Of Foxes and Feelings
by Brenda K
The ground was hard and wet and gritty, but why was he lying on it?
Doyle struggled to make sense of things as he pushed himself up, focusing gradually on the telephone box.
His head was spinning, his ribs hurt, and there was a vile taste in his mouth. Even the effort to sit upright was definitely not a good idea, and shards of glass were dropping from his hair just to help matters. Damn.
How long had he been unconscious? How long was it since he'd made the call? And why didn't Bodie get a bloody move on?
Those were too many questions right now, he admitted, as nausea flooded through him again. He groaned, letting himself collapse back onto the tarmac, eventually aware that it was only dry retching this time. That hurt, too.
Eventually, it eased up enough to let him crawl the few yards back to the elderly phone box and lean against it. The next thing was to get the door open and out of the rain, but that, in his present state, was a bit like trying to climb Everest.
Had he actually got through to Bodie or was he just fondly imagining that?
By the time he'd reached the phone box, he'd felt so light-headed it had taken him four tries to dial the number. He'd fished for some loose change, willing himself to keep upright, but then, for a few moments, the surge of victory at finding a couple of ten-pence pieces had done wonders.
Yes, he'd called Bodie. Definitely.
Shit. It was cold and the hammering in his head and ribs wouldn't stop. He wished the door handle to the box was within reach from a sitting position, but it wasn't. And standing up without something to hold on to was something of a problem, since the ground wouldn't stay still long enough.
But he'd called Bodie, and Bodie had said he'd come and get him. Hadn't he?
What he'd actually said, however, wasn't so clear any more. He'd tried to be all matter-of-fact, but he'd felt more like a kid with a grazed knee calling for Mum to come and make it better.
Bodie's attitude hadn't been quite that of a forgiving parent, though. He'd been more like somebody half-asleep and not exactly thrilled at being woken by a wet, miserable, stranded partner, he recalled glumly. But who else could he have called?
Had he told him where he was, Doyle wondered? And where were this road and this telephone box, anyway? He wasn't so very far out of London, but it could just as well have been the middle of the Sahara, judging by the absence of traffic.
That had been the difficult bit, figuring out where he was. Then he remembered looking at the badly typed notice above the telephone and telling his partner. That was good. Not that the name told him much when he'd read it out, once he'd managed to focus on it long enough. He hadn't exactly had a destination in mind when he'd taken off.
He'd shied off the idea of a drink at Bodie's flat, realising that his partner was doing his clumsy nursemaid bit again. Nice gesture, but the couple of halves he'd had at the pub, listening to Bodie trying to cheer him up, had already been enough. Sure, what he'd really wanted was to have a good wallow in his misery, but that wasn't Bodie's scene. In fact it wasn't anybody's scene that he knew of. So he'd decided the best bet, as usual, was to go and lick his wounds alone.
The old phrase came to mind and he half-chuckled, seeing the cuts on his hands and absently thinking he could lick them for real, now. It was no longer just his pride and feelings that were hurt. Ann had done a good enough job of that part, and one small, frightened fox had taken care of the rest.
He'd gone home from the drink at the pub with Bodie, walked into his flat and seen one of Ann's jackets over a chair. He'd ignored it, or at least tried to, but the self-pity was really taking hold now. So he'd poured himself a whisky, and then ignored that, too, because that only reminded him of that first time he'd seen her.
Then he'd tried some music and that conjured up images of a dance floor, and Ann smiling at him as they soaked up the music and each other. Even reading didn't help like it usually did, as that just brought that bloody job offer in America to mind. Finally, he'd picked up his car keys and decided to get some air.
He'd been thinking of her all the time as he'd pushed the Capri along the lanes, oblivious of the moonlit fields and the rain. Thinking about the cold fury in her eyes, most of all. And the fact she hadn't wanted to talk about it. Come to think about it, she'd always liked talking about her own job and could only find fault with his. When she wasn't criticising Bodie, that was. He'd found that hard, particularly since Bodie had been on his best behaviour the other night.
Then he'd seen the shape in his headlights and swerved instinctively, feeling the tyres skid and lose their tenuous hold on the road.
