Life Goes On

PART ONE

Ray set the steaming casserole dish on the table and slid into his chair. Smiling across at Bodie, he filled his plate. "Mum called. She wants to know if we can pick her up at the station next Sunday. Uncle Albert's all mended and she's ready to come home."

"Did she say what time?" Bodie helped himself to his own large helping of the savoury chicken.

Ray's brow creased in thought. "No, she didn't know yet." He paused, teeth worrying his lower lip. "Bodie?"

"Mmm?" When Ray didn't continue, Bodie set his cutlery down and eyed him curiously. Ray's lips were pursed, and he was marching his fork through his meal like a soldier on manoeuvres. Bodie waited; something he'd learned to do even before the car accident.

"I've been thinking, Bodie, maybe I could go out to the farm for a while? I've got those two days holiday, and since you have to work and all…" Ray kept his eyes on his plate.

"Ray? Pet? What's wrong?" Bodie was puzzled. It seemed a simple enough request.

"I'd like to stay here with you, only you'll be at work, and I just thought… Then I could come home with Mum?" Ray finished in a rush, tilting his head just enough to watch Bodie's reaction from the corner of his eye. "I'll miss you, and it'll be really lonely in bed all by m'self, but I'll have Buck, and…" he broke off as Bodie started chuckling. "Bodie, don't laugh at me."

"I'm not."

"Looks like it to me," Ray commented dryly.

"I was afraid you were going to tell me something horrible, from the look on your face. We'll need to check with Mum, but I certainly don't see why you can't stay at the farm for an extra couple of days. We can ring up Peter and Laurie. They can drive up for the weekend, too, and then take me back. You can have those two days, and I'm sure Mum won't mind staying a little longer with you there. She can bring you back in our car, or Laurie's." He smiled at the eager look on Ray's face. "Sound like a good idea to you?"

"Yeah. I'll miss you, though."

"You'll have Mum, and Buck. And Uncle Albert and Jim and Irish and…" His voice trailed off as Ray groaned.

"'S not the same thing."

"I should hope not," Bodie huffed, in his most offended tone. "I'd hate to think you'd give me up for a dog or horse."

Ray's face lit up. "Bodie, honey." He stopped, licking his lips. "I'd never, ever give you up."

Bodie felt his face flush, and he quickly stuffed a piece of chicken into his mouth. Ray had the damnedest ability to get him going and without even being aware of what he was doing. Just the way he said, "honey," his voice going all low and husky.

"You done?"

At the abrupt question, Ray glanced up, startled. Seeing the look on Bodie's face, he let his fork slip to the plate and stood, gathering the dirty dishes, a secret little smile appearing on his lips.

"I've got to put the leftovers in the refrigerator, Bodie, or Buck'll eat 'em."

"Let him. I want you now." Bodie followed Ray from the table, and reached for him, his hands sliding over tight buttocks, mouth nuzzling a curl-covered ear.

"Bo-die…" Ray's eyes closed, and he turned, lips blindly searching for Bodie's.

The casserole dish sliding from Ray's almost nerveless hand brought Bodie back to reality, and he grabbed for it just in time to prevent it from shattering on the floor. He snorted as Buck plonked his haunches down on the floor, the collie's long, drooling tongue disappearing back into his mouth.

"Bodie? What's funny?"

"Buck. Thought he was about to get a chicken dinner, didn't he?"

"Oh." Ray wasn't paying much attention. His hands tried to force Bodie's face back towards him, wanting kisses.

Bodie grabbed his wrists, stopping him. "You were right, Ray, we have to put the food away."

Ray stepped back, sighing. "I wish you'd make up your mind, then."

Chuckling, Bodie quickly popped the food into the refrigerator before reaching for his lover. "So, what're you waiting for then? Thought you were feeling randy?"

"I am." Ray walked towards the stairs, bum twitching back and forth. He twisted around to glance at Bodie, a saucy grin on his face. "You coming?"

"Not yet, but I will be. You'll see to that."

Bodie reached forward, his fingers waggling, and Ray took off up the stairs, laughing hysterically.

The first half of the week had been very slow, and Bodie sincerely hoped the next two days would pass by with a bit more speed. He and Murphy were in their office, ostensibly going over the paperwork on the new recruits. Neither one of them had their minds on the job, however.

Bodie rose and opened the small window to let in the warm summer breeze. As the strong city stench floated in, he closed it again. He was half listening to Murphy as the proud daddy recounted little Silvia's latest gurgle and coo, but his brain was on the trip to Albert's farm this weekend.

"…she smiled right at me and said 'dada'." Murphy was glowing.

The buzzing intercom interrupted both Murphy's raptures and Bodie's thoughts.

"Three-seven?" It was Betty. "Mr Cowley would like to see you as soon as possible, please."

"Right. On my way."

He left Murphy busy with the computers and walked briskly down to Cowley's office, wondering what could be on the controller's mind that didn't concern Murphy. Cowley usually spoke to both of them when it came to new operations. Unless it was something to do with Ray. Bodie lengthened his stride until he was almost running by the time he got to the door.

Betty raised her head, eyebrows arching as he burst through, and he slowed, straightening his jacket.

"You did say as soon as possible," he reminded her.

"Yes, I did." She smiled before returning her gaze to the papers on her desk. "You can go right in."

Bodie did so, closing the inner door quietly behind him. The expression on his face must have betrayed his worry, for Cowley took one look and frowned.

"Och, everything's fine, Bodie." He waited till Bodie had settled into a chair before continuing. "Kate Ross has to return to Ireland, and they're sending us Dr McFarlaine in the interim."

"Bloody Roger Ram-jet," Bodie muttered under his breath before raising his voice. "He's not going to have anything to do with Ray, is he? Ray's not due for testing, and Psychology has nothing to do with Physiotherapy."

"The only time they should even see each other is in the canteen or passing in the halls." Cowley shifted in his chair. The Old Man was looking a little pinched about the mouth, and Bodie reckoned it was about time for his afternoon rest break. "No, Bodie, I think we're safe from a repeat of last time. I thought you'd like to prepare Ray, so he's not taken unaware if they do meet up."

"That's kind of you, sir. When does he arrive?"

"Tomorrow. I understand Ray has the coming Monday and Tuesday off. McFarlaine will be here for the remainder of this week and an additional three more."

"I'll tell Ray in a bit." One more precaution came to mind. "Sir, will you be saying anything to McFarlaine regarding Ray?"

"Yes." Cowley showed one of his rare smiles. "Don't worry, Bodie. I'll speak with the doctor."

"Thank you, sir."

Bodie stood and left the office, wondering how to tell Ray one of his worst nightmares was about to reappear in his life. He was so preoccupied that he found himself back at his office with no recollection of the journey there.

Murphy stared at Bodie as he entered the room. "Everything okay? You seem puzzled."

Bodie passed on what Cowley had told him.

"What does this have to do with Ray?" It was Murphy's turn to look confused.

"Remember the first time Ray came back to work, and he didn't stay?"

"It was while Ross was working with 3 Para somewhere in Ireland, wasn't it? You said he was under the weather or some such. No?"

"No. He took the tests with McFarlaine. Ray knew the answers; it just took him too long to work them out. He wasn't familiar with a computer keyboard then."

Murphy nodded, understanding spreading across his face. "And for Ray, that was tantamount to calling him a failure. You must have had quite a job picking up the pieces."

"Yeah." Bodie reached for the phone to ring Ray. He listened to the buzz on the other end, and was just about to hang up when Ray answered.

"Surgery."

"It's me. What have you been doing? You sound out of breath."

"I was working with Marriott; he's still sore from that fall last week, and I heard the phone ring. I had to run to answer it," Ray explained.

"Where's David?"

"In the bog. What's up?"

"Oh, I felt like a break about now and wondered if you could use a cuppa, too," Bodie said. "I haven't seen you all morning."

"I should be able to. Let me ask David. He's back now." There was a clatter as Ray set the phone down on the desk, then the quiet murmur of voices before he came back on the line. "'S okay. I'll meet you in the canteen, then. I miss you, too," he added softly.

Frowning, Bodie replaced the receiver, flapped a hand at Murphy, and shot out the door. He made it to the canteen in no time at all, a little surprised to have arrived before Ray as the surgery was much closer to it than his office. Joining the queue, he picked up two teas and assorted biscuits, then headed for a table tucked away in the corner. He looked up to see Ray, a frown marring his face, pause in the doorway.

As Ray approached, the smile Bodie was attempting died. He stayed quiet as Ray sat down across from him and poured some tea. When the silence had stretched to an uncomfortable length, Bodie finally asked what was wrong.

