Out of the Blue
There was no immediate response to Bodie's sleep-roughened voice but he was in no hurry. The call had come through his official line, not his private one. Sometimes a contact needed those few extra seconds to finally commit his thoughts into speech.
"Hello?" Bodie tried again. Like before there was no answer. Bodie listened hard; he was sure he could hear someone's ragged breathing. "Hello?" This time the question was tinged with anxiety - - his instinct telling him his caller was in trouble. Which of his contacts, he wondered, had found themselves so deeply in trouble that they needed to ring him at this time of the night. "Hello?" Surely they hadn't just rung him to breathe into his ear! Even Bodie's patience had some limitations and his caller must have been able to hear so in his voice.
The voice was so hesitant, so timorous and hardly audible over the burrs and clicks of British Telecom but Bodie recognised it immediately.
"Ray!" he shouted as he grabbed the phone off the bedside table and pulled it into the bed with him, clutching the phone tightly to his chest almost as if holding the phone would bring his friend nearer to him.
"Bodie..." Doyle's voice broke and the sound of harsh breathing rasped from the handset into Bodie's ear.
Helpless, Bodie spoke into the phone. "Ray... where... for God's sake, Ray, where the hell are you?"
"Bo - Bodie..."
"Ray!" Coming out of the shock hearing his former partner's voice had send him into, Bodie realised that all was not well at the other end of the line: Ray was crying. "Ray. Come on, mate... it's okay... just slow down... take some deep breaths... that's it... take it slow. Talk to me, Ray... please, talk to me..." It came out as a plea and he discovered that Ray wasn't the only one in tears.
Bodie waited and listened as Ray fought to control himself; he needed the time to think. He considered and disregarded his initial idea of putting a trace on the call. Although clearly distressed, Ray would have already thought of that. He expected him to ring off at any moment - but if he didn't - he still couldn't, wouldn't do it to him. At last, after almost a year he had called. "'s all right, sunshine," Bodie crooned softly into the receiver. "Take your time... I'm not going anywhere... I'm here."
"Wouldn't h-have answered the p-phone i-if you w-weren't... would y-you." Breathless and raspy, Doyle's voice still soothed the frayed edges of Bodie's nerves.
"Did you ring me in the middle of the night just to pant in my ear or to talk to me?" Bodie joked softly, testing the ground, terrified of saying the wrong thing and sending Ray back into the void he had vanished into.
"No," Ray answered eventually, equally carefully. "I just wanted...just felt like...wanted to hear your voice," he finished all in a rush. "S-stupid, huh?"
"Stupid? No way, sunshine - I'm just so pleased you called... so bloody pleased..."
"I'm still here."
"Bodie... please... just... just talk to me... about... anything... please, just... talk to me, please?"
So Bodie talked. And, when he ran out of stories he made them up. Ray listened to them all; the sound of his breathing or a familiar groan at an awful pun, or a delicious giggle at something amusing the only sounds he made. Bodie talked and talked and then talked some more. Ray was there, listening to him. Eventually though, when his mouth was dry and even his fertile imagination was running out of things to say he felt a faint stirring of panic. He had to keep Ray there on the end of the telephone line. He couldn't let him slip away again. Twice was already two times too many!
"How about you , Ray?" he asked before his courage failed him. He kept his fingers tightly crossed even though he would never admit to being superstitious. "How have you been?" He held his breath, terrified that the hum of a disconnected line would be his answer.
"All right," said Doyle after an eternity of waiting.
"Really?" Bodie asked softly then immediately cursed himself for being too impatient. He mustn't push - hadn't he already learnt that the hard way a year ago - he must not push too hard or he would lose him again.
There was an even longer pause this time before Doyle spoke. "No," he said softly. "Not really... but... it's getting better."
"Can you talk to me, Ray? Can you tell me where you are? Please, Ray - for god's sake, talk to me!"
"I c-can't... can't... not yet...s-sorry Bodie. I can't..." The panic was back and Bodie was sure his stupidity would make Ray hang up.
"'S okay, sunshine. Don't worry... don't hang up, Ray. Please don't hang up. I'm sorry... but, I'm... I'm so bloody pleased you've called. I've missed you so much..."
"Are you tracing this call?" Ray asked suddenly, his voice no longer quite so hesitant.
"You didn't even consider it?"
He could hear that Ray believed him and was pleased that there was at least some trust left between them. "I considered it," he answered truthfully.
"But you didn't do it," Ray said. "Why?"
"Did you want me to?"
"No... no, I don't think so," Doyle answered honestly.
"Are you coming back, Ray?" Bodie held his breath.
"Not ever - or just, not now?"
"I don't... I can't say yet, Bodie... please don't push me..." Again the panic was back.
