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Unexamined Beliefs

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Prologue

Megan parked behind a black Audi Quattro on the road near Ray’s house. She eyed the car as she walked past. It wasn’t unheard of for cars to be parked there, but it was unusual. Ray didn’t have visitors, except for that nice Mr Cowley now and again. Ray preferred to go to the pub to socialise, or into Halifax. She adjusted her grip on the carrier bags and continued on to the house. Mr Brewster had still not taken care of the Privet hedge from hell. She wondered why Ray put up with it, although it was possible he had no choice. She didn’t know what he did for money or what the state of his finances might be. He never hesitated about payment or to stand a round at the pub, but everyone knew Brewster was the worst landlord in the area. “It’s private,” Ray said, when asked why he stayed. “I’m used to it.”

She knocked on the door but there was no answer. She dug out her key and entered the house. “Ray? I’ve got the shopping!” The house remained silent. Well, he was probably out walking Georgie. She unpacked the bags, comfortable by now with his kitchen and preferences. He never asked her to pick up items when she made the trip to the big Sainsbury’s in Halifax, but he clearly appreciated it when she did. He ate better when she did it as well. She had just placed a small chocolate sponge cake in the centre of the kitchen table when she heard a knock on the door.

“Yes?” She found a dark-haired man in a black leather jacket at the front door.

“Hello. I’m looking for Ray…Doyle?”

She saw polite inquiry on his face, but something in his blue eyes, or maybe his stance, made her wary. “He’s not here right now. He may be down in the village. You might try, um, at the King’s Arms.”

He nodded. “Thank you.” He turned and walked down the path toward the road, ducking around the hedge. She watched him go, then stepped outside, closed the door and headed for the footpath that Ray tended to favour. Maybe she was being an idiot, but the man had been, well, too good-looking, as if he wasn’t quite real, or trustworthy. Why was he here? If Ray knew him, then he could choose to meet him or not. It wasn’t long before she spotted Ray sitting on the remains of a wall that had once marked the boundary of a place long gone. He looked lonely, yet she knew that was misleading. He preferred solitude. Georgie, lying in the grass by the wall, raised her head as Megan approached. Ray glanced round at her, then turned back to the view. Megan leaned against the wall and followed his gaze. The view wasn’t particularly picturesque—just fields, the B road, and unremarkable houses at the edge of the village.

“What is it you see, when you spend your time here?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Ordinary life.” After a moment, he added: “Time passing.”

She felt cold, despite the walk. He had told her from the start, gently yet firmly, that there would be no future for them. At first, she had thought it was because he feared he would not live. He never spoke of what had happened to him, but it was clear from the start that he had been very ill. He had tired easily at first, and had run out of breath. But he had gained both strength and endurance in the year and a half he’d been in the village. He and Georgie often walked miles through the countryside now. She had gradually come to understand that he wasn’t able—or willing, she supposed—to form a deeper relationship with anyone. He was pleasant and courteous, but there was always a cool remoteness in his dealings with others. She had only seen him angry once, when he’d realised the friendly constable from Halifax had convinced Mrs Hicks she had to pay him immediately to avoid going to jail after a speeding ticket. The constable had denied everything, then had got angry with Ray, threatened him, and finally attacked him—and had been put down in seconds. The expression on Ray’s face had been fierce, almost exultant. It had made her wonder about the black eye he’d sported after a trip to Halifax, although he’d told her he’d stupidly tripped and fallen.

Beside her, Georgie lifted her head again. Megan followed the dog’s gaze, then stood. “Ray,” she said urgently. It was the man from Ray’s house who was approaching them. He must have followed her, dammit. “He was—” She broke off, then stared at Ray. He had swung himself down from the wall and was lightly balanced on his feet, as if ready for action. Yet, he didn’t move as the man came closer. Georgie stood as well, looking from Ray to the stranger.

The man stopped and stood still, his eyes on Ray.

She couldn’t read the expression on the man’s face, but she heard Ray sigh. “You bastard,” Ray said. “What the hell took you so long?”

*
*****
*

St Lawrence Church, Castle Rising
1964

“We have entrusted our brother David to God’s mercy,” the vicar intoned.

Cowley bowed his head and let the familiar words wash over him as he stood at David Thorne’s graveside. Funerals were supposed to bring closure, but the heaviness that had settled inside him when he had learned of David’s death wasn’t easing. How had it come to this? The vicar’s voice stopped, the prayer finished, and all around him people prepared to leave, yet Cowley stood still, caught in the past, when brightness had flared against the dark.

It’ll be brilliant, you’ll see!

It’s suicide, David.

But what a way to go, eh?

David had burned with passion then, fighting the Germans, serving with Cowley in the Service. Politics hadn’t entered into it, or so it had seemed at the time. The end of the war had changed everything. The fight had continued, but the enemy—

He was an ally.

Once, George. Under Stalin’s order. Those orders have changed.

It’s a dirty business.

Yes, but I’d rather we did it than others I might name. Now, let me tell you my plan, and see if it makes you feel a bit more clean…

David had been, perhaps, even more brilliant in the shadow war that had followed Germany’s defeat. He had relished the intricacies of espionage and even the inevitable manoeuvring between their own departments and branches. He had taught Cowley to play the political game, but Cowley had never relished it as David had. Cowley raised his head and saw that only Mary remained beside the grave. A man and woman hovered not far away, apparently giving Mary time. Cowley moved to stand beside her, wondering if she would speak to him.

“George,” she said, after a long pause.

“Mary.” He took her hand in his, noted how cold it was. “I am deeply sorry.”

She nodded. “I know how fond you were of David. Thank you for coming.”

“He was my friend. He saved my life more than once. If there is anything I can do…” He felt awkward, helpless. He had too much knowledge of all that had happened.

Her gaze met his, and there was a spark in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. “You’ve done enough, have you not? You and the others.”

The words stung, though he kept his expression neutral. She had been dragged through the mud, betrayed even more than David had been—betrayed by David. He had had his own part to play in that. “I wish you nothing but the best, Mary.”

To his surprise, her expression softened. “You’re not the Service. I know that.” She glanced at the couple who were now approaching them, and lowered her voice. “Thank you. From both of us. Truly.” She squeezed his hand gently, then released it. She was gathered up by the couple, their protectiveness emphasised by the frosty nods he received and the speed with which they whisked her away. He was glad to see her so well cared for.

Cowley walked slowly over the grass towards his car. Most of the mourners had already left, presumably heading for the reception at Mary’s house. Very few of the attendees had been from the services. David’s name might have been cleared, but it was still a risk to be associated with him, even in death. Those few who had come were either under orders or very secure in their positions. Or perhaps they no longer cared.

“Cowley.” A man stepped out from the shadow of a tree as Cowley neared the car.

“Plumb.” Cowley kept his tone even. “I was not aware you knew David Thorne.”

Plumb smiled slightly. “I am representing my department. Of course, your association with Thorne is well-documented.”

“As is his extraordinary service to the country.”

“Suspect service.”

“The charge of treason—as you well know—has been dismissed.”

“Yes.” Plumb pressed his lips together. “The real mole discovered—your work, I believe?”

“It was the work of many seeking to discover the truth.”

“Multiple truths.” Plumb’s eyes were narrow as he peered at Cowley. “Two birds with one stone, you might say.”

Cowley kept a tight rein on his temper. “You might. But a stone is a very blunt weapon. It lacks…precision. Wouldn’t you agree? There are far better weapons I can think of.” He nodded at Plumb and turned away.

“I would be careful if I were you, Cowley.”

Cowley looked back. “Indeed.”

“Mud sticks, you know. He may have been cleared of treason, but homosexuality—”

“He has paid, has he not? Innocents have paid as well. I should remember that, if I were you.”

“Well. We shall see.” Plumb’s smile was smug.

“Aye.” Cowley smiled, although he felt no humour. “We shall. Possibly even today.” He watched Plumb’s smile falter. “Goodbye.” Cowley turned and walked to his car.

He unlocked the car, settled behind the wheel, and headed for London. He had allowed Plumb’s smugness to get to him. He would need to watch that in future. Always keep your cards close, George, David had said to him, more than once. Never respond to provocation by showing your hand too soon. He doubted Plumb had been sent to the funeral by his superior. Taylor was in enough trouble of his own, given that it was he who had brought Harris, now shown to be a traitor, into the Service. As Plumb had said, mud tended to stick. Plumb had probably attended in the faint hope of acquiring some titbit of information that would give him—or Taylor?—an advantage in the scrum that was developing. Which meant the rumour he had heard of Canning’s likely sacking as head of MI5 had spread. Aye, it was a mess, and not soon unravelled. David would have revelled in it.

He felt again that piercing twist of loss in his gut, but there was anger as well. All of this internal fighting—witch hunts, cover-ups, jockeying for position—was like manna from heaven to their enemies. They had a job to do, yet they were losing focus, turning on each other, fomenting distrust. And David…David’s revelation had started it all—a cascading series of events that was playing right into the hands of the Soviets, the East Germans, and the Chinese. The Soviets had lost Harris as a source of information, but by God they were reaping benefits from it beyond their dreams. Why David, why?

Cowley’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. He forced himself to breathe evenly, and loosened his grip. This was not a time to indulge in emotion. There was work to be done, cases that could not be allowed to fall through cracks caused by distraction. He thought about those cases on the long drive, and went directly to MI5 headquarters to put in hours of work before heading home at 22:00. Ongoing operations didn’t pause for death or succession or anything short of nuclear war—and quite possibly not then, either. When he finally reached home, he was surprised to find a courier awaiting him on his doorstep with a letter from a legal firm. He identified himself, signed for the letter, and took it with him to his first floor flat.

He put away his hat and coat, poured himself a generous portion of scotch, and opened the letter. It was handwritten, a single sheet filled on both sides. He didn’t need to look at the signature to know it was from David. He closed his eyes for a moment. Damn you, David. After taking a fortifying sip, he read the letter.

Dear George,

I have sat staring at this paper for a ridiculously long period of time. I do not know where to begin, or what to tell you, or even if you will read these words. I am placing this letter in the care of my solicitor, to be delivered to you upon certain conditions being met. Oh hell, twenty years in the Service and I still cannot rid myself of caution. But there is no need. If you are reading this then Harris has been revealed as the traitor he is, my name has been cleared, and you have attended my funeral. (Yes, the funeral was critical, as it tells me much of the state of affairs, and of you. Everything in its place.) Thank you for permitting me to orchestrate one last tactical manoeuvre. If all goes according to plan, you will find benefits long overdue.

I can hear you now: “Och, David, speak plainly, for I am a simple man. My mind’s not suited for your labyrinthine plots.” We both know how untrue that is, even if you would choose a straighter path than I. Here, then, is my explanation for you alone.

I was tasked with discovering the source of the leak that had caused damage to more than one department. I went about it in my usual serpentine way and began to close in on Harris, although I didn’t know it was him at the time. It was at that point I was approached by Willis who was also seeking to discover the leak, under orders from his superior. Willis claimed the leak was growing cautious, scenting our pursuit. He had developed a plan to smoke out the leak, using me. I would take the fall, be identified as the leak, and Willis would set a trap for the real leak who would, thinking himself safe, be unprepared for the trap. Yes, I am certain you see as many flaws with this plan as I did. It assumed much, although Willis assured me it would work—that the leak would, in fact, be instrumental in my downfall, and thereby reveal himself. I suppose I need not spell out to you how Willis ensured my cooperation or the evidence he had acquired against me. I was, of course, the perfect tool for his plan. A homosexual is assumed untrustworthy and thus susceptible to blackmail. No one would question an accusation against me. We both knew the leak would take advantage of the situation to shift the blame—as, indeed, he did, with a bit of hidden nudging.

I changed the plan only in one regard: I wanted you to be the recipient of the evidence of my homosexuality. Your involvement, I argued, raised the odds of success. Your reputation would add credibility to our plot. Forgive me, George, but I used you for my own needs as well. I knew you would come to me when you ‘discovered’ the evidence, and I knew you would also follow your duty to disclose it. I do not blame you for my fall—far from it! Our conversation, as painful as it was, allowed me to plant—strengthen?—the belief, however mad, that whatever else I was, I was no traitor. I am not susceptible to blackmail. I hoped that, subsequently, when the evidence of me being the leak was planted, you would not believe it. You would carry out your own investigation.

I do not trust Willis. My fate does not concern him, only the source of the leak—and whether or not he can use it to his advantage. It was my greatest fear that Willis and his superiors would spring the trap, discover the traitor, then choose to use him for their own purposes, leaving me to take the blame. You know as well as I that Willis would not concern himself with the needs of other departments or share any information. I concede his strategy is brilliant, but the cost, the injustice… No good can come of imbalance in the services. And, perhaps, I held a grudge. So, I played my hand, allowed the trap to be set, but made you my hidden ace.

I do not regret anything of my career, and I will not apologise for what I cannot help. I have been an exemplary soldier and agent. But I have not been celibate, and I knowingly broke the law and the rules. I knew the risk I took, and I deserve my fate—not for what I am, but for what I chose to do. The main regret I have is for Mary. She deserved more from life and her husband than she received. I should never have married her, but… She refused to divorce me and has stood my friend through her anguish. I love her. My name and fate matter little to me as long as my conscience is clear. She, however, continues to live in our world. My name, then, must be cleared—as much as it can be. I entrusted that task to you, George, all unknowing. I thought you might believe me when I said I was no traitor. I arranged for certain information to find its way to you, by such paths as to avoid any hint of contamination. I still retain my skills and my network, even from within prison. I knew if you decided to do it, you would uncover the truth about Harris.

As you have done, if you are reading this. Thank you.

I cannot know the exact circumstances under which you are reading this letter. I have heard rumours that Harris’s indiscretions in the bedroom are being investigated, and that Canning is scrambling to contain the damage. He will not succeed. Harris will be revealed. You are implacable, George. I used you for my ends, but if I have done it correctly, you will find your position greatly strengthened, and no taint from our association will harm you. Perhaps that does not matter to you, but it does to me. Politics was always more my game than yours, was it not? Yet you must learn to play it, as much as you can bear. The security of Britain is our concern. It could not be in better hands than yours.

My operation, then, is nearly complete. The labyrinth solved. Just one more task left to do. There is no life for me without the Service. Mary must be free. Honour will be satisfied.

George, I love you. As a brother—never fear. I am a realist not a romantic. I cannot say more.

I remain, forever if you will have me, your friend.

David

The letter was dated the same day as David’s suicide. Cowley knew he was breathing, but it felt as if he weren’t. Oh, David. Such a waste. Such a pitiful, damnable waste. Sudden anger flared within him, but this time it wasn’t directed at David. It left him shaking, but resolved. He drank the rest of his whisky, then put the glass down, walked to the fireplace with the letter in his hand. He read it through one more time, struck a match, and burned the letter. He watched as the flame flared then died quickly on the grate. Good-bye, David. He wiped his eyes, and went to bed.

*
*****
*

Manchester
March 1983

Doyle grabbed his bag and scrambled to get off the train before it left the station in Manchester. He had been caught off guard when Alton had suddenly stood and left the train after the initial rush of passengers. Doyle exited through a different door than Alton had chosen, and hid behind a slow-moving family group. Alton’s abrupt actions could be a signal he knew he was being followed, so Doyle trailed him carefully until he saw him go into a telephone box. He took the opportunity to step into another box and ring Cowley.

“Manchester, you say? Now, that is interesting.”

“Yeah, well,” Doyle turned so he could keep an eye on Alton, “Not that surprising, is it? Where else would he have gone on that train?”

“Any number of places. I find it interesting given Hanley’s presence in Manchester.”

“Surely you don’t believe the cases are connected? It has to be a coincidence.”

“I don’t believe in coincidence.”

“Alton has English nationalist leanings, not Irish.”

“Thank you, Doyle, I was aware of that fact.” Cowley’s tone was acerbic. Doyle smiled a little. “Nevertheless, there has been a whisper of…unusual alliances. Follow him, Doyle. If he leads you to Hanley, make contact with Bodie and Turner. Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.” That was, of course, assuming Bodie had not yet murdered Turner. Doyle’s smile grew.

“Are you, er…?”

Doyle’s smile turned to a scowl. “Oh, he’s on the move, sir.” He hung up the phone. Bloody Cowley. He’d insisted on strict adherence to the doctor’s order, even though Doyle had felt better for nearly a week now. Cowley had kept him on desk work until he’d needed someone to follow Alton. There had been no A or B Squad agents available. Doyle had been grateful for the reprieve and he wasn’t going to go back now, even if he was feeling a bit achey. Bloody appendicectomy. What was the point of having an appendix, anyway, if all it did was cause trouble? Between the shame of it all, and Bodie’s banishment with Turner to Manchester, Doyle had been bored to death. He picked up his overnight bag, exited the phone box and loitered by a newsagent’s until he saw Alton heading for a line of taxis. Great. Bloody great. Doyle quickened his pace.

Alton got in a taxi that pulled away from the station. Doyle showed his ID to the next taxi driver in line. “Follow that taxi, all right?”

“You’re not serious—?”

“Go!”

The driver took off after the first taxi. “I want cash—not any of your ‘expense report’ twaddle.”

Doyle eyed the back of the driver’s head. “Former…?”

“That’s right, son. Pension’s not as good as they say. Cash?”

“Yeah, all right. Just keep a discreet distance.”

“Teach your grandmother.”

Doyle smiled and leaned back in his seat. The driver knew what he was doing and he knew the city. Doyle looked around as they threaded their way through the streets. He knew Manchester fairly well, but it had been some time since he had last been in the city, and there were changes. He glanced down a busy street, remembering a good pub. He was hungry; he should have grabbed something at the station. Who knew how long he’d be follow—

Bodie! The taxi rolled on, but Doyle had seen Bodie enter a building about a third of the way down the street they had passed. It had only been a glimpse, but he knew it had been Bodie. That must be where he and Turner were watching Hanley, then. So, Alton wasn’t meeting Hanley.

“Whoops.”

Doyle followed the driver’s gaze and saw Alton climbing out of his stopped taxi. “Drop me off round the corner.”

“Right-o.” The driver brought the taxi to a smooth halt out of Alton’s view.

Doyle pulled a tenner out of his wallet, climbed out of the taxi, and handed the money to the driver, waving away his offer of change. “Expenses. I hope.” He turned to hurry away.

“Good luck,” the driver said, then pulled away from the kerb.

Doyle was lucky. He caught a glimpse of Alton entering a block of flats. He stepped into the shadows of another block and pulled out his R/T. The cases might very well still be unrelated, but Cowley’s hunches often paid off. “Four-five to Three-seven. Four-five to Three-seven, come in.”

“Four-eight here. What the hell are you doing up here?”

“Bloody Cowley. Look, has your man just received a visitor?”

“Yeah.”

“Tall, brown-haired bloke in a black jacket?”

“That’s the one. Where are you?”

“Down the street. How do I get to you?”

“Round the back, there’s a hole in the garden fence. Third floor, flat 6.”

“Four-five out.” It wasn’t the building Bodie had gone into. Doyle made his way to the back of the block across the street, then up to the flat. Turner opened the door at his light tap.

“Thought you were on holiday,” Turner said. He walked to the binoculars perched on a stand overlooking the street.

Doyle closed the door and set his bag down. “This is a holiday—Manchester’s not London, is it?” He walked over to the stand, keeping out of direct sight from the window.

“Too right it’s not. Who’re you following?”

“Name’s Alton—James. A rising star in the EPLA, according to Cowley.”

“What’s he doing in bed with the Irish, then?” Turner drew back from the binoculars to allow Doyle to see into the flat across the road.

“That lot’s happier with the IRA than the Ulstermen.” Alton was sitting at a table, deep in conversation with Hanley. “Wish we had a bug over there.”

Turner snorted. “Just as well, given Hanley’s penchant for frequent wanks. Solitary.”

Doyle grimaced as he straightened. “Dangers of the job. Where is Bodie, anyway?”

“Well…” Turner cleared his throat and looked down.

Doyle just looked at him.

Turner shrugged. “Hanley hasn’t gone anywhere in days. We, ah, decided there was no need for both of us to be here all the time.”

“Fair enough, but the R/T…?”

“Yeah.” Turner’s gaze slid away from Doyle’s. “I don’t know why he isn’t answering that.”

Doyle rolled his eyes. “Great.” He looked round. “Any food in?”

“Bodie was going to bring some back with him.”

Doyle pointed across the street. “You keep your eye on both of them. I’ll grab something to eat and be right back. I’ll have my R/T with me.”

“Yeah, okay.” Turner pursed his lips. “Doyle…no need to report…?” He trailed off, not looking at Doyle.

Everything Bodie had ever said about Turner was true. “You and Bodie deserve one another.” He left the flat. Damn Bodie, anyway. Fair enough to take it by turns in the flat, but not answering his R/T was sheer stupidity. Doyle hesitated when he got to the street, then turned towards the street where he’d seen Bodie. The trouble was, it wasn’t like Bodie, not anymore. And for this lapse to come so soon after he’d crashed Cowley’s car… Doyle needed to check on him. If all was well, he’d at least reap the benefit of Bodie’s error for, oh, weeks to come.

