And You Can Have This Heart to Break

by


Sequel to I Will Lay Down My Heart

For Sue, because she really wanted to know what happened next




The barmaid had been eyeing him for the past half hour and it was for that reason that Doyle ordered another of the same. He wasn't drunk--not even close--and he wasn't causing, or intending to cause, any trouble. Just a solitary man, enjoying his drink, with every right to be doing so. He supposed the bruising around his eye had come up. Well, there were no laws barring men with black eyes from drinking in pubs.

Doyle smiled as the barmaid set another glass in front of him. She sniffed and turned away. The pub was busy for a weeknight, the Thursday crowd just beginning to thin. Give it another hour and he'd fit right in with the remaining patrons--the ones with nowhere else to go. Thanks to CI-bloody-5 he didn't have a job to go back to.

He raised his glass and took a swallow of lager. He'd had four jobs in ten months. Perhaps it wasn't a record but it was getting old. He'd even rather liked this last job, although, admittedly, the attraction had only developed once he'd begun to realise the scale of the fraud and embezzlement scheme Dockert had been caught up in. Doyle shook his head. Why the fool had hired an ex-CI5 agent he'd never understand, but Dockert had, unintentionally, given Doyle more fun in the last month than he'd had in the nine before that. It was worth the black eye, witnessing the way everything had fallen into place and the whole scheme had collapsed. Dockert, Doyle reckoned, would be getting worse than a beating from his bosses. They'd try to pin most of the criminal activity on him, and the others who cooperated, but it wouldn't work. Doyle had found all the evidence CI5 needed to hang the lot of them--from the two City Council members to the Assistant Deputy Chief Constable to the clerk in the Records office.

Earlier today, CI5 agents--with the cooperation of a chastened Greater Manchester Police--had moved in on the operation, top to bottom. Doyle, after an encounter with the panicked Dockert, had slipped away, not wanting to meet any of his former colleagues under these circumstances. Satisfaction was well and good, but it still left him without a job and the rent to pay. He'd probably buggered any chance he'd had of finding another job in Manchester. It didn't help that the only jobs he was really qualified for were the very ones he had no chance of getting. He felt the edge of the familiar black depression creeping in on him.

"Drowning your sorrows, are you?"

Doyle looked up to find Sally Conner settling next to him at the bar. He'd caught a glimpse of her earlier as CI5 had arrived at his job site, just before he'd faded into the background. "I'm celebrating, can't you see?"

"Not judging by your expression. She signalled to the barmaid. "It's your round, isn't it?"

"Oi, I'm the unemployed one here."

"By choice. I'm not sure that counts."

"It counts to my wallet." Doyle drank his lager.

"And here I never believed those rumours about you and your wallet." Sally handed the money for her beer to the barmaid. Turning back to Doyle, she raised her glass. "Cowley's pleased with you."

"Is he." Doyle kept his eyes on his glass.

"Not interested, eh?"

"No."

"You're just an ordinary private citizen now."

"That's right."

"Who calls CI5 after running his own investigation."

"Well, I didn't want you lot mucking about my workplace, did I?"

"It's in your blood, Doyle, who are you trying to fool?"

Doyle gave her a look. "I'm well out of it."

She shook her head, her short hair moving smoothly with the motion. "You haven't even begun to get out of it."

"Are you here for a purpose, Sal? If so, get on with it, because I was getting along just fine on my own."

"I can see that by the condition of your eye." She reached a hand towards his face, but Doyle pulled back. "Dockert did that?"

Doyle shrugged.

"Are you leaving Manchester?"

"My rent's paid for another month."

"Ray--" She broke off at his gesture. "All right. It's your funeral. I came to find you to say the investigation's well in hand, thanks to you. We'll get them all. Clean sweep."

"Good. Who was it followed me from work?"

She smiled at that. "Trust you. His name's Henley, he's just been promoted from junior. Caught him right away, did you?"

"Nah, was at least half a mile."

"You're slipping." They drank in companionable silence for a while, then she said: "Listen, Cowley wants to see you."

"We can skip that."

"Ray, you obviously belong--"

"I failed the assessment, Sal. You know that."

"All right, so you're not a field agent. You can still be part of CI5."

"Can you really see me behind a desk?"

"Yes, actually, I can." She shrugged. "It happens to all of us eventually."

"Come and see me again when it happens to you." Doyle swallowed more of his lager. "Come on, drink your drink and tell me what you can about the Squad."

She shook her head, but did as he asked. "It's been rough. We lost Susan to a bombing in November, then Davidson and Westin, and now Jax to a sniper's bullet a little over a month ago."

"Bloody hell, I'm sorry to hear that." He looked at his glass, remembering old cases. "Did you get the ones that did it?"

"Yes, eventually. Lewis was invalided out--bullet in his lung. Murphy's in hospital now with a broken leg, but he'll be back. We've got a crop of young ones who are learning on the job."

"Some things never change."

She hesitated. "We could use you, Ray."

"Leave it, Sal." He looked at his drink for a moment. "What about Bodie?"

"What about him?" Her voice was neutral, telling him nothing.

"Is he here?" It cost him to ask that.

"I don't think so. I haven't seen him. I know he's been on a case."

"Who with?"

"He's solo. Sometimes he works with one of us, but most of the time he's on his own."

Doyle frowned. "What's Cowley playing at? Bodie's not suited to working alone."

"He is now."

He turned his eyes to hers. "Don't give me that. It has nothing to do with me."

"Suit yourself." She turned back to her drink.

Doyle picked up his glass, then put it down. "He's still doing the job, isn't he?"

"Oh, yes."

"Well then?"

She looked at him. "There's not many that want to work with him."

His response was automatic and immediate: "Bodie's all right."

"How would you know?"

"I know him." He picked up the glass, taking another sip.

"You don't."

Doyle put the glass down hard. "I didn't leave by choice."

"Didn't you?"

"I failed, Sal. Simple as that, all right? The partnership was over."

Her eyes dropped before his. "Okay." She fell silent, contemplating her drink.

Doyle rubbed the bartop with the tip of his finger. "What's he doing that has you so twitchy?"

She sighed, then answered after a moment: "He is doing the job--very well. Maybe he's a little more ruthless, but...precise as always. He's like a pattern book when it comes to any action."

"That sounds like Bodie." He kept his eyes down.

"He's taking risks. I admit, they pay off for the most part, but...."

"Nothing new in that."

"No, it's different. He's different. We don't see him off the job; on the job he goes in alone as often as not. It's as if he doesn't trust us."

Doyle shrugged. "You said there were a lot of juniors, new agents."

"Us, Ray." Doyle looked up at the insistence in her voice. "He leaves us behind as well. Murphy's the only one who can work with him consistently, and even he hasn't done that since Jax bought it. Bodie just...leaves us out."

"Reverting to type."

"What?"

"That's how he was when we first joined CI5."

She eyed him. "That couldn't have lasted long."

Doyle smiled, his first genuine smile. "No, not long."

"Well then," she hesitated. "Maybe you...."

"What? Can talk to him? Can come back to a desk? That's not going to help."

She held his gaze for a moment, then looked down. "He's changed. There's only cold where there used to be warmth."

Doyle turned away. "We all change, Sal. We move on." He picked up his glass and swallowed the rest of the lager.

"What will you do now?"

"Find a job." He tilted his head. "No more Henley?"

Her smile was wry. "If I left him, you'd just slip away from him, wouldn't you? I sent him on his way. Take care of yourself, Ray. Get out of Manchester."

"I was thinking of it. Take care of yourself." He nodded at her, then turned into the crowd and made his way to the door. It had rained while he'd been inside, bringing a damp chill into the air. Doyle turned his collar up and stuffed his hands into his jacket as he walked to his flat.

Jax, Davidson and Westin, Susan. Christ, it'd been a bad year for CI5. He'd heard about the bombing on the news but there hadn't been any details. All they'd reported was that a female security agent had been killed. He hadn't called anyone for more information. He reckoned he'd lost that right when he'd quit.

Doyle detoured around a pool of water that was forming in a pit of splintered pavement. Everything changed, decayed over time, returned to nature. Look at Bodie, going in mob-handed, alone, just like the early days. He jammed his hands deeper into the jacket pockets. Stupid bugger; Bodie needed a keeper. But Cowley would be keeping an eye on him, he would have pulled Bodie from the field if necessary, even if they were short on experienced agents. Doyle chewed on his lip. "He's like a pattern book when it comes to any action," Sally had said. Would Cowley pull Bodie if he was operating effectively? Cowley looked after his men, but he had higher priorities to answer to. What was Murphy doing, letting Bodie get away on his own like that?

Doyle hunched further into his jacket. Anyway, Bodie wasn't his concern any more. It was past time for him to find a real job. Unfortunately, given the way he'd left CI5, he didn't see a future with any of the security forces, and he wasn't keen on the private side. Maybe he should have gone in to see Cowley, as requested. It would have meant a desk job--no responsibility, no control, just support for the active agents. Yeah, a necessary job, but not for him. Not when he could still pull together an investigation like he'd done here. And not with Bodie still out on the streets.

Doyle paused at the edge of the road, then crossed over to a side street, traffic thinning out the farther he walked. It had been ten months of looking for jobs, being made redundant, and not caring. The only time he'd felt alive in all those months had been this last one, putting the pieces and the evidence together before he called in CI5. He'd been as good as any field agent--as effective--but it was like fighting a battle when the war was already lost. Cowley might be pleased with him, but it'd still be a desk job he'd offer. Bodie's face formed before his eyes. There was no going back.

If he dwelled on that thought, he'd be lost. Doyle shook himself, as if to physically ward off the depression that had dogged him for a year. It was bad enough as it was without adding self-pity to the mix. He'd become adept at distraction, in whatever form it was offered.

At the sound of footsteps, Doyle paused at a junction, turning slightly to glance behind him. He saw no one but that didn't mean there wasn't someone following him. Sally had been right to warn him of possible retaliation. Doyle continued on his way, his senses alert to whoever might be ahead as well as behind him. He wasn't armed, but he wasn't far from his flat, where he could better protect himself. Crossing another street, he considered his options. Sally and CI5 were out of it, too far away to help now, if help was even needed and he wasn't imagining the footsteps or the danger they might represent. He stopped and swung around, catching a glimpse of a shadowy form before it blended in with a dark doorway at the bottom of the road. Okay, he was being followed, and the follower didn't mind that he knew.

Doyle walked on, increasing his pace in a natural way that wouldn't alarm his tail. When he reached a path between two houses he took it, knowing it would lead to a maze of gardens and allotments bisected with a crazy quilt pattern of fences and shrubbery. Breaking into a run, he threaded his way through the gardens, certain he would lose his follower, and then he took another path out, leading to the road behind his block of flats. He'd learned this trick from Bodie. Every flat that Bodie had ever been moved to, he'd always found at least one "shortcut" that would give him an edge over an adversary. Doyle had gone from deriding the practice to following it himself.

In the fenced, paved area behind Doyle's building there were parked cars, rubbish bins, and assorted miscellaneous junk no one had claimed. As Doyle slipped through the fence, he heard a whistle behind him, and a man appeared--bulky, thinning dark hair--blocking his access to the back road. Doyle stopped, and a moment later two younger men ran around the corner of the building, trapping him between them and the first man. Doyle circled, eyeing the men as they advanced on him.

"What do you want?"

The first man who had appeared was the one to speak. "We don't like snitches. It's payback time." He pulled out a knife and advanced towards Doyle. A quick glance showed Doyle the other two men were unarmed, but moving towards him.

Doyle almost laughed as his body responded to the old, familiar anticipation of action. It had been too long since he'd felt the rush of adrenaline. Three men against one, and he had no weapon to even the odds. He didn't need a failed assessment to predict the outcome, but he'd go down fighting. At least he'd kept it from being four-to-one against him.

There were no other preliminaries, all three suddenly rushing forward. Doyle kicked one man in the stomach, sending him stumbling into his comrade. Twisting, Doyle just evaded a knife thrust, then landed a blow on that man's kidneys, pushing him towards the others. Doyle dived for the limited protection between two parked cars. The knife-wielder followed, slicing at him, ripping a slash in Doyle's jacket. Doyle managed to grab the man's arm, then carried through the momentum, slamming the hand with the knife against one of the car windows. The window shattered and the man lost his grip on the knife, causing it to fall into the car while he cradled his arm, swearing.

Doyle sprang away, up and onto the bonnet of the car, but a blow on his leg brought him down hard on the bonnet, and as he rolled he was grabbed, pulled from the car, and punched in the gut. He lashed out with feet and fists, trying to twist free and to make a run for it. Almost, he made it--a kick to one man's groin doubled him and a jab to another man's throat left him reeling and gasping, but the third man arrived in time to trip Doyle up, and Doyle fell to the pavement. He curled into a ball, trying to protect his head as they kicked him, and then they pulled him upright and held him while one of them took out his frustrations on Doyle's body. Struggling, Doyle managed to break free for a second, then something whacked him solidly in the face, stunning him, and he fell to the ground. Dimly, he heard shouting, the sounds of another arrival, and realised his follower must have made it through the gardens at last. Four against one after all. With his last remaining strength, Doyle struggled to his feet, kicked the kneecap closest to him, then slammed a fist into the man's face, but another blow to his head sent Doyle to his knees and then everything went dark and silent.

Doyle woke to the unmistakable sounds and smells of a hospital. He knew a moment of surprise before the recognition of pain washed over him, banishing all other thoughts. He was vaguely aware of people talking to him, and about him, and there was a pressure on one of his hands, as if it were being held very tightly, then everything faded away again, and darkness surrounded him.

When next Doyle opened his eyes he knew he was in a bed, in hospital, and the pain had receded to manageable levels. For a disorienting moment he thought he was sixteen, just after the accident that had killed his brother and left him with a permanently altered face. Then the memory of the fight flooded in, banishing older trauma.

"Christ." His voice was little more than a croak.

"Blasphemy, Doyle?"

That dry voice was unmistakable. Doyle carefully turned his head, his eyes seeking and finding George Cowley sitting in the chair beside his bed. Doyle blinked slowly but it was still Cowley sitting there. "Yes...sir."

A brief twitch at Cowley's mouth was all the reaction he saw, but it let Doyle relax, only then realising he'd tensed at the sight of Cowley. Whatever was going on, it didn't involve bad news. "I might have known."

"What are you doing here?"

"I've come to see you."

"I don't work for you any more."

"Judging by appearances, perhaps you should." Cowley reached out to the jug on top of the locker and poured water into a glass.

"It was just a punch-up."

"I'm surprised you remember it at all." Cowley presented the glass to him, then, much to Doyle's chagrin, had to help him sit up. "It was a massacre, Doyle."

"I did all right."

Cowley raised his eyebrows.

"I'm still alive, aren't I?"

