by PR Zed
The first thing you did when you joined the mob was write the letters. The ones that got sent out if you departed this vale of troubles, if you were killed in action. If you snuffed it.
Sorry I couldn't have been a better son. Don't worry, I didn't suffer.
You did it because it was tradition, part of the code. You did it because you were expected to.
I know I've been a pain in the arse, but it's always been a pleasure serving under you. I think Doyle would do well paired with Murphy, if Murph agrees to work with a partner.
Good luck with the squad.
You did it because your mates needed it. They needed closure. They needed that last message from beyond.
You've always been a mate. Glad to have known you. Keep an eye on Doyle for me, would you? Make sure he doesn't do anything bloody stupid.
And you needed it too. Needed to make sure the ones left behind knew how you'd felt. Needed to make that one last request from the grave.
I hope you know how much I've loved you. (Christ, I hope the Cow doesn't read these things.) Want you to be happy. I've asked Murph to watch out for you. Don't give him a hard time. And for Christ's sake, don't do anything daft. Don't step in front of a bullet, Ray, or have an accident with your gun. Live enough for the both of us.
You hoped that the letters were never sent out. That you were never killed on some grotty little op in a wretched back alley. That you were always faster than the other fella. That no one surprised you. That you were lucky.
Sometimes you weren't lucky enough.
George Cowley sat in his office and wished that he were somewhere else, anywhere else, in fact. This was the most despised part of his job, and given the nature of their organization, the most inevitable part.
Dealing with the death of an operative.
The death of a member of his staff was always difficult. Cowley felt responsible for all of his men, whether he showed it or not. When one of them died, he considered it a personal failure.
And this death had been harder on him than any other he could remember. Bodie had been arrogant, infuriating, occasionally lazy and always annoying. He had also been, oddly enough, one of the few men on the squad that Cowley would willingly call a friend. He had few enough friends. This loss would be keenly felt.
But he would not feel the loss as much as the man sitting in front of him, he'd bet a year's salary on that.
Ray Doyle looked as though he were a walking corpse himself, a man who had died but didn't know enough to lie down. His face lacked all expression and his skin was waxy and pale. His eyes were focused on a place a million miles away, a place Cowley hoped he would never visit.
It had taken Murphy and three other agents to keep Doyle from running into the building after it had exploded. Four agents pinning him down and even then he nearly got away from them. Now he didn't look strong enough to take on a good-sized four-year-old. The fight had gone out of him.
Cowley went over and poured two generous glasses of pure malt scotch. It was more for himself than Doyle, but he reckoned it wouldn't do the lad any harm.
"Drink that down." Cowley gave the order as gently as his nature allowed.
Doyle took the glass from him like an automaton, and tossed the full measure back in a single swallow.
Cowley took a bit more time with his own drink. Not only did he think it was a crime to treat good scotch like it was two bob a bottle, but it also gave him time to think about what he was going to say. All the stock phrases that passed through his mind sounded trite and wholly inadequate. He wanted better, both for Doyle and for Bodie.
3.7 and 4.5 had been close; the whole mob knew that. Cowley called all of his teams the Bisto Kids, but Bodie and Doyle had been the embodiment of the name. They'd done everything together, on duty and off. They'd worked together, drunk together and played together. The only thing they hadn't managed to do together was to die, and now Doyle was left to carry alone. Cowley uncomfortably thought that it might have been easier if they had both died in that bomb blast.
A harsh thought, but Cowley was a harsh man, as all who knew him would acknowledge.
He was also a man who knew another thing about Bodie and Doyle that no one else on the squad had even guessed: the men had been lovers for the past two years.
Cowley knew there were those who would assume he would be shocked by such a revelation, that he would have destroyed the career of any under his command who admitted to such unnatural feelings. But Cowley had always despised prejudice of any kind. He judged people by their worth, and damn any social rules that told him who was a good person because of the colour of their skin, or who they chose to love.
Bodie and Doyle were good men, his best. He'd chosen to protect them against everyone, against their own government if necessary, when they'd told him about their relationship. He'd made sure they knew enough to be discreet, and he'd deflected any suspicions about them.
He'd taken secret pleasure in their closeness, thankful that they had both found someone, even if he himself had not, and he had wished them many years of happiness.
He wished they'd had those years.
He looked at the man in front of him again, and realized he could delay no longer. He cleared his throat, and prayed for inspiration.
"I'm sorry, lad." Doyle looked up sharply, but said nothing. "I know I can't understand what you're feeling, but I hope you know that I'll miss him too."
"Thank you, sir," Doyle said brusquely, before biting his lip.
Cowley looked away, unexpectedly overcome by the emotion that was washing over Doyle. It never got easier.
But if it didn't get any easier, he could at least rely on the forms of the moment to get him through. He'd delivered his condolences. Now there was one last task he was expected to perform.
Cowley opened his desk drawer and pulled out a plain, white envelope. Doyle's name was scrawled on it in a blotchy blue pen. One corner was bent, as if it had been carried in a pocket for a time before being turned over to its current keeper.
Cowley held the envelope for a moment, reluctant to hand it over to the man to whom it was addressed. It was as if performing this one small task would make everything final.
But of course everything was final. Bodie would not suddenly be resurrected just because Cowley had failed to deliver his final message.
"He left this for you." Cowley handed the envelope across the desk.
"Thanks." Doyle took it without so much a glancing at it, and jammed it into the breast pocket of his leather jacket.
"Aren't you going to read it?" Cowley was surprised.
"Later, sir. At home."
Cowley nodded. Doyle deserved his privacy.
"You should be on your way. I want you to take a few days off."
"I'll be in tomorrow."
Cowley made direct eye contact with Doyle, and almost flinched at what he saw there. The man's eyes were cold, dead. It wasn't as if they lacked feeling, more that all feeling had been stripped out of them.
"Listen, I appreciate the offer. But I'll go balmy if I'm just sitting at home. Maybe if I'm here, I can make some sense of it all."
"Fair enough, but you are going home now. I'll have Murphy drive you."
"I don't need to be babied." That was definitely a flash of the old Doyle anger.
"This is not babying, 4.5." Cowley snapped into commander mode. "You're likely still in shock and shouldn't be driving. Murphy will stay with you a while, to make sure you don't need anything." He saw the beginnings of a serious rebellion in Doyle's face. "This is not negotiable, Doyle."
The younger man tensed up, and Cowley could see the war waging beneath the surface. The primal need to be alone fighting the duty to obey his superior. Duty won out, barely. Cowley was pleased that this hadn't turned into an argument. Doyle was not noted for obeying orders blindly, or at all.
Doyle nodded, then without another word, got up and left the room, almost, but not quite, slamming the door on the way out.
Cowley sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. One day he was going to get sick of sending young men out to die and pack in this miserable job.
But in the end he knew he would only do that when he felt his department was no longer necessary. And he couldn't see that happening in his lifetime.
Sick of being caught up in such an unproductive train of thought, he shook it off, and asked Betty to send Murphy in.
Agent 6.2 entered the office as if he were afraid another bomb was going to go off. He faced Cowley easily enough, but there was a new wariness in his eyes.
"Sir," Murphy said, in his usual slightly diffident tone.
"Pour yourself a drink, and sit down."
Cowley pulled another letter out of his desk drawer. The second one was easier. But then, this one didn't mean as much.
"That's from Bodie."
Murphy took it from his hand and opened it immediately. It only took him a few moments to read. He nodded, refolded it and returned it to its envelope.
Cowley restrained himself from asking about the letter's contents. It was an unspoken rule that such things were private, reserved only for the recipient. He knew the men sometimes speculated that he read the letters, but he refused to do that to his own people.
He gave Murphy a few more moments to digest the letter, and make his own peace with what it said before he dropped his request in his lap.
"I'd like you to take 4.5 home. Make sure he's all right."
Murphy gave a slight wince at the order, but didn't protest. He'd probably been expecting just this. He might have been closer to Bodie, but Murphy'd been a friend to both of the members of CI5's top team. And it had been Murphy who had first restrained Doyle at the scene today.
"Yes sir." Murphy's voice was respectful as always, giving little away about how he felt.
"Keep an eye on him for a bit. Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."
"Sir, you know what Doyle's like. He's not going to take kindly to me playing nursemaid."
"I don't care how he feels. You watch him. We've already lost Bodie today. I don't want to lose Doyle as well. Take his gun away, if necessary."
Murphy clearly did not like this assignment, but he wasn't about to argue. He kept his own counsel, as he always did.
"Fine. Now get out of here."
Murphy nodded and was gone. Cowley heaved a sigh of relief, and slouched over his desk, hands clasped in front of him. He was really getting too old for this job.
He reached into his desk drawer one last time and pulled out a letter that had been addressed to him. He reread the short message scrawled in 3.7's usual nearly illegible script. The few short lines somehow managed to sum up Bodie's character completely: the slight insolence, the concern for Doyle and plans made for his partner.
Cowley felt a slight catch in his throat and immediately bit it back. He would not allow himself any emotional indulgence, no matter what the cause. Bodie had been a good operative, part of a great team. He would be mourned appropriately. No cracks would show in the famous Cowley armour. No flaws would be seen in the fabled reserve of the man in charge of CI5.
