With a Dark Lantern


Written for the Bonfire Night "Discovered in a Skyrocket" challenge on the discoveredinalj Livejournal community.

Thanks to Izzie for the beta and for keeping the Brit in me honest.

Bodie stood at the front door and knew that all was not well in the world. It had finally come down to him not wanting to go in. Plain and simple. He steeled himself and stuck the key in, knowing that nothing in his life was plain and fucking simple anymore. Except, ironically enough, the food they were eating these days, since it was just one more thing about which Doyle did not give a shit.

"Doyle? Mate? You alive in here somewhere?" Bodie was getting good at pretending it was perfectly normal to come home at a reasonable hour to find the place in a musty gloom of unopened curtains and stale air.

And silence. Not really a quality he'd ever associated with his partner before. The bang and clatter of a full fridge door heeled shut with a boot, a stereo turned up loud to drown the TV while something else entirely was whistled along to, a cackle at something late night and stupid, and the thump of a beer bottle as it missed the coaster. These were the sounds of a domestic Ray Doyle, the sounds he unknowingly took comfort in at the end of a punishing day, and the sounds he now missed with a sentimentality which knocked him sideways when he let it.

He found his partner in the living-room, laid out across the sofa, feet up, nose in a book. Which was something Ray did, true enough. Just not as unremittingly as he did it nowadays. Chances were that if Bodie got back at a decent hour and Ray wasn't out being pummelled by Tiny Tank (a small but oh-so-solid physiotherapist Doyle pretended to hate more than he actually did), then that's what he would find him doing. In silence, and with such a knit to his brow most of the time, too. As if the books in the world were about to finish and he had been lumbered with the last crappy ten.

It made no sense. Ray was reading them, Ray chose them, so why he was determined to read ones that had him scowling was anybody's guess, and certainly not Bodie's. Well, not out loud at any rate. Privately, Bodie was fairly sure that half the time Doyle'd be hard pushed to say a word about what he was reading, though it was a theory he had yet to test with an actual conversation on the subject. Because if he asked and it was true, then there was the question of what it all meant. And besides, if he wanted his head chewed off he could do something far less dangerous, like hump a lion. Or Cowley.

"What the fuck are you smirking at?"

And there it was, his starter for ten for the evening…

"You," was the bite on his tongue, but he held it back. Every one of Ray's girlfriends and two of Bodie's had disappeared, some faster than others. And all because of that snap. Each had been full of doe-eyed sympathy, hand holding and home cooking at the beginning, but each had had their good intentions eaten away by the lip-curling disdain of a Ray Doyle who, self-sufficient vibrancy gone, had come to hate what he'd seen in their bright eyes and smiles. It was Bodie who'd eaten the meals and held more hands than Doyle, doling out small moments of sympathy in the kitchen while he waited for the inevitable 'it's not that I don't care about him, but…' speech, and then he'd seen them quietly to the door.

Off and on, Kate had lasted the longest, and Bodie was still grateful for the even keel she had brought to both their lives in the early days following Doyle's discharge. An ex-nurse, the practical side of caring for someone severely weakened did not faze her in the slightest. Doyle relaxed because if he was being a bastard she told him so, and Bodie had been able to come back to a nice meal, a Ray with a spark to him and some good-natured back and forth over the day's events. He'd even managed some dates and stayovers at his own flat during the time of Kate. The fact that he'd slept badly each time was neither here nor there; there had been a touch of normality to his life, a fragile air of optimism.

So, of course, it couldn't last. The euphoria of being out of hospital had paled once Doyle realised just how inch by inch his recovery was going to be. He began by setting himself impossible goals, cutting his medication before he was told to, and then by taking the subsequent pain and discomfort out on anyone brave enough to be there. Bodie still had enough gratitude in him at that point to make it Doyle being Doyle, albeit at his most wanker-ish. All he had to do was remember Ray with his back and guts flayed open, heart fluttering under the surgeon's delving scalpel and whatever came out of the man's mouth was water off a grateful duck's back. Besides, truth be told, as he'd confessed to a decidedly wobbly Kate one night, he'd had years of bloody practice.

Kate, however, had not and eventually she was driven to take off for kinder pastures. Bodie had taken one look at the face pretending to watch TV after she'd left that last time and turned on his heel, slamming the door on his way out, afraid he'd slam something on his partner's head if he stayed. He sought out Murph who clearly knew better than to ask, and had simply steered him though a few pints, a rowdy game of darts and a heated bit of argy-bargy over Arsenal's recent defeat of Liverpool.

