There was something immensely frustrating about watching the two of them together.

Perhaps it was because Murphy worked alone most of the time and was a little jealous, perhaps it was because he needed to be getting on with the job in hand and they were distracting him... Perhaps it was because they were both irritating as sin.

Whatever it was, Murphy was in no mood for it on this particular morning.

They were stuck in the on-call room, finishing paperwork from an operation that had ended successfully last week, but that they'd all 'forgotten' to submit reports for. Cowley had called them all in at bloody 7 o'clock that morning and stated, in no uncertain terms, that even if the whole world was to arm up for World War Three, they were to remain in the on-call room until they'd dotted every single 'I' and crossed each individual 'T'. In triplicate.

Of course, Bodie - with his natural aversion to anything that wasn't running, jumping or killing - had taken this as an excuse to sit back and enjoy a few hours free amusement at Doyle's expense. Murphy knew that Doyle's training in the fully-papered world of the police lent him a very guilty conscience when it came to undone paperwork, and Bodie was taking full advantage of this.

A paper missile hit Doyle in the back, and Murphy watched as leather-clad shoulders tightened in fury. Bodie was wearing a smirk that looked like it should have been wiped off him, and Murphy knew - without a doubt - that he was fully aware of how obnoxious he was being. And so did Doyle.

Only Doyle was foxier than his partner: he wasn't giving Bodie the attention he wanted. And it was winding Bodie up something rotten. Very clever.

Still, Murphy would rather not sit in the middle of a brewing volcano, which was exactly what Bodie would be getting if he kept on baiting Doyle. Not one to suffer fools gladly, was Doyle... Not even if it was his favourite fool of all.

Again, though, Murphy had a sneaking suspicion Bodie knew all of this. No one knew Doyle better than Bodie, that was a given. Vice versa, and all. That was how they worked so well, so some agents had it; they knew each other better than themselves.

Another intrepid paper aeroplane made the doomed voyage to the back of Doyle's curly head.

There was a shout, a sudden shove, and the rather enjoyable sound of Bodie, chair and all, hitting the floor.

Doyle returned to his case file, a small smile hidden in the corner of his mouth. Bodie, too, was grinning up at the dingy ceiling tiles, the bruises on his arse being a small price to pay for getting Doyle to react.

Murphy wondered whether it was really that impressive, after all. Know each other, they might do... but he'd never met two more oblivious blokes in his life.

He shook his head, and returned to the sentence he'd been reading for the past twenty minutes.

The hospital room is cold, and slightly blue under the harsh lighting. The noises have faded from the corridors, and the rooms are filled with the sounds of faltering respirators, coughs and - worst of all - moans.

Murphy shivers. Horrible places, hospitals. He should be used to them by now, the amount of times the job's put him or other agents into them... But he isn't. Hospitals turn strong men into cowards. They make huge, brick shit-house blokes look small and fragile. They're where people cry and die, and the walls remember it all.

He sneaks a glance at the man trudging alongside him. The set line of the jaw and the dark eyes tells him all he needs to know. He fights to keep the pity from his face.

They reach the door to the room, their echoing footsteps slowing a heartbeat after they stop. Murphy wishes he could think of something to say, something to fill the yawning silence of the hospital, something to make up for the sudden, inescapable lack of someone beside them.

He reaches a hand out, almost frightened - even though that's stupid because he's a Ci5 agent, and there's no room for fear in that outfit, especially not about stuff like this - and lays it uselessly on the leather-clad shoulder. As if that's going to help anything.

But Doyle turns to look at him, and somehow Murphy knows it did help something. He can see it, deep in Doyle's eyes. Just behind all the worry and all that useless, impotent anger.

Doyle nods, takes a quick breath, and opens the door, and Murphy is left alone in the moaning corridor.

"Doyle, do you want a cuppa?"

A quick look upwards, to see if he was taking the piss. Bodie was looking down at his file, pen in hand, frowning slightly at the words. No grin, no gleeful little eyes. No joke?

"Yeah, go on then, I will." Doyle took the risk.

"Me, too. Get some biccies and all, will you?"

And there it was. The sudden flick of a page, the little twisting pout of a suppressed grin, the carefully averted eyes, the all-too innocent tone... They were dealing with the master of social subterfuge, here.

Murphy grinned, even though it was a lame trick to pull - the oldest one in the book - and Bodie shouldn't have sunk so low.

He watched as Doyle's teeth ground. It was pretty funny, winding Doyle up, but they all knew that only Bodie had the balls to actually do it. Not only that, but he was a crazy son of a gun, which probably helped when one was baiting a spitting cobra, which was exactly what Doyle could turn into at the drop of a hat.

Bodie looked a bit put out that Doyle hadn't, actually, dropped all that he was doing and gone to fetch him a cup of tea. More fool him, Murphy thought, and tried in vain to finish the sentence he'd been writing before he'd forgotten the point to it.

There was a peaceful silence for about half a minute, before Bodie threw his file off the desk.

"Why are we here?" He demanded with sudden venom, crossing his arms in a decidedly sulky movement.

Doyle didn't even bother looking up, too used by now to Bodie's very occasional temper tantrums, as well as his constant awkwardness.

"What you're asking there, son, is a question what has fascinated philosophers in vain for many decades... You think me or Murph have had the secret of life under our caps all this time?"

