Tired and frustrated, Alan Cade sat with his back to his office watching the late afternoon sun set on yet another endless day of unproductive meetings.
On his desk, an invitation to speak at a law enforcement conference sat on the blotter. Just what he should do about it, he wasn't sure, but it could not be ignored. And it was half a world away, in Cascade, Washington, USA, which wouldn't be such a bad thing, given the week he'd been having - hell, given the year he'd been having.
Part of the reason he'd been asked was his friendship with Simon Banks, one of the conference committee members.
He and Simon were actually a bit more than friends, although Alan wasn't exactly sure what to call them, as they weren't quite lovers, either. They had spent a glorious week enjoying each other's company eleven months ago at a conference in New York. At the end of it, they had both acknowledged that as much as they were attracted to each other, nothing could come of it. Living half the globe apart had helped to put a damper on their budding relationship, and the couple of times they had spoken on the phone since New York had been nice, but that had been primarily work related.
Simon had enclosed a short note, asking Alan to come out a few days early and see the sights. The idea held some merit and he hadn't had a holiday in far too long.
Jim Ellison leaned against the outside wall of the customs gate at Cascade International Airport, watching his partner entertain a three-year-old. Simon had asked him to meet his friend, Alan Cade, as his boss was tied up in a budget meeting and had been unable to extricate himself in time.
"Announcing the arrival of United Flight 1920 from London. Passengers can be met at the luggage ramp, carrousel five."
"That's us, Chief."
"Gotta go," Blair told the little tyke he'd been playing with, obvious regret in his voice.
The youngster nodded and handed Blair the ball they had been tossing. Blair shook his head. "No, you keep it."
With a final pat to the child's head, Blair headed towards him.
"There he is." Blair pointed to Cade as he came through the security check point.
"Mr. Cade," Jim called.
Cade smiled and waved, making his way towards them.
After fourteen hours on a plane, Cade still looked unwrinkled. Jim knew about the situation between the Chief Constable and his boss or, at this point, the lack of it. Personally, he wished there had been more than friendship between the two men. Of course, if Simon were to get involved with Cade, it would be a very long distance relationship, and those never seemed to work out right.
Jim held out his hand as the Chief approached them. "It's good to see you again, sir."
"Alan, please." Cade's grip was strong, but not crushingly so.
Jim turned to include Blair in the introductions. "You remember my partner, Blair Sandburg?"
Cade smiled at Blair. "The anthropologist?"
Blair nodded, holding out his hand. "It's good to see you again."
"How was your flight?" asked Jim.
"Not bad, if overlong."
"We'll get you to your hotel so that you can rest. Simon wants to meet you for dinner tonight," Jim told him, taking the heaviest of his luggage and holding out his hand to direct them towards the door.
Cade nodded. "That would be very nice. Thank you."
At the hotel, and overtired to begin with, Alan was not ready to deal with the loss of his accommodations. "My secretary called to confirm the reservation just a few days ago."
"We show it as having been cancelled." The clerk pushed the long hair off his face and frowned. "And since you cancelled within a week of the conference, you're going to be charged for one night."
Taking a deep breath, Alan kept his tone perfectly flat, yet conveyed his utter annoyance and disbelief at the turn of events. "So, what you are telling me is that not only do I not have a room for the next week, the Eastland Police Department has to pay for me not having a room?"
The clerk nodded, looking very embarrassed. "Sir, I don't make the policy. I just work here." His big eyes pleaded with Cade to understand. "There are at least four separate conventions in town."
"Please, find me a room." His temper was starting to fray, something he worked very hard not to let happen. With a deep, calming breath, he summoned a weak smile. "See what you can do."
The young man's face brightened. "Yes, sir. I'll do my best."
Alan sighed. "Thank you."
"It will be a while."
Jim cleared his throat. "Alan, why don't we take you back to the loft and you can clean up and take a nap?"
Alan hated being a bother to anyone, but he was tired and grimy and the thought of a bath was too tempting to pass up. "That would be wonderful, thank you. Let me leave your number with the clerk."
Alan liked the loft immediately; the high ceiling, wood and unadorned bricks appealed to his sense of simplicity. When he felt a bit more alive, he'd like to take a better look around, but at the moment he was too exhausted to give it more than a passing glance.
Ellison pressed a button on the answering machine as he walked past it into the kitchen.
An eerily familiar voice filled the room. "Hi Blair, it's Drew Stevens. I finally tracked down that book you were looking for, old son. And you owe me big time for it. Call me when you get a chance. Bye."