"No thanks to you. You were warned, yet you walked right into their trap."

"I lost one of them on the way."

"So, marginally better odds when they caught you. Do you consider that sufficient? Has all your training disappeared into drink and failed jobs?"

Doyle narrowed his eyes. "You've been keeping tabs on me?"

"You're very well aware of that."

"I don't work for you any more!"

"Why, Doyle, you just finished a classified undercover operation--or so I am led to believe you informed an Inspector Alstott."

Doyle shifted on the bed, doing his best to hide the pain movement brought. "That was necessary," he muttered.

"I'm sure it was. I'm not objecting. You work for me until I say you don't."

Doyle looked at him. "Well, in that case, you owe me ten months' back pay."

"Shall I tot up the damage to the cars in the car park?"

"One car." At Cowley's look, Doyle subsided. "What is it you want, then?"

"I cannot abide waste, and practically all you've done since leaving CI5 has been to waste your skills, your training, and nearly your life. Would you care to hear what the doctor had to say about you?"

Doyle shut his eyes and shrugged.

"You were luckier than you deserve. You have severe bruising, three cracked ribs, a lacerated liver, your left arm is broken, you sustained a concussion, and they've replaced your facial implant with a new and improved version. The original one was shattered, of course."

"Of course." Doyle kept his eyes closed but his heart sank at the news. It would take time for him to heal, along with money, and he needed the former to make the latter.

"You have no job; there was significant damage to property in the car park--"

"I didn't start it!"

"Nor did you finish it. But, because your investigation has helped us put an end to embezzlement, fraud, and the abuse of public trust, I am prepared to cover your expenses."

Doyle took a breath, then let it out. He had no choice. "That's generous of you, sir. I shall pay you back when I get a job."

"Your track record there is not promising."

"God dammit--"

"And we're back to blasphemy."

Doyle gritted his teeth and kept his mouth shut.

"Are you prepared to listen to me now?"

"Do I have any choice?"

"You've always had a choice, Doyle." Unbearably, Cowley's voice gentled.

Doyle looked away.

"I would have preferred to have had this conversation ten months ago, when I expected you to come and see me as I ordered." After a pause, Cowley continued: "However, we cannot change the past. May I take it as read that you assumed the position I would offer you was that of a--ah--'desk job'?"

"You're going to tell me it wasn't?"

"On the contrary, it was." Cowley looked away for a moment. "However, I now have a modified proposal for you."

"But still a desk job."

"You would probably call it that."

Doyle was silent.

Cowley sighed. "It is foolish and pointless to rail against fate, particularly when you're fighting against something as inevitable as aging. To be frank, I'm disappointed in you. I had thought you would manage the transition from field agent to desk or civilian life with more grace than you have so far displayed. I would have more readily expected this kind of behaviour from Bodie."

"Well, toss him off the Squad and see how he does!"

"You have not been tossed off the Squad, Doyle."

Doyle sat up, ignoring the pain. "I handled this job just like an undercover op. I did it."

"You did indeed--just look at the condition of you." Cowley moved forward, gently pushing Doyle back down.

"Ah, leave be." But Doyle allowed himself to be manoeuvred into a more comfortable position. He looked at Cowley. "I did it."

"Aye, but at what cost?"

He watched as Cowley settled himself in the chair again. "Sally says you have Bodie working solo."

"It was his preference. I agreed."

"He's always needed a keeper."

"I could say the same about you, especially after this stunt. Bodie is behaving himself. Indeed, he seems to have finally learned self-control."

Doyle looked down at his hands, thinking that Sally's assessment didn't tally with Cowley's. But he'd always been wary about discussing Bodie with Cowley, and he had already revealed too much.

Cowley's voice reached him. "It wasn't an easy transition for him, as I'm sure you can understand."

Doyle shrugged, deliberately casual. "It'll be worse when he can't be in the field."

"No doubt. I had rather thought he might have your example to follow, but...." Cowley trailed off.

Doyle smiled brightly. "He might not do as well as I have."

"He could hardly do worse." Cowley held up a hand, forestalling Doyle's response. "To get back to the topic: your transition from the A Squad will happen, whether you are in CI5 or not. You have already experienced a 'normal' life, as you might call it. I am offering you a chance to return to the area of work you are best suited to."

"CI5, you mean."

"The organisation that you know best and where your skills are most valued."

"Not to mention the sizeable investment already made in me."

"Precisely." Sarcasm, when it came to CI5, was wasted on Cowley. "We were talking about a desk job. CI5 has been operational for nearly fifteen years. We have been successful, despite budget battles and the loss of trained agents--good men and women. However, like any other organisation, CI5 must change and adapt in order to survive." Cowley paused for a moment, his mouth tightening before he continued. "There have been too many blunders recently--too much inexperience in the field and out. I am proposing a change to CI5 itself. The key to success will be the people--qualified, trained to my specifications--that I put in place. I want former agents in control of training, recruitment, communications--and managing operations and intel."

"Managing?" Doyle raised his eyebrows. "With control?"

"With full control and authority."

"And full disclosure?"

"Yes."

"You're talking about new positions."

"I am. It will provide advancement opportunities within CI5." Cowley gaze was knowing and sharp.

"Creating bureaucracy? That won't go over well."

"On the contrary, it will improve our efficiency and effectiveness. It will allow me to retain the best of my agents, in a variety of positions. I have already installed Anson in charge of communications."

"So you're carrying through with this." Doyle shook his head. "It would be a hell of an adjustment for any agent."

There was a pause and then Cowley continued in a softer voice. "I understand your reservations. Do you think I never went through it? Sending others out when I myself couldn't go any longer? I learned to stay behind while possibly sending men to their deaths."

"You've always been involved. You've put yourself in danger, into the thick of things."

"To the annoyance of my agents." Cowley gave him a wry look. "Yes, I have, although less of that as the years have gone by. It should be apparent to you, therefore, that I won't object to a similar approach from you when circumstance warrants it."

Doyle frowned. "What is it, exactly, you have in mind?"

"Intelligence for you, I believe. Synthesizing data, directing actions based on your findings, directing operations where needed. You would be using your experience in knowing where to look and what to look for, gathering the pieces together for the big picture. Rather like what you did here in Manchester, but you'd be using CI5 agents as your means of collecting that information. You're too valuable to risk undercover."

"I never was before," Doyle said, but absently as he considered Cowley's plans. He and Bodie had often supplied that intelligence, sometimes acting as coordinators, but they had fed it all directly to Cowley for top-level decisions. This would be different. "It won't be an easy transition for you, sir--especially at the operations level."

Cowley nodded. "I am aware of that."

"Are you really prepared for it?"

"If I have the right people in place. I'm ready to admit that I have too many responsibilities. I cannot direct operations as I have in the past. Divided attention has cost us agents. We cannot afford it. I envision a team approach to operations and intel, just as CI5 has used teams within operations from the beginning."

"You're saying I have a shot at this position?" He could hardly believe it. Ambition was something he had left behind when he left CI5.

"You are still my first choice--despite the condition you have reduced yourself to." Cowley looked with disdain at the medical equipment surrounding Doyle.

"Thank you, sir. How long have you been planning this?"

"I have thought about the disadvantages to our organisation for a long time, but it was only in the last year that I saw this solution. To be frank, I have felt the loss of senior agents more keenly this year. Surely you are aware of the additional duties I assigned you to in your last years in CI5."

"Me and Bodie."

"Yes, my top team. I had come to depend on your abilities to manage certain operations, and I miss them. It makes me more certain than ever that my control team concept is the right one."

"Bodie is still on the Squad."

"For now."

Doyle stared at Cowley, then dropped his eyes. Cowley wanted them to transfer their proven partnership to this "control team". Eventually, he'd be working with Bodie again, if Bodie agreed. But then, that was the kicker, wasn't it? Cowley had no idea what he was asking. Even if Bodie agreed, whenever in the future he left the street, did Doyle want to work with him again? Could he? "Do you need a decision right away, sir?"

"I am prepared to wait, if I must. In any case, you are in no shape to start anything, not even physio yet." Cowley looked him over, eyes narrowing. "But tell me, is it CI5 itself that you object to?"

"Why would I object to CI5?" He was pleased at the steadiness of his voice, hiding his dismay at this line of questioning.

"You tell me, Doyle."

"It's not that." Doyle forced himself to meet Cowley's sharp gaze. Above all else, he'd keep the Old Man far away from the personal reasons he'd had for leaving CI5.

"Then I have a proposition for you. Give it a six-month trial period. Come back to CI5, begin training for the position I have described. After six months, you can re-evaluate your decision. If, at that time, you choose to leave I will ease your transition to whatever suits you better than CI5."

"You'd recommend me to another department?"

"Yes, if forced to do so. You could, if you wish, return to the police."

A half-laugh escaped Doyle. "I don't believe the police and I would get along any better now than we did in the first place. No, sir, if I stay in security it'll be with CI5."

"It is my sincere hope you will."

"You're serious about this."

"I am. You will be doing me a favour, in any case. I must transform CI5; you are well-suited to help me to do that. The team I envision will work better for your help in the transition, whether you stay for the long term or not."

Doyle shook his head. "I do appreciate the trust you've shown me, sir."

"Then, is it a yes?"

Doyle stared across the room at the blank wall, only then realising that he was in a private room. One of the perks of working for CI5. A steady pay cheque would be another. Both paled in comparison to what such a position would mean for him--a chance to use his talents, to make a difference. Did he want this? Yes, he did, very much. Against that desire to do the job there stood just one obstacle--Bodie.

If he went back he would have to deal with Bodie. He had no illusions about how Bodie would treat him. Bodie didn't take well to betrayal, and would have viewed Doyle's leaving as just that, even if it had been necessary. Even if it had been Bodie himself who had wanted Doyle to leave, whether he'd acknowledged it or not. Cowley's plan could be scuppered from the beginning.

But if it was for just six months? It'd give him some time to plan, and a chance for a future doing the kind of work he liked, whether in CI5 or not. Bodie wouldn't be leaving the streets in those six months; he needn't have anything to do with Bodie. He could do his job and Bodie could do his. Let the future take care of itself. This was a chance for him to get his own priorities straight. A new life. "Yeah, all right," Doyle said. "When do I start?"

The satisfaction Cowley felt was evident, bringing Doyle both pleasure and suspicion. Cowley had been unusually forthcoming in explaining himself, which was never a good sign. "Very well, lad. You start right away. I have the papers here." Cowley reached down to his briefcase, opening it and putting his glasses on before rummaging through the contents.

Doyle shook his head. "Before I get back on the payroll, I should just like to mention that you're a conniving old bastard."

Cowley looked at him through his glasses, expression unchanged. "Yes, I am." He pulled out several sheets of paper and directed Doyle to sign them, offering his own pen for the purpose.

"Signing away my life, am I, sir?"

"For six months, yes." Cowley collected the papers back while Doyle gratefully settled himself back in the bed.

"Do I report to CI5 when I get out of here?"

"No, you will report first to the Carrington Convalescent Centre--after that, you'll report to Brian Macklin."

Doyle stared at him in open dismay.

"You may not be going out on the street again, Doyle, but you'll be in better shape than you are now when you report to work."

"I've just been in a punch-up!"

"You lost." Cowley stood up. "If you should need anything, contact me directly. I will see that some of your clothes are transferred here, and your other belongings to a new flat in London." He hesitated, then continued: "You won't regret this, lad. It is where you were meant to be."

"Why don't I find that comforting?" Doyle slowly moved his right hand, holding it out to Cowley, who grasped it. "Thank you, sir."

"I'll see you in better health, Doyle." On those words, he was gone, closing the door behind him.

Doyle sighed, still stunned by the speed with which his life had changed. He was back in CI5, after swearing he would never do it. He didn't know if the joke was on him or Cowley. Maybe it was on Bodie. Carefully, Doyle reached for the glass of water Cowley had left beside his bed and took a drink to soothe the dryness of his throat. He replaced the glass and lay down again.

All right, he'd admit it, he was pleased that the ruthless bastard wanted him back, that he hadn't found anyone else who would suit his purposes. The job Cowley had outlined appealed to him and gave him something to reach for. He would've turned Cowley down if he'd gone to see him ten months ago. But he could see the possibiites in this new position. And he'd now dealt with the realities of life outside CI5. He wanted a job he could care about. As for Bodie, well, why should he care? Was he going to let Bodie run his life?

At the time, leaving CI5 had seemed the obvious answer to all their problems. The partnership was over, thanks to the assessment; the love affair...well, that had been one-sided almost from the beginning. Bodie had wanted him first, of that much he was certain. After that he was sure of nothing. Somehow, casual sex and games had turned disastrously serious, at least for Doyle. And then the arguments had started, and the silence between them. They had both been in over their heads.

The more entangled and unhappy they had become, the more Doyle had tried to set up rules and boundaries within which they both could live. But Bodie hadn't seen the necessity of compromise, and Doyle had lost ground with every line he'd drawn. The hard-won balance in their partnership hadn't transferred to their affair. To give him his due, Bodie hadn't lied to him about what he had wanted. Their needs had just been different and, in the end, incompatible. Where Doyle had needed commitment, Bodie had needed freedom and independence. Doyle had tried to hold on to Bodie too long, denying the truth.

It had been bitter to realise, and finally accept, that despite Bodie's obvious affection, despite the pleasure they took in one another's bodies, they weren't going to make it as lovers. How galling to find he wasn't immune to the need for devotion or constancy, or that he'd held no unique path to Bodie's heart. It was a case of pigeons coming home to roost with a vengeance. Being aware of the irony hadn't made it any easier to deal with or any less painful. But you couldn't blame a man for not loving you; couldn't force a heart to feel what it wouldn't. He should have seen that earlier.

He had found it impossible, however, to stop hoping for love, as long as he was with Bodie. Impossible, too, in the end, to hide the bitterness. It wasn't Bodie's fault that Doyle couldn't live on beggar's portions, that he'd always demand more than Bodie could give him.

I didn't leave by choice.

Didn't you?


The assessment had forced his hand, but it had been his choice to leave. Maybe he'd taken the easy way out, and yet he knew if he'd stayed, the bitterness would have destroyed their friendship as surely as the assessment report had destroyed their partnership.

Now he was going back, after all. He thought he knew how Bodie would treat him. Cold, Sally had called Bodie. Well, if Bodie was freezing out his current partners, it was nothing to what he'd do to his ex-partner. Maybe that would make it easier in the end. They could go their own ways. Coldness, even anger, he could deal with; it was affection that made unrequited love impossible to live with. Six months. He wasn't going to allow himself to think about anything beyond the six months. If they could work together, fine, they'd know by then. It was as much as he dared to hope.



Unable to sit still any longer, Doyle jumped up and crossed to the window, looking out over the green lawn of the convalescent centre. He had to hand it to Cowley, he'd been placed in the nicest facility Doyle had ever seen. He had spent the last two months in some comfort, barring the agony of the physio itself.

