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The Tangled Web
Part 1
by Jack Reuben Darcy


Title: The Tangled Web - Part 1
Author: Jack Reuben Darcy
Author's Website: none
Fandom: The Professionals (X-over with "The Chief")
Pairing: Raymond Doyle / William Bodie
Rating: NC-17 (m/m sex); drama
Author's Disclaimer: They don't belong to me...
Series/Sequel: Part 1 of "The Tangled Web"



I.



Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove
Oh, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken

~ William Shakespeare


Without doubt he was in his own way -- which was about the only way he would allow -- quite extraordinary and quite unique. But as much as she loved him and the friendship which had grown between them, there were times when he had an odd ability to scare her. Like today.

Oh, he did it quite deliberately, she knew -- even as she knew he wasn't trying to scare her exactly, but the others in the training room; the new recruits who had signed on to test themselves against the highest expectations of any unit of its kind in the country. He certainly scared them -- and with cause. But her fear grew from other issues, things the men and women in this room would never see in those blue eyes, a history that was quite beyond them and of which they would remain ignorant until the day they died.

But Kate Ross was the holder of secrets, as his friend, his associate -- and the only person alive who had ever got close enough to him to know. She was not unaware of the unique position she had in his life, nor insensitive to how easily she could loose it if she said the wrong thing, pushed him in the wrong direction -- or found some other way to betray the fragile trust he'd placed in her. Bodie was not a man to forgive lightly -- if at all.

As he stood before the recruits and gave his first introduction speech as the new Controller of CI5, Kate remained in the background, leaning against the wall beside Jack Dean, head of training. She held her slim briefcase against her stomach, both hands lightly gripping it, doing her best to ignore the faint warnings edging her awareness. Even though she knew the cause. Even though she knew there was no cure.

It was her job to know -- to be on the watch for things like this. Especially in the eyes of a man who had so much power in his hands.

Bodie spoke well in front of his audience, his voice firm, laced with his often assumed cultured accent. His words were chosen without much deliberate attention -- but that was largely because he knew his subject so well; preparation was not really an issue with a man of Bodie's experience. His tall frame and faintly arrogant bearing dominated a room already filled with self-made men who could handle themselves in any situation. But as tough as they were, she could see each subconsciously wondering if they could measure up against him.

Bodie, of course, was deliberately behaving in such a way as to make them ask themselves exactly that question.

Many years of practice kept the smile from her face as she watched him. He was so very good at this, a born natural. Back in the days when he'd been an operative agent in the squad under George Cowley, he had always had an essence of idle intimidation. It was a cloak he wore when those around him bored or threatened him. When he was relaxed, he gave the distinct impression of being little more than a cuddly bear, with a big soft heart.

Both images were false and perhaps the saddest thing of all was the simple fact that Kate was possibly the only person in the world who knew.

However, for all that, Bodie was unquestionably the second most dangerous man she had ever met. The most dangerous was long dead now.

Bodie turned and paced a small distance in front of the listening recruits. Each absorbed every word he spoke, hanging on his every gesture, his calm, deep-seated confidence, his careless ability to move with such grace, such assuredness. With every second he instilled in them a conviction of his position as master of all he surveyed, the one Voice of Importance, the man whose Word was Final. As with most natural leaders, Bodie inspired trust in those around him not by what he said, but how he said it.

They were generally a good twenty years his junior, but Kate knew which she would put money on in any kind of contest between Bodie and these green folk. They were already the best in their own fields -- but Bodie was the best in all of them, a past master -- and they knew it. Bodie's reputation always seemed to precede him, like a gentle bow wave. Not that his public profile gave rise to such fame -- but he'd been in this business a long time and when his appointment to the squad was made official two weeks ago, after a month of working in the background, word had flown about the traps, allowing much of Bodie's hidden background to be whispered and exchanged -- even if some of it was largely made up.

And Bodie had done nothing to clarify the questions. He preferred the mystery. Quite deliberately, too. He'd never been much of a one to talk about his past, as though he cared so little about it simply because it was past. He gave the impression of living only in the present with little thought to either what had been before or what would be to come.

But Kate knew otherwise -- and that was why watching him today unsettled her so. It was the past she could hear echoing in Bodie's smooth delivery, see it framing his steady gaze. It was the past and his memories of it which scared her so much. Bodie's inability to deal with his ghosts had always bothered her. Largely because one day she knew, the whole terrible mess would catch up with him and whether he survived to tell the tale or not seemed to depend entirely on chance. He made no reference to it, refused to acknowledge he had a problem. He saw it as all one seamless thread running through his life; he would take whatever came his way -- then move on.

And he was moving now, finishing his speech with an exhortation to the recruits to simply try their best and that failure didn't mean the end of the world. Then he dismissed them and for a while there was nothing more than the noise of voices rising, chairs moving and people leaving the room. Bodie came through the chaos and stood before Kate and Jack.

"Well? How did I do?"

"Scared the crap out of me," Jack replied with a laugh. "Think any of them will still be here tomorrow to start training?"

"If not," Bodie replied with a smug grin, "then you'll be out of a job. What time are you starting?"

Jack waited until the last recruit left then nodded, "Three am -- but I've told them five. That way they'll all go to bed later than they need to and get up all fuzzy-eyed and bad-tempered."

"Oh, god," Kate breathed.

"Just the way he likes' em." Bodie laughed. "Just don't break too many bones on the first day, Jack. I want some of them to qualify."

"Whatever you say, Sir." Jack nodded and left them and Bodie turned to Kate.

"Are you staying on here or heading back to London?"

"I suppose you're rushing off again?" She led him into the corridor and he walked alongside.

"Well, I am supposed to be working. I have a briefing at Central," he glanced at his watch, "in half an hour. I'm going to be late as it is."

"And you're leaving tomorrow night?"

"As soon as I can get out of that damned budget meeting that's scheduled to go all day, yes. Why? Want to have dinner?"

Kate glanced aside at him, "I want to talk to you."

Bodie pushed the door open for her and they emerged into the early summer afternoon. Before them stretched the outdoor training field, ringed by woods on every side. The carpark was half-full and Bodie's car was waiting, his driver, Skinner, leaning up against his door, patiently waiting. Every man on the squad did a three month stint as driver for the Controller. It was a job some hated -- others enjoyed. Few understood the importance; the Controller's driver was not only chauffeur -- but bodyguard.

"This briefing could take a couple of hours -- and then I have to pop in and see the minister. I'll be finished late." Bodie strode towards his car, long legs taking him ahead of Kate. She made it a point of never hurrying to catch up -- rather, she made him wait. A small battle of wills, but one she never lost. His refusal to comment on it was an aspect of the cuddly bear she saw every now and then.

"What about after the meeting tomorrow?"

"Well," Bodie glanced at his watch again, nodded at Skinner then turned back to her, perfectly benign. "I do have to leave right after. Can't it wait until I get back?"

Oh, yes, he was so damned good at this. If she hadn't known him so well, she would never have guessed that he was doing his best to avoid the conversation he knew they had to have -- before he left London. "You know damned well it can't, Bodie. You've been avoiding me for the last week. Ever since you planned your itinerary."

He let out a sigh, looking away, those deep blue eyes narrowing, his lips pursed, "What's wrong with now? Give me a quick precis."

She let out a short dry laugh, dropping her voice so Skinner wouldn't hear, "Bodie, my dear, do you really want to talk about it here, in the open?"

His gaze shot back at hers then, harder than before, reaffirming her quiet fear. No, he didn't want to discuss it with her -- and therefore, with anybody. "How about we assume I already know what you're going to say?"

"No. I'll be at Central at seven tomorrow night. We can talk then. You can leave after that."

He raised an eyebrow -- then his expression softened a little, an ironic smile gracing his handsome face. "I had a strange feeling, when I agreed to take this job, that somebody would stop me actually being boss. I should have known it would be you. See you at seven, then."

Kate smiled, satisfied at last, "Enjoy your budget meeting."

***

Alison only glimpsed the face once, through the crowd, but that was enough. With a smile and a few brief words, she left the men she'd been talking to and squeezed her way through the cocktail drinkers, past the buffet table overburdened with seafood and other delicacies, until she reached the windows.

Alan Cade was enmeshed in conversation so she held back, waiting for the right moment to approach him. He looked well; tanned, his hair a little longer than usual, but still short and a little too severe for his face. His green eyes were alight with laughter, his gestures all that she remembered. His suit was perfect, a crisp white shirt contrasting beautifully with his tan. Idly, a part of her whistfully watched him with the eyes of one who could appreciate genuine attractiveness in a man. Especially one who seemed to have no idea of the affect he had on women.

At the sound of laughter, she moved closer and put a hand on his arm. He turned in surprise -- then grinned, "Alison!" Instantly, he gave her a chaste hug, planting a kiss on her cheek. "I didn't realise you were here. How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you." She replied, with a smile matching his own. "It's been a while."

The others excused themselves and the two of them were as alone as they could be under the crowded circumstances.

"Indeed it has. What is it? More than two years, I should think."

He watched her with the same intensity she remembered, an unusal quality that gave the impression his entire concentration was on her alone -- as well as on something else just slightly out of sight. Two years ago, when they had briefly been lovers, that look had had the power to turn her insides all soft -- and she realised with faint surprise, that she was still not immune to it now.

"Yes, something like that." She gathered herself together. "I didn't know you would be here. I knew you were on the guest list, but I'd heard you were out of the country. Working?"

"No," he shook his head, gesturing with the glass of red wine he held. "For a change, I was actually on holiday."

"Oh? Anywhere interesting?"

"Africa. Kenya. Three weeks."

"Really? How wonderful. Did you enjoy it?"

His eyebrows rose, "It was... incredible. Nothing like I imagined it would be. I've always promised myself I would go one day. Elena was supposed to come with me but cancelled at the last minute."

"How is she?"

"Fine, fine. In Canada at the moment. She got into a summer course in Torronto and left early to see her mother. She'll be back at the end of August. I--" he paused, glancing around them. "It's awfully hot in here, don't you think? Let's get out into the garden."

He led her through the crowd until they reached the doors leading into the cool evening. Already a number of others had come to the same conclusion and were wandering in small groups, enjoying the fresher air and the first stars dotting the darkening sky.

"I've always loved this time of the year," Alan murmured, coming to a halt and looking up. "Spring is over, summer is here and months of it yet to come. Winter seems so far away when the nights are like this."

"I've heard the skies in Africa are like nowhere else."

"Incomparable," he replied, his smile drifting, his gaze -- oddly -- shifting, becoming more inward bound. As though he'd forgotten she was there, he said nothing for a few moments and she took the opportunity to study him. There had always been something of the philosopher about Alan Cade, something of buried pain she had never been able to reach. But never before had she seen it so quickly exposed, so fresh on the surface.

"Alan?"

He started abruptly and turned with an apologetic smile, "Sorry. I only got back last night and I'm still a little culture-shocked."

"Last night? What are you doing here, then?"

He grinned, boyish, his old self once more, "What do you think? The Lord Mayor's annual bash is not something I can afford to miss. Too much gossip is passed on at these affairs."

"I wouldn't have thought the Chief Constable would listen to gossip."

"Oh," he gestured expansively, "you'd be surprised the things I learn -- even though, to a large extent, I generally find the company a little tedious. Glad to see you're here, though." Again he gave her that intense gaze and she shifted a little uncomfortably. She knew what that look meant -- but the worse part about it was, she wasn't sure she wanted to refuse.

But would it do any harm if she didn't? When they'd parted, they'd done so as friends and she had seen him occasionally in the months afterwards and there'd been no animosity between them. Would it hurt if she took the opportunity for another night with him?

"Did you come... alone?" He said quietly, allowing her to read his intent.

"Yes," she replied simply, a warm smile crossing her face. Everything that had once attracted her to him, did so again. That incredible smile, those piercing green eyes, that sense of otherness about him, as though he always kept some part of his soul in some place she could never see. He had always been the most alone man she had ever met and two years ago, she had enjoyed being there to soften it for a while. For so private a man, he let others in only with great care and she liked being one of those. Even though she knew it was that same privateness that had kept them from ever forming any kind of permanent relationship.

But that was not what was on offer -- nor was it what she was looking for.