It didn’t take him long to reach the street, which contained a mixture of flats and shops. He couldn’t be certain which door Bodie had gone through, but when he found the discreet entrance to a club, he thought it the most likely destination. He went inside and was greeted by a large man in a suit, who stood in front of an inner door. The man looked Doyle up and down.

“Looking for a friend,” Doyle said. He kept his expression neutral, but felt tension coil in his stomach.

“Aren’t we all.” The man opened the door and ushered Doyle through. “Good luck.”

The club was dark, the air thick with smoke. Disco music blared from the speakers, and men danced in the centre of the floor. There were no women. Doyle stood still for a moment, letting his eyes adjust. He must have got it wrong—Bodie wouldn’t be here—he wouldn’t— Nevertheless, he walked towards the bar, very aware of the looks he was receiving. Bodie wasn’t here. He’d gone in to a different place. He had to have.

A group of men congregated in the space between the door to the toilets and the bar. Some of them weren’t waiting for the scant privacy the toilets would provide. Bodie wasn’t amongst them. But as Doyle passed the group, the door to the toilets opened and—dammit—Bodie walked out, dressed in black. He zipped his trousers closed as he moved past the men, his natural arrogance on full display. Doyle stood still, rooted to the floor. Bodie saw him, faltered, then recovered.

Don’t, Doyle thought, but he watched Bodie pull a mantle of assurance, cockiness, around him. “Ray.” Bodie walked towards him. “What are you doing in Manchester?” His voice held nothing but surprise in it, but his eyes flicked to the men watching them. Was he undercover? Was this part of…? No. Even in the dim light he could read Bodie. The only one he was trying to fool was Doyle.

“You bastard,” he said as anger overwhelmed shock. “You fucking—”

“Ooh, somebody’s in trouble,” one of the men watching them said. “Playing the field, was he?”

Bodie grabbed Doyle’s arm, pulled him towards the door of the club. Doyle broke free, swung around and hit Bodie in the jaw with his closed fist. Bodie fell to the floor. Pain blossomed in Doyle’s hand, but it was subsumed by the bitter anger roiling inside him, suffocating him. He stalked towards the door, his glare sufficient to keep anyone from stopping him. He needed to move, needed to put distance between Bodie and himself. He didn’t think, just got out of the club and onto the street.

“Ray!”

He heard Bodie behind him, but he kept on walking. Bodie couldn’t be gay. He couldn’t— Bodie caught up with him. Doyle stopped and turned on him: “Are you undercover?”

Bodie’s eyes flickered as he hesitated.

“Don’t lie to me.” Doyle could barely get the words out through his closed throat.

“No.”

“You’re gay.”

“Bi.” Bodie’s voice was clipped.

“All these years.”

Bodie lifted his chin. “It hasn’t—” Doyle’s R/T bleeped.

“Shut it.” Doyle flipped the switch on the R/T. “Four-five.”

“Four-eight. Your man’s leaving. Shit! Looks like Hanley is as well. Where are you? And where the fuck’s Bodie?”

Doyle smiled without humour. “I found Bodie. We’ll be there in two minutes.” He thumbed off the R/T. “Where’s your R/T, Bodie?”

“It’s—” Bodie reached into his jacket, then let his hand drop away. “I turned it off.”

“Of course you did.” Doyle turned away, and broke into a run.

Bodie ran by his side. “This doesn’t change anything.”

“Fuck off.”

“It doesn’t. It never has!”

Doyle glanced at him, but all he could see was Bodie in the toilets, getting sucked off—or—eating some bastard’s— He ran faster. They turned a corner and Doyle saw Alton. He veered, then shoved Bodie into a recessed doorway. “Alton. The man I’m following.”

“What the hell are you doing here, anyway? You’re not—”

“Low-level, B squad. Only it’s suddenly blown up.” He paused. “No pun intended.”

Bodie gave him a withering look. “None taken. He was meeting with Hanley?”

“Yeah. And now he’s bloody well hailing a taxi. Dammit.”

Bodie pulled out a set of keys from his trouser pocket. “Hire car. That Ford Sierra over there.”

“Right.” Doyle grabbed the keys. “Turn your fucking R/T on.”

“Ray—” Bodie’s hand on Doyle’s arm stopped him from walking away. “There’s nothing for you to be—”

“It’s the partnership!”

Bodie’s expression hardened. “You’d break us—”

“Cowley will, you bloody fool! I have to go.” He pulled free from Bodie’s grip and ran to the car. Alton’s taxi took a right at the corner—was he heading back to the station? Doyle started the car and drove off in pursuit, passing Bodie entering the surveillance flat. Concentrate on the case. He followed the taxi round the corner. It soon became apparent that Alton was, indeed, going back to the station. Doyle parked the hire car and followed him inside. Alton was queuing at the ticket office. Doyle skulked in the waiting area until he saw Alton sit down. He bought a sandwich and tea at a shop, then skulked some more. The food was welcome, but it did nothing to lighten the leaden feeling in his stomach.

He’d been engulfed in anger at the club—he’d lost it. He admitted that. But when he thought again of Bodie walking out of the toilets, with that look of satiation— He clenched his fist. Bodie would ruin everything, and for what? Stupid, bloody bastard. Doyle went and found a pay phone to report in to HQ. He left a message for Cowley. He hung up and saw that Alton was heading towards the ticket barriers. Doyle followed him, using his ID to get through the barrier. He boarded the same train as Alton, and alerted the guard to his presence. He took a seat not far from Alton, only then realising he wasn’t certain of their destination. Well, it didn’t matter, did it?

A previous passenger had left a copy of The Daily Mail wedged between the seat and window. Doyle picked it up to read—anything to keep his mind from circling round to Bodie. The train was slow, stopping frequently to disembark and pick up passengers. The stations rolled by as Alton stayed put: Clifton, Kearsley, Bolton, and others. Doyle finally threw the paper aside when he realised he hadn’t remembered anything he’d read.

Bodie had gone to a gay bar. Bodie had gone to a gay bar to get off when he ought to have been on the job. Bodie had… But the anger that had stayed bright and fierce for so long had finally died down, leaving cold depression in its wake. Doyle stared at the green fields rolling by. Bodie had thought he’d break the partnership because of this. Maybe he should, but it wasn’t— He didn’t want that. Anyway, it was a moot point, wasn’t it? Cowley wouldn’t countenance homosexuality, and Cowley would find out. Everyone fucking well knew that, didn’t they? Bodie had remarked about it, more than once, dammit.

Listen, Cowley's got a file on us like that. He even knows what side of the bed we get out of.

And whose bed.

That conversation had been years ago. So, what was Bodie playing at? Bugger it all to hell. He didn’t want to lose Bodie. His mind flashed back through the years, all the times Bodie had saved him: Terkoff. Preston. Phipps and his man. Mayli Kuolo. Hell, even Williams. So many cases. He trusted Bodie with his life, trusted him far more than he trusted Cowley, if came to that. How could he not have known, then? All these fucking years? Christ. Bodie was…bi, he’d said. Should he have known? He thought about the teasing, the campiness Bodie was all too capable of. It had just been for a laugh, hadn’t it? His best mate. His best mate who had never kept his hands to himself. Doyle shut down that line of thought. He’d deal with Bodie later. He’d deal with all of it later. Not now. He picked up the discarded paper, focused on the words, jaw tight.

Doyle finally followed Alton off the train at Preston. He doubted that was Alton’s final destination and, sure enough, he soon followed him on to the train bound for Glasgow. Once again, Doyle found a seat from which he could observe Alton, although this train had more people aboard than the last.

They had only travelled a short distance when Alton stood up and made his way through the carriage, presumably heading for the dining car. Doyle went after him, but in the space between carriages, Alton turned and sprang at him. Doyle didn’t resist, letting Alton press him against the door of the carriage they’d just left, one arm across Doyle’s throat.

“Fancy seeing you here—again,” Alton said.

“What the…? Get off me!” Doyle struggled against Alton’s hold, deliberately ineffective.

“You’ve been following me. I saw you on the train to Manchester, now you’re here.” Alton pressed closer. “Copper?”

“No. Bloody hell—just going to Glasgow, how else would I go?”

“With a convenient layover in Manchester and Preston, of exactly the same duration? No luggage?”

The door to the next carriage opened. Doyle tensed, ready for action in case Alton spooked—

It was Bodie. “Get off him!”

Alton and Doyle both stared at Bodie.

Alton recovered first. “Who the hell are you?”

Bodie pulled Alton off Doyle, placing himself between them, facing Alton. “Is this man bothering you, Ray? Get your jollies beating up smaller men?”

Alton drew back; Doyle ached to hit Bodie. “What the hell are you doing?” he hissed. He stepped out from behind Bodie.

Bodie turned slightly towards Doyle, although he didn’t take his eyes off Alton. “I know. I made a mistake. You’ve every right to be angry with me. But, I’m here, right? Just like you wanted.” He took Doyle’s hand in his.

Doyle froze. Alton looked at the two of them. “My mistake,” he muttered. He sent them another searching look, then opened the door to his original carriage and left them.

“Interesting reaction,” Bodie said.

“What the fuck are you—?”

“Now, now, mustn’t fight after the big reunion scene.”

“I’ll—” Doyle clamped his mouth shut, took a spin away from Bodie, hand in his hair. “He thinks we’re a—”

“Pair of poofs, yeah. Perfect cover. Everyone knows poofs couldn’t possibly be in security.”

“What are you doing here? Did Hanley get on the train?”

“Hanley is on a train heading south, with Turner watching him.” Bodie looked away for a moment. “Cowley told me to go with you. I caught up with the train in Preston.”

“Great.”

“Look, it was all I could think of, okay? Your bloody cover was obviously blown.”

Doyle glared at him.

“The op comes first, right?”

The sheer reasonableness in Bodie’s tone set off his temper once more. “Oh, yeah? Tell Turner that, why don’t you?” Doyle turned to open the door, then remembered Alton. The case. He stood still, every muscle tensed, his back to Bodie.

“Frustrating as hell, isn’t it?”

Doyle raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Find a seat. I’ll get food.” He turned round to go through the other door.

“Bring the bags from the third carriage.”

Doyle waved his hand and entered the next carriage. He bought sandwiches and drinks in the dining car—restraining the impulse to get liver sausage for Bodie. He located Bodie’s bag, and saw that he’d brought Doyle’s as well. Terrific. He didn’t want to be in charity with Bodie. He made his way back to the carriage and found Bodie had taken a seat near the door. Doyle put the bags on the seats across from them, handed the food bag to Bodie, and sat next to him. Bodie divided the food between them.

They ate in silence. Doyle finally sighed and got it over with: “Sorry.”

Bodie nodded and swallowed. “The same. Not running screaming from me, then?”

Doyle looked quickly at Bodie. It was impossible to have a private conversation on the train.

Bodie shifted in his seat. “For being a Liverpool fan, I mean.”

“You—” Doyle shook his head, swallowed the sudden laugh that wanted to get out, despite everything. “It is a black mark.”

“Yeah, well, at least we don’t have to resort to cheating like your lot.”

“That was not a cheat—the ref called it, fair and square.”

“That ref was a Scot, wasn’t he?”

Doyle frowned. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, it’s just, you know my boss is a Scot.”

“And?”

“Talks all the time about breaking the rules.” He looked at Doyle. “He’s told me that.”

Doyle’s gut tightened. “Not if he’d lose his position—get fired, like that ref would’ve been if he’d got it wrong.”

“Yeah, ‘course. But…where possible.” Bodie shrugged. “Discretion required.”

Discretion?” Doyle glanced round guiltily and lowered his voice. “Failed that, then.”

Bodie sent him a look of frustration.

Doyle looked down at his hands. He crumpled the packaging that had held his sandwich, then stuffed it in the bag. Was Bodie honestly saying Cowley had given him permission to engage in homosexual behaviour? No, it wasn’t possible. “The Scot I know is a stickler for rules.”

“Not the stupid ones.”

“Game rules.” They had both gone into CI5 with their eyes wide open.

“Yeah, okay. Point. What I’m saying is true, though. No support, but…a blind eye.”

“Not much use for a blind ref, is there?”

“If the team works.”

Doyle raised his eyes to Bodie’s. “Does it?”

Bodie held his gaze. “You tell me.”

Christ. Thoughts chased each other around in his head. All he knew for certain was that he didn’t want to lose his partner. Was Bodie telling him the truth? Bodie lied by omission—the King Billy affair, a case in point. Being bi was apparently another. But he never lied directly to Doyle. He wouldn’t lie about Cowley. Doyle looked down the train carriage and spied Alton looking out the window. “You took it to goal all by yourself earlier, didn’t you?” He looked sidelong at Bodie. “Outside the door.”

Bodie stared at him, and then a slow smile tugged the corner of his mouth up. “Was a good goal,” he said.

“Show-off.”

Doyle felt Bodie relax next to him as they fell into their usual, routine patter when they were in public. It seemed so natural. It was exactly what they’d done for years. He thought about it even as he kept up his part of the conversation. Was it really going to be as easy as this? Keeping a secret was no problem—it was second nature to them. But as for the rest… He pictured Bodie with another man—and promptly lost his place in the conversation. “Sorry, what was that?”

Bodie raised an eyebrow but repeated himself all the same. Doyle responded in kind. It was best not to think about the details, he decided. Just accept it as it was, as it always had been, apparently. Give it time.

The journey from Preston to Glasgow took just over three hours. Alton didn’t move from his seat the entire time. When the train got into the station, however, Alton stopped by their seat as the other passengers were gathering their things and disembarking.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” Alton said. “I…was in the army. Got a bit paranoid.”

Doyle glanced at Bodie. “Tell me about it.”

Alton looked at Bodie.

“Paras.”

“I see. Well.” Alton nodded at them, then made his way to the door.

“Interesting,” Bodie said.

“Your assessment hasn’t changed.” Doyle hefted his bag. “Come on.”

They followed Alton at an ordinary, natural distance. Alton went through the barrier, and walked to a bank of telephones.

“Time to report in,” Doyle said.

“I’ll do it. You watch the bags—and Alton.”

Doyle waved a derisive hand at him, but settled down against a wall nevertheless. He kept an eye on Alton, but his gaze strayed frequently to Bodie as well. Everything on the train had been so bloody normal. It was difficult to believe he had seen Bodie in the club. But he had. Bodie with another man. Doyle looked away, jaw tight, and saw Alton walking towards him.

“So, you did have luggage, after all.”

“My mate brought it.” Doyle nodded towards Bodie. “It was a—uh—sudden trip. He’s trying to find a hotel room now.” He smiled in as unassuming a manner as he could muster.

“It’s late for that. Listen, I know a good place—it’s where I’m staying. Inexpensive, good breakfast, and enough rooms that they’re likely to be able to fit you in.

“Oh, well, erm…”

“Check with your mate, see what he says.” Alton looked towards Bodie, who had hung up the phone and was walking towards them.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Doyle managed to keep his tone mild. He vowed to have a chat with Bodie about role playing and assumptions. “Phil,” he said, a shade too brightly, “we have a recommendation for a hotel.”

Bodie raised his eyebrows. “That’s fortunate. The one I was after was full. I was just coming to tell you.” Bodie held out his hand to Alton. “Phillip Williams.” He nodded towards Doyle. “He’s Ray Duncan.”

“James Alton—Jamie. Might as well share a taxi, eh?”

Doyle exchanged a wide-eyed look with Bodie as they followed Alton to the taxi stand.

True to his word, Alton took them to a hotel in a quiet neighbourhood. In short order, they had a twin-bedded room near the stairs. Alton was in a room further along the same corridor. They waved to each other as they entered their rooms.

“He’s on to us,” Doyle said as soon as the door closed.

“Maybe he’s just very friendly and helpful.” Bodie set the bags down and looked around. “Hmm. Not five star, but we’ve been in worse.” The room was reasonably large, with a wide window overlooking the street. They had their own loo, but the shower was in a shared bathroom down the hall. “At least with those creaky stairs we’ll hear if Alton goes out.”

“What did Cowley have to say?”

Bodie walked to the window. “Keep on him. Play out the game.”

“Did you tell him the game?” Doyle moved to one of the beds. The mattress seemed reasonable.

“I told him we’d made contact, and that Alton thought we were…travellers.”

“Yeah.” Doyle looked at Bodie standing by the window. It was just…Bodie. Solid, capable, the person he never grew tired of being with. The person he could say anything to…mostly. He felt his pulse pick up slightly, and looked away.

“How are you, Ray? I never— I thought you were tied to a desk.”

Doyle shrugged. “I’m fine.” He sent a quick smile Bodie’s way. “A little achey but, no worse than after Macklin.” He didn’t quite know what to do with himself, suddenly oddly aware of Bodie’s presence. “I suppose we had better take it in turns tonight, keeping an eye on Alton.”

“What, you think he’ll do a runner?”

Doyle raised his eyebrows. “You do agree he’s on to us?”

“I don’t know if he thinks we’re coppers or whatever, but I do think he wants us where he can see us. It’s a good manoeuvre on his part.”

“Assuming he’s up to something.”

“Cowley’s orders.” Bodie shrugged. “So, a night in. Better get some takeaway then, hadn’t we?”

“I just fed you on the train!”

“I’m a growing lad.”

“Yeah—sideways.”

Bodie ignored that. “Indian or—?”

“Saw a chippie on the corner. Go on, then, your turn. And don’t stint on the vinegar!”

Bodie grimaced. “That’ll keep me on my side of the room.”

“Don’t give me that, I’ve seen you with the bottle. Heavy-handed, that’s—“ He broke off, his ears finally catching up to his mouth.

Bodie walked towards the centre of the room. “Yeah, you know me pretty well.”

“Apparently not.” He was amazed at how normal his voice sounded.

“I haven’t changed, Ray.” Bodie tilted his head. “But there is something I find interesting.”

“Alton for one—or is that two?” Doyle turned towards the window. It was dark outside, but street lamps flooded the area with light.

“It was Cowley you were worried about back there, wasn’t it? It never occurred to you that you might object to working with me?”

Doyle hesitated, then told him the truth. “Seven years with you? No, it didn’t occur to me.” He turned round in time to see something like relief flash across Bodie’s face. Doyle continued: “But don’t lie to me by omission again. Anything else you’d like to confess, as long as we’re at it?”

“Don’t think you’ll object to the whips and chains.” Bodie’s voice was light.

“Nah, standard secret service stuff, isn’t it? Might object to pink pants, though.” Doyle thought about it. “At least, at HQ.”

Bodie rolled his eyes. “I don’t think you’ll have a worry there. Although…couldn’t you just see their faces?”

“Forget it! I never said anything.” Doyle smiled, feeling more buoyant than he had any reason to expect. They could get through this. “I still can’t believe Cowley is…okay with…”

Bodie shrugged. “You know Cowley, he’s all about the job. He’d think it a waste of an asset.” Bodie bit his lip. “He knew what I was going in. We had a talk and he laid out the rules as he saw it.”

“Discretion.”

“That’s right.”

“Yeah, well.” Doyle turned again to the window. It was easier to look into the night than to face Bodie. “If I didn’t know, who would?”

“He wanted me to tell you,” Bodie said quietly.

Doyle looked round, surprised.

“It was when you were in hospital after getting shot by Mayli. Shocked me when he suggested it, I can tell you that.”

“I bet.” Doyle studied him for a moment. “All this time? You—?”

“Not in London. Look, I—” Bodie turned away, then back. “Women are fine. It’s just sometimes I want…”

“Variety?”

“Call it that. But I’ve no desire to lose my job, so I am careful. Not in London, not where anyone knows me.”

“There’s always a risk. Like me following you.”

Bodie let out a half-laugh. “Worst nightmare, mate.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Ray?”

Bodie’s voice was odd enough that Doyle tensed. “What?”

“You ever…experimented?”

It felt as if his heart had stopped and yet was beating violently at the same time. He tried for a nonchalant shrug. Truth for truth. “When I was a kid. Tried most things then.”

Bodie looked at him, searchingly it seemed, and then he looked away. “Ah, that’s where you developed your blasé attitude towards whips and chains, eh?” Bodie tsked.

“That’s where I decided it wasn’t my scene.”

Bodie looked round rather quickly at him, and then shook his head and laughed. “Had me going there for a minute. Fair enough.”

Doyle just smiled, and thought how much Bodie tended to underestimate him, even after all these years. “Go and get the food, shall I?’’

“I thought it was my turn?”

Doyle shrugged. “Need the walk.” He punched Bodie lightly on the arm as he passed him, and got out of the room. He knew it was a retreat, he just didn’t fully understand why. He’d just had to get out of the room. He put the thought aside, bought the food and brought it back. While they ate, Doyle caught Bodie up on all the news from HQ. He then volunteered for the first watch of the night. “Afraid I won’t want to wake up later,” he explained. So, he sat in a chair by the door in a darkened room, listened to Bodie sleeping, and finally had time to think.