Still, it was quite some time before Cowley felt himself and let Betty know he was available for his next appointment. If his assistant had noticed anything amiss, she didn't let on. Business continued, if not quite as usual.
Murphy left the Cow's office feeling like he was only beginning to realize how much his world had changed.
He had visions of Doyle slipping out when no one was watching and being found drowned in the Thames. He reckoned that if happened, he might as well just resign and save Cowley the trouble of firing him.
Or Bodie haunting him, for that matter. He shook his head, astounded, honoured and a little annoyed that Bodie had asked him to keep a lookout for Doyle. He like Doyle well enough, quite a bit in fact, but the stroppy bastard would do what he liked. If he'd decided to do himself in, there was precious little any of them could do about it.
Mind you, he didn't see Doyle as the type to end it all. Doyle was too much of a fighter to go down like that.
Then he remembered the look on Doyle's face when that bloody building had gone up. They had all been laying cover so that Bodie could get in closer, see what was going on. Bodie had volunteered to do a recce on the building, and then had taken it upon himself to go inside. No one quite knew why, and Bodie wasn't talking. He had been inside perhaps a minute or two when the explosion had shaken the building, sending a fireball into the sky, and knocking the entire CI5 mob to the ground.
Doyle had been the first one on his feet, with Murphy right behind him. Doyle had taken off, running for the building before anyone quite knew what was happening. Murph had let his reflexes think for him and taken off after Doyle, his longer legs closing the distance between them. He'd taken the smaller man down in a rugby tackle, held him as ash and debris rained down on top of them. Doyle had struggled to get away, to get to Bodie. He would have managed it too, if Anson, Jax and McCabe hadn't realized what was going on and helped to hold him back. Four against one, all of them bigger than Doyle and he still had nearly managed to break free, to run into the now burning building.
They were all frozen in place, unable to move as time passed around them. Murphy'd begun to think they might be stuck in these horrible poses for the rest of their lives.
It was Doyle who broke the tableau. The fight suddenly went out of him and he'd collapsed in their grasp.
They'd seen the look on Doyle's face and all of them had looked away. Doyle's features had shown grief in its purest, most devastating form. Something had died in the curly-haired bastard at that moment, and every last one of them had realized it.
Cowley must have known too. He was immediately over at Doyle's side. After that initial, horrible realization that Bodie was dead, Doyle's expression froze over, as if he no longer inhabited his own body. Cowley ordered his other agents to stay in place until the area was secured, then shepherded 4.5 into his own car, murmuring quietly to the younger man. Doyle had seemed barely aware of Cowley's presence.
Murphy's last view of Doyle had been of him slumped forward in the passenger seat of Cowley's car, his forehead resting on one hand, his face completely devoid of all expression.
It was funny. Murphy would have taken bets that Doyle's grief would have been loud, noisy, angry. Instead it was quiet and numb.
He shook his head, purging his memory of that last sight of Doyle, and looked for the man in person. The hallway was empty.
Bloody hell, maybe the mad berk was really going to top himself.
He stopped that thought cold. He would not presume. He would gather facts, as Cowley had taught him.
He poked his head in the squad room, where all the agents who had been on the op were now gathered, indulging in an extensive post mortem of the whole dismal affair.
All heads turned to the newcomer. He could see naked curiosity on certain faces, carrion birds waiting to pick at the corpse, but he discouraged those ones with a scowl. Jax was one of the few who looked honestly sympathetic, so it was to Jax he turned.
"Jax, did you see where Doyle disappeared to?"
"Thought I saw him go down the hall that way." Jax pointed his thumb in the direction of the back of the building. "Looked like he might be heading towards the car pool."
"Cheers," Murphy said, letting a weak smile show on his face. He nodded at the other agents huddled in sombre groups. "Don't let these berks get to you."
"Nah, no worries there." Jax returned the smile with about as much enthusiasm. "Look after Doyle."
"Yeah." With nothing left to be said, he nodded and was out the door.
He found Doyle in the parking garage, leaning against the brown Rover , holding the keys in his hand. Murph was unreasonably grateful that Doyle hadn't chosen to check out the silver Capri that had been Bodie's favourite.
Doyle threw him the keys without a word and slouched into the passenger seat. Not knowing what to say, Murph got in the car and began the drive to the flat that, until this morning, Doyle and Bodie had shared.
It was a tense, silent trip. Murphy reckoned that anything he said would be idiotic, so he kept it shut. Doyle was shuttered away in his own world.
Miraculously, Murphy found a parking spot only a few doors from Doyle's. He parked the car, looked over at his passenger and spoke for the first time since the journey had started.
"I'll just come up then, shall I?" In spite of Cowley's orders, Murphy wasn't sure that he was prepared to impose himself on an unwilling Doyle.
Doyle looked at him as if just noticing that he wasn't alone. He blinked once before speaking.
"Don't worry, Murph. Cowley gave me my orders, just like he gave you yours. I'm not going to throw a tantrum."
Murphy smiled gratefully. Honestly, he had no idea what he'd have done if Doyle had sent him packing. Cowley and Doyle were equally formidable, in entirely different ways, of course. But Doyle was here, right now, while Cowley was miles away.
Doyle let them into the flat, which occupied the top floor of a terrace house. It was one of the nicer CI5 flats that Murphy had seen. Large bay windows dominated the sitting room with a few plants clinging to life on the sill. The furniture was a bit ratty but looked comfortable. Car magazines and newspapers were spread all over the coffee table.
Doyle flopped onto the couch and closed his eyes. Murph didn't feel so much like he was being shut out as that he was superfluous. He was of no concern to the man in this room. So rather than pace about like a mobile, nervous bit of furniture he did what any good English citizen would do under the circumstances: he made a pot of tea.
When he returned to the sitting room he found Doyle in the same position as he'd left him, but with his eyes open. The senior agent sat upand took the mug of tea from Murph.
"Ta," he said, but that was all.
Murphy sat in a wing chair in the room's corner and drank his tea.
He tried to relax, to pretend that they were just two friends sharing some quiet time together, but his acting skills didn't extend that far. Instead, he studied his companion. Nothing terribly intrusive, just the occasional glance in Doyle's direction to try and judge how he was doing. He'd thought he was being discreet, but he'd forgotten whom he was dealing with. Doyle noticed, and having noticed it was inevitable that he would say something.
"Don't worry Murph. I'm not going to shatter before your eyes." His mouth twisted to form a bitter smile. "I'll probably do that when you've gone."
"Doyle, I . . ." Murphy stopped, not entirely sure what it was that he wanted to say.
"Forget it." Doyle slouched down further into the couch and took a swallow of tea.
Murphy said nothing more, contenting himself with staring at his tea, with only the occasional quick glance in Doyle's direction. He didn't know what Cowley had said to Doyle, but he was glad that he hadn't had to make the official speech.
He wasn't sure how much longer he sat there in silence. It was at least long enough that the tea remaining in his mug had gone cold. He grimaced as he finished the last of it, noting at the same time that Doyle had long since abandoned his mug on the coffee table, its contents barely touched.
That simple observation started to lead to others as Murphy became, if not more relaxed at least marginally more at ease.
He started to notice the touches that had turned what was no more than an impersonal furnished flat into more of a home. The furniture in the sitting room was typical department issue, but the pictures on the walls weren't. Murphy made a guess that Doyle had drawn at least some of them, though they were unsigned. The kitchen had included more than CI5 supplied. There was a set of rather nice wineglasses above one cupboard.
Then there were the bedrooms. He'd seen both of them as he'd passed through to the kitchen at the back. Both the doors had been wide open, waiting for their owners. One was neat as a pin, the bed neatly made, dresser spotless, a wardrobe that no doubt contained a row of neatly pressed suits.
The other was quite the opposite. The bed not only hadn't been made, but looked as if its occupant had been training wild animals in it. The dresser was strewn with a greater array of brushes, combs and aftershave bottles than any one man could use. Clothes were strewn on the bed, on the room's lone chair and even on the floor. The wardrobe door was open, revealing a riot of clothes, all of which seemed to be simultaneously preparing to jump off their hangers.
At first Murphy assumed the rooms reflected their owners. Buttoned down, military trained Bodie would be the neat one. Doyle, of the scruffy hair and scruffier jeans, would be the slob. But the more he thought, the more that second room seemed more like a guestroom. A place for company to stay and to store extra clothes, but not a place where anyone lived.
That thought begat more thoughts. About the Bisto Kids, and how they always seemed to spend all their time together, on duty and off. How they had recently extended that to include their home life and become roommates. How certain rumours about the two of them had always seemed to circulate, then to die from lack of proof and abundance of absurdity.
Considering the amount of thinking he was suddenly doing, his next actions displayed a definite lack of thought. Or at least lack of care for his own person.
"How long had you two been roommates?" he asked, surprised himself that the words had come from his mouth.
"Eight months. Six in this flat, two in the one before."
Murph took a deep breath and asked the next question before his nerve deserted him. The baser part of his mind did it to satisfy his own curiosity. The more noble part of him did it so Doyle would have someone to talk to.
"And how long were you together?"
Doyle stared at him, anger merging with surprise. At least the grief had been banished from his face, however temporarily.
"You don't half take chances, Murph."
