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Condition of Employment

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Mr Cowley contemplated the man standing before him at military parade rest. The precise stance didn’t impress him, but William Bodie’s decision to adopt it did. He glanced down at the papers on the desk before him, then back at Sergeant Bodie. “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, sir.” There was a pause, then Bodie continued: “You’re the Controller of Criminal Intelligence Five. Mr Cowley.” His gaze remained fixed on the wall behind Cowley.

“Yes. Do you know why I am here?”

“No, sir.”

Cowley took off his glasses then leaned back in his chair. “Speculate.”

That caused a flicker of emotion—irritation?—on Bodie’s face, so quickly gone that Cowley wouldn’t have seen it if he hadn’t been watching so closely. “I assume it has to do with the charges.”

“That is a military matter.”

Bodie shrugged. “MI6 is involved, why not CI5?”

Ah, so Willis was interested as well, was he? Cowley filed that fact away. “Well, in a sense I am here because of the charges.” Cowley tapped the pile of papers. “It appears likely that you are headed for prison, Sergeant Bodie, since you have admitted your guilt.”

“No excuses, sir.”

“Indeed? But surely you had reasons for supplying arms to the IRA.”

“I didn’t.” It was said softly but flatly, as if it had already been said many times and not believed.

“Are you attempting to claim you were unaware of Robert Perkin’s intent to sell the arms to the IRA?”

Briefly, Bodie’s gaze shifted to Cowley. “Would it make any difference?”

“You will be court-martialled and sentenced to prison.”

Bodie’s gaze returned to the wall.

Cowley put his glasses back on and picked up the papers. “Your military record is impressive. Noted for bravery in the Paras, seconded to the SAS, despite some question of insubordination.” Cowley looked at Bodie. “Major Nairn thought you a valuable asset. Once.”

Bodie said nothing to that.

“Why did you become a mercenary?”

“Money. Sir.”

“The same answer you gave for the diverted arms. An easy answer. You left the mercenaries, came home and joined the Paras. Why?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

Cowley looked at him through the blur of his reading glasses. “I think you do.”

“I came back for the climate.” Bodie shifted on his feet. “Are you ready to tell me why I am here, sir?”

Cowley raised his eyebrows as he looked again at the papers. “Need I have a reason?”

“You’re a busy man, sir.”

“That I am.” He shuffled to a particular piece of paper. “Your bank accounts have been frozen, of course.” He looked up. “Including the Swiss one.” He saw Bodie’s jaw muscle tighten. “So, you are without resources, without prospects.” He gazed at the silent man before him. He had listened to Nairn’s warning: “He’s the best fighter I have when he commits to an action. He’s a brilliant tactician, but impatient with strategy or planning beyond an immediate need. When he’s focused on a goal, he’s unstoppable. Without that focus, he’s impulsive, reckless and insubordinate. He’s loyal, but only on his own terms. The truth is, he’s a mercenary clean through.” Yet Cowley had wanted to judge the man’s suitability for himself. “I understand your confederate was killed in the raid that netted the arms.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was it worth it?”

Again, Sergeant Bodie said nothing.

“I asked you a question.”

Bodie looked down, eyelashes dark against this skin. “It seemed a good idea at the time.”

“No doubt.” The story didn’t add up to a complete picture. The question was whether or not the missing pieces could be ignored. He rather thought they could be, with appropriate safeguards put in place. Cowley set the papers down and took his glasses off. “Well, Sergeant. I cannot abide waste, and putting you in prison would be a waste.”

“I agree. But circumventing justice is hardly your style, is it, sir?” Bodie’s tone was light, but his eyebrows had drawn together.

“Hardly. I merely wish to gain something useful from the affair. I believe you might be just the man I have been looking for. Provided, of course, that you are properly supervised.”

“Supervised?”

“Leashed.”

“Hamstrung, you mean.”

“No.” Cowley sat back in his chair. “Properly directed and focused for the greater good.”

“The greater— Bloody hell, you want me in CI5?”

Cowley gazed at him.

For the first time, Bodie looked self-conscious. “Sorry, sir.”

So, it would appear Bodie was selectively insubordinate. “It is within my power to strike a deal for you. Instead of prison, you would serve in CI5. But make no mistake, the department—I—would own you.”

“There are things I won’t do.”

“Is that so?” Cowley pursed his lips and wondered if Willis had spoken to Bodie personally. “I shall bear that I mind. As it happens, I do not hire agents who follow orders blindly. However, sound judgement is critical.”

A faint smile appeared briefly on Bodie’s face. “Are you certain it is me you wished to see, sir?”

Cowley shrugged. “Your record in the field speaks for itself. As for your…leisure activities, you will be—”

“Watched?”

“Managed, I was about to say. In any case, with one exception, I would ask nothing more of you than I would of any of my agents. Assuming, that is, you pass the requisite physical and mental exams and successfully complete training to become an agent.”

“A CI5 agent? You must be joking. Sir.”

“I hire from all the services—and from other sectors as well. I have, on occasion, hired those others would not. I will use whatever means are most effective to achieve our goal.”

“Which is?”

“Detecting and preventing any transgression against the law outside the norm of criminal activity.”

“What about my ‘criminal activity’?”

“Naturally, you would be on probation.”

Bodie nodded. “And if I fail, it would be back to prison.”

“Just so.”

Bodie looked at him. “I’ve lost my taste for dying for any cause but my own.”

“Your own cause seems to have led you to prison.”

“So you want me to adopt yours?”

“That is not necessary, although it would be convenient.”

Bodie shrugged. “To avoid prison, a man might say anything.”

“Yes. However, I believe you are not that man.”

Some expression flickered across Bodie’s face. “I doubt Major Nairn agrees with you.”

“He does not.” Cowley held his gaze. “I should perhaps mention that CI5 cleans its own doorstep. Always.”

Bodie didn’t look away. “You said there was an exception?”

“Very good.” Cowley allowed a small smile to show his satisfaction. “Yes, one exception to your duties as an agent—provided—”

“I pass the tests. I would, sir.”

“I agree.” Cowley straightened the glasses he’d placed on the desk as he chose his words. “In CI5 most agents work in teams of two. Teams train together and the viable ones become active on the squad.”

“I am used to working in teams.”

“There are no assigned roles on these teams. Neither partner has seniority or authority. You are assessed—as a team—frequently. You are responsible for each other. And, in your case, there is an added… Call it a condition of employment.”

“And that is?”

“Eighteen men have died in the service of CI5 since it was founded. The man I have in mind to pair you with must survive—even above the objective. Unless otherwise specified by me.”

“So much for the ‘equality’ of your team.”

“It is a given that team members protect each other. I am simply formalising that responsibility for you, and giving it priority. He, of course, is not to know.”

Bodie frowned. “Everyone in an organisation such as yours is expendable. They have to be.”

“Indeed, yes. It might be that you both die while in CI5. I am merely seeking to improve the odds of his survival.”

“Why?”

Cowley tilted his head, but said nothing.

“You can’t blame me for being curious.”

“You’re a soldier, these are your orders. The why should not concern you.”

Bodie’s mouth tightened for a moment. “If I protect your boy, what happens to me? My record?”

“It would be sealed, with the future possibility of expungement.”

“Too many people know.“

“What do they know? The truth has been classified from the beginning. When it is seen that you have been seconded to CI5, any doubts will be erased.”

“But the record would remain.”

“Until you pass through probation.”

“Which would be when?”

“When I deem it so.”

Bodie sighed. “Naturally. At least prison has a defined term, and I wouldn’t be shot at.”

“That option is certainly open to you.” But Cowley had detected the change in tone in Bodie’s voice. He knew he had him. Brian would be satisfied, he thought, if not happy. CI5 would gain expertise and, if he read his man right, would also regain the credibility and integrity Wakeman had nearly destroyed.

“I believe I’ll take my chances with you, sir.”

Cowley nodded, stood and offered his hand to Bodie. “It is agreed, then.” He didn’t allow his satisfaction to show. He had thrown the dice, but it would be some time before he’d know the result.

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

Bodie sat on a hard chair in a dark room, binoculars trained on the Victorian terrace opposite, and wondered if he’d have been better off in prison. He knew the answer, but that didn’t mean he was any closer to accepting the difficulties of the last few months with equanimity. Oh, he had a decent enough flat, a car, a bit of money (if still no access to his other bank accounts), and the prospect of action. But he also had Cowley watching his every move, and he had Doyle. Bloody-minded, irritating, argumentative, never-give-up, ex-copper Doyle. Prison would have been easier.

They had, finally, after nearly eight weeks of pain and humiliation, graduated from Barry-bloody-Martin’s bloody simulation course. Before that, he’d endured two months of training in Modern Police Tactics with Wilson. He hadn’t been so bored since before he’d joined the Paras. Admittedly, Interrogation Methods had had its moments, but Investigative Techniques, Background Checks, Planning a Stakeout, the Ethical Use of Grasses—as if ethics came into it at all—had all been a dead bore and useless, as far as he could see. It had been a bloody waste of time, but he’d endured it because washing out hadn’t really been an options, had it? He knew he was being watched; he had found the bug in his flat. That was only to be expected, of course, and to be fair, Cowley had kept his promise so far. Bodie hadn’t been treated any differently than the other recruits. Nevertheless, Bodie knew he would leave eventually, as he always did, but he wanted to pick his moment carefully. If he ran now he would likely never be able to return to England. If Cowley continued to hold true to his word, however, and Bodie’s record was expunged, then that opened up options. It was possible that Cowley would use the threat of prison to keep him in CI5 for the long term. If that turned out to be the case, well, he would make certain his escape route was well prepared.

“Anything?” Doyle’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“No. I would have said.”

“Just checking to see you’re still awake.”

One time, one time, he’d nodded off—slightly—during one of Martin’s interminable post-simulation lectures, and Doyle never missed an opportunity to put the needle in about it. Well, two could play at that game. “Appreciate it. I was up late with the lads last night, celebrating.”

There was a long pause. “Celebrating what?”

Bodie smiled under the binoculars. “Don’t know, exactly. Good time.”

“Well, keep your eyes peeled.” Doyle’s voice was flat.

“Always.” Doyle hadn’t been invited to the pub, although that had had more to do with timing than exclusion. It was true Doyle didn’t seem to have a knack for the easy camaraderie that Bodie had grown up participating in. It was the opinion of some of the other trainees that Doyle was a loner, and poor Bodie was stuck with him. Bodie had done nothing to discourage that idea, but he didn’t believe it. He thought back to the first time he had met Doyle. They had been part of a six-man team guarding a human target from the other team. In the end, only Bodie and Doyle had been left standing during the final assault, and they had successfully protected the target. Afterwards, the whole crew had gone to the pub with Martin.

He’d brought one of the beers Martin was buying to Doyle. “You sweat it out and you pour it back. I’m Bodie.”

“Doyle.” He had taken the drink, obviously thirsty. “Hot work.”

“Gotta learn how to stay cool.”

Doyle had raised his eyebrows. “In that sun?”

Bodie had found himself grinning. “Point.”

“You two did well.” Martin had joined them, and slung an arm around Doyle’s shoulder. Bodie had noticed that Doyle had seemed a bit irritated by the familiarity. “Hot work, eh?” Martin had released Doyle and raised his glass. “To victory!” The winning team had cheered and drunk the beer while the other team had grumbled at them. Martin had looked round at them as other conversations picked up. “Not so hot for Bodie, though, eh? Cool as a cucumber, right? All you SAS men are the same.”

“Oh, yeah, staying cool under fire, that’s the SAS way. Slow heartbeat, slow metabolism. ’S gotta be cool.” It was a useful image, if not entirely true.

“Yeah, it was the same in the Army,” Martin had said. “These police blokes, though…” He had playfully shoved Doyle. “Very uncool. Hot temperament.”

“Always jumping to conclusions,” Bodie had put in, earning a dark look from Doyle.

“Don’t pull out that old—”

“I said that very thing to a copper just the other day,” Martin had said. “She said I was doing 180, I said it was no more than 100.”

Doyle had looked at him. “On the motorway?”

“In my flat.” Martin’s grin had been lecherous. “My pulse. I was definitely ready to do it again.” He had laughed with gusto. And then he had looked from one to the other of them. “The Major will be pleased. You know you’re to be teamed, right? The ex-mercenary and the ex-copper. Should be interesting!” He had again laughed.

Doyle was Cowley’s boy? Bodie had looked at him, and known his conflicted feelings showed on his face. The disdain-tinged doubt in Doyle’s expression had been just as easy to read. “I’ll talk to Cowley,” Doyle had said, confirming everything Bodie had been thinking. But whatever Doyle’s relationship to Cowley was, it hadn’t been enough to stop the teaming.

“The Old Man didn’t see it your way, eh?” Bodie had said as they stared at the training assignments posted on the wall.

“Just try not to shoot everyone,” had been Doyle’s irritated response.

It had all gone down hill from there. His intentions had been, well, if not good then at least benign. Doyle was his assignment, personal feelings didn’t matter, just get the job done. But they clashed in everything, from the time they should arrive at work to the way they should handle an interrogation. He’d tried being friendly—win the man over to compliancy. But Doyle (possibly to his credit) was having none of it. Their first partnership simulation—a hostage standoff—had ended with the hostages killed as Doyle’s negotiations had broken down. Their second attempt had been no better—they had charged in, as they should have done from the start, but they had been killed along with the hostages. On their third attempt, the hostages had died while they argued.

“Like two prima donna footballers each wanting the ball!” Cowley’s tone had been acidic. He had ‘just happened’ to stop by the training centre at precisely the wrong time. “You’re supposed to be a team—working together for the common goal.”

“Yes, sir,” Bodie had said, swallowing his resentment. If Cowley thought he’d just give in to Doyle’s way of doing everything… Well, that tactic wouldn’t keep his precious boy safe, would it? He had seen enough, in the brief time he’d been working with Doyle, to know that he committed fully to an action once it was decided on, odds be damned. Doyle wasn’t reckless but he played it close to the line. It was the one thing about the man that Bodie liked, even if it would make his own job that much harder.

Doyle hadn’t hidden his resentment at all. “What do you expect with two completely different approaches and no rank? We should—”

“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it, Doyle. What I do want is for you two to work together—independent, but of one mind. That’s what’s needed in the kind of constantly changing ops that we have in CI5. Do I make myself clear?”

On their fourth attempt, they had combined methods and managed to get the hostages out, but Bodie had been captured while making certain Doyle got out. Doyle had gone back in—completely against protocol—to try and rescue Bodie. Due to a miscommunication (Doyle, of course, called is Bodie’s own bullheadedness), they themselves had ‘died’ when Doyle had tried to make the villain believe he was putting his gun down. Martin had raked Doyle over the coals for his actions, and Bodie had caught Cowley eyeing him. What the hell was he supposed to have done to stop Doyle? His resentment had shifted from Doyle to Cowley, who was truly to blame for putting him into this impossible situation. Doyle had tried to save him. Bodie wouldn’t forget that. Their partnership had begun to work better after that.

Partnership. Sanctioned by Cowley. Doyle was the man Bodie was to coddle, or even the odds for, or whatever the hell he was supposed to do. Protect. If ever there was a man less in want of protection… Doyle’s combat skills weren’t up to Bodie’s standards, but they weren’t far off. Doyle had been training with Martin while Bodie had been studying police tactics. But Doyle also had an athletic gift, and a natural talent with a handgun. He was breathtaking in action.

Bodie grimaced to himself. His physical attraction to Doyle was something he admitted only to himself, and then rarely. Doyle was an assignment, nothing more. He had felt nothing the first time he’d seen Doyle, standing next to the target on that first simulation. He’d barely noticed the man, in fact. But when Doyle had moved… Christ, get a grip. Remember what he’s like when he opens his mouth: Bloody merc. Killed anyone recently? Think with your brain, not your gun. And on it went. Okay, yes, Bodie gave as good as he got, and he rather relished their arguments. Still, he had no desire to spend time with Doyle—Cowley could have him. Although any thought that it was Doyle’s attractiveness that had drawn Cowley’s unusual order of protection had died a swift death when he had seen them together. If anything, Cowley seemed to favour him over Doyle, or perhaps it was just that they understood the same language. Despite the resentment he felt, he and Cowley had slid easily into the familiar roles of soldier and commander. He knew where he was with Cowley, and he did feel he owed him for playing fairly with him in their bargain. Doyle seemed more uncertain about his position with Cowley. But then, according to rumour Doyle had had more than a few run-ins with his superiors. Perhaps he hadn’t understood what he was giving away when he’d signed the CI5 contract.

The simulations had continued. They had won some and lost many as they tried to find their footing with one another. It had finally come to a head during a particularly irritating puzzle-box-like simulation in an abandoned warehouse. Frustrated, angry, more irritated with each other than the puzzle, they’d ended up in a physical fight. Doyle had thrown the first punch, but Bodie had welcomed it. Doyle had held his own in the fight for a while, until Bodie’s weight advantage had carried the day. Doyle, of course, hadn’t wanted to admit defeat. “How about I don’t tell anyone I beat you?” Bodie had finally gasped out, struggling to retain his hold on Doyle.

“You won’t be able to resist.”

Bodie had rolled his eyes. “Right. It’s a good credo, and one I believe in: never give anyone ammunition to shoot you with. But, well—oof, stop that! I hate to tell you this, Doyle—no one is going to be astonished that I beat you. There’s no news there.”

“Bugger.”

Doyle had sounded so cross, yet resigned, that Bodie had found himself laughing. “Careful, ducky, people will talk.” As Doyle’s laughter had joined his, he’d released him and rolled onto his back.

Doyle had stretched out next to him, still breathing heavily. “They already do.”

“What?”

“Just because I don’t go down the pub with you lot every night doesn’t mean I don’t follow the rumours. It’s even odds as to which of us will make the first move to kill the other, but they are certain you’ll be the one to survive. It’s very annoying.”

Bodie had grunted. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” He had been aching—Doyle had got in more than a few good shots. “You’re good. Worth knowing. Tough. You won’t fall if they push.”

“Oh, is that what this was about, then? Another bloody test?”

“There’s an idea! Do you think they’d believe us? They’re going to notice that black eye. Sorry.”

Doyle had carefully probed his eye that was already showing colour. “Oh, yeah. Cowley won’t like that.”

It had felt like being dunked into cold water. Did Doyle know? “What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you read the regulation— No, of course you haven’t. No brawling in CI5. Grounds for dismissal.”

“We’re paid to brawl!”

“Only on orders. And Cowley doesn’t want his agents to get too ‘involved’.”

“In— Well, if this was foreplay, I don’t think much of your technique, Doyle.”

“You started it!”

“You threw the first punch!”

“You were ready for it!“

True. He’d known exactly how to provoke Doyle. “Fuck. This partnership might work after all.” He had glanced over at Doyle and had seen a smile flicker across his mouth.

“Maybe.”

But another thought had occurred to Bodie. “Bloody hell, is this a timed simulation?”

“Of course it is.” Doyle had climbed to his feet. “C’mon, let’s get it over with. Look, you check the loading dock, I’ll check the office, and we’ll compare notes. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Hey.” Doyle had touched Bodie’s hand as he had turned away. “We’re the best, you and me. Right?”

“Yeah. No question.”

They had pieced enough of the clues together to find the bomb and defuse it. Although they had won no accolades for the length of time it had taken them to do it, they had successfully passed the simulation. No one had mentioned Doyle’s black eye. The fight had cleared the air between them. They had begun to listen to one another, and to share expertise.

In a situation like that, you stop and shoot from the door. Clear the room, then move forward.

Look, intel helps with people, too. The better you understand someone—see the conflict from their side—the better you can anticipate their actions. Better to defuse the situation than go in with guns blazing. It takes longer, but the body count—and the mistakes—are fewer.

Certainly, there was no other recruit he wanted to work with. Doyle might be bloody-minded, irritating, argumentative, and he never gave in…but he was good. They had survived the simulations intact, had passed Kate Ross’s bloody tests, and now they were agents on ‘probation’ status—double probation in his case. Cowley had not referred to their meeting, or Bodie’s mission, in any way since he had arrived at CI5. But he had no doubt that he was to follow through on Cowley’s orders. He just wished he understood why. Doyle was treated no differently than anyone else. He was good, but he wasn’t extraordinary. Why the hell, then, did—

Movement. “Doyle. New arrival. Female.”

He heard Doyle moving towards him. “Do you recognise her?”

“No. It’s not Brucker.” They had been shown a photo board at their initial briefing for the obbo.

“Let me see.” Doyle took the binoculars while Bodie noted the sighting in the logbook. The room was in darkness, but there was enough street light for him to see to write. “She’s not there willingly.”

“What?”

“Here.” Doyle handed back the binoculars and reached for the R/T.

Bodie peered through the binoculars and saw that the woman was struggling at the doorway. There was no one on the street, and the big blond man with her—MacKenzie, according to their intel—shoved her into the house.

“Radio’s not working.”

Bodie’s mouth tightened. They’d heard from the team they’d relieved that the R/Ts were unreliable. Cowley was aware of it, but had said to carry on with the obbo and intermittent communication.

“We have to go in,” Doyle said.

“No. We can’t. Our orders are to observe only.”

“Yeah, well.” Doyle was strapping on his holster. “That’s not good enough, is it?”

“We don’t know what— Doyle! Dammit.” He intercepted Doyle at the door, grabbing hold of his arm. “Watch and observe and report in. Those are our orders.”

“I know!” Doyle looked away, then back at Bodie. “Look, you stay here. I just… I won’t stand by while that woman is raped.”

“You can’t afford to give a damn in this business. It might make you hesitate or lead to poor judgement.” He saw the determination on Doyle’s face. “Okay, but we do this my way. Quiet entry.”

“We warn first.”

Bodie nodded. “And then we shoot to kill.”

