Blood Still Cries
by Debra Hicks
Doyle tossed the computer printout aside in disgust, leaned back in the hard, straight chair and chewed thoughtfully on his lower lip. Reports on men from Bodie's old unit lay scattered across the wooden desk. Fourteen men dead in four different countries, ten different cities; three homicides, seven accidents, four natural causes. A ten times normal death rate. But the murders had been solved, the accidents explained and even SAS men were not immune to the ravages of heart attack and cancer.
Still, every copper's instinct Doyle possessed told him that something was not right. Cowley and Ross agreed. But he couldn't find it. Then there was Bodie, alive and healthy. No matter what it took Doyle intended to see that he stayed that way. He stretched back, twisted so that his back and shoulders cracked.
A quick glance at the clock brought a groan of dismay. Cowley had ordered Bodie on three days leave the morning after they had booked King Billy. He had also ordered him where to take it, at the CI5 cottage fifty miles west of the tiny village of Hawick in the north country. He hadn't had to order Doyle to be the one to escort his partner to the airport, at eight this morning.
Doyle rubbed his eyes. He and Bodie had not exchanged more than a few sentences since they had brought in King Billy. Doyle had preferred it that way; it gave him time to calm down, time for his bruises to stop stinging. But too much time to think. Now he didn't know what he wanted to say to Bodie, had no idea what Bodie would say to him.
Doyle's phone rang half an hour before his alarm did. "Doyle," he answered groggily.
"Ray," Bodie's voice was distant, but not because of the connection. Doyle was instantly awake. "I'm at the airport. I decided to take an earlier plane."
"What? Why?" Doyle demanded.
There was a long pause before Bodie said, "If I have to be green carded, Doyle, I'd rather it wasn't in front of the whole team."
"I'll call when I get there. See you in a few days."
The line went dead. There was a flash of panic as Doyle imagined Bodie boarding a different flight, running from his troubles and from Doyle's life forever. Sanity re-asserted itself. Despite everything that had happened lately, Bodie had not lied to him. He smiled, he also knew that McNally was still shadowing Bodie per the Cow's orders. If Bodie did anything strange Doyle would hear about it.
Bodie stared at the phone, completely bewildered by how the conversation had gone. It was not at all what he had planned. He had called Doyle to apologize for hitting him - and to say goodbye. The sound of Doyle's sleepy voice had melted his resolve in a wash of exasperated affection.
He had messed up no end the past few weeks; Doyle had every reason to request a new partner, especially after the fight with King Billy. He hadn't. Until this moment Bodie hadn't realized what that meant to him.
He glanced at the ticket in his hand, destination Cairo. With just a hint of a smile he headed for the ticket counter to exchange it.
The door blew itself shut behind him as Doyle came into headquarters. A cold front was blowing up out of the north Atlantic, bringing strong winds and icy rain. Doyle frowned, thinking of Bodie and McNally. With the front sweeping down it would turn nasty up country; they could be stranded for more than the required three days. That would thrill his partner no end. Despite, or maybe because of, his jungle days Bodie hated the outdoors, much preferring the active city life.
There was a message waiting for Doyle at the desk from McNally saying that all was quiet on the western front. Doyle glanced at his watch. Bodie's flight would have arrived an hour ago, from there it was an hours drive in good weather, which he didn't have. Also given that it would be about noon when he arrived, Doyle didn't count on hearing from his partner before one. Bodie would take care of lunch first. He smiled as he started up, he had a strong feeling that the phone call from Bodie would be the only high point of his day.
Hours later Cowley walked into where Doyle was still elbow deep in files. "Anything?"
Doyle leaned back; it irked him to have nothing to report. He shook his head, waving roughly at the pile of printouts and reports. "Nothing," with great reluctance he added, "except..."
Cowley leaned over his shoulder impatiently. "Well, what is it, man?"
"It might be a pattern," Doyle admitted. "From September 15th to the 29th, 3 deaths; from December 28th thru January 17th, 3 deaths; May 11th thru June 1st, 3 deaths; finally September 30th thru October 15th, 3 deaths."
There was a moment of silence as Cowley scanned the printouts. "A pattern, Doyle," he said, looking intensely down into green eyes, "or wishful thinking?"
Doyle shrugged. "There is also Williams in January and Byers last April."
Cowley nodded, slipped his glasses into his coat pocket. "Get me a copy of this printout and all the exact dates and causes of deaths. I'll check with the Squad Commander, find out if the dates have some meaning, an anniversary of something perhaps."
"A pattern, sir," Doyle said blandly, "or wishful thinking?"
Cowley frowned as he closed the door.
Bodie shivered like a wet dog as he came into the small three room cottage. The weather had gone wet and cold, and Bodie's temper had turned with it. He took immense, perverse pleasure in knowing that some fellow agent was parked nearby in a cold van, eating even colder sandwiches.
Telling himself to not be so vindictive Bodie checked out the house. As all the operatives were commanded to do, the last team had stocked the kitchen and the woodbin. Bodie was especially grateful for the former. He took off his wet coat, hung it over the cold fireplace and went to light the water heater.
While the water heated Bodie unpacked, then on a whim, built a small fire. By the time he had poured himself a drink the water was ready and he allowed himself the luxury of a long soak in the old iron tub. He was beginning to agree with Cowley that this was a good idea; an agreement further enhanced when he walked back into the fire warmed front room.
He'd not really been thinking of anything but getting warm so he was surprised when he looked at the clock and saw it was after two. Thoughts of his promise to call Doyle connected with thoughts on the past few weeks and reality came crashing back around him. With a sigh he poured himself another drink, stretched out in front of the fire.
It had all been too much to handle at once; Williams' funeral, the realization that he was the last, then the grade sevens. He tried to narrow it down, see it a little at a time, see where the feelings of isolation had first started, but his thoughts kept drifting back to his partner.
When he'd gone into the fight with King Billy his need for revenge had been fueled by what he perceived as desertion by Doyle. Not once during the whole affair had Doyle asked him what was wrong. It was only now, with the fire crackling warmly in front of him, that he realized that Doyle had asked; for years he had asked, and never been answered. So he had quit asking.
The wind howled around the shuttered windows as the depression that was, by now, an old friend settled in around Bodie. He poured himself another drink, then another. As his hand reached for a fourth he stopped. He still had to call Doyle. He had promised, and he had never broken a promise to Ray.
It was only two rings before Doyle picked up the phone.
The single word drove away some of the cold. "Hallo, Ray. How's the weather in your part of the world?" Bodie tried to keep it light but he knew Doyle was listening closely.
"Rainy and cold," there was a slight pause, "Worse up there, is it?"
"Yeah," Bodie stared into the fire, desperately wishing he knew what to say, hating the awkwardness that had reawakened after years of absence. "What's the Cow got you working on?"
"Nothing much," Doyle evaded easily.
There was a long silence. Bodie cleared his throat. "Doyle, when I get back," he took a breath, "I'd like to talk to you about... the last couple of months."
Bodie swore he could hear the surprise at the other end, and it made him smiled slightly.
"Yeh, mate, whatever you want," Doyle agreed.
"See you in a couple of days." Bodie concluded, suddenly feeling better than he had in a long time.
"Two days, Bodie. Stay dry."
"Yes, Mum." Bodie smiled as he hung up.
Doyle hung up the phone with an immense feeling of relief and trepidation. For the first time in their partnership Bodie had admitted his need to talk. He and Bodie had talked seriously before, after Marrika, after Matheson and King, and usually after getting thoroughly drunk. The realization of how important this conversation could be to both of them unnerved him. After a few minutes he stood up and, with a bit of uncertainty, went to talk to Doctor Ross.
Stopping in front of Ross' door, he took a deep breath. The new doctor made him nervous, though he was eternally gratefully to her for sticking to her guns when she knew there was something wrong with Bodie. If not for her they might have all shrugged it off as a passing phase - until Bodie blew a real assignment and paid the consequences. A shiver went down Doyle's back at that thought and he pushed it firmly away.
