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The Aftermath of Words

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Title: The Aftermath of Words
Author: lbc
Pairing: D/B
Word Count: 44,417
Page Count: 84
Note: Some of the canon episodes mentioned in this story might be in a different sequence in order to aid my efforts to make this story coherent.

 

Cowley’s gun fit his hand exactly as he aimed the Webley at Bodie’s head. Without really thinking about it, Doyle knew that the .265 bullet would make a mess of the handsome face, and though the revolver didn’t have the penetrating power of his own Walther PPK, it would certainly kill at such a short distance.

The tension in the wooded area was thick even on a cool day. Doyle could feel his sweat seeping through his jacket and jeans. He knew . . . he just knew that Cowley would kill Bodie - - not because he had a stranglehold on King Billy . . . but for some other reason . . . something that Doyle couldn’t quite understand.

Cowley’s voice was intense and had the tone of utterly believability as he said, “So help me, Bodie, if you finish that neck-lock, I’ll shoot you dead.”

Now that Cowley had issued his threat; Doyle knew that he was going to lose Bodie, and without Bodie what would he do? Seeing a future without his partner, Doyle launched his body at the man holding the gun, feeling only pain and then the blackness.

Rrrrriiiiinnnnnnng!

Covered in sweat, Doyle sat straight up in bed then looked at the alarm clock, trying to adjust to the normalcy of his bedroom. He had dreamt the same nightmare each night since Bodie had tried to take on King Billy’s gang all by himself. Doyle closed his eyes as he remembered the events that had happened less than two weeks before. He noticed the clamminess of his naked body as the sweat began to cool. Looking at the alarm clock once again, he knew that it was time to get up, but his body felt the exhaustion that his mind had been enduring since that moment a few weeks before.

Over the last weeks, his relationship with his partner had grown more distant. Part of the problem was Doyle’s own guilt about abandoning his partner when he faced the fight of his life. Cowley’s words once again drilled into his brain, creating more guilt and trauma over what had almost occurred.

“Where’s Bodie? You were meant to keep an eye on him.”

How could he have been so blind about Bodie hurting and that the death of Keith Williams had bothered him so much? Of course, Bodie had kept the whole thing from him, never mentioning Keith Williams or his feelings about the man’s death, but that didn’t excuse himself from noticing Bodie’s plight. He had always had the tendency to take his handsome partner for granted, but that time it had almost cost 3.7 his life.

Once again the weight of Doyle’s guilt centred on Doyle’s decision to leave before Bodie scaled the Widowmaker. Finally realizing the danger to Bodie, he had tried to help and got a branch bashed into his stomach. It was not until much later that Doyle realized the reason that Bodie had done that. At that moment and for days to come Doyle nursed his hurt feelings and pain in the way he often did; he shrank into himself and ignored his partner.

Getting ready to go to work, Doyle took a quick shower to try and refresh himself, but the exhaustion and tension still remained even after he put on his tight jeans and clean shirt. Putting on clean clothes did not alleviate Doyle’s vague sense of pain that seemed to be like an omen of things to come.

It was not unusual for him to have nightmares after some of the jobs that Cowley had sent the partners to work on. In fact, it had been Bodie’s reunion with Krivas early in their partnership which had lead to their intimacy - - no that wasn’t the right word - - sex was the word. Bodie would have it no other way; he needed a mind-draining, exhausting kind of sex to make him forget what had happened to him while in Krivas’ company both in Africa and England, and Doyle was willing to accept the conditions even then.

Driving to work did not stop Doyle from thinking about the first time Bodie and he had had sex.

After Krivas had been taken away and Cowley had made that ridiculous jest about Bodie following his teachings, Doyle had waited; his stomach in knots. Perhaps that was the first time he had left his partner to get on with the job, but later that evening Doyle had gone to his partner’s flat expecting to find Bodie his usual self. After all, in the few months that he had been partnered with Bodie, the ex-merc had maintained his cool, dispassionate front to perfection. Nothing and no one had got through his barriers, certainly not Doyle, who felt that he was still on trial as an adequate partner for the worldly, violence-hardened soldier and ex-merc.

Instead of finding Mr. Cool, he found Bodie ready to climb the walls. He was getting ready to go out, obviously needing something that his right hand could not give him. Doyle’s heart dropped into his stomach. How could he provide what Bodie needed when he had never done much more than play around while in his teens and art school, but somehow he had to find the courage?

As their sweaty bodies lay next to each other after less-than-pleasant orgasms due to their too frantic need for release, Bodie whispered the parameters of their future intimacy - - it was to be straight sex. Bodie believed in repaying debts and if Doyle ever felt the need for another man’s body then he was to come to Bodie. Bodie’s words were still loud in his mind:

“You come to me, sunshine. I don’t want you goin’ to just anybody ‘cause you never know what they might have picked up. I’m clean and so are you; so we want to keep it that way. Birds - -that’s fine by me, but WE keep it clean: no kissin’, no grand confessions, no kinks; no cuddling afterwards; we do straight sex. I’ve done a lot more, and I know I don’t want any of that. If that’s not okay with you, then we end this right now. Understood?”

And, of course, Doyle had understood and had been somewhat relieved because he wasn’t sure if he was ready for those “other” things, but the curly haired man still had a hollow feeling about how his future with Bodie was going to shape up.

The next time they had sex was after the Jill Haydon affair. Doyle’s emotions were in turmoil. The word, TRUST, had become more and more important in his partnership with Bodie. The man had given up his free time to help Doyle track down the truth about Bill Haydon and his involvement in the death of his late partner Syd Parker, but Doyle’s growing trust in Bodie had been shaken to the core when he had shouted at Bodie, regarding the death of his partner, Syd:

“Haydon stuck a bullet right in the middle of him. He shot my partner. Now tell me Bodie, how would you feel about that?”

And Bodie had responded, “I don’t know.”

Doyle had never let his partner know how much that response bothered him. In fact, he was about ready to tell his partner to shove off, but instead walked to his bedroom to think about the troubling aspects of his relationship with Bodie. The curly-haired man was, therefore, confused and suspicious when Bodie appeared at the door of his bedroom flat, standing there studying Doyle intently.

Without saying a word, Bodie began to remove his jacket and soft shirt. Heading towards the bed, Doyle looked askance at him as Bodie remarked quietly, “Remember I told you I always pay my debts, and before you make any comments, I can see you’re hurtin’, and I know one thing that helps make that all better right away.”

Doyle’s green eyes stared intently at his partner, trying to decide what to say. He knew he should send Bodie on his way, but the clean smell of Bodie’s musk enticed him so much he found he could not resist Bodie’s definite allure and began to remove his own clothes.

The sex this time was different from the first. The need wasn’t a whirlwind confrontation. Doyle gently caressed his partner’s soft, smooth skin, gently tweaking one brown nipple and then the other. He could feel Bodie’s erection against his thigh as he drew the man closer. Then Bodie took over, by pushing the thinner man back onto the mattress and capturing their two erections between their bodies and rubbing Doyle into a state of ecstasy. The effect was mind-blowing and within seconds Doyle felt his balls draw up into a cataclysmic release.

Doyle must have blacked out as a result because when he opened his eyes a few minutes later, he couldn’t remember anything after screaming his release. Bodie was lying supine next to him, covered with a duvet. Waiting for Bodie to say something, Doyle lay there quietly then said, “You all right?”

“Fine” was the only answer he got. Doyle badly wanted to ask if Bodie had come as well, but stopped himself when he saw Bodie turn over away from him, and seemingly go to sleep.

Doyle lay there for several minutes before sleep overtook him. Bodie’s actions greatly confused him. How could a man be so involved in sex one minute and the next second turn over and act like nothing had happened? While Doyle was contemplating this enigma, he fell asleep. When Doyle woke up the next morning, Bodie had already left.

With a start Doyle realized that he had reached CI5 Headquarters. His memories of the Haydon affair had occupied his thoughts completely during the drive. He must have driven like an automaton, but that wasn’t new, he had learned to do that while thinking about many cases.

Walking into CI5 headquarters he looked around expecting to see his partner. Their growing estrangement often caused Doyle to be less sure of his partner’s whereabouts. At one time, they had spent quite a bit of time together what with drinks at their locals, and watching the box, but lately they had spent very little off-duty time together. Now that Doyle thought about it; it seemed like the wariness between them had started about the time the King Billy fiasco had ended.

They had certainly been close enough before that. After all, Doyle had risked his life to tear fifteen pounds of explosives off of Bodie’s chest. Doyle had understood why the moron had run, but when he questioned him about his idiocy, the only thing that Bodie would say was that he couldn’t risk Cowley, could he? Not even a thank you - - almost as if he was angry at Doyle for saving his life.

Shaking his head, Doyle firmly resolved never to try too hard to understand the dumb crud who was his partner. Walking towards their small office, Doyle fully expected to see his partner sitting back in his chair, floating paper airplanes rather than the paper work that he was expected to do, but there was no one there. Continuing to search, Doyle was heading for the ops board when he saw Jax walking down the corridor towards him. The handsome black man smiled then frowned as he asked, “What’s wrong with your partner?”

A chill went down Doyle’s spine as he shook his head, “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about; haven’t seen him much lately.”

“Well, a few minutes ago, I heard him yelling in Cowley’s office. In fact, the whole building could hear him yellin’. A minute or two later he came rushing out the door, slammin’ it so it sounded like it was going to crack. The look on his face was . . . well, thunderous. Just thought maybe you’d know.”

Holding back his real worry, Doyle tried to make a jest of the incident. “Maybe Father told his blue-eyed boy that he had to go to bed without supper. You know how mad that makes 3.7.”

Jax grimaced slightly then nodded. “Well, it’s none of my business, but I checked the ops board a few minutes ago and it looks like Bodie has been given a bit of vacation.”

Doyle looked at the ops board as well and read for himself:

3.7 - - not assigned - - three days

Doyle’s face registered all sorts of reactions including consternation - - now what had the moron done to get suspended? As his partner, he should probably go check on him, but knowing Bodie he probably had gone to Cam Allen to whinge about his ill-treatment.

Suddenly Doyle’s thoughts turned to the image of the man that Bodie and he had met just after the end of the King Billy saga. Bodie had mentioned that he had to meet a grass at a local pub which catered to a variety of tastes. The obvious implication was that violence was not unheard of there, and Doyle had insisted on going along. Bodie’s sarcasm about Doyle’s need to baby-sit his all-grown-up partner was not lost on Doyle, but the skinny ex-copper still followed Bodie into the den of what obviously was not for gentle old ladies looking for tea time.

The grass never showed up, but Cam Allen did. As soon as they saw each other, Bodie and he practically fell into each other’s arms, giving each other a manly hug. For several minutes, Doyle felt like an outcast as the two men gabbled back and forth at each other, remembering better days. The lengthy reunion did give Doyle a chance to study the man who had so changed Bodie’s recent barrier-clad personality in so little time. The man was tall, blond, lean, and handsome in a somewhat rugged way. He would have made the poster boy (man) for any mercs’ magazine. His very persona spoke volumes about his past.

Finally Bodie remembered his manners and turned to Doyle to introduce the two men. “Cam, this is Ray Doyle, who works with me. Doyle, this is Cam Allen, the best partner a man could ever have if he hopes to get out of a jungle alive . . . or any other place really.”

Doyle stood there stunned at the introduction. Doyle was the man Bodie worked with, but Cam Allen was the best partner that a man could have? Trying to swallow his hurt, Doyle nodded his head at the man, and tried to make conversation. “I assume you’ve known Bodie for a long time; how long has it been since you’ve seen each other.”

Bodie’s deep blue eyes turned to look into the blond’s almost violet eyes as a glance of understanding passed between the two men, then Cam Allen’s deep baritone voice replied, “I haven’t seen the lad for fifteen years or more.” Looking once again at Bodie, Allen put an arm around the usually untouchable Bodie and proclaimed, “He was just wee pup when I met him, but soon proved to be a good man to know.”

Realizing that Bodie must have been quite young then, two thoughts quickly flew through Doyle’s mind: how great it would have been to have known the younger Bodie back then and even more importantly whether the two men had ever been lovers. Realizing the danger of the jealousy he was feeling, Doyle broke off his thoughts and offered to get the two men a drink.

The rest of the get-together was a haze for Doyle. He had heard of people “seeing red”, but had never really understood that phrase until those few minutes he sat with the two men who were totally wrapped up in each other and their memories of the varied places they had fought. Finally, Doyle could take it no more and made up an excuse to leave the downtrodden pub and get away from the Bodie/Cam reunion.

Strangely enough Cam had not faded back into the woodwork. Doyle had got the impression that Cam was in London for a specific reason and would leave after a few days, but those few days dragged into weeks. In fact, Bodie and Cam began seeing more and more of each other. Whenever Bodie and Doyle used to have some free time, they’d spend some of it together, but now Bodie usually spent his time with Cam.

At first, Bodie had given a perfunctory invitation to join them, but that was quickly dropped when Doyle obviously did not care to engage in talk of “the good old days”. After all, he had been a copper and understood little about the mercenary mentality or why anyone would want to remember the horrors of that way of life. Indeed, it had been that attitude that had made their early partnership so difficult. It had taken many months for Doyle to gain Bodie’s respect and trust so that the partnership could prevail. Now it seemed that the partnership was once again suffering from the pervasive influence of the mercenary mentality.

It always seemed to come back to that word, TRUST, Doyle had had to earn Bodie’s trust, and he thought he had done so, by Bodie letting down his barriers enough so that the two men had become intimate . . . well, at least had had sex. The sex had seemed to tell Doyle that maybe the crazy ex-merc was finally seeing him on an equal level and beginning to trust him, and now look where they were - - Bodie had just had a set-to with Cowley and instead of coming to his partner, he had gone . . . where?

They had indeed come a long way from those moments in the mooring area near Brownie’s boat when Doyle’s very life was threatened by Preston and Kathi Mason. Doyle’s trust in Bodie had been absolute. He had been telling the truth when he told Bodie that he would wait like a tethered nanny goat for the marksman to come and get him and then Bodie would save him. Doyle knew that he had always been an emotional man, but he also knew that he could be as hard and ruthless as Bodie, but in those moments of remembrance Doyle felt overwhelmed by a tremendous feeling of loss only he wasn’t sure what it was he had lost.

Doyle broke out of his reverie as Betty approached him. Trying to refocus his thoughts, he stared at Cowley’s long-time secretary as she said, “Mr. Cowley wants to see you right away.” Doyle nodded, knowing that now he would find out what happened to Bodie.

Standing in front of the aging Scot, Doyle tried to wait patiently, but it was beyond him this morning. He had never been a man with a great deal of patience and certainly not where Bodie was concerned. Finally, he decided to break the standard operating rules and ask:

“You wanted to see me, Sir?”

“Yes, I did, 4.5, and when I’m ready I’ll tell you.”

“Yes, sir.”

After a few more minutes, Cowley looked up and seemed to remember that Doyle was still standing there. “Och, man, sit down and stop trying to be so military.”

Doyle took a seat and stared at the man who had suddenly started looking his age. Doyle knew that Cowley was scheduled to retire in a few years, but the way he was looking this morning, it looked like it would only be a few months. Maybe his leg was bothering him, but Doyle also told himself that Cowley was a master of the double-think and manipulating anyone so everything that he had seen could have been just for his benefit.

Cowley removed his glasses and stared at Doyle; watery blue eyes looking into puzzled green ones; then Cowley began, “4.5, you’ll be assigned to work with 6.2 for the next few days . . . Bodie is unavailable.”

A strange look came into the green eyes as he queried, “Why has he been suspended?”

Cowley’s mouth screwed up as he reminded himself that Doyle was becoming quite adept at double-think, “That is none of your business, but let us just say that it was justly deserved. In the mean time, you and Murphy will take over the escort of Mr. Raleigh and his entourage while that gentleman is in town.”

“Yes, sir.” Doyle sat listening to the drone of Cowley’s voice while he made plans to run by Bodie’s flat and sort out the juicy details of what the ex-merc had done or said or both to merit three days of suspension.

Much later that day, after having to practically sell his soul to convince Murphy to take the first night time protection duty so that he could go by and see Bodie, Doyle rushed up the stairs to Bodie’s flat. Maybe he should have contacted his partner first, but Bodie was used to Doyle showing up on his doorstep even when he was with some bird. Doyle couldn’t remember if Bodie had found someone else since Sheila had given him the shove a few weeks ago, but it didn’t really matter, he had to talk to his partner.

Pounding on the door, Doyle shouted, “Come on, sunshine. Open the door, your confessor is here.”

After a few minutes the door opened a crack then opened further as Bodie realized that Doyle wasn’t going to go away. “Doyle, what are you doin’ here; can’t a guy get some kip?”

Barrelling his way in, Doyle automatically looked around the room, expecting to see a long-legged beauty spread across the settee, flaunting her obvious “assets”, but there was no one to be seen. Lifting his perfect nose, he took a sniff, expecting perfume or other feminine aromas, but instead the smell was decidedly - - masculine. In fact, the whole flat had the definite aroma of fresh male sex.

Looking at his partner standing there in his immaculate blue bathrobe, Doyle noticed the defiant look on Bodie’s face as the two men stood across from each other. At a loss, Doyle knew his suspicions were registering on his face, but he didn’t know how to broach the almost unthinkable subject with the obviously antagonized man that he had thought he knew. It had occurred to Doyle that just because he and Bodie had been having sex off and on for several years that Bodie would never halt his attentions to birds, but Bodie was acting strangely if it was just another one of his legions of birds in the other room.

Doyle continued to stare at him for several minutes until Bodie cleared his throat and asked once again, “What-are-you-doin’-here?”

Momentarily confused, Doyle hesitated once again; then tried to respond. “I heard about your suspension, I was just wonderin’ . . .”

“It was nothin’. Cowley just bein’ a prick. I’m gettin’ real tired of bein’ told what to do and not to do.”

The deep blue eyes looked rebelliously at Doyle, almost daring him to ask about what had been said, but suddenly Bodie noticed that Doyle’s stare had shifted to something behind Bodie’s back. Having heard the slight noise of the bedroom door being opened, Bodie knew what Doyle was looking at.

Cam Allen came into the room, wearing a bright green robe - - one that Doyle had often seen, and sometimes worn, during his visits to Bodie’s flat. The tall blond was the epitome of a man sated by his own sensuality and the loving that he had just received. No wonder the room smelled of sex and sweat. Doyle blinked several times, but could say nothing due to the gorge that had risen in his throat. He could feel the blood rushing to his head so he silently stepped back towards the door, trying to avoid embarrassing himself by using the door for support.

Cam Allen smiled, smug in the knowledge that Bodie was at his side. His violet eyes sparkling, he remarked in an over-friendly tone, “Bodie, didn’t you offer Doyle a drink? After all we’ve just been enjoyin’ ourselves; no reason he shouldn’t celebrate with us?”

Bodie quickly snapped his head to take a hard look at Allen then slowly turned to face Doyle. “Yeah, that’s true. After all I’ve got some days off, might as well celebrate. You want to join us, Ray?”

Doyle shook his head, remaining silent for a long moment then he turned to open the door. Before he opened it, he remarked in a haunting whisper, “Sorry, don’t feel much like celebratin’, got to work tomorrow.” With that he was gone.

Bodie stood there, staring at the now closed door for a very long time. A thousand emotions crossed his handsome face as he turned to face Cam Allen. “Why’d you do it like that?”

“Sorry, old son, but it had to be done, and you know it.”

Bodie dropped his head as he nodded his agreement then followed the ex-merc back into the bedroom.
* * * * * * * * *Two Days Later * * * * * * *

Doyle was at a loss about what to do. Bodie was expected back from his suspension tomorrow, but how could Doyle face him? What could he say to the man who respected more than anyone else? The man that he had trusted time and time again with his life, and now that man was fuckin’ some bastard and givin’ him what he had never deemed Doyle worthy of.

Doyle knew that he was filled with jealousy, but he couldn’t rationalize it away. Even telling himself that they had never made any commitment to each other and never made any promises hadn’t helped. Both men were free to do what they wanted, but the depth of pain that filled the slender man seemed to wreak havoc on his whole body.

Entering CI5 headquarters Doyle knew he had to make some decisions about what he would do when he saw Bodie tomorrow. Would they still be partners? Should he go to Cowley and asked to be re-assigned? What should he do?

Heading toward the restroom, Doyle literally ran into Murphy who was heading the other way carrying an enormous amount of paperwork. Half of the paper fell to the floor as both men collided with each other. Murphy was about to rant against the person’s carelessness when he realized who it was. “Ray . . . I’m sorry I didn’t see you; guess you have a lot on your mind?”

Doyle frowned, trying to fight down the fear that Murphy had somehow heard about Bodie’s extracurricular activities, but then he realized the look in Murph’s blue eyes was far more serious than that. Murphy was a man of the world, two agents getting’ it on wouldn’t bother 6.2, and this was earthshaking if Doyle was reading his friend correctly.

“What is it, Murph? I was just thinking about Bodie comin’ back to work tomorrow.”

Murphy’s face and his deep tan turned pasty white as Murphy realized that Doyle didn’t know. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Ray to have to tell you this, but Bodie walked in here an hour ago and resigned.”

For a moment, Doyle stood there stunned like 20,000 volts had entered his body, but he forced himself to ask, “How . . . how did you find that out?”

Murphy grimaced as he realized that he was getting himself in deeper and deeper. “’Cause Bodie told me himself. I was just comin’ into the building this morning and Bodie was rushin’ out the door; his face was red and he looked furious so I just said, ‘Hi, Bodie,’ and let it go at that.

“He suddenly turned to me and growled out, ‘I’ve had enough Murph; I’ve quit.’
I didn’t know what to say so I just stared. He gave me this sick smile and then headed toward this old American jeep that was waitin’ there for him. Just as he got to the door, he turned and started to say something like, ‘Tell Ray . . .’, but he stopped when the driver got out and said something to him I couldn’t hear.”

Doyle was barely able to hold his emotions together, but he had to ask the question that he already knew the answer to, “What’d the driver look like?”

Murphy thought for a moment and then admitted that he was a tall, blond, good-looking bloke who looked like he could handle himself in any situation.

Doyle realized that Murphy was describing Cam Allen and that most likely the two men were going somewhere together. Doyle felt as if he couldn’t breathe. His chest felt like it was being crushed by a ten-tonne weight. Somehow he warded off blacking out and headed toward the office that Bodie and he had used to share. He didn’t get very far since 3.9 mentioned to Doyle that he was wanted in Cowley’s office right away.

Somehow Doyle made it there, although his slender frame definitely looked as if it would take very little for him to topple over. Admitted to Cowley’s office, Doyle managed to stand correctly although he used Cowley’s desk to slightly lean on. Even the desk reminded him of Bodie because it was the same mate to the desk that Bodie and he had wrecked so long ago in a mad chase to stop two crazed kids.

Cowley looked up and quickly perceived how close to the edge Doyle was at that moment. Waving him to a chair, Cowley got up to go get a large shot of malt for the bewildered man. Standing near the man who had been half of his top team, he said, not unkindly, I assume you’ve heard the news then, 4.5? Well, it’s true Bodie has resigned from CI5. I do not know much more than that, but I suppose it has something to do with that young man that he has been seen with recently.”

Doyle looked up, not terribly surprised that Cowley knew all about Cam Allen. The green eyes were very close to tears so the only thing that Doyle did was nod.

Cowley sighed and returned to his desk while both men drank their liquor and sat quietly contemplating the loss of Bodie. Finally, Cowley said, “Well, I wish him well, but CI5 has to go on. Here is the name of a grass that I would very much like to interrogate. I am sending you out to find him and bring him in.”

So much for sentimentality and loyalty thought Doyle, but he realized that he needed to be doing something so he picked up the small piece of paper and read the name and address. Standing slowly as if he had aged twenty years, Doyle merely murmured, “Yes, sir,” and promptly left the room.

George Cowley had already returned to his work before the door even closed.

Driving to the grass’ address, Doyle realized that it was very near to Bodie’s flat. Although he assumed that his former partner would not be there, he threw an obscene gesture mentally at Cowley’s orders and headed to the flat. Spotting an American jeep outside with the back open, Doyle realized that someone was still there.

Parking his car farther down the street, he was just approaching the flat when Cam Allen came down the steps, heading toward the jeep. He was carrying a rather large box and did not see Doyle at that moment. By the time he had put the box in the back of the jeep, Doyle was standing on the steps, his body between Allen and the front door to the flat.

Allen seemed to size him up for a moment as if trying to decide why the slender man was there then he called out in a smug, irritating voice, “Hey Doyle, decided to come and join us in our celebration after all, did you?”

Doyle’s green orbs flared at the implication of Bodie’s intimacy with the blond ex-merc. As Allen made a move towards the steps, Doyle’s right arm involuntarily reached out and pointed at the large man, as Doyle roared, “YOU STAY HERE!”