Alan's breath caught painfully in his chest. He knew that voice! Would know it anywhere, at any time.
Bodie! But, Bodie was dead!
Without realising what he was doing, he backed up until he was pressed against the solid brick wall of the loft.
No. Not possible. Alan's world started to grey, his heart pounded hard as his stomach dropped through the floor.
Oh, Christ! Oh Christ!
For one moment, Alan was no longer in the warm loft in Cascade....
He stood in the shadows of a warehouse in a run-down section of east London. A stocky, dark-haired man, his partner, stalked a terrorist along a cat-walk about ten feet above him.
From his vantage point below, he could see a second man aim at his partner. He raised his gun, but before he could get the shot off, a loud sound precipitated a burning in his shoulder. Cade watched his younger self steady himself as blood ran down his arm and take aim, but he missed the shot.
As the second shot rang out, his partner dropped from the cat-walk. His sight darkened as he fired again, taking the shooter out. The man above shot at him twice, missing both times, returning fire, he killed the second man and then sank to his knees. Screaming into his r/t, he demanded an ambulance, and the back-up they had requested before going in. As he passed out he knew that nothing he could do would change the outcome of the shooting. His partner's confident words on a previous assignment echoed in his ears for many years afterwards: "Since when do you ever miss?"
He'd missed and Bodie had died.
"What?" Alan finally answered, focussing back on the present. Blair stood next to him gripping his shoulder. Jim stood next to Blair looking just as worried. How long had he been lost in the past?
"Man, you were out of it. What's wrong?"
Clearing his throat, he took a second to pull himself back together and decide what, if anything, he should say. "Nothing."
"You looked like you'd seen a ghost."
Or heard one. "I'm fine." He cleared his throat. "The first message sounded like someone I once knew."
Alan nodded. It was probably nothing, he knew that, but something would not let him drop this, despite the fact that he knew Bodie was dead.
But what if he weren't? He had to know for sure. So much of his life now was based on what happened thirteen years ago in that warehouse.
"Who is he?"
Blair shrugged, giving him a small smile. "He's a professor at the university."
That told him nothing at all. "How long have you known him?"
"Maybe five years or so."
The direct approach was in order since obviously Blair wasn't taking the hint. "What can you tell me about him?"
Blair's smile widened. "You sound like a cop."
"I am a cop."
Before Blair could say anything else, the phone rang. Jim answered it and then handed it to Alan. The hotel had found him a room, a suite actually, which would cost him no more than the original room and they were so very sorry for the inconvenience. It would be ready later in the day. Thanking them, he rang off. Finally, something was going right.
Alan was grateful for the room, but he had more pressing issues to deal with right at that moment. "Tell me more about your friend."
Blair glanced over at Jim, who nodded almost imperceptibly. "There's not much to tell, I've known him since I started my doctoral studies. He's a good guy." Blair shrugged again.
"How old is he?" If the fellow was too old or too young, it couldn't be Bodie.
"I don't know, man, maybe forty - forty-five."
The age was right. Bodie would be just about forty-five. Had he lived. Which Alan still could not believe he had. There was too much evidence pointing to the fact Bodie had died in 1983. But that voice - he could not get the familiarity of it out of his mind. He'd known that voice, had heard it hundreds, thousands of times in his dreams in the last thirteen years.
"What does he look like?"
"Good-looking. Maybe five-eleven, six feet. Dark hair, greying at the temples. I don't know."
Part of his mind said that description could fit anyone and some other part reminded him it could be Bodie too. "What colour are his eyes?"
Wide lips curled up into a big smile. "Blue. Oh, man, really dark blue."
Alan stifled a gasp. Too much coincidence, far too much. It had to be Bodie. But Bodie was dead. He'd been to the grave site, wept on it more than once. He knew Bodie was dead. But....
"I have to go out to the university." The look on both Blair's and Jim's faces told him they had been expecting the request.
"He's not there today. He teaches tomorrow and has office hours afterwards. I'd say mid-afternoon would be the best time to catch him. I'll take you over tomorrow."
"Thanks, Blair." Alan summoned a smile. What he really wanted was to ask Blair if he knew where the professor lived. No, that wouldn't do. He required some time to prepare himself for the possibility that Bodie was alive
No. It was all a mistake. It had to be. Just someone who looked and sounded like his old partner, but who was not Bodie. But something deep within him refused to give up hope.
Dinner with Simon was relaxed and friendly. Even though he was extremely distracted thinking about the possibility that Bodie might actually be alive, he felt a certain awareness of Simon. It sent a frisson through him to think he knew what that dark skin tasted like.
