The brush whipped Bodie, stinging his forearms, and bounced back into
position. The trail bounced in his field of vision as well, the world
narrowing to a needle of smoke rising to his left, beyond the horizon. Dust
and grit streamed into his lungs, coating his mouth and throat. Fear snarled
into anger, boosting his body with the necessary speed to survive.
Doyle ran ahead, carrying the rifle unslung and cocked, and itching to spray violence across the Ugandan countryside. Bullets being scarce, Doyle would keep his finger steady until a target came into sight. His camos were caked with the same red dust; burrs and brush coated his back.
They'd been pinned down 20 minutes before artillery had destroyed the army position. Sweat darkened his shirt. Doyle had never adapted to the heat--right now, Bodie could only agree with Doyle's never-changing complaints. Of course Doyle'd always find something to complain about--his ex-wife, his kids, his squalid little northern English home--all apparently providing ample reason to toss it in for the merc life. Still, Bodie had to agree--this was fucked. Even though the sun had fallen below the horizon, his face flamed. He ached to rest and drink, but it would take them another five miles before they reached base camp.
The flash of light blinded him, and the impact of Doyle's body twisted him back and over as he was thrown to cover. Doyle's hands pressed him facewards into the ground with bruising force. Bodie tried to scream, but the blasts of artillery sent shock waves into his bones, paralysing his vocal cords. "Oh no," he moaned soundlessly. There was another explosion. Doyle's limp body slammed into him again, then lay still. Warm blood spread across Bodie's back in the terrible stillness.
The sound of Bodie's voice echoed through the quiet of his bedroom. God--not again thought. His body, naked under the covers in a London heat wave, swam with perspiration. The sheets were tightly twisted around his upper body, making his exit fumbling and awkward.
The shower was tepid, but he welcomed the streaming fall across his skin. How many times had he fantasised of showers while in the bush? Enough that Utne had promised to stake him out in the next riverbed if he didn't shut up. It wasn't a need for cleanliness--you learned to live with the bugs and the mould and the rashes. But the pure sensuality of running water--its ability to touch and stroke flesh, starved for sensation--that was what he loved. Bodie peered down, watching his cock rise and then fall. It really was too late--no, make that early--and he was too tired. Besides, it wasn't as if he was in the field or desperate. There were plenty of women to be had. Just because he didn't chase them every night didn't mean he was losing interest. He was just so tired--violence had bled into even his dreams.
The drive to headquarters helped soothe his nerves. The light, filtered through pre-dawn layers, rested easily on his blinking eyes. He turned into the cobbled alley used as short-term parking. Doyle popped into the headlights of his Capri, causing Bodie to silently fume. There was no escaping him. Bloody 6 a.m., and he still beat him here. He glowered and rolled down the window.
Doyle peered into the car, his breath tickling Bodie's face. "Thought so. Told Cowley you were in the shower." He glanced quickly over his shoulder at the head of CI5, standing impatiently in the doorway with Murphy. Then he turned his attentions to back to Bodie, his fingers flicking through Bodie's still damp hair. The heat began in Bodie's groin again, flash firing through his legs and stomach. Bodie worried that Doyle was eyeing him speculatively, but couldn't be certain--hard to turn your head when your gaze was fixed on the windscreen.
"Should've stayed there," Bodie finally muttered. He should have called Nicole back last night too. Now he was stuck with a rising problem and Doyle tapping impatiently on the bonnet of his Capri.
"Well, whatever," Doyle said, opening the passenger door." Let's take your car--it's already warm." He slid into the seat, smirking.
Bodie grunted and gunned the engine. "Where's your jacket?" he asked, staring at Doyle's holster. He was wearing it on the right and it poked him with every shift and wiggle. Doyle never could sit still.
"'S too hot." Doyle pointed his bare arm, demanding an immediate right turn. He raised his arm soon again, this time trying to steer the car down a smaller alleyway.
"It'll be more heat if the Cow finds out," Bodie replied. "And stop waving your hand about--it's not like you're dumb." Doyle's grin conceded that Bodie might have scored a point there. Bodie's mood lightened to where he might forgive even a too-chipper Doyle.
"Where we going?" Bodie asked after turning another corner, following Doyle's finger.
"A warehouse. Near Sexton. And guess what we're after?" Doyle shifted closer to Bodie. He was searching for something in his left jeans pocket. He threw Bodie's pack of cigarettes onto the dashboard and wrinkled his nose in distaste. Distracted, Bodie almost missed the next turn signalled by Doyle's free hand. It had somehow snaked over Bodie's chest without him noticing.
Bodie hated guessing. Therefore, he was not going to play. "What's this--you Sherlock? Me Watson?" Doyle, still bent forward and leaning to the right, did not answer. Bodie exploded. "And will you sit still! You'll be swinging from the trees next."
Doyle laughed, keeping his head down. He finally found the missing object and sat back. He held a piece of paper up to the morning light.
"No arms," he pronounced definitively.
Bodie looked over at Doyle. "That's not right. You've got two. And assorted appendages."
Doyle shook his head forcefully, trying to decide where to stow the paper next. His jeans pockets were clearly out. "I meant, we're not looking for arms. It's explosives. Another para-military nutter stockpiling explosives."
"So why only the two of us?" Bodie spun the wheel through his fingertips, letting the pull of the car weigh him to one side.
"Because it's a nutter. Not the IRA," Doyle explained, his mouth pursing in irritation. "Ease up, Bodie. This isn't a race."
"No, it's 6 a.m., when no one can see you speed." He gunned the accelerator, loving the whip of scenery as they rounded another corner. Doyle, struck by inspiration, tried to stuff the paper into Bodie's trousers pocket. Bodie accelerated quickly, forcing Doyle back against his door, where he gripped the handle in exaggerated terror.
The warehouse stood well apart from the other buildings, due more to urban decay rather than to organised planning. After circling, they parked their car and got out. They approached the warehouse carefully, radioing an entry signal before proceeding inside. A dark jumble of boxes, metal scraps, and drop-clothed equipment slowed their progress. Doyle was on point--his gun drawn, sweat staining his shirt. Bodie swept each quarter methodically.
"Nothing here--" Bodie started to say.
"Shhh--" Doyle's hand shot up.
"Doyle, there's nothing here." Bodie repeated more softly. The loud crash was neatly timed, cued up to belie his words.
They both shot forward, ducking through the debris, keyed for the movement they heard ahead. Really should spread out, Bodie thought as he trod on Doyle's heels. But the little passageway forced them into a narrow approach. He slowed down to give them both more room.
The flash of light caught him by surprise, Doyle's body the only shield between himself and the blast. He fell hard to the pavement, dragging Doyle down. He tried to push Doyle off, tried to outrun the explosions that rained down. "Doyle," he screamed, and then he turned his face against the cool cement.
The fragment of memory caught his next scream, tying his throat into a twisted knot. His surge of fear, instinctive, almost dislodged Doyle. Doyle dug deeper into his flesh, pulling them further under the cover of an overhang.
What-what-what, his mind buzzed, alternating between the dream and the bruising present. Doyle loosened his hold, and Bodie felt the sharper pain of fear knife through. Doyle fished the RT from Bodie's jacket, yelling something about backup. He then leaned into Bodie, his lips whispering wetly near Bodie's ear. "Hang on. They'll be here soon. Don't move, the shrapnel'll get you." Doyle's voice cut. His arm, twined around Bodie's chest, did not ease its grip. I should have remembered the shrapnel. Why didn't I remember the shrapnel? Bodie thought. His muscles trembled with rapid-fire pulses, locking him into place.
Bodie's mind went mercifully blank. He watched himself lie passively under Doyle, listened to the harsh breathing and tried to ignore Doyle's warmth spreading through him. He hoped Doyle wouldn't notice his stumbling hesitation when he finally regained his feet after backup arrived. He hoped no one would notice his skittering eyes.
The backup, under Doyle's direction, scoured the place carefully. A few more explosions showed that the place had been wired thoroughly, if inexpertly. Bodie hung back near the car. It didn't make him feel any better to learn they had been alone after all--that the `nutter' had booby-trapped the stockpile to go off remotely.
Doyle walked out of the warehouse and into the sunlight. He headed directly towards Bodie, kicking the barrel that served as Bodie's seat. Doyle stared around the yard before speaking "Hmph. Just our luck--a lot of air and nothing to show for it. What do you think, Bodie--write it up as a premature ejaculation? Might liven Cowley's reading." Doyle stood, sweat stained, covered in bits of debris. Bodie checked his own shirt, but found nothing. Doyle had borne the brunt of it all.
Bodie switched himself back on. "Didn't feel much like one. Of course, I wouldn't know--never had your wealth of hands-on experience." The words came automatically, as he slipped back into the stream of the living, almost unnoticed. Except by Doyle, who quirked his face and walked back to the car. Bodie slowly followed.
He had been behind Doyle in the dream just before the artillery barrage. He had been forced painfully into the ground, with his partner's body acting as a dying shield. He had dreamt something and it had happened.
Doyle was waiting impatiently by the Capri. Bodie avoided eye contact, and jerked open the door. He stared through the windshield for a moment, and then ignited the engine. He saw Doyle jump back when he gunned the accelerator. Gravel shot backwards beneath the wheels as he drove away. Doyle could find his own way back to headquarters. And Bodie didn't need any witnesses.
The small fire crackled, sending more smoke than heat. Doyle carefully tended the flame, trying to guarantee even cooking. Chilean water rat--a local speciality. Bodie stood, stretching his aching muscles. The base camp was dotted with small fires, tents, and mobile armaments. No need to hide their presence from the rebels--good sentries saw to the safety of the perimeter. And heavy artillery could take care of the rest.
"Is it done yet?" Bodie could hear his stomach grumbling.
"A few more. God, Bodie. Remind me never to stand next to you on patrol. Your stomach would give us both away at 100 paces." Doyle squatted easily next to the fire. He was bareheaded in the fading sun--his curls lit from above by the angling light, his face lit below by the flames. He looked like a Caravaggio painting. Dirt and all.
Bodie realised he was staring. Realised that Doyle knew it too. Nothing was ever said--but it was clear which way Bodie's body was leaning. At least Doyle hadn't said no. Probably because Bodie had yet to ask.
Bodie smiled. It had been very quiet. A lull in the fighting had brought out a playful spirit. Two men had started harmonising. A third had found a pipe and was flinging an accompanying melody across the clearing. Amazingly, the fact that they were drunk didn't hamper rhythm or tonality.
The mood was infectious. Bodie could feel his feet tapping to the music. He looked at Doyle--his partner's face relaxed, his lips soft and full. They'd been teamed together for the last two years--a legendary time in the merc field. Even turned down a few choice assignments when they both weren't on the hiring roster. Loyalty still counted for something, it seemed. Doyle stirred the coals again, forcing the heat upwards. Bits of ash floated through the air, settling in Doyle's hair.
Bodie bent down and picked off some ash. His fingers traced the shape of the hair, feeling its bounce and softness. Doyle did not flinch--and stirred the fire even more vigorously. Wickedly, Bodie leaned closer. "Care to dance? I'll let you lead."
