Part I: Rule of Law
By 21:00, Bodie had cleaned and oiled every gun in his flat. The Browning first, then the Colt, then the Ingram. After that, he had started in on the older rifles and handguns--the Lee-Enfield, the Webley, and the Luger. And found he still hadn't settled, so he went for the silver, wrapped and buried deep in the trunk at the foot of his bed.
He set the pieces out on the kitchen worktop, lined them up with meticulous care, then found an old cloth and an even older pot of silver polish. Setting to with a will, he scrubbed at the tarnish covering the saltcellar.
He had learned the trick of it from Cookson in Angola. The night before battle and Cookson had ordered him to peel potatoes. Bodie had been clumsy and impatient but there had been no getting out of it. By the tenth potato he'd got the hang of it; by the thirtieth his mind had cleared and settled. Attained focus. The fact that they never got a chance to eat the promised stew was immaterial. Lesson learned.
"Whatever it is you must do, you must find a way to do it," Shusai had told him. He must find a way through the complications and divided loyalties. Find a way to act. Clarity in action had always come easily to him, had always been his advantage. He would set his objective, plan his tactics, and execute. Distraction was unaccepted, unallowed.
A silver bowl gleamed in his hands. Bodie set it aside and lifted a serving spoon.
Motive and action. He thought he'd achieved that earlier in the day--the car door smashed in one fluid movement of action and destruction. The moment had been his, just as Shusai had promised. But failure had followed, focus lost as he had exulted in his control and allowed it to show.
Concentrate on the moment, he told himself. Thinking brings hesitation and hesitation is failure.
"You blew it again." Doyle's voice rang in his mind. He banished it.
He had never been so intimate with failure before. Bodie placed the spoon aside and picked up a candlestick.
His mother had always kept the silver polished, ready for celebrations that never came. He had no use for these pieces, should have got rid of them long ago. But then, he was a man of duty and she would have been pleased by the remembrance.
Duty to the dead and to the living; to whom did his loyalty belong? Keith had the older claim but Cowley the stronger. If he acted he would, most likely, be out of CI5. And there was Doyle. Ray would never understand if he followed his heart in this. Rule of law was Doyle's mantra. But the law had already ruled--an open verdict and a case that was closed in all but name. Without Cheryl's testimony, there was no reason for the police to pursue their inquiries. Where was Doyle's justice in that?
Bodie set aside the candlestick and picked up its mate. Carefully, he removed the tarnish to reveal the delicate pattern underneath. He'd need to use a toothbrush there later, for the fine lines. Polishing for peak performance--jungles and dining rooms alike benefited. He set the candlestick next to the first. A matched set.
Doyle had turned forbearing today: "Oh, dead again, sunshine." Of one thing Bodie was certain--he was safer in this when Doyle was angry and frustrated.
Justice without law was still justice, wasn't it?
A large tray was the next item on the worktop. Bodie rubbed it with the cloth, taking satisfaction in the results. Satisfaction was acceptable where elation was not.
He thought about calling Jennifer. Decided against it.
Work the polish in. Concentrate.
Consequences were unpredictable, outside of the immediate objective. To think of them was an unnecessary distraction. Keith didn't deserve to be beaten to death by a gang of yobs.
Till death do us join.
Why, then, was he hesitating? Why was his mind unfocused? Why couldn't he settle to one single plan?
Motive and action are one. Practice.
The flat's buzzer sounded and Bodie looked up from his task, surprised to see that it was nearly midnight. He wiped his hands on a towel and went to the door to push the intercom button.
He didn't expect to hear Doyle's voice in reply. After hesitating a moment, Bodie pressed the release to let Doyle into the building.
Deceptively casual, Doyle nodded when Bodie opened the door for him, and then, with a flourish, he presented a wrapped parcel to his partner.
"What's this then?" Bodie waved Doyle to the drinks cabinet, noting that Doyle was dressed in the same jeans, leather jacket, and T-shirt he'd been wearing earlier in the day. He was also carrying.
"Your shirt and tie." Doyle helped himself to a portion of Bodie's best scotch. He downed it completely, the liquid serving as distraction for his nerves, if only for a moment. He'd come for answers tonight.
"Cleaned already? I'm impressed." Bodie's eyes narrowed as he observed Doyle's movements, sharp and jerky, lacking the languid fluidity that was his gift.
Doyle coughed. "Needed it."
"I'm even more impressed."
Doyle ignored that in favour of refilling his glass. He looked an enquiry at Bodie, who nodded, then walked over to accept the offered glass. Doyle took his own up and began roaming around the room.
"Surprised to find you alone--thought you were seeing Jennifer tonight."
"Took her home. Seemed a good idea to make an early night of it. Jack said I only have five lives left."
Doyle turned his head to look at his partner. "Yeah, I do remember."
Bodie took refuge in his glass.
"What the hell is this?" Doyle's wandering had brought him to the kitchen doorway.
Bodie grinned, set his glass down, and strolled over to Doyle. "It's called silver, you heathen."
"Oh is it? Thank you very much! What'd you do, break into Garrards?"
"Belonged to me mum, that did." Bodie brushed past Doyle and took up the polishing cloth again.
"You've got to be joking."
"Come on, might as well make yourself useful." He held out the pepper pot and the cloth to Doyle, and tried to look suitably hopeful.
"You have lost your mind, haven't you?" Nevertheless Doyle accepted the task. "Ross will have a field day with this."
"Good. She'll be pleased with me then." Bodie found another cloth for himself and started in on the tray again.
"Oh, part of your campaign to win the mouse, is it?"
"A good cat always knows how to tempt fate."
Doyle snorted. "You haven't any lives to spare."
"Only need one for the purpose. Could die a happy man then."
"Don't mix your metaphors. Oi, what does this stuff do to your fingers?"
"Eats them like acid. Why?"
Doyle rubbed his hand across the top of his thigh. "Thought you were supposed to watch out for your partner. I'm sure it's in the contract somewhere."
"Ah, you should read the small print sometime. There's an exclusion for silver polishing."
"Like there is for assessments?"
Bodie's fingers stilled but he kept his attention on the silver in his hands. "I thought we were through with that."
Doyle's response was immediate. "We will be if you don't shape up."
"There's nothing wrong--"
Doyle set the pepper pot down with a bang. "Don't give me that."
"Christ, Bodie!" Doyle threw the cloth down on the worktop and stalked out of the kitchen and into the living room. Bodie put aside his own cloth and followed him.
Doyle was by the drinks cabinet again but turned towards Bodie as soon as he crossed the threshold. "Cowley came to see me the other night."
"Oh yeah? What'd he want then? Have you been naughty, Raymond?"
Doyle was having none of it. "What do you think? He asked me about you."
"Must've been an interesting conversation." He moved forward into the room, feeling the weight of Doyle's gaze following him.
"Oh, it was. He actually thought that, as your partner, I might know what's the matter with you." Doyle watched the blankness sweep over Bodie's face, as he'd watched for over a month now.
"What did you tell him then?"
Doyle turned back to the drinks cabinet. "I told him you were fine." He filled his glass and another for Bodie.
"Well then, I'm fine."
Bodie sighed. "Look, Ray, what do you want me to say?"
Doyle brought the glass of scotch over to him. "Whatever you want to say, as long as you tell me what the fuck's wrong with you."
Accepting the glass, Bodie studied it. "What's this then? Trying to loosen my tongue with drink?"
"Do I need to? I thought you were fine. Got something to hide?" Doyle turned and settled himself on the sofa, putting his untouched drink down on the table.
Bodie stayed where he was and sipped the whisky. "Did Cowley accept it?"
Bodie sipped again and met Doyle's calculating look with as much equanimity as he could muster. He wouldn't ask. He needed Doyle off-balance if he was going to keep him out of this. If he was going to be free to act, whatever his decision. And he could easily outwait Doyle in conversation.
Familiar with Bodie's tactics, Doyle played his own trump. "He said he was disappointed in me."
"What?" Bodie demanded. "Why?"
"We're fucking up the assessments."
"Yeah, but--" Bodie broke off. Forced himself to stop speaking.
"Yeah, but," Doyle mimicked him. "We all know who's doing the fucking, don't we?" He jumped up and walked towards the window. "His next brilliant idea was that you're over the hill."
Bodie snorted. "Is that right?"
Doyle wasn't laughing. "Yeah, that's right. I think Jack agrees with that one."
It stung when it shouldn't have. "I'm not."
Doyle smiled charmingly. "So what are you, then?"
"Bored with the questions, mate." Bodie took another drink.
Pure frustration brought Doyle across the room in a few swift strides. "I've had it, Bodie. I want some answers. I've asked you to tell me what's wrong. I've shouted at you. I've ignored you. I've waited it out. Tell me why I shouldn't ask Cowley for a reteaming."
Bodie looked away. "Maybe you should."
Forcing himself to breathe, to ease the clenched knot in his stomach, Doyle said, "No. Why the fuck won't you tell me what's wrong?"
"Doyle...." Bodie moved back a step.
"I've wondered if you're bored. Ready to move on."
