Feet thumped up behind him and he struggled to right himself.
"Doyle! Thank Christ! 'old on, you'll have yourself over. Cavalry's arrived, mate."
Murphy. Pressure in the small of his back made him grunt while Murphy leveraged around for the knots. Then he was sitting and yelping as sensation rushed back through blood starved limbs to his fingers.
"Cheers." His voice was little more than croak from thirst and misuse and he cleared it, waited for Murphy to finish on the R/T, and looked up. Then around.
"Bodie?" He shouldn't ask, shouldn't care, but he'd been bound up and locked away for hours, screamed at for a good few before that, and he was too fucking tired and sore to pussyfoot around. Besides, this was Murph, who could think what he liked and voice it if he dared.
"He's...out front with Cowley. Is any of that yours?"
Murphy's head was down as he cut the ties around Doyle's ankles, and Doyle couldn't tell if the hesitation was real, meaningless, significant, or not there at all. His head hurt, his eyes itched with fatigue and he really had had enough of today.
Hoo-fucking-ray for lucky old Cowley, then.
He looked up to find Murphy frowning at him, and remembered he'd been asked a question.
"Any...? Oh, was standing a bit close." Doyle gestured to the other side of the room, to where a man slumped in a congealing pool of blood was being gingerly patted down by a young agent he never remembered the name of. "You won't find anything on him, mate. He was one of their own. Called himself Nine, like he was in a bloody Bond film." He watched the agent's methodical search until his eyes stung from not blinking. He squeezed them shut and a whine whistled past, the crunch of bullet through bone, the wetness of arterial blood spraying, warm and welcome across his cheek...
His throat constricted.
"I mean, Nine. For fuck's sake, Murph. Not a name at all that, is it?"
Search over, the agent stepped aside and Doyle finally turned his gaze elsewhere. Up to Murphy, who didn't seem to know quite where to put himself.
"Look, mate. You've had... Let's get you up, eh? The Cow's outside."
Doyle closed his front door by the simple act of leaning back against it and wondered how comfortable the carpet in his hall would be if he just slid down onto it and sorted himself and his partner out in the morning.
Not to be, then.
"No, the Lone Fucking Ranger, mate."
"Tonto not with you?"
Weary as Doyle was, he had no defence against a Bodie all dressed in cream and charm, leaning against the doorjamb smiling at him. He wanted a little more of that before he used the last of his energy to get this done.
"Tied him up outside with Silver. Helluva mess."
He got a smile that softened, became less and somehow a whole lot more. So he took a deep breath and fired.
"Where were you?"
"At the house. How come Murphy came in to do the honours? Where the fuck were you?" Determination fuelled strength into his voice and he watched with distant relish as Bodie's smile vanished. It had hit him in a dark place to emerge from that house on unsteady legs, and see Bodie talking to Cowley with his jaw locked and his head down, barely glancing in his direction.
Much as he was doing now, actually.
"Christ, Doyle, don't be so bloody wet. Don't need me to hold your hand, do you? Someone had to stay outside."
"Had to be you, did it, Custer? Couldn't have been Murphy?"
"Right. Well, if you're upright and spouting shite I'll be off then, shall I?"
The last was a scouse-riddled explosion followed by Bodie attempting to storm past him, and was so predictable that Doyle would've laughed if he'd had the energy. Instead, he grabbed a wrist and halted him mid-stride. He was under no illusions, if mister temperamental thoroughbred wanted to twist free, he would. If he wanted to slam his way out, he would do that too. But not before Doyle had had his say.
He stepped up behind Bodie's right shoulder. "Well?"
"Jesus, Doyle! You know the fucking drill, what do you want me to say? Someone had to stay outside and watch the exits. And in case you've forgotten, Kruschev was coming out with his arm wrapped round your larynx, mate."
All this said to the carpet, with Bodie not turning back enough for Doyle to see his eyes. Doyle shook his head and tightened his grip, absurdly aware that his partner could break out of it anytime. "But he wasn't, Bodie. It was over and you bloody knew that!"
"Yeah, it was over. One shot and it was all fucking over!" Bodie pulled hard at that and Doyle almost let go, but on another instinct he let the momentum take him a step closer. Close enough to see muscles clamp Bodie's teeth down, one set grinding the other.
"None of us knew about Karpov, you idiot! No one knew Kruschev had another man inside with him. We heard the shot and I..." Bodie swallowed hard, "...we... I mean, I fucking knew..." Bodie looked up, giving Doyle the eye contact he wanted. But one look at Bodie blinking furiously, and Doyle lost the stomach for what he was doing. Changing hold, he reeled Bodie off balance and jerked him in, muffling a curse as he wrapped him up tight. Tight enough to get no resistance. Then Bodie's arms squeezed back and Doyle's protesting muscles had him bite back a groan. He held his ground and his grip.
"Bodie, you daft bugger. I know."
Bodie's exhalations were scudding down his back and he could hear -- hell, feel - the hammer of the man's heart. But the pace was slowing and Doyle smiled. Never one to lose it for long was Bodie. The grip around him relaxed and Bodie's head snapped up. When he spoke, it puffed the curls over Doyle's right ear.
