Between the Lines



(during "Mixed Doubles")


Mixed Doubles - a wonderful episode, and this too slight a story to do it justice. But who could watch that scene with Towser when he rips open Doyle's T-shirt with a knife and Bodie reacts in protective anger, and not yearn to know more? Contains a couple of fanciful descriptions of Doyle - who has a beauty difficult to capture with a pen and yet I kept on trying - efforts which sometimes came back to haunt me in parodic compilations such as Doyle, the Green-Eyed Beauty - where my own words feature far too often for comfort :)

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In one thing, Macklin was right. They had grown too used to success. From his position leaning against the wall, arms folded, Bodie was frowning as he watched the scenario being acted out on the warehouse floor: he too had felt that sickening punch, known the piercing tang of sharp knife sliding along skin, and understood that worse than any pain was the fury and resentment and loss of pride that came after one had tried and tried and still the tough bastard came back at you. Macklin was good. Better than he'd expected.

He was bruised and battered and tired and the thought of another round with Macklin and Towser made him shudder. But worse than that prospect was what he was going through now; watching it happen to his partner. He watched because not watching would be worse still; too conscious that Doyle was smaller than he was, lighter, and eye-catchingly vulnerable, slender-wristed, overlong curls, eyes wide with almost-fear as he anticipated the next blow.

Bodie's fists clenched. "Give it to him, Ray," he muttered as Doyle reeled near him. Useless encouragement. It was clear that Doyle was about finished; all his punches lacked strength and direction, he was staggery on his feet, but you could see he was going to die trying. Not for his partner, the simple surrender. Lithe and lean and muscular as he was, Doyle was no match for Macklin. Neither of them were, Bodie conceded; and it stung.

But more important than that, Ray Doyle was getting hurt. And it killed Bodie to stand back and watch.

Doyle's straining arm gave up at last in Macklin's grip. One blow to the guts from a hard elbow, and he was thudding onto the floor, a still, red-T-shirted heap. For the second time that day Bodie was there, extending a hand to him, and it was a moment before Doyle was even able to take it. Bodie practically had to lift him to his feet and hold him there.

"Thought you were hard boys, didn't you? Two real Flash Harrys." Macklin's voice held a weary contempt as he stood, legs aggressively apart, watching them. Bodie slowly rubbed the sweat-damp cotton of his partner's back as Doyle leaned against him, offering a shred of comfort. He stared out at the blonde-headed sadist with murderous dislike. He said nothing. Doyle dropped his head onto his partner's reassuringly solid shoulder; he was breathing very hard. He was dazed and not thinking very straight; but he was aware that where he now stood was the only refuge for him in the world right now.

"My god, you've got things to learn," said Macklin, watching them. "You think you've finished? We've only just started. Give him to me, Bodie, and let me make a man out of him. Worth a try, anyway."

Part of Macklin's job, the needle. It got to Bodie more than Doyle; he was on a shorter fuse. He stared directly at Macklin, thinking lovingly of his big Magnum - get you alone with that, mate, and I'd ram it straight up your - But he dismissed that as too unsatisfying; no, he wanted to take Macklin apart with his bare hands, and Towser with him. And that's what you're here to teach me, mate, he thought savagely. That's right, you teach me. And then watch your back.

He looked down at the slighter man leaning on him, felt the quivering exhaustion in the slender body; and something began to tear loose inside him.

"Let go of him, Bodie," warned Macklin in a low voice. "Let go of him. Come on, Doyle. You should see yourself; it's bloody pathetic. Come and take me on and prove you're a man, not a little flower."

He stood there, lazy, mocking and arrogant, his eyes travelling cynically over the big dark man and the smaller one in his unconsciously protective grasp. Doyle's body had stiffened at the taunt, and now he was stirring, about to turn and resume his efforts. Half dead on his feet. You couldn't deny the courage of the man. The simmering rage in Bodie suddenly towered, and exploded.

"You bleeding sadist, you hurt him again and I'll fucking well kill you for real!" he shouted, and launched himself at Macklin with all the brute force he was capable of, coupled to an insane rage, and outrage too; this bloody maniac was out to hurt Doyle, his partner. He had a glorious few seconds before Towser waded in and hauled him off.

