Loss Of Hope

By: Joana Dey


Bodie twisted restlessly in the huge --empty-- bed. The small amount of sleep he'd gotten tonight had been filled with half-finished dreams that jerked him awake every hour or so. It'd been almost midnight when he finally tumbled into bed --following five hours of squirming around on the sofa-- waiting for Ray to come home.

After a year of silence --twelve months of having Ray all to himself-- he'd picked up the phone tonight to hear a voice from his worst nightmare on the other end asking for Ray. His stomach had churned uneasily as he'd handed the receiver over, not daring to look at Doyle's face. Ann Holly was back, and from the sound of the one-sided conversation, she wanted to see him as soon as possible.

Doyle hadn't said much, really, just that Ann was in town briefly for a funeral and needed to talk to him. They were going out for dinner and he shouldn't be long; for the first time in months, Bodie was unable to read the expression on Ray's face as he went out the door.

He tensed as he heard the locks to the front door unlatch and wet trainers squish across the kitchen linoleum. A soft curse reached his ears as a chair was knocked over and Bodie smiled grimly; must have been some dinner.

He watched through slitted eyes as Ray slunk quietly into the bedroom and tiptoed across to the other side of the bed. The slap of soggy clothing being removed mixed with the patter of rain on the roof, and he lay perfectly still as the mattress dipped and Ray settled down. The desire to let Ray think he was asleep wandered around in his brain for a moment, but the compulsion to speak won out.

"Long dinner." It wasn't a question.

"Eh?" Ray squirmed a little and burrowed deeper under the covers, his cold, damp feet brushing against Bodie's calves as he wriggled around. Bodie turned so he was facing the back of tangled curls, teeth clenching; Doyle was acting as though he hadn't a care in the world.

"Said-- long dinner."

"Hm. 'ad a lot to talk about." Doyle snuffled a little, rolling over, and moved closer to Bodie, reaching to pull them together. Bodie tensed, scooting farther over to his side of the bed, spine rigidly aligned along the edge. Doyle opened one eye and peered at him. "What's wrong, luv?"

"It's fucking 4am, Doyle, that's what's wrong."

"I'm sorry. Didn't mean to wake you--"

"You didn't wake me," Bodie interrupted. "It's 4am. What the hell where you doing all this time?"

Ray's eyebrows rose and he hunched up onto an elbow. "Had a lot to talk about. Time just got away from us."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. She--"

Bodie didn't let him finish. "You talked --just talked-- for almost ten hours? Pull the other one, Doyle. You sure she didn't want to marry you after all?"

Ray relaxed next to him, and Bodie could hear the smile in his voice when he spoke. "Jealous, Bodie? I'm the one with the green eyes, mate, remember?"

"Yeah, green eyes and no bleedin' heart." He pushed the covers away and grabbed his pillow, rolling off the bed. Ray sat up and switched on the light, blinking in the sudden brightness.

"What...Bodie! Where the hell are you goin'?" His voice had lost the amusement and was showing just the proper amount of puzzlement, and Bodie grimaced.

"The sofa. Although why I should be uncomfortable when you were the one out catting around..." his voice trailed off as he padded from the room. Behind him, Doyle was sputtering his innocence and as he shut the door, Bodie heard something hit it with a resounding thunk. He hoped it was one of Doyle's shoes and not his.

He'd barely taken two steps into the room when a whirlwind burst through the door and grabbed his arm, yanking him around. Doyle's face was a furious, dull red and his eyes were glittering in the light shining from the courtyard.

"You lousy, stinking bastard!" He was so angry his voice almost squeaked and Bodie stepped back as drops of spittle flew from Doyle's lips. "You thought I was sleeping with Ann tonight? That I'd fuck her, then come home to OUR bed?"

Bodie glanced at the clenched hands and heaving chest and was, for a brief moment, inclined to believe him. Then the memory of how desolate he'd been after Ann dumped him came back with a vengeance and he banished the temporary hope. He looked back at Ray's face just in time to see a fist aim for his mouth, and he ducked, catching a glancing blow off the side of his cheek.

