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Honourable Magic

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Honourable Magic

by krisser

Alternate Universe

Middlewich, Cheshire

 

William Bodie stood on a small leaf-covered dirt hill amid a cluster of trees as he watched the graveside service of his beloved grandmother. He couldn't hear what was being said, but he knew it was near the end. The vicar was just wiping his hands clean of the soil that had been thrown in after the flowers that landed atop the lowering casket.

Bodie waited, watching without moving, until the casket was lowered completely into the open ground and dirt was shovelled in to cover it. Only then did he move closer. Most of the people had faded away by this time, and any that might have recognised him were gone or hadn't even been there.

He waited until the cemetery workers were finished with the site before he stepped up to the mound of freshly turned dirt. He knelt and pressed a single rose into the dirt near where the headstone would eventually rest. "I will miss you, Gram," he whispered. After a moment or two of self- pity at his loss, Bodie stood and brushed the dirt from his hands as his head hung low. He knew he really would miss her. She had been the only family member to never forget a birthday or Christmas, always sending a card or note. Truly, she had been the only one to love him unconditionally.

Bodie straightened his back as he felt someone approach from behind. He sucked in a breath and his emotions as he steeled his features into a frown. He turned to face the interloper.

A mousy man stood there. Nothing outstanding to be remembered. He was of average height, with brown hair that was simply brown. His suit fitted him, but was not flattering. He seemed someone that would be easily missed in a crowd. The only thing he was sure of was the man was not a relative. Bodie waited.

"Mr Bodie?"

"Yes."

Brown eyes assessed him. For a moment, Bodie was sure that the eyes had been keen and saw more than what was on offer, but just as quickly the gaze returned seemed unremarkable. "I am James Hedderson. Your grandmother's solicitor." He presented his hand and Bodie took it perfunctorily. The solicitor removed an envelope from his inner pocket. "This is for you from her. My card is included. Come see me at your earliest convenience." Brown eyes that now displayed real sadness looked back at Bodie. He cleared his throat before speaking. "I am sorry for your loss. She spoke of you often."

Bodie accepted the envelope and the condolences with a nod. "For your loss as well."

"Indeed." Mr Hedderson turned and walked away. Bodie was finally left alone at the graveside.

Bodie remained in place as he tapped the envelope against the palm of his free hand. This was better than sitting in a room with those he'd rather not meet for the reading of a will, but this missive seemed so final. Bodie wasn't sure if he wanted to read it now or not. The deciding factor to read the letter immediately were the words from Mr Hedderson, come see me.

Bodie walked to a bench situated between the grave and the car park. He moved his head casually around to check that he was alone before he sat and looked down at the envelope. He recognised the writing, though she rarely called him by his given name, he recognised her cursive handwriting even though it was a shaky version of her normal style. He'd last seen her before his stint with the SAS. He shook his head and broke the seal.

A letter of several pages was the only content. Bodie pulled it out and took another breath before opening to read.

 

My Dearest Poppet,

I always loved you, and I love you still.

Bodie, love, I'm sorry. Your parents absolutely insisted you were not to be told any of the following. Your father thought it hogwash and your mother believed that if she ignored it then it wouldn't happen. When you were a wee lad, I had to make an "absolute" promise to your mum; it was the only way she would allow me to visit you. Now, only upon my death can I reveal to you the following – your birthright.

What you are about to read will seem like nonsense and will be difficult to believe, but believe you must.

I hope you're sitting down – We come from a long line of magical people. Some may label us witches, supernatural or fey, but it's really much more than that. Thaumaturgy is the name of what we do and we call ourselves thaumaturgi. We have enhanced abilities, power to affect what's around us, and energy to do what may seem impossible to others.

I wasn't allowed to test you, and your mother wouldn't deal so I protected you the best way I could – by ensuring that your abilities stayed dormant. You were warded against detection by other thaumaturgi as well. But now your abilities will just be starting up with my passing. Your power will intermittently interfere with all things electric as they get stronger and you will have to learn control.

First things first – you must learn to shield your thoughts, my poppet. Other thaumaturgi can hear you thinking, so do as I say for now, then contact George Cowley to ask all the questions that are building – I know they are - you were always a curious lad!

Now, however ridiculous this sounds, and no matter how you may scoff, please, for me, try this. Close your eyes and imagine that you are laying brick. Mentally build a wall like the one you did for great uncle Seth. One brick at a time, nice and snug, build all sides around your mind, then lay a roof on top. Close all openings and once done, your headache should vanish.

Poppycock was too mild a word for what Bodie thought as he paused, but he could hear the pleading in the words and did as asked. He closed his eyes and remembered the summer he'd spent with his Gram and her brother. He did all the garden work, including the brick walls. He had actually enjoyed himself – she'd had probably known that then and remembered now.

He imagined many bricks, then putting them together. He created a wall, then another until he finally had an entire room. He placed a roof on last and when the last brick was in place, he felt a pop and the nagging ache behind his eyes was gone. A pressure that he had been unaware of seemed to have released and he felt more peaceful than he had in a week. He picked up the letter again.

 

With practice you will learn how to project out without letting any others in. Please, go see George Cowley in London. He can be trusted. He can assist in your training. There are many skills to learn and others to control and I want you to stay safe. I wish I could be at your side through this, but it was not meant to be.

Poppet, I've left you my house in London. There you will find all the information to contact George Cowley. I left you my house here as well. Sell it and get out – there's nothing for you here.

My solicitor, James Hedderson, the man that delivered this letter, has everything arranged. Meet with him and he will give you the details.

Sweets, you are my grandson and in you I see the best of our family line. I know in my heart that you will do well.

I love you, Poppet.

Gran-mum

 

Bodie folded the letter, placed it back inside the envelope, and stuck it in an inside pocket of his coat. He hung his head, thinking what a bunch of bullshit, but took it back immediately. His Gram had been of sound mind. He wanted to think it rubbish, but knew he would have to investigate further. She had never lied. Obviously omitted some things, but never lied to him.

Bodie lifted his head slowly as he opened his eyes. A cemetery was a tranquil place and more appropriately, a place to mourn his loss.

His family had been a jumbled mess. His father, a religious fanatic, had sucked his mother in, and by the time he was fourteen, he knew he would feel more than the wrath of his father's hate if he had discovered his son's inclinations.

His father had threatened dire punishment for his grandmother if he had returned to her home after his thirteenth summer there, so when he ran away he didn't go to her. Luckily, he had fallen in with a summer sailing crowd. They didn't discover his age until they had reached Europe and there it had been easy to blend in and slip away.

Gram was right about her house here. He would just leave it to be sold. He fingered the business card he had left out of the envelope. A visit to the man was in order. He stood and looked about as he eyed the grave, the final resting-place of his most beloved family member. Bodie knew he would never see it again.

He needed to find a phone box.

 

Bodie followed the map, down a long dirt road to a rustic, but well-kept cottage. He didn't remember anything about the drive, but the garden, the garden, he could recall. It had once been lush and colourful, but now it seemed wilted. Mr Hedderson sat outside on the front steps waiting for him. Bodie parked and exited his motor with mixed anticipation and resignation.

"Thank you, Mr Bodie, for meeting me out here. It's what Gwen wished."

"Even now, she's trying to protect me against my own family." Bodie shook his head sadly, but with a slight smile on his face.

"She said as much." The solicitor handed him the keys to the cottage. "Gwen said everything is yours. All her important stuff is in the London house. She only kept this one for family entertaining. You can stay here tonight if you don't already have accommodations. I will draw up all the paperwork and bring it by tomorrow morning." Mr Hedderson patted Bodie on the arm. He hesitated a moment, as if he wished to say more, but he refrained. He patted the arm once more. "Till tomorrow morning." He got into his vehicle, closed the door, and drove away.

Bodie straightened his shoulders as he stepped up to the door of the small half-timbered Tudor, unlocked it, and walked into the house. Memories of the three summers spent here were mostly pleasant. Two of the summers when his mum had come along had been a great deal more tense than his solo stay. His mum just didn't get along with her mum whatsoever. That said, it was still better than the oppressive atmosphere he had experienced at home.

He picked the same room he had slept in as a lad. It was hard to imagine that Gram wouldn't pop in her head to suggest popcorn and a movie. The thought of popcorn reminded his stomach that he was hungry. Wanting to avoid the town at all cost, he rummaged through the larder and found tins of soup. He picked two tins of split pea that didn't look like they had been there years. While the pot warmed, he found fresh crackers and a biscuit tin; no coffee anywhere, but lots and lots and lots of tea. He put the kettle on while he waited on his meal.

As he ate his soup, he reread his gran-mum's letter. It really did seem like a load of toad droppings.

 

Next morning, Bodie was packed and ready to leave by nine thirty with his bag in the boot. He'd taken only a few pictures and a photo book as keepsakes. Little else had represented any time that he had spent here.

Mr Hedderson pulled into the driveway on time and Bodie invited the solicitor inside. The man pulled out mounds of paper and Bodie signed his name what felt like a thousand times but probably was considerably less. His hand was tired nonetheless. Once completed, Mr Hedderson handed over an envelope with the keys to the London house along with an address card. "I'll contact you as soon as this place is sold."

"Can you keep my name out of it?" Bodie asked.

Mr Hedderson nodded with a slight smile. "Gwen had set that up as well. This second envelope has Mr Cowley's information. Shall I ring and let him know you are on your way?" he asked, a hopeful look on his face.

Bodie thought about his decision of last evening and nodded his head. "Yes, Gram wished that I do so, so that's what I will do. Thank you, sir, for making this tough situation easier." He shook the solicitor's hand.

The men left the cottage. Bodie locked the door behind him and handed the keys back to the solicitor.

"I will contact Mr Cowley upon returning to my office. If you need any legal advice, please don't hesitate to contact me. Gwen's wish is my own." He patted Bodie on back before taking his leave.

Bodie watched the dust fade as the solicitor’s vehicle got farther away. He got into his own motor and drove away without looking back.

 

Oxford

The drive to London was uncomplicated. Bodie drove with the window open, as the day was clear enough and the air brisk. The sound of the air roaring in made it difficult to hear the music and he cranked up the radio. It was enough of a distraction to keep his mind occupied on the listening, not the thinking. Bodie was an old hand at not thinking about what he wanted to avoid. A skill he had mastered in childhood. It had stood him well in Africa and here at home.

He wanted to be distracted from his Gram's passing and her startling revelations. He hummed along with the songs, trying to stay with the music. Traffic slowed on the M40, which he used in an effort to skim the outskirts of the Cotswolds on his two plus hour journey to Oxford, which was now closer to three. Bodie was more than ready for a stop at the Bear. The Bear Inn was one of the oldest pubs in Oxford, and his favourite. It dated back to 1242, and while its seventeenth century incarnation still stood, the exterior needed a lot of work. The interior had been remodelled numerous times through the years, but the outside looked very much as it had in the past.

Bodie ate his ploughman's in silence and downed his ale. He felt more normal here in the pub than anywhere, but to be honest with himself, that wasn't saying much. That last summer he'd spent with Gram, had been the best of his life. No special event happened, just the simple passing of everyday life. Bodie remembered it well. He had not taken a single day that summer for granted. They were the only carefree days he had ever known. That was reason enough to follow through on his grandmother's ridiculous stories and request. It was London or bust.

 

Littleheath Woods, Croydon

 

The next two hours took him just past the heart of London to Croydon and his Gram's home. Bodie followed the instructions that Mr Hedderson had provided. Once he turned off the A232 onto the A212, it was just a short ride until the Coombe Road turnoff. The directions said it divided the Littleheath woods. Bodie didn't recall Croydon as a return address on any of the mail he had received from her, and he was more than a little curious. The instructions said to look for an overgrown gate surrounded by blue and green flowers. Sure enough, tucked down the first turnoff an over-abundance of flowers, blue and green intermixed, lined the road.

Bodie stopped the motor near the wrought-iron gate. He got out of the car and stared at a house that reminded him instantly of his Gram. He could see her living here. The lovely green, two-storey Victorian sat in the midst of a neatly trimmed garden. Half a dozen steps led up to a white-framed porch. Her presence was so strong that he halfway thought that he might see Gram herself through the white lace curtains if he looked hard enough.

Key in hand, holdall in the other, Bodie took a deep breath, unlatched the gate, and headed for the front door. He felt an odd sensation ripple against his skin, followed by the sent of honeysuckle, then it vanished. The key turned easily in the lock and the door swung opened on well-oiled hinges.

Everything about the place reminded him of his Gram. He could still smell her scent lingering, his mind's eye had her smile ready to greet him, and he missed her anew. A red coat hung from the oak hatstand on the right. Next to it, a framed mirror hung over a wooden bench

The sitting room to the left must have been the one she used regularly. It had that lived-in look: books waiting to be read on the end table by the settee, papers not quite tucked away, even a lamp burned brightly. The bureau top was open and a long envelope rested against a cubbyhole. His name was written in large, bold letters. Bodie closed his eyes.

He picked up the envelope and sat down on her settee. He fingered the edges, loath to open her last missive. But with a sigh, he did just that. He pulled the many-paged letter out and unfolded it.

Poppet,

This house has suited my needs for decades, but now you must make it your own. Change what you will; it’s with my blessing. The house, itself, is situated where ley lines cross so working our craft will be easier.

The house has wards – safeguards against all who may do you harm or force their way in, physically or mentally. The house is also spelled with safeguards against any guests who would mean you harm. They would grow weak and ill. The house itself has been glamoured with a forget-it-easily spell, so others can't find their way unless you are with them or you spell someone a recognition token.

