A Pardon After Execution


--That comfort comes too late.
'Tis like a pardon after execution.

Doyle inspected his burned wrists ruefully. "I imagine Ojuka is feeling a bit like I do at the moment."

"What's that?"

"'E oughta be careful who he gets tied up with in the future."

Bodie smiled and began steering his partner toward the car. "Right, mate. Let's get you to a medic, shall we? I wager you've more damages than your dainty wrists."

Doyle stopped abruptly, tugging back on Bodie's grip. "Where's Parker?"

"Who's that?"

The green eyes swept over the grounds, taking in the departing car containing Ojuka's traitorous lady and the too-greedy government official, then moved back to the other group of prisoners being herded into motors with less politeness. "I left him in the back, down in the cellar. He was out cold." Catching sight of Murphy, Doyle called out, "Murph, have you searched the grounds?"

Murphy looked up, startled. "Yeah, this is the lot."

"Bloody hell!" Doyle took off at a sprint, Bodie following doggedly.

"Ray, let the other lads see to it, will ya? Doyle!"

Doyle was clutching his side when he reached the cellar steps, plainly hurting. But he jerked out his gun with his left hand and barreled down. It was empty.

"Fools! They've let the bastard get away!"

Bodie took his arm. "They'll catch 'im, mate. He can't get far, can he? Nothing but woods for miles around, is there?"

Doyle slumped tiredly. "I suppose you're right."

"Of course, I'm right," Bodie said soothingly. "You're too racked up to be chasin' through the piney woods right now. The bloke was rough on you, was he?"

"Well, he didn't read me poetry, if that's what you mean."

"Come on, sunshine. Time to play doctor."

Cowley caught Bodie in the corridor. "Bodie! In my office. Now!"

The younger man halted in mid-stride. He turned very slowly, unwilling to face the older man just yet. It was a scene he knew he couldn't avoid, but had hoped to delay. "Now, sir? I was just--"

"Now, Bodie! Or is that order too difficult for you to follow?"

Bodie winced, and fell obediently into step behind Cowley. If I was a dog, me tail would be drooping, he thought ruefully.

"Shut the door," Cowley commanded. "All right, first off, how's Doyle?"

"The Doc's seein' him now, sir. Thinks he got himself a cracked rib, but nothing worse. Some nasty burns on his wrists, a few bruises. Could be rougher from what I gather they put him through. That Parker fella was a real sadist."

Cowley picked up a folder from his desk. "Yes, Parker. He's a bad one, all right. Avery hired him through some South African connections of his. He's a mercenary when the war and the money suits him; the rest of the time he fills in as a hired bully boy for whoever can pay his price. We've got quite a file on him through our own South African office. He seems to have quite a few British contacts as well, but so far we haven't been able to trace them."

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "You mean they didn't nab him?"


"You can't be serious, sir," Bodie protested. "Where could he run? And he couldn't'a been in such great shape after Doyle was finished with him either. Why--"

Cowley cut him off impatiently, "The fact is, they haven't found him, and it's beginning to look like they won't. He's a pro. He knows all the tricks."

"He's a killer! We can't just let him get away. He killed a girl at the hotel...shot 'er in the back. And the way he treated Doyle--" Bodie broke off, realizing he was arousing Cowley's suspicions with his heat. "Well, I just can't believe we let him slip away, that's all."

"He hasn't slipped away yet, Bodie. And he won't, if we can help it. That's why we're still trying to trace his contacts here. He had to've had help, a place to go aground."

Bodie took a deep breath. "Doyle isn't going to like this."

"You're very concerned all of a sudden with what Doyle does and doesn't like, aren't you, Bodie?"

The blue eyes flicked up to meet Cowley's. "Yeah, well, I just meant--"

"I know what you mean. And I know what you did back at the estate. Did you think I was going to forget that little faux pas of yours?"

"No, sir." Bodie's shoulders straightened.

"You disobeyed a direct order, Bodie! I could have your hide for that. You knew my rules when you entered this organization. Do'y think they apply to ev'ryone but you? You move when I tell you to move. You bloody well breathe when I tell you to!"

"Yes, sir. No excuse, sir."

"You're damn right, there's no excuse! It's not the first time you've done this, but it'll damn all be the last! Do you understand me, Bodie! The next time, I'll have you out on your ear--if you have any ears left! Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir. Perfectly clear, sir."

Cowley studied the clean profile, noting the stiff, military posture, the careful lack of expression.

"Whatever you feel about Doyle, you keep it off the job, or so help me I'll split you and assign you to different counties, if necessary."

There was a split second of emotion at this; a flicker of the straight, black lashes, a vague hint of a stubborn pout on the expressive mouth, before the face was schooled back to blankness.

"No, sir. It won't happen again, sir."

"Och, get outa my office, afore I really lose my temper! I won't ha' ya stand there an' lie to me. Go on wi' ya. See ta Doyle."

The irrepressible grin returned, along with the blue-eyed twinkle. "Thank you, sir. I knew you'd understand, sir."

He slipped quickly out the door to a flurry of Scottish curses.

Bodie found Ray still in the infirmary, just getting dressed after the examination.

"Don't you look all nice an' virginal in all your white bandages. Show off your tan, they do. Very chic."

Doyle glanced at him, then down at the white strip circling his ribs and the smaller ones on his wrists. "You fancy mummy's, do you? If I roll my trousers up, I can show you more."

"Save the unveiling for later, angelfish. So what's the verdict, then? Everything still in place? Or did you dislocate an important bit?"

"Ah, a couple a cracked ribs, is all. The rest is only skin deep he says."

"Better your skin than mine, mate. And you will insist on letting 'em smash in your skinny ribs, won't you? What's that make, three times now?"

"Four. Broke one when I was in the Met during a drug bust. But you shoulda seen the other fella." He tugged his tee shirt over his head, gasping a little at the pain of lifting his right arm. "Speakin' of the other fella, what about Parker."

Bodie turned away, studying a jar of cotton balls. "'Fraid he's still on the loose."

"Wha'? They've let the bastard skip?" Doyle came off the table fuming. "I knew I should've stayed! Those asses couldn't--"

"Now, Raymond, not all of us are perfect coppers. Give the lads a chance. They'll nab 'im."

"What'd Cowley say?"

"He wasn't pleased/" Bodie saw no reason to add that Parker's escape wasn't the only thing he wasn't pleased about. Doyle was capable of tearing into him louder and longer then the Cow himself, if he discovered Bodie's actions that afternoon. Bodie felt he'd been scolded enough for one day.

"Any leads to where he'd go? Does Cowley have his file yet? Have they put checks on all the--"

"Hold it, son. As far as I know, we're not on this man-hunt. I know you're not. Knowing our House physician, you're off for a couple of days, at least."

"Listen, Bodie--"

"No, you listen, sunshine. I know you're itchin' to get hold of this bloke and give him another portion of what he dished out to you, but you're not in shape to do it just yet. You're knackered, son. Let's get you home to bed, and we'll thrash it all out later, right?"

Surprisingly, Doyle gave in. "Okay, you win." He smiled at Bodie, the green eyes very soft, nearly flirty. "Drive me home, will you?"

Bodie's heart thumped a bit faster, wondering how one man could hold so many facets--from scrappy hellcat, to vulnerable moppet. Doyle was in his moppet stage, and playing it with self-conscious appeal.

"Come on, then."

When they reached the car park, Doyle turned to him, eyes wide, face sweet. "Uh, Bodie, I meant to ask you earlier...I was wonderin'..."

"What, sunshine?"

"Could you loan me twenty quid?"

"What?" Bodie felt amusement bubble up inside him. He was positive Doyle still had the first pound note he'd ever made stuffed in his mattress.

"Yeah, well, Cowley hasn't signed me expense chit yet this month--and what with this babysit job, I haven't had time to get to the bank, and--"

"Here." Bodie tossed the bills his partner's way as he backed the Capri out of the space.

"Ta, you're a brick, mate."

"Yeah, well, just don't forget where you got it, son. You still owe me a fiver from last month."

Doyle's round face was pure innocence. "I do? You sure?"

Bodie shot him a look of affectionate irritation. "Never mind. At least you always remember when I owe you money. Can't expect you to remember everything, can I?"

They reached Doyle's flat and Bodie went to the kitchen to put on the kettle. "Want some hard in it, mate?"

Doyle settled on the couch, moving more stiffly as the aches and pains set in. "Probably put me out, but yeh, why not. There's a bottle--"

"Over the sink, I know."

A short while later, Bodie returned to the couch with the potently laced tea. "Here you go, Raymond. Drink it down."

Doyle sat up too suddenly, bit his lip at the jab of pain, then cursed as he realized his lip was sore, too.

"Your mouth's cut," Bodie pointed out. "It's startin' to swell a bit."

"Yeah, I know," Doyle replied drily.

Bodie's hand reached out to touch Doyle's cheek. "Looks sexy, puffed out a bit like that. Suppose it would hurt if it was kissed, wouldn't it?"

Doyle's eyes sparkled. "Probably. But do it anyway, will ya?"

"If you insist..." Bodie leaned over and lightly--very lightly-- touched his moth to Doyle's. "Hurt?" he whispered.

"Yeah," Doyle said dreamily, "but don't stop."

Bodie grinned. "Always susp[ected you was a masochist." He moved his tongue tip over Doyle's lips, licking across the cut, then slipping deeper into the opening mouth. But as the pressure increased, the curly head jerked back.


"Sorry. Got carried away. Drink up your tea, sunshine, before I pop the buttins on me pants."

"There's other places to kiss," Doyle suggested wickedly.

Bodie shook his head sternly. "You've bruises everywhere, me lad. I've never fancied you in technicolor."

Doyle sighed and picked up his cup. "Wish you could've stayed at the hotel last night, instead of doing stake-out."

"Good thing I didn't, isn't it? The way things turned out, I mean. Besides, with Ojuka in the next room, would've been a bit repressive, wouldn't it?"

"Oh, I dunno. We had to share a bath, didn't we?" He chuckled. "I almost lost it, I did, when you told the desk clerk we wouldn't mind havin' to share. Nasty, Bodie, nasty."

"What was I supposed to say?"

"It was all in how you said it, mate."

"You've a dirty mind, Raymond. That's your problem."

"It's a problem, is it?"

Their eyes held, smiling, teasing. Doyle sat down his cup.

"Let's go to bed, Bodie."

Doubtful if Ray was in condition for it, but knowing it would be useless to argue with those smoldering greeneyes, Bodie followed him up the narrow stairs to the bedroom.

At the bed, Doyle turned to face him, eyes still glowing, and the pronounced bulge in the front of his too-tight jeans speeding a similar reaction in Bodie.

"Help me with me shirt, will you?"

Bodie slipped his hands beneath the fabric, sliding it up past the taped ribs, disarranging the thick curls even more as he pulled it over his head and down the slender arms. He pulled Doyle into an easy embrace, burying his face against the shorter man's throat.

"You had me a bit worried today, you know," he said softly.

"I was a trifle concerned myself, mate. It was a close one."

"Yeah." Bodie breathed in the scent of him, a strange mixture of sweat, gun smoke, and burn ointment. "I'd've missed you, I reckon."

"I'd've missed me, too--" He broke off with a gasp of pleasure as Bodie's mouth trailed down his neck and fastened on a nipple. Bodie's hands slipped around to the front long enough to undo the belt and zip on Doyle's jeans.

"Lay down, sunshine."

Doyle obeyed, already too lost in the heat to say more. Bodie tugged off the jeans an inch at a time, gaze burning on the slender body as it was revealed. He paused to stroke the quivering cock and tangle his fingers in the dark auburn curls at the groin before standing to remove his own clothing.

Doyle's eyes were feverish as he watched the undressing of the muscled body. Naked, Bodie returned to the bed, hands stroking, mouth wet and hot over the more sensitive places. He carefully avoided the more obvious bruises and scrapes, and was cautious to keep a damper on his own arousal. He wanted to bring Ray off without anything too strenuous; the poor little bugger wasn't up to much more, even if he wouldn't admit it.

Ray's hands were hungry and eager on Bodie's flesh, demanding more, but he managed to evade their grasp, knowing from experience that a few moments under those skillful caresses would make him forget all his good intentions. He had greater control than Ray, but he had his limits as well.

"Time for Uncle Bodie's patented sleeping aid, son." His mouth centered on the overheated cock, and Doyle whimpered in the delight, thrusting upward, but one hand moved swiftly to press against his protesting ribcage.

Bodie lifted his head long enough to scold. "That'll teach you, won't it? Just keep still, will you?" He engulfed the cock slowly, beginning to suck, discovering a rhythm that suited Doyle's arousal.

The curly head arched back on the pillow in ecstacy, moaning, trying to move, but the relentless hands held him down, forcing compliance, urging completion. For several minutes, Bodie tortured him with pleasure, making it build and crest, taking control of its progression.

Then, finally, Doyle gave a cry somewhere between a groan and a scream and came, bursting in Bodie's throat in pulsing waves.

Bodie waited for the final shiver of pleasure to pass before moving up to lay beside him. "How was that, sunshine?"

Ray's smile was lazy and sated. "Good."

"So sleep now, you silly sod. You need your rest."

