The Strongest Will

by

Illustrated by




Cowley understood what he had created, and he kept them fully occupied at the site of the attempted assasination of Parsali into the evening. He might have promised them two weeks leave, but Bodie wouldn't be surprised if he rescinded the offer. Without any doubt, Cowley wasn't going to let them out into the civilised world until they were either exhausted or under control. Macklin had fine-tuned them into two highly efficient killers, and it would take time for the effect to wear off.

Bodie leant against the wall of the salon where the signing had taken place, watching as the forensics team packed to leave. He had last seen Doyle heading upstairs with Cowley, presumably to collect the sleeping bags and gear. Quite possibly Cowley would take the opportunity to begin debriefing Doyle. Bodie caught the eye of one of the forensics team, who turned quickly away.

There hadn't been enough action. For him, it had ended in a matter of seconds: assessment, recognition, reaction. The result had been one dead assassin. Doyle hadn't killed his target and had had to chase him down. Bodie had missed out on the hunt. He had been required to stay behind in case there were others, but there had only been the two attackers. It was hours later now, but he still wanted to move, to hit something, to release the tension. Instead, all he'd been asked to do was stand, and watch, and answer questions. It was his least favourite method of dealing with the aftermath of an op, but he understood Cowley's reasoning.

He watched as Cowley came down the stairs. The old man looked tired, yet his eyes were as sharp as ever and his manner brisk. There was still no word on the identities of the assassins, but it was only a matter of time. Bodie was willing to bet they had been local boys and that this had been their first attempt at this sort of job. They hadn't been amateurs, but they hadn't been professionals either.

"Bodie, you and Doyle are with me. Samuels, a word with you." Cowley intercepted the leader of the forensics team.

Bodie saw Doyle descending the stairs, carrying their bags. He had finally removed his sunglasses. There was no one left to intimidate, and no need to hide his own expression. This sort of job was uncommon in CI5. They'd guarded men before, and would again--but they'd been cannon fodder as much as protectors this time. Bodie had more experience with that than Doyle did, and he'd wondered how he would respond. Training would only take you so far. He'd been glad when Doyle had admitted to fear. It gave you an edge, as long as you kept it under control. Now all they had to deal with was the aftermath. He crossed the hallway to meet Doyle, unsurprised when he wouldn't meet his eyes. Bodie took his own bag and gear from him and they followed Cowley out of the house.

Bodie drove while Doyle sat in the back with Cowley. He caught occasional glimpses of Doyle in the rear-view mirror--usually looking out the side window. Cowley was on the car phone for the first half of the trip, confirming details on the op, the continued secrecy of Parsali's visit, and the signing of the historic peace agreement. He also, apparently, caught up with several other ongoing ops, but it was difficult to decipher those conversations. Bodie felt as if he had been gone for a month, because of the intensity of the preparation for Parsali's visit.

Cowley put the handset down as they drove into Uxbridge. "Well, we have an identification, at last."

"Who were they?" Bodie asked.

"Frank Coney and Joe Renault. Hired guns who often worked together. There was nothing solid against them here, but indications of a few jobs abroad. They must have been recommended to Rio for this operation. One thing I am glad of in all of this--we haven't got Rio to deal with any more."

"Those two were in Chiswick." Doyle entered the conversation.

"Were they?"

Bodie nodded. "Yeah. The one I killed joined us in that fight with the bikers."

"Yes, when your car window was smashed." Cowley always did have an eye to the bottom line.

"You recognised him, then?" Doyle asked.

"Yeah. I knew he didn't belong there."

"It was lucky for us he made an impression on you, Bodie."

"Lucky."

"Yes, Doyle, lucky. Sometimes it is the smallest of chances that leads to success, no matter the training involved. You are surely not regretting the incident? A great many more people might have died, if they had got down the stairs."

"That's right, mate. It was their slip-up that helped us."

Doyle said nothing to that, and Bodie couldn't see his expression in the rear-view mirror.

"Feeling guilty about the man you killed, Doyle?" Cowley's voice was neutral.

"I did my job."

"As you were trained to do."

Doyle stayed silent.

"You didn't go for the kill shot until he offered you no choice."

Still Doyle said nothing.

"They, on the other hand, were given dum-dums to use."

"What difference did it make in the end?"

"The difference, Doyle, is that your man might have lived, if he had surrendered. His victim, however, didn't stand a chance."

"And if I had been quicker--"

"Och, man, it all happened in an instant. Bodie killed the first assassin; the second assassin shot Parsali's man; you shot him. It was all clean and above board. Indeed, while there will be an inquiry into the incident, I have already been assured that you and Bodie have the thanks of Her Majesty's government for your actions.

"Oh, well, that's all right, then."

"Doyle--" Bodie started to intervene, but Cowley interrupted him.

"No, Bodie, let him be. It was a nasty business all around."

"And that leave you promised, sir?" Bodie was more interested in diverting the conversation than in Cowley's answer.

"After tomorrow. When we get back to HQ tonight I want your written reports."

"Sir--" It was a token protest; Bodie wasn't surprised by the order. It was another way to keep them under observation for a time, and far better than a visit with Dr Ross.

"In full while your memories are fresh."

"Yes, sir."

The conversation lapsed as Bodie continued on into the city centre. So Doyle had given the second assassin a chance to surrender. He wondered if he'd have done the same. Would Doyle have hesitated a critical second before shooting the first assassin, if he'd been in Bodie's place? They had had similar training, but their backgrounds led to differences in their instinctive reactions.

"Too much of the other," Macklin had said to him during training. He hadn't tried to bring the hate out in Doyle, hadn't tried to reach into his core and pull out the killer. Macklin had brought Bodie's past to the surface. He could feel the old wariness, the kill-or-be-killed readiness that kept him on edge. He wouldn't have suggested using dum-dums before Macklin had reminded him that expediency was a viable option. He'd grown soft in CI5.

Cowley left them to get on with it at HQ. Doyle kept his head down, working steadily, which surprised Bodie, but he was glad of it. Usually after an op like this, especially with a killing, Doyle wanted to go through every step, every decision. Bodie never knew if it was Doyle's attempt to find a better way they might have handled the situation or just his need for some sort of justification for his actions. Perhaps writing the report was enough for him this time. Perhaps the conversation with Cowley had been enough.

Bodie focused on his own report, finishing it in record time. He was not surprised when Doyle completed his shortly thereafter. They were in top condition--able to concentrate despite creeping exhaustion. Cowley, after an assessing look, dismissed them for the night, recommending they get some sleep. They were to report in at 0900.

"Two weeks! He promised us two weeks." Doyle was behind Bodie on the stairs.

"After they have a good look at us, mate."

"There's no need for it." Doyle's tone was sullen, and Bodie glanced back at him. He was still dressed in the clothes he'd worn for the meeting, but the jacket was now creased and the shirt collar limp.

"You did pull a gun on him this morning."

It took a moment, but Doyle grinned. "Yeah, I did."

Bodie laughed back at him, feeling the spark between them.

They exited the stairwell into the ground floor corridor and went to the car park. Bodie's car had been delivered from the op during the course of the evening. As he settled in to drive, Bodie realised his eyes felt gritty. He hadn't slept well the night before, on the floor of the hallway. The adrenaline had worn off long ago. By all rights he should want nothing more than to go to bed...but he still felt restless, almost driven.

He double-parked on the street outside Doyle's flat, hesitated, then said, "Go for a drink?"

Doyle paused in the act of climbing out of the car. He looked back at Bodie, eyes wide but face unrevealing. The moment stretched. "Yeah. I want to change first."

"All right." Bodie smiled, and felt a burst of energy along his nerves. "I'll pick you up again in forty-five minutes."

Doyle tilted his head. "Not much time before closing."

"If we need it, I know another place we can go afterwards."

Doyle's smile matched his own, and Bodie saw a hint of rebellion in it. Doyle nodded, closed the car door, and headed for his block.

It was stupid to be doing this. They were both tired and over-hyped. Cowley had meant them to go home, fall into their respective beds, and return to CI5 in the morning. Bodie didn't care. He'd never be able to sleep if he didn't get a bit more of the op out of his system. It looked as if Doyle felt the same way.

He used to get on these jags in the old days--both in the mercs and in the army. Occasionally he had experienced it in the SAS, but Nairn had been as careful as Cowley to see his men were stood down properly. He'd got into some wild situations before the SAS, but he'd always got himself out, too. He wondered how far Doyle might go, in the mood he was in. How familiar was Doyle with this particular brand of recklessness?

It took him only a few minutes to change into trousers, a dark poloneck, and a leather jacket. He kept his gun, unwilling to leave it behind, although he knew it would be brighter to do so. He returned to Doyle's flat, and when Doyle arrived he saw that he was armed as well. His gun was imperfectly concealed by the flyer's jacket he wore. They were heading out into the night well-matched, and Bodie was content. They were both alive.

They avoided their locals. Bodie took them to a place he knew by the docks. The pub served good beer, decent bar food, and the owner didn't ask many questions of his clientele. Doyle, after a quick glance around, sent a mischievous look Bodie's way.

"We could arrest half this lot and give Cowley a full night of it."

"Shall we?"

Doyle shook his head, but his smile lingered. "Go on, get me a lager."

"Oi, why's it my round?"

"Your invitation."

"So it was. Pick us out a table, eh?"

He returned with the drinks to find Doyle at a corner table. Bodie set the drinks down and joined Doyle on the bench along the wall. They drank in companionable silence, watching the other patrons. How many of these men could handle themselves in a fight? He'd pit himself and Doyle against any three of them, probably more.

"It's a good way to climb down, isn't it?" Doyle glanced at him.

"Yeah, this is good." He drank, then gave Doyle a leer. "Not the best, though."

Doyle paused with his glass half raised. "I can guess your best." He took a long pull from his lager.

"Did you ring Claire?"

"Nah." Doyle put his glass down. "She's still on nights." He gestured with his head towards a couple of girls a few tables away. "Want to try your luck?"

"No." He batted his lashes at Doyle. "I'll settle for you tonight, petal."

Doyle grinned. "Because you're too tired, aren't you, Romeo?"

"I am never too tired."

"That I can believe."

"Of course."

"It wasn't a compliment."

Bodie sighed. "It never is with you. Stubborn git."

"I never want to encourage boasting."

"A statement of fact, that's what that was."

Doyle gestured towards the women. "The table's right over there."

Bodie peered at the group, then settled more firmly next to Doyle. "Can't be bothered." He drained his glass. "Your round, isn't it?"

"Coward." Doyle got up and headed for the bar.

Bodie watched him weave through the crowd and felt a stirring deep inside. Yeah, he knew the best way to come down off the op, but he wouldn't be getting that in London. At least not tonight. In Africa it hadn't been difficult to find a woman--or better, a man--willing to play it rough just to prove you were alive. In the army it had been more difficult, but not impossible. He'd always taken great care when choosing a partner, not the least because he wasn't into pain, just hard sex--quick and preferably mind-blowing. He hadn't been with a man in over six years, but that was what he wanted tonight.

His eyes focused on Doyle at the bar. It was madness to be thinking about sex and Doyle. Absolute madness. Bodie smiled.

A large man next to Doyle was gesturing as he spoke with his friends, obviously in the middle of a story or a joke. His arm swung back, straight towards Doyle's face. Doyle grabbed the man's wrist, brought it down, and bent his arm behind his back, all while talking into his ear. The man stopped smiling and, released by Doyle, swung to face him. But one look at Doyle's face and he muttered something and turned back to his friends, edging away.

Doyle looked around and his eyes met Bodie's, as if he'd known Bodie was watching him. The look went straight to Bodie's groin--a burst of heat and longing, lifting him and tightening his stomach. He raised his empty glass to Doyle. Doyle grinned and leant back against the bar, at his ease, and on display.

He'd wondered about Doyle's past. The man radiated sex sometimes, to all comers. Had he experimented? What hedonistic pursuits had he engaged in at art school? Maybe, just maybe, Bodie could get what he wanted tonight, after all.

The drinks were delivered to Doyle and he made his way back to the table. "What do you reckon Macklin's doing right now?" Doyle settled in beside him again.

"Training some other poor bastards."

"Hard to believe he's lost his nerve."

Bodie shifted on the bench, not liking the turn in the conversation. "It happens."

"To you?"

"If it had, I wouldn't be here, would I?"

"No." Doyle looked down at his drink, but Bodie could feel the restlessness in him.

"Look, it's bad medicine to think about it, right?"

Doyle looked up. "Like last night?"

"Yeah, like last night. You just do the job. Survive any way you can."

"Kill or be killed. You've said that to me before."

"That's right. Because they would have killed you, mate, and you know it."

"Shoot first, ask questions never."

"Ah, give it a break, Doyle."

"Look, those two bastards--"

"Don't you mean 'poor bastards'?"

"Yeah, poor bastards."

Bodie shook his head. "No one pushed them into it, they were hired, same as we were."

"No difference, you're saying."

"Oh, bloody hell. Of course there's a difference! Cowley told you, didn't he? Are you saying he's not on the side of the angels, then?"

Doyle was silent, looking at his drink.

"To the pure all things are pure."

"What the fuck does that mean?" Doyle looked at him, eyes narrowed.

"It means the ends justify the means."

"You really think that, do you?"

"In this world, it's the truth."

"So you would have used dum-dums."

Bodie looked down. "Maybe."

"Yeah. You tell me where the difference is, then." Doyle took a long swallow from his drink. "You think because we were protecting Parsali, whatever methods we use are fair play? That the intent makes the action 'pure'?"

"You fight fire with fire, isn't that what Cowley says?"

Doyle looked away. "Maybe. But you don't have to set all the houses on fire when you do it."

"So what are you going to do about it, then? Quit the mob? Go and join a pacifist group?"

"Yeah, put a flower in me hair." Doyle slanted a look at him and Bodie couldn't help but grin.

"You'd look a treat."

"Better than you, butch."

"I'm wounded! I think I'd look quite fetching. A rose, don't you think?"

"Or a tulip." Doyle's eyes met Bodie's. "Well, you're the one getting them from strange men."

"McKay." Bodie didn't try to hide the loathing. He looked Doyle over thoroughly. "Now there's someone who would eat you for lunch."

"Like our Brian, eh?"

"Worse."

"Terrific." Doyle finished his drink. "Here, go and get us another, eh? I need fortifying at the thought."

"Dutch courage." Bodie got up and made his way to the bar. It was the last round before closing. He wondered if Doyle would want to go on to another place, what he might tempt him into tonight. He was feeling careless and free, and he didn't want the evening to end.

When he got back to the table he found Doyle eyeing a leggy blonde standing by the darts board. He slid onto the bench and pressed his thigh against Doyle's. "Thinking of having a go?"

Doyle tilted his head to look at him, and Bodie saw something of his own recklessness in his eyes. "Nah. Not now." They were neither of them fit for the unwary tonight. Bodie kept his leg against Doyle's, pleased that he didn't move away.

They drank in silence, watching as the pub crowd started to thin. Bodie couldn't keep his thoughts away from the idea of sex with Doyle. What would it be like to have Doyle beneath him, to be pounding all the energy and the fear from the op into him? Doyle would take it and would give it all back in spades. He had a wild streak--usually kept under control, but there nonetheless. What would Doyle be like unleashed? His cock twitched, and he eased away from Doyle an inch or so. He had a pleasant sense of anticipation riding his nerves, feeding into the post-op energy, and he felt the same from Doyle beside him.

Closing time came and they left the pub, walking to where they'd left Bodie's car, several streets away. "Another place?" Bodie glanced at Doyle.