He knocked, pushed the door open slightly. "Dr. Ross?"
"Come in, Doyle." He came to the desk and she pointed toward a chair. "Don't look so nervous, 4.5, I won't bite. Sit down, please."
With an embarrassed smile at being so obvious Doyle sat down, leaning back. "It's about Bodie."
Ross smiled. "I thought it might be."
"He called, says he wants to talk." Doyle paused, not sure what he was expecting from her.
"And you want to know what to do?" Ross surmised.
"Yes," again he paused, "I still don't understand why he went off the end over Williams. He's lost old mates before, told me so himself."
"Well, there's your first question," Ross said calmly.
Doyle looked doubtfully. "Yes, I suppose."
"Doyle," Ross said patiently, "you're a detective, and you know Bodie better than anyone alive. Don't be afraid to ask for the truth. He'll give it to you."
"A few weeks ago I would have agreed with you," Doyle admitted seriously.
Ross stood up and paced. "I've had to learn a whole new set of rules concerning patient confidentiality and partners." She looked back at Doyle. "Bodie is over the worst of it, but he's still experiencing some depression coupled with guilt over hitting you." With another almost smile, she reminded him, "Doyle, this was Bodie's suggestion. He won't resent the questions, not for long anyway."
The conversation died out as she let Doyle think about it. When he didn't have anymore questions, she changed the subject. "Have you found anything in your check of Bodie's ex-unit?"
He looked up, pulled at the side of his lip. "No. You?"
"Nothing." Then, in the same reluctant tone Doyle had used with Cowley, she added, "Maybe. I've spent the day calling friends or relatives of the dead men. It seems that, as is usual for units like this, some of the men kept in touch; weddings, parties, birthdays, things like that. The exception being..."
"Bodie," Doyle nodded. "I think he was always a loner."
Ross actually smiled this time. "Until you." Doyle merely shrugged, though he was secretly pleased that she had noticed Bodie's reaction to him. "Anyway, I've made a list of who kept touch with whom. The only one Bodie did have any contact with was..."
"Williams?" Doyle guessed.
It was her turn to nod. She handed over a sheet of paper. "Here are the names, with a few of the dates the relatives could remember them being together."
Doyle stood and took the list, staring at it vaguely. A thought was starting to solidify. He forced himself away from it enough to wink at the Doctor. "Thanks, Doc."
"That's Dr. Ross, 4.5," she said sternly but with the hint of smile. "Let me know if it's any help."
To his surprise, Bodie wasn't bored, even with the continuous howl of the wind and the rain that spattered against the windows. The call to Doyle, the request to talk and the easy acceptance from his partner had made him feel immensely better. He spent the rest of the afternoon stretched out, with his feet up, reading the latest Dick Francis novel, a gift from Doyle a few months before.
By the time his appetite overcame his relaxation the wind and rain had been joined by flashes of lightning and rolling thunder. After dinner army training told him to check his stock of candles and the level of oil in the two storm lamps. The small house had a gas heater, so even if he lost the electricity he would still be comfortable. Despite the storm, the temperature drop had not been felt inside, the fireplace being enough to keep it comfortable.
He was half-way to the kitchen when someone knocked on the door. He jumped in spite of himself then smiled. While the temperature inside was pleasant, outside the cold had obviously gotten to his shadow, enough so that he was willing to violate Cowley's certain orders not to be seen.
Smiling evilly Bodie leaned his shoulder against the front door. "Who is it?" he asked sweetly.
Only the wind answered.
Raising his voice he tried again. There was still no answer.
His humor turning to impatience, Bodie stood back and snatched the door open. "Come on, mate..."
The body fell into the room with a sickening thud. Bodie moved, diving out of the open space. He almost made it. The bullet slammed against his side, the force turning him so that he hit the floor hard on his back. Darkness and pain swept over him but he refused to give into it, clung to consciousness through sheer stubbornness.
Grabbing at the straight back chair near the door he wrapped his hand around his automatic hanging on the back; it came free easily. The wind whipped rain in, soaking his legs where they rested on McNally's body. He could feel the warm blood soaking his shirt but didn't move to check it, kept all his attention focused on the open door. Keeping a tight grip on the gun, he slowly shifted, moving down to grab one leg of the dead man that had been a fellow agent.
Several deep breaths settled the nausea the move caused. He lay still, concentrating on the next play. It would have to be one fast move or he would be hit again. With one jerk he pulled McNally's legs out of the way, rolled over him, grabbed the edge of the door, slammed it shut and threw the dead bolt. He held onto the knob, sweat breaking out across his forehead as it rested against the wet wood; small flashes of light appeared around the edges of his vision. He vaguely realized that he was sliding slowly toward the floor.
"No," he said aloud.
With a deep breath he pushed himself away from the door, crawled toward the telephone resting on a table near the fireplace. He stopped twice before he reached it. He turned, let his back hit the warm wall and reached for the phone. Dead silence filled his hearing. Bodie couldn't recall a time when he'd wanted to curse more, but didn't have the breath to waste.
A too familiar knowledge of wounds told him his wasn't fatal, if he got help soon. He grabbed the white cover from the table, scattering the phone and an ashtray across the floor. Teeth tight against the cry that tried to escape, he pressed it down into the wound, over his shirt. Tears blurred his vision but several deep breaths kept him conscious. There was no exit wound, the bullet was still in him.
He looked at McNally, knew it would be useless to check the body for a remote; even in the dimming light Bodie could tell that his death had not been easy. He checked the load in his Browning; it was full but the extra clips were in the bedroom. He would never make it that far. It took a minute to gather his thoughts, when he did he didn't like what they were telling him; one man dead, the phone out; he was wounded, had only twelve shots and was not due back for two more days.
Bodie leaned his head back, sighed. One thought held him up, offered a glimmer of hope, however remote. Doyle. When McNally didn't report in and he couldn't be reached by phone his partner would get worried. If there was one thing Bodie knew about Ray Doyle it was that, come hell or high water, he would insist on finding out what was wrong.
All he had to do was stay alive until Doyle got there.
"Bloody fucking hell!" Doyle scanned the page again. It fit, it all fit. And it scared the hell out of him.
He reached for the phone, never considering the fact that it was after midnight. Cowley answered on the second ring, sounding as awake as his operative.
"Bodie might be in trouble," Doyle started bluntly.
Cowley took the news calmly, knowing that Doyle would not have called if he didn't have something. "Get to HQ. I'll call McNally and put him on alert."
It took Doyle fifteen minutes to make the thirty minute drive. By the time he charged into Cowley's office every nerve was on edge. One look at Cowley's set expression confirmed that something was wrong. His controller didn't waste time, before Doyle could even begin to explain what he'd found, Cowley had grabbed his coat and started them out.
"Where're we going?" Doyle demanded.
"To collect a favor from the RAF," Cowley said shortly. "McNally doesn't answer, and neither does Bodie."
"Damn," Doyle muttered.
"Commercial airline doesn't leave until dawn, Murphy and Jax will be on it. I have a Harrier waiting for you. They'll get you to Hawick in half an hour. The local police officer is trying to evacuate a nunnery being threatened by floods but he'll have a Land Rover waiting for you."
They made the car, then the motorway in silence. The storm had picked up, screaming its fury at the cars on the slick concrete. The weather matched Doyle's mood.
The last few weeks had been one of mostly confused irritation with Bodie. Dread and guilt had now taken over. If he could have gotten the bastard to talk, tell him about all the old friends... the thought caused a very slight smile to cross Doyle's face. If Bodie did not want to talk neither heaven or hell could move him.
"Very well, 4.5, what have you?" Cowley demanded into the tension around them.
Doyle shook away the dark thoughts chasing around his mind. "On September 12, 1979, a Sergeant Morris Peterson died of injuries incurred eighteen months earlier on maneuvers with an SAS unit. He'd been in coma since that time."
