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Highway of Regret

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Footfalls echo in the memory down the passage which we did not take towards the door we never opened into the rose-garden. T.S. Eliot

“Why did we all crave love so badly when half the time it left us annihilated?”― Josh Lanyon, Perfect Day

 

Prologue

Derby 1950

“Da!” The plaintive cry shattered the heavy stillness of the night. ”Wait, Da. Please? Wait.”

Patrick Breen stopped and turned back towards the house. The door carelessly left open spilled warm yellow light across the cracked pavement. Silhouetted against the harsh light a small figure flew down the steps carrying a tatty teddy-bear and a colourful piece of paper. Bare feet splashed uncaring through the puddles left by the evening’s cold rain. Patrick Breen knelt down and caught the flying bundle with open arms.

“Ah, Raymond. You should be in bed, asleep, son, not disturbin’ the neighbourhood with your yelling.”

Thin arms wrapped themselves around Breen’s neck, holding on tightly. The boy was shaking, but remained silent. Breen prised him loose and held the child far enough away to see his face. The large green eyes were wet, the lower lip was kept from pouting by small uneven but determined teeth. No tears had yet escaped.

“You forgot this.” Raymond held out the paper. “Didn’t you like it?” The young voice broke.

Breen untangled himself and stood up taking the drawing from the boy. “Aye lad, I like it. Thank you.” He carefully folded the paper and tucked it inside his jacket. A tremulous smile lit the boy’s face.

“Go home, Raymond.” Breen’s voice was harsh and the child flinched. He pointed to the open doorway where a figure could be seen clutching a jacket to her chest. “And don’t give your mum any more trouble.” The boy’s face changed. Hope faded to resignation and then to nothing.

The boy didn’t move. Breen cuffed him lightly on the side of the head. “You hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go on, then.”

Another few moments of stillness passed, the five year old’s eyes locked with his father’s. Breen raised a hand to touch the boy’s curls but the boy ducked under his reach and ran to the house, never turning to look back.

Breen watched until the door was once again closed, the street dark. He didn’t see the tear-streaked face watching from a first storey window as he turned and disappeared into the evening’s mist.

1955

“And tomorrow we could go to the pictures.” Ray set his fork down on the table and picked up his milk. He took a noisy slurp and wriggled in his chair. “Dillon’s dad took him to see “The Quatermass Xperiment” and said it was really scary and I-”

“Ray, honey, slow down.” Roisin Doyle smiled fondly at her son. “Your father is leaving tonight. There’ll be no time for the cinema.”

“Oh.” Ray picked up his fork and pushed the peas around on his plate. Shoulders hunched, eyes downcast, he spoke quietly, “But he’s just got here. I thought-” He looked up at his father. His eyes held misery and accusation – anger and grief. He shoved his plate hard across the table. It fell into Breen’s lap. “You’re a ‘orrible father!” He shouted as he stood up. “A father is supposed to be ‘ome sometimes, he’s supposed to want to be with his family.” He sucked in a sob. “I hate you.” Turning, he ran from the room.

“Raymond!”

The front door slammed shut.

“I’m sorry,” Roisin apologised.

“No need,” Breen told her. He smiled as he collected the peas from his lap and returned them to the table. “He has quite a temper.”

“He misses you. It’s been months since you were last here.”

“Hmm. I get here when I can, you know that. When there’s a message to be passed...”

“He needs his father, Patrick,” Roisin interrupted.

“Ah, love, we’ve spoken of this. It’s not possible. And far too dangerous - for all of us.”

“He doesn’t understand. Can’t you tell him?”

“He’s too young.”

“We’re going to lose him. He’s skipping school. The police have brought him home twice. I can’t control him on my own.”

Breen’s eyes narrowed. “He’s a child. You’re the adult.” His hands on the table curled into fists. “You set the rules.”

“He doesn’t listen. He’s stubborn and he’s defiant.” She reached out and covered his hands with her own. Gently she repeated, “He needs his father, Patrick.”

Rising from his chair, Breen moved the curtains aside and peered out the front window. “He’s sulking on the porch.” He turned and stood in front of Roisin and gently caressed her cheek. “I don’t have much time and I don’t want to spend it arguing about our son.” He bent and kissed her forehead. “Come to bed?”

“Patrick.”

“Please?”

 

Breen pulled the quilt up around Roisin’s shoulders and kissed her. He quickly dressed and packed up his holdall. He looked back at his sleeping lover with an aching regret. Moving down the hall towards the door, he looked into his son’s room. It was empty. Another ache. He sighed and let himself out of the house.

A curled figure, huddled in on itself, sat on the bottom step of the porch.

“Raymond.”

The boy looked up. “’m sorry, Da.”

Breen set his hold-all on a step and sat down next to his son. “Sorry for what?”

“Dunno do I?” Ray quickly wiped his arm across his eyes. “I’m sorry for whatever I did to make you hate me. Whatever I did that makes you leave. I-”

“Ah, Raymond.” Breen gathered the child up into his arms. “I don’t hate you, boy. Whatever gave you that idea?”

“You’re always leavin’ us.” Ray tightened his grip around his father and buried his head against the man’s chest. “I don’t want you to go, Da.”

Breen rocked the knot of misery he held in his arms. His own voice was thick with unshed tears as he spoke. “I’d stay if I could, Raymond.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I have a job to do. There are people who depend on me.”

Ray pulled away. Tears of sorrow turned to anger. His face was red and his brow furrowed. “People more important than me and mum?”

“Raym-”

“You’re a liar.” Ray stood up and stepped away from his father. “You say you don’t hate us, but you’re never ‘ere. Did you know I got a ribbon for my artwork? That I scored twice in the football game last week?” The boy was yelling now, his hands pushing against his father’s chest. “That I made mum a cake for her birthday - which you didn’t even remember.”

“Enough!” Breen’s voice cut sharply through his son’s tirade. He saw the boy’s eyes widen in surprise at his display of temper. Picking the boy up he sat him back down on the lower step and breathed in deeply, collecting himself. “Enough,” he said more gently, reaching out to ruffle dishevelled curls. “Raymond, look at me.”

Ray ducked out from under the touch. He stood up and wrapped his arms around his chest and stared out at the street. “You can go now.” He turned towards his father, all emotion gone from his face. “It would be best if you never came back.” His voice broke on the last word and he ran up the stairs and into the house.

 

1960

Patrick Breen closed the door to the house and sighed heavily. A hand gripped his shoulder spun him around.

“Leavin’ ‘er again.” Derision was clear in the newly settled deep timbered voice of his 15 year old son. “Why d’ya even bother to come by? She cries for days after you’ve been here.” The hand on his shoulder clenched into a fist. “You say you love us – her. How can you love her and hurt ‘er like this?”

Breen knocked the hand off his shoulder and pushed the boy away. He moved to go down the stairs.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Ray spat, the challenge clear in his voice. “Run away, you bloody fuckin’ cowar-”

Breen backhanded the boy knocking him down the steps. He stood over the sprawled body and threw a handkerchief down to him. “Clean yourself up before your mother sees you.”

Ray sat up and wiped at the blood on his lips. He stared up at his father, anger and confusion fighting for dominance in his eyes.

“You’re part of it, aren’t you?” Ray accused.

“Part of what?”

“The Border Campaign. The IRA."

“What makes you think that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Ray rolled his eyes. “I guess it could be coincidence that you’re always showing up after there’s been trouble somewhere – IRA trouble. Show up with bruises or limping or bandaged up. Or that mum is glued to the radio whenever there’s a report of bombs and fighting in the North. The way she frets until you show up or call.”

Breen noted the challenge in his son’s eyes. Not stupid this one, even though, according to Roisin, his grades were less than spectacular. “You know nothing.”

Ray smiled at him. “Dillon says I should turn you in.”

Breen’s face paled. He watched Ray carefully and drew in a deep breath. “Why haven’t you, if you think you know so much?”

Ray looked back at the house. “It would kill her.”

Breen relaxed a bit. “You are wrong about me, boy.” He waved off Ray’s protest. “I know you won’t believe me, but you are wrong.”

Silence filled the distance between them. Breen offered, “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

“Pull the other one you fucking two-faced bastard-”

Breen stepped in close and watched the realisation grow in his son’s eyes that he’d stepped over the line. That there was more to his father than he had thought; that he had pushed too hard. Breen saw the fear that flashed briefly across his son’s face, to be quickly replaced with an anger to match his own. He grabbed Ray by the hair, pulled their faces in close and forced words through clenched teeth. “Like it or not, I am your father.” He tightened his grip, twisting the hair painfully, and smiled as Ray winced. “You will not talk to me like that.”

“Or what?”

Breen released his hold on Ray’s hair and pushed him away. Ray staggered backwards. Breen turned to leave.

“That’s your answer for everything, isn’t it?” Ray hissed through rigidly clamped teeth.

Breen stared at his son. “I don’t have time for this.”

“No surprise there, yeah? Never did. Never ‘ad time for me or me mum.”

“Think what you like.” He took hold of Ray’s hair again, gently this time, and shook the head in his hands, regret clear on his own face. “Stay out of trouble. For your mother’s sake.” He looked at his son and sighed. “And get a haircut.”

1963

“Hello?”

“Raymond. It’s your father. I just received the news about Roisin.” Silence echoed down the phone line.

“Raymond?”

“The funeral is tomorrow. You don’t have to bother to show up.” Ray said the words quickly, then sighed and relented, “Gran and I took care of the arrangements.”

“I... I can’t get away. I called to make sure you were all right.”

Ray snorted. “Well, that’s something then, innit?”

“Don’t, boy. Just a yes or a no – do you need anything?”

“Nothing from you.” Ray hung up.

 

The rain was cold. Ray shivered as it dripped from his hair and snaked its way down the back of his neck and ran under his shirt collar. The weatherman said there was a slight chance for snow overnight. It was definitely cold enough. He pulled the dry and dead flowers from the vase next to the newly laid headstone and replaced them with fresh roses. White and pink - her favourite colours. Not that she’d care now. She was gone. In the end, she’d left him too. He hoped she’d found peace wherever it was that the dead went. The priest said she would. Some of the moisture running down his cheek was warmer than the rest. He wiped at his face in disgust. It had been a month. Surely he’d used up all the tears by now.

Footsteps crunched through the carpet of left-over autumn leaves decorating the cemetery grounds letting him know that he was no longer alone. Standing up he took a breath and turned to face his father. He choked on all the angry words he’d stockpiled and walked into the surprised man’s arms. The tears he thought he’d run out of poured forth and soaked the shoulder of Breen’s coat. His father held him tightly, gently rocking him as he cried himself out.

After several minutes, the tears subsided. He stepped away from his father, face pink with embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“Raymond. There’s nothing to be sorry for. We’re family, son. We-”

“The only thing we share is that we both loved her.” He knelt down next to the grave and straightened flowers that didn’t need straightening. He cleared the tears from his throat. “Gran and I cleaned out the house. I found the letters you wrote to her.” Rising, he stood up and faced his father. “I don’t understand you.”

Breen waited, saying nothing.

“How could you say you loved her so much and then leave her on her own?” He looked at the grave and then back at Breen. Tugging on his hair he told Breen sadly, “She never had another man, you know? Said she was waiting for you. A lot of good that did her.”

Silent, motionless, they remained side by side while the rain soaked them. The weight of the water finally bent the stems of the roses until the petals rested in the dirt. Ray sighed and turned to leave.

“Raymond.”

Breen’s voice stopped him, but he didn’t turn around.

“What will you do now, son?”

“Worried about me? A bit late for that, innit?”

The derision in the young voice caused Breen to flinch, but he wasn’t surprised. Not really. He was taken aback when Ray turned around and stared into his eyes.

“Don’t worry about me, Dad,” the last word dripped with sarcasm. “I can make my own way. Been doing it for years, haven’t I?”