The whole tenor of the exercise had changed. Bodie, held back in the black man's iron grip, stared down at his enemy with slitted eyes. He looked blackly dangerous, still on a slow fuse of burning aggression. Macklin, breathing hard and wiping a trace of blood from his nose, slowly got to his feet, staring at Bodie all the while. "Well, well, well," he said softly. "So now we know. How to get the real hate out of you."

He said no more, turning away. Pulling violently away from Towser's grip, Bodie watched him go, fists clenched. Then he turned to find his partner, who was sitting on the bed beside the stark whitewashed wall, head in his hands. Doyle glanced up as Bodie sat down heavily beside him. He said nothing.

"Bastard," said Bodie through gritted teeth. He looked over at Doyle. "You okay?"

"Yeah."

He was far from being okay. But Bodie's sudden outburst of unleashed violence had startled him as much as it had Macklin. It made him thoughtful.

Bodie was taking hold of his arm, in a familiar grip, nodding ahead. Towser was advancing on them brandishing a cosh; a mirthless smile stretching his lips. "I'll take him," Bodie growled, and got to his feet.

"Not without me, you don't." Doyle struggled up too, putting his weariness aside to stand watchfully at Bodie's side. They were a team. Live or die.



Only a few hours till the arrival of Parsali, the man they were to protect. 'Sleep on it', they'd agreed, but it wasn't working out that way. They had left the light on, and there were sounds in the room still, the rustle of shifting nylon as restless bodies turned in the sleeping bags.

The sombre tone of the preceding conversation had unsettled Doyle; he felt strained and uneasy, his mind running wildly on an erratic course. Bad medicine, as Bodie had said. If he went on like this he'd be on a sure ticket for getting himself killed if there was a hit planned for Parsali. Parsali would make it, barring the most unthinkable bad luck; he had enough confidence in himself and his partner to be confident of that. But whether he and Bodie would also both survive - well, that depended on themselves, and the way he was feeling tonight... Put it this way, he told himself with grim humour, if I were Cowley and I knew what was going on in my head I wouldn't send me in on this one...

He fought the depression and anxiety running around in his mind with thoughts of pleasant things, but they kept slipping away from him and the bleakness refused to be distracted. Damn, he cursed silently, his hands clenched by his sides; damn damn damn. What he needed was to get drunk, several large shots of whisky would do it, relax him enough to let him sleep. Or a woman - he thought briefly of the soft sweetness that was Claire - or a relentless blast of laid-back stereo pounding his mind into numbness. He had none of those things; and so Ray Doyle lay wide awake, jumpy with tension, and fear, and an uneasy premonition of disaster close at hand.

None of those things; but he did have Bodie. Raising himself on an elbow he glanced down at the other bag. Bodie's dark ruffled head was unmoving on the pile of clothes serving as a rough pillow. His eyes were shut. Bodie wasn't troubled tonight. He supposed that was one advantage of being an ex- mercenary; you learnt how to cope with the night before facing the front line.

"Bodie?" he said, very low.

"Yeah?"

"Thought you were asleep."

"Will be, in a minute." A drowsy murmur.

Doyle was gripped with panic, that Bodie might go off to sleep and leave him alone. "I can't."

"Try counting sheep."

"I want to talk a bit."

Bodie gave an exasperated sigh, but he rolled over obediently, dismissing sleep with reluctance. He looked down in the general area of his feet, nearby which lay the undisciplined head of his partner. "Okay then, what's on your chest? Apart from all that scruffy hair, that is."

Doyle ignored both the question and the levity.

"You said you'd written letters."

This made little sense. Bodie backtracked over their earlier conversation; it was a strange mood that had taken Doyle tonight. "Oh - yeah. Letters." He waited, yawning.

Doyle picked at the cover of his sleeping bag, not looking up.

"You write me one?"

Bodie made a face. "What the hell's got into you tonight? Of course I didn't bloody well write you one."

"Who, then?" Doyle persisted.

Bodie heaved another meaningful sigh, and humoured him. "Family, bank manager, old mate of mine I knew in Africa. That's about it."

"Old mate?"

Bodie couldn't quite identify the note in his partner's voice. "Yeah, Jack Heyward. Mentioned him to you a couple of times."

"You haven't seen him in years."

"S'right," Bodie agreed. He couldn't see Doyle's face when he squinted over; it was in shadow. Just then Doyle rolled over and lay flat on his back, considering. "Man you haven't laid eyes on in a decade, family - likewise - and your bank manager."