For a moment Allen seemed to debate what to do then he took a couple of steps backward, folded his arms across his chest, and nodded at Doyle to go ahead and enter the building. Doyle, however, had not waited for permission; he was already half-way up the stairs, reaching the upper level flat in record time. Amazingly the door was open as if the denizens inside had nothing to fear or that it was just easier to move the few items if the door was left open. Either way Doyle could see Bodie’s familiar, muscular back as he approached quietly.

“Hey mate, what took you so long? This is just about the last box then we’re out of here. Guess I collected more stuff than I knew.” With those words Bodie swung around to hand them to the man he was obviously expecting to be Cam Allen and saw Doyle in his stead. For a brief moment the former partners stared at each other.

Seeing the domesticity of the scene - - a scene that he and Bodie had played over and over again over the years of being partners and helping each other move out because of CI5 security demands caused Doyle’s little control to snap as he bellowed out, “Are you crazy? Why are you goin’ away with HIM?”

There was no need, of course, to spell out who “him” was and the rage on Doyle’s face made it incredibly evident that Doyle’s familiar sharp tongue and always just- under-the-surface temper were now full-blown, but Bodie was just moments away from being out from under the influence of CI5 and his former partner, and he wasn’t about to back down now.

“It’s none of your business who I go away with. I’m tired of listening to Cowley, and I’m ready for a different life. You’ve read my file; you know I never stay in one place too long. Commitment is a dirty word. Keep cool; that’s me, and I’m gettin’ out of here; so just shove off, Doyle.”

“I thought you never wanted to see that kind of life again; thought you hated what you had become in those days, why go with that scum and dirty yourself again?”

If possible Bodie’s eyes became even harder as his whole demeanour became even more menacing. “I should have known all your nancy boy words about not bein’ bothered by my past was a bunch of bull. You once told me that I was no better than Krivas, well you were right, so, of course, this just proves it. Take a hike, Doyle!”

Doyle’s control snapped at that moment. How dare Bodie place all the blame on him for this mess? It was true that he had been naturally suspicious and found it hard to trust a man who had led a life in various parts of the world where violence and killing were the usual norm, but he had forgot Bodie’s past and had learned to trust Bodie with his life, and Bodie knew that.

“No, don’t throw my early prejudice back on me. You know I learned to trust you, and I saved your life many times over, just as you did me. Just admit it: you’re thinkin’ with your balls and not the few brains that you still have after fryin’ them in the African sun.”

Doyle gasped for air as he saw the enraged look on Bodie’s face. Doyle knew then that he had gone too far. He tried to say something, but Bodie spoke first in the coldest, most threatening tone that he had ever heard directed at himself by Bodie. Unlike many angry people, Bodie’s voice became quieter and even deadlier when he was really upset. Doyle heard the tone before he could force himself to understand the words.

There was a gleam in the depth of Bodie’s deeply blue eyes and a sneer across his handsome face as he replied, “So you think I’m thinkin’ with my balls, do you? What a laugh you are, Doyle. Of course, I am Doyle, but I’m not stupid. Cam saved my life in Africa more times than you can count. He’s been a better partner to me than you ever could be in a hundred lifetimes, and, he’s a great lay as well. Who do you think it was that taught me all those moves I made on you during our sex sessions? You know that’s all it was, don’t you? I was straight forward with you. It wasn’t a real burden, but after four years, I was definitely gettin’ tired of nursin’ you along after every guilt trip so wipe your nose, poof. Get the hell out of here.”

There was no way for Doyle to go after finally understanding what Bodie was saying. Every one of his fears from the last few weeks had come true; the look of contempt and hate that Bodie had in his eyes was directed at him. It didn’t matter if he managed to keep face or not; he had to get out of there before he took out the gun he had under his armpit and did something to someone. Somehow, he managed to overcome the bile rapidly rising in his throat as he rushed to the open door. Turning at the last moment, knowing that this would be the last time he would ever see the man who had meant everything to him and Doyle whispered, “Take care of yourself,” and then he was gone.

Bodie sagged to the floor; his body drained of all emotion; his eyes totally blank. He sat there for several minutes until he heard someone clearing his throat, and then Bodie looked up to see the concern on Cam Allen’s face as he leaned on the door jamb studying the stricken man. In a voice filled with concern, Cam Allen murmured, “You had to do it, old mate.”

 

* * * * * * * * * TWO MONTHS LATER * * * * * * * * * *

 

Noise . . . smells . . . pain. Raymond Doyle knew he was in hospital again, but his eyelids didn’t seem to want to open, and he wasn’t really sure he wanted them to. How many times had he been in a situation like this? Well, maybe Bodie would bring him some grapes and help him remember why he was here this time.

Then he heard a familiar voice, but the very fact it was not the voice he wanted to hear helped Doyle recall what had happened two months before. Carefully opening his sticky eyes, he saw the out-of-focus shape of George Cowley. Thankfully the dimness in the room allowed him to adjust his vision and keep his eyes open so he could stare at the man who was standing over him.

“Well, it’s about time 4.5. You are lucky to be alive after pulling an idiot move like that.”

Not really caring about much in the last two months, Doyle knew exactly what Cowley was referring to, but his indifference was reflected in his response, “Good to hear your silver tongue, sir. Quite frankly, I didn’t really expect to wake up after Chambers fired that shot.”

“Well, you were lucky that your partner followed procedure . . .”

“He’s not my partner; we were just workin’ together on that one assignment.”

“. . . and called in for back up, and got an ambulance for you right away.” Cowley continued as if Doyle had not issued the defiant statement. “The doctor informs me that you have a wound in your chest and that your lung had to be inflated as a result. Otherwise, you aren’t in too bad of shape, but this has got to stop 4.5. In the past two months, you have chewed up and spit out three partners, angered your colleagues, insulted Chambers, and now got yourself shot. When is it going to stop, Doyle?”

“Why don’t you suspend me, sir? Or, better yet . . . fire me?”

“Oh no, laddie, I’m not going to give in to your childish behaviour. I know you’re upset about losing Bodie, but you’re one of my men, and I need you to do your job. What you need is a babysitter, and I’ve got someone in mind. So you make up your mind to get better, and I’ll be seeing you later.”

As Cowley left the room, Doyle shouted in a voice as loud as his dry throat could make it, “Bring some grapes next time.”

For a moment, Doyle lay there pouting. How dare Cowley talk to him like that . . . after all he had been shot and was in pain. Doyle, however, while being a man who easily put guilt on his own back, was also willing to see himself for his many faults, and he knew that he had been behaving childishly. Even though Bodie had thrown their partnership as well as their friendship in his face, he still missed him dreadfully and knew that if the man showed up now that he would try and forgive him, but what he could not forgive was that Bodie had thrown his life away to go back to a life that Doyle knew he had hated.

Why would Bodie do that? Bodie had always been a man with a healthy libido. He had always been ready for one more bird, but his sexual relationship with his partner had always been controlled by Bodie like he was playing some game with Doyle . . . almost as if he were giving Doyle just enough sex to satisfy him. Was that why Doyle was now so filled with pain; was it because he knew that Bodie had only been intimate with his partner out of pity . . . had he finally realized how Doyle really felt about him? Bodie certainly hadn’t been reluctant to have it on with that blond stud who flaunted their relationship in Doyle’s face.

Doyle closed his eyes; pain rushing through his already aching body. What was he going to do? He had asked Cowley to fire him, but was that what he really wanted? He kept seeing images of Bodie, especially the time he had been knifed in the back. It was almost like a camera replaying scenes. He saw himself, questioning why Bodie had done such a crazy thing, and how his own voice had cracked with the very thought that he might lose Bodie.

And now he had lost him . . . not to a wound or anything physically lethal, but by the death of a partnership. At that moment, Doyle made a resolution - - he would do what his former partner had always done - - shove the incident out of his mind; not think about it. Put Bodie and his devastating words into a tiny space and lock it away forever. Ray Doyle would build barriers taller and thicker than William Bodie had ever done and never let the bastard disturb his thoughts again.

Bodie may have walked away from Raymond Doyle, but Raymond Doyle would now show everyone that he could live very well without William Bodie. Doyle didn’t need anyone, and he would prove it. With that commitment, 4.5 began his road to recovery.

Four days later, Doyle was sitting up, feeling exhausted already, but wanting to get out of the hospital. His doctor had given his okay and all that was needed now was for Murph or Jax or somebody to show up to take him to his flat. He had contacted Cowley to make sure that the Controller knew that he could leave, but he was about ready to contact CI5 once again when a tall, slightly grey-haired man walked into Doyle’s room after carefully checking the number.

The stranger stood in the open doorway for several seconds before he asked in a deep baritone, “Ray Doyle”?

Faintly suspicious, Doyle asked, “Who wants to know?”

A brief smile crossed the reasonably handsome face as the unknown man replied, very distinctly and precisely, “I’m John Hardesty, your new partner, or as George informed me, your new babysitter!”

Doyle sat on the supremely uncomfortable bed, staring at the lunatic who had just walked into the room. What the hell was going on? Had Cowley lost a few screws? Did this guy just escape from bedlam?

The man calling himself Hardesty waited patiently while a twinkle entered his blue eyes as he waited for Doyle to explode. Hardesty had been baby-sitter for many of Major Cowley’s strays as they wandered their way through the military. He had entered George Cowley’s dominion while a young man. His superior work in Military Intelligence for the Army quickly brought him to the attention of Major Cowley in the early 1960’s. The two men had thus known each other for almost twenty years, with Hardesty performing miracles on certain personnel who did not seem to fit the mode of George Cowley’s regime. Hardesty was here, as George Cowley had told him on the phone four days before to “bring Doyle into line.”

As the quiet grew longer, Hardesty decided to beard the lion by saying, “I see you’ve learned George’s double-think method very well.”

Doyle allowed a surprised reaction to show for a split second then returned to total indifference, but he did feel compelled to ask, “You call the Controller of CI5, George?”

Hardesty now gave Doyle a brilliant smile; his twinkling eyes quite obvious. “Oh, yes, when you’ve known Mr. Cowley as long as I have, it tends to slip out. Now shall we get going; I’m sure you’re anxious to get to your flat, and I’ve had a long four days, what with packing up and travel time.”

“You haven’t even shown me your credentials, so why should I go with you?”

“Oh, very good, Doyle. George has trained you well. Here is my card. I have to admit the picture does not do me justice, but I have been on the go for the last four days. After I received the news about my secondment to CI5, I had to pack up, finish some unfinished business, and try to say some good-byes before running the gauntlet to get here and be admitted to the illustrious ranks of CI5 so I’m desperately tired.”

Doyle continued to look at the identification card for quite awhile before returning it to the man who had the audacity to try and take Bodie’s place. Doyle’s eyes had almost turned a silver colour as he stared at the man who was standing in front of him so casually. “I don’t need a baby-sitter.”

Blue eyes stared back for a moment then Hardesty replied, “Now, laddie I think that has a wee bit of blarney mixed with it. You’ve been shot and beat up, plus your record tells me that these last two months have not been easy for you.”

Obviously, Hardesty had had access to his files, and had been filled in on Doyle’s recent excesses, but if the man thought that Doyle would just cave in, he had another think coming. “I don’t need an old ‘un for a sitter; maybe a red head with long legs and big tits, but not you.” Doyle had deliberately tried to be crude, but he should have known that any man who had worked for George Cowley for a long time would be prepared for anything.

“I would have said 4.5 that I am exactly what you need . . . because you see, I’m going to get you back onto the A Squad, and you are going to help me complete my last six months, approximately, in the service of Queen and Country. As your silver tongue so kindly pointed out, I am an old ‘un. I will be 40 in April, and will be saying au revoir to the service and starting my own security/investigation business, somewhere up north.”

Doyle was really hurting now and felt like lying back on the super white, starched bed, but the word, north, stirred him to ask, “You’ve been up north? For how long?”

“Several years, I been involved with various branches of security and intelligence, but I don’t really mind finishing my career down here. Major Cowley can be very persuasive.”

“Did you . . . did you hear anything about a guy named Cam Allen while you were up there?”

Hardesty’s eyebrows rose as he seemed to be thinking about the question. “Cam Allen . . . the name doesn’t sound familiar . . . but wait a minute, you mean Cameron? At least, I think that was his name. Yeah, I’ve heard of him. He was really bad news. Heard that he was an ex-merc who had returned to the fold and is involved in all sorts of less-than-legal activities in the fair and lovely north. Didn’t have time to prove anything though before I got the call from Mr. Cowley. Is that the guy you mean?

Doyle’s head had dropped to his chest. It was worse than he feared; Bodie must have really gone crazy to get involved with that nutter. “Yeah, I guess that’s him. I was just wonderin’”

“Yeah, I think he’s one bad dude, but the real brains of the team is Philips; I’ve heard that he’s got a look that will drop you dead. Wouldn’t like to meet up with him. Well, enough talk. Let’s get goin’ shall we?”

Without a word, Doyle took his place in the mandatory wheelchair with Hardesty toting the few things that Doyle had needed while in hospital for better than a week. Hardesty managed to keep up a conversation by himself because Doyle was so stunned that he couldn’t even put on a false impression that he was interested. As a man with long experience of dealing with troubled individuals, John Hardesty knew instantly that his recent words about the mercenary activities up north meant a great more to Doyle than he had let on. Hardesty also realized that as tough as some of the individuals were that he had taken on at Cowley’s behest that this slender, almost vulnerable looking man could possibly be his toughest.

When they arrived at the flat, Doyle managed to get out of the car by himself, but it was a close run thing. His chest was aching and he felt as if a lorry had run him over, but he couldn’t show weakness to this vaguely disturbing individual. If he was Cowley’s man, then Doyle could not afford to let down his guard at all.

Several hours later, Hardesty was re-reading Doyle’s file while he waited for the injured man to wake up from his kip. Hardesty had had years to help him learn how to analyze men like Ray Doyle, but there was the extra added factor of George Cowley. Why had the Major really asked for him? It was clear that Doyle was hurting, and the little that Cowley had told him on the phone made Hardesty even more suspicious about what had really happened to drive a man of Doyle’s seeming dedication and zeal so far down the path to destruction.

Hardesty had been twenty years old when he had met Major George Cowley. The Korean War was over, but the Cold War was in full swing, and the Major was good . . . very good at fighting the intelligence war that dominated most of the military activities at the time. Hardesty had found a niche with Cowley’s unit and developed his skills to his utmost. He found himself respecting and admiring the dedication and ruthlessness of the Major in order to get the job done, and then . . . and then Hardesty had met Peter Carmody. They quickly became a team, Cowley’s best team in putting out fires on domestic soil. Although they had primarily stayed up north, they had been given pretty much free reign within Cowley’s parameters for doing what was necessary. Those had been the halcyon days of his relationship with George Cowley - - near enough to be favoured by the hardest of men, but far enough away not to receive too much flak, and Peter had been with him as well.

As that thought flew through Hardesty’s mind, he heard a noise in the bedroom and realized that Doyle was awake. Doyle had eaten nothing since his early morning gruel at the hospital so Hardesty assumed he would be hungry. The older man had made himself at home and fixed some sandwiches, and had the fixings for tea or coffee ready to go.

Hearing the shower going full blast, Hardesty walked to the bedroom door and knocked quietly. Ray Doyle was standing there almost naked, but he had a good- sized bandage covering the area where the bullet had entered his chest. Doyle was certainly in magnificent shape; that probably saved him from a lengthy stay in hospital. Clearing his throat, Hardesty remarked, “You better not get that bandage wet. Since we get to go play with Brian starting tomorrow, I don’t need a partner with an infection.”

For a moment, rage reared up in the green eyes, then a shutter closed over the emotion as Doyle asked sarcastically, “what you a peepin’ Tom then?”

“Let’s just call it, concern for my partner.”

“Just sayin’ it; don’t make it true. You’re not my partner until I tell ya it’s so.”

“Well, I’m sure George would argue with you, but pardon my concern. I’ll leave you to work it out for yourself.”

As Hardesty turned to walk out, Doyle blurted out, “You know Macklin as well? Bloody hell, you know everybody!”

“You could say that. Although I am very picky who I choose to become friends with; so you don’t have to worry, Doyle, I’m not trying to take anybody’s place.”

As Hardesty walked away, Doyle stood there stunned with his mouth open. The man was a bloody genius at picking up things about a person. Quickly the thought that it must have been his years with Cowley crossed Doyle’s mind. Resolving to be much more careful with his thoughts and actions around the man who seemed to read his mind, Doyle headed for the shower.

Hardesty did not impose himself on Doyle that night. He promised to pick 4.5 up the next morning to begin their torture with Brian Macklin. Hardesty had had a rough four days. He needed sometime to himself. His flat wasn’t much, but it would give him the privacy to think about many things, not the least being, why George Cowley really wanted him here and even more importantly, what that meant for his future.

And so it began, weeks of torture for Hardesty, who not-so-cheerfully admitted that he was “a bit out of shape”, and rebuilding Doyle’s injured body so that both men could join the ranks of the elite of CI5. Doyle, as usual, was in a bad mood due to Macklin’s demands for him to get back in shape, but after two weeks of constant effort to rebuild his oxygen levels and his body muscle, the ex-copper had to admit that he was feeling better.

Each night, Hardesty and Doyle got together to force down some food although the only thing they truly wanted to do was collapse in their bunks and die. As the regime got harder, the two men found themselves banding together to fight the common enemy: Brian Macklin. Even though Macklin had known the older man for years, he definitely showed him no favouritism. As the physical demands increased, Doyle had to admit that his respect for the older man was growing. He would not let Hardesty get through his barriers, but he would not deny him his respect or his company.

A few times, Macklin even went with the two men as they paid a visit to the local near the training facility. It was these times that Cowley’s name came up frequently. In many ways, Hardesty and Macklin became the double act that Doyle and his former partner had been for so many years. Doyle never let himself dwell on Bodie anymore. The name, Bodie, was just there as a generic title for a man who hadn’t been his real partner because true partners never betrayed each other or spewed such hate as the ex-Para had done that day. Doyle knew he wasn’t facing reality, but it was the only way he could survive and not think constantly of the man who had shared his body, no matter how limited the extent of the contact.

That evening Macklin was telling one of his 1001 stories, much like Scherazade, about working for George Cowley. The three men were laughing and pleasantly tired after a long day. Suddenly, Hardesty froze in his spot at the small table as if by the pricking of his thumb, he saw someone. The table went quiet for an awkward moment.

Doyle looked around the room, trying to discover what had upset Hardesty so much, but saw nothing except two men who had just arrived. One of the men was in a wheel chair, being pushed in by a tall, greying man. The man in the chair was younger with a receding hairline of dark, wavy hair. The look the older man gave to his obvious partner in the chair spoke volumes. The brief glance shared between the two men before they came further into the room, spoke of a depth of love and affection that was profound. Doyle knew that he had seen a very personal moment, and he suspected Hardesty had seen the same.

The evening ended quickly after that although Hardesty had done his best to try to carry on. For some reason, Doyle felt that he needed to cover for the man so he quickly agreed that his body was feeling the aftermath of Macklin and Towser’s “spa”, and wanted to return to his home away from home.

Hardesty stared Doyle straight in the eye, easily reading what Doyle was doing, but nodded his head anyway. As the two men left, they heard Brian Macklin, laughingly say, “If you think you’re tired now, just wait for the next phase of re-training.”

The two men said nothing, just walked back to their lodging. Collapsing on the single bed, Doyle pretended to be lost in thought in hope that Hardesty would ignore him, but it was not to be. The tall, greying man walked to his bedside and in a hard voice said, “You don’t ever do that again, do you hear me?”

Warily Doyle responded, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You bloody well do know. I don’t want you coverin’ up for me ever again.”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, coverin’ up for you. Why would I do that?”

“I-don’t-know, but I suspect you did it for Bodie all the time, but you don’t have to do it for me, is-that-understood?”

The mention of the name Bodie brought Doyle up to a sitting position immediately. Glaring at the man who had gone too far, Doyle blurted out, “Bodie, what do you know about Bodie?”

“I can read files. There are tonnes of references to one William Andrew Philip Bodie in the files about your cases. It also documents your partnership, and how you got to be Cowley’s top team. I always do whatever I can to get to know my partner better.”

“Well, butt out, do you hear? It’s nobody’s business but ours.”

“Normally, I would say that’s true, but if it’s going to get me killed; then it is my business.”

Doyle flung himself off the bed, so that he could wander around the room and not be confined to such a small space. “Don’t worry; I won’t fail you. I’ll be there when you need me, and if you don’t believe that, go to Cowley and ask to be re-assigned.”

Hardesty smiled slightly, knowing he had hit on Doyle’s vulnerable point. Hardesty took a few steps back and sat down on the only available chair in the small room. “Ah, but you forget; I’ve been assigned by ‘The Ow’ himself to be your babysitter.”

Doyle stepped closer, but failed to intimidate the older man at all. “I don’t need a babysitter!”

“Well, the way you’re acting right now; says that you do.”

“Ta, and what about the way you acted earlier tonight - - I thought you were going to fade dead away.”

Suddenly, Hardesty looked very tired, totally drained, and all of his almost forty years. “That’s really none of your business, but I have to admit that I did make a fool of myself. I guess that’s why I mentioned Bodie to you. I . . . I wanted to see how you felt about your former partner. Why did he resign?”

Doyle’s stubborn face looked belligerent and defiant for several moments then it cleared as he whispered, “What? Didn’t your precious files, tell you that too?” After a moment’s hesitation, Doyle continued, “I’ll tell you what you want to know if you tell me why you almost passed out back in the pub . . . and you go first.”

It was a bad bargain and Hardesty knew it, but he knew that Doyle and he were on the cusp of resolving their partnership issues. Maybe this was the time to come clean about a few things. “Sit down.”

For a moment, Doyle was ready to refuse, but he could see by the look in Hardesty’s blue eyes that he had won, so he returned to the bed and waited.

“Where to begin? I started working for George Cowley when I was about twenty years old. I became his trouble shooter and gopher. I did a bit of everything for him. We became as close as possible between a Major and an officer of lower rank. (Here Hardesty mimicked the lilt of Cowley’s native Scot as if he had heard the same phrase numerous times). He probably shared more information about himself with me than just about anyone. He even told me briefly about Ann. He had a picture of her on his desk for a long time, but only said that they had met while he attended college.”

Stopping for a moment, he looked at Doyle, “Do you know Ann?”

Doyle merely nodded, but decided to reserve any further information about the hellion who had torn up Cowley’s life so badly until he felt that he could trust this man.

Hardesty merely accepted the nod and continued, “Well after working in intelligence for five years or so - - this was the middle 60’s by now, and the Cold War had had lots of scares, and we seemed to be busier and busier so the Major brought in another man who could speak even more languages than he could. He was also an officer, a bit younger than myself. He told me his name was Peter Carmody, and as I looked into his eyes, I saw into the future how important this man would be to me. Luckily, he liked what he saw as well, and we quickly became friends, partners, and Cowley’s best team. We were able to do amazing things for Queen and Country, and, of course, Cowley, but in the early 70’s, Cowley left the unit to come south and form CI5. It had always been a dream of his. Since neither of us was asked to go with him, Peter and I stayed as a team, doing pretty much what we had been doing for Cowley. That takes us up to about ten months ago when everything went to hell. We were caught in an action that proved to be a trap; Peter was shot and by the time I got him out of it, I thought he was going to die.”

The sorrow in the man’s voice told Doyle that Hardesty was re-living those terrible days, seeing his partner so near death. Doyle waited. Finally, Hardesty wiped unseen moisture from his eye and with a broken voice continued, “Thankfully, he didn’t die, but one of the bullets had lodged very near to the spine. They were unable to remove it, so he came out of the hospital unable to walk. He had endured months of exams, tests, physical therapy, and every other kind of physical humiliation designed to get a body working again, but nothing helped. I stayed by his side through all of it, but in the end, he told me that our partnership was over. I had two good legs, and every time he saw me made him remember his disability. He refused to see me ever again. So you see it was sort of a blessing when Cowley called and told me I was being seconded to CI5.”

Hardesty stopped, visually and emotionally shaken. He kept his head down, obviously trying to pull himself together, but the man had been in the military for twenty years, and had endured a great deal of hardship and emotional devastation so Doyle was easily able to tell when the man had pulled himself together.

Raising his head and giving Doyle a watery smile, Hardesty said, “And now your story.”

Doyle didn’t hesitate. “Bodie and I had been partners for five years. We had become very close; Cowley’s best team, but things had become kind of rough and there was more and more tension between the two of us. One day, a man named Cam Allen appeared and within weeks, Bodie decided to resign from CI5 and go north with him to pursue a new life. That was about three months ago and I haven’t heard anything since.”