He didn’t want to break the partnership. He never would. Bodie had got too far inside him. After Ann…well, there was only Bodie. He’d acknowledged that some time ago. He’d worked hard to get back on the squad after being shot. Part of him had wanted to quit, take a desk job, but always there was the thought of Bodie stopping him. He couldn’t picture Bodie at a desk, couldn’t bear to see him with a new partner. He feared never seeing Bodie again. Doyle closed his eyes against the darkness for a moment. Yeah. Fear. That was why he’d lost his temper so spectacularly at the club. He’d feared the loss of the partnership, furious with Bodie for risking it. Fear—

No. Admit it. There was something else.

Why had Bodie never looked at him? All the pats, all the bum-pushing, all the innuendos…yet he knew Bodie had meant nothing by all that. Bodie had once told him he’d started it only to get up Doyle’s nose. For fuck’s sake, was he actually angry because Bodie hadn’t come on to him? Was that what he wanted? No…right? He’d tried gay sex once and had no desire to ‘experiment’ again. So…vanity, then? Doyle shook his head, let the thought go. He knew what Bodie felt for him. The affection—well yeah, that was obvious if you knew Bodie. He was Doyle’s partner—closer than a friend or a lover. His stomach twisted. Because despite all that, Bodie hadn’t trusted Doyle with the truth, had he? That was the core of it, then. The core of the anger and fear. He hadn’t known. It felt as if…as if Bodie was slipping away from him—as it would feel if he left. He hadn’t known this about Bodie—what else didn’t he know?

Doyle sat still, let the quiet seep into him, calm him. Bodie was with him now. He wanted to stay in the partnership. Doyle still trusted him, always would. Think about it: what would he have done in Bodie’s place? Bodie hadn’t betrayed him, hadn’t flat-out lied to him. And after he’d found out, Bodie had tried to make it right—as much as he could. So, Doyle would just have to learn to accept this aspect of him. Somehow. He felt a pang as he remembered the birds they’d hunted together—no more? Bi, Bodie had said. It would make no difference, he’d promised. Doyle was dubious about that, but…well, as long as he didn’t start ogling men when Doyle was with him…

Oh, Christ, he could just see it in the pub: Whoa, Doyle, look at the way that one’s hung. Oh, great, now he’d think that every time they went to the pub. Doyle sighed. Okay, it would take some—a lot of—adjustment, but he’d remember the Bodie who’d brought his bag when he’d chased after him. He’d remember the Bodie who’d saved his life. The Bodie who’d put his arm round him and dragged him off to a pub after Ann. The partner he wouldn’t desert to be with Esther. Let it be. Let it be.

He made it through four hours of the night before he gave in to exhaustion. Alton hadn’t stirred from his room. Doyle moved quietly to the bed where Bodie was sleeping. He touched his shoulder. “Bodie.”

Bodie made a sound halfway between a grunt and some sort of question.

“C’mon, mate, your turn.” Doyle leaned down to give Bodie a shake.

Bodie grabbed him by the arm. “Ray?”

“Yeah, who else—?” He stopped abruptly, feeling awkward.

“Don’t,” Bodie said, sounding much more awake.

Doyle started to pull away, but Bodie’s grip tightened.

“Ray— Please. Christ— ” And suddenly Bodie sat up, his hand slid to Doyle’s neck, and his mouth landed on Doyle’s mouth.

Shock ripped through Doyle, followed immediately by a surge of desire, and—something else. There in the dark, exhausted, with too many contradictory thoughts about Bodie swirling in his head, he found his anchor. This wasn’t an experiment. He made a sound deep in his throat, and he kissed Bodie back.

It was Bodie, finally, who broke the kiss. “You’re still not running away screaming.” If it was an attempt at lightness, his voice betrayed him.

“Plan misfired, did it?”

“Seems to have succeeded spectacularly. Not that there was a plan.”

Doyle straightened, and Bodie’s hand fell away from his neck. “Your turn to watch.” He was grateful for the darkness in the room.

“Right.”

Doyle went to the loo while Bodie settled into the chair by the door. He looked at himself in the mirror over the sink, then shook his head and turned out the light. He headed straight for the bed, but Bodie’s voice by the door stopped him. “Ray?”

He sounded uncertain—cautious. He had sounded like that when Doyle had first regained consciousness after nearly dying. Doyle veered to the dark form by the door. He reached out a hand, and it was taken in Bodie’s firm grip. “How many were substitutes, then?”

Bodie laughed, once. “All of them.”

“I’m going to teach you to tell the whole truth.”

“Like where you decided gay sex wasn’t your scene?” Bodie’s hand tightened on Doyle’s.

“It wasn’t. Then.” Doyle smiled a little as he pulled his hand from Bodie’s. He turned away and climbed into bed. He thought he wouldn’t sleep, but the exhaustion had taken its toll.

He woke to sunshine and the sound of Bodie cursing as he shaved. He smiled at the sheer normality of it, and then remembered the kiss. The smile stayed, even as his stomach flip-flopped.

“Awake, are you?” Bodie wiped the last of the shaving cream from his chin. He had on a clean white t-shirt and dark trousers.

“Yeah.” Doyle sat up. “Where’s Alton?”

“Shower.” Bodie cocked his head. “Which he seems to have just finished.” Bodie walked to the door to listen for Alton returning to his room.

Doyle got out of bed, went to the loo, brushed his teeth and returned only to be snagged by Bodie and drawn into another kiss.

“Hmm,” Bodie said when Doyle finally, reluctantly, pulled away. “I like your toothpaste.”

“Don’t borrow it.” Doyle walked to his bag, his back to Bodie. He rummaged for a t-shirt, willed his pulse to slow.

Bodie followed. “Tut tut. Selfish.” He put his arms round Doyle, pulling Doyle’s back up against him.

“Work,” Doyle said.

“Holiday,” Bodie said into his ear before he nipped it.

“Ow!” Doyle pushed Bodie away from him. “I am not meat. Don’t,” he added, “say anything.”

Bodie grinned.

Doyle eyed him. “We may be in Glasgow—hardly the holiday capital of the world, I might add—but we’ve a job to do. ‘The op comes first’, didn’t you say? Who do we have up here—is it Paget?”

“Yeah, I think so. What, you want to call him in? Have him tail Alton?”

“We can’t very well do it ourselves now, can we?”

Bodie made a face. “Right. I’ll call Cowley.”

Doyle tilted his head. “That’s the second time you’ve volunteered to call Cowley. Trying to get on his good side again, or does he have you on a short leash?”

“Just putting you in my debt, old son.”

“And what will you want in return?” Doyle looked at him, desire and anticipation coiling together inside him, along with something like fear. It was a potent mix. That was the effect from just a couple of kisses. What the hell would it be like to have it all?

“Only what we both want.” Bodie’s voice was quiet.

“All a bit sudden, isn’t it?”

Bodie looked down, eyelashes stark against his skin. “I can’t say I haven’t thought about it.”

Doyle controlled the sudden urge to smile. “Often?”

Bodie raised his eyes. “You kissed me back. What happened when you ‘experimented’?”

“It was okay.”

“And?”

“Then I decided to join the police.”

“Ah.”

“Cowley…”

“Discretion. No blackmail. He wouldn’t save us, but that’s nothing new.” Bodie tilted his head. “I want you, Ray.”

Doyle walked forward, kissed Bodie briefly. “After the op.”

Bodie reached for him. “Certain of that?”

“If we’re not recalled.”

Against his lips, Bodie murmured: “Not even Cowley would be so cruel.”

Doyle grinned. “Fool. That’s scuppered us.”

Bodie flung out his arms and said to the room at large: “I didn’t mean it. I did not mean it!”

Doyle laughed and turned back to his bag, the mood broken. But he felt a frisson of excitement in his nerves.

He took a quick shower while Bodie contacted Cowley and then Paget. They went down to breakfast and sat a table with a good view of the front door.

“He might sneak out the back, of course,” Bodie pointed out after they put in their breakfast orders.

“I still say he’s playing us. I’m betting he’ll put in an appearance at breakfast. When is Paget getting here?” Doyle slurped his tea.

“Should be soon. Ah, and speak of the devil.”

Doyle looked round and saw Alton approaching their table.

“Good morning,” Alton said. “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Still making up for the paranoia?” Doyle handed him the brief menu. “You’ve already more than made up for it with this hotel.”

“It is nice, isn’t it?” Alton smiled as the waitress brought him a cup. He put in his order and poured himself some tea. “I always stay here when I’m in Glasgow.”

“What line of work are you in?” Bodie asked.

“Oh, I’m a…facilitator. I bring people, businesses with similar but distinct interests together for their mutual benefit. And you two?”

Doyle smiled. “Civil servant.”

“Security consultant,” Bodie said.

Alton looked at Bodie. “Putting your Army background to good use.”

Bodie shrugged. “It should be good for something.”

“Besides nightmares,” Doyle said solicitously. Bodie looked away quickly, as if embarrassed. Doyle knew better.

The waitress brought plates filled with eggs, mushrooms, beans and tomato. She also placed a rack of toast on the table.

Alton buttered his toast and glanced at Bodie. “You were in Northern Ireland?

“Yeah, early seventies.” Bodie looked up. “You?”

“Later. I got out after Limavady.”

Doyle looked at Bodie. Bodie swallowed some food. “Bad day.”

“You could say that. Three soldiers dead, twelve injured. I was one of the lucky ones. So they said.”

“Makes you wonder,” Doyle said.

“It makes me wonder why we’re there. Leave Ireland to the Irish—it’s England we should be thinking about. Protecting what’s ours and our way of life.”

Doyle speared a mushroom. “Some would say that is why we are there.”

“I thought that once. I thought it was my duty, you see. But nothing changes—both sides at fault. Let the Loyalists and the Republicans sort their own problems.”

“There are more than just the extremists, though. Innocents.”

“The innocent died at Limavady.”

Bodie reached for another piece of toast. “You weren’t there, Ray.”

“Exactly! Unless you’re there to see…” Alton shook his head. “England should be for the English. Let Ireland go its own way. Yeah, even down into chaos, if that’s what they choose. The same with Scotland.”

“The union’s been good for us,” Doyle argued. “In this day and age, you’re better off in larger unions. That’s why we’ve forged ties with Europe. It gives us more economic power, and doesn’t let us fall into the same traps that led to the wars.”

“I don’t want to be part of Europe—we’re not like them. And it keeps expanding—Greece is now in the EEC, others want in. Where’s it going to end? How far will they take it? Porous borders? A unified currency? Do we really want the European Parliament telling us what our laws should be? No. England alone, that’s what I say.”

Bodie laid down his knife and fork. “I can’t say I have much argument with that.”

Doyle looked at him. “Really?”

Bodie shrugged. “We know how to govern ourselves best.”

“It wouldn’t come to that. It’s just economic—”

“Slippery slope,” Alton said.

“Well, room for discussion, anyway.” Doyle finished his food. “Good breakfast.”

Bodie smiled. “Yeah. Thanks for the recommendation, mate.”

Alton waved the thanks away. He looked at his watch. “I have my first appointment coming up.” He stood, reaching for the jacket that he had slung across the back of his chair. “Thank you for letting me join you for breakfast. Good day.” As he turned to leave, a paper fluttered out from under his jacket.

“Jamie—you dropped something.” Doyle reached for the paper. It was a list of names. He handed it to Alton, who quickly grabbed it.

“Ah, I need that. Thank you.” He nodded at them and walked away.

Bodie left the table as well, moving swiftly into the hallway, hand reaching for his R/T. Doyle drank the rest of his tea, then headed upstairs to their room. He made a phone call to HQ and reported the names he had seen on the list. “Run a background check—a deep background check.”

“We have got other cases, Four-five,” Brenda said with some asperity.

“Clear it with Alpha. This is top priority. I believe Alton is escalating.”

“Will do.”

Doyle hung up the phone, strapped on his holster, and packed their bags in case they had to leave quickly. He was just finishing when Bodie returned. “Paget in place?”

“Just barely in time. He’s following on foot.” Bodie jangled a set of car keys. “This is for you and me.”

“I’m going to like this part.”

“If Paget doesn’t lose him.” Bodie put on his holster. “Come on. I’ll drive, you keep in touch with Paget on the R/T.”

In short order they were travelling through the streets of Glasgow. Doyle spoke into the R/T: “Stay well back, but don’t lose sight of him.”

“Oh, thanks very much,” Paget replied. “How am I supposed to follow him when he’s already wary of being followed because of you two?”

“Use your training, man.”

“That’s more effective with a Scottish accent.”

“Well, you’ll be hearing from the real thing if you lose him.”

“Oh, hell, where’s he going now? I swear he’s leading me on a wild goose chase. Paget out.”

Doyle thumbed off the R/T and looked at Bodie.

Bodie shrugged. “He might be right.”

“Yeah, that paper was far too obvious a clue.” Doyle sighed. “Still, he doesn’t know about Paget. It might just be caution.”

“Expects us to call in the names, does he?”

Doyle nodded. “That’s my guess. I’m having them run a deep check. It may all be a red herring, but… There’s something not right in all of this.”

Bodie glanced at him. “What? He was toeing the EPLA line.”

“Yeah, but that business of Limavady.”

“It was bad, Ray. You know that.”

“I do, and they never caught the bastards.”

“They reckon it was Kennedy.”

“No proof, just a suspicion. Anyway, to go from that to meeting with the IRA?”

“Causes can lead to strange bedfellows.”

Doyle eyed him. “CI5’s a cause.”

Bodie grinned. “I rest my case.”

For the next hour they followed Paget following Alton, until Alton flagged down a taxi on Argyle Street. Bodie managed to pull over to the side of the road without alienating more than two other drivers. A brown-haired young man wandered out of the crowd and got into the back seat of the car.

Doyle had kept his eyes on the taxi. “Take a right at the junction.” He glanced at the man in the back seat. “Been a long time, Paget.”

“A lot of changes.” Paget nodded towards Bodie. “This one’s Bodie, then. Heard of him.”

“All bad, of course,” Bodie said.

“Enough to wish Doyle was the one driving my car.”

Doyle laughed. “That news made it all the way up here, did it?”

Bodie looked wounded. “I caught the villains!”

“And lost a pay cheque.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t lose more, given that it was Cowley’s car,” Paget said.

Doyle shrugged. “He’s the Cow’s blue-eyed boy, isn’t he?”

“I wish you’d remind him of that,” Bodie said.

“So, what’s the story with this Alton fellow I’m following?”

“Rising star in the EPLA. Cowley wanted an eye kept on him—God knows why.”

“Haven’t you heard? Cowley and—”

“Yeah, okay.” Doyle didn’t hesitate to interrupt Bodie. “There’s talk about joining with the IRA and a Scottish nationalist group.”

Paget shook his head. “It’ll never work. They don’t talk to each other.”

“He’s already been talking to suspected members of the IRA, and now he’s in Glasgow.”

“It doesn’t seem—”

“Oh, hang on, they’re stopping,” Bodie said. Doyle glanced round and saw there was no possible way for them to stop without drawing attention to themselves. He ducked down as they passed the parked taxi.

“He’s looking after us,” Bodie said, eyes on the rear view mirror.

“Don’t dare stop, then. Dammit.”

“We’ll lose him if we go too far. Better to risk—”

“Wait,” Paget said. “Let me check on something.” He switched the channel on his R/T and pressed the button. “Paget to Campbell—you there? Paget to—”

A female voice replied: “Yeah, yeah, what is it?”

“Get me the address for Andrew Morrison, will you? Please?”

“What are you up to now? Hang on.”

Paget released the R/T button and looked at Doyle. “She’s my contact with the locals. Andrew Morrison is a Scottish nationalist, not too squeamish about violence. He has a house around here.” He raised his eyebrows.

Doyle looked at Bodie, who nodded.

“Take a left when you can.”

Campbell relayed the address within a couple of minutes, and added the address for another house in Erskine.

“Overachiever,” Doyle commented to Paget.

“I’ve recommended her for CI5. Bodie, park anywhere in the next road.” Bodie did as directed and Paget climbed out of the car. “I’ll report in when I can.” He hurried away from the car.

“Taking a risk,” Bodie said.

“But if he’s right, and Alton is certain we’re not following him… It might be the break we need.”

“For what? There’s nothing illegal about meeting with people.”

“Well, enough to keep Cowley happy, anyway.” Doyle smiled. “You need all the help you can get there.”

Bodie gave him a look.

Doyle’s R/T pinged and Paget reported they’d guessed correctly. “Great. We’ll stay put.” He thumbed the R/T off. “Did you see a phone box?”

“Yeah, back that way. Report to Cowley?”

Doyle nodded and left the car.

“Interesting,” Cowley said, after Doyle had relayed the information they had. “The names you called in didn’t pan out—except for one: Donal Clery. It took that deep check you asked for, but his brother-in-law—sister’s husband—has ties to the IRA. There’s nothing on Clery himself. He lives in Dumbarton with his Scottish wife.”

“So we may be taking a trip to Dumbarton. Or it’s all a ruse.”

“Interesting that he bothered with it at all, if so.”

“The other names…?”

“They’re real people, scattered about the country. The closest to you is in Edinburgh. But we haven’t—yet—found any solid connections.”

“Anything more on that IRA connection?”

“The brother-in-law’s name is Brian Nolan. He’s from Derry. He isn’t suspected of direct involvement in anything, but possible material support. He’s known to have been friends with Ryan Kennedy.”

“Kennedy.”

“Is there something there, Doyle?”

“Alton was at Limavady as a soldier.”

“Follow this through. You may be on to something. Use whatever support you need. Paget is well-established with the locals. If we have a chance at Kennedy…”

“We’ll do our best sir.” He hung up the phone and returned to the car. “Anything?” he asked Bodie.

“There’s a car out front, Paget says. They may be getting ready to leave. What’s the word from Cowley?”

Doyle filled him in. “Limavady. Again.”

“Specifically Kennedy.” Bodie gazed into the distance. “Vengeance?”

“It’s a possibility.” Doyle tugged his hair with his hand. “But it could just as easily be what it seems.”

“Why’d he let us see that paper?”

“If he did.”

“Okay, but assuming so, why?” Bodie looked at him.

Doyle shrugged, at a loss. “He knew we’d run the names. And…eventually find the connection?”

“Right. But he’d expect it to take time, wouldn’t he? He doesn’t know we have CI5’s resources.”

Doyle stared at Bodie. “You think he’s leaving us a trail.”

Bodie spread his hands. “Maybe. Something for us to find…after.”

“After what?”

Bodie shrugged.

“We’ve got to get ahead on this thing. He’s leading us right now.” Doyle looked out the window, then back at Bodie. “Erskine.”

“And Dumbarton.”

Doyle reached for his R/T. “Paget?”

“Yeah. Look, I think they’re moving.”

Doyle drew in his breath. “Yeah, we’re making a guess on that. We’re heading to Morrison’s house in Erskine.”

“That’s quite a guess, Doyle.”

“There’s a connection with a group in Dumbarton.”

“They’re coming out.”

“Find transportation. Doyle out.” He put away the R/T and nodded at Bodie. “Go.”

“Running all the way.”

They found their way to the M8 with a lucky turn and sped towards Erskine. Paget reported that Alton, Morrison, and a driver had left in the car, destination unknown. “I’ll report in when we arrive,” Paget said. “Wherever that is.”

“You’re reporting to Cowley if we’re wrong,” Bodie told Doyle. “You’re his green-eyed boy at the moment.”

“Yes, but since you’re already in the doghouse…”

“Hmm.” Bodie looked at him sidelong. “How about we just guess right?”

“That would be the best course of action.”

But when they finally found the house, and a vantage point on a wall to observe it, Doyle’s heart sank. “There’s no one there.” He passed the binoculars they’d found in the boot to Bodie, and stepped down from the wall. “Dammit.”

“Paget is still tailing them. Presumably.”

“They’re still on the road, then. Maybe Dumbarton? What?” Bodie was waving the binoculars at him.

“Car’s arriving.”

Doyle took the binoculars, set his foot in a toe-hold on the wall to lift himself up, and peered down at the house. “One bloke. He’s unlocking the house. Getting it ready?” He looked back at Bodie. “Could just be a caretaker.”

“Yeah.”

Fifteen minutes later, Paget reported in over the R/T. “We’re in Erskine. Where are you?” Doyle gave him their location and shortly they heard the sound of a motorbike. Paget parked the bike next to the car and climbed off.

“Where’d you get that, then?” Bodie asked.

“I appropriated it.” Paget smiled.

“Did I tell you he was once a thief?” Doyle handed the binoculars to Paget and relinquished his position on the wall. “That’s how we met.” He grinned at Bodie.

“That’s Alton and Morrison arriving now,” Paget reported. “How many are inside the house?”

“One for certain. If there’s more, we haven’t seen them. It looked like one man was getting the house ready.” Bodie took the binoculars from Paget.

“Alton, Morrison and the driver.” Paget turned to Doyle. “So your guess paid off.”

“Maybe. Although—”

“Another car,” Bodie interrupted him. “Five men. Christ.”

“What?” Doyle took the binoculars that Bodie handed to him. “Fuck, it’s Kennedy.”

“What, Ryan Kennedy?” Paget took his turn with the binoculars as Doyle looked at Bodie.

“What do you reckon?” Doyle asked Bodie.

“His mates died. It wasn’t in battle.”

“We’ve got to get in there.”

“Are you up for it?”

Doyle squelched the immediate flare of irritation. He’d had surgery, it was a reasonable question. “Yeah.”