Doyle nodded, and Bodie caught a certain tightness in his expression as they crossed under a street lamp.

"Still feeling it, eh?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Of course. The sensible thing would be to go home."

"I know." Doyle stopped, his gaze fixed on something to the right.

"What?" But then Bodie saw them too--a group of five lads gathered around a car. Across the distance, Bodie heard the sound of breaking glass. "Ray--" But Doyle was already moving, and Bodie quickly caught up with him. All right, a fight might be just what they needed, and there was enough of an excuse to satisfy Cowley.

"That's enough." Doyle's voice carried the snap of an ex-DC. Only then did Bodie see that the group was gathered not just around a car, but around another boy as well. He moved up beside Doyle.

Four of the yobs turned to face them, while the last held on to the boy against the car. They looked to be in their late teens, dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and jackets. A tall blond stepped forward. "It's not your business."

Doyle's smile was feral, bringing an answering smile to Bodie's lips. "It is now." Doyle moved forward, Bodie beside him, and the gang met them without any hesitation.

Bodie put the first boy down quickly, but he barely avoided a blow from a tyre iron swung by another. He grinned, and took pleasure in wresting it away from the boy, dropping him with a punch. He was about to engage with a third boy when the sound of an approaching police car penetrated the buzz in his head.

"Doyle!"

Doyle had heard it too, and finished a chop to the leader that took him to his knees, then touched Bodie on his shoulder. They ran from the area, leaving the gang members behind to fall into the clutches of the rapidly approaching coppers. It was one thing to break up a beating and possible vandalism to a car, quite another to be dragged into the local police station. Their IDs might get them out, but Cowley would hear of it.

Bodie ran next to Doyle, as they'd run in Chiswick, only now it was just them, and they were free, and the blood sang in his veins. He wasn't winding down. Far from it.

Doyle led them into a narrow alley between two buildings, breathing hard. He stood poised, listening. Bodie steadied his own breathing, bent at the waist, hands on his thighs.

"Anything?"

There was enough light by the entrance to the alley for Bodie to see the white of Doyle's grin. "Nothing."

"Feels good, does it?"

"Stupid, but...yeah."

"We're primed for it." Bodie straightened and moved closer to Doyle.

"It's never been...quite like this before. I can't seem to stop."

"No. It's good, though."

Doyle's breathing steadied to normal. "How do you stop the ride?"

"Do you really want to?"

There was a pause, but Doyle nodded.

"Well, I told you there was a best way to come down. To get it out." Bodie's heart rate picked up again and his stomach twisted, just like before a firefight.

"Too late for that, mate."

"Maybe not." As he said the words, Bodie closed the distance between them. He leant in and kissed him, one hand on the back of Doyle's head, the other ready to protect himself if Doyle retaliated.

He felt the surprise in Doyle, felt a tremor go through him, and he tightened his grip on his head. Doyle's mouth had been open when Bodie covered it, and he pressed his advantage--but he coaxed, he didn't invade. Give him a taste of it, let him feel it.

Doyle pulled back, breaking Bodie's hold on him. "What the fuck?" His breathing had increased, and he was staring at Bodie, but he hadn't raised his fists. When Bodie took a step towards him, he stood his ground. Bodie smiled, triumph searing him, and his hand slid to the back of Doyle's neck. This time, as he'd known he would, Doyle met him when Bodie's mouth settled on his. He kissed Doyle deeply, seeking to consume him, and he heard a sound strangled in Doyle's throat. Doyle's hands touched his side and his back, lingering.

Feeling safer now, Bodie moved his other hand to Doyle's waist, and then to his groin, finding a hard bulge in Doyle's jeans. He opened the flies, and Doyle shuddered as Bodie touched flesh. Breaking the kiss, Bodie moved to Doyle's neck, biting and sucking. He backed Doyle into the wall behind him, taking advantage of the added support.

"Bodie. Wha--God."

Bodie lifted his head, and he gloated at the expression he saw on Doyle's face--equal parts lust and stunned disbelief. "It's the best way to come down off the op." He caressed Doyle's cock. "Feel that? You're alive. I'm alive. Follow me into the fire, Ray."

"Wait. We--" Doyle's words were swallowed by Bodie's tongue as he claimed his mouth again. He felt the immediate response in Doyle, and his own desire flared higher within him. It'd be hard and fast, and Doyle was willing. He used both hands to push Doyle's jeans down, freeing his cock. He pulled on it roughly, knowing exactly what Doyle needed in this heated rush to completion. He went to his knees and took Doyle's cock in his mouth.

Doyle swore, and his hands clamped on Bodie's head. Bodie worked Doyle's cock, and pictured the expression on Doyle's face, and thought of taking him. He groaned and that seemed to trigger Doyle. He felt him arch, he tightened his hold on his arse, and Doyle came in his mouth, gasping and moaning.

Giving him no time to recover, his own need paramount, Bodie lurched to his feet and turned Doyle to the wall, one arm supporting him, the other unfastening his own trousers. He was desperate, his cock hard and slick. He wanted to sink into Doyle, needed to fuck him, needed him.

He had a moment's warning as Doyle's body tensed, and then an elbow connected with his stomach and Doyle twisted out of his grip.

"No." Doyle was panting, his back now against the wall.

"Dammit. Doyle." He straightened, glaring at Doyle, nearly blind with the strength of his desire.

"You're not fucking me." Doyle pulled his jeans up.

"I am."

"I'll give you a wank, but--"

"I gave you better than that."

"I didn't ask--"

"Like hell you didn't." Bodie grabbed him and pushed him hard against the wall. He followed immediately with his body, pressing against Doyle. He kissed him again, taking his breath, and his resistance, away. The moment he felt him respond, he worked to get Doyle's jeans open again.

Doyle's knee connected with Bodie's cock and balls, sending agony through him. He fell back and Doyle followed, moving away from the wall. "Dammit. No."

"You bastard." Bodie rushed at Doyle, forcing him back, his hands on his shoulders. He evaded a fist to his stomach and grabbed Doyle's arm, twisting it. Doyle got a leg around Bodie's, jerking him off balance and sending him to the ground. But Bodie managed to pull Doyle down with him, and he was on his feet again first. He grabbed him and hauled him up. He knew Doyle's next move and reacted to it instantly, blocking his punch and delivering his own. Doyle doubled over, and Bodie put him down with an automatic blow to the back of his neck.

Doyle collapsed to the pavement. Bodie stood over him, breathing heavily, feeling the combination of adrenaline and victory surging within him, thinking how very similar it was to fucking. He closed his trousers and took a step back. He turned away, breathed in deeply, then out, and in a breathless pause he suddenly realised what he'd done.

Bodie swung around and found Doyle already stirring, albeit weakly. His stomach clenched and he moved forward, helped Doyle to his feet, and used his arm to steady him. "All right?"

Doyle pushed him away, but had to put a hand on the wall when he took a step. He stood there for a moment, and Bodie stood beside him, uncertain and off-balance. Doyle raised his head, but said nothing. Bodie had no idea what was going through Doyle's mind; he couldn't see his expression. He didn't want to get to the next minute, didn't want to know what was going to happen. He didn't want to think.

Doyle pulled away from the wall and headed for the street. Bodie followed behind him, followed him all the way back to the car park and into the Capri. He started the motor and got them out onto the street. This was a silence he wasn't used to and didn't know how to handle. It felt like his stomach was trying to come up through his throat.



"I'm sorry," he said finally. There was no response. He concentrated on driving.

After about twenty minutes he pulled up in front of Doyle's block, double-parking again. "Ray--" Doyle climbed out of the car and walked away without a word. Bodie watched him go, saw that he was at least steady on his feet, and watched the door close behind him.

Bodie drove home, parked the Capri, and made his way into his block. In the darkness of his flat, he took off his jacket and gun, kicked off his shoes, and lay down on the bed, seeking oblivion.

The morning light through open curtains woke him. Bodie opened his eyes, and for one moment he enjoyed the waking, but then the memories crashed into his consciousness, and an overwhelming sense of dread took him.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

He sat up, looked at the clock, and swore again. It was already half eight; he'd never make it to HQ by 0900. No time to call Doyle, no time for anything. What the fuck had he done? He got out of bed, changed clothes quickly, left the flat, and ran down the stairs to the car. He was out into traffic before he allowed himself to remember again, to think about what he'd done.

He'd put Doyle out. He recoiled from the thought--he'd only been acting in self-defence, reacting instinctively. No, be honest. He'd reacted in anger. Disappointment. A wank? Oh, fuck. Had Doyle really not known? Fuck, fuck, fuck. He was dead; Doyle would kill him. But there was a greater fear underneath that thought, and he didn't want to acknowledge it. He remembered the silence in the car, and the door closing. He stopped thinking about the future and concentrated on traffic.

He was at HQ by a quarter past nine, and stood for a moment outside Cowley's office. He took a breath, knocked, and entered at Cowley's summons. Doyle was already there, standing to one side of the desk, and Bodie had no trouble picking up the tension in the room. He forced himself to close the door and to approach Cowley, who was sitting behind his desk. No excuses. He automatically stood straight.

"Good of you to join us, Bodie." Cowley's gaze was piercing.

"Sorry, sir." He kept his eyes on Cowley, but he was very aware of Doyle to his right.

"I have just been filling Doyle in on your new assignment."

"You what?" He was expecting to hear something completely different, and it took a moment for Cowley's words to penetrate.

"Your new assignment. Your leave has been cancelled."

"What the fuck-- Sorry, sir. What's going on?" He finally looked at Doyle, but could read nothing on his face. Nothing.

"An emergency situation has developed. The Drug Squad have been working to take down the Borano gang--you are familiar with them?"

"Yes, sir. What has this got to do with CI5?"

"Nothing, in the usual run of things. But one of the new suppliers of heroin for the gang has a Russian connection. That does interest us. Heroin from Afghanistan to Russia to here. There may be a KGB connection, but we are uncertain. That is why I took an interest in the case. The police have managed to infiltrate the gang with one of their agents. Benjamin Norcott."

"Benny," Bodie said. He'd left CI5 soon after the Coogan fiasco. He glanced at Doyle, then back at Cowley. "And?"

"He's been working with a man highly placed in the gang. This man, Wilson, has become the receiver of supplies--he meets with the supplier, arranges for the pickup of the drugs, checks to make sure everything is tidy, and pays off the supplier."

"A clerk."

"Yes. Benny has been acting as his lieutenant. When a shipment comes in, the rest of the gang scatter until summoned."

"What happened?"

"Wilson died last night in a traffic accident. An unrelated event, as far as we can ascertain. The meeting with the Russians, however, is scheduled for tonight. It is the Russian drop that has been chosen for the police operation. With the raid, and thanks to Benny's work, they will have enough to break the gang. We were planning just to investigate the Russian involvement, but now--"

"You're sending Doyle in."

"Yes."

Bodie flicked a glance at Doyle, but he might as well have been looking at a stranger. "They'll know."

"No. This is a singular opportunity. The Russians know the names, but they have never met the gang members in person. We've not notified anyone of Wilson's death. With Benny there, Doyle can play Wilson's role. Benny's well trained; he and Doyle have worked together before."

"Doyle's just--"

"I can do this." Doyle spoke for the first time, his voice low and vehement.

"The police have asked for our help."

Bodie again looked at Doyle. This was something Doyle would do, even if Cowley had asked for volunteers. Benny was an old mate, and he'd followed Doyle into CI5. Both of them would jump at a chance to bring down Borano. There was no way Doyle would be left out of this. Never mind he'd already given everything in trying to protect Parsali, never mind that he was overtrained. Never mind--fuck.

"You will be Doyle's contact. He will call you with the information as he receives it: who is involved, where the drugs will be delivered, how the raid should be set up." Cowley pushed a file folder on the desk towards Bodie. "This is all that we know about the gang and the Russians. You and Doyle have a few hours to memorise it before Doyle goes in for his rendezvous with Benny. Do you have any questions?"

He had many, but none that could be asked of Cowley. "It's a bad idea, sir." He picked up the file folder.

"I'm going in."

He ignored Doyle's words and looked at Cowley.

"So noted, three-seven. Doyle?"

"No questions, sir."

"Very well. Bodie, keep me directly informed." He paused for a moment, an uncharacteristic hesitation that drew their attention. "I would not have chosen this for you. You will be stood down when this is over. My word on that." They nodded. "Dismissed."

They left the office, Doyle following Bodie, who led him to one of the interrogation rooms, seeking privacy. He put the file down on the table and turned to face Doyle as he came into the room, closing the door behind him.

"Are you really ready for this?" There was no bruising on Doyle's face, no sign of anything that had happened last night--except for the coldness in his eyes as he looked back at Bodie.

"Yes."

"It's more than your life on the line, sunshine."

"I bloody know that. Get on with it."

They divided the papers in the file and read through them in silence, sitting on the hard chairs at opposite ends of the table. Bodie concentrated on the words, memorising the names and the details. He'd need to understand the organisation and procedures thoroughly to interpret the information Doyle would feed him and to help if Doyle had any questions, or any faltering, while on the op. But they both knew there would be long periods of time when Doyle would be on his own. Or with Benny.

"Are you out to redeem Benny?"

"Fuck off."

"No. I need the truth."

Doyle looked at him through narrowed eyes. "I'm not that stupid. Yeah, I want to help him, but the object is Borano."

Bodie nodded and looked down at the papers, although he could feel Doyle's gaze still on him.

"They're going to open the tap on your phone, you know."

Bodie didn't look up. "Yeah."

"Don't reckon we have anything to talk about outside the job, do we?"

What the hell was he supposed to answer to that? Bodie kept his eyes down.

"Do we?" Doyle's voice was hard.

Bodie looked at him and saw the temper riding him, distracting him. "You tell me."

"You still want to fuck me?" And Bodie knew, from the small, disquieting smile that grew on Doyle's face, that his own expression had given him away. "Yeah," Doyle said, his tone like acid. Bodie could feel it in his stomach. He looked away and reached for another of the papers.

Silence fell again, until Doyle broke it. "I might let you suck me off, mind."

"Shut up, Doyle."

"What, you don't want to? Seemed to me you were enjoying it."

Bodie realised he'd failed to understand a word he was reading and started again at the top of the sheet.

"A bloody poof."

Bodie tightened his jaw, but didn't respond.

"Does Cowley know?"

Bodie looked up. "Look, do you want someone else on this op? Murphy or Anson could do it."

He saw something flicker in Doyle's eyes. "No. We'll do this one."

"And after?"

"You think you deserve to know?"

Bodie took a moment to answer. "Maybe not."

Doyle looked down. "Yeah, well, I'll tell you when I know." He picked up the paper in front of him.

They read through their piles, then traded the papers until they had both read everything twice. It was almost like normal, except for the sick feeling in his stomach. The gang was similar to any number of others that had grown and died over the years. Cowley was right that Doyle was used to operations such as these. He had worked a number of them when he was in the Drug Squad. He'd also got out of it, and had been glad to join CI5. Bodie had never asked him for details about his previous jobs, but he'd learned a bit as they'd met former colleagues or run into situations in the course of their work. When Benny had been with CI5, he and Doyle had sometimes gone to the pub together to talk about the old days. Benny had gone back to Drugs after he'd washed out of CI5.

"About time I was heading out. I need to collect my gear."

Bodie looked at Doyle, and his eyes narrowed. "Not until we've gone over the names and procedures once together."

"I've got it."

"We're playing it by the book."

"That's a new one for you, isn't it? You don't believe in rules."

