The Selling Hours
by Madelein Lee
"Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross."
--Shakespeare (Sonnet 146)
The Ford Escort threaded its way through lessening traffic and chilling downpour. Even the uncooperative weather didn't bother Ray Doyle he was so wrapped in the thought of Bodie waiting for him to come off his present irritating assignment of babysitting a witness. The mad bastard was sitting out a week's suspension for sassing Cowley like some teenager after they'd found (an agent? I can't remember?) body. Didn't matter if Cowley had them separated at the moment, though, as their personal relationship was approaching perfection.
Bodie had begun to conform nicely, to his way of thinking, since their last op when Doyle'd gone undercover as the South African VanNeeKirk. Other than sitting out his present punishment, worrying about him had done Bodie only good as far as Doyle was concerned. In fact, he was having trouble convincing Bodie he could manage without him at his side at all times.
Every night for a week Bodie had been waiting for him, seeming satisfied with only his company. And that was something Ray Doyle had been not-so-patiently awaiting for some time. He rather fancied his strategy of the last months as equal to the one he had employed when he'd decided he wanted into CI5. The old man might think he'd done all the choosing, but Ray Doyle had been determined to be invited to join the elite corps from its very first inception and had very carefully determined just what was needed to get himself noticed.
Smiling widely, he recalled the night after they'd wrapped that assignment and the reports had been written. Bodie had abandoned all his pretensions and been as unreserved in his loving as Doyle had ever wanted. He congratulated himself again as he recalled the months he'd spent between carefully maneuvering Bodie, running one bird after another under his nose, and letting him learn for himself that even if he could live without his partner, he didn't want to. A rich chuckle of pure exultation slipped out as he pulled up in front of his flat and dashed through the pelting rain. Inside one light was on, the bedroom door was closed and Bodie's jacket was thrown on the back of the settee. It didn't take a CI5 man long to deduce Bodie was already in bed. His partner was asleep, sprawled in the middle of the bed and looking properly inviting. Doyle hesitated to wake him. Reasons argued that as cold and tired as he was, a little kip might be better than waking and ravishing Bodie on the spot. With a prolonged groan of weariness, he pushed the prone body out of the middle of the bed to the far side and eased into the warm spot.
"Thanks a lot, goldilocks," came the sleepy protest. "These sheets are like ice."
"Poor sod," Doyle commiserated, backing up to Bodie. "He's only been lying in my nice warm bed while I've been driving across town in the middle of the night after 16 hours spent guarding the crown's grass." Flipping, he rolled toward Bodie. "It's freezing out there, mate. You're lucky I didn't put my feet on your backside."
"You're learning, my lad," Bodie mumbled, stretching, waking up more.
"Yeh, didn't fancy being flung to the other side of the room."
"Too bloody right. On the other hand, I don't mind being your bedwarmer with a little advance notice." Sliding close, Bodie pulled his chilled body close, fitting them easily.
Ray relaxed into the warmth of his partner. "S'more like it. Man works late, he likes to come home to a little appreciation."
"Oh, he does, does he?" A drowsy kiss drifted across his cold cheek.
"Anything else he wants?'
Doyle figured there was no harm in trying. "Breakfast in bed?"
He felt Bodie's face lift into a smile against his hair before the man slipped down to find his mouth. "Cheeky."
The lips against his were soft, not demanding a response, but Doyle felt pleasant sensations fill him as he wrapped his arms around the muscular back. Disappointingly, Bodie stopped before the kiss became demanding.
"Feeling any warmer?"
"Lots, don't stop."
"Thought you might like some sleep."
Doyle arched the growing fullness in his groin against Bodie's hip. "Feel sleepy, that? I think you convinced him to wake up."
"Randy little devil. Been taking your vitamins, eh?" Bodie laughed, busy fingers freeing Doyle's cock from clothing.
"Who needs.." Doyle's reply cut off abruptly as Bodie slid down his length and swallowed his whole. "Christ," he moaned, hips thrusting up, "where's your finesse?"
Bodie looked up, pulling a face. "Lost it with my virginity."
"Don't talk," he protested, wanting Bodie's attention back on his straining cock.
Bodie ignored him, climbing up to nuzzle his neck. "What you rather do, bright eyes?" "Mebbe I'll just give you a demonstration," Doyle whispered rolling over on Bodie, forcing a knee between muscled legs. At the look of surprise on his partner's face, he buried a grin in Bodie's neck.
"Hey this is my show," Bodie said indignantly.
"Had your chance, didn't you?" Raising up he bit at the soft pout; it drew him back again and again as he mounted first a gentle assault and then a more and more determined one. He drew a pinprick of blood on the bottom lip and Bodie flinched.
"Bloody vampire," Bodie accused, with no trace of animosity.
Contrite, Doyle offered a gentle kiss as he trailed his fingers in a deliberate pattern from nipple to nipple to naval, all the while reveling in his new ownership, in Bodie's allowing this encroachment. With satisfaction, he regarded his handiwork-Bodie's reactions were his creation; pleased, he leaned to mouth the tender skin over his ribs, and was rewarded with a shiver.
"Hungry tonight, aren't we? Miss dinner then?"
"Having it now," he muttered, laving a patch of smooth skin, causing a rippling of belly muscles. His lust grew apace with the rise of Bodie's sex and panting moans.
"Don't forget two can play this game," Bodie gasped.
"Bodie!" It was a growled warning. "Less talk, more action."
Challenged, Bodie hauled him and kissed him soundly, until breathless, he pulled away, too far gone to wait any longer.
"Spread 'em," Doyle demanded, first spitting in his hand before groping between Bodie's thighs. The long legs parted willingly, eager for him now even as Doyle lifted his hips and penetrated the tight ring with a long thrust. The other man's body was hot, the tight ass contracting and releasing him, forcing them quickly to the edge of completion. He slammed into Bodie with an urgency that took them higher and higher, until they were claimed by t he oblivion of orgasm.
Long minutes later, Bodie recovered sufficiently, arms tightening around
Doyle's still recumbent figure. "I got me a tiger," he mumbled softly before they both dozed off.