Doyle was half out already, but he made the effort. "But you haven't--"

"Listen, mate, I've spent all of last night and most of today hunkerin' down in the bushes; could use a few hours of kip meself. We're not all such horny little buggers as you, you know." He didn't have to go on with the sell, Doyle was already gone.

Bodie smiled and arranged himself more comfortably, pulling up the blankets and turning off the bedside light. Then he settled back to watch as Ray slept, the streetlamp slanting through the open blinds to streak across the tumbled curls, catching the slightly swollen mouth, outlining the dented cheekbone.

He petted the soft skin along the arm and down the chest to where the bandage began, feeling Ray nearly purr even in his sleep at the feel of the caress.

It never ceased to amaze him, how tactile and ultra sensitive his partner was. As if his nerve ceased to amaze him, how tactile and ultra sensitive his partner was. As if his nerve endings were that much closer to the surface than was normal. When Ray hurt, it hurt Bodie more than his own, for Ray didn't take pain well. He could withstand it, ignore it if necessary, but he felt it acutely, more than anyone Bodie knew. To Bodie, pain was something to be avoided if possible, dealt with when required, endured if necessary. To Doyle it was an enemy, an adversary he must battle. Bodie marveled at the very real courage it must take for Ray to remain in this profession where pain was almost a given fact of the job. But it was probably part of the challenge as well, and Doyle was a man who tested his limits.

The other side of the coin was more rewarding. As intensely as Doyle suffered, he also felt pleasure just as acutely. Bodie had never met anyone, man or woman, who could turn on so rapidly, as a single caress, and be totally lost in the sensations, giving themselves over to the feelings with such total abandon. It was sheer joy, not to mention incredibly exciting in itself, to watch Doyle work up to fever pitch.

Bodie moved restlessly, knowing he had to think of something else. This was dangerous ground in his condition; if he kept on, he'd end up raping Ray, cracked rib not withstanding.

He considered Cowley's lecture instead. The old man was right; he was going to have to be more careful--at least more careful in keeping his feelings to himself. Christ! How'd he let his mouth run off like that? He could've easily kept quiet and let George believe it was Ojuka he had been concerned about. Why'd he have to spout off about Ray? Still, Cowley would have known the truth; he always knew. But he was usually content to let them keep up the fiction of the job coming first. This time, Bodie had rubbed his nose in it, and he couldn't let it pass.

Well, what did the old man expect, anyway? When you work together as long and as close as he and Doyle had, it was damn near impossible to remain detached. At least for him it was. Bodie didn't let many people close, but once he did, he trusted them totally. It was different for Ray Doyle. He was a maze of contradictions. Prickly one moment, soft as a kitten the next. And he never let anyone that close. Not even Bodie. It didn't really bother Bodie; he accepted Ray for what he was, and was content with it. But occasionally being partners with Doyle reminded him of riding a roller coaster, all twists and turns and never knowing what was around the next corner. In all truth, that was probably what fascinated him the most about Doyle.

Bodie's curiosity being what it was, he often tried to draw Ray out, learn more of his past, but while Bodie kept the doors to his own past tightly locked, Ray had a habit of opening a crack then slamming shut again--usually hard enough to smash any prying fingers. Like in everything else, he was a tease about that, too.

It was only fair, he supposed, since he never intended to let some particular skeletons escape from his private closets either.

Finally feeling drowsy, Bodie rested his face against the soft curls and closed his eyes.

"I can't keep you here much longer," the man said nervously.

"No?" Parker finished cleaning his gun and closed the chamber with a gentle click. "That's bad." The cold eyes stared the man down. "It would be sad for you and your--" a thin smile "--'Liberation' group, if I was to be captured. Better to have me back safe in Johannesburg where I cannot name names and cause you such trouble, nyet? Much better."

"We can't get you out of the country! They'll be watching every outlet, you must know that."

"Oh, yes, I know that. But for how long, comrade? A month, two perhaps? How much time can they spend on one hired killer? There are so many, you see. We must form a club sometime, you think?"

"In two months they could trace you here."

"So I go elsewhere. Somewhere quiet."

The man flushed angrily. "We could simply kill you now, to insure your silence!"

Parker didn't even bother to look up. "You could kill me, yes, but it would insure nothing. You think me a fool? Every hit I did for you is carefully documented--places, times, set up, even the weapons are stored in a safe place...and can be traced back to you. No, I do not believe you will kill me."

"Very well," he replied sullenly. "I think I know a place you can stay for a time, until we can make arrangements to get you out safely."

The South African stopped him as he turned to go. "One more thing, soddy."


"There was a girl with your group. A very pretty girl. Is she still with you?"

"Katrina? She's no more than a hanger-on. A...groupie. She had nothing to do with anything important."

"But she was involved."

The terrorist shrugged. "A minor role from time to time."

"Can you find her? Do you know where she is?"

"Yes, I suppose so. Why?"

Parker cocked the gun and fired it on an empty chamber. "I think I have a job for her."

They were jogging again, and Bodie was far from happy about it.

"Christ, Doyle, how much further do we drag on?

"You're the one draggin', sunshine. I'm havin' a pleasant run. Why'd you come along if you hate it so much?"

Bodie threw him a disgruntled look. "Because you told me this was the best place to pick up birds, mate. All we've seen so far is two mums pushing prams and an old geezer who looked like Winston Churchill on the verge of a stroke."

"Well what do you call that, then?" Doyle asked gleefully, as a girl sped past them, long blonde hair flowing, jogging pants molded tightly to her neat ass.

Bodie turned and began jogging backwards, watching her. "Very nice."

They stopped, exchanging looks.

"Shall you chat her up, or shall I?"

Doyle looked offended. "I saw her first."

"That's a rather childish way to decide something so important, don't you think? What's happened to your logic, then? Your sense of team spirit? Of fair play?"

Doyle's eyes twinkled. "Race you, then. First one there moves in. Deal?"


They took off together at a run. Doyle was the faster, but he was more of a sprinter, and their brief conversation had given her quite a lead. Bodie was passing him when Doyle suddenly halted, clutching his side.


Immediately the taller man stopped and ran back. "What's wrong, mate? Your ribs again? Christ, it's only been a few weeks. Let's have a look then." He knelt on the path, tugging up Ray's shirt. "Told you this running wasn't good--"

He broke off in amazement as Doyle slipped away and sprinted off after the girl, leaving Bodie on one knee staring after him. "Why you crooked, little bastard! Come back here! Ray!"

Doyle's laughter trailed back as he rounded the curve and was out of sight. Bodie shook his head, grinning. He brushed the dirt off his knee and set off at a more sedate pace. By the time he caught up with them, Doyle was already deep in conversation with the flaxen haired beauty.

Bodie loped past them slowly, then pulled up. He turned, smiled at the girl, then looked at Doyle, eyes widening.

"I know you! You're that fella, aren't you? The one in all the papers?"

"What papers?" the girl asked, stopping. "Are you famous or something?" She giggled.

"I should say he is, luv," Bodie said excitedly. "This is that rapist they let out on parole. You know, the one that picked up all those bird in the park, then took them home and--"

She looked doubtfully at Bodie, then looked at the furious Doyle, and took off at a much faster pace down the path.

"Hey!" Bodie called after her cheerfully. "Is that any way to be? He's served his time, hasn't he? Paid for his hideous crimes. Deserves another chance, doesn't he?"


He turned to Doyle innocently. "Life's terrible rough on ex-convicts, innit? What good's rehabilitation if no one will--"


Bodie backed off, grinning. "Come on, mate, fair is fair. Besides, did'y hear that giggle? Would've had you climbin' the bloody trees in ten minutes."

Doyle had to laugh. "You crud. She was pretty, you know. But I reckon you're right about that laugh; did rather curl me toenails."

"There now, see?"

Doyle's head lifted. "No, but I see something else. And this time, you lay off or I'll break your teeth."

Bodie turned to look back the way they'd come, and saw what Doyle meant. At the edge of the turn, a girl had stopped and was sitting on one of the rocks that lined the jogging trail. She was rubbing her ankle.

Doyle approached her, flashing another warning look at Bodie.

"Are you all right, miss?"

She looked up. "oh...I think so. I turned my ankle, I think."

He offered her a hand, and one of his more particularly appealing smiles. "Let's see if you can stand on it."

"Thanks...I...oh!" She caught his arm as the ankle gave. "It's still pretty sore, I'm afraid. It seems better though."

"Do you think you can walk on it? Or should I get--"

"No, I'm sure it'll be okay. It's just twisted a bit." She tossed the red hair out of her eyes and smiled back at him.

"What if I just sit with you 'til it's better then? My name's Ray Doyle. And you're...?"


Bodie merged the Capri smoothly into the line of traffic before glancing over at his passenger. "So, how was it?"

"What's that?" Doyle's head was back against the seat, his eyes closed.

"Last night. The red head."

"Christ, Bodie, do'y have to have a report on every date I have?" There was no sting to the words, however, and an amused smiled curved Doyle's mouth.

"Didn't the Cow tell you? New procedure. All sexual activities of operatives must be discussed in detail."

Doyle laughed. "Oh yeah? In the fine print, is it?"

"Very fine. Actually, you wouldn't want to deny me vicarious thrills, would you?"

"She was good then. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"How good?" Bodie wiggled his eyebrows with exaggerated interest.


Bodie smiled, knowing Ray loved it when he was sleazy. "Well? You going to tell, or do I just fantasize?"

"Why don't you find out for yourself?"

"Oh, no, mate. Wouldn't step on your toes for anythin'."

Doyle cranked down his window to get some air. "I'm to meet her at the local later. Why don't you give Johanna a ring and we'll make it a double, eh?"

Bodie heaved a soulful breath. "'Fraid she's given me notice, mate."

"Wha'? She ditched you? How come?"

"Couldn't take me black humor, could she? Said my jokes were immature and tasteless."

"Yeah?" Well, that's true enough. What'd you say to set 'er off?"

Bodie told him. Ray laughed, shaking his head. "Christ, Bodie, that was terrible. No wonder she packed you in."

"You laughed," Bodie pointed out cheerfully.

"But I'm immune to you. Keep taking me pills, don't I?" Doyle kept chuckling. They glanced at each other and grinned. "Well, stop by for a pint anyway, why don't you? Who knows, it may work out at that."

One black eyebrow lifted. "A troy?"

Doyle shrugged. "She might go for it, mightn't she? Not very inhibited, from what I can tell."

"You'd like that, would you?" Bodie was serious now. It had been some time since they'd shared a woman, long before they'd started sharing each other. While it shouldn't have made a difference, somehow it did.

"Why not?"

They stopped at a traffic signal, and their gaze locked for a moment. The signal changed and they moved on, the conversation switching to other matters.

The Capri pulled up outside Doyle's flat, and he opened the car door. Once on the sidewalk, he leaned back through the window.

"See you later, then?"

Bodie grinned and did a thumbs up. "Yeah, mate. Ta."

Doyle stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. He had made a decision under the relaxing beat of the hot water. If Katrina didn't go for a threesome, he'd politely drop her off at her flat and go with Bodie anyway. It had been a couple of weeks since they'd last had it off together, and Doyle rather missed the feel of it. He didn't like to start things up too often, for he had a nasty idea that Bodie could become addictive taken in large doses--and the last thing he wanted was to become hooked on someone as dangerous as his partner.

William Andrew Phillip Bodie, the man without a past. What did he know about him anyway? Over five years together, and he could sum it up in a few short facts. Facts that were public knowledge. An unsavory past with very undefined edges. But one couldn't very well ask, could one? Not with Bodie. He'd be flippant, evasive, and slick as an eel, impossible to pin down. The wide, thickly lashed blue eyes would look at you as if to say, 'what, me? I was born yesterday'. Impossible to pry past that good-natured but very sold wall. Doyle had seen too many people try.

He finished drying off his hair and paused to look in the mirror. The wet curls tumbled too long on his neck, and he wondered if he should trim them up a bit. The reflection he saw hadn't changed much from the too-young copper he'd been years ago. Compared to Bodie's sleek elegance, he felt unfinished, definitely unpolished. A diamond in the rough, maybe, for he was not totally unpleased with his appearance. He only noted his flaws in comparison with Bodie's almost classical features. He looked like what he had bee, what he still was in many ways, a scrappy East End kid--hot temper, chipped tooth, broken cheekbone and all.

He grinned at his reflection. The birds didn't complain, did they? And Bodie seemed to like it well enough.

As he got dressed, Doyle tried to determine when he and Bodie had first started to fancy each other this way. He'd finally decided there wasn't a particular moment when the idea had burst upon them. It had all been so gradual, no traumatic revelations or stormy conflicts. The process had probably begun as far back as when they'd gone undercover posing as directors for a gay youth organization in order to ferret out police corruption in a smallish city up north. The teasing and jokes had brought the subject out in the open--whether they would ever give it a try--and like Pandora's box, once out, it was impossible to entirely close the lid on the idea. Somewhere along the way, Bodie's habitual ruffling of Doyle's curls had altered to a caress and the personal space between them narrowed. And to Doyle's mild surprise, he found he liked it.

Neither of them had any particular sexual hangups, and both were definitely unconventional enough to give anything that promised a bit of pleasure at least a try. By the time they actually ended up in bed together (alone, that is), there was little strangeness to it. It felt easy, comfortable, unthreatening--and immensely satisfying. Not that they had ever progressed much beyond the basics. Ray wasn't quite ready to try anything too heavy, although he had often sensed Bodie wanted it.