The surrounding woods and fields are warded as well. You must practise until your abilities are second nature. This property will shield your practise from the other thaumaturgi. The key to my books is in the box you made for me.

Bodie, you must learn to protect yourself physically, though, from your letters, you are already quite accomplished. Next, you need to protect yourself mentally as well, and that is where my friend, George Cowley comes in. Trust him, Poppet.

The following pages contain the whereabouts of the books and other supplies that you may have need. At present, I'm quite sure you are in the early stages of comprehending the magnitude of what I have saddled you with and you are still wondering if I'd done a nutter.

I feel I've cheated you in only telling you now, but a promise is a promise. Yet I feel guilty. Bodie, dear, there is much joy to be had by embracing all that you are. Please give it a chance. That is why I am sending you to George. I can't tell you all there is. You must accept and learn for yourself, which is the only way you'd stand for anyway.

Have a happy life, my Poppet.

All my love for all time,
Gram

He folded the letter without even skimming the subsequent pages. He put it in his holdall and climbed the stairs. He chose a room that was made up, but not hers. He dropped the bag on the bed, and made for the loo. There was time aplenty for discovery, settling in, and locating the shell box, and it was best not to put off the meeting with his Gram's friend.

 

London

 

The thirty-minute drive back to the heart of London might help loosen the cobwebs. At least that was what Bodie hoped. He had a house, but at too high a cost. But oddly, even though he had never been there before, he knew instantly that this house felt more like his Gram than the house in Middlewich.

Bodie stopped his motor directly in front of his destination. His hands gripped the steering wheel as he looked over the unimpressive building. The three-storey brick structure was stained and the entry needed a coat of paint. The only identification was a small plaque bearing the building number.

He really was of two minds on this visit. Nothing in his memories or communications with his Gram through the years had ever indicated that she was a nutter. Yet, nothing had ever indicated that she was magical either.

And to further complicate things, he was supposed to believe that he was magical or whatever as well.

He reached down to start the motor up again, but the memories of his Gram stayed his movement. She really wouldn't be playing fast and loose with him at this time. Not in death. She really had loved her him. Bodie knew that.

Bodie sucked in a few deep breaths, opened the car door and climbed out. Decision made, he walked straight into the building.

He was directed to Mr Cowley's office on the second floor as though he was expected but Bodie elected to use the stairs instead of the lift in a rebellious effort to drag his heels before the upcoming confrontation. He couldn't imagine the meeting going any other way. He opened the stairwell door and it closed automatically behind him with a slam. Simultaneously with the door closing, he instantly felt a rubber band snapping sensation in his head and was immediately assaulted by loud voices, which created a headache like none before.

Bodie stopped in place when he heard his gran-mum's name.

"I know you and Gwen were long-time friends, but what are we supposed to do with her grandson? He's almost thirty and knows nothing of thaumaturgy. What can this agency do with a no-experience potential mage? He should go to school."

The voice had an interesting timbre but the words uttered were alarming. He moved closer to the door the conversation emanated from and positioned himself so he could see in the door window without being seen himself.

The older man answered. "This agency isn't doing anything, I am. As you stated, 4.5, Gwen was a dear friend and I will do all I can to aid Mr Bodie. Besides, he could be an asset. You've seen his file."

"A merc and an SAS background? Asset?"

"Exactly. I'm glad you see it my way, Doyle. And as you are between assignments, you become his instructor. It is imperative that we keep him and whatever abilities he has under wraps as of yet."

He watched the fella named Doyle as his eyes widened and face reddened. Before he could utter more than sputtering sounds, the other man, who must be Mr Cowley, interrupted.

"You start tomorrow morning. Find a place and set it up. Whatever you need, but don't be extravagant." Mr Cowley's expression stated conversation over and dismissed. 4.5 wrenched the door open and slammed it with his outrage. Hard! Hard enough to shatter the glass and hundreds of shards fell to the floor. Before they could settle, Doyle opened his palm and waved his hand anticlockwise in a large circle. Instantly the shards rose and reassembled themselves into the door opening and firmed into the clear door pane once more. He brushed passed the man standing there with his mouth in an o-shape and headed straight for the exit. "Instructor indeed!" he muttered loud enough for all to hear.

Bodie paused but a second before he opened the unshattered door and strode in aggressively without knocking. "Who is he that he has read my file? And why in the hell do you have a file on me anyway?" Bodie demanded.

Mr Cowley stood calmly and moved forward to greet the irate man. He extended his hand as he introduced himself. "I am George Cowley and your grandmother was a dear friend. I am sorry for your loss."

Bodie took the hand and nodded gently. His headache was getting worse. "For your loss as well." Bodie looked behind him to locate a chair. He sat down and pressed his left hand to his temple, rubbing it in circles. He tried to rebuild the brick wall, but his head ached too much. "Will you tell me why you have a file on me, and who the hell was that man who read it?" he asked less aggressively.

"You heard us talking?" Mr Cowley's perplexed look was lost on Bodie as he had his eyes closed.

"Of course, you were talking loud enough."

"How can that be possible? We had a silence barrier erected," Mr Cowley spoke aloud, but mostly to himself. He'd ponder that later, "I have a file on you because your grandmother asked me to aid you. Gwen Lochlann was an admirable woman. She kept a promise and yet laid the groundwork to aid you still. This will be a difficult time for you in many ways, and for starters, that man,” Cowley waved in the direction that the man had left, "is your training partner." Mr Cowley knew that direct speaking would be the best way to handle this young man.

Bodie stood up, incensed. "Training for what?"

"Sit down, please, Mr Bodie," Mr Cowley ordered softly.

"Just Bodie." He followed the order the voice conveyed and sat, wincing slightly as he pushed at his temple.

Mr Cowley noticed the grimace and asked gently, "Laddie, did your grandmother instruct you in shield use?"

"In my inheritance letter. She said to build a brick wall. I did and it helped for a bit."

"You should mend that wall now, laddie. Build it around your mind. Build all sides then roof it. Your headache should vanish."

Bodie already had his eyes closed and he sought the memory of his uncle's house and wall. He built his own again, re-cementing the cracked sides and roof. When the last piece was fitted he found it eerily quiet and pain free.

Bodie opened his eyes and looked around, truly taking in his surroundings and stared straight into the face of George Cowley. Gram said to trust him. He tried something simple.

"This is the most quiet I have ever experienced."

Mr Cowley nodded. "We are inside a silence shield and no sounds from outside this floor can penetrate."

Bodie nodded as if he understood, which he didn't whatsoever, and elected to remain silent. He had come; the rest was up to this Mr Cowley.

"Did Gwen give other aid or instructions?"

"A house to live in and that thaumaturgy was somewhat like magic. Not much to go on there." His tone conveyed more sadness than he was aware.

"Ah, yes, well, her promise to your mother was quite binding, and one she took seriously.” Mr Cowley opened his desk drawer and removed a bottle of Glenfiddich and two glasses. He poured a splash in each glass and pushed one across the desktop to the new mage.

"Bodie, alchemy is in your bloodline. To deny it like your parents didn't make it disappear. Gwen knew this and so she came to me. She was hoping that you would have an open mind that would allow for something so different from anything you knew while growing up. Alchemy is the speculative thought that led to thaumaturgy. That is the name of what we do and we call ourselves thaumaturgi, mages for short. We have enhanced abilities, power to affect what's around us, and energy to do what may seem impossible to others."

"Yeah, Gram said something like that. Like sorcery?" Bodie questioned as he stood and looked out the door window.

Mr Cowley waved his right hand in an away gesture. "Nothing so dramatic, laddie." As Bodie turned, he motioned him to sit. "We have hidden depths with abilities to draw strength from the earth itself, the ley lines. They are the geometrical energy lines that lie under the earth. They work twofold. Expenditure of energy requires refortification of energy and enhances our abilities. The ley lines can do both. Mages have unique abilities, but not necessarily the same."

"So how do you know that I have any of that? My father was not in that bloodline." Bodie asked, not knowing what way he wanted to land. While it would be easier to be regular, he would hate to disappoint his Gram at this late date.

"Gwen knew when you were a child. She actively shielded you while she lived,” Cowley stated with certainty.

Bodie leaned back in his seat, closed his eyes for a second, then, opened them quickly to pierce Mr Cowley with a stare. "What do I do?”

Cowley, nodded, relieved that he would not have to fight the man, and explained, "There are skills to be learned and honed. Not all have the aptitude, though there are many different skills. Lighting and creating heat are commonplace. Travelling and materialising things are not commonplace to most. There is a wide gamut of attributes that take years to hone. You will not be allowed the luxury of that time. All that is why a training partner is necessary." Mr Cowley picked up the phone. "Fred, please ask 4.5 to return. I know he didn't leave the building."

Bodie wanted nothing else but to get up and leave this place, leave this idea of magic, thaumaturgy, whatever, behind and resume his normal life. But his life hadn't been so normal, nor was he one to pretend a situation wasn't what it was. He would have died many times if he had. That most certainly excluded communicating emotions, which only caused more trouble than it was worth. He asked the most immediate question on his mind. "Why is time such an element?”

"Unfortunately, not all use their abilities for good, some hardly use it, and some elect to do criminal things or evil doings. Here at CI5 – criminal investigations, branch 5, we look into and curtail or stop altogether the criminal element. A different division deals with actual evil.”

Bodie continued to watch and listen. An answer was sure to come.

"Both the criminal and evil elements look for untried mages or simpletons to work through or enhance their own abilities. You are now known, and your signature reads as a strong because of your age, and a novice, for lack of adequate shielding. Some may even wonder if your latent abilities would make you ripe for teaching the dark arts.” Mr Cowley pushed back his glasses. "It is essential that you be trained and no matter how 4.5 acted, he is a strong mage, capable of protecting you while you learn. He has more skills than most.”

Bodie thought of opting for book learning, but the old man’s words rang true. So, instead, he waited for the objectionable man who objected so much to the idea of training him, and he was also mildly curious how Mr Cowley was going to bend that one to his will.

Doyle, if he recalled the name correctly, stomped in. Quite dramatically, he actually stomped into the office.

"Sit down, Doyle. Your objections are noted and rejected."

Doyle defiantly flipped the chair about and melted into it. The only thing preventing his chin colliding with the top of the chair was that somehow his hands were already resting there when the chin hit. Bodie had never seen such body liquidity in a living person. He sat back and waited for the fireworks.

"Mr Cowley, there are many more worthwhile assignments waiting for me. Anyone can instruct him with what he needs to be learned." Doyle pointed to the interloper.

"That's where you're wrong, Doyle. This is a critical situation. You are an exceptional agent, but what makes you an exception can not be taught in a classroom. Most never advance to that level. As you well know, Gwen was even more exceptional, and I cannot take the chance that Mr Bodie has not inherited that level of ability as well. To have him taught inadequately would be a disaster."

While Bodie did not like being talked about as though he was not present, watching Doyle's fluidity of changing expressions was fascinating. He viewed the confrontation like a tennis match.

"If I'm all that exceptional then I belong in the field not a classroom." Doyle jumped up, re-energised.

"Exactly! You will take Mr Bodie. . ."

"Just Bodie! No mister, no given name. Just Bodie." He watched Doyle roll his eyes and Mr Cowley sigh.

"Doyle, you will take Bodie away, into the field. You will teach him, then have him repeat. Start today. We do not have the privilege of time. He must learn control as well or rogue mages will hunt him, as you are well aware." Mr Cowley looked Doyle directly in the eyes until Doyle nodded.

Turned out to be a dull confrontation in actuality. Finally, Bodie decided that it was his turn. "I don't wish training from a reluctant instructor. I am better off on my own. Just point me to a book and I will learn it for myself." Bodie stood, nodded his head and exited. The door closed hard behind him but did not shatter. He moved quickly to escape the shout of his name.

Doyle followed Bodie, just Bodie, from the room, as Mr Cowley's pointed finger demanded just that. He was still positive that there must be something more important for him to be doing but the comment about rogue mages was not a lie and he had seen first hand the consequences of those meetings.

When Doyle stopped griping to himself, he realised that his charge had gone from the building and he had to run to catch him. Down the stairs and out to the carpark did not yield the man. He looked about and saw him get into a car parked by the front entrance. He charged the vehicle at a run, but Doyle wasn't sure that the man would stop, so to ensure his safety, Doyle grounded himself as he focused energy to his up-hands while he held them out in a stop position.

"Stop!" He pushed with his hands as he said the words. A wall of energy stood in front of Doyle.

Bodie's car did indeed stop upon meeting the invisible wall.

Bodie hadn't caused the action. His foot had yet to move to the break. Actually, his foot still rested on the accelerator. Bodie couldn't help looking down just to be sure. He turned the key in the ignition but it just made a grinding sound of already being on. Bodie slammed the steering wheel with his fist and stomped on the brake.

Doyle opened the passenger door, sat himself down, and then closed the door with more force than needed.

"Impressive," Bodie said in a tone that made it quite clear that he thought the opposite. "It had better be operational."

"I stopped it – didn't break it." Doyle's tone was clear exasperation.

Bodie released the brake and the vehicle moved on down the road smoothly. He had no destination in mind, just drove away from the building.

"Cowley said to get out of town, so let’s go to East Wickham Park in Bexley. It’s huge and we can operate alone, or the Woolwich Cemetery is close by there, which would do well. Unless you can talk to the dead.”

"Is that possible?”