He hadn't thought of that. "Maybe--"
"Oh no," Doyle interrupted. "I rejected that idea."
Despite himself, Bodie smiled at that. Trust Doyle. "Why? You know I don't stay long anywhere. Never have."
Doyle nodded, his eyes never leaving Bodie's. "Yeah. Only one trouble with that theory."
Bodie looked an enquiry.
"You wouldn't go out like this. Not your style, is it. Go out on top you do--not by failing assessments you could walk through."
"Thought that was the trouble."
"It is. I just don't think it's deliberate. You're distracted, not dogging it. You aren't focused." He looked at Bodie speculatively. "Whatever it is that's bugging you, you haven't made up your mind about it yet. Have you?"
He'd already blown it. Searching for a distraction, Bodie said, "Is that what you told Cowley, then?"
Doyle looked away. "I didn't tell him anything. He didn't ask. I don't reckon he was looking for answers from me. He was looking for something else."
"Loyalty. Testing our partnership. I passed, by the way. You didn't."
He wasn't expecting that. Failure where he was most vulnerable. "Fuck this. You're not my keeper, Doyle. If you've got a problem with me, or my performance--"
"That's why I'm here! Christ, Bodie, give me a clue! Something's got you so distracted you can't handle a simple assessment. If we'd been out on the street--"
"We aren't. I can do my job."
With cold precision Doyle repeated the words. "If we'd been out on the street, you'd be dead. Me too."
"We aren't on the street, we're safe in Jack's little world." He drank the rest of the scotch in his glass.
Doyle shook his head. "With you trying to decide something that's got you torn up inside--"
"What the fuck do you know? I'm fine."
"Yeah. Fine," Doyle repeated derisively. "Seeking help from Shusai."
That stopped him cold. "What?"
"Do you think Cowley wouldn't have you followed?"
Bodie knew he'd been followed but he thought he'd lost Wilson. Had there been another? The mere fact that he didn't know shook him.
Doyle moved in closer, his tone gentling as he sensed his advantage. "Look, mate, I'm not prying here, it's your business. But it can't go on. Cowley's talking about pulling you."
"Let him," Bodie said. His mind was running through alternatives--he had to make a decision now.
Doyle grabbed his shoulder, shook him. "Dammit, have you listened to me at all?"
Bodie looked at Doyle's frustrated face, read the anger, and found that it calmed him. It worked that way with them, sometimes, their emotions balancing each other. For once it was working in his favour. He needed time to think and he wouldn't get it unless Doyle was rattled and backing away.
The motive and the motion are one, Shusai said.
Bodie reached to Doyle, slid his hand to the back of his head, and leaned in to take possession of his mouth. The kiss lasted longer than he expected, long enough for him to begin to feel Doyle responding. And then Doyle pushed him away, backing up a step. But only a step.
Doyle stared at him, his eyes wide. Bodie couldn't read the expression in them. It, too, wasn't quite what he had expected.
"That it, then?" Doyle asked, his voice low and tense.
Bodie took a moment to track the question, unsure--and the plan he had been seeking fell into his brain with the ease of certainty. "Yeah," he said. "That's it. Now you know why I wouldn't talk to you about it."
Doyle stilled. He grew so still that Bodie couldn't see that he breathed; he'd never seen Doyle like that before. In all his emotions--anger, fear, hatred, even love, Doyle was a man of motion. He felt his stomach twisting, and hesitated, torn between moving a step forward, and moving a step backward, away from Doyle.
And then Doyle was the one moving forward and they came together, mouth meeting mouth. Bodie caught fire, his arms surrounding Doyle's heat, his tongue tasting Doyle's mouth. He heard and felt the moan that escaped Doyle as he pressed closer, making his desire known.
Doyle again was the one to break it, although this time he didn't move away. And this time Bodie understood the hazed look in the green eyes that stared at him.
"I want you," Bodie said, and watched the effect the words had on Doyle. He bent his head to claim Doyle's lips again.
"Wait," Doyle muttered. His hands clutched at Bodie's arms, seeking balance. "I'm not--"
"No," Bodie cut him off. He began licking, then biting at Doyle's neck, hearing the breath catch in his throat. He lifted his head and whispered into Doyle's ear. "Don't tell me you don't want it. Not when you turn on like this." His hand outlined Doyle's erection through his jeans.
Doyle hissed at the contact, pushing forward. "I...."
Bodie drew his hand away, knowing he had already won. He grasped Doyle by the shoulders. "Your choice."
Staring at him, unable to speak, Doyle fought to bring order to the chaos Bodie had created within him. Desire, finally loosed, was sharp and overwhelming, chasing the fear that would save him from this.
With the bitter thought that loss was inevitable, Doyle moved forward again, closing the gap between them. "Yeah. All right."
Bodie revelled in the emotions filling him as he kissed Doyle's mouth, as he touched him and began guiding him towards the bed. Satisfaction. Elation under control. He had found his way.
They paused only to undress, and even then Bodie kept in as much contact as possible with Doyle, helping him and taking advantage all in one. There was nothing unexpected in the sight of an aroused Doyle, but everything was new when it came to being touched by him. And Doyle, whatever his previous experience, was taking every opportunity to explore him as well. They fell together on to the bed, his mouth seeking Doyle's skin while his hands held on tightly enough to bruise.
It was going to be quick this time--too quick--but there would be other times. Oh yes. He'd make sure of that.
Doyle was alive under his hands, gasping and moving urgently, seeking only the release that had become a necessity. Bodie moved down Doyle's body, taking his cock into his mouth and bathing it in heat and wetness, knowing exactly what it would do to him. One hand settled at the base of Doyle's cock, the other on his hip, retaining some control over Doyle's strong thrusts. Once, twice, and then Doyle was coming, the sound of his shout echoing in the room.
He rolled off Doyle, giving him time to recover, but his own cock demanded more attention and his hand moved to its aching hardness. He began stroking himself, his mind's eye bombarded by images of Doyle helpless beneath his touch. And then other hands were there, pushing his own away. He fell back on the bed, gave himself up to Doyle's hands, and he was coming with a fierce joy, hard and fast.
They lay next to each other, breathing heavily out of rhythm. Hot and sweaty and a mess but the clarity was there now for Bodie. He knew what he would do, how he could do it. How he might satisfy both Keith and CI5. The lure of the gamble was singing in his blood.
He felt the touch of Doyle's hand, hesitant, then more sure, rubbing along his thigh. Then Doyle turned towards him, the one hand falling away as the other settled on Bodie's stomach. Bodie waited.
"How long?" Doyle asked quietly.
Bodie turned his head to look at him, then rolled, pushing through Doyle's slight resistance until he lay again on his back. Bodie brushed his lips along Doyle's cheekbone, delighting in its irregularity.
"How long what?" He moved down and nibbled on Doyle's ear.
Doyle squirmed. "How long have you wanted this?"
"Long enough." Bodie found the juncture of neck and shoulder particularly appealing. He fastened his mouth there, nipped and then soothed. Doyle jerked in his grasp and Bodie slid his leg over Doyle's, the better to hold onto him.
"Didn't know you swung both ways," Doyle said breathlessly.
Bodie grinned and ran his hand the length of Doyle's body, relishing the shudder he caused. "When the temptation is great enough. You're hard to resist."
Doyle arched, turning his face away. "Been told that before."
"Not surprised." He felt the tension strumming through Doyle, pleased at his response to his touch. His thumb brushed over a nipple, encouraged its rise to hardness.
Anguish, both physical and emotional, stabbed through Doyle, and he struggled to speak. "What is it for you, Bodie?"
"Trust me," Bodie whispered, before settling his mouth on Doyle's.
A moment's hesitation and then Doyle's mouth opened to his. Bodie set out to light up every nerve in Doyle's body. Using soft, brushing touches one minute, stronger strokes the next, he moved over Doyle, biting and kissing and licking. When Doyle's hands threatened to take the initiative from him, he captured them--pinning one between their bodies, and holding the other above Doyle's head, while his mouth rampaged across his chest. He felt Doyle's surrender by degrees, from tension to participation to abandonment. Groans turned to curses turned to pleas.
And Doyle allowed it, released himself from the control that was second nature, learned through hard experience. He responded to Bodie's touch as though he'd known no other, as though there would never be another. He held nothing back, with no thought for the future.
Heart pounding, blood surging, Bodie wanted to be in Doyle, wanted to pierce the hot body that clung to his, moved against his. He craved it, needed it. But a clear part of his brain showed him another path. Do the unexpected, keep the advantage.
He reached to the bedside table and retrieved the tube he kept there. His gentleness a deliberate contrast, he spread the lubricant on Doyle's cock, easing the pressure when Doyle bucked, giving him a moment to calm.
Doyle, lost to everything but sensation, sought out his partner's eyes.
"Want you in me," Bodie said simply. He stretched out beside Doyle. "C'mon, then."
Doyle was on his back in a second, pressing against him, and Bodie braced himself. But Doyle had obviously had some experience in the past, for he took the time to prepare him before moving to take possession. He could feel Doyle's fingers trembling as they gripped his hips.