 

1981 Present Day - London

Chapter 1

Raymond Doyle stepped out of the shower and was immediately confronted by his naked and aroused lover. Lover – after three months of sleeping with Bodie he still wasn’t used to the word or what it signified. He knew what it meant to Bodie but he wasn’t sure he was capable of giving Bodie what Bodie wanted. He couldn’t allow himself to be that vulnerable again. He’d learned a few things about love very early in life and the follow up lessons had been equally painful. The foolishness of believing in someone who’d said they’d cared - only to look around one day and that you were alone.

Lost in introspection, he was taken by surprise when Bodie wrapped strong arms around his waist and tried lift him over his shoulder. “Oi!” he squeaked an embarrassed protest as he fought to get free of Bodie’s hold.

“I want you, Ray.” Bodie’s whisper was soft and seductive against his ear. “And I mean to have you. Now.”

“Very subtle, mate,” Doyle managed to gasp after losing a brief wrestling match to his very insistent partner. He found himself tossed on the bed with Bodie straddling him. “I bet that move really impresses the birds.” Doyle poked him teasingly in the side.

“Nah, don’t need to use it on them, do I? They beg me to take them to bed.” Bodie looked down at the man trapped under him and grinned smugly.

Doyle choked on his laughter as Bodie bounced on him and forced the air out of his lungs. “Berk.”

Pinning Doyle’s arms over his head Bodie began a slow exploration of Doyle’s body using only his tongue. Doyle sighed contentedly and relaxed under Bodie’s ministrations. He knew how it turned Bodie on when he submitted to him.

Bodie took his time, bringing them both to the gentle release they needed. Sated, they slept for while in each other’s arms. “Love you, Ray,” Bodie whispered into the ear closest to him on the pillow.

Eyes closed, Doyle gripped Bodie’s hand tightly in his own and said, “I know.”

Disappointment clear in his voice, Bodie sat up. “Think I’ll be going, Raymond.” He ran his hand down Doyle’s spine, raising goose flesh and smiled at the effect of his touch. “Got a few things to do before we’re hauled in to face Cowley in-” he looked at the clock on Doyle’s bedside table, “-Christ, four hours!”

“You can stay, if you like,” Doyle offered guiltily.

“No. You need your beauty sleep. I’ll meet you at HQ.” Bodie leaned down and kissed his partner, gathered up his clothes, dressed and left.

 

“Bloody hell. Why can’t you just give him what he wants? Is it really so hard to say?” Doyle berated himself as he listened to the fading sound of the Capri leaving his street. He sat up and pulled the tangled sheets around his waist. Love, trust, commitment – all just words. So why did they hurt so much? Maybe because all they’d ever brought him were pain, betrayal and abandonment. He’d seen the hurt flash briefly in Bodie’s eyes before the man had left and felt guilt settle around his heart like a smothering blanket. Despite loving Bodie, and he did, he just couldn’t take the next step.

His alarm went off startling him out of the bleak thoughts and announcing that it was time for him to get to HQ. Groaning, he dragged himself out of bed. He was beyond tired. After three weeks undercover on the docks investigating arms shipments, followed by a twelve hour surveillance of a warehouse and then the hour of exercise between the sheets with Bodie he was knackered and all he wanted was a few days leave to shake off “Atchinson’s” drug-dealing, gun-running undercover persona. A hard role to play, that - leaving Raymond Doyle and all his scruples behind. The gun-running part of it was all right – he’d done that one many times before - but having to actually sell the drugs and let them out on the street went against everything he stood for. He felt as if he’d betrayed not only himself, but CI5 as well. Looking at the alarm again he sighed. Time, as they say, waits for no one - especially a truly knackered Agent 4.5. At least he had the time to shower and grab a quick breakfast.

Chapter 2

Meeting Bodie in the car park beneath HQ he noted with fond exasperation how the man didn’t look like he’d been up all night. Long dark lashes set off bright and smiling blue eyes; the smooth-shaven pale skin and the dark, slightly wavy hair all combed neatly in place made him look like a cover model for the latest men’s fashion magazine. The tight dark cords and knit polo neck only added to the illusion. Bodie’s role in the last job hadn’t been as taxing as Doyle’s, but did he have to look like he’d just returned from a week’s leave? They entered CI5 headquarters, and looked at each other disconcertedly as they were immediately summoned to Cowley’s office.

“What did you do this time, Raymond?” Bodie ruffled his partner’s curls.

“Me? Who was it nicked Father’s malt after the stake-out last night, eh?” Doyle’s elbow found Bodie’s ribs.

“Borrowed, 4.5, borrowed.”

Doyle snorted as Betty waved them into their boss’ office.

“About time.” Cowley was all business. “Sit yourselves down.” He looked from one to the other. “I’d offer you a drink, but I seem to have misplaced the scotch.”

“Very careless of you, sir,” Bodie admonished with a cheeky grin.

“Yes, 3.7, it was. I’ll make sure to keep better track of it in the future.”

He let them sit in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes and then opened the folder on his desk.

“Does the name Patrick Breen mean anything to either of you?” Cowley’s attention was centred on Doyle.

“Breen,” Bodie mused. “Irish name. Means ‘sorrow’ I believe.”

“Aye, Bodie, it does.” Cowley’s eyes hadn’t left Doyle’s now pale face. “4.5?”

Doyle looked down at his hands, tightly clasped on his thighs. “You already know that it does,” he said flatly. “Why play games?”

Doyle raised his eyes and the two men stared at each other, neither saying a word.

“Well,” Bodie broke the silence, “would someone care to tell me what’s going on? Who is this Patrick Breen when he’s at home?”

Doyle let out a bitter laugh. “That’s something he never was.”

Bodie looked at him, puzzled. “Eh?”

Doyle looked out the window. “At ‘ome. He never was at home.”

“You’ve lost me, mate.”

Doyle’s gaze returned bleakly to Cowley.

“Patrick Breen is an MI5 agent.” Cowley opened a folder on his desk.

Doyle, startled, stood up quickly and knocked his chair over as he strode to the window. “No!” he shouted, shaking his head in denial. He aimed a fist at the window frame but slammed it into his other hand instead. He spun towards Cowley. “He can’t be.”

Both men watched as Doyle retreated into himself, shoulders hunched, head down, as if someone had struck him a blow. A single word, more a plea, fell quietly into the silent room. “Why - ?”

No one answered and Doyle raised his head. He walked to the front of Cowley’s desk and trying to rein in his wildly fluctuating emotions he pointed at the folder Cowley had been reading. “Why did no one ever tell me?” he demanded, his voice shaking with anger. So much for control.

Bodie stood up to go to him, but the look he received from narrowed green eyes had him sitting back down quickly.

Doyle turned back to Cowley. “Why leave me to believe he was a traitor all these years?” He leaned in closer to the man and jabbed his finger at the folder as if to emphasise each word. “And you knew. All along you knew. Am I not to be trusted? Am I-”

“Sit down, 4.5. We can do without the dramatics.”

Doyle’s face reddened. He knew he needed to step back, to regain control of himself. He’d already let Cowley and Bodie see too much. He couldn't let them in. The pity in his partner’s eyes would be too much to bear. Doyle picked up his chair and sat back down, deliberately not looking at his boss, but focusing his attention out the window behind Cowley’s desk.

Cowley ignored the mulish display of temper. “Breen has been our source for information on IRA activities for the last thirty-five years. He’s recently provided some information on a new operation – this year’s Christmas bombing plans. If true, this year will be the worst we’ve seen."

“And our role in this?” Bodie asked, and Doyle heard the confusion in his partner’s words.

“MI5 has asked CI5 to lend a hand in getting Breen and his information out. He suspects his cover has been blown. He doesn’t trust his current contacts.” Cowley looked at Doyle. “Breen has specifically requested that Doyle, here, come and get him.”

Doyle, unable to hide the surprise and bewilderment on his face, was speechless.

Bodie sat forward in his chair. “He what?”

Cowley’s voice, laced with sympathy, replied, “Patrick Breen wants his son to bring him home.”

“Oh, he does, does he?” Doyle got up from his chair again and started pacing. “That bastard can rot in hell for all I care.”

“There are more important issues here than your personal concerns, Doyle,” Cowley berated him. “The information Breen has could save hundreds of lives.”

Doyle pinched the bridge of his nose and then ran fingers roughly through his hair. “Why?” The hurt in his voice was palpable. “Why, after all this time, does he finally want me?”

“He trusts you. The man you’ve become.”

“He doesn’t fuckin’ know me from Adam.”

"Ray." Bodie's voice held a warning for Doyle’s language in front of Cowley, but for once the old man let it pass without comment.

“There you are wrong. He has followed your career.”

Doyle turned on Cowley. “You. You’ve been keepin’ him informed, then?”

“We’ve exchanged information, yes.”

Doyle just stared at him waiting for an explanation.

“I was his controller for several years whilst in MI5.”

Doyle stalked around the office, anger and confusion pouring off him. “And after all this time, I’m supposed to forgive and forget and rescue his sorry arse?”

“Nothing was said about forgiveness and I’m sure there’ll be no forgetting.”

Doyle looked up at the ceiling and whistled through his teeth. “The man has balls, I’ll say that for him.” He looked at Bodie for help.

Bodie jumped out of his chair. “Right, then. Let me take the lad here to get him sorted with a cuppa.” He pushed Doyle towards the door and looked with raised eyebrows at Cowley. “I’m assuming there will be a briefing, sir?”

“Yes. I’ll give you thirty minutes.” He looked dubiously at Doyle already halfway through the door. “Make him see, Bodie. We’ve got no choice in this. He must be the one to get to Breen.”

“Bit of a conflict of interest, isn’t it?” Bodie stopped at the door and saw Doyle paused by Betty’s desk to wait. He moved back into Cowley’s office, shutting the door.

“Aye. It is,” Cowley agreed. “But I’ve cleared it with the Minister and MI5 is in agreement. Doyle is the only one Breen will pass the information to. And it’s critical that we do get that information.”

“Yes, sir. Understood.” Bodie turned once again to the door.

“Bodie.” The concern in the Controller’s voice was evident.

Bodie turned around, eyebrow raised.

“Will this be a problem for you?“

“Sir?”

“Going back to Belfast?”

“Nah, piece of cake!” He left the office hoping he’d sounded more convincing to Cowley than he had to himself.

 

Doyle headed down the corridor towards the rest room when he saw Bodie leave Cowley’s office. Bodie moved quickly to catch up.

“Your father?” Bodie spun the retreating figure around by the shoulder. “You told me he was dead.”

“He is. To me anyway.” Doyle started moving again down the hallway away from Cowley’s office.

“Now hold on a minute, mate.” Bodie reached out, but Doyle turned sharply and glared.

“Leave it, Bodie.”

“Sure, okay.” Bodie raised his hands in surrender.

Doyle felt a twinge of regret at the hurt in Bodie’s voice.

“What was that all about – the name Breen meaning sorrow?” Doyle asked hoping Bodie would accept the change of subject.

“Just something I studied – lots of long lonely nights in Africa – interesting, the meaning of names.”

“Hmm.”

“Did you know Doyle means ‘dark stranger’?”

“Pull the other one, Bodie. It’s got-”

“No, really. It does.”

“And - Bodie, what does that mean?”

“Tall, dark, handsome-”

Doyle pushed him towards the opening lift door and grabbed him in a headlock. He roughly rubbed at the short dark hair. “And engagingly modest – yeah, yeah, I know.” He gave his partner an affectionate smile.

As the lift doors slid open Doyle wrestled Bodie inside, nearly knocking Betty over as she tried to emerge.

“Gentlemen.” She rolled her eyes.

“Tut, Tut, Raymond. Now see what you’ve done.” He turned towards her. “Sorry Betty. Bit of a barmpot, he is.”

Bodie bowed with exaggeration and motioned to Betty that the coast was clear and she could exit the lift unhindered now.

Looking at her watch and trying to swallow a smile, she said, “Isn’t Mr Cowley expecting you about now?”

 

After stopping in the rest room for a coffee, they entered the briefing a few minutes late and suffered one of Cowley’s more displeased looks for their efforts. Bodie sat himself down in a chair. Doyle stood leaning against the wall behind him.

Maps and pictures decorated the board at Cowley’s left. As Cowley walked across the front of the room, silence descended.