Doyle twitched the stick again. "Dance? Here? Must have me confused with someone--or something else." Doyle shoved the stick too close to the fire and swore. He sucked woefully at the small burn.
Bodie let his hand drop. "Sorry about that," he replied quickly. "Just thought we'd have a bit of fun."
Doyle picked up the stick again. "No harm in wanting that. But that's not the kind of fun you were thinking of, I'll wager." Doyle's eyes flicked up --laughter written across his face in the form of a wry grin. He poked the fire for emphasis.
Bodie felt an answering smile spread across his face. "You bastard--" he began.
The crack was high and thin. Bodie did not recognise the sound at first. He only saw the impact of the bullet--saw Doyle's body slam forward into the fire, saw the stick go wide of its mark, saw the explosion of blood and bone geysering into the air. Bodie bent down to pick up the stick. It snapped beneath his fingers. His left hand strayed to the hair once more--only to find it dripping with blood.
Bodie rolled over to his side and began vomiting. Too much to drink --that was it. Nothing more--just too much the night before--and the night before that. He tried to sit up, but the room--his room--swayed in the light. The clock said 10 a.m. It was his day off--one of the very few he'd seen this month. So of course he'd celebrated the night before. That was all.
He moved gingerly through the day, careful not to upset his stomach or sense of balance any further. Washing up--cleaning--running errands--all done with mechanical ease that buried his fear deep.
The dreams--they kept coming. Over and over--night after night. Crammed full of violence and loss. As if he didn't get enough of it during the day.
The phone rang late in the afternoon. It was Doyle. "We're on. They've found the house where the exchange will take place. Meet you at St. Andrew's Square next to the columns in one hour. We'll enter the house from there." He hung up, not bothering to wait for Bodie's reply. It was the most Doyle had said to him since the warehouse.
"Sure. See you." Bodie hung up and swore. Perfect timing--his mouth dry, his head even dryer, wits at half-mast--and now he had to run an op. Just ducky.
St. Andrews Square really wasn't a square--more like a small opening in the City surrounded by a row of houses. A columned walkway stood in its middle, bordering a tiny patch of green.
Still unsteady, Bodie moved cautiously across the square to where Doyle stood. His partner was on--feet balanced, legs wide apart, he shifted from side to side in anticipation. Smiling, Bodie pointed to Doyle's feet. "Gotta watch those, mate. Might tread on someone's corns."
Doyle first tried to outstare him, but then laughed. "Geroff, Bodie. You'd think you'd appreciate having a partner who's nimble on his feet."
"Why?" Bodie quirked back, loving Doyle when he was like this. "Planning on asking me to dance?" Doyle's second laugh was sliced by the sound of gunfire. Bodie froze, his hand tumbling for the gun under his jacket. The weapon slid through his nerveless fingers, clattering on the pavement. The bullet missed Doyle's head by inches, impacting on the column instead. Doyle was still brushing splinters out of his hair. He had had the presence of mind to take cover, returning fire with one hand, shouting into the RT held in the other. Only Bodie stood in the open, arse flapping in the wind.
Instinct took over his run for cover. Comfortably ensconced behind another column, Bodie checked his clip. It was full. His lips were numb--he could feel Doyle's eyes boring into him from time to time. Strange rhymes peppered his awareness. How had Yeats put it? "Nightmares"? No, that wasn't it. Ahhh. "What rough beast." He fired a round, the gun kicking. "Its hour come round at last." He aimed at the shooter and fired three more rounds. "Slouches towards Bethlehem." Another movement and he emptied his clip. "To be born?" He ejected the clip and slipped another into the grip. Sounded like the ramblings of a madman--but no one had ever accused Yeats of being insane. Bodie began firing again and froze all further thought.
When it was over, Bodie sat quietly, listening to Doyle's report to Cowley. Nothing was said of his fumble or frozen failure. Just the facts--and Doyle's cool eyes assessing him from across the table. Doyle tapped restlessly with a pencil on the table. Each tap jarred Bodie's nerves, the shot-like reports setting his teeth on edge. He knew better than to let Doyle see it was upsetting him. Or why.
The room cleared. Bodie remained seated, waiting for Doyle to move. The pencil caught Bodie's eye--transfixed, helpless, he watched it rise and fall in the air with each flick of Doyle's wrist.
"So what was all that about, Bodie?" Doyle finally spoke, keeping a neutral expression. Bodie saw the pencil give another little waggle. "You suddenly forget fifteen years of SAS, CI5 and god knows what else training?"
Bodie retrieved a smile. "Really, Doyle. No one ever accuse you of having left feet? Sometimes--well sometimes it just doesn't happen. You know." The fear that something really was wrong, that something dark and twisted had sprung to life inside, lumped in his throat.
Doyle laid his pencil carefully on the table. Bodie watched it roll from side to side. "No, Bodie. I don't buy it. An off day--an off weekend. Not this long."
Bodie said nothing. Well, what could he say? I keep dreaming of you dying. And it keeps happening--closer and closer--fraction of an inch more and my dream would have been your reality. And my reality might have been your last waking dream. The possibilities swirled together until the future and present had no distinction. He gripped the chair for support and then blurted. "Why don't you just stop whining and let me get on with it? You don't buy it--tough."
He saw his words impacting on Doyle's face before he realised he'd actually spoken. Eyes narrowed, his partner dissected him from top to bottom in one sweep. "So very right you are. You get on with it. Before you get both of us killed. Can't cover for you forever."
Doyle's chair screeched as he left. There had been no need of that--no need to hurt Doyle. And Doyle was hurt--hidden behind that stiffly retreating back. Bodie opened his mouth to call out to Doyle, then he shut it again. What could he say? And who would believe him? He reached across the table, sleeve dragging, to where the pencil rolled. Picking it up, he bent it between his thumb and forefinger. It snapped with a satisfying crunch. He left the bits littering the table. The beast slouched closer to Bethlehem.
The patrol fanned out--two to Bodie's right, one to the left, and two to guard the rear. The target was a small airfield--they had lugged the mortars into range last night, and then proceeded to dig themselves into position. The hill had just enough brush to cover a man if he crawled. He had had to caution more than once to keep his men below the skyline.
The morning light had barely glimmered over the horizon. Bodie did not need to glance at his watch to know they still had another hour to go. Of course, the fact that he sold his watch last year for a Beretta made time-keeping more difficult. Years of practice in the field, however, gave him an internal clock.
He kept a close ear on his men--even in the dim morning, sounds could travel into the distance. And there was so little cover between them and the airfield--perfect for a clear mortar shot. Lousy for them.
He identified the sound of the wriggling as it approached. Doyle was one of his best--could be counted on keeping his head--and his arse--down when it mattered.
"Thirty more minutes?" Doyle was always off when it came to timing.
Bodie shook his head. "No. Another hour at least."
"How can you tell?" Doyle reflexively whispered. "You don't have a watch." Bodie suppressed a laugh. Doyle knew full well why he'd traded up the watch. Ragged him no end--but would covetously polish Bodie's gun in the late hours as if it were his own.
Doyle leaned into him, his warmth a welcome distraction against the early chill. Bodie smiled back, reaching with his free hand to pat Doyle's arm awkwardly. He wanted to lie down--feel the cool earth rest quietly beneath him--take in the scent of the Laotian morning and the pulse of the man beside him. But they had so little time--and now was not the place.
Doyle tapped his arm. Startled, Bodie looked away from the airfield, his mouth turning to find Doyle's lips meeting his in a light kiss. He breathed out once explosively in shock. Doyle was laughing at him. The bloody bastard had waited until they were on a mission, where he could not really respond (well, not the way he wanted to) to--to--kiss him. He glared back, trying to convey his disdain for these tactics. Doyle stretched on the earth, the high grass fanning around him. Pressing his head on his hands, he grinned back at Bodie, an imp in khaki and dust and dirt. Bodie was not about to let him get away easily.
He checked the field again for movement, but the early morning rousing was still a half hour away. They wanted the field to be fully lit by sunlight before firing the mortars. Doyle's sense of time really was off. Bodie gestured with a gloved hand--follow me. He crawled further back down the slope--the leeward side. He could hear the rustling behind him as Doyle followed. They soon bypassed the rear guard and kept slowly moving. Bodie could just imagine Doyle's curiosity burning as they crawled.
He paused under a small ficus tree--stunted, its roots gnarled around a large rock. The tree would provide shelter from the sun. They would not need it; they would be gone before the sun even touched the rock's broad surface. Bodie kneeled, brushing twigs and bits of grass from his khaki. He smiled. Doyle was still crawling and the sight was delectable. His arse was firmly planted in the air. No doubt intentionally. Bodie shivered, his pulse racing. He waited until Doyle reached the rock, until he pulled himself up to a crouching position, until his green eyes stared back expectedly, with a faint hint of amusement.
"Abandoning outpost? What would the commander say to that?" Doyle was no fool. Bodie liked that--no need for fidgety situations. He leaned forward, gripping Doyle's forearms with his hands. Doyle tasted sweet and salty, his body hard and strong. Bodie felt his own body sing with anticipation.
The explosions rocked the hillside. Cursing, Bodie grabbed his gear and staggered up the ridge. As he crested the hill, another explosion rocked past him, knocking Doyle to the ground. As Bodie turned to help, he saw the artillery positions near the air field--hidden by darkness, the enemy had waited until first light before targeting Bodie's position. Bodie heard one of his men screaming--it was Anderson, a shell had cut him in half.
There was no need to signal retreat--his men were already scrambling up and over the lee. Doyle turned down the hill, threading his way past the rock and the tree. As Bodie stumbled after him, he looked back for the rest of his gear. It was gone--a small crater bracketing the position he and Doyle had shared on the ridge.
If he hadn't lured Doyle down to the rock--they would be harmonising with Anderson. If they had any breath left to breathe. The taste of Doyle still wet his lips, only marred by the flavour of his own blood where he had bitten himself.
Bodie paced below the ridge of the hill. He checked his watch--Doyle was late. The chill, grey skyline gave no hint that morning was approaching. The small airfield below was shadowed in fog and darkness.
The crackle of leaves reminded Bodie that he still not heard from Doyle. They had good information that the ex-mercenaries would be heading here directly after robbing the bank--and if Bodie remembered anything of his ex-mates, it was that they were punctual.
Doyle trudged slowly up the hill, threading his way determinedly through the damp grass. He returned Bodie's scowl with one of equal measure. His dark clothing blended in with the greying light, leaving only his unruly hair as a sticking point. Bodie nodded, feeling his muscles tense with the cold and adrenaline. He knew he was being skittish--he could feel Doyle's eyes assessing him with one long stroke--and knew he wasn't fooling anyone. His fear, a familiar habit, had grown into a waking obsession, something to be nurtured yet despised. But never acknowledged. That would make it real and not a dream.
"Any sign yet?" Doyle stood close enough to be heard in a soft undertone.
"No--and if they had, you'd've missed it," Bodie barked back and then bit his lip. No need to alert the entire countryside.