Hardesty nodded, “And I suppose Cameron and Philips are the two “gentlemen” you asked me about?”

Doyle nodded, but said nothing else as he got up and went to the loo to get ready for bed. He no longer slept naked so it took a few minutes longer, but when he returned to the bedroom Hardesty was already in his bed, reading a book he had brought with him.

“I’m knackered; do you mind if I turn out me lights?”

Hardesty shook his head in the negative, but then looked up once again as Doyle turned to him as he was turning off the light and said, “Could I ask you just one more question?

Hardesty stared at the curly haired man but merely nodded and made a motion to proceed.

“How come you called Cowley ‘The Ow’?”

“Did I, must have been from habit.” Then in a voice, perfectly reminiscent of the Scot, Hardesty replied, “Well, it was, for a fact, because we thought Cowley was always a perfect pain in the arse! Good night, Doyle.”

The sound of laughter and muffled giggles could be heard under the covers of Doyle’s bed for a long time afterwards.

 

* * * * * * * * * TEN DAYS LATER * * * * * * * * *

“Am I dead?”

Ray Doyle could barely turn to see the older man who now looked MUCH older. “If you’re talkin’, ya can’t be dead, but I know me rigour mortis set in a few hours ago, so I must be.”

Hardesty made no effort to look at Doyle since every bone in his body ached. It was the last day of re-training and somehow they had survived. The two men were just waiting to hear the official news if they were going to be admitted to the CI5 elite. If not, they would cheerfully go back to their lodging and die.

All at once a pair of long legs came into their peripheral vision. Both men recognized those legs right away since the man attached to them had pummelled, twisted, and pounded on their poor mistreated bodies for almost three weeks. Hardesty emitted a loud groan which Doyle joined in chorus.

“Come on, come on, you two lazy slugs, it’s time for you to get up off your arses, get showers and join in the celebration.”

For a moment, neither man spoke but Hardesty finally uttered, “Does that mean we’ve passed?”

“Of course, and now you can join George Cowley’s bunch of merry men who keep this sceptred isle smelling faintly of roses and lavender.”

“Is George still giving that speech?” Hardesty asked with a moan.

“Now, now 9.2 you shall not take George Cowley’s sainted golden words of wisdom in vain. Come on you slugabugs, get up, clean up, and I’ll take you to the local and even pay for it meself.”

Finally, Doyle partially managed to move himself. Giving Macklin a piercing look with his venomous green eyes, he said in the most haughty, prim voice he could muster, “We are not lazy slugs nor slugabugs; WE ARE PROFESSIONALS.”

With those words, Doyle promptly collapsed back onto the mat and laid there until Hardesty managed to get him to his feet by saying, “Come on, Macklin’s payin’. We don’t want to miss this; he’s even tighter than you are with money.”

Giving his soon-to-be-partner a two-fingered salute, Doyle began to wobble towards the showers.

Later that evening, the three men plus another team that was “enjoying” re-training got together in the local for awhile, but since the others had not yet taken the time to pack, they left earlier. That permitted the three men to stay until the landlord called time and then had to throw them out.

The talk was eclectic but centred around the earlier days of their careers. Because Doyle was not involved in all of that, he stayed quiet and listened to the two older men reminisce . . . that is until Barry Martin was mentioned. All three men knew Martin, but from various angles: Hardesty from Martin’s acquaintance with Cowley during and after the Korean War; Macklin because of his work for military intelligence before going to Hong Kong, and Doyle . . . Doyle, of course, knew him as the man who had betrayed CI5 and George Cowley, and yet when he had him in his sights, could not shoot him. Barry Martin’s name still brought bile into Doyle’s throat as he thought of that day when Bodie lay propped up with a knife in his shoulder, and Doyle failed to shoot the man who had been his mentor and he had thought his friend. The thought about how strange things work out flew through Doyle’s mind. After cleaning their doorstep, Cowley and Bodie seemed to put the whole thing behind them, but somehow Doyle never seemed to quite forget that betrayal.

As the three men wandered back to their lodgings, Macklin once again brought up Martin, only this time his words brought a look of utter despair to Hardesty’s face. “You know, Hardesty, you and Peter were doin’ a helluva job for Cowley; I often wondered why he took Martin with him when he went south to form CI5; how come he didn’t take you two as well?”

Hardesty stood there pale in the moonlight, but somehow he was able to call on the strength that had kept him going all those months as Peter was trying to recover from the bullet wound, “Guess, he preferred to have a man with him who’d been in the war. Already been combat-tested, I guess.” Shaking his head, Hardesty headed into the lodging nearby.

Doyle stood staring at his partner then looked at Macklin and asked, “Whatta ya know, Macklin?”

The blond hair shook in the negative, “Nothing. Just heard rumours. I owe Cowley a lot for givin’ me a new career, but I also know he can be a real bastard. I just always wondered, especially seein’ what happened with Martin and all.”

Doyle nodded and then shook the hand of the man who had pummelled him on a regular basis for the past three weeks, and then followed his partner into the lodging.

Hardesty was already in bed, but he seemed to be waiting. Saying nothing until Doyle had done his ablutions and headed for his own, less-than-comfortable bed, Hardesty looked directly at Doyle and murmured, “All right, go ahead and ask.”

“Ask what?”

“Don’t play me like that. I haven’t had many partners in my life, but I do believe in tellin’ them the absolute truth. I’ve read your file. You were one of those coppers who had a nose for whatever was goin’ on. I suspect you’ve developed the double-think to perfection, so ask it and be done with it.”

Doyle wiped his thin hand over his face, and then asked, “All right, why did Cowley decide not to take you and your partner with him when he came south to form CI5?”

Hardesty’s face hardened and then filled with despair. “Have you ever placed a great deal of faith in a person you just knew you could count on, no matter what?”

Hardesty could immediately see the result of the words on Doyle’s whole body. The skinny man couldn’t cover up his almost electric reaction quick enough. Hardesty knew now he was getting close to the problem that Doyle had had with Bodie, but he had to answer Doyle’s question first. Obviously the question had bothered the younger man so much that he could not answer so he just nodded. With that simple gesture, Hardesty revealed something that he had never told anyone else in his life . . . not even Peter.

“It was simple Doyle. Cowley took Barry with him to the Smoke, because the Major had found out that Peter and I were not only partners but lovers as well.”

Doyle had heard the pain in the words that Hardesty had just spoken, but immediately the image of Doyle’s sexual relationship with Bodie filled his mind. He had been pretty sure that Cowley was not prejudiced and hated people discriminating against others . . . hell, he had even said so when he had sent Bodie and himself north to help Thomas Pellin and the Gay Youth Organization. Why would Cowley do such a thing to a man who had worked for him for so long?

Hardesty sat quietly watching the play of emotions cross the younger man’s face. He knew that there was another question coming . . . he had prepared for it.

“I . . . I’ve always known that that sort of thing goes on in the Army, but I would never thought that Cowley would do something like that.”

Hardesty smiled sadly, “Let me remind you of one thing, partner. George Cowley is a ruthless, dedicated man who will do anything to protect the organization that he serves . . . then it was the Army . . . well, now its CI5 . . . Now let me ask you something?”

Doyle warily sat down on the bed across from Hardesty and looked as if was facing a firing squad. Ironically he said, “Shoot,” and then waited.

Hardesty hesitated a moment, trying to find the right words, but then he decided to be forthright and ask, “Why were you so bothered by the reminder of Martin?”

Doyle sighed and rubbed his forehead, then responded in a quiet voice, “Because Bodie and I were working on a couple of cases that Martin became involved in. It was Cowley who gave us the orders to bring in Martin . . . you know to clean our own doorstep?” Doyle stopped for a moment so Hardesty nodded for him to go on.

“Well, he was trying to get out of the country on a ship owned by the red millionaire, Paul Culbertson. We caught up with him on the dock. Martin put a knife in Bodie’s shoulder. I remember . . . I remember Bodie kept telling me to take him, but I couldn’t . . . I just couldn’t, even though he had wiped me out when I had tried to stop him. Somebody from the boat shot him. I turned back to help Bodie, and the look he gave me, I’ll never forget . . . Betrayed my partner ‘cause I couldn’t shoot my old mentor.”

Once again, Hardesty smiled sadly. “I see. Did Bodie blame you for not shootin’ him?”

“No, he never said a thing. The ambulance came soon after and we got him to hospital. That was about it.”

“Barry Martin was a unique individual. He could make you love him and yet he was a scoundrel through and through. I assume it was money and, at least, a bird that lured him off the path . . . Cowley’s path. He was a hard man; he could be a ruthless and do whatever the Major needed. I suspect Martin was the perfect man for starting up an organization like CI5. After . . . after George found out about me and Peter, I guess he thought I wasn’t reliable enough, maybe vulnerable to blackmail, too weak. George hates prejudice, but holds his own type closely to his chest. Ah well, it’s long over; let’s get some sleep. We have a very big day tomorrow.”

Doyle turned out the lights as he climbed into bed, but it was long hours before he slept, the words Hardesty had spoken playing over and over again in his mind.

The two men left the facility early the next morning. Within a few hours they were already ensconced in the CI5 infrastructure. Doyle was doing the myriad of paperwork that came with rejoining the mob, while Hardesty took the opportunity to report to George Cowley.

Motioning Hardesty to fix two drinks for them, Cowley had a chance to study the man he had known for twenty years. Taking a sip from the glass Hardesty had handed him, Cowley said, “You’ve done a fine job with Doyle. I wouldn’t have believed it a month ago when I saw him in hospital. You’ve worked miracles.”

Hardesty shook his head. “I’ve done nothing; it was Doyle himself. He pulled himself together. He was badly damaged both physically and emotionally from his partner’s abandonment, but he did it. I was just there to listen to him. He needed someone and I was there.”

“Och, you always say that. Remember how bad Saunders was, but you pulled him through, and that was under combat conditions!”

“And you don’t think Doyle and the rest of your men are under combat conditions? I think you should realize how lucky you are to have a man like Doyle; he’s one of the best. I would suggest that you take better care of him or one day you’ll find out that you’ve lost him.”

Cowley’s face turned faintly red, but his words told even more. It was obvious that George Cowley did not appreciate being reprimanded by a subordinate, even if he was an old acquaintance. “I’ve had to do some harsh things at time to get what is needed to protect this land. It isn’t always pleasant, but it’s got to be done.”

“Ah, George, don’t you ever get tired of ‘doing what’s got to be done’?”

Cowley looked at him with all sincerity and replied, “No, I never do, and by the way, I would appreciate a bit more respect now that you’ve joined CI5 full time.”

Hardesty tried to hide a smile, but didn’t succeed completely; nevertheless, he replied with all the proper decorum, “Of course, Major.”
Blue eyes stared into blue eyes for a long moment, but it was the older man’s eyes which finally fell to stare at the papers lying on his desk. Then Cowley looked up and asked, “How did you know that Bodie had abandoned Doyle?”

“Ray told me, but I can read between the lines. After all if Bodie had resigned, he was the one who had destroyed the partnership.”

“Yes, well, there are always two sides to every story, but you are . . . essentially correct. Now is there anything else you would like to tell me . . . about Doyle.”

Hardesty shook his head and stood up, taking his dismissal for what it was. As he headed for the door, however, he decided to make one more thrust at George Cowley. “In my opinion, Bodie was a fool. Doyle’s one of the best partners a man could ever ask for.”

For a moment, Cowley stared at his former colleague, then a twinkle entered his tired blue eyes as he asked, “By the way, I forgot to ask, how is Peter?”

Hardesty stood rigid for several seconds then replied, “I haven’t seen him in several months (as you well know). Well, I have to go find Doyle; he’s probably snowed in by paperwork. Good-bye, George.”

Closing the door behind him, Hardesty leaned on the closed door for a moment; his eyes closed. Shaking his head as he finally walked off, he thought to himself that he had lost that round to George Cowley, but his parting shot hadn’t been too bad.

Finding Doyle inundated by paperwork, Hardesty dug into help. They already had several cases they were responsible for, and it was now a matter of research and lots of it. Hardesty looked across at his busy partner and smiled. It really felt good to be back in harness, and to have a partner like Doyle. Ray Doyle wasn’t Peter, but he was safe, and the two men had come to somewhat of an understanding. As Hardesty got down to work, he wondered what the next two months would bring to their partnership before Hardesty returned up north.

The first month went by rapidly. Hardesty proved to be Doyle’s equal in love of classical music, running, and being nosy about everything. Although his skills on the range, and martial arts were certainly CI5 calibre, they would never match Doyle’s, but that made little difference.

The two men had started a regime of running once Hardesty found out that Doyle got up every morning about dawn to run several miles. At first, Hardesty complained vociferously about the distance, but after a run or two, he displayed his ability to keep up with his younger partner with no trouble at all. Of course, Doyle never took Hardesty to run with him in the Brompton Road Cemetery . . . there were just too many memories there.

Ray Doyle had pledged to himself that he would never let down his barriers ever again after Bodie had betrayed him, but, being an honest man, he had to admit that Hardesty had breached his defences in several places, and he was content with that. Probably, the main reason that he had allowed Hardesty to earn his trust was his honesty in almost everything Doyle asked. Doyle had been so used to Bodie keeping his past a secret and telling Doyle so little that it was like a ray of sunlight to have Hardesty so open with him. Of course, Hardesty expected a reciprocal honesty, but so far it had worked well for both men. Doyle understood that he would be losing Hardesty in a few months, but somehow, he felt that his time with the man had helped him recover a bit of his equilibrium after the devastating loss of Bodie.

Hardesty was a pub aficionado. He loved to go pub crawling, and discover the charms, or not so charming ways of the London pubs. Up until now, Hardesty had spent his service time up north, and this tour with CI5 had opened up a whole new world of opportunity. Most evenings the men spent some time at a new pub and then they would go to one of their flats, get takeaway, and enjoy the evening together.

This went on for a few weeks, until Doyle discovered that Hardesty was an even better cook than he was and so they regularly cooked for each other when they weren’t being called out or tied up in an obbo.

It was one of those obbos that Doyle, being incredibly bored, decided to ask Hardesty a question that Doyle had been dying to ask.

Hey, 9.2, you keep talkin’ about returnin’ up north. You’ve got it made here in the Smoke, servin’ Queen, country, and George Cowley, so what could attract you so much? I mean you are still relatively young, so what are you plannin’ to do up there in the boondocks of the kingdom?”

Hearing Doyle’s intended condescension and teasing, Hardesty multi-tasked brilliantly by continuing to watch the building across the way as well as elucidate his future plans. “I’m going to set up my own security business. Just you wait, my son, in a few years, The Hardesty Security and Surveillance Service is going to be the talk of said boondocks.”

“You’re going to go into security? How’d you figure that?”

“Well, unlike you, who has only made plans for the next bird you’re going to take out, I decided when I was much younger than you (Hardesty had the ability to make this sound like he couldn’t believe that Doyle had ever been young) that I was going to make something of myself after I stopped serving this realm. I investigated the possibilities and saved my money, and now in something like six weeks, I will be doing exactly that.”

It was obvious that Doyle had heard his every word, but the only thing Doyle remarked on was the lack of planning for his own future. “Birds are very important to a virile, handsome fellow like me self.” Doyle grinned at Hardesty, trying to make a joke of what Hardesty had said about it, then the ex-copper sobered, and said, “Guess, I just never thought I would live to see forty. Was a copper and when I joined the Drug Squad, I thought I would end up on some slab in the morgue with a bullet to the back of the head. With CI5, I’ve got my share of wounds, and injuries, just always kept telling myself that I wouldn’t need no plans.”

Hardesty nodded, “Well, I definitely think you should make those plans. Every person needs something to look forward to, and if you ever decide to leave CI5, I want you to know that you’ve got a place with me and my security service.”

Doyle looked at the older man for a moment, saying nothing, then he smiled affectionately at the man that he had known for so short of time and finding nothing else to say, whispered, “Thanks. I might do that.”

A week later the roof fell in. The IRA began another campaign of bombing and all security units were on full security alert. Hardesty and Doyle seldom saw their flats before early morning. Cowley was forced to keep his agents on the IRA threats almost to the exclusion of all else for several weeks, but finally there seemed to be a break.

Everyone seemed to be holding their breath as the threats decreased, but Cowley was still forced to keep an above average amount of men on stand-by. Hardesty and Doyle had been on constant duty for over two weeks, so they, like many other agents, took to staying around headquarters, waiting for another call out.

Doyle was partially lying on the lumpy sofa with his eyes closed in the rest room. Hardesty sat next to him, reading a well-worn magazine. Doyle’s head kept swinging back and forth near Hardesty’s shoulder as the bony man tried to find a comfortable way to slump.

Murph and Anson were also in the room. Anson was smoking his umpteenth cigar, while Murphy was trying to work a crossword puzzle. The two men had been teamed during the recent crisis, but the team was sure to be short-lived due to the smoke that Murphy complained about ad infinitum.

No one even bothered to look up as Stewart entering the hazy room, obviously looking for someone. Murphy forced himself to look away from his puzzle to ask, “What’s up, Stewart? Why is the King of South London deigning to visit we mere mortals?”

Stewart grimaced slightly and then in his best royal voice said, “I was looking around for the Terror of Stepney Green, here, but could hardly see him for all the smoke.”

Hardesty, who had met Stewart early on his arrival at CI5, answered for his partner. “I’m sorry, Stewart, his lordship is not available at the moment, we are preparing to go out and hunt up a grass that is vital to our investigations, and he’s using ESP to try and determine where to go first. Perhaps, if it is important, I can ask the Terror to speak to you later.”

Stewart grimaced once again, but continued, “I just wanted to ask him a question; that’s all?”

Anson butted in by asking, “And what would that be?”

Stewart looked confused, but turned to Anson and said, “Well, I know I’m not around here very much, but I do try to keep up with things.” Here Anson and Murphy gave each other a knowing look as if Stewart couldn’t even keep up with where his last flat was located, but no one said anything.

“Well, I mean, I thought I just saw Bodie go into Cowley’s office. I thought he had resigned. I mean . . .”

The silence in the room was deafening. Although Doyle hadn’t opened his eyes, Hardesty could feel the tension in the thin man’s body. Everyone was staring at Stewart.

Murphy spoke first, “Are you sure, Stewart? Bodie hasn’t been around in more than six months. It must have been someone else.”

Anson added to the level of conversation by asking, “Was he in cuffs?”

Stewart was just about to answer that when Doyle sat up quickly, turned to his partner and said, “Come on partner, we got to go find that grass.”

Hardesty looked stunned for a moment then replied, “Uh, sure.”

With that the two men were up and out of the building while Murphy and Anson headed towards Cowley’s office.

Several hours later, Doyle and Hardesty returned to headquarters quite pleased with themselves. The grass had come through with several leads which would aid them in their case. Doyle had said nothing about Bodie’s possible sighting, and for once Hardesty decided to leave it alone.

Re-entering the building, they could obviously tell that something was going on. Fred checked them in and informed them there was to be a meeting in the main briefing room in five minutes so they better haul themselves up there.

Being two of the last men arriving, the partners had to stand at the back. They could barely see Cowley at the front, but Doyle did see someone he recognized, Bodie. For some reason the room seemed to darken then Hardesty nudged his elbow and everything righted itself.

Cowley began to speak, “Gentlemen and ladies, I have called this meeting to inform as many of you as possible at one time of a new investigation that CI5 has become involved in. Some of you newer agents might not know the agent standing next to me. His name is Bodie. He will be the liaison for all the work that we will be doing in the coming months on this special investigation.

Bodie and an agent from another organization have spent the last six months, finding information about a group of mercenaries working up north. They have discovered trails to gun running, and other illegal activities which we will now use to rid this island of the danger to our citizens. I think that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Bodie and the other agent for the work that they have put in.

A brief round of applause broke out before Cowley could hold up his hands. “I would like all of you to check the ops board to see to what part of the investigation you will all be assigned. I will be calling individual meetings with each unit to set the structure for your future plans. In the meantime, you are dismissed.”

Hardesty stood and stared at the tall, handsome man with the close-cut hair. So this was Bodie, the man who had hurt Doyle so much. Many of the agents in the room were busy shaking hands with Bodie and offering him their congratulations. Hardesty turned around to say something to Doyle but noticed that the man had left the room, so he decided to give Doyle a few minutes to deal with the news before hunting down the obviously distraught man. It was now quite obvious to Hardesty what Cowley was playing at, and he wasn’t about to let him get away with it.

It took several hours to find Doyle. He had taken refuge in a pub near his own flat, and he had been drinking, but he hadn’t lost his legs . . . yet. Hardesty walked, sat down and ordered a lager. Doyle looked at him for several seconds as if trying to focus on the face and remember who he was, but then decided it was too much of a bother and laid his head on the counter. The auburn curls completely covered Doyle’s face and broken cheek. Hardesty had always meant to ask the younger man how that had happened but somehow had never got around to it.

After watching his partner for a few minutes, Hardesty was just about to say something when Doyle’s muffled voice said, “Really made an ass of myself on that one, didn’t I?”

Hardesty frowned, trying to figure out Doyle’s meaning, and started to ask just as Doyle continued, “Somebody even mention Bodie’s name and I go all crazy and lose my cool.” Raising his head to look blearily at Hardesty, Doyle then said with a slight slur, “You know that’s what Bodie was always tellin’ me? Keep your cool. He knew that I have a temper, but he seldom lost his. He did a couple of times though, and sometimes it was me who was the target.”

Doyle seemed to go off into his old remembrances for a moment so Hardesty tried to draw him, “Ray, who can blame you for bein’ upset? You haven’t seen the man for over six months and suddenly someone says that he’s reappeared? It would take a better man than you or I to not react to that.”

Doyle slowly closed and opened his eyes in an unconsciously sensual way, then said, “You know that’s what Bodie said to me practically the first time we met?”

Hardesty raised his eyebrows as if to question what Doyle meant, but Doyle continued without really noticing. “He told me that I had a hot temper, but I wouldn’t fold under pressure. Well, I sure did this time. I folded for some two months right after he left, and then I stupidly let myself get shot. It’s a wonder Cowley didn’t toss me off the squad, instead of gettin’ me a new partner.”

“Ray, give yourself a break. Losing a partner is not an easy thing, especially if you’ve been with them for awhile. You never told me . . . exactly how close you two were, but you’ve got to give yourself time to get over it.”

Doyle’s green orbs filled with infinite sadness as he continued without seeming to have heard Hardesty’s remarks at all, “He didn’t want me, you know? He wanted Cam Allen, but not me. It was all physical, and now he’s back, and what am I going to do?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what you’re going to do now; I’ve got the car, we’re going to go to your flat, and you’re going to put your legs up for a kip.”

“We’re on stand-by.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve already called our location in so we’re ready to go. Now, on your bike, boy.”

Hardesty knew that Cowley’s overused phrase would do the trick. Doyle managed to find his legs and walked carefully out to the Capri which was nearby. Within minutes they were at Doyle’s flat.

The slender man walked in and then promptly ran to the loo. Hardesty could hear the retching so he left the man to “die” alone and headed to the kitchen to prepare his special concoction.

Several minutes later, Doyle entered the lounge, looking pale but slightly better. Hardesty walked in carrying a fizzing glass . . . of something. “Here drink this; it’s good for upset stomachs and the worst hangovers known to mankind. It’ll make you feel better.”

For a moment, Doyle hesitated then drank the whole thing down while holding his nose. For a moment his face went ghostly white, but after a healthy belch, Doyle’s demeanour seemed to improve. Mumbling something about feeling better, he headed toward the loo to take a shower.

Thirty minutes later when Hardesty closed the door to Doyle’s flat, the older man knew that the crisis had been averted. Doyle was safely nested in his own bed, sleeping the sleep of the exhausted. As Hardesty got into the car, his mind dwelled on what was coming the next day, and if there would be any contentment for Ray Doyle in the days to come.

Hardesty’s foresight into events which were to follow was right on target as Doyle was soon to find out. As the two men entered CI5 headquarters, Fred told Doyle that he was wanted immediately in Cowley’s office. The partners exchanged a wary look as they parted with Hardesty heading toward the computer lab to do some research on some of their cases.

Doyle was immediately admitted to Cowley’s office. Doyle’s peripheral vision had always been excellent, and he immediately that there was someone standing far to the side of the room, barely within site. He knew immediately who it was, but he refused to look towards the man who had created such havoc in his life.

Instead, he moved to stand in front of Cowley’s desk, giving the Controller of CI5 his full attention. Unlike his usual tactic of making someone wait, Cowley immediately spoke to his agent asking if he would like a drink. Doyle shook his head, but said nothing else.

