Life Goes On

PART THREE

Bodie had barely opened his eyes the next morning when the C15 phone began ringing. He fumbled for the receiver, putting it to his ear and crawling back under the warm blankets.

"Three-seven."

"I need you in here now, Bodie. There's bad news from the north." It was Cowley, sounding very subdued.

"Shall I ring Murphy? Or do you need only me?"

"I'll take care of Murphy. Now, three-seven."

"On my way, sir. Just need to arrange a way to work for Ray."

"Of course." The click on the other end finished the conversation.

Bodie stuck his arm out and attempted to hang up the phone without having to leave the bed. After falling short several times, he gave it up as a bad idea and sat up. Next to him, Ray's curly head poked out of the nest of blankets and green eyes blinked sleepily at him.

"Wha's up?"

"I've got to go in early. That was Mr Cowley on the phone. Something's happened to the op up in York and he needs me in the office as soon as possible."

"Did somebody die?" Ray peered over at the alarm clock. "'S only 6:00 am."

"I don't know what happened. Cowley will tell me when I get there." Bodie climbed out of bed and headed for the shower. "Why don't you give Peter and Laurie a ring and see if one of them can take you to work this morning? Or maybe Dr Henderson can pick you up on his way in.

There was no answer and Bodie paused in the act of turning on the taps. "Ray?"

"What?"

The voice was right behind him, and Bodie jumped.

"Sorry. Did I scare you?" Ray asked.

"You startled me," Bodie said dryly and turned the water on. "I thought you were still in bed."

"Gotta spend a penny." Ray suited words to action as Bodie slid behind the shower curtain. "And I have to feed Buck."

"Don't forget to ring M. . . someone to take you to work." It was going to take a while before 'Mum' or 'Irene' stopped coming automatically to his lips.

"You're worrying, Bodie," Ray reminded him. "I'll be fine. I'll ring up Dr Henderson first and..." The cascading water drowned out Ray's voice as he left the room.

Bodie quickly lathered his hair and rinsed it clean before stepping out of the shower to shave. He had a bad feeling about the call from Cowley.

The scent of toast wafted back to the bedroom, and Bodie sniffed appreciatively as he dressed. The kettle squealed briefly before Ray got to it, and Bodie walked out to the kitchen to be greeted by hot tea, buttered toast and a kiss, all handed out by Ray.

"Thanks, love." Bodie sipped the hot brew gratefully. He noticed the frown marring Ray's brow and hurried to reassure him. "It'll be fine, sweetheart. Don't you worry. Tyler probably needs to ask his 'boss' a question and get an answer back immediately."

"And you're the boss."

"And I'm the boss." Bodie smiled briefly.

"I'm going to phone David as soon as you leave." Ray leaned over, tongue darting out to lick away the stray crumbs around Bodie's mouth. He finished off with a big kiss. "Go to work, honey, I'll see you later."

"Ring—"

"David. I will, Bodie; now go." Ray deftly grabbed the empty cup out of Bodie's hand before pushing him out the front door.

As it closed behind him, Bodie heard the locks click. Ray would be fine. Don't worry. Don't you worry. Bodie had the feeling it was going to be their new mantra for some time.

Ray sighed, the smile disappearing from his face as he set the cup in the sink. So many things to do this morning. He had to shower and shave, put on clean clothes ... phone David. Phone David first.

He went back to the bedroom and pulled his special little black notebook out of his jacket pocket. David's address and phone number had been carefully entered when Ray started back to work at C15.

The phone rang four times on the other end before it was finally picked up.

"8964." A sleepy voice answered.

"David, it's me, Ray." He extended a hand for his tea, forgotten on the side table when Bodie left. Couldn't quite reach it.

"Ray? What is it? Is everything all right?" David came alert quickly.

"Nothing's wrong. Only, Bodie had to go to work early. He's gone, and I wanted to know if I could have a lift with you?" Carefully stretching the phone cord as far as it would go, he tried again for his cup, fingertips grazing the side.

"Oh, of course, Ray, of course."

"We'll need to drop Buck off with Peter and Laurie, is that all right?"

"Of course it is."

"Ta, David. I'll be ready for you. Do you know where our house is?" With a sigh, Ray gave up on his tea.

"Yes. Half past seven, Ray, all right?"

"Ta." Ray set the phone down and collected his tea. It was barely warm. Heaving another great sigh he put it back down and went off to take his shower.

Under the hot water he wondered if Buck minded staying at Peter and Laurie's house during the day. Since they couldn't leave Buck with his mum any more, they'd had to leave him with Peter who took him to the fitness centre when he went into work. He decided Buck probably didn't notice the difference.

So much had changed so quickly. Ray felt the tears building up behind his eyes and was glad Bodie wasn't here to see him cry. Bodie was always unhappy when he cried and sometimes Ray couldn't help it.

Like now. He sniffed loudly.

He missed his mum. He switched the shower off. It wasn't fair, really. His mum wasn't even old. Those kids driving the car when they shouldn't have been.... Ray still couldn't remember everything about the accident, although little bits and pieces kept popping up when he wasn't expecting them.

He reached for a towel and began rubbing his head. Yesterday, he was standing outside waiting for David to bring him something and the wind blew that tree and the branch had moved and suddenly he remembered the other branch coming through the windshield. He'd forgotten to tell Bodie that.

He glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was almost quarter past seven. Galvanised into action, Ray began pulling on his clothes. He wanted to be ready when David arrived. It wasn't a polite thing to make someone wait when they were doing you a favour. His mum had pounded that into him when he was a kid. She must've had to say it over and over since it was something he could remember after his first accident.

A car horn sounded outside, stopping Ray's train of thought, and he grabbed his jacket. Glancing quickly around the kitchen to make sure he'd put the milk away, he tugged open the door. Setting the security locks, he ran down the drive, Buck at his heels, to the patiently waiting Dr Henderson.

----

Murphy was already in Cowley's office when Bodie arrived. Both men looked angry. It wasn't difficult for Bodie to add it all up.

"Tyler's dead." He didn't make it a question.

Cowley nodded. "He was found floating on the River Foss. He'd been shot. The night man recognised the death photo when it came across and rang me immediately."

Sitting down, Bodie sighed. "There's no other way to do this, is there. Right." He picked up the phone and dialled the number they had for the man up north.

The phone was picked up after three rings. "Thomas."

"This is Bodie. Put Mitchell on. Now." There was clatter as the phone was apparently dropped. Then Mitchell's voice came over the line.

"This is Mitchell."

No clue in the voice. "What the fuck's going on up there, Mitchell?"

"Regarding what?"

"Tyler was fished out of the Foss late last night. I repeat: what the fuck's going on up there?"

"Sorry about your man. Maybe he slipped and fell. I can ask around, but I don't think anything'll come up. Unless he was messing in something he shouldn't've been?"

"The only thing he was 'messing' in was this little deal we have going with you."

"You sending someone else to finish off?"

"Yeah. Myself. I take it personally when one of my men shows up suddenly dead. I'll be up to see the job's finished properly." Without waiting for an answer, Bodie hung up.

"You'll leave this morning?" Cowley asked.

"This afternoon. Although this isn't a good time, sir." Bodie glanced over to Murphy, then back at Cowley.

"I know, Bodie, and if there was anybody else... But you're the one they opened the negotiations with. We can't afford to make them suspicious this far into the operation if they aren't the ones who killed Tyler." To give him credit, Cowley did look unhappy with the situation.

"And if they are the ones?"

Nobody answered him.

"Yes, sir." Bodie sighed. "I'll need some time to arrange for Ray to be taken care of, and I will not leave without explaining to him exactly what's happened. That is not negotiable, sir. Not at all."

"I wouldn't expect you to just disappear, three-seven," Cowley said dryly.

"No sir, of course not. Sorry, sir."

"Unless I'm needed in the field, I can ferry Ray back and forth until you return, Bodie," Murphy offered. "You shouldn't be gone more than a couple of days. Is Ray all right on his own?"

"Normally I'd say yes, but with Irene's death, and McFarlaine here now, and... This isn't a good time for me to be away." Bodie stood abruptly, frustration making his spine stiff and his fingers clench.

He tramped over to the window and gazed out on the car park below him. Dr Henderson was just pulling in, Ray's curly head an auburn mass seen through the passenger window. "We had a disagreement last night—several, in fact. I have to let him be on his own while I'm gone, or he'll think I think he can't handle it. Just so soon after... Peter and Laurie can have him over... Murph, if you could collect him in the morning, or maybe David could do it, and..." He leaned his head tiredly against the cold glass. "Damn."

"He'll be fine, Bodie. There are too many of us around keeping an eye on him for him to come to any harm," Murphy reassured him.

"Yeah. I know. Just don't let him know you're watching him. Ta, mate." Bodie turned back to smile tiredly at Murphy before transferring his attention to Cowley. "If you've nothing else, I'd like to go and tell him. I've a lot to do and not much time to do it in."

"Of course."

Bodie left the room quickly, his mind churning with disquiet. Ray was still having bad dreams about the accident; the other night he'd woken up afraid Bodie was dead instead of his mum.

Add in the mess from last night, and Bodie wanted to run away and hide. Instead he walked slowly to the surgery

 

When Bodie opened the door, Ray was hard at work over the computer, his fingers moving carefully across the keys. David looked up as Bodie entered.

"Morning, Bodie. Need to talk to Ray for a bit?" David asked.

"I'm afraid so. Thanks for collecting him this morning. I appreciate it."

"Any time," David offered as Ray finished what he was doing and turned around.

"Tomorrow morning? And maybe the day after? You or Murphy?" Bodie grimaced. "I'm going to have to go up north. Come for a cuppa Ray, and I'll fill you in.

Ray slowly got up from the desk and silently followed Bodie out of the room. The cafeteria was empty when they arrived. They collected their tea and found a table set off in the corner. Bodie was silent, wondering where to start.

Ray beat him to it. "So, it's York, then."

"Yes."

"When?" Ray asked.

"Today."

"So soon?"

"There's a problem, and I have to be there. Tyler had an accident and drowned in the river," Bodie explained tersely. He didn't feel Ray needed to know the exact details.

"Did he crash his car, too?"

"I don't know."

Ray was silent.

"Penny for 'em," Bodie said softly.

"I'm thinking that I'm not worried," Ray replied, a smile that didn't quite meet his eyes appearing on his face.

"I'm not either," lied Bodie.

"Will you be able to ring me up while you're there?"

"I won't know for sure until I get up there, but if I can I will," Bodie promised.

"What time do you have to leave?"

"After lunch, soon as I've packed."

"Okay," Ray said softly. "I'll ask David if he can take me back and forth. What about Buck, though? Only, I don't know if David will want to take Buck over to Laurie's every day."

Bodie started to say he'd talk to David, then rearranged the words before they left his mouth. "Why don't you ask David if he minds? I doubt he will."

"Okay," Ray said again. "Bodie?"

"Yes?"

"Stay away from the river." Matter-of-factly Ray began gathering up the debris left from their tea.

"I will. I'll come to the surgery before I leave and say good-bye." He led the way out of the dining area, Ray close behind.

They were silent as they walked through the corridors, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Periodically their arms or hands would brush against each other. Bodie felt fingertips lightly tap the back of his hand as without a word Doyle turned into the surgery.

Ray was punching data into the computer when Bodie arrived at the surgery to say goodbye. All Ray's attention was focussed on the keyboard in front of him, and he didn't look up when Bodie entered.

Standing there watching his lover concentrating so carefully on his job brought a warm feeling to Bodie. But for the grace of a God he never used to believe in, the man in front of him could be dead. Instead he was working in the place he wanted to be most of all: with Bodie in C15. Bodie chased the lump out of his throat with a short cough and smiled as Doyle looked up at the sound.

The smile that appeared on Ray's face was more a brave attempt at normality, than anything else.

"Time to leave?" Ray stood.

Bodie nodded. "Where's David?"

"Counting supplies behind the curtain," came a disembodied voice, followed on closely by the body. "You're off then?"

"Yeah. Came to say goodbye..." Bodie let his voice trail off meaningfully.

"Ah. You could always go and count bandages," David said as Bodie glanced over at Ray's face. "They're in the supply room," he added helpfully and disappeared back behind the curtain.

Bodie looked at Ray who was standing stiffly by the desk, the smile gone from his round face. "He always this helpful?"

A barely perceptible smile trailed the slight nod. Bodie clasped his hands together. "Fine, then. Shall we...count bandages?"

Ray jerked his head to the left. "Over here."

Bodie followed him into the small room and closed the door behind him.

"Bodie?"

