The Two Trees


B: So why should he be working for them?
D: Two years in a Khmer prison camp, mate. I'd work for them.
B: Yeah, only 'til you got back. I mean, there's no law says you can only change sides once.


The man stretched his stiffening legs and walked four or five steps. The small barred window leaked sunlight into the isolation cell. He had been sitting, gazing stolidly for the past two hours, waiting or some inner prompting or divine guidance. None came. "Damn you, Bodie," he said. He spoke mainly for the benefit of his own ears, since there was no one to hear him. Even if there had been, the phrase had been uttered so many times before, with so many different inflections, that it would have warranted no reply. It had become his silent prayer and his waking curse. Reaching a decision, he bent down to retrieve the razor and began wielding it with careful precision. He had to hurry if he wanted to finish before the screws arrived.

He had been in the chockey for over a month now. His third time to earn this particular "privilege" in two years of imprisonment. Our imprisonment, he corrected himself automatically, since Bodie had been incarcerated at the same time. Conspiracy to commit murder was the charge and it had stuck. Bodie had the lion's share of the conviction--accused of murdering "King Billy" three days after the debacle at the bike races. Cowley's public reprimand had apparently not been enough to prevent murder. When King Billy had been found, strangled to death only hours after his release, all evidence pointed towards Bodie's involvement--and that of his partner, Raymond Doyle, ex-Met and now ex-CI5. At least Doyle's barrister had believed Doyle's claims of innocence. Pity that the court, prosecution and jury hadn't seen the same. As for Bodie's innocence--well, who could argue with fingerprints at the scene of death, forensic hair and skin samples on the deceased's body? Not to mention Bodie's previous murder attempt. In front of at least a half dozen witnesses, including the head of CI5. Fucked, that's what it was, thought Doyle bitterly.

The sound of the opening cell door grated and he swung to face the screws. "Come on Doyle, let's get a hair cut, come on...." The guard's face went white. The blood streamed down Doyle's face and dripped off his chin. Doyle's head was completely bald, the raw skin gleaming in the light. Blood welled from his forehead where he had cut himself in his haste to finish before the guards arrived. He heard someone shouting that a man was down, and hissed, "That's right. I'll cut my own fucking hair from now on."

The visit from the Medical Technical Assistant was brief, his cut only superficial. His conversation with the block lieutenant equally superficial--Doyle still seated on the toilet bowl when the man arrived.

"Doyle, my patience with you is growing thin. You know the regs--all prisoners must maintain hair of no longer than one inch. You've been with us for over two years now. You should know better." His irritation at having been summoned to deal with an injured prisoner was obvious.

Doyle glanced expressionessly at the lieutenant's face, flashing only briefly to the open cell corridor. "It was an accident," he understated.

"An accident?!" the lieutenant barked. "I'll bet you did this on purpose."

Doyle stood up, a lighter expression warming his face. "Sharp as a razor, you are. If I'd wanted to cut myself, I'd've slashed my own throat."

"Well," the lieutenant carried on as if Doyle had not spoken, "one thing for certain, you definitely don't need a haircut now!" Chortling at his own wit, the lieutenant turned to leave.

He froze when Doyle stepped forward. "No," the voice murmured lowly, "I don't need a haircut now. And the next thing I cut won't be my throat."

The lieutenant moved quickly out of reach and gestured to the guards. "Officers. Doyle is to receive no razors or shaving materials until he is released from isolation. And make certain he reports on time for work detail at the end of the term."

Doyle remained standing long after the cell doors rang closed and the sounds faded. "Damn you Bodie," he breathed as he turned back to his cot.

He was fucked indeed.

Doyle reported for work three days later. None of the other inmates commented on his shaven head--the unspoken rule that it if didn't concern you, you kept well out of it. Of course, when it came to Doyle there were always exceptions to be made. Doyle's personal tormentors varied in number--sometimes two, sometimes as many as six--but all eager to get in licks at a former copper and "secret agent man." By now they had learned to keep the taunts at a verbal, if vicious, level. Two admittees to the ward hospital had worked wonders.

Doyle's work detail consisted of sweeping and mopping the wings in Block C. The position didn't offer much pay and certainly did not have the prestige of working in the glove shop or the commissary where a prisoner could always snatch some extra food or materials to barter with. He told the prison work assignor that he didn't want those positions because the hours were too long. The real reason had to do with the constant watch on his surroundings--alone in the prison corridors, he could control his environment, be prepared for sudden assaults or violent initiation. He also had a chance to move about a bit. Enforced inactivity was something he had adapted to, but there were moments when he felt his limbs trembling with unexpressed energy and his heart pounding with the craving to run. Of course, he thought wryly, bending forward to pick up paper littering the floor, these were also symptoms of unrequited lust. Not that he had a chance to get off much lately. He'd heard the tales of prison sex; having spent time on the force, he also knew there were methods of making his favourite position clear. It hadn't been easy arriving as he had two years ago--a bent cop in more ways than one and any number of cons looking for a chance to prove just how tough they really were.

Well, perhaps crushing his first would-be paramour's balls had been a bit much, but it had gotten the point across.

"Hey, Doyle. You got any cigs?" It was Bade Hull, a prisoner whose ability to simultaneously avoid exertion while instigating a pounding disagreement had earned him a permanent rest from work details.

"No. You know I don't smoke."

"Give me a break Doyle. I didn't ask if you smoked, only if you had some to trade with."

"What do you have to trade with, Hull? Last I heard, you owed Severson two packs and Gate was moaning how you'd stolen his monthly ration while he was showering."

"Screw Gate. He smells and couldn't find his own bum if his hands were grafted to his arse. What I've got is worth more than a pack of smokes anyway."

Moving a bit closer, Doyle cautiously glanced up the corridor before snorting skeptically, "Now who's been filling your ear?"

"Well--" the con paused dramatically, enjoying the brief importance that interrupted his day, "it'll cost you one whole pack to hear."

"Done," Doyle motioned with his mop, "if I think it's worth it, that is."

"I hear that the IRA is mounting another sweep for jail informants and you're top of the list. Any day now and the muscle men will start canvassing for grasses."

"Hell, I'm not interested in grassing. And even if I were, the bloody IRA is too cheap for me."

"Oh, it's not money they'll be offering this time. Yeh, you're screwed, mate!"

Groaning inwardly, Doyle shrugged his shoulders. He picked up his bucket and moved further down the corridor. "Sorry, Hull. Thought you were saying something important for a moment. Didn't realize you were just running off again." He kept on, ignoring the jeers. Give them half a chance to see what they had to say was important and you'd never hear anything valuable. His only coin of trade was indifference and a smug arrogance that had some inmates fairly bursting to spend bad news in his direction.

He moved his mop rhythmically over the other side of the corridor. It wouldn't be the first time the IRA had approached him for information. Or any other number of criminal organizations who would have loved to have learned the workings of CI5. Hell, his knowledge of operations procedures alone could have bought him an easier life--and probably a death warrant if Cowley ever found out.

He had refused the admin's offer of isolation to "save" him from attacks. He couldn't last more than a few months in the chockey, let alone six years. Besides, there were no guarantees that he'd survive even under lock. Better that the other inmates thought him bent as the rest, that he could be bought. If it caused Cowley some sleepless nights, he didn't lose any sleep himself.

Doyle tried not to think of Cowley much. His experiences with the uncompromising head of CI5 had never led him to believe that his life, or that of any other agent, was as important as the reputation of Cowley's precious department. Cowley would have pulled the trigger on Bodie. Doyle was certain of that. And when evidence had mounted against his two agents, Cowley had withdrawn to a distance calculated to impress upon the world and Whitehall that he abhorred lawlessness as much as the next man.

Doyle finished mopping and signaled that he wanted to proceed to the next assigned area. His shoulders tensed as he passed through the block divider. He waited motionlessly until the opposing locks opened. The close quarters felt suddenly oppressive. Nervous, he spoke abruptly to the guard, "Hey! I want to go back to my cell."

"You're not finished, Doyle. You've still the rest of Cellblock C to mop."

"I'm not feeling well. Wouldn't want me to puke over your shoes, eh?" His wildly glinting eye traveled nauseously up and down the guard's uniform.

"Okay," the guard replied. "I'll have to report this. Won't get any work credits for a half-done job."

Doyle grunted and returned to his cell. Once the guard left, he reached upwards to the single light bulb in his ceiling and unscrewed it. This was another part of the prison routine. It was an easy way to take out another inmate--slip a bit of foil between the contact point and bulb and wait until the lights were switched on in the evening. The exploding glass would blind or maim. Doyle had heard at least one man scream himself hoarse while waiting for the MTAs to arrive. The bulb-socket was empty. Doyle replaced the light and sat down on his bunk.

He had learned to listen to his inner voice. The last time he'd ignored it, Bodie had run amok, chasing his ex-mate's killers across the countryside. Then, he had turned a blind eye to the radical changes in Bodie, firmly believing that over-involvement with one's partner--or lover--led to increasing dependence, emotionalism and eventual cock-ups. Now his inner voice was murmuring again--that Hull was telling a portion of the truth. If the IRA was planning on mounting another high profile winter bombing campaign, their first move would be to canvass for grasses. He almost wished he'd kept contact with some of his former colleagues at CI5--they could use this kind of information. Not that any of them had made an effort to seek his company out before he and Bodie had entered prison. Or even when they were on trial. If he could only speak to Bodie.... Any excuse would do.

Irritated with this line of thinking, Ray stood up and moved towards the cell door to crane at the hall clock--2:30. It would be another two hours before the work shift ended and the other inmates returned to their cells. Bodie, his wayward mind whispered; if he could get a message to Bodie in Soperstone prison, he'd be able to pass the information along to CI5. He still spoke to Cowley on occasion--or so prison rumour said.

No, Ray decided. He sat down, willing his heart into the cold, unfeeling state that had held its grip for the past two years. For Ray Doyle had neither seen nor spoken to Bodie since they had entered prison.

The prison yard could have been empty as far as Bodie was concerned. Left, right. Step, step. Left, right. Bodie walked the circuit, occasionally turning to face the weak sun. Amidst the group of men gathered to talk and trade, he moved alone. Bodie's eyes flicked over each face as he passed--like black scavengers, they leaned or shifted in and out of his view. He viewed each with the proper amount of suspicion or indifference as merited. The damp mid-morning air held a hint of fog. It hazed what little view Soperstone prison offered from the exercise yard.

The cigarette lay in his loosely curled hand, to be lit and enjoyed later. Smoking was a new/old habit--one of the many patterns he re-adopted after entering prison. In some ways, coming to prison was like being a soldier again. He rose when they told him, he ate what they gave him, he pissed whenever he could, and tried to stay out of trouble.

Not like Doyle. Always in trouble. Still pushing everyone and everything. Still angry at the conviction. Of course, that's what he heard through the mill. It fit with the Doyle he had last seen.

Bodie couldn't see how Doyle's attitude really made a difference. They were behind bars and there they would stay. Left, right, left, right. He glared down at his shoes, making certain that they moved across the cracked pavement in proper order. He had been angry once. After King Billy's death, he had sat in the courtroom in mounting disbelief and shock. Eventually it had bled into cynical detachment. The guilty verdict had a poetic irony to it.

Side by side (as in life, so in death--or prison) they'd sat in the courtroom. Evidence of their guilt materialized at the hands of barristers. Skilled rhetoric drew the worst of his past before the jury. Hell, even he would have convicted such obviously unprincipled and dangerous killers had he been sitting in judgment. Poor Doyle--he'd been convicted mainly by association. Never mind that the circumstantial evidence lifted from the dead had led the police directly to them both.

Bodie felt in his pocket for matches to light the cigarette. His hand trembled minutely and he quickly shoved it back into his pocket. Two deep breaths steadied him further and he continued his pacing.

No, the guilty verdict didn't bother him. This "prison" didn't bother him--he'd seen worse. The few initiation attempts by misguided English toughs had been handled with a brutality that had shocked their fine criminal sensibilities. Amazing what years in the field could teach you. But his memories of Doyle were what pressed him into the corner each night, not memories of past horrors.

Doyle's silence began when King Billy's death had been announced in Cowley's office. It followed Bodie through their temporary suspension, into the investigation, and lasted into court. It grated on him, wearing his detachment away until he was afraid someone--the judge, jury, reporters--would notice his trembling legs and sweating hands as he stood to hear the guilty verdict. But Doyle never glanced his way once. Never.

Left, right, Bodie moved through the yard. His mind always locked when he exercised. He never could control it like Kenshai thought he should. When Williams had died, it was his mind that kept nattering, never pausing, hammering for revenge. His need to restore the balance had taken him by surprise--moral perspectives and value judgment he left to Doyle and Cowley. But he found himself planning Billy's death with inventiveness and perseverance. Even his dreams had carried the taint. He'd needed Billy's death just as he had needed Doyle. In the end, he had had both.