Moving a little closer, his gaze held hers and she knew she was doing the right thing, that this would not wound their ready friendship. "Do you want to stay longer?"

"No. If you go now, I'll follow in my car."

A one-sided grin was his only reply.

***

The faint flutter of curtains at the window held her gaze as gentle dawn light filtered into the bedroom. Alan lay beside her, his stomach pressed against her back, one arm around her. Idly, her fingers caressed the fine hairs on his forearm as she dwelt in the last few moments before she had to leave.

It had been wonderful, as she'd known it would be -- so why did she now feel so damned empty? He had made love to her with all the passion she could have asked for -- but the truth was, the depth of his need had scared her a little. In the weeks they had been together, she'd not noticed that intense quality. Had it been there, then? Or was it something new?

And as though he'd known he was exposing too much of himself, he had abruptly hidden it, burying it beneath all the layers of walls he'd built up over the years. Walls he would never let down for her. Not two years ago -- and not now.

But would he let them down ever? Or would he, like so many work-driven men, live out the rest of his life alone, filling his days with toil, his nights with loneliness?

"I'm awake if you want to talk about it."

His voice startled her but she kept her reaction in check. She shifted slightly, taking his hand in hers. She didn't turn. She wasn't sure she wanted to see his face at this moment. "Alan," she began carefully, threading together her genuine motivations until she was sure what she wanted to say -- and why. "This was just a night, wasn't it?"

He took his time replying. "I think it should be. Don't you?"

"Yes." She bit in her lip and breathed deeply. "It was nice but..."

"I know." He pulled her a little closer, touching her shoulder with a brief kiss.

"Alan?"

"Still here."

"I'm worried about you."

"Oh?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

She struggled, but could find no way of saying it without getting entangled. "You work too hard."

A half-laugh, half-moan split the ensuing silence. "I've just had three weeks off -- and I haven't been anywhere near the office since I got back. Today is Sunday and I'm not going in until tomorrow."

"And how many holidays have you had since you came to Eastland?"

"A couple."

"How many?"

"Two."

"For how long?"

"A week at a time. Really, Alison, you don't need to worry."

"Oh? Why? Because you can always find somebody like me to share your bed when you need to kill the loneliness for a few hours?"

His body went tense against hers and she held her breath. Then slowly he moved, letting her lie back. He raised his head and rested it on his hand so he could look at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

In the months she'd known him before, she hadn't often seen the look that now filled his gaze -- and before, it had always been directed at others. It was a gaze Sean had described as quite capable of splitting oak at a hundred paces. Now she could see why.

She swallowed and framed her words carefully, "Alan, I wouldn't say this if I didn't care about you."

"But?"

"Are you going to live like this for the rest of your life?"

He frowned slightly, "Like what?"

"Alone."

"I don't live alone. Elena lives with me."

"And in a couple of years, when she's finished her degree, she'll move away and you'll be alone again. She's your daughter, Alan, not..."

"A wife?"

"That's not what I mean and you know it."

"What do you mean?" his voice was low, a faint edge of warning about it. She was treading on an area she'd never been near before. Two years ago she'd been too afraid. Now, time had lent her courage.

"I mean, apart from Elena -- you have nothing in your life but work. Everything you do -- like tonight's cocktail party -- revolves around it, around talking to people who can help you, about helping others, about achieving your ambitions. Worthy though they are, they alone do not make a life."

"I have everything I want."

"Do you?" She gazed at him searchingly, hoping to find some chink in that obsidian armour. "Two years ago, we talked about luggage and life. You said most of yours was still in storage, not yet unpacked. Has anything changed?"

"Alison," He rolled over and laid back. "You know how I feel about my work. Few men have the opportunity to do what they really want to do, to have the chance to make a difference. I'm not afraid of making whatever sacrifices are necessary. You'd be surprised how fulfilling it can be. I don't see my life as being wanting."

"But you do miss having somebody to share it with."

He turned his head and raised his eyebrows in that hopelessly vulnerable gesture that always melted her in the past. "We can't all have everything."

"So you make up for it by this kind of behaviour."

He hissed in a breath, "And it's so easy to find someone who would fill the space, isn't it?"

"God, you can be a bastard when you want to be!"

He closed his eyes a moment then turned back on his side, "Look, I'm sorry, but really, think about it. I'm forty six, sitting at the top of my profession, enjoying a degree of success. I've worked all my life to get here -- and I have a wonderful daughter around reminding me of what really matters. I don't need to ask for more."

"But do you want more?"

His reply was so long in coming, she almost prodded him. "There is no more. Not for me. I lost that chance a long time ago. It won't happen again. I can live with that."

Could he? Before tonight, she might have believed it. But now? The way he worked the conversation on two different levels, keeping one forever hidden with years of practice? That he felt he needed to was not unique. That he didn't realise he shouldn't, was.

Awed by the things she suddenly saw in him, she whispered, "Alan, have you been in love? Ever?"

His gaze froze, hooking hers with a force she'd never seen before, dragging her down with every second. But it only lasted moments before he released her, losing the driven aspect but keeping her still. "Once."

"Elena's mother?"

"No." He frowned slightly, his gaze going inward. "Someone else. Before that. We were only together a few months."

"What happened?"

"We were separated by work."

"How?"

"Someone intervened. Then ... she ... died."

Alison stared at him though he seemed oblivious. Was that it? Had he, unwillingly, given her the key to his pain? A lost love? Long ago? Something he would never look for again? "Alan, I'm sorry."

He looked back at her again, the gaze shifting to the present, losing it's lost appearance. In that moment, the walls closed in around him again and the tenuous connection slipped from her grasp. He smiled gently, forgiving, wonderful and everything the man he showed to the rest of the world. "Alison, I know you care about what happens to me, but really, I'm content with what I have. Yes, I suppose it would be nice to have someone permanently in my life and if I found somebody who could put up with me and the work I do, then yes, I suppose I would consider myself the luckiest man alive. But it would be luck. At my age, the odds are against me. And with age comes the realisation that perhaps I don't need someone as much as I would have thought twenty years ago. Really, I wish you wouldn't worry. There's no need."

She gave him a smile, though inside, her heart was sinking. He would never find somebody because he didn't want to look. He was alone because, for all his fine words, that was the way he wanted it, as though in penance for what had happened the last time he fell in love. With a faint sigh, she moved closer, putting her arms around him. She kissed him softly then shifted back. "I have to go. I have a meeting to prepare for."

"On a Sunday?" His smile let her off the hook a little too quickly, a little to happily. "And you tell me I work too hard."

But he let her go and she got out of bed, dressing ready to leave. He got up and put a robe on, seeing her downstairs to the door. Outside, the air was fresh and cool, the new sun splitting the ground with sharp long shadows, warning of another warm day to come. She paused at the door and gave him another brief kiss.

"Keep in touch, Alan. And good luck with your conference."

His eyebrows rose, "And how did you hear about that?"

"I'm working with Chief Constable Fleming, in Edinburgh. He wondered how the public would take it if word got out."

"What did you tell him?"

"I think they would be horrified -- but that doesn't mean I don't want you to succeed. I hope you do. For what it's worth, I think you're right about the whole thing -- but don't tell Fleming I said that."

Alan smiled, knowing he could trust to her discretion, as she could trust his. "I won't say a word. Goodbye."

And then she was in her car and driving off, knowing that in all liklihood, it would be another two years before she saw him again. But she would still worry about him, no matter what he said. He was the kind of man who needed somebody to worry about him. But either way, Alan Cade would survive, no matter what. That was what he was best at. Surviving.

Of course, really living was another matter entirely.

***

After five hours, the meeting room got so stuffy, Bodie ordered the windows opened -- despite the abrupt roar of traffic noise. In a way, it pushed matters along a little, encouraging those with something to say, to make it more brief; nobody liked having to shout over the top of such a cacophony.

Not that it made much of a difference. In the six weeks he'd been back in the squad, the bulk of his time had been devoted to this bloody budget and despite the fact that CI5 now had its own accountant, the wrangling for money between the various departments was no less bitter than it had been fourteen years ago, when Cowley had ruled the roost.

Back then, the Old Man had fought tooth and nail for every penny of government money, using the worst cases CI5 managed as perfect evidence of the need for the squad's existence. Now days, Cabinet needed no such proof -- but still they believed adequate cover against terrorism and organized crime could be purchased for less than the price of a few BMWs. But that was their job -- as politicians. His job however, was to make sure they paid whatever price Bodie decided was necessary -- and one way or the other, by the time he retired, he would make sure they did.

He sat back in his seat, turned away from the sun streaming through the windows, and surveyed the long table before him, at the faces, the papers and coffee cups scattered around. They were a good bunch, more or less; at least to the extent where he knew he could knock them into shape. That was, after all, why he had been approached for this job rather than anyone else. Over the last couple of years, Sir Lionel had lost a considerable amount of his grip and the powers that be had made the correct decision that the squad needed a man tough enough to pull it back into shape. They'd gone out on a limb with their choice -- which only proved that they could make the hard decisions every now and then.

Of course, this squad was very different to the one he'd spent six years in. There was more sophistication in the operational planning, more subtlty in intel gathering -- but ultimately, it all came down to finding and catching bad guys and that was what Bodie did best -- despite his ensuing years in MI6. Even there, he had carved for himself a niche to fulfill the role he'd wanted to play; in the long run, making him the perfect, perhaps only candidate for taking over CI5.

And what would Cowley have said to find him, of all people, sitting here, doing this job? A few years ago, Cowley had admitted that he'd expected Bodie to replace him when he retired. But events had not run along that course and Bodie had not been around -- nor in the squad -- when Cowley had finally called it a day. All the same, Bodie felt a certain satisfaction knowing that the Old Man would have been content to know Bodie was finally here, unavoidably hearing echoes of the Scot in so many of the decisions he made. Cowley had formed the squad, it was only fitting that one of his choice should take it into the new century.

But what would Cowley say to the trip he had to make that evening? Now there was a question. Probably much the same as Kate planned to -- should Bodie give her the opportunity. And despite her fine words, he did know what she was going to say and therefore, didn't really feel like listening. She was a treasure, that much was certain, and he wasn't entirely sure he could have made it through the last ten years if it hadn't been for her -- but all the same, her warning was predictable and she knew it. She simply wanted the opportunity of watching him react.

Shaking his head, he turned his attention back on the current subject and sat forward to say his piece. He had plenty of time to worry about Kate later, when this was all done with.

The same could be said for his impending trip.

***

Alan Cade leaned forward and shook the loose earth from the seedling before placing it carefully into the small hole he'd dug in his flower bed. The warm sun beat down on his back as fine rivulets of sweat ran down his face. Through the windows, he could hear the Mozart sonata he'd put on the CD softly melting in the background while the noises of the city seemed far away.

Sunday at home.

Quite deliberately, he'd turned down the couple of invitations he'd had for this day off -- and again deliberately, he'd made no attempt to phone the office to see how things were. No matter what Alison said, he wasn't so obsessed with work that he couldn't take a day off now and then.

He filled the hole with fresh dry earth and patted it down, sitting back on his haunches to survey the effect. He didn't really need to garden himself -- he paid somebody to come in and cut the grass, pull weeds etc -- but today, he'd felt some subtle need to come out here, spend the day outdoors doing something indescribably normal.

Well, alright, perhaps not normal for him -- but for anybody. He'd always liked the odd bit of gardening, even before this life had taken him over. He'd enjoyed getting his hands into the dirt, feeling the warmth of it, the things growing in it. He'd kept a few pots on the window ledges of whatever flat he was living in, usually only growing tomatoes and the like and there'd always been something satisfying in making something grow from nothing.

Finished, he stood and grabbed the hose. He turned it on and gently sprayed the entire bed, giving each of the seedlings he'd planted a good soak. He concentrated on each one, focussing his gaze, all his thoughts on what he was doing. But that couldn't stop Alison's comments from infringing on his mood once more.

Damn her! All day he'd been plagued by what she'd said. After she'd gone that morning, he'd tried to get some sleep but that had only been haunted by images he had hoped he'd forgotten. In the end, he'd risen, restless, to spend a few useless hours wandering about the house, tidying up, cleaning things that weren't dirty; trying to fend off the darkness. Gardening had been his salvation -- though even that seemed to be failing.