“Right. Let’s go.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Paget jumped off the wall to face them. “What are you two on about?”

“We’re going in.” Doyle adjusted his holster. “Back garden?”

What?”

Bodie nodded.

“Look,” Doyle said to Paget. “We think it’s all a set-up—Alton getting vengeance on Kennedy for the Limavady bombing.”

“No.”

“Ray.” Bodie had already started towards the house.

“I’ll go with—”

“No,” Doyle said. “You stay here, keep watch. Let us know if anyone else comes.”

“Doyle, let me—”

“B squad. We need you here.” Doyle followed Bodie. They ran to the back garden, scaled the six foot wall, took cover and made a quick assessment.

“Nine men, no idea where they are, no idea how the house is laid out. I can see an open window, though.”

“Airing it out. Kitchen’s there—dining room next to it? Do you reckon they’re in a front room?”

“No way to know.”

“Stupid to go in like this.” Doyle’s eyes met Bodie’s.

“Suicide mission.”

“At least it isn’t a Susie.”

“Or if it is, we won’t ever know.” Bodie touched Doyle on the shoulder, then made his way quickly behind the bushes to the house. Doyle followed him, working his way towards the kitchen. While Bodie climbed the drain pipe, Doyle stayed low and eased to the kitchen door. Just as he reached it, a man opened the door and walked out, cigarette in hand. Doyle tackled him, but not before the man got out a startled yell. Doyle heard a shout from inside the house. Well, if Bodie had needed a distraction in order to break in upstairs, he’d got one. Doyle charged into the kitchen, saw a man with a gun entering through a doorway to another room. Doyle dived to the side as the man fired, and fired his own gun in return. The man fell. Two down, six unaccounted for. He ran through the doorway into a dining room and then into the front room and found a scene of chaos.

Alton was fighting with two men across the room in front of a window. Doyle looked to his left, saw a blond man fumbling at a holster. Before Doyle could react, another man—Morrison—grabbed Doyle’s gun arm, forcing it down.

“No!” Morrison cried. Doyle shook him off, only to find himself facing the blond with the gun. The man smiled, gestured for Doyle to move into the centre of the room, closer to Morrison and a dark-haired man—Clery? The gunman took up a guard-like position at the door.

The fighting by the window had stopped. A quick glance showed Alton being held at bay by another man with a gun. Kennedy stood between Alton and Doyle.

“Well done, boys,” said Kennedy. He was breathing heavily but smiling. Doyle caught a flicker of movement in the hallway behind the gunman pinning him.

“Ray!” As Bodie shouted his name, Doyle dived to his left. He heard two bangs, felt burning pain in his arm, and lost his grip on the gun. “Hold it.” Bodie’s voice was hard. Doyle looked up and saw the man who’d been holding the gun on Alton sprawled on the floor, very likely dead. Bodie stood with a gun to the head of the blond. Morrison and Clery had their hands up. Kennedy glared at Bodie. The situation in hand, Doyle looked at his arm. “How bad, Ray?”

Doyle shook his head, then froze as he caught sight of Alton, who suddenly leveled a gun on Kennedy. “Alton.” His own gun was on the floor between them—too far away for him to get to it.

“You two got here faster than I expected. Never mind. You can be witnesses. Whoever you really are.”

“No.” Doyle glanced at Bodie as he climbed to his feet. He moved towards Alton. “Put the gun down. Don’t do it like this.” His handgun was nearly in reach, just another step—

“Stop right there, Duncan!”

Kennedy suddenly laughed. “You’re going to kill me in front of them, is that it? Can I at least know what I’m being executed for?”

An expression like revulsion rippled across Alton’s face. “Limavady.”

“Ahh. Good day.” Kennedy’s tone was rich with satisfaction, his eyes were cold and hard.

“Jamie, you survived,” Doyle said. “Don’t let him win.”

“He deserves death, not prison.” Alton took a step towards Kennedy.

Kennedy shrugged. “Prison, death, what does it matter? The war will rage on. We’ll kill you all, drive you from our shores. Claim what’s ours. You understand that, boyo, don’t you? It’s what you want for your foul England, isn’t it?”

“Do you want to make a martyr of him? Put the gun down.”

Alton glanced at Doyle, then back at Kennedy.

“You’re a soldier,” Bodie said quietly.

After a long moment, Alton lowered his gun. Doyle breathed out, then moved forward to take the gun from Alton, scooping his own gun up in the process. Bodie still had a gun trained on the blond gunman. Kennedy, Clery and Morrison didn’t move. The man Bodie had shot was dead.

“Well, well, saved my life, officers.” Kennedy said.

“Shut it.” Doyle put cuffs on Kennedy’s wrists.

“Why are you—?” Morrison stepped forward, but stopped at Bodie’s order to stand still. “Who the hell are you? Ryan wasn’t the aggress—”

“CI5,” Doyle said. “Ryan Kennedy, I’m placing you under arrest on suspicion of involvement in the Limavady bombing. There are, of course multiple warrants out for your arrest.” Doyle sent a look Morrison’s way, but the man backed down. Doyle pulled out his R/T. “Paget! It’s done. There’s a man in the back garden—”

“Already taken care of,” Paget said over the R/T. “Bringing him in now. He was going to crash your party, the rude git.”

“Paget didn’t stay put like we told him to,” Bodie said. He finished putting cuffs on the gunman.

“Officer material.” Doyle looked around, then at Bodie. “One in the garden, one in the kitchen—one upstairs?”

“Two, actually. That’s why I was a bit delayed. We miscounted.”

“Oh, Father will be displeased. Dead?”

“Tied up.”

Doyle lifted his R/T. “Paget—”

“I heard.” Paget came into the room, pushing the handcuffed man from the garden ahead of him. “Locals are on their way as well.”

“Good. Ahh—” Doyle flinched as Bodie examined his arm.

“Pity you didn’t react that quickly when I shouted.”

“Will you leave off, I’m fine. Go and help Paget.”

“You’ll do until a medic sees you.” Bodie patted him on the arm and caught up with Paget. “Young Michael, I shall teach you a little trick I know,” he said as they walked out of the room. Doyle directed the two cuffed men, Clery, and Morrison, to sit on the sofa where he could keep an eye on them.

Alton stood by the window, arms around his stomach. “CI5.” Alton shook his head. “I should have guessed.”

Doyle sent him a look. “What did you think, then?”

“Special Branch.”

“Nah, not with Bodie’s background.”

“It’s not that they wouldn’t take me,” Bodie said as he walked into the room with two bound men and Paget. “I wouldn’t take them.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” Doyle glanced at Alton, saw he was smiling, but then a flicker of something like pain flashed across his face.

The locals arrived and the room descended into chaos again, although of a different sort. As usual, Doyle took on the lion’s share of liaison duties with the police, although Paget was of considerable help. Eventually the whole lot was transported to Glasgow—the villains to the nick, Bodie and Doyle to their hotel. Cowley told them to stay another night, then to take the train to London, bringing Alton with them. Bodie raised his eyebrows when Doyle reported their orders to him.

“What does he want with Alton?”

Doyle shrugged. “When I can read Cowley’s mind—” He unzipped his bag rummaging for shampoo. He wanted a shower.

“Our lives will be a lot easier. I wish you’d hurry up and acquire that skill.”

“Why me? You’re the soldier—you should understand him best.”

“Cowley is not your typical soldier.”

Doyle looked at Bodie. “You and Alton understood one another—it was your words that convinced him.”

Bodie shook his head. “It was both of us.” He looked down for a moment, appearing oddly vulnerable. Doyle felt a jolt of tenderness mixed with desire. Had he always been affected in this way, but just hadn’t paid attention? “I talked with him a bit, you know, while you were communing with the locals.”

“Don’t remind me.” Doyle frowned as he caught a strange look in Bodie’s eyes. “What is it?”

Bodie shrugged. “He was telling me—it was a plot from the beginning. He knew there was no way he’d get close to Kennedy. So, he thought of a plausible way he just might do it. He had connections with the EPLA, and he came up with this whole plan.” Bodie looked away, then back at Doyle. “It was more than just…justice. I reckon one of those soldiers—the ones who died—was…closer to him than the others.”

Doyle raised his eyebrows. “You mean, like…”

“Us. Yeah.” Bodie drew in his breath. “Watching us sometimes…”

“Hurt him. Is that it?” He thought back to the expression he’d seen on Alton’s face.

Bodie nodded.

“Poor bugger.” Doyle reached again for his shampoo. Would he do as much? If Bodie died…

“Would you do that?”

Doyle glanced round at Bodie, unsurprised that he’d asked. “Vengeance? Would you?”

“You know the answer to that. But you’re not like me and him.”

“Aren’t I? You said it: we both talked him down—knew what he was doing.” Doyle looked away for a moment, remembering the Empire Society and the Zadie case. He smiled a little. “I’d get them, too. In my own way.”

After a moment, Bodie grinned. “Yeah. You would.” He turned away. “Are you off for a shower, then?”

“Yeah.” Doyle touched him lightly on the shoulder before he headed for the door. “See you later.”

He washed away the sweat, grime, and fear of the day. Cowley had been pleased with them—very pleased, judging by the respite of a second night at the hotel. And they were going to make good use of that night. Doyle paused for a moment, hands and shampoo in his hair. Were they really going to do this? Did he want—? Oh, yes, he wanted. The desire a simple kiss had brought to him was astonishing. Intriguing. He smiled as he rinsed the shampoo from his hair. He had never considered sex with Bodie. He had wondered what Bodie would be like in bed, but more in the abstract. He had shut the door to that side of himself before he’d joined the police. Yet there was no hesitancy within him about finding out now. How could that be? One didn’t change in a flash like that. But then, it wasn’t a flash, was it? There were layers of friendship, years of developing trust, dependency, desire for Bodie’s company if not his body. Doyle rubbed soap over his own body, and gently squeezed his cock. Thinking of Bodie brought a sense of anticipation—sexual anticipation. He thought back to the club, to that moment of blinding clarity when he had realised what Bodie had just done. The door had opened then—had slammed open, in fact. He didn’t want Bodie going to strangers.

He shut off the shower, dried himself with a towel. Expectation bubbled through him, along with nerves. He’d had years of experience with women, but this… Well. He knew how to pay attention to what his partner wanted from him, he’d just have to rely on that and instinct. Doyle smiled again. He had also had years with Bodie that he could draw on. They would learn from each other, just as they had done from nearly the start of their partnership.

Doyle returned to the room with his smile intact. Bodie immediately narrowed his eyes at him. “All right, what?” he asked. Bodie had taken his shirt off, his dark trousers were a fine contrast to his pale skin. It also appeared that Bodie was in a state of anticipation as well.

“Just thinking,” Doyle said as he put his shampoo bottle away. “It was a good thing you didn’t throw me out the plane without a parachute during our initial training.”

“Oh, yeah?” Bodie walked up behind him, standing very close. “It would have meant a quieter life.” His lips brushed the back of Doyle’s neck. “I might have had a partner who actually followed my orders.”

Doyle closed his eyes briefly. As easy as this, then? But of course it would be. He turned. “You would have had a shorter life.”

“Possibly.” Bodie brought his hands up to cup Doyle’s head.

“Judging by what you got up to with Turner—” Doyle was forced to stop speaking when Bodie kissed him. It was as if electricity shot through him, igniting nerve endings, lifting him. He had no doubts and no desire to stop what they were about to do. His need for Bodie was more intense than any he had felt in years. So simple. So fucking simple.

Bodie broke the kiss, leaned his forehead against Doyle’s. “‘With Turner,’ he says. That’s enough to put me off for life.” His thumbs caressed Doyle’s skin. “How’s your arm?”

“Well, the medic told me, whatever else I do, be sure not to have sex.” Bodie jerked back a little and Doyle laughed at him. “Daft sod.”

“The medic?”

“Oh, yeah, the medic. It’s just a graze. It’s already healing.” He tilted his head as he saw an expression in Bodie’s eyes that gave him pause. “What is it?”

“Just… Thought it was over, you know—partnership, everything. I can’t quite believe…”

Doyle felt a sort of softening inside him, an upswell of affection that astonished him, until he realised how familiar the feeling was. He had never identified it so clearly before. “Well,” he said, keeping his voice light, “give it a go anyway, eh?

There was a pause as their gazes held, and then Bodie drew him close. “Yeah. Just this once,” he murmured. Bodie’s demanding mouth covered Doyle’s grin. Doyle took his own initiative with his hands. He soon had Bodie stripped of trousers and pants, and dropped his own wrapped towel to the floor. He thought fleetingly of the big beds that awaited them in London, but they’d make do with what they had.

In the end, they didn’t even make it to a bed. Doyle found himself backed against the wall, Bodie’s hand around his hardening cock. Bodie squeezed and pulled, eliciting a moan from Doyle that was buried against Bodie’s mouth. He took hold of Bodie’s cock, mirroring Bodie’s actions, his grip tightening as he surged towards the breaking point. Doyle came first, but Bodie followed soon after. Doyle leaned back, head tilted back against the wall, eyes closed. Bodie leaned against him, his head on Doyle’s shoulder.

“Well, that was—” Doyle stopped talking in order to breathe in.

“Quick.”

Doyle opened his eyes, then lowered his head to look at Bodie. Bodie raised his head and Doyle saw the rueful humour in Bodie’s eyes. “I think,” he said, “there had better be a second time.”

Bodie looked like he was giving it careful consideration. “The bed might be an interesting place to try.”

“Remarkable. Where do these insights come from?” Doyle pushed Bodie back, then took his hand to lead him to his bed. They sat on the edge, kissing, both seeking to chart the other’s mouth. They sank onto the bed—and Doyle nearly fell off, Bodie’s tight grip the only thing that saved him.

“Here, get on top,” Bodie said, lying back.

Doyle grinned. “Finally admitting it, eh?” He placed kisses on Bodie’s chest.

“Admitting…what?”

“I’m on top.” Doyle wriggled, eliciting a stifled groan.

“Ah, but…” Bodie stroked his hands down Doyle’s body, rode the curve of his arse and cupped him. His mouth again took Doyle’s as his finger sought out the hole and rimmed it. Doyle jerked, gasped—would have cried out if he’d been allowed to do so. “Tactical advantage,” Bodie said softly, when he’d released Doyle’s mouth.

Doyle murmured something, unable to form words, a little stunned by his reaction. He’d been stroked there before, had even had one girlfriend who’d used a dildo on him, but he hadn’t reacted like that. He raised his head and found Bodie’s watchful eyes on him.

“No go?” Bodie asked.

Doyle smiled slightly. “No limits.” He reached out and traced the quirk in Bodie’s eyebrow, and then saw the gathering glee in Bodie’s eyes. “Some limits.”

Bodie laughed quietly. “Wish these walls weren’t so thin.” He sounded wistful.

“Okay, let’s test your control.” He bent his head to Bodie’s chest.

“Ray—no. Oh…hell.”

Urgency gone, Doyle took his time exploring Bodie, learning his erogenous zones, tasting and testing. He was inordinately pleased with himself when he realised Bodie had pressed his arm tight across his mouth, smothering himself as Doyle had sucked him and drawn everything from him. Tomorrow, Doyle thought. Tomorrow he would hear Bodie cry out, in the safety of one of their flats. When Bodie recovered, he retaliated as Doyle had known he would. And it was Doyle’s turn to struggle to stay silent while Bodie completely dismantled him. Afterwards, with Bodie lying heavy on top of him, Doyle stroked his back and wondered how he could have been such a fool not to have known that this was what he wanted. The emptiness within him that he’d been trying to blot out all his life, was filled by Bodie.

“So many years,” Doyle murmured, and then realised that Bodie was asleep. “Oi.” He poked Bodie, who made a noise very like a grunt. “Go back to your own—” He thought about it. “Never mind.” He wriggled out from under Bodie, much to Bodie’s sleepy protest, turned off the light, and went to the other, dryer bed. He thought he might lie awake, his brain inevitably turning over the enormous turn his life had just taken. But instead, he was pulled down to sleep, secure in the knowledge that whatever tomorrow brought, Bodie would be with him.

When Doyle woke in the morning, Bodie was gone—showering, Doyle suspected. He padded to the loo, washed his face and brushed his teeth. He could do with another shower himself, he realised. He should have enough time for that and breakfast before they needed to collect Alton. If Bodie hurried up.

“Good morning,” Bodie said when he returned to the room, looking disgustingly cheery before coffee or tea or anything. Doyle nodded at him, and headed for the shower. “Hang on.” Bodie grabbed Doyle’s arm, brought him close to kiss him.

Doyle thoroughly enjoyed the kiss, but stepped away as soon as he recollected the time. “Later. We’ve got to retrieve Alton, remember. And I assume you want breakfast?”

“Could…possibly skip breakfast.” Bodie’s hand travelled down Doyle’s body. “Eat on the train.”

Doyle laughed as he caught and released Bodie’s hand. “Work first, then play, eh?” He touched Bodie’s cheek with his hand, revelling in this new freedom. “Tonight.”

Bodie seemed preoccupied throughout breakfast, although he greeted the food with as much enthusiasm as on the previous day. Doyle gave him room. There were no pressures, no deadlines, and they both had a lot to think about. In the cold light of morning, with desire banked enough not to be swamping his brain, he knew he wanted exactly what he had found last night: Bodie as his partner and lover. He had fallen in love many times. He recognised the symptoms of infatuation and he knew the danger of the lure of the forbidden. So, it was no wonder he could barely keep his hands off Bodie. And yet, he felt so much more—a happiness he’d never known before. It was as if he’d found his way home, without even knowing he’d been lost. He watched Bodie’s hands wield the cutlery and thought of them holding a gun, putting pressure on a wound, stroking Doyle’s skin. He shivered and looked away. Desire he could control. This…pervasive contentment was like a wild river, sweeping him along willy-nilly. Yet he’d stay in it; he’d choose it.

Back in their room, they made certain they’d packed everything. Doyle contacted Paget, who’d agreed to drive them to pick up Alton and then to the railway station. He thumbed off the R/T and turned to Bodie. “Ready?”

Bodie stood at the window looking out. He didn’t reply.

“Bodie? What is it?”

“Ray.” Bodie turned to face him. “I thought— I should have made it clear. We can’t…do this in London.”

Doyle stood still, frozen in mid-breath. “Sex, you mean.”

Bodie nodded.

He was automatically self-protective: “What makes you think I want—”

“Neither of us wants to stop.”

Doyle stared at him, absorbed the bleak look on Bodie’s face. He wasn’t lying; there was no subterfuge in this. “Tell me.”

“You know what it is: CI5.”

“You said Cowley didn’t care.”

“If we’re discreet. But—”

“Bloody hell.” Doyle turned away, then back. “Do you think we’ll be holding hands in the rest room, for God’s sake? ‘Discreet’! What the hell does that even mean with us? We’re beyond ‘discreet’!”

“Cowley would know.”

“And what if he does?”

“He’d split us. Do you want that?” Bodie’s voice was hard.

“Of course not.” Doyle turned away. He was still reeling from the whole idea that Cowley might be willing to turn a blind eye to homosexuality. He blanched at the thought of Cowley knowing about them. “He wouldn’t. Like you said, he doesn’t like waste.” He stared at the door. Cowley also had a rule about involvement.

“You know better.”

“For fuck’s sake.” He rounded on Bodie. “Why, then—?” He broke off at the conflict he saw in Bodie’s face.

“I wasn’t thinking I was— I wanted you. We’re not in London, it’s—”

“Your pattern.”

“I didn’t think about today. Going home.”

Doyle clenched his fist. “We’re his best team. He won’t want to lose us.”

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. “Even if he didn’t split us, even if we could somehow hide it from him… We can’t be together and in CI5.”

“Can’t? Or won’t?”

“Personal involvement affects the job.”

“Bugger that! We’ve been ‘involved’ for years. That won’t affect us—”

“It already has!” Bodie took a step towards him, then turned away.

“When?”

“I didn’t get Cowley’s okay to get on the train. I sent Turner after Hanley and followed you. I couldn’t let you go after our fight.”

Doyle thought back. “That’s why you insisted on being the one to call Cowley?”

“I explained it to him.”

“Oh, did you?”

Bodie appeared to ignore the sarcasm. “I told him we’d thought it best to follow Alton together.”

“Which turned out to be true. Standard procedure. We’ve made choices like that—covered, before.”

“It’s the reason behind it, Ray. I know what was driving me, and it wasn’t the job.”

“So, we were at odds! We won’t be now. We were smooth on the op yesterday, just like—”

“I bloody well hesitated in that house!”

Doyle frowned. “When?”

“Coming through that doorway—seeing you facing a gun, but Alton also under threat.”

“You made the choice: Alton’s man first.”

“I hesitated. For a split-second there. You or him.”

“You didn’t.”

“Why the fuck do you think you got burned? You dived in the right direction, but I was slow—”

“You know an op like that is risky! You can’t say—”

“Priority of life. There’s no compromise there, Ray.” There was naked, hard truth in Bodie’s voice and in his expression.

Doyle stared at him, it felt as if he was breaking inside. “Sex doesn’t change that.”

“It does.”