"Unfortunate," Cowley remarked. "Bodie's unit?"
"Yes, but since Peterson was regular army he wasn't on the list of dead men. His only surviving son, Mark, was also regular army, until he cashiered out just after his father's death." Doyle took a deep breath. "Two men from Bodie's unit attended Peterson's funeral. Within twenty days they both died in road accidents."
"Road accidents," Cowley said thoughtfully, "are easily arranged."
"That set the pattern, don't you see," Doyle said sharply. "Three of the unit attended those two funerals - one was murdered, listed as a street mugging, another died of heart attack, and the third in another car accident."
"Aye, heart attacks can also be arranged." The storm was growing worse, forcing Cowley to slow the car.
"Yeh," Doyle said softly, the sudden image of Bodie choking, doubled over, flared in his mind; he refused to acknowledge the possibility. "The murders were all 'solved,' at least to the minds of the local authorities, usually written up as bar fights or muggings."
"And there was nothing to indicate otherwise." Cowley was on the same track as his agent now. "So you think it's the son then."
"And the time between kills were either because it took longer to arrange or because he wanted to cover himself. But once you know what to look for..."
"Exactly." Doyle watched the base's perimeter fence flashed by. "We were looking for some official reason that would have had several of the men together; these were small personal gatherings that only the families knew about."
"And as he killed them off," Cowley continued, "it became harder to locate targets."
"He's done bloody well so far. Bodie's all that's left." Doyle whispered pessimistically, "If he's still alive."
"I'll have none of that, 4.5," Cowley commanded. "You'll be there in less than two hours. He's your partner; you make sure he stays alive."
Fifteen minutes later, strapped into the powerful jet Doyle's only thought was that Bodie had better be alive. He had too much left to say to the bastard.
The storm had spent its strength, dying down to a steady rain, but the room was getting gradually colder. The bastard, Bodie acknowledge, was good. It had been a little over an hour since the bullet had hit him, and there was no sign of the assassin. The gunman obviously knew Bodie was hit, but had no way of knowing how badly. The longer he waited, the weaker his prey. Bodie had a feeling that he wouldn't wait much longer. Unless the man was better briefed than Bodie wanted to think about, he would have no way of knowing if another agent would be arriving soon or not.
The fire next to Bodie had gone to embers, leaving another hours worth of heat. The wound was still bleeding, crimson leaking slowly down his hip to join the pool near his thigh. The pain had cooled, as long as he didn't move. Bodie knew he was slipping into shock, knew there was very little he could to about it. He had briefly considered trying for his coat on the settee but given it up. Trying to crawl anywhere would leave him completely helpless if the gunman choose then to make his move. So he stayed where he was as the world grew colder and the hands on the clock harder to follow.
With the chill covering his pain he used anger to fuel the adrenaline and keep his senses alert. The hour hand crawled by another number and the anger faded into a dull weariness. For the first time, Bodie considered the fact that he wouldn't be able to stay conscious much longer. Already the slightest waver in concentration let his eyes close and his head fall forward.
Fear pushed another surge of heat into his blood. This was not how he wanted to die, not slowly to creeping cold and blood loss. Not alone. He had to smile just a little, not at all, if he could help it. The fear faded faster than the anger, turning into regret. Bodie wished Doyle were with him, wished he could tell his partner all he had wanted to tell him these past weeks.
That thought drifted away too, leaving only the hope that Doyle wouldn't feel too guilty over losing his partner. Though Bodie knew he would.
The rain had gone to drizzle, but the trees still held large drops which keep finding their way down Doyle's back. Despite the lightness of the rain, Doyle had been circling the house long enough for it to plaster his curls tight against his head. He was on his third trip around the small building, each time a little closer, and had found only McNally's deserted van. There were no lights inside but considering the hour he tried not to take it as a bad sign, knowing that it was wishful thinking. The link he shared with Bodie, which he had feared lost after the last few weeks, was making itself known again and Doyle didn't like what it was telling him. Ignoring the urge to rush in, he decided to make one more circle before entering.
Bodie's head snapped up, hand tightening around the Browning. Footsteps, soft in the muddy ground, but there. He waited. The sound came again and a final rush of adrenaline pumped through him. He vaguely hoped it would be enough.
He forced the gun up in both hands, aimed waveringly at the door. The door swung open, Bodie registered the dark outline of a gun and his finger caressed the trigger.
There was a moment of crystal clearance as Bodie's mind registered the voice just as his shot drowned it out. The kickback from the weapon, usually so slight, knocked him sideways and he rode with it, coming to rest face down on the floor. He was held between the pain echoing through his body and the horror of what he'd done echoing through his mind. "No, no..."
Damp hands touched his face. "Bodie. Easy, Bodie. I'm here."
Blue eyes snapped open, met the concern in the green above him. He reached up with one hand, needing to prove that the welcome sight was real. "Doyle?"
"Yeh," Doyle tried to ease Bodie over onto his back, suddenly found Bodie clinging desperately to him. "Easy, mate..."
"God, .. thought I'd shot you." Bodie gasped at the pain that ripped through him.
Doyle returned the embrace, hiding his surprise at it, rubbing along Bodie's back. The trembling he felt under his hands was not all caused by relief. Bodie moaned, writhing against the fire the movement had started in his gut. Doyle lay him back gently.
"Missed for once, didn't you. Have to watch that, mate." Doyle tried to joke but his voice caught as fear heightened his nerves.
While the wound in Bodie's side did not look serious, it was bleeding, his partner's shirt already dyed red, and the hands that held his arm were cold and shaking.
"Did you... get him?" Bodie demanded hoarsely.
Doyle shook his head. "No one there to get. Circled around three times, not a sign."
"McNally's dead," Bodie said with a weary sigh.
"I bloody well know that, Bodie!" Doyle snapped. "Tripped over him getting here, didn't I?"
Bodie shut his eyes. "Yeh, sorry."
Doyle swallowed hard. He hadn't meant to yell, but the horror he'd felt when he'd first burst in, first seen the body on the floor and thought it was Bodie came rushing back. He patted Bodie's stubbled cheek.
"Sorry. Thought it was you."
Bodie nodded, understanding.
"Stay still, Bodie," Doyle kicked himself for taking the time for the few sentences. "We're going to get you fixed up, get you to hospital. "Okay?"
"Yeh, good idea that." Bodie eyes closed in relief.
Doyle touched him lightly on the shoulder before moving away. He did a quick check of the windows and side door. They had all been closed against the rain, but he made sure the locks were set before he sprinted for the back half of the house.
Bodie did as he was told, listening to the sounds of Doyle searching for supplies in bed and bath. Something was nagging at the back of his mind. Why had his attacker fled after killing one agent and wounding another? If he thought Bodie dead, why hadn't he come in to check it out? It struck Bodie that he didn't know even who the gunman was, although Doyle must. Before Doyle could get back for him to question, the last of the adrenaline wore off. Safe, now that Doyle was there, he gave himself to the darkness.
Balancing a bowl of hot water in one hand, Doyle dumped his load of blankets and first aid kit on the floor, and sat down next to his partner, not surprised that Bodie was unconscious. He slipped a pillow under Bodie's head; spread a blanket over the chilled form, tucked it around and under his legs. He unbuttoned the stained, bloodied shirt and eased it away from the sticky wound, pad ready to staunch the renewed flow. Bodie moaned softly, twisting away from Doyle's gentle touch.
"Easy, Bodie," Doyle whispered, his own stomach tightened at the pain he knew he was causing.
He did the cleaning carefully, was relieved to find that the wound was not as bad as he had feared, even though the bullet was still embedded. It was shock that was the enemy; Bodie was pale, his skin cool and damp. Doyle taped down a double thickness of gauze pad over the bruised, torn flesh, pulled the cover up to Bodie's chin, lay another over that one. He turned, stoking the fire, coaxing heat into the cold room. He briefly considered trying to get Bodie to the bed, but decided it would be better not to move him.
