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You'll be paired off, and from then on, you're the Bisto Kids.

 

The phone on his desk rang. Cowley forced himself to reach for it slowly. “Yes?”

“The Minister, sir. Line two.” Betty’s voice was formal and unemotional, but he was certain she knew what was at stake.

“Thank you, Betty.” He pressed the button for line 2. “Minister.”

“It’s done, George. CI5’s brief remains intact.”

Cowley closed his eyes for a moment. “Thank you, sir.”

“You have powerful allies in the government, but also some enemies. Take note of that, George.”

“I am well aware of it.”

“Willis’s assessment was damning.”

“But ultimately unsuccessful, if his goal was the dismantling of CI5.”

“He had a point, however. Wakeman, after all, was unable to infiltrate MI6.”

“That was never his target,” Cowley protested.

“Perception is more important than reality, George. Particularly in government.” There was a pause before the Minister continued. “I have assured the committee that systemic changes have been implemented that will prevent another such…situation.”

“It has already begun. You know my thoughts on this.”

“Yes. For both our sakes, I hope you’re right.” The Minister drew in a breath. “I will see you tomorrow for our official briefing.”

“Thank you for the telephone call.”

“I will expect nothing but the best, George.”

“As always, sir.”

“I was, of course, speaking about your whisky.”

Cowley smiled. “So was I. Good night, sir, and thank you.”

He put the telephone down, then stared across the room, unseeing. Systemic changes. Aye, they would be that. He knew how to learn from his mistakes. Wakeman had been a lone wolf in CI5, his associates unknown. The nature of the Squad, and the power of CI5’s brief, had made it relatively easy for him to operate on his own. Cowley had agreed with Martin that competition would spur his agents to greater achievement, but it had led to distrust and accusations of favouritism. No longer. He needed teamwork and accountability; he needed a system of checks and balances that would bring out the best in his agents. Squad members would be teamed, their natural arrogance channelled, their skills complemented. He had drawn the best to CI5 and, by God, he would forge them into a sum greater than their parts. Responsibility was the key. He would be responsible for them, and they for each other.

It would start at the top. He would take a more active role in assessment. Barry’s skills were better used in training. Cowley put on his glasses and took the top folder from the pile at the front of his desk. He opened the folder. William Andrew Philip Bodie. Military background, highly skilled and disciplined when it came to the job. His self-confidence bordered on arrogance. Some questions on morals. He was protective, when it came to team members. Cowley pondered for a moment, then reached for the folders again, and retrieved a file he had looked at earlier. Raymond Doyle. Highly skilled at police work, top marksman, idealistic. Incorruptible. Yes. Now, let it begin.

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That’s the main thing, staying cool.

 

Bodie breathed in the fresh air as he and Cowley left the police station. His mood was buoyant, but he kept it under control. Turkel and his gang were being led to police cars. He saw Doyle waiting beside Cowley’s car, looking grim, despite the success of the op. Bodie looked at Cowley. “Permission to be admiringly insolent, sir,” he said. “You’re a brave old bastard.” He handed Cowley’s hat to him.

Cowley glanced at him as he took the hat. “Permission denied. Anyway, it’s inaccurate. I’m not brave.” Cowley walked down the steps to the car. Doyle opened the driver’s-side door for him, and Cowley climbed into the car.

Bodie strolled to stand beside Doyle as Cowley drove the car away. All in all, it had been an extremely satisfying day. He waited for Doyle to look at him, then smiled with just the right amount of smugness. Doyle’s face remained impassive, but Bodie counted an eye-roll anyway. His smile broadened as Doyle turned and walked away.

“I’m surprised he didn’t tell you to take that suit back.” Doyle glanced back at him.

Bodie hustled to catch up. “He did. That’s where we’re going.”

“Thought we were going for a drink.”

Bodie blinked, but hid his surprise. “Course we are. Especially since you’re buying.”

Doyle nodded, his expression unchanged. “It is true you’ll soon be cleaned out.”

“Eh?”

Doyle said nothing, but smiled as he ushered Bodie into the shop.

In the end, Bodie did decide to keep the suit. And it had nothing to do with store policy, as he told Doyle when he brought Bodie his lager at the pub down the street.

“Of course not,” Doyle agreed. “Anyway, it’ll come in handy the next time you’re guarding the Home Secretary.”

“Cushy job, that.” Bodie drank from his glass. The pub was only sparsely populated. He had already automatically assessed the other patrons, and knew Doyle had as well. In the early days, they had sometimes compared impressions — part challenge, part competition. He had learned to trust Doyle’s experience, as different as it was from his own.

“It would’ve been exciting today, if we hadn’t figured it out.” Doyle’s gaze dropped to his beer. “How was it inside?”

Bodie shrugged. “Easy enough. Cowley had it well in hand. What about you?”

“It went just as Cowley said it would. Aside from a chief inspector trying to pull rank on me.”

“We don’t have rank in CI5.” Bodie smiled as he picked up his glass.

“Yeah, told him that. Then I showed him my authority.”

“Ah, enjoyed that, did you?”

Doyle scrunched his face. “I might have done.”

“Yeah, there you were, having a jolly time of it whilst I was slogging through Her Majesty’s deepest dungeons — “

“Under barbed wire. In mud. Yeah, yeah. And you armed only with Cowley’s snubnose.” Doyle’s tone was lightly derisive, but his brows were drawn together as he wiped a bit of moisture from his glass. “Got loose on your own, then?

“That was the plan, wasn’t it?” Bodie hesitated a moment, trying to read Doyle’s mood. “Anyway, they gave up without much of a fight. The rest of them were in it for the money. It was only Turkel who had any real motivation. Which is why, of course, Cowley’s plan worked.”

“Turkel had the most to lose.” Doyle’s voice was flat.

Bodie sat back in his chair. “His Achilles heel: sentiment. It’s what I’ve been telling you all along, Doyle.”

“The look out for number one credo. Yeah, I’ll remember that the next time you have my back in a fire fight.” Doyle toasted him with his glass.

“Ah, but then it’s a case of you watch mine, I’ll watch yours.”

“Had to rely on Cowley for that today.” Doyle set his glass down. “Anyway, you didn’t have much faith in me earlier.”

“What? When?”

“‘Can you take him?’” Doyle quoted Bodie’s words back at him, sounding disgusted. “Should put in for slander for that.”

Bodie waved his glass at him. “Told you, I just wanted it confirmed. Anyway, you shoot better when you’re angry. Or competing.”

“Is there a difference?” Doyle contemplated his glass.

“Why do you think I’m the only one who wants to target shoot with you?” Bodie shook his head when he saw the frown was still on Doyle’s face. “We won today, you know. Both Turkels are off the street. No one was killed. That usually makes you happy. What’s the matter with you, Doyle?”

Doyle looked up at that, and something in his eyes made Bodie’s stomach tighten before Doyle looked away. “Adrenaline.”

Sometimes an op took you like that — it was either euphoria or depression. Depressives are suicidal. He brushed away the memory of Dr Brook. “You were very convincing. You and your tired finger. Getting into your role, were you?”

“Yeah, it had its moments. I channelled you.” Doyle picked up his glass. “Fortunately, I didn’t have to shoot poor Henry’s head off his shoulders.”

“Just as well. It would have been very messy.”

“And there would have been no reason for Turkel not to shoot you.”

“Ah,” Bodie raised a finger, “but then you could have come storming in. You’d’ve liked that.”

“Too late.”

“Yeah, but then it would’ve been vengeance, right? And that’s very satisfying. Wild justice and all that.”

Doyle narrowed his eyes, as if trying to recall the words. “‘Revenge is a sort of wild justice’ — “

“Kind of. ‘Revenge is a kind of wild justice’.”

Doyle looked at him. “Yeah, and you know how it goes after that.”

Bodie shook his head, as if he didn’t. He picked up his glass again. The tension was easing away. Doyle was a moody bugger, but he came out of it quickly.

“‘Which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out’.”

Bodie swallowed lager. “Trust you to remember that bit. Anyway, that’s my point. You should be happy: both Turkels are in gaol, no one was killed, no need for vengeance, all’s well that ends well.”

“And you have a new suit.” Doyle leaned back, gazing at Bodie.

“Yes, I can see the gears working, mate. What?”

“Just thinking about your ‘stay uninvolved’. No Achilles heel allowed.”

“Good advice. Never have anything you aren’t willing to lose.”

Doyle nodded. “Well, in that case, the next round’s on you.” He drained his glass. “Since you owe me.”

“Eh?”

“You were obviously getting too involved with Claire, mate.” Doyle’s face showed nothing but concern. “Now, thanks to me, you don’t have that encumbrance.”

Bodie looked at him. “Watching my back, were you?”

“Looking out for number one.” Doyle grinned.

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Very uncool. Hot temperament. Still, a good man.

 

Dammit! Time was pressing down on him, on all of them. Doyle had found nothing so far in his sweep of the flats. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but then it wouldn’t, would it? Scaphros — Georgi, as the kid had called him — was a pro. The search was taking too damn long. They’d found the fucking Range Rover, but finding Georgi was a whole other matter. He met up with Bodie in the corridor. One glance was enough for him to know Bodie had found nothing either. “There’s no time.” He was half-listening for the sound of a shot — the sound of their failure.

“No choice.” Bodie looked grim.

Cowley’s voice summoned them: “Bodie. Doyle.”

Doyle thumbed the R/T switch. “Yeah?”

“The seventh floor…west side of the building. Fifteenth window along from left as I'm standing. An open window. I think I can see something.” There was a pause, then Cowley continued: “Yes, it's the rifle.”

Doyle looked at Bodie. “Two windows to every apartment.”

Bodie sucked in his breath. “That makes it apartment one two — apartment one twenty-eight. We're on our way.”

Cowley’s voice stopped them. “No! Bodie, you take the apartment above. Doyle, get outside the door, but for God's sake, take it easy. Hold off until I say so, right?”

“Hold off?” Bodie glanced at Doyle. “Doesn't he know he could squeeze that trigger at any time?”

“Bodie, you move before I give the go and I'll personally break both your arms.”

Doyle grinned. Trust Cowley to know exactly how to rein in Bodie. Still, a little reinforcement never hurt. He touched Bodie on the back as Bodie turned away. “Hey. Both arms.” He was certain Bodie rolled his eyes, and Doyle smiled to himself as he hurried to the stairs. He was still tense, but at least now it was in preparation for battle rather than frustration. No doubt Cowley had known the effect his words would have on both of them. So much for being men of mystery, at least when it came to Cowley. He might tease Bodie about that when they went for a drink after the op. If —

Life in a word — if.

Dammit. He didn’t need Bodie’s voice in his head right now.

I know you can. Just gives a man confidence to have it confirmed.

Doyle breathed in, steadying himself. He slowed as he approached the apartment. There was nothing to do now but wait for Cowley’s signal. He imagined Bodie’s progress in the apartment above: he’d go out through the window, over the balcony. It would work beautifully for a surprise attack, but it would leave Bodie vulnerable. Doyle hated being the one on the outside waiting — waiting for the sound of a shot, like the one that had signalled Syd’s death. Doyle leaned against the wall next to the door. At least on the Turkel op, he’d had more to do than just wait. Still, it had been bloody hard watching Bodie go in with Cowley. Bodie’s safety was his responsibility.

She was my responsibility. That had been Bodie’s excuse for the fight with Krivas. No, not an excuse. There had been nothing of defiance or shame or apology in Bodie’s voice. It had been a simple statement of fact: she was my responsibility. He remembered the heat of that day, the smell of the grass and soil, and the sound of birdsong that had started up again after the gunfire. Bodie had been bloody, exhausted, and not so much triumphant as…satisfied. It was as if he’d settled a debt. Doyle had felt much the same when Haydon had been sentenced for killing Syd.

His R/T, on low volume, relayed Cowley’s voice: “Bodie. Bodie. Bodie.”

After a pause, Bodie replied: “Yup.”

“No doubt about it. I can see the rifle clear, but that's all. I can't risk a shot. Anyway, there may be hostages. Bodie, I want a double entry on my signal. And Bodie, hurry it up.”

Doyle checked the door, and planned his movements. Adrenaline surged through him; he ached to move. When? Fuck. Fuck —

“Doyle, you in position?”

“Yup.”

“Special locks?”

“No.” He was poised for action. Wait for it. Wait….

“Bodie, hold it. There's movement inside.” Cowley’s voice froze Doyle.

Dammit. Doyle strained to hear something, anything. Anything but a shot.

“Okay,” Cowley said. And a moment later: “Doyle, go!”

Doyle heard a rifle shot even as he kicked the door open. He was in a hallway. Straight ahead he saw the window — door open to the lounge — Bodie! A balding man in a black shirt swung around towards him, rifle in hand — Doyle shot him. Three bullets fired. The angle was wrong — Doyle raced into the room, fired on the big man at the window, who had pulled out a handgun to deal with Bodie. Doyle’s bullet took the man down before he had a chance to shoot. Doyle looked at the gaping hole he had put in the man’s — Georgi’s? — chest. His aim had been right on target. He moved forward to the body, checked for a pulse and found none.

Cowley’s voice sounded over his R/T: All right, all right, what's happened in there? Well, somebody say something!”

He’d killed two men, and all he felt was relief. Doyle grabbed his R/T. “Two dead. Neither of them us. We did okay.” He barely had control over his voice. All the rage he’d suppressed had been set loose by action. He forced himself to breathe.

“Okay.” Bodie stepped closer to him, anger radiating from him. “You call that okay?”

“Ah, Bodie — “ He was in no mood to explain himself or deal with the military mentality. He holstered his gun.

“Look, a bust-in like that, you're supposed to shoot from the door!” Bodie gestured towards the door, his voice low and harsh.

“Yeah, and suppose I — “

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

Doyle rounded on him. “And if I had fired from the door and missed, who was standing in the window?” He stared at Bodie, saw the realisation hit him, although Bodie’s expression didn’t change. The sound of breaking glass reached him. Doyle turned to investigate.

“Since when did you miss?” Bodie demanded. The pitch of his voice was the same, but the hard edge was gone.

He heard Bodie following him as he sought the source of the sound. His own anger was dissipating, as quick to recede as it had been to appear. Doyle opened a door and found the hostages — a man, woman and child — safe inside a bedroom, although tied up and gagged. “All right, it's all right, it's all right.” The words flowed from him as his training took over. Bodie didn’t say a word, just set about untying the family. They were safe. They’d won. Bodie was safe.

You shoot better when you’re angry.

Doyle closed his eyes for a moment while Bodie ushered the hostages out of the room. He heard sirens approaching the block. Personal involvement...spoil your aim. He’d said that to Bodie less than a week ago, after Bodie had told him about the girl Krivas had killed. He hadn’t known why he’d said it. He had been parroting back what the ‘experts’ always said. He didn’t believe it. Maybe he’d wanted to hear what Bodie thought.

It also gives you an edge. A cutting edge, Bodie had said. Revenge; vengeance. He had thought Bodie would kill Krivas, but he hadn’t. He had known Bodie wouldn’t kill when Bodie had tossed him his gun. Bodie had had his vengeance, but without killing. Doyle thought about the two men he’d just killed. He’d had no choice. It was what he was paid for; it was what he was trained for. But he also knew that personal involvement had helped make his aim true. It wasn’t vengeance, but…

Which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. He was the law. So, what then? Doyle stood up and followed the others out of the room.

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The mountain comes to Mohammed.

 

Betty met him in the corridor. “It’s the Minister, sir. He’s in your office.” She appeared nervous, which was highly unusual.

“Very well.” Cowley felt a small smile of satisfaction tug at his mouth. He controlled it. “Hold all my calls, please.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cowley entered his office and closed the door. “This is unexpected, Minister. I would have come to you, if you had asked.”

“I helped myself to a drink, as you can see. Thank you.” The Minister was seated in one of the chairs in front of Cowley’s desk.

“You’re very welcome to it.” Cowley walked around the desk and sat in his chair. “To what do I owe the pleasure — ?”

The Minister raised his eyebrows. “You captured Franz Myer. Of course I would want to…debrief you.”

Cowley took his time filling his own glass from the decanter on his desk. “You have my report, of course.”

“Yes. It is correct and above board, just as I would have expected.”

“But?”

“But questions have been raised.”

“By whom, may I ask?” He allowed a note of righteous indignation into his voice.

“The Myer-Helmut Group is a foreign —“

“Och, why don’t you say ‘Willis’ and be done with it?” Cowley took a sip of whisky. “Or is it the Foreign Office…?”

“An innocent was killed.”

“The Reverend Edward Turnbull.”

“Precisely.” The Minister set his glass down on the desk. “By all reports, George, your man went in mob-handed — “

“Not by my report.”

“Yes, well… There have been others.” The Minister’s gaze slid to the side. “It is a serious accusation.”

“If you are going to believe supposition and innuendo — “

“An eye-witness report.”

“I see.” He ought to have expected it. “What the devil was Willis — I assume it was Willis — doing interrogating — “

“It was hardly an interrogation, George. Look, I did warn you about Willis. CI5 capturing Franz Myer put his nose out of joint”

“The alert was out; we were all told to hunt them. Bodie was just — “

“On medical leave, was he not? Out on the river for the day.”

“Where he saw Myer, and acted — “

“By putting civilians in danger! Why in God’s name didn’t he get off the river and call in Myer’s location?”

“Aye, he should have!” Cowley paused and regained control. “But he didn’t. Maybe he was trying to prove himself, I don’t know. He has a history of not dealing well with injury.”

“And thus you gave him leave.”

“Yes.” Perhaps he should have had Doyle ride herd on Bodie, but he’d been short-handed as it was.

“Well. Fortunately, the Myer-Helmut Group was destroyed. And all parties agreed the vicar acted on his own conscience.”

Cowley looked at the Minister. “Then why — ?”

The Minister reached for his glass. “You’ve been very successful. No one can argue that. The…systemic changes we talked about have been very successful.”

“My teams have the authority to act when they see fit.” They’d saved his bacon a time or two — as Ralph May could attest, and the other civilians they’d saved when the paper had printed the names and addresses of the witnesses to the assassination of John Gerry Patterson.

“And that gives them more power than some are comfortable with.”

“The brief has been agreed upon. As you say, no one can argue with our success.”

The Minister sighed. “George, they want some oversight.”

“CI5 is my operation.”

“Yes, no one is arguing that. What they want is an assurance of…operational readiness.”

“What the devil does that mean?”

“Assessment. Regular assessment. By teams outside CI5.”

“No.”

“George.”

“We already have assessments, as you know. Jack Craine, Philip Hedley — they aren’t ‘in’ CI5. My squad members are more closely watched and assessed than any other department’s agents!”

“They want a psychologist.” Cowley opened his mouth, but the Minister spoke first: “You said yourself you didn’t know why…your man — ”

“Bodie.”

“Yes, thank you. Why Bodie acted as he did.”

Cowley allowed a grimace to cross his face, but said nothing.

“Now, hear me out, George. This isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem. Having a psychologist on staff is becoming the norm. Given the extreme pressure that your people operate under — “

“You think mind games will benefit them?”

“Hyperbole.” The Minister sighed. “You might as well give in on this gracefully.”

Cowley pursed his lips. “It has already been decided.”

“Yes.”

“Do I have any say in the matter?” He kept his tone polite.

“Of course. You will approve the final appointment.”

“I see.” He already knew the likely candidates, and he had a mind to surprise them with his choice. She was fair, if disapproving, and tough enough to stand up to likes of Bodie and Doyle. And Willis, for that matter.

“But it will happen, George.”

“I understand.”

“It really will be for the best.”

“Of course.”

The Minister gazed at him for a moment, his mouth slightly twisted, as if perplexed. “Well, that was the main reason why — “

“I have one request.”

The Minister eyed him. “Of course you do.”

“If I may.” The Minister waved a hand, and Cowley continued. “As you have said, CI5 has been very successful. We prevented an assassination at Wimbledon, stopped the poisoning of a reservoir, brought Turvey and Darrington to justice, discovered a bribery plot — “

“Yes, yes. Your point?”

“I agree to this…oversight. I don’t put up a fuss, don’t cause any difficulties. But I do want one thing. In writing.”

He could see the wariness on the Minister’s face. “And that would be?”

“I have the final say on the fate of any of my agents. I will accept input from many sources in the evaluation of an agent’s fitness for duty but ultimately it is my decision.”

“In the case of a criminal act — “

“Then of course the law would prevail.”

The Minister looked at him; Cowley held his gaze. He wouldn’t budge on this. It was something he had been angling for since the beginning. “Agreed. Although you may find political pressure — “

“Och, I leave politics to others.”

The Minister tilted his head. “But you play the game superbly.” He stood. “Very well. I will send you the names of acceptable candidates tomorrow, along with your written authority, as requested.”

Cowley stood as well. “Thank you, sir.” He accompanied the Minister to the door.

The Minister turned to him as he opened the door. “Why is it, George, that I feel as if I’ve been played?”

“You have been too long in politics, I should imagine.” Cowley smiled.

“Undoubtedly. Good day.”

Cowley closed the door behind the Minister. Well, it had not been unexpected. Bodie’s action had pulled the trigger, but the gun had been primed months ago. At least now he had the assurances he’d wanted all along. If Bodie behaved as foolishly again, or if he found another agent like McKay, or if Anson gave in to his demons, he would be able to protect them and retain their skills for the benefit of the organisation and the country. In MI5 he had seen enough waste of talent due to politics or foolish ‘rules’ to last a lifetime.

He settled again into the chair behind his desk, but there was a tap on his door. “Come.”

Betty entered the office. “Doctor’s report, sir.” She handed him a brown folder. “And Bodie and Doyle are waiting to see you.”

“Thank you. Give me five minutes and send them in.” He opened the file as she left the office, and sighed as he read the report. The doctor recommended two weeks, at the minimum, before Bodie could return to active duty. What the devil was he going to do with him? He didn’t want Bodie on his own again. He could put Doyle on him, but… Cowley considered. He closed the folder and opened another that was thick with paperwork. He perused the notes inside it for a moment. Yes, research. He could put them on with Benny. They could research Coogan’s network. Bodie would fuss, but Doyle would keep him in line, and they all might learn something.

He remembered Doyle’s words in the car: Yeah, I've watched his back, he's watched mine. We're both still alive. The teaming had worked, just as he’d hoped. Their work together was flawless. Alone, though… He wondered how the situation with Myer would have gone had Doyle been with Bodie. They were chalk and cheese, but they had learned to work together, blending their skills. They had learned about one another as well, and had taken responsibility.

