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Thicker Than Blood

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Doyle watched Bodie go rigid through the window. He couldn't hear what the voice on the other end of Bodie's telephone was saying to him but it wasn't difficult to tell that something was wrong. He leaned back against the car and kept his eye on Bodie. Might be Cowley, he thought. Telling them they were needed right away, as if they weren't already heading to work. Maybe he had some new assignment but it would have to be a doozy to upset Bodie. Bodie slammed the receiver back on the hook. The man took a moment to collect himself and then joined Doyle outside. He walked past him without a word and got into the passenger's seat. Maybe not Cowley, then.

Doyle got in the driver's seat and waited. Bodie only stared straight ahead, not giving away anything. Doyle rarely got on Bodie's bad side, but he thought he'd better tread lightly.

'All right, mate?' He tried to go for a casual tone and only glanced at Bodie. His partner nodded stiffly, but offered no other assurances. Doyle decided not to push his luck. He started the car and they took the trip in silence. He kept checking on him out of the corner of his eye. He saw the man's knuckles turn white with how hard a grip he had on his R/T. His lips were pursed tightly together. There was no way to get information out of Bodie, if he didn't want to give it. Doyle had learned that the hard way. He learned each time he'd been curious enough to ask about his past. Every time, Bodie's eyes went dark and he shut down and pulled away for a while. He would just have to wait for Bodie to come to him, or wait until he solved whatever the problem was on his own and his dark mood lifted. It was usually the latter.

It was a source of frustration for Doyle. That Bodie never really let him in while Doyle told him everything. Let him help with every problem he was having. Bodie handled it all like it was his right. He didn't ask what Doyle needed. He just knew and he was always there. So, why was it that he never extended the same courtesy in return? Why did the stubborn bastard insist on going it alone? Doyle couldn't help but see it as some sort of failing on his part. Something he'd done or hadn't done that kept Bodie from trusting him, as much as he trusted Bodie. He didn't know what to do to change that.

They pulled in to work and Bodie got out, again without saying anything. He waited for Doyle, propped up by the hood. Doyle would take that as a good sign. He joined him, arms crossed and waiting for Bodie to speak. Perhaps it was his imagination, but it looked to him like the man wanted to say something. Wanted to tell him what that phone call had been about.

'Better get going. The Cow will have us for breakfast if we're late again,' was all he said. Doyle deflated but allowed Bodie to pull him along inside.

They were barely in the door when Cowley's voice bellowed at them. '3.7!' The two men stopped in their tracks.

'Sir,' Bodie answered. Doyle stood at Bodie's shoulder, already feeling defensive. Cowley stalked toward them. He got right up to Bodie and his face softened ever so slightly. 'You all right, lad?'

Whatever Doyle had been expecting, it wasn't that. He checked Bodie's reaction, but he was as stoic as ever. Doyle had always suspected that Cowley, for all his cool detachment, had a soft spot for his partner that he didn't have for any other agent. But, this was a surprise. If Cowley ever felt inclined to inquire after their personal lives, he usually called them to his office, in a private moment. For a brief moment, he thought Cowley might try to hug him.

'Of course, sir. Why wouldn't I be?' Bodie's voice dared Cowley to say it. Give a name to whatever it was that had soured Bodie's mood. That Cowley apparently knew about it, but he didn't, ruffled him. It was one thing for Bodie to keep his secrets to himself. But, something that Cowley was in on? That didn't include him? He felt a surge of anger and hurt that he tried to push down.

'Bodie,' Cowley softly admonished him. The muscles in Bodie's jaw twitched, but otherwise, he stayed still.

'How did you find out,' he asked.

'I know more about you than you do' Cowley answered. He looked over at Doyle as if just noticing him for the first time. He added, 'all my agents.'

'It won't affect me here, sir. I think you know that.' Cowley looked him over. He nodded, but he looked more sad than satisfied. 'Aye, I do. Go on, then.'

Bodie nodded and turned to go, not waiting for Doyle this time, Doyle watched until he was out of sight. 'What was all that about, sir?'

'That's 3.7's business,' was Cowley's brusque response. He, too, left Doyle standing there. Frustrated now, Doyle took off in the direction that Bodie had gone. He wasn't going to wait his partner out this time. He wanted answers. If it was Bodie's business and it was Cowley's business, that bloody well made it his business too. Cowley and Bodie. Bastards. Two of the most tight lipped, closed off people Doyle had ever met. And he was forever in the middle, getting nowhere. Between the two, he'd take his chances with Bodie. Bodie would forgive him for prying. He'd forgive him anything.

Bodie was sat by the window, absently staring out at the grey sky. Doyle looked around. The room was relatively empty. Only a couple of agents and they weren't paying attention. He pulled up a chair opposite his partner. He leaned in and spoke low, trying for as much privacy as CI5 would afford them.

'Want to tell me what's going on?' Bodie kept staring.

'Come on, sunshine, tell me.'

'Doyle, leave it. Cowley had no business bringing it up. He must have my phone bugged if he found out that fast. It's got nothing to do with him or you.'

Doyle tried another approach. 'Well, if you're watching my back out there, I want to know that you're focused.'

Now, Bodie looked at him. He looked mildly surprised and hurt. 'Don't worry about yourself, mate. I'll keep you alive like I always have.'

Doyle shrugged and pushed further. 'I might be a little more assured if you'd tell me what's got you so wound up.'

'Ray, I said leave it.' Doyle shoved back in his chair and rubbed his hands together. He didn't want to cause a scene but Bodie was leaving him little choice.

'Here we go again,' he said.

Bodie looked confused, 'what?'

