DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em; just playing and I'll put 'em away nice and tidy when I'm done. Don't make any money off 'em; never did make a penny off anything I enjoyed.

Rainy night, late October. The smell of wet and cold open spaces rushed into Bodie's mouth and nostrils as he shoved open the warehouse door, and he leaned against it, gasping helplessly. In three seconds he was soaked. Rain washed blood down from his forehead and nose, but he was beyond tasting it. Shuddering, he tried to wipe his vision clear, and almost fainted at the pain of moving a dislocated shoulder. For one instant, the man thought of letting go: of riding, not fighting, the crackling grey wave. He tilted his head back against the metal wall, letting the rain batter his face.

His eyes flicked open, wide, unseeing. He stiffened: whispered, "No! " and forced himself upright.

Faint sound in the hollow dark behind him. Run. He couldn't. The pain in his head was at best a concussion, at worst a skull-fracture waiting to shift and - and what? Kill him? He heard his own laughter, a chilly rattle. There were worse things. Jesus. There were worse things; already had been. The sounds focussed. Became - human, searching. Some mad propriety sent his hands to the front of jeans that would never fasten again, then to the remnants of his shirt, which he pulled down and ran.

He was not a man much given to fantasy, and he hurt so much he wondered if this one counted as hallucination. Doyle was in trouble. He could run, for that. After a minute he knew he couldn't have, only for himself, even in panic-flight. Adrenaline scraped rawly through his system, spent hours ago, manufacturing in response to new activity - for his duty; the unwritten small print of the contract, not to Cowley or the service but to Ray Doyle, exact counterpart of Doyle's to him. Protect. You don't ever leave him uncovered, not while you can hold a gun and move. Not ever.

Melting, dangerous, came the knowledge of reality. Doyle was safe at home. It was too soothing a thought. He could see the lights at his window. Savagely he broke the glass, sent an arc of it wildly flying into the room, the shattering turning to gunfire. "Doyle!" he choked, and found the railing on the edge of the wharf where he had left the car. There was street-light here, silver and orange, rainbowing at the boundaries of vision. So vivid was the self-created scene that he vaulted easily over the rail - and dropped ten feet into forgotten dark. His fall broke on a girder, the back of one hip-bone thudding and jolting away. He heard his sound as he hit earth: the explosive gasp and the indrawn, desperate cry, an octave higher than he had heard himself since boyhood.

His rapists had burned out his capacity for shame. For them he hadn't made a sound, and taken a worse beating than he needed for the privilege. He was alone now, as surely as such an escape-route could make him. The cry - and it would be crying - built in his chest.

He couldn't. He got to his feet. One leg folded and he did it again. He grinned: two foot to the left and he would've given the Capri a dent it would remember. The door was open - his keys in a pool of blood half a mile away. Bodie knelt on the running-board, fished out a pen-knife from under the seat, and quickly hot-wired the engine. A good burglars' trick, like so many his profession employed. The Capri jerked into life. Slipping off the running-board so hard the knees of his jeans tore, Bodie collapsed in the rain. His mind was clearer now and rejected its previous compulsion. He hung onto the far side of the driver's seat, retching with pain, trying to keep his head up. He could see the lights at the windows ... but now they meant only an impossibly-removed safety.

Radio. He gasped at his own stupidity and snatched the transceiver from its cradle.

What was he going to say?

At the concept of describing what had happened to him, explaining in short terms that he had been caught, assaulted and gang-raped, something in Bodie's mind stretched too far, and gave. A veil of amnesia dropped between him and the transceiver in his hand. It was not that he couldn't recall its use - he rejected its very existence. Letting it fall, he dragged himself into the driver's seat, and jerked like a fish on a hook, back arching desperately at the agony of trying to sit. It struck him as funny, the first spasm over, and he wiped cold sweat off his face along with fresh blood and rain, and forced himself down in the seat.

It was precisely this pain. A cracked skull or spine meant nothing, nothing that couldn't be rolled into an ER and fixed, nothing that Doyle might not wince at and say, Oof, bloody 'ell I bet that smarted, mate before picking him up out of the latest gutter. This pain, this injury - somehow he had pulled the door shut behind him and put the car into gear - this was Bodie's unbearable, and it made him cry as no fall ever could, rackingly, as he kicked the Capri down the harbour road and into the late night traffic, tears streaming unnoticed down his face, mixing with the shadow of rain and dead leaves on the windshield, sobs unheard over the engine's roar.