Doyle turned his head away. This was Bodie’s rule, not Cowley’s. Personal involvement worried Cowley, but it frightened Bodie. “You lied to me, then.” He looked back at Bodie. “On the train.”

Bodie nodded.

Doyle closed his eyes. Lies of omission, misdirection, that was Bodie’s style. For him to have lied outright to Doyle, and then to Cowley, was a sign he couldn’t ignore. Bodie wasn’t trying to make him believe the sex hadn’t meant anything. In fact, he was saying just the opposite. “You want me.” He opened his eyes, caught the misery in Bodie’s face, before he pulled his usual mask into place.

“You know I do.” Bodie’s voice was rock steady. He’d only lied when he’d feared Doyle would break the partnership. He’d lied to try to save it.

“We could leave CI5.”

“Would you?”

If you would, he thought. But was that true? What would they do? The partnership was solid, but without the job… Their relationship as lovers was in its fledgling stage. It wasn’t certain, not yet to be trusted. The sickness in his gut told him that.

“I don’t want to lose you,” Bodie said.

Christ. Reality: cold and unmovable, like stone. Last night had been the fantasy, then. His R/T beeped. He looked at Bodie, bit his lip as he turned away and pressed the button. “Doyle.”

“There’s no parking. I’m going to circle round,” Paget said.

“We still have to check out, but we’ll be there soon.” Doyle thumbed off the R/T.

“I’ll take the bags, you get the bill?”

Doyle nodded. He grabbed his jacket and pulled it on to cover his holster.

“Ray?” Bodie hesitated beside him, bags in hand. Fear was in his eyes.

How could he do this? How? “We’re fine,” he said. “The partnership is fine.” He had to make it so. He followed Bodie out of the room.

*
*****
*

London
November 1983

“Four-five to Control, come in.” Doyle headed towards the window in Paula’s flat.

“Control here, Four-five. I thought you were off—”

“Priority call out. 202 Newport Street. Get—” He broke off as the banging on the door turned into thumping blows.

“Doyle, what’re we going to do?” Paula’s eyes were wide, her voice shook with panic. The door behind her shuddered under another blow.

“C’mon!” Doyle grabbed her hand and pulled her along with him.

“No, no, no, no, no.” She kept repeating the words, but it seemed more out of fear than any desire to stop moving.

Doyle tucked the R/T into his jacket, got the window open and sent a prayer of thanks as he spied the metal ladder attached to the outside wall. “Get down that.”

Paula baulked. “I can’t—”

“Now!” He shoved her through the window and onto the ladder. He heard her whimper, but she kicked off her shoes and moved quickly down the ladder. The door crashed open behind him. Doyle didn’t dare look back as he pulled himself into the window opening. He heard gunfire, felt searing pain in his side. Paula screamed. Doyle got himself through the window and onto the ladder. “Go!” They tumbled down the ladder, which creaked and protested under their combined weight, swaying alarmingly. When they reached the ground, Doyle glanced up and saw a man climbing out of the window. He put both hands on the ladder and tugged as hard as he could. The ladder produced a long screeching noise as it detached from the building. Doyle let it fall, pulling Paula in close to the building with him. He looked up and saw the man being pulled in through the window above them. He reached for his R/T but found only pieces. Fuck.

Doyle put a hand over the wound in his side. The R/T must have deflected the bullet, but he’d still been hit. Had there been two bullets? If only he had a gun. If only Bodie— He cut off that thought. “C’mon.” They had to get away. At least they’d bought some time. A gun shot rang out, and another as they ran from the flats. Doyle felt Paula stumble, but he yanked her along with him. He didn’t dare head for his car on the opposite side of the building. They turned into an alley and ran as best they could in the lamp-lit darkness. It would be best to find a place to hide. They couldn’t go on for long. He tried to think where to go, brought a map up in his mind for this part of London—old buildings, derelict flats, warehouses— The Star Hotel! It was close, and it had plenty of hiding spots.

Always good to find a bolt hole, a hiding place. It was Bodie’s voice in his head, from years ago. They’d gone to the hotel to check the scene of Susie Carter’s death, and had wandered a bit through the place. It would do.

“I…can’t,” Paula gasped. He heard a shout behind them. Paula’s head twisted, her terror evident.

“If we stay here, we die.” He pulled her with him, ignoring the sharp agony in his side. “I know a place.” They couldn’t involve anyone else. Caselli and his men wouldn’t hesitate to kill witnesses.

They reached the hotel. The front door had been boarded up again, but there was a hole in the wall where a window had once stood. They hurried through a large room, dimly lit and littered with debris. The former lobby area was even darker than the front room had been, but he remembered the layout. If they went up the stairs and then down the corridor, there was a cupboard. No one would look. They could rest.

“In here! I saw!”

Doyle cursed and pulled Paula with him up the stairs to the first floor, then further up. He was flagging, every step caused pain, but he pushed himself onward.

“We need a fucking torch!”

They made it to the corridor he remembered, and then to the cupboard. The door was intact, just as it had been when he and Bodie had found it. They collapsed onto the floor, closed the door behind them. Doyle felt the stickiness of the wound in his side. He pressed his hand against it, did his best to slow his breathing down, slow his pulse. Beside him, Paula lay on the floor. All they could do was wait now. Wait for the men to leave—or find them. Wait for CI5 to find them, or their bodies. Wait for Bodie.

He heard shouting in the distance. How long would Caselli and his men search? There were several floors in this hotel, it would take time. But then, if Paula told the police what she had seen, if she agreed to testify, they’d all go to prison. She never would, though. She was a prostitute, an occasional informant who had been useful to him in the past. She wouldn’t stand a chance in court. Yet Doyle knew how paranoid Caselli was, and he probably thought they had all night at their disposal. Even if the police came to investigate the gunfire, they wouldn’t know to look in the hotel. But Bodie would know. He would remember, wouldn’t he? If he came. Time wasn’t on their side. What if they had to run again? Could they?

Doyle leaned over to whisper in Paula’s ear: “Are you injured? Where?”

“M—my—leg. It’s bleeding.”

“We should put pressure on it.” He sat up, leant against the back wall, and carefully extricated himself from his jacket. Paula pushed herself up beside him. Doyle unbuttoned his shirt. He’d use his t-shirt to fold against the wound… He felt something soft against his face, then his hands. “What?”

“Scarves,” Paula said softly.

“Why do you—?” No, it was probably best not to ask. It was slow going in the dark, but between the two of them they managed to bind their wounds to at least slow down any blood loss. They sat quietly afterwards, listening to voices in the distance, tensing whenever the voices seemed closer, relaxing when they faded. He had no gun. Doyle cursed himself for leaving it in the boot of his car. But when Paula had called him, saying she was in trouble, he had assumed it was money she needed, or a place to stay. And she always made a fuss about the gun, if she saw it. Bodie would have insisted on wearing their guns, but he hadn’t contacted Bodie.

Doyle closed his eyes. They were sitting ducks if they were found. He had used his last reserve. HQ would have sent out the alert—might even have picked up the sound of gunfire before the R/T was destroyed. He knew the procedure. They’d call it a priority A-1, agent in imminent danger. They’d converge on the flat. Bodie would be alerted. It would take time, though, and Bodie was the only one who might be able to reason out where they’d gone. If it wasn’t assumed they’d been taken by the gunmen, that is. Bugger, bugger, bugger. He feared there was little to no hope. He didn’t even know where Bodie was tonight. They were off-duty. Bodie didn’t always ‘remember’ to bring his R/T. Okay. He would remember in London—even on a date. Doyle smiled a little. At least he had given his location first, unlike that long-ago day on the river when Bodie had hunted Meyer. The smile turned to a grimace as he shifted and a sharp pain took his breath away.

Fuck. He wished Bodie was here. Yeah, well, there was no sense in wishing for what had been. They were fine, they both said, just fine. But Doyle knew better. Their efficiency on the job might have stayed the same as before, but they were different. It took more effort to communicate. He had to watch his tongue, guard his thoughts. Ever since Glasgow. He’d tried dating. He had gone through a string of birds, but they couldn’t erase the memory of what he’d had with Bodie. He had finally started avoiding spending time off the job with Bodie. And then, when he couldn’t bear that anymore, he’d invite Bodie out and more often than not, Bodie would have something else going on. They weren’t the same. It hadn’t affected their instincts, or training—yet. They read each other on the job just as well as before. He knew which way Bodie would break in a gunfight, just as Bodie could anticipate his moves. They scored well on assessments. But even their rapport on the job felt different to him—familiarity rather than closeness, perhaps. Was that inevitable in a partnership as old as theirs? Other agents didn’t spend all their off time together. Was it normal? He was tired of questioning everything between them. He wanted to let it go—or leave. But he couldn’t.

It ate at him, this inability to just move on. The trouble was, he knew that Bodie still wanted him. He’d caught the expression in Bodie’s eyes from time to time—an odd mixture of desire, anger, and misery. And it was that, as much as anything else, that kept Doyle on the hook. He knew how much Bodie needed him. He kept thinking Bodie might change his mind, even while he believed he wouldn’t. It was stupid, stupid. He should leave, move on, ask for a new partner at the very least. But he couldn’t. He didn’t want to, even with the pain.

A door banged down the hallway. Doyle’s pulse jumped. He put his hand over Paula’s mouth when he heard her in-drawn breath. “Quiet,” he breathed into her ear. They heard a second door being forced open. There was nowhere for them to go. If they tried to run—neither of them was up to it. They could only wait as the sounds grew louder and closer. He’d have to fight, somehow. He wouldn’t go down without a fight.

Doyle heard a shout, too far away to understand the words. A man in their hallway answered: “What? Bloody— On my way!” The sound of running footsteps faded away. Doyle breathed out and took his hand from Paula’s mouth. Had they lucked out? He strained to hear any sound, there was only indistinct, intermittent shouting in the distance. Then a floorboard creaked in the hallway outside.

Paula cried out—a short burst of sound, smothered nearly immediately by Doyle, but he knew it was too late. The door to the cupboard opened and light flooded in. Doyle tensed to spring—anything he could manage—but the door stopped moving.

“Ray?” It was a whisper of sound. Bodie.

Overwhelming relief immobilised Doyle for a moment. Paula seemed to freeze as well. Even when Doyle moved, she huddled closer to the wall. Doyle pushed the door further open with his foot. Bodie was there, with a small, shielded torch in his hand. He edged into the doorway of the cupboard, hand on Doyle’s leg. “Injured?” Bodie’s voice was barely audible. Doyle still heard shouting in the distance.

“Yeah.” Doyle was surprised at how weak his voice was. “Both.”

Bodie nodded, then turned to Paula. He tugged at her.

Paula shrank back. Doyle leaned close to her. “Go on. He’ll take you out.”

It took some manoeuvring but Paula got out of the cupboard. Doyle caught a last glimpse of her and Bodie as the cupboard door was closed once again. He leaned against the back wall. Elation flooded through him, rising like a pool. Bodie had found them. The partnership worked. Despite everything, despite the mess he’d made of it all. Given the shouting in the distance, and Bodie’s stealth, Doyle reckoned CI5 was negotiating with Caselli. Yeah, Casselli had probably told them he had hostages. Well, not any more, you bastard. And, sure enough, it wasn’t long before Doyle heard a barrage of gunfire. He should get up, he thought, but he couldn’t move. Blood loss. Well. Bodie would come for him.

“Ray? Ray!”

He forced his eyes open. Bodie loomed over him, anger and fear in his face. Who was it, Ray? Who was it? Oh, c'mon, Ray, for Christ's sake! Who was it?

“Don’t you dare, Ray. Don’t you dare! For Christ’s sake, why didn’t you call me?”

Doyle couldn’t keep his eyes open, or stay with Bodie.

He didn’t know if time was passing. His brain couldn’t seem to process anything. He was aware only of occasional sounds, smells, images: hospital, anaesthesia, incessant beeping. He glimpsed Cowley, looking grave enough that Doyle felt the need to respond to his voice, but he couldn’t. Bodie was there—holding his hand, which didn’t seem right; shouting at him, which did. He was so very tired all the time. He couldn’t breathe—he’d been buried in a graveyard, dug his own grave. But Bodie found him. They were on a train, someone was shooting. Bodie turned away. “No! I love—”

Doyle opened his eyes, blinked, then squinted in the light.

“There you are, Mr Doyle. Try this.”

He saw it was a nurse leaning over him. She was in her fifties, with a kind face. She put a straw to his lips and he sipped cool water.

“Better?”

He managed a nod.

“Mr Bishop will be here to see you later. And I expect that nice Mr Bodie will stop by again as well.” She left, closing the curtain behind her.

He was in hospital, in a bed near a window. There was a chair next to the window, and he thought he remembered Bodie sitting there. He closed his eyes, but opened them again. He didn’t want to dream. He fell into a sort of waking doze, aware of activity around him without trying to understand it. There was something oddly comforting about the routine in hospital. He was very familiar with it.

Mr Bishop duly arrived, and seemed to believe that Doyle knew him. He did look vaguely familiar—dark-rimmed glasses, short black hair, round face. Bits and pieces of memory struggled to reassert themselves. But then he began to understand what Mr Bishop was telling him, and that drove every other thought away. The wound had become infected, there had been tissue necrosis. He had had surgery, and then the impertinence to develop pneumonia. His heart— Doyle stopped listening.

“—No reason why you shouldn’t have a normal lifespan, with care. The infection is gone, all counts are returning to normal. I’m very pleased with you, Mr Doyle. We will be transferring you to a rehab hospital in a few days, depending on how you progress. Ah, Mr Cowley, in good time, sir.”

“I hear he is more awake, Mr Bishop?” Doyle turned his head to look at Cowley. “Yes. Well, Doyle, you always did have a flare for the dramatic.”

Mr Bishop nodded at both of them, then excused himself.

“Past tense,” Doyle said to Cowley.

Cowley sat down in the hard-backed chair by the window. “I see you’ve understood.”

“Well, it had to happen eventually. At least I don’t have to worry about when now.” Doyle spoke as if his whole world wasn’t collapsing around him.

“The A Squad is but one aspect of the job, Doyle. Your talents and experience are still needed.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s a shock, I understand.” Cowley smiled slightly. “I understand better than you might believe right now. You’re not unique, not the first this has happened to.”

“Thanks, sir.”

“As you said, the transition comes to us all eventually. It’s early days yet. You have some recovery time ahead of you. But don’t close yourself off to future possibilities that seem…unbearable now.”

There was far too much empathy in Cowley’s eyes. Doyle nodded before he looked away.

“I do need a report from you. What do you remember?”

Doyle thought back, and then told Cowley everything, from the phone call from Paula, to Bodie rescuing her from the cupboard. “It’s all hazy after that, sir. How long has it been?”

“Ten days.” Cowley nodded. “Aye, you gave us cause for concern. Caselli, by the way, is under arrest. His so-called ‘empire’ is well on its way to being destroyed.”

“Your doing, sir?”

“Bodie’s—with sufficient help, of course.”

“Paula?”

“She was out of hospital within a couple of days. She has decided to move to Birmingham. Or so she told us.”

Doyle wondered if that was Bodie’s doing as well. “She was a valuable informant once.” She’d given them the lead they needed to track down Ann Seaford’s killers, among other things. But in recent years, she had fallen more and more under the spell of heroin.

“Your car—and gun—were recovered at the scene.”

“The cavalry arrived in the nick of time.” Doyle’s eyelids seemed to be growing heavier.

“In the guise of Bodie and Lewis.”

“Oh, that I would have liked to have seen.”

Cowley stood. “I was told, most strictly, not to exhaust you. Rest, lad. Believe me when I tell you the future is not as bleak as you might think.”

Doyle dozed again after Cowley left, but deep sleep eluded him. He gazed out the window where all he saw was grey sky and clouds. He was off the Squad, his partnership ended. He should care—where was…anger? Anguish? But now that the initial shock had worn off, all he felt was emptiness. Nothing. It was frighteningly similar to what he’d felt when he was young, before the police. Maybe his illness had overwhelmed everything, and he’d feel it all later? Maybe then there’d be more in his world than grey. He finally slept, and dreamt of bullets and death and Bodie walking away from him.

He was awakened by the touch of fingers on his face. He opened his eyes to darkness out the window and Bodie sitting next to his bed. “They promised me you were awake,” Bodie said softly.

Doyle blinked at him, still half caught in his dreams. “You came back.”

“Always.”

No, not always, he thought, but didn’t say. “I’m leaving you,” he said instead.

Bodie’s brows drew together. “You’re here, aren’t you?”

It seemed hard to think. “Yeah?”

Bodie’s face cleared. “It’s this bloody medicine they still have you on. You’re here. I’m here. It’s all fine, Ray.”

We’re fine. The partnership is fine. To his horror, he felt tears welling up. He closed his eyes.

“Sleep, then. I’ll be here.”

But Bodie didn’t come to see him the next day. Jax visited him, then Susan and Hartley. Murphy, Anson, and Sally came the next day. They told him Bodie was on an op, along with most of the others. Doyle was able to stay awake longer, better able to carry on conversations. He smiled when he was supposed to, and jeered Anson when Sally told him how he came to be sporting a cast on his ankle. But he understood all too well the awkward silences that they tried too quickly to fill. They knew he was out. And he knew the pattern: the visits would slow, then stop. It was the natural aversion of the healthy agent to the injured. There but for the grace of God or Cowley. How would he ever bear it at HQ, taking on a different job?

On the third day, he was able to get himself out of bed, which was an improvement. Grey was still all he saw out his window, but he had begun to think that Cowley might have a point. The emptiness had retreated. The nurse came and told him, as expected, he would be departing that day. He didn’t greatly care where he was going, but the nurse seemed impressed with it. “You’ll see,” she said. “They’ll have you recovered in no time, and walking in the sea breeze. It’ll be the best thing for you.”

“Indeed it will.” Bodie was suddenly there by his bedside. “Meanwhile, I’ll be stuck here in the smoke.” Bodie smiled at the nurse, which flustered her.

“She’s mine, hands off,” Doyle said, because it seemed to be expected.

“Ah, but you’re going away.”

The nurse rolled her eyes, but smiled. “The transport will be here in a couple of hours, Mr Doyle.” She swung the curtain closed behind her as she left.

Doyle looked at Bodie. “All done saving the world, are you?”

“Hm. Well, all done wrapping up Caselli’s operation, anyway. The air is a bit cleaner, I do believe.”

“Congratulations.”

Bodie rubbed his hands together. “It felt good, I can tell you that.”

“Shot everything to pieces?”

“Nah, adapted your methods, didn’t I? All nice and legal.”

Doyle tilted his head, getting his first real look at Bodie. He seemed thinner, or sharper somehow. Honed. “It seems to agree with you.”

“Not really.” Bodie sat in the chair next to Doyle’s bed. “How are you?”

Doyle shrugged. “Invalided out.”

“Off the Squad, yes. But you know there’s a place for you.”

Doyle looked down at his hands. “Yeah.”

“Anyway, that’s the future. Right now, you’re off to Cowley’s choice of rehab hospital, you jammy sod.”

“Yeah, terrific.”

“And, when you’re ready…” Bodie paused, drawing in his breath and clearing his throat. “I’ve asked Cowley for a two-bedroom flat.”

Doyle held still. “You what?”

“You’ll still need some looking after and, well, I— That is—” Bodie looked at him, then around at the curtain barrier. “Well, there’s no…impediment. Now.”

“No impediment,” Doyle repeated. His voice was soft, but inside… It was as if a tap was suddenly opened because emotion roared into him, anger flaring uppermost. “Oh, yeah? And what is it you expect, Bodie, eh? You go off on an op and I sit at home like a good wife? Make your bloody dinner, shall I? Safe at home while you— And that’s fucking ‘discreet’?”

“Ray.” There was both a warning and surprise in Bodie’s voice, which somehow enraged Doyle all the more.

Now it’s all right, is that it? Well, if only I had known! Could have got meself shot in Glasgow and avoided all these months. Simple! Well, bugger that. You closed that door, Bodie. Closed and bolted it.”

“You know why we couldn’t— For fuck’s sake—”

“Priority of life?” Doyle sat up in the bed. “Tell me you wouldn’t have made the same choice in that cupboard!”

Bodie stared at him, then looked away. “What has that got to do—?”

“Added on to the delay, didn’t it? Infection, pneumonia. I nearly died, they say. ‘Delay of treatment.’ Pity we weren’t lovers, because then you’d’ve taken me out first, right?”

“Shut up, Doyle.”

“It made no difference.” Doyle enunciated each word. “Do you understand that now? You’d’ve taken Paula out first, just as you did. You put us through all that and it made—”

“You can’t know that!” Bodie finally raised his voice.

“I do know that! I know what I mean to you, you bastard. Even now. And we are not ‘fine,’ Bodie!”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It’s over, that’s what it means! Whose fault is it that I was injured? Eh? Who do you blame?” He saw frustration on Bodie’s face. Doyle wanted to see anger—needed to see it. He knew he was burning bridges but it didn’t matter in his need to purge pain. Let it all burn. Embrace the emptiness, at least it didn’t hurt. “You blame me, don’t you?”