There was no response to that, so he remained silent.
Doyle continued looking at him. His expression gradually softened, as he found no disgust or disdain. Finally, he let out a great sigh, and the fight went out of him once again.
"How long have you known?" The question was weary.
"I hadn't really, until now. It was just a guess. You two were so close. And I never heard Bodie talk about any of his birds the way he talked about you."
Doyle looked down at the floor, his mouth twisting into a grimace Murph knew could only be a struggle for control. He wished that Doyle trusted him enough to be able to surrender that control in front of him, but he wouldn't push the issue.
He waited until Doyle had regained some balance, until his face had returned to a semblance of normalcy and his hands had stopped shaking.
Then he asked his question again.
"How long were you together?"
Two years. It wasn't long, but at least they'd had that much.
"Was it good?"
"Yeah," Doyle answered, in typically brief fashion. "Yeah, it was good."
"I'm glad." And Murphy was. He was glad that Bodie and Doyle had found each other. "Did Cowley know?"
"Of course Cowley bloody knew." He was suddenly the Doyle Murphy knew, full of spark and fire. "He'd have had our bollocks if we hadn't told him. He wasn't happy about it, but he told us hed keep the dogs from the door as long as we did the work and were discreet."
"And you'd better be discreet too, Murphy, or I'll tell Macklin you've been skiving off during training."
"I wouldn't tell any of the others. They're a bunch of immature wankers."
"Yeah." There was one brief spark of humour in Doyle's eyes and then the dead-eyed stranger returned.
Murph stayed until evening. He got in an Indian take away, and made sure that Doyle did more than drag his vindaloo around the plate.
He did some dishes, clearing away the remains of the morning's breakfast. He winced at the sight of the two plates covered with toast crumbs, a sign of the domesticity the two men had shared that had been wiped out by the day's work. He had almost left the crockery where it lay, but decided that it would be ridiculous to enshrine a knife covered in marmalade just because a dead man had used it last.
They didn't say much to each other the entire time, and it wasn't what Murphy would have called a comfortable silence. He spent much of his time glancing surreptitiously at Doyle, guessing at his state of mind. Doyle spent most of his time staring at the tops of his shoes.
The sun went down, and Murphy turned on the lights. Left to his own devices, Doyle would likely have just sat in the dark. Murphy considered turning on the telly, but neither of them was in the mood to watch anything, and having the wretched thing babbling in the corner would have made things worse somehow.
It was Doyle who finally broke the long silence.
"You should be going, Murph. You've got your own home."
Murph hesitated, reluctant to leave. Doyle didn't seem to be in a state to do himself harm, but maybe he was just putting on a good act.
"Umm, I . ."
"Look Murph, you've done your duty. You've made sure I've eaten something. You've cleaned the kitchen. You've done everything but cook up a casserole. It's time for you to go."
"But . . ."
"But nothing. Go." He looked straight at Murphy, pleading for the privacy to break free and express the grief he was hiding. "Please."
Murphy couldn't deny Doyle the request. He owed him that much. Getting up, he shrugged into his jacket.
"I'll go. But promise me one thing. Call if you need anything, if you just want to talk. Even if it's the middle of the night. Yeah?"
Murph nodded and squeezed Doyle's arm. Then he was out of the flat, and Doyle had closed the door behind him. He nearly flew down the stairs to the street, suddenly eager to be out of this place, and was in the car before he knew it.
He sat in the driver's side, clutching the steering wheel in a death grip. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake. He hoped Doyle wasn't going to top himself.
He wished Bodie were still alive.
Doyle tried to hang onto what little control he had when the door closed on Murphy. He nearly managed it, too. He closed the door deliberately, listening for the snick of the latch, then reset all the locks. That done, he got the letter the Cowley had given him and opened it, standing in the sitting room.
He had only read the first line when he felt the strength leach out of him. He sank gracelessly to the floor, his back braced against the couch.
"Damn you, Bodie. Damn you for leaving me. Damn you for thinking you could run my life from the grave."
He tried to focus on the anger, the betrayal he felt that Bodie had been claimed by death first. Maybe by concentrating on the anger he could ignore the gaping pit that had open up at his centre.
But the emptiness wouldn't be denied, and began to swallow him whole.
The shaking began in his hands and quickly spread to the rest of his body. He wrapped his arms around his knees, hoping to quell the worst of it, but that didn't seem to do much.
His breath began to catch in his chest. He couldn't seem to draw enough air into his lungs. His vision blurred until he finally closed his eyes, surrendering to the darkness inside him.
There he sat for hours, unable to find the strength to move, unable to think of anything except the pain that was an unavoidable part of him now.
Somewhere in the distance he could hear an awful howling. He wished it would stop.
Doyle awoke the next morning, curled on the floor of the sitting room. His muscles were aching, his face was sticky with dried tears and his eyes were so swollen he could barely see out of them.
He pushed himself up to a sitting position, and dragged a hand across his eyes with a great sniff.
"Christ, Bodie, you'd laugh yourself silly if you could see me now." He stood slowly, wincing at how hoarse his voice sounded. "Your great tough partner crying himself sick." He sniffed again, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.
"But your partner's not so tough after all. I just want to see you come back through that door." He felt the tears begin to leak from the corners of his eyes.
"Shit." He bolted for the bathroom, hiding from a nonexistent observer.
By force of will, he got the tears back in control again, then took a deep breath and looked at himself in the mirror.
He was an utter disaster. His eyes were even more swollen than he'd imagined, his face red and blotchy. His hair looked like several rats had been nesting in it for days. And as he looked he could see the tears begin to form again.
No one would believe that he was capable of doing a day's work, looking the way he did, and if there was one thing he knew right now, he had to get back to work. If he stayed in this flat, he'd go stark raving mad in no time. He might even end up doing what he knew Murph and Cowley had both feared: stick his gun in his mouth and get it over with.
No, he had to show up at HQ this morning.
Stripping, he turned on the shower and stepped under the spray. Maybe the water would get rid of the worst of the damage.
Half an hour later he stood looking at himself in the bedroom mirror. He was still a bloody disaster area, but he'd hidden the worst of the damage. His curls, still damp from the shower, had been tamed. His skin was no longer completely blotchy, although it was still a bit pinker than usual. But his eyes . . . they looked even worse. More bloodshot than he'd ever seen them, and possibly even more swollen than they'd been when he started.
Nothing for it. He grabbed his darkest pair of sunglasses off the bureau and jammed them on his face. They hid the worst of it. Now all he had to do was come up with a plausible excuse to keep them on all day.
He was heading for the door, searching his pockets for his keys, when he stopped cold.
He didn't have a car.
Murphy had driven him home last night.
He was stuck here.
Murphy was finishing up the cup of tea that he usually called breakfast when the phone rang.
"Murph? It's Doyle. I was wondering if you could pick me up."
"Doyle? Do you really . . ."
"Don't argue Murph. The Cow knows I'm coming in. He approved it, for Christ's sake. C'mon, be a mate."
"Yeah, all right. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
He managed to make it in ten. Doyle was waiting at the kerb, and got into the car almost before it had stopped.
"Thanks," was all he said before he stuck his trainers on the dash in front of him and sank down into the seat.
Murphy snuck the occasional sideways look at his colleague. He noted the dark glasses, especially since it was a sunless day tending more to drizzle than glare, but didn't say anything about them.
After they had driven halfway to headquarters in complete silence, Murph finally decided to risk talking.
"How are you?"
"How the hell do you think I am?" Doyle's response was quick and unforgiving. Murphy decided that reticence was the better part of valour and said not a word for the rest of the journey. CI5 didn't pay him enough to take on a grieving and belligerent Ray Doyle.
At HQ, they entered the rest room together to find a convocation of agents. Murph entered first and noticed a few people making moves to offer Doyle their sympathy. He warned them off with a look. He reckoned Cowley wouldn't want any more dead agents on his hands, and Doyle seemed in a mood to do damage if he thought he was being coddled or patronized.
Doyle seemed oblivious to any of this. He walked through the room and parked himself in the most inaccessible corner of the room. If he'd raised a "do not disturb" sign over his head in neon the message couldn't have been clearer.
Murphy left him to it, deciding to find out for himself what was up. There was too great an atmosphere of anticipation in the room for all the talking to be only idle chatter.
Jax was huddled by the window with McCabe, talking in hushed whispers. Murph decided to pump them for information.
"Murph," Jax acknowledged him with a brief nod. "You bring Doyle in?"
"How's he doing, then?" Leave it to McCabe to cut to the chase.
"How do you think? Bloody awful." Murph spared a glance in Doyle's direction. "Still, I suppose he'll recover."
"Tough to lose a partner. Especially since they were so close." Jax sounded sympathetic
"They were close, all right." McCabe, however, was as much of a berk as ever.
"Oh, don't be a prat, McCabe." Murphy said in reflex, remembering his promise to Doyle to be discreet.
"Yeah, McCabe," said Anson, with an unexpected defense of Doyle and Bodie. "Just because your best friend is your own right hand you shouldn't think the worst of everyone else."
Or the best, thought Murph, but he would never voice that thought out loud. Not here.
He quickly changed the subject, nodding at all the other agents milling around the room.