There was nothing else Doyle could do for now. The local police officer was somewhere rescuing nuns; his wife had met Doyle with the Land Rover. He reached for his R/T; the same tiny woman now manned the police radio, ready to relay his information to whoever he needed, then to Cowley.
"Doyle to Hawick. Doyle to Hawick."
Static answered him.
"Doyle to Hawick, Doyle to..."
"Yes, Hawick here Doyle."
"I need an ambulance at this location immediately."
"Sorry, lad," the lilting female voice replied. "The only ambulance is bringing in a drowning victim. That's 30 minutes to us, then another hour to you."
Doyle bit back his heated reply. "Can you connect me with a doctor?"
The was a second of hesitation. "Roger. Stand by."
Another burst of static made Doyle wince. Long minutes passed before there was a feeble crackle from the R/T and a new voice sounded tinnily over the small speaker.
"This is Dr. Hillyard. Can you give me an idea of the patients condition?"
Doyle sighed with relief, it wasn't much but it was better than sitting there in helpless silence. "Gunshot wound," he moved closer, leaning over and touching a light finger to the area, "about two inches above the hip, in the right side. He's breathing a little hard, his skin is cold and he's pale."
"Is the blood loss very great?"
"Not visibly," Doyle admitted. "But the bullet's still in him. He's been coming in and out of consciousness."
"Any head injuries?"
"Not that I can tell."
"Can you give me his vital signs?"
Doyle gave him pulse and respiration, couldn't help with temperature.
"Affirmative. Please wait."
Seconds crawled by before another crackle signaled the doctor's return. "We advise that you move the patient as soon as you can. But try to stabilize his temperature first. Get him warmed up. Do not give him any liquids. Advise as soon as you are ready to transport and we will have a doctor standing by."
"Affirmative, Hawick. Doyle, out."
From very far away Bodie heard the crisp military-like responses, heard the reference to gunshots. He struggled to get through the layers of darkness. Doyle. There was something about Doyle... and a gunman.
"Doyle!" Bodie tried to sit up, agony shot through him, slammed him back to the floor. Strong hands gripped his shoulders, a leg over his held him down.
"Bodie! Don't!" Doyle held on, afraid of hurting his partner, more afraid of letting go. "Bodie, stay still."
"Doyle?" Bodie stopped fighting. "Ray." He relaxed back with a combination moan and sigh. His hand went to the burning area near his waist, but his lips sealed over any other sounds.
The hands moved off his shoulders, a damp cloth touched his cheek, ran lightly across his forehead. "Yell if you want, Bodie," Doyle said soothingly. "There's only me here."
Another memory snaked back into Bodie's mind. "He's still out there, Ray."
"I checked Bodie, there was no one about. He must have thought he killed you. Or I scared him off."
Bodie was not convinced but did not have the energy to argue.
Doyle frowned at his silent companion. "How do you feel?"
"Like I've been shot," Bodie laughed lowly, grimaced. "How am I?"
"Not as bad as that," Doyle said honestly. "When you've warmed a bit we'll get you to the car and to Hawick. The doctor's waiting."
Bodie remained silent, feeling the truth. "Thirsty?"
"Sorry, mate," Doyle said regretfully. "Not a good idea."
Looking up into sea colored eyes brought back other memories that had followed Bodie through the long night. As Doyle went to stand, Bodie grabbed his hand. Doyle sat back down, concerned by the seriousness on the pale face.
Bodie stared awkwardly at his partner. "Thanks, Ray," he said softly, "I knew you'd come."
It wasn't much but the effort to say more was beyond him. He fought the exhaustion, needing to see the warmth on the open face above him. A strong hand returned his grip.
"Sleep for a bit, warm up."
"Want to talk..."
"There's time, Bodie." Doyle assured him.
Bodie accepted the assurance, too tired to do anything else. With a weak squeeze on the hand in his, he went to sleep.
Doyle sighed as Bodie drifted off. Only Bodie, after ten weeks of tense silence, would pick now to try to talk. He settled back to watch his partner, his hand staying tightly around Bodie's.
He wouldn't be able to let him sleep long, even with the bleeding stopped, wounds could become infected with surprising and fatal speed. He didn't know how long Bodie had already held on - waiting for his partner. Doyle smiled fondly at the other man, touched by his partner's confidence in him, satisfied that he had not let him down. Nothing that had happened over the last three months seemed insurmountable in light of that one simple fact - Bodie knew he would come.
It wouldn't get Bodie out of an explanation, but it would make the telling easier and the understand quicker.
The drift back to consciousness was easy and gradual. Bodie was warm, and there was something soft beneath his head. The pain was waiting though, just beyond the light. Doyle was there; Bodie could sense him waiting nervously nearby. He was torn between taking the final step into the pain and light and staying in the comfortable darkness. With a moan Bodie took the final step.
Immediately a firm hand touched his shoulder. "Bodie?"
"Yeh." Bodie opened his eyes. The room was lighter, the fire next to him blazing wildly. He was wrapped in several blankets and his head was resting in Doyle's lap.
"How long?" he asked quietly.
"Thirty minutes." Doyle's hand moved up to touch his forehead. The cold, damp feeling was gone. "Warmer?"
"Much," Bodie looked up at him. "Ray, sorry about the grade sevens."
Doyle started to tell Bodie not to worry about it. But he didn't. He could see the fear Bodie was trying to hide, the worry that he had lost a partnership that was important to him. And even with all his own worry, there was still an edge of anger and confusion lurking in Doyle's mind.
"Bodie, why didn't you tell me about Williams and the others?" There was no missing the disappointment under the question.
"What would I have told you?" Bodie blocked. "Oi, mate, want to help me kill a bloke... what killed an old friend."
Doyle only stared at him, knowing the attack for what it was.
Sighing Bodie, remembered his decision before the shooting, the long cold hours when he had wanted more than anything in life to see his aggravating partner. Twenty five years of locking people out warred with a new desire to let Doyle in.
"Didn't know... about the others," Bodie admitted slowly. "Willie was the only one I kept in touch with. When I went to the... funeral..." his voice dropped, became hoarse, "I was the... only one left."
The bewilderment in the rough voice caught Doyle across the stomach, ignited his guilt at not having forced Bodie to talk. Bodie continued before he could say anything.
"Scared me," he said quietly. "Got to thinking... realized..."
"That you weren't immortal?" Doyle suggested gently.
A flash of pain, deeper than that from his wound, crossed Bodie's face, he looked at Doyle. "Wasn't me I thought of."
There was nothing else he needed to say; it was all there in the expressive eyes. Doyle felt a fond smile tug at his lips, a sting of tears touch his eyes.
"Bodie, you dumb..." He sighed, there were still questions to ask but the situation again took importance. "Bodie..."
"Time," Bodie said, understanding.
Doyle nodded. "Yeh, sorry, mate, but it'll be dangerous to wait."
Bodie tried to sit up, fell back with a gasp.
"You dumb crud! Don't try that without help!" There was something infinitely comforting in the way Doyle suddenly grabbed him, laid him easily back down.
"I moved the Land Rover closer..."
"What?" Bodie tried to shout, coughed, doubling in pain.
"Christ, Bodie, you're just in condition to move," Doyle said harshly, "don't fuck it up now." The tone couldn't cover the tears Bodie's pain brought to his voice.
"Ray, he could..."
"I know 'he could,' Bodie. But I was careful." He took a breath. "It's raining again, the Rover is as close as I could get it to the gate. One move and you're safe and comfy in the back seat."
It couldn't be put off any longer. Doyle stared down into trusting blue. "There's no way this isn't going to hurt, Bodie."
A strangely steady hand touched Doyle's arm. "Let's go."