"I believe in keeping you alive. Now shut up and start from the top."

Doyle's jaw was tight, but he rattled off the information. "I'm Johnnie Wilson, been with the gang for eight years, rising through the ranks. My immediate boss is Frank Varney, boyhood friend to Antonio Borano." As Doyle listed the names and placements in the history of the gang, he paced back and forth across the room, forcing Bodie to follow him with his eyes. All fluid grace and power, that was Doyle when he walked, and he was well aware of it. Bodie clenched his fist on the table, and kept his face as still as possible. Had he thought Doyle was putting on a show for him before? That was nothing compared with this, and yet there wasn't a damn thing that he could call him on, nothing that someone else watching him might question. Bodie did his best to focus on what Doyle was saying.

"Vincent Dean runs what you might call security. George--"

"No."

"What?" Doyle stopped walking.

"Dean is in distribution, Vincent Hearn runs security."

Doyle paused a moment. "Right."

"Dammit, if you're not ready--"

"I'm ready!"

"Then get it right. They won't give you a second chance."

"They won't see me."

"The Russians know their organisation. Start over."

Doyle let out his breath, nodded, and started in again on the names. This time he didn't move, just stood there, and he went through the list perfectly. When he was finished, he looked at his watch. "It's time."

Bodie collected the file and stood. Doyle moved past him to the door, opened it, and gestured for Bodie to go through. Bodie hesitated, looking at him.

"I reckon I'd better walk behind you now."

Bodie stared at him, then moved past him, closed the door, and turned to face him. "This stops now."

"Or what? You're going to knock me out again? I won't be unprepared this time."

"We've no time for this on the op." He looked at Doyle, seeing the anger that could get him killed. "Fuck it. Maybe it is better you work with someone else."

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "That's what you want?"

"You know it's not."

Doyle said nothing.

"You want me to apologise again? I will. You want to knock me out? Even the score? Fine. Whatever it takes to get it out of your system now."

Doyle stared at him, as tense as if he were facing Towser and Macklin together. "I don't trust anyone else with my back."

Bodie nodded, relief flooding him, although it didn't ease the sickness in his gut.

Doyle stepped in close to him. "And hitting you wouldn't even the score, would it? You want something else." Doyle gave him a look he didn't understand. It wasn't disgust, and while there was anger in it, he also saw...confusion? Doyle opened the door and walked out of the room. Bodie closed his eyes for a moment, then followed him.

It took only ten minutes for Doyle to grab his overnight bag from his locker, confirm with Bodie the schedule for the first contact, and head out the door for the Tube. He and Benny would be holed up in a bedsit near the Docks.

Bodie, after a check-in with Cowley, went home to wait for Doyle's call. HQ would route any phone calls he received, but it was safer to be in place. This op was dicey enough without adding delay or missed opportunities.

Even though he'd slept at his flat last night, the place had a cheerless, lifeless feel to it, and he opened the curtains and windows. He'd been gone too many days. It was past lunch, and he hadn't had any breakfast, so the first priority was to check his supplies. He found eggs, beans, and a sole banger in the freezer. He'd need to get some fresh food in, maybe after Doyle's call.

After eating, he went back into the lounge, but he couldn't settle. He moved about the room, ending up by the window, looking out over the street below. It was a bright day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. It should have been the first day of their leave. He moved from the window, picked up a book, and sat on the sofa.

Benny had gone through CI5 training, but his work had been adequate at best, and his foul-up on the Coogan op had been the last straw. Bodie hadn't missed him when he'd gone. He always had been more interested in going after the drug trade than anything else. Now he'd spent nearly a year undercover--just under the amount of time he'd been in CI5. What would that be like? To play a role that long? Doyle had done undercover stints when he was with Drugs, although nothing like that. A man could lose himself on a job like that.

The phone rang, and Bodie reached it before it could sound again. "Yeah?"

"Been waiting for me, have you?"

"Just happened to be passing." Bodie sat back on the sofa.

"Yeah. Good of you to answer."

"Are you settled in?"

"Lovely accommodations."

Bodie smiled. "I'll bet. Fold-down bed?"

"If you want to call it a bed."

"Is your friend there?"

"Yeah. The meeting's tonight."

"Right." Bodie hesitated. "You'll--"

"It's a doddle."

"No, it's not."

"He knows what he's doing." Bodie had nothing to say to that, and they fell silent. Doyle finally broke it. "You owe me a drink."

"Do I?"

"Yeah, a double. At the usual place."

Bodie lifted his head. Doyle wanted a private chat with him. "A single malt?"

"Of course. Right after, eh?"

Bodie nodded. "All right. Good luck with the meeting."

"Bye."

Bodie put the handset back in its cradle. Was it something more about the case that Doyle wanted to discuss, or...? It didn't matter. Bodie got up, grabbed his jacket, gun, and R/T, and headed out for his local. There was a call box on the corner. He checked it regularly for additional ears, but he went over it once again when he arrived. It was clean. He leant against the door, arms folded, and waited. It was another four minutes before the phone rang.

"Hairstyles for the Desperate. How may we help you?"

"I've a friend who's a pillock."

"Well, that's nothing new. Are you really fine with the set-up?" Bodie twisted the telephone cord with his fingers.

"Benny knows his job."

"He'd better. But how are you?"

There was a long silence on the phone. Bodie closed his eyes and waited.

"What the fuck was that about last night?" Doyle's voice was hard, but at least he was talking.

"Adrenaline."

"No. I've seen you high on adrenaline before. This was different."

"Does it matter?"

"Yes, it fucking matters! How am I supposed to trust you?"

"It has nothing to do with-- You can trust me, all right?" Bodie gripped the handset tightly.

"You want to fuck me."

"Doyle--"

"I saw it."

"Fine! But we both know it's not going to happen, so what's the problem?"

"I find out my partner's queer as a three-pound note and it's nothing?"

"So I swing both ways sometimes. What's the big deal?" He reckoned bluster might work, and indeed Doyle was quiet for a bit after that.

"How long?"

"Does it matter?"

"It matters because I want to know who the fuck else you've been fucking! Christ, anyone on the squad?"

"No one! Do you think you wouldn't know? Don't be stupid."

"I didn't know you wanted to fuck me!"

"Didn't you? Didn't you really?" Silence greeted that, and Bodie let it linger. Let him chew over that for a while. Christ what a mess. If this wasn't handled right, they were through. That thought opened a pit in his stomach. Yesterday he'd been jacked up on adrenaline and surviving the op, ready to face all consequences. Today he wanted nothing so much as to erase the past twenty-four hours.

Doyle finally spoke again, his voice low. "This isn't normal."

"Doyle--"

"We can't just...forget about it. I can't. I don't know..."

"Ray--"

"I'll call you later, after the meet."

"All right."

"Bye."

Bodie stood with the handset in his hand, listening to the dialling tone until he finally hung up. He left the call box and started walking, not caring where he went.

Of course he'd wanted Doyle. Even now he wanted him, wanted all that passion under him, in his control. Doyle was heat and life, for all the distance he tried to project. He drew men and women to him, and sometimes he knew it, but sometimes he didn't. It was an endless fascination. Bodie had watched it for years, enjoying the show, with no intention of joining it himself. What they had was enough, and he had feared the complications.

It was the bloody Parsali op. Macklin had known exactly the buttons to push to get to Bodie. He'd hit his pride and he'd taken Doyle apart. He was supposed to feel protective of his partner, wasn't he? Wasn't that what Cowley was on about in his two-man teams with neither one in charge? Christ, what did they expect?

He sped up, moving quickly along, seeking the less crowded streets. Macklin had called him soft, and he had been soft. He'd been...unfocused. Living his life as if between jobs--like a mercenary blowing his money the first week of freedom in a new city. Macklin had brought him back to a state of readiness, where he could focus on one objective and damn the consequences. The truth was, he liked nothing better. Put everything you have into accomplishing one goal--all that mattered was that it was done. They were assigned to protect Parsali? Then use dum-dums, use whatever you needed, and suspect everyone. Last night he'd made Doyle his objective. He'd wanted to pull Doyle into his world.

Bodie looked around. He was next to a small park. He turned in at an entrance and walked under the trees until he found an empty bench to sit on. Damn the consequences. It was clean during the job, it made him feel great. But the aftermath...every fucking time the aftermath got to him.

He leant forward, elbows on his knees. Doyle had gone through it with him at Macklin's. They'd shared everything, and he realised now just how much he had revealed, how much of what he felt for Doyle had come out. Too much of the other. How could Doyle not have seen it? But then, Doyle would expect his partner to pick him up, to go in with him against Macklin. It was what they did. They'd been taken apart by Macklin and Towser, and built back together on purpose. They'd been teamed on the op, working perfectly in sync; a matched pair. Could he be blamed for wanting...more? Dammit.

But there had been differences between them. He'd had no room for doubts, for questioning. The night before an op wasn't the time for that. Doyle couldn't empty his brain of everything but the job, and it was that flaw that might get him killed one day. What good did it do him in the end? He seemed to suffer through the aftermath the same as Bodie did. Did it matter that Doyle wrestled with implications and consequences beforehand?

And what in sodding hell were they going to do if Doyle couldn't get past last night? They'd fought before, but never like that. Sparring in the early days of their partnership had come close to it, but they'd both known there was a line. This had been real. This had blown away the fucking line. Christ, it was a wonder Doyle was talking to him at all.

He got up from the bench and headed back home. There was nothing to be done but to face whatever Doyle handed out to him. And yet...the consequences weren't all his, were they? Doyle, after all, had responded to him. But Doyle hadn't brought that topic up, had he? Another man might put it down to stimulation--get your cock sucked and how else are you going to react? But Doyle...failing to analyse his own reactions was not one of Doyle's faults. He'd responded to the kiss. His cock had already been hard when Bodie touched it. He'd moved in on that second kiss. And, God, it had been close to what Bodie had always thought it would be--Doyle's heat, his abandonment to the moment, his skill. It had been too quick, too little, but it had been real. That memory was his. The question was whether Doyle would let him live with it.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening Bodie ran errands--restocked his refrigerator, tidied his flat, cleaned his guns, and decided that waiting like this was worse than any obbo he'd ever been on.

At half nine the phone rang, and he leapt on it, a little surprised it was so early.

"Yeah."

"Stepan Malygin is the leader. He looks to be in his forties. The other two are Kirill Zharkov and Barsukov."

"When was the meeting?"

"I just got back."

"He sucked in his breath. "Did you check--"

"Of course I bloody checked. I wasn't followed, you berk, and there's no tap. Tomorrow that might be more of a problem."

"What's the plan?"

"The ship's coming in--I don't know the name or the slip. We're to meet at a warehouse by the docks, but they'll call us as to which one and when. I wouldn't be surprised if they put a tail on us then."

"So they must know where you are."

"It's all joy, isn't it? I'll try to call tomorrow. I may not be able to."

"You have the wire?"

"They checked for one tonight. We can't risk it tomorrow."

"Damn. We'll have to follow you."

"Make sure whoever does it is good. These blokes are serious, and paranoid about their security."

"I can't blame them."

"I can. They brought a sample, by the way."

"Yeah?"

"Good stuff. They're bringing in a fortune tomorrow."

"We'll get them."

"You'd better. Benny--" Doyle's voice broke off.

"What?"

"Nothing. Tell you sometime."

"Right." He waited a few moments, then: "You still thinking about that drink?"

"Not right now. I have to go."

"Okay."

"I'll call."

"If you can."

The phone clicked and Doyle was gone. Bodie hung up. The silence in the flat pressed upon him. He picked up the handset again and called HQ to confirm that they had received the names and were working on identifying them.

If Doyle couldn't call them with the information tomorrow night, they'd have to rely on spotters. It was a shit job, with too many variables and not enough time for planning. He wanted to know exactly the role CI5 would be expected to play and how they could minimise the risk to Doyle, especially if they were expected to work in conjunction with the police.

On that thought, he picked up the phone again. His call went straight through to Cowley, which was gratifying, but Cowley told him the police would have the running of the op.

"They'll blow it." Bodie made no attempt to hide his displeasure

"They have experience with drug raids. We are observers only. We are not involved until we know more about the Russians."

"At the very least, we should be the ones tailing Doyle and Benny."

There was a pause. "Aye, I can argue the good sense in that. Very well. But we stay out of the raid."

"Yes, sir." There was no arguing with Cowley when his voice was that uncompromising.

"It will all be over by tomorrow night."

"And then we're on leave."

"For a brief period, yes."

Bodie smiled. They had the old man on tape now. "Thank you, sir."

"Report any developments to me. Good night." Bodie hung up the phone.

He might as well go to bed. Long ago he had perfected the art of getting sleep where and when he needed it. There was no question he was tired. He felt as if he'd been on an op for weeks. He'd needed that leave, and Doyle, under new stress, would be feeling it even more.

He turned on the radio to listen to the start of The World Tonight--and heard the announcement that Parsali had been assassinated. He stood still for a moment, listening to the report. It had been a lone assassin at the airport--a suicide mission. The assassin had been killed at the site. Parsali had died in hospital an hour later. So, Parsali had survived his historic trip, and the signing ceremony, only to be shot in his own country by a fellow countryman. Christ. Bodie shut off the radio. At least he and Doyle had done their job. Someone else had failed to protect him.

Bodie took a shower, hoping the heat would ease his muscles and soothe some of the tension. But when he crawled into bed his mind was still active, endlessly running over the op, reckoning their best options for success. He didn't fancy leaving the raid to the police, although he understood the reasoning, and the politics, behind it. But give him Murphy, Anson, Barnes, Lucas, and McCabe, and he'd pull off a clean raid. Dammit. He tried to clear his mind, but when he wasn't thinking of the op, he thought of Doyle. Doyle's mouth, and the way he'd kissed him; the startled pleasure he'd sensed. The temptation of the forbidden. Might Doyle consider crossing that line again? He couldn't deny that he'd wanted it, if only until his brain had kicked into gear. Bodie rolled over onto his side. He'd have to play a waiting game. He punched his pillow into a better position. Using every technique he'd ever learned, he eased himself into sleep, but he knew Doyle would follow him into his dreams.

He woke with the certain knowledge that someone was in his flat. He slid from the bed, collected his gun, and moved quietly to the door.

"You awake in there yet?" It was Doyle's voice.

"What the fuck are you--" He glanced at the lighted clock by his bed. "It's four-bloody-am!"

"Is it? I thought you wanted a drink."

"Hang on." He found trousers and pulled them on. Bare chested and barefooted, with gun in hand, he left the bedroom to find Doyle.

He was in the lounge, holding a glass and standing by the window. At least he'd had the sense not to turn any lights on. Bodie put his gun down on a table and walked towards the window. "What is it? Did the op blow up?"

"No." He tossed back his drink and set the glass on the window sill. "I brought you something." He reached into his jacket and pulled out some papers, handing them to Bodie.

"What is it?" There was enough light for him to see gestures but little else.

"I sketched the Russians. I reckoned they might be using false names."

"No surprise there." Bodie frowned. "You came here just for that? Christ, Doyle, what were you thinking?"

"It could be useful."

"It was a stupid risk. Come on, get away from that window." Bodie closed the curtain, leaving them even less light.

"I wasn't followed." Doyle's voice came from behind him, near the sofa.

"Let's hope not. Cowley would have your hide."

"Did you hear the news tonight?"

Bodie hesitated a moment. "Do you mean about Parsali?"

"Yeah." Doyle took a breath in and let it out. "What was the point?"

"Is that what this is about? Sod it, Doyle, we did our jobs. That's what the point was."

