AUTHOR'S NOTE:This story was written for a challenge that I issued myself to any interested Pros writers: I wrote the ending, as of "It's over," said Bodie, and invited others to write what came before. This could be anything from an epic to a short piece.

When I wrote the ending, I had no beginning in mind, and this story is what came out. It's set at some point after the final episode. The three-star general is based on a larger-than-life character I've met in real life, also from somewhere in Latin America.

The usual disclaimers apply: I don't own the characters, I don't make any profit from this. I might kill people off now and then... but they usually find themselves reincarnated in other stories.

"You're serious?"

Bodie spoke first. The words came out instantly, surprising nobody, he supposed.

Cowley didn't bother to repeat himself. He simply pushed the file into Doyle's hands.

"So go and get the job done. Oh, and apparently there's to be some sort of... farewell party next week."

Cowley said the word with unveiled disgust.

"Never mind, sir," Doyle said quietly. "Think of it as the government paying for the whisky for once."

Cowley glanced at him sharply, and then his features softened. Bodie, in turn, looked at his partner. He'd no idea whether the old man paid for his own supplies, but Doyle's statement was diplomatic if nothing else.

"There's that," Cowley agreed. "So do I need to repeat myself?"

Bodie shook his head, and went out without another word. Doyle paused for a second or two as though he was going to say something, but thought better of it.

The silence continued until they reached the rest room. Murphy was sitting there on his own, nursing a mug of tea and staring at the wall.

"Seen him, have you?" he said evenly, although the expression was a lot less neutral.

"We've seen him." Doyle spoke curtly. "So who knows? When did he decide to go?"

"Me. Now you. And as for when he actually made it official with the Minister, no idea. He's calling a meeting to tell the others to let them digest it while some of us go and save the world for him one last time tonight."

"Jesus," Bodie whistled softly. "I never saw it coming. I mean..."

"Did he fall or was he pushed?" Doyle finished it for him.

"His own decision, I'd say." Murphy said, wrinkling his nose at tea that had obviously gone cold judging by the skin on it. "Although I wondered myself. I know he was getting tired - he's said so a few times the last few weeks - but he only sprung it on me last night."

Doyle moulded himself into the battered armchair, pointing at the kettle. Dumbly, without arguing, Bodie turned it on and reached for the tea bags. Doing something, he decided, was probably one way of preventing himself from saying a lot of things that might be inappropriate.

Was he angry with Cowley, Bodie wondered? Did he sympathise? Both, of course, but which of the emotions that would finally take precedence wasn't clear yet.

Doyle, in the meantime, was flicking through the file, his eyebrows reacting as he did so.

"Makes interesting reading, eh? Nothing like going out with a bang. He told you I was going to be with you on setting it up?" Murphy was frowning a little.

"Yeah," Doyle nodded, silently passing the file to Bodie. "A fellow potential scapegoat, I'd say. I'm not sure if he's nuts or a brave old bastard, wanting in on this."

Bodie started reading in turn, nearly slopping hot water over the pages. Swearing softly, he passed over a mug without even looking up. Doyle sighed, plucked a tea bag out of the box and jammed it in, not even complaining about the lack of decent service for once.

"I think," Bodie said smoothly after a minute or two, "we might discuss this somewhere a little more private. Particularly if the shit's going to hit the fan any minute here."

Wordlessly, the other two men followed him out. Bodie pasted a half-smile onto his lips as they encountered a few of the staff heading for CI5's briefing room, finding it far harder to do so than usual.

Could the old bastard just be putting up a smokescreen? Did he really mean to leave? No, Bodie decided reluctantly, Cowley wasn't kidding. The air of finality had rung true - all too true.

And as for the case, Murphy had called it 'going out with a bang', but it could also be some kind of Godawful whimper if it went wrong.

It could, in dispassionate terms, be seen as co-operation with MI6, but he was still surprised that CI5 would be in at the business end on this one. With the foreign bigwigs present, it would normally be Special Branch doing the honours, with MI6 hanging around offering useless advice.

So how had Cowley swung it? Or had he asked for it? Was he looking for a great deal of exposure for CI5 that for once might go well beyond the sceptred isle? That was a dodgy business to say the least given MI6 and their monopoly on all things international.