When Bodie awoke he knew something was wrong. Sensing Doyle was awake, too, he felt the form next to him go rigid. He cracked an eye with caution, and the Uzi 2 inches from his nose encouraged him to stay still.
"Don't try anything and we'll get along fine." The husky assurance did nothing to allay his fears. Another voice near the foot of the bed strengthened the feeling that this was not going to be a good day. "Come on, darlings, up and into some clothes."
Doyle lifted to a sitting position. "Don't know what to wear, do we? Don't know where we're going," he said reasonably.
The gun next to Bodie transferred itself to his ear. "Don't get sarky, mate, these fellers don't have a sense of humour."
Glancing over, Doyle's eyes narrowed at the sight of the blue steel pressed to Bodie's head. "Okay, we're getting up." They moved slowly, not ready yet to upset their captors, not when they were so disadvantaged.
Stepping into discarded jeans, Doyle asked casually. "How'd you get in?
He knew he'd remembered to set all the locks when he'd come in. These guys were good if they got in without setting off the alarms, and he could only hope they didn't know about the newest security devices.
"Shut up and dress," was the laconic reply.
Doyle didn't press it. Instead he surreptitiously studied their faces for possible idents, cataloging them for the future: they were both tall, dark-haired men, but there the resemblance stopped. The one watching Bodie was attractive with regular features, wavy hair and dark brown eyes, whereas his watchdog had brown rather than black hair, a cold face and the emotionless, pale blue eyes associated with the deadliest killers. Despite their ominous appearance, both men with their anonymous even features could blend into any crowd dressed as they were in dark trousers and windcheaters. They were men used to fading in and out at will.
A malicious smile spread over the face of the man standing next to Bodie as he spoke to his cohort. "CI5 recruiting faggots now? Or is this some new kind of job benefit?"
"Shut up, Hawke."
Bodie stopped in the act of buttoning up his shirt and glowered menacingly.
"That's none of your business, is it?"
"I think I've offended him, Jenkins," said the one called Hawke. "He doesn't like me commenting on their cocksucking tendencies."
Doyle flushed angrily. "I've always heard Americans didn't have manners. It's true, innit?"
Jenkins, the possessor of the cold eyes, looked irritated and gestured with his weapon. "Enough conversation, curlytop. Hustle it, you and the girlfriend are going for a ride."
Bodie made a rude noise and Jenkins glared at him, too. "Don't make me mad, hard man," Jenkins threatened. "I bite."
Hawke grinned in amusement. "And you don't want to know where."
Outgunned for the moment, they finished dressing and were herded through the flat and outside where a nondescript van waited in the loading zone.
Immediately they stepped inside they were pushed to the floor, expertly tied, and blindfolded by Hawke while Jenkins of the cold eyes never dropped his guard. They were good these two, perhaps as good as CI5 operatives. In frustration Doyle pulled at the bindings but there was no give. He settled down then and extended his senses, trying to remember the turns and determine their direction. If they were lucky they'd live to retrace their route.
As near as Doyle could tell, they traveled for almost 2 hours before they arrived at their destination. During the entire drive Jenkins and Hawke had said nothing to reveal where or why they had been kidnapped, but Doyle hoped it wouldn't be long before they had some answers.
The last swath of shaving cream wiped neatly on his towel, Major George Cowley splashed on his after shave. The telephone interrupted his visual inspection, and he reached it by the third ring.
"Yes, I see. You were right to investigate when the security alarm sounded and no one answered the phone."
"Yes, I'd say that was quite suspicious: a forced entry, apartment deserted, both cars out front."
"A van? Who reported it?"
"The driver of the milk float was irate when he found the van in the loading zone.yes, I see, go on. Yes, lucky for us he had a short fuse and reported the incident along with the van's license. Anything else?"
"Mmmm. Yes. Has anyone interrogated the driver?"
"He's in the process? I'll take the report when I arrive."
"You have alerted everyone to be on the lookout for the van. Yes, good, I'm on my way. I'll meet you at 4.5's flat."
Phone replaced gently, he stood for the briefest second, gathering himself to face another crisis. Within 10 minutes he was on his way to see with his own eyes if there was anything that had slipped by his men. He absolutely refused to admit to any fears for Bodie and his partner.
By the time he reached his destination, the van had been spotted possibly two times heading north out of the city. Inside the flat he looked around the main room before going into the bedroom. The unmade, rumpled bed hit him hard even though he knew the two of them had been spending their free time together. His nose twitched angrily at the musky smell in the room as he looked for clues to their disappearance. If the others hadn't known before, it would be all over CI5 by the time this was over.
Feeling like a voyeur, he checked the bed and found the spent evidence of their passion. One last look at the hastily deserted room, the underpants lying carelessly on the floor, the all pervasive reek of sex-yes, suspending Bodie had been a tactical error. And now, Bodie and his partner were missing. Brushing aside regrets, he concentrated on facts.
"Where's Jax?" he asked the man on the front door.
"Here, sir," the agent answered coming down the hall. "Just finished talking to the driver. What the police report didn't mention was that the driver saw four men getting into the back of the van. Two of the men match Bodie and Doyle's description. I'm getting some photos for the driver to identify but I don't think there's much doubt."
"And the other two?"
Cowley shrugged and stepped back inside to resume his examination but saw nothing that hadn't already been reported. The evidence of shared meals, shared time angered him.and depressed him. Again, he regretted the suspension before he turned his anger on himself. He had no time for regrets-later perhaps-but not now. He was a man who knew all about 'laters'; those long hours when all the dead men rose to haunt him. Please God, it wouldn't be these two, or the one, who peopled his nights. But he made himself one promise. When he'd got them safely back he would do something about their growing closeness. Doyle wouldn't have Bodie, no, not if he couldn't either. And he knew he couldn't, not really. At first, his feelings for Bodie had seemed simply those of a father for a son; and he had been confounded when he realized he wanted more from Bodie.
