No Matter What
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Epilogue for 'Discovered in a graveyard.'
Bodie's footsteps echoed loudly as he pounded down the corridor toward Doyle's hospital room. Pushing open the door, he was startled when a nurse appeared in front of him, her small hand pressing against his chest, pushing him back into the hallway. Bodie's heart clenched.
"What's wrong? What's happened?"
The nurse smiled and closed the door before speaking to him. "Everything's all right, Mr. Bodie. Mr. Doyle woke up a few minutes ago. The doctor's in with him, removing the ventilator. If you wait a few minutes, he'll come out and speak to you."
Bodie nodded, though he had to force himself not to push past her and enter the room. He turned and strode over to the window, gazing out on the steel-gray morning. It was raining again. Nothing new. Except there was, he reminded himself. Ray was alive and Mayli Koulo was dead.
He'd felt sympathy for the young woman as he'd sat beside her in the ambulance when she took her final shuddered breath. Sadness that one so young could hate so much. She'd said she was glad Doyle would make it, and it struck Bodie now that when he'd told her that Doyle would survive, he'd known somehow that it was not just a platitude to a dying woman. He'd known.
He paced the long corridor, checking the clock set high on the wall from time to time, muttering curses at the doctor who was forcing him into stasis. It was not something Bodie did well. His palms hurt and he looked down absently to see small crimson half-moons of blood oozing from where he'd clenched his hands into tight fists. He needed to be up and doing.
If Ray could see him now, his partner would chastise him for his uncharacteristic impatience. Bodie was the one who thought things through to their logical end, weighed up the pros and cons. "Too cool, you are," he'd told Bodie on more than one occasion. His expressive eyes would crinkle in tolerant amusement, knowing nothing he said would change Bodie from who he was.
On the job, it was Ray who was hotheaded, charging headlong into situations, with no thought for the outcome, led by his heart and not his head. Bodie worried that his partner thought too deeply, got too involved with the people they dealt with, both crims and public alike.
Off-duty, they seemed to switch personalities. A faint smile twitched Bodie's lips, as he remembered evenings spent with Doyle after a tough case. Ray would be content to sprawl on the sofa in his flat in front of the TV, allowing his body to wind down after the exertions of the job. Bodie, on the other hand, would be edgy with still-unburned adrenaline, urging his partner to come to the pub, pull a couple of birds for the night.
Ray, smiling lazily, would wave him off, press a beer into his hand and push him down onto the couch, tuning the TV into a football game. Most times, Bodie would wake up there the next morning, a blanket tossed over his recumbent body, with no memory of falling asleep. Only now did Bodie allow himself the realization that there might have been no more nights like that. Of course not once had he ever told his partner how he wished he'd woken up in Ray's bed instead, that the women they dated and bedded had never been what he'd truly wanted.
Seeing Ray laying on the floor of his apartment, his clothes covered in blood, his eyes half open but unseeing, Bodie had the fleeting thought that if Ray died, he couldn't go on himself. It was a fanciful notion, and more suited to his romantic partner than himself. Still, Bodie realized he could finally admit to himself that he loved Ray Doyle with all his heart and soul. Of course, brave man that he was; he knew he couldn't admit it to Ray.
They were so different, he and Doyle. The first time he'd met the curly-haired ex-policeman, he'd just about stormed back into Cowley's office and demanded a real partner. Chalk and cheese, Cowley said, but each complemented the other, filling in what lacked, like two halves of one soul.
"Mr. Bodie?" The doctor's summons pulled him from his fanciful musings and Bodie crossed to the door to meet him.
"How is he?" he asked without preamble.
The doctor raised an elegant eyebrow at the abrupt tone. "He's conscious, breathing on his own. He's still extremely weak and a little confused. Seemed to think he was dead, but we've finally managed to convince him otherwise."
Bodie felt his legs tremble and drew in a deep breath as the world did a slow roll then righted itself. "Can I see him?"
"Of course, for a short time. I'm about to phone Mr. Cowley. He asked that he be informed of any change. Unless you'd like to call him?"
Bodie shook his head, his hand already reaching past the doctor to push open the door. "I need to see my partner." He didn't wait for a response.