What did she want him to do? Advertise for a companion?

As if that would make a difference. As if he could actually share his life with anybody. There were too many things he couldn't do -- and what she expected of him was right at the top of the list.

He'd known all along it would be that way and in so many ways, his choices had led him to this point quite deliberately.

So why was he suddenly so unsettled? It wasn't as if nobody else had ever said similar things to him. Elena mentioned it from time to time, asking him if he was going to spend his entire life alone.

But then, he hadn't been to Africa before. He hadn't gone and seen the place with his own eyes, hadn't smelt the heady aroma of the African plain, heard the noises at night, been captured by the intruiging mystery of the place.

He hadn't ever made the attempt to confront the truth before.

With a sigh, he turned off the hose and sat down on the verandah step, spreading his hands before him to stare at his tan. It still felt odd being back, as though three weeks had left a mark on him so much deeper than this world would allow. But hell, that was why he'd gone, wasn't it? So that he could see for himself, try and understand the place where it had happened. Even so many years later, it couldn't have changed so much that he couldn't imagine what might have happened -- even if he'd found no trace, no evidence that it had.

Not that he'd really expected to. Not after so long.

And would he be feeling any different if he had found something? A story? A grave? Would that make a difference to him now?

And really, he knew the question he should have been asking himself -- why go now after so many years? Why stay away for so long and then suddenly decide he must go? The ghosts were all long gone, he'd made a success of this life, he'd put the past well and truly behind him.

A vague chuckle escaped him and he leaned back to put his face towards the sun. The eternal problem with hiding was always that you could never hide from yourself -- the one person most necessary to hide from.

The reason had been as simple as the sunshine: it had been time to go. However, rather than help put it all away finally for the last time, instead, what he was left with were memories tainted with bitterness, words from a friend that cut right through him, a desire to tell the truth and be done with it.

Tell the truth -- and have his world collapse around him for a second time?

No. Not now. Not even after going to Africa. He could never tell the truth. He could never let it go, never put down the burden. After fourteen years, it was too ingrained in him, too much a part of everything he was now. If he let it go now, he would lose the last threads of himself that still survived.

And if he couldn't tell the truth, then any relationship he had would always be founded on a lie and as much as he wanted someone to be with, he could never do that to somebody he cared that much about.

He'd known that, too, all those years ago when he'd made the decision. Pity he hadn't known what it would do to him.

With half a laugh at his own silliness, he got up and collected together the gardening things. If being constructive wasn't chasing the demons away, he would shut them off; sit out in the sun with a good book.

***

Bodie pulled his papers together as the others rose from the table. For the third time in an hour, he glanced at his watch. He was early finishing with the budget meeting. If he was quick, and Richmond didn't have too much for him to take care of, he might even be able to get out of the city before dark.

He left the meeting room and headed down the corridor towards his office, files tucked under his arm. He knew he was being a bit juevenile -- but if he could just get out of the place before Kate turned up then he would feel a lot better about having to go in the first place.

Richmond was waiting for him and scrambled to his feet the moment Bodie appeared at the door. He dumped his files on his desk and glanced at the messages waiting for his attention. Nothing urgent. He glanced up at Richmond and nodded. "Well?"

"As far as I can tell, things are going as well as they could be. But really, we still need another couple of men up there to be on the safe side. Our intel is too vague. Sets my teeth on edge."

Bodie frowned, "Do you think something will happen in then next couple of days?"

"No -- and if it does, I'll be very surprised."

"Surprise is not something I can afford. If you don't think you can handle things for the few days I'm going to be gone, I expect you to say so right now."

Richmond, a hard man at the best of times, shook his head, "No, Sir. I'm just not convinced we can handle this alone -- not with the other operations we've got running. I'd just like to have another couple of men up there, as backup."

"We can't all have what we want. We'll just have to make do and hope it doesn't blow up in our faces. Nevertheless, I expect you to keep right on top of it. If we can nail Farakan and his mob, we'll be letting the big boys know we mean business. If we need to call in outside help, I want to know about it." The phone rang and he snatched it up. "Bodie." He listened for a moment, mentally filing the information for action later. "Right. Call Mason and Bruce off standby. They can take care of it."

Bodie put the phone down and turned back to Richmond. Absently, he began packing up his laptop, collecting together the files he would need; the most important he put on the top. The label said Eastland. "One way or the other, I'll be back on Friday. I can get back much quicker if I have to. I expect you to keep me informed if anything so much as sneezes in the wrong direction. As for Farakan, if anything blows up while I'm in the area, I'll commandeer some of the local lads to help."

Richmond snorted his opinion of that idea. Bodie continued regardless, "No, I wouldn't give a rats arse for the skills of the local constabulary in our game -- but we don't have any choice and you know it. With the finance ministers' meeting on the weekend, we have no other men we can spare. If anything happens, you let me know immediately."

When Richmond rolled his eyes, Bodie paused, collecting up everything he needed. "Are you telling me this never happened when Sir Lionel was in charge?"

"Well, er..."

"Come on man," Bodie snapped, not in the mood for this. "I'm not interested in coy evasions. I doubt there's a man in this squad who owes any real loyalty to my predecessor."

"Then you can't be unaware of the limitations he imposed on the operations we got involved with. To be honest, he would never have sanctioned anything so far from London unless he was certain it would be the biggest arms haul in history."

Bodie straightened up and made for the door. "For all we know, it might be. Nevertheless, I expect you to make it clear to the entire squad that things have changed now I'm here. Bitch about me as much as you like -- but make sure they understand -- this is what CI5 is for and we're never going to have the money or the resources we need to do anything in a calm and relaxed manner. It just won't happen. Cowley knew that when he started the place and nothing's changed since. I'll call you first thing in the morning for a shipping update."

"Yes, sir."

He left Richmond and strode out into the corridor, briefcase in one hand, laptop and files in the other. His car was waiting by the front door and he climbed in without a word. His luggage was already in the boot and he settled in for the drive north. He pulled the window down to let a little cool night air inside; the summer had been too hot in London. It would be nice to get out of the city -- if only on the pretext of work.

Work, work and more bloody work. It never seemed to end -- and he'd never really bothered too much with making himself a life outside of work. Not for the last fourteen years, at least. Never seemed to be any point. But the work still remained demanding. Not that he'd had any illusions when he'd been offered this job -- at least, not on that level. Strangely though, he'd never really considered turning it down -- though he'd wondered if they were sure they knew what they were getting when they appointed him. Oh, he'd been open and candid about everything -- but you can never tell just how closely people are listening. There was always the possibility afterwards for someone to cry 'but I didn't realize you meant that!'.

He settled back into his seat as his driver, Skinner, concentrated on negotiating the city streets. Three hours it would take -- and then he could snatch a few hours sleep before his first meetings.

Idly and cautiously now, he turned to that top file, picked it up with a vague tremor of hesitation. Eastland.

Alan Cade.

The Chief Constable was already something of a legend though he'd only been in the job little more than three years. A man many in the government considered a dangerous radical, a liberal they could well do without because he'd too often exercised a rare ability to think for himself. There was no doubt he was one of the most important thinkers in the force and the only one who had had the courage to put his ideas into practice. It wasn't difficult to get opinions on the quality of Eastland's chief -- at least, not on a professional level. His public profile was high -- the exact opposite of Bodie's -- and he'd gained both praise and critisism for his actions on a number of different levels.

It was all there, in the file Bodie held in his hand. Of course, sitting alongside all the black scrawled text was a newpaper cutting, a photo of the Chief, in uniform, at some event now forgotten -- and it was the face that drew Bodie's gaze again. Just as it had the first time he'd seen this picture.

It was uncanny and even now, a year later, the resemblance was no less astonishing. And tomorrow Bodie would meet the man in person, face to face for the first time.

How would the man himself match up to the photo -- and how would Bodie react? He had no photos of Ray to compare Cade with, no link to the past he could touch upon to remind him of what was real and what wasn't. There was just his memory. He knew it was no longer clear and untainted. He'd tried to place too many others over it, in a way, trying to dull the reality. He could no longer recall the smell, the taste, the touch of the only person who had ever meant anything to him. He'd done it deliberately, finding, in the long run, the only way to live with the pain of losing Ray forever. Smudge the memory, smudge the reality and perhaps one day, the feeling would die as Ray had.

He put the file down and rested his head back. The view outside the car now encompassed darkness as they travelled along the motorway. Little flecks of light from farmhouses dotted the landscape -- but of everything else, he was blind.

His mobile phone bleeped and he hit the button.

"Bodie?"

"Kate," he said with a smug smile. "How nice of you to call."

"Where are you?"

"On the M4, I think."

"So you've left already?"

"Apparently."

"Damn you, Bodie, I knew you'd do this."

"Do what? I'm working."

"You said you'd wait so we could talk."

He chuckled, resting his elbow on the door, "You worry too much. I told you I'd be a good boy. I won't do anything I'm not supposed to do."

"Why don't I believe you? Alan Cade is..."

"Kate, I'm not an idiot -- nor am I so indiscreet. Please, stop worrying."

"I would worry less if I didn't know you so well." She paused then added, "Just make sure you're prepared to be shocked. I know I was when I met him. His resemblance to Doyle is remarkable."

"And I'm well aware of it. Please, Kate, go home, go to bed and stop worrying. Call me tomorrow night if you like."

"Alright. Goodnight, Bodie."

"Goodnight."

He tossed the phone onto the seat beside him and rested his head back again. Kate Ross had always been far too perceptive for his own good. But for some strange reason, he'd never minded the way she could look right through him. Not even that night ten years ago when she'd caught him in a bar in Soho.

Exactly what CI5's resident shrink had been doing in such a place had never really been examined. However, at the time, he'd been rather too preoccupied to ask.

"Exactly what do you think you're doing, Bodie?"

Her dark gaze had glinted in the subdued light of the members-only club. Bodie had been a little startled to find her there but he'd covered it quickly. "Having a quiet drink, what else?"

She gave him that almost-smile that usually made men quake in their boots. "You can't bring him back you know."

He'd been tempted for a second, to hit her. "I damned well know that!" he'd hissed. "I also know it's none of your business. I'm MI6 not CI5 now -- so you can just get out of my private life, alright?"

She moved closer so only he could hear the whispered words, "You can't bring him back to life, Bodie, and doing this is only going to make you miserable. You know that as well as I do."

"Oh yeah, and what am I doing?"

"Looking for another Ray Doyle."

"Rubbish!"

"So why have you spent the last ten minutes chatting up that lovely fellow with the blistering green eyes?"

"Which fellow?"

"The one who's keeping his distance, wondering if I'm your wife or something."

At that, Bodie had frowned and almost walked out -- except that she'd done something very strange. She'd gone up on her toes and kissed his cheek, whispering, "I understand, Bodie. It's okay."

And then he'd looked into her eyes again and realized that it was okay. She did understand. She understood what he'd been doing all these years and instead of calling him a fool, she was trying to prevent him from getting hurt again. She wasn't to know that the part of him that could be hurt by anything had died that day, four years before when he'd found out Ray had been murdered.

"Come on, I'll buy you a coffee," she'd said -- and in those words, offered him friendship in a way he couldn't refuse.

They'd ended up back at her place where they'd sat for hours, simply talking. That's when she'd admitted she'd long believed that there'd been something between him and Doyle not strictly regulation. He'd laughed at the way she'd put it; allowing himself to laugh had been wonderful. And so he'd told her the truth; of how he and Ray had finally taken their relationship to its most wonderful conculsion, how it had only lasted a few months before he'd been seconded to MI6. He'd talked about how they had hidden it from Cowley, the games they'd played with trying to live together without it looking that way, how they'd worried somebody would find out, how precious it had been to keep it secret for the first few months.

How they had been happy.

That night he had won a friend -- and some peace he'd not known for a long time. Somehow, admitting it all in the open had made it more bearable, stopped him from gnawing at it all, allowed him to grieve a little.

Of course, it didn't stop him searching -- and she knew it. Oh, he still went out with women but every few months he would find himself in a similar place to that Soho club, seeking among the crowds, occasionally taking someone home with him, burying himself in the illusion of a face or a body that reminded him of Ray. He didn't do it often and never if he thought there was a danger of discovery -- but he also knew he would never stop doing it. After fourteen years, he was too old to change. Kate had, despite her opinion, understood nonetheless. They'd stayed friends since, growing closer. Some days he wondered if she was in love with him -- but he could never ask. That would be too much for both of them -- especially since she knew he would never return the feelings.