“MI5 has requested our help,” he began. “One of their agents,” he pointed at a picture on the board, “Patrick Breen, has been undercover in the IRA for over thirty years. They want us to go in and bring him out. Bodie and Doyle will be heading to Belfast tomorrow. Breen believes he’s been compromised and he doesn’t want MI5 involved in the operation. Jax and Murphy will take to the streets here to gather any information that is available. We need to know who blew the whistle on Breen. Lucas and McCabe, since you’re still on light duty, you will go through the files MI5 dropped off this morning, looking for clues as to who is involved. Anson and Taggert, you’ll be heading up to Belfast to back up 3.7 and 4.5. Don’t make contact with them unless you’re needed. On your bikes, gentlemen.”

Doyle watched Cowley leave the briefing room. When he was sure the Controller was gone he sank down onto the settee with a resigned sigh and rested his head against the back of the cushion. He closed his eyes. The couch dipped as Bodie sat down next to him. Still trying to make sense of it all, the conversations around him caught his attention.

“Over thirty years undercover.”

“Must have been a lonely life.”

“Wonder if there is anything or anyone to come back to?”

“File doesn’t say anything about a family - either here or in Ireland.”

Doyle shifted sharply on the sofa preparing to stand up and Bodie unobtrusively grabbed the back of his collar, keeping him in place.

“Imagine, all that time serving your country and coming back a stranger to your home.”

“If he did have family here, I wonder if they’ll welcome him back? Be a shame for him if they’d written him off after all the sacrifices he’d made for them and for England.”

Doyle shook off the hand on his neck and got up. As he moved towards the door, Anson spoke up.

“Oi, Doyle,” Anson held a copy Breen’s picture in his hand. “This could well be what you’ll look like in twenty five years!”

“Ha, bloody, ha.” Doyle gave him a two finger salute as he left the now silent room.

 

Chapter 3

Doyle murmured contentedly as a gentle hand brushed lank curls off his sweaty forehead and a warm wet tongue traced his lips.

“Was good, that.”

Doyle opened his eyes and gave his partner a soft smile. “Yeah,” he sighed and then looked away, avoiding the need that shown clearly on his lover's face. Throwing the duvet aside, he climbed out of the bed and went into the loo. “Got to get on the road mate,” he casually threw the words over his shoulder.

“Well, good morning to you too, sunshine,” Bodie whispered under his breath. “One day, Raymond...”

After a quick breakfast of coffee and toast, they started out towards Belfast. The drive had been unusually quiet; the typical give and take banter was missing. They’d picked up the Rover the previous evening and now drove it to Bodie’s flat to pack a bag. The plan was to set out on the M40 and then get the ferry at Holyhead. The night would be spent in Dublin. Doyle had curled into the passenger seat, rolled up his jacket to double as a pillow and settled in for a kip.

Bodie, finally reaching the end of his tether with his partner’s brooding, broke the silence.

“So what was that all about this morning, eh?”

Doyle tensed in his seat and sat up straight. “What?”

“The Victorian Virgin act. Passion barely dried on your belly and you’re off out of bed disappearing into the bog.” Bodie stabbed at the air with a stiff finger to emphasise the point. “With the door locked, I might add.”

Raising his own hand, Doyle opened his mouth to speak, but Bodie cut him off.

“Like our American friends would say, ‘Wham. Bam, Thank you, ma’am.” Bodie gave him a side-ways glance. “Didn’t like being the one in the wet spot?”

“Charming.” Doyle turned away, stomach clenching and looked out the window.

“I’m serious, Ray. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Short, terse, inviting no further questions.

“Doyle.” The growing anger was clear in Bodie’s voice.

“It’s too much!” Doyle shouted. They were both taken aback by the tone and volume of Doyle’s pronouncement.

“Too much?” Bodie laughed bitterly. “We’ve been shagging each other for months. What’s different now?”

“You want more. And I-”

“And you don’t.” Bodie sighed and bit his lower lip. He shifted in the driver’s seat. Pointing at the slip road he announced in a flat voice, “There’s a cafe. I’m a bit peckish. We could both use a stretch and a slash.”

Doyle squeezed his eyes closed briefly and thought Well done, Doyle. He nodded at Bodie. “Yeah, good idea, mate.”

They entered the cafe and Doyle headed for the bog. Leaning against the sink, he studied his reflection in the cracked mirror. Recognizing that he needed to apologise to Bodie, he splashed cold water on his face and made his way out of the loo to the table where Bodie had set their lunch.

Doyle watched Bodie down two bacon sarnies while he pushed the lettuce in his salad around the bowl. Slurping his tea elicited a small smile from Bodie.

“Want anything else?” Bodie asked as he rose from the table.

“Nah, not hungry really.”

“Be right back,” Bodie headed for the bathroom.

Doyle wandered up to the cashier and picked up a couple of chocolate bars. He laughed to himself at his obvious attempt to bribe Bodie into forgiveness.

“Oi!” Bodie called as he headed out the door to the car park. “Off with the fairies, then, mate?”

Doyle saluted him with a chocolate bar and followed him to the car. Once seated, he shoved the bars at Bodie. “Here – for afters.”

Bodie’s eyes lit up at the sight of the chocolate. “Thanks, Ray.”

Doyle looked out the side window of the Rover and tried to find the words he needed for his apology. Sighing inwardly he decided to keep it simple. “And ‘m sorry, Bodie.”

“For what? No need to apologise – these here are my favourite sweets.”

Doyle rolled his eyes. “For being a berk. This morning and now.”

Bodie waved the apology away. He started the car and they got back on the road.

“So when did you last see your old man?” Bodie asked as he pushed the last of the Aero bar into his mouth.

“At me Mum’s grave. He showed up a month after the funeral. Always wondered why he bothered.”

“C’mon, Ray. You’ve grown up. Surely you can understand why. You’re not five anymore.”

“In here,” he tugged at his hair and pointed at his head, “maybe I do understand. But here,” he put his hand over his heart, “all this five year old knows is that his Da didn’t want him and it hurts, Bodie. It bloody-well hurts.”

Bodie was silent for a time. Eyes never leaving the road he said softly, “I won’t leave you, Ray.”

Doyle shook his head sharply. “Don’t, Bodie. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

 

Chapter 4

They arrived in Dublin and got a room before heading to a nearby restaurant for a meal. Dinner did not go well. Bodie hoped a nice meal and a few drinks would mellow his lover’s mood. All his attempts at conversation were met with grunts or arguments. Bodie finally lost his temper, threw money on the table and left to take a walk.

He returned to their room several hours later determined to go to bed and let the ratty bastard sort himself out on his own. His anger abandoned him when he entered the room. He found Doyle sitting in the dark by the room’s small window. Turning on the bedside lamp he studied the grey tinged skin, red rimmed eyes and the decided slouch to the wide shoulders. Yeah, Doyle had been through a lot the last few weeks. This deal with his father right on the heels of a tense three week undercover had him worn thin. He hadn’t even been given the time to shake off the remnants of his undercover role.

“Ray.”

Doyle leaned forward in the chair, elbows resting on his knees and his chin supported by tightly closed fists. He sat that way for several minutes and then pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and finger. “’m sorry, Bodie. Was an arse at dinner.”

“That you were.” Bodie’s tone was bland. “Two apologies in one day – world must be comin’ to its end.”

There was a loud expulsion of air and a rueful laugh. Bodie stood up and walked to where Doyle waited looking miserable. He put a hand on Doyle’s shoulder and squeezed.

Doyle stood up quickly and grabbed Bodie. Their mouths met, Doyle biting at Bodie’s lips and forcing his tongue between Bodie’s teeth. His hands went to work roughly removing Bodie’s clothes. He tried to shove Bodie back onto the bed, but Bodie wrapped his arms around Doyle and held him tightly. Looking into wild eyes he shook his head and whispered, “No.” Doyle relented and rested his head on Bodie’s shoulder, shudders racing through him. Tipping Doyle’s face up, Bodie kissed the closed eyes. He led them to the bed and eased them down onto the mattress.

And they made love – slowly, tenderly, lingering over caresses and long deep kisses. And Bodie let Ray take him. It was perfect. Ray slid into him and started a gentle rocking motion that fired them both. “More.” Bodie gasped and Ray complied. The pace quickened. The warm puffs of breath on the back of Bodie’s neck sped up, became deeper breaths – more ragged. Sweat slicked between them and Bodie felt warm wet drops splash on his back. Doyle adjusted his position, putting his head beside Bodie’s so that he could kiss him. Bodie lapped at the lips so close to his own and tasted salt and froze.

“Ray?”

Doyle’s hips stopped their thrusting and he held himself still above Bodie. Bodie cursed silently to himself when he realised that his awareness of Ray’s tears had embarrassed his partner and he felt Ray grow soft inside him.

“Sorry. Sorry.” With the quickly spoken discomfited apology Ray tried to move away. But Bodie wasn’t going to allow this retreat. He rolled them both over and pinned Doyle to the bed with his own body. Propping himself up on his elbows he wiped at the moisture on Doyle’s face, noting the embarrassed flush on the uneven cheek bones. Their eyes locked and Bodie offered a small smile. He tightened his grip on Doyle and held him until he felt the shaky breaths turn into a steady rhythm and then allowed himself to fall asleep as well.

 

After a late start they got to Belfast, had lunch and then set out to meet Patrick Breen. The first rendezvous was supposed to be in the lobby of a small hotel in the centre of the city. Deciding they didn’t want to attract too much attention to themselves, Doyle went into the hotel while Bodie waited outside and played the wandering tourist.

The area looked somewhat familiar to him and try as he might Bodie could not keep the sounds and images of his earlier time in this city from haunting him. The leisurely lunch-hour crowd and the bustling tourists gave way in his mind to streets that were overrun with chaos; the crisp breeze was suddenly too thick with smoke to breathe; the laughing voices surrounding him turned to screams and shouting in his ears; pedestrian footfalls took on the heavy cadence of purposeful army boots and he saw again the blood that had turned his hands red. Bodie shuddered and rubbed at his eyes, trying to clear the visions. Piece of cake he had told Cowley. He laughed at his optimism.

After thirty minutes, Doyle came out of the hotel. Bodie raised his eyebrows in question and Doyle shook his head. Breen was a no-show.

His back damp with sweat and his hands still shaking slightly, Bodie knew he couldn’t hide his distress from Doyle’s too watchful eyes; his partner was smart enough to have a pretty good idea of what was causing it. As they walked Doyle bumped shoulders with him and asked quietly, “All right, mate? Lookin’ a bit pale.”

He was frankly surprised - and felt a warmth grow in his belly - that Doyle, with his own ghosts tormenting him, would show him such concern. Giving his partner a small smile he said, “Yeah,” but he was sure Doyle wasn’t fooled.

“Brings back memories, I’ll bet,” Doyle said with gentle sympathy. “And not pleasant ones from your expression.”

“Leave it, Ray. I told you once before you were not going to get this story from me.” He looked in to Doyle’s eyes seeking understanding.

Doyle only nodded, but stayed close in silent support, their hands brushing against each other, as they made their way back to their room. The second meeting, in Woodvale Park, was set for the following afternoon.

 

The companionable silence they’d shared on the walk back to the hotel disappeared when they entered their room.

Doyle stretched out on the bed with a book and tried to ignore Bodie’s disquiet pacing.

“Wanna talk about it?” Doyle finally asked, tossing the book he’d been reading to the floor.

“No.” Bodie settled himself in front of the window.

“Suit yourself, mate.” Doyle rolled onto his side, adjusted the pillow and sighed. After a few minutes, his deep even breathing let Bodie know he’d fallen asleep.

 

Bodie, still standing by the window with his back to the room, knew the moment his partner woke up. He could feel Doyle’s eyes studying him. He checked his watch, startled. While he had been lost in thoughts of his past, two hours had gone by unnoticed.

“How about a pint?” Doyle yawned and rose from the bed, smoothing the wrinkles out of his clothes.

“Nah. You go on. I’d not be fit company.”

“If you’re sure?”