Doyle turned away, rubbing his hands in the cold. "Nah--your watch's fast, that's all. Or maybe you'll be telling me next that you don't need one, being an ex-mercenary and all." Doyle was looking at him. Bodie pretended to study the ridge with silent effort. Doyle sighed, his breath coming forth with white puffs. "So maybe that's it?" This last sentence was said with even greater softness, almost as if he didn't really want Bodie to hear--or comment. Bodie clenched his jaw muscles to stop his reply.
"I mean, it hasn't quite escaped me that you've not been running on all cylinders lately." Doyle could be relentless--he had moved even closer, his breath now touching Bodie, warming him.
"And?" Bodie let the sound escape his lips, certain that such a little, inoffensive word could do no harm. He was wrong. Doyle's eyes narrowed, his lips thinned, and he turned his head away abruptly as if caught in the glare of something painful and blinding. Bodie's hands began to freeze and he fumbled in his anorak for his gloves. Doyle grabbed Bodie's arm suddenly, arresting his search. The grip was firm, unbending--he had seen it used on criminals and women with varying effects. Now Bodie felt caught between the two.
"Bodie," the words were slow and drawn out. "I won't ask again."
Bodie heard the threat and winced. The words came spurting out. "Look, Doyle. It's just this case." He hoped Doyle wouldn't press on the fact he'd been this way for months. Doyle remained quiet, allowing Bodie to flounder on. "You know, I worked with some questionable men in my time. And I've done some questionable things. So, it's not that hard to understand that when I find myself chasing my old," he paused, searching for the right word, "mates, I keep replaying it all." He forced a laugh. Doyle's face did not change: waiting, insatiable, demanding more. Bodie felt it being drawn from him, pulled like a silk handkerchief out of a magician's pocket. If he didn't hurry this up, it might go on and on forever.
"Like Max and me. We used to work with this nutter called Krivas." Bile suddenly rose, the memories drowning out his words. He lowered his head, shaking the sweat that ran into his eyes. Looking up he saw Doyle's face soften, felt the grip alter its position. They stood so close, their breaths mingling. Close enough to kiss.
Bodie continued, drawn on by the helpless fixation he now saw in Doyle's eyes. Far easier to confess this than the belief he was insane. "She was special, so beautiful, and I loved her. But we both wanted her, Krivas and me. She chose me--used to laugh when I told her that Krivas could offer her more. I only said that to her because I was jealous, you know. I was very young." He paused again, looking over the ridge and remembering that there were here on the job.
"Don't worry," Doyle said. "I'm keeping an eye on it." Bodie nodded again, grateful someone was keeping watch. "He killed her. .44 Magnum, at close range." Bodie glanced up, staring blindly into Doyle's eyes. "She was beautiful."
Doyle squeezed his arm gently. He peered into Bodie's face, looking as if he saw something there that demanded a response. He leaned a fraction closer. Bodie's heart lurched inside his chest and he allowed his muscles to relax into absolute stillness. Then Doyle released his grip. Clearing his throat, he looked away. "Personal involvement. Spoils your aim."
Bodie flushed then, Doyle coming closer to the truth than he'd ever know. Hardening his voice, Bodie replied: "It gives you an edge."
Doyle looked back, even as he moved up towards the ridge. Just before reaching the top he paused and then turned around. "What did you do?" Doyle asked. His voiced sounded more curious than condemning.
Bodie started breathing again, remembering to keep his hands inside his pockets to hide the trembling. "I killed him. What else do you think? Staked him out on a flat rock under an acacia tree and left him to rot in the sun. Takes a man two, three, days to die like that."
Doyle blinked a bit and then smiled. "Right, Bodie." He started to move again. Bodie stared at his back, disbelieving that Doyle would not believe. It wasn't as if he'd ever given the truth lightly before. And maybe that was part of the problem.
He was still standing there when the hand grenade hit the ridge. Doyle's body was thrown down the slope, limbs akimbo, skin pale white in the light. Bodie was on his knees rolling the body over, pressing his head to the chest, fingers fumbling at the collar. The pulse was slow and strong, singing through his gloved fingers like the most radiant melody he had ever heard. A voice screamed loudly. Bodie shut his mouth abruptly, feeling the raw power in his throat. Far off, he heard the sound of an aeroplane taking off and dimly realised there had been a successful escape. Cowley was going to kill them--reminiscing over old times when they should have been on watch.
Doyle mumbled a bit and struggled to sit up. "Hang on." Bode murmured in his ear. "You're still in shock," he pronounced and propped Doyle up against his knee. Bodie shook all over--barely able to fish out the RT and give the report. He knew he wasn't making much sense. He knew that this would only add to the litany of cock-ups that would be laid at his doorstep.
He could hold onto only one thought that grey September morn--someone should have died. Death would have been far better than the loosing of the blood-dimmed tide that drowned him in its intensity.
He rolled off the light pad that separated him from the ground. The tent was stuffy, but it kept some of the ever-present insects at bay. And it gave a sense of privacy, something to be valued even here in the Nicaraguan brush. Doyle lay curled next to him, his rifle wedged within easy reach. Bodie smiled at his partner--even asleep, his hand rested on the knife he kept under his pillow. After two years of sleeping next to Bodie, Doyle still needed the reassurance of a blade.
Carefully, Bodie leaned forward. The dawn had barely reached over the trees and the camp was still asleep. His hand snaked closer to Doyle's face. He kept his breathing regular--no need to give Doyle any extra warning. His grab was quick--his hand barely touched Doyle's knife before Doyle's fist struck him in the ribs. Throwing his weight forward, he pinned Doyle underneath him.
"Stop it, or you'll bring the tent down."
Doyle stopped his more vigorous efforts, but his face canted itself upwards, teeth bared with displeasure. "Don't tell me--you've decided you need help dressing. Christ, Bodie, what am I? Your early morning wake-up call?"
Bodie grinned down, still using his hip and arms to hold Doyle in place. "Sunshine," he drawled. "I don't need help dressing. I need help undressing. It's not my fault that he likes to wake up before you're civilised yet."
Doyle flexed his muscles again, his rump pressing firmly into Bodie's tight groin with a buzzing pleasure. "He wouldn't care if I was a hairy barbarian or a fairy princess. Now move--or do you fancy practising Kama Sutra position number 137?"
Bodie flopped his weight next to Doyle. Doyle's hands were already undoing himself. "137...? Is that the one where you sit on my lap and I rock you from side to side?"
"No," Doyle hissed as Bodie's hands slid down his open shirt. "That's 145. This is the one where I start here...and then move down here...and then...." Doyle's voice grew more muffled as he traced his path down to Bodie's groin.
"Ah, Ray. Don't you know? Hairy barbarians can't count." He wriggled as Doyle's teeth gripped his cock. "Yes." Bodie closed his eyes and centred on the pulses of electricity shooting up through his stomach and chest. His hands flailed blindly until he felt Doyle's fingers grip his left hand and guide it to Doyle's cock.
Bodie squeezed tightly, rubbing his thumb mercilessly over the tip. He kept a steady pace until he heard Doyle's soft mumblings form into almost audible moans. He slowed his breathing--the pressure inside his cock, buried in Doyle's wet mouth, mounted with blinding speed. He abruptly relaxed his hand and pushed himself roughly backwards and away from Doyle.
Bodie heard the sounds of movement outside in the camp. Now they'd have to be even quieter. He hesitated, wondering just how he was going to accomplish this silently. Then Doyle leaned forward, face flushed, eyes burning with amusement at Bodie's predicament. He punched Bodie's shoulder and handed him a kerchief. The light was greying and the darkness changed into pale pastels as colours sprang to life. Confused, Bodie stared at the cloth. Sighing, Doyle picked up his hand and raised it to his lips. Catching on, Bodie stuffed the kerchief inside his mouth and saw that Doyle had mimicked the action. Good mercs always knew how to complete an operation in silence.
Bodie groaned into the pillow. His cock twitched and he wriggled his hips into the mattress, seeking a measure of pleasure. Damn this. He had taken Susan out only two nights ago. And Ann the week before that. His cock twitched again, unimpressed. It wanted relief--and it wanted it now. He moved his right hand down to squeeze the last few pulses. His mouth filled with a pleasure he could almost taste.
He stayed in bed long after the alarm buzzed, trying to retain the remnants of pleasure. Nothing but dreams. Wiping his hands across his slick abdomen told him a different story--one where dreams manifested themselves into something more than wet fantasies. His come was real. The pulse his cock gave whenever he thought of Doyle was real. His dreams were real.
So what did that mean? He padded through the cool flat, disgustedly looking for something to eat. The latest round of ops had nibbled at his spare time and he hadn't a chance to restock on food. He threw away some moulding bread, uncapped a jar of pickles and poured a glass of Coke into a dirty glass. I dream of Doyle dying, but he hasn't --yet. I dream of Doyle in my bed, but he's not there. The possibilities were too confusing to know what was real and what was a dream.
He was getting too deep. Just a fucking dream. Why did he have to take it so seriously? Because he wanted to. So he saw Doyle die. So he slept with his partner. Shit. Maybe he should just tell Doyle--about the death dreams at least. Maybe he'd just walk up to Ross and Cowley while he was at it: "Look at me sir, I'm psychic. Except I don't always dream true. Just now and then. Oh--and I don't really fancy my partner. Just he keeps cropping up dead, you see, and I'd rather fuck him."
"Stop it." Bodie curled forward, clutching the table. You can beat this. He walked over to the bathroom and started rummaging. The pills were leftovers from a flesh wound--painkillers really. But when combined with alcohol they'd serve as sleeping pills. He put two by the bed, ready for the night, then returned back to the living room. Just one night without dreaming and he'd be fine.
To hell with it all. Stomach grumbling, he walked into the cold shower for once without formulating a complaint to his landlord.
The drive to the stakeout was uneventful. The cold air kept most urban dwellers inside on this Sunday morning. He knocked quietly on the door before entering. Anson had been known to shoot at anything when he hadn't enough sleep.
"Morning." Bodie always made certain he gave the weary masses a cheery greeting. Especially when they glowered from their perches behind surveillance equipment. Anson looked up sourly. "Nothing new. Same three people entered at 2300."
"And what'll you bet the same three leave at 0900 again--like the day before and the day before and the day before and--" Doyle said.
"Hello, Doyle." Bodie cut him off before Anson could reach for his cup of stale tea to throw across the room. "Now don't tease the boy--he's had a tough night. Dear god, something might have happened and it'd've thrown off his game of solitaire."
Anson merely grunted and then moved quickly out the door. Doyle watched him go, turning back to Bodie with an innocent smile. "What's he afraid of? That we'll suddenly remember we have shopping to do, and abandon him?"
Doyle had pulled off his jacket in the smooth movement that Bodie loved. He wore the flannel shirt Bodie had given him after listening to him complain about too many cold stakeouts. Bodie had chosen it because it matched Doyle's eyes. He stared without realising it and then pulled himself over to the equipment. "Wouldn't be too far from the truth. Had nothing to eat in the flat. And nothing is open on Sunday morning. Might give God a coronary if his flock were doing something useful like cooking."
