Title:  The Assassin’s Daughter - posted July 11, 2005
Author: Lacey McBain
Rating: R.  Hurt/comfort, first time, drama.
Summary:  A “simple” assignment to deliver an assassin’s sixteen-year-old daughter is complicated by unexpected attacks and the beginnings of a new relationship.
Warnings:  Contains violence and some politically incorrect language.  It’s the seventies.
Pairing:  Slash.  Bodie/Doyle.
Feedback: Appreciated.
Notes:  First Pros fic and British isn’t my native language, so let me know how I’m doing.  Thanks to the SV Gang for initial audiencing on the road to Edmonton.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, but if I did baggy trousers would be considered a crime.


“Africa.”  Bodie wiped the foam from his mouth and nodded.  “Yeah, it was Africa.”

Doyle rolled his eyes.  “Not Africa again, Bodie.  Bloody hell, you’d think you’d discovered the damn continent ‘stead o’ just loiterin’ there awhile.”

“It’s a different world, Ray.”

“Yeah, and you so partial to spades.”

Bodie’s eyes darkened murderously.  “You weren’t stuck twice by ‘em.”

“You weren’t partial before you got stuck, mate.  Cowley had to tell you to—”


“Yes, Cowley bloody well told you to lay off with that kind of talk.  Spades and—”

“Chinks, micks, krauts, yanks.”  Bodie’s voice was getting louder every second, and they were attracting attention.  The wrong kind of attention.  Doyle grabbed his arm and squeezed hard enough to hurt.

“Bodie, shut yer ‘ole.”  He didn’t fancy ending up in the middle of a pub brawl after the day they’d had.  He was already bruised in too many places to count, and he wasn’t sure he’d even want to take Bodie’s side in it.  ‘Cept he’d have to.  Partners and all.

“Why, mate?  Half these savages won’t even understand a man of my considerable lexicon.  I’ve practically got a degree in foreign relations.”

Their eyes met for a moment, and Bodie winked at him.  Doyle felt the tension ease off, wondered if Bodie’d been baiting him all along.  Foreign relations indeed.  Doyle let him go, and shook his head with a laugh.

“I’ll just bet you do.”

“And I’ll have you know I don’t mind the spades at all now.”

Bodie sounded almost philosophical, and Doyle took that as irrefutable proof of his drunkenness.

“You mean, you don’t mind since you shagged a black bird.”

“Well, there’s that.”  Bodie waggled his eyebrows, grinned around the lip of his glass, then downed the rest of his pint.

Doyle matched him swallow for swallow.


“Why not keep bein’ a copper?” Bodie asked.  “You were good at it, weren’t ya?”

“’Course I was good at it.  Didn’t stop because I was bad, just wanted somethin’ new.  Different.”

Bodie leered at him across the table.  “How different, luv?”

“Not that different.”  Doyle shook his head, but his heart wasn’t in it.  Trust Bodie to turn a chat about life into chatting him up.

“Shame, Sunshine,” Bodie said, affecting a lisp and raising his glass.  “Don’t know what you’re missing.”


“So it was a promise.”  Bodie nodded knowingly.  Doyle knew Bodie understood the value of a man’s word.  It was part of what kept them together.  Loyalty.  Being able to depend on one another.  Unconditionally.

“He was my partner.”  Doyle felt a tightness in his stomach that hadn’t been there for a long time.  Hadn’t thought about Sidney Parker in a while.  Not since Hayden and his daughter had dragged it all back up for him, drudged it up like the muck and weeds that had clung to the planted revolver.  They’d made him question and doubt the things he’d believed in, seen with his own eyes.

“Was he a good partner?”  Bodie’s question seemed harmless enough, but Doyle had learned never to underestimate him.

“S’it matter?”  His voice was harsher than he meant it to be, and Bodie caught the tone instantly, a look of sympathy in his eyes.  Doyle shrugged one shoulder and looked away.  “Yeah, he was a good partner.”

“The best?”

“Fishin’ for compliments, Bodie?”

Innocent eyes stared back at him across the table.  Doyle considered how to play it, and decided he was too tired, too sore, too worn out to tease.  Maybe the truth would confuse Bodie more than a glib reply.

“He was a good partner.”  Doyle sipped his lager slowly.  “But he wasn’t the best.”


“It’s about trust, mate.  Nothin’ more or less.  And that’s where we’re different.”  Bodie was leaning on the table now, attention focused on him completely.  Doyle felt a little like a caged lion at the zoo, and wondered when the conversation had turned exclusively to him.

“Wha’ d’ ya mean?”

“Well, take today.  You trusted the information from Fargo.  Trusted a two-bit street snitch who’d sell us out for a cuppa.”

“He wouldn’t.”

“He would, Doyle.  I think he would.  But you don’t.  You trust.  Trusted him, and he came through.  Saved the day in the end ‘cause you trusted.  Otherwise we would’a been too late.”

“That’s not trust, Bodie.  Just takin’ a chance on someone.  That’s all.  Not like I’d turn my back on Fargo.  It’s instincts, it is.”

“No, it’s more.  You believe in people. See the best in ‘em, Sunshine.”  Bodie shook his head.  “Even see the best in me, and that’s goin’ some.”

Doyle didn’t know what to say to that.  Yeah, he saw the best in Bodie ‘cause there was a lot there to see.  To like.  He drained his glass and headed for the loo.  He hoped Bodie would’ve forgotten what they were talking about by the time he got back.


Doyle slid into the seat and saw there were two fresh pints.  Well, it’d been Bodie’s turn to buy a round anyway.

“Thanks, mate,” he said.

“So, we were talkin’ about trust.”

Doyle closed his eyes and reached for his drink.  He was going to need some fortification to help him get through this conversation.  Time to turn the tables.  A night at the pub wasn’t supposed to be this serious.

“Trussed?  Yeah, that’s how I found you on that last case, I recall.  All tied up like a Christmas goose and nowhere to go.”

“Think you’re pretty funny, don’t you?” Bodie said, ignoring Doyle’s cheerful nod.  “Well, usually when I’m tied up, mate, I plan on staying in.”

“Naughty, Bodie.  Very naughty.”

“You’ve no idea.”  Bodie waggled his eyebrows and sipped at his pint.  “Now you’ve had your orthographic fun—”

“Oi, what’s that?”

“Spelling, Raymond.  But we were speaking of trust.  T-r-u-s-t.  And if we’re keeping track, I’ve spent a fair amount of my time getting you out of tangles.  Literally.  Remember the time you lost the key to your own handcu—”

“You swore you’d never mention that again.”  Doyle shook his head in mock disgust.

“I lied.”

“And you’re lecturing me about trust?  For shame, Bodie.”  Doyle wagged his finger, and used the look he’d seen Father Callaghan use on the parish folk growing up.  It would make an angel drop and repent.  It seemed to have absolutely no discernible effect on Bodie.

“All’s I’m saying is you trust people, Doyle.  More than me.  ‘Twasn’t a criticism, mate.  It’s just not my way.”

“Now don’t tell me you don’t trust anyone.  I know you better than that, Bodie.”

“You think you know me so well, you tell me—who?”

“Cowley, for one.”

“Ah, in Cowley we trust,” Bodie said with a smile.

Doyle snorted.  “Aye.  We do.  Have to.”

“And faith is oft misplaced, my son.”  Bodie clinked his glass against Doyle’s and drank.

“What’s that s’posed to mean?  You saying you don’t trust the Cow, Bodie?”

“Do you?”

“’Course I do.”  It seemed reasonable to Doyle.  Of course they trusted Cowley.  It was like long waits at Heathrow or betting on Manchester United.  Some things just were.

“I trust Cowley, Ray.  Sure.  To do what’s right by CI5.  Not necessarily what’s right by us.  We’re just the pawns. Expendable, you know.”

“You have to trust somebody.  Sometime.”

Bodie’s gaze was steady, and Doyle felt a familiar shiver down his spine.  Things were turning serious again.  “I do.”

“Aye.  Me too.”



They were back at Bodie’s flat and they’d switched from pints to shots, although Doyle was convinced they’d mostly passed the point where the alcohol was having any more effect.

“What’s that?”  Bodie looked at him, clearly trying to remember the question.

“Shoulder,” Doyle repeated, and watched in amusement as Bodie’s face changed from confused to thoughtful.  He could see the struggle going on behind the dark eyes.  Bodie finally shook his head and pulled off his dark poloneck.

“What the bloody hell you doin’?”  Doyle tried to contain his laughter as Bodie untangled himself from his pullover.

“Can’t remember, so ‘m checkin’.  Rules don’t say we can’t check.”

“Rules?” Doyle muttered under his breath.

“Every game’s gotta have rules,” Bodie said, his grin wicked.  “Else you couldn’t break ‘em.”

“So, what you got?” Doyle said, as easily as if he were asking what cards Bodie was holding.

Bodie examined his right shoulder, then his left.  “One bullet, two knife cuts but you can’t see the scars.”

“Only countin’ the scars, mate.”  Bodie scowled at him, but Doyle just wagged a finger.  “Rules, you know.”  Doyle shifted his own shoulder, sore from the tussle earlier in the day, and catalogued the injuries mentally.  “One bullet and a bloody huge bruise, I’d wager.”

“Bruises don’t count.  So, we’re even.  Guess we both drink.”

Bodie reached for his glass and drank.  Doyle did the same.  The scotch burned on his tongue and in the back of his throat.  It wasn’t Cowley’s brand, but it wasn’t bad.  He’d had worse.  Much worse.

Bodie filled their glasses again and didn’t bother to put his shirt back on.  Doyle smiled as he watched his partner rub absently at the scar on his shoulder, white against his pink skin.  “My turn, I s’pose.  Stomach.”  Bodie looked down at himself and rubbed a hand across his belly.  “Two gut stabs.  Nasty business those.  Africa.”

“Africa,” Doyle said with a shake of his head.  “Now that is a surprise.”

“Sod off.  You?”

“Bullet.”  He noticed Bodie’s frown.  “Flesh wound, really, but still a scar.  Bled somethin’ awful.  And a knife.”

“Even again,” Bodie said, reaching for his glass, but Doyle laid out a hand to stop him.

“Sorry, mate.  I’ve also got a scar from me appendix.  That makes three to your two.  I win.”  Doyle hefted the glass to his mouth, but his lips touched the back of Bodie’s hand instead.  Doyle noticed the faint taste of salt as he pulled away.

“Not so fast.”  Bodie was grinning, hand clamped over the top of Doyle’s shot.  “Show me.”

“What?”  Doyle stared at his partner, face bright with a mad-man’s smile.  He’d seen less deranged faces on mental patients trussed up in straight jackets.

“Show me the scars.”

“Would I lie to you?”

“Yes.  Now show me, Ray.”  Bodie’d taken his glass from him, set it on the table, and was pressing him backwards into the sofa, starting on the third button of his shirt.  Doyle didn’t see the need to be bundled up to the top of his head like Bodie.  Summer or winter the man loved his polonecks.