Grabbing the flying fist, Bodie yanked Ray around and tossed him against the wall with a grunt. "She disappears for a year, then pops in and rings you for dinner. You didn't even ask what she wanted to talk about; you just went haring off with her for bloody ten hours. You were gonna marry her, Doyle; yeah I think you 'fucked her, then came home to our bed', as you so nicely put it."

Doyle stood facing him, bouncing a little on his toes, every muscle in his body coiled to spring, and Bodie braced himself. He was a bit surprised when Doyle slumped and began moving stiffly sideways into to the bedroom, one step at a time, eyes never leaving Bodie's face. When he shut the door, he did so quietly, and very, very firmly.


Neither man was in a good mood when they woke the next morning, and Ray's manner towards Bodie was icy cold. Each time he looked at Bodie, his eyes were wide with hurt and disillusionment, which amazed Bodie, since he felt he was the one who'd been wronged. Doyle had no right to be giving him those bruised-puppy looks of his, as though Bodie were wrongly accusing him of something.

"I'll drive."

Ray's voice came out flatly, as he gathered up coat and keys and headed out into the wet morning. Bodie didn't argue, just followed behind him, flinching a bit as the cold rain hit him. He wasn't sure which was more frigid: the air outside, or Doyle's attitude towards him. The quieter Doyle became, the angrier Bodie grew until he exploded across the street from the car.

"You're a selfish sod, Doyle. A lousy self-centered bastard." He watched as Ray's lips thinned and one trainer-clad foot stepped off the kerb.

"It really says a lot about our relationship, Bodie, if you think you can't trust me. I've never lied to you, either as your partner or your lover. I can't help but think you don't believe me because you'd do just what you're accusing me of!"

"I do trust you, Doyle, to guard my back and keep me alive. It's what partners are for. But you spent the night at her hotel. Ten hours with the bird you almost married, and you tell me nothing happened?"

With a shrug, Ray tried again. "Nothing did happen, Bodie. She wanted some advice; her father..." Bodie's face must have betrayed his disbelief ; Ray broke off, averting his face and gnawed at his lower lip.

"Fine Bodie, if you can't trust me; if you don't know me well enough by now, to know you're the only..." his voice broke and he turned blindly, stumbling into the street--

 

--and straight into the path of an oncoming car, which slammed into his legs and lifted him up into the air, throwing him headfirst against the ancient oak tree by the side of the road. Later, Bodie would swear he saw Ray bounce off the trunk, back onto the pavement, but all his numb brain could perceive now was a limp sprawl in the middle of the street. He spared a brief thought --looks like he's just been thoroughly loved-- before he took a step, then another and began to run.

Dimly he heard screaming in the background, and the shocked murmur of voices as people gathered around. Someone was crying and calling out to God, over and over; Bodie wished they'd shut up, it was distracting him when all he wanted to do was make sure Ray was all right. It wasn't until one of the paramedics appeared and grabbed hold of his shoulders, shaking him, that Bodie realized the voice crying out was his and clamped his lips shut.

He pushed back and shoved an elbow into an unresisting gut and moved towards Doyle again. Other arms grabbed hold firmly and voices shouted at him to calm down, they were trying to help his friend. He forced his way into the ambulance, eyes glued to Ray's pasty face, watching as green eyes blinked open, then slowly glazed over. Immediately the medics went into action; once again working hard to save a life.


The moniter beeped ceaselessy as Bodie stared numbly into space. He'd lost track of time as he'd sat there in the muted light, trying to come to grips with the inevitable. The minute he flipped the switch, the line would straighten and the steady hissing of the oxygen would become silent. They'd turned off the warning buzzers; when everything finally stopped he'd be the only one to know.