Shut up, you. You’re my responsibility you great twat, Doyle had said, as he’d ushered a protesting Bodie into the ambulance behind Julia. Initially, Cowley had been astonished at Bodie’s capitulation. But then he’d remembered Bodie’s voice when Doyle had been shot: Yeah? Well, there's a better man back there. Mutual respect; mutual responsibility — a team that was a sum greater than its parts. He allowed himself a moment of satisfaction.

There was a rap on the door. Cowley kept his eyes on the paperwork before him, but he knew it was Doyle who entered first, followed by Bodie. A flick of a glance told him that Bodie had dressed for the occasion.

“Sir?” Bodie sounded hesitant. As well he should!

“Two more weeks, Bodie. That's the medical report.”

And God willing — with Doyle’s help — they’d survive it.

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Couldn't you find anywhere better to sleep?

 

Bodie watched as Doyle put a box into the back of the Capri. “What the hell’s all that, then?”

Doyle climbed into the passenger seat of the car. “What’s it look like?”

“Like you’ll get about as much sleep as I will tonight.” Bodie started the motor and turned on the headlamps.

“What?” Doyle looked at him, then laughed. “You never — Cowley’s put you on watch?”

“Well, if you will attract a nutter.” Bodie edged the Capri into traffic.

“Thought he’d put one of the juniors on, if anyone. Well, you can help me go through the files, then, eh?”

Bodie shook his head. “Strictly an outside job, mate.”

“Nothing’s going to happen tonight. Whoever it is isn’t through tormenting me, is he?”

Bodie tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “Don’t know that, do we? Anyway, he’s a tricky one. If he comes along tonight to put arsenic in your tea, I’ll be there to see him do it.”

“Oh, thanks for that comforting thought. I’m going to need all the tea I can get tonight, you know.”

“I’m going the coffee route, personally.” Bodie gestured towards the back seat. Doyle glanced over.

“You never! That’s massive. You’ll be nipping in to use my bog every hour with that.”

“Some of us have well-trained bladders.” Bodie braked hard to avoid an Allegro that entered his lane on the roundabout.

“As opposed to your driving.”

“Trained lightning reflexes.”

“And yet you rate low on observation.”

“You saw him; he cut me up!”

“He was ninety if he’s a day. Probably a war hero.”

“Yeah. The Great War. In which he obviously rode a horse. So, no luck with the files so far, eh?”

“No.” Doyle sounded frustrated.

“Ah, well, I’m still betting on the jealous boyfriend angle.”

“Given the number of dates you’ve set me up with, it’s your fault if it is. Anyway, why Maurice, then?”

“Hey, maybe it’s Kathie who has a husband — a secret husband.”

“That’s right, take away the one good thing that’s come out of this mess so far.”

Doyle’s voice had been light, but Bodie lost some of his own humour. “You do know, if she makes it in to CI5…”

“Yeah.” Doyle was staring out the windscreen. “Don’t know if anyone has ever really put it to the test, though. I mean, It’s just….an unwritten rule, isn’t it?”

Bodie shrugged. His shoulders felt tight. “Makes sense, though. Personal involvement — “

“Can be an advantage. Look at Cowley putting you out to watch tonight.”

“Yeah, well,” Bodie took a breath, “that’s the bloody responsibility of partnership, isn’t it. We aren’t ‘involved’. Not like that.”

“So, you’re saying sex is the defining factor of ‘personal involvement’? When Haydon killed Syd — “

“You caught him right and proper, didn’t you? Now, imagine it was…Kathie who’d been killed.” Doyle opened his mouth, but he appeared to hesitate. “Yeah, see?”

“No, it’d be the same. I’d do my job.”

Bodie shook his head. “When Krivas killed — “

“You didn’t lose your head. You didn’t kill him.”

“I would have at the time, if I’d had the chance.”

“Anyway, it’s a different case She was a civilian, and you — “

“Put her in danger. Inadvertently. But I felt the responsibility. It would be worse with a partner, wouldn’t it? You’re responsible for protecting her back, but now she’s your lover, too. You’d face it every day — a loss you couldn’t bear. You’d be so concerned about protecting her…” Bodie moved the gear stick harder than necessary as he sped through a gap in traffic.

“We work with Susan, Sally — “

“Yeah, but we aren’t involved with them, are we?” Doyle seemed about to speak and Bodie overrode him. “One or two dates is not the same thing, and you know it. They’re as careful about it as we are. Cowley’s not about to pair a man and a woman in a team.”

After a pause, Doyle said, “Could happen anyway. These days.”

Bodie pressed his lips together for a moment. “Maybe. And how much do you want to bet Cowley would split the team?” He glanced over, saw Doyle grimace. “Personal involvement…it clouds your judgement.”

“It gives you an edge — you said that yourself!”

“A cutting edge — and that cuts both ways.” He knew Doyle wasn’t convinced. It made him press the point. “Look, maybe a man and a woman could work in a team, if they stayed uninvolved, but would you really want Kathie, say, for your partner?”

“I — “ Doyle broke off, then shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“Because I’ve seen how your relationships end, Doyle.” He made his voice lighter. “She’d be more likely to shoot you than watch your back.”

“Pot, kettle, mate.”

“Mine never get to that stage. Although there was one last year…” He waited until Doyle looked at him. “Claire, her name was. Until some twat — “

“Oh, give over.” Doyle sighed. “Fair point. Anyway, who else would have you?”

Bodie double-parked in front of Doyle’s flat. “I’d go for the pot, kettle remark, but as you know, I don’t like to repeat myself.”

“It’d just be repeating me, and considering you went out with Susan after I did…”

“Yes, Raymond. And very interesting pillow talk she had, too.”

Doyle just rolled his eyes and opened the car door. He reached into the back for his box. “Are you going to do your knight in shining armour bit again?” He paused with the box in his arms. “Or was it a bulldog?”

“Irish wolfhound — sleek and raffish.” Bodie scanned the street, even though Doyle had just done it. He followed Doyle to his gate. “Here, give me the k — “.

“Down, boy. It’s my turn.” He handed Bodie the box and dug keys out of his pocket.

There was nothing suspicious in the courtyard or in Doyle’s flat. Bodie returned to the main level to find Doyle contemplating the box of files he’d placed on his desk. “Shouldn’t have been so ambitious, eh?”

“‘The terror of Stepney Green’, Kathie said. But, honestly, I don’t reckon any of these would turn into a nutter like this.”

“Prison.”

Doyle shrugged. “Maybe.” He sighed. “So, where will you be?”

“Might move around a bit. But then, I reckon he knows the car, so I’m more a deterrent than anything else.” Bodie headed for the door.

“Or a lovely target for him.” Doyle said it like a joke, but when Bodie looked round at him, there was something serious in his eyes.

“Kill the partner to torture the victim? Only happens on TV shows, mate.”

“Maurice was a friend.”

“And your ex-Detective Sergeant. Nah, Cowley’s in the right of it there — this is a grudge against both of you.”

“Yeah, well, keep your wits about you.” Doyle accompanied Bodie to the door. “You need all you can get, of course.”

Bodie walked to his car, got in and drove far enough to be certain no one was following him. He doubled back and slid into a spot with only a partially obstructed view of the street in front of Doyle’s flat. He’d move to a more visible position later, after a walkabout. It would be bloody good if he could catch the bastard. Christ. The sniper could be anywhere, and Doyle’s flat had too many windows for comfort. How the hell had they ended up in this situation? If it wasn’t for that fucking rifle, with its thousand-yard range and laser-lock sight… They shouldn’t have left it in Doyle’s flat, especially with Doyle distracted by Kathie. He breathed out, and relaxed his hands. It wasn’t her fault. Besides, maybe the bastard wouldn’t have played his game so long without the rifle. He seemed to enjoy stringing it out, waving the threat of the rifle in Doyle’s face. The bastard was still getting off on it. They’d need to be patient and follow up on other leads. He wished to hell Marty would call.

He remembered all too well what he’d felt when Doyle had been shot by Terkoff. He’d seen at a glance that the wound wasn’t immediately life-threatening — there hadn’t been enough blood to indicate a major artery had been hit. But he’d felt that familiar, ice-cold rage that focused his attention and shut everything else out. He protected what was his. Call it the law of the jungle, although he’d first felt it when he’d stood up to his step-dad. It had cost him his home, but he hadn’t cared. It had been worth it. Then there had been the skipper, who’d also thought women should cater to his every need, and didn’t like it when Lisa had turned to him. They had had to jump ship, but his plan had worked beautifully. By the time Krivas had killed Rachel, he’d known how to kill, and he would have done it if Benny hadn’t knocked him out and got him away — which was exactly what Krivas had wanted, of course. Krivas had thought he’d forget. He hadn’t. He had just learned a bit of subtlety, and self control.

Experience had taught him: stay uninvolved, stay cool. Keep what you feel hidden. Expect everything to change.

From his position in the car, he could see the light shining from Doyle’s flat. He imagined Doyle bent over the files, brows furrowed. He’d stretch now and again, make tea when words blurred. He knew exactly what Doyle was like on an obbo, and this wasn’t much different, except he was at home. Bodie knew Doyle’s patterns at home, just as he did on the job. They knew what to expect from one another: You’ll save me.

Doyle’s safety was his responsibility; Doyle trusted him now. It had taken them a long time to reach that point both in and out of the field. Doyle was a mate. They went drinking together, pulled birds together. Hell, he was better at finding suitable dates for Doyle than Doyle was. He wished he’d got Doyle away before Jill Haydon had sunk her claws in him, but he hadn’t seen that coming. Jill had known exactly how to play Doyle. I’m dispassionate, Doyle had said. Not hardly, mate.

He needed to move. He slid out of the car and reconnoitered. He was familiar with the area, and knew the best vantage points for an enemy. He made it a point to know with both their flats. He’d started it after Terkoff, when Doyle was home and vulnerable because of the sticks. Bodie had surveyed the area, made sure there was no threat before he’d gone to his own home. And after Doyle had broken his arm, too. He’d brought Doyle home from hospital, and checked out the sector, like any good operative. He’d first offered to stay:

Help you out, eh? Like you did me with my hands?

Nah, it’s just one arm, isn’t it? Not as helpless as you were. Anyway, I’m taking these painkillers and calling it a night.

He’d watched from a good vantage point outside until the light had gone out in Doyle’s flat, and he’d stayed a little longer to make certain. It was his job to protect Doyle. The only time Doyle got hurt was when Bodie wasn’t around. It was as simple as that.

He walked back to the car and slid onto the driver’s seat. The cool air had helped; he felt more awake. His stomach growled and he wished he’d brought food. Coffee would have to do. It would be a long night, but at least he’d know Doyle was safe, and Doyle could relax with Bodie outside. Yeah. Cowley ought to have thought of it.

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You know what they made of me, don't you?

 

Doyle reached for the thermos of tea, but there was no tea left. Fuck. Turner was late; Bodie was obviously not coming. He’d have to take the bloody tube to get home, if Turner ever got his arse in gear. Bodie must have got a better offer — probably Claire Two had had a stopover, or a delay to her flight, or whatever the hell had happened to make Bodie skive off. If would have been nice if he’d at least let Doyle know. Bloody Bodie. But after a moment, he sighed. He couldn’t really blame the bastard. The obbo was a one-man job and Cowley had assigned it to him. Doyle heard the tell-tale creak from the stair landing outside the door to the flat. He divided his attention between the flat he was observing and the door. His hand hovered by his gun, but he relaxed as he heard a key in the lock. “You’re late,” he said as the door opened.

It was Turner. “Yeah, sorry. Had a girl and — “

“ — Didn’t know what to do with her? I’ll bet.”

“Har-de-har, Doyle.” Turner peered out the window. “Anything?”

“No, just like last night.” Doyle stood and put on his jacket.

Turner took over the observation seat. “I reckon Cowley’s on to a loser with this one.” He popped open a bag of peanuts.

“I’m sure he’ll be very interested in hearing your opinion.” Doyle signed out on the log sheet.

“Well, don’t you?”

“I’m not paid to think, am I?” He picked up his thermos and headed for the door. “Just a monkey on a bloody string.”

“Eh?”

He shut the door on Turner’s puzzlement and hurried down the stairs, avoiding the soft spot on the landing. He’d had two evenings of obbo duty with nothing to show for it except a headache. Damn Cowley. Doyle reached the street and set off at a fast walk towards the tube station. No action and no company had meant he’d had a lot of time to think, and it was always the same bloody thing: Not proven. That had been the verdict from the board of enquiry into the Coogan affair. There had been no exoneration for him or for CI5, but they had survived. He hadn’t single-handedly brought down the organisation, as it had once seemed he would. However, he still might be responsible for killing an innocent man in a burst of rage. Semi-innocent man. Innocent. Dammit. Bodie had thought it an accident at the time. Doyle had told Mather he’d reacted as he’d been trained. That was true, as far as it went, but he knew his reaction had also come from within him. He wasn’t that far removed from the kid who’d knifed Charlie Mantel just to prove how tough he was. He’d hit Paul Coogan out of instinct; training ought to have kept him from doing it. Doyle jammed his hands into the pockets of his jacket, and felt the press of his handgun against his body.

He was in luck at the tube station, a train arrived within five minutes of his reaching the platform. There were only a few people on the train, each engrossed in their own thoughts. He settled into a seat by the door. Not proven. No one would ever know if it was his punch that had killed Paul Coogan or not. Bodie believed it was John who had killed Paul, and odds were he was right. Paul had already been dying when they picked him up. So, why couldn’t he shake this, put it behind him? He leaned against the side of the train, looking into the darkness of the tunnel.

He came at you, you turned and belted him. It could have happened to anyone. Bodie had said that, but would Bodie have struck out like he’d done? Maybe. Bodie didn’t take much aggro from anyone. But he also had more control than Doyle over his temper. That cool, bloody persona of Bodie’s wasn’t an act. He’d fought Krivas, but that had been well thought out, and he’d given his gun to Doyle. He wasn’t a killer, like Tommy had been, or like Doyle could have been if he hadn’t learnt to control that part of himself. One of the reasons why Doyle had joined CI5 was the knowledge that he had the necessary skills and resolution to kill if required. But he had vowed he wouldn’t allow it to become easy, or thoughtless. He wouldn’t allow instinct to trump discipline.

Doyle closed his eyes. He’d killed men in battle — the Biebermann kidnappers, Georgi and Costa in the flat they’d taken over, others before that. He hadn’t killed Barry Martin, or Dinny, or the raider who’d killed Tommy. He’d warned Terkoff, to his own cost. He’d worked within the system to bring down the Miller Trust, just as he had Bill Haydon. Anger and grief had been motivation and fuel for his energy in both cases, but they’d made him stronger, more disciplined. He hadn’t gone rogue. Wouldn’t. The truth was, he regretted hitting Paul Coogan, whether or not it was his punch that had killed him. He would learn from that regret. He promised himself that. Doyle opened his eyes, took in a deep breath and released it. Enough. He knew what he was, and what he wasn’t.

He heard Cowley’s voice in his head: I’m still backing your instincts. Cowley had shown a great deal of faith in him, both before he’d hired him and after. He’d backed Doyle in reopening the Haydon case, just because it had niggled Doyle. And he’d understood Doyle needed to work again after the enquiry, even if all that he’d had to offer was a boring obbo that had given Doyle too much time — Hang on. Doyle straightened in his seat, realisation turning to instant certainty. That crafty old miser! He’d given Doyle the time and space to think whilst also still being useful to the organisation. Bloody hell. He didn’t know if he was more outraged or admiring.

The train stopped and he realised they were at his station. Doyle got up, left the train, and hurried up the stairs towards the world above. Regardless of the manipulation, Cowley’s intervention had worked — almost as well as Bodie’s had. He smiled a little as he remembered Bodie in his flat, arguing with him about being on the case. He’d have sat on that couch in angry apathy for days if it hadn’t been for Bodie. Chalk up another win for personal involvement.

His R/T buzzed as soon as he neared the surface of the tube station. He thumbed the switch. “Four-five.”

“Four-five, there you are.” It was Julia. “Three-seven asked for a relay to you. He wants you to meet him at Guy’s and bring a change of clothing for him.”

“What happened?”

“Bombing at a restaurant. Police and CI5 are on scene. Alpha One confirms you are to meet Three-seven and take him home.”

“Acknowledged. Four-five out.” Bloody hell. He turned back towards the stair, then thought better of it. He stowed the R/T, made his way quickly through the turnstile, and broke into a run once he cleared the station. He’d get his car, then drive to the hospital. Bombing at a restaurant. At Guy’s. Christ. Had Bodie been injured?

Doyle arrived at his flat, grabbed the holdall that Bodie stored at his place, and chucked it into his car. He drove as quickly as possible to the hospital, listening to news reports on the radio. One confirmed dead. An undisclosed number of injured have been transported to hospital. His R/T was silent, indicating that so far, at least, CI5 was allowing the police to handle the scene. Was it the IRA? But if there had been a warning, he would have been called in. Whatever had happened, at least he knew Bodie was alive.

We're both still alive. At least, this morning, we were both still alive. It was a thread of a memory, from when Bodie had gone after Franz Myer on his own. Christ, he’d been angry at Bodie. If it had been anyone else, he would have thought he had been trying to prove something, prove himself. But Bodie had never lacked for self-confidence. No, he’d just zeroed in on Franz Myer and damned the consequences. How the hell had Bodie been caught in a bombing? Had he seen something and tried to intervene? Or was it just chance? Or was he the target?

Doyle reached Guy’s, parked in the only space he could find and hurried inside. The reception area was chaotic but he heard his name called and turned to find Bodie walking towards him. Bodie’s suit was covered with debris, although he had made an effort to clean himself up.

“Are you all right? What happened?” He scanned Bodie but found no obvious sign of injury.

“I was outside the immediate blast area.” Bodie’s voice was tight. “I was on the phone — calling you, in fact.”

Doyle felt the air leave his lungs. “You were out — “

“ — With Claire, yeah. At Trattoria Rosetta.”

“How is — ?”

“Severely injured. She’s in surgery. Is that for me?” Bodie pointed towards the holdall.

“Yeah.” Doyle handed it to him and watched as Bodie disappeared towards a loo. When Bodie came back he was wearing a dark polo-neck over brown cords. He led Doyle to a quiet area away from other people.

“Have you heard anything from Cowley?”

Doyle shook his head. “CI5 is on scene, but you know it’ll take time to process it. Police still seem to be in charge.”

Bodie nodded. He was pale, and Doyle could see the tension in him. “The bomb had to have been at or near our table.”

Doyle raised his eyebrows. “Do you think you were the target?”

“I don’t know!” Bodie looked away. “We chose that restaurant on a whim. Sure, I use it, but no one would have known we were going there tonight.”

“Someone followed you?”

Bodie shrugged. “I didn’t notice anyone.”

“You know what the procedure is. Cowley will have you in lockdown if you’re the target.”

“He can try.” Bodie turned and walked away.

Doyle rolled his eyes, and walked after him. “Bodie. Look, I know you’re angry. I would be, too. But if you are the target, the best place for you is off the street.”

“And they go to ground, if that’s the case.”

“We’ll know more in a few hours, after they’ve processed the scene.”

“More bloody waiting.” He led Doyle to a room filled with chairs. Five other people were there, talking quietly, reading, or just staring, lost in their own thoughts. Doyle wondered if they were friends or relatives of other victims from the bombing. He and Bodie found seats and settled in, not speaking. After the first hour, Doyle fetched tea for them both, followed by sandwiches an hour later. Gradually, the room emptied, until they were on their own. Doyle checked in briefly with HQ when he went to the loo, but there was little news. The death count had risen to two, and there were eleven injured. He was to meet Cowley on scene in the morning. Finally, a young female doctor entered the room, looking for Bodie.

“How is she?” Bodie stood.

“She has a concussion and severe lacerations to her head, face, chest and arms. We’ve done what we can to save her eye. We’ll know more in twenty-four hours, but we are cautiously optimistic that she will make a full recovery.”

“Can I see her?”

“Not now. She — “

“Please.”

The doctor hesitated. Doyle wasn’t at all surprised when she capitulated. “Give us a some time to settle her in the ward, and then you can see her. Briefly.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Bodie smiled at her, but the smile disappeared as soon as the doctor left. “Let’s go.”

Doyle looked at him warily. “Where?”

“Home.” Bodie smiled again, but it wasn’t the same smile the doctor had received. “You’re supposed to take me there, right?”

“I thought you wanted to see Claire?”

“I’ll come back.”

Doyle looked at him, but there was nothing to be read in Bodie’s face. It had been a long time since he’d felt so completely shut out. “Right.”

They walked quickly to Doyle’s car. Doyle’s misgivings grew when not even the sight of a ticket on Doyle’s windscreen elicited a comment from Bodie. The first hint of sunrise flitted across the sky as they drove to Bodie’s flat in silence. They had been partnered for years now, and he knew what Bodie’s uncommunicativeness portended: he was on a mission to avenge Claire. It was why Cowley had sent Doyle to get Bodie, and they all knew it. Bloody Bodie. He was the best partner Doyle had ever had, but he wasn’t easy to manage.

Doyle had known he’d be teamed with a partner in CI5. He had thought it a good idea, although there were times in the first few months when he’d wanted to throttle Bodie — anything to puncture that bubble of smug arrogance. He suspected now that Bodie hadn’t wanted to be partnered, but at the time he’d thought Bodie had been putting him through some sort of extended test and he’d resented having to prove himself to an ex-SAS sergeant who tended to go in mob-handed whenever an investigation slowed down. He still sometimes bristled when Bodie seemed to doubt his abilities, even though he knew Bodie trusted him. When had it changed? When had they begun to truly trust one another? It might have been after their first firefight. Police Class A marksman, Bodie had said, and he’d ruffled Doyle’s hair. Doyle had just put a bullet into a villain taking aim at Bodie’s unprotected back. He had fired the gun left-handed since his other hand had been occupied with another villain. Bodie had saved Doyle’s life the next day. For a while they had kept track, but that had faded along with the doubt. On the job, they understood one another and knew what to expect. He remembered Cowley’s words: Two years, three months. You know him better than any of us. Which way? He had been right when predicting Bodie’s actions in the Myer op. He had a fair notion of what Bodie intended to do now.