So he had let her in -- and kept everybody else out. There had never been anybody else apart from Ray who had won his trust like that. Now days, she was like a sister and looked after the part of him that still admitted to any kind of vulnerability. The dry and shrivelled part that remembered he'd once loved someone.

He closed his eyes against the dark night. He had time to get a little sleep -- and he needed to. Tomorrow would be tough in any respect -- but most of all because he would meet a man who could have been Ray's twin.

But only on the surface -- as all the others had been. Even as he resisted the idea, deep down he knew, he would never find Ray -- because he was dead and nothing would change that, no matter how hard he tried.

Ray was dead -- and in his own way, so was Bodie.

***

The timer lights were on when Cade pulled up into his driveway, giving the house that lived-in look. Except that it was empty. Elena wouldn't be home for another month and at this time of the night, the place felt like a hollow cave, gaping for some sign of laughter, noise, anything to do with people.

He shut the door behind him, automatically switching off the alarms and turning up the heating. Even in the middle of summer the nights grew cold this far north. Only in London did the heat gather at this time of the year.

He tossed his jacket onto the stair rail and wandered into the kitchen. He should have something to eat but he wasn't really hungry. Instead, he drifted into the lounge and poured himself a hearty whisky, sinking into the deep sofa to lean his head back.

His gazed drifted over the white walls of his elegant living room, touched on the artwork, the simple but stylish furniture he'd chosen when he'd bought the place. At the time, he'd believed Marie-Pierre would have shared it with him, but she'd left him too -- just like all the others.

He took a deep mouthful of whisky, letting the liquid burn his mouth, sear his throat. He didn't drink scotch very often; it always brought about too many memories -- but tonight, with Alison's words still in his ears, perhaps it was time to remember a little. Perhaps it would make it easier. Perhaps, once acknowledged, with the memory of Africa still fresh in his mind, he would be able to lift himself out of the mood that had haunted him all day.

Even if the memories were painful.

Then again, love and betrayal were always painful. No other way around it.

And in the process, he'd lost Bodie.

Was it really only fourteen years? It seemed like a lifetime -- and yet, at moments like this, it seemed only months in the past, only the blink of an eye since he had gone by another name, lived another life -- the life that had belonged to him, before Alan Cade had given him an escape from an unbearable existence.

His gaze fell on a photo on the mantle. Alan Cade's graduation. Young, fresh-faced, innocent. Already leaning towards law enforcement, one of the brightest students at his college, his tutors disappointed when he'd chosen to enter the police force. They'd had high hopes for him; a career at the bar, perhaps, going on to become a QC, or a judge. Anything would have been possible.

Except that reality had stepped in and severed that life before it had really begun -- and the tradegdy of it was, nobody knew anything about it. Nobody knew that Alan Cade had died in Liverpool over thirteen years ago and that the man who walked in his shoes, did the job he'd been destined to do was in fact an imposter.

The ultimate lie in amongst all the others. To the world, Alan Cade had not died but had survived the savage beating he'd received that night, in the backstreets of a crowded city. He'd survived -- and Ray Doyle had died in his place. An unhappy chance had given him an escape route, a means by which he could stop being himself and become someone else, someone who didn't have that pain inside him. So Ray Doyle had died and Alan Cade had lived.

But the pain had never really gone away. Instead, he'd lost the opportunity of ever talking about it, of ever really exorcising it. To this day, the loss of Bodie left an ache inside him he could only drown with a large scotch or two.

He drained his glass, kicked off his shoes and poured another measure. If he needed to wallow, he was damned well going to be comfortable.

So why did thinking about Bodie always make him want to wallow? Because he was alone? Or because the only time when he could wallow was when he was alone? Certainly the only time he could think about Bodie was when he was alone.

It was the emptiness of the house that echoed back to him; a dark spectre writhing in the background, taunting him and his attempts to live his life as though nothing hovered in his past. It was the emptiness that came back to him at times like this, breathing cold and blistering up the past like a ghost in the shadows. A ghost that never really left him. Unlike Bodie.

Willis, MI6 and some secret mission Cowley had been powerless to prevent. Cowley -- powerless. Two words which, until that day, had never seemed to belong in the same sentence. Blackmail had been involved -- as usual. Deals made behind closed doors -- and Bodie had been taken from him, abruptly wrenched into another life, never to be seen again.

Doyle had hit the roof, threatening murder. Cowley had suspended him. In the last few snatched seconds he'd had with Bodie, they'd talked -- briefly -- of running away together, Bodie's heavy blue eyes dark and serious. Cowley had prevented it. In the end, Willis, smug and self-righteous, had won and they'd been torn apart that very day.

Without even a proper chance to say goodbye. Without even a moment to hold each other. Bodie had simply touched his face, uncaring of the eyes upon them both. And then he'd gone.

Six years together. Three months in love, astonishing and wonderful, still learning, still wanting, still afraid of what the future might hold for them, still wondering if they could make it work, still wanting to ensure it would.

All to nothing.

And the final day, a month later, when Cowley had come to him and told him what had happened. Willis's own words, bleating feigned sadness and contrite apologies. An accident. Bodie had disappeard in Africa. Body had been found days later, and buried in some dusty plain. No killer caught.

Just death on the job.

Alone.

He sucked in a breath and held it, forcing calm into his body. After all these years, it shouldn't still hurt so much.

But it did hurt, remembering that day, and the one after when he'd told Cowley he was quitting. The Old Man had fought him, arguing hard -- but they'd both known it was the end. Saddened, Cowley had let him go and for the next few months, he'd drifted, doing nothing, drinking sometimes, letting himself wallow some days, get angry on others. But he never went near Willis -- that had been the only promise he'd given Cowley -- and that reluctantly.

And then, almost two months after that terrible day -- two months since he'd last touched life, he'd met Cade in Liverpool.

He opened his eyes and gazed blearily at the clock on the mantel. The bottle was almost empty and he would have to get up for work in a few hours. With a sigh, he rolled off the sofa and stumbled upstairs to bed, without even turning the lights on. He just stripped off and climbed between the cool sheets. Even then, tired as he was, the memories kept drifting back to him, like old friends, both wanted and denied at the same time.

Bodie had gone with Willis, gone to do some damned job in Africa that MI6 simply couldn't handle on their own. They'd needed Bodie -- and they'd taken him.

And Bodie hadn't fought it. Not really. Not the way Bodie should have fought it. Oh, Doyle had seen the anguish in his eyes as they'd parted -- and he'd seen the love so clearly, anybody could have picked it up. But all the same, Bodie hadn't fought as he should have done. Instead, he'd gone, managed to get himself killed.

Even though he'd promised.

Doyle had never asked for such a thing; believing somehow that Bodie would never want such comittment expected of him. But Bodie had promised, the morning after their first night together.

They'd laid together in his bed, wrapped around each other, their bodies sated for the moment, deliberately dwelling on the warmth between them, the closeness, the surprising rightness of it. And Bodie had spoken words he would never forget as long as he lived.

"Never really thought much about it. Never had a reason I guess but now I think about it -- and I can't seem to think about anything else -- I have to tell you, in case you ever wonder, or in case I get shot tomorrow and die without it being said -- I love you, Ray. I know guys like me aren't supposed to fall in love -- and certainly not with their partners, but there it is and I'm damned if I can do anything about it. Now I know we had a good time here tonight -- but if that's all it was to you, say so now. Give me some warning so I don't get me fragile little heart broken. I can cope if you tell me now -- but don't change your mind next week, or next month or in a year. If you tell me now then I won't go planning the rest of my life around being with you and I won't be disappointed when it doesn't happen. But if it does mean something to you, if you think that you might be able to love me -- then I have to say, I want this to be forever. For me, it will be."

He remembered his response with a smile. In the dark bedroom, fourteen years later, the smile was the only light he needed for the moment. He'd rolled Bodie over on the bed and pinned him down, arms and legs, kissed him for long wonderful moments and then spoken his own words of love. And then, as though it were their own version of wedding vows, they had made love again, only this time, their joint yearning and need had driven them to become one. Doyle, shocked and bewildered by the incredible depth of his own feelings, had opened up to Bodie, had taken the pain along with the pleasure, wanting it desperately with a force that had brought tears to his eyes at the moment of release. His tears, like his love, had not been alone that morning.

Months, days, hours. Too few of them and yet now, he remembered every one, allowing his body to respond to the ghost he carried with him, deliberately reliving that wonderful morning with an echo of the pleasure and the love. And his body did remember, fashioning desire from imagination alone, driving him forward with an urgency he could not control, bringing him to the edge of a precipice over which he tumbled, falling back into the grief that had never left him.

Empty both physically and emotionally, he closed his eyes again and allowed the pain to send him to sleep.

***

"Morning!" Cade called to Dianne as he breezed into his office.

"Good morning, Sir." Dianne smiled. "Did you have a nice holiday?"

"Facinating. Amazing place, Africa. I'll bring the photos in and show you."

Dianne's smile widened -- it came so easily to her, "Coffee?"

"Yes please. And ask Sean to come in when he gets here."

"Yes, sir."

It was cool this morning but the sun streaming through his blinds bled a little warmth into the room. He dropped his briefcase beside the desk and pulled out the file he'd glanced at over breakfast. Oddly, despite the few hours sleep he'd had, he felt fine. Perhaps a little gentle wallowing was exactly what he'd needed.

Before he could even gain his chair however, his private line rang and he picked it up.

"Dad?"

"Elena? Where are you?"

"At mum's. How are you? How was Africa?"

"Amazing -- and when you see the photos you'll kick yourself."

"Don't remind me. Did you have a good time?"

"Wonderful," he lied -- but smiled with it. "Actually, I was miserable without you."

"Oh, Dad!" she laughed, choosing not to believe the truth. "Well, I just called to say hi. I'll be home in six weeks. Can you survive without me till then?"

"More to the point, will you be back in time to start your next semester?"

"Of course. I'm already doing my reading."

And he didn't believe that for one second. "Well, you relax while you're there. You've got a heavy workload on this coming year. I don't want you fazing out after the first six months."

"Yes Dad. I've gotta go; this is costing a fortune. Love you."

"I love you, too."

And then she was gone, a fresh breeze on a summer's day. Still, he felt even better now.

Dianne appeared with the promised coffee. "You certainly look well -- though I'm afraid you don't get much time to catch up today."

"Why?" He glanced up.

"You have an appointment in an hour -- but it's only a meet and greet."

"Oh? Who?"

Dianne glanced down at one of the piles of untouched paper on his desk, "The new head of CI5 is doing a quick tour to visit the regional chiefs. We're his first stop. He only wants a few minutes for a quick chat before next week's conference."

Cade paused with a frown, "New head? What happened to Sir Lionel?"

"Oh, there's a memo from division there, in yesterday's pile. I put it on top. Sir Lionel retired just after you left on holiday. Ill health, I'm afraid. He'd been deteriorating for some months. As it was such short notice, they had to bring somebody in from MI6."

His frown deepened. Not another bloody spook. Not Willis, thank god. He'd died twelve years ago, from a stroke, not suffering anywhere near as much as he should have. He reached for the pile Diane indicated, rifiling through the stack until he found something with Division letterhead -- but he needn't have bothered. Diane supplied the remaining detail.

"His name is Andrew Bodie."

Something frail inside him snapped.

"Andrew Bodie?" A harsh whisper, from somebody else's strangled throat.

"Yes, sir. He'll be here in about an hour. Can I show him in?"

A nod.

She left, closing the door behind her.

An hour.

For the first five minutes, he couldn't muster anything to make himself actually move. Then his legs gave way, letting him sink to his chair, like an airless balloon drifting to the ground.

No. Fate couldn't be so cruel as to give somebody else the same name. A coincidence like that would have given Cowley a fit.

No. It couldn't be. Had to be somebody else.

Yes.

Had to be.

His breathing shortened as his eyes dragged themselves from the blank wall opposite to the sheet of paper in his hand. It took a moment for them to focus. W. Andrew Bodie.