Bodie clamped down hard on those thoughts. Don't think, don't think, his feet whispered on the pavement. He knew he should have tried to talk to Doyle after the conviction. He knew he should have shaped some explanation before they went in. He wanted Doyle to know--and believe--he was innocent.

But even if he had made the effort--even had he scaled those impossible heights, he knew there would be nothing but hate and bitterness to greet him.

With Doyle, you never had to wait long. Walking away from Cowley's office, he had barely begun to explain, when Doyle had cut him off.

"Think you're still hot shit, don't you? Tough man on the street and tough man in bed. Well, you're wrong on both ends, sunshine. Never did think you had a bit of finesse there. Did you never wonder what your girlfriends used to complain to me about? Your idea of a good time left them running to me like lepers seeking a miracle cure. So why don't you just get the hell out of here?"

Funny, his memory would keep that precious pebble. No matter. As if proving his innocence could have changed Doyle's opinion of him. He knew what they all thought of him--brutal mercenary, lover of the gun, unprincipled man for hire. He had worked hard, reshaping that image for Doyle--laughing, charming, he had wooed his partner for years. And when Doyle had finally given in, Bodie's past was washed away. If CI5 had become his redemption, Doyle was his personal savior.

Saviors were supposed to forgive. Doyle apparently would not. No response to his calls, no response to his barrister's inquiries, no response to even CI5's unofficial check-in. The bastard thought Bodie was guilty. Damn the man.

Bodie shut his eyes, squeezing away the memory of Ray lying curled on the forest floor, his anorak bright red in the darkness.

He stopped, his circuit complete, and lit the cigarette. The ravens had gathered at the yard entrance. Each entering prisoner paid the toll--one cigarette to get in, one cigarette to get out. A fair price for a bit of sun and fresh air--at least that's what the toll takers thought.

Bodie inhaled and blew smoke along his exit. He sensed a gathering behind him, to his left, where they thought he could not see. He held the cigarette tightly and walked forward. His gaze wandered, almost vaguely, past the unsmiling faces. Then, reaching with his left hand, he grabbed the nearest shoulder and twisted the body closer. The smell of burning flesh rose faintly in the morning air, the screams driving a wedge through the gathering. My God, thought Bodie as he slipped past them, and to think I'd almost given up smoking.

Why couldn't he have just left it alone, Doyle wondered in his bunk. The bastard had to try to explain it all away--`Ray, I love you. Ray, I'm innocent.' Doyle still did not believe the latter and studiously ignored the former. If you loved someone, would you plan a confrontation and then use your lover as bait? He hadn't known about the underlying tension between King Billy and Bodie when he'd agreed to take part in the cycle run. By the time the race was over, the point had been made painfully clear. And then, later, when Cowley arrived to warn him that his partner had somehow taken leave of his senses, what did Bodie do? Slam him into the dirt and mud in his blinding desire to hurt and keep on hurting. Oh Bodie loved him all right--a good screw and a good punching bag, that's what he was. Well no more. He carefully crept around the ache in his middle that sprang up whenever he thought of Bodie and rolled into his afternoon sleep.

Bodie stepped slowly around the piece on the factory floor and grinned at the man standing next to him. "I don't know what good you think it'll do, Nigel. Looks like it'll fly apart the minute you switch it on."

His companion, a compact fellow with dark hair and even darker expression, protested. "It's not supposed to work, idiot. It's an artistic statement. Move over, you're treading on the power cord." With a grand flourish, Nigel flipped a switch and the entire rehab-through-artistic-expression classroom was treated to a spectacular explosion of lights, smoke and soft sizzling as mounds of paper and glue melted to the accompaniment of Bodie's amused snorting.

Clapping his cell-mate on the back, Bodie offered, "Help you clean it up. Can't have budding artists stifling their creativity, now can we?" Laughing, Nigel reached for some rags and dragged the bin closer. They had been enrolled in the prison art clinic for the last six months and both men had found it a welcome diversion from the typical entertainment offered. Neither particularly cared for some of the more serious educational programs that were supposed to rehabilitate and reform the inmate population. As Bodie often remarked, the only thing that needing rehabilitating besides the British judiciary system was the lack of sweets on the cafeteria menu.

Smiling to himself, Bodie worked quickly alongside Nigel to clear up the congealing mess before the class ended. Sweets were the one craving Bodie had never quite overcome during his years in prison. As for other cravings--well, if absence truly made the heart grow dear, then Ray Doyle would cost a bloody fortune by now. Couldn't buy him even if I had my own weight in chocolate in trade, he thought, throwing glue-covered paper into the bin.

His movements grew more abrupt. Years of imprisonment had not dulled his graceful precision. He flexed a bit, glad his body had managed to keep some of its corded musculature. He shifted his weight back on his heels and paused thoughtfully. Who did Doyle think he was, blaming him for their conviction? Bodie had nothing to do with the prosecutors and the jury--he hadn't even killed King Billy for that matter. "Sanctimonious prick," muttered Bodie to himself.

Nigel glanced up sharply, his tone guarding itself. "What're you mumbling? Not regretting the grand experiment already?"

Bodie stared past Nigel, towards the clock that measured each minute, each day, with agonizing precision. He remembered the bewildering rage that had fueled his search for Billy and his determined race towards confrontation. It was as if he had become another person, as if his heart had been lost in a maze of impulses. One moment crowing euphorically with victory over King Billy, the next driving his fists into anyone who stood in his way.

Nigel continued to watch Bodie, recognizing the signs. He had been cell-mates with the man for over a year now and had quickly learned the art of keeping a low profile when it came to Bodie's black moods. Not an easily frightened man, Nigel had only just weathered the last bout. His bruises still hadn't healed.

Violence had always been Bodie's sleeping enemy. It had a special lure. He liked its simplistic, straightforward approach. But after reaching adulthood, he had grown to fear what he was becoming. He had awoken in the bush one morning, reached for his gun, and gut-shot a newcomer. The youth had tripped over Bodie's bedroll. The report of the gun, the sound settling over the sleepy camp like a well worn blanket, the shift of the corpse as it rolled down the slope into the stream below, all had passed in routine observance and calm acceptance. Only Bodie had stood, half naked in the burning air, to watch the body fall again and again. He had packed and moved on to Buengala the next day. Three weeks later, after carefully stretching his money, he reached England. His path to CI5 had not been easy--still, CI5 clothed him in a legitimacy he craved. It had also given him Ray Doyle.

Why then had he been so willing to throw it all away?

Nigel spoke up again, but his words were lost against the backdrop of Bodie's memories. When Nigel reached out and touched his shoulder, Bodie reacted swiftly. Without blinking or pausing in his clean-up, Bodie flicked his left arm outwards, grabbed Nigel by the neck and shoved his face into the sodden pile of papier mâché. Spitting slightly, Nigel blurted out, "You were in Africa, weren't you?"

Glaring, Bodie stood up abruptly and shifted the last of the papier mâché into the bin next to Nigel.

"I only ask," Nigel babbled on, "'cause I heard there's a new prisoner that was a merc in Africa same as you, I mean I heard you were a merc in Africa and thought...." Bodie remained standing, staring down at his cell-mate with a bland expression. Nigel began to sweat and decided to get this over with so he could go back to the cell and pretend that Bodie wasn't going to be staring all evening. "Anyway, his name is Olsen. You can see him at the chapel tonight--all the fresh meat'll be there."

The bell rang and the guards entered the room signaling that the hour was over. Hanging back a bit to catch his breath, Nigel watched Bodie stride past him as if he weren't there. Hope he continues to not see me, thought Nigel. It would be a long wait until services began if the mad bastard didn't lighten up.

Doyle woke when the cell block inmates slowly filed past his room. He waited some time before realizing that his cell-mate had not returned. When one of the guards sauntered past, he stood and called out, "Vafidis! Where's Wentker?" Without pausing, the guard replied, "He's been moved to the open prison in Medford. Shouldn't have been tied up with the likes of you cutthroats." Doyle sat again. This wasn't much better than solitary confinement. He scratched his head, feeling the stubble of hair between his fingers. At least in the chockey he hadn't had to listen to this noise. It surrounded him with a thickness, and for a moment Doyle felt the walls of his cell closing in. He stood, taking deep breaths, using meditation skills CI5 had drilled into him during training.

The doors in the neighboring cells opened with a clang in time to his exhalations. It was time for the weekly cinema and, responding to routine, Doyle joined them. Their numbers were carefully counted and recounted before the group marched to the gymnasium that doubled as the cinema. Each step was studied by new prison dogs. The dogs were trained to attack runners, so the prisoners had adopted a peculiar gait--a steady pace, uninterrupted by abrupt physical jerking or movement.

At the gym, folding chairs were set out in neat rows and the guards took care to place troublemakers well apart. Doyle found himself wedged in the center aisles wondering if this week's segment of Gone With the Wind in Six Parts, was worth the effort. The "theater" lights were only half-darkened to prevent real trouble from developing. The film was hard to follow since it was periodically disrupted by the sound fading and officers calling out names and numbers. Some brilliant planner always scheduled weekly visits at the same time that rec hour took place. Each name was greeted by whistles and roars of protest. Men who were called had to stand up, grope their way out, treading on feet, all while generally being cursed at.

Doyle stirred restlessly, wondering if he should have stayed in his cell. He had never seen this film before and was trying to grasp what the lead was saying to the woman on screen when he felt an elbow jab into his ribs. Twisting to his left, his hand formed a fist, only be stopped by the sound of his name being called, "Doyle. 30347! Proceed to the aisle for your visitor!" Doyle rose automatically. He moved jerkily as he struggled to think of who would be visiting him. He had refused to see his family in prison. And it was unlikely that any of his colleagues or friends would pop in for an unannounced visit after such a long time.

Turning to the guard waiting for him at the door, he whispered, "Who is it?"

"Just shut up and keep moving," the guard replied. In the dim light Doyle struggled to recognize the man's face but the name escaped him. Probably a screw from one of the other blocks, he thought, and stepped into the cooling night.

The blow caught him unawares and he fell, stunned, to his knees. Recovering, he kicked out with his left leg and rolled over to a crouching position, then he froze--the penalty for striking a screw flashing in his mind; another six months in the chockey and he'd surely go insane. The brief hesitation cost him; more arms and hands descended. A rank sheet was thrown over his head. The shiv at his throat forced him to stand upright. He heard the screw's voice in the distance softly intone, "You got 'im for twenty minutes. Any longer and they'll start asking questions." The sound of feet receded and Doyle was thrust forward and through an opening. He was in the laundry room--close enough to the gym for the others to hear if he shouted. The shiv must have felt his intake of breath because the edge bit his throat with sharp emphasis, "Keep quiet or you'll never hear the sound of your body hitting the floor." The voice had a faint accent and Doyle felt a shudder as he placed it--Belfast, IRA--Ranney?

The hands forced him to kneel on the stone floor, the knife never wavering from his throat. He strained to identify his captors--the laundry cloth was too thick and his senses were filled with its smell of urine and ammonia.

"It's like this, Doyle--we want the names of the IRA undercover agents operating in the roving cells--we've known about them for some time--hell, we even used 'em to our advantage haven't we lads?" Several voices murmured and he heard one hoarse chuckle which was quickly stifled. "But now we need to know exactly who they are--and we understand you're in a position to give us what we want."

The knife bit deeper. Doyle took a shallow breath and pulled himself upright. "What makes you think that, Ranney? Never showed much inclination in your direction."

The voice came closer--he could hear the sound of each exhalation and felt the warm weight pressing against his side. "Just because there are screams doesn't mean a woman isn't willing. Let's just say I'll find a way to persuade you--we've only got fifteen minutes left. Doesn't leave much time for finesse."

Doyle enunciated his next words carefully. "Fuck off, Ranney. If you need that information so badly you won't kill me. And if you need it that badly you'd find better and more current sources than me. I haven't exactly been on CI5 payroll for the past two years."

"You lack imagination, Doyle, but then so do most. I won't kill you--I won't even hurt you much. But how long do you think you'd last if that screw outside were found dead with this shiv in him and yours the only prints? "

"So you got method and opportunity. So what's my motive? Protesting the lack of selection in the weekly cinema?" Doyle stretched, testing the awareness of his captor. Feeling no give in the knife.

"Motive? Oh we'll have an ironclad motive. Hold him, lads." Doyle's arms and legs were seized and he was thrust face down to the floor. The knife moved away from his throat and he bucked wildly trying to connect with the bodies holding him down. His trousers were pulled down and bunched up at his knees. He sensed rather than felt the shiv cutting the back of his underlayers to rest on the cleft between his legs. He froze again, suddenly aware of his gasping breath and the silent eagerness of the men holding him.

"Sick bent copper. Kept flashing it at the guards. Lured that poor, nice screw into the laundry for a bit a' leg over--seeking special favors he was. When the naughty bit was done, the screw backed out of the agreement and the little poofter went mad. Grabbed his shiv and had a go at slicing and dicing. Naturally, there'll be several witnesses to back this up. Remember what they do to screw killers in here?" The knife traced a fine line down to his balls and pricked him teasingly. "Of course the right names would go a long way in putting this beauty back to where it belongs. So what'll be your pleasure?"

