The Uses of Adversity


Written for "Discovered in Temptation" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt "envy."

"Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head."

--Shakespeare, As You Like It

Cowley pulled his heavy-framed glasses off, dropping them on the desk and rubbing tiredly at his face. There were times -- not many, but enough -- when he found the necessities of his job hard to live with. Levering himself to his feet, his aching leg pulling his balance slightly off, for one fierce moment he longed to be free simply to stand by an uncovered window and gaze out of it. But security considerations forbade it, one of the many constraints he had accepted in his upward journey to his current position. Most of the time now he was hardly aware of them any more; they were as natural and unconsidered as breathing. But occasionally something would happen that would bring the weight of them pressing down like the globe on Atlas's shoulders.

Such a thing had happened today, and the responsibility lay with him.

Restless, he took the few paces to the door and leant out. Unable to resist asking, although he knew the question was needless, he enquired if there was any news. He didn't need to specify the subject. As he had known she would, Betty simply shook her head. The hospital had said they would call if there was any change. They hadn't called. He pulled the door closed again with more vigour than was necessary, before reluctantly acceding to his leg's demand and sitting back down.

Self-recrimination was not a trait common among the security services. One did one's job, one lived with the consequences. But Cowley's upbringing had been pure Presbyterian Scottish, and one could not just shrug off the tenets of one's youth so easily. He had long since accepted he could not do his job while abiding by the morals of his youth; unfortunately, nor could he erase them from his consciousness. The combination no doubt made him successful. It was not, however, conducive to peaceful sleep.

Hands fidgeting mindlessly with the papers in front of him, he took a deep breath and allowed his conscience to unite with his memory. Had he made the only decision possible in the circumstances, or had there been other options? Could he be absolutely clear to his own satisfaction that he had not made the decision that day last week based at least in part on his own emotions? That the decision which had ultimately put one of his agents in hospital had not been made, at least in part, because he had experienced such a bitter, slashing blade of envy?

Envy which might have led to the death of one of them.

One Week Earlier

The vast warehouse which sprawled like a sullen teenager across the stark, rundown Docklands area of London was an unlikely place to find CI5's (and other agencies') training facilities, but this was in part what made it such a good choice. The lack of inquisitive neighbours made outside training much easier, especially as some of the methods used might appear at the least questionable to the uninitiated.

Sometimes, Bodie reflected grimly, they appeared pretty questionable to the initiated too. He had been through this whole routine more times than he cared to remember -- they both had - but this was harder. Not only was there the ever-present awareness of increasing age with its concomitant decreasing physical fitness, albeit marginal at such an elite level, but today the final decision would be made concerning Doyle's fitness to return to the squad after the shooting that nearly killed him so many months ago.

Bodie had jollied his partner along, unable to contemplate any other option than a full return to duty, but now that the day had come he was as scared as he had been the first time he ran away from home. His input would be such a small part of the final decision; the judgement of Macklin carrying final weight. Of course, Doyle was physically recovered in every normal way; he had the doctors' reports to prove that, but to win and retain a place on Cowley's squad required more than that. Having just completed the final exercise, Bodie was sure that Doyle ought to sail through, but who knew what Macklin might say? His standards were, necessarily, demanding, and more than one unsuspecting agent had been failed in the past.

At last able to force his aching muscles into some semblance of obedience, he rolled over onto his side and gradually levered himself up off the floor.

Doyle was still flat on his back, his chest heaving, his T-shirt soaked, but his eyes snapped open as he became aware of Bodie's movement and within a matter of seconds he was on his feet too, standing beside his partner and looking up at the observation window. He knew who would be there beside Macklin, but he was too exhausted by now to feel more than a dreary resignation. He had done everything, everything he could to get himself back to his pre-injury level of fitness. If more was required, he didn't think he would be able to find it. There was nothing left in him to dredge up. He was even beginning to wonder if he really wanted this anymore.