“Mr Bodie, Mr Doyle.” It was the senior nurse. “I must ask you to—”

“Why the fuck did you go in without your gun, you dozy git?” There, at last, was the anger. “Without backup?” Bodie roared at him.

“Call security,” the nurse said to someone else in the ward. She turned back to Bodie. “Mr Bodie—”

“Why the hell didn’t you call me, Ray?”

“Yeah, there it is. Why didn’t I call you? Why? Because that’s what we lost. In Glasgow. That’s what’s gone, and we can’t get it back.” He held Bodie’s gaze, until his vision narrowed as blackness closed in. “Bastard. Fuck—” He needed to lie down. He heard shouts, and Bodie protesting, but Doyle didn’t care. He couldn’t care. He’d lost everything. The voices faded away.

*
*****
*

London
March, 1986

“Morning Bodie.”

Bodie didn’t bother looking round. “Lewis.” He finished pouring coffee into his mug.

“I still don’t know how you can drink that stuff this early in the morning—or is it evening for you?” Lewis looked at the dregs in the tea pot, made a face, and dumped it out.

“Don’t remind me how early it is.” Bodie added sugar to his coffee, then tasted it. Perfect. The only advantage to getting in early was that he was able to make the coffee strong enough to suit. It would last through the morning now. Only McCabe would venture to drink it, and he was out on an op.

“Oh, assessments, isn’t it?” Lewis turned the kettle on.

“Yeah. I’ve got Ross’s reports to read this morning, then a meeting with her and Cowley around five. Unless there’s a call-out, of course. Do you think you could arrange one?”

Lewis smiled. “I was going to ask you the same thing. I’m accompanying Cowley to a budget meeting. Honestly, I’d rather be in a muddy field, pinned down by snipers.”

“I can arrange that, you know. Live ammo practice for the infants.”

“They’d enjoy that, wouldn’t they?”

Bodie toasted Lewis with his mug. “Possibly too much.” It was generally assumed Lewis was on track to replace Cowley one day. He had the background and the administrative and political know-how, certainly. He was well-liked. But he had never been more than a middling agent.

Lewis poured hot water into the tea pot, then turned to lean against the counter while the tea steeped. “Bodie…do you ever hear from Doyle?”

Bodie raised his eyebrows as he turned away to top off his mug. “Why do you ask?”

“Cowley mentioned him. He’s doing some analysis, it seems?”

Bodie kept his eyes on the coffee. “Weren’t you mentioning an improvement?”

“Ah! That was Doyle? Well, I’m glad to hear it. I always thought it was a shame he left.”

“It’s a hard transition, being forced out of the field. But you know Doyle, he always lands on his feet.” Bodie picked up the mug and moved towards the door. “I hate reading reports.”

Lewis snorted. “You and Doyle both, now look at the pair of you, eh? Hip deep in files, just like me.”

“You never know, Lucas and McCabe’s op might finally break open today. That might even get you out of that budget meeting.” Bodie opened the rest room door.

“No such luck. You run the ops too efficiently, bastard that you are. Hey, say hello to Doyle for me, yeah?”

“When I see him.” Bodie left the rest room, grateful that he encountered no one on the way to his office. Why the hell had he misdirected Lewis? He hadn’t spoken with Doyle in over two years. Two years, two months and…eight bloody days. Bodie forced himself to close the door to his office gently. Analysis, eh? Oh, yeah, that would suit Doyle. And Cowley. Damn them both. Cowley hadn’t seen fit— Well, fine. What did it matter to him? He’d rather have analysis provided by an experienced agent, and Doyle always did see patterns in the same way Cowley did. It made sense. Anyway, if Cowley had met with Doyle it was no concern of his. He had his own highly satisfying job to do.

He settled in at his desk, picked up the first of the reports Kate Ross had given him. Reading through her reports sometimes gave him a headache, but she did provide valuable insights that might be hidden in the field. She had been the one to warn them of Susan’s depression, and Turner’s obsession. Mind you, sometimes her concerns were unjustified, or just plain wrong. She didn’t understand, at a gut level, the myriad ways agents reacted to the stress of the job. Yet Bodie had been forced to admit to himself that, more often than not, her red flags signalled something for them to pay attention to. He had also found, to his surprise, that he worked fairly well with Ross. They argued frequently, since neither was afraid of the other and they came from completely different perspectives. But there was a growing respect between them, and a willingness to listen to a different point of view. He had come to realise that her fierceness revealed how deeply she cared for the well-being of the agents themselves, not just the organisation.

That hard won understanding didn’t make reading the files any easier. He already knew that Murphy operated best on his own, Jax’s decision to leave the A squad was the right one, Turner was a twat but effective, Sally needed more challenges—he had some ideas about that—and McCabe and Lucas needed a better outlet than juvenile pranks—although he thought they were rather inspired. Okay, he’d need to keep an eye on Biggs in the field, see if he agreed that he’d lost a step. Horner was maybe too eager, but time and experience should take care of that, surely? Hall was a mystery to everyone, why not himself? He was going to argue with Kate about Cooper. And Ruth.

Bodie put the reports down and drank some of the now-tepid coffee. He looked rather wistfully at the silent telephone but it didn’t ring with a sudden emergency. He could get more coffee, detour through Communications and listen in on the chatter… No, he needed to finish these damn things. Christ. There were days he wished he’d never let Cowley talk him in to—‘more responsibility,’ Cowley called it. Dead boring, Bodie found it, at least while reading bloody reports. And, no, he didn’t want Ross’s opinion on that. Bodie reached for the next file—Paget. Well, at least that should be— Bodie felt himself frown. He tracked back to the beginning of the report and read more carefully. Fuck. He picked up the next report, knowing it would be Spalding’s and…yes.

Given these results, it is highly probable that Spalding and Paget have already become sexually involved. Personal involvement presents a clear and known danger to the team, the organisation and to the agents themselves. It is therefore recommended, as per regulation 8/5a, that the team be split, Spalding and Paget reassigned and reassessed.

Bleeding, bloody hell. They were his best rising team—on par with Lucas and McCabe and likely to surpass them with more experience. Dammit. Damn. He was angry—too angry to think clearly. Bodie set the reports aside. He grabbed a pager and headed down to the locker room where he kept trainers and running clothes. Within a few minutes he was outside, heading for the river path, running too fast, but needing it. Traffic and congestion finally slowed him, forced him to concentrate on the run itself. He knew the activity would clear his mind. He’d let the rhythm of his pounding feet work its magic. Breathe. Solutions would bubble up—they always did. But first, be with the action, let it flow, steady the pace. By the time he was out of traffic and onto the path by the river, he was fully into the run and felt calmer. It was a fine, early spring day with sun and intermittent clouds. The cool temperature was perfect for a run.

As he started to listen to his body, he realised he was hungry. He ought to have a substantial lunch. It wasn’t unheard of for these assessment meetings to last well into the night. Cowley tended to want to get it all over with in one go. Bodie agreed with him. He didn’t know what Kate thought, but she’d tough it out through sheer stubbornness. If anyone had told him he’d transition from the street into assessment and in-the-field training, he would have laughed. But it turned out he worked well with inexperienced agents. He took satisfaction in showing them what field work was really like, and how to better their chances of survival. Cowley rarely went into the field these days and he relied on Bodie for op coordination and information on squad readiness. If that meant Bodie was also involved in assessment, so be it. Cowley needed both Ross’s and his own information to make informed decisions. Which brought Bodie’s thoughts around to the immediate problem. He didn’t want to lose Spalding and Paget. Liz had been with the squad nearly as long as Bodie had. He’d worked with her for years, but she had become most effective when partnered with Paget, erstwhile thief, who had been transferred into the A squad soon after they’d captured Kennedy. Doyle had been delighted at the transfer—in fact, he’d laughed his head off.

Doyle. He caught his breath as images he’d long suppressed cascaded through his mind. He flashed through snippets of conversation, bad jokes, shared cups, shared glances. Half an ear, perhaps; thanks; hold your breath, sunshine. He saw Doyle in all his moods: laughter, anger, the fierceness of battle, aroused— Partner, friend, lover. His stomach clenched, threw him off stride. His body recovered automatically, but his mind was floundering. He remembered the taste of Doyle, the sight of him on that never to be forgotten, or sufficiently regretted night in Glasgow. What the fuck were Liz and Paget thinking? He stopped running, so abruptly that he nearly fell. He was breathing heavily, felt his muscles aching from the strain he’d put on them. Get the fuck away from me, Doyle. You left. He left. Bodie started walking, then broke into a slower, more controlled jog as he headed back towards HQ.

Paget and Liz knew the rules. Did they think they could keep it casual? Male and female agents did hook up from time to time in CI5. It wasn’t a big deal as long as everyone remained professional about it. But adding sex into a partnership led to disaster. He and Doyle had bolloxed it up, even though they’d had the sense to end it. One stupid night, after he’d blown it in Manchester. He’d been so fed up with Turner, missing Doyle… He’d thought Doyle would end the partnership, instead he’d…turned Bodie’s world inside out. One stupid, perfect night. They’d not done it again, yet everything still had all gone to hell in London. Doyle had pulled away from him, and had fucked his way through half the female population in London. Compensation, eh, Doyle? Then he had topped it all by going to that damned prostitute’s flat alone. He ought to have known better. You didn’t leave your partner behind. But Doyle had done just that, and it had cost them everything, hadn’t it? Liz and Paget didn’t have a bloody clue. Sex destroyed partnerships. Even after the injury, when they might have at least regained something, Doyle had walked away, had refused to even see him at that rehab place. Doing analysis for Cowley now, was he? Oh, yes. He always had thought too much. Analyzed everything to death. It had just been a fling that night— Well, anyway, they’d come to their senses. There’s been no need for drama, but Doyle—

Dammit! He was running too fast again. Slow it down. He concentrated on his body, then turned his thoughts to his job—his current job—and forced Doyle to retreat into the past where he belonged. He ignored the ghost that ran beside him. He marshalled his arguments in favour of Cooper and Ruth. And he decided he’d indulge in fish and chips—a double order of chips—after the run.

Back at his office, the afternoon sped by quickly. Bodie made it through the rest of the reports, got into a challenge-and-wager on the firing range that he won, and had an argument with Anson about tactics should McCabe and Lucas’s bloody case ever break. The assessment meeting was delayed by an hour and Lewis warned Bodie that the budget meeting hadn’t gone well, although it also hadn’t been the disaster that it might have been. When Cowley, Ross and he finally met, the discussion was as heated and pointed as expected. He won with regards to Ruth’s reinstatement; Ross won a stand down and reassessment on Cooper. It was past eight before they reached the reports on Liz and Paget.

“Are you certain of this, Doctor?” Cowley asked. He sounded tired.

“Do I have evidence they have slept together? No. But tests and interviews reveal their intertwined, personal involvement.”

Cowley rubbed the bridge of his nose. “All partnerships have an element of personal involvement.”

“Yes, of course. My data takes that into account.” She looked from one to the other of them. “Believe me, I would not bring this to your attention if I wasn’t certain they have crossed the line.”

“You believe they are sexually involved.”

She shrugged. “If not yet then certainly soon.”

Bodie couldn’t stay silent any longer. “They wouldn’t. They know—”

“The rules?” Ross raised her eyebrows. “We all know rules don’t always restrain behaviour. Particularly in the case of sexual desire.”

“Okay. But a one-off—”

“Would be as disastrous as a full-blown affair.”

“Why?” Cowley asked.

She gave them a look of exasperation. “Because, they are balanced as they are. As you just implied, they are already deeply involved due to their partnership. They’ve saved each other’s lives—they rely on one another completely.”

We’ve been ‘involved’ for years, said Doyle’s voice in Bodie’s head. He overrode that voice with his own: “That’s the foundation for an efficient, solid partnership. Without it, you’ve just got two people who work together. They have to know one another—on and off the job. They have to anticipate each other.”

Ross nodded. “Read each other’s minds, yes, exactly. So, say they do ‘get it out of their system,’ as I suspect you’re thinking. Find out how it would be. Do you think it would be a simple matter to return to ‘just’ partners? What if one of them wanted more? The other starts dating and now there’s jealousy, possibly even feelings of betrayal.”

“They’re professionals,” Bodie protested. “What happens away from the squad—”

“You yourself just said the personal involvement has to be on and off the job. If that trust is broken—by jealousy, disagreement, frustration—it would inevitably lead to a breakdown on the job.”

Why the hell didn’t you call me? Bodie looked down at the floor.

Cowley shifted in his chair. “Are you suggesting they should be allowed to pursue—”

“No. It’s too dangerous. When has a love affair ever gone smoothly, especially under the stress that agents face? It would lead to the same problems that breaking it off would—or even, probably, the same problems if they never act on their feelings at all. They are, simply, too close.”

Who do you blame? Who had started it? They’d both wanted it, both had finally acknowledged it. If they hadn’t slept together, would they still be partners? But he knew why he’d been so reckless in Manchester. How restless he’d been. How long would it have lasted, then?

Cowley sighed. “We have, of course been down this path before.” Bodie held still, kept his face a blank. “I cannot say I was happy with the result.”

“Susan and Hartley,” Ross said.

Bodie blinked. He hadn’t realised that was the reason Hartley had left CI5.

“It seems we lose no matter what we do. But maybe, at least, we’ll be able to have one—”

“Don’t split them, sir.” Bodie was nearly as astonished to hear himself speak as Ross and Cowley appeared to be at his words. He recovered first. “What proof do we have?”

Ross frowned at him. “I told you, the data suggests—“

“No, not about them. What proof do we have that allowing them to…proceed, with caveats, would inevitably lead—”

“You cannot be serious. I’ve already pointed out that the inevitable turbulence of a romantic relationship would pose a danger, and when that relationship is put under the pressure—”

“That’s speculation. You don’t know.”

Ross looked at Cowley. “Sir, this—”

“Look, you act as if there was no ‘turbulence’ in the development of a partnership. They’ve already been through that phase.” He was running blind, but the path felt right to him.

“Naiveté doesn’t suit you, Bodie.”

“Cynicism suits you. All I’m saying is that they know each other already. It’s not like other relationships.”

“No, other relationships certainly don’t have the pressure of split second life and death decisions.”

“They’re trained for that. They’re among the best we have. Together.”

Ross shook her head, then looked again at Cowley, as if appealing to reason. “Yes, but…” She looked back at Bodie. “Say you’re right, then. They become everything to one another. Need I remind you? Priority of life—”

“That wouldn’t change.” His voice seemed to come from a distance, barely penetrating the storm inside him. Sex doesn’t change that. His own, blind response at the time: There’s no compromise there, Ray. Oh, Christ, Christ. Stay in control. He turned to Cowley. “They’ve made that choice before, sir. Priority of life wouldn’t change. They wouldn’t be who they are if it would.”

Ross threw up her hands. “You honestly believe—”

“That sex means they’re more valuable to each other than before? That that decision would somehow be harder? That sex would affect their professionalism? Really? No, I don’t believe that. Not any more. Not without giving them a chance to prove it wrong before we split one of the best teams we have.”

“I cannot agree with this. Sex is— A lovers relationship—“

“They’re just human. They feel what they feel, and it’s my guess they’ve felt it for a long time. Look, I know what you’re thinking. I was taught the same, assumed—” Bodie swallowed his words. “What proof have we ever had? It’s just assumptions. What if this could be the making of them?”

“Sir.” Ross turned again to Cowley.

Cowley looked from one to the other. “Bodie is correct that it never has been tested, Doctor. We haven’t—” He stopped speaking, shook his head. “Male/female partnerships were once thought impossible. Assumptions were made. We were wrong about that.”

“It’s a dangerous gamble. It’s not just their lives we’re talking about.”

“I am aware of that.” Cowley sat back in his chair, his gaze on Bodie. “But if we never challenge assumptions, then how can we know? Traditional thinking has been the cause of deaths before. So, we watch them. Test them in the field, under real conditions.”

“They’ll need to know,” Bodie said. “That the impediment—”

“Aye.”

“You’ll tell them it’s all right to—” Ross was clearly appalled.

Cowley held up his hand. “Yes, Doctor, I understand. But Bodie is correct. A true test of this hypothesis will only happen if they are free to develop their relationship naturally.”

“And what is the hypothesis?”

“That the partnership functions at least as well as it did in the past.” Bodie kept his eyes on Cowley. “That priority of life is observed. No effect.”

“No effect.” Cowley nodded. “Or possibly…improvement.”

Ross compressed her mouth for a moment, then finally shrugged. “I cannot concur. My reservations will be part of the record. But I will—reluctantly—agree to your risky experiment.”

“Noted, Doctor. And…thank you.” Cowley put his hands on his desk. “I believe we will call it an evening, then, unless there are any other critical assessment matters?” He paused but neither Bodie nor Ross said anything. “Very well. We will finish the rest at our next meeting.”

Ross collected her papers and stood. “Good night, sir.” She looked at Bodie, her head tilted, and the curiosity in her eyes made Bodie nervous. He held her gaze through sheer strength of will. She just smiled a little, and turned away. “Good night, Bodie.”

“Good night.” He watched her leave the office, then he stood and nodded at Cowley as he headed for the door. “Sir.”

“Bodie.”

He stopped, took a moment before he turned, still spooked by that look in Ross’ eyes.

“Would you be willing to drive me home?”

“Certainly, sir.”

They were quiet in the car, for which Bodie was grateful. He needed time on his own to think through what he had just done. And yet, he also didn’t want to think at all. How was it possible to feel both miserable and elated?

“It is not a conversation I particularly wish to have,” Cowley suddenly said.

“What is that, sir?”

“With Spalding and Paget.”

“Ah. Well… Better you than me, sir.”

“Thank you, Bodie.” There was more than a little asperity in Cowley’s tone.

Bodie smiled and took the turning for Cowley’s flat.

When they arrived at the flat, Cowley opened the car door, then hesitated. “Would you care to join me for a night cap?”

“Gladly, sir.” Cowley climbed out and shut the door. Bodie found a place to park the car, then returned to the flat. Cowley had loosened his tie and poured drinks for both of them. Bodie sat in an arm chair, and took a sip of whisky. He looked at the liquid with great appreciation. “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome.”

They settled into the comfortable silence of a soldier and commander who had served in many battles over many years together. Yet the day’s events had been anything but routine, and as the alcohol worked its way through his system, he found he wanted to ask the question: “Why, sir?”

“Why?”

Bodie knew Cowley understood the context of the question. Perhaps he wanted time to think, but Bodie needed to hear his thoughts. “It is a long-standing tenet of yours that agents should not become ‘too involved.’”

“Yes.” Cowley studied the whisky in his glass. “A conundrum, though, wouldn’t you say? I also believe teams should be made of equals, without rank, and should know one another’s patterns very well. Still…not ‘too’ involved.”

Bodie’s emotions were jumbled inside him. It was as if he stood perched on a pile of rubbish—if he moved, would it all collapse? He had argued against himself, against the decision he had forced on Doyle.

“You were eloquent on the problem with assumptions.” Cowley’s voice was quiet. “A long time ago, lad, I allowed an…unexamined belief to destroy a man’s life. My best friend’s life.”

Bodie looked at Cowley, and saw he was staring across the room, as if into the past.

“Would it have made a difference?” Cowley asked. “It wasn’t just my belief, and I acted…” Cowley trailed off. After a moment, he looked at Bodie. “I swore then that I would always question assumptions. Too much damage in this world has been done in such certainty of conviction that no proof is necessary.” He looked away again. “I learned my lesson.You reminded me of it.” He drank from his glass.

Bodie drank as well, and felt the whisky, finally, warm him. “Careful monitoring, however—”

“Oh, aye. I said question assumptions, not replace them with others. You will know what to look for, Bodie. I don’t doubt it will be hard on Liz and Paget—perhaps too hard. Yet they deserve a chance to prove assumptions wrong.”

“To them, then, sir.” Bodie raised his glass. “And to you.”

They finished the whisky and Bodie rose to his feet. Cowley followed him to the door. “What is the status on the Slough situation?”

Bodie smiled a little. “McCabe and Lucas are still waiting. Not very patiently, I might add, given their location.”

“People are always disparaging about Slough. It’s a fine enough place.”

“If you’re driving through it on the way to somewhere else.”

“Prejudice, Bodie?”

“Experience, sir.” He reached for the door handle. “Thank you for the drink.”

“Bodie…”

He waited for Cowley to say more, and was just getting ready to say something himself when he finally spoke again: “The mistake I made. There was no way for me to undo the damage. No…going back for a second chance, a different outcome.” Something in Cowley’s steady gaze held Bodie still, as if pinned. “Doyle is still alive.”

It was a reflexive action to close his expression, protect himself. Yet he knew that Cowley saw through him more clearly than any other man, but one. “Good night, sir.” It was all he could say, all he could do to get himself out the door. He walked to his car, settled behind the wheel. And then Doyle was with him again: It made no difference. You put us through all that and it made

Oh, Christ. He lowered his head to the steering wheel. Grief hit him—the loss of Doyle, always hard, was made worse as anger fled. He’d clung to that self-protective anger, had felt it earlier in the day, but now it was gone, like fog dissipating in strong sunlight. It left him exposed. He saw what anger had hidden from him.

Who do you blame?