Feeling less like throwing Doyle through a window, Bodie had felt even less like it when he opened the front door on his return, to find his partner sitting at an odd angle in the hallway, one arm in a jacket sleeve and a face pinched with strain.

"What the bloody hell are you doing, Doyle?" The shock of it made his voice angry and sharp as he froze, keys in hand.

Two pain-filled eyes looked up. "Thought I'd catch the milkman, stop you hogging the cream of the milk for once."

Bodie read between the lines of the defiant whisper, and shook his head. He exhaled and crouched down, examining the pale figure before him.

"Pillock." Said with an impossible stretch of a smile, his first in quite a while.

"Says you." Doyle tried to smile back.

Which somehow made all the difference in the world.

A hand reached out and fastened onto Bodie's sleeve. "Felt bad...y'know, thought I'd have a go at making things right. Only,…"

"Only you couldn't quite sprint out the door, could you?" Bodie gestured for Doyle to fasten his other hand on, intending a slow rise for them both. "Though how you thought you were going to get yourself to Streatham I do not know, sunshine. More hair than sense."

"Kate? Christ, Bodie how the fuck would I get to Streatham?" Doyle's voice and body wavered precariously under the assault of new blood to cramped limbs once he got upright, so he stayed where he was and Bodie stayed, too. He gripped Bodie's arm harder and glared at him. "You, y'prat. Was going to the pub to find you."

And that was what always took the rug out from under him. Just when he had himself all set to leave the obnoxious sod to wallow in his own juices, Doyle would do that. Would hit him with something so fierce and intense that Bodie would feel winded. And then calmed. And then sure of his place and importance again. He watched Doyle concentrate, both hands white-knuckled now on Bodie's forearm while he steadied his breathing.

Bodie bit his lip. So fierce, Doyle, in all ways. In declaration, in defeat, in recovery. And in apology, which Bodie knew this was.

He wrapped his free arm around Doyle's shoulder and felt the man still, and then give against him, determination and energy just about finished. He turned him slowly, knowing that at that precise moment he was not going to get rebuffed for anything he said or did. "C'mon, mate, let's get you in a bath, and a whisky in both of us. Sod the painkillers for a night."

As they wound their way through the darkened flat at Doyle's pace, Bodie felt the sideways press of his partner's head onto his, just above the temple. He swallowed, but said nothing. A ferocious sniff then sounded in his ear.

"Yeah, sod 'em," came the fervent, heartfelt response.

And that night something other than scar tissue had softened in the bath water. The next morning, Bodie awoke to a mug of tea under his nose, the smell of toast in the kitchen and a word or two about his choice of clothes for the day. Fearful of looking a gift horse in the mouth, he had responded with caution, but the word seemed to be effort, and Doyle began to make it. He took his limitations with less resentment and frustration, and he took Bodie's post-work presence in his flat with an easy acceptance that bordered on appreciation. Indeed, once in a while, Bodie would catch Doyle's eye - over the telly, over the tea, over the conversation of some bird he was trying to be interested in - and be the recipient of a look or a smile full of such rare sweetness that he had to train himself not to flinch.

Though where that sweetness had buried itself over the last couple of weeks was anybody's guess. Bodie ignored the unmistakeable snarl in his starter for ten and headed for the kitchen. He resisted the urge to bang a cupboard or two, and turned the tap on nice and full instead. He let the water pound into the kettle and threw open the small kitchen window above the sink, relishing the winter bite that flooded in. He hadn't seen one of those looks or smiles in a while now. And as usual, their departure, much like their arrival, had made no sense to an increasingly weary-with-it-all Bodie. He glanced out at the crisp inky blackness of a November evening, and felt a pang of something it took a moment to identify as a kind of homesickness. He missed his own flat.

Bloody hell.

He looked down and turned the tap off slowly, knowing that what he was homesick for was not really his flat, just his life when he had last lived there full time. He actually liked it here. Very much. It was closer to work most days, the current CI5 local was a literal stone's throw away and his partner's recovery was ticking by, inch by miraculous inch, right under his nose.