"So he had one more day of life."

"And the ones who tried to kill him didn't. That's right. That's how it works."

"It stinks."

Bodie sighed. "Yeah. But it's nothing new."

He thought Doyle looked at him, but he wasn't certain. He knew that Doyle moved across the room, towards the kitchen, then back towards him.

"What's going on, Ray?"

Doyle didn't say anything, but he continued to prowl, this time to the window and back.

"You should be sleeping."

Finally, after another pause: "Couldn't." Doyle's voice was tight.

"I'm calling Cowley. We'll--"

"No!" Doyle came across the room to him. "No."

"There's no room for--"

"I bloody know that. I'll make it through. It's too important to give up now. It means too much to Benny."

"Benny."

"Yeah. You saw how long he's been under. I can't imagine that, what it would do to you."

"He's changed?"

"Yes." Bodie wished he could see his expression.

"Not surprising, I suppose."

"He's given everything to this case. He has to see it through to the end. I'll not wreck it for him."

"You can't give him his bloody--"

"It's not redemption! It's..." He trailed off, and pushed a hand through his hair. "All right, maybe he does want to prove something. But this case matters. It would have mattered before he left CI5."

"Okay. Then stop being where you shouldn't be."

"I--" Doyle broke off whatever he'd been about to say. "Yeah."

"I'll show the sketches to Cowley."

"Good."

"Why couldn't you sleep?"

There was only silence in response to that.

"You know what your problem is, you think too much."

"I know." Doyle was still, a dark form in his lounge. "So...teach me to stop."

About to flip off a quick answer, Bodie caught it back as Doyle stepped close to him. "You're not serious."

Doyle took in a shuddering breath. "I am."

"I won't be your rough trade. What are you offering?"

"My hands. My mouth." Doyle swallowed. "Is that enough?"

Bodie felt shaken, his world tilting. "Ray--"

"I can't go back. I can't forget it. I keep thinking. I need to...stop."

And Bodie understood that need only too well. Whatever it took to get the nerves out of your system. He owed Doyle that at the least, didn't he? He reached out to Doyle's shoulder, hesitated a moment, then tugged him closer. Doyle moved to meet him, mouth to mouth, his leather-clad arms cool against Bodie's skin.

Bodie kissed him, his tongue twining with Doyle's, feeling the heat rise within him, sweeping away all doubts. He moved on, kissing his face, his neck, and then capturing his lips again as Doyle murmured his name. Doyle's hands were on his back, but Bodie broke the hold so he could pull off Doyle's jacket and his gun harness. He pulled Doyle close again, his hands under his shirt, while Doyle caressed his back and sought his lips.

After a while, Doyle slid his mouth down Bodie's jaw and neck and onto his chest. He hesitated a moment, until Bodie showed him that he wanted him to suckle his nipple, wanted the pain and pleasure of it. So lost was he in the sensations Doyle created that he hardly noticed that Doyle had got his trousers open until he felt his hand on him, rubbing his length. He thrust into Doyle's fingers, pleasure mounting, his whole body responding to it, falling under Doyle's spell. So simple, nothing earth-shattering, but he could feel Doyle experimenting, learning what it felt like to hold a cock from that angle and what it did to Bodie when he moved his hand.

A sound like a strangled sob left him when Doyle went to his knees before him. His cock brushed Doyle's face and his fingers dug into Doyle's shoulders. Doyle's hand slid along the length of Bodie's cock, forward and back. Strung out, needful, Bodie nevertheless waited when Doyle hesitated. There was always a first time, a need for adjustment. Doyle's mouth touched him, softly, as if testing, and then his tongue--Bodie shuddered, and Doyle took him in--slowly, so slowly, but it was all warmth and pressure, and he felt Doyle's moan.

He tried to keep his cool, to maintain some control, to make it easier for Doyle. The memory of his own first time with a cock in his mouth was still raw. But he was sinking into heat, and life, and he couldn't forget that it was Doyle who was giving him this. Doyle's mouth, his lips and tongue. Bodie went under, unable to maintain any restraint. He pushed forward, sought the ecstasy, fucked Doyle's mouth. Doyle's fucking mouth...And when he came, Doyle stayed with him, swallowed him, took it all, as Bodie had known he would. Bodie collapsed to the floor, taking Doyle with him, grabbing him close, bruising him. It was real; he was real. Doyle snickered into his ear.

He rolled on top of Doyle, kissed him and turned his laughter into gasps and his gasps into a guttural sound. He went down on him and sucked him until there was nothing left of him, nothing left of the hyped-up energy that was driving him. He knew what Doyle needed, and he gave him a flashfire release. Shattered him like a bullet hitting glass. Get it out, get it all out--forget yourself. There's only this. Feel it. And afterwards, Doyle was quiet and still as they lay on the floor, both on their backs, separate again. They watched in silence as the light grew brighter behind the curtained window.

"You have to go."

"I know." Doyle sighed, and it seemed to Bodie there was loneliness in the sound. "I should have gone long ago."

"You should never have come."

"Maybe not. But I don't regret it."

Bodie sat up, and Doyle did as well. He could see Doyle's face now and the weariness in his eyes. "Will you be able to sleep?"

Doyle shrugged and reached for his clothes.

"You could stay, sleep here--"

"No." Doyle glanced at him as he tugged on his jeans. "You know better than that. You were right the first time. It was stupid to come." He pulled on his shirt and shrugged into his shoulder holster while Bodie pulled on his trousers. In silence, Bodie picked up Doyle's jacket and handed it to him.

He could see a change in Doyle, see the hard determination to carry through with the job, come what may. It was what he needed. This wasn't a time for questions or doubt.

Doyle nodded at him and moved towards the door. Bodie followed and stopped him with a light touch on his arm. "See you later."

Doyle's eyes met his, but what he was thinking Bodie couldn't tell. Doyle reached out a hand, brushed his fingers along Bodie's cheekbone, then turned, opened the door, and walked out.

Bodie stood by the closed door until the chill of the floor penetrated his bare feet. He took a deep breath and headed for the kitchen, but stopped as he stepped on something that crackled. It was the drawings that Doyle had brought. He put them carefully on a table by the door and continued on into the kitchen.

After breakfast, Bodie decided to go in to HQ. If Doyle should call, he'd be able to receive it there, and he needed to get out of the flat. Doyle's drawings he left at Cowley's office--he wasn't in yet--and then he headed for the rest room and a cup of tea. He read the paper, checked the racing results, bemoaned his losses, and spent an enjoyable half hour sparring with Sally, who was ending her shift as night officer. Eventually he was summoned to see Cowley.

"Andrei Pechenko." Cowley greeted him as he entered the office. He looked serious, but there was a light in his eyes.

"Eh?"

Doyle's drawings were on Cowley's desk. He walked to the desk, picked one of them up and handed it to Bodie. "He's posing as Barsukov. He's KGB. Low-grade, but a good record. A good agent. One way or another, the KGB is involved in this drug smuggling."

Bodie studied the drawing of a dark-haired man with lean cheeks, a thin nose, and large forehead. He traced a finger over the edge of a line, as if he could feel Doyle in what he'd drawn. "Someone knew him?"

"Aye, I gave the drawings to a couple of experts in MI6. The other two are unknown."

"Does MI6 want in?"

Cowley smiled thinly. "There was some initial talk of it, but as this is on home soil, I convinced them to leave it to us."

"And the police?"

"This is now our operation. We will handle the exchange tonight."

"Good." One positive outcome from Doyle's visit, then. He wished he knew if there would be more.

"The Drug Squad were not happy, of course, but they will need to make do with what they already have on the Borano organisation. They will have another day if Borano escapes the net this time."

He wondered what Benny would think of that, after nearly a year undercover, but such were the risks in any security job. One day, CI5 would bring Coogan down. "What's the plan for tonight?" He put the drawing back on Cowley's desk.

"You and Murphy will take the lead. Keep me informed. I need not tell you to be especially careful with the KGB involved." Cowley glanced at the drawings. "Doyle dropped these off at your flat?"

"Yes, sir." Bodie kept his face and voice neutral.

"A dangerous risk."

"He thought it was worth it."

"Aye, and he was right." Cowley's lips tightened a moment, then he looked at Bodie. "How is he? An honest assessment, Bodie."

"He's doing the job."

"That's not an assessment."

"He's all right."

Cowley walked behind his desk and sat in the chair. "Has Doyle ever spoken to you about his last case with the Drug Squad?"

"No."

"He was undercover. Not for as long as Benny has been, but long enough. He became...disillusioned by some of the aspects of the job. He grew careless, and then he made a decision that blew his cover. He nearly lost his life. His cheekbone implant is a constant reminder of that."

"Yet you hired him."

"Yes. Despite his reservations, he had done a brilliant job. The evidence he had collected, while incomplete, was sound enough to convict some of the men he was after. The others were brought down later. I was impressed by his work, his dedication, and his ability to survive.

"Then why--"

"He went to see you. A calculated risk or carelessness?"

"The drawings--"

"Aye, the drawings." Cowley looked away, then leant back in his chair, his eyes on Bodie. "Doyle's weakness is his idealism."

"He's a cynic."

"We both know a cynic is a disillusioned idealist." Cowley shook his head. "Doyle is prepared for most of what he faces in this job. But sometimes all that is necessary for disillusionment to take hold--for carelessness--is fatigue."

Bodie tightened his jaw. "He just needs to get through tonight. He'll do it."

"Unfortunately, we have no choice. But keep an eye on him, all the same. For now, Benny's superiors have been informed of the change to CI5 control. And you have planning to do."

"Yes, sir."

Bodie left the office in search of Murphy. Disillusionment. Doyle was certainly prone to it. If you were given to believing, you could also have those beliefs shattered. What was it Doyle had said on the Parsali op? That he had lost his way in the Drug Squad, that the line had been too narrow between what they were doing and what the villains were doing. In all the time Bodie had known him, Doyle had never had trouble finding the line, at least by his definition of it. He was always questioning what they did, and what he did on the job. Always aware of that line and when and why he crossed it. He'd debate the point, argue-- Bodie stopped walking, ignoring the irritated huff from the clerk who had to circle around him.

Sometimes Doyle stopped arguing, withdrew, turned inward--as in the death of Paul Coogan. He had never been certain if it had been his punch or John Coogan's that had killed Paul. You know what they made of me, don't you? Yet, in the end it hadn't mattered whose punch had done the killing, or that he'd been trained to react to attack. Doyle had lashed out because of who and what he was. And it was facing that truth that sometimes led him down the path to disillusionment--with himself, with the job. That time, he'd nearly been ready to leave CI5 because of it. Certainly he'd not cared about saving his career, although Bodie had talked him round.

Bodie moved on through the corridor. Doyle had to believe in what he did, that it made a difference. He'd chosen the police for that reason--a way to channel the violence within him for a greater good. From the start of their partnership, Bodie had thought Doyle cared too much, put too much passion into the job. He didn't keep a proper distance between himself and what they did or who they met. You needed that distance to survive, to get the job done. Put too much of yourself into it and you burned out, sometimes spectacularly. He hadn't understood how Doyle could do what he had to do in CI5 and still question himself so fiercely. The truth was, he still didn't understand how Doyle survived, but he knew that Doyle's questioning had saved them a time or two, and that his passion and heat were as necessary as breathing to him.

Murphy wasn't at his desk, so Bodie headed for the rest room. Doyle wasn't na´ve; he knew the methods CI5 used--fight fire with fire. But he held himself to a high standard, questioned his own actions and motivations the most. That was why he drew the line at using dum-dums, even if the results would have been the same. That was why he'd reacted so strongly to Coogan's death, why he was so vulnerable to the accusations of people like Geraldine Mather and Ann Holly. When he doubted himself--when he felt he'd crossed the line for the wrong reasons--that was when the real trouble started. He might shut down, shrug it off, pretend it didn't matter--as with Coogan. Heat turned to ice. Or he might grow careless, reckless; take chances just to feel alive. Passion without control.

What had happened on that last case with Drugs? Disillusionment had led to carelessness--and a decision that had blown his cover. What the fuck could that have been? Cowley was worried about him now. Exhaustion could lead to risky decisions--and Doyle clearly was exhausted. But what if it was more than that? He was under stress, still feeling the effects of the Parsali op, and Bodie had thrown him off-kilter. They'd crossed a line, and Doyle had been the one to decide they'd do it again last night. Had it been a need to stop thinking, or a need to feel alive?

Murphy was in the rest room, drinking coffee and studying maps of the warehouses along the docks. They might not have the exact location for the exchange of drugs and money, but they could narrow it down to likely places. The police would act as backup if needed, but it would be CI5 going in on the target, once that was identified. This was a part of ops that Bodie loved, almost as much as he loved the action itself. It involved picturing how the op would play out, planning for every contingency--all the while knowing that it would change on the ground. He found the gamble exhilarating.

By evening they were ready, and he and Murphy took over the observation on Doyle and Benny. They would follow them to the meet while Anson and Barnes acted as an intercept for anyone else who might be watching. At half eight, Bodie's stomach tightened as he saw Doyle arrive on the street, followed by Benny...and a third man.

"Who the hell is that?" Murphy's voice was quiet but urgent.

Bodie frowned. "Hearn. Borano's right-hand man. He runs security. Sod it. What's he doing here?"

"They seem to be going through with it."

Hearn was carrying a briefcase. He walked ahead with Benny, while Doyle walked behind them. As far as he could judge, Doyle was tense but not seeking to escape. He didn't know if Doyle had spotted them. "Let's go."

They got out of the car and followed the three men on foot, leaving plenty of room between them. This was not the time to press. They would play it according to the plan, as far as they were able. At least the fact that Hearn was allowing Doyle to walk behind him meant that he had no immediate suspicions about him.

It was about twenty minutes later that they watched Doyle and the other two men unlock the door to a warehouse and go inside. There was no activity around the outside of the warehouse, except for their own men moving quietly into position. Bodie wanted to check his gun, but he stopped himself, knowing it was nerves rather than need. He wanted a wire on Doyle; he wanted to sodding be there with Doyle.

They gave them ten minutes, then he and Murphy entered the building. All the entrances were covered, the door locks disabled by CI5 agents. By now the handover should be nearing completion, unless negotiations had broken down, or a double-cross was in the works. The main lights in the warehouse were dark, but the security lights were on, offering occasional pools of brightness. To the right of the door they had entered there were more lights and what looked to be an office area, extending from the corner of the building along the wall and out of their line of sight. They made their way towards the offices.

Suddenly, gunfire erupted ahead of them, and they took off for the offices at a run with guns drawn. More gunfire, and the sound of someone running into the interior of the warehouse. They rounded a towering stack of crates and saw a body in the doorway of an office. Murphy went low and Bodie high as they swept through the doorway into the office. There was another body inside, and a wounded man on the floor, but no sign of Doyle.

"Keep the squad outside," Bodie told Murphy. "Tell them to cover the entrances. Only Doyle gets out. No one else." The dead man in the office was Benny, his eyes wide, a large hole in his chest. The injured man was Hearn.

Murphy nodded, already talking into his R/T while he took up a position next to Hearn.

Bodie left the office, ignoring Hearn's protests. He hesitated a moment, then headed into the maze of crates, machinery, and shelving in the interior of the warehouse. Doyle was somewhere in here, he was certain of it, but whether he was chasing or chased, he didn't know. One Russian was dead, did that leave two for Doyle? Or had more been at the meeting? With Doyle involved in the chase, he didn't dare bring in the rest of the squad. It was bad enough he was going in blind, although he'd bet Doyle would know he was there.