Lights in the window - no. There were none. He didn't know he could still feel despair. There was space for half a car outside Doyle's apartment-building, and Bodie wrenched the wheel round, skidded, and let the Capri's bonnet float into the gap.

The street was normally quiet, and over the years Doyle had gained a lot by hearing interruption of such normality. He was asleep when the tyre-squeal started, and out of bed with his dressing-gown over pyjama bottoms by the time it had stopped.

" - Ray ... "

Being service, she came round as quickly as he did, but Doyle had been sleeping on the perimeter of anxious dreams, and waking was part of a smooth continuum from restlessness to plain alarm. "Stay there," he told her, padding into the next room as if anticipating the peal of the entry-phone which came a second later. She ignored him, being service, and started quietly to dress.

Doyle pushed the voice-switch and just held the line open. Already he half-knew.

"Doyle. Please. Can I - "

"Come straight up." He snapped the connection shut and went to the living-room window. "Thought I recognised that," he murmured, looking out.

"Bodie?" Julia asked from the bedroom doorway.

"Yeah. Left half his tread on the tarmac." He slipped quickly back into the bedroom, emerging an instant later with the gun-harness over one shoulder. Shrugging into it, dumping the dressing gown: "If his parking's anything to go by, he's got problems. Watch the window. Just going to frighten the neighbours."

Out on the landing, Doyle counted off five seconds waiting for the screech of lift-cables which didn't come. He could see the car at the bottom of the shaft, unmoving. "Christ." Habit of speech or a prayer? Whenever things were hot enough to induce it, he never had time to analyse. No time now. His bare feet thudded softly on the carpeted stairs, making five at a time on the curves. In the main hall he stopped himself, one hand convulsing white on the banister with the effort of wariness. He had just time to reprimand himself before seeing that the caution was unnecessary: there was only Bodie on his knees by the lift-gates, trying to reach the grille-handle.

He didn't stop when Doyle's arms went round him. "It's all right. I'm here. You don't have to; I'll get it." Doyle gauged the depth of his shock by the number of seconds it took for his presence to register. Gently he repeated, "You don't have to," and spared one arm for a blind reach upward to open the gates. "You just have to tell me - Bodie! You have to tell me - listen, mate - did they follow you?" He didn't know whether to be relieved or alarmed at the offended look he got for asking. Bodie said hoarsely, "I wouldn't - lead - not here - " and choked on the rest of it.

"All right. Be quiet." He hauled him retching into the lift-cage, slammed the grille and let him collapse against his chest. "Oh, Jesus, look at the state of you," he breathed, as the cage jolted upward, and studied with scientific concern the nature of the fluid being painfully vomited into his lap. Too thick for water, and - a trace of scarlet in it stopped further analysis. "Bodie!" It was a shout, to punch through shock. "Internal?"

"Don't - think so," he said indistinctly. "Doyle, don't call anyone - "

"Oh, fuck, no," Doyle swore, lightly embracing and rocking him. "Just give you a cup of tea and stick you back into your car; you'll be fine ... "

"I mean it! Are you - are you by yourself?"

There was a lucid desperation in the demand. "No. Julia's here. Why?"

"Get rid of her. Doyle, if you ever did anything or cared anything for me - !"

The lift halted. For a second Doyle knelt still with him, measuring the urgency of a request made by this man on those terms, feeling ribs under the torn shirt heave with something a shade off sobbing hysteria. "All right," he said, and wondered at the instant ebb of tension. "All right - stay here and stay calm."

"If anyone's after him, I think he's lost them," Julia was calling from the living room. She met Doyle in the hallway and stopped dead, paling a little. "Oh God. Ray, he's not - "

"No." He could feel the look on his face like a tight steel mask. "No. He's hurt. Julia, I'm going to have to be alone with him to get him to tell me."

Ten seconds later she was before him again, coat and shoes in place, the faintest apology lifting one eyebrow. "Ray, we left my car ... "

He looked at her with something near to love. "God, I'm sorry," he said, reaching his keys off the table. "Here - "

" - thanks. Call me if you need me." She hesitated fractionally in the doorway, Doyle at her shoulder. Both listened to the concentrated silence for a second, then Doyle shook his head, and she slipped away down the stairs.

He was far enough gone that he let Ray pick him up and carry him. It was no easy matter, but Doyle was more than the sum of his leanly-muscled parts when it came to this one. He slammed the door shut behind him with one heel and bore him through to the warm and rumpled bed he and Julia had just vacated. "All right, blue-eyes. Down you go here and let me see." He was easing him onto the bed when the strong body jerked in his arms, desperately flinching from contact with the mattress. Barely able to restrain him, Doyle crashed to his knees and rolled him quickly onto his side. "Okay! Okay... Is that better? Can you lie there?"