After inviting Doyle to sit down, Cowley spoke again, “4.5, Bodie and I felt that you were owed an explanation. About eight months ago, another security unit began hearing about possible criminal activities involving individuals who were specifically trained in other parts of the world. The criminal activities involved gun running, bully-boy tactics, and too many other activities to go into here. This unit decided to set an undercover operation up north, but since the activities seemed to involve many shall-we-say former mercenaries, it was thought that the agents should have some background in that area. 3.7’s name came up as well as another man that I believe you met, and so the two men were sent to deal with the situation and did so very successfully as you are aware.

The other security unit asked that the utmost security and secrecy be maintained while the agents were in the field. That is why I did not reveal what Bodie was doing when he left so abruptly. In fact, it was not until the briefing yesterday that I was given leave to disclose what was going on. I’m sorry if this caused a problem, but I know you will understand the need for absolutely secrecy.”

Cowley hesitated for a moment then seemed to look over in the corner at the dark figure standing there; then he continued, “I also need to ask you about your partnership with Hardesty. I have been very happy with your work with 9.2, but it is necessary to ask you, if, now that Bodie has returned, you would like to return to your former partnership with him. I can certainly find someone else for 9.2 to be partners with for the next several weeks.”

Doyle’s eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment, but then he stood up and stared clearly into Cowley’s blue ones and said firmly, “No sir; I already have a partner.”

Although Doyle had not turned, he knew that Bodie had taken a step forward, but as soon as Cowley put up his hand, Bodie stopped. The image rushed through Doyle’s mind of Pavlov and his experiments with dogs, only this time it was a hand gesture not a bell. Coming back to the present, Doyle asked, “Is that all, sir?”

Cowley also stood and quietly said, “Aye, it is.”

Doyle turned and got a better look at Bodie for the first time. The man he had called partner for five years looked totally exhausted, confused, and angry, but Bodie said nothing. Doyle headed toward the door; then stopped. Looking at the man that he had trusted with his life and caressed with his body, Doyle whispered, “Congratulations, 3.7.” With those words, Doyle left the office.

Somehow, Doyle got to the computer room where Hardesty was doing research. The older man looked up to smile at his partner but changed his face to a neutral look as soon as he realized how upset Doyle was. The look on the broken face was full of despair and pain. What had Cowley said to him?

Shutting down his computer, Hardesty quickly followed his partner out of the air-conditioned room. Doyle was already on the move, and Hardesty wasn’t able to catch up to him until they were just about ready to leave the building. Puffing slightly due to the pace Doyle had maintained, Hardesty stopped the racing man and asked, “You all right, Ray?”

By that time, Ray Doyle had regained his composure and had thrown up every barrier he could muster. With an attempt at nonchalance that he couldn’t quite muster, Doyle replied, “Let’s get out of here; we’ve got villains to bust.”

Admiring the bravery of the obviously upset man, Hardesty merely nodded and followed his partner out to the car, and with supreme subtlety took over the driving.

Silence pervaded the atmosphere of the car for several minutes. Every once in awhile Hardesty snuck a peek at the slender man, sitting beside him; Doyle had his leg bent so that his right foot rested on the car seat. It was obvious that Doyle was lost in thought but finally Doyle’s curls wiggled slightly as he turned his head to look at Hardesty.

“Cowley wanted to know if I wanted Bodie as my partner.”

Hardesty nodded, “Bodie asked you that?”

“Nah, Cowley asked; Bodie didn’t say anything.”

Hardesty’s eyes narrowed as he heard that. “Is that what Cowley wants too?”

Doyle frowned, “Whatta ya mean? I guess so. He couldn’t very well speak for Bodie unless he knew that’s what Bodie wanted.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. I meant does Cowley want you two to be partners again?”

“Don’t know, do I?”

Once again there was silence in the car; then Doyle turned and asked Hardesty, “Don’t you want to know what I told him?’

Stopping at a light, Hardesty turned to stare at his apprehensive partner and replied, “Nah, I don’t need to, do I?”

For a moment, Doyle seemed confused then he smiled one of his sweetest smiles and with a great deal of affection replied, “Thanks.” Looking around and in one of those randon thought moments said, “Looks like it’s gettin’ ready to rain; better get movin’.”

* * * * * * * * * BACK AT CI5 * * * * * * * * *

The tension between George Cowley and William Bodie made the air thick with hostility. The younger man approached Cowley’s desk then leaned over it with his arms bracing his body. Glaring at the older man and with his coldest voice, Bodie asked, “Why didn’t you tell him?”

The Controller of CI5 had dealt with irate men all of his life, and Bodie was no different. He had always been able to count on Bodie’s loyalty and willingness to follow his lead. At least, that had been true until the advent of Ray Doyle. At first, Cowley had used Doyle to try and build some leverage to keep Bodie in place at CI5. The ex-merc had been a loner all his life, and the relationship between Bodie and the Controller had become very important to both men. Cowley had been sure that a successful partnership would add to Bodie’s desire to stay put for awhile.

It didn’t take the Scot long to figure out that his plans had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams . . . in fact, they had succeeded far too well because somewhere around a year into the partnership Cowley figured out that Doyle had replaced Cowley as the reason the wandering man was staying put. For awhile that relationship fit into Cowley’s plans, but then the Controller had figured out that the relationship for his best team had gone beyond a partnership and into the realms of intimacy. That knowledge disturbed Cowley a great deal.

Over the years of his military career, Cowley had had to deal with personnel of the same sex becoming involved with each other. Indeed he had . . ., but the difficulties had proven too great, and he was not willing to risk the reputation of any unit that he was the head of by making the headlines under such circumstances.

Those thoughts conjured up John Hardesty’s face for a moment, but it was Bodie’s face that lingered there. Suddenly, he broke that thought to deal with the living man who was standing in front of him.

“You heard me tell, Doyle that MI5 did not want any leaks so we kept it just between Chambers, Allen, you and myself. We couldn’t risk your lives.”

“Ray wouldn’t have been a risk. I can’t believe you couldn’t have made an exception.”

Cowley’s blue eyes hardened as he looked at the younger man. “I make exceptions for no man.” Cowley hesitated for a second, correctly reading that Bodie had backed off from his anger, then he continued, “Och, pour us both a drink, then sit down; we have a lot to talk about. Don’t you worry; Doyle will come around by the time Hardesty leaves this lot.”

Once again, Bodie followed Cowley’s instruction, but he resolved to seek out Doyle and try to explain to him what had occurred six months before. His resolution, however, did not come to fruition for another 36 hours. He had spent the rest of the day and almost all of the next, being further debriefed and consulting with various teams that were going to pick up the leads that Allen’s and his efforts had generated.

Walking out of CI5, it was dark although that wasn’t unusual since the late autumn weather was showing signs of an early winter. Getting into his car, Bodie headed out of the parking lot, intending to go see Doyle and try to charm his way back into his graces, but he knew that he had hurt Doyle deeply and that it might take awhile before they could get back to their usual relationship. Besides, Bodie knew that his crazy golli was remarkably stubborn and would feel the obligation to stick with Hardesty until the man left the streets.

Driving automatically, Bodie pulled up in front of Doyle’s flat. He smiled as he remembered how successful his charm had worked in getting Doyle’s new address out of Charlene, who worked in the records department. Finding out that Doyle had moved once again made a major impression on Bodie about just how long he had been gone and out of Doyle’s life. Well, hopefully tonight would start him on the road to once again being part of the golli’s life.

As Bodie approached the door, a sweet old darling opened the door so that Bodie could enter without having to buzz Doyle’s flat. Deciding to knock very sedately on the door, instead of pounding on it as he had done so many times before, Bodie knocked. He could hear Doyle shout out, “Just a minute. That was really fast, I just phoned . . .”

At that point, however, Doyle opened the door; his smile changing to bewilderment and wariness as he saw who it was. Pulling himself together, Doyle said, “I . . . I was expectin’ the man with the Chinese, what do you want, Bodie?”

Since that greeting was not what Bodie had hoped for, his answer was less than diplomatic, but he made an effort. “Raymond, Raymond, you always told me not to eat so much takeaway.” Seeing that that didn’t go over well, Bodie immediately backed off and said, “I was hopin’ I could talk to you for a few minutes.”

Doyle backed up as if to let him in. He was just about to tell Bodie that Hardesty was there, but Doyle suddenly noticed that Bodie was looking behind him at the man who had just entered the room. Doyle stuttered for a moment then said, “Bodie, this is John Hardesty, my partner. John, this is Bodie. Remember I told you about him.”

Hardesty nodded and was about to go forward to shake Bodie’s hand when the ex-merc exploded, a sneer crossing his handsome face, “So this is your partner is it?” Bodie couldn’t help but notice that Hardesty was dressed in a white towel robe and looked extremely comfortable in Doyle’s flat. It had barely registered that Doyle was in a green towel robe that perfectly matched his eyes, but now jealousy completely flooded Bodie’s mind and loosened his tongue. Turning to Hardesty, he blurted out, “Well, I hope he’s givin’ you everything he gives his lucky partners, and I’ll bet you even get some extras, don’t you?”

Within seconds, Bodie was on the carpet thanks to one of Doyle’s lethal right hooks. The slender man was standing over Bodie, anger and something else registering in the blazing green eyes. The tension was so thick that a scuffle seemed ready to break out, but Doyle withdrew as Hardesty moved to his side. Doyle took a huge breath and ordered, “Get out, now.”

Bodie pulled himself up, wiping a bit of blood from his lip. He stared for one second at the two men who stood shoulder to shoulder then changed his pouty lips into an ugly sneer and said, “Gladly.” With those words, he was out the door.

Racing down the stairs, he barely noticed the Chinese delivery man coming up the other way. Breathing heavily, Bodie got into his car and was ready to pull away when several huge drops of rain hit the wind screen. The drops seemed to wake Bodie up. He looked about and for the first time really noticed the rain puddles and standing water all around. Obviously there had been a great deal of rain earlier, but since he had been in CI5 for the last 36 hours, he hadn’t really noticed the weather conditions. Now the rain had returned in force. Suddenly, Doyle’s and Hardesty’s appearance made sense. They had probably returned to Doyle’s flat and got out of their wet things, changing into robes until they could change clothes. It was obvious that they planned to have takeaway as he and Doyle had done thousands of time over their five year career . . . and Bodie had jumped to an ugly conclusion.

Dropping his head down onto the steering wheel, Bodie kept it there for several minutes as he realized that he had just destroyed any chance he had ever had of getting Doyle to forgive him and making a place in his life for his ex-partner. Finally, Bodie raised his head and engaged the gear shift to get the car away from the place where he had, once again, hurt the man who meant more to him than anyone in the world, and had ended any chance to continue the happiness that he had found with that man.

Somehow the next morning Bodie got himself together and got to CI5 on time. Since he would be working a lot more under Cowley’s direct supervision, he decided to dress the part, but in truth, he just wanted to return to his flat, and forget the world for awhile.

It was therefore, a very rude awakening when he spotted John Hardesty walking through the corridors of CI5 just outside of the office he had been given in order to liaise with the various teams dealing with the information about the mercenaries. Without thought Bodie had Hardesty up against the wall with his forearm snugly across his throat, “I’m telling you right now, you let anything happen to Ray, and you’ll answer to me, do you hear?”

Hardesty showed a total lack of intimidation. In fact, as Bodie released his throat, he dared to say, “Strange that you should be talking about hurting Doyle, you certainly know more about that than I do.”

A momentary rage sparked in the deep blue eyes, but Bodie had the grace to acknowledge the observation. Hardesty, on the other hand, had seen the concern in the younger man’s eyes and knew that there was more to this than simple betrayal, so he decided to take a chance. “Ray is a great partner, and I’ve enjoyed my time working with him, but if you care about him at all, meet me at The Duck and Waddle tomorrow evening about 7:00, I think we need to talk.” With that Hardesty walked away, remembering the look of total despair that he had seen in the blue eyes.

Bodie saw nothing of Hardesty or Doyle that day or the next so he didn’t know what to expect when he walked into The Duck the next evening. Hardesty was already there, sipping on a lager. Bodie sat next to him and ordered the same. The men refused to look at each other as tension kept both of them quiet until Hardesty said, “I think that you are an intelligent man; otherwise George wouldn’t trust you so much, but you’ve behaved like an idiot, and I’m here to tell you so.”

Bodie’s dropped head merely nodded. At first, he was going to answer with the rage he was feeling, but he quickly realized that most of the rage he was feeling was against himself so he kept his mouth shut.

Hardesty continued, “I’ve known George for twenty years, and I know well the sacrifices that he wants his personnel to make, but what I’m surprised about is that you would have gone along with Cowley without questioning his motives.”

Bodie’s head immediately sprang up as he looked up at the older man. “I know his motives. I got to know those mercs in the six months I was there. They were the scum of the earth and needed to be taken out.”

Hardesty’s eyes narrowed and then he nodded slightly, “And, of course, with your background, you were the perfect agent to use to infiltrate the group. George always makes excellent use of his resources, but sometimes he forgets what it can cost, but in this case I don’t think he forgot.”

“What are you talking about? That’s why he . . . wouldn’t tell Doyle about the undercover op; he knew any leak at all could get us killed.”

“And does George trust Doyle so little?”

A look of confusion entered the deep blue eyes as he had to admit that he had asked Cowley the same thing, and now he remembered that Cowley hadn’t really given him an answer.

Seeing Bodie’s confusion, Hardesty allowed the question to sink in then said, “I believe that you care a great deal about Ray; otherwise you wouldn’t have jumped to such a crazy conclusion as you did last evening.”

Bodie’s face turned slightly red, but from somewhere he found a slight smile. “I don’t think it was such a crazy conclusion; you’re not that much older than him and he is . . . gorgeous so any man might want him, but when I calmed down after gettin’ in the car, it finally dawned on me about the rain. I’m sorry I said those things.”

“It’s not me you have to apologize to, but I don’t think Ray will be too receptive to you right now. You must do what you think best, but I want to talk to you for a minute or two, and then I’ll leave you alone. I’ve got a phone call to make.”

Bodie nodded then asked, “You said you’ve known Cowley for twenty years, is that why you call him George?”

Hardesty laughed, “Hardly, no I do it because it irritates him so much.”

“I’m surprised he puts up with that.”

“What’s he going to do to me that he hasn’t already done? The tone in Hardesty’s voice spoke volumes about the stored pain that the older man had endured. “Besides, in slightly more than six weeks, I’m out of here and heading north.”

“I think Ray will miss you a great deal.”

“I would like to think so. Bodie, I’m not going to lie to you. I intend to start a security business up north, and I’m going to let Ray know that he’s welcome to join the firm anytime he wants. He’s a young man now, but he might want to have another career waiting for him.”

“Sounds good, but why are you telling me this?”

“I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings when I tell you what I’ve brought you here to tell you.”

“Well, get on with it, if you have that call to make.”

“Right, here goes. Bodie, as I said before the Major and I worked together up north; we got to be close, very close, in fact, I suspect we got to be as close as you and Ray were, but George Cowley had always had his plans in place for what he wanted to do, and the military was not the only thing. He got the idea to form CI5, and he had to make a choice. Barry Martin was there and badly wanted to be his “first recruit”, and I hoped that I would be chosen as well, but I had made one major mistake.” Hardesty’s voice became extremely quiet as he chin fell to his chest as he was obviously thinking about those days long ago.”

Taking a breath, Hardesty continued, “I didn’t tell Ray the whole truth about this whole thing. I told him that Cowley decided not to take my partner and me with him because he had found out that we were lovers, but that was only partly the truth. The truth is that he told me that he would gladly take me with him, but I had to choose between him and Peter, and if I chose Peter then I would be left behind. Well, I chose Peter because I love him, and Cowley went south without me. He’s never forgiven me for choosing Peter.”

Even though Bodie considered himself to be a worldly man, the concept that this man and Cowley might have been lovers kept him silent for several minutes. Hardesty had said that their relationship had been like Bodie and Doyle’s, but sadly Bodie knew that could not be true. Bodie had always kept their relationship as remote as possible. They had had sex, but Bodie had never wanted it to go further. He had lost three other people that he thought he cared for, and he wasn’t about to risk Doyle, the only person he had truly loved.

Misunderstanding Bodie’s silence, Hardesty made a move to leave, but Bodie looked up and realized that Hardesty had misinterpreted his lack of response. Getting up, he walked out with Hardesty so they could have some privacy outside. “I was just surprised about The Cow. I knew about Annie, of course, but I never suspected that Cowley would let his guard down and let anyone else get that close to him.”

Hardesty nodded his head and said sadly, “Well, we were both a lot younger then, but once Peter came along, everything changed. I should have figured it out a long time before I did, but Cowley is a devious bastard when he wants to be. I guess he wanted to get the most service from me before he let me know his feelings.”

“I knew that Annie had hurt him. I guess Doyle told you that Cowley had to shoot her live-in lover, and she unloaded a lot of venom on The Cow while he was in hospital.”

Hardesty shook his head as he fell back on a phrase that broke Bodie’s heart, “No, your partner . . . sorry, Ray never said a thing. He’s very good at keeping secrets.
Bodie, I’m going to be leaving in a few weeks. You have got to decide what you want, and even more importantly you need to figure out what George Cowley wants. It could be absolutely vital to your future . . . and to Ray’s. I’m going to say good-bye now because I have to place a call to the man I value more than anyone. I leave you with just this one thought. Doyle has already figured out what Cowley wants; I think he’s always known, so don’t put anything beyond the realm of possibility. You have got to figure it out, and do it before it’s too late.” Then, just as Hardesty started to move away, a gleam came into his blue eyes. “Love the way you call the Major, The Cow. Get Ray, sometime, to tell you what we called him. Good-bye, Bodie.”

Bodie stared for several minutes at the man as he walked to his car and left, obviously to call the man he called Peter. Bodie shook his head as he walked to his own car which was parked several blocks away. He knew now that he had been totally wrong about John Hardesty. Hardesty was a good man, a far better man than Bodie was, and he would have been a much better person for Doyle to be involved with, but Hardesty had his Peter or hopefully would once he got out of the service. Bodie, on the other hand, had completely destroyed his chances with Doyle due to his uncontrolled jealousy and his seeming betrayal of his partner. Bodie smiled briefly as he remembered Hardesty’s statement that he would have to ask Doyle about Hardesty’s name for George Cowley. Bodie couldn’t imagine that Doyle would ever let him get close enough to even ask such a question.

Arriving at his flat a few minutes later, Bodie slumped in a chair and thought about the future . . . a future without Ray Doyle. If Ray decided to take Hardesty’s offer to join his security business, Ray Doyle would walk out of his life, and he would never see his golli again. The disgust that Bodie felt about himself made him grimace as he suddenly felt the need to take a shower and try to rid himself of some of the rottenness that seemed to pervade his very soul.

Resolving to talk to Cowley about what was going on; Bodie got very little sleep that night and got to CI5 very early. Waiting for him was a message from Cowley that he was going to meet with several ministers in the next few days, so Bodie would have to hold the fort. Sighing Bodie knew that he would not be able to talk to Cowley at any length today, but he took the opportunity to broach the subject when Cowley called late in the day to inform Bodie to get out his suit and manners because the minister, Bodie and Cowley would be having lunch at Cowley’s club the next day.

Although it certainly wasn’t the time to start an in depth interrogation of Cowley’s intentions, Bodie was just getting ready to ask when Cowley dropped a bombshell.
He had met with Dr. Hadley, his physician, who was recommending that Cowley have almost immediate surgery on his right leg. Cowley had been fighting that for years, but Hadly had been most persuasive. That was one of the reasons that he had been meeting with the ministers, and Cowley had broached Bodie’s name to be the man he would deal with while Cowley was recovering. Cowley felt that it was vital that Bodie begin more intensive training in the weeks before the operation so this meeting with the minister was doubly important.

Bodie was stunned, and while extremely wary felt that he could not express his dismay over these plans on the phone. Therefore, he just confirmed the meeting for tomorrow and rang off.

Bodie did not have a better night than the previous one. It seemed as if Cowley’s web of control was winding tighter and tighter around him. At one time, his loyalty to Cowley had been enough, now the ex-merc questioned if that was what he really wanted. Hardesty had told him that he had to decide what he wanted and immediately the image of Ray Doyle’s slender body, sweaty from sex and lust invaded his thoughts. Those times with Doyle were moments of ecstasy and happiness, but he had told himself that they were transitory. He had thought he loved others and they were all gone; he couldn’t stand that to happen to Ray, so he had made a compact with the devil and gone north on an undercover op that had totally back fired. He had been crazy to trust Cowley. Was he crazy to fall in with the Scot’s plans to have him deputize for him while he was in hospital and recovering from serious surgery?

Confusion reigned in Bodie’s dreams that night. He kept seeing Doyle stricken face when he blurted out all those lies about Cam Allen being a good lay. The anger in that heart-shaped face as Bodie blurted out about Doyle’s gifts to his partners haunted him, until he finally woke up and decided to dress and go to CI5 to get some work done before he met Cowley.

Walking into Cowley’s club, just about noon, he discovered that neither Cowley nor the Minister were there yet. The Secretary had informed him that Cowley had called and left a message that they would be a few minutes late. Bodie was about ready to go to the lounge when he spotted someone he knew, Philip Hadley, Cowley’s doctor.

The Doctor’s face lit up with a smile as he recognized Bodie. “Ah, Bodie, good to see you. Are you here to see someone?”

“Not exactly, I’m just waiting for Mr. Cowley; he’s running a bit late.”

“That’s too bad because I would really like to see the old rascal. I have been after him for more than six months to get that leg taken care of. I keep asking him to come in for an appointment, but he somehow manages to avoid me. Could you please use your influence with him, and get him to come in before that leg gets so bad that he will be off for months recovering from any treatment.”

Bodie stood there stunned, not able to say anything. Just the other day, Cowley had told him that he had met with Hadley and was planning surgery. Now Hadley was telling him that he hadn’t seen Cowley in several months. What was going on?

Bodie pulled himself together and picked up one phrase of Hadley’s statement to use in his response. “Well, quite frankly, I doubt if I have any influence with Mr. Cowley, but I will certainly relay your message to him.”

Hadley smiled, “I don’t think you do yourself justice, Bodie. He’s always spoken quite highly of you. Well, I must be going. Hope you are successful with George.”

Bodie stared for a moment at the retreating figure then went to sit in the lounge; his mind full of questions. Less than ten minutes later, Cowley and the Minister arrived and the rest of the day was taken up with discussions of various topics, including Cowley’s proposal that Bodie take up more of the slack in dealing with certain aspects of the running of CI5. It seemed the perfect time to bring up the question of Cowley’s “intended” surgery, but with the Minister sitting there, Bodie was reluctant to do so.

After the luncheon, Cowley and the Minister returned to the Minister’s office and the moment was lost. Bodie felt completely frustrated by his failure to find out what was going on with George Cowley. Hardesty’s words kept haunting his mind as he struggled with the question of what George Cowley wanted. Resolving to get to the bottom of the whole issue, Bodie returned to headquarters.

Unfortunately, Bodie’s quest to find out more information did not come to fruition due to the necessity to spread himself thin what with his efforts to be liaison with the various teams, working on the aftermath of the undercover operation up north and the greater workload that Cowley was heaping on him as a sort of deputy controller. Bodie’s mind and body were exhausted, but when Hardesty stopped by to mention that he was taking Doyle to a nice restaurant for his birthday, Bodie felt, for the thousandth time, the loss of his best friend and partner.

“I was just thinking. Maybe I could ask Ray to talk to you after we dined. Could you, maybe come to the restaurant and wait in the bar, then if he was willing, you two could talk.”

“I don’t know, Hardesty; he already doesn’t trust me and rightfully so. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea.”

“All right, let’s play it like this. Ray and I will dine; I’ll talk to him and ask if he would like to talk to you, if he doesn’t, I’ll let you know and you can leave. I realize that will be very upsetting for you, but it might at least get your foot in the door, as it were.”

“Thanks, John. It might work, and he certainly can’t hate me anymore than he does now. I’ll be there.”

Hardesty smiled, “I don’t think he hates you, but I don’t think you’re one of his favourite people right now, but we both know that Ray Doyle can out stubborn just
about anybody, except maybe Peter, so who knows - - this might work.”

Reminded of Hardesty’s former partner, Bodie asked, “How is Peter doing?”

“Well, he actually let me come see him. Ray and I had a long weekend so I drove up north and we spent the weekend together. It wasn’t great, but he did seem to be interested in my ideas about the security firm. I guess I’ll just have to do some more talking. I have to go now. See you tomorrow night.”

Bodie sat contemplating his possible meeting with Doyle tomorrow night. In all the years that he and Doyle had been partnered, they had never celebrated each other’s birthdays. In fact, it was just one more thing that Bodie ignored, much like Christmas. He had never been big on sentimentality, and Ray had never made a big thing of it. Could that be part of the problem for Doyle? He had been forced to stay within so many of Bodie’s parameters, that Doyle was enjoying his new found freedom. Maybe Doyle had learned how a true partner acted towards his other half when Hardesty and Doyle had teamed up.