However, he recognized the fact that Bodie would never have such feelings for him. He also discovered it didn't matter so much. He could be happy knowing Bodie respected him, maybe even cared for him, as a surrogate father; but he wanted Bodie's time and attention as well, and with Doyle around he'd never have that. His own feelings amazed him somewhat with their unreasonableness. He wanted Bodie and yet would willingly settle for filial devotion and his company, yet he couldn't abide his loving another man. Selfish as it was, he didn't feel guilty. George Cowley deserved something for a lifetime dedication to his country. Because of that he'd never succeeded in finding someone, till now, to ease his loneliness.
When he was younger, he'd believed it wasn't important, but now, he knew better. A very lonely old age was facing him, and he'd decided Bodie was his answer.
One last look and he left, snagging Jax as his driver on the way out, and they headed in the direction of the last known sighting of the van.
"We're here." The sound of Jenkin's voice was almost welcome after the quiet tension of the ride.
The ropes around their ankles and the blindfolds were removed; Hawke prodded Doyle with the gun muzzle. "Come on, sweetie, on your feet."
Stepping out onto the ground, he stumbled and fell as blood rushed painfully into his feet, and he noticed Bodie sway, too, as he stepped out into the brightness of the morning sun. On his knees he looked around quickly, checking out the surroundings. They were parked behind an isolated cottage that looked like it had seen better days: a scrubby stand of trees stood between them and the direction of the road; nearby a hastily thrown tarp covered what looked most suspiciously like a helicopter.
Everything was green and washed clean-after a week of rain it was going to be a beautiful day.
A hand yanked him to his feet. "Get inside." Then an aside. "Watch him closer, Hawke, Jesus H. Christ, do I have to do your job for you?"
A gun settled in his back and pushed him into the cottage on Bodie's heels. "You son of a bitch, you better not try anything," Hawke said, irritated by Jenkin's peremptory tone.
"Take it easy, you bastard," Bodie snarled, breaking the long silence he'd maintained.
"Hey, we got us a tough guy, Jenkins," Hawke carrolled. "I wonder just how tough Brit agents are?" A sly look crossed his face. "Maybe we should take notes, huh, see how long before he shits his pants?"
Bodie looked pointedly bored and Hawke pushed him into a chair.
Doyle ignored the by-play. Now that they had arrived, he was freed from the tedious necessity of concentrating on every detail of the drive, and he could give some consideration to their predicament. They weren't to be killed right away since that could have been accomplished while they lay sleeping. Their captors didn't care that they could be identified, so he was sure they were imported guns, probably planning to use the helicopter as the means of escape.
And there was a very good chance that there was a mole in CI5. These two were good, but they had managed the break-in too easily and were obviously not surprised to find him and Bodie together. He was reasonably sure that if there were rumors abut their relationship, they were just that. But the cow had complete files on all his men, and anytime such files existed, it was always possible the wrong eyes would see them. And anyone who could manage a glimpse at their files, had to be on the inside.
A little man, probably the invisible driver of the van, had scuttled in behind them. Doyle looked him over and decided he looked Indian, then amended it to South American when Hawke spoke to him and he answered in a heavy Spanish accent.
"Did you hide the van, amigo?"
"Si, in the garage."
"Then get the equipment set up, Jesus, I'm bringing the big one in first." He gave Bodie a conspiratorial wink. "We're gonna take you apart, big guy."
Bodie rolled his eyes in contempt. "Bigger men than you have tried." Doyle ignored the tightening in his gut and continued his surveillance of their surroundings.
Too soon, Jesus stuck his head back in the room. "Everything is ready; bring him in."
When Jenkins pulled Bodie out of the chair, Doyle stood, too, ready to follow. Hawke pushed him back.
"Shut up and sit down. When we want you inside, we'll tell you." It was becoming more and more obvious that Hawke delighted in baiting him.
"You'll get to see him soon enough. Jenkins will take real good care of your bed-buddy."
Doyle shrugged, holding on to his temper by a thin thread. "I'd rather know what you want."
Hawke's laugh was cold and Doyle promised himself he was going to enjoy taking this big mouth apart before too long.
"You're going to have a real treat in a minute, curlytop. Jenkins and Jesus work real well together-enjoy themselves, too. Jesus comes from one of them little banana republics with more babies than brains, but he sure knows his business."
Doyle's stomach twisted in apprehension. Whatever Jesus was good at wasn't going to be healthy for Bodie he was sure. Without hope he yanked at his bonds.
"Wasting your time. Nobody gets loose when I tie 'em." Eyes slitted and Doyle pictured one of the many things he'd like to do to this man. It was very satisfactory.
Jenkin's voice brought him out of the chair across the room before Hawke could touch him. Jenkins shifted aside and let him proceed ahead of them. Inside, a cold stone centred in the pit of his stomach at the sight of a naked, too vulnerable Bodie lying strapped to a long arrow cot. Beside him Jesus stood next to a small hand-powered generator connected by two copper wires wound around Bodie's ankles.
Bodie's eyes met his. "Welcome to the floorshow. Me mum always said I had an electrifying personality."
Despite his schooled features, Doyle knew Bodie could read his sick horror. It was one of their worst nightmares come true.
Immediately Bodie shed his caustic tone. "Ray, don't do it, whatever it is they want."
Jenkins nodded and Jesus began to crank the handle of the generator and gradually Bodie's face contorted as his body twitched with the electrical shock surging through him. An almost equally shocked and enraged Doyle flung himself at the small man twisting the crank, knocking him to the ground before Jenkins and Hawke cold stop him. Joyfully, he kicked and bit the shrieking man, but before he could do any real damage, he was hauled off.
Laughing nastily, Hawke grabbed his hair, dragging him back, but Jenkins looked ready to kill. "Get him away and keep him away," he snapped. Almost reluctantly Hawke dragged him a distance from the cot, and Doyle received the impression that he was not unhappy to see neither the small man nor Jenkins humiliated. He filed that away for the future.
Jenkins helped Jesus to his feet as Doyle met Bodie's eyes. Mute with helplessness he stared at his partner as Jesus regained his feet and began cranking the generator, and again, he saw Bodie's body lift with the shock running through it.
Involuntarily, he stepped forward, but this time Hawke was alert and jerked him back. "Watch it, hero, unless you don't want it to stop." Horrified, he realized how Jesus was punishing him for the attack. The little man stopped cranking then and his victim slumped to the table, gasping for breath, eyes fixed on the ceiling.