All things considered, their partnership was a definite success. What Cowley would think about his operatives off-duty activities, Doyle didn't know, and it didn't concern him too much. He figured he had the right to some personal privacy, no matter how George Cowley might differ.

Cheerfully anticipating the evening, Doyle trotted down the stairs, whistling.

When Katrina excused herself to visit the ladies room, Doyle scooted his chair a bit closer to Bodie's.

"Well, what'd'y think, mate? A winner, isn't she?"

They were both very fond of red heads, and Katrina was extremely pretty and reasonably intelligent, but Bodie felt oddly uneasy about her. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he didn't trust her, and definitely didn't like her. Doyle, as usual, was a hopeless judge of character, and seemed blind to her flaws--the way her eyes shifted uneasily and wouldn't meet your gaze straight on, the nervous twirling of her hair on her finger. Those were certainly not solid reasons to dislike a person, but Bodie found he did.


He came out of his reverie. "Oh, yeah. Very nice, mate."

Doyle smiled. "She thinks you're gorgeous, too, sunshine. Saya you're almost as sexy as Sean Connery, eh?"

"You'll never say you told her I was a secret agent?"

"No, better. Told 'er you was a postman. She's hot for men in uniforms."

"Haven't played post office in years, mate."

"Not to worry, I'll coach you on all the mov-- Ah, she's comin' back."

"Wonderful," Bodie said glumly.

Doyle shot him a puzzled look, but Bodie was engrossed in creating an elaborate design of circles on the table with his glass. Ray held the chair as she sat down. He moved close to her, brushed a long curl of hair from her ear and kissed it. He whispered something and she smiled.

Bodie was very aware of this interplay, hating her for taking away Ray's attention so easily and irritated at himself for feeling so. It had never bothered him before, watching Ray charm a bird. In fact, he made a point of matching his partner up with the ladies as often as he could. Was his nose out of joint merely because he's had no hand in the choice this time> No, he couldn't believe that; it was the girl herself that got on his nerves. She was spooky. There was something unfathomable, almost sinister, going on behind those bland, pale blue eyes. She reminded him of someone...

But the vague image escaped him before he could catch hold of it. He took another drink, trying to shake off the feeling. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that Ray was kissing her neck now, tongue touching on the pulsebeat--he knew exactly how that felt, how good Ray was at it...

The hand on his thigh beneath the table almost made him spill his drink. He looked up to meet Doyle's mischievous eyes. The long fingers traced up the inside seam of his trousers to the crotch. He was very thankful for the long tablecoverings.

"You bastard," he mouthed.

Doyle just flashed one of his most dazzling smiles and turned back to the girl. The swelling in Bodie;s groin was becoming uncomfortable against the tight fabric. He tried to inch away but the hand moved with him. He wondered if the little sod would be quite so blase if he threw him across the tabletop and raped him.

Bodie closed his eyes and gave in to the inevitable, spreading his legs for further exploration. One of these nights, he'd do it. Doyle would push him too far, flirt a little too outrageously, and he'd end up getting more than he'd bargained for.

Bodie had wanted to take Doyle since almost the first moment he'd set eyes on the sexy little bugger--leaning against the door jam in Cowley's office looking like a ratty little street urchin, all green eyes and mop of curly hair, gold glinting at his throat to draw attention to the opened shirt, jeans tight enough for any rockstar.

But if Bodie was nothing else, he was patient. He was confident the time came. After all, he'd seduced him this far, hadn't he? The rest was only a matter of time. Perhaps it would've even been tonight, if not for that bitch...

"I said, are you ready to go?"

He finally realized that Doyle was speaking to him. The dancing tease in the green eyes made Bodie want to throttle him. "Oh, sure, mate. Any time."

The grin widened meaningfully. "She's asked us up to her flat."

Bodie sat back, thinking quickly. If Doyle wanted her, that was his business, but he had no intention of sharing him with her. "I think I'll pass, mate. Thanks just the same."

"What?" Doyle's surprise was obvious.

"I'll just shove off home for tonight. You go on, though."

Puzzled, Doyle stared at him. "Don't be daft. She wants you to come, don't you, luv?"

Bodie and Katrina looked at each other. She reached across the table and ran a long red fingernail down Bodie's sleeve. "Of course I do. It'll be lovely."

Bodie resisted the urge to shudder at her touch. "Sorry, not tonight."

"Bodie--" Ray protested, but before he could say more, Bodie stood.

"Enjoy yourself, children. See you tomorrow, mate."

All the way to the door of the pub, he could feel Doyle's eyes burning on his back, confused and disappointed.

Doyle was furious with Bodie. He'd looked forward to having a bit of the best of both worlds, and although the sex with Katrina was adequate, it simply wasn't the kind of orgy he'd anticipated all evening. Truth was, he'd wanted Bodie, and the girl had been intended as little more than spice. While he'd been quite prepared to ditch her if she'd been uninterested in his programme for the night, he hadn't made provisions for Bodie's refusal. It was something totally unexpected and he didn't know how to deal with it. After all, how would it look to Bodie if he turned down the birds merely to go have a roll with him> He'd never believe it.

Being stopped by a traffic copper on the way home didn't improve his disposition, even though flashing his CI5 credentials kept him from getting a citation. He fervently hoped Cowley never heard about it.

However, it made him decide that he wanted to have a talk with his partner. Instead of going home, he made a quick turn and headed for Bodie's flat.

It took a while before Bodie answered the door. He stood in the entrance in his short robe, rubbing his eyes blearily. "Ray? I thought you'd--"

Doyle pushed by him impatiently. "Don't tell me you were asleep?"

Bodie shut the door and turned to him, amused. "It's only 2:30 in the morning, mate. Sleeping's a nasty habit I picked up at a tender age."

"Oh." Doyle glanced at his watch. "Sorry. Didn't realize it was so late."

The taller man settled on the arm of the couch, yawning. "Figured you'd spend the night with the bird. What happened? She pitch you out?"

Doyle glared at him. "No, she didn't pitch me out, damn it!"

"No offense, mate. What's wrong then?"

"What's wrong? What happened to you tonight? I thought we had it planned, didn't we? Why'd you take off like that?"

Bodie stood and moved toward the kitchen. "Want some tea or coffee?"


He stopped but didn't turn. "I just didn't fancy her, all right?"

"Why? You liked her well enough before, didn't you?"

Bodie shrugged. "Drop it, Ray.:

"No. I want to know why."

Bodie spun around, irritated. "What's it matter to you, anyway? You got yours, didn't you?"

Doyle opened his mouth to reply but found he couldn't. What could he say? That he'd wanted Bodie more than her? That he'd felt frustrated and disappointed, and yes, maybe a little hurt when Bodie had walked out the door?

He shook his head. "Doesn't matter, I suppose. I just wondered, is all."

Bodie continued on into the kitchen and put on the kettle. "Good thing we've got a couple days off," he called from the other room. "Don't know about you, sunshine, but I need my beauty sleep."

Doyle couldn't help the grin. "I thought you got that on stakeouts, mate."

Bodie's head popped around the corner. "You wrong me, son. Always alert, I am. On me toes every minute. I've just learned the fine art of grabbing a wink whenever I can."

"In Africa, I reckon?"

A pause. "And other places. You never said why you didn't stay with the bird."

Doyle pondered that for a second, not certain himself. He'd felt vaguely uncomfortable with Katrina, although there had seemed no good reason to feel that way. "Dunno," he said truthfully. "Just felt like sleepin' in me own bed, I suppose."

Bodie returned with two steaming mugs. He handed one to Ray. "I guess that answers my next question. But I imagine she's got you pretty well knackered anyway, eh?"

Doyle's gaze took in Bodie slowly as he stood there, legs slightly apart and bare to the thigh, cup held in strong hands, short hair mussed from his pillow and curling a little, eyes so very blue, lashes as long as any woman's.

"Not really," he said softly, holding the other man's look.

Bodie smiled. "Didn't want the coffee anyway, did I?"

Doyle's fingertips stroked tantalizingly over Bodie's skin, feeling the cords of muscle beneath.

"You're a regular tiger tonight, ain't you?"

"Ummmmm." Doyle nibbled along Bodie's ear. "Been takin' me vitamins." He moved to capture the other man's mouth in a deep kiss, then pulled back to look at him.

"Do tigers have green eyes, do you reckon?" Bodie murmured.

"Dunno. Didn't you see any when you was over there?"

"Angola, you mean? Nah, that's only in the pictures, mate. It was snakes that was bad. Saw a bloke bit by a pit viper once. Turned all shades of green before he bought it. Nasty." He twisted a curl around his finger and tugged gently. His eyes held a far away expression. "The dogs were worse, though. Gone wild you see, after the villages burned. Packs of 'em, crazy like. Starving, I reckon. Must've shot two dozen of the devils. They wasn't scared of the campfires, y'know. Come right in, they would, and try to rip your throat out if you wasn't quick enough to get 'em first."

Doyle listened intently; this was almost the first time he had said anything more than off-hand remarks about Africa. When he didn't continue, Doyle prodded gently, "Is that why you don't like dogs?"

Bodie shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe." He looked at Doyle and smiled. "Come 'ere, tiger. Give us a kiss."

Doyle obliged and the passion built again. In moments Bodie had reached a fever pitch, and found himself on top of his willing partner, their cocks pressing hotly against the other's bellies. He bit along Doyle's neck, moving his hips in a slowly building rhythm, then maneuvered his knee between Doyle's legs, parting them. Doyle's breath was panting in his ear and made no objection to the direction this was taking them. Excitedly, Bodie slipped lower, nudging the head of his cock beneath Doyle's balls, searching for what he needed.

Doyle stiffened. "No, Bodie." He tried to pull away, but Bodie held him fast.

"Yes, Ray...please," he gasped, pushing forward.

"Stop it, Bodie." Doyle was suddenly cold.

Feeling desperate, Bodie reached up and pinned Doyle's arms where they were trying to push him back. "Relax, sunshine. It's good... Just let me--"

"Let go of me, Bodie."

"You'll like it you will. Trust me..."

Ray had stopped resisting, but every line in his body was taut. Passive resistance--it was somehow flattering confidence that Bodie wouldn't push the issue.

With a deep breath Bodie rolled off him, the urgent need to possess fading, his control returning. "Sorry, mate. Got carried away."

Doyle reached over and touched his cheek. "'S okay." He began moving down his body, fanning the heat once more. He took Bodie in his mouth and turned so Bodie could reach him as well. Bodie submerged himself in the sensations, letting his disappointment recede. There would be other times.

It didn't occur to either of them that this was something that could be discussed. Like so many other things between them, it must remain unspoken. As in their feelings for each other, as with the sexual closeness they already shared, it would happen or not, and either way it was easier not to find words to make it real and perhaps threatening.

Doyle's grip on Bodie's ass tightened as he reached climax, shuddering and moaning at the delight of it. A few seconds later, Bodie followed suit, breath catching in his throat as he felt Ray's mouth coax it from him.

Their heartbeats gradually slowed to normal, and Doyle moved up to lie beside him.

They lay there together drowsily, on the verge of sleep.

"You know, I could've thumped you at the pub tonight," Bodie remarked sleepily.

Doyle yawned and rested his cheek on his partner's broad chest. "Eh? What for?"

"That trick under the table, mate. I didn't think I'd manage to straighten up enough to walk outa there, you sod. Cruel, it was."

Doyle chuckled. "Deserved it for bein' so bloody prudish. Turnin' down a chance at paradise like that."

"Paradise was it?"

Another chuckle. "Not exactly...but you didn't know that, now did you?"

Bodie remembered the odd familiarity about Katrina, an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu. "I had my suspicions." He changed the subject. "How about that cricket match tomorrow, sunshine? Want to come?"

"Sounds good--" He raised his head. "Bloody hell! It almost slipped me mind. Promised Katrina I'd go with her to check on her old uncle."

"What'd'y want to do that for, eh?"

"He's some kind of lodge keeper or something at a place up north. Been out of touch for a few weeks, an' her family's getting a bit worried about the old geezer. Figured he mighta had a stroke or something, I suppose. Anyway, Katrina says the country makes her nervous--no people around, no phones... I just reckoned a day or so out of the city might be pleasant." He looked up at Bodie. "Hey, mate, why don't you come with us?"

"Me?" Bodie replied doubtfully. "No thanks, sunshine. Doesn't seem my thing at all."

"Ah, com'on, Bodie. There's a lake, she says. Maybe we could do a bit of fishin', what say?"

I dunno, mate. She might be plannin' just a nice, cozy time for the two of you. Don't want to get in your way."

"Listen," Doyle insisted, "she was willin' tonight, wasn't she? Just picture it, old son--in the middle of the woods, away from motor buses, smog, R/T's...not to mention being miles from Cowley...just you, me, and a well plucked bird in front of a roaring fire. How's that sound, eh?"

"Ummm, I suppose I could bear up." Remembering Katrina, Bodie wondering if he could, but he very suddenly didn't want Ray going off alone with her like that. "Tell me, what's her dear old uncle going to be doing while we're havin' this orgy?"

Doyle shrugged it off as incidental. "We'll send 'im out for fish 'n' chips."

