"I reckon everyone's got a Room 101,
you know, something they fear most."
-Bodie (via George Orwell)
from "Everest Was Also Conquered"
Bodie sat very straight in the waiting room chair, his head turned towards the long corridor and the dull green double doors at the end. He kept his hands folded neatly in his lap, fingers laced. His knuckles were white from the pressure but no one was close enough to tell. His expression was colourless, emotionless. The original stoneface. It was one of his many talents. No one was ever completely certain about what he was feeling. Or if he was feeling anything at all. He saw to that. Oh, Cowley figured him sometimes. And Ray. Ray. He blinked at the green doors and became aware of a cramp in his neck. He hadn't moved in almost an hour.
A hand on his shoulder forced him to turn about, ignoring the ache in his muscles. It was Cowley. No surprise there.
"Are you planning to take root in that chair, Bodie?" The voice had its usual snap, but no anger.
"The nurse said they'd know by a coupla hours." Then he added, with more defensiveness than he'd intended. "I'm on my own time."
The Old Man just stared at him, eyes measuring and boring into him. Bodie didn't care. Too late to care. "Your time, on or off, belongs to me. Keep that in mind, boy." Still, the voice lacked harshness. Dammit, don't be kind, thought Bodie, lowering his eyes, but Cowley kept on talking. "It'll be more than a coupla hours. I've just spoken with the surgeon."
"What?! The doc wouldn't tell me--"
"Perhaps if you hadn't ridden on his heels like a hound from hell, he would have been more amenable to discussing Doyle's condition."
"Alright," Bodie countered, remembering how the doctor and nurses had threatened to have him thrown out of the building. He'd promised to be still and sit quietly after that. He would've promised to turn into the bloody Sphinx if it'd keep him near Ray. "What did he say?" he asked, as calmly as he could.
"The surgery was trickier than they'd expected. If he makes it through the night, if there's no infection, then he should be in the clear, but they won't know if there's paralysis until he regains consciousness."
"Too damn many ifs. Can't they be sure of anything, for godssake."
The hand tightened on his shoulder. "C'mon, I'll buy you a scotch. Several, in fact."
Bodie shook his head, too preoccupied with the chill, hollow feeling in his chest to take note of Cowley's uncharacteristic generosity. "Don't want to leave."
"You'll do no good sitting here like a damn spectre, man." The hand tugged at his arm, but he still couldn't move. "Listen, you can come back later. You need a breather. You're not helping anyone like this." The pressure increased and Bodie got up and let Cowley lead him out.
He peered into his glass of pure malt scotch, peripherally aware of the human sounds around him. Laughter rising and falling, voices blending into an uneven, unintelligible chorus. Life in a popular pub on a Saturday night. Much closer, too close, Cowley's voice hammered at his resistance to listen, finally breaking through.
"You and Doyle were my best team."
It was that one word. It leapt out at him, stabbed into his consciousness like a switchblade. "We are your best team. Ray's not dead." He raised his head, enunciating each word very clearly, capturing Cowley's slate blue eyes with a menacing challenge. His teeth ground together, his jaw hurting.
There was a lift to the corners of Cowley's mouth, not quite a smile. "There are many kinds of fear, Bodie, didya know that? You've probably faced 90% of them in the life you've dealth out for yourself, far more than most will see, fortunately for them. But it's the last ten, son. The last 10% can do you in. That's where the worst of them lie."
Bodie picked up his glass and finished it off, grimacing as the liquor hit the back of his throat. He held the empty tumbler up like a spyglass. Everything looked distorted, blurry and out of shape. He put the glass down. "Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears," he murmured, the phrase ringing like a dirge in his mind.
"Wordsworth, is it now? Not quite the way he meant it, I'd say." Cowley poured him another drink.
"Seems applicable all the same, under the circumstances." It was remarkable how his own voice seemed so bland, toneless. He should have been screaming. He knew he'd reached his flashpoint at last. His armor was gone. What was left was all raw and bleeding. Even in the jungle, with the smell of death in his nostrils, he'd never been this afraid. But then, all he'd had to lose was his life and that hadn't mattered much to anyone but himself and he'd been prepared for it. It was part of the stakes, the risk that went with a merc's price. He'd always been prepared to face his own death, accepting the odds long ago, and there was always a certain level of fear built into his kind of existence, like a constant adrenalin flow. It helped to keep him alive. This...this was agonizingly different.
He looked down at his filled glass and brushed it aside with the back of his hand. "No more. Doesn't help."