Doyle realized he was panting softly, inadvertently revealing his distress, and knew whatever happened next he had to ignore Bodie. All his attention had to be given to the sadists doing this, to find out how to stop the horror.
"Why are you doin' this? What do you want?"
"That's too easy. You need to learn just how serious we are." Hawke nodded and Jesus began to crank, at first slowly and then accelerating the speed.
Unable to tear his eyes away, he watched Bodie's muscles surge in protest and this time, when the power was cut, his partner's eyes were closed, his body trembling in reaction.
"Mate?" Doyle couldn't help it, he had to hear Bodie's voice.
"S'okay," Bodie wheezed, "it's not as bad as it looks."
Again, Jesus moved and this time he cranked furiously, increasing his speed and Bodie's mouth froze in a rictus of pain, a thin keening moan forced from him. Abruptly, Jenkins pushed the small man away from the generator and Bodie collapsed limp and silent.
Jenkins looked at Doyle. "He's all right. Jesus got mad. He doesn't like anyone to imply he's not doing his job."
For long seconds Doyle's strained attention was centred on Bodie, and not until he saw his eyelids lift did he turn to Jenkins. "So you can give him a jolt-don't tell me you went to all this trouble to bring us here just to torture him?"
Hawke's answer was brutally candid. "That's right, but see we have to let Jesus have a little fun once in awhile and get in a little practice.
Jesus, he's one of the best, learned in the finest schools so to say. He knows just how much it takes to kill. Did you know he can stop a heart just like that?"
Hawke snapped his fingers and Doyle flinched.
Hawke became more confiding. "We contracted for a hit. You CI5 boys are making it too tough to get to him. It came to our notice that you were one of his caretakers. Our source says you're the one to do it. Especially since we have your boyfriend. And if you don't do it, he's gonna fry. See how simple it is?"
"Okay," Doyle swallowed. "I'll do it."
"Ray!" Bodie protest was a grated whisper.
"Shut up, Bodie, this is my deal."
Hawke smirked mirthlessly. "Smart fellow. But there is a little hitch. It needs to be done right away. We're not going to wait around while you're buying time. And as an incentive, we're going to keep giving lover boy here a little jolt every 30 minutes until we hear you've done the dirty deed."
His hard won calm deserted him. "You'll kill him!"
"Nah, I told you, Jesus is an expert. You just do your part and he'll be released almost as good as new; unless you take too long. This stuff can do funny things to the brain. Might say he could become terminally confused." His smile widened and Doyle ached to remove it. "Just remember though if it takes longer than four hours, Jesus will get tired. He's apt to decide he's worked long enough and decide to stop another heart." With an inarticulate growl of rage, Doyle whirled to Jenkins and Jesus. "You kill him, you'll never rest easy another day," he promised. "Now quit wasting my time and get me back to the city."
Worthless words of reassurance were all he could give Bodie. "I'll be back and get you out of this. You can count on me."
Bodie looked at him, shuttered eyes unable to hide his fear of the pain to come, but the others only heard his sneering confidence. "Yeh, sure. Get out of here, Ray, do what you have to."
Bodie knew as well as he did he couldn't kill the witness, but he'd do everything in his power and CI5s power to get him out of this mess. Doyle looked one last time at the defenseless form and turned to go.
The door closed on Doyle's back and Bodie squinted up at Jenkins and fond the pale blue gaze riveted on him. He'd seen eyes like this in Angola.
Eyes that enjoyed pain. It was both a strength and a weakness in a hired gun. It could be good because it meant that nothing short of death could stop him, and bad because he was hooked on his victim's suffering and would stay for the final gasp.
Bodie suppressed a shiver. He knew men like Jenkins often got sexually turned on as well, and the avidity in the cold face didn't bode well. Eyes closed against his tormentors, he tried to prepare himself against the pain to come, but the boneless, dull ache in his body distracted him. It looked to be a long day, at least he hoped it would be a long day.
Once they were moving, Cowley stared unseeing at the passing scenery; he was locked into his own thoughts yet alert to his surroundings.
As soon as they had started there had been another sighting of the van and he had been scouring the road ahead for a glimpse of a weathers VW van ever since.
The radio crackled briefly and Jax answered it. "Yeh, 7.6."
The volume was turned down and Cowley missed what was said, but as he started to ask, Jax slowed the car and swung around in the other direction.
"Another possible sighting; village just north of here," Jax explained.
Cowley nodded and resumed his silence. For two hours he had said nothing that did not bear directly on the case, but inside his anger was growing. No one got away with this, no one abducted his men. Every agent had his personal concern, each one selected by him alone, and he'd get them back. He sank back in the seat and continued to watch the disappearing road.
Doyle blinked dazedly in the bright sunlight. The trip back to London had taken much less time, which had concurred with his sense that the first time the van had taken a circuitous route to confuse them. He swayed slightly as he looked about for a telephone kiosk. First things first.
Notify CI5, and that meant Cowley, of just what had been happening. Spotting one down the block, he set off running as he dug into his jeans for some change, tied hands awkwardly fumbling for coins. He still felt the unreality of the last hours, and despite his efforts to concentrate on the job, his concern for Bodie overrode all other considerations.
Sitting on the floor of the van, blindfolded, hands still bound, and Hawke's gun aimed at his head, an opportunity to overpower Hawke on the way back to London never occurred. He had been driven to the outskirts where Hawke had pulled off the blindfold, and once on a trafficked street, had ordered him to open the van door. Doyle had complied, realizing the other man didn't intend to stop, merely slow down enough for him to jump clear.
Reaching the phone, he dropped the coins, cursing, picked them up and got them into the slot. CI5 patched him through to the old man at once, and Jax answered on his r/t.
"Message for Alpha One," Doyle snapped.
" What in God's name is going on, 4.5? Where are you? Where's Bodie? " Cowley's voice, anxious for once came through clearly.
He knew his voice was strained, scared, but he couldn't take time to control his fears. "We were kidnapped. They're keeping Bodie as surety that I'll kill Bolton." He paused. "I don't know Bodie's exact location, but I can help. I'm coming to join you."