"What's up here?"
"No one's sure. All unassigned agents were told to be at the ready. All we do know is that forensics is in talking to Cowley."
"Yeah. They were in working on the bombsite all night. They must have found something. Leighton came rushing in talked to Cowley for a minute. That was when we all got the order to stand by. Then they disappeared into Cowley's office. They've been there for the better part of fifteen minutes."
George Cowley sat talking to Stephen Leighton and felt his hopes begin to rise for the first time in twenty-four hours. He had been praying for a miracle, and it seemed that a miracle had been delivered. CI5's head of forensics had just given him what appeared to be a second chance.
"Are you certain about this?" he asked. He couldn't go to his men with this hope, only to find it was some sort of cruel mistake.
"95%, yes. We haven't excavated the whole site, but we have done most of it."
"Thank you, Leighton. I should let you get back to the job. I've got a group of curious operatives to attend to. No telling what sort of trouble they'll get into if I leave them to their own devices too long."
"I'm glad you're the one to deal with them, sir."
Cowley escorted Leighton out of his office and headed for the rest room. As soon as he entered the room the quiet buzz of talk ceased and all eyes turned towards him. He closed the door behind him and moved to the front of the room.
He stood up there for a moment, hoping that he was not about to present his men with a pipe dream that would turn to naught. He looked around the room until he found one pair of eyes in particular. Doyle's face was impassive, shuttered, but the dark glasses told Cowley more than he wanted to know about the man's state of mind.
He would delay no longer.
"I've asked all of you to stand by because I've just received a report from our forensics section. They've informed me that they have found no evidence of human remains at the bomb site." He waited until the implications of that statement sunk in before continuing. He noted that Doyle seemed to catch on immediately, and leaned forward in his chair, listening hard. "Forensics believes that the terrorists used a tunnel in the basement of the warehouse to escape and blew the building to cover their trail. They've found access to the building from a tunnel linking into the Underground's system."
"We're working on the assumption that the terrorists are alive and are holding 3.7 hostage. Since we have received no ransom demands, it appears likely they wanted to obtain information from him, but we can't be sure of that."
"What we can be sure of is that one of our own has been captured. I want all of you out on the streets and I want him found. Hit all of your usual sources; call in all your favours. I don't need to remind any of you that the longer Bodie is left in the hands of these people, the less likely it is he will be found alive. I want information about his location on my desk by this evening. Am I understood?"
"Yes sir," came the response from all the agents in the room.
"Right, then. On your bikes, lads." He had one last issue that needed to be dealt with. "Doyle, my office. Murphy, wait here. You'll be working with 4.5."
He didn't need to give the command twice as they all scattered. He noticed a few going over to Doyle to give him encouraging pats on the arm. None of them stayed long, though, no doubt unwilling to risk Doyle's justifiably famous temper.
Cowley followed Doyle down the corridor, letting him into his office. He motioned Doyle to sit in one of his visitor's chairs, but remained standing himself. He wanted to make sure he had every psychological advantage in this encounter. Not that he wanted to best Doyle, but he also didn't want him on the job if he was in no shape to do it. He had to be confident that Doyle belonged out there. That he wouldn't be careless and get himself killed. Or worse, make a mistake that got Bodie killed. He wasn't sure that Doyle could take Bodie's death a second time.
"I need to be certain that you're up to this."
"Course I am."
"There's no 'of course' about it, lad. You've had a bad shock. I don't want you going out on the streets if you're anything less than your best. Not when this much depends on it."
"It's because so much depends on it that I've got to be out there." Cowley had never seen Doyle come this close to pleading before. "I'm one of the best you've got, even now. If I'm out there, that's one more chance we have of finding him."
Cowley didn't say anything. He just reached over and, before Doyle could react, pulled off the dark glasses Doyle had been hiding behind. With the glasses on, Doyle had appeared almost normal, the hard man trained to do a hard job. Without them, his vulnerability was completely exposed. His almond eyes were swollen to slits, and so bloodshot there was barely any white left. With the ruin of his eyes exposed, the other flaws in the facade showed more clearly. The slight unsteadiness of the mouth, the barest hint of a tremor in his hands.
Yet in spite of the fact that Doyle clearly knew how badly he looked, he didn't back down. He met Cowley's gaze squarely, daring his superior to find fault.
A taut silence held for several long moments. Doyle broke the tension by reaching over and taking the glasses from Cowley's hand and putting them back in place. With the glasses back, on the hard man returned.
"I'm going out there, sir."
"Yes, I suppose you are." Cowley took a deep breath before continuing. "But you look after yourself, lad. I don't want to have to stage a rescue for the both of you. Or to explain to Bodie what happened to you when we get him back." Neither of them mentioned the possibility that Bodie would not be found alive. They were both all too aware of the chances of that happening.
"I promise, sir."
"Then, go do your job." Cowley softened his tone slightly. "Bring him back."
"Yes sir." Doyle looked at him intently before leaving the office.
George Cowley poured himself a generous shot of pure malt whisky. He sank into his chair, took a long swallow and hoped he was doing the right thing.
They'd been waiting for him. They'd been waiting for a CI5 agent.
More specifically, they'd been waiting for a CI5 agent who was brave enough, reckless enough, stupid enough to enter a building that was supposed to be crawling with terrorists. He'd walked right into their trap.
The worst part wasn't that he should have known better, it was that he had known better. He'd volunteered to do a recce on the broken down warehouse that had become headquarters to some new group of nutters threatening to blow things up if the world wasn't arranged to their liking.
Amateurs, they'd all thought.
So, he'd gone in close, with Doyle and the other lads laying cover. He'd looked through windows that hadn't been cleaned since the industrial revolution, trying to get some idea of their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. And he'd seen her.
A womanno, more like a girl--trussed up and gagged and tossed into what seemed to be a storage room, dusty and filled with boxes.
He's sworn then, under his breath.
He'd known what Cowley would say, could hear the controller's words in his head. "It's a trap, man. Leave any hostages until we have a better idea of how to approach the building." Doyle's thoughts were a tougher call. He might have agreed with Cowley. Or, idealism in full flood, he might have suggested what Bodie found himself doing. Rescue the hostage. Save one innocent before a firefight broke out.
Whatever his colleagues might have done, Bodie acted on his initial impulse, stifling the instinct that told him that what he was doing was wrong, was stupid, was going to get him killed. He ignored that instinct all the time. He couldn't have done his job if he worried about his own skin.
He looked in the window again, this time making sure that he caught the girl's attention. He knew he'd succeeded when he saw her eyes widen. He smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way, and put a finger to his lips, signaling her to keep silent. She nodded eagerly. Slinging his assault rifle across his back, he opened the window, which miraculously was neither locked nor barred, and slid into the room.
A quick look confirmed there were no surprises waiting for him. He moved silently towards the girl. The knife in his pocket made short work of the ropes binding her. He removed the gag from her mouth.
"You OK?" he asked.
She nodded, but said nothing. Fear, he assumed, was keeping her quiet.
"Right, then. We've got to get out of here. Fast. Follow me."
He'd turned his back on her then, trusting that she was as eager to leave this grotty little room as he was. He was halfway to the window when he heard the sound of a door opening and the rush of feet into the room. He didn't even have time to act. He was overcome by two men and disarmed. It was the girl who placed the hood over his head, a mocking smile on her face.
When he'd struggled, he'd been clipped behind the ear with what must have been a handgun. The blow had stunned him, but not knocked him out, thank Christ for that. He didn't want to deal with a concussion on top of everything else.
After he'd been struck, he was a bit less clear on what had happened. His captors had rushed him through the warehouse, always going down. They had gone through what must have been an underground tunnel, judging by what he remembered of the echo and the damp. He had heard an explosion at some point during their journey through the tunnel. Finally they had tossed him into the back of a van, tied him up very securely indeed and driven to their current location.
Wherever that was.
They had driven for hours. Bodie had tried to listen for some clue that would tell him where they were, but he'd had no luck. Eventually, exhausted and in pain, sleep had taken him. And he had awoken, minus the hood and hands cuffed behind him, here.
Here was a small, windowless room with absolutely no distinguishing features. Judging from the cold and damp, it seemed to be part of a basement, but that was all he could guess at. It might have been in the city or the country, he couldn't tell.
He didn't even know what time it was. He'd lost track when he'd fallen asleep in the van, and his captors had taken his watch. That last thing bothered him the most.
They'd thought these kids were amateurs. Amateurs wouldn't have set such an expert trap. Amateurs wouldn't have caught him off guard so thoroughly. And amateurs wouldn't have known that a very good way of disorienting a prisoner was to make sure they had no way of keeping track of the time.
This lot were professionals, and they were after something.
Just as he came to this realization, the door to the room opened, and four men entered. Bodie may not have been wearing a hood, but the group in front of him was wearing balaclavas. They didn't want Bodie able to identify them. That was good. That meant they didn't plan on killing him. Yet.
"On your feet," the first one ordered, gesturing with the rifle in his hands. The other three also had guns, of various makes and calibers.
Bodie took his time getting to his feet, calculating his chances. He was unarmed and handcuffed. He was outnumbered four to one. His captors were armed. Still, if they weren't as professional as they thought...