The next evening Doyle and Hardesty were relaxing after eating a great meal at The Golden Plate. The atmosphere, service, and food had been excellent. The conversation had been interesting and not burdened with reality; Doyle waited for the other shoe to drop.

Suddenly, two wrapped gifts appeared out of nowhere and were shoved towards Doyle. Doyle looked up at his partner with a confused look, “What’s this then?”

“It’s number 35 for you. Are you getting senile already? Happy Birthday, Ray.”

In the five years that Bodie and he had been teamed, they had never exchanged gifts so Doyle was totally unprepared, but after a moment, he whispered, “Thanks,” and meant it. Hardesty’s thoughtfulness meant a great deal to him.

Opening the rather strange shaped prezzie first, he found a large jar with a strange mixture inside. Looking up in query of what this was; Doyle could see the merriment in Hardesty’s eyes.

“It’s a year’s supply of my special hangover mixture. Remember when you took it that time? I figured since I wouldn’t always be around to hold your head, you might need it. Just add water.”

Doyle grinned as he remembered the time that he had drunk too much and Hardesty had insisted that he drink some of his miracle cure. Then Doyle’s smile faded as he remembered why he had been drinking so heavily; Doyle had hoped that the liquor would wipe out his memories of what Bodie had said to him just before he went north with the blond stud, Cam Allen. That day, he had been told that it was an undercover operation, and Bodie had not betrayed him, but Doyle’s mind could not accept what had happened, and Bodie’s further behaviour certainly proved there was more to it.

Hardesty could read the thoughts going through Doyle’s mind; his green orbs were really very revealing so Hardesty pulled him out of his dark thoughts by saying, “Go ahead and open the other one.”

It was a very large flat envelope. Doyle stared at it for a moment; then slit it open. Inside were a document and a letter. The document was obviously made on computer and indicated that Ray Doyle was a charter member of the Hardesty Security Firm. The letter indicated Hardesty’s invitation to join the firm if and when Doyle wanted to. There was no pressure, but John Hardesty wanted Doyle to know that he would always be welcome.

Doyle’s heart felt as if it were bursting. That simple piece of paper meant a great deal to him. He had been very lucky to have John Hardesty as his partner for the last few months, and he knew it. “Thank you, John. This means a great deal to me. I have been thinking about your offer. You’re right I’m not getting any younger, and I should have some plans in place for when I leave the streets, and after . . . well, what’s happened with Cowley, I don’t think I can stay with CI5 beyond the length of my present contract.”

Hardesty nodded, “I’m glad you’ve done some thinking. It’s important to know what you want.” Here Hardesty hesitated for a moment then decided to jump in with both feet. “Ray, I was wondering if, before I leave, you would be willing to meet and talk to Bodie?” Seeing Doyle tense up, Hardesty continued, “Now hold on a minute, I’ve talked to him . . .”

“I’ll bet that went well, seeing what he accused you of.”

“Well, to be truthful, he had his forearm against my neck at the time, but . . .”

“What?” Doyle’s sea green eyes were furious and had turned to an emerald shade as his fury increased.

“Now hold on, he wanted me to know that I better not let anything happen to you or I would regret it.”

A cynical sneer crossed the handsome face as Doyle said, “Yeah, a lot he cares about me.”

“That’s just the point, Ray. I believe he truly cares a great deal about you; I know what you’ve said but I think you’re wrong. Give him a chance; talk to him. That night he came to the flat; he was trying to apologize and then . . . well, you have to admit yourself what it looked like.”

“Yeah, he was ready to believe that about us; no trust at all, after five years. I know you mean well, John, but I can’t do it . . . not yet anyway; I have to let the bile and anger subside before I meet him again.”

Hardesty knew that that was the best he could get at that moment, and truthfully, it was more than he expected. Excusing himself to go to the loo, he met Bodie in the bar and informed him of Doyle’s decision. The despairing look in Bodie’s eyes told Hardesty how much the tall, dark man had hoped for there to be a different ending, but being a realist knew that it was a gamble.

Turning his back on Bodie, Hardesty returned to the table and sat down. Doyle looked at his partner for thirty seconds then said, “Has he gone?”

Hardesty’s eyebrows shot up, “You knew he was here?”

Doyle nodded, “I haven’t been trained in double and triple think for anything. Now let’s get out of here, before I do something stupid and need the use of that jar of yours.”
Once again, Bodie had another miserable night. He had put a lot of his hopes on Hardesty’s persuasive powers, but he had known deep down that it was too soon to expect Doyle to be willing to talk with him. In fact, it might never be the right time. As his mind filled with images of Doyle’s body in a frenzy as they had sex, Bodie’s mind filled with Doyle’s words when Cowley had asked about Bodie and Doyle getting back together again as partners, “I have a partner already.” Would Doyle ever again want Bodie as his partner?

Closing his eyes, Bodie finally slept; in fact, he overslept and had to dress quickly to get to headquarters. Since he was running late, he was just ready to contact CI5 when 2.4 called him.

“Alpha 2 (Cowley had insisted on this call sign while Bodie was his temporary deputy), there has been a bombing in a vacant warehouse. Alpha 1 is on his way there now, but you are closer. Please detour to this address.”

After receiving the address, Bodie immediately headed towards the destination. As he approached the area, however, there seemed to be no emergency equipment there and that concerned Bodie so he once again contacted 2.4. “2.4, do we know this is legitimate, who called it in?”

“We got the call less than three minutes ago from 9.2. He and 4.5 were in the vicinity when they heard an explosion. I have contacted the other services so help should be coming within minutes.”

Automatically, Bodie replied, “Thanks, 2.4,” but his mind was on Doyle. There had been an explosion. Bodie told himself that he should have asked if any civilians had been reported inside. Knowing Doyle, he would think with his emotions first and his head second, and this time he wouldn’t have Bodie there as back-up.

Within less than two minutes, Bodie arrived at the address. It was a derelict old building that looked run down, but there was very little evidence of an explosion. Bodie saw Hardesty waiting near the gold Capri that Doyle had used for much of the time they had been partners. Rushing up to Hardesty, Bodie shouted, “Where’s Doyle?”

The older man looked upset and frightened, “We were looking for a grass and thought we heard a muffled explosion as we got near to this area. Doyle went inside to check out if there were any civilians. He had told me to call in the explosion and wait out here to explain. I was just getting ready to go in because I heard another explosion less than a minute ago.” At this point, Bodie took off so Hardesty had no way of knowing if he heard his shout about that emergency services and Cowley were on the way.

Bodie entered the building and looked around. It didn’t seem as if the explosions had done a great deal, but there was some debris, and haze filling the building. Seeing very little, Bodie shouted, “Ray . . .Ray.” Hearing nothing, he gingerly went further into the building.

Continuing to yell at various intervals, even though the grit in the air seemed to clog his lungs, Bodie stopped for a moment because he thought he heard a noise that sounded like a moan or a call. Looking further, he found Doyle covered in some debris, but not pinned down except for a metal beam which was lying across Doyle’s left leg. Bodie’s heart began to beat again as he realized that Doyle was alive, but when the curly, debris-ridden mop of hair raised up in the dim light, Bodie could tell that the man might be concussed, probably when he had been thrown onto the concrete floor.

Bending over his former partner, Bodie asked, “Ray, you all right?”

Doyle seemed dazed, but after trying to clear his eyes, he whispered, “Bodie, that you?”

“Of course, sunshine, who else would come rushin’ to the rescue? Still got me Superman watch, don’t I?” The plastered grin fell away as he looked more closely at Doyle’s injured leg, “We got to get this beam off you. That leg’s not lookin’ so good.”

“Can’t feel too much right now. What you doin’ here? Where are the professionals?”

“Got here ahead of them. Hardesty told me where you were. Now lay back ‘cause this is going to hurt. I’m going to lift that beam off your leg. Do you think you can pull yourself out from under?”

Doyle shook his matted curls and said, “Not sure.”

“Okay, then don’t do anything; let me do it all.”

Bodie had heard of people in an emergency having super human strength, but he had always been sceptical; this time, however, the adrenaline seemed to help because in one heave he managed to get the beam clear of Doyle’s body. Unfortunately, Doyle let out a scream of immense pain and collapsed into unconsciousness. Bodie immediately dropped down to check his vital signs, and when he found a pulse, he shivered in relief.

Bodie didn’t have to examine the leg too carefully to realize that it was broken in at least two places, and one was a compound fracture. Doyle was going to be laid up for several months with that. Trying to lift Doyle as carefully as possible, Bodie suddenly heard a shout from a voice that sounded like George Cowley. Within seconds the well-known shape of the Controller appeared near by.

“Bodie, what are you doing in here? The emergency teams are just outside.”

“I found Doyle, sir. He’s busted his leg up pretty good.” Just then Bodie heard what sounded like a noise further inside the building and said so.

“I trust your hearing, Bodie. Let us look. Put Doyle down, he’ll be safe here. The emergency medical personnel will find him.”

Bodie held tightly to his precious burden. “No sir, I will not leave him here. I’m taking him out. If you want to go ahead, that’s fine. I’ll return right away after I get Doyle out of here.”

Cowley stared for one second, looking at the man who had issued such defiant words then nodded and said, “Go ahead.”

Within seconds Bodie had Doyle out of the building and started towards a waiting ambulance. John Hardesty was there overseeing the various units that were there when he saw Bodie carrying Doyle. “Thank god, you found him. Get in the ambulance and go with him to hospital.”

Bodie badly wanted to do that, but he had promised Cowley that he would return. “No, you go with Ray; I’ll follow in a little while.” Hardesty merely nodded, but he could easily see what those words had cost the ex-merc. Both men had turned to look at the building when another explosion took place. Bodie quickly began to run towards the entrance, but was stopped by fire personnel.

Doyle’s ambulance left for the nearest hospital, but Bodie remained until they found Cowley. Within a short amount of time, the older man was brought out on a gurney, fully conscious and vociferous that he was not hurt even though his right pant leg was badly torn and there was blood all around.

Bodie took one look at the old man’s leg, but knew that the wound was not nearly as serious as Doyle’s had been. Cowley continued to rant and rave that he was all right until one of the medical team told him that if he didn’t quiet down, he would be given a sedative. Within seconds that had the desired effect and the Scot was in the ambulance. Suddenly, he seemed to notice that Bodie was there and said, “Well, better late, I suppose. Get in here so these fellows can take me to the hospital.”

Bodie looked at him for a moment then said, “I follow along in my car, sir.”

Cowley said nothing, but they both knew that this was Bodie’s second defiance in the last few minutes.

* * * * * * * * * IN HOSPITAL * * * * * * * *

Bodie stood staring at the silent figure in the white, sterile bed. Doyle’s face had one large bandage which covered a bad scrape, but his left leg was completely uncovered. The lower bone in Doyle’s leg had been broken in two places and one of those bones had pierced the skin. Due to the obvious less-than-sanitary conditions found in the warehouse, the doctors had given the man a massive dose of antibiotics, cleaned up the leg, and were now waiting to perform surgery to reset the leg.

Bodie stood there staring at the seemingly vulnerable Doyle and remembered the many other times that one of the two of them waited to see about the condition of the other. Sighing, Bodie heard someone entering Doyle’s room, but didn’t turn because strangely, he was afraid to take his eyes off Doyle for fear the man would leave him.

“I thought I’d find you here, Bodie. Alpha 1 is screaming his head off. They’re about to take him into surgery, but he’s demanding to see you first.”

Grimacing slightly that he had totally forgot Cowley in his concern for Doyle, Bodie said, “Just what I needed to hear, Hardesty. I guess I better go. Did the doctor tell you anything about Doyle that he didn’t tell me?”

Hardesty hesitated for a moment then said, “Ray’s leg is in pretty bad shape; there’s a pretty good chance that he might come out of it with a limp, but he said that no one would know for sure until he had some physical therapy.”

“A limp? Ray won’t like that.”

“No, but you saved his life. If he had been in there when that third explosion went, who knows what would have happened. Now you better go see the old man.”

Bodie still hesitated; it wasn’t fair that Doyle was laying there unconscious and his leg so badly damaged, when Cowley was . . . Bodie stopped himself from thinking any further. “Do you know what he wants to see me about?”

“I guess Hadley wants to take out the bullet. The bad gash he’s got on his leg has moved the bullet to a slightly less dangerous place so Hadley says there’s no time like the present. I’m guess since you’re Alpha 2; he wants to turn over command or something.”

Bodie’s face hardened as he realized what Hardesty’s words meant; now he would be forced to stay in a position of authority instead of going back on the street with Doyle.
“Okay, I might as well get it over with. You’ll stay with Ray, won’t you?”

“Of course, I will. You know I’ll be with him.”

Bodie nodded his thanks and left. Hardesty stood in the same spot as Bodie had, looking at Doyle much as Bodie had done, but after a moment, Hardesty said, “All right, he’s gone; I know you’re awake.”

After a few seconds, the green eyes opened and tried to focus on Hardesty. In a bare whisper, Doyle said, “Water?”

Hardesty moved closer to Doyle’s bed to wipe some ice on his dry lips. “I don’t think you should have water; they’re going to take you to surgery in a little while. I expect they’ll be in soon to give you something.”

Hardesty could see the worried look in the green eyes so he asked even though he was sure he knew the answer. “Did you hear what Bodie and I were talking about?”

Doyle tried to move his head, but it hurt too much, so he murmured, “Yeah, looks like I might be usin’ your birthday present sooner than I thought.”

Hardesty smiled, “You know you’re always welcome. I am assuming you mean the security firm and not the hangover medicine.”

“Yeah, what was Bodie doin’ here? He should be with Cowley.”

“Doyle when are you going to get it through your head; Bodie cares a great deal about you. He ran into the building and got you out. He probably saved your life.”

“He’s done that before, but things are different now.”

“Are they different, Ray? Who is it that’s made them different?” Doyle didn’t answer because he had already fallen into a doze from the pre-surgery medicines.

Both surgeries went well, but Doyle’s was definitely much more devastating. Cowley was awake within a few hours free of the bullet that had pained him for over 40 years. Within a few minutes of waking, he was already demanding that work be brought to him; everyone ignored one of the most powerful men in the realm for his own good.

Doyle, on the other hand, was sleeping frequently; his left leg contained in a heavy cast. He would start on physical therapy as soon as possible, but the surgeon reminded Alpha 2 and Doyle’s partner that there was a definite chance that the bones would not mend totally and that Doyle might have a limp.

Hardesty visited Doyle every day. He still had about a month of service so he requested some time to stay with Doyle when he left hospital. Bodie visited Doyle and Cowley every day, but only spoke to Cowley. He figured that his appearance might upset Doyle so he came before visiting hours and just sat near his former partner, trying to will him his strength.

As soon as visiting hours began, Bodie knew that Cowley expected him to be at his side. Frustration mounted in Bodie’s body as he seemed more and more tethered to Cowley’s wishes.

After a week, Cowley was released into the care of a hired nurse who had to have been paid a great deal to “baby-sit” the cantankerous man. Bodie continued to visit Cowley at his apartment, but basically ran CI5 as he saw fit, while waiting for Doyle to leave the hospital. He talked to John Hardesty frequently so that he could keep up on Doyle’s condition as well as repeatedly offering to do anything he could to help Doyle when he got to his flat.

The aftermath of those words was that Doyle was moved once again: to a ground floor flat which had been upgraded with some features specifically designed for the handicapped. Bodie knew that Doyle would not stay put long, but he might as well take advantage of the flat while it was available. It was also advantageous since it had two bedrooms which would mean Hardesty could stay with Doyle until his service time was up.

Doyle began getting physical therapy on the leg about a week into his stay. He was sick and tired of staying in bed. Although his leg still hurt, he was feeling better and wanted to go home. Closing his eyes and dozing, he heard footsteps enter his room, but kept his eyes closed because he knew those footsteps better than anyone else in the world. It was Bodie, but he wasn’t sure what he would say to the man.

Bodie immediately noticed that Doyle seemed to be asleep. Placing the grapes that he always brought on the table by the bed, Bodie sat down to do as he did most visits: watch Doyle.

Finally, Doyle could take it no longer so he opened his eyes and carefully looked at Bodie. Doyle hadn’t seen him since the warehouse explosion; he was amazed how much older and tired the man he looked. He looked haunted and exhausted. The obvious impact of recent events was showing on his 33 years, and at that moment Doyle began to realize what the aftermath of their break up had done to Bodie as well as himself.

Bodie noticed that Doyle was awake, so he stood up, preparing to leave the room, but Doyle whispered for him to wait. Bodie turned to look into the face of the man he had hurt so badly and said, “Brought you some grapes, sunshine.”

Doyle tried to smile then said, “Thanks. Thanks for savin’ my life too.”

Bodie ignored the thanks since he really didn’t want Doyle’s thanks; he wanted his . . . At that moment, Bodie realized that he wasn’t sure he knew what he wanted from Doyle. He wanted Doyle in his life; he knew that, but what else did he want? He would have said his love, but after his stupidity and the cruel words that he had flung at Doyle, he knew that that would never be possible, so he hedged his answer.

“I hear you’re going to get out of here soon.”

“Who told you that?”

“John mentioned it to me; I gather he’s been hounding your doctors to let him know your condition and status every hour on the hour. I guess he’s anxious to get back to his “baby-sittin’”.

That phrase worked wonders as Doyle perked up and became irate. “I don’t need a baby-sitter. I just told John I would stay with him ‘cause he threatened to tie me down to the bed and feed me gruel like any good caretaker is supposed to.”

The pouty look on Doyle’s face was adorable. Bodie longed to go over to the man and kiss the pout off the beautiful face, but he kept his distance. “I guess John has told you that you’ve been moved into a ground floor flat so it’s more convenient?”

“Yes, but I think it’s a waste of time. If they tell me that I’m going to have a limp and the leg won’t heal right, I’m outta here. Nobody wants a major gimp goin’ out on the streets.”

“You wouldn’t have to go out on the streets. You would have plenty of things to do at CI5 without being on the A Squad.”

Doyle laid there contemplating his former partner much as he had done after he had been kicked and severely beaten by Pendle. Bodie had come to visit, but only because he was killing time before visiting Claire, who had been severely injured in a bombing. Doyle was wrapped in bandages, but, once again, Bodie’s lack of concern had been further proof to Doyle that their sexual relationship had been on a need-to-release-frustration basis, and nothing else. This déjà vu image severely shook Doyle. He had always tried to hide his feelings at those times when Doyle had just wanted to be close to his partner, but Bodie had walked away . . .just as Bodie had done with the beautiful black nurse when Doyle had wanted to be with Bodie and Tommy at a match.

Doyle’s eyes were very revealing; sometimes he seemed to broadcast his thoughts . Bodie could easily see that Doyle was disturbed, but he couldn’t figure out what he had done this time.

Sighing, Doyle took the plunge, “Bodie, I’m thinking about leaving CI5 even if my leg is okay.”

“What? Why? Why would you do that?”

“Bodie, this is the second time I’ve been injured in less than six months. My body shows every mark, scar, and injury, and I’m just not sure if it’s worth it.”

A chill went through Bodie’s body as the thought that if Doyle left, he would truly lose his chance at getting back in Doyle’s good graces; then Doyle’s words came thundering into his mind . . . DOYLE’S SECOND INJURY in six months. Stunned that it must have happened while he was gone, Bodie’s face turned pale as he asked, “
What second injury, Ray?”

Realizing that he had let the information about his shooting slip out, Doyle dropped his head, sighed, and then said as calmly as possible, “It wasn’t much, I got hit in the chest and a lung deflated. Had to stay in hospital for a week or so. I’m okay now. You’ve always told me that I heal fast.”

“When was this?”

“About the time that John was assigned as my partner. Cowley told him that I needed a baby-sitter.” Doyle’s last words took on a new hardness as he related what Cowley had done.

Badly shaken, Bodie asked, “You mean you were so badly hurt that you had to have someone take care of you?”

“Nah, nothing like that, but Cowley had been unhappy with my work so he called John to come south and work with me . . . maybe get my head on straight. It worked; John’s been very patient with my idiocy.”

“John was up north?”

“Yeah, I thought you knew that. He worked for military intelligence then was seconded to CI5 by Cowley.”

“I . . . I didn’t know about your wound; I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”
Suddenly the room was filled with tension as both men realized why Bodie hadn’t been there. Each man kept silent as separate thoughts filled their minds: Bodie asked himself why Cowley hadn’t told him about Doyle being injured, and Doyle wondered, for the thousandth time, why Bodie hadn’t told him the truth about the undercover op.

Trying to get past the obvious sensitivity of their thoughts, Bodie asked the first question that came to his mind, “John told me to ask you what the guys up north called Cowley?”

Doyle smiled as he thought of John’s words, “He said they called him, The Ow, because he was such as pain in the arse.”

Bodie laughed at that, and replied, “That out does The Cow every time.” Then Bodie asked what seemed like an innocent question that would quickly cause the atmosphere to turn even more tense, “What’s John been doing up north since Cowley came south?”

“He didn’t say much, but he did say that he had just started working on a case involving gun running and smuggling, but Cowley’s secondment put a stop to that.” Bodie heard the coldness in the golli’s voice and knew what was coming.

“He mentioned two real troublemakers who seemed to be running the show. He said their names were Cameron and Philips.”

Even though Bodie knew what Doyle was going to say, it wasn’t any easier to hear him say it. Closing his eyes, he said a month’s worth of curses in every language he knew, but he forced his eyes open to look at Doyle. “Did . . . he say anything about them.”

“No, just that Philips seemed to be the brains of the duo.”

Bodie could feel himself blush. He had hoped that Doyle would never hear about his activities during those six months he had been undercover, but now it had hit him full in the face. No wonder Doyle didn’t trust him; probably even hated him.

“Ray, I wanted to tell you, but you weren’t listenin’ to me so I hoped you wouldn’t hear. You know what you have to do sometimes when you’re undercover; that’s how you stay alive.”

“Did you really expect me to listen? I thought you had left to go with that bastard, and what you said to me; how could I forget that? And then, when you supposedly come to my flat to “explain”, you accuse me and John of havin’ sex? What do you want from me, Bodie? You gave me nothin’, and you expect me to accept it all because it’s undercover. Haven’t you figured out that Cowley didn’t want me to know?”

“Cowley told you why he couldn’t tell you. I understand that you hate me because of what you thought I had done, but why blame Cowley; his hands were tied?”

Doyle closed his eyes. All of a sudden he had a mind-numbing headache and his whole body ached, then his green eyes opened and flashed a look of despair that took Bodie’s breath away. “Bodie, at one time I thought I knew you better than anyone, but I was wrong because Cowley’s got your measure, and if you’re too blind to figure out what he wants; then you do deserve to be his deputy. I am awfully tired now; I need some sleep.”

It was so obviously a dismissal that Bodie could say nothing else, except to let him know if Doyle needed anything. Bodie left the room quickly, but his thoughts were on Doyle’s last words. Once again someone had mentioned what Cowley wanted. George Cowley had been the man he had given his loyalty to the first months of his employment at CI5, but he had given that loyalty little thought in the passing years. He knew that he had changed because Doyle’s friendship and partnership had replaced his need to please Cowley, but he had always assumed that Doyle understood that he had become the most important person in his life. Had Cowley used Bodie’s insecurities about his need for Doyle as a device to create an abyss between the two partners? If that was true, why? Cowley had put them together, why was he now tearing them apart? Bodie returned to CI5, resolved to talk to Cowley and clear up the situation.

Unfortunately, during the next several weeks Cowley seemed to pile more and more work on Alpha 2’s shoulders. Although Bodie suspected that Cowley’s leg was giving him trouble, he always seemed much like his usual self when he came to the office.

John Hardesty was his lifeline to Doyle by keeping him informed on Doyle’s condition. Doyle was now out of hospital and installed in his new flat. He was getting regular physical therapy and everyone was waiting to find out what the permanent damage would be to the left leg. John had even told him that Doyle’s progress was amazing and that he was now in a lighter more mobile cast. He was using crutches and seldom had to use a wheel chair unless going great distances.

Unfortunately, John was getting ready to retire. The official date was less than two weeks away. He had offered to stay on for awhile to keep Doyle company, but the stubborn ex-copper wouldn’t hear of it. Doyle was supposed to get the official prognosis in three weeks so he would probably know his future with the A Squad as of that time.

Bodie was anxious to hear that report since he was intending to tell Cowley that, if Doyle was able to meet CI5 standards, he wanted to become his partner again, but once again George Cowley intervened in events. Walking into the older man’s office to report on last night’s activities, Bodie started to report but was told to hold off on that because Cowley had something else he wanted to discuss.