"You don't know where he is?"
"We were blindfolded, still I'd recognize the cottage where we were held. And I know you're looking in the right direction, I'm sure we were north of the city."
"About joining the search, 4.5, that's negative. You describe the house. We can find the place just as well without you, but we won't recognize the men we're after and you will. It's quite possible that they have a back up operation in mind when they see you've not killed Bolton, and in that case, you're the only one to keep him safe."
"We don't know that," he protested angrily. "Bodie is my partner, I should be with you, helping to find him."
"You're not paid to think," came the old man's voice, angry himself now.
"You're in charge of Bolton and his caretaking until I say differently. I'll find Bodie."
"That's enough, 4.5. Now give Jax a description of the place you were held and anything else that might be pertinent."
Jax's voice came through, and Doyle detected a note of sympathy in the quiet voice. "Yeh what'm I looking for, Ray?"
He told Jax all the facts in seconds, and then he was standing alone, his only connection to Bodie gone. Frustrated, Doyle aimed a glance of pure hatred at the silent phone in his hand before he slammed it onto its cradle.
Never had to come so close to disobeying one of Cowley's orders. Bolton was nothing to him. Right at the moment he'd as soon put a bullet through the little weasel's head if it would really save Bodie. But it wouldn't.
These men were killers by nature, and he was sure Jenkins wouldn't walk away and leave Bodie alive.
In one way Cowley was right though he had denied it. There was a chance the villains had another plan in case he didn't follow through. Resolutely then, he pushed Bodie to the back of his mind. Cowley was the best. And he had his own reasons for wanting his partner safe.
A gleam of triumph slid across Cowley's features; he knew Doyle would obey him. He wasn't as easy to manipulate as Bodie but he still responded to authority. Sometimes he forgot just how many of his men saw him in an avuncular light. While the more susceptible ones, like Bodie and Doyle, viewed him almost as a father-figure. Perhaps that was how to handle this matter-his anger merely served to harden Doyle's determination, and ultimately, made him and Bodie pull together. A little judicious concern, nothing overdone of course, might just succeed. Yes that would be a useful ploy in dealing with recalcitrant agents-especially agents who had lacked a good father-son relationship as children.
"Step on it, Jax."
There was a feral cast to Cowley's eyes; he was sure they were near the end of the hunt. Even as they flew along the winding road, another call came through placing the van in the village of . Inquiries from the local constable had yielded the information that strangers had taken a small local cottage for a month while on holiday. Good instincts told him this was it. Now if he were only in time. Doyle must have left the cottage a good two hours ago, and he was sure any grace period would soon be over.
He was grim-faced when finally the village came in sight. Two detours had not made him a happy man, and everytime Jax had slowed the car, it maddened him. He kept quiet, though, knowing how easy it was to miss turn offs on these rural lanes. When finally the car turned down another narrow lane, Jax slowed more. Up ahead another car had just stopped and two men got out. With relief, Cowley recognized another team had beat them.
Cowley was out and moving before the car had completely stopped. "Jax," he spoke to the agent scurrying behind him. "Move up, and be careful!" Doyle said there would be two, but no more than three men, but we won't take chances." His attention swung to the two waiting men." You two, work around to the back. I'll be with Jax. Get moving."
Men deployed, Cowley stealthily followed Jax through the underbrush surrounding the house. Jax looked in the first window, and turned to whisper to Cowley. "We're in luck. One of them is in here alone. They're split up."
Cowley felt for loose rocks and tossed a pebble against the window. When Jesus opened the door, Jax silenced him with a chop to the neck.
"Good man," Cowley muttered, pushing past him. Treading carefully, he moved to the only closed door. Hearing a muffled sound, he inched it open, and saw a man straddling Bodie, gun aimed at his agent's defenseless head. As Cowley watched, the man eased off the safety.
Bodie felt hands loosening his restraints and tried to open his eyes. Nothing was responding as it should-not his mind or his body. A terrible weakness controlled him and he was consumed by pain so profound, it engulfed him, as if he were wrapped in a fuzzy cotton wool. His inability to keep a grasp on reality scared him badly.
A voice. With a thrill of fear he identified it as Jenkins, the bringer of pain. Right now he didn't know if he could endure any more. "Bodie, I know you can hear me. Come on, wake up."
A rasping groan forced itself past frozen throat muscles, and he managed to crack an eye open enough to see the wolfish grin hanging over him before Jenkins straightened up.
"I knew you were awake; I want you to now what I'm going to do." He unbuckled his belt as he talked. "I'm going to fuck you now."
Bodie knew this game. In Africa he'd seen it played as a power struggle, but Jenkins would do it because he enjoyed inflicting pain. Deep inside a small rage kindled but couldn't penetrate the haze of exhaustion
surrounding and insulating his mind. Jenkin's hands rolled and tugged at him till he was on his stomach. Heart lurching, he heard a zip slide and fought to make a fist, but abused muscle wouldn't flex, there was nothing left to back his anger.
Jenkins straddled him, gripping his buttocks and he couldn't even grit his teeth against the pain to come. The irony of being able to feel but not react was not lost on him. How could his mind grasp what was about to happen and his body ignore his call to resist?
As the hard flesh probed the entrance to his body, he found his rectal muscles could still protest and new pain became a reality as Jenkins' cock sheathed itself in him. Hard hands gripped him as hips pounded him down into the rough mattress. Bodie's mind worked in a cadence with the thrusting invasion, killyoukillyoukillyouBASTARD.
Jenkins' excitement was too great to last and soon, deep in his bowels, he felt the other man's release before his tormentor slumped forward, breath harsh in his ear.
Bile rose in Bodie's mouth and he knew if he vomited, he'd choke to death, weak as he was. Didn't really matter as this act signalled his death. If Ray had succeeded, he'd have arrived with the cavalry by now. But if Jenkins and Jesus were finished with him, then they must not need him anymore as leverage. And a prisoner without value was a dead prisoner. Jenkins had just been having his last bit of sadistic fun.