"Only you would blame God for your empty stomach, Bodie. What were you doing last Tuesday with the night off?"
Bodie smirked at Doyle. Doyle rolled up his sleeves-- his forearms bared, muscles defined in the corded wrists. He has such beautiful hands.
"And I'm supposed to have sympathy?" Doyle knelt down before the recording reel, adjusting its speed for shorter bursts of sound. "Man can't live by cock alone."
Not even if it was your cock, Bodie thought wildly, feeling himself shake with laughter. Lust constantly bubbled inside of him now when he was with Doyle. He walked across the room, trying to burn off the contact high.
"Sit down, Bodie. Movement can be seen from the window." Doyle had rooted himself next to the most comfortable seat. And the one with the least amount of equipment to monitor.
Bodie glared back at Doyle. "Don't tell me how to conduct surveillance. I was hunting men in the bush while you were still chasing rats in your cot." He hated this tension--why didn't it just happen like in his dream? Why was he standing here with a hard-on and nowhere to shove it? The feel of Doyle moving beneath him swirled through his body, a tactile memory that left him aching and alone.
Doyle kipped his head backward, his face lit by the soft dawn. "What's the matter, sunshine? She didn't come across after all?" Bodie froze, his body giving away his shock. "Don't act so surprised. Any idiot could see what your real problem is. Just like a hairy barbarian--can't decide which is more important, sex or food." Doyle cackled, rubbing his arm across his face. Bodie watched the arm lift, watched Doyle's shoulders flex, watched the throat convulsing with laughter.
"You're right. Can't decide. That's the problem." Bodie inched closer to Doyle. Doyle had turned away to face the window again, his eyes dutifully tracking the empty street.
"What's the problem again?" Doyle commented absently.
Bodie moved closer, feeling the pull of memory haze his awareness. The dream had given him a Doyle ready for the taking. He hadn't hesitated then.... And it had worked.... "'S no problem. You just reminded me that I can make the choice. No reason to sit around, waiting for it to be made."
"Great. So who'll it be next time? Kate or Susan?" Doyle still peered out the window, the light highlighting the planes of his face, neck, and arms. His shirt, open to the third button, gave Bodie an even greater view of skin. He stood directly behind Doyle, his breathing even and regular. His placed his hand carefully on Doyle's shoulder, gently pressing down. Doyle shifted under his weight and tilted his head up and to the left in query. "What?" he muttered and then Bodie slid his hand down the open shirt to encompass the whole chest with his open hand. Tickling ever lower and lower.
"Fuck!" Doyle kicked back in the chair, wriggling his body away from Bodie's hand. "What're you doing, Bodie! Your hands are bloody cold." Doyle lurched out of the chair, towards the back of the room. His eyes, wide with stimulus, seemed to take the scene in one sweep. Bodie, face red, trousers bulging, holding his hand as if scalded. Oh, God, Bodie prayed. If you've ever listened, don't let him say anything. He shut his eyes.
Doyle did not say anything. Bodie opened his eyes with relief. But God had never bothered to listen to any of Bodie's prayers before. He should have known better than to ask now. The answer was written across Doyle's face. Hard, cold, it gave off no sense of comprehension, only a distance that seemed to mushroom before Bodie's eyes. Doyle rubbed his chest and then caught himself. Straightening up, he buttoned his shirt. His eyes never strayed from Bodie, watching him as if he were the surveillance subject. Measured, catalogued, identified. Queer. Pansy. Bodie.
Bodie backed away. Look, his eyes pleaded. Didn't mean it. Just a bit of fun. Just a joke. The words could not be spoken--his voice gagged in his throat. They both knew they were lies. And Doyle was turning away, moving stiffly back to the chair as if nothing could be spoken. Shunting Bodie away into a prison where even dreams would not set him free.
Bodie ran out of the flat and into the morning air. His eyes burned at the memory of Doyle's silence. It carried him down the street and through the rest of the day's wandering.
Entering his flat some time later, he paused to survey the dusty stillness. The rooms were damp with chill and he doubted even the furnace could remove it. Crossing the living room he switched on the kitchen light. His flat still had no food--all this time he'd spent walking and he still forgot to stock up. Picking up his keys, he headed for the door. His RT, wedged between the dishes, beeped. Dutifully, he turned it on.
"End of shift message not received. Please verify."
"Shift completed. Refer to 4.5's status report for update. 3.7 out."
"Control out." The RT buzzed and then fizzled. Bodie stared at it, unthinking. Doyle hadn't reported him missing. Had handled the shift and gone home, without giving any of it away. Without giving Bodie away.
Bodie sat on the edge of the kitchen chair dangling the RT between his fingers. Of course Doyle hadn't given him away. Partners didn't do that to one another. Yeah, his mind laughed at that one. And partners didn't shove their hands down their mate's shirtfronts, sliding their palms across skin, towards the lower goal.
Everything was turning and turning and turning. His mind could not hold its centre. Reality fell a victim to anarchy running loose. The dark shape of madness crouched at his feet and he could not silence it forever. Did he even want to?
He picked up the phone and called Doyle's flat. No answer. He let it ring, reflexively counting as he stared into the darkness. The ringing faded into the background, a dim reminder that his partner was nowhere he should be. And that Bodie was in this one alone.
The pills were there, waiting for him. He placed each one carefully in his mouth, swirling the bitterness like a favoured wine. Just one night's sleep--without dreams--and everything would be fine. It had to be.
"Well--that's it then." Bodie released the map, letting the edges flutter in the evening breeze. They had hung lamps over the tent opening where his patrol had gathered to plan the next day's activities. "Any questions?" He didn't expect any--but it was always politic to ask. Made the men feel like their opinion mattered.
A few nods and restless shifting followed. They were six total--squatting or standing, only faces illuminated in the weak lamplight. Bodie looked at each in turn--his eyes resting briefly on Doyle. His hair bound back by a bandanna, he squatted next to the map, chewing on his thumb. Bodie stood, ready to dismiss the group.
"I don't like it." The comment was thrown, challenging, across the map. Bodie glared at the speaker--it was Arbor. Dark, stocky, he always stood well enough back to hide in the shadows--and too far back on the line of fire for Bodie's taste. Still, the commander liked him--and so far he had avoided getting on Bodie's nerves.
Bodie waited. He saw the stillness in his men--and silently swore. Trust Arbor to muck the best-laid plan. "So what's your problem, Arbor?" he asked. He put as much weariness as he could in the voice--and a touch of warning.
Arbor leaned into the light, jabbing at the map with his boot. "It's too far. Not enough time to get there and back before dark."
Bodie controlled himself with effort. "Too far? Christ, what are you? A civilian? We get paid to do our job--and any man who can't keep up had better sleep it off in the camp." There, let him chew on that.
Arbor flushed, his skin dusky in the lamp light. One man snickered. The rest waited for the next volley. An evening's entertainment and briefing for one low price, Bodie thought, bending down to roll up the map.
Doyle's hand stopped him. Startled, he released the map, which blew against Arbor's feet. "He's right," Doyle said stiffly. Bodie stared at him, waiting for the joke. Doyle's green eyes flared in the light, causing Bodie to blink. "He's right," Doyle repeated, loudly, addressing his comments to everyone. Bodie schooled his face and sat back on his heels. He knew that his own face betrayed the same dark flush.
"The distance would be travelable within the time limit--except, we'll have to bypass the direct route on the way back. See--" Doyle reached for the map, uncurling it from Arbor's feet as Arbor moved further into the light. "See--we know that the enemy camp is positioned here. We can take the direct route in the morning and still be well outside of detection range." Doyle paused and looked up at Bodie. Bodie refused to give him any prompting or encouragement. How could the man be so bloody stupid to side with a prat like Arbor? His plan was sound--any idiot could see that. Doyle could see that. What was he trying to pull?
"Anyway," Doyle continued after failing to get any response, "we know from the tribes that the enemy plans to set up another camp within the next 24 hours here--" Doyle's thumb rested directly on the planned route. "Now chances are they won't move in that quickly. But if they do, we'll not be able to avoid detection. So we've got to use the western route and--"
"And that means we can't be back in time for nightfall." Bodie interrupted harshly, shoving the map aside with his foot. "I've considered that, Doyle. I've also considered the source--the locals are just primitives--couldn't tell time if they had atomic clocks strapped to their pricks. So--" Bodie stood, assessing his men with a quick glance. Some doubt and hesitation. He couldn't afford that. None of them could. Why couldn't Doyle see that? "So we'll proceed as planned. Meet here at 0600." He picked up the map and turned to enter into the tent. He sensed their indecision, and then their easing into the night behind him.
When Doyle entered the tent, he pretended to be asleep. He felt him standing in the entryway, waiting to be recognised. Bodie evened his breathing, simulating deep slumber. It was better than shredding his partner. Two years working together, and Doyle'd never doubted him. Never contradicted him in front of the men. Bodie squeezed his eyes tightly. Doyle was stripping. Bodie heard the slide of clothing, the rustling of the bedroll, the soft whisper of breath. His cock wanted him to roll over and embrace Doyle. His heart wanted to start talking. He stilled both with an iron will until only the sounds of the night were left to disturb him.
The operation was arduous. Bodie never denied that. Forced marches were always draining, dirty, and potentially deadly. As hour after hour of road and brush passed underfoot, the eye grew weary, the ears dull, and the mind numb and slow to act.
The opening rounds that killed his man on point that afternoon took far too long to register. Arbor fell next, his scream of warning dying even as the bullet sliced his throat. The next two men fell with uneasy quickness--Bodie could have sworn they'd dropped to cover until he saw the blood pooling under them. He sprinted for the treeline, Doyle close behind. They had both been bringing up the rear. They slid down a slope, into a small stream and kept running. Bodie's lungs burned, his eyes watered. He kept moving until he could hear only the sounds of Doyle's harsh gasps behind.
He didn't want to slow, but his legs were shifting beneath him and he could not longer see the path ahead. It took him a while to realise that it was not darkness that was falling--it was his pace that had caused his vision to swim with blackness. He felt Doyle's arm grabbing his waist--felt him being guided back to the camp. But as they neared, Doyle's hand slipped away. Staggering slightly, Bodie grabbed the nearest water canister and started swigging. He could barely pull in the water between his ragged gasps. He would have to make a report--Christ, how to explain the death of his squad?
It took him a moment to recognise Doyle. Bodie had slumped to the ground near their tent, cradling the water canister in his hands. It was Doyle's boots that first registered. They were covered in dry dust--and the faint trace of blood. Bodie felt the colour drain from his face then--he could have lost Doyle. He stood, the world swimming, and tried to touch Doyle. Doyle danced back. Bodie looked up and saw only anger and rage. "So how're you going to explain this, Bodie?"
Bodie stared back, letting the words wash over him until they finally connected with the primitive parts of his brain. Something deep stirred within him, something so basic that it moved his mouth to speak before he knew he was saying. "They fucked up--what good is it to have a point who can't recognise an enemy camp until after we passed their warning sentries?" Bodie took another sip, deciding not to offer any to Doyle after all.
