in a Good
Long While - posted October 9, 2006
Author: Lacey McBain
Word count: ~13,000
Summary: While on
holiday, Bodie and Doyle are kidnapped by someone with a grudge against
Disclaimer: The Professionals
many people. I'm not one of them. I'm just borrowing them
for a bit o' fun.
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
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
"‘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
"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
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
"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,
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
Of course, he also wasn’t drunk enough to admit to paying attention,
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
"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
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.
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
"Jesus Christ, Doyle," a voice said finally. "Can’t a man die in
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.
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
"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
"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.
"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."
"Yeah, bloody good luck getting Cowley to give up anything for our
"Well, it is expensive to find
"Not that expensive."
No matter how many times they went round it, they always came back to
Neither of them had an answer.
Cowley looked at the note again. The pale blue paper, the neatly
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
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
"Townsend wanted a new partner, but he didn’t want to hurt Henry’s
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Don’t be stupid. Cowley’d never forgive me if I lost a perfectly
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"Why didn’t you?"
"It would’ve felt like punishing them for surviving. I wouldn’t
make the same mistake now."
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
Bodie looked up and shook his head vehemently. "No." He
reached out with both hands and took his partner's face. "We're
"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
"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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