The Stuff Of Nightmares
By Joana Dey






(This story originally appeared in the 1998 multi-media zine "Awakenings".)
 

He'd not seen so much blood in years. It was everywhere, splattering onto his trousers as his shoes squished across the soaked carpet. His nose hairs seemed to stiffen as the stench attached itself to his nostrils, and he gagged, knowing the smell was seeping into his very pores.

Detachment. That was the key. Don't think. Christ, don't breathe. His stomach churned, protesting at the carnage his eyes were forced to view. Dimly he heard his name being called, but ignored it, intent on his search. His eyes saw, but his brain, automatically protecting, refused to let him recognise what was surrounding him.

He'd done it. He was the one who had opened the door. The series of small blasts weren't enough to cause harm to him, or the others standing behind, guns drawn, ready for anything. Except what had happened. If he hadn't opened the door...If he hadn't opened the door...*I opened the door. If I hadn't opened the door...*

"Someone else would have." It was a whisper against his ear, warm breath caressing his cheek.

He hadn't realised he'd said a word.

He kept walking, ignoring the voice, shaking off the strong fingers clutching his upper arm. His eyes catalogued the bits and pieces as he passed by, brain storing it all for future reference, for the nightmares he was sure to have.

Stumbling slightly, his shoes sticking to the cloying blood that was thickening quickly in the air, he reached out, shaking fingers searching blindly for support, knowing it would be there waiting. Slick leather slid across his palm, and he grabbed hold, gripping an arm tightly.

"It's okay, Bodie." Again just a sigh near his ear, then strong fingers grasped his arm, right where they'd rested a moment, hour, century ago. Reassurance, that he wasn't alone.

The buzzing around him gradually began to diversify into individual, recognisable voices, and he tried to focus on them rather than the horror surrounding him.

"... wrong with him?"

"Shock." It came from near by, the one holding his arm.

"Bodie? In shock?" That one ridiculed.

"Shut the fuck up, Anson."

His arm was jerked, and he started to follow the tugging while the voices continued.

"I'm getting him away from here, sir, now. We can give our reports later."

"Aye..."

As they turned to leave the room, an object lying on the floor near the door caught Bodie's eye. Very small, with five fingers still clutching the larger hand, as though, even in death, the child had been afraid to let go.

Once again the voices receded to a distant buzzing, and Bodie retreated back into another world.

*Smoke's going to kill me, going to choke to death. Christ, Krivas, don't believe you did that, I don't. I've never seen so many dead babies. All over the place, look like broken dolls some little girl dumped in the rubbish. Just killed 'em all, shot 'em. We did that. I did that.

It was supposed to be rebels. Not women and children. Rebels. Grown Men. Now burn it all to hide what we did...but what if someone's still alive? So much smoke. Ah...

God it stinks.*

"Bodie. Bodie, talk to me."

His head was being whipped back and forth as someone vigorously shook his shoulders.

"Bodie!"

"Ray." Bodie slowly blinked his eyes and focused on the worried green orbs staring back at him. He swallowed, licking his lips. "Ray."

" 'S right, love, it's me." Fingers gently fluffed the short dark hair. "Scared me back there, mate."

"Sorry." Gradually Bodie realised he was in his flat, perched on the edge of the settee. His feet were encased in clean socks. "Where're my shoes?"

Doyle's face hardened and he looked away. "Dustbin."

Bodie didn't ask why, just nodded knowingly. He picked absently at a thread poking out of his trousers, not realising how much damage he was doing until Doyle gently placed a hand on top of his, stopping the movement.

"Want to talk about it?"

"No."

"It wasn't your fault, Bodie, would've happened to which ever one of us opened the door."

*I should have known the door would be wired. I should have seen... Christ, was trained for that in SAS, should have known...Supposed to be an expert at that, it's my job. Standard training. They were terrorists, had hostages. That's what terrorists do--kill. Why didn't I see it? Why...*

"Bodie."

"Eh?"

"You've been sitting there, staring blindly into space for exactly six minutes and thirty-seven seconds, ignoring everything I've said."

"Sorry." An uncomfortable silence followed. "Ray."

"Yes?"

"Ray." His voice broke slightly, and he felt his face grow warm. *Not going to cry. I'm not. Christ. I've seen worse than this, done things almost as bad.*

"It's okay, love, I'm here."

Wiry arms gathered him close, pulling them both to rest against the back of the settee. Sighing, Bodie laid his head on Doyle's shoulder, letting the horror of the past few ... hours? ... gradually bury itself in the deep recesses of his brain.