'You know everything about me, don't you? I don't get to know anything about you. You're always so damned cagey.' His voice was rising.

'About things that don't include you,' Bodie's voice was getting dangerous. A warning to his partner to back off.

'You're involved in everything I do! Just tell me. Tell me what's going on. I'm not letting it go this time.'

Bodie looked around. The few people there were, were now all staring at them. 'You want to know? All right. My mum, who I haven't been home to see in 15 years, died this morning.'

With that, Bodie left, leaving Doyle stranded and dumbfounded for the third time in one day.

 

**********

 

Doyle gave Bodie a wide berth for the rest of the day. He kept an eye on him from afar but was careful not to get in his way. To anyone else, Bodie might have seemed perfectly normal. But, Doyle had been watching Bodie for years. He could see how tense the man was. Hurting and angry and unwilling to share the load. He didn't see Cowley again, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the old man was keeping tabs on Bodie too. He prepared himself to catch up to his partner before he could escape for the night, confident that Bodie would have forgiven him by now.

He nearly didn't make it. Bodie was on his way to a brand new gold Capri, when Doyle came running up to him.

'Hey!' Bodie turned and kept his expression neutral.

'Why don't you come round to mine? Or we could go to the pub.'

'No, thanks.' Doyle grabbed him by the arm before he could escape. He braced himself in case Bodie decided to take a swing but he only looked at him, somewhat indulgently.

'Look, I know how you must feel but don't go out and do anything stupid.'

'I won't. I've gotta go to mum's. There's things that need sorting and no one's gonna do it, except me. There's no one else to do it.'

Doyle stared. Bodie's mother lived in the country. That much he knew from sneaking peeks at his file. 'Doesn't have to be tonight. Why don't you start tomorrow?'

Bodie gently pulled his arm free from Doyle's grasp. 'No sense in waiting. She'll be just as gone tomorrow as she is now. I'm going.'

Bodie unlocked the Capri. Before he knew what he was doing, Doyle made a dash for the passenger's side. Bodie looked at him, confused and bemused. 'What are you doing?'

'I'm coming with you. And there's no changing my mind, so unless you want to put me in hospital, get in and drive.'

'What makes you so sure that I won't, mate?'

Doyle's heart skipped a beat, but he didn't let it show. This was Bodie and Bodie would never hurt him.

'Don't know, really. I just know that you don't want to scar my beautiful face,' he offered up his best grin and held his breath.

Slowly, a small smile spread across Bodie's face. 'See? You do know me.'

He got in and started the car. Doyle breathed a sigh of relief.

 

**********

 

They made it in just before sundown. Doyle was surprised to see that the place was a small, cozy looking cottage. A large, colorful garden surrounded the home on all sides. Vines climbed up the stone walls. Flowers bloomed, warm and inviting. It was not at all the sort of place he'd ever pictured Bodie growing up in. Rough, hard, William Bodie, spending his childhood in a house out of a fairytale. Appearances must be deceiving.

Bodie just stared at it for a few moments. Maybe something like regret flashed across his features. But, it was hard to tell in the dying sunlight. Doyle didn't want to break the moment. It wasn't his anyway. He didn't often see Bodie in a reflective mood. The last time must have been when he told Doyle about a girl he had loved. A girl who had been murdered by Krivas. That was one of the rare times Bodie had given up something about his past.

'Do you know the last time that I was here, I didn't even look back. Never told her goodbye either. Didn't have the courage to tell her to her face that I was leaving. I left her a note and that was all.'

Doyle wanted to ask. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask him why. Why did he run away at 14 to live a life of violence and killing? What was so horrible that it seemed the better alternative? But, he couldn't. He'd let Bodie go at his own speed. He was letting him share this private moment with him, after all. Instead he asked, 'did you ever see her again?'

'Spoke to her a few times on the telephone. Once she calmed down about my running off. Always wanted me to come home. I couldn't. I knew it hurt her but I couldn't go back. I left it behind for a reason. Last spoke to her right after I joined CI5. She actually seemed to like the idea of it. More so than anything else I've done anyway.'

Bodie's voice sounded far away, as if he was drifting through his own memories. He leaned closer over the steering wheel. 'It hasn't changed one bloody bit.'

Bodie got out of the car. Doyle, silently, followed. Bodie toed a small flower pot out of the way near the front door to reveal a key underneath. He smiled without joy. 'Always told her not to leave the key out like this. She never did listen to me. Didn't matter what I said, she didn't listen.'

He let them in and flipped on the lights. The inside didn't match the outside at all. To say it was cluttered didn't cover it. Boxes stacked from the floor to the ceiling Clothes and quilts covered the furniture, Papers were littered and stuck out of every surface. Everything smelled musty. The walls, what he could see of them, were a faded baby blue. The corners sparked some impressive sized cobwebs.

The kitchen was visible from the doorway. The sink was overflowing with dishes and silverware. The small table had more boxes piled on it. He shuddered to think what was in the cabinets. He thought he could hear the scritching and scratching of mice.

'Huh,' said Bodie. 'I guess it has changed a bit.' He carefully waded into the living room. Doyle followed. 'Where do we start?'

'I don't know. I don't know what all this is or what she's been up to.'

The hours crept by as they looked through box after box. Doyle smiled while he leafed through pages of children's drawings and art projects. Many of them saying I love you mum in large, crooked letters. Imagining Bodie as a small child who only wanted to make his mother happy got to him. Knowing that Bodie began his life of violence so young, made it hard to remember that Bodie was ever an innocent kid. He wondered again what it was that had made Bodie run. And if he'd ever run again. Run from him.