"Then what the-" Doyle felt him pull back and on an instinct that told him this would be easier if they didn't look at each other, he pulled him back in with a hand on the back of his head. Somehow Bodie allowed it.
"Because, you great gormless git, you and me have to say things sometimes. If this is more than larking around, then we have to say it. So that apart from anything else, I know who to think about the next time I'm tied up and having the shit kicked out of me."
"Well, thanks, but I was thinking about having your ugly mug floating before me, if it's all the same to you."
"No, I mean Murph told you."
"To be fair, it was in defence of a nasty torrent of abuse from yours truly in the backseat. I think I started off with 'cold, inconsiderate bastard'."
Bodie pulled back and blinked at him.
"'M not, y'know."
Doyle let his hands slide and meet in the middle of Bodie's back. He tilted his head at the earnest expression before him and consciously gentled his voice. "So I gather."
Hustled off by a terse Cowley to the joys of a CI5 medical onceover and a debriefing, Doyle had been in no mood to decipher a partner standing next to Cowley with his hands in his pockets and staring at him. So he had let rip on the way to HQ. Only to have Murph turn a shade of purple in the driver's seat, cough twice, and tell him that Bodie had been forced to stay outside. On account of the terrible noise the gunshot had produced from him. That, and the way Bodie's legs had apparently dumped him momentarily on the pavement. And it had made Doyle feel ten times the stupid idiot for needing Murphy to put two and two together for something his gut and his heart should have already told him. It had shut his mouth and eyes for the rest of the mercifully brief journey back to HQ.
Once there he had been checked over, given the usual pills and bandages to store at home in the medicine cabinet, and then debriefed to within an inch of his sanity. He knew the whys and wherefores, everything over and over in relentless detail until it lost any hold on the emotions. Still didn't make going through it any more pleasant. Especially since Bodie had gone off duty and Doyle needed to get to him, needed to get a few things out in the bloody open before exhaustion befuddled him completely.
So here he was, with the proof of his convictions standing here in his hallway with him, arms locked loosely in the small of his own back so as not to hurt. As they stood there, Bodie pulled a hand free to reach out and grasp a curl, his expression still sober.
"There's blood on this."
Bodie looked at him, intently. "None of it yours, then?"
Doyle shook his head. And found himself hugged again. Just briefly. Hard and angry almost, like Bodie's hugs had always been, even in the days before they'd taken each other to bed on a wing and a prayer.
"You stink." Bodie informed him once he'd let go again. Wrinkling his nose to make his point.
It wasn't Romeo and Juliet, would probably never be, but it was good enough.
"Blimey. Need a life-belt?"
Doyle had filled the bath, climbed in, then filled it some more. And added a dollop of Epsom salts for good measure. Lying there drifting as his aches softened, and with a hot face flannel covering his eyes, he could no more summon up a reply than he could tell Bodie to shut the bloody door and keep the heat in.
"C'mon. I've cooked and you're pruning."
That, however, was worth lifting a corner of the flannel for.
"I've opened a tin and there's bread under the grill," said Bodie. Then he bent close, slowed, and Doyle found himself disarmed and cross-eyed as his nose was kissed.
"Now c'mon. Up," said Bodie, straightening.
Doyle let him get to the door before he found his tongue. "I was glad, Bodie." He took a breath and continued, getting it all out at once. "When his blood sprayed, it hit my hair, my face, and the only thing I remember feeling was glad that it wasn't me. Fuck."
The look Bodie gave him was worth a hundred debriefings. He knew this would hit him again when he was rested, knew he had a black cloud the size of Calcutta waiting for him somewhere down the line. But for now, he had those eyes, that face, and those hands. All for him and his peace of mind.
To which end, he got another kiss, this time slow and sure on his mouth. Bodie walked back in, crouched next to the bath and slid a hand around his neck before finding Doyle's mouth. Doyle let himself fall back into all that heat and rising steam, pulling gently on Bodie's tongue as he did so. Bodie's mouth pushed him further, onto the hand keeping his head out of the water, and Doyle thought he might die from a kind of bliss he hadn't thought existed for men like him. Not after days like today.
When it was over, Doyle took his time opening his eyes.
"Wow, mate. Just.. wow. Though I have to say that while the spirit may be willing, I don't think there's enough Epsom salts in the world to get the flesh up to speed."
Bodie flicked his nose and took himself to his feet yet again. "'S all right, sunshine. Wasn't that kind of a kiss. Now get up and out before you ruin my gourmet dinner, you peasant."
Doyle watched Bodie turn at the door, look at the lino and then straight back at him. "And since we're saying things, Ray, I think you should know that it is, by the way. As far as I'm concerned it's been more than a lark for quite a while."
That night, after a dinner of beans on toast Doyle almost managed to stay awake for, it became the first time they ever simply slept together. And when Doyle finally awoke warm and entangled, with Bodie gusting down his neck and his arm half-asleep, he knew he was in trouble.
More than a lark wasn't even close.
-- THE END --