Bodie held his breath as Doyle entered him, releasing it as Doyle began to move. The first touch on his prostate sent a spark through his body and he growled and shoved back, needing more contact. Doyle responded, thrusting powerfully.
Reaching back, he pulled one of Doyle's hands around and placed it on his cock. Doyle rubbed and squeezed him, timing the movements to his thrusts, stringing Bodie out on sensation. He thought of Ray's hand on his cock; Ray's hand squeezing the trigger during a firefight.
He came, shouting, and felt Doyle's release a moment later. They fell together, collapsed on the bed, entwined. Bodie's nerves were sparking in reaction, little shudders of sensation that kept him immobile.
Too few minutes later, he felt Doyle's weight leave the bed but he didn't have the energy yet to find out what he was about. And then he felt a warm wetness on his back. He opened his eyes to see Doyle beside him. Doyle kissed him with surprising gentleness, then used a cloth to wash him with careful intimacy. Suddenly needing to move, Bodie pulled away and sat up.
Doyle was watching him, one hand resting on Bodie's thigh, the other holding the cloth. Bodie glanced away, then leaned forward, kissed Doyle quickly, took the cloth and left the bed. "Sheets are in that drawer there," he called over his shoulder as he headed for the loo.
He returned a few minutes later to find the discarded sheets on the floor and Doyle stretching the bottom sheet to fit on the bed. He went to the other side of the bed to help.
"I've been thinking," he said to Doyle, briskly efficient.
"Yeah. Feel up to a bike race?"
Doyle paused in his task, gazing at him. "Maybe." When there was no answer to that, he continued. "What have you got in mind?"
Bodie straightened the sheet and deftly tucked in a corner. "I know some bikers who could use taking down a peg or two." He looked Doyle up and down and grinned. "It'd be worth something, having it come from you."
Doyle made a wry face. "Oh, ta very much." He tucked in the bottom corner. "You really want me to do it?"
Reaching for the top sheet, Bodie said, "Yeah. Wouldn't ask otherwise, would I?"
Doyle caught his side of the sheet and straightened it. "All right."
Bodie smiled at him and energetically tucked the top sheet in. "You'll like it, Ray. They'll get right up your nose."
"No doubt. When?"
"Saturday. We should be free."
Doyle considered him, frowning slightly. "Assuming you do well enough on the assessment."
"I will," Bodie said confidently. He reached for the blanket and spread it on the bed.
"Because of this?"
He looked at Doyle and couldn't suppress another smile, or the truth from slipping out. "Feel better than I have for a long time, Ray."
Doyle straightened the blanket carefully. "I have a date with Sally on Saturday." He looked up. "Could call her."
Luck, it seemed, favoured him. "No, bring Sally along. Be a treat for her to see you beat those bastards."
Doyle held his eyes for a moment, keeping his expression neutral. "Think so?"
Sure of himself, Bodie was breezily reassuring. "Oh yeah. Good triumphing over evil--great stuff." He gathered the soiled sheets and put them in the laundry bag, then turned back to the bed to find Doyle collecting his clothes. "You can spend the night, if you want."
Doyle studied him, trying to read Bodie's mood, the thoughts behind guileless eyes.
"Might as well," Bodie said. "We can go in together--stop by your place to pick up anything you need tomorrow morning."
Doyle looked away, uneasy and floundering in it.
"You'll enjoy me waking you up in the morning," Bodie cajoled.
Trust Bodie. The one constant in his life. Doyle tilted his head to look him up and down. "Will I?"
"Can guarantee it, mate."
"I'll hold you to that." And he grinned at Bodie, feeling the tension ease.
Bodie grinned back, light-hearted. While Doyle settled into bed, Bodie walked out for one last check of the flat and double-locks before joining him. He pulled Doyle close against him, wrapping his arms around him.
"Do you know what time we have to get up tomorrow?"
The irritation in Doyle's voice was so familiar that Bodie found himself smiling again. "Today, actually."
"That's my point."
"Then go to sleep." He nuzzled the back of Doyle's neck.
"If you have another round up the spout I'm going to flog your body to science. Either that or on the street. Could make me fortune."
Bodie laughed and moved away, shifting onto his back. After a moment Doyle turned over and edged in close along Bodie's side, one arm tucked around his.
Listening as Doyle's breathing eased into the deep rhythm of sleep, Bodie smiled into the darkness. It had all come together so easily. He'd have Doyle ride against King Billy and his boys. Doyle would win. Doyle would take one look at that lot and he'd want to win. Very predictable sometimes, Doyle was.
He could also count on Doyle losing his temper--he'd hate the unfairness that was Billy's stock in trade. It'd be a simple thing, then, to get Doyle out of the area, he'd want nothing more than to be shut of that crowd. Give him Sally to keep him occupied. And Bodie would have a clear run at King Billy and a chance of pulling it off without losing CI5. Or Doyle.
He could do it. Keep Doyle off-balance and he could do it.
Doyle watched, trying to keep his mind blank, as King Billy and his boys were escorted by the police to the waiting van. If he thought about it now he was going to lose control. Later, it was for later. He had to get Sally home first. She was doing what she could for Cheryl, offering a reassuring normalcy. He wished she'd never come. Bodie had wanted her to come, of course.
Cursing, Doyle turned away, only to be confronted by Bodie yet again. Bodie, who had taken every opportunity to stay close to him in the aftermath. Couldn't have got rid of him faster earlier, could he, but now Bodie wanted him close. No sense of self-preservation; he was going to kill the bastard.
As Cowley would have killed him.
He had to get away. Before the rage and the confusion and the grief broke through. Before he betrayed himself.
Bodie had used him, that was clear enough. He'd needed a clear run for what he'd planned for King Billy and he'd known exactly how to get it. Christ, he'd given it to him on a platter, hadn't he? He'd been the one to tell Bodie that Cowley's attention was on him. Easy enough to reckon Cowley would order Doyle to keep an eye on him. Bodie had needed the space to act, and it'd been Doyle who had supplied the means.
The shame of it choked him. Give him his due, it hadn't been Bodie who'd seduced him. No, he'd been the one to leap to the brilliant conclusion that Bodie's distraction stemmed from him. As Bodie had said, it was his own choice. And from that moment, he'd been lost. Stupid bloody fool that he was.
"Doyle!" Kate Ross was calling to him, urging Sally towards him. He could take her home now. He started forward only to be stopped by Bodie's touch.
He glanced at him, into blue eyes that told him nothing. He was deceiving himself if he ever thought he could read them.
Bodie took a deep breath, absorbing Doyle's lack of expression. This wasn't the place.
"I've got to go," Doyle said, gesturing towards the approaching Sally.
"I know. Just--" Bodie looked around, stepped closer. "Tonight. Come to my flat?"
No question that Bodie had enjoyed the sex, no doubt he wanted to continue it. Couldn't blame him, could he? He'd asked Bodie what it meant and Bodie had shown him. Well then, no reason why he couldn't take as Bodie had taken. Might as well get that at least. Might as well.
"Yeah." And he was gone, striding away to meet Sally, banishing from his mind's eye the smile on Bodie's face. The bastard.
Bodie watched Doyle go, relief coursing through him, heightening the triumph he felt. It'd be all right. He'd won. Keith would get his justice, Cheryl her peace of mind. And he had CI5, had Doyle.
Bodie went to join Cowley and Ross, an evening of reports ahead of him and a barrage of questions that he would answer as it suited. And tonight? Tonight he would have Doyle in his bed again, with no distractions. All that intense sensuality his to use and command and experience. The anger he sensed in Doyle would be burnt out in passion. He couldn't keep the exuberance out of his smile, ignoring the gaze of Dr Ross. By God, he'd done it.
For Doyle, the day passed all too quickly. Sally wound down halfway home, her chatter effectively squelched by his inability to reciprocate. They finished the ride in silence. Doyle saw her off with some regret, knowing he wouldn't see her again. She hadn't deserved to be caught in the middle of all this.
Back to HQ and his own debriefing by Cowley and then Kate Ross. He saw Bodie in passing but kept away from the rest room. Then home to his flat, putting the bike away, and out again to a pub for food and a drink. He couldn't settle.
The pub provided company but Doyle kept to himself, nursing his drink, prisoner to his thoughts. He'd gone to bed with Bodie because he'd wanted him, had wanted him for a long time. The touch of him, the feel of him, but more than anything else, being with him. He flinched as he recalled how he'd responded to Bodie's touch, how much he had revealed. Stupid to have forgotten so quickly the reasons why he hadn't taken Bodie to bed before. He'd been caught, though, hadn't he? Believing that Bodie would leave if it wasn't resolved; believing that Bodie would leave once the mystery of the attraction was sated.
He'd known, in the end, it would happen, would go this way. He just hadn't expected it so soon. Ah, be honest, he hadn't been through playing his games, had he? He'd been enjoying it too much, playing with Bodie's unacknowledged desire for him. Stoking it. Keeping him interested but just short of open admission from either of them.