He was safe here, nestled in Doyle's strong arms. Nothing would happen to him as long as he had Doyle.

Doyle was his lifeline to everything good in the world.

Doyle was safety.

Sanity.

Without Doyle, Bodie knew he would be lost, his soul forever doomed to darkness.

Doyle.

Ray. His arms snaked around lean ribs, clutching them as tightly as the little girl'd held her mother's hand before the bomb ended both their lives.

Taking a deep breath, he took in as much of Doyle's scent as his lungs could handle, and closed his eyes.

*Mummy? Want my mummy. Where's mummy? Go away little girl. Get out of my mind. You're dead. I saw you. Splattered all over the room. That's where your mummy is, mixed with your blood on the walls and in the carpet. Go back to Africa. I'm sorry, I'm sorry...*

"... Bodie. Wake up, Bodie."

He jerked awake, fist coming up to smash whoever was shaking him, stopping just short of a sleep-confused face. Doyle.

"Having a nightmare?"

"Yeah," Bodie mumbled. "Sorry I woke you."

"Want to talk about it?"

"No." At the hurt look on Doyle's face, he amended the shortness of the word. "Don't remember it, do I? Go back to sleep."

"Right."

Doyle was wearing his sceptical face, albeit one befuddled with sleep, but he nonetheless settled back down. Bodie wriggled a bit, accommodating the long arms and legs Doyle was wrapping possessively around him.

After several moments of forced stillness, Bodie sighed deeply. He knew from past experience that a curious Doyle and an unanswered question were worse than a dog with a bone. He'd worry at it until all was resolved to his satisfaction, and nothing Bodie could do would change that.

"It was just a bad dream, okay, Doyle? Even I'm allowed that once in a while. Just let it go."

"It was more than a bad dream, love." Doyle's fingers combed gently through Bodie's hair. "Scared me back there, y'know. You...you...went away, I suppose. Don't know what to call it; as though your body was with me but your mind was far away. Didn't like it."

*And I did?*

"I don't know what to do to help you, Bodie. Feel a bit useless here, if you want to know the truth. I'm sorry. Want to help you, but I can't. Don't know--" He stopped speaking as Bodie jerked abruptly away from him. "What?"

"D'you ever think of anyone but yourself Doyle?"

"Eh?"

"You're lying there moaning because you can't do something, worried about how useless you feel. I'm the one who opened the damned door. I'm the one who set off the bomb. I'm the one who killed that little girl and her family, and you're the one whining about feeling guilty!"

He closed his eyes as bright light flooded the room, opening them a moment later to see Doyle drawing away from the lamp to slump against the head of their bed. Instead of the fierce anger Bodie was expecting to see radiate from his other half, Doyle was looking defeated. And frightened.

*Christ, he does it every time. Gets that look about him, all bruised and achy and...* Bodie settled back beside Doyle, close, but not quite touching.

"Talk to me, mate." He deliberately did not look at Doyle.

"I..." Doyle reached over and turned the light back out, plunging the room into a blinding blackness.

Silence.

"You what?"

"I was scared. All right? You blanked out on me, Bodie. You disappeared. You never do that. I didn't know what to do. 'S always me with the guilts and you pulling me out of 'em. Don't know how to deal with you like this. Don't know how to help you."

"Aw, Ray." Bodie gathered him close; even in the darkness he could tell exactly where Doyle was. Pushing the curly head onto his shoulder, he hugged him tightly. "Brought back something that happened in Africa--and, no, I'm not going to tell you about it--," Doyle made an inquiring sound "-- just let me deal with it. I can handle it, 's long as you stop worrying."

"Bodie?"

"Mmm?"

"I love you. Know that don't you?"

"Yeah. Love you, too. Now can we please go back to sleep?" *Back to sleep and the darkness that lets the demons back in...*

"Bodie!"

"What now?"

"G'night."

"Good night, Ray."

A few minutes to settle themselves, arms and legs companionably meshed together, and finally he felt the uneven breathing next to him calm and slow as Doyle, trusting, succumbed to sleep.

He clung to Doyle, his eyes staring out into the darkness, desperately willing his memories--both old and new--to go back into hiding. *I should have known...*

******

"I hate knocking on doors. Too much like when I was with the Met." Doyle scrunched farther down in the passenger seat of the Capri, his facial contortions turning his usual personable features into an ugly mask.

"It's not that bad, is it, sunshine? Besides, how else are we going to find them?" Bodie put as much bonhomie into his voice as he could.