Doyle saw Bodie’s Capri on the street outside his flat. He pulled up alongside it. “Hey,” he said, as Bodie opened the car door. He waited until Bodie looked at him. “Work with Cowley, eh?”

It took a moment, but finally Bodie acknowledged him with a nod.

“We will catch them.”

“Yeah.” Bodie took in a breath. “Thanks.” He climbed out of the car and walked up the steps to his block.

Doyle watched until the door closed, then drove away. He didn’t need to wait around; he knew Bodie would be out and into his car within minutes. When Bodie set his mind on something, there was no dissuading him. The trick was to sideswipe him, not meet him head on. He’d have to wait and see what Bodie’s next move was, and decide if interference was necessary. Meanwhile, Doyle decided to go home, clean himself up before meeting Cowley at Trattoria Rosetta.

He had no trouble pinpointing exactly when his relationship with Bodie had changed outside of the job. They’d learned to work well with one another, trust one another, and gradually understand one another, and yet so much remained a mystery, hidden beneath that protective cool exterior that Bodie was so proud of. Bodie certainly teased him, hugged him, ruffled his hair — and had done, almost from the start. It had probably started as a deliberate attempt to get up Doyle’s nose, but it had become a habit — one that Doyle admitted he enjoyed. But it hadn’t been Bodie who’d suggested that first drink off the job. When Doyle had come home, after being shot by Terkoff, Bodie had dropped him off at his flat and left him to it. But when Bodie had been injured after Myer, Doyle had stuck around and helped. Doyle had suggested their first double date, after they’d foiled Georgi. Bodie had gone along with it all — had seemed eager, in fact, and threatened now to take over Doyle’s social life. Yet the galling truth was he still had no confidence in his ability to predict Bodie’s actions when it didn’t involve the job. Even now, there were times when he wondered what Bodie thought of him.

At his flat, he showered, shaved and changed as quickly as possible, then drove to the restaurant. It was easy to spot the scene, not only because of the destruction, but because of the police and the crowd of curious onlookers. Doyle parked as close as he could get, then walked towards the crowd.

“Ray!”

He turned and saw Susan pull her car to a stop near him. He walked over to her. “Yeah?”

“Here.” She handed him a paper. “Give this to Cowley. Completed checklist of waiters, cooks, deliveries, reservations. I was just confirming the last few on there. How’s Bodie?”

Doyle shrugged. “What you’d expect.”

Susan sighed. “I can’t say I blame him, but he’d be better off in a cell at HQ.”

Doyle grinned. “Yeah, I’d pay money to see you get him there.”

She smiled back. “Don’t bet against me. Listen, I’ve got to go — my own case is blowing up. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” He walked back towards the restaurant, showed his ID to the policeman on duty, and found Cowley inside the burned building.

“No warning, nothing,” Cowley said.

“IRA? Could be another wave of bombings.” Doyle looked around. It was a wonder anyone had survived, given the destruction.

“I want a checklist of everybody who set foot in here yesterday.”

“Everybody?” Doyle turned to look at Cowley.

“Staff, tradesmen, deliveries, all table reservations.”

“They’re all here.” Doyle pulled out Susan’s list and handed it to Cowley. “Except the passing trade.” It amused him that Cowley took it for granted he would have such a list. But then he froze as he saw Bodie approaching the doorway. His stance must have alerted Cowley because he turned to look as well, then moved towards the door, blocking Bodie’s entrance.

“Bodie, I'm not having you on this case.”

“Just passing.” Bodie’s voice sounded choked. “Just thought I'd — “

“Mind what I say. You're emotionally involved.” Cowley’s voice was flat, decided.

“There's two people dead, eleven seriously injured. How many does it have to be before you're allowed to be emotionally involved?” Bodie’s voice rose, the anger palpable, and it brought Doyle to Cowley’s side.

“I’m not arguing,” Cowley said. “I’m sorry! You know that. Deeply sorry.”

Doyle caught Bodie looking at him and knew what the unspoken question was. He shook his head. He wouldn’t back Bodie’s argument here and now. Give it time, he tried to tell him. Let the investigation work. But Bodie turned away, left the scene. Doyle’s heart sank. He knew how Bodie felt; he knew what he had felt and done when Bodie had been stabbed and hospitalised. “If you want my personal opinion, sir — “

“I don’t.” Cowley cut him off. He was still gazing after Bodie.

“Well, I was only going to say — “

“The bomb might have been intended for Bodie. Quite. That's another reason for not wanting him on the case. Now, shall we go on?” Cowley exited the restaurant, list in hand.

Doyle stood still for a moment, then sighed. Damn stubborn, both of them. He remembered his own, similar, conversation with Cowley during the Zadie case:

I'm pulling you off the case.

No, you're not.

You're too keyed up, too involved.

You pull me off, you suspend me, and you'll have to put a bullet through me because I shall still be there. Do you understand me, Cowley? Mister Cowley?

Well. I wouldn't want all that hot air working against me. All right.

Cowley had given in to Doyle’s demand, but he wouldn’t to Bodie’s, Doyle was certain of that. But then, Doyle had been working the case already — a CI5 case. This was different. And Bodie was different. Doyle followed Cowley out of the building, and found him talking to Malone from forensics.

“Thank you,” Cowley said, and turned to Doyle. “Go back to the hospital and interview the owner. See if he remembers anything. It looks like the bomb was in the dining area and, despite all the damage, it wasn’t that large.” He scanned the list Doyle had given him. “There was a flower delivery.”

“Right.” Doyle headed back to his car. There was no sign of Bodie, but he knew Bodie would be investigating on his own. I was responsible for putting her in danger. That was what he’d said about the girl Krivas had killed. No doubt he felt the same responsibility for Claire. Bodie didn’t go in for the Achilles heel of personal involvement, he’d made that clear, but responsibility was a whole different matter. It was that sense of responsibility that had caused Bodie to lash out at Cowley earlier, and it would be driving Bodie now. Revenge is a kind of wild justice. Bodie chose to remember those lines, not the ones that followed.

Doyle reached his car and climbed in. He had his own responsibility for Bodie. He didn’t want to lose him, despite how aggravating and bull-headed he could be. He needed Bodie. Doyle held still for a moment as the realisation sank into him. It was blindingly obvious now, but he hadn’t allowed the thought to reach his conscious mind. He needed Bodie. He flashed back to all the times Bodie had saved his life, and he had saved Bodie’s — all the moments that had built trust and the personal connection that kept Doyle going. Without Bodie, he would have sunk into despair and cynicism over the Coogan mess. No matter how emotionally or physically exhausted he was after an op, he could count on Bodie putting the spark back in him. He’d worked solo on the Drug Squad, and he’d begun to lose the line between right and wrong. He’d become reckless. He knew he was lucky to be alive after a couple of the stunts he’d pulled. They had won him an accommodation, but he was aware they’d given Cowley pause. Cowley had teamed him with Bodie — who eschewed personal involvement but took responsibility for his partner’s well-being.

He started the car’s engine. Focus on the job. Find out who had done the bombing and why; try to keep Bodie from getting himself killed or imprisoned. And then he’d figure out this…dependence on Bodie. He wasn’t afraid of the vulnerability of connection — he needed that. But he also needed to remember Bodie’s line in the sand: We aren’t ‘involved’. Not like that.

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I'm afraid your boy's way out of his depth.

 

“I protest!”

Cowley raised his eyebrows, but kept his gaze on the intricately carved woodwork of the Minister’s desk. He coveted such a desk.

“Do you really? Perhaps I should go over the pertinent facts once again.” The Minister’s voice was calm.

Willis appeared to be speaking through gritted teeth. “That won’t be necessary.”

“We all know, do we not, that MI6 has, on occasion, and no doubt for very good reasons, exceeded its…brief, shall we say?” Willis appeared about to speak, the Minister raised his hand. “As I said, that which appears on paper as clear cut lines of responsibility and authority is not so very clear in practice. Fair enough, as long as all parties are kept informed.”

“It would jeopardise my agents to — “

“Surely you are not about to suggest that Major Cowley might be considered a security risk?”

Willis sucked in a breath. “No, of course not. I have the utmost respect for George’s…discretion.”

“Thank you,” Cowley said.

“But, sir, — “

“I fail to see where the difficulty lies.” The Minister sat back in his chair. He looked honestly puzzled. Cowley reflected on the acting skills required of a civil servant. “You yourself said you were grateful for Cowley’s help in the Biermann debacle.”

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘debacle’.“

“The assassination of two East German nationals in England? One of them a well-known actress who, as it turns out, was working for you.”

“As I stated in my report, Marikka Schuman volunteered. We asked her to facilitate the removal of Biermann. We didn’t know — “

“One of many mistakes.” The Minister placed his hands on his desk, one on top of the other.

Willis pressed his lips together for a moment. “Her death, while regrettable, has proven beneficial. As far as the East Germans are concerned, Schuman killed his wife when he realised her treachery. That cemented his position and he is likely to be chosen to succeed Biermann. That was the ultimate goal, you will remember.”

“It is not the goal but the method that is being questioned.” The Minister leaned back in his chair. “And, of course, the little matter of MI6 carrying out an operation on British soil.”

“That was — “

“Marikka Schuman’s choice. Quite. So, MI6 ran an out-of-control op without — “

“If I may, Minister,” Cowley interrupted. “When the regrettable events unfolded, and my man was unwittingly involved, Willis did inform me and co-operated fully as we attempted damage control.”

“Yes.” Willis’s face was expressionless, but Cowley thought he detected something like chagrin in his voice. “As far as the world at large is concerned, Kreiber is the villain of the piece. He attempted to kill Schuman, but hit Biermann instead — an accident. Kreiber subsequently killed Marikka, when she made it clear to him that she was staying with her husband rather than going with him. Or, she refused his attempt at blackmail — the stories are vague on the details. The fact remains, Kreiber confessed to the killings.

Cowley spoke up. “And the East Germans, who now know Marikka Schuman was working for us, believe Kreiber’s confession was for the greater good — Schuman established as the innocent party, free from all suspicion, including their own. No doubt they believe Marikka would have killed him as well, in due time.

Willis nodded. “It helped to sell the story. They will, of course, continue to bargain for Kreiber behind the scenes.”

“Yes,” the Minister said. “The successful averting of a debacle — if you will — because of joint cooperation. That is why the committee has proposed that for all such future…inadvertent operations outside of MI6’s brief, CI5 will be informed. Before the fact, of course.”

“MI6 has always operated independently.“

“Indeed. As has CI5. Although as I recall you were suggesting certain limitations on CI5’s brief once upon a time.”

“With reason,” Willis said in a tight voice.

“Precisely.” The Minister’s gaze never wavered from Willis. “It will be independence with oversight.”

“Very well,” Willis said, after a moment. “But I would hope that works both ways. The Thomas Darby affair, for instance, is a case in point. I do wonder whether a certain manuscript actually exists…?”

“Another excellent example of Major Cowley’s discretion, I believe we both can agree. Thank you, gentlemen, that will be all.”

Cowley stood, and shared a quick look with the Minister. They both knew Willis was unlikely to fully comply with the committee’s request, but then that would be one more nail in the coffin he was building for himself. Cowley started to follow Willis out of the Minister’s office, but paused as he heard the Minister speak.

“Oh, George?”

“Yes, sir?”

“You have a green light with regards to that other matter.”

“Ah. Thank you, sir.” He closed the door, thinking about which of the people in his department could both act and be discreet. He was determined to solve that misappropriation racket that was plaguing them all. Willis was waiting for him as he left the outer office.

“I suppose I should thank you,” Willis said quietly as they walked through the corridor.

“As you said, you may rely on my discretion.” He hadn’t officially reported the full extent of Willis’s perfidy. It was true what they said about the devil you know.

“Yes. For a price.”

“You used my agent, and would have thrown him away out of pique. I don’t play with lives the same way you do.” Cowley stopped walking as he reached the entrance where his car was waiting.

“Perhaps.” Willis also stopped. “But keep this in mind, George, your boy went rogue, didn’t he? And so soon after a board of enquiry into the actions of another of your agents. My men, at least, follow orders.”

“Yes. Blindly. That is a difference I would choose, and gladly. Keep that in mind the next time we participate in a joint venture — my men won’t be patsies. Good day.” He walked out the door and down the steps towards the street. His men, too, followed orders — it had nearly cost Bodie his life, this time. He wouldn’t forgive Willis for jeopardising Bodie’s trust in him.

And speak of the devil, his car, driven by Bodie, glided to a halt near him. Cowley climbed into the front seat. “Back to HQ.”

“Fruitful meeting, sir?” Bodie edged the car back into traffic.

“As you might expect. I do not believe we need fear Willis will try that trick again.”

“Appreciate that, sir.”

“Unless, of course, my agents make it easy for him.”

“Yes, sir.” Bodie spoke quietly, with none of the defiance that had been so evident in him yesterday. Time to think? Or Doyle’s influence?

“You did have the good sense to run when the opportunity presented itself, although I could have wished you had trusted me.”

Bodie was silent for a moment as he drove through traffic. “I went to Doyle’s place. He was with Marikka.”

“She was the only card we had.” Cowley sighed. “I am sorry — “

“You couldn’t know our history. I doubted her.” Bodie drew in a breath. “I didn’t know what she was telling you and…Ray.”

So, he had gone to Doyle’s. Cowley hadn’t needed Kate Ross’s assessment to know how highly Bodie rated loyalty, yet it had been necessary to make the gamble. “Marikka made it clear you were innocent.” He hesitated a moment. “Willis showed me photographs of you with her. It was why I set Doyle to following you.”

“Because you didn’t trust me.”

“Because once Willis was involved, I needed to have your back watched.” Bodie glanced at him, and Cowley held his gaze for a moment. “I am sure you are aware of the lengths Doyle will go to to save a…colleague from injustice.”

“Or convict him, if he’s guilty.”

“If anyone was going to get to the truth of the matter, it would be Doyle.” Bodie said nothing to that. Cowley thought about the way Bodie had shoved his rifle into Doyle’s arms after Marikka had been killed. A partnership couldn’t function if there was doubt between the men. “He was the best protection I could offer you at the time.”

“When you thought I might be guilty.”

“Of a poorly judged liaison. I never believed Willis’s suspicions. For one, you wouldn’t have been so careless about your fingerprints.”

Bodie smiled. “I have been better trained than that, sir.”

“Aye. Well, next time, don’t participate in an arcade game.” They arrived at HQ. Bodie stopped the car near the back entrance. Cowley put his hand on the door handle, then paused. “I once would not have believed that Barry Martin would betray the service.” He didn’t look at Bodie.

“I understand, sir. Thank you.”

Cowley opened the door. “Thank Doyle.” He climbed out of the car, then leaned in again. “And it might be that he will have cause to thank you in a similar matter one day, given the complexities of the job. You are reinstated to full duty. You’ll find Doyle in Records. I will expect you both at the Red Lion in one hour.

“The first one is on me.” Bodie grinned.

“The first two, I believe.” Cowley closed the door. Bodie drove the car away as Cowley headed for the entrance to CI5. The entire matter was unfortunate, but at least it had neutralised Willis for the time being. Time would reveal if the affair had damaged his best team in any way. You make sure your own house is in order, Four-five. His remark had been unfair, perhaps, and had risen from frustration, yet it had also served as a warning. He had had no qualms about using Doyle to follow Bodie. Doyle knew Bodie best; Doyle would follow the rules. And yet, Doyle had exceeded orders by interrogating the woman, trying to discover the truth about Bodie. It wasn’t surprising. Kate Ross’s assessment had confirmed all that Cowley had observed about the forces that motivated Doyle. It was why, after all, he had allowed Doyle to continue on the Zadi case after Bodie was injured. Bodie, in similar circumstances, would have sought a more straightforward revenge.

What if their situations had been reversed in the present instance, and Doyle had been the one who had met with Marikka? Would Bodie have followed orders? It was only a couple of weeks since Bodie had sought him out — against orders — when Charlie had been injured and Doyle cornered by their pursuers. Bodie had not hesitated to seek out and rescue his partner, but he had tried to solve the situation without regard to instructions. He might well have tried to take Doyle from Willis’s men.

Obviously — not surprisingly — their relationship was complex and might one day interfere with the job. It was a risk inherent in the teaming model. It was also true that he might use their relationship within the context of the job — count on it, and their predictable patterns of behaviour. Certainly, the balance of personality, skills and approach had created his best team in Bodie and Doyle. He doubted there would be any lingering effect from this latest operation, but it might be a good idea to schedule them for a refresher nevertheless. Yes. He would tell them after the second round of drinks.

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You scared?

Yeah. You?

All the time.

 

Bodie parked a street away from Doyle’s flat then walked back. There were no other people on the street, although the occasional car drove by, and he could hear traffic from the main road not far away. He didn’t know what time it was — gone two at least, he suspected. When he saw a light on in Doyle’s bedroom, he paused to consider. Had Doyle phoned Claire Three? No, Doyle had said it was over between them:

Remember how Claire Two said you were too dangerous to hang about with?

Yeah, but you haven’t blown yours up, not even once.

I don’t think that was the sort of danger she was afraid of.

Bodie continued on until he reached the alley across from Doyle’s block. He settled in the shadows against the wall, gaze on the light in Doyle’s window. Claire had wanted commitment, and Doyle couldn’t give it to her, not if he was in this mob. Bodie didn’t reckon Doyle would be leaving CI5 any time soon. Sure, he’d had qualms about Cowley killing Manton, but he’d come to terms with that, just as he’d come to terms with Paul Coogan’s death. Glad to join this mob, he’d said not so long ago. Bodie remembered the sincerity in his voice.

The light went out in Doyle’s flat. He was in bed, then, heading for sleep, as Bodie should be. Doyle had been quiet in the car earlier — exhausted, no doubt, and a bit depressed. They were both still recovering from the caravan explosion, and the losses of the day. He shouldn’t be here. Doyle had dropped him off at his own flat just over an hour ago. He’d meant to go straight to bed, but he had poured himself a drink and then checked his flat. He knew Phillips’s lads had swept every agent’s flat, looking for any leftover surprises from Wakeman and Catrell, but he had learned to be certain. If he hadn’t noticed that bit of wire earlier, he would have been dead. It could have been Doyle dealing with the death of a partner, his eyes as bleak and empty as Lake’s. He rather thought Matheson and King were luckier, in a way, to have gone out together. Don’t be an idiot — Lake’s alive. He could hear Doyle’s opinion on the issue. And yet, knowing Doyle, he would have blamed himself, just as he did for Mickey Hamilton’s death, Marikka’s death, hell, even Barry Martin’s death.

Bodie crossed his arms. It wasn’t the danger of the job that got to Doyle. He’d shown no fear when he’d disarmed the bomb on Bodie’s phone. He’d been nervous before the Parsali op, but he hadn’t hesitated or broken. There was no one Bodie would rather have at his back than Doyle. But Doyle questioned himself too much; he took too much blame onto himself. It would kill him, if he didn’t get it under control. Bodie remembered when he’d shoved the rifle into Doyle’s arms after Marikka’s death — he’d seen the apology in Doyle’s eyes, and he’d wanted none of it. Her death wasn’t Doyle’s fault. It wasn’t even his own. If he hadn’t met with her, Schuman would have come up with another ruse to manipulate and blame her. Rumour had it Schuman had taken up with a young starlet as soon as he’d got back to East Germany. Marikka had chosen her own fate long ago. Yet even Cowley had thought he’d been angry at Doyle for obeying orders. Bodie understood command structure, and Cowley’s reasoning in the matter. Doyle had followed orders and he’d done his best to get to the truth. Bodie wouldn’t have expected him to act any differently; he trusted Doyle’s integrity. So, true to form, Doyle had followed his copper’s instincts. But it had been MI6’s game. Doyle hadn’t understood those rules; he hadn’t expected Willis’s treachery. Fortunately, Cowley had, if belatedly. Doyle questioned orders, but he rarely disobeyed them. He trusted Cowley — perhaps too much. Bodie respected and liked George Cowley, but he knew their best interests didn’t always align.

It was the same with him and Doyle, sometimes. He remembered Doyle’s recent disdain: I didn't come into this mob to use dumdums. But if they were using dumdums against you, it seemed only fair to have a level playing field. Fight fire with fire…and burn the world. Okay, maybe Doyle had a point. Ah, what did it matter? He had hardly joined CI5 with self-preservation as a goal. He grinned a little as he remembered Doyle’s reaction to Bodie’s stated reason for joining the mob: money. It had been as good an answer as any. He didn’t share Doyle’s ideals or ambitions. He knew what he was good at, and it was a job that needed doing. Cowley was a good man to work for, as long as you remembered you were expendable. In his mind’s eye rose the images of the agents they’d lost: Charlie, Frasier, McKay, the first Turner, Tony Miller. And today: Williams, Matheson, and King.

Well. He and Doyle were alive. They’d stopped the Wakeman woman. It was over. Doyle was safe in bed. Bodie pushed away from the wall, turned back towards his car, and stopped before he’d taken a step. Doyle stood before him, dressed in the same clothes as earlier in the day. It felt to Bodie as if his brain stumbled. He didn’t know what to say.

Doyle took a step forward, into the light from the street lamp. His gaze didn’t waver as he looked at Bodie. There was something in his eyes that tightened Bodie’s gut, as if in anticipation of a punch. “You can come inside,” Doyle said evenly. “If you want.” Doyle walked past him, headed towards his block.

He should go home, but he followed Doyle across the street and up the stairs instead. He’d play it cool; he’d tell Doyle he just couldn’t sleep. It was true, anyway. He’d just wanted to make certain Doyle’s flat was safe, like he had his own. He was just being a good partner, right? He sauntered past Doyle into the flat and reached for the light switch, but Doyle caught his arm. The door closed behind them and they were in darkness. Doyle’s hand tightened on Bodie’s arm.

“Ray?”

“Damn you.” Doyle’s voice was low, and the next thing Bodie knew, Doyle’s mouth was pressed against his own. He raised his free hand, gripped Doyle’s upper arm, but he didn’t push him away. He couldn’t. Desire detonated within him, as unexpected and shattering as a car bomb. He hadn’t known. Oh, Christ, he hadn’t allowed himself to know. He felt Doyle begin to pull back, but he didn’t want that, not now, not yet. He followed Doyle, pressed him hard against the wall and took over the kiss.