"Well, Brian?" Cowley's tone was edged with an undercurrent unfamiliar to the trainer. Impatience Macklin was accustomed to, even irritation, but this was something different. Puzzled, he allowed a few moments to try to identify it, but at the exasperated (and familiar) tch of annoyance he snapped back to the matter in hand.

"So far as I'm concerned, he's passed. Fitness, stamina, endurance, response times -- all within pretty much the same range as before. All slightly under the last set of results before the shooting, but the difference is marginal. Certainly not enough to cause any concern." Cold blue eyes softened fractionally as he looked down on the man in question. "He's made a really remarkable recovery, you know. At least you'll have no reason to doubt his commitment -- anyone who wasn't one hundred percent committed would never have achieved what he has."

"Send the papers through as soon as you can, Brian. I suppose I'd better go and break the good news." There it was again. That edge to Cowley's words. Macklin had expected the Controller to be glad, or at least relieved. New agents were hard to come by and expensive to retain; to have salvaged one as badly injured but as valuable as Doyle was surely a matter for some pleasure, however muted. He watched as Cowley descended the stairs awkwardly to the body of the warehouse, where Bodie and Doyle were now rubbing themselves down with towels, noticing with a slight frown that his boss seemed to be favouring his leg more than usual. In no hurry to start on the required paperwork, he remained where he was as Cowley approached the two men, spoke briefly to Doyle and then turned away. Only because he was still wondering about the slightly off tenor of their brief conversation did Macklin continue to watch Cowley instead of the now-relieved agents. Otherwise, he wouldn't have seen Cowley turn and fix Doyle briefly with a glare so fierce it could have lit water, before he turned and limped away.

What the hell was that about?

Then Bodie's shout of triumph grabbed his attention, and followed as it was by an offer to celebrate in the nearest pub, Cowley's strange behaviour went right out of Macklin's mind.

The drive back to London was not as productive as it should have been. Usually, chauffeured as he was, Cowley was able to use this time to clear some of the endless morass of paperwork that was always threatening to swamp him. But this time his mind could not shake off the images he had seen at the training facility. Doyle, slightly underweight still, but lithe, agile and fast. As fit as if he hadn't died once. How had he done it? What did Doyle have that he, Cowley, had lacked, that had enabled the one to make a full recovery while the other was condemned to life with this damned limp that was a constant reminder of his own failures?

When they reached HQ, Cowley had not dealt with one piece of the paperwork he had balanced on his lap as the drive began.

His mood worsened.

"Come on, mate, move it, will you? Cowley'll have our hides if we're late for this briefing."

"Alright, alright, I'm coming," and with a final slam of a door, Bodie was running down the pavement towards the gold Capri, beating Doyle to it with enough time to allow him to turn an unruffled smirk on his newly-reinstated partner from the passenger seat. Waving a hand with practised disdain, he drawled "The Office, James. I'm late for a meeting, so do hurry, there's a good chap." He should have expected the jolt as Doyle pulled away with no regard to clutch control, but there was a smile lurking on both their faces at this return to normality. Even being late -- or nearly so -- was just like getting back to the way things had been.

By the time the briefing ended, that sense of things being back to normal was only too real -- only the normal that things seemed to be getting back to was not the normal Bodie, or Doyle, for that matter, would have chosen for Ray's first day back on active duty. No easing him in gently, that was for sure. No, Cowley had dropped them right in it. Doyle especially.

"This IRA cell has been under surveillance for the last month, ever since their location was verified. We've been working closely with Special Branch on this one, and their latest report indicates that the cell is about to make its move, but it needs more equipment. You should all be aware", a pair of flinty eyes seemed to latch onto Doyle with particular ferocity, "that the main group supplying explosives on the mainland was successfully taken down recently. While the IRA are regrettably rather good at DIY bomb-making, there are still certain items they prefer to source from professionals. This is where we come in. Special Branch and CI5 have been working very hard to create a shadowy new figure in the illegal arms trade, who would be willing and able to source and sell exactly what they need. It seems we have been successful. A meeting is scheduled for later this week, and if all goes according to plan, we should be able to neutralise this entire cell. Maybe more." He swept another gaze around the room. "When all the details are arranged, you'll be briefed on your jobs. In the meantime, the routine surveillance continues. Doyle, I want to see you. The rest of you, dismissed."