Bodie laughed.

Within minutes, they were both comfortably asleep.

As Doyle cheerily told her the news that Bodie was joining then, Bodie thought he detected a flicker of dismay in her cold eyes. It was quickly masked, however, and she was all smiles.

"See, mate?" Doyle said. "Told you she's be all for it, didn't I? The more the merrier, as they say."

"If I'd wanted cliches, I'd've gone fishin' with Cowley," Bodie grumbled under his breath, beginning to regret his agreement to come along.

"You can put your gear in the back," Katrina said. "I'm afraid my car's a trifle small, and you'll be crowded."

"Why don't we take my car," Bodie suggested.

"No," she replied hastily. "I...I feel better with mine. You don't really mind, do you?"

"Of course he doesn't," Doyle put in, grinning. "He's used to taking the back seat to me, aren't you, sunshine?"

"It's what I live for," Bodie said blandly.

"Let's go then," Katrina said with a touch of crossness. "It's getting late."

Doyle seemed in high spirits, but as the drive progressed, Katrina lapsed into virtual silence. It became easy to ignore her as they tossed comments and jokes at each other from the front seat to the back.

After an hour or so they stopped for petrol in a small village. Doyle took the opportunity to visit the loo, leaving the two alone in the car.

"How much farther is it then?" Bodie asked, trying to be pleasant.

"A ways," she said shortly.

"Pretty country, innit?"

Abruptly, she turned in the seat to face him. "Listen, I know you don't like me, so cut the stupid conversation. I don't like you either. Let's leave it at that, shall we?"

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "The work turns, I see. Why'd you agree to my coming, if you dislike my lovely self so much, eh?"

Her mouth twisted. "Do you think he would've come if you hadn't?"

A tiny bell of alarm rang in the back of Bodie's mind. "Important for you to have him along, was it? I wonder why. Don't tell me my Raymond has captured your steely little heart this quick, has he? Or is there another reason?"

Realising she had said too much, she turned back to the front. "I didn't want to make this drive alone, is all. What if my motor would've broken down or such? I was afraid to come by myself."

Bodie started to say more, but Doyle opened the car door and slid inside. "Well, we ready?" He looked at the red-faced Katrina, glanced at Bodie. "What's up?" Even he could sense the tension in the car. "You children haven't been fighting, have you?" he said lightly.

There was an uneasy silence, then Katrina smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid it's my fault, Ray. I was rather ill tempered with Bodie just now. I'm really a bit anxious about my uncle, you see, and it's making me a little nervy, I suppose. I hope Bodie can forgive me."

Bodie's expression was unreadable.

Doyle patted her hand soothingly as he started the car. "Don;t worry about Bodie; he has a very thick skin. It's all right, luv. I'm sure your uncle's fine."

Bodie stared out the window at the passing scenery, trying to understand his own sudden uneasiness with this journey. She was probably telling the truth; she was concerned for her uncle and upset at having Bodie tagging along. She certainly had no reason to like him; his antagonism toward her was obvious to everyone but Doyle.

A couple of hours later, they turned off on a dirt road. It became progressively worse as they drove on.

"Doesn't look as if this is used much," Doyle commented. "Wonder why they have your uncle lookin' after the place if they seldom use it? Seems a bit wasteful."

"They're rich, I suppose. The new money type. Just want to have the place to say they have it, that kind of thing. No one ever comes up here."

The road narrowed to a dead end beside a rather run down hunting lodge. The day had turned cloudy and a cold drizzle of rain had begun. Set against the darkness of the trees, the house looked anything but welcoming.

"I'll go check on my uncle while you get the things," Katrina said quickly. She left the car and ran toward the lodge.

"Perhaps it'll brighten up later," Doyle said hopefully, as he regarded the dismal sky.

"Ray, are you coming?" Katrina called from the doorway.

Be back in a minute, mate." He gave his partner an apologetic grin, and started for the house.

Bodie began to gather the gear, but at a sound from inside--a cry?--he dropped it and automatically grabbed for his gun. He raced for the door, listened for a second, then kicked it in.

Doyle was laying unconscious a few feet away, a trickle of blood running down hi forehead from his scalp. A sound from the other side of the room, had him down on one knee with his gun leveled to fire. The man in his sights seemed oddly unconcerned, his own automatic weapon held loosely. He smiled lazily. "I wouldn't do that...unless you want your buddy's brains splattered all over the rug."

"Drop it," Katrina ordered tersely. She had Doyle's gun pressed against the side of his head. "I'll kill him with pleasure."

Bodie straightened. "You bloody bitch!"

"I said drop it!"

He saw her hand tighten on the gun grip. That nagging sense of recognition coalesced into certainty now. He knew who she reminded him of. The American terrorist who had worked with the Herzog group, who'd helped strap a bomb to his chest, who'd shot one of her own group in the back. There was the same insane light in the eye, the hard flow of a sadist, the craving for the kill.

Doyle's face looked very pale and still, but he was breathing. For now.

Bodie dropped his gun with a clatter and started to rise.

"Stay down, bastard!" Katrina hissed. "Don't move or I'll put a bullet through his eye."

Bodie froze, gaze switching from the girl to the man. "What do you want?"

They ignored him.

"Why the surprise guest, Katrina?"

"There was nothing I could do about it." She jerked her head toward Bodie. "He just showed up this morning. If I'd made a scene about it, the whole thing might've been off. I figured you could handle it."

The man smiled again. "Oh yes, I can deal with it nicely."

"This one has some handcuffs." She tossed them over and he caught them neatly.

"How thoughtful." He leveled his gun on Bodie. "You, stand up very slowly. Move over to the stairway. Any sudden gestures will mean a death sentence for your partner there, understand?"

Bodie nodded. He walked to the steps leading up to a small loft. A wooden beam from floor to ceiling braced each side of the stairway.

"Put your arms around the beam," the man ordered. He cuffed Bodie to it and returned to where the girl knelt by Doyle. "You're very good, Katrina, my sweet. I'm surprised the group didn't make more use of you. Did you talk to Thomas?"

"Yes. They have arranged for you to be on a ship leaving for Amsterdam the day after tomorrow. He is most anxious that you be there."

"Don't worry, I will be. I'm heartily sick of England." He squatted down beside Doyle, grabbing a handful of curls and pulling his face up roughly.

Doyle moaned slightly. "Just something I have to take care of first. And there's time for that. Plenty of time."

"They'll find out where we are, Parker," Bodie said suddenly.

"So you've recognized me, have you? Got my sheet in your file, eh? But it took you a while to twig." Parker looked back at Doyle, tracing his finger across the unconscious man's mouth. "I'll wager your pretty partner here will remember me right off. What do you think?"

"I think you're a nutter," Bodie retorted. "You set all this up just to get us here? Considering half the coppers in the country are sniffing for you, doesn't seem a real bright move on your part."

Parker spoke to Katrina, "What'd you say that one's name was?"


"Well, Bodie, my friend, as you just heard, I'm getting out of bloody England any day now. But me and Doyle here have a little score to settle, and I hate leaving loose ends. I hadn't though of havin' an audience, but it might be more interesting at that."

Katrina touched Parker's arm. "You're going to hurt him, aren't you?" Her eyes glinted with a dark excitement. "You're going to hurt both of them?"

He studied her with amusement. "You like that idea, do you? You've finish your job; you've got him here. What more do you want?"

"I want to watch."

Parker laughed. "God, what a bloodthirsty bitch you are. What do you have against them, eh?"

She walked up to Bodie. "I hate them. I hate what they are. They're worse than coppers, they're CI5. They killed Randy and Slade."

The names meant nothing to Bodie.

"Oh I know it probably wasn't you personally, but it was some of those bastards you work with and for. And it doesn't matter; you're all the same. You don't understand about goals and causes...you don't understand anything."

The names clicked into place. Randy Ochers and Martin Slade--involved in one or another terrorist group, Something Liberation Something. No different than a dozen others and just as pointless. CI5 had broke up a hostage situation on a London train a few months earlier. Ochers and Slade were shot in the process.

He looked into her eyes and saw full level of what he'd only sensed before--the inability to touch reality, life as a drama with all the players cardboard. The desperate grabbing for something novel and exciting enough to make her feel alive for a few moments.

"It doesn't matter that it wasn't you," she continued. "If you;d been there, you would've done it, wouldn't you? You'd have killed them yourself."

"If they were as sick as you are, probably."

She spat in his face. He took it calmly, letting the slimy wetness slip down his cheek. Then he kicked out suddenly, catching her in the gut and sending her down hard. She gasped, unable to rise for a moment, the wind knocked out of her.

Parker chuckled. "That'll teach you to get too close, my girl." He shrugged. "Anyway, don't give me all this rot about wanting revenge. That's shit. You smell blood, my dear, and you like the smell. You want more. It turns you on." He knelt beside Doyle again, gently wiping the red smear from his forehead. "I understand that, you see. We're just the same."

She recovered from Bodie's blow and lunged for the gun, but Parker was quicker.

"Let me kill him! Let me--"

He wrenched the gun from her hand and slapped her. "No. Not yet, not now. You've a lot to learn, don't you, sweet?"

Tucking the gun in his belt, he moved back to Doyle. He picked up the limp form easily and tossed it over his shoulder. He dropped him across the table. Retrieving what looked like a heavy dog chain from the cupboard, he climbed on a chair and slid it through the cross beam on the ceiling. He pulled through the slack, located the thick leather dog collar and bound Doyle's wrists together tightly. Attaching the chain, he pulled on the free end, putting his weight on it until Doyle was pulled upright. He tied off the end, and pushed the table away, leaving Doyle hanging limply on his arms. The increased pressure on his joints caused him to moan, beginning to regain consciousness.

Katrina watched it all, wide-eyed. "What are you going to do?"

Parker smiled, regarding his handiwork with affection. "Before anything else, I'm going to tie the little sod's feet; he's a kicker." It took longer for him to figure a method of restraining Doyle's feet so he wouldn't be able to move enough to kick out.

"Did you bring the supplies, luv? I'm running out of eats."

"Yes, they're in the boot."

"Well, these two seem nicely occupied. Let's bring it in, shall we?"

They left and Bodie jerked uselessly at the cuffs. "Doyle? Ray, can you hear me? Ray!"

He searched the room desperately, hoping to see something that would give him an idea, any chance to escape. The lodge was small, two rooms and a sleeping loft. It was sparsely furnished with a divan and chair by the fireplace, a narrow daybed in one corner, and a large wooden table with a couple of straight-backed chairs. From his angle, he couldn't see into the bath or kitchen.

Doyle groaned and stirred, head lolling on his shoulders.

"Ray! Mate? Are you--" Bodie shut up abruptly. What was the point of bringing him round any quicker than necessary? The next few hours didn't promise to be pleasant for either of them, and Parker had made it plain that most of his attention would be devoted to Doyle.

Bodie yanked harder on the cuffs, cutting the flesh on his wrists. You sleep, mate," he whispered hoarsely. "Sleep as long as you can."

But Doyle was coming to now; his eyes flickered open and he tried to relieve the painful pressure on his wrists. He came to himself slowly, taking in his aching arms and aching head with confusion. He stood unsteadily.

"You okay, mate?" Bodie asked softly.

Doyle looked up, blinking, trying to get his bearings. "What...? His eyes met Bodie's. "what happened? What is all this?"

"We've got a problem, son. We were set up good and proper."

"Set up?" He shook his head, trying to clear it. "Christ, what is all this?"

The door opened. "So you're awake. Good."

Doyle's eyes widened. "Parker!"

Parker grinned at Bodie. "You see? I told you he'd recognize me, didn't I? We're old friends."

Doyle's befuddled mind was clearing rapidly; it wasn't hard to figure out. "You set this up, you bastard! The girl--"

"Was very helpful," Parker finished.

Katrina came inside a second later. She hesitated when she saw Doyle was conscious.

"Why did you do this?" Doyle asked her quietly.

"Why shouldn't I?" she said defensively. "What did I mean to you? A good time with no strings? A trio with your smug friend?" She made a face. "I think they're bent for each other," she told Parker.

"You goddamn bitch!" Doyle shouted. Parker moved up close, touching Doyle's cheek. "Now that's interesting. You go for that, do you?"

"Go to hell," Doyle hissed, trying to jerk away.

Katrina laughed, high pitched, excited. "Brave man," she taunted. "But you won't be for--"

"Get out," Parker interrupted.


"You heard me. Get lost. Come back for me tomorrow. You can take me to the ship and make Thomas happy."


"If I tell you again, I'll give you a taste of what he's going to get."

She didn't dare to protest further. "All right. I'll be back tomorrow at dusk." She tossed a vicious look at Bodie and left.

Parker walked slowly around Doyle, contemplating his next move.

"Funny, you don't look like such a hard man now, do you?"

Doyle didn't answer, only glared at him.

"You're the brave man, Parker," Bodie called out, hoping to draw his attention away from Doyle. "Once he's all tied up and helpless, that is. He'd take you apart otherwise, wouldn't he? You yellow son of a bitch."

Parker glanced at Bodie. "This makes twice I've caught him now. I think that makes me a bit better than he is. I'm the one winning. I've got him--I've got both of you, don't I?"