Doyle shouted, knowing that his cries would bring no one--the guard outside would see to that. And probably be killed for his efforts. He felt the man behind him remove the knife, could see in his mind the hands reaching to undo the trousers, could picture with perfect clarity the erect cock pushing forward as the body bent closer. His mind froze at the image--he felt his breathing stop and he choked back another cry. What were a few names to this uncompromising reality? CI5, George Cowley, his ideals, even Bodie--what were they in the face of rape, murder and the remainder of his life spent in isolation? If he was lucky. Most likely, he'd wake one night to find himself being ghosted by the other screws into an early grave. CI5 was a distant past, a half-dream he spent between his waking hours and elusive sleep. This was the world he lived in--and if he didn't survive, then who would know? Who would care? Only silence would follow his last echo.

"Right!" he whispered. Coughing on the fumes and his body's rebellion, he raised his voice, "I'll give you the names."

"Glad to see that CI5's finest haven't lost their skills at negotiation," the voice mocked. "Tell the screw that we'll need a few more minutes to wrap this up." Doyle heard the door open, then close quickly. His body felt disconnected. He briefly wondered if he'd ever be able to move again. "So speak!"

The knife nicked him slightly and he felt a wetness trickling down between his legs. He hoped it was just the feel of his own sweat and fear. "John Foote. Works out of Bristol. Code name, Seal Beach." He coughed again, his body hiccuping upwards.

"Another," the knife prompted.

"The only other agent I know of lives in London--don't know where. His name is Bob Fisher. His code name is Seagull."

Silence followed. Idly, Doyle wondered if they had heard him. Then, a voice floated from the back of the room. "Good. We'll need to keep the source to ourselves--one whiff that he's talked and Cowley'd have him out of here so fast even ghosting would look like a leisurely stroll down the park. Get him up."

Doyle was dragged out into the courtyard and his covering was ripped off. Before he could turn around and identify his attackers, the guard approached him and shoved his night stick alongside his face. "Move it, Doyle. And keep this to yourself."

Dazed, Doyle pushed back into the dimmed gym to sit unmoving, staring blindly at the screen. When would they come for him again? The IRA never let a grass go--at least not until the grass was dead. All he had managed to do was buy himself some time. But time was all he had left. Doyle did not realize he was crying until he touched his face. His hands moved down his body in wonderment. He was still alive. That was all that mattered. Cheeks wet, he drifted through a confused jumble of steel, blood and half-remembered dreams.

Bodie was bored. Most inmates went to the chapel to socialize; few gained any spiritual comfort. Nigel was absent--probably hiding again. Bodie stared at the faded walls and shifted on the folding chair. He thought back to Nigel's rantings. So there was another African refugee in prison. Probably a pimply faced cracker who'd boasted his way into prison notoriety. Chances of meeting an actual mercenary in a cold English prison were very slim.

"Let us pray." The whining voice from the pulpit straggled the "congregation" to its feet. As the service ended, he caught a glimpse of a familiar face two rows over. Collapsing in his chair with a surprised grunt, Bodie wondered how Munger had ended up in prison and why he was calling himself Olsen. The man should have stayed in the backwaters of Africa, lost along with the rest of the damned.

Bodie paced thoughtfully back to Cellblock D. When the inmate in front of him turned to whisper "Bodie. Tomorrow. Breakfast. Olsen," he could only nod quickly before stepping inside his cell. Nigel took one look at Bodie's wandering eye and headed straight for his bunk. The small man wedged himself tightly next to the wall, keeping his breathing shallow to avoid attracting attention. He could have spared the effort. Bodie's thoughts were directed well away from his trembling cell-mate.

He had only vague memories of Munger--or rather Olsen. They had met shortly after Bodie had jumped ship in West Africa, eager to escape the monotony of the merchant marine. Bored with the seaboard life, he'd hoped that the money and challenge as a soldier would prove more to his liking. He had heard that the newly liberated Congo was embroiled in a civil war and both sides were eagerly looking for foreign fighters to pad their military programs. God, he'd been so stupid--thinking that his size would compensate for his youth, that his arrogance and charm would outweigh his utter lack of experience in warfare. When he'd finally arrived in Congo, he'd found that only experienced soldiers were in demand and that a blue-eyed, pale-skinned English boy did not lack for offers--if he didn't mind earning his living flat on his belly. Desperate, Bodie accepted the first semi-legitimate offer to work as weapons handler and general assistant.

Bodie rose early the next morning. Entering the cafeteria, he picked up his breakfast tray, visually swept the room, and finally settled next to Olsen. "Hello, Munger. What brings you to this side of the Channel?"

"Name's Olsen. Munger died in '61. You remember 1961, don't you Bodie?"

Bodie glanced up sharply from his gritty eggs, swallowing quickly. "What the hell is going on? Last I heard, you retired to Cairo."

Munger smiled down at his plate and then uttered, "Tolles. Don't tell me you've forgotten Tolles too?"

Bodie pushed his tray away, weakly wondering if Munger would always be incompatible with his appetite. "You didn't ask me here to reminisce, did you Munger? Spit it out or shove off. I left you and Tolles and the rest of those slimy bastards behind. Long forgotten is what you are."

Munger sighed and Bodie looked him over more carefully. The man's face, weathered even at the tender age of eighteen by drink and hard living, had sagged further, following its owner into oblivion. Sandy hair had receded and faded into a light brown-grey. Munger's body suffered from middle-age spread, leaving no part of him untouched. Weariness and defeat lay on him, and Bodie was hard pressed to believe that Munger was only three years older. His malice remained the same. "But that's the problem, Bodie-Boy. We weren't long forgotten. And you and I are the lucky ones--we're still alive."

Bodie clucked his tongue with false sympathy. "Always did hate that nick-name, Mangy. And what are you driveling about."

"Driveling?! It's hardly drivel that sent me to Soperstone prison. I was on a quick trip, stopping over in London to wrap up some financials, when the next thing I know, I'm up on murder charges. Supposedly killed a prostitute, if you can believe that!"

Bodie could believe it. Munger had always had a vicious temper and the more he drank, the bigger his prick became and the more he wanted from his whores. "Never did have much luck with women," Bodie needled.

"Fuck off, Bodie. I hardly need to smash 'em about any more. You were right--I had retired to Cairo and set up a sweet export dealership--you know the sort--`We take all kinds of cash.' Anyway, it was a fit-up and I can prove it."

Bodie leaned back in the plastic chair and looked over Munger's head. "So I still don't see why you wanted to see me. Can't have missed me that much."

Munger's face grew alternately paler and redder as Bodie's face lit up with a well-hated smirk. Lowering his head he repeated, "I have proof that it was a fit-up and I understand you have connections with CI5." Bodie waited. Munger clenched his jaw against this show of indifference. "I know, I know. Why should CI5 be interested in helping me? Well, let me put it plainly. How would the head of CI5 like to be first to uncover how the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold died in the Congo jungle in 1961. And why?"

Bodie stared a bit longer into the distance and then leaned forward. Cautiously watching the guards, he laid his hand casually over Munger's wrist. "There are hundreds of theories as to how Dag Hammarskjold died--his plane malfunctioned and he crashed in the jungle. One of the warring sides--or both--planted a bomb so that his plane would crash before he landed to lead the peace negotiations. Hammarskjold himself chose a spectacular form of suicide and sabotaged his own flight. UFOs snatched his body and destroyed the plane. So don't muck around with a story so old that even the Sun and the News would think twice about writing it up." With each phrase Bodie's grip on Munger's wrist tightened until the veins began to stand out.

Munger roused himself and hissed. "Dammit, Bodie you can be so dense. Why do you think Tolles separated us from the main group so early that fall? Why were we twenty-five miles behind our own lines on September 17? And where did you think that Katangese transport plane came from?"

Still holding tightly to Munger, Bodie replied, "So what are you saying? That seven mercs and one boy single-handedly assassinated the United Nation's Secretary-General because they had nothing better to do?"

"Don't be so bloody daft!" Munger exploded and then quickly hushed as the eyes of one of the screws turned their way. "We were paid to kill him. And paid well. How did you think I was able to retire at the age of eighteen? Clean living?"

"So why didn't I know anything about this? I was there, remember?"

"Yeah, you were there," Munger smiled nastily. "But you weren't exactly one of us. And a bit preoccupied with keeping Tolles off your back--and out of your arse. When the time came, we sent you off to collect medical supplies from the main camp. Took you what--two, three days?"

"Three days," Bodie muttered.

"Well, that's it. You weren't around when the plane came."

"What bleeding plane?! And who came?"

"Wiley. You remember Woolly Wiley? The nutter who flew the ancient Dove all over the jungle? He was in on it too."

"In on what?!" Bodie abruptly let Munger's wrist loose, watching with satisfaction as the man tried to rub circulation back into his flesh.

"The assassination. And it wasn't a bomb. We decided that a bomb would be too easy to identify if the wreckage was ever found. And the men who wanted Hammarskjold dead didn't want it to look like an assassination. Just like an accident. Problem was the friggin idiots took so long to find the plane that all kinds of weird theories started to crop up. It wasn't so bad after the first flush of 'em died out. But then that journalist Virving started up again four years ago and... well, here I am."

Sighing gustily Bodie tried to put a brave face on his frustration. "So let me get this. You, Tolles and five other men are hired by entities unknown to assassinate the UN Secretary-General by methods unknown. Twenty years later you end up in prison for killing a whore and it's all the fault of a Swedish journalist. Let me call CI5 right away. And while I'm at it, I'll just ring up the Daily News for good measure. You're full of it, Munger."

"Shit!" Munger replied. "I'm not going to give you this all up front. I'll need assurances from CI5 that I'll be protected if I talk. I'm the only one besides you that is still alive. And I'm certain it's not a coincidence that we're both locked up where we can't talk."

"Now what's that supposed to mean?" Bodie had very little patience for melodrama and even less for paranoia.

"I'm saying that I didn't kill that whore but that somebody went through a lot of trouble to make it look like I did. I'm saying that in the last four years I have weathered at least ten separate assassination attempts. Hardly unusual if I was still on the front lines, but not the norm even in my line of work."

"So what's so special about the last four years?"

"Don't you know? Well, I guess you wouldn't, you poor sod being stuck on this island. Four years ago that journalist announced that he knew that Hammarskjold was killed by mercs operating in the area. Even took out a TV spot in Sweden asking for any survivors or witnesses to step forward and clear their consciences. I guess our employers were afraid we'd do just that. As of four years ago all eight of us were alive and living. Now only you and I remain. You calculate the odds of that being a coincidence."

"Well, it certainly makes a nice story. But I don't believe in fairy tales, Munger. Give me something real and I might consider passing the info on."

"Never did trust me did you Bodie? Well, I don't blame you after what Tolles did to you the first night out. But I trust you and that's what counts."

"Eh?" Bodie was past the point of trying to grasp Munger's cryptic comments.

"I said I trust you. I mean I've heard that you say you didn't kill that biker either. I don't think our employers really knew for sure that you weren't there when we pulled the op. And even if Tolles had bothered to tell them that we sent you packing, they wouldn't want any loose ends. So I think I can trust you--you're in this as deep as I am."

"Right. Next time I slip on the stairs to the rec room I'll remember to blame it on your friendly employers. The information, Munger!"

Closing his eyes Munger softly intoned nine numbers--the numbers of a Swiss bank account where funds had supposedly been deposited in 1961. "Of course you won't find any of it there. We split it up and placed it into our own kontos. But you should be able to get the transaction records to confirm the dates and sums."

"Fine. I'll get back to you." Bodie stood up, reaching for the tray before Munger could continue with his fervent whisperings. It all made him sick. The lies, the posturing, the long suppressed secrets. And most of all the memories that stirred unpleasantly in Bodie's stomach. But what if he was right? What if there was a shred of truth in Mangy's mumblings. Shit, what if...?

Turning abruptly on his heel, Bodie glanced up at the cafeteria clock. 8:45. It would be another forty-five minutes before the rec room would open and he could submit a petition to make a phone call. Normally he would have to wait a day or two for the warden to approve his outside contact. But Cowley's last speech promised a swift response if he ever needed to contact CI5. Not that Bodie had ever had occasion to use it, no matter what the other inmates thought. The risks of being thought a CI5 grass could only barely be balanced against his own manic reputation and the vague fear that he was still Cowley's blue-eyed boy.

Cowley had never made reference to Bodie's guilt even after the Crown Prosecution Services had won a conviction. He'd never condemned him by word or gesture, even though he had also avoided exonerating him. Bodie remembered this small act as one of kindness. Still, as far as Bodie was concerned, he'd mucked around enough on CI5's behalf. Munger's information was a completely different matter, however. Waiting for the escort along with the other prisoners, Bodie was not surprised to find his hands were sweating. How was he going to explain this to Doyle?