Doyle glanced once at Bodie before following Cowley. He had a suspicion he could guess what was coming.

He wasn't wrong. He couldn't fault Cowley's reasoning. With most of CI5 and Special Branch having been involved with this surveillance to some extent or other over the last month, it did make perfect sense to bring in as the 'buyer' the one man in either organisation that had had absolutely no involvement so far. Even Doyle's background lent itself to this. Many of the agents were former army men, and had spent time in Northern Ireland. While unlikely, there was always a chance that they might be recognised. Doyle's police background made this less of a risk.

So, if it all made such good sense, why was Doyle's internal warning system sounding off so loudly? And why was it that all the time Cowley was briefing him on what he was to do, the man refused to meet his gaze?

Of course, Bodie hadn't been there, hadn't seen Cowley's strange behaviour. When Doyle tried to discuss it with him that evening, when they met for a swift drink, Bodie dismissed it. "You're just being paranoid, mate. You know what Cowley's like. He probably had half his mind on the next meeting with the Minister or something." Doyle sighed, but gave up. There was no talking to Bodie when he was in this kind of mood. He was still hyped-up, glad at last to have his partner back and rather inclined to act like a puppy which had finally retrieved its favourite slipper and wanted to settle in for a good, long chew. In fact, Bodie was delighted that Cowley had given this undercover job to Doyle, as though it was the greatest affirmation any agent could require. "First day back, mate, and there you are, straight in to a plum job. All nice and safe, with us and Special Branch watching your back, and lots of kudos for everyone from the Prime Minister down once those bastards are taken out of action. It'll be a piece of cake. Fancy another pint?"

But Doyle hadn't. Everything Bodie said made sense, in just the way that everything Cowley said had made sense, but while Bodie's enthusiasm was unfeigned and his assessment straightforward, there had just been something about Cowley, almost as if he was doing this against his better judgement, or under protest. But it was nothing tangible, and without the words how could he explain to Bodie why he was unsure about the assignment? Not that he had a choice about accepting it, in any case. Might as well forget about Cowley's reservations, if they even existed outside his own imagination, and just get on with it.

Cowley sat in his office long after dark had fallen, studying again every last detail of the joint operation with Special Branch. He knew, only too well, that even apparently straightforward plans could sometimes go horribly awry and he had no intention of allowing that to happen if he could prevent it. Of course, these IRA cells were like the Hydra's heads; lop one off and more burst out to take its place, but it would slow things down for a while, maybe keep a few innocent civilians from being killed, and that was his job. That was all he could hope to achieve. He looked again at the file on his desk. The planning was meticulous, the intelligence apparently accurate and well-founded, the cover sound. There was no reason to think that anything would happen but what was planned. Doyle would walk in there, the deal would be done and then the place would be raided, the terrorists captured and the cell closed. The Minister would be happy, his men could move onto the next job, and Cowley himself would have nothing to reproach himself with. Nothing at all.

The day of the meeting approached with a swiftness Doyle could have dispensed with. Despite his return to active status, Cowley had ordered that he remain out of sight until this op was over, not wanting to take any chances so close to their goal of Doyle being spotted. The only occasion on which he was allowed out of the Records Room was to visit Marty Martell, Bodie's contact, in the hope that should he been seen, this would get back to the right ears.