Turning from the window, Doyle walked to the small bathroom attached to his private room. He ran water into the basin, washed his face, and grabbed a towel. He had been told to wait, that someone would arrive to take him to London.

As he dried his face, Doyle looked in the mirror, trying to see himself as others would. He'd been gone for just over a year now, and he'd been through hell in recovery: it showed. They had done a good job on the new implant, rounding out his cheek. Only one other person might notice the difference, and he wouldn't be close enough to tell. But the lines in Doyle's face were all too evident, as was the spreading grey in his hair.

More telling than any of the physical signs, however, was the knowledge within himself. He had taken a long time to get over the beating, much longer than any of his previous hospital stays. He'd been forced to admit that the damn piece of paper had been right all along: he was past being able to get back to agent fitness. Finally, and forever, he gave up the street.

"Doyle?"

Doyle startled, then froze as he recognised Bodie's voice coming from the other room. His stomach tightened into a hard knot, cold washing through him. Of course Cowley would send Bodie to pick him up. He should have expected it. More than his body was slow and out of practice.

Forcing his hands to loosen their grip on the basin, Doyle turned and walked to the doorway, keeping his expression under tight control. Bodie was standing by the hallway door, and yet his presence filled the room--far more vibrant in life than in Doyle's memory. It was all Doyle could do to nod at him, pretending a casualness that wasn't there.

Bodie's hands were in the pockets of his black leather jacket, and his gaze travelled over Doyle, his eyes as unrevealing as his face. Oh yes, the coldness was there, and probably anger underneath it. Otherwise, he seemed unchanged in the year they had been apart.

Doyle moved into the room. "About time you showed up."

"Eager to get out, are you?"

"Wouldn't you be?" Doyle retrieved his jacket from the bed and picked up the suitcase that had been delivered to him in the hospital.

"I wouldn't have been here in the first place. You all right for carrying that?"

Doyle, bristling, met Bodie's eyes. "Yeah, I'm all right."

Bodie nodded once, then turned and led the way out of the room and down the hallway to the reception area. Doyle signed himself out of Carrington's, glad to be seeing the last of it.

They walked to the car park and Doyle saw the silver Capri waiting for them. Unexpectedly, that got to him, taking him back to other hospital stays, and to a Bodie who'd smiled to see him. He took in a deep breath, holding on to his composure.

Storing the suitcase in the back of the car, Doyle settled into the passenger seat. Bodie started the Capri and accelerated out of the car park, turning onto the B road that would take them towards the motorway. There was silence in the car, like the hushed stillness before the start of the first act, or a battle. He knew some of the parameters of his future, but he had no real idea of the course it would take. The uncertainty left him on edge, and unwilling to break the silence. Let Bodie make the first move.

More than five miles were behind them before Bodie finally spoke, his irritation clear to Doyle. It was good to know he could still get under Bodie's skin as easily as that. "I've been told to fill you in on all you've missed."

"Then you'd best get on with it, hadn't you?"

Bodie sent a cool look his way. "Sally said she ran into you in Manchester."

"Yeah."

"In a pub, she said. Your regular."

"Not a crime, is it?"

"Hardly the bright thing to do, drinking in that place after the op."

"No op of mine."

"Even less bright, then."

"Aren't you supposed to be filling me in?"

"I shouldn't think you'd need it, a one-man squad like you."

"No concern of yours."

Bodie made a turning then accelerated onto the motorway. "We don't like civilians meddling in our business. You should've called in CI5 to do the investigating."

"Strewth! I don't believe this. Bit of the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?"

"You were just out to prove yourself, we both know that!"

Doyle leaned his head back against the seat, regaining his temper. "Yeah, well, we both know what came of that, too."

After a pause, Bodie said, "Cowley was pleased enough."

Doyle raised his eyebrows. "You didn't hear him at the hospital."

Bodie gave him a quick glance, and, to Doyle's surprise, his mouth twitched in a brief smile. "Bad, was it?"

"He was...benevolent."

Bodie winced. "Ouch."

Doyle couldn't help but grin. He covered it by stretching a kink out of his shoulders. "So, come on, catch me up on the news. Sally said Murphy was in hospital."

Bodie nodded. "He's been back about a week now, on light duties. He's catching up on his paperwork. He was working with MI5 on a drugs and weapons case."

"Everything in triplicate, twice-over, eh?"

"Fortunately it was his leg that was broken, not his writing hand." Bodie was quiet as he cut up a lorry in the left lane to get around a Cortina in the right, and then returned to the fast lane. "Stuart broke that IRA cell in Islington."

"What, finally? The neighbours must have been appalled at the intrusion." Doyle settled comfortably in his seat.

"They quietened down after they saw the bomb squad go in. Stuart was unbearable about the case for weeks."

"You can't blame him. He'd been working on that one six months before I left."

"Cowley finally sent him to Birmingham to calm him down."

"Well, that would do it." A thought struck Doyle and he turned to look at Bodie. "Cowley never set poor Stuart onto the Makepeace case?"

"A small smile flitted across Bodie's face. "Yeah."

"Whew. There's gratitude for you."

"The Squad appreciated it."

"I'll bet." Doyle shook his head. "Sally said there are a bunch of babes on the Squad now."

"True. They seem to be getting younger, and greener, every year."

"They are."

"There's some good material there, and some that keep their heads down and their eyes peeled. They might make decent agents if they live long enough to profit from all they're learning."

"You're teaching them, are you?"

Bodie glanced at him. "Hardly. I only get the incorrigibles."

"Oh, I see. If they survive you, they stay on the Squad, otherwise...."

Bodie drew a finger across his neck and clicked his tongue.

"I met one of the babes in Manchester--Henley, Sally called him. He was supposed to follow me."

"So I heard. He thought he'd done well enough until Sally got on to him about it--in the rest room." Bodie smiled.

"Is he still with the Squad?"

"He's hanging on. Keeping his head down now."

Doyle grunted. "It's learn and live in this mob."

"You don't seem to have done that. Judging by appearances."

Doyle refused to rise to the bait. "I have now. I should have kept my head down. I had no backup."

There was silence in response to that, until Bodie said: "It takes more than a beating to keep you down, Doyle."

"I didn't reckon I was getting back up at the time."

"You don't honestly think you'll make it back to agent status, do you?" The question was hard-voiced and accusing.

Stung, unprepared for the sudden attack, Doyle took in a breath for a blistering reply, then slowly let the breath out again. Keep it cool. "No," he answered quietly.

Bodie's hands tightened on the wheel, obviously unappeased. "What are you back for, Doyle?"

"I need a job."

"You had a job."

"I lost it when I called in CI5." He looked ahead out at the road, his jaw tight.

"I meant, you had a job when you left CI5. Cowley was ready to transition you off the street. You bloody well know that."

"I didn't want that then."

"And you do now?"

"I can live with it now."

"As proof of which you went in alone on an op in Manchester."

Doyle gritted his teeth. "I didn't have any choice, mate."

"Because you weren't thinking." He cast a dismissive glance at Doyle. "I thought it was only the physical assessment you failed."

"I did all right in Manchester."

"You call three months of rehabilitation 'all right'."

"Cowley's the one hiring me, mate, not you. Take it up with him."

"I already have."

"Oh, terrific. Would you slow the bloody car down, you stupid prick! I still want that job."

Bodie gave him a venomous look, but eased up on the accelerator. "A desk job," he said, sneering.

"Yeah, a desk job. With perks."

Bodie was silent, his eyes on the road.

"Good perks."

"I already heard about it."

"Oh, so that's what you object to, is it? I'll have authority over you."

Bodie glanced at him. "Don't count on it."

"Don't push me," Doyle answered right back. When Bodie didn't reply, Doyle looked out the window, then down at his hands. "Look, what else am I supposed to do?"

"You realise you're just dancing to Cowley's tune?"

"Yeah. But you know damn well I'd rather be out in the field. Well, that fight did prove to me that I'm finished there. Okay? Go on and gloat if you want." When there was no reply to that, he looked up to find Bodie frowning at the traffic.

"I saw what you did to those men. You held your own. It was three against one, mate."

"Four. You saw them?"

Bodie shifted in his seat. "Yeah. Cowley called me up, you know. To Manchester. To help with the wrap-up."

"Ah." Doyle looked out the side window again. It wasn't to be wondered at that Bodie hadn't visited him in hospital. "The police took my statement at the hospital. They're getting the three they caught for assault. They never found the fourth man, but then I didn't lay a hand on him"

"I know."

"Anyway, you're right about the three months. I reckon I just needed to see it for myself." Doyle looked at Bodie, and saw nothing but a tight jaw in profile. He searched for a change of topic, anything. "What's interesting in the current cases?"

After a moment, Bodie shrugged. "It's the usual mix. I'll give you a recap but you'll be seeing the files for yourself while you're rehabilitating with our Brian."

"Oh. Is that what you call it now?"

"Don't worry, petal, he's aware of your advanced age."

Doyle nodded, finding himself on more familiar ground. "Just give me the recap, Bodie."

The rundown on current cases took them nearly to London. As they drew closer to the city, Doyle found his anticipation growing. He wasn't looking forward to Macklin, but he was ready to be back at work. Just hearing about the cases had him turning ideas over in his head, thinking of lines of inquiry to pursue. He'd find a way to make this job work.

"You're stretched thin," Doyle commented.

"Too many deaths. A stupid waste."

"Sally told me about some of it. Cowley's worried--that's why he's looking at this change in the organisation."

Bodie looked at him, an expression Doyle couldn't interpret in his eyes. "You really want it?"

Doyle shrugged, but he didn't try to hide the eagerness he felt. "I'm wary about it, but, yeah, I want it. I can do this. It's not so different from what you and I've done."

"Maybe." Bodie said nothing more after that, just continued to drive.

"I heard about Susan on the news, but not the others. How did Jax cop it?"

"We went in on a raid, cleared out a nest of vipers. We thought the area was clear, but there was a sniper waiting when we went outside."

"Who was doing the clearing outside?"

"Some of the babes. It wasn't all their fault, they're still in training, and they were up against seasoned pros."

"They should've had someone experienced with them."

"Yeah. But I wasn't running the op, and communication got fouled."

"Christ, what a waste."

Bodie nodded. "Jax saw something. He shoved me out of the way but he caught the bullet."

Doyle's fist tightened. "I see." He breathed in. "Sally said you got them."

"Yeah. It took longer than it should have but we caught them all. Even left a few alive."

Bodie's voice had turned a shade lighter at the last words, but Doyle heard the underlying anger and grief. "Bastards."

They both fell silent as Bodie drove on, until Doyle absorbed the fact that Bodie had taken the exit for Chiswick. He straightened in his seat. "Oi, where are you taking me?"

"Cowley's orders, mate." Doyle could hear the smile in Bodie's voice.

"I've just been in a convalescent centre, for God's sake."

"They wouldn't have let you out if you weren't ready."

Doyle groaned. "Bleeding sadist."

"And here I thought you were fond of Macklin."

"I meant Cowley. And you--you're enjoying this! I don't even get one night of relief? Bloody hell."

"Listen, thinking about it, that's worse than doing it."

Doyle scowled. "Don't give me that! Come on, stop off at a pub first, eh?"

Bodie shook his head. "My orders were very precise. You're expected." Bodie drew out the syllables of the word.

Doyle groaned again, and ran a hand through his hair. "Hell. Some partner you are, mate." His words hung in the air, unconsidered and irretrievable.

"I was." All the lightness had fled from Bodie's voice. He navigated the streets, heading inexorably towards Macklin's training facility. "Why are you really here, Doyle?"

"I told you."

"You need a job."

"Yeah."

"Bollocks."

"Look--"

"No." Bodie turned into the paved area in front of Macklin's place, parking near to the old, familiar, green wall. He shut off the engine, then turned to face Doyle. "You disappear for a year, not a word to anyone. Then you pull that stupid stunt in Manchester and Cowley brings you back as if you were just out for an injury or on an extended holiday. Bloody hell, Doyle, you quit."

"You saw the assessment. There was nothing here for me."

"Oh, and there is now?"

"Yes! What the bloody hell have we been talking about? I have a job."

"Right. A desk job. You."

Doyle breathed in, then out. "Believe what you want." He reached for the door handle, only to find Bodie grabbing his arm.

"What I want? You weren't worried about that when you quit."

Doyle narrowed his eyes. "You made it plain enough what you wanted. There's a difference between quitting and knowing when to stop beating your head against a wall. I knew when to get out."

"Did you." Bodie spoke softly. Doyle just had time to register the danger signals before Bodie's hand tightened and he jerked Doyle to him. A moment later, Bodie's mouth came down on his, hard and aggressive.

Doyle wrenched out of Bodie's hold, anger burning out any other response he might have felt. "That's not happening. That's finished."

"Why not?" Bodie's face was cool, his emotions well-hidden. "After all, you're back."

"Not for you, you bastard."

"Quitting on us, too, eh? Why am I not surprised?"

"We were over with even before that assessment report. You know damn well that's true."

Bodie's gaze flicked away from his. "What were you doing that night, Ray? Why come, and fuck me, and leave?"

There was no simple answer to that, nothing he could explain to Bodie. He could do nothing but shake his head.

"You didn't have the courage to face me."

"You're not into scenes, mate."

"Neither are you." Bodie looked down. "I never knew you to do a runner before."

"I didn't."

"What would you call it then?"

Getting out with some dignity, he wanted to say. "Facing reality."

Bodie grimaced. "That's not what I would have called it."

"Bodie...."

"You didn't give me a chance."

Doyle flared at that, the wound too raw to be touched. "I gave you nothing but chances, you bastard! I loved you, goddammit."

"Past tense."

Doyle stilled, feeling something like a heavy pressure on his chest. "What do you want from me? Nothing's changed. We tried it and we fucked it up. You felt rejected the next morning? Well, join the club, mate. The only thing that worked for us was the job, and that was finished. Blame me, if you want, for getting in too deep. Blame Cowley or that bloody assessment, what does it matter? It was over."

Bodie was quiet for a long time, his eyes on his hands. "So. That's the end."

Doyle closed his eyes briefly. "Yeah."

"You came back for the job, for the opportunity."

"Yes." He left it at that, unwilling to say anything else. He looked out towards Macklin's fence. "I've got six months to work this out, and then I can go or stay in the job. Are you going to give me a chance?"

Another long stretch of silence from Bodie, but Doyle didn't turn to look, he was fighting to keep the emotions from his own face. "Go on," Bodie said, "Macklin's waiting for you."

Doyle nodded and opened the door, sliding out of the car.

"Doyle." Doyle turned back. "I won't stand in your way."