"Yeah."

There was clearly more to come, Bodie guessed, from Doyle's dangerously quiet tone. He didn't have long to wait.

"No girls? Not Cowley?"

"Nope."

"So those are the people you're closest to? Jack Heyward, your - "

Bodie forestalled him. "No," he explained reasonably. "Those are the people who for a variety of reasons might need or appreciate some word from me after I snuff it. And now can we bloody well get some sleep?"

There was a silence. Bodie closed his eyes, began to drift again.

"I bloody well might appreciate some word from you after you snuff it!" exploded Doyle.

Bodie was startled all over by his partner's near shout, and was not at that moment inclined to take all this too seriously. "Aaahh..." he sympathised, with heavy mockery. "You mean all this is a subtle way of telling me you want me to write you one? Well, I will, old son, I will. Soon as I get my hands on a pen."

"It might be too late."

Doyle's quiet voice had more effect on Bodie than the previous explosion. He pushed himself up and looked down at Doyle, frowning and quite serious now. "I wish you'd stop all this, mate. Okay, so you've got a premonition about tomorrow. Just don't lay it on me, okay? And if you could forget it, stuff it, shove it out of your mind, you'd be doing yourself a bloody favour, too. I didn't leave a letter for you," continued Bodie without a pause, "because when we go, we'll fuckin' well go together and you wouldn't be around to read it, ergo waste of paper, time and trouble. Also, Cowley'd be sure to read anything we leave behind when our number comes up - you know the nosy old bastard - and crap himself laughing."

"Why, what would you put in it?"

Bodie snorted. "Bloody hell, mate. You're a strange one tonight. What d'you think I'd put in it? 'Dear 4.5, now I'm gone I think you ought to know that from the first moment I saw you I lost my heart and I've been hiding my feelings all these years'...?"

"You weren't hidin' 'em very well the other day."

Bodie stilled; every last trace of facetiousness wiped out of him at Doyle's quiet, grim words. He leaned up on his elbows and stared. "What?"

"You 'eard me," said Doyle concisely. "Macklin looked at us pretty funny, y'know. It'll go in the report, that's for sure. I shouldn't be surprised if the Cow sends for us and gives us a non-fraternization lecture. Or worse, maybe."

It was out in the open; no point trying to push it away. So Bodie shrugged, accepting the inevitable. "Okay," he said lightly, but he didn't look at his partner. "I'll come clean to George. Sorry, sir, I broke the rule. I got involved. I cry when he cuts 'imself and laugh when he's happy. I bulldoze people into a pulp if they look at him unfriendly, and I want to cuddle him when he gets hurt."

There was another silence. "It's true, Bodie," said Doyle, quietly. "It isn't a joke. It's true."

Bodie scowled in irritation. "I know it's bloody true. I just told you, didn't I?"

He thought Doyle might pursue it, and relieved when his partner said nothing, just gave a sigh. "Can I go to sleep now?" he asked plaintively. "Or is there anything else you want me to confess? Just ask away, won't you? I'm perfectly happy to bare my innermost soul to you, mate." His tone had changed to purest irony.

Doyle didn't answer that. Bodie shut his eyes. Only now he was as far away from sleep as Ray Doyle.

"One of us might go tomorrow."

Doyle's leisurely comment breaking the silence didn't surprise Bodie. When Doyle had said he wanted to talk, he wasn't kidding. He made it determined, full of flat conviction. "Nah. No way."

"It's possible, Bodie!" snapped Doyle. "Don't keep on bloody denying it. You're not stupid. You know it could happen. "

"Yeah - " said Bodie harshly, and then he stopped himself, and said more gently, "Yeah, I know. You happy now?" He went on before Doyle could reply: "But, the night before we go on parade right beside the bloke everyone's trying to kill isn't the best time to hark on about it, is it? You think happy thoughts, sunshine. Think about your Claire, and how hot she's gonna be for you when she comes off nights. Think up some wild new fantasy to try out on her. Okay, mate? Sweet dreams," he said firmly, and settled down to sleep.

Doyle had hardly heard any of it. "Bodie. I want to ask you something."