The body on him stirred and the limp sex slid from him as the man drew back. He closed his eyes waiting for the shot that would end his life when he heard the door open. There was a shocking blast of a .38 going off at close range, and Jenkins pitched forward onto him once again; he felt the warm trickle of blood against his cold skin.
Ray. It had to be Ray.
He was surprised to hear a Scottish burr as gentle arms enfolded him. "Bodie, lad, can you hear me?"
He fought to keep his eyes open and was rewarded with Cowley's concerned face. Safe. He allowed himself to sink down into a lethargy so sound, he was barely aware of the far off wail of sirens or of being lifted and wrapped in soft blankets.
Doyle raced down the nearly deserted corridor, barely missed a sister making her early evening rounds, turned a corner and saw Cowley standing outside the hospital room. He skidded to a stop, the words out before he could catch his breath.
"How is 'e? Bloody central only said you'd brought 'im here."
"You didn't do a very good job of watching his back this time, did you, 4.5?" Stunned, he stepped back, the words slicing through him. Cowley's condemnation went almost as deep as his own, confirming it if he'd ever doubted it. "Just tell me if he's okay?"
"He'll be fine. Exhausted, minor burns, and of course, Ross will have a field day dealing with the rape, but other than that, he'll do."
"Rape?" he parroted mindlessly.
"Yes, Doyle, rape. Jenkin's last living act, I might add."
"Bloody Christ." He could hardly grasp this final outrage. "I want to see him."
"Well, you'll have to wait until he wakes up. He's been given something." Cowley's voice took on a new edge. "He'll be fine. Bodie is a strong personality. I've already been in contact with Ross and she feels he'll need a minimum of counseling.
The asperity in Cowley's tone ceased to bother Doyle as he looked closer at the older man who was also exhausted, worried, and loved Bodie as much as he was capable. Cowley wouldn't lie, not about Bodie's well-being. "All right, I'll wait."
He dragged a chair from a nearby lounge and settled down. He'd be here when Bodie awoke, and now that the man was safe, he could use the time to regain some inner balance as well as examine what the past hours had shown him. He'd been through a time that had come as close to a living hell as he'd ever want to experience, and the relief he was feeling at present was almost debilitating.
For hours he'd counted seconds, added up minutes, and everytime he'd reached the half hour, his stomach had twisted in agony. It was senseless, keeping track of the time, thinking about what was happening to Bodie back at the cottage, but he was powerless to stop. Now he had to ask himself if the pain was greater than it would have been before they'd become lovers; and then he had to ask himself if it was worth it. The night loomed ahead, full of lonely corridors and even lonelier thoughts.
Bodie shifted slightly, and suddenly realized his body was moving of its own accord. It wasn't a dream, he was alive. Carefully, he opened his eyes and with a sinking feeling saw he was in hospital. Still the novelty of moving his own limbs distracted him as he waved one hand in the air over his face. As he experimented wiggling his feet and then legs, he began to remember bits and pieces of the past. Ray. Moving to reach the phone, he sat too rapidly and his head swam.
Through the spin, he saw Cowley approaching the bed, and he peered around him, thinking to find Doyle.
"Aye, he's here. Finally fell asleep an hour ago."
Bodie sank back, satisfied. He decided to try his voice. It was a croak but it served him. "You got me out?"
Cowley nodded, and Bodie saw the old man was fatigued. "Jenkins?"
Again Cowley nodded in the affirmative. "Dead. And Hawke and his little friend are in custody."
Bodie growled. "Only thing I'm sorry for is that I didn't get to do it. Had a score to settle didn't I?"
"Yes, this time I can't fault you for wanting revenge."
Surprised, Bodie's eyes lifted to Cowley's. The man's face was grim with repressed rage. "Torture, rape, attempted murder-he got a clean, quick death which was more than he deserved."
"Rape.who.you saying I was raped?"
Cowley's brows lifted. "Yes, laddie..?" His eyes cleared then, and he continued. "Aye, the doctor did say your memory could be affected. Could, in fact, lose whole blocks of what happened during the time they had you. Electric shock can do that to the mind."
Bodie closed his eyes trying to catch hold of the hours with Jenkins and Jesus. "All I remember is hurting and hating."
Cowley cleared his throat. "Not to worry. Probably best if you don't remember." "Yeh, don't imagine it's one of those things you'd want to spend time reminiscing about." Uncomfortable with what he perceived as personal concern, Bodie cleared his throat. "Doyle? I mean what happened there?" An impersonal mask settled over Cowley's face. "He got Bolton under extra security and then tried to find me, but I was already on my way to. At Bodie's inquisitive look, he continued. "We had a tip about the van, and of course, earlier when the security in Doyle's flat was breached, we knew something was afoot."
Impatiently, Bodie repeated, "Doyle?"
"After we found you, I contacted him and he met me at hospital." Cowley shrugged wearily. "We've been waiting most of the night."
There was a sound at the door and Bodie's insides turned over as he saw his partner leaning against the door, and realized then he'd believed deep down, he'd never see Ray again.
"Ray." Not even his raspy voice could hide his satisfaction. >From the corner of his eye Bodie saw Cowley shrug into his coat.
"I'll be back," the controller said. "Time to check in at headquarters. There's more important business for me to attend. 4.5, you're off duty til 4 p.m.; get some sleep before you come in." He paused at the door, glancing back briefly. "Rest 3.7." And then he was past Doyle and out the door.
Bodie sensed at once something was wrong in spite of Doyle's hesitant smile. Resorting to flippancy, he asked, "Aren't I irresistible anymore? How can you just stand there?"
Doyle remained tense, but he came over and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Cowley told me what the bloody bastard did to you." Suddenly, he ground his teeth together and smashed a fist into a hard palm. "Christ, I should have been there."
Bodie understood his rage. It would have been his if Ray had been the one hurt. "You would have been there if possible. You were doing the job. It comes first."
Anger subdued for the moment, Doyle looked down. "Yeh, the job." With horror, Bodie heard Doyle's voice quaver once before it steadied. Smoky eyes full of pain met his then. "I failed you, mate. I promised to come back. If Cowley hadn't pulled you out, you'd be an ex-agent: tortured, raped, and murdered." He moved from the bed to stand at the window. "It's almost daylight," he remarked without purpose before he turned again to Bodie.