He looked at Bodie, saw the cool control back in place, the fašade of the perfect agent. "I'll see you around, mate." He closed the door and stepped back. The Capri roared to life, then reversed into a turn, and moved forward out into the street. Doyle watched the car until it was out of sight, until the last sound of its engine faded in the distance. He turned and walked to Macklin's door.



Doyle found a parking space only a few yards from his front door, nipping in and cutting off a Ford Granada with designs on the same space. The Granada continued on down the street while Doyle got out, locking the door behind him. He was almost used to the car now, but he still took a moment to run his eyes over it. A black BMW 5 series, complete with radio, anti-theft device, cassette player, and a whole host of CI5 extras. If this was Cowley's idea of inducement, Doyle was ready to go along with it.

He walked to the steps leading up to his block of flats, stretching sore neck muscles as he went. He was getting better at what Macklin termed "guile-strength" but he still tended to respond to attack as he would have five years ago. He was supposed to replace strength and speed with knowledge and surprise, but he was finding it hard to rewire his instincts. Still, he was making progress.

After digging his keys out of his leather jacket pocket, Doyle opened the door to his building, and headed up the stairs leading to his first floor flat. Cowley had arrived in the BMW four days ago, and Doyle had driven him back to town while he outlined the transition plan. Doyle was still spending days with Macklin, but he'd been living in his flat every night since, reading the files Cowley had brought him. He had a fair idea of the ops that were currently running and those just finished. Bodie, he saw, had been off rotation for two days.

He'd been doing his best not to think about Bodie, but nearly everything reminded him of what he'd lost. At Macklin's he kept expecting to find Bodie next to him, complaining about the food, devising plots to take Towser down, making everything more bearable. The only other time Doyle had been at Macklin's alone had been after the shooting, and then he'd known that Bodie was waiting for him. Four days ago, he'd looked forward to getting back to London and getting on with the job, replacing old memories with new reality. At his new flat he'd found his few belongings from Manchester had been unpacked and stored, waiting for him. Anyone could have done that but only Bodie would have left him the Browning tucked behind the Fairy Liquid under the kitchen sink. Doyle wouldn't receive his official handgun until his first day at work. Bodie had obviously felt he'd needed something to tide him over. Doyle had stared at the gun in his hand, wondering if Bodie had put it there before or after picking him up at Carrington's.

Doyle entered his flat, flipped the light switch, and caught a glimpse of movement just before he felt a gun placed against his head. He froze.

"Boom." Bodie's voice, very quiet.

Doyle swung to face him. "What the hell are you playing at?"

There was a whisper of sound from the living room and Doyle turned his head to find a young woman standing in the doorway, dark-haired, pale, and wary. Doyle looked back at Bodie.

"We're in a spot of trouble."

"Evidently." He looked narrowly at Bodie, then gestured towards the gun. "Leave it out, mate." Bodie smiled slightly and, with an uncharacteristic awkwardness, slid the gun into the shoulder holster under his jacket. He was dressed all in black, as if he'd been on an op.

Bodie nodded towards the woman. "Elisabeth Kollner, meet Ray Doyle, my partner."

"Ex." But Doyle was frowning at Bodie. "You're hurt?"

Bodie grimaced. "Bullet. In and out. Nothing broken. We patched it up."

Elisabeth spoke up. "He needs a doctor."

"Later," Bodie said. "Ray, we've got--" He was interrupted by the telephone, and glanced towards the sound, falling silent.

Doyle caught Bodie's eyes with his. "Is that about you?"

"Could be. It's been ringing every fifteen minutes." He seemed about to say more, but then just leant back against the wall, favouring his left arm.

Doyle nodded, then moved to the living room, passing Elisabeth. He picked up the handset on the fourth ring. "Doyle."

"Wait a minute, four-five, patching you through to Mr Cowley." It was a woman's voice, new to CI5 since Doyle's time there. He watched as Elisabeth and Bodie entered the living room, their eyes on him.

"Doyle?" Cowley was obviously calling from his car.

"Yeah."

"We've had a situation develop. Three-seven may try to contact you. If he does, you are to contact me immediately. Follow all security procedures."

Doyle looked across the room at Bodie. "What's going on?"

"A bloody mess, that's what." Cowley's voice broke off and Doyle heard him speaking to someone else in the car, although he couldn't distinguish any words. "Do you understand?"

"Yes sir. But what makes you think Bodie will contact me?"

"Old habits, Doyle, and I'm probably not the only one to think of it. Cowley out." The connection was broken.

Doyle slowly replaced the handset, and looked at Bodie. "What have you got yourself into, sunshine?"

Bodie seemed to relax. "Don't know, actually."

"Cowley's looking for you." Doyle glanced at the woman, who was watching them closely.

Bodie nodded. "Yeah, I'm not surprised." He stretched out his right hand and drew Elisabeth further into the room. "She's supposed to testify in court--that commission on dirty dealings in West Africa."

"When does she testify?"

"Tomorrow."

"But someone wants to stop her." Doyle opened a drawer, pulling out a box of ammunition to go with the Browning.

"Exactly. I can't see it--she's low-level, small-arms stuff."

"Well, she knows something." Doyle left the room to retrieve the Browning. Bodie and Elisabeth met him in the hallway. "You ready?"

The smile was back in Bodie's eyes. "Always."

Doyle nodded and led the way to the door. They left the flat, but just as Doyle finished locking up, there was the unmistakable sound of a single shot from outside.

"Move." Doyle urged Elisabeth forward as Bodie grabbed her arm, pulling her with him. "You know the back way?"

"Yeah," Bodie called over his shoulder.

Doyle caught a glimpse of movement at the stairway. "Bodie!" Bodie dropped to the floor, pulling Elisabeth with him, just as a man appeared around the corner of the stairway, gun in hand. Doyle's bullet struck the man, sending him back down the stairway. Bodie and Elisabeth scrambled to their feet, and they headed for the fire escape at the end of the hallway, Doyle behind them.

"I see you're in practice," Bodie said, as they ran.

"Macklin."

They heard another shot, but didn't encounter anyone while using the fire escape. Once on the ground at the back of the building, Bodie led them to a side street and a green Vauxhall that was parked there. They piled into the car, Doyle taking the driver's seat after a brief glare at Bodie. The car had been rigged to run without a key. Doyle got it going after a moment's work.

"Where'd this come from?" Doyle kept an eye out for any pursuit as he headed down the road.

"We, ah, requisitioned it."

"Oh, terrific. I can see my career ending even before it starts again."

"Well, if you will mix with undesirables." Bodie, beside him on the front seat, turned to check behind them.

"I'd settle for an explanation."

"Wish I had it, mate. I'm stumped."

"Why're you running from Cowley?"

Bodie settled into his seat, cradling his left arm. "After the first place blew up I contacted Cowley. He sent us to safe house nine. When we got there, whoever these blokes are, they were waiting for us."

"Coincidence?"

"It reminded me too much of Diana Molner."

Doyle sighed. "Yeah." He checked the mirrors. "You still have that Cortina stashed somewhere?"

"Traded it in for an Escort."

"Not an RS2000?"

"Ah...it's a 1.3."

Doyle grinned. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

Bodie shrugged, then winced. "It'll come in handy if we can get to it."

"We could drop you at a hospital."

Bodie's look was eloquent. "The garage is in Peckham."

It took them about forty-five minutes, and the rest of the twilight, to make it to the garage where Bodie kept the Escort. There didn't appear to be anyone in the vicinity of the garage, but Bodie, after a brief argument, went in alone to get the car, leaving Doyle and Elisabeth in the Vauxhall, ready for a quick getaway, if necessary.

Doyle glanced back at Elisabeth. "You're quiet."

"I learned a long time ago it's best to let the experts do their jobs."

"Useful lesson. Where was that?"

"Africa."

Doyle frowned, then looked through the side window towards the garage.

"Yes," Elisabeth continued. "I knew Bodie there."

Doyle looked at her again. "You must have been young."

"Ten."

They heard the sound of a motor and then Bodie backed out of the garage in a brown Escort. Doyle followed him in the Vauxhall until they reached a quiet street. He parked the car and they joined Bodie in his, Doyle supplanting him in the driver's seat.

"What've you got in here?" Doyle asked as they took off again.

"An Ingram. Ammunition. Various other supplies in the boot."

"What do you reckon?"

"Hole up until tomorrow?"

"Charlie's?" Doyle raised his eyebrows at Bodie.

Bodie looked at him quickly. "Yeah, good idea. Find a phone."

The arrangements soon made, they found themselves parking in a quiet, residential street in Croydon. Bodie opened the boot and pulled out a duffel bag while Doyle escorted Elisabeth to the entrance of a small, Victorian semi. The key was waiting for them under a flower pot that appeared to contain only weeds. Doyle let them into the house.

"Is this Charlie here?" Elisabeth asked, looking through an open door into the living room. No lights were on; the illumination came only from the street lamps.

"No," Bodie said, passing by her to dump the duffel bag in the living room. He returned to the hall. "Clear," he said to Doyle, then headed up the stairs.

"For now." Doyle ducked into the dining room, behind the living room, and then went farther down the hall to check the kitchen and bathroom. He returned to the entrance and met Bodie at the bottom of the stairs. Bodie gave him the all clear signal and Doyle nodded. "We need to see about that arm of yours. There are supplies in the bathroom."

They went to the living room, where Elisabeth was standing to the side of the window, surveying the street. Doyle saw a row of bottles in a cabinet across the room, and crossed over to pick up a bottle of whisky. He turned back to find that Bodie had opened the duffel bag and retrieved the Ingram, along with a smaller bag. To his surprise, Bodie handed both to Elisabeth. "Check this out for us, will you? Keep an eye on the street. No lights."

"All right." Elisabeth settled against the wall, already beginning to dismantle the gun.

Bodie looked at Doyle. "She knew how to clean and handle a weapon before she was eight."

Doyle nodded, then followed Bodie to the bathroom. Bodie shut the door behind them.

While Bodie took off his jacket and then his polo neck, exposing a bloody bandage on his upper left arm, Doyle set the whisky bottle on the basin and laid out the bandages and supplies he'd need. He turned as Bodie settled with a small sigh onto the lid covering the toilet.

"Hurting?" Doyle asked, reaching to untie the make-shift bandage.

"What do you think?"

"Co-codamol's all I can give you."

"It'll do." Bodie closed his eyes, grimacing as Doyle exposed the wound. It was as Bodie had said--in and out, small calibre. There wasn't much they could do without going to hospital except keep it covered and as clean as possible. Doyle busied himself with the task, concentrating on the wound. Beneath his hands, Bodie was quiet, staring across the room at the closed door. Doyle cleaned the wound, then reached for the whisky, taking a firm grip on Bodie's lower arm. "Hold your breath, sunshine." He poured whisky directly on the wounds.

Bodie let out a yelp that he turned into a hiss, straining against Doyle's hold for a moment. "Bloody hell, Doyle."

"Sting a little?"

"Trying to burn my arm off?"

"Trying to keep the infection down. That bullet didn't just leave a hole in your arm. Charlie needs to stock up on antibiotic ointment."

"Now I know what to get him for Christmas." He winced. "Christ."

"You always were a baby." Doyle put new padded gauze dressings over the entrance and exit holes, then reached for a bandage to bind them.

"Stoic. I was always the stoic one."

"Not in bed," Doyle said, then he stilled, not believing that he'd said it.

"I wasn't alone in that." Doyle could feel Bodie's eyes on him. He concentrated on winding the bandage tightly around Bodie's arm. Just finish the job at hand, he thought. But his eye found a new scar on Bodie's left shoulder, a jagged slash as if from a knife. Before he could stop himself, he traced the scar with a light fingertip. "Close call?"

"They're all close." Bodie grabbed Doyle's wrist, holding it. "What is it you want, Ray?"

Doyle pulled free of Bodie's grasp, stepping back against the sink. "Nothing."

"Nothing." Bodie stood and moved in on Doyle. "I don't think that's true."

Doyle pulled himself together. "It's not what I want that's at issue."

"Isn't it?" Bodie's eyes swept over him. "Nothing's changed for me, Ray."

"That's the problem." Doyle broke eye contact, his gaze falling on Bodie's discarded jumper. "I'll go and see if Charlie has anything that'll fit you."

"Running away? But then you're good at that."

"I didn't run."

"Oh, sorry. You 'faced reality'."

"That's right." He stood straight, forcing Bodie to ease back. "We're on an op. Back off."

Bodie snatched Doyle's wrist again, jerking him. "I could say the same to you." He released Doyle. "Don't think you can play your games with me."

Doyle bristled at that. "It was never a game."

"Never?" Under Bodie's knowing gaze, Doyle looked away. Bodie gave a short, sharp laugh, but he turned away without saying anything more.

Doyle watched as Bodie picked up the torn polo neck. He needed to get them back to safer ground. "What's the girl to you?"

"I knew her in Africa."

"So she said."

Bodie paused in the act of pulling the polo neck over his head. "Fast talker, aren't you? What'd she tell you?"

"That she was ten when she knew you."

Bodie disappeared into the polo neck for a moment. "I worked for her father for a short time." He winced as he put his right arm into the sleeve.

Doyle moved forward, helping Bodie to ease the left sleeve over the bandage, careful to keep his touch impersonal. "Bounced her on your knee, did you?"

"More like avoided her like the plague. She was a mean shot with a water pistol."

Doyle stepped back as Bodie straightened the jumper. "I meant to say thank you."

"What for?"

"The Browning."

Bodie blinked, then a real smile appeared. "I've always kept you well-supplied."

"That you have." Doyle leant back against the sink. "Tell me what's really going on with this op, Bodie."

Bodie sighed. "Honestly, Ray, damned if I know."

"You were rostered off the last I saw."

"Checking up on me?"

"Looks like I should have done."

"Cowley called me into his office. To discuss my future."

"Ah." Doyle looked away for a moment.

"Yes, you and I will be having a conversation sometime soon."

"He told you about the restructuring?"

"I knew about that. He told me I was coming off the street."

"You what?" Why was Cowley rushing it? He could tell nothing from Bodie's expression. "What did you tell him?"

Bodie regarded him for a moment. "That's part of what we'll talk about when we've more time. While I was in the office, Cowley was called away and I saw Elisabeth's name in a file on his desk."

"In other words, you snooped."

"Like the good CI5 agent I am."

"And Cowley just happened to have the girl's file on his desk."

"Hmm." Bodie nodded.

Doyle let out a breath. "Damned plausible deniability."

"I reckon so. It was a security briefing about the witnesses for the commission, and Special Branch's strategy for looking after them."

"So naturally you went and found out where they were."

"It seemed to be my allotted role. I was just going to check out the arrangements, make sure everything was okay. She's...."

"...an old friend." Doyle shook his head. "Bloody Cowley."

"Soon after I got there, the firefight broke out. She bolted and I got to her before anyone else."

"A set-up? For you?"