So many questions, but Bodie asked just two as they got into his car. Two that couldn't wait.

"His replacement. Who is it, Murph? He said 'temporary', but just how temporary is it?"

Silence. But Murphy would know plenty, Bodie was aware of that much. If he hadn't been driving, he'd probably have shaken it out of the implacable figure in the back seat.

Doyle, predictably, whirled, as if he was reading Bodie's thoughts and sharing them.

"It's you."

Murphy sighed. Looked pointedly out of the window.

"It's 'im," Doyle nodded to Bodie.

Well, it would be, Bodie thought to himself. He'd seen it coming like most of them had - the very fact that Cowley had confessed his tiredness to Murphy and to nobody else said plenty.

"It's... temporary." Murphy said quietly, finally. "And don't ask me how long, because we haven't gone into that in detail. Anyway, it'll only be announced after this case is over, so keep your mouths shut."

"And what about this case? If it goes wrong, I'm betting Willis will make his bid to get CI5 under control as well." Doyle added. "And Mr. Temporary will be left holding the baby, let alone Cowley getting caught up in the aftermath."

"Exactly," Murphy said quietly.


Peter Sean Murphy, ex-Lieutenant in HM's armed forces and soon to be controller - temporary controller - of CI5, watched the rain falling, thinking of Ireland. Thought association, he grinned faintly to himself. He'd been thinking about where he grew up a great deal recently - probably more as a refuge from what he knew might lie ahead than anything else.

It was light years from here and now, both in terms of London's scenery and the job he was doing. His parents had moved when he was a kid, saying it was to seize opportunities. Well, he'd done that all right. First thanks to his teachers, then the army and finally thanks to a certain George Cowley.

Cowley was in his thoughts too, and particularly that conversation less than 24 hours ago. Had it been a surprise? No, not really. The grapevine, the rumours and even a few comments had indicated that he was in line to be the next controller, but he'd been in no hurry, contented with learning, watching. A few of Cowley's oblique comments had indicated it might be coming before too long, but even then he'd not allowed himself to think about it that often. Army discipline had come naturally to a young Peter Murphy, and it had served him well ever since.

Then, suddenly, it was reality. He'd still wanted to ask Cowley why him, though. And why not...

No, Cowley had said before he'd even finished the question. Doyle was a good man, an excellent man, and so was Bodie, but their skills were elsewhere - outstanding skills but not those of a controller. They would, he hoped, nevertheless remain and support their newly appointed boss in whatever position he chose for them.

Temporary boss, Murphy reminded himself yet again. And would Bodie and Doyle stay on much longer? Doyle, in particular, had been quieter than usual ever since Cookie had been killed.

Well, he'd meet that one when he came to it. Of one thing he was certain, though. If Doyle went, Bodie would go too. And vice-versa. That had probably been in Cowley's thoughts when considering his successor, he pondered. They were both good, both capable, but to choose between them? To weigh one against the other? No, he couldn't see either of them being the boss of the other somehow. And as for that 'whatever position he chose' for them, Murphy knew that would require a whole lot of thinking about if either of them were to accept it rather than simply throw in the towel.

There were so many things to think about, so many questions still to be answered, and yet he could get nowhere until after this damned case.

How temporary was temporary, for a start? Bodie had put that into words although he hadn't wanted to raise that with Cowley quite yet. All the old man had said was 'with the possibility of subsequent permanent appointment', but that the final decision wasn't entirely in his hands. So he had to prove himself. Get the right people beside him, keep walking the tightrope as Cowley had done. And would Cowley remain as his mentor? Would that be enough for the first, critical weeks and months? That was another question he'd need to ask.

And most of all, did he want all this anyway? A life of constant struggle, pressure... and all of it permanently, without respite, until he in turn decided to call it a day? Nothing temporary about any of that side of things.

Yes, he concluded. He did want it or he wouldn't have accepted that brief, dry handshake.

First, though, it was time to go out there and work as a field agent one last time, and that was a challenge enough for tonight without letting the philosophical thoughts creep back in. The overriding problem - in his mind as much as Cowley's - was that they'd had to rely on information from MI6 far more than either of them had hoped.