Doyle's belongings had all been packed up and moved to this sunny ground floor flat in Ealing before he left the hospital. That Doyle would not want to move back to a flat where the air would forever smell of his own blood and sour milk had been assumed by all concerned. The 'all concerned', of course, being Cowley. Who had surprised Bodie by responding with a simple 'naturally' and a 'will that be all, 3.7?' to Bodie's grim-faced request for a two-bedroomed flat for Doyle this time. He'd had a whole ream of defensive points at the ready, including the high-tempered threat of losing both of them if CI5 didn't relax the bloody purse strings just this once. But in the end he'd needed none of them. Wired up to argue, Cowley'd had to tell him twice before he'd heard the command to sit down and look at photographs of a Bulgarian arms-trader back in the country, and the subject had been changed with seeming inconsequence. However, while outlining the surveillance Cowley had gone to the malt scotch and, without missing a beat, Bodie'd found a tumblerful pressed into his hands. So Bodie had drunk his scotch, successfully nabbed an arms dealer, and moved in with Doyle.

It had seemed a necessary evil on both sides at first. Bodie, awkward in his role as flatmate, but needed for a whole host of day-to-day things Ray simply couldn't do. And Doyle, thrilled to be out of hospital, but less than thrilled to realise how little he could do with that fact. And they had worked it out, Bodie was sure of it. A lot of tension, swallowed pride and ex-girlfriends later, and the rhythm of their lives before Mayli had somehow beat its way back between them, stronger and more sure of its right to be there. In the relaxed evenings spent hurling insults at the TV, in the meals Doyle now made an effort to cook and eat with his partner, and in the massages a white-faced Doyle occasionally requested when the Tank had hurt him, they had fucking worked it out.

So where had it gone?

Part of the puzzle to Bodie was that Doyle's slide back to sullen coincided with him getting much better. He was now only two weeks away from the obligatory refresher course and, barring complications, reassignment to light duties, then full reinstatement after he'd turned on the charm for Kate Ross. Bodie knew, as only Bodie would, that he still tired easily and moved slowly, especially at night. But it was all so gloriously fixable now, as if the Doyle at the end of the tunnel was finally in sight. So what his partner had now found to rail against with that vitriolic tongue of his - other than Bodie, of course - was beyond him.

He was tempted to leave, he truly was. Just pack a suitcase and go, before he or Doyle said something they couldn't get back from, and before he lost the ache to have his partner back by his side. He paused in the doorway to the living-room where Doyle was still reading and conspicuously ignoring him. And then he saw a tremor shake his partner's hand on the book and he knew, without thinking why, that he would stay. God help him, there was still something at the bottom of the well, a reserve marked 'Ray Doyle' that was clear and free of tar. Just about.

And with that, he determined that Ray was not going to change his plans for the evening, even if he had to quite literally twist his arm. Decision made, he stalked out to the hallway, grabbed Doyle's brown leather jacket off the peg and took it back to the door of the living-room.


Doyle looked up and caught it just in time, the book tumbling to the floor as he did so.

"What the f-?"

"Uh-uh, keep that rosy little thought in check, Raymond. We're off out, so get your jacket on and shift yourself."

Doyle just looked at him.

"Bloody hell, Ray. Look, I know dates don't mean much to those of us laying about at home all day, but it's the 5th." Bodie paused.


"Remember, remember the 5th of November. Though apparently not in your case." He bent a little and said it loud and slow. "Bonfire Night, sunshine." He straightened. "Even you must have given a few pennies away over the last few days." Doyle's penny-pinching was legendary, up there with a certain Scotsman's, and the local kids had undoubtedly tried their luck.

Not giving Doyle a chance to marshall any kind of counter argument, Bodie carried on, zipping up his own jacket as he spoke. "There's something on at that bit of greenery at the bottom of the road, fireworks, big bonfire, the lot. Murph pointed it out on the way in tonight."

"Did he now."

"Yeah, he did. So shift."

Doyle hadn't moved.

"C'mon, mate, you know you'll feel better when you've scalded yourself on tomato soup and watched something go up in flames."

Doyle looked down at his fallen book, his face expressionless and Bodie resisted the urge to step forward and shake him. Christ, it was only Guy Fawkes, not an IRA ceasefire he was asking him to-



Doyle looked up, the beginnings of a smile on his face. He moved until he was sitting up.

"Mum always gave us oxtail soup on Bonfire Night. Never had it the rest of the year, just Bonfire Night for some odd reason." He paused midway through shrugging on his jacket to look at Bodie.

Too distracted by the sheer normality of Doyle's remark, Bodie's answering grin was way out of proportion, and he had no idea what kind of response Doyle was expecting to something so mundane.

He was Bodie; he rallied.

"You don't say? Well, if you're a good lad we'll scrounge some up and you can re-live all that middle-class bliss." He spoke louder while he moved into the kitchen to close the window and set the backdoor locks. "All I remember is a skelping for spending all me pennies-for-the-guy on gobstoppers." He tugged the window to be sure; once bitten twice shy didn't even touch it.