"I don't see how. My timetable was completely my own."

Doyle frowned. "Anyone killed?"

"Maybe. Two men went down in the fight."

"But she was untouched."

"Miraculous, wasn't it? I reckoned I should get her to Cowley then."

"What did he say when you called?"

"That I was a bloody fool and to bring her to safe house nine immediately, taking all due precaution. He sounded angry."

"Acting?"

"That'd be my guess."

"What the hell has she got? 'Low level', you said."

Bodie shrugged. "Dunno."

"Cowley was using you, mate."

"Wouldn't be the first time."

"Special Branch must be going spare."

"Whoever it was who attacked us at the safe house, they used SAS tactics."

Doyle raised his eyebrows. "MI6?"

"Someone with connections. I told you we were in trouble."

"What's this 'we' business?" Doyle rubbed a hand over his face. "So keep her safe tonight. No one knows we're here. Get her to wherever she's supposed to be tomorrow without getting ourselves killed by our own lads."

"That's about the size of it."

"Welcome back to CI5."

Bodie grinned. "A proper homecoming."

While Bodie put his shoulder holster and jacket back on, Doyle tidied away the first aid supplies. As Bodie moved toward the door, Doyle put out a hand to stop him. "We need to find out more from her."

"Yeah."

Doyle hesitated. "You might not like some of the answers."

Bodie frowned. "So? That doesn't change what we have to do."

"Which is?"

"See her safe."

"See her safe or see her to the court to testify?"

Bodie looked at him. "Same thing."

"You know it's not."

"What are you trying to say, Doyle?"

"Just...don't put old friendship ahead of the mission."

"You think I would?

"I've known it to happen." Doyle kept his voice even.

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "You've had cause to be thankful for it."

"Yeah, and Cowley nearly put a bullet in you once, mate." He held Bodie's gaze. "Loyalty can get you killed."

"Then you'd best stay well away from me." Bodie was unyielding.

After a moment, Doyle sighed. "All right, we give her the benefit of the doubt. For now." He gestured for Bodie to go out the door, but Bodie stood his ground.

"Why are you here, Doyle?"

Doyle looked at him, waiting for more.

"Why did you come back?"

"Are we back to that? I told you."

"Funny how I don't believe you. It took you a year to arrive at the brilliant conclusion that you could stand a desk job."

"The kind of job Cowley is offering me now, yeah."

"You knew you missed the job within days of leaving."

"I missed the job as soon as Cowley showed me my results. It didn't matter."

"So you quit...the job...and went to wallow in your sorrow."

"To start a new life, you mean."

"Ah, yes. Drinking binges, pub fights, menial jobs--some life you found for yourself. What was the name of that pub you were thrown out of in Birmingham? There were two in Liverpool, weren't there, before you were arrested?"

Doyle brought his arms in tight around his stomach. "You're well informed."

"I was there."

"Were you." Doyle struggled to keep his face impassive. He'd thought he'd imagined Bodie in Birmingham, watching from the sidelines while he'd sought oblivion in drink or fists. "I could've used help in the fights," he finally managed to say.

Something flickered in Bodie's eyes, and then his lashes swept down. "You weren't asking for any."

"Since when--"

"You know damn well when you gave up that right." Bodie stepped closer to him, and there was anger in his expression now. "Yeah, I was there--on the weekend when I could manage it, or had a few days off. I saw enough. You staying in those shitty jobs and the fucking pubs--you beating and getting beaten. You didn't even half try most of the time, Doyle. And for what? Because you missed the job? Don't give me that. I was there those last years with you on the Squad. You were bloody ready to come out of the field long before that assessment."

"I wasn't--" Doyle gritted out, but Bodie overrode him.

"We both were."

That stopped him, driving all other objections from his mind. "No." He shook his head. "No."

"Yes." Bodie wasn't backing down.

"If that was true, Cowley would've pulled you when I left."

"It had nothing to do with him or the assessment."

Doyle narrowed his eyes, his breath feeling constricted in a tightened chest. "It won't wash, mate. Revisionist history."

"Some fucking irony, wasn't it? You'd given up on us while I was ready to leave with you."

"You weren't." Doyle could feeling the fury building within him again.

"You didn't stay to find out."

"I didn't--" Doyle broke off, and he stalked around Bodie, needing to move or he'd hit out. He swung back to face him. "Neither of us was ready to leave CI5, you least of all. You said it yourself the night I left: you never gave a thought for the future. You were happy enough with the mob, what would you do without it? Now you're saying you would have left for me--for a relationship that wasn't working? What the hell have you been telling yourself? I told you, blame me if you want, but don't tell yourself fairy tales."

"We were all right."

"All right. Except for the fights and the misery. When was the last time we'd been together before that night?"

Bodie looked down. "That was you--"

Doyle took in a breath. "Yeah, that was me. But don't try to tell me you were suffering for it." He rubbed his face with a hand. "Ah, sod it, Bodie, do you honestly believe we'd've made it outside?"

"Yeah." Bodie sounded belligerent.

"Yeah. So you followed me, eh? Stayed in the back of those pubs and watched."

Bodie was silent.

"Didn't try to make your point? Show me the error of my ways?"

"You'd already made your choice."

"Oh, well, had to live with it then, right?" Doyle shook his head. "You stayed in CI5."

"Ask me why."

"I don't have to."

Irritation flashed across Bodie's face. "You're always so sure you know what's going on."

"With you? I haven't a clue, mate. Except on the bloody job."

Bodie looked away, then back at Doyle. "It wasn't all bad, Ray. What we had."

Doyle couldn't help but respond to the touch of wistfulness. "No. A lot of it was good."

Bodie was quiet, looking at Doyle. "I still want you."

Doyle saw a familiar hunger in Bodie's eyes. It went straight to his groin, but it also hurt, like a searing pain in his heart. How had he ever thought this would work? One look from Bodie and he was ready to fall at his feet again.

"Miss getting fucked, do you?" He watched that hit home. Bodie never wanted to be reminded of what, exactly, he wanted from Doyle.

Bodie, as always, hid it by going on the attack. "You wanted me in the car the other day."

"I never denied it." He felt a remoteness settling in as he sheered away from the pain.

"I want what we had." Bodie closed the distance between them, and Doyle did nothing to stop him as Bodie's lips found his.

Doyle allowed himself one moment of enjoyment before he shoved Bodie away. "I don't."

Bodie caught his footing. "Bugger. Doyle."

"We're not going back there. You fancy a fuck, then? You find someone else. You were always good at that."

"I don't want anyone else."

"Are you sure it's me you're remembering? How do you know it wasn't one of the others?"

"Jealous, sweetheart?"

Doyle let out something close to a laugh, although he'd never felt less like laughing. "Wouldn't have done me any good, would it?"

"You know they didn't mean anything to me. They couldn't--"

"Fuck you the way I did?"

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "I fucked you too."

"Yeah, but we both know you liked the other better."

"That's why you left then, because I wanted--"

"Oh, for God's sake, no." This was an old argument between them and Doyle had little patience for it--even as he used the weakness. "You think it didn't work between us because you wanted my cock up your arse? You know better than that." Bodie was silent, his expression withdrawn. Doyle paused, and his voice gentled. "It wasn't that."

"What was it then?"

Doyle sighed. "I don't know. Does it matter? It's all water under the bridge now, isn't it? We weren't...we don't want the same things, Bodie. Leave it be."

Bodie reached out and took Doyle's wrist, as he had done earlier. His thumb stroked the vein and Doyle's pulse jumped. There was no hiding his reaction. "I think we do." He pulled on Doyle's wrist, tugging him closer. "Your body doesn't lie to me, Doyle."

Doyle resisted the pull, breaking free of Bodie's hold. "We didn't understand a bloody thing about each other in bed."

Bodie looked impatient. "Doyle--"

"No. You want the truth between us? You want what we were? Go back further then." He pulled out the Browning, holding it in his left hand, and with his right he touched Bodie's Colt. "This is what worked, this is what bound us together. I knew exactly which way you'd go in a firefight, the same as you knew me. In bed...I didn't know what was truth and what was lie. I didn't know you."

"I never lied to you."

"No. Sometimes I almost wished you had." Doyle let out his breath and closed his eyes for a moment. "When the partnership ended...." He trailed off, looking at the gun he held.

Bodie gently took the Browning from Doyle's hand. "There was more to it," he said, his voice firm. He checked the gun, then handed it back to Doyle. "There was truth--and trust--in bed."

"Not enough."

"It was there."

Doyle's eyes fell. "I wish I knew."

He felt Bodie's finger brush his cheek and looked up into sombre blue eyes. "Can we start over?"

Doyle sighed, and rubbed his nose. "Cowley wants us to work together."

"So I heard."

"What do you reckon?"

"That you were right about us as partners. But it's down to what you want."

"What I want." He closed his eyes. "I want what Cowley's offering."

"Then we can try."

Doyle opened his eyes and wondered if his doubts showed, if Bodie could even read him. "Yeah. We can try." He nodded towards the door. "We've left her long enough, don't you think?"

Bodie nodded, but he didn't move, and he looked at the floor.

Doyle watched his profile and he ached to reach out to him. Self-preservation stayed his hand, but nothing could still his tongue. "Why'd you stay in the job, then?"

Bodie looked up at him, hesitated, then said: "Call it...loyalty."

Doyle let his breath out, wondering if Cowley had a clue about what Bodie gave him every day. "Loyalty--"

"--will get me killed, yeah, I've heard that before." His eyes met Doyle's. "Some things are worth dying for."

Doyle shook his head. "You need a keeper, mate."

At that, there was a slight lightening of Bodie's expression, like a streak of early morning light across a cloudy sky. "Already got one, haven't I?"

Doyle let a small smile out. "Yeah." He gestured with his head and led the way out of the bathroom and back to the job at hand.

Elisabeth was in the living room, a patch of moving shadow next to the window. "All's quiet out there." She drifted to the centre of the room and sat in the armchair there, propping the Ingram on her knee. Doyle took a quick look out the front window while Bodie checked the back.

"I reckon we've lost them," Doyle said as Bodie returned.

"Maybe. Elisabeth," Bodie said, as he settled onto a table next to her chair, "you need to fill us in."

She shrugged, her expression lost in the gloom. "You already know about it. I'm to make a deposition tomorrow before the commission."

"Which is odd enough in its way," Bodie said. "You're still in the business. Why are you driving customers away?"

"There are always customers, always places to sell, items to sell."

Bodie looked at her. "You're being paid to testify."

She smiled.

"Tainted, then," Doyle said.

"Not with the documents I have. They'd nearly stand on their own."

"What documents?" Bodie asked.

"It's better you don't know." She looked from one to the other, then sighed. "Fine. Your choice. You remember a few years ago, that failed attempt by Colonel Ojuka to re-take his country?

Doyle nodded. "Yeah, and the fall of the government, the rise of the strong man Rahar and his subsequent bloody rampage."

"A miscalculation on all sides. I know where Rahar got his armament and his backing."

"The States," Bodie said. "That's not a secret."

"England."

Doyle frowned at her. "No."

"Yes. Business interests, with holdings in Africa and a dislike of both the communist government and Ojuka."

"British?"

"I have the names."

Bodie shook his head. "Stupid of them. It didn't pay off."

"No."

"Forget that," Doyle interjected. "There were British citizens who died when Rahar took over. Land and property seized, executions. If someone here was even partially responsible...."

"And thus the security leak," Bodie said. "And the pressure on Cowley."

"What were they thinking, leaving this to Special Branch? Do they know what you have here?" Doyle asked.

She shrugged. "Some of it."

Bodie nodded and Doyle caught the flash of a smile. "Still holding it close, eh?"

"I'll get full value, yes."

"If you live that long," Doyle put in.

"I'm good at taking care of myself. The documents are even better."

Bodie stood. "Well, at least we know what we're up against. Trust no one, eh?

Doyle rubbed a hand over his face. "I wish we could find a way to contact Cowley."

"He betrayed you before," Elisabeth said.

Doyle glanced at Bodie. "I don't buy that."

"But his hands might be tied," Bodie said. "Ours aren't. We can get her to court on our own."

"Pride goeth," Doyle said.

"I've no intention of falling." Bodie rubbed his hands together. "Let's plan."

Elisabeth looked at Bodie. "Do you think we might eat first?"

"There speaks a true daughter of fortune," Bodie said. "The stomach comes first."

"I detect your influence at an early age."

Elisabeth stood up. "I'll check in the kitchen."

"I'll go with you." Bodie followed her to the door

"There's no need."

"He just wants to make sure you don't nick the Swiss roll." Doyle smiled as Bodie rolled his eyes. Left alone in the living room, he returned to the window, checking the street. All appeared to be normal. Inevitably, his thoughts strayed to Bodie. Could they start over? Salvage the partnership? He stared into the dark, unseeing. In the end, it was why he'd agreed to come back. He wanted the job Cowley was offering him, yeah, but he craved Bodie. He couldn't hide that from himself any longer: he wanted the partnership. He wanted everything that Cowley had outlined. But, oh, it would be dangerously easy to fall back into their old patterns, all of them, and then into the old trap. They were already nearly there: that effortless understanding on the job, the certain knowledge that Bodie would be there. If only that certainty had worked off the job as well. Although, even with the partnership, they'd had to work at it at first. They'd fought in the beginning--chalk and cheese, Cowley had called them, and they'd remained that, even after developing their uncanny communication. He'd never worked better with anyone, and he knew the same was true for Bodie. It was why Cowley was so desperate to have them back again, working together.

Your body doesn't lie to me, Doyle. He closed his eyes. The tragedy was that it was true. He could never hide his reaction to Bodie, even if he wanted to. But he'd used his body to toy with him, playing hot and cold, taking Bodie's attraction, and his affection, for granted. God, it had been a turn-on. He shouldn't have been surprised, then, that Bodie could no longer read him when he'd turned serious. And it was then he had learned to distrust his own certainties where Bodie was concerned.

A noise drew his attention and he moved quickly to the hallway, surprised to find Elisabeth at the front door, working to open it.

"What are you doing?" He stopped as she swung around, levelling the Ingram at him.

"Keep your hands well away and up," she said softly, but her expression was fierce. Doyle raised his hands. She gestured him towards the front door, stepping back as he moved closer, her back against the wall. "Open it."

"You're safer with us."

"I'm not."

"We can protect you."

"Open the door."

"If they find you--"

"I'll make a tidy profit."

Doyle's hands stilled on the locks. "You're selling to the other side?"

"Business."

"They'll kill you."

"No. It's part of the game. I play it very well."

"But not as well as I do." It was Bodie's voice, behind them.

Elisabeth pressed the Ingram to Doyle's head.

"There's no profit in it, Elisabeth. You've lost."