"What?"

"Nothing." Ray nestled up against the broad chest, wrapping his arms around Bodie's waist. Sighing, he settled his chin on a shoulder, as Bodie enveloped him tightly. They stayed like that for some time, absorbing each other's presence and storing it for when they would separate.

Finally Ray broke the silence. "David's going to give me a lift back and forth every day. I rang up Peter and he'll fetch Buck in the mornings and bring him back to me after work. Laurie said I could eat dinner with them if I wanted."

"I'll be home before you know I've gone, sweetheart," Bodie murmured.

"Chance would be a fine thing. I already know you're gone," and as Ray's voice broke on the last word he tried to burrow deeper into Bodie's chest, arms tightening.

"I'm sorry..." Bodie was helpless. Ray muttered something indistinguishable. "What? I can't hear you, pet."

"'S not your fault, I said." Ray's head came up. "I'm sorry. I wasn't going to do this. Wanted to be brave so you wouldn't worry."

"I'm not worrying, am I?" asked Bodie, as chipper as he could manage. "You've got it all sorted: David, Peter, Buck. All I've got to do is sort things out up north and come home. It won't take me any time at all. Right?"

"Right." Impossibly Ray's arms tightened even more.

"I'll ring you when I find out where I'll be. They can't monitor me all the time. I'll find a way to phone every night. Probably late."

"Promise."

Christ. "I promise." His own arms tightened around the slender body in his grasp, and he nosed into the curls by his head, storing up the smell that was Ray. "I have to go now. Give us a kiss to—"

Before the words were totally out of Bodie's mouth, his lips were covered. He opened his mouth to a frantic tongue forcing its way in, as Ray seemed to make an attempt at sucking out his very life. Gradually the kiss gentled, and, with a last little lick, Ray moved back.

"I love you."

"I love you, too." Softly Bodie brushed at a few errant curls, allowing them to wrap around his fingers before letting go. Lightly, he kissed the tip of Ray's nose then forced himself to release his hold and step towards the door. "I've got to go." He wasn't sure whom he was trying to convince.

Ray didn't say anything, opening the door and allowing Bodie to precede him out of the small room. Bodie stood in the middle of the room watching Ray return to his desk.

Giving one last look at his lover's stiff back, Bodie headed for the door.

"Bodie." A pain-filled whisper.

"I know." He answered the unspoken question softly and left the room.

----

Ray knew if he turned around before Bodie left the room that he'd break down and cry. He'd embarrass himself and Bodie acting that way. He wanted nothing more than to run over and grab Bodie and hold on tight. Not let him go to York.

"Bodie." He put it all there in that one word. All his fear, the love he felt, and Bodie, of course, knew already.

"I know."

Then he left.

David came up next to him as the door closed behind Bodie. "Ready to go for more supplies? Steven'll be here presently to drive you down. Here's the list." He brandished one that was longer than usual.

Ray looked at it. "Have we run out of everything, then?"

"Close to it. You've time for a quick lunch if you hurry."

"I'm not hungry just now. Maybe later." Ray kept his eyes on the paper he'd been given.

"Would you run down and pick something up for me? I didn't have breakfast and my stomach's beginning to think me throat's been cut."

Ray set the papers aside and stood. "What would you like?"

"Sandwich and crisps are fine. Cheese and pickle if they have it, egg mayonnaise if they don't. Coke. Hang about, Ray. Here's some money."

"Oh." Ray came back from where he'd been halfway out the door and took the five quid David was holding out. He trundled back out the door, deciding a cheese and pickle sarnie didn't sound half bad.

After delivering David's meal, but leaving his own untouched, he met Steven, and they went off to buy the supplies. The rest of the afternoon passed busily, and, before Ray realised it was time, David was making going home noises.

"Do you need a lift anywhere before I drop you at home?" David asked as he started the car. "Got enough food to feed you? Bog paper? Biscuits for Buck?"

"Yeah, thanks. We did all that when Bodie realised he might have to go away for a while," Ray said quietly.

"He'll be all right."

"Yes." But he didn't know if he believed himself.

"Right."

After that they were silent until David pulled the car up to the house.

Ray opened the door and climbed out. "Thanks, David."

He stood on the pavement watching as the car roared off. Glancing up and down the quiet street, he sighed. He'd have to go in sooner or later. Might as well be now. Don't think about Bodie not being there.

The house was silent and cold. He stood in the middle of the living room listening to nothing, then crossed over and quickly flipped on the telly. BBC 1 filled the room.

He wished Buck were here. He wished Bodie were here and wondered where he was just this second. Ray couldn't remember how long it took to drive to York; Bodie could be anywhere. He'd promised to phone though, Ray reminded himself. Bodie promised. Maybe later tonight.

Suddenly, Ray realised he was still standing beside the television. He'd make some tea, wait for Peter and Buck to arrive. Maybe make some buttered toast.

He padded into the kitchen, flipping on the light, and grabbed the kettle. The newsreader was talking about the IRA, and Ray listened with half an ear as he filled the kettle and plugged it in.

Toast. Get out the bread and pop it in. Butter's in the fridge. Ray opened the door and reached in, then stopped halfway. On the top shelf lay a red rose. He stared at it for a moment before slowly clutching it in his hand. Something pricked his palm, and he dropped the flower back to the shelf. Gingerly, he picked it up again and saw the note underneath.

I love you, it read.

Gently, he stroked the soft petals with a finger that trembled slightly. Mindful now of the thorns, he held the rose close to his chest. Bodie would be fine. Bodie would be home in no time. Ray wasn't going to worry. He wasn't.

The screeching kettle jerked him back to reality and he quickly turned the burner off and set about making his tea. He laid the rose and the note on a tray with his tea and carried it all into the living room.

He began flipping from station to station and stopped at what was apparently a documentary on the giant pandas. He sat there slurping his tea and chomping on his toast until he heard the welcome sound of Peter's old car in the drive.

Buck was barking furiously and shot outside the minute Peter opened the car door. He jumped frantically at the gate as Ray unlatched it.

"Oi, Buck, watch out. You're going to knock me over." He attempted to fend off the collie's rambunctious greeting while at the same time petting him and scratching behind his ears.

"He knows whose dog he really is, "Peter said. "Laurie wants to know if you'd like to come over for supper?"

"No, Bodie might phone me, so I need to stay at home. You can come here tomorrow night if you'd like. I'll make banana cake for afters," he added enticingly.

"I never could turn down your banana cake," Peter admitted. "Unless Laurie has planned something I don't know about, we'll be here. About seven?"

"About seven," Ray smiled. Buck had settled down and was sprawled on the grass, his nose resting on Ray's left foot. Ray jiggled his toes and Buck looked up at him. "Ready for some dog biscuits? Thanks for taking care of Buck for us."

"Any time, old son. If you need anything, give us a bell."

"Ta." Ray watched as Peter got back in his car and drove off. He reclaimed his left foot and went back inside, Buck trotting at his heels.

Back in the house, Ray stood watching the television for a moment; it was a programme about mercenaries in Central America.

"Bodie was one once, Buck. In Africa." Unimpressed, Buck wondered away. Ray watched a little longer before abruptly switching the set off.

Ray slid a tape into the stereo. He didn't pay much attention to what it was, wanting only background noise. Buck had done a thorough recce of the house, and not finding anyone else inside came back to the living room. He settled down on his haunches watching Ray.

"You know something's different, don't you? There's no Bodie." The dog barked once. Ray sat down on the settee and patted his knees. "Come here, Buck."

He grunted as Buck jumped up on the settee and settled half in Ray's lap and half on the cushions. "You don't need to worry, Buck, Bodie will be all right. He can take care of himself, can Bodie. You don't have to worry at all. He promised to phone us every night, and Bodie always keeps his promises. We'll just sit here and wait, and when the phone rings, it'll be Bodie. Don't worry, Buck."

A short woof and a lick with his long tongue was Buck's only reply to Ray's monologue. Ray stroked the silky head absently.

"He should be in York about now. I think. It's not that far, is it, Buck? Just a few hours. I reckon he's having his dinner about now. You know how Bodie's always hungry. I should make my dinner..." He didn't move though. His hand continued to caress Buck's soft hair.

The phone rang, and Ray was off the settee in a flash, grabbing the phone. He sank gracefully to the floor, Buck cuddling next to him.

"Bodie." He breathed heavily into the receiver.

"You knew it was me, did you, pet?" Bodie's voice carried hollowly down the wire.

"Yes. Me and Buck were talking...I was talking to Buck and I told him you were most likely having dinner about now. Was I right?"

"Spot on, love. Christ Ray, I miss you already."

"I missed you before you left." Ray one-upped him.

Silence as they listened to the soft sounds of each other breathing.

"Bodie?"

"What?"

"Have you seen those men yet?"

"No, I meet with them tomorrow. I rang them up and told them I was here in town, but not where. They can't find me, pet, don't—"

"—worry," finished Ray. "I'm not. Buck was a little frightened when he got home tonight, but I told him you'd be all right. He feels quite a lot better now."

"Good for you. You just keep telling him that and everything'll be all right. What are you making for supper?"

"I had buckets of toast for tea, so we aren't actually hungry. I'm having Peter and Laurie over tomorrow night. I told Peter I was going to make them banana cake. He liked that idea."

"Save some for me."

"Are you coming home tomorrow?" Ray straightened in excitement. "I can make you chocolate— what?"

"No, sweetheart, I won't be coming home tomorrow. I wish I was. You can make me all sorts of lovely things when I do get back, all right?"

"Yeah," Ray said softly. He wilted, resting his chin on his drawn up knees. He wasn't going to ask when Bodie'd be home. He wasn't.

"I love you," Bodie said.

"I love you, too."

"I have to ring Cowley now, pet. Tomorrow night you can tell me all about dinner with Peter and Laurie and what you did at work, okay?"

"Okay. You're going to phone tomorrow, then?"

"Tomorrow night. It might be late, because I don't know when I'll be finished with what I have to do, and I want to talk to you from my hotel, not a call box."

"Don't forget," Ray admonished.

"I'd never forget you."

Ray laughed at him.

"You were just having me on, weren't you, poppet?"

"Yeah. I love you, Bodie." At Bodie's answering "good-bye" he slowly laid the receiver back in its cradle.

"Come on, Buck, I'm going to have a bath. You can keep me company and play with the bubbles."

Set carefully on the edge of the tub was another rose.

I miss you, read the note.

Ray took it and placed it carefully with the first one.

After looking at the roses for several moments, he decided it might be a good idea to put them in water. "Don't want them to die, do we Buck?"

In the kitchen he filled a glass with water and carefully placed the two roses into it. He'd set it by the sink while he had his bath, then take it into the bedroom.

Later that evening he found a third rose in the centre of his pillow.

Sweet dreams, it read.

And that one was carefully placed with the first two.

----

Ray shot out of bed the second the alarm went off the next morning, startling Buck who'd been stretched out on Bodie's half of the bed. He chuckled as the dog scrabbled off the bed before gazing up reproachfully.

"We gotta hurry, Buck. Don't wanna be late for David and Peter." Ray was showered, shaved and fed in record time.

Buck watched from the window as Ray was collected by David. Peter would be along within the hour for the collie, so Ray had no qualms about leaving.

"Good morning," David said as Ray slid into the front seat.

"Morning. Bodie's in York," Ray announced.

"Yes, I know," David said, sounding a little puzzled. "It's why you're getting a lift with me."

"I mean he's in York. He rang me up last night from there," Ray clarified. "He was in his hotel."

"Ah, I see. Missing you already, is he?"

"Yeah. I miss him too. It was really quiet in the house last night. Me and Buck listened to the telly and the stereo."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. He'll be home in no time at all, Ray, don't you worry."

"I'm not worried. Bodie'll be all right." Ray hoped he sounded convincing.

"Of course he will," David said, a little too heartily. Ray's eyebrows disappeared under his curly fringe.

"Sorry," said David wryly.

Ray smiled at him. "That's all right." He settled back in his seat and silently watched the buildings go by for the remainder of the trip to HQ. The minute they arrived David set him to work filing away the forms and reports from the day before. The supplies he'd picked up yesterday had to be put away and the quantities entered into the computer.

Agents periodically appeared at the door over the course of the day complaining of sore muscles and various aches and pains. All of this contrived to keep Ray so busy he barely had time to grab a sandwich for lunch, and before he realised it David was dangling the car keys in front of his nose.

"Already?" Ray looked up from the keyboard where he'd been busily punching in details about Jax's sore shoulder. "I only just had lunch..." He glanced at his watch. "I suppose that was a while ago, wasn't it?"