He moved through the aisles, looking up as well as ahead and behind him and taking care around corners. It was slow, dangerous work, stalking in unfamiliar territory with an unknown number of enemies. He heard a gunshot to his left and headed towards it, taking a less than direct route but moving as quickly as he could. Easing carefully around a corner of crates, he stopped cold, feeling as if he'd collided with concrete. His breath caught in his lungs. Doyle stood over a man lying on the floor, gun pointed at the back of the man's head--in position for an execution. Bodie couldn't move. Christ, Doyle was actually thinking about it. Several thoughts slammed into Bodie at the same time, but chief amongst them was that if Doyle went through with the execution, he'd be changed forever.

The tension in Doyle's body was palpable, the argument he was having with himself nearly visible. What did it matter if he killed the man in a firefight or in cold blood? What did it matter? He could hear Doyle thinking it; he could hear his own voice contributing to the argument. His influence on Doyle. Bodie was trapped as witness, unable to intervene, and he felt a dreadful tightening inside. Time stretched, and hung for what seemed an eternity. Doyle took a step back, and his gun went down to his side.

Bodie breathed out, closed his eyes for a moment, then walked forward slowly. Doyle spun towards him at the sound of his footsteps, but relaxed as he saw who it was. The man on the floor pulled himself up to a sitting position, one hand pressed against his shoulder. It was Pechenko.

Doyle's eyes were wide, his face white and strained. He held his gun too tightly. Bodie kept his voice light as he reached him. "Just as well, sunshine, he's KGB."

"KGB." Doyle's tone was flat. "He killed Benny."

Fuck. Doyle moved past him, walking back the way Bodie had come. Bodie looked down at Pechenko. He heard a sound, looked up towards the end of the aisle, and saw another man with a gun pointed at him. Fire bloomed from the gun, and in a sickening flash Bodie knew he was dead. Caught out in the open; no time-- But he was already falling, his footing swept away from him as something crashed into his legs, and then there was the sound of two shots, and he fell heavily on his shoulder, tangled up with Pechenko.

"Bodie!" Doyle skidded to his side, fell to his knees, and grabbed him.

"I'm all right." He sat up and glanced from Pechenko to Doyle. Then he looked up the aisle and saw the gunman sprawled on the floor.

Doyle squeezed his arm, then released him, sprang to his feet and walked to the dead man.

Bodie looked at Pechenko, who was nursing the wound in his shoulder. "Thanks."

Pechenko looked back at him, brown eyes steady. "Another time, I wouldn't do it."

"I wouldn't expect it at all."

Pechenko shrugged carefully and glanced at Doyle. "He could have killed me."

"Yeah." Bodie climbed to his feet, watching as Doyle came back to them. "Dead?"

"Considerably." Doyle looked down for a moment at Pechenko, his expression remote, then back at Bodie. "Who's here?"

"A few lads, but only Murphy on the inside. Time we were getting back to him."

"Keep the rest outside for now. Let's get him back to the office." They helped Pechenko to his feet and made their way back to where Murphy waited for them.

Hearn was sitting on a chair by the desk in the office, his arm bandaged and Murphy beside him. Murphy lowered his gun when he saw Bodie and Doyle.

"I had just about given up on you two."

"We took the scenic route." Bodie forced the lightness into his voice. Benny's body was still on the floor, although Murphy must have found a blanket from somewhere to cover him. The body of the dead Russian lay outside the office.

"And picked up a passenger, I see," Murphy said.

Doyle walked straight to Hearn, grabbed him, and pulled him up from his chair. "You."

Murphy looked at Bodie, who shrugged and turned back to watch Doyle.

Doyle dragged Hearn closer to the desk. "You are going to make phone calls. You're going to get your boss here. You're going to get every fucking distributor here. You're going to tell them the heroin is ready but it has to be collected tonight. Now."

"I'm not!"

"You do it, sunshine, or you're dead."

Bodie would have believed him. Hearn looked around at him and Murphy, but they wouldn't be intervening. "You can't."

"We're CI5," Bodie said. "We can."

Hearn made the phone calls. After that it was just a matter of getting the police into position for the bust and cleaning up the scene. Murphy and Anson took Pechenko to Cowley, while the rest of the lads returned to HQ. Bodie and Doyle stayed at the warehouse to see the operation finished. Doyle acted as coordinator with the DCI in charge--Channing. They obviously knew one another, with no love lost between them.

"What happened?" Channing demanded, once they were out of earshot of Hearn, who was in the office with two guards.

"The Russians didn't like a third man suddenly appearing. They spooked."

Channing frowned. "Why was he here? What did you--"

"Benny called Hearn right after you told him CI5 was taking over the op."

Channing stared at him, then sighed. "The bloody fool."

Doyle looked away, and Bodie caught a glimpse of the distress in his face before he got his expression under control. "He wanted to make sure Borano was brought down."

There was a pause. "Right," Channing said. "Let's get to it, then." He returned to the office.

Bodie stepped closer to Doyle. "When did you find out?"

"Just before Hearn arrived. It was a bloody fiasco. Benny told him Wilson had been killed and he was taking over the job, and he'd prove himself to them. I was a recruit."

"It wasn't an unreasonable play."

"It was thin, and he didn't take the Russians into account." Doyle looked grim. "Dammit. Always the same, he--" He broke off, and his eyes were hard as they met Bodie's. "What the hell did he prove? C'mon, let's bloody well see it through."

It took several hours, but the main distributors within the gang were caught, one by one, and Borano himself fell for the invitation from his man Hearn. The Borano organisation collapsed in a night. Bodie reckoned Benny would've thought it a fair trade. He kept an eye on Doyle throughout the bust. His fatigue was evident, but he was sparking like a live wire. Only Bodie stayed close to him.

After Borano was escorted out under police guard, they headed back to HQ and reported in to Cowley. Bodie leant against the wall of Cowley's office while Doyle explained about Benny's phone call, the presence of Hearn at the meeting, and the subsequent firefight. For the first time Bodie learned that Hearn's injury was as slight as it was because Doyle had reacted immediately when the Russians had drawn their weapons. Doyle had pushed Hearn down, out of the direct line of fire. Benny hadn't been as quick, or as lucky.

"What happened when you followed the Russians?"

"I caught Pechenko and brought him down. Three-seven arrived. Zharkov caught us flat. Pechenko created a distraction and I killed Zharkov."

"Did you think it odd that Pechenko helped you?"

"Yes," Bodie answered. He didn't look at Doyle.

Cowley got up from behind his desk and walked to the drinks cabinet. He poured out a generous portion of scotch for each of them. "It turns out the KGB were working their own investigation." He handed one of the glasses to Doyle.

"What, on Malygin's operation?"

"Yes, Doyle." Cowley handed a glass to Bodie, who nodded his thanks and gratefully took a sip. Cowley turned away and picked up the third glass for himself. "Stepan Malygin was formerly a captain in the Russian army of occupation in Afghanistan. He apparently made his connections there. The Russians, it appears, have a growing mob problem."

"It takes their eyes off us, at least," Bodie said.

"Where did you learn all this?"

Cowley raised his eyebrows. "I had a most...enlightening discussion with Yashinkov.

Doyle put his glass down on Cowley's desk. "They want him back."

"Yes," Cowley said. Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. "His job here is finished, but the investigation continues at home."

"He killed Benny!"

"As an undercover operative."

"That's no excuse."

"Isn't it?" He gave Doyle a long look, and Bodie watched as Doyle's face changed, the spark dimming in him, as if a cold breeze had cut it off.

The old man would use any advantage he could and would deal with the consequences later. Bodie saw the familiar hardness settle over Doyle, like a mask falling into place. Bugger. He and Doyle would be the ones dealing with the consequences.

"You bastard," Doyle said, but his voice lacked heat.

"Necessity," Cowley returned.

"The ends justifying the means."

"Sometimes. Yes."

"And what are we going to get out of this?"

Cowley sighed. "An unofficial exchange in Berlin, and...good will."

Doyle nodded. "Yeah, well." He picked up his glass and drank the contents. "Here's to Benny, then." He put the glass down and headed for the door. Bodie straightened, prepared to follow him, although Doyle didn't spare him a look.

"Doyle."

Doyle stopped by the door.

"You and Bodie are on leave for a week. Keep HQ apprised of your whereabouts, and don't go out of R/T range."

Doyle glanced at Bodie, then looked back at Cowley. "The charges will stick against Borano?"

"Yes. And the heroin supply from Malygin, at least, is stopped."

"For the time being."

Cowley shrugged. "As is always the case."

"It makes you wonder why we do this, doesn't it?"

"Perhaps we each have our reasons."

"Yeah." Doyle's tone was bitter, but it didn't seem directed at Cowley. "Good night, sir."

"Good night."

Bodie followed Doyle out of the office. A week's leave. A week ago he would have looked forward to it. He and Doyle might have gone on one of their fishing expeditions. Or sampled pubs in reverse alphabetical order. But now...what the hell was he to expect now? He didn't know Doyle's mind, didn't know what Doyle wanted. He'd pulled Doyle over a line into sex, but there was no saying he wouldn't cross back. Bodie looked at him, his eyes tracing the contour of shoulders, back, and arse. There was no doubt he wanted Doyle, but it was more complicated than that, wasn't it.

Doyle never hesitated, just moved straight through the hallways, to the stairs, and down, presumably heading for the car park. Bodie easily read the signs--Doyle was hyped up, but this time there was none of the exultation of having survived a difficult op. Expediency was a poor substitute for justice. And this time, Bodie felt none of the stimulation himself. They weren't in sync.

They arrived at the Capri, and as they climbed into the car, Doyle looked across at him. "Go for a drink?"

He didn't want Doyle out in public, that was one thing he was certain of. "Everything's closed."

"Not everything."

"There are drinks at my place." Before Parsali, that would have been a straightforward suggestion. He started the car and pulled out of the car park, waiting out Doyle's silence.

"All right."

He'd take him home, get him drunk, if necessary--whatever it took to get him through the aftermath. Get him to sleep. But Bodie knew sleep would be a long time coming, and he knew what Doyle was thinking, why he'd hesitated to go home with him. They didn't need that complication on top of everything else, but there was no way to avoid it. And if he was honest, he knew he didn't regret what he'd started. Not after this morning.

"Cowley was liberal with the single malt tonight, wasn't he?"

"He knew it was rough. He knew what he'd put us through."

Doyle shrugged. "It's the job."

"I'm sorry about Benny."

"His choice. He played it wrong."

"His bad luck."

"He's the one who called Hearn." Doyle's tone was distant, as if speaking about a stranger.

"He was thinking about the job."

"Yeah, he was, yet he nearly blew it. It wasn't tonight that was important."

"He thought it was."

"So he could get Borano in front of CI5, you mean."

Bodie shrugged.

"Well, he paid for his mistake, didn't he?" Doyle shifted in his seat, as if restless, as if he'd like to get out.

"Sometimes you do. I saw my life passing before my eyes, I'll tell you that much." He wouldn't soon forget Zharkov's gun pointed at him.

"Zharkov had you cold. We were careless there."

"We were lucky."

"Relying on luck. That was what Macklin was trying to beat out of us."

"But it comes down to it, all the same."

"Do you believe in it, then?" Doyle was looking at him.

"Maybe."

"I thought you only believed in yourself."

Bodie smiled, and glanced at him. "A few other things as well."

"You're better off without them." Doyle lapsed into silence after that, staring out the side window.

Bodie didn't have many beliefs, but he had a few: loyalty and personal honour were among them. And he had trusted to luck more than once. It was luck that had brought him to CI5. If he'd stayed in the SAS he'd be nothing but ice now. Not even Doyle could have warmed him.

Luck was still working in his favour--they found a parking space not too far away from his block. They walked up the stairs and into the flat. Doyle took off his jacket while Bodie poured scotch for them both. He brought Doyle's glass over to him, and they drank a silent toast. Eyes distant, Doyle took his glass with him to the window. He leant on the frame, looking out, stretching his back muscles. Bodie looked down at his drink.

"Will you be able to live with it?"

"With what?" Doyle didn't turn around.

"Pechenko."

"There's not much choice, is there?"

The coolness in Doyle's voice bothered him. It was like watching a balloon expand past its stretching point. "There are ways you could get to him, even now."

Doyle turned around, his eyebrows raised. "If I'd wanted to kill him, I had the opportunity."

"You didn't take it."

"What's your point?"

Bodie looked away. "Just...don't regret your choices."

After a pause, Doyle spoke. "Do you remember what you said to me at Macklin's?"

"I said a lot of things to you, which one in particular?"

"'It's them or us.' You've always told me to shoot to kill."

"You killed Zharkov."

"But not Pechenko."

"That was different."

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "Was it? You tell me what the difference is, then, because I don't see it any more." He moved away from the window, towards the bookcase along the wall. He drank more of the scotch.

"Bugger this, Doyle. You know the difference." He heard the irritation in his own voice.

Doyle glanced at him, his expression remote. "Zharkov would have killed you--I shot him. Pechenko killed Benny--I let him live."

"You took him in."

"And he's going home."

"You couldn't have known that would happen."

Doyle raised his eyebrows. "Couldn't I? I knew the KGB was involved--Benny told me. I could have guessed how it would be." There was still no heat to his tone. By all appearances, no sense of injustice burned in him.

"You did what was right. By your own standards."

"And what difference did it make?" He turned away, apparently scanning the titles in the bookcase. "Benny's dead. Parsali's dead."

"You got Borano."

"Who will be replaced by the end of the week. By the end of the month they'll be sending some other poor sap in to try and trap them. We don't make a difference, sunshine."

"Oh, get off it, Doyle. You know we do."

Doyle turned to look at him. "Says the man who joined CI5 for the money."

He'd forgotten he said that. It had been amusing at the time, but he couldn't see the humour tonight. "You didn't."

"Maybe I should have."

Bodie smiled. "You're not capable of it."

"I'm a quick learner." He looked Bodie up and down. "You should know that." He moved on from the bookcase to the desk.

"Cowley believes."

Doyle glanced at him, then ran a finger along one of the guns mounted on the wall above the desk. "'To the pure, all things are pure,' isn't that what you said?"

"I might have."

"That's Cowley."

"No." Bodie crossed the room, moving closer to Doyle. "That's you."

Doyle's gaze met his, and for a moment Bodie thought he saw a spark in his eyes, but then he turned away.

"Look, Doyle--"

"Did you invite me here for something other than to talk?" He set his glass down on the desk.

"Yeah. You need to crash out. Sleep." He kept his face expressionless, but his stomach tightened.

"To...sleep." Doyle's eyes were on his as he walked forward. "You're sure?"

Bodie shook his head. "Don't push me tonight." And immediately he knew it had been the wrong thing to say.

"Don't push you. I don't think it's pushing. But if it's a fight you want...I still owe you one, don't I?" He smiled, but there was no humour in it. "Or don't you think I can take you?"

Oh, there was life in Doyle voice now. "Would there be a point to it?"

Doyle's eyes narrowed, then he dropped his gaze.

"Ray--"

Doyle moved in on him with a hard kiss and a groping hand. Bodie accepted the kiss, but pulled away before they could progress any further.

"Feel better?" He could taste Doyle on his lips. Hard eyes met his. "Do you feel anything?"

"Fuck it, Bodie--"

"Yeah, that's the Doyle I want to bed. Feeling it. Not some bleeding iceberg who shrugs away his mate's death."

Doyle breathed out like he'd been hit. "He blew it."

