As was so often the way after a particularly trying operation, or quite honestly any time they could think of an excuse, the elite operatives of CI5 headed down to a tiny local off the beaten track, far enough out of the public eye that often they were the only occupants of the dusty bar, apart from a few knowledgeable ancients who looked old enough to have had the pub built around them.

Gathered round a cluster of tables, crisps spilling out of packets, cigarette butts mounting in the grimy ashtrays, the lads would share crude and raucous stories, laughing more than the anecdotes warranted, relieving the stresses of an unremittingly dangerous career in the only way they knew how. The shared traumas were never discussed, seldom alluded to beyond solemn toasts to the injured or dead, hanging in the air above and around them until blown away by alcohol and forced merriment.

So it was that, one grimly drizzling autumnal evening, a dozen or so of them were to be found clogging up the back room after a day of fierce firefights as they successfully ran to ground a suspected IRA terror cell. The only regular not present was Jax, kept overnight in hospital for observations, and they raised glasses to him in traditional style before diving into pints of bitter. Stuart, an unusual addition to the group by virtue of his tip-off having led to the raid, was regaling them all with an unlikely tale of an Ambassador's daughter called Annabel with some quite outstanding physical skills. The conclusion was spectacular enough to earn a smattering of light applause, followed by an earnest if slightly drink-fogged discussion about the possibility or otherwise of the act in question.

Bodie was loudly determined both that it certainly was possible, speaking from personal experience, and that he was sure he had made the acquaintance of the fair Annabel himself. Doyle, hooting with derision along with the rest, privately thought that, with Bodie, it was always worth keeping an open mind on such matters. As Bodie glanced over towards him, he dipped his eyes and raised his glass fractionally in an acknowledgement meant only for the two of them. Bodie had come closer to death that day than either of them was comfortable with, completely blindsided by a sniper who had his sights trained on the agent from the moment he broke cover. Doyle, spotting the muzzle of the rifle with a fraction of a second to spare, had yelled at Bodie to get down. Bodie, who from long experience responded to his partner instinctively and without question, flung himself flat against the concrete at the very moment the shot was fired, the bullet actually grazing his shoulder as he fell.

They faced each other afterwards, as the last suspect alive was led bleeding away. Any words appropriate to such an occasion would remain unspoken -- either dragged out so many times before that they didn't need repeating, or edging into territory too searching and precarious to be desired. So, instead, a blowing out of cheeks and slight shake of head ('Owe you another one there, mate. I'd have been a goner if you hadn't got my back.') met by a quirk of eyebrows and grazing of teeth against lower lip ('That's what I'm here for. I'll always have your back, Bodie. I'm just worried that might not be enough one of these days.')

The gaze lingered, a sharing of tension, unvoiced terror mutually acknowledged, until the clear blue clouded and darkened, near-death adrenaline seeking an outlet. ('I want you. Hard and fast. Now.') The hint of a smile quirking the corner of Doyle's mouth, a sheen of mischief sparkling in the depths of green eyes. ('I'll just bet you do.') Doyle turned away, running a hand oh-so-casually across denim-encased buttocks, striding off with all the sensual confidence of one guaranteed a riveted audience. Glancing over a shoulder, casting back a blatant, gleaming, come-hither grin, knowing with gleeful certainty the effect he was having. Bodie contented himself with a narrowing of eyes and a slow headshake ('Oh you're going to pay for that.') Watching with delight as the grin widened and he was rewarded with the slightest nod ('You're on, hotshot.')

The scene was cleared, the minutiae taken care of, the inevitable grumbles covering a tacitly understood gratitude for the chance to channel pent-up energy into tedious detail. At some point during the report-writing and form-filling, someone would push back a chair, sigh and proclaim, "Bollocks to this. Anyone for a pint?" Amid nods and grins of accord, the agents would gradually drift out and away, leaving the deserted offices to the ghosts.

Doyle took another long sip of now-warm beer, ruthlessly forcing the day's images from his mind. Sitting back, he allowed his gaze to trail slowly across the disparate group ranged around the scratched tables, fixing on the details of each face, building of each a living snapshot to be dragged out and examined in the likely event of yet another colleague being violently removed from the team.

Murphy, chuckling as he shared a fatuous joke that nobody was really taking in, not even him -- the words weren't really the point. Stuart, rueful exasperation etched in sharp lines across his forehead as he reluctantly handed over a crumpled pound note to a smug, grinning Anson. McCabe, King, Matheson, Ruth Pettifer. How long before glasses would be raised, solemn toasts proclaimed to the memory of one of these?

Bodie. A second slower today, from either of them, and it would be Bodie they were drinking to now, Bodie's image being drowned in beer, papered over with crude anecdotes and unfunny jokes. A fact of life -- the fact of life, really, its ephemeral quality, but just occasionally a fact that could overwhelm.