"Alan? Alan?" Simon's tone was exasperated enough to permeate his musings.
Alan looked up, chagrined at having been caught day-dreaming again. "I'm sorry, I've been distracted all evening, haven't I?"
"That's the third time you've drifted off. Are you that tired?"
"No. I had a rest at Jim and Blair's before going to the hotel." What should he tell Simon? What was there to tell? He didn't know anything yet.
"What's wrong?" The concern in Simon's dark eyes made him want to talk.
And the truth seemed the best option. "I heard a voice on Jim's answering machine that reminded me of someone in the past."
Simon raised a dark eyebrow, his mouth quirking almost, but not quite into a smile. "Oh?"
"It sounded very much like a man who's been dead for a number of years. Blair tells me the man who called is a professor at the University. I plan to go out there with him tomorrow."
All hint of amusement left Simon's face. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"I have to know." He could no more walk away from this than he could stop breathing. It simply wasn't in him to let it go. He had to know.
"I take it this man was important?"
Important was such a gross understatement that Alan wasn't sure what he could say to express what Bodie had been to him. "Very."
Alan started. Then he remembered, he'd called Bodie's name the first time he and Simon had slept together. Christ, that had been humiliating. Graciously, Simon had forgiven him, or that could have ended their friendship before it had begun. "Yeah."
Simon leaned forward, his dark eyes finding Alan's. "Consider this - if it is your friend, he's known where you were for a very long time."
Alan shook his head. Bodie would not have known where to find him, if he'd bothered to look. Ray Doyle didn't exist any longer. There was no one that Bodie could find who would know that Ray Doyle had become Alan Cade a little more than a year after Bodie had died.
"What do you mean, no?"
"It's a little hard to explain. And I'm not even sure I should try." He was digging himself into a hole. Simon didn't look like he was going to let him get away without a reasonable explanation.
And what could he say? Oh, by the way, I'm not really who I appear to be. I'm actually a disenfranchised CI5 agent who couldn't cope when his partner died? No doubt that would go over well.
With a deep sigh, he met the dark eyes again. "It's very complicated. Please don't ask me to explain."
"Okay. It's none of my business, anyway." Simon shrugged, his voice showing no emotions, but he clearly expected more.
"Simon, it's not that. It's just..." Alan trailed off, realising he could not come up with a logical explanation at all. Even after all this time, there was every possibility that if he did try to explain, he would dissolve into tears, and the thought was too humiliating to bear.
As dinner ended, Simon looked up at him, smiling slightly, understanding in his eyes. "Do you want to come by my place for a drink?"
There was a tacit invitation for more, if Alan were interested. He wasn't sure what he did want, except that he did not want to be alone. "Yes, thanks. That would be very nice."
A half-hour later, he settled on Simon's comfortable sofa, scotch in hand, relaxing for the first time all day. "This is wonderful. Thank you for suggesting it."
"I thought you'd like to relax."
Sipping his drink, Alan watched Simon move around the room. It amazed him that a man that big could move so gracefully.
Simon caught his eyes and smiled. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"As well as can be expected given a fourteen-hour plane ride and then the possible resurrection of a ghost better left dead."
"You can stay tonight, if you'd like."
Alan started to respond, but Simon put up a hand. "I have a guest room here. Or not."
Though overtired, Alan was sure he'd never sleep anyway. Staying here might be a way to keep the memories at bay, at least until he could find out if they had to be remembered or not. "Thank you. I'd like to stay."
"Let me get some sheets for the guestroom." Simon stood.
Alan smiled. "Or not?"
"Or not," Simon said, holding open his arms.
Gathered up in the tight embrace, Alan sighed, comfort seeping slowly into the core of him.
After a time, Simon tipped Alan's head up and kissed him gently. Leaning in, he tasted coffee and scotch on Simon's tongue, then the sensations took his mind away from the present to a place where only the pleasure of the moment mattered.
Alan didn't want to think, and Simon's mouth and hands made sure that he did not have to. Simon spent a long time pleasuring him before turning him onto his stomach and pressing his thighs apart. He moaned softly as Simon's thick cock slid into him.
His mind blurred in bliss, and his body shaking with the desire for release, Alan let everything go, surrendering himself to the wonder of Simon's skill and compassion. Orgasm broke over him, comforting him and renewing him.
Drowsy, Alan lay on his belly with Simon's big hands rubbing soothing circles on his back. He sighed.
"You can tell me, you know." Simon's voice was low and sated, but the sincerity of the tone came through and soothed Alan.
"Too many memories."