Ray Doyle lay quietly on his bunk, memorizing the play of light on the pale green surface of the wall. From his lower position, he could just barely make out the corridor clock. He found it incredible the way time stopped moving in prison. Often he found himself wandering far away, thinking of the end of his sentence and the things he'd want to do and the places he'd go, and then suddenly he'd come back with a jerk to where he was. Then he'd say to himself, `Oh well, all that helped pass a bit of time.' Then he'd look at that damn clock and see that the hand had moved exactly one minute since he looked at it before.

Now he swore that the hand did not move at all.

For the past three days, Ray Doyle had refused to move from his cell. When the screws came to escort him to work, he had pleaded the flu. His lethargy and overall pallor had convinced the MTA, who really did not care if a prisoner malingered as long as he finished his rounds ahead of schedule. So Doyle had been left alone in his cell, waiting for something to change. He certainly did not look any different after the night in the laundry room. Maybe he was a bit more unkempt. Maybe his eyes wandered more frequently. He found it a let down that his loss should have been marked with only a simple "we'll get back to you" and "keep your mouth shut." It reminded him of a poem one of the inmates had scribbled on the shower wall:

Due to a general lack of interest
Tomorrow has been canceled
And in its place will be
A continuous repetition of today.
Which may be very monotonous
But definitely seems to be
In response to public demand.

There was a disturbance in the hallway, and the sounds of general catcalling and merriments. The noise echoed hollowly in Doyle's ears and he listened peripherally, the light dulling his senses and place in reality. When his cell door swung open and the screw appeared, he sat up slowly, blinking in time with unsteady heartbeats.

"Doyle. Stand clear." Screws generally only ordered prisoners to stand clear when another prisoner or guard was about to enter the cell. He lifted his legs off the bunk and rose, placing his back the prescribed foot from the rear wall. It was only when he reached his position that Doyle's body jerked. Ranney may have bribed the guards again. Instinctively he surged forward, raising his hands to fend off an attack. He faltered as his visitor entered the cell. It was Bodie.

Doyle found the image difficult to understand. After all this time and all the careful non-imaginings, Bodie looked exactly as he should--paler, his flesh a little looser and the eyes even colder. He strained to capture the image, to control the fantasy before it slipped away to reveal Ranney or Vafidis or the MTA staring at him with amusement and contempt. Somewhere a part of his awareness noted that this Bodie was not wearing prison issue, but that only confirmed his belief that his mind had blissfully snapped. But it was his Bodie nonetheless.

Leaning back against the cell bars, Bodie watched Doyle retreat into a familiar nonchalant pose. The guard outside spoke but neither the tone nor the words registered. "Ray. I've just come from talking to Cowley," Bodie said. "We're to be released. Now. They've been able to prove that it was a fit-up all along." Bodie paused, searching Ray for some hint of awareness that his words were penetrating.

"Ray! Look, I know it's a bit abrupt. But didn't you hear what I said? We're to be released and the charges dropped. Sure, there'll be a lot of paperwork and other mess to sort out--but you know Cowley. He's never been one to play exactly by the rules has he?" Bodie dropped his voice into the cultured roundness he had used whenever he wanted to make Ray laugh. Carefully approaching, he wondered if this was going to be a repeat of their last meeting. He wasn't too certain that the screws outside really believed in their new innocence. It would suit their twisted sense of humour to see them go at each other. It was what he'd do if he'd been Doyle. But Ray stood firmly pressed against the wall. He did not move or speak.

Bodie paused, again considering the next move. He glanced quickly over his shoulder, marking the positions of the guards, just in case. Cowley had tried to tell him that he might not be the best person to break the news to his ex-partner. But Bodie had stubbornly insisted that no one but himself fetch Ray from prison. He was not about to allow the bastard to spend another two years pretending Bodie did not exist. Once they were outside--well that would be another reality. This was his time now, borrowed though it may be.

Bodie considered Doyle. God, he looked terrible! His broad chest, always overshadowing the tapered waist, had lost much of the muscle tone. He had lost weight (of course Bodie had only gained) and his eyes and skin had the unhealthy pallor of a man locked inside with little access to sun or fresh air. But it was the hair that placed this Doyle almost past the point of recognition. Soft fuzz, indiscernible in color, it sprouted forth from Doyle's skull like grass on a newly dug grave. It reminded Bodie of a monk, or cancer ward victim.

And all Bodie could think as he stared at Doyle's face was how much he wanted to touch him, caress the soft growth and hold him until the pain broke apart. The thought left Bodie breathless. The emotional carousel almost caused Bodie to miss Doyle's first words.

"Right. We're out. And I expect Cowley wants to see us right away?" This last bit carried a peculiar tremor, which Bodie ignored. He wasn't certain his voice wouldn't shake if he tried to speak again. Nodding silently, he stepped aside and allowed Doyle to precede him. In single file, they walked down the hallway and into the warden's office where CI5 waited.

Doyle shifted in his seat, flicking another glance at the clock hanging outside Cowley's office. He was back inside CI5, waiting for Cowley, waiting for his formal release papers, waiting for Bodie to do something other than sit there. He squelched the urge to wheel and shout "Boo!" just to see the bastard jump. Amusing himself with this thought for a moment, he sighed and glanced at the clock again. Two years of waiting... what did a few more hours matter?

That was one question he wasn't going to handle. Not here in public at least, and not with Bodie, fucking Bodie, sitting next to him. Waiting for judgment. The man had looked cooler when the prison sentences were pronounced. He watched the signs of tension building in his ex-partner--the small nervous licks of the lip. The stiff posture with its ridiculously erect military bearing. Well Bodie wasn't going to get off that lightly. A bloody farce is what it was. Jungle assassinations of U.N. Secretary-Generals. The secret movements of mysterious employers who framed a bush-boy and his partner. If it had been up to Doyle to handle this mess, he would have simply killed everyone rather than going through the stupidity of concocting an elaborate fit-up.

Like you have a handle on how to handle anything any more, his inner voice mocked him. Really handled Ranney well, then. Handled him so well, that two CI5 agents' lives were in danger and his as well if he told anyone else about it. His fragile control flexed. Ray considered his options once again. Tell Cowley and be damned. Tell no one and be damned. Tell Bodie....

Bodie started as Ray stood up and walked swiftly across the hallway. For a moment he thought that Ray would jerk open Cowley's closed door and announce his presence with loud precision. He stared at Ray's back, seeing shock in every slow movement. Ray's hands fumbled and he realized that Doyle was reaching for a piece of paper tacked outside Cowley's office. It was still there--the Cowboard--a small, chipped particle board that served as the distributor of official announcements and less official pranks and witticisms. Bodie wondered whether their return would be announced there with due pomp or whether they'd slink back in obscurity. It probably didn't matter--either way the chances of coming back to CI5 were slim at best. The chances of Ray being by his side were even more remote.

Bodie knew he could not control the future. He knew he couldn't control the next ten minutes. He had never had a friend like Ray before. He never had a lover who matched his intensity. Without either, he was certain his memories would have strangled him long ago.

Bodie shut his eyes. He needed Ray. He needed someone--something--to stand between him and the past. For a moment, he felt the cool breath of prison surround him. A dark, fluttering sound echoed through his chest.

He stood and walked to Ray, watching for the inevitable flinch. Peering around Ray's shoulder, he looked at the piece of paper being fingered, "CI5 personnel, levels A and B, will stand down over the following holidays, unless instructed by the Controller or any person, department or other entity acting on the Controller's behalf, providing that such instruction, command or charge shall be conveyed in the prescribed format as set forth in Article 12.31 of the CI5 brief."

"Looks like very little has changed," Bodie intoned solemnly. "Cowley's still running things as and when he pleases and bureaucrats chase after him, translating it for the rest of us idiots." Carefully gauging Ray's non-response as a hopeful sign, Bodie continued. "Can't be much longer--Cowley's paying our escorts overtime."

Doyle glanced over at the two agents. Bodie knew they had been assigned to "transport" them back to CI5. To keep them away from civilization until after Cowley had dealt with them. Smiling faintly, Doyle canted his head towards Bodie and said in a stage whisper, "I'll take the one without the chin. You take the hairy one."

"Hair? What hair?" Bodie was quick to pick up the game. "I never saw receding hairlines advance that far on an agent before. Must be some new fashion trend. Let's sit down again before they trip over each other on their way to the hairdresser."

Bodie imitated Doyle and sat down. Neither of the escorts was familiar and it was clear that they had little liking for the baby-sitting duty. Bodie watched one make a casual gesture that bordered on an insult in some countries and amounted to fighting words in others. The one with the least hair spoke first:

"Hard to say if it's true. They certainly don't look like it."

"Like what?" replied the other.

"Like CI5 agents."

"Oh. I thought you meant like real people."

"As opposed to what else?" asked the first one. Bodie remembered his name as starting with a B. Barber. Jim Barber.

"As opposed to cons, jail meat, prison queers, grasses.... You name it. It probably would look much better on them than anything else."

Bodie glanced over at Ray to catch his reaction and to share his desire to inflict a little, just a little of the harm and pain on the smirking faces. Ray sat forward, his face paler than before, a frightening, blank expression in his eyes. Wanting to reassure himself as much as Doyle, he reached over and gently tapped Ray on the shoulder. Ray didn't move, but Bodie felt some of the tension flow out of the silent man beside him. And straight back into Bodie's gut where it belonged. What had he managed to get them into this time? How in hell was he going to get them out of whatever Cowley was nursing behind those closed doors?

When the door opened ten minutes later, both men were well beyond waiting. Funny, how even two years waiting and standing and waiting in prison hadn't given them better coping skills. Filing into the office, Bodie looked for familiar faces. Ray stared at no one and nothing and went straight to a chair. Bodie looked them over: he saw Kate Ross (Oh god, she was still here poking about); Brian Macklin; a man who looked like he had just stepped out of Whitehall on his way to the club; and a smaller man who looked like a solicitor. Bodie decided to remain standing. You could never be safe if there was a solicitor about.

He looked at Cowley last. The man appeared a bit older and a bit harder, if that were possible. The lines around the face remained unchanged and so did his eyes. Bodie quelled the need to drop his own in front of the lucid stare. He had weathered Cowley many times before and he expected that, if time and the gods were good to him, he might have to weather him again. Bodie felt something relax infinitesimally inside. He thought he saw a glimmer of approval in the old man before Whitehall began to speak.

"Ahh, hemmm, well gentlemen. This is certainly a highly unusual situation here. Not only does it appear that you two are innocent but it appears that you may have assisted the government in solving a troubling crime. Of course this means a wide variety of options are in front of you--"

The solicitor interrupted. Make that barrister, Bodie thought as he heard the deep pomposity of a seasoned court speaker. "What Sir Aisling means is that although Her Majesty's government is quite grateful for your assistance in putting the Dag Hammarskjold murder to rest and uncovering criminal activity of the highest level on these shores of a more recent nature, the fact remains that you were duly and lawfully convicted under the laws of the land under the available evidence. Neither you nor Mr. Doyle raised entrapment or falsity as a legal defense at the time of the murder trials nor was the prosecution aware of any such evidence at the time."

"And if there were such evidence, then I am sure that the prosecution would have immediately turned it over to the defense?" Doyle's delivery slid under the barrister's rhetoric and caused the man's skin to flush.

"What I meant to say is that any legal option against the government would be a waste of time and not likely succeed. It would also prove to be a barrier to everyone's goals."

"And what might those goals be? Sir?" Bodie directed his question back to Cowley, where the conversation belonged.

"Reinstatement in CI5 and the quiet clearing of your names," Cowley said. "The government is prepared to issue a writ and reinstate both you and Doyle as grade A agents with back pay. A suitable retraining period and psychological evaluation will be necessary before the arrangements can be made final. It is your choice."

"And what choice is that, Cowley?" Bodie flinched at Doyle's deliberate omission of the honorific. "If we don't agree to go quietly, you won't clear the convictions? Seems to me that would be illegal, wouldn't it... Mr....? I am sorry, I didn't catch your name or title?"

"Mr. Latimer," Cowley said. "He represents the government's interests in this matter. And of course removal of charges is not contingent. Your re-admission to CI5 is. I canna have agents splashed across the papers and then send them blithely out on assignments as if nothing happened."

"Oh, as if our faces and names weren't splashed about enough during the murder trial." Even though seated, Doyle's body still managed to convey his disgust and opposition. Cowley's eyes bore down, narrowing the focus of the discussion to the two of them alone. Bodie felt suddenly superfluous. He didn't like the feeling.

"I certainly didn't spare the D-notices during your trial. And after the conviction when you were no longer part of CI5, I'll have you remember that you still weren't photographed or spread across the Sun or the Daily News. But that's beside the point, lad. If you want to come back to CI5 it'll have to be on my terms or not at all. And that's assuming you want to come back to CI5. Well, Bodie, do you?"

Caught in the cross fire between Doyle, Cowley and his own desires, Bodie reacted instinctively. "Yes, sir!" he blurted out, watching with amazement as the words floated past his lips and into the room. "I mean, that is, if the contingency works both ways."