"Yes it was. You can finish that tomorrow. I've an idea my wife has something special planned for tonight, so if you're quite ready...?" David grinned at him.

"Well, let's go then. What are you waiting for? I've been ready for hours," Ray said, as he shut down the computer.

David wasted no time dropping Ray at home and hurrying on his way. A little envious, Ray undid the C15 locks and entered the quiet house. He really hated this. While he was busy at work it was easy to pretend Bodie was in his own office, but once at home that pretence became impossible.

Tonight Laurie and Peter were coming to dinner, and Ray had decided to make spaghetti since it was simple. He'd do meatballs to go with it and knock up a salad, and that should be it. Oh, and the banana cake for afters.

Heading for his room, he paused in the hallway and looked at the phone. Maybe, if he wished hard enough, it would ring now and have Bodie at the other end... No. That was stupid. Bodie would ring after dinner like he'd promised. Ray continued to his room and tossed the jacket on the bed.

He grinned as he saw all the black dog hair on Bodie's side of the bed. Bodie hated sleeping in dog hair, and Ray really hoped he'd have enough notice to change the bedding before Bodie got home.

Pausing in the living room to switch on the television, he continued to the kitchen and set about preparing dinner. The sauce was a doddle to put together, but it would taste better if it could cook slowly on the stove instead of having to boil immediately.

Then came the cake, and Ray had made it so often he had the entire recipe memorised. He put it together in minutes, slid it into the oven to bake and was ready to work on the main portion of the meal.

Before he could continue, a horn in the drive signified Peter's arrival with Buck, and Ray hurried outside to collect his dog. After reminding Peter that he and Laurie were coming to dinner—with Peter smilingly reminding him about the banana cake—Ray and Buck disappeared inside to finish cooking.

The meatballs were the hard part, and something Buck loved to watch. Ray gathered together the meat, eggs and breadcrumbs, mashing them all together with his hands. To tell the truth he loved doing this: all the gushy meat and eggs sliding though his fingers...

Buck's plaintive woof stilled his hands, and he looked down to see an open, hopeful mouth next to his left knee.

"Big as the Mersey tunnel, that is, Buck. Maybe you think you're going to get some of this, but I'll have you know this is for dinner tonight. And it's not cooked. It would probably taste horrid, raw like this," Ray laughed as Buck finally closed his mouth. "After it's cooked, Buck, you can have one then. If Mum doesn't mi…"

His hands faltered. Slowly he began rolling the mixture into neat little balls and slid them into a frying pan. Another day had gone by when he had thought only a little bit about his mum.

He looked down at Buck, still by his leg, ever hopeful. "What do you think? Did David give me all those jobs so I wouldn't think about Mum and Bodie? I reckon that's rather clever of him."

He turned the meatballs and then set about putting together a salad. Peter and Lauren would be here any minute, and he wanted to have everything ready for them. Meatballs, salad...

"Oh, the pasta." Ray looked over at Buck in disgust. "You were going to let me make spaghetti without the pasta, weren't you? Fat lot of help you are, Buck."

A car pulling into the drive distracted them both, and Ray glanced out the window to see his sister climbing out of the passenger side of Peter's car. He quickly cleaned his hands and opened the door to let his guests in.

"Hi, Ray." Lauren greeted him with a kiss and patted Buck on the head. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

"Where's me cake?" Peter came in the door behind Laurie, fending off an affectionate Buck. "Oi, down, you idiot dog. You were just in my lap a few hours ago. Don't go playing long-lost buggers with me."

"Buck, get away. He's not an idiot, Peter; he's the cleverest dog there ever was. Buck, be quiet." Ray turned his back on the whole noisy lot and went to pull the cake out of the oven before it cooked to a crisp. "Laurie, can you lay the table, please?"

"Of course." She took off her coat and handed it to Peter. "Make yourself useful, my love, and take my coat—and the dog—into the other room."

"Keep your fingers away from the cake, Peter." Ray warned. "That's not for starters."

With Lauren's help, dinner was quickly on the table and conversation was muted as everyone ate their fill, including Buck, who sat patiently at Ray's feet scarfing the meatballs handed down to him. Ray looked up once to find his sister watching him, but she just smiled, not saying anything.

By the time they'd finished eating it was after nine o'clock and Ray was starting to watch the time. They retired to the living room to eat the banana cake and watch a documentary on BBC2 about wildlife in Africa.

Africa. Again. It made him think of Bodie. Of course, almost everything reminded him of Bodie. He glanced down at his watch again.

"Are you waiting for something, Ray, or are you tired? Would you like us to leave so you can go to bed?" Lauren asked.

"No. I'm sorry. Bodie's supposed to ring me up tonight. He promised. I'm just waiting for him. He said it might be late. Only, I'm wondering if it's late yet." He'd lost all interest in the programme by this point.

"He's most likely still working, pet," Lauren said soothingly. "I would think 'late' is closer to midnight, wouldn't you, Peter?"

"Yeah. He may have to eat dinner with whomever he's working with up there, which could take a while. And there's the chance he may not be able to phone you, or it may get to be too late and he won't do it in case you're asleep."

"He promised," Ray said simply.

"Yes. Well..." Ray frowned as Peter and Lauren exchanged glances. "Just don't be disappointed if something comes up and he can't call till tomorrow."

Ray didn't say anything. Bodie had promised to phone him and that was that. If it took all night and he couldn't get to his hotel until midnight or even later, it didn't matter. He'd promised. It wasn't something he could explain to Peter and Lauren though. It was just something he knew inside himself.

"Do you want to take some of the cake home with you?" Ray asked Peter. "There's too much for me and Buck to eat. I'll make a fresh one for Bodie when he comes home."

"That would be lovely, Ray, thanks," Peter said.

"I'll put it in a container for you." He jumped out of his seat, hurrying in to the kitchen. Laurie and Peter weren't far behind him. His sister smiled as Peter helped her into her coat.

"You know, Peter says no one makes banana cake as well as you do, Ray."

Ray sniggered. "It's probably a good thing, or Peter'd be as big as your house. What's going to happen to Mum's house?"

Lauren looked a little startled at the abrupt change of subject but answered readily enough. "I thought we'd sell it. Peter and I don't want to live in it, and I think you and Bodie are happy here, yeah?"

Ray nodded.

"One of these weekends when you and Bodie don't have to work, we can go over to the house and see what furniture we'd like to keep and donate the rest to jumble sale."

Ray could feel tears welling up in his eyes, and he blinked rapidly. "I know you're right. Bodie said the same thing. But I still feel sad. Do you know I was so busy today I almost forgot Mum and only thought about Bodie being gone a couple of times? I think David did it on purpose," he added.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Peter said. "Ta for the cake and grub. I'll see you in the morning."

"Bye, Ray." Lauren kissed his cheek. "Don't sit up waiting for the phone to ring. If you're asleep, I'm sure the noise will wake you."

"Yes, Laurie," Ray said politely, having no intention of doing as she said. He watched, keeping hold of Buck, as they got into their car and drove off. He slowly closed the door and looked again at the clock. Half past ten.

When would it be late? As far as Ray was concerned, "late" had arrived at least an hour ago. He eyed the dirty dishes piled in the sink. He could do the washing up; that would take some time. Maybe by then the phone would ring.

He filled the sink with water, squirted in a goodly portion of Fairy Liquid and watched the bubbles grow. He swished his hands in the water really fast, until there were more bubbles than water in the sink. Bodie said too much soap wasn't a good idea, and Ray tried to make the froth subside by slapping it down. Hurry up, Bodie.

Cutlery and plates slid into the soapsuds, and Ray aimlessly slid the dishcloth over them. Twenty to eleven. The glasses followed the plates through the bubbles, into the rinsing water and onto the drainer.

Pots and pans, cake tin. Finally everything was clean. It was quarter past eleven.

Bodie...

He could always clean his teeth and get ready for bed. He didn't have to go to bed. He'd be able to hear the phone from the loo, because it was really loud. First he went and put a tape in the stereo, turning the volume down low enough so he could still hear the phone when it rang. Laurie had turned off the telly when she and Peter left and it was too quiet now. He knew Bodie wasn't here; he didn't need the silence reminding him.

He cleaned his teeth to the Moody Blues' "Tuesday Morning," and by the time "Nights In White Satin" was playing it was almost midnight, and Ray was close to tears. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched Buck watching him.

"I'm tired, Buck. Why doesn't Bodie phone? It's really late now, Buck. I hate this. I hate that he's gone and I can't be there, and... Do you know, Buck, he doesn't have any backup? There's no one there to watch his back. 'S what I used to do before I crashed my car and hurt my head. I wish I was..."

He stopped as Buck crawled onto the bed with him and lay down in Bodie's spot. "I could lie here, couldn't I? The phone's right here, and I don't have to go to sleep. I can just lie on the bed." He nestled in close to Buck, running his hand down the furry back. "He'll ring, Buck. He promised."

 

When the phone did ring, it jerked Ray out of an uneasy doze. He knocked the receiver to the floor and slid off the bed as he grabbed it.

"Bodie!"

"Did I wake you?"

"No. Yeah, sort of. I was only a little bit asleep. You woke Buck. He was sound asleep. Bodie, what took you so long?"

"I said it might be late, poppet." Bodie's voice was low and tired. "I'm sorry, but I had to have dinner with them, and then they wanted to ask more questions. I've only just got back to my hotel."

"Laurie said that might happen."

"Did you have a nice dinner? I hope Peter enjoyed my banana cake."

"It turned out really good. I'll make you lots of cakes when you come home. Bodie..." He stopped.

"I don't know, sweetheart. Soon, I hope." Bodie answered the unspoken question. "Is Buck sleeping in our bed?"

"Yeah," Ray chortled. "He's leaving hairs all over it."

"You're going to change the sheets before I get back, aren't you?"

"Bodie. Certainly. I wouldn't make you sleep in Buck's mess, would I?" Ray began picking hairs off the bed.

"I should hope not. It's bad enough I have to sleep in your wet spot."

"My wet spot? It was only that once, and that was because you were in a hurry and didn't want to wait. Oh, Bodie."

"I know. I miss—" Bodie stopped, then continued quickly and quietly. "I have to hang up now, Ray. Someone's knocking at my door."

"Who? Bodie, are you all right?"

"It's probably the night porter with a question. I'll ring you up tomorrow if I'm still here. I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you, too, bye." The words had barely left Ray's mouth before he heard the click at the other end and knew Bodie had hung up. Slowly, he replaced his own receiver and crawled back into bed.

Bodie'd hung up very fast.

Don't worry, he thought. Don't worry. Oh, Bodie...

----

Bodie put the phone down and quietly reached for his gun. He hadn't told Ray the exact truth. They weren't knocking at his door. They were standing directly in front of it. He'd left the curtains open when he'd gone out this morning and the light from the full moon was shining in. It was actually bright enough that he hadn't bothered turning on a light, instead heading straight for the phone. It was the dimness that was giving his "guests" away.

The light from the corridor leaked in under the door and the two sets of feet outside were casting shadows on the rug. He stole silently over to the door, leaning back against the wall, gun ready, and waited. The doorknob twisted ever so slightly before a key was inserted and the lock clicked open. The knob moved again.

The door crashed open and Bodie moved fast, smashing his gun against the head of the first man through. Turning quickly he aimed at the next one, only to find himself face to face with the receptionist from the front desk, who was held tightly in the grip of a smugly triumphant Mitchell.

"Put the gun down, Bodie, and let us in. I think it's time we all had a friendly little chat." Mitchell shoved the receptionist further into the room, relieving Bodie of his gun at the same time.

"Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Mitchell? You must not want those guns badly."

"Cut the act, sunshine. We both know you're no arms dealer. Connor, get up." He toed at the man on the floor, who was groggily looking around, dabbing at the blood on the side of his face.

Mitchell shut the door and pushed the receptionist next to Bodie. Calmly he raised his silenced gun and shot the terrified man, smiling as the blood and bits of brain splattered across Bodie's face and shoulders.

"That could be you, sunshine. How do you feel about that? Connor, get your carcass off the floor, or I may choose to leave you there permanently."

"I don't suppose you'd care to tell me just what you're doing, would you?" Bodie kept his voice even and slightly sceptical.

"I'm going to kill you of, course," said Mitchell calmly. "Eventually."

"Why?" Don't think of Ray right now. "It'd be nice to know why, you know. Have you decided against your 'revolution?' Don't need the guns and munitions, then?" He raised the edge of his shirt and wiped his face.