They moved together to the house. The front door was unlocked. They unholstered their guns and went in quickly, Doyle low and Bodie high. They found themselves in a dark hallway, with stairs leading up to their left, and a room with a closed door to their right. Light shone from under the door. Bodie signalled the count, and on three they burst into the room. Bodie caught a glimpse of the woman sitting on a chair, MacKenzie leaning over her. He heard Doyle shout: “Stop! Police!” But then Bodie was knocked to the floor by a blow across his shoulders. He twisted as he fell, pointed his gun towards the man behind him, but the bullet went wide as the floor jarred his arm. He heard a woman scream, then two gunshots. He rolled to his feet, saw Doyle standing next to the woman, and MacKenzie fleeing through the doorway. Bodie chased after MacKenzie into the hallway, and dived into a roll as he glimpsed a black man aiming a gun at him. He heard a gunshot, but was already coming out of his roll, crashing into the black man and knocking him off his feet. The man’s gun skittered across the floor. Bodie got to his feet, saw MacKenzie by the front door, and caught a flicker of movement at the open doorway to the room. Doyle was coming out of the room—directly into the sights of MacKenzie’s gun.

“Back!” he cried out, lunging towards Doyle, knowing it was stupid, but nevertheless trying to put himself between Doyle and MacKenzie. Doyle wasn’t where he expected him to be, though, and they collided with each other, falling down in a tangle of limbs. Somehow, they both retained their guns, but by the time they righted themselves, MacKenzie and the black man were gone.

“Dammit,” Doyle swore as they saw no sign of the men on the darkened street. He rounded on Bodie. “If you hadn’t—”

“You’d’ve got a bullet in your head.”

“I had already moved!”

He had, of course. Bodie changed the topic. “Look, you check on the girl, I’ll do a perimeter and room check.”

Doyle gave a quick nod and headed for the room. “Go through their stuff. Maybe we can find a clue. Be careful!”

I always am.”

Doyle’s words were mumbled as he disappeared into the front room, but Bodie heard them: “Too bloody right”

Dammit, he’d fucked up. How was he supposed to follow Cowley’s orders while at the same time operate as a partner with Doyle? Bugger it all to hell. Getting out of England was looking more attractive by the minute. Bodie conducted a quick check outside and inside the house, finding no trace of MacKenzie or his friend. He returned to the front room to find that Doyle had untied the woman. She was rubbing her wrists, and making soft noises. She raised her head as Bodie entered the room. Her face was streaked with mascara.

“Her name’s Ruth.” Doyle handed a bag to the woman. She accepted it with a whimper of appreciation. “She lives down the road, just got back from visiting her mum in Norfolk.” There was something odd in Doyle’s tone.

“All right. Bad night for it, eh?” Bodie felt on edge, as if he expected an attack.

“R/T still isn’t working. Anything in the house?”

“No. Nothing. Not one thing, other than furniture.” He looked meaningfully at Doyle, and knew he’d been understood when Doyle raised his eyebrows. The men had supposedly been at the house for at least a week, but there had been no evidence of clothing or food.

Doyle nodded, then glanced at the girl. “Robbery wasn’t the motive: she has no money in her bag. No purse. No train ticket. Just make-up.”

They looked at each other, then with rising urgency Bodie said: “Douse the—”

“Already on it!” Doyle reached the light switch just as Bodie caught movement from across the room: the fireplace—shared chimney—

“Doyle, get out!” Bodie dropped to the floor and rolled in the sudden darkness. There was a flash of light and the sound of a gunshot. He inched forward, but another gunshot convinced him to stay put. Whoever held the gun could obviously see exactly where he was.

“Get the light,” a man said. Light flooded back into the room. It was the woman who stood by the light switch and the closed door. MacKenzie climbed to his feet near the fireplace, night vision goggles slung around his neck. He pointed his gun at Bodie. There was no sign of Doyle. “Well, well, well. Look what we have here,” MacKenzie said.

The woman spoke to MacKenzie. “Doyle got out.”

“Towser will track him.”

The woman leaned against the wall, arms crossed. “They were easy enough to lure in.”

“Perhaps they’ve learnt a lesson about chivalry.” MacKenzie moved forward and spoke to Bodie: “Place your gun on the floor in front of you.” Bodie did as instructed, and MacKenzie kicked it away.

“What now, Macklin?” the woman asked.

Bodie raised his head. Macklin. It was a set-up— “Doyle! Stop!” He saw MacKenzie whirl towards the fireplace just as Doyle’s arm appeared, eerily extending out from it. The arm jerked to the side and the bullet meant for MacKenzie—Macklin—hit the upper wall instead.

For a moment, everyone was quiet, and then Macklin spoke: “Well, that was rather better. Thank you, Bodie. You may join us, Doyle.”

Doyle crawled through the fireplace and went to stand next to Bodie. He was nearly shaking from rage and adrenaline, Bodie saw. “What the hell was this?” Doyle asked.

“Your final test.” Cowley’s voice heralded his arrival through the doorway. Bodie hadn’t heard the door opening. Cowley looked around the room. “Aye, and something of a debacle it is, too. Is anyone injured? Miss Pettifer?”

“No, sir.”

“Bodie could have been.” Doyle’s voice was harsh. “We all might have been—that was live ammo!”

“I was taking careful aim,” Macklin said. “With night vision.”

“I hit you earlier,” Doyle said.

Macklin’s smile was tight. “The vest took care of that.” He raised his hand. “And before you point out that you could have taken a head shot, I’ll point out that you never would have in that situation.”

“Yes, live ammo, Doyle,” Cowley said. “It was a risk, a calculated risk, but this…trial by fire is necessary. We are that careful in CI5.”

“Trial by fireplace, he means,” Bodie murmured to Doyle. Doyle bit his lip, and quietened next to Bodie.

“Did you have something to say, Bodie?”

“No, sir.”

“Very well.” Cowley turned back to Macklin. “Well, Brian?”

“They left their post without permission, although they did attempt to contact HQ. You had not given explicit orders to not interfere, so initiative is in their favour.”

“Aye.” Cowley looked at them. “But keep in mind, gentlemen, I will be explicit in other situations.”

Bodie nodded and he saw Doyle nod as well, after a moment. They had lucked out on a technicality, Bodie thought.

Macklin continued: “Their entry into the house was quiet and quick, although an entry front and back would have been more prudent. The fight was competent. They deduced Pettifer’s involvement, and noticed the lack of clutter to put them on guard. Adequate was what I had intended to pass them with, but given Doyle’s discovery of the fireplace, and Bodie’s ability to anticipate his action and stop it, they’ve earned a qualified good.”

“Qualified?” Bodie bristled.

“You ought to have caught us in the hallway.”

Bodie subsided, but he clenched his jaw at the unfairness of it all.

“That was—” Doyle began to speak, but Cowley interrupted him.

“Thank you, Brian.” As Macklin headed out of the room, Cowley added: “And I’ll be collecting on that bet.”

“Early days yet, George.” Macklin’s words floated on the air after him.

“You two.” Cowley turned to Bodie and Doyle. “Meet me at HQ at 0800. It’s time you began your real duties.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Bodie tugged the still-silent Doyle, and got them both out of the house. “Okay, you can blow up now.”

“Bloody live ammo,” Doyle gritted out.

Bodie sighed. “Yeah.” He headed for the car, Doyle walking beside him.

“You’re used to it, aren’t you? They use live ammo in field manoeuvres in the SAS, don’t they?”

“Yes, but not like that.”

Doyle stopped, so Bodie stopped as well. “You’re angry.”

Bodie nodded. “Too easy for a mistake to have been made. I know we’re expendable, but—”

“Speaking of which,” Doyle’s voice hardened, “What the hell was that in the hallway?”

Bodie looked down at the ground.

“I can bloody well handle myself, hold up my end! I don’t need you—”

“I know.” Bodie kept his voice quiet, and surprisingly it stopped Doyle mid-tirade. He raised his eyes to find Doyle looking at him. “Still getting used to this team business,” he said. Which was as close to the truth as he could get. Damn George Cowley, anyway. They had collided in the hallway because they hadn’t been working together.

“You never did that in training.”

“No.” His jaw felt tight.

“Look, if you don’t trust me—”

“I do.” He met Doyle’s angry gaze, and made his decision. “It won’t happen again.” Even the odds, Cowley had said. He’d focus on that. Teamwork would come first. He wouldn’t compromise the op.

Doyle sighed. “Right. Well, we’re both getting used to this team business. Maybe we did deserve that ‘qualified’.” He looked troubled. “It was my idea to go in after the woman. It seems that was wrong—”

“You heard Macklin, we got points for initiative. It wasn’t wrong.”

“But it wasn’t right, either. Cowley made it clear.”

“Yes.” Bodie met his gaze. Doyle had to get used to the idea now. “There will be times when we won’t go in.”

Doyle looked down.

Bodie thought back to his first conversation with Cowley. “It’s a matter of sound judgement.”

“When we haven’t got all the facts.”

“Just each other.” Doyle’s eyes raised. “We chose action together,” Bodie said. “I could have stopped you.”

“Maybe.” Doyle looked away for a moment. “Anyway, I’m not forgetting that if it hadn’t been for you, I’d’ve shot Macklin.”

Bodie smiled a bit. “A second time.”

“True.” Doyle moved on towards the car. “Almost wish I had gone for a head shot.”

“S’what he deserved.”

“You recognised him?”

“The girl—Pettifer? Yeah, she called him ‘Macklin’, and I’d heard talk about his tortuous training sessions.”

“Sloppy on their part.”

“Or part of the plan, just like the near-empty bag must have been. I’ll tell you one thing though, Macklin was shocked to see you coming through the fireplace.”

Doyle smiled. “I couldn’t make out how they’d got into the room.” He glanced at Bodie. “You’d swept the place, it was clear. There had to be a trick in it somewhere.”

Bodie was surprised at the warmth he felt from Doyle’s confidence in him. “I knew you’d come.” And he had known. He’d had no doubts about what Doyle would do. He suddenly realised something else as well: “You didn’t shout a warning that time.”

Doyle glanced at him. “Learnt my lesson.” His tone was neutral.

Bodie thought back to the training simulation when he’d been held at gunpoint in front of Doyle. The warmth seemed to spread. “Ah, but earlier—what was it? ‘Stop. Police’”?

Doyle coughed. “Bad habit.”

Bodie grinned.

They reached the car. Doyle paused at the door, looking pensive. “’Tortuous training sessions’?”

“Refreshers mostly.” He met Doyle’s gaze and nodded. “We’ll be seeing him again.”

“Think he’ll take that shock he felt out on us?”

“Undoubtedly.”

There was a pause. “Worth it,” they both said at the same time.

They climbed into the car and drove towards HQ. It was on the tip of his tongue to invite Doyle for a drink, but Bodie hesitated. Doyle was his partner, but he was also his assignment. It was better to keep a distance. The warmth vanished in the face of cold reality, like it always did. They were a team, they argued, they took the piss, he copped a feel every now and again, but that was all. The partnership worked just as it was. And now that he had his priorities straight, he wouldn’t let Doyle down again. It was simple, really: make the partnership work and he’d satisfy both Doyle and Cowley.

~*~ 

OooOOOOooo

~*~ 

The right technique is to keep him talking, play him, tire him out.

Suppose his left hand tires first?

Go on.

It's about four pounds pressure to keep a hand grenade lever clamped down. Not much, just four pounds. But, after an hour, it feels like eight, and then twelve, and then cramp sets in. And then suddenly it's raining Nurse Emma Bolding.

All right.

~*~ 

Well, they'll be well on their way by now, won't they? Something's bothering you.

Truck, bikes. Why use bikes when you ditch 'em after a mile or so? And this a clear breakthrough point.

And why didn't they drive it up the road?

We've been suckered.

Right.

They're still back there somewhere, dug in.

Any ideas?

Close to where they dumped the bikes?

Cowley.

Cowley.

~*~ 

Two dead. Neither of them us. We did okay.

Okay? You call that okay?

Ah, Bodie—

Look, a bust in like that, you're supposed to shoot from the door.

Yeah, and suppose I—

Well, then, the next time, you can be the monkey on a string and I'll be the back up!

And if I had fired from the door and missed, who was standing in the window?

~*~ 

Why didn’t you give your location first?

I thought it was more important—

Think! You didn’t think at all. And there’s Cowley expecting me to be able to— Predict what you do!

Since when?

Since two years, three months. ‘You know him better than any of us’, he said.

Well, and so you do. It worked out, didn’t it?

~*~ 

Yeah, well, you just look, listen, and observe.

What? Do nothing, you mean?

What d'you want us to do? Announce we're on a stake out? Maybe we should just yell out, "Anybody want to confess?"

~*~

And then what?

You’ll save me.

You’ll save me.

You’ll save me.

The words echoed in Bodie’s head like a steady bass beat as he walked with Cowley and Doyle, carrying the ‘fake’ 180. He had saved Doyle, with the help of Cowley and Marty. He couldn’t help but smile at thought, then noticed Cowley looking at him. Bodie quickly got his expression under control. He had already irritated Cowley by giving in to irresistible urge and firing the rifle. Cowley had not been amused. Doyle had been though, even if he’d hidden it from Cowley. Making Doyle struggle to hide a grin or a laugh was one of life’s pleasures, Bodie thought. Doyle had not mastered impassivity.

The lads had picked up Preston. He would be transferred to police custody as quickly as possible. Brownie was on his way to the police station as well, with much grumbling. Doyle had told him all he needed to do was make a statement, but Brownie had not been appeased. “Never mind the ‘in good standing’, I’ll do quite well not seeing you again,” had been Brownie’s parting shot to Doyle. Preston hadn’t said anything as he’d been led away, but the look he had directed at Doyle had been venomous.

“Your wife is very canny,” Bodie had called to Preston. “She knew the winning side.”

“Wife?” Doyle had asked.

Bodie had kept his expression neutral. “Kathie.”

Doyle had looked at him with what he might have thought was an impassive face. “He hates me that much.”

“Don’t make enemies by halves, do you?”

“No. Apparently, by couple.” Doyle had shouldered Preston’s 180 and sought out Cowley.

They reached Cowley’s car, left by the dock when they’d appropriated a boat. “You two, take both of those rifles to the Armoury. I’m not risking their getting loose again. I do want that evaluation, along with your reports, but you can work on that tomorrow.” He eyed them both. “Well done, overall.” He got into his car and closed the door. The car sped away.

“Well, we’re alive, anyway,” Doyle said, gazing after Cowley.

“Thanks to Marty.”

Doyle transferred his gaze to Bodie. “Yeah. Marty. I should like to talk with you about Marty one of these days.”

“When I’m drunk, maybe.” Bodie raised his eyebrows. “Pub? After the Armoury?”

“Yeah, and I’m buying.”

Bodie grinned. “It is a day of miracles.”

Doyle was quiet as Bodie drove them to the Armoury. Bodie had arranged for Doyle’s car to be driven back to HQ. It was safer to transport the 180s together, he’d explained to Doyle, who obviously hadn’t bought it but also hadn’t objected. Bodie told himself he had just wanted to give Doyle time to process Kathie’s betrayal, and all that had happened, without the distraction of driving, that’s all. He didn’t know how deep under Doyle’s skin Kathie had got in the few days he’d known her. The affair had been intense, at least on Doyle’s part. Bodie rather wished she hadn’t caved so quickly when he’d threatened her.

Bodie had been interested to note Cowley’s tacit approval of his tactic with Kathie. He had considered and discarded several theories about Cowley’s interest in Doyle over the years. Sexual attraction/inappropriate romance had been ruled out, as had influence, bribery, and Cowley-(or Doyle)-as-Soviet-mole. In the end, he had settled on the simple, slightly banal, explanation of ambition. Doyle’s ambition was cloaked in cynicism, but revealed itself on the job and in what he chose to read, watch and do on his personal time. It might even be seen in some of the women he chose to date. Cowley’s ambition for Doyle was even more hidden, but Bodie had seen the proprietary pride and encouragement Cowley had shown when Doyle had set out to find the truth about Bill Haydon. It had been repeated when Doyle had taken down the Miller Trust. Cowley had even refrained from commenting to Bodie on Doyle’s beating while Bodie had been inconveniently laid up in hospital.

Ambition was one thing, but Bodie still hadn’t put together the whole picture. Doyle’s background, for all his aspirations, made it nearly impossible for him to succeed Cowley as Controller, so what was Cowley’s plan, then? What game was he playing? Cowley had been in his element with the Preston investigation, prodding Doyle, taking an odd delight in the investigation, just as he had with Miller and Haydon. Was it Doyle’s incorruptibility? Whatever ambitions Doyle may have had with the police had been scuppered when he’d chosen to go after the corruption in the department. Doyle was an immovable force when he drew his line in the sand—as Bodie had cause to know. Yeah, he could believe Cowley would latch on to Doyle’s combination of skills and bloody-minded stubbornness allied with morality. In some ways, he thought, Doyle and Cowley were very much alike.

Guns safely locked in the Armoury, Bodie drove them to Doyle’s local. There were a good number of people in the pub, but they managed to snag a small table, and sat side-by-side on the high-backed bench. Bodie reckoned it would be some time before either of them would be comfortable presenting his back to the crowd.

“Pour it out, drink it in.” Doyle raised his beer glass.

“Eh?”

“Isn’t that what you said? Wait…”

Bodie thought back. “Sweat it out and pour it back, you idiot. Doesn’t make any sense—pouring and drinking.”

“Well, you understood what I meant, didn’t you? That’s all that matters.” Doyle drank his beer.

Bodie raised his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head. He concentrated on his beer, taking a long, satisfying drink.

“Listen, I… Thanks. For the— For the last few days.” Doyle might have fumbled for words, but his gaze was steady.

Unexpectedly, Bodie’s throat felt tight. “Just doing the job,” he said, in what he thought was a creditable voice. Just doing his job. Some of the glow from the day dimmed. You’ll save me. Doyle, he thought, trusted too easily.

“Well, cheers for the job, then.” Doyle raised his glass.

They sat in companionable silence, watching the crowd as they drank their beers. Bodie felt himself relaxing by degrees. He’d not slept the night before and it was beginning to tell on him.

“Do you think he would have pulled the trigger?” Doyle’s voice was quiet.

“Eh? Preston?”

“No.” Doyle’s eyes were on his near-empty glass. “Cowley.” Doyle drew in a breath. “And Barry Martin.”

Was Doyle still brooding on that? “He said he wasn’t sure.” Bodie was convinced Cowley had said that simply because Doyle had had doubts about his own ability to shoot. Bodie knew Cowley would have pulled the trigger. Have to, have to keep our doorstep clean. It had been Bodie he’d called for when he’d said that.

“I worked with Preston and Montgomery six months before I twigged. Never had a clue about Barry.” Doyle looked up at Bodie. “You did, though.”

Bodie looked down at his glass. “What do you mean?”

“You weren’t shocked at the hospital, not like I was.”

“Yeah, well. Maybe I’ve had a bit more experience with betrayal, that’s all.”

“Krivas?”

“And others. Remember what I’ve told you, look—”

“Out for number one, right.”

“It’s true, Ray.” He caught Doyle’s gaze. “It’s better not to trust anyone.”

“I trust you.”

That damn constriction was in his throat again. “On the job.” In the partnership, where everything was clean and clear.

Doyle stared at him, seemed about to speak, then to Bodie’s surprise, he looked away. “We all have our secrets, eh?”

“Yeah, something like that. It’s human nature, isn’t it?”

Doyle shrugged. “Maybe.” He drank the rest of his beer. “Another?”

“My turn.” Bodie gathered the glasses and headed for the bar. He was glad for the interruption. Doyle spoke so readily of trust, almost as if it was a given. In Bodie’s experience, trust was a limited commodity. When he returned, he saw Doyle eyeing a couple of women at a nearby table. The women had clearly noticed his interest. Bodie placed the beers on the table and slid onto the bench.

“Ta,” Doyle said.

“Shall we make conversation?” Bodie gestured discreetly towards the women. He wasn’t in the mood, to be honest, but it was Doyle’s night.

Doyle shook his head. “Gone off birds,” he said. Doyle played it for a smile, but Bodie thought there was some truth behind it. It would take some time for Doyle to get over Kathie.

“Ah, well.” Bodie looked around, hoping to amuse Doyle. “How about that fella, then?” He nodded towards a balding, paunchy man at the bar.

Doyle rolled his eyes. “Not my type.”

“Oh, you have a type?”

“Haven’t we all?” Doyle gave him a sidelong look.

Bodie’s stomach tightened as lust pierced through him. Thank God he had mastered the art of the poker face. “Oh, yeah?” Was Doyle unaware or playing, or…? His brain presented him with an image of following Doyle up the stairs to his loft. He hurried into speech: “What’s yours, then?” Fuck—unwise.

“Oh, too dangerous,” Doyle murmured, as if he’d heard Bodie’s thoughts. Doyle looked briefly at the table, then scanned the crowd again. “Your type’s over by the door there.”

He followed Doyle’s gaze, and took the moment to master himself. There was a thin, somewhat effeminate man lounging by the door to the loo. “Ah. Thanks mate.” Doyle laughed and Bodie raised his glass to drink.

“No? Well, you could always call that singer again. From the other night?”

“Could do. Won’t.” Had he imagined the look in Doyle’s eyes? He had to have. Doyle wouldn’t play that game. Bodie took in a deep breath.

“You told me not to ask. How you got on with her.”

“Wise man.”

‘Well, there’s a first.” Doyle pushed his glass away, still half full. “I’m going home to crash.”

“You weren’t the one who stayed up all night in the car.” Bodie yawned as he stood up as well.

“Don’t do that, you’ll get me going. Anyway, I was up with files all night. You should try that, sometime. That’s worse than the car.”

“No, thanks. That’s police work, that is.”