Doyle's eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling gently as he slept. Bodie dropped into the chair beside the bed and studied him carefully. Before this, he'd been too focused on finding who'd done this, too burned up with rage at the injustice of it all to really see Doyle. Now, his breath caught in his throat at the sight before him.
Ray looked terrible in the harsh glare of the overhead light. His skin was a ghastly gray, made starker by the blue-black circles that framed his eyes. His cheeks looked gaunt, his forehead lined with deep grooves of exhaustion and pain. Bodie leaned forward in the seat and stroked his hand gently over Ray's where it rested atop the bandages covering the incision in his chest.
Green eyes fluttered open and Doyle's head flopped over to face him. Bodie smiled. "Hello, sunshine. Done enough napping, have we?"
Doyle's forehead wrinkled as though in confusion. "Bodie?" He coughed weakly, choked, then gasped as the movements incited pain.
Bodie squeezed Doyle's hand gently. There was a small cup on the bedside cupboard filled with ice chips. Bodie spooned a few into Doyle's mouth. His partner closed his eyes as he sucked carefully on the cool moisture.
"Girl?" he finally managed to husk out.
"Dead." Bodie couldn't see the point in beating around the bush. "She went after Lin-Foh. One of our boys got her."
Doyle's eyes opened and Bodie could see the sorrow that flitted across his face. "I don't understand… Not dead?" His hand tapped his chest gently, and he frowned.
"No, you're not dead. Nearly, but I told the doctor you were too stubborn to die."
A solitary tear snaked down Ray's cheek and Bodie brushed it away. "What's wrong?" he asked anxiously. "Are you in pain?"
Doyle shook his head. "Should feel something for the girl," he whispered, his eyes closing. "Should feel something."
Bodie watched him drift into sleep, Ray's eyes moving restlessly beneath the lids, as they had done when he was in the coma. "Don't worry about it now," he whispered. "I'm feeling enough for both of us."
It had been a long week, Bodie thought. He slumped tiredly against the back wall of the elevator. Cowley had partnered him with a new man while Doyle was on the sick list. Danny Russell was a good agent. He was also cocky and impetuous. A lot like Doyle himself, he thought wryly. That was the trouble. He wasn't Doyle. Russell couldn't second-guess Bodie's actions without a single word being exchanged between them.
He'd stormed into Cowley's office the night before, ready to argue, after Russell's refusal to obey Bodie's order to wait had almost resulted in a hostage getting her head blown off. To his surprise, Cowley waved him into a chair and poured him a scotch.
Sipping at his own drink, Cowley leaned back in his seat and eyed Bodie thoughtfully. "How's Doyle coming along?"
"Fine, sir. Physically, he's on his feet and the doctor's letting him come home tomorrow. He'll be off work for two weeks, then desk duty for four." Bodie shifted impatiently, his eyes narrowing. "But you already know all that. What's up, sir? I wanted to talk to you about partnering Russell with someone else. I don't think I can be trusted not to pull my gun and shoot him next time he does something as daft as this morning."
Cowley waved the aggressive comment away. "We'll get to that. About Doyle. Has he discussed the shooting with you?"
"No, sir. Not really. I mean, I filled him in on what happened with Mayli Koulo and Colonel Lin-Foh, but I got the distinct impression he didn't want to know. Is there a problem?"
"The doctor thinks he needs to see a counselor. I'm inclined to agree with him. He's still suffering nightmares about the shooting and is ambivalent about returning to work."
"Can't say I blame him," Bodie muttered. He sat forward and placed his empty glass on the desk. "You said it yourself, sir. Ray's an idealist. That woman could have been a serial killer, and Ray would find a way of blaming himself for her crimes. He's still weak from the surgery, still recovering. He'll get over it."
"I see you have leave owing."
"Don't I always?"
Cowley nodded. "Finalize your reports, Bodie. I want them on my desk by five o'clock today. Hand Russell over to Murphy. I want you to take a week off."
Bodie was taken aback. "Sir?"
"Doyle's being discharged tomorrow. He's going to need someone to get him settled at home, do his shopping and the like for a few days."
"Yes, sir." Bodie stood. "Is that all, sir?"
"Try to convince him of the need to see a counselor. I can arrange it through the office or he can see someone privately. He's a good man. I don't want to lose him."