The pub was getting noisier and it made him acutely aware of Cowley's silence. He made the effort to glance up. The Old Man had taken his glasses off and was rubbing a hand over his face. It startled Bodie to realize that Cowley was hurting, too. Ol' hard as nails himself, but every time one of the Squad got it, it took a piece out of Cowley as well. Maybe it was even a little worse when it was Ray or himself. The Cow didn't play favourites, but Bodie always had the feeling that he and Doyle mattered a little more, or maybe just in a different way. Cowley's best team. Why else would he be sitting, wasting time with him now.
"Bodie, Doyle may die. You've got to face it. And even if he lives, he may not be able--"
"Stop it!" He slammed a fist down, shaking the table, scotch spilling over the rim of his glass, his brief recognition of Cowley's pain smothered by his own.
Still Cowley's voice was unrelenting, yet oddly gentle, ignoring his outburst. "When I chose you for CI5, it was not without a good deal of reservation. Ach, there was never any doubt about your qualifications; you're almost too 'gifted' for our sort of business. But you were a loner, a one-man band. You did your job and then some, in the Paras and SAS, but you never belonged. Anywhere. That's the way you wanted it. I took a chance on you, Bodie. I gambled that I could find a partner that would make you a team. Doyle. I didn't pick names out of a hat, y'know. I studied your histories, your psychological profiles, a battery of results sputtered out of a roomful of computers. But it all boiled down to a gut feeling, an instinct when I saw the two of you in training together. I saw the balance there, Bodie. Something that clicked, even if the two of you couldn't see it." He sipped at his drink and put on his glasses. "And it worked. You've changed since that first day I interviewed you--a cool one then, all smugness and self-interest." Cowley smiled briefly. "Couldn't eliminate the smugness." He sighed and settled back into his chair. "It never occurred to me that I might have succeeded too well."
But Bodie had stopped listening. He was lost again, fallen away into yesterday. Not much more than 24 hours earlier. A million years ago...
They were slumped to their knees in the middle of the musty, dirt strewn remains of a crumbled farmhouse. Staring at a hand grenade with the pin pulled. The kind that didn't have ten seconds left. Lobbed at them with a nutter's last breath.
Bodie thought of throwing himself over the grenade but there wasn't even time enough for that. And it wouldn't save Doyle anyway. They only had time to look at each other. One look. A farewell that had to transmit all that was felt but never said. Would never be said.
One second gone, two seconds. It didn't blow. They both lunged for it, Doyle reaching it first, heaving it through the shattered window. It landed down the road near the body of the man who'd hurled it at them. It didn't blow. A minute passed before either of them moved. Ray turned around and looked at him. Bodie stared back. "A bloody dud," he said, forcing the words passed the lump in his throat. Ray just nodded his head slowly. A tiny bit of straw fell from a curl beside his ear. Then his partner did something that surprised him almost as much as the fact that they were both still breathing. Doyle reached out and put his arms around him. It took a moment for the gesture to register as reality. Doyle was hugging him close, pressing tight, head buried against his neck.
"Bodie, we're alive. God, we're alive." The words muffled into his collar.
He felt a shiver running through the slim body and his own arms moved automatically, encircling Ray's back. An incredible feeling of comfort rushed through him. Relief followed by wonder followed by something he couldn't put a name to.
It seemed they stood like that for a long time before Ray finally pulled away, leaving Bodie's arms feeling very empty. He struggled for a bit of patter, a smart remark. "Yeh, how about that? We live to love another day, sunshine." How he came out with that of all things, he couldn't fathom. He watched as a smile formed on Ray's mouth, the kind he rarely remembered seeing. It transformed his partner's face, made it all soft and dreamy, drawing Bodie to focus on the green brightness of held-back tears.
He wanted to pull Ray into his arms again. Wanted to recapture the physical closeness. It was crazy. He felt strangely out of control and deliriously happy, all at the same time, like some sort of spell had been woven around him. Around them both.
Ray seemed to come out of it first, looking to his side, shaking his head. There was a body lying in the doorway and another slumped against the far wall, rifle clutched in lifeless arms. Three crazies out to proclaim their righteous political cause by blowing up bits of the country at random. And in the end, only three more graves to be dug. If it hadn't been for luck or whatever, it would've been five. Two donned with wreaths courtesy of CI5.
"We better try and report in, get a bomb squad out here. That grenade could still set off," Doyle was saying as he picked up his r/t.
"Ray," Bodie called, suddenly unsure if he'd imagined the last few minutes. His partner turned round and the look was still in his eyes, the hazy smile still lingering on his lips. Bodie let out a breath.
Doyle waved an arm out. "Let's clear up this mess and go home, mate. I think we've earned our pay for one day." The comment held little of what showed on his face.