He'd thought it was going to roll over, but it didn't. And the ditch that stopped him doing just that was a nice deep, wet hollow that had stopped the car dead, pitching him forward into the windscreen. His last conscious image was that of the fox, frozen in the headlights, and he wondered if he'd missed it. He thought he had.
Bodie, he decided, was going to give him hell because of an unscathed fox and noble sentiments. Not to mention what Cowley was going to say about the car.
Fuck sentiments, he decided, shivering again. Fuck feelings. Better off without them, noble or not. He'd had too many of them lately. For Ann, and for the ethics of his job, which wouldn't let him ignore Holly and his role in it all.
He hoped Bodie would have enough feelings to pick him up, though. He'd put up with the sarcasm, and a lot more, to be in a warm, dry car heading for home and letting his eyes close. He was so tired, now. It would be so good to let himself drift off, blocking out the pain and the cold.
He'd blacked out for a minute or two when the car hit the ditch. Or more, because he hadn't been looking at his watch. But when he did come round and tumble instinctively from the car, vaguely wondering if it could blow up, he'd ended up ankle deep in cold water.
The whole angle of the car told him he wasn't going to drive it out again, whatever they'd been taught at fancy driving courses. At least it wasn't going to explode sitting in all that water, and he'd found his initial fears almost funny as he'd splashed his way onto the road. Maybe the car pool could salvage something. And speaking of the car pool, his befuddled brain had suggested he got in touch with somebody.
The fact that the R/T was out of range, when he'd waded back in and found it, was just the icing on the cake. So it was a case of waiting for a lift or finding a telephone. He'd waited for a while - however long a while was - and then decided that walking might at least warm him up a bit.
Walking had been strange - his legs didn't quite belong to him, his ribs were complaining, and his sense of distance was shot to pieces. The growing waves of nausea didn't help much, either, so when he'd seen the red box in front of him, he'd suppressed a giggle of wild relief. Then he'd offered a silent prayer of thanks for whoever decided had decided to plant one of Her Majesty's Royal Mail telephones at a junction in the middle of nowhere.
Not that he felt much like giggling now. The pain in his temples was starting to numb the brief bout of lucidity, and even shifting to huddle closer to the dimly lit yet inaccessible haven sent pain knifing through his ribs.
Later - how much later he had no idea - the sound of an engine and the energetic braking spelled salvation in the form of Bodie's inimitable, highly flamboyant style at the wheel. Doyle was beyond reacting very much, though, and found himself staring dumbly at the scowling face emerging from a swiftly wound-down window.
"You gonna get in or you like sitting outside telephone boxes at two in the morning?"
Doyle willed his legs to respond, dimly hoping he'd do better this time. He made it to his knees and saw the handle that had thwarted him earlier escape his grasp yet again. Defeated, he bit back a whimper of sheer frustration.
"For Christ's sake... " Bodie's drawn-down brows were suddenly a couple of inches from his face, and what Doyle had quite correctly taken as anger rapidly turned to concern.
"C'mon. You forgot to say that you crashed yourself as well as the damned car..."
It was more than Doyle could do to speak, as an arm went around his shoulder, forcing another yelp of protest as the sudden movement jarred his ribs.
"Silly dumb bastard, you said you weren't hurt," Bodie was chiding.
"Oh, yeah?" Quite frankly, he couldn't remember what he'd said very clearly. "Sorry. Be all right in a minute."
Bodie got him into the passenger seat, frowning at him.
"Dunno. Maybe cracked a rib on the steering wheel..."
"And bashed your head on the windscreen by the look of it. And you're soaked. Why in hell didn't you at least stay inside the telephone box?
"Felt sick. Came outside and went a bit dizzy for a minute." Doyle felt lousy and miserable and increasingly stupid. "'S gone off now," he added, lying through his teeth. The car was swaying and bucking even though it wasn't moving forwards. Even closing his eyes didn't help much.
"By the look of you, you'd have been better calling an ambulance. Besides, 999 calls are free and the operators aren't being hauled out of a nice warm bed," Bodie said sharply.
"Didn't think," Doyle mumbled, seeing Bodie sizing him up. "Said I was sorry."
Bodie slid the car into gear, and Doyle huddled into the seat.
"Get you some help, sunshine." Bodie spoke gently, suddenly, but Doyle didn't register the change of tone, adding another dose of guilt to his mental list of shortcomings. Why hadn't he thought of that? He'd only thought of calling Bodie. And that had probably been a mistake.