What also concerned him, Murphy decided as he finally picked up his jacket and slid his fingers over the gun as if for reassurance, was exactly what Doyle had put his finger on very quickly. Cowley could retire in glory if it went well, or retire as a man incapable of protecting international dignitaries on his home territory if they failed. At the same time, a certain Peter Murphy would either inherit an organisation that had a reputation for doing its job - or one doomed to failure.

He'd discussed the case in detail with Bodie and Doyle once they'd read through the file earlier in the day, aware of their own discomfort with the situation in general. It wasn't that they wouldn't approach this job as professionally as they always did, but they were already sussing him out as their new boss too. They were Cowley's men, of course, just as the rest of the squad were. Cowley was CI5. Had built it, defended it... How would they react when that era ended? Any of them?

"OK boss," Doyle had said quietly, finally closing the file. "So let's get to work."

Boss. Was that what they'd call him? Had they accepted it? Would they?

Whatever happened, Murphy told himself as he closed the door to his flat behind him, would only begin once tonight was over. So yes, as Doyle had said, it was time to get to work.

He looked up at the rain yet again, wondering when he'd next see Ireland. No, it had stopped now. The evening sky was clear again. Was this a good sign?


George Cowley sat in the car, wondering.

He'd made his decision and would live with it. He was tired, to start with, even if he'd been doing his damndest to hide it and reluctant to admit it. Even the slowly forming web of people out there tonight filled him with more resignation and concern than the thrill it once did.

The last case. How many times had he wondered how it would feel when that moment finally came?

Well, he'd think about all that, and the rest, when it was safely wrapped up. Not before - this was no time for regrets, reminiscences or anything else.

Were his three men going to diffuse an assassination attempt at a high-profile, international diplomatic event as neatly as he hoped? They had better, he decided. His trust in them was high, but neither did he underestimate the opposition. But yes, they could pull it off.

Yes, he'd told the minister. Yes, they'd co-operate with MI6 and be the team on the spot. Yes, it would be most effective if carried out at the last moment as Willis was suggesting.

Cowley hadn't missed Willis' fleeting smile of satisfaction as the Minister had nodded, wondering what that look of triumph meant even then. That was stupid of Willis, however, and had put Cowley on his guard right from the start - hence the feeling of unease that had never left him since it had first been discussed.

Was Willis' willingness to co-operate just a gesture of 'let the old devil have his last fling?' Perhaps that was it, but Cowley still wasn't convinced.

He was tempted, very tempted, to call the whole thing off now, before it was too late. To tell the MI6 people to move in before the men even got as far as the perimeter of the building and not risk them getting any closer, yet at the risk of losing the connection between the diplomatic reception and the terrorist's precise intentions.

But no, he was just being an old fool facing the idea of something coming to an end. This was just some sort of instinct brought about by the fact he wouldn't be doing this sort of thing again, he insisted. It had to be, didn't it?

So now, as he watched, it was beginning. Men from his squad dressed as waiters, one as a tramp in a nearby alley, and others masquerading as couples out for a stroll were all in place. Operatives from MI6 were installed at vantage points on the roofs above. Patrolling police had been replaced by armed members of Special Branch, ostensibly on the beat but all focused on the one quiet street.

If only, if only the Minister had agreed to search the dignitaries, to put in a basic X-ray portal - it wouldn't show up the plastic, maybe, but it would be a start. But this was Britainand civilisation. No VIP could be expected to undergo a searched when simply attending a reception, the protocol people had insisted. It simply wasn't done.

One day, and one day soon, all that would have to change, Cowley grimaced to himself. Terrorists had already created bloodbaths in other parts of the world where precautions hadn't been taken, and Britain wasn't going to stay immune much longer. Maybe not even tonight, if anything went wrong.

He'd have to tell Murphy to keep that subject in mind for the future, even if it went against the grain as far as civility to visiting diplomats was concerned. Along with a lot of other things he'd need to know. Once this was all over.

"Bodie? Doyle?" Cowley flicked on the R/T, needing some kind of reassurance that they, too, were ready.