Not a pretty game. And it'd blown up right in his face. But then Bodie had had his own agenda, hadn't he? Could he blame him for it? Mourn something that had never been real? All that was left were the finishing moves in this game they played. Take what pleasure he could from it. Admit defeat but only to himself.
At 9.00 the R/T bleeped and he knew Bodie was home. By 10.00 he was standing outside Bodie's flat, waiting as he'd waited the other night. Then he had come for answers, now he wanted only to forget them. A drizzle had started to fall, coating the steps with wetness and adding a tang to the night air.
Bodie let him in, looking tired but undiminished. Still flying high from his victory over King Billy and Cowley and Doyle himself. And all the anger Doyle had settled within himself earlier rose up in rebellion, an immediate contrast to Bodie's mood.
Bodie grinned. "About bloody time, mate." He stepped aside to let Doyle in.
Doyle walked past him into the room. "I'm here now, aren't I?"
"And cheerful as ever. Beer or whisky?"
"Beer." Doyle wandered over to the window and looked out at the street below. It might have been better if he hadn't come here tonight. Safer, certainly. But then he wasn't very good at safe. Wasn't very good at happy either. He clamped down on the thought.
He saw Bodie's reflection in the glass as he approached from behind. Stood still as Bodie bent his head and kissed the back of his neck. He shivered. Damn him. Unfair advantage.
"Your beer," Bodie said, stepping back and holding out a can to Doyle.
He took it, and moved back into the room, sitting on the sofa. He was unsurprised when Bodie settled down next to him, thigh to thigh. So bloody normal. He felt the coldness settle a little deeper within him.
"Cowley decided to keep you on the squad, did he?" He took a gulp from the beer.
"Yeah. Gave me a dressing down, of course."
"Of course. Blue-eyed boy. Anyone else...."
"I know I was lucky."
Doyle shook his head. "Lucky!"
Bodie took a long pull from the can. "And good."
There was nothing to say to that. Nothing civil. "Cheryl give her testimony?"
"Yeah, all neat and proper. It's up to the courts now."
"Going to do it for them if they don't convict?" Doyle asked mockingly.
Bodie took another long drink before answering calmly. "I already did my bit. Did what was necessary."
"For your army mate."
"For Keith, yeah."
Doyle leaned forward to set his beer down on the table. The can was still half full. He rested his elbows on his knees, his eyes on the table in front of him. "Tell me about him."
"Nothing to tell," Bodie said neutrally.
Doyle turned his head to look back at Bodie, then away. "You were willing to sacrifice everything for him."
"Not everything." He reached out to lay a hand on Doyle's back.
Jumping up, Doyle walked away, across the room. "Seemed like it to me."
Bodie set his beer on the table next to Doyle's and stood to follow him. "It's over, Ray. Finished. No reason to dwell on it." He moved in close behind his partner but didn't attempt to touch him.
"No reason, eh?"
"No." Bodie grasped Doyle's shoulders, turned him around, pleased when he met with no resistance. He wanted nothing more than to take Doyle into his arms, to share his victory.
"You used me," Doyle said, looking into the face that he was once certain he knew.
"To get to King Billy, yeah; to keep you out of it, yeah. I'd do it again. But it doesn't touch you and me."
"No. It's the one good thing that came out of this mess. Finding you." Bodie leaned forward, closing the gap between them, and pressed his lips to Doyle's.
Feeling his resistance crumbling, Doyle pulled away, needing the space to untangle his emotions. He stopped by the sofa to look back at Bodie, registering the expression in his eyes. Oh yes, he did have an advantage. It wasn't all in Bodie's court. He wouldn't forget again. Slowly, he removed his jacket and holster. "Finding me? Are you going to tell me now that it came as a surprise to you? You're the one who kissed me. Before you lied about why."
Bodie smiled, moving forward, more confident now after that kiss. "It wasn't a lie, just didn't realise how much truth was in it." He stopped in front of Doyle, his eyes travelling over him as his breathing quickened.
"Want me, do you?" Doyle unbuttoned his shirt.
"You know I do." Bodie observed the large bruise that was revealed as Doyle took off his shirt. He reached out a hand to touch it gently.
Doyle stepped back, evading the contact. "Left your mark on me."
"I was trying to keep you out of it."
"You were trying to keep me from stopping you," Doyle countered aggressively.
"Maybe." Bodie stepped forward, grasping Doyle's open shirt, pulling him close. "Enough of this, Ray. You want it as much as I do. I know you're angry, can see it in your eyes. Can see the desire, too. Which is going to win, eh?" One hand sought out the firmness of Doyle's groin. "Not hard to guess."
No, not difficult to guess--he'd never had much of a defence against Bodie's touch. He'd have none now that Bodie knew it. Going under, he asked more than he should have. "What is it you want from me? Is it worth buggering the partnership?"
"No, it's going to be fine." Bodie's hands reached for Doyle's zip and the clasp on his jeans. His mouth roved over Doyle's face, lingering at his mouth before pulling back a few inches. "Going to bugger you, though."
"Thought you did that."
"You'll know it when I've done that."
Bodie kissed him again and Doyle felt the familiar rising tide of lust. Take what he could get then. He brought his hands up to push hard against Bodie, freeing himself. Then, all cool provocation, he finished undressing and stood before Bodie's avid gaze. "Prove it," he said, bracing himself.
Bodie, with a feral light in his eyes, came for him. They fought their way to the bedroom, Doyle evading Bodie's attempts to have him there, on the floor. No words were used, no tender touches, just hot, hard bodies and limbs. Driving need, fuelled by hunger and anger.
Bodie grunted as Doyle's teeth sank into his shoulder, marking him as surely as he had branded Doyle earlier. And Bodie twisted, taking that mouth for his own, forcing his tongue in to make possession complete. His hands moved mercilessly over Doyle, pinching and stroking by turns, reaching for his cock to grasp him even as Doyle struggled to free himself.
Useless attempt. Bodie's hands drove everything from Doyle's head but the need for completion, crying out against Bodie's mouth as he was finally allowed release. And then Bodie turned him, readied him with spit and semen, and entered him in one hard thrust. Pain mingled gloriously with pleasure, raising Doyle off the bed. He shoved back as Bodie pushed forward, working together, driving himself to exhaustion, emotions feeding muscles feeding an aching void in a wild joining.
Bodie came, his shout deafening, and Doyle came again, with him, sobbing and cursing. They lay together for a moment, Bodie heavy on him, and then Bodie rolled away onto his back, chest heaving. Doyle stayed as he was, ears ringing, heart slowing by degrees. He felt Bodie's hand settle on his back, rubbing.
He couldn't say anything. Stretching, he eased away from Bodie's hand, and then the bed. Walking into the loo, he quickly washed himself, looking into the mirror at his own impassive face. He detoured to the living room to collect his clothes, then returned to the bedroom. Bodie was as he had left him, although he had pulled the sheet up over his legs. His eyes were closed.
For a moment Doyle stood there, watching him, feeling the distance within him grow. The beginning of separation. He'd have him for a time and then Bodie would be gone. He walked forward, bent down, and kissed Bodie. A fleeting touch of tenderness, like flowers on a grave.
Bodie's eyes opened, widening as he saw that Doyle was dressed. "I thought you'd stay."
"No, best if I leave. What time does Cowley want you in?"
"I'll pick you up."
"All right." Doyle turned to leave and Bodie found himself reaching for him, disturbed without knowing why. "Ray--"
Doyle paused, then came back to the bed, his eyes unreadable in the half-light in the bedroom.
"It's all right, mate. I'll see you in the morning. Set your locks for you as I go, right?"
Blinking, feeling slightly bewildered, Bodie said, "Yeah. Cheers."
Bodie watched him leave, then turned to his side and settled into the bed only to find sleep elusive. When had the triumph of the day turned to this chilling uncertainty? It was ridiculous to be feeling this way. No reason for it. It was just like Doyle to put a dampener on the celebration, he thought irritably.
Shifting onto his back, he thought back to the sex he'd just shared with Doyle, to the passion. It'd been good. Yeah. And Doyle would be back. He'd said everything was fine; he'd certainly enjoyed it. Bodie smirked and stretched, feeling a pleasurable ache in his muscles. Natural enough that they'd need a bit of time to adjust to the changes. Nothing to worry about. He'd won it all, hadn't he?
Smiling, attributing his unease to the events of the day, Bodie turned his head into the pillow and drifted off to sleep.
Part II: Rule of the Jungle
Sitting at a table where he could keep an eye on the door, Jamie Michaels took a long pull from his pint and thought about Bodie. It wasn't the first time he'd wondered what had happened to the man since Angola, but it was the first he'd have a chance to see for himself. Cusack had already filled him in on some of the details: enlisted in the paras, seconded to the SAS, and then to CI5. On the side of the angels Bodie was now--that he would like to see.
He swallowed more of the beer and wondered if Bodie would see any changes in him. If Bodie would even care that there were changes. Well, he'd agreed to the meeting, he must have some curiosity, even if the hook had more to do with the job than old friendship. It was useful that Bodie was with CI5 now. Even if it turned out that the arms he'd found were legitimate, or a matter for the police, it'd serve Garrety right to have CI5 nosing about the place.