Bodie looked into the eyes of the first man, the one who had talked. The eyes were a dark brown. They showed no emotion, no mercy.
Nah, they were professionals and then some. He just hoped that he honestly didn't know what they were after. Or if he did possess the information they needed, that he could hide it from them long enough. Hide it from them until he was rescued. Or hide it from them until he was dead.
His captors guided him down a dark airless hall to another dank little room where a man and a woman, also in balaclavas waited. On the way, he sent up a message to whatever gods or angels or entities might be listening.
Let me hold out. Let me not betray the squad. Let them find me alive. Let them find me whole.
And please, God, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, let it not be Doyle who finds me if nothing goes right and I'm left dead and broken in that black little room.
Murphy waited impatiently for Doyle to emerge from Cowley's office. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on in the Cow's inner sanctum, and he didn't want to know. He was just thankful, yet again, that he wasn't the man in charge of CI5.
When Doyle did at last emerge he was a bit subdued. Not that it was easy to tell; hed been that way all day.
He also still had the sunglasses firmly planted on his face. Murphy was coming to hate those bloody glasses, but since he reckoned he knew what they were hiding he wasn't going to ask Doyle to take them off.
One look at Doyle's face, even with his eyes hidden, warned Murph not to say a word, so they headed towards the carpool in silence. Murphy was the one who checked out the car, and the one who drove. Doyle made no objections to that arrangement, not that it would have made any difference. Murphy was willing to make some allowances for 4.5 right now, but there was no way he was going to let him drive.
Once they were on the road, there was no way they could avoid talking. Murphy was the one who broke the silence.
"I thought we could check out the South Bank first. I've got a few contacts there in the terrorist community."
"So it's a community now, is it?"
"Just a manner of speaking, Doyle."
He received a snort for an answer. He was lucky Doyle hadn't given him worse, and he knew it.
Doyle was quiet for most of the morning as they hit a number of the less reputable South Bank pubs where Murphy had contacts. He backed Murphy up, but said virtually nothing. Murphy reckoned it was just the calm before the storm and braced himself for the coming fury. He had to wait a few hours.
They'd traveled to Doyle's old patch, to see if any of his erstwhile informants might know anything. There wasn't much hope that they would find anything. Most of the people Doyle knew from his time on the Met were low-level criminals, not much likely to hear about a top-secret plot to kidnap a CI5 agent. They ran into one person after another who couldn't tell them a thing.
Murphy could see the tension building up in Doyle as they hit one disappointment after another. The eruption finally happened during their interrogation of an especially loathsome creature, a street dealer named Jack.
Like all the others, Jack didn't know anything. Unlike all the others, he seemed not to realize that he was playing with fire and started taking the piss out of Doyle.
Doyle held back for longer than Murphy would have credited him, but finally could take no more. Without warning, he laid into the bloke.
Even though he'd been expecting something, the violence of the attack surprised Murphy. Doyle seemed to be taking every ounce of his hatred for the kidnappers out on this hapless, stupid dealer. Murphy stood in paralysed shock for a moment before he acted. He pulled Doyle off the man, managing to do so only with an extremely strong headlock. Though the attack had been brief, Doyle had already managed to do some damage. Jack's nose streamed with blood, and it looked like he would develop quite a black eye.
Murphy hauled Doyle by the scruff of the neck over to the car and manhandled him into the passenger seat. Then he returned to Doyle's victim, alternately placating and bullying the man into not reporting the incident.
Doyle's reputation saved, Murphy returned to the car and pulled out into traffic, shifting the gears viciously.
He'd been willing to make allowances, but this was the limit. It was one thing to take care around a man whose partner was missing. It was quite another to let him become a homicidal maniac. He'd had enough.
He yanked the wheel and pulled into a side street before stopping the car, rather faster than he needed to.
"Okay, I know this might be out of line, but I've had it, Doyle. You're hurting. Bodie's missing. We all feel bad. But you cannot lose control. I'm not Bodie; I don't work that way."
Doyle's face flushed. Murph thought that this was it, this was where he caught it. Instead, Doyle threw open the door and sprang from the car. He started pacing up and down the street, pausing only once to kick the tyre of their car.
Murphy sat watching him for a few minutes, waiting for him to cool down, at least a bit. Only when Doyle started to slow his pace did he venture out of the car.
He went and sat on the bonnet, his arms crossed in front of him, and watched Doyle. After perhaps a minute, 4.5 finally stopped. Murphy wasn't sure this was any better, having Doyle standing in front of him with an altogether belligerent stance.
"You all right now?" he asked.
"I suppose," Doyle said, though he didn't sound much convinced of the fact.
"You're not going to help him, acting like a maniac you know."
"Don't push it, Murph."
"Then don't you push it." He was sick of coddling Doyle. "You behave like what you are: a member of CI5, a professional."
Doyle said nothing, he merely turned his back on Murphy.
"And you try another stunt like that and I'm going to Cowley and having him pull you in, and damn whatever deal the two of you made."
That got Doyle's attention.
"You wouldn't dare."
"Try me." Murphy did his best to maintain a level even tone. It would do no good if both of them started behaving like idiots.
For a moment he almost thought that Doyle was going to hit him. But then the older operative seemed to almost visibly rein himself in and he knew the moment of danger had passed. The crisis over, Murphy began to feel a small amount of regret.
"I'm sorry mate, but you're not going to do him any good, going on like that."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right." Doyle ran a hand through his curls. "It's just...it's so bloody frustrating, not finding anyone who knows what's happened. It's like he's disappeared off the face of the earth. And we both know it's a time game. The faster we find him, the more likely it is he'll be unhurt."
"And alive," Murphy couldn't help adding.
"Yeah, alive," Doyle agreed. "Christ, we both know he might be dead already. We might just be looking for a corpse to give it a decent burial. But I can't think about that. I've got to assume he's alive."
"We're all assuming that, Doyle. We all want him found alive."
"Not as much as I do." Doyle's voice was nearly a whisper.
There was no possible response to that, so Murphy didn't even try.
He merely opened the passenger door of the car, and held it open.
"Shall we go get him back?"
Doyle nodded, and got into the car, calmer and saner than he had been. Murphy was more confident than hed been all day that they could do their job.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent running down the rest of Doyle's contacts. Murphy kept an eye on Doyle, but his temporary partner never again crossed the line. His interrogations were strictly by the book. Okay, maybe Doyle played the bad cop a couple of times. But never again did he go off the deep end, become dangerous.
It was an afternoon of good investigative work.
And it paid off.
Late in the afternoon, they ran down yet another informant, a worm by the name of Norman. After a little convincing he agreed that he might know something about a plot to kidnap a CI5 agent. And after a little more convincing they got a name.
Just a single name. No address, no description.
But it was a start.
Bodie sat in the cold, subterranean room he'd been stuck in yet again and considered his situation. There really wasn't much else he could do, for the moment.
He wasn't sure quite what he'd been expecting, but the turn this lot's questions were taking was definitely making him uneasy. What did he know of George Cowley's personal life? What were the controller's habits, his routine? What car did he drive? Did he have a chauffeur? Question after question about the Cow.
They were planning a hit on Cowley, no doubt about it.
And one William Andrew Philip Bodie had been selected by the fates to provide them with the information they needed to do it.
He was fucked if he was going to give it to them.
Fortunately, the SAS and then CI5 had trained him for just this sort of situation. Don't be a hero. Don't volunteer anything. Make them think you're too low on the pecking order to know anything. Answer honestly when you can, vaguely when you can't. Play up any injuries you have, make them think you're at death's door if you have to.
That last bit wasn't too difficult, Bodie thought, trying his best to smile. He must look like something that had been scraped off an old boot. He certainly felt that way. He tried to inventory the injuries, making sure nothing was life threatening, calculating how long he could last before he'd been in real trouble.
His face had been well worked over. It felt swollen to twice its normal size. It'd be a while before Ray complimented him on his looks again. Not good, but mostly cosmetic. The worst part of the injuries to his face was the cracked tooth that was giving him constant, nagging pain.
His hands were more of a concern. They'd worked over his right hand, his shooting hand. Several of the fingers were badly sprained; one, the ring finger, was broken. Still, all of that was painful, but it wasn't going to kill him.
What he was most worried about was that he was going to bleed to death internally.
They'd strung him up and worked over his torso with assorted clubs and pipes. From the way it hurt to move, he reckoned they'd broken a couple of ribs already. And the way he was pissing blood, his kidneys weren't in great shape either.
He wasn't in trouble yet, but he was watching himself for signs of shock and blood loss.
He just hoped he could hold on and hold out until the mob found him. He reckoned they'd find him, eventually. There weren't many places someone could hide once Raymond Doyle got it into his head to look for you. It was just a matter of time.
There was only problem: time wasn't Bodie's ally.
It was funny how things worked.
Yesterday morning they'd only just found out that Bodie was not in fact dead, but had likely been kidnapped. Other than that, they'd had no information. No clue as to who had done the kidnapping, no idea of where he'd been taken. Not even a hint about where to start.
It had seemed hopeless.
Then they'd got a name. Or rather Doyle had got a name.
That had led to another name, which set off some alarm bells, which led to Cowley calling in some very dearly won favours from MI6.