"What do you mean?" asked Cowley.

"He means," Doyle interrupted, finally speaking for the two of them, "if we don't like the deal or the process or assignments or the color of your tie, we'll be able to walk away after the trial period with our records clean and back pay. And with the standard reimbursement for wrongfully convicted persons allowable under law. In addition." Doyle was not about to let Bodie's sudden eagerness to embrace CI5 blind them both.

Before the barrister could raise an objection Cowley said "Done. I'll have Barber and Lackey take you two to a safe house. They'll drive you in tomorrow and we'll get you settled with money, clothes and the other necessities. Until then you are to remain in the house under their protection."

About to make some comment about the decline in CI5 efficiency if they hadn't already pulled the assassins in, Bodie noticed that Doyle had turned white again. He knew then that he wanted this interview to be over, to get out of the watchful eye of Ross and try to talk to Doyle about what they had just allowed themselves to be maneuvered into. Back in CI5! Who'd've thought it. Who'd've thought he would agree to it, let alone see Ray sitting there actually considering the idea.

Wanting some form of conclusion, he nodded briskly and stood over Doyle expectantly. "Then we'll be on our way, sir. Need to rest and sort this all out. Come on, Doyle." Walking as fast as he could without giving the impression of a retreat, he was out the door and into the hall before hearing the soft murmuring of Doyle's footsteps behind him. He stood in the corridor listening to Cowley instruct the agents (as usual omitting the important information like the fact of their innocence on a need-to-know basis) and watched Ray. Watched him stand there in the hallway, a ghost, fading in and out of reality. He actually felt a bit unreal himself and narrowly avoided pinching himself to see if he would register. Ray's sharp hiss pulled at him. Sweeping past Bodie, he muttered, "You'd think you'd learn how not to let Cowley talk us into these situations by now. And stop staring at me!"

Heartened by Ray's usage of the word "us," Bodie followed him.

Ray quickly closed the door behind him, shutting out Bodie's face and the sour expressions of Barber and Lackey. For the first time since he'd left prison, a weight lifted off of him--the weight of too many people, too much stimuli and too many expectations--both his and Bodie's. He wasn't certain why he felt burdened. The silence that greeted him was unlike prison with its ever-present coughing, shouting, clanging, and murmuring undercurrents of fear and hatred. But with the door firmly closed, his existence was bordered again in careful angles. He sat down on the bed to think.

So Cowley wanted them back in CI5, eh? Wasn't too surprising--although the man hadn't spelled his reasons out. Didn't have to--not the kind of thing you'd discuss in front of civilians, no matter how highly placed in government. Their value in terms of contacts with the underworld had increased tenfold during their stay in prison. Doyle had eaten and worked alongside members of various drug cartels, thieving rings and extortion circles long enough to know that it wasn't actually what you knew, but who you knew that made the flow of information. And he and Bodie had undergone the kind of involuntary sojourn into criminal popularity that he knew Cowley would not hesitate to use.

Doyle stretched out on the bed, idly flicking the light cord between his fingers. Use. That was the operative word here. Used by Cowley. Used and abused by Bodie's past. Used by the IRA. His head began to throb as violent images floated past him--images of himself holding the knife, standing over Ranney's fear-drenched body, his hand rising in an arch to bring forth a downward stroke--Ray stopped himself in time before he pulled the lamp from its socket and fought to control his breathing. What the fuck was he going to do? He'd have to tell Cowley for certain. "Sir, while I was in prison, the IRA folded me over myself, stripped me naked and pricked me with a knife so I gave them the names of our undercover agents. So sorry. Won't happen again."

Doyle rolled over on his side, his hands slipping underneath his arms. He knew his reasoning was stuck somewhere if he could only suss it out. Why not tell Cowley and be damned. It wasn't as if he really wanted to go back to CI5. If he went back into CI5 he'd have to face his failure, the fact that he had grassed on two fellow agents. If he went back now, he'd still have to face Bodie. His head began throbbing in earnest as he sat up. Small streaks of light shot across his field of vision and he muttered to himself, "It's not like they were active agents. Chrissake, even Cowley wouldn't have kept his own men in active IRA cells for over two years." The pounding continued, unimpressed by his reasoning.

He needed something for this bloody headache. Ray started towards the door, but paused at the soft click and opening door. As the light flooded into his aching eyes, he felt another sharp pain and grimaced at the intruder.

Bodie stood in the doorway, allowing his hesitation to stretch the moment out far longer than he had planned. Realising that there were two other occupants in the house, he stepped into the room and locked the door softly behind him. It had taken several hours of bitter cajoling to bring himself this far and he was determined not to allow Ray to dissuade him. He stood, watching the figure before him sway hypnotically and Bodie remembered the time he had rolled over one jungle night to face a mamba snake. The same mixture of fear and adrenaline had combined to give him a raging hard-on while damping any urge he had ever had. Fixed, he'd given back a stare that was equally challenging. It was the only way he knew how to be.

The moment stretched and then broke. Ray turned, dismissing Bodie, his stare, his life, his existence with an all too familiar shrug that was equal parts of contempt and annoyance. Bodie felt a piece of his soul break free. Stepping surely across the room, he had his hands on Doyle's shoulders and turned him around, pivoting him to rest face to face. And then Bodie kissed him.

For a moment he thought he had succeeded, thought he felt some answering spark as he gently licked Doyle's lips and opened the mouth with his tongue. The hands that gripped his arms were biting in their unspoken commentary. Bodie was forced back step by step, until he stood alone in the middle of the room. He froze again, this time certain that the next step could only result in violence.

Doyle raised his hand, but it was only to his lips, wiping away every trace of the moment. "What do you think this is, a fairy tale?" he muttered derisively. As usual, Doyle hid behind a snappish wit. Bodie, on the other hand, could not hide his arousal. His frightened longing and the unspoken need--they were another matter. Still, he stood his ground.

"God, if it were only that easy." His words must have passed some test. Bodie watched Doyle's face carefully, measuring each minute flinch. Doyle took a breath, then another, and then another. His lips parted and then shut. His hands lay helplessly at his sides. Color flushed his skin and, as if struggling for some connectedness, he finally opened to his mouth to speak.

Bodie reached for him, pulled by the shifting emotions, his own determined certainty demanding expression. Afraid that words would evaporate the moment, Bodie placed his arms around Doyle and pulled his lover's body to him. The contact echoed through his chest and spread to his groin. He bent his head sideways to capture the taste of Ray's neck in his mouth, softly sucking on the flesh, moving his hands in rhythmic circles over Doyle's arms and back. God, he was so warm.

Doyle's hands cupped Bodie's neck, fingers tickling. Bodie followed the pull. With parted lips, Bodie gently offered his mouth. Would Doyle taste any different? Bodie did not waste time wondering. His face, lips and mouth tingled with each grasping kiss. The feel of unshaven skin added spice to the mixture that was Doyle.

Bodie could feel Ray's arousal against his thigh and tried to slow the pace by stepping back and breaking the kiss. He wanted to feel, not grasp, his pleasure. His heart beat strongly, each stroke shifting more energy through his body. His eyes met Ray's and the sudden import of what was happening exploded through his belly and he felt his cock contract painfully. A heat spread across his face. Once again he felt himself transfixed and helpless in Doyle's stare.

Doyle glanced up as he drew away. For the first time in more than two years, he saw Doyle look at him with something other than contempt and disgust. Bodie saw himself mirrored, saw the hurt and the desire in Doyle's gaze as if they had been torn from his own heart and read aloud. He allowed himself to be lowered to the bed. Sitting next to him, Doyle stripped off Bodie's clothing. Bodie fumbled, trying to catch up, but it was a losing contest.

Bodie sprawled on his back with Ray draped across his chest, head bent towards his erect cock. He blew out his breath disbelievingly when Ray opened his mouth and encircled him in one movement. The heat and softness sent electric tingles shooting from his groin into his arms and legs and he fought back the impulse to moan. Two years in prison had taught him to weather arousal silently.

Using the base of his tongue, Doyle rolled Bodie's cock in his mouth, moving his lips back and forth over the soft tip. Moistness, heat--both combined to draw Bodie further to the edge. He bit his lip, stringing out his pleasure--this was so much better than the quick spasms in the prison shower. His hand snaked out to collide with Doyle's shoulder. He arched infinitesimally, seeking a way to hold back. Doyle's cock was barely weeping. Bodie wanted to urge Doyle to use his other hand to orgasm. It didn't seem to be enough. Bodie sensed the tonguing slow. He pushed harder. Then he heard the wet sounds of gagging and pulled himself back apprehensively. What had happened to Doyle in prison? Christ, in his rush to convince Doyle, he'd forgotten prison.

"Hey, where are you--"

Doyle interrupted, "Just a tick." There was enough impatience in his tone to keep Bodie silent. Doyle stood, prick leaning achingly to the left, to walk into the adjoining bathroom. Curiously, Bodie listened to the sounds of searching until Doyle reentered the room. With a familiar lift of his lips, he tossed the tube to Bodie in challenge.

Bodie picked up the tube and ran his thumb along the edge of the cap, gazing up at Doyle. "Trust you to make even the simplest fuck more complicated than a hostage op." Doyle grinned, shaking his head in silent emphasis. But then, Bodie thought, this is hardly a simple fuck. This was their second chance. And if Doyle wanted him that way, he was certainly going to oblige. He watched Ray position himself face upwards and shook himself mentally again. The man certainly wasn't trying to make this easy--but that was his Ray.

Leaning over, Bodie quirked one eyebrow upwards and used one finger and then two to lubricate Doyle. Watching his lover's face, Bodie saw the inward gazing eyes and wondered exactly when Ray had left him behind. Then shimmering green snapped at him, twinkling a bit at his caution and a wave of longing washed over Bodie's body, harder to withstand than any wave of lust or desire. If this would only work, he'd let Ray win from now on. Bodie pressed his cock into Ray slowly, feeling resistance melt away inch by inch. As each gentle thrust brought them closer, Bodie's heart pounded harder. They were together again. Then, the wonder of sensation merged his awareness into a heated stream of thoughtlessness. The feel of Ray encompassed him.

Ray relaxed into Bodie's movements, gripping tightly the arms that encircled his head. Warmth flooded his body, electric tingles shot to his feet. He shifted one hand to pull at his cock, rubbing his thumb teasingly over the tip in long smooth strokes. He knew he would be sore (hell he was sore now) after two years of abstinence. He struggled to keep the thought of prison out of his consciousness, wanting only to focus on the feel of Bodie's flesh and the sensation of Bodie's sweat and breath above. His cock began vibrating involuntarily, stroking itself internally. He wrestled with images that threatened him. His erection waned and he felt a corresponding increase in awareness. Idiot, he berated himself. As if all the pain, shame and betrayal could be wiped away by one night's fucking. And yet Doyle could feel his body straining to answer these questions for him, moving with its own dark purpose, seeking out its own fantasy wholly unconnected to his wishes.

He watched Bodie abandon himself into the pulsing movements. And suddenly, forgetfulness became Doyle's waking desire as well. He felt the need for absolution rising in his chest, to his face and then to his lips like a bright burst of color--his sin, his exculpation, all hanging on the man who had given himself so hopefully. Doyle knew that he could not betray that trust. The cool distance he once offered had died on the laundry room floor.

A low tingling started to build in the tip of his cock. His legs started to shake, blending in with the tingling. Feeling the brush of the night's despair creeping into his limbs, Doyle looked up into Bodie's face. At that moment, Bodie's eyes and lips softened as he cried out Doyle's name. Doyle, locked in his own fears, kept watch with a stunned silence. In that moment, Doyle knew with wrenching awareness that he had been gifted with a precious vision--of another future together, untouched by dark journeying. He would return to CI5. Not for Cowley or country. He would return because he had no other choice--he would return to be with Bodie.

He could never tell anyone about what had happened that prison night nor allow its memory to cross into his waking days. It would disappear into the earth, buried deeper than his own grave. Because if CI5 were ever to learn of it, he would lose everything. He would lose Bodie. The blame, the scorn, the disbelief he'd once cursed Bodie with could only rebound to create a frightful balance. He'd been so convinced of Bodie's guilt--had only just stopped short of accusing him openly in court. How could he face Bodie, when his own guilt was patently real? If Bodie were to hate him now, Doyle had only himself to blame.

Suddenly, all feeling left him. The burning, the heat, the tingling--it was erased by one pulse, one heartbeat that reached into his head, his arms, his legs. Semen flowed, leaving him heavy and tired. He turned into Bodie's loose embrace, knowing that he had little faith to spare. Bodie's would have to do for now. Listening to the soft breathing, Doyle firmly closed his eyes on the past two years as if they had never existed. It was amazing what the mind could do.