"There never were any guns, were there, Bodie? You work for C15, just like that wet-behind-the-ears boy you sent up here first. It was too bad he decided to take a swim before he could tell you we'd sussed him out," Mitchell said. "Go and clean your face up, Connor, or I won't be able to tell which of you to shoot."

Connor had managed to clamber to his feet while his boss had been rambling on. Before doing as he'd been told, he glared angrily at Bodie, eyes narrowed. "I'm going to enjoy ripping your guts out."

"You can try," Bodie answered, his eyes never leaving Mitchell's.

"Oh, he will. And he'll take quite a bit of joy in it also." The gun never wavered from its trained position on Bodie's chest. "Now get back against the wall, sunshine."

Slowly, Bodie moved until he felt the doorknob poking him in his right buttock. He reckoned it would be a while before he'd be able to call Ray "sunshine" again without having Mitchell's sneering voice sound in his head.

"Not the door, the wall."

Bodie inched over until he was a foot away from the door. Connor loomed in front of him, a very nasty expression on his face.

Stay away from the river, Bodie. Don't worry, Ray, don't worry. He felt the first impact from Connor's fist only after he threw the second one, and Bodie realised his breath was not flowing back into his lungs like it should.

He gasped deeply and tightened his stomach muscles only to have the next punch smash his nose. Dizzy now, he was having trouble evading the blows. He had to keep a clear head to get out of this mess, back to Ray.

Why the hell was he standing here just taking it? He had to wake up, or he'd never make it home. Bodie caught the next thump on his raised arm and threw his foot out, catching Connor around the ankle. Standing here taking a beating was a certain way to end up dead. It was not something he wanted to happen any time soon. After all, he'd promised Ray he'd be all right.

Connor went down with a thud, obviously not expecting retaliation and in the background Mitchell laughed. Bodie was on Connor before he could get back up. Fists flying, he aimed unerringly for the man's already injured head.

Connor was the younger and heavier of the two, and Bodie had been off the streets for some time. He was no longer physically up for this type of combat, but the instinctive desire to live increased the adrenaline flowing through him. The skills learned in the wilds of Africa and the jungle that was London came back quickly, as one thought ran continuously through his head: Get home to Ray.

If he died, he killed Ray, too. Ray'd told him so, ages ago. He wouldn't want to live without Bodie. Ray'd once told him he'd just lie down, go to sleep and not wake up. I'm not a kid, he'd said. I can choose. I don't have to live without you. No one can make me. Ray had been adamant about that.

If that wasn't enough incentive for him to get out of here whole and in one piece, nothing was.

He gasped for air as thick fingers wrapped themselves around his neck and squeezed. Putting all his weight on one knee, he bounced heavily on Connor's groin, breathing deeply when the hands dropped as Connor squealed in pain.

Bodie grabbed hold of a burly head and neck, taking advantage of Connor' greater bulk. When the man made a convulsive effort to move out from under him, Bodie slid off but held on tight and allowed him to break his own neck.

Before he could move away from dead body, cold steel was boring into his neck, stilling him instantly. Oh Christ. Ray...

"Get yourself up slowly now, sunshine and move away from me. We're going to walk out of here really friendly-like. Remember, I've got the gun."

They went out into the corridor single file and headed towards the lift. There was no one inside when the doors opened, and Bodie stepped in, ever conscious of the gun in Mitchell's pocket. Turning in a tight circle, he positioned himself in the direct centre of the doors, Mitchell behind him.

"Push the button for the ground floor, please, Bodie."

Bodie did so.

"You know sunshine, I'm going to quite enjoy killing you. You and C15 have managed to destroy what took months for us to set in motion, although it won't be long before we'll be back in business again. Of course that won't matter to you, as you'll not be around to watch."

Bodie was silent. His muscles tightened as he waited for an opportunity to get away.

"Connor killed Tyler too quickly. I wanted to make it last longer, to make him suffer. I was very angry when Connor told me who he was, who he worked for. After all, sunshine..."

Bodie let him drone on as he listened with one ear. Every time Mitchell called him "sunshine," he wanted to throw up, remembering what the word meant to him and his own "Ray of sunshine." He watched the lights blink the floor and bent his knees as the lift slowed and stopped on the second floor.

When the doors opened there was no one there. Mitchell peered around Bodie's shoulder as the doors began to slide shut. Before they could close completely, Bodie rammed his elbow into Mitchell's ribs and slid through the opening. He took off down the corridor, leaving Mitchell behind.

Bodie found the door to the stairwell and was down the steps in a flash. He needed to get out, find a telephone box and ask for some backup. Go home.

The stairs ended at a door to the outside, and Bodie cautiously opened it. Feeling the loss of his gun keenly, he slowly stuck his head out for a quick glance. Nobody in sight. He opened the door wider and went out, keeping close to the wall. He was in a small car park fronting a row of terraced houses. There were trees, bushes and flowers decorating the landscape and, loveliest of all, a call box.

Without another thought he headed straight for it.

----

"Bodie!" Ray woke himself up screaming. Buck was sitting over him alternately whining, chewing on the blanket and emitting short barks. "Bodie. He's in trouble, Buck. I know it. I know it. What do I do?"

Buck began licking his face, and Ray realised he had tears on his cheeks. "I know something's wrong. Somebody has to go up there and help him."

He reached over and picked up the phone quickly, dialling George Cowley's number. He hated to wake the old man, but this was very important.

"Cowley."

"Mr Cowley, sir, it's Ray Doyle."

"Ray? Is something the matter, lad?"

"Bodie's in trouble." Ray listened to the silence on the other end. "Mr Cowley? Are you there?"

"Aye, I'm here. How do you know Bodie's in trouble?"

"It was in my dream. You've got to send somebody up to help him, Mr Cowley. There's no one watching his back."

"Slow down, Ray, and let me get this straight. You dreamt Bodie was in trouble?"

Listening to his words repeated back to him, Ray began to realise how stupid they sounded. "Yes, sir," he said softly, then began to gather momentum. "I know it sounds daft, sir, but I know Bodie's in trouble. I can feel it."

"No, laddie, it doesn't sound that way at all. You and Bodie are close, closer than a lot of people. I'll get someone up there immediately."

"Thank you—"

"In the meantime, four-five, I want you to go back to bed and get some sleep. You've got a job to go to in the morning, and you won't be any good to me if you've worried yourself sick. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you." With his free arm, Ray hugged Buck to him.

"As soon as we hear anything I'll let you know. It won't be for several hours though," Cowley warned. "Good night, Ray."

"Good night..." Ray slowly hung up the phone. It was actually morning, half past five. He'd have to be getting up presently anyway. He'd just lie here with Buck for a bit and wait for the alarm.

He tried to ignore the churning in his stomach, but it wouldn't go away. He knew there was something wrong. He knew it. Bodie'd told him once they used to almost read each other's minds. That must be why Mr Cowley wasn't surprised when Ray told him he'd dreamed Bodie was in trouble.

If only... Life in a word, If… Where did that come from? Ray clutched Buck closer to him, hating his head, hating being stupid... Not stupid, no, just not as clever as he used to be... Hating that he'd crashed his car and life wasn't the same any more.

Hating most of all the fact that he couldn't go to York and rescue Bodie. And he was terribly afraid that Bodie was going to die.

"No." In his arms, Buck stirred uneasily, and Ray patted him on the head. "Sorry, Buck, I'm sorry. Only, I don't want Bodie to be dead. I want him to come home. He's not going to die, Buck. I won't let him be dead."

If Bodie were dead, he'd know. He'd be able to feel it, he knew he would. So Bodie's not dead, and he'll be home very soon and everything will be just fine.

"My head hurts, Buck," he whispered into the furry ear and closed his eyes.

 

The alarm jarred him back to wakefulness an hour later, and he sighed as he switched it off. Buck had stretched out so that his nose was the only thing still resting on the pillow next to Ray's head.

Ray lay without moving for several minutes. Finally he reached out one finger and gently drew it down Buck's silky nose. The collie's eyes opened to tiny slits and he whined, deep in his throat.

"You can tell, can't you. Buck? 'Cause you're a clever lad and can sense these things. That's what Bodie says. Just like our first Buck, who tried to protect me and got shot. Maybe you should have gone north with Bodie."

Ray slid out of bed, his hand rubbing absent-mindedly at his head, which still ached. It meant his blood pressure was going up again because he was worrying. "But how can I not worry, Buck, you tell me that."

He stood for some time under a hot shower letting it beat down on his head and shoulders. When he got out, he didn't feel any better than before. He dressed sluggishly, then wandered into the kitchen, trying to decide if he wanted to make something for breakfast or not.

The decision was taken out of his hands as David pulled into the drive. Startled, Ray glanced at the kitchen clock; he must have spent more time in the shower than he'd thought. Bidding a quick goodbye to Buck, he shot out the door.

David took one look at him when he got in the car and didn't pull away immediately. "What's the matter, Ray?"

"Bodie's in trouble." Ray paused, puzzled. "How did you know something was wrong?"

"You've got circles under your eyes that go half-way down your cheeks, your t-shirt is on inside out and you're not wearing any shoes."

Quickly Ray looked down at his feet, neatly encased in their yellow socks.

"Pardon me; I'll be right back." And with that Ray slid out of the car and hurried up to the door. Sticking the key in, he turned it and tried to open it. It wouldn't budge. He tried again. Nothing. "It won't open."

"Turn the key again, Ray," David called out. "Maybe you didn't lock it the first time."

Ray did as he was told and the door opened. Stupid... He peeled off his shirt and reversed it as he walked down the hall to collect his shoes. He heard Peter pull in as he tied his laces.

Low voices floated over to him as he went back outside, Buck bounding out ahead of him. This time he carefully locked the door. Peter turned to him with a worried frown.

"What's this David's just been telling me about Bodie? What's happened?"

"I don't know." Slowly Ray filled them both in on what had happened last night.

Whatever thoughts might be floating around in Peter's head, he kept to himself, only asking Ray to let them know when Bodie finally contacted him. He and Buck left after that, leaving David and Ray standing next to David's car.

"Do you want to stay at home and try to sleep?" David asked. Ray shook his head. "Then we'd better hurry before C15 starts without us."

David was quiet on the drive in, leaving Ray to his thoughts. Once they'd arrived at headquarters, David asked Ray to go on ahead and open the surgery for them. "I've got something I need to take care of. It should only take ten minutes. Then I'll want to check your blood pressure."

"I didn't finish the inputting yesterday, so I'll start on that, shall I?"

"Fine. I'll be back in a tick." He took off down the corridor, leaving Ray standing at the door.

"Hello, Betty, is he in?" David nodded his head in the direction of Cowley's office.

"Yes, Murphy's just now gone in. What did you need? I can let him know you're out here."

"It's about Ray. And Bodie."

Betty activated the intercom, letting Cowley know Dr Henderson needed to see him.

"Aye, send him in. I need to speak with him also," Cowley's voice came out of the speaker.

David went through to the inner office to find both men watching him with grim faces. He stopped in his tracks. "He's never dead?"

"We don't know," Murphy said stiffly.

"Close the door please, David," Cowley said.

He waited till David settled himself in a chair before continuing. "I sent McCabe and Lucas up to see what they could find out. Before they'd been gone two hours, the hotel manager rang up, telling us, rather incoherently, that there'd 'been a massacre' in our man's room and what was he to tell the police?"

"How did he know Bodie was C15?" David asked.

"Bodie's gun and ID were in the room," Cowley answered.

"I just got off the phone with Lucas." Quickly Murphy filled David in on the two dead men, and what he and Cowley thought had happened.

"So out there somewhere are Bodie and a man with a gun," David said. "And we've no idea if Bodie is dead or alive."

"Correct," said Cowley.

"Ray firmly believes Bodie is still alive but in trouble somewhere," said David sadly.

"And he may be right," said Cowley. "There's always been a bond between them. It survived injuries when they were still on the street. It remained intact when four-five was almost killed. I'll not sell Ray's intuition short, especially now."

"So what do I say to him?" David asked with a sigh. "I wish Kate Ross were here."

"So do I," Murphy admitted. "I'm not about to ask that twit who's sitting in her chair at the moment for his advice. How's he doing?"

"I don't think he slept much. I'd say not very well."

"Tell Ray we've not heard anything, yet, but that Lucas and McCabe are up there now," Cowley said after some thought. "He knows them, so it should make him feel a bit better."

Ray looked up from the computer as David entered the room. If anything, Ray's expression was even more morose than when they'd left the house. The last thing David wanted to do was add to his fears.