"Thought we might meet up with Murph after, he can tell you all about the little old lady who knocked on the door of the obbo-van today." He reduced volume as he walked out to join Doyle at the now open front door. "Should've seen us, mate, me diving for cover, him pretending to be meals-on-wheels. We nearly busted a gut after. 'Course, not that our George saw the funny...Oi!"

Doyle had taken himself down the front steps a little too quickly, he turned back, his breath a white plume in the November air.

"What? Thought you were in a hurry?"

"We are. Hang on."

Bodie disappeared and emerged as second later with a scarf, which he thrust at Doyle.

"Here, it's cold out. Don't want you coming down with something just before Macklin gets hold of you. Last thing we need is a postponement, mate."

"Sure about that are you?"

Bodie was taken aback, by the sudden glitter to the eyes as much as by the quiet venom to the question. He flared quickly. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, leave it, Bodie." Doyle had wound the scarf tight in his fist, now he took a pace away. He spun, glaring. "Christ, aren't you sick of this? I know I am." He took himself back up the steps in two short, angry strides. "Let me make it easy for you. Mate." The last spat from the front door. "Go. To the bloody fireworks, to the pub, back to your own flat, up Cowley's arse for all I care. Just fucking go!"

"Yeah? With pleasure, sunshine! Cheers for the-" the door slammed, "-advice!" finished Bodie, fizzing with hurt and the desire to give some back. He could. He had his own key. He could go in, tear a strip or two off Doyle while he packed, ram home some home truths, and then slam his own way out.

He stood, aware of the key clenched tight enough to hurt in his fist, and then of a group of excited kids pelting past behind him.

Or he could avoid Doyle completely, stay a bit at the fireworks as he'd originally planned, then head for a few pints and take it from there. He looked up to see that no lights had flicked on. Serves him right, thought Bodie, with a vindictive twist, let him stew in the dark and see how it feels.

By the time he'd made his way to the gathering at the bottom of the road, the base of a rather impressive looking bonfire was ringed with onlookers, the smell of hot soup was in the air, and everywhere kids were rushing and yelling. He found two he knew, Doyle's neighbour's boys, so was easily press-ganged into sparkler duties. They all spelt names in the air before the boys rushed off with attention-deficiency enthusiasm a few minutes later. Bodie watched them head for the knot of people busy making last minute preparations for the burning of a rather large Guy.

He thought of leaving, just heading for the pub and the new barmaid Murph had been raving about, but something kept him there. And it wasn't Doyle. He really did like Bonfire Night. One of the more pleasant memories he had of his Liverpool childhood was of these nights; extra pennies in his pocket, a crick in his neck from watching rockets explode overhead, and a toffee apple in his fist.

Speaking of which...Bodie cast an eye around, and was just about to set off on a quest for food, when the prickle of something at his back held him in place. Doyle was approaching from behind, crunching the frosted grass in steady, measured steps.

Shit. Round fucking two after all.

Or maybe not. The footsteps stopped, well short of Bodie, then started again, less measured, until Bodie was suddenly aware of him at his shoulder. For a minute neither spoke nor moved, looking nowhere but the flames of the growing fire in front of them.

Bodie, being Bodie, broke first. Hands in his pockets he kept his eyes straight ahead.

"Look, if you've come for round two, Doyle, you can piss off. I'm not interested. I was, but I'm not now, okay?"

When there was no response to this, Bodie set his teeth and wondered what he'd done to a universe that had seen fit to put this man at his side. If Doyle was steeling himself for another vitriolic outburst, then Bodie would simply play the game and leave.

And maybe, just maybe, he would leave lock, stock and barrel this time.

He waited for the hammer to fall, so when something warm and soft fell across his shoulders instead, he flinched.

"Just a scarf, mate." Doyle moved around to face him, his voice soft. "You're right, it's perishing out here." As he spoke, he stretched up and forward to wrap it more securely around the back of Bodie's neck, in a gesture that clearly pulled and was therefore done slowly enough for Bodie to feel breath on his face. In and out, warm and even. He swallowed, taken aback yet again by his partner.

"There." Doyle stepped back, and for the first time caught Bodie's eye directly. But Bodie did not know what to understand in the face before him. Reading Doyle was an art he had never been particularly proficient in, and since Mayli he'd been wrong too many times to venture a response now. All he could do was realise that the scarf which had triggered it all was now wrapped around Doyle's neck.