After a moment, Doyle felt the Ingram move, and he turned around. Bodie stood down the hall from Elisabeth, his gun held in his right hand, eyes on her. She set the safety for the Ingram and placed it on the floor by her feet. Doyle bent to pick it up.

"I made a deal," Elisabeth said. Doyle straightened, gun in hand. She was looking at Bodie.

Bodie nodded. "On the phone while Doyle was patching me up, eh? We should have thought of that. But you wouldn't be stupid enough to tell them where you are."

"Let me meet them."

Doyle looked at Bodie, then back to Elisabeth. He was out of this conversation, the two of them focused on each other.

"It's safer," she said.

"That's not your reasoning."

"It is, actually. A part of it."

"No matter."

She regarded him, eyes narrowed. "You want a cut?"

Bodie smiled. "No."

"Morals?" She sounded incredulous.

Doyle broke in at that. "He does have them, you know."

"Not when I knew him."

"It's this mob I'm in. It ruins a good mercenary." Bodie gestured towards the kitchen. "Food's ready, if you really were hungry."

She didn't move, still gazing at Bodie as if he puzzled her.

Bodie looked at her, and then at Doyle. "Look, love, he's never going to let you out there. We're playing it his way."

Doyle stared at Bodie, barely registering Elisabeth's reaction. Even if that were true, since when did Bodie admit such a thing?

Elisabeth said: "Personal loyalty will get you killed, Bodie."

"So everyone tells me." Bodie's voice was oddly gentle. "Go on."

She moved past him down the hallway towards the kitchen. Doyle was still looking at Bodie.

"Gobsmacked, Ray?"

"Wondering about your priorities."

"They've never changed."

Doyle was just opening his mouth to reply when there was a sudden crash of breaking glass as gunfire erupted around them. "Get her out!" Doyle shouted to Bodie, releasing the safety on the Ingram and crouching with his back to the hallway wall.

Bodie hesitated. "Doyle--"

"Go on!" He scurried into the living room, keeping low, making for the side of the window. He'd lay down a firing pattern and hope it was enough to let Bodie and Elisabeth escape out the side door, or out a window. There had to be some way out.

There were cars on the street and lights shining into the house. The assault pattern was recognisable and he knew tear gas would be coming through any moment, or something similar. The only anomaly was the lack of any warning, any negotiation. A rogue op, he thought sourly, but cloaked in respectability. The neighbours were probably going spare; the local constabulary most likely duped. He fired out the window, sweeping the area, not much caring if he hit anything. The main point was to give Bodie a chance.

The canisters came through the window, smoke immediately starting to fill the room. Shots followed. Doyle traded fire, his back to the wall, coughing and squinting. It wouldn't be much longer. Elisabeth might not have told them where she was, but they must've had a tracer on the call. He and Bodie should have got her out as soon as they'd known she'd made it.

The attackers came through the front door: four men. He placed the Ingram on the floor, raised his empty hands, and hoped they wouldn't shoot him on sight. His luck was in. Two of the men pushed him flat, cuffed him and dragged him to his feet. They went outside, Doyle still coughing, his eyes stinging and tearing. He was pulled to the side, and then to the back of the house where it was darker, away from the main body of men and neighbours. Maybe his luck was out, after all. As soon as they stopped moving, he fell to his knees, retching and coughing. He was dragged up again.

"Doyle."

He looked into the face of the man standing in front of him, trying to see in the faint light, through his tearing eyes. "Williams." MI6.

"That's right." Williams shoved him back against the house, one of his men on either side of Doyle.

The pieces were falling into place now. Williams had survived the Dawson affair for two reasons: he'd been following orders, and he had connections. Government and business connections, it appeared.

"Where is she?" Williams demanded.

"Long gone."

Williams smiled, and he nodded at one of his men, who put his gun to Doyle's head. "Bodie!" Williams shouted.

"Waste of time, mate," Doyle told him.

Williams ignored him. "In three, Bodie. One. Two. Th--"

To Doyle's dismay, there was a rustle and then Bodie emerged from the bushes along the side of the house, Elisabeth with him. Williams took Bodie's gun from him as he drew near. Doyle tensed, waiting for Bodie's lead in whatever crazy plan he'd cooked up.

"Where are the documents?" Williams was focusing on Elisabeth, his men covering Bodie and Doyle.

"Freeze!" Armed men came running into the garden, Murphy foremost amongst them. As quick as thought, Doyle body-slammed the surprised man next to him, while Bodie took care of the other. Williams reached for Elisabeth, but she kneed him and took him out. Murphy and an agent Doyle didn't recognise disarmed Williams' men.

"Always getting yourselves into trouble," Murphy greeted them. He searched the men in his charge and found the key to Doyle's handcuffs.

"We would have had them," Bodie said, leaning against the house while Murphy set Doyle free. Doyle glanced at Bodie, then stayed by his side, offering an unobtrusive shoulder if needed.

"Or they you," Murphy said as Cowley walked onto the scene, followed by three CI5 agents.

"Williams." Cowley stopped in front of the man. "Aye, it all makes sense now." He turned to Elisabeth. "Miss Kollner, Murphy will see you to another safe house for the rest of the night. This time you will not be disturbed." He gestured for Murphy, who led Elisabeth away with one of the agents. She glanced back at Bodie but said nothing.

"Conner," Cowley said, "take Williams and his friends back to HQ."

Williams straightened, breaking free of Sally's hold on his arm. "This is an MI6 operation. Your men are rogue--"

"Spare us the lie, Williams. We know what you were after, we have our own proof, quite aside from Miss Kollner's documents. Your chief has already repudiated you. Go on, Conner."

Sally and the lads led Williams away, leaving Cowley facing Bodie and Doyle. He surveyed them. "Well, are you two quite finished causing alarm, consternation and mayhem?"

"At your instigation, sir," Bodie said tiredly.

"How did you know to come here?" Doyle asked. He rubbed his eyes, glad the sting was finally easing.

"MI6 is not the only organisation that uses phone traces. You might have thought of that."

"You suspected Williams?"

"I suspected MI6 involvement, not a particular individual. Admittedly, there were not very many candidates. He made a misstep in attacking safe house nine. That's what put us on to his organisation."

"Glad to be of service, sir."

Doyle glanced at Bodie, seeing some of the old exuberance in him, despite the obvious exhaustion. It was always the same after a successful op.

"Aye, it was a pretty mess, but well on its way to being cleaned up now. Which is more than I can say about poor Charlie's house." Cowley looked from one to the other of them. "Tell me, were you intending to trap the villains when you allowed Miss Kollner to make her telephone call?"

Bodie and Doyle looked at each other. "Of course, sir," Bodie replied.

"Aye." Cowley looked grim. "Sloppy, the pair of you."

"Perhaps if we'd had a bit more information. Sir." Doyle had no desire to hide his indignation.

"I gave you all--"

"You set Bodie to stirring up a hornets' nest. Did you even know what you were getting him into?"

"I'd heard a whisper--"

"A whisper!"

Bodie stirred beside him. "Doyle--"

Cowley looked at Doyle. "It was a calculated risk."

"Calculated."

"You have an opinion, Doyle?"

"'Full disclosure', you said in Manchester."

Cowley took a moment before replying. "Neither you nor Bodie is in your new position--yet."

"Full management and control. If you want a team approach to control, sir, then trust, and the sharing of information, are critical." He heard Bodie take in a breath as if to intervene, but he stayed silent.

"I am well aware of that, Doyle. Better, perhaps, than you. You were told to contact me if Bodie contacted you."

"That might have put a dent in your plausible deniability."

"And therefore you acted as I expected you to." Cowley smiled.

Doyle was having none of it. "You used us; you used Bodie. You knew he'd check her out and you sent him in without information or backup. Is he so expendable, then?"

"We are all expendable, Doyle."

"And that's why a one-man operation is dangerous. You've known that for years."

"It's why I'm changing the organisation, man."

"This wasn't a change."

Cowley took in a breath, then sighed. "You may remember I mentioned an adjustment period."

"For all of us." Doyle glanced at Bodie. "We won't operate blind like this any more. The vision you showed me in Manchester won't stand for that. You need to decide--exactly--what it is you want. Talk to us about it and we'll let you know if we agree to it." Doyle turned to Bodie. "Come on, mate, let's get you to hospital." He could feel Bodie shaking next to him, fine tremors running through him.

"Doyle." Doyle looked at Cowley. "Do you speak for Bodie as well, then?"

"Ah, he does, sir."

Cowley's smile was benevolent. "I've missed your impassioned speeches, Doyle. I believe we will have much to discuss, lads." He signalled towards the front of the house. "Henley, drive Bodie and Doyle to hospital."

They followed Henley to the car, ignoring the chaos around them consisting of competing security agencies, regular police, and curious and concerned neighbours. As they settled into the back of the car, Doyle realised that Bodie was doing his best to suppress laughter.

"Go on and let it out," he sighed.

Bodie grinned. "He's a shrewd old bastard."

"He's not to think he can manipulate us."

"He knows he can."

Henley had taken the driver's seat, and Doyle caught a glimpse of something close to astonishment on his face. "Are you taking us to hospital, sunshine?" Henley's grin disappeared and he started the car. Doyle returned his attention to Bodie. "How's the arm?"

"Still attached."

"So I see."

"You never gave me the Co-codamol."

Doyle relaxed into his seat. "No time. They'll pump you full of something soon enough."

"I don't want to go to hospital."

"You never do."

"They'll make a production out of it."

"They'll clean it, give you antibiotics, and probably do an X-ray."

"Bugger."

"Then they'll make you wait around to see a surgeon, just in case."

"What for?" Bodie sounded outraged.

"You know what for. Serves you right for getting hit in the first place." Doyle caught Henley's eyes on them again.

"Says the man I picked up from a convalescent centre not that long ago."

"I'm not a CI5 agent."

"You are now."

Doyle glanced at him and smiled.

"The Cow was pleased."

"He's right about the sloppiness."

Bodied shrugged. "We won't be in the field as much."

"That's no excuse." Doyle looked down at his hands. "You okay with it?" He glanced at the rear-view mirror but Henley's eyes were on the road.

"Not much choice, is there?"

"Always choices."

Bodied was silent for a moment. "No. Not always."

Doyle hesitated, thinking about Cowley. "Don't do it for loyalty."

"What the fuck else is there?" Doyle turned his head towards Bodie, then glanced in Henley's direction, but Bodie had spoken very quietly.

"Bodie--"

"Leave it."

Doyle grimaced, but let it rest. That conversation could wait until they had more privacy. He wanted to know what Bodie had said to Cowley. He needed the new partnership to be something Bodie wanted.

"Well," he said, "I'm glad you saw the Squad arriving. I didn't fancy my chances with Williams. I thought you were long gone."

There was a pause. "Nowhere to go." Bodie glanced at him. "I was glad to see them bringing you out."

"I was too. Do you know, I'd nearly forgotten what tear gas smelt like."

"Came right back to you, did it?"

"Foul stuff."

"You still reek of it.'

"Ta."

Bodie smiled, but he had no reply, turning his head to gaze out the window. Doyle watched him awhile. A control team, Cowley had said, managing operations and intel. Would that truly suit Bodie? He'd done something like that in their last years--together, they had done it. Their strengths and weaknesses complemented each other on the job. But did Bodie want that? He had a hard time imagining Bodie out of the field, not going in on any action. Bodie had been a one-man team this last year in CI5--was that why Cowley was pulling him now? He needed to have a little chat with Murphy, find out what the hell had happened.

When they arrived at the hospital, Henley handled all of the admittance details while Bodie was quickly examined and shunted off to the more private resus room to wait for the doctor. Doyle was allowed to stay with him. A&E was busy, mostly footballers with minor injuries, it seemed. They'd be chucked out of resus if an emergency came in, but Doyle was grateful for the luxury while they had it. He pulled a rolling stool over next to the exam couch.

"I need to know, straight up, do you want what Cowley's offering?" He kept his face calm, but he held his breath.

Bodie looked at him, and Doyle could tell nothing from his expression. "It might suit," he said finally.

"Might."

"You were both talking about an adjustment period."

"Yeah." Doyle looked down at the floor.

"Did you know Cowley would pull me?"

"No. But I knew he wanted us to work together."

"Do you think we can?"

Doyle looked him in the eye. "No question."

"I'm not so certain." He looked down at his hands a moment, then: "Ray--"

"How are we doing, Mr Bodie?" A nurse walked into resus, carrying a kit. Bodie pressed his lips together, transferring his attention to the woman. "I'm giving you a local anaesthetic before we clean you up. The doctor should be in shortly." She glanced at Doyle as she prepared the syringe. "You'll need to leave while we examine him."

"Doyle stays." Bodie's voice was firm.

She raised her eyebrows, but all she said was: "Very well." She gave him the injection, checked the wound, then left them alone again.

Doyle rolled back into Bodie's line of vision. "We've never had a problem on the job."

Bodie grinned at that. "Who's coming up with fairy tales now, then? We fought all the time, Sherlock."

Doyle shrugged and smiled. "Disagreements, yeah--you with your bull-in-a-china-shop ways."

"Copper."

"Mercenary."

Bodie's grin lingered, but his eyes were serious. "How can we go back, as if none of it happened? I don't want to."

Doyle felt that constriction again, like a band across his chest. "What do you want, then?"

"You already know. You."

"Bodie--"

"And what the fuck's wrong with that?" His eyes swept over Doyle. "Why shouldn't I want you? Christ, Doyle." His eyes narrowed, his voice taking on a dangerous tone. "And don't try to tell me you don't want me."

"Yeah. I want you. So what? I wanted you before, and look what it got us."

"It wasn't all--"

"--all bad. How the fuck would you know? You were too busy getting shagged by every other man on the street!"

Bodie's face darkened. "I wasn't--"

"What was that last bloke's name? Mike?"

"Mitch."

"You picked him up in a pub when you were with me."

"I did not!"

Doyle looked at him until Bodie's eyes dropped. "You went from my bed to his and back again. How many were there from the time we started, eh?"

"We weren't exclusive."

"I wanted it to be."

"I thought...that'd be too much." Bodie sounded uncertain.

Doyle shrugged, assuming a casualness he didn't feel. "Different needs."

The door opened and a young doctor walked in, followed by the same nurse. Doyle moved out of the way as they converged on Bodie. Half his mind paid attention to all they did to Bodie, all the questions and answers from the exam, and the comments as the wound was cleaned, irrigated and bound again. The other half was running through familiar circles. Why had it bothered him so much that Bodie had slept with other men? It wasn't as if any of the men could have come between them; the partnership had been solid. What did it matter, then, if Bodie had needed variety? But there it was--why had Bodie needed those other blokes? He'd thought at first it was a defence mechanism--a way to show Doyle that he could do without him. But when Doyle had fallen, when his need for Bodie had exceeded Bodie's for him, why then? Bodie had held all the winning cards. Maybe he could have learned to live with that, with how Bodie needed it to be, but...he hadn't dared put it to the test after losing the partnership. Their work in CI5 had been the only difference between Doyle and all the other men in Bodie's life.