He really didn't feel like trying to gentle Doyle out of the mood he was heading for. He hadn't had much sleep the night before--listening to Ray's snuffly little snores, trying to banish the dark memories--what a way to spend the wee hours of the morning. And now this. Back to the scene of his mistake. His nightmare.

"Bloody Cowley," Doyle snorted under his breath, turning his head away and missing the stern look Bodie gave him. "Stupid, stupid reason to blow people up."

Bodie agreed with that one hundred percent. A group calling themselves The Second Revolution had kidnapped Lord Mabry, his wife and child, and held them in exchange for certain demands. *Wanting the Queen to give Scotland back to the Scots. As if she could. For that I killed three people. Don't want to remember, can't think about the bits left. Innocents dying because of me.*

"They're nutters, Bodie. And nutters are the worst of all. They have no conscience, never show remorse," Doyle's voice was flat.

"Nutters or not, innocent people died because I...because of those idiots," Bodie said, turning the key and starting the engine.

"And now we get to talk to the people who let the flat to this so-called 'army.'"

"I'll do the building they were in, you can do the one next door," Doyle decided.

"Why?"

Doyle turned around in his seat and stared at him, mouth half open in surprise. "Why what?"

"Er, nothing."

"I should think not," Doyle mumbled as he flounced back into his seat. "Christ."

"I'm all right, Doyle. I'll do the building the Cow assigned me, you'll do the one next to it. Stop trying to molly-coddle me." Bodie glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, waiting till Doyle looked back, then winked.

Doyle merely bared his teeth.

The only parking spot to be found was three roads away from the flat, and, with a resigned sigh, Bodie stopped the car. They clambered out, both eager to get it over with. *Probably be something right in front by the time we get there. Christ, I don't want to go back into that building. Can still smell the blood, all the way down here. Never want to open a door again.*

Something of what he was thinking must have shown on his face, for Doyle stopped walking and looked closely at him.

"Sure you want to do this, sunshine? I can talk to the owners, you don't have to go in there --"

"Don't fuss, Doyle. There's nothing wrong with me going in there. Just leave it--," Doyle opened his mouth again "-- I'm fine."

"Right." Doyle's face closed up.

"Ray..."

Doyle took off down the street, long legs eating up the pavement in record time. He disappeared into the flats next door to Bodie's destination almost before Bodie had taken a second breath.

He paused outside the front door.

*It's your imagination, old son. You can't smell the blood. I know they cleaned it up. Cleaned everything up, there's nothing there anymore. No more little bits. No tiny hand holding on... Christ, I don't want to do this...*

Bodie glanced around. He was already inside the building, outside the landlord's door. He was a little discomforted to realise he'd got all this way without him being aware of it.

A large lady answered his brisk knock, her more than ample charms encased in a flowered dress. She glared at him suspiciously from under a fringe of dank grey hair, grudgingly allowing him entrance when he'd shown his ID. The first words out of her mouth were a denial of anything and everything.

Bodie sighed. It was going to be a long interrogation. He could only hope Doyle was having better luck.

He'd had barely finished with the obnoxious landlady when Doyle showed up, waving two perfect sketches of the probable bombers. With the landlady grudgingly admitting that, yes, these were the two she'd let the flat to, the two men were on their way back to HQ.

"Artist lives in the flat in front there," Doyle explained gleefully. "She watched them move in. They were acting suspicious, so she paid extra attention. Husband says she watches a lot of Miss Marple and Agatha Christie on the telly."

Back at HQ, the artwork was given to Betty for copying. A scant half-hour later she handed over the results. "I've made copies for Anson and Johnson, too, if you'd pass them on for me, that would be lovely."

"Anything for you, Betty," Bodie said. "Johnson?"

"New recruit. He's being partnered with Anson."

"Poor Johnson!" Bodie said. "Probably choke to death on cigar smoke before he's thirty!" He looked from the photocopied pictures in his hands back up to his partner. "Can't believe how lucky you are, mate! These are almost as good as a photograph."

"Yeah, happens once in a while, dunnit?" Doyle blew on his nails, and brushed them against his chest, preening a little.

"Just don't get used to, Sherlock, I'm the one with all the luck around here!" Bodie swiped at Doyle's head with the papers, chuckling as his partner ducked out of the way. *Don't think about the door and what was behind it. I can handle this.*

Anson and Johnson were standing in the hallway; confusion written plainly across the younger man's face, Anson's entire posture radiating exasperation. Curious, Doyle asked what was wrong. Anson rolled his eyes as Johnson spoke up.