“Get off.”  Doyle gave him a playful shove, hand connecting with his partner’s bare chest, but only succeeded in making Bodie re-double his efforts to get his shirt off.  They rolled off the sofa and onto the floor, Bodie coming up on top.

“What you got to hide, mate?  Tattoo that says ‘mum’?”  Bodie managed to untuck Doyle’s shirt tails.  “A Prince Albert perhaps?”

“Bloody hell, Bodie.  How far down you plan on goin’?”  Doyle twisted his hips in an attempt to throw Bodie off balance, but his partner was intent on his mission.  Another button sprang open, more from their chaotic scrambling than any skill on Bodie’s part.  He cackled triumphantly.

Resistance is useless,” Bodie said, and his fingers caught the skin on Doyle’s side and tickled.  Doyle sat up so suddenly, he cracked his head against Bodie’s.  They both tumbled back to the floor, laughing and moaning.

“No more Doctor Who for you.”

“Not getting out of it that easy, Sunshine,” Bodie insisted.  “You want your drink, open your shirt and show me what you’ve got.”

“Christ, Bodie, if it means that much, I’ll show you the damn scar.”

Doyle pulled open the remaining two buttons and stripped the shirt off, balling it up and tossing it back onto the sofa.  The floor was cold under his back, but he was feeling overly warm anyway.  Too much drink.  Too much Bodie.

Too many close calls and not enough close.  Doyle drew in a breath and waited to see what Bodie would do.  His partner leaned on an elbow beside him.  Long fingers reached out to trace the red scar that showed where he’d lost his appendix.  Doyle shivered, knew it wasn’t entirely from the cold, and almost bolted.  Bodie’s fingers moved from that scar to the next, ran lightly over the torn tissue where the bullet had creased his side, trailed along his belly to the knife scar that angled down towards his groin.  Fingers stopped just inside the waistband of his trousers.

They were both breathing heavier than they should’ve been.  Doyle figured this meant Cowley’d be sending them back to Macklin to get trained up.  Couldn’t have his best team out of breath.  Breathless.  No matter what the reason.  Bodie’s fingers shifted downward.

“Bodie,” Doyle started, but it came out more of a question than he’d meant, and Bodie seemed to take that as permission of sorts.  A thumb flicked the button of his trousers open.

“Where else?  Thighs?  Arse?  Feet?  How many more scars you got, Doyle?” Bodie whispered, fingers slowly sliding the length of Doyle’s zipper.

“Don’t,” Doyle whispered, and Bodie stopped.  Nodded a little sadly, and started to roll away.  Doyle didn’t want that either, didn’t know what he wanted at all, head full of booze and Bodie and bombs going off all around them.  He grabbed for Bodie’s wrist, caught it and held on.  “Just give me a minute.”

Bodie settled back down beside him, inches away, not touching him anywhere, but Doyle could feel Bodie’s breath lifting the curl against his forehead.  It tickled.

“The heart,” Doyle murmured.  Saying it didn’t feel like that big a risk.  Bodie knew most of this scars already.  Inside and out.

“A lot of scars there, mate?”  Bodie’s voice was soft.  “Too many to count, I’d reckon.  For both of us.”

Doyle moved his head.  It wasn’t a nod, but Bodie took it as one.  He touched the bruise on Doyle’s shoulder, pressed it until Doyle winced.


“You shouldn’t’ve taken the chance today,” Bodie said.  Doyle felt the ache in his shoulder again, the bruise that had already deepened to purple, and would probably turn uglier before it started to fade.  “You’re too trusting.”

“Now you’re complaining?”  It was a no-win situation.  Just like this thing with Bodie.  A tumble could change everything, for better or for worse, and they’d never know which until it was too late.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to take that gamble.  Losing a bird was one thing, but this was Bodie.  “Knew you were there to cover me.”

“I’ll cover you whenever you want.”  It was a flirt and an invitation, and Doyle wasn’t sure what that meant.  If things had changed, or if they’d been like this all along and he’d been too thick to notice.  Or never quite drunk enough to consider it seriously.

“We’re partners, Bodie.”  Suddenly the word seemed to carry more weight than ever before.

“Some hurts go away, Ray.  Some don’t.”  Doyle felt lips brush against the skin of his shoulder.  They were soft as velvet.  “You’ve got to trust someone.  Sometime.”

Doyle turned to face his partner.  “I do.”

“Anyone I know?”  Bodie batted his eyelashes and pursed his lips.  If he was trying to look seductive, he was failing miserably.  Doyle bit back a smart remark, and tried to decide how much of Bodie’s invitation was the pints, the job, or him.  Doyle couldn’t quite ignore the fact he wasn’t as drunk as he seemed.  In the past, he’d had more booze and done less outrageous things.

“Think I’ll take that drink now,” Doyle said, and Bodie reached back to grab it for him.  Easing onto his elbows, Doyle watched Bodie drink his shot, then reach for the second.  “Hey, one of them’s mine, you berk.”

“And I’ll give it to you,” Bodie said, mouthing the second shot.  He crawled up beside Doyle and smiled, leaning in.  It was all up to him.  Doyle closed his eyes and moved forward, nose jostling against Bodie’s for a second before the angle clicked.  Doyle opened his lips, and then he was being bent back, scotch flowing from Bodie’s mouth to his, and the burn on his tongue wasn’t entirely because of the booze.  He swallowed awkwardly, but didn’t pull away, just gave himself over to being kissed.  It was only one kiss, after all, part of the game, and who was Bodie going to tell?  They were in the same boat, far as Doyle could see, and maybe it wasn’t so bad to share a little warmth with someone.

Someone you trusted.

Doyle felt hands catching in his hair, easing his head down to the floor, and then there was an unfamiliar weight above him, on him, and somehow that was okay too.  Bodie was warm and the scotch was warm, and Doyle got lost in the languid pressure against his lips, the slow slide of a tongue in his mouth, and he murmured “thanks” before he realized what he was saying.  Couldn’t even imagine what he had to thank Bodie for.

Other than everything.

Bodie grinned against his mouth, murmured something that sounded like his name, and then Ray was lost in sensation and the slow fall towards sleep.


Doyle couldn’t move his shoulder.  He was too hot, his muscles ached, and the thrum in his head reminded him of what it felt like when a bomb went off too close.  Something scratched against his bare chest, and he realized he could smell mothballs and coffee.  He opened his eyes, peeked over the edge of the grey army blanket draped across him, and realized the sun was already high in the sky.

High enough to get them in trouble with Cowley.

“We’re late,” Doyle said, tossing off the blanket and staggering to his feet.  He made a grab for the sofa, swayed once, then righted himself.  The walls settled themselves neatly back into place.  He stretched and groaned, reaching for his wrinkled shirt.

“Day off, mate.  Don’t you remember what Cowley said?”  Bodie came around the edge of the kitchen counter, and handed him a cup of coffee.  It burned his tongue, but the sweetness was better than the stale taste of lager and sleep.


Doyle had one arm in last night’s shirt and could smell the smoke and ale rising from the pale cream-coloured fabric.  He sniffed the shoulder speculatively.  Maybe Bodie’d lend him one fresh.  He’d already showered and changed into a black button-down shirt and jeans, and looked more cheerful than anyone had a right to after the amount of drinking they’d done.  Doyle took another mouthful of coffee.

Bodie shook his head, and adopted a Scottish brogue.  “Well done, lads.  Well done.  Might just’ve saved the country, you might’ve.  Take twenty-four hours—not a minute more—but mind you stay close to hand in case I need ye.  Twenty-four hours—”

“And not a minute more,” Cowley’s voice came from the doorway.  Bodie and Doyle both whirled around in horror.  “Your accent needs work, Bodie.  Perhaps some field assignments in the Scottish highlands, for you?”

“Yessir.  I mean, no, sir,” Bodie stammered.

Cowley waved at him to sit down, eyes raking over Doyle with customary alacrity.  “You smell like you brought the pub home with you, lad.”  Doyle watched as he took in the discarded blanket, the empty glasses and nearly-empty bottle of scotch, the coffee in his hand.

“It’s not even been a full half-day yet,” Bodie complained, catching Cowley’s attention, giving Doyle a chance to button his trousers.  “And how’d you even get in here?”

“The key, man.”  Cowley waved it in front of him.  Bodie started to protest, and Cowley cut him off with a raised hand.  “Your key, Bodie.”


“Left in the lock last night, didn’t set your alarms.  Really, Bodie, the two of you could’ve been killed in your beds and never been any wiser.”  His gaze raked over them both.  “’Course it doesn’t look like you made it to bed.”

Doyle and Bodie looked at each other.  The old man was right, of course, but they weren’t about to admit that to him.  Best to move along to other topics.  Forget yesterday, and move along.

“You want us for a job, sir?” Doyle asked, handing his mug back to Bodie for a refill, and taking the chance to button his shirt.  He tucked it into his trousers, his skin remembering the fingers that had lain there last night.  Bodie’s fingers.

Christ.  He shifted uncomfortably trying not to look like he was shifting at all.  He was going to chalk the heaviness in his groin up to really needing to take a piss.

“I’ll just—”

“Yes, yes, Doyle.”  Cowley waved dismissively.  “The world won’t stop turning while you clean up, and for God’s sake, change that shirt.  Bodie, get him something to wear.”  Cowley pulled his glasses out of his suit pocket and propped them on the tip of his nose.  He swung his briefcase onto the counter, and started pulling out pages.

Doyle took the opportunity to head for the bathroom.  He leaned his head against the cool mirror, and took a deep breath.

“Better than any hangover cure, I know,” Bodie said quietly, laying a hand on Doyle’s back.

“What’s that?”


Doyle snickered and raised his head to catch Bodie’s smile in the mirror.  He wanted to ask if everything was okay, if they were still mates after last night, but it’d only been a kiss, after all.  Or a few kisses.  The gentle stroke of hands across his chest a few times.  Barely more than nothing at all.

“Don’t use all my hot water, Sunshine, or I won’t be inclined to lend you a pair of clean trousers.”  Bodie slapped him lightly on the ass, and disappeared through the door, ostensibly in search of clothes.

Doyle turned on the water, and started to strip, somehow knowing the world was not such a different place than the day before, and yet the difference might be worth smiling about.


When Doyle returned to the living room, rolling up the slightly too-long sleeves of Bodie’s blue shirt, Cowley was still talking and Bodie had both their guns on the table, cloths and oils ready for cleaning.  Doyle settled in the chair beside Bodie, and grabbed up his gun.

“Much better, Doyle,” Cowley said, peering at him over the top of his glasses.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Now, I’ve got a simple little job for the two of you.”


“Simple escort to Oxford,” Doyle screamed over the sound of gunfire, turning the wheel violently to the right and sending the car careening around the corner.  “Cowley’s got a damn funny idea of simple.”