“Yes, Doyle. I’m sure.” His brusque answer left no doubt.

“Right, then. See you.” Doyle put on his boots and left, closing the door with a little more force than necessary.

Bodie sighed, regretting his harsh dismissal of Doyle’s attempt to jolly him out of his pensive mood. He decided he’d take a shower and then join his partner.

 

When Bodie entered the bar he found Doyle sitting with a gorgeous blonde, an empty bottle of wine and what looked like the remains of a small meal. They were laughing and she kept caressing the hand that Doyle had left resting on the table.

Straightening up abruptly, the girl’s hand pulled away from Doyle’s. Doyle turned around to see what had upset her.

“I hope I’m not interrupting, Raymond.” Bodie did nothing to hide the anger on his face and his words were icy with indignation.

“Bodie!” Doyle stood up. “Let me introduce you to-”

“No need. Three is a crowd after all. And I’m not suited to playing gooseberry.”

As he stalked out of the bar, Bodie heard Doyle’s “Sorry darlin’, gotta go”. Hurried footsteps echoed behind him and let Bodie know that Doyle had caught up. A strong hand grabbed his arm. Bodie pulled away and kept walking.

“Whoa, Bodie. Slow down won’t you?”

“Why? You certainly didn’t appear to need my company.”

“Bodie.”

“I’m not enough for you, eh? Needed a bit of variety?”

“No, Bodie. It’s not-”

Bodie grabbed Doyle’s coat and dragged him around the side of the building and out of the main street.

“I won’t settle for being second, Doyle.” He pushed the man away and turned to go. “Make up your mind about what you want but do it quick. You’ve waffled long enough.”

“Bodie, please.” The hurt and confusion in the quiet plea made him turn back.

“Look Doyle. I don’t know who you are trying to fool. We both know you need me; that you want me; you even love me, dammit. The sooner you accept it and admit it to yourself the better.” Exasperated, Bodie looked at the forlorn figure in front of him. Despite his inclination to walk away, he reached out and cupped the stubborn chin and asked, “What’s wrong, Ray? Why can’t you talk to me?”

Colour rose in Ray’s cheeks as he spoke. “I’m gonna sound like a character in a bad romance novel. You say you love me. And I believe you do. But ‘I love you’ always turns into ‘Goodbye’.” His eyes peered into Bodie’s seemingly asking for - something. “I’ve had enough ‘goodbyes’, Bodie.”

Bodie was silent, then nodded. “So you think if you don’t tell me you love me, if you never say it, acknowledge it, or embrace it, you’re safe.”

“Stupid, eh?”

“I told you I wouldn’t leave you, Ray. Have I ever lied to you?” He felt his anger rising again. “When it really mattered, have I ever lied to you?”

“No.” There was defeat in the voice that answered him. He couldn’t let it deter him.

“Then why can’t you believe me?” He grabbed Doyle’s shoulders and shook him. “I love you Raymond Doyle. I know we don’t talk about feelings – that’s not for us. But I want you to know that it hurts me every time you turn away from me. Every time you withdraw or hold back. It hurts. And a man can only take so much pain.”

Doyle stared at him.

“Nothing to say, mate?” Bodie dropped his hands from Doyle’s shoulders and spun away. “I’m going for a walk. I need some air.” He took a few steps towards the street and stopped, but didn’t turn around when Doyle called his name.

“Bodie?” There was a touch of uncertainty in the questioning voice.

“I’ll see you back in the room, Ray. Don’t bother waiting up.”

 

Chapter 5

Bodie watched Doyle gingerly crawl out of bed. He had returned to their room the previous evening relieved to find Doyle asleep, alone, in the chair. Unsure of Doyle’s reaction to the curt dismal he’d been given outside the pub, Bodie had been afraid that Doyle may have gone back in to find the bird he’d been drinking with. Closer inspection of the miserable figure in the chair indicated that Doyle had found another way to drown his sorrow. A half empty whisky bottle was tucked under one arm. From the smell of Doyle’s shirt, he was wearing a good portion of it. Bodie had stripped him and tucked him into bed. Now taking in the stubbled face, red eyes and wobbly progress towards the loo, Bodie gave in to his better nature.

“Sit down, mate, before you fall down.” He pulled a bottle of paracetamol out of his kit bag, poured a glass of water and handed both to Doyle. “Get these down you.”

“Thanks.” Doyle croaked, not meeting Bodie’s eyes. Staring at the glass in his hand he started to speak.

“Bodie, I -”

“I spoke with Cowley this morning,” Bodie quickly interrupted. “Anson and Taggert are to arrive today. There’s been no news of any kind about Breen, so he should still be free to meet with us. Why he hasn’t is anybody’s guess.”

Bodie read in the sharp bob of Doyle’s head the acceptance that he was not going to discuss what had happened the previous evening. Tapping Doyle on the end of his nose, he gently pushed him towards the bathroom. “Get in the shower, Ray. We’ll have some breakfast and then scope out Woodvale.

 

By the time they reached the park and found a bench to sit on, it was late afternoon and the sky was turning from grey to purple as a storm approached. Intermittent rain drops, ignoring the stray rays of sunshine fighting their way through the heavy clouds, tapped on the leaves of the trees surrounding them. Doyle pulled his collar up tighter around his neck moved closer to Bodie. Bodie welcomed the warmth.

“What time was he supposed to be here?” he asked.

Doyle looked at his watch. “Now.”

“Hmm.” Settling back on the bench, Bodie pulled out the newspaper he’d bought earlier and began to browse through it.

“Need help with that?” Doyle poked at the paper playfully.

“What?”

Doyle leaned in closer and looked at the page that held Bodie’s attention. “No pictures, mate. What’re you doing with that?”

“It’s called reading, Doyle.”

His lips twitching, Doyle poked at the paper again. “When did you learn how to do that?”

Bodie recognised the attempt at their usual banter for what it was. Even though nothing had been mentioned about the previous evening, he knew Ray felt guilty about it. The man was wound tighter than a bow. It eased some of his own tension that Doyle was trying for normalcy.

Setting the paper aside he turned to face his partner. “It’ll be all right, Ray.”

He watched the expression on Doyle’s face darken.

“Will it?”

The rain started coming down harder. He felt Doyle shiver. “C’mon, mate. I don’t think Breen’s coming.”

 

A warm cloud of steam followed the towel clad body out of the bathroom. A second towel was busy wringing dampness from sodden curls. Doyle stopped in front of the window and moved the curtain aside. “Two missed meetings, Bodie. Do you think we’re playing monkeys on a string here?”

“Don’t know, do I, mate? But if we don’t find him tomorrow we go home.”

Doyle had been more edgy with each missed contact. Bodie couldn’t tell if he wanted Breen to show up or not. He was sure Doyle hadn’t slept well since they’d arrived in Belfast. He’d spent the last two nights tossing and turning in restless sleep. All attempts at comfort, verbal and physical had been adamantly rebuffed. Bodie understood, but it made him unhappily aware that the distance between them was growing larger. Sorry for his own contribution to that distance with last night’s set-to, he tried once more to make amends.

“C’mere, Ray.” Bodie put his hands on Doyle’s shoulders and steered him towards the bed. “It’s late. Come to bed.”

“That’s always your answer, innit - get your leg over and everything will be all right.”

Bodie stepped away from him, hands raised in surrender. “Have it your way, mate.”

Doyle dropped down on the bed to sit with his face in his hands. He tugged on his hair. “Didn’t mean that.”

Bodie sat down next to him and tipped them both back on the bed rolling them onto their sides so Doyle’s back was pressed into his chest. He wrapped his arms around his reluctant partner and held tighter when Doyle tried to pull away. “Shh, Ray. Close your eyes and even if you can’t sleep – get some rest. I’m here. I’ll be here. I’m just going to hold you.”

Doyle drew in a choked off breath and Bodie squeezed tighter. “Sleep, Raymond. It’ll do us both some good.

 

Chapter 6

The morning brought with it more rain and a cold wind. Doyle had finally dropped off to sleep about four o’clock. Bodie had let him have a lie in. Their late breakfast had been a quiet affair, neither man speaking more than to ask to pass the sugar. They’d been in Belfast for two days, and still hadn’t made contact with their target. This was to be the third and final chance. If Breen didn’t show up today the trip had been wasted and Breen’s fate almost certain.

Bodie walked quietly beside his partner. The pub where they were to meet was not easily found. Having to pass through several alleys to find it had them both on edge. The small black door nestled under crumbling eaves did nothing to settle them. They pushed it open. Inside, Black’s Tavern was a pleasant surprise. The milieu that greeted them – a small, dark and rustic space with big wooden beams and a fire blazing in the hearth - belied the rundown appearance of the outside. The Publican greeted them when they stepped into the warmth. The smell of beef stew had Bodie’s mouth watering. Doyle rolled his eyes when his mate’s stomach rumbled loud enough to be heard.

“I’ll grab a table. You’re buying.” Doyle poked Bodie in the offending part of his anatomy.

Bodie moved to retaliate and stopped suddenly. He nudged Doyle’s shoulder and nodded towards a man sitting near the back of the room by a window. Bodie felt Doyle stiffen and turn to study the seated man. It could have been Doyle sitting there – well Doyle in twenty or so years. Greying hair cut short and not quite as curly. The slightly slanted set of the eyes and their colour were clearly Doyle’s. The nose had been broken – maybe more than once – but the mouth had the same full lips settled over a round chin. The build was different. Bodie could see that even though Breen was sitting down. Breen was stockier than Doyle, his neck a bit thicker and the shoulders and chest bulkier. Doyle must have taken after his Mum in that regard.

Doyle hadn’t moved. The two men were staring at each other. Ray pinned his father with blazing eyes. Breen returned the glare with – what? Regret? Sadness? Bodie could feel the air around Doyle bristling. He clapped him on the back to break the tension - a warning that they were starting to attract notice. Doyle blew out a deep breath and whispered, “Yeah, all right,” and strode over to the table next to Breen’s.

Bodie collected their drinks and stew he’d ordered and carried their lunch to the table. He sat with his back to Breen.

“Ta.” Doyle downed half his pint quickly. He fidgeted in his chair. The hand not holding his drink was clenched in a fist. His thumb rubbed nervous circles around his index finger.

Bodie kicked him under the table. “Easy, mate.” He placed his own hands on top of the table, palms down and looked up at Doyle. “Raymond, old son, if you can’t handle this then wait outside.”

Doyle closed his eyes. “I’ll be all right.” He opened them to find a smile lighting Bodie’s face.

“I know you will.” Bodie winked. Doyle returned the smile.

Raising his drink as if to make a toast, Doyle’s arm froze with the glass halfway to his mouth.

“Excuse me, gents.” Breen stood behind Bodie. “Couldn’t help but notice from your accents that you’re not locals.” He shifted nervously from one foot to the other - then stopped himself. “Been a long time since I was home. Was wondering if I might join you?”

Bodie pushed the extra chair out and said, “Have a seat my good man. Always happy to meet a fellow countryman.”

Bodie watched Doyle raise his protective walls. It felt like the room was suddenly smaller, colder. Doyle could have that effect - his moods often projected themselves across a room.

Breen signalled to the barman to bring another round and sat in the offered chair. Despite the fact that there were few people in the pub and the radio was playing loud enough to cover their voices, Breen took care to speak quietly. “You're my ticket home?”

Doyle snorted and rolled his eyes. “Like you don’t know exactly who I am.”

Bodie cautioned him with a raised eyebrow. He said to Breen, “We were sent, at your request, by George Cowley.”

Breen had the sense to look a bit embarrassed. “Sorry. Been on the run a long time. Not trusting is now second nature.”

“That's understandable - and smart.” Bodie held out his hand. “Name’s Bodie.”

Breen smiled at him and Bodie thought, for a moment, that he should know this man; there was something familiar about him. He chalked the feeling up to how much Breen looked like Doyle.

“Raymond.” Breen looked at his son with a question in his voice.

Doyle returned the look with anger. “I’m here to do a job – nothing more.” The unvoiced question was answered.