"All right, sunshine. Whatever you want. Will you call me again? Soon?" Bodie asked, his voice gentle.
"You won't mind if I do?"
Bodie thought that Doyle sounded like a very small, very frightened child. "Stupid bloody thing to ask!" he said gruffly wiping away fresh tears with his free hand. "Course I don't bloody well mind!"
"I'd... I'd better go. Ashraf will be back soon--"
"You're still travelling around with him?"
"Yes. Still." Doyle reacted defensively to the change in Bodie's voice.
"How is he?" Bodie asked. "Everything okay with him, too?" He was surprised at how much it still hurt. After spending 5 years as partners with each year bringing them closer and closer together until everyone who knew them always thought of them as 'BodieandDoyle' a single unit: after 5 years it had taken only a few short months to break them apart and Doyle had found himself unable to turn to his partner for the comfort and help he so desperately needed. He knew that Ashraf could meet Ray's needs much better than he could but, even so, it still hurt.
"Ash is fine - much better than me. He... he still looks after me, but, not as much as before. I still need him though. He understands, Bodie, I don't have to... there's nothing to explain when I'm with him. You do understand, don't you?"
Yes, Bodie thought bitterly, he did understand. He didn't like it any more but he did understand. Over the last year he'd been forced to understand.
"But he's not with you now. Has he left you alone to go off somewhere?"
"Bodie!" Doyle laughed softly. "I'm not a child... I can look after myself - most of the time," he finished honestly, ruefully. "He... he wanted to go out to a party, I was invited but I didn't feel like going. I wasn't in the party mood... not tonight... I felt... felt a bit low--"
"Homesick... possibly. I've been thinking of home, England, the job, CI5, and you." The last was whispered and Bodie wondered if he'd been meant to hear it.
"Ray, have you thought about coming home?"
"Home to what?" Ray asked, half laughing, half serious. "I haven't got a home. No home, no family to speak of, no job..."
"My home," Bodie said quietly. "You know you can come to my home whenever you want. You can stay for as long as you like - as long as it takes to get things sorted out for you--"
"George wouldn't take too kindly to non-CI5 personnel living in a department flat."
"You leave George to me, he won't make any fuss. He's missed you too, we all have. Been worried sick about you - taking off like that -"
"Bodie...don't! Please don't... I can't talk about it... I still can't think about it... not yet... please, don't make me think about it!"
"Okay, okay," Bodie promised. "But what about money, you've not touched your bank account -"
"You're still on the payroll, you know. Cowley hasn't taken you off. Every month it's paid into your account - only quarter pay now," Bodie added truthfully. "Officially you're still listed as sick - he's got the finance boys thinking you're still tucked away in a private nut- private hospital somewhere."
"Private nuthouse!" Doyle said ruefully. "I think you were right the first time. When was it knocked down to quarter pay?" He asked suddenly and Bodie smiled to himself, trust Doyle to pick up on that!
"Three months ago. You were on full pay the first three months, then half pay and now quarter pay."
"How long will that last?"
"Until you come back--"
"I won't, not ever, Bodie. Can't any of you see that?"
"Maybe not in the field, Ray, but--"
"With everybody knowing!"
"Ray, no-one knows, only Cowley, and me... and the doctors ... Murph... those that helped me get you out of there--"
"Bodie, I can't... too many people know... I just couldn't face... and even those that weren't there - of course they know, everybody will know by now! Can't come back, Bodie, not to CI5."
"How about to England, then. Will you come back here? Will you come and see me. Will you at least let me come and see you - wherever you are?"
"No! No, not yet."
At least, Bodie told himself it hadn't been an outright 'No', only a 'not yet'.
"I've got to go, Bodie - this call is going to cost me a packet."
"Do you need any money - can I send you some?"
"Bodie, I'm not going to tell you where I am - please don't push me."
"All right, but - how are you managing for money. Are you working somewhere, is Ashraf working?"
"Yes, we're both working - in a fashion," Doyle said with a chuckle. "It's hard work... but at night it means we're both so tired we just curl up and fall asleep. Hard work and fresh air, Bodie, it's doing me more good than lounging around in some grotty hospital being depressed and looking behind me all the time. I've got a sun tan you wouldn't believe - even the tourists think I'm a local I'm so brown! Now, I really must hang up--"
"You'll call again?"
"Okay, I'll call," Doyle agreed.
"Don't wait until you're feeling low next time. Just call - anytime. You can always reverse the charges-"
"And have you trace the call that way!"
"Damn. I didn't mean it for that, Ray--" Bodie said angry with himself.
"Bodie, I'm going to hang up."
"Bye Bodie... thanks for being there. I'll call again. Promise. Bye."
Bodie was a patient man. He'd waited a year for the first telephone call. He didn't think for a moment he would have to wait as long for the second.
-- THE END --