He quite desperately wanted to talk to someone -- to Bodie -- about his apprehensiveness, but there was just never the chance. Even if it was just to hear Bodie dismiss the feeling as inevitable jitters after being absent from work for so long, it would have been better than nothing. But Bodie was working long hours on surveillance, and when they did see each other there was little chance for a private talk. Doyle even considered, fleetingly, going to see Dr Ross. The idea was absurd though, in all practical ways, as he knew with absolute certainty that doing so would be the equivalent of falling on his sword. She would have him back on standby so fast, no-one, including Cowley, would know what had hit him.

Maybe it was just first-night nerves. It had been almost a year, after all, since he had done anything like this. Come this close to a bullet. Another bullet, that could rip and tear and burn and destroy...

No. No, no, no. He couldn't think like this. It would be fine. It was a tight set-up, as safe as anything like this could ever be, and it was his job. He could do it.

He wished, fiercely, enviously, for just a fraction of Bodie's insouciance to see him though this.

God, this is worse than dressing for your first date. Another jacket tossed on the bed, another tie dragged out from the back of the wardrobe. Sod, it, why am I bothering? It's not as if they're going to be giving me marks in some 'best-dressed' competition. Rummaging under the pile of clothes now littering the bed, he yanked out the jeans he had started out in and pulled them back on. Absently, he noted that they were still too loose, even after all the re-training. He grabbed the jacket on top of the pile, and with a glare at the alarm clock began to yank it on. With all this all this pratting about over what to wear, he was in danger of being late.

Five minutes later, his stomach as hollow as a lead pipe, and feeling about as heavy, he undid the door of the loaned Mercedes and began to drive to his destination. He knew without looking that he had a tail, but didn't know if it was a colleague, or someone from Special Branch.

At the final meeting last night, held carefully away from central London, Cowley had informed him tersely that he would be followed en route, but that they could no take no chances with a wiretap. It was not unreasonable for him to go to such a meeting armed, but it was inevitable that he would be searched on arrival and all weaponry removed. "We've bugged the area around the meeting place as far as we can, but no-one's been able to get inside." The sideways look he cast at the Special Branch liaison spoke volumes, even to one not fluent in Cowley-speak. "Even if we could have got someone in, we agreed it would be too dangerous. If they found the bug, the whole op could go up in smoke. If we can't hear what's going on, and it's likely that we won't, we'll wait for you to emerge from the building before we go in."

Funny how the traffic's always light when you're not in a hurry to get somewhere, and a bastard when you are. OK, this is it. Christ, there's even a parking place nearly outside. Typical. Casual look around, just like any self-respecting arms dealer would. You don't want them to think you're not being just as cautious as them -- that would be a dead giveaway. Don't forget the case. Nondescript street, bins overflowing; thank god my days in bedsit-land are long gone. Though sometimes I wonder. Reckon Bodie and I must spend as much time in places like this as we do our own flats. More, probably. Gets you down after a while. Suppose I've been spoilt since coming out of hospital and got used to not being in places like this.

Stop arsing about and get on with it. Right. Number 76, basement flat. Push the button, codeword -- I'm in. Must be that door at the end -- yes, there he is. Just remember, say what you need to say, show them the stuff, take the money and get out. Easy.

And the strange thing was, it was easy. Now he was here, the undercover persona slipped over Ray Doyle like an alter ego, summoned to the surface when needed. Nerves turned to adrenalin, firing a heightened sense of his surroundings and the people in it. From under the surface, he heard himself speak, watched his movements, and believed, as they did, that he was indeed an arms dealer. His hands opened the case, his ears heard the contents being approved, his eyes watched as they, in turn, opened a case full of money and offered it to him in exchange.

Snapping the lid closed, the noise sounded unduly loud in ears which were suddenly his again. With the meeting nearly over, his second skin was getting ready to slip back. Just a little longer and he would be out of here, and it would all be over. Just a little longer...

He was halfway to the door before the voice spoke.

Unfortunately, there was a cock-up. The first to emerge from the seedy building where the meeting had taken place, was not Doyle, as all had expected it to be, but two members of the IRA cell they were planning to arrest. One of the younger agents leapt out from hiding before realising that the conditions for revealing himself had not been met, and before they knew it, all hell was breaking out. The terrorists, armed and cornered, fought. The young agent never had a chance to learn from his mistake, unless it was that some mistakes can be fatal.