Doyle gave him a speaking glance before leading them out of the pub. The moment—if there had been a moment—had passed. It was relief he was feeling, wasn’t it? They stood for a moment on the pavement outside. Bodie’s car was in the opposite direction from Doyle’s flat. It felt almost strange for Doyle to be going home without him.

“Pick me up at 7?” Doyle asked.

“Yeah. Hey,” Bodie touched Doyle’s arm as he turned away. “No more nutters, right? At least, not tonight.”

“They don’t grow on trees, you know.” Doyle paused. “Well, maybe they do.”

Bodie grinned. “I’m tired enough that that made some sense. Good night, Ray.” Bodie turned away, but had taken only a step when Doyle called him back. “What?”

Doyle looked at him, his face shadowed in the street light. “I don’t care what you say. I trust you. On and off the job.” He turned and walked away.

Bodie stood for a moment, then returned to his car. What had just happened? Had Doyle made a pass at him or not? Would Doyle really take that risk? It didn’t fit Bodie’s image of him, but it might have been an offer. Well, whether it had been a pass or not, Bodie had turned it down. He wasn’t going to bed with his…his…assignment. Bodie climbed into his car and slammed the door shut. He rested his head against the steering wheel for a moment. Be honest: he would go to bed with an assignment but he couldn’t go to bed with Doyle. It was bad enough as it was without adding that complication to the mix.

In his experience, friends could only be relied upon when their own self-interest was involved—in combat, for instance, or on the job. Friendship was like a tally sheet: debts were created and repaid. In every unit he’d served in, he’d had friends. Good friends. Keller. Keith Williams. Robert Perkins, and others. But it was transient, wasn’t it? They moved on with the job, or when the tally was too uneven. He thought about Krivas, who had once been a friend, until he’d taken everything for himself. Loyalty was like merchandise—freely exchanged, perhaps, but it came with a price.

His relationship with Doyle should be no different, but… You’ll save me. It was what partners did, yet Bodie knew Doyle had meant more by the words than just the obligations of partnership. Just as he knew Doyle had been thinking about more than the job when he had taken down the Miller Trust, but he had never mentioned it to Bodie. Doyle had saved Bodie’s life multiple times. He had known Bodie well enough to be on the right road at the right time to save him from the Myer-Helmut group. He had risked everything to take the sure shot in that bloody apartment. Yet not one word of obligation had been said to Bodie. Friendship didn’t seem to be a collection of reciprocal debts for Doyle. Nor was it casual. Yes, he had expected Bodie to cancel his holiday to help him with the Haydon case, but…he hadn’t asked; he hadn’t said: You owe me. Friendship and loyalty for Doyle seemed to be based more on trust than mutual benefit. It made Bodie uneasy. He had learned to put his trust in himself, or in things, not people. He wasn’t comfortable with this style of friendship, he didn’t understand his role. And yet, he admitted, there were rewards. He enjoyed working with Doyle. He enjoyed spending time with Doyle. He didn’t feel indebted or trapped in CI5.

But with that thought he was jolted back to reality. He wasn’t in CI5 purely by choice. How would Doyle view Bodie’s actions in the SAS, or his bargain with Cowley? Would trust survive such revelations? Bodie punched the steering wheel and started the car. He had been right earlier: Doyle trusted too easily. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Doyle persisted—in his bloody-minded way—in pursuing the illusion of a world without betrayal. The Haydon woman, Kathie, even Bodie himself wasn’t what he seemed to be. Dammit, and was that Bodie’s fault? So Doyle trusted him. Okay. That was good, wasn’t it? It would be easier to fulfil his mission, keep Doyle docile—

Fuck. He couldn’t do that to Doyle. Their partnership might have been built partially on a rotten footing, but they’d forged a stronger foundation together. It hadn’t been Cowley’s order that had driven Bodie’s actions the last couple of days. It hadn’t been the fear of prison that had leant authenticity to his threats towards Kathie. It had been the partnership. It had been these bloody feelings of…friendship. Real friendship—loyalty without caveats or catches or tally sheets. Was it possible? Well, he could follow Doyle’s lead, couldn’t he? Give it a bit of a try? How complicated could it be?

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

Oh, I see. Oh, that's all right, then. You mean, if I'd hit him twice, I could have killed him twice. You know what they made of me, don't you? Do you know what they've made of us? Eh? Well, it frightens me to death, Bodie.

Yeah, well, I've only come to tell you that Cowley's got a job for us.

Not me, mate. I'm suspended, remember?

Yeah, me, too. Material witness now, you know. I saw you beat that innocent young man to death.

Don't make jokes, Bodie. I'm telling you, don't make jokes.

Yeah, well, it's the only way I can get through, isn't it? Now, come on, Ray. The Old Man needs us. Look, he's fighting for his life out there. I've never seen him like this. We owe him one.

Listen to him: ‘we’. What happened to the ‘look after the Number One’ credo, then?

Yeah, well, don't do as I say, do as I do.

~*~ 

What the hell are you doing?

He's a mate, right. Can't I visit a mate in hospital without you and Cowley being at the—

Ahh, don't give me that. I know why you're here.

Look, just don't. Just leave it, Doyle.

Oh, you great clown! Do you think I don't know how you feel? Just don't blow it.

If you're asking me to drop it, forget it.

No, no, I'm not. I wouldn't ask you to drop it. I know you too well for that. But if Cowley finds out, you know what's going to happen, don't you?

You want to do me a favour?

Yeah.

Just stay clear of me. I'm going to get whoever did this, Ray. And neither you nor Cowley or anyone else is going to stop me, okay?

~*~ 

Is Doyle in there?

~*~ 

‘Sorry, Bodie, but I had to be sure.’ Trust is complicated, eh Doyle?

You listened to the tape. I was trying to clear you!

But there was a niggle, wasn’t there? Look, don’t worry about it. It’s what I’d’ve done in your place.

You know I trust you.

Yeah. I know.

It’s a fucked-up job, Bodie.

You’re only just realising that?

Damn Cowley and his schemes. Bodie, I—

I’ll drink to that. Pass the whisky.

~*~ 

Hey. Thanks.

Bodie nearly choked on his beer as the words suddenly echoed in his head, along with a flash of emotion he wasn’t expecting. It caused a coughing fit that soon had Doyle slapping him on the back.

“Don’t mind him,” Doyle said to Anson and the lads. “He’s only just got his L plates for drinking.”

“Sod,” Bodie said, when he finally could say anything. “Went down the wrong way.” He blinked, struggling to regain his composure.

“I thought you SAS types were better trained than that.” Doyle shook his head.

“Just get us another.” Bodie picked up his nearly empty glass.

Anson quickly drained his glass. “Me, too.”

Doyle gave Bodie a dark look, but gathered up the glasses and went to the bar willingly enough. They didn’t, perhaps, owe Anson and the lads two rounds after they’d busted Kammahmi’s drugs-for-arms business, but it never hurt to do a little camaraderie-building. Doyle had apparently learned that much from Bodie.

Bodie didn’t watch Doyle make his way to the bar, but he wanted to. Oh, fuck, he wanted to. With Doyle safely occupied, he went through the scene from that morning in his head: he’d chased the sniper, seen him aiming, presumably at Doyle. Freeze! The gunman had turned and sighted, so Bodie had shot him. It was only as he’d gone to check on the man that he had seen Doyle on his haunches, pressed against the wall, eyes closed.

You okay? You get a stoppage? It's always happening with these weapons! They're supposed to be reliable—

Hey. Thanks.

Two words. Two simple words, and the look in Doyle’s eyes when he’d spoken them. It must have been then. He hadn’t even realised—he’d just got on with the job, right along with Doyle. But, looking back…

“Bodie. Bodie!” It was Anson’s voice.

“What?”

“Tell these idiots, if it’s a choice between Cruijff and Keegan—”

“Keegan.”

“There, see?” Anson turned back to Nelson.

“Well, of course he’d say Keegan. You have to take into account…”

Bodie let the voices flow around him, not at all interested in the conversation. It had been a bloody good day after he’d saved Doyle. He’d played the clown for Doyle’s amusement with Marge; he’d played Bunny to Doyle’s Raffles for the break-in. Together, they’d taken the mickey out of the bomb squad, but Bodie had started it. Despite the curses he’d sent Cowley’s way for reneging on their promised intercept squad, he had actually enjoyed the B&E enormously.

“What are you smiling about?” Doyle plunked a full glass in front of Bodie and distributed the rest. “Oh, you’re not still arguing, are you?” he said to Anson.

“Maybe if Cruijff had actually been in Argentina—”

“You can’t blame a man—”

“Oh, can’t I?”

“They’ll be going at this all night,” Doyle said to Bodie.

“Too true.” Bodie took a long drink from his beer. He had capped off the day by gleefully telling Cowley that Doyle was in love. But it wasn’t Doyle, was it? And even that dangerous thought didn’t put a damper on his mood. “We could slip away. They probably won’t even notice.”

“Agents of their calibre?” Doyle grinned at him. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Bodie took another gulp for courage, and gave in to impulse. “Come on back to mine.” It wasn’t an unusual invitation. They were both comfortable at each other’s flats, although it had been a couple of weeks since they’d last spent a night in together. But tonight Bodie was hoping for something other than take-away and telly. “We’ll have our own…private celebration.” He saw Doyle’s double-take at his words. The question was, had Doyle meant it that night after Preston had been captured? There had been no hint of it since then. Bodie met Doyle’s—questioning?—gaze. He felt his own pulse in his stomach and groin.

Doyle’s expression didn’t change, but he licked his lip. “Gotta write my report.” He looked down at his beer. “Cowley’s expecting it.”

“Dutiful Doyle, eh?” He masked his disappointment. “Well, all right, come on, then.” He stood.

“Eh?” As Bodie had known he would, Doyle stood as well.

“Sooner done, sooner finished.”

“You don’t—”

“I’d rather sleep in tomorrow—unlike today. Anyway, it’s near closing time.”

Before Doyle could say anything, Anson spoke up: “Where are you off to, then?”

“Bed, I hope,” Bodie said automatically, before he could stop himself. The expected jeers started right away, so he played along. “It was an exhausting day for us both, wasn’t it, Ray?”

Doyle rolled his eyes and ignored the other agents. “You’re now doing the typing for both of us.”

“He’s so masterful.” Bodie smiled as Anson and the lads laughed, but he silently berated himself as he followed Doyle out of the pub. He must be tired to have let that joke out at this time. Fool.

“That’s done our reputations no good,” Doyle said to him as they walked to HQ.

“Tut, tut. Can I help where their minds go?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, you can.” There was no ire in Doyle’s voice, so Bodie just smiled.

At HQ they settled in to their usual report-writing routine. Bodie got the tea, Doyle got them to work. They traded details back and forth, and between the two of them reconstructed the day and the events in the houses. “What was the name of Marge’s drink concoction?”

“You don’t need to go into that much detail, Bodie.”

“Nothing about you being her boy, then?”

“Shut up, Lout.”

Bodie finished his report before Doyle, as usual. He leant back in his chair and contemplated his crossed ankles. For the first time in years, he wished for a fag. Had Doyle turned him down? Had Doyle even known what kind of an invitation it was? Was Bodie so certain he had wanted— Oh, yes, there was no doubt that he wanted Doyle. He had wanted Doyle from the first moment he had seen him move with a gun in his hand. He wanted to try to capture the quicksilver. But he had segregated that desire. He doubted Cowley would approve, and he had no wish to risk expulsion from CI5 or prison. Nor did he want to leave England just yet. Instead, Bodie had learned to simply enjoy the buzz of being around Doyle. He played close to the fire—touched it, but didn’t allow it to burn. Yet, he had risked it all today with an offhanded invitation. No. Not offhanded. He had meant it. He wanted the fire that would have been extinguished if his aim hadn’t been true. He had hungered for Doyle all day, and that had had him flying, and had made him reckless. Doyle’s refusal, and the memory of who and what he was, had brought Bodie back to earth. The desire hadn’t diminished, but he wasn’t willing to risk pushing it. Whether Doyle had said no or hadn’t understood was a moot point. Bodie had himself under control now. He wouldn’t risk prison or the partnership.

“If you’re finished, you could toddle off, you know.” Doyle’s head was still bent over his typewriter.

“I drove, in case you forgot.”

Doyle looked up. “I can find my own way home.”

Bodie eyed him, distracted from his own musings. Doyle’s gaze slid away, and Bodie raised his head, his own eyes narrowing. “What is it, Ray?”

“All I said was—”

“Yeah, I heard.” He sat up straight, all amusement gone. This behavior wasn’t a reaction to his invitation—Doyle wasn’t capable of such simpering embarrassment. It dawned on him that Doyle had been avoiding him when off the job for some time now. “Can’t wait to get back to your ‘book’, right?”

“Bodie—”

“Look, there’s been a change in your pattern. It matters. In the field.”

Doyle stared at him. “We did fine today.”

They had. Bodie didn’t alter his gaze.

Doyle looked up at the ceiling. He sighed. “Dammit.”

“Is it Marikka?” The speed with which Doyle looked at him told him he’d struck pay dirt. “I told you I don’t blame you for that.”

“I know.” Doyle stood up, as if he couldn’t sit any longer. He walked a few steps away.

“It’s the nature of our work.”

Doyle rounded on him. “I never thought you were working for the East Germans.”

Bodie felt a smile tug at his mouth. “But you did think I might make a fool of myself over Marikka. Didn’t you?”

Doyle blinked. “Well…”

“And you weren’t far off. I wanted to meet with her, and I convinced myself Cowley wouldn’t care. I had no reason to believe she was mixed up with Kreiber and his lot, but I also wasn’t thinking.” He shrugged “I should have remembered her penchant for playing dangerous games.” He looked at Doyle. “I was an idiot, Ray.”

Doyle breathed out, tongue on his teeth. “Two of us, eh?”

“You were doing your job.”

“Yeah, well.” Doyle looked down for a moment, then back at Bodie. “Cowley said I should know you. In the future, I’m going by my instincts, not his.”

That insidious warmth that always seemed a part of him when Doyle was around, slid around his heart. “You know, I came to find you.”

“When?”

“I saw you with Marikka. Couldn’t make out what was going on. I wasn’t trusting Cowley then, but you…”

“Ah, Bodie.”

“Anyway, water under the bridge now, right? No more brooding.”

“I don’t—”

“So you won’t chase me away if I want to wait till after you finish your report?”

Doyle threw up his hands. “Far be it from me to suggest you do something more interesting than watch me struggle with a typewriter.”

“It makes me feel superior.”

“Oh, I see.” Doyle sat back down in front of the typewriter. “Nearly finished, anyway.”

Bodie gathered their empty tea cups and took them back to the kitchen. Doyle’s comment about his own instincts overruling Cowley had struck a nerve Bodie had wondered if he ought to have gone after Doyle when he had walked away from the ‘not proven’ verdict in Paul Coogan’s death. Cowley had seemed so certain that it was best to leave Doyle alone. Yet Cowley didn’t know either of them as well as they knew each other.

When he returned to their desks, Doyle was signing his report. He put his pen down. “Bodie?” Doyle didn’t look at him.

“What now?”

“Willis. It seemed…personal.”

Fuck. Bodie managed a shrug. “Ran across him a couple of times in the SAS. We never got on.” He had to be convincing, squelch Doyle’s curiosity. “Nothing big, but…he must’ve remembered.” Some of the arms Bodie had ‘diverted’ had been intended for MI6. He wasn’t supposed to have known that. And then there had been that disagreeable conversation with Willis about Bodie’s future. He had chosen prison over Willis.

Doyle nodded. “Well, you do have the knack of getting up people’s noses. Cowley’s mentioned it a time or two.”

“A time or two that trait has come in handy. Turvey, for instance.”

Doyle smiled, but he seemed distracted. “Cowley’s not that cold-blooded,” Doyle finally said.

Bodie rather thought Cowley might be, but the Old Man wasn’t as stupid or vengeful as Willis was. “Depends on the cause.” Bodie thought about it. “Or the pressure. Don’t forget Cowley hung us out to dry with the fake Hanish.” That affair still rankled. It had reeked of politics. What was the point of his mission if Doyle was to be sacrificed to political manoeuvring?

“Yeah. But we made it through. Working together.”

“Never far apart, eh?”

“That’s the rumour,” Doyle said quietly.

Bodie’s stomach was suddenly tight. “We’re the top team.”

“We are. But…never give them ammunition, right?”

Their eyes met and Bodie caught his breath. Doyle had understood his invitation, he was certain of it. He’d read him right—they’d read each other right. A familiar euphoria swept through him, the same emotion he felt, sometimes, in a firefight beside Doyle, when they each knew exactly what the other would do. He wanted to grab him, kiss him, join with that fire that would temper his steel. But he wouldn’t, they wouldn’t. Doyle had come to the same conclusion as Bodie apparently, if for different reasons. He knew Doyle had his ambitions to consider, and Bodie had his own shackles. Cowley stood between them, as surely as if he were in the room. “I’ve heard that before.” He saw Doyle relax, and any remaining regret fled. Sex wasn’t worth losing what he had with Doyle.

“Well, sometimes I listen to what you say.”

“Oh, yeah? I hadn’t really noticed that.”

“Observation isn’t your forte, is it?” Doyle picked up his report and Bodie’s as well.

“It’s true that’s police work.” Bodie ushered Doyle out the door as they headed for Cowley’s office. “Although motivation makes all the difference.”

Doyle looked back at him. “As in?”

“Well, now.” He felt unaccountably nervous as he spoke, but then a lot depended on Doyle’s reaction. He didn’t want anything to change between them. “For example, this morning you did not have the look of a man who had been curled up with a book last night. In bed.” He held his breath.

The sly smile that slid across Doyle’s face relieved all Bodie’s fears. “Depends on the book, doesn’t it?”

Bodie stopped walking. “That bird from the park—with the book. The one you collided with.”

Doyle’s smile widened. He carried on down the hallway.

Bodie caught up with him. “You randy old toad, you got her number, didn’t you? No wonder you were late to the fight. I could’ve been killed, you know!”

“You had it well in hand.” Doyle opened the door to Cowley’s office.

Bodie watched as Doyle placed the reports on Cowley’s desk. “And what did she think about you getting called out this morning?”

“First time. She understood.” Doyle sounded more certain than he looked.

“Did she say anything?”

“Uh… No.”

Bodie slung a companionable arm around Doyle’s shoulders as they left the office. “You’re a fine one to talk about observation, Doyle.”

“Damn.”

Bodie smiled, recapturing some of that light-heartedness he’d felt earlier in the day. It would be all right. They had proven they could have this rare thing: friendship without strings. Partnership. Nothing had changed, even though they had skirted the issue of having sex. Bodie realised that for the first time since before he left home, he was fine with the status quo. He didn’t want anything to change.

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

Doyle. I’m going to miss you.

Very touching.

Hey. Don’t you speak to any strange men!

~*~ 

You know your trouble, don't you? Underneath that hard shell, you're just a...great big softie.

Maybe so. But it's the outside that slays them, isn't it?

~*~ 

I've never noticed that before.

What's that?

Streak of yellow down your back.

~*~ 

What've you got?

"Medieval England." "The Poet Chaucer."

"End of Term" and, uh, "Emma in Love".

Oh, you always were the romantic type.

~*~ 

So, I get to shoot you, do I?

Don’t be so gleeful about it.

You’re the one called me a great big softie.

I never said you weren’t a homicidal maniac softie

~*~ 

Well, we'll have to, won't we. Right, come on, D'oyle Carte. Let's go.

Running all the way, sir.

~*~ 

Officer material.

You or her?

Bodie knew Doyle hadn’t had this idea in mind when he’d complimented Liz, but Bodie reckoned the situation warranted it. Certainly, Bodie had thought about going to bed with Susan or Sally after a shared op, and there had been that memorable night with Julie after they had nearly died together. He glanced in the back view mirror. “Oi! Save some for me,” he said.

“Drive faster.” Liz’s voice was sultry.

“Or not,” said Doyle.

“Don’t be selfish, Raymond.” He grinned, anticipation bubbling inside him, suppressing his exhaustion from a sleepless night. How many times in the aftermath of a particularly tense op had they gone hunting birds together, seeking relief? Capturing Case’s gang had been somewhat worse than a typical op, simply because they had had to maintain iron self-control, given the presence of the Shaw family. They had had to wait until Cowley and Sal had provided them the opportunity to act, at bloody last. The whole thing had been a fiasco, but Cowley had been pleased with them—no innocents had been killed by their actions, and the criminals had been captured. Injury, however, might have been done. The Shaws had held up magnificently during the hostage ordeal, but trauma often manifested itself after the danger was over. He knew Doyle was worried about Judy and her refusal to return to London. Bodie thought Judy had behaved with extraordinary sense and restraint. He had been more concerned about Liz while Case had held them. Liz was the one who would fight back instinctively, even when it didn’t make sense. He admired her spirit, but had been worried throughout that she would bring disaster down upon them.

The thought gave him pause now as he drove them to Liz’s flat. Cowley had taken the helicopter back to London, leaving the four of them to drive with one of Inspector Cross’s men back to London. Sally had taken the front passenger seat, and had fallen asleep almost immediately when they started their late afternoon drive. Liz had sat between Bodie and Doyle in the back, and it was she who had started a discreet game of wandering hands with Bodie. He had happily played along while maintaining a desultory conversation with DC Boyer and Doyle. He enjoyed Liz in bed, and if she wanted to play with a little illicit danger after experiencing the real thing, who was he to quibble? He hadn’t, however, expected her to bring Doyle into the game, or anticipated that Doyle might accept her invitation. Doyle had suddenly looked at him in the back seat while Liz had sat still, her head lowered, her hand on Doyle’s leg. For Bodie, the game had taken on a whole new allure. He had tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. Doyle, after a moment, had sat back and his hand had slid casually up Liz’s leg. Lust had flared in Bodie, fuelled by the image of Doyle joining them in Liz’s bed. At last, at fucking last he’d be able to see Doyle in action, compare it to the fluid beauty that was Doyle moving with a gun in hand.