"We'll send you up to X-ray in a few minutes and then make a determination about sending for the vascular surgeon." The doctor turned towards Doyle. "Would you be able to go with Mr Bodie to X-ray? We're pressed for staff tonight."

"Yeah." Doyle stood, walking over close to the exam couch.

"Thank you. I shall see you again, Mr Bodie." The doctor left, followed shortly by the nurses.

Bodie sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the couch. "Nine," he said, looking straight at Doyle.

"Nine what?"

"Mitch was the ninth. And the last."

Doyle was silent, wary about responding. This was a topic they had rarely spoken of, and never without anger.

"I didn't know the names of most of them," Bodie added.

"One night stands?"

"Or less. An old pattern."

"Never let anyone in too close."

"Yeah, something like that." Bodie looked down for a moment, then back at Doyle, as if facing a judge. "Maybe you won't believe me, but he was the last--would have been the last."

Doyle hesitated, unsure how to answer. "Why?"

Bodie took a breath. "It took me that long to work out they weren't you."

"Slow learner?"

Bodie's mouth turned up at one corner. "Evidently."

"I didn't know."

"I didn't tell you."

Doyle turned away, running a hand through his hair. He looked back at Bodie. "What the fuck went wrong with us? Do you know?"

"I...." Bodie let the sentence die, and shook his head.

"On the job it's so bloody easy. I know where you'll be, what you're doing. I trust you."

Bodie closed his eyes. "Yeah." He opened his eyes and looked at Doyle. "But we didn't always have that, even on the job."

Doyle shrugged. "Early on we didn't, but--"

"No, later."

"When?"

"That Greek shooter--the long shot. Remember that?"

"I didn't do what you expected." Doyle tilted his head. "You interfere with my efficiency, three-seven."

There was a smile again, in Bodie's eyes. "Loyalty can get you killed."

"Or not, in that case." Doyle sighed.

After a pause, Bodie said: "Maybe we should've treated being lovers like the early days in our partnership."

Doyle knew his smile was rueful. "That might have been dangerous."

"More than it was?"

Their eyes met. "I know I fucked with you early on."

"No one will ever accuse you of being uncomplicated."

"Nor you."

"No. But...give us a chance, Ray?"

Doyle was torn between hope and fear. "I don't know." He looked at the floor.

"Why not? I've changed."

"Have you?" Doyle looked up. "Because we'd need it to be different."

"How?"

He walked forward, coming close to Bodie again. "Look, who's the better shot between us?"

"Me."

Doyle kept looking at him.

"You with a handgun, me with a rifle."

"Yeah. We're different but equal, right? That's why it works on the job."

"Equality."

"Right. Give and take."

"I see." Bodie's voice turned flat.

Doyle's senses prickled at Bodie's abrupt change in mood. "You don't see it that way?"

"It's always just what you want, though, isn't it?"

Doyle stilled. "Is it?"

"Like that night."

Doyle blinked. "The night I left?"

"When you came over, knowing exactly how to get me going, and took what you wanted before leaving. Where's your give and take in that, Doyle?"

"That's how you remember it."

"Very clearly."

"I manipulated you, did I?"

"You've done it before." The truth was always an effective weapon.

"That night I was saying goodbye, I had no reason to manipulate you. I gave you what you wanted."

"It wasn't."

"What, then? What in bloody hell was I supposed to do? All you ever wanted from me--"

"--was you to fuck me, yeah I know." Bodie slid off the exam couch, standing in front of Doyle. "That's a crime in your book, is it? Made you think less of me."

The door opened and the same nurse walked in. "They're ready for you up in X-ray." Bodie stared a moment longer at Doyle, then turned towards the door. Doyle blew out a breath, but he took his position at Bodie's side. He'd see him to X-ray, maybe try to beat some sense into him on the way up. The nurse walked them out of resus and pointed to the lifts. Doyle nodded and led the way, keeping an eye on Bodie, who seemed merely impatient with the whole procedure.

The lift was empty. They entered it and Doyle pressed the button for the fifth floor. He rounded on Bodie as soon as the doors closed. "Let's clear this once and for all. Fucking you was not a problem."

"You're the one talking about equality."

"What the hell have positions got to do with anything?" Doyle slammed the stop button, halting the lift. "Is that why you had those blokes on the side? That old pattern you were talking about?"

Bodie shrugged.

"I see. This is your problem, sunshine, not mine. I ruined your illicit little fantasy, didn't I? It was fine, getting what you wanted when no one knew, but there I was the next morning, and the morning after that and the following one, too. I knew you liked being fucked. That you'd beg for it."

Bodie shoved Doyle hard against the lift wall. "Shut up."

"Yeah," Doyle said, straightening under Bodie's hands on his shoulders. "This is what you want to return to?" He broke free of Bodie's hold. "If all I wanted from you was sex, I wouldn't have left. I liked fucking you, you dozy bastard! Or you me! What I want is my partner back." He pressed the button to get the lift going again, his back to Bodie.

"Your partner." Bodie's voice was hard.

"Yeah."

"The one you trust."

"The one I was certain about. The one I--" He couldn't finish the sentence, wouldn't finish it. He'd once told Bodie he loved him, and it had made no difference. He felt Bodie come up behind him as they reached the fifth floor and the doors opened. There were four people waiting for the lift. Doyle filtered through the people into the corridor, seeing the sign for X-ray to his right.

Bodie grabbed his arm, stopping him. "The truth, then, about your certainties on the job. About your backup. I was in Manchester."

Doyle frowned. "You--"

"I followed you from the pub. You lost me in the allotments by your block."

Doyle pulled free of Bodie's hand. There were people looking at them. "You were the fourth man. You ran up at the end."

"Yes." Bodie was watching him, as if waiting.

"How much did you see? When did you get there?" Bodie was silent. "When?" But he saw the answer now, in Bodie's eyes.

Doyle nodded, then breathed in, finding he needed the air, there didn't seem to be enough. "No certainties on or off the job, then. You keep asking me why I'm back. If you knew me, you'd know I came back for you, you prick. Why the fuck else would I come?"

"The job," Bodie said, very quietly.

"It'll have to do, won't it?" He turned on his heel and walked away, found the door to the stairwell, and got out of there.

He exited the stairwell on the ground floor, near A&E, and saw Henley in the corridor leading to the waiting area, with Murphy beside him. He moved forward, hardly aware of what he was doing, and heard their voices as he drew near:

"...almost human. I couldn't believe it."

"That's Doyle." Murphy saw him approaching and moved to intercept him. "How is he?"

"He'll live."

"Always lands on his feet, doesn't he? Are you staying or going home?"

"Home."

"I'll give you a lift, then." Murphy gestured towards Henley, who was hovering nearby. "He's on security duty here. Cowley's orders."

Doyle frowned. "Any reason?"

"Nah, I think it's window dressing."

"Right, then, I'll take you up on the offer."

Murphy nodded and they left the hospital. In a way, Doyle was grateful for the company; he didn't want to think about Bodie. Hanging back and watching the pub fights, yeah, he could understand that, but for Bodie to have left it that long in Manchester? They'd been out to kill him there.

Murphy was driving a green Cortina and Doyle settled into the car with an eerie sense of both familiarity and dislocation. He was back in CI5, with his former colleagues, almost as if he'd never been gone, but there were differences, and everything was just slightly off-kilter.

"Who's with the girl?" Doyle asked as Murphy headed out onto the street.

"Sally and Lucas."

"Is she cooperating now?"

"She seems resigned to it, yes. Cowley stopped by and had a conversation with her."

"That would do it for me."

"And me." Murphy was silent for awhile, then: "I'm glad you're back, Ray."

"Has Cowley said anything about what I'll be doing?"

"Some hint, yes. You and Bodie."

"Any grumblings?"

"Not from anyone who matters."

"See what you say a month from now."

"I might not be so frank with you a month from now." Murphy sent a grin his way.

Doyle smiled back, but his thoughts went another direction. "Do you ever think about getting out?"

"I try not to. I've no idea what I would do without the mob."

"Yeah." That was probably true for the majority of active agents. Being in the field was all they wanted, despite the dangers, or maybe because of them. Thinking about the future--any future--seemed like a jinx.

"I am glad Bodie's getting out." Murphy's voice was serious.

"That's made the rounds, has it?"

"He told me."

Doyle looked out the window, then back at Murphy. "What happened with you and Bodie? I thought--"

"I know what you thought. Cowley made the same mistake."

"He always worked well with you."

"On training exercises."

"In the field. He trusted you."

"No. The only one he ever really trusted in the field was you."

"He's a team player."

"Yes, as long as he has his own role. That's different from working with a partner, and you know it."

"You could have reined him in; Cowley could have."

"He hasn't been getting along with Cowley any better than the rest of us."

Doyle looked at him. "I haven't noticed--"

"You haven't been back long, have you? And he's different when you're around."

"He's Cowley's blue-eyed boy. They're alike."

"Too much so. You were the buffer between them."

Doyle gritted his teeth. "Bodie's all right."

"How would you know? You left. And I'll tell you something, Doyle, next time take him with you. It might save his life."

"We're not tied at the hip, mate."

"In this mob you are."

Doyle stared out the window, seeing nothing of the lights or the other cars. Cowley had told him he was satisfied with Bodie's work. But then, Cowley was not always perfectly frank, and he'd wanted Doyle back to work with Bodie.

Murphy sighed. "Look, I know it's not my business. All I wanted to say was that the two of you, together, were the best team we had. I reckon we stand a chance of surviving with you two running the ops along with Cowley. You'll have my backing."

"Thanks, mate. We'll need it." If it wasn't already blown to pieces. He'd never doubted his ability to work with Bodie, but maybe Bodie's doubts were clearer now. Where was trust in all the tangled emotions between them? Bodie had watched.... Sod it all, what were they going to do?

When they arrived at his block, all was quiet. Doyle looked at Murphy. "There was a shot fired outside, when all this started."

"McCabe. He's all right. He arrived just as the villains were going up for you."

"I shall have to thank him."

"More than that." Doyle looked at him inquiringly. "He had a date lined up tonight. Cowley called him in."

"Bugger."

"I'm just letting you know. You're not very popular with him at the moment." Doyle nodded and exited the car, waving his farewell. He walked up to his flat, wondering if Murphy was assigned to watch it for the rest of the night. He wouldn't be surprised.

The flat was dark, cool, and completely silent. He flipped on the light, paused for a second, and then went through to the kitchen. After making a cup of tea, he looked in the refrigerator, noting that he'd need to go to the shops soon. He finally settled on cheese and pickle, and took the sandwich and tea to the living room. He sat in an armchair by the window, not bothering with more light than the hallway provided.

Bodie had been in Manchester. Bodie had followed him, and caught up, and stayed out of it until the very end.

I still want you.

And that's all it was, wasn't it? All it had ever been. There'd been truth in bed, Bodie had said, and it was just as Doyle had thought: sex was what Bodie was after. And why in hell couldn't that have been enough for him? Why'd he have to want more from Bodie?

Give us a chance, Ray? For what, in God's name?

He set the cup down on the table next to the chair and stood up. Restless, he crossed to the far side of the room, lifting a hand as if to turn on the lamp, then realised he didn't want to do that. He turned back again, towards the window.

He should leave, forget the job, forget Bodie, get clean away this time. He'd make it impossible for Bodie to find him. Why'd Bodie come to find him in the first place? And then why hadn't he approached Doyle? Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester...they'd been tied at the hip with a very long rope. Doyle stopped at the door to the living room, surprised to find himself there. What would he do if he left? Where would he go?

Bodie had said he'd been ready to leave with him. Would he have done it? Would they have had a chance of making it? He didn't know any more, all his certainties were shot to hell. He'd always trusted Bodie with his back. Even in the early days, almost from the start. Certainly he had from the first time Bodie had saved his life. Bodie always arrived in time. Always. He'd built more than the partnership on that certainty. Dammit, was there to be nothing left for him?

Doyle returned to the chair. There was no reason for him to leave. He'd told Bodie he'd come back for the job and, by God, he'd prove that. Murphy was wrong, they could work separately, if need be. Bodie had stayed in CI5 out of loyalty to Cowley, he could bloody well.... Murphy was wrong, simple as that.

The tea had grown cold. He was tempted to hit the scotch but he'd had his fill of drinking to pass out. He ought to go to bed; Cowley would want him in early to give a full report, including Bodie's condition. Well, they weren't tied at the hip any more, Cowley could gather his own information on Bodie.

He forced himself to think about the files he'd been reading. He was familiar with every case, knew exactly the ops that were ongoing--always assuming that Cowley had shared all the information with him. There was something he'd have to watch in this so-called adjustment period. Where was an operation Susie going to fit in with Cowley's new organisation? Cowley would have thought about it; Doyle had better suss it out ahead of time, before they found themselves in another situation like tonight. Loyalty was Bodie's Achilles heel and Cowley knew it. So where had Bodie's loyalty been in Manchester, then? Cowley had known Doyle would disobey him to help Bodie if he called. Yeah, he'd throw away his career for Bodie, and Bodie....

Dammit. Doyle jumped up from the chair, taking his cup into the kitchen and rinsing it out. Bodie had stopped the fight; he'd got him out of there. How long could he have been watching? As Doyle returned to the living room, there was a knock on the door. He drew his gun and headed for the door, wondering if it might be Murphy. Perhaps he hadn't gone out of the building? Anyone from outside would have buzzed him. The knocking came again, harder this time. Doyle peered through the peephole: Bodie.

Frowning, Doyle unlocked the door, opening it to find Bodie with Henley hovering behind him. Bodie was dressed as he had been earlier, torn polo neck and all. He looked...relieved? Doyle holstered his gun.

"Doyle--"

Doyle interrupted him, looking past him to the obviously anxious Henley. "Murphy's about somewhere, I reckon. You might as well join him."

Henley nodded, rolled his eyes in Bodie's direction, and hurried away.

"Get in," Doyle said to Bodie, and closed the door behind him. Bodie hesitated in the hallway, glancing along it to the other rooms. "Looking for bags?" Bodie looked at him, his face wary, then he turned and walked into the living room. Doyle followed, turned on a lamp, and pulled the curtain over the window. "What did the X-ray show?"

Bodie stood in the centre of the room, facing him. "Nothing significant."

"They didn't want you to see a surgeon?"

"They still recommended it."

"Wanted to keep you overnight?"

"Yeah."

"Did they give you anything for the pain?"

"Tablets. That can wait."

"You hungry?"

"Ray...."

"Why are you here?"

Bodie hesitated. "I thought you'd come back."

"To the hospital?"

"No. That night. I thought you had come back, like you do."