"No, not really," Doyle said with a shake of his head. "Or not common, not common at all. Only heard of one actually and that mage died a long while ago." Doyle put his hand out between them and shook the air. "Name's Doyle, and you're just Bodie."

"Bit of an arseface back there." Bodie stated by way of a greeting.

"Yeah well, Cowley's always trying to saddle me with a partner. Teaching doesn't seem all that important, but the crack about rogue mages was true and while you don't seem the sort, your newness can attract them. That's all sort of trouble."

"Don't want a partner. Wasn't asked and never said I'd work here. Let's just get this over."

"You think you'll learn it all in one day? Not bloody likely."

Doyle's sarcastic tone was not lost on Bodie.

"I am well aware of your reluctance to do this, deal with Gwen's grandson. I heard you back in Cowley's office before you broke the glass. Just do what you need to today and then I'll be gone. I can learn from books." Bodie had no more desire to be in company of someone when not wanted.

"Hang on, you heard our conversation?" Doyle asked. His demeanour switched with the anomaly presented. He turned to face Bodie.

"Yes, you both were speaking loud enough to wake the dead." That they had been alone was the only saving grace for Bodie. He was not keen on others being privy to his private information.

"Wait." Doyle held up both hands, moving them slightly with his thoughts, "You don't understand. We had shrouded the office in silence, the whole floor in fact, just for that very reason. No one should have been able to hear anything, even if there were microphones planted inside." Doyle closed his eyes, trying to remember old tomes that might contain an explanation. "Did you feel anything when the lift door opened?"

"Cowley said something about that as well. I came up the stairs and when the stairwell door slammed shut there was a popping sound." Bodie left out the snapping feeling in his head.

"Wow, that was when you broke through the shield. That may be part of your innate skills. I remember reading that in ancient times that such mages were used for spying from afar."

Bodie stiffened. "I have no plans on being used as a spy."

"I said ancient times. We have easier means now." Doyle looked out the window. "Look, you're my job now. I don't shirk my responsibilities," Doyle paused a moment, "Gwen was extraordinary." His tone held respect while at the same time made it quite clear that Bodie was not in that category.

Bodie reached for the A-Z guide with his free hand, Doyle pushed it down.

"Take the next right, carpark is on the left," Doyle told him as he wondered where to start teaching. "If you were a child we would start with the bedtime stories, and juvenile tasks."

"Yes, yes, I've heard that a lot lately. Should have learned this as a child. Didn't. Didn't know, so let's move on." Bodie turned into the carpark and stopped in the closest spot. He turned off the engine and got out, not waiting for his teacher.

"Hey, wait up. Don't go too far. We don't have much daylight left." Doyle jogged to catch up with Bodie. He waved his hand in an arc around the field.

Bodie turned. "Okay, how did you stop the car?" Curiosity finally won out over stubbornness.

"I focussed energy into a wall and placed it between us." Doyle held his arms up again, but no energy was attached.

Bodie just stood there staring, waiting.

"You have to focus and concentrate energy at the same time." Doyle paused.

Bodie looked unconvinced.

"Are you aware of the working energy around you? Can't you feel it?" This time Doyle released a short bust of energy in front of them both.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Bodie said the words, but knew something was different. He had an odd awareness of something just now and it made him wary.

"The earth has geometrical energy lines that lie under the ground. Some are bigger and stronger, some are small and faint. Like the water system, large oceans to a trickling stream. Stonehenge lies on an ocean; this park probably has a stream. Close your eyes and reach out with your mind to see if you can feel it. It will probably feel warm to you."

Bodie closed his eyes and felt all kinds of foolish. After several quiet minutes he shook his head.

"Might make it easier for you to feel with the dirt between your toes, more connected. Take off your shoes and socks and dig your feet into the dirt." Doyle sat down and waited for Bodie to comply.

Bodie placed the shoes with care on the grass and rolled a sock into each shoe opening. He moved over to the dirt and looked down. He took a deep breath; in for a goose in for a gander. He stepped onto the dirt.

Doyle stood up and faced his charge. "Okay, dig your feet into the dirt. Wiggle them about a bit. Close your eyes – now imagine that you feel the energy from the earth enter your body, I'd say tap in, but I mean acknowledge it."

There was a loud popping sound – both men jumped back.

"What was that?" Bodie asked.

"Uncontrolled energy – yours." At the look of shy wonder, Doyle asked, "What did you feel?"

"Like the lights had been turned on and at the same time warm tingles spread upward. Like nothing before." Bodie opted for honesty in the moment.

"Great!" Genuine excitement was in Doyle's tone. "Now, one more thing, do you know how to create a mind shield on your own?"

Bodie nodded.

"Good. So, just like you built the wall in your mind to keep intruders out and not give away your thoughts, you must find a way to not only control the energy flow but contain it without injury to yourself. Make a door or window in your shield, then try again. I warded the area, but it's best if you start as you mean to go, if you take my meaning."

Bodie nodded again. He was trying, grateful that his mind was strong – his emotions were wild. Joy, trepidation, fear, and pride warred with disbelief of all he just experienced.

He took several deep breaths, slow steady breaths. Once his thoughts were as calm as his exterior façade, he stepped off the grass and back into the dirt circle he had created. He squished his feet down into the soft material and spread his toes until they were covered.

Bodie closed his eyes and concentrated on his control as he opened his mind and body to the energy. It looked like a whitish wave coming straight at him. It slowly crept up his legs, torso, down his arms and up his neck until it filled him completely. It was like a liquid warm tingling that flowed in his blood.

"I feel it! What now?" Bodie's voice was full of restrained excitement.

"Push it out and see if you can direct it," Doyle advised.

This was it, time for a real test. Bodie pushed out with his thoughts and opened his eyes with the simultaneous grunt and thud that came from Doyle.

"Hey, watch it," Doyle cried out from his spot sprawled out on the ground

"Sorry, just flexing. So, what do I do now?" Bodie looked apologetic, but true excitement was dancing inside.

Doyle stood up. "There are things we all can do, have done so since childhood. Turn on the lights, start a fire, fetch things closer, push things away. Many others that you'll learn as we go." Doyle brushed the dirt off his jeans. "Your flexing, as you put it, was a push. Now, do it again, controlled, on purpose. But not at me. Face that clearing on your left." Doyle pointed to an area with a few large boulders.

Bodie closed his eyes and pushed. He opened his eyes quickly and watched as the boulders rolled across the field like marbles. He couldn't help smiling.

"Well done." Doyle meant it.

Bodie pushed the energy at the rocks a few more times, each push seemed to take more concentration to keep his shield in place.

"That's seriously enough for today. You expended a lot of energy and you will feel tired when you've had a chance to calm down. We should eat and then see to lodging," Doyle suggested.

"Not tired, just starving. Have a place. Gwen left me her house and my stuff is there." Bodie said.

"Okay then, good pub not too far from here. Nag's Head. Let's go." Doyle hoped that Bodie didn't fade too soon from the energy expenditure.

Bodie ate twice what Doyle put away, but Doyle held the opinion that this was normal for the man and not energy deprivation. After a couple of pints each, they started to relax.

"You seemed to have travelled a bit," Doyle opened the discussion.

"Done my fair share." Bodie nodded in agreement.

"All I know about you is that you spent some time as a mercenary and time with the SAS."

"Left home when I was young. Travelled looking for adventure. Being a merc fell in that category. I didn't like not being able to choose what side I was on so I left. The SAS was a better fit, but still not perfect." Bodie knew that Doyle already knew the bare bones. "When did you start fighting criminals?"

"I went through an 'I wanted to be a normal' stage so became a beat cop. Cowley recruited me during a drugs raid. Must have seen me help myself escape." Doyle drained the last drop of ale, and placed the pint glass down. "We should head out."

Doyle stood and Bodie followed suit.

Bodie faced the motor in the direction of London. "Where do I drop you?"

"Oh, no. Tonight I bunk with you." Doyle leaned back in the seat.

"Didn't hear myself invite you."

"Part of the training. Protection until you can do it on your own," Doyle replied matter-of-factly.

Bodie sighed and stopped himself from snapping at the man. He did a U-turn and headed to Gwen's.

 

Littleheath Woods, Croydon

 

Bodie concentrated on the drive. He found Coombe Road easily enough, then he recalled the instructions - look for an overgrown gate surrounded by blue and green flowers. Even in the dark it seemed easy to spot the turnoff with that over abundance of blue and green flowers lining the road that seemed to have increased in number since the afternoon.

Bodie stopped the motor near the wrought-iron gate. He hoped the house wouldn't do something to Doyle, but was unsure if he should warn him.

Doyle illuminated the pathway, Bodie wasn't sure how, and the keyhole was easy to locate. The door swung open and both men entered. The door closed behind them without aid. Bodie tried not to look startled.

Bodie felt rejuvenated as he rolled and flexed his shoulders and neck. He watched Doyle closely to see if he fell ill or if he complained about something he didn't usually complain about. Hard to tell yet. He followed Doyle with his eyes as he looked around. Doyle hadn't moved yet and finally the sinewy man shook his arms about as he smiled.

"Strong warding. Don't have to worry too much about your safety here." Doyle took his first steps about.

Bodie took off his jacket and hung it on the glazed oak hatstand just inside the door. "Safeguarding is what she called it. She wrote me a letter about the house. She also mentioned that the house itself has been glamoured –her word- with a forget-it-easily spell. She mentioned that I must spell someone a recognition token." Bodie pointed into the sitting room and looked for a light switch. Unnecessary as the light came on as Doyle crossed the threshold.

Doyle sat in a chair by the fireplace and waved his hand in front of it. A fire crackled about the wood laid there.

Bodie just sat down.

"This house is a safe place for you. Gwen was one of the best, and if I haven't said it, I'm sorry for your loss."

Bodie knew he hadn't said a thing about her, but nodded his head in acknowledgement.

"A recognition token is anything you give to someone with your house coding. A key works well." Doyle answered the unasked question.

"There will be a lot to learn, I imagine." Bodie shook his head at the new direction his life was taking.

"More than you know. Where can I bed down tonight, and I would kill for a shower."

Bodie pointed upstairs. The lights popped on and Doyle grinned.

"You'll learn."

Bodie led them upstairs and indicated a room at the end of the hall. "I haven't checked anything out yet myself. But all the bedrooms are ensuite. Help yourself to what towels and bedding you need from the cupboard."

Doyle nodded. "I'm knackered. Thanks." He did notice that Bodie didn't seem tired at all, which was odd by any standards. He yawned and planned to ponder it another time.

In the morning, Bodie explored the kitchen. He hunted up a teakettle and was still searching for coffee and a coffeepot when Doyle entered the kitchen.

"I could murder for a cuppa."

"Kettle's on. What's available is in the tea caddy on the table." Bodie looked over his shoulder as though Doyle might miss the huge oak table that sat in the centre of the kitchen, or the tea box that was bigger than most breadboxes, that sat on top.

Bodie kept opening and closing cupboard doors searching for food. "Mostly herbs and the like here." He moved around the table to the other side of the kitchen and opened the fridge. "A few jars of what looks like jam. The drawers are empty and cleaned." Bodie moved sideways to the pantry. "Lots of tins here. Beans. Soup. Tinned meat." He turned the can of tinned meat over. "Looks old."

"A visit to the shops seems to be in order." Doyle stepped up behind and reached around Bodie for a tin of soup. "Better than nothing."

Bodie pulled out two more. He rummaged through the pots drawer and found two pots to suit their needs.

Doyle fixed his tea before he silently indicated by pointing at the second cup. Bodie nodded and watched as Doyle mimed dropping sugar and Bodie held up two fingers. Doyle carried over the cup and placed on the table next to him. "No milk," Doyle stated the obvious. "Do you want some?"

Bodie shrugged. "I'd rather have coffee."

"Okay." Doyle waved his hand over Bodie's cup. "Try it now." Doyle grinned to himself.

Bodie looked dubious, but tried it anyway. After a surprised brow raise, he drank more from the cup. "Thanks? How?"

"One of my automatics. Tea, milk, sugar, and coffee. Necessary for mornings." Doyle sipped at his tea noisily, but with joy.

"What's the lesson today? My automatics?" Bodie was itching to be started after the revelations yesterday. He continued drinking the coffee.

"I think we should begin with the basics. Your automatics or innates, we will learn as we go." Doyle started to explain as Bodie interrupted.

"Can't I just read a book for that?"

Doyle cocked his head. "Books are used after kids have been practising awhile. Yeah, yeah," Doyle waved away Bodie's protest before it began. "Nonetheless, allow me to explain things first before we try to burn down the house."

Bodie drank more coffee.

"Okay, the rules are basically simple – you can't force by deed or spell another to do your bidding, against their will or make it seem as if they were willing. Folk try this all the time . . . love spells and the like. Not in our purview unless it's on a large scale, like spying or espionage." Doyle shrugged. "Using our gifts for ill-gotten gains – like stealing the Crown Jewels – definitely frowned upon. That is in our purview whenever Cowley says so. One would think that using their abilities would make it easy to do crime, but actions leave traces and we find them. That is a lot of what we do on the large scale. The most serious cases deal with rogue mages, who go dark. What we define as black magic is illegal. That includs invocation of otherworld spirits, any form of necromancy, enchantment or spell-working with blood, and the black arts, which you will read about in depth." Doyle sat back, sipping on his still full cup of hot tea.

Bodie nodded. "Is Mr Cowley the top dog?"

Doyle nodded. "Home Secretary and Prime Minister above him. And of course, the Queen."

