie glanced briefly at Ray before returning his attention to Cowley.
"A fortnight, Bodie. I'll clear it with Dr Henderson."
"Sir? Two weeks?" He'd been hoping for one at best.
"Starting thirty seconds ago," Cowley added dryly.
"Yes, sir." He turned to Ray. A smile of incredible happiness spread across Ray's face, bringing a lump to Bodie's throat. He spent several seconds clearing it. "Let's go home."
Bodie nodded at Cowley and Murphy and left the room. Ray followed behind still grinning from ear to ear.
"We'll need to check out a car. The one I used is still up north," Bodie said.
Suddenly, Ray stopped. "I need to ring Laurie and let her know you're back. I promised."
"Fine. I'll go and collect the car while you phone Laurie, and I'll meet you out front."
"No?" Bodie was confused.
"Let's both ring Laurie and then we can both collect the car and go home." Ray grabbed his arm and began steering him towards the rest room and the closest telephone.
Ah, Bodie understood now. "I'm not going to disappear from here, Ray."
"Together, Bodie." Ray was adamant.
Bodie let himself be led.
The call to Lauren dispensed with and his favourite Capri back in his hands, Bodie took himself and Ray back to their home for some much needed time together.
In the seat next to him, Ray was nattering on about baking him every type of cake imaginable. His hand had attached itself to Bodie's thigh the second they were in the car.
"Oh, Laurie said they'd keep Buck for a couple of days." Ray smiled at him. "I want you all to myself for a while."
"Do you want to go to the farm while we're off?"
"No. Maybe. I don't think so. Can we just stay at home together for a bit?"
"Ray, we can do whatever you'd like. As long as you're with me, we could go to the moon if you wanted."
Ray laughed. "No, bed's fine with me." He squirmed around in his seat. "Hurry up, Bodie."
"I'm driving as fast as I can, Ray."
"I know. Sorry. How are you feeling?" Ray was worried. Bodie's bruising had started to come out more during the hours he was debriefing.
"Looks worse than it is, pet. You know that."
"Yeah. I just wor-- When we get home, you can let me pamper you." He was rather chuffed with himself for remembering that word.
"I'd love it." Bodie pulled into their driveway and slowed to a stop, letting Ray out to open the back gate.
By the time he drove the car through and turned off the ignition, Ray had closed the gate, unlocked the house and shut off the alarms. He was standing in the doorway, watching Bodie come up the path.
Moving back so he could come inside, Ray shut the door, then gathered him gently in his arms. They stood like that for several minutes.
Ray drew back and very softly began feathering kisses on Bodie's face and neck, carefully avoiding the rainbow-hued bruises. Arms tightening around the slender waist, Bodie stood still and allowed him free rein.
"Come to bed," Ray breathed into his ear.
" I don't think I'm up for anything too athletic at the moment, sweetheart," Bodie admitted wryly.
The little kisses stopped, and Ray stepped away from him.
"What?" Bodie asked, bewildered.
"That's not what I meant by 'come to bed.'" He grinned. "You need to rest, and I want to look at you. I need to know for certain you're all right."
"Oh. I thought--"
"I know what you thought. And you call me a randy animal. You go and have a shower, and I'll make some tea." He gave Bodie a gentle shove in the direction of the back rooms. "Go on."
Bodie did as instructed without protest. It was so good to be home.
Before he'd made it to the loo, there was a clatter and a crash in the kitchen, and then Ray tore past him at a run.
"Dropped the kettle," floated back to him as Ray disappeared into the bedroom.
Wondering just what dropping the kettle had to do with their bedroom, Bodie picked up his pace and poked his head curiously inside the room.
His lover looked up from where he was standing bent over the bed, the sheets halfway pulled off. He looked at Bodie sheepishly.
"Forgot to change 'em this morning."
Bodie moved in for a closer look. Wrinkled his nose. "Think I'll go and have that shower now. I'll let you take care of the dog hair."
Ray just grinned.
In the shower, Bodie let the hot water wash over him, taking away the stink of the past couple of days. If he admitted the truth to himself, he ached so badly he doubted he'd ever be randy again. Slowly he soaped himself, wincing at the twinges this caused.
The shower curtain moved and Ray slipped in behind him.
"Thought you were changing the sheets." "Finished." Ray soaped his hands and gently began rubbing Bodie's back.
Bodie rested his forehead against the tile. "Help yourself, love."
Ray pressed a wet kiss on the nape of Bodie's neck. Taking advantage of the slick soap, he let his fingers probe ribs and various other portions of Bodie's sore anatomy, assuring himself his lover was still in one complete piece.
Kneeling down, he continued washing and softly massaging the parts that were a normal pink colour. There was a bruise just the size of someone's boot tip on Bodie's left buttock. Ray carefully ran his hand over it before moving down to wash his legs. Finished with the back portion, he stood.
"Can you turn around, please, honey? We can rinse you off, and I can start on the front of you."
"I already did the front, Ray." Bodie didn't move. He slid under the cascading water, keeping his back to Ray with difficulty.
"Turn around, Bodie."
"I can fin--"
"As you've reminded me so many times, I'm not stupid," Ray pointed out. "I'm going to see your front soon anyway. It may as well be now."
"Bodie? You're stifling me." Ray wasn't sure if that were exactly true, but he had a feeling it would make Bodie obey. "Now turn around."
Sighing, Bodie did as instructed, closing his eyes. He didn't want to see the look of horror that would come over his lover's face.
Silently, Ray began kissing his way across Bodie's broad chest before moving downward. Kneeling again, he grasped Bodie's hips to steady himself while he gazed at the dusky, slightly swollen genitals, before bestowing a feather-soft kiss upon them.