He studied his partner. Bodie gave away nothing. His face remained neutral as he looked through his mother's belongings. He didn't seem interested in conversation and Doyle wasn't sure what to say. He chose to let the uneasy silence continue. Bodie closed another box and set it beside him, next to the other's he'd already been through. He pressed his palms to his eyes and yawned loudly.

'She's got to have a will around here someplace. There used to be a desk by that wall over there.' He stood and stepped between the boxes. There were other stacks crowding the wall that Bodie was eyeing. Stacks that were nearly as tall as he was. Careful not to knock them over, he scooted a stack out of way and then another. Sure enough, there was a little oak desk hiding behind them. He turned back to Doyle with a sly smile and gestured him over.

'Come on, give us a hand with this.' Bodie began with the drawers on the left and Doyle on the right. At first there was nothing of particular interest. Receipts, bills, old shopping lists. Doyle flipped through them quickly. He could tell by Bodie's absent humming that he wasn't getting anywhere either.

At the bottom of the second drawer, there was an old envelope. In loving script was the handwritten name William. He picked it up gently. He looked at Bodie, who was oblivious to his discovery.

'Bodie.' Bodie stopped and turned his attention to him. He froze when he saw the envelope in his hand. He reached for it. Doyle handed it over. Bodie stared at it. He ran his thumb over his name, almost reverently. It wasn't sealed and he easily slipped the sheet of paper out. It wasn't a long letter. Just barely taking up one side of the page.

He took a deep breath and began reading silently. Doyle turned his attention back to his task, not wanting to intrude. He was about to start on the next drawer when a small photograph caught his eye. It was stuck up right against the back of the drawer. It was too dark to tell what was in the photo. All he could see from his angle were the white edges.

He peeled it off, hoping it wouldn't tear. He held it up to the light. The picture was old and faded, almost older than Bodie's letter was. The black and white photo was of a young man in a long black coat. His body was turning away from the camera but his face was still looking at whoever was taking the picture. He looked familiar to Doyle but the poor light and faded details made it hard to place at first.

He touched the face of the man in the photograph. He knew that face and with a sudden sinking feeling, he knew who he was staring at. He licked his lips. 'Bodie, your mum's got a photo of-'

'George Cowley,' Bodie finished, his voice was flat. He was gripping the letter in his hands so tightly, Doyle thought he might rip it in half

'Yeah. How did you know?'

'Because, apparently, he's my father.' He let the letter drop to the floor and stormed out of the house. Doyle couldn't help it. He snatched up the letter and read it for himself.

By the time he rushed out after Bodie, he'd forgotten parts of what he read. It was only certain phrases that ran through his head on a loop. So sorry. He never wanted you to know. It doesn't mean he didn't care. He had a duty. I've always loved you more than anything. I know your father does as well. I spoiled everything and you paid for it. You're the best thing that ever happened to me.

He found Bodie in the back, overlooking more of his mother's garden. The colors of the flowers were muted in the moonlight but still beautiful. He was ramrod straight and unmoving. He'd half expected the man to be pacing or tearing up the plants or smashing the windows. But, Bodie prided himself on staying cool.

'You know, you keep running out on me like this, I'm gonna start thinking there's something wrong with me,' Doyle tried.

'That bitch,' he said by way of acknowledging Doyle's presence.

'Bodie,' he warned.

'She knew. The whole time she knew. She told me she didn't know where he was. She told me he was a soldier fighting somewhere far away and he couldn't come back. She never said it was him. And she knew. She knew when I joined CI5. She could have warned me.'

'Would you have taken the job?'

'No, I wouldn't have. Last thing I wanted was charity from an absent father. Nice to know that's what I've been doing for the last few years.'

'Come on, mate, that's not true. Cowley wouldn't do that. He wouldn't give you a job out of charity. CI5 is too important to him. He wouldn't let you in if you weren't up for it. You've gotta know that?'

Doyle was certain of that. Cowley put CI5 above all else. Son or no son, he would never put the kind of faith he put in Bodie if Bodie hadn't earned it.

'I don't know anything anymore. That bastard knows who he is and who I am. He knows what mum went through. How she suffered when he left and then again when I left her alone with her bastard of a husband.' Bodie's voice didn't break. It didn't even waver. All his voice held was fury. Doyle knew the grief would come later.

Doyle knew he was right. He wasn't one to defend Cowley anyway. That was more Bodie's territory. He laid a hand on his partner's shoulder. He tensed up but he didn't pull away. A thousand questions went through his mind, as he was sure they must be going through Bodie's. It was no secret Cowley favored Bodie. Everyone saw it, but Bodie could always back it up. He was the best agent they had, next to himself, of course. He'd always thought that was all there was to it. What had the old man been thinking? That he would just work by his son day in and day out without the truth ever coming out. Of course, if anyone could keep a secret, it was George bloody Cowley.

'What do I do now, Ray,' Bodie finally broke the silence. 'I never thought I'd give up the job.'

Doyle dropped his hand from Bodie's shoulder, surprised and momentarily panicked. 'You're not going to give up the job,' he said firmly.

Bodie turned to him with sharp, challenging eyes. 'Oh, you're gonna stop me, are you?'

Doyle rolled his eyes. 'Look, I know you're angry. But, don't do anything so stupid. What would you do without CI5?'

'I've done a thousand things before it, I can go back to doing any one of them.'

His throat felt suddenly dry. 'What, be a merc again? Throw your lot back in with that mob? That's what you want,' he was aware that his voice was rising and cracking but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He never could control his temper. He hated Cowley at that moment. Would hate him forever if this revelation drove Bodie away.