Soft movement in the brush alerted Bodie to his partner's presence. Twisting to the left, he raised his head above the arc of the land in front of him to scan for potential snipers ahead. It looked clean, but growing dusk turned the hills into an unbroken line of mass. Bodie glanced at his watch and noted they had only twenty minutes left. They had to make a move on the house hidden in the lee of the valley before darkness fell. Crawling slowly, he shifted with care towards his partner, the plan of attack framed in his mind with swift clarity. He had never felt more focused. The speed with which he had readjusted to Life Outside made a mockery of those who thought he couldn't make it. He kept the quiet laughter to himself, but allowed it to warm him through the approaching cold.

He had just reached Doyle's position when he heard movement and froze. Doyle was scrambling up over the lip of the hill and down the slope. Damning his partner's impatience, Bodie followed more silently, quelling the desire to yank Doyle and his curls down to where he could wring some sense into the both of them. Doyle had jumped the mark again. Hurrying even faster, he had almost reached Doyle when he heard a shout echo across the valley. By then it was all over. Within seconds their positions had been locked into rifle sights, the house's portable lights trained onto the slope above, and Bodie and Doyle found themselves at the mercy of their captors.

Of course it didn't help that Cowley was there as well. Staring at them as they pressed face down in the cooling earth, hands clasped above their necks, disarmed and unmanned as it were, the head of CI5 watched them with considerable thought before turning away. The silent disapproval wrenched at Bodie more than he cared to admit. He channeled his anger into the familiar paths worn into his psyche over the last three months. It had to be Doyle--always rushing ahead, stepping out of line, missing the beat, cocking up the mission. Belly down in the dirt, Bodie squirmed with the effort of restraining his tongue and temper. Let them think what they would--this was between Doyle and him.

The last thought made him laugh out loud, earning him a swift boot in the rear from his guard. Not that there was much to speak of between Doyle and him--nothing besides the quick fuck. After the first night together, the sex had turned sour. And when they weren't fucking, it was as if Bodie wasn't there. Actually that wasn't quite true--if he were real lucky, Doyle would notice him--with a sharper tongue and bitterness than Bodie'd ever stand from anyone. Except Cowley. Even the best of sex could wear thin when tempered with sarcasm and abuse. It had been three long months.

Doyle rested his face in the earth, feeling emotions leach away from him into the ground below. You fucked up, you fucked up, you fucked up, chanted his mind, but he kept his breathing even and calm as he tried to replay the event over in his mind. He had thought the way was clear when he started down the slope. Who'd have thought they'd have planted a guard right at the lip where any intruder could have seen him? He should have seen him, that much he did know. Turning his face slightly, he tried to pierce the dark air between himself and Bodie's motionless form to gauge his partner's mood. Probably foul as ever. Doyle suddenly understood how Bodie had felt just before prison. It was if everything he touched turned into shit--he couldn't even sneak up on a lightly guarded home without alerting every defense within a mile. The irony of it didn't escape him--except he really didn't give a shit about irony.

Allowing himself to relax even further into the ground, Doyle reflected that very little had gone right since they'd left prison. So they had been given quiet pardons and had finished the first re-training phase for re-admission CI5. The only reason they had made it this far was Bodie. He positively gleamed since leaving prison. He had regained his former muscle tone, although his skin still looked pale above his camouflage fatigues. Bodie's grasp of strategy had always been remarkably direct and effective. Now he had gained a subtlety that Doyle found hard to match. Doyle found he could no longer handle all of the grey areas, the multiple choices and thousandful results hinging on every decision. Prison had seemed so much simpler--you woke, you did what they told you, and you survived.

"Allright lads, off your bellies. Had a nice rest, did we?" Macklin's scornful voice came from behind Doyle, out of his field of vision. Moving slowly, he rose to his knees and then to his feet. Doyle watched Macklin glare him up and down with faintly concealed disgust and then jerk his head over towards where Cowley had stood. "He says you're to go. You know what I think of that." Silence stretched as neither man felt up to offering a reply. Sighing, Macklin shrugged, conveying his sense of fatalistic acceptance of the situation. "Right. You're to return to London tonight and report for the second phase of the testing." Macklin paused, his face lighting as he recollected exactly what that meant. Doyle risked a glance at Bodie whose posture was unforgiving. Ross and the psychological evals. Bloody fun.

Trudging back up the hill behind Bodie, he wondered if staying in CI5 were really worth the effort. He looked up and saw Bodie pause, his dark form creating an even darker silhouette against the night sky. Doyle's breath caught in his chest as he took the image in--Bodie framed by the night, his hair offset by his face, both ringed in starlight. This is the world I live in--Bodie and CI5. To have one, he'd have to conform to the other. Then he saw Bodie's eyes turn to look down on him--and felt fear wash through him again. He picked up the pace and followed Bodie back to the transport.

By the time they reached his flat he had the plan worked out. Turning to Bodie, he gestured with his hand and offered. Bodie stared at him far too long for Doyle's comfort and then preceded him up the stairs. Doyle, angered at the punishing glances, fought to keep his temper. He didn't need Bodie to tell him the bloody obvious--he knew he was fucking up. Still, he'd have to keep a better grip on his emotions. The last thing either one of them needed was a prima donna scene the night before a psycheval. He'd keep this light. If the hulk would let him.

Turning into the kitchen he shed his camouflage jacket over the chair. "Want to eat?" he called out, burying them both in familiar patterns. Silence greeted him. This is taking it too far, he thought, reaching into the fridge to pull out the gherkins. He froze. Bodie stood behind him.

Bodie had spent his time well, nursing his anger. He had known even before they reached the outskirts of London that Doyle would invite him to bed. He stared down at the bent form and felt the strings twitch along with his cock. So what if it was a deliberate move. He might as well get something out of this.

His eyes roamed slowly as he watched Doyle pull out food and carry it to the counter. He knew Doyle was aware of his scrutiny and it made his cock swell. He walked up behind him and reached around to tap Doyle's hands. Leaning into the man, he felt the sharp edges of Doyle's hip and shoulder. He was still too thin. Bodie's cock didn't seem to care as he rubbed himself against Doyle's bum.

With a soft sigh, Doyle pushed them both away from the counter and turned to face him. Smiling crookedly he murmured, "I gather the food can wait." Wthout waiting for an answer, he grabbed Bodie's head and opened his mouth.

Bodie permitted the kiss but then broke off. He reached down, grabbed Doyle's hand, and placed it firmly on his cock. Doyle's eyes glittered. "What do you think I am--some nancy boy to fall on his knees in the kitchen?" he snapped. Bodie reached up with his hands and cupped Doyle's face to draw him closer. He molded his kiss and touch into gentleness and watched Doyle's anger creep away. Doyle was trembling--any idiot could see why. Doyle fell to his knees and fumbled with the trouser opening until Bodie's hand stilled his fingers and undid the fastening.

Bodie stared down at Doyle's head, bracing his weight against the work top counter. He rubbed his hands through Doyle's curls, wondering why they had grown back so stiffly. Maybe it was the grey--or maybe it was prison that did it--either way he missed the softness that he used to play with. He felt Doyle's tongue licking the tip of his cock, wetting it teasingly. He pushed his body forward trying to convey his impatience with Doyle's method. He wanted it now, not tomorrow.

Bodie watched Doyle respond with a single upwards glance. He knew Doyle had acknowledged the unspoken point when Doyle slid his mouth around the length and lips traveled in a smooth motion. Bodie stilled himself, savouring the tongue stimulating the tip. Bodie's breathing began to pick up momentum, matching Doyle's efforts.

The tingling grew and, clutching the edge of the counter (it was either that or inflict it on Doyle), Bodie felt the buildup behind his balls gather and launch him into orgasm. Staring blankly at the wall across from him Bodie wondered how it had gotten this far. He felt nothing--for himself--or for the man beneath him. The night after they had been released, he had been filled with confidence that they could put prison behind them. He had held his partner until the morning, rising only to observe necessaries and returning to his room at dawn. He'd been a simpleton, to think that would fix everything. What had happened?

Doyle's intense face rose up towards him for another kiss. Allowing the embrace, Bodie opened his mouth and automatically reached down between Ray's thighs to cup the erect genitals. And there laid the problem--sex had become Doyle's panacea for the hurts of life. Whenever he screwed up on the job--off went Bodie to bed. Whenever the night grew too hard or the memories of prison crowded sleep--there was Bodie in bed. Bodie liked sex as much as the next man but the constant manipulation of his body and emotions was wearing thin.

But Doyle carried on, oblivious to Bodie's stillness. Stepping back, he tugged with his left hand and urged them towards the bedroom. `Come on Bodie,' his expression urged, `give it a rest.'

Ray's face, flushed and healthy-seeming, was framed by his hair. The parted lips and twinkling eyes irresistible. Bodie felt the moment waver. He really shouldn't hold Doyle to blame. It wasn't as if Doyle's indiscretions had convicted them. Bodie had managed to accomplish that all on his own. Doyle tugged at Bodie again, causing him to move another step forward. Doyle's crooked smile tugged at Bodie's memories. Looking back, he knew he'd abandoned any pretense of independence or responsibility when he joined CI5. His need for Doyle had rooted him to his partner's side long ago. It had held him in place in prison. It circled his existence even now.

He gave in. His misgivings could wait, neatly coiled until later. Leaning forward, he sagged against his lover and forced a chuckle, "Oh dear, me legs are too weak. Save me." Overcalculating, he slipped through Ray's arms and spilled to the floor, his arms and legs fanning out at impossible angles and his face assuming a fierce expression of indignation.

Doyle stood there panting, knowing full well that the only serious injury Bodie had suffered was to his most padded asset--and a few kisses and strokes in bed would soon cure that. The laughter burbled up through him, left him erect with nowhere to go. Except on top of Bodie that was--the sight of his partner stretched out, limbs akimbo on the tiled kitchen floor was irresistible. Landing with careful precision (wouldn't want to injure anything important) he began necking his partner and poking him in earnest. Vigor was always a good line of offense with Bodie.

They managed to roll each other over several times before crashing into the back of the couch. Naturally, Doyle managed to ensure he was on top--he was after all the lighter of the two, so it was only fair. Smiling into Bodie's face, he heard his partner choke out, "I thought I asked you to save me. Not roll me into a corner and crush me!"

Nipping Bodie's chin, Doyle grinned back, "But I am saving you. For myself. Just can't decide whether to keep you rolling towards the bedroom. You're awfully heavy, you know. Should avoid swan dives from now on--might well crash through the floor and give the neighbors a shock."

"Well you might have told me you were heading towards the bedroom," Bodie said. "I'd've waited until we were near the bed and aimed for something more soft--like your head. Come on, get off of me and I'll lead. Otherwise we'll never get there." He gripped Doyle's hips even more firmly to strengthen his point.

So many different Bodies, Doyle thought. Each one merging seamlessly into the next. It was hard for Doyle to keep them straight. He opened his eyes to look at this Bodie, hoping to find something more than sheer need. Bodie's eyes, normally a dark blue, had deepened as the pupils expanded to fill them with black. Black eyes, black hair, black was the color that Bodie wore on their ops. Black was the color of Ray Doyle's heart. But Doyle's darkness Bodie would never see. Finding a smile, he followed Bodie into the bedroom. Good old Bodie. It worked every time. He closed the door behind them and locked his own fears and doubts away.

Heading up the stairs two at a stride Doyle felt that he really had no need to hurry--there was only Ross waiting for him. But he had to get into the computer room before they closed early today. He reached into his jacket pocket (he had even bothered to wear one--never hurt when dealing with Ross) to reassure himself that the temporary ID was still there. Smiling reflexively at the guard in front of the Records section, he waited to be signed in. God knows he had performed the ritual often enough. Sleepless nights were only the half of it... and there was still Ross to deal with.

Sitting down in front of the computer terminal, he groaned as the menu selection confronted him. Damn these machines--just when you thought you knew how they worked they changed again. Picking his way through the program he eventually entered his query: /status query john foote or bob fisher.

The screen blinked several moments while he gnawed his fingers. He stilled the urge to glance around, knowing that this would only raise more questions. Most agents would never venture here willingly. He tapped the screen briefly in impatience.

When the results began to spew forth he sat up straight. The information had not changed. They were both alive--or rather they were not dead. Actually--he paused the screen and backed up to read this bit again--their assignment status had not changed over the last fifteen months. Of course the assignment was coded but Doyle felt with a growing certainty that they were no longer working undercover on the IRA. Cowley always shifted undercover personnel far away from the previous assignment. The blinking light steadied him as he read the words again: Status Active. They were alive. He had been right--his information had been worthless after all. Ranney had just bribed a screw for nothing. And who knows, if he was lucky, Ranney's IRA superiors may even have had a few choice suggestions on how he might better occupy himself in prison.

Trying not to chuckle out loud, Doyle slowly exited the room and paused outside to chat amiably with the guard. A running commentary lightly overlaid his thoughts. He hadn't killed them. His hands were clean. No harm done.

A river of platitudes washed him down the hall and into the waiting room. His glanced at his watch, confirming that he had another free hour before Ross was ready. He wandered over to the dusty window, marveling how, even after two years, it remained painted shut. Leaning his hip against the sill, he allowed his eyes to close in brief thanks. There was no need to tell anyone about this. That had been decided before his first visit to the computer room. If they had been captured or even their cover blown, he would have walked straight to Cowley, told him what had happened and tendered his resignation. But they hadn't--and so he had stayed.