"That man's coming back." Ray stirred his tea vigorously. "McFarlaine."

"How did you find out?"

"I heard David on the phone to Dr Ross. She rang up right after you," Ray said, his tone slightly bitter. "When was someone going to tell me?"

"I only just found out, Ray. It's what I was coming to tell you. Mr Cowley told me a few minutes ago; I rang you the instant I got back to my office," Bodie said gently. "You shouldn't have anything at all to do with him, so there's nothing to worry about." He handed Ray a shortbread.

"I know there isn't. I won't even have to see him, not really." Ray absently took the biscuit. "It's just…he makes me remember how stupid I am and—"

"You are not stupid." Curious heads swung their way, and Bodie lowered his voice. They had to share the canteen with other departments, and not everyone knew who they were, or what had happened to Ray. "You're not stupid, Ray. How many times do I have to tell you that? You're a walking miracle. You could have been dead instead…" He stopped, his voice breaking.

Even now, Bodie's gut tightened when he remembered that day: the car crushed almost beyond recognition; the blood—Christ, so much of it—everywhere, thickest where Ray's head had smashed into the dashboard. And the days, the weeks, of watching Ray in a coma…

"Bodie?"

…not knowing what would be left of the man when he awoke. If he ever did…

"Bodie."

Ray's harsh whisper broke through his memories, and Bodie looked up into wide, concerned green eyes.

"I'm sorry, Ray. It's okay." Bodie hastened to reassure him, wanting to wipe the worry off his lover's face. He spoke softly, privately. "You've come so far, and it bothers me when you call yourself names like that. We've gone over this before. If you weren't as quick as you are, you'd still be sitting in the window at Mum's house waiting for me to come home every day. You wouldn't be taking the test to be a physio, and you wouldn't be working here. Do you think David would let you work on the agents who come in with sore muscles and sprains? Do you think Cowley would hire someone stupid? Do you think someone stupid could have done what you did this past spring, taking us all to hospital, driving the van, putting my shoulder back in its socket?"

Ray shook his head, not saying anything.

Bodie reached over and ran his thumb quickly, softly, against the back of Ray's hand before taking up his teacup again. "Ray? What is it?"

"Why're you mad at me?" His voice came out low and confused.

"Mad? I'm not…" Bodie paused. "I'm not mad at you, Ray, not exactly. I want you to understand this and believe it. I'm upset that you keep saying you're stupid when you're not. Stupid people can't do all the things you do. You're different. You're a little slower than most people are, but do you really believe you're stupid? Ray? Honestly?"

"I can't do what I did before. 'M different."

"Since when did different mean stupid? Think of all the things you can do that you couldn't do last year. Or the year before."

The shortbread was in pieces, and Ray busily made tiny crumb piles as he pondered what Bodie had said. Finally he heaved a great sigh and lifted his head.

"I can read. I pick up supplies for the surgery; David says they never used to get the right things before I was here, and I can…" He gazed defiantly at Bodie. "And I can drive on the main road, if I have to."

Bodie nodded solemnly. "Yes, you certainly can. And what about Roger Ram-jet?"

"Reckon he's the stupid one," Ray mumbled.

"And so?"

"Different isn't stupid, and I'm not stupid, just different."

Bodie bent close and whispered, "You're beautifully different, and you're alive, which is the most important thing." Straightening, he began gathering up the debris from their tea.

----

Bright and early Saturday, Bodie and Ray were in Irene's small car and on their way to Devon, Buck's nose poking out the back window. Peter and Laurie would be driving down on Sunday to visit and take Bodie back with them.

He glanced over at Ray, who was slumped down in his seat, eyes half-mast. "Oi, sleepy-head, wake up."

One green eye opened slowly. "'M awake. Just resting m'eyes."

"Tired, are they?"

"Yeah." Ray's lips twitched and were still. His lids lost their battle to stay up and long lashes settled on his cheeks.

Bodie rolled down his window, wishing he could copy Buck and stick his own head out to take advantage of the fresh air. He needed it. After last night…

Bodie thought it probably wasn't just Ray's eyes that were tired this morning. Ray had taken the dominant role in their lovemaking the previous evening, and it was almost like the Doyle of old. Bodie's lips tightened, remembering. Four-bloody-five, out to stake his territory. They'd barely got the supper dishes out of the way, before Ray was dragging Bodie into the bedroom, stripping him of his clothing, and pushing him onto the bed. Ray's own clothes had marked a trail to their bedroom.

Ray'd used his hands, mouth, and hair to coax Bodie hot and hard. Then he'd lavishly applied the lubricant and straddled Bodie's eager cock, one hand steadying himself, the other reaching for Bodie's tight balls, pulling them down, over and over until Bodie was ready to scream with the need to come.

Ray rode him, faster and harder than he would ride his horse, Irish, over the hills of the farm. Rode him till they were both howling with anguished ecstasy. Rode him until they finally came together, exhaustion sending them tumbling into a satiated sleep that neither woke from until morning.

Bodie squirmed in his seat and willed his overactive glands to calm down. They were in sight of the farm, and it wouldn't do to climb out of the car, flagpole waving. He jabbed his finger into Ray's ribs as they stopped at the gate, waking him.

"Think you can stir yourself long enough to open the gate for me?" Bodie turned his head away. He wanted to keep the image of the strong, self-assured four-five in his mind a little longer.

Ray eyed him curiously. "Is everything all right?"

"Yeah."

"You've got a funny look on your face. Is it… Did I do something wrong? Was it last night? I'm sorry—"

"You were great last night. Open the gate for me, sunshine, please."

"Bodie?"

"It's all right, pet; just open the gate before Buck goes crazy." The dog had started up a furious barking. Bodie pasted what he hoped was an uncomplicated grin on his face. From the look he received in return, his attempt wasn't very convincing.

Ray slid slowly out of the car, his thoughts in a jumble. He thought he'd done well last night. He didn't know why he'd taken over the way he had, but wasn't that what Bodie wanted? Things to be the way they used to be? He'd felt…powerful and in control last night. It was usually the other way around, so it was a strange feeling. He thought Bodie had liked it, but… He opened the gate and got back into the car.

The door to the house opened, and Irene came out to greet them, a smile spreading across her face. Ray was out of the car almost before it stopped again, running to give his mum a hug. His voice floated back to Bodie, who followed more sedately.

"…can take you around the farm on m'bike, if you like, and we can ride Irish, only you can't stay on for very long or you'll be sore." Ray blushed slightly. After all, it was an ache he knew from personal experience.

Irene laughed and leaned over to give Bodie his own hello kiss. Bodie's lips quirked as he watched Ray standing there bright-eyed, a faint breeze ruffling his curls. Ray seemed to have forgotten the conversation in the car. At least, Bodie hoped he had.

"Don't think Mum's quite up to a spin on your bike, Ray."

"Bet she'd like it if she tried it," Ray insisted.

"I don't have the proper clothes for it, Ray, but thank you." Irene nipped the protest in the bud. "I'd look rather silly up behind you in a dress, wouldn't I?"

Both men agreed with her, then turned as Albert came up from the barn. Bodie was glad to see him up and about, moving naturally. He was paler than normal and thinner, but alive and in one piece.

They exchanged greetings before trouping into the house and tucking into the early afternoon tea Irene had prepared for them. Bodie peered around the table at the faces surrounding him and counted his blessings. Who'd've ever expected him to be so contented in a situation like this? He was no more the same person he'd been when he joined CI5 than Ray was.

In those days, Bodie'd been a loner. No family he wanted anything to do with, no friends. Oh, there were the men in his squad in the Paras and SAS. And his fellow mercs. He was the only one left now, but his life went on; their passing barely made a ripple any more.

Once, he'd been free to do whatever he wanted, whenever the mood struck him. Nobody would've missed him, and he'd had no one who required even a second thought. And now?

He glanced around the table again. Buck was begging for scraps at Ray's feet, while Irene gently admonished her son for the millionth time about feeding dogs from the table. Albert sipped his tea, watching them with a gentle smile on his face.

Now Bodie had Ray, who depended on him. Ray, who'd said he would just lie down and die also, should Bodie be killed. That was a burden he'd never expected to have to carry, even before Ray's accident. Now, there were also Albert and Irene and Laurie, and even Peter, all trusting him to take care of Ray.