"Ray." Bodie grabbed at the hands on his hips and tugged till Ray was once again standing. Pulling him into his arms, Bodie held him tightly.
Ray hugged back, carefully, one hand searching blindly for the tap to turn off the water. When they both began to shiver, he opened the curtain and stepped out, gathering Bodie up in a towel and gently patting him dry.
"Now, get into bed, and I'll bring you a cuppa." He gave Bodie a tiny shove in the direction of the door and proceeded to dry his own body.
On his way to the kitchen, Ray stuck his head in the bedroom. "Did the doctor give you anything for the pain?"
"Yes," Bodie answered from beneath the blankets. "In my jacket pocket."
"Seems reading minds is a Bodie thing, too," Ray said.
"Eh?" Bodie stuck his head out from the cocoon of blankets, but Ray had already left.
In the kitchen, Ray set the kettle to boil and gathered together the tea things, setting them on a tray. Bodie's jacket. Where was it? He looked around, not seeing it and went into the living room. It was hanging over the back of the settee.
Back in the kitchen, tablets in hand, he filled a small glass with water and added both to the tray. After a moment's thought, he rummaged around in the refrigerator and added one more item. Satisfied with his efforts, he waited for the water to boil, then carried everything into the bedroom.
Bodie looked up from where he'd propped himself against the headboard. He'd warmed up while Ray was gone and no longer needed to huddle under the blankets. As Ray walked through the door, Bodie started chuckling.
"What's so funny?" Ray stopped halfway into the room.
"You should see yourself, poppet, wearing nothing but a tea tray. Everything in plain view. Looks good enough to eat, and if I wasn't completely incapacitated, I'd have a feast."
Ray'd totally forgotten he was naked. He blushed as he realised what a picture he must make, all his dangly bits hanging out below the tray. Then he shrugged and grinned.
"Nothing you haven't seen before."
Carefully, he settled the tray across Bodie's lap and crawled in next to him. Bodie was looking at the contents of the tray in delight.
"You saved me a piece of banana cake."
"It's a bit stale. Took you longer to come home than I thought it would. When did you take your last tablet?"
Bodie blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "Too long ago," he admitted after some thought.
"Then have another. Then you can eat your cake." Deftly, Ray undid the bottle and handed over a tablet.
Dutifully, Bodie swallowed it down, aided by the glass of water. Then he tore into the cake. Next to him, Ray sipped noisily at his tea, watching him eat.
Finished, Bodie reached for his own tea. "Now, then, what's this about something being a 'Bodie-thing, too'?"
"What? Oh." Ray remembered his comment from earlier. "At the farm, after you left, Mum and I were talking, and she answered a question before I asked it. She said mind-reading was a thing mothers did."
"And I did the same thing with the tablets and jacket."
"Yeah. Mum was just having me on though. She said what she could really do was read my face." Ray was proud of the fact he could sit here and talk about his mum without crying.
"Lucas told me everyone thought I was dead except you." Bodie changed the subject. There was something he had to find out.
"Yeah. I knew you were in trouble, Bodie. I dreamed it. It was the night you had to hang up because someone was at your door. Mr Cowley believed me and sent Lucas and McCabe up to find you."
"What did you dream?" Bodie was curious.
"I don't remember. I didn't remember when I woke up. I just knew you were in awful trouble. It wasn't a very nice feeling, Bodie. I wanted to be up there helping you, except I knew if I was up there I'd be in the way."
"You're never in the way, sweetheart. But York wasn't the place for you this time. You did help me, you know," he added.
"The whole time I was a prisoner and trying to get away, I thought of you. I knew I had to get back to you. I think if you hadn't been here for me, I probably would have given up." Bodie paused for a sip of his now tepid tea. "Did you ever once think I was dead?"
"Sometimes it was hard. I reckoned if I knew you were in trouble, then I should know if you were dead, but that wasn't really sensible. And everyone was trying so hard to make me think you were alive, but, at the same time, they tried to get me to admit you might be dead. I felt like a yo-yo."
"I'm not surprised. Ray, what would you have done if I really had been killed up there?" It was the question Bodie had been needing to ask for quite some time now. What he'd once read in Doyle's diary still haunted him: If I didn't have Bodie I'd die. He had to know if this was still true.
"Are you done with your tea?"
Bodie did a double take. "That wasn't the answer I was looking for."
"I know. But are you?"
"Good." Ray slid out of bed and lifted the tray off Bodie's lap. He set it on the floor, well away from where his toes would land in the morning, and crawled back under the blankets. He settled back against the pillows, his left side touching Bodie's right.
"Did you know I remembered the accident with Mum?"
Bodie shook his head.
"I did. That was part of my trouble while you were gone," he admitted. "If Mum hadn't stayed at the farm for me... But she did. And, Bodie? We had a wonderful couple of days together. If you died, and I died, it would make those days disappear and waste Mum's life. You know, Mum loved my dad just like I love you, but she didn't go off and die when he did.
"Maybe last year I would have died, too. But not now. I would die inside and be empty and miss you forever, but I would still have Laurie and Peter and everyone else." He reached over and entwined his fingers with Bodie's. "It's not the same thing, I know. But if I were gone there'd be no one to talk about you and remember you and keep you alive, like we do with Mum."
What Ray was saying was rather convoluted, but Bodie got the gist of it. The important bit was that Ray wasn't going to just lie down and die if something happened and Bodie died first.
"I'll do my best to stay alive, Ray."
"Well, I should hope so," came the sarcastic reply. "Buck's had a rather rough past few days."
Smiling sweetly, Ray closed his eyes and slid down onto his pillow.
After a moment, Bodie gingerly re-settled himself and joined him.
-- THE END --