"We're here, sir." Even Bodie had dispensed with even the slightest trace of flippancy in his tone or words this time.

"Any time now."

"We're ready."

"Make sure you are."

Cowley hoped they took his gruffness at face value and didn't hear the emotion he was trying to keep out of his voice.


Murphy adjusted his tie in the mirror, catching McCabe's eye as he did so. The man made an extremely convincing-looking Matre d'Htel, and Jax looked equally at home in charge of the microphones and recording equipment all ready for the speeches to come.

Now, it was up to Bodie and Doyle. If the information had been right, the bombers would be arriving any moment now, dinner-suited and smiling like the rest of the small gathering.

It would be simple. Let them come into the vestibule, gently take them aside, take the explosives off them and lock them up. Then, in an ideal world, the fact that two delegates were terrorists rather than diplomats would go unnoticed beyond a restricted circle of law enforcement agencies, but CI5 would glean its share of the glory. The delegates would remain blissfully unaware that their civilised reception had been a target. Everybody would be happy.

Time to walk purposefully towards the double doors. Yes, there were Bodie and Doyle in security uniforms, politely steering stragglers towards the ballroom. And yes, there was a car pulling up, right on cue. The terrorists were here - the last arrivals just as MI6 had said they would be. At least that piece of information had been correct.

What was going on? Who was the voluble guy with the strong Spanish accent berating Doyle? Dammit, this wasn't on the menu.

Murphy strode over, forcing a smile.

"Problems, gentlemen? I'm the head of security, sir - is there a problem?"

There was indeed, the tubby man protested loudly. His invitation. There was everything wrong with it. How did the British Government dare call a three-star general simply "Mr?" This was unforgivable - a breech of protocol that no official should ever commit. It required instant, decisive action.

Oh dear God, Murphy moaned inwardly. Trying to gently steer away the outraged, insulted delegate - from Argentina, as he identified from the offending piece of paper - just wasn't working. Other delegates, curious to see where the raised voices were coming from, were spilling out of the ballroom again.

The tightness on Doyle's face was obvious, because the two faces they'd seen on photographs in the file were now heading up the stairs and towards the entrance.

What now?

"We'll handle it straight away," Murphy repeated calmly. "If you'll just come with me."

"I am going nowhere. You are going to tell the Minister I wish for a public apology."

Murphy's throat dried. Bodie nodded pleasantly to the two newcomers, reaching out for their own invitations. Doyle was unobtrusively moving behind them.

"You see this?" The three-star general was waving his arms now and speaking to their targets who were now within a few paces of him. "This is not permissible. This would only happen to my country. Look at your invitation. What does it say?"

"I'll just check," Bodie said, frowning at the pointing finger. "If you two gentlemen could step over here..."

"Why? What is the point? The reception is beginning." the voice was harsh, the Arab overtones clear.

"We seem to be having some problems with the invitations. I'm not quite sure whether your courtesy titles are correct."

Excellent, Bodie, Murphy thought to himself, still anxiously trying to propel the Argentinian in the other direction.

Murphy saw one terrorist stiffen as he half-spat a stream of Arabic to his companion.

"And now you are preventing guests from entering!" The General's face was turning crimson as he interrupted, obviously seeing himself as the champion of the downtrodden here.

"Just routine," Doyle said blithely.

"We wish to enter. You wish to search us?"

"No, not for a search, sir," Doyle appeased. "Just a check on the invitations."

Also a good move, Murphy approved silently. This fuss the two men were making rang all wrong, however. They should be acting like the suave diplomats they were supposed to be, graciously dealing with dolts who got names and titles wrong.

Had they tumbled to something? If he wasn't wrong, there was near-panic in one pair of the dark eyes and the rapid exchange continued between both men.

Oh Jesus, the tinpot generalissimo was suddenly taking matters into his own hands, waving them towards the ballroom with a smile and telling Doyle and Bodie to get on with his own case.

"I'm sorry, sir... " Doyle blocked their way, hand reaching smoothly for his weapon. At the time time, another hand lobbed something dark towards the ballroom doors.


Bodie saw it, and dived after it. His hands scrabbled even as the screams started, but he didn't have time either to worry about that or to see what Doyle was up to.