"You won't, sir. He'll come around."
"I wish I had your faith, Bodie. Right then, get those reports done."
Bodie gave him a snappy salute, relieved as much at the prospect of not having the annoying Russell traipsing at his heels as the thought of a week off. "Yes, sir."
Bodie exited the elevator on the second floor and ambled up to the desk, his gaze roving with unconscious habit over the pretty new nurse seated behind the counter, but somewhat surprised to find he felt no stirrings of interest in his groin. He leaned over to peer at her nametag, using the opportunity to give her his most charming smile. "Name's Bodie, Nurse Johnson. I'm here to pick up Ray Doyle."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Bodie." The girl gave him a bright smile that revealed enchanting dimples in her cheeks. "The doctor's just signing his discharge papers. You can wait in his room, if you'd like. I'll bring the papers in with the wheelchair."
Bodie smiled again and headed for Doyle's room. The bed was empty, but he could hear the shower running in the adjacent bathroom. He thought about popping his head into the bathroom to let Doyle know he was there, then abandoned the idea, unsure how his body might react to the sight of a naked Doyle. Plopping down into the chair by the bed, Bodie picked up a magazine and thumbed idly through it.
The bathroom door opened a few minutes later, and Ray came shambling into the room. He still walked a little hunched over, one hand wrapped gingerly around his chest. He was dressed in jeans, his shirt hanging unbuttoned over them, his hair a frizzled, damp halo around his face. He startled, wavering on his feet when Bodie stood, and the chair legs squeaked on the linoleum floor. Bodie was by his side instantly, a hand grasping Ray's flailing one as the other man sought to keep his balance.
"Easy does it, mate. Didn't mean to give you a fright."
"You didn't. I just didn't realize you were in here." The perpetual scowl that seemed to grace Doyle's face so often in the past week fueled Bodie's impatience. He forced it back down as Doyle pulled his arm away. Ray walked carefully to the bed and sat on the edge, rubbing in irritation at the livid scars on his chest.
"I think you're one up on Cowley in the scar department," Bodie said as he got his first good look at the damage done by the bullets and the surgeon's knife.
That raised a tired smile. "Think I'll be able to get more girls with this one?"
"Well, you could pretend…"
"…That you got it doing something really dangerous," Doyle finished with him, and Bodie grinned in relief.
The old Doyle was still in there - just taking a breather away from the pain and horror of all that had befallen him.
"Sorry," Doyle added. "I'm just tired. I didn't sleep much last night."
"Excited about getting out of here, I bet." Bodie picked up Ray's overnight bag and slung it over his shoulder.
"I suppose." Ray's fingers picked idly at the bedspread. "Bad dreams, mostly."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Doyle's eyes flashed green ice as he looked up. "No, I don't want to talk about it! I lived through it, and Mayli Koulo died. I just don't need to relive it over and over. Is that why you're here? Did Cowley put you up to this? I already told him and the bloody doctor that I don't need to see a shrink about this. It's over. Leave it alone, Bodie."
Bodie was taken aback by the vehemence of Doyle's words. He leaned in and helped Doyle slide off the bed as the door opened and the nurse pushed a wheelchair into the room. "I'm here because I'm your partner and you're my best friend. Now, are you ready to go home or not?"
Doyle looked properly ashamed of his outburst as he shifted his hand from his ribs and reached for Bodie's, squeezing it softly. "Sorry. I really am."
Bodie nodded and steered Doyle into the waiting wheelchair. Taking the sheaf of prescriptions from the nurse, he gave his partner a smile. "Let's get the hell out of here."
He could feel her hot, panting breaths as she leaned over him. He shivered against the cold steel of the muzzle pressed against the back of his head and struggled to raise his hands to push it away, to move, to scream in protest.
'Don't! I'm not ready to die! Bodie! Where are you?'
Doyle woke to darkness, a shout lodged in his throat. Sitting up laboriously, he could smell the stench of fear coating his skin, and feel cold sweat drenching his shirt. He dragged in a gasping breath, blinking away the last remnants of the nightmare as he realized he was home, in his bed.