All of which had ended in them finding a concrete target to raid, a specific spot where, according to all reasonable intelligence, they should find Bodie and find him alive.
George Cowley sat in his office and tried to hold onto that thought. Shortly before dawn this morning they should find Bodie, alive, undamaged and probably asking for a damned swiss roll. At least that was how the fantasy went. Cowley was far too much of a realist to be able to hold onto that fantasy for long.
The terrorists would have had Bodie for nearly 48 hours. They wouldn't have broken him-- Bodie was far too tough, too well trained to have broken in that short a time--but Cowley had no illusions that he'd be uninjured. He just hoped that the injuries would not be severe, not be anything Bodie couldn't shake off with a few weeks recuperation.
He didn't want to lose a good operative needlessly.
If he examined his own motivations more deeply, and he would only allow himself to do that in the dark hours before dawn, he also had to admit that he would miss the infuriating bastard horribly--had done for those hours when they had really thought he was dead--and he didn't want to go through that again.
Nor did he want Doyle to feel that again.
So, he prepared against that possibility in the only way he knew how. He planned, schemed and plotted, and when he could plot no more he tried to foresee the unforeseeable. There would be no room for error and, God preserve him, he was going to make bloody well sure that no error was made.
He was leading this operation himself. He would trust it to no one else. He'd sent the advance teams on several hours ago. They were staking out the target, an old farmhouse an hour south of London, making sure that Bodie wasn't moved before they could act. The main team was to set out at half past three, which his watch told him was a mere 20 minutes away. He himself would be leaving shortly after that.
The team would be assembled and ready to move just before five. The sun would not yet be up and their adversaries should be at their least efficient, their most susceptible.
In two hours, the op would come to its successful conclusion.
He would allow no other outcome.
The worst part of any op wasn't coming under fire, it wasn't having to watch for booby traps and ambushes. The worst part was waiting for it to start.
Doyle tucked himself into the hedge he was using for cover and listened to his R/T for the go ahead. He tried to calm the butterflies that had taken up residence in his stomach and gave thanks that his hands were steady as a rock.
Every few minutes he'd nip his head up and take a look at the building that was their goal. It was a completely unremarkable stone farmhouse, probably a couple of hundred years old by the look of it. It had no doubt housed good solid farming folk for most of its existence. But it had fallen into disrepair some time ago and now it sheltered terrorists.
"I wish they'd get it started," he whispered to his companion. Murph looked back at him and merely nodded. Everyone hated the waiting; Doyle wasn't unique in that.
Doyle kept silent for a while, trying to think positively. They knew where Bodie was, they had a really crack team waiting to get him out. Everything would be fine.
He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he nearly jumped when Murphy broke the silence.
"You all right?"
"Course I'm all right. What do you think?" Doyle tried not to snap, but it was difficult.
It wasn't fair of him. Murph had been a brick from the start of this nightmare. He deserved better than to be teamed with a sarky bastard. Mind you, the sarky bastard was damned grateful that Murphy had been there for him.
"Don't worry about it," Murphy replied, a slight, strained smile on his face.
Doyle returned the smile, and they both settled in to wait for the go on the op.
Several minutes later, there was the crack of a twig behind them. They both swung abruptly around, rifles at the ready.
"Sloppy 4.5, 6.2. I shouldn't have been able to get this close to you."
"Yes sir," they both said. Doyle felt his face burn and was thankful that it was still too dark for such weakness to show. He didn't want to give the Cow any reason to bin him from this op. He had to be here.
"A word, 4.5," Cowley said, then moved off toward the road.
Doyle followed silently, hoping that Cowley had not read his thoughts and was even now ready to chuck him back in a car heading for London.
Cowley led him away from the house, towards the road, stopping in a grove of trees that effectively hid them from view.
"I want you to be clear on your motivations, Doyle," Cowley said firmly in a voice that would brook no opposition. "This operation is not an opportunity for you to indulge in a taste for revenge. Whatever we find, I expect you to behave like a member of CI5, not a vigilante."
"Sir..."Doyle began, indignation rising within him.
Cowley's expression softened slightly.
"I know you're not likely to do anything rash, lad. But I've got to be sure we understand each other. Do we?"
Doyle paused for a moment before answering. He didnt want to lie to Cowley, even unconsciously. He respected his superior too much. He also found that he respected his own ideals too much to do what Cowley was suggesting.
"Yeah," he nodded. "We understand each other. No vendettas."
"Good lad," Cowley said, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder. "Now back into position. We move in five minutes"
Murphy, to his credit, didn't say a word when Doyle returned. They both just hunkered back down into position.
Almost exactly five minutes later, the final word came over the R/T.
"Everyone, on the move. Keep it quiet. I don't want any contact until we're in the building."
Doyle gave Murphy a last look. They nodded at each other, then started forward.
Bodie wasn't sure what woke him at first. All he knew was that he came to on the hard floor of the basement room where he'd been dumped after the last round of interrogation. He hurt just about everywhere, and was stiff from sleeping on the floor. He knew it could have been worse, but that was cold comfort.
It took him a few moments to clear the cobwebs after waking, disturbing for someone used to waking immediately alert. As soon as he was fully awake, he knew what it was that had woken him. Something was going on upstairs.
There were loud crashes and the sound of furniture being overturned. He moved cautiously toward the door, and tried the knob. It was still locked. But at least they hadn't tied his hands.
The sound of the first shot stopped him cold. One shot, then silence for an immeasurable length of time. He found himself unable to breathe while he waited for something, anything to happen.
And then all hell broke loose. Gunfire seemed to erupt from all over the structure above him. There were more sounds of crashes and the sound of feet running madly off in all directions.
It was CI5, he told himself. It had to be. The mad bastards had somehow found out where he was and were here to rescue him.
He started to mentally send a message to them. 'I'm here. I'm in the basement. I'm alive. Doyle, I'm alive.'
He heard the sound of feet descending the staircase to the basement. He hoped it was one of the lads, but natural caution made him back up against the rear wall of the room.
The door flew open and he found himself face to face not with Doyle or McCabe or Cowley, but one of his captors. The man paused in the door, a Browning in his hands and aimed straight at Bodie.
Time slowed down to a crawl.
He concentrated on the gun, and the man holding it. He flashed suddenly back to his close combat training years ago. A man with a gun was only a problem if he was committed to firing it. Without the will to fire, he was just another wanker waiting to be put down.
Bodie stared at the man in front of him, judging his commitment.
Was this toe-rag really going to pull the trigger? Was he as ruthless as he was pretending to be?
Could Bodie rush and disarm him with only one good hand and feeling stiff as an old man?
He did the calculations.
Maybe ten percent chance that he could get the gun away before being shot himself.
Zero percent chance that this bastard in front of him wouldn't pull the trigger.
Bodie poised on the balls of his feet and prepared to move.
The CI5 force moved in on the farmhouse quickly and silently. They were hoping to catch their prey unaware.
Luck was with them. The front and rear doors were knocked in simultaneously without the terrorists having the slightest idea what was coming for them.
Doyle and Murphy had been assigned to the group that was to take out the rear door. They had it done and were inside in seconds. Along with Ruth Pettifer, they found themselves in an old kitchen, with darkly finished cabinets and a wood stove.
There was the sound of shouting, and of furniture being pushed out of place. They could hear the team taking the front door.
It was a nearly a minute before they found themselves under fire.
They were pinned down by shooting from the front of the house.
It was a standoff. They couldn't get clear aim at their attackers, but they were protected themselves by the solid cupboard they had taken refuge behind.
Doyle listened closely to the fight. Behind the sounds of bullets and men shouting he could hear the clattering of boots on stairs. Some of the footsteps sounded like they came from the first story, members of the group coming to their comrades defense. But one set of footsteps seemed to come from a different place, and to be descending away from them.
Someone was going down to the cellar. All reason told Doyle that they were likely to put their prisoner in the cellar, and they weren't likely to let that prisoner be found alive. Chances were if he didn't find Bodie quickly, he was going to find a body.
He looked frantically around the room where they were. The salvos pinning Murphy, Ruth and himself down was coming from the door leading to the front of the house. No possibility of getting out that way.
There was, however, another door leading out of the kitchen and into a hallway. Doyle was going to bet Bodie's life that the door to the basement was down that hallway.
But he was going to have to get past hostile fire to make it there.
He caught Ruth's eye and nodded towards the door.
"You lot give me cover. I'm going to make a try for there."
"Doyle, don't be an idiot," Murphy said angrily. "You'll be cut to ribbons."
"Sod off, Murph." He looked at his other colleague. "You got any problems with this, Ruth?"
Ruth looked at him closely, clearly calculating what she saw before she committed either way.
"Nah, you go right ahead. Just keep your head down."
"Cheers, Ruth. Murph?"
"Go ahead. We'll watch your back." Murphy seemed resigned, but Doyle knew he would do a damn good job. Almost as good as Bodie.
"Thanks." He waited for the pause in shooting that would signal their opponents were changing magazines, then made a run at the door. He heard the bark of Ruth and Murphy's guns behind him, covering his path. Even so, several bullets came dangerously close before he made it to the hallway.