Never give them ammunition. Was a threesome any less dangerous than going to bed with each other? He knew Cowley wouldn’t approve, but he might ignore it—if he found out. That was why they were going to Liz’s flat. Their flats were under standard, intermittent observation, as were all agents’ flats in CI5. There was a danger, even at Liz’s that Cowley would find out. Yet Doyle wasn’t hesitating, was he? Bodie tightened his grip on the steering wheel. They were all tired, too tired to be thinking clearly. It had taken longer to get away from the house than it should have done. Cowley had insisted on an immediate debrief, and there had been the usual complications with the locals. It was evening already, and they were due back to work by 0730. Maybe their judgment was impaired, maybe arousal and recklessness went hand in hand. But Doyle was the one who quoted regulations. If he wasn’t worried, then why should Bodie be?

“We can get take-away if we want,” Liz said. “Or I have food in.”

“Funny, I haven’t been thinking about food,” Bodie said.

“Well, there’s a marvel.” Bodie caught Doyle’s grin in the mirror.

“You two had me fooled. I thought you were civil servants!”

Bodie nodded. “Well, we are.”

“Of a sort,” Doyle said.

“Pretty exciting sort. I knew there was something dangerous about you, Bodie.” There was more than admiration in Liz’s voice, there was a disquieting amount of exhilaration.

“Oh, he comes by that naturally.” Bodie recognised the slight edge in Doyle’s voice with some trepidation. He willed Liz to stop talking, but she tumbled right on over the edge of the cliff.

“You’d have to, for your kind of job, right? You’d have to like the danger, but be able to control it. Like at the house, when you were both so meek until you jumped them at the end.”

“Meek?” Bodie put outrage into his tone, hoping to turn the conversation towards humour and salvage the evening.

“Oh, well, you know what I mean. I see it was all an act now. Anyway, there wasn’t much meekness about you when you came to my rescue.”

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment and damned Liz.

“No, no meekness,” Doyle agreed. “Stupidity, though.”

Bodie nodded. “Yeah, okay, Ray.”

“Stu—?”

“We could have had them then,” Doyle said. “But he ran to you.”

“But…” Liz’s voice trailed off.

“We were just damned lucky they were more interested in getting away than having their jollies with us. They could have killed us all—probably would have done to cover their tracks at the end. Bodie nearly got killed as a hostage just about a month ago. Danger is not a fantasy. It’s not fun.”

“Doyle,” Bodie said.

There was silence from the back seat. Bodie drove the last half mile and pulled in to a spot near Liz’s flat. He turned off the engine and climbed out of the car. Doyle and Liz got out as well.

“I’m sorry,” Liz said, subdued.

“You’re tired,” Doyle’s tone was gentler. “We all are. Look,” he kissed her on the cheek, “I’m calling it a night.“

“Stay here, Doyle.” Bodie made it an order. He took Liz’s arm in an easy grip. “I’ll see you to your door.”

She nodded and they walked to the entrance to her block. She dug her key out of her bag, then looked at him. “I didn’t—”

He shook his head and silenced her with a brief kiss. “Good night, Liz. Go to sleep.” He turned away before she had a chance to respond. He listened as he walked away to make certain she got inside all right. When he arrived back at the car, Doyle was leaning against the passenger door, arms crossed. “Happy now?”

“You should have—”

“Take you home. Get inside.” When Doyle didn’t move he added. “I get it. She reminded you of that girl, didn’t she? The one with the headband.”

Doyle didn’t move. “Sometimes I hate how well you know me.”

“Yes, the feeling’s mutual.” Bodie walked around the car, and they both climbed in. Bodie drove to Doyle’s flat, paying careful attention to his driving. Exhaustion was catching up with him now there was nothing to replenish his energy. When he reached Doyle’s block, he paused to let him out in the street.

“Find a place to park.”

Bodie sighed, but did as Doyle asked. He turned off the ignition.

“Come up with me, eh?” Doyle was gone before Bodie had a chance to argue. Fuck. He didn’t have the energy for one of Doyle’s conversations. Yet, he followed Doyle to his block and up to his flat.

Doyle turned on a light in the hallway, set down his overnight bag, and took off his jacket. His lips were pressed tightly together, and his brow was furrowed.

“We should all get some sleep,” Bodie said. But he leaned against the wall, his arms crossed.

Doyle glanced at him, licked his lip, then walked towards him. “I don’t like danger.”

Bodie couldn’t help but grin at that. “Right. Pull the other one, then.”

Doyle stopped in front of Bodie, standing very close. His face was serious, perhaps even a little angry. It was an expression Bodie knew well from countless firefights. “‘Like’ isn’t the right word.”

“Love?” Bodie was pleased that his voice sounded normal, unperturbed. It reflected nothing of the chaotic state of his nerves and pulse.

“Love. Hate. At least I know what the hell I’m getting myself into.” Doyle moved the final few inches and put his mouth on Bodie’s.

Bodie groaned, and opened his mouth to Doyle. As Doyle fed on him, he moved his hands to Doyle’s back, then slid one of them up to his neck. He kissed Doyle with all the pent up need of years. He felt submerged in Doyle, his scent, his body in his arms, the incredible hunger in his mouth. It was just the two of them. No Liz. Thank God, it was— Wait. Wait. A strong sense of danger and self-preservation made him push Doyle back, just enough to break the kiss.

“Bo—”

He shook his head, and put his fingers on Doyle’s mouth. “Never give them ammunition,” he said softly. He saw the flash of disappointment in Doyle’s face and took a firm grip on Doyle’s arm to keep him from moving further away. He leaned forward to whisper into Doyle’s ear: “Check the flat.”

Doyle stared at him, then swallowed and nodded. They moved as one through the flat, checked it over as well as they could without equipment. It would have to suffice, Bodie wasn’t going to be denied Doyle yet again. But he worried that the interruption was enough for Doyle to come to his senses. He remembered Doyle’s voice too well: Glad to get out of it, though. Glad to join this mob.

Doyle had joined CI5 voluntarily. He had ambition, and Cowley fed it: That kind of double-think, you might have been a good man for the service, too. I've advanced to triple-think. And again, there had been that note of—pride?—in Cowley’s voice when speaking to Doyle. Doyle had to know what he was risking by going to bed with Bodie. And yet, Doyle had made the first move. Exhaustion? Allied with arousal and recklessness—that could be behind Doyle’s lack of control. Bodie closed his eyes briefly. He knew where his duty to Cowley lay. He felt a familiar twisting in his gut.

They didn’t find any bugs. Doyle met him at the door to his bedroom; he took Bodie’s mouth before Bodie had a chance to say anything. Bodie knew he should stop this. He feared prison, he feared Doyle’s regret. But his need for Doyle’s passion swept all away before it. He gave in to the moment’s temptation and, once decided, didn’t think again. They undressed each other in a tangle of hands and arms and mouths. He was as eager to taste Doyle as to touch him. He suckled the juncture of Doyle’s neck and shoulder, his fingers reaching through opened jeans and pants to just touch the root of Doyle’s hardening cock.

“Ahh, Bodie. Was afraid…” Doyle tilted his head back as Bodie’s tongue explored his neck.

“You know I’ve wanted this,” Bodie said to him.

Doyle swayed forward and it was his turn to reduce Bodie’s body to compliancy. He led them to the bed, but didn’t protest when Bodie rolled them so he was on top. “Happy now?” Doyle’s gaze was sardonic.

“Will be in a moment,” Bodie said. He closed his eyes as their cocks slid against each other.

“Fast off the mark, are you? Always suspected as much.”

Bodie opened his eyes. “Oh, Raymond, you’ll pay for that.”

Doyle grinned, and his hand grasped and pulled on Bodie’s cock. “Not tonight, I think.”

“You…could be right.” Bodie gasped at the surge of desire that centred in his cock. He thrust into Doyle’s hand, unable to restrain himself.

“Bodie…fucking…beautiful.”

“Ray—” He bit into Doyle’s shoulder, heard Doyle cry out, and then the rush roared through him, the sweet ecstasy of release. He lay panting on Doyle, his cock still feeling like it was jerking. He rubbed Doyle’s nipple, and heard the intake of his breath. “Like that, eh?”

“No, not at all.”

Bodie smiled a little and tasted Doyle’s skin. He kept his finger still.

“Damn you.”

“Ah. I thought you did.” He moved and put his mouth over Doyle’s nipple, tonguing and nipping him. Doyle convulsed under him, tipping Bodie off to the side. Bodie reached to take Doyle’s cock in his hand. He wanted to suck him, make him cry out his name, curse him again. But all it took was a few long slides of his hand, and Doyle came with more of a whimper than a cry. Bodie held him, and stroked his back as he felt Doyle relax. “Well, that wasn’t much credit to either of us.”

“Just as well Liz wasn’t here.” Doyle’s voice was muffled, his mouth buried against Bodie’s shoulder.

Bodie let out a brief laugh. “I rather think we might have lasted longer with Liz.”

Doyle raised his head and peered at him. “Been a long time coming.”

“No, actually, it was very quick—” He broke off as Doyle bit him. “Oi! That’s my skin you know.”

“Yeah, soft as your insides, too.” Doyle licked the bite. Anyway, tit for tat.”

“Oh, is that how this is going to go?” It was only as Doyle stilled that the enormity of what they had done, and what he wanted, hit Bodie. “Ray—”

“We’ll have to be very, very discreet.” Doyle stared at him. There was beard shadow on his jaw, and his mouth looked like it had been kissed. His eyes seemed huge, but his gaze was like a laser.

“We’ll go on as we’ve started,” Bodie assured him, but still Doyle stared at him. “Take it easy, Ray.” He flicked Doyle’s hair with his hand. “It’s sex, not…” He didn’t know quite how to finish that sentence.

Doyle lowered his head against Bodie’s shoulder once more. “Yeah.” He laughed then, a sudden short sound.

“What’s that about, then?”

“Well. Imagine telling Cowley about our great romance.”

“I’d rather not, thank you. Anyway, learned long ago that romance wasn’t for me.”

“Marikka?”

“Made a bit of a fool of myself there, didn’t I? Twice.”

“Others?”

“Stop fishing for stories I’m not going to tell you. Suffice it to say my affairs are uncomplicated.”

“Everyone needs someone.”

“Why? Anyway,” Bodie adjusted himself so Doyle was lying more comfortably against him, “I’ve got you.”

“Until a bullet finds one or the other of us.”

Bodie flashed on the moment right before he pulled the towel away from the body in the bath in Van Neikerk’s hotel room. “Don’t start in with all that bad medicine again. We’ll guard each other’s backs, just like we’ve always done.”

“Yeah.” Doyle said quietly.

Bodie closed his eyes. He knew he’d said that bit about bad medicine more forcefully than was warranted. But the thought of Van Neikerk had brought back to him his argument with Cowley at the time. Bodie was no longer willing to leave Doyle’s protection up to Cowley. The Hanish op had opened his eyes, the foul-up with Van Neikerk had sealed his decision. He thought he might understand now why Cowley had brought Bodie in to ‘even the odds’ for Doyle. The revelations about Wakeman and the harm he’d caused CI5 had been revealing, as had been Cowley’s reaction to Barry Martin. CI5 would only survive as long as Cowley and the squad retained credibility and integrity. Doyle was as damn well incorruptible as Cowley himself. Two such men in as small an organization as CI5 would have influence on the whole. Fair enough. But why the hell, then, was Cowley so reckless with him? Giving them the job to protect Parsali was one thing, even sending Doyle in as Van Neikerk was understandable, but the ease with which Van Neikerk had escaped—

“You staying the night?”

Bodie blinked. He hadn’t even thought about it, just assumed, he supposed. “Too tired to move, mate.” He would have to, though, if Doyle wanted his space.

“Seconded.”

Doyle remained sprawled against him. Bodie relaxed and drifted towards sleep, until Doyle suddenly sat up. “What?”

Doyle was reaching for his alarm. “We’re due in at 0730.”

Bodie groaned.

“Want enough time for breakfast? We’ll have to grab it on our way.”

Bodie groaned again.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Doyle settled back down and Bodie flung an arm across him to keep him there.

“Don’t know how you keep your birds from throwing you out of bed,” Bodie said, “the way you thrash about.”

“Shut up.”

Bodie smiled, and relaxed bit by bit as Doyle lay still. The twisting uncertainty was gone from his gut. They’d be careful, he thought, and Cowley might never know. If he did find out, well, they’d cross that bridge when they came to it. He had faith in his own ability to think on his feet. Cowley wanted Doyle protected, who better than Bodie? Anyway, it was just sex.

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

I'll find out when I—hey, listen, these peaches are bruised.

Trouble with you, sailor: Don't know your own strength.

~*~ 

Well, he may not be pulling the rope, but he's certainly hearing those bells.

Well, that's your job.

Hey?

To check her out.

Ah, come on, Doyle's girlfriend?

Would have to be checked out if he wants to marry her. No operative can marry without my permission.

Didn't know that.

It's in the small print. And, anyway, it's not ever likely to affect you, is it?

~*~ 

What are you trying to tell me? You trying to tell me that Bodie's over the hill or something?

You've got a grade seven assignment tomorrow morning, just supposing. And you've got a choice of three men for your section. Your pool is Drake, Bodie, Charleton, Fields, Taggart. Which three do you take? Doyle. Which three?

Charleton. Taggart. And Fields. But that's just tomorrow morning, not—next—

Next week? Month? Year? I'll bear it in mind.

Okay. Something’s eating at him. But he won’t— I don’t—

Know? You’re supposed to know him better than he knows himself. That’s your job.

~*~ 

What, Major Nairn?

Aye.

He's a bit of a handful, old Freddie, you know.

Shall I give him your respects?

I don't think he'll accept them, sir.

~*~ 

C'mon, one on the corner.

I've got some chores to do. I'll take advantage of the spare time.

But the job's blown up in our faces.

Those two kids blew themselves up rather than knock the porter over. I'll see you.

~*~ 

Who was it, Ray? Who was it? Oh, c'mon, Ray, for Christ's sake! Who was it?

Bodie shook his head, as if the physical action could clear the words from his mind. He had no time for this; get on with it. Finally, after months of rehabilitation, they had only this final test of Macklin’s to pass and they would be back on the streets together. There was no need to relive the past, it was over, at fucking last. Their task was to retrieve the target from the house, under the noses of the opposition. They had waited until the sun was setting, and then Doyle had infiltrated the house through the kitchen and up the back stairs. He should be lurking in the sitting room adjacent to the master bedroom, tagging out any guards he might have found along the way. Bodie had gone through a bedroom window on the west side. He had tagged out a man in the hallway. Their target was in the master bedroom. The plan was for a double-entry: Bodie from the hall, Doyle from the sitting room. If all went well, they’d escape with the target to the balcony and down the outside stairs to the bikes waiting in the shrubbery. Bodie checked his watch: 35 seconds to go. It was all a simulation, using tags rather than live ammo, but his body reacted as if the danger was real.

There was a sudden bang, followed immediately by Doyle’s shout: “Bodie!”

He wrenched open the door to find smoke billowing through the bedroom. Instinctively, he covered his mouth. Where was Doyle? He couldn’t see— Concentrate on the op. He side-stepped just as he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. The move saved him from being tagged, and he spun, grabbed hold of his assailant and tagged him out. His eyes watered from the smoke and chemicals. He had to get to Doyle— No; Trust Doyle, dammit. He ran towards the door to the balcony. Doyle was there already, just as he should be, with their target. Doyle was putting a guard down with more enthusiasm than the simulation called for. Bodie grabbed the target as he edged away, and bundled him through the doorway to the balcony outside. The fresh air was a relief although it didn’t stop the cough he couldn’t suppress. Doyle tapped him on the shoulder, Bodie paused to let him go by and make certain the twisting, iron stairway was clear. They hurried down the stairs and ran for the bikes. They got the target into the side car, secured him with handcuffs. Doyle climbed on that bike, Bodie took the other, and they sped off down the drive.

Macklin’s voice suddenly carried to them over a loudspeaker: “All right, done. Meet in the kitchen in five.”

Bodie let his breath out slowly, then turned the bike to go back to the house. Doyle did the same.

“All right?” Doyle said to Bates, who had played the role of the target.

“Bit wrenched, but I’ll live.” Bates rubbed his wrist where the cuffs had held him. “What the hell was that with all the bloody smoke?”

Doyle raised his eyebrows. “You mean that’s not standard?” He looked at Bodie. “Bloody Macklin. Tell me, is it still worth it?”

“The only time we surprised him? You know it is. Come on, let’s get this over with.”

Macklin was waiting for them, along with the men who had played the villains, including Corbett, who was limping. “Sorry,” Doyle said to him. “Blame Macklin.”

Bodie hid his smile. The smoke bomb had thrown their plan off, but they’d survived. He listened to Macklin’s assessment, nodded and responded as expected, and as soon as he was released he went outside to clear his head. He sat down on the patio steps, arms on his thighs, and contemplated the dark garden spread before him. There were lights illuminated paths, and light from the house spilled out onto the patio. He had been so certain about Doyle’s recovery when he’d spoken to Cowley in surgery, and to Mayli in the ambulance. He’d celebrated with Doyle when he’d been released from hospital, and chivvied him on when rehab had got to him. Now here they were, back on the squad, and he didn’t understand what was wrong with him or why he’d had to get out of there. He had just punched Ray lightly on the shoulder, told him he’d be back, and walked out.

“You lost me a bet.”

To Bodie’s horror, it was Macklin who spoke to him and sat beside him on the steps. “You bet against us today?”

Macklin snorted. “This? Piece of cake for you two.”

“Cake, he says.” Bodie produced a cough for effect.

“Even if you did nearly blow it.”

Bodie felt himself tense. “You passed us.”

“I don’t aim for perfection, just close to it.”

Bodie looked at a line of bare trees in the distance.

“We were, of course, among other things, testing whether you trust Doyle to hold up his end.”

“There’s no doubt there.”

“Maybe not, but we had to be certain. You had to be certain as well.”

Bodie’s jaw was tight. “I am. Ray wants back on the squad. There was never any question but that he’d make it once his mind was made up.”

“Why was he so determined, do you think?”

Bodie shrugged. “It’s his life, isn’t it? I can’t see him out of CI5.”

Macklin’s gaze was on the garden. “You know, I believe Cowley gives his agents a better shot at survival than I ever had.” Macklin stood. “About that bet. It was with Cowley years ago. He said he’d found a man who could keep Doyle from self-destructing. I didn’t believe him.”

“It was you?” Bodie couldn’t hide his astonishment, much to his chagrin.

“It was Cowley. But I was opposed to hiring Doyle. I didn’t think he’d make it.”

“He’s tougher than you think.“

“Oh, yes. But he’s reckless when he doesn’t care. He has to have something to believe in.”

“He does. Inside. You underestimate him.”

Macklin looked at him for a moment. “I rather think you do.” He turned and walked away.

Bodie frowned and looked back at the garden. He didn’t know what Macklin was on about. It had to be about Bodie’s hesitation in the bedroom. But that was the same old thing, wasn’t it? He’d hesitated in the smoke because his priority had been both Doyle and the target. Don’t compromise the op. Just once, he’d like a bloody simulation that didn’t demonstrate the impossibility of a split mission. It wasn’t Bodie’s sodding fault if he’d paused to sort out priorities.

Bodie sighed, and leaned forward to rest his head on his hands. It was dangerous, though, and he’d have to get it straight in his head again, after months of not worrying about Doyle on the job. Apparently, it was Macklin’s fault he was in this position. Cowley had wanted Doyle, Doyle needed a keeper, enter Bodie. Unbidden, the scene he had been doing his best to suppress came into his mind’s eye: he had been in the car with Cowley as they had driven to the hospital to check on Ray. “Have you ever thought of getting out?” Cowley had asked.

“Yeah, every time I take the physical,” he’d replied. “Still, what else would I do?” Unless he left England, he was at the mercy of Cowley, anyway, wasn’t he?

“What would you do?”

He’d laughed. “I haven't thought that far, sir.”

“This job doesn't get easier.”

“It's no wonder with all the sophisticated weaponry they've got, and we're supposed to stop them? Mind you, once you start wondering why, I suppose that's the time to get out.”

“Does Doyle wonder why?”

Bodie had gripped the steering wheel tighter, but kept his voice light. “Well, you know Ray.”

Cowley had nodded. “‘Blame himself for the invention of gun powder’, just so.” He had been quiet for a few moments. “The doctor thinks he’s wrestling with a decision. Maybe whether to live or die.”

“He won’t die.”

“Perhaps you can help him make up his mind.”

“What do you mean?”

“He cares about you.”

Bodie had been immediately wary. “We’re partners.”

“It’s more than that, though. Isn’t it.”

Cold had washed through Bodie, settled in the pit of his stomach. He hadn’t looked at Cowley. “I don’t know what—”

“Och, Bodie, we haven’t time for this. Do you think I care? As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or my plans, you can do what you like with each other. Your efficiency hasn’t suffered. Indeed—”

“Our efficiency?”

“The point is, perhaps Doyle needs a more…visceral reminder of why he needs to live.”

Bodie had floundered for a moment. Outrage and anger had warred with embarrassment and, inevitably, had come out as inappropriate humour: “You want me to screw him in his hospital bed, sir?”

Cowley had drawn in a breath. “Thank you, Bodie. I always know I may rely on you to go to vulgar extremes. Your presence will suffice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I believe we understand one another.”

The useless anger had nearly won out, but he had managed to speak levelly: “Of course, sir.”