Reaching again for the glass, he paused as he saw Bodie walk through the door, behind a young couple. Changes, yes, but surprisingly few; he'd have recognised him anywhere. The same cropped dark hair, blue eyes that roamed over the crowd in the pub, handsome face cool and unrevealing even in laughter. His skin was paler and his body had filled out, reminding him that he'd only known Bodie as a youth. He watched as Bodie located and then walked towards him, his movements showing the familiar, leashed power of old. Always in predator mode, Bodie was. He admired him for it.
"Jamie." Bodie sat next to Michaels, automatically moving the chair to place his back to the wall. Old habits.
"It's good to see you, Bodie." He smiled and pushed the other beer glass across to Bodie.
Michaels drank from his glass, noting that, as always at first, Bodie's smile didn't reach his eyes. "It's been a long time."
Bodie looked at him, seeing Angola in his mind. "Are you still at it?" Michaels didn't have a tan and his blond hair was darker than Bodie remembered.
"Yeah. Well, I've been here for about half a year, relaxing."
He grinned. "Yeah. Spent some time in a South African hospital, then came here. The money's run out so it's time I went back."
Bodie took a swallow of the beer. "There are other ways to earn a living."
"But none that suit so well."
At that Bodie smiled genuinely and relaxed back into his chair. "Still the same, aren't you?"
"Older but no wiser. You know it's me that trains the new ones now."
"Taught you well, didn't I?" Bodie raised his glass.
"Kept me alive, at least." Michaels clinked his glass against Bodie's and they drank.
"So what is it you wanted to see me about then?" Bodie placed his glass down.
"I've been staying with my sister, near East Grinstead. She has an estate cottage, lives there with her kids, along with some other families. You know the story, rented out farm land and cottages."
"I'm getting to it. The family sold out to a new bloke. American. He said he was going to keep everything the same but now the rent's gone up twice, driving the families out. Expenses, he says. Peg's the last one left and she's out at the end of the month."
"So I went looking around a bit. I got to wondering about this bloke Garrety."
"Nosing in where you don't belong."
"And I found an arms stockpile--sophisticated stuff. Bomb-making materials as well. A regular workshop. I doubt if any of it is legal."
"Rang the police, did you?"
"Not likely. I thought of you."
Michaels shrugged. "It's your patch now, isn't it? And there's more." He reached into his pocket and unfolded a piece of paper, then handed it to Bodie.
"And this is?" Bodie waved the paper gently.
"Registration number from a car that has been there a few times. With diplomatic plates."
Bodie looked up, eyebrows raised.
Michaels nodded. "Yeah. I won't deny that I want to cause trouble. I'd've let it lie if they hadn't pressurised my sister. But as it is...seemed like you might be interested."
Pocketing the piece of paper, Bodie looked around the pub. "Might be. Give me a moment to make a phone call."
He sat back in his seat. "Take your time, sunshine. I'm enjoying my pint."
The telephone was located close to the door of the pub so he was able to keep an eye on Bodie as he made his call. He had once made a practice of studying Bodie's expressions, trying to decipher the man who had represented everything he'd wanted to become. Bodie, only a few years older, but vastly more experienced in the ways of the violent world they'd inhabited. He'd learned how to survive and then how to succeed in that world, and it had begun by being able to read Bodie himself.
The years had altered him, but the tell-tale signs of tension were the same--the stiff stance and the lack of expression on his face revealing his frustration with the conversation. Hanging up the receiver, Bodie paused for a moment, eyes down, before he started back to their table. He was, as Michaels expected, nearly cheerful as he arrived. Bodie was a master at re-directing emotions.
"All set." Bodie picked up his glass and drained it, needing it. "Come on."
Michaels stood up. "Where?"
"We're going to pick up my partner and then go and check this stockpile of yours." And, he thought, Doyle had damned well better co-operate.
"Partner?" He followed Bodie out of the pub.
"It's CI5, mate, most of us work in two-man teams."
Michaels snorted "And how long do they last with you?" They'd reached a silver Capri.
"I've only had one," Bodie said evenly, then he unlocked the door and slid into the car, reaching across to unlock the other door.
"Worth the trust, is he?" He settled into the seat, fastening the seatbelt as Bodie accelerated into traffic.
Picking up something odd in Bodie's tone, Michaels pressed on. "Still?"
Bodie glanced at him. "He's fine."
"Yeah? What's his background?"
Michaels grunted. "Must be training them better than they used to." When Bodie had no answer to that, he continued, "You taught me a lot about trust."
"It's a tool like anything else. Control is essential." Bodie shifted gears to speed up. "Have you seen Baffert since you got back? Do you know he's in York?"
Allowing the conversation to be diverted, Michaels responded easily to an exchange of information on old mates and enemies. Bodie had indeed taught him the value of trust, and how to do it without becoming involved, without losing the self-sufficiency that meant survival. He'd learned the lesson well in Angola.
They arrived at a block of flats, parking a street away and walking back to the entrance. A short time later they were buzzed into the building and hurried up a flight of stairs. Bodie pushed open the door to let them in to his partner's flat.
"Ray Doyle, Jamie Michaels," Bodie introduced them coolly.
Michaels looked across at the man lounging at his ease against the wall and made sure to keep the surprise from showing on his face. Slender and compact, the man didn't look like a fighter but he'd met the type before and knew how deceiving such a build could be. He didn't look like a copper, either. Brown curly hair that looked like he'd been running a hand through it repeatedly, odd green eyes in a damaged face. But those eyes were coldly assessing and Michaels couldn't read a thought on Doyle's face. He found it unnerving in a way he'd never found it to be with Bodie.
Doyle nodded at Jamie then looked at Bodie. "You said it was business."
"And so it is," Bodie said irritably. "Jamie, go on and fill Doyle in. Tell him everything you told me."
Michaels went through the story again, adding details of the arms he'd discovered, prompted by Doyle's questions. He found it easier to talk to Doyle than he'd expected, appreciating the well-used interrogation techniques. He had no reason not to co-operate. Bodie prowled the room as he and Doyle talked, his face closed.
When he was finished, Doyle turned to Bodie. "Police business."
"Oh that's brilliant, Sherlock. Where would we be without you?" Bodie pulled out the piece of paper Michaels had given him. "CD plates." He handed the paper to Doyle. Their eyes met, challenge and query, then Doyle turned away.
"I'll ring HQ." He walked past the telephone by the sofa, to another room in the flat.
Left with a strangely brooding Bodie, Michaels kept his voice light. "Doesn't trust me, does he?"
Bodie glanced at him. "He doesn't think much of mercenaries."
"Well, he's only had you as an example, after all."
Forcing himself into the familiar role, Bodie responded, "Sterling example, my son." He moved to the drinks cabinet. "What'll you have?"
"Whatever you're having." It turned out to be scotch. They sipped the drinks in silence, Michaels sitting on the sofa while Bodie moved around the room.
A few minutes later Doyle came back. "They're running the plate, they'll give us a ring. Then we're to check it out."
Bodie set his unfinished drink down on the table near the sofa. "They can contact us on the way."
"Cowley said to wait." Doyle spoke mildly, unwilling to deal with Bodie's uncertain moods in front of Michaels.
"Since when do you do everything Cowley tells you to do?"
So much for intentions. Doyle glared at him. "When it suits. Seems a one-man job, though, doesn't it? You and Michaels can take a look-see on your own."
"I already explained to Jamie that we work in teams in CI5."
Doyle contemplated his partner for a long moment. "Yeah, all right." He glanced around, noted the drinks they were having and went to pour one for himself. "Cowley's giving it priority, shouldn't be long before we hear back."
Bodie sat in one of the arm chairs, watching Doyle. "Still angry with you, is he?"
"With us." Doyle turned away from the cabinet, drink in hand.
"There's the disadvantage of working in teams for you, Jamie." Before Doyle could answer, Bodie changed the subject. "As long as we have to wait, got any food in?"
Doyle shrugged. "Help yourself. You know where the kitchen is." He walked to the other arm chair and settled into it to wait.
With a sigh, Bodie heaved himself to his feet. "Want anything, mate?" he asked Michaels.
He shook his head and watched as Bodie strolled into the kitchen. The sounds of rummaging soon reached them. Michaels turned to study Doyle. "Trouble with your boss? I'm not prying, just that I've heard a little about George Cowley."
Doyle nodded. "I'm not surprised. And, no, not trouble. Just a little...miscommunication."
Bodie walked back into the room, munching on a biscuit. "Miscommunication? You jumped early, Doyle. That's not 'miscommunication'."
"It's done with," Doyle said very evenly. The telephone rang and he put his drink down before leaving the room again to answer it.
Bodie followed him with his eyes and then wandered back to the window, finishing the biscuit.
"Nerve broke?" Michaels asked, watching Bodie speculatively.
Bodie nearly laughed, although it wasn't humour that prompted it. "Doesn't know the meaning of the word."
A short time later, Doyle strode back into the room, carrying his shoulder holster. "We're on, sunshine. The car's registered to the Soviet embassy, one of the pool cars. Cowley says to take a look but keep our heads low. No disturbances. Low profile."