Early member of CI5 under its creator, George Cowley. Top agent in the field. Moved on to MI6. Worked there for last fourteen years. Top operative, top controller. Second in command of ops at 6. Temporary assignment at CI5 pending ratification from Cabinet. All congratulations, best wishes on success in new position, give all assistance etc etc etc.

Bodie.

FuckinghellJesusfuckingChristnohe'sdeadfuckinghellhe'sdeadnonono!

Bodie.

Alive?

Alive?

"No!" Thought came to an abrupt halt, his mind ceasing all operation as his entire world stopped dead.

But... it had to be a mistake.

It had to be.

Had to be.

Bodie?

His tortured lungs screamed for mercy and he heaved in an almighty breath. For long seconds, his heartbeat raced dangerously as his eyes stared at nothing at all.

Willis had lied. Bodie hadn't died on assignment.

Jesus Christ!

And Bodie was coming here -- in forty-five minutes!

He came raggedly to his feet, almost stumbling towards the small ensuite. There he splashed cold water on his face, desperate to get a grip on himself, to still the sudden nausea which threatened, the shaking which rattled through his whole body.

Willis had lied and they'd never known. But why? Why would he do something like that?

And they'd never known. How could they? Bodie had been on top secret assignment in Africa -- and those were the only details Cowley had ever been able to glean. At least...

At least for the time Doyle had remained in contact -- until he himself had 'died' and taken Cade's place.

Oh, Christ -- and Bodie thought he was dead!

Shock made his hands shake and he left them under the cold tap. Half an hour and Bodie would be here. Half an hour and he would see Bodie again, see the man he'd thought was dead all these years.

Fucking hell!

His stomach staggered with horror and the most absurd joy. Blinking, tumbling in unreality, he looked up in the mirror at the face he wore.

But this was Alan Cade's face.

Not Ray Doyle's.

Would Bodie recognize him? Know he'd been living a lie all these years?

Would he remember?

Would he care?

No! This was Alan Cade's face! The broken cheekbone and chipped tooth were the results of the beating he'd received while on that undercover mission in Liverpool. Medical records proved it. Scars on his back from a knife attack three months later. After a year undercover, he'd pulled apart the drug ring and was largely responsible for the arrest and conviction of twenty-three pushers and dealers. Then he'd had three months off to recouperate. Three months to put together a life that had never been his. Using the subtle trauma of long-term undercover work to ease himself into relationships and work he was unfamiliar with. He done it and nobody had ever questioned. Never. He'd done a perfect job. He'd even managed to avoid Cowley until the Old Man had died eight years ago. Even that chance meeting with Kate Ross had passed untroubled.

Until now, there'd been nobody to question, nobody left alive who knew him well enough to tell the difference.

And now he would have to make Bodie believe. He would have to be every part of Alan Cade, every ounce of the man he'd created over fourteen years. Bodie would be shocked by the resemblance -- but nothing else.

Of course, if he already suspected, there was nothing to be done about it.

But he would worry about that if it ever happened.

Straightening up, he dried his face, pushed his tie back into place and deliberately fashioned his expression to suit Alan Cade, Chief Constable of Eastland. As he had done from the first moment, he forced down all the open reactions he would normally have shown, allowing himself to quake only deeply on the inside. Bodie wouldn't have a clue. He wouldn't guess because he would be given nothing to go on. Nothing but a vaguely familiar face.

Gathering himself moment by moment, he left the bathroom and downed his coffee in one go. He could have done with something stronger -- but it wouldn't do for Bodie to smell alcohol on his breath this early in the morning.

Damn but he would have to concentrate hard, do all he could to forget who this man really was, pull out the best acting performance he'd ever managed.

But even as he turned to glance out of the window, he couldn't stop the smile creeping across his face.

Bodie hadn't died in some African jungle. Bodie was alive and that was more than he'd ever hoped for.

It was enough.

***

Bodie hadn't slept well once he'd arrived at his hotel. Skinner had done all the necessary room-checking and security stuff as he'd been trained, then taken the room next door. The CI5 Controller was a perpetual target these days and Bodie wasn't immune to the danger. But when he'd been left alone, anticipation had kept his mind working, filling his doze with flights of memory, of stolen moments with Ray, of days long before they'd got together, snatches of jobs they'd done. It had been a long time since his memory had played such evil tricks on him so he didn't get up in a particularly good mood.

And then he'd remembered who he was to see first off -- and his mood abruptly improved. He'd had to do all he could to contain his urgency over breakfast and even now, sitting in his car, he had to school his features carefully, keep his hands laced together to keep them still.

Eastland's constabulary dwelt in a classic Victorian building which sat opposite a rather nice park. As his car pulled into the courtyard, Bodie looked up, wondering if Cade's office overlooked this direction.

Only then did he remember Kate's warning. This was not Ray -- and he needed to remember that or he was likely to get himself into trouble.

He was checked into the building and ushered upstairs by a uniformed officer. There he was faced with a pleasant woman by the name of Dianne. She asked him to wait a moment then disappeared behind a white door. Moments later she reappeared and asked him if he would like coffee or tea. Then she showed him in to the office and he strode ahead, his hand already outstretched, a smile on his face before he really took a good look at the man who stood to meet him.

"Alan Cade? I'm Bodie." The words were prepared and out before he had a chance to react. Cade nodded, forming a smile, his eyes glinting with something only snatched, then waved him to a seat.

Only then did Bodie notice his heart was racing...

Incredible.

Unbelievable.

Incredible.

Thank god he'd been prepared. If not, he'd be sitting here with his mouth agape.

"Welcome to Eastland. Did you drive up last night?"

Bodie nodded, again forming words already prepared and memorized in case he might react this way. "Long way from nowhere. Never noticed how flat the land is around here. How do you put up with it?"

Cade smiled slightly, tight and uncomfortable. At first glance, he appeared a little cold, a little impersonal. "To be honest, I don't really notice now. It did bother me when I first came here. Since then, I've been a little distracted."

Then Dianne interrupted them to bring in a tray of tea and Bodie had his opportunity to study the man before him.

He could have been Doyle's twin. If Ray had lived these last fourteen years, this was most likely what he would have looked like. The hair was short of course, cropped and kept away from his face, grey here and there. Lines on the brow were visible along with a few around the eyes. But those eyes -- as green as a forest, silvery in shadow, beligerent and evasive, wearing an old inner disquiet there had never been in Ray's eyes. So different and yet so much alike it was uncanny. The nose was the same, as was the mouth beneath, though the smile was uneasy. Even the broken cheekbone was in the same place.

How could two men look so much alike and even manage to get the same wound?

Of course, he'd researched; Cade had done a long stint undercover and six months into it had received a bad beating. The broken cheekbone had been one casualty.

Christ, Cowley would have rolled over in his gave! Cade was speaking, "Mr Bodie? Are you alright?"

"I..." Bodie cracked out of his amazement slowly, in bits and pieces, not bothering to hide some of it. "Sorry." He said, offering his most disarming smile. "I didn't mean to stare. It's just that you... look like somebody I used to know."

"Oh?" Cade murmured, as though it were a pleasant opener to their discussion. "What's his name? Perhaps we're related."

"Doyle. Raymond Doyle."

Cade shook his head slowly, "I don't recall any Doyles in the family tree. Though I have to say, if he looks so much like me to get a reaction like that from you, I feel it my duty to meet him."

"He died," Bodie murmured, easily, eyes taking in the rest of the room. "Fourteen years ago."

"I'm sorry. Then you must feel like you've seen a ghost."

Bodie shook his head, unable to staunch his good mood now that he'd actually met the man. Memories of Ray kept him boyant, "You could say that. Are you sure there are no Doyles in your family?"

"Positive. Maybe there were some Cades in his?"

Shaking his head, Bodie sat back a little, folding his hands together. Working with this man was going to be interesting to say the least. Especially considering there was some obvious reluctance there -- something for him to work on. Well, he'd always claimed he could charm the pope into bed. Surely Alan Cade wouldn't be entirely immune?

The echo of Kate's warning was harshly silenced. No, he wouldn't be that stupid -- but he needed Cade to gain some trust of him or their working relationship would be a pain to say the least. Anything else -- for the moment -- had to be put aside.

At least Cade appeared ready to make some sort of effort. "Congratulations on your appointment. I'm afraid I was expecting Sir Lionel. I was on leave when he retired. I hadn't realized they'd even replaced him yet. I understand you were with CI5 in its early days, with George Cowley?"

"That's right. Did you know him?"

"I met him once or twice. He was not a man to be underestimated." Bodie shook his head, half-laughing, "Certainly not. To be honest, I don't think the place has been the same since he died."

Cade smiled, the first genuine one Bodie had seen. The expression lit Cade's face in the most extraordinary manner. "Does that mean you intend to return it to its former glory?"

Taking it all in his stead, Bodie grinned slyly, "Something of a loaded question, Mr Cade."

"Alan."

With a nod, Bodie took a mouthful of tea, almost burning his mouth. Then he glanced up, "Andrew -- but my friends just call me Bodie."

"I wouldn't have thought they'd be too easy to come by in your line of work," Cade countered, reserved and yet his gaze still level. "You were with MI6 a long time. Do you feel it a bit odd, returning to criminal work after so long?"

Bodie shrugged, "Actually, I always preferred it. So much easier to see the effects of what you're doing."

"Really?" Cade was silent for a moment, his gaze suddenly turning piercing in a way that didn't resemble Ray at all. "And what would you say those effects are?"

A part of Bodie trembled a little under that scrutiny -- the part that had garnered the same response when Cowley had studied him the same way, years ago. In a way, he was a little pleased he hadn't grown so arrogant he was immune entirely to the force of another strong personality.

With ease, he shrugged again, deliberately shying his response away from anything too serious -- despite what Cade might want. This was a brief meet and greet only; in depth arguments could wait until the conference next week. "I didn't say there were any effects -- merely that they're easier to see."

To his surprise, Cade grinned, "I see you have been with MI6 a long time. Most of the bods I encounter in Whitehall can't evade a question so skillfully. So where do you go from here?"

"Yorkshire," Bodie replied, his mood abruptly dampened a little. What was it about this man? There was something there, hidden carefully behind that level gaze, something intruiging. Worse still, Bodie wanted to know what it was and for a moment, idled with the idea of trying to find out.

Then Kate's words came back to him and he left it alone. The conversation flitted around a dozen different work-related subjects before Bodie finally glanced at his watch. He didn't really want to leave but he had to. Still, he would have another chance to talk to this unusual man next week.

He stood and shook Cade's hand again, feeling the strong grip. "I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on the role of CI5 next week."

Another reserved smile, "And I look forward to hearing how you'll respond. Till then."

And Bodie was walking out, feeling like he'd left something of himself behind in that comfortable, elegant office.

***

Long after the day was over, Cade returned to his empty house and threw together a pot of noodles and vegetables. He sat in the peace of the kitchen, eating at the table, a glass of red wine for company. For once, he was glad Elena wasn't home; he didn't want to have to pretend for anybody tonight. Right now, being alone was all he wanted.

Alone and yet not alone at all.

How could he be unhappy to find Bodie was alive after all -- unbelievable though it might be? Unhappy that Willis's lie had kept them apart all these years, yes -- but not that Bodie was alive.

And he looked just the same. Sure, a little older -- but those eyes had gazed back at him with the same deep azure he remembered, with the same light that had plagued his dreams only last night. And the charm was there as well; as he'd tried to make an ally of Eastland's Chief Constable. The smile was Bodie's, all boyish camaraderie. The rest of him showed little of the years, perhaps a little around the waist -- but hardly noticeable. He'd looked after himself, that much was certain.

But delight in seeing him again after so much pain had been tempered with his need to keep himself hidden and under such tight control. Even though a long-dead part of him had been yelling in the darkness, demanding attention, wanting so desperately to throw his arms around the man and simply feel the reality of his existence.

The shock was going to take some time to wear off. Thank God Bodie was gone now and wouldn't be back till next week. He needed that time to put himself together properly -- rather than the rushed job he'd managed this morning. Christ, Bodie must have thought he was a cold bastard -- he'd not been able to smile properly for the first ten minutes; for some reason, parts of his face had stopped working.