The flat was silent; the bedroom, dim, the darkened corners forbidding and ominous. Doyle scrubbed a trembling hand through his damp, lank curls and pushed the covers aside. He sat on the edge of the bed and stared in trepidation at the partly opened door. Abruptly he stood and lurched out into the living room, his eyes searching for his partner.
"Bodie?" His voice rasped painfully from his dry throat, and he felt fear clench his stomach when there was no reply.
He remembered coming home, remembered Bodie being here, or had all that been a dream too? His thoughts felt slow and unwieldy. His gaze stole unbidden to the floor beneath the window and he turned away so quickly that he lost his balance and wobbled precariously for a moment before righting himself. The front door swung open and his heart pounded painfully in his chest.
"Sorry, I took so long. I was trying to convince the woman at the dry cleaners -" Bodie stood in the open doorway, a paper bag of groceries clutched in his arms. "Ray? You all right?"
Doyle's hand went to his chest, attempting to massage away the cramp that gripped him. He felt his knees buckle as blackness encroached on his sight. A strong arm wrapped around his waist. Bodie led him to the couch, and he was pushed gently down, his forehead pressed against his knees.
"Back in a tick."
He nodded as Bodie moved away. He heard water running in the kitchen. Shaking violently, he attempted to slow his breathing and will away the faintness that threatened to sweep him into oblivion.
A glass was placed in his hand and he raised his head, grateful when Bodie's hand remained clasped around his own as he brought the water to his lips. He sipped, choked, sipped again, and sighed as the cold water soothed his sore throat. He nodded his thanks, trying to get a hold on his emotions, but the nod became a full body tremble and hot tears suddenly spilled down his cheeks.
Bodie took the glass and set it on the coffee table, then crouched in front of him, his hands grasping Ray's upper arms tightly. "Ray? What happened?"
"Where were you?" The words stuttered out from between his trembling lips. "I woke up and you were gone."
Bodie frowned. His grasp on Doyle's arms loosened and he shifted to sit beside him. "Don't you remember? You said you were going to have a sleep, and I told you I was going to the shops to get some food."
"I forgot," Doyle croaked miserably. He felt chilled to the bone and wrapped his arms around his shivering body in a vain attempt to get warm. Bodie pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and draped it over his shoulders. Doyle snuggled gratefully into its comforting warmth.
"The drugs fuck my head up," Ray continued, rubbing fretfully at his forehead. His headache pounded in concert with his heartbeat. "I couldn't figure out what was real and what was a dream." His gaze shifted fearfully back to that spot on the floor. "I was dying right there on the floor, and I couldn't make you hear me."
"I'm sorry." Bodie's voice sounded as forlorn as his own did. "I got here as fast as I could."
Doyle reached out and touched his hand. "I know." He stood, wrapping the blanket more closely about him. "When I come out here, I couldn't help looking there." He focused on the window in front of him, refusing to give in and be dragged back to the place where he’d lain.
"Do you want to go to your mum's? I could run you down there this afternoon."
"My place then? No bother. I can sleep on the couch."
"How long? As long as you want." Bodie shifted forward on the couch, clasping his hands together on his knees. "Or how long until it gets better?"
"I know I have to face it sometime."
"You're right," Bodie agreed. "And you never will until you can talk about it." He stood before Doyle could make a further protest. "I'm going to make a cuppa. You want one?"
Doyle nodded. He roamed the room while Bodie made the tea, letting the soothing sounds of normality calm him. Bodie placed the steaming cups on the coffee table and sat back on the couch, motioning for Doyle to join him, waiting until he did before asking, "You had another nightmare?"
Doyle shifted away from his partner imperceptibly, his tension returning. "I don't want to talk about it."
He heard Bodie's pained sigh.
"I had a dream, a vision or something while I was in the hospital," Doyle finally said. "I was trying to decide whether it was worth coming back. The pain, the frustration that no matter what we do, there's always someone else out there, willing and able to fire the next gun, trigger the next bomb."
"You chose to live."
Doyle turned slightly to face Bodie. "What if I made the wrong choice? I don't want to be terrified for the rest of my life about what's around the next corner, afraid to open my own front door, scared to be here alone."
"You're not alone," Bodie said. "I'm here, for as long as you need."
"You have to go home sometime."