The four-week operation was officially closed for them with a brisk 'well done' from Cowley and a draw of four days' leave. The local clean-up boys were called in to tie up the loose ends and they were summarily dismissed.
The ride back to London was unusually quiet and strained. Ray spent most of it gazing out the window and Bodie was grateful to be driving. It gave him something to do. Normally, they'd be joking, trading an insult or two, planning a night on the town and settling on which birds to ring up. It was part of the ritual that helped them to unwind after an op. Nothing seemed quite normal this time round. Bodie could feel the difference in the air, like an electric spark dancing over his skin. As they drove into town, he felt Ray's eyes on him.
"You know, I really believed we were going to die in there, Bodie. I don't think I ever felt like that before. It happened so damn fast. I thought the bloody bastard was dead. Then seeing that grenade droppin' right down in the middle of us like that. I couldn't save you. You couldn't save me. Couldn't even say the word 'goodbye', let alone..." The sentence faded off and he ran a hand through his curls, arching his head back against the rest.
It wasn't just the beginning of one of Ray's introspective moods. There was too much hard emotion in his voice, an intense undercurrent enveloping every word. Soul-searching, meaning of life talk, the kind that always made Bodie uneasy because Ray couldn't help but make it deeply personal.
"It's okay, old son, we're lucky, is all. It's the Irish in me, keeps the Grim Reaper at bay." He kept it purposely light, chancing a glance at the man beside him.
Doyle was smiling a little, his head still lolling against the seat, eyes closed. "You mean, you're my lucky charm?"
"I've got a bit of Irish on me father's side, you know."
That was better. Nip it in the bud. "Don't say? Guess that makes you my lucky charm them. Double medicine. Powerful stuff, guaranteed immortality." He turned to Ray again, saw his mouth open as if to speak, then shut wordlessly, his smile gone.
Neither of them spoke again until Bodie pulled the silver Capri up in front of Doyle's flat. As he turned off the ignition, he knew he didn't want Ray to go. He didn't feel like being alone. The grenade incident must have got to him more than he'd figured. He shook himself mentally. Maybe he was getting too old. Hell, too old at 30?! Maybe he could ring up Joanna. She was always accomodating, even had a sense of humour. Having formed, the idea held absolutely no appeal for him. Then he noticed Doyle hadn't moved to get out of the car.
"D'you wanna have a pint at the Blue Crest?" he offered, the suggestion immediately warming him.
He swallowed disappointment as Ray shook his head. "Nah, don't want to go pub crawling." A second passed and cat eyes glinted at him enigmatically. "I've got a bottle of Napoleon brandy tucked away."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Hoi, keeping it for a special occasion, are you?"
"Yeh, but I figure not having our bodies sprinkling the Berkshire countryside like confetti is as good an occasion as any. I could even make up a sandwich, if you like?"
Bodie felt idiotically like he'd been offered the key to the city by the Lord Mayor himself. "You're on, mate."
Once in the flat, Doyle headed straight for the bookcase. Bodie followed and waited as Ray hunted between and behind a leatherbound volume of Bullfinch's Mythology and Durrell's [MISSING TEXT]
"Here we go," he said, solemn-faced as he brought out the sealed decanter.
"My, my, Raymond, dare I imagine what lurks behind Lady Chatterley?"
Doyle gave him an owlish smirk and laid the bottle on the table. He went off for glasses, calling over his shoulder, "Go on, open 'er up."
"This is a bit of a sacrilege, mate. The Cow'd be greatly disheartened to see us toasting our miraculous escape from the clutches of death with Frenchie's delight."
"Sure, he'd bloody lap it up if he was here." Ray handed him a snifter, adding, "You don't have to drink it if it's morally troubling, you know."
Bodie smiled his most complacent smile and poured them each a proper measure. "I can proudly say I've never had any trouble with morals."
Something between skepticism and amusement danced in Doyle's eyes. He lifted his snifter and clinked it against Bodie's. "To the luck of the Irish," he said.
"May it never waver." They made quick work of their brandies. "God, that is good." A tingle started at the base of his neck as he became aware of Doyle's speculative stare. "What? Have I used up my ration already?"
"You can have the whole bottle."
"Wouldn't dream of it. Don't fancy solo drinking. Pointless."
Doyle picked up the brandy and refilled their glasses.
The old, familiar banter evaporated as the silence lengthened and Bodie could feel the same atmosphere returning that had marked their ride back to London. Doyle was wearing an expression reminiscent of someone planning an important chess move, so he forced his gaze away from the intent face and looked at the wild mop of curls. Ray needed a haircut. The curls were laying around his collar, brushing low across his forehead. "You look like a scruffy mongrel." He reached out with a finger and flicked a thick, auburn curl near Doyle's cheek. The gesture only added confusion to Doyle's expression. It was too much for Bodie. He moved away and sat down on the sofa. "I give up. Why are you looking at me like I've grown antennae?"
