(set after "The Ojuka Situation")
Had Doyle been in the mood to consider it, he would have found Bodie almost unnaturally quiet during the long drive beck to London. However he had, over a short period of time, been struck on the head, punched in the stomach and burnt on both wrists and wasn't really concerned with anything beyond his own discomfort. It wasn't his way to complain about his ills, but a man couldn't help thinking about it. Working for CI5 you learned to take your pains in silence - mostly - and talking about it was high on the Personal Bad Taste list.
Since he was uncomfortable and not feeling particularly talkative anyhow, he was content to lay back. eyes closed. and allow his partner to drive the car in silence. The borrowed Merc purred along the motorway at a sedate sixty mph. They were in no particular hurry and at such speeds Bodie could think and handle the car at the same time with very little effort. And he needed to think. In fact, he found it hard to sort the thought, out that had bubbled to the top of his mind over the previous twenty-four hours.
Bodie was not a naturally self-critical individual. He was quite content with who he was, what he was, and rarely felt the need to analyse his own ways and needs. He had long since passed the point where he strove to make others like him. If he was liked, that was ok, and if he wasn't, then that was ok, too. If he had a philosophy in life, it was that living was basically a hit-or-miss option and when the opportunity arose to enjoy himself, he'd take it. The bizarre amused him. the evil repulsed him and although not absolutely cynical, he was sometimes just a little surprised to find good in others.
After an initial wariness he'd come to realise than in Doyle he'd found just such goodness. There was a will as strong as his own, a greater dedication, an unfathomed conscience that was, as often as not, much too powerful for it's owners own good. Doyle cared - beyond professional obligation - because he was that sort of person. Caring, Bodie had found, was like having no armour in a hostile world. He'd convinced himself that he didn't need to care about anyone, not so deeply that the hurting of that person was a hurting of himself as well.
Now he wasn't so sure. In day to day situation, where the odds were balanced, he knew Doyle was capable of looking after himself. Doyle moved with a dancer's grace, but he was quick and accurate and had a kind of steely strength not obvious from appearance. Give those lightning reflexes half a chance and they'd pull him out of almost anything. It was the 'almost' situations that concerned Bodie, and that they did concern him was the reason for the silent contemplation.
The recent events had brought all those concerns to the forefront. He'd known that Doyle was inside that house, unarmed and almost certainly confined, guarded by professional killers who would kill him without a moment's thought. They would kill Doyle because they had to, and it could have happened at any time. Bodie could no more have stood by and waited for Cowley's back-up than. . .well, than anything he could think of that was bad. It wasn't a time for subtlety, for his chief's clever plans - it was a time to move, to take out the threats.
His relief at seeing Doyle emerge from the building unharmed was almost comic. He'd been unimpressed by Cowley's reprimand - in any normal situation Cowley was one of the few people on Earth that he'd back down to. Not this time. He'd moved to Doyle's side with a sense of relieved completion, with the knowledge that death had been avoided once more. Not his death, but a life he'd come to realise was just as important as his own.
So, what does all that mean? He looked across briefly at Doyle who sat relaxed beside him, head turned sideways against the seat headrest. His partner had commented often enough on Bodie's driving, yet he was contented enough to relax, even with the physical discomfort he must be feeling.
Yeah, what does it mean? It means I like him a lot. But I like other people -Murphy, Jacks, God help me, even Cowley. But if they got blown away tomorrow I wouldn't feel like my guts were ripped out. I wouldn't know that pit cold feeling I had the day I found him on his floor, helpless and dying with two bullets in him...
A word popped up to the surface of his mind and he tried unsuccessfully to push it down again. Love...
He shook his head briefly, eyes half-closed against the afternoon sun.
Don't let it get to you, mate. It's only a word. There's all kinds of love. There's so called brotherly-love. Wouldn't know it if I fell over it. Haven't got a brother an' besides, you love a brother 'cause you have to, mostly - born of the same parents, sibling obligation. It's not like that.