Again he grabbed Doyle by the hair, jerking his head back to a painful angle. "We're going to have a real nice time, aren't we, pretty copper?"

"Don't give it a thought, mate," Doyle said from between clenched teeth. "He's still all mouth."

Parker gave him a powerful blow to the stomach and Doyle gasped for air, nearly retching. "I thought you were smarter than to try that again, hard man. Still think you're something special, eh? We'll see about that, won't we?"

"Is this how you get your kicks, Parker?" Bodie said furiously.

The man smiled nastily. "Want to know how I get my kicks, soddy?" He continued to say something unintelligible to Doyle, but Bodie's eyes widened and his teeth gritted together.

"Damn you filthy bastard."

Parker noted Bodie's reaction with surprise. "You know Africanaars? You were in South Africa, then?" He snapped his fingers. "No, Angola?" He walked over to survey Bodie with renewed interest. "I think I know of you, then. It is a small world, no? I think we have a mutual friend. Remember Krivas, do you? Yes, I think you do. He told me about you, you know. I went to Angola not too long after you left--after you deserted Krivas' mob."

Bodie's jaw clenched. "I quit. I didn't desert."

"Ah, but Krivas didn't see it that way. He was very fond of you, wasn't he, soddy? Very fond."

Bodie didn't bother to answer. Doyle was stealthily trying his bonds while the other man's attention was on Bodie. It didn't take long to realize it was useless. He couldn't squirm free from the leather that bound his hands, and he couldn't move much the way his feet were hobbled. He caught Bodie's questioning eye and shook his head in negative.

Parker returned to stand in front of Doyle. "I told you I was going to find out what makes you tick, Doyle, and now I have my chance. But I never told you just how I planned to do that, did I? There wasn't the time at our last meeting. But we have lots of time now." He reached out, unbuttoning Doyle's shirt very slowly. "Your friend Bodie knows, though. He knows all about it."

Doyle pulled back as much as he could, unable to evade Parker's hands. "You're sick, you know that?"

Parker smiled and ripped at Doyle's shirt, tearing it almost off. "Too bad for you, isn't it?" He stood back. "There's an easier way to get rid of your clothes." Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a knife and pressed a switch. The blade snapped out and he proceeded to cut off Doyle's clothing a bit at a time. Doyle squirmed, trying to resist, until the knife tip cut into his flesh.

"That's it," Parker said gleefully. "Keep moving around, soddy, and you'll lose something important."

"Stop it, Parker!" Bodie yelled. "Leave him alone!"

"Why wait?" Bodie goaded furiously. "Try me now, you cowardly bastard!"

Parker laughed in delight. "Maybe this bothers you more, eh? You got claims on this one, have you?"

Bodie knew better than to answer, but the very real fear beginning to flash in Doyle's eyes as he realized where this was leading drove Bodie to speak. "Think this will make a man of you, do you? Is this the only way you can get it up?"

Without replying, Parker slipped his belt out of his trousers and laid it sharply across Doyle's naked back. Doyle stiffened but didn't cry out. At first. By the sixth blow, however, sweat had broken out on him and his teeth were clenched in pain. Parker didn't stop until Doyle's slender back was crisscrossed with welts and deep cuts from the buckle. His eyes were squeezed shut and he was shaking with the effort of holding back the hurt.

Parker stroked his hand down the marred back, making him flinch. He looked at Bodie, eyebrow raised in question. "Have any more remarks to make, friend? Looks nasty, doesn't it? I can make it worse."

Bodie remained silent, hands clenched into fists, the frustration putting his muscles in knots.

Parker smirked. "Maybe you'll be more careful with your mouth from now on, eh? Wouldn't want to mess up his pretty body too much, would we."

Doyle's eyes opened. "Say what you want, Bodie," he hissed through gritted teeth. "The bastard will do what he likes anyway."

Parker inspected him thoughtfully. "I think I could do with a drink." He smiled at Doyle. "I'll bet you could, too?" He moved to the sacks on the table. "I think there's a bottle of whiskey someplace. Ah, here it is." He poured a tumbler nearly full of the liquor and returned to Doyle.

"Your back's quite a mess, isn't it?" he remarked, taking a gulp of the whiskey. "Let's clean it up a bit, shall we." He tossed the glass across the smaller man's back. As the fiery liquid burned into the open cuts, Doyle screamed.

"Cheap stuff. Not worth drinking, actually."

Bodie lowered his head, biting into his lip. He couldn't stand to watch this. Doyle had held up well to this point, somehow sensing that Parker wanted him to break down, to show weakness, but he couldn't take much more. And Bodie knew there was much worse in store for him.

"What's the matter, Bodie?" Parker chided. "Getting squeamish since you returned to civilization? Forgot all about the old days, have you? This would have been nothing over there. Maybe you should tell him what he has coming next." Parker grabbed Doyle's cock, squeezing it. "Or maybe you've figured that out already, eh?"

Doyle swallowed, regaining his breath. "It's me you want to torture. Leave Bodie out of it."

Parker's eyes lit up. "Leave him out of it? You don;t know him very well at all, do you? He used to be fantastic at this stuff. He never told you about The Game? What men do to each other when they're stuck in the jungle together for weeks on end? I think you know, don't you? Bodie knows. Tell him, Bodie."

Bodie remained silent.

Parker hit Doyle across the mouth, cutting it open. "Tell him, Bodie! What was The Game?"

Bodie's mouth was dry. "It was rape."

"And you played too, didn't you?"

Doyle's eyes were filled with tears from the smarting of the last blow and the raw pain of his back. Bodie found he couldn't meet the confused gaze.

"Yes," he whispered.

Parker yanked Doyle's head back again. "I don't think he heard you."

"Yes!" Bodie shouted, choking out the words. "I played the bloody Game like everyone else, damn you to hell!"

Doyle licked the blood from his mouth, staring at his partner in a mixture of disillusionment and disgust. Bodie had participated in something like what was being done to him now? Bodie?! He closed his eyes, unable to deal with it now, unable to accept it.

He felt Parker's hand probe his ass, and his heart hammered in his chest, terror freezing him. Rape...it was going to happen. He couldn't help himself; Bodie couldn't help him. Bodie had done similar things himself...Bodie...No!

"Ever been buggered, mate?" Parker chuckled. "Ever let your friend Bodie in your pretty little ass, eh?" Noting the terrified expression Doyle didn't have the strength to conceal, he forced his finger further up inside. "I bet not. Too much the hard man for that, eh? Too macho to play anybody's bottom man. Well you're going to find out what it's like."

Parker undressed quickly, and Doyle found he couldn't control his trembling. He looked at Bode, hoping for...something...anything. Feeling like a drowning man searching for a rope. But Bodie's head was down on his ar,, eyes hidden. His wrists were bleeding where he'd worn helplessly at metal.

Then Parker was against Doyle's back, teeth biting into his shoulder, hands spreading his ass. He could feel the thick bluntness of the cock nudge across his balls as Parker searched for the entrance.

"No," Doyle whimpered involuntarily, breath catching in his throat as he felt the pressure against his anus. "Please, Christ, no..."

Parker shoved hard, forcing in, holding Doyle tightly.

Doyle screamed as the pain ripped through him, searing, burning, humiliating. The insult of the invasion, the vicious using of this private part of him, made his stomach twist, made him want to vomit. But the pain held him caught, helpless and sick and aching. He could feel the tears streak down his face, heard his own sobbing, even hear his own voice whispering almost soundlessly. "Bodie...stop him...Bodie..you couldn't have done this...Bodie..." But he knew he was doing nothing but screaming.

It lasted forever. Parker clawed at his back, making new marks across the old, hunching in the shaking figure relentlessly, until at last, with his own cry on a far different note than Doyle's, he came, gushing in shuddering waves inside his captive.

Doyle's legs would no longer hold him. When Parker moved away, he slumped down, hanging on his wrists, still sobbing, unable to think, unable to see.

Parker looked down at Doyle's blood smeared across his own chest and belly. "Looks like I need to get cleaned up. Could use some grub as well. I know you don't have much of an appetite, so I won't ask you to join me." He slapped Doyle's ass cheerfully. "That was quite good, luv. The next round should be even better." Picking up the box of supplies, he headed toward the kitchen. "You two can entertain yourselves, I'm sure. I'll be back presently."

Bodie waited a few moments before calling out softly, "Ray...Ray... Oh, god, mate, I'm sorry..." His voice broke and he had to swallow back the sob in his own throat. "Can you hear me, Ray? I'm here, sunshine. Answer me...please answer."

Doyle raised his head dully. He had stopped crying, but the green eyes were flat, uncaring. "What do you want, Bodie?" His voice was as dead as his eyes.

"Don't..." Bodie stopped to take a shaking breath. "Don't let him break you. Hang on, son. We'll get out of this somehow. I swear to you I'll get that bastard. Just don't give up, hear me?"

"I hear you." Doyle's head dropped again, wearily. He began shaking again as reaction set in. "Oh god..." He began to weep, softly, as if he had no energy for more. "It hurt, Bodie...I can't..."

The sound wrenched at the man even as the screams hadn't. I know, mate, I know. But you can take it, you have to. We'll get out of this. We'll make him pay for it, I promise you. You've handled worse--"

"No...not like this... I can't stand it again. I'll go mad..."

"Ray, please. Ray!"

But Doyle wouldn't or couldn't answer. Bodie cast his eyes over the room again, praying for some way out of this. Doyle's ripped clothes were scattered across the floor where Parker had tossed them. Bodie saw the switch blade lying open and forgotten, half covered by Ray's jeans. But it was too far away to do him any good. One of Doyle's running shoes had been thrown a few yards from him. The key to Doyle's handcuffs was usually kept taped under the tongue. He slid down the beam and stretched out on the floor, trying to reach it with his foot. The edge of his toe touched it. He stretched harder, the metal cutting again into his already lacerated wrists. With painstaking caution, terrified he would push it further away, he coaxed it closer. Finally he had it in the position he could hook his foot around it and drag it forward. He got it in his hands at last and flipped up the tongue.

It was the wrong shoe.

He almost cried with the frustration of it. Cursing, he dropped it and kicked it away from him. He had known it had been too good to be true. Nothing was going to be easy now. He looked at Doyle. For either of them.

Parker came back into the room. He had showered but hadn't bothered to dress. "And how have you been, eh? Not too bored, I hope."He cupped Doyle's chin, titling up his face. Some of Doyle's spirit had returned and the hatred burned in his eyes. "Still not broken, eh? I'll have to fix that."

"Lay off him, Parker!" Bodie yelled. "He's had enough!"

Parker turned. "And you want your share, that it? No, it's him I fancy. He can still look me in the eye. No, he hasn't had near enough."

He noticed Bodie's gun on the table where he had put it earlier. "Nice shooter you have here." He picked it up casually, opening the chamber and dumping the bullets. "A .357, very nice indeed. Not my kind of ammo, though. I prefer dum dums--Don't you, Bodie? Much more effective. But I suppose that's out of your league now that you're on the side of law and order." He considered the gun thoughtfully. "I think I like this one better than my own. And I've got some dum dums all ready that'll fit it."

He left for the other room but returned in a moment. "I've thought of another game we can play. I think you both know this one."

He opened the chamber and twirled it, then snapped it shut. You like roulette, Bodie?" He aimed the gum at Bodie and pressed the trigger. The hammer fell on an empty chamber.

Parker grinned. "That's one. Now it's Doyle's turn." He pressed the barrel against Doyle's forehead. "Want to make a wager?" Again the empty click. "Back to you. Wonder if it's your lucky day or his." He continued a couple more rounds until it was back to Doyle.

"It's getting close, isn't it? You're sweating, Bodie. You worried about him? Maybe I'll miss." He laughed. "Wouldn't want to miss, would I." He forced Doyle's mouth open and stuck the barrel inside, nearly gagging him. "Can't stick my cock in there; you'd bite it off, wouldn't you, luv? Well, bite on this." The chamber was empty again. Parker threw a glance at Bodie. "Gives a new meaning to 'biting the bullet', don't it?"

He looked at the gun. "Last one, soddy. Where do you think I ought to put it? I think I know a good place."

He moved to where the chain was tied off and loosened it. Doyle fell the rest of the way to the floor. Parker was on him before he could move and clubbed him with his fist. Dazed, Doyle lay on his face, arms out in front. Parker pulled him up into a kneeling position.

"Do you remember what Krivas did to that Russian agent he caught it Mobukko? Maybe you were with him then, Bodie. Did you tell Doyle that little story? He heated a bayonnet, red hot, and shoved it up the poor bastard's ass."


"Don't worry, Bodie. I'm not going to do anything that dramatic--or messy. But this should be just as interesting." He pressed the gun barrel against Doyle's anus. Doyle cried out, coming out of his stupor. Parker continued pushing until the barrel was inside a few inches.

"For god's sake, Parker," Bodie said hoarsely, "stop it. Please..."

Parker's finger tightened on the trigger.


The chamber clicked empty. Bodie swallowed convulsively, closing his eyes.

Parker chuckled. "Guess I forgot to load it after all."

"I'm going to kill you," Bodie said in a calmly reasonable voice.

He jerked the gun out abruptly and Doyle yelped, but as Parker stood, Doyle twisted around and managed to trip him.

"You little bastard!" Parker brought the gun butt down across Doyle's head, and Doyle collapsed, out cold.