His luck held. There was no waiting ambush in the hall. Just four closed doors staring at him. The first one was the pantry, now disused and dusty. The second was what he was looking for. A well-worn staircase stretched before him into the darkness. He pulled a penlight from his belt, wishing it was a proper torch, and descended into the basement.
The basement was a strike team's worst nightmare: a series of small concrete rooms all stretching off a common narrow hallway. He supposed that the rooms had held various crops and preserves back when this had been a working farm. Now, however, it was a deathtrap.
He should have taken it slowly, made sure each separate room held no hidden adversaries, no unseen danger. He should have approached this space in the way he had been trained.
He knew he couldn't afford the time.
He ran down the hall, pausing only long enough at each doorway to make certain it did not contain Bodie. One after the other, he found them all empty, until there was only one left.
He did allow himself a moment's pause outside the last door, a moment to collect himself and prepare for what he would find. Then he burst inside.
A man with a handgun stood poised to shoot at another man standing at the back wall. The second man was preparing to charge his attacker.
Doyle didn't even think; his training had prepared him for moments like this.
He screamed "down". Without even waiting to see if his command would be obeyed--he knew it would be --he opened fire on the terrorist. Bodie's attacker went down immediately. Doyle didn't even spare him a second glance.
He was over at his partner's side immediately, drawing him to his feet. Not caring about propriety or what others might think, he wrapped his arms around Bodie, drawing comfort from the warm, solid flesh in his grasp. He leaned his face into Bodie's shoulder, while one hand clutched the short silk of his partner's hair. He could feel Bodie's hands clutching at the leather of his jacket, seeking the reassurance of touch.
Neither of them said a word. Touch was the only communication they needed.
Doyle only let go when he felt Bodie flinch and draw in a breath with a hiss.
"You all right?" he asked, letting go.
"Yeah, I will be. The ribs are just a bit dodgy."
It was then that Doyle got a really good look at Bodie in the gloomy light of the basement.
His clothes were a tattered mess. He was standing hunched over and was favouring his right hand. The hand was badly swollen and it looked as if one finger might be broken. His hand was nearly as swollen as his face.
His lower lip was split and bloody. Both his eyes were blacked and one cheek had taken a fearsome beating.
Doyle winced as he ran a thumb carefully along Bodie's jaw.
"Christ, mate, you look a fright."
"Yeah, I thought I might." Bodie gingerly touched his face. "I reckoned they were trying to give me a cheekbone to match yours. Nearly succeeded too, but my beauty was too much for 'em."
"You..." Doyle tried to fall into their usual pattern of banter, but it failed him. Instead he took Bodie back in his arms, more careful of his injuries this time, and leaned his face into Bodie's neck. He ignored the stinging in his eyes, and tried to pretend that he hadn't made that loud sniffing noise that suddenly filled the room.
"I thought you were dead."
"Well, I'm not. So just you stop it, Ray. I'm right here."
They held each other for a few more moments before duty separated them.
"I reckon I should let them know you're okay," Doyle said.
"You do that, sunshine. But let's get away from that." Bodie nodded in the direction of the body that shared the room with them.
Doyle took Bodie's arm and helped him out of the room. They moved into the room closest the stairs, the two of them sitting with their backs to the wall, facing the door. Doyle made sure that his gun was ready before he pulled out his R/T. It wasn't an idle preparation; they could still hear the sounds of fighting from upstairs.
"4.5 to Alpha One."
"I've found Bodie. He's alive."
"Is he hurt?"
"A bit, yeah. But he doesn't look too badly off." Bodie stuck his tongue out, then grimaced as his face protested the movement.
"Serves you right," Doyle whispered.
"What was that, 4.5?"
"I'm sure it was nothing," Cowley said suspiciously. "Where are you?"
"We've holed up in a room in the cellar. It seems pretty secure."
"You stay there until we come and get you. They're still cleaning up above you. I wouldn't want you coming under friendly fire."
"Me neither. We'll keep our heads down."
"Good. Cowley out."
"Cowley sounds a bit chuffed." Bodie sounded amused and a bit chuffed himself.
"He's got cause. We've got you back, don't we. He'd have been right narked if you'd been dead when we got here."
"Wouldn't have affected you, though. Would it sunshine?" Bodie was attempting playful, but there was a hint of desperation beneath his words. Doyle wasn't feeling playful; he was feeling truthful.
"More than you could imagine, love."
"Ah, Ray," was all Bodie could say before he was overcome and buried his face in Doyle's chest.
Doyle choked back his own emotions, put an arm protectively around his partner and sat back to wait for their rescuers.
Cowley returned his R/T to his coat pocket and allowed himself a small measure of relief.
Bodie was alive. Alive and liable to stay that way if Ray Doyle could be depended on. And he could.
That one, not insignificant worry slipped from his shoulders, to be immediately replaced by many others. This was still a major operation, and hadn't been won yet. His men were still coming under fire from an unfriendly force; there were still villains at large.
But Bodie was alive. Now he had only to make certain the rest of his men stayed alive as well.
He needn't have worried.
In the end, two terrorists ended up dead and three others were wounded. The rest surrendered, not quite peaceably. The only CI5 injury was McCabe, who had caught some wood splinters from a bullet ricochet in the face. The injury was superficial, but you wouldn't have thought it to hear McCabe go on. Cowley was just thankful that there were no other injuries, besides Bodie's, to look to.
He looked over the field of operations. Everything seemed to be under control. The remaining terrorists were being removed from the house in handcuffs. A last round of communications to his team leaders confirmed that the building itself had been secured. All was well.
There only remained the matter of fetching Bodie and Doyle out of the cellar.
He saw Murphy leaving the house, covering a prisoner that Ruth Pettiferhad well in hand. He waved 6.2 over to him.
"Have you heard from Doyle, sir?" Murphy asked him before he could even say a word.
"Yes. He and Bodie are in the basement." Cowley could see the question in Murphy's eyes, and assuaged his agent's fears. "They're both fine, though Bodie has some injuries. Grab the medical kit, and we can go down and get them sorted."
"Yes sir." Murphy was running before he had completed the short sentence.
He caught up to Cowley just as the CI5 controller was about to enter the house. Cowley smiled in spite of himself as Murphy slung the medical kit over his shoulder, unholstered his handgun and moved in front of him, protecting the boss from possible harm. He'd trained them all well.
They moved through the house and descended the stairs to the basement. A single bare bulb lit the area, barely breaking the gloom.
They came to the first room, a small construction of cinder blocks. They nearly missed Bodie and Doyle in the dim light. The two men were sitting against the back wall of the room. Doyle had one arm wrapped protectively around his partner. His other hand held a gun pointed straight at the door, and the newcomers.
"Murph? Is that you?" Doyle's voice sounded tired.
"Yeah. And Cowley's with me."
"Is it over, then?"
"Yes, lad, it's over." Cowley answered. He entered the room with Murphy and approached his two agents.
"Thank Christ for that," Doyle said, finally letting his gun hand drop. "Any of our blokes injured?"
"Not unless you count McCabe." Murphy fielded the question. "He's got a couple of little scratches and he's making out like he's been murdered."
"How's Bodie?" Cowley asked.
"I'm fine, sir." Bodie answered for himself, but didn't quite sound convincing. He looked even less convincing. His face was bruised, and he was holding himself in a way that suggested he had hidden injuries to his body. And the fingers on his right hand were swollen, either badly sprained or broken. Cowley frowned at the sight.
"You look far from fine. But we'll have you fixed up soon enough." He waved Murphy over. "Murphy will patch the worst of it. Then it's to the medical section with you. And hospital after that, if the doctor feels it's necessary."
"I just want to go home." Bodie sounded even more tired than Doyle.
"You'll do what the doctor orders, and no arguments. Is that clear?" Everyone knew he indulged these two more than he probably should, but he wouldn't let them come to harm because of their own stubbornness.
"Good. Murphy, get to work, man." Cowley let his impatience show. Murphy took the hint and didn't waste any time setting about putting dressings on the worst of Bodie's injuries. Of course, he had to ignore 3.7's complaints.
"Christ, Murph, get the terrorists back in here. They'd do a better job."
In the meantime, Cowley pulled Doyle to his feet.
"What happened down here, 4.5?" Cowley knew it couldn't have been as easy as Doyle waltzing in and finding Bodie. With these two there always had to be a drama. He wanted to be certain everything was done properly.
"I came down here and found a man about to shoot Bodie. I shot him first. The body's in the back." Doyle nodded towards the rear of the building.
"Did Bodie tell you what they wanted from him?"
"Yeah." Doyle didn't elaborate further, he just dragged a hand through his curls and looked over at Bodie.
"Well, 4.5?" Cowley let his tone of voice show that he wanted a straightforward answer, and he wanted it now.
"They wanted information about you. Your routines, the cars you use, if you have a chauffeur. It's his guess that they were planning a hit."
Cowley felt the blood drain from his limbs. He wasn't upset at the thought of danger to himself; that came with the job; he expected that. What was so distressing was that they had tried to get to him through one of his own men. Through Bodie.
One of his cardinal rules as controller of CI5 was that he show no weakness, let no crack of humanity show through. If his men thought he was a ruthless old bastard, so much the better. It might give them the bottle to act ruthlessly when they needed to themselves.
But now was not a time when that rule applied.