Fingers reached for the switch, then paused. How could he do it? How could he turn off the one thing keeping the body in front of him warm and alive? Once done, all hope was gone; nothing would be left-- no chance at all. Picking absently at a small hole in the bedsheet, he let his eyes roam the room; when they finally stopped on the still form in front of him, he took a shaky breath.

What did he know of hope? The breathing, the beating heart, it was all being accomplished by machine --a modern miracle-- to prolong life. Didn't want a modern miracle, did he? Wanted the old-fashioned kind; the one that would cause the green eyes below him to open up and laugh at him. The lips that drove him wild for so long to smile again, tell him it was just another joke. The slender, but oh-so-strong, arms to hold him...just one more time.

His ears barely registered the door opening, but the senses he'd spent years honing caused his body to tighten as someone came into the room. Without turning, he knew the uneven steps belonged to Cowley, so he kept silent, not wanting his solitude intruded upon. He'd had all the platitudes he could handle from the doctors, nurses --even a priest-- and was afraid of his own reaction should Cowley start mouthing some of his own Scots brand.

A deep sigh, then his boss's voice, coming more solemn than ever before. "It's been two hours laddie, do you want me to do it for you?"

Bodie tensed, hanging on to his temper by a thin thread. First the accident; kneeling in the street watching green eyes cloud over and slowly blink closed. Riding along in the ambulance as medics 'miraculously' started Doyle breathing again. The hours of waiting in a hard chair while doctors x-rayed and operated and whispered amongst themselves. The see-saw churning in his gut as hope rose, fell, then rose again, only to plummet resoundingly as the doctors gave their final verdict.

Brain dead. Did they think it was so easy, this? Flip a switch, kill a friend, partner, lover...the other half of himself. Easier to take a gun and spray his own brains around. He paused, considering the possibility of doing just that. He could barely tolerate the thought of his life going back to the way it was 'Pre-Doyle', and he tucked the tiny death-wish in the back of his head; when this was finally over, he'd bring it back to the front again. Cowley was still talking, and Bodie tried to catch the thread.

"...and you agreed to this, Bodie; insisted it be your responsibility. You can't sit here forever..." He took a short step back as Bodie jumped from the chair and whipped around to face him.

"Why not? SIR! Why can't I sit here forever? They need the bed? I turn him off and they move Ray out like so much excess rubbish?" His head was pounding in a staccato rhythm and he barely controlled the impulse to pick Cowley up and pitch him through the window. Instead he kicked his chair against the wall, and not satisfied with the clatter it made, looked around for something to smash.

One of the nurses poked her head into the room, snatching it back as two voices shouted at her simultaneously to get out. Pacing the room like a caged animal, his hands opening and closing convulsively, Bodie ignored Cowley, all his attention centered on Doyle. Breathing heavily through his mouth, he watched the rise and fall of Ray's chest as it moved in time with the snip of the Oxygen machine.

The worst part of this-- what made him the angriest, was the inability to extract revenge for the inevitable death. The driver of the car was the oldest cliché around: an elderly, white-haired grandmother. Ray had walked right in front of her, giving her no time to swerve away, even if her reflexes had been those of a younger person. No, if there was any blame to be given, any vengeance to be taken, it was all on Bodie's shoulders. He couldn't be more responsible for Doyle being hit by the car than if he'd pushed him into the street himself.

"Know what the last thing I said to him, was?" Bodie looked over at Cowley standing silently by the wall. His back muscles were beginning to quiver, he was standing so rigidly. "I called him a selfish sod."

He turned away; it was easier to talk if he didn't have to look at Cowley, to see the sympathetic understanding he knew would be showing on the craggy face.

"Sorry, Sir, but...it's not easy, this. I know --my head knows-- there's no hope. No miracle's gonna suddenly pop up here. But my heart...my heart, sir --" he stopped, surprised and slightly embarrassed as his voice cracked.

Walking over and righting his chair, he placed it back by the bed. "I'll do it sir, in my own time. I just need...can't you give me a little more..." He took a deep breath and when he spoke again, his voice was firm. "Won't be much longer, sir. I'll be out in a bit."