"You're acting as if this were all some joke."

The smiles disappeared from both faces. Bodie's teeth clenched as he turned and walked several feet down the hallway, letting Doyle enlighten him. Stupid sod had no idea. Doyle's cold voice floated down the hall.

"There's nothing funny in any of this. People were murdered, a child got blown to bits," he said. "We had to look at those *bits*. If we close our eyes, we can still see them, smeared across the floor and the walls. Bodie opened the door that set off the bomb. You think he finds it something to laugh about?"

Johnson shook his head, mouth compressed. Anson shrugged his shoulders.

"I tried to tell him. Didn't believe me."

"He'll learn. Can't think about the victims all the time, you'll end up a nutter stuck away somewhere. You have to find something to joke about. Let off some of the tension." Doyle looked at the pale young face. "This was a bad case for you to start on. You'll learn, " he repeated, "or go crazy with it."

He stared at him a moment longer before thrusting the papers at them and turning to follow his partner.

"Bit rough on him, weren't you?" Bodie asked quietly as Doyle came up behind him.

"No. I wasn't," was all Doyle answered. He rubbed his index finger comfortingly down Bodie's lower spine, the act hidden by his own body. "Let's get a cuppa, mate. I'll buy."

Bodie turned. " 'Cor, an' I reckon 'ell's freezin' up just now, too," he said in an atrocious cockney, the humour an attempted shield for his disquiet.

The rest of the day was spent trudging around the various neighbourhoods, flashing the prints, and hoping for a break that didn't materialise. By the end of the day, Bodie and Doyle bid farewell to Anson and his rather subdued trainee and turned their tired feet towards home.

"Yours or mine?" Doyle asked as he slumped back into the well-worn passenger seat.

"Mine, I think," answered Bodie. His fingers did a quick tap-dance on the steering wheel before he finally started the car and turned for his flat. "I've the bigger bed, after all." He smiled tiredly.

"Don't think I'm up to it tonight, mate," Doyle said wryly. "Even me curls are drooping."

Bodie glanced over quickly and grinned. Doyle's hair was a bit flatter than usual; his eyelids were half-mast, and his hands were resting palms up in his lap. "Drooping" was an understatement.

"I'll be happy with a cuddle and a good night's sleep," said Bodie. *And no more nightmares. Didn't want to go in that flat this morning; wish I'd let Doyle take it. Christ, then he'd've never shut up about it, worrying us both.*

He hadn't actually been able to smell the blood, of course; everything had been cleaned up and carted away by the time they started knocking on doors this morning. Inside his head, though, the stench lingered. Every time he closed his eyes he could see himself opening the door, and the carnage that resulted from his simple act. *What if it happens again? It could be Doyle behind the next door; won't know whether to open it or not. I should've never opened that door, I should've known, I...*

"Bodie!"

"What?" He blinked, then swerved the car back into the flow of traffic, away from the embankment. From the corner of his eye he saw Doyle staring at him in a mixture of horror and concern. "Sorry."

"Been sorrier if we'd ended in the Thames. Be difficult explaining that to the old man." He continued to glare at Bodie. "What the hell's the matter with you?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"That's what I said."

Receiving no answering response, Bodie glanced over at Doyle. Ray was sitting with his back against the door, arms crossed, face contorted in an image that would scare the bogeyman himself.

"I think--" Doyle began.

"Not in the bloody car, okay, Doyle?" Bodie interrupted. "Just...not now."

He was surprised when Doyle actually shut up, settled back into his seat, and kept mum the rest of the ride home.

While he was glad Doyle left it, the quiet was troubling, letting the thoughts run rampant in his brain. With great difficulty he concentrated on getting them home, following Doyle up the walk and into the flat all the while trying to ignore the screaming inside his head.

"You did it again, mate, in the car, you blanked out on me." Doyle didn't waste a minute once they were inside.

"Sorry."

"Sorry. You could have killed us, Bodie." Doyle stood in front of him, hands clenched at his sides. "You've got to talk about this--"

"Nothing to talk about." *Shuddup, Doyle.*

"What if this happens in the middle of a gun fight, eh? One of us'll end up with a bullet between the eyes. That what you want, then?"

"No." *Won't happen like that, only when it's quiet and I think. If I don't think, it's all right. Or sleep. The demons come back then.* He jerked guiltily, realising he'd done it again, and averted his eyes.

"Bodie."

"I'll take care of it." He looked back up.