Now that it couldn't be changed, did he really want it any other way? Bodie's heart swelled with love for his "family." He hoped no one was paying any attention to him; he could feel the soppy look spreading across his face, and knew a strong blush would follow should anyone comment on it. Life was different now: it couldn't change, and he knew there were aspects of it he wouldn't alter.

Ray was trying to decide whether to ride Irish that afternoon or get his bike out and tear around the countryside. He was still attempting to persuade his mum to do one or the other with him. It seemed to Bodie that she was being won over.

"What's fun about riding around on two wheels, love?" she asked her son, eyebrows raised. "I like to have something separating me from the elements."

"It's… I don't know. It's like being free. You could wear Bodie's leathers, Mum."

"I didn't bring them, " Bodie interjected.

"Oh." Ray's face fell.

"She could do with my old overalls," Albert offered helpfully.

"She could, couldn't she? Mum?" Ray's eyes shone hopefully at his mum. Bodie had a feeling Irene wasn't going to be able to get out of this one. Certainly he wouldn't be able to say no to the look on Ray's face.

Neither, apparently, could Irene. She gave a resigned sigh and smiled at her son. "I can wear Albert's overalls."

"I'll meet you out front then." With that, Ray was out the door, Buck running eagerly after him.

"You were a big help." Irene glanced at Albert out of the corner of her eye before turning her gaze on Bodie, who was trying to look as sympathetic as possible. "And you weren't much better."

"I tried. Outside earlier, Irene, you know I did. He just was not going to give up." Bodie smiled. "It's really not that bad, love."

"Easy for you to say," she commented over her shoulder as she followed Albert out of the room.

When she came back, dwarfed in Albert's overalls, Bodie had the tea things put away and was standing by the window watching Ray tinker with the bike. Irene stepped close.

"I know you're not a religious person," Irene said softly. "But I am, and every day I say a special prayer asking God to keep you safe for Ray. He loves you so much. We all do. I'm glad you're a part of our family, Bodie. I don't think I've ever really told you that."

Bodie had to clear his throat before he could respond. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here." He felt the truth of the words as they left his lips and gave her a quick hug just as Ray burst in.

"Mum? Oh, there you are. Come on." He eyed them quizzically. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing at all, love," his mum reassured him. "I was telling Bodie how happy I am to have him in our family."

"Oh." Ray's glance darted from his mum to Bodie and back again. His brow wrinkled. "Yeah, but…"

"You don't want me in the family?" It was a poor attempt at a joke, and Bodie knew it wouldn't work even before he finished speaking.

Ray cocked an eyebrow at him. "You know I do. But—"

"I'm glad," Bodie interrupted. "Now hadn't you better get moving before the light's gone? You've barely got Mum to agree to this as it is. Don't think you'll get far in the dark."

"Yeah," Ray glanced at his mum, who smiled bravely as she followed him outside.

He straddled the bike, holding it steady as he showed her where to sit. She climbed on behind him, wrapping her arms tightly around her son's waist.

"I won't go fast, Mum," he promised, twisting to look over his shoulder. "And not very far."

"I appreciate that, Ray." She buried her head in his shoulder.

"Mum? You need to watch. That's half the fun."

"Right." Up went her head. "Let's go then, son."

"Wait!" Bodie was running towards them, holding something in his hand.

"What?" Ray called out.

Sliding to a stop next to the bike, Bodie held up their camera. "We need to have a photo of this historic event. Something to look back at on those cold winter nights. Smile, kids."

Bodie snapped the picture: two curly heads with bright green eyes, wide smiles, Irene holding on firmly to her son. Another one just to be sure…

"All done," Bodie said, smiling and backing away. We'll make new memories, Ray.

"Hang on!" Ray kicked hard and they were off, bouncing slowly over the path past the caravan, towards the open field.

Later that evening, Ray had a short ride on Irish before coming indoors for dinner. While he'd been able to get Irene on the back of his motorbike, he couldn't manage to convince her to ride Irish. She'd fallen once, many years ago, she'd explained gently, and had never got back on a horse since

After the meal they settled in the living room. They hadn't talked for long, though, before Ray began nodding off. The early departure combined with all the fresh air and the activity at the farm had tired him out. To be honest, Bodie was finding it hard to stay awake himself.

"Are we keeping you up, Bodie?" Irene asked, a small smile on her face.

"Hm? I think it's time for Ray and me both to get some sleep." Bodie got up from the settee, nudging Ray as he did so. "Up you go, my lad. It's rude going to sleep when you're someone's company."

"Aren't company," Ray murmured. "We're family. Night, Mum, Uncle Albert."

It is family, Bodie thought, and smiled his own good nights as he followed Ray out to the caravan.

Once inside, Bodie turned on a light so they could see. Buck was sniffing around, reacquainting himself with familiar smells. Ray fluffed the blankets on the bed before curling up in one corner and eyeing Bodie curiously.

"What?" Bodie glanced down at himself.

"You had a soppy look on your face tonight. What were you thinking about?"

"I did? When?" He sat down on the edge of the bed.

"During tea." Ray tilted his head. "You were watching us and…I dunno. You had this look on your face."

"Oh." Bodie did blush then. "I was hoping nobody'd noticed. I was thinking how great it was having a family. How glad I was to be part of yours."

"Wouldn't be a family without you," Ray said, as Buck jumped op to join them. "Or Buck. Down, Buck!"

Bodie signed and stood. "Come on, Buck, let's put you outside for a bit. Run off some of that excess energy."

"Yeah," Ray added. "We don't need him in bed with us at the moment."

"No?" Bodie turned from opening the door. "Got something planned, have you? Out with you, dog."

"Sleep." Ray burrowed under the covers.

"In your shoes?" Bodie asked dryly.

The mound in the middle of the bed shook. First one dirty trainer, then another shot out onto the floor. Two socks soon followed. A shirt. Then the covers came down and Ray's tousled head appeared.

"Is it okay, Bodie?"

"Is what okay?"

"If I want to make love with you?"

Bodie sat down on the edge of the bed. "What are you talking about? Since when did you ever have to ask me that?"

"You were so strange today. I was afraid it was because of what I did last night. I dunno. Forget it." Ray's lips tightened and he lay back down.

"What you did was wonderful. I was just surprised because you're not usually like that. It's good that you take control sometimes. That's what lovers do. They share." Bodie watched the expressions flit across Ray's face. Confusion, pride, guilt, determination. "Talk to me, Ray."

"You going to take your clothes off? Only, I want you inside me, and you can't do it wearing trousers," was his only reply.

"Ray."

"Bodie." Doyle's chin jutted out. "Take off your clothes right now." The hard look on his face melted away to be replaced by confusion. "Please?"

Bodie didn't bother to ask again what was bothering Ray. Obviously now wasn't the time for facing up to troubles. He took a deep breath and banished his melancholy mood to the back of his mind.

"What about you, eh?" Bodie asked as he began peeling off his jumper. "I didn't see any jeans or pants come flying through the air earlier." He undid his trousers and slid them off. "Be a bit difficult for me to do anything unless you—"

Before he could finish, the jeans were on the floor, and pants warm from Doyle's flesh landed neatly across Bodie's face. A quick toss of his head, and the pants joined his own on the floor. He crawled in next to Ray.

"Now what?" Bodie asked from his vantage point above Ray. Both their cocks were hard against each other.

"Now I think I'd like you inside me. Please," Ray panted, giving a little wiggle.

Bodie sucked in his breath. "Do that again and there won't be anything left to put," he warned.

Ray immediately stilled.

"That's better," said Bodie. "Where's the lube?"

"Here." Ray waved it under his nose. "Hurry up."

Taking the tube, Bodie applied a lavish amount to his cock, before preparing Ray for entry.

"Bodie. Hurry."

"I could do with some help here… Lift up a bit," Bodie grunted. Long legs settled themselves on his shoulders. "Yeah…like that…" and Bodie's cock slid inside.

Ray's heels beat a short tattoo on Bodie's back as they lunged together, lost in a haze of passion. With a short howl, Ray came; the strong anal spasms were enough to send Bodie over the edge.

Later, after they'd cleaned up and let Buck back in, Ray asked: "Do you think the caravan shakes when we make love?"

"I'd imagine it does, pet, why?"

"Do you think they can see it from the house?" he asked in a whisper.

"No, we're over a hill, remember?" Bodie whispered back.

"Yeah. Bodie?"

"What?"

"Why are we whispering?"

"I've got no idea," Bodie answered with a smile.

----

Peter and Laurie showed up early Sunday morning. Surprised, Bodie watched them drive in.

"Did you stop and stay the night somewhere?" he asked, as they climbed out of the car.