Deciding to leave it up to the gods this time, Bodie kept his face still and simply waited. Doyle stayed where he was, but his gaze shifted to the ground.

"Don't,...don't go, Bodie." He aimed it at the grass at their feet, and it came out with all the ease and comfort of a tooth extraction.

Bodie schooled his face. He sensed a Doyle on the verge so not a muscle twitched. It was about time he heard an explanation, and his partner could work at giving him one, he was not giving an inch.

Somewhere to the left, a banger popped and a kid yelled in excitement. Neither man looked.

As if realising he was going to get no help from the implacable structure in front of him, Doyle glanced away and scuffed the grass. Bodie dug his hands deeper into his pockets and tried to look bored, willing himself not to soften and ask.

Doyle raked a hand through his hair and sighed heavily, appearing to come to a decision.

"Or maybe you should, I dunno. Murph's a good bloke, I mean, he'll keep you safe, watch your back." Bodie watched as Doyle's eyes skittered, suddenly fascinated to know exactly where his mutton-headed partner was going with this. He didn't have to wait long. "And let's face it, it's been a long time, well, too long now since I've had me gun out and belted out the car after anyone. Probably have to stop for a kip on the way. And another thing, there's Ross. What if she takes one…?"

Bodie stopped listening. Well, actively anyway. It was as if Doyle had forgotten he was actually talking to another person. He continued to watch the performance in front of him, mesmerised, and becoming more than a little touched and infuriated by the disjointed monolgue that was trying to tumble out.

The pillock was jealous. Of Murph.

So preposterous it wasn't even funny, Bodie was nevertheless sharp enough to hear the fear underneath, the one Doyle was really trying to voice with all this smoke and mirrors. Bodie knew that fear, he'd had it in Africa after a hospital stay for a fever which had literally melted him from the inside out. He had lain there, weak and uncaring, staring at the lazy swirl of a ceiling fan, and wondering if his squad had all moved on without him. And he'd tried to imagine his life if he wasn't going to recover enough to catch up. The connection came with a mental finger snap. The books. He'd had nothing but a fan; Doyle had chosen books.

Bodie shook his head. At himself as much as the burbling idiot in front of him. He should have realised. So sure of Doyle and the place he had in the world, he hadn't taken so much as a second to consider that Doyle might have had that certainty eaten away by weeks of inaction. Getting laid up from time to time was part of the territory, but this had been touch and go surgery like never before. And for injuries that had required shock treatment on the operating table, to a fibrillating heart that had apparently heard Bodie willing it on from the gallery above.

So, jealous and scared, then. And giving Bodie an out. And in his own cack-handed way, trying to be gracious about it.

"…to know that if you think it'd be best, then I'll just...y'know…" He petered out, unable to finish the thought aloud and Bodie could bear it no longer.

"You'll what, sunshine? Take yourself off to the knacker's yard while Murph and I ride off into the sunset? Bloody hell, Doyle, but you're a morbid bugger at times."

He had a startled Doyle in the headlights and he took the advantage.

"Yes, I'm working with Murph a lot these days - not much bloody choice with half the squad off with flu! And yes, he's a good bloke, but if you don't think I'm counting the days, mate, then you're more of an idiot than I thought. Which-" he added quickly, hand out of his pocket in a don't-interrupt-me gesture, "-we both know just isn't fucking possible."

He stepped in close, the frustrations of the last few weeks coming to a boil.

"Christ, Ray, what do you think's been going on here? How many people, other than the very occasional bird, d'you think I've ever shared with? Lived with? I'll tell you shall I, sunshine?" He jabbed a finger into his partner's chest. Hard. "None. Not one. Ever. Not my style, is it?" Doyle flinched, his breathing a hard and heavy mist in the night air. "You think if Murph or Jax got laid up I'd be living with them, taking their crap and going back for more, just to see them on their feet again, and be so bloody happy when they were?" Doyle looked away, but Bodie stayed with him. "Well? Do you? Because I'll tell you something mate, if you do, then in a thousand fucking ways, I've got you wrong and I'll up and leave right now."

He caught the muscle jump in Doyle's jaw and this time he let his head go down. Breathing heavily, Bodie stepped away to collect himself. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets against the cold and turned into the heat of the bonfire. He caught a blur of movement to his right. Doyle's sleeve. He heard a sniff.

The cold, he told himself.