"I want to tell you something, and I don't want to wait until we're both drunk."
"If you're going to be maudlin, Raymond ol' boy, I'd rather you were pissed first, or at least wait until I'm pissed."
Doyle drew in a deep breath and sat down next to him, face averted, his voice low. "I just wanted you to know that you're my best friend, is all. That I care about you very much. I wanted you to hear me say it...in case there's no miracle next time." Then he stood abruptly, thumbs hooked into his back pockets. "I'm going to wash up a bit before you tell me to sod off. Why don't you check the fridge, see what's edible. Be back in a minute." And he bounded off up the narrow stairs, not looking back.
Bodie felt very strange. He finished his drink absently, got up and wandered into the kitchen. My best friend...I care about you very much... Doyle's voice echoed in his mind. He found some cheese and wholemeal and a jar of pickles and put them on the counter. In case there's no miracle next time...I care about you... He hunted up a knife to cut the bread. He pulled two more jars down from the shelves and set them beside the rest before he finally stopped himself and considered the effect of Doyle's brief declaration. He felt like he had in the farmhouse...when they were holding each other. And like something significant had changed without his quite knowing it.
"You better let me do that."
Ray was standing in the kitchen doorway, wearing a clean white shirt with the sleeves folded up to his elbows and light brown cords. There were beads of water in his hair above his forehead and temples. His shirt was unbuttoned enough to reveal a silver chain around his neck.
Bodie stepped aside and let him by. He watched Ray's profile. It seemed composed, relaxed.
Doyle picked up one of the jars and chuckled. "I know you eat like a billie goat, but do you really want marmalade on your cheese and pickle sandwich?"
For one of the few times in his adult life, Bodie couldn't come up with a fast return. Instead, he shrugged and told the truth. "Didn't see what I was doing. Anyway, I'm not hungry."
Ray could've had a field day with that one, but he just put the jar down and waited quietly for Bodie to continue. A droplet of water slid off a curl and rolled slowly down his face, across the odd-angled checkbone. Like a tear.
Bodie was always good with words, but never at moments like this; he avoided them like the black death, ignored them or used his charm and humour to cover the emotion, avoid the commitment. This time, he wanted to say something, but the words eluded him, rang trite and inadequate even as he thought them. Unable to find the verbal communication, he raised his hand and gently brushed away the droplet from Ray's face with his fingertips. Doyle's skin felt pleasant to the touch, warm and surprisingly smooth. Compelling. Bodie dropped his hand to Ray's shoulder, then wrapped his arms around him. He saw an instant of shock on Ray's face as he pulled him near, but he didn't break away. Though he could scarcely believe it, Bodie felt his own body react to the contact as he hadn't before in the farmhouse. The sensation of holding Doyle was both alien and, unexpectedly, thrilling. A wholly different kind of excitement... and Bodie thrived on excitement.
Ray's body was lean, all planes and angles and muscle. Lithe yet emanating a kind of coiled power, strength. The curly hair, silky against Bodie's lips. Contrasts. I care about you very much. The words sang again in his mind. He turned his head slightly and saw Doyle's neck through the mass of auburn curls. A vulnerable bit of skin displayed itself, and impulsively, he kissed it.
Bodie pulled back far enough to see his partner's face. All he saw were the lips, full, pouty and, he decided, sexy as hell. He leaned forward and kissed Ray Doyle on the mouth.
The kiss didn't last long. He felt Doyle jerk away and fleetingly wondered if his partner was going to hit him. It had been worth it, if it came to that.
"Bodie, are you out of you mind?!" Doyle wasn't angry. Bewildered, yes, but not angry.
Bodie smiled. "I care about you, too, Ray. Very much," he said, meaning every word more sincerely than he could ever explain, even to himself.
Doyle looked off-balance, combing his fingers nervously through his hair. "I didn't meant it that way," he snapped.
"Neither did I. Just...happened. Felt good, didn't it? Nothing wrong with feeling good."
"Eh?" Ray looked uncertain, but he was breathing hard. Excited.
"Simple. I liked it, so did you." Bodie took a step forward.
"Wait, give me a minute to think."
"Oh, no, too dangerous." Bodie closed the distance between them and grabbed Ray around the waist, kissing him at the same time. He could smell a hint of brandy on Ray's breath, tasted a lingering trace of it in his mouth. The tension melted away as the kiss deepened. A sound halfway between a whimper and a moan rose from Ray's throat and Bodie felt like he'd been set on fire. Doyle was kissing him back now, his body swaying, molding itself to Bodie's.