"Yeah. Over in Yeovil." Laurie stared at him archly. "You thought maybe we were going to drive down, collect you and leave? We'd like to spend some time with Mum and Uncle Albert, too"

Bodie just smiled and followed them into the house.

"Where's Ray?" Laurie asked after greeting her mother.

"And Buck?" added Peter.

"Out riding Irish," Bodie said.

Peter grinned. "It must be a bit crowded with two of them on that horse. When did Buck learn to ride?"

Bodie affected a yawn. "Ha ha. Planning to join up with Monty Python, are you?"

"Not me, mate." Peter continued to watch him, and Bodie finally relented, his mouth spreading in an answering smile. They followed the ladies indoors, settling themselves around the table as Irene finished brewing some tea.

They'd barely got their cups filled when Ray came through the door, Buck following noisily. He gave Laurie a hug and glanced at Peter.

"You got here fast. I suppose you stopped somewhere last night, then?"

"Smart lad. That's exactly what we did," answered Peter.

Ray smirked and pulled a chair in next to Bodie, helping himself to Bodie's cup at the same time. Bodie raised an eyebrow, and Ray grinned.

"There isn't an empty cup anywhere," he explained blithely.

Bodie's return smile was half-hearted at best. It seemed every time he turned around lately, he was being reminded of "old times." How often had four-five swiped three-seven's cup of coffee or tea in the restroom or on an obbo? He reached over and retrieved his drink, forcing himself out of the past before Ray noticed his preoccupation.

Luckily, Ray was busy nattering on about his horse. While he hadn't been able to convince his mum to go for a ride on Irish, Laurie accepted the offer with alacrity. She downed the last of her tea, and they were out the door in a flash.

"It's almost like when they were small, and we'd come down for a holiday," Irene reminisced. "They'd be outdoors all day, wearing themselves out, then sleep so soundly."

"Doesn't sound like much has changed," Peter reflected.

"No, I suppose it hasn't," Irene said a little sadly.

"He's alive and happy, Irene. Be grateful for that," Bodie reminded her gently.

She smiled softly and gazed out the window to where her two offspring were disappearing into the barn.

"I tried to get Mum to come for a ride, but she didn't want to," Ray said, as they walked to the barn, Buck running in circles around them. "Got her to go on my bike with me, though. I think she had fun."

Laurie giggled. "I can't imagine Mum on the back of your bike."

"Bodie took some pictures, so you can see when we get them developed."

Irish nickered as Ray opened the big, heavy door and let his sister in. There was enough light coming in through the door and windows to see by. Irish was gazing at them over the top of her stall.

"Hey, girl," Ray said quietly, walking up to the horse. He gently stroked her nose. "I've got a treat for you. D'you want a carrot? Come on, Laurie."

His sister came to stand next to him and slowly reached out to the horse, murmuring softy. Ray broke off a piece of the carrot and handed it to Laurie. She gave it to Irish, who crunched happily.

"Irish likes you. I knew she would," Ray said. He left Laurie talking to both horse and dog to haul out the tack, saddling Irish in no time at all. Laurie closed the stable door after he'd led the horse out.

Buck was waiting on the pathway for them. Ray mounted the horse, reaching down to haul his sister up. They set off at a brisk pace, Buck racing along beside them.

The winds gusting over the fields were brisk, almost too cold for comfort, and Laurie hugged Ray closer.

"I won't let you fall off," Ray hastened to assure her.

"Don't worry; I was just trying to get warmer."

"We can go back if you're cold," he offered. Fresh breezes blew his hair and he turned his face to the wind, breathing deeply of the crisp, fresh air. It was cooler here than in London. No smelly petrol fumes, either.

"No, that's all right. This is nice after the stink of the city."

Ray sighed contentedly. "'S just what I was thinking."

He turned Irish so they were heading into the wind, using his body to block most of it from Laurie. He loved the wind, the fresh air. Sometimes he wished he could stand on a mountaintop forever and let the breezes blow past him. As long as Bodie were with him, of course.

"I can show you where Bodie and I found Scott. And where Bodie and Uncle Albert got hurt. If you want?" Ray offered.

"Okay," she agreed. "We were all proud of you, you know. The way you drove everyone to the hospital and took care of Bodie."

A warm glow suffused him as she spoke. He'd never told anyone, not even Bodie, how scared he'd been that day. A big cramp had taken hold of his stomach the minute Bodie'd started fighting with those men, Robinson and Marsden, and hadn't really disappeared until they'd got safely home days later.

"It took a lot of courage to do what you did," Laurie continued. "I'd've been terrified myself."

"I was," he admitted.

"Then it was doubly brave," Laurie said firmly.

"Why?" What was so brave about being afraid?

"Because you did it anyway, even though you were frightened," she explained. "That's what real bravery is."

Ray was silent, thinking it through. "So courage is doing something even though it scares you."

Laurie's arms hugged him briefly. "Yeah, that's it exactly."

"D'you want to run?" Make the wind go faster past his face.

Laurie tightened her grip. "Let's go. Not too far, though; it's bumpy back here."

Ray gave Irish's sides a squeeze with his heels, clucked to her, and off they went. Buck barked behind them before charging ahead, then coming back and starting the whole scene over again. If they had wings, Ray knew they'd be flying.

When the ground started to become uneven, Ray slowed them down. He pointed off to the right. "That's where the bus people were, and where Bodie and Uncle Albert got hurt."

"I'm glad you were there," Laurie said.

"Me, too. I hate it when Bodie is somewhere without me, where he can get hurt or something."

"I imagine he feels the same way about you."

"Eh?" Ray was confused. "I don't go to bad places."

"Bodie's probably scared every time you get into a car he's not driving," she explained. "If Bodie'd been hurt the way you were, wouldn't you worry?"

"Yeah." Ray was silent, thinking about what Laurie had said. It'd never occurred to him that Bodie might worry about simple things like that.

Turning around, they headed back at a walk. Ray pulled Irish to a stop by the barn to let Laurie slide off first. He quickly followed, and they both led the horse inside.

"Laurie?" Ray unbuckled the saddle and took it off.

"What?"

"Are you and Peter going to get married?" He handed her a brush and she began rubbing the horse down.

"My goodness, Ray, where did that come from?" She paused mid-stroke, brush raised in her hand.

"I was just thinking. You and Peter, you can get married, but you're not. Me and Bodie can't get married. D'you know it's against the law for two blokes to marry, even if they love each other?"

"You'd like to marry Bodie, wouldn't you, Ray?"

"In a flash. Do you want to marry Peter? I know you…er…only… I was just curious."

Laurie smiled gently at the red face in front of her and put the brush down. "Yes, Peter and I do make love together, just like you and Bodie. We live together after all. And I don't know about getting married. I was once, remember? And it didn't work out. We'll just wait and see, I suppose."

"Oh." He patted Irish on the nose, then turned to leave the barn, Laurie behind him. It didn't make sense to be in love and living together, but not get married. To be allowed to marry and not do it? He tucked the curiosity into the back of his brain in the special place he kept for questions he needed to ask Bodie.

They walked into a warm kitchen redolent with the smells of chicken and various pastries baking. Irene was bustling around, getting an early supper ready to serve. Bodie, Peter, and Laurie would be leaving for London right after they finished eating.

"Mmm, smells great, Mum." Ray stuck his nose over her shoulder, lifting the lid off a pot. He laughed as she slapped at his hands.

"You want to be useful, you can go and wash and then come and lay the table," Irene instructed him.

"Yes, Mum," he said obediently, still smiling as he headed for the loo.

Dusk fell as they ate, their light chatter filling the air. Ray glanced up as Laurie began teasing their mother about her ride on Ray's bike.

"If you're not careful, Mum, you're going to turn into one of those "motorcycle mamas" they talk about in the States."

"I doubt one ride, hanging on very tightly to my son, will make me one of those." Irene tweaked Ray's ear.

"She was holding on so hard, I thought I was going to split in two," Ray remarked. "She was smiling when we stopped though. I knew she'd like it if she tried it. You'd like riding Irish, too, Mum."

Irene smiled at him gently. "I love spending time with my children. I'll watch you ride your horse, love."

"I can drive you around the farm in Uncle Albert's van, tomorrow, if you want," Ray offered.

"We'll see. We have plenty of time," Irene said. She glanced around the table. "The rest of you'd better be on your way if you want to get home before tomorrow."

As everyone rose from the table, Ray groaned, realising exactly who was going to get left with the washing up. He wrinkled his nose as Bodie sniggered.