He felt Cowley's stare as he turned back to the bed, but ignored it. He knew what he'd see if he looked at his boss; too much pity or sympathy would put a quick end to his resolution. His ears barely registered the soft sound the door made as it closed behind Cowley.

"Don't know whether to talk to you or not, luv. Can't believe there's nothing there to hear me. Wish I believed in miracles...wish..." He swallowed the lump he felt moving up his throat. The doctors had told them Ray was brain-dead; whatever it was that made him a person was missing; gone. Bodie could almost picture the essence that was his lover spilling out onto the street, mixing with his life's blood and the oil from the car.

He and Doyle were each other's next-of-kin; both had agreed --if only to each other-- that when the end came, there would be no heroics. Better to be dead, than a lump with no soul, dependent on metallic machines to keep the heart beating. Easier to promise this, on a dawn morning after an hour of gentle loving, when the cold, hard reality of death was far away.

Bodie sat back down and carefully took hold of the slim fingered hand lying slackly on the cover. His own thumb rubbed gently over the soft skin across the back. He couldn't comprehend the fact that these hands, the beautiful artist's hands, would never draw again. Would never hold and shoot a gun, punch a gut or flutter a caress so lightly it almost wasn't there.

"Know ya had a priest in here earlier, mate? Tried tellin' me it was 'God's will', and that your life was now in 'God's hands'; you'd be 'at peace' when I turned you off. Piece a cake for him, isn't it? Not his partner here, is it?" He picked up Ray's hand, curling the fingers around his own to give the illusion they were holding hands.

He should actually thank the Priest; it had been his well-intentioned words that had snapped Bodie out of the dead cocoon he'd been idling in, as he tried to convince himself this was all happening to someone else. He'd been so angry --no, furious was more like it-- that he'd only been prevented from throttling the man thanks to Murphy and Anson quickly grabbing hold of his arms.

"Don't believe in God, do I? If there was a God, you wouldn't be here; we'd be off somewhere together..." He reached for the switch, then paused. Again. He just couldn't do it. Which was silly; he didn't believe in God, ergo, no miracle was going to occur here. Ray was dead, all he needed to do was turn off the machines to make it complete.

He gently laid the limp hand back down. He'd found himself silently crying out many times in the past few days to the God he didn't believe existed. All the philosophical questions he'd spent his entire adult life avoiding were lining up in front of him now demanding answers. The most important one? The one he couldn't answer, and which kept his fingers from the switch? Is there life after death?

Is the mind or brain the same as a soul? Is there such a thing? If not, what was laying supine on the bed in front of him? A lump of bone and sinew? Or was it Ray Doyle, partner and lover? If the brain is dead, is the soul gone? Or could the soul be trapped in the body with no way to make itself known? If he turned off the life support, would he be dooming Ray's soul to a certain death? Or would he be shutting down an already empty shell?

"Oh God. Oh God." Bodie slid off the chair, landing heavily on his knees, chest heaving. The bile was rising rapidly to the back of his throat and he stiffly hauled himself back up. He'd barely made it to the toilet when he began to retch in agony, his stomach emptying itself. He wanted out of here; this couldn't be happening, it wasn't real. It was a nightmare, he knew that; in just a minute he'd wake up, and Ray would be cuddled next to him, arms and legs wrapped octopus-like around Bodie, all sweaty and sticky and sweet after a wild night of loving...

He stayed still, slumped over the toilet bowl, arms resting on the cool rim of porcelain. Fumbling, he found the flusher and pulled, absently watching the water swirl around. He didn't know how long he sat there, but he was stiff and sore as he pulled himself back to his feet. There was only one thing running through his head now: It had to be done.

Nothing in the room had changed, and Bodie laughed bitterly. "Stupid git, aren't I? Still expecting a miracle."