"Really, the Queen?" Bodie sat forward in his seat.

"The mages that work for the Queen guard our borders, literally with magic detecting force fields – that is their life's work. They track known rogues and they note the travel in and out of the UK of the magical people.

"Wait a minute - I've travelled in and out of the country several times," Bodie protested.

"You wouldn't have triggered it. Your abilities weren't active." Doyle held up his hands "No fault of your own, but until Gwen died, your abilities were muted and wouldn't trigger an alarm, an alert or even knowing that you were thaumaturgi"

"Ahh, she said I was warded against detection." Bodie nodded his head to give the illusion that he understood all this. It was still damn hard to take in and accept.

"Are you planning on taking this seriously?" Doyle asked laconically, but he sat forward awaiting the answer.

"Yes, however mad this all appears to be, it is real and it is what Gwen wanted." Bodie paused, knowing he didn't really have a choice. He refused to be like his parents. "Yes, this seems to be my future."

"All right, then," Doyle responded enthusiastically. "You willing to do homework?"

"Most assuredly." Bodie nodded.

"The books you actually want to be reading are called grimoires. We have the ancient tomes all the way through to current times. You can visit our library any time you wish, now that you're detectable. Potions and spells have been collected and documented. All the history that you should be aware of now is there. But if you go into a regular bookstore, those books are no more than made up ideas or fabrications based on a snippet heard or seen. There's a whole department dedicated to reading what non-thaumaturgi print."

Bodie rolled his eyes.

"There are rules about that as well. You'll find there are a lot of rules. From now on you must remember that you live among commoners. You can't do active work so that they notice, but that shouldn't be that hard for you . . ."

"Another crack at my inexperience!" Bodie's demeanour changed as he sat straight in his chair.

Doyle waved the comment away. "Nah, didn't mean it like that. It's just that you are already used to working among them. You just have to use care not to work so that they see."

In an effort to get back to the books, Doyle redirected, "I'm sure that Gwen has many grimoires here. They probably have their own shielding spells."

"How will I find them then?" Bodie asked automatically.

"I'll help. Did she leave any you any clues?"

Bodie thought of the letters his Gram left and nodded, "Yes, she did."

"That will probably mean double homework." Doyle cocked his head as he nodded.

"She mentioned active work? Is that work with all the potions and spells then?" Bodie asked.

"That's only for doing something out of your speciality. Active work is using your skills or talents."

Bodie sighed, there was much to absorb.

Doyle refilled their cups and stood as he motioned that they should move to the sitting room. He liked the energy there. Bodie followed.

Doyle sat in a large overstuffed chair and pulled his bare feet under him. "Skill vs talent. Innate vs speciality. Though not all agree, one is born with the skills, commonly referred to as automatics, once honed, to do basic stuff. Most all can do the simple things. As the child matures both physically and mentally, they are also maturing magically." Doyle looked to read Bodie's face but found he had no idea what the man was thinking or following along with. "A child can only push like you did yesterday with as much force as he could physically or there would be too many accidents."

"So usually, you grow into your skill as you would a new pair of shoes." Bodie summed it up from the settee opposite Doyle.

"Exactly."

Doyle smiled as genuine a smile as Bodie had seen up to this point.

The smile transformed Doyle's face. Odd, he looked almost beautiful.

Doyle continued. "Talent is person specific or innate. Among us, there are a wide variety of talents. We all have some that others do not, and they can't be learned. Some talents are beneficial, like growing bountiful crops. Some talents are insignificant, like making candle wax melt faster." Doyle grinned at Bodie's incredulous look. "Yeah, I know. There are common, useful talents that many possess: illumination, heat, cooling, minor forms of telekinesis. Then there are the talents that can only be labelled as extraordinary; invisibility, energy reading, remote viewing. Those are talents on a grand level and very few possess them." Doyle held up his hand to stem the questions that looked like they were about ready to leap from the man. "The grimoires have brilliant glossaries."

"Am I allowed to ask what your talents are?" Bodie looked forward to the reading he had in store.

"Lie detection when enabled, rift detection, rift healing, creating barriers and holographing to name ones used in the job."

"What's a rift?" Bodie asked.

"There are boundaries between the different dimensions or the self-contained planes of existence, co-existing with our world at the same time, just not in the same place. Creatures, other world spirits, or entities, not of this world try to enter to do harm. Generally, the easiest way to gain entrance into a different world is to cut a hole through the boundary. That is called a rift."

"Not to belittle what you do, but that sounds like science fiction." Bodie looked apologetic and incredulous at the same time.

"Best and worst science fiction starts with something real." Doyle leaned forward, "What we eventually want to do is find the specific talents that are yours alone."

"Something that usually takes years?" Bodie knew there was a daunting task before him.

"Generally, but you are an adult. You can grasp cause and effect, you are motivated to study and practice hard, and we will be working nonstop at this for the next several weeks."

"Gram was one of your lot, wasn't she?" Bodie dared to ask as he sipped at his coffee.

Doyle hesitated before nodding. "She was on Cowley's level. One of the major players."

"You as well?"

"Nah, a level below." Doyle slurped more of his tea. "Cowley and his mob started this organisation after the troubles in the late sixties. Mage troubles and the Queen wanted a group out of the political eye to deal with those types of problems. Enter her trusted double 0 type. Cowley and his group had been working overseas in Hong Kong and India when she recalled them. Brian Macklin, Elizabeth Walsh, Barry Martin, Jack Crane, and Stephan Howard, they were Cowley's original group. Listen closely, there's an exam later," Doyle smiled impishly as he wiggled his eyebrows.

"Walsh is Cowley's partner, our leader believes that all mages should be partnered for safety; hence the constant nagging on that score. Macklin and Crane are the trainers and specialists, you'll meet them soon enough if you decide to stay. Martin and Howard run missions and mentor the mages for the upper levels. Martin was my mentor. He was quite popular with the trainees, though he and Gwen didn't get along very well. Never heard that story. Gwen came in on the second wave, ran missions as well, but mostly she worked security."

"I didn't know that side of her." The forlorn expression was interrupted by large growl.

Doyle stood when he heard the rumble emanating from Bodie's stomach.

"I usually eat a hardy brekkie," Bodie confessed. "Let's find a shop and restock supplies. Do you need to go round your place?" Bodie knew that he now had a live-in guest if he wanted to be able to embrace and understand this new addition to his life. He hesitated to admit to himself that he was curious about this man with the wild hair and eyes much the same colour as the green flowers that lined the road to his new home.

While Doyle collected his shoes, Bodie straightened the kitchen, washed and dried the cups, and replaced them in the cupboard. Some tasks were automatic and allowed him a few moments of normalcy.

With Doyle in tow, Bodie retraced the route back to Croydon proper, where they drove about looking for shops and pubs that they planned to visit. After a hearty pub meal of fish and chips, stocking the pantry and cupboards was in order. Doyle forked up half the cost of their purchases with only one pointed look from his trainee. He picked up for himself extra toiletries to last the week as well.

"Do we head to your place next?" Bodie offered.

"Nah, got the essentials here." He held up his purchases. "Cowley will visit at the end of the week and will bring the bag from my locker. I can materialise the other stuff I need." Doyle settled in the passenger seat by sliding in all in one motion.

Bodie couldn't help but notice again how nimble he moved.

Food in hand and belly, the drive back was easier for Bodie to negotiate even as Doyle used it as a classroom.

"Energy is used in all forms of active work. You will feel it as being tired, drained, or hungry. Those feeling are not to be ignored. Your life may depend on it. Gwen chose her home site well. Intersecting ley lines provide a more stable and stronger energy source." Doyle noticed the vivid blue and green flowers that lined the road. They seemed familiar, but he couldn't place it.

"What do you mean my life may depend on it?" Bodie wanted some clarification.

"Energy is like blood, you loose too much and you die."

They stored the food away together at Bodie's suggestion. "You need to be comfortable here as you believe that this training will take weeks."

"Thanks. Change into grubbier clothes as our practice may get elemental," Doyle ordered as he shooed him away.

"Is that like getting dirty?" Bodie asked, amused.

"Much the same, just not the usual way." Doyle made for the kettle, already dressed for the occasion.

Bodie nodded and headed upstairs as he pondered his wardrobe. He didn't really own grubby clothes, as Doyle put it, so he opted for jeans and a tee shirt. He carried a jacket in case it got chilly.

They walked out the back door leading from the kitchen. They passed a herb garden that should have been dead with neglect, but seemed to be thriving. Bodie made a mental note to water and weed it. He remembered his Gram loving her garden. A pang of sadness and regret at her passing assailed him. She would have been a fine teacher.

Outside of the herb garden was an open meadow of grasses and flowers and weeds. It was bordered by groves of trees that lined the five hectares.

Doyle lowered his sack to the ground and moved his hands in an arc over his head. "This entire area is warded, if you were wondering. Gwen was a master warder, and these particular wards may last two or three lifetimes." Doyle picked up his full sack and slung it over his shoulder, but made no mention of what was inside. "I recognise her working signature all around here, but there is old energy here as well, probably your ancestors. My attempts to lay extra warding are pushed aside, not needed."

"Do I have to think about warding all the time?" Bodie picked up on his silent question.

"In a simple answer, yes. You are shielding your thoughts, and with practice you can shield your movements, and your location. Most important, is to shield your self and home from energy predators. For all the good there is, there is equal bad. Lazy mages, angry mages, and evil mages all want an easy road to their goals. If they read you they know how to take advantage." Doyle halted and Bodie stopped beside him. "Thanks to Gwen's layout your abilities and strengths are undetectable while we practice here." Doyle turned in a slow circle. "In fact, I bet I'm not detectable nor any active work of any kind." Doyle's voice held only admiration.

Doyle opened his bag and placed the objects he withdrew in a seemingly haphazard order. Cans, glassware, books, and potatoes were strewn about but with ample space between them.

"Before we finish here, you expect me to be able to make myself undetectable?" Bodie asked for clarification.

"Absolutely. Yes, it could save your life. Then, in all honesty, you have a decision to make of which way you wish to follow. Neither I nor Cowley can assume that you will elect to stand with us," Doyle said as he turned back to face Bodie.

"You're here to see if I turn into a criminal mage?" Bodie said drolly, but he watched Doyle closely.

"Nah, but that doesn't mean that you want to fight against the dangerous for the rest of your days." Doyle shrugged but spoke honestly. "Ultimately one must decide whether to use their talents for worthy endeavours or dishonourable undertakings."

Bodie tilted his head slightly, appreciating the truthful answer. His time as a merc showed him both sides of a coin – all saw themselves as righteous. He left wanting to choose the side he fought on. He'd decide on working with Cowley after he learned if he was any good at his inheritance.

"Yesterday, you pushed. I want you to do it again. Only focus and push exactly where and what you want." Doyle demonstrated by tipping one can in a row of ten.

Bodie tried to stand there and push, but he couldn't feel the energy. He shook his head in disgust. "I can't keep taking my shoes off."

"It will get easier when you are more comfortable with the process," Doyle's tone held promise.

"More comfortable? It's all . . . so complicated actually." Bodie took off his shoes and placed them on the grass, socks tucked inside. He chose a spot with less greenery and exposed a circle of dirt. He worked it with his hand by overturning it several times in an effort to make it supple.

"This is all new. Most learn as kids, and you know how it is with kids, it's all trial and error anyway, so adding thaumaturgy is no different for them. There are a few that don't show until their teenage years and that is hell. They tend to be not logical, very daring, and can be a danger to themselves. You're the first full adult. To be fair, your circumstances were more unusual than most."

Bodie's expression went from curious to stoic.

"Not meaning anything this time. Learning a new thing, whatever it is, takes time. You're willing and curious. First, aim for the boulders at the far edge of the field," Doyle directed, then added, "If you think you can," with a smile.

Bodie produced a quick nod and smirk. He remembered clearly from yesterday the feeling of power and accomplishment, and knew he could repeat it. He dug his bare feet into the dirt and the energy that lay below entered his body so that he could feel it. He focussed on the three boulders similar to the ones he pushed at yesterday and rolled them gently together. Then he separated them equally. He turned to face Doyle who wore an expression of reserved admiration.

"I see you are indeed a quick study. Do you have enough control to crush them?" he asked as he cocked his head to watch.

Bodie turned back to view the boulders. He squeezed his toes tightly into the dirt as he imagined the rocks hitting each other as he pushed his hands together. The boulders moved and smashed against each other. The granite boulders didn't pulverise, but he hadn't exerted that much pressure. Bodie felt confident in his execution.

"Very good. You can do more than push. So your ability is above the norm. Now try the more delicate work. Only push every other can. Then see if you can reset them."

Bodie focussed his view on the cans and very deliberately flicked his finger and each flick took out the desired can. Replacing them took considerably more effort. Objective complete, he turned back to Doyle.

"How hard did you have to work?" Doyle asked, noting that Bodie didn't seem to exhibit the energy depletion that went along with the effort expended. He walked over with a Cadbury chocolate and handed it to Bodie without comment.

Bodie smiled and took the offered treat. "Pushing over the cans was quite easy. Replacing them took a lot more effort to finesse. The energy flow while warm was not hot." Bodie stuck the wrapper into his back pocket. "I'll go again."

Doyle had Bodie moving the cans and glassware until he could do it with ease. "You'll still need to practise the moves so that they become automatic. Next see if you can place a potato by each can."

Once that task was completed to Doyle's satisfaction, he suggested, "Now, let's try the book. Turn the pages one by one."