"When? In between blackouts?" Doyle's fists unformed, and he wrapped his arms around himself. Bodie quickly looked away again.

"It's something I have to work through on my own."

"Why alone? I want to help. Why won't you let me?"

"It's not that important. I can handle it."

"Not alone."

"Yes."

"Not when it might kill you. Or me." Icicles could have formed in the air around that voice.

"Won't happen."

"You know that for sure, do you?"

Bodie paused. "Yeah."

"Forgive me if I don't quite believe you, then," Doyle said.

Bodie looked back up to see him heading for the front door. "Where're you going?"

"Home. It's obvious I'm not wanted here."

"No!" *Sanity. Safety. Can't leave me. Needs to be here, keep the dark away.*

"No?"

"I want you here." The words forced themselves out of his mouth.

"Not what it looks like to me."

"Is. Sorry." Bodie hadn't realised his eyes were scrunched closed until he felt the rough edges of Doyle's thumbs brushing his lashes.

"Bodie." Doyle's voice was soft, almost breathless. Warm hands cupped Bodie's face. "Let me in."

Opening his eyes, Bodie looked straight into Doyle's. He could see himself reflected in the green surface.

" 'M tired, Ray."

The tiny muscles in Doyle's jaw clenched briefly before he sighed and dropped his hands. He turned away, head drooping and headed for the bedroom.

"Ray?"

"What?" He stopped.

Silence.

Doyle turned back. "What?" he repeated.

"Nothing. Let's go to bed."

Doyle's mouth compressed, and he stalked off, back stiff. Mutely, Bodie followed him. Silently they both undressed and slid into bed. Bodie lay there, rigid, listening to Doyle breathing next to him. The bed bounced and Doyle moved closer, wrapping his arms and legs around Bodie as if to hold him there forever.

"Go to sleep, Bodie." His breath tickled. "I love you, you great berk. Now go to sleep."

Gradually Bodie relaxed, and soon he was falling asleep, the sounds of Doyle's snuffly little snores his own personal lullaby.

*Bodie opened his eyes, unable to see much in the dimness. The dust from the broken floor was still floating around him, and he coughed. Doyle was beneath him, unmoving, and Bodie carefully rolled off, gasping as his hand hit the ground. The broken finger registered in the back of his mind, along with his aching head, then was forgotten as he turned his full attention to his partner.

Both of Doyle's arms were underneath his body, and Bodie's questing hands moved around the curly head, coming away sticky with blood.

"Doyle."

There was no response. The basement was silent except for Bodie's harsh breathing and the occasional loud creak from broken wood.

"Ray!"

Bodie's fingers pressed against the side of the sweaty neck, searching desperately for a pulse. Nothing.

"Oh, Christ. RAY!"

Ignoring Doyle's possible injuries and his own throbbing finger, he flipped the limp body over onto its back, grimacing as one of the arms flopped down in a disjointed tumble.

He rested his head against Doyle's chest. Nothing. He reached into his jacket for the R/T in order to call for help, scooting in closer to Doyle, ready to start resuscitation. His pockets were empty, and he remembered setting both R/T's on a box by the front door.

Leaning down to begin blowing breath into Doyle, he stopped in mid-motion, a numb horror spreading through his mind. Doyle had no face. There was nothing under the curls but a bloody catastrophe.

And then a hole opened in that disaster and called his name.*

"Bodie!"

He jerked awake, the scene of death and destruction fading. Doyle was shaking him.

"Bodie. It's all right. Wake up."

"Sorry."

"Sounded like a nasty one," Doyle commented sluggishly as he lay back down.

"It was."

"Going to tell me about it?"

"Building blew up and we fell through the floor, I landed on you and you died," Bodie said simply.

"Here lies Raymond Doyle, squashed to death. Was just a dream, Bodie."

"You didn't have a face."

"Oh." There was a wiggling movement, and the light snapped on. Bodie blinked in the sudden brightness. Doyle was facing him, eyelids blinking sleepily. "I'm here, love. So's my face."

"Yeah." Bodie stared at him a moment longer, then closed his eyes. The light shut off with a click, and a warmth spread down one side of his body as Doyle cuddled in close. He held his breath, wondering if Ray was going to leave the conversation there. Chance'd be a fine thing...

"Mum used to say--just before smacking me for something-- that if she didn't love me, she wouldn't care that I was such a damn tearaway." Doyle paused.

"I'm listening." Bodie said, when nothing else was forthcoming.

"I want you to talk, mate, not listen. Point is, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't be worried about what's going on inside that noggin of yours."

"Nothing."