Doyle widened his eyes. "Like I do?"

"You take a break--from us--and then you're back."

"Hell." Doyle sighed. "I reckon that's true."

"But you left that morning, left me with the assessment report. Left without a word to me."

"Yeah. I'd finally...."

"What?"

"Lost hope." He swallowed. "I thought you'd be relieved."

"It wasn't relief I felt."

"What then?"

"Angry." Bodie shook his head and made a helpless-looking gesture. "Lost."

Doyle closed his eyes. "I'm sorry." He opened his eyes again. "I thought it'd be easiest."

"For you?"

"For both of us. Get out before we killed each other. There was a hell of a lot of resentment building up." He looked straight at Bodie. "On both sides, I reckon."

"Maybe. But instead I nearly got you killed in Manchester." Bodie's expression turned hard.

"They didn't kill me."

"They could have."

"Yeah...." But Doyle was suddenly remembering the feel of a hand holding his, gripping hard. "You stopped them, didn't you? You took me to hospital."

Bodie shrugged, but nodded.

Doyle breathed out, and it seemed a weight lifted from him. "You came through in the end, then, like you always do."

At that, Bodie moved, stalking across the room, looking very much like a caged tiger. About as safe, too, judging by the expression on his face.

"What does that say about your theory, then?" Bodie demanded.

"What?" Doyle's eyes followed Bodie as he paced.

"You didn't know it was me following you. I didn't think you'd lose me. We both fucked up the fight. Where's that communication on the job you've been going on about?"

"We weren't on the job."

"Close enough."

"It's not the same thing."

"You didn't expect me to come out of the bushes tonight, either, when Williams had you. I never saw the Squad arriving."

Doyle looked at him with sudden understanding. "Bloody hell, Bodie."

Bodie stopped pacing. "I told you not to stand too close to me. Objectivity? Long gone where you're concerned, Doyle." He moved forward, right up to Doyle. "That's what's kept us alive. It was when I was standing off that you nearly got killed."

"You're saying our involvement was our edge?"

"Yes."

"There were years before we went to bed."

Bodie looked incredulous. "We were involved long before the sex. You know that."

Doyle shook his head, biting his lip. Sex had screwed them up, not given them an edge.

"We belong together." Bodie's voice was insistent. "I need you. I don't care if it's on the job or not, if we stay in the mob or not."

"Sex. It's just--"

"I said you, not your bloody cock, or your arse--you. All the time, with me, exclusive."

"You're talking commitment."

"Till death do us part, yeah."

"I nearly died in Manchester."

"That's not going to happen again."

"Is that why you're here now?"

Bodie looked at him, hard-eyed. "It's why I'm not leaving."

Doyle felt a jolt somewhere in his gut.

Bodie backed up a step, as if he sensed Doyle's tension. "I learned a lot in that hospital room, Doyle. The one in Manchester. I'd followed you everywhere, always had to know where you were. But I couldn't talk to you, couldn't approach you. I reckon...I was hoping you'd come back on your own, that I wouldn't have to beg." He closed his eyes. "It seemed like all I ever did was beg."

"I never saw it that way."

"I thought you did. And there you were, in those pubs, choosing that over me."

"I didn't think I had a choice." Doyle spoke softly, and Bodie went on as if he hadn't heard.

"Half the time I was ready to kill you, the other half...." He took a deep breath. "The other half I wanted to fuck you. Get fucked by you. I didn't care, I just wanted you." He looked straight at Doyle. "There's nothing but confusion around you for me. You'd think I'd be used to it by now."

Doyle shook his head. "You understand me well enough on--"

"--the job," Bodie finished for him, his voice bitter. "I don't buy that. I don't buy that that's all we are." He turned away, moving across the room again.

Doyle followed him with his eyes, tracking his progress to the window to peer out behind the curtain. "We did nothing but misunderstand each other. You thought that last night was me taking what I wanted. I thought it was me giving you everything you wanted--no words, no fights--just us, and me making you feel good. Maybe it was my fault, my...manipulation, like you--" He broke off as he saw Bodie straighten, going into alert mode with whatever he was seeing out the window. He moved swiftly to the window himself. "What is it?"

"Don't know."

"Murphy and Henley are out there."

"I know. Get the light."

Doyle picked up his holster from the table as he turned off the lamp, leaving the room in darkness but for the light from the hallway. "I've got--"

"Shut up, Ray." Bodie was right next to him, was taking the holster from his hand, was pushing him back, against the wall.

"Bod--"

Bodie's mouth covered his, his body pressing against Doyle's, not allowing him room for any movement. Ruthlessly, Bodie kissed him, stealing his breath, plunging him straight into the inferno that he'd nearly always felt where Bodie was concerned. He could never get enough of this; never had had enough of this.

Bodie's mouth left his, but his body remained, and his voice spoke in Doyle's ear, as hands moved roughly over him, heedless of clothing and buttons. "Don't think. You're not to think. Just feel. You reckon we can't communicate this way? You know what I want; I know what you want. You know where my hands are going; I know how to turn you to flame. There's no manipulation here, Doyle, there never was."

"Bodie." The name came out a moan, he couldn't help it. He was long past being able to help himself. Bodie's tongue was exploring his neck.

"Shut up. You said you wanted your partner back. This is your partner, as much as the other." Doyle's shirt was undone, his trousers being worked on.

"My...partner." Doyle's hands moved to Bodie, taking achingly familiar paths, seeking skin. He groaned as Bodie's mouth reached his chest, and again when Bodie's head lifted, and he was left bereft, leaning against the wall, his hands on Bodie's sides.

"Listen to me, Ray: I want my partner back."

Doyle lifted heavy eyes to his, unable to discern an expression in the dark. Bodie's hands moved up his arms, settling around his neck.

"Do you understand me?" Bodie shook him, then moved in again to kiss Doyle's mouth. "It's not just sex, not just fucking. It's exclusive. I swear that to you. I want what you were willing to give me before. Please. I want everything. I want what it was before this--" his thumbs caressed Doyle's throat. "And I want what it was during this." He kissed Doyle's mouth, swift and hard. "I want the confusion and the connection." He lifted his head, took a step back, and released Doyle. "Without that, without all of it, we're nothing. We're back in Manchester. We're lost."

Doyle took in a breath, looking at Bodie, who was standing there, waiting, in the dark. He had a feeling Bodie would wait there forever--just as he'd always come back to Bodie, no matter his pride or what he thought was best for Bodie. "When I talked about the partnership before, about the give and take--I was talking about need. That's what has to be equal."

"How do we measure it then," Bodie said, his tone brisk. But Doyle could feel the tension in him.

"Time." Doyle moved a step forward. "Risk."

"Trust." Bodie's hands settled on Doyle's face, his fingers on his neck.

"Like on the job." His mouth sought Bodie's, proclaiming his own need, his own desire. He felt a tremor go through Bodie and he pulled back abruptly. "Bloody hell, you were shot." He moved to step back, but Bodie's hands clamped on him, stopping him.

"We're going to bed." Bodie's tone was uncompromising.

"You're taking those tablets." Doyle resisted Bodie's shove towards the door.

"No, I'm not." Bodie's shove was more successful this time, and he propelled Doyle through the door and down the hallway.

"Bodie--"

"I thought I told you to shut up." They'd reached Doyle's bedroom. Bodie immediately took off his jacket.

"Don't get all butch with me." Doyle helped Bodie with his polo neck, tossing it towards the rubbish bin by the door. He looked at the bandage wrapped around Bodie's arm. "I don't--"

"Ray." Bodie gripped his arm, dragging him towards the bed. "We'll take it easy. I have to do this. I have to show you--"

Doyle allowed himself to be pushed onto the bed, and made room for Bodie to join him. "What?"

Bodie pressed against him, arms and legs making full contact, as if he were absorbing Doyle. "That our bodies always understood each other. It was our brains that got in the way."

"You haven't got any," Doyle murmured, giving in to the onslaught on his senses.

"Neither have you." And then there was no thinking at all, as Doyle followed Bodie's lead, and let his body do all the communicating.

How he had missed this. Bodie's touch was like no other. And his own fingers knew the difference in the skin beneath them. No one knew him as intimately as Bodie did. It wasn't just the knowledge of a former lover, it was...everything. It was the difference between working with another agent and working with his partner. It was why they needed to be together.

He took care with Bodie, trying to keep it slow, but Bodie had his own ideas, and his mouth took away Doyle's protests. It had been so long since he had felt like this--receiving and giving, his touches returned to him through Bodie. The last time had been that night, a year ago, but this night was unshadowed. This night he silenced the cautious voice inside, the fearful voice. He went with his gut, he went with trust. And he remembered that Bodie felt vulnerable being the first one to cry out, and he gave voice to his own need and rising excitement. Bodie took him deep into his mouth, and Doyle held on to him, surrendering to the passion flaming within him, holding nothing back in his response. He shattered when he came. But he was held together by Bodie's touch; reassembled in the safety of his arms--his solid, certain presence.

"Ray...please...." And Doyle moved to kiss him, to silence the words, using his mouth and body to let Bodie know he understood his need--that it was safe. But Bodie fended him off, and laughed, and told him he'd shout it out the window if need be, and give Murphy and Henley a thrill. So Doyle kissed his way down Bodie's body, and his tongue and fingers gave Bodie all he asked for, and he felt each moment with Bodie, each betrayal of surrender and the secret joy in it. He took Bodie's release within himself, joined to Bodie, and felt the deeper connection. The one certain truth between them.

And afterwards, they lay together entangled, and Bodie whispered to him: "Like being in a firefight--"

"--and knowing which way you'll break."

"I'll always get to you in time."

Doyle grinned. "Cowley will be pleased. Disbelieving, mind, but pleased." He lay quiet for a while, feeling Bodie's arm heavy across his chest, safe with him. How had they come to this? How could they not have come to this?

"What are you thinking?" Bodie asked, a little tentatively.

Doyle turned his head and peered at him, then returned to contemplating the ceiling. He laughed when Bodie shook him. "All right, just not used to this...communicative version of you."

He heard Bodie take in a deep breath. "Whatever it takes, Doyle."

"Like the early days, eh? It did take us awhile to get in synch on the job."

"The worst weeks of my life, as I remember it."

"You hated it when I saved you from that IRA nutter."

"You were furious when I was the one who found you in that bombed-out warehouse."

Doyle stroked the arm across his chest. "We came to an understanding."

"We came to more than that." Bodie's hand gripped his shoulder for a moment.

"Are you going to resent me when you beg me to fuck you?"

"Are you going to believe me when I tell you about this yawning pit of need?"

He lifted his head up this time to look at Bodie properly. "Yawning pit of need?"

"Yeah, that's what I said." Bodie sounded nonchalant but Doyle could feel the embarrassment.

Doyle lowered his head. "Thought that must be it. Do you want those tablets now?"

"Doyle!"

He smiled, and rolled over so he could look directly into Bodie's eyes, pushing him flat on the bed. "You said you weren't leaving."

Bodie's hand reached up to stroke Doyle's face. "No."

"That tells me all I need to know. I understand you."

"When I beat it into your head. Must be all these curls." He hesitated, then said: "I stayed in CI5 so you'd be able to find me."

Doyle absorbed that, like a warm day after winter's chill. "I came back. You know me."

Bodie shook his head. "I hoped. There was never a certainty."

"There never is. Maybe I should have had more hope."

"Mine came back when you threw in with us at your flat."

"I'd've done that before I loved you. That won't ever change."

Bodie rested his hand on Doyle's neck, stroking him with his thumb. "Those last months, before you left, I was coming around to it but I didn't understand what you needed. I didn't believe you. I thought it was...a game."

"Christ." He ducked his head, kissing Bodie's unbandaged shoulder.

"That's why I had to know why you came back."

"You still believed it? The games were over long ago."

"I know; I knew it then but.... I didn't understand what I felt for you, how I could need you so much. Maybe I didn't want to believe you." Bodie closed his eyes, and for the first time Doyle saw what the year had taken out of him. "When you came back, I didn't know if you still felt anything for me. I didn't know how to approach you."

"You came to me for help tonight. That's what started this."

"Who else would I go to?"

Doyle looked at him. "Perhaps if you hadn't alienated everyone, leaving them out when going in on an op."

"No point in working with anyone else. I can't do it."

Doyle kissed him. "I should hope not." He sighed as he settled down along Bodie's side. "I should have come back sooner. All this bloody time, wasted." He frowned as he felt a change in Bodie, felt the tensing of his muscles. He lifted his head, and put a hand on Bodie's neck, feeling his heartbeat. "What?"

There was silence for a long time, then Bodie sighed. "I needed--it took what happened in Manchester. I wasn't ready before then."

"Blinding enlightenment?"

"It felt like it--like being unfrozen."

Doyle lay back down. "Almost worth the bruises, then." He felt Bodie's hand on his arm, caressing him, offering comfort and apology both. A thought struck him, and he propped himself up on his elbow, then poked Bodie. "Oi. What was all that shit about you being ready to leave with me a year ago?"

"It wasn't all...." Bodie wilted under Doyle's glare. "It sounded good at the time, didn't it?"

"What the fuck were we arguing about?"

"You coming back just for the job."

"Oh."

"After you left, it helped fuel the anger to think that you hadn't given me a chance."

Doyle nodded. "Not bad at self-deception, are we?"

Bodie smiled, but it faded as he traced Doyle's new implant with his finger. "I don't know what I would have done if you'd told me about the assessment that night. I was only just realising I could trust you with more than my life."

"And then I left."

"Yeah."

"We were both angry, and lost."

"Don't forget self-righteous."

"Oh, I won't. I reckon that's what kept us both going, sometimes." He frowned, his eyes on Bodie's hand, now rubbing his arm. "I was on a self-destructive path."

"No, really?"

"Shut up. I reckon what happened in Manchester would've happened somewhere else--only I'd've really been alone." Bodie's hand tightened on him, but he said nothing. "In for a penny." He looked at Bodie.

"We can't fuck it up worse than we did."

Doyle raised his eyebrows. "I wouldn't put anything past us, but...no." He bent down and kissed Bodie. "Seems to me we had a similar conversation once."

A slow smile dawned in Bodie's eyes. "The Giordano op?"

"Cowley was ready to split us."

"I wanted nothing more than to be shot of you."

"You tried that. It's why we failed in the first place. Bloody one-man army."

"Bloody by-the-book copper."

"Fooled you."

"And you."

"We fooled Cowley."

"And will again."

He looked at Bodie, seeing everything he ever needed in him, feeling the fear that went along with that. A great, yawning pit of need, indeed.

Bodie's fingers settled on his face again, moving into his hair to cup his head. "We're in this together, Doyle. Always."

Time. Risk. Trust.

And Doyle smiled.

-- THE END --

September 2006
Originally published in Roses and Lavender 6, Allamagoosa Press, 2007


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