"And they haunt you?"
"Yeah." Too much to bear, Alan thought sometimes.
"It might be less of a burden if you talk about it."
He could not believe he was actually considering it, but Alan had to do something. It had been bottled up inside him for so long. "I'm not sure I could keep any kind of perspective about it." And he wasn't sure he could keep himself from falling apart.
"If you want... I'm here."
That was Simon, ready to help if he could, but not going to push where he wasn't wanted. There were times when he really wished that Simon lived closer. "I don't even know where to start."
"Why not start with Bodie?"
The beginning and the end. "He was my partner."
"In the police? In England?"
In for a penny, in for a pound. It seemed only right to tell Simon all of it. Or at least all he could say without giving himself or anyone else away. "Have you heard of an anti-terrorist organization called CI5?"
"Actually, yes. It's part of the British Special Services branch and has just gone international under a guy named Harry Malone...." Simon trailed off, meeting Alan's eyes. "You?"
Simon chuckled. "Given your liberal views on things, I'm pretty surprised."
"I always did have some issues with some of CI5's 'get it done' policy, but I saw the mob as a force for good. And the man who ran it before Malone was so far above reproach I considered it an honour to work for him." His admiration for George Cowley had never diminished.
"But you left."
"Yes. After Bodie... was killed. I could not do it any more." Alan closed his eyes, and took several deep breaths. The pressure in his chest eased a little.
"You and Bodie, were you more than partners?"
Trust Simon to read between the lines. "Lovers? Yes. Newly lovers. I'd never been with a man before and we were going slowly." Alan laughed. "He opened up that door for me. After he died, I couldn't close it."
"I'm glad for that." Clearly Simon was thinking about their first meeting - in a gay establishment in New York.
He smiled up at Simon, turning to move closer to his friend's warmth. "I am too."
"And you're avoiding the subject."
Alan sighed. The big hand started to move over his back again, pulling him closer. "It's difficult to talk about. I was a Class A marksman. Bodie used to tease me about never missing a shot. And then..." the pressure in his chest was back, with added intensity. "And then the one time when it really counted... I did... I missed."
"Sshhh." Simon pulled him against his side, his hands never stopped their stroking. "It's okay."
He took a deep breath. "We were in a warehouse, tracking a couple of terrorists." He recounted the rest of the details of that night, trying not to see the images in his mind, trying not to hear the sound of Bodie's impact on the concrete floor.
"You were hit?"
"Yeah. It was a minor wound, but I passed out. When I woke up, they told me Bodie was dead." He forced his consciousness to the present. "He was dead because I had missed."
"Everyone blamed you?" Simon's tone said he knew that no else believed that.
But it didn't matter to Alan. "No. No one blamed me. But I blamed myself."
"That's a lot of responsibility for a man to take on."
"I missed... my partner died. It was my fault."
"And did it occur to you that getting shot yourself might have something to do with your missing and that wasn't your fault?"
"It was just a flesh wound."
"Alan, I'm not going to argue this with you. It pretty clear you've never forgiven yourself for something that just as clearly wasn't your fault."
"Don't think I haven't heard this before." Oh, yes - he'd heard it all before, from any number of friends and co-workers.
"I'm sure you have. But you don't really believe it."
"No. I don't. I missed that shot." And even if he wanted to, he could not forgive himself for that.
"Yes. And if you want to let it eat at you for the rest of your life, that's your choice."
Alan gave him a small smile and suppressed yawn. "Bodie used to say I'd feel guilty for the invention of gunpowder. I think this just proves he was correct."
Tightening his arms, Simon kissed him one more time. "Sleep?"
The afternoon sun was strong and hot as Alan walked with Blair towards the History building. The lush landscape of the campus spread out with green lawns, large trees, beautiful flower arrangements, and even a large pond.
They entered the building, blinded momentarily by the sudden dimness. Alan followed Blair though the double glass doors and down a hall. As they approached one of the small offices, a door opened and a man on crutches hobbled out, turning towards them.
Alan's eyes had adjusted well enough to see, and he could only stare at the man in front of him, cold shock prickling his skin.
It was Bodie. An older, bleaker Bodie, but Bodie nonetheless.
Their eyes met. Terrified of what he might see, Alan looked away, quickly. Either Bodie wouldn't know him or Bodie had knowingly lied to him.
Because either situation was intolerable, Alan turned around and walked away. Back into the sun, back into the heat, back across the trim green lawns, not knowing or caring where he was going. He stumbled and then collapsed gratefully onto a bench near one of the ponds when his legs were no longer able to support him.