Grab it, get it out. They were supposed to have explosives, not grenades. Somehow, that flashed into his mind even as his fingers touched the metal.

How long did he have? A second? Less? Should he throw it out of the main entrance, behind him, meaning a change of direction to his desperate trajectory, or straight on and out through the French windows of the ballroom and into the garden, with the risk that he'd miss and massacre people in there?

What sort of a grenade was it? There wasn't even time to look.

Christ, what a choice for a few milliseconds. His legs said forward, his mind was focused on the option he'd adopted as being the fastest. The ballroom windows were half-open to let in the early summer air, and he swung up the metallic oval, aiming...

I'm a cricketer, but can I bowl this?

Bodie closed his eyes as it flew from his fingers.

Would it miss? Was it a split second or an eternity before the explosion came? Was a shower of glass and masonry and mangled bodies going to follow the screams...

No. He opened his eyes and the screams had given way to gasps of shock. The glass in the windows had shattered, but that was all. The room was whole - somebody had a cut hand but everybody seemed intact.

There was no time to worry about details now. Without even stopping to take in the scene properly, Bodie turned on his heel and sped back the way he had come.


Murphy saw the grenade fly, saw Bodie reacting, and in the same breath reached to tackle the man who had thrown it, slamming him to the floor. Doyle went for the other, fast.

On the edge of his vision Murphy saw the glint of steel but ignored it, intent on keeping his victim down, keeping the man's hands away from any more surprises.

Then the explosion came, and for a second it seemed to pause the whole scene. Or did it? A sharp coldness stabbed at his side - the shock of the impact, he thought distractedly. Had the whole ballroom gone up? It sounded close.

Oh God.

He was vaguely aware that Doyle was on the ground, fighting, and for some reason the tubby General was down there too.

He had no spare hand to reach for his gun, Murphy realised, and his opponent was fighting like a tiger. Where were the others? Dammit, just how close had it been? Was everybody in there dead?

Doyle was on the other man now, pinning him to the floor, and the Argentinian was on his knees, staring down open-mouthed in horror as Doyle simply and efficiently knocked his target out with a vicious karate chop and reached for the handcuffs.

Bodie - yes, it was Bodie, plunging back through the doors, dropping beside him and producing another pair of cuffs, snapping them on.

"Murph... shit, he got you. You all right?"

Of course he was. Silly question.

"Fine. In there? What ha..." His voice sounded odd. Why wasn't Bodie answering him?

Something hurt, Murphy realised suddenly. A lot. And the room wasn't in focus. It was sliding into a fish-eye view of it all, with Bodie's eyes in the centre and the rest fading away...


Doyle was still crouched over the body when Cowley limped in.

Bodie had somehow managed to join in the process of herding shocked guests back into the ballroom, but Cowley saw the look on his face, which said enough. His agent's two words on the R/T had already sent ice through his veins. "Murphy's dead," Bodie had said simply, not even using his friend's call sign.

A green pair of eyes looked up and met his, and Cowley saw the fury in them.

"Report," Cowley said curtly.

"Grenades," Doyle snapped back, without preamble. "They had two each. Not an ounce of plastic in sight. And one of them had a knife."

"Aye," Cowley said softly, watching the stretcher bearers try to manoeuvre past and unable to stop himself from going over to the still body himself, seeing the blood and biting back a shudder.

Doyle got to his feet, his entire body spelling rebellion.

"Other injuries?" Jax appeared, and Cowley addressed the question to him.

"Couple of cuts. The Argentinian guy's complaining he's hurt his back because he was knocked over in the fight... otherwise nothing. I'll get back there and calm him down."

"Idiot got in my way," Doyle said fiercely, still watching the ambulance crew unfold the body bag as Jax headed back to the portly General. "If he hadn't been there I'd have been faster. I didn't see the knife, or I could have..."

"Stop it, Ray." Bodie was there, suddenly, standing beside his partner. "Things are calming down, sir."

"Good," Cowley nodded, seeing Willis emerge from his car outside.

Doyle immediately whipped around, took a step forward and only Bodie prevented him from doing so.

"Leave it."