"How do I practise in the house if I have to take my shoes off?" Bodie was sure he looked the fool standing barefoot in the dirt.

"No detours, just practise." Doyle sat on a chair that he materialised.

Bodie worked on the book pages until he was able to turn a page or two at a time. He worked at creating dirt piles, rock piles, and collected any rubbish that had drifted into the meadow.

Doyle called a halt for a meal. "You have to ascertain your own energy levels." He handed Bodie a ham and pickle sandwich, which Bodie ate with gusto. "Are you feeling fatigued?" Doyle was mildly worried at how driven Bodie appeared to be.

"Quite energetic, actually, even before the welcome repast." Bodie munched on the pickles happily.

"What fatigue have you experienced?" Doyle queried.

"Describe what you mean." Bodie leaned forward.

"Unduly tired. Needing to sit or lie down. Extreme hunger, though, so far that seems your norm." Doyle's puzzled look was directed at Bodie.

"No, nothing unusual. But how could I get tired if the energy is flowing through me?" Bodie's confusion was not feigned.

"At the park yesterday, did you feel tired? There was no actual ley line there close by. No discernible energy there."

"No, remember, I described the feeling of energy flow. That's the same today," Bodie answered, still not understanding what Doyle was driving at exactly.

"Just as talents are not the same across the board, neither are how we use the ley lines. Generally, most use their own energy to do active work, then replenish their levels with food or rest. While all thaumaturgi can feel the ley lines when they are on top of them, most can't tap into them automatically. What they experience has been described as feeling brighter and clearer.

"Next, there are the group of mages that can feel the energy directly and use it to enhance what they do. If they remain connected long enough without using the energy actively, they will replenish naturally. Greater London has the largest concentration of ley lines, especially the intersecting lines, in all of Britain. That's why many like to build their home on the intersection site or close to it. Gwen's is situated on one of the strongest intersection sites except for Stonehenge.

"The energy makes things work better, stronger, not the person. Few can connect directly, but even for them it takes preparation and focussed concentration. No one actually siphons it out of the ley lines directly. Can you be doing that? Is that a talent? I've never heard of it before," Doyle rambled almost to himself. He knew there were ancient stories of power transfer, but most were thought of as legends, not historic.

"Seriously, Doyle, I don't quite get the difference," Bodie confessed.

Doyle nodded, "You're right, you probably can't tell the difference and words are inadequate. Until we can test off the property and with shoes on, it's a moot point."

After Doyle finished his apple, he jumped up and started collecting the objects he had brought. Bodie popped the last of his sarny into his mouth and joined Doyle in collecting the testing items. Doyle handed the bag off to Bodie to finish filling and didn't wait as he headed back to the house.

Bodie shook his head and smiled ruefully as he slung the bag over his shoulder and walked faster to catch up.

 

The afternoon was spent on more experiments. Doyle showed Bodie how to light candles and extinguish them without being close to them. Next up was turning on and off the lights from the door, then from anywhere in the room, and finally how to muster light like a torch without any tangible object.

These tests were not as easy to master. Bodie had more trouble with this form of energy use. He sat at the large kitchen table, exasperated with himself.

Doyle produced a large cup of coffee, two sugars and placed it before the dejected man. "At first this work requires you to perfect concentrated energy and focus, but you also need to believe. Which is harder?" Doyle sat across from him with a fresh cup of tea.

"Believing." Bodie sipped the hot coffee, concentrating on not burning his tongue.

Doyle slurped his tea as he thought about what he knew of Bodie's background. "You're a marksman. That didn't happen overnight. Any skill worth having takes practise."

"Can you shoot without your abilities?" Bodie asked, curious.

"Yes, can't depend on abilities alone."

"We should set up a practise range. Hand gun? Rifle?"

Doyle smiled. "Both. You?"

"Marksman in both as well." Bodie looked forward to that challenge. "Tomorrow morning?"

"Yes, nice change that," Doyle replied. "Now close your eyes, imagine the light switch as you would the target bulls-eye. Instead of squeezing your finger, squeeze your mind around the switch. Focus solely on that."

Bodie closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. He used the same focus for acquiring a target on the light switch. He pushed it up and heard Doyle's woohoo. He opened his eyes to a kitchen bathed in light, and smiled at Doyle.

"Next we have stirring soup and sweeping. Only the best of chores for you!" Doyle sat back in his seat and folded both hands behind his neck.

Bodie got the message. Work. Work. Work.

The rest of the afternoon and evening Bodie spent in honing the skills that all thaumaturgi mastered at a young age. There would have been an interesting conversation with his mother. Though, realistically, probably not as she would defer to her husband and nothing would ever be talked about or accomplished. He found that he really did think of his father that way, as his mother's husband. The man had never been very fatherly. He had Gram and that had been enough.

Today was today and he'd better apply himself or Doyle's ratty tongue was sure to show up. The restraint displayed thus far had been admirable, probably due to wanting to finish as soon as possible. Bodie noted to himself that Doyle had been patient and was in fact a good instructor.

Bodie's nose interrupted his thoughts as the scent of cooked food assailed him and he followed it to the kitchen where a large plate of spaghetti sat in the middle of the table with a bowl of sauce beside it.

"And he cooks as well! Thanks. I'm starved!" Bodie tapped his stomach as he smiled brightly.

"When are you not hungry?" Doyle asked.

Bodie shrugged as he piled his plate high with pasta.

 

--

Bodie woke early the next morning and headed out to set up a shooting range. He brought with him some hastily drawn targets for their testing. He rummaged about in the barn and lugged two bales of hay and some boards that had seen better days, a bag of cans, and an old-folding table out to the meadow. The physical work was a welcome change after the tedious mental work of the last few days. He tried to push the bales together, but until he removed his shoes he was unsuccessful. Once he had the bales where he wished he put his shoes back on, arranged the targets, and returned to the house.

Breakfast was almost on the table when Bodie walked in: cereal, fried bread, and tomatoes.

"My favourites. Is this a bribe so I let you win?" Bodie asked as he helped himself to the food. He poured milk on the cereal and pulled the sugar container closer. He sprinkled it liberally across the bowl.

"What? Are you hinting that you are not good enough to win without a bribe?" Doyle countered with a twinkle.

Bodie finished his breakfast with a smile on his face.

Bodie retrieved his weapons from his gun case upstairs in his bedroom. He checked both the Browning Hi-Power automatic pistol and his Walther PPK. His Enfield L1A1 self-loading rifle was cased separately and he carried both cases downstairs along with enough ammunition for both of them. This was from his normal life and it felt comfortable.

Doyle had his Walther P38 and Colt Python out on the table. He put the P38 in his belt in the small of his back, the Colt he placed back into its case. "This should be fun, but don't expect to win."

Bodie raised his left brow and gave Doyle a disbelieving look. "Let the games begin." Bodie felt in equal standing with weapons. He was sure that Doyle was well above average, but so was he.

They walked out to the makeshift shooting range and both men placed their guns on the table. Across the top of the bales of hay were tin cans, ten on each bale. Some were the very same cans Doyle had used for Bodie's practice. The front side of the bales had the drawn targets placed there. Two with the standard bulls-eye placed on either end, and the third was roughly the shape of a person in the centre.

"Which bale do you prefer?" Bodie asked.

"I'll take the right. I usually wear my holster on the left, but I like to draw straight out and not across my body when I can." Doyle checked his P38.

"I didn't take you for a lefty." Bodie's face scrunched in memory.

"Em not. I can just shoot with either," Doyle clarified. He moved over to stand in front of the right bale.

Doyle raised his Colt and pointed at the leftmost can and squeezed the trigger. The can bounced onto the ground. He turned to face Bodie with a jaunty eyebrow raise and a smirky smile.

Bodie hid a grin as he turned to the left bale and shot three cans in a row with the Walther PPK. He blew across the end of the barrel as he caught Doyle's eyes.

Doyle rolled his eyes and turned back to his bale and popped off the other five bullets. Then he pulled his Walther P38 from his back waistband and dusted the remaining cans. He quickly spun the gun back into his waistband in an old western's move. His expression was a definite challenge.

Bodie dropped and crouched below the target line before he popped up onto one knee and zipped off the last seven cans with just four bullets without having to re-sight. He turned his head towards Doyle and gave him a crafty look. "Not just another pretty face."

Doyle was unclear who Bodie was speaking about, so just gave him a lofty look.

Bodie stood and backed the table another twenty paces. "Now we aim for the target. You first," Bodie offered as he reloaded his weapon and unzipped the second bag and checked the Browning.

Doyle reloaded both weapons as he took stock of the bull's-eye, and noted the lack of wind before he lifted P38 to sight in the target. He shot around the dead-centre circle and put the last shot through the centre. He turned and bowed.

"Not bad, not bad at all." Bodie nearly smirked. He picked up both guns and held the PPK in his left and Browning in his right and fired both guns simultaneously at the second target to recreate exactly what Doyle had done, only with two guns. The finished product was a mirror image of what Doyle had created.

Doyle dipped his head. "Not bad, not bad at all." He pointed back to the house. "You need that kind of focus on all thaumaturgy work. We need to do this at a range where we can test our limits, and use the rifles next time."

"I look forward to that." Bodie was impressed. He now knew that Doyle was obviously not just another pretty face, he was deadly as well.

 

Back at the house, Doyle made a cuppa as Bodie hunted for the shell box he had made for his Gram when he was a lad.

The letter had said that the key to her books was in the box he made for her as a Christmas gift when he was ten. He had sent others, but that particular one had been his best effort. It had always warmed him that she kept it. Now it held the key to her important books, the grimoires.

He headed to the sitting room and actively searched the shelves. The box had always sat on her shelves in a place of honour. He looked up and there it still sat next to pictures of her family through the years.

Bodie pulled a chair over and stood on it to reach the highest shelf. The box stood next to his Gram's wedding photo. He reached up and plucked it off the shelf. Inside was only a single key. No hint to the lock it fit. It was on the smaller side so it was not a standard door key.

He looked about the room for a lock that it would fit and noticed nothing close, but as soon as Bodie picked up the key, the room shimmered and a new bookshelf seemed to appear before him. The lock was easy to see and Bodie moved forward, shaking his head all the while. Nothing up to this point had hammered in the concept of magic until that moment. The room appeared quite different to him now. He would have to ask Doyle which room he saw.

The beautiful interlocking chain design that made up the door of the bookshelf almost seemed to move as he reached for the knob. His fingers grabbed it and it opened almost effortlessly. The books inside were beautiful in their differences and colours. He felt drawn to the vivid blue one and reached for it. He sat down in the big, well-stuffed chair and opened the cover. Inside was a folded piece of paper with his name on it. The writing was clearly his Gram's. He opened it reverently.

My Dearest Poppet,

Bodie, my love, if you are reading this, I rejoice. You have made the decision to learn of your heritage. The road will not be easy, but well worth it in the end. Your heart's desire lies this way.

My library now recognises you, and all that I have will recognise you as well now. You are the new keeper of our family knowledge. I have left missives along the way in hope this was to become your path. The spines will illuminate the titles as you have need of them. Trust yourself.

Not all will be what it seems, but George and his most trusted will not fail you.

I know this seems wild and unbelievable, but trust your instincts when all else fails.

I love you poppet of my heart,
Gram

 

Bodie sat for a moment, head bowed as he thought of his lovely grandmother, his true family through the years. He missed her. Now she had given him this crazy mixed up world that wasn't as off-putting as it had been yesterday. He could feel her pride that he had made this decision on his own to follow his roots, so to speak.

He looked down at the book and smiled to himself. A Beginner's Glossary . His new bedtime reading. Joy!

Doyle called out as he walked down the hall. Bodie didn't answer, as he was not sure which room Doyle saw and was afraid to ask in case it made him seem off balance. He made to stand but Doyle had already tracked him down.

"Wow, room change. Gwen was good. I just had no idea. I didn't feel that this room had been shielded. What did you do?" Doyle asked as he wiped his hands dry on the dish-rag hanging from his front pocket.

"Literally? Picked up a key." Bodie opted for the unvarnished truth.

Doyle scanned the bookshelves that looked more suited to the room than yesterday. "This is probably one of the more amazing collections of grimoires I've seen, even if I can't read the titles." Doyle nodded at the bookshelf. "Gwen was always an amazing woman." Doyle smiled in fond memory.

"Indeed." He fingered the glossary. "I must assume that the titles will become visible when I reach that level." Bodie made the statement. He wasn't expecting confirmation.

"Makes me wonder what else is here. Gwen really must have believed that you would find your way here." Doyle sat on the settee.

"Each step has been about free choice. I think she hated the fact that my mother took it away from me." Bodie shrugged.

"Gwen didn't talk about her family with me much. Only mentioned a grandson, which I take is you." Doyle concluded.

Bodie nodded.

"Come on, there are fresh scones and tea in the kitchen." Doyle moved his head in that direction.

Bodie stomach growled. "I could eat." He followed Doyle down the hall to the kitchen table adorned with a full plate of scones, clotted cream, and jams. Bodie sat with a smile. "Not just a pretty face, or is this just conjure?" Bodie asked as he helped himself to several scones.

Doyle fixed tea for them both absently as he answered. "Know my way round a kitchen to eat what I like. Can't order takeaway everyday. There is some conjuring as you called it, but I don't waste my energy expenditure on making something that actually tastes better fresh." Doyle pushed Bodie's cup across to him as he picked up and sipped his own.

"Cowley left word that he would visit on the weekend. He'll want some kind of update. So we should work on the basics yet again and start with physical protection tomorrow."