"He went for the objective and damn the consequences."

"That's your fucking line!"

"But I would have listened to you. I would have trusted you."

Doyle turned away.

"You tried to stop him, didn't you?" Bodie followed him, staying in his face. "Didn't you?"

"For all the good it did."

"You nearly executed a man tonight. Losing sight of everything except revenge. But you stopped yourself."

Doyle's voice was hard. "I don't know why I stopped. I kill every day."

"Yeah, you do. So do I. But you make choices."

"And what would you have done?"

"I don't know."

"If it'd been me in Benny's place."

Bodie tightened his jaw. "I'd've fucking killed him. But that's not you!"

"Maybe it should be."

"Oh yeah, and then where would we be?"

"Better off!" Doyle swung away from him, walking a few steps.

"You don't believe that."

"I don't believe anything any more."

Bodie moved up behind him. "You do. You can't help it." He looked at Doyle's unresponsive back. "What happened on your last case with Drugs?" He was shooting in the dark, remembering the look in Doyle's eyes back in Cowley's office.

Doyle turned to face him. "We're not talking about that."

Bodie nodded. "Yeah, so it was something."

Doyle laughed, without amusement. "Not by your measure."

"Tell me."

Doyle glared at him, then spoke in a flat voice. "I was told to kill a bloke."

"Initiation?"

"No, it just happened. They thought he'd betrayed them. I was in the room. It could have been any of us.

"You killed him."

Doyle smile was brittle. "I didn't."

Christ.

"They didn't kill me. I suppose they would have done, but I managed to get away. They killed him."

"Ray--"

Doyle interrupted him, moving across the room as he spoke, as if it hurt to stand still. "Another instance when it didn't make a fucking bit of difference what I did."

"You're wrong."

Doyle stopped. "How the fuck would you know? The case was blown. They got away with it!" He resumed his pacing, his movements sharp.

"They were brought down later."

"Not by me."

"So what? You weren't the hero? I thought that was Benny's style." Doyle sucked in a breath but Bodie cut him off. "Your evidence helped, and you know it." He moved in close to him. "You don't carry the whole sodding world on your shoulders, mate!"

Doyle turned away.

Bodie grabbed him by the shoulders. "You did the right thing. You showed there is a difference between what you do and what they do. We're at a fucking disadvantage all the time, but we fight fair. For God's sake, Doyle, it wouldn't be worth fighting for if there wasn't a difference--and you know it. You know that better than I do. That's what you've taught me. Five years ago I'd've executed Pechenko, whether he'd killed you or Benny or a fucking stranger."

Doyle met his eyes, but he didn't say anything.

Bodie tightened his hold. "You didn't kill Pechenko; you won that fight with yourself. You brought down Borano. That's all Benny cared about. We didn't use dum-dums. Parsali was safe when he was here. You didn't kill Paul Coogan. You're doing the best you can, mate, in a shitty job, with the odds against you. But you care. Don't let them beat you--don't let me beat you. You're not going with me into that fire, Ray."

He kept his hold on Doyle, watching him, waiting for something, anything other than the coldness that had been there before. He could feel him breathing. Doyle closed his eyes for a moment, and then met his look. "You wanted me to follow you before." He shook his head, looking tired. "What the fuck do you want from me, Bodie?"

"I want--" He broke off. There was no way to explain, even to himself. "Just you. You."

"I don't know who that is right now."

"I do."

Doyle didn't say anything. His face was grey, the spark gone.

Bodie let his hands slide down Doyle's arms. "It's been a bloody long day."

"Yeah." He put a hand through his hair. "I wish I could stop thinking."

Bodie nodded. "I'll take care of it."

Doyle looked at him quickly, as if surprised, and then he slowly nodded. "There are no lines, are there?" For a long moment he stared at Bodie, then he sighed. "You can fuck me, Bodie. Anything. Just...please...make it--"

"I'll take care of it, Ray." He eased forward, taking Doyle's head in his hands, and kissed him. He felt Doyle shaking and knew he was at the end of his endurance. It was enough for a day, more than enough. Enough for a lifetime. He found Doyle's hand and pulled him into the bedroom.

They undressed between kisses, and Bodie encouraged Doyle's arousal, not surprised to find him slow in responding. It gave him the opportunity to take it slow himself, to find the touches that turned Doyle on, that would make him forget everything except what his body craved. He brought Doyle to heated readiness, flushed and weeping, focused only on the drive for release. Bodie left the bed to find something to use as lube, his movements jerky.

He brought lotion back to the bed and met Doyle's wide-eyed look with a kiss, turning the flame higher, shouldering out all other concerns. He coated Doyle's cock with the lotion, absorbing the sounds he made as if they were his own, feeling the hard heat of him. He wondered when the penny would drop.

Another kiss, and he made it urgent, luring Doyle's tongue into his own mouth, giving him the initiative. He rolled them over, so Doyle was behind him, his cock riding Bodie's arse. Doyle's breath hitched.

"Bodie?"

"You need to fuck. Go on." He wriggled, and smiled when he heard Doyle's breath catch again, and felt a hard grip on his arm.

He let Doyle have the running of it, let him position him, not knowing, or caring, if he'd had any experience with anal sex. He'd give him this. He'd give him anything. Doyle must have done it somewhere, with someone, because he was careful enough, easing in and waiting for Bodie to adjust to him before he thrust in further. Bodie held his breath, willing his muscles to cooperate. It had been a long time, but he remembered how to help it be good. Gradually the cramping eased, and Doyle moved within him, fucked him, pounded all the energy and the fear from the op into him. And Doyle cried out--short bursts of uncontrolled sound, nearly sobs. Bodie pushed back, urged him on, and fisted his own cock. They were alive, sharing the passion of it. He felt something warm and wet fall on his back and slide down his side.

"Bodie." His name was a whispered moan. Then all sound and breath stopped, and Doyle surged forward as he came, pushing into Bodie, holding hard to his hips. Bodie's hand clenched, and he jerked himself, feeding on Doyle's orgasm, gasping finally as he came as well.

Doyle rested on top of him for a moment, then slid off, breathing heavily as he lay on his back. Bodie turned onto his side, wincing at both the strain in his muscles and the mess they'd made. He looked at Doyle, felt tempted to touch his face, but didn't. "All right?"

"Yeah." Doyle's voice was husky and weary. He couldn't see his expression in the dim light from the hallway. Yet he knew that if he reached out, he would find tears on his face.

Bodie left the bed to clean up in the loo and bring back a towel to sleep on. Doyle was already asleep when he returned, so he lay down beside him. After a moment, he turned onto his side, his back to Doyle.

Tears from exhaustion or tears from sorrow--they were a luxury that Doyle had access to. Bodie blinked in the dark, feeling a hotness around his eyes, but knowing tears would never come for him. What a time to realise his own heart. He'd coped with desire for Doyle. He'd forged a friendship with him. But what the fuck would happen to him now? Somewhere, somehow, between Cowley's office and here in bed, he'd fallen over the edge. He'd do whatever it took to keep Doyle sane and alive. Hot and cold, that's what they were, that was their partnership. Opposites who needed each other to survive.

How many times had he followed Doyle's lead? They might argue about it, but he'd follow Doyle on cases, just as Doyle would follow him when it came to his areas of expertise. And almost always he'd follow Doyle when it came to that fucking moral line of his. He'd known enough to leave Doyle out of it with King Billy, hadn't he? But Doyle had found him, and Bodie hadn't killed Billy, he hadn't used dum-dums, he hadn't even killed Krivas. After Parsali, he'd been the one to lead, and Doyle had followed--into experimentation, into expediency. There was little of the lover in what they'd done. It was raw need and release. It was a way to forget, to bury the unacceptable--given by the only other person who would understand. It worked. And once begun, he knew they wouldn't stop. He knew they'd use it again, this good way to come down off an op--but it had all changed for him. Oh fuck, it had all changed. For a moment he closed his eyes, feeling the chill of despair. Reality couldn't be beaten into shape. Regrets were as useless as wishes. But Doyle needed him, of that he was certain. And if it left him more alone than he'd felt in years? He'd bear the price, if it kept Doyle with him. Anything.

Bodie buried his head into his arm and went to sleep.







Bodie watched as they placed Mayli Kuolo in the ambulance, then climbed in after her. The embassy personnel had apparently called for the ambulance before they had given Mayli to him. He held her hand while they raced through the streets, and thought about Doyle.

If he'd been there with them, he would have railed against the senselessness of it all. Vengeance led to nothing but more vengeance--the victim became the murderer. They'd found Mayli, but not before she had killed Lin Foh. She had been an amateur, and therefore unpredictable. She hadn't cared about the consequences, only the objective. He had to admire her tactics, if not her actions. She would have understood if he'd gone after her for Doyle. But he'd wanted her to see it--force her to bear witness. Vengeance wasn't neat and tidy, it left gaping holes and collateral damage. Doyle wasn't a faceless soldier, but was known and needed. It had to end here.

Bodie gripped her hand a little tighter, and it drew her attention. She seemed to be studying him, puzzled, as if she was trying to place him in a world that she had already left. "How is your friend?"

"He'll make it." He had to. Doyle had given him the clue to Mayli. If he'd truly given up, as Cowley had thought he might, then he wouldn't have idenified her to Bodie. He knew what Bodie would do if he died.

"Not a relative, is she?" the ambulance attendant asked.

"Hardly even know her." Yet she had nearly taken Doyle from him.

When they arrived at the hospital, Bodie followed her trolley as he'd followed Doyle's, but with a wholly different intent. They left him in the hallway, as they had done before. He stayed and waited for word.

Doyle was one floor up from him here. They might let him see him, knowing he had accompanied Cowley before. At the very least he could get a progress report.

If he closed his eyes he knew what he'd see: Doyle on the floor of his living room, unable to move, covered in blood. Bodie had been concerned by HQ's call alerting him to trouble at Doyle's flat, and by the unanswered buzzer, but none of it had prepared him for seeing Doyle like that. You knew it could happen, but you didn't dwell on it--your death or your partner's death. He'd focused on doing all he could to keep Doyle alive, and he had planned to go after the ones who had done it.

Only the one who had done it turned out to be a child, a student, a young woman who should have been deciding on boyfriends and career choices. A woman who had chosen to seek revenge instead. She'd succeeded in killing Lin Foh, but she hadn't been able to kill Doyle. What had turned her hand? A lack of resolve? Mercy? Would executing Doyle have crossed a line that only she could see?

He needed Doyle to argue it with, needed Doyle to make sense of it all. They had been doing their jobs, trying to prevent a bombing. Then two young men were dead, killing themselves rather than the porter, even though they'd been willing to risk the lives of innocents in the hotel. It was easier to kill by chance than by deliberate action. And after their deaths, Mayli had sought revenge on Doyle and Lin Foh. Now she was probably dying, shot by an agent doing his job. Was there a line to be found in this? Who was right and who was wrong? He would fall back on duty to make sense of it. Doyle would try to reason it out, even if there could be no satisfactory resolution.

Except Doyle was in a room upstairs, maybe still arguing with himself, deciding on his own if he wanted to live or die. Bodie jammed his hands into his jacket, and turned so his back was against the wall.

He had known Doyle was troubled by the inquest and by his role in the deaths of the two young men. As ridiculous as Bodie might think it was for Doyle to worry about students who mixed themselves up with bombers, he understood why it troubled him. Britain had, for expediency's sake, supported the government that had committed the atrocities that had radicalised the students. CI5 was providing protection for Lin Foh. Doyle hadn't joined CI5 to be on the side of the oppressor any more than he had joined to used dum-dums or abuse the law. Yet circumstances led to moral ambiguities.

After the inquest, he'd asked Doyle to join him in the pub, to get a drink and start the process of working it out. But Doyle had gone home, and had been followed by Mayli, and then it had been too late. He hadn't thought that Doyle might go somewhere he couldn't follow, might try to work out his dilemma on his own. The bastard. Didn't he know by now that he needed to talk these things through? Or failing that, he could take it out in hard sex--drive himself to exhaustion and sleep. He knew what Bodie was willing to do for him, why the hell wasn't that enough? It had always worked before.

All these months. All these damn months and he didn't know if they were closer or further apart. There were times when he felt he knew Doyle better than he knew himself, and times when he felt he barely knew him at all. He didn't have a clue what Doyle thought of them or the sex. He wished...what did it matter what he wished? All he'd wanted that night after Parsali had been hard and quick sex, without complications. With Doyle. And that's exactly what he had. Nothing had really changed--they fought, they laughed, they backed each other up, and they had sex. It should have been enough. But he'd gone and screwed it up for himself. He'd crossed a line he never dreamed existed. He wished he could share the joke with Doyle.

And that was the bitter truth of it: he had Doyle's body, but not him. There were thoughts he couldn't share with Doyle--more than there had been before. They weren't always in sync. He'd even begun to doubt Doyle's continued need for him. Doyle had been in a chancy mood recently--unpredictable and sometimes difficult. Bodie had been giving him room while keeping an eye on him. And what he'd seen had left him disquieted.

He knew when the doubts had started--Diana Molner's death. They'd both suffered from that: Doyle for the injustice of it; Bodie for the mistakes made by Cowley. Afterwards, they'd gone to Doyle's flat, craving the relief that sex would give them. And that was the night Doyle had asked again to be fucked. "Make me feel it," he'd said. Make him feel alive.

They'd gone to bed, and Bodie had shown Doyle what it meant to be fucked. He'd shown him how pain and the unfamiliar could turn to exquisite, intense sensation. He had shown him how surrender could be sublime. He'd been inside Doyle, connected to him at the most basic level--needed--and he'd brought pleasure to him. They'd shared the surprise of it, and they'd shared the relief that came with orgasm. But it wasn't their pattern to linger or to...simply be together in bed. He didn't know for certain what Doyle had felt or thought. And Doyle couldn't know what it had been like for him. They'd found release, but little peace. In the morning, Doyle was gone--out on a run to clear his head, out alone.

He looked to the corridor doors as they swung open and saw Cowley approaching him.

"How is she? Will she recover?"

Bodie crossed his arms. "They didn't hold out much hope. There's been no word."

"Her embassy has denied all knowledge of her intent to assassinate Lin Foh. They will pin it on her as a revenge killing for her father."

"Which it was."

"Yes, but in connection with an organised, radical group. Well, at least they will be off our soil now."

The door to the theatre opened and a doctor and nurse emerged. The doctor spied Cowley and walked towards him. Cowley stepped away to meet with him, while Bodie stayed where he was. So much had changed in the months since the Parsali op. His allegiance was still given to Cowley, but his loyalty was given wholly to Doyle. Just yesterday Cowley had asked him what he'd do if he left the job, and he hadn't been able to answer. How could he say that it all depended on Doyle?

Cowley returned to Bodie, while the doctor headed in the opposite direction. "She died a few minutes ago. Perhaps it is just as well." Bodie, so used to reading the layered emotions in another face, easily read the sorrow in Cowley's. Her life had been wasted in revenge. She had been trapped in a pattern beyond her control.

"Is there anything you want me to do?"

Cowley glanced at him. "No. Go home. Your report can wait until morning."

"Thank you, sir." He turned to leave.

"Bodie." He stopped and looked back. "Let's check on Doyle first." He nodded and followed Cowley to ICU.