He sat there in the warm sunshine, shivering, his arms wrapped around himself.
How could he have done this? The question rolled over and over in his mind like boiling water. The only possibility was that Bodie must have blamed him for missing the shot that caused him to be crippled - which for a man like Bodie must have felt as if he had died.
The scrape of rubber on asphalt broke though his reverie. Looking up, he was surprised to find Bodie was now slowly making his way towards him, his movements careful on the uneven lawn.
Alan said nothing, waiting for the other man to approach, wondering how to survive a second meeting. He'd only barely managed the first, and they hadn't spoken.
"May I sit?" The first question was innocuous enough.
Alan nodded, keeping his face carefully blank. He'd never been more grateful for the ability to hide his feelings. There was something to be said for being a copper for all these years after all.
Moving slowly, Bodie lowered himself onto the bench next to Alan, taking a deep breath. "I am Bodie."
"I know." Surprisingly, Alan's voice sounded perfectly normal, even if he did not feel that way, with his body sweating and his stomach clenching.
Bodie sighed. "I thought you recognized me."
Alan still couldn't look at him. "I didn't really believe that it was going to be you, until I saw your face."
"And you weren't prepared for it."
Of course he wasn't prepared for it. A million years wouldn't be time enough to prepare for this kind of shock. "No."
"I never expected to see you again."
"Did you want to?"
A slight shake of his head, and Bodie sighed again. "It wasn't a question of want to."
Alan could not keep the rage out of his tone. "What was it a question of?"
"It was necessary for you let me believe you were dead?" A tremor rode through him, but his voice still remained flat and distanced.
Bodie sucked in a deep breath, turning to face him on the bench. "I'm sorry."
Alan stood, his back to Bodie. "How could you?" he asked, appalled that his voice broke, and at the sudden tears that filled his eyes. "Were you so angry at me for missing that shot that you had to punish me like this?"
He turned back to look at Bodie, whose blue eyes pleaded with him for mercy - but he had none to give. The anger coursing through him pushed the tears back. "I cannot believe after all we were to each other, all we could have been, you let me believe you were dead!"
"Ray, you don't understand -" Bodie started to say, but Alan cut him off with a harsh laugh.
Twelve years had passed since he'd been Ray Doyle. The name did not fit any more. "Not Ray, Alan. You're not the only one with a new name, sunshine."
Bodie looked at him, shock clear. "Why?"
"Do you have any idea what your death did to me - do you? I wanted to die, too. I could not pick up a gun again. After a year, Cowley got me out of CI5 into a new identity - an old agent is too much of a target, especially one that won't touch a weapon." His voice disintegrated completely as he added, "I not only lost you, you bastard, I lost me, too."
He could not remember being so furious or so hurt. Taking slow deep breaths, Alan tried to calm himself - appalled at his own reaction.
"Ray - Alan, please let me explain." Eyes bright and shining, Bodie reached out with a hand that fell before it reached him.
Shaking his head, Alan had every intention of walking away, but Bodie picked up one of his crutches, and tapped it against his shin, effectively stopping him. It would have been easy to step over the crutch, but he waited.
"If you leave, I can't go after you." The quiet words said more than Alan could bear to hear.
Taking a deep breath, Alan waited for Bodie to speak. Not wanting to hear it, not wanting to understand how someone he loved, someone he had trusted, could have lied to him as Bodie had.
Bodie looked down, speaking so softly that Alan had to strain to hear it. "I was only barely alive when they brought me in. I was told up front that I would never walk again, that I would always require care." He looked up at Alan then. "I didn't want to burden you."
Burden him? Burden him! Alan's hands clenched into fists. "And I could not have made this decision with you? You felt you had a right to make it for me?"
"I know you would have stayed with me out of a sense of guilt."
But he hadn't been given the option and that scraped his already raw emotions. "I loved you. I would have stayed because of that."
Bodie was having none of it. "And your love would have died a slow ugly death in short order."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Alan glared at him, fury rising again. "You don't know that. You can't."
"I didn't want a chance to find out for certain. I loved you too much to do that to you."
Alan shook his head in disbelief. "How dare you! Did you ever consider that I might have liked a chance to make the decision myself?"
"I didn't want to ruin your life."
"Damn you to hell and back, William Bodie, because that's exactly what you did do!"
Bodie's head snapped up, his eyes widening. "How?"
"I never got over it. Never! While you were off having a new life, I grieved for you! I never forgave myself for missing and letting that bastard kill you."
"He didn't kill me."
His laugh was bitter, a harsh sound ripping out of his lungs. "It's a bit late in the day to find that out, isn't it?"