"Bodie..."

"Leave off, Ray."

"No." Doyle tightened his arm around Bodie's chest. "Not this time. This time you're going to talk to me about it. There was no way you could've known that door was rigged to blow when it was opened. You keep blaming yourself for something that is not your fault."

"That's not the problem." Even though he said it under his breath, he knew Doyle heard.

"Then what is the problem?" His voice was rough with a mixture of worry, love and exasperation.

"I'm afraid it'll happen again only I'll kill you this time. I don't think I can protec-- watch your back properly any more." He was in a rush to get it all out.

"Ah, Bodie." Doyle heaved himself off the bed and settled on top of Bodie, thighs tightly grasping the broad hips. He wormed his arms under the wide back and tucked his head down, mouth close to Bodie's ear. "I trust you all the way, love. All the way. I'm not afraid it'll happen again, and I'm not afraid to have you watching my back."

"But --"

"No. I trust you, Bodie-love. I trust you with my life and my body and my heart," he whispered softly.

Bodie moaned softly, deep in the back of his throat and turned his head, mouth searching blindly for Doyle's. *I'm so tired...* A long, moist kiss, then he eased the slighter body off him and nestled in close, his arms wrapped tightly around Doyle.

"I'm tired, sweetheart."

"I know," Doyle said softly. "Go to sleep." He kissed the tip of Bodie's nose.

"Mmmmm."

A shrill ringing jerked them both out of a sound sleep. Bodie fumbled for the phone, knocking it loudly onto the floor. Grumbling, he reached down and picked up the receiver, flipping the light on with his other hand.

"Bodie."

"They've surfaced again. Same demands, no hostages. Yet." On the other end of the line, Cowley's voice was brusque and quietly angry. "I want you and Doyle in here now."

"Yes, sir," Bodie said dully. *Not again. God, not again.* "They're threatening, but don't have hostages?" The lump next to him buried itself deeper under the duvet, one hand coming to rest on his thigh.

"They're threatening to blow up Harrods if their demands aren't met." Without another word the phone was slammed down in Bodie's ear.

Fingers pinched his thigh, and he reached under the duvet, grabbing the errant hand.

"Oi, mate, those're my fingers you're crushing!" Doyle's tousled head appeared, followed by green eyes blinking sleepily. He turned towards the clock. "Four in the morning! Mad bombers don't sleep any more than the Cow," he grumbled. "Where are they, who've they got, and where are we going?"

"Dunno, nobody yet, HQ." *Can't do this.*

"Eh?"

Without looking at him Bodie slowly repeated what Cowley had said. The bed shifted as Doyle got up and padded naked out to the kitchen.

"Start the shower. I'll put on the kettle and join you," he said over his shoulder.

For a moment Bodie couldn't move. He kept seeing himself opening the door and the carnage that resulted. Even though they didn't have hostages--yet--, there was still the possibility it could happen again.

"Bodie! Shower!" Doyle yelled from the other room.

*Right. I can't do this. I can't. Going to get somebody killed. Ray. Myself. No loss, that.* Christ. Stiffly, Bodie got up, dread in his heart at what the day might bring.

They made it into Cowley's office some thirty minutes later. He was in a sour mood.

"We've had a report the bombers have been seen. 6.2 has already started out, along with Lucas and McCabe. Doyle, Bodie, you'll take 9.4 and 8.7 with you. Anson and 7.9"-- the young Johnson--"are also on their way. You'll meet there." He handed over a sheet of paper to Doyle and glared at his two senior men. "I want those madmen alive, gentlemen. Try to remember that. I want to know if they're doing this on their own, or someone bigger is behind it. Is that clear?" Four heads nodded silently. "Then what are you waiting for?"

"Nothing, sir." Bodie turned and walked out the door, Doyle following behind. Starting to say something, Bodie glanced back, saw the thundercloud that had taken up residence on Doyle's face, and promptly shut his mouth.

Bodie climbed into the Capri. His partner was already slouched down in the passenger seat, glaring out at the sky as though he blamed it for every little trouble the day was going to bring.

Once they were settled, Bodie started the car, placed both hands on the wheel and turned to Doyle. "Where to, sir?" Joke. *Be funny. Maybe it'll all go away. Maybe this is another nightmare. Pinch me, Ray, wake me up. Oh, Christ, please wake me up.*

"You're not going to believe this, mate." Even Doyle's curls radiated the disbelief apparent in his voice.

"Try me."

"They've rented a flat around the corner from the one they blew up. Our artist saw them when she was coming back from the newsagent's this morning."