The back windscreen shattered sending glass into the backseat.  Bodie pushed their passenger to the floor, keeping his hand pressed against her dark hair.  “Keep your head down, miss.”

More gunfire and the harsh screech of tires.  “Where’s the bloody back-up?” Doyle shouted into his R/T.  “We’re under heavy attack here.  Need assistance.”

A calm female voice cut through the air.  “Aware of your situation, 4.5; available back-up has been dispatched.”

Bodie swore as he emptied his clip into the pursuing brown sedan as it veered closer.  “Least this way it’s easier to shoot out the back.”  He dropped the clip onto the floor and reached for another.  “That’s my last clip, Ray.  Let me know if you think of somethin’.”

The bark of machine gun fire split the air, and Bodie disappeared against the back seat.  Doyle ducked his head and tried his best to keep them on the country road.  He counted out the shots as Bodie emptied his gun, and still the car behind them kept moving closer.


“I’m thinkin’.”

“Think faster.”

“Hang on.”  Doyle stepped on the brake, letting the back end of the car swing around as he steered towards the ditch.  The car bounced roughly over a shallow ditch and out of the immediate line of fire as their pursuers sped past them in a blur.  Doyle maneuvered it towards a lane he’d seen heading into the trees, and floored the accelerator.  “What do you think she means by ‘available back-up’?”

“Pair of new agents with a copy of the rule book and a stern warning, no doubt.”

Doyle laughed even as the sound of an engine could be heard gaining on them.  They’d gained a minute or so at most.  “Blast!  We’re never going to lose them in this.”

The girl was making quiet sobs against the backseat.  Doyle scanned the horizon looking for a densely wooded patch, checking the rearview mirror hurriedly to make sure they had time.

“Take this,” Doyle said, handing his gun over the back seat.  “I’m goin’ to slow down up here, just enough for you to roll out.  Take the girl and get lost in the woods.  I’ll lead them off.  Tell the back-up where to find you.”

“No way.”  Bodie started to protest.

“Don’t be a fool.  It’s the only way.”

“Then keep your gun, man.”

Doyle smiled over his shoulder, as he spun the wheel towards the woods.  “Rifle in the trunk.  One grenade in the glovebox.  I’ll manage.  Now get out.”

“Grenade?  Where’d you get—”

“Never mind that.  You’ve got to jump.”

They looked at each other for a second, then Bodie laid a hand on Doyle’s shoulder and squeezed.

“That’s my favourite shirt, Doyle.  I’ll want it back when this is over.”

“That’s my favourite gun.  Your stop, mate.”

Bodie grinned and nodded.  With that, Bodie thrust the door open, grabbed the girl around the waist with one arm and rolled them both onto the grass, his other hand muffling her frightened scream.  In what was left of the mirror, Doyle could see Bodie half-carrying, half-dragging her into a stand of trees, disappearing from sight as Doyle crested the hill.

He slammed the accelerator into the floor and drove like the devil himself was chasing him.


After almost an hour of moving through dense bush, half of it carrying the girl, Bodie knew they weren’t being followed.  Dusk was settling in, more so here beneath the broad leafy branches, and Bodie ignored the muffled weeping that sporadically came from his charge.

He fiddled with the R/T every fifteen minutes or so, as if something might’ve changed in the time in-between, but the dense foliage was still blocking whatever signals the device was capable of sending or receiving.  There was nothing but static and the occasional peculiar chirping noise.  He felt like tossing it into the undergrowth, but knew he’d regret it as soon as he did it.  So he tucked it awkwardly in the waistband of his trousers and listened for anything that might be a human voice—either Doyle or someone else.  Surely, CI5 would’ve dispatched someone to help them by now.

Bodie set the girl down against the rough bark of an oak and shook her gently.  She was no more than sixteen, dark-haired and blue-eyed, and had the misfortune of being born the only daughter of an assassin.  Of course, Cowley’d told them it was a low-profile job.  Just get the girl to Oxford to rendez-vous with her father.  Special Branch was prepared to take it from there, get them out of the country in return for the evidence her father had given about his international contacts, but Cowley’d been given the task of getting the girl out of London, and Cowley had given it to them.

“A leisurely country drive, Bodie.  Nothing more dangerous than a stroll through Hyde Park,” Bodie muttered.  Tearful blue eyes looked at him, and Bodie shook his head.  “Come on, Ginny, girl.  We’re not out of the woods yet.”  He pulled her to her feet.

“Are they gone?”

Her voice was shaking, eyes darting about like a thing being hunted.  Yes, Bodie supposed, it was a lot like that.  She’d lived with her mother in a proper English country house until the woman had been struck by a sniper’s bullet—retribution for her estranged husband’s crimes.  Now they were gunning for the girl as well, and her father wanted her back.  Bodie couldn’t figure the reasoning that would give this girl over to a monster like that, but apparently he’d changed his ways.  Was ready to be a model father.  Bodie shook his head, looked at Ginny as kindly as he could, as he imagined Ray would do, and gave her a half-smile.

“Gone for now, luv, but we’d best keep moving.”

He cupped a hand under her chin and wiped away a smudge of dirt with his fingers.  Best not to frighten her any more if he could manage it.  Doyle would be better at this, more experience with young ones.  Bodie only knew how to tease them and bed them, didn’t know how to treat them proper.  Not really.  And this one was just a kid, despite the woman’s figure beneath her tight orange t-shirt and painted on jeans.  It was the way she clutched him in fear, begging him with her eyes not to leave her behind.  Like her mother had done.  Bodie suspected Ginny spent her nights clutching a stuffed bear with the same fervour, the same haunted eyes.

“What about your friend?” Ginny asked, taking his hand as he led her deeper into the woods.

“Doyle?  Ray’s a tough bast—fella.  Take more than a carload of thugs to catch him.”

Bodie gave the girl’s hand a squeeze and swept a branch out of their way.  He prayed Doyle wasn’t going to make a liar out of him.


Doyle had lost his R/T when he’d ditched the car, remembering too late to tuck it into his jacket pocket when he’d rolled out the door and into the muck-filled stream.  It probably wouldn’t have survived the water, anyway.  The grenade had done its job, obliterating the car and part of the bridge in one shot, and managing to stop the pursuing sedan in its tracks. He’d been in the water by then, ankle-deep in mud and wet grass, and the men had been more eager to climb out and shoot at him than to think why he might park on a bridge and suddenly leap for freedom within their sight.  The ten-second delay on the grenade had been barely enough to keep him from getting shot, but when it went, it took them with it.  Doyle didn’t need to check the wreckage to know they were beyond saving.  If they weren’t dead yet, they would be soon.  Or they’d wish they were.

He watched the flames licking at the wreckage, and wondered if he and Bodie were lucky enough that there was only one vehicle in pursuit.  That there hadn’t been a second car a mile further behind, tracing their route, watching for them to do something.  Like split up.  Doyle crawled out of the water and pulled himself into a clump of willows on the bank.  Covered in mud, he felt pretty sure he could blend in here.  At least long enough to either be found by CI5, or to figure out if there was someone else hunting them as shadows began to lengthen.

Doyle pulled his sodden coat around him, rubbing the damp muddy fleece against his chin.  He mourned the loss of the shotgun, but there’d been no time to retrieve it.  So, he was without a gun or a radio or a partner, and no idea of when he might get back any of the three.

Bodie.  It was the first time he’d allowed himself to really think about Bodie since this morning.  Cowley’d been with them every step until they picked up the girl—sweet and young, scared behind her brave blue eyes.  She was trying to believe in a father who’d sent her presents from around the world, who sometimes appeared in her room late at night to brush her hair out of her eyes and sing her a lullaby before disappearing into shadow.  And there was a government who had no difficulty exchanging her for his cooperation.  Either that or be kept as a ward of the state, and that wasn’t much of a choice at all for a young girl to make.  Doyle could read the story in the girl’s eyes.

He settled down into the mud, ignoring the wet squelching sound as he tried to find a comfortable position.  Sometimes there didn’t seem to be a good side to things, and there sure as hell weren’t any easy answers.  For the girl, or for them.  Doyle closed his eyes and tried to remember waking up warm, the feel of flesh pressed against his chest, the taste of scotch and Bodie on his lips.  Languid and easy, not demanding or expecting anything at all, it had been nothing like he’d imagined.

“Bloody hell,” he murmured to himself.  “Been imaginin’ that, have you, Doyle?  Christ.  And now you’re talking to yourself.  Wouldn’t Bodie just love that?”

The flames from the wreckage were burning lower and the sun was beginning to wink out over the horizon.  It turned the water the colour of scotch, and watching it was like feeling the slow burn of Bodie’s mouth all over again.  He felt warmer.

When the chugging engine of a car arrived on the scene he waited.  Two local constables who’d likely never seen such a wreck.  They were talking to each other and gesturing excitedly, and Doyle could almost imagine what they were saying, the descriptions being transmitted back to local headquarters.  He watched them conferring, the sound of two voices lilting back and forth, and for a moment he felt an ache like the kind he hadn’t felt in forever.

Bodie.  He damn well missed Bodie, and if he ever got out of this God-forsaken mud patch, he was going to tell him so and he wouldn’t even need the pints to give him Dutch courage.  Well, maybe one.  Or two.  But this time he wouldn’t turn away, wouldn’t tell him “don’t” when he meant “do.”  They both knew the risks, and they’d chosen to trust each other anyway.  It was too late to back out now.

Partners.  Friends.  Much more than that for some time now, at least in spirit.

Doyle waited until he was sure the coppers were real, not just more killers trying to draw him out.  He started to emerge from his spot on the cold bank when there was a set of headlights and another car pulling into view.  Could be CI5, Doyle knew.  But then again, could be anyone.  He retreated into the shadows and waited.


Bodie almost kissed the ground when they stumbled free from the woods into a clearing.  He’d been growing tired of brambles and thorns, and why the hell did English roses have to hang on like bloody terriers?  He was surprised his trousers weren’t torn to shreds.  The skin on his hands had definitely had better days.  Blood crisscrossed his forearms in tiny veins as if someone had drawn on his arm in fine red ink.  Ginny’s face was scratched too, and he’d finally torn off one sleeve and bound up her hair to stop her shrieking every time a branch caught her.

He understood she was frightened.  Who wouldn’t be?  But it didn’t help his patience, knowing she’d be no help at all if it came down to it.  Yet the thought of what someone might do to her—that pretty face, all that innocent skin—kept him from being too harsh when he wanted to shake her and tell her to grow up.  With any luck, tonight wouldn’t be the night she’d have to.  At least not anymore than she already had.

“Stay here,” Bodie whispered, examining the clearing in front of them.  There was a cottage of sorts, small and not well-maintained.  There were no lights visible, but Bodie knew it could be part of a larger trap.  He had to be sure.

“What are you going to do?” Ginny asked, seizing his arm.  “You won’t leave me, will you?”

It was written on her face, her greatest fear:  being alone.  Being left behind in the world with no one to protect her.  Bodie knew what that felt like although it had been a long time since he would admit it to anyone.  Wouldn’t have even admitted it to himself until they’d stuck him with a former cop who wore his heart on his sleeve and needed looking after.  Too trusting, Ray was.  Far too trusting, and because of it, he’d gotten under Bodie’s skin, gotten closer than anyone in … well, possibly forever.  And Bodie didn’t like the thought of losing that.  Being alone again.

“I’m not leaving you, sugar.  Just need to check out this place, see if it’s safe for us to hole up until someone comes to help us.  That’s all.”

“What about your communicator?”

Bodie grinned, relief flooding his features.  He’d damn near forgotten it.  With any luck it would work in the clearing.

“3.7 to 4.5.  Ray, are you there?”  Nothing but dead air.  He turned the dial, adjusted the frequency and range.  “Doyle, come in.”  A silence that felt heavy in the damp air.  Bodie switched frequencies again and this time there was a chirp of static.  “3.7 to Alpha.”

A woman’s voice started to answer acknowledging his call sign, but she was quickly cut off with Scottish impatience.  “Where the hell are you, Bodie?  You’ve missed the meet by hours.  And where’s the girl?”

Trust Cowley to worry about the schedule.  “Missed the meet?  Well, we stopped for tea, and then—”


“She’s all right, sir.  She’s with me.  Ran into a spot of trouble.”

“What sort of trouble?”  Cowley’s voice sounded like he already knew what the trouble was but wanted Bodie’s side of it anyway.  Bodie hated that tone.  It always made him feel he was about to sit a test he wasn’t able to study for.

He clicked down the button on the R/T.  “The sort with automatic weapons, but bad aim.”

“And Doyle?”  Cowley sounded cautious.  As if he was half-hoping for news he knew he wouldn’t get.  A cool breeze whisked across Bodie’s bare arm and sent a shiver down his back.

“He took the car and led them off.  I took the girl.”  At any other time, Bodie would’ve made a joke about getting the girl, something about Doyle being in love with his classics and not having time enough for anything else.  But not tonight.  Something was wrong.  He could feel it in everything Cowley wasn’t saying.

“So Doyle’s not with you, then?” Cowley asked quietly.

“That’s what I said.  He should’ve reported in, or at least someone should’ve seen the car.”  Bodie knew his voice was growing angry, rising in crescendo to match the feeling of fear rising in his gut.

“Aye, they found the car, but no Doyle.  At least, I think not.”  Bodie waited for the other shoe to drop.  “We’ve only a preliminary report from the local constabulary, mind you, and not much of one at that.  Two cars, badly burned.  A grenade, I’d wager.”  Cowley paused.  “They haven’t identified the bodies.”

Bodie felt his stomach seize as if someone had pressed a hard fist through his flesh and squeezed.  “’Twasn’t Ray.”

“Where are you now, lad?  What’s your location?”

Bodie recognized the tactic.  Distraction.  Keep him talking, thinking about the mission, so he didn’t have time to think about his partner.  Who may or may not be a burnt corpse in a smoking metal shell.  Bodie bit down on his lip, thankful for a bit of honest-to-goodness pain instead of the ghostly feeling of fear clawing at his chest.

“In the woods.  Near a cottage of some sort.  We’ve walked for a couple of hours.  Slow.  Due east of the road, or near as I could manage.”

Bodie could hear the shuffling of paper, maps being unrolled and weighted down on the table in Cowley’s office, no doubt.  Betty would be haunting the corners of the room with Earl Grey tea and a plate of digestives, pretending she had nothing better to do on a Friday night than answer phones and coordinate rescues.  They’d all be lost without Betty.

“Aye, Bodie, I believe we’ve got a fix on your position.  If the building is secure, go ahead and enter.  I’m sure the owners won’t begrudge you a roof over your heads.  The cottage is about a half mile off a main road.  We’ll send a team to retrieve you and the young lady.  How are you fixed for supplies?”

Bodie knew it wasn’t an idle question.  He tugged Ray’s automatic from his waistband and checked the clip.  His own empty gun had stayed with the car.  “One gun, half a clip.  And a Swiss Army Knife.”  Bodie patted his pocket and ignored the eye roll from Ginny.  It was the first sign she was still a normal teenage girl.

“More than adequate,” Cowley replied, and Bodie wasn’t surprised to note the man was dead serious.  “In the war, I could’ve staved off an entire platoon with that much.  See that you stay out of trouble, 3.7.  We’ll be along as soon as we can.  And keep off the radio.”

“Understood, sir.”  There was really nothing more he could say.  If Cowley had any real news about Doyle, good or ill, he wouldn’t share it with him now.  Not while the mission was still at risk.  Bodie had no choice but to do his job and put every other feeling aside.  He pushed down the worry nipping at his heart, and focused on keeping them alive.

The sky was rapidly growing dark, and Bodie felt the girl beside him shiver.  He tugged her gently toward the building, gun ready in his other hand.

“Come on, Ginny.  Let’s see if we can’t find ourselves a home for the night.”


Doyle slid along the riverbank, as close to the ruined bridge as he could get and still be hidden by the scraggy brush.  He could hear the coppers talking to the three other men who had arrived.  Something about the situation didn’t feel right.  Trusting his instincts had kept him alive this long, and he wasn’t about to stop doing it tonight.  He forced himself to slow his breathing, still the pounding of his heart, and listen.

“So, you fellas arrived on the scene shortly after the accident?”

“Weren’t no accident,” one of the constables said.  “Looks like a bloody war.  We’re waiting for CI5 to come have a look.”

Doyle perked up at that.  Cowley would be looking for them.

“What’s that, officer?”  The voice was different from the first one.  Doyle couldn’t quite place the accent.

“CI5?  Criminal Intelligence, mate,” the second officer supplied.  “The big dogs.  Must’ve been somebody pretty important.  They’re sending a car out from London to have a look.”

“Yeah, Hammond and me’re just to keep an eye on things.  Not touch.”  Doyle could almost hear the eye roll in the young man’s voice.  The resentment was there too.  He wondered if he’d sounded that bitter when he’d been a copper.  Maybe.  “As if we’d bother anything that might be evidence.”

“That’s tough, mate.”  This voice was soothing, understanding, and much deeper than the first.  Doyle felt a shiver on his skin, as if he were listening to the devil making a deal.  “Stuck out here on a cold night like this, not even a cuppa to keep you warm.  And for what?  Everyone dead, it seems.”

“Maybe not.”  The constable named Hammond was all too eager to chat.  Doyle wondered why they weren’t being suspicious, weren’t thinking why these three men just happened along, happened to be interested in asking too many questions.  It was no wonder he’d stopped being a copper—he couldn’t abide people who didn’t think about the consequences of what they said and did.

The smooth-voiced man was speaking again.  “Do tell, constable.  It was quite the shock to come ‘round the bend and see this horror.  If you’ve a word of good news, please share.”  There were murmurs of agreement from his companions.

“Well, we were told to check for two men and a girl.  Near as we can tell, we’ve got a couple of bodies.  Men.”

“But no girl.”

“Yeah.  Must’ve gotten out somewhere before the accident.  They’re sending men to search the woods, I think.”

“Sounds like a big operation.  Is there anything much in these woods?  Any place nearby they might’ve gone?  Naturally, we’d be happy to lend a hand with the search if you need.”  Too helpful.  Too keen.  Doyle knew without a doubt these men belonged with the bodies up there on the bridge.

“That’s right nice of you fellas.”  Hammond again, obviously the more senior officer, but out here that didn’t mean much.  “But I think they’ll be searching some time.  Nothing in these woods except a few summer cottages, and those mostly just accessible by the Ferrybridge Road.”

“Ferrybridge?  That’s miles the other side of here.”  The accented man again, sounding faintly put out that their prey had managed to elude them.  Doyle smiled.  Bodie’d lead them a merry chase, he had no doubt.

“We’ve bothered the officers enough,” the smooth bass voice gently rebuked.  “We’ll be on our way.”

“On to Oxford then?” Hammond’s mate inquired.

“Yes.”  Doyle knew it was a lie as soon as the words slipped out of the man’s mouth.  “We’ll just turn back and take the other road.  Let you get on with your work.”  The man chuckled, and Doyle could almost picture the friendly nudge, the coppers feeling justified in hating CI5 just a little for keeping them from their warm beds and hot tea.

He waited until he heard the engine start up again, the tires crunching on rock as the car turned and went back the way it had come.  Doyle counted off another minute, just to be safe, then pulled himself up the muddy bank.  He took in the stunned faces of the constables, and had his badge out before either had even thought of moving.

“Doyle.  CI5,” he said shortly.  He glanced around the scene and didn’t bother with a smile.  “Get me a map.  Now.”


Ginny sneezed again, a cloud of dust puffing up around her.

“Nice place you found,” she said, wiping her hands against her trousers.

“Sorry it’s not up to your standards, luv.”

Bodie had been through the whole of the small cottage and all he’d found was dust.  And more dust.  He’d seen the small scuttling trails of mice, but didn’t think he should point that out to Ginny.  He’d never known a girl who got on well with rodents.

“How long do we stay here?”  Ginny brushed delicately at a sheet-covered sofa, managing to raise more dust.

“Til someone finds us.”

“You mean CI5.  Your people.”

“Yes,” Bodie said, hoping it wasn’t a lie.  He wasn’t naïve enough to think there wouldn’t be others searching for them.  Ginny’s father had hurt a lot of people with his testimony, and not all of them were safely behind concrete walls.

“You got any bullets left in that gun?”  The girl settled onto the sofa carefully, pulling the musty sheet up and around her.  She looked like some sort of wraith in the deepening twilight.


“Enough for you an’ me if it comes to that?”

Bodie just stared at her across the room, already shaking his head and moving before he registered the anger.  His fingers settled around her wrist.  “We’ll have none of that, you hear?  None of it.  We’re getting you out of here and back to your father without a scratch.”

“Without a scratch?” she mimicked, trailing one finger along the scraped skin of Bodie’s hand.  He could see similar scratches on her skin as well.

“Well, maybe one or two scratches,” he said softly.  “But no more.  Promise.”

Bodie moved back towards the window, trying to penetrate the deepening night, listening for any sort of sound that might alert him to someone approaching.  The hoot of an owl as it scrabbled for its prey was the only noise.

“I know what they do to girls.”  Ginny’s voice was barely a whisper, but in the silence Bodie heard it clearly.  His eyes closed with understanding.  She was scared to death, and he had no notion how to reassure her.  Ray would’ve tucked her under his shoulder and distracted her with a story, made shadow puppets dance in the moonlight.  Some thing.  He would’ve distracted them both, Bodie knew.  Instead, all he could do was stare out the window and listen.  Hope.  Prepare for the worst.

“I won’t let that happen.  I promise.”  His words seemed to echo in the empty space.  He saw Ginny nod, but he knew she wasn’t convinced.

There were seven bullets left in the gun.

He wasn’t convinced either.


Doyle was breathing hard as he edged along the ivy-covered wall.  He’d followed the shortcut the constables had suggested, and managed to knock off another ten minutes or so by tramping through a stream rather than skirting around it.  What did it matter since he was already filthy, wet, and cold?

He’d told the lads to raise CI5, give them directions to where he was heading, and give a description of the men who’d inquired about them.  Hammond, red-faced and uncertain, was brave enough to ask if they’d done something wrong.

“Yes,” Doyle had said before taking off at a run towards the brush.  He didn’t have any other answer.

Now he was breaking and entering someone’s weekend cottage.  Bodie and the girl weren’t here.  He knew it from the way the drapes hung open, the pair of hedge clippers leaning against the shed.  Bodie would’ve secured anything that could’ve been used as a weapon.

But Doyle smashed the door in anyway, hoping there might be a hunting rifle.  Ammunition.  A knife.  Something he could use if he needed.  The stuffed deer head on the parlour wall suggested he might be in luck.

“Hope you’re not just an armchair-hunter,” Doyle murmured to himself, slightly disturbed at the habit of talking to himself, but needing something to break the silence.  He spotted a gun rack mounted neatly over the fireplace, and pulled down an old, but useable shotgun.  Double-barrelled.

“Now, you ol’ bugger.  Where’s the ammunition?”  Doyle rambled through the house, checking drawers and cupboards, finally finding a stash of appropriate ammo in a locked storage cabinet along with a stack of hunting magazines mingled with dog-eared copies of Playboy.  Doyle just smiled as he loaded the gun and his pockets with as much ammo as he could carry.  The bird on the cover was all smoky eyes and big round tits.  Not a bad looker, but she was no Bodie.

Doyle snorted as he shut the cupboard behind him.  Bodie.  Annoying, pretentious, bigoted, quick with an insult and slow to open his wallet, but he could be charming and witty and frustrating all at the same time.  Doyle tried to imagine not having Bodie, not being partnered, not seeing that smile creep across his face, the light in his eyes when he laughed.

He couldn’t.  Couldn’t imagine not knowing the man.  Trusting him.  With his life.  And everything else important.

For better or worse, Doyle knew his fate was sealed.

Now he just had to find Bodie and explain that to him.


“What kind of a name is Bodie?”  Ginny was still bundled on the sofa, and Bodie had taken to making slow, regular circuits of the room.  It had the best view of the woods.

“What kind of a name is Ginny?”  Bodie looked hopefully towards the small galley kitchen.  He’d checked it twice, but every cupboard was bare.  Every drawer, empty.  The people who stayed here either never ate, or they brought everything with them when they opened the place up for the year.  There wasn’t even a stray butter knife to wedge into the door.

“It’s short for Virginia, silly.”  The eye roll was becoming more pronounced, and Bodie took it as a sign she was relaxing.  She’d be dropping off to sleep soon.  Her yawns had become more frequent, her voice slurring slightly when she talked.  She was exhausted and frightened, and she was beginning to trust him to not let her die in the night.  Sooner or later, she would sleep.  “Virginia Meredith Anne Montgomery.”

“That’s an awfully big name.”

“Yeah.  But, Bodie’s queer, you know?”   Bodie almost laughed out loud in agreement.  Aye, luv, he thought.  At least a little.  Ginny was apparently oblivious to his inner laughter because she barrelled ahead, undeterred.  “What’s Bodie short for?”

“It’s my last name,” he explained.

“Oh.”  Another yawn, a stifled sneeze, and Bodie could see her leaning against the arm of the sofa.  It wouldn’t be long.  “What’s your first?”

“William Andrew Phillip Bodie.”  He’d always hated it.  Couldn’t imagine anyone calling him “Will” now—even his birds called him Bodie.

“Can I call you—”


There was a sleepy “hmph” from the sofa, but that was all.  He surveyed the yard again from behind pulled drapes, and wished in vain for a brighter moon.  Cowley and the others would find them soon enough.  Doyle too.  Ray was too smart to be caught like that.  Too good a man to be lost in a car chase.


One last sleepy chirp from the little bird on the sofa.

“Yes, Virginia?”  Bodie tried to sound patient.  It was easier than he thought.  Apparently the girl was growing on him.

“Don’t worry.  I’m sure he’s okay.”

If Bodie hadn’t been convinced the girl was already half-asleep, he would’ve picked her up and hugged her.  He hadn’t expected comfort to come in the form of a sixteen-year-old girl holed up in a broken-down country house that smelled like old roses and rot.  He hadn’t expected comfort at all.

“Go to sleep, luv.”  Bodie watched her settle into the sofa, dirty sheet wrapped around her, dark hair still tied up with the torn sleeve of his shirt.  They must look quite a sight.

Still, as he watched the woods stirring in the breeze, he was grateful.  For everything.


Doyle never thought he’d be grateful to Macklin for forcing them on those ten mile runs.  Ever.  But as he wiped the sweat off his face with a grimy sleeve, he realized he was warm and his body didn’t ache the way it had an hour ago.  Of course, he’d barely be able to move tomorrow, but that was tomorrow, and right now he was facing a tiny cottage with dead rose vines and curtains that guarded the house’s secrets more closely than a tiger protects her young.

After two empty houses, Doyle was certain this was the place.  It was the kind of place he would’ve chosen if he had to hide or make a stand.  Small, contained, with heavy drapes and heavy doors.  Only one exit, and a clear view of the woods.  Doyle thought he saw the curtain twitch ever so slightly.

He had no way of knowing if it was Bodie.  Or the men he’d seen earlier.

Doyle slipped through the woods around to the back of the cottage.  Access was even more limited here.  Windows boarded over, trellis too broken for even a child to climb, and didn’t lead anywhere important anyway.  Dormers for light, but no real second floor.  His only option was the front door.  Doyle tried the handle.  Locked.  He slipped a hastily palmed bobby pin from the last house out of his pocket and twirled it inside the lock.  Hopefully Bodie would ask questions first, and blow a hole in him second.

And if it wasn’t Bodie, well, he’d maybe have a second to squeeze off a round from the shotgun nestled awkwardly against his hip.


Doyle turned the knob and pulled the door open swiftly.  He heard the familiar click of a safety and then his attention was focused entirely on the small black barrel six inches from his face.


Bodie had seen movement in the woods, but the person was keeping to the shadows, using the rising moon and trees to his best advantage.  Whoever it was, he was damn good.

Please let it be Doyle.

In the darkness, Bodie could hear Ginny’s ragged breathing, allergies aggravated by the dust in the air.  He wouldn’t wake her unless he had to.  Unless it was necessary.  There would be little she could do except scream and run, anyway.  Best to let her sleep while she could.

There were no windows on the back of the house.  Bodie had checked, and while it meant no one could enter that way, it also meant he couldn’t see who was approaching from behind.  It made him nervous.

Please let it be Doyle.

Bodie checked the clip on Doyle’s gun, more out of habit than anything else, and waited for something to happen.  A dull scrape at the front door, and Bodie settled in the front hall, thankful the space was wider than just the door.  It gave him the advantage over anyone entering.  He raised his automatic and listened for the tell-tale click of tumblers falling into place.  A real pro job—done in seconds—and quietly, too.

Please let it be Doyle.

Bodie rubbed his finger across the trigger, felt the familiar curve of it like a woman’s breast or the slope of an ear.  He’d pressed his lips to Doyle’s ear gently, whispered his name once before he realized his partner was drifting off to sleep.  He’d held off whispering more, making promises he might not be able to fulfill in the light of day, things he knew he could pretend were the pints and the shots instead of him.  He’d held on to Ray for a while, appreciating the soft curls against his cheek, the warm skin beside him, and then he’d been drifting too until the morning sun had shone a torch in his face and he’d been too awake in too many ways to lie there any longer.

Please let it be Doyle.  Let him be alive.

The door swung inward, and Bodie became silent and stealthy, one with the shadows.  The only sound was the safety slipping back into place as he recognized the curly-haired spectre half-in, half-out of the doorway, shotgun slung across his hip like an ungainly child.

“Doyle,” he whispered, and lowered the handgun.  “Doyle,” Bodie said again, and reached for his partner’s arm.

It was Doyle.  Beautiful, beautiful Doyle.


“You look like hell,” Bodie whispered, one hand stealing into Doyle’s curls and gently tugging him closer.  Doyle shook his head and couldn’t think of anything witty to say.  He just stood there for a second, forehead pressed to Bodie’s, breathing in unison, feeling the adrenaline start to dissipate.

“You’re okay?  Ginny?” Doyle managed to get out.  He’d found them.  Alive.  Safe.

“Fine, Sunshine.”  Bodie’s hand was still in Doyle’s hair, and Doyle couldn’t say he minded.  It felt comfortable, close.  “And I’m not complainin’, but your shotgun’s pressing—”

Doyle pulled back enough to shift the gun from between them, bent down to lean it against the wall beside the closed door.  Gun gone, Doyle found himself back against the wooden door, Bodie’s hands tight on his shoulders.  What was pressing into his thigh definitely wasn’t Bodie’s gun.

“Bodie.”  Much as Doyle might want to sink into the affectionate safety net in front of him, he couldn’t.  They hadn’t time.

“I thought you—when I heard about the car, the bodies.”  There was undisguised relief in Bodie’s voice.  He kept rubbing Doyle’s shoulders as if he were trying to make sure he wasn’t a ghost.  Doyle swallowed hard and nodded.


“I was afraid you were gone.”  Dead.  Bodie didn’t have to say it.  They both knew what he meant, and Doyle reached around and pulled his partner closer.  To hell with the job and the girl and CI5.  They could wait five minutes.  Doyle leaned in and found Bodie’s mouth, covered it with his own.  A groan, and Bodie gripped him harder, kissed back like a man deprived of human touch.

“Where’s the girl?” Doyle whispered, coming up for air, trying to pull himself back to the task at hand before he and Bodie ended up embarrassing themselves completely, falling all over each other like lovesick teens instead of hardened CI5 agents.

“Asleep.”  Bodie stopped only long enough to breathe, then found Doyle’s mouth again.  The feeling was heady, a warm prickling sensation moving down his neck and spreading outward from his spine.  He wasn’t used to this, being held in place, someone giving back as good as he gave, and though he’d felt Bodie’s strength used against him in sparring, it had never been quite like this, Bodie hot and hard against him, hungry mouth, demanding he prove he was alive.  And willing.

Doyle didn’t waver at the wet push of a tongue in his mouth, just slid his hands down and seized Bodie’s hips, dragged him closer, wondering briefly why Bodie was missing a sleeve.  No doubt there was a story behind that.  There was always a story with Bodie.  Life was one big adventure, and this—Bodie’s tongue in his mouth, hands gripping him anxiously—was probably not a good idea any day of the week, but especially here and now, but somehow he couldn’t deny Bodie anything.  He’d thought Doyle was dead.  Doyle had stood by enough hospital beds, had lost sight of Bodie enough times when the air was full of bullets to know that sense of relief.  Intimately.

Doyle let his own tongue seek out its mate, felt as much as heard Bodie’s groan as their tongues stroked against one another.  The door was hard behind him, Bodie’s big hands caught in his hair, and Doyle wished frantically that he knew what the hell he was doing.  Bodie seemed to know instinctively how to make his nerve endings sing, tongue flicking delicately at the roof of his mouth, then sliding sensually against his teeth.  Lips sucked his tongue suddenly, and Doyle felt his cock protest against the tight press of his jeans.

“Jesus,” Doyle moaned into Bodie’s mouth.

“Bodie?” A female voice whispered from the doorway to the living room.

Bodie was already moving away, looking sheepish and guilty, lips wet and swollen from kissing.  Doyle couldn’t stop a smirk as he watched Bodie stammer out an explanation.

“Ginny.  Doyle.  Um.”  Bodie stuck a hand in his back pocket, scrubbed one hand through his hair, and couldn’t meet the girl’s eyes.  Doyle glanced up through his long lashes and saw Ginny, a musty tattered sheet, more grey than white, wrapped around her.  The girl was grinning.

“’ello, luv,” Doyle said.  “He been treatin’ you all right?”

“Fair.”  She shrugged tiredly.  “’Course, he hasn’t been kissing me.”

“Good thing.  There’s laws against that,” Doyle replied with a quick glance at his partner who was looking more and more uncomfortable by the minute.

“Is he a good kisser?”

"Fair," Doyle said, smiling.

“All right, that’s enough,” Bodie cut in and waved at the girl to go back to the living room.  “Show’s over, luv.”

Ginny simply stood there, looking very much like a bedraggled angel with tattered wings.

“Ginny, go back to the living room.  Just give us a minute, okay?” Bodie pressed.

“A minute?  That all you need?”  The girl snickered, and ran off as Bodie raised his hand in a gesture of impatience.

“She’s precocious,” Doyle said.

“She’s bloody annoying.  Don't encourage her.”  Bodie leaned against the door beside him.  They could see Ginny pacing around the living room, trailing the sheet behind her like a moldy wedding veil.  She wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that she was now openly spying.

“Oh, she got you pegged right?  A minute man?  No endurance at all?”  Doyle kept his voice low.

“When we get out of this, I’ll show you exactly how much endurance I’ve got.”

Doyle shivered at the hot whisper against his ear.  “Okay, mate.  But let’s get out of here first.”

He followed Bodie back into the living room, and tried not to look like they’d been snogging in the hall.  Bodie motioned at the girl to sit down.  Surprisingly, she obeyed.  And Bodie didn’t think he was any good with kids.  Doyle watched as she laid her head down against the worn green sofa cushions and closed her eyes.  He doubted that she’d sleep, but at least she seemed to understand the need to let them be.

Bodie headed to the window and flipped the edge of the curtain open.  The woods were swaying in a heavy breeze, moonlight turning the green to silver.

“How’d you know about the car?” Doyle asked suddenly.  Bodie shouldn’t have known anything about it unless he’d spoken with Cowley or someone at CI5.


“You’ve talked to him?”  Doyle felt a surge of hope.  If Cowley already knew, they had half a chance of someone reaching them before the three men found them.  Doyle went to stand beside his partner.

“A while ago.  Before we went radio-silent.  Someone’s coming for us, to get the girl out.”

“Someone’s coming to kill her, too.”  Doyle nodded as he saw Bodie’s bleak expression.  “Aye, local coppers practically drew them a map to this area.  Lucky they sent them the long way ‘round.  Only reason I beat ‘em was I was travellin’ cross-country.”

Bodie seemed to have finally taken in Doyle’s appearance.  “You look like you crawled here.  Through a marsh.”  He reached a finger up and brushed at the dirt on Doyle’s face.  “Dirty boy, you are.”

“You’ve no idea.”

“Ray.”  Bodie turned to face him.  He looked entirely too close to saying something personal and overwhelming, something that Doyle knew was bound to strip him of his defenses and send him rushing back towards that wild edge of feeling.

A snapping twig made them both turn, and Doyle was already running for the front door and the shotgun when he heard the first shot from outside.  Machine gun bullets thudded into old wood.

They’d been found.


“Down!” Bodie screamed, as Ginny sat up on the green sofa.  The girl rolled to the floor, dust swirling in the air as she hit the dirty hardwood.  From the window, Bodie could see shadows moving through the woods.  Three, maybe four men.

Bodie crawled across the floor as bullets strafed the building.  Elbows and knees made sluggish trails in the dirt as he made his way to Ginny, slung an arm around her and dragged her along with him.  One sharp kick to the back of the sofa and it fell forward with a groan.  Bodie pulled Ginny behind it, and kept his arm around her.  He could see Doyle watching out the small window in the kitchen, near the front door.

“I’m scared,” she whispered looking up at him.  There were shouts outside, the too-loud blast of a shotgun.  Bodie nodded, his chin pressing against her dark hair, as he primed his gun.  She flinched at the sound of more shots outside, another blast from Doyle, standing between them and the killers, and Bodie wanted to run to him, but couldn’t.

Stay with the girl.  Protect her.  That was the mission, the job.  He had to trust Doyle to protect himself.  He’d already risen from the dead once tonight.  Bodie was going to have to trust he’d stay alive long enough for them to figure out whatever this was between them.  Something new, but something old as well.  It had always been there in some ways—certainly for him, but doing anything about it … that was new.

“It’ll be okay, Ginny,” Bodie said.  He was going to have to move, secure the window.  The men outside were going to figure out they only had two guns between them, and limited ammo.  They would come through the windows, the door.  Eventually they would wear them down and come through.

“Listen to me.”  Bodie shook Ginny lightly until he had her attention.  “Listen.  I’ve got to help Doyle.”

Ginny was already shaking her head.  No.  Don’t leave me.  Everything about her was screaming at him.  Bodie could feel her bright orange nails scraping against the flesh on his one bare arm.

“You’re going to stay here.  Right here.”  His words were cut off by more shots.  Doyle was reloading.  The shotgun cracked again.  Twice.  Reload.  Bodie wondered how much ammo Doyle had managed to fit in those tight trousers of his.

“Bodie.”  Ginny’s voice was nothing but quivering fear.  She sounded as if she were ten instead of sixteen.

“I won’t leave you, luv.”  Bodie pushed aside her bangs with the muzzle of his gun, pressed a soft kiss against her forehead.  “Whatever happens, it’s you and me, Ginny.  I won’t let anyone hurt you.  I promise.”

He moved to the window, silent and stealthy, tugged back the edge of the drapes.  A startled face met his on the other side of the filthy glass, then the window was shattering around him, the world fractured into sharp pieces.  It sounded like a young girl screaming.


Fourteen.  Twelve.  Ten.

Doyle loaded and reloaded.  Fired through the broken side window nearest the door.  Watched for the tell-tale flashes from the trees.  The gun was off, balance uneven, and Doyle hated using weapons he couldn’t trust.  There was no way he should be this inaccurate, even at night and with moving targets.  Cowley was always cautioning them to keep the suspects “alive”—this time, when it didn’t matter at all, he couldn’t find a target to save his life.  All their lives.

Doyle heard the sofa crash as Bodie re-arranged the furniture in the other room.  There were voices—Bodie’s and the girl’s—and Doyle took a chance to glance towards the living room.  Saw Bodie’s dark head bent against the girl’s, the strangely intimate gesture of a gun stroking against her forehead before he kissed her.  Gentle as he’d ever seen Bodie.

Doyle felt a chill sweep across him as Bodie moved out of his line of sight.  There were men out there in the dark, trying to kill them.  Men who would kill a pretty sixteen-year-old girl without a second thought.

Eight shots.  Reload.  Fire.  Six.

And Bodie was scared.

Five.  Four.

There was the rapid retort of bullets and the brittle sound of breaking glass.  Ginny screaming.  The thud of a large body hitting the floor, and Doyle didn’t have time to think.  He fired at the men moving towards the house, saw one go down hard.  He didn’t get up.  Sliding his last two cartridges into the gun, Doyle turned towards the living room, and dived for the space behind the overturned sofa.


Bodie felt the heel of a heavy boot press against his chest.  He coughed, tasted blood in his mouth, and tried to sit up before he choked.  The boot slammed him back into the floor, glass grinding into his skin through the thin fabric of his shirt.  He could feel more blood trickling down his bare arm.  He noticed his gun was gone.  So was the window.

“Watch the shirt, mate,” Bodie spit through the blood in his mouth.  “It’s m’ best one.”

The toe of the boot clipped Bodie’s chin.  He grabbed it as it hit him, twisting as hard as he could.  The man went down with a stream of foreign words, machine gun sending a volley of bullets into the ceiling.  Bodie rolled as plaster rained down on both of them.  Ginny was still screaming, and somewhere close-by Bodie knew Doyle was moving towards him.  Then the air was full of gunfire and blood, and it was all Bodie could do to keep moving, relying on instinct and nothing else.


Doyle pushed Ginny flat against the floor and raised the shotgun over the edge of the sofa.

The bastard had his foot to Bodie’s chest, standing on top of him like some conquering hero instead of a cheap piece of muscle hired to kill a kid.  Doyle was already squeezing the trigger when Bodie mumbled something about his shirt and wrenched the man’s foot just as he was aiming a booted foot at Bodie’s chin.

“Hold this,” Doyle said, flinging the gun into Ginny’s arms as he leapt over the sofa, sliding through broken glass as he reached for Bodie’s gun—his gun.  Bodie was already rolling, the other man thudding with a foreign grunt on the floor, finger locked on the firing mechanism of his machine gun, wildly spraying the ceiling until the gun clicked helplessly, out of ammunition.

Doyle made sure the man stayed down.  It only took one shot, but Doyle had to face the fact this wasn’t one of the three from the bridge.  They’d picked up reinforcements somewhere.  There was no way to know how many were gunning for them now.  At least five, counting the body in front of him and the man dead in the yard.  He checked the clip.  Four in the automatic.  Two in the shotgun.  They were running out of time, and the math was working against them.

Doyle could hear shouting outside, heavy boots connecting with the wooden door.  Another dozen kicks and there would be space to shoot through, two dozen and it would be enough to break the lock.  Bodie was murmuring, trying to pull himself up with what Doyle suspected was a broken arm.  He stretched an arm around Bodie’s chest, fist clenching in broken glass and bloody shirt, and started to drag him backwards towards the sofa.

“Best lay off the Swiss rolls, mate,” Doyle murmured softly.

“Sod off,” came the faint reply.

“That’s my Bodie.  Temperamental to the end.”  Doyle checked to make sure they were clear for the moment, tucked the automatic into his waistband, and put all his strength into dragging Bodie to the safety of the overturned sofa.

“Ah, is it the end already?  An’ me without my angel wings.”  Blood was trickling out of Bodie’s mouth, and Doyle wished he’d just be quiet. Save his strength.  He wasn’t sure how badly he was hurt, but he had a feeling it was bad, and if the cavalry didn’t show up in the next few minutes, it was only going to be worse.  And likely permanent.

“Shut up, Bodie.”

“But I got my Angelfish, don’t I?”  Bodie managed a bloody smile before he passed out in Doyle’s arms.  Doyle just shook his head and leaned Bodie gingerly against the sofa.  Ginny, tears streaking down her face, slid over close to Bodie and put her head against his chest.

“Is he dead?” she asked plaintively.

“No, luv.”  Doyle scooted over to her other side, putting an arm around her gently.  The shotgun slipped easily from her shaking hands.  “Just passed out.”

The hammering and pounding at the door grew louder, and Doyle didn’t like the idea of sitting and waiting for death to come for them.  It wasn’t in his nature, but Bodie was out cold, Ginny was little more than a kid, and his gun was practically empty.

He turned the shotgun towards the door and waited for his next clear shot.

“They’re coming in, aren’t they?” Ginny asked after a moment.

Doyle wondered if he should bother to lie.  The girl was still hanging on to Bodie as if he were some kind of human security blanket, and Doyle couldn’t say he blamed her.  He was tempted to curl up next to Bodie too, except it wouldn’t solve anything and it wouldn’t keep them alive.

“Yeah, they’re coming in.”

“And they’re going to kill us?”  Doyle could see the girl trying to control the tremor in her voice.

“They’re going to try, Ginny.”

“I don’t want to die.”

Doyle patted her hair with his left hand.  He let the hand fall away to settle on Bodie’s shoulder.  His partner groaned, but didn’t stir, and Doyle wondered if Bodie knew how he felt, if he’d get a chance to tell him.  It was looking less and less like they were going to get out of this one alive.

“Don’t give up,” Doyle said—to Ginny, to Bodie, to himself if he was honest.  Doyle was sure they’d been in worst spots, but right now he couldn’t think of even one.  He balanced the shotgun carefully against his knee, trained it on the door.  The frame was wobbling in the moonlight.

“Just don’t leave me,” Ginny whispered.  Her tears were all gone, replaced by a kind of stoicism Doyle understood.  Whatever happened, she knew he would do his best to keep her safe, and when his best wasn’t good enough, he’d die trying.  Bodie too.

“I won’t leave you.”

“Can we run?”  Practical.  The girl was sharp, a thinker.  Doyle gave her a smile.  She was a good kid who deserved a hell of a lot better than this.

“Well …”  Doyle turned the idea over in his mind.  Ginny could run; he’d buy her a few minutes of time with the remaining bullets, but there’d be no way the three of them could make it out.  “I could hold them for a few minutes.  Give you time.”

“You won’t leave him.”  It wasn’t a question.

“No,” Doyle said.  He knew it wasn’t the right answer, not Cowley’s answer.  Cowley would’ve taken the girl and gotten her out, thrown her over his shoulder and hobbled across country, bum leg and all, but Doyle wasn’t prepared to leave Bodie behind.  “I can’t.”

Ginny nodded and patted Bodie’s chest lightly.  Bodie murmured something Doyle didn’t catch, Bodie’s hand coming up to settle lightly on Ginny’s hair.  The girl’s eyes were leaking tears again, silently.  Doyle bit his lip, and prayed there weren’t any more than three men left.  They might just make it if there were only three still alive.  If they were very lucky.

Doyle could see moonlight filtering onto the foyer floor, the tip of a muzzle pressing through the small space and blocking the light.  He squeezed the trigger on the shotgun.

Two.  One.

The rewarding sound of a scream from beyond the door.


He drew his handgun,  and prepared to go out fighting as the door caved in towards them.


Cowley sometimes felt as if he were driving a team of horses that would rather stand in the pasture and graze.

“Can’t this thing go any faster, man?”  He leaned forward from the back seat as the car  bounced over a rough spot in the road.

“I’m going as fast as I can, Mr. Cowley.”  The agent driving was new and not entirely accustomed to careening around back country roads with a smudged map and inconsistent moonlight to steer by.  Cowley knew this, but he didn’t care.  Bodie and Doyle were out there somewhere.  Without back-up and with professional killers on their heels.

And there was the girl to consider.  Pretty young thing, polite and well-educated.  He’d had a long talk with her in his office before the deals were made.  She’d impressed him with her knowledge of circumstances, her understanding of what her options were and what the government was asking of her father, of her.  In the end, the hard decisions had been made, and the girl would be with her father again.  She understood the risks.

But this—to be set upon while under his care.  His care.  And practically in their own backyard.  It was simply unacceptable.

A sign flickered by on the right.  Cowley slapped the driver on the shoulder.  “There, man.  Ferrybridge.  Turn there, and put your back into it.  We’ve no time to spare.”

Cowley watched the parade of headlights following behind them.  Agents, well-armed and apprised of the situation, and the medical unit bringing up the rear.  Normally Cowley wasn’t one to jump the gun, but they were so far from their usual facilities, he didn’t want to take the chance.  He hoped the medical staff would have no work tonight.  He could live with them grumbling about wasted time and unnecessary expense.

He peered down at the map again, the cottage area just off the main road.  It wouldn’t be long now.  He rubbed at the dull ache in his bad leg, and watched the road ahead.

“Faster,” he said again, knowing it probably wouldn’t make any difference at all.


Doyle shifted carefully at the sound of an engine outside.  Several engines.  Headlights flashed through the broken front window, but he didn’t have the energy to pull himself up and look out.

Habit made him check the clip of his gun, even though he knew it was empty and doing so caused the throbbing in his shoulder to grow worse.  He supposed he could throw the gun at the next person through the door.  It was all he had left.

“More?” Ginny whispered.  She’d tucked herself into Bodie’s arms when he’d stirred at the last rain of bullets.  Doyle didn’t know if anything could pry Bodie’s arms from around the girl now that he’d passed out again.

“I don’t know,” Doyle said honestly.  He winced and decided against struggling to his feet.  It was warm beside Bodie, even if Bodie was unconscious, and he knew he wasn’t in any position to fend off an army.  He’d lost a lot of blood.  They both had, though it was less obvious on Bodie’s black shirt.  Doyle could see red soaking through the blue shirt he’d borrowed from Bodie.  Christ, had it only been this morning?  And there was more blood on the white sheet from the sofa.  Ginny’d dragged it down on top of them to try to stop the bleeding.  When the shooting had stopped, Doyle had made Ginny cut off Bodie’s other sleeve and tie off his shoulder wound as best she could.  Her hands had slipped on the knot, fingers slick with blood, but she’d managed it without complaint and without tears.  She’d turned out to be a better soldier than Doyle would’ve ever imagined.

“Good girl,” he’d murmured, leaving a bloody streak against her cheek where he’d stroked it, trying to offer reassurance.

There was the sound of car doors closing and men moving around outside.  Doyle strained to hear something that would identify the new arrivals as friend or foe.  They really couldn’t handle any more foes tonight.

“Could be the cavalry,” Doyle whispered to Ginny, his arm numb.  With his left hand, he reached for the Swiss army knife he’d jabbed blade first into the hardwood floor.  He could take one more person with them.  But that was all.

“They’re late.”  Ginny reached for his hand with the one not clutched in Bodie’s shirt.  He felt her fingers curl around his palm and he gave a small squeeze, ignoring the pain that shot up his side.  The knife lay ready in his other hand.

“Bodie?  Doyle?”  Cowley’s familiar accent cut through the night, and Doyle took only a minute to murmur, “It’s Mr. Cowley.  Everything’s all right, Ginny,” before he passed out.


“It was a hell of a sight,” Cowley said to the minister over a brandy at the office.  “Haven’t seen anything quite like it in a long time.”

The minister set down the formal report and leaned back in his chair.  “Yes, George, but both your men are fine, are they not?”

“Aye, but—”

“And the girl is safely with her father as well?”

“Well, yes, minister, but—”  Cowley broke off.  He knew it was no use.  The minister had read the report, the official typed account of what had happened.  A list of injuries and deaths, losses and expenses.  The minister had clearly tallied up the gains and losses and concluded that they’d come out ahead.  Case closed.  End of story.

But Cowley knew it wasn’t that simple, as much as he told his people it was a job.  He wouldn’t forget how his heart had leapt into his throat when he’d stepped out of the car and through the shattered doorway of the cottage.  The solid oak door had been broken from its moorings and scarred with the treads of heavy boots and bullets.  Every window in the building was shot out, shell casings littering the ground.  There was a man dead in the yard, another near the door, his body disfigured with splintered wood and a gaping wound from a shotgun blast. Inside, three more bodies, the last one a mere four feet from where his two best agents were swimming in blood, a frightened sixteen-year-old girl tucked safely between them and unwilling to let them go until someone assured her they weren’t going to die.

It had been touch-and-go for both of them.  Bodie’s broken arm was the least of the problems, and it had taken hours for the doctors to clean the glass out of his wounds.  Cowley knew the official count of the stitches was the highest on record for CI5.  He wasn’t about to tell Bodie that, though.  The man would wear it like a badge of honour, and Cowley liked to keep his lads in their place.  At least most of the time.  Bodie certainly didn’t need any encouragement.

Doyle had been worse off.  Close range shot embedded in his shoulder.  Three hours in surgery, but he’d pulled through fine—only to experience complications from pneumonia brought on by the dunk in the river and the trek through the woods.  Cowley’d thrown his hands in the air and given them both two weeks leave and told them not to show their faces until they were suitable for duty.

Of course, he’d had someone keeping an eye on them.  Knew they’d found a way to smuggle the girl into Doyle’s hospital room the night before she was to leave London.  Cowley’d stood outside and watched the three of them playing cards for pence.  When he’d come back an hour later and peeked through the glass in the door, he’d been surprised to see the girl clinging tightly to Doyle, while Bodie held them both in the tight circle of his arms.  Cowley stepped away from the door, not sure exactly what he was intruding on, but knowing it was private and sacred and not to be disturbed.  It made his job harder, to see them like that, to know how close they’d come to dying.  And how it was his decision that put them there.

He would do it again if he had to.  It was his job, after all.

And theirs.

But to explain that to a dull grey man in a dull grey suit who thought the sun rose and fell on the bottom line or the strength of the gossip in Parliament this week … Cowley accepted it was a hopeless cause.  He excused himself, citing too much work and an aching leg, and picked up a bottle of single malt scotch on his way back to the office.

He was going to share it with Bodie and Doyle the first chance he got.

It was as close as he could come to letting them know he was grateful they were still alive.


“Two weeks,” Bodie murmured.  “Two bloody weeks.  He should’ve given us two months considering.”

Doyle leaned back against the sofa tiredly and put his feet on the edge of the cardboard boxes that were stacked everywhere around them.  First day out of the hospital and the pain medication was still making him woozy.  His shoulder ached beneath the sling they’d given him to keep from straining the muscles in the arm.  He had to stop himself from tearing it off and tossing it into the trash bin.  He hated feeling less than his best, and this was a damn long ways from his best.

Bodie took a long swallow from a can of Guinness and shook his head.  “Plus movin’ us both to new flats.  Christ, it’ll take me two weeks to find where they’ve packed my important things.”

Doyle closed his eyes lazily.  “You mean your priceless collection of Dr. Who dolls?”

“Collectibles,” Bodie said with an edge in his voice.  “They’re going to be worth a lot of money some day.”

“Not the way you take ‘em out and play with ‘em, mate.”

“I don’t—”  Bodie cut off when he realized Doyle was baiting him.  “You wait.  Probably finance our retirement with those things.”

“More likely our funerals,” Doyle said, aware that it should probably bother him Bodie was already thinking of their joint retirement and not surprised that it didn’t.  When there was nothing but silence, he opened his eyes.  Bodie was staring at him, Guinness frozen halfway to his mouth.

“Can’t believe you said that, mate.”

Doyle rolled his eyes, and sat up straighter.  He’d expected this, waited for it, knew it was coming from the moment he’d opened his eyes in the hospital and heard Bodie yelling at some poor nurse, demanding to be let in to see him.  Everything had changed for them, and Doyle wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.  He’d had time in the hospital—time to think about the implications of the path they’d stepped onto with those fumbled kisses in the dark.  The job was already hard.  Something more than friendship was going to make it even harder.

“Bodie, I was just—”

“No, I know you, Ray.  You’ve been thinkin’ too much, and you’ve changed your mind about things, haven’t you?  Double-thought and triple-thought your way out of it.”

Bodie knew him entirely too well for his own good.  Doyle tried to shrug it off.  “We were drunk.”

“Not at the cottage.”

“We were scared.”

“I’m scared every goddamn day, Doyle.”  Bodie set his drink on one of the boxes and walked across to the sofa.  He stepped over Doyle’s outstretched legs, and sat down beside him.  “Doesn’t change the fact it’s you that makes me want to keep living.”

Doyle opened his mouth to say something and stopped.  Rubbed his lips together and looked at his partner’s grim face.  He could’ve left Bodie at the cottage, run with the girl.  It would’ve been the practical thing to do, the smart thing, but he couldn’t do it.  Didn’t even think about it.

Because it was Bodie.  His partner.  His best friend.  And because he’d rather die with him than live without him.  Even the thought sent a shiver down his spine.  Christ, they were in trouble.

“It was the situation.”  Even to his own ears, Doyle knew it sounded desperate.  An excuse.  Why was he so afraid of admitting he’d felt the attraction between them, that he’d wanted it to go further?

“Bollocks.  We’ve been in situations before.  Worse, even.  First time you’ve ever stuck your tongue down my throat to get over bein’ afraid.”

“Sod off.”  Doyle felt his face turning hot.  But Bodie wasn’t lying, and that was the hardest part.  Whatever had happened between them was mutual, and Doyle couldn’t pretend that it wasn’t.

“That’s right, Doyle, tell yourself it didn’t matter,” Bodie continued.  “But you’re the only worthwhile thing in this goddamn job, and if I didn’t have you to do it with, I’d have nothing.  Now you’ve got another bullet scar for us to count when we’re too drunk to do anything ‘cept forget, and I’ve got a busted wing and more stitches than you’ve got curls, but it doesn’t change that this—this thing between us—is real, and you pretending it was nothing doesn’t change the fact it was a hell of a lot more than that.  For both of us.”


Doyle watched his partner’s blue eyes darkening with anger, and wondered when he’d decided Bodie angry was a damn sight more attractive than just about anything he’d ever seen.  His eyes looked like a storm blowing in off the coast, and Doyle knew it was useless to fight against a storm.  All you could do was try to hang on.

“An’ don’t tell me it’s all me ‘cause I know the shape of a cock pressed into my thigh, and I know when someone’s kissing me back.  Jesus, Ray, when I close my eyes I can still feel you pressed against me, the way your skin felt under my hand.”  Bodie’s voice dropped to a worshipful whisper.  “I wake up aching some nights just thinking about your mouth, those goddamn perfect hands of yours, and you sashay around in painted-on jeans and take every set of stairs before me, and … fuck, Ray.  Don’t tell me it didn’t matter.”

“Bodie!” Doyle said it loud enough to get his attention.


“Shut the hell up.”  It was awkward with them both having arms in slings, but Doyle managed to get his left hand on Bodie’s neck and pull him forward into a kiss.  He heard Bodie wince as their noses smashed together, but then Bodie’s hand was in his curls and their mouths were working out the angles and movements that couldn’t be misinterpreted as friendship or fear or anything else.

The kiss was passion and anger and more than a few years of friendship, years of close calls and second chances and knowing there was no one who understood the job except the person who did it with you.  Doyle pushed with his tongue and held on with his hand, and thought that if this was the only way to get that stupid berk of a partner to listen to him, it wasn’t so bad.  He could feel Bodie’s hand in his hair, clutching at Doyle as if he might still change his mind.  Doyle knew the chances of that were decreasing with every breathless moment.

Bodie yanked roughly until Doyle was straddling his lap.  He pulled away, ignoring a vocal protest from Bodie, and tugged the sling over his arm.  His shoulder ached, but he needed to move it, needed both hands to brace himself against the sofa, Bodie’s body.  He didn’t care about the pain rippling through his arm as he dropped his mouth to suck hard at Bodie’s neck.  He wanted to mark his partner, give him something real to cling to when this moment was done, when it would be too easy for Doyle to retreat from it and pretend it was nothing more than sex.  This was frightening and new, and he wished it were as easy as playing with a bird, but then he didn’t think he’d ever felt this way about one of them.  Not one.

Doyle could feel Bodie’s fingers unbuttoning his shirt, flicking experimentally at nipples that hardened instantly at the touch of a rounded nail.  Doyle groaned and pressed himself harder against Bodie’s groin, slid his ass back and forth, rubbing himself and Bodie together.  Bodie was hard and so was he, and the friction of tight trousers and hard cocks was making his groin burn with pleasure.  He felt breathless and wild and more than a little desperate to come.

“Oh, God,” Doyle managed to say.  His shoulder was on fire, and he didn’t care at all because Bodie’s free hand had moved to his ass and was kneading even as Doyle felt his partner thrusting back with equal force.  Bodie’s wet mouth fastened around a nipple, and Doyle threw back his head and didn’t care that Bodie’s new neighbours were probably hearing more than they needed to know.

The hand was back in his hair, and Doyle’s mouth was covered with Bodie’s, wet and warm.  He almost laughed because he knew Bodie was doing it to keep him from yelling his name at the top of his lungs and suddenly it felt so right to be like this, everything clicking, everything sliding into place the way their cocks were sliding hard against each other.  Doyle felt the tightness just before release, felt Bodie buck up beneath him with a throaty “Ray,” and then he was lost in such exquisite pleasure he forgot to do anything except rock hard against Bodie and kiss him with ever ounce of strength he could find.

The last of his orgasm spent, he toppled forward, breathing heavily, head leaning on Bodie’s uninjured shoulder.  There was no hand stroking his back any longer, and Doyle realized Bodie’s hand was lying limp against the cushions of the sofa.  Exhausted.  Bodie’s pulse was still racing, and Doyle could feel it beneath his lips as he pressed a soft kiss to the edge of Bodie’s mouth.  There was the beginning of a reddish bruise forming just below his jaw line.  Doyle smiled.

“Ouch,” Bodie moaned, and Doyle pulled back enough to look at his partner’s flushed face, forehead damp from a sheen of sweat.  Bodie’s tee-shirt had spots of blood filtering through it.  With a grunt, Doyle eased off his partner’s lap, careful of Bodie’s broken arm and his own aching shoulder.

“Christ,” Doyle said, easing his sling back on.  “You’re bleeding.”

“Think we opened some stitches,” Bodie said, surveying the dots of red beginning to stain his shirt.

“Stay there.  I’ll get the first aid kit,” Doyle said and walked slowly to the kitchen.  His wet, sticky tight trousers were uncomfortable and his arm felt like it might be better to just cut it off and save everyone the trouble.  He dug out the first aid kit, knowing he couldn’t re-sew Bodie’s stitches with his left hand, and hoped to God the tearing was minor.  Neither of them was in any shape to report to CI5 for medical care.

“Hurry it up, will ya?” Bodie called.  “Blood stains, you know.”

“No kidding, mate,” Doyle muttered, taking the time to pour himself a glass of water and take another two of his pain pills.  He tucked the kit under this arm and took it out to where Bodie sat on the sofa, looking mesmerized at the patterns forming on his shirt.

“Like watching a painting come to life.”

Doyle just stared at him until Bodie made a face and started to remove his sling, then his shirt.  Carefully.  He poured some antiseptic on a cloth and dabbed at the bloody spots, ignoring Bodie’s sharp intake of breath every time he touched Bodie’s skin.

“‘s your own fault for being too—”

“Now wait just a minute, I was—” Bodie started.

“—damn desirable for your own good.”  Doyle looked at his partner affectionately as Bodie stopped mid-sentence and looked at him suspiciously.  The pulling in the stitches was minor and Doyle was relieved to see the blood was already starting to dry and scab over.  He patted Bodie’s skin and helped him tug the sling back on.

“Best just leave the shirt off for now,” Doyle said.

“Sure you’ll be able to control yourself?”  Bodie grinned wickedly.  “Bit of a hair-trigger you got there.”

“You’re one to talk.”  Doyle eased onto the sofa beside Bodie, and didn’t protest when he felt a hand tangle in his curls.

“Just trying to keep up with you, mate.  Didn’t want you to feel inadequate or anything.”

“Sod off, luv,” Doyle said cheerfully.  It appeared the world hadn’t ended because they’d fooled around, and aside from being sticky and cold and sore, he had to admit there was a feeling of warmth inside that threatened to make him sentimental and foolish.

Doyle felt lips press against his temple for a moment, and Bodie’s voice was softer than normal when he spoke.  “So you do love me, then.”  It was teasing enough to be a joke, but quiet enough to be something else entirely.

It took some effort not to toss off a quick retort, a sassy comeback.  Instead Doyle just sighed and let his head drop back against the curve of Bodie’s outstretched arm.  “Aye, it looks that way.”

“So what do we do about it?”

“Damned if I know,” Doyle said.  “But we’ve got at least two weeks to figure it out.”

“Sorry, mate, but your math’s wrong.  Eleven days.  Cowley started counting from the time I got out of the hospital.”

“You’re kidding.”

Bodie shook his head, grinning in spite of himself, and ruffled Doyle’s curls.

“Bloody Cowley,” they said in unison, just as they always had, and Doyle knew without a shadow of a doubt that everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be.


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