Bodie shook his head, biting his lip. "I'm sorry. I never thought that you would be this hurt."
Alan collapsed onto the bench next to him. His stomach burning with anger unabated. He required a resolution. A final resolution. "Why did you do it?"
"I had to. I could not live like that - with you taking care of me. I promised myself I'd walk again, no matter what." There should have been something other than defeat in Bodie's tone, but Alan could not find it.
"And you did."
Bodie picked up and dropped a crutch. "If you can call it that."
"Better than a wheel chair."
Nodding, Bodie closed his eyes for a second and then completely changed the subject. "What's your name now?"
For a second, Alan wondered if he should allow the switch, but he had to have a break from the emotions of the last few moments. "Alan Cade."
"What are you doing?" There was a lot of curiosity in the question, as if really mattered to Bodie one way or another.
"I'm a copper." He couldn't hold back the rueful smile, knowing how Bodie felt about coppers.
"Yeah?" Bodie raised a dark eyebrow in question, but no censure, no amusement. It finally occurred to Alan that he wasn't the only one who had changed.
"Chief Constable of Eastland."
A real smile dawned on Bodie's face. "Top Cop. Well done."
"Not really. It's a political job and hardly worth the problems that come with it."
"How did you find me?"
Alan shook his head, not quite believing how it happened. "Purest happenstance. I heard your voice on Jim Ellison's answering machine."
"And you recognised me from that?" Bodie looked like he didn't believe it.
"Yeah, right away - even with your Yank accent."
"And what now?"
A deep sigh rose from Alan's lungs. The pain hadn't lessened nor had the feelings of betrayal, but a hundred other remembered questions sprang forward to be answered. He really wanted to know what had happened to the man who had been his lover so short a time.
"I'd like to finish this conversation," Alan said, leaving it at that. The next move was Bodie's.
Looking at his watch, Bodie nodded. "I would as well. But right now, I have to pick up my son from school."
Oh, Christ. Bodie was married. For some reason, perhaps because they had been lovers or the fact that he himself hadn't married, it had not occurred to him that Bodie might have found someone. "A son?"
The smile on Bodie's face mirrored every loving parent's smile everywhere. "Eight years old and quite the handful."
Before he could think better of it, Alan felt compelled to ask. "And your wife?"
"Dead, five years." A deep grief in his tone conveyed that Bodie had loved his wife, still loved her. A stab of jealousy pierced Alan's heart.
"So am I." Shaking his head, he smiled sadly. "Come by my house tonight, maybe sevenish. I'll fix dinner." Taking out a sheet of paper from his backpack, he scribbled directions. His handwriting hadn't changed or improved over the years.
Alan pulled out his reading glasses, glancing at the chicken scratches. He could read it, barely.
"I'll drop the kid at his grandparents for the night. They'll all have a treat."
"You're close to your in-laws?" Alan was having a hard time reconciling his image of Bodie in CI5 with the image of Bodie as a family man. But then, he was not Bodie any more.
"Yes. They love the kid and have been really great about helping me raise him." Bodie smiled.
Was it an American custom to refer to your child as kid? Bodie was English. "You call your son kid?"
Bodie got to his feet with difficultly, adjusting his crutches on the soft grass. The blue eyes bored into his and Alan knew what he was going to say before he said it. "No. I call him Raymond."
Alan nodded once in acknowledgment, the bands around his heart tightening further, making it hard to breathe. He took a deep breath and fought for control. It would be far too humiliating to burst into tears, no matter how much cause he had.
Alan took a cab to Bodie's, wondering the entire way what in the bloody hell he was doing, telling himself he should go to Simon's and leave well alone. But there were too many questions that still required answers and Bodie was the only source of information.
The house was a sprawling single level, no doubt in deference to Bodie's disability. As he reached out to knock, the door opened.
Bodie waved him into the front room. "Have a seat."
Alan sat tentatively on the sofa. There was youthful clutter everywhere -- obviously a small boy was in residence.
"The kid's grandparents are running late. They should be here at any moment." Bodie turned towards the hall to the right. "Ray, are you ready yet?"
"Yeah, Dad. Almost." A pale-skinned, green-eyed boy with dark wavy hair appeared carrying a small case.
The child was beautiful. And staring at him very curiously. He nudged his father.
"Sorry, son. This is Mr D... Cade, an old friend of mine from England."
"Alan, this is my son, Ray." Bodie put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Hi, Mr Cade," Ray said with a sunny smile.
Nodding because he could not speak, Alan found a smile to return.