Bodie shot him a pointed glare,' I don't have to be a merc. There's other places I could go. Plenty of others that would have me, honestly. I've been making my way since I was 14. I'm good at it, aren't I?' He looked down, as if he were ashamed of something.

'Yeah. You are. And you deserve to be at CI5. How many times have you pulled me out of a jam? I'd be dead without you around to watch my back.’

Bodie's lips quirked up a bit at that but he still didn't look up. 'Don't I know it, sunshine.'

Some of the tension eased. Doyle clenched and unclenched his fists in an effort to calm down. Bodie continued. 'Ray, how can I face him? How can I go in there and take orders from him like I still respect the bastard?'

Doyle had no answer. For a selfish moment, he wished they hadn't found the letter or the photo. He wished Bodie could unknow it. It was wrong, he knew. Bodie deserved to know. Everyone deserved to know where they came from and if they were being lied to. He guessed even George Cowley must have known he couldn't keep this hidden forever.

'You gonna talk to him, then?'

'Can't think of what good that'll do. What, we'll sit down over a single malt scotch and have a heart to heart, real father and son bullocks? Nothing he says can make it right.’

'Well, anything you do decide, I'll back you. So long as you don't decide to leave,' he tried to pass it off as a joke.

Bodie didn't laugh. He just kept staring at the ground. Finally he said, 'I can't promise you that. I'm knackered. I'll go and find us some sheets.'

He went back inside. Doyle stayed, wondering how quickly life had turned upside down. The night was warm but he shivered anyway. He'd often felt like he had one foot out the door of CI5 but not Bodie. Bodie was committed to it. He couldn't picture the place without him. They belonged together. And strange as it was, he thought CI5 kept his partner out of trouble. Made sure he was always fighting on the right side. He supposed he couldn't blame him if he did leave. He suddenly had the thought that if Doyle hadn't insisted on coming along on this trip, he might never have known anything about Bodie's true parentage. It wasn't the type of thing Bodie would want to chat about over breakfast in the Capri. He might have just up and quit and Doyle would never have known why. He'd be left hurt and furious and wondering what he'd done wrong. He knew Bodie cared for him, but he also knew Bodie had lived and dropped many lives before this one. He moved on. That's what he did. He'd left his own mother, after all.

'You gonna stand there all night,' Bodie called from the doorway.

Bodie let Doyle sleep in his old bed. His childhood bedroom was as cluttered as the rest of the place. Aside from the small bed, there was no sign that a child had ever lived there. Bodie had shrugged when Doyle pointed that out. Doyle wondered if it had been too painful for his mother to keep Bodie's things out after he'd gone.

Bodie settled on the floor next to him. Neither of them spoke, but both were wide awake. He stared at the stained, cobwebbed filled ceiling and let his mind race. There was so much that Doyle wanted to ask him. Hell, there was even more that he wanted to ask Cowley. Bloody Cowley. The man was forever finding ways to throw the wrench into their lives. He shook off the sudden memory of Ann Holly. He'd often accused their boss of being a ruthless old bastard, but this was beyond what he'd thought him capable of. Knowing Bodie was his son. Never saying. Sending him into danger as dispassionately as he did the rest of them. He couldn't understand it.

While he was lost in his thoughts, he heard the sheets rustle below him. Bodie was up. He mumbled something about not being able to sleep and left. Doyle didn't protest, despite the fact that going to bed was Bodie's idea in the first place. He listened closely to Bodie rummaging through more boxes in the other room. After a while, he gave up on sleep and padded back to join him.

Bodie was sitting in the middle of a pile of boxes. But, he'd stopped going through them. He was holding Cowley's picture. Studying it. As if it somehow held all the answers he needed.

He thought about sneaking back to the bedroom but he felt compelled to stay. Bodie needed to know that he didn't have to face this alone. He rapped on the wall to get his partner's attention. Bodie turned and smiled ruefully.

'Bastard's barely changed, hasn’t he?'

'It's the scotch. Keeps him going.'

Bodie snorted. Doyle pushed the boxes out of the way and sat next to Bodie. Bodie handed him the picture and Doyle examined it again.

'Do you know what this means?'

'What?'

'I'm afraid you're a Scot now, mate,' he put a hand on Bodie's shoulder in mock sympathy. Bodie laughed, loudly and wonderfully.

'And I thought it couldn't get any worse.'

 

*********

 

By Monday morning, the pair were headed back to London. After that first night, they'd both carefully avoided all mention of Cowley. They'd gotten a good deal of work done around the little cottage. Most of the boxes had been cleared out. Bodie had written most of it off as old junk. They'd met with his mother's lawyer who bombarded them with questions about what to do with the property. She'd changed her will to leave the home to Bodie after a Martin McKnight died.

'Who's Martin McKnight,' Doyle asked.

Bodie flinched at the name. ‘Her husband. Right bastard he was, too. I wouldn’t have left if he had never come into our lives.’' He didn't elaborate, but Doyle was starting to get the picture.

Bodie finally waved the lawyer off and told him to sell the place. He didn't want to keep it. He didn't even want to see it again. His mother had specified that she wanted no funeral, no fuss made at all. That seemed alright by Bodie. He had her cremated and brought the ashes back with them. He said he didn't know what else to do with them. He refused to spread them in her garden. He'd just keep them for now.

Doyle had gotten his partner to laugh a few times over the somber weekend, and even allowed himself to believe that it would be all right. But, the closer they got to home, the more withdrawn Bodie became. That made Doyle anxious. He found his leg bouncing restlessly as Bodie made the drive back to the city. When they got back to CI5 headquarters, they'd have to deal with things one way or another. Cowley wasn't one to back down or apologize for his choices. Bodie wouldn't get what he needed from the old man.