Looking down at Ray's face, he gently ran a finger around the slack mouth, chest aching at the dryness it encountered. If there WAS life after death, it was a sure bet those lips were reading St Peter a riot act right now; Doyle never did anything he hated without some protest, and dying was at the top of his list of what NOT to do! Especially alone.

"Promised you we'd go together, didn't I, angelfish? Never told you I loved you either, did I?" It had bothered Doyle since they started sleeping together; Bodie's inability to put into words how he felt. Oh, he showed Ray he was loved in a million tiny ways, and Ray knew Bodie loved him beyond a doubt.

"But you wanted to hear me say it, didn't you? Three little words. Such a simple thing and I couldn't do it for you."

He stopped as the door opened again, this time revealing a dark auburn head. Ann. He couldn't believe she'd had the nerve to show up here, and looked at her in incredulity.

Taking a few tentative steps into the room, Ann looked from Bodie over to Ray, her face crumpling when she saw him. She quickly crossed to the bed, and Bodie immediately stepped in front of her, blocking any further access to Doyle.

She took a deep breath and looked him squarely in the eye. "I know you don't like me, Bodie; I'm sure you highly resent me, but Ray was my friend and..."

Bodie laughed harshly and moved away from her. "Your friend? First you practically cut off his balls, then you show up again expecting to take up where you left off ! Doesn't sound much like a friend to me."

Her eyebrows drew together in a frown. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about you snaring Ray back into your bed the minute you come back to London. We were... he was perfectly happy the way things were-- without you."

Ann was quiet for a moment, watching Ray's still face and the tubes going every which way. When she spoke again, her voice was very quiet and gentle. "Is that what you thought I was doing, Bodie? Did you actually think Ray and I were spending the night in bed together? Didn't he tell you why I was here?"

Goosebumps broke out on Bodie's arms as he suddenly realized that Doyle may have been telling the truth about 'nothing happening', and he ignored Ann's questions, instead walking over to the window, pretending a great interest in the darkness outside.

"Oh Bodie," Ann's voice was so full of pity and contempt, Bodie almost ran back into the bathroom. "You never gave him a chance to explain, did you? My father died, Bodie. I wanted Ray's advice on what to do with all the money that I'd suddenly inherited; the money he'd made from his drug-dealing."

She must have moved in closer to Ray; when she spoke again her voice was slightly muffled. "He was a good man, Bodie, your Ray Doyle. He loved you more than anything or anybody in the world; you were one of the reasons we talked for so long. You made him happy; he thought you were the perfect partner for him, both on the street and in bed."

Each word she spoke sent a dagger slicing through Bodie's heart, and for the life of him he couldn't figure out if she was doing it out of kindness or spite. He hoped it was the former.

"He couldn't figure out how he'd been so lucky to get you, you know. He said if it all ended tomorrow..." her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. "If it all ended tomorrow, he'd not regret one single moment the two of you'd had."

There was silence except for the ever-present machinery, and Bodie turned around to see her rise up from planting a kiss on Ray's forehead. She looked over at him, tears on her face.

"I am so very, very sorry. Good-bye Bodie." Her heels clicked rapidly as she almost ran from the room.

The sound of the door closing behind her seemed to echo in Bodie's head, and he stumbled back over to the chair next to Ray's bedside. His vision blurred as he slumped in the chair, his upper body beginning to shake. He'd been telling the truth, Ray had, when he'd said nothing happened. And Bodie hadn't believed him, hadn't trusted him enough....

The tears Bodie'd been stoically holding in finally burst through the wall he'd built around himself, and he clapped his hands over his mouth as great gulping sobs spewed out. Ray was good as dead; the man who'd been his partner for so many years, who'd guarded his back and saved his life...And he died thinking Bodie hated him, distrusted him.

He reached over and grabbed Ray's shoulders, shaking him so hard his head jerked off the pillow, dislodging the oxygen tubes.