Doyle nodded, jaw set, and stood up. He brought Bodie to his feet in one smooth move. Bodie gasped, started to double over, a near sob escaping despite all he could do. Doyle took his full weight, arms around his waist, holding him tight. Doyle shifted quickly, putting one arm around Bodie's waist, pulled Bodie's arm over his shoulder.
As they moved into the inky darkness the muscles along Bodie's back tightened; his imagination almost heard the bullet he was expecting. The metal was cold and wet, even through the blanket as Doyle propped him against the car to jerk open the back door. Then he was being lowered into the seat. Doyle ran around to the other side and helped him down.
"Hang on, Bodie," Doyle commanded, snapping open two blankets and wrapping them around the thankfully warm body.
A soft chuckle sounded. "Christ, Ray, if I'd known how nice you'd be... got shot... long time ago."
Doyle froze. Bodie looked up, puzzled by the sudden stillness. The emerald green eyes were blazing with anger. Bodie realized that the anger had been there all along, almost as strong as the worry and affection; he just hadn't been in any shape to see it, to see that it was directed at him, not at the man who had shot him.
The door slammed, followed by the drivers door. Cursing quietly at his statement Bodie tried to think of something to say. Before he could the toll of the trip to the car caught up with him and he passed out.
"Damn," Doyle's curse was soft, not waking Bodie so much as the slow stop of the Rover.
"What is it?" Bodie asked strongly, trying to sit up.
"Lay down!" Doyle commanded. "Storms got a tree down."
The front door opened, letting in a blast of cold air. Bodie relaxed back.
It hit him in a flash of fear as cold as the wind. He grabbed the front seat, yanked himself up, screaming as much from panic as from pain.
Doyle turned. An explosion brightened the night, rocked the vehicle; dirt and splinters pinged off the front window. Bodie watched in horror as Doyle was thrown across the bonnet, landing heavily on the wet concrete. Bodie tried to move, fell helplessly back into the seat.
The door above him was jerked open, rough hands grabbed under his shoulders.
"Bloody bastard!" Bodie struck out, his arm barely raising.
A shot slammed into the Rover as Doyle hauled him up. He barely stifled a scream as he was lifted into a fireman's carry. Doyle staggered for the woods, shots sent sparks off the road near them. Doyle fired off four rounds over his shoulder. The woods closed thankfully around them just as the pain overtook him and he passed out.
Doyle keep moving, weaving through the old trees, trying to get as much distance as he could, searching for some kind of cover. The ground betrayed him before he could find it. A dip, hidden under leaves and darkness, sent him plunging into a soggy tangle of rotten vegetation. He controlled his natural instinct to roll, twisted instead and landed on his side to spare Bodie. The landing was hard, taking his wind and pushing buried rocks into his ribs and hip. Rolling out from under Bodie, he turned to face the way they had come, gun tight in his hand as he peered over the edge of the small gully and waited.
Minutes crept by with the only sound that of Bodie's harsh breathing. Doyle guessed it was nearly dawn, though he couldn't tell it by the amount of light in the ancient trees. It was the absolute silence that was more telling than the light. The night animals and insects were silent, and the birds had yet to start singing. There was no sound of pursuit.
Very quietly Doyle slid back to his partner. Bodie was unconscious. Doyle eased him partial over onto his uninjured side, concerned that he might have taken another bullet during their flight. He traced his hands along the broad back; it was wet, but none of it had the ominous sticky feel of blood. He touched Bodie's neck, felt a too fast beat under his fingers, a beat that was almost impossible to find over Bodie's shivering.
Cursing silently Doyle stripped off his coat. He had not bothered to get Bodie into a coat, figuring that the car and blankets would be warm enough. It was a struggle to get the coat on the unconscious man but once he had it buttoned across the broad chest the shivering died down. Night was giving way to daylight, the sun would be up soon but it wouldn't help that much. The woods were still soaked and the storm had brought chilling cold, already Doyle's breath colored the air.
They were not being pursued - yet. The man, Peterson, Doyle was convinced, had been showing extreme caution during the whole affair; he knew enough about the men he was hunting to take extra precautions. The shifting dawn light made it easier for a man standing still to spot movement, which gave Doyle an advantage. So, the man wouldn't come after them until full light, which gave Doyle time to think and plan.
His main consideration, even more than the gunman, was getting Bodie somewhere, anywhere, warm and dry. They had come only a short distance from the house before the ambush, six or seven miles. Despite the short distance, they would never make it back with Doyle carrying his wounded partner and trying to dodge a gunman. Murphy and Jax would be there by soon, and would have no trouble spotting the disabled car and tracking them down. Most importantly, the R/T was tucked safely inside the coat Bodie was wearing. Which meant their best chance was to go to ground nearby and wait for help.
Doyle had spent many weekends at the cottage, sometimes with Bodie, sometimes alone; he knew these woods, had hiked them, had swam in the creek that flittered through the neighboring land. Light was inching its way through the trees, giving him a chance to look for landmarks. There was nothing to see except the vast variety of fall bright trees, but in the distance he heard water flowing over rocks.
"Ray?" Bodie's voice, slurried, worried. "Ray?"
Doyle moved closer, slipped a hand under Bodie's head. "I'm here, Bodie."
"Where's here?" Bodie croaked.
"Nowhere right now."
Bodie laughed very shortly. "Sounds like an Abbott... Costello routine."
"We've taken to the woods, mate."
"Oh." Bodie's eyes slipped shut. Pain had etched deep lines around his eyes and mouth. Doyle's hand, shaking from the chill, touched lightly along the clenched jaw. Blue eyes slitted open and stared up at him. Doyle smiled gently, left his hand resting against a rough cheek.
"Got a plan?" Bodie asked in a whisper.
"Yeh," Doyle answered honestly, "but you may not like it."
"Does it involve... moving?"
Without conscious thought Doyle starting picking the twigs and leaves out of Bodie's dark hair. "I'm afraid so. There's a cave, well, an overhang really, down near the stream. I think it's only about a mile, mile and a half from here."
"Oh, God..." Bodie moaned.
"Bodie, it's going to get colder, and this place is too wet. Hell, mate, I'm sitting in an inch of water over here. I can't defend..."
"Ray." Bodie's hand touched Doyle's. "Let's just... do it."
Doyle cocked his head sideways. "Want to try walking? Or shall I carry you?"
Tight lips smiled just a little. "I'm gonna never hear the end of this... am I?"
"Not if I can help it," Doyle admitted.
A soft chuckle answered him, turned into a rattling cough. Doyle moved behind Bodie, lifted him up, wrapping himself close. "Slow. Take it slow."
Bodie doubled over in his arms, breathing harder, straining not to cry out, giving a barely audible whimper. It was only then that Doyle realized how bad the pain was. He wished Bodie would pass out again. He didn't want to think about the added agony the next move was going to bring him.
Gradually Bodie relaxed back against Doyle's chest. "Okay now?" Doyle asked, his hand stroking through hair darker than normal, wet with rain and sweat.
Bodie nodded briefly, taking deep slow breaths. A few minutes passed in silence; Doyle holding Bodie steady, offering what little comfort he could. Bodie allowed the touches, drawing strength from the lithe body beneath his back. Another memory seared through him, the same slender body, doubled over, gasping for breath after a viscous blow to the ribs from a staff.
"For getting me into this mess?"
"No," Bodie answered strongly. "You're... my partner; you're suppose... to be in this mess."
"What for then?" Doyle was honestly puzzled.
"For hitting you," Bodie said softly.
The incident was a million years and a thousand miles from Doyle's thoughts. "We can talk about it later, Bodie," he said firmly.
"Just wanted to say in case..."
"Don't!" Panic and anger flared along Doyle's nerves; his hold around the board chest tightened. "You are not going to die you, stupid crud, I have..."
"That wasn't... what I was going to say," Bodie said with the merest touch of laughter in the whisper.