'What are you gonna say?'

Bodie looked at him sincerely before he replied, 'I've absolutely no idea.'

As it turned out, Bodie decided to say nothing about it to Cowley. As soon as they were back in his office, Bodie tensed up and couldn't look him in the eye.

'Bodie, are you quite sure you're up to performing your usual tasks?'

'Yes, sir,' Bodie said through clenched teeth. His hands were balled into fists at his side and his whole body radiated tension. Cowley noticed. He must have. He just didn't mention it. He turned his attention to Doyle.

'As for you, I don't remember giving you permission to disappear this weekend.'

Doyle gaped at him. I wasn't aware that I needed your permission to leave town if I wanted to.'

'This is CI5, man! You need my permission to phone your grandmother.'

'Sir,' he began, not quite sure how to finish. Of course Cowley would turn this all around on him. Before he could think of a way to defend himself, Bodie jumped in.

'He was helping me sort out some family business. I insisted that he come along.'

Cowley eyed them both critically, suggesting he didn't believe a word of it. 'You insisted, did you? And I suppose Doyle here is a child, with no will of his own.'

Bodie smiled at last, 'well, I can be very persuasive, sir.' Doyle stifled a laugh. Even Cowley nearly cracked.

'Aye, that you are lad. Right. If you’re quite sure, Bodie, I want the two of you out of here. You’re on stakeout duty. The address is in the file.’ Cowley slapped a cream colored file in front of him.

‘Yes, sir. What’s going on over there?’

‘We’re not sure yet. But, we do have reason to believe that someone has smuggled in an arms shipment in.’

‘And you think they’re hiding them there?’

‘Possibly. You two are strictly to observe, you understand? I don’t want any heroics. Observe and report back to me.’

‘What, to watch a building all day? Sir, don’t you think we could be doing something more productive,’ Bodie argued.

‘You’ll do as you’re told, 3.7.’

Bodie bristled at that and Doyle saw his partner’s careful control ready to slip. Quickly, Doyle snatched the file from the desk and hustled Bodie out of the office. Bodie didn’t fight him.

‘We understand sir,’ Doyle called as they left. If Cowley had anything more to say, they didn’t stick around to hear it.

 

**********

 

As far as stakeouts went, Doyle had had better. Bodie sat by the window of the empty building they’d holed up in, seething, never taking his eyes off the place across the street. Doyle wasn’t even sure that he had even blinked since they’d arrived. The man’s jaw was set. His hands were still in tight fists. He was as still as a statue.

Doyle let the silence linger. He didn’t see any way past this unless Bodie and Cowley talked. Really talked. But, his boss and his partner were two of the most stubborn, and bullheaded people he had ever known. Outside of himself, that is. And unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree, he supposed. The two of them would let this secret simmer between them until it boiled over. And Bodie was the one most likely to get burned.

After all, Cowley had already known. The only thing that had changed for him was that Bodie knew too. And maybe Cowley could carry on as if it meant nothing, but it was clear to Doyle that Bodie couldn’t. Surely, Bodie had the same questions going through Doyle’s mind. Was it just a passing fling? Or had it been serious between the Cow and Bodie’s mum? Had Cowley ever met his son as a baby or had he done a runner as soon as he found out she was pregnant?

‘Are we meant to sit here all day?’ Bodie finally spoke and shook Doyle from the endless well of questions.

‘We’ve done it before.’

‘For something more solid than this. The Cow knows this is beneath us.’

Doyle agreed with him but part of him was glad for the dull assignment. Bodie’s head wasn’t on right. Doyle didn’t blame him. Who would be in their right mind after the loss and subsequent revelation that he’d been lied to for years?

‘Could have been worse,’ Doyle said. ‘He could have stuck us on desk duty.’

‘He probably doesn’t want to be in the same building as me. He never even had the decency to tell me who he was.’

Doyle wasn’t one to defend Cowley but he didn’t like seeing his usually confident partner getting down on himself.

‘Listen, mate-’

‘Forget it, Ray. It doesn’t matter. I’ve done without a family for a long time now. I certainly don’t need one now.’

Doyle bit his tongue. He nearly said something embarrassing like, they were family. Him and Bodie. Weren’t they? Doyle talked to his parents maybe once a month. He saw them once a year. He saw Bodie every day. On the job, yes, but they spent plenty of time together outside of work. It didn’t matter what they did, he just enjoyed the company. They’d even gone on holiday together. He loved being able to make the other man laugh like no one else could. He never trusted anyone like he trusted Bodie. Never let anyone know him the way he’d let Bodie. He’d been blackout drunk at Bodie’s flat, knowing he’d be safe in the morning. Bodie had saved his life a dozen times over and never made a fuss over it. If all of that didn’t spell family, if it didn’t spell love, he didn’t know what did. But, he didn’t say any of that.

He looked down at the street below. It was quiet. Occasionally, a motorist would pass by, but other than that, it was empty. Doyle was beginning to wonder if the whole thing wasn’t a set up by Cowley. To simply get them out of the way for the day.

‘I’m sick of sitting here,’ grumbled Bodie.

‘Come on. What happened to Mr. Always be Cool?’

Bodie turned and eyed him, ‘I’m still cool, mate. Just don’t like being made a fool of.’

So, Bodie had been thinking the same thing. That Cowley had just wanted to get rid of them for a while.

‘We’re doing what we always do. Following orders.’

Bodie’s eyes narrowed, dangerously. ‘Bit too old to follow father’s orders, aren’t I?’

Doyle never let Bodie intimidate him and he wasn’t about to start now. ‘Do you want to go, then? Go back and tell Cowley what’s on your mind?’