"Then you bear it in mind."
Doyle sighed. "Leave it, Bodie." He turned to Michaels. "Can you get us in to see what you've seen, without anyone knowing?"
"Of course he can," Bodie interjected impatiently.
"Michaels?" Doyle looked at him.
"Yes. Best to wait until dusk. Garrety has workmen crawling over the place during the day--renovations he says. No one local, though, which is also causing some ill-feeling. They usually leave at the end of the day. It won't cause any comment if we go to my sister's house. She's away with the kids, visiting."
"Can we leave now?" Bodie was already at the door.
"After you," Doyle said tightly to Michaels.
Clattering down the stairs, with the others following, Michaels tracked down the feeling of unease within him. He'd never known Bodie to be unreasoningly impatient before. Never known him to display it so openly. Changes indeed.
Three and a half hours later it wasn't Bodie's impatience that had them trapped in the woods that covered two-thirds of the estate, running for their lives, with an injured Doyle. His own timing, Michaels reflected, had always been lousy. They'd have made it if Garrety and his men had behaved as usual, if they hadn't suddenly changed routines. Another of the lessons Bodie had taught him: don't rely on assumptions. Maybe he'd learn it this time.
Getting into the barn that held the arms cache hadn't been any more difficult than he'd anticipated. One man had been on duty, but Bodie had quietly taken care of him with his usual efficiency--the years hadn't diminished his skills. Slipping inside, he'd kept watch as Bodie and Doyle had quickly examined the place, noting the number and types of the stored weapons. It should have been a quick in-and-out, with none the wiser, but their luck had run out just as they'd left the barn. Rounding the corner, they'd come face-to-face with a group of four, and one of them had recognised Bodie and Doyle.
Quick reflexes had saved them. Attacking the men as they'd gone for their guns, he and Bodie had scattered the group, and that had given Doyle enough time to get into position behind a tractor. He had given them covering fire for their own escape to the woods. They had then returned the favour, covering Doyle's retreat in a brief but deadly exchange of shots with the remaining men at the barn.
At the very edge of the woods, however, Doyle had pitched forward, caught by a bullet in his side. Bodie had gone to Doyle, had got him up and moving, and then they had fled into the woods. They had found their retreat cut off by another group of Garrety's men and since then had been forced steadily north through the woods, away from the cottages and the main road. Away from help for Doyle. Bodie had found time to bind his wound, but Doyle was flagging, slowing their pace in the deadly game of fox and hounds they found themselves in.
As they crossed through a small clearing, Bodie signalled for a halt. Doyle slipped from his supporting hold onto the ground, breathing heavily. Michaels stepped away from them, listening for any sound of pursuit. Garrety's men were close; it was risky to stop at all. A glance at Doyle, however, showed him that the rest was necessary.
The moon's light was enough for them to see their way, although it didn't penetrate the heavy shadow of the woods. Their pursuers were carrying torches. At least that meant they could see them coming.
Michaels turned as Bodie came up close beside him, eyes searching the trail behind them.
"Any sign?" Bodie's voice was soft, carrying no further than his ear.
"No. But you know they're coming. They must be making delivery tonight."
Bodie rubbed a hand over his face. "More to it than that. They're hunting us. How close are we to an entrance--or to the wall, for that matter?"
He shrugged. "I'm not sure, but we're probably closer to the main house than we are to the edge of the estate." He jerked his head towards Doyle. "How is he?"
"Still alive. We need to get word to Cowley."
"You're overdue for a check-in, aren't you?"
Bodie shook his head. "Not enough." He looked around. They needed to change the odds, to stop reacting and to get themselves out. "Look, I'm going to backtrack a bit, check to see where they are. I'll be back shortly." He turned his eyes to Doyle. Ray needed the break, anyway. "Five minutes. Take care of him for me."
Michaels hesitated then nodded. "Yeah."
Bodie slipped away, moving quickly and as silently as possible. Michaels watched him, then took his gun from his shoulder holster, checking the ammunition and flipping the safety. Best to be certain. He didn't want to do this and he felt the weight of responsibility settling on him as it must have settled on Bodie all those years ago in Angola.
Trust without involvement--easier said than done. He'd learned it to his cost with Robert. It had been Robert's idea to get the training and join as mercenaries in Angola. There hadn't been many options for them. Funny that he had been the one to survive it then, to learn the hard lessons of the life Robert had chosen for them. They'd made a good team, though, as even Bodie had said. Had guarded each other's backs. Faced death together.
Maybe that was why Bodie was leaving it to him. It should have been his hand that ended Robert's life, not Bodie's.
He walked back towards Doyle, who was sitting in the clearing, head bowed. He'd lost his gun when he'd fallen. The bullet wound wouldn't kill him, not with care, but the men behind them would. After they'd wrung from him any useful information. If the Soviets were involved.... It was one of the earliest rules Bodie had taught them: don't leave anyone for the enemy.
Doyle looked up as Michaels approached and saw the gun in his hand. He struggled to his feet, swaying a little. "Time to go?"
"We won't make it. Not with you." Familiar words but never easy.
Doyle nodded wearily. "I reckoned that was true. Leave me and go on. Get Cowley."
"It's not that simple," Michaels said. He brought the Beretta up.
Doyle froze, eyes fixed on Michaels' determined face.
Interpreting the look, Michaels explained, "It should be Bodie, I know. You're his partner."
"He wouldn't." Doyle backed up a step, giving himself room, his pulse hammering in his throat.
Had Bodie taught Doyle nothing? "He would; he's done it before. You do what you have to in war."
A sick certainty began to displace the disbelief in Doyle. "Then let Bodie do it."
"He said to take care of you." He watched as Doyle backed another step. "Don't."
Doyle stopped. He fought to breathe deeply, one hand supporting the bandage Bodie had fastened around his stomach. "That's how mercenaries behave, is it?"
"Better to die by the hand of a friend than to be tortured to death by the enemy." Odd how he needed Doyle's understanding. It had been a long time since he'd thought about justifications. "You know what the men after us would want from you."
"They'll hear the shot."
"Can't be helped. All it'll give them is a general direction, though, and we'll be able to move faster now."
Bitter acknowledgement engulfed Doyle, leaving him few options. "Head shot is the surest," he suggested quietly.
Michaels nodded and moved forward. "I know what I'm doing. For what it's worth, I never knew Bodie to work so long with any one person. He trusts you, in his fashion."
Even through Doyle's fear and anger that cut--like a barb slashing into him. He wouldn't give Michaels the satisfaction of knowing it. "Every good thing comes to an end." He turned his head as Michaels approached.
Michaels levelled the gun, knowing just how to place it, thinking of Robert--and suddenly Doyle turned, shoving the butt of the gun up and back, cracking into Michaels' chin. He reeled back, struggling for balance, pain shocking his system. Doyle fled, stumbling out of the clearing, bent low and using his hands for added purchase. He disappeared into the underbrush.
Cursing, Michaels started after him, retrieving the Beretta from the ground. He heard Doyle's movements, knew he could catch up with him. Didn't the fool realise what was at stake?
"Jamie." A low, guttural voice sounded behind him. He whirled around.
Bodie stood there, gun drawn, his face in the moonlight pale and hard. "Don't move."
Michaels stared at him, feeling both the pain in his jaw and the kick of adrenaline. "We have to catch him. He won't get far." He turned to follow Doyle.
Michaels swung around. "Bodie, you know--"
"Not him. Put the gun away." With an effort, Bodie kept his voice steady and quiet. The woods were silent where Doyle had gone.
"Bodie, dammit--" At the levelling of the gun on him, Michaels slowly set the safety, then placed his gun in his shoulder holster. He showed his empty hands to Bodie. It didn't make sense, like a dream where everything was turned on its head. "You know the score."
Bodie strode forward, towards Doyle's trail. "Yeah. Get out."
The reason behind Bodie's actions was beginning to dawn on him. And a rising sense of betrayal needled him to test it. "You told me to do it."
Blind rage surged through Bodie, but he kept control of his gun hand. "I'm not killing him, not letting you kill him."
Michaels shook his head in disbelief, suspicion confirmed. The code they lived by, forsaken by the man who had taught it to him; betrayed by the very involvement that Bodie had warned him against. "And if he's captured?"
"I'll find him. He and I go down together."
He felt a bitterness that surprised him, an old wound reopened. "When it was Robert...." Another time, another retreat and no choices given.
"It's Ray." And that was all the explanation Bodie had. All he needed as well. There was no doubt within him.
"You bastard," Michaels hissed, distracted by images of the past. "You didn't give me a fucking choice!"
Bodie looked at him dispassionately. "You didn't want it."
Ten years ago he'd have killed Bodie for that remark, but then ten years ago Bodie would never have made it. And, strangely, the thought calmed him. Bodie had betrayed everything he'd lived by, had fallen victim to his own first and best rule. The only sensible thing was to get as far away from the suicidal bastard as possible. But emotions he'd rather have denied made him ask a final question. "What about him? He knows what you are." And he saw the unleashed anger in Bodie, witnessed his weakness.