"I'm sorry, Doyle. I'd have spared the both of you this, if I could have."
"Yeah, I know. So does he." Doyle looked briefly back over to where Bodie was giving Murphy an increasingly hard time.
"Still, I had to say it myself." Cowley looked over at Bodie. He looked like the dog's breakfast, but from the way 3.7 was getting up Murph's nose, he was going to be just fine. "You'll tell him for me?"
"Good. I also want you to take two days holiday. You can look after him if he's cleared for home, or visit if they keep him in. Just don't come into the office."
Doyle looked at him, real gratitude showing in his eyes.
Suddenly, Cowley was uncomfortable. It was time to put the walls back in place.
"That's all, 4.5. Now you should go rescue Murphy. It looks like Bodie is going to wrap that bandage around his neck."
"Yes, sir." Doyle paused half way across the room, and turned back to him. "Take care of yourself. There might be a few of them still after you."
"Of course, Doyle. And there's always someone after me."
He walked out of the house, into the light of what looked to be a very nice morning. A morning on which two men had been killed on his orders. A morning on which he had found out one of his men had been tortured just to get information about him.
Still, his people were all alive, a threat to himself had been thwarted and the sun was actually shining
Someday he might pack in this miserable job, but it wouldn't be today.
Bodie woke feeling absolutely content. He was lying on his side, in his own flat, in his own bed, surrounded by the luxury of his own down duvet. His lover was spooned behind him, one arm draped tenderly over his side.
Bodie sighed, allowing himself this brief moment, a moment where he felt safe and protected, a moment where the biggest worry he had was how long he should lie abed before getting up for breakfast. And if said breakfast would be enough to satisfy his prodigious appetite. The moment would be over soon enough.
It was his own body that brought his feeling of tremendous well being to abrupt end. He was suddenly all too aware of the hurts assaulting his flesh and bones. His bruised ribs protested the weight of the arm enfolding him. The cuts on his face started pulling and smarting and itching all at once. And his hand, with its two broken fingers instead of the one he had expected, was throbbing, making its owner all too aware of the displeasure it felt.
In spite of himself, he let a small moan escape from his lips. It wasn't much, barely louder than a breath, but it was enough to rouse his partner.
Doyle sat up, clearly taking care in spite of his sleepiness not to put too much weight on his partner's side.
"You all right?" Doyle's voice was husky with sleep and heavy with concern.
"Yeah," Bodie answered, and it was not quite a lie. His body might have taken a beasting, but his spirit was whole.
"You sure?" Doyle sat up straighter, wiping the sleep out of his eyes, and coming to full wakefulness even as Bodie watched.
"Yeah, 'course I'm sure." Bodie rolled onto his back, the better to see Doyle. "Have you here, don't I?"
Doyle chuckled, his normally rich low laugh made even deeper by the early hour and lack of use. Bodie enjoyed just watching him, the way the corners of his eyes crinkled up and the front chipped tooth was exposed by the smile.
He felt a ridiculous smile build on his own face in response. Which only made Doyle laugh harder.
Eventually, Doyle's laughter subsided to the occasional snigger, and he bent over to kiss his partner.
Bodie's response to that move was not what either one of them expected.
The kiss managed to find one of the more tender areas on Bodie's mouth. He winced with the unexpected pain, and managed to butt Doyle in the nose with his forehead. That set off his ribs, making him recoil even more. He flailed with one hand, trying to steady himself. Unfortunately, the hand he chose to use was the one wrapped up like a mummy. He caught one of the sprained fingers against the bed and only just managed to stop from shrieking in pain through sheer force of will, and the thought that Doyle would never let him live it down.
He finished by lying in a heap on the bed, his hand clutched in front of him, tears of pain leaking from the corners of his eyes.
"Christ, Bodie, you trying to finish me off or what?"
Bodie uncurled himself long enough to take a look at his partner, who was clutching his nose. Guiltily, Bodie thought he could see a few drops of blood visible between his partner's fingers. Still, he wasn't about to take the blame.
"You're the one who started it, he said, trying to land the guilt firmly in Doyles lap.
"It was just a kiss. The kiss is supposed to wake Sleeping Beauty, not top Prince Charming."
"Wrong fairy tale, mate. You might be the Frog Prince, but you're no Prince Charming."
"And you're no Sleeping Beauty, so we're even."
Bodie stopped, struck by the absurdity of the argument. He looked right at Doyle, who also seemed to realize how ridiculous it all was. They both smiled. The smiles grew wider, then turned into helpless laughter.
"Christ, Doyle, you're going to kill me," Bodie managed to choke out. "Smiling hurts my face."
"You're such an infant." Doyle said, still trying to get his own giggles under control.
When the fits had run their course, they lay tangled under the covers, both weak as kittens from laughing. With effort, they managed to find a position that allowed them to be close without causing Bodie pain.
Doyle smiled fondly at him and stroked his hair, possibly the only part of him that didn't hurt.
It was a nice feeling, Bodie decided, being loved undemandingly by Doyle. It almost made him forget how much he hurt.
"I'm glad Cowley gave you the whole week off, after all." Bodie reached up with his good hand and grasped the fingers trailing through his hair. "It's nice having you here. I'd go loony stuck here by myself."
"He's all right, is the Cow," Doyle said absently. "He kept me going when we first thought..." Doyle stopped, obviously still unwilling to deal with the emotions of that day. "Well, you know. He packed me off to headquarters, talked to me." He suddenly gave a small laugh. "Although for the life of me I can't remember a thing he said."
"He can be a complete bastard, but he does right by us. All of us." Bodie stopped, his thoughts veering off in a direction he'd prefer to avoid. He hoped Doyle wouldn't notice the slight shudder that passed through him. He should have known better.
Doyle stroked his arm, lightly.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"Nothing." Bodie tried to shut this line of quesitoning down.
"Bodie." There was impatience and just the merest hint of a threat in the way his name was said. He decided not to test Doyle's equanimity further.
"I was just thinking about those terrorists. There were only two things that scared me, I mean really scared me about the whole thing. I was afraid that if they killed me, that you would find the body. And I was scared they were going to use me to get to the Cow. I didn't like to think of him being hurt because I'd broken. Does that sound stupid?"
Doyle gave him a smile and stroked his hair again.
"Nah. Not stupid at all. He was quite concerned about you as well. Told me to let you know that he wished they hadn't used you against him."
"I told you he was all right." He smiled, then was struck by a further thought. "Mind you, it's not going to stop him sending us on the next crap assignment that comes up."
"Nah. That would ruin his reputation." Doyle suddenly trailed off. He stared at Bodie for what must have been a full minute, a thoughtful expression on his face. He finally seemed to come to a decision, and spoke.
"Speaking of reputations, Murph's sussed us out."
"What?" Bodie tried to sit up, felt his ribs complain and sank back into the mattress.
"He knows we're more than best mates." Doyle got a particularly filthy grin on his face. "He knows we get a bit of how's yer father. With each other."
Bodie lay staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out how he felt about this development. It had been inevitable that one of the squad would eventually guess that 3.7 and 4.5's personal relationship was more personal than most. In fact it was a miracle that it had taken two years for it to happen. And it wasn't that he was embarrassed. There was, he thought defiantly, nothing to be embarrassed by.
Bodie didn't realize that he had been quiet for a good long while until his partner poked him in the arm.
"Oi, what you thinking, then?"
"I'm not sure," Bodie said, tentatively. "How did he react?"
Doyle got a rather nice grin on his face.
"I think he approves. It wasn't the best circumstances--we'd just seen you blown to bits, or so we thought--but I think he was happy for us."
Bodie let out a long-held breath.
"Well, that's something." He smiled. " And at least it wasn't McCabe."
Doyle let out a snort.
"McCabe's as thick as you can be, and still be on the A Squad."
Bodie had to laugh at that as well. He still had one worry.
"He's not going to say anything, is he?"
"Murph's a decent bloke. He's agreed not to tell tales out of school."
"That's all right, then. Although I suppose they'll all tumble to it, eventually."
"Eventually. And that's soon enough."
They lay still, enjoying the closeness, enjoying the fact that they had, again, cheated death. Doyle was the first one to move. He got up, and threw on his tatty old dressing gown, shivering in the chill after the warmth of the bed.
"What would you say to me making you a proper breakfast?"
"I'd say, does it include fried bread?"
"Just because you're an invalid, for today only it includes fried bread. But you really should give up that stuff. You won't need terrorists to kill you; you'll give yourself a heart attack without anyone's help."
"You just don't appreciate the good things in life, old son."
"Last time I checked, I don't think fried bread qualified as one of 'the good things in life.' But, your wish is my command." Doyle gave a sweeping bow. "I'll call you when it's ready."
Bodie watched as his partner left the room, then snuggled back down under the covers. His body still hurt like the blazes, but the glow of contentment seemed to have returned to his middle.
No doubt there would be future assignments that would be every bit as awful as this. One or both of them would be injured again. One or both of them would get fed up with half-arsed assignments and bureaucratic cock-ups. They might even resign, eventually.
But for now, they were both safe and they were both, mostly, whole. And most important of all, they had each other.
He wasn't about to argue with any of that.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Priority A-3!, IDP Press, 1999