As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or my plans. He had heard the warning in that quite clearly. It wasn’t needed, he knew the score. The sex was…just part of the deal with Doyle, that was all. Doyle had made the first pass, not him. Doyle had wanted him, not— Bodie stumbled in his thoughts and switched tracks: he was just following his mission, keeping close to Doyle. It was better than Doyle taking up with Esther, or Ann Holly—both of whom might have tempted him away from CI5. Cowley hadn’t been pleased with either affair. Doyle, at least, hadn’t got serious about any other birds after Ann. Maybe that was why Cowley was being—Bodie drew in a breath—so fucking benevolent. How the hell had Cowley found out, anyway? It wasn’t a constant thing, and they’d been damned discreet. Well. It didn’t matter. He was doing his job and, as Cowley had implied, he and Doyle understood each other even better than before. That day at the hospital, Doyle had signalled him, and Bodie had realised, at last, who had shot him. After that, they had caught up with Mayli, Doyle had decided to live, and now they were back to normal. Everything was fine, including their standing with Cowley. So, why the fuck was he out here feeling like…like…he had only seconds before a grenade went off?

“What the fuck are you doing out here?”

Bodie couldn’t help but smile at the inevitability of Doyle’s timing. He didn’t look round at Doyle. “I am communing with nature.”

“Oh, yes? Well, any more communing and you’re walking back to London. C’mon, they’ve released us.”

Bodie stood up. “Until when?”

“0600.” Doyle fell into step with him as they walked towards the car.

Bodie groaned.

“And it’s an obbo duty.”

Bodie looked at Doyle. “They wouldn’t pull that trick again?”

Doyle grinned. “They would. But I do think it’s legit—we’re relieving Lewis and Susan.”

“If it’s not, and they’re in on it…”

“They will regret it.”

“Always in accord.” Bodie lightly slapped Doyle on the back.

“Lucky for us or we would have failed today.” Doyle glowered.

“Still irate about the smoke bomb?”

They reached the car and Doyle dug out his keys. “Can’t get the stench out.”

“That bad?” Bodie suddenly leaned in to take a whiff. He wrinkled his nose. “Better take a shower before we go out, then.” Doyle looked at him quickly, an arrested expression on his face. “What? Has something come up?” Bodie tried to hide his immediate disappointment.

“Not yet.” Doyle gave the obvious response, but he seemed oddly diffident.

Bodie shrugged, feeling awkward. “Look, it’s not a big deal if you want to cancel—”

“No. It’s just…” Doyle trailed off, looked down at the keys in his hand, then up at the sky, then back at Bodie. “Dammit.”

Bodie smiled at the reassuringly familiar irritation. It banished the awkwardness as if he’d never felt it. “Right.” He walked around to the passenger side of the car. “Home, shower, and then dinner at Gino’s new place. We have reservations. We can’t disappoint him, eh?”

“Nor us,” Doyle said, and there was mischief and lust aplenty in the look he sent Bodie’s way, before he climbed into the driver’s seat.

The rush of relief Bodie felt was so profound that he wondered if a subconscious fear of Doyle cancelling their plans had been the cause of that sense of dread he’d felt. It seemed ridiculous, utterly and completely unlike him—unlike Doyle, for that matter. But then, how likely was it that they—okay, be honest, he—would have made this plan for what was, for all intents and purposes, essentially a…date? Christ. He had latched on to the plan as a reward for enduring Macklin’s torture. He had suggested Gino’s. He had made the reservation. No, young lady, just Doyle. My partner. You remember—from work? Dinner, a nightcap at Doyle’s, and then bed. Deliberate. Planned. It wasn’t at all the pattern they’d established for their sexual relationship. Doyle’s confusion was perhaps understandable.

“Penny for ‘em,” Doyle said. They were speeding towards London. “Well, maybe a ha’penny.”

“Cheapskate.” Bodie shifted in his seat. “Nothing much, just relishing no more minder jobs, now that you’re fully back.”

“And no more bloody files for me. I’ll tell you this, though, Cowley’s got no ground to stand on when he complains about our reports.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah! We tell him everything he needs to know: who, what, where, when, in concise and proper form. Lewis writes essays, Stuart writes in as few sentences as possible, Anson includes his opinion on everything, Allison—”

“Maybe we should demand a rise.”

“Oh, I’m certain that’s a good idea. You first.”

“So kind.”

They never ran out of things to say, Bodie thought, as the miles flew past. He had often had mates with whom he’d banter back and forth, but Doyle was never at a loss for a come back. It was a double-act that Cowley encouraged, believing it aided them in the field. Although they could, and had done it to the point of Turner, at least, raising his gun to get them to stop. Which of course, hadn’t worked. Turner was a berk. They had had one memorable evening when their dates had walked out on them. It had taken him and Doyle a while to notice, which they had ruefully acknowledged at the time. The truth was, he was never bored when Doyle was with him. He had been spending most of his off time with Doyle during his recovery from the shooting. They had fallen in to the habit of Bodie stopping off at Doyle’s after he’d finished an assignment, or Doyle escaping from his desk to sit in the rest room with Bodie, trading insults with the other agents. He hadn’t enjoyed working on his own, much less with any other agent. It had been an unspoken worry between the two of them that Doyle’ wouldn’t make it back.

It was with that thought in mind that Bodie later raised his glass at Gino’s. “Here’s to the return of complaints about CI5 specials, unpaid expense chits, and Cowley not telling us everything—or anything.”

“Here, here.” Doyle touched his glass to Bodie’s. “And to being shot at, threatened, and beaten.” He sipped the wine.

“Better than being banned by the typing pool?”

“Heard about that, did you?”

“Well, I did warn you.”

“Yes, but as your warnings in the past—”

“Ahh Signor Bodie!” Gino stopped by their table. “Everything it is to your liking?”

“Yes, of course, as always. You remember my partner, Ray Doyle?”

“Yes, yes.” Gino smiled at Doyle. “But…uh…no more bombings tonight, yes?”

“We’ll do our best,” Doyle assured him.

“Grazie. And you will let me know if there is anything you need.”

“Thank you, Gino.” Bodie watched as he continued on his rounds in the dining room.

“He’s done well with this new place, hasn’t he?” Doyle asked.

Bodie nodded. “I’ve only been here a couple of times, but it has always been busy.”

“He must have got seed money to rebuild.”

“Insurance, no doubt.”

“Oh, no doubt.”

Bodie looked at Doyle, and then he grinned. “No, it really wasn’t me. I think Cowley might have had a hand in it.”

“Trust Cowley.”

“In some things.”

Doyle shrugged. “At least our eyes are wide open. Anyway, it’s better than working on a lathe, isn’t it?”

“Working on a…what?” Bodie watched with fascination as Doyle looked discomfited. “All right, give.”

“Well, you said it to me!”

“I never!”

“Admittedly, it was in a mad dream I had.”

“A…?”

“Now there’s a pose that’s worth all the mocking that’s about to come my way.”

Bodie closed his mouth. “Dream?” He raised his eyebrows.

“When I was in hospital. Only remember bits of it. You and Cowley were badgering away at me. It wasn’t very restful, you know.”

Bodie thought about it. “Was this when they were going on about how you had some sort of decision to make?”

“Don’t ask me, I was unconscious.”

“Trust you to make a coma complicated.”

“It’s a wonder I came out of it at all, trying to puzzle out what you meant.”

Bodie did his best to look prim. “I can’t be held accountable for what you think I say in your dreams.”

“Oh yes?” Doyle tilted his head. “What about what I do to you in my dreams?”

“That I would be interested in discussing.”

“It wasn’t exactly discussion I was thinking about.”

“With you? Everything is a discussion.”

“Are you saying I talk too much?”

“You are very…vocal.”

“Vocal or oral?” Doyle smiled.

Bodie shifted in his chair. Doyle’s smile widened. “You little sod.”

“Just keeping your attention.” The waiter arrived at their table with food. “Lost cause, I see.”

“It’s true,” Bodie said, after the waiter left, “I would have a hard time choosing between you and Gino’s frutti di mare.”

“Cheers.”

“Ah, now, be honest: me or a Norton Commando Roadster in mint condition?”

Doyle chewed, then swallowed. “Mint condition, you say?”

“Speaking of which, what was that monstrosity I saw Murphy with at HQ?”

Doyle winced. “That is a Harley.”

“It is not.”

“It is. From the early seventies, with it’s boat tail option.”

“To make it float?”

Doyle laughed. “I reckon Murphy would help you test that theory.”

“Why is he…? Oh. An assignment?”

“You didn’t hear it from me.”

“Yes I did, just now.”

“Bodie.”

“But I’m willing to forget it—for a price.”

“Mercenary.”

“Did I say anything about money?”

“That’s a good thing, given how much this meal is liable to cost me.”

Bodie looked at Doyle quickly. He had assumed…

“Don’t even,” Doyle said in a deadly soft tone.

Bodie rapidly revised what he had been about to say. “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s been a long few months.”

“Has it? I hadn’t noticed.”

Doyle laughed again. “I always knew you were delusional.”

“I prefer to call it having a flexible memory.”

“Yeah, well.”

Their eyes met for a moment and Bodie heard Thanks, as clearly as if Doyle had spoken. He looked down at his food. “It comes in handy having a flexible memory when working for Cowley.” Doyle glanced at him, and Bodie knew he was thinking about Manton, even though it had been over a year since Cowley had killed him. “Are you still glad to have joined this mob?”

Doyle’s eyes were on his food, but he answered without hesitation: “Yes. I won’t deny there have been things that trouble me, but it’s still worth it. I still feel we do some good.” He took a bite and swallowed. “Ann didn’t think any good could come from our methods.”

“She has the luxury of innocence. And righteousness.” Bodie finished with his meal, and drank the rest of the wine in his glass.

“Yeah, that’s it.” Doyle shrugged. “Someone’s got to do it, and I’d rather it was us than—”

“Turner.”

Doyle grinned. “I heard he refused to work with you again.”

“Thank God for that. You might have lost your partner to prison.” Bodie said it as a joke, but inside he grimaced at his choice of words.

“Aren’t you the one always boasting about your coolness?” Doyle set down his knife and fork.

“Under fire, not sitting in a car with Turner and his blasted peanuts.”

“Better than Anson and his cigars.”

“Or Pennington and his whistling.”

“Charleton cracking his knuckles.”

“Taggart’s gum chewing.”

Doyle tilted his head. “So what do they complain about us?”

“Backchat.”

“Well, at least we’re entertaining.”

Bodie noticed the waiter approaching. “Oh, look, your day of reckoning has arrived.”

“Stay close, I may need backup.”

“My gun is at your service.”

“Money, you berk.”

“Oh, no, this is all on you. You know, we should have ordered champagne.”

They refused the offer of coffee or afters, and Doyle dealt with the bill without allowing Bodie to even see it. Doyle drove them home and it was only as Bodie was following him up the stairs to the first floor, garden view flat (“Maybe we should die more often,” had been Doyle’s reaction when he had first seen it), that Bodie realised how naturally he thought of Doyle’s place as ‘home’. Of course, he had spent a lot of time in the flat while Doyle was recovering, but even so, it was as if this place was his own. He brushed his hand across Doyle’s arse as they climbed the stairs, an action as instinctive as breathing by now. He felt…happy, as if a stoppage had miraculously cleared itself.

“You just can’t keep your hands to yourself, can you?” Doyle paused by the door, key in hand.

“‘I can resist anything except temptation’.”

Doyle led the way into his flat. “Impulse control, that’s your problem.”

“Haven’t noticed it being a problem.” Bodie walked towards the living room. “Drink?”

“No.” Doyle touched Bodie on his arm. “Afters.” He walked to his bedroom, switched on the lamp by his bed, and turned. Bodie drew close to him. Doyle put his hands on either side of Bodie’s head and kissed him. “What was it you’re supposed to forget?”

“Eh, what?” Bodie murmured, taking the initiative by kissing Doyle back.

“That’s what I thought.” Doyle tilted his head back as Bodie explored his neck with his mouth. “You’re like putty in my hands.”

“Oh, yeah? I’m not the one melting into the floor, am I?” He brushed his fingers across Doyle’s nipple, covered by the sheer fabric of his shirt. He smiled as he heard Doyle’s sharp intake of breath. He kissed him again, and felt Doyle’s fingers working to undo the buttons of his shirt.

“Like this better than those polo-necks you normally wear,” Doyle said. “Ahh.” He slid his hand over Bodie’s chest. “Smooth as a baby’s—”

“Shut up, Doyle.”

“Got a reputation to uphold, haven’t I? Yes, you’re just as sensitive to touch as I am, aren’t you? Oh, sorry.” Doyle’s mouth briefly replaced his hand on Bodie’s chest. “Better? Yes, I can see that. Literally. Stupid zip. Stop wriggling!”

“Doyle, for Christ’s sake—”

“Good muscle definition there, Macklin would be pleased.”

“I take back everything I said about you being verbal. For God’s sake, use your mouth— Ahhh.” Bodie closed his eyes, arching into Doyle’s hand.

“That’s not my mouth.” Doyle’s hand left Bodie’s cock, and rubbed his belly soothingly.

“Fuck, Doyle.” Bodie was breathing heavily, his body sparking.

“Yeah, in a minute. Takes you a long time to undress, doesn’t it?” Doyle helped remove the rest of Bodie’s clothing.

“It would go a lot faster without your ‘help’.” Bodie stepped out of his trousers, then grabbed Doyle. “I think I’m a bit ahead of you.” He felt Doyle’s cock through his trousers. “Although not by much, eh?”

“Been on heat all night.”

“Still think we should’ve had champagne.” He pushed Doyle’s trousers and pants down, palming Doyle’s arse as it was revealed.

“Breakfast?” Doyle leaned into him, and Bodie could feel a tremor in his body.

“Brilliant.” Bodie kissed Doyle’s face, stroked his tongue over the cheek implant. “You do have champagne?”

“No.”

“Idiot.” He infiltrated a hand between them to unbutton Doyle’s shirt, then pulled it off. “We can— What is it?” He’d felt a bit of resistance as he’d tried to step back.

“Nothing,” Doyle said. Doyle started towards the bed, his hand sliding down Bodie’s arm to tug him along. Bodie stood still, and Doyle finally turned to face him. “Fine.” There was a resigned expression on his face. “Look your fill, then.”

“Wha—? Oh. You are an idiot.” Bodie stepped close to Doyle and his fingers traced the still-livid scars on Doyle’s chest and side.

“They matter to me.”

“You’re not the one looking at them.” Bodie bent to kiss all that he had traced. He had seen Doyle’s scars, of course, but they hadn’t been to bed like this since the shooting.

Doyle sighed. “All my comments about you being a great big softie stand.”

“Soft is definitely not what I’m feeling.”

Doyle suddenly grabbed Bodie and kissed him fiercely. Bodie ran his hands up and down Doyle’s back, but had no desire to ease the kiss. He took all of Doyle’s fear and passion into himself, and gave it back in equal measure. Doyle finally broke the kiss and again tugged Bodie towards the bed. “Hated you going out there without me.”

“Missed me, did you?”

“Well, who knew what kind of trouble you’d get yourself into?”

“Just babysitting jobs. You’d’ve been bored and snapped their heads off. Cowley wouldn’t have been pleased.” Bodie sat on the bed and watched as Doyle bent to take his socks off. He put a hand on Doyle’s back.

“I wouldn’t have said patience was your strong suit.”

“It is in that kind of job. I just have to do my impassive bit, you know.”

Doyle snorted. “Yes, I do.” He straightened, then pushed Bodie back onto the bed. “Shall we see how long you can keep up your impassive act?”

Bodie stroked Doyle’s back and side. “Oh, no challenge there. I—” He drew in his breath sharply.

“Yes? You were saying?”

“I’d…be a bit careful with those, sunshine, if you want to—” Bodie’s words turned to a groan as Doyle’s grip on his balls changed to a caress.

“Wish I’d thought of this earlier. Think of all the arguments I would have won!”

“Ray…” His cock was hard, already leaking. He wanted to push against Doyle, push into him.

“You’ll do what I say, won’t you Bodie?”

“Dammit. I— Yes. Yes, oh, yes…”

“I don’t think this is what Cowley had in mind, but it’s brilliant.”

“Cow— Oh, God.” Bodie flung his head back as Doyle slide to his knees by the bed and took Bodie’s cock in his warm mouth. He couldn’t think of anything but the joy of pushing in to that warmth, feeling the pressure from Doyle’s mouth and tongue and hand. His world narrowed down to sensation and the terrible, wondrous pleasure of ceding all control, letting Doyle pull orgasm from him. He cried out when he came, and moaned when Doyle swallowed him, and then kept up a light pressure as he slid his mouth off Bodie’s cock. Bodie lay gasping, eyes closed, but he gathered Doyle close when he finally joined him on the bed.

“Come on, shift up, you great lug,” Doyle said.

Bodie groaned but rolled over enough to crawl properly on to the bed.

Doyle settled in beside him. “Yeah, good idea, this.”

“Just you wait.” It felt as if he had no energy, but he managed to poke Doyle.

“That sounds more like a promise than a threat.”

“Yeah, well, it’s both.”

“You’re out of condition, Three-seven,” Doyle said in apparent imitation of Cowley. “It’ll be Macklin for you.” He nuzzled Bodie’s shoulder.

“Fine. I might survive that.” He felt more than heard Doyle’s chuckle. It had been too long since they had last been like this with one another after sex. There had been a quickie hand job soon after Doyle got out of hospital, more to prove he was capable than anything else. And a couple of other encounters, all of them too quick. Their schedules hadn’t matched very well, and often either Doyle had been exhausted after his rehab session, or Bodie had been exhausted after an op. Damn Cowley had… Hang on a minute. Bodie backtracked through their conversation. “What did you mean, ‘what Cowley had in mind’?” And because Doyle was lying against him, he felt his instant tension.

“Oh, you know—us back to normal.”

“Hmm. When did he say that?”

“Oh, it was, uh…some— Ow! What was that for?”

Bodie brushed across the skin he’d just pinched. “A warning shot.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Remember, two can play the game you just played. Now, what aren’t you telling me?”

Doyle’s sigh was warm on Bodie’s skin. “Fuck.”

“Confession might just save your balls.”

“I wouldn’t bet on it.” Doyle sighed again. “It’s just… Remember when I went to talk to Cowley when Barry spilled it about us being partners?”

“When you weren’t at all successful at changing his mind? Yes, that gave me some pleasure at the time.”

“Sod. Well, not only was I not successful, but Cowley gave me an additional…well, sort of a job within a job.”

Bodie frowned, and something inside him tightened. “A job within a job?”

“Yeah.” Doyle pushed up onto his forearms, and Bodie saw he was looking serious and rueful all at the same time. “He, erm, wanted me to…keep a leash on you.”

“He what?”

“Keep you from running amok, is how I read it.”

Bodie sat up, and Doyle did as well. “I never! Well, almost…” He thought about it, then glared at Doyle. “And how the hell were you supposed to stop me?”

“My very question to him!”

“Fuck, Doyle, have you been watching me all this time?”

“No! Well, yes, but it’s not like I wouldn’t be doing that anyway, you’re my partner.”

“All those times when you got on me about going in mob-handed—comparing me with Krivas, and, Christ, Tommy McKay, for fuck’s sake!”

“Yeah, okay, but—”

“And when you tried to stop me going after Forrest? How much of that was you and how much the job?”

“Dammit, Bodie!”

Doyle made as if to grab him, but Bodie blocked the move. He knew he was overreacting, but the idea that Doyle had been set to watching him, stopping him, not from concern but on Cowley’s orders… Call it a condition of employment. Cowley’s voice echoed in his head, reminding him of his own agreement. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Maybe it started out as a job, me watching you, keeping you in line—hear me out!” Doyle reached out and gripped his arm, and this time Bodie allowed it. “But you know damn well it’s not a job now, and hasn’t been for years.”

Bodie looked down.

“And, anyway, I failed often enough, didn’t I? You went after Forrest. Marikka.” Doyle drew in a breath. “And you damn well shut me out when it came to your mate and King Billy.”

So help me, Bodie, if you finish that neck lock I'll shoot you dead. Cowley hadn’t believed he’d stop. Doyle had tried to help, and in so doing, he’d slowed Bodie enough to make him think. “I didn’t want you involved.” Had it been protecting Doyle, or protecting himself? Was there a difference?

“I know. It’s that sodding loyalty of yours. Old friends, old lovers, old grudges. It makes you…there’s no reasoning with you, then.” Doyle moved his hand gently up and down Bodie’s arm. “I can only try and do what I can to help you from the sidelines.” He laughed a little sharply. “Cowley keeps going on about how I should know you better than you know yourself, but sometimes… I don’t know you at all.”

Bodie sighed. He took hold of Doyle’s arm and drew him close and down, so Bodie was leaning over him. “You knew me well enough to find me with King Billy, just like with Myer, and Forrest, for that matter.” He leaned closer, brushed his lips over Doyle’s. “You knew me well enough to run after me when I was trying to keep you from getting blown up, you mad sod.”

“Well, Cowley’s orders—”

“Don’t even try it, Ray. That was all you.”

Doyle’s hand glided down Bodie’s back. “Know me that well, do you?”

“Oh, yeah. And then some.” Bodie kissed him again, pressed his weight against him, and felt his semi-hard cock with his knee. “Lost interest, eh?”

“I think that can be remedied.” Doyle kissed him hard, and his tongue invaded Bodie’s mouth. They fed off of each other, until Doyle finally broke the kiss. “What do you want, Bodie? Anything.”

That’s guilt talking, Bodie thought, but it hardly mattered. This was about Doyle. And him. And a chance snatched from death. “Let’s test your recovery. Where’s the lube?” He saw the flare of lust in Doyle’s eyes, and his stomach tightened.

“Bottom drawer in the bedside table.”