Bodie gave a raw moan and curled up, trying to get away from the pain in his arse and somehow contain the mounting one in his gut. Dimly he was aware of Ray's hands all over him, quick and gentle, searching out the hurt. Christ, he couldn't let him find it! His stomach chose that moment to clench tight and he was almost grateful for the distraction. "Doyle, let me up. Gonna puke."

"S'alright. Go ahead." Not remotely fazed, Doyle rolled him far enough over the edge of the bed that when he did so it would be on the carpet, and continued his investigations. And while Bodie heaved and coughed and convulsed up into a tight fetal ball, Doyle found what the untucked shirt had been concealing.

For a moment, his language was surprising even to an ex-merc almost too sick to hear it. But it was only a moment. Unable to do a damn thing about it, Bodie felt the competent grip fasten on the waistband of his jeans and begin to peel them down. "No," he choked. "Ray, don't..."

"It's me or some nice big orderly down at the clinic," Doyle informed him, and it would have been terse, unbroken by sobs. Fucking Doyle, Bodie thought distractedly. Wouldn't shed a tear if the world was ending, but cries over me every time. "You just get on with throwing up."

He couldn't - had lost everything he was going to lose when the first big unlubricated prick rammed into him - but his stomach hadn't got the message, and the dry-heaves kept him helpless while Ray extricated him from boots, socks and the disputed jeans. "Oh... Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, Bodie!" Fingers, cool and firm and utterly tender, going where no fingers had any business, parting his buttocks, brushing away dried blood to see where the rips began; where they stopped. "Oh, sunshine, this is too bad for me to fix. I'm calling an ambulance."

He was halfway off the bed, and the hand on his wrist would not have stopped him. But Bodie followed it up with a desperate grip on his shoulder, another round his waist, and somehow or other they were both on their knees by the bed, Bodie weeping silently against his partner's neck. "Doyle-Don't. You'll... You'll kill me."

"I'll kill you by not!" Doyle rasped. "God, Bodie. You need stitches. Antibiotics." A great lump rose in Doyle's throat and the next part was a shattered yell. "You need a fucking AIDS test, Bodie!" But he was at the end of his rope, and all the horrific practicalities slipped away from him in the face of Bodie's immediate need; in the face of Bodie's arms wrapped tight around him as if he was all the safety, all the hope, left in the man's world. Holding as hard as he could, he dropped his brow to Bodie's shoulder and fiercely rocked him. "Who did this to you, love? Jesus, please, we have to get DNA samples off you... "

Love? Something inside Bodie went very still. It spread like light through water. To his own astonishment, he found his voice given back to him, and he lifted his mouth from the sweet familiar skin at the juncture of Doyle's neck and shoulder. "I know."


"Yeah." Something like a smile twitched the muscles of his jaw, and the death-grip he had on Doyle's ribs slackened to an embrace, returning a little of the comfort. "I... I know. Ray... We can get samples off me... here, if you'll help." He swallowed loudly. "There's still plenty to get. And I'll let you... do whatever the hell you like with Savlon and cotton wool, and I'll go to the clinic tomorrow, but Christ, sunshine, not now. Oh, please. Please, Ray, I'm beggin' you, mate, not now..." The sobs were beginning again, and Doyle folded. He had never thought to witness the hard-assed bastard plead, and beyond one extraordinary and never-discussed episode at a matinee showing of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence at Notting Hill Gate, Doyle had assumed he would go to his grave without seeing him cry. He could withstand neither. "You son of a bitch, if you get septicaemia and die on me overnight..."

"I... I won't. Promise." It was dead earnest, and Doyle choked back a laugh that would have started hysterics: AIDS test was ringing in his ears, and it was one thing to point out the necessity, and quite another to feel it in his heart... Well, he wouldn't die of that overnight, either, and dear Christ, the horse was gone...

"Okay. Promise you'll let me take proper care of you, and... Oh, Bodie-mate, don't cry. Please, don't cry."

It was more comfort-talk than a real suggestion that he stop. Doyle felt him try, and choke on the effort. After that he did all he could to draw it out of him: there were worse poisonings than septicaemia. He rocked and rocked him, all the time stemming new bloodflow with a convenient bit of the duvet. Soft and close against his ear he described what he would do to Bodie's assailants when once he laid hands on them - if didn't come into it - and how absolutely it was over; how absolutely, unassailably safe Bodie was now, and would remain, and slowly the big, tense frame slackened and went limp against him.