Bodie picked up his cup and sipped at the brew with a thoughtful expression on his face. "Use the dreams, visions, whatever they were, as a positive thing. Right choice or wrong, you're alive. That's all that matters. Face the demons now before they swallow you whole."
Doyle sat back and rested his head against the couch. "When did you become such a philosopher?"
"Since the regular philosopher went out on sick leave. I'm not very good at this heart to heart stuff, Ray. That's your forte. Besides, I'm just being selfish. I want my partner back at work with me."
Bodie turned toward his friend. He reached out tentatively and brushed a strand of hair from Ray's eyes. "What do you mean?"
Doyle's gaze shifted to look at him. He reached up, capturing Bodie's hand, holding it gently in a warm grip against his face. "Dying forces you make decisions," he said softly. "You'd think in this job, knowing there's a chance some nutter who has a bullet with your name on it could be waiting around the corner, that you'd have your affairs in order, make sure you've done and said everything you needed to, so there'd be no regrets when you're gone."
Doyle held up their entwined hands, silencing Bodie's protest then settled them on his lap. "If I don't say this now, I'll always regret it and I've learned the hard way not to regret leaving anything unsaid." He sat up and released Bodie's hand, raising his own to rest it against Bodie's face. "The one thing that made my decision, that made me want to come back was you. I couldn't bear the thought of never seeing you again, and I couldn't stand the idea of not telling you that I love you." He gave one of those beautiful, whimsical smiles that always made Bodie's heart melt. "Doesn't matter what you think about it. We're good mates, closer than mates so I know you're not going to be disgusted at me for saying it. Doesn't matter either that I know you can't return my feelings." He gave a wide grin. "Would have the birds in mourning if they thought we were both off the circuit." He leaned back against the couch again and closed his eyes wearily. "All that matters is you know."
"Ray…" Bodie leaned closer to his partner, his entire body shaking. Stretching just that little bit further, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Ray's. Ray's mouth smiled against his own and they kissed gently, chastely for a moment then Bodie pulled back, wrapping his arms around Doyle and pulling him forward to rest against his chest.
Ray's hand stroked across Bodie's chest, stirring his arousal. "You dumb berk," Doyle said around a chuckle. His voice sounded lazy, peaceful… and as sexy as hell. "Why didn't you say something?"
Bodie dropped a kiss onto Doyle's tousled curls. "I didn't have a near death experience to give me an epiphany," he reminded his partner.
"Real death," Doyle shot back. "Nothing near about it."
"Depends on your point of view," Bodie argued, simply out of habit. "But you were there," he conceded.
"So, where do we go from here?" Doyle sat up, his green eyes studying Bodie intently, and a little lasciviously.
"Not to bed," Bodie said firmly, willing his cock to behave. He pressed a shushing finger to Ray's mouth when he opened it in the expected protest. "Not just yet. I'm not going to get this far with you, only to have to haul your skinny arse back to the hospital."
Doyle sucked Bodie's finger into his mouth, smiling in satisfaction when Bodie shuddered. "Skinny?" he commented around his mouthful, raising an eyebrow.
"But drop-dead gorgeous," Bodie added.
Doyle let his finger go with a slurp. "Still…"
Bodie carded a hand through Doyle's curls, thrilled at last to be able to run his fingers through the silky locks the way he'd always dreamed. "You need to talk to someone, Raymond, about what happened, so you - we can move on."
Ray studied Bodie's concerned face for a long moment then nodded. He leaned back again, closing his eyes, no longer feeling bereft when he felt Bodie's hand enclose his own in a firm grasp. Bodie's thumb stroked a hypnotic pattern over the back of Ray's hand. He felt exhausted, drowsy. He closed his eyes, drifting a little, conscious of Bodie's comforting presence beside him. "She was here when I got home. I saw her as I walked in the door…."
TWO MONTHS LATER:
Two months of professional therapy and Bodie's constant reassurances and loving care might have obliterated Ray Doyle's nightmares and eased Cowley's mind, but there was nothing like the real thing to prove to yourself that you were truly recovered.