Bodie slid over in the bed to reach the drawer, then returned to Doyle with tube in hand.

“How do you want me?” Doyle asked. He looked dishevelled and sexy and very much alive.

Bodie bent again to kiss Doyle’s scars, then spent a little time with one of his nipples, until Doyle’s breathing was suitably jerky. He then put the tube in Doyle’s hand, and stretched out on his stomach.

“Bodie.”

“I’ll be evaluating you on duration and strength. Proper form, of course, is critical.”

“Oh, of course.” Doyle’s words were casual, but Bodie heard the excitement in his voice. He smiled, and stretched a little more, with lazy movements. He heard Doyle catch his breath.

“Need any help preparing your—”

“No, no. You just keep relaxing there, mate.” Doyle pulled a pillow down the bed and put it under Bodie, paying some attention to Bodie’s cock while he did it.

“Don’t get distracted.” Bodie was pleased that none of his arousal was evident in his voice.

“Just thought I’d take the scenic route.”

“Oh, take your time, mate. I’ll just take a nap and—” He gasped as Doyle pulled hard on his cock.

“You were saying?”

“Get on with it, Doyle.”

Doyle stroked Bodie’s arse, kissed the small of his back and worked his way down with his mouth and tongue. Then he applied lube, opening Bodie—stroking and soothing and arousing him. It had been a very long time since anyone had fucked him, and Bodie couldn’t help but tense at the invasion. Yet he wanted this, wanted to feel Doyle’s heat and life, wanted Doyle to feel the glory of possession. And it was with a weird sense of double-perception that he felt Doyle preparing both him and himself. He knew what it would feel like to rub the lube on his own cock, feast his eyes on the arse spread before him, put one hand where arse met back, and use the other to guide his cock into the tight hole he’d prepared. He heard Doyle’s breathing hitch, even as he caught his own breath—he was penetrator and penetratee all in one. Oh, Christ, it felt good—the pain mixed with the pleasure, and he knew it was the same for Doyle as he waited before pushing further in.

“C’mon Ray, c’mon.” He jerked back, felt Doyle go in deeper, and his own cock jumped at the sensation and the image that flared in his brain. “Fuck me, damn you. Harder.”

As if he’d been waiting for just that moment, Doyle thrust into him, withdrew, thrust again. “Sod. Fuck. Bodie. So, fucking, good.”

Bodie understood the near sob in Doyle’s voice; he gloried in the sound of it, as he gloried in the feel of the cock possessing him. They moved in concert and his own cock filled in reaction to the burst of sensation that jolted through him. In sudden desperation he tried to get his hand on his cock, but then Doyle’s hand was there, like an extension of the cock that was taking him, as if he’d been pierced or surrounded—and he came hard, release itself a mixture of pain and joy and relief. Just like Doyle.

“Ahh..ahh,” Doyle gasped, and with another two hard thrusts he, too was coming, surging into Bodie, forcing them both deeper into the mattress.

Bodie felt Doyle’s hot breath on his back, but otherwise he lay still, sprawled on top of Bodie. “All done?”

Doyle groaned, then he moved back, and they both groaned as Doyle’s cock slid out of Bodie. Doyle rolled onto his back next to Bodie, and put one hand on the back of Bodie’s thigh. “Well?”

“Technique acceptable, strength good, duration could be better but…”

Doyle’s fingers patted Bodie’s thigh. “I’d be dead.”

“Practice will help. Ouch! Oi, I thought you’d like to practice.” Bodie finally moved enough to pull the pillow out from under him and tossed it on the floor. “We’re going to have to change the sheets. You’re a messy bugger.”

“All mine was neatly deposited. Anyway, you’ve slept in worse.”

“Not by choice.”

They did eventually roll out of bed and stripped it. Bodie went to the loo then rummaged for a clean pillowcase (“You’re too bony to make a good pillow”), and Doyle produced a new bottom sheet and duvet all ready to be placed on the bed. “Always prepared,” he said with a grin.

“Oh, is that what dancing lessons taught you?”

They settled back in the bed, the room in darkness. He lay close enough to Doyle to feel it when his breathing shifted into the regular slow breaths of sleep. After Doyle had got out of hospital, Bodie had slept on the sofa a couple of nights, providing reassurance to them both, although the ostensible reason had been to save time in driving him to rehab in the morning. There hadn’t been any question about Bodie driving Doyle to rehab, it was what partners did for one another, right? He’d been as invested in Doyle’s recovery as Doyle. It was only natural. It’s that sodding loyalty of yours.

But what he’d done for old mates wasn’t about loyalty. It was about the ledger, the tally of what he owed and was owed. He’d owed Perkins and it had cost him the SAS. He had owed Krivas, and it had cost Diane her life. He had wanted to kill Krivas, but with Doyle there—well, it probably had hurt Krivas more to be beaten anyway. Bodie had owed Keith Williams his life, and he’d been prepared to give it to get King Billy. But it had taken him an inordinate amount of time to decide on seeking revenge. He hadn’t wanted to burn the bridge he’d be forced to burn in order to do it. In the end, the demand of the ledger had won, until Doyle and Cowley had stopped him from finishing the job. Keller had understood the score, he’d never let Bodie forget he owed him.

How many times had Doyle saved his life? Or he Doyle’s? Bodie cast his mind back, disquiet rising within him as he realised he had no idea. It was the nature of the job, he said to himself, but unease remained. He had known that Doyle kept no tallies, that friendship with him was more a matter of trust than mutual benefit. But he hadn’t realised just how much that had affected his own sense of their relationship. He had learned to keep relationships clean and clear, at least within his own head. Without that sense it was like navigating an ocean without instruments, you had only nature and your own gut instinct to guide you. And those weren’t reliable when it came to people, who changed without notice. He had assumed Mick was his friend, and had been glad when he’d married his mother, only to find he’d been used as a way for Mick to get to her. And then she’d changed.

Fuck. Friendship. Bodie stared into the dark. He didn’t know where he stood with Doyle. All his defences, so carefully erected after Mick’s betrayal and Diane’s death and Marikka’s games, had been blown to bits by Doyle. Bodie had known it was happening, but he’d chosen to turn a blind eye to it. If he looked, he could see the steps he had willingly taken to get to this point. He had only intended to stay until Cowley’s guard was down, but then he’d forged a partnership with Doyle. Everything else had followed on from that. He had long ago subverted Cowley’s order into his own mission. The threats he’d made to Kathie Mason had sprung from his own heart, and his unrelenting pursuit of Mayli had grown from the same root. It hadn’t been his own survival he’d thought about when he’d run from Doyle at that fucking airstrip. Doyle came first.

But as ever happened, Doyle had changed. He remembered Doyle wondering if Cowley would have really killed Barry Martin, but Doyle had had no doubt that Cowley would have killed Bodie in the woods. Doyle had gone from placing enough trust in Cowley to sign, unread, the documents regarding Bill Haydon, to acknowledging that tiny sliver of doubt Plumb had planted. He had gone from trusting Cowley not to go too far with Sutton, to watching him kill Manton without protest. He had watched Doyle become more…pragmatic, more willing to concede the ends might justify the means. Yet Doyle had felt guilty about the boys who had died in the van—guilty enough to almost give up and let Mayli kill him. Bodie remembered the tremulous smile Doyle had given him in the ambulance—as clear a goodbye as if Doyle had spoken. Bodie had been so angry, he’d wanted to shake Doyle. But he had also felt some relief in recognising the Doyle he knew, the one who would blame himself for the invention of gunpowder.

Bodie still didn’t know what Cowley’s plan was for Doyle. He was giving both of them more authority and latitude to run their own ops. Was that because of their experience, or because Cowley was guiding Doyle towards a leadership role? Certainly Cowley continued to push Doyle, more than he did Bodie or anyone else—even going so far as to make Doyle assess Bodie’s fitness for a mission during the King Billy incident. There was no doubt in Bodie’s mind that Doyle was ambitious, but he had grave doubts about Doyle’s suitability for a position like Cowley’s. What would happen if he expressed those doubts? As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or my plans. That had been an unusually direct warning from Cowley. If Bodie interfered, he would be got rid of. He was certain of that.

Doyle stirred next to him on the bed, and Bodie realised he’d clenched his fists. He lay still, and Doyle settled back into sleep. Doyle had made it back to life, to the squad. He’d pushed himself, just as they all had expected him to do. Everything was back to normal, right down to Doyle saying he was glad to be in CI5 and thought they did some good with their work. But at what cost? Doyle wouldn’t leave CI5, but CI5 might change him beyond recognition.

There was little he could do about that, just as, in the end, it had been up to Doyle to fight for his life after the operation. The only way Bodie could protect himself was by leaving, and he already knew he wouldn’t do that. No one understood Doyle as well as Bodie did, not even Cowley. He wasn’t going to leave Doyle unprotected. Doyle needed him, even if he didn’t know it. He owed it to Doyle to stay, and so he couldn’t tell him about his own bargain with Cowley. It surprised him that he had the urge to tell Doyle, to clear the rot out of the foundation of their relationship. But while it was true that Doyle had become less idealistic over the years, he wouldn’t accept Bodie selling arms to a man who had been willing to deal with the IRA. He wouldn’t accept a man whose actions had led to the death and harm of innocents. If he told Doyle the truth about himself, he would lose him as surely as he would if Cowley sent him to prison. Bodie wasn’t willing to risk that.

He wasn’t leaving. He couldn’t tell Doyle. He had to abide by Cowley’s dictum. Christ, he was on a cliff, surrounded by trip wires. Well, he’d just keep the objective in mind: protect Doyle. Doyle needed him.

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

You rotten bastards!

Leave it! Leave them, they're withdrawing. Look, they're just fighting under orders. They've probably got just as much idea why she had to be killed as we have.

Well, at least she knew what she was fighting for. They were against her, and that's all she had to know.

Yeah. And only Cowley knew we were here.

~*~ 

You disobeyed an order, Bodie. I told you to stay put.

Couldn't let them get away with it. How d'you think you'd feel if you let them get him?

My concern for Ojuka has nothing to do with insubordination—

I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.

~*~ 

You don't want a dog, do you?

Eh?

It's a golden Labrador. The Cooks have got one. She asked me to shoot it.

~*~ 

Thanks a bunch, mate. You cut that a bit fine, didn't you?

I knew he wouldn't do it.

Oh, you knew that for certain, did you?

~*~ 

Williams aimed the gun at Doyle’s head. Stop him! But suddenly his arms were pinned behind him by Twig. “Do it! Here and now!” shouted Ferris. Williams pulled the trigger. No!

“Dammit, Bodie! Stop— Oh, Christ. Here.”

There was a bowl placed just where he needed it. Bodie vomited until there was nothing left and then he put his head down again. He closed his eyes but the spinning was worse.

“Get this down you.” His mouth was wiped, then a glass was placed against his lips. “Drink, Three-seven!” He drank what turned out to be water, gagged a little but didn’t throw up again. “All of it.” Somehow, he managed it. “Right. Back down on your side, that’s it. You stupid pillock.”

“Ray?”

“Yeah. What do you need?”

Saying the name had taken all the energy he had. He closed his eyes and drifted away.

Some unknown time later, Bodie remembered where he was: his flat. He opened his eyes. He was in the living room, on the sofa. Had he taken a nap? The dryness in his throat hit him at the same time as the memory. “Shit, shit,” he groaned. He took his time sitting up, wary of dizziness, but there was none. He looked around the room. There was no bottle next to him, yet he remembered drinking nearly all of it. He frowned. Had there been a bowl…?

Doyle. He remembered Doyle. Bugger. Doyle wasn’t in the room now but there was light spilling out into the hallway between the living room and the kitchen. Both doors had been left open, no doubt to aid in monitoring him. Damn, damn, damn. There was a glass of water on the table in front of the sofa. He was thirsty, but he drank the water slowly, mindful of his uneasy stomach. When that went well, he eased onto his feet. It wasn’t bad—not as bad as he was expecting, or deserved. He needed a shower. He walked carefully to the bathroom, well aware that Doyle must have known he was moving about, but hadn’t intruded. That could mean Doyle was angry, or it could mean Doyle was being sensitive to the after-effects of a hangover. Most likely, it meant both.

The shower helped a great deal, although he still felt fragile as he made his way to the kitchen. He’d changed his clothes, pulling on a polo-neck and jeans. He hadn’t bothered with socks. Doyle was reading the paper at the table when Bodie entered the kitchen. There was a filled mug in front of the chair across from Doyle. Bodie sat on the chair. He saw there were tablets next to the mug.

“Tea. Hot and strong. Take it slowly.” Doyle didn’t look up from the paper.

Bodie thought of any number of things he might say, but settled for sipping the tea. It was horrible at first, yet improved with each sip. He took the tablets as well.

“Toast?”

Bodie grimaced. “Yeah.” It would help to eat; he needed his wits about him. Dammit, Doyle wasn’t supposed to be back for another day.

While Doyle prepared the toast, Bodie struggled to remember what he had been thinking the night before, knowing Doyle would demand to know. The problem was, of course, he hadn’t been thinking at all. He’d been drinking. A lot. Alone. He closed his eyes and held the mug between his hands.

“Here.” Doyle set a plate down in front of him, took the mug away and refilled it.

Bodie ate the heavily buttered toast, drank more of the tea, and waited for Doyle to get on with the interrogation. Doyle continued reading the paper. He had refilled his own mug, and sat drinking and reading and ignoring Bodie. Bodie sighed. “Yes, I was drunk. Yes, I’m an idiot.”

Doyle said nothing, just turned the page of the newspaper.

“Dammit, Doyle!” Bodie winced, more from anticipation of pain than pain itself.

“Well, that’s self-evident.” Doyle folded the newspaper and finally looked at Bodie. “Anything else you’d like to say?”

“No.”

Doyle shrugged. “All right, then. You’ve got,” he glanced at his watch, “about ten minutes before we’re due at an obbo.”

“I’m off duty.”

“Not anymore you’re not.” He stood. “I’ve made tea and sandwiches. I’ll take the supplies down to the car. Get ready.”

“How long are we on for?”

Doyle picked up the supply bag. “Twenty-four, starting at 1500.”

“But it’s not…” He looked at the clock. “Bugger.”

“Yeah, isn’t it?” Doyle walked away.

Bodie heard the front door close before he forced himself to get up. It was bad enough to be going on an all-night obbo with a bloody hangover, but Doyle in one of his moods… No, he couldn’t blame Doyle, much as he wanted to. Sod it, one night, one night he’d decided to hell with it all, and of course bloody irritating Doyle would come home early from Manchester, and they would be called in. Fuck.

He went and put on socks and shoes, checked his gun and strapped on his holster. He grabbed his R/T and jacket and headed out of the flat. Doyle was waiting in his car. As soon as Bodie closed the door, Doyle drove off down the street.

“Where’re we going?” Bodie buckled the seat belt.

“Hounslow.”

“Bloody hell, not Lucas’ and Mac’s case?”

“We’re relieving them. What is it?” Doyle changed down and scooted past a slow Vauxhall.

“Something with Chinese and drugs that’s got Cowley’s attention. Murphy was complaining about it.”

“Murphy doesn’t complain.”

“He was moaning about never flying again.”

“It is quite close to Heathrow.”

“Great.”

Doyle nodded. “Not the best situation for a hangover.”

“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t got one.”

“Good luck convincing yourself of that.”

Bodie stared out the window. He’d fucked up. Even off duty they were expected to be ready to roll immediately if called. Drinking enough to pass out—to not even know Doyle had got in his flat—was monumentally stupid and dangerous. Doyle would want to know what the fuck was wrong with him, and he had no answer to give him. Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. He was fine. They had worked brilliantly together to stop Lawson’s bomb. They’d protected Ojuka and Susan Grant and Cowley. They’d stopped Rahad. There was no doubt they were still Cowley’s top team. Admittedly, Cook’s and Reynold’s deaths had hit them both hard—was it any wonder, then, that they’d been off a bit on the Kovac/Dawson case? Anyway, they’d got through that and then Doyle had been sent to check in with Stuart in Manchester. It was typical of Stuart that he’d only check in with Doyle or Cowley. And so Bodie had been alone and he’d…got drunk. So the fuck what? Now he’d never hear the end of it. Life was monumentally unfair.

“How was Manchester?” he asked Doyle, just to stop his own useless thoughts.

“It was…Manchester.” Doyle held up two fingers at the driver of a car who honked as he sailed by. “Stuart says he’s getting close.”

“To what?”

Doyle smiled a little. “That he didn’t say.”

“He’s a prat, you know.”

“He thinks you’re all right.”

“Generous of him. I never said he’s not good, just that—”

“He’s a prat. Yeah. I might have been bit like him, you know, if I hadn’t been lumbered with you.”

Bodie grinned. “You can thank me for that later.”

“What, after we collapse in exhaustion?”

“Tut tut. Is twenty-four hours going to—”

“I drove through the night, checked in with Cowley, then went on to see you.”

“Oh.”

“Didn’t get much sleep at your place, checking to see if you’d—”

“Yeah, okay. I get the picture.”

“Are you ready to tell me what’s been going on with you?”

“There’s nothing going on.”

Silence fell between them. Bodie wasn’t going to break it, and apparently Doyle wasn’t either. Which was just as well because the mood Bodie was in, he’d probably bite Doyle’s head off if he did point out the obvious. Bodie knew he shouldn’t have got drunk. But he’d been…bored, hadn’t he? He hadn’t felt like calling Louise. He’d only started dating her with an eye towards Cowley. Doyle hadn’t seemed to care about her—which was good, right? It was good they sometimes went weeks without sex with each other. It off-set the other times, like after Ojuka. They’d spent that night together, had gone out for breakfast the next morning, then in to HQ, then dinner, and another night at Doyle’s. It had only been worry about Cowley’s observation that had sent Bodie home the second morning. Cowley hadn’t said anything more to Bodie about him and Doyle, thank God, but it still felt like there was a gun held to his head. He didn’t think Doyle had taken up with any birds, but then he wasn’t certain he’d know. Doyle had been as variable in mood lately as their sex pattern had been. Was it any wonder Bodie was a bit off his game?

Doyle found a parking space a couple of roads away from the site of the obbo. Bodie grabbed the bag Doyle had filled with food and drink. A landing aeroplane roared overhead.

“Bodie,” Doyle said, when the aeroplane was gone.

Bodie glanced at Doyle, who stood by the side of the car. Doyle said nothing more, just looked at him with an expression on his face that Bodie couldn’t read. “What?”

“Nothing.” Doyle turned away. “Glad to be back, though.”

“Where you’ve got someone to fetch and carry for you?” Bodie hoisted the bag.

Doyle slanted a grin at him, but didn’t say anything. Still, Bodie felt better because of that grin.

Doyle’s R/T beeped. He paused beside a low wall to answer it. Bodie casually stood before him, shielding him from any passing glance from the road. “Four-five.”

“Five-three. What’s your ETA?” Lucas sounded urgent.

“One street to the south.”

“A skinhead group is busting in on the Chinese. We’re ordered in. We’ll take the back, you take the front!”

“Acknowledged. Four-five out!” Doyle had already started to run before he finished his words.

Bodie stashed the bag and caught up with Doyle. They raced towards the house. It wasn’t difficult to find the correct one in the terrace—the door was open and they could hear the sound of gunfire. They entered the house quickly but carefully. There was a skinhead man sprawled in the hallway, a knife not far from his outstretched hand. Doyle checked him quickly while Bodie watched the stairs and the hallway for movement. Another plane roared overhead. Doyle turned his thumb down. They moved together to the closed door of the front room, opened it and burst into the room with Doyle going low and Bodie high. Two men were fighting while another circled them, gun in hand.

“Freeze!” Doyle shouted, but the plane’s noise drowned him out. The man with the gun must have caught their movement, he swung around, gun rising. They both fired at him and the man fell. Doyle checked the man and took his gun while Bodie approached the two fighting men, who hadn’t stopped at the gunfire. The Chinese fighter got enough manoeuvring room to jam his palm under the chin of the other, snapping his head back. That man fell to the floor with a sickening thud. Bodie took out the victorious man, then held his gun on both. He glanced at Doyle. It was quiet for the moment.

“Forgot your cuffs, didn’t you? Here.” Doyle tossed Bodie his handcuffs. They heard Mac’s voice and looked at each other. “Don’t let them escape.” Doyle left the room.

Bodie cuffed the man he’d hit to the dead man. The injured man wasn’t going anywhere for the time being, so Bodie headed for the hallway where he found McCabe. “Got two live ones in here, one’s cuffed, the other’s injured. You?”

“Two dead in the kitchen, two cuffed in the back room. Lucas is clearing upstairs. Look, there’s a cellar here, Doyle—” The rest of his words were drowned out by the roar of a plane. Mac signalled that he was going upstairs, and pointed out an open door with steps descending from it to, presumably, the cellar. Bodie nodded and hurried to the steps.

The cellar was in semi-darkness, yet Bodie could see it was partially divided by a wall, creating two distinct areas. Bodie caught a brief impression of an office-like area close to him at the bottom of the stairs, but his attention was riveted to Doyle stepping into the light cast by a lightbulb at the far end of the cellar. A Chinese man was holding a gun on Doyle, standing about three feet from him.

“Stop!” the man said. He was clearly agitated, and he was bleeding from a wound on his forehead. Bodie heard the low rumble that signalled another jet approaching the house. Doyle opened his mouth and the man screamed: “Shut up!” He took a step towards Doyle.

Bodie felt cold. It was going to happen. Doyle would be killed in front of him while he stood by doing nothing.

“Put your gun down, you, or—” The aeroplane drowned out the rest of the man’s words.

I’ll kill him. Do it! Here and Now!