A good mile along the road, Bodie braked sharply at the sight of the ditched car.
"Nice job," he whistled softly. "What happened? You went to sleep at the wheel?"
Reluctantly, knowing it was inevitable, Doyle told him. "And before you start I know exactly how bloody stupid it was. Now just take me home, will you?"
"Forget home, Ray. You're a mess. Teach you to go being a friend of British wildlife, anyway."
"I know I'm a fucking mess," Doyle's anger and frustration at his own weakness gave strength to his voice, but it was short-lived. Even talking hurt now. "So spare me the lectures, Bodie. Last thing I need is a hospital, either."
Bodie didn't reply to that, and abruptly opened the driver's door.
Gripped by a sudden, illogical fear that Bodie was abandoning him, Doyle got himself upright with a huge effort of will, and the sudden movement was the last straw. He didn't hear the break in his voice as he called his partner's name before keeling over.
Bodie grimaced, not liking this, and regretted the acerbic comments he'd made more out of concern than anger. He got the passenger door open and grabbed for Doyle's pulse, thankful that it was steady enough. The boot yielded an elderly blanket, and he got that round the slim shoulders before racing to the wreck.
It took only a few seconds to make sure that no interesting items such as handcuffs and R/T were loose in the car for the next passer-by to stumble upon or add to their collection of souvenirs. Then he swung back into the seat and put his foot down, vowing that any stray fox that had made the mistake of straying into his path would not be accorded even the slightest vestige of mercy.
Typical bloody Doyle, he mused. Wallowing in guilt over Ann, the car, and even the bloody fox if he'd killed it. Oh, he'd still be as efficient as ever on the job, that telepathic understanding of his partner and the fast, intuitive reactions unimpaired.
He'd seen that before - he was a tough little bugger and was totally committed to his job. But once off it, he was something else altogether once the black moods took over.
Doyle thought too much, he reflected as he drove. He'd figured that out long ago, and even before that damned Coogan case came up. He couldn't shut things out, whether it was killing by sheer fluke or cold necessity, or when he was crusading against injustice in whatever form it took. And now that bitch of a woman had started the whole process all over again. Before fleeing from the awkward hour at the pub, he'd almost been able to see Doyle retreating into his usual cocoon of self-recrimination. Bodie had wanted to jerk him out of it, but it hadn't been one of his better efforts.
"She thinks I'm a thug who kills for fun."
That was the only moment that Doyle had let some of the frustration show among the platitudes, and even that had been as they left the place.
"She's not as intelligent as she looks, then," Bodie had replied calmly. "Put her out of your mind, Ray."
"Sure." There was not a lot of conviction in his voice as he said it.
"Another drink? My place?"
Doyle had shook his head. "No thanks. Gonna turn in."
Bodie had wished he could get through to the daft bastard, but he didn't know where to start. He'd never been much of an expert in morale raising. When Coogan died, he'd done his best, but when it came to affairs of the heart he'd never even seen Doyle with stars in his eyes before. Women, for Bodie, had become no more than a pleasant interlude, and provided a little welcome distraction and gratification. In fact they were definitely up there with driving and eating among his list of preferred pastimes. But it had been a long time since Marikka.
Glancing across at the still form, Bodie pushed Marikka from his thoughts, wishing that for once, he'd persuaded Doyle to get roaring drunk, let his hair down and get the whole thing off his chest instead of letting it fester. Dammit, there weren't many people who would understand what they did for a living, so the choice of somebody to share some of the downside of it all was pretty limited.
He'd probably been no use to his partner at all. What had one of the SAS squad once told him? That his sentiments wore body armour and his conscience had a "pause" button. Maybe he was right. Nobody had ever had the nerve to tell him that since, though - or at least not to his face.
Doyle, now, called him a whole lot of things, but that was mostly banter and at least he hadn't tried to analyse his partner's emotions or lack of them to his face. Cowley had once called the two of them chalk and cheese, or so the saying went at HQ. There was a lot of truth in that, Bodie admitted, but one thing they had in common was a definite reluctance to give much away about their feelings. Yet there was a unique, instinctive understanding between them, despite their differences, and that had certainly given the partnership more than Bodie had ever though it would. Shame, really, that all they ever really talked about was work, sport or their latest conquests.