Bodie, of course, was the first to realise that Doyle was still inside the building, and now potential hostage material. There was a third man who had been seen entering the building some time before the meeting was due to start, and who was still in there. With Doyle. It was a new face, and they were still trying to identify him, but in that company he was hardly going to be anything other than very dangerous. Especially now that there was a bloodbath going on outside.

Cowley forbade him from going in. Even threatened to have him restrained. "Wait," he said, as if that was all that was needed to bring Doyle out unharmed. Bodie, ever-cool-under-pressure, felt his blood pumping faster, felt a light sprinkling of sweat under his polo neck and barely resisted the urge to hit the nearest thing, even if it was Cowley's unyielding face.

After nearly half an hour had passed with no movement from inside, Bodie could contain his impatience no longer. Pulling back from the edge of the perimeter established by the local police, he began to pace grimly up and down, hoping the movement might help him think. When the police constable approached him, he tried to ignore him, but the young man's persistence finally penetrated Bodie's oblivious haze, which cleared like snow in June as he registered the words.

"I've been interviewing the neighbours, like your Mr Cowley asked us to, in case they saw anything useful. Well, Mrs Harrison over there," he jerked his chin towards a lean, grey-haired woman with avid eyes standing slightly to one side, "hasn't actually seen anything, but she's lived here all her life, she says, and according to her the attics of these houses run into each other, pair by pair. She reckons if you get someone up into the roof space of number 78, you might be able to get through to number 76."

Bodie felt as if he had just been offered the crown jewels. His "ta, mate" was flung over his shoulder as he slipped through the cordon of policemen. He considered, fleetingly, filling Cowley in and then decided against it. Better just to get on with it, although he did grab Murphy on his way round the back of the terraced street just to make sure there would be someone he trusted keeping an eye out for him.

The back way was guarded too, but Cowley's attention was focused at the front, and Bodie was able to slip through with surprising ease, leaving Murphy to wait outside. The houses nearby had all been evacuated, and he had no trouble finding his way to the top floor of number 78. Finding the roof access was trickier, as it turned out to be inside the top flat, but once there it was a matter of moments to locate the plaster board separating this loft space from the one next door. He hesitated for a moment, wary of making any noise that might alert his prey, but it seemed luck was on his side. Cowley's voice blared out of a loudspeaker, urging the remaining terrorists to "give yourselves up before anymore people get hurt", and the noise provided sufficient cover for Bodie to knock through the fragile plasterboard and creep through the hole. Gun drawn, he lifted the trap door a fraction and peered through. The room below was almost identical both in layout and in clutter to its twin next door. It was empty, and he lowered himself down silently before gently turning the handle on the door leading to the hallway. From here, it would get more dangerous. There was no way of telling if the man -- or men -- had stayed in the basement flat after the shooting had stopped, or had decided another part of the building might be easier to defend.

Each step was tested before Bodie allowed his weight to settle. One creak might be all it took to give away his location and wreck his only chance of getting to his partner. Cowley was putting the pressure on outside, and it was only a matter of time before they decided to make use of their only bargaining chip -- Doyle.

It turned out he was absolutely right about that. As he made his way down the final flight of stairs, having ascertained the rest of the building above him was indeed empty, the door of the basement flat straight ahead of him burst open, and he was confronted by his partner, held in a neck lock with a gun to his head. It was hard to tell who was more surprised, but Doyle's reaction was instant, and Bodie's perfectly in tune. Doyle stopped dead, lifted one leg and brought it down with all his force on his captor's instep. The man flinched, releasing his hold just enough that Doyle could let his weight sag, clearing the way for Bodie to take a head shot. The man was dead before he hit the ground, spasming arm muscles bringing Doyle down with him.