"Does it concern you? Goodbye, Jamie."
"You're a fool," he said before he turned and left Bodie to his fate. What had happened to the predator he'd admired, to the all-important rule of personal survival? He'd missed the involvement. Blinded by the antagonism between Bodie and Doyle that he'd witnessed earlier, he'd never given it a thought. He'd ignored the ease of their communication in the barn, putting it down to professionalism. But it hadn't been professional concern that had sent Bodie to Doyle's side when he'd fallen, or had tinged his voice when he'd berated his partner for stopping a bullet. Involvement was the surest road to disaster. Bodie had taught him that. And had turned his back on it.
An image of Robert rose to his mind's eye, the look on his face when Bodie had approached him.... No, don't think of it. Don't believe it. Survival came first, always. He walked away.
Doyle struggled to stay upright, able to ignore the pain in his abdomen thanks to the adrenaline surging through him. He moved as quickly as he could through the woods, knowing he was making too much noise, unable to compensate for his unsteady movements. Keep going, get away, survive.
He stumbled, falling heavily onto his side, clenching his jaw in the effort to stay silent. He lay there for a moment, breathing heavily, face pressed against cool mud.
Bodie wanted him dead. No. He wouldn't. But Bodie thought it best that he died, rather than be captured. Did he? The mercenary's credo. He hadn't thought there was one. Christ.
He didn't hear anything behind him. Or around him. Nothing but his own breathing. Didn't matter who came along, couldn't trust any of them. Bodie. Lived by different rules. He's done it before.
Pushing himself to his knees and then to his feet, he lurched forward. He was on some sort of trail, following it blindly, knowing he had to keep moving.
Bodie was behind him. Looking for him? Bodie wanted him dead. No.
Less than three weeks as lovers. Worst of a bad track record. He nearly laughed--it came out a gasp. Keep moving. Couldn't keep this up. Had to find a place to hide.
Michaels came from Bodie's world, didn't he? Trained by him, Bodie had said when he'd rung. Bodie's past--bloody hell but he'd had enough of Bodie's past. What'd he know of it? He'd learned about Bodie, hadn't he? Bodie used whatever tool was necessary, focused only on the objective and screw any consequences. He'd used him. The objective now was stopping Garrety and whatever deal he had struck with the Soviets. And Doyle was a threat to that.
He fell again, down an incline, rolling and sliding until he finally stopped. Dazed, he lay still, eyes closed while he tried to control his breathing, tried to control the pain swamping his every sense. Had to stay aware, couldn't black out.
It took several long, precious minutes, before he could raise his head to look around. He was lying in a small depression, near the edge of a large garden. The trees thinned out around him, leaving him exposed, pressed against the slope he'd fallen down. To his right he saw a house far too close for safety. Lights shone from several windows. A car's headlights swept over the grounds as it turned and Doyle shrank back into the vegetation around him.
He couldn't stay here. He crawled along the base of the hill, hissing at the stress on his wound. Keep moving. There seemed to be a slight indentation in the side of the hill up ahead. He struggled forward and found a small wooden door, stained with age and beginning to rot, set into the hill. Overgrown plants obscured it. Seeking with a hand, he found an oblong handle and turned it slowly. One shriek of protesting metal and then a click and the door moved towards him as he tugged. He froze, listening for any reaction to the noise he'd made, but there was none. Inching forward through the doorway he found himself in a small enclosure, dug out of the hillside. There was just enough room for him to lie on the slope of the stone-lined floor, leading down to cool darkness.
Ice-house, he thought. Long abandoned and forgotten. It was unlikely Garrety would know of it. Safety.
He pulled the door nearly closed behind him, leaving just enough of a crack to be able to peer out at the lights moving in the distance, able to hear any approach. How many were looking for them? They'd been surprised leaving the barn, caught by Adamov and his men, and then they'd been running, exchanging gunfire. He knew he'd taken two down before the bullet had found him. Garrety's men must have radios--the groups searching for them had been too systematic to be operating independently.
His wound throbbed, the pain growing as he lay there, leaving him to wonder how bad it was. Bodie had helped him to get away and had insisted on that first stop to check it out. He'd used Doyle's shirt to stanch the bleeding, binding it tightly. But Doyle knew he needed to get to hospital, preferably soon. There was nothing he could do now except wait and hope the activity around the house would settle down eventually. And that he'd be able to move when the time came. He was on his own.
Bodie's hands had been gentle on him, working quickly, while all the while he'd sworn and called him a fool and an idiot. Contradictory to the last, his Bodie. No, not his. Never his. Partner and temporary lover but not his. Not everything he wanted from him.
You're hard to resist.
Bodie's voice in his head. Echoing distant voices, old betrayals.
He had, hadn't he? But he'd found he didn't know Bodie as well as he'd thought. Found himself looking into the eyes of a stranger. He couldn't predict what Bodie would do, much less what he felt. And he had leapt to the wrong conclusions all around.
It showed on the job. Two days ago he'd moved in on Branson at the warehouse because he had thought Bodie was moving in as well. He'd followed his instincts and he'd been wrong. Doubt where he had once known certainty.
And the sex, so new to them, had spoken more of anger than passion; desire and competition rather than tenderness. Nothing like that first time, oh, that first time when he'd thought the world was his. But he couldn't think about that time, wouldn't allow himself to think of it. Not even here.
The partnership was disintegrating the harder they tried to hold onto it. How much of it was Bodie's fault? How much his own, and the games he'd played with Bodie before? There was no doubt that Bodie wanted him, seeking him out each night. And he unable to do anything other than go to him. Each night Bodie watched as he left, an expression in his eyes that Doyle could no longer interpret. Closer physically than ever before, they were never more alone.
Bodie would get to Cowley. They'd stop Garrety and Adamov. There was satisfaction in that thought. They might even come looking for him--he wasn't going anywhere now. Would Bodie come? Michaels had been furious at the risk Doyle was taking. Cowley was more like Bodie than him. Sorry sir, couldn't let him kill me. Might've let Bodie.
A noise drew his attention, crashing through his self-absorption. He peered out through the crack in the door and saw bobbing lights moving by the house. Search party? Or were they heading for the house itself? Had Bodie got through? He didn't know how much time had passed. It felt like hours. But the moon was as bright as before, and seemed as high in the sky.
He jumped, heart pounding in his throat.
"Ray, where are you? Ray!"
Unmistakably Bodie's voice. A hoarse whisper but still too loud--wasn't safe. What was the fool playing at? Must've followed the same trail as he had. Following him. Why?
The lights were coming nearer. Surely Bodie saw them? He should move back, deeper into the woods. Where was Michaels?
Stones clattered down from above and he flinched back, away from the door. Someone was in the garden with him.
"Doyle, for God's sake."
There was movement to his right, cloth sliding on stone and dirt. The lights were bobbing closer and closer. It had to be Bodie there.
Did it matter? Life or death. They'd kill Bodie if they found him. He sounded like he wouldn't be leaving any time soon. He had to have seen the lights. Stubborn bloody bastard of a fool.
Doyle inched forward, pushing the door outwards, exposing himself. He couldn't let him die. He'd grown too used to looking after Bodie's back. He loved him.
There was no sound but then suddenly Bodie was there with him, hands moving over him, hurtful in their frantic haste. There wasn't time.
"They're coming." He said it as clearly as he could, shocked to find that his voice was nothing more than a croak.
Bodie seemed to understand it, however. He eased inside the ice-house, pressed close against Doyle, and pulled the door closed. Doyle reached forward to set it slightly ajar. Then Bodie's arms closed around him, his breath warm along the side of his face.
"Ray." Relief and gratitude filling him, Bodie closed his eyes.
He could feel Bodie shaking. "You hurt?" he whispered, disturbed.
"I know what Michaels said. Forget it. Shut up now. Rest."
He felt odd, like he was there and yet wasn't there at the same time. Distant yet connected. "You going to kill me?"
"Fucking hell!" Bodie struggled for control. This wasn't the time. "No. I'm going to get you out of here." He shuddered, his skin prickling as cold washed through him.
Doyle watched the bobbing lights; they seemed to be veering to their left. Good. "Thought you were gone."
Bodie's arms tightened, feeling the warmth of Ray's body. Better than cold. "Not without you."
Doyle sighed. "Don't understand."
"I know, sweetheart. Later. Just--try to trust me."
He couldn't control his tongue, didn't even try. "Don't leave me."
They lay in the darkness, watching the gleam of lights across the field. Twice, a group of men came through the garden, but neither stopped at their hiding place.
Drifting in a haze of pain and confusion, Doyle realised that he was strangely content. As he had been so briefly that first night with Bodie. Odd. But then maybe not so surprising--he'd done what he had to do. Proved something too. Tomorrow was soon enough to pay for it, if payment was demanded.
He had no idea how much time had passed when Bodie disturbed his tranquillity, pushing past him to peer out the doorway.
"Don't you hear it? Helicopters."
"We'll lose 'em," Doyle murmured.
"No help for it. Wait--" The sound of gunfire carried across the night air to them. "Damn. I think it just might be the cavalry, mate!"