"How dare you die!" His voice was thick with tears and mucus; all attention focused on the pale face in front of him. "You can't; I have to tell you I'm sorry. I have to tell you I love you. I have to...GOD DAMN YOU RAY, OPEN YOUR EYES!"

He swung back, breathing heavily, and didn't see or hear the door to the room open once more. His fist slammed into the wall, denting the plaster and scraping the skin off his knuckles. Jerkily he walked around the bed, eyes fixed on the machines. Placing his hands on one, his fingers tightened till the knuckles whitened and the sinews in his arms stood out. The urge to smash and destroy --something, anything-- was almost unbearable.

Shoving himself away from the cold metal, he wandered around the room, muttering under his breath between sobs. "Open your eyes. Ray. Open your eyes. Oh God. Ray. Open your ..."

Slumping against the wall he finally noticed the still figure of Cowley standing motionless by the door. He couldn't clear his tear-fogged eyes well enough to see what expression Cowley was wearing, and took a deep, shuddering breath, hoping to put the tears back inside.

"It's all right, laddie." The voice was so full of sympathy and pain that Bodie's half-erected wall came tumbling back down and the tears started to flow again.

Cowley walked over to Doyle and began to carefully replace the tubes that had been pulled out, until he noticed they were no longer needed. Gently he moved Ray's head to a more comfortable position on the pillow and tucked the sheet up around his shoulders. He brushed at the curls, then turned to Bodie.

"It's finished, Bodie. I'm sorry, lad. He was a good..." Bodie watched in astonishment as Cowley seemed to choke up, only then realizing exactly what had been said.

"No..." He shook his head in denial, staring, but not seeing anything in front of him. He couldn't understand why he was still here, still standing, still breathing, when his heart had just been ripped from him. He could feel the hole; knew if he reached up with his hand, and touched, there'd be nothing...

Somehow he made it over to the bed and looked down at the peaceful expression on the face of the man he'd promised to always protect. Funny, being dead seemed to make one look so young, he thought, not realizing he'd said it aloud until Cowley answered him.

"All the stress is gone, and the unhappiness. Takes the years away."

Bodie could feel the tremors in his arms and legs; hoping Cowley wouldn't notice them, he sat down on the bed and tried hard to get himself under control. Each time he thought he'd successfully banished all weakness, he'd think --Ray's dead-- and it would all build up again, into a great ball in his stomach, pushing against the back of his throat, till all he wanted to do was scream out his rage and pain and frustration.

"NOOOO! Oh Christ. No." He twisted around and put his hands on Ray's shoulders, fingers like claws. He wanted to shake him again, wake him up; get them out of this horrible nightmare they seemed to be stuck in, as it replayed itself over and over again. Instead he moved one hand up and with shaking fingers, gently stroked the broken cheekbone.

"Oh, he's so cold." His voice broke on the last word, and he laid his head next to Ray's, the tears coming quietly this time. The grief was real now, and almost believable. He barely listened to Cowley's words behind him; whatever they were, it wouldn't help him now.

His partner was dead.


"It's your opinion, Dr Ross, and yours, Brian, that I'd be making a mistake putting him back on the streets this soon?" Cowley's forehead was crinkled in disgust; this wasn't what he wanted to hear.

"Sending him back out at all would be tantamount to killing him yourself, sir." Kate Ross hadn't looked this grim since Bodie had tangled with Wild Billy and his mob, which gave Cowley some indication of how serious she felt the current situation was.

Macklin agreed with her; a fact Cowley found even more astonishing. He didn't think he could remember a time --any time-- when these two very dissimilar people had agreed on anything.

"He's got a death wish; don't know what else you could call it. He just doesn't care anymore." Brian's voice was morose; he'd liked both Bodie and Doyle.

"I need him out on the streets. We're fighting a war out there; a war against the scum of the earth. I can't afford to mollycoddle my men and Bodie's the best I have." Cowley was adamant in his desire to have Bodie back at work.