Bodie groaned, his patience finally gone. "God, Ray, you really have got yourself into a state, haven't you?" he commented, not unkindly, sitting up and running a hand through his hair. "What you need is a drink, mate. I'll have a look in the bag."

Doyle ignored that, looking up as Bodie leant over him, his wide eyes steady. "Wait. If I ask you to do something for me, will you do it?"

"What is it?" Bodie demanded, suspicious, looking down into Doyle's troubled face.

"Will you do it?" Doyle only repeated.

Bodie hesitated only for a second or two; then he grinned. "Yeah." He ran a quick, light finger down the straight line of Doyle's nose. "There. I've agreed. So now tell me what it is."

Against all expectations, Doyle lost his nerve, and rolled over, burying his head in his arm. "You're gonna laugh yourself sick."

Now all Bodie could see was ruffled brown curls, the line of silver around the nape of his neck, the top of the green T-shirt. He stared at it, confused. "Nah, won't. Promise. Come on."

"Sleep with me."

The muffled words leaked out of the sleeping bag. Stunned, Bodie said dumbly, "What?"

"Sleep with me," said Doyle more clearly, and he turned his head to one side, staring ahead, suspended in numbness.

After a long, tense silence, Bodie said slowly, "Let's get it clear. Are you propositioning me? Or what?"

"I don't know. I don't know!" Doyle repeated vehemently. "What I do know is that I don't wanna be on my own, not tonight, not now."

Bodie's doubts lasted only a moment or two longer. "Okay," he said quietly, and reached out a hand to his own bag; then leaning back to Doyle. "Come on, shift, sunshine." And then as Doyle stared at him, impatiently: "I don't know what books you've been reading lately, mate, but we're not both gonna fit in one bag, now are we?"

Doyle watched in silence as Bodie quickly and efficiently zipped the two identical bags together; and a moment later Bodie was there with him.

He lay quietly against the bigger man, more peaceful. He could hear the slow, steady beat of Bodie's heart near his ear, smell the warm scent of him, feel the solid strength of the arms around him. He could see Bodie's solemn, half-shadowed face inches from his, the curled lips, the arrogant flare of the nostrils.

Bodie, watching him, raised a hand and brushed back all the curls, smoothing them away in an unsteady, tender gesture. He wasn't quite sure what was happening, but he had no quarrel with it. "You really got yourself worked up, didn't you?" he said, low and gentle. "You're so strung up, Ray. Really uptight. What's all this about? Come on, tell me."

Doyle studied his partner's face. He felt sad, and weary, and he had never been more conscious that this might be his last night on earth. So it was good to be held by someone stronger, give way, let someone else cope for a while. He said only: "Premonition, like you said."

This time, the word opened up a vision of bloody death. Bodie saw himself leaning over Ray Doyle, sightless green eyes staring up, tumbled, lifeless limbs; and looking, shocked, into Doyle's living eyes he knew that Doyle was seeing the same.

"No," he said fiercely, gripping the green-clad shoulders, shaking him. "No way. You cut this out, d'you hear me? You've got to stop it now, Ray, before it goes too far. You're not gonna die tomorrow. I won't let you. We're not going to die," he said with emphasis; and waited, staring frowning into his partner's strangely beautiful face. Then:

"Someone is," said Doyle bleakly. "So why should we be the lucky ones?"

Bodie had no answer for that. No words.

Doyle watched with unflickering eyes as Bodie leant towards him, his own eyes steady; but he was a little unsure, hesitant as he touched his lips to Doyle's forehead. When Doyle didn't flinch, he drew in a deep shuddering breath as a flood of strangeness and longing ripped through him, and his suddenly hungry mouth sought out and found Ray Doyle's.



"Must get some sleep, love," Bodie murmured against his cheek. He knew Doyle was awake. His body lay heavily relaxed across his, his eyes were closed and he had not spoken. Bodie knew it just the same.

Doyle stirred, lazily. "Mmm. In a little while." He wanted to hold onto this feeling, just a little longer. Reality and the morning would be with them soon enough.

"Feel any better?"

"Yeah." Doyle stretched against him, warm skin against his own. Bodie's fingers tangled slowly in damp curls. "You mean a lot to me."

"Yeah, I know." Then Doyle roused himself from his reverie, his eyes coming open, and he stared at the face close to his. His new love. Or not so new. "You don't exactly hide it."