It was. Bodie insisted they wait and then, when he felt it was safe, he helped Doyle from the ice-house and supported him on the walk to the front of the house where all the activity was centred. Lucas and McCabe came to meet them, guiding them to where Cowley was directing the clean-up.
"This is how you keep a low profile, is it?" Cowley greeted them. But he helped Bodie take Doyle to the waiting paramedic. "I'll want your reports later. Och, you're good lads, we've caught ourselves a right nest of vipers here. Go on then. Bodie, you stay with Doyle."
Bodie watched as the paramedic settled Doyle in one of the helicopters, then he joined them inside, sitting close beside his partner. The helicopter lifted away from the ground, carrying them back to London.
"Bodie." Doyle opened his eyes at the sound of his own voice, disoriented until he remembered he was in hospital. The darkness in the room--as dark as it ever was in hospital--told him it was evening. He turned his eyes to the chair that Bodie had been sitting in when he had awakened before. For a moment Doyle thought he was there, but it was only the shadows and his own desire playing tricks. He looked away.
Bodie must've been kicked out. He knew he'd have stayed by preference. It seemed some certainties were returning to his life. Too late, perhaps. He'd run from Bodie, for God's sake. And it was only just starting to dawn on him that he'd run in more ways than one.
He stirred, restless, and felt hard metal in the bed with him. Reaching under the covers, he retrieved the object: a Browning Hi-Power. Bodie's gun. He stared at it. The bloody idiot. He felt a smile slowly growing, the faint stirring of hope within.
Could anyone ever really know another?
Maybe trust had a lot to do with faith.
Carefully, Doyle placed the pistol in the top drawer of the cabinet next to his bed.
Bodie sat by Doyle's bed in the hospital room, as he'd sat the day before and in the night as well, for as long as he had been allowed to stay. He'd sit here until they told him to leave. Doyle had awakened a few times since the surgery. Groggy and uncommunicative, he'd muttered a few words, drunk a lot of water and managed to eat a little food. Not good company. But he had smiled that first time he'd seen Bodie, and so Bodie stayed when he could, wanting to see that smile again.
Don't leave me. Christ, was that what this was all about? Doyle playing fast and loose because of his fears? But then what had his own fears led him to do?
Playing with Doyle's trust, manoeuvring him regardless of consequences, seeking to instil the very doubt that had nearly cost them everything. Trust was life and death for them. He didn't see how Doyle could ever forgive him. Didn't expect it.
Except Doyle had let him into the ice-house, hadn't he? And so Bodie stayed by his side.
He shifted in the chair, trying to find a more comfortable position, although he knew the uselessness of it. They'd been lucky, the bullet had taken a relatively clean path through Doyle--broken rib, injured spleen, loss of blood and organ tissue, but all fixable. He'd make it.
Doyle always looked insubstantial in hospital beds. Some trick of the light, no doubt. Or maybe it was that he was still, his eyes closed, all the animation drained from him. Just bones and skin, nothing of Doyle's personality, his worth. The value of him had been brought home, sickeningly, on that fucking trail when he couldn't find him. Knowing all the time it was his fault he couldn't.
You going to kill me?
Bodie closed his eyes, wondering if he'd ever forget those words, or the resignation in the voice that had said them.
He opened his eyes to see Doyle gazing back at him. "Back among the living are we?"
Doyle grimaced. "Getting there." He looked around.
"Here." Bodie directed his attention to the water glass.
Doyle sipped at the water gratefully. Afterwards, he lay back against the pillow, observing Bodie. "Been here long?"
Bodie shrugged. "Off and on. Cowley wanted a report."
"Ah." He squinted up at his partner. "Are we still on the payroll?"
"Oh yeah. He was quite pleased with the connection we discovered: Garrety arranging to buy Soviet excess supplies for his friends in Ireland." He hesitated, then said coolly, "Michaels is in the Cow's favour. We failed miserably by being discovered and then getting you injured."
Doyle grunted. "Did Michaels call in Cowley, then?"
"Tell him thanks."
"Not bloody likely," Bodie said savagely.
Doyle kept his tone mild and watched Bodie. "He thought he was doing the right thing."
"Bloody hell, are you defending him?"
"You trained him."
Bodie leaped to his feet. "Do you think I don't realise that? Christ, do you think I don't know?"
"Calm down. It's over."
Bodie looked at him sharply. "What's over?" His throat tightened.
"You saved me. Got me out of there." He held out his hand to Bodie.
Bodie hesitated, then grasped Doyle's hand, and returned to the chair. His fingers stroked along Doyle's skin.
"I'm not complaining," Doyle told him quietly.
"I'm not so forgiving."
There wasn't anything to say to that. Doyle looked down, hiding the bleakness of his thoughts.
It was now or never, Bodie thought. Doyle wouldn't ask again. "I met him in Angola, just kids all of us, really. But I'd been a merc for over six months, been in battle. He joined with a friend of his, Robbie. Both of them more eager than bright, you know the type. I was told to train them, so I did. Taught them what I'd learned and found I had a certain knack for it. Maybe I taught him too well."
Doyle stayed silent as Bodie told the tale, watching the expressions crossing his face: humour, disgust, and the impassiveness of impossible choices.
"Robbie was injured. Would've made it, probably, if we could've got him out, but the enemy was too close." He shut his eyes for a moment, remembering the heat and the desperation. "It was a bleeding rout, chaos all around. It was either leave him or we all died. We couldn't leave him alive. My responsibility. I killed him. Jamie and I made it out two days later to find that three-quarters of our platoon had died in the retreat. We merged in with another company and it wasn't long after that I was captured. On a routine supply run, too--never will live it down." He smiled but couldn't look at Doyle. He felt a fool, rambling on. There had been no plan to his words, no objective. Only the knowledge that Doyle had once wanted to hear it.
After a minute of silence, he lifted his eyes to Doyle's.
Clearness in green eyes, something he hadn't seen for a while.
It made it easier to speak, to tell him. "Michaels is still in that world. I'm not."
Doyle tilted his head, eyes meeting Bodie's. He'd learned some truths as well. "Seems to me there are some overlaps between the two. You wouldn't leave me to the enemy."
"No." He wouldn't survive it, either. He knew that now.
Doyle nodded slowly. "Nor I you. But...a different place."
"Yes. Not here."
Doyle, however, denied them both the comfort of illusion. "It could happen here. But if it comes to that--"
"Then we stay together."
For a long moment Doyle held Bodie's eyes with his own. "Yes." Gently, he freed his hand, flexing it and contemplating the marks left by Bodie's fingers.
Noting Doyle's abstraction, Bodie said abruptly, "I made my choice before. About where I belong. In the woods with King Billy. I just didn't realise it."
"No," Bodie interrupted. "It wasn't Cowley's threat. It was Cheryl agreeing to testify. You being there. Realised it was time to give the law a chance."
"It doesn't always work."
Bodie shrugged. "Nothing does. But the method means more than I thought." He looked at Doyle, eyes steady. "I won't forget it."
Doyle gazed back at him sombrely. He'd had assumptions of his own, hadn't he? And he'd made a choice, in the end, that led only to Bodie. Trust was a two-way street. And surrender wasn't always a defeat. He gathered himself to speak.
"I need you. Need more than what we've had the last few weeks. I'm asking for all of it, as best as we can do. But I'll take what I can get, no recriminations." He smiled wryly. "Well, I'll try for no recriminations." The smile faded. "So I'll ask what I asked you before: what is it you want?"
"Us," Bodie replied without hesitation. "You. Like you were that first night, only more certain of it, of me. Like you've been all along, since the day I met you, but I was too blind to see." Unable to sit still, he stood and walked towards the window, then turned. "I want to talk to you about Keith. About a lot of things. Always thought trust was only for the job, and controllable, but...." He made a helpless gesture with his hand. "It's more. With you. I won't leave you, Ray."
Doyle nodded. "I reckoned you would leave, grow bored, and move on like you do. That's what I told myself--thought it better not to hurry it along." He shook his head and admitted: "I didn't have enough trust to risk it--not in you, not in myself. Never even told you what I wanted from you, just assumed you wouldn't give it. Perhaps I was more afraid you would. We've both been fools."
A smile dawned as Bodie cocked his head. "Together, at least."
"Always. Come here."
Bodie went to him, gathering him into his arms, mouth settling on the strong pulse in Doyle's throat. It really was like coming home.
"When I get out of here I'm going to fuck you for a week," Doyle promised fiercely.
"And then I'll expect the same from you."
Bodie kissed him on the lips. "Reckon I can oblige."
Doyle smiled at him, all wild mischief, and Bodie's heart quickened. Oh, it would be a ride all right. But they'd be together. Doyle reached over to the cabinet beside his bed.
"Here," he said, pulling out the Browning. He handed it over. "You'd best keep track of that. Might come in handy."
Bodie deposited it in his shoulder holster.
Doyle caught his hand and brought it to his lips. "We'll look after each other."
"Always," Bodie agreed.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Roses and Lavender 3, Allamagoosa Press, October 1999