With a sigh, he pushed his plate aside and lifted his glass high -- and for the first time that day, he let it go, unravelled the tangle of conflicting emotions he'd kept such reign on for so many hours. He took a big mouthful of wine and began to laugh, stupidly, erratically and a little hysterically -- but he didn't try and stop. Just as he'd needed to wallow in grief last night, today he needed to drown in delight.

Bodie was alive and that's all he'd ever wanted.

***

"Hello, Kate."

"So, how did it go?"

"How did what go?"

"Bloody hell, Bodie you can be obtuse when you want to."

"Darlin', you've always known that. Why complain now?"

"Don't change the subject."

"You were the one who mentioned my obtuseness -- a failing I might add, which makes me invaluable in my job."

"Stop avoiding the issue. How did your meeting with Cade go?"

"Very well, thank you."

"Are you alone?"

"Of course! My, you must have an awfully high opinion of my seductive abilities. I'm sitting here on my bed in this sumptuous hotel room, with a wee dram and a few sandwiches. Skinner is fast asleep in his room next door and I intend to finish up a little paperwork and catch some shuteye myself."

"Sometimes I really hate you."

"No, you don't."

"He's amazing, isn't he?"

"Words cannot describe him."

"I knew it!"

"Don't you dare go putting thoughts into my head, my sweet. You know how easily led I am."

"I know nothing of the sort. However, I do know how predatory you are with anybody who bears the slightest resemblance to Doyle. It's called a psychosis."

"Oh, rubbish! You know as well as I do that there's nothing wrong with me short of a little wishful thinking. Can I help it if the man is unbearably attractive?"

"In the same way Doyle was?"

"Yeah."

"So."

"So."

Silence.

"Bodie, are you okay?"

"Would you believe me if I said yes?"

"No."

"Then I won't waste the lie."

"It must have been difficult meeting Cade."

"Actually, at the time, it wasn't difficult at all."

"And after?"

"It all set in. Sorry. I know I should talk about it but..."

"Don't worry about it, Bodie. I just wanted to make sure you were alright -- even though I know you're not."

"I'll survive. I'm off again tomorrow. Won't have to see him again for a week. By then, it won't be a problem."

"Just be careful, will you?"

"Of course, I've got Skinner here, looking in every nook and cranny."

"That's not what I mean."

"Yeah, I know. Listen, you really don't need to worry."

"Well, goodnight."

"Goodnight, love."

***

At first, the week passed with aching slowness as Cade dived back into his work. Between everything else were the checked and re-checked arrangements for the conference -- but fortunately, Sean was handling most of it. But as the day grew closer, time began to fly when he'd feared it would drag. His anticipation to be once more in the same room with Bodie acting like a lure towards a target. The more he wanted it, the faster it approached.

And then he was in his car, driving across the flat lands towards the coast and the Victorian estate now converted to a plush golf retreat. He'd chosen this place deliberately, wanting as few distractions for the delegates as possible. He had hopes of achieving some consensus over this coming week and with the greens and the view of the sea in the distance, the delegates would have to concentrate or lose out.

Of course, plenty would play the odd game -- but that was also part of his plan -- so they wouldn't feel trapped, wouldn't feel like he had them in prison until he could convince them to try out his drug scheme on a larger scale.

The security was impressive -- but not overdone. Sean had kept an eye on making it appear relaxed while keeping the villans at bay. And the hotel was quite lovely without being ostentatious the way American places were.

A few delegates had already arrived and Cade met them briefly before doing a quick tour with Sean as guide. He voiced his approval before retiring to his room to glance once more over his speech for tomorrow. Tonight was a relaxed affair, casual with a few drinks. Enough to get everyone in a frame of mind where he could convince them of the impossible.

At around six, he showered and dressed and wandered downstairs, unable to help glancing around to see if Bodie had arrived. He knew it was silly and he knew he was perfectly under control now -- but there was something important about making sure that day a week ago hadn't simply been a figment of his imagination. He would never really settle until he was certain it was real.

But it was impossible to see anyone in the press of men and women. Already the drinks were flowing and he had to play the dutiful host, welcoming those he'd not seen for a while, introducing himself to those he'd not met before. It was a good turnout. Every invitation he's sent had received a positive response -- giving him a sliver of hope that he might actually be able to achieve something good and lasting.

It was an hour before he'd worked his way across the room and heard the first shiver of laughter he'd been waiting for. He looked around until he caught sight of the tall figure in the crowd, raven hair untouched by age in this light. In profile, deep in conversation, Bodie seemed unaware of the grace he exuded; the years had taken none of that away. In fact, it seemed more settled within him, as though his confidence had grown as his arrogance had receeded. Now he knew he was good at what he did because he had many years behind him to prove it -- and now that he could prove it, he no longer needed to.

A sudden pang of loss assailed him and he turned away, taking his drink to the French windows where he could get a few moments alone. Yes, it was real -- and now he was going to have to face that reality. Learn to live with it. He could never tell Bodie the truth, never reveal how a web of lies had parted them and kept them away from each other for fourteen years.

And perhaps that had been for the best. Looking at him now, it was difficult to imagine they'd ever had anything else between them, that their fledgling love could possibly have survived all this time if they had been allowed to try. It was certain neither of them would be in the positions they were in today if they had been able to stay together -- look at how much they each would have lost. How the country would have lost their contributions. No, for the first time in his life, he allowed the idea that their split had been for the better. At least now he understood it.

Though it was a damned good thing Willis wasn't still alive -- or he wouldn't be today!

"I've heard," a familiar voice murmured at his side, "that more deals are done on the golf-course than in any board room. I can't help wondering if you're subtly trying to achieve the same percentages."

"Well, if you guessed so easily, I can't have been too subtle." His insides clenched together with the shock and unconscious delight that the man himself was standing so close. Without turning, he sipped his wine, keeping his gaze on the long shadows across the carefully manicured greens. Tall oaks swept the course on the left, while on the right, a water trap and a bunker dipped into the undulating ground. "And if you guessed, I can't think everyone else will be too far behind."

"This lot? I should think they're all far more interested in five days of first class accommodation and meals, a few relaxing rounds and then home to the wife and kiddies."

"So you don't think they'll do much work while they're here?"

"I didn't say that. From what I've heard about you, I should think tomorrow they'll be in for a sharp surprise."

He couldn't help it. He turned with half a smile on his face to find Bodie grinning at him. The expression was so familiar it sent a pang of regret straight through him, laced with the now-customary delight that he should have the chance to see it again. "And what have you heard about me that leads you to such a conclusion?"

"You'd be surprised," Bodie replied conspiratorily. "The things I hear in my position don't often bear repeating."

"I can imagine."

"Yes, I bet you can."

For some inexplicable reason, his heart did a quick backflip -- then continued beating normally as though nothing had happened, offering up no explanation. To cover the momentary discomfort, he lifted his eyebrows, and spoke, "So, are you settling into your new job?"

Bodie gave him a pained expression and drained his glass, immediately catching the eye of a waiter for another, "Do we have to talk about work? I thought the point of tonight was to give us all a chance to get chummy and friendly -- you know, before we start ripping each other's throats out tomorrow."

Cade laughed. Nothing could have stopped him. When Bodie handed him a fresh glass he took it, shaking his head. "Very well, what should we talk about?"

"Well, the statistics say that the average man talks about only two subjects. Football and women."

"Oh? I'm afraid it's been years since I followed football."

"Never had too much interest in it myself. And women?"

Cade raised an eyebrow, deliberately schooling his expression. "I'm afraid I have no words of wisdom to impart on that subject either."

"Why," Bodie replied without hesitation. "No success or no interest?"

Cade nearly dropped his glass. He swallowed heavily and did his best to present the appearance of a man slightly shocked at being so interrogated by the head of CI5 -- which indeed he was.

Bodie read it as it was written, "Now don't get all riled, Alan--" and the sound of his name from Bodie's lips made it all the more awful, "--it was just a question. Don't worry, I'm not taking notes. Trust me, if there were any dark skeletons in your closet, I would have found them out long before I came here. It's just that I did notice in your files that you never married. You know how minds work in the dusty halls of government. Questions do get asked."

Cade knew that if he didn't answer, the subject would be left uncomfortably open for the rest of his life. "I'm afraid I cannot add to the rumour factory on that score. My problem lies with too much work and too little time to polish my success rate. As I said, I have no wisdom to offer on the subject of women. The fact that I have never married should prove it beyond doubt."

"Or it could prove that they have no success with you." Bodie offered a brief smile before turning his gaze out the window, his demeanour all affability.

Damn it, if Cade hadn't known any better, he'd suspect Bodie was trying to flirt with him!

And wouldn't it just be the most tragic piece of irony if he was!

But--

Was it possible?

Once, fourteen years ago, Bodie had been attracted to him -- would anything have changed in that time? Did Bodie still remember their brief time together?

He had to know. "What about you?"

"Eh?" Bodie glanced back, cobalt blue pinning him in a second.

"Married? You?"

"Yes. Once, briefly."

"How briefly?"

For the first time the gaze flickered -- then steadied, "Three months. It was a long time ago now."

Cade could say nothing. Stunned to his core, he could only meet that gaze as steadily as his tumbling emotions would allow -- not to mention a room full of noisy people behind him.

Bodie shrugged, his aspect changing again, now lighter, as though to brush it all off, "I hardly remember what it was like any more. Never found a woman since who could come close."

He knew it was a big mistake to ask -- but he was in control of his expression and so used to playing Alan Cade he was in no risk of giving anything away -- but he couldn't stop himself making that one final enquiry, phrasing it as nominally as he could, allowing Bodie a way out. "What happened to her?"

Bodie's eyebrows rose fractionally. "She died. While I was overseas on assignment."

"I'm sorry," he breathed, meaning more than Bodie would ever know.

Another shrug followed, "Didn't find out until the job ended three months later. By then it was too late."

Cade was stunned again; Bodie had never in his life been so open about his past. In the six years they'd worked together at CI5, Doyle had had to put Bodie's history together from a mess of tangled hints pointing in a dozen different directions. That he was prepared to open up so easily now said an awful lot.

About what, however, was another matter.

"I'm sorry, really. I shouldn't have asked."

"That's okay," Bodie smiled slightly, his gaze briefly gathering in the room full of people before returning. "Probably about the closest thing to truth anybody is likely to speak in this place tonight. You know what rubbish coppers can talk when they've got a few under the belt."

"Yeah," Cade nodded, doing his best to bring his tone back to normal. "That's why I thought we should start of with something like this. Let them get it off their chests before starting in on the hard stuff." He glanced away for a moment, watching the shadows lengthen across the golf course. In another hour it would be dark.

"So," Bodie murmured, his voice dropping low, "how do you handle the loneliness?"

The question darted right under his guard and straight into his soul. For a second, he couldn't form any kind of response. Then he hastily collected one and turned ready to give it out -- but his gaze was snagged by Bodie's and this time, his imagination was set alight with what he saw there. Open and warm, Bodie offered him an invitation; without question; displayed a carefully framed suggestion of desire nobody else in the room would read.

Cade opened his mouth to respond but for a moment, he was dumbfounded -- that Bodie might still want him -- or at least, a man who looked like him -- and that the head of CI5 should be prepared to make such an unveiled proposition to a man he hardly knew. A man in a similar position to his own.

He quickly looked away, afraid a peak of his own desire might leak though his gaze. Harshly he forced his heartbeat to return to normal from the ragged beating it was pealing in his chest. Bodie couldn't be serious. It had to be a setup. There was no way a man in his position would risk being so indiscreet without hoping to trap him.

And as though Bodie had read his thoughts, he moved a fraction closer until Cade could feel his breath upon his neck. "A brief respite is sometimes all a man needs to keep the loneliness at bay. I know -- and I'm not out to trap you. You have but to voice a simple refusal to be sure no mention is made of it again."

He stuggled but his good sense won out in the end. His voice was harsh as he turned, "Bodie, I..."

But he never got to say it -- for at that minute, Sean came pushing through the crowd to his side, "Sorry, Sir, but there's been a breach on the south side. I thought you should know."

Like a machine, Cade snapped into character. "What happened?"

But even as Sean detailed the events, he felt Bodie leave him and melt back into the crowd. With an internal sigh, Cade followed Sean to look into the matter. By the time he was finished -- having discovered that it was nothing more than a pair of poachers (and boy, did they make a mistake) it was too late to go back and give Bodie his simple words of refusal.