Didn't matter, he couldn't hold onto it. All that righteous indignation fuelling him eased up and away. He shook his head. Christ, how did someone so infuriating and misguided get to be so irreplaceable? He exhaled loudly, the last of his anger disappearing into a white plume of air, and glanced across at the bent, still worrying head. He knew he had no choice but to accept his lot in life, yet again. Which was that Ray Doyle had him by the short and curlies, however he liked to think otherwise.

"Look," he paused, awkward, uncertain how to reassure, but suddenly wanting to. "I know you haven't had an easy time of it, mate. And I know I'm not anyone's idea of Florence Nightingale."

A small smile at that.

"Oh , I don't know, Bodie. Put you in a cap and apron and give you a lamp, you'd be quite fetching."

Doyle looked a little ragged and bright-eyed as he turned his head, but the spark was definitely a gentler one. Sensing that they might have weathered something important, Bodie nudged the shoulder next to his and said, in much the same tone.

"Ha bloody ha."

The first of the rockets began to whine and burst overhead, and Bodie leaned into Ray's shoulder a little more. They both craned their necks upwards and Bodie grinned at the sky. In his turbulent life he had seen much on many shores, and was rarely awed by what nature or mankind had to say for itself. But there was something about fireworks against the black of a starry November sky that never failed to lift his spirits.

"Oi!" This from Doyle a few seconds later.

"Yeah?" Bodie was still looking up.


"I am!"

"Not there," Doyle elbowed him. "There." He nodded towards the fire, where the flames were now enveloping the last of the wood at the top. "Dunno about you, mate, but that Guy doesn't half look-"

"- a lot like a certain Scotsman," finished Bodie on a note of delight.

Dressed in an old trenchcoat, some wag had topped the dummy with a sandy haired wig, and drawn thick dark glasses around the eyes. Flames began to curl the trenchcoat and a cheer went up from the crowd of onlookers.

On instinct each turned to the other, and Bodie gave back the same smile he saw on Doyle's face as the moment, the joke, and all that it meant was savoured. Another rocket went off behind them and Doyle tilted his head up, but not to watch the firework. He closed his eyes and took the deepest breath that he could. Bodie found his attention drawn to his partner, the orange glow of firelight adding something intense to the gesture. Neither saw that particular rocket explode.

Doyle opened his eyes and looked at Bodie again. "You're sure?" was all he asked.

"That it looks like Cowley? Absolutely. Could be voodoo, actually, sunshine. Fancy sticking pins in before it's too late?"

"I didn't-"

"I know, and yes, I'm sure." He rounded on his partner. "You're at the gym and the range every day, even when you're told not to. Doyle, mate, you've probably shot more things than I have in the last two weeks." He shifted his feet a little, feeling the cold now that the bonfire was starting to fade. "All evidence to the contrary, of course," he added dryly, "your temper and reactions are as sweet as always." He ducked the expected cuff. "And all things being equal, sunshine, if you do not rescue me from the sheer boredom that is CI5 without you, I may have to run away to sea again, and god knows where me sea legs are now, so can we go? I'm bloody freezing and I haven't had so much as a toffee apple yet."

Bodie did forlorn well, and he knew it. Doyle had told him once that if he had fur he'd be a basset hound, and if Doyle hesitated one more minute about any of this, he'd stick out his bottom lip and be done with it.

Doyle surveyed him, smiling now. "You are turning a bit blue. C'mon. Let's get ourselves into a nice warm pub."

Bodie found his arm squeezed as Doyle took hold and began to pull him along.

"Toffee apple first," Bodie pulled them into a change of direction. "Then pub." He hesitated, "or we could just go back." He had no wish to have Doyle's hard won equanimity shaken by something careless Murphy might say or do.

"Nah, not til I've heard about Murph and his meals-on-wheels. Too good to pass up, mate." He tutted loudly as Bodie stopped to pick out and pay for the largest toffee apple there was. "Your arteries must hate you, mate. Not for me, love, no." Said with a bright smile to the woman serving. They resumed walking and Doyle continued. "Besides, he owes me a fiver from a bet before I was shot, which he has yet to fork over. We can take it back in darts money."

"Oh, we can can we?" said Bodie, barely audible around a large crunch of toffee and apple. He was the grudgingly acknowledged better darts player of the two.

"Well, we'd better, you still haven't paid the milkman, yet."

Bodie choked. "But it's your bloody milkman...Oi!"

Quick as a flash, Doyle had nicked his toffee apple and taken a bite.

" 'S good this, why didn't you get me one?"

"By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match."
     --a traditional Bonfire Night chant

-- THE END --

November 2006

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