They managed to get as far as the sofa, toppling into it in a heap of arms and legs. A minute later, they almost rolled over onto the floor. Bodie couldn't help but laugh, realizing that they were both trying to take the lead, both trying to manuever each other. Doyle began laughing, too, as they struggled to steady themselves.
"Hoi, what do you say we take turns in this grand adventure," offered Bodie diplomatically, hoping the gleam didn't show in his eyes. As Doyle relaxed, he pounced, pinning the smaller man beneath him with his weight. "Me first," he announced, licking at the rapid pulsepoint above the silver chain.
"You bastard," Ray began, the oath dwindling into a satisfied purr as Bodie continued to suck on his throat.
Doyle's erection pressed against Bodie's thigh and he shifted his body slightly to allow his hand to roam. The moment it covered the hard bulge, Doyle cried out. "Don't dammit, I'll come in my new pants. They're not discount, you know." The words were breathless, but understandable.
Bodie grinned, enjoying ever second to the hilt. "Take them off then, Scrooge." He rubbed lightly with his palm and Ray squirmed, desperately trying to avoid the caress. Slender fingers clamped onto Bodie's hair as Doyle forced his head up to receive a kiss that brought him as close to orgasm as any he'd ever experienced. Sensual retaliation. "You are a wanton little dad," he whispered into green eyes, once he found sufficient air again.
The r/t must have been beeping for a long time before either of them noticed.
"Bloody hell." Bodie wasn't sure which one of them said it. "Ignore it," he urged, opening another button on Ray's shirt. His own jacket and holster had long since hit the floor. "We're off duty for godssake."
The r/t kept up its incessent whine and Bodie knew his partner was going to answer it. If they'd only had five minutes more, neither of them would have been capable of hearing the damn thing, or caring. Bodie stifled a curse and sat up, watching Ray move unsteadily to his feet and towards the source of their mutual aggravation.
"4.5, and it better be good." It was a snarl worthy of his nastiest mood.
There was a pause on the other end. "6.3 here. We're bright and cheery this evening, I see."
"What the hell do you want?"
6.3's voice became all business. "We received a call from a Frankie Silvio. Said he has the name you wanted. Wouldn't reveal any details, just said he'd meet you alone in 30 minutes. Did not disclose location, said you'd know where. Incidentally, the chap sounded like he was scared bloodless. Over."
Doyle muttered an obscenity and clicked his line open. "Okay. I'll take care of it. 4.5 out."
"Who's Frankie Silvio?"
"Informant. I knew him since my Met days. He's reliable." Ray leaned back against the wall and Bodie could tell he was trying to pull himself under control. Bodie wasn't in much better shape.
"What's he want with you?'
"I ran into him a couple of months ago. His kid sister had just died. Overdose, an ugly one. I think she was the only person he really cared about, tried to keep her out of the dirt. Not much chance in the patch they came from. Pusher on every corner. She couldn't have been more than 15. Anyway, he said he was on to the major supplier. Swore he'd get me the top man, so I told him where he could reach me."
"That's not CI5 business, mate."
"I didn't think anything'd come of it. He won't go to the coppers, drugs squad. He thinks they're in on it somehow. I remember that bunch. Some of them probably are."
"Nice. I suppose he just trusts your honest face, then."
"I treated him like a human being, if that's what you mean. I helped get him a job at a mill once." Doyle shrugged. "I promised I'd help him if he ever found out anything. Better get at it; the place is across town."
"You going out like that?" Bodie arched an eyebrow and stared pointedly at Doyle's hard-on.
"I'm trying not to think about it." He effectively cut off Bodie's chortle by adding, "I wouldn't talk, if I were you."
The tightness of the material across Bodie's crotch was only too obvious. "We should do something about this, you know."
Doyle's sigh carried across the room as he pushed himself away from the wall and threw back his shoulders. "Later. I've got to meet Frankie. God, this is one hell of a day. It's got to make the Guinness Book for something."
Bodie groaned but got up. "Alright, I'll drive you."
"You don't have to." Doyle was already gathering his Baretta and green jacket.
"I insist. Besides, I'm not sure I like the idea of your rendezvousing with strange men anymore." He curled his lip into what he assumed was an expression of dramatic rejection.
"Sod it, Bodie."
As they were leaving the flat, Bodie couldn't resist giving Doyle an affectionate pat on the rump.
Doyle almost tripped. "Mind keeping you hands to yourself? My condition is bad enough as it is."