"That's not the way it was, Bodie. The camp was there. Just like the tribal scouts said. Just like Arbor said. Just like I said. How many of us have to die before you admit you fucked up?"
Bodie felt light-headed. He knew he would see it Doyle's way--eventually. But not right now. Not with the taste of fear so clear in his mouth or the hand of death still at their heels. He opened his mouth again--but his delay had apparently answered for him. An answer that Doyle did not like. Turning abruptly, he punched the tent post with his left fist. Then, wincing, Doyle stalked across the camp, heading for the mess tent. Bodie took a few weak steps to follow, but then realised he had still to give his report. Doyle would just have to bury his righteous anger and wait. Good mercs always followed the operation to the bitter end. No matter what the cost.
Bodie tried to verify the address but could not make out the number. Faded paint, peeling walls, grimy hallways greeted him with unblinking splendour. Doyle had picked a very secure--and discreet--location. Bodie swallowed nervously, feeling the thickness in the air, and knocked on the door. It came open under his hand. He walked in.
The flat was abandoned. The graffiti and urine attested to that. Bodie had difficulty seeing his way, but kept moving. The room was lit by a bare bulb. It lent Doyle a harsh air--he was standing, looking out the window at the empty lot next door. He did not turn to see who entered. Breach of security protocol, Bodie thought and walked to stand next to Doyle.
"Not much to look at," he opened. His gaze flicked over to Doyle--his face held a tension, his shoulders braced. He must have been here for some time, waiting. He was still wearing the clothing he had on the stakeout--down to the third open button. Bodie swallowed against the silence.
"So what's the plan? Stand and watch the paint peel?" He knew he was nettling Doyle. But it was better than the silence.
Doyle sighed. He ran his hand through his hair, and leaned against the sill. "Would be more informative."
"Than what?" Bodie resisted the urge to adopt a similar pose. "Come on, Doyle. Get it over with."
Doyle's eyes flashed green in the dim light. He shifted his hip against the window ledge, his foot scraping at some papers. It was a map of some sort. Bodie squinted trying to make it out. Doyle's voice startled him.
"That's your problem. This is all some sort of game--some sort of trial to get through." Doyle was clearly trying building a case with Bodie as the prime suspect.
Bodie swallowed--his throat was very dry. "What is it you want, Doyle?" He put as much weariness as he could in the voice--and a touch of warning.
Doyle scraped at the map again. "I don't care whether you talk--only that you listen. I've tried talking--not that it ever worked with you. I've tried ignoring it--only to find you still cocking up. I've tried just pretending it doesn't exist--that's your speciality isn't it--only to find you coming on to me. With no explanation. With no "wanna fuck"--just a quick grope. And on duty. Is that what this is all about? Your priapismic ego?"
Bodie flushed, uncomfortably hot. Trust Doyle to bring this down to the basest level.
Doyle continued, the silence echoing around his words. "So what is it, Bodie--you feeling bored and want to have a one off? Fine--I'm up for that! But why do I have the feeling that this would only muck things up worse? Why do I have the feeling I am going to wake up one morning with my brains blown over my pillow and you standing there holding the gun in your hand? I don't care what your problem is anymore--except I'm not going to pay for it."
Doyle waited--Bodie could hear his thoughts. I'm going to give you one last chance, Bodie. Who did Doyle think he was? His keeper? That was a joke. He was doing the best he could--why couldn't Doyle see that? Talk--talk--talk--that's all Doyle wanted. Talking wouldn't make the dreams go away. Or the lust and desire and fear--it was all entwined in a Gordian knot and no Doyle was going to cut it through with words. He forced his face into a sneer, cloaking the entire charade in callous indifference. God, he was so tired. His eyes gummed over with exhaustion, his legs were trembling as if he'd been running for his life. He couldn't afford much more of this. Neither of them could.
Bodie forgot that Doyle was waiting for an answer until he saw his partner twist his open hand into a fist. It impacted the window sill with a painful crunch. Bodie wondered when his silence had turned into words--words into meaning--meaning into declarations. He never meant it to end this way--but Doyle always took everything apart with a righteousness that left no room for practicality. It was far easier to remain where he was. Only silence and absolute stillness could protect him from the crouching beast.
Doyle's eyes closed. A long shuddering sigh escaped his lips. Bodie thought the sound formed the shape of his name but the next words that flowed hard afterwards drowned everything else out. "Fuck you, Bodie." And then he was gone.
"Hey, Bodie. Heard you're going solo." Wyden did not move from the comfortable campfire perch he'd claimed as his own against all comers. His dark face reflected a good measure of arrogance and stupidity--everyone knew not to hassle the patrol when they first reported back. Bodie measured the energy a reply would have cost against a swift punch--both too high a coin for his exhaustion. The patrol had been long, tricky, and he hadn't had Doyle along. At Doyle's request, no less.
Bodie scuffed his boots and ignored Wyden. Let him natter on. Their tent was only paces away when he noted that Doyle's bedroll was not hanging on the posts. Grumbling at his partner's forgetfulness, he pulled the rough material aside and ducked.
The tent was silent, its emptiness conveyed by the absence of Doyle's clutter and presence. Bodie's kit remained where he had left it, neatly rolled in the corner. Bodie backed out of the tent and stood clear. Doyle wasn't there. His things weren't there. He began walking swiftly down the path to the commander's tent. As he passed by Wyden, the man called out: "You won't find him there. He left hours ago. Guess you'll need a new bedmate. He, he." Bodie kept walking, but the words had struck the mark.
Bodie was professional enough to deliver his report first. When he was certain that the commodore had heard enough, he asked his question. "Where's Doyle?"
The commander looked up from the field map he had been marking in surprise. "He didn't tell you?"
Bodie shifted his weight back on his heels before replying. "No sir. He didn't see fit to."
The commander returned to his map, dismissing Bodie. "Then I see no need to. As of 1800, he's no longer in our employ. Paid a substantial wage penalty to be released from the contract, but released he is."
Bodie did not wait any further. 1800. That was only--he checked his watch--twenty minutes ago. Wyden couldn't count worth spit. Half-running, he joined the north sentry--north being the only route that wasn't covered with enemy troops. The man, jug poised at his lips, failed to challenge him. Bodie grabbed the jug and pulled it away. "Where'd he go!" His eyes were burning, his face as if it had frozen in place. The sentry stared at him stupidly. He shoved the jug into the man's chest, and tried again. "Doyle. Which way did he go." The man's eyes brightened. "Los Verdugos trail. Told him it was nuts to travel at night, but off he went." Bodie turned and began jogging up the path. Even in the total dark, he knew the first mile by heart. He increased his pace when he emerged from the dense forest growth. The moonlight gave him an excuse to speed. When he had travelled almost a mile, he slowed his pace. If Doyle had any sense, he'd have pulled off into the undergrowth at the sound of approaching feet. Now it was up to Doyle. Bodie put his hands to his mouth and gave the bird-call that was the camp signal for friend. He walked slowly, making the call every 100 paces. He also paused periodically, listening for sounds of movement.
The answering call came from the left. Bodie waited for Doyle to make his way into the road. The moonlight highlighted his pale skin, but other than that he had left no unburnished metal to reflect back. He was outfitted for a long journey--his bedroll slung over his back and his provisions stowed neatly inside. Bodie stared at him, trying to convey his anger across the warm night air. Doyle wasn't listening.
"Bit late for a jog, isn't it?" Doyle's voice was low and suffused with the very absence of humour.
Bodie scowled, then realised that in the dark, his body language was muted. "Where the fuck do you think you're going?" His voice came out loudly, explosively echoing into the dark.
"Well, now who's forgotten the need for stealth and silence? Tsk, tsk. All that training wasted." Doyle had started to walk away, up the road, still heading north.
Bodie followed, pulled along helplessly, by the sound of Doyle's voice, the move of his body. "Look, Doyle. Sorry about that. I mean, you can't just walk away. Christ, we're partners."
Doyle's voice floated back over his shoulder. "Why not? Didn't sign a contract with you. And even if I had--contracts can be made to be broken."
Yeah, Bodie thought, but there's a price. There's always a price.
He grabbed Doyle, whipping his body to the right and riveting him into place. "That's it, Doyle. We're going back. And talk this out at camp." The night air flowed past him, infusing him with a sense of dark purpose. Only then did he feel the steel knife pressing into his belly, see the blue flash of light. Carefully, he released Doyle's arm. Doyle backed away, the knife level and unwavering. Bodie strained to get a glimpse of Doyle's face, a pointer to his partner's mood. But like any important thing in his life, Doyle remained muted and unknowable in the blackness. Bodie opened his mouth, trying to reach Doyle with words, as if words would serve him where force could not. "Run away, Doyle. Ran away from your wife and children. Ran away from your country. Ran away from it all. Someday, there will be something or someone too big to run away from. Then where'll you be?" He put every bit of viciousness and fury into his words, hoping to get some reaction in the cooling night.
Doyle moved softly against the backdrop of the sounds, distracting Bodie. He had to strain to hear. "And so what if I want to run away? Better than watching you lead a crowd of poor prats to their deaths and not owning up. Better than living with a man who'd rather be silent than sorry. Or accountable."
Bodie snorted derisively. "Still going on about that? Or is it you that's gone stale--had your fun in the bush and now it's off to better pastures. So what's her name?"
Doyle's face mirrored the moon in its coldness. He seemed to be controlling himself with some effort. The knife never wavered.
Bodie could feel his pupils expanding. The world had suddenly lightened. He could even see Doyle's face clearly now. "All right," he finally grated. "His name."
Doyle remained silent. But his eyes narrowed. His muscles bunched in protest. "Why not, then. Let's just say I got tired of it all. The big he-man in bed is fine for a while. But not as a career choice. Never think I'd get tired of playing Sheilah to your Charlie?" Doyle paused. Bodie thought he saw him swallow a few times before continuing. "Fuck off, Bodie."
And then he faded into the brush. As the darkness enveloped the spot where Doyle had stood, Bodie felt a sharp loss, leaving him with pain and a burning feeling where his heart once had been.
Bodie tried to kick the alarm silent, forgetting that hands were better suited to fine, dextrous motions. All he managed to do was roll himself off the bed. His groggy eyes took in the room, still, empty, alone. His mouth had the fuzzy remembrance of pills and booze, but his memory pulled the threads of his dream apart with the bitterest clarity. Ross would love this. What had possessed him to follow the urgings of a subconscious that was oversexed and under-smart?
In the cool light of morning, Doyle's reaction made perfect sense, and his own actions--well, suffice to say, he hadn't mooned over someone this stupidly since early puberty.
He'd have to apologise to Doyle. No half-jokes, casual-over-the-shoulder sorries would do. Then maybe they'd put this whole thing behind. It wasn't like any of it was really happening. Just his own morbid fears--and lustful fantasies. And, like the Willie he was, he took it too literally. Doyle always said he was too literate for his own good. Wonder what Wordsworth would say about it all? Yeats, of course, would paint a few fairies into the picture--one already was enough. He shut the door to the pill cabinet then, and gave himself over to morning preparations.