“Ray.” Bodie’s gentle rebuke penetrated Doyle’s mood and the anger retreated, replaced by an indifference that didn’t bode well for any of them.

Bodie noted that Breen studied the interplay between he and Ray with interest as his fingers played with the condensation on his glass.

Breen took a drink. “I expect nothing else.”

“Good. Then we understand each other.”

Doyle took another sip of his beer. “So where’ve you been? You were supposed to meet us two days ago.”

“It’s complicated.” Breen tapped his fingers on the table.

“Yes, I imagine it is.” Doyle hissed. “Simplify it.”

“I’m being followed.”

“Great.” Another kick to his ankle and Bodie watched him close his mouth on the rest of what he’d been ready to say.

“I’ve lost them for now, but the opposition is aware that someone is going to try to extricate me from Belfast.”

“Bloody marvellous.” Doyle rolled his eyes. “You’re sure you weren’t followed here?”

Breen’s eyes narrowed as he took a deep breath. Colour stained his face. His words and his anger were directed at his son. “I have been undercover for over thirty years and I’m still alive to tell the tale. Do you really mean to imply that I don’t know how to detect a shadow when my very life is at stake? Not to mention yours and your partner’s?”

“All the same, you won’t mind if I take a look around? I don’t trust Bodie’s well-being to just anyone.”

Bodie winced as Doyle got up and walked to the bar, shoulders stiff, back tense.

"You know?” Breen asked Bodie.

“That you’re his father? Yeah.”

Breen lips twitched and shook his head. “Should’ve anticipated it. He always had a temper and could carry a grudge longer and farther than any adult I knew.”

“Could be he’s justified in doing so.”

Breen nodded and conceded the point to Bodie with a sigh. “Could be.” He took a cigarette out of a jacket pocket and offered one to Bodie. Bodie shook his head. With the refusal Breen lit up, and blowing smoke towards the ceiling he asked, “Is it going to be a problem?”

“No.”

“You’re very sure of him.”

“Ray is a professional. He won’t let his feelings keep him from doing his job.”

“No matter how much it rankles?”

Bodie looked directly in to Breen’s eyes. “No matter how much it hurts.”

Doyle came quickly back to the table. “We gotta go.” He gestured to the window as he spared Breen a self-satisfied look.

“Trouble?”

“Think so.” Doyle patted the jacket over his gun. “Got a feeling superman here wasn't as observant as he thought.” He turned to Breen. “There a back door?”

“Yes, but-”

“Don’t question me, old man.” Doyle’s voice was bitter. “Let’s move.” He started towards the back of the pub.

Breen looked to Bodie.

“You heard the man.” He pushed Breen after Doyle. “I’ll be right behind.”

 

The winding, twisting and doubling back flight through squalid alleys and side streets left them all winded.

How many?” Doyle asked, bent over, hands on his knees, catching his breath.

“I saw three.” Bodie panted.

“That would be the number that I’ve seen following me.” Breen wiped sweat from his face.

Their escape from the pub had taken them further into the older part of the city. Buildings here languished under the scars of years of bombings.

Without warning bullets sprayed around them sending shards of concrete flying in all directions.

“Move!” Bodie yelled and they scattered.

Kneeling down in a puddle behind a skip, trying to ignore the cold wetness seeping into his jeans, Doyle worriedly looked around to see where Bodie had got to. There. His partner had found cover of sorts in a pile of crates behind a chippy. Some instinct drew his attention to the roof of the opposite building. The barrel of a rifle was visible over the edge of the roof and had a clear shot at Bodie. Moving out of cover, he raised his own gun, squeezed the trigger and froze when nothing happened. ’Fuck! A stoppage.’ He struggled with sweating fingers to clear his gun, his eyes never leaving the man on the roof. The gunman hadn’t seemed to notice Bodie yet.

’C’mon. Give me just a bit more time.’ He cleared the one up the spout, but fumbled the reload. The clip clattered off the pavement. The man on the roof turned toward his exposed position and signalled to someone on the ground. Finally getting the clip in the gun, Doyle yelled, “Bodie, down!”

Taking aim at the roof he fired off several rounds. A buzz whistled past his head, leaving a sharp sting at his temple. Warm liquid ran down the side of his face and he fell, his legs no longer able to support him. Several shots rang out before all sound turned into a roaring in his head as he fought to remain conscious. Footsteps splashed in the water pooling on the opposite side of the skip. He realised he had dropped his gun and couldn’t reach it.

“Got you now,” a rough voice barked as he was grabbed around the neck, pinned where he had fallen, a gun pressed to the side of his already bloody face. “Okay hotshot,” the voice called loudly. “I’ve got your mate here and it’s no matter to me if he lives or dies. So if it matters to you, toss your weapon out where I can see it, and show yourself.”

 

Bodie watched the scene with an amused grin. He’d already taken care of the thug on the roof. There’d be no further trouble from that quarter. Breen snuck into position next to him. He looked to Bodie.

“Aren’t you going to do something?” He demanded.

“Easy on, old son. Just waiting for Ray to make his move.”

“His move? He’s bloody well unconscious.”

“Nah -” Bodie’s explanation was cut off by the sound of a moan and a scuffle.

“Bloody hell, you bastard.” The thug holding Doyle looked down at his vomit splattered legs and shoes and kicked Doyle in the ribs. Doyle curled around his battered middle, the gun no longer at his head. In that second, Bodie put a bullet neatly through the centre of the man’s chest.

Breen watched the man fall, blood pooling around the body and shook his head. “THAT was his move?”

“Yeah, raised by wol – er, sorry.” Bodie had the courtesy to look a bit ashamed. “Bit on the extreme side, but effective.”

“You two don’t half take chances.”

“Comes with having been partners for years,” Bodie winked at him. “Did you see the third one?”

“Heard him run off when you shot that one.” Breen tipped his head towards Doyle and the villain still tangled together on the asphalt.

“C’mon then, we’ve got some cleaning up to do.”

Bodie pulled out his R/T and called Anson. An angry voice crackled from the device. “Where the hell are you, Bodie?”

“Easy Anson. Everything’s fine. We have Breen, but we can’t stay where we are. I’ll check in again when we have a safe place to hole up. Meanwhile there is the matter of a couple of gentlemen who have left this mortal coil – in a rather untidy fashion. Could use some help with their final disposition.”

Anson sighed, “Always leavin’ your messes around for the rest of us to clean up. You owe me, Bodie.”

“Yeah, yeah. We’ll settle up later.” Bodie gave him the directions to the alley and signed off. Breen had got Doyle to his feet and was supporting his weight.

“You all right, sunshine?” Bodie asked Doyle, moving between his partner and Breen. He slipped an arm around the unsteady man’s waist.

“Yeah,” the quiet response was a bit shaky.

“Okay then. We need to distance ourselves from here and find a safe place to wait for the other CI5 team to join us. Then we can head back to London. Whoever is after you obviously knows that we’re here, so the hotel is not an option.” Bodie turned to Breen. “Any suggestions?”

“One,” Breen nodded.”That way.” He pointed to a building across the rubble strewn street.

Bodie moved in to take over care of Doyle. “Lead on,” he told Breen as he waved his free hand towards their destination.

Doyle tensed in his grip and his head snapped up to scan the rooftops surrounding them. Bodie noticed Breen doing the same.

“Doyle?”

Doyle shrugged. “Thought I saw somethin'.” His head dropped and he let Bodie guide him out of the alley.

 

Chapter 7

Breen led them to an abandoned mechanic’s garage. They settled in a corner against a brick wall facing the front door, a bit of cover provided by derelict machinery. Bodie watched Breen remove his scarf and lean over Doyle, mopping at the blood on Doyle’s temple. The scene before him merged with the remembered sounds of gunfire and explosions. Echoes of the past drown out Breen’s words.

“Just a graze. He’s conscious but he’ll probably be concussed.”

Bodie saw himself, laying on a concrete floor with a man, this man, bending over him and using a scarf to clean blood and soot from his face. Doyle’s moan broke the memory and he was brought back to the here and now with a gasp.

“You.” Bodie stared at Breen with wide eyes.

“Bodie?” Doyle looked from his partner to his father with a puzzled expression.

“So you finally recognise me, eh, soldier?” Breen smiled self consciously as he continued to wipe the blood from his son’s face.

“Bodie?” Doyle’s voice was confused and weaker.

“I know him. I owe your father my life – although it was due to his compatriots that I almost lost it - twice.”

Breen coughed and sat down. A wave of his hand changed the subject. “We should be safe enough here for a little while. Let’s get some rest and then move on.”

Bodie studied the man sitting against the wall opposite him. It was the eyes that held him. He noted again that they were like Ray’s and then not. The shape and colour were the same but Breen’s were missing something. Gone was the intensity, the vibrancy, the keenness of the man he’d encountered in a Belfast bus station all those years ago. The eyes looking back at him now from above hollow cheeks were tired and disillusioned. They belonged to a man whose fervent beliefs had been trampled by harsh reality. This was a man greeting the ending of his dreams. He turned his gaze to his partner and hoped never to see as desolate a look in Ray’s eyes. He swore to himself that he wouldn’t allow it.

“Belfast?” Doyle murmured as he raised his head from its resting place on Bodie’s lap. “You never talk about that.”

Bodie pulled the shivering form closer and wrapped his own scarf around Doyle’s neck. “It’s not a time I care to remember.” He gently ruffled Doyle’s hair. “All right?”

Breen studied the pair and Bodie noted the understanding that dawned in Breen’s eyes. Doyle’s eyes fluttered closed and Breen leaned over Doyle and gently slapped the cold cheeks. “Got to keep him awake.” He looked at Bodie. “Tell him, or I will.”

Doyle’s head rolled back on Bodie’s arm until he was looking into Bodie’s eyes. “Tell me a story, mate.”

Bodie shook his head and remained quiet. He knew Doyle read the pain in his eyes.

Breen lit a cigarette before he spoke. “It was in July of ’72 when the truce was broken. We, well the IRA, had sent demands to the British. First was that the Brits publicly recognise that the Irish people should decide the future of Ireland.” He laughed bitterly. “Secondly we demanded that the British forces withdraw from Ireland by ’75 and finally we demanded an end to internment and amnesty for those currently being held. The British considered the demands to be unrealistic. Imagine that. On July 9th there was a clash between the British army and the Provisionals. Neither group was willing to bend. Accusations flew from both sides – each claiming the other had fired the first shot. But the end result was a number of people dead.” He took a deep drag of his smoke.

Bodie’s soft voice picked up the story. “Four hours of bloody hell, that was. My unit had been on a late night patrol...

...The night was eerily quiet. The muffled sound of Bodie’s footsteps on the wet tarmac kept rhythm with his ragged breathing as he walked quickly through the back streets of Belfast. The stillness set his nerves on edge. He adjusted the hang of the rifle’s strap around his shoulders and felt for the reloads in his pocket. He’d got separated from his patrol and his sergeant would not be best pleased if he was waylaid by the Provisionals.

Avoiding the yellow pools of the street lamps he walked. His eyes shifted left and right continuously searching for the thing that had his instincts screaming. As he turned a corner there was furtive movement behind a row of parked vehicles. He could hear whispered voices counselling caution and speed. Too late he realised what he had stumbled across. He turned to run and try to find shelter when the bomb went off. The explosion knocked him off his feet and he rolled several yards before he noticed his uniform jacket was on fire. He heard gun shots and voices, British accented voices, and knew his patrol was close. He tried to rise. Another bomb exploded. Something hit him hard in the back. He pitched forward scraping his face against the rough surface of the street. A body covered his and words were hissed in his ear. “I have a message for your commander, soldier.”

Bodie tried to shake the man off but strong arms held him in place. Gritting his teeth he spat back. “Go on then. What’s the message?”

“Tell your commander that Mac Stíofáin is not happy with Whitelaw’s response to his demands. You need to prepare. There will be more bombs. Soon. The aim is mass destruction.”

Bodie struggled to turn his head to get a look at the man holding him down. “Why are you telling me this? Who are you?”

Another bomb exploded, filling the street with fire and debris and screams.