Doyle edged toward the door of the warehouse. His gun felt like a ton weight in his hand and he tightened his grip as sweat slicked his palm. Inside, gunshots echoed deafeningly. He had no idea what he was walking into, only that Bodie was in there, wounded and pinned down. Doyle licked dry lips, and willed his gun hand to stay steady. He had two advantages - the element of surprise and his partner's faith in him.
He raised one leg and kicked the door in. He followed through, stepping into the doorway and bringing his weapon up to aim squarely at the chest of Tom Cunningham. "Drop the gun, Cunningham."
The beefy man hesitated, his gaze flicking to the left. Doyle caught the look. He spun and fired in the same motion. Bert Dawson dropped to the ground, clutching at his shoulder. His Beretta skittered across the floor to land at Doyle's feet.
Doyle turned back to Cunningham before the other man could make a move. "Drop the gun and kick it over here," he ordered.
Cunningham did as he was told, then slowly raised his hands. The sound of footsteps had Doyle on the alert again, his eyes searching the darkness beyond. He relaxed as Bodie stumbled into view, one hand clutching a bloody shoulder.
"We're clear," Doyle shouted over his shoulder.
Bodie lowered himself to the floor and leaned his head back wearily against the wall, closing his eyes. Doyle waited until Murphy and Russell took control of the two prisoners, then made his way to his partner's side.
"You all right, Bodie?"
Bodie nodded. "Yeah, knew you'd get here eventually."
Doyle gently peeled back Bodie's bloodstained shirt and frowned at the bullet wound that still sluggishly oozed blood. "I'll get an ambulance."
Bodie shrugged his uninjured shoulder. "It's nothing. Just a scratch."
Doyle suddenly felt exhausted. He lowered himself to sit beside his partner, his pose mirroring Bodie's. "You're right."
Bodie's eyes opened, studied him. "I am? What about?"
"It's just a scratch. You're never going to get my sympathy with something as pitiful as that."
Bodie watched Doyle's undressing with undisguised interest as he lay on the bed, supporting himself on his elbows. Doyle gave him a glare. "Down, William," he ordered.
Bodied frowned back. "I thought I told you never to call me that."
Doyle grinned and pointed at him. "I was talking to wee William," he said with a smirk.
Bodie wrapped a fist lightly around his cock, stroking slowly up and down the length. "Nothing wee about Willy here," he said. He had to suddenly tighten his grip just below to the head, almost to the point of pain, when his own touch coupled with the alluring sight of his lover, gloriously naked and very erect, almost made him come all over the bed like a randy teenager. " Come here," he said, his voice hoarse, " Let me prove it."
Doyle shook his head reprovingly though he moved quickly enough to the bed and stretched out beside Bodie. "Doctor said no strenuous activity for another week," he chided. Maddeningly he ran a hand along Bodie's nearest thigh, just stopping short of his balls.
"Prick tease," Bodie grumbled even as his body responded and his hips arched toward the addicting touch.
Doyle tried on an offended look. "Never let it be said -" he replied before he leaned forward and devoured Bodie's cock to the hilt.
Bodie shouted at the surprise attack, his buttocks coming off the bed of their own volition in an attempt to push his dick further into Doyle's hot, wet mouth. Doyle pressed him back down with one arm across Bodie's hips then got back to the business of sucking Bodie's brains out through his cock.
"Oh God," Bodie muttered, thrashing his head from side to side on the pillow. "So good, Ray, you're so fucking good."
One of Doyle's hand grasped Bodie's penis at the base while he sucked along the rigid length, and the other cupped Bodie's balls, fondling them, and then stole further back to stroke his perineum.
Bodie felt his orgasm boiling through him, coursing fire along his veins, his finish leaving him shuddering, spent and deliciously sated. He reached down and tugged gently on Doyle's curls, waiting until Doyle looked up, swiping one hand across his mouth.
"You're right," Doyle said. "Not so wee Willy after all."
Bodie gave a self-satisfied smirk. "Told you. Now what about little Raymond then?" He reached out and took Ray's cock in hand, feeling it lengthen considerably under his touch. "Doyle," he scolded as he leaned in to take Ray's mouth in a fierce kiss. "You've been downplaying your attributes."
"Well, we both love a bit of competition, don't we?" Doyle said smugly. He reached up with both hands and cupped Bodie's face. I love you, Bodie. I'm so glad I'm here to tell you that."