‘He knows what’s on my mind. It won’t change anything to say it out loud.’

‘Maybe not to him, but it might do for you.’

Bodie turned back toward the window before responding. ‘Listen, thanks for being there this weekend. I didn’t think it would, but it helped.’

Bodie had never thanked him like that before. Doyle wasn’t sure how to respond to it. ‘Don’t mention it, mate.’

Bodie nodded and was silent again.

Doyle changed the subject. ‘You hungry? I could go and get us something.’

‘Yeah, okay.’

Doyle smiled, ‘right. Don’t talk to any strangers while I’m out.’

Doyle left, eager to do something, anything. To help his partner out of his sour mood. To get a break from some of his own restlessness. He hadn’t felt so useless in a long time. And he was convinced there was nothing going on across the street.

It didn’t take him long to get back with an arm full of food and some renewed energy. Bodie had pulled him out of plenty of dark moments in his life. He’d tease and distract until Doyle bounced back and Doyle could do the same for him.

‘Bodie,’ he began as he entered the room. There was no response. Bodie wasn’t there. He sat the bags on the floor. ‘Bodie? Bodie!’

He made a quick search of the place but Bodie was gone. His first reaction was anger. The bastard had gone off and left him. Deliberately sent him off so he could slip away to do, who knew what. His second reaction was concern. Bodie had no problem walking right into trouble if the mood struck him.

Still trying to work out what his next move would be, a series of gunshots rang out. Instinctively, he dropped to the ground, pulling his gun. He crawled over to the window, trying to locate the source of the shots. The window stayed intact. No bullets came through. They weren’t aiming at him, whoever they were.

He peeked up over the edge of the window, grabbing a pair of discarded binoculars as he did so. He saw the commotion in the other building. Three men with automatic weapons in one window and his damned partner in another. Doyle cursed. Why had Bodie gone over there? Just to stick it to the Cow?

He sprinted back down the stairs, fully prepared to charge into whatever was going on over there. More shots spit through the air as he ran. He burst through the steel door, gun drawn and at full alert. More shots from upstairs. He moved carefully but quickly.

He saw a flash move across the landing above him. ‘Bodie!’

His partner slid into view and he wasn’t alone. A man was behind him, with a gun pointed at Bodie’s temple. Doyle didn’t flinch or lower his weapon.

‘Let him go,’ he commanded.

‘Get out of here, or I will kill him where he stands!’

‘You do that, you’ll go right after.’

‘But, you will still lose him. Get out! Now!’

He made eye contact with Bodie, who showed no trace of fear. Doyle knew he was outnumbered and not doing as he was told wouldn’t end well for Bodie or for him. He lowered his gun and raised his hands before slowly backing back down the stairs. Every step he took away from Bodie was a blow to him. Rolling around in his head was the thought that it might be the last time he saw his partner. He found himself at the door and reluctantly took the last step back out into the street. Another man appeared from nowhere to slam the door behind him, leaving Doyle outside and Bodie inside.

Doyle raced to the car and grabbed his R/T.

‘4.5 to Alpha!’

By the time Cowley showed up, followed closely by other agents, Doyle was wound up so tightly, he thought he would burst. He’d been able to do nothing but wait for backup and listen for a shot that would take Bodie from him forever.

Cowley was out of the car before it had fully stopped and looked as angry as Doyle had ever seen him.

‘What happened? I expressly told the both of you to observe and do nothing else!’

Ray clenched his fists to keep from screaming at the old man. ‘Sir, I was gone a few minutes, by the time I got back, they had Bodie. I don’t know why he went inside but he must have had cause.’

‘Oh, you think so, do you? And where were you, while Bodie discovered this important reason to go charging in there?’

‘I was-I just.’

‘Yes, you just. You left your partner, knowing the state he was in.’

Doyle felt a hot fury run through him. CI5 be damned. He’d had enough of this. ‘The state he’s in? What would you know about the state he’s in? I’ve been with him since he found out about his mother. I was right there when he found out about you, Mr. Cowley! Whatever state he’s in, you put him there!’

Cowley didn’t flinch. He simply matched Doyle’s tone, ‘my relationship with 3.7 is not open for discussion!’

‘His name is Bodie, you unfeeling bastard! And he’s your son! You knew the whole time and never said! You let him find out on his own right after his mother died! And still, you had nothing to say to him. If he dies in there, I’ll-.’ His voice caught in his throat. He swallowed it down, determined to finish.

‘If he dies in there, it’s on you! And I won’t let you forget it!’

‘That’s enough, 4.5,’ Cowley’s eyes had gone ice cold. ‘These hysterics will not help Bodie. You’re keyed up. I understand that, but if you don’t get a hold of yourself, I will have you removed entirely.’

As much as Doyle wanted to lay the man flat, he didn’t doubt that Cowley would follow through on his threat. He had to stow his anger and concenstrate on getting his partner back in one piece. Then he could throttle the both of them. He focused on calming his burning temper. He let go of his fists and relaxed his muscles.

Just then, Murphy approached. He spared Doyle a sympathetic glance before addressing Cowley. ‘We found an entry point on the roof, sir. No way of telling how many are inside apart from the three that Doyle saw.’

‘They know they’re surrounded. Bodie’s their only bargaining chip. They won’t kill him.’

‘You don’t know that,’ replied Doyle, wanting to believe that the men holding Bodie weren’t crazy enough to kill him.

‘Doyle,’ Cowley warned.

‘You lot get out of here!’ All CI5 eyes turned to the new voice coming from the third floor. Doyle could just make out Bodie standing at the side of a filthy window and the barrel of a gun still pointed at his head. Doyle couldn’t see the man holding the gun and he knew he wouldn’t risk stepping out into the open.