Romantic love, then. 'snot that, either. I know his faults, I've got no desire to give him flowers, and we argue as often as we joke. Haven't had much experience of romance, mind, but I don't think its that. So what does it mean?
I wish to hell I knew why I was even thinking about all this. Let's face it, sunshine, you're thinking about it because this green eyed golly has got under your armour without even trying and that itches!
He thumped the wheel in frustration and Doyle opened his eyes wearily.
"Nothing...just an itch." Bodie grinned at his own perverse wit.
"Well scratch it a bit quieter, will you? Can't a damaged man get a little snooze?"
Bodie sighed and realized that the Universe is a vastly unjust place. I go along happily avoiding it, and end up loving my partner. God, I hope it's just a phase!
For the first time in weeks he was unconcerned with winter. Out beyond the windscreen the rain still fell, torn by a chilling wind, but he hardly noticed it, hardly noticed anything. After awhile, he realised it was dangerous to drive in such a state, so he pulled to the side of the road and sat for a time as the air inside cooled down and frost formed on the windows.
Raymond Doyle was lost in a morass of uncertainty and confusion. So unaccustomed was he to such a state that he had no real idea where to begin sorting himself out. He only knew that he had to sort it out and come to some conclusions, and pretty fast, too. Before the night was done, he had to make decisions.
That day ranked high as one of the most disastrous of his life. It had started ordinarily enough, with no hint of any real trouble. Bodie seemed unnaturally quiet, withdrawn when they had met at CI5 HQ, but moods were a part of their occupational hazards and Doyle presumed he'd come around soon enough. It was difficult to stay cheerful when Bodie wasn't; his moods were infectious and Doyle had long since realised that how he met each day was very dependant on how Bodie met it. It was natural to be affected by your partner's attitudes and moods.
Then, with the day nearly done, Cowley had called him in and told him. Told him that Bodie had resigned, giving no reasons beyond a flimsy excuse of nervous tension and inability to cope. Doyle had heard hardly anything beyond that first astonishing revelation. His first feeling was shocked surprise. Then anger. Then, a kind of hurt. To resign, that was bad enough, but to resign without telling his partner, without talking it over. Christ, they'd discussed everything, down to the flavour of pizza they would eat on stakeouts. To not talk about something THAT serious....! If it hadn't been Cowley telling him, he'd have believed it to be some kind of sick joke. It was that outrageous.
He'd stormed over to Bodie's flat, determined to find out why. He discovered Bodie at home, eyes bloodshot, reeking of alcohol, obviously three quarters out of it. His partner had been tight-lipped at first, unapologetic, refusing to give reasons, whether Doyle ranted or raved. It was only when he pleaded that Bodie gave in, told him. Told him everything.
He'd turned then, and walked away, out of the flat. Got into his car and driven away, unable to say anything, acting on sheer instinct. He'd barely been aware of the glassy-eyed pain on his partner's face, could just remember the last shouted comment as the door slammed.
"I didn't want to tell you, never would have told you. I'm sorry, Ray..."
Sorry. Sorry. It bounced back and forth in his brain, and in a moment of clarity a little honest voice asked who should be apologising, him or Bodie. Bodie couldn't help being what he was, feeling what he did. And Doyle had walked away, left him alone and hurting.
"So, you big he-man, not afraid of a bullet or a kosh, but can't take the idea of love. Of being loved. Being him, that makes it distasteful? He forced himself to self-analysis and admitted that it was mostly shock. He'd been prepared for anything but that. Been prepared to defend himself if he were the cause, to come up with lots of reasons why Bodie should stay if he wasn't. The world had been dragged out from under his feet with that grated-out statement and he just couldn't handle it.
He knew then that he had to go back, to talk, to sort out the mess he'd left. There were too many questions to be asked and walking away answered none of them. When he walked quietly back through the door the room was unchanged - dimly lit by one low-powered desk lamp, empty beer cans scattered on coffee table and floor, and Bodie slumped in the sofa, hand across his eyes, other hand grasping a beer can. As Doyle entered he lifted the concealing hand and looked up, expressionless.