"Sorry, just giving a little appreciation where it's due." Bodie held up his arms in a supplicating gesture. "Fear not, your virtue is safe. For another hour anyway."
"My virtue?! You better start worrying about your own, sunshine," threatened Doyle with a devastating leer.
It was the kind of area that looked better after twilight. The dark helped to obscure some of the dinginess and the poverty. Bodie followed Doyle's directions and parked across the street from the meeting place, a rundown three-storey building surrounded on either side by more of the same. Flats and bedsits mostly, a few boarded up and vacant. Aside from a couple of shadowy figures loitering outside a shabby pub on the corner, there was no one about.
"Where you meeting him?"
"Round the back, up to the roof."
"Hmm, gives you a chance to enjoy the scenic view of the neighborhood. Very considerate of him. Want me to come along?"
"Nah. Frankie's the jittery type. If he spots two of us, he might bolt."
"I thought you said he trusted you."
"Yeh, me, singular." Doyle turned the door handle. "Shouldn't be more than five or ten minutes." He touched Bodie's shoulder and winked. "Keep your motor running." Bodie knew he wasn't talking about the Capri.
"Might overheat. Try and hold it to five minutes, eh?"
Doyle smiled and was gone. As soon as he disappeared behind the building, Bodie felt a twinge of apprehension. He rolled down his window and tried to shake it off. It grew as he counted off the minutes.
Then he heard the sound, unmistakeable. A rifle shot. He was out of the car and across the street before he heard the second shot. A rifle again. He ran.
A rickety netting of stairs covered the back of the old building, joining small platform balconies on each storey, with a metal ladder on the last floor leading to the roof. He was gasping for air, his gun out, as he got to the top. At first he thought he heard movement, a door slamming in the adjacent building. "Ray!"
He searched the shadows until he spotted the two bodies. One he recognized instantly. The head of curls stood out even in the darkness. Bodie's throat went dry. He couldn't seem to move. Maybe it was just for a second, but he thought his heart had stopped as well. Then he was rushing forward, dropping beside Doyle's prone body. He was face down. He hadn't even drawn his shooter. A dark stain was spreading across the back of his green jacket, soaking through a gash in the material. Bodie lay his hand lightly on it, felt the warm stickiness of blood on his fingers. Ray was still breathing. He pulled his hand away, noting absently that it shook a little. For once, Bodie was grateful he had his r/t. He called in for an ambulance and only then checked the other body. He assumed it was Frankie Silvio. The young man had died with fear stamped across his face and a bullet neatly placed through his heart. In that moment, Bodie hated him. He also made a private vow to find and kill the man with the rifle.
Shrill laughter made Bodie turn towards the bar counter. Two girls and their dates were getting drinks, making jokes. The sight annoyed him, angered him. No one had the right to be happy tonight.
"I'll get the one who shot Ray." He didn't realize he'd said it aloud.
"You'll do what I tell you."
Bodie made no further comment.
"Aye, it's a CI5 matter now because one of our own has been shot, but I've assigned Murphy and Jacks. They already started investigating the particulars this morning." Cowley seemed to be waiting for Bodie to say something and when he didn't he leaned forward slowly. "As for you, well, by tomorrow we'll know, won't we?"
Cowley's lips tightened into the faintest of smiles.
Bodie stood up. "I'm going back to the hospital." He started to leave without waiting for Cowley. The noise of the pub crowd, everyone laughing, drinking, chatting each other up, he couldn't tolerate it. Once he was outside the odd feeling of suffocation left him. The night air felt good, cool and crisp. He exhaled, sensing Cowley behind him. "I couldn't sit in there any longer."
"Yes, I know. I'll drive you back." There was a certain weary resignation in Cowley's voice.
Bodie didn't say anything until they were in the car. The Old Man could help him, so he had to ask. "Mr. Cowley," Bodie kept his eyes on the road, kept his tone as respectful as he could manage, "I have to see Ray. I have to see him... alive. The doctors won't let me in the room. I know you can fix it." Cowley could fix anything. Bodie continued quickly. "I give you my word, I won't disturb him. I was upset before when they took him to surgery. Just lost my head, I admit it, but it won't happen again. I won't talk to him, I won't even come near him. I... it's important for me to see him." In case there's no miracle next time. The words came back to him again, haunting and painful now.
There was a brief hesitation before Cowley answered. "I'll do what I can."
"Thank you, sir."
"Don't thank me, Bodie. We're none of us the hard man completely, no matter what we might tell ourselves. 'Know thine enemy,' remember, one of my well -worn cliches? Well, it's more important to know thyself first. Sometimes that's far more difficult. It's usually a damn sight more disturbing, too." His voice softened the barest fraction. "You'll survive, Bodie, no matter what happens."