"Looks like your friend is going to be taking a long nap." Parker stood and stretched. "I might as well do the same. The little raver has tired me out--and I want him to feel what I do to him. The rest can wait for the morning."

He tied off the chain again, although it left Doyle laying on the floor this time rather than strung up. Parker moved to the daybed in the corner and flopped down.

"Pleasant dreams, Bodie," he said and laughed.

Sometime during the long night, Bodie decided that none of this could be real. It was a nightmare of the most insidious type. All he wanted was to wake up with Doyle's arms around him and all of this hell fading comfortably back into the shadows where it belonged. As far as that went, he'd be glad to wake up in Cowley's arms if it would wipe all of this away. But before he could wake, he must sleep--and his burning eyes wouldn't close for more than a minute.

Parker hadn't bothered to shut off the lights, but it didn't seem to disturb him. He lay snoring softly on the bed in the corner, satisfied and comfortable.

No rest for the wicked...no rest... the cliche circled crazily in Bodie's mind like some infuriating commercial jingle.

He couldn't bear to look at Doyle who lay naked and shivering on the stone floor. He hadn't regained consciousness yet, but had risen from the deeper levels to something more like sleep, curling up in a quivering ball with an occasional whimpering escaping.

Bodie had nearly called out to Parker to cover Doyle, but had faltered before he got the words out. He was afraid. Terrified of what he might do next.

Let sleeping dogs lie... another cliche. Cowley would approve. A regular king of platitudes was old Cowley. Never at a loss for words. Doyle could do a wonderful imitation of the Cow, rolling r's and heavy burr. Doyle was good with accents--like the time he'd gone undercover as the hit man Van de Kirk; every inflection just right. Should've gone into the theatre, that's what. Maybe even made it to Hollywood. Anything but being chained and helpless at the mercy of some...

Bodie rested his forehead against the rough wood, attempting to drive away the images. He began mentally reciting poetry. Out of the night that covers me, black as a pit... He stopped, knowing he wasn't the master of anyone's fate at the moment, least of all his own. Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage... Another bad choice, feeling the chaff of the cuffs at his wrists. When we two parted in silence and tears, half broken-hearted-- He broke off the silent recital, biting his lip until he tasted blood.

The night passed with unbelievable slowness, and part of him was glad for he dreaded the morning.

"Have a good night, soddy?"

Bodie's head jerked up at the sound of Parker's voice. Parker yawned and scratched his head. "Sleeping beauty hasn't risen yet, I see. We'll do something about that presently."

"Leave him alone, Parker," Bodie's voice was dull, emotionless. "Please don't hurt him any more."

"You're begging?"

"Sure. I'm already on my knees."

Parker shook his head. "Too easy." He went into the kitchen, and a few moments later a kettle whistled. It was a while before he returned, carrying a mug in one hand and a pan of water in the other.

"Time to wake up, pretty." He tossed the cold water in Doyle's face.

Doyle gasped and jerked. Parker nudged him with his toe. "Come on, wake up."

Doyle moaned and his eyes flickered opened, glazed and flat.

Parker took a gulp of his coffee, watching him. "Ready for some more fun, eh?"

Realization dawned slowly in Doyle's eyes and he tried to sit up. Parker put his foot on Doyle's shoulder and shoved him back down. "Don't get ambitious, boy."

He set his cup down and squatted down beside the smaller man. He rolled him over on his back and Doyle's face contorted as he ripped flesh touched the cold floor. Parker stroked over the heaving chest, pinching at the nipples and moving down to squeeze the balls without gentleness. Doyle's eyes were wide now, afraid but somehow resigned to the fact that he couldn't stop it. He licked his dry lips, dehydrated from the tears and the sweat of pain.

But Parker wouldn't be satisfied until he forced more reaction. He stood and kicked Doyle in the side, making him give out a choked cry. He repeated the blow a few more times until Doyle was too breathless from the agony to do more than gasp.

Bodie, who had stood at the first sound of Doyle's renewed pain, slid back down the post to his knees, wondering if Parker was breaking the same ribs over again. He turned his face away, trying to block out the sight if not the sound.

Content that Doyle was hurt to the point of numbness, Parker pulled him to his knees again, spreading his legs.

"I'm going to give it to you again, soddy," Parker said viciously. "You'll like that, won't you?" He teased his cock between Doyle's legs, letting him feel it against him. "Not so gentle as last time, though. I'm going to ram it through you." His own words were exciting him, and gripped Doyle tighter, his fingers leaving bruises on the flesh.

Doyle panicked suddenly, adrenaline pumping with renewed terror. He twisted, trying to get free, yanking uselessly at the chain that held his hands. Sensing the weakness of the struggle, Parker laughed and sat back. "Still the big fighter, eh? Well, I want you to fight. I want this to be good." He leaned forward and unfastened Doyle's wrists from the collar, then removed the looser restraints from his feet. "There now, let's see you take me out, hard man."

Doyle lay there, unable to feel his hands from the lack of circulation, the throbbing in his head making him dizzy. Parker's face loomed close, and a rush of terror froze him. He closed his eyes, losing his spirit.

Parker patted his cheek. "Poor boy. Not up to it, eh. Come here." He forced Doyle back into position, holding his shaking form steady as he thrust inside.

Doyle's mouth opened to scream at the tearing pain, but nothing came out. There was no power left in him to give it voice. His mind was almost as bruised as his body.

Parker held back his pace, making it last, enjoying the feel of the slender body beneath him. He worked at it for a long time, breathing raspy and excited. His movements became faster, more frenzied as his climax approached. He slammed into the unresisting body a few more times, face flushed with the pleasure, holding the peak for as long as possible before pumping it out.

At last he fell to one side by the collapsed Doyle, taking a moment to recover. He looked over at him, prodding him sharply. Doyle didn't move.

Parker stood and spoke to Bodie. "Now, he's had enough. I don't think there's much left of him."

He moved away, losing interest, heading for the bath.

Bodie couldn't bear to look at Doyle.

Parker spent the next few hours lovingly cleaning the guns. He took them apart with meticulous concentration, oiling them, rubbing them clean, while Bodie spent the same time worrying about Doyle and thinking of methods to kill Parker very slowly.

Doyle hardly moved. He had curled back to his side in a fetal position, still aware enough to keep his torn back from the cold stone. But he made no sound and didn't try to rise. Parker had dismissed him as harmless.

When a car pulled up to the house, Parker jumped up in alarm. He ran to the window, gun ready. After a second he lowered it and went to the door.

Katrina entered and Parker shoved her roughly against the wall.

"What are you doing here now? What's happened?"

Her gaze slipped over the room, holding on the crumpled figure of Doyle with morbid fascination. "What did you do to him?"

"Never mind that," he said impatiently, "why are you early."

"They've moved up the sailing time. You'll need to leave right away."

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I see." He tucked the gun in his pants and began gathering his things together without further comment.

Katrina walked over to Doyle, looking down at him with curled lip. She glanced over at Bodie. "You didn't do anything to him," she sounded disappointedly.

He looked up from loading the other gun. "That's where you're wrong, sweet. I know his kind. I've hurt him just about the only way he can be hurt."

He finished his packing and headed for the door; already bored with the situation and ready for something new. "Did you leave the keys in the ignition?"

She turned, startled. "Yes, but..."

"Sorry, luv, I've got other plans. You'll find your way back easy enough. Only a few miles to hike."

"You're leaving me?" Her face registered disbelief. "What about the ship?"

"You didn't really think I was stupid enough to take your way out. did you? I've made my own arrangements. I don't trust our friend Thomas not to bribe the captain to have me pitched over the side in the middle of the Channel. It'd solve the problem of my talking very nicely, wouldn't it? And I'd be safely out of England so my compatriots might not attribute my death to the proper place. No, thanks, my dear. I'll manage fine. I do appreciate the safe house, however." His gaze flickered over Bodie and Doyle. "And the entertainment."

She caught his arm at the door. "But what about them? You're going to leave them alive?"

He smiled. "I wanted to leave you a present, sweet. You take care of it for me, will you?" He handed her the automatic. "They're all yours. I'm sure you'll find a suitable way to finish this."

She stared at the gun in her hand as he left, then looked over both of the,, eyes hardening. Doyle was untied but still unmoving, so she turned her attention to Bodie, approaching him with a cold smile.

Bodie stood warily, cuffs moving up the beam with a jingle of metal.

"So now you get your blood."

She came closer, raising the gun into position. She fired, lodging a bullet into the post by Bodie's head, sending wood splinters across his cheek. He ducked his head involuntarily and she laughed.

"I think I'll do this nice and slowly. Maybe your kneecaps first."

Bodie paled, finding to his surprise that he could still be scared. He'd thought all the emotion had been burned out of him during the last twenty-four hours.

He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked up, careful to give nothing away. Doyle's head had lifted and he was watching the scene across the room with rather dulled interest.

"He's left you holding the bag, you know," Bodie remarked conversationally, trying to keep her attention, praying Doyle would snap out of it.

"What do you mean?"

"You're a fool, Katrina. They're going to find our bodies eventually. How hard do you think it'll be to trace it back to you? Someone had to've seen us together on the way here. Outside Doyle's flat...at the petrol station...a hundred places. You haven't been very smart, have you? And Parker's left it to you to finish us off. He'll be out of the country, won't he? What's he care what happens to you? He's clear."

She stared at him stupidly, the truth of all this finally occurring to her.

Doyle had managed to sit up, more alert now and cognizant of what was taking place. Like Bodie, he recalled the abandoned knife and inched over to where it lay jumbled in his clothes.

Katrina's finger tightened on the trigger, the bullet missing Bodie's head by inches. "Shut up! They won't find you for weeks! I can get away--"

"It won't take them that long and you know it. Cowley's probably searching for us right now. We were expected to report in today." It wasn't true, but she didn't know that.

Doyle had the knife now, and was trying to stand, tottering weakly and fighting for his balance. Her attention was all on Bodie now, Doyle totally forgotten in her rage.

"It won't make a difference if I kill you, then, will it? Maybe it'll be worth it, you bastard!"

She aimed the gun again, more carefully this time, murder in her eye, but Doyle was there first. He plunged the knife in her back, falling with her as she went down; the gun discharged harmlessly into the wall. Doyle's aim had been better and she died almost immediately, with little more than a gasp.

Bodie slumped down on the floor, his legs giving way shakily.

"Ray," he said hoarsely, "Ray, are you all right, mate?"

Doyle was sitting up. braced on his hands, staring blankly at the girl's body. He didn't seem to be aware of Bodie.

"Ray, get me the keys to the cuffs. Come on, sunshine," Bodie pleaded. "In your shoe, remember? It's only a little way over. Pitch it to me."

It took some time and much gentle coaxing, but Doyle finally did as Bodie asked, but he moved automatically, woodenly. Bodie scrambled for the shoe when it was tossed to him, almost ripping out the tongue in his hurry to find the key. He fumbled with the lock until he was free.

He stood uncertainly for a moment, watching Doyle, wondering what he could actually do to help him, free or not. Then he grabbed the covers from the bed and wrapped them closely around his partner's shoulders. Doyle clutched them to him convulsively, a single sob escaping.

Bodie suddenly felt even more helpless than before. "Oh Ray...mate ..." He put his arms around him awkwardly, wanting to cuddle him and somehow, ridiculously, make it better. For a second Doyle relaxed against him, face buried on his shoulder. But he pulled back stiffly.

"I'm all right. Let me go."

Bodie stared at him. "Ray--"

"I said I'm all right."

Bodie released him reluctantly. "Let's get you over to the bed, sunshine."

Doyle let him help him up and give him support across the room, collapsed to the bed, and buried his face in the pillow. Bodie tucked the blankets around him, careful of his back.

"It'll be okay, mate," Bodie said lamely. "It's over now."

Doyle didn't answer. After a moment, he stood, sensing it was better to leave Doyle alone for a bit. The girl's body was still lying twisted on the floor. Bodie grabbed her arms and dragged her outside the lodge and left her at the edge of the woods, wanting her out of Doyle's sight and mind. Some biblical verse twinged at his mind; something about a betraying woman and leaving her for the jackals and crows to pick at her bones. Jackals were rather scarce in England, but thinking of Doyle's pain, he wished the crows much luck.

Returning to the lodge, he brought some water to Doyle and cajoled him into drinking. "That's good, mate. Now you rest a bit, while I try to find some soup or something, right?" Doyle had turned his face away. Bodie touched his hair softly, then went to the kitchen. He located some cans of condensed soup in the cupboard. He heated it but decided to wait until Doyle had slept a bit longer, figuring the temporary oblivion of sleep would be more healing than food.

While he waited, Bodie gathered wood and spent time building a fire. Doyle needed to be kept as warm as possible, The only way they would be able to get out of here was to walk, and Ray would be in no condition to do that until tomorrow at the earliest. Having been through something similar himself years ago, Bodie knew Ray needed time before he would want to face anyone. He thought briefly of Cowley and all the explanations and problems ahead of them, but dismissed it as too much to deal with at the moment.

Once he had the fire crackling brightly, he brought the broth over to the bed. He touched Doyle lightly, and the man jumped as if he'd been struck. "Sorry, mate. You need to eat. Come on, sit up, son."