There was silence for a time, an awkward stillness with Doyle standing in the doorway, Bodie laying, watching him. Taking a breath, Doyle launched himself across the room in silence, and sank into an armchair facing the sofa.
"We have to talk," he said, forcing himself to look into the shadowed blue eyes.
"Thought we had. You left. Thought we'd finished talking."
"Yeah. I came back." He chose his words carefully. "You said you love me. You've got to expect a little surprise to that kind of thing. Care to tell me a bit more about it?"
Bodie pulled himself upright, the can slurping beer onto his hand. "No joke, Doyle. I resigned 'cause I couldn't take working with you anymore, not feeling the way I do. I've been going crazy trying to not let you know. I just got tired of trying."
"Were you ashamed?" Doyle asked softly, knowing this was very important.
"At first I didn't know what to make of it." The tone was contemplative, as he remembered. "I'm not much on loving people, or wanting anyone for anything beyond the fast gratification thing. There haven't been that many I've really thought a lot of, what with one thing and another. It was just friendship at first, you know, you were my mate. Are my mate. God, but even I can tell the difference, though. Can tell a friend from well, from something else."
Look," Bodie rubbed his eyes wearily, "don't think I haven't tried to sort this out in my own mind. Ashamed? When I finally got around to admitting it, yeah, I was a bit. Shame is something you feel because you're concerned what people will think. I kept imagining what you would say when I told you, and I couldn't handle the idea of you being disgusted or repelled. That's why the shame. But not anymore. I came to a sort of understanding with myself. I wouldn't be ashamed of loving anyone. I won't put dirt where it doesn't belong."
For the first time all day, Doyle felt warmed. For how long? Months...? Bodie had been jousting with his feelings, hiding away something that had tied him up inside and finally come to terms with it. It was a kind of internal integrity and strength that Doyle wondered if he could match.
As if recognising Doyle's need for thought, Bodie stood and headed for the bathroom. "I'm taking a shower," he said without turning. "Reek of beer. Make yourself some tea or coffee.
After he'd gone, Doyle sat for a while, eyes unfocused, putting his emotions and thoughts into some kind of order.
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
This was a turning point, for both of them. They could not go on as before, apart or together, with or without CI5. He could let things go, let Bodie go and stay on with a new partner. The idea chilled him. They knew each other so well - intimately, one could say - and they were a team, a good one.
What would Bodie do? Find a war for himself somewhere, get killed probably.
It was all he could do, all he was trained for and, what was more, all he wanted to do. There was no sedate, armchair soldier in Bodie. He was a lion, aggressive, a fighter, yet a good man for all that, a man of principle. His own innate goodness wouldn't allow him to return to crime, but there were other ways of getting killed. Alone.
So, I can admit to wanting him around. Can I admit to needing him?
It would take a long time to sort out, but Doyle he couldn't let Bodie go. There was something there, a tie had been established and to tear it loose would wound them both. Doyle was accustomed to Bodie' s presence beside him in the field, and also in the social times when they shared an ease of companionship grown in long understanding. Perhaps their needs were different, but to deny there was a need was foolish.
So, I can admit to needing him. Can I admit to loving him, too?
That was a big jump, the doozy of a last step. What the hell is love, anyhow? It's another kind of friendship, one that needn't be all hearts and flowers and...all that stuff. Bodie loved him, was in love with him. Bodie, who held his heart back with such determination, who bestowed his affection rarely...tough, gentle, proud Bodie, love 'em and leave 'em Bodie...had gone and fallen for him.
The warmth grew inside him, filling him with affection and a kind of proud pleasure.
When it's all said and done, I suppose I do, in my own way. It'll be enough, for now. And...it could prove kind of interestin'.