Doyle muttered and his eyes opened.
"Lean back and enjoy the ride, sunshine. Head still painful?"
"Yeah." Doyle was silent for a second. Bodie kept driving, reaching for his R/T to see if they were in range, wanting directions to the nearest casualty department.
"Bodie... pull over..."
Bodie braked, looking over and seeing the rapid breathing and sweat mingling with blood from the cuts on Doyle's face.
"Gonna be sick."
Reaching wildly for the door handle, he half-fell onto the road. Bodie reached him, fast.
Doyle got his head up after a few minutes.
"Sorry. Nearly didn't make it."
"Don't be. Never liked the upholstery in this thing anyway." Bodie hauled him to his feet again, getting a good look at his partner in the headlights and liking this even less than before.
"That help? You've got concussion y'know, Ray. Have to get it looked at."
Doyle didn't argue, letting Bodie half-lift him back into the car.
"Still dizzy as well? Thought so. Classical symptoms."
"An' me who thought you went into soldiering, not neuro-surgery." Doyle managed weakly. "Christ, me ribs hurt. Think I broke the axle, as well. Cowley'll kill me."
"Unless he's got a particularly soft spot for foxes. Which I doubt. Saw him more as the huntin', shootin' and fishin' type personally..." Bodie broke off, realising Doyle was less than lucid and rapidly drifting into oblivion again.
A growing fear gnawed at his insides, looking at the pallor and the unfocused eyes. He'd seen one of his merchant navy buddies die from what seemed like a stupid knock on the head once. What the medic had diagnosed as concussion had turned out to be bleeding on the brain - he forgot the medical name for it.
Grabbing the R/T, he allowed himself a short flash of relief as it crackled to life and spoke rapidly, urgently, before turning back to the passenger seat and the huddled, soaked figure.
Unbelievable that Doyle had sounded so bloody casual on the phone, he pondered. So much so that he'd been half inclined to tell the stupid prat to get walking and stick his thumb out for a lift. He wouldn't have got far - he was still wondering how he'd made it as far as the telephone box.
"Wake up, sunshine." He fished the crumpled blanket from the floor of the car, pulling it around the shivering body.
"'M tired, Bodie. Was thinking about Ann... couldn't sleep...hope I didn't kill the fox, though," Doyle muttered drowsily.
"Ray... listen to me, sunshine. We're gonna stay here a bit, wait for some medics."
"Sure." The deep voice was slurred. "Told her I'm not a killer, but she didn't listen. She wanted to go to New York, you know. Lemme go to sleep, Bodie."
"Not right now, okay?" From somewhere, Bodie knew that letting him drift off again was wrong. You were supposed to stop people from sliding into comas, weren't you? "Talk, Ray. Pass the time."
"Talk? She didn't want to talk, Ann didn't."
"She didn't? Let you do all the talking did she?"
"She could talk about books. Not much about anything else. Like feelings and stuff. Think it was just sex for her, you know. " Doyle sighed, wincing. "Bodie, what the hell are you doing here anyway?"
"Came to pick you up, like you asked. Remember?" Damn, thought Bodie. His mind's all over the place.
"Oh, yeah. Knew you'd come. Thanks."
"My pleasure. So why come for a drive out here anyway?"
"Wanted to think. Wanted to talk about it in the pub, Bodie, but I couldn't."
"Yeah, maybe you should have. Better than practising your stunt driving."
"Didn't know what to say," Doyle said, dumbly. "Bodie -" Suddenly, he was wide awake, fearful. "You won't leave me, will you? Though you were going to, earlier."
Bodie swallowed. "Course I won't sunshine. Why should I? Picked you up, didn't I? Was only getting some stuff out of your car."
"Oh. Sorry. Thought I was pissing you off. Know I do, sometimes."
"Wouldn't be us if we didn't get up each other's noses now and again," Bodie said gently. "But we're a team. Cowley's finest, we are."
Doyle shifted uneasily.
"Can't talk about personal stuff though. Not good at it, either of us."
"Talk about anything you like, Ray."