"Physical protection?" Bodie asked after he finished his second scone.

"Physical abilities that have nothing to do with thaumaturgy." Doyle sat back, cup in hand, "My guess is that you're well versed in protection of oneself. SAS alone speaks of that kind of training."

Bodie nodded as he chewed. "Hand to hand, close knife work, Judo, Kendo, self-defence tactics for close and far work, weapons, as you saw this morning, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. The Para section I was seconded to for six months was recent. Enjoyed that one a lot." Bodie picked up another scone.

"Need to add jogging if you keep up eating like that," Doyle said as he pointed to the fairly diminished plate of scones.

"A growing boy, I am." Bodie smiled as he reached for the jam.

"Okay, then, that gives two more full days of basic work. We continue with the automatics until you don't hesitate a wit." Doyle picked up an apple as he pointed to the cellar door. "Come on down when you're finished here.

Doyle headed down the cellar stairs with confidence, Bodie stared after him, as he marvelled at how the man seemed to move so smoothly. There was no wasted movement, but he never appeared to be in a hurry. He was fairly easy on the eyes as well. Bodie stuffed the last scone into his mouth as he stood up. He hadn't been in the cellar yet.

The stairs were sturdy and well illuminated. This was not a creepy room from the pictures. He noted that the walls were covered in dried herbs and his framed artwork that he had sent along as pressies through his childhood. She had also framed the pictures he had mailed after leaving home. Bodie missed her anew. He took a fortifying breath to tamp down the emotions.

There were more bookshelves lining the cellar walls, but they looked different from those above. A quick skim of titles made him believe that her garden was very important to her.

Doyle had a table set up with all sorts of lighting materials. Candles, matches, torches, and even marbles of different sizes adorned every available space. Bodie rubbed his ear and headed straight for it.

"We practice, or should I say, you practice until illuminating these objects becomes second nature." Doyle pointed to the end closest to him. "We start here. Candles are never overrated."

The entire afternoon and into the early evening, Bodie worked on creating light. Making the marbles light from within was probably the most challenging, but the most fun as he had never looked at marbles that way.

By the time Doyle called a halt to the practise, Bodie was ready to stop but felt more accomplished in a task since he had started three days ago. Three days, a complete life change, and it almost felt like the new normal.

"How about fish and chips at the local pub?" Doyle suggested.

"Brilliant idea." Bodie picked up the car keys from the bowl by the door. "I'm famished."

"No surprise, there." Doyle thought it should be due to the energy use, but he really didn't believe that anymore. Bodie never seemed fatigued while doing active work, but that could be due to the house lying on the intersection of two strong ley lines and possible several small ones. He followed and heard the door lock behind him. Another house automatic.

Bodie reflected as he read before bed that the ratty-tempered man had been nowhere to be seen tonight. Darts had been fun, as Doyle had promised to use real skill for the match. Bodie felt better about winning. Surely, the close proximity would eventually take its toll?

 

In the morning, Doyle suggested jogging the property perimeter before breakfast. Bodie rolled his eyes, but complied with the request and couldn't find all that much to complain about as they headed into the woods. The exercise was welcome and familiar, something he didn't have to think about and instead he could take in the lay of the land. This was his first foray into this part of the property. It was full of all sorts of trees, but never an actual obstacle in his path. Changing colour everywhere.

Bodie was surprised when they both automatically turned a corner. "I felt that."

"Like a fence line, but not."

"Could we have kept going?" Bodie asked, tempted.

"Yes, but we would have felt it, like a drain on our energy, and then we would have had to walk back to the entrance. Maybe you could have re-entered, but why not check that out some other time," Doyle suggested, not breaking stride.

Bodie shrugged and kept pace.

 

Breakfast was fried bread and Muesli. A strange combination but Doyle was working at pleasing both himself and Bodie. Doyle handed Bodie a cup of coffee with the two sugars while he sipped his tea.

"Today, we should run you through standard assessments. Shield, basic automatic, and conduct a non-thaumaturgical assessment," Doyle suggested, knowing Cowley would want something more tangible than his personal review.

"Non-thaumaturgical? Is that how I used to protect myself?" Bodie asked half amused.

"Exactly. We do that this afternoon. This morning, let's do shield work. Your mental shields seem to be holding and are strong," Doyle said.

"You test them?" Bodie couldn't help but wonder.

"Only that first day in the park." Doyle shrugged. "Nothing is leaking out, so there is no need. We need to work on your shielding of other things or people. This house is not shielded, it's warded. That is separate from you. A shield is personal and you would feel its breach." Doyle got up and put his dishes in the sink. He turned to the kitchen. "We should probably work outside. Don't want to accidentally break or trip a protection ward inside."

Bodie placed his own dishes in the sink and followed Doyle outside.

They walked out to what Bodie had begun to think of the training field.

Doyle explained and demonstrated building a shield around an object. Bodie adapted his technique of building a mental wall for all his shield building. It was a simple and effective way to create and repair and one he felt familiar. It took more time, but he hoped it would get faster with practise.

Doyle placed rocks and cans about the field. "Shield them, then I will try to move or destroy them." His instructions straightforward, he sat down to await Bodie's work.

Bodie took off his shoes and dug his toes into the dirt. Once situated, he started with the closest rock and mentally built a wall around it. Doyle threw a rock at it and it bounced off without touching.

"Good." Next Doyle directed energy to the ground around and set it on fire. Smoke curled up inside. "Didn't construct the shield completely around the object. You probably just covered it to the ground."

Bodie nodded. He looked to the next rock and shielded it completely like an orange peel. Doyle worked to dislodge the shield. After several attempts and some energetic pushes, he conceded that Bodie was more than successful.

"What did you do?" Doyle cocked his head waiting for the answer.

"Exactly what you told me to do. Brilliant! Thanks." Bodie smiled, happy to have picked it up more easily than illumination.

"Now try shielding yourself."

"Think of myself inside a dome, or a wall like you used?" Bodie asked, unsure of what outcome was expected.

"The wall of energy was to stop forward progress, it wasn't exactly a shield. You could make one like a knights battle shield to wield in a fight, but an outside shield will protect your body from outside threats. Your mental shield protects your thoughts and ability to do active work," Doyle explained. "They all should become so automatic that you can throw up whichever you need without having to take the time to decide."

Bodie found making a wall to stop Doyle from pelting him with rocks was far easier than when Doyle sent an electrical charge to zap him.

"What are you using to shield yourself?" Doyle asked.

"The wall like the one I shield my thoughts with."

"Think more of a circular object to create a protective shield

They worked all morning on the shielding process. Doyle would toss objects and Bodie would deflect. Bodie would toss many of the objects back to see how Doyle would work and he'd mimic when he could.

"Why am I unable to copy all of your counters?" Bodie finally asked.

Doyle walked over to his rapidly progressing student and offered him the biscuit pack from his back pocket. Although it was a little crumbled, Bodie accepted it with a smile and nod.

"We each have innate abilities, some learned and some we can never master. So far you have been able to do everything you have tried, but even then each of us can only do the work our way. Your thought process interprets info differently than mine, than anyone else, so you will insinuate your active work with a different signature as well. It's how we're able to track magic violators. We each have a signature all our own."

"Like fingerprints." Bodie nodded.

Doyle nodded in agreement. "Cowley is one of the best. So is his partner, Elizabeth Walsh. Together, they seem to recognise and remember every signature they encounter. Impressive team."

"You stated in Cowley's office that you don't want a partner." Bodie stared down at his hands imagining that he could throw lightning bolts from his fingers.

"When I worked for the Met my partner was killed. It was a hard loss. Since, I never found someone that I could rely on without hesitation. Cowley never ceases to try and the day before you showed up he had tried again."

Doyle disclosed this with such an honest tone, that Bodie believed him.

Bodie dropped and picked up a handful of pebbles. "How fast can you react?" Bodie asked as the only warning as he simultaneously threw all the pebbles.

Doyle had his arm up and a wall of energy to deflect the tiny missiles before Bodie finished his follow through.

"Nice." Bodie put up a wall just in case.

The next half-hour saw the epic pebble battle. Doyle would roll out of the way without getting grass on his clothes, and Bodie figured that he was shielding himself along with creating a bigger shield as he moved. He would mimic the concept. Bodie sustained more direct hits than Doyle, but they grew considerably fewer when Bodie concentrated enough to keep his focus pinpointed on defence. Laughter of carefree joy filled the air.

After Doyle was declared the winner marginally, they adjourned for a tea break and repast. Doyle was concerned that Bodie did not take energy usage as seriously as he should. Bodie never turned down food. While Doyle knew that the ley lines the house rested above were replenishing them both, he knew that Bodie didn't understand usage yet and probably wouldn't until they did extensive work off the property.

Bodie changed his clothes the old fashioned way as Doyle crafted the training mats for the next skill test. Bodie welcomed the time to do what he already had down as an automatic from his old life.

Doyle had converted a bedroom into a dojo, with all the trimmings. Bodie tried the mats with his feet and found them to be of excellent quality.

"When Cowley sends squad members to the training centre, they begin with the basics. I think we should start there as well," Doyle suggested.

Bodie kicked off his shoes and bowed before walking onto the mats. "Lead the way."

Doyle bowed and stepped onto the mat as well.

Bodie couldn't remember the last time he had sparred with someone so evenly matched to his skills. So sure of Doyle's abilities, he threw moves he'd never felt free to try with causing undo harm. Each move was met with a countermove, some he knew and some he didn't. Doyle would try different moves and Bodie would counter those. It was a joy. Bodie wasn't bested, but he couldn't best Doyle either. An equal in strength and tactics was a first since an early training camp a long time ago.

Doyle then crouched and wore a crazy grin on his face as he launched himself at Bodie. He used dirty techniques, but Bodie had been taught by the best. He matched and countered with moves of his own. They grappled about like practised partners, both men enjoying the workout.

Finally Doyle called a halt. He bowed and stepped off the mat. "Excellent, mate!" He motioned a thumb out. "Get cleaned up and I' will get dinner ready." Doyle turned and left.

Bodie watched, forever amazed at the ease of motion he always seemed to exhibit, yet found he never grew tired of watching him.

Doyle used their supplies with his active creativity. Bodie wouldn't complain. Bodie could make a meal but he would rarely take this much work for just himself. Bangers and mash with peas was perfect.

After the fine meal, he knew that Doyle wanted to get more practice in, but he wanted to check Gram's letters. He headed upstairs and retrieved the letter from the first day. He took it downstairs again to read it in the sitting room. He felt closest to her there. He had finished the first glossary last night and he wanted to continue the reading.

Bodie looked over the shelves but no new title had appeared. He riffled through the pages of the different letters, seeking the one with the book hunting instructions, and unfolded it.

Doyle walked up behind Bodie and read the endearment over his shoulder. "Poppet?" he exclaimed aloud. His first inclination was to laugh. The dangerous man beside him was no poppet, though just now, said man was quite tense as if expecting ridicule. Hmm, something he most likely had some experience with considering what had been dropped about his childhood. Doyle changed his expression of surprise to a sweet smile and opted for the truth.

"Grandmums do see us all as poppets." He reached out and brushed a lock of hair off Bodie's forehead. "Tell me about her," Doyle offered. "Better yet, if you'll allow me, think of a time you wish to remember and allow me access by lowering your mental shield."

Bodie hesitated, unsure of what he was going to do, but then nodded. Doyle had certainly earned that degree of trust. Doyle placed his index and middle finger just above Bodie's temple.

"Now remember what you wanted to talk about." His voice was soothing.

Bodie thought of the summer at the Middlewich garden, when she had taught him to weed. To his jaw-dropping amazement, in Doyle's hand was a miniature hologram of the very scene he remembered. His Gram was just like how he always thought of her. He looked young and gawky, but she looked perfect. Bodie let the memory play out until he was covered in dirt, then he drew back from Doyle's hand.

His voice rough, Bodie nodded, before he spoke. "Thank you." He looked down at the letter, afraid there was too much emotion playing on his face. He read the letter.

Poppet,

A new glossary will appear in order of their difficulty. But now, other book titles can appear if you need them. Direct a clear thought of the subject you wish at the bookcase and it will illuminate a title that will aid you. I have no wish to overwhelm you, just so excited that you are here and sad that I can't share it with you.

Know that I had much joy in setting this up in the hopes that you would be here to accept all that I have.

Much love,
Gram

 

"Gwen had many layers that she never shared with us, but she would have made an excellent teacher. She and Cowley go way back. You could talk with him about her when you're ready." Doyle suggested at last.

"I may at a later date." Bodie folded the letter and sat back in his seat. He looked around the shelves again and sure enough another title was illuminated. A Second Glossary. Not very original, but helpful nonetheless.

"She says that if I direct a clear subject thought at the bookcase it will illuminate a title that will aid me." Bodie didn't know if Doyle had read the letter after the salutation of poppet, so he opted for truth once more. "I can't think of a subject to try out," Bodie said ruefully with a shrug.

"You're doing great. Coming along much faster than one would think. It's a lot of years of cramming. Cowley, himself, will be impressed. Not that he would ever say so. If you get an adequate, that would be like passing your A-levels."

"Had instructors and commanders like that." Bodie smiled. "Gwen trusted him, so he can babble on."

"Oh, don't let Cowley hear that you think he babbles. He would not be amused. I am, but not he," Doyle answered light-heartedly.

"So, what are the more worthwhile assignments waiting for you that you had to put on hold?" Bodie asked without recrimination in his voice.