Parking wasn't easy--it seemed that all forty CI5 agents were at headquarters on one op or another. The VIP lounge was crowded with half-awake men, men asleep on couches and chairs, and men bending and swearing over papers and forms. The sheer normalcy of it all helped Bodie's nerves.
He watched a new agent trotting down the hall with an inflated aura of importance. Turning, he followed him, pausing to check the duty roster. Numbers, coded assignments--it was a wonder they didn't dissolve into a mathematical mess one day. 3.7--solo assignment, Loprian guard duty. Bodie's thumb traced the paper down a few inches--4.5--the number skipped from 4.2 and continued past to 4.7, 4.9, and 5.2. All the way down the roster sheet. The numbers didn't lie, but his eyes did not stop flicking over the sheet, again and again.
"Hoi, Bodie. Move over. The rest of us are dying to see what Cowley's cooked up for us today. Right, Cookie?" Anson's booming voice broke through Bodie's concentration.
Cookie only groaned and leaned up against Bodie's back trying, unsuccessfully, to peer over Bodie's broad shoulders. "Christ, Bodie. How you ever get so big? Move over, you bloody he-man."
Bodie elbowed once, sharply, heard the woof of air, listened for the satisfying thump without turning his head. While Anson moved over to stop Cookie's downward slide, Bodie marched down the hall and turned left. Unannounced, he pushed past Betty into Cowley's office.
Cowley looked up, gestured to Bodie to sit down, and hung up the receiver. Bodie remained standing. Height gave the illusion of a tactical advantage and Bodie was determined to use all the advantages he had coming.
Cowley did not seemed surprised to see him. That alone was enough to sink his fast-draining emotions. But the ID, the gun, and holster that lay on Cowley's desk signalled the end of his struggle before the opening salvo. The seat was a welcome option after all.
Bodie watched Cowley pick up the gun and move it into his desk drawer. The gesture sent a tremor through his legs. The chair was definitely a necessity now. "Sir?" he said, trying to divert his imagination from the mushrooming possibilities.
"Why is your partner no longer assigned to you, Bodie?"
He should have expected the frontal attack. "Why ask me?" he barked back, suddenly certain that truth could have no role to play in this conversation.
"Because when I partnered you to Doyle, he became your concern. When he slept, when he ate, what he ate, how often he did his toilette. It all became the most important thing in your life. And now you sit here and tell me you don't know why your partner tried to get himself reassigned?"
Bodie shifted up at this. "Tried? I thought you said he was no longer mine." He didn't mean to give so much away, but the question, and the hope it engendered, spilled from his lips.
Cowley's eyes narrowed and Bodie felt a bit more of his psyche exposed to that probing gaze. "The only reason he is not `out' of the partnership is because no one leaves without my permission. And I haven't given my permission to anything yet. I don't run my shop on whims, flights of imagination, or sexual fancies."
Bodie flushed. He knew it was happening, could feel the heat burning through his skin like a beacon of guilt. God, Doyle must have talked. The cold bastard must have gone home that night, thought it all over, and then walked in early that morning. And told Cowley everything. Nothing left up to chance. Nothing left to mar his perfect doorstep. Shift it all to his partner, his bloody poofter of a partner who came on to him at work. The partner who had had his chance--and still remained silent.
The truth of it all could not erase the feeling of betrayal he felt. Smiling, he lifted his lips and replied: "Doyle go on about that? What did he say, sir?" He waited, suddenly enjoying the role reversal as the thin man struggled to describe exactly what Doyle had accused him of.
"First he said you had lost your edge, had soured in the field. The list of cock-ups was impressive. Do you want me to repeat them?" Bodie waved his hand negatively. "I told him that I don't reassign partners because one of them went sour. We retrain and retain and then re-evaluate." Cowley looked directly at Bodie. "Doyle insisted that retraining would not solve this particular problem--said that the two of you could longer work together. Naturally, I asked him what immutable personality quirk he had discovered after so many years of successful partnership." Bodie heard the sarcasm and could only guess the effect it must have had on Doyle. Cowley cleared his throat. "Then your partner said--" the last word was drawn out longer that it had to be--"that yesterday, while on the op, you attempted to engage him in sexual activities. While on duty, I might add."
Cowley's face had taken a darker turn and Bodie wondered what really bothered him--the fact that he stuffed his hands down Doyle's shirt or that he had mucked around while on her Majesty's payroll. Either case, this was one he knew how to handle. Sighing, he deliberately relaxed his body, signalling his amusement even before he spoke. "Jesus, Doyle can be so thick. I put my hand down his shirt. My hands were cold, he was parroting around about how he never got cold. So I thought to give him a taste of it. You know how he can be." He put the sparkle in his eyes, heard the lift in his voice that communicated the utter absurdity.
Cowley thought for a moment, allowing some of the tension to leave his shoulders, his hands resting easy on the desk. "I thought it was something like that. Still, when one of my operatives comes in here, demanding to be reassigned because his partner has--has taken a fancy to him--well, I have to do something about it." Bodie nodded understandingly.
"So I lent him to the Met for a fortnight. Give him a breather. Retraining and a psych eval for both of you when he returns." Bodie groaned, more for Cowley's benefit. How could Doyle be so bloody stupid? How could Cowley be even more blind? Doyle wasn't coming back. And Bodie wasn't going to go near Ross now even if the fate of the free world hung in balance. No more witnesses to the dark beast. "In the meantime, I am assigning you to more surveillance. Anson and you can help break Cookie in."
The phone rang and Cowley waved him off with one hand. In the hall, he saw Anson pop his head out, scowl at him, and then disappear into the lounge. Bodie turned his head the other way and had just about reached the corner when he heard Baker rumbling. "Christ, I've never seen Doyle like that. What did Cowley do to him to make him go on like that?"
Baker was clearing the corner, Cookie in tow. "Should ask what Bodie did, rather. Can you believe it? I mean Bodie. He's got a different girl every night. Boy, Doyle was right. They come in all sizes. It's disgusting. And I'll be damned if I do a stakeout with a pansy." Cookie's voice held all the venom of youth and the aura of a wronged man.
"Fat chance you'll have," Baker replied. "I saw what he did to you in the hall. You won't stand a chance. You'd better chain Anson to your side, my lad, if you want to keep your virtue intact."
Bodie stood in the middle of the hallway. His face could not show any of it. Not the shame. Not the blinding hate. Not the bewildered hurt. One little touch--he hadn't even tried to kiss the bastard. But now Cookie thought he was a rapist, Cowley thought he was bleeding idiot, and Doyle--Doyle thought he was scum. Just because of one little caress.
It was going to be a long day until the night arrived.
He was gloriously drunk. Make that drunk and glorious. The thought bounced off his mind into the great void. The little village was dark, the streets empty, the inhabitants either dead or on their way to being dead. This was what being a merc was all about--killing, pillaging, drinking, fucking--well, the latter required something alive, but he was working on that. He grinned at himself--Bodie was a man with standards. No fucking of the dead. He drew the line at that. Everything else was fair game.
His feet stumbled over another corpse. Reflexively, he peered down at his feet. It had already been stripped. When he'd been with the old commander, there had never been any looting. Or much drinking. This new outfit, however--well, Briggs didn't care much what a man did, as long as he did exactly what Briggs told him to do.
The buzz of alcohol was fading. The cheap stuff gave only a quick high, an electric race through the veins, and then the slide into sobriety. He watched Stacey stagger across the street and careen into a hut. The wall caved in, and then both man and hut collapsed into a pile. Bodie laughed so hard that he thought he was going to pee right there in the middle of the street.
"Bodie. Guess what I heard." It was Walters swaying up from the perimeter. He carried a bloody headcloth in his hand. It was full of body parts--and the jewellery that had once been attached to the living.
Bodie turned away from Stacey's fumbles in straw to focus on the speaker. "What?" he asked, noting that he was focusing with greater ease.
"You know that merc you were bitching about. Dole?"
"Doyle," Bodie automatically corrected. "What about him?"
The darkness hid Walter's face, but Bodie could have sworn there was a malicious grin spreading across the face. They all knew how he hated Doyle. "One of those nuns--she kept screaming how Seņor Doyle was coming to save them. Said he and his group were encamped in San Ramon."
Bodie snorted. "Wrong, Doyle." Firelight lit the street--Stacey, angry at the straw hut, had decided to torch it all. "He wouldn't put himself out to save a nun. He's only interested in one thing--himself." He kept his face calm--no need to give them any more fuel to their fire.
"I don't know," Walters shouted after Bodie's retreating back. "She seemed awfully certain. Kept screaming it until she died." Bodie walked further, kicking a bit of burning straw into the nearest hut to watch the fire spread.
The thought whispered in his tired mind over the next few weeks. San Ramon was only 150 miles away, and close to Buenaventura where Briggs had been thinking of sending an expedition to get medical supplies. Briggs wouldn't notice a day excursion--particularly after a successful raid.
It took only a few pointed suggestions before Briggs detailed him and three others to make the drive south. The entry into the Red Cross camp was easy--it was really only a distribution centre for the larger units further south on the refugee route. They camped a day's drive away, and bunked down with no fire. Luckily, there was enough of a moon for him to see his way to the road. He didn't dare turn on the jeep lights. He stopped three miles short of his destination, then hid the vehicle off the side, pointing north.
Unfamiliar ground, darkness and watching for sentries on the outskirts made the rest of the trip slower. Bodie saw no one. Word of the raid had not made it this far south yet. The camp was not large. It even had a fixed hut set away from the main tents, close to the brushy undergrowth--walls, roof, and open door. Inside, Bodie could see a lantern, a chair, and a table. The door moved and Bodie froze. The rocks bit into his knees, his muscles bunched as he recognised the curly hair, the slim hips, the marred check that was Ray Doyle. Automatically, the rifle cradled into his shoulder, the sight centred, and the finger inched towards the trigger. Then Doyle turned, reaching for the outside lantern. Bodie felt desire, sharp and familiar, slide past his reflexes, freezing his finger. No, not that way. After all, he was a man with standards.
He waited, listening to sounds in the camp as it bedded down, watching the lights fade one by one. Waiting for the hut to melt into darkness, until he too could melt into the slope and pass through the perimeter. Then he waited again. Waited for the soft sounds of snoring to rise, waited for the deepest sleep to deaden the sounds of his entry into the hut.
By the time Bodie was on him, Doyle was half-awake, the knife in hand, turning. But Bodie was faster, and the butt of his gun harder. One stroke and Doyle was out. Bodie quickly shut the door, latched it, and lit the lamp. There wasn't much in the room, but enough. He'd carried rope and used it to bind Doyle's arms. His kerchief served as gag. He tied Doyle's feet apart and then bound his legs up over his head to the cot as tightly as he could manage. By then Doyle was stirring, his consciousness forcing his eyes awake.
Bodie walked over to the lamp and turned up the flame. He wanted Doyle to see him. He wanted Doyle to feel him, smell him, taste him. No slinking into the night. No dismissive sneers in the gloom.