Doyle flushed, sorry he let his own worry color his response. "Sorry." He glanced around, suddenly realizing how light it was getting. "Bodie..."
"Help me up."
The smaller man stood up, pulled Bodie slowly to his feet with both hands. Doyle held him in a strong, warm embrace, for more than support this time, fighting against the waves of helplessness. There was no sound from Bodie this time, his teeth clenched so tight that Doyle was afraid he would chip one. There was no breath to waste on words; they pressed on slowly.
They covered an agonizing quarter mile in fifteen minutes before Bodie sagged in Doyle's grasp, pulling them both down. Doyle once more broke most of Bodie's fall.
"Ray?" Bodie moaned his name.
"Okay. It's okay."
Instinct was telling Doyle to hurry now. He hauled them up; Bodie cried out this time. They had staggered another quarter mile when the luck that had deserted them reappeared. The stream took a sharp turn and in the bend where centuries of water had done its work was a sharp, deep overhang.
"We made it, Bodie."
There was no answer, only a faint nod against his shoulder. They were both shivering so hard that Doyle almost didn't feel it.
The trail was steep, littered with dangerously shifting rocks covered by bright leaves. Twice they went down, Doyle collecting more bruises, Bodie deathly silent.
Fickle luck deserted them on the third fall. There was a clatter as the gun tucked into Doyle's holster finally came loose. Doyle rolled away from Bodie and reached for it. The rocks and mud under him shifted, started a slow slid down toward the rain swollen stream.
"Doyle!" Bodie reached for his partner, crying out and doubling over.
Doyle slid further down, fumbling for a handhold. He twisted, gun forgotten, grabbing a tree root. The ground moved out from under him, carried rocks, mud and gun down into the black flood waters, everything disappearing with a loud, deep splash.
Doyle drug himself carefully back up to Bodie, panting. "Fuck it."
Bodie was in too much pain to answer. He reached out and touched Doyle's curls, patting lightly.
After a minute to let his heart stop pounding Doyle got them back up and lead them carefully down to the narrow ledge. The overhang was enclosed on two sides, partially open to the south and creek side. The flooded stream was lapping almost into the sparse opening. Moving very carefully Doyle maneuvered them into the area. The immediate absence of wind assured him that his decision had been the right one. By the time they were safely under the rock light was streaking along the horizon.
Doyle helped Bodie down, watched as he sagged back, sighing in relief at being stationary. Concern colored Doyle's face; there was a dark flush on Bodie's pale cheeks and blood had soaked the coat.
"What now?" Bodie whispered.
"Now," Doyle said levelly, refusing to let the concern show in his voice, "we get the bleeding stopped and build a fire to get you warmed up."
"Fire? He'll see...it."
"He won't be following yet, we'll only burn it a few minutes." He started unbuttoning the coat. "This is a defensible position, Bodie."
"Lost your gun..." Bodie reminded him.
"Got yours, don't I?"
"No clips. Yours won't fit."
"Then we'll do the bloody best we can!" Doyle snapped. "Now shut up or I'll leave you here!"
Bodie stared at him for a minute, a slow smile creasing his mouth, followed by a slight laugh at the absurdity of the suggestion.
Doyle smiled crookedly back. "Sorry."
"Who.. is he?" Bodie asked. He was puzzled, wondering way he felt like he'd just run a ten miler. Doyle was talking, answering something he'd just asked; he forced himself to concentrate on the fuzzy words.
"...Peterson. His father was Sergeant Nick Peterson," Doyle paused, waiting to see if the name held any meaning for his partner. There was no reaction. "He died from injuries incurred while on maneuvers with your unit in 1978."
Bodie stared at him, memories flooding his mind. "Jesus Christ." He laughed, doubling in pain. "Peterson... oh, bloody hell..."
"Easy," Doyle cautioned.
The bigger man looked up at his curly haired partner. The memories from long ago were clearing the fog that had been gradually dimming his senses. He smiled at the muddy form staring down at him.
"You're a mess," he observed before continuing. "The right honorable Sergeant Peterson didn't... die in an accident."
While Bodie talked, Doyle pulled his pocket knife and calmly cut a large square from the fleece lining of his jacket.
"I suppose... you're going to charge me... for the jacket," Bodie surmised.
"Nah," Doyle said magnanimously, "put it on the expense chit, won't I. Charge it to medical supplies. So, what happened to the Sergeant then?"
"Gone to town without a pass and got... ah, shit!" Bodie arched back as Doyle pulled away the old bandage.
Doyle kept his head down, didn't, couldn't look at his partner.
"... falling down pissed. Drove his truck into... a tree."
"But the reports said the accident happened while he was going for supplies?"
Bodie shook his head, sweat falling in his eyes. "The mob, we faked the reports."
Doyle stared up at him, shocked. "Why?"
"Bloke had a wife... two children... would have lost his pension..." Bodie leaned back, suddenly exhausted. He found the strength for one short laugh. "Good deeds come back to... haunt you."
Bodie lay still after that, fighting to not flinch when Doyle lay the new bandage in place and held it there with his belt. The relief that the job was over was obvious on Doyle's face. He turned away and started scraping together leaves and twigs left dry in the small cover. It was a pathetic pile.
"Not going to last long," Doyle commented sadly, as he pulled a lighter out of his back pocket.
The dry leaves blazed immediately, the flames devouring them with barely a pause; a few small twigs caught, kept the meager heat coming.
Doyle reached into Bodie's coat, pulled out the R/T, smiled at his prone partner. "Time to call the cavalry." He pressed down the button; the line sounding clearer than the last time. "Doyle to Hawick. Doyle to Hawick."
There was no answer. Forcing himself to stay calm he tried twice more, then put it away. Levelly he told Bodie, "She must be away from the station. We'll try again in a few minutes." He glanced at the sun's position, knowing they didn't have long before Peterson caught up to them.
Bodie felt himself drifting toward sleep but resisted. His strength was fading, leaving a dark empty place in his chest. He was so cold he couldn't feel anything, his vision was blurry and there was a dial tone sounding in his ears. The only warmth in the world seemed to be brought on by the nearest of his partner and the exasperated worry in the sea green eyes.
"Not much difference," Bodie said suddenly. Doyle looked confused. "Peterson, and me... all for revenge."
"You didn't kill Billy," Doyle lifted Bodie gently by the shoulders, sliding behind him so that he he rested between Doyle's out stretched legs, his back against Doyle's chest. "You didn't kill Krivas, either, did you?"
"Wanted to..." Bodie said hoarsely. "Willie, would have... expected it. Till death... us do join."
A slow breath filled Doyle's chest as he suddenly understood all the different reasons that had lead to Bodie's near fatal distraction and near homicidal depression. At the same time as he realized how much the loss of his partner would mean to him, he had also been faced with a situation that challenged his code of honor. It was a code that held an elite fighting unit together, a code that Bodie had lived by for a long time; a code that demanded Bodie avenge Williams, no matter what the cost; Bodie's freedom, job, friends - partner.
"Ah, Christ, Bodie, you brought him to trial. He'll never get out of lockup, we'll see to that. And now we'll get the bastard behind it all." Doyle's arms came around Bodie's shoulders. "I think Williams would understand that."
Bodie wiggled deeper into the warmth surrounding him and drifted off without answering.
With a sigh Doyle pulled him closer, his thoughts wandering for a second to the night Sid Parker had been killed.
Sid had meant a lot to Doyle, first partner, teacher, good friend. Doyle had been very careful on that case, making sure everything was exactly by the book. He and Cowley would do the same for King Billy. But what would he have done if he couldn't have brought Haydon in legally? Would he have resorted to murder? No, he knew that. But what if it had been Bodie?
A moan from the man in his arms startled Doyle back to their present situation before he had an answer he could face. He glanced around, judging the light.
"Yeh." The whisper was hoarse, a little slurried.