Bodie ran down the rest of the stairs and reached out an arm to haul his partner to his feet. "You ok?"

"Yeah. I owe you one."

"Yeah. Fancy telling Cowley he's dead?" and Bodie handed over his R/T with a smirk. "They'll be getting ready to storm the place after hearing that gunshot."

Doyle pulled a face, but pushed the button and began to speak. Bodie tuned out the words, allowing himself to check his partner over visually now Doyle's attention was elsewhere. He really did seem pretty much unharmed -- a bruise on his face suggested he'd been hit, but other than that there were no obvious signs of injury. There was the faintest tremor visible in the hand holding the R/T, but Bodie was keenly aware that he had the shakes too. After a close encounter like this, it was normal.

Breathing deeply to calm himself and get his body's reaction under control, he found himself listening to the last few words of Doyle's exchange with their boss. It seemed that they were to come out, now, and report to Cowley in person. With a tilt of an eyebrow, Doyle pushed ahead of Bodie, ran up the stairs and stepped out into the sunlight.

Cowley was seething. The entire operation had been a foul-up, from start to finish. Shots fired in broad daylight, in the middle of a residential area; exactly the kind of event he sought to avoid at all costs. The publicity would be horrendous, the interviews with bombastic politicians even more so -- and not even a cell member left to interrogate. His agents were alive, and according to Doyle unharmed, but what the hell had he been playing at, to allow himself to be captured like that. And Bodie -- who did he think he was, going in with no orders, not even having the sense to tell anyone what he was up to. Did he think he was invincible, or just above orders? The two of them together didn't have the sense God had given them. If it had been him, now, fit enough still to be at the forefront of the action, he would have handled it differently. He would haveó

A single shot tore through Cowley's self-absorbed musings and in one horrified flash, he realised he had not passed on Doyle's message that the remaining terrorist was dead. Nor had he informed the gaggle of armed men outside that he had just ordered his agents to come out.

Bodie was barely two seconds behind Doyle as he stepped out of the door, and he had a grandstand view of what happened next. Among the crowd of police and security personnel outside, Doyle's sudden appearance caused a ripple of surprise, barely detected before someone panicked and fired. Straight at the figure silhouetted in the sunlight.

Bodie watched Doyle fall even as the sound of the gunshot cracked across his ears.

It was like Mayli all over again, only this time he got to see the shooting happen, instead of only living it in his nightmares. Even through the ringing in his ears, he heard the dull thud of Doyle's body hitting the doorstep. Bodie had his jacket off and in his hands to use as a bandage before he knew what was happening. Careless of any chance of a repeat performance, aware with some still-functioning part of his brain that the shooter had been pounced on and orders were being shouted, he dropped to the ground next to his partner and searched with a cold clarity for the wound, for the blood he knew must be pouring out of the limp body.

He blinked, eyes still raking Doyle's body. Then he saw it; blood welling up in the dark hair, beginning to slide slowly down towards the ground.

The noise of the telephone startled Cowley from the half-doze he had fallen into. Seconds later, his office door opened and Betty came in. "That was the hospital, sir. Doyle's come round, and he's fine. It was just a crease. Bodie says the doctor's just going to keep him in overnight for observation, but he can leave in the morning. He should be fit for work again in a few days."

Cowley wasn't sure what he said, but he had clearly managed some kind of appropriate response as Betty simply nodded and left, closing the door gently behind her.

He pulled himself to his feet. He had been luckier than he deserved, that his momentary loss of concentration had not resulted in another death. It was time -- long past time - to accept what he could not change.

"In you go, sunshine." Bodie's hand in the small of his back ushered Doyle across the threshold of his flat. "How's the head?"

"Could be worse. Those painkillers they gave me are a damn sight more effective than anything I've got here."