"Do you know what I'm feeling?"
"Happy I'm alive," Bodie ventured.
Green eyes stared hard. "Do you need to be told."
"No. Look Ray, I know there's something going on here and I'd like to get it straight. You did what you had to. What I'd've done in the same circumstances. I'm just glad to be alive, glad you're alive. Can't we leave it at that?"
"You were raped." It almost sounded like an accusation.
"So Cowley says. I don't remember, do I?"
Doyle looked and sounded confused. "How could you not remember?"
"It's some kind of after-affect of electric shock. But I still don't like the idea." He twisted the sheet angrily. "Couple of times in Africa, fellers tried.and succeeded, till I got better than them and made some bigger, tougher friends myself."
Doyle moved closer and he fixed him with a glare. "Would have killed Jenkins myself if I could. Couldn't though, so that's it. I'm not about to get hysterical over something I can't recall. I'm alive and he's dead that that's it."
'Yeh," Suddenly suspicious. "Why, does it bother you somebody else."
"Stop it. You know better than that."
The angry voice hung between them, and Bodie shut up and waited. Doyle would eventually spit it out when he was ready.
Finally, his partner approached the bed and when he spoke again his tone was quieter. "Doctor says you can get out of here tomorrow. Mostly you need rest. The Cow said I was to pick you up." He rubbed red-rimmed eyes.
"I'll see you then, okay?"
"You're going?" he asked, disappointed.
"I need some sleep, don't I, and you look proper knackered."
A little surprised, Bodie realized he was fighting a creeping lethargy. "Yeh, you're right," he said around a yawn. "Tomorrow then." He tried to meet Doyle's eyes, but they were averted, and then he couldn't keep his own open any longer.
After checking into HQ, Doyle received the message that Cowley wanted to see him. The four hours of sleep he'd finally managed had left him gritty-eyed and heavy-limbed, but he knew there was no putting off the interview. He'd known that it was what the old man had intended when he'd been ordered in at 4:00. Probably lucky he'd got a twelve hour reprieve after the greeting he'd received at hospital.
The sarcastic reprimand had sliced deep even though no one knew more than he that he'd let Bodie down. If Cowley intended to run it in, he didn't know what he'd say or do. The only other time he'd felt anywhere as inadequate was when Sid had bought it.
Guilt riding close to the surface, he entered Cowley's presence with something approaching the trepidation he'd felt when he'd first joined CI5. The old man kept him standing several minutes before deigning to notice him and when he did glance up, he was pierced by a rapier gaze.
"I've asked you here to discuss your behavior, 4.5."
With one quiet statement Cowley reduced him to an obstreperous schoolboy on the defensive. "What's wrong with it, then?" Sounding sullen to his own ears, he was unable to dispel the feeling he was about to be thrashed.
"What's wrong? Let me refresh your memory, beginning with your conduct yesterday, not even mentioning the fact that my two best agents were taken completely unaware and kidnapped."
Doyle felt the heat flood his skin. "I was worried about Bodie. Remember him, my partner?" He'd been crazy with fear more like, but he wasn't going to admit that to the Cow.
"I'd say it bordered on insubordination. I'd say you almost forgot whom you take orders from, wouldn't you?
Doyle maintained a stubborn silence. When in the wrong, admit nothing. "And there's the matter of not doing your job."
"My job?" Doyle exploded. "I did the bloody job. Bolton is nice and cosy, isn't he?"
Cowley leaned forward, voice no longer accusatory but laced with concern. "Only because you were so ordered. Listen to me, 4.5, the job comes first-always. And if you forget that, you're no good to me or to Bodie." Doyle looked down, confused by Cowley's change in demeanor and tone. The blue ice of rage had disappeared and had been replaced with warmth and caring.
Cowley's voice softened further. "Don't be thinking I've forgotten Bodie is still on suspension for his own insubordination. When my two best agents both start acting so irrational, of course, I'm alarmed." He pushed his desk chair back and stood.
Before he could continue, Doyle interrupted, his emotions fluctuating between anger and guilt; between suspicion and the respectful affection he still felt for Cowley. "We're partners. Partners are supposed to watch out for each other. Even the rule book says so."
The honeyed answer covered cold steel. "Don't quote rules I wrote. And they do say, do they not, that you watch out for each other while you're doing your job, not to the exclusion of your job?"
Doyle contented himself with a ferocious scowl since he couldn't truthfully contest the facts. So far he was coming off second best in this confrontation.
Cowley stood them and leaned forward, palms flat on his desk. "And this brings me to another topic, 4.5. You told me some time ago that you and Bodie weren't seriously involved. Well, you two are behaving like moonstruck lovers, so if you're not, then you'd better persuade me differently as I'm considering splitting the unit."
"You can't," he blurted uncertainly. "You said yourself we were your best team." This Cowley was throwing him off balance. He wasn't sure he trusted the man, but he knew he was responding to the firm kindness despite everything. "Who'd replace us?" he asked desperately.
"Don't worry, lad, that's my job."
"Bodie and I...it's not serious," Doyle mumbled, awkward with the falsehood in the face of such concern.
"So you maintain it's casual, despite the appearance of an intense relationship?"
Doyle blushed as much at the lie as at discussing their feelings, but animal caution made him continue to deny it. "Sex with Bodie is good. But it's better with birds. What do you want to hear? That we'll break it off?"
Cowley's rueful smile offered understanding. "I want the truth." Then he leaned closer. "My god, man, don't you understand you could get each other killed? Or innocent bystanders?" He went on before Doyle could reply. "I want you to take this job seriously. Do you? Can you break it off? Because I'll tell you that's the only way I'm prepared to let you both stay on."
Doyle swallowed hard. CI5 was too important, and he couldn't make that decision for both of them, remembering then that Bodie had never wanted to get so close as to jeopardize their jobs or their lives. He had been the one to push for this closeness, and now it was going to destroy everything.
Bewildered he shook his head; he hadn't expected to be treated like a son, even a wayward one. That Cowley meant every word, he had no doubt.