Peter and Laurie said their goodbyes and slid into the car. Bodie and Ray were standing out of sight around the corner of the house, taking advantage of the little bit of privacy.

"I'm going to miss you," Ray admitted, twining his arms around Bodie's neck.

"You can always leave with us now, you know." Bodie licked the tip of Ray's nose.

"Nooo… 'S only two days. And Mum should have company when she drives back," Ray reminded him.

"Yeah. Now, hush and kiss me goodbye before they come looking for us," Bodie demanded.

"They wouldn't!" Ray protested, before doing exactly as he'd been told.

Later, he stood with his mum and uncle in the fading light, watching as the car disappeared down the lane. Just for a minute, he'd wanted to run after them, exactly the way Buck was doing, but he reminded himself that staying on the farm had been his idea, after all.

"Come on, Ray." His mum tapped him on the shoulder as Buck trotted back up to them. "I can do with some help with the washing up."

"Unless you'd rather help Jim and me with the cows," added Albert with a chuckle.

Ray gave a brief thought to the smell of the cow barn and politely declined his uncle's offer. "You have Jim so I'd better give Mum a hand."

"Thought you might see it that way." Albert grinned at them both as he headed off to the barn.

Irene wrapped her arm around Ray's waist as they returned to the house. Gallantly, Ray held the door open and ushered her inside. The door led directly into the large kitchen. Back in the days before electricity and central heating, a warm kitchen had been the main gathering place.

"Would you like to wash or dry, Ray?"

"I usually wash and Bodie dries, and we both put away. Can we do it that way?"

"Of course." Irene began gathering the dirty dishes.

Ray squirted Fairy liquid into the sink and turned on the hot water. "At first, it was easier for me to wash the dishes. If I dropped one, it didn't have as far to fall." He tested the water and added some cold.

"Bodie doesn't know I know this," he confided, "but we did it together because I couldn't remember where everything went at first. It took me a long time to work out what he was doing. Now we do it together because we like to."

"Bodie is an amazing man," Irene commented softly. "We're lucky to have him."

"I know. I think, if I didn't have Bodie, I don't know what I'd do." He turned off the taps and began sliding the dirty dishes into the soapy water.

"You'd still have Laurie and Peter and me," she reminded him.

He was quiet for a moment, swiping absently at a dirty cup. There was something in the back of his head he wanted to say, but wasn't sure how to make it sound…not stupid. Beside him, his mum waited quietly. Finally, he got it.

"I love you, Mum. And I'm really glad I've got you and Laurie and Peter. Even with Bodie, I still need you." He stopped what he was doing, and turned his head so he could see his mother. "It's not the same, though, is it? When dad died, you still had Laurie and me. You loved us. But wouldn't you rather have had Dad?"

"Not if it meant losing you and Laurie," she immediately protested. "But I see what you mean. You love Bodie the way I loved your father. It's a different kind of love."

"Right." He eyed her a moment longer, making sure she was all right with not being first on his list of people he loved. He was a bit worried she might be hurt.

She smiled at him tenderly. "It's all right, Ray. That's the way it's supposed to be."

He blinked, surprised. "You read my mind."

"No, I read your face. It's what mothers do, love. And after all these years, yours is an open, well-read book to me."

----

Bodie pottered around in the kitchen, turning the kettle on, setting the leftover cake and biscuits out for tea. Ray and his mum were due back from Albert's at any moment.

It had been a strange couple of days with the house all to himself and the big bed empty and cold. He hadn't even had the consolation of the dog. Bodie wasn't used to the solitude any more. Since the accident, he'd grown used to having Ray near him, depending on him. Needing him.

A niggling finger of guilt poked him, and he recalled a question Cowley had asked him last year: did he want Ray to have stayed the way he was, straight after the accident, childlike and dependent on Bodie for everything?

The answer then, as now, was "no". It was just the strangeness of being at home alone that was making him feel so at odds with everything.

Ray had rung up both Monday morning and evening; even though he was enjoying himself, he still missed Bodie and was glad to be coming home. So Ray still needed him.

All afternoon and evening Bodie'd been tied up near Harrods with a bomb threat. They'd managed to capture the madmen before anyone had been injured, but Bodie'd been hoping to get home sooner, anticipating a phone call from Ray saying they were on their way.

A car drove by and he glanced out the window, disappointed when it continued past the house. The phone chose that instant to ring, and he wandered over to answer it.

"Bodie." Lauren's voice was shaking, tears interspersed with sniffles coming down the line.

"What? Is Ray all right?" His mind slowed to a stop and his face felt flushed with heat, even as his body turned cold.

"Yes. Mum—" Sobs interrupted her words.

"What? Laurie, what?" He closed his eyes, shivery goose bumps breaking out on his arms.

Slowly the story came out between gasps for breath and sniffling sobs.

"They reckon she lost control. The car went off the road and hit a tree. Oh, God, she was dead right away, Bodie. I don't know—" Her voice was beginning to shrill.

"Laurie, give me the phone, love. Come on…" In the background, Peter's voice was dull as he tried to calm her down.

Her words continued tumbling over one another. "Oh, Bodie. We tried to contact you, but the man on the phone said you couldn't be disturbed. Mum… They took Ray to hospital. Said he hit his head again. Bodie…"

A loud rushing in his own head drowned out whatever else Laurie was saying, and it wasn't until the sound of Peter's deep voice came over the line that he snapped back to reality.

"Bodie. Bodie? It's not like the last time, mate," Peter tried to reassure him. "It's just a small bump on the other side. He's okay, Bodie. He's okay." Quickly Peter filled him in on what little else they knew. It wasn't much, since Ray was the only survivor and currently sedated.

Bodie was finding it hard to pay attention while his mind struggled to take in things he couldn't believe had happened. Again.

"Where is he?" Christ. Ray.

"St. Mary's." Not even in the city yet.

Bodie set the receiver in place and ran out the door. How he managed not to get into an accident of his own was anybody's guess. The last thing his mind was centred on was the traffic around him.

He was directed to Ray's room without any trouble. Peter had called ahead to let them know he was on the way, and the resident neurological specialist, Thompson, was there to reassure him. They'd done x-rays immediately and, after speaking with Peter, had contacted Ray's old doctor, Hayes, and spoken with him. There was no new damage.

Bodie thanked the doctor absently and carefully eased open the door to Ray's room. The ball of dread nestled in the pit of his stomach took him back to the last time he'd been in this same position, and he paused before walking softly across the floor.

Ray was asleep, curled into himself with one arm laid out straight, an IV tube attached. The bruises on his face and along the inside of the outstretched arm showed up lightly purple. In a few days they'd darken and he'd be multi-coloured.

Bodie resisted the temptation to stroke the ruffled curls poking out from under the light blanket. Ray'd spent most of the past few hours sleeping according to the doctor, who'd also assured Bodie the unconsciousness was due to shock and emotional trauma only. Bodie kept reminding himself of those words.

Peter's words from earlier came back to him. Unless Ray could tell them what had happened, they'd probably never know, since Irene was the only other one who'd been there. Christ. Irene. According to Peter, the first person on the scene said it looked as though her seat belt had broken. She'd died from massive chest trauma acquired when she hit the steering wheel. By some miracle, the tree branch that had punched through the windscreen had missed Ray.

Snuffling sounds from the mound in front of him notified Bodie that Ray was waking up, and he grabbed a chair, pulling it close to the bed. Halfway into it, he glanced up to find drowsy eyes blinking at him blearily.

"Bodie?" Ray's voice was hoarse.

"It's me, sweetheart. How do you feel?" Bodie scooted the chair closer and took hold of the slender hand held out to him. Bodie had no idea how much, if anything, Ray remembered, or if he even realised his mum was dead.

"Sore. Hurts."

"What hurts, pet? Do you remember what happened?"

Foggy green eyes looked at him. "Sleepy."

"Can you stay awake for just a minute? Tell me what happened?"

"Did I crash m'car? Think so. Think… Where's Buck? He was in the car."

"Buck's fine." Bodie suddenly realised he had no idea what had happened to the dog.

"Did I hurt my head again?"

"No, your head's fine, pet."

"Wha' happened, Bodie?" A frown was beginning to appear.

"You were in an accident again. Coming home from Uncle Albert's—"

"Mum. Bodie, where's Mum? I want to see her." Tears were flooding Ray's eyes, beginning to slide down his cheeks. "Mum?"

Bodie got out of the chair and sat down on the bed, carefully pulling Ray into his arms. He held tight to the slender body, one hand wrapped around the curly head.