Doyle knew that didn't mean it wasn't there, just that Bodie was more than capable of hiding what he was thinking even before learning to shield. Doyle stretched his arms out in front of him, interlocked his fingers and flexed. "Well, none really at the moment. I had just finished an assignment up north, where once again he tried to partner me up and I was in the mood to say anything to dissuade him. I was a bit of an arse at that." Doyle shrugged with an innocent look. His eyes belied the innocence, but they held truth.

That was good enough for Bodie. "So what's on for tonight?"

"Let's go down to the cellar and work on illumination. It needs to be instinctive."

Bodie folded the letter into the new glossary and placed it on the end table before he stood. "Lead on, McDuff." His hand moved in the after you gesture.

-----

After breakfast, they went in search of a garage. Bodie had yet to investigate the whole property that had been bequeathed him. Doyle was looking for individual windows or doors with windows. Doyle would rather not use windows that were already part of the house due to extensive warding.

Bodie found two windows with frames that need to be painted tucked behind several eight by ten boards. Doyle moved them without actually touching the windows or boards. He backed them outside, where they had done the shield experiments so Bodie's dirt circle was in close proximity.

Doyle placed the windows upright before he broke the glass on the first window much like he did on the day that Bodie met him, only he didn't have to slam the pane to break the glass. He paused a moment to look at Bodie, then moved his hand in a anti-clockwise circle slowly in order for Bodie to clearly see so that he could mimic the movements. The shards of glass reversed themselves, and settled flawlessly back into the pane frame.

Doyle broke the glass again and immediately turned to Bodie. "Your turn. Think of the glass reforming. Move your hand, opened palm, from the ground to the window anti-clockwise. Now you try."

Bodie looked down at the broken glass and thought of the numerous windows he had knocked out as a youth. This would have been handy. He waved his hand much like Doyle before him, but nothing happened. He looked to Doyle in question.

"Right, now you need to visualise a window reforming as you move your hand. Feel the energy first, then try again." Doyle pointed to the dirt Bodie was standing barefoot in.

Bodie wiggled his toes in the soft dirt and could feel the warmth of the energy flow. He directed his hand as he moved it anti-clockwise while he thought of reforming glass. The shards followed Bodie's hand but didn't quite reassemble perfectly.

Doyle was pleased nonetheless. "Great! The glass bits moved with your hand. Fine tuning and flawless execution comes with practice." Doyle cocked his head as he looked at Bodie pensively. "Your normal has a wide array of talents."

Bodie felt chuffed, but outwardly only replied with a calm, "You mean not everyone can reassemble glass?"

"Correct, but I wanted you to try unencumbered. I need you to try everything to ascertain your limitations."

"Being hungry," Bodie said with a mock haughty expression.

Doyle dug into his back pocket and pulled out a pack of biscuits. He tossed them at Bodie. "You're always hungry. Are you feeling drained?"

"Not tired, not drained, just hungry. Thanks!" Bodie was pleased by Doyle's thoughtfulness.

Doyle broke the second window. "Try again."

Bodie did as asked and found it easier but not perfect.

"Think of a smooth transition and imagine every piece fitting back together like a puzzle. Your thoughts drive the positioning," Doyle instructed.

Bodie nodded. Doyle had fixed the window in Cowley's office effortlessly. He was certain that he could do it as well. Bodie broke the first window then immediately reversed his hand and fixed it. Perfection. Bodie smiled, a bright and truly beautiful smile.

Doyle sucked in his breath. Wow. Doyle was surprised by his reaction, but couldn't help answering the smile with genuine smile of his own.

Doyle had Bodie break and re-break the windows several more times before he moved on to other objects. Cowley would be impressed. Doyle knew he was.

 

By late morning, Doyle wanted another type of assessment and created an obstacle course in the big open field near the woods. The surprised, happy look on Bodie's face was recompense enough for the exhausting work.

Doyle timed the crawling, climbing, swinging, rope work, and tire run. Once done, Bodie offered to do it again with a smile. Doyle joined him on the second and third run throughs to keep up the pace. They completed the workout with a five-mile jog to the end of the woods and back.

For Bodie the workout and run were glorious and routine; one of the good sides of his new normal.

 

The evening was spent preparing for Cowley's visit. Bodie didn't appear concerned, but Doyle knew that Cowley would want evaluations on Bodie's abilities and shortcomings. Gwen may have been a close friend, but Cowley always put the job first.

Doyle made a complete fry up for breakfast and Bodie's smile was overjoyed. The man loved his food. Doyle had come to realise that food and energy were not connected for Bodie the way it was for most others. The silly man loved his cooking. Magic enhanced or not.

George Cowley arrived at ten o'clock sharp and alone. Doyle was a little surprised. He had expected a full workup by the training team. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or not.

"Good morning, gentlemen." Cowley entered as Bodie opened the door. He dropped Doyle's holdall by the door, never breaking stride as he went straight to the sitting room and scanned the shelves. "Gwen mentioned that she had fixed the grimoires to present in order or when needed. She would have been happy that you are here." Cowley turned to Bodie.

Cowley sat and both men followed suit. Doyle materialised a tray of tea fixings, sandwiches, and scones. The three men prepared their cups and sat back. Bodie and Doyle waited.

"Bodie, I know that a week is a very short period of time to make a major decision, but I need to know which way the wind will blow for you." Cowley made no pretence for the reason of his call.

"You want my decision on the path I wish to follow? I will elect to stand with you all. I have no desire to take a dark path. I loved my Gram and would not want to tarnish her memory or faith in me." Bodie spoke aloud the wordsthat he had been toying with as he lay in his bed before sleep. They felt right.

Cowley and Doyle both relaxed. Cowley looked to Doyle. "Assessment?"

"He's a fast learner. Gifted enough to qualify for CI5 on his own. I've run the standard tests and he passed all with flying colours." Doyle recited the results evenly so that none of his personal feeling could leak through.

Cowley turned to Bodie again. "I see that your shields are solid. No leakage. Good. Doyle, will you forward those results to the office for the official records?" George Cowley paused, "Bodie, I would not have kept you on, even for Gwen's sake, if you hadn't met standards. I'm pleased that you did and have decided to stay. You will continue your practise here, under wards, until no one could challenge you." Cowley drained his cup and placed it down very deliberately before he sat back and steepled his fingers.

"Gentlemen, there have been some disturbing shockwaves of energy without natural cause. We look to the thaumaturgical community next and there has been unusual activity as of late. Unsanctioned and untraceable."

"You must suspect me and want to know if I have dishonourable intentions or have sampled the darker arts." Bodie tone was mocking but not hurt.

"You're being impertinent."

"Yes, sir. I do the best I can." Bodie gave a single nod.

"No, I do not suspect you. But there is someone close to CI5 involved. This person has worked hard to remain undetected. As most of the disturbances have been centred in this part of Greater London, I am alerting you. Even the proximity to here did not have me suspect you. This place is so well warded that any and all activity is complete shielded." Cowley straightened in his seat.

Bodie remained poised. He knew the older man was not done talking.

"Bodie, that first day in the office, you were able to break through the shield of silence. No one else has done that, so if you should feel that kind of shielding if you are off property, please alert me immediately. Doyle will instruct you how to do that."

"Yes, sir."

Cowley nodded. "Do you plan to continue to live here?"

"Yes, I do. My Gram, she wanted me here and by staying I feel close. It's part of my new road."

"Very good. Doyle, any problems with you continuing to reside here while Bodie masters the craft?" Cowley looked to Doyle seated in the chair closest to the window.

"No, this works well. He is well shielded until he can do it all himself."

"Excellent. While you are a student, CI5 will take care of the food bill."

"Thank you, sir." Bodie sat up, cheered.

"You'll go bankrupt in no time," Doyle said very low under his breath.

Bodie heard and grinned.

Cowley stood and stuck out his hand. "Welcome unofficially to CI5. Gwen truly would have been pleased. Once you have finished training I will officially put you on the books. Now, get back to work. Good day, gentlemen. I can see my self out." Cowley left without a look back.

Bodie and Doyle watched him leave.

Doyle waited until he heard the car drive away before he said anything. "And a pound gets you a penny, he already has a suspect. And he won't tell us anything, 'till after the fact."

"Like that is he?" Bodie raised a brow.

"All the time. You'll get used to it. You are staying then?" Doyle asked, wanting the added confirmation.

"Here, yes, I have a house." Bodie acknowledged, then added, "The whole thing as well."

"Okay, then." Doyle picked up the tea tray with relish and headed to the kitchen with a spry step.

Bodie picked up his second glossary and studied the next set of new words.

Doyle returned with caged excitement. "We, or should I say I, have been pushing us hard for the last six days, so if you want to take a break from this all and go to town to find a bird for a weekender, you have more than earned a respite."

"Well, Doyle, while the offer is appreciated, one of the big reasons my father and I did not get along was I didn't fit his mould of a son. I would never be the one to give him grandchildren, and as I had no siblings he grew to hate me." Bodie was hoping that Doyle would understand, but he looked blank. "I have always preferred men. Do I need to be more clear?" Bodie raised his right brow in obvious question.

Doyle cocked his head and gave Bodie a good butcher's with half-slit eyes. "Well, you're one with secrets." Doyle's tone was more admiration than anything else detectable. "A bird is fine if she's a bit of an alright, but I like men equally well. Sometimes better. Less pretence, more satisfaction."

Bodie felt a frission of desire run through straight to his cock. "Less pretence?" The look from Doyle was most lascivious.

Doyle moved quickly to where Bodie was now standing and pushed him back against the wall. "I see you have a hard-on for me."

"In more ways than one." Bodie felt the burgeoning erection against his own hardness. "You seem to have the same problem."

"No problem if we remedy the situation." Doyle's tone made clear the remedy he desired.

Bodie arched his hip to close the gap, of same mind and remedy.

Their hands quickly opened flies, pushed aside clothing, and divested the unnecessary material to reach the goal of skin against skin. There was no finesse, no romance, just lust and need, and it raged on.

Both knew where to touch, how to touch and how to exert just the right amount of pressure to throbbing cocks. Doyle took the lead by holding Bodie firmly against the wall. His fingers splayed and cupped Bodie's ball sac to perfection as he pulled him even closer. Doyle's other hand gripped Bodie's cock even tighter. Bodie's hips arched higher and he could only hold on and ride the wave of ecstasy that Doyle's hand created. A splash of his own cum hit his hand, which Bodie used to cup Doyle's ball sac as he pulled and manoeuvred Doyle against the wall and into an equally efficient conclusion.

Doyle lay limp against the wall that he slid down as he grinned at Bodie. "Well that saves us a trip to town," Doyle said easily.

"You rascal." Bodie stood and straightened himself before he asked, "Is there anything to eat?"

Doyle's laughter followed him to the kitchen.

 

---------------------

Foxearth Woods

 

Bodie pushed back his plate, "That was excellent. French toast is another favourite."

"Seriously, what is not a favourite?" Doyle asked, amused.

"Muesli," Bodie answered with a grin.

"We're almost out of food. It's shop day. Get a move on," Doyle ordered good-naturedly.

Bodie rubbed his hands together. "Oh goody, a Cadbury is on the menu." He ran up the stairs.

Doyle's laughter followed him up the stairs.

Bodie had only just pulled on the A212 when the feel of the air changed followed by the sound of a huge rip and boom.

"Feel that? This is what Cowley was talking about." Doyle rolled down his window.

"Yes, I feel that. How could I not? I feel something like an all over itch. You?" Bodie rolled down his own window.

"Yes, that's it. We need to follow it. Go left." Doyle pointed to the sky.

Bodie focussed on Doyle's directions.

"Left, keep going left. It's over there by the park," Doyle was yelling and pointing to the sky.

"Foxearth Woods is up ahead."

"Okay." Doyle touched his head then made a circle with his fingers before throwing his hand out the window. "I sent an information bubble to Cowley. Look at it." There was wonder and awe in Doyle's voice.

In the sky above, energy was leaking. They could follow the cracking and static that danced across the sky just like it danced across the hairs of both men's arms. As they drove up, they could see the actual rift opening like a tear in the sky. Vivid pink lightning bolts were breaking scattered and appeared like broken lines across the sky. It was like a beacon leading them directly to the anomaly.

Doyle yelled, "Stop here!"

Bodie pulled off the road and slammed on the breaks. The car abruptly stopped, shaking hard enough that both men put their hands on the dash to brace themselves

"I don't want to attract the erratic energy and lightning to the vehicle."

They scrambled out of the car. Doyle checked his pocket for an answering information bubble. Not yet. Most likely they were on their own. Damn!

"Bodie, up to this point everything we've done has had little danger. This," Doyle pointed to the sky anomoly, "is dangerous. This is the side of magic that if you don't respect it, it can be deadly. Generally speaking, healing a rift in a dividing plane would crush the healer in a flashback action as they used their energy to close the opening. We – this community of mages - have created teams of healers, no less than ten to a group, to spread the energy so no one person makes an ultimate sacrifice. We don't have the option here. Just the two of us here. Reinforcements will take too long to gather. Actually, I must do this." Doyle looked out over the valley. "The ultimate ramifications are too great to let the entity in, too costly in lives lost."

"Flashback action?"

"All the energy used to close the rift will bounce back on the sender."

"That will kill you," The flat statement was said with horror.