Doyle responded to Bodie’s move by opening up to him, encouraging his passion. Bodie felt Doyle’s hand on his back, and then felt it slide under his polo-neck. He broke the kiss, breathed against Doyle’s skin, kissed the corner of his mouth. His heart was pounding, and he felt Doyle’s chest move as he breathed.

“Bodie…”

He moved his hand down Doyle’s body, felt the hardness of his cock through his trousers — harder than Bodie was; he was ready now. Bodie resumed the kiss, took Doyle’s mouth as his own while his hands fumbled with the clasp and zip of Doyle’s trousers. It wouldn’t take much to get Doyle off this time. How long had he wanted this? He pushed aside Doyle’s trousers and pants, took his cock into his hands, squeezed and pulled. Doyle moaned against his mouth, thrust hard into Bodie’s hand, and came as devastatingly easily as that. Bodie held him as he gasped, rested his forehead against the side of Doyle’s head, eyes closed. His own body still thrummed with need; he’d grown harder with Doyle’s release. He tried to slow down his breathing, but failed. He wanted Doyle’s hands, his mouth, his body… Doyle stirred in his arms. Bodie opened his eyes, but could see little beyond Doyle’s outline in the dim light.

“What do you want?” Doyle whispered the words. His hand cupped Bodie’s face.

Bodie turned into the hand, and took the tip of Doyle’s thumb into his mouth. Doyle moved his thumb, stroked Bodie’s lower lip with it, while with his other hand he freed Bodie’s cock. Bodie sucked in his breath as Doyle wrapped his hand around Bodie’s cock. Doyle turned them so Bodie’s back was to the wall, and then he went down on his knees and took Bodie’s cock in his mouth. Bodie put his head back against the wall as his body arched. Oh, fuck it felt good, but it was the image of Doyle in his mind that brought the sweet, sharp ache to his gut. Doyle’s mouth surrounded him, and his tongue — He moaned at the erotic thought, already lost. Ray. Oh, Christ, he wanted him. His hand clenched on Doyle’s shoulder, and he couldn’t help but thrust into Doyle’s mouth, seeking depth. Doyle’s hand prevented him from going too far, and there was warmth and pressure all around Bodie’s cock. He felt the build to release and let it take him, like a riptide he couldn’t escape. He heard his own voice as he came. For a moment, there was nothing in the world but a starburst of pleasure, nothing else that mattered.

Bodie slumped back against the wall. It felt like his legs wouldn’t support him, but they held. Doyle’s tongue lightly stroked against him as he pulled back, and then air cooled Bodie’s cock. Bodie tugged Doyle to his feet, pulled him close and kissed him. He tasted himself, and Doyle. Together. He didn’t want to stop kissing him.

Doyle finally broke the kiss, but he didn’t move away. Bodie nuzzled his cheek, tasted his skin. “Christ.” Doyle breathed out. “Was so afraid.”

Bodie’s breath caught as a sudden cold enveloped him. Rachel. Claire. Marikka. Dead or gone or changed forever. “No.” Fear rose in him, as unstoppable as lust.

He felt Doyle tense. “Bodie.”

Bodie moved away from him, pulling his clothing together, his mind whirling. “Yeah. Spur of the moment. Bad day. It’s no wonder.” He heard a click and then light flooded the hallway. He blinked at the door in front him, took in a breath to settle himself, then turned to face Doyle. Adrenaline came to his aid.

“Excuses?” Doyle looked — God — like he’d just had sex. “What are you — ?” Doyle broke off, eyes narrowing as he studied Bodie.

“Making sense.” Bodie knew what he must look like. He ignored it. Doyle gazed at him, and it took every ounce of Bodie’s willpower not to look away. He couldn’t really tell what Doyle was thinking, could he? He could be thinking the same as Bodie. He might be grateful…

Doyle’s gazed dropped. “My mistake.”

“Ours.” Yet he knew Doyle would take the blame. He counted on it.

Doyle nodded, eyes on the floor. “Keep thinking about…”

“Don’t.” He felt cold, but certain. They couldn’t do this. They’d lose everything.

Doyle looked up at that, his face expressionless. “Bad medicine.”

Bodie nodded. His neck felt stiff. “Like I told you before.” Don’t think about death or loss, but plan for it.

“Yeah. Told me a lot. Before.” Doyle turned away, paused a moment, then looked back. “Drink?” There was nothing in his face that shouldn’t be there.

Bodie needed a drink, but… He saw Doyle lift his head as he hesitated. “Yeah,” he said quickly.

“Nothing’s changed.” Doyle’s voice was fierce.

Everything changes. “I said yeah.” Bodie waited until Doyle turned away again before he breathed. His heart beat in his throat as he followed Doyle into the living room. He wanted to run, but he needed to stay. He needed to make sure of them.

Doyle poured a measure of scotch into two glasses. He handed one glass to Bodie and lifted the other to his own mouth. Doyle downed the entire portion. Bodie followed suit. It was as if they had just struck a bargain. Bodie felt the whisky warming him.

“Should’ve been asleep ages ago.” Doyle looked at his glass, then set it down on the cabinet.

Bodie swallowed. “See you tomorrow, then, eh?” He put his own glass down. “Pick you up?” The conversation was stilted, dammit.

“Yeah.”

Bodie nodded, made as if to punch Doyle on the shoulder, but stopped himself. “Night.” He turned towards the door, tried to walk naturally.

“And bloody call me if you’re going to be late.”

Bodie smiled a little at the sheer normality of that command. “If I can find my R/T.” He got out of the flat, but waited a moment to listen to the sound of Doyle locking the door behind him. He closed his eyes briefly, then hurried down the stairs to the street below. It felt like he couldn’t get enough air in his lungs as he walked to his car. Bloody fucking hell. Bloody fucking — He reached the car, and leant on the bonnet with his hands. He couldn’t. They couldn’t. CI5. Cowley. If he lost Doyle — He would lose Doyle. Doyle would change. They had been bloody stupid, both of them, to let it happen. It couldn’t happen. He climbed into the car. The knot in his stomach wasn’t easing. He breathed in, forced himself to breathe out slowly. Don’t be an idiot. They were alive. Partners. They didn’t need — Nothing important had changed. He wouldn’t let it. He’d protect it.

He put the key in and turned the engine on. Go home. Go to sleep. Start bloody new in the morning.

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Oh, you always were the romantic type.

 

Doyle paced the corridors at HQ, unable to sit in the rest room and just wait. There had been no word from Bodie — which was not unexpected — but the car beeper had shown no movement for over half an hour. He knew a mobile team was on its way, hoping to discover Dreisinger’s hideout. He wanted to be with them. He had a bad feeling that Bodie was being too bloody clever.

Cowley suddenly appeared before him at the intersection with another corridor. He was carrying his suit jacket. “Oh, they found the car,” Cowley said. “Engine hot, beeper still working.”

The team had obviously not found the hideout. “You want me to get out there?”

“No, no, you're dead, remember?” Cowley pulled on the suit jacket and headed down the corridor, away from Doyle. “We're calling men in.”

“Yeah, well, I hope they don’t blow it.” Bugger it all to — He needed to be out there.

“They won’t.” Cowley’s voice carried back to him. Doyle bit his lip, frustration welling up inside him. He had disliked this plan from the beginning. There hadn’t been time to arrange for a proper cover story, they’d just plopped Bodie in to Slater’s place as a gun dealer, and arranged for that theatrical showdown in the car park for added credibility. The shooting had also made it reasonable for Bodie to “escape” with Karen. All that might indeed convince Karen, but Dreisinger was a hell of a lot more experienced. Which was why Bodie had probably ditched the car — one more piece of proof for Dreisinger. But it made it damned impossible to track him directly to the gang’s hideout. If Bodie was in trouble, he was on his own. Doyle closed his eyes briefly, then consciously relaxed his clenched fists. He turned and headed back to the rest room. He would have to trust the process and Bodie’s instinct for survival.

Anson was sitting at the table in the rest room along with the new man, Murphy. Doyle went straight to the cupboard.

“There’s no tea,” Anson said. He held up a plastic cup. “The machine’s all we’ve got.”

“What?” Doyle opened the cupboard. Anson was right. Dammit.

“We all steal from each other, you see.” Anson said to Murphy.

“Until we’re out.” Doyle sighed.

“And then it’s a waiting game to see who breaks first and brings in a new supply.”

“Lewis, perhaps?” Murphy looked from Anson to Doyle and back.

“Sharp,” Anson said. “Definitely sharp.”

“And here I thought you’d tell me the new boy buys.” Murphy smiled as he sat back in his chair.

“Bugger.” Anson snapped his fingers.

Doyle wandered to the window. His stomach was tight; he felt stiff.

“Any word?” Anson said from behind him. Doyle glanced round and shrugged. Murphy, he saw, didn’t know what Anson was talking about. Anson changed the topic: “We’ve been on obbo.”

“Anything interesting?”

“As usual, we don’t know.”

“What’s the point of that?” Murphy asked. “Why be so cagey about the objective?”

“Ah, well.” Anson leaned back in his chair. “That’s so you won’t have anything to give if you break under interrogation.

“Oh, yes. Of course. MI6, right?” Murphy smiled at his own joke, but Doyle thought about Willis. Maybe there was some method to Cowley’s madness, after all. He looked back out the window, letting the conversation flow behind him without paying attention to it. Bodie could be anywhere. Christina didn’t know, and she wouldn’t talk even if she did know. Slater had said he’d only met Karen at the pub, he had no idea where she had come from. Fucking Slater, of course, would deal with anyone, despite his claim about shooting terrorists.

Queers? He remembered Bodie interjecting the question, and Slater’s instant response: Shoot the — ha-ha. Slater had thought it all a bloody joke. Doyle had understood the point Bodie was making just for him: terrorists, homosexuals — there wasn’t much of a difference in the eyes of the services. Well, he bloody well understood that, for fuck’s sake. He just hadn’t cared a week ago, when he’d needed — He drew in a breath. The truth was, he still didn’t, care, not when it came to Bodie. But Bodie, damn him, was running — He stopped that train of thought. This wasn’t the time or the place. As if on cue, he heard the rest room door open, looked around and saw Julie. She was no longer undercover at the library.

“Mr Cowley wants you,” she said, looking at Doyle. “Christina again.”

“Waste of time.” Nevertheless, he headed for the door.

Julie shrugged. “Who else is there?” She put a hand on his arm as he reached the door. “Bodie makes a convincing arms dealer.”

“He’s not known for his acting.”

Julie raised her eyebrows. “Isn’t he? Anyway, he has the background. He’ll be fine.”

He saw something in her eyes that froze him for a moment. “Yeah,” he said, and left the restroom quickly. What had he seen? Concern? Understanding that was a little too pointed? She couldn’t know… But then, he had never hidden how he felt about Bodie. At least…as a friend — partner — Fuck. He stopped walking, and looked up at the ceiling. He had to be careful. It was only fair to Bodie. He shook his head, started walking again. Christ, what a bloody mess. He should never have gone outside that night. He’d known Bodie was there, he had seen him before on other nights — after Callinari and O’Leary had grabbed him, after his gun jammed. It was Bodie’s way of checking up on him, he’d reckoned. But that day… He could have been sat in his car as Bodie’s flat exploded around him, just as it had happened to Lake. He had been tired, his defences weakened, and every time he’d nearly lost Bodie in past, he’d sought him out. So, this time, he’d gone outside and invited Bodie in. And then…he’d kissed him. Christ. And Bodie had bloody well responded, hadn’t he? But he should have remembered Bodie’s line in the sand; he should have remembered the bloody number one credo. Bodie hadn’t been able to get away fast enough.

Doyle reached the interrogation room, but Cowley wasn’t there. He waited in the corridor, eyes on the floor as he leaned against the wall. He had himself well under control. He owed that, at least, to Bodie. There had been no consequences to Doyle’s actions. Their bargain had held.

“Oh, Doyle.” He looked up to see Cowley walking towards him, carrying folders. He fell in step with Cowley as they headed towards the interrogation room. “They're offering a trade. Bodie for Herzog.”

The worst news confirmed. “And?”

“What do you think?” He knew Cowley glanced at him, but he kept his eyes forward, his face expressionless.

“I’d sooner not put it into words.” The cover hadn’t held. Bloody Dreisinger.

“Your little shoot-out must have had an audience.”

Doyle’s stomach clenched, but his self-control didn’t waver. “Well, they're getting smart.” He finally looked at Cowley.

“Yes.”

They reached the interrogation room where Christina waited for them. “I was told I was to appear in court,” she said as they entered the room.

“The hearing has been postponed.”

“Until when?” All of Christina’s defences were up again, all her suspicions.

Cowley dropped the files onto the table. “Until the authorities are ready to proceed.”

Doyle leant on his hands on the table, watching Christina. She was their only hope for Bodie.

“Which means, until you're finished with me,” she said.

It was time to drop a bombshell. “We've located your friends,” Doyle said.

“You've captured them?”

“We're closing in.” Doyle wished to God it were true.

“I’ve heard that one before.”

Cowley intervened. “Miss Herzog, you told Doyle here that you believe you will be killed if you're sent back.”

Her eyes flickered. “That's right.”

“In prison?”

“Yes. Not immediately, perhaps, but sooner or later.” She was certain, and Doyle believed her.

“Your friends are asking for your release,” Cowley told her.

Enlightenment dawned on her face. “Which means they've got something, or someone, you want.”

Doyle kept his voice level. “If they regard you as a traitor, why did they ask for your release?”

“I don't know.”

Cowley walked around the corner of the table, drawing her attention. “Our sources say you had an affair with Dreisinger some years ago.”

Doyle spoke up from his side of the table: “Our sources also say that you and Dreisinger had a child, and that the child, a son, is being looked after by Dreisinger's parents.”

She didn’t appear surprised by their knowledge. “What else do your sources say?”

“That he's still in love with you,” Doyle said. Give her a reason to agree to the trade, give her hope.

Christina’s expression was wry, perhaps slightly bitter. “Karen put that flame out a long time ago.”

Doyle pressed her. “Are you sure? Are you really sure that she did?” She stared at him.

“Supposing,” Cowley said, “just supposing we were prepared to consider a trade.”

Christina looked at Cowley. “A trade? That's nonsense. You mean an exchange of prisoners and free passage.”

“The terms of such a trade are not yet defined. I'm merely asking what your attitude would be about being handed over to Dreisinger.” Her former lover, who obviously wanted her, but to what end?

It seemed she had much the same thought as Doyle. “When you know you're never going to be safe, not even in jail, anything is tempting.”

“Well.” Cowley returned to the table, gathered up the files. “We’ll leave you to ponder the possibilities.” He headed towards the door. Doyle followed.

“Until they contact you with their demands, you mean,” she said.

Cowley pressed his lips together for a moment. “Until later.” They left the room.

“What now?” Doyle asked Cowley.

“We wait.”

“We are still looking?”

“Yes, but the chances are good they’ve already left their flat. They’re mobile; I’m certain of it.”

“With Bodie.”

Cowley nodded, his eyes flicked over Doyle. “You know what they are likely to demand. Set up a response team.”

“Yes, sir.” Doyle followed orders, pulling Anson and Murphy into the group he was assembling. He put Barret, ex-SAS and rock steady in temperament, in charge of the assault team. There were several ways this could play out, depending on how badly Dreisinger wanted to carry out his original mission. The most likely scenario, though, was what Christina had said: free passage out of the country. He would bet they’d demand money and an aeroplane, which argued an airfield for the transfer of prisoners. They would only have one shot to rescue Bodie, and that was slim. Doyle set about making certain they had the best people on hand for that one shot. He didn’t allow himself to think about what Bodie might be going through.

As it chanced, he was in the command room when a lily wreath was delivered with Dreisinger’s instructions. Doyle drank tea from a plastic cup while he contemplated the wreath and waited for Cowley to arrive. What had Bodie once said? Personal involvement gave you a cutting edge, but it could cut both ways. He wasn’t half right. Doyle felt flayed. He took a sip of his tea.

Cowley arrived and reached for the card in the wreath that read In Memoriam. “Ah, nice sense of the macabre. They sent a wreath with their demands.” He opened the card and read it.

“Are they ready to do an exchange?”

“Oh, they're ready all right. They not only want Christina, but also a plane, tanked up for two thousand miles and piloted.”

“So we know where that's going.” Doyle felt some relief. Escape was the goal now, escape with Christina. But it was possible Dreisinger would take his frustration out on Bodie.

“A safe air route all the way.”

“What about Bodie?” Doyle said it softly, and he looked at Cowley.

“Oh, he'll be released when they get there.” Cowley’s expression was grim.

“Well, they've got the girl. They could just throw Bodie into the Bay of Biscay. What guarantees have we got?”

“Only their word.” Cowley looked at him.

Doyle let out his breath. “And if we don't play ball?”

Cowley looked down at the wreath, tossed the card back into it. “We use the wreath.”

Doyle looked down as well. “I’m sure he’d be pleased.” It cost him to be so casual, but he pulled it off. Stay cool. He could hear Bodie’s voice in his mind.

“Let’s go over the plan.”

They arrived at the airfield at the specified time. Cowley drove the Granada while Doyle sat in the back with Christina. He had put sunglasses on — protection from both the bright sunshine and curious looks. The field seemed deserted, but Doyle knew their men were already in place. Air control had been alerted as well. Whatever happened, Dreisinger would never get away.

“What do we do now?” he asked.

“We wait,” Cowley replied.

Beside him, Christina stirred. “Do you think I could have a cigarette?”

It was a simple question, but it cut him nevertheless. A last cigarette? For her? For Bodie — ? “We don’t smoke,” he said quietly.

They watched as a plane taxied into position on the airstrip. Doyle pushed the sunglasses on top of his head while he used binoculars to spot the van that pulled onto the airfield. “Here they come.”

Cowley got out of the car as the van stopped some distance away from them.

“Not exactly rushing at it, are they?” Doyle stayed in the car beside Christina.

“Would you?” Cowley asked. “They hold all the cards.”

Doyle’s eyes flicked towards Christina. “And aces.” He slid the sunglasses back into place.

Dreisinger climbed out of the van, carrying a gun and — Doyle narrowed his eyes — a remote control. Dreisinger slid open the van door, revealing Karen in the driver’s seat. “Are you ready to make the exchange?”

“We are,” Cowley said.

“I want to see Christina.”

“Bring her out.”

Doyle opened the car door, stepped out, and held out a hand for Christina. He kept his hold on her as he shut the door. She was staring at Dreisinger.

“Christina, are you all right?”

“Yes.”

Doyle glanced around the airfield, noting that the men were concealed properly, checking for any additional surprises.

“How many men in your escort?” Dreisinger continued to question Christina. They had to allow it. It wasn’t unexpected.

“I’ve only seen two.”

“What weapons have they?”

“None visible. Handguns, probably.”

Dreisinger transferred his attention to Cowley. “You followed all my instructions?”

“To the letter,” Cowley replied.

Dreisinger spoke to Karen: “Check the plane. And the pilot.”

While Karen followed Dreisinger’s orders, Cowley spoke again: “How do I know my man’s alive?” Doyle tensed.

Dreisinger gave a half-laugh. “Oh, he’s still alive.” He knocked on the back of the van. The back door opened, a man in a leather jacket climbed out, holding a gun. He was followed almost immediately by Bodie. Doyle fastened his eyes on his partner, noting the bruised face, and the bag strapped to his chest. Damn, damn, damn. Bodie was guided to Dreisinger’s side. He looked angry, frustrated, and a little desperate.

“How are things, Bodie?” Cowley asked.

“I’ve known better, sir.” He drew in a quick breath. “This bag contains — “

“Shut up,” Dreisinger cut him off. “He wants to tell you about the high explosives around his neck, which will be detonated by me should there be any mistakes.” Bodie stared straight ahead. He never looked at Doyle. “No doubt you are experienced with radio-controlled bombs. I should add that if there are any men hiding around here with R/Ts, it could prove very dangerous.” Dreisinger smiled slightly.

Doyle looked at Christina, and then at Cowley. “What do we do?”

“Nothing.” They had no choice in the matter.

Karen returned from the plane. She held her handgun as if it proved her importance. “Everything checks out. Pilot, charts, tanks are full.”

“Good.” Dreisinger nodded. “Send Christina over here, slowly.”

Doyle noticed the slight smile on Christina’s face. All the sympathy he’d felt for her earlier, despite what he knew her to be, was gone. She glanced at Cowley, at his nod, she hurried to Dreisinger. He wrapped his gun arm around her.

“Such tender affection,” Bodie said, looking at them.

Dreisinger turned towards his comrades. “Heinrich, you take the front. Karen, then you. He will be between us. Christina, stay with me.” He looked at Bodie. “I’ve already warned you. Now move.” The group moved towards the plane. Bodie finally looked at Cowley and Doyle. He had to know they had something planned.

Cowley said, “I hope Bodie’s up to it.”

“He will be.” He always was. Doyle glanced around again, hoping Bodie would understand the look, if he was watching. “It’s the radios that worry me.”

“We can’t do anything about that now.”

The minutes seemed to stretch as Dreisinger’s group walked to the plane, and then Anson fired to set off the smoke bomb canisters, and everyone moved at once. Karen and the man — Heinrich, Dreisinger had called him — shot at Cowley and Doyle. They took cover behind the Granada, firing back. Bodie had struck Werner, and had taken off at a run, getting away from the bullets. The men from the field fired on the group as well. Doyle shot off a round, then glanced towards Bodie who was still running away. He only had to get out of the line of fire, why — ? Fuck. He took off after Bodie, leaving the battle to the others.

“Come back!” He shouted at Bodie, who was still running, despite being well away from everyone else.

“No!” Bodie shouted back at him. “It’ll only take both of us, if it blows! Get away from me!” But he’d slowed as he turned to yell at Doyle, and Doyle caught up with him.

“Maniac!” He grabbed Bodie around the arms, tackled him to the ground. “You maniac!” He tore at the strap on Bodie’s back, got it off, jerked on Bodie’s arm to get him up off the bag that was between him and the ground. “Come on with you!”

“Throw it!” Bodie grunted as Doyle ripped the bag off him.

Doyle staggered to his feet, swung around and flung the bag as far as he could. He dived to the ground beside Bodie just as the pack exploded. After a moment, he pushed himself up to his knees. Bodie was still curled on the ground, his hands tied behind his back. Doyle dug into his pocket for his penknife, grabbed one of Bodie’s wrists and cut the rope. “You were away from us — you kept running —!”