 

Rage roared through Bodie. “No!” He snapped his gun up and fired as he moved forward. He saw Doyle’s face contort—he’d been hit… No, no! And then something else in Doyle’s expression penetrated Bodie’s brain: fear, horror, get down! He threw himself down and to the right, slamming into the breezeblock wall, but gaining the protection of a large safe at his back. Pain flared in his arm and shoulder—he must have hit the safe—no, wrong side. He couldn’t think for the roar of the plane and the fear that consumed him. Where was Doyle?

Suddenly, there were hands on him, and he heard Doyle’s urgent voice in his ear: “Bodie.”

Bodie uncoiled himself as Doyle helped him to his feet. The jet’s roar died away. Bodie looked with surprise at the man who lay dead behind him. “Where’d he—?” He looked to where Doyle had been standing and saw the body of the Chinese man he’d killed.

“You stupid, careless— Didn’t you hear him say you were surrounded?”

“No, he said he’d kill—” He stopped, suddenly uncertain of the words he’d heard just before the plane drowned them out.

“He said to put the gun down, you were surrounded. I tried to tell you! You didn’t even fucking look, just stepped forward, exposing your sodding back.“ Doyle bit out the words as he examined Bodie’s left shoulder and arm.

Bodie looked down at the tear in his jacket that Doyle was making worse. “Oh.”

“Stupid.“ Doyle’s hands were far more gentle than his tone. “There’s blood but not a lot.”

“Crease.” It would hurt like hell but there was unlikely to be any lasting damage. He smiled at Doyle, feeling relief and the after-effects of an adrenaline rush.

“Don’t. You—” Doyle shook his head, his mouth working as he gritted his teeth. “You should be dead!”

“Okay, calm down, maybe I was careless. But—”

“Do you want out that badly, Bodie?” Doyle’s tone was hard, but his voice broke on the words. He turned away, anger in every line of his body.

“What?” He tried to grab hold of Doyle, but he didn’t move fast enough as Doyle stalked to the man who had shot at Bodie.

“‘Careless,’ he says!” There was no humour in Doyle’s laugh. He picked up the gun lying next to the dead man. “You put four fucking bullets in to that one, but the one behind you, you just fucking ignored.”

Bodie finally got hold of Doyle’s arm. “What the hell do you mean ‘want out’?

Doyle stilled. He was breathing in and out quickly. “Out of CI5. Out—” He broke off, licked his lips. “From us.” He looked angry, defiant.

Bodie stared at him in disbelief and let go of Doyle’s arm. “You just said I put four bullets into that man, Ray. What the fuck do you think that means?”

“That? Overcompensation!”

“For what?” Bodie raised his voice as well.

“For that damned joke—hesitating when Williams was supposed—”

Bodie flinched.

“—To kill me. Doyle’s voice petered out. He stared at Bodie, eyes narrowing.

Heart suddenly pounding, Bodie plunged on: “He didn’t shoot you; I knew he wouldn’t do it!”

“It wasn’t a joke.” Doyle sounded as if he’d found an answer to a question he hadn’t known to ask.

Bodie tried to think of something to say.

“Christ, Bodie. What—?”

“I told you. I knew he wouldn’t shoot.“

“You keep saying that.”

Panic sent Bodie straight to fear. “Look, if you don’t trust me to watch your back—”

“I do.” Doyle looked away, closed his eyes, then looked back at Bodie. “But I’m not sure Macklin or Jack would. It’s not like you to be careless.”

“Ray…” His throat was tight. He was at a loss for words. It hadn’t been for a joke when he’d hesitated before stopping Williams, but he couldn’t explain the hesitation, not even to himself. Doyle stared at him. Bodie reached out, but then they both turned away as they heard Cowley’s voice and footsteps on the stairs. The cavalry must have arrived, with the worst possible timing. Bodie also heard another of those sodding planes approaching. All right. Fine. Maybe they needed a break. It would give Doyle time to calm down, see the one truth Bodie was certain of: he’d known Williams wouldn’t shoot. The hesitation didn’t matter. He’d been tired, off his game, that was all.

Cowley seemed annoyed by the plane noise, and downright irritated about the dead men, although he nodded when Bodie and Doyle made their report. “A bit over-enthusiastic weren’t you, Three-seven,” was his only comment. Cowley’s attention was given to the safe, which was open, and the documents he found inside. “Ah, yes, this will do nicely,” he said as he paged through a few of them. He glanced up at Bodie and Doyle. “Our Chinese friends have been dabbling, it appears.”

“The Chinese government?” Doyle raised his eyebrows.

“Elements close to, let us say.” Cowley collected the papers from the safe himself.

It took several hours to untangle the scene, deal with the local authorities, separate out any prisoners Cowley wanted to deal with personally, and turn everything over to forensics. The skinheads, it turned out, had been set on the place by a rival to the Chinese gang who wanted to take over their drug operation. Cowley sent Murphy and Sally after that man, and released Lucas and McCabe, Bodie and Doyle until later the next day.

“It’s already the ‘next’ day,” Bodie grumbled as they got in to Doyle’s car at HQ. He tried and failed to stifle a yawn.

“I’ve lost track.” Doyle drove with the careful focus of the exhausted.

Bodie’s arm and shoulder ached, although the medic at HQ had confirmed the wound was minor and would do best simply kept clean and left alone to heal. He wanted nothing more than to sink into his bed and sleep, yet Doyle’s voice kept echoing at the back of his mind: Do you want out that badly? Obviously, Doyle had thought that possible, but Bodie couldn’t fathom why. He did feel trapped, caught between Doyle’s needs and ambitions and Cowley’s plans, but it still wasn’t time to leave. Anyway, he hadn’t been careless, he’d just been focused on saving Doyle in the cellar. That was how they worked: he saved Doyle, Doyle saved him, they didn’t talk about. Well, it would blow over—probably it already had. They’d got on with the job as usual, wrapping up the case at the scene. Doyle and Cowley had fallen into that nearly collegial manner they had developed when it came to discussing certain cases. He often enjoyed watching the two of them, interpolating his own comments—sometimes helpful, sometimes designed to make Doyle hide a laugh—as needed. The humour was also meant to remind Doyle he wasn’t Cowley—couldn’t be Cowley. There were times Bodie thought there was a dangerous similarity growing between Cowley and Doyle. Doyle might have fiercely protested Diana Molner’s death, and Bodie had had to restrain him at the scene, but Doyle had also, perhaps too quickly, settled into a hard acceptance of it. Bodie had wanted to stop him from blaming the men who had fought them, he hadn’t expected Doyle to understand Cowley’s betrayal. The potential for betrayal for political purposes was the unacceptable face of the leadership position of an organisation such as CI5. He didn’t fancy watching Doyle make those kinds of compromises.

Yet there was no denying Doyle had leadership capability, or that he enjoyed running his own ops. They had both got a taste for it in the Stone case and when protecting Cowley from Quinn. Bodie had been surprised at how satisfying he found it to organise an op from start to finish, plan for the contingencies, then watch as it all unfolded. He’d always been impatient with too much planning, preferring to think on his feet. But now he found designing ops had its own rewards, and there was still room for improvisation when plans went awry. He didn’t know when he had changed, or how. Maybe it was just that age brought new perspectives.

He had never thought overmuch about the future. He hadn’t expected to live this long—few of his mates had. But Doyle did sometimes think of the future, when he wasn’t in one of his depressive moods. Maybe Bodie had caught it from him. Yet, all it took was to think of Cowley to stop any personal planning in its tracks. His future wasn’t up to him. As long as they were in CI5, Bodie would have to play by Cowley’s rules—and he couldn’t see Doyle leaving CI5.

“Oi, cloth head. We’re here.”

Bodie blinked and saw that Doyle had double-parked the car outside Bodie’s block. He hesitated a moment, wanting to ask Doyle up, but equally wanting to give them both space.

Doyle took the initiative from him. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”

Bodie nodded. “Breakfast?” He glanced at the faint tinge of light on the horizon. “Lunch?”

Doyle pursed his lips. “I’ve got some things to do. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Right.” Bodie opened the car door. How was it possible to feel both reprieved yet regretful for that reprieve? He looked around quickly, then turned back and grabbed Doyle for a quick kiss. “Whatever you think, I’m not leaving.”

Doyle stared at him, and then a mischievous look crossed his face. “The car?”

Bodie swatted his hair as Doyle ducked away from him. “Twat.” He climbed out of the car feeling considerably better. Everything was back to normal. He could cope with normal. A short time later, he fell asleep with that comforting thought.

And awoke from another bloody nightmare. He lay on his back, forearm on his forehead, and waited for his heart rate to return to normal. He didn’t do nightmares, dammit. He hadn’t had them at home, in Africa, in the Paras—where everyone else had—or the SAS. He hadn’t had them in CI5, either, not even after Doyle had been shot and technically died. So, why the hell now? But it was obvious—too bloody, mundanely, obvious.

It wasn’t a joke.

No. It hadn’t been a joke, but he had been off his game. And anyway, it was over. Bodie rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. He ignored the sick feeling in his stomach and forced his mind to other topics: what did he have in the house to eat? What would Cowley send them on next? Where had he parked his car? But Doyle’s words were still in his mind, stuck in there just like Doyle. Not a joke. Right. Okay. But he’d bloody well known Williams wouldn’t—

Bodie paused, his soapy fingers gripped his head, and his eyes closed. The feeling in his gut was the same as he’d felt when Perkins had told him his scheme. It was the same as when Krivas had told him he just wanted to talk with Diane. He’d felt it when his mum had said Mick’s temper was understandable. He had run from that feeling; he had learned to ignore it. But he had nowhere to run now. He had to face it, here and now: had he known, really known that Williams wouldn’t shoot? He’d thought Williams was a coward, not up for the dirty job he’d hired on for, but it had never crossed his mind he might be MI6. Bodie knew bloody well even cowards would shoot to protect themselves. Williams might have shot Doyle. Bodie had hesitated because he’d been tired, off his… No! Face it. He’d frozen. He had been caught between two imperatives: don’t compromise the op; protect Doyle. He’d always told Doyle: can't afford to give a damn; might make you hesitate. Yet that was exactly what had happened. His feelings for Doyle… But it was worse, even, than that. Because he knew, deep in the darkest part of him, that for a tiny fraction of a second, he’d almost wanted Williams to shoot. Without Doyle holding him here, he could run, keep things clear and simple, be free of this limbo— Oh, Christ. Christ! Bodie couldn’t breathe. He was overwhelmed by guilt and anger and anguish, most of it fresh, but some of it as old as when he’d first run to sea. He leaned forward against the shower wall, water cascaded onto his back, and he let the emotions rip through him. He played the scene out in his mind, the stuff of his nightmares: Williams firing the gun, Bodie turning to see Doyle down—shattered head, vacant stare—just like Diane. Or blood pouring from a chest wound and Doyle’s eyes looking at him as their light faded. God! He bit into his own arm, and his breath came in wrenching gasps. His stomach twisted until he thought he’d vomit. But gradually, the storm inside him eased. Doyle wasn’t dead, wasn’t dead, wasn’t. It hadn’t happened. He’d finally acted in time.

After a while, Bodie stepped back to wash the remaining shampoo from his head. He felt wrung out, as if he’d run a long distance, but he breathed more easily. Doyle wasn’t dead. Heed it as a warning. He couldn’t go back to ‘normal’. He couldn’t balance on the cliff any longer, caught between his own desires, Doyle’s needs and ambitions, and Cowley’s plans. If even for a micro-second, Doyle had been threatened by his inability to act, then it was too great a cost to bear. The motive and the motion are one and the same unity. Shusai’s voice sounded in his head. Whatever it is you have to do you must find a way to do it. He had to end it.

Bodie finished his shower. He rummaged in his kitchen and found bacon and a couple of eggs. He ate quickly. It was just after 1100, they were due in at 1400. He telephoned Doyle’s flat, but there was no answer. Bodie cleared away his breakfast, then cleaned his guns. At 1200, he resorted to the R/T.

“Yeah, almost there,” Doyle answered his query. “Four-five out.”

Doyle had evidently planned to arrive early. Despite everything, Bodie smiled, imagining Doyle’s reaction if he told him the truth about himself while they were having sex. Tit for tat, indeed. The smile faded, but it left him feeling a little more like himself. He knew what he had to do—no excuses, just get on with it. Tell Doyle everything. He would face the consequences for once in his sodding life.

When Doyle arrived, Bodie met him at the door to his flat. It was immediately apparent to him that Doyle had had even less sleep than he had had. “You look terrible.”

“I wouldn’t talk, if I were you.” Doyle didn’t come into the flat.

“Tea?”

“I think I’ve had about a gallon already. No. Let’s go for a walk.” He jerked his head towards the street.

“If you’ve had that much, it won’t be a long walk. Give me a minute.” Bodie retrieved a jacket and, out of habit, his holster and gun. Doyle was waiting for him outside his block. They turned east, towards the river. “So, why weren’t you sleeping, then?”

“I told you. I had some things to take care of. How’s the shoulder?”

“Fine.” Bodie couldn’t get a read on Doyle’s mood. He seemed sombre, but not depressed or irritable. “Well, if that included dropping your laundry off with Rita, I hope you reminded her she knows me now.”

“She asks about you every time. ‘Where’s that friend of yours—that one with the shifty eyes?’”

“Been talking to Marge, has she?”

“Talk of the town, that’s you.”

Bodie smiled, but it felt bittersweet, matching the damn ache in his heart. This bantering had been part of their relationship from the very beginning, even before they’d liked each other. Their arguments had been spectacular.

They crossed a street and kept on walking towards the river. The sun was playing dodgems with the clouds, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they ran into some rain, but it felt good to walk like this, side by side. He wanted the moment to last. He had never been so reluctant for change.

Doyle steered them down a quieter street, with fewer people about, and he broke the bubble. “Bodie, we have to talk.“

“Yeah. I have something to tell you.” The words were out, even if it didn’t seem like he was the one who had said them. Bodie breathed in. Get on with it, then.

Doyle appeared to read his mood, because he didn’t make a quick come back. He just looked at Bodie. “Go on.”

But where to start? He hadn’t wanted to think about the details of this conversation. “I… There are things about me that you need to know.” He stopped, appalled at the enormity of something that ought to be simple to convey but wasn’t.

“Well, I’ve been telling you that for years,” Doyle said, after a long pause.

“Just let me get on with this, all right?”

Doyle spread his hands in acquiescence.

Bodie swallowed. “Well. You know all those things you used to throw at me about being a mercenary?”

“Used to?

“Dammit. I’m serious.”

“Sorry. I am listening.”

“Look, it wasn’t all above-board, okay? I wasn’t. Not when I was a mercenary, or after, or with— Well, it was okay in the Paras, but… I… In the SAS—” How the fuck did he tell him? To lose Doyle’s respect was to lose everything. Yet, he had no choice.

“Bodie, I drove down to Thamesmead today.”

“I—” Bodie frowned. “You what?”

“I saw Keller.”

“Wait. What?” Bodie stopped walking and turned to stare at Doyle.

“I saw Keller. He was only too happy to tell me about what you got up to in the SAS.”

Bodie opened his mouth. “You—” Outrage grew in him, overtaking every other emotion.

“Mind, I only believed about a tenth of what he said. But I’m thinking maybe the arms diversion was true? He said it was covered up. By Cowley.”

“You bastard! What gave you the right—?”

“You nearly died yesterday, you stupid git! D’you think I was just going to let that pass? It’s been just like when you went after King Billy—something’s wrong and you won’t admit it. Only this time it wasn’t Cowley holding his gun to your head, you walked right in front of the gun yourself!“

“I was trying to save you!”

“That’s no excuse!”

“And it wasn’t fucking overcompen—” But Bodie tripped on the word, because it hit him how true Doyle’s accusation had been.

Doyle looked at the sky, then back at Bodie. “That was a shot in the dark yesterday. But it was accurate, eh?”

Bodie looked away, then at the ground. He had no words to describe the roiling emotions inside him. He had no experience to cope with them.

“Let’s keep moving.” They walked on. “You don’t drink like that; you don’t make mistakes like that.” Doyle took a breath. “The only other times you’ve gone so quiet on me have involved people from your past. So, I…” He trailed off, waved his hand.

“Went to see Keller.”

“Cowley made a deal with you, didn’t he? Like the one he made with me.”

Bodie shook his head at Doyle’s intuition, then he let out a sharp laugh. “Not like yours.”

“Tell me about it.”

“There’s really not that much to it. Perkins… He was a mate, and I owed him my life. He came to collect. I paid him back.”

“With decommissioned arms.”

Bodie straightened his shoulders. He’d have no misunderstanding between them. “Not quite. They were due to be deactivated but not for another year or more. It was a small amount, but it meant he could pay his debts, save his family. He said the arms would go to the Middle East.”

“And you believed him.”

Bodie stopped walking. “I told myself I did. I wanted to erase my debt to him, and I wanted the money.” He looked at Doyle’s face, ready for condemnation. After all the worry about this moment, it was almost a relief to get to it. Doyle’s expression told him nothing.

“How’d they find out about you?”

“Oh, well. The IRA cell he was selling to had already been identified and was being watched. They organised a raid, went in with guns blazing at the exchange. Perkins was shot, died in hospital.”

“After telling them about you.”

“It was the SAS that busted in on them—different lot from mine, but I reckon he thought I’d betrayed him. That didn’t matter, though, did it. I was guilty.”

“So that’s what you’ve been hiding from me all these years! I knew it was something…” Doyle looked at him. “You would have gone to prison, but—”

“Cowley intervened.” Bodie frowned. “What do you mean, ‘all these years’?”

“He said to keep your nose clean, obey his every order?”

Bodie couldn’t help but smile, although he tried to suppress it. “Not exactly.”

“What then?”

“That’s what we all sign up for, isn’t it? But he wanted me to provide…extra protection to the man—the ‘boy’, I believe I called him—who would be assigned as my partner.” He looked back at Doyle, as one would after poking a tiger.

“You…what?” The enormity of the implications seemed to sweep over Doyle. “He— You— You bastards!”

And with his world collapsing around him, Bodie laughed. There was nothing he could do to stop it, Doyle’s outrage was too entirely predictable not to be enjoyed.

“Oh, all well and good for you to laugh! Do you mean to say that every time you— For God’s sake, is that why you blew it at Macklin’s fake hostage scenario? You stupid prat! We’ve paid for that for years!”

Bodie folded his arms, the better to savour Doyle in a rage. “I was just following orders. Although I’ll concede there is an inherent conflict—”

“I’ll say there damn well is! For fuck’s sake, he’s the one threw us to the wolves over Diana Molner, and that bloody Hanish op! What was that about, then?”

“Ah, well, you’re only expendable when Cowley says you’re expendable,” Bodie explained helpfully.

Doyle shook his head, and then he eyed Bodie. “He didn’t seem all that pleased with you over Ojuka.”

“No, well, by then I’d devised my own definition of ‘expendable’ when it came to you. Anyway, you got out of that yourself, I was just in the right place to help you finish it.”

“Well, thank God for that.” Doyle looked around, then tugged on Bodie’s arm to get him walking again. “Dammit, why’d I think a walk was a good idea?” he muttered.

“Oh? What would you do if we weren’t walking in public, then?”

Doyle nudged him with his shoulder. “Shut up. I’m still angry.”

Bodie smiled, but it felt tight on his face. He’d never accompanied a relationship—or anything—down to the end like this. For the first time, he understood the phrase ‘exquisite torture’. Doyle had focused on Cowley’s meddling, but he would remember the arms deal eventually.

Doyle shook his head. “There’s got to be more to it than that.”

“More to what?

“Cowley keeping you out of prison.”

“I don’t think there is, Ray. Macklin as good as told me—” Bodie stopped abruptly.

Doyle’s eyes were narrow as he looked at him. “Macklin what?”

Bodie sighed. “Macklin apparently didn’t think you’d cut it in CI5—self destructive tendencies, I believe he said. I was Cowley’s brilliant plan to curb those tendencies.”

“Because I can’t take care of myself!”

“Because you tend to be a bit reckless sometimes—”

Me?”

“When you’re pursuing a case whole-heartedly, yeah. Or when you get too down on the bloody mire we work in. You yourself said you were getting too close to the line in Drugs.”

“Not that line.” But Doyle looked away from Bodie’s gaze. “Fuck. All right. Yeah. Maybe. When I didn’t care—” He broke off.

“Yeah. You still fight that battle, even in CI5. That damned shooting, and you making us all wait while you faffed about trying to decide whether to live or die.”

“With you jabbering in my head about lathes and such? I didn’t stand a chance.” Doyle glanced around at the quiet, but still occupied street. “Dammit.” He stopped, and looked at Bodie. “Was it Cowley’s orders that sent you to get me back on the Coogan case?”

“I’m sure he wanted me to get you.”

There was a lightening to Doyle’s expression. “Started to enjoy your work a little too well, Three-seven?”

“Might have done.”

Doyle smiled, and turned to walk again, this time in the direction of the flat. “So, we’ve established you only watched my back under orders.”

Bodie rolled his eyes. “Right. Of course.”

“And if you failed…”

“It was prison for me.” It was an amazing relief to be able to say it out loud like that.

“Not after all this time, surely.”

“Cowley said something about eventually expunging the record. After probation.”

“He thought you might do a runner.”

“I was certainly thinking about it. Had my car stashed, passports, the lot.”

“What stopped you?”

Bodie shrugged. “Just never got round to it.”

“Oh. Of course.” Doyle flashed a smile at him, then looked ahead again. “Well, we’ll have to get the record from Cowley.” Bodie stopped walking, but Doyle carried on. “I don’t suppose you have any of this in writing?” Doyle looked round, and walked back to Bodie.

Bodie looked hard at Doyle. “What the hell are you on about?”

“We’re going to see Cowley. Today.”

“Yes. We have work. But no, we’re not seeing him about this.”

“Yes, we are.”