Passed out or asleep, it didn't matter to Doyle. Either way, he was easy to handle. Not wasting a second, he cradled him down to the floor and wrapped the duvet around him. Niceties such as getting him back into bed could wait. Not an especially tidy man, Doyle could nevertheless lay hands directly on a well-stocked medical kit - well, mismatched socks were bearable, but he needed to be able to staunch bleeding in short order when the occasion arose. "Just a matter of priorities, innit?" he asked his unconscious partner, rolling him carefully onto his stomach. "Do me a big, big favour, love, and dream on for a bit." Swallowing down sickness - no use both of them starting, was it? - he ripped open seven or eight antiseptic wipes, bundled them loosely into his right hand and began to clear the blood away, holding Bodie open with his left. A pale, cloudy fluid was seeping from him, too, horribly familiar from lonely nights with his own right hand, and some of this Doyle carefully collected into the wipes' foil wrapping. "There you go," he managed in a rasp. "Needing stitches was mebbes a bit dramatic. Fuck, you're torn up, though. Stay asleep, mate. Gonna clean it all up and pack some cotton wool in there, stop the bleeding." Bodie stirred and buried his face in the crook of one arm, and Doyle halted everything but a rhythmic caress of the dark head until he dropped back. "Attaboy. Soon have you in bed."

No matter what angle he tried, the lift was awkward, and for a moment before he could pull him over onto his side, Bodie's weight dropped onto the injuries. He came round, gasping, and met Doyle's eyes with a look almost comical in its disbelief. "God, Ray - pain - I can't..."

"I know," Doyle agreed, and ran for the cupboard under his bathroom washbasin. Somewhere in here, he was sure... Yes, right at the back, along with a collection of other objects to dubious or risky for conventional disposal. He'd been released from hospital after the MayLi shooting with enough painkillers to kill himself 50 times over if he'd been so minded, and the first few retraining bouts with Macklin had almost done the trick. He remembered that they were thorough, and frighteningly quick.

Bodie was up on his elbows when he got back to the bedroom, a pillow disintegrating in the vise of his grip. Doyle flew to him, crouched by the bed and shook out a horse-dose into the palm of one hand. "Here. Can you get these down?" He grabbed the glass of mineral water that health-conscious, irritating, blessed Julia insisted on keeping by the bedside, and practically forced the painkillers into his friend's mouth. He put the glass to his lips; tipped it ungently. "Swallow 'em down. Do it, Bodie. They'll make it better, faster than you'd believe." Convulsively Bodie obeyed, and caught at Ray's forearm as his partner wrapped a close, hard embrace around his back and shoulders. "Just give it ten seconds. Ten." A shudder ran through Bodie, so hard Doyle feared he would start a seizure. He held him tighter. "Count down with me, sunshine. From ten."

"Y-You want me to... what?"

"Count down. Like when they're knocking you out for surgery. I promise you, mate, you'll feel even less. Count. Ten. Nine. C'mon; didn't they teach you anything at Eton? Eight. What's next, Einstein?"

"S... Seven."

"Good lad. That's my good Bodie. Next?"

"Six, you fucking moron."

Doyle chuckled irresistibly, feeling the broad shoulders minutely unlock. "Better, eh? Next?"

"Yes. God... Yes. Five. What is this stuff?"

"Consolation prize for just missing the death-in-service benefit. Had it all signed over to you, you know, you bad-tempered git. S'pose you deserve some of my nice stash, considerin'. Stopped counting, 'ave we?"

Bodie had, and he turned a great sob of relief into a careful, "Four. If I find out you're serious about that damn benefit, Ray, I'll kill you and collect."

"Three. I don't think you get it if you off me yourself. Next? Cos you're almost there, aren't you, Bodie-mate?"

The endearment, the utter relief, turned Bodie's arms to warm water and dropped him face-down into the pillows. He noted that Ray gave him time to voice that insistent sob before shifting his head so he could breathe. "Two," he whispered. "Two of us. Pair of stupid shits. Signed mine over to you. What's the bloody point? If we die together, who gets it?"

"Battersea Dog Shelter," Ray informed him, and because he was asleep, leaned down to kiss the bruised corner of his mouth. "Don't worry, mate. We'll go together. One. You an' me. One.

-- THE END --

Rowan c. 2000

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