"Mum's dead, poppet." No easy way to say it. His own throat filled. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"No, she came to see me, Bodie. My head was hurting. She read me stories." He looked earnestly into Bodie's face, willing them both to believe.

"That was last time, when you crashed your car and hurt your head."

"No. Bodie, no." Ray tightened his hold on Bodie's shirt, fingers digging deep into the fabric, skin, and muscle. "No. Mum."

They cried together then, sharing the loss. Ray was exhausted when the tears finally stopped, his eyes red and swollen, his nose stuffed up. Bodie wasn't feeling much better himself. A noise at the door made him turn his head to see Peter and Laurie tiptoeing in.

"Sleep now, poppet. Sleep and I'll be here when you wake up again." Bodie gently let go as Ray slid back against the pillow.

"Bodie?"

"Hush, it'll be all right." He gently brushed his fingers through the rumpled curly hair, staying well away form the darkening bruise on Ray's forehead. Bodie let his thumbs dry the tear dampened cheeks. "Close your eyes, that's my good lad. I love you, sweetheart. Quiet now. Shhhh. Go to sleep."

He waited until Ray's breathing had deepened and steadied out before he got up and faced the others. Motioning them out of the room, he followed, giving one last glance at his sleeping lover.

With the door securely shut, it was safe to talk. Bodie reached out and took Lauren into his arms, feeling her shoulders shake with barely suppressed sobs. He hugged her tightly, his own eyes tearing up again, before releasing her.

"You told him?" she asked, fumbling in her handbag and pulling out a handkerchief.

"Yeah. He asked after Buck, then it all came back." Bodie's jaw clenched. "How is Buck? I didn't even think about him."

"Fine. The police said there was a pile of blankets and rugs in the back seat that must have cushioned Buck when they…"

"Did Ray say what happened?" Peter asked. Laurie was silent, her lower lip caught between her teeth.

"No, we didn't get that far. I need a cuppa," he said, as he moved off towards the machines in the other room. "You two?" They both shook their heads. He was back in seconds with a cup full of tea. "I need to go back inside. Said I'd be there when he woke up."

"Wait, Bodie. The police want to talk to Ray when he's able." Peter looked unhappy.

"Why?"

"They think the car was forced off the road. They asked me what condition it was in, paint-wise, and didn't look happy when I said it had just been re-sprayed."

"They had a reason for asking?" Bodie asked tightly. He turned the cup around in his hands, not drinking.

"Green paint on the wing."

"Christ."

"Yeah." Peter sighed. "The PC spoke with the doctor earlier, and I told them you were with CI5. They asked that you please contact them as soon as possible."

Laurie was standing quietly, staring at the floor. Bodie gently touched her arm.

"Why don't you got home, love, and get some rest. Ray's asleep, and there's really nothing for you to do here. You look absolutely shattered."

"I am. I think… Peter, I'd like to go to Mum's."

Peter's face was concerned. "Are you sure? It'll be terribly empty."

"Not if we're there. I want to go home, Peter, please."

"Right. Bodie, ring if you need us."

"I will. I'll ask Ray about the accident next time he wakes. I'd like to have a look at the car myself, too. Oh. Would you ring Cowley, tell him what's happened. Please." Bodie blindly held out his untouched tea as he turned to go back into Ray's room. Peter quickly took it from him, and he and Laurie headed for the way out.

Bodie sat back down in the chair he'd vacated earlier, eyes glued to the still face on the pillow. He laid his own head down next to Ray's, his eyelids falling. Irene dead. Could've been Ray. So close. And how was Ray going to react? Christ. What a…it could've been Ray…

Fingers gently combing through his hair woke him, and he opened his eyes to see Ray lying on his side, one hand poised over Bodie's dark hair. Sometime during the night or early morning, a nurse had come in and removed the IV from Ray's arm.

"Hi," Ray whispered.

"Hi yourself, sunshine."

Tears formed in Ray's soft green eyes, and he blinked them away furiously. "Bodie."

"I know, pet, I know." He straightened, grimacing as his neck and shoulders protested at the position he'd forced them into. "How do you feel?"

"Tired, sore. Sad. Mum." He swallowed.

"Do you remember what happened?"

"No. We were talking. Then Mum got angry, I don't know why. Buck was barking really loud. Then I was here and my head hurt."

A nurse came in pushing a breakfast trolley, and Bodie stood. "I'm going to look for the doctor, see when I can break you out of here, okay? I'll be back soon."

He left Ray staring despondently at runny eggs and cold toast. Dr Thompson was just down the ward at the nurses' station, going over a report, and Bodie stood by, waiting to be noticed.

"You want to take Mr Doyle home, I suspect." He smiled soberly at Bodie's emphatic nod. "Well, there's no need to keep him here. As I told you, he's fine physically except for the bumps and bruises. His blood pressure is a little high; you should keep an eye on that. Otherwise—take him home, Mr Bodie."

"Thank you." Bodie held out his hand and they shook. "I appreciate all you've done for Ray." He turned away, the doctor's response behind him, and trudged back to Ray' room.

"Good news, Ray." Bodie looked around to make sure there was no on else in the room and gave him a quick kiss on the mouth. The uneaten eggs and the toast were congealing together on the plate. "I can take you home with me now."

"Good." Ray pushed the tray away, shoved back the covers, and paused. "Where are my clothes?"

Bodie looked around. Opening a drawer in the bedside table, he pulled out a plastic sack. Inside were jeans, trainers, socks, and a bloodstained t-shirt. Bodie carefully bundled up the last item and tucked it down inside the small rubbish bin before holding up the rest. "Afraid you'll have to wear the hospital gown home, pet, along with the jeans."

"Where's my shirt?" Ray slid gingerly to the edge of the bed.

"I tossed it out, love. It was filthy. Here're your shoes." Bodie waited silently as Ray slowly got dressed. "Ready?"

Ray nodded, his lips pressed together, mouth turned down. "Where's Laurie?"

"At Mum's."

"I wanna go there, Bodie."

Bodie opened his mouth to argue that Ray should go home to bed, then snapped his lips shut. There was no reason not to let Ray go to Irene's house to be with his sister. It would also give Bodie a chance to talk to the police. This was one of those moments he was grateful to CI5 since it kept Ray from having to deal directly with the police himself.

"How about we stop off at home first and get you a clean shirt—"

"No."

"No?"

"No." Ray's voice broke. "Bodie."

"Right." Bodie looked at the slight figure standing by the bed. Rumpled hair, baggy hospital gown, and a day's growth of whiskers. He wanted to grab Ray and hold him to the end of time. To go back a week to when Ray'd asked if he could spend his two days off at the farm; and please God, don't ever let him make the connection between his request, and the fact his mum would have come home on the train if not for him.

They left the hospital quietly, Ray climbing into the Land Rover without hesitation. There was no conversation on the drive to Irene's house although Ray clutched Bodie's thigh tightly the entire way, and cried silently, tiredly, off and on.

Buck was peering out of the front window when they pulled into the drive, barking furiously as he recognised the sound of the car. Ray climbed out and walked slowly towards the front door, pausing on the top step to wait for Bodie.

"Okay?" Bodie asked gently, his hand rubbing soothingly against Ray's back.

"I don't want to go in." Ray's eyes filled again, and he sniffed loudly. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and caught Buck as the dog lunged for him. Kneeling down, he buried his face in the dark fur, crouching low so Bodie could step over him on the way through the door.

Lauren came out to the hall, and Bodie wrapped his arms around her. Peter came up behind her and gently stroked the back of her head.

"How's Ray?" he asked. Bodie just shook his head as Lauren eased out of his arms, her eyes settling on her younger brother.

"Ray?" She knelt down beside him and touched his arm. "Come into the kitchen, love, and I'll make you a cuppa." Ray shook his head, face still buried in Buck's furry coat. "Come on, Ray, you can't stay here on the floor."

"No."

Laurie raised her head, tears sparkling in her eyes, and shrugged at Bodie. He motioned her aside and squatted down in her place.

"You need to get up and come inside, pet." The curly head shook again. "Ray, there are things to do. I've got to go and talk to the police and look at the car. You need to come in and rest. You wanted to come here. Ray!" He made his voice as firm as possible, and Ray finally lifted his head.

It took all Bodie's determination to keep his face stern and not give in to the woebegone bundle that was gazing at him with red, swollen eyes. The hospital gown was hanging half off his shoulder, and there was a light crease in his cheek from where it had been pressed against Buck's collar.