“Had to protect you.” Bodie gasped as he sat up. The rope dangled from one of his wrists.

Doyle stared at him, unable to breathe for the sudden pain that blossomed in his gut. He understood. In a blinding flash of insight, he understood. Bodie had run from him. That wasn’t the action of a partner watching his back, it was that of a man sacrificing everything to save the one who mattered. He’d do that but he wouldn’t commit, wouldn’t risk, wouldn’t—

But there was no time for thought; the battle was ongoing. Doyle stumbled to his feet, Bodie beside him, and they raced back to the airstrip. He saw Dreisinger on the ground, Karen kneeling beside him. Doyle reached her just as she stretched out for the handgun that Dreisinger had dropped. Doyle stepped on the gun, and pointed his own at Karen. She froze, then eased back to her knees. Bodie grabbed her arm and brought her to her feet. Doyle picked up Dreisinger’s handgun. He looked around and saw it was over. Dreisinger was dead; it looked like the other man was dead. Cowley was holding Christina, and from the expression on his face, she was dead as well.

Bodie led Karen to the car. Anson appeared on the scene from the shed he had been stationed in. He met Bodie and put handcuffs on Karen. Bodie looked round, and Doyle could tell Bodie was looking for him. He was grateful once again for the sunglasses. “Are you okay?” he asked when Bodie reached him.

“Just bruises. And I’m starving.” Bodie glanced at Dreisinger’s body. “He should have run as soon as he knew we were on to him. Mind you, I’m grateful he didn’t — that he decided to trade me rather than kill me.”

“Well, delay the killing, at least.”

Bodie grimaced. “Yeah.”

“Sentiment.” Doyle kept his voice level. “His Achilles heel, you might say.”

“And everyone died.”

“Maybe he thought it was worth the risk.” Doyle turned away and walked towards the car.

Bodie caught up with him. “Well. Lucky for me, eh?” He patted Doyle’s arm with the back of his hand.

Doyle rounded on him. “Why the hell do you think I ran after you?”

Bodie pulled back. “What?” There was nothing but puzzlement on his battered face. Doyle’s heart felt like it clenched. Bodie was so certain when it came to self-sacrifice, so confident in action — nothing like the man who had stuttered excuses in Doyle’s flat.

“I’m sure she asked him to go.” Doyle glanced at Christina’s body. “She changed; he didn’t.”

“The death of any relationship. But, “ Bodie looked around, “he must have loved her to do all this.”

“Yeah. He could die for her. He couldn’t live for her. He couldn’t risk that.” He turned again towards the car. Bodie stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Ray, are you all right?”

He looked at Bodie and thought of all they might have had, if only they weren’t who they were, or what they were. “Yeah. Rough day.”

Bodie nodded, but his understanding hurt. Personal involvement’s cutting edge. “Dreisinger saw you walk away from the shootout.”

It was sensible to back away, wasn’t it? Respond as he always would have done? “Hasty planning.”

Bodie smiled a little. “Yeah, you were right about that.”

“Of course. Mind you, so were you.”

“Oh, yes?” They turned together this time to resume walking.

“It turns out I am the romantic type.” His made his voice light, but it felt as if something inside him had been doused, like water on flame.

“Because of them?” Bodie gestured towards the bodies.

Doyle shrugged and let him think it. Of what use would it be to say anything else? He would risk that cutting edge, he would risk everything for Bodie. But Bodie couldn’t do that. He would die to save Doyle, but he wouldn’t live with the inevitable vulnerability if they were lovers. It was odd to feel such defeat, despite knowing exactly how Bodie felt about him. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you back to HQ. The sooner you’re debriefed, the sooner we can get a drink. And food.”

“Now, you’re talking.”

He heard the relief in Bodie’s voice, and buried his grief as they walked to the car.

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All the observations taken together during the last few months make a classic pattern of recurring elation and depression, caused by some trauma which we can locate to within a period of weeks.

 

“The Minister asked that you call him as soon as you arrive, sir.” His secretary’s face was neutral, simply relaying the information, although she must have known the circumstances surrounding the call. He never missed Betty more than when his back needed protecting from the Minister.

Cowley nodded. “Four-five will be here shortly. Send him directly in.” He walked into his office, shut the door, and headed straight for the whisky. He drank down a shot, then set the glass down. He had come damn close to killing Bodie today. Damn the boy, what had he been thinking?

No excuse, sir. Bodie had stood straight before him after Doyle had taken King Billy away. Doyle had taken Cowley’s gun with him. At least neither of the fools had been armed while playing that damned dangerous game — No. That was unfair. Doyle hadn’t known what the game was. Aye, and there was another thought to ponder: why hadn’t Doyle known?

He had put Bodie on suspension, and had sent him home. No doubt, Dr Ross would insist on seeing Bodie. He was inclined to allow it — both to appease the Minister and to serve Bodie his just deserts. He was grateful to Ross for involving him in time to discover and stop Bodie, but she had been wrong about him. Cowley had thought it unlikely Bodie would ever contemplate suicide or cultivate a death wish. But revenge? Even to the point of self-sacrifice? Bodie was quite capable of that. And that capability, uncontrolled, was a problem for the organisation.

He heard a knock on the door. “Come.” He turned his head to watch Doyle enter his office. He had obviously showered and changed since arriving at HQ. Doyle looked grim and, underneath that, exhausted. Cowley poured a measure of whisky for them both. “Here.” He brought the glass to Doyle.

Doyle took the glass, but it seemed he hardly noticed it. “You were right, sir. I was supposed to be watching Bodie and I failed. Completely.”

“You got there in time to save him. Not even Bodie could have taken on the entire gang by himself.”

“I should have stayed. I should have known — well, I did know there was something wrong. But I — “

“Let him get up your nose, aye.” Cowley gestured with the hand holding his glass. “I believe we’ve had this conversation before. Who better than Bodie to do that to you? Och, sit down and drink your drink. You did save him.”

Doyle sat in the chair in front of Cowley’s desk. “What will happen to Bodie, sir?”

Cowley walked to his own chair and settled in. “We will have a very unpleasant interview. He will promise it won’t happen again. He will be reassessed, and then you can have him back.”

“Do I want him?” Doyle murmured, staring at his glass.

“That is to be seen.”

Doyle looked up at that. “There’s no one I would rather be partnered with.”

“Even given his most recent actions?”

“Well, at least we know why now.” Doyle was tense, his hand gripping the glass.

“Indeed. He said nothing to you about Keith Williams?”

“No.” Doyle looked away for a moment. “But then…”

“He knew you would try to stop him, and quite possibly succeed.”

Doyle gave a short laugh. “I don’t know about that. When Bodie sets his mind on something, there is no dissuading him.” He finally drank some of the whisky.

“Nevertheless, he saw you as a threat and deliberately kept you in the dark.” Cowley tilted his head. “How will this affect the team?”

Doyle lifted his chin, but he didn’t lose his composure, as he might once have done. “We won’t let it. We never have, when we’ve had our…differences.”

“Yes.” Cowley gazed at his glass. “As I recall, the last time Bodie went his own way, I sent you to follow him.” He lifted his eyes to Doyle’s. “Did he view that as a betrayal?”

“No, sir. He knew I was following orders.”

“And yet, when I had him find out more about Miss Holly…?”

Doyle’s eyes narrowed. He set his glass on the desk. “That was my fault, sir. I was…angry.”

“He was following my orders, Doyle.”

Doyle’s face was expressionless. “Yes, sir.”

Cowley looked down at his desk. Perhaps this was the opening to gather some information he wanted. “I won’t apologise for my orders, they were necessary. But I do regret that your relationship — “

“It would have ended anyway, sir. We were too different. She — “ Doyle broke off, then resumed: “She didn’t approve of CI5 or understand it.”

“I see.” There were many decent, law-abiding citizens who had no idea of the sacrifices others made to enable them to lead their peaceful lives. He had thought her unsuitable for Doyle. It had surprised him that Doyle had pursued her so seriously.

“Anyway,” Doyle smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes, “I’ve learnt my lesson. Given this job, relationships just aren’t…feasible, are they?”

“Not easy, certainly.” He had, himself, given up on that sort of life when he’d let Annie Irvine slip away. He had had little cause for regret, but Doyle was a different kettle of fish. Personal involvement often made him better at his job, sharper. It was part and parcel of the compassion that made him a valuable asset to the organisation. There weren’t many idealists in CI5. “I had wondered,” Cowley said slowly, “if you were perhaps thinking of leaving CI5.”

Doyle stared at him. “No, sir.”

“You did resign.”

“In the heat of the moment. And, as we both know, I did my job anyway.”

“Aye, because you’ve got a nose for trouble, as I’ve told you before.”

“It didn’t help me with Bodie, though, did it?” Doyle shook his head, his eyes staring at nothing. “I knew something was wrong, but…”

“He kept it to himself, formulated his plan for vengeance on his own.”

“Wild justice,” Doyle murmured.

“Indeed.” Cowley spread his hands on the desk. “Which is why I find myself in something of a quandary. In a few minutes I will be speaking with the Minister about this affair. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of downplaying Bodie’s role. The assessments of Doctors Ross and Hedley, along with those of Jack Craine are on file. However, only the three of us know exactly what transpired in the woods.”

“The villains know.”

“That need not concern us. I intend to present the situation as a team operation. You and Bodie acted together to bring King Billy to justice.”

Doyle sat up straighter. “You’re going to say we both went rogue.”

“No. You took it upon yourselves to investigate an apparent injustice. Your brief allows that. However, you should, of course, have come to me sooner.”

“No doubt we planned to when we obtained more information.”

Cowley smiled thinly. “Precisely.” He picked up a pen and slid it through his fingers as he spoke. “The team model was developed, in part, to deter lone wolf investigations and excesses. The theory is that if two men are convinced of the correctness of a particular action — “

“You won’t have rogue agents. Unless they are both corrupt, of course.”

“That is irrelevant in this case. Yes, that is how I would choose to present the matter to the Minister.”

Doyle looked at him. “Have you told Bodie this?”

“I will, if you agree to it. A reprimand will appear in your file.”

“I see. Well, it’s not as if I haven’t had those before.”

Cowley felt himself relax. “Yes, as I recall, you had quite a few run-ins with your superiors in your police career.”

“With reason.”

“Good reasons, no doubt. You care. The issues in this trade are complex. Tangled. Compassion can be a big step towards solving them.”

“I don’t believe Ann would agree about the compassion.” Doyle made a dismissive gesture with his hand, as if to forestall any comment Cowley might make. “In any event, yes, I will go along with your plan.”

“Thank you. There is one other aspect to it.”

Doyle eyed him. “Why is it I think this will be the harder one for me to accept?”

Cowley smiled slightly. “Your nose for trouble? I will be having you two work with other — Now, wait, hear me out. I am not splitting the team.” He waited until Doyle settled back in his chair. “By having you work with other agents — on a case-by-case, temporary basis — we ensure there is no…” He sought for the right word.

“Corruption?” Doyle’s tone was acidic. Cowley could read the tension in his body.

“If you like. There is no doubt in my mind that you and Bodie make the best team. I have no wish to interfere with that.”

“But it will be best for us to be seen as working well with others.” Doyle smiled brightly.

“If you can manage that, yes.”

“Are there any more bombshells you would care to drop, sir?”

“Not at this present time, no.” He looked at Doyle, noting again the exhaustion. “Go home.”

“Thank you, sir.” Doyle reached for the glass and downed the rest of the whisky. “For the drink as well.” He rose to his feet.

“You’re welcome.” Cowley sat back in his chair. He waited until Doyle reached the door before speaking again. “You did well in this matter. I am mindful of that.”

Doyle looked round at him. “Thank you for…” He trailed off, then waved a hand. “Bodie.”

Cowley nodded and watched as Doyle left the office. Well. It had gone better than he had expected. He had had little doubt Doyle would go along with his plan, but he had received a great deal of useful information as well. He had been concerned that there were strains in the Bodie and Doyle team, given the tensions in the Holly case. He had watched Doyle accuse Bodie of betrayal; he had watched as Doyle had, at first, rejected Bodie in the car park in the aftermath of Ann Holly leaving. On the surface, then, it was perhaps not surprising that Bodie had not confided his disquiet about Keith Williams to Doyle.

Yet Cowley was certain one of the reasons for Bodie’s reticence was to be found in his loyalty to Doyle himself. Bodie hadn’t wanted Doyle to interfere — because Doyle was the only man who could have stopped him. Bodie had also been protecting Doyle from the potential consequences of his actions. That was a theme that was only gaining in intensity. He flicked through the memories:

Oh, yeah. Well, why didn't you tell 'im that? He had a .38 on Doyle; what was I supposed to do?

The point is, we've left Doyle hanging by his thumbs in the middle of all this.

Is Doyle in there?

Doyle did not seem particularly aware of it, but Cowley was certain that Bodie’s focus had turned nearly exclusively on to Doyle. That meant his own best bet for both retaining and containing Bodie was Doyle. Witness their very proper actions when they had had run into that gang of thieves whilst on their ‘honeymoon’. There had been no repeat of the Myer debacle. Even this last fiasco provided further proof for this thoughts. Once Doyle had understood what was happening, he had acted to stop it. He might well have succeeded in the end, if Cowley hadn’t intervened. As for Doyle…

Cowley steepled his fingers as he leaned back in his chair. He didn’t want to lose Doyle, and he would have if he had married Ann Holly. He had been surprised at the sudden attachment and apparent commitment. Ross had said Doyle was searching for something — affirmation or approval, perhaps, but Cowley found that hard to believe. It had seemed more like a sudden desire for escape, and that was, perhaps, not to be wondered at. They had lost good men in Matheson, King, and Williams. Doyle had lost his informant, Benny. The pressures of the job were intense and unrelenting. They had all suffered the failure of the Chinatown case right before Ann Holly’s arrival. Perhaps Doyle had got a taste of domesticity with Esther; perhaps Doyle had been too well reminded of his days with the Drug Squad. Whatever the cause, Doyle had appeared to be ready to abandon everything in favour of Ann Holly. Except, one couldn’t ignore a nose for trouble. Doyle had chosen the job.

His top team was intact. The Minister would accept his version of events, and they would skate through this. But he would have Bodie and Doyle work with other agents, on and off, and assess the results. He had no doubt Bodie would put up a much stronger resistance to the idea than Doyle, but it would do them good to see a different perspective. It would either make them or break them. He was betting on the former, but if it were the latter, it would be best to be prepared.

He reached for the telephone to call the Minister.

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He'll want to be careful who he gets tied up with in future.

 

The ground was cold and hard and he was getting too old for this, Bodie thought. There was, at least, a faint tinge of pink at the horizon, heralding dawn at bloody last. Absolutely nothing had happened at Avery’s house. He had sat here watching, getting colder and hungrier, when he could have been in a proper bed, in a proper hotel, with Doyle. And he closed his eyes for a moment when, as per bloody usual, his mind conjured what it would be like if he did go to bed with Doyle. Dammit. It had been more than a year since they’d had sex. He’d made the right decision. When the fuck was it going to get easier?

Bodie shifted his position, easing the stiffness in his legs. He hated solo stakeouts. He hated working with anyone other than Doyle. Cowley had spouted rubbish about the team being seen as too insular, too close, and he had them working with other agents now and again. Bodie shook his head, the irony of it was biting. He could damn well show Cowley ‘too close’ — they’d done their best to avoid too damn close.

It had probably been the hotel room that triggered it. Doyle had sat cross-legged on the bed as he’d put bullets into his gun, relaxed yet ready. Bodie had wanted nothing more than to settle in for the night, guard Ojuka with Doyle, and revel in the way they’d worked so smoothly together. It had been like it used be, before Doyle had been shot, before Keith Williams, before Ann-bloody-Holly. Before Doyle had grown careless. He had long thought Doyle took too much of the job into himself, cared too much, felt guilt when there was no need. But then, that was Ray, wasn’t it? It was part of what made him as good on the job as he was. Recently, though, it seemed like he’d lost the ability to cope. Bodie thought of the women — that girl Van Neikerk had killed, Esther, Ann, even poor old Judy Shaw. Doyle shouldn’t have got involved with any of them. It was as if Doyle had developed a blind spot about women. He’d actually started talking about marriage with Ann — compromising the job, blaming Bodie for following orders. What the hell was he supposed to have done? And then, when Mayli Kuolo had shown up in Doyle’s flat… Bloody hell, Doyle had said he’d just stood there, and she’d shot him.

He looked down as pain registered, and eased his grip on the binoculars. Sunlight was spreading rapidly across the fields, touching the roof of Beechcroft. He reminded himself: Doyle was back on the squad. And it felt as if they’d turned some sort of corner at last. Bodie had been so bloody careful while Doyle had healed. Ross and Craine had both warned him: Push him, but not too much; don’t let him push himself beyond his capabilities. He had wanted to stay with Doyle round the clock, but he hadn’t, of course, except for the first couple of days when Doyle had tired so easily. It had been all right. They’d managed. They’d treated it like the job. Since then, well, it had been a little rough, but they were back to normal now, weren’t they? Doyle had been at the top of his form on this op — saved Bodie’s life, got them out of a jam when the car crashed. That was all he wanted, wasn’t it? To get back to normal? No more bloody changes.

Bodie turned his head as the sound of a motor reached him. He picked up the binoculars again. He watched as a car turned in to the drive at Beechcroft. It stopped at the front door to the house and a black man got out of the car. The door to the house opened, and another man greeted the first, then took charge of the car while the black man went inside. Bodie didn’t recognize the black man, but if he was visiting Avery at this time, he might well be African, and interested in Ojuka. Bodie was out of range to contact Doyle on the R/T. He’d have to wait until Doyle came for him, or someone contacted him. Sod it, he hated waiting.

Avery’s country house was large. It must cost a bomb to maintain. But then, Avery was all about image, wasn’t he? He was more politician than government servant, and he’d apparently taken advantage of his position. Bodie smiled slightly. It would be very satisfying to take him down. Hang on… He thought for a moment, his stomach tightening as he realised the truth in his own thoughts: he wanted to get Avery. But…he was in CI5 because his skills were needed and he was good at the job. As he’d told Cowley, what else would he do? He had no desire to go back to mercenary work, and when he thought about the Paras and the SAS…

The line was getting too narrow, what I was doing.

No, that was Doyle, not him. It was just a job; he took satisfaction in doing it well, but not — Bugger. Bodie stared down at John Avery’s house. He didn’t care about Ojuka’s future, but if Avery was involved in the attacks, he wanted to bring him down. Personally. Because he knew Doyle would want that. Because it was right. Because he’d feel — Oh, bloody hell. He had never been especially concerned about right and wrong. He just did his job — well. It was like the MI17 men who had attacked him and Doyle and Diana Molner — he followed orders. Doyle was the one who questioned it all: Well, at least she knew what she was fighting for.

He had never cared to know when it came to the job — stay uninvolved, stay cool. Keep what you feel hidden. That was what he believed, dammit. And when it did matter, when it was personal, then he’d focus, do what had to be done, and damn the consequences. He protected his own; he avenged his own. But… It had taken him weeks to decide what to do about King Billy, and even when he had finally focused on a plan, he’d brought Doyle into it. Unnecessarily. He could have antagonised the gang just as easily without him. He’d fed off Doyle’s anger, though, hadn’t he? And he’d fed off the…betrayal he’d felt when Doyle had left. It had given him the icy rage he’d needed to take on the gang by himself. And still, even so, he hadn’t killed King Billy. He hadn’t even considered killing Mayli Kuolo, even though Doyle… If he lost Doyle…

It felt like he was forcing air through his lungs. He had changed. Doyle had bloody well changed him. He cared about Avery because…of all those sodding reasons Doyle and Cowley would trot out. And because Doyle would care. All of his actions, everything, centred around bloody Doyle. He thought about every damn vigil he’d held outside Doyle’s flats — more evidence of the infection. That wasn’t him. None of this was — it was as if he’d been held in thrall, under a spell. And he still was held, damn it all. He wasn’t about to leave CI5. He’d tried to protect himself, hadn’t he? He’d protected them. Yet here he was, sat behind a bush on a bloody cold morning, still doing this bloody job with no hope of inoculating himself against Doyle’s influence. He had to be mad; the world had turned topsy-turvy on him.

His R/T suddenly signalled: “Alpha to Three-seven. Come in, Three-seven.”

At fucking last. “Yeah, Three-seven. Alone and palely loitering.” Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake, And no birds sing.

“John Keats at this hour? You surprise me, Bodie.”

“Yeah, well, I do my best, you know. Where are you?”

“About ten miles from the hotel. I intend to escort Colonel Ojuka to his conference personally if I have to. Anything moving there?”

“One visitor, just now. He's still in the house. And you're going to love this bit — he's African.” Or, most likely he was African.

“Is he, now? It's beginning to fit, then. Avery and the Colonel's wife met last night, so stay put and keep your eyes open. If either one of them shows, I want to know about it. Out.”

Bodie raised his eyebrows. Madam Ojuka was in on it with Avery? Christ, that was how they’d got within Cowley’s security. Sentiment. Blind, bloody dangerous sentiment — it made you vulnerable. It opened you up to betrayal and loss. He’d learnt that lesson long ago. Everything changed when you let someone in; their true colours were revealed. Lisa had left him after they’d reached land, Rachel hadn’t told him about Krivas, Marikka had betrayed him. He’d sworn never to have that Achilles heel, never to feel so much for someone else that he’d set himself up for loss: of them, of himself. It was too risky; It wasn’t worth the pain of —

Maybe he thought it was worth the risk.

Doyle’s voice was in his head, from long ago — when? Dreisinger. Dreisinger dying on the tarmac because he’d wanted Christine. Didn’t that just prove his point? Doyle had agreed, hadn’t he? Doyle again. Bloody damn dangerous —

Bodie caught movement near the house and brought the binoculars up to his eyes. The man who had driven the car away from the front door was walking from one of the outbuildings to the house. Bodie shifted his gaze towards the windows of the house and saw the black man on the telephone. He was gesturing, and then he hung up, moved away from the window. The next attack would come at Gateways, he imagined. There would be tighter security at the conference, but they must know he and Doyle had gone to ground somewhere around here; they must have the roads staked out. Cowley would know that, and had probably already sent teams to check. They would get Ojuka to the conference, and now that they knew about Madam, there would be no more security leaks. Bodie would be happy to see the last of Colonel Ojuka.