When Bodie emerged from the bathroom, he looked across at Doyle, anxious crinkles around his eyes, and saw the smile, saw the green eyes alive with welcome and saw his partner give him a small slow nod. There was no need to speak, to ask - he could read Doyle's body language as easily as Doyle could read him -and he felt a great weight lift from his heart. Winter was very far away that night.
Bodie pushed the door open with a sense of relief. It had been a hard day, typical in so many ways, and although he wasn't complaining, every now and then he wondered what it would be like to live a normal life, a 9-to-5 existence that was predictable and no more than normally dangerous . Seeing the kind of fella he was, it was doubtful he'd ever find out.
The flat was dimly lit by one of the desk lamp' next to the couch. He went to turn on the main light when he saw Doyle sprawled on the couch, head slumped into one of the cushions, fast asleep.
"Lazy sod," he muttered, and moved away from the door, leaving the main light off. The room was comfortably warm from the heater and very quiet; it was well after 1.00 a.m, the city was muted out beyond the dim walls, seemingly far away. Moving quietly, Bodie made his way into the kitchen and set the kettle on, noting the dirty dishes stacked neatly on the sink, the one filled plate now quite cold beside a smaller stack of pots and glasses. He'd been expected - Doyle had cooked up a nice meal, but as so often happened, he'd been held back for an extra tour of duty and hadn't made it. Hadn't even called - Ray would probably curse him for the thoughtless swine he was. Still, he couldn't think of everything, chasing villains and staking out suspected bolt holes tended to take up one's full concentration.
As he slumped down into the armchair opposite the still-sleeping Doyle, with his tea clutched in one hand, he marvelled at how their breaks never seemed to coincide. Doyle had a week off and although Bodie had suggested he go somewhere and take a rest, Doyle had brushed the idea aside. "No fun going by myself," he's said, half-smile lighting his eyes. "I'll just stay home and watch the telly, read a few good books. Need a rest, anyhow." It was strange working with Murphy; a nice lad, but, well, he wasn't Doyle.
Eyes half-slitted in thought, Bodie looked across at his partner, noting the steady rise and fall of the chest, the shadowed face reposed in sleep. A half-open book lay on the floor beside the couch, spine up. One of Doyle's hands was pressed under his cheek, the other was tucked under the cushion of the couch. His legs were curled up against the ends of the couch, it wasn't quite long enough for him to stretch out on. As Bodie studied the familiar features he felt the old curling of warm affection stealing into him tinged, as always, with physical response and the shadow of fear.
A year. It's been a year now. Doesn't seem like it. Funny how time goes by without being noticed. Have I changed that much in a year? Has he? I dunno. I feel a bit different, but not that much. We've learnt to live with the fact that the death of the other would cripple either of us, but we've carried on, not allowed it to interfere with the job. We both decided in the beginning that this work was what we wanted to do, what we did best. We could quit, find something safe. Sure. What's that old saying about living longer, and it seeming longer. Neither of us would think much of being safe.
He placed the empty cup on the coffee table and it made a slight clinking sound. Doyle stirred in his sleep. muttered an indistinguishable word or two and turned, twisting so that he lay up. Bodie willed him to wake, so that he could look across into those deep green eyes, see the warmth and welcome.
We've been pretty lucky. Both of us have had more than our share of near misses, one or two times too damned near. How long can that go on? Shouldn't think of this kind of thing, morbid, and a waste of time. If it comes, it comes. But, lover, would it be selfish of me to hope I'm not alive when you go? A man can only take so much pain...
He signed and rubbed tired eyes. Doyle's breathing pattern changed and he opened his eyes, and yawned. Looking around blearily, he saw Bodie seated opposite, half hidden in shadow, and sniffed.
"Crud. Wasted my culinary skills on myself, cooked up a fantastic curry. What happened to you?"
Bodie answered slowly. "Busy. Sorry."