Assuming he'd actually been able to say them.

***

"Bodie?"

"I'm sorry, Kate, I've had a long day and I'm tired. I don't want to talk right now, okay?"

"You bastard. You did it, didn't you? You made a move on him?"

How had he ever allowed somebody to know him so damned well? "Of course I didn't."

"Liar."

"Well, if you're going to be like that you can go to hell."

"Bodie!"

He pulled in a breath and sank onto the side of his bed, reaching over to switch the lamp on. "Look, I'm sorry, love. You just don't..."

"Know how hard it is? Christ, Bodie, we've been friends for ten years -- you think I don't know how much you still miss him? I doubt we would ever have become friends had Doyle lived."

He had to smile, "If Doyle had lived I wouldn't have gone cruising for lookalikes in that bar so no, I think you're probably right there."

"That's not what I mean and you know it." Her voice softened then before she continued, "Bodie, I'm just scared for you."

"Look, even if I get lucky and tumble the man, do you honestly think he'd ever say anything about it?"

A thick sigh came clearly over the phone. "If I was only worried about a one-night stand, my dear, I wouldn't be ringing you at this time of night."

"What do you mean?" He stretched out on the bedspread, kicking his shoes off.

"You know already."

"I do?"

"Bodie, Alan Cade is not some man you met in a bar, someone looking for a few hours of distraction before returning to his normal life. You can't treat him like that. He's a real person who looks, walks and almost sounds like Doyle. If you're not careful..."

"If I'm not careful?"

Another sigh, resigned this time, "If you're not careful, you'll fall for him."

His answer came out without thinking, "Never."

"Oh yes? And I suppose you never thought you'd fall for Doyle -- until it happened."

"But I did fall for Doyle."

"Bodie, only a fool thinks lightening can't strike the same place twice. You'll fall for him and you'll get hurt. I don't want to see that happen."

"Alright," Bodie stuck a pillow under his head and got comfortable, "let's assume you have a valid argument and I did make a move on him and he didn't knock me down flat, and assuming something does happen -- and I'm not saying for one second that's even remotely likely -- what makes you think I'll only get hurt? For all you know, Cade could be my soulmate and we could live happily ever after. You don't know that it will all end in misery."

"No," her voice was patient, "but I can read your guilt a hundred miles off. You've always blamed yourself for Doyle getting killed in the first place. If you find you actually start feeling again -- for somebody else -- guilt will kill it all off for you. You won't allow yourself the reward for being so obliquely faithful all these years. I'm sorry, Bodie but you know I'm speaking the truth here. You've said as much to my face many times."

"Yeah," he breathed, admitting it to himself at the same time. "But it's just that..."

"What?"

"He's amazing, you know? I spent an hour in the same room with him tonight, nowhere near him and yet, I felt so close to him I could almost hear his heart beat. I had to deliberately wait until I'd calmed down before I dared speak to him. I really never thought I'd..."

Again she prompted him, "What?"

And the words came out of him, rushed and reluctant, "He's like me, Kate. Alone and needs someone. I can see it in his eyes, whenever he looks at anybody. It's like he's looking for somebody he's given up hope of finding. I know I sound like a sap but there's something there that makes me want to be that thing he's looking for. Christ, I sound pathetic!"

A gentle murmur was her first response. "Then I guess I'm already too late."

He blinked at that, "God, it doesn't mean anything."

"No? Then I suggest you try doing something you do your best to avoid. Try remembering what it felt like those first few days when you and Doyle got together. Remember how you felt when you first realized you were in love with him. You do that and then you tell me again not to worry."

"I'm sorry, Kate but you've got it all wrong. Sure, I want to be with Cade, give just about anything to get him into bed -- but I don't feel anything like I felt with Ray -- and don't make the mistake of assuming I do." There was a sharpness in his voice he hadn't intended. "I'm sorry. I really am tired. I'd better go."

"Bodie?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Be careful."

"No." A pause, "Be sure."

***

He was up early the next morning, finished breakfast before the rest came down -- and then went out for a run around the course. He waved and smiled at every uniformed security he could see -- and then for good measure, checked up on his own men he had stationed in between. Cade hadn't liked the idea of extra external security, but Bodie had made sure Richmond negotiated without compromise. There was a whole world of difference between the training police received -- and that of CI5 agents -- and Bodie knew which he trusted the most.

It was a lovely day, even so early in the morning and the golf course the perfect place to be taking a run. But in the end, he had to get back inside, shower and dress ready for the first session -- at ten am, so as not to frighten the drinkers from the night before.

Already anticipating the most interesting day, Bodie took a seat near the back of the small conference room. There were almost seventy delegates at this conference; the best turnout he'd ever seen to a gathering of this kind -- that is, something not demanded by the Home Office. Cade's reputation for making things happen had run the length of the country and many of those here were present purely because they wanted to see the man in action -- as did Bodie.

Like a consumate professional, Cade himself appeared on cue, dressed quite deliberately in his uniform, as though he wanted to remind everybody what he was. Silently, Bodie admired the quiet beauty of the man. Then Cade took the podium and began to speak. His rich voice, lightly amplified, carried the length of the room and after a moment, Bodie relaxed back into his seat, for once, making the most of the fact that he didn't need to find an excuse to watch that wonderful face. What was it about Cade that had caught him so quickly? How much time had they spent together so far? Perhaps an hour; certainly little more than that. So what was it that drew him in so completely that he'd made that foolish offer last night? Even at his most desperate, looking for Doyles in hazy nightclubs, he'd spent more time than that to make his decision. That Cade was different to all those others was obvious -- but how was he different? What had he given out of himself in so short a time that engendered such a reaction in Bodie? It was certainly more than just the look of Doyle. No, it was something in those eyes, in the way Cade looked at him. Something that tugged at Bodie, made him want to see it again.

But even so, he was intruiged by what Cade had to say -- and so, by the look of them, were the rest of the delegates. A program of gradual de-criminilization of own-use drugs, a program of support and rehabilitation for users, public access to information on drug programs and youth initiatives in the worst areas. More interesting however, were the figures he presented, the results of his trialling this program in Eastland for the last six months.

They were incredible to say the least and brought sighs of amazement from more than one delegate. A drop in drug-related crime of fifty percent. Burglary, breaking and entering and muggings had all shown an appreciable drop. Late night chemists had started opening again because the drop there had been eighty percent. Bodie sat up at this, almost aching to get his hands on some figures. He'd come here expecting to hear some politically incorrect ideas and a little vague blustering. He should have paid more attention.

Cade -- wisely -- didn't go on for more than half an hour. He merely dropped his bombshell, thanked everyone for listening then detailed the morning's workshops. The artful bastard even included a shy apology for keeping everyone off the golf course on such a lovely morning -- then perfected it by promising a free afternoon after lunch. For open discussion, he said. Yeah, right.

Canny bugger.

Without hesitation, Bodie chose the workshop Cade himself was chairing and again took a seat in the back. Despite the presence of the man who intrigued him so, he became wholly engrossed in the discussion, noting those who were obviously predisposed in favour of a broadening of the program country-wide -- and those who were not. The number as yet undecided were far in the majority. Not a bad result for the first morning.

And then lunch. Bodie deliberately kept his distance from Cade -- quite meanly, at that. He was well aware that last night, before his man had interrupted them, Cade had been on the point of turning Bodie down. He wasn't about to give him the opportunity to voice that refusal. At least, not yet. Not until Bodie had had a chance to convince him otherwise.

And yes, he knew he was behaving like an idiot -- but he was also completely aware that he would get no sleep for a month if he simply walked away from Alan Cade. Not much of an excuse -- but it was the only one he could manage under the circumstances.

The afternoon session was a little different -- but Bodie managed to remain on the fringes once more. This examined in depth, the effects ecconomically, of the drug trade on a community, the money spent not only on pursuing offenders, but on cleaning up afterwards, insurance claims, the drain on the Health Service, on broken marriages, on securing schools, on education and unemployment benefits. Although he almost knew these statistics off by heart, it was obvious not too many people in the room shared his familiarity with them. Again Cade allowed others to do the talking, keeping himself aside, ready to steer the topic on its course. At no point did he ask anybody exactly what they thought of his proposals.

But it was awesome to watch him. It was doubtful there was a delegate in the room who was not affected by the quiet essence of power about Cade, an atmosphere generated by his low firm voice, his considered words, the clarity of his thinking, the strength of his convictions and the passion with which he pursued them. This man was indeed a legend in the making. Nobody would leave here completely untouched by what they had heard.

The evening was filled with more workshops but Bodie spent the time in his room on the phone and working. His notepad however, was filled with thoughts from the day's sessions, small scribbled words with questionmarks, numbers circled a dozen times. There was indeed a lot to think about in Alan Cade's proposals.

Fortunately, there was no knock on his door as the night drew in, no apearance of the man to tell him the refusal he knew he would get. But he was patient; he knew Cade would find a way to say no -- even though it seemed there was in his eyes, a desire to say yes.

Of course, he'd been an idiot to make the offer in the first place. It was not only stupid but dangerous. Cade could, if he wanted, make some sort of fuss about it -- though it wouldn't get far; the Cabinet was already well aware of Bodie's sexual preferences -- he'd made sure of it during his first interview. They'd been a little shocked at his openness but after warning him of the need for discretion -- as if he'd never thought about it -- they'd somehow decided they needed him more than they needed a perfect reputation. Besides, as Controller of CI5, his public profile was very low -- deliberately so -- and the powers that be wanted to keep it that way. So did he.

But nevertheless, for all that Cade could shout about what he'd said, Bodie didn't think the man would do such a thing. For a start, it would raise questions about his own involvement which a man in his position couldn't afford. Secondly, and much more importantly, Cade was a liberal. Even if he was as straight as they came, he didn't appear the kind of man who would condemn Bodie for making a pass at him -- in all sincerity.

Satisfied with his first day, Bodie relaxed and climbed into bed and did his best not to think of either Alan Cade -- or Ray Doyle. It didn't work entirely.

The next day was more of the same, though the subjects of the workshops changed direction, becoming more focussed on the implementation of programs and the more political side of changing the laws. In the afternoon was an hilarious session about how to sell the idea to the public -- at least, Bodie thought it was funny, and he wasn't the only one laughing. After all, it was one thing to use discretion on the beat, another thing entirely to stop the country thinking the police had gone soft on drugs.

In the evening, Bodie sat at dinner with Cade and a dozen others, engaging in as much non-work related talk as he could manage. It had come about accidentially -- but he'd ended up sitting next to Cade. Not that he minded, but he would have rather been a place or two away, to avoid the exact conversation that rose between them immediately after coffee -- while the others were listening in to a story from the other end of the table.

Fortunately, the rest of the dining room was full with the same kind of raucous noise, sheltering Cade's quiet observation from too much scrutiny.

"You've been avoiding me."

Bodie poured a little more milk into his coffee and replied without looking up, "Have I?"

"You know you have."

"I've been busy, attending workshops -- just like I'm supposed to."

"Oh," Cade murmured, his voice low so only Bodie could hear him. "So you're going to make it hard for me, are you?"

Bodie's gaze shot up and met Cade's before he could stop it -- nor could he stop the instant flash of a grin at the unintended pun. Cade's eyes widened as he realized what he'd just said -- and then suddenly they were both chuckling softly.

After a moment, Cade sucked in his bottom lip -- and it was all Bodie could do not to lean over and kiss it for him -- and shook his head, coming up with a rueful smile, "Perhaps I should rephrase that."

"No, that's okay," Bodie replied easily, still grinning. "That works for me. I'd love to."

Cade, master of every situation and absolute ruler over this entire gathering of the powerful and mighty, actually blushed. "Bodie, please!"

"Then let's go." Bodie said this without hardly moving his lips, enjoying Cade's discomfort. That he could make the man blush gave him his first shred of real hope.

Cade shook his head again, deliberately not looking at Bodie. "You are unbelievable."

"Thank you."

"I didn't mean it as a compliment."

"I know."

"And incorrigible."

"Another of my talents. I have others I'd be happy to... discuss."

Cade's glance eased back to him -- for just a second -- and the depth of it wiped the smile from Bodie's face. But then it was gone and Cade's attention was torn away by the other men around the table. Bodie sat back, feigning interest in the general conversation, reliving that brief moment.