Doyle sat up obediently, seeming not to care enough to refuse or argue. But he took the bowl and spoon from Bodie, unwilling to be fed. He ate about half of it before handing it back.

"No more."

"There's some whiskey--" Bodie cut off, remembering how Parker had used it to torture. But Doyle didn't react to it.

"Yeah," he answered calmly, "I'll have a drink."

Bodie found the bottle and brought it back. Doyle took a drink and coughed. Then took another, larger one.

"Let's have a look at that back of yours," Bodie suggested quietly. "There's a medical kit in the bath, I think."

"I want a shower."

Bodie looked doubtful. "I don't think--"

"Bodie," Doyle cut in, voice expressionless but determined, "I want a shower."

His partner hesitated, seeing the dark, dead look in Doyle's eyes. "Okay, mate, I'll help you."

"No. I can do it. Just...just help me in there."

Bodie half expected Doyle to pitch over on his face, but Doyle seemed stronger than he thought--or more determined.

"I lit the heater earlier; the water should be warm by now." He set the water temperature and watched Doyle slip off the blanket and stepped under the flow, teeth setting as it washed across his welts.

Bodie waited outside the door nervously, understanding Doyle's need for this, but wishing there was more he could do for him. He'd expected Doyle to need him more, and this air of independence worried him.

He remained inside for a very long time, until Bodie's anxiety forced him to check. He found Doyle slumped to his knees, oblivious to the fact the water was running cold now. Bodie shut off the water and grabbed some towels. He dried him hastily and wrapped the blanket around him again. Picking Doyle up in his arms, he carried him back to the bed and sat down holding him for a long time.

"It's over, mate," he crooned, touching his lips to the cold forehead, "it's all over."

Doyle didn't cry. He shivered violently, teeth chattering, hands clutching at Bodie for warmth. At last he calmed, slipping into an uneasy doze. Bodie didn't move although his arm was cramped and his clothes were clammy and damp from pulling Ray from the shower. Eventually exhaustion claimed him as well, and he feel asleep with his face pressed against the wet curls.

He awoke to find himself alone in bed. It was dark and the only light was the glow of dying embers from the fire. He stood, feeling stiff and sore, picking out the huddled form on the divan.


Doyle didn't reply. Bodie went to him, knelt down in front of the divan. "Are you all right?"

Bodie couldn't make out the expression of the eyes in the dimness, but he didn't have to. "I know, stupid question, right?" He took a deep breath and moved to the fireplace, tossing on more wood, stirring the embers until the flames caught again.

"What I mean is...does anything hurt worse? You got some bad kicks to your ribs and--"

"I'm all right."

The sound of his voice made Bodie turn back to him. He could see Doyle's face now, in the firelight. It was drawn and pale and there were black circles under his eyes, but the eyes themselves were sane again.

"You sure? I could go find a car maybe..." Bodie suggested half-heartedly. He didn't want to leave him alone.

"If you want."

Bodie returned to the divan, sat beside him gingerly. "I don't think you should be alone."

"It doesn't matter," Doyle said quietly. "Do what you want."


"Bodie, I don't care." Doyle looked at him. "Do you understand? I don't care."

At a loss, Bodie reached out to him.

"Don't touch me, please."

His hand stopped, dropped nervously to his knee. "I'm sorry."

"I can't stop you," Doyle continued as if he hadn't heard, "but I'd rather you wouldn't."

Confused, Bodie stared at him. "What'd you mean 'you can't stop me'? I would never hurt you, Ray."

Doyle's eyes regarded him bitterly. "Wouldn't you? You wanted to do what Parker did."

"No! Not...like that. Nothing like that. Ray, don't--"

"Why not? You used to do it, didn't you? A game you...mercenaries played, isn't that right?"

"No...I..." Bodie felt a dismal cold settle in his stomach.

"No?: There were tears in Doyle's eyes now, but his voice was still hard. "Then tell me you didn't do it, Bodie. Tell me you've never raped anyone. Say it!"

Bodie remained silent.

Doyle's eyes closed slowly, a tear squeezing out to drop down on the blanket. "Okay. All I ask is that you...don't touch me again. Please. We both know I can't stop you--"

"But you can!" Bodie broke in helplessly. "You could've stopped Parker if he hadn't taken you off guard. Don't let him make you believe that, Ray! That's what the bastard wanted--to make you feel weak. You're not! It wasn't you, Ray. It could have been anyone. It could've been me!" He dropped his face in his hands. "Christ, I wish it would have been..." He raised his head, feeling desperate. "It's not like that with us, you know that. It's never been like that. I know you've been hurt, that you need time. But don't confuse what happened here with--"

"With the things you did in Angola?" Doyle finished flatly.

Bodie froze. With an effort he held back the rising anger and frustration. "All right, Doyle, that's enough. You don't know anything about it."

"I know enough, don't I?" Doyle said viciously. "Enough to know you're no better than Krivas or Parker or any of the others. I reckon I forgot that for a while."

Bodie let his breath out slowly, relaxing his clenched fists. "Believe what you like." He stood. "We still have to walk out of here tomorrow. We need to get some rest. I'll sleep in the loft."

He went up the stairs without looking back.

Doyle remained awake, staring at the fire.

Doyle's clothes were too damaged to wear, so Bodie took the jeans from the dead girl. They were too short and a bit too large in the hips but serviceable.

Doyle's face was expressionless as he put them on. Bodie gave him his undershirt and located an old raincoat in the back of a closet.

As they started to go, Doyle paused. "What do we do about the girl?"

Bodie shrugged. "Leave it. Frankly, I don;t give a damn, do you?"

Doyle bit his lip. "Perhaps we should...report it."

"Then report it."

Doyle hesitated again. "If we do, it...the whole story will... I don't think I can face Ross and her bloody tests..."

"Then don't report it."

He looked at Bodie furiously. "Christ, you're damned cold about all of this, aren't you?"

"I'm a mercenary, remember?" Bodie retorted flippantly. "We're not nice people."

"They'll find her, you know."

Again Bodie shrugged. "I wiped her prints, dug our bullets out of the woodwork, took care of anything that could trace it to us. They'll be no proof. I reckon Parker will take the blame." His gaze rested on Doyle for a second. "Unless you want it otherwise?"

Doyle shook his head. "No...I... No. Let's just get out of here."

Doyle reported for work the next day. He looked pale and moved slower than usual, but he explained it off as having a rough case of the flu over his free days, letting Cowley believe he was lying and trying to cover some pub brawl. Most of his injuries were not physical, and the ones that were did not show.

When Bodie showed up a short time later, Cowley made a re-evaluation of the situation. While he looked all right, except for a small elastoplast on his cheek ('...cut meself shaving, sir...') and a tendency to keep tugging his sleeves down over his wrists, the tension between he and Doyle was more than noticeable.

A few moments after they'd left his office after receiving separate assignments, Bodie returned. What he had to say really didn't surprise Cowley.

"A leave of absence, you say? How long?"

"I don't know."

"That's very indefinite. And you haven't given me a reason."

Bodie's eyes were fixed on the floor. "It's personal, sir."

"But it has something to do with you and Doyle?"

"No, sir."

Cowley pushed his chair back angrily. "Don't lie to me, man! I ken see farther than my nose. You've had a row."

"No,sir," Bodie repeated firmly. "It's nothing like that."

"What happened over these last few days?"

Bodie's jaw set stubbornly. "I'm not at liberty to say, sir. That's not what I came in here to discuss."

"Damn it, I want some answers!"

"You'll not get them from me."

"How about from Doyle? Does he know about your request to leave?"

"No. It's not his business, sir." He met Cowley's gaze steadily. "Or yours, sir."

"Then why should I grant it?" Cowley demanded.

Bodie was silent for a moment. He leaned forward and put his hands on the desk. "I'm taking the leave whether you agree or not. The only say you have in it is whether I still have a job when I get back."

Cowley tapped his pencil on the desk restlessly. "Do you want to have a job?"

"Yes, sir."

"Will you still want to be teamed with Doyle?"

Bodie straightened. "Yes, sir. If possible."

Cowley considered the situation, judging the earnest expression in the blue eyes. "Very well. Get out."

Bodie turned away.

The next morning Cowley dropped the news very casually to Doyle.

"You'll be working with Murphy for a few days, perhaps longer. Mostly research into--"

"Where's Bodie?" Doyle interrupted suspiciously.

"On leave," Cowley said coolly. "As I was saying--"

"Leave? When did this come up?"

"Yesterday morning. He requested an indefinite leave of absence and I granted it. Now, may I continue, 4.5?" Cowley asked sarcastically.

"Sorry, sir."

As Cowley went on describing the bookworm of the case involved, Doyle didn't hear a word. After a few minutes, he broke in again.

"Did he say why he needed it?"

Cowley looked at him sharply. "Needed what, 4.5?"

"The leave!" Doyle said impatiently. "Bodie. What was he doing?"

The older man observed him carefully. "I suppose it had something to do with what happened on your off days."

Doyle stiffened immediately. "What? What did he tell you?"

Cowley paused. "What do you think he told me?" he asked craftily.

"I..." Doyle's mouth snapped shut, catching the glint of curiosity in the Scot's eye. "Nothing. There's nothing to tell."

"Och!" Cowley threw his notebook across the room in a fit of temper. "I've had enough of this blasted mystery. First Bodie and now you! I've tried to do it easy, since both of you are like clams when y'r noses are out o' joint, but I don't have the time for all this pussy footing. You'll tell me what went on, an' you'll tell me now!"

Doyle's eyes were as hard as jade. "No."

"Then you're suspended as of now!" Cowley roared.

"Why? It's nothing to do with CI5--"

"Everything's to do with CI5! I would expect that from Bodie, but you know better."

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "Then I'm not just suspended, I'm out! I resign!"

As Doyle started out the door, Cowley yelled at him, "Doyle, come back here! That's an order!"

Doyle hesitated. Reluctantly, he turned around, the habit of taking Cowley's commands was too strong to allow him to walk out.

Cowley's voice lowered. "One of these days you're going to give me your resignation, and I'm going to accept it. Then where will you be, eh? Sit down, laddie."

Doyle's shoulders relaxed and he smiled ruefully. He say down in front of the desk.

Cowley walked around to lean against the front of it.

"I know there's trouble here," he said softly, "and I have a pretty good idea what it is."

Doyle looked up, surprised and wary.

"I can't say I approve of what's happening between you two, but I'd have to be blind not to see it. Bodie's always been a bit protective of you, but it's always worked in our favor. He doesn't have your ideology or purpose; watching out for you gave him that, kept him in CI5 maybe. And he's a handy man to have in the organization. So are you, Doyle. I need your teamwork."

Confused, Doyle asked, "What's this got to do with--"

"I'm coming to that. As I've said, Bodie watches out for you--too much sometimes. Oh, I know you watch his back as well, but it's different for you. Bodie isn't as hard a man as he'd like everyone to believe. And he's let you in deeper than most, Doyle. Perhaps he;s let himself feel more for you than he can comfortably handle."

Doyle stared at him. He'd ever heard Cowley talk like this, and he wasn't sure he liked it. It was leading up to something.

"What are you saying?"

Cowley looked at the floor, strangely uncertain. "Obviously something caused a rift between you during the last few days. If Bodie somehow...made advances--"

Doyle jumped out of the chair, totally aghast, feeling almost hysterical laughter build up inside him. "Is that what you think the problem is? That I had to defend my virtue? Christ, I don't believe it!" He laughed harshly. "Or maybe you reckon we're already havin' it off and it was just a lover's quarrel, eh?"


The younger man's face twisted bitterly. "Forget it. I wouldn't let that mercenary son of a bitch touch me!"

He slammed out the door before Cowley could say anything else.

Doyle spent the next week in his flat, hardly going out, seeing no one, speaking to no one. He couldn't really be sorry for the suspension for he realized he needed the time to heal--emotionally more than physically. It didn't come easy or quick, but the memories and the pain began to recede, to become less like something he'd experienced as something that had happened to someone else. The vivid images of Parker faded back to the deeper recesses of his mind reserved for dark nights and bad dreams.

The thoughts of Bodie, however, refused to be dismissed. He kept hearing Bodie's voice--"Yes, I played the blood Game like everyone else..." Doyle was honest enough to realize that it was what happened to him that made the real difference, not what Bodie had done or hadn't done in the past. He'd known there were ugly aspects to Bodie's past, and it hadn't really made that much difference to him--until he'd been forced to experience it himself. It made him sick to realize that someone he'd--yes, loved; why not admit it now?--was capable of such a savage act. That he hadn't known Bodie at all.

But another part of him denied it. He did know Bodie. It was madness to think Parker was right about him. Not, Bodie, the man who made him laugh, who owned that beautiful teasing smile, who could make love with such exquisite gentleness, who had held his head while he cried... Not Bodie.

But then, Bodie had said it was true.

That fact was so hard to swallow he turned to liquor to make it go down easier. When Cowley arrived that Monday evening, Doyle was already well pissed.

Doyle opened the door to him, barely electing not to shut it in his face, then turned and went back to sit on the couch. "I was wondering when you'd show up, you nosey old bastard. Something come up you want me to handle? Am I off suspension?"

Cowley shut the door. "Something came up." He moved to where Doyle sat and handed him a picture. It was of Parker.