And he still wanted Avery. Bloody Doyle. Bloody Doyle and Cowley. He should have left CI5. But he’d never considered that, even when Cowley had asked him about it directly. He’d settled, damn it all, set himself up. Blind-sided… Except, he hadn’t been, had he? He’d let Doyle in. He’d given him that power.

The R/T sounded again. “Alpha to Three-seven.”

“Three-seven.”

“We're a jump behind them, Bodie. They've taken Ojuka and Doyle with them. Killed a girl at the hotel.”

Christ. “What about Doyle?”

“Disarmed, but not dead. At least, not when they left.”

“Left for where?”

“Avery’s house would be my guess. Keep watch. We’ll finish up here and meet you. Alpha out.”

Bodie used the binoculars to sweep the house and the surrounding area, but there was no sign of movement. Cowley was right, they would probably return to their base of operation. If Cowley was right about Avery’s involvement. If Cowley was wrong… His hands tightened on the binoculars. They might never find Doyle. No. Cowley was rarely wrong when it came to sniffing out corruption. He set the binoculars aside and picked up the R/T. If Doyle was a hostage, they might use him to cover their escape. There was a chance, then. He had to stay cool. He wondered if this was how Doyle had felt when Dreisinger had grabbed him.

He heard cars approaching and watched from behind the bush as they turned into the drive and headed for the house. Doyle was in the first car. Ojuka and Madam Ojuka in the second. He spoke into the R/T: “Three-seven to Alpha.”

“Come in, Three-seven.”

“The two cars have arrived. The lady's with them, but no sign of Avery.”

“We're on our way, Three-seven. My guess is that Avery will pick them up before he runs. So stay close. And I want no action till we get there.”

“Yeah, what if they move? Doyle's in there, you know.”

“I’ll have no heroics on Doyle's behalf, Bodie. Is that clear?”

There was no arguing with that tone of voice. “Yes, sir.” He put the R/T down and picked up the binoculars. Ojuka and Doyle were herded into the house. Doyle’s hands were tied behind his back. He must know that Bodie was watching; he’d be ready for whatever Bodie did. Bodie lowered the binoculars and set them aside. Nothing stirred outside the house or outbuildings. He eased away from the bush and moved closer to the buildings, taking shelter against a wall that shielded him from all doors and windows. He looked up as he heard a helicopter approaching. It landed in a pasture. Avery stepped out of the helicopter, carrying a briefcase. He walked to the front door of the house. Bodie pulled out his R/T. “Three-seven to Alpha. Avery's arrived. It looks like a helicopter pickup for Ojuka. I'm going in.”

“Stay put, Bodie. That’s an — “

Bodie shut off the R/T and stored it in his pocket. He hadn’t changed so much that he’d put the job ahead of Doyle. He peered around the corner of the wall, saw no one, and moved closer to the main house, finding for cover behind a large boulder. He took out his handgun.There was movement at the door. Madam Ojuka left the house, followed by Avery and the black man who had arrived earlier in the morning. They walked towards one of the cars. There was no sign of Doyle. “Bring him out, you bastards, bring him out.” If it was a helicopter pick-up, what were the chances they’d take Doyle with them? Nil. There was no sign of Cowley or reinforcements arriving. Ojuka was escorted out of the house by two other men. Right, he’d have to —

He heard a single gun shot. It came from inside one of the outbuildings — Fuck. No. Go. Bodie moved, running towards the house, crossing the line of sight of the man in the helicopter. He dived and rolled behind a bush even as he heard the sound of a gunshot. He fired from the ground at the helicopter, then got to his knees. The pilot fired at him, but Bodie took him out with a single shot. He ducked around the bush, and came up against the white pasture fence. There was a low stone wall beyond it, and beyond that were the cars that the villains had taken refuge behind. The black man who had arrived earlier took a shot at Bodie. The men who had been escorting Ojuka joined in. Bodie fired back. Where the hell was Cowley? Where the fuck was Doyle? He wasn’t dead, couldn’t be — He heard gun shots from a different direction, and one of the villains behind the cars went down. Doyle. Bodie’s heart soared. One of Avery’s men shoved Ojuka down, and stood to fire back at the new gunman. Bodie shot him. That left one gunman —

“Hold it!” It was Doyle’s voice — oh, bloody typical, playing fair, copper training. And suddenly, two thoughts tumbled through his brain: he knew Doyle; he’d risk it, he’d risk it. Oh, bloody hell, he’d risk it for him! The fight went on — the black man fired; Doyle shot him. The man fell backwards onto the boot of the car. No other resistance was offered. It was over.

Bodie leapt over the fence and wall, then ran towards Avery and Madam Ojuka. He heard police sirens — the cavalry arriving just as they weren’t needed. “On your feet,” he said as he grabbed Avery and glanced at Madam Ojuka. She wasn’t going to resist. She looked defeated. He herded them both towards the coppers who had got out of the car. Good riddance to them. He put his gun away, took a breath, and saw Cowley approaching him like the wrath of God.

“You disobeyed an order, Bodie. I told you to stay put.” Cowley’s voice was surprisingly low. No doubt it was out of deference to the police presence.

“Couldn't let them get away with it. How d'you think you'd feel if you let them get him?” Bodie glanced towards Doyle, who was walking towards them with Ojuka. Doyle smiled at him.

Cowley was having none of it. “My concern for Ojuka has nothing to do with insubordination — “

Bodie interrupted him. “I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.” He looked again at Doyle and their eyes met. He knew Doyle had heard every word. He had wanted Doyle to hear it, as he never had before. He barely heard Ojuka speaking, so intent was he on Ray.

“Well, my friend,” Ojuka said. “You have come to escort me to the conference, yes?”

Doyle looked down at one of his wrists, then back at Bodie. His smile had faded.

Cowley replied, “Certainly, Colonel.”

“Then let us delay no longer. Gentlemen.” Ojuka turned to Doyle, clasped his hand with both of his own. “You fight well.” He walked to Bodie and shook his hand. “I shall remember you both.” Ojuka headed towards Cowley’s car. Cowley turned to follow him, but spared a speaking look for Bodie. Bodie held Cowley’s gaze. He would take whatever punishment Cowley deemed appropriate. It was more than worth it. Bodie felt a grin on his face as he turned and moved to stand beside Doyle. For the first time in months, he felt completely at ease. He felt like himself.

Doyle held out his wrists for Bodie to see. “Well, there goes my violin practice for the next couple of weeks.” Bodie saw burn marks — not severe, but bad enough to sting. So, that was how Doyle had got the ropes off. Doyle’s face was bruised, and no doubt there were other bruises.

“Yeah,” Bodie said. “Too bad.” He suspected he didn’t sound sound very sympathetic. He was too jubilant. Bodie glanced towards the cars and caught sight of Madam Ojuka in the back seat of a squad car with Avery. “She’s quite some woman, isn’t she? I wonder what the other three are like?” He was babbling, he knew it, but he could hardly grab Doyle and kiss him right there. And he wanted to, oh, yes, he wanted to.

“I don't know, but I should imagine Ojuka feels a bit like I do right now.

“How's that?”

“He'll want to be careful who he gets tied up with in future.” Doyle glanced at him with something of a smile on his face.

“Yeah,” Bodie sighed. “She led them to you?”

Doyle nodded. “Ojuka called her.” He looked again at Bodie. “Sentiment, eh?”

“Misjudged, certainly.” As he had misjudged Marikka, misjudged Krivas, Rachel — and blamed the emotion he’d felt rather than them. Doyle looked at him. He seemed puzzled, but he didn’t say anything as Murphy arrived.

“You two have led us on a merry chase. We’re to secure everything until a team arrives — they’re on their way. Then I’m to drive you back to HQ. In your stolen vehicle.”

“Requisitioned,” Bodie said. He glanced at the helicopter. “Couldn’t we requisition that?”

“Given the condition of your vehicle — which has been towed back to London, by the way — I doubt Cowley would go for it.” Murphy headed for the house.

“But,” Bodie glanced at Doyle, then Murphy’s back, “Doyle needs urgent medical attention!”

“I’m sure there’s something in the house!” Murphy’s voice carried to them.

“Nice try.” Doyle hit him lightly on the arm, and followed Murphy.

While Doyle liaised with the local police, Bodie and Murphy searched the house and outbuildings. The man who had let the early morning visitor in was nowhere to be found. They secured the study, where they discovered papers and a safe. A coroner arrived to take charge of the bodies and, soon after, the CI5 forensics team made its appearance. They were finally free to leave.

Murphy drove the Merc while Bodie sat beside him and Doyle took the back seat. Murphy filled them in on Cowley’s side of the op. Doyle grew quieter in the back as the miles went by, and when Bodie eventually checked, he saw Doyle had fallen asleep, leaning against the door. He couldn’t blame him: they’d had precious little sleep while guarding Ojuka, and they still had the debrief to get through at HQ. He felt exhaustion tugging at him but then Murphy attempted to convince him that he ought to support Arsenal, and that had to be answered at length. By the time they reached town, they had moved on to rugby and the natural superiority of the Paras team over that of the Royal Marines.

“Oh, God,” was Doyle’s comment, before he lapsed back into silence.

The debrief at HQ took longer than Bodie had expected, for the simple reason that Cowley was detained at the conference. They took the opportunity to have Doyle’s burns looked at by the on-call doctor, then grabbed food at the canteen. Bodie checked on the condition of his car, was shouted at by the head mechanic, and told it would be ready by the next day. Cowley, when he did show up, was relatively pleased with them, and didn’t mention Bodie’s insubordination. Finally, they were released. Doyle drove Bodie home.

It was quiet in the car, and Bodie was disinclined to speak. Through force of habit, he had suppressed his emotions on the job all day. Now, he was alone with Doyle, and he didn’t bloody well know what to say. He knew what he felt — what he had realised. Christ, he felt alive, despite the exhaustion. He had been so bloody stupid. He had no idea how he was going to rectify that. Doyle stopped the car in front of Bodie’s block. Night had fallen; it was hard to believe it was all the same day. He had to stay something. “Ray.”

“Yeah, I’ll pick you up tomorrow.” Doyle’s attention was on the street. He sounded tired.

Bodie hesitated, then plunged on. “Come up?’

“Nah, want to get my head down, don’t I? A drink wouldn’t help.”

“No, I — “ He swallowed. “Stay. The night. With me.”

There was silence for an unnerving few moments. “Save you the trouble of standing outside my flat, is that it?”

Bodie closed his eyes, his stomach contracting. He knew that tone of voice. Still, he had to try. He opened his eyes, and looked at Doyle in the dim light. “I was wrong that night. I never should have left.”

“Look, it was a bad day, eh? Just…leave it.”

“I can’t. Dammit, Ray, I’m telling you: I was wrong.”

“About what?” Doyle flared at him. “The excuses you made? You couldn’t get out the door fast enough, could you?”

“I was — “ He broke off. Scared to death, he wanted to say. Had to say. But he couldn’t get the words out.

“Wrong? But you called it a long time ago, didn’t you? Partners can’t be involved.” He paused a moment, and his voice was gentler when he spoke again: “Spoils your aim.”

“Your aim is better when you care.”

“Don’t.”

Bodie sat still. He’d heard something like pain in Doyle’s voice.

“When did you have this revelation, eh?”

He knew what Doyle would think, but he told him anyway. There had been too much deception already.“Today. This morning.”

“Yeah. When Parker had me, right?”

“It wasn’t like — “

“Wasn’t it? Christ, Bodie, do you think I don’t know how you feel? You were bloody well going to blow yourself up to save me! Remember that? And you were there, outside my flat that night, because of Matheson and King and Williams. We’re ‘involved’ whether we like it or not. But it’s not — “ He broke off, then continued. “Sex is just an expression of that. An antidote to the fear, maybe. Temporary. A bad idea, like you called it. Do you know why I went outside that night? Because I’d damned well nearly lost you to that bomb. Sex just proved we were alive.”

“No, it’s more than that.”

“Is it?” Doyle was looking away, outside the window. “You had this revelation today. Its no coincidence this is the first time, since I got back on the squad, that you faced losing me — “

“We were going to be killed in that damned train — !”

“Losing me,” Doyle overrode him, “without you right there.”

Bodie was silent again. Was Doyle right? He remembered his fear, and the panic he’d suppressed when he’d heard that gunshot. Conflicting thoughts chased each other in his head.

Doyle sighed. “Sentiment, right? Its not worth the — It’s just the fear of losing. It’s the risk we run, isn’t it?”

He could die for her. He couldn’t live for her. He couldn’t risk that. Bodie’s breath caught in his lungs. He must have loved her to do all this, he’d said to Doyle. Was that it? It’s not worth the — Oh, Christ, Doyle had already told him, and he’d been too blind to see, too sodding scared.

“It’ll be different in the morning. Go home, Bodie. We’re both exhausted.”

He heard the fatigue in Doyle’s voice, and, again, the pain underneath it. He thought he knew the reason for that pain, but this wasn’t the time to try to convince him. He nodded, and opened the car door.

“I’ll pick you up in the morning,” Doyle said.

“Yeah. Call me if you’re going to be late.” He said it deliberately, echoing Doyle: And bloody call me if you’re going to be late. He stepped out of the car. Everything’s changed, Ray, he might have told him, but he wouldn’t burden Doyle with that tonight. His revelation hadn’t happened when he’d heard the gunshot and feared Doyle’s death. It had happened when Doyle had reacted as he always would, when he’d shouted ‘Hold it’. He knew and he loved Doyle. And he’d take whatever time was given to them, and damn the consequences. It was more than worth the risk. Bodie watched the car as it moved away up the street. It might take time, but he’d prove it to Ray. He turned and walked into his block.

Photobucket

 

Still, a good man. The tops. Worth knowing. You won't fall if they push.

 

Doyle watched as Bodie’s car disappeared into the gutted warehouse.“I don’t like it.”

“Get ready,” Cowley said. Which just showed, Doyle reflected, that Cowley wasn’t as sanguine about this operation as he’d appeared to be. Their car was already running. Doyle put both hands on the steering wheel. “We just need Rahad to cut and run, leaving Bodie behind. No need for any dramatics.”

“No, just a shoot-out. You do remember what happened the last time we faked a shoot-out?” Doyle wasn’t seriously worried, but the sooner they were shot of this operation, the better he’d feel.

“Perhaps you’ll be more convincing this time.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“We’ve given him long enough: go.”

Doyle pushed the accelerator and drove the car into the dark interior of the warehouse. The Capri’s lights picked out Bodie’s car. Bodie and Rahad were standing beyond it, in front of Rahad’s car. Doyle executed a handbrake turn for maximum show, and brought the Capri to a halt near Bodie’s car. He climbed out of the car, gun in hand. Cowley got out on the other side. Rahad ran towards his own car, Bodie headed in the same direction. “Bodie!”

Bodie turned and fired his gun at Doyle. The flash of light at the muzzle was brilliant. Cowley fired at Bodie at the same time. Bodie spun around to continue towards Rahad’s car. Doyle fired at him, saw him wince, as if hit. Bodie turned back and fired another round at them. Rahad was getting into his car. Doyle got off another shot as Bodie fired at him. Doyle fell backwards, as if a victim of Bodie’s skill with a handgun. The pitted pavement was damned hard when he landed, but he knew it looked convincing. He heard the squeal of tyres, then a thud.

“Bodie!” Cowley cried.

Doyle stayed down, heart thumping, until Rahad manoeuvred around Bodie’s car and drove away. He rolled to his feet as Cowley got off a parting shot to encourage Rahad. Doyle ran towards Bodie, who lay unmoving on the ground. He knelt beside Bodie, his gun hand on Bodie’s back. “Bodie!” It couldn’t have gone wrong, couldn’t — In disbelief, he pushed Bodie over onto his back, and put his head to Bodie’s chest to feel his breath, hear his heartbeat…

“Never knew you cared.” Bodie’s voice was light, and then he laughed.

“Ahh.” The bastard, the crazy, lunatic bastard. “You — “ Despite his chagrin, Doyle smiled as he sat back on his heels. Bodie lifted his head, his eyes inviting Doyle to laugh with him. As always, the invitation worked.

Cowley approached them. “Bodie, are you okay?

Bodie glanced at Cowley. “Yeah, I think so, sir.” He rolled onto his side. Some joke, Doyle thought, but his heart felt lighter than it had in days. “Hey, it’s just dawned on me, you know,” Bodie said, “I might’ve been killed.”

“Why?” Doyle asked.

Bodie stretched out to collect his gun, which was on the ground next to him. “What if you’d forgotten to put blanks in your weapon?”

“Come on,” Doyle scoffed. He took out the clip in his gun, as if to show him, then assumed a look of shock. “Hey, now, there’s a thing — “

“Hey!” Bodie swatted Doyle’s arm. “Don’t you joke.” Doyle’s stomach tightened. Shared danger; shared laughter. Shared worry.

Cowley’s voice interrupted them. “He took off like a bat out of hell. You're sure he got the right address?”

“Yeah,” Bodie said. “I told him the pay-off point twice. He knows it well. He's got to deliver, he has to.” He looked at Doyle as Cowley walked away from them. Doyle grinned at him; he couldn’t help himself. Bodie punched him lightly on the arm, and they both climbed to their feet and followed Cowley, who was waiting for them by the cars.

“We’ll know soon enough if Rahad makes the exchange. Bodie, I want you to lie low — stay at your flat.”

“Yes, sir.” Bodie sounded resigned.

“Doyle, you stay with me. I don’t want any chance Rahad smells a rat. Remember what happened last time!” Cowley got into Doyle’s car and closed the door.

“Last time?” Bodie looked at Doyle.

“I hate playing dead.” Doyle opened his car door.

“Well, you’re not good at it. Anyway, better than the real thing. Hey! Maybe I should take over your posh digs — last place they’d look for me, and all that.”

Doyle pointed towards Bodie car. “Go. Behave yourself.”

“Killjoy.” Bodie trudged to his car.

Doyle watched him go, then climbed into his car and drove out of the warehouse. Back at HQ the report came in that Rahad had met Taylor and had given him the money. They had photographic proof of the exchange.

“It’s going to work,” Cowley said, gazing at the photograph in his hands.

Doyle glanced at the photo. “Poor light, at night. It could easily be fake.”

“Aye, but there’s more than this to convince Rahad’s government. And, really, all it will take is suspicion. Now, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay here overnight. Perhaps you can get started on your backlog of reports.”

“Thank you, sir.” He wouldn’t even be able to use the night duty officer’s cot. The last time he’d slept on the rest room’s sofa, he’d had a back ache for days.

“Good night, Doyle.” There was a definite jauntiness to Cowley’s step as he headed out the door.

Right. Doyle went to the rest room in search of a cup of tea and, with any luck at all, company. He had already had too much time to think on this case. He wanted distraction. Naturally, the rest room was empty when he arrived. He made a pot of tea, read the paper that some kind soul had left behind, incomplete as it was, and tried not to think about Bodie. He failed. Doyle tossed the paper onto the table. Damn it all, and damn Bodie most especially. What the hell was he playing at?

God, he was tired. Doyle sipped the tea and welcomed the warmth. It felt like he’d been tired ever since the shooting. No, it was before that, wasn’t it, if he was honest. Somewhere along the way, he’d lost…something. The job still mattered, but sometimes it was like walking through treacle just to get through the day. He rubbed his temple. This case had been long and discouraging. He wasn’t enjoy the manoeuvring that Cowley was doing, and even if they succeeded in the game, it wouldn’t be much of a victory. There had been too many of those — wins that didn’t feel like winning. When was the last time he’d felt any kind of triumph? Taking down Barker? Maybe. But he’d been fighting to get back to form throughout that. And before that? Not Mayli Kuolo, or her colleagues who’d blown themselves up; not Keller, who’d disappointed Bodie; not Jack Stone. He knew the lines were never as clear as he’d once told Bodie they were, but he was finding it harder and harder to…care?

No, not that. He remembered some of the dreams he’d had while recovering from being shot. He’d imagined snatches of conversations with Cowley and Bodie in his head — working out his guilt, he supposed. You play around with bombs, you get blown up, Bodie had said that day, and a part of Doyle had agreed with the cynicism. Too large a part. But the job did matter; he still believed that. It was just it seemed he had no reserve when he was running on empty; there was no flicker of light to guide him when the fog descended. He hadn’t had it for a long time, not since Ann had — No, before that. Maybe that was why he’d turned to her so quickly. But it had to come from within him, didn’t it? And he couldn’t seem to muster it. Well. It was better than it had been. Getting shot had somehow settled some things for him. Of course, he’d had Bodie round, determined to get him back in shape, physically and mentally. And when Bodie set his mind on something —

Dammit. It was no use. Everything circled around to Bodie, and what Bodie wanted.

Stay.The night. With me.

It had been the impulse of a moment, or of a bad day. He already knew how frightened Bodie was of losing him; how willing he was to die to protect him. Doyle remembered what it was like to watch from the outside while your partner was held prisoner. Bodie’s need hadn’t been a real surprise. But Bodie’s persistence had been. The next morning, when Doyle had picked Bodie up for work, he had expected him to act as if nothing had happened the day before. It was the bargain they’d made, right? And, indeed, there had been nothing out of the ordinary in Bodie’s greeting or the moan about being called in or the comments on Doyle’s driving. But when they’d arrived at HQ, Bodie had touched his arm and said: “I haven’t changed my mind. I won’t. Best you should know.”

“Bodie — “ He had stopped speaking as Bodie shook his head.

“No pressure, Ray. Just…there it is.” And he had got out of the car.

No pressure. What the fuck was it, then, if not pressure? He could say no — had said no, but Bodie was going to keep arguing. They had started working the Rahad case that morning, and had been separated for much of it. But every time they’d met up…

Ah, no. Listen, I've got a loose filling on this side, right?

Yeah, right, I can use it right. Do you a nice little left hook, you won't feel a thing. Unless you want to, of course, but I won’t be doing that in public.

Not an exhibitionist, eh?

Not willing to share.

And later, when Bodie had come to Doyle’s flat-for-the-duration after he’d been ‘sold’ to Rahad, they’d talked and strategised about the op. When he had got up to leave, Bodie had looked around and said: “Yeah, nice place. Bedroom tour on offer? No? Ah, well, hope springs eternal, and all that.” He’d ushered Bodie out, but that night, when he had been trying to sleep in that ridiculously large bedroom, he hadn’t been able to stop his mind from imagining what might have been.

Stupid. It had been stupid. He remembered too well what it had felt like to touch Bodie, hear him, give him pleasure, and get it back in return. But Bodie had stopped them; Bodie had seen the danger — Christ, they both knew how ruthless the services could be if there was a whiff of treason, or blackmail, or anything that might compromise the organisation. It wasn’t just separation they had to fear, was it? Maybe he had once thought it was worth it — well, he had. But he hadn’t had to face it, because of Bodie’s decision. He’d convinced himself… Why the fuck had Bodie changed his mind?

Doyle pushed his cup away, stood and walked to the window. There was nothing to see except his own reflection. Bodie had got scared when Parker had taken Doyle. That was all it was. Bodie hadn’t changed his mind after Doyle had got shot, but then he’d been round every day — and some nights — then, hadn’t he? But when Doyle was active again, out of reach, out of protection… Oh, he knew how Bodie’s mind worked.

Even that damned joke in the warehouse tonight. Never knew you cared. The swine. It was Bodie’s brand of black humour, and it had worked on him, as it always did. But Doyle understood the message beneath the humour as well: Yeah, we can die at any moment. So, don’t hold back, don’t deny, don’t hesitate.

Bugger this. Doyle pushed away from the window. He filled the cup with tea and dumped the rest in the sink before heading for his desk. He would shock Cowley and get his backlog finished.Bodie could just lump it, stay out of his head. Stop changing on him, the stupid, cross-grained, bastard. Bodie would tire of this game, though, he was certain of it.

In the end, he put in a few hours’ work before getting his head down on the sofa in the rest room. Breakfast and lunch were both grabbed at the canteen, by which time he was heartily sick of staying put at HQ. Cowley was out on some errand or other that he didn’t bother to tell Doyle about, so he spent the afternoon in the rest room playing poker with an ever-changing roster of agents. Finally, Cowley summoned him: it was time to bring the curtain down on Rahad. They picked up Bodie en route to Hollis’s place, where Rahad had stationed himself to watch the death of ‘Anna Jones’ on television. After an all too brief fight with Hollis’s henchmen, Cowley broke the news to Rahad about Anna.

“I was tricked. Set up.” Rahad’s anger was as visible as his dismay.

Cowley smiled slightly. “Well, perhaps you were, but that will be a matter for your president to decide. And the way your regime is at the moment, it feeds on doubts and suspicions. Do you know what I think? I think your president will regard our showing him this photograph as a friendly act. A concern for his safety. I think it will strengthen the relationship between our countries. I think you will be recalled and we will be rid of you.” Cowley headed for the door, tucking the photograph away, but he turned back as Rahad spoke.

“You will be killing me.” As he had killed others on behalf of his government. If you play with fire… Doyle glanced at Bodie, and saw satisfaction on his face.

“Us, Mr Rahad? Any killing will be done by your own countrymen. Good day, Mr Rahad.” They left Hollis’s house and climbed back into Doyle’s car.

“Is that it?” Bodie asked from the back seat.

“It’s enough.” Cowley’s voice seemed more grim than elated. They’d won, but it was something of a dirty win.

“Well, at least I can get my stereo back now. I hope.”

“Drop me at HQ,” Cowley said. “We’ll rendezvous at your current flat, Doyle. Which, by the way, you will move out of tonight.”

“Yes, sir.” Doyle drove to HQ. Bodie joined him in the front seat after Cowley got out.

“Why the rendezvous?”

“No idea.” Doyle turned the car to head for his flat.

“So, a bit of packing tonight, eh?”

“Apparently. Ah, well, it was nice while it lasted.”

“Yeah. Don’t suppose you could swing by the pawn shop…?”

Doyle glanced at him. “It’s closed by now, mate.”

“Damn.”

“Shouldn’t have gambled so much, should you?”

“Shut up, Doyle.”

At the flat, Doyle went upstairs to pack his bag while Bodie took care of the sparse kitchen supplies. They finished at about the same time. “Drink?” Doyle asked.

“Absolutely.” They went into the lounge and eyed the offering. “Champagne, I think.”

“Absolutely.” Doyle opened the bottle, but then the doorbell sounded. Bodie went to answer it. “Evening, sir,” Doyle heard. He collected a third glass.

“Evening, Bodie,” Cowley replied.

“Anna.” Doyle raised his eyebrows when he heard the name. He hadn’t thought they would seen Anna again, but then she had been instrumental in solving the case.

“Go straight through,” Cowley said.

“Hallo,”Anna greeted Doyle when she saw him in the lounge. She was dressed for a night out, including a fur coat. She looked radiant, as always.

“Hallo.” Doyle handed her one of the glasses he was holding.

“Doyle.” Cowley set his coat down on a chair. Doyle shared a quick look with Bodie. “Anna and I have just been talking about old times. It transpires that I knew her father very well.” Doyle gave Cowley a glass, and Bodie as well. He went back to the cabinet to get a glass for himself.

“Oh?” Bodie asked

“Daddy was a Whitehall warrior,” Anna explained. Doyle held the bottle up to pour champagne into Anna’s glass.

Cowley smiled. “Ah, what shall we drink to?”

“Rahad?” Bodie suggested.

“Och, no, no, that would leave a bit of a sour taste.” Doyle stopped pouring when Anna indicated it was enough.

“Tell you what,” Doyle said. “Let's drink to a very special lady.” Anna smiled brilliantly and laughed.

“Aye, that'll do fine.” Doyle filled Cowley’s glass, then Bodie’s.

“That would be great,” Bodie agreed.

“A lady. Well, I'm definitely that or I’d be out of business.” Doyle smiled and joined in the general laughter as he filled his own glass.

Cowley lifted his glass. “Anna.”

“A very special lady,” Doyle said, raising his own glass. He felt Bodie looking at him, but didn’t return the look.

“I told Mr Cowley I wanted to be in on the celebration,” Anna said, after she sipped some champagne.

“It’s largely thanks to you we were able to finally nail Rahad.” Doyle smiled.

“Aye, and that is why, as a bit of recompense, I am taking Anna out to dinner,” Cowley said.

Doyle suppressed a smile. “That seems fair enough.”

“Indeed.” Anna smiled again.

Cowley set his glass down. “In fact, we should be going.” He picked up his coat. “Anna?”

“Thank you very much for the champagne.” She set her own glass down and headed towards the door.

“You are very welcome. Good night, sir.” He managed to keep his tone as straight as his face.

“Doyle. Bodie.” Cowley followed Anna to the door, but turned back. “My office at nine o’clock sharp. There’s a job for you two.”

“Yes, sir.” Together, they ushered Cowley and Anna out. As soon as the door closed, they started laughing. “Dinner!”

“Aye, as a bit of recompense.” Doyle grinned. “But will it do his reputation good or ill?”

“I don’t think he cares at the moment.” Bodie downed the rest of his champagne.

“He always cares. I bet we were bloody witnesses, you know. ‘It was just a business transaction…’” Doyle smiled again and led the way back into the lounge. “We’ll have to finish the bottle ourselves. Shame.” He refilled Bodie’s glass and his own.

“About the champagne, or Cowley cutting you out with Anna?”

Doyle paused as he lifted his glass, then took a sip. “You’re jealous?” He kept his tone mild.

“I — “ Bodie broke off whatever it was he had been about to say. He turned away, hiding his face from Doyle, but Doyle had caught a glimpse of the shock in his expression.

“Yeah. How can you think this would be a good idea?” Doyle set his glass down.

At that, Bodie turned round again. “That’s the point, though, isn’t it? If we were together…”

“It wouldn’t fester? It wouldn’t ambush you on an op, wondering what I was doing with — “

“No.” Bodie set his glass down. “It’s not like that. It’s — “

Doyle walked swiftly to him and kissed him hard, his hand braced on the back of Bodie’s neck. He heard the moan trapped in Bodie’s throat. Bodie’s tongue met his, and Bodie’s arms wrapped around him. When Doyle’s anger threatened to dissolve completely, he broke free, and backed up a step. “You’re not a fool, Bodie. Think. For once in your life, take the fucking long view!”

Bodie stared at him. “Okay,” he said. He closed his mouth, swallowed. “Okay.”

Doyle’s chest tightened, his stomach felt hard. “It would never be casual between us. It couldn’t be.”

“No.” Bodie’s eyes were on the floor.

“So. Bargain holds.” Doyle, too, looked down.

“No.”

Doyle raised his head, his gut clenched.

Bodie met his look. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought about the future. I never have been one to think too far ahead.”

“Bad medicine.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Bodie took in a breath. He looked determined. “This is different. So, it’s full in. As long as we can make it last.”

“You’re bloody joking.”

Bodie shook his head. “No.”

“Dammit.” Doyle turned away, then back. “Bodie.”

“I’ve changed, Ray, because of you. It’s as simple as that. Took me a long time to realise, maybe, but — “

“But nothing! ‘Strewth! You can’t just…” He swung away again, hand in his hair. “It doesn’t work like that.” He faced Bodie.

Bodie leaned back against the wall. “Why not? If it matters. This does.”

“What does?”

“You and me.”

“Sentiment.”

“Achilles heel. Yeah. I’ve realised: it…keeps us human, doesn’t it?”

Doyle stared at him. “I don’t bloody believe this.”

Bodie was silent.

“And what if I say no, eh?”

Bodie’s face lost all expression. “I’ll do my best to live with it.”

Doyle felt cold. “You’ll leave.”

“Maybe. I’ll try not to.” Bodie looked at the floor for a moment. “I’m not holding you hostage to this, but… I’m not giving up, either. You can’t kiss me like that, and expect me to give up.”

Doyle looked away from him. It would be so easy to give in, let it happen. But it was too damn important, and he no longer knew what he wanted, what he really felt. He’d given up; he’d believed Bodie.

“It’s worth the risk,” Bodie said, as if he could hear Doyle’s thoughts. “I know that now.”

“I don’t.” His own voice sounded remote.

After a moment, Bodie nodded. “Fair enough.” He pushed himself away from the wall. “I’ll get the box in the kitchen, eh?”

“Yeah.” He watched Bodie leave the room. He knew the conversation wasn’t over; he knew Bodie wouldn’t quit. After a moment, Doyle headed upstairs for his bag. He concentrated on the job at hand and refused to think about anything else.

The next morning, Cowley ordered them to look into the case of a neurotic young woman who was, as far as Doyle could see, crying wolf about being followed and harassed in order to gain attention. Bodie was ordered to get close to her in order to check her story out, which he succeeded in doing using a highly manipulative trick: he deliberately caused a minor accident with her car in the car park, then acted the gentleman. Doyle watched from the passenger seat of Bodie’s Capri, and rolled his eyes. Bodie was clearly satisfied with himself when he climbed back into the car.

“Yes, well, that’s one way of making friends,” Doyle told him. He watched as Susan Grant headed in to her work place. “She looks pretty self-assured for a neurotic.” She had also looked interested, if puzzled, by Bodie.

“My charm overwhelmed her, you see.”

“I see.”

“It always does, in the end.”

Doyle flicked his eyes towards him. “Ever heard of a thing called hubris? What’s your next step in this brilliant plan?”

“Mend the car.” Bodie drove the Capri onto the street. “I think I’ll buy her a rose, too. Ask her out for a drink.”

“Great, and I get to do all the paperwork.”

“Shame. Shall I buy you a rose, too?”

Doyle tensed, and looked at him. “Cowley would split us, you know. You said it, years ago. Partners aren’t meant to be ‘involved’.”

“Yeah, well, Cowley would have to be pretty dim not to see how involved we are. I’ve disobeyed orders; you’ve fought him. Anyway, you don’t work well with others…”

I don’t? I worked fine with Stuart!”

Bodie glanced at him. “Ever wonder why Cowley chose Stuart, of all people for that case?”

“He knew the area.”

“He wouldn’t be intimidated by you. Not with that ego of his.” Bodie turned the car towards HQ.

“Go on. Anyway, at least he wouldn’t let me pull the mad stunts you pull when Murph — “

“I rest my case. Cowley knows we work best together. He’s pleased with the results.”

Doyle shook his head. “He wouldn’t allow…this.” Whatever it was. So, it’s full in. As long as we can make it last.

Bodie shrugged. “Cross that bridge when it happens.” He glanced again at Doyle. “Thinking about it, are you?”

“Never crosses my mind.” Doyle looked out the side window.

At HQ they separated: Doyle went to investigate Susan Grant’s life and work place; Bodie went to mend the car and, apparently, seek out roses. The jammy sod. Bodie kept him informed about his progress that evening. His plan of seduction worked perfectly, which was just the capper to a lousy day. Bodie even got to play the shining knight against a gang of thugs, who conveniently ran away when Susan screamed. It had to be a set-up, which he told Bodie the next day, when he reported in to him about Susan, and thoughtfully brought Bodie a sandwich to tide him over whilst he was on duty tailing the Grant woman. CI5’s involvement on the case didn’t make a bit of sense and, as usual, Cowley wasn’t telling them anything. It was bloody frustrating. Then, on top of everything, Bodie lost the girl.

“A bloody car stalled right in front of me, what was I supposed to do?” Bodie said to him over the car radio.

“You’re supposed to be keeping your eyes on everything around you, not just the girl,” Doyle shot back, and immediately regretted it. He winced.

Sure enough, while Bodie’s reply was an over-the-air acceptable, “The car was clean, but I’m not so sure the driver is,” Bodie’s voice held an underlying note of glee. “I’m heading back to her flat.”

“Right.” But he couldn’t resist adding: “You know, it could be an ex-boyfriend she’s dumped.”

“She certainly can pick and choose as she wishes.”

“Lucky her. Doyle out.” He flung the mic down. Damn, damn, damn. He wasn’t jealous of Susan Grant, but… How the hell had it got so complicated? When did the world turn upside down without him bloody noticing it? Bodie wanted a long-term relationship: for as long as they could make it last, regardless of the risks involved. Since when did Bodie think an Achilles heel was what kept them human? Doyle thought back to the first time they’d had that conversation. He remembered the defeated, empty look in Henry Turkel’s eyes. It was the pitfall of sentiment. He hadn’t agreed with Bodie that day, but he’d come to see his point of view. He’d understood it after Esther, after Ann, after Bodie’s refusal…after all the hollow victories on the job. You know what they made of me, don't you? He had finally learned to protect himself, hadn’t he? Learned to sweat it out and pour it back. Stay cool. Stay uninvolved. Focus on the bloody job without getting involved. He’d learned, dammit. And he realised he was at HQ, swung the car into the car park.

He sat for a moment, after turning the engine off. Cowley’s voice came to him: You care. The issues in this trade are complex. Tangled. Compassion can be a big step towards solving them. It wasn’t safe to care. He’d been gutted by Diana Molner’s murder, by Mayli’s attack, by all the death. But there had been victories, too, his mind argued. He just didn’t feel them like he used to. And that was good, wasn’t it? But then, why the fuck wasn’t he more resilient? Tired of thinking about it, he climbed out of the car, and walked into HQ.

The next day, he found Bodie on stake-out again outside Susan’s place of work. He brought the print-out from the computer about Henry Laughlin, who had shown up suspiciously quickly after the incident with the spider. Doyle settled into the passenger seat of the Capri. “Do you know why I ran after you that day you had the bomb strapped round you?”

Bodie looked at him, seemed about to speak, then stopped.

“It’s a two-way street,Bodie. In everything. Think about that, eh?” He handed Bodie the first part of the computer print-out. “Laughlin spent four years in Lubyanka. Never even got to Siberia.”

Bodie scanned the print-out. “He was in Lubyanka?”

“He's lucky they didn't throw the key away.”

Bodie continued to read. “Took part in the Hungarian Uprising.”

“Yeah, that was years ago. He formed Freedom Inc. back in the Sixties, dedicated to politicals everywhere.”

“Good job.”

“Yeah. Oh, he doesn't like us, by the way.” Doyle looked at him.

Bodie looked back. “Ahh.”

“It’s a shame, isn’t it? He's written reams on the evils of the secret organisations.” Doyle looked down at the rest of the print-out. “1959, The Realms of Evil; 1963, The Covert Society; 1968, The Enemy Within, and so on.” He folded the paper.

“A right nutter.”

“Yeah.” But with some reason, Doyle thought. Some.

“I don't think he's this sort of nutter, though. Watch out, I've got to go.”

Doyle looked up and saw Susan leaving Century House. “Hey,” he said to Bodie, “try not to lose her this time, eh?” Bodie nodded and Doyle got out of the car. His stomach was tight, but at least he’d said what he had to say. He knew why Bodie preferred to stay unattached. He knew to what lengths Bodie would go to protect someone he cared for. That was why Bodie was pushing this now, wasn’t it? He’d been frightened by Parker. But Doyle was just as prepared to sacrifice himself for Bodie as Bodie was for him. Doyle was just as likely to die on the job as Bodie was. There was no protection against that. Bodie had to think this through.

After reporting in to Cowley, Doyle drove to his flat. He heated leftovers from an Indian he’d brought in the other night, and ate in front of the telly. He was just cleaning his dishes when the door buzzer went. He dried his hands and walked to the door to press the button. “Yeah?”

“It’s me.”

Frowning, Doyle released the lock and let Bodie into the building. He returned the towel to the kitchen and got back to the door in time to let Bodie into the flat. He closed the door behind him. “Wha—?” His words were stopped by Bodie’s mouth on his. Bodie pushed him back against the wall. His tongue was in Doyle’s mouth, his body pressed tightly against Doyle’s. And Doyle didn’t resist; he didn’t want to resist. He never had. He put his arms around Bodie and he pushed back.

Bodie’s lips moved from Doyle’s mouth to his face. “Ray,” he muttered. “Oh, Christ. Ray.”

Doyle’s eyes were closed, he felt Bodie against every inch of his own body. “What are you…doing…here?” He felt the sudden laughter inside Bodie. “Berk.” His hands were in Bodie’s hair, and he arched his neck as Bodie nuzzled it, nipping at his skin. “Case,” he finally gasped out.

Bodie lifted his head. His face was flushed, his lips red, and his pupils dilated. “Lewis’s got the night shift. I just called from the car, checked on her. She’s locked in for the night. We—“ His R/T buzzed. Bodie froze. Doyle groaned. Bodie backed away a step, took the R/T out of his pocket. “Yeah?”

“Urgent call from your charge, Three-seven.” It was Julia at the switchboard.

“What happened?” Bodie grabbed hold of Doyle’s arm when he would have stepped away.

“It sounds like her phone has been tapped. They played back your conversation with her.”

“Right. I’ll be there soon. Lewis report anything?”

“Negative.”

“Good. Out.” He stowed the R/T and looked at Doyle with more open regret than at any time Doyle could remember seeing.

“Job comes first,” Doyle said.

“Not always.”

“Sometimes.” Doyle held his gaze, saw a flicker in Bodie’s eyes, and a slight nod.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here, Ray. But…” Bodie looked away. His certain, self-confident partner was flailing. The only other time Doyle had seen him like this had been the night they had had sex. Bodie lifted his head, looked again at Doyle. “Will you be here? Later? If I — “

Doyle’s heart leapt. “Yeah. I’ll be here.” He’d risk it; he had to. He had no real choice.

Bodie nodded. He touched Doyle on the arm, then moved to the door, but turned back. “I know why you ran after me. I know what it means. Scares me to death.”

Something blossomed in Doyle’s gut, spreading out like pins and needles through his nerves. He felt alive, and it made him smile. “You’re not alone.”

“In the madness?” Bodie’s smile was rueful. “See you later, eh?” His eyes travelled over Doyle, and then he opened the door and left.

Doyle closed his own eyes, drew in a breath and let it out. What had he decided? When had he decided? But he wouldn’t — couldn’t — fight Bodie on this any more. It felt right. It felt more right than it had a year ago. They’d proven they’d die for each other. Maybe, just maybe, they’d live for each other as well. He returned to the kitchen, finished with the dishes, then settled on the sofa with a book. But he couldn’t concentrate. He wandered to the window, then thought he’d put on some music, but nothing seemed right. He finally settled down to cleaning his gun, letting the familiar task calm him. He had just finished when his R/T buzzed.

“Four-five.”

“Alpha here. Three-seven’s taken out an intruder at Susan Grant’s. Police and ambulance are already on their way. Get over there and take over. I want to know who it was.”

“Yes, sir.” Doyle was already grabbing his jacket as he answered. He made excellent time to Susan’s flat, showed his ID and was directed to a Sergeant Watson.

“Is that your man up there?” Watson asked, after glancing at Doyle’s ID.

“Yeah. What can you tell me?”

“Nothing much. The shot was reported. We responded, but orders came to simply document the scene and wait for you.”

“Right. Our man and Miss Grant will be leaving London tonight. I want the body removed as quickly as possible. We need to get an ID.” Doyle headed up to the flat, following the ambulance crew who carried a stretcher for the body. Bodie met him at the door, face expressionless, but Doyle could see the anger within him. “Okay?”

“Yeah.” Bodie led him into the kitchen, where Susan waited for them. She looked composed, but tense.

“Miss Grant? My name’s Ray Doyle. I’m sorry about all this.”

“It’s hardly your fault.” She glanced at Bodie, then back at him, her eyes narrowing slightly.

“You’re not going to want to stay here. That lot,” he nodded towards the police and ambulance crew, “will be here for a while. Is there a place…?”

“I can go to my mother’s home.”

“I’ll take her,” Bodie said.

“Good.” Doyle looked around. “If you want to pack something, get changed…?”

Susan nodded. “Yes. Thank you.” She looked again at Bodie, then turned and left the room.

“What happened?” Doyle asked as soon as Susan had disappeared.

“Found a bug on her phone and then a hole in her wall. Empty flat next door. Tape recorder. While I was investigating that, a man in a ski mask got in here and grabbed her. I heard her scream and came back. He took a shot at me — she shoved his arm, so he missed. I killed him.”

“Were they after you or her?”

Bodie shrugged. “They’ve had ample opportunity to kill her.”

“You, then.” Doyle moved aside as the ambulance crew manoeuvred the body out of the flat. “Apparently, you’re relieving her fears too well.”

“All part of the service.” Bodie smiled slightly, and again his eyes roamed over Doyle.