The tone was unusual and Doyle frowned, squinting. Bodie's expression was unusually sombre, the blue eyes were mostly unreadable. Standing in one fluid movement, he made his way across to Bodie and sank down beside the chair. When their eyes were level he spoke softly.
Bodie flashed him a sudden smile and shook his head, taking one of the fine long-fingered hands in his. "Nothing. Just feeling a bit broody. Even we nearly perfect specimens have one or two off days, y'know."
"Nearly perfect, huh? That makes me feel better."
Bodie grinned, and ran his fingers slowly through the tumbled curls. "I'm almost afraid to ask but...why?"
"Oh, I'm just glad to see you're finally realising your limitations. Once upon a time there wouldn't have been any 'nearly' about it."
Bodie felt a strange urge to speak, to say what was unspoken. About limitations, or lack thereof, where Doyle was concerned. You're the limitation of my life. I don't need to go beyond you, for anything. God, he'd faint if I said that!
Instead, he began pulling off his coat and yawning. "It's still upper ten percent, mate. And the other ninety percent wants to get horizontal and sleep for about forty-eight hours."
Bodie wandered from the room, dropping various garments along the way, watched by a still-contemplative Doyle.
Will I ever know just what goes on behind those eyes? And if I ever think I do, I'll probably be wrong. Ah well, such is life...
He stood, grinning at his own flight of fancy, and headed for the bedroom, catching Bodie's yawning infection. Tomorrow was the last day of his time off and then it was back to the grind. He wasn't concerned, though. It had been a nice week, but although he wouldn't admit it to Bodie, all rather boring. It would be good to get back into the swing. Good to be working where he could keep an eye on his partner. Nothing wrong with Murphy, but Murphy wasn't him.
Night closed in around them, a warm, quiet time of sleep and touching and peaceful dreams untinged by fear. At those times that waking merged into sleep, they could almost imagine they would live forever.
On. ..and on. ..
Across the narrow confines of the valley, the wall of Persian troops could be very clearly seen now, and heard, by the tramping of their leather boots and the rattling of sword and spear. The thin Greek line stood unmoving, casting still shadows on the hard dry ground, and Tanis felt free-hearted and altogether unafraid.
At his side, he felt his brother warrior and lover stir, hand grasping the worn sword hilt briefly, loosening it in its sheath. He turned his head and looked across to familiar brown eyes, saw the also-familiar smile grow in them.
"Scenting battle, old war horse?" Tanis asked, dark eyebrows lifting into darker close cropped hair. Sophos broke out an answering smile, teeth very white in the tanned face, and Tanis marvelled again at the beauty and grace in that fine, delicate-seeming body. Like a dancer, or an acrobat, but so strong and swift.
He looked back to the enemy, now much nearer, and nodded slowly.
"All too soon the summer ends" he began, and Sophos finished the poem far him.
"Carried away by the cold wings of winter."
Down the line, their Commander raised one arm, and they waited in silence. "We must guard this pass," he said, voice deep and steady. "We cannot stop them, but we can delay them, and duty and honour require us to give our lives far this. Prepare yourselves."
The warriors drew their swords, a whispering rustle swallowed by the every growing tramp ahead, and they turned to look across at the ones that would kill them. Tanis held out his hand and Sophos grasped it, a brief, hard touch that still conveyed the very deep love each had for the other. A look, a promise, and they turned to fight one last battle --
On and on and on and . . .
The last note faded in the morning air, and Marcus sighed, laying back into the soft pillows of his couch. Music could salve most pains away, and the hand that touched his face could soften the rest. He looked up into blue eyes, and smiled.
"Thank you Julius, a beautiful tune. Did you write it?"
"Yes, last night. After you were asleep, it came to me, and I had to write it down."
He nodded and closed his eyes. "If only the rest of the world could be content to create beautiful things, instead of destroying them." He felt Julius stir and opened his eyes.
"More troubles with the Emperor?" Julius asked, his voice soft and steady as he put the harp down and bent to massage his Master's shoulders.