"Out and about early, isn't she?"

"She and the Cow'd make a great team. Neither sleeps," Doyle said wryly. "Hard to believe anybody'd be that stupid. Can't think there's anyone pulling strings behind 'em, can you?"

"Never." Bodie put the car in gear and they took off.

Fingers tapped lightly on his thigh and were just as rapidly withdrawn. He looked over to find Doyle studying him closely. Giving what he hoped was a reassuring grin, he continued on into the busy morning traffic, thoughts buzzing around in his tired brain. The sound of Doyle speaking quietly into the R/T was a soothing background murmur he made sure not to lose track of. There'd be no almost-accidents on this trip.

Pulling up halfway down the street from the block of flats that was their ultimate destination, Bodie stayed put after turning off the ignition. The cars containing their fellow agents were nearby, and bodies spilled out of the various vehicles when the Capri was sighted.

"What do we do now, then?" Bodie directed the question to the empty space above his head. He was not eager to get out of the car.

"We knock on doors till we find the right one. You're stalling, mate."

"Let's go and get 'em then." Bodie opened the door.

"Alive, Bodie, remember what Father said," admonished Doyle.

"You're the terror with the handgun, sunshine, *you* remember it."

Once inside they split up, two men to a section, one on each side of the hallway.

Starting at one end of the hall, Bodie stood with his fist poised to knock, watching as Doyle loped down to the other end. He tried to wish Doyle to turn around, just for extra reassurance. Not that he needed it. *Can't happen twice, can it? Won't. Not again. If they blow anyone up this time, it will just be themselves, right? They don't have hostages this time. Unless they open the door and twig the game's up. Grab Doyle and ...*

"Hssssst."

Bodie turned his head. Doyle was at his door, giving Bodie a cheeky grin. Feeling a ridiculous sense of security, Bodie smiled back. "Shall we see what's behind door number one, then?" he muttered and knocked. *Don't think about it. Don't think of all the innocent people in this building. All potential hostages. Christ. All possible bits and pieces.*

There were no surprises behind any of the doors on this floor, for him or Doyle, and as one they traipsed up the stairs to the next level.

"Ever notice how many of these bloody places have lifts out of order?" Bodie asked as they trudged upward.

"Yeah, most of 'em," replied Doyle.

At the next level, Doyle's hand on Bodie's arm held him back for a moment. "Okay?"

Bodie nodded. "Yeah. Don't fuss, Ray. Told you I've got it under control. Got you here, didn't I?"

Doyle just grunted and moved on. Bodie rapped against still another door, smiling slightly as it was opened to reveal a striking brunette. His smile quickly faded as he looked closer.

She was standing inside the room, an agonised look on her face and as Bodie stared the door opened just far enough for him to see the gun pressing into the dark head. She was yanked back, and the subject of the first portrait motioned Bodie in. He glanced up the hall to where Doyle was talking with another flat-owner. Neither were looking in his direction.

He dropped his R/T on the poorly carpeted floor and moved into the room, shoving the door closed behind him. The soft thud made by the R/T hitting the floor was covered by the louder snick of the latch, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Doyle would know something was wrong.

"Sorry, Mr --," she began miserably.

"Shuddup and get in the other room." The man holding the gun to her head gave her a shove, then pointed it at Bodie. "Get going then."

*Oh, shit. I knew it. Knew this would happen. Gotta get us out of here. Now we're the hostages. They'll blow us to bits. Will they wire the door? What if Ray opens it? Blows us up. Oh, Christ, he won't be able to stand it, it'll kill him. Gotta get us out of here, gotta--*

The painful prod of the gun in his kidney yanked him back to the present. "I said move!"

"That's great. Okay, give tall, dark and handsome here a look, Debbie, see if he's carrying."

Bodie watched, dumbstruck, as the supposed hostage came over and patted him down, removing the gun from his shoulder holster. "Yeah." More stroking and she came away with his ID, which she examined closely before glancing at Michael triumphantly. "We have a hostage, Michael. He's CI5."

*There were three of them. Nobody knew about her. Oldest trick in the book; I should have known.*

"Lovely. How's David doing with the bombs?"

"He's about done." She led the way into the second room, the others behind her. Inside, David was tinkering at a small table and he looked up grinning as they came in.

"All done. We going to blow him up instead?"

"I think we can do both. Him and Harrods. Stupid city won't know what hit 'em! Tie him up and --"

"We can't do it the same way though," David interrupted.

"Eh?"