Bodie stood in the middle of the room, feet away from Doyle. He couldn't breathe. His cock was already hard. His head pulsed and pulsed and pulsed in time with his cock, the throbbing making him want to kill. He bit down on the impulse. He watched awareness flood into Doyle's face and some of the urgency faded. Doyle's eyes flicked back and forth across the room--anger, pain, and fear battling for a voice. The gag silenced it all, leaving him only to writhe against the bonds.
Bodie took one step towards Doyle. The anticipation was building. Any closer and he would not be able to control himself. And he was going to be in control. Through every minute of it, he was going to be in control. And he was going to use this control to break Doyle. He made certain to keep his voice low.
"What a surprise to see you here, Doyle." He laughed to see that his voice, once spoken, only spurred Doyle's struggles. "Well, actually not as much a surprise to me as it must be to you." He paused, then moved a step closer. Doyle stopped struggling, eyes focused on him. "That's right. Don't take your eyes off of me. Otherwise, you'll miss it. Always closing your eyes. Always hitting me, hurting me, and then running away. Into the darkness." Bodie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his leather gloves. He had traded three bottles of whiskey for the thin, useless black things. But they had purpose in this room. Doyle's eyes followed each pull of the glove, the flexing of the wrist, the give of the material. "But there's no darkness here. Only light and warmth. No place to hide your betrayal here, Doyle. No running away."
Doyle's eyes sparked at him. Bodie breathed in again. He wished he could remove the gag, to listen to Doyle's full throated roar of anger. But this silence was better. He licked his lips. "I told you there would be a price to pay. You don't walk away from me and not expect there to be any consequences." Doyle started to struggle again. Bodie caught his breath. Each strain, each twist, each futile clenching of muscles, sped his pulse, gave his cock another excuse to pound against his stomach. He picked up Doyle's knife, watching Doyle's eyes go wide. Fear--the best aphrodisiac. "How many times did I see you gut a man with this beauty, Doyle? Told you more than once, you shouldn't rely on it." He paused again, blood washing through his vision. "You should have relied on me," he said thickly. Doyle rocked back and forth, soft sounds barely making it across the room. Bodie placed the tip of the knife on the inside of the thigh. He watched Doyle try to jerk his leg away. He pressed the knife deeper, cutting the cloth.
Bare flesh shivered in the room, the lamp light turning it into a golden feast. Bodie's eyes were fixed on Doyle's cock. Loose, it nested gently on his stomach. The absence of Doyle's arousal fuelled Bodie. He opened his trousers, letting his cock fall until it pointed up and forward. Bodie pulled on his cock, leather sliding on skin, watching Doyle's face avidly, feeding on the fear and hate he saw. He was nearly ready. He stepped forward, his right knee chipping the wooden stool. Impatiently, he knocked the chair over, the clatter sounding sharp into the night. He froze and saw the hope flare in Doyle's eyes. They both waited, he for danger, Doyle for salvation. The camp slept on--only the buzzing of insects around the lamp bearing witness to life. Bodie saw the hope dim, saw the terrible certainty of the assault sink into Doyle's consciousness. Now he was ready.
Bodie turned to the light, dimmed it until the only thing he could see was Doyle's eyes glittering in the darkness. Then he climbed onto the cot, and leaned forward. He felt his breath leave his lips, felt Doyle wince as Bodie's heat enveloped him. His mouth filled with saliva. Again, he wished he didn't have to use the gag, wished he could trap Doyle's tongue in his mouth, devour his screams. But he knew Doyle would never scream. That made it even better.
He hung, cock poised over Doyle, kneeling. Even in the dim light he could see the anguish in Doyle's face. He bent closer, whispering. "I'm going to fuck you Doyle. I am going to take you again and again. You're mine. And maybe, if you're good, I won't slit your throat before dawn." He felt Doyle strain under him. Even with the gag, he could hear Doyle. Fuck you, Bodie. You think just because you've got a cock, I'm going to beg for mercy? "Yes," he whispered, his mouth touching Doyle's ear. Then he shoved his cock forward, thrusting, twisting, forcing his way into Doyle's warmth. He bit his lip, feeling the blood trickle down his face, smearing across Doyle's cheek. He would not come, not yet. He kept thrusting, grinding himself and his rage deep into Doyle's body. Then, he heard it. Doyle whimpered. Once, twice. Then again. The heat built in him. It was like a train rushing through him, past him, racing ahead, taking his soul, his consciousness into a dark hole of ecstasy. Sweetly, he bent down, kissed Doyle, and came.
Bodie shuddered, the feel of wet semen spreading across his stomach. His cock still throbbed. He raised his hand, flicked on the lamp. His fingers trembled. He let his hand fall to the cover. It was too early to get up, but today was the day. Two weeks were up--and Cowley had told him to report early for a psych eval.
He slipped into his robe and walked to the shower. His bare feet were unusually cold on the tiles. In fact, he was shivering all over. He turned the hot water up high, letting the spray fall over his shoulders. Doyle wasn't going to come back. And even if he did, he didn't fancy having to sit through a psych session and trying to explain any of this. Damn Doyle for overreacting. You'd think he was trying to hurt Bodie--trying to lash out at him. Typical too that Doyle would have run off soon after--guerrilla warfare of the heart was his speciality.
Bodie was certain Doyle would not show his face. No, just drop a little bombshell and watch Bodie trying to sort it out. Trying to deal with Anson on one side and Cookie's open hostility on the other took all his control, and he had so little control left.
The rest room was empty, but at least it gave Bodie time to pull a few files and tidy up his desk. The early morning hours had become his best friend--it was night he had grown to dread. And dreams. Always the dreams.
The door opened and Doyle walked in. Bodie's eyes followed him involuntarily--he was wearing a soft grey jacket, his legs defined by the tight jeans he favoured. His blue shirt was unbuttoned to the third button and his body moved with a free and loose manner, one Bodie had not seen for a while. Bodie whipped his eyes back to the file he had been studying.
When he dared to look up a few moments later, Doyle was talking to Anson. Soft laughter flowed across the room. Bodie threw the folder down and stood. Doyle stopped talking and glanced over his shoulder, sipping his coffee. His eyes flicked up and then away from Bodie, turning back to Anson, sliding past Bodie's presence. Heat flamed in Bodie's chest. He moved towards the door, eyes fixed on the floor, determined to give nothing back. He didn't see Cowley until he was almost on him, the controller's face looming in his vision. He moved aside and allowed Cowley to enter the room. He tried to slip past but Cowley motioned him back into the room.
"Doyle. You're late." Bodie could not see Cowley's expression, but he heard the irritation in his voice. So at least Doyle's "injured party" status hadn't filtered back up to Cowley. Bodie leaned against the doorjamb, tiredness seeping through his limbs.
Cowley began assigning teams to ops before moving on to solo ops. There was no mention of Bodie or Doyle.
When the room cleared, the three of them were left standing, Doyle loosely near the window, Cowley at the podium, and Bodie with his back to the door. Cowley studied them for a few beats, then he struck. "Doyle. You're still requesting re-assignment?" Bodie's heart lifted. Trust Cowley to put the screws to any man who mucked up his duty roster. So now it was Doyle's turn.
"Yes, sir. Either that or allow me to be seconded out of CI5." Doyle's cool expression washed across the room. Bodie was glad they were alone. He could have told Cowley it wouldn't work.
"Then a psych eval at 1400--individually and then together." Cowley's eyes skewered Bodie, aborting his reflexive shake of head. "In the meantime--since we're short, and you two are the least useful of my agents--a surveillance op. Four hour watch, then Hawthorne will relieve you. Talbot and his men may be using the house as an information centre. Catalogue and photograph everyone who enters or leaves. Any questions?"
Bodie had a thousand questions. Why did Doyle just stand there with that faint grin? Why was Cowley assigning them to an op before the eval? Giving them a few hours to sort it all out on their own? No, Cowley could never be that astute. Bodie straightened and took the file Cowley handed him. Putting on his suavest smile, he gestured to Doyle. "Running all the way, sir." He watched Doyle ease past him, coolly glinting in the morning light like the blade of a knife. But knives have too many edges--and there's no telling who would be cut.
The room was small--two chairs, a table, small cot and photo equipment. They had picked up the set-up routine without needing to speak. Bodie kept an eye on Doyle, who knew he was watching, and didn't seem to care. Finally settled in their respective chairs, they spent an hour looking for any sign of movement. Not even a pigeon. Bodie finally opened. "Bloody ridiculous."
Doyle waited a few beats before replying. "Cowley is probably being over-cautious. Still, you can never tell. Can't trust anyone, nowadays."
Bodie shifted in his seat. No need for Doyle to get personal about this. But at least he was talking. Bodie dropped the camera and rubbed his eyes. "Care for some tea?" No answer. Doyle had decided to freeze him out again.
So much for trying the indirect approach. "So you serious? About leaving, I mean?"
Neither Doyle's camera nor the angle of his head wavered. "What's your problem, Bodie?" he finally answered. "You made it clear you're not talking. So I'm not to be troubled to listen."
Bodie choked. Of course, trust Doyle not to mention the fact that Doyle had already done enough talking--to the entire squad, it seemed.
The heat built. Somewhere in the back of Bodie's mind he knew he had to remain still. "That's it, Doyle. You act like no bloke has ever come on to you before. Don't try to tell me you're a virgin in these woods."
Doyle's facial muscles tensed. He fumbled with the camera, resetting the f-stop. Bodie understood then. It wasn't the idea of doing it with another man that had upset Doyle. The cunt had probably had half of London by now. He didn't want Bodie. Probably chose his men like his women. Cool, thin, upper-crusty. Hairy barbarians had no place in Doyle's ever-so-perfect bed. They were only good enough for the streets.
The heat was unbearable. It was as if a spotlight had been turned on, flooding Bodie with clarity.
He stood up. Doyle flinched, his hand twitching next to his gun. Bodie watched the movement, remembering the dream--remembering Doyle's muscles bunching beneath him. The light grew brighter until the back of Bodie's skull stood aflame. It travelled down his neck, seized his groin and spun through his limbs like white silk. Smooth and steady, his heart pulsed in staccato rhythm.
His knee clipped the chair. He heard its call, saw Doyle's nervous turn. The last thing he remembered seeing was Doyle's wary eyes through the fading haze. The green was always darkest before the storm.
Bodie woke, feeling his body jerk. Tense, he listened for sounds. All he heard was the African brush murmuring in the morning breeze. Fuck these dreams. They were getting worse. Uganda, Paraguay, Chile, Laos, Indonesia. Places he'd never been. London too. A place he never wanted to see again. Blurred spaces and blurred faces. His head hurt. He swallowed. He had had too much to drink the night before, and the last hand-to-hand had been particularly vicious. Still, it had been worth it. The poor bloke had given him Krivas' location before passing out. Reflexively, he checked for his knife under the sleeping pad. He always slept with it handy.
Soon, his mind chittered. He had been tracking Krivas for months now. He was broke and tired, and had caught only restless snatches of sleep for too long.