Bodie was, and knew himself to be, protective, even possessive; as any partner of a two-man team might be of the man he worked with. It had been acceptable; they were good friends. But now?

"Maybe I'd better start."

A little cold reality began to creep back into the dreamy haze. Doyle said, looking at him, through him, "It doesn't bother me. You?"

"No. But people talk." He lifted a strand of Doyle's hair, considering its brown softness; and let it fall, tracing the curve of it where it lay on his forehead with a gentle finger.

"Even now? Before now?" CI5 was a strange place; very enclosed. They were all too tightly-knit; too involved in one another.

"Oh, I'm well known for it," Bodie said lightly, and the sudden grip of his tensing hands belied the levity. "Didn't you know? I can't leave you alone, that's what they say. It's a right bloody laugh for the pen pushers in the Ops Room."

"True?" Doyle was fascinated. To all appearances more sensitive and finely tuned than his partner, of the two of them he was by far the less likely to be on the CI5 grapevine. Gossip bored him, even when it concerned himself; maybe that was an egocentric trait, he wasn't sure.

"True," Bodie confirmed. Beneath the layer of sliding nylon fabric, he reached for and found Doyle's hand, twining his fingers around it. "I'm starry-eyed besotted with you, madly in love; and you, opinions vary - you put up with it. That's how the current story runs."

"Yeah?" Doyle lay quiet, in Bodie's arms; it felt like a good place to be, the right place. He thought about what Bodie must have gone through, and how he had kept it to himself, to spare Doyle. His fingers gripped Bodie's tight; and the other hand he let run up and down Bodie's arm, a gesture of comfort and atonement.

"Well," he said at last. "They got it wrong."

Bodie chuckled. "Yeah."

Who knew what he was thinking? Doyle didn't. Maybe they meant different things. He wanted there to be no doubts, not tonight. He wanted Bodie to know exactly where he stood, because he might never get the chance to tell him again. So, abruptly, he sat up, both hands reaching up to tug at the chain behind his neck. He found the fiddly catch, released it, and let the warm metal slide about in his hand for a moment. Wondering what was going on, Bodie too had pushed himself up and was staring at him. Doyle surveyed him for a moment, weighing his chain in his hand; then he put it around Bodie's neck, fastening it on securely. The bright metal gleamed on Bodie's smooth skin; he wore nothing else. Then Doyle lay back down.

"They'll get it right now," he said, contentedly; and settled down in Bodie's firm, loving grip. Now they could go to sleep. And tomorrow could throw at them what it would.



Cowley took a sip at his drink, the first of the day, and set it down with a satisfied sigh. He canted a glance up at the blonde-headed man at his side. "Well, lad; what's on your mind?"

Macklin studied his drink - orange juice - and considered his words carefully. The silence was too long for Cowley's liking; he was a busy man.

"Come along, man. I haven't all day. About Bodie and Doyle. A week ago you were saying they're the best I've got."

"They are," Macklin responded without hesitation. "They're a good team, they're highly skilled, they're quick, fit and intelligent. And they've got guts."

"And - ?" Cowley prompted. He trusted Macklin's judgement.

Macklin looked up and met his eyes directly. "What would you say about their personal relationship? How they get on off-duty?"

Cowley took it in his stride. "They're close," he finally stated. "Good, close friends." The early morning sunlight shot golden tones into the good whisky, lifted it from dullness into incandescence.

"Maybe too close."

Macklin's quiet words made Cowley's head come up, eyes sharp and piercing. "What are you saying?"

Macklin repeated it, unembellished. "Maybe they're too close."

Their eyes held. "In what way?" Cowley said, very quiet.

Macklin didn't hedge about. "I got to Bodie every way I could think of. Trying to push him as far as I could, so he'd give me his damn-all hating me. But in the end he showed me the way himself. Threaten his partner - " Macklin shook his head, remembering, " - hurt Doyle; and that's when you get to see what makes Bodie tick. He was on me like a ton of bricks. For a moment back there I thought he'd kill me."

Cowley acknowledged it. "He's protective of Doyle, yes. Smaller man, more sensitive. I wouldn't say there was anything odd about that."

"You've never thought - "

"Thought what, man?" Cowley checked his watch, impatiently.

Macklin gave it to him straight. Looking Cowley directly in the eye, he said: "That Bodie and Doyle might be a good deal more to each other than just good buddies."