He heard movement in the hall and realized that other agents would be arriving shortly. Toying with the idea of staying, he decided that he'd rather just go shoot something. Something large calibre preferably. And maybe, just maybe, he'd pretend it was bloody Ranney standing there, arms spread helplessly with each bullet's impact. "Wonder what Ross would think of all this," he muttered. The thought of confessing to Ross that his secret fantasy didn't involve a kinky ménage à trois but a large, Irish prick appealed to his sense of justice. Musing on several less risky "true life confessions," he slipped out the back towards the firing range, smiling. As he walked, he caught one agent patting his holster and another giving him a wide berth. A fierce sense of satisfaction filled him when he realized they had reacted that way even though he wore a CI5 badge. Doyle was, after all, not unaware of the importance of insanity in this job.

Bodie shifted on the bench and shoved his left leg again up against Doyle's thigh. Doyle, deep in his cups by then, offered little resistance. Staring about the pub, Doyle felt Bodie settle even more closely. He glanced again at Murphy who was trying another tall tale on his less than captive audience. So many of the old hands weren't there--death or marriage or sheer boredom had winnowed them. It all amounted to the same thing.

Bodie was peeking at Doyle. It irritated him. Trust Bodie to try to test Doyle's limits in view of a full complement of CI5 agents.

Doyle watched Bodie's progression with little amusement. Just like a cat--always inching up as if you couldn't see it. Sipping his drink, he wondered how long it would be before Bodie would tire of the game and casually urge them off. The welcome back party was a pleasant surprise, though. Until word had come down from high, they'd kept a low profile. Doyle was glad they had--it was easier to answer questions now, when they held the guns and IDs as shields.

He watched Bodie exchange stares with a "new" agent. The look was definitely hatred. It was Barber. Still looked like a balding bird. He sighed and tapped Bodie's arm.

"Come on. Let's leave before you decide to scalp what little he has left." Bodie still stared at the agent, a frown plastered on his face.

Doyle tried again. "You should know better than to let Barber get up your nose. What's he done?"

"Don't ask," Bodie muttered, sipping his beer.

"Bodie..." Doyle was getting sick of the run-around.

"New bastards think they own the place," Bodie derided. "It's us who know the real score. It's us that'll have to take the heat before they finally figure it out."

"But they will figure it out, Bodie." Doyle nudged the lump of flesh next to him for emphasis. "Might even be fun watching them struggle through it." Bodie rolled his eyes, but Doyle knew the challenge was more Bodie's cup of tea than his own. He suppressed a sigh. "Yeah, fun," Bodie mouthed into his glass.

"What're you mumbling about?" Doyle tugged at Bodie's arm again, thinking that he'd have to watch the alcohol consumption. They still hadn't won back their drinking legs.

"Let's go and have some fun?" Bodie spoke up. Doyle watched Bodie's eyes flicker. Doyle (no slouch at the scene) had seen this one coming but only now pretended to catch on.

"Well, Murph, we're off. Thanks for the drinks. We'll owe you. Ta ta, all." Moving quickly amidst cries of protest (and when didn't they protest--Doyle and Bodie had managed to avoid paying for any of the rounds), he winked at Murphy and left. Bodie followed at a respectful and proper distance. Three steps behind, Ray thought, and in heaven. Bodie looked even better in the dim light--all dark muscle and sweat.

The cooling night seemed to heighten Doyle's erection. He looked down in surprise--not at having an erection, but that it had fought its way through the layers of alcohol to press so insistently. Standing there, staring stupidly at his own crotch, he heard Bodie unlock the door.

"Well are you going to contemplate it or get in and put it to use?" Doyle looked up at Bodie silently, feeling the warmth of his arousal pass between them across the bonnet of the car. Bodie finally glanced away, and Doyle started to open the door. Bodie's head whipped back in line and pinned Doyle in place. "Love watching you do that," Bodie said quietly. Doyle didn't ask what. He didn't care what it was that he was doing. Whatever it was, it was working.

He stood there a moment longer, battling his body. They both knew who would win. Bodie leaned forward to catch Doyle's reply, licking his lips provocatively in the open air. Doyle wanted to cut the expectant silence between them, but couldn't muster the strength. All he could hear was the sound of his breath and the night murmuring. He stood motionless, staring, as if movement would break the mood. Bodie's hair caught the harsh street light and turned into a sheen of sable. Bodie's body, poised to get into the car, held muscles suspended and shaped by three months of close quarters with Macklin. His face, half lit and softened by the dark, shifted with the pulse beating in his neck. He was better than any prison wet-dream.

Doyle saw Bodie's face change. Well, he thought, throwing the keys across, this may yet work. Flashing an unspoken answer, he climbed into the car and stroked Bodie's thigh all the way home.

"Shit, Bodie. Do you think now we'll qualify for some leave?"

Bodie knew from experience that Doyle's question was not rhetorical. They stood in the midst of a posh drawing room both spattered in blood and bits of gore. This had not been a good op--not only had they lost one of their agents, but (according to Cowley) they had the bad form to kill the suspects. The fact that this had all taken place in the upper environs of society would probably keep Cowley busy soothing and cooing all week. Would serve him right too, thought Bodie. Shouldn't have sent us in without backup. Doyle gripped him by the elbow and walked them both outside.

Bodie felt Doyle's hand and wondered that they both weren't dead. Then practicality kicked in--or was it pragmatism. He could never keep them straight. He was practically pragmatic, he was. Recognizing the bubble of euphoria for what it was, he nixed Doyle's offer of a quick nip to a pub. What he really wanted was to go home to rest--but Cowley's rage had instilled some caution into his soul. So off it was to wrap up the reports and then he could rest with a clear conscience. Doyle followed him from habit.

Driving loosely with one hand, Bodie realized that it had been several months since he'd thought about prison. Doyle never would talk about it, of course. Neither would he, but he still thought and dreamed of it. It was one of Ross' most frequent complaints to Cowley--she was convinced that they couldn't be proper men until they had a weepy fit while she took notes. Not bloody likely, he thought. No, Doyle and me, we're doing all right.

He no longer felt wary of the future. Whatever had been Doyle's problem, it seemed to have worked itself out. And as prison receded, so did the memories. And working for CI5 had ended Bodie's uncomfortable moods. He was no longer the man that had landed them in prison. He was in control. And if the sex was still a bit off, well, it was better than his right hand. Or prison. Yeah, Doyle and he were doing fine.

Following Doyle to their adjoining desks, Bodie saw a message on his desk. Reading it, he groaned. "Hhrmp. One of my grasses called in again. Wants to blather on about the IRA, I guess. Wait here. Won't take a moment."

Doyle watched Bodie's exhaustion manifest in shallow strides and slow movement. His own exhaustion had vanished. In an almost pavlovian fashion, the words "grass" and "IRA" had set his system racing. It had been several weeks since he had checked up on his two particular demons. Might as well do it again.

Walking down the corridor into the computer room had become Doyle's personal penance. No dank confessional for him. Gleaming white and cool exteriors spoke to him of a hell that burned more with ice than fire. Signing in, he stopped when he saw one of the records technicians. It was bloody three a.m.--what was he doing here? Moving quietly, he sat at the terminal and moved his fingers in memory. His mind chattered tiredly.

The screen seemed to spill sideways. It took Doyle only a moment to realize that it had changed somehow. Must be the tired eyes. Leaning closer he squinted at the letters: John Foote. Status: Inactive. DOD: 11/11/81. Cause: Classified. All inquiries directed to Controller, CI5.

Doyle read the words again. His mind laboriously counted the months. November 11. This was over six months ago. Just after they had been released from prison. In shock, Doyle traced the screen with his fingers. It was in fact only days after they had been released from prison.

His lips numbing, he again typed both agents names. The output did not change. An angry sensation began to boil up, clawing at his throat, and forcing him off the chair. The poor technician didn't know what hit him.

"Where'd this come from? It wasn't here two weeks ago! This information is months out of date." He held the trembling man and shoved him over to the screen.

The chalky face ventured an opinion, "Uum... well... it looks like a new entry. See--the date is only six days old."

"Well why wait six months to enter data! This should have been in here as soon as it was confirmed." Doyle felt his body tighten, a whiteness spreading through him.

"We're upgrading to a new system. That means we input in reverse--the most recent information first, and work our way back. That way we don't get bogged down with revisions. Sir."

Doyle peered into the screen as if it would reach out and drag him into its depths. He almost missed the man's next words. "Is there anything else you need, sir?" Doyle released him and backed away. Then, with overemphasized normality, he walked out of the room and into the hallway. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the technician reach for the phone. `Go ahead,' he thought coldly. `Call the night watch. Tell em one of their agents has gone mad.' Doyle kept walking, even though he knew there was nowhere left to go.

Doyle was delayed another five minutes before Cowley asked him in. He knew Cowley must have been informed of the computer room incident--some quick checking would show that Doyle had visited there every week or two since he'd rejoined CI5. An even more detailed check would show that he had run the same query every time.

Doyle entered the room without speaking. He zeroed in on his personnel file on Cowley's desk. Cowley's thin fingers picked up a ledger and covered the file, along with what looked like a Ross profile. Doyle stood for a moment, then sat down unbidden in the opposing chair. His eyes glittered and he swallowed a few times. Cowley did nothing. The soft city sounds filled the room as the morning commute broke the dawn. Doyle had not left the building--he knew that Cowley had blocked that route soon after the phone call. But Doyle had to come to him--call it penance or justice, it didn't matter. He'd been Cowley's man long enough to know that he was accountable to Cowley first. God, Queen and society could wait their turn.

Cowley remained in the shadows rather than taking advantage of the morning light. Doyle was grateful--he found shadows more conducive for confessions. Of course, Cowley would give Doyle all the time he needed.

Doyle's voice was clear, if thin. "They opened the door in the gate for me one last time. I had to cling to it for a moment to steady myself--felt like I was stepping off the edge of a cliff into the sea. Couldn't let Bodie see--couldn't let anyone see because then I'd be back inside, wouldn't I? Funny though. Was so frightened that I wanted to turn around and run straight inside. Because there, in that cell, was a piece of somewhere that I knew. Knew I'd be safe there. 'Course it was all an illusion."

Cowley let him ramble. He kept his eyes fixed on Doyle's face and gave no sign of approval or disgust. Doyle read the measured gaze and gripped his left arm tighter.

"So I really wasn't safe there--neither was I safe out here--was afraid that if I told you about it, well that'd be that. Might even find myself back there. Really doesn't make sense but that's why I didn't say anything." He paused, hesitating with the next bit. "I didn't know they were in danger...." His throat closed suddenly and he shut his mouth with a betraying click.

Cowley toyed with a loose sheaf of paper. "You were afraid that if you said anything you'd be out of CI5. Did you really need it--us--so much?"

There was no answer to that question. Doyle thought there could be none. What would be worth two men's lives?

"Or perhaps it wasn't CI5 that you were concerned with."

Doyle flared at Cowley's attempt to turn the topic. "Bodie has nothing to do with this!" He knew his voice was rising and clenched his teeth to hold it in.

"No?" Cowley's voice rang with bitterness. "You traded two strangers for one man you knew. And the integrity of my organization."

Doyle shut down. Bodie would have found a way out of this mess, he knew that now. Bodie would have allowed himself to be castrated for the cause. Bodie... his head snapped up as Cowley continued speaking.

"Well, I assume that you didn't give the information willingly or easily. I'll also assume that you truly did fear for your life after you left prison. Stop me if I have any of this wrong." The hard edge of sarcasm rang through Cowley's voice. Doyle sat up and forced his attention back to this room, this man and this reality.

"Your...," Cowley paused, searching for the right word, "crime is not that you broke but that you kept silent afterwards. Any mind can break. We're not built to survive torture and abuse forever. But the men I select for CI5 are expected to keep themselves and this country out of the mire that threatens to overflow our daily lives. And that means standing back up and crawling out even after you've been pushed in. I canna trust a man who keeps to the mud rather than coming clean. Your contract with CI5 is terminated. A permanent report of this incident will be placed in your personnel file and your security clearance will be revoked."

Cowley paused again. "I misjudged you. Part of the responsibility for this must be mine. But dammit man, I had to fight to bring both of you back. There are many who still believe that one conviction is worth more than a thousand acquittals. "

Doyle smiled, a quick twist of the mouth that threatened to unseat his careful composure. "Was actually planning on tendering my resignation. But if it suits you to fire me, I'll not object."

Cowley raised his voice for the first time that morning, cracking with tension and rage. "If it suits me! Just be thankful I don't have the CP down here with warrants for your arrest for treason and murder. But that'd cost CI5 more than you were ever worth. And I'll not spend another penny or thought worrying over the likes of you. You've twenty-four hours to clear out of your flat. Your pass and armory will be surrendered immediately. And I expect to never hear you've spoken of CI5 again."