‘You hear me? I said, clear out or I’ll shoot him in front of all of you!’

Cowley shouted back, ‘you do that and you’ll never leave that building alive!’

Doyle looked at his boss. The old bastard sounded almost like he cared.

‘Back off! I don’t want to see any of you. And once you’re clear, we’re leaving and taking this one with us. My gun stays on him until we’re out of the country!’

Doyle’s gut tightened. If they got Bodie out of the country, they would most certainly kill him. They’d have no reason not to. He couldn’t let it get that far.

But, before he could speak up, Cowley was already planning and talking. ‘Murphy, show Doyle this entry point. The two of you will go in alone. I’ll keep him talking as long as I can. Get Bodie and yourselves out without any cock ups. I don’t want to lose any agents today.’

Murphy nodded but Doyle was already scrambling to the back of the building. Doyle and Murphy made their way up the fire escape. The wind blew strongly and the low hanging clouds rolled swiftly. The whole atmosphere made Doyle even more anxious.

‘Here,’ Murphy motioned him over to him. A vent just wide enough to fit through was their way in. They would just have to hope that no one was waiting for them once they got inside.

Doyle went first, as silently as he could manage. He reached the end of the vent, which opened out into the ceiling and he dropped himself to the floor. The place was silent. He drew his gun. He heard Murphy move up behind him.

‘I’m going for Bodie,’ Doyle said without turning.

‘I’ll cover you. They’re three floors down from here.’

They moved efficiently down each floor, seeing no one as they did so. Finally, they heard voices. Doyle slowed and crept toward the sounds. He approached a large, open room. He saw one man in the corner, with his back to him. And he saw the other, still holding Bodie at gunpoint, by the window.

He only had one shot and he knew it. If he took out the man in the corner first, he risked Bodie. If he went for Bodie first, he risked himself. He’d have to trust Murphy.

‘Enough talk,’ the man shouted. ‘Get out of here now or I will kill him!’

‘Wait!’ Cowley’s voice.

Doyle couldn’t wait any longer. He swung around the doorway, gun aimed. ‘Let him go!’

The man turned Bodie around, ready to fire. Doyle fired first. The man and Bodie fell in a heap together. He knew another shot was coming his way. Even as he turned to try and stop it, he knew he’d never make it. He braced himself and the shot cracked through the air.

The man in the corner dropped, revealing Murphy as his shooter behind him.

‘You all right, Doyle,’ Murphy asked.

‘Yeah. Thanks for that.’

He turned back toward his partner, who lay unmoving with his would-be killer. He dashed over to him, heart in his throat. Had he missed? Hit Bodie?

‘Bodie!’ There was blood pooling beneath the fallen men. The other body was obscuring Bodie. He lifted the other man away. He was dead. A neat hole just above his left eye.

He grabbed hold of his partner and shook him, calling his name again. He gathered him into his arms, still trying to rouse him. He was dead weight in his arms. A trickle of blood ran down his ear.

‘Come on, you stupid bastard! Wake up! Bodie!’

Slowly, Bodie’s eyes pulled themselves open. His hand clumsily went to his ear. Doyle caught it and held it tightly. Bodie’s eyes found his and he managed a smile.

‘Bit close, sunshine.’

Doyle breathed out a shaky laugh. ‘Don’t run off without me and I won’t have to cut it so close.’

‘Fair enough.’

Doyle dropped his forehead to Bodie’s. His relief at the feeling of his warm, alive partner in his arms drained all the energy out of him. He didn’t think he could stand if he tried. They heard pounding footsteps running for them. Doyle looked up and saw Cowley charging toward them. Two agents restraining the third hung back with Murphy.

‘Father’s here,’ he whispered to Bodie.

Cowley kneeled next to the pair, almost reaching out to touch Bodie. Doyle instinctively tightened his hold on the man. Bodie just stared at Cowley, face betraying nothing. Cowley pulled his arm back and the concerned look on his face melted away into something hard and familiar.

‘You all right, Bodie?’

‘Yes, sir. I think so.’ Bodie struggled to sit up with Doyle’s support.

‘Good. Now, why did you disobey my orders?’

Bodie’s face went as cold as Cowley’s. ‘Apologies, sir. Won’t happen again,’ he said with as much venom as he could.

‘That’s not good enough! You put yourself in jeopardy. You put your partner in jeopardy. You put the whole operation in jeopardy!’

‘You did,’ Doyle shouted. ‘If it was so damned important, you shouldn’t have sent us out here!’

‘Doyle, leave it. I can handle myself.’ Bodie pulled himself to his feet. He swayed and grabbed his ear again.

‘Been doing it for a long time,’ he said as he walked past Cowley.

Doyle fixed Cowley with a glower and followed his partner. Cowley didn’t follow them. Bodie stopped and waited for Doyle to catch up and the two of them left together.

‘You’re coming home with me,’ ordered Doyle.

Bodie nodded, ‘later. First, let’s get back to CI5. I fouled up today, Doyle. He was right about that. It can’t happen again. I just don’t do well sitting around. Need to be doing something, you know? And I needed to know if he sent us on a wild goose chase.’

Doyle moved in front of him and put his finger to his partner’s chest. ‘Yeah, I know. But, not without me, got it?’

Bodie held up his right hand, ‘promise.’

 

***********

 

They let themselves into Cowley’s office and waited for the old man to appear. Bodie made himself as comfortable as possible. He sank low in Cowley’s chair and put his feet up on his desk, all over his papers. Doyle wanted to laugh at Bodie’s belated rebellion that he never got to have in his youth.