Whatever this last dream was, he couldn't remember too clearly. But it had been nasty. His heart still pounded and his hands shook. It took him three tries to light the small campfire, then he poured water to mix with the remaining rations. The fire sputtered, sending bits of ash floating in the air. Irritated, he brushed it away from his hair. He burnt his hand on the flame as he stirred the pot, swearing as he dropped the stick. Sucking on the burn, he fumbled for his kerchief. The pain, the patterns of the cloth, the smell of the smoky fire--it all added up to something. Something in a dream. But what?
Bodie stood, stuffing the kerchief back into his trouser pocket, letting the quiet of the countryside surround him. He hadn't noticed, but the birds did sing sweetly. Reminded him of England--land of green grasses and over-fertilised roses. He tossed his cup to the withered ground. No grass--no green--no roses here. Nothing but death and decay.
What Yeats poem did she say she loved? "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you...." Except he doubted he'd find anything resembling his soul here. He squeezed his mind shut against the picture of her shattered body lying before him, blood and guts spilling over her torn dress. She had been raped, then killed. The smell of her blood rose up to greet him now, even four months later.
Gagging, he nearly lost his breakfast. He stood, muscles locked and aching. Why had he done it? It hadn't been necessary. Just because she had turned Krivas down. Nothing Krivas did was necessary. He did it because he could. Because Bodie had not been there to stop him.
A fragment of his dream flashed through his mind--wide green eyes, filled with fear, anger and desperation. But her eyes had been brown, not green. Another dream? Christ, he must be losing it. He hoped he was losing it. He rubbed his eyes, and began packing. The warehouse was close--still, it would be a bit of a forced march to get there before dark.
He swung the rifle over his shoulder and stowed his Beretta beneath his belt. He shoved his book of poetry on top of the pack and he looked for his watch before remembering he'd traded it for the gun. It had been worth the cost--after so many years in the field, he didn't need an artificial timepiece to know when to move out.
It took him several hours to work his way into position. The brush was thick up the ridge. Branches whipped his face, stinging, leaving small welts. He kept himself close to the ground, wriggling to the edge of the hill after leaving most of his gear hidden next to the rock. It would be nicely shaded by the large acacia tree, even though the sun would be setting soon. His rifle he kept close.
The warehouse was not large. It sat on the edge of a small airstrip that doubled for civilisation in these parts. Bodie studied the layout carefully through the scope of his rifle. It was a risk using against the setting sun--light could easily reflect into a sentry's eye. But he'd lost his binocs and there seemed to be no sentries on guard. Bodie snorted, imagining how he'd react if Krivas would only pop into the sights. But he doubted it'd be that easy.
He settled down to wait until the early morning hours. Men were always slowest in the early hours. He stank and his skin itched. It was the thing he missed most about England--the clean water, rushing over skin, touching and stroking, washing the dirt and tension away. He forced himself to relax, knowing that tenseness could spoil his aim. There was no movement on the field. Hours passed and nothing stirred. Bodie listened and watched carefully.
The shift to night came quickly in these equatorial lands. He waited through the night, until darkness turned into blackness, and then to the first new glimmerings of light, until only the sounds of insects and bush life echoed across the field. Then he moved down the slope.
He avoided the main entrance, choosing the smaller side door instead. It opened smoothly to one hand, the Beretta gripped firmly in his other hand. His eyes blinked into the sudden light, his pupils contracting painfully. Still he was prepared and dropped to the floor. The explosion was unexpected, however. It rocked through the hanger, flinging bits of wood and debris across his back. Swearing, he rolled to his feet and scrambled for the nearest cover. He made it --but in his rattling haste, managed to drop his gun. It clattered to the floor, the sound cracking like a rifle report into the rafters.
Bodie swore, pulling out his knife. He'd left the rifle behind, afraid it would slow him down. Now he was trapped, the only real weapon beyond reach. He was sweating profusely, his pulse singing. He gulped air, once, twice, and then stopped breathing. He was alone. He knew the silence of dead space, the hollowness of the abandoned. He eased away from cover, eyes skittering still under the pull of adrenaline. The Beretta found purchase within his trembling hands. The hangar was empty--no signs of recent occupancy. The entryway had been booby-trapped. It would have killed him if he had come through the main door. The side entrance was far enough away to only shock. Bodie quickly studied what remained of the remote device--clearly not Krivas. Very ineptly pieced together. Which meant that Krivas was no longer alone.
Sneering, Bodie moved across the hanger. There was no risk of snipers in here. But he did see the small door, which meant another room. Moving to the side, he took a deep breath and kicked it in.
The room was small, obviously meant to serve as an office. Two chairs, a table, a few lanterns, and a cot. Bodie again had to adjust to the darkness. He tried to flick on the overhead light--no electricity in here. And no one there. Lighting a lamp, he held it high. He had been here--and recently. A few remains of rations, an unemptied latrine bucket. Signs of a very hasty retreat. And--here Bodie brought the lamp closer to the table--a map marked in Krivas' handwriting. Bodie closed his eyes, the heat flaming through his body and impacting with his skull. I almost had you, Krivas, he thought and then the whiteness overwhelmed him. He dropped the lantern, watching its fiery splash as though from a distance. His hand clutched at the closest thing--a pencil. He stared at it, the flames creeping to life around him. Krivas had held this. Held this in the same hand that had pulled the trigger. He was touching Krivas. He was Krivas. The pencil snapped and he jumped. Grabbing the map, he fled the smoke-filled room and stumbled into the dark. On his way out, his knee chipped a wooden stool, sending it spinning into the fire.
Barely aware he was moving, Bodie scrabbled up the hill, sliding down the leeward side. He reached the rock and fell to his knees. He grabbed his water canister, barely able to swallow between gasps for air. The water tasted cool. He tried to slow his breathing, certain that his darkened vision was due to more than a lack of light. The soft greys of morning helped--they bathed him in silver and blue and splashed across the rock. Bodie laid the canister on the ground and touched the rock. It felt smooth and warm beneath his fingers. Almost alive. She had still been warm when he had found her. She had been beautiful too. And special. He had loved her.
Bodie opened the map--he could barely see in the dim light, but knew enough to recognise the mark for a camp. It was--Bodie spanned the distance with a thumb--only a few hours way. If he started marching now. Just a few hours and he'd have him.
So what d'you plan to do when you do have him? Bodie thought. The rock felt cooler somehow. Shoot him like he did her? String him up by his guts? Or maybe stake him to a rock like this one? It'd take a man two or three days to die like that.
Bodie shut his eyes, trying to imagine the sight, trying to see Krivas' just end. But all he could see was her blood spattered over the rock, her body lying beneath the tree. He stood quickly, unsteadily, only to fall, feeling the ground connecting with his chin with painful force. Tasting the blood on his lip. Where does it end? How many more steps between me and Krivas before...before....
He saw the man with the green eyes tied to a cot. He saw that same man sitting in a chair, a look of horror on his face as Bodie lurched forward. He saw her, dead in the field, her dress ripped and torn, her thighs spread apart. They were everything he'd ever loved, needed or dreamed. And then he saw his hand on the gun. His finger on the trigger. He saw her fall to the earth. He saw the man silently scream his name. He saw the beast reach Bethlehem. Bodie saw his actions reverberating from this moment and rippling forward to his future. His future existence hung on this one choice. Kill Krivas and become like him. Watch his future disintegrate until he had no choices left. Or.... The spiral waited--into the centre or widening out into the abiding darkness.
Bodie rolled, achingly, to his knees, using the rock as support. The birds were singing again and the wind was rising with the sun.
He sucked on his lip, feeling weariness envelop his body. So he knew where Krivas was. Didn't mean he had to press on today. Besides, he was short on funds. Time to head back to England and get a new contract, and some creature comforts. He scrabbled to his feet, retracing his steps, grateful he hadn't left more of his wits behind.
He climbed the lip of the hill overlooking the airfield. The warehouse still burned to the west--its death turning the remains of the night into a ghostly parody of the morning. To the east, the rising sun stretched over the horizon, turning the brush into a mass of pink, red, and blur of blue. Surveying the dusty and desiccated world, Bodie felt his lip quirk in a smile. It would be good to feel the soil of England beneath him. The green of England always looked best at dawn.
Bodie and Doyle walked out of Cowley's office, heading for the elevator. Bodie reached it first, pressing the call button. Doyle leaned into him, almost looking over his shoulder, trying to peer into his averted face. "So there was this girl--"
"Yeah," Bodie interrupted, nodding his head once.
Doyle continued. "Yeah. Always is."
Bodie scowled, pursing his lips and looking away. "Yeah, well, this girl was special, see? Beautiful. I loved her. Really loved her." He gave this last bit more emphasis. And fretfully pushed for the elevator again.
Doyle still leaned into Bodie, his warmth both a comfort and distraction. "What happened?" he asked, softening his voice.
Bodie dropped his eyes and sighed. "Krivas had a crazy notion it was his bird. He killed her." He tried to keep his voice even. The elevator was too slow. Impatiently, he pushed himself away, walked past Doyle and headed down the stairs. He knew Doyle would be behind, worrying at him like a dog with a new bone. Halfway down the landing he paused, memories welling. ".44 Magnum. At close range. She was beautiful." The hall in front of him faded into whiteness.
He heard Doyle rustling on the stair above him and pulled himself together. As they reached the foot of the stairs, Doyle finally spoke. "Personal involvement. Spoils your aim."
Bodie did not turn his head. He knew what Doyle was after, but on this issue he could not give any ground. He had already gone through this once before. Steeling his voice, he snapped reflexively, "It also gives you an edge. A cutting edge." Having finished the matter, he let Doyle proceed him through the door. Krivas had a lot to answer for.
Doyle turned away from Bodie and Krivas, tucking Bodie's gun into his waistband. He slipped a bit as he walked, but then steadied himself. Bodie wouldn't kill Krivas. He knew that now. His partner's word--and his gun--were all that he needed. Still, Bodie's tense confession on the stair had circled through his mind most of the day. He thought he knew his partner better than most. But there was more to Bodie than he'd ever allowed himself to notice. Shouldn't be so surprising. Neither he nor Bodie would ever make a show of their feelings. The important ones at least. Keep it light and you'd survive.
Doyle paused to catch his breath. Survival was never guaranteed. So why not spend a bit more off-duty time with the man? Bodie was all right.
Brushing off his trousers, Doyle picked up the pace. He had to check on Cowley's injuries back at the quarry.
When he reached the crater's rim, Doyle quickly assessed his employer's condition. Bruised and battered. But definitely "Mr." Cowley.
"Where's Bodie?" Cowley asked anxiously, as Doyle helped him to his feet. Doyle struggled not to smile, knowing how touchy Cowley was about the leg. "Reliving old times, sir."
Grimacing, Cowley started talking, leaving Doyle to follow him back up the hill. As they reached the lip of the quarry, Doyle turned and smiled. In the pursuit, he'd forgotten that it was a beautiful day. Between the broken rocks and signs of industrial waste, the first signs of spring had taken hold. Green hills, verdant foliage, and the faint leafing of the trees--all splashed across his eye like a proclamation. He'd have to get Bodie to quote him some more of that poetry. How did that one line go: "Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?" The writer obviously had never seen an English dawn.
-- THE END --