Cowley thought about it, remarkably unfazed. He took another leisurely sip of his drink before he replied. "Some sexual contact, you're meaning? No, I hadn't thought about it. But it wouldn't surprise me." Bodie had enough cheek for two of them. And Doyle was unconventional enough to go along with it, if he felt like it. Yes, Cowley could imagine, that some dark, drunken nights, fooling around together the way they did -

Macklin made an impatient gesture. "Sexual contact isn't what I'm talking about. That wouldn't matter, necessarily; you're right. I don't know about that and I don't care. But I think it's more than sex."

Now he had all of Cowley's attention; the other man was as alert and tense as a cat, and watching him intently. "You must have seen it!" said Macklin sharply. "Haven't you watched them together? They're too ready to be amused by each other; they're too aware of one another. And if Doyle loses Bodie's attention, he has to get it back, he opens up those big eyes and looks up at him; he flirts with him, near as goddamnit. And Bodie falls for it; oh, he's fallen all right," said Macklin cynically. "You watch him some time when Doyle's around. It shines out of the man. Doyle means everything to him. He'd kill for him."

The question Cowley asked, softly into the silence, was not the one Macklin had been expecting. "So - Bodie has fallen in love. And Doyle?"

Macklin stared, thrown off course. "Doyle?"

Tousleheaded, self-sufficient creature; too pretty for his own good despite the super-fitness, the animal, muscular grace of him. That was how Macklin remembered Ray Doyle. The other thing he remembered was Doyle, shaken, weary and hurt, turning blindly on stumbling legs to the man he knew would be there, waiting to hold him and offer voiceless comfort.

"Yes," he said quietly. "Doyle too. Oh, maybe it doesn't show as much, but it's there. I'm sure of it. You've maybe got yourself a problem. Those two are - " he hesitated, searching for the right word, and settling eventually for the trite, obvious phrase he could find no better way to express. " - it's love."

After a long moment Cowley sighed, taking the last of his whisky slowly. "Aye, well. I'll maybe look into it. Thank you, laddie."



Bodie shoved his hands into his pockets as he went down the steps behind his partner, who was taking them fast. He didn't let himself think about what Doyle might be going to say. At the foot of the flight, Doyle stopped and waited for him to catch up, his arm resting lightly on the stone balustrade. Bodie gave him a faint, wry shrug.

Doyle said, without expression, "Told you you were too fond of me."

Bodie just looked at him. Doyle swung into stride again. Bodie fell into step at his side and they walked along the grimy pavement in silence.

"What d'you think?" Bodie said at last.

Doyle shrugged. "'Bout what?"

Bodie wasn't going to get exasperated. "The old man."

"S'obvious, isn't it? Macklin coughed - told you he would."

"It must be nice," said Bodie moodily, "to be so often right."

"I don't think it's too serious. What could Cowley do?" asked Doyle rhetorically. "I mean, what could he do?"

"Separate us."

Doyle shook his head. "Nah, he couldn't. There's no way he could do that."

"You gonna tell 'im 'e can't?"

Doyle's tousled head came up and he stared at Bodie. "Yeah. If he tries. Forget that. So what else could he do?"

"Tell us to cool it?" Bodie suggested, tentatively.

Doyle shook his head again. "He didn't seem too worried. Did you think he did?"

"No, I didn't think so."

"He just likes to know."

"Well, so now he knows."

And us? Bodie thought, wanting to say it aloud. He watched the serious face of his partner, eyes fixed straight ahead as he bounced along, lost in thought. He'd been very remote, very self-contained today, had Ray Doyle. Yesterday's shootout had upset him, though he had said nothing; and after it he had disappeared off somewhere and Bodie hadn't seen him until they met up in their boss's office this morning to give him their report on the Parsali affair. And then Cowley had given them a little report of his own.

Bodie pulled on his arm, indicated a pub. "Have a drink on it?"

"Can't, got things to do."

"They're so important you haven't time for a quick pint?" Bodie demanded.

Doyle turned his head to look at him. Standing there against the wall, ruffled hair ruffled further by the wind, back to the usual scruffy-clean attire and a check jacket, he looked very appealing to Bodie. He wanted to reach out and hug him; but Doyle's next words killed the urge dead.