They didn’t have to wait long for Cowley to show up. And if the old man was surprised or annoyed by their presence, he certainly didn’t show it.

‘Ah, good. You’re here. Bodie, I’d like to talk to you. Doyle, wait outside.’

Doyle once again was ready to tear into the man when Bodie’s voice stopped him.

‘I’d like him to stay, sir. Anything you have to say to me, you can say to him too.’

‘I don’t care to air my business to the entire squad, Bodie.’

Bodie shrugged. ‘I’ll only tell him everything later.’

Cowley considered, ‘yes, I suppose you will. Very well. If you’ll kindly get out of my chair.’

Doyle could see the fire in Bodie’s eyes. He wanted to continue to defy the old man, but perhaps his need to hear something real from him won out. He stood and sat in the spare chair next to Doyle.

Doyle made to get up and stand near the back of the room, to try and give them a little privacy but Bodie touched his arm and kept him seated. He looked at him with nearly pleading eyes, as if he needed Doyle by his side to get through this. Doyle nodded.

Cowley sat down and regarded Bodie, his son, for a moment. ‘I won’t apologize for my decisions, Bodie. I did what was necessary for this country, whatever the personal cost to me...and to you and to your mother. Still, I do owe you an explanation.’

Bodie tensed up in his seat. Doyle resisted the urge to reach out to him.

‘I wish I could tell you it was a grand romance, but it wasn’t. I hardly knew your mother. We met in a pub and spent the next few weeks together. But, then I had to leave. Duty called. She wanted me to stay, but I couldn’t. I didn’t hear from her again for nearly a year, when I received a letter from her saying she had just had a son and I was the father. She sent a picture of the child, of you. You’re right when you say that you were a very regal looking baby.’

Cowley stopped and smiled for a moment, lost in his own memories.

‘I wanted to drop everything and go to you both. But, circumstances wouldn’t allow it. I was in the middle of several operations that required my attention. And then, there was the fact that I had, and still have, several enemies. Anyone who knew that I had a child would not hesitate to exploit that fact. All I could do was try and explain all of this to her. You see, I had to keep you a secret, for your own safety.

But, you didn’t lead a safe life, did you? I kept tabs on you. I knew about your stepfather. I knew how difficult that was for you.’

Bodie’s eyes went dark at the mention of his stepfather but he let Cowley continue.

I knew every move you made from the time you left home. The merchants, the paras, the SAS. I wanted to intervene but you weren’t ready. It wasn’t until you had been in Africa for a while that I knew it was time to bring you into CI5.’

‘Is that the only reason, sir? You brought me in so you could keep a closer eye on me?’

‘Don’t be daft, Bodie! I would never accept anyone into this organization if I wasn’t sure they would be an asset. You certainly wouldn’t be on the A squad if you weren’t up for it. I paired you with Doyle because he was just as good as you.’

‘Did you ever want to say anything about it?’

‘Of course. But, it might have compromised the both of us.’ Cowley opened a drawer and pulled out an old picture of a newborn baby. He handed it to Bodie. Bodie studied it for a moment, letting the knowledge that the old man had kept it with him all these years sink in.

‘Since you know now, I ask you, what do you want to do about it?’

This was it. Everything that had been hanging in the air was about to come crashing down. Would Bodie stay or leave?

Bodie looked at Doyle and then at Cowley. He handed the photo back to his father. ‘Well, sir. I appreciate hearing the truth, even if it’s a bit late. But, I don’t see that anything needs to change. And I don’t see why this needs to be brought up again.’

Doyle watched Cowley closely. He thought he saw something akin to disappointment pass over his face, it was gone too quickly for him to be sure. The old man simply gave a curt nod and said, ‘Aye, good man. Dismissed, the both of you.’

Bodie stood up and Doyle followed. They were nearly at the door when Cowley spoke again. ‘Take tomorrow off. I’ll expect both of you here bright and early on Wednesday.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Once they were out in the hallway, Bodie’s pace slowed and Doyle placed an arm over his shoulder as they walked.

‘Did you mean that? You don’t want to talk about it again?’

‘He did what he thought was best. He did his job. I can’t blame him for that. I don’t need a father, Ray. Maybe I did once, but it’s too late for all that now. And I like this mob. I don’t want to leave it. So, what is there to do but just go on as we always have?’

‘You’re not gonna let it eat at you or pull another stunt like you did today, are you?’

‘He admitted it. He said the words. That’s all I needed.’

Doyle smiled. Maybe it was going to be okay. His partner wouldn’t self-destruct and he wasn’t going to run back to Africa.

‘Let’s get some food on the way back to my flat, yeah?’

Bodie ruffled his hair, affectionately and grinned. ‘You’re on, mate. Never did get lunch.’

‘And who’s fault was that?’

Bodie stopped and turned Doyle to face him. ‘Ray. I need to thank you. For being there.’

Doyle tried to wave him off, ‘you already did.’

Bodie shook his head, ‘ No, not just this weekend but, in all the time we’ve been partners. You’ve always watched my back. I may not need a father but I reckon you and I are a family.’

Doyle had known that all the time. He’d known that Bodie cared. It was in everything that he did. Every time he touched him. The way he always looked out for him, pulled him out of his dark moods, and provided company whenever he needed it. But, hearing Bodie say it was something else. It warmed him. He needed the words from Bodie as much as Bodie had needed the words from Cowley.

‘We are. Count on it, mate. Now, let’s go. I’ve had enough excitement for one day.’

They walked out of CI5, arms around each other's shoulders. Both men were safe in the knowledge that they had each other.