No revenge, Cowley had told him. No repeat of his actions after Keith's death and his pursuit of King Billy. Yet Doyle had gone deeper into his blood and bone than Keith, or anyone else, ever had. Could he have left Doyle's death unavenged? Would legal justice have been enough? Cowley had stopped him from killing King Billy by placing a gun to his head. It had given him time to think, to weigh an alternative view. Justice had seemed the right choice then. He sometimes wondered if he would have made the same choice if Doyle hadn't been there as well. Cowley had CI5 to consider--he had to intervene, had to keep Bodie in bounds or put him down himself. Doyle had no stake in it and no illusions about Bodie. Yet he had tried to stop him, to help him, to save him. Cowley's motivations he understood; Doyle's motivations he wished he understood. He'd once told Doyle he was going to hell, and he'd believed it. Doyle hadn't. Doyle always expected better from him, always challenged him. When he'd tempted Doyle to follow him into the fire, it had been as much about bringing him to Bodie's level as desire. But instead when Doyle had fallen, he'd somehow opened a new path for Bodie to follow. And now it seemed that Doyle was the one who was lost.

In ICU, Doyle was still being carefully monitored, he was still attached to all the bloody machinery, but there was no longer a nurse in his room every minute. Barring any infection, he should be out of ICU within the week. Cowley smiled, his relief at the news apparent. Bodie looked at Doyle, so bloody still and broken, and slowly clenched his hands. So his sodding will to survive had finally kicked in, had it? Mayli Kuolo might have been the instrument of the injury, but it was Doyle's carelessness that had allowed it to happen. It was the same old pattern, but with a new twist. This time, Doyle hadn't accepted any help. He had faced his own King Billy, his own life or death decision, but he'd knocked Bodie out of it before he could follow him, before he could save him.

An "idealist", Cowley had called Doyle; a bloody idiot, Bodie would say. But he'd finally made his bleeding decision, and he'd be around for Bodie to have a reckoning with him. It needed to be done. Once and for all.





Bodie pulled up in front of Macklin's facility, to find Doyle already waiting for him outside. He tooted his horn in greeting and reached over to open the door to the Capri. Doyle grinned at him, picked up his bag, and joined him in the car. He looked...healthy. Vibrant and fit, he moved with all his former grace and strength. Bodie noticed that he was wearing a gun again and couldn't help but smile.

"Macklin kicked you out, eh?"

Doyle settled into the front seat. "Well, he did seem to be a little tired of me. It might have had something to do with his black eye."

"Oh, well done, my son."

"Yes. I swear to you, Towser nearly smiled."

Bodie headed out onto the street. "Of course, our Brian has a long memory."

"I told him it was from you."

"Ta."

"Don't mention it."

"I will, when we're back here next time."

"You would." Doyle stretched, and Bodie noticed there was no accompanying wince. "Stop off for a drink?"

Bodie looked at him.

"I am off all medications. I'm fit. I'm also thirsty."

"Fair enough." Bodie made the turning for the White Lion.

He wondered sometimes how much money the pub made from the various security agencies that used Macklin's services. It ought to pay him a commission. The same well-developed blonde woman was tending the bar, just as she had before the Parsali op. She didn't seem to recognise either of them, but they took a moment to enjoy the view. Grinning, they carried their drinks to a table.

"Any news?" Doyle asked as they settled in. Bodie filled him in on the current ops--as much as he could in public. Doyle soaked it up, showing more interest than he had in weeks. Cowley had assigned him to files while he recuperated. Bodie knew what it was like to be left behind when everyone else was out on ops. Macklin had been the last hurdle for Doyle before returning to the squad.

It had taken him six weeks to heal, and then another six to regain his fitness level and be shipped off to Macklin. It had been a long haul, but Doyle had worked at it. In fact, Doyle had handled the whole ordeal with surprising patience. Bodie had expected the hard work--had been prepared, in fact, to slow him down if necessary. He hadn't expected the relatively sunny temperament. He'd accepted it with relief at first, but that had changed to a growing suspicion, and finally annoyance. He'd goaded Doyle into an argument, just to have him be himself again. And then he'd had to watch as he had struggled for breath, caught in the lingering pain of a thoracotomy. After that, he'd kept a guard on his own temper, and had only tried to compete with Doyle in who could be more affable.

"And what have you been up to, while I was suffering?"

Bodie considered the question. "I think I'd trade you."

"He never put you in files?"

"Worse. Obbo duty."

Doyle raised his eyebrows.

"With over-keen youngsters."

Doyle sniggered and drank his lager. "Are they still alive?"

"Yes, no thanks to themselves. Chastened, I believe would describe them."

"I'll bet." He put his glass down. "Here, you don't think Cowley would put me on that too, do you?"

"Ah, no."

Doyle looked at him narrowly. "Why not?"

"Do you want it, then?"

"No, but--"

"He'd probably like to retain some of the recruits. Just a few."

Doyle picked up his glass again. "Berk."

"Now files, I could see."

"Oh no. I've had enough of that. I'm Macklin-certified fit. I want a chance to prove it."

"You're liable to get it, the way we've been on the hop recently."

They finished their beers and headed for Doyle's flat. The sun was sinking, casting rose and amber streaks through the clouds. Spring wasn't far away, another year already begun.

"Did you get any fresh stuff in?" Doyle asked.

"Yes, of course. Would I let you down?"

"Fresh green stuff?"

"Erm...the Fairy liquid's new."

"If you're staying for dinner, there had better be something more."

"I like that Indian around the corner from you."

"Macklin will have something to say about all the naan you've been eating."

Bodie glanced at Doyle. "What'd he say about you?"

"I'm all right, but more weight wouldn't hurt. I'm eating as much as I can!"

"Poor lad."

Accommodations had outdone themselves with Doyle's new flat. It was on the first floor, at the back of the block, overlooking allotments and a park. It was peaceful, sunny when the weather allowed, and completely different from his former flat. Bodie had spent a lot of time in it over the past months. He crossed immediately to the living room window, catching the last of the sun on the horizon, but also checking the approaches from the back. Accommodations had certified the flat safe, but he'd been trained to always check his own parachute before a jump.

He turned back into the room as Doyle switched on a lamp. Doyle had taken off his jacket and his shoulder holster. There was a bandage on his arm, peeking out from under his t-shirt. "What's that?" Bodie started to move towards him, then stopped.

Doyle glanced down at his arm. "Knife. I was slow." He grimaced at Bodie.

Bodie frowned as he took off his own jacket and harness. "Macklin cut you that badly with a knife? Why?"

"Training? Testing?"

"He was pushing you that hard? Like before Parsali?"

Doyle was slow to answer, his gaze fixed on Bodie. "Yeah, like that."

"That's stupid. You don't push a man like that unless you have a very specific kind of op coming up." A thought struck Bodie. "You'd tell me if--?"

"Yeah, I would. I haven't seen Cowley."

Bodie relaxed slightly. "Well, even better you gave him a black eye, then." He knew he was making too much of it, but he couldn't seem to help it. He'd been treating Doyle with kid gloves since the shooting. He tried to back-pedal. "So, will Indian be all right?"

"Yeah, a bit later." Doyle crossed his arms and tilted his head. "You know, Brian reckons I deserved everything I got."

"If you were slow--"

"No, not that. The shooting."

Bodie knew his face had lost all expression, and he knew Doyle would see right through that. "Does he?"

"Yeah. Carelessness, he called it."

Bodie nodded, looking away. "You didn't set the second locks." He returned to the window, his back to Doyle. How often had he had this conversation in his head? For weeks after the shooting he'd gone through it. He'd wanted a reckoning. But with Doyle so subdued after getting out of hospital, he hadn't known how to approach it. And he was afraid--all too aware of the possible consequences of any such conversation between them.

"I just went out for a few minutes. It could have happened to anyone." Doyle's tone was dismissive.

Bodie's jaw tightened, but he didn't say anything.

"She could have got me anywhere. In the shops, or--"

Bodie turned around. "You're not serious."

Doyle shrugged. "I don't see where Brian gets off--"

"For Christ's sake, Doyle, she followed you home! You're the one who sodding led her there. You weren't watching your back! You made it easy for her to get in."

"One mistake--"

"Three mistakes, at least! Once you saw her you should have got out of there, or drawn your fucking gun, or done anything but walk straight at her with your arms full of groceries!"

"I thought--"

"You didn't think at all! Oh, no, you saved all that for later, didn't you?

Doyle raised his head, his eyes narrowing. "What do you mean?"

Too late, Bodie saw that Doyle was anything but relaxed and indifferent.

Doyle moved in closer to him, and now his voice was hard. "Come on, Bodie. I wondered how I was going to get you to talk. I know something has been eating at you. Well, put it on the table now, sunshine."

Bodie reached for his control, for calm. "All I'm saying is that I agree with Macklin. You were careless."

"So I deserved it."

"No, but there are consequences to your actions--or lack of action. You've had a...reminder, that's all." He turned away from Doyle. He had to keep this cool. There was too much he might say if they got into a fight. But he knew with a certain despair that Doyle was never going to leave it alone.

"A reminder." Doyle was closer now, his voice softer. "We weren't even on a case."

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. "I know."

"So we're to be on guard all the time, not trusting anyone. Is that any way to live?"

Bodie swung to face him. "You chose CI5."

Doyle stood before him, hands on his hips, eyes on Bodie. "I could unchoose it."

His stomach tightened, as if preparing for a blow. "You could."

"Goddammit!" Doyle stalked forward and grabbed Bodie by his arms. "What is wrong with you? I didn't just come through hell with Macklin in order to quit, you stupid prat."

"Then accept the rules of engagement."

Doyle breathed out. "All right." He let go of Bodie's arms but he didn't turn away. "All right."

Bodie nodded, still tense.

"I trust you."

"I'm your partner." Bodie looked down.

"You're more than that." Doyle took in a breath, then sighed. "You came in time."

Bodie turned away, needing to move. "HQ called when your alarm went off. It was a good thing she went out the window." It also meant he'd been able to get in without having to stop for the lock.

"She was an amateur. What did you mean about me saving my thinking for later?"

Bodie shrugged, his back to Doyle as he looked out the window. "Nothing. Just the usual."

"Like hell. You're burying something, and we're going to get it out." There was a pause. "I'm healthy now. I can hold my own against you."

Bodie glanced at him, and then away. "I'm not fighting with you."

"It's past due. Look, I don't want a partner who--"

Bodie rounded on him. "Who the fuck are you to demand what you will and will not have in a partner? Christ, Doyle!"

"I'm half the team, that's what! And I don't want a partner who treats me like I'm made of glass."

"And whose fault is that?"

"Yours." Doyle looked at him,w hard-eyed. "Tell me what you want."

"I want a partner who's not a coward. I want a partner who fucking wants to live."

"I do." Doyle spoke quietly.

"Oh, yeah." Bodie nodded. "That's what you were telling me in the ambulance, eh? That's why the doctor kept going on about you making some fucking decision. That's why Cowley was on me about you giving up."

"I wasn't giving up!"

"What then? You made it easy for her!"

"So I made a fucking mistake!"

"Like Benny." Doyle froze, and Bodie held his gaze. "You were thinking about yourself. Where was your stupid head?"

"I...it seemed so pointless. Latowa and Charlie, and then...her."

"Pointless. Like Parsali, like Diana Molner?"

Doyle swallowed. "Yeah."

Bodie shook his head. "No, because in their own way they were trying to do something right."

"Those boys--"

"Were going to bomb a bleeding hotel, Doyle!"

"Because they'd run out of other options."

"Lin Foh wasn't in power, what would it have accomplished?

"I know that. I'm not defending them. I just--"

"They could kill remotely, but not personally. Does that take the responsibility away from them?"

"No! But she--"

"She was out for revenge. Are you going to make a martyr of her? If you want to compare her with someone, try me with King Billy, or you with Pechenko."

"It's different."

"Why? Because you were the victim?"

"I was the cause."

"And they weren't?"

Doyle looked away, biting his lip.

"You're right, there is a difference. We didn't go through with it."

"Neither did she."

"Tell Lin Foh that."

Doyle stared at him, and when he spoke his voice was low. "Where does it fucking end? I just...wanted an end to it."

"So you thought you'd take yourself out of the game. Everything was pointless, so why not?"

Doyle shrugged.

Bodie stepped towards him. "Oh, no, it's not that simple. You think you have a choice? Do you think you have a right to choose?"

"Everyone--"

"You're not everyone." Bodie grabbed him. "You belong to CI5, mate. You owe it to the memories of Benny and Diana and all those who've died--mistakes or no--trying to do what they thought was right. And you fucking well belong to me." He jerked Doyle to him and kissed him, hard. Doyle tried to pull back, but Bodie wouldn't let him break free. His life wasn't his own. It never would be.

After a few moments the kiss changed, softening, inevitable desire overtaking his anger. It had been months since they had done this, months since the last op. Reluctantly, Bodie broke the kiss, needing to give Doyle a choice. But Doyle's hands clamped on his arms, preventing him from pulling away. "If I belong to you, you prick, then you damn well belong to me." He pressed his body against Bodie's, his kiss strong and sure. Bodie took a step back, seeking support, but he was off-balance, and they fell together to the floor, not caring that they hit a chair on their way down, knocking it aside. They held tight to each other, rolling and fighting for dominance, but hampered by the driving need to kiss and get at each other.

"You didn't trust me, you bastard," Bodie said. He yanked at Doyle's clothes, impatient with the impediment. But he hesitated when he reached under Doyle's t-shirt and felt the bandage on his arm and the scars on his chest. With a sound very like a growl, Doyle shoved him away, pulled off his t-shirt, and opened his jeans. He grabbed Bodie's shirt, scattering buttons, and pushed him down, his teeth latching onto Bodie's nipple. Bodie yelped and rolled them over so he was on top. His trousers were open. He pushed them down, and Doyle took unfair advantage, getting his hand on Bodie's cock. As Bodie gasped, Doyle rolled them back so he was in control. His mouth came down on Bodie's, hot and consuming. They fought towards release, thrusting into hands and slick bodies, uncoordinated and uncontrolled, but together. It was over too fast, like a prairie fire in a high wind, leaving only scorched ground behind.

Bodie lay on his back, breathing quickly, nerves and muscles still quivering. Beside him he heard Doyle groan. He lifted his head and looked at him sprawled on the floor. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah. Does this mean I'm certified fit by you?"

Bodie put his head back down and smiled. "I reckon so. Christ, Doyle."

"Well, you can stop treating me like sodding glass, then."

Bodie grunted and closed his eyes. He heard movement, and then Doyle prodded him with a finger. "What?"

"Possessive. That's not exactly how you've been playing this."

Bodie opened his eyes and turned to his side. He saw that Doyle was sitting with his back against the sofa, and his jeans and t-shirt were in order. He pushed himself up. His shirt hung open, so he took it off, straightened his trousers, and leant against a chair. "No," he finally said.

Doyle looked down. "I kept seeing you, hearing you, in the hospital."

"I was there."

"No, this was in my head. Dreams? My subconscious? I don't know." He gazed across at Bodie. "You were telling me to be cool, uninvolved. 'You shoot to kill,' you said."

Bodie looked away. "Good advice."

"It's them or us, and don't give them a moment's advantage."

"You disagree?"

Doyle shook his head. "I didn't know she was the enemy."

"She caught you unaware."

"Suspect everybody, that'd be your credo, then."

"More or less."

"Me included?" At Bodie's quick look, his eyes narrowed. "When didn't I trust you?"

Bodie stilled, unable to look away, equally unable to answer him.

"You know I do. Just like I know you've changed. That's not your credo anymore."

"You're an idealist."

"Maybe a fallen one. You didn't kill Mayli Kuolo."

"There was no need."

"Cowley told me you took her to hospital and stayed with her."