"She said you were arrogant and cold, you know," Doyle sounded surprised. "That night you came over. Told her you were a great big softie inside. So she said I should marry you..." Doyle giggled. "But then I took her to bed. She liked that."
"So you said. " Bodie fought for words. "Ray..."
"Doesn't matter now anyway. Besides, she didn't care like you do. Shit, Bodie, it hurts."
"I know it does. Just don't go to sleep again, hey?"
"'M cold. Got me feet wet."
"Yeah, I know that, too." Impulsively, Bodie pulled the blanket up a bit more and ruffled the curls. "Silly bugger, you are."
"'S okay now you're here. Dunno what I'd do if you weren't. Remember when you were stabbed?"
"Not a whole lot of it, no," Bodie admitted. "Except seeing you all messed up, bit like you are now."
"Thought you were gonna die. Was bawling like a kid at the hospital. Nurses gave me a cup of tea - must have thought it was me wife or something."
Instinctively, Bodie squeezed a slim shoulder. He'd never known that.
"Can't get rid of me that easy, sunshine. Nor you. Got to go out there and get the job done. Besides, lots of lovely ladies out there just waiting to be discovered."
Doyle sighed. "Yeah. Bodie?"
"Talking rubbish aren't I?"
"Not rubbish, no."
"Hard to talk about feelings, though." Doyle sounded infinitely weary, huddling towards Bodie.
"Tonight's as good a time as any," Bodie said, meaning it.
"'M I gonna die? Feel really odd."
"No bloody way. And have me miss out on Cowley yelling at you about the car and being on sick leave for a couple of days because of a little red animal with a bushy tail?"
"Oh. Glad I didn't resign, then."
"Me too. Never split a winning team."
Faintly, Bodie heard a siren in the distance.
"Still here. And here comes the hired help. Downhill all the way now."
"Stay with me?" It was a whisper.
"Sure." Bodie grinned at his partner. "Maybe the nurses will give me a cuppa, too. And a biscuit if I'm good."
"Softie, " Doyle muttered thickly as the ambulance crew came into sight.
True to his word, Bodie rode in the ambulance, trying to provide details and keep an eye on Doyle at the same time while the paramedic was rapidly getting to work. He half-heard some of the exchange on the ambulance radio, and felt his heart lurch.
"Concussion... all the symptoms, confusion and nausea. Blow to the head, possibility of hematoma..."
That was it. What the guy had died from. He daren't put the fears into words, and looked on helplessly, hearing the siren and forcing himself to grin at Doyle as they wheeled him in through the doors.
So Doyle had told Ann that he was a softie? And the temperamental, fiery, prickly idiot had actually shed tears for him? Bodie shook his head. He'd been worried about Doyle in the past when he'd been in danger or injured. But to really care - and to care so much that it hurt like it was doing now - was something he'd never permitted himself for anyone, at least since Marikka. And what if the daft sod really was dying? A daft sod who'd admitted to his own fear for an aloof, impenetrable ex-merc? And a daft sod who was here because, for Christ's sake, he'd wanted to avoid killing a bloody fox?
Bodie dropped his head into his hands. That body armour protecting his emotions had just developed a chink.
Catching the first rays of sunshine that were streaming in through the doors, and feeling its welcome warmth, Bodie didn't recognise the approaching figure at first. He was exhausted, but with the dawn had come the news he'd hardly dared hope for.
"Well? How is he?"
Bodie stared at Cowley, seeing the lines of worry on the old man's face.
"I asked you a question, Bodie. What's the damage? They told me he'd had an accident and it looked potentially serious, but that he was still being examined."
"He's all right. They only told me a minute ago - didn't want to wake you, sir, but it looked bad when I brought him in.
"That's a relief," Cowley said with undisguised sincerity. "But what the hell was he doing?"
"Come and have a cuppa, sir," Bodie turned on the charm, ignoring the question. "We won't be able to see him for a bit. They're letting him rest now. But at least they've ruled out anything more serious, like epidural hematoma." Bodie rolled out the term with no little satisfaction.
"I see. But that doesn't explain what he was doing to crash the car in the first place. Something to do with the Holly girl, I expect."
"In a way, " Bodie sighed. "But don't worry, he was neither drinking nor suicidal. It was just an accident. He'll explain in his report."