"WAS the best, George; he's not anymore. Without Doyle, he's a time-bomb, biding his time until someone sets him off. Of course he wants to get back out there; he'll function just long enough for us to dig a hole for him next to Doyle and then he'll fall into it." Macklin's voice was just as firm and sure as Cowley's had been.

Angrily, Cowley stood and limped over to his drinks cabinet, pulling out his scotch. Quickly he poured three glasses, handing one each to the other two, before going back to his chair. He felt extremely old and tired at this particular moment, and very much alone.

"We may as well have buried him when we did Doyle, then, he's just as useless," he kept his voice as matter-of-fact as possible, not wanting any emotion to leak through.

Dr Ross opened her mouth quickly, as though to reply angrily, then seemed to think better of it. She spoke gently instead, and her eyes were sad.

"I don't think 'useless' is the best word to describe either man, sir. I do feel you lost Bodie the minute Ray Doyle ceased to breathe, and if you remember, I warned you about something like this when I realized where the relationship was heading."

"Thank-you, Dr Ross. How you felt 13 months ago is a definite factor in the current situation," he heard the sarcasm in his voice, but was past caring. "The bottom line is what to do with Bodie. I could partner him with someone--"

"No Sir, absolutely not!" She jumped up in alarm, leaning over Cowley's desk. "If you do that, you ultimately end up killing two men: Bodie and whomever is unlucky enough to be with him."

Macklin agreed quickly. "Bodie wants to die, George; Doyle was the center of his world, and without that axis, he'll spin out of control."

"If you'd let me finish --sit down please, Dr Ross-- I would have vetoed that idea myself." Cowley was a bit perturbed at their assumptions. "Physically, he's as good as he's ever been, according to you, Brian. The report from Jack Crane says his marksmanship is actually better now than six months ago."

He leaned back in his chair and stretched his sore leg carefully. "The only dissenting 'vote' here, is yours, Dr Ross. I want you to test him again; get him to talk to you this time about his relationship with Doyle, how he feels without him, anything you want; just get him back to me so I can put him to work!"

A knock at the door prevented him from continuing and at his invitation, Bodie stuck his head around it.

"You sent for me, Sir?"

"Ah, Bodie, yes, come in man." He watched as Bodie walked nonchalantly into the room and stood at attention. "You can guess what we've been discussing, I take it?"

"My coming back to work, sir?"

"Aye. Do you think you're ready?"

Bodie stared him straight in the eye, and for perhaps the first time in his term with CI5 he was perfectly serious.

"I've been ready. But I go back out as a solo; no partner. I can't stay in the flat, sir, staring at walls. I'll go starkers. Work's best, for all of us." He gave one of his cheeky grins and continued. "Besides, sir, you need me out there! I'm the best you've got; someone has to get the job done properly."

The others in the room stared at him for a moment; Cowley felt sure Dr Ross was about to comment, and he quickly jumped in. The decision after all was his, and his alone, and it'd just been made.

"Back here tomorrow at 8am, Bodie. I want you ready to work, and I expect you to be on time." For a second Cowley thought he saw a brief flash of --was it relief or regret? --in Bodie's eyes, then it was gone.

Bodie was out the door before anyone else could open their mouths, and Cowley forestalled any further comments by standing and gathering up his coat.

"That's it, then. I've made the choice, and if there are any consequences from this, they'll be on my head."

Epilog

He paused at the side of the wall, chest heaving as he gulped in air. Felt like he'd been running after this piece of scum for hours instead of minutes. Face it, Bodie, old man, you've about had it. He quickly reloaded his weapon, and taking a deep breath, stretched around the corner of the building, gun poised and ready.

Shots made him duck back for cover, then he ran, gun spraying bullets as he went. With grim satisfaction he saw the man fall, blood spreading quickly in a pool beneath him. Hearing a footfall behind him, he jerked around, pulling his gun up. Oh my God, Cowley didn't say there were two of them, he thought, before the bullet hit him; then, Oh Christ, Ray....


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