"Bodie has diverse tastes just like me. Christ, we do this job together. Who else understands what we do, how we feel about doing it? Sometimes we need each other; but most of the time, not. At least not that way." His voice lowered, bitter with concealed pain. "We could stop. We will if that's the only way to stay on."
"And you speak for Bodie?"
"I speak for me." Knowing if he pulled back, then Bodie would have to agree, knowing Bodie would be hurting as much as he was, knowing it was the only way to continue doing the job and keep them both alive.
"Aye," Cowley eased back, giving him space, returning to his chair.
"That's good enough for me." Absently, he reached for a pen and paper and wrote for a minute. "Sit down, lad."
Still not off the hot seat, but feeling not quite out of favor, Doyle sank into the offered chair. He almost couldn't believe what he'd just said to Cowley, that he hadn't fought for them harder. And then he knew he couldn't fight for something he was beginning to believe, if not wrong, was dangerous to Bodie. He had put Bodie before the job, just as Bodie had put him first. And if it hadn't almost killed the man this time, it might the next. Could he live with himself if he caused such a thing to happen even inadvertantly? He slid down the seat, a compacted ball of misery.
"You were right," he whispered. "I didn't want to safeguard Bolton, I wanted to find Bodie." He looked up, eyes wide. "You followed procedures, you found him. And I haven't even thanked you properly."
"Not necessary." Cowley looked up. "Can I assume you will take care of this matter posthaste?"
"Yes." Shocked depression settled squarely in the pit of his stomach.
"Good, now since Bodie will be on the sick list for the rest of the week and then up for a refresher course, there's a little matter pending in the north, and Murphy could use some back up. Talk to Betty about your travel arrangements."
Gratefully, Doyle pushed Bodie to the back of his mind and attended to the details of the present case. Later he would deal with his partner.
The next morning Bodie resisted the sister's efforts to help him bathe and dress, and had become highly impatient before Doyle arrived. His mate didn't look well-rested yet and Bodie was anxious to get him alone to find out why he still acted cool, remote, and miserable, but he refrained from initiating any conversation until they were at his flat.
"All right, what is it?" he asked, flopping onto the settee.
"What's what?" Doyle answered.
"Come off it, mate, you know."
"I've been thinking." Nervously Doyle shrugged and began pacing about the room, aimlessly touching small objects.
"I can tell. Strain shows, doesn't it?"
Doyle ignored him and continued relentlessly. "I've been thinking about us." Bodie didn't answer for a moment. "Reach any conclusions I don't already know?" "You always said we shouldn't get so close. I think mebbe you're right." Bodie's eyes narrowed. "Why now."
Doyle tried to explain. "You heard me. Yeh, the bloody job. They used our relationship to try to get what they wanted. And it almost killed you.
Just because they didn't this time doesn't mean someone won't try it again. "I know, I've thought abut it; but this time was a fluke they found out." "It was a mole," Doyle broke in sarcastically. "And Cowley found out who. Sweated it out of Hawke last night, didn't we? Anyway, you can't get past the fact they used it against us. And the Cow isn't happy."
"Okay, I listened, now I want the truth, sunshine. Other agents have relationships, families, and they could have grabbed someone's wife or kids, and they probably would have if any married men had been on that job." He folded his arms across his chest and waited expectantly for Ray to try and refute his logic.
Stormy green met his. "Okay then, how's this for the truth. I really considered blowing Bolton away. Oh, yeh, I didn't but I wanted to. He's nothing, just a piece of dirt. And you, and well, you know. Began to see why you always hold back."
Bodie could see he was refusing to remember that wall had been removed just recently. Unacknowledged pain welled in Bodie and with quick savageness, he quelled it. "So you want to cool it? Us? Is that it?" He was unaware of his whitened face. "I still don't understand why now. I've been in danger before."
"Not like this." Doyle shuddered as he remembered his helplessness, his sheer inability to save Bodie. "Dammit," the words burst from him. "I would have been too late. Cowley saved you."
Bodie's eyes softened. "And you feel like you let me down?"
"I know I did. And by the grace of whatever gods you believe in, Cowley got there in time. I keep thinking about what it would've been like if he hadn't." He slumped down on the settee beside Bodie. "I found out what a coward I am. I found out I don't want to know what it'd be like to lose my friend, partner, and lover. We've got too much, Bodie. Too much to risk losing it all at once."
"We could always quit."
Doyle swung around angrily. "There's always that, although we neither want to. And how soon would we be blaming each other for giving it up?" Gloomily he looked down at his hands, both fisted with his inner anguish. "I don't want to find out. Besides if we can't manage it doing our job, will we do any better off the job?"
Doyle's face reflected so much inner pain, Bodie backed off. "So it's all over?"
"No!" Doyle leaned towards him, misery radiating. "No, it can never be over between us. Let's just keep you and me for special. Let's go back, Bodie, to the time when we could both handle it."
Bodie's eyes closed against all the anguish in Doyle. He could live with his own, but not his partner's. "Okay. It's okay by me." He reached blindly for Doyle's hand. "Listen, you better go to work now. I'm tired."
It was true, he'd never been so weary in his life.
Doyle squeezed his hand briefly and let go. "Yeh, good idea. I'll call you later."
Before he cracked his eyes, he felt Doyle move from the settee. Then hearing the door open he saw for the first time since he'd known Doyle that the man looked uncomfortable in his body, and it was with sorrow he knew their relationship was to blame. Ray Doyle was used to expressing his emotions, and the new restraints he had placed on them was going to hurt them both. He sighed deeply at the irony of the situation. He'd got what he'd originally wanted, but now knew it wouldn't make him as happy as he'd been this past week.
Resolutely he got up and went to his bedroom to lie down. Once there he couldn't rest, but depression had settled in too solidly to even consider moving. Instead he thought about how he might still have Ray, but it was temporary. It wasn't over yet, what they had, and it wouldn't be for a while, but these things followed a pattern, and this was the beginning of the end. When it was ended, he'd figure out how to deal with the pain.
Later, when Doyle was lost to him for good. Until then he'd enjoy what was left, take what was offered and then never look back.
Life was almost back to normal.
-- THE END --