"Yes, always more. This one the last, I think."
"I thought your sleep very disturbed. But surely you can talk your way out of this as you have before?"
Marcus pulled himself upright and walked across to the pond, staring down at the lilies, seeing only their shape, blotting out a mad, sick face. "No. I'm tired, Julius. Tired of fighting that madman, and a tired man makes mistakes. I was foolish enough to tell him the truth, and the Emperor only likes to hear what pleases him."
He turned his head, looking across and down into the troubled, beautiful eyes. "In my papers you will find your freedom and a grant of some land in the north. Assuming he leaves me anything to give you, at least you will be comfortable, though not wealthy. Wealth is a danger now..."
Julius came to his feet in a flowing movement and crossed to Marcus, face stormy. "I do not want freedom from you, or any land. You are all I need, my beloved Master."
Julius wrapped his arm around the strong shoulders and rested his face on the soft skin of Marcus's arm. They stood so for a time till Marcus pushed himself away. "No. This is as good a day as any to die, and if I must go, I will go in my own way and in the peace of my home. But I will not leave you here at his mercies."
"Then I go with you." Julius faced him, eyes determined, and Marcus felt his heart leap with the old familiar pain. How foolish to allow himself to love anyone so much . . .
On and on and on -
The campfires were dotted like red and gold jewels in the darkness beyond the castle walls, and Muswara Tanjo wished he were a poet, so that he could create a Haiku worthy of the vision. But he was only a warrior, with skills in the sword and bow, and those were the arts that would die with him in the shameful light of dawn.
He heard a soft footstep on the stone and looked up, eyes piercing the darkness. "Tanjo, you have been here a long time."
Taka. A living haiku, a poem to the near perfection of things, the order amongst disorder. Friend, brother in all but blood, lover. He held out his hand, wrapped his larger fingers around the slender hand and drew him close. "There is a sight to imprint on paper, my hawk. The enemy have a grace we lack. I could wish to be with them. Anything but surrender and a blunt axe."
"Will the Lord surrender? I cannot believe it." The voice was mellow with unwarranted faith.
"He will. Shameful cur of an honourable line. We march out tomorrow and hand our swords over and let our heads be sperate from our bodies without even a fight. It is not the end I would have chosen for myself...or for you."
"In any place, in any way, your death cannot be dishonourable."
Tanjo heard the pride and love and a little of the ice in his heart melted.
"I will be with you, and we will know our own honour... that will be enough...it will have to be enough."
...the dream drifted on. ..and on. ..and on. . .faces and voices, bodies touching and touched converging and coalescing, different and yet the same..spirits crossing from generation to generation. ..friendship and love linked through time. . .flowing down through the ages as surely as a river to the sea. . .
Bodie came awake, stunned and surprised by the quiet dark night, by its mundanity compared with the vivid reality of his dream. He slid his hand across the sheet and felt the solid warmth of Doyle, felt him come awake at the urgent hard touch.
"Wha...what's up...?" Doyle rolled over and yawned, rubbing sleepy eyes.
"I had a dream..what a dream!" Bodie pushed the pillow back under his head, trying to sort the fading memories into some kind of order. "Strangers I knew, places I've never been...but had. So damned real!"
"You woke me to tell me about a dream!" Doyle mumbled, a yawn nearly dislocating his jaws. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times...don't mix your drinks. Does terrible things to your digestion. Not to mention my sleep." He turned on his side and slipped next to Bodie, laying one arm across the firm warm body. "Go back to sleep...."
Unaware that Bodie was still staring, puzzled, into the dark, Ray closed his eyes and slipped easily back to sleep. The visions were fading, mostly lost, only the eerie familiar/unfamiliar overtone was still there, as if his subconscious had accepted the dream as something known, but not to the walking, waking-hours conscious Bodie. He'd think about it in the morning, his sharp mind was intrigued by the unusual, especially when it came creeping out of his own mind, unexpected in a quiet night's sleep.