"Let's go, Ray." Bodie stood and held out his hand. Eventually, Ray took it, allowing himself to be hauled to his feet. Once upright, he clutched Bodie's hand tightly. Bodie reached over and straightened the gown around his neck.

Laurie and Peter had gravitated towards the living room, and slowly Bodie shuffled Ray in that direction. "Laurie's going to need your help, you know. It's her mum, too, and she's feeling sad."

"I know." He turned bewildered eyes in Bodie's direction. "I don't know how to help her though. Bodie?" His voice cracked.

"Think she'd like a hug, don't you?"

"Maybe. I think so. I don't know."

"Try it." Bodie was finding it hard to speak around the rapidly growing lump in his throat.

As they walked through the doorway, Lauren looked up from where she was cuddled with Peter on the settee, and opened her arms wide. Bodie gave Ray a slight nudge, and he settled on the cushions next to her, gathering her up and holding on tight. Peter disentangled himself and got to his feet, leaving the grieving brother and sister to themselves.

"I've got to go to the police," Bodie said quietly, moving towards the door, his eyes on Ray.

Peter followed the direction of his glance. "He'll be all right, mate, here with Laurie and me."

"He's so…lost," Bodie said vaguely.

"Don't worry. He's doing fine. You go and take care of the police, and we'll watch over Ray." Peter smiled reassuringly, although Bodie doubted the optimism was heart-felt.

"Thanks." Bodie looked back at Ray, who was now patting his sister on the back, then turned and went out to his car.

As he drove along, his thoughts tumbled back and forth between the accident, the weekend at the farm, and the inevitable "What if…" that everyone asks after a death. Eventually Ray would want to know what had happened, would ask the unanswerable question: Why? It was something Bodie also wanted to know.

He pulled into the Police Station and parked. A helpful PC pointed him in the proper direction, and he went out to the yard, joining up along the way with the Inspector in charge of the case.

Bodie could almost hear the pounding in his head as he stared in shocked disbelief at the ruin of Irene's car. There, on the right wing, were bashed in streaks of bright green paint that had not been there when he left the farm on Sunday.

"So what do you reckon happened, Mr Bodie?"

"Eh?" The strident voice pulled him out of his silent reverie. "I don't know. It looks as though they were forced off the road. But why?"

"Ray doesn't remember anything, then?"

"No. Do you know the Doyles?" Bodie asked.

"Yeah. I grew up in the house down the road. Dated Laurie a few times. A shame, this, happening after their earlier troubles."

"It could be a simple hit-and-run," Bodie commented. Or someone out to get agent four-five, he added to himself.

If only Ray could remember.

Not that Bodie really wanted Ray to remember everything. No, all Bodie needed to know was why "Mum got angry" and what made Buck start barking loudly enough for Ray to comment on it.

"You'll keep searching for the other car?" Bodie asked.

"Of course. We've got men checking all the garages. We'll catch the bugger, Mr Bodie, have no doubt about it."

Bodie just nodded. Giving the car one last look, he headed out to the Land Rover and back to Irene's house. Now Lauren's, he supposed. He radioed in to Headquarters and asked to be patched through to Murphy.

"Bodie. How's Ray?" Murphy's voice was concerned.

"He's fine, at home with Laurie and Peter. I just finished looking at the car. Can you run a check and see if anyone's been released—"

"Already did, mate. Nothing. Could have been a lousy driver, or a drunk."

"Yeah, thanks, Murph."

Bodie slid the radio microphone back into its slot. His mind was a million miles away as he drove. He'd grown to love Irene like a mother, and if the truth were told, he was wishing there was someone who would hold him while he cried for her. For a moment, just a brief second, Bodie really wanted the old four-five back, hard and strong, and not needing Bodie to be his rock.

He forced the thought from his head. How many times had he gently lectured Irene on counting her blessings? Now here he was wishing for the impossible himself.

As he pulled up in front of the house, he noticed Ray and Buck sitting on the front step. Ray was absently stroking the heavy, dark head where it lay on his knee. The corners of his mouth tilted up slightly when he saw Bodie, and he stood.

"Did you know Laurie and I lived here when we were kids?" he asked as Bodie came up the walkway.

"Yes."

"Oh. I didn't remember, but Laurie said we did. She said we have lots of old stuff in the attic, toys and things. Bodie?" Haunted eyes looked up at him.

"What is it, pet?"

"Peter says we have to plan a funeral. I heard him and Laurie talking. I don't think I remember everything that happens at one. Will I have to say anything? Only, I don't think I can talk about Mum in front of lots of people," he said, blinking furiously.

"You won't have to talk, sweetheart. You'll have to wear a suit, I'm afraid."

"Is that all?"

"No, the priest talks, then other people get up and talk about what a good person Mum was, and there's music—"

"Can I help pick the music? I want it to be nice stuff. And will you talk for me? About how Mum was a good mum and all? Oh, Bodie."

"I know. Of course I'll speak." Bodie moved to open the door. "Are we going to stand out here much longer? I could do with a cuppa. Would you like to pamper poor, tired old Bodie and make me one?"

"Pamper? What's that?" Ray followed him into the house, Buck at their heels.

"Means to take care of nicely."

"Bodie." For a second Ray seemed to forget his sadness and smiled shakily. "I always take care of you nicely."

Bodie closed the door behind them and took advantage of their solitude to plant a kiss on the tip of his nose. "Yes, you do."

Ray walked on into the living room. "I'm going to make tea for Bodie. Do you want some, too?" he asked his sister and Peter. Receiving affirmative nods, he left the room.

 

In the kitchen, Ray quietly set about getting the tea ready. It felt strange, standing in Mum's kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. He glanced over at the door. She should come through it really soon, to see how he was doing, and maybe cut up one of her cakes. She should… Ray bit at his lower lip, as his eyes filled with tears.

He'd sat there at the table, right after he'd hurt his head and come home, and Mum had shown him how to make the banana cake Bodie loved so well. They'd gone over the recipe together, Mum reading it out slowly, and showing him all the dishes, and explaining the measuring cups and the baking. Laurie didn't like to cook. Only him and Mum did.

The kettle began to squeal, and Ray turned the heat off, gathering the tea things together. He looked around the room. There wasn't any cake.

It hadn't taken Bodie long to relate his visit with the police. If possible, Lauren's face saddened even more.

"I don't want to think it's someone out for revenge, but if it was a drunk driver, or just someone being reckless… God, Bodie, it seems so senseless. What a pointless way to die."

"Death usually is pointless," Bodie said bluntly. "Listen, Laurie, Ray wants to be in on the plans for the funeral. He said so outside. He wants to help pick the music."

"Of course. What's wrong, Bodie? You didn't think we were going to leave him out, did you? Peter's been watching him carefully to make sure we don't put too much stress on him."

"No, of course not, I… Nothing. I'll miss her too, you know." The rattle of crockery announced Ray's arrival with the tea, and Bodie quickly changed the subject. "Did I tell you, Ray, that Murphy's running around the office telling everyone that Silvia can say 'dada', now?"

"No, but he stopped me in the hall when I was on my way for a break with you and told me all about it. He's so funny, Laurie." Ray settled down on the floor, in front of the chair Bodie was sitting in. "He looks like a cockerel with his chest all puffed out." No one smiled.

After a moment, Bodie said, "Silvia's a pretty little thing. Murphy deserves to be proud."

"Reckon Gillian is, too," added Ray, handing a cup back to Bodie. "After all, she's the one did all the hard work." His face dropped even more as he poured his own tea. "I reckon Mum really wanted me and Laurie to do that twice, eh?"

"I imagine she did," Bodie said softly. "I know she loved you very much and was just as proud of the two of you as Murphy is of Silvia."

Everyone was silent after that. As far as Bodie could tell, each was lost in their own thoughts and memories, and he left them to it, his mind on other things. Ray leaned his head against Bodie's thigh and closed his eyes. Presently, he was breathing deeply and evenly, sound asleep. Eventually Bodie set down his empty cup and stretched, before gently shaking Ray's shoulder.

"Mmm?" Eyes heavy with sleep blinked up at him.

"Time for us to go home, pet. Even Buck's tired, and you were asleep."

Ray started to rise, then stopped abruptly. "Ouch. Everything hurts. Why… Oh." His jaw tightened tightly as he remembered. "Are Laurie and Peter going to stay here?"

"No, we're going back to our own house," Lauren said.

"Then who's going to live here?" His question was punctuated by a wide yawn.

"I don't know. That's something we can talk about later. Right now, you're for bed, my lad, before you go back to sleep standing up," Bodie said.