Doyle's eyes shot up to Cowley's face, his spine prickling. "So?"

Wordlessly, Cowley handed him another photo, this one a police shot of a corpse with its face mostly blasted away. Doyle stared at it.

"In case you wondered, they're both of Parker."

Doyle's eyes closed and the picture crumbled in his hand. "He's dead..."

"Yes. This was taken yesterday morning. The South African authorities knew we were looking for him. He made it home, at least."

Cowley took the photos gently from Doyle. "It was Bodie, wasn't it, lad?"

Doyle swallowed, knowing he was trembling as it all flashed back to him again, but unable to control it. "I imagine so."

"Customs reported that he left the country, but he managed to lose the tail I put on him in Paris. He was making certain he wouldn't be stopped."

Doyle nodded, hardly hearing.

Cowley sat down. "Are you ready to tell me about it now, lad? Best to get it out in the open."

"No." Doyle refused to look at him.

The older man pulled another photo from his coat. "Do you know this girl?"

Doyle glanced at it, not surprised to recognize Katrina. He didn't answer.

"We had a tip that Parker was hold up in a hunting lodge near Beldon, but he was no doubt long out of the country by the time we got there. The girl had been dead several days." He studied the picture. "Katrina Morville was her name. Supposedly affiliated with a terrorist group headquartered in London. It's a pity; she was a pretty girl. The police figure that Parker--"

"I killed her," Doyle said quietly.

Cowley nodded, tucking the photograph back in his jacket. "I know, son. And Bodie's killed Parker. Now tell me why."

Doyle covered his face with his hands. Cowley poured more liquor in Doyle's glass and handed it to him. Doyle accepted it gratefully, swallowing it down without a blink.

"Did you know where Bodie was going, lad?"

"No," he took a deep breath. "Should've, I suppose." He took another drink. "Or perhaps I did know. Maybe I wanted it. Didn't have the guts to do it myself. Bodie must've guessed that, so he took care of it for me. He always takes care of me, doesn't he? You told me that yourself. My big brother...my protector...Oh hell--" his voice broke.

"What did Parker do, lad?" Cowley asked.

"You know what he did!" Doyle threw his glass across the room and it smashed against the wall with a thud and tinkle of broken glass. "He... set us up...tricked us into..." Doyle wrapped his arms around himself, shuddered. He'd thought he was over this, thought he'd managed to accept it. "He...used me...raped me...Oh Christ..."

Cowley waited for a moment. "And Bodie!"

Doyle lifted his head. "He didn't do anything to Bodie. Nothing!" His voice was savage, and he heard the note of bitterness and was surprised by it. Was that it? Was he hating Bodie for getting off so east?

Cowley didn't say anything for a bit, then, very quietly, "Is that why he went to Johannesburg, Doyle? For nothing?"

Doyle looked confused. "I...don't know..."

"He was raped, too, you know. Just as surely as you were." Cowley waited for that to sink in. "Save a little pity for him as well as yourself."

Doyle's eyes flashed. "I don't want pity, damn you."

"You've been wallowing in it for over a week now."

"I didn't ask you to come here."

"I still have to have answers, 4.5. There's been murder done. Am I to ignore it just like that?"

"Am I under arrest then?"

"Och!" Cowley stood impatiently. "I need the facts, Doyle. If I'm to keep you and Bodie out o' this I must know what happened."

"You're going to cover for us?"

"If I believe what you did was justified, yes. If not, I'll throw you to the wolves."

Doyle laughed harshly. "Good ol' George Cowley, judge and jury. Scottish pragmatism, I suppose."

Cowley ignored the sarcasm. Bit by bit he pulled the entire story from Doyle. At the end he patted the younger man's shoulder awkwardly, uncomfortable with the matter and uncertain of how to deal with it.

"I'll keep your names out of it. Dragging the muck up now wouldn't help things."

"And it could hurt CI5," Doyle added bitterly.

"Aye," Cowley replied, unshaken.

"We clean our own doorstep, right? Or throw a rug over it when necessary."

"That's right, 4.5," Cowley snapped. He calmed. "Would it do that girl or her parents any good to know what she really was? Bringing out the circumstances of her death would serve no purpose."

"What about Bodie? What if they trace Parker's death back to him."

"They won't. You know Bodie better than that."

"You're right; he's a pro," Doyle's voice was acid. "Just like Parker."

Cowley's eyes blazed. "Stop it! Blaming Bodie won't change what happened, and it's liable to destroy him. Start think of someone besides yourself for a change. I know you've had a rough time, but so has he."

Doyle bit his lip. "I'm not blaming him. It's just..." he trailed off, shaking his head.

Cowley took a deep breath. "I'd best get back."

"Am I still on suspension?"

Cowley paused at the door. "For now."

Doyle looked down. "Will I have to see Dr. Ross?"

"It might be for the best."

"I'd rather not, sir."

"Give it a few more days, lad. It might be easier then. And wait until you've spoken with Bodie."

Doyle looked up. "Is he back? Have you heard?"

"He's back in the country as of this morning. He hasn't been in touch. He hasn't been home yet." Cowley opened the door.


"Yes, Doyle?"

"Thank you."

Cowley nodded brusquely and left.

Doyle pounded on the door. There was no answer, but he persisted, sensing that Bodie was inside. Finally he used his key and entered. Bodie was standing in the kitchen doorway, watching him, his expression wary but resigned.

"Most people would've realized I didn't fancy company."

"I'm not most people," Doyle repled, closing the door and leaning back against it. He thought Bodie looked weary, as if all of his usual zest and humor had been drained from him.

"No, but you've no right to come barging in here either, do you? Well, never mind that. What is it you want?"

Doyle hesitated. "You haven't called Cowley."

"I'm on leave."

"Suspended is more like it. o'm I."

Bodie raised an eyebrow. "'S that right? How come?"

"I suppose he didn't like us runnin' about while he covered up our assorted murders."

Bodie sat down the cup he was holding. "He knows?"

"Yes, he knows."

He turned away. "I'm sorry, Ray."

"Why? I'm the one who told him."

"You? But I thought--"

"The Cow can be very persuasive," Doyle said drily. "Besides, he'd figured most of it out by himself. I reckon we weren't too subtle."

Bodie was silent for a moment, then his eyes sought out Doyle's. "How are you, Ray?" His tone was earnest, caring.

Doyle's shield snapped up immediately. "I'm all right. I'm just fine."

Bodie's gaze dropped. "I see."

The flash of hurt on Bodie's face before he masked it made Doyle realize what he was doing. He stepped forward. "No, I'm not all right," he said softly. "But it's better."

Doyle's sudden openness seemed to surprise Bodie, making him strangely nervous. He moved on into the kitchen and Doyle followed, unwilling to let him run away.

"I was going to make some tea; you fancy some?"

"You already have," Doyle pointed out the mug on the corner.

Bodie shrugged refilling the kettle. "It's cold."

Doyle caught his arm as he turned off the tap. "Bodie, I know what you did to Parker...what you did for me."

The other man pulled away cautiously, putting the kettle on the burner and lighting the jet. "What's that?"

Impatiently, Doyle took him by the shoulders and turned him around, forcing Bodie to look at him. To his shock, the blue eyes were watery, tears caught and held back by sheer will.


Bodie jerked back angrily. "Stop it, Doyle."

"Stop what?"

"Whatever it is you're trying to do. I don't need it, do'y hear? Your condemnation, your high-flying idealism, your disapproval...I've had all of it I can take. You've force-fed it to me for years, an' I've had a belly full of it!"

"How do you know I disapprove? I'm glad Parker's dead," Doyle said quietly. "Not very idealistic, is it?"

Bodie laughed harshly. "Christ, so it's gratitude, is it? Ta, mate for blowin' away the bastard who raped me. Nice thought, but you're thanking the wrong bloke."

"I wasn't exactly thanking you--" Doyle broke off. "What? What do you mean?"

"I mean that I didn't do it. I didn't kill Parker."

"But Cowley said--"

"Well for once the ol' bastard's screwed up. Oh, I was there alright, and I had every intention of doing it. But someone beat me to the punch. Our friend Parker must've had a line forming to see who'd snuff him first. Not a popular fellow at all it seems. He was dead three hours after he stepped off the plane."

Doyle let that sink in for a moment. "It doesn't really matter, does it? He's dead either way. And I'm glad it wasn't you, Bodie. I hated him, I wanted the bastard dead...but it wouldn't have been right for you to do that for me--"

"For you?" Bodie spun around to stare at him, eyes hard. "You think I wanted to do it for you? Wrong, mate. It was all for me. And it was Parker's good luck someone got to him before I did, for I wouldn't have made it nearly so easy on him." Their eyes held, Doyle feeling as if he was seeing a stranger. "Parker was right about one thing," Bodie continued. "There are things you learn in the bloody jungle you never forget."


The tea kettle whistled abruptly, making them both start. Bodie turned off the fire, but made no move to do more. He leaned heavily over the sink, with his back to Doyle, hands clutching the edge with white-knuckled intensity.

"Do you want to hear what I had planned for him?" His voice was a hoarse whisper. "I worked out all the details on the plane, you know. I could tell you--"

"No. Bodie don't... There's no point in this."

"Isn't there, Doyle? You said yourself there was no difference between me and Parker. I was just out to prove it."

"Bodie, I didn't mean it. I was hurting, for god's sake. I was confused...sick. I'm not even sure what I said. You can't--"

"You meant it," Bodie cut him off. "It wasn't the first time you've said something like that--only it was the first time I was sure you believed it." He turned and faced Doyle. "And you were right. That's the hell of it."

Doyle moved forward until he was close enough to touch him, but he was afraid to reach out. "No. No, Bodie. I don't believe it. Tell me the truth. I have to know. Tell me you didn't do those things. Tell me about Angola."

Bodie shook his head.

"Listen, Bodie, we've both been though hell. Maybe it took Cowley for me to see how bad it was for you, too. If we're ever going to make it back to safe ground, there's got to be a bit more honesty."

"You're a fine one to talk of honesty, mate," Bodie snarled. "Since when have you been pouring your heart out to me either? Let's just leave it. I'm tired; I'm going to bed." He pushed past Doyle.

Furious, Doyle followed him. "Wait a minute, Bodie! Stop hiding for once! Stand and answer for yourself, you bastard."

Bodie swung around. "I don't have to answer to you or anyone else. Don't push it, Ray. I've taken enough."

Doyle took a deep breath. "Okay. So we won't talk." He kept walking toward where Bodie stood in the door to the bedroom.

"Where do you think you're going?" Bodie demanded, blocking the opening with his arm.

Doyle stuck his finger toward the bed. "In there."

For a second alarm flickered in the blue eyes. "No."

"Why not?"

Bodie blinked. "It's too soon. You don't want--"

"Too soon for whom, Bodie? Me or you?"

Bodie stiffened. "Forget it. Who says I want you in there."

"Don't be stupid. Of course you do." He tried to move through, but Bodie's arm held firm.

"What are you trying to prove, Doyle?" Bodie said harshly.

The green eyes tilted up to meet the icy blue. "Maybe that I'm braver than you are."

The dart struck home, ice was melted by fire. Bodie struck back. "Or maybe you liked getting fucked more than you figured, eh?"

Even though Bodie was half-prepared for the punch, it still caught him very soundly. He went down hard, dazed for a moment. Doyle stood over him, breathing hard, fists clenched.

"Listen, you god damn son of a bitch, I'm trying to prove to you that I trust you...that I...I love you, damn it all! That I'm not going to let some sick dead bastard destroy something that was pretty bloody good with us. It wasn't easy for me to figure it all out, y'know. I didn't have a hell of a lot of help with you off playing some Shakespearean tragedy in South Africa. Didn't you ever stop to think that I might've needed you here more than out trying to slay my dragons for me? That maybe I didn't have the guts to reach out and ask you to help? Yes, I was scared of you, resented you--maybe even hated you for everything that happened and what Parker said about you. But did you try to explain? I needed you to explain, Bodie! I needed it so bad I was sick inside from it. But it was easier for you to run, wasn't it? Easier to deal with blowing a hole through Parker than to make me understand what happened with you. I'm sorry I hurt you, you stupid ass, but it's your fault as well as mine. You could've made me understand--that's what I really wanted, damn you!"

Bodie looked up at him, aghast at this hot, rapid tirade. He rubbed his aching jaw gingerly, feeling for loose teeth. "Christ, Doyle. Can't you ever pull your punches?"

Beyond patience, Doyle jerked him up by the collar to his feet. "And another thing, you ignorant sod, the next time you don't like one of my girlfriends, tell me instead of being some kind of cruddy martyr. They're not worth it, and you know it. You mean more to me than any of them, damn you. And it would've saved us a lot of trouble--"


"--if you'd just told me straight off what you thought of her. And next time, if I need someone killed, I can do it myself, thanks very much--"


"--I'm not exactly helpless; I can beat the crap out of you or anyone--"


Doyle shut up. Their gaze locked. Bodie's fingers touched Ray's cheek, tracing across it with amazing gentleness.

"Did you say...that you loved me? Did you really say that?"

Doyle swallowed. "I reckon I did." Then belligerently, "But that's not all I said."

"That's all I heard, sunshine."

Bodie pulled Ray into his arms and kissed him.

-- THE END --

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