“That’s not important. Just deliver the message.” The man rose. He knocked Bodie’s head back down into the pavement, stunning him, and disappeared into the smoke filled night...

...I reconnected with my unit. When all was said and done, five civilians had been killed, some just teenagers, and the cease-fire was over.”

Bodie’s fingers rubbed at his forehead, as if feeling the pain again. He nodded towards Breen. “We met up again a couple days later at the bus depot on Oxford Street in Belfast.”

“Bloody Friday.” Doyle shifted in Bodie’s arms, grimacing.

“All right, mate?” Bodie asked, checking the makeshift bandage around Ray’s head. The bleeding seemed to have stopped.

Doyle nodded and looked from Bodie to Breen. Neither man met the other’s eyes. “Somebody going to finish the story?” Doyle demanded.

Standing up, Breen took a long pull on his cigarette and nodded at Bodie.

Taking a deep breath, the words poured out of Bodie fast and sharp. “Smoke was everywhere and people screaming. I hadn’t seen anything like it since Angola.” His voice trailed off. He whispered softly, “Hoped never to see it again...”

Bombs were going off all over the city. Smoke hung heavily over the streets. Yelling shadows and screaming silhouettes cried out and begged for help as Bodie’s patrol ran past them, intent on getting to the Oxford Street bus depot, rumour saying it was another target for the bombers. The harsher commands of the army and the police cut sharply through the din. No matter how pitiful the cries, he couldn’t stop to help. He couldn’t allow himself to be dragged into the reality of the human misery surrounding him. He had hardened himself against that in Angola and he’d be damned if he let down his shields and get caught up in it again. He had a job to do. There was time for nothing else.

The patrol separated when they arrived at the bus depot. Their job was to clear the area. Bodie had made his way around to the back of the depot and was inside when a car bomb exploded outside. Large pieces of debris pinned him to the floor. He lay there, coughing, his lungs full of dust and smoke. He couldn’t hear. As the shock of the blast wore off, he struggled to free his legs. The wreckage covering him was too heavy to move on his own. He yelled for help and was surprised when his calls were answered.

Together, he and the stranger were able to free Bodie’s legs. His hearing was slowly returning. He was handed a canteen and he drank deeply.

“Thanks.” Handing the canteen back, he finally looked at his rescuer. A deep green gaze peered at him from dust rimmed eyes. The man wasn’t wearing a uniform, but looked vaguely familiar. A civilian? He watched the man remove his scarf and wet it from the canteen. The cool cloth made him flinch as the man worked at the dirt and blood on his forehead. A small smile curled at the movement.

“All right, soldier?”

He knew that voice and its accent. He coughed and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.” Head tipped in puzzlement, he blurted, “It’s you! From the other night. Who the hell are you?”

“It’s still not important. Did you deliver my message?”

Bodie didn’t answer. The man grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. His eyes blazed with anger and a vibrant intensity.

“Did you give your commander my message?” he demanded again.

“Yeah. Yes. I did. He passed it up the line.”

The man released Bodie and looked away. The anger turned to sadness. “Why didn’t they listen?” He asked absently and brushed a dirty sleeve across his eyes. “They could have stopped this.”

“There weren’t enough of us and too many bombs.” Bodie stood up. “Too many targets.”

With the intruding sounds of voices and sirens and the distinctive rumble of more bombs going off in the distance, Bodie knew he had to get back into the fray. He held out his hand. “Well, whoever you are, thank you for helping... Oi, you’re hurt.” Blood had pooled on the floor where the man sat.

“It’s nothing.”

“A bit more than nothing, I should think.” Bodie knelt down and pulled ripped fabric from around the bloody thigh. “My pack should be around here somewhere. Let me dress that for you.”

“Leave it, soldier. You’ve got more important things to do just now.” The man waved at the increasing activity outside the bus depot.

Bodie pulled a first aid kit from his pack. “Nah, won’t take but a minute. Call it paying a debt.”

The man nodded with a grunt. “Get on with it then.”

Bodie cleaned the wound and wrapped a bandage around the man’s leg. “Can you walk? Let me help you out to real medical attention.”

“I don’t think that would be a very good idea.”

Their eyes met in an uncomfortable understanding.

“You’re one of them, then. The Belfast Brigade.” Bodie reached for his gun but it wasn’t there.

“Looking for this?” The Irishman held Bodie’s gun out towards him, the barrel pointed at the floor. He smiled at the confused look on Bodie’s face. “Things aren’t always what they seem, soldier. Remember that.”

His next words were cut off by a shout and the sound of footsteps running towards them. A figure appeared in the shattered doorway and nodded at Bodie’s companion.

“What have we here?” the newcomer asked, meeting Bodie’s eyes.

Bodie shivered slightly at the searing hatred in the man’s gaze. Hatred for Bodie, hatred for the uniform he wore, hatred for the government he represented. The man acknowledged Bodie’s discomfort with a derisive twist of his lips.

“A young soldier who has lost his way.” The man sitting at Bodie’s feet rose stiffly, favouring his wounded leg. He smiled at Bodie ominously and raised the gun. ”I was getting ready to offer him direction.”

“Hurry on then, the lads are waiting.” The second man gestured out the doorway,”It’s getting a bit dicey out there.”

“Go on. I’ll catch up.”

With a grunt of agreement, the newcomer disappeared into the smoke and haze. The man holding the gun looked at the weapon in his hand, at Bodie and then fired once into a pile of debris. His eyes met Bodie's. Hesitating for a minute he set the gun on the ground, just out of Bodie's reach. Turning his back to Bodie he made his way to an exit on the opposite side of the depot, away from all the activity outside. Bodie let him go. He couldn't say why.

Doyle pulled away from Bodie’s embrace and looked back and forth between the two men shaking his head. “I don’t understand either of you.”

Breen laughed bitterly. “It’s not so hard to understand, Raymond. Yes, we were at war – enemies. But we were fighting for our own ideals and beliefs. Fighting for and against unfair policies and laws.” Breen waved a hand towards Bodie. “I had no quarrel with your mate. I saw a young, scared soldier on his own in hostile territory. Killing him wouldn’t have solved anything. So I used him, to get a message out. One that might have made a difference.” Breen shook his head in resignation. “It was neither of our faults that the message was ignored and more innocent people paid the price.”

“So why did you stay? Why didn’t you get out? Bodie could have taken you safely back to the British.” Doyle’s throat ached, there was a yearning in his whispered words, “You could have come home.”

Breen sighed sadly. “I chose my path long ago.” Lighting another cigarette he propped himself against the wall. “Put aside my own life and dreams to do what needed to be done. To do what I thought was right. That road didn’t lead home. I was going to finish what I’d started no matter the cost.”

“Apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?” Bodie looked at Doyle, who wouldn’t meet either pair of eyes.

Breen straightened up and started pacing. He stopped in front of Doyle. “You know about commitment and dedication to an ideal. You know about putting what’s right before what you want for yourself. Don’t pretend you don’t.” There was life and passion in those eyes now. Doyle could bring that out of a man without really trying.

Doyle rose to move away from him. Breen reached out and grabbed his son and spun him around. The move made Doyle’s head swim and he felt bile rise in his throat. “Damn you, Raymond. You know what I’m talking about. What you did when you were in the Met- exposing those bad coppers...” He reached out a hand to touch Doyle’s broken cheek, but Doyle pulled away. A sad sigh escaped Breen at the withdrawal.

“How do you know about that?” Doyle demanded.

“Whatever you believe, Raymond, I never abandoned you.”

“But you were never there, were you?” He turned away again, not wanting to remember...

He woke in terrible pain. His face and ribs each screamed with their own intense agony. The room was dark. Feeling alone and scared he couldn’t hold back a whimper. A warm hand caught his. Tablets were set on his tongue and a straw placed at his lips. A whisper soothed – “Drink. You’re going to be all right, Raymond. Your fellow officers did quite a number on you, but the doctors say with time and rest, you will recover.” The voice was deep and sounded a bit sad. There was a shuffling of fabric and the sound of wooden chair legs scraping along the linoleum floor. Rough whiskers brushed along his cheek and warm lips caressed his forehead. “You’ve grown into a fine young man, Raymond. I’m proud of you.” And then the warmth and the bristles and the sad voice were gone. The pain meds took him back down to where there were no longer any physical sensations; there was only darkness...

But no. It couldn’t have been him. Doyle dismissed the memory. His attention snapped back to Breen, who was still talking, lost in his own thoughts.

“Your mother knew I never abandoned her – I never stopped loving you both.”

“Fat lot of good that did ‘er. She spent ‘er life alone.”

Breen smiled suddenly.

Eyes narrowed under lowered brows, Doyle asked, “What’s funny?”

“Still lose your aitches when you get angry.”

Bodie chuckled.

Scowling, Doyle sat down away from both of them and tightened the scarf around his neck. He eventually dropped off to sleep.

 

Bodie watched Doyle doze for a bit and then stood up. Turning to Breen he said, “I need to get the Rover and contact our back-up. We’ll want someone watching our backs when we leave here.” Pulling his R/T from his jacket pocket he called Anson. “3.7 to 7.6.”

“Go ahead 3.7.”

“We’ve still got the package but ran into an additional bit of trouble.”

“No surprise there, mate,” Anson teased.

“I’m heading back to the hotel. I’ll need you to meet me there. We may have unexpected guests.”

“Roger that. We’re on our way.”

“3.7 out.”

“You can’t go alone,” Breen protested as Bodie put the R/T away and then checked his gun.

“He’s not fit and I’m not leaving him on his own.” Bodie smiled affectionately at his slumbering partner. "Should we really be letting him sleep? He is concussed.”

“As you say, he’s not fit to go anywhere right now. I’ll keep him from sleeping too deeply.”

“I should be no more than an hour or two.” Bodie checked his gun. Moving to the front of the building he saw Breen head to the back door without being asked. It’s eerily like working with Ray, he thought. Each man carefully peered outside. Bodie turned to Breen and received a nod. The way was clear.

 

Chapter 8

Bodie made it back to the hotel without incident. He didn’t see Anson’s vehicle so he decided to duck into the hotel bar for a coffee. Reaching the door at the same time as two others, he stepped aside to allow them to pass. An arm around his shoulder and the snub nose of a gun pressed into his spine were accompanied by an Irish accented order to “Move quietly.” He closed his eyes and cursed his luck. Muscles tensing to attempt an escape, he gave up on that when the cold barrel of the gun moved to rest against the back of his neck. He was directed to a Rover parked in the alley next to the hotel. The rear door was opened, a sharp pain filled his head and he slipped into darkness.

He woke to find himself prisoner in what appeared to be a derelict and empty bedsit. The view through the single small window across from him indicated he was on an upper floor. Arms and legs were secured with rope to the arms and legs of a wooden chair. His head ached and his neck was stiff. There was no one in the room with him. He started twisting his hands around trying to loosen the ropes. There was some give in the knots and if given enough time he knew he could free himself.

The tread of heavy footsteps sounding from up the staircase announced that he’d soon be having company. He did the best he could to try to hide the loosened ropes around his wrists and let his head fall forward as if he were still unconscious.

A loud voice remarked in dismay, “You got the wrong one!”

“Eh?” Bodie heard confusion in a second voice.

“The wrong man – you were supposed to get the curly-haired bloke. This one isn’t Breen’s son.”

“What difference does it make?”

“If you were Breen would you give yourself or your information up for a stranger?” An exasperated sigh was followed by quickly shouted orders. “I want to know where Breen and his son are hiding. Send the lads around to check with their snouts.”

“Already done. We have a lead. A mechanic’s shop. O’Leary and some of the boys are headed there now. I’ll be off to join them. You’ll be alright here?”

“Yes. A few loose ends to tie up and I’ll meet you back at the rooms.” He nodded as his accomplice left the bedsit.

The first man turned back to Bodie. “We’ve been following you and your mate for a couple days now, lad. News of your arrival spread quickly to those who needed to know.”

Bodie froze. Did these men somehow remember him from his army days? They were old enough to have been there. And they knew where Doyle and Breen were. He needed to warn them.