Doyle moved, easing Bodie down onto the hard ground. Bodie's shivering had stopped but his eyes were glazed, his breathing shallow.
"Bodie, I've got to go cover that trail we left; a blind beggar could follow it. Don't move about okay?"
Smilingly weakly, Bodie said, "No worries there."
Doyle didn't want to leave, even for the few minutes it would take to cover their tracks. He tugged the edge of his shirt free, wiped some of the dirt off Bodie's face. Pushing more leaves into the fire he forced himself to his feet. "I'll be back soon."
The look Bodie gave him left no doubt that he had not expected anything else. With a fake cheery wave Doyle snaked over the rocks and disappeared.
With Doyle gone the cold closed in around Bodie. Instinct pulled him toward the fire; he tried to move and agony shot through him, taking his breath before he could cry out. The agony died, leaving fire in its wake. The heat caught, spreading the pain, but leaving the cold on the surface.
He needed Doyle, still had things to tell him; why it had been so hard to take Williams' death, why it had hit him in so many ways. It had all seemed necessary then, now it seemed dangerously stupid, as well as stubborn.
"Ray?" There was no answer.
The fire and cold took a little stronger hold.The scene replayed in his mind, Doyle coming at him, the blow, the look of pain and confusion. Only they weren't in a wooded glen;Doyle was inside the cottage, staring at the gun in Bodie's hand, then down at the blood on his chest.
"No! Ray!" Bodie jerked, trying to escape the nightmare.
Doyle heard his scream over the waters roar. He ran back toward the stream, leaping over dangerous rocks, using the trees to right himself as he slipped. "Bodie!" He slid into the cover, went to his knees beside the wounded man.
Bodie was twisting, thrashing, arms reaching out toward something, someone. "Ray." He stopped fighting, his voice fading softly. "Oh, God, Ray."
"Bodie." Doyle pressed him down, holding his shoulders. "Bodie, I'm here. Bodie!"
He pushed his hand into the heavy coat, felt the heat of fresh blood. His other hand rested on Bodie's neck, the heat burning his fingers. The fever Doyle had feared had hit with lightning speed. Bodie moaned, suspended somewhere between dark and light.
The fire had gone out but Doyle didn't re-light it. The sixth sense that kept him and Bodie alive was screaming a warning that Peterson was closing in. Bodie jerked in his arms, blue eyes opening, glazed, glittering with heat.
"Bastards..." With surprising strength Bodie lashed out, knocking Doyle loose. He screamed, "Killed him... bastards!"
Doyle threw his full weight on the trashing body, clamped his hand over Bodie's mouth. "Bodie!"
The hot body stilled for a moment and Doyle made a grab for the R/T. He didn't reach it before Bodie was moving again, straining against the restraint and trying to cry out pass Doyle's clamped hand. Tears spilled from the dark blue eyes and Doyle snapped his own shut, knowing the pain his weight was causing.
"Bodie," he pleaded softly, repeating himself, "I'm here. Please, Bodie, look at me."
Desperation tightened Doyle's hold as he realized just how dangerous Bodie's delirium could be; while holding down his partner he was helpless to defend them. He couldn't even reach the R/T; if he let go long enough to call for help, Bodie's cries would draw Peterson. Even now he was making enough noise to be heard from a dozen yards away.
A dangerous solution presented itself, and Doyle shied away from it even as he saw its logic. He had to get Peterson out of the way. He could use the R/T then, possibly try to carry Bodie back to the warmth of the Rover. And Bodie's cries would draw Peterson.
The bigger man went suddenly limp in Doyle's grasp; the shivering starting again, his eyes sliding shut. Doyle moved his hand, wiped the the dampness off the rough cheek.
"Ray?" The voice was so soft Doyle wasn't sure he'd heard it.
"I'm here, Bodie."
"Sorry, Willie... couldn't, wouldn't do it... Cow would have shot... lost Ray... hit him..."
"Bodie," Doyle swallowed around the lump in his throat. Not sure if he was being heard or not, he plunged ahead. "Bodie, please try to understand this. We've got to get Peterson. I'm going to move you out into the open. Oh, Jesus, mate, you're going to have to be bait for that nutter."
The fevered nightmare returned before he could finish. Bodie's ramblings this time coupled with harsh gasps for breath and whimpers of pain. Doyle held him down, unable to leave him like this, chancing the gunman to wait for another lucid moment. The struggles this time were shorter, weaker. Finally Bodie stilled, unconscious.
There was no answer. Doyle forced himself off his partner. He reached for the R/T, tucking it into his coat. He checked the Browning next, made sure the slide was clear. One shot, he told himself, just one clear shot and it would be over.
Holding tight to that thought he crawled to the edge of their cover, scanned back the way they had come. Nothing moved. He didn't need to see Peterson; he knew the man was out there, getting closer. He glanced back at Bodie, thumbed down the R/T.
"Doyle to Hawick. Doyle to Hawick." Static answered him. Resisting the urge to slam the unit into the nearest rock he returned to Bodie's side.
The bigger man had not moved, through tremors were still racking him. As gently as possible Doyle lifted him into an over the shoulder carry and again navigated the slippery trail. The wind cut through Doyle's shirt. He didn't go far, was afraid to be caught in the open, and to keep moving Bodie. Circling the outcropping he propped Bodie against the cold rocks, hoping the raised position would help the breathing that was becoming weaker. Finally he went back and scooped up enough of the still warm embers to look like the fire had been lit next to the wounded man.
Doyle stood, knowing that if Bodie woke now he would never find the courage to leave. Running a hand over Bodie's short hair, Doyle said firmly, "I'll be back, Bodie, I promise."
Bodie didn't stir and Doyle moved away, not looking back. He ran, leaving a very visible trail in the direction of the cottage. Doyle figured he didn't need to go far. Peterson would circle the area, Doyle was sure of that, but he would not want to leave his helpless victim for long. Doyle went two hundred yards, almost at a dead run, before he found a wide expanse of exposed rock. He made sure his tracks lead onto it, then carefully picked his way back, using every trick Bodie had taught him to cover his return.
He stopped twenty yards from where his wounded partner lay against the rocks. At twenty yards Doyle knew he wouldn't miss. He went belly down on the wet ground, checked his weapon once more. Now all he could do was wait, and that was the worst of it.
Fire flared along Bodie's nerves, battling the cold that had settled through his bones. Between the two he felt his strength and will fading, leaving a heavy void that scared him.
He reached out, trying to find his partner, finding only silence. Hazy images and half remembered scenes filled his senses, and he fought to separate the nightmares from the reality. The flood of sunlight as he opened his eyes made him blink, stare in confusion at the trees whispering around him.
Another wooded area came back to him, reality spiraling away. "Should have let... me kill... him."
Bodie denied the memory, drug his mind back to the present, tried to look around him. The small shift sent a cry of pain through the quiet glade. "Ray? Ray!"
Doyle buried his head against his arm, Bodie's cry ripping through his soul. It was a physical pain to make himself stay still, to not run to Bodie, hold him down and safe. He shook his head angrily, wiping his hand across his eyes. At that moment he wasn't sure who he hated more, Peterson or himself.
Another cry filled the echoing woods - and something moved in the trees shadow. Doyle's senses snapped alert. He forgot about his shivering, felt the wave of tension surge through him.
Just as Doyle had guessed Peterson was cautious. The man stood in the shadow of a large oak for several long minutes before moving slowly toward the downed agent. He came into the sunlight; a tall man dressed in woodland camo, looking like a weekend hunter until the scoped rifle held ready in both hands became visible.
Peterson circled south, away from Bodie, crossing the trail that Doyle had left, picking it up and following. The assassin barely checked the trail a few yards before coming back toward Bodie. Doyle's opinion of the man dropped; he had to see the ambush potential.
Firing on a man from ambush was something that Doyle had never done; the ex-copper in him demanded he shout a warning; the dangerous hunter ignored the morals. Peterson closed, stopped five feet from his prey and stared down at Bodie. The man said something but the wind carried it away from Doyle. The rifle came up.