"I've just finished talking with Murphy and Mr Cowley," David began reluctantly. "They haven't heard from Bodie yet, but Murphy sent Lucas and McCabe up this morning. As soon as they have something they can tell us, they'll be in touch."

"Thank you," was all Ray said before turning back to his work.

"Ray? Blood pressure."

"Right." Without another word, Ray got up and went over to the equipment. Equally as silent, David ran the test, and read the result, before handing Ray a tablet and a glass of water. Ray took both and went back to his desk.

Ray had no idea how he was supposed to concentrate on anything. All he could think of was Bodie. He wanted… He should be there… He'd be useless and in the way, but… If only there was someone he could talk to.

If only his mum were here... But she wasn't. She never would be again. What if Bodie… No, he'd know it. After all, he'd known Mum was dead, hadn't he? Yeah, but you were there, said a little voice in his head. He didn't want to remember. The other day the wind blowing through the tree branches had brought a brief memory of a different, more deadly tree, and now, when he thought about it again…

"No."

"What's the matter?" David was suddenly beside him, a hand on his shoulder.

Ray was shaking badly, drawing in great gulps of air. Shrugging David off, he stood and began pacing the room.

"I remember, I remember. Little kids drivin' a car and they hit us and there was a tree... and the steering wheel… I shouldn't have gone to the farm. Mum should have come home on the train. Bodie. Why isn't Bodie here? Why didn't he tell me it was my fault?"

His pacing stopped as he banged up against the wall, the impact knocking the words out of his brain. Wrapping his arms around himself, he slid down to sit on the floor, leaning his head wearily against the wall.

"Why didn't he tell me?"

David came over and sat down next to him. "It wasn't your fault, Ray. It was an accident. The doctor said you might never remember—"

"The doctor was wrong. I remembered."

"Yes, you did." Right now David would almost happily change places with Bodie, no matter the other man's current condition. "Your mother was dead. We didn't want to add… Were we wrong?"

Ray thought back to the days after the accident. No. Yes. Bodie. "You should have told me."

David shrugged. "Hindsight is all very well, Ray, but at the time we did what we thought was best."

"Hindsight?"

"Looking back at what's happened and saying: this is what we should have done."

"Oh. She only died because she stayed at the farm with me."

"It's not your fault. She may have died anyway, Ray, if it was her time. That's only something God knows."

They sat there quietly for several minutes before Ray made a move to get up. His eyes were surprisingly dry. Maybe he'd cried away all his tears, and there weren't any left. David's hand was on his wrist and Ray pulled away, climbing to his feet.

"I have to finish putting that stuff into the computer." He walked slowly back to his chair and sat down.

David followed his example, not saying anything.

 

As the morning progressed, David kept an eye half on Ray and half on his own work. After Ray'd rubbed at his head for the fourth time in ten minutes, David got up from his chair again and went over to him.

"Does your head hurt?" David asked.

"Yes," Ray whispered. "Will you check my blood pressure again, please?"

"That's why I'm here, old son. Let's have your arm."

Silently, Ray submitted to the testing. When it was over, David frowned. "I'd like you to go and lie down for a while and see if you can sleep. It's not as high as I thought it might be, but if we can stop it getting any worse, I'd like to try, all right?"

"Do you think Lucas and McCabe've found Bodie, yet?" Ray looked up at him wide-eyed with worry and fear.

"Cowley would've told us straight off, Ray."

"Yeah, I suppose… He's not dead."

"I didn't say he was. Ray, get over to that bed and lie down." David made his voice as stern as possible.

He must have mastered the art of commanding; Ray was out of his seat and flat on the bed almost before David blinked his eyes.

"Ta. Now close your eyes."

Long-lashed lids slid down over the green eyes.

"Thank you. Now please sleep," David said.

"I can't."

"Just try."

David stood there watching as Ray "tried" to sleep before heading back to his chair. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the endless stream of paperwork littering his desk.

 

The bed creaked every time Ray changed position. From the racket it was making, he'd been awake for the past 30 minutes. David got up and peeked behind the curtain, only to find rather dull green eyes looking out at him from beneath heavy, swollen lids.

"May I go down to the canteen and get some tea? 'M awfully thirsty," Ray asked.

"Of course. Will you bring me back a cuppa, too, please?"

"Yeah." Slowly, Ray pulled himself off the bed and stood swaying a little.

"Ray?"

"I'm all right."

"I know you are. Just go slowly, okay?"

"Mmm." Ray carefully put one foot in front of the other; by the time he reached the door he was walking better and his back was straight.

"Don't forget my cuppa," David called out behind him.

Ray raised his hand in response and shut the door.

He didn't know how David expected him to sleep when he was worried about Bodie. He made an abrupt turn around and headed in the direction of Cowley's office. Maybe they'd heard something and hadn't had a chance to let him know yet.

There was no one at Betty's desk when he entered the room, and the door to Cowley's office was slightly ajar. He stood there, uncertainly, then gasped as he heard a familiar voice.

"…don't know how they sussed us, sir."

It was Bodie. Ray quickly opened the door, words of greeting on his lips. Cowley and Murphy looked up at him, startled. Stopping, Ray glanced around the room. Where was Bodie?

"Ray?" Cowley was watching him with concerned eyes.

"I heard... Where's Bodie?"

"He's not here."

"But I heard him. It was him, I know it was," Ray said stubbornly.

"It was a tape, lad, from a telephone."

"But I heard him," Ray insisted.

Cowley tapped the machine in front of him. "A tape. We heard from him about an hour ago."

"Where is he then? Is he coming home?" Ray started to raise his hand to rub at his head, but stopped. That was how they knew when his head hurt and no one would tell him anything then.

There was silence in the room.

"Is he coming home?" Ray asked again. "Sir...?"

Cowley sighed. "We don't know where he is, Ray, the phone was…disconnected before he could tell us."

"Didn't he ring back, then? He'd find another phone and ring back." Ray gave in and rubbed his sore head. As Cowley opened his mouth, Ray glared at him. "Yes, my head hurts."

"Then why don't you sit down, and I'll have Betty get us some tea. We can tell you what we know so far," Cowley suggested soothingly. He pressed the intercom. "Betty?"

There was no answer.

Cowley glanced at Murphy. "Six-two, see if you can locate her. Ray, that window seat is sunny and warm. A good place for a sore head, I think, don't you?"

Ray obediently sat in the window seat and watched as Murphy left the room. They sat quietly, waiting. Cowley busied himself with papers on his desk.

"Mr Cowley?" Betty was back; her voice came over the intercom.

"Yes?"

"There's a phone call for you. He won't give his name. Do you want to take it?"

Cowley was silent for a moment. "I'll come out there," he said finally, with a glance to Doyle. "Did Murphy find you?"

"Yes, sir. He's bringing your tea."

Ray watched with disinterest as Cowley left the room. He'd been sure Bodie was here; for just a second he'd been so happy... His glance landed on the tape player. He was afraid nobody was telling him the truth about anything. What if Bodie had told them where he was and they just didn't want to let him know.

He got up and pushed "play."

"…Tyler somehow. I don't know if he gave himself away or if it was... Oh, bloody hell—"

There was the sound of the phone dropping and a loud bang, then nothing but the swish-swish-swish of the tape feeding through the machine.

Bodie...

The door slammed against the wall as Cowley burst through it, followed closely by Murphy and Dr Henderson. All three men stopped and stared at Ray standing by the desk.

"I'm sorry, David; I didn't get your tea." Ray was having trouble seeing them. Everyone kept moving around and disappearing into little black and white splotches. "I think Bodie shot somebody. 'S what it sounded like. I think... Where is he? Why doesn't he come home?"

"Ray, you need to sit down."

"David?"

"I'm right here, Ray."

"I can't see you." He thought perhaps he was floating. When he hit the floor, it only hurt for a second...

 

"Carefully... Watch his head. There. His heart's too fast. His pulse is going like a bat out of hell. Watch him. I've got his doctor's number at my desk," David said. "I'll go and ring him up and see what he wants to do. Dear god, what a mess." He left the room at a run.

Cowley stood looking down at Murphy where he knelt next to Ray's still form. "I shouldna have left him alone like that. I was afraid the phone call was about Bodie, and I didn't want him to hear. It's our mistake to think him less clever than he truly is. Add to that his overwhelming need to know where Bodie is; I should have at least known to be cautious."

They both looked up as David came back into the room. Ray hadn't stirred. David knelt down and checked his pulse again.

"Ah, a little slower. Haynes wants him in hospital immediately. There's an ambulance on its way to collect him. Don't try to wake him; his pressure will go higher," David said softly. "What happened exactly?"

Quietly, Murphy explained about the tape and the shooting at the end of it.

"Christ," said David. He told them what had happened earlier in the day. "Add to that what he heard in here, and I reckon his brain has absorbed all it can handle. The subconscious is an amazing thing. It knows exactly how much we're able to take mentally and emotionally, and when the limit is reached it shuts down the body. I'm sure that's all this is."

Betty stuck her head in the door. "The ambulance crew are on their way up, sir." She looked down at the sombre tableau. "Is he going to be all right?"

"I'm sure he will be," Dr Henderson replied.

Everyone stood aside as Ray was loaded onto the trolley and wheeled out of the room.

"I'll follow in my own car and ring you as soon as I talk with Dr Haynes," David said. "Oh," it came as a sudden afterthought, "someone should contact his sister."

"Aye. I'll have Betty ring her immediately you let us know what's happening. It would be good to have something positive to tell her," Cowley sighed.

----

Once again, Bodie twisted the ropes holding him, gritting his teeth against the pain. It was a lucky thing he'd seen Mitchell sneaking up on him at the telephone box or the bullet would have done more than graze his arm and smash the phone. He dearly hoped the woman watching out of the window of the house behind them had rung the police.

Mitchell hadn't spotted her; his back was to the house. Bodie himself had seen her only as she ducked quickly out of sight. If she'd rung the police, if Cowley had sent someone up here to find him, if they connected with the local constabulary... If, if, if.

The minute Tyler'd arrived in York the case had been blown. Instead of C15 pulling in a major arms dealer, they'd ended up being the fall guy. Mitchell had revelled in the explanation.

"You remember the raid on the warehouse eight months ago? Down at the docks? You almost destroyed us then."

"So who'd we miss?" Bodie attempted a nonchalance he didn't feel.

"Conner. But not before—"

"Then I'm doubly glad I broke his bloody neck."

"—he had a butcher's at Tyler storming through the front door." Almost as an after thought, Mitchell back-handed Bodie across the face. "Don't interrupt me, sunshine. Conner got out through the side door. You didn't know it was there, did you? Did you ever find it?"

Yes, they had found the other door, eventually. And it had worried them all: had someone got away? Bodie kept still, as Mitchell went on.

"We knew the second Tyler showed up here that you were still after us. It's been so amusing, watching you play. I'm going to enjoy the next few days…"

So, now, here he was: stuck God-knew-where in the back of beyond, held hostage for by a right nutter. One who knew entirely too much about knot-tying, at that.

The room he was in was dark and damp and smelt like someone had been using it for their own private loo. Somewhere in the back, water dripped. He knew there was a door in front of him. He vaguely remembered Mitchell dragging him through it. Other than that, he'd not been able to discern any openings in the room.

What was happening back in London? Did Ray know what was going on? Hopefully, Cowley hadn't said anything to him. Ray would know something was wrong tonight when he didn't get Bodie's call. Why'd he been stupid enough to promise to ring Ray every night, knowing something could come along and prevent it?

It was ridiculous to tell each other they weren't going to worry. Right lot of nonsense that was. It was impossible not to, and he knew Ray would throw a wobbly tonight when his phone remained silent.

He heard loud footsteps heading towards his room and tensed. Mitchell coming back for more of his fun and games. Or to kill him. The door opened silhouetting the man.

"How are we getting on, sunshine? Comfortable? Got everything you need?" There was a click and the room was flooded with light. "I'm pleased to see you're awake now."

Bodie blinked at the brightness, trying to keep his eyes open. Whatever happened next, he wanted to see it.

"Get stuffed," he suggested politely.

"Now, that wasn't very friendly, Bodie." Mitchell drew his foot back and slammed it into Bodie's ribs with a sickening crack.

Despite himself, Bodie grunted in pain and drew in a cautious breath. It hurt, but not unbearably so; if a rib had broken, it wasn't impacting anything vital.

"Have you got anything else to say, sunshine?" Mitchell asked with a leer.

Bodie started to open his mouth for a "sod off," then shut it. There was no reason at all for him to sit here and encourage the mad bastard to beat the shit out of him. After all, Mitchell was most likely going to do it anyway, so why should he add to the man's satisfaction?