Bodie rolled his eyes, and stood up, restless energy radiating off him. Bodie didn't like staying in one place long enough to be caught short, not unless there was a real reason to it. Probably why the paperwork had piled as high as it had.

"Don't be obtuse. You know precisely what I mean." Bodie said dismissively, taking on a faintly superior air with a raise of his eyebrows.

Doyle's nostrils went white. A bit like a bull about to charge.

Murphy was about to stand up and step in front of Bodie - if nothing else, it would have saved the fool from having a desk thrown at his head - when the door to the office opened, and Cowley stepped into the tingling room.

He promptly ignored the atmosphere - as well as the death glare Doyle was giving his partner's back. "Job for you three. There's a hostage situation down the embankment, Betty's got the details. Get to it: call me if you cannae handle it."

And with that, he'd disappeared.

Bodie's face lit up, and he rubbed his hands together as he moved to get his jacket. "Excellent!"

"You're a heathen. Only bloody you would get excited about hostages." Doyle snarled as he threw his pen down, perhaps a little unnecessarily. Quick with his tongue, Doyle was, but he didn't always think through what he said before he lashed it out.

Murphy saw the quick flash of embarrassment that flickered in Bodie's eyes as he picked his gun up. But by the time he'd looked again, the smile was back in place and Bodie was barrelling towards the door.

"Yeah, well, this heathen's just glad he's got no more paperwork!" He was already half way down the stairs by the time Murphy reached the door, running all the way.

"Christ above," Doyle muttered to himself as he came up behind Murphy. "Dunno who'll end him first: them or me."

Murphy grinned in agreement.

He's standing there when Doyle comes out. So he sees the pinched, white look of pure fear on Doyle's face, replacing the fury that had been there before. He sees the way his eyes look wet, and how he keeps them averted - as if Murphy wouldn't see he'd been crying if he did that.

Murphy wants to ask how he is, wants to ask how Bodie is; but even though he's done it a million times before - or so it seems - this time, it doesn't feel quite right. Doyle's words to him in the office ring true in his ear, a horrible foreshadow of what had happened. And he knows better than to think Doyle hadn't realised this. He knows Doyle better than to think that that one little, off-hand comment he'd made not two hours ago wasn't spinning around and around in that brain of his. Always over thinking things, Doyle was. Bodie had always told him off for it... Did always tell him off for it. Still might tell him off for it, yet. Maybe.

He winces at his own thoughts, and thrusts the cooling paper cup of shitty, sweetened coffee at the man instead. Doyle doesn't even notice, he's staring off into space, chewing over the events of the past couple of hours, his eyes skittering across nothing as he thinks about what could have happened, what did happen.

Murphy sees the exact moment where Doyle's skin turns absolutely, bloodlessly ashen. Working on autopilot, as if he'd been programmed to deal with exactly this sort of crisis, Murphy takes his arm firmly and pulls him down the corridor, cutting through the wails, and out onto the fire exit.

They explode through the heavy door into the biting cold, and Murphy watches wordlessly as Doyle leans over the railings of the staircase, and lets loose on the car park below. Somehow, this is better than seeing him cry, but Murphy still felt a twinge of sympathy as Doyle, unable to give up anything else, hangs over the railings like a discarded rag-doll, green in the face and gasping for breath, all the fight stolen from him. His ragged breathing is loud in Murphy's ears.

They're surrounded by sky, steel-grey and so brittle-looking it looks like a single touch to the horizon would shatter it. Murphy sniffs, but doesn't quite enjoy the refreshing sense of cold air filling his lungs, all he can taste is the tang of vomit.

"Trust fucking Bodie."

The bitter words, weak and thready as they are, make him look across: Doyle is sitting with his legs dangling from the clanging metal platform, his forearms resting on the railings, forehead resting on forearms. He exudes weariness and worry, and it unnerves Murphy, who's used to him only exuding aggravation. Murphy wonders what he's supposed to do next.

He's been in this situation loads of times with Bodie. He knows what to do with Bodie; and he's had enough practice to do it without a second thought, now. When Doyle's hurt - you get out of the fucking way: you stand well back because the short fuse is burning bright and nothing gets in the way of it. Bodie doesn't need anyone or anything, only his partner back by his side to irritate.

But Doyle... He's a different matter entirely. Only Bodie ever knows what he really needs.

To everyone else, Doyle is a bad-tempered, flash-tongued bastard who you don't talk to in the morning before he's drunk half the contents of the percolator, who you don't moan on at excessively, and who you let complain and bitch as much as his little, brittle heart desires. He's hot-headed, mean-hearted and difficult to talk to, and he's possibly the finest agent Murphy's ever had the pleasure of working with.

How do you even pretend to know what a person like that needs when their partner has just been gunned down in a routine op?

He may be unsure, but Murphy can see Doyle needs something. And while he's no Bodie - no, go on, his brain chimes in nastily, pull the fucking other one- he rather likes Doyle, for all his bad habits and lack of social skills, and he'd even call him a friend. When no one was around. Under his breath.

So he goes silently and sits by the other agent, and puts an arm around his shaking shoulders, and doesn't say anything when he hears the angry, hopeless tears start again. He sits, wrapped around the shuddering agent, two sets of feet falling away into nothingness, until the sky eases and all else is silent.

-- THE END --

December 2007

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