“Dammit, no! Leave well enough alone, Doyle.”

“Well enough? Then you explain to me what the last two ops have been about, Bodie. You tell me why you drank yourself into a stupor.”

“That has nothing to do with this!”

“Doesn’t it? Then why are you finally telling me about Cowley, eh? You knew I wouldn’t let what happened yesterday go by without—”

“As if you never made a mistake! You made it easy for Mayli Kuolo to shoot you!”

“Keep your voice down.” Doyle glanced at the group of men and women that were approaching them.

Bodie seethed. Of course, when it was his turn to be outraged there would be more people about.

“I made one mistake,” Doyle said quietly. “You made three.”

“Oh, we’re keeping score, are we? How far back, because—”

“Dammit, shut up. Christ! It’s like pulling teeth!”

“Congratulations, they are now looking over their shoulders at us.” Bodie waved at the group, then he grabbed Doyle by the arm and hurried him away. “We’re not saying another word until we get back to the flat.”

“Sod it!” But Doyle increased his pace.

The walk cooled Bodie down. He had time to think. He’d told Doyle about the arms, but Doyle had got sidetracked by Cowley’s machinations. He hadn’t considered the possibility that Doyle would want to confront Cowley. Dammit, what good would that do? Even if Cowley agreed to it, nothing was changed. He still couldn’t be trusted with Doyle on an op. For a fleeting moment he tantalized himself with the idea of letting it all slide, getting back to work with Doyle. But the vision of a mistake of his causing Doyle’s death wouldn’t be banished. For once, he wasn’t going to evade the truth just to satisfy himself. Bodie led them into his flat and closed the door. Doyle walked away from him towards the living room. Bodie followed.

“Cowley won’t put you in prison.” Doyle turned to face Bodie. “It would be a waste.”

Bodie let out a half laugh. “You’re even starting to sound like him. That’s what he said at our first meeting.”

“Well, then—”

Bodie shook his head. “Don’t underestimate him, Ray. Cowley wouldn’t hesitate to throw me in prison if he thought I’d compromised you—CI5, I mean.”

Doyle raised his head. Bodie swore to himself. He hadn’t meant to go down this road. “Compromised me?” Doyle raised his eyebrows.

“You have to know Cowley’s ambitions for you.”

“No. Tell me.”

“Why do you think he hired me in the first place?”

“To keep me from offing myself in a vulgar and embarrassing—”

“It’s not a joke. He’s grooming you, setting the stage for you to—”

“What, take over from him?” Doyle laughed. “I haven’t got the background or connections for that.”

“You know as well as I do that Cowley will somehow find a way to get around that.”

“Leaving aside what Cowley can and cannot do, what the fuck makes you think I want that?” Doyle’s voice rose with each word.

“Of course you do! You’re ambitious, Doyle, everyone knows that.”

“Oh, they do, do they? Well, I don’t.”

“You told me yourself you were glad to be in CI5, thought we made a difference. You live for cases, Doyle, and you love talking about them with Cowley. You’re like a…a burning flame when it comes to justice, just like he is. And then there was Ann—Christ, you even found a bird with the same name as his—”

“All right, all right, j-j-just shut up.” Doyle waved his hands at him. “Okay, yeah, I am glad to be in this mob—still—and it matters to me that we make a difference. Maybe early on I did want to…’better’ myself.” He said that with all the wariness of a man who knew it was impolitic to admit it. “I don’t know. If you’d asked me this a few years ago, maybe. But I don’t want Cowley’s job now. I won’t send men like Cook and Miller and all the others to their deaths, Cowley killed Manton for political reasons, betrayed us for the same. He’s the best of the lot, but he still has to play that bloody game. I won’t do that. You should bloody well know I won’t do that!”

Relief swamped Bodie, and swept away the filter before he spoke: “Well, thank God for that. Compromise doesn’t suit you.”

Doyle looked hard at him. “But you thought Cowley would throw you in prison if you misbehaved and that I’d cheer him on?”

“No, of course not. Well, maybe if you—”

“Why the hell didn’t you just leave?”

Bodie shrugged. “Cowley’s reach is long. How far would I have made it?”

“Not far, but that wouldn’t be because of Cowley.” Doyle looked away, then back. “If you believed that, then where does having sex with me fit?”

Bodie opened his mouth but nothing came to mind for him to say.

“Tut, tut, Three-seven, sleeping with your assignment.” Doyle’s eyes suddenly narrowed. “And if you say it kept me compliant for your protection gig, so help me God, Bodie, I’ll de-ball you.”

Despite himself, Bodie grinned. “I might have used some such justification at the beginning. It didn’t last long.”

“Idiot. I made the first pass, you know.”

“At the pub after Preston tried to kill you?” Doyle nodded. “Hah! I thought that was a pass, but I never was certain.”

“That’s because ‘discreet’ and ‘Bodie’ don’t exactly go together.”

“Oi, who was the one got us in the habit of checking for listening devices, eh? Not that it helped us in the end.”

Doyle’s eyes opened wide.

Bodie winced. “Yeah. Cowley knows.”

“Fuck it all to— Since when?”

“I dunno. He brought it up while you were contemplating shuffling off this mortal coil.”

“You’re joking.”

“I wish I were, mate. Turns out, while he doesn’t approve, he also doesn’t care—as long as it doesn’t interfere with his ambitions for you.”

“He never said that,”

“As near as makes no difference.”

“Sod it, why the fuck are you and he having conversations about me when I’m not there to knock your heads together? Why didn’t you tell me about all this?”

“I—” Bodie broke off, unable to continue. It had never occurred to him to tell Doyle about Cowley’s conversation with him. It was all wrapped up in the secret he thought he’d never reveal.

Doyle’s gaze was far too knowing. “It would have all come out, wouldn’t it? And you thought I’d send you packing if you told me about Cowley and the guns.” His voice turned hard: “Didn’t you?

It was all Bodie could do simply to shrug. Here it came. “Yes.”

“Do you think so poorly of me?”

“I think so highly of you.” Bodie turned away, closing his eyes for a moment. He could have withstood Doyle’s anger more easily.

“Last night you said you wouldn’t leave. Getting me to do your dirty work, is that it?”

“For God’s sake, Ray.” Bodie let out his breath. He looked through the window and saw it had started to rain.

After a while, Doyle spoke again, his voice gentler. “You brought up Ann earlier. Do you know why I almost married her?”

Bodie frowned, confused by the sudden change of subject. “You thought you loved her.” When Doyle said nothing, he turned around. “She would have advanced your career.”

Doyle laughed. “No, she wanted me out of CI5. You know that. No, I was running.”

Bodie didn’t understand where this was going. “You were upset about Benny.”

Doyle laughed again, a harsh sound. “I was upset about you.”

“Me?” Bodie didn’t attempt to hide his astonishment.

“I had nearly lost you, do you remember? It was when you ran from me with that bloody great bomb strapped on you. It wasn’t long after that we went to bed, and…nothing changed.”

“What did you think—?”

“I know. It was just a casual fuck. Except it turned out not to be casual for me. My fault. I took up with Esther, who wanted me to leave with her, but I couldn’t. And then I found Ann.”

“You ended it with Ann.” Bodie hardly knew what he was saying. He was trying to reconcile his version of the past with Doyle’s.

“I chose the job—and whatever I could get from you.”

There was a tight pressure on Bodie’s chest. “You never said—”

“Said anything about it to you? I’m not that self-destructive.” Doyle shrugged. “‘Never give them ammunition’, right? Even you. You’re the one who kept telling me you couldn’t afford to give a damn. Only then you’d make me feel—” Doyle closed his eyes for a moment. “I’m telling you now.” He walked towards Bodie. “You have all the bullets. What are you doing to do with them?”

“Don’t.”

Doyle stopped walking, but he was close enough that Bodie could have touched him, if he could have moved. Doyle folded his arms over his stomach. “You know, I could have gone in to see Cowley on my own. I’d pieced enough of it together to guess he had a hold on you. But I won’t go behind your back. Whatever we decide, we decide together, just like always: in or out of CI5; in or out of…us.”

“You want me, even…” It felt like he couldn’t get his voice out.

“Of course I—”

“For Christ’s sake, Doyle!” All the anger he’d suppressed, all the anguish he’d felt when he’d decided he had to leave Doyle to protect him, thundered through him. He moved forward, shouting at Doyle: “I sold arms, don’t you get it? I’ve got blood money in my fucking bank. Blood on my hands! Corruption—where the worms are, remember? That’s me. What the hell are you doing with me? You of all people? Have you changed so much?”

“No.” Doyle’s voice was quiet but firm. “You have.”

Bodie stared at him, brought to a standstill by two words.

“Would you sell arms to the IRA now?”

“Don't be stupid.”

“Well then, open your eyes! You didn’t take Turvey’s bribe, did you? You didn’t use dum-dums, you didn’t kill Krivas or King Billy.”

“Because you were there! What was I supposed—”

“You didn’t kill Mayli, either.”

Bodie looked away.

“You put four bullets into the man who was going to shoot me yesterday, but not her.”

“She was dying anyway.”

“That wasn’t the difference.” Doyle stepped forward. He gripped Bodie’s upper arms with his hands. “Neither one of us is the same as we were when we entered CI5.”

There were too many conflicting emotions for him to sort through. He resorted to his own brand of humour: “You dragged me up, I dragged you down, is that what you’re saying?” There was some truth in that, he thought.

“I’d’ve put it the other way round. We can argue about it if you like. That ought to last us several years, given your bullheadedness.” There was a smile in Doyle’s eyes. He released his hold on Bodie, but stayed close.

Bodie wasn’t ready to believe in him yet. “I would have killed Williams if he’d killed you.”

“Well, that’s all right. He’s a prick.”

Bodie closed his eyes. “Ray.” He felt Doyle’s lips brush his, and opened his eyes again.

“I don’t care about ‘would have’ or what you were in the past. All that matters is who you are now, here, with me. What you make me.” Doyle drew in a breath. “You just have to tell me the truth.”

Bodie reached out to touch Doyle’s face. “I don’t always know the truth. I need you for that.” He slid his hand down to cup Doyle’s neck. Maybe one day, he would face them and tell all his truths to Doyle. He rather thought he might. But for now, he started with the most important: “I don’t think I can be in the field with you.” He felt Doyle’s sudden stillness.

“Williams?”

Bodie nodded, and let go of Doyle. “I froze. Finally admitted it to myself. I was torn between you and the op. Between you and…” He shook his head. That fraction of a second when he’d almost denied Doyle didn’t matter. He had made his choice. “Last night, the op didn’t figure in it at all when I saw that gun held to your head.”

“Then we’ll resign.”

“Cowley won’t let you go that easily. You’re a great one for regulations, but you never read the small print.”

“He’d be daft to let us go even if we aren’t in the field. But we do have the right to resign, and if that’s what you need—”

“Dammit, Doyle.” Bodie turned away again. “Do you think I want your sacrifice?”

“Don’t tell me what is or is not a sacrifice!”

Bodie met Doyle’s glare with one of his own, but he looked away first. “Sod it. I’ve always put the op first. I decided on that when we had that hallway fiasco with Macklin years ago. But…” He reached out and touched Doyle’s chest, where one of his scars lay. “After the shooting it got harder. I hesitated on Macklin’s scenario.”

“And Ojuka?”

“If you hadn’t come out, I’d’ve gone in. And then came Williams.”

“You acted in time.”

“I froze!”

“D’you think it’s any different for me?” Doyle’s voice rose. “It’s the price we pay, if we stay in CI5.”

“Which you bloody well want to do.”

“Yes!” Doyle threw up his hands, turned away, then back. “But not if it means losing you, you stupid pillock.”

Bodie looked down at the floor. “It’s really the same for you?”

“Well, just now I’d happily let Williams shoot you.”

Bodie felt a grin tug at his mouth. “That’s just so you could rid the world of another prick.”

“There is that. Oi. Which one?”

“Now, none of that.” Bodie shook his head, feeling something like wonder growing inside him. “I suppose you wouldn’t believe me if I told you I wanted to end it?”

“What, your life? You made a pretty good attempt at that last night. At least now I understand why.”

“No, you idiot, us.”

“Four fucking bullets, Bodie. No, I would not believe you.” But his very fierceness told Bodie there was fear underneath it all, and that wasn’t right.

He moved forward, kissed Doyle, and finally understood and believed the welcome he found. When he could, he said: “Are you going to respond to all my declarations by tearing a strip off me?”

“It seems likely.” Doyle rested his forehead against Bodie’s. “Are you ready to listen to reason now? We go and see Cowley. Tell him our terms and deal with the consequences. No more hidden agendas.”

“He could break us,” Bodie warned.

“No. He can’t.”

“Idealist.”

Doyle kissed him quickly. “Pragmatist.”

Bodie sighed, and moved back, though he kept his hands on Doyle’s shoulders. “Okay. But we’ve always won when we do what we both want.”

“What are you thinking?”

“We go in and see Cowley, like you said, but we make preparations first.”

Doyle raised his eyebrows. “That stashed car and passports?”

“Much more thorough, and very, very discreet.”

“That didn’t seem to help us before, but…yeah. It won’t be today, then, that we talk to him.”

“No. But soon.”

“Fair enough. And when we talk to him, we propose a refresher with Macklin.”

“Aw, Ray.” Bodie scrunched his face up and released Doyle.

“Gotta get a handle on these new emotions of yours.” Doyle patted him on the chest

“Not exactly new. Maybe I was just having an off…month or two.”

“Optimist.”

“Pessimist.” But Bodie sighed. “Right. One refresher.” He brightened. “Maybe Cowley will kick us out, after all.”

Doyle tilted his head. “So, if it’s not new to you, what the hell was Louise all about then?”

“Hah!” Bodie grinned. “I knew you were jealous.”

Doyle looked at him. “Oh, and now it all makes sense—you breaking up my date with Deborah for that obbo!”

“I was ill!”

“Yeah, in the head, mate.”

“Anyway, Louise isn’t a problem.”

“Because she’s only a figment of your fertile imagination?

“You wound me.” Bodie grinned. “Nah, she loves sex, and that’s all she loves.”

“Sounds intriguing.”

“Oi.”

“We never did have that threesome.”

“We’ll save that for a snowy day, shall we?”

“Not a rainy day?”

“We live in England, Doyle.”

“For now. Where shall we go if we have to flee Cowley’s wrath?”

Bodie couldn’t joke about it yet, so he just shrugged.

“Hey.” Doyle moved forward and kissed him hard. “We’ll do whatever we need to feel safe.”

Bodie wrapped his arms around Doyle, felt the strength in him. You won’t fall if they push, he’d once said to Doyle, never knowing how much he himself would come to depend on that. He had learned to keep his affairs clear and uncomplicated, he’d kept tallies to make it so, yet now he had given himself completely to Ray Doyle. That thought didn’t scare him nearly as much as the look of trust in Doyle’s eyes. “Damn you, Ray,” he said, before he kissed him. I will never let you down, he vowed to himself.

“I could say the same about you,” Doyle said, when the kiss ended.

“You frequently do.” Bodie decided it was time to begin an exploration of Doyle's neck with his mouth.

“In fact,” Doyle said in a thoughtful tone, “the frequency will probably go up.”

“Oh, you think we’re going to argue, do you?” His hands began their own exploration, finding Doyle semi-hard.

“Without a doubt.”

“I thought you just said you’d do whatever I want.”

“Dreamer. Anyway, that was ‘need’ not ‘want’, and it was mutual, not singular. I can see I’m going to have—”

Bodie raised his head. “Doyle.”

“Yes?”

“Shut up.” Bodie kissed him again.

After some time, Doyle broke the kiss. “It seems to me we had this conversation about you and your appreciation for my verbal skills.”

“That’s true,” Bodie said, as if much struck. “Let’s do some appreciating right now.” He tugged Doyle in the direction of his bedroom.

Doyle didn’t budge. “There’s only one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“We’ve used up all our time. We’re due at HQ.”

Bodie looked at his watch. “There’s time.” But he put his forehead on Doyle’s shoulder.

“Do you really fancy explaining to Cowley why we’re late?”

“We never would.”

“No, but I don’t want him guessing, either.” He grimaced. “I rather wish you hadn’t told me about Cowley, after all. Come on.” Doyle brushed his hand over Bodie’s cock. “Keep it for later, eh?”

“Bastard,” Bodie said, without heat. He took in a few deep breaths.

“My mum would take exception to that.” Doyle led the way to the door, straightening his clothing as he went.

“I thought you took exception to your mum.”

“Only in matters of politics, religion—”

“Gay rights?”

Doyle opened the door. “Yeah, she’s not going to approve of you. At all.” He walked out of the flat.

Bodie followed and caught up with him at the bottom of the stairs. “She’ll never withstand my charm.”

Doyle laughed. “And finally I shall see you humbled.” He led the way out of the block. The rain had stopped and the sun was out again.

“I won you over, didn’t I?” Bodie looked down for a moment. “Anyway, I reckon you see that every day.”

“Nah, arrogance personified, that’s you.” Doyle glanced back at Bodie with a smile. “I’m just susceptible, God help me.” He headed towards his car.

“Ray.” He couldn’t believe all that had happened in the flat. How could it be true? How could his future have changed so dramatically?

Doyle turned and walked back to him. Something of what Bodie was feeling must have been revealed on his face, because Doyle just said: “Trust me, sunshine.” His gaze was as steady as his gun hand.

 

What if I drop it?

You don’t.

~*~ 

Here we are. Hold your breath, sunshine.

~*~ 

What are you doing?

Going to give myself up.

~*~ 

And if I had fired from the door and missed, who was standing in the window?

~*~ 

I’m not going without him. Trust me, sunshine.

 

Their partnership had already lasted far longer than he had expected. What did he have to fear when it was Ray who stood before him? Bodie smiled and flung an arm around Doyle as he urged him towards the car. “As I recall, the last time you said that, we both ‘died’.”

“Miscommunication.”

Bodie laughed, and let him go in order to walk to the passenger side. “Bullheadedness.”

They looked at each other across the roof of the car. “Yeah,” they said in unison.

~*~ 

oooOOOooo

~*~ 

“I did warn you.”

“Maybe, but no one likes an ‘I told you so’.” Cowley finished pouring the whisky and brought two glasses back to the desk. He handed one glass to Macklin and settled into his chair behind the desk with the other. “You were still wrong about Doyle.”

“I think I was more wrong about you than Doyle. I didn’t think you’d find a man like Bodie. It still ought not to have worked.”

“But it did.” Cowley took a sip of the whisky. “Perhaps a little too well.”

Macklin smiled. “I may have underestimated Doyle’s toughness, you underestimated his…” Cowley looked at him, and saw Macklin’s smile widen. “Ambition.”

“Hm.”

“Scuppered your plans, have they?” Macklin saluted Cowley with his glass and drank some whisky.

“Well, as to that, a good strategist sees the whole battlefield. What is your assessment?”

Macklin shrugged. “They are still the best team you have.”

“Would they put each other before our goals?”

“That would depend on the goals and the circumstances. There is a good reason for the non-fraternization rule. There are certainly types of operations I would not recommend them for. However, their closeness also gives them an edge. I noticed that when I was preparing them for the Parsali operation. It was easy enough to motivate Bodie when Doyle was threatened.”

“Aye. I used Bodie for a similar dose of motivation for Doyle. I admit, I had not predicted the depth or strength of their attachment.”

“They bring out the best in each other.”

“Or the worst, at certain inopportune moments. Well, it would be a waste to allow their skills and talents out of CI5.”

“That statement I could have predicted.” Macklin drank more of his whisky.

“I should hope so.” Cowley leaned back in his chair, tapped the side of his glass as he contemplated. “My first objective has certainly been realised. With Doyle and Bodie in my organisation, operating as they do, we have had no further incidents such as those caused by Wakefield or Martin.”

“They do lead by example. There is healthy competition amongst the teams.”

“And CI5, overall, has a high success rate and a strong reputation. We may still dictate our own terms, to a certain extent.”

You can.”

“What I need is a man—or woman—with the background, contacts, and integrity to be acceptable to both the government and the agents…”

“An impossible combination. You cannot recreate yourself.”

“No, but that may not be necessary.” Cowley stared into the distance. He had been turning this problem over in his brain ever since Bodie and Doyle had dropped their little bombshell. Restructuring might be the answer, with a limited amount of power sharing. There were a couple of people he might approach. He returned his gaze to Macklin. “Impossible, you say? Would you care to wager on that?”

“No.” Macklin took another sip of whisky. “Unless, of course, you need the goad.”

“I can always rely on you for that. In any case, the future will take care of itself, with a little help and planning. Meanwhile, with your evaluation complete, I shall reinstate Bodie and Doyle and we can get back to our mission. They should be well-rested. They haven’t stirred from their flats since you released them.”

“I’m not so certain they were resting,” Macklin murmured.

Cowley pretended not to have heard him. “Now, about these new recruits. I have in mind partnering Paulson with Elliott…”

They argued back and forth, working through the list to arrive at preliminary teams. Not all of them would work, of course, but he and Brian had a fairly high rate of success forming viable teams. Cowley knew that was because they did disagree—they each had their own areas of expertise, and they respected that. Cowley, of course, made the final decisions.

“You know,” he said, as they finished the job, “I am not giving up on the notion that one day Bodie and Doyle might lead this organisation. Perhaps together. This team model…”

“Two men in a homosexual relationship?” Macklin’s incredulity was obvious.

“Laws change, attitudes too. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not for ten years or more, but possibly, one day.”

“You can’t pin your hopes on such a remote possibility.”

Cowley looked at him. “Pin my hopes? No. Place the pieces on the board in such a way as to take advantage of that remote possibility? Oh, yes.”

“Strategy for the war, not just the battlefield?”

Cowley smiled and raised his glass.


THE END
September 2014