Still looking at the sky, Bodie's heart stopped. Not due to the danger but the thought that he would lose Doyle . . . if he lost him? Bodie's thoughts rooted him to the spot as his mind replayed the words. If he lost him . . . Bodie's gut tightened like when he was worried or amazed. He was both. When had that scrapper become so important? Bodie hung his head, it mattered not the when, the how, or why. It just was. He took a few steadying breaths. He could deal with this, make it work, not let it destroy him or the blossoming trust that they had finally established. His thoughts were inside his mental wall, and there they would remain. He refortified his own shields as a more important thought took hold. He had to save Doyle. At all costs.

Bodie stepped up close. "Let me do this. I'm young and strong and new. No one is going to miss me."

"Bodie, you dumb crud, I would. Besides that – young and strong you are, but you lack experience in this and I don't think you can be that focussed for long enough. You're a newbie at this, albeit better than most already and with more potential, but still learning. Now," Doyle's thoughts were churning furiously, "Together we have a strong chance to make the rift close. The down side is we won't survive the amount of energy drain." Doyle studied the sky around the rift. "I've sent word – thirty minutes at best to gather the people, the equipment and create a gate, a way to get places magically. No! We're it. Are you willing?"

Bodie accepted what Doyle said with a nod. Together was better than an outcome alone. He kicked off his shoes and planted his feet well into the dirt. He hoped he would get past having to do it this way. He knew that other mages did not have to remove their shoes, but he would miss the way the soft dirt curled around his toes, as though welcoming him back.

"Come on, you will have to hold me firmly about the waist. I need both hands to help me focus the merge of the torn sides. We'll have seconds once we start. The entity on the other side will start to fight as soon as it realises what we're doing." Doyle looked Bodie in the eye, hoping he realised just what the end outcome could be.

Bodie nodded again to the silent communication. He pulled Doyle close and rested Doyle's back against his chest. Doyle felt so normal there, resting against him. He watched for a moment, then all hell broke loose as Doyle-the-mage shot out physical energy in a pinpoint beam at the rift opening. It slowly began to mend itself, like sewing a seam, then all healing froze in place. Doyle grunted and Bodie felt the mage's energy flag. He concentrated on just his partner.

Bodie drew on the earth's energy and felt it rush up through him then pushed it directly into Doyle. The effects of the infusion were immediate and Doyle resumed his energy repair while fighting the entity at the same time. Doyle stood up straight, hands moving furiously. Bodie moved in concert with him to keep them connected and infused with a continual flow of energy.

Bodie felt the power coursing through him and found that he was able to focus it directly into Doyle. He could feel that his personal energy had taken a backseat to the visiting energy and his wasn't affected. His own strength never wavered. He could feed Doyle for as long as needed and not fatigue. He felt relief and joy. Doyle would not die.

What felt like an eternity, but was more likely fifteen minutes of non-stop power transfer, the rift sealed with a boom and explosion of colour. The force upended the two of them. Doyle's hands dropped in exhaustion and in shock that the outcome was not the kind he expected. They were both alive still.

Doyle shook his hands and looked at them in wonder, as he remained leaning against Bodie. "Rift is sealed and the entity is gone. And we're alive! Its lapse in focus was caused by its outrage and we were able to push him completely back within that side as the opening closed." Doyle thought about pushing away but was reluctant to do so. The power between them was intoxicating.

That stopped Doyle short . . . the power between them. Doyle self evaluated and realised that while he was breathless, he was not exhausted. He wasn't even tired, nor was he harmed by the massive drain of power they had just expended together. He stood up and pulled away. He turned to look at Bodie, who appeared as if he wasn't exhausted, nor harmed either. In fact, Bodie looked refreshed, not fatigued at all.

"What just happened here?" Doyle was mystified. "Why are we both still alive?"

Bodie's head kicked back in surprise. He stood to join Doyle. "You don't know? Then how should I?"

"What I mean is that we both should be near dead if not gone. No energy tools, no outside aids, save you. What did you do?" Doyle wondered aloud.

"I just did what you taught me. Tapped into the earth energy and then shared it with you. Did I do something wrong?" Bodie replied with curiosity but not trepidation. He was giddy inside. Doyle was alive.

"Bodie, no one does that without great harm. Not even Cowley or Macklin could do what you just did, mate. Your abilities are quite extraordinary." Doyle sat down as he thought of what could be done and also what harm could come to his new partner, a partner he wanted to keep alive and for himself. There was something about him that was easy to be around. Easier than any other partner or companion he'd had before.

Bodie sat down beside him as he waited for Doyle's wheels to stop spinning. He could almost see him think.

"Bodie, we can't tell anyone about this. Maybe Cowley, but definitely not for general knowledge. You'd be a target for good and evil alike."

"What are you going on about?" Bodie was perplexed with Doyle's reaction. He frowned in confusion.

Doyle rubbed his forehead. "Bodie, apparently one of your abilities is acting as a conduit of power. Only heard of it once centuries ago. You fed energy directly from the earth into me with no ill effects for either of us. That is rare. No that is more than rare. Most mages would kill for that. If that ability is discovered . . . well, I won't let that happen." Doyle dropped his head into his hands. "We can't let the extent of what you can do be known. Not and keep you safe." Doyle thought furiously, "Right now, we don't share the extent of what you are able to do. Let me do research and discover how it could be received. I want to keep you safe."

The words warmed Bodie.

Doyle sent word immediately with an information bubble that the rift was healed, they were fine and didn't need help after all. Doyle hoped that would be enough to stop the rift team from coming.

Unfortunately, he received a reply stating that Cowley and Walsh would arrive shortly.

"Bodie, let me do the explaining. Whatever really did happen, we need to keep it quiet until we understand it, mate. Okay?" Doyle said as seriously as he'd ever spoken.

Bodie nodded. "Okay." He trusted the man to have his back, his very life.

Cowley and Walsh appeared as if they had walked through a door.

Doyle and Bodie walked over to greet them.

"Elizabeth, this is Bodie. Gwen's grandson. Bodie, this is Elizabeth Walsh, my partner." Cowley introduced.

Walsh stuck out her hand to Bodie. "Gwen was a beloved friend and she is missed."

"Thank you." Bodie shook her hand.

"George, I want to survey the site closer." She walked off in the direction of where Bodie and Doyle had closed the rift.

George Cowley looked over both men and asked without preamble, "If I may be so bold, why are you two not dead?" Cowley's voice was like one taking a survey.

Doyle answered before Bodie could form a thought. "It was only using a minor energy bolt. I was able to hold it as I talked Bodie into directing an energy beam at it as well. We're not even drained. Its power was obviously overestimated."

"I see." Cowley moved slowly in a circle. "I detect no unruly signature. Your own is very faint. There seems to be residue of an exceptionally large energy drain, though. Centred around this area, but yet no signature."

"You must not recognise Bodie's yet," Doyle offered.

"Aye, that's possible. Could be more faint than yours. The non-signature is what has me concerned. This," Cowley motioned the entire area around them, "stays between the four of us. This entity was summoned by someone clever and talented enough to disguise their signature. There may be others. At this moment, we," Cowley indicated Elizabeth Walsh, who was examining the ground below the rift heal, "are the only ones to know and speak of this. Can I rely on your discretion?" The last was directed at Bodie, not yet an official part of CI5.

"Of course, sir."

"How did you come to be here?" Cowley asked.

"We were going round to the shops, felt a massive energy rip and followed it here. You warned us to be on the lookout," Doyle reminded him. "Bollocks, can you imagine if this had been a city centre and not a park?" Doyle was hoping to redirect Cowley's ire.

Cowley looked all about the area. "Indeed."

 

Littleheath Woods, Croydon

Back at the house, Doyle double-checked the wards. Bodie's innate ability was staggering and he didn't want any leakage. He was unsure if he even wanted Cowley to know of it. Bodie was more important.

Bodie stood in the hallway, watching Doyle dash about. He took a deep breath. "I gotta tell you, Doyle, in all fairness, that my real pretence was in hiding the degree of my affection for you. It would be a lie to let you think that I all I want is just shallow relief. I want more, I want to try the whole thing."

"Shut up, I want the same thing." Doyle moved with deliberate strides to stand near Bodie.

Bodie smiled, "As declarations go – not bad!"

Doyle closed the gap and claimed Bodie's lips to shut him up and say with action what words could not. Worship, happiness and a depth of feeling that the short time together could not do justice. Doyle broke away from his lips to kiss Bodie's nose and take in air.

Bodie, with half-lidded eyes, smiled as he guided them upstairs to his bedroom. He unsnapped Doyle's jeans and unzipped his flies. Bodie pushed Doyle back onto the bed as he quickly divested himself of his own trousers and shirt and tossed them on the floor. He crawled up next to Doyle.

They kissed, both conveying with their lips the depth of caring and desire. This time their hands freely explored skin that they couldn't seem to stop touching. Both cocks were hard and dripping in no time as desire fuelled by emotion had them panting. Bodie twisted around and sucked Doyle's cock into his mouth in a single motion. Doyle arched upward with the intense feeling of being completely surrounded.

Bodie cupped Doyle's balls as he sucked and pulled on his cock, all the while trying to keep the writhing body close enough to finish the job to the ultimate satisfaction. Doyle appeared extremely satisfied.

Doyle allowed only seconds before he quickly grabbed Bodie's cock to pull close and lick, but before he could suck it in his mouth, Bodie exploded then and there. Bodie was in heaven. Gram had been right he had found his heart's desire.

Doyle twisted round to lay his head on Bodie's chest. "Could get used to this."

"Sounds like a plan," he said sleepily.

"No more thinking you're expendable. You are not!" Doyle tapped Bodie's chest several times.

"Know the same." Bodie kissed Doyle's head and then his lips. Then they slept.

---------

Breakfast seemed more joyful than usual. Bodie couldn't stop smiling. Even porridge tasted good with fried bread. Bodie kept smiling at Doyle and he smiled back.

"Bodie, you have some amazing talents. You know we should start cataloguing some of your talents. Even if we don't divulge all, you should know everything you can do. It's better than finding out accidentally." Doyle explained his idea for the day.

"Okay, I trust you on this matter. I'm more than comfortable keeping my information private. But you are right, I certainly don't want to do something that could cause harm to an innocent," Bodie agreed.

"Even before that I need to show you how to make your own wards so we can double ward our findings. We can keep the finding completely private that way." Doyle was more worried than he let on. His body was still surging energy from then encounter yesterday. He knew it wasn't the sex, however mind-blowing. He could read the difference in energy.

Bodie walked into the sitting room. "Hey," he called out. "A new book title has come to light. The Specialised Working of Wards. How about that!" Bodie turned elated to face Doyle.

"Well, you know, Gwen was amazing," Doyle agreed.

The phone rang. Both men snapped their heads to the ringing instrument. This was the first time either had heard it make a sound. Bodie picked it up on the second ring.

"Allo," Bodie said evenly.

Cowley's voice barked, "Doyle is needed where we were yesterday as fast as you can get there." He was gone.

"We need . . ." Bodie started.

"I heard. Let's go." Doyle ran for the door and Bodie followed.

Bodie drove them three times the speed limit as tires squealed until he pushed the vehicle flat out. The urgency in Cowley's voice couldn't be missed.

As they rounded the curve they both could see the vivid pink lightning, the same as yesterday. The static danced across their skin, same as yesterday.

Bodie had hardly set the parking brake before Doyle was out the door.

"We felt that same energy surge as yesterday on the way here," Doyle informed his boss when he was close enough to be heard.

"Elizabeth traced back and interrupted the signature to where we were finally able to recognise it. It's one of our own. Barry Martin."

Doyle recoiled in shock, Martin was his mentor from his early days in CI5. "I told you about him, one of the original five," Doyle directed to Bodie as he dealt with his surprise.

"Everything points to his trying to summon the entity again. He will arrive soon," Elizabeth shared as she joined the group.

"Yes, the energy signature is building fast." Mr Cowley turned in a circle to complete his detection.

A massive shriek of energy ripped through the air and Barry Martin walked through. He shimmered with enhanced entity power and he shot a deadly bolt of contained energy directly toward Cowley's turned back. Elizabeth Walsh's gasp of horror alerted the group of the impending danger. Cowley, Walsh, and Doyle moved to join hands as they tried to harness enough energy to make a shield to deflect the sure death, but they weren't going to be fast enough as their hands had yet to touch. The directed bolt of energy was set to strike when a shield dome covered the group completely. The energy crackled and spread over the entire dome, then the sparkled tips dropped to the ground and fizzled out. The shield de-materialised without effort as the harmful energy dissipated.

Doyle looked quickly to Bodie who just appeared to be concentrating on the situation. Doyle kept his own counsel on his thoughts and continued to help Cowley and Walsh set up their own counter attack and containment field. He felt Bodie touch his shoulder with his full hand and clamp down. He immediately felt the renewed energy.

Barry Martin was stopped in his tracks literally, frozen with a look of horror and frustration fixed on his face.

Cowley and Walsh didn't halt their stride as they approached the suspended Martin to deal with him.

Doyle turned to Bodie and spoke in a low voice, "Nice work, mate!"

Bodie turned his back on Cowley and Walsh and spoke equally as low. "It was more of an automatic response to you being in danger. I can't let you die. Not now when I, we, have so much to live for." Bodie looked down at his feet and pointed. "Hey, I did it without taking my shoes off – finally!"

Cowley let Walsh take lead on contacting their team for retrieval as he turned to watch Bodie and Doyle speculatively. Something happened just now, and he couldn't even detect it was happening. He was positive that it was at least in part due to the team walking away.

The future promised to hold some interesting moments, to be sure.

 

fin