Yes, there was desire there in those incredible green eyes -- but there was also something else. A shadow of the loneliness Bodie had so blithly referred to in his clumsy attempt at a proposition.

Cade wouldn't give in -- but he wanted to. More than that, he knew he'd let Bodie see that.

Christ!

A little shocked at his own reaction, Bodie didn't stay much longer at the table. As a few others started to drift off to bed, he rose also, said his innocent goodnights and got back to his room and made the usual round of phone calls to make sure the squad was still functioning despite his absence.

His dreams that night were filled with faces.

***

Cade watched Bodie leave the dining room with a strange mixture of relief and sorrow. It was so weird having him at this thing, seeing him day after day; the same smile on his face, the same frown of concentration, the same boyish charm he used on everybody.

And on him in particular.

He'd forgotten. So very much. What it was like to be attracted to Bodie -- how it actually felt, inside. What that steady, revealing gaze did to his body. How the slightest suggestion at something so forbidden sent a swirling wave of desire through him so strong he could hardly form proper thought.

Bodie was seducing him with every look, every word -- both consciously and unconsciously and Cade would have been solid rock not to respond.

But memories of the past worked against him. What they'd had together -- both the three months and the six years before that, what they'd shared; what would become of that if he gave in, found some way to keep his secret from Bodie while sharing his bed for a night?

Fourteen years before, their relationship had begun with friendship and then love -- and developed into sex. Could he now in all conscience, contemplate the opposite -- knowing that love would never happen? That Bodie would now never go so far as to offer friendship? Back in CI5, they'd been thrown together by Cowley, forced to be partners -- though Bodie had been against the idea at first. Friendship -- real friendship had developed later -- and slowly. And there had been bad moments, too. Bodie had always been a loner, only allowing Doyle in with the greatest of effort.

But he had got in and they'd grown closer over the years until that day when Doyle had realized -- with very little surprise -- that he'd actually fallen in love with the great lout. His reaction upon discovering the same in Bodie had been more of delight than shock. Why shouldn't they fall in love? Hadn't they been life and death to each other already?

Was this the same man who had held him that night, kissed him so gently, putting so much of his soul into each touch? Was this Bodie, fourteen years later, the same who had vowed love until the day he died? The same who had coolly offered Cade a quick roll in the sack in exchange for a few hours without loneliness?

Yes, Cade was glad Bodie had retired for the night. Yes, he was delighted to have him around and yes, he wished everything could be different so he could leave the table and go straight to Bodie's room without a single question disturbing his thoughts.

But even as he knew he could never do that -- he was also afraid that if the moment ever came, he would find it very difficult to turn down the opportunity to feel once again, for a brief moment, everything he'd lost so long ago.

***

The next day was yet another development on the previous two and this time Bodie made a point of not attending every workshop Cade was running personally; he didn't want to make it obvious to everybody what he was doing. He exchanged greetings with Cade over lunch, but only within hearing of other delegates, not allowing Cade his opportunity for refusal.

His afternoon was filled with a chat around the bar with a few of his contemporaries. He said little but listened intently to the opinions voiced, interested to discover that after three days, many of these people were beginning to see that Cade had many things to offer the whole drugs question. Whether they would go so far as to support him outright was another matter -- but they were no longer completely against it.

It was one of the most surprising afternoons he'd ever had.

Bodie made himself scarce during the free hours afterward. Besides, he needed to clear his head -- not to mention check up on what was happening at Central. Richmond gave him a concise round up and he countered with a few new orders but basically, things were running about as smoothly as they ever did, which wasn't saying much. Then he caught up on a bit of paperwork, had a shower and a short nap -- and then it was time to go down for dinner.

This was a formal affair and everybody had dressed accordingly. The dining room looked a picture and as one of the highest ranking delegates attending, Bodie got to sit beside Cade at the high table. However, the pressures of the night prevented him from having to say more than a few words to the man -- and yet he noticed that Cade was having difficulty meeting his gaze.

And what that meant was anybody's guess.

There were of course, speaches between courses -- though thankfully, Bodie had not been approached to make one. He would have said no in any case. The topics were fairly low key and innocuous enough, barely touching on the harsh subjects they'd dealt with that day.

The night drew long and Bodie, in between chatting with his nearest neighbours, managed to find more than a few moments to observe Cade in a different light again. Now he got to see the smile more, open and giving, heard the laugh that was so like Ray's. Watched that so-familiar and yet so different face in all it's moods. Kate was right; he was already in trouble. By the end of the night, he was sure.

He no longer wanted a few hours in the sack with the man; he wanted more. A chance to get to know him properly, perhaps even to love him.

He got up from the table with an abruptness which startled Cade. Those incredible green eyes gazed up at him in surprise and concern.

"Sorry," Bodie grunted, "but I've got headache. If I don't leave now, I'll embarrass myself. Goodnight."

"Bodie?" The small voice, genuine worry. That more than anything hastened his feet.

"I'll see you in the morning." With that, he gave a firm smile and left them to it.

It wasn't until he reached his room that he realized he was as close to tears as he'd been since he'd heard Doyle had been murdered. He dived into the sanctuary of his room and locked the door behind him, leaning back on it, gasping in breaths.

Too late.

That's what she'd said.

Too late.

And in his arrogance, he'd paid no attention to the genuine reasons behind her thinking.

Too late.

Yeah, it was. Way too late. Like a star dropping from the sky, he'd fallen for Cade. So bloody quickly, too. Like he'd been waiting for it. Wanting it.

He stumbled to the bed and collapsed upon it, wrestling with demons he thought he'd never quite been able to leave behind. As his eyes shut tight, the face came to him. Not Cade's -- but that other face, the one he missed so damned much. Flashing emerald eyes, long unruly hair, lips as soft as dew, a body to melt against his, a heart to hold and cherish. Fourteen bloody years trying to erradicate the damned memory and still he could conjure it up when he had to.

"Christ, Ray, I'm sorry," he breathed into the silence. "I should have stayed. And now... now..."

He couldn't finish. Couldn't let himself even think that he might come to feel for Cade what he had always felt only for Ray. It just wasn't possible. Not in the same life.

And yet, even as his mind drifted into slumber, he knew Kate had been right: it was too late.

***

Cade left the last of the dinner guests arguing over the port. Most had turned in, ready for the next day's offerings. Though he was exhausted himself, his feet didn't take him to his own door -- but to Bodie's. He needed to know if the man was alright. But he wouldn't intrude. No.

The corridor was empty as he stood before the door. His hand completely steady, he knocked softly. At first there was no response -- then abruptly a voice called to him. "Who is it?"

"Me."

Suddenly the door was open and Bodie stood before him, the room softly lit behind. Stunning blue eyes watched him warily, perceiving and judging -- and none too happy about what he saw.

Cade shifted under that scrutiny, suddenly feeling like he really should be anywhere but standing before Bodie's door. "Er, I just wanted to see how you were."

"Come in."

"No, I..."

"Come in." Bodie's order was not to be disobeyed but it wasn't until Cade was inside the room and the door closed behind him that Bodie offered any further explanation. "I've a feeling you've got something to say to me that really shouldn't be said out there."

Without looking at Cade, Bodie went to the minibar and poured them both a scotch. Cade took his and immediately swallowed, suddenly unsure of why he'd really come. Bodie, far from pressing the issue, turned for the window and pushed it open until he could stand on the small balcony. After a moment, Cade followed, coming to stand beside him, gaze going up to the clear sky and the stars above.

"Quite a spot you have here." Bodie murmured after a minute.

"Yeah."

"Good day?"

"Productive I think."

"More tomorrow?"

"Yeah."

Silence then -- but strangely, it was comfortable -- just as the silences had been years ago, long before they'd fallen in love. Back when they'd been friends, the best of friends. In so many ways, it was the friendship he missed more these days than anything else.

"How's your headache?"

"Fine."

Silence again. Bodie sipped his drink, breathing in the cool night air and Cade watched him in profile, stunned again by how Bodie's beauty had not faded over the years.

But it was more than that -- and he had the sense to know it. It wasn't as though Bodie was just some man he'd found attractive. There'd certainly been a couple of those over the years -- but never once had he done anything about it. The price had always seemed too high to pay, the liklihood of any real joy coming from it, too slim.

No, it was simply because it was Bodie, and in the guise of Alan Cade, he was presented with an opportunity to see the man as a stranger would -- and what he saw only drew him further in, caught him with a breathtaking desire to get closer, to scratch beneath the surface of the warm charm and easy smile.

On the other hand, that had been exactly what had drawn him to Bodie in the first place, back in the days when they'd first met. Sure, they'd had their arguments and fights, but always, without exception, even before their relationship had developed further, there had been an invisible connection between them which now seemed unbroken despite so many years and so much pain.

And in reality, that's why it had hurt so much and for so long.

Now, coming full circle, they were once again at a crossroads; that link just as strong as it had ever been, that attraction just as powerful. Bodie had offered -- and the need was almost overwhelming.

Christ, he wanted to say yes! He wanted to feel those arms around him just one more time, allow himself to say the goodbye he'd been denied fourteen years before. Would it matter so much if he did?

Well, Bodie might discover the truth if he tried. There might be a few years since the last time they'd slept together but it was damned sure Bodie would remember a few tell-tale marks on his body, those that hadn't faded with age. Was it really worth risking the truth for a few hours of comfort -- especially the comfort they both needed so much?

"It wasn't a woman," Bodie's voice came out of the darkness. "When I told you I'd been married? It wasn't a woman."

"Oh."

"Just thought you should know. He was... that friend I told you died. The one who looked just like you." The admission knocked Cade flat. He swallowed heavily and looked up to find Bodie's eyes on him, boring into his soul. "I loved him."

Trembling, Cade forced himself to respond in character; it was all he had left now, teetering as close to the edge as he was. "That's why you... I mean... me... and..."

Bodie nodded slowly, "I guess so. I'm sorry."

"Don't be." The words were out before he could stop them and Bodie's eyes widened. His reaction was simple. He reached up and brushed his fingers over Cade's cheek, forcing a tremor to rumble through his whole body. He stepped back quickly, "Don't touch me."

Instantly, Bodie frowned. "I'm sorry. I just thought you... well, you look at me like you want..."

"Not out here." He was mad. Insane. Certifiable. He shouldn't be doing this no he shouldn't he had to be mad and damn it he could lose everything he shouldn't be doing this he had to be absolutely insane!

But he was also in thrall of a memory of love and had been for a long long time.

Bodie stared at him, his breathing coming shallow and intimate. His gaze was searching and tempting. His expression changed slowly then without a word, he took Cade's hand and dragged him back inside, pulled the curtains closed and turned to face him. Only one frail light by the bed gave any illumination. Then, his eyes locked onto Cade's, he moved closer, reaching out again to touch his face. Again Cade shivered, this time with the memory of the last time Bodie had touched him that way. Long ago. So long ago.

Bodie's voice was soft, alluring, "Have you ever been with a man before?"

Cade couldn't answer. Words had left him. Instead, his body spoke for him, drawing him closer to the warmth before him, feeling Bodie's face come close, buried in against his throat.

He moaned and bit his lip. He was mad. He wanted this too much. He would give himself away and then he would lose everything he'd fought for all these years.

Bodie's face moved again, his lips coming closer. At the last second, Cade turned away, forcing himself to deny the kiss. Anything but that. If he was going to give in, he would make himself miss that. That was the price he would pay. He had to -- to remind himself of the pain. He had to remember the pain or the morning would bring too much of it's own.

For they both knew this was a momentary thing. Bodie had said as much -- and Cade could offer no more.

And in not kissing him, Cade took away the one thing that would give him away more quickly than anything else. If bewitched enough by the image to believe the lie, Bodie would remember Doyle's kiss.

Bodie said nothing however, simply brought his arms up and around, drawing Cade closer, bringing their bodies against each other. The sheer longing he felt within that safe haven made his knees tremble, his heart race. Cade could hardly breathe with it, his arousal was already sharp and clear -- and he could feel Bodie's match it.

Christ, what was he doing?

But logic and reason had no place here. Instead, death and longing and so many years without this governed his actions, his movements and suddenly he was holding Bodie to him, