Title:  Once in a Good Long While - posted October 9, 2006
Author: Lacey McBain
Rating:    R
Pairing(s):    Bodie/Doyle
Word count:  ~13,000
Summary:  While on holiday, Bodie and Doyle are kidnapped by someone with a grudge against Cowley.
Disclaimer:  The Professionals belongs to many people.  I'm not one of them.  I'm just borrowing them for a bit o' fun.
Warnings:  Violence, hurt/comfort, plot!
Author's notes:  Thanks to Blandine for the quick beta!  Alicambs asked for:  "Action and adventure, humour, love and friendship, dialogue heavy. Plot essential. Kidnapping of the pair of them by someone with a grudge against Cowley. Leisure time going awry as Bodie and Doyle stumble into a 'situation'."  I think I managed a little bit of all of those. Written for the Summer of 78.

Once in a Good Long While

"You can’t keep denying it, Bodie."  Doyle turned to look sideways at his partner, who had slowed down at a crossroads even though there wasn’t a vehicle within sight.

"It’s around here somewhere.  Maybe I’d be able to find it if you’d stop nattering in my ear.  You’re worse than a bird, Doyle."

"Why don’t you just admit it?  You’re lost."

"No, I’m not."

Oh, yes, they were undoubtedly lost; Bodie wouldn’t ‘fess up, but Ray knew the telltale signs.  The shifting eyes, the surreptitious glances at the map when he thought Doyle wasn’t looking, the leisurely speed that meant Bodie was trying to get his bearings.  If he’d known where he was going, they’d be hurtling there, small stones and dust tossing up behind them; there’d be none of this leisurely Sunday driving.  Doyle thought it was beginning to feel a little like an outing with his grandmother.

"Then explain to me why we’ve passed that road sign twice now."  Doyle waved a hand towards the window.

"We bloody well have not," Bodie said, but he craned his neck to look as a sign flashed by them, and that was enough for Doyle.

"A-ha!"  He waved his finger accusingly and couldn’t keep the note of triumph out of his voice, although truthfully, Doyle was beginning to think that having no beer on the horizon wasn’t much to be crowing about.

"A-ha what?"

"‘Oh, I know this great little pub, Doyle.  You’ll love it.  Off the beaten path, lovely birds, cheap pints.’"  Doyle did a remarkably good impression of his partner when he put his mind to it.  Today, he was definitely putting his mind to it.

"That’s all true," Bodie said defensively.  The empty countryside continued to roll past the windows of the Capri, and Doyle leaned his head back against the seat.

"Well, I’ll never know if you can’t find it, will I?"  Doyle shook his head.  "Sure you didn’t just imagine the place?  A regular Brigadoon with dancing barmaids and such?  Maybe you and Murphy dreamed the whole thing—the hallucination of two desperate men on round-the-clock stake-out."

"Look, it can’t be far.  It was while we were on the Porter surveillance, while you were still laid up in hospital.  It’s just—well, it’s possible I might’ve been a bit …"


Bodie grinned and Doyle couldn’t help but grin back.  "Maybe."

Doyle shook his head and reached for the RT.  "Allow me to come to your rescue, then."  He pressed the talk button:  "4.5 to base."

"Go ahead, 4.5."

"Sandra, love.  Can you patch me through to our man Murphy?"  Doyle grinned and winked at Bodie, who slowed the car to a stop on the side of the road.

The woman’s smile came through with her pleasant tone.  "Thought you were on holiday, 4.5.  Don’t tell me you’ve tired of 3.7 already?"

Doyle let out a short bark of laughter.  "Well, darlin’, you know how he can be.  Such a hardship."

A knowing laugh, and Bodie looked mildly offended, but Doyle just waved off his reaching hand and continued:  "Speaking of dear old Bodie—"


"In spite of his impeccable sense of direction, he seems to have misplaced a pub, so—"

"Ah, I see.  So this is serious, important CI5 business you’re calling for then, 4.5?"  There was a teasing lilt in her tone, and Doyle could hear her tapping keys on a computer console in the background and someone quietly whistling off-key.

"Yes," he said seriously.  "Very important business.  If we don’t find this pub soon, it’s likely that 3.7’s body will be discovered strangled and dumped in a ditch outside of—"

"As if you could get the drop on me—"  Bodie rolled his eyes and snatched the RT out of Doyle’s hand.  "Sandra, if you could just be a doll and put us through to Murph?"

"Sure you wouldn’t rather I put you through to Mr. Cowley, 3.7?"

"Oh, that’s not necessary," Doyle said, grabbing the radio back.  "Murph will be fine."

"Hang on, 4.5.  I’ll connect you.  Wouldn’t want Bodie’s nasty death on my conscience, after all."  There was a hum on the line as they waited for Murphy to be alerted.

Bodie shook his head at Doyle.  "Thinking of doing me in, mate?  Better men than you’ve had a go at it, and never managed."

Doyle shrugged.  "Ah, but I’ve got something they didn’t."

"What’s that?" Bodie asked, suspicious.

"Your gun."  Doyle tapped the glovebox lightly.

"That’s hardly sporting."

"Since when did we start fighting fair?"

"True.  The bastards trying to kill us never do."

The RT crackled and Murphy’s familiar voice filtered through.  "Murphy here.  What’s up?  Thought you two were off this weekend."

"We are.  Just need a spot of info," Doyle responded.

"Well, Abrams and I are stuck in Cheswick watching a flat, so anything you need, I’ve got time.  Sandra said it was urgent?"

"Oh, it’s urgent all right," Bodie said, taking the RT before Doyle could interrupt.  "Now, you remember that little pub we found south of …"


It was dark and the moon was high when they left the pub and ambled down the lane to the bed and breakfast where they’d taken a room.  The last one in the place, as it turned out, and Bodie was grateful for it although it only had the one bed.  He didn’t think Doyle would care—not for one night, anyway.  It wasn’t like they’d never shared before.  Neither of them was fit to drive, and he certainly didn’t relish the thought of sleeping in the Capri.

Of course, if the B&B had been full up, Bodie was sure there would’ve been someone back at the pub who could offer them a place for the night.  The girls had been nice—friendly and eager—but he just couldn’t quite get in the right frame of mind for anything more than a bit of meaningless chatting up.  Maybe he really was getting too old for all this.  When Doyle had pointed out there was football on the telly, it hadn’t taken much persuasion to get Bodie to take a seat closer to the set, and they’d ordered steak and kidney pie and more than a few pints.  Eventually, the birds sort of flitted away, but it wasn’t a total loss.  Manchester United had won, after all.

Bodie followed Doyle up the stairs to their room, noting with amusement that Ray was wearing the jeans with the embroidery across the arse.  His leather jacket just brushed the stitching.  Bodie—anyone with eyes, for that matter—couldn’t help but notice.  It couldn’t have been any worse if Doyle had worn a sign saying "watch my bum."  The man knew he looked good, and he didn’t seem to care who noticed.  Really, Bodie thought, Raymond Doyle had absolutely no shame, although Bodie wasn’t hypocritical enough to complain about the view.

Of course, he also wasn’t drunk enough to admit to paying attention, either.

Bodie snickered to himself as he watched his partner take the last set of stairs two at a time—not something Bodie was willing to try.  He was feeling the buzz from the pints and when he caught up, Doyle had already opened the door to the room and tossed his carry-all on the window seat.  It was a largish room, nicely decorated, although Bodie could’ve done without all the flowers and ruffles.  Still, it’d been a long day and the bed looked inviting.  He tossed his bag on the floor and flopped down on the bed, loosening the collar of his green button-down and kicking his shoes into the corner.

"See?  Pub did exist," Bodie murmured as he lay back on the bed.  "And with a convenient place to pass out right nearby.  Good of Murphy to suggest it."

"Yes, good lad, that Murph.  Too bad it’s twenty quid a night."  Ray came out of the bathroom, white shirt undone, hands flicking at the buttons on his cuffs.  Bodie wasn’t sure how Doyle managed to sound put out and happily drunk at the same time.

"It’s one night.  ‘sides, we can afford it."  The last thing Bodie wanted to do was argue about money.  Doyle worried about stuff like that far too much.  Bodie didn’t see the point.  Not in their line of work, anyway.

"Speak for yourself."

"Come on, Ray."  Bodie raised himself up on an elbow and looked across at Doyle, who was still standing, looking around the room with a slightly confused expression.  His face was flushed with alcohol, and his curls were tousled.  "We get paid the same.  If I can afford it, so can you.  What’re you doing?  Saving for retirement?"  Bodie made an undignified snort at the idea.

"Well, what if I am?" Doyle shot back.  "Wouldn’t hurt you to think about it.  Not going to be young forever, you know."

"Don’t figure I’ll need a retirement fund," Bodie said matter-of-factly, watching Doyle’s shoulders tense as the words registered.  "Don’t figure I’ll live—"

"Bodie."  There was an edge of warning in Doyle’s voice. Ray sat on the edge of the bed and took off his shoes, unlacing them carefully and setting them aside one at a time.

"No point in pretending otherwise, Ray.  You know what this life’s like.  Not a hell of a lot of old CI5 agents running around.  I’m just being—"

"Bodie, just shut up a minute, will you?"

Bodie closed his mouth and lay back against the cool comforter.  Fine.  If Doyle wanted to be willfully ignorant about their life expectancies, that was fine.  Whatever kept him going.  It wasn’t Bodie’s place to judge.  Not as long as Ray was there backing him up when he needed it.  Hell, Bodie hoped Doyle proved him wrong, but he wasn’t willing to bet on it.


"What?"  Bodie sighed and opened his eyes.

"What happened to the other bed?"

Bodie sat up slowly and looked around, then looked at Doyle as if he were crazy.  "What other bed?"

"The other—isn’t there supposed to be another bed?"

Bodie shook his head.  "Last room, remember?  It was all they had.  You’re just going to have to make due with sharing, Sunshine.  I promise not to hog the covers."

"Right.  That’s what you always say when we get stuck sharing," Doyle said, "yet somehow I always wake up colder than a witch’s tit."

"Wouldn’t know, mate.  Never had a witch."  Bodie just managed to get his hands up in time to block the pillow tossed at his head.

"I’m taking a bath."

"Fine," Bodie said.

It wasn’t until after Ray had disappeared behind the white clapboard door and the sound of running water was lulling Bodie to sleep that he remembered they’d been talking about something else.  Retirement.  Or at least living long enough to see it.

Doyle had taken advantage of the fact Bodie was a little bit tipsy, and changed the subject on him.

Damn it, Ray, Bodie thought.  What’s going on under that head of curls?


Doyle let the hot water course over his skin.  Usually beer made him talkative and flirty, but tonight he just felt moody.  Even Bodie had noticed.

It wasn’t even that they’d driven around for an hour before getting directions to the pub.  There were worse things than driving around with Bodie and sometimes it was nice to be looking at the roses starting to bloom rather than wondering if someone was going to take a shot at them.

And it wasn’t that the pub had been a disappointment—it hadn’t been.  It’d been everything Bodie had promised and more.  Murphy’d even been on the ball enough to remember the bed and breakfast, which was a far sight better than some of the places they’d stayed, and it was probably worth a lot more than what they were paying.  The woman at the desk seemed to take pity on them because they were obviously stuck and it was the last room.  Maybe they could slip it onto their expense chits.

Doyle slid the paper wrapper off a bar of soap and lathered up his chest, rinsing away the smoky smell of the pub.  No, it was something else that was bothering him, but he wasn’t sure what.  Something about Bodie taking more chances lately, maybe.  Never careless, but still too reckless.  A little too willing to put himself in the line of fire whether it was required or not, and Doyle had thought more than once that Bodie was aiming to go out in a blaze of glory.  Well, not if Ray had anything to say about it.

He wanted Bodie to stick around.  He’d already lost a partner on the force, and Syd Parker hadn’t been anywhere near the kind of mate Bodie was.  Doyle wasn’t sure he could do this job without Bodie, was pretty sure he’d been handing his badge to Cowley if Bodie ever checked out.  Of course, chances were good that they’d be going out together, but it would be just like Bodie to do something stupid like save his life and lose his own in the process.  Something Ray couldn’t even get angry at him for.

He didn’t like to think about it, but it had been on his mind more and more lately.  How short life was—especially in this business.  How rare it was to have someone who understood the job, the stress.  How much he wanted to beat the odds and have Bodie beating them right alongside him.

He didn’t want to watch Bodie die protecting Queen and country, or God forbid, him.  He wanted to watch Bodie get old.

"Bloody hell," Ray said to himself, and let the water wash his thoughts away.


By the time Bodie did a quick wash and changed into a plain white tee and pajama bottoms, Doyle’s breathing was already soft and even.


No answer.

"Ray?" Bodie tried again.  Doyle’s breaths were slow, almost measured, and Bodie knew him well enough to know that wasn’t how be breathed when he was actually asleep.  He figured he’d take the chance and if Doyle really wanted to avoid talking to him about it, he could.

Bodie took a deep breath and rolled onto his side so he was facing the line of Ray’s back, flowered comforter pulled up around his bare shoulders.  Bodie knew he’d be sleeping in his favourite pair of sweats under the covers.

"Fine, you’re asleep," Bodie said.  "But just so you know, I hope you’re right.  Really.  I hope we both make it to see that retirement you’re saving for."  It wasn’t like Bodie had a death wish or anything; he just didn’t have any particular illusions about the kind of work they did.  "You know we get shot at almost every damn day, Doyle."

"Twice on Sundays," Doyle murmured, and Bodie smiled as he saw the curly head shift on the pillow until Ray was facing him.

"Chances are good that one of these days, one of those bullets isn’t going to miss."

"Been shot before."

"You know what I mean," Bodie said softly.  "Listen, Ray, half the time, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far.  I haven’t exactly had a quiet life, you know.  Even before this, before CI5."

"Really?  Never would’ve guessed."  Doyle’s voice was quietly sarcastic.  The room was dark enough that Bodie couldn’t quite see Doyle’s expression, but he could picture it:  the wide green eyes, slight pout, the scar high on his cheekbone.

"Ray."  Bodie wanted to reach out a hand, make some kind of gesture to say it’s okay, but he didn’t know how.  There was a reason they didn’t have these conversations, and there were reasons they shouldn’t have them—especially not while they were sharing a bed after a night of drinking.

Bodie rolled onto his back and rubbed his hands over his face.  "Jesus, Ray, what do you want from me?  I’m alive, you’re alive.  I cover you, you cover me, and maybe that’ll be enough to get us through the next week, the next year, maybe even the next ten.  But maybe it won’t, and you know what?  There isn’t a damn thing we can do about it."

"At least I haven’t decided it’s a foregone conclusion."

"For Christ’s sake, Doyle, everybody dies!  Talking about it won’t change it, and no offense, but feathering your mattress with pounds for your retirement won’t guarantee either of us’ll be there to enjoy it.  Probably just end up paying for your funeral."

"Probably end up paying for yours!"

"Oh, don’t do me any favours," Bodie said.  It was easy to be angry.  Much easier than reaching down to find some kind of comfort to offer.

Doyle rolled over, taking half the covers with him, and Bodie wrapped his hands in the flowered comforter and hung on spitefully.

"Damn it, Doyle."  Bodie gave the blankets a two-handed pull and ended up with Doyle tangled in the blankets and pressed tight against his side.  When he tried to roll away, Bodie grabbed Doyle’s shoulders and hauled him back, refusing to let go.  "The day I die, chances are you’ll probably be dead too.  Thirty seconds before or after, give or take, because that’s the way we are.  I’ll damn well put myself in front of a bullet for you if I have to, and I know you’ll do the same."

"You’ll do it whether you have to or not," Doyle shot back, and there it was.  Out in the open.  The fear that had been seeping into Doyle’s eyes these last few months, and Bodie understood more in that moment than he ever had before.  The world suddenly made a lot more sense.  He let out a breath and gripped Doyle’s shoulders a little tighter.

"I swear to God, Ray, I won’t go looking for it.  I won’t."  Bodie leaned his forehead against Ray’s, feeling the silky touch of curls against his skin.  "I promise I won’t go looking for a bullet.  I wouldn’t do that to you."

They were close enough Bodie could feel Doyle breathing unevenly against him, head nodding in the dark.

"That probably shouldn’t be comforting, but it really kind of is," Doyle said quietly, and Bodie slid an arm around Ray’s shoulders and pulled him into a kind of awkward hug, hand slipping into still-damp curls.

"Yeah, it is."

They clung to each other like that for longer than was strictly necessary or probably wise, but Bodie couldn’t bring himself to let go until Doyle did, and Doyle just pressed his face into Bodie’s shoulder and breathed hot air against the thin fabric of his tee-shirt until Bodie could feel beads of sweat starting to form at the nape of his neck.  It was long enough he needed to shift his weight, sliding onto his back, dragging Doyle with him, unwilling to let go.  Between the flowered comforter, the summer heat, and Doyle’s bare skin, Bodie was sure his core temperature had risen about ten degrees in the last few minutes.

"You know," Doyle murmured, voice muffled by Bodie’s shoulder, "you take every chance imaginable, you stupid git.  You look danger right in the face and laugh."

Bodie thought there was something important coming, but he wasn’t sure what.  The fingers that had been idly pulling at Doyle’s curls went still.  He had no idea how long he’d been doing that, and it seemed like he should know.

Doyle raised his head and looked Bodie in the eyes.  "You’re the bravest, stupidest man I know, and you’re still not brave enough to take the chance."  Doyle smiled a little sadly, and shook his head.  "But I’m not sure I am either."

"You’re not making sense," Bodie said as gently as he could.  He felt like he was supposed to know what Doyle was talking about, and maybe he did, deep down where his stomach was fluttering and his heart was pounding hard against his chest.

"Are you sure?" Doyle asked.

Bodie swallowed awkwardly, throat suddenly dry, and every inch of skin against skin was sending shockwaves to his brain telling him to stroke and taste and touch.  He pushed those thoughts aside, concentrating on Doyle’s face, his mouth.  The things he wasn’t saying.  It looked like there was permission there, but Bodie wasn’t sure exactly what Ray wanted, even what he wanted.  He’d been trying so hard to ignore so many things that just didn’t seem possible.

"Bodie," Doyle whispered.  "Be sure."

The slightest tilt of Doyle’s head, a quick flicker of tongue wetting lips that were only inches away, and Bodie wasn’t certain of anything at all.  He could feel Doyle’s breath against his face, warm and familiar.  The urge to do something about it, to reach forward and cup the damaged cheek in his hand and press his lips against that mouth, was almost overwhelming.

But Bodie wasn’t the kind of guy who made promises in the dark—not ones that meant anything, anyway, and he owed it to Doyle to be sure.  There were moments like this when Bodie thought it would be easier to give his life than to give Ray what he needed to keep going every day, but maybe that was simply part of the deal.

He’d never had a partner before.  Never let anyone get this close.  Never wanted anyone to.

"Ray," he started, hand sliding around the back of Doyle’s neck.  No sudden moves.  Nothing at all frightening for either of them.  Maybe if they were careful, they could have this and everything else too.

"Be brave," Doyle whispered, and didn’t resist the gentle pressure of Bodie’s hand pulling him closer until their lips were almost touching.

It was at that moment, the door flew open hard enough to bang the knob against the wall, and Bodie heard the familiar retort of a silencer.  Everything after that was lost in darkness.


Doyle knew he was awake because he could feel every inch of his body aching.  He’d been expecting the hangover—would’ve been surprised if he’d managed to avoid it—but it was doubly unfair to be shot at, beaten up and abducted in the middle of the night.

"The hangover would’ve been punishment enough," he said, opening his eyes to an empty room.  He was tied to a cot with a thick piece of rope—hands and feet both expertly bound—and he secretly hated it when people actually knew what they were doing.  Life was so much simpler, albeit slightly less predictable, when they were dealing with amateurs.

Doyle forced himself to breathe slowly, trying to determine what exactly was hurting and how badly.  The hangover wasn’t the worst of it, and he could feel swelling starting around his left eye, but it was mainly an all-over feeling of pins and needles that was bothering him, and a lingering grogginess that probably meant he’d been drugged.  Doyle went through his standard assessment list—room, escape routes, available weapons.  There wasn’t much that would be of any use, and the single door seemed to be guarded, at least judging from the shadow that crossed in front of it at more-or-less regular intervals.  He thought he could hear the sound of someone whistling.

He tried to ignore the fact that his last memory of Bodie was the almost-touch of lips before the world had turned upside-down and there’d been a burst of down-feathers, the distinctive sound of a silencer, then nothing at all.  It didn’t help that he couldn’t be certain if he’d heard Bodie cry out, if the shots fired had hit anything other than the pillows.  He and Bodie had rolled apart as quickly as if someone had yanked their strings like marionettes, and Doyle had actually gotten a hand on his gun before there was a blow to the back of his head.  He was fairly certain if he checked, there would be a lump rising there.  He was still in his sweatpants and nothing else.

Someone had stepped on his wrist, he was fairly certain.  He could just make out a garish purple bruise beneath the coils of rope, but it didn’t seem to be broken—just hurt like the devil.  He moved his body bit by bit, slowly, assessing the damage.  Bruises more than anything.  Aches and pains from being bound, roughed up.  He remembered vague snatches of being battered about, asking about Bodie and being greeted with a fist in answer.

Doyle forced himself to think, to remember what happened.  His head was still swimming and everything was fragmented in black-and-white:  the shadows of the room, sudden light from the hallway, shapes of men—three, at least.  The air was filled with feathers, Doyle’s gun slid under his fingers, but there wasn’t enough time before a boot ploughed his wrist into the hardwood floor and there was the sound of flesh against flesh, a lamp shattering, table crashing, someone yelling his name, and then nothing but darkness and pain.

He pulled against the ropes holding him, but they were tight.  There was no way he was going to be able to get out of them without help, and he had no idea when that might be coming.  All he could do was hope that by some miracle Bodie had gotten away.

"This would be a fine time for a rescue, Bodie," Doyle muttered, dropping his head against the mattress in frustration.

It was then he heard a faint moan from the floor beside the bed.


George Cowley hung his coat and umbrella on the stand in the corner of his office and poured himself two fingers of scotch.  Normally, he wasn’t given to drinking this early in the day, but lunch with the minister had been particularly pointless and he was facing another round of trying to defend his organization’s existence.  It was a seemingly endless task.

He settled down at his desk, one hand idly rubbing his bad leg.  It was always stiffer in the wet weather, and today even the warmth of a single-malt wasn’t enough to ease the ache.  His eyes went to the pale blue envelope on his desk, the world "Alpha" printed in neat script, and he felt a sinking feeling in his stomach even before he slid the letter opener through the thin paper.

He read the short note quickly, then read it again just to be sure, before swearing under his breath and reaching for the phone.  "Sandra?  See if you can reach 3.7 and 4.5. … Yes, I know they’re on holiday, they’re still supposed to be reachable.  It’s urgent."

He clicked another button on the phone.  "Madelyn, pull all the records we have for Sebastian Henry and Terence Townsend.  And get Kate Ross down here.  As soon as you can."

He hung up the phone, considered pouring himself another drink, then decided against it.  He was going to need to be clear-headed about this, and it wasn’t going to be easy.

"Bloody hell," he said, and finished off the last of the scotch in his glass.


"Bodie?  Bodie, that you?"  Doyle strained to raise his head further off the bed.  By bracing his feet against the mattress and tightening all of his muscles, he could hold himself up for a few seconds at a time.  Long enough to see there was someone lying on the floor beside the cot.  There was a blue pajama leg on the edge of his field of vision and a damn good chance it was Bodie.  Doyle couldn’t do a damn thing to help him.

"Bodie!  Bodie, wake up!"  Doyle kicked the metal frame of the cot as hard as he could with his feet still bound.  He couldn’t turn himself far enough to get a good look over the edge, and all he could hear were a few wordless groans that sounded like someone in pain.


"Jesus Christ, Doyle," a voice said finally.  "Can’t a man die in peace?"

Doyle let out a relieved sigh, dropping back against the cot.  "No, you bloody well can’t."  Doyle waited a beat before asking.  "You hurt?"

A laugh.  "Of course, I’m hurt, you berk.  You got the bed, and I got tossed on the damn floor."

"How bad?"  Doyle could hear him shifting and it sounded like every movement was painful.

"Might have cracked a rib.  Hard to tell since everything hurts like hell.  Don’t suppose you want to give me a hand?"

Doyle closed his eyes.  "Would if I could, mate.  I’m a little tied up right now."  At that, a hand appeared at the edge of the cot, gripping the sheet firmly, until Bodie’s head popped into view.  He had the beginnings of a shiner, and his lip was swollen, but he’d looked worse.  Doyle couldn’t help but grin.

"Hey, beautiful."

Bodie snickered.  "Need your vision checked, Ray.  Although right now I probably look a sight better than you."  Bodie reached a tentative hand and stroked it along Doyle’s cheek.  Doyle couldn’t help the flinch, and Bodie pulled away.  "Someone did a job on us."  He squinted at the ropes holding Doyle to the bed.  "Sailor’s knots.  Someone knows what they’re doing."

"You’re not tied?" Doyle asked, realizing Bodie was starting to go to work on the cord at his wrist.

"An oversight I’m not going to complain about."  Bodie’s fingers worked at the knots slowly, a bit unsteadily, and Ray tried to relax and not move.  "Any idea what we’re up against?"

Doyle kept his voice low, although he wasn’t sure it mattered.  "Three men, maybe four, at the room last night.  Haven’t seen anyone since I woke up here, but I’m pretty sure there’s a guard outside, or at least there was."

"They ask you anything?"  The rope loosened slightly as Bodie kept at it, unwinding the knots from one another, threading ends in and out of loops.  "When they were roughing you up?"  He glanced at Ray’s bare chest, could see the beginnings of bruises there.  He was grateful his own were covered at least.

"Nothing."  Doyle shook his head.  "Doesn’t make much sense."

"No, it doesn’t," Bodie agreed, and kept working in silence.


"Mr. Cowley," Dr. Ross said, mustering every ounce of professional patience she could.  "I really don’t see how this is your fault.  In fact, as far as I know, you’re not even certain there’s anything wrong."

"Oh, there’s something wrong all right, doctor."  Cowley pushed himself back from his desk and advanced on her.  Kate met his eyes and wondered, not for the first time, what was going on behind them.  Cowley was always cautious around her; she never felt she was getting the real story.  "Bodie and Doyle can’t be reached, and it’s because a madman is trying to make a point."

"You’re calling Sebastian Henry a madman?"  Dr. Ross scanned down the file in front of her.  "From everything it says here, he’s been a model employee the last six years since he retired from field service.  Dr. Singh’s files don’t indicate any psychological concerns."

"No, they wouldn’t," Cowley said.  "Those are only his most recent files.  The ones since he’s been out of the field.  The rest—"  Cowley tapped a stack of thick folders on his desk.  "Well, the rest is more telling.  More … worrisome."

"You yourself recommended the man for his position.  If you had concerns about his mental stability, why would you do that?  I know I’ve only been with CI5 a few years, but I’ve never known you to—"

"Because I was feeling guilty!" Cowley almost shouted.  "I was feeling damn guilty because I’d left him in the field too long, and when I finally acted it was too late, things had gone too far.  He blamed me for what happened."

"Should he have?"

Cowley looked at her with a thin smile.  "I had decisions to make, and I made them.  For better or worse.  You’re not here to get inside my head, Dr. Ross."

"Then why exactly am I here, Mr. Cowley?"

He tapped the folders on the desk again.  "I need to know what he’s going to do to my men."


Bodie had gotten both of Doyle’s wrists untied, which made it a lot easier since Doyle could sit up and help with the ropes at his ankles.  Maybe it was futile, but at least it felt good to be doing something, even if it was only working slowly through a series of expertly tied knots while they went back and forth trying to figure out what was going on.

"Did you recognize any of the men?"


"Any of them say anything?  Accents?"

"Nothing important.  Home boys, same as you and me."

"Blackmail?  Ransom?"

"Yeah, bloody good luck getting Cowley to give up anything for our sorry hides."

"Well, it is expensive to find replacements."

"Not that expensive."


No matter how many times they went round it, they always came back to one question.


Neither of them had an answer.


Cowley looked at the note again.  The pale blue paper, the neatly executed script.

Once in a good long while you find the perfect partner.  The one that clicks, and yes, you’ll watch his back and he’ll watch yours because that’s what being a team is about.  No rank, no seniority.  Just two men living in each other’s pockets, and there’ll be days you’ll hate each other, hate what you do, but you’ll keep doing it because there’s something bigger at stake.  Because it’s the two of you in it together, and some days that’s all you’ve got.  A partnership that works, where you know what the other person will do without having to ask, is probably the most effective means of combating what we face.  It’s like a marriage—but better.  Probably last longer too.  Your partner is going to be the most important person in your life.  Remember that.

Cowley closed his eyes and remembered when he’d said those words.  Every year in the briefings he gave a version of the same speech until the versions blended into one, distilled to their essence, and every new recruit in the last twelve years had heard the exact same lesson.  The same point driven home.

Underneath, in sharp black letters was written:  "Every great partnership ends eventually."

Cowley didn’t need anything else to know exactly what kind of threat he was facing and who was responsible.


Bodie’s fingers were numb by the time he started on the last set of knots.  Doyle batted his hand away and said, "Will you just let me do it?  You look like you’re about to pass out."

"Fine."  Bodie took the opportunity to lie back down on the floor.  He was exhausted and sore and more than a little pissed off.  He was also confused as hell—no one had come to check on them, and they hadn’t heard a sound since he’d started on the knots.

Doyle leaned over the edge.  "There’s a perfectly good bed here, you know."

"Too far away," Bodie murmured, even as he started to heave himself off the floor, one hand pressing against his ribs to hold everything in place.  It hurt like hell. He settled on the edge beside Doyle, watching him work on the cord around his ankle.  "I should see if I can get the door open."

"Just hang on two minutes.  At least then I’ll be able to move."

"Doesn’t sound like there’s anyone around."

"When have we ever been that lucky?"

"First time for—"

Bodie was cut off by the sound of gunfire in the distance, and was instantly alert.  Doyle redoubled his efforts to get through the last of the bindings.  They could hear shouts and the sound of running feet, sporadic bursts of gunfire.

Bodie searched the room frantically for anything he could use as a weapon.  Nothing at all.  He settled on a position behind the door, Doyle nodding at him as he got the last knot untied, then looped the undone ropes over his ankles before lying back down, hands gripping the metal frame loosely as if he were still tied.

It sounded like someone was moving through the house now—slowly and carefully—and Bodie pressed an ear to the wall.  They’d have one chance to take out anyone coming through the door, and with both of them injured, it was a slim chance at best.  He tensed, waiting for the sound of a key in the lock, the turn of the knob.  He watched Doyle’s face as the door started to open, one foot ready to deliver a crashing kick, when he saw Doyle’s face break into a grin and Bodie aborted the move.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Doyle asked, and Bodie caught his first glimpse of their rescuer.


Kate glanced down at the notes she’d made from the files in front of her.  Sebastian Henry and Terence Townsend had been the department’s dream team ten years ago.  Highest success rate in CI5.  Both men hand-picked by Cowley and held up as an example of what a team was supposed to be.  She read the notations regarding commendations, letters of thanks from the Prime Minister’s office, Interpol, Scotland Yard.  They’d been the very best.  Possibly even better than Bodie and Doyle, and Kate had some experience with how highly regarded those two were.

Kate rubbed at her eyes and sipped the lukewarm tea she’d made.  She had a briefing with Cowley in twenty minutes and she still had another two files to go through and no clear idea what she was looking for.  She’d heard the bulletin go out for Bodie and Doyle, for Sebastian Henry as well.  Cowley was doing a general briefing right now, but Kate was expected to come up with something definite, something more specific, and she was pretty damn sure Cowley already had a good idea what they were up against.  He just hadn’t bothered to tell her, or anyone else.

Typical, she thought.  They wanted her to predict the future and perform miracles, but they wouldn’t give her anything that wasn’t strictly need-to-know.  She picked up the slim red file marked "Classified" and started to read, her eyes skimming faster and faster as she realized what exactly George Cowley had to feel guilty about.


"You’re a sight for sore eyes," Doyle said, rolling off the bed, and Bodie relaxed and leaned into the wall as a tall fair-haired man stepped through the door and gave a nod to Bodie.  The man was in his late forties, broad-shouldered and a little thick around the middle, the buttons on his dress shirt just pulling slightly where it was tucked into tan trousers.

"We don’t have a lot of time, Ray.  They might’ve gone for reinforcements."  The man thrust a gun into Doyle’s hands, and tossed another to Bodie.

"Who?"  Bodie said as he caught the gun and checked the clip to make sure there was a bullet in the chamber.

"I’m Sebastian Henry," the man said.

"Nice to meet you.  Who’s holding us?" Bodie asked, annoyed.  He caught sight of their stuff just outside the open door and checked the hallway quickly before rummaging for their shoes.  He threw a pair of socks and trainers at Doyle.

"Don’t mind him, Seb," Doyle said, pulling on the socks.  He reached up to catch the t-shirt Bodie flung in his general direction.  "All business he is, that Bodie.  Work, work, work.  He’s like a bleedin’ automaton."

Bodie was sliding out of his pajama bottoms and into a pair of jeans, never putting the gun down.  "Still haven’t answered the question."

"See?" Doyle said, shrugging into the t-shirt.  "Always focused on the job."

"Well, I figure if Ray knows you that’s good enough for me."  Bodie tugged on a pair of socks and started to lace up his trainers.

"He’s CI5, Bodie."

"One of ours?  Bravo," Bodie said, not bothering to hide his impatience.  "Now can we get the fuck out of here and save the chit-chat for tea?"

"You heard the man."

With Bodie leading the way, Doyle fell into position behind Sebastian.  The three of them made their way down the main hallway and out the front door without any interference at all.  Bodie wasn’t counting on it staying that way.  He and Doyle just didn’t have that kind of luck.


"I’m still not sure what you want me to do, Mr. Cowley."

Kate was seated across from him in the office, a massive mahogany desk between them.  It was becoming clear Cowley didn’t actually want her professional opinion on anything, already knew the men involved better than she ever could, and there wasn’t anything she could offer that he hadn’t already thought of.  Of course, he wasn’t the kind of man who would ever admit to actually needing to talk to someone about his feelings, but she had played the role of confessor before and if there was something she was good at it was listening—even if Cowley wouldn’t acknowledge that’s why she was really here.

"Sebastian Henry left work early today without a word to anyone, including his girlfriend who works in our communications department.  Sandra told us he was there when Bodie and Doyle checked in yesterday.  That he knew the place Murphy sent them to.  That he seemed distracted."

"I spoke with her briefly," Kate acknowledged.  "She also said he was a caring, gentle man who wouldn’t hurt anyone."

"Ah, and perhaps he is.  But she’s never known the man when he was out in the field.  When it was his life or someone else’s in the balance.  She’s never known that Sebastian Henry."  He paused.  "Lucky girl.  But you’ve read the files now.  The before and after.  Tell me what kind of man you think Sebastian Henry is."

Kate hated these kinds of conversations.  There was only so much assessment one could make from files and notes, from circumstances and speculations.  She’d never even met the man.  She only prepared reports on active field agents. 

"From everything I can tell he was a good agent.  Resourceful, careful, very in tune with his partner."

"Yes, he was certainly that."

Kate’s eyes narrowed.  She was missing something, some subtlety that wasn’t in the records.  Sometimes she hated the government, the way truths and lies were woven into official documents so seamlessly that you couldn’t tell one from the other, even when you knew where to look and what to look for.

"But he wasn’t a leader," she continued.  "He was actually quite insecure in some ways, despite having top grades and trophies for marksmanship.  He needed approval from other people, and his partnership with Townsend seemed to be good for that.  They worked well together."

"Townsend was definitely the leader, that’s true," Cowley said softly, his eyes lifting to meet hers.  "They were like brothers more than anything, Dr. Ross.  Closer than most brothers ever get to be."

"Is that why you split them up?  Because they were getting too close?"

Cowley sighed and shook his head.  "No, doctor, that isn’t why, although if I’d been paying attention I would’ve done something long before then."  He leaned forward on the desk and made sure he had her full attention.  "Do you know what the problem is with siblings who are that close?  Eventually one of them wants to leave the nest.  Wants to get away from being looked up to and revered, the responsibility of being that necessary to someone else’s well-being."

"Townsend wanted a new partner, but he didn’t want to hurt Henry’s feelings?"

"Aye, so I changed the rotation, put them on different assignments."


"An unmitigated disaster."

"Sebastian couldn’t function in the field without Terence, could he?"

"No, and truthfully, Terry wasn’t as strong either.  They were simply better together."  Cowley shook his head.  "Sometimes partnerships are like that.  Symbiotic.  Dependent to the point that they don’t function without the other.  Except sometimes they can’t function with the other either."

"Terry was still unhappy," Kate concluded.

Cowley shrugged.  "I’m not sure.  Things went along for months with no apparent problems."

"And then?"

"Then everything went to hell, doctor.  Straight to hell."


"Well, that’s not going to help us," Doyle said, checking the tires on Sebastian’s car.  All four of them had been slashed beyond repair. Doyle kicked one of the flats out of sheer frustration, then settled beside Sebastian, leaning against the edge of the bonnet.

"Do you have an RT?" Bodie asked, keeping an eye out for any movement in the woods.  They seemed to be at a small farmhouse.  There were no traffic sounds, and no other vehicles apparent.

"Sorry, I’m not a field agent anymore.  Don’t get to play with the new toys," Sebastian said.  "But I know this area pretty well.  Grew up not far from here, actually."

"What exactly were you doing way out here?" Doyle asked, looking at the angle of the sun.  It was late afternoon already, Bodie knew, and chances were they’d still be stuck in these woods at nightfall unless they could find some way to get a message to headquarters.  The phone lines in the house had all been disconnected.

"Cowley was pretty frantic when you guys disappeared."

"Cowley?  Frantic?"  Bodie laughed.

"No, seriously, he put everyone on this.  No greater priority than getting you two back in one piece.  Pulled out all the stops for his best team."

"Best team?"  Doyle shrugged and grinned.  "Maybe the old man likes us more than we think."

"And maybe pigs will fly," Bodie returned.  "Not buying it.  Still doesn’t explain how you found us."

He didn’t want to be suspicious of the guy that had just saved their arses, but there was something not making sense and Bodie was pretty sure it wasn’t just the blow to the head talking.  There was something about Sebastian Henry that said he should trust him, and that unsettled Bodie more than anything else.

Sebastian held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.  "I told you, I know this area and it’s not that far from where you were last seen.  The bed and breakfast?  I thought I’d just take a drive around—"

"And just happen to find us?"  Bodie raised the gun and aimed it at Sebastian’s chest.  He could see Doyle standing up straighter, but he didn’t move away from the other man.

"Bodie, what the—"

"I think your partner’s losing it, Ray," Sebastian said, never taking his eyes off Bodie and the gun.  "Been out in the field too long."

Bodie shook his head.  "You’re not answering the question.  How’d you find us?"

"Piece of luck, that’s all."  Sebastian leaned against the bonnet of the car, hands still raised.  "Well, that and a bit of logic, seeing as how this is the nearest building to the village where you were."

"So, why come alone?  Why not call in to headquarters?  Tell them where we are?"

"I wanted to be sure.  No point getting Cowley all excited over nothing.  I’m already riding a desk.  They bust me any lower, I’ll be in the dustbin."  Sebastian shook his head.  "Come on, Ray.  Tell your partner to lighten up.  I’m not the threat here."

"Bodie," Ray began, looking edgy.

"Think about it, Doyle.  Coincidences like that don’t just happen.  He knew we were here.  It’s the only explanation.  He’s involved somehow."

Sebastian laughed and looked over at Ray, shrugging.  "What can I say?  Your partner’s barmy, Ray."

"Yeah, he’s a right nutter, but you still haven’t said how you—"

With a quick lunge, Sebastian had Doyle’s arm pinned behind his back, fingers pressing firmly against the already weakened wrist, and the pain was obvious on Doyle’s face.  Sebastian’s gun was pressed fast against his temple.

"Sorry, Ray.  Guess you ought to listen to your partner."

"Seb, what are you doing?" Doyle asked, trying to shift, but Sebastian held him in a solid hold, legs planted firmly against the car and Ray had no leverage at all.  Bodie licked his lips and kept the gun steady.

"I had a partner once.  Good man.  My best mate, really."

"Let him go," Bodie said.  Sebastian’s face was half-hidden behind Doyle’s.  There wasn’t a shot Bodie could make without hitting his partner.  He couldn’t risk it.  Doyle winced again as Sebastian shifted his arms; Bodie could tell the pressure on his wrist was excruciating.  He heard the snap when the bone gave way.

"Jesus!  Ray!"  Bodie raised the gun and hoped for a shot, any shot.  Doyle looked like he was on the verge of passing out.  "Just drop, Ray."

But Sebastian was holding him so his legs were braced, and he couldn’t, and with the sound of Doyle’s wrist popping, Bodie knew the other man was quite prepared to kill either or both of them to see this played out.

"Terry and me, we were like you two," Sebastian continued, as if nothing had happened.  Doyle had a trickle of blood running down his chin where he’d bitten through his bottom lip.  "Best mates, best team, best everything.  Cowley’s pride and joy.  But then he figured we were getting too close.  We depended on each other more than on him, and he couldn’t have that, oh no."  Sebastian’s jaw jutted out, eyes dark in the late afternoon sun.  "CI5 owns you, you know?  Body and soul, and Cowley, Lord of All, decreed that Terry and I couldn’t work together anymore."

"Seb," Doyle said through his bleeding lips.  "Seb, it was a long time ago."

"You think so, don’t you?  Six years doesn’t seem that long, Doyle.  Six years since I buried my partner’s ashes.  Ashes, Doyle!  That’s all that was left of him!  And all because Cowley decided we were too fucking close."  Sebastian looked up and met Bodie’s stare straight-on.  "But I think you two know a little something about that, don’t you?  Such a lovely room you had at the Bell and Bonnet.  One large bed, and—"

"You don’t know anything about us," Bodie spat out.  "Not a damn thing.  Now get the hell away from my partner."

"Or you’ll shoot me?  You’ll have to go through him to get to me.  And really, the chances of you hitting me before I pull this trigger?  Almost none, but then again, maybe you’d rather try that.  Running through a dark wood with your partner bleeding out in your arms.  It’s not much fun, mate.  I’ve done it.  Believe me."

"Why are you doing this?" Bodie asked, watching Ray’s eyes dim with the pain, wondering how far they were from a hospital, how long they’d survive if he took the shot.

"Because Cowley sits in his office and plays God while we do whatever he tells us."  Sebastian pressed the barrel of the gun tighter against Doyle’s temple.  "Because he needs to understand what losing a partner really means, and I’ve got this feeling that if you lose yours, Cowley’s going to care."


"Why Bodie and Doyle?" Cowley asked.

"It’s obvious, really," Kate said.  "He sees them as the team that replaced him and Terry in your eyes."

"They’re nothing alike.  Henry and Townsend got along.  Thought alike, dressed alike, came from the same kind of people.  Bodie and Doyle are chalk and cheese.  They beat against one another like water over rock."

"But they’re still your best team.  It works for them, doesn’t it?"

"Aye, it does.  For them."

"And Bodie and Doyle are very close.  As close as—"  Kate couldn’t quite bring herself to say brothers.  She’d known both men a few years now and though they were both shameless flirts and had womanizing reputations that went from the secretarial pool all the way up to the top, she knew her patients.  Neither of them would ever settle down to a relationship with a woman, and both of them had admitted—in one vague way or another—to playing both sides from time to time.  Bodie was even relatively open about it, although he liked to pass it off as humour.  It was easier that way, she supposed.  She honestly had no idea if they’d ever done more than flirt with each other, but it wouldn’t have surprised her if they were partners in every way.

Cowley looked at her carefully, as if he could read her thoughts.  "As close as two men can be.  They’re my best team, and they’re the best because of that.  Because it makes them work longer and fight harder and think smarter."  He tapped a finger against his head.  "Because neither of them wants to see the other dead, so they practice and they plan and they anticipate.  They know each other better than they know themselves, and the difference is—"  He got up from his desk and circled around.  "The difference is they’re better together.  Both of them, not just one of them.  Sebastian flourished, but Terry wanted out anyway he could get, and the bloody bastard took the chance when it came, and damned be anyone that got hurt, damned be the ones left to shoulder the blame."

Kate leaned forward.  "Are you saying Terry killed himself?  The report says he was killed.  Car bomb."

"The reports are wrong.  On all accounts."


Bodie was giving himself five more seconds.  Five seconds to convince Sebastian to put the gun down, five seconds to decide where a bullet would do the least amount of damage to Ray and still give him the drop on Henry.  He waited a second too long.

By the time his finger clicked against the trigger, Sebastian had already shifted his gun to Doyle’s lower back, the close range blast pushing through his gut and out the other side in a bloody spray that caught Bodie across the chest.  He could hear Ray’s yell echoing even as his own finger pulled, barrel never wavering from dead centre on Sebastian’s brow, and when the click came, the satisfying bang did nothing at all, no bullet, no blood, nothing but blanks, and Bodie kept pulling until there was nothing but an unsatisfying hollow click and Sebastian chuckling at him as if there was something funny.  Then Bodie knew it had all been for nothing.  Five seconds or five minutes wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference because this was what Sebastian had wanted all along.  Punish them and punish Cowley for some sin committed years ago.

There was never any way this was going to end without blood.


Cowley hung up the phone and moved to get his coat and umbrella from the stand.  "They found Sebastian’s car abandoned at a small farmhouse about six miles from the village where Bodie and Doyle stayed last night.  Three men dead in the basement of the house."

"Bodie and Doyle?"  Kate was almost afraid to ask.

"No sign of them yet, but we’ve only got two men there searching the house.  They haven’t had time to check the property, and the sun’s going down.  There’s a good chance they’re nearby."  He tugged on his trench coat and paused at the door.  "Well, are you coming?"

"Yes," she said, bundling her notes together and scrambling after him.  "Of course."

The phone rang again and he reached for it immediately.  "Cowley. … Yes, send him along as soon as he arrives.  That’s an order."  He thrust the receiver back into its cradle and limped towards the door, his leg obviously bothering him more than usual.  "I’ll explain about Terry in the car."


Bodie half-carried, half-dragged Doyle along with him through the darkening woods, the damn carry-all slung over his arm because Bodie knew they’d need the morphine sooner or later.  The sun hadn’t set yet, but it was already dark here under the thick canopy of leaves, and Bodie didn’t trust using the flashlight that was in Ray’s carry-all.  It would just give their position away that much sooner.  Sebastian may have given them a head start—the chance Cowley never gave him, or so the bastard said—but it wouldn’t be long before he found them again.  Doyle was practically unconscious and losing blood fast.

"Stop, stop, Bodie," Ray murmured, and his voice sounded weak and breathy against Bodie’s shoulder, so he eased him to the ground and tried to put more pressure on the still bleeding wound.

"I’m sorry, Ray.  I’ve got every shirt from the damn carry-all tied around it, but it’s only a stop-gap.  The bullet went straight through, so at least we don’t have to worry about that."

"Yeah, that’s good news."

"I’ll take what I can get."  Bodie pressed his hands against the already-damp shirts.  "Jesus, Ray, stop bleeding!"

"Sorry," Doyle mumbled, and it sounded a little too sincere, as if he was actually trying to concentrate on dying more slowly.  "I’m sorry."

"It’s okay.  Just—just don’t give up on me yet."  Bodie scrambled through the bag for the first aid kit he knew was there.  A field shot of morphine would dull the pain, but it would also make Doyle more likely to drift into unconsciousness.  He’d rather have him lucid for as long as he could and use the morphine as a last resort.

"You should leave me here," Ray said, bloody fingers gripped in Bodie’s t-shirt, more firmly than Bodie would’ve thought possible given the blood loss.

"Don’t be stupid.  Cowley’d never forgive me if I lost a perfectly good partner."

"He’d … get over it.  Get you … a new one."  Doyle’s breath was ragged between the words, and Bodie knew there was no use trying to get him to save his breath for walking.  Stubborn bastard.

"I don’t want a new one."  Bodie leaned down and whispered it in his ear.  "I don’t want a new partner, dammit.  I want you, Ray Doyle, so you just decide to keep living because I’m not leaving you behind."

"Bodie, I can’t—"

"Yes, you can, Sunshine, and if you pass out on me, I’m going to pick you up and carry your damn arse out of here."  Bodie started to haul him to his feet as carefully as he could.  He was almost sure he could hear whistling in the distance, and he knew they needed to get moving again.  Sebastian’s gun had real bullets in it.

 "Come on, Ray, it’s not much further.  I swear," Bodie said, even though he had no idea at all how far they were from anything.  "All we have to do is make it to the road."

"Like you know where the road is," Doyle snorted, but he let Bodie set him on his feet as he slung an arm weekly around his partner’s shoulders.  "Lay on, McDuff."

Bodie squeezed his shoulder and started to move.  "And damned be him who first cries ‘hold, enough.’"


The car moved swiftly through the deepening twilight, but Kate knew it would never be fast enough for Cowley.  She’d sat through enough sessions with him to know he cared more than he let on, and probably cared far more than he should about Bodie and Doyle considering he was constantly forced to send them into life-or-death situations.  She could see the frustration, the sense of powerlessness in every crease on his brow.

"What happened to Terry?"

"Yes, Terry."  Cowley stared out the side window.  "He was the worst off, I suppose.  Trapped in a way and the worst part was he honestly cared about Sebastian.  He just didn’t want to be his, partner anymore."  Cowley withdrew the carefully folded slip of blue paper from his vest pocket and handed it to Kate.

"Quite the speech," she said after she read it over.  "Yours, I assume?"

"You recognize the style."  Cowley smiled, and it was the first smile she’d seen on his face all day.  She hoped that was a good sign.

"Only you would compare what your men do to a marriage."

"But it is, doctor, and you know that.  It’s till death do us part, for Queen and country, and there isn’t any other way it can be."  He let out a breath.  "There’s usually only one way a partnership ends in this business."

"Terry was that desperate to get out?"

"He was.  More desperate than even I knew, and I knew them better than anyone.  At least I thought I did.  They were my men, my team, and so I had another go at separate assignments.  Called it ‘training exercises’ and made them take out less experienced agents, train them up a bit.  Thought it would give them both a chance to get used to working with someone else."

"How did Sebastian handle it?"

"Not well.  He relied on Terry too much, and it showed when he was left in charge of someone else.  His decisions were rash.  Dangerous.  He either hesitated or he plunged headlong into danger.  Rookies were too in awe of them to disagree."

"And Terry?"

"He was better, but it made him over-confident.  Sebastian balanced him more than I realized, and left on his own, Terry steam-rolled over anyone less experienced.  The results weren’t much better."

"It was six years ago that things ended?"

"Around that.  Terry and a young agent named Goodfellow ran into some trouble with a shipment of illegal arms.  Goodfellow panicked and their cover was blown.  Terry took a round to the shoulder; not enough to kill him, but Sebastian heard the news that an agent was down, and headed out there.  Damn fool wasn’t thinking."  Cowley shook his head sadly.  "By that time, they were in a genuine firefight, pinned down in a carriage house in the middle of nowhere.  How Sebastian knew where they were, I still don’t know, because we had a deuce of a time finding them until Goodfellow came in, bleeding from the head and babbling."

"He left them there?"  Kate couldn’t keep the shock out of her voice.  It was one of the cardinal rules; you didn’t leave your partner behind if there was anything you could do.  She knew there was a reason she’d never heard of an agent named Goodfellow.

"Sebastian sent him for help.  At least that’s what they all swore to, but I have my doubts."  Cowley’s eyes flashed briefly as they passed another car on the road.  "You have to remember, Dr. Ross, that these men are well-trained.  They’re made to survive.  Sebastian Henry carried his partner out of there on his back, in spite of a broken ankle and three cracked ribs.  He saved his life."

"But it killed the partnership."

"Aye.  Sebastian was frantic after that.  Over-protective.  Cautious.  I should’ve pulled them out of the field."

"Why didn’t you?"

"It would’ve felt like punishing them for surviving.  I wouldn’t make the same mistake now."

"And Terry?"

"Continued to push for a new partner.  He took extra field assignments and I managed to keep Sebastian in the office more.  Terry stopped asking for a new partner, and I thought they’d worked something out."

"And then Terry’s car blew up?"

"In front of his flat.  By the time anyone got there, it was too late.  Nothing left."

"And you finally had a reason to pull Sebastian from the field."

"He’d lost his partner.  It was a kindness.  The only one I had to offer."

Maybe he hadn’t been at all wrong about the marriage metaphor, Kate thought.

"Till death do us part," she murmured.  In the darkness, she could see Cowley nodding his head.


Bodie could hear whistling behind them—Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, off-key and with the plodding tempo of a funeral dirge—and somewhere ahead he could see the occasional flickering lights and hear the sounds of engines.  He tightened his arms around Doyle and kept going, telling himself that his ribs didn’t matter, his swollen eye didn’t matter, the lucky shot Sebastian had made that scratched the top of his shoulder didn’t matter either.  If Sebastian wanted to kill them both, he probably could’ve already done it.  For some reason, it seemed like he almost wanted them to make it, and Bodie couldn’t figure what the hell was going on in Sebastian’s head.  He really didn’t think he wanted to know.

"We’re getting close, Ray," he said, and he was mostly carrying Doyle now, sweat running down his face and the back of his neck, and he hoped the dampness of his shirt was only that and not Doyle’s blood.  It was too dark to tell anymore.  Doyle’s feet were moving automatically, and it had been a long time since he’d said anything at all.

"Just a little longer, Doyle, you lazy bugger.  Come on, move your feet."  Bodie pulled out his best army voice and pitched it low.  "Move your feet, dammit," and somehow Doyle kept moving, one step at a time, keep some of his weight off Bodie’s straining ribs.

"We’ll make it, Ray.  Just hang on.  Please, just hang on."


"Why are we turning in here?" Cowley asked as the car slowed down and approached a small stone building.  There was another car, the kind that screamed government issue, already there, lights on, waiting.

"Mr. Wickham requested the change of location, sir.  He said you would understand."

Cowley seemed to take a fresh look at their setting as he stepped from the car, offering a hand to Kate as she followed him out.  "Yes, yes, I suppose this makes perfect sense."

"Mr. Cowley."  A tall fair-haired man extended a hand, which Cowley didn’t take.

"Well?" Cowley asked.  "Are you happy now?"

Kate was surprised by the anger rising in his voice.  She had no idea who the man in the dark coat was, his hand still extended unmet.

"I never wanted this to happen."  His hand dropped to his side.  "All I wanted was a life of my own."

Cowley turned towards Kate sharply, gesturing at the man in front of them. "Dr. Kate Ross, I’d like you to meet Terence Townsend."


Bodie could see lights ahead, hear the burble of voices.

"Almost there, Ray," he murmured, pausing to catch a breath, back pressed against the rough bark of a tree.  He pressed two fingers carefully against Doyle’s neck, feeling for a pulse.  A shiver of panic raced through him as he moved the fingers and still found nothing.


He leaned his partner into the tree and pressed his face against Doyle’s chest, listening for any sound.


Fingers brushed over Doyle’s lips, feeling for breath.


"Doyle?  Ray?" Bodie said louder, shaking him a little.  The sound of whistling got louder, and in the darkness he could hear the sound of a pistol being carefully reloaded, one bullet at a time.

"No," Bodie said firmly.  "Not going to happen, Ray.  Nobody’s retiring tonight."

He picked Doyle up, flung him over his shoulder, and ran towards the lights, the voices, and what he hoped was help.


Kate Ross’s hand froze in mid-air, half-extended, as Cowley’s words sank in.

"But you’re dead," she said, realizing how stupid it sounded and needing to say it anyway.

"Officially, yes."  He shook her hand briefly and let it go.  "I’m Craig Wickham now."

"But the bomb blast, your car?"

"Staged.  I wanted out and someone wanted me enough to help me get there."

Kate looked at Cowley blankly.  She didn’t understand.

"MI6," he supplied.

"They gave me a new identity, a new name.  A new purpose."  Terry’s eyes were alert, sharp.  "And they didn’t give me a partner."

"You already had one."  Cowley’s voice was bitter.  "You left him behind and the rest of us had to deal with the mess."

"Mr. Cowley didn’t know about my arrangement.  Not for a long time, I think," Terry said, "but it was the only way I could get on with my life without Seb."

"And that’s worked so well, hasn’t it?" Cowley said pointedly.  Terry didn’t drop his eyes from Cowley’s.

"About as well as keeping us both in the field when we were in over our heads."

Kate wondered if she was going to have to step between them.  She had no idea what her place was here.  She’d been feeling all day as if she was simply there to bear witness to something completely beyond her control.

"We could’ve found a way."

"Seb wasn’t ever going to let me go, and you weren’t going to either," Terry pointed out.  "Nobody ever really leaves CI5.  We all know that."

There was the sound of a gunshot in the not-too-distant woods, and Kate found herself pressed behind a car, dark trench coats swirling around her, the sound of guns cocking on all sides.

"It’s time to clean up our mess," Cowley said, and without anything further headed into the pitch-black woods, the man who was Terry Townsend right on his heels.


Bodie alternated between blowing mouthfuls of air into Ray’s lungs, and giving chest compressions in the hope of getting a faint beat.  He’d lost a lot of blood.  Bodie could feel it soaked through Doyle’s tee, the arms of dress shirts tied tightly around his gut, but not really enough to stop the bleeding.

The sound of a shot tore through the air and the wood behind him splintered suddenly.  He felt the minute prick of splinters biting into his forearm.  He didn’t stop his rhythm.

"Go ahead and shoot me if you’re going to," Bodie said.  "I’m not stopping this until I get a heartbeat.  A breath."  He pressed his mouth to Doyle’s and exhaled, moving his hands back to his chest for another five slow compressions.

"You’re so close, you know," Sebastian said conversationally.  Bodie could see his silhouette against a nearby tree, gun raised in profile.  "Another few hundred yards and there’s an old carriage house.  There’s a phone there."

"You can stop this," Bodie said, pleading.  He’d never do it for himself, but he could do it for Doyle.  "Just call for help.  He doesn’t have to die.  Nobody does."

"That’s not how this works, Bodie.  I lost a partner, now you lose one too.  Eye for an eye, and all that."

"Ray’s your friend."  Bodie winced as he heard a rib crack.  He honestly didn’t know if it was Doyle’s or his own.  He’d used a half shot of morphine on himself, pumped the rest into Ray’s arm, but he was still hurting everywhere.  "What good is letting him die?"

"Maybe this time Cowley will understand what it means.  What it’s like.  Maybe he’ll think about it before he takes someone else’s partner away."

Bodie didn’t hear the footsteps until they were almost on top of them.  The voice that cut through the darkness was completely unfamiliar:  "It wasn’t Cowley’s fault, Seb.  It—it was me.  I wanted out."

Bodie felt a hand on his shoulder, realized Cowley was there too, and Dr. Ross.  She bent down and started to check Doyle’s breathing and pulse.

"How long?" she asked.

"Just a minute or so," Bodie murmured, and he kept going, letting her take over the breaths, letting her slim white fingers search for Doyle’s pulse in the slivers of moonlight.

Sebastian stepped closer to them through the trees.  "Terry?  No, that’s—you’re dead.  Cowley split us up and you got killed because—"

"I got killed because I wanted out, Seb."  The guy named Terry stepped forward into a shaft of moonlight, and Bodie caught a glimpse of fair hair and broad shoulders.  He could’ve been Sebastian’s brother, Bodie thought.  His breath caught as he saw Dr. Ross nodding at him frantically.  She’d caught a pulse.  Bodie felt the stuttering breath as he leaned his ear down to check.

"Terry—you—why would you?  We were a team.  Partners.  You were everything to me," Sebastian said.

"I didn’t want to be everything," Terry replied, and Bodie counted each breath Doyle managed, each heartbeat fluttering beneath his fingers.

"I loved you."

"I never asked you to."

"You died, Terry.  You died, and took everything with you."  Bodie could hear the hurt bleeding through everything else, shock giving way to bewilderment, anger.  He hoped everyone remembered this man had a gun.  That he’d shot Doyle.  He hoped someone had actually called for an ambulance.

"They’re on the way," Kate murmured, and Bodie wondered when she’d moved beside him, draping her jacket loosely around his shoulders.  She was talking to him in low tones, rubbing a hand along his arm.  It was surprisingly soothing.  He kept his hand on Doyle’s chest and was grateful for every solid beat against his palm.

"You were supposed to be my partner," Sebastian said, and he sounded more confused than anything.

Bodie brushed a hand through Doyle’s matted curls, whispering:  "You’ll be okay, Ray.  Just hang on."

"I couldn’t be the partner you needed," Terry answered.  "It was killing me, Seb.  Cowley wouldn’t split us up, and you wouldn’t let me go.  I didn’t have a choice."

"Dying was the best option?"


Bodie saw his hand move in the moonlight, knew what Sebastian was going to do even before he did it, and yet when the sound came it was still a surprise.  The clear ringing of a bullet, the heavy slump of a body against a tree, the horrified screams of "no" and "stop" that ended in brutal silence.

In the distance, Bodie could hear the familiar sound of an ambulance screaming.


"So," Bodie said, settling on the edge of the bed in Doyle’s hospital room.  "You ready to get out of this place?"

"You know I am."  Doyle was still moving slow, stitches and tape holding him together, but the bruises had faded and the colour was back in his face.

"You know Cowley expects us to talk to Ross as soon as we’re back on duty.  Thinks we need to discuss the ‘complicated and sometimes symbiotic relationship that is the CI5 partnership.’"

Doyle snorted.  "You get that bit from the doc?  Makes us sound like bloody lichen or something."

"Or something," Bodie agreed with a grin.  He looked across at Ray, battered but still alive, and something must have shown on his face because Doyle shook his head as if to say, "Oh, Bodie" and looked away.

"I was thinking we should get away for a bit while we've still got leave coming," Bodie said.

"Not quite up to a game of cricket yet."

"How about a drive in the country?"

Ray laughed.  "You do remember where the last drive got us?"  But he smiled and added, "What did you have in mind?" and Bodie could see a glimmer of hopefulness on his partner's face.

Bodie slid over on the bed until their thighs were touching, legs swinging off the edge.  "I know a little pub with a B&B right nearby."

"Never did get the breakfast part," Doyle grumbled.

"Barely got the bed," Bodie said, and Doyle was nodding.

"Almost thought I'd dreamed the whole thing," Ray said softly, glancing over at Bodie, long lashes curving away from the green of his eyes.

"Didn't dream it, mate."  There'd been many nights since then he'd thought about it.  The heat of Doyle's skin, the way his face felt cupped in Bodie's hands, the way he could feel Ray's breath against his lips as they leaned into inevitability.

"Maybe it's a sign," Doyle said.  "Maybe we should leave well enough—"

Bodie looked up and shook his head vehemently.  "No."  He reached out with both hands and took his partner's face.  "We're not them."

"What if—"

"No, Ray.  We're nothing like them.  This isn't obligation.  It's just … what it is."  Bodie shrugged.  He'd never had the words for this, this level of trust.

Doyle nodded, although he didn't look convinced.  "I might snore," he said, by way of concession, and Bodie's smile was all flashing teeth and joy.

"As long as you're breathing, I don't care."

"Jesus, Bodie," Ray said, and grabbed him then, hauled him forward until their lips were pushing desperately against one another, and there was no delicate leaning this time, just fear and hope and something that had always been there.  Bodie kissed back with everything he had, tried to reassure Doyle this wasn't anything like the partnership that had been twisted by Sebastian and Terry.  This was pure and honest, and Bodie was in it for the long haul.


Outside the doorway, Cowley shook his head, but didn't move away from the small glass window, even as Kate Ross peered over his shoulder.

"Do you think they're too close?" she asked, not a hint of sarcasm in her voice.  She watched the two men in the room kiss, oblivious to the rest of the world.

"Any closer and Bodie'll be wearing Doyle's clothes," Cowley said, but there was no bitterness there.  Just begrudging affection.

"And that's all right?"

"As long as it doesn't interfere with their jobs."

"You're much more open-minded than I thought, Mr. Cowley," Kate said.

"Don't let it get around," Cowley said and offered her his arm.  "Allow me to buy you a cup of tea, Doctor?"

She took his arm and smiled.  "Of course.  I think a long cup of tea is exactly what we need."


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