Surging up onto one knee Doyle fired two shots to the man's chest. Peterson staggered sideways, recovered, brought his rifle up, lining on Doyle. Doyle realized too late why Peterson had not been cautious - he was wearing a vest. Diving, Doyle fired - two shots, Browning and rifle blended into one. Doyle had time to see Peterson blown backwards before the man's bullet picked him up and slammed him into the hard ground.
The force of the hit carried Doyle over and he went with it, fighting to keep his gun up. There was no need, his second shot had been on target; Peterson's face was unrecognizable as human. Doyle hadn't counted on the vest, but Peterson's hadn't counted on Doyle's ability.
In shocked amusement Doyle watched the slow spread of blood down the front of this shirt. He clamped a hand over the hole just under his clavicle. Something warm was crawling down his back. The bullet had gone in at an angle and exited.
Frustration burned through him, Doyle knew he would not be able to get Bodie back now. With a deep breath he forced himself up. The pain kicked in with incredible intensity, forcing him to grab at the nearest branch to stay up. With every once of will he moved toward his partner.
He stopped a few feet from Bodie, scared to go any closer. Bodie was completely still, and for a moment Doyle didn't think he was breathing. A low moan pulled Doyle forward and he went to his hands and knees next to his partner. He touched Bodie's cheek; it was cold, damp with sweat.
"Bodie?" Doyle whispered, surprised at how weak his voice sounded.
There was no answer. A wave of dizziness hit Doyle, knocking him back on his arse. He stayed conscious, blinking at the sunlight around him. He reached for the R/T, praying to a God he didn't always believe in that someone was out there.
"Doyle to... Hawick. Doyle to Hawick," he pleaded softly. No one answered. Bodie moaned again, the pain reaching pass the darkness, tormenting both of them.
Doyle dropped the R/T, slid closer. "I'm here."
"Where else... would you be?" Eyes dark, but surprisingly clear looked up at him. "Get him?"
"Yeh." Doyle nodded, shifting to try to cover the fact that he was wounded.
Bodie smiled gently at him. "Forgot to duck..."
Not sure which of them Bodie was referring to Doyle didn't answer. A shudder ran through the suddenly fragile body next to him. Slowly and carefully Doyle lowered himself onto the bigger man, wrapping shaking arms around board shoulders. He wanted very much to pick Bodie up, hold him away from the cold ground, away from the death which was creeping closer. But his strength was spilling along his back.
Doyle reached for the R/T and tried again; only silence answered him. For some reason it didn't seem as important. The glen was calm, only the wind dancing in the trees making any sound, leaves cascading down to decorate Doyle's curls. The echoes of violence seemed far away.
"Marriage of... true minds..." Bodie said with a gentle smile.
"Shakespeare, mate...," Doyle said softly, "thought you only... read Keats and... Kipling."
"Was bloody... mad at you.. when I hit you."
It took a minute for Doyle to understand the quiet statement. Whatever he had been expecting, that was not it. He had thought Bodie had hit him either because he hadn't wanted help or because he hadn't wanted Doyle to get in trouble by helping him.
Raising his head he tried to see into Bodie's eyes but they were closed against the sunlight. "Why? Angry?
Bodie took a deep breath, coughed. "Wanted to tell... you. Wanted... you to ask.. You never did."
Guilt swept through Doyle, he let his head drop to Bodie's broad chest. "Oh, Christ, mate... I wanted to... was too..."
"Shut up, Ray." Bodie said sternly. "My fault. You asked... lots... never got an answer."
"But... I should have..."
Blue eyes opened and pass the pain and fatigue was a spark of amusement. "This is... a silly conversation."
"Yeh," Doyle agreed. "Both made a real.. cock up. Have to do better... next time."
Bodie looked up at him, saw the soft, wide smile, saw the expectation of agreement. He wasn't cold anymore and the pain was gone. Doyle's weight was a solid, reassuring barrier against the fear he knew he should be feeling. The darkness was taking shape though, becoming almost solid, like a good London fog.
"Not so bad..." Bodie whispered. "Glad you're here."
"Bodie?" Icy fear crept through Doyle at Bodie's words.
"Ray," Bodie said hoarsely, "I wouldn't have... killed him. Already decided.. that." His hand moved, found Doyle's. "Had too much... to lose."
Doyle met the deep gaze unflinchingly. "Bodie, if it had been you, I would... have killed him."
Bodie saw the truth in the hazy green. "Already did, didn't you?"
The quiet, confident statement shattered Doyle's shields. The tears he had controlled since finding his blood splattered partner demanded release and he had nothing left to control them with. They ran hot down his cheeks, spilled onto Bodie's neck and chest.
"Bodie, don't... please..."
Bodie felt the first sob shake the slender form, heard the prayerful whisper of his name. It was suddenly so very hard to stay awake; the pain and the cold were back, carrying him away. Bodie struggled to stay, staring into green eyes that had been the first place he had ever seen complete trust and a love that went beyond bounds or explanations; he watched them fill with liquid sorrow and the darkness of loss. He tried to smile, knew Doyle needed to see him smile, but it wouldn't come.
He raised his hand toward Doyle's face, ran a single finger over the broken cheekbone, trailed it through the tears. There was so much left to say but somehow it came down to a single whispered word.
Doyle grabbed for the limp hand that fell away, pressed it back against his cheek, stroked the hot forehead. "Bodie? Please Bodie..." he watched the blue fade from the expressive eyes. "God, no..."
The R/T crackled. "4.5?"
Doyle got his hand around it before unconsciousness claimed him.
Warm and soft. He took a deep breath, sighed contentedly, snuggling deeper into the warmth. A voice drifted through his sigh, called to him.
A cold wind touched him with the name, brought back memories of damp woods and a body still beneath him. "Ah, Bodie..." He said it softly, accepting the absence of his partner as permanent now. "Oh, Jesus, Bodie..."
Doyle lay still for two heartbeats, sure that the voice he heard, desperately needed to hear, was just a drug induced dream. His head snapped around, sea green eyes locking with weary twilight blue.
A slender hand reached out, was taken by the dark man in the wheelchair. The hold was firm, solid, real. Doyle stared at Bodie for a long time, felt the embarrassment of tears mist his eyes. He tried to raise his other arm, not wanting to lose the contact, found it tied to an IV. With a soft smile Bodie wiped the tears away with the edge of the sheet.
"I thought..." Doyle croaked.
Bodie let go of the hand in his and helped Doyle take a sip of the cold water from the night stand pitcher. "Better?"
"I thought you... I thought you were dead."
Doyle half expected some flip comment, but Bodie regarded him seriously, eyes dark in a pale face. "So did I."
Neither had let go of the others hand; neither broke the searching stare that held them together as much as their hands.
"Bodie?" Doyle said quietly.
"Next time I'll ask."
Bodie heard the unspoken question behind the words. "You won't have to, sunshine."
Doyle nodded, the simple move started the room spinning around him. He thought about saying more, but it seemed everything had been said. He yawned. A hand tugged the misplaced covers up to his chin.
"Why are you mobile?" Doyle demanded as he started to fade back to sleep. "You were hurt worse... than me."
Bodie ruffled his curls, still very serious. "You did your best to try to bleed to death, you silly sod." In a deadly calm tone he added, "And the Cow is not pleased." Bodie gave it just a heartbeat before he said, "Was so mad in fact that he's going to make us take the sevens again."
Green eyes, blazing with angry snapped open. "The cold-hearted, old bastard, he can't..."
"You're right, he can't," Bodie told him with a tight, downward smile.
"Bodie," Doyle chuckled softly, eyes closing despite all he could do. "you're a nutter."
His hand still wrapped around Doyle's, Bodie made himself comfortable. There were times when silence was the best answer.
-- THE END --