Bodie frowned. "Yeah. I held her sodding hand, all right? What's your point?"

"Compassion. It's as much a part of you as the killing."

Bodie shook his head and looked away.

"It's why you put up with me."

That drew his attention, and he saw that Doyle's head was bent as he examined a spot on his jeans. "I wouldn't call it compassion with you."

"That night, after Benny died..."

"That wasn't compassion, Doyle."

Swiftly, Doyle replied, "No, you needed it as badly as I did, didn't you?" Bodie met his look, but had nothing to say. "Anyway, I'm not talking about sex. You got me back on track."

"You derailed again."

"Yeah."

"Only this time, you shut me out. You went off to your dreamland."

"You were there. Christ, Bodie, don't you get it? I can't get you out of my head! Dream or subconscious, you were there." He jumped up to his feet, walked a few steps and swung around. "I kept seeing Cowley; we were debating the worth of what we do. Nothing he said mattered very much, until he brought you up. And then you came, telling me my motives were clean, telling me not to let them beat me."

"I told you that before."

"Yeah. And I must've listened, mustn't I? If I was deciding between living and dying, mate, you're the reason I'm here. For God's sake, Bodie--you think I don't trust you?" He was caught in Doyle's gaze, unable to look away.

"You said you wanted it to end. All of it." He forced the words out.

"I do sometimes. You know I--"

"What the fuck do you think would happen to me?"

Doyle stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Do you remember what you said to me once about Mad Tommy being a killer?"

Doyle blinked, taking a moment to reply. "Yeah."

"I wasn't like him, but he's what I could have been." He kept his voice level. "What I will be if someone kills you."

"No." There was certainty in Doyle's voice, and it hurt, like a punch in the belly, because Bodie had no such certainty.

"Yes. I don't have any of your lines, Doyle, any of your barriers. It's all personal with me. Loyalty. Revenge."

Doyle took in a breath. "Maybe it is, but you're not Tommy."

"You have--"

"No. You didn't kill Mayli Kuolo."

"She didn't kill you."

"It doesn't matter. Whether I'd lived or died, you wouldn't have killed her. Not in cold blood. It's why I sent you after her."

Bodie frowned. "You remember that?"

"Yeah."

"I thought you wouldn't."

Doyle's gaze was unfocused, as if he were looking inward. "It's all a blur of impressions and dreams mixed with reality. I just...I remember seeing you in the hospital room, and knowing that I had to tell you. That you'd see it done right." He looked again at Bodie. "You wouldn't kill her."

Bodie shook his head. "When you sent me after her I knew you'd decided to live. Otherwise, you'd've kept her from me, like you did in the ambulance."

"I wasn't thinking about her in the ambulance."

For the first time in months Bodie thought back to those awful days when Doyle's life had hung in limbo. He assembled the sequence in his head: Doyle's gesture, identifying Mayli, his certainty, then, that Doyle would recover--

"It took me a while to remember her."

He'd told Cowley about her, the one person Doyle had seen that he hadn't. But he'd thought nothing of it until Doyle's gesture, and then they'd hunted her down. And in his head he heard Cowley's voice: No change. They'd been in the car, learning about Mayli. And his reply: C'mon Ray, you've got to do it for yourself. Bodie's stomach lurched. He hadn't thought of killing her when he reached the embassy. He'd only wanted to make her see the damage she'd done. He'd told himself it was because he knew Doyle would live. But he hadn't been sure...

"You didn't seek vengeance." Doyle's voice was very quiet. "You're not going into that fire, Bodie. Not while I'm here. I won't let you."

"Christ, Ray." He stood up, unable to stay there any longer. He felt exposed, uncertain, even of himself. Had it been hope alone that had stayed his hand?

Doyle spoke to his back. "You and I will never be like Tommy. We kill, but we struggle with it. We...see the options."

He'd had no other thought but to kill King Billy, and damn the consequences--until Doyle and Cowley had intervened. Had he changed? Cowley had felt the need to tell him there'd be no vengeance for Doyle. Ray had sent him after Mayli certain that he'd bring her to justice, not death. "Maybe." But not without Doyle, not without hope. If she'd gone for the head shot..."As long as we're together."

"Together. Bodie..." There was an uncertainty in Doyle's voice that chilled him. He didn't want to turn around and face him.

"What?" His voice sounded normal, but he felt like he was suffocating.

"You...said I was careless, with the shooting. Why do you think that was?"

"The case. It'd blown up in our face. And...Mayli. She got to you." He moved forward to the window again, looking past his reflection and out into the dark.

"It started before then, long before then." Doyle moved in behind him. He could see his form in the window.

"Diana Molner." Bodie whispered the name, but Doyle heard it.

"Yeah."

"The night I fucked you."

"Yeah."

"That bad, was it?" He worked for the lightness in his voice.

"That good."

Bodie frowned, but didn't say anything.

"Did you ever wonder about that? About how easily I...bent?"

"Great technique."

"Great ego."

Bodie shrugged. "It happens that way sometimes. You found out you like to swing both ways. It's nothing to--"

"There's more to it than that." Doyle put a hand on his arm, turning him so they were face to face. "Why'd you start us that night?"

"Expediency."

"Oh yeah?"

"I needed to come down. We both did."

"And you'd done it before."

"I wanted it, if that's what you're after." He tried to move, but Doyle grabbed his arm, stopping him. "Look, I wanted--"

"--To fuck me. Yeah, I remember. But you kissed me."

"So? Christ, Doyle, what--"

Doyle kissed him, his hands on either side of Bodie's head. Bodie couldn't help but respond. The kiss was seductive, coaxing, and it tore through any defence he might have. Doyle pulled back, his hands still on Bodie's head. "That's how you kissed me. It was never just about coming down off an adrenaline high or proving we were alive. It couldn't have been."

Bodie was silent. Fear was crowding up in his throat.

"But I didn't see it at first. I was too--" Doyle broke off and lowered his hands. "Our partnership is all about balance, isn't it? Keeping us in balance. We pull each other from the edge. Then you threw this into the mix. You told me it was a way to come down--a better way to settle my nerves than talking. And that morning when I came to you, it worked." Doyle turned away, then back. "It worked that night, when you let me fuck you--and every time after that."

"Then what's the problem? Why--"

"We've changed. We're unbalanced, out of control. Christ, look at us earlier tonight."

"So what? It was just for fun, wasn't it? Don't try to tell me you don't want it." He had to hold on to the little he had. Panic spread through his nerves.

"No, that's the point." He took in a deep breath, standing straight. "I was careless because of us, because of this. It's been eating away at me. We have to stop--"

Bodie caught hold of Doyle and took his mouth, stopping the words. His fingers dug into the flesh of his arms. "You're not ending this," he said to Doyle when he could. "I won't let you."

"Bodie--"

"You talk about balance. What the fuck do you think we'll be if we're not together, not--"

"I don't want to fucking end it!" Doyle shoved him, breaking free of Bodie's hold but not stepping back. "But I need it to be more. We can't keep it separate. It's not a way to end an op. Not a way to get us through the transition. It's us. Together. It's fucking whenever we want, not waiting for the right bloody time, when we can say it means something else. I want you all the time, you stupid pillock! If I want to fuck you on Cowley's desk because the sodding sun is shining then I'll do it! That's what I want."

"All right." Bodie tried to soothe him, but Doyle was having none of it.

"Don't you bloody listen? What's between us is every-thing. Christ, Bodie, I'd be dead without you, or invalided out. I'd never survive without you. I nearly died in Drugs."

"You nearly died in the shooting. And you're saying that's because we were...unbalanced?" He took Doyle's arm again in a hard grip, ignoring his wince. "All right. You want it all, then you're damn well going to listen to me. You're not shutting me out any more, Ray. You can argue and you can talk my bloody ear off, but you're not going to go and brood and get yourself shot out of carelessness. Christ!" He took in a breath. "And if I want to hold on to you when we sleep then you can just learn to live with it. If I want to snog you just because you take my damn breath away, you can learn to live with that, too!"

"You're saying you want that?"

"And you're not bloody well saying goodbye to me in any more ambulances!"

Doyle reached out with his free hand, stroking Bodie's cheekbone. "No, I'm not. I was so bloody afraid-- Everything, then?"

"Yeah, I reckon." Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. "I don't know about Cowley's desk, though."

Doyle grinned, although it wavered. "Oh, the temptation."

Bodie reeled him in and kissed him. "Maniac."

"We're well-matched." Doyle gave him a narrow-eyed look. "That communication demand goes both ways, you know."

"I stopped shutting you out a long time ago." It was another legacy of the King Billy incident.

Doyle was studying him. "Oh yeah? How long have you felt this, then?" Bodie looked away. "Yeah, I thought so. Never mind, we'll work on it."

"I'm not confessing my heart to you every day, Doyle."

"You haven't confessed now."

"Don't think you can change me."

"I already have. That goes both ways too." He gazed at Bodie, and his eyes were challenging. "You scared?"

"Yeah." Bodie smiled. "You?"

"All the time."

"That's all right then. Only sane thing in this mob."

Doyle sighed and put a hand on Bodie's chest. "You ready to go back out on the street?"

"With you, yeah."

"Are you finished being a sodding saint around me?"

Bodie spluttered. "You started it!"

Doyle grinned. "Got up your nose, did it?"

"You know it did." He put his hand along Doyle's neck, feeling the pulse beat there. "But you weren't in very good shape to begin with."

Doyle tilted his head. "I am now. Do you want to try coming down off an op before an op?"

"Several times, I reckon."

"That's fortunate." He hesitated a moment. "You thought I didn't like getting fucked?"

Bodie hid his uneasiness with a shrug. "I didn't know what you thought."

Doyle smiled, a mischievous look that Bodie hadn't seen for a long time. He took Bodie by the hand. "C'mon," he said. "Let's relive it."

He led Bodie to his bed--the same bed as that night, but this time there was no shadow hanging over them. This time he didn't have to keep a guard on his tongue, or be careful not to reveal too much. And this time Doyle wasn't silent until forced to cry out by all that Bodie did to him. He met Bodie's need with the same fierce passion, but now he added words to the mix, right from the start.

"So bloody right," Doyle said, his hands curving over Bodie's chest and down to his ribs.

Bodie took off Doyle's t-shirt, and he knew what Doyle was thinking when his caressing hand faltered on Bodie's skin. He leant forward and placed a light kiss on one of Doyle's scars, and his tongue traced a few inches. Doyle laughed, and he smiled, feeling the vibration of the laugh with his mouth. He tumbled Doyle onto the bed, following him, not wanting to be separate from him for any moment. With his hands and mouth he explored him, lingering, learning him in a way he hadn't before.

"Bodie," Doyle muttered, reaching to kiss him when he could, and arching as Bodie caressed his balls. "How could I not have fallen for this? Oh, God...please..." Bodie smiled again, and kissed his way down to Doyle's cock, turning Doyle's words to moans.

The KY was in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. He retrieved the tube, and Doyle took it from him, his hand covering Bodie's.

"My turn." He kissed Bodie, pushing him back against the pillows while his hands roamed freely over Bodie's skin. "Do you remember that night in the alley?" His fingers squeezed and rolled Bodie's balls. Bodie groaned, his eyes closing. "Do you remember?" Doyle stroked the length of Bodie's cock.

"Yeah."

"I didn't know what the fuck you were doing. Well..." He sucked Bodie's nipple, bringing him to stinging awareness. "I knew what you were doing. I didn't know why." He moved down to Bodie's groin, nuzzling as he went. "And I didn't care." He took Bodie's cock into his mouth in one quick motion, bathing him in sensation, then leaving him. "Remember that?"

"Fuck." He squirmed, aching. "Doyle."

Doyle looked up at him, his hand now stroking where his tongue had been. "Yeah, that seemed to be the general idea." He uncapped the KY and squeezed out enough to liberally apply to Bodie's cock, taking his time about it.

"If you want me to fuck you, you'll stop that." Bodie gasped the words out.

"I do," Doyle said, moving back up the bed. "Show me again."

Bodie surged up, changing their positions. He took his time lubing Doyle, seeing to his cock as well, building the need in him until Doyle was quivering. He nuzzled Doyle's back, kissed and bit, marking him. He rode out Doyle's flinch and squeezed his cock.

"Bodie, for fuck's sake...get on with it!"

He grinned into Doyle's back, wrapped an arm around him, and sank into him. There was nothing that compared to this. A tight channel, delicious pressure, the surging need within him. All that was familiar. But Doyle's voice surrounded him, words and sounds: "Bodie...c'mon...harder. Oh...fuck..." Doyle's scent and taste were his--they belonged to him. And the pleasure slicing inside him was sweeter, nearing pain with its intensity. It was like the difference between a dull blade and one that was finely honed--it could cut your heart out before you were even aware. He'd given that blade to Doyle, but he held Doyle's in return. He thrust into him, and they both cried out, his voice matching Doyle's--drum and bass setting a rhythm for the song. He held out until Doyle came, and then gave in to all-consuming desire, where there was nothing but spark and fire, with no ice to be found.

He revelled in the aftermath, covering Doyle, feeling his ribcage expand and contract--proof of life. His own breathing gradually slowed to normal. He slid his hand down Doyle's spine as he eased off him. "Are you all right?"

Doyle turned his head and looked at Bodie with one eye. "If you're going to ask me that every time, it's going to get very boring."

"Doyle."

"I'm shagged out."

Bodie sighed. "Me too."

Doyle groaned and rolled onto his side to face Bodie. "Well? Did I like that?"

"Best ever." Bodie closed his eyes.

Doyle kissed him. "Is this the part where you hold onto me while you sleep?"

"Why are you so energetic?"

"Macklin. This was a doddle."

"A doddle." Bodie snagged him with an arm and pushed him down flat on his back, kissing him. "Can you imagine what it'll be like the next time we both come back from Macklin?"

Doyle grinned. "It'll almost make it worthwhile."

Bodie looked at him, seeing the light in his eyes--the spark that was uniquely his. A fallen idealist, Doyle had called himself. But he'd put all his faith in Bodie. And Bodie knew he wasn't any more sensible, putting all his trust in Doyle.

"Better together, eh?" As always, Doyle was there with him.

"Always." Bodie sat up. "Come on." He slapped Doyle lightly. "You need food."

"You mean you do."

"No, you do." He examined Doyle's ribs. "Definitely."

"Don't you start with that." He put a hand on Bodie's thigh, rubbing lightly. "Did you really join CI5 for the money?"

Groaning, Bodie extricated himself from the bed. "I'm ordering Indian."

"Because there's gotta be more."

Bodie leant down and kissed him. "You're more."

Doyle put a hand on the back of Bodie's neck, holding him in place. "You know, I haven't forgotten."

"Forgotten what?"

"What you did after doing me, that first night."

Oh, fuck. Doyle's hand was right where Bodie had hit him. "Remember, you need me."

Doyle's smile was not reassuring. He caressed the spot, then slid his hand around and patted Bodie on the cheek. "Go on and order me food."

Bodie backed up a step and watched as Doyle got out of the bed. Doyle glanced at him, then came and kissed him. "Don't worry. I'll take it out in kind. Tonight. And tomorrow. Quite possibly the day after as well."

Bodie traced Doyle's cheekbone, just looking into the eyes that smiled at him. Eyes that he'd been looking into for years now and knew better than his own. Faith and trust: a balancing act between fire and ice--that's what they had. That's what they'd keep. He gave Doyle a quick kiss, then headed for the phone.



-- THE END --

Originally published in Never Far Apart, Justazine Publications, May 2007

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