"He knew, Bodie," Doyle snarled. "Knew the bastards would have grenades and not plastic. I'd stake my life on it."

"Doyle," Cowley's voice was icy. "Keep your feelings out of this, man."

"Could you?" Doyle threw back at him. "I mean it's bloody obvious."

"My feelings are similar to yours," Cowley said simply. "But this is neither the time nor the place for you to intervene. Whether Willis knew, or simply suspected, that they would use grenades is something that I shall find out very shortly."

Doyle hesitated and then shook his head, his mouth a grim line. Bodie got a hand on his partner's shoulder, finally succeeding in turning him away from the whole scene.

"Finish up here. I shall be outside with Willis."

"Oh, I'll finish. And I won't be coming back," Doyle threw over his shoulder. Cowley mentally steeled himself, deciding that Willis would have to wait for a minute or two.

"Listen to me, Doyle. Both of you. I have every intention - every intention of dealing with this as I see fit. I shall not rest - nor retire, dammit - until I am satisfied that I've done so, is that clear?"

"And that'll help?" Doyle asked him coldly. "More temporary measures?"


"Shut up, Bodie."

"No," Cowley halted them. "Both of you shut up. Yes, you can grieve. Yes, you can walk out and never come back. And yes, every damn thing is temporary in this world. But bear this in mind: you two have a job to do and I expect you to do it. Running away is no solution."

Bodie nodded almost imperceptibly.

"First, I have a few words to exchange with Willis. Then I shall speak to the Minister and the Prime Minister. And tomorrow, I expect you both in my office to discuss a great deal of things. Until then, concentrate on calming down the guests as they leave."

Doyle looked as though he was about to say something, but finally didn't. Cowley watched them walk away, wondering, but forced his mind on the present. Whatever they did, however they coped, was up to them now.

His fears, Cowley acknowledged bitterly, been founded. Willis hadn't been anywhere near as sure of the bombers' methods as he'd made out. He'd deny it, of course, making out that Cowley simply hadn't taken that into consideration.

It would have worked, too, if Cowley hadn't told Murphy to secretly record the entire 'unofficial meeting' with the Minister right at the outset of the case as well as the final briefing between he, Willis and Murphy earlier that afternoon.

Some precautions didn't come amiss with a bastard like Willis, he'd told the younger man. He'd always hoped that one day, the head of MI6 would be shown up for what he was. That day had come sooner than he'd thought, although an immense cost too. For the precautions he'd taken to be any of use to CI5's intended future controller, it was too late. Nothing could protect Murphy any more, but Willis would pay, Cowley swore to himself as he watched his intended replacement's body being wheeled out to the ambulance.

What was more, and as he just told Doyle both spontaneously and sincerely just before, he wasn't going to retire just yet. Not now.

Suddenly, despite the anger and the sorrow, he wasn't quite as tired as he thought. He even exchanged a few reassuring pleasantries with the last few guests to leave as he slowly headed for Willis.

"Sir?" Bodie was there again, this time without Doyle. "He'll calm down. Doyle, I mean. The General already has."

"Perhaps," Cowley nodded, watching Willis almost swagger among the crowd of officials and uniformed police outside. "Even more so when he - and yourself - realise that I'm not quite as senile as you might have thought."

"I never..."

"Och, I know Bodie. And Murphy... the lad paid a very high price tonight. I know that too."

"To achieve what? Get himself killed because a dishonest..." Bodie got himself in check with difficulty. "You do know that rumours are already going round, spread by MI6, that we never took the possibility of grenades into consideration despite their warnings?"

Cowley cut him off. Told him about the tapes that would very soon be in the hands of the Minister. Tapes that had recorded the smoothly-modulated voice and the fatal phrase he could remember so clearly: 'They'll not chance weapons of any kind, George. Only plastic on one of them and the detonator on the other, probably hidden in a watch or a calculator. I can guarantee you that. No worries on that score - we're the ones who have been studying these people in the field, remember.'

"Tell Doyle what I've just said," Cowley said finally. "And I shall go and cancel next week's party, while hastening Willis' retirement."

Bodie managed a ghost of a smile.

"About retiring, sir. Did you ever mean it?"