"Aye. And you're going to explain to me now before I have to see the Minister. You can tell him from me that I shall be back to speak to him later. But first where's this tea you promised?"
"Ah, now if I have to pass on your good wishes to Doyle later, does that mean I can take the day off, sir?"
Successfully steering Cowley towards the canteen, and providing the barest of details, Bodie was starting to hope for a wee dram from the famous hip flask to go with the tea. "Been a long night," he added, hopefully.
"Nine a.m. in my office tomorrow, then. And I'm counting on you to make sure Doyle starts seeing sense about this whole affair with Holly and his daughter."
"Count on me, sir," Bodie said cheerfully, "I think he'll soon have forgotten all about Ann Holly. He's more into wildlife preservation now."
"Bodie. You look terrible. Anybody'd think you'd been up all night."
Doyle gave him a full-blown grin as he walked into the room.
"Oh, just been to find meself a cuppa and have a chat with our Fearless Leader while they took a good look at that skull of yours. Good thing it's a thick one." Bodie forced himself to keep it light and casual, although he still felt like dancing with relief. Partly the two strong doses from Cowley's hip flask he'd finally succeeded in suggesting, but mainly just from knowing his pig-headed, caring, half-wit of a partner was all right.
"Yeah. They plugged me into so many machines it must have been one helluva long cuppa. Now they say I've got to stay here another 48 hours. Me ribs aren't broken, though."
"Could have been a lot worse," Bodie admitted. "'S nothing, 48 hours. Not even time to size up the nurses properly. Besides, wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to get back if I were you. When Cowley hears what you did to the car he'll only give you another headache. Bruised ribs mend easier than broken axles, remember."
Doyle grimaced. "You mean you didn't tell him yet?"
"Oh, he's been in, and I skimmed over the basics with him. Sends his best, even, but he's gone to hold the Minister's hand now. So I thought the precise details were a pleasure I'd reserve for you and you alone. Keep you busy, thinking about how exactly to put it."
Doyle grinned. "Thanks a bundle. Be a help if I could remember much more than seeing the bloody fox and going into the ditch. Can vaguely remember calling you, and you being as mad as hell..."
"Me?" Bodie enquired innocently. "I love being dragged out of bed. You should know that."
"Sure you do. After that I must have drifted a bit. Then I was in the ambulance." He frowned. "Who called it?"
"Me." Bodie said, softly. "You weren't really with it after I picked you up. So you really don't remember much?"
"Nah. Suppose you gave me hell. Thanks for coming, though."
"Any time. But next time you bust up with a girlfriend, go and get drunk instead, OK?"
"Sure." Doyle grinned, suddenly. "She probably wasn't worth it anyway."
"No, Ray, I don't think she was." Bodie was serious for a second, then waved a finger. "Get some sleep now, sunshine. And remember that if it weren't for me, Cowley'd probably be in here as we speak, giving you lectures about wee furry creatures versus CI5 property.
"Playing the guardian angel, were you, or he'd already have docked my pay?"
"Yeah. I'm a great big softie, remember."
Doyle looked at him, puzzled. "You are? Who said?"
"Somebody I'm extraordinary fond of," Bodie said, airily. "But nobody you'd know."
Suddenly, he was aware of a glint in the green eyes that made Bodie wonder if he'd forgotten as much as he was making out.
"You should introduce me, then. Must know you pretty well, whoever it is," Doyle said, equally casually.
"Might spoil my mysterious appeal if I told you all my secrets."
"You think?" Doyle yawned. "Strikes me we should have a little talk some time."
"Any time at all," Bodie nodded, wondering what he was getting into. "But first get some shuteye."
"Oh, you mean you're not gonna keep me awake with all that prattling any more?" Doyle said cheerfully, thereby successfully and finally convincing Bodie that his memories of their conversation a few hours previously were perfectly intact. "Wonderful. Bring me some grapes?"
Bodie chuckled, halfway out of the door. "Nah. Was gonna find you a good book on fox hunting."
"Prat." Doyle sighed affectionately. "I'm all through with books. And foxes. Anything with red hair that runs, in fact. What I need now is somebody with some feelings."
Before Bodie could react to that one, with all it implied, Doyle added: "So leave the blonde one alone. She's mine."
-- THE END --