Some of the eagerness went out of Mitchell's eyes when Bodie didn't respond and it was almost with an air of boredom that he set about giving Bodie exactly what he was expecting.

----

Dr Haynes had listened carefully to what Dr Henderson had told him. They'd run a few tests on Ray, and, except for the frighteningly high blood pressure and some exhaustion, he was in the best of health.

"I suggest we keep him in overnight to monitor him, and if necessary we'll sedate him to make him get some rest," said Dr Haynes. "The more stressed he becomes, the higher his blood pressure goes, which causes more stress. It's a vicious circle and one he can't control on his own."

"We'll contact his sister, then. I didn't want to do it before we had something to tell her."

"He's going to be fine. Provided they find Mr Bodie soon."

David just sighed and nodded, then went off down the corridor in search of a telephone. He rang up HQ, quickly filling Murphy in on what the doctor had said before asking if there'd been any news on Bodie.

"Nothing." Murphy's voice said it all. "I'll tell Cowley what you've told me. Are you going to stay until Lauren arrives? I reckon she'll be over in a flash."

"I'll stay. Someone he knows should be with him if he wakes before she can get here."

"Right. Cheers, David."

Slowly, David put down the phone and walked back to Ray's room. He sat there in the semi-darkness, patiently waiting for Ray's sister. He was alone with his thoughts for a mere thirty minutes before Lauren arrived, breathless and worried. She'd obviously not wasted any time.

She went straight to the bed with a nod to David as she passed. Her hand shaking slightly, she reached out and brushed the curls back from Ray's forehead. Lauren looked up to see David observing her gesture.

"When he was a little one, his hair used to drive our mum mad. He hated having it combed because of all the tangles in it. She had to promise him all sorts of treats to make him sit still for it."

"It does require keeping up, I suppose," said David softly.

Lauren's face crumpled. "Is this ever going to end? They've had enough heartache, the two of them. It's time for some good things to happen. They didn't have that much time before Ray's first accident, did you know that?"

At David's negative shake of the head, she continued sadly. "Only a little over a year, I think. Then the accident with the lorry. We were so sure Ray was going to die. When Bodie... Oh, God."

She lost her battle against the tears she'd been holding in, and David wordlessly pulled out a handkerchief and gave it to her.

"Why doesn't he wake up?" she asked, dabbing at her wet face.

"Simply put, his mind is tired. He can't absorb so much all at one time, Bodie missing, remembering the accident—"

"He remembered?" Lauren whispered, horrified. "How much?"

"Everything. A few minutes later he was in Cowley's office and heard the tape with the gunshot, and that was all it took. Too much grief, too many possibilities, and his brain shut down. He'll wake up when he's had time to absorb it all."

"Poor Ray." She looked rather aimlessly around the room.

David picked up his chair and carried it to the other side of the bed. "Sit down before you fall down. Will you be all right here, now? I need to get back to HQ."

"Yes, thank you," she smiled tremulously. "I'm glad you were here."

"Ray's special to all of us, Lauren. I wanted to be here. I'll let you know the minute there's any news of Bodie."

"Thank you," she said as he turned and left the room. She settled into the hard chair and took hold of Ray's hand. Wherever he was at the moment, she wanted him to know someone was here.

 

Ghetto means ...you can only depend on your own kind." "So you and me are a mobile ghetto, eh?"

"Since when did you ever handle anything on your own?" "Yeah, well, since when did you?"

"What are you two? Some kind of music hall act?" "Whatever we are, you made us." "Ta-da."

"Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I?" "Somebody just tried to kill me." "Oh yeah? I thought they hated the car."

"Replacements are expensive." Cowley?

"You scared?" "Yeah. You?" "Yeah. All the time."

"Sometimes I remember. Remember riding in the car. I used to drive, didn't I? Reckon I still could, but Mum won't let me."

"Bodie? Bodie. There's so much blood, so much. Bodie. The phone isn't working, I just remembered. But there's a box down the road. Oh, Bodie, don't die. My bike's just outside. Bodie."

"Would you have sent me away, if I hadn't got better?" "No. That would never have happened."

"Dunno how to live without you, Bodie. Wouldn't want to. If you were dead there wouldn't be anything left."

"I love you. Love you so much it scares me."

"I had to type on a computer. I said I didn't know how, but he wouldn't listen. He said I should be at home on a pension. Do I have to go back, Bodie? I don't want to."

"I've got to go to the club and practice. I'm shooting at the weekend. So's Peter, and if I don't practice he'll beat me. I can win two hundred quid, and I need the money now, 'cause I'm not going to work."

"Mr Cowley really wants me to come back to work. To be a physio like I was going to do before."

"Brian's getting pains in his back. He's getting stiff, too. I asked David what it was. I have to read about it tomorrow. I don't know much about it yet. Arthritis."

"I want to know everything."

"Bodie, I can drive the van."

"Doyle. My name's Ray Doyle. Like I said, I'm one of CI5's physios."

"Everyone dies someday, pet, and it's not the end of the world People left behind pick up their lives and go on." "I miss Mum, it's not fair." "Life's never fair, Ray, but it goes on."

 

Someone was holding tightly to his hand. It wasn't Bodie; the hand was too small. Slowly Ray opened his eyes; his sister was by the bed. She was resting her head on the hand that wasn't clutching his and looked up as he stirred.

"Hey. How do you feel?"

"Tired. M'head hurts a bit."

"Do you remember what happened?"

"Yeah." He really didn't want to talk about it.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

Just then Peter strode through the door and pulled up a chair next to Lauren putting his arm around her. He patted Ray on the leg. "Had quite a day didn't you, old son?"

"Yeah." Ray blinked at him tiredly. "Has it only been one day then? I think it's been forever."

"Seems that way, doesn't it?" Peter smiled fleetingly. "There's been no news of Bodie," he added before Ray asked.

"There will be," Ray said confidently.

"Quite a lot of people are concerned about you," Peter chided gently.

"I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't've have listed to the tape after Mr Cowley left the office, but I wanted to know what was happening. No one ever tells me anything—"

"Maybe they didn't want you to know, because they were afraid of something just like this occurring," Lauren commented.

Having no answer to that, Ray chose to ignore it. "When can I go home?"

"After the doctor says you're all right," Lauren said.

"I'm fine. I have to be home tonight."

"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone right at the moment," Peter said as tactfully as possible.

"I'm not a kid, Peter; I know if I'm all right. I don't need a minder any more and I haven't for a while," Ray pointed out.

"You've been through a lot of stress these past couple of months," Lauren said practically. "What if something happens and your blood pressure goes up again, and there's no one to help you?"

"What could happen? Nothing's going to happen. It's going to be all right." Ray crossed his arms and stuck out his chin.

"We could find out tomorrow that something's happened to Bodie, Ray, then what?" argued Lauren. "That would certainly cause the same reaction as today, wouldn't it? And if no one is with you, what happens then?"

"Then I suppose I'd die."

"Do you think Mum'd want that?," Peter said softly.

"What?"

"Mr Cowley told me you remembered the accident. If you give up and die, it's like killing her a second time." He didn't say any more, leaving it to Ray to reason it through.

"I still want to go home, but," Ray caved in suddenly, "maybe Laurie could stay with me? Only, what if Bodie phones and I'm at your house instead?"

Lauren nodded. "I think we can work with that, don't you Peter?"

"Yeah, if you'll take both of us, Ray?"

"Laurie gets to make the pudding this time, then," said Ray. "Can I go home now?"

"I'll go and find the doctor and see what he says," said Peter, getting up from his chair. Ray and Lauren were silent while they waited for Peter to return. Thoughts were running around in Ray's head like horses around a race track during flat season. What if Bodie were dead? Would he really know? Really be able to feel it?

If he were truly honest with himself, probably not. He'd known Bodie was in trouble, so why wouldn't he know if he was dead? But what if Bodie was dead? He spent several minutes trying to imagine his life without Bodie being a part of it. The big house, quiet and empty. Their special bed, empty and cold. Just like him. He'd be frozen. He'd have no heart, because Bodie was his life.

"If I didn't have Bodie, I'd die..."

"What did you say?" Lauren was looking at him strangely.

He'd said it out loud. How loud? Maybe not very, if she had to ask what he'd said. "Nothing. Only, I wish Bodie was here, that's all."

"I know, Ray, so do all of us."

He couldn't die though, could he? There was his mother. She'd died wanting him to be safe. He missed her, but sometimes he forgot. He would never, ever forget Bodie. Never. Wouldn't let anyone else forget him either. For some time now there'd been a rather large lump in his throat demanding release. He sniffed wetly.

"Ray?"

"What if he doesn't come home?" he whispered.

"Until we know for sure, we have to believe he will, Ray. We have to hope."

"I'm hoping, Laurie, but, it's...it's...really hard," and he let the tears escape. He hadn't felt this lost and alone since Bodie'd been shot that day at Uncle Albert's farm and almost died.

Peter came back in just then, Dr Haynes in his wake. He stopped so suddenly, the doctor had to veer around in order not to knock him over.

"Ray?" Peter glanced from the tear-stained face to Lauren. "What's happened?"

"Nothing," Lauren answered softly. "Just a little dose of reality."

"How are you feeling, Ray?" asked Dr Haynes.

"I'm all right. I'd like to go home, please," he said calmly, then ruined the effect by sniffling loudly.

"And I'd like you to stay here for the night," replied the doctor. "Has anyone been in recently to take your blood pressure?" Both Ray and Lauren shook their heads. "Then we'll do so now. Arm please, Ray."

Dr Haynes pulled the equipment out of the bedside table. Everyone waited quietly until he was done.

"It's still very high. It would be better if you stayed here for the night so we can monitor it. If it's gone back to normal in the morning, then I'll be happy to release you. You need to rest, Ray."

"I have to go home," Ray insisted. "I have to be there tonight."

"I'll stay for you, Ray, shall I. That way if Bodie calls I can tell him where you are," offered Peter.

"No." Ray straightened up in bed, eyes widening. "Then he'll worry and he can't worry about me. He won't know where I am. He'll worry. He'll worry."

Dr Haynes stepped back from the bed, motioning for Peter to join him. "When Bodie is away or unavailable, who's Ray's temporary guardian?"

"Lauren, why?"

"Would she be able to stay with him tonight if I let him go?"

"We both would. We'd already discussed it."

"Fine then. I'll give you some tablets for him, to keep the blood pressure down as much as possible. Also something to help him sleep, if he has trouble resting."

"Right. Thank you, sir.

"Ray," the doctor raised his voice a notch. "I'm going to let you go home with your sister. I've given Peter instructions for your care, and you're to do as he says, understand? Otherwise you'll find yourself back in here, sicker than before," he added firmly.

"Yes, sir." Ray threw back the blanket and started to get up.

"Slow down there, old son," Peter said quickly. "You're not in a race here. Just take it slow and steady. I've got to find your clothes first."

"I don't know where they are. I didn't take them off."

"They're hanging here in the cupboard." Peter removed them and handed them to Ray, who frowned.

"They hung my jeans up. You don't hang jeans; you fold 'em." He started to untie his hospital gown, then his fingers stilled as he looked at his sister. "Lauren."

"What? Oh sorry, Ray. I'll wait out in the corridor for you, shall I?" She tried to smile, failed and left the room.

"No need to be embarrassed, you know. She used to change your nappies."

"I've been out of nappies for quite some time, Peter." Ray pointed this out with as much dignity as he could muster while standing in a hospital room wearing a too-short gown that showed all his dangly bits.

He was really glad to be going home.

They hadn't been in the house five minutes when the phone starting ringing. Moving quickly, Ray grabbed the receiver.

"Bodie?"

A moment of silence, then, the disappointment evident in his voice, Ray said, "Oh. Hello, sir. How are you?"

More silence, then: "I've got tablets to take, and Laurie's here with me. Peter went to get Buck and then we'll all be here. Mr Cowley, sir, have you heard from Bodie? Is that why you're ringing?" A cold, angry monster took up residence in his belly as he listened to Cowley's explanation..

"But the gunshot—"

Ray relaxed suddenly, almost sagging against the wall.

"Thank you for letting me know. Sir? I'm sorry I listened to the tape player." He twisted the phone cord as he listened. "Good night, sir." He gently replaced the phone and turned to his sister.

"Yes? I rather got the gist of it, but maybe you can fill me in on the bits I couldn't hear."

"They're going to find him, Laurie. They almost have. And the man shot the telephone, not Bodie. A lady saw it. I suppose she called the police. I'm glad. I think I'd like to go to bed now, all right?"

