Doyle sat, staring listlessly out of the window, past the bright daffodils in the flower-bed and the trees whose buds were daring to appear despite the threat of frost. Everything had lost its colour now for him. He was a condemned man - he was guilty.

My fault.

It's all my own fault, I have no-one else to blame. I bought the bike, I rode it of my own free will. Nobody made me - no-one forced me at gun-point, threatened me with dire consequences if I didn't swing my leg over the seat, turn the key, kick the engine into life...It was my decision, for which I alone answer. I AM GUILTY.

My mistake.

If I hadn't chosen that particular road, at that particular time of that particular night, things would have been so different; I might have been travelling more slowly, had a chance to brake properly. The other driver might've been picked up by the squad car that was already following him, instead of... well, maybe not all his fault -

The driver had been drinking, the autopsy report said - was well soused - and reckless enough to try outrunning a routine police patrol vehicle. He had hit the oil, or mud - whatever the hell had caused it - and his car had come spinning across the road. Right in front of Doyle. My choice then, to slam on the hand, my foot on the brakes. I AM GUILTY.

He remembered watching the whole thing, impartial to the event like a slow-motion cameraman, yet it was all so frighteningly quick. No time to see life flash before his eyes, nor to shout a warning or scream - Doyle had lost the bike as the car hit them, still turning like a dervish, its momentum catching and twisting machine and rider, scattering the resultant wreckage carelessly before it sidled to a halt.

Doyle looked down at his useless legs. Oh yes, that was his own doing - he'd made the wrong decision that night, and now he was paying. God only knew how high that price was...

The door to the day-room opened, and his pretty nurse glided in, shadowed by a familiar tall dark figure. Doyle managed a smile for them both.

"Take you to see him before we go," Murphy promised as he took hold of the wheelchair.

Doyle nodded briefly, and allowed himself to be chauffeured down to the private ward at the end of the wing.

"Would you - " he licked his dried lips. "Could you - just let me have a few moments with him?"

Murphy rested a reassuring hand on the bony shoulder, and squeezed gently.

"Course, mate. You take as long as you need. I'll wait outside."

Doyle covered Murph's hand with his own, conveying his gratitude, and then they were there, at the room. Doyle went in alone, closing the door behind him with difficulty. What he had to say to Bodie was for his ears only.

Hesitantly, he wheeled towards the bed, tears welling in his eyes, further distorting the image of his partner. He dashed them away angrily, willing himself to face up to his handiwork.

Bodie lay, white against white pillows, staring ahead blankly. The only colour about him was the now-vacant blue-grey of his eyes, and the hideous purpling of the bruise that disappeared beneath the dressing covering his head. He was naked to the waist, with sensors stuck to the pale-skinned chest between his nipples.

Doyle knew every inch of that body intimately - how it felt, smelt, tasted... He leaned across and slid one hand into Bodie's, willing him to grip, to make some move, no matter how small, to prove he was still there, somewhere inside the body that just - lay there, breathing, but not alive.

"Bodie, they said I could come and see you. How are you?" he asked awkwardly.

There was no reply. He had expected none: a man with his skull as badly smashed as Bodie's was...but for the helmet, his partner would've been killed outright. In some ways, Doyle thought, that would've been better.

They had saved Bodie's life - emergency surgery to remove splinters of bone and the blood-clot that had formed inside his head. Then they had told him that Bodie's neck was broken, too. Even if he regained consciousness, he would never walk again, never be able to do anything for himself: his fierce, rough, tough, loving INDEPENDANT Bodie would have to rely on strangers for help because he, Doyle, could not take care of him. And it was all his fault, Doyle knew.

He was guilty of destroying the beautiful man he had taken for his lover. He gazed sadly at the body before him: Bodie was still so utterly perfect to his eyes. He picked up the flaccid hand, and pressed a kiss to it, front and back, then he hauled himself onto the side of the bed, using the strength of his arms alone. He leaned across and kissed warm, unresponsive lips, as he fumbled in his jacket pocket.

"Bodie," he breathed quickly, looking hopefully into endless blue-grey distance. "I know you understand. I killed you out there on the road, but you didn't die. It's my fault, I'm the one to blame. Should've done a cleaner job of it, lover, for both of us. I love you, Bodie. It should never've happened."

But, Doyle continued to himself, it did happen because of me. I loved him so much. I wanted him to stay with me every moment of the day - so he came along with me that night, instead of staying at home, where he would've been if I hadn't insisted on going out...all my fault, my beautiful Bodie, just lying here, so still...

"There's nothing I can say or do, Bodie, that'll make up for this... I've smashed you up for good now, lover, and I'm so sorry. I'd give anything - anything at all - to undo it, but I can't." He swallowed, and laid his head against the bare chest, rubbing his hair over the tiny nipple before kissing it softly. There was still no response.

"Oh love, I know you'd hate this kind of half-life. Wish we'd both died outright."

He pillowed his head on Bodie's shoulder and heaved an unsteady breath, reaching into his pocket again. This time, the little pistol came freely into his hand. Doyle looked at it carefully, then gazed up at his lover's face once more as Bodie lay unknowing.

"I'm sorry, Bodie. I love you so much. Forgive me..."

He put the muzzle against the white-swathed temple, and slowly squeezed the trigger.

The almost-muffled noise from the room made Murphy turn and rush to the door. By the time he was inside, he had heard and identified the sound, but it was too late to do anything for either of them. He gazed at the scene in front of him, shaking his head sadly as he went towards the bed where they lay together.

Bodie had once told him that Doyle had a king-sized guilt complex: he had seen himself as responsible for his partner's condition, as well as his own, no matter that the other driver was the one at fault.

Murphy touched his hand to the emergency bell, though he knew nothing would make a difference to them now. He took the tiny gun from Doyle's lifeless fingers gently.

Undoubtedly, Cowley would be angry - more upset than when the accident had happened - but Murphy knew also, he would understand why Doyle had done it: everyone knew Bodie could never recover, and he wouldn't have wanted to spend his years vegetating.

For Doyle himself, the prospect of living the rest of his life in a wheelchair was bad enough, but to be without Bodie... he was too wrapped up with his partner to stand the loss - saw himself as the reason for Bodie being on that damned bike...

This, then, was a mercy-killing, and personally, Murphy could not condemn it. No court in the land would, but Doyle had judged himself guilty, and had chosen to be his own executioner...Murphy sighed heavily, shaking his head again: without doubt, the doctors would put the act down to post traumatic depression, and the causes of death would be listed as manslaughter and suicide respectively.

The only thing Ray Doyle was really guilty of, was caring too much for Bodie, Murph decided - and when was love a crime? The door opened, and he schooled his face to meet the outside world...

-- THE END --

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