"I'm seein' Claire," he said, eyes wide and clear as he looked at Bodie. "At 2. Have to go home and change."

There didn't seem very much that Bodie could say. Chilled and isolated, he nodded at Doyle, at a loss, but striving for a normal tone. "Yeah, of course. She'll be up by now, won't she? Awake, I mean. Okay. Well, think I'll stop off for one, anyway. See you around, sunshine."

He gave him a little smile, but Doyle lingered, watching him. "You looking after my chain?" he asked, suddenly.

In answer, Bodie hunted around inside his shirt, pulled it out hooked over a finger. "You want it now?"

"Nah. You're keepin' it. Just checkin' you had it safe."

"All the time."

Their eyes met. Then Doyle put out an arm, took Bodie by the wrist, and yanked him close. For a moment they were standing, very close, in full view of any passers-by who might glance their way. Doyle tipped his head back, slanted an unfathomable green-eyed glance at Bodie. "Got a few things to do. Loose ends. Then I'll call you."

"Call me what?" Bodie retreated swiftly into the safer areas of levity.

"Oh, anything you want," said Doyle, very soft, and he looked into Bodie's eyes all the while as he lounged indolently against the wall, holding Bodie's arm. "I'll call you what you want me to, sweetheart. But let me get this out of the way first, okay?"

Doyle's hands moved over him quickly. Bodie thought for a dazed moment that it was quite possible he was dreaming all this. Then Doyle let him go, tipped him a wink. "I'll see ya."

He had gone five yards before he turned back. "Oh, by the way. You got a spare doorkey?"

"What? Oh, yeah." Bodie began to hunt around for it. If Ray wanted a key to his flat, Bodie was only too happy to give him one.

Doyle grinned at him wickedly, head cocked to one side, a safe distance away; he was all come-hither eyes and sensually curved lips. "Not me, sunshine. I don't need one. You might, though," remarked Doyle cryptically; and then he loped away.

Bodie stared after him, shaking his head. Doyle always managed to surprise him, one way or another.

"Oi!"

A hand thumped his arm, a face peered into his, eyes alight with curiosity and mischief. Lewis, a CI5 colleague. "Don't tell me he's coming across at last." He jerked his head meaningfully in the direction Doyle had taken, nodding sagely. "Thought I was going to have to pour a bucket of cold water over the two of you. On the street, no less. Cowley wouldn't like it, you know."

Bodie wasn't listening. He had searched around in his pocket and found his front door key missing. Doyle -

"The little sod's picked my pocket!" roared Bodie, delight and outrage in equal measure; and then he slapped his open-mouthed colleague on the shoulder, laughing, and went with him into the pub.



Doyle shied pebbles into the pond with regularity and accuracy; the ducks had taken one look and moved, miffed, to the far end.

"You've met someone else."

At least she wasn't crying. "No...not exactly."

"You owe me the truth about that, Ray, if nothing else! If it isn't someone else, what is it?" Not crying; angry. Much better. The tears would come later, when she was alone.

"It isn't that simple," he continued, softly over the ripple and splash of the water. "You knew I wasn't going to ask you to marry me. Right from the start, I never pretended that."

"No. But - " She stopped, and bit her lip. He looked away from her as he said: "It isn't you. Not your fault. I just - "

"You just want to be free," she said bitterly.

He looked at her then, with a little, distant smile. "Not free. No. I'm sorry, Claire." He got to his feet, threw the last stone into the centre of the pond and watched the concentric circles spread.

"I'll have to be going. If there's ever anything I can do - if you need me for anything, you know how to contact me."

He sounded brisk. She could see that, for him at least, it was truly over. Best then to make it quick; he was right. She held off the tears as he kissed her one final time; and let them spill over as he walked away.

Doyle walked along the road, a little sombre after the encounter. But it had been necessary. He needed Bodie and Bodie needed him; it was as simple as that. And he had the feeling Bodie would make sure there was no room between them for outsiders. Doyle was happy enough about that. He felt secure, and loved, as if this had been waiting for them for a long time.

He turned the corner into the road where Bodie lived, and as he walked along he dug out the stolen key from his pocket, tossed it up and caught it. A wide, jubilant smile was beginning to curve across his face. For the first time in his life, Ray Doyle was totally, uncomplicatedly happy in the knowledge that he was settling down.

-- THE END --