“I know you’ve been carrying quite a load, lad, so I want to make it up to you. I have been invited to attend an anti-terrorist conference in Paris in five day’s time. Dr. Hadley does not want me making any trips of any distance yet so I am sending you over. It should be reasonably interesting and also have the advantage of giving you some time to relax and rebuild your energy levels. Besides, Paris isn’t the worst place to attend a conference.”

“Sir, I don’t think this is a good time for me to be gone; after all, you are not up to coming into the office on a full time basis yet, so I should be here.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ve enlisted 6.2 to help me while you are gone; besides Bodie, I don’t want you to begin to think that you are irreplaceable. (Cowley’s eyes twinkled as if they had just shared a small joke) Now give me that report and I will take care of all the arrangements for the Paris Conference.”

Bodie would like to have argued, but he knew it would do him no good; besides he would be back before Doyle’s official status report would be out so he would be here to jump in and demand his re-partnering with Doyle if the news was good.

Since Bodie’s trip to Paris would coincide with John Hardesty’s retirement day, he called the older man and got together with Doyle’s present partner. They talked for quite awhile about Hardesty’s plans.

“I’ve talked to Peter several times, and he does seem interested in joining the firm as the accountant, all-over business manager, and partner. We aren’t back yet to our close relationship, but we are getting there. He told me he missed me and has been thinking a lot about what happened. I’m just hoping that we can put what happened behind us and make a future together.”

“I hope so too. Thank you so much for what you did for Doyle; you were there when he needed a friend, and I will be forever thankful that you’ve been open-minded enough not to shut me out.”

“Bodie, you and I are a lot alike, just as Peter and Doyle are a lot alike. They brood and shut themselves away when they are hurt. They are stubborn to a fault, and have sharp tongues, but we . . . love them just as they are. How could I fault you for your actions, when I have committed far worse sins in my lifetime?”

Bodie looked sadly at his friend, “I don’t think you ever accused the man you love of getting it on with his partner did you?”

“No, but then Peter knew that Cowley was no competition after I met him. Bodie, you still haven’t figured it out yet, have you? In the next few weeks, you need to make that your priority. I suspect that Doyle is going to get some bad news, and he’s going to need you. So, figure it out: what do you want, and even more important what does Cowley want and are you willing to live with that?”

That meeting had occurred a few days before Bodie left for Paris. He knew he was going to miss John Hardesty for the man himself, but especially because he was his link to Doyle.

* * * * * * * * * * Ten Days Later * * * * * * * * * *

Bodie walked into CI5, grateful to be back on home soil. The conference had been interesting, but he would have preferred to have stayed nearby Doyle if he needed him. He had talked to Cowley several times, but things had been relatively quiet around CI5 so there had been little to report. Walking quickly to his office, he ploughed into Colin Murphy, who was just coming out of his office. The handsome, younger man smiled as he saw who it was. “Thank goodness, you’re back. I’m about ready to tear my hair out.”

“I thought everything had been quiet around here?”

“Well, the bad guys have been pretty quiet, but Alpha One has not. He’s been here almost twenty-four hours a day since you left. I thought I was going to have to tie him up, and send him home in a taxi. ‘Do this and do that’ were his favourite words the whole time. Now you can bear the brunt; I happily turn the mantle of responsibility over to you.”

Bodie laughed then said, “Oh no, not yet. I’m not officially here for another four hours. I’m going to go over to Doyle’s and see how he is - - if he’ll let me in.” It was no secret to Murphy that Doyle and Bodie were not on the best of terms, so it was perfectly safe to say that to the younger man.

Murphy’s face changed immediately when he heard Bodie’s words. A confused look crossed the handsome face, “I . . . I thought Cowley had told you . . . Doyle’s resigned. He got the medical news a couple of days ago about the potential weakness of his injured leg and immediately resigned.”

Bodie stood there stunned then demanded to know, “Why wasn’t I told?”

“Well, I was going to call you when we got the report, but Doyle was already in with Cowley, so I asked if I should call you about his resignation, but Cowley said he would take care of it.”

Bodie kept his fury barely within bounds. He knew that it wasn’t Murphy’s fault, but why would Cowley not tell him, and why had the report come out so early? With the words, “Thanks, Murph,” Bodie rushed into his office, prepared to confront Cowley.

Rushing next door to see Cowley, Bodie quickly found out that the head of CI5 was not available and would not be for a day or so. Another series of meetings with the Minister were going on. Bodie’s frustration level was so high, he felt like punching something. Instead he asked Betty to hunt up Doyle’s medical file and resignation information.

After reading both files, Bodie headed for the medical department to talk to Dr. Foresly. Foresly had put up with the antics and injuries of the top team in CI5 for several years; he knew both men well, so when Bodie barged in, he could easily read the storm warnings that were emanating from Bodie’s body.

“What’s all this gobbledygook mean?”

Looking at the folder that Bodie was holding, Foresly immediately knew that there was going to be trouble. “In simple words, the fracture in Doyle’s left femur has caused that bone to weaken. That’s the same area where he was shot, and it’s not going to heal properly. The compound fracture of his tibia has caused his leg to be slightly shorter than before, and he will have a slight limp. Physical therapy will help, but he will never get back to the standards that CI5 demands.”

“When did you know all this?”

“Well, we suspected it for awhile, but the actual report came out about a week ago. I, of course, talked to Doyle right away.”

“A week ago! A week ago! I thought the medical report wasn’t supposed to come out for another week or so?”

“Yes, well, normally it wouldn’t, but Cowley kept pressing us for it, and Doyle agreed to the in-depth examination so we went ahead and sent it out when we were finished. I’m sorry that Doyle resigned; I thought that he would get a job in some other capacity here at CI5. It’s not like he’s going to be crippled or anything.”

Bodie’s anger was so great that he could no longer hold it in, turning to go out the door; he slammed his fist at the nearest wall. Fortunately, he pulled his punch at the last second so that the medical department did not have another casualty to deal with.

Since Cowley was not available to be debriefed about the Paris Conference, Bodie went to his office so that Murphy could brief him on what the status was of various cases. Late that night, he went to his stuffy flat, not really caring about its condition. He only had one goal at that moment. Searching in the metal file where he kept all his important papers, he found the document that he was looking for. Reading the document several times, he sat on the settee for several hours, trying to conquer his anger.

Finally, he went to bed because he knew tomorrow would be a busy day. He would make an appointment with Betty to see Cowley as soon as the Controller returned to CI5. Bodie kept telling himself that he had been a fool. The next time that Bodie saw George Cowley, there would be some questions asked and finally answered. Bodie would finally know what it was that George Cowley really wanted.

Cowley contacted Bodie early the next morning to let him know that the meeting with the Minister would continue that morning, but he would be available at CI5 in the afternoon. Bodie promptly told him that he was making an appointment through Betty to talk to him. Cowley promptly agreed, but a slight amount of confusion could be heard in his voice.

At 15.00 hours Alpha 2, with fire in his eye, entered Alpha 1’s office. Cowley had known the man for over five years, and he could read the man most of the time. He could see Bodie’s anger and suspected that he knew why his number two was angry. This was going to be a very long day.

“All right, Bodie, get it out.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about Doyle?”

“I felt that it would distract you from your attendance at the Conference. You have a blind spot where Doyle is . . . was concerned. I wanted your full attention on the important information that you were being given, and I knew if you heard about Doyle, you’d come racing back on the first plane, wasting valuable CI5 money.”

Bodie looked directly into the intense blue eyes, and asked, “What do you really want from me?”

“I . . . I don’t understand what you mean by that. I’m hoping that you’ll realize that you’ve found your niche here at CI5 being Alpha 2. I believe we make a good team, and then when I am forced to retire, you’ll become Controller. What else would I want?”

Bodie’s eyes went incredibly dark and hard, and for a split second George Cowley’s face registered the obvious disbelief in Bodie’s eyes, then Bodie said, “I’ve figured out what you really want. It took me too long; I’m not as good at triple think as Doyle is, but now I know, and it’s not going to work.”

“What are you talking about, Bodie? Go get us some drinks, and sit down so that we can discuss this obvious misunderstanding.”

In past years, this ploy would have worked well with Bodie; he would have gone meekly to the drinks bar and followed orders, just as Pavlov’s dogs had done, but not anymore . . . Cowley had gone too far and Bodie was no longer blinded. Bodie did, however, go over and get one drink for Cowley. He carefully placed the glass in front of the Controller, then sat down, and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket.

Bodie’s blue eyes took on a twinkle as he handed the document to Cowley, “Do you know what this is,” carefully leaving off the ‘sir.’

Cowley took a brief look at it, and nodded, “Of course, it’s your contract.” For a brief moment, Cowley’s eyes had a look of relief as if maybe Bodie was here to renew his contract; then the bottom fell out of his hopes.

“It says that in three months and two days my contract is finished here at CI5. I am giving you official notice, as the paper requires, that I am resigning from this organization as of that date. Here is my resignation letter, to be put on file.”

“But why, laddie? Why now? Your work on the street was extremely valuable, yes, but the work you’re doing now will allow CI5 to continue on for many, many years . . . even beyond my tenure here. I . . . I thought you were settling in to this kind of work.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, of course, otherwise I would never have started your training.”

Bodie stood up and leaned over the desk, his arms braced to hold his body that was filled with carefully controlled rage. “Is that the real reason, SIR?”

“I am not accustomed to have my words doubted.”

“You aren’t used to having your motives doubted either, are you, sir?”

“Aye, that’s true. I have always tried to do what is best for this country and this organization. Now will you please sit down and act like a civilized adult instead of a man going-off half-cocked. What’s brought all this on?”

“I’ll answer your question, if you answer one of my questions first, sir.”

“And what would that be?”

“Why did you decide to separate Doyle and me?”

Cowley sat there, trying to decide if it was worthwhile trying to prevaricate about the answer then he shrugged and said, “After the Dreisinger episode, I noticed that you and Doyle seemed . . . to be behaving in a strange manner and, of course, it was quite obvious that there was some friction between the two of you during the King Billy incident.”

“So you decided that we couldn’t work together anymore and so you cooked up the little scheme with MI6, didn’t you?” Here Bodie hesitated then continued, “Or, did you separate us because you wanted me to become your lover?”

Cowley sat there slightly red faced, shaken to the core, his eyes blinking rapidly for several seconds. For one of the few times in his life, he spoke without in-depth thinking, “You’ve spoken to John, haven’t you?”

Bodie neither confirmed nor denied the question, he just repeated his query, “Did you want me as your lover, sir?”

“I thought . . . that as Alpha 2 we would be able to work closely together and that would enable us to have a closer relationship. I have always felt some closeness to you with your military background, but only that . . . nothing more.”

Bodie hadn’t expected a truthful answer from Cowley, after all he wasn’t called the Controller for nothing, but when he hadn’t become enraged by the mere suggestion of the impropriety, Bodie knew it was true, but for the moment, Bodie was satisfied as he seemed to withdraw back into himself. “Very well, sir. To answer your question, what brought this all on was my relationship with Ray Doyle. He is the most important person in my life. I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t let me tell him the truth, why you set him up to see Cam and me together, and why you continued to separate us after the King Billy episode. You knew, didn’t you, sir that he and I were in a sexual relationship?”

Cowley’s face hardened and his blue eyes became frost. In a voice that’s temperature was freezing, Cowley said, “You should know better than anyone that I hate prejudice and discrimination; you have incurred my wrath over your less than enlightened attitudes.”

Once again Bodie’s lips took on a slight smirk, but then he replied, “That’s very true, sir when prejudice and discrimination are directed against or by the millions of unknown civilians that this organization tries to protect, but it is totally different when one of your “men” looks at someone in the organization, especially if they are the same sex, isn’t it, SIR?”

“Do you realize by what you have just told me that you could be fired immediately?”

“Yes, sir, but it doesn’t make any difference. I already have a job offer . . . up north.”

“Up north?” The consternation in Cowley’s eyes was incandescent as the older man realized what Bodie meant. Dropping his head for a second, Cowley pinched the bridge of his nose, and then, almost as if in defiance, raised his head and asked, “So, it’s Doyle, is it?”

“Of course, sir, it’s always been Doyle and always will be if I can help it.”

“And do you really think that Doyle will have anything to do with you?”

The smug look on the older man’s face, made Bodie want to smash him for just a second, but then he realized that he was being manipulated by the master of manipulation and triple-think so he replied calmly, taking the meeting under his control, as he stood up and said, “I don’t know what Ray and I will do, but that’s for us to decide, not you. You will need to decide if you want me to continue working as Alpha 2 for the next three months or if you want me to do something else. That’s all that needs to be decided, sir. You have a meeting with Lord Severans in about five minutes, sir, so I will leave you to think. You’ll be sure to put my letter of resignation in a safe place, won’t you, sir? With those words, Bodie departed the room leaving Cowley staring into the air.

The next three months flew by. Bodie was no longer treated as Alpha 2, but he was still expected to train every individual who Cowley wanted to try out for the job. The relationship between Cowley and Bodie was cool and distant, but they continued to deal with each other. Bodie’s special “status” with Cowley, often known as the blue-eyed boy syndrome no longer existed. In fact, Cowley froze him out whenever possible, but Cowley was no fool and would not demonstrate his true feelings in front of all CI5 by relegating a valuable agent like Bodie to records, the normal punishment duty.

The two men rarely spoke except in the framework of duty. Bodie was quite comfortable with this and imagined that John Hardesty had gone through the same treatment. In some ways the ex-merc could understand how Cowley must be feeling. Cowley had been betrayed by Barry Martin, plus Ann Irvine, John Hardesty, and Bodie himself had chosen other individuals over George Cowley. Bodie, therefore, wasn’t surprised that Cowley’s barriers were solidly in place.

Various going-away parties were given for Bodie as his intentions were made clear. Cowley only attended the “official” one, but did not bother with the others. Cowley spoke briefly at the “official” event, but limited himself to such cliché phrases as, “You’ve made a difference.” Bodie accepted all of this for what it was. He would never again fall under George Cowley’s spell, but he had to admit the importance of the older man in his life, and he regretted that his time in CI5 had ended like this.

Finally, however, the three months and two days were over. Bodie had turned in his equipment and signed all the papers. As he walked out the door for the final time, he took a big breath; it was not the breath of pure, fresh air, but the breath of freedom.
Walking over to his car that he had been keeping in a bolt-hole in case it was needed, he headed his car towards the M1 which would head north towards the city of Huddersfield. He had already contacted John Hardesty, who had invited him to stay as long as he wished. He wasn’t sure what kind of reception he would find, but Ray Doyle was working there, and he had to talk to his former partner and friend, before he got on with his life. The question was, however, would Ray be willing to talk to him?

 

INTERLUDE: Doyle’s Dreams

Sweat poured off his slender body as Ray Doyle saw the dead body of his partner lying at the bottom of the tower, while Marikka Schuman kneeled beside the body as she looked up at Doyle, her eyes accusing him of murder. His thin body became wracked with tremors as Doyle realized the meaning of her stare; then suddenly the scene changed as Bodie was alive and thrusting a rifle into Doyle’s chest. The look of contempt and hatred on the handsome man’s face told the story of Bodie’s feelings towards his partner: the man who had betrayed Bodie and allowed Marikka to die.

Doyle woke suddenly, gasping for breath. His darkened bedroom was still unfamiliar to him as he had only lived in this flat in Huddersfield for a few weeks. It had been a little over three months since he had left CI5, but the frequent nightmares continued to haunt him. The contempt and hatred on Bodie’s face when he had shoved the rifle at Doyle was similar to the one on Bodie’s face when he had confronted Doyle about his feelings for Cam Allen and Bodie’s contempt for the man who had been his sex partner as well as his working partner. Doyle’s skin crawled as he remembered the confrontation.

Doyle took several deep gulps of air, trying to calm down. It was always the same and Doyle knew that it would be a long time before he would manage to get back to sleep. Getting up, Doyle went to the loo and made himself a cup of tea. This nightmare had been particularly bad because seeing Bodie dead and then seeing the insulting, contemptuous face brought back all the memories that had so devastated Doyle when Bodie left to join Cam Allen. Doyle did not know then that it was an undercover op, but the hatred on his former partner’s face was so real that even when Bodie returned and explained what had occurred, Doyle could not accept the truth - - not with what Cowley told him later.

More than an hour passed and Doyle was no nearer to sleep than before. He had left CI5 because of his injured leg, but Doyle knew that the real reason he’d left was that he could not stand to see Bodie become Cowley’s Deputy. Bodie would be a superb Deputy Controller, Doyle knew that. The ex-merc did everything well, but taking on the new position would also mean that Cowley had won, and that is what Doyle could not stand. Five years of partnership meant nothing; sex had meant nothing to Bodie.
When Doyle left CI5 that last time, he had resigned himself to never seeing the man he loved ever again, but over the past three months, Doyle had made a firm resolution, a resolution which would mean years and years of loneliness and desolation without Bodie, but Doyle would never accept Bodie as long as he was Cowley’s puppet or even worse, his lover. If somehow he would see Bodie again, Ray Doyle would not fall into the trap of accepting the charming Bodie, even though he still loved the man who had shattered his heart.

Realizing that sleep was not going to come, Doyle got up and found the files on the case he was investigating in Manchester and went over them once again.

 

Epilogue: Huddersfield Days

When William Bodie walked out of CI5, he never looked back. Somehow he had not thought this was how his career would end, but the last three months had been some of the toughest of his life. They were not physically dangerous, but they had robbed him of his emotional security. At one time George Cowley had been the one person that he had respected more than any other, but now that was all over, and William Bodie was going up north to Huddersfield to confront his former partner, Ray Doyle.

Bodie was quite used to multi-tasking while he drove. He had done so for years so it was natural that his thoughts turned to the man who had quickly become the most important person in his life: Ray Doyle. He knew he had hurt Ray badly. When, at first, he had returned from the undercover op, he couldn’t understand why Doyle was so hostile, but it quickly became apparent that George Cowley had had his own plans for the ex-merc, and as things progressed, Cowley’s machinations had got murkier and murkier until Bodie had finally realized just what the older man really wanted.

Enough was enough and now Bodie had one goal in mind: to see and speak with Ray Doyle and hopefully repair the badly damaged relationship that had sustained him for the previous five years.

A small smile crossed Bodie’s handsome face as he thought of his long-time partner.
He could still see Doyle on a bus looking for special patterns on buildings that might lead them to the kidnapped Israeli minister. Doyle’s words about living with a rich, older woman still lightened Bodie’s depression as Doyle said that he had tried living with a woman for her money and that it had been very repetitive. The words, “You little devil” still had the power to warm his desolated body. Bodie closed his eyes for a split second, his heart aching in the remembrance of the camaraderie that had been lost. He had not understood Doyle’s feelings, but knew that most of the blame was on his shoulders, especially when he accused Doyle of screwing John Hardesty. Why had he slugged Doyle? He had never let himself get close to Doyle for fear of too much commitment and yet he had entered the flat like a raging, jealous bull.

As Bodie pulled into Cambridge Hotel several hours later, Bodie could not recall one sight on the M1 or the roads into Huddersfield, his mind had been on Doyle. Suddenly as he entered the parking area of the Cambridge Hotel, his stomach was doing flip-flops. As soon as he washed up, he was going to see his former partner for the first time in over three months. What would he say to Doyle and even more importantly, what would Doyle say to him?

He knew that John Hardesty would welcome him even though he was Doyle’s friend. Bodie had spoken to Hardesty about his intention to visit Doyle as soon as he left CI5, and Hardesty had seconded the idea immediately, even going to the trouble to book a room for Bodie at the Cambridge Hotel. Hardesty had been a victim of Cowley’s machinations as well so he understood what the former partners were going through, but Bodie was realistic; Hardesty was Doyle’s friend first and Bodie more or less a stranger to him. If Doyle refused to see him, Hardesty would side with Doyle and Bodie could not blame him.

Bodie had controlled his own life for much of his 33 years, but in the next few minutes, he would be entirely at the mercy of the most moody, stubborn, gorgeous, and infuriating man on the planet, and that’s the way he wanted it. Now, if Ray Doyle would only allow Bodie back into his life.

After changing clothes, Bodie drove to the building in the heart of Huddersfield that bore the sign, HARDESTY AND CARMODY, INVESTIGATIONS. Walking into the rather large building, Bodie looked around hoping to see Doyle wandering around, but there was no one, not even a secretary. Waiting for a moment, Bodie saw a man in a wheel chair leaving another office area and come towards him. Before, Bodie could even introduce himself, the man spoke with an inflection that spoke of extreme wariness, “You must be Bodie? John told me that you were coming.”

“Yes, I am, and you must be Peter Carmody?” Bodie did not try to shake hands because the man’s demeanour spoke volumes about his mistrust of Bodie. Bodie tried to look around, hoping to spot Doyle without being too obvious, but Carmody saw right through his glances.

“He’s not here. Won’t be back until tomorrow.”

Bodie understood immediately who Carmody was referring to. His face fell as he realized that it would be another day before he could see Ray Doyle. “Oh, I see. Busy, is he?”

“Yes, we do work around here, you know. Ray is one of our best investigators and we value him highly. I know you’re here, Mr. Bodie to see Ray, but I want you to know that Ray has lots of friends around here, and we wouldn’t like to see him hurt anymore than he already has been.”

Bodie kept his eyebrow from shooting up with difficulty. He was used to bluntness, but this bordered on rudeness, except, of course, that Carmody’s allegations were all true and could mostly be laid at his door. Bodie was grateful that Doyle had made friends who would stand up for him, even to a stranger. Ray was probably glad for their companionship, since Bodie had failed him so miserably.

Before Bodie could respond, he heard a familiar voice saying, “Take it easy, Peter. Bodie isn’t our enemy, are you?”

Turning slightly Bodie saw John Hardesty entering the reception office and immediately felt the older man’s calming presence. Glad to see someone with a smile for him, Bodie replied, “Hello, John. Good to see you. I’m not here to cause trouble; I just want to talk to Ray.”

The handsome man nodded and looked pointedly at Peter Carmody, his lover. “Peter understands that, don’t you, Peter? You are certainly welcome here. Doyle hasn’t said much these last few months, but I think he’ll listen to you.”

With a look of some consternation, Peter Carmody sighed as he replied, “Of course, he’ll listen, but you, John, better than anyone should understand Cowley’s influence and seeing Bodie might not really be what Ray needs right now. He’s a brilliant investigator, but he’s really just starting to put his life together again.”

John Hardesty smiled at his lover, “You’re absolutely right, but we have to let Ray make his own decisions. He was called down to Manchester for some further work on a rather nasty case that he’s been working on for a month or so. He left hurriedly this morning so I was unable to contact you and tell you that he had left. Have dinner with Peter and me tonight; get a good night’s rest and you two can visit tomorrow.”

Bodie nodded his head, realizing that the two men were anxious for Ray’s sake. Once again, Bodie realized he had not taken into consideration what his coming to Huddersfield might have on the two men and especially Ray Doyle, so he decided to play it low-key and try not to ruffle anymore feathers than he had already.

“Thanks, I would like to buy you dinner if you’ll suggest somewhere.”

“Fine, let me show you around the place. We’re just really getting started and the business is growing faster than we thought. We have Ray and two part-time investigators as well. We want to branch into security as well so Ray’s CI5 training is a big help there as well. As you can see we don’t have a receptionist or secretary - - Peter’s been doing most of that as well as being accountant, but we really need to hire more people. If you plan to stick around for awhile, we could use your help answering phones, and looking at resumés to see what you think about the people we’re interviewing?”

“Sounds good. I’ll be happy to help in anyway I can. By the way, thanks for booking me a room. I appreciate it.”

“Good, now let me show you what the layout looks like.”

Peter Carmody answered the phone that rang at that moment and after listening a moment, turned the receiver over to John Hardesty. “It’s Gordon Petersen, you wanted to talk to him.”

Hardesty nodded and immediately grabbed the receiver. “Peter, why don’t you show Bodie around? I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Although Carmody didn’t seem to be too happy, he promptly acquiesced and began the tour with the main reception area. It was obvious that the rooms were being renovated for various purposes so the tour went quickly. The two men talked little except to convey needed information. Within a few moments they had arrived at Carmody’s office which looked as neat as a pin. Being an army man, Bodie appreciated Carmody’s penchant for neatness and order and silently gave him a plus mark for keeping his office in such splendid condition even during renovation.

Carmody wheeled his chair around to stare directly at Bodie. He did not ask him to sit down, but motioned him over to a tall table that reminded Bodie of an architect’s drafting table. Carmody stared at Bodie for a moment then said, “These are some plans for a security system that we might be asked to put in a large business here in Huddersfield. John and I have looked them over until we see specks so I would like a fresh pair of eyes to look them over and see if there’s anything else needed.”