"I did these bombs with timers. Can't rig it to the door."

"Doesn't matter. Set it for fifteen minutes after we leave."

*No. No. No.* Bodie casually moved so his back was against the wall. *It's not going to happen this way. I can't let it. Ray...oh, God. He'll find me. Bits and pieces of me. Pieces and bits. Slimy, bloody...stop. Stop it.*

Debbie was busy with a sheet from the bed, cutting and ripping it violently into strips. She looked up. "Tie him with these."

She handed several pieces to David who trussed Bodie tightly, hands in front of him. *Don't notice you just made it easier for me. Always cover your back. Even if it's by a wall.* Bodie carefully kept his face blank as his feet were strapped together and he was shoved to the floor.

"Ready?" Michael asked. David nodded and set the bomb on the floor between Bodie's knees. "Then let's go."

As they hurried through the door, shutting it behind them, red numbers blinked up at Bodie. 13:98. 13:97.

Quickly Bodie began gnawing at the strips around his wrists. *Such faith I have. Why bother? Think I'll get myself out of this mess, don't I? Bloody sheets. Bloody bomb. Hell, it's going to be a bloody mess. Come on, Bodie. What'll Ray do if he has to clean up all the bits? You can do it, Bodie. 10:32. You have to. Christ.*

His jaw was in agony by the time he'd finished tearing through the fabric. Wiggling his fingers, he took a deep breath to steady himself and bent over the bomb.

4:13. There was a sudden uproar in the other room, but he ignored it, all attention on the mess of wires in front of him. *Thank God that David wasn't particular about appearance. If he'd put the bomb in a container... one that needed tools...I can do this. Maybe. Too many wires. So many colours. Breathe you stupid berk. You were trained for this. Don't fucking blow it again! Ray...* He pulled the red wire.

The explosion was loud in his ears, and it took a moment for him to realise he was still in one piece. Whatever had blown up, it wasn't in *this* room. *Ray...*

"Bodie!" Ray.

"Bodie!"

*I'll have to remember to tell Ray he shrieks.*

Thumps were coming from the other room, and suddenly there was Doyle, covered in grime, his green eyes wide with a kind of horror. Behind him Johnson leaned against the doorjamb, vomit still wet on the front of his jacket.

"Bodie." It was a whisper. His face paled beneath the dust as he saw the dismantled bomb between Bodie's thighs. "I wasn't sure...thought the explosion was in here too. They blew themselves up, the stupid mugs. Came through the front door, saw us right outside. They tried to get back inside, one carrying the bomb tripped..."

He reached down with his penknife to slice through the sheets wrapped around Bodie's ankles. He continued in a whisper, his mouth close to Bodie's ear. "You're all right, love. You did it." He tugged at Bodie's arm, encouraging him to stand up. "Come on Bodie, hop it. We'll fall apart later, right? Come on, love."

*I did it.*

"Need to have you checked out by the doctor--"

"I'm fine, Doyle," Bodie said.

"You don't want to look at that," Johnson said weakly as Bodie started for the outer room.

"Don't, mate," Doyle agreed. "You've already seen it once."

Bodie stopped and swallowed thickly. "Yeah...Yeah." He looked deeply into the shocked green eyes in front of him. "Could've been me--"

"No! Don't say it, Bodie. Just... don't say it." Doyle glanced behind him. "Cow's here. Now we're in for it."

Bodie didn't know why, but in the ensuing ninety minutes Cowley never once raised his voice. Perhaps it was the looks on the faces of his agents, or maybe his understanding of how close some of them had come to oblivion. Questions were asked quietly, and answers just as subdued were given. Cowley had taken one look as he passed through the bloody living room, then left it to forensics. He, too, had seen it before.

Given leave to go, Doyle took hold of a rather wobbly Bodie and steered him back out to the car.

"Want me to drive?" Doyle asked.

Bodie shook his head. "I'm all right."

"Hope so." Doyle was silent for long time, then, "I'm dirty. Stupid buggers." Another long pause. "When they turned to go back inside, the woman, she said something about the other bomb in the bedroom. I realised they'd hooked you up. When the bomb in the front room exploded...for a second I thought..." His voice trailed off.

"I know. I defused it though. Got out okay." Bodie stopped the car. They were home.

"Bodie."

"We beat 'em." He smiled. "Inside sweetheart, you can have a bath, get the dirt off you. Come on. I'll scrub your back. I want to make sure what I'm guarding is clean."

"Bodie."

"I know. Come on, Ray. We can keep each other's nightmares away."

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