"Of course. You have to take a tablet first, though."

"I used to take them, did you know? When I first hurt my head. Haven't needed them in a long time." He sighed, went into the loo and filled his tooth mug with water, ready for Lauren when she arrived with the tablet. He swallowed it. "When Peter comes back, Buck can get in my bed. Only, he's lonely and it helps when he can sleep with me."

He padded into the bedroom and pulled the blankets down. "I'll have to change the sheets though, for when Bodie comes home. He doesn't like sleeping in dog hair."

He dug his pyjama bottoms out of a drawer. His lips formed a tiny smile. "Thank you for helping me come home and for staying here with me and all."

"You get a good night's sleep, and I bet Mr Cowley phones tomorrow to tell you Bodie's on his way home. Good night Ray."

"Night."

----

When Bodie opened his eyes, he was dismayed to find Mitchell was still in the room. He had no idea how long he'd been unconscious, but he was still trussed up, and he hurt worse than ever.

"Ah, you're awake are you?" Mitchell spoke up from where he was leaning against the wall. "I do hate hitting someone who can't feel the blows. We can continue now."

And he smiled.

Bodie closed his eyes and waited.

When nothing happened, he opened them again.

Mitchell was still in front of him, looking at his left hand, an expression of pain on his face.

"What's the matter Mitchell, did you break a finger?" Bodie taunted.

"No..."

"Why the hell don't you get on with it then? I'm getting just a bit bored and the floor's so cold my bollocks are about frozen."

"No." Mitchell took a deep breath, wheezing in the middle of it and clutching first his arm, then the front of his shirt. "No."

Bodie watched in amazement as he stood there gasping for breath, face turning grey and pasty. From where he lay, Bodie could see the sweat begin to drip down the sides of the other man's face. Mitchell looked at him in shock and for a split second their eyes met and held, Mitchell's filled with an agonised disbelief.

The disbelief was mirrored in Bodie's eyes, and he watched in astonishment as Mitchell dropped to the floor, fingers still tangled in his shirt. A few minutes passed and a putrid stench filled the air as the dead man's muscles relaxed and his body voided its waste.

"He's dead. He's bloody fucking dead." Bodie said it aloud, trying to convince himself.

Bodie wasted several minutes sitting on the hard floor trying to convince himself how lucky he'd been. Finally he shook himself out of the stupor he'd begun falling into and looked at the door.

So how do you get about with no hands or feet to speak off? The bitter sound of his laugh surprised him as it echoed in the empty room. Worms do it all the time.

Belly to the floor, head turned sideways to save his chin and nose, he began inching his way forward, straining the muscles in his chest, shoulders and thighs to the limit.

Several long minutes and quite a lot of sweat later, he'd managed to move some three feet. It took even less time to convince himself he was probably the biggest wally in the country. Had to do it the hard way, didn't he? Cursing breathlessly, he rolled onto his back and used his feet to push himself the rest of the way, stopping when his head bumped the wall.

"Got this far, mate, now what?" he mumbled to himself. His various aches and pains weren't being at all coy about making their presence felt.

Taking a deep breath, and instantly regretting it as his ribs protested hard and at great length, he sat himself up. Pressing his back against the wall he struggled up and teetered unsteadily on his bound feet.

And promptly fell back to the floor.

It's hard to stand when you can't feel your feet.

Again he forced himself up, eyes concentrating on his feet so he'd know when he was actually standing.

He made it. Now, to open the door.

His numb hands were tied behind his back. Nothing was ever easy. Craning his head back so he could see his fingers actually on the metal knob, he patiently began fiddling with it. While it was easy for his brain to command his fingers, it was much more difficult for the muscles to obey.

He had to stop often in order to balance himself on his wobbly feet. He could be playing with this damn door for the rest of his life...

Eventually it opened.

The corridor he faced was brightly lit. "Happy I don't have to pay your electricity bill, you stupid dead sod."

In front of him were the stairs he assumed led to the main part of the...house? He looked at them momentarily, then slid to his knees and shuffled slowly towards them. He plonked his arse on the third step from the bottom, breathing heavily. Sweat was running down his face, and his shirt was soaked. He'd be as skinny as Ray at this rate. Planting his unfeeling feet, he attempted to push himself up the stairs. The door at the top seemed a lifetime away.

Mitchell had been a master at inflicting pain. Bodie ached all over. He'd probably be all the colours of the rainbow before too much longer. He didn't think any ribs were broken, regardless of the kick he'd received earlier. Probably cracked, though, since it did hurt to move quickly.

Taking a deep breath he moved up another step, then groaned as he missed and sat on his hands, bumping his way back down to the bottom. Sighing, he began again, using his elbows this time instead of his hands. It was a little quicker.

----

Ray spent an uneasy night, plagued by nightmares and waking often. The next morning, when Lauren looked in on him, a look of consternation replaced the smile on her face.

"Did you sleep at all, Ray?"

"A bit. Dreamed too much," he answered.

"Would you like something to eat? I think you should stay where you are and rest."

"Yes, Lauren." He was so tired. One arm reached out from under the blankets, reaching for Buck. A wet tongue licked his fingers.

"Yes, Lauren? You're not going to argue with me?" Her eyes widened in amazement.

It felt so safe and cosy here in bed. Warm. "I'm not hungry, but would you please ring David and let him know I'm staying at home today?"

"Today and tomorrow if need be," Lauren said.

"No, I'll go back tomorrow," Ray told her, then sighed and closed his eyes.

"Ray—"

"Lauren. I can't just lie here and do nothing. I have to work and be busy, or all I'll do is think about what's happening to Bodie. Besides," he added, cajoling, "David will be there and he can monitor my blood pressure."

"Crafty devil, aren't you? Very well, we'll do it your way. For now. But if you show the slightest sign of—"

"I won't." Ray turned over and burrowed back under the blankets, effectively shutting his sister up.

 

Ray woke up the next morning determined to go to work. Wisely his sister let him be, dropping him at work with the request he let her know what he found out about Bodie.

"Of course I will. Laurie, did you think I wouldn't tell you?" He paused halfway out of the car and looked her in hurt surprise.

"No, of course not. I'm sorry. I'm worried, that's all. About both of you."

"It'll be all right, Laurie." He smiled gently at his sister and finished getting out of the car.

"Of course it will, love. Just let me know."

"I will." He shut the door and watched her drive off before turning and going inside. He kept his head down as he walked through the corridors, not really wanting to be forced into conversation with anyone, or listen to them as they tried to cheer him up.

It was almost as though the people he and Bodie worked with couldn't make up their minds: was Bodie or dead or not? Do we act hopeful? Pretend? Ray didn't like it when they put on a false face and pretended.

David was already in the office, busy at his desk when Ray walked in. He looked up and smiled.

"How are you feeling this morning? Better?"

"Yes. They're going to find Bodie, David."

"I hope so."

"You don't mind that I came in to work today, do you?"

David looked at him in surprise. "Why would I mind?"

"Laurie thought I should stay at home. I told her I needed to be at work and stay busy so I didn't think of...things."

"Sounds sensible to me."

"That's all right, then." Ray said.

"I'll be back in a tick, Ray." David got up and headed for the door. "Reckon you can handle the place while I'm gone?"

"I suppose so."

He'd barely settled at his desk when the phone rang. He got back up to answer it.

"Surgery."

"Ray." A wealth of feeling came across the phone line in that one word.

"Bodie! Where are you?"

"On my way to HQ. Lucas and McCabe collected me a little bit ago. Another couple of hours or so, and I'll be there. I couldn't wait any longer to let you know."

"Does Mr Cowley know?"

"McCabe just got off the phone to him. Two more hours, sweetheart."

"Bodie, can anybody hear you?"

"No. I'm in the call box, and they're in the car. I love you."

"I love you, too. Hurry, Bodie."

"We are. Soon, Ray".

"Soon," Ray repeated as they both hung up.

He turned as the door opened and David came in. "They found Bodie. David, they found him."

"I know, I heard. Murphy stopped me in the corridor; he was just about dancing a jig. Everyone's walking around with big smiles on their faces," David said.

"Not as big and smiley as mine," said Ray.

David pretended to examine the grin in question and solemnly agreed that Ray's beat them all. "Of course, you have the most to be happy about. Who told you? I was going to when I walked in. If you'll come over here, I'd like to check your blood pressure."

"Why? I'm happy." He walked over anyway and held out his arm.

"Excessive emotions are what does it," David explained as he worked. "Although negative emotions are worse." He paused, waiting for the seconds to tick by. "And you're doing all right. So how did you find out?"

"Bodie rang me up from somewhere. He'll be here in soon.

"Reckon you can work that long?"

"Of course." Ray immediately went back to his desk and sat down at the computer. He swivelled back around as David burst out laughing. "What?"

"I was just having you on, Ray. You don't need to start working right away. "

"It's all right. I need to keep busy so the time goes faster. You showed me that, did you know?"

"Did I?" David came over and perched on the edge of Ray's desk.

"Yeah. The first day Bodie was gone. Everyone was coming in for silly things, and you sent me out for supplies even though we'd just got some earlier. Then it was time to go home and I'd hardly thought about Bodie being gone at all."

"Clever lad, you working that out. I thought we were being rather sneaky. Although I didn't plan on having the various agents come in like that, they must have thought it out on their own. You and Bodie have a lot of friends here, Ray."

"I know. Sometimes I wish I could remember from before I hurt my head, but you know something?"

"What?"

"I'm making new memories. And pretty soon I'll have lots to remember again and I won't miss all the old stuff. Well, not as much, anyway," he added honestly.

"Bodie's coming home," Ray repeated.

"Yes, he is."

"Bodie's coming home."

David smiled.

 

Almost two hours later, Ray looked up from his desk. "Do you mind if I go and see if Bodie's got here, yet?"

Receiving permission, he got up and left the room, closing the door softly behind him and heading off down the corridor. Betty wasn't at her desk, but Cowley's door was partially open.

This time he knocked.

"Come," Cowley's voice called out.

Pushing the door open, he entered. Cowley was behind his desk, having a conversation with Murphy and Macklin, who were seated comfortably in chairs beside the wall. There was no one else in the room.

"Hello, Ray. Are you looking for Bodie?" Cowley asked. A smile accompanied the question.

"Yes. I suppose it's too early isn't it?"

"Any minute now," Murphy said. "I saw them pull in to the car park."

Ray strode quickly over to the window and peered through the glass. He didn't know what he was expecting to see as he didn't know whose car they were using. Nor was there anyone down there other than the guard at the gate.

Without another word, he ran out of the room and turned for the stairs. Halfway down and around the corner:

"Ray."

Bodie. He was halfway up the steps, holding tightly to the rail. Even covered in cuts and bruises as he was, he was the most beautiful sight Ray'd seen in a long time.

"Bodie." It came out in a whisper, and he tried again. "Bodie."

Two seconds passed and Bodie took a step up. Ray quickly closed the distance between them. "Bodie."

Strong arms wrapped around Ray's body. "Bodie, we can't. You said. Never at work."

"I don't care. There's no one here. It's all right."

Ray's arms slowly rose and wound themselves around Bodie's neck. They stood there silently for quite some time. Finally Ray pulled away.

"You look like an angry rainbow. What did they do to you?" Carefully he patted Bodie's chest and ribs, stopping at Bodie's painful grimace. "Are they broken? What else hurts?" He placed his palms on either side of Bodie's head and carefully turned it from side to side.

"I'll be all right, Ray."

"Did you see a doctor, or did Lucas put those bandages on you?"

"I saw a doctor in York." Bodie let Ray fuss, knowing he needed the reassurance of Bodie's well-being. He carefully pulled Ray back into his arms, nestling one hand deep into auburn curls. The other arm settled around Ray's waist. "I love you," he whispered.

Ray grinned into his neck and settled his own arms around Bodie's waist, careful not to put any more pressure on sore ribs. "Me, too," he mumbled.

"Are you going to hog Bodie all to yourself, Ray, or do we get a chance to say hello, too?"

At the sound of Murphy's voice behind them, Ray jerked himself out of Bodie's arms. "Sorry."

"That's all right, mate. You can have him back later." Murphy reached out and grabbed Bodie's hand, gripping tightly. Neither said a word, letting their eyes speak for them.

"I reckon the Old Man wants to see me," Bodie said wryly. He started up the remaining stairs, Ray hovering behind him. "I'm all right, Ray."

"I'm making sure, Bodie. Don't argue with me." And Ray stuck close all the way into Cowley's office.

Macklin was there, hand out, and when that was finished Bodie turned to Cowley. "Sir."