“Ray.” He whispered the name, as if it was a secret being pulled out of him. It was all he had left: a name, memories. No hope—

No. He had one thing more. He knew where Doyle lived.

The Slough op blew up the next day and turned into an all-call affair. Bodie welcomed the distraction, the excuse to focus on something he could—more or less—control. He coordinated the agents in Slough and London, got Anson and his team to meet McCabe and Lucas in time to prevent disaster, and oversaw the action in London that prevented a shipload of illegal weapons from departing for the Middle East. It was a clean and fast operation that left Cowley in such a benevolent mood that he merely waved his hand when Bodie told him he would be taking leave for a couple of days.

“I am certain we can do without you,” Cowley said, eyes on the report he had just been handed.

“Thank you, sir. I think.” Bodied headed for the office door, annoyed to find he was suddenly more nervous now than he had been at any time during the op.

“Tell Doyle that offer still stands.”

Bodie faltered, but didn’t turn back. Damn Cowley, and blast him. There were times when being understood was not welcome. He didn’t go home, just took his overnight bag from his locker and left London before he could change his mind. He didn’t want to think on the drive north, but of course he did. Was there anything left? Anything they could build on? He’d thought he’d left Doyle behind, at last, when he’d agreed to Cowley’s terms, but he now saw through the lies he’d told himself. If he’d really wanted to end all possibility, he would have left England. He wouldn’t have found out where Ray had gone. He wouldn’t have stayed in a Limbo of his own making. He’d been waiting, thinking maybe that Doyle would come back. If Doyle didn’t want to— If Doyle told him to go, refused to see him now, then fair enough. At least he would have tried to…undo the damage. God, he hated feeling this mix of hope and dread, it was worse than the waiting before going in to battle.

He reached Ray’s village just after four in the afternoon. He knew where the house was, he’d driven past it once before. But when he knocked on the door, no one answered. He walked round to the back garden. There was no sign of a car. He felt hollow inside—all this anticipation and Doyle wasn’t even here? Where the fuck was he? He could be travelling, for all Bodie knew. He caught movement inside the house and his stomach tightened. He walked back to the front and knocked on the door again.

“Yes?” A woman had opened the door. She was of medium height, brown hair and eyes, nice looking.

It had never occurred to him that Ray might have a girlfriend. Might even have married— “Hello. I’m looking for Ray—” He should leave, get out. “Doyle?”

“He’s not here right now. He may be down in the village. You might try, um, at the King’s Arms.”

She was lying. He thanked her and turned as if to go back to the car. He had caught the narrowing of her eyes, the discomfort she had felt. He had also seen the King’s Arms as he’d driven through the village. It wasn’t Ray’s kind of pub. He walked to the car, but circled back under the cover of the overgrown shrubbery. He saw the woman go through the back garden to a gate. He followed her as she took a public footpath leading away from the village. He kept his distance, and she led him to Doyle, who was sitting on a wall, looking away from the path. Bodie hesitated, then walked towards them. His heart felt as if it was lodged in his throat. Two years seemed liked twenty.

A medium-sized black dog with white markings lifted its head to stare at him. Doyle turned and in one fluid motion slid off the wall to face him. They stared at one another. The moment stretched, and then Doyle said: “You bastard. What the hell took you so long?”

“Traffic,” Bodie said, automatically. “It was hell on the M—”

“Shut up.” And then Doyle laughed. It seemed to startle the woman, which Doyle must have noticed because he tapped her on the arm and gestured towards Bodie. “Megan, meet Bodie.”

Bodie nodded, but Megan’s eyes were on Doyle. “You do know him.”

“Yeah. I do know him. Or I did. What say you, Bodie? Why’d you scare our Megan here?”

“I wasn’t scared,” Megan muttered.

Bodie knew Doyle in this mood. “Yeah, I should have told you, Megan. We’re—” But he stumbled on the next word.

“Old friends?” Doyle asked. There was a gleam of maliciousness in his eyes, but also something like understanding. Bodie felt himself relax a little. “We were partners. Before. On the job.”

She frowned. “Police? Is that why you were so angry that day in the village?”

“More or less. That’s Georgie who’s sniffing you out, Bodie.”

Bodie, who had let the dog sniff the back of his hand, clamped his mouth shut.

“Short for Georgina. Or maybe Georgette.”

Bodie regained control over his expression. “Nice names.”

“I thought so.” Doyle walked past Bodie, down the path. Georgie bounded ahead of him. “Come on back to the house.”

Doyle was moving easily, Bodie saw as he followed behind him, and then discovered that time and distance had removed the filter of familiarity that had kept his lust in check in the past. He looked away, took in a deep breath. He should be glad—was glad—that Doyle was apparently fully recovered. But he also felt off-balance, uncertain. He couldn’t get a read on Doyle, or predict his reactions. The sudden lust didn’t help matters. He was almost grateful for the woman’s presence.

Megan, however, stopped at the door to the house. “I’ve got to go, Ray. Just stopped in to drop off the shopping.”

Doyle kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you. Bodie, go on in. I’ll be there in a moment.” He handed Bodie a key. “Go on, girl, you too,” Doyle said to Georgie.

Bodie unlocked the door and entered the house with Georgie at his heels. They went in to the kitchen. Bodie glanced out the window and saw Doyle holding Megan’s hands while he said something to her. She looked unhappy. Bodie turned away, found the kettle and filled it with water. He rummaged for tea bags, mugs, and then plates as well when he noticed the cake on the kitchen table. The tea was steeping by the time Doyle arrived. Georgie greeted him and was given a treat that she promptly, and noisily, crunched.

“I made tea,” Bodie said, filling the sudden awkwardness with unnecessary words. “And I see there’s—” Doyle’s kiss stopped his words. For a split second he held still, then he lurched against Doyle, his fingers weaving into Doyle’s hair, holding on to him. Doyle rocked back under Bodie’s weight, but his tongue was in Bodie’s mouth, his own arms wrapped around him. Bodie found he couldn’t get enough, couldn’t possibly get close enough to be satisfied. He hadn’t realised how starved he’d been. The need to touch overwhelmed him.

Doyle pulled his mouth away but his hands made it clear he wasn’t finished, wasn’t nearly finished with him. “Bodie.” The name was carried on a whisper, as if he feared he was in a dream. “Oh, God. Bodie.”

Bodie kissed him hard, backed him into the table, jolting it. This was real, gloriously real. Doyle’s hands pulled at Bodie’s leather jacket. Bodie stepped back only far enough to be able to tug it off, and his polo-neck as well. He helped Doyle with his shirt, grew impatient and pulled it open as buttons scattered across the floor. He lifted Doyle’s t-shirt up as Doyle’s fingers undid Bodie’s trousers.“Lift your arms, Ray.” But he kissed him again before he could pull the t-shirt over Doyle’s head, and Doyle’s hand brushed against Bodie’s bared cock. “Finish it,” Bodie gasped, already desperate.

But Doyle seemed to think he’d meant the undressing. He tugged his t-shirt off, then his jeans and pants. Finally, Bodie’s skin was against Doyle’s heated body. He explored that body with his mouth while Doyle’s chest heaved and Doyle’s hands spread moisture along Bodie’s cockhead. “Fuck me,” Doyle said, his voice no longer a whisper.

“No.” Bodie moaned as Doyle squeezed him and let go. “Too much.”

“I want it, dammit.” Doyle tried to turn, but Bodie wouldn’t let him. “I can take it, you bast—”

“I can’t.” Bodie met Doyle’s sudden anger with his own. He shoved against Doyle. “No control. Ray—please—”

“Ah, Bodie.” Doyle took hold of him, squeezed and pulled, and it took very little for Bodie to come, crying out Doyle’s name. Doyle held him, nuzzling his neck. Bodie raised his head, kissed Doyle, luxuriating in satiety. But he felt the tension in Doyle’s body. He finished the kiss, and went to his knees to take Doyle’s cock into his mouth. Doyle hissed, then cried out, and Bodie rode his thrusts, using hands and mouth to bring Doyle to completion. Afterwards, he pulled a compliant Doyle down onto the floor beside him.

“There was cake,” he said, finally.

“I thought I heard something fall. Relax,” Doyle added, “it’s safe.” Bodie hadn’t moved, but his stomach growled. “Oh, God.”

“I’m hungry.”

“When are you not?”

“I was on an op, you see. No time for a proper meal.”

Doyle pushed himself to his feet. “We’d best feed you then, eh?”

“I wouldn’t object.” Had Doyle just pulled away from him? Bodie stood up, and grimaced a little as he tugged his pants and trousers up. He needed—

“Shower’s through there,” Doyle nodded towards a door. “Erm…do you have a change…?”

“Bag’s in the car.” They looked at each other.

“Right,” Doyle said, “I’ll get it. What?” he asked, when Bodie pulled him back.

“You’re a little…underdressed, mate.”

“I don’t have any neighbours.”

“It’s in the road, you…little sod,” he finished as he noticed Doyle’s delighted grin.

“Yeah, I suppose a car is bound to come along. Go on, I’ll get dressed and then get your bag.” Doyle was sounding more like himself.

“Nah, you go first. I’ll get the bloody bag.” He paused a moment, polo-neck in hand. “We could share the shower.”

Doyle laughed. “You’re barely going to fit in it yourself.” He picked up his shirt, looked at it, and tossed it towards a bin.

Bodie walked out to the car, his brain whirling. Of all the scenarios he’d pictured on the drive up, Doyle wanting to have sex immediately had seemed the least likely. What the fuck was going on? He mistrusted his own interpretation of Doyle’s moods—changing moods. Leave it alone, let it be, he said to himself. Just be glad he hasn’t sent you away. Back in the house, he took his turn in the shower. It was tiny, and the water pressure was dismal. He dressed in new clothes, went back to the kitchen and found only Georgie there, lying by the door. “Where’s he gone, then?” he asked her. She looked at him, thumped her tail once, then settled in to sleep.

Bodie sat in a chair and looked at his hands. He didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. All he knew for certain was that he felt more himself now than he’d felt for the last two years, eight months and whatever-the-fuck…eleven days. Doyle always had had a talent for cutting through his act, cutting to the heart. He had learned to trust him, in time. But that had been within the context of the job, the surety of their partnership. He wished he knew what Doyle really wanted, or felt. Now. Were they on equal, if uncertain, footing here?

Georgie suddenly lifted her head, and the door opened, revealing Doyle. “Good girl,” Doyle said. “You didn’t let him leave.”

Bodie rolled his eyes, hiding the ridiculous relief he felt at Doyle’s return. “Your shower is pathetic.”

“It’s fine. Suits me. C’mon, then.”

“What?” Bodie stood, then followed Doyle as he led the way to the front door. “Where’re we going?”

“You’re hungry. We’re going to the pub.” Doyle locked the door behind them.

“The—uh—King’s Arms?”

Doyle ducked under the hedge. “Christ, no. Well, it might be fun, actually, with you— No. The good one.”

“Didn’t Megan bring you food?”

Doyle looked back at him. “I want to show you off.”

“Naturally.” Yet Bodie frowned to himself, disconcerted by Doyle’s shifting moods. “Ray—”

“Don’t tell me that’s yours.” Doyle stopped, so suddenly that Bodie bumped into him.

Bodie grinned. “Are you talking about my car?”

“What, you had a windfall?”

Bodie’s smile widened. “CI5-issue, mate. Things have changed.”

“You’re joking. What’s happened to Cowley, then?”

Bodie put an arm around his shoulders. “Want to take it for a spin?”

Doyle shrugged him off. “No, we’ll walk to the pub.”

“Too much to handle, eh?”

Doyle looked at him. His smile was too bright.

“Never mind,” Bodie said quickly. “A nice stroll sounds like a grand idea.”

“Spoilsport.”

The pub Doyle took him to was comfortable, with an excellent selection of ales. It wasn’t crowded when they arrived, but Bodie suspected it would soon fill up. He noticed several people glancing at them more than once as they settled at a table in the dining section. “You weren’t joking, were you?”

Doyle was studying the menu. “Stop twitching, they’re just curious.” He glanced at Bodie, then shrugged. “They don’t know anything about my past and I don’t come here with strangers very often.”

Several questions popped into Bodie’s head, but he didn’t voice any of them.

Doyle tilted his head. “No, I don’t date birds very often. Or men, for that matter.”

Bodie’s first instinct was to make a joke. His second instinct was to ask why. His third—

“Don’t.” Doyle leaned forward, his voice fierce but quiet. “Fucking be yourself Bodie, or—”

“Well, I was going to make a remark about performance, but, under the circumstances…”

Doyle sat back. “Idiot. It did take a while. After rehab.”

“Yeah, so I noticed.” Bodie grinned.

“Sod off.” Doyle grinned back at him. “Better than too quick, isn’t it?”

“I’d be careful if I were you.”

“Oh, yes? Well, you know me, I’ve always been a cautious lad.” Doyle peered at the daily specials board by the bar.

“Yeah, noticed that earlier, too.” It was so effortless, falling into the familiar patter with Doyle. But that in itself made him uneasy. There was too much between them for it to be this uncomplicated. “What about, erm, Megan?”

“Friend,” Doyle said. “Looked after me for a bit when I first came.”

Bodie nodded, then let the conversation drop as the waitress arrived to take their orders. He studied Doyle while he was occupied with the waitress. He looked good. There were more lines on his face, but he wasn’t abnormally thin or pallid. His conditioning seemed sound. Bodie smirked. But he knew that with Doyle, as with himself, the surface could hide a lot of problems. It would be best to take things slowly. He steered their resumed conversation towards uncontroversial topics. When the food arrived, he dug in with gusto.

“You weren’t joking about being hungry.”

Bodie looked up to meet Doyle’s amused face. “I told you, I was—” He broke off, his brain catching up with his tongue. He didn’t want to remind Doyle about the job.

“On an op. Which one was it, then? Slough?”

Bodie stared at him. “How’d you…?”

“Were you there? No, I bet you were—”

“At the dock in London. But how did you—?”

“I like to keep my hand in.” Doyle’s modest air didn’t fool Bodie at all.

“I know you’re doing analysis for Cowley, but— Hang on. It was in the bloody newspaper, wasn’t it?”

Doyle laughed at him.

“You…toe-rag!” Bodie laughed as well.

“Well, to be fair, I had pulled together some of the clues that sent you to Slough.”

“Better not let Lucas and McCabe hear that.”

“Oh, did they draw the short straw?”

“Yes, and moaned about it for a month. And a half.”

“Ah, I don’t miss that part.”

Bodie sobered.

“Yeah. I miss it.” Doyle’s voice was suddenly hard. “Some of it.”

Bodie nodded. “I miss the adrenaline rush,” he said quietly. “I miss pitting my body and brain, training and instincts against an opponent or the odds.”

“But, you’re still on—” Doyle stopped, blinked. “Bodie?”

Bodie met his gaze. “I coordinate, Ray. Train and assess in the field. I lead ops from the command post when needed. I’m not on the street, like we were.”

“Bugger,” Doyle said, after a long moment. “I can’t imagine you taking a back seat.”

Bodie gave him a wry smile. “Well, there are times…”

“Yeah, I bet there are.” Doyle shook his head. “But…when? How?”

Bodie held up a hand. “Not here. We’ll trade stories, eh? Back at your place?” He held his breath, afraid to assume he’d be welcome.

Doyle’s face was still, then he nodded. “Yeah. Later. Tell me the gossip, then.”

Bodie filled him in on the news and found himself sharing some of the assessments that were such an integral part of his job.

“Hartley and Susan?” Doyle’s eyes were wide.

“Yeah. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who had no clue.”

Doyle’s eyes were distant. “So that’s why he quit.”

“I reckon so.” And suddenly there it was, an opening in the conversation that he both wanted and dreaded. “They’re not the only ones. Paget and Liz are—”

“Oh, is that who he ended up working with? Good pairing, I’d think.”

“Yeah. Well.” He ran a finger along the top of his glass. “They’re one of our best teams.” He raised his eyes to Doyle, forced himself to say the words. “They’re together.”

“Well, I should hope—” Doyle broke off as he met Bodie’s gaze. “You mean…?”

“Yeah. Trial basis, but they were good on the Slough op.”

Doyle’s eyes were on his glass as he picked it up. “Well. Good luck to them.” He drank. Bodie studied his own glass and sought for something else to talk about to break the sudden tension in the air. It was too soon to be pushing it. He should have known better.

“Reckon Murphy’s not happy about that,” Doyle said.

“Eh?”

“Surely you knew he fancied Liz?” Doyle made a tsking sound. “What, with all that time climbing together you never talked about—”

“Is that why Murphy volunteered to help us with the Stone family? Well, well, well.”

“That, and I reckon he thought you fancied her. Wanted to suss the competition.”

Bodie laughed a little. “Well, she knew better.” He remembered her words when he’d asked her to help with Doyle’s little project: Oh, him. I might have known he'd be behind it.

They lingered over the food, the conversation easy and uncontroversial because they both made an effort to make it so. Around them, the pub filled with people. Some of them nodded at Doyle, but no one approached them until a dark-haired man stopped at their table and invited them to a game of darts.

“I don’t know, Ted,” Doyle said. “It’s been some time since I’ve seen my mate play.” He looked at Bodie. “Is Murphy still beating you regularly?”

Bodie put on a pained look. “Did you have to bring that up?” Murphy did beat him regularly. Murphy beat everyone regularly, when they were stupid enough to play against him.

“Just a friendly game, eh Doyle?” Ted was tall, thin, and unable—or unwilling—to hide his glee. “You owe me and Tom a rematch.” Tom, overweight and ginger-haired, looked hopeful.

“What do you reckon?” Doyle asked Bodie.

Bodie easily read the gleam in Doyle’s eyes. He shrugged. “As long as we’re betting your money.”

Two hours later, they walked out of the pub with Ted and Tom’s money in their pockets. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you,” Bodie said as they walked towards Doyle’s house. Darkness had fallen while they’d been in the pub.

“They’re better losers than they are winners, you see.”

“Ah. They beat you before?”

Bodie caught the white of Doyle’s smile. “Yeah. They like new blood. I wasn’t at my best when I first arrived.”

“Got stubborn, didn’t you? How much did you lose?”

“Too much. It was good incentive to get on with my physio, though.”

“Vindictive sod. How much did you take them for when you were back on form?”

“Well…not as much as they took from me.”

“Because they had helped you so generously with your recovery plan.”

“Exactly.”

“Well, pretty smooth transition then, just the one incident—”

“You sod!” Doyle stopped walking, so Bodie did as well. “You know, don’t you?”

Bodie grinned. “How do you think I found you where you lived?’

“Dammit, Edwards told me it wouldn’t be officially—”

“It wasn’t. But the red flag went up immediately. A former CI5 agent involved in a pub brawl?”

“It wan’t so much a brawl,” Doyle muttered.

“Drunk and disorderly in Halifax. Tut-tut.”

“Yeah, well.” Doyle started walking again.

“Proving yourself?” Bodie fell into step beside him.

“I was lucky. Edwards is Chief Superintendent, and he’s still grateful for Cowley’s help after that mess with Green and Chives.”

“Oh, that Edwards. Your ‘one good copper.’ Did you a good turn, then, didn’t he?”

“Cowley showed up about a week later.”

“Enough to drive anyone away from the drink.” Bodie smiled. “Is that when he got you into Analysis?”

“Yes. Not that I knew anything about it. He’d come, he said, to ask me a few follow-up questions about the investigation we’d done into the Triad. You know, when I was—”

“Co-habiting with that bird?”

“Esther, yeah, while you were slumming. He brought along some files, new information. He wanted me to see if there was a connection.”

“Wait a minute.” They’d reached Bodie’s car, but he was more interested in what Doyle was saying. “D’you mean that import case Anson and Zhang closed—you were involved in that?”

“Yeah. And after that, little by little…”

“Cowley kept sending you files.”

“It turns out none of the analysts are former agents. No wonder some of our intel was skewed. I see things they don’t.”

“And you like it.” He couldn’t see Doyle’s expression clearly in the moonlit darkness, but he heard the satisfaction in his voice.

“I do. It’s like a puzzle.”

“Miss Doyle and her puzzle board?”

Doyle laughed. “Yeah. More computer-based these days, though. It’s satisfying. I’ve been thinking—” He stopped speaking.

“What?”

“Oh, just that I used to complain about file work.”

“Didn’t we all.” He knew Doyle had been about to say something else, but he let it go. He’d pushed the conversation enough earlier. He’d enjoyed the darts game, the sense of teamwork. It had felt almost as if they’d never separated. But now the uncertainty and caution were back. He needed to tell Ray he’d been wrong, but he couldn’t find the words. He was afraid to break the peace between them. He suspected Doyle felt the same. There was no rush, was there? But he heard Cowley’s voice in his head: There was no way for me to undo the damage. He had to try. “Ray.”

“It’s late,” Doyle said at the same time.

Doyle would send him away—was about to do it. Later would become never. “Let me stay. Please.”

Doyle was silent, and then he sighed softly, as if releasing a held breath. “Come in.” Bodie felt his hand taken in Doyle’s and he followed him into the house, where Georgie greeted them.