Bodie just grunted slightly as he locked the door and removed his jacket, dropping it on the armchair nearby. His emotions had been locked down since the moment Doyle fell, and now he could contain them no longer. A strong, unsettling feeling of walking on the edge swamped him, and recklessly he went with it. Three long strides brought him close to where Doyle still stood, watching him with an odd glint in his eyes. Without conscious direction, Bodie's hands came up and wrapped themselves around the base of Doyle's skull, fingers buried in the long hair, thumbs gently framing the uneven cheekbones.

Neither spoke. Only the sound of their breathing, suddenly loud in the silence, could be heard.

That moment could have lasted for ever, or for no time. Afterwards, neither of them could ever judge how long it took for the world to tilt, flip, and land back a different way up. Bodie's groan as his lips met Doyle's could have been the sound of the world settling back in place. When Doyle's arms closed around his back, hands splayed wide to touch as much as he could, Bodie's entire body lit up. Each vein, every capillary near the surface of his skin took fire and flashed it right back to his heart. There was nothing else but this touch, this taste, this scent, and the sight and sound of Ray finally in his arms.

"How's the head?" Bodie watched as Doyle's eyes opened, their dazed look rapidly replaced by a calm satisfaction he could never recall having seen before.

"Seem to remember you asking me that before, just before you jumped on me."

"I did not jump. I moved purposefully."

"Oh yeah. You did that too. Then you jumped me."

"You saying you didn't like being jumped? Because I have to tell you, mate, that was not the impression I got."

"Not saying anything of the sort. In fact, you can jump me any time you like. And the head's lousy."

"I'll put the kettle on." Unable to find any item of clothing he wanted to put back on, Bodie settled for wandering off to the bathroom, emerging shortly with a towel wrapped around his waist and a glass of water and two more painkillers for Doyle. "Take these and I'll make some tea."

Doyle came and sat down at the kitchen table while Bodie was filling the teapot. "The Cow's not going to be too pleased, is he, if he finds out what we've been up to."

Bodie snorted inelegantly. "When he finds out, you mean. Not that we necessarily have to go round advertising it, but unless this was a one-off for you, I'm not planning to sneak around in holes and corners." If his hand shook slightly as he replaced the kettle, he was glad that only he could see it.

Doyle's response was instant, and as calm as if they had been preparing for this moment all their lives. "No sneaking. And it had damn well better not be a one-off." Bodie turned then and smiled. Not the broad, get-your-knickers-off smile that he used on women, but an unguarded smile that felt at once strange and totally right on his face. The answering smile it summoned to Doyle's face was enough to make Bodie feel that he could just stay here forever, beaming inanely. But Doyle hadn't finished. "Listen, Bodie, I think we should tell Cowley. He's not going to like it, but he'll like it even less if he finds out from someone else. If we get in first, once he gets over the shock he may be more willing to deal with it. It's not as if we're doing anything illegal, after all."

"He'll probably see it as a security risk."

"Yeah, but if he knows about us because we've told him, then that undermines the whole blackmail potential, doesn't it? But if he throws us out -- I'd survive. Would you?"

"No question. Might be about time for a change, anyway. I don't think I can take the strain of you getting shot again."

"Hey, this was just a graze! Less than twenty-four hours in hospital doesn't count!"

"Not from where I'm standing. And I still don't get how that happened. You'd told Cowley the last terrorist was dead. It wasn't as if we left the building before he had time to order everyone to stand down."

"Bodie." It was more of a sigh than a word. Bodie knew they'd already gone over all this in hospital after Doyle had finished dictating his report, and had got exactly nowhere.

"Yeah, but we could have been killed! I still don't understand what the hell he was playing at. He goes off like a rocket if he thinks any of us are less than a hundred percent focused on the job, and then he lets something like this happen.

"But you're right about getting in first. Although maybe we could wait just a few days, before we talk to him. We're both off for the next couple of days anyway, so we could have a sort of..."

"Trial run?"

"Well, that sounds better than 'honeymoon', but you get my drift."

"Sounds good to me. Is that tea ready yet?"

-- THE END --

March 2007

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