"Okay. G'night." Ray gave his sister a hug and raised a limp hand in Peter's direction before shuffling off to the front door. Buck jumped up from where he'd been stretched out in front of the fire and followed.

"We'll see you tomorrow, then," Bodie said, receiving his own hug from Laurie. Tomorrow, to plan a funeral and reorganise their lives in an attempt to fill the void.

----

The night before the funeral, Bodie watched as Ray wandered aimlessly around their living room. After having picked up a book from the shelf, he carried it around with him for a bit before setting it down on the coffee table. He finally stopped in front of a framed photo of himself with his mum and Bodie, running his fingers over the edge.

"Ray?"

"It's not fair."

"I know. Life's not fair. Your first accident wasn't fair."

"Why? Why my mum? Why not someone else? Why did it have to happen at all?" Ray's fingers clutched convulsively around the photo as he picked it up and turned to face Bodie. "Why? She was a great Mum. She never hurt anybody. She wasn't old, so why?"

"I don't know."

"Why?"

"I don't know, Ray."

"No. Why don't you know? You know everything." He looked at Bodie angrily. "Tell me why."

"I can't."

"Tell me why!" Ray flung the picture across the room and stomped over to Bodie.

The sound of glass shattering broke what little control Bodie had left of his temper. He looked back at Ray standing in front of him. Eyes glittering furiously, face set and flushed, Ray looked ready to tear someone apart.

"I don't know, Ray." Bodie angrily pushed himself off the settee. "I don't have the answer to every bloody question you come up with. If I knew why she died... But, I don't. It's a moot point. I don't know why." He listened to the heated words coming out of his mouth, unable to believe he was actually yelling at Ray like this.

"It's not fair," Ray repeated loudly, glaring at Bodie. Ray wanted an answer, he wanted someone to explain it to him, and Bodie was the only one here. Right now Ray didn't care that Bodie was angry.

"I know it's not fair. It's not fair she died. It's not fair you crashed your car the first time. It's not fair you're not the same as you were. Nothing's fair. Life's...not fair. Christ. Ray." To Bodie's utter horror he felt tears welling up, clogging his throat, spilling from his eyes. He didn't want to cry, not in front of Ray. But he was so tired. He turned away, trying to hide his face.

Ray watched in confusion and dawning understanding as Bodie moved away from him, the normally strong face crumpling. He wrapped his arms around Bodie, stopping him. "Oh, Bodie, you miss her, too."

"Of course I do, "Bodie said, still upset. Everything was upside down; he'd shouted at Ray, something he'd sworn he'd never do again.

"I didn't think. You've been doing everything, and I... I'm sorry, honey. I'm sorry." Ray eased them both down on to the settee without loosening his clutch on Bodie. "I'm sorry. For everything. I love you."

The last was whispered in choked-off tone and that was all it took. Bodie was unable to stop the huge great sobs from pouring out of his mouth, ugly sounds he couldn't believe came from him. He was aware of little else other than Ray's arms wrapped around him, holding him tightly; a lifeline keeping him from drowning in all the pain and sorrow from the past few years.

It wasn't until he was having trouble breathing that he opened his sore eyes. Ray was holding out a rather damp handkerchief. Bodie took it, noticing the pinkness of Ray's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Bodie."

"So am I, poppet."

"I was so busy missing Mum, I forgot about you. You miss her, too and I was being selfish. I'm sorry," he repeated.

"It's all right. I've had a good cry," Bodie said.

Ray smiled sadly. "You certainly have. My shirt's all wet. 'S okay though," he hastened to reassure before Bodie could say anything. "I've soaked yours often enough, haven't I?"

"Yeah. That's what a shoulder's for."

"It still isn't fair, though," Ray said a few minutes later.

"No, it isn't. But that's life, sweetheart. We don't get perfect answers to our questions every time we ask."

"I asked Laurie why Mum had to die," Ray confided.

"You did? When?"

"Yesterday."

"What did she say?"

Ray sighed. "About the same as you, I reckon. There isn't any answer. We have to believe there's a reason for everything even if God doesn't let us in on it."

"Laurie said that?"

"Partly. Peter said the bit about God."

"That sounds like Peter."

"I knew you didn't have the answer, either. I don't know why I yelled at you like that," Ray admitted.

Bodie hugged him tightly. "Frustration. Sorrow. Anger. All of them combined. It's normal to ask 'why' when someone dies. Especially when it happens by accident and not old age."

"Bodie?"

"Yes?"

"When I die, I'm going to have strong words with God about this."

"I'll be right there with you, Ray."

Bodie knew he hadn't managed to answer Ray's questions satisfactorily—it was impossible to, and he was sure the subject would come up again. All he'd done was defuse the situation a little. The ache inside him grew bigger; he wanted to know "why", too, and not just the why of Irene's early death.

----

The sombre sounds of organ music filled the small church. Bodie listened to the muffled shuffle of feet as the mourners came down the aisle to find a seat. He sat next to Ray in the front pew reserved for family. Laurie was beside her brother, her hand clutching Peter's. Uncle Albert had arrived the previous day and sat next to Peter, arms crossed against his chest.

A heavy hand settled on Bodie's shoulder, and he turned around to see Murphy and Gillian sitting down. Taking a seat in the back were Cowley, Betty and Brian Macklin. David Henderson was already seated. Bodie wondered how many people were here today out of love and concern for Ray. Certainly neither Betty nor Brian had ever met Irene.

The organ was soothing, the Bach Fugue floating out over the congregation. Lauren had given Ray carte blanche with the music, and he'd immersed himself in the task, stereo headset on, playing record after record, to find just the right pieces.

The priest was speaking now, all about a life well lived, cut short. Bodie glanced down and saw Ray's left hand clenched into a fist. The other hand clasped his sister's. Bodie reached over and gently straightened the curving fingers, entwining his own around them. Ray looked up, startled, and Bodie knew what was going through his head. Mustn't touch in public, and here they were in a church... Bodie smiled gently at him and tightened his hand. Somehow he didn't think this was a time to obey the "rules."

Lauren went up and read a poem about motherhood, managing not to break down although she became tearful. Then it was Bodie's turn. He and Ray had talked at length that morning about what Bodie should say, and the words, short and sweet were engraved in his heart.

He looked out over the gathering of friends and family, his eyes finally settling on Ray, who was looking up at him with luminous green eyes.

"Ray asked me to say a few words about his mother. Irene was a remarkable woman. She raised two children, trained them and taught them, then allowed them to choose their own lives, accepting the choices they made. She welcomed Peter and me into her home and family; she was Mum not just to Ray and Lauren, but also to us. The love we felt for her was returned to us tenfold, and we'll never be able to fill the space she's left in our lives."

There was a smile on Ray's face, wobbly but recognisable. Bodie stepped down and took his place next to the man he loved more than life itself, the remainder of the funeral going on around him as he took comfort in the warmth pressed against him.

Afterwards, while they waited outside for the coffin to be loaded up for the journey to the cemetery, Murphy pulled Bodie away from the rest of the family. Ray gave him a questioning look, then turned back to the priest who was talking to him.

"What?" Bodie asked.

Murphy sighed. "I heard from that inspector just before I left to pick up Gillian. They found the green car. It was a couple of kids out for a spin while their old man was on his hols. It took him two days to get the story out of them when he got back. Two foolish kids, Bodie. He rang the Met to see if an accident had been reported. He was sick when he found out Irene'd been killed. Sorry, Bodie."

"At least it wasn't a nutter out for revenge," Bodie said. "I'll tell Ray later tonight. Thanks for coming, you two. It means a lot to us."

"Yeah. See you at work tomorrow, mate." He and Gillian headed for their car as Bodie went back to Ray, Laurie and Peter.

In the privacy of the car, Bodie quietly told them what he'd learned from Murphy. For several moments no one spoke as they took it all in.

"What a stupid waste," Peter said flatly.

"A couple of kids?" Ray asked. "Do they know what they did?"

"If they don't know now, they will soon. Their father knows." Bodie shrugged his shoulders. "They broke the law, Ray, and killed a human being. Don't you want them punished?"

Ray was silent as he pondered the question. Finally he said, "No. They made a mistake. It's a bad feeling living with the fact you've killed someone."

Even when you don't remember doing it, Bodie thought.

"I reckon for kids it would be even worse," Ray continued. "What will happen to them?"

"We'll probably never know," Bodie answered. Crimes perpetrated by children—however accidental—was not a discussion he cared to enter into right now.

More than anything, Bodie wanted this day to end.

To Part Two