Stepping up behind Bodie the man searched Bodie’s pockets. Fortunately his CI5 ID was still in the hotel room. All that was found was Bodie’s driving license. “So let’s see who we have here. One William Andrew Phillip Bodie – quite a bloody royal mouthful, that is.”

Bodie toyed with the idea of offering his usual line about being a regal baby, but thought keeping his mouth shut would better serve. He needed to get back to Doyle, hopefully in one piece.

The man stared at the picture on the license and smiled. “We’ve met before, haven’t we, boyo.”

Bodie raised an eyebrow.

The man walked slowly around the chair holding Bodie, his eyes never leaving Bodie’s face.

“Yeah, t’was you. Oxford Street, Bloody Friday. Found you with Breen.” He stopped suddenly his face contorting into a mask of rage. “That bastard. He’s been grassing on us all this time. Well, he’ll pay for that betrayal.”

As he took a step towards Bodie, Bodie launched himself from the chair and took them both to the floor. The chair flew backwards but the ropes around his ankles kept the broken chair legs tangled up with his own. The two men exchanged blows as they rolled across the debris strewn floor until Bodie was finally able to pin the struggling man beneath him. Hands trailing the loosened ropes circled the straining neck and squeezed. He kept up the pressure until he felt the man beneath him go limp. Then he squeezed some more.

The sound of more men running up the stairs had Bodie scrambling for the door to the fire escape. He awkwardly climbed the two flights to the roof and took cover behind a chimney pot. The pitch of the roof was steep and he was glad to have something to brace himself against. With the only weapon available to him the rope he’d picked up as he ran, he didn’t hold out much hope of remaining free. One of his worst nightmares had come to pass. He’d been recognized. He’d seen what was left of other British soldiers who’d been caught in Belfast by the IRA. He had no wish to end up that way.

The distant sound of squealing tires, slamming car doors and gunshots drifted up to him. Rescue or ambush? he wondered.

Chapter 9

“Bloody hell.” Anson swore and pulled Taggert back into the car.

“What’s wrong with you, mate?” Taggert glared at his partner as he rubbed the side of his head.

“Look.” Anson pointed out the wind screen. The two agents watched Bodie being led away from the door of the hotel bar and around the corner.

“Shouldn’t we be doing something about that?” Taggert asked sharply.

“We will, old son. Patience.” Anson restarted the car and waited. A black Rover pulled out of the alley in front of them. Anson counted out another minute and then followed.

“We need to find out where the Fenian bastards are holed up. This is our best chance.”

“I’m sure Bodie will appreciate our dedication to duty should he become a victim of their hospitality.”

“Bodie knew the risks.” Anson dismissed Taggert’s concern. “Keep an eye out. Make sure we don’t have a tail.”

Taggert sat back and kept watch.

The Rover pulled up to a derelict block and Anson and Taggert watched as Bodie was hustled in the front door.

“Looks like he’s out for the count,” Taggert observed.

Anson nodded and opened his R/T. “7.6 to 6.2. Murph – where are you? We could use some help.”

“6.2 here. Just arrived from London. We’re at Bodie’s hotel. Where are you?”

“They’ve taken Bodie. We’re on Mill Street – in front of a derelict block. We’ll need back up.”

“On our way. Five minutes.”

Anson stepped out of the car. “Wait here for Murphy. I’m going to take a look around.”

The sound of cars arriving had Anson moving quickly back towards the front of the building. He watched as several men entered the tenement with guns in plain sight. He pulled out his R/T and called Taggert. Before he could speak Taggert said, “I saw ‘em. Murph and Jax are here.”

“All right,” Anson replied. “It’s time we joined the party.” He met the other agents at the front of the block and they entered the building. The chaos of shouting and running footsteps had Anson taking the stairs two at a time while Taggert covered him. Anson gave the all clear and the other men met him at the top of the stairs.

“I can’t see how many there are – at least three.” Anson whispered as he peered through the doorway.

“Good odds, then,” Murphy noted.

“We go on three,” Anson smiled as all four men burst into the room.

They were met by gunfire but quickly subdued the opposition.

“Murphy, Jax, round up our friends and take them to the nearest nick. Taggert and I will find our missing colleague.”

“Over here,” Taggert called, crawling out onto the fire escape.

Once on the roof he quietly called for Bodie.

“Taggert?” Bodie rose slowly from his spot behind the chimney when he recognized Taggert’s voice and made sure the man was alone. “What took you so long?”

Taggert shot him a wide grin. “We saw you run off with your new friends from the hotel. Didn’t wait for us, did you? We followed you here. Had to wait for back up before we staged a rescue, you see. And here you are enjoying the view from the rooftops.”

“Ha – bloody – ha!” Bodie retorted as he shoved a key into Taggert’s hand. “Here’s the key to our room at the hotel – number 201. The information we got from Breen is in an envelope taped to the back of the wardrobe. Get that back to Cowley as quickly as you can. I’ve got to get back to Doyle and Breen.”

Chapter 10

Several hours after drifting off to sleep Doyle was startled awake when hands clamped down tightly on his shoulder and over his mouth. Wide green eyes met their double. Breen removed his hand from his son’s shoulder and raised a finger to his own lips. Doyle nodded in understanding and Breen freed Doyle’s mouth. Eyebrows raised in question, Doyle looked around their bolt hole. ‘Bodie?’ he asked silently, the small hairs on the back of his neck rising. A quick look at his watch told him Bodie should have been back by now. His copper’s intuition and a sick feeling in his gut warned him that wherever he was, Bodie was in danger.

The sound of a foot sliding on damp concrete brought them both to attention with weapons drawn. There was no further sound from their visitors as Breen led Doyle towards a room that once must have served as an office.

Settling down behind a broken metal desk, the two men checked weapons and ammunition.

“Breen!” An impatient voice broke the silence. “End of the road, my friend. There’s no way out.”

The voice moved closer to their hiding place as each word was spoken. Doyle saw Breen tense and wipe at the sweat beading on his forehead.

“Breen.” The voice, right outside the room they were in, was softer now and almost compassionate. “If you make this easy we might see our way to let your mate, there, go.”

Breen turned to Doyle. Doyle rolled his eyes. He pointed to a half-open door at the back of the office and then to himself. Breen nodded and Doyle silently moved through the door. A short hallway led to a stairway that descended to a lower floor – most likely a cellar. If he could find a second way from the basement back to the main floor he could circle behind the villains and distract them long enough for Breen to get away. That was the mission. Breen had to get to London, no matter the cost – be it his own life or Bodie’s. The thought of Bodie dying to save a man that he himself had hated his whole life angered him. Everyone is expendable Cowley’s words echoed bitterly as he made his way down the steps wondering where Bodie was and what kind of trouble he’d found himself in.

 

“Breen! Runnin’ out of patience here, mate.”

“Ahearn. Is this any way to greet an old friend?” Breen called back, still concealed behind the desk, hoping to give Doyle the time he needed to assess their options.

“Friends, Patrick? Not by any definition I’m aware of.”

A muffled greeting and Breen knew that Ahearn was not alone.

“How about you, O’Leary. Would you call Patrick here a friend? No, of course not. Friends don’t turn on friends. They don’t grass them to their enemies.” Breen heard Ahearn move closer. “Now - traitor, that’s an appropriate tag. Yes, I like that, traitor. And there’s a price that goes with being a traitor, Patrick, me lad. Are you ready to pay?”

“Stop with your twaddle, Ahearn. We’ve a job to do, let’s get to it,” the second man snarled.

“Patience, O’Leary. I’d like to know why ol’ Patrick here changed sides. Call it curiosity.”

“Curiosity -”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s bad for cats. What do you say, Breen? Why -”

The snick of a gun’s hammer being thumbed back announced Bodie’s presence and drew everyone’s attention.

“Breen!” Bodie called as his eyes searched the room.

Breen rose slowly from behind the desk. “All is well, mate.” He gave a brief shake of his head, hoping Bodie would not ask about Doyle’s whereabouts.

Bodie turned his attention back to the IRA men. “How about we put those weapons of yours down on the floor, gentlemen, and then take a step away from them.”

Breen directed his gaze over Bodie's should to try warn him that there was someone behind him. Before Bodie could turn there was an arm around his throat and a gun at his temple.

“Perfect timing as usual, O’Shea,” Ahern greeted his henchman.

 

Doyle shivered in the basement’s cold, damp air. His head was throbbing and he felt nauseous. All his discomforts were forgotten when he heard footsteps and voices from the floor above him. Bodie’s voice. Running to the far end of the cellar he was relieved to find out that he had been right. There was another staircase leading back up to the main floor. Quietly climbing up the metal rungs he reached the top riser and peered through the doorway. Everyone in the room had their back to him accept Breen. Their eyes met. Breen gave away no sign that Doyle was there.

O’Leary was closest and his concentration was centred on Bodie and O’Shea. Doyle silently stole up behind him and dealt O’Leary a blow to the back of his head. The man crumpled to the floor. Doyle put a foot on his chest and pointed his gun at the man’s chest.

“We seem to have a standoff here,” he announced to the room.

The dull thud of the O’Leary’s body hitting the floor, followed by Doyle’s words, ignited chaos. Ahearn turned around to see what was happening. Taking advantage of the man’s inattention Breen jumped from behind the shelter of the desk to knock Ahearn to his knees. Breen landed badly and lost hold of his gun. Ahearn recovered quickly and took aim.

It was all happening too fast for Doyle to weigh the consequences. Fear hit him and hit him hard, washing over him, settling in his gut like a cold stone. He shivered with the realisation that it was his choice. If he took out the man threatening Bodie, his father would die. If he didn’t, it would be Bodie’s funeral he’d be attending. Desperate now, despite his training and Cowley’s orders, there was no choice. He turned and yelled, “Down!” and Bodie dropped to his knees. Doyle’s finger closed on the trigger. The headache and dizziness didn’t spoil his aim. O’Shea fell with a small round hole in the middle of his forehead.

There was another shot and Doyle spun around in time to see his father fall. A third bullet from Bodie’s gun dropped Ahearn. One last shot stopped O’Leary’s frantic crawl to reach Breen’s lost weapon.

“No! No, no, no, no...” Doyle knelt down next to where his father lay. “Not yet you bloody, fuckin’ bastard. You still have a lot to answer for. You hear me?” His hands ran gently over the man’s face and chest in stark contrast to the anger and belligerence in his words. “I need to know why? Why did you choose this over us?”

“Raymond.” The man’s voice was barely a whisper. A trembling hand reached out to grasp one of Doyle’s.

“It is true then – what Cowley told me about you. Tell me why. Why did you let me believe – all these sodding years,” Doyle’s voice broke, “you left me to think-”

“Raymond, son, please. Let me-”

“And me mum. Did she know? You left us – do you-”

A warm hand clamped down on his shoulder. “Ray, let the man speak, yeah?”

Bodie’s quiet voice settled his partner. “Yeah, ok.” Doyle took a deep breath and finally really looked at the man whose hand he held. And when the hell had that happened? “Go on then.”

Bodie met the fallen man’s eyes and received a look of silent thanks.

Patrick Breen’s attention turned back to the sweat streaked face of his only son and he smiled weakly. “I’m sorry, Raymond. For everything. But mostly for never knowing you. You’ve grown into a fine man despite me. Maybe to spite me.” He laughed and then choked as a bubble of blood escaped his lips.

Ray stared down at his father, eyes wet and confused. “Just tell me why. Why did you let me think-” he couldn’t force any more words past the lump in his throat. He swallowed hard. “Why did you leave us?”

Patrick Breen looked from his son to Bodie. His grip tightened on his son’s hand. “I think you know why. I had a duty and it didn’t allow for a life beyond it.” He coughed wetly. “You know about that, Raymond. About duty and commitment.” His eyes passed again from Doyle to Bodie. A small smile raised the corner of his mouth. “Yes. You understand.” Breen closed his eyes and pulled in an unsteady breath. “He’s not what I would have chosen for you-” Ray started to interrupt. “Easy son. I know I gave up that right many years ago.” Breen looked at Bodie again as he stood behind his partner. “He’s a good man, Raymond, as I’ve had cause to know.”