Bodie stood for several minutes staring in minute detail at the plans. He nodded several times and then finally turned to Carmody and said, “No, you haven’t missed a thing. You’ve done an excellent job of finding every weakness and plugging it. No one will be able to infiltrate with this security.”

Carmody smiled and began to say something when Bodie continued, “Of course, I doubt if you will get the job; after all The Tower of London has already spent millions developing this system and I don’t think they would be interested in another. Besides, I don’t think that it’s been moved to Huddersfield, has it?”

Carmody smiled and then burst into a hardy laugh, “Well, I guess you are as good as John says.”

At that moment John Hardesty wandered into the room and studied the two men and the table. He smiled and then said to his partner, “Told you he’d spot the plans. After all George Cowley has been consulted on the plans for ever major building in London. Congratulations, Bodie, you passed your test.”

Bodie stared at the two men. He wasn’t sure how he should feel, but suddenly it had become very important that he fit in with these two men’s lives because Ray Doyle was important to them and Ray Doyle was his whole life.

Dinner that evening went well. They went to a restaurant nearby Bodie’s hotel. The talk was interesting and eclectic. Only two topics seemed to be off the table: George Cowley and Ray Doyle.

Peter Carmody was definitely quieter than John Hardesty, but that was to be expected since Bodie was still a stranger to Carmody. They finished up the evening with coffee and drinks, but once again Carmody seemed to hesitate about drinking very much, perhaps his medicines didn’t encourage too much liquor.

As the three men said good-bye, Hardesty reminded Bodie that they could use his help at the office. They were just starting interviews for a secretary and more operatives who could handle either the investigative or security side of the business. Bodie promised to be there early, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep, knowing that he would see Ray Doyle in the morning. Bodie’s greatest fear was that the sum of all his memories of Ray Doyle would be that haunted, lost look that Ray’s beautiful face held when Bodie stood in his flat ranting about how superior Cam Allen was as a partner, and how the merc was a better lay than Doyle had ever been. Doyle had to be made to understand, he just had to.

Bodie arrived bright and early and was promptly thrown into the chaos of answering the phones. It seemed as if everybody in and around Huddersfield needed security or somebody investigated. For the next several hours, Bodie was busy trying to take names and arrange meetings. About 11.00 John Hardesty came out into the main reception area and told Bodie that he was going to have to man the place by himself.
The two part-time operatives were out on cases, and it was time for Peter to leave for his physical therapy.

“I was hoping Ray would get back before we had to leave, but he called and said he was running behind so he won’t be here until later. Hopefully we’ll get back before he gets here, but just keep doing the great job that you’ve done so far and the whole kit and caboodle won’t collapse.”

At that moment, Peter Carmody wheeled himself out and said, “Yes, Bodie we are abandoning you to your fate, since mum here won’t let me go to PT without him.”
Although Carmody’s tone was slightly acerbic, the look he gave his partner was full of affection.

Bodie smiled, “No problem, gentlemen. I will just give the callers the old Bodie charm and any live visitors a view of me gorgeous legs and everything will be fine.”

As the two men left, Bodie could hear their laughter at Bodie’s over-the-top banter. For a second a shaft of deep pain shot through him as he remembered the years of banter that he and his partner had traded back and forth. Hopefully, Ray and he would get that back - - that is, if Ray would let him back into his life.

For the next hour or so, Bodie answered the phone and looked over the applications of various individuals who hoped to be hired by Hardesty and Carmody. He was so engrossed in the files that he really didn’t pay attention to the door opening, until subconsciously he heard a noise that sounded like someone swallowing their tonsils. Looking up, Bodie realized that he was staring the man he had not seen in over three months, Ray Doyle. Ray looked even more slender than usual and even though he seemed to be flabbergasted at seeing Bodie, Ray was his usual gorgeous self.

Just about to say something, Bodie noticed Doyle putting a cane beside the door for obvious use when he went out and fell silent. That left it to Doyle to say something.

“Bodie, what are you doing here?”

Bodie was so dumbstruck by Ray actually being here in front of him and seeing the cane that he stammered for a moment before he finally got out, “I . . . I wanted to talk to you.” Seconds of silence followed then Bodie continued, “I’ve left CI5, and I hoped you would be willing to talk to me.”

Doyle honestly looked totally confused then queried, “You left CI5, why?”

After all the months that Bodie had actually planned this meeting, he seemed to be floundering with thoughts so he burst forth with the truth, “I finally figured out what Cowley really wanted, and I was havin’ none of it.”

The incredulous look on Doyle’s face told Bodie that Doyle didn’t quite believe what he was hearing but that was to be expected. John Hardesty had told him months ago that Doyle had figured out Cowley’s motives so why had it taken Bodie so long to do the same thing? Doyle, however, quickly covered up his revealing thoughts and looked around the room, “Where are John and Peter?”

“They had to go to Peter’s physical therapy and left me here guarding the fortress.”

Doyle smiled quickly, his chipped tooth being revealed for the first time. Bodie caught his breath at that familiar image that he had not seen in so long.

“Yes, John told me he would have to leave, but the traffic from Manchester was really bad this morning.” Doyle seemed to hesitate then rather formally and asked uncomfortably, “Would you mind if I left you for awhile, I have to do my report on the Manchester Op.”

Knowing that Doyle was feeling wary and had been taken unaware of Bodie’s arrival, Bodie merely nodded and said, “Of course, you do that while I do my best secretary impression, and then maybe we can talk later.”

Doyle smiled and left the room, his limp more pronounced than when he had entered the office. Bodie tried to continue looking over the files, but the phone kept ringing so that the time flew by so quickly that Hardesty seemed to be back within just a few minutes.

Looking at Bodie’s face, Hardesty read the younger man immediately and said, “Ray’s back isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he got back about an hour after you left. He’s in doing his report.”

Hardesty badly wanted to ask Bodie how things went with this first meeting between the former partners in over three months, but hesitated since Bodie was still an unknown quantity so he decided to go see Doyle instead. “Well, I’m going to go see Ray and see how the op went. I left Peter at the flat. PT usually wears him out, and he prefers to relax for awhile. That’s why I’m hoping the new therapist will work out better. He’s the one that Ray uses, and he’s really pleased with him. Any messages?”

Bodie handed over the messages and tried to go back to the files, but a few minutes later, Ray Doyle came out and announced that he had a physical therapy appointment and wouldn’t be back the rest of the day. He apologized to Bodie that they wouldn’t be able to talk and then left, taking his cane with him.

Bodie sat forlornly watching the now closed door, telling himself what else could he expect? He had broken in on Ray’s life unexpectedly and he couldn’t really expect Ray to drop everything and make time for him. Fortunately, John Hardesty came out into the main office and spotted the desolated man right away.

“Don’t feel too bad, Bodie. He didn’t throw anything at you. There have been times I wasn’t too sure what he would do if he ever met you again.”

Bodie looked up at the man and could see a small gleam in his eye, but he also knew that Hardesty was telling the truth more than he would like to admit.

“Just give Ray some time Bodie, and by the way, we will need you again tomorrow. We are beginning all the interviews in earnest tomorrow so by the end of the week we should have a full complement of people, including a secretary.”

For the next hour or so Bodie and Hardesty talked about Bodie’s perceptions of the individuals who were applying for various positions in the business, and then after turning down Hardesty’s invitation to dinner, Bodie left.

Another restless night was spent even though Bodie had drunk more than he meant to. As he lay in the strange bed, Bodie kept seeing some of the images of Ray Doyle, including his suffering body when he had been caught in the collapsed building, his impish face on the bus during the Bierberman case, but most of all was the face of the man who was confused and distraught when he saw Bodie for the first time in over three months. Would Doyle let Bodie back in his life or had the separation between them become too great? Tomorrow would tell the story.

The next morning when Bodie entered the office, the phone was ringing persistently. Peter Carmody was nowhere in sight so Bodie immediately answered it. After taking down the information, Bodie was just starting to look for someone to give the information to when Carmody wheeled out into the office. “Bodie, thank heavens you’re here. We’ve got five individuals coming in one right after another for interviews, and one of our operatives has got himself into a scramble over a security leak so we are really busy. Can you man the phones and keep the people coming in as they are supposed to?”

“Of course, is Ray here?”

“Oh, I thought you knew. This is the day that Ray has physical therapy early and then he has to go over to Bradford for a case.” Seeing the crestfallen face, Carmody relented quickly and said, “But, I do just happen to have a note from the gentleman in question that I am supposed to give to you.”

Taking the note, Bodie read,

Bodie, I forgot to tell you that I won’t be in the office today, but I do want to talk to you. Could you please come over to my flat tonight about 7.00? I’ll make some dinner and we can talk then. Ask Peter or John for my address.

Ray

Although Bodie was disappointed, Doyle’s willingness to talk and see him again did make Bodie feel better. It was that notion that kept him going the rest of the day which was filled with people and phone calls. The business definitely needed a secretary, but Bodie kept telling himself that if Ray wouldn’t let him in his life, Bodie could always find a job answering phones.

After the business closed, Bodie hurried back to his hotel and showered. Even then it was too soon to leave so Bodie walked around a bit and bought a bottle of wine to take as a gift. Finally it was near enough to 7.00 for Bodie to appear at Doyle’s door without appearing too eager.

When Doyle opened the door, he looked tired, but the wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen told Bodie that Ray Doyle, Chef, had not suffered from his tiredness. Presenting the bottle of wine, Ray told him that dinner was ready and they immediately sat down to eat.

It crossed Bodie’s mind that Doyle was stalling for time by making sure that dinner would delay the inevitable, but Bodie could understand that. This had to be twice as hard for Ray as it was for Bodie, and it was truly excruciating for the ex-merc to feel so alienated from the man who was so important to him.

After dinner, the two men settled in the lounge, drinking liquor and coffee. They talked about Bodie’s efforts on behalf of Hardesty and Carmody and Doyle’s newest case, but finally they could stall no longer, and, as usual, Ray Doyle faced the difficult task first by saying, “All right, Bodie. Tell me what happened.”

Bodie understood immediately what Doyle was asking and didn’t try to pretend that he didn’t understand. Hesitating for a moment to gather his thoughts, he began to tell about the events of nine months ago that had driven the partners apart.

“Do you remember the Dreisinger case?”

Although Doyle stiffened slightly, he merely nodded, allowing Bodie to continue.

“Well, after that Cowley decided to separate us as much as possible and then, of course, I got it into my head to avenge Keith Williams’ death by getting King Billy. I didn’t have a death wish, but Keith’s death really scared me. Not only had all the other men in my unit been lost, but Keith was someone very special to me. It seemed like I had lost everyone that was important to me: the girl in Africa, Marikka, Jimmy Keller and then Keith. It made me extra scared that something would happen to you so I went off my nutter a bit. I know you didn’t understand and that you were mad at me the way that I used you in that race against King Billy. Well, after that we seemed to grow apart, and Cowley used that as a foundation for going along with MI6’s request for a man with my background to be used with one of theirs so that the gang up north could be broken up.”

“When Cowley set up the undercover op, he insisted that no one could know that I was going undercover and not actually quitting . . . not even you. I demanded to know why, but Cowley insisted this was strictly need-to-know. I finally got him to promise that he would tell you after we had been gone for a few weeks, but I didn’t know that he didn’t tell you until I got back six months later.”

“Ray, I’m really sorry about the whole thing. I was furious when I got back and found out that he hadn’t told you and that you believed all those things that I said to you. I never meant any of them. I had no idea what Cowley was really planning, and I can’t really blame you for feeling angry, but I thought you knew. I missed you so much and could hardly wait to see you again, but I knew something was wrong when you didn’t even try to talk to me after Cowley explained what I had been doing.”

Doyle’s silence did not bode well for his thoughts. Normally, the snarky, moody ex-agent would have been arguing and demanding to know more and voicing his opinions right and left, but the silence spoke volumes about how deeply the man had been hurt. Finally, Doyle opened his mouth to speak then closed it again as if trying to analyze what was the priority item that he wanted to ask first. “What did you mean when you said that Cowley decided to separate us after the Dreisinger case?”

Bodie closed his eyes as he realized that Doyle had once again hit the nail on the very vulnerable spot of the story, but he had to tell Doyle the truth, no matter what . . . everything was riding on Doyle regaining his trust of his former partner.

“I guess I was pretty obvious when I ran away from you with fifteen pounds of explosives on my chest. Cowley realized then how much you mean to me, and he figured that we had gone beyond just a buddy relationship. He said that he could see more in my action than was good for a partnership and that’s when he decided that maybe sometime away from each other would be the best.”

“He told you that?”

“Yes, he told me that when I returned from France and wanted to know why he hadn’t told me that you had resigned.”

Doyle shook his head, his auburn curls wiggling across his forehead. As the older man looked up at Bodie, his green eyes turned darker with intensity; then with a cold, monotone he said, “You’re a fool, Bodie. Even then Cowley was manipulating you. He didn’t see your feelings for me when you ran away.” Now Doyle’s voice became louder and more intense, “He thought you were running away to SAVE HIM. He never even thought about me being important to you. It was when I ran after you, to try and save your life, and I chose to risk myself to save you that he knew Bodie . . he knew how much I loved you. That’s when he decided to separate us.”

“How . . . how do you know that?”

“He told me.”

“What do you mean he told you?”

“I had been waiting for the final report on my leg’s condition. I suspected it was going to be bad, but when I finally got the report that I would have a limp, I immediately went to Cowley, hoping that he would have a job for me so I wouldn’t have to leave CI5. When I got there, Cowley already had the report and, in fact, seemed to have encouraged my doctor to issue the report earlier than expected. I asked him what it meant for me and he said that I was a bright boy and I should know that while I had such a severe injury, I could not stay on the A Squad and now that you were moving up to be Deputy Controller, I would have to find something else to do.”

Bodie’s left eyebrow shot up at the ruthlessness of the Scot, the man he had thought he had known so well, but the past nine months had changed Bodie’s perception radically and now Bodie was hearing even more damning information. All he could do was stare and ask Doyle to go on.

“I asked him if he was sure that you wanted the job as Deputy Controller, and he said that you seemed very content in the job, and that he was sure that I would not want to do anything to hinder your future. I’m not sure what I replied, but I remember saying something about Cowley trying to separate us for a long time, and wasn’t this what he was trying to do now? He gave me that smug smirk that says he’s doing one of his triple-thinks and replied, ‘Of course, he also said that it was true that his plan to separate us had gone rather well, and it was my fault that he had found the need to separate us, so not to complain.’”

“I stood there staring at him, not believing my ears; then I asked about what I had done that it was my fault. He said that he knew how important he was to you because you had run off to avoid the Controller of CI5 being blown up during the Dreisinger case, but that I had shown my true feelings by running after you. Cowley said he appreciated me saving your life, but he really couldn’t have two men working together on his squad when one of those men was so blatant in his feelings for the other one. You would be embarrassed if you knew that I felt that way. So you see Bodie, Cowley knew nothing about us having sex and probably still doesn’t. George Cowley couldn’t stand it that I loved you.”

Bodie felt like gulping air. The sheer bravado and ego of George Cowley continued to amaze him. The Scot’s machinations had nearly wrecked their lives, but hopefully Doyle and he could still patch things up. Suddenly, however, Bodie noticed that Doyle was looking pale and exhausted. It was obvious that his revelations had further opened the wound that he had been carrying for nine months. About to say something, Doyle broke in first, “Bodie, I’m going to ask you a favour. I am extremely tired. Sometimes the PT does that to me and this hasn’t been the easiest of days, could you leave now? I’ll see you tomorrow, and we can talk some more.”

Realizing that he could push Ray no further, Bodie nodded and took his leave almost immediately. He had learned a great deal in the last few hours, and he had a lot to digest about himself, Ray, and especially the man that he thought he knew, George Cowley.

After another almost sleepless night thinking about Doyle’s words, Bodie reached the Hardesty and Carmody Investigations a bit late. For once, the office seemed quiet since no phones were ringing, and no applicants were waiting to be interviewed. Peter Carmody, who was manning the reception desk, looked up as Bodie entered and gave him a lengthy perusal. Ever blunt, Carmody queried, “Rough visit with Ray?”

Used to Carmody’s bluntness, Bodie merely nodded and said, “It was to be expected, I guess. Couldn’t expect Ray to forgive and forget after just a few hours.”

Carmody continued to analyze Bodie then finally broke down and said, “You’re going to have to give Ray a chance, Bodie. He was hurt pretty badly by what seemed to be a devastating betrayal by you and George Cowley as well. You have to remember that just a few months ago, he lost everything he valued: a job he loved, his trust in a man who had been his boss for five years, and mostly importantly: you.”

Not surprised at Carmody’s perspicacity about the situation between him and Doyle, Bodie replied, “Yeah, I know, but Ray told me some things I didn’t know until last night and it really shook me.”

“You mean about George Cowley? I know how you and Ray must feel. I was never close to Cowley like John was, but I liked the man and thought he was a great boss . . . well, until I realized his true relationship with John and what Cowley was expecting of John.”

Carmody’s stare bore into Bodie almost as if daring the man to ask the question that was most on his mind. For a moment Bodie hesitated then went ahead and asked, “So you did know that they were lovers? John didn’t seem to think that you did know.”

A haunting smile crossed Carmody’s face as he remarked, “Sometimes my dear partner takes me as much for granted in the brains department as I suspect you did of Doyle. Doyle knew what Cowley wanted, and it was pretty obvious to me that Cowley held a great deal of affection for John. Oh well, that’s in the past and we have to deal with the present. Ray was called back to Bradford to finish up a case, but he said that he would be here by noon. He wants to take you on a tour of our fair city so be ready to go.”

“Is it all right? I mean, you don’t need me for anything?”

“We’re fine; we’ve only got one or two more interviews, and we hired a secretary who should be here in a few minutes to be indoctrinated in the whys and wherefores of our business. So go ahead and have a good time.”

“Thanks, I will. So who have you decided to hire?”

Carmody handed Bodie the list of the people who would become the newest members of the team and let Bodie look them over; then Carmody dropped a bombshell. “Bodie, John and I would like you to stay on and become one of our agents. You’re a security and investigation firm’s dream just as Ray is. With your training in CI5, you can help cover both aspects of our firm’s agenda. Are you interested?”

“I’ll have to reserve my answer because I frankly don’t know what’s going to happen with Ray. If he’s not comfortable with me staying on here, then after we talk some more, I’ll be moving on, but thank you for the confidence in me and know that I’m very grateful to you and John.”

“No problem, right now we just want you and Ray to be around to mentor the new staff, but in a week or so John and I would like to take a week-long holiday that we’ve never been able to do since we started up the business and it’s been so busy that we haven’t had a chance to get away. If you could stick around through our holiday and then if you decide that you and Ray can’t make a go of it; you’d be free to leave at anytime.”

“That sounds good, but as I said everything depends on Ray. If he can’t stand seeing me everyday, I’ll be out of here right away.”

“Understood.”

Within minutes the office once again was humming with business and the offer that Carmody had made was pushed to the back of Bodie’s mind, but he kept looking at the clock and right on the stroke of noon, Ray Doyle walked into the office.

“Come on, Bodie. We’re off to see the city of Huddersfield. Got a basket in the car so we can have a picnic on Castle Hill.”

For the next hour or so Ray Doyle was the perfect tourist guide. He informed Bodie about the textile industry of the past and the strong Victorian influence which could still be seen in the architecture. The rail station was famous for its style while Castle Hill had had a fortress on it for a long time. The name of the hill had derived from the castles built upon it in the 11th and 12th centuries by the De Lacy family. Since the hill dominated the Huddersfield area, Ray announced they would eat their lunch when they arrived there.

Ray’s tour droned on steadily for the better part of an hour. Bodie saw Golpharm Stadium, learned that Huddersfield was where the Rugby League was formed; was located between Leeds and Manchester as well as being between the Colne and Holme Rivers and was a long time market town.

When Ray mentioned that it was the birthplace of Harold Wilson, Bodie made the remark that they never seemed to get away from politics. Doyle merely nodded seemingly lost in the information about the tour. Finally, they reached the summit of Castle Hill where they stopped and brought out the picnic basket. For a few minutes, Ray let Bodie study the remarkable Victoria Tower which dominated the hill. Its height and its ties to Victorian history made it one of the principal tourist attractions of the area.

Finally, however, the two men sat down and began to devour the food that Doyle had prepared. The sandwiches, fruit, veggies and cake were enjoyed by both men and kept the conversation at bay, but finally everything was put away. Doyle continued to look out over the valley in which Huddersfield lay, seeing the past as well as the present in the architecture that could be seen. Finally, Doyle asked, “
Bodie, what do you want from me?”

For a moment Bodie hesitated because the moment had finally arrived. How would Doyle react to Bodie’s feelings and desires? Knowing that he couldn’t put it off any longer, Bodie replied, “I want to be a part of your life again. “You’re angry, and you have every right to be, but last night you said that you once loved me. You are so important to me, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage that our relationship has suffered, if you’ll just let me back into your life.”

Doyle remained quiet for several minutes, quietly surveying the valley below; then, he finally asked, “Which relationship: the sex we had whenever you wanted it, our working partnership, our drinking buddies in the pub nights, or the relationship in which birds came first then whenever you had nothing else to do, then good ole’ Doyle was good enough for ?” The bitterness was so clear in the words that it took Bodie’s breath away as he suddenly realized how deep the hurt had gone into the soul of the slender body.

“Ray, it was never like that. I was so afraid of losing you; I didn’t let myself think about loving you. I had lost four other people, and I didn’t want you to be number five. I want us to be friends, and whatever else you’re willing to give me. Just tell me what you want, and I’ll do my very best to be what you want.”

Once again the silence permeated the tense atmosphere then Doyle asked out of the blue, “Did you let him screw you?”

Once again, Bodie read Doyle’s thoughts clearly and replied as truthfully as he could, “Not when you mean. That night at the flat when you found us together, Cam and I had just wanked off so that the room smelled like we had been going at it. Cowley had called us earlier, telling us you were probably going to show up since he had sent you on a job out our way. Cowley was convinced that you would try to follow me if you weren’t absolutely certain that I had chosen to leave. He was so secretive about this being kept undercover, I should have been more suspicious, but you and I were hardly talking then so it seemed easier to go along.”

Doyle snorted at those words, “Those are the truest words ever spoken, mate. You always went along with Cowley and never seemed to doubt his words. So you’re saying that you did fuck each other later?”

“It was part of the cover, Ray that’s all it was. Cam has a partner already, but he was laid up at the time with an injury so MI6 needed someone with some merc connections to take his place. Yes, we fucked, but it was to keep our cover. The guys we were after were extremely suspicious of us so we had to act the part.”

“So, he got what I never did?”

The sheer bitterness in the question froze Bodie to the core. Obviously Doyle had stored his hostile feelings for over nine months, and it was only now that he was revealing them to the man that had caused so much of his pain. Bodie started to reply, “Ray . . . “, but got no further because Ray started to get up. It wasn’t easy for him with his injured leg, but he finally did so without taking any help from Bodie.

“I’ve got physiotherapy in a couple of hours so we better get back.”

Bodie knew that the conversation was finished for the moment, but he hoped that Doyle would invite him into his flat so they could talk for a few minutes. It was not to be, however, since Doyle dropped Bodie off at the security firm and went on his way.

Bodie felt so desolated that he started to head to his car when John Hardesty stuck his head out of the front door to the business and said, “Can you come in for a second?”

After Bodie entered, Hardesty looked him up and down, seeing the pale man that looked as if a lorry had run over him and then backed up to try again. “It didn’t go well, did it?”

Bodie closed his eyes, wiped his face, and shook his head in the negative. “If you don’t mind, John, I’m going back to the hotel.”

“No problem, but I did want to tell you that I completely agree with Peter’s offer to you. I can understand you being hesitant, but keep all your options open. Don’t let Cowley win, just because you’re not willing to take the heat.”

“It’s up to Ray. So far it’s not going well, but I want you to know that I really appreciate all you’ve done, and no matter what, I will stick around so that you two can go on your vacation.”

“Thanks, Bodie. Why don’t you go over and talk to Ray tonight after he’s had a chance to relax? When his leg is hurting him, he can be even snarkier than normal times, as I’m sure you’ve realized.”

Bodie smiled and said, “Well, he said that he had physiotherapy so I’m not sure when he’ll be home.”

“Give him a couple of hours and then try.”

Agreeing to the plan, Bodie left for the hotel and tried to eat some dinner, but it didn’t seem to want to go down. Finally, he gave up and went to his room to shower. About 8.00 he arrived at Doyle’s flat, just in time to see a tall, handsome man obviously leaving Doyle’s flat. Bodie watched the two men say good-bye to each other as he tried to decide whether to approach Doyle at this time. Finally, he got out and slammed the door to the car, an obvious indication of the turmoil within his body.