Before anyone could say more, the doorbell rang. Bodie answered and introduced the grandparents: Amy and Sidney. Clearly, they were more than curious as to whom he was, but polite enough not to ask. Alan wondered how much Bodie spoke of his past. Probably no more than he did, which was to say not at all.
After the flurry of activity surrounding the child's departure ended, Alan and Bodie faced each other across the dinner table.
"Go on, ask," Bodie said, breaking the tense silence.
"Ask what?" Alan had no idea even where he wanted to start.
"Whatever you came here to ask."
"I think I've already asked that. Why?" Alan dropped his fork to his plate, the clatter loud in the room.
Bodie met his eyes. "My answer wasn't satisfactory?"
With a weary sigh, Alan shook his head. Not even close. "How could it be? How could anything you said possibly compensate for what you did?"
Dropping his gaze, Bodie's shoulders slumped. "You're right of course. I lied to you. But believe me when I tell you that I thought I was doing you a favour."
And he did not believe that for one second. "No. You were making it easier on yourself."
"I didn't think so at the time. And I still don't."
"This is going nowhere." Alan stood. He'd had enough. "Thanks for dinner."
"Bodie, I can't stay. It hurts too much to see you."
Slowly, Bodie got to his feet, careful to place his crutches firmly on the carpet. "I'm sorry."
Alan took a breath, the little food he'd eaten settling like a rock in his stomach. "So am I. Mostly I'm sorry that you didn't love me enough to let me help you through all you went through. Because I would have."
"Bastard." The word was delivered through Bodie's clenched teeth. "You bloody fucking bastard! I loved you. But you were thirty-five years old. Did you want to be stuck with an invalid partner in a gay relationship for the rest of your life?"
The hairs on the back of Alan's neck stood up and his jaw tightened painfully. "I never got the chance to say."
"No. And you can hate me for it, but don't you dare say I didn't love you. I gave you up because I loved you." Bodie's eyes blazed for one second, all of his emotions on the surface, but it was quickly suppressed.
Folding his arms over his chest, Alan glared at him. "Not the way I see it."
"Then you're seeing it wrong. It was years before I walked. Years before I could do simple things, like tying my own shoes or putting on my trousers. Years before I wanted to have sex again."
As if that mattered. "What does having sex have to do with it?"
"Everything. I couldn't do anything." An unlikely pink stain flowered on Bodie's cheeks.
Alan dropped his eyes. "And you think I would not have understood?"
Clearly Bodie didn't have any confidence that he would have been able to cope. "Well, thanks ever so much, mate. Now I know just what you thought of me."
"Damn you, Doyle, you could always twist my words."
"Cade." Alan felt the need to correct him before going on. "I can't believe you thought I was so shallow."
"I was just as shallow."
"But you grew up when you had to. I would have as well." They could have done it together. That was what having a relationship was all about.
"I didn't want to force that on you." Bodie really believed what he was saying, Alan could understand that much.
But it didn't matter in the long run. "Again. That was my decision. Denied me."
Bodie shook his head. "I'm sorry."
"Not good enough. Not nearly good enough."
"Then what do you want, Doyle? I can't take back the past. All either of us can do is go on from here."
"I don't know. Yes, I do. I want it to stop hurting."
"I would give anything for that." Bodie sat down on the arm of the sofa, holding his crutches in front of him. "Anything."
Alan believed him. "I should leave."
"Why, Bodie? So that we can keep biting at each other, trying to wound?"
"I don't want to lose you again."
"There is no again. It's already been."
Bodie blinked his eyes several times and then met Alan's gaze. "You aren't the only one who's been hurt for the last thirteen years."
"But you didn't think I was dead."
"I still knew I'd never see you again."
"Not the same."
Anger flared on Bodie's face. "No. It isn't. But there's nothing either of us can do about that. I want to put the past to rest."
"Why? What possible difference can it make in your life now?" What did it matter to Bodie? He had a life that was still worth living.
"I want you to forgive me."
Rage bubbled up in Alan, making him blind. "No. I will never forgive you." He turned and walked out. He realised when he got to the sidewalk that he had taken a cab. A main road was several blocks away, but adrenalin and anger carried him on.
As he settled into bed back at the hotel, he let the agony he'd seen in Bodie's eyes overtake him, and he knew it would be a long time before he slept.
Bodie sat on a stool in his father-in-law's wood shop, watching as he worked on a headboard for Ray's bed.
"I thought we were going to keep Ray tonight?" Sid's voice was deceptively mild. He wanted to know what was going on, but would not ask outright.