Doyle shut his mouth. Rage and humiliation kept shifting his words sideways and he felt unaccountably breathless. He only knew that if he stayed any longer in Cowley's presence, he might not walk away.

Silently handing the items over, he paused before leaving the room. His chest filled with a mixture of confusion and rage. Painfully, he met Cowley's rigid stare and then he slowly, but firmly walked out of CI5 and into the street. Like Lot, he neither looked to the right nor the left as he went. He certainly did not dare look behind.

How Bodie found it out so quickly, Doyle never did learn. He certainly hadn't expected to hear Bodie thudding up the stairs and into his flat that very afternoon. He opened the door before it splintered and flashed back to their confrontation two years ago. This time, he lacked the righteous rage to sustain him.

Bodie didn't approach Doyle directly. Rather, he circled the room with increasing energy, like a dervish gathering speed and momentum. His dark hair was slick with the rain that fell outside. The grey light filtering through the window reminded Doyle of his cell.

Bodie continued circling. He picked up items--Doyle's toy soldiers that were a gift of long ago, his latest paperback, the record sleeve left lying on the settee. His brown leather jacket stretched with every abrupt movement. Bodie's glares filled the space Doyle did not dare to cross himself.

Bodie found his gaze drawn back to Doyle again and again. Certainly, the man who stood so silently and quiet before him was not his Doyle. His Doyle would never have grassed on fellow agents and then covered his failures. His Doyle was not a coward. This Doyle hadn't even apologized for thinking Bodie was guilty. This Doyle had secretly carried his own crime into their relationship and pretended innocence--leaving Bodie to twist his insides with guilt. As Bodie stared, another man began to emerge. No, this was not his Doyle. The man in front of him gave when it suited him but took when it suited him even better. He had taken something more precious than a few lives or government secrets--he had taken Bodie's respect.

The impostor didn't even look like Doyle. This man was too thin, his features sharper and more calculating. The hair, the body, the clothes were all part of a careful patchwork of a sexual manipulator. Bodie remembered the nights when he had been diverted into bed. God, he had slept with a demon.

Bodie heard a voice, but stopped his ears. You couldn't listen to what the incubus said. The Doyle that he had loved would never have betrayed anyone like this. He never would have betrayed Bodie like this. Doyle would have never fucked someone else over just to protect himself. Doyle had always given him a solid foundation. Whenever Bodie felt his past overwhelming him, luring him with its siren song of simplistic solutions, he had looked to Doyle for proof that he had left it behind. And Doyle had given Bodie that proof. Quietly, without fanfare or declarations of love, Doyle had been there for him. Even after leaving prison, he knew that only Doyle could help lose his past. Only Doyle could understand without him having to flay himself with naked words and revealing truths. Now even that hope was gone. The mirror that he gazed into was bitter and left him with nothing to hold.

Doyle approached Bodie when the pacing had stopped. His heart went out to his partner--if he felt bad, how much worse must Bodie be feeling? Not certain exactly what Bodie had been told and by whom, Doyle touched Bodie's shoulder and said, "Come on, let's sit down."

The elbow that connected with his throat silenced him. His knees buckled, but he caught himself on the edge of a chair to stop his fall. Bodie struck him again, this time with a kick that spread the agony to his kidneys. As Doyle struggled off the floor, several more blows battered his face and head like a tethered ball. He knew he was fighting back, that his kicks must be equally effective, but couldn't seem to place his hands or arms at the moment. He was forced to the floor, with Bodie parodying a loving embrace from behind. They were both kneeling, and Doyle felt Bodie's arm curl around his throat. His mind remembered King Billy and he tried to scream in anger--or warning--but the air was cut off. He knew he was going to die.

Bodie shifted his hold and took his time squeezing the air and life out of Doyle--the gradual increase of pressure satisfied the part of him that wanted this impostor painfully dead. He hummed a workman-like tune but then discarded it as being inappropriate to the solemn occasion. He was destroying a demon, rubbing out his violent past, erasing his shame. He was quite mad.

The rage left him as suddenly as it had come. One moment he was holding a demon and the next he let the limp body fall to the wood floor. Staring down at Doyle, he wondered if he should call an ambulance. The sight of the figure, arms twisted, lying on its side, did not move him. Oh yes, this was his Doyle all right. The only demons here were his own black heart and blind foolishness in trusting a man who could not be trusted.

Standing, trying not to sway with his bruises, he limped out the door and down into the street. As he climbed into his car, he was glad he hadn't killed the bastard. Cowley already had enough to contend with without Bodie going astray.

The rain continued to fall on Doyle's trembling body. He sat on the steps to his flat, door swung wide, letting the darkness flow through him. His neck was swollen. He gingerly traced the bruises and marks. His body ached and he welcomed the pain because it told him he was alive. He kept hold of the thought--if he repeated it long enough, maybe he'd believe it. Maybe it would give him something to hold onto. Something besides the tune he had last heard before losing consciousness. Something besides the feel of Bodie's clammy hands crushing his throat.

Doyle gulped rawly. He tried to focus on the street before him. The water that washed down his cheek was only rain after all. The cars passed by, whishing through the streets, perfectly reflected in the puddles. He waited until the nothingness of his heart bled into the air and then he could wait no more.

The chair tipped a little further back, nearly unseating the occupant. The kitchen was small, well proportioned and would have been welcoming had it not been devoid of any personal touches. CI5 safe houses did not budget for trivialities like comfort or style.

Bodie resented being sent here to "cool off." He resented the morning sun ambling through the window, the cheerful chirping, and the rustling garden beyond it all. Why Cowley had finally listened to Ross was beyond reckoning. Ever since Doyle's departure, his efficiency had tripled. It was just like Ross to become suspicious and then claim he was approaching his King Billy "pre-breakdown" levels. Not that Bodie thought Cowley had really believed Ross. But her success in predicting his prior breakdown had lent some weight to her doom and gloom predictions. Ray's betrayal hadn't helped. The old man's confidence had really been shaken. So off Bodie went to check up on a CI5 safe house while they played with their numbers.

Bodie really didn't think they had much to worry about. The episode with Doyle had been buried alongside King Billy. And Angola. And the Congo. They had no place in the quiet English morning.

Bodie sat staring out the window, holding his cooling tea. A cat crept across the green, stalking a songbird. He watched its slow progression, admiring its precision. Its approach was stilled by a passing car. Bodie and cat waited, poised for the bird to take flight.

Bodie licked his lips, not daring to raise the cup lest it startle hunter or prey. His absorption in the scene was complete--he'd been unable to sleep through the night and had grimly waited for dawn to clear his head. The cat began its pursuit again. Step, pause, quivering tail--the cat's approach carefully calculated to enter behind the bird's line of vision. Bodie smiled thinly. The dreams he had lately did not dispose him well towards birds. The image--dark, heavy-winged ravens flapping over two limbless trees, futilely attempting to find purchase--had left him depressed.

The burst of activity from the lawn drew his attention outwards. The cat had snatched the bird and pinned it to the grass. Loud chirps echoed through the kitchen window. Come on, he urged the hunter silently, finish it! His interest had pulled him off the chair towards a better view of the finale. Except there was no great finish. The cat started gnawing at the head until the flutters ceased and the lawn grew still.

Bodie watched each ebbing pulse of life and felt Doyle lying beneath his hands. The sense, the taste, the remembrance of that event was so real to him. He looked around and found he was sitting on the floor. Cool hardness touched his skin. His breathing had slowed and shallowed. Pulling against the weight of his body, he rose to his feet, walked to the door, and stepped into the garden. He had to root out that damning memory. He reached for the cat, which looked up with startled eyes. It was only then that he realized what he was about to do. His hands closed on empty air and he pulled himself back in horror. Staring down, he rotated his fingers back and forth as if all feeling had fled--yet they felt normal. He wasn't certain about the rest of him.

Moving slowly, he walked back into the kitchen and returned to the chair. He had tried to kill Doyle. He could remember it now. The `why' was still fuzzy. Never one to spend too much effort in rooting out motivations, Bodie found the exercise a difficult one to master. Ross had spent so many years trying to get him to think about his feelings that he'd lost the habit. Doyle's introspections had always had a similar effect on him. It was far easier to deflect serious contemplation with a witty smile or half-serious quip than to expose a hard-won truth.

The truths that spilled forth in that moment were hard ones indeed. No wonder Doyle had thought he'd killed Billy. No wonder Cowley and Ross thought he was insane. He was. Killer and insane. Panic spread through Bodie. He needed help. How had Doyle ever trusted him? But he had trusted Bodie. Had trusted him enough to open the door, let him in, and try to explain. Bodie clung to that thought--Doyle had tried to reach out to him once. Doyle was the only person who could help him now. He had to find Doyle. Without pausing, he stood, and picked up his gun and ID. He walked out of the safe house and forgot to close the door.

Cornwall was a refuge for romantics and artists when it wasn't being overrun by summer tourists. In late October they had left the land to the locals who tended it with as much care as they had always been inclined to give. Doyle tended his garden with a little more care than some. Hardly used to gardening, he had spent his back pay renting a small cottage and learning how not to kill everything he touched. He had succeeded and, like the newly converted, was devoting himself to winter preparations.

The car that drove up the stony side road passed his house and continued to the neighbors. Doyle glanced only briefly before it turned the corner. His back ached from the repeated lifting of earth and greenery. He was tired, and the cooling nights had left him feeling chilled and bitter. He did not sleep much and looked to exercise in vain. His dreams had taken a bizarre turn again--this time he remembered two trees standing, stark on a windy expanse. They had grown so intertwined that their trunks had merged and the dreamer could not distinguish the branches. Their close proximity, having offered mutual shelter in their formative years, had now begun to stunt further growth. Turning outwards offered their only means of survival.

Doyle decided that the dream was probably a result of his futile attempts at gardening when he was a child. There, in the urban environment, he had taken it upon himself to "rescue" small trees that had sprung up between the concrete slabs by transplanting them to vacant city lots. None had survived, more as result of his inept toddler's hands than harsh city environment. Perhaps that was why he found his present occupation so satisfying.

He had come to terms with his departure from CI5. He'd finally come to terms with himself. As for Bodie--he could even understand the pain and fear and loss that had driven his lover into darkness. He walked the same path every waking hour. He stepped on that thought. He could understand every inch of the man, and still nothing would change.

His task concluded, he heard the caw of a bird from the road. His gaze swept past the hedge and then froze as Bodie's presence registered. Hackles rising, Doyle angrily wondered how long the man had been staring. The silent approach did not escape his notice and Doyle flashed to Bodie's ability to ease past enemy lines undetected. He checked Bodie's hands for weapons before he remembered that the last attempt on his life had been without their benefit.

Bodie had known of Doyle's whereabouts for some time. Like many memories, he'd never had much use for the knowledge. He saw Doyle's eyes widen and felt himself go red as he recognized the look. It checked him. Uncertain, he kept his hands by his side.

Doyle finally spoke, his voice filled more with curiosity than fear. "So, you've decided to try it again." This was said with the calm conviction of a man who knew the truth of the matter. Bodie only shook his head, cursing his silent tongue. "Oh no? Well then, I expect you're hoping I'll invite you in for tea." The accompanying bark was pure Doyle and Bodie fought back his grin. He had hidden behind that smile once too often.

"No. I don't expect anything. But you may want to hear what I have to say. The choice is yours." Sweating, Bodie bit his lip worrying that fear had made his voice harsher than intended.

That appeared to be the right approach. Still eyeing him suspiciously, Doyle neither withdrew in rejection nor advanced in attack. The stalemate continued. Taking the silence as assent, Bodie spoke, "I should have listened to you. I should have listened to myself. Ross is always gibbering about how we need to talk our feelings out. She's right, you know. I just don't know how to start." He looked hopefully at Doyle for some help but there was no response. As the cold afternoon air whipped around their still forms, Bodie felt as if they were the only two people alive in Cornwall. His resolve faltered. He heard the ravens calling.

Doyle's words offered no answer. The utter weariness spoke through his voice far more than his shadowed eyes or unshaven face. "I don't really think there's much left to be said, Bodie." The use of the name was a soft caress. "You know we were just too damn close. Or maybe we were too damn far apart. Either way, it's the same to me." Bodie saw him stare--he blinked back tears hoping Doyle had not noticed. Doyle looked frightening. Actually, it wasn't so much the look of him, but the sense of despair and unresting thought that Bodie recognized. Doyle turned to go inside, shutting the door behind him.

Bodie stood there, watching the Cornwall sun shift patterns over the garden and creep inside the small cottage. He wanted to follow its path, but feared rejection. Then, with the last of the light fading, he stirred. It was not so much the listening as the speaking that mattered. He would talk to Doyle. Perhaps the bastard would throw him out. Perhaps it would end where they had left it the last time. But maybe, amidst the blackened words, there would be some understanding. What more could anyone hope for? Turning away from the bitter glass, he opened the gate and walked through the unlocked door.

-- THE END --

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