“I hated you,” Doyle cried. “I still do.”

“I know.” Patrick Breen’s eyes were sad. “That is one of my biggest regrets. I never should have taken up with your mother. Though God knows I loved her. And leaving you, leaving my son. Don’t ever think that that was easily done. But I never abandoned you two. I made sure you were both all right.”

“The money from mysterious relations that showed up when the need was greatest?”

Breen nodded.

“And the money for art school?” Doyle closed his eyes. “And it was you, at the hospital after the beating?” He felt his father’s fingers trace the edge of his broken cheek.

“Yes. I sat with you until I knew you were going to survive.” He chuckled weakly. “I almost blew my cover by coming in to London to see you. Mr Cowley was not pleased.”

“Cowley?”

“He was running me at the time. In fact it was he who told me that my son had been injured and that the doctors weren’t sure-” his voice trailed off. He struggled to get a hand into his trouser pocket. He pulled out a small silver ring. With shaking fingers he pressed the band into Doyle’s hand. “This was going to be your mother’s. I was going to come home.” His eyes became distant, his voice dropped to a whisper. “But then she died.”

Doyle sucked in a breath. “But you didn’t – you didn’t come home.”

Breen squeezed Doyle’s hand. “No, I didn’t. I’d left it too late, you see. Roisin was dead and my son told me he had no use for me. So I stayed with the job.” His eyes sought and held Doyle’s while he tipped his head towards Bodie. “Take the chance and open the door. Step into...”

A heavy sigh rattled in Breen’s chest and his eyes closed.

“Dad?” Doyle leaned in and put his head to his father’s chest.

Breen’s eyes opened slowly and met his son’s. “You haven’t called me that since you were ten years old.” A weak hand ruffled Doyle’s curls. “Never did get that hair cut did you?” The hand slid slowly from Doyle's hair across his broken cheek, down his neck and finally fell to rest on the cold floor.

Chapter 11

The wind whipped sleet across the graveyard, stinging exposed flesh. Bodie watched his partner throw a handful of dirt on his father’s grave. It had been a small ceremony, but Patrick Breen had been buried with honour for his service to Her Majesty’s Government. Representatives from MI5, CI5 and the office of the Home Secretary had attended.

Wrapped up in his own tightly buttoned anorak and gloves, Bodie shivered as gusts of chilled air lashed at Doyle’s unfastened wool coat and reddened his bare hands.

Bodie moved to go to him, but a hand on his shoulder held him back.

“Leave him be for a bit, Bodie,” Cowley advised, tipping his head in the direction of the open grave. “He’s got some things to come to terms with.”

“He does,” Bodie agreed. “But he doesn’t have to do it alone.” Bodie looked down at his shoes and spoke quietly. “Spent too much of his life alone.”

“His choice, lad.”

“Was it?” Bodie raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Then maybe it’s time to take the choice away from him, hmm?”

Bodie walked towards the grave, treading heavily through the dead leaves decorating the grounds so as to alert his partner that he was no longer alone. Reaching Doyle’s side he put his arm around Doyle’s shoulders.

“C’mon, mate. Time to go.”

Doyle turned to face him. “You liked him, didn’t you.” A statement not a question.

“Yeah, I did.”

“Because he saved your life.”

“In part. Being in Belfast during the bombings scared the hell out of me, Ray. It was like being on borrowed time – all the time. That night in the bus station, I thought I was dead. I was separated from my squad, not familiar with where I was and bombs were exploding all around. And then your father found me. Could’ve shot me or turned me in. Probably should have. Instead he put his own safety – and now we know his cover – on the line to help a young, frightened British soldier. And why? I’ve always wondered. And now I know. He was a good man.” Bodie smiled at his partner. “Yeah, I liked him.”

Doyle shook his head, melting sleet splashing against both their skin. He shivered. Wide sad eyes met Bodie’s. “I’d just found him, Bodie. Now he’s gone again.” Kneeling down he pulled the silver ring from his coat pocket and bounced it off his palm several times. He looked up at the sky and uttered indecipherable words with his eyes closed and then looked down again at the cold shiny band on his palm. He held it over the grave, weighing it in his hand. Closing his eyes again he dropped it onto the casket.

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

Doyle rose from his crouch and turned to Bodie. His face was an angry mask. “It would only be a bloody reminder that me and mum came second – that there were more important things to him than family. I’ve been carrying that knowledge in me heart for years.” He looked back down into the grave. “Let ‘im keep it. Maybe it’ll offer him some comfort wherever it is that he’s gone. I don’t need it.”

“Bit harsh, that.” Bodie challenged. “If anyone could understand denying himself for the greater good it should be you.”

“Karma, yeah? You get what you deserve.”

“Awful high and mighty, aren’t we. Playing both judge and jury.”

“Shut up Bodie.”

“No. I’m tired of coddling you, Doyle. It’s time to wake up and face facts.”

“Yeah? And who’s facts would those be, eh?” It was Ray at his most belligerent.

Controlling his own anger, Bodie continued. “We all do things that we don’t like, that go against everything we stand for. Things that turn our stomachs or make us wake up screaming in the night. But we do them because it’s the right thing to do. Your father, whether you choose to believe it or not, was a hero, mate. A damned good man. He put his own life on hold for over thirty years because he was in a position to save lives – to serve his country – to protect his family-”

Doyle snorted in disbelief.

Bodie ignored the interruption, “-regardless of the danger to himself.” Taking a deep breath he dared alienating his partner for good. “Remember the Atchinson job. You played the drug-dealer. You sold drugs that made their way onto the street.”

“To force the source out in the open,” Doyle protested.

“You grassed the MI5 agent.”

“He was dirty. And I had to protect my own cover.”

“You put a PC in hospital.”

“To save his bloody life, Bodie!”

Ignoring the hurt in his partner’s voice, Bodie continued. “Not things that the idealistic Raymond Doyle would have done – but you did it. Because in the long run you were doing it for good reasons, you were working to remove a bigger threat to Joe Public. You were doing...”

“...my fucking job.” Doyle turned to him, realisation plain on his face. He shook his head. “And what a job, yeah?”

Bodie breathed a sigh of relief. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Your father was-”

“Just doing his job. I get that, Bodie. But why did he have to lie to me all those years? If he knew I was a copper and that I was in CI5 surely he could have trusted me with the truth?”

The pain in Doyle’s eyes made Bodie gentle his response.

“Following orders? Need to know? MI5 has rules, too, Ray. He was following those.” He walked closer to his partner and put his hands on bowed shoulders. “And maybe, just maybe, he was still trying to protect you.”

“Don’t, Bodie. Just don’t.” Doyle looked up at the grey clouds scudding overhead and then back at Bodie. “It’s too early to forgive him. Don’t know if I ever can.”

“Fair enough.” Putting a hand on the small of Doyle’s back, Bodie moved him along to the car park. “Let’s get out of this weather. Cowley wants to see us and then I believe a drink is in order.”

Relaxing at the offered change of subject, Doyle asked, “You buying?”

Bodie nodded.

“Then I’m drinking.”

Chapter 12

“So,” Cowley handed them each a glass and poured out the scotch. “The Home Secretary is quite pleased with the information Breen gave to you. Plans are being made to counter what looked to be an ambitious bombing season by the IRA this Christmas. The tapes and maps are a god send. It shouldn't take long to find the man who revealed Breen's real identity.”

Doyle put his untouched drink down and walked to the window. Bodie grimaced and looked down at his shoes.

“I know the cost of the information was high, Doyle.” Cowley’s voice held sympathy. “I am sorry for your loss.”

Doyle spoke softly, bewilderment clear on his face. “I still don’t understand. How could he insist, right up to the end, that he loved me mum...” his voice trailed off.

“And you?”

Doyle shrugged. “And me.”

“Love comes in many guises, Doyle.” Cowley walked to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Your father loved his family and he loved his country. There’s sometimes no logical explanation for what or why--” his look now encompassed Bodie as well, “--or who we love.”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room.

“Yes, well,” Cowley coughed, turned away and pulled a thick envelope out of a file cabinet and held it out to Doyle. “This was left with MI5, to be given to you upon your father’s death.” He ignored Doyle’s flinch. “I have a meeting with the minister. You’re free to use my office to look through it.”

“Thank you, sir.” Bodie spoke for Doyle and took the envelope from Cowley.

The controller collected his coat and shut the door softly behind himself.

Bodie walked to Doyle and tapped him on the shoulder with the papers. “Here. Let’s see what Breen wanted you to have, shall we?”

A farrago of emotions slid across Doyle’s expressive face; the child’s fear of abandonment that laid the foundations for the walls that would be built to protect the man’s vulnerability, the teenager’s fear of rejection that explained Doyle’s odd uncharacteristic bouts of insecurity, and the man’s fear that he would end up alone like his father at the end of his own life. And maybe the dawning of understanding that might lead to forgiveness and finally peace.

Doyle accepted the envelope and spread the papers out on the desk. There was a will, a bank book, a deed to some property near Derby, a picture of him and his mum and a copy of the picture of his graduation from Hendon. But what held his attention was a faded, folded, worse for wear child’s drawing. He picked it up shivering with the memory of a cold wet night, a ratty stuffed bear and a warm embrace sheltering a barefoot child.

“What have you got there, sunshine?” Bodie looked puzzled.

He felt his lips form a tremulous smile as he shoved the drawing at his partner. “An early Raymond Doyle,” he announced with a touch of bewilderment. “I never thought...”

“Never thought what?” Bodie studied the artwork with a grin.

“That he’d kept it – that it meant anything to him.”

“Weren’t you listening at all when we were holed up in that garage?”

“I heard. But he’d lied to us - to me and my mum - so many times that I couldn’t bring myself to believe – thought it just a – you know – a deathbed confession, so he could go to whatever is next without a guilty conscience.”

“And now?”

Doyle pursed his lips and looked down at the creased photograph on the table, his finger lightly tracing his own uniformed image. There was a softening in his face as he answered. “And now, maybe it is time to forgive.”

Epilogue

“What’re you thinking?” Bodie tucked the duvet closer around their naked bodies, propped himself on his elbow and looked down into his partner’s sleepy eyes.

A finger traced the stubble on Bodie’s chin. “I’ve been alone too long. I’m tired of it. Breen was right. You are a good man William Andrew Phillip Bodie.” Doyle sat up, his back to his bed mate. “And I learned some other home truths from him too.”

Bodie rubbed the back presented to him. “Such as?”

“He died alone, Bodie.” A hand raked through dishevelled curls. “Oh, we were there. But he was still alone. There’s no one to really mourn him.”

“There’s you. Even you aren’t that cold, Ray.”

“I mourned him years ago. Every time he left us – me and me Mum.” He rubbed absently at his nose and sniffed. “By the time he actually died, I thought I was long out of tears. He chose to live his life alone, separate from the ones who loved him. And I don’t want to go out that way. I have a choice now. I don’t have to be alone. I want someone to care that I’m gone – that I lived. Selfish as it is, I want someone to cry over my cold, dead corpse.”

“Ah, the romantic in you finally shows itself.”

Doyle snorted a laugh. “Hardly. I know what we do is important and I have willingly given up a lot to follow my convictions – my idealism.” He shot Bodie a determined look over his shoulder, “and I won’t stop doing it. But I want more to show for my life than a cold wooden box. I want this.” He waved his arms around the room taking in the bed and its rumpled sheets stained with the evidence of what had gone on, their clothes tangled together and strewn across the floor. He picked up Bodie’s hand and wove their fingers together tightly. “I want this, Bodie,” he repeated with certainty. He kissed the entwined knuckles. He turned to his lover, warmth shining from his eyes and cupped Bodie’s face in his other hand. “I want you and all that goes with having you. Call it commitment, call it love – whatever you want, Bodie, it’s yours.”

Bodie raised their interlaced fingers to his own lips, gently placing his own kiss on each knuckle. His eyes rose to meet Doyle’s with a mischievous glint and he whispered, “If that’s a proposal, Raymond - I accept.”