"I'm sorry about that. I want him home with me tonight." Bodie could not bear the silence. "How about this weekend?"
"That's good. You know his grandmother loves to have him here." Sid paused, seeming to consider his next words. "Does this have anything to do with that old friend of yours visiting tonight?"
Over the years, he'd grown to like and respect his father-in-law as a person rather than just an extension of his wife, Allie. "How did you know?"
Sid shook his head, putting down the sander. "I haven't seen your eyes that red since Allie died."
He hadn't thought it would show. Or maybe he hoped no one would notice. "He was my partner, from before." Bodie had never come right out and told Sid about his life in CI5, but he had talked around it enough that his father-in-law knew he'd done something dangerous for the British government.
"Just a partner?" There was something in that tone that said Sid knew just what Doyle had meant to him.
But Bodie couldn't credit it. He'd never so much as looked at anyone else, male or female, while Allie was alive. And since she had died, he'd only had brief encounters with one or two women who had crossed his path. "What else could he be?"
"You tell me."
"Sid... I... Ray and I were close."
Fuck. He'd never told anyone why he'd insisted on naming his son Ray, though he thought Allie had known there was someone he had lost.
"Ray Doyle. My partner."
"So, his name is different, too."
"Yes. And I don't have to tell you not to mention this to anyone, do I?" Bodie knew the answer before he asked.
"No, of course you don't," Sid nodded thoughtfully. "What happened tonight?"
"He can't forgive me for leaving." The 'him' went unspoken, but Bodie knew Sid had heard it.
"Why did you leave? Was it because of your injury?"
Bodie nodded. "I didn't want to burden him with my care."
"And you didn't give him a choice?"
"I can see why he's angry."
May as well tell the rest of it. "Worse than that. He thought I was dead."
Sid nodded again. "He's got a right to be damned mad. Why did you do it?"
"He wouldn't have let me go otherwise."
Bodie's breath caught. Doyle had been right. He'd left for himself, not for his partner. At that time, he hadn't wanted anyone to see him so weak and broken. His own pride had been more important than anything else, including Doyle. Which didn't say much about him. Meeting his father-in-law's eyes, he found only sympathy.
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Drew. You were young and it was a long time ago."
"And I hurt someone I loved very much."
"We all do."
Bodie sighed. There was nothing he could do to make it up to Doyle. Nothing. He'd have to find some way to let it go. "Thanks."
It was late by the time Bodie pulled into the drive. He turned to wake his son. One of the many things that he couldn't do was carry the boy. "Come on, Ray. Wakey, wakey."
Ray yawned, opening his eyes. "Home?"
As he and Ray approached the porch, something moved. A shot of fear went through him before he recognized Doyle on the swing.
"Hi." Doyle stood.
"D... Alan? Come in." Bodie unlocked the door, and ushered Doyle inside. "I have to get Ray to bed."
He settled his son and returned to find that Doyle had started tea.
"How long were you waiting?" Bodie sat at his kitchen table.
"A little while. I tried to sleep, but couldn't."
In the light, Bodie could see that Doyle's eyes were red, no doubt as red as his. "Why did you come back?" He was too tired and too irritable to give more than a passing nod to politeness.
But Doyle surprised him. "To apologise. I shouldn't have left like I did."
Bodie started to respond, but Doyle cut him off. "No. More than that, I shouldn't have said what I did. It was cruel."
Shaking his head, Bodie couldn't meet those murky green eyes. "No. You were right. About my motivations and that I don't deserve to be forgiven.
Doyle shrugged. "Maybe. But I think we must forgive each other."
"What changed your mind?"
A half-smile touched his mouth. "I can't stay angry forever. It takes too much energy. Let's just let it go. We'll both be able to get on with our lives."
"Can you just forgive me? Like that?"
"I don't know, Bodie. I'm going to try. I can't spend another day like this one." Doyle sighed. "I wish to Christ that I'd ignored the voice on the answering machine."
"Yeah." Bodie wished that too. For a moment. But it had been good to see Doyle. To see he'd survived, even it had been as someone else.
There really wasn't anything else to say, but Doyle managed. "I'm glad you're not dead."
"Me, too." Bodie stood, and so did Doyle.
A small chuckle and Doyle held out his hand.
Bodie grasped it, wanting to pull Doyle into his arms, but not daring for a host of reasons, not the least of which was his precarious balance.
Surprising him again, Doyle stepped forward and kissed his mouth quickly. Then, opening the door, he left the house without another word.
Leaning against the door, Bodie fought to even his breathing. At least, it was over.