"I did. It wasn't a smokescreen - tell Doyle that too. And also tell him I regret that I didn't listen to my own doubts about this entire case - something I shall have to live with."

Cowley met Bodie's eyes, and saw the sympathy there, as well as surprise to see Cowley make such an admission.

"Be good to have you around," Bodie said softly, after a moment or two. "Despite the circumstances."

Cowley in turn was surprised at that, but damned if he was going to show Bodie.

"Temporarily," he snapped. "Another thing to tell Doyle. Now go and practice your diplomacy in there for a little longer, with both the delegates and your partner."


Seeing Willis crumple almost visibly gave Bodie a little satisfaction, as he circulated among the final delegates leaving the building while keeping an eye on what was going on outside. So did seeing Cowley move in authoritatively, and take the Minister to one side. The Controller's movements, brisk and businesslike even seen across the courtyard, told him the old devil had achieved what he wanted to.

Was it a consolation? No, not really. Nothing, as trite as it sounded even as he thought it, would ever be the same again. Cowley wouldn't be around forever. Murphy - quiet, calm, efficient Murphy - was gone.

At least Doyle's fury and frustration had calmed a little now, after Bodie had passed on the messages. He hadn't said much, but Bodie knew he'd taken it all in and would process it as he always did once the outburst was over - in his own way, just as he would himself.

No, Doyle wouldn't leave. He'd stay as long as his partner did, Bodie decided. Wouldn't he?

The ballroom was empty now, the body gone, and the only action that was taking place was in the car park. Jax and McCabe were around somewhere, dealing with the police, but he'd also put them briefly in the picture.

He and Doyle were watching through the window by the time Cowley shook hands with the Minister and the large limousine sped away.

"It's over," Bodie said quietly, stating the obvious because it seemed as though somebody should. Nobody had heard him anyway, by the looks of it.

Cowley, he noticed, was striding their way, overcoat flapping and head down. The old man had certainly stuck his neck out on this one but he'd ridden out the storm at least.

"Could have been worse, Bodie," was the brief greeting, but there was little time to say anything else. Orders had to be given, things had to be tidied up. "Get yourselves home, both of you."

Of course it could have been worse, Bodie thought grimly. It could have been better, too, but that wasn't what you said at times like this, was it? At least Cowley didn't expect them to stay around, which was a good thing under the circumstances.

"You all right?" Doyle spoke softly, staring over at the knot of people moving around as if in some sort of weird ballet.

"'Course." The answer was almost automatic, but Bodie didn't know who he was kidding. "You?"

"What do you think, Bodie?"

"I don't think, sunshine. It's bad for you, remember? Could use a whisky or three though."

Doyle made a soft sound that was halfway between pain and a bitter chuckle.

"Cure for all ills?"

"Not a cure, no." Bodie admitted, mentally stowing away any further attempt at flippancy. "Just a temporary patch-up. Like all this."

"That's all it ever is, isn't it?" Doyle's mouth twisted. "Temporary."

"True." Bodie sighed, feeling the first spots of rain and shivering despite himself. "C'mon. Let's leave 'em to it."

The word accompanied the swish of the windscreen wipers as he drove away from it all. Temporary. Four syllables, back and forth. Tem. Po. Ra. Ry.

Bodie looked over at his partner as they drove, realising from the very fabric of the silence that his partner was struggling for composure. Doyle's face, lit only by harsh neon, betrayed a lot. He supposed his own did as well.

"Life goes on," Bodie said, wondering why he did so even as he spoke. Platitudes weren't going to help much but it was almost a rebellion against the word that was still insistently repeating itself in his mind with each sweep of rubber against glass.

"Not for everybody it doesn't," Doyle snapped back, turning his head away abruptly. After a minute or two, however, he shook his head as if to clear it.

"Whisky sounds like a good idea. My place?"

"You're on. We'll be all right, you know," Bodie added almost casually.

"Yeah, I know."

Bodie slid the car into gear, into the night. He felt some of his own tension ebbing slowly away as Doyle settled back into the seat.

Yes, too many things were too damn temporary he decided as he threw another glance over at the familiar face. But at least some were a little less so.

-- THE END --

May 2002

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