"Bodie. I'm happy to see you in one piece." He took his glasses off and began to busily polish them.

"Replacements are expensive," Ray said. He slid his hand under the back of Bodie's jumper and grabbed hold of his belt.

"What?" Cowley looked up, surprised, as the other men all stared at Ray.

"You said that. Didn't you?" Ray was beginning to look uneasy. Had he remembered something wrong?

"Aye, that I did, laddie, but it was a long time ago," Cowley answered quickly.

"I remembered."

"Yes, you did," Bodie said. "And I need to debrief while I still remember everything."

"Can I stay?" Ray whispered. Bodie looked at Cowley.

"Yes. You know not to talk about anything we say in here." Cowley hadn't made it a question, but Ray nodded anyway.

Bodie walked over and settled into the corner of a small settee under the window. Since Ray's fingers were still entangled in his belt, they both landed together. Bodie bent forward so Ray could rescue his hand.

While they'd been getting adjusted, Cowley'd brought out the tape recorder and had it ready. Bodie looked over at Ray. "You'd best get comfortable; this is going to take a long time."

----

Three hours later it was finished. Bodie's voice was hoarse, and they'd gone through four pots of tea and several sandwiches. All three men heaved sighs of relief as Cowley switched off the tape recorder.

"Some time off wouldn't go amiss right now, sir. For both of us." Bodie glanced briefly at Ray before returning his attention to Cowley.

"A fortnight, Bodie. I'll clear it with Dr Henderson."

"Sir? Two weeks?" He'd been hoping for one at best.

"Starting thirty seconds ago," Cowley added dryly.

"Yes, sir." He turned to Ray. A smile of incredible happiness spread across Ray's face, bringing a lump to Bodie's throat. He spent several seconds clearing it. "Let's go home."

Bodie nodded at Cowley and Murphy and left the room. Ray followed behind still grinning from ear to ear.

"We'll need to check out a car. The one I used is still up north," Bodie said.

Suddenly, Ray stopped. "I need to ring Laurie and let her know you're back. I promised."

"Fine. I'll go and collect the car while you phone Laurie, and I'll meet you out front."

"No."

"No?" Bodie was confused.

"Let's both ring Laurie and then we can both collect the car and go home." Ray grabbed his arm and began steering him towards the rest room and the closest telephone.

Ah, Bodie understood now. "I'm not going to disappear from here, Ray."

"Together, Bodie." Ray was adamant.

Bodie let himself be led.

The call to Lauren dispensed with and his favourite Capri back in his hands, Bodie took himself and Ray back to their home for some much needed time together.

In the seat next to him, Ray was nattering on about baking him every type of cake imaginable. His hand had attached itself to Bodie's thigh the second they were in the car.

"Oh, Laurie said they'd keep Buck for a couple of days." Ray smiled at him. "I want you all to myself for a while."

"Do you want to go to the farm while we're off?"

"No. Maybe. I don't think so. Can we just stay at home together for a bit?"

"Ray, we can do whatever you'd like. As long as you're with me, we could go to the moon if you wanted."

Ray laughed. "No, bed's fine with me." He squirmed around in his seat. "Hurry up, Bodie."

"I'm driving as fast as I can, Ray."

"I know. Sorry. How are you feeling?" Ray was worried. Bodie's bruising had started to come out more during the hours he was debriefing.

"Looks worse than it is, pet. You know that."

"Yeah. I just wor— When we get home, you can let me pamper you." He was rather chuffed with himself for remembering that word.

"I'd love it." Bodie pulled into their driveway and slowed to a stop, letting Ray out to open the back gate.

By the time he drove the car through and turned off the ignition, Ray had closed the gate, unlocked the house and shut off the alarms. He was standing in the doorway, watching Bodie come up the path.

Moving back so he could come inside, Ray shut the door, then gathered him gently in his arms. They stood like that for several minutes.

Ray drew back and very softly began feathering kisses on Bodie's face and neck, carefully avoiding the rainbow-hued bruises. Arms tightening around the slender waist, Bodie stood still and allowed him free rein.

"Come to bed," Ray breathed into his ear.

" I don't think I'm up for anything too athletic at the moment, sweetheart," Bodie admitted wryly.

The little kisses stopped, and Ray stepped away from him.

"What?" Bodie asked, bewildered.

"That's not what I meant by 'come to bed.'" He grinned. "You need to rest, and I want to look at you. I need to know for certain you're all right."

"Oh. I thought—"

"I know what you thought. And you call me a randy animal. You go and have a shower, and I'll make some tea." He gave Bodie a gentle shove in the direction of the back rooms. "Go on."

Bodie did as instructed without protest. It was so good to be home.

Before he'd made it to the loo, there was a clatter and a crash in the kitchen, and then Ray tore past him at a run.

"Ray?"

"Dropped the kettle," floated back to him as Ray disappeared into the bedroom.

Wondering just what dropping the kettle had to do with their bedroom, Bodie picked up his pace and poked his head curiously inside the room.

"Ray?"

His lover looked up from where he was standing bent over the bed, the sheets halfway pulled off. He looked at Bodie sheepishly.

"Forgot to change 'em this morning."

"So?"

"Buck."

Bodie moved in for a closer look. Wrinkled his nose. "Think I'll go and have that shower now. I'll let you take care of the dog hair."

Ray just grinned.

 

In the shower, Bodie let the hot water wash over him, taking away the stink of the past couple of days. If he admitted the truth to himself, he ached so badly he doubted he'd ever be randy again. Slowly he soaped himself, wincing at the twinges this caused.

The shower curtain moved and Ray slipped in behind him.

"Thought you were changing the sheets."

"Finished." Ray soaped his hands and gently began rubbing Bodie's back. Bodie rested his forehead against the tile. "Help yourself, love."

Ray pressed a wet kiss on the nape of Bodie's neck. Taking advantage of the slick soap, he let his fingers probe ribs and various other portions of Bodie's sore anatomy, assuring himself his lover was still in one complete piece.

Kneeling down, he continued washing and softly massaging the parts that were a normal pink colour. There was a bruise just the size of someone's boot tip on Bodie's left buttock. Ray carefully ran his hand over it before moving down to wash his legs. Finished with the back portion, he stood.

"Can you turn around, please, honey? We can rinse you off, and I can start on the front of you."

"I already did the front, Ray." Bodie didn't move. He slid under the cascading water, keeping his back to Ray with difficulty.

"Turn around, Bodie."

"I can fin—"

"As you've reminded me so many times, I'm not stupid," Ray pointed out. "I'm going to see your front soon anyway. It may as well be now."

"No."

"Bodie? You're stifling me." Ray wasn't sure if that were exactly true, but he had a feeling it would make Bodie obey. "Now turn around."

Sighing, Bodie did as instructed, closing his eyes. He didn't want to see the look of horror that would come over his lover's face.

Silently, Ray began kissing his way across Bodie's broad chest before moving downward. Kneeling again, he grasped Bodie's hips to steady himself while he gazed at the dusky, slightly swollen genitals, before bestowing a feather-soft kiss upon them.

"Ray." Bodie grabbed at the hands on his hips and tugged till Ray was once again standing. Pulling him into his arms, Bodie held him tightly.

Ray hugged back, carefully, one hand searching blindly for the tap to turn off the water. When they both began to shiver, he opened the curtain and stepped out, gathering Bodie up in a towel and gently patting him dry.

"Now, get into bed, and I'll bring you a cuppa." He gave Bodie a tiny shove in the direction of the door and proceeded to dry his own body.

On his way to the kitchen, Ray stuck his head in the bedroom. "Did the doctor give you anything for the pain?"

"Yes," Bodie answered from beneath the blankets. "In my jacket pocket."

"Seems reading minds is a Bodie thing, too," Ray said.

"Eh?" Bodie stuck his head out from the cocoon of blankets, but Ray had already left.

In the kitchen, Ray set the kettle to boil and gathered together the tea things, setting them on a tray. Bodie's jacket. Where was it? He looked around, not seeing it and went into the living room. It was hanging over the back of the settee.

Back in the kitchen, tablets in hand, he filled a small glass with water and added both to the tray. After a moment's thought, he rummaged around in the refrigerator and added one more item. Satisfied with his efforts, he waited for the water to boil, then carried everything into the bedroom.

Bodie looked up from where he'd propped himself against the headboard. He'd warmed up while Ray was gone and no longer needed to huddle under the blankets. As Ray walked through the door, Bodie started chuckling.

"What's so funny?" Ray stopped halfway into the room.

"You should see yourself, poppet, wearing nothing but a tea tray. Everything in plain view. Looks good enough to eat, and if I wasn't completely incapacitated, I'd have a feast."

Ray'd totally forgotten he was naked. He blushed as he realised what a picture he must make, all his dangly bits hanging out below the tray. Then he shrugged and grinned.

"Nothing you haven't seen before."

Carefully, he settled the tray across Bodie's lap and crawled in next to him. Bodie was looking at the contents of the tray in delight.

"You saved me a piece of banana cake."

"It's a bit stale. Took you longer to come home than I thought it would. When did you take your last tablet?"

Bodie blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "Too long ago," he admitted after some thought.

"Then have another. Then you can eat your cake." Deftly, Ray undid the bottle and handed over a tablet.

Dutifully, Bodie swallowed it down, aided by the glass of water. Then he tore into the cake. Next to him, Ray sipped noisily at his tea, watching him eat.

Finished, Bodie reached for his own tea. "Now, then, what's this about something being a 'Bodie-thing, too'?"

"What? Oh." Ray remembered his comment from earlier. "At the farm, after you left, Mum and I were talking, and she answered a question before I asked it. She said mind-reading was a thing mothers did."

"And I did the same thing with the tablets and jacket."

"Yeah. Mum was just having me on though. She said what she could really do was read my face." Ray was proud of the fact he could sit here and talk about his mum without crying.

"Lucas told me everyone thought I was dead except you." Bodie changed the subject. There was something he had to find out.

"Yeah. I knew you were in trouble, Bodie. I dreamed it. It was the night you had to hang up because someone was at your door. Mr Cowley believed me and sent Lucas and McCabe up to find you."

"What did you dream?" Bodie was curious.

"I don't remember. I didn't remember when I woke up. I just knew you were in awful trouble. It wasn't a very nice feeling, Bodie. I wanted to be up there helping you, except I knew if I was up there I'd be in the way."

"You're never in the way, sweetheart. But York wasn't the place for you this time. You did help me, you know," he added.

"How?"

"The whole time I was a prisoner and trying to get away, I thought of you. I knew I had to get back to you. I think if you hadn't been here for me, I probably would have given up." Bodie paused for a sip of his now tepid tea. "Did you ever once think I was dead?"

"Sometimes it was hard. I reckoned if I knew you were in trouble, then I should know if you were dead, but that wasn't really sensible. And everyone was trying so hard to make me think you were alive, but, at the same time, they tried to get me to admit you might be dead. I felt like a yo-yo."

"I'm not surprised. Ray, what would you have done if I really had been killed up there?" It was the question Bodie had been needing to ask for quite some time now. What he'd once read in Doyle's diary still haunted him: If I didn't have Bodie I'd die. He had to know if this was still true.

"Are you done with your tea?"

Bodie did a double take. "That wasn't the answer I was looking for."

"I know. But are you?"

"Yes."

"Good." Ray slid out of bed and lifted the tray off Bodie's lap. He set it on the floor, well away from where his toes would land in the morning, and crawled back under the blankets. He settled back against the pillows, his left side touching Bodie's right.

"Did you know I remembered the accident with Mum?"

Bodie shook his head.

"I did. That was part of my trouble while you were gone," he admitted. "If Mum hadn't stayed at the farm for me… But she did. And, Bodie? We had a wonderful couple of days together. If you died, and I died, it would make those days disappear and waste Mum's life. You know, Mum loved my dad just like I love you, but she didn't go off and die when he did.

"Maybe last year I would have died, too. But not now. I would die inside and be empty and miss you forever, but I would still have Laurie and Peter and everyone else." He reached over and entwined his fingers with Bodie's. "It's not the same thing, I know. But if I were gone there'd be no one to talk about you and remember you and keep you alive, like we do with Mum."

What Ray was saying was rather convoluted, but Bodie got the gist of it. The important bit was that Ray wasn't going to just lie down and die if something happened and Bodie died first.

"I'll do my best to stay alive, Ray."

"Well, I should hope so," came the sarcastic reply. "Buck's had a rather rough past few days."

Smiling sweetly, Ray closed his eyes and slid down onto his pillow.

After a moment, Bodie gingerly re-settled himself and joined him.

END