"I'm tired of just... surviving." Tired of not getting involved. I've fallen over the edge, can't you see that? Deliberately, he formed Marrika's image in his mind. Beautiful Marrika. And yet the vision was cloaked in a kind of sordidness that always made him flinch from it, force it away. Ray. So different. So incredibly, impossibly... unforgettably different. Not just the sex. It was everything. And more than everything Bodie had ever felt before in his life. Yes, he'd fallen over the edge again, but this time he knew he wouldn't be able to climb back up. Not in one whole piece.
"...facing life as much as death."
Bodie blinked into the present. "Sorry, what?"
The Controller of CI5 only shook his head. "Never mind, laddie, I was just thinking about that last 10%."
When they arrived at the hospital, Cowley went off to pull whatever strings were necessary while Bodie waited with feigned patience. Eventually, the Old Man returned with the doctor who addressed Bodie without preamble. "You can see him for five minutes,
Bodie glanced at Cowley, at the green doors at the end of the corridor, and nodded once.
A nurse was in the room adjusting something on the bed. She moved away quietly at a wordless sign from the doctor.
It was very still in the room except for the low mechanical sounds of the monitoring equipment. Doyle's face was turned slightly on the pillow. His skin was very pale, his brows and long lashes like dark smudges against the stark whiteness. The brownish-red curls framed his round face, emphasizing its pallor. There was an intravenous tube attached to his left arm. The outline of what seemed to be cushioning braces stood out on either side of his chest and waist beneath the hospital sheet. Bodie stood several feet from the bed, his hands shoved deep into his pockets so he wouldn't be tempted to reach out. The doctor waited by the door. Bodie supposed they had a nurse in the room round the clock.
He stared at Doyle's face, at the fractional movement of the sheet across his chest that proved he was still breathing. Bodie thought the sight would calm him, lessen the fear eating through his insides. It didn't. Doyle looked very small and all too fragile. Don't die on me, Ray. You know what you are? You're a little bastard, worse than all the others. You sneaked up on me, you did. Slipped right passed by common sense and aimed for the heart. Yeh, Ray, and you never miss. So what am I supposed to do? If you die, then dammit, you'll be the lucky one. Bodie looked away for a moment, swallowed. Don't die on me, Ray, not now. Please, not now. He didn't want to think anymore so he just stared at Doyle's face. Bodie would have prayed, if he knew how... or believed in it. He wished he did. Maybe that would be close enough.
Too soon, he felt a tap on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to go now." The doctor said it quietly, with a gentleness that hadn't been in his voice before. The nurse came back into the room and Bodie nodded, following the doctor, stopping only once to look back before the door closed silently, shutting him out.
"Mr. Bodie, we are doing the very best we can for him. You should really try and get some rest."
Bodie wondered what must have shown on his face when he was standing by Ray's bed. He straightened and put out his hand. "I know. Thanks." They shook and Bodie left. Cowley had already gone and for that he was grateful.
He didn't go to his flat. HQ was closer, so he spent the rest of the night pretending to be asleep on the sofa in the common room. A few operatives came in and out, getting a cup of tea or going through to their lockers. No one disturbed him. He reckoned they'd all heard about Doyle.
After a few hours, he managed to doze on and off, but he was awake when Cowley came in. "I might've known," was all the Old Man said. The sunlight spilled in through the windows.
Bodie rubbed at his eyelids with his palms and sat up. "The hospital?" Say it fast, whatever it is.
"The doctor called me at home. Doyle's going to make it." Cowley's face broke into a smile wide enough to hurt. "There was a rough moment during the night, but the crisis passed. He's regained consciousness and he can move his legs. No permanent damage to the spinal nerves. Do you hear me, man?"
Bodie had lowered his head, his eyes gazing blankly at the tops of his feet. He couldn't have described the emotion he was feeling in a thousand years.
"Are you deaf, Bodie?"
He shook his head, cleared his throat and looked up. "Ray's going to be alright?" He wanted to hear it again.
"Yes, that's what I said. It'll be a long while before he'll be of any use to this organization, of course..." Cowley was already rambling, trying to sound gruff with that smile on his face.
Bodie pulled on his boots, grabbed his jacket off the floor where it had fallen.
"You may not be able to see him right away," he heard Cowley say as he stood and headed out the door.
It was two hours and half a dozen ups of machine coffee later before the doctor told him he could see Doyle. "Only for a few minutes, he's very groggy." The doctor looked haggard, but he smiled. "Mr. Doyle has a formidable determination to live. He'll do just fine." He waved Bodie towards the green doors.