Doyle glanced swiftly at his partner, seeking nothing more than the reassurance of his presence, expecting to catch him holding forth on some half-formed opinion or trying to top Stuart's wild tale with one of his own. Startled to discover a searching pair of blue eyes already fixed on him, their expression a mingling of concern and understanding. A lift of expressive eyebrows ('You OK, mate?') Doyle allowed the corners of his mouth to curl in a rueful smile-grimace ('Yeah, you know me. Just gets a bit much sometimes.') Deliberately his gaze dipped, trailing lazily down Bodie's body before lifting to meet the now cloudier blue-grey. He jerked his head fractionally towards the door. ('Get us out of here? I'll make it worth your while.') Enjoyed the barely noticeable splash of colour across his partner's cheekbones, the gleam of white teeth. ('Leave it with me, sunshine.') As Bodie returned his attention to his pint, Doyle involved himself in light conversation with Ruth, sitting alongside him.

Barely three minutes later, Doyle heard the clink of glass hitting wood, looked up to see Bodie stand up with an ostentatious stretch. "Right, I'm off," Bodie said. "You lot are just going to have to get by without my dazzling company."

He met Doyle's eye. "You want a lift, sunshine, it'll have to be now. That OK? Or are you going to make your own way?"

Two could play this game. Doyle frowned in indecision, glanced sorrowfully at his still half-full pint. "Dunno. Seems a shame to waste a good drink. You OK to hang on a few minutes?"

See, and raise. Bodie shrugged. "Not this time, mate. I'm done in. You carry on, though -- I'm sure someone with your looks and charm won't have a problem getting a ride." Turning away with a general wave and an unmistakably smug grin, he sauntered towards the exit.

Damn. Time for a bit of fast thinking. Doyle patted himself down in apparent alarm. "Hang on. He's only managed to take off with my wallet. Borrowed it to get a round in." Pushing his chair back, he took off in the direction of the door. "Bodie! Hold up!"

Slowing his pace as soon as he was out of sight of the others, Doyle strolled unhurriedly across the car park to the waiting Capri. Flung himself into the passenger seat, slamming the door with unnecessary vehemence. ('Anyone ever told you you're a complete bastard sometimes?') Bodie responded with a seraphic beam ('Yeah, mate. It's part of my charm.') Humour and irritation evaporated as a long, searching look passed between them. Doyle swallowed. ('No more messing about. Get us home. Now.') Immediately, obediently, Bodie gunned the engine, breaking all known speed limits as they careered through the thankfully sparsely populated streets.

They never made it to the bed. Sometimes, when time allowed and pressures were minimal, sex between them was gentle, romantic even, softly murmured endearments whispering back and forth as tenderly exploratory fingers provoked shivers and gasps, climax drawn forth with almost unbearable gradualness.

Today was not such an occasion. The two men crashed into Doyle's flat, door slammed shut behind them, fumbling hands giving up the struggle with buttons, ripping through cotton to grasp and scratch at goosebumped skin. Limbs tangling in uncoordinated desperation, inarticulate moans and grunts escaping from lips ground together. Trousers and underwear hoisted hastily to ankle level, shoes still on, the pair sagged down onto the carpeted floor, hands snaking round to cup and pull at buttocks, forcing their cocks into the closest possible contact. Thrusting in unison, teeth nipping at earlobes and necks, legs wrapping round each other in a frantic attempt to get even closer. No time for words, now, nothing existing but the overpowering urge to find sanctuary in mutual completion.

It couldn't last long. Doyle felt the familiar ache spark within him, growing and swelling until it felt as though he could burst with the sheer terrifying force of it, a hoarse primal yell escaping unbidden as the release of climax took over. He felt Bodie stiffen and shudder, heard a strangled gasp that was closer to a sob, felt warm stickiness spurt out to merge with his own. The two clung fiercely together, letting the horrors of the day surge over them and fade into a warm calm glow.

They rolled apart, lying side by side in comfortable contemplation as ragged breathing subsided. Doyle realised he was smiling, a broad inane grin that had plastered itself to his face without his knowledge. Turned towards Bodie, seeing a mirror image of the expression as his partner twisted his head round to meet his gaze.

Suddenly, Doyle had to speak. To find some way of communicating exactly what Bodie meant to him, how much he relied on him. He took a breath.

"Bodie," he began. "I..." The words caught in his throat and he shook his head, frustrated. Bodie nodded slowly, bringing up a hand in an unexpectedly tender gesture, placing a slightly sticky finger on Doyle's lips.

"It's OK, mate," he said, voice smooth and comforting as a mug of hot chocolate on a snowy day, and Doyle was warmed through. "I know."

-- THE END --

April 2008

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