While Doyle took Georgie out, Bodie brushed his teeth and, after a moment’s thought, shaved. He stared at himself in the mirror. He was where he wanted to be. Doyle had wanted him earlier, hadn’t he? But Doyle, he thought, had also been prepared to say good-bye. What did he really want?

“Ready?” Doyle’s tone was sardonic. He leaned against the door jamb, arms crossed. Self-protective.

Bodie turned towards him, stifling the reflexive joke he’d been about to make. Instead, he put away his razor, then raised his eyes to Doyle’s. “It isn’t the adrenaline rush I miss, you know.”

“What then?”

“My partner.”

He braced himself for Doyle’s anger—blame, if it should come—but Doyle only looked down at the floor. “Bodie.” Doyle closed his eyes.

“Ray, tell me to go, if that’s what—”

“No.” Doyle raised his eyes to his. “Never.” He gestured towards the bedroom. “Go on, then. Although, fair warning, it’s not the most comfortable of beds.”

“We’ll make do,” Bodie called back as he walked into the bedroom. Then he caught sight of the bed. “This,” he said to Doyle when Doyle came into the room, “is a horrible house.”

“It’s fine. Suits me, anyway. It came furnished.” Doyle unbuttoned his shirt.

Bodie undressed as well. “Where’s your stuff, then?”

“In storage. I wanted a clean break.” Doyle walked over to Bodie, ran a hand down the length of his arm.

“I can understand that.” Bodie took Doyle’s hand in his.

Doyle tugged him towards the bed. He lifted the duvet and flung it back. “I hope an audience won’t put you off.”

“Eh?”

Doyle pointed towards Georgie, in her bed by the door. Her eyes were on them.

“Voyeur dog?” Bodie stepped in close to Doyle. “It may spur me on.”

Doyle’s laugh turned into a gasp as Bodie tweaked a nipple. “Always thought there was a hidden exhibitionist inside you.” He tilted his head back as Bodie leaned in to nuzzle the base of his neck.

“Your corrupting influ— Ah!” Bodie caught his breath as Doyle took hold of his cock.

“You were saying?”

Bodie cupped Doyle’s head in his hands. “C’mon, Ray. Let’s put on a show.” He waited until Doyle grinned back at him, then kissed him with all the pent up passion of years. They tumbled into the bed, which creaked alarmingly, but held together. He had thought his need was so great that it would be another quick rush to completion, and later, perhaps, they would take it more slowly. But feeling Doyle’s body along his, hearing Doyle’s voice, revelling in the memories his scent and touch brought, he found himself slowing the pace. He wanted to experience everything thoroughly. He didn’t want it ever to stop.

So, he held on to his control. He explored Doyle’s body as if it was new to him, and indeed there was the new scar, the one that had driven them apart. He surveyed it with his tongue, claimed it for his own. And in his turn, Doyle charted Bodie’s body, hesitating over the knife scar acquired when Bodie had left Murphy behind and had found himself fighting too many on his own. “This is new,” Doyle murmured.

“Needed you,” Bodie whispered, and felt what Doyle wouldn’t say. Doyle’s body always had revealed truth to him—nerves, anger, desire. He accepted that trust now and treated it for the wonder it was. He gave everything to Doyle, seeking his pleasure over his own, and found devastating tenderness returned to him. In the aftermath, Bodie clung to him, unashamed. His doubts were gone, if not his fears. Everything he was was in Doyle’s hands. And so, with Doyle lying still under his arm, his cheek against Doyle’s shoulder, he whispered his truth to him on a sigh before sleep: “I love you.”

“I know,” Doyle said, just as softly. As Bodie slid towards dreams, he thought he heard Doyle’s quiet voice again: “That’s the trouble.”

Bodie woke to the early light of dawn. Doyle was asleep beside him. Bodie lay still, his gaze travelling over the relaxed contours of Doyle’s face, to the rise and fall of his chest. Warmth and peace crept through him, and the certainty that this was what he wanted, whatever the consequences. As long as it was what Ray wanted as well. Bodie closed his eyes for a moment, pierced by uncertainty and hope both. Then he eased from the bed, and padded to the loo. He dressed quietly and headed for the kitchen, with Georgie following behind him. Bodie drank a glass of water and peered out at the quickly-spreading light. He refreshed Georgie’s water, rummaged for a lead, then took her outside with him. She paused in the doorway, her head cocked.

“I’m not stealing you.”

That seemed to satisfy her, because she charged ahead, walking him quickly through the garden to the footpath he’d followed the day before. They slowed on the path and ambled along, Georgie investigated various smells, added her own mark where needed.

“I’m not overly fond of dogs,” Bodie told her. Her tail moved from side to side, but she was intent on a scent trail. “Some probably best forgotten experiences, you see. At least you’re not an Alsatian.” He didn’t know what she was, exactly. They reached the juncture with another path and Bodie stopped. “We should go back in case Ray’s getting the wrong idea about us.” She seemed willing enough to head back to the house, but Bodie paused a moment, regarding her. She looked up at him. “You’ve been taking good care of him, haven’t you? Gave him a reason to get out of the house, I expect. Maybe even a reason to stay. I won’t forget that, eh pup?”

Georgie pulled gently on the lead, in the direction of the house.

“Yeah, I want to see him too.” He did, more than anything. But in the light of day, he was seeing more clearly than he had last night. He had been surprised by Doyle’s actions, by the shift in moods, by the lack of anger. It was as if Doyle—his Doyle—was…bottled up. He moved in fits and starts, showed flashes of temper and then acquiesced, as if nothing mattered. He’d lean towards good-bye and then hold tight to Bodie. What was going on? He didn’t know what to make of it, or how he could break through it, or even if he should. He didn’t think he was strong enough to let Doyle go, even if that was what Doyle wanted. But then, maybe that was the problem. Did Doyle even know what he wanted?

They arrived back to a kitchen redolent with the smell of frying bacon. Georgie trotted to Doyle, who bent down to greet her. He was dressed in old jeans and a t-shirt. He looked gorgeous. Bodie inspected the bacon.

“You do the eggs while I feed her, eh?” Doyle pointed to eggs on the worktop. “Thank you for taking her out.”

“Nice way to start the morning.” Bodie replaced Doyle at the cooker.

They were quiet while they ate, the comfortable silence of people who didn’t need to entertain each other. But later, when Doyle was washing up, Bodie noticed tension in his stance. He set his cup down, put his hands flat on the table. It was time to push again to see what happened. If they were to have a future, they’d have to resolve the past. He had to find Doyle. He just wished he didn’t feel so damned scared. “I’m expected in London, but…can I come back, Ray?”

Doyle was quiet for a long moment, then he put the plate he was holding into the drying rack, and reached for a towel. “Is that what you want?” He didn’t turn to look at Bodie.

“I thought that was pretty obvious last night.”

“Yeah. Last night.”

“It was good, wasn’t it?” He tried to make the question light, but knew his doubt showed through. Doyle turned round to face him.

“It was great. It always is.” Doyle looked down at the cloth in his hands. “It was last time, too.” He said it softly, as if to himself.

Last time. When it had been his words that had stopped them. Doyle took in a breath, and Bodie rushed to speak: “What do I want? What I want is for you to come to London. For us—” He broke off, swallowed. “For us to…to start again. Build on what we had.”

“‘What we had,’” Doyle repeated. He raised his eyes to Bodie’s. “And what was that, then?”

“Us. Our partnership. Our—”

Doyle’s laugh had a bitter tone to it, confirming Bodie’s fears. “Fat lot of good that did me.” He turned towards the window.

“It was good,” Bodie said, voice steady. “You know it was.”

Doyle shook his head. “That didn’t matter, though, did it?”

“Ray. Please—”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what? Tell you I want you? Be here? Love you?”

Doyle rounded on him. “For fuck’s sake, Bodie! You come waltzing in here, after two bloody years, and you think I’ll just—”

“Want me to fuck you?”

“Get out.”

Bodie’s stomach hurt, but Doyle was blazingly alive in front of him. “I told you last night, Ray. I love you.”

“You bloody well loved me when you said we couldn’t be together! You ended it! What the fuck do you expect me to do?”

“I was wrong! Okay? I was bloody wrong, stupidly wrong. For God’s sake, Ray, do you think I’d be here if I hadn’t realised that?”

“Oh, and when did you find that out, then?” Doyle’s eyes narrowed. “Liz and Paget, is that it? It took them for you to puzzle it out. Bloody hell, Bodie!”

“It was my fault. I know. And you paid for it. I destroyed the best fucking thing—”

“No.” Doyle’s voice was hard, but quieter as he interrupted him. “No. It took both of us.”

Bodie closed his eyes. “Don’t go soft on me. Don’t—”

“I’m not.” Doyle sounded closer to him. “Want me to hit you to prove it?”

Bodie swallowed a laugh, and opened his eyes.

Doyle was right in front of him, eyes locked with his. “I didn’t fight you in Glasgow.”

“I seduced—”

Doyle snorted. “Hardly. Mutual agreement there. But I assumed we’d take it back with us.”

“I didn’t—think.”

“Neither of us did. But when you said what you needed to, I didn’t fight you.”

“You did at first.” Bodie thought back to that morning. “I thought you agreed with me, in the end.”

“No. I never agreed with your reasoning.” Doyle stared at him a moment longer, then sighed. “I didn’t fight you because, right or wrong, it was what you believed. I can’t change beliefs like that—no one can. I could have argued with you, but it wouldn’t have worked. You had to be willing to change your mind yourself. See it differently.”

“I couldn’t.”

“You couldn’t.” Doyle looked away. “And I couldn’t handle it.” He sighed, looked back at Bodie. “We both paid for that. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge. Or, to be more accurate, a lot of alcohol downed. I made a right cock-up of my life. After.”

“No more than I did.”

Doyle frowned. “I thought you were promoted—”

Bodie laughed. “I couldn’t work with anyone.” He shrugged. “They weren’t you. I was waiting for Cowley to send me packing, but then he paired me up with a fledgling agent—out of necessity, not because he thought it was a good idea. Just for an op. I managed to keep him alive. I felt…useful. And then Cowley and I had a most unpleasant conversation about my future.”

Doyle smiled a little. “After he’d got you interested again.”

“You know the tactic.”

“Too bloody well.” Doyle chewed on his lip, his eyes never leaving Bodie. “Do you know why I invited you in last night?”

Bodie shook his head.

“You could have left me with the impression that you were on the front line on that op. It’s what I was thinking. But you deliberately clarified.”

“I didn’t want you to misunderstand. There’s been too much of that. Too many assumptions.” He took in a deep breath. “I was afraid you were saying good-bye.” And a sudden chill swept through him as he realised the good-bye he’d sensed might have been in bed as well.

Doyle nodded, his face still. “Maybe. I don’t know what— It’s been so long since I’ve felt anything. It’s…”

“Confusing? Aggravating? Don’t know whether you want to kill me or fu—”

“Yes, to all of that!”

Bodie grinned. “Ah, well. Par for the course. Sounds like our partnership.”

Doyle reached out, gripped his shoulder. “Should thank the ruthless, old— ‘Build on what we had,’ you said.”

“Build it stronger.”

“In London?”

Bodie shrugged. “Or I’ll come here, if you’ll let me.”

“I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you I don’t want that.” Doyle released him.

“Be nice to hear you do.”

“You remember I told you I wouldn’t be your—”

“First thing you did, when I got here, got me down to me knickers. Very masterly.”

“Shut up.”

“Analyst, mate.” Bodie cupped Doyle’s cheek. “Chief Analyst, if Cowley has his way. Including some field time. He sends his regards, by the way.”

“Cowley has a big mouth.”

“He has needs.”

Doyle winced. “I wish you hadn’t put that image in my head.”

Bodie swallowed a grin.

Doyle looked up at the ceiling. “Well. It’s just as well I told Megan I’d probably be leaving, then.”

“You what?”

Doyle looked at him. “I may not know what I want, but I do know I can’t walk away again.”

“Contradictory little—” Bodie found it hard to breathe in. “I can’t either, Ray.”

Doyle’s gaze didn’t waver. “You’d really stay here?”

“If you buy a better bed.” But Bodie wanted to be careful about assumptions: “You’ve made a home here. If you want to stay—”

“Good God, no. It’s a horrible house, don’t you think?”

Bodie pulled back from him. “You— You said it was fine!”

Doyle laughed. “Yeah, well—” But then he stopped whatever it was he had been about to say. A brief smile flitted across his face and was gone. “I didn’t really care, did I?”

Bodie cleared his throat as he turned away. “So, London it is. Cowley will be pleased.”

“Aw, enough to give me second thoughts, mate.”

“You did say you wanted to thank him. At least you can get your stuff out of storage—compensation, right?”

Doyle smiled, yet his eyes were serious as he looked at Bodie. “Together, yeah, but…two flats, right?”

Prudence was in order, for many reasons. “Safer, I reckon.” Bodie shrugged. “See how it goes, eh?” Doyle nodded. Bodie was already planning on occupying all of Doyle’s time, showing him the change was real, even in London. “Good, good.” He looked away, very aware of the awkwardness between them. Small steps, he said to himself. “Well, it is a long drive. I should— Look, Ray, will you come back with me now?”

“Now?”

“Yeah. Well…” He felt acute embarrassment, but he spoke anyway: “I’d like that, if you’d…like that.”

“But I’d have to pack.” Doyle’s eyes were wide.

“I’ll help.”

“Tell you what, I will go back with you. If…” Doyle tilted his head. “I get to drive.”

Bodie opened then closed his mouth. “Bloody, manipulative—”

Doyle pulled him close and kissed him. “Georgie will love riding shotgun.”

“Georgie will be quite happy having an entire back seat to herself.” He put both his arms around Doyle. “How long will it take us to pack?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether I get undressed first…”

“I quite fancy an overnight drive.” Bodie kissed him.

*
*****
*

London
August 1986

Bodie let himself in to Ray’s flat. Georgie met him at the door, wriggling but silent. “Ray?” He set down one of the carrier bags. “Hello, sweetheart.” He bent to scratch Georgie behind her ears. “Where’s Ray, then? Not home yet? I thought he got out before me.” He walked towards the kitchen with the carrier bags. “Yeah, of course I brought you something. When do I not, eh?” He had realised, soon after Ray and Georgie had moved to London, that bribery was his best bet for winning Georgie’s affections. Ray complained about it no end, but also rewarded his behaviour. Bodie grinned to himself as he emptied the carrier bags. Two ready-made meals went into the oven, while Georgie received one of her favourite beef treats.

He set wine out to breathe and was reaching for a beer to tide him over, when Georgie informed him that since he was first to come home, he could have the privilege of walking her. “Miserable beast,” he told her. She raced ahead of him to the door, tail wagging. It was a pleasant day, comfortably warm, with a cooling breeze and a bright sky above them. Bodie took her down the street to the park where she kept tabs on the squirrels. It was fortunate none of the younger agents ever saw him walking Georgie, he reflected. His reputation wouldn’t survive it. Which led him to wonder what secret vice Cowley might have kept hidden from them in the early days. A dog? No, a cat was more George’s style. And then he was presented with an image of Cowley efficiently walking a cat on a lead, as his neighbour Mrs Hinton did. Perhaps not. He walked on with Georgie, taking a moment to wonder at the changes in his life that had brought him to walking his partner’s dog in a park, just like an ordinary civil servant. Well, a civil servant, admittedly, who wore a gun, had just that morning observed the end of a months-long op in Hoxton, and had consulted with Lewis about acquiring some of the new Millan M86 sniper rifles. Perhaps not your ordinary civil servant. And not your typical agent, either, given his relationship with Doyle. Only Cowley and Lewis knew—unofficially, of course. The closeness of their working relationship was accepted by the squad because of their current positions and their history. Everything was great on the job, and off it…well, they were getting there, he thought. Re-building trust, trying to be clear with one another. He had the luxury of time on his side now. He directed Georgie back to Doyle’s flat.

Georgie’s body language told him Doyle had arrived home before Bodie crossed the threshold. “Not a bad alarm system, she is,” he said as he tracked Doyle down in the kitchen.

“As long as you don’t mind your alarm system assuming everyone’s a friend, yeah. Down, Georgie,” Doyle said, belatedly. “Don’t look at me like that, I know he’s already given you a treat.”

“Cruel. I see you’ve already poured the wine. That was waiting for dinner, you know.”

“Yeah, saw that. But we have something to celebrate.” Doyle handed Bodie one of the filled glasses.

“You’ve never solved the Brixton—”

“Nah. Getting close, though. I think.” Doyle looked into the distance, holding his glass in his hand. “I still say we should investigate—”

“Never mind. Tell me what we’re celebrating.”

“I went to see Lewis, found him moaning about the budget.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard him. I want that new M86—”

“Well, you might get it. I told him we’d be willing to share a flat. Cheaper than one, right?”

Bodie stared at Doyle, who was gazing a little too attentively at his wine.

“Took my acceptance for granted, did you?” He tried and failed to keep the grin off his face.

Doyle quickly looked at him, and then he smiled.

“Well, that’s all right, then.” Bodie lifted his glass. “Cheers, mate.”

After they drank, Doyle set his glass aside, then took Bodie’s glass and set it aside, too. “I was enjoying that,” Bodie protested, but he wrapped his arms around Doyle nevertheless.

“You’ll enjoy this more.” Doyle kissed him.

Eventually, his shirt in disarray, Bodie pulled back. “Dinner will burn.”

“Didn’t your SAS lot train you to go without food?”

“I’ll just turn the oven down, shall I?”

“You misled me.” Doyle said from behind him as Bodie tended to the oven.

“What? When?”

“It was you who advocated for Liz and Paget.”

Bodie turned round, surprised. “Yeah. I told you that, didn’t I?”

“No. I thought it was their example that sent you off to find me. You changed your mind first. Lewis told me.”

“Ah.” Bodie returned to Doyle. “I didn’t mean to, exactly. I was all set to agree with Ross, but then it all came out…differently.”

“A complete about face, you mean.”

“Yeah.”

Doyle kissed him. “Well, warn me if you’re ever going to be that fickle about something important—like, you know, a takeaway order or—”

Bodie shut him up with another kiss. “At least Liz and Paget haven’t had to go through what we did.” His hand covered the scar he knew was under Doyle’s shirt.

“Because I was stupid enough not to call you. Should’ve known better.”

“Kate talked about jealousy eroding trust in a partnership. I’m sorry, Ray.”

“Don’t be daft. I was hoping to make you jealous, although I thought the opposite at the time. I was angry when it seemed you didn’t care. And I was too stubborn to call you because I wanted you too much.”

Bodie told him a truth he’d never admitted even to himself: “I might not have come if you had called.”

“I know.” Bodie tightened his hold on him, and Doyle’s smile told him he understood. “Anyway, I reckon it was that night at the Star Hotel that really changed your mind. Even if you didn’t see it then.”

“How so?”

“You proved priority of life. You wanted to take me out before Paula, right?” Bodie nodded, still feeling an echo of the terror and anger he’d felt. “But you didn’t.”

“I was angry with you—”

“I never doubted what you felt for me. Even then.”

“You did at the hospital.”

“No, but your timing was atrocious.” Doyle grinned at him, and Bodie realised the sting of that day had diminished. “Was a good row, wasn’t it?”

“That’s one way of putting it. You know, we can’t get injured because we can never go back there.”

“Fine by me.” Doyle’s hand caressed his cheek. “Liz and Paget benefitted from our experience. You saved them with your delayed-by-two-years realisation that partners who are lovers might as well be happy and useful rather than miserable and useful until they blow it.”

Bodie looked at him. “I don’t think that was my exact thought process.”

“I doubt there was a thought— Oi! That hurt.”

“You said you missed the adrenaline, didn’t you? Part and parcel—”

“Nah.” Doyle took Bodie’s hand in his and led him towards the bedroom. “I don’t miss the adrenaline. I have you. Thank God.”

“And Cowley.”

“Shut up.”

*
*****
*

Epilogue

Cowley bent to brush leaves away from David’s gravestone. There was no stone beside it, although he knew Mary had passed away more than a year ago. She had moved on, it seemed, and he was glad for that. It was peaceful in the churchyard, shaded by oak and yew. No one else was around. Cowley took out the two glasses he had brought, and poured them both a shot. He placed one of the glasses on the ground before the stone, and held the other in his hand.

“Aye, they’ve made it. Thanks to you.” He raised his glass and drank. “The country will benefit from their work, and they… Well, they will lead where others may one day follow more openly. It seems I’ve learnt this political game, at last. Thanks, again, to you. I think you would agree that honour has been satisfied.”

He rested his hand on the stone for a moment, but the cold was not what he wanted. He finished the whisky, appreciating the burn in his throat. His own retirement was approaching. The pieces he had manoeuvred into place were fitting together and working as the trinity he had envisioned. He would remain in the game, of course—he could do nothing else. But his position would change, evolve, as everything did. He had, at least, had a hand in its shaping. David’s legacy lived on.

“Och, I know what you would tell me to do.” He leaned down, picked up the glass and drank David’s portion as well. “Never let good whisky go to waste. I’ll be sure to bring more when I see you again.”

He turned away, headed for his car, and to the living who needed him. When it was his turn to lie beneath cold stone, though, he could think of no better place to be.

The End
2015