A different nurse was in the room. Bodie walked up to the bed.
Brown lashes flickered open. "'lo." The syllable was hardly a whisper.
Bodie crouched a little. "Hallo, goldilocks."
It seemed Doyle was trying to get words out as audible sounds.
"Take it easy, mate," Bodie told him. "You've got all the time in the world now."
There were dark circles under the green eyes, but the skin was not as pale as before. Doyle worked his mouth again, slower. "You... look... awful."
Bodie never felt better in his life. "Haven't had my usual quota of beauty sleep. And I think I can truthfully say that I've seen you in slightly better condition, too."
Bodie shook his head, watched the green eyes close, then open.
"He... didn't have... chance to tell me... the name."
"It's okay, Ray. We'll get them."
Doyle was fighting to focus, his eyelids drooping. "Should've... kept...lucky charm...with me."
"I'll see to it in future." Bodie could tell Ray was drifting to sleep. The nurse motioned for him to leave and he stepped away. "I'll be back tomorrow, Ray."
He looked at Doyle again.
"Save...the brandy...for later..."
Doyle was already asleep but he answered anyway. "I'll save it alright, 'cause you've got one hell of a homecoming to look forward to. And so do I."
That night, Bodie ate everything he could find in his fridge and cupboards and slept for 14 hours straight.
The first thing he did the following morning was to call in and check on Doyle's condition. "Stable and satisfactory." Next, he telephoned Cowley. "My four day leave is up tomorrow. I want in on Murphy and Jacks' assignment."
"I may need you elsewhere."
"Bodie, there's no place for private vendettas in this squad."
"I won't kill him unless that's the way he wants it."
"And if Doyle had died?"
"I wouldn't have bothered to call you."
There was a noticeable pause. "I see."
"Yeh, it does make a difference. I want to get him, but I want the one who gave the orders, too, and everyone in between. Silvio never had a chance to give Doyle the name, so it's starting from scratch. I want in."
"If I still say no?"
Bodie didn't answer. He heard Cowley's exasperated sigh.
"You're CI5. You play by my rules. Can you manage that--yes or no?"
"Under the circumstances...yes." As long as they're good rules and bendable.
"Very well. You can start tomorrow morning, 8 a.m. Jacks will brief you. And God help you if you play the maverick. Understood?"
The ice in the Cow's voice made it all the way through the phone line. "Yes, sir."
"Tell Doyle I'll drop in on him later. And, oh, you may as well tell him that he'll probably be having a steady stream of visitors in the next week or so. It'll look like a CI5 parade down the hospital corridors, led by most of the female staff from what I can surmise."
Bodie tried to keep the grin out of his voice. "I'm sure that'll do wonders for his recuperative powers, sir."
Cowley grunted an acknowledgement and hung up. Back to business as usual for the Old Man.
Bodie whistled as he showered and shaved off his three days' growth of beard. It was a gorgeous day, a few clouds in the sky, but they looked rather nice, he decided. As he drove to the hospital, he stopped by a flower seller's on the corner, the spray of colors catching his eye. He was in a whimsical mood as he walked up to the vendor, a middle-aged woman with leathery skin and bright blue eyes.
"What can I do for yer, sir?" she asked, crinkling into a smile.
Bodie tried to imagine the look on Ray's face when he presented him with a bouquet and almost burst out laughing. He managed to choose a small bunch of irises and daisies; he didn't feel brave enough to walk into Doyle's room with a handful of roses. He told the woman to keep the change and gave her a peck on the cheek. She giggled red with embarrassment and added in a couple of daffodils as she wrapped up the small bouquet.
He held the flowers behind his back as he approached the nurses' station outside the Intensive Care Unit. "Mornin'." He pointed towards the green doors. "I'm here to visit Mr. Doyle."
The nurse smiled familiarly and it dawned on Bodie that she was blond and very pretty. He hadn't noticed that before. He mentally logged the name on her badge for possible future reference. After all, Ray was going to be laid up for at least a month.
"Oh, Mr. Doyle has been moved out of Intensive Care," she said. "He's in the regular ward section now. It's directly on your left, all the way to the end, then turn right. It'll be the first door on your right, Room 101."
He returned her smile and headed down the long hallway. When he got to the room he held up the small bunch of blue and yellow flowers in one hand and reached for the door handle with the other. The small plastic rectangle on the door seemed to leap out at him. Room 101. He stopped and stared at it for a full minute. Then, very slowly, a grin spread across his face.
He was still grinning when he opened the door and walked in to greet his partner.
-- THE END --