After announcing himself, he was buzzed in. Ray looked exhausted and pale in the extreme. Bodie suddenly regretted imposing himself on the tired man, but he felt that he had to explain about his relationship with Cam Allen and could not let the implication of Doyle’s words go another moment.

“What is it, Bodie? I’m tired and not prepared for more revelations.”

“Ray, I just wanted to answer the question that you asked up on Castle Hill.”

“All right, spit it out and then go.”

“Ray, it’s true that we had sex, but that it was only in the line of duty. We didn’t want to, but we had to preserve our cover. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to make love to you. Not just sex, but everything, but remembering the dead in my life, the people that I thought I loved and then I lost; I couldn’t take that chance with you. You meant, still mean, more to me than anyone. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you because of me, so I tried to keep it with as few entanglements as possible. I wanted you from day one, but I knew it could be dangerous for you; I always seem to lose the people who mean the most to me.”

Doyle’s green eyes sparked with anger as he burst forth with, “So I’m important to you; that’s why your smug face told me that Cam Allen was the best partner a man could have and that he was a great lay, and I was just there as an itch to scratch?”

Bodie heard those harsh words in his head once again and knew now the extent of the damage he had done to his friend as he was attempting to play a part that Cowley had forced his puppet into. What could he say that would heal Doyle’s heart?

“Ray, those words were a total lie. You’re the best partner a man could ever have. I would like nothing more than to spend the rest of my life being your partner. As for the rest, I was so unsure of what would happen if we became true lovers that I held myself in isolation from you for fear of losing you; that’s why I made up those ridiculous lies.”

“You weren’t lying, Bodie. I saw your face. The hatred and contempt that you spewed out against me were evident in your face. I have never seen you filled with so much hate.”

For a second, Bodie’s confusion held him back from answering and then he realized what Doyle had seen. “Oh God, Ray. What you saw wasn’t me hating you or feeling any contempt for you; I hated myself and felt so much contempt for the job that I was doing that it all poured out in those few minutes, but it was against myself, Ray, not against you.”

Doyle studied his former partner’s face. He had always believed that Bodie never lied to him, but the past nine months had badly shaken that faith. Now he wasn’t sure what to believe. Bodie looked sincere, but Doyle was the first to admit that Bodie could look a person in the face and lie easily. His background in Africa and other places had made that talent relatively easy for the man, so could Doyle believe him now?

All of a sudden Doyle was totally drained. He could not take another minute of confrontation with this man who had meant so much to him, so he said once again, “Bodie, I’ve got a big day tomorrow. We’re finishing up the agent selection and then I have to begin checking their investigative skills. I know this sounds harsh, but could you leave?”

“All right, Ray. Just remember one thing; I’m here because I want you in my life, and I hope you let me in yours. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

With those words, Bodie left the flat to return to his hotel.
The next few days were filled with plenty of activities, including sharing the knowledge with the new operatives that only CI5 training could provide, reviewing various security plans for the numerous projects that the firm was involved with, and trying to help the new secretary, Mrs. Graham, a true jewel of a find, with the vagaries of the various people who came in and out of her professional life. Bodie was busy and content, except that this contentment contained no Ray Doyle. The two men saw each other almost daily, but it was always on a momentary basis. Ray was just going out as Bodie was needed to deal with another crisis or vice versa.

Since John Hardesty had put himself on the rota of operatives, he was often out of the office and that left Bodie to deal with the myriad of cases while Peter Carmody dealt with the finances and public relations. Mrs. Graham quickly learned to hold her own since she had had plenty of contact with the police side of things since her late husband had been a police officer. Ray Doyle quickly became a real favourite of hers. The trouble was that she could not make all the decisions that were sometimes needed on the spur of the moment and that left Bodie to do the deciding.

Doyle and Bodie did get together for a drink at the local pub once in awhile, but whenever Bodie had a moment free and tried to go see Doyle at his flat, it seemed a familiar red car was always parked outside. Bodie’s heart sank even more as it seemed as if Doyle was going to make no effort to talk to the ex-merc anytime soon.

After almost two weeks of constant rushing, John Hardesty announced that all the new operatives had their duties well in hand and Mrs. Graham was now ready to handle the office herself. Hardesty and Carmody were leaving for their well-earned vacation the next day.

Bodie had been in Huddersfield for over a month, and it seemed to him that his relationship with Ray Doyle was still almost non-existent. It was true that Doyle held all of the cards, and part of that was because Bodie allowed him to. It was rare indeed in Bodie’s life to feel so much guilt and vulnerability over what had happened between himself and Doyle. At first, he had thought that he would be able to convince Doyle to see his side of what had happened, and that he had never intended to hurt the man who played such a large part in his life. Bodie readily acknowledged the part that Cowley had played in this disaster, but it had been Bodie who had punched Doyle in a jealous rage, and it had certainly been Bodie’s loyalty to Cowley which had led to so much of the trouble.

Bodie had never expected to be in Huddersfield for any length of time without some resolution to the crisis that overflowed their lives, but now Bodie was convinced that Doyle had found someone else and really didn’t need Bodie’s companionship or his affection. Doyle had someone else. How those words kept probing in and out of Bodie’s tired mind. That one thought stayed with him day and night. Every time he saw the slender figure, even from a distance, his thought processes brought up images of that gorgeous, naked body wrapped in the ecstasy of orgasm as the tall, handsome man of the shadows plunged into the willing body.

Bodie was now prepared to recognize that he had made a mistake. He wanted Doyle to be happy, and obviously, since Ray made no attempt to see him again on a social basis that Doyle had decided that Bodie’s desire to return to Doyle’s life was not to be. Carmody and Hardesty were due to return the next day from their vacation. If Bodie wanted to see Doyle and talk to him, it would have to be tonight because Bodie had decided he would leave Huddersfield as soon as the two men returned from vacation.

Unfortunately, the day was a long one for everybody in the firm. Bodie rushed to his hotel to clean up, but it was still well after 7.00 before he appeared at Doyle’s flat. He was just getting out of the car to go to the door, when Ray and the tall man came out of the door. They seemed to embrace as the man departed. Seeing the unconscious act of affection, Bodie sat there stunned, no longer sure of his welcome or even if he should face Doyle. He had spent his life running away from commitment and facing the more unpleasant things in life by ignoring them or shoving them deep into his subconscious. Now he had to face that he had lost Ray Doyle - - absolutely and finally. Closing his eyes, Bodie dropped his forehead onto the steering wheel and then sighing lifted his head and opened the car door.

Once again Doyle buzzed him in right away, but he looked even more wary than usual. He was obviously naked and dressed only in a silk robe. The obvious aroma of fresh, clean body and almond scented hair told Bodie that the slender creature before him had just showered. The very essence and aroma of his former partner made Bodie feel as if he was in paradise. Then reality came crashing in. Doyle looked extremely content and satisfied, what had the two men been doing that Doyle now looked so pleased? The ugly head of jealousy raised itself once more, but Bodie focused on his purpose for being in Doyle’s flat. After all, he no longer had any right to question Doyle’s conduct or the individuals he chose to associate with.

Ray invited him to sit down so Bodie chose the sofa nearest the door. He wanted to be ready to leave after he delivered his message. “Ray, we haven’t been able to really talk in several weeks. I know I messed up, but I was hoping that we could find someway of working out our differences. I’m not minimizing what I’ve done, but it seems to me that you truly don’t want to get together again so I’ve decided to leave Huddersfield after John and Peter return. I felt that I should tell you that.”

Doyle seemed stunned by the news and reacted so much that his robe fell open. A round, ugly scar on his chest was readily apparent. Bodie had been told that Doyle had been shot, but this was the first time he had seen the actual wound. Doyle could hear a strange sound deep in Bodie’s throat as he realized what he was seeing for the first time. Doyle quickly covered the still fresh scar, while muttering, “Sorry, I’ve almost forgotten it’s there.”

Bodie’s handsome face was pale and he seemed to be sweating. He almost seemed to be in some other place as he muttered, “And I wasn’t there to help.”

Doyle’s sharp ears heard the remark and replied, “I got careless; it was my own fault. It doesn’t hurt now.”

Suddenly a raging headache engulfed Bodie as he realized how close death had come to Ray Doyle. “How did it happen?”

“It was about two months after you left, I had alienated everybody at CI5 and my newest partner and I weren’t communicating. I thought he was doing one thing, but he did another and all of a sudden I had a bullet in my chest and a deflated lung.”

Bodie wiped his face with his hand, seeing the images in his mind, “Oh, God. I’m so sorry.”

“It hurt a lot, and I was on medical leave for a month or so, but Cowley sent for John to get me head on straight, and so here I am, after much ado . . . in beautiful Huddersfield with a whole new career.”

“Thank heavens for John Hardesty. I’m glad you’ve got Peter and John. They care a great deal about you. They are some of the best. Ray, I want to be honest with you. I want your happiness more than anything. I know you’ve found someone else, and I want you to know that I’m leaving so you don’t have to worry about me fouling everything up.”

“You know that I’ve found someone? How did you figure that out?”

“I saw you with him at your door a couple of times.”

“You’ve been watching me?”

“No, not like that. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve driven by and was going to stop and try to talk to you, but it was obvious you were busy so I went on. It’s all right, Ray. I’m glad I came to see you, but now you and I have to move on. I just came here tonight to tell you.”

With those words, Bodie stood up and headed towards the door. Before leaving, Bodie turned one last time and said, “I just want you to know that I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world because for five years you’ve been my partner. Take care, Ray.” With that, Bodie left.

The next morning as Bodie entered the security firm for what would be the last time; his heart was beating so loudly that he thought everyone could hear it. In the past he had left situations with little or no thought, but now he was leaving Ray Doyle, and it felt like his insides were totally shredded, but it had to be done so Bodie walked in as if it was any other morning.

Mrs. Graham was already busy at work so she quickly delivered the message that John Hardesty wanted to see him. “Thanks, beautiful.” For the thousandth time, Bodie’s legendary charm worked well, but the one person he had wanted to convince of his feelings had ignored them.

“John, perfect timing, I wanted to talk to you as well.”

“Oh, what about?”

“I’ve decided to leave Huddersfield so I’m turning in my unofficial credentials to you as of this morning.”

“Oh, does it have anything to do with Ray?”

“By the way, welcome back, I hope you and Peter enjoyed yourselves.”

“That we did, but quit stalling and tell me the truth.”

“Okay, I realize now that I should never have come up here. Ray has you and Peter as friends and has found someone to be mates with so I’m certainly not needed around here as a fifth wheel. I’ve seen them together and they seem to be made for each other. So, I’m leaving - - that’s all there is to it.”

“I see, and now would you tell me what this fella of Doyle’s looks like?”

“You must know him. Can’t believe Doyle’s been hiding him from you as well. He’s tall, red haired, muscular, and quite good looking. They really look great together.” As Bodie said those words his false enthusiasm ran out.

“I see, and Ray told you that he and this red-haired man were an item?”

“No, but he didn’t deny it when I told him that I was glad he found someone. They really seem made for each other.”

“Bodie, will you never learn? The man you’re describing is Martin Strachan, he’s Doyle’s private physical therapist. Ray had been going to the local hospital, but the therapy wasn’t enough for him so he’s been seeing Strachan at his flat. Peter’s seeing the same guy. It’s really nice to have him come to your home instead of going to a treatment centre.”

Silence pervaded the room. Spots crossed in front of Bodie’s eyes as he realized the enormity of what he had done and said. It was like Bodie’s assumption that John and Ray were lovers.

John Hardesty waited for several minutes for Bodie to say something then blurted out, “Well, don’t just stand here you idiot. Go see Doyle right now and see if you can get yourself out of this one. If you let Cowley win, I’ll personally thump you. You are only the second couple that I have seen that truly belong together, now go and don’t be such an idiot. If I know my Doyle, if he hears the right words, he’ll listen.”

For a second Bodie hesitated, then whirled around to hug the older man, then stopped again and said, “Wait, isn’t Ray coming into work?”

“No, he is not; he called and told me directly that he was taking the day off since he had virtually been carrying this whole business on his shoulders for the past week, and he felt he deserved the day off. I could hear the despair in his voice so I figure that he was saying this into my pearly lughole so that it could be directed to someone else. Now get going before, he thinks you aren’t coming.”

Bodie gave the man his sweetest smile and then rushed out the door. Within minutes, he was at Doyle’s door. Once again Doyle was dressed only in his burgundy robe. He looked absolutely delicious, but rather worn out.

“Ray, are you all right? You look kind of tired.”

“Yeah, what can you expect, MY LOVER was just here giving me physical therapy. I am worn out, JUST LIKE I AM EVERY TIME HE PUTS ME THROUGH MY PACES.”

For a moment, Bodie was stunned by Doyle’s words then he noticed that the green orbs were twinkling and that maybe the situation wasn’t as bad as he thought. A small smile crossed the cupid’s bow lips as Doyle waited for Bodie to respond. “Ray, I seem to have to apologize to you all the time. I’ll admit that I was jealous of the guy, but John quickly informed me of my mistake. I can’t help but be jealous of you. You’re the only person I’ve ever wanted so much that it hurts to even think of not being with you.”

“You said you wanted my happiness above everything. Do you think that you can make me happy?”

Bodie’s dark blue eyes turned sad as he thought about Doyle’s question. “I don’t know, sunshine, I don’t really know much about happiness so I can only promise to try.”

Somehow that admission seemed to hurt Doyle almost as much as some of the other things that Bodie had said to him. Just thinking that his Bodie had known so little happiness in his life that he couldn’t even be sure about making someone else happy was extremely unnerving. Doyle stepped towards the handsome man, but suddenly he bent in pain and fell on the nearby settee.

“Ray, what’s the matter?”

“It’s me leg. Sometimes after Martin gives me PT my bum leg cramps up. That’s what it’s doin’ now.”

Obviously in agony, Doyle tried to relax the muscles in his leg, but the pain on his face told Bodie that he needed help right away. Rushing over to Doyle’s side, he laid him supine on the sofa and began to gently massage the injured leg.

Within seconds, Doyle began to moan with the release of the cramped muscle. “That feels so good, mate. Could stay like this forever.”

“You just relax, Ray. I’m going to tell you something; maybe it will help you understand.”

Turning his back on Doyle because that seemed easier than to face the man he loved, Bodie began to massage Doyle’s foot as well. “I know it bothered you when I said that I didn’t know much about happiness, and it’s true. You know that I left home when I was fourteen. I had wanted to go for a long time, but one day I tried to steal some money from me Dad; he caught me and beat the hell out of me. I was pretty big for my age, but he was a monster. When he got done, he told me to get out and threw a ha’penny at me; telling me that was all I was worth, and that I’d never amount to much. Then he said, that he cursed the day I was born ‘cause him and mum had never known a moment’s happiness since then. He said that’s why my mum left so I guess I always remembered those words from then on. I couldn’t quite accept that anybody would really be happy around me.”

Bodie stopped for a moment to flip Doyle over on his stomach and then continued to massage the back of his aching leg. “I guess that’s why I latched onto Cowley. I was not happy in Africa or any other place for that matter, and the army certainly may breed discipline but happiness is not high on their agenda. I know you’re angry about my loyalty to Cowley, but I guess I needed someone, but I was definitely blind to what he did want. I have just one thing to thank him for and that is you, the one person who has given me the greatest happiness I’ve ever known.”

Bodie stopped massaging at that point and turned to look at Doyle. “How’s your leg now, sunshine?”

“Much better, thanks for telling me that. You know you and I have never talked much about our early lives; I guess that’s why I was jealous of Cowley, he knew everything about you and I knew almost nothin’. Remind me to tell you about meself soon.”

“Ray, Cowley is in the past, all I want now is the future . . . with you, if you’ll have me? If not, then I meant everything, I said earlier, you’re happiness is all I want and if I can’t give you that, then I’m out of here.”

For a moment, Doyle lay quietly studying the obviously earnest man; then he sat up and pulled the trembling body to him. “I’ll tell you what; I’m willing to sign a contract with you in which I’ll give you a certain amount of time to prove yourself to me. If we can make ourselves happy in that time, then we’ll go on from there.”

For the first time hope burst forth into Bodie’s heart, but then despair filled him instead. He knew so little about happiness, how could he ever meet Doyle’s time restraints? “How . . . how much time you goin’ to give us, sunshine?”

Doyle smiled lovingly at his former partner, “I figure I’ll give you fifty or sixty years and then if we can’t cut it, you’ll become my toy boy, and we’ll just continue the deal for sex. How’s that?”

Bodie smiled lovingly into the moist, green eyes and whispered against Doyle’s lips, “You little devil.”

Doyle wrapped his arms around the younger man and hugged him; then he stood up and said, “How about we adjourn to the bedroom, and you can start making me happy.”

“I’ll be happy to, mate, but I think we should discuss some other things as well.”

Doyle threw off his robe and stood there in his birthday suit. “Do we have to talk now, I want you in me. I want us to become one. That’s the first step towards happiness.”

Sadness filled the blue eyes as Bodie asked, “Ray, are you sure? It can’t be that easy? I know I’ve really hurt you, and I don’t want you to ever doubt my loyalty, but isn’t there anything that you want to ask me or have me clear up before we begin our new life together?”

Doyle carefully approached his still-dressed soon-to-be lover. “Bodie, I have been frozen in here (motioning towards his chest) since that day at the flat when you told me about Cam Allen. I’ve had enough words to last a lifetime; I need actions, and I need reassurance. We’ve both seen what words have done to us. Speak to me with your body and your love. That’s what I need now.”

Within moments, Bodie was naked and in Doyle’s arms in the bed. Their need for each other was so great that their writhing bodies didn’t seem to be able to get enough of each other. Their kisses which had been so long denied triggered even more need as the two men’s groins rubbed against each other until orgasm ripped through their entwined bodies. Even then they refused to release each other. Doyle felt like he needed to hold onto the other man for as long as possible since they had been separated for so long. Nothing and no one else mattered; he had his Bodie in his arms. Exhaustion, his aching leg, his sweaty body, but he was finally with Bodie, and they had their future together.

Bodie hungrily kissed Doyle’s body. His mouth hovering over the scar from the bullet wound. Bodie felt that wound would mark his mind for the rest of his life. He still felt as if he had betrayed his partner and needed to show the beloved man, how much he truly loved him, but he knew that there was still one more thing that he had to tell Ray, but what if his gorgeous golli could not forgive him for what he had done?

Bodie’s head lay on Doyle’s shoulder. His arm draped over the slender body. Doyle felt the tension in the ex-merc’s frame and knew that there was something that his lover needed to tell him, but a frisson of fear shivered through the ex-copper. Was there anything, any words that Bodie could utter that would destroy their very recently found happiness?

“Bodie, what is it? Don’t you want to fuck me? What is it? Is it Cowley?”

Bodie raised his head and looked directly into the perceptive green eyes, “I want to make love to you the rest of my life, but I’ve done something that you may not be able to forgive me for.”

“What is it, sunshine? It has something to do with Cowley, doesn’t it? Did you have sex with him, is that it?”

Bodie’s blue eyes widened as he realized what Doyle was thinking so he immediately denied the question. “No, no way, it was never like that. I wouldn’t touch the man. I made it clear to him that it was always you that was important to me but . . .”
Doyle waited silently holding the trembling man more tightly in his arms. Whatever it was, it had certainly shaken Bodie, the man who had always kept his cool. Bodie finally laid his head back down on Doyle’s shoulder and began to speak.

“The last day I was at CI5 Cowley called me in. He had practically ignored me for much of the last three months because I had told him about us, or at least, about my feelings for you. I figured that it was just a formality meeting so I could finally get out of his sight, but it was much more than that. I had always respected the man, and even though I had discovered a lot about his relationship with John and how he had manipulated us, I figured I owed him that last bit of respect. I truly wish I hadn’t. I wish I had just left.”

Doyle frowned as he said, “You don’t have to tell me, Bodie. I’d understand.”

“No, no you don’t. I tried to kill Cowley.”

The room was filled with silence for several seconds. Doyle could hear Bodie trying to swallow the large lump that had formed in his throat. He seemed to be choking on it so Doyle handed him a glass of water which he always kept by his bedside. After several minutes, Bodie seemed to pull himself together. He pulled himself out of Doyle’s arms and sat on the side of the bed with his back to his lover. “Ray, I’ve got to tell you this, but right now I . . . can’t face you. If, after you hear what I did, you can’t accept me anymore, I’ll leave. I want you to be honest ‘cause I can’t stand the idea of you pretending to accept what I’ve done.”

Doyle sat up in the bed but didn’t touch his bed mate; he merely murmured for him to continue. For a moment Doyle thought that Bodie had changed his mind and then he heard the hoarse voice begin,

“That day Cowley sat at that same desk we managed to get to replace the one we destroyed, and he looked at me so strangely. It was almost as if he had lost his child, his best friend, or the most important person in his life. He said that he would miss me, and he hoped that I was making the right decision. He said that he knew I would have a great career with CI5, and that he felt that I was going into this relationship with you - - blindly. He said that he felt I knew that deep in my heart as well ‘cause that’s why it was only ever be just sex between us. He hoped that I recognized that you never stayed with anyone for very long. That even though you risked your life for me that it was all show and bravado to trick me into thinking that you were really fond of me. He asked me if you had ever told me you loved me, and was I sure that you weren’t just making me one of your experiments just like Ann Holly was.”

Bodie sat there quietly trying to gauge the impact of his words on Doyle, but the man was sitting there quietly. Bodie badly wanted to turn around and see how the words had affected Doyle, but he knew that his toughest words were coming up and that he would fail to utter them, if he looked at Doyle now, so he continued,

I could have killed him then. I felt like going and getting one of me rifles from a bolt hole and killing him, but I didn’t. I didn’t want you to think of me like that. Remember when you told me that me that I was no better than Krivas when I was ready to kill him?”

Doyle nodded, “But that didn’t mean you tried to kill him, love. I’ve thought about killing him a couple of times, especially when I went into quit.”

Bodie dropped his head to his chest and mumbled, “That’s not the time I really did try to let him die, Ray.”

“What do you mean, that’s not the time?”

“It was when you were injured in the collapsed building. We had barely talked to each other for weeks and by that time I knew that Cowley wanted me to be Deputy Controller and that he was doing a triple think about you and me. I wanted to leave, but I kept telling myself that we could be partners again once John went back north. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize getting back together with you - - even if you hated me, I figured that you might be willing to work with me.”

“Bodie, I never hated you. I was jealous and despised Cowley for what he was doing to us, but I didn’t hate you. Even then I felt so lost and frozen that you had chosen Cowley over me.”

“I never did, Ray. It was always you, and that’s why I almost killed Cowley. I was holding you in my arms in the bombed building and getting ready to carry you out. Cowley came in and sized up my feelings right away. I guess my face made it obvious how much I loved you. Anyway, as I told you, he told me to put you back down and help him search for other people who might be injured. That infuriated me; I could have killed him then. I told him I was taking you out and he said all right, and he started to follow me out of the building.”

Bodie stopped again and took a deep gulp of air before continuing. “I knew then what I was going to do. I told him that I had heard a voice or a noise from deeper in the building. Since I knew he couldn’t carry you, I suggested that he go and look and that I would be right back in to help. He agreed, and I left with you.”

“Bodie that wasn’t actually trying to kill him; you’re being too hard on yourself.”

“Ray, I hadn’t heard a voice or a noise; I just wanted him to stay in the building and hoped that it would collapse as it did.”

“Oh Bodie, love.”

“I got outside and made no move to return to the building for a couple of seconds and then I realized what I was doing, and knew for sure that if you found out, you would never forgive me, and all my hopes for getting back with you would be finished, so I started back to the building when the fire people stopped me and then the building collapsed.”

Doyle sat there on the bed beside his lover and waited to see if anything more was forthcoming. Bodie, however, misinterpreted the silence as rejection and began to get up. “I understand, Ray. I guess my merc background tainted me more than I knew because I didn’t feel any regret except that I might lose you, and now that’s exactly what I’ve done. I love you, sunshine. I’ll get my clothes and go.”

“No, Bodie, you’re not going anywhere. I understand how you felt, and if anybody should feel guilt it’s me. You did that because of me, and then I didn’t give you a chance to explain anything. I was so jealous of you and Cowley that I closed my mind to what was really going on. I know now how much you care for me, and I understand that you were still that loyal soldier who had sought a new life in CI5. Cowley could never find the love that he needed to break away from a life of a total duty. You did. That’s what makes you different and better. I love you so much, and we’re going to spend the next fifty plus years or so proving our love for each other. Cowley never found that, but now he’s in our past. We have the future that he never found.”

Bodie turned around and looked at the love light in the green eyes. Of all the words that the two men had thrown at each other over the past nine months, Doyle’s words of love were the very best. Now Bodie knew that happiness wasn’t just a word. Doyle was right; Bodie had won, and he had the next fifty years to savour it.

The End