He was not to know that in the normal, cheery, loving morning it would be forgotten, washed away by tides he couldn't control. Sighing, he turned, curled himself against Doyle, and fell into a dreamless sleep.
The old farmhouse lay dusty under the darkening sky, its broken walls throwing crusty, uneven shadows through the grass, and Bodie contemplated that he would have chosen a more attractive place to die had he been given a choice. Like bed on his hundredth birthday. Something mundane and ordinary and faraway like that. Not now, on this placid-seeming Friday evening.
Funny the things you think about at a time like this. I paid for the hire of that bloody fishing boat for next week's holiday and that's wasted. Not to mention Doyle's new rod...
Thinking of Doyle, he looked down to where Ray lay propped against his good leg, putting the last of his ammunition into the .45, casually efficient in spite of the torn mess of a right shoulder. He'd tried to pad the wound up with parts of his shirt, but the material was wet, red-soaked and he'd been losing blood steadily for ten minutes now. He looked at the twisted thing that had been his left knee, aware of the pain in an almost philosophical way. As long as he didn't move too much, it remained a steady low level drone, and he certainly wasn't moving anywhere of his own volition. Not now, not ever.
There was a crackling sound from beyond the broken wall and Doyle looked up, eyes squinting against the fading light.
"Sounds like they're getting ready for a rush. Over the wall or through the door?"
"Both. Krivas always believed in double-strikes."
Doyle smiled up at Bodie, eyes seeming bigger in the pale, drawn face. "Your friend certainly knows how to carry a grudge. I don't suppose he'd go for two out of three?"
Bodie somehow found the strength to grin. "Krivas never signed the Geneva Convention. especially where I'm concerned." He looked at his watch and sighed. "At least thirty minutes before Cowley and the Cavalry arrives. By my calculations, that'll be about twenty-five minutes too late."
Then the evening quiet erupted into violence as the frayed wooden door was flung open and a shape came over the wall behind them. Bodie twisted, snarling in pain, and fired at the dark silhouette, then turned desperately sideways to catch a second shape crossing the other wall. Doyle had toppled sideways, firing up at the man who'd come smashing through the door, catching him and flinging him backwards with the impact of the big .45 shell.
They were good, two of CI5's best, but even so they couldn't hold off the numbers and Bodie felt himself slammed backwards by the cracking fire of a sub-machine gun, its chattering bark echoing through his skull and deafening him to all other sounds. In the stark silence that followed, he heard the approach of sirens and whispered to himself "Miscalculated again...only five minutes too late..." -
With the world going dim and red about him, he lifted his head and saw that he was alone with the dead, and the dying. Krivas and his surviving companions had also heard the sirens and dashed out, making for their jeeps across the broken sunset-littered ground.
Bodie looked across and saw Doyle lying on his back, the .45 still gripped in one hand, the other flung out, palm upwards, fingers curled up into a claw. Leaving a red smear in the dirt, Bodie pulled himself across to Doyle and propped himself against the wall, feeling pleased with himself for the small victory. Doyle looked up at him and blinked, trying to speak, but the words wouldn't come. Taking a last deep breath, Bodie lifted the auburn-curled head onto his lap. Doyle's left hand snaked across to take his and he felt a slight pressure around his cold fingers, a final wordless good-bye as the green eyes dimmed and the head slipped sideways.
Like a light going out, he thought, feeling strangely warm and fear-free. Always liked to be first through the door. Too damned fast, sunshine. Hang about, I'm right behind you...He smiled at his own silent wit and felt his heart fluttering as it fought a last frantic battle to keep him alive; but even Bodie's great heart couldn't undo the damage, or anchor the fading mind to its failing body. He saw the sun go down over the lip of the world in red and gold glory, and his last through was pleasure at its beauty, and gratitude for seeing it one last time - -
I have been here before
But where or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before, -
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallows' soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall, - I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
--Dante Gabriel Rosetti
-- THE END --