“I shall remember that. Keep your head down, eh?” He followed the ambulance crew out of the flat. He reported in to Cowley, then stayed with the body through a brief examination by the doctor at the mortuary, but there was no joy. They would just have to rely on fingerprints for identification. At least they all now agreed that Susan Grant wasn’t a neurotic and wasn’t making any of it up. Doyle was putting his money on Henry Laughlin being involved, one way or another.

It took until morning for the fingerprint identification to come through: Edward James Smith, suspected hit man for ultra-right-wing organisations. That made it even more likely that Henry Laughlin was involved in some way. Cowley ordered Doyle to put a tap on Laughlin’s telephone, and to search his flat. Bodie, meanwhile, stayed at the country house with Mrs Grant and Susan. And Doyle found himself thinking about Bodie far too damn often. Doubts were beginning to set in. Bodie had changed his mind before, hadn’t he? He wouldn’t allow himself to hope just yet. He concentrated on the job. In Laughlin’s flat, he found articles on Susan, and a photo of another girl who looked very like Susan Grant. He reported in to Cowley.

That night, Bodie took out another intruder at the Grant home, although this one he didn’t kill, and this one was definitely targeting Susan Grant for harm. The local police drove the man — Raymond Miller — to a police station in town. Doyle spoke briefly with Bodie over the R/T:

“Didn’t kill this one, then?”

“I don’t think Mrs Grant would approve.”

“Looking to soften her up?”

“Looking to soften up Cowley. I think he’s sweet on her.” After a pause, Bodie added: “And I don’t care who hears.”

Doyle chuckled. “Bodie.”

“Listen, I found out Susan is adopted.”

“Is she?” Doyle thought about the photograph he’d found. “I might have something to add to that.”

“Yeah, well, make it quick. I want to come home.”

“I’ll do my best. Four-five out.” He was smiling when he clicked off the R/T.

He and Cowley interrogated Miller but didn’t get anything from him. Cowley ordered Bodie back to town. They would let Susan go back to her routine, but they would keep a close eye on her. Finally, a break came when the bug on Laughlin’s phone gave them a lead to Mason, of the law firm Mason, Gould and Partners. Doyle went to see him and found out that Henry Laughlin was being pressured to give up evidence he had about torture being used against political prisoners in Central America. Susan Grant was Laughlin’s natural daughter. It all slotted perfectly into place — Laughlin had been trying to protect Susan, not harm her. Before he could report in, Cowley called for Doyle to meet him at the police station where Miller was being held. Miller had been killed.

“Cyanide,” Cowley told him when he arrived at the station. “Injected into the back of the neck.”

“Neat.” Mason had told him the name of the man threatening Laughlin and Susan: Bauer, an international hit man.

“Yes, neat cyanide. The girl back at work?”

“Yeah, and Bodie on the spot. Think it's becoming a labour of love.”

Cowley snorted. “Well, I hope it doesn't lapse into reverie.”

Once he had filled Cowley in on all that Mason had had to say, the wheels were set in motion to trap Bauer. They didn’t want to risk Bauer running, so only Doyle was in the park where Mason was to meet Bauer with the tapes of evidence. He was meant to intercept Bauer after he received the evidence, and he would have done, if Bauer hadn’t run, and he hadn’t got tangled up with lads playing sodding football. Doyle managed to retrieve the evidence, but lost Bauer.

“Four-five to Three-seven. Over.”

“Three-seven.”

He didn’t want to admit it. “Yeah, I lost Bauer. I got the tapes safe, though. I'll put out a Red A. Over.”

“All right, understood.”

Doyle took the evidence box back to HQ, and then all hell broke lose when Bodie radioed in that he was in trouble. Bodie had left his car mic open, and it was clear he and Susan had been taken by Bauer and were being forced to drive somewhere. Doyle got in his car and headed out, listening to the radio while he kept in touch with Cowley through a different frequency.

“Turn right at the roundabout.” That had to be Bauer.

Cowley said, “Got that, Four-five?”

“Yep, A24.”

Bauer again: “Keep going for three miles.”

“Where we going?” Bodie asked. “Through Woodley?”

“You'll be told. Just keep going.”

Doyle spoke to himself: “Ah, beautiful, just keep on going.” He could intercept them. He had to intercept them.

“What do you want her for?” Bodie asked.

“Shut up,” Bauer said.

“Well, first you try and scare her, and now you're looking to — “ Bodie’s voice suddenly cut out. There was nothing but silence from the radio.

Sodding — Doyle looked around. “Where the hell is he going?”

Harris at HQ suddenly said: “Sir, we're getting his Tracker signal now.” Doyle nearly cheered. Trust Bodie. Trust sneaky, competent, clever—

Cowley interrupted his thoughts. “Possibly the old airstrip at Padley.”

Doyle thought about it. “Maybe. A definite maybe.” He turned the car in that direction and put his foot down.

“Go for it. The Met's alerting all mobile patrols. The fellow's obviously armed, and he's got the girl.” And Bodie.

Doyle drove as quickly as he could to Padley, only slowed for a moment by a sodding tractor on the road. He drove straight onto the air strip, facing down a small aeroplane that was taxiing towards him. Doyle didn’t slow, but neither did the plane. He took out his gun and fired out the side window at the cockpit, knowing he had no real hope of hitting anything, but hoping to distract Bauer. He veered away from the plane at the last minute, and then saw Bodie’s Capri — and Susan and Bodie crouched behind it. Thank God. Oh, thank, fucking —

Doyle screeched to a stop behind Bodie and Susan. He looked out the window at Bodie. “What’re you doing?” He tried to look as puzzled as he could, given the joy that was flowing through him.

“What do you think? Looking for the car keys.” Yeah, Bodie was fine. Absolutely fine.

And then an explosion jerked their attention away from each other. They looked back to see the plane and a shed engulfed in flames. Maybe he had hit something, after all.

It took them until the arrival of the fire squad and police before they found Bodie’s car keys. In the end it was Susan who spied them, and very pleased with herself she was, too. She was a nice girl, Doyle decided. And Bodie wasn’t interested in her in the least. Cowley ordered them to rendezvous at Mrs Grant’s house. They left Bodie’s car at HQ. When they arrived at the house, they found Henry Laughlin there, looking extremely nervous. Cowley asked Susan to step with him into the house, as he had something to show her. Cowley also sent a glance towards Bodie and Doyle, clearly conveying that they were to entertain Mrs Grant and Laughlin.

“Oh, God,” Laughlin said.

Doyle left him to Bodie and asked Mrs Grant about her garden. Cowley, he suspected, was informing Susan Grant about her parentage, and what the harassment had been all about. And it seemed he was right, because when they came out of the house, Susan was carrying the box of tapes. She went to speak with Laughlin. Cowley joined Doyle and Mrs Grant.

“This young man’s been advising me about my roses, George.”

Cowley looked surprised. “Really?”

Doyle smiled. “Didn’t know I’ve got green fingers, did you?”

Cowley chuckled, and they turned to follow Mrs Grant on a tour of her garden. Doyle glanced back and saw Bodie catching up with them. Laughlin and Susan were in the distance, deep in discussion. He slowed his steps as Bodie joined the group, and they let Cowley and Mrs Grant walk ahead.

“Good outcome?” Doyle asked.

“Maybe. She’s a tough one. She keeps her feelings close.”

“Oh, really? Sounds familiar.”

Bodie let out a little laugh. “She said something similar. Said we were both loners.”

Doyle nodded.

“But I’m not any more.”

Doyle slid a look at him, then ahead at Cowley and Mrs Grant, who had paused to admire the view. “Okay. Tell me why I ran after you.”

“Because you couldn’t let me die.” Bodie took in a deep breath. “And I know you wouldn’t have given up.” Bodie looked down for a moment. “Reckon I knew that at the time but I didn’t realise what it meant. I was too busy protecting you — too busy protecting myself.”

“Trying to avoid an Achilles heel, eh?” Doyle looked away, toward a line of trees. “I understand that need for self-protection better than I ever have before.”

Bodie was silent beside him, and then he said: “Is that what this past year has been about? You…”

“Protecting myself? Yeah, maybe.” Doyle nodded slowly. “Felt like I lost myself, though, you know?” He looked away again. “I didn’t care.”

“You did.” Bodie sounded very certain. “You just bottled it up. And that’s not you. Spilled out, though, didn’t it? With Diana Molner, and others. And,” he smiled a little, “you just can’t take advantage in a gun fight without bloody warning everyone first.”

Doyle stared at him, startled. “Wha—?” Enlightenment slowly dawned. “Ojuka.”

“Yeah. You came on the scene, a mixture of avenging angel and seventh cavalry, and you shouted ‘hold it’ to the man whose back was to you. It was in the middle of a fucking gunfight, Doyle.”

Doyle shrugged. “Second nature.”

Bodie smiled. “Right. And I could have bloody well predicted it. You know, if we weren’t standing in full view of Cowley, I’d kiss you here and now.”

Doyle blinked, rocked off his balance. “Well…don’t.”

Bodie grinned.

“Idiot.” Doyle considered Bodie, his mind whirling. “That’s when you had your bloody Damascus moment?”

With typical timing, Cowley called out to them: “Bodie, Doyle!”

Bodie nodded. “Yeah. Bloody brilliant, it was.” They turned together and walked towards Cowley.

“There are any number of times in the last year when I’ve told people to hold it,” Doyle said under his breath to Bodie.

“You’re the one who always says I’m thick.”

“Bull-headed stubborn would be — “

“I’m glad to see you two are enjoying yourselves,” Cowley said as they reached him. “Mrs Grant has kindly invited us all to stay for supper.

“That’s very — “ Doyle started to say, but Bodie interrupted him.

“To tell you the truth, Mrs Grant, sir, I’m afraid I might fall asleep in the middle.”

“Oh, that’s right, you did have a disturbed night, didn’t you?” Mrs Grant turned to Cowley. “Perhaps it will be just the four of us, then, yes?”

Cowley smiled. “Well, if you two are certain…?”

“Yes,” Doyle said. “Thank you, Mrs Grant. I’ll drive Bodie back to town and see he gets his beauty sleep.”

She laughed. “I don’t think he needs that. Thank you, both of you, for all you’ve done for Susan and me.”

They escaped, with only an order from Cowley to be in to work by noon. They had made their farewells to Susan and Laughlin, and were soon in the car, headed for London.

“My place?” Doyle asked. “Yours?” He felt his arousal building, just saying the words. Bodie would come home with him.

“Yours,” Bodie said, and there was something in his voice that gave Doyle a little pause. He didn’t say anything, though, just let the miles go by, and the soothing rhythm of the car ease the sudden tension. What had he expected, after all? Nothing would ever come completely easily for either of them. But with Bodie, he was willing to try.

Bodie’s hands and lips were on him as soon as he closed the door behind them in his flat. “Yeah, okay,” he said, when he could speak. Bodie was kissing his eyes, his cheekbone, his neck. “Just want to get the light… Don’t really need the…light, do we?” He pulled Bodie’s shirt out of his trousers, and touched skin. “Know where every — oh, God — thing…”

“What’s that?”

Before he could answer Bodie’s question, he was kissed again. They lurched a few steps down the hallway, until Bodie smacked against the edge of a table. “Ow! Damn — “

Doyle found himself laughing, clutching at Bodie as he swore and stumbled. They ended up against the wall. Doyle reached out to turn the light on. He grinned at Bodie.

“Well, who puts a damn table in their hall?” Bodie was laughing as well by now.

“Come on.” He took Bodie’s hand. “Let’s try this again. With lights.” He tugged Bodie to his bedroom.

“You’re still laughing,” Bodie accused as he wrapped his arms around Doyle from behind, and nuzzled his neck.

“Well, with you as my partner, can you blame me? You great clown.” He stilled for a moment, eyes widening. Bodie so often made him laugh: at inopportune moments; when he was scared; on and off the job.

Bodie must have felt something: “What?”

Doyle turned in his arms. “Nothing. Just…you.” Bodie had made him smile even in the midst of the Coogan business.

“Oh, object for amusement, am I?”

“Always.” He slid his hand behind Bodie’s neck and sought his lips. Balance, he thought hazily, as Bodie responded and the kiss deepened. Bodie was his balance; Bodie’s presence allowed him to be who he was. He felt light inside, as he hadn’t for far too long. He wanted to melt in to Bodie; take him and be taken by him. He wanted so much more than he’d wanted that long ago night when he had last kissed Bodie, and taken his clothes off, and touched him.

Bodie was urgent beneath his hands, guiding Doyle to the bed and tipping him over onto it. It was as if Bodie couldn’t get close enough to him. But then, Doyle knew what it was like to want what you thought you might never have. Doyle’s heart was pounding, blood rushing to his cock. He was content to let Bodie take the lead, if that was what Bodie needed. Bodie’s hands and tongue and mouth roamed over him, as if seeking to memorise him. Doyle let him explore, and gave voice to the pleasure of having his nipples pinched, his balls squeezed, his cock… Oh, his cock gripped and stroked and tongued. When Bodie stopped, he reached for him, pulling him up to kiss him, and take Bodie’s tongue into his mouth. He loved the feel of Bodie’s hard muscles, soft skin under his fingertips. He loved the jolt it gave him when Bodie moaned into his mouth. He felt something growing inside him besides lust, something that lifted his heart and his spirit — like after a gun fight, or when Bodie made him laugh despite everything. Bodie slid down Doyle’s body, took Doyle’s cock again into his mouth and brought him right to the brink of release

“Bodie,” Doyle protested, as Bodie pulled away, leaving him gasping. “Dammit — “ He struggled to sit up, but Bodie put his hand on his shoulder. There was something fierce and intent in Bodie’s eyes and in his face. He pulled Doyle towards him, even as he settled on to the bed. He pulled Doyle towards his back, and it was obvious what he wanted. Doyle’s breath caught, and he nearly came at the images that suddenly crowded in his brain. He put one hand on Bodie’s back and another on his arm, struggling to regain control. Bodie twitched, and Doyle felt goose bumps on Bodie’s arm. He grinned. “Really want this,” he murmured, bringing his mouth to Bodie’s back. He was so damn close. He felt a tremor of need go through Bodie, but there was tension as well — too much. He hesitated a moment, blinking, thinking that he should get lube —

“Ray?”

And there was something in Bodie’s voice that cut right through him. Not like this, he thought, not now, not yet. “Come on.” He tugged at Bodie. “Like this… Need you.” He turned and positioned them so Bodie could suck him as he sucked Bodie. They’d work like a team; they’d work like them. Oh, Christ, he was too close. All it took was Bodie’s hands on his arse and balls, his mouth and the pressure of his tongue — Doyle came; it was sweet, sweet release. He let Bodie’s cock slip from his mouth as he arched and spent himself down Bodie’s throat. He felt Bodie holding tightly to him, as if they were in a storm. As soon as he could breathe again, he wrapped a hand around Bodie’s cock, and took him again into his mouth, listening to Bodie’s gasp and then a curse. There was no question but that Bodie liked being blown, and when Doyle slipped a hand around his arse, and pressed with his finger, Bodie jerked, thrust hard, and came. Bodie didn’t cry out, but his groan was lush, and it seemed to fill Doyle, like a bass beat.

“Come here,” Bodie said, his voice faint. “Ray.”

Doyle scrambled round, settled beside Bodie, and enjoyed a lingering kiss as his pulse rate steadied. Bodie finally broke the kiss, rolling onto his back, one hand on Doyle’s stomach. Doyle watched him while Bodie stared at the ceiling. “Looking for the words: ‘Spur of the moment; bad day; it’s no wonder’?”

Bodie winced. “Remember that, do you?”

“It was seared into my brain.”

Bodie sighed. “You would.” He was silent for a while, and then: “I would have let you.”

Doyle’s stomach tightened. “There’s nothing to prove. Not now.”

“Another time, then.” There was no strain in Bodie’s smile.

“Count on it.”

Bodie turned his head, looking at Doyle through slightly narrowed eyes. “Do you know what I realised when I was watching Avery’s house?”

Doyle frowned. “What?”

“That I wanted to get him. Like you would.” He rolled onto his side to face Doyle fully. He put his palm on Doyle’s face. “Of course, when he had you, I wanted to kill him.”

Doyle smiled slightly and kissed Bodie’s palm. “Sentiment. Cutting edge. We know them well.”

“My damn Achilles heel.”

“Sorry about that. You know, if you still need an excuse, you could put all this down to my reaction to you being grabbed today.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll see it happens more often.” Bodie kissed him slowly.

“That would liven things up.” He smiled as he realised just how certain Bodie was of him.

“Daft sod.” Bodie traced a line on Doyle’s shoulder. “Always thought getting involved was too…”

“Risky?”

“Dangerous, yeah. Threw out a lot of reasons against it.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Bodie cuffed him lightly. “I’m trying to — “

“Don’t need to. Your armour was well in place the first day I met you.”

Bodie’s smile was wry. “Bit tattered now.”

“Yeah, well, so is mine.”

“It never suited you, anyway.” Bodie frowned slightly. “You shut down after I scarpered, didn’t you?”

Doyle pursed his lips. “Had to keep everything hidden when Dreisinger had you. It seemed to stick. Was easier that way.” He thought of Esther and Ann, and what he hadn’t been able to give them. “But I felt half-dead. I wasn’t really surprised when I got shot.”

“But you came back. You didn’t quit.”

Doyle nodded. He reached out and Bodie took his hand, kissed his fingers, then held them tightly. “Need you.” Doyle said the words softly. He felt alive when Bodie was there, balancing his moods. “I don’t care about the risks.”

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. When his lashes lifted, he looked steadily at Doyle. “Anyway, what are the chances we’ll survive, eh?” His voice was light, but Doyle saw the promise in his eyes. He had no doubts about Bodie, either.

Doyle felt a grin tug as his mouth. “Considering we have to get past Cowley?”

“Doesn’t matter now. He can’t separate us. No one can.”

“Great. You can be the one to tell him, then.”

“Ah, well, always believed in the team approach, myself.”

“Oh, really? I distinctly remember — “

“You watch mine, I’ll watch yours. Yeah. Partners. Best idea Cowley ever had.” Bodie smiled at him.

“Berk.” But Doyle smiled back at him. “‘So, it’s full in. As long as we can make it last’.”

Bodie leaned forward. “Deal,” he said, just before they kissed.

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You'll be paired off, and from then on, you're the Bisto Kids.

 

The phone on his desk rang. Cowley reached for it quickly. “Yes?”

“It’s the Minister, sir, line two. The new Minister.”

“Thank you.” He heard the click of the line change. “Good evening, sir. And may I say, welcome back?”

“Thank you, George. You have caused a bit of a kerfuffle, haven’t you?”

“I had little to do with it, other than putting the right people in place to discover Dawson’s secret.”

“And now higher heads than his have rolled.”

“Indeed. It is the nature of our business, is it not?”

“Perhaps. But there will be no witch hunts over this affair. I do wish to make that clear.”

“Understood, sir.” Vigilance would have to suffice.

“I have enough problems as it is. Willis is gone; Manton is gone; Dawson is gone — and the position of head of MI6 remains vacant.”

“It is a quandary sir, but one I am certain you will solve.”

“Flattery this early in the morning, George?”

Cowley smiled. “Is it too early? Perhaps we could discuss it over a drink this evening?”

“Yes, at the club. I’ll bring my short list. I must give you fair warning, however.”

“Oh, yes?”

“The…cooperative coordination that was established between MI6, MI5 and CI5 has deteriorated in the time that I have been occupied elsewhere.”

“A loss to all of us,” Cowley said.

“It will be re-established. However, I have observed, with some amazement, the remarkable success you have achieved with your team structure.”

“You’re thinking of putting a team in charge of MI6?”

“Alas, no, although I believe there is some merit to pondering on that. No, it is the careful matching of disparate skills and personalities that I admire. It seems to have created a synergy when I would have thought competition would destroy it from within. The chalk and cheese factor, I believe you once called it.”

“Ah. Would this be your way of telling me that I may have some differences with the men on your short list?”

“I am certain you will find a way to work well with whoever becomes head of MI6. Teamwork is essential.”

“Of course, sir.” Cowley suppressed a sigh.

“Very well. I have read your reports on your recent operations. Your man Anson is recovering?”

“Yes, sir. Kate Ross is working with him.” She agreed with him that the safest course for Anson was to be back at work and focused on goals. They would not again allow him to be involved with a drugs case.

“Good. I look forward to catching up with you in person tonight.”

“There is just one thing more, Minister.”

“Of course there is. Is it a good thing that I am sitting down?”

“It is not a terribly important matter, sir, just a personnel note. Two of my men are in a committed sexual relationship.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“It has, of course, been noted in their records, following the usual procedures when — “

“There are no usual procedures. Have you run mad, George? They must — “

“No, sir. As you well remember, I have final say on the fates of any of my agents. In writing. Bodie and Doyle are my best team.”

“Bodie and Doyle.” The Minister sighed. “Naturally. Good God, George, do you have any idea — ?”

“I am certain you are up to the task, sir.”

There was a pause at the other end of the phone line. “It will take more than one whisky.”

Cowley smiled. “Of course, sir.”

“Are there any other bombs you would care to lob at me?”

“Not at this time.”

“A small blessing. Until tonight, then, George.”

“Good-bye, sir.” He hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. Interesting. That had gone about as well as he could have expected. It might still be that he would lose his best team, but he had done his best to avoid it. He had been disappointed but not especially surprised when Bodie and Doyle had told him of their liaison. Kate Ross, rather surprisingly, had been against the notion of separating them. Bodie appears to be more invested in the job; Doyle less prone to depression. Unless their efficiency and operational ratings deteriorate, I would recommend against re-teaming. Of course, there was also the small factor that they would resign before they would accept re-teaming.

Cowley reached for the dram of whisky he’d poured for himself before the telephone call. If the Minister agreed, the relationship would be known to a few, but hidden to most. Bodie and Doyle’s discretion could certainly be relied — He pondered for a moment. He would make it clear to Bodie and Doyle that discretion was of paramount importance. It should work. And if it didn’t, well, they were aware of the consequences. It was not what he had envisioned when he had developed CI5’s team organisation, but he saw no reason to overreact. The team model of checks and balances had proven highly successful. In fact, when he thought of the Minister’s words, he saw the possibility for new opportunities. In the meanwhile, there were, of course — as he would point out to the Minister this evening — certain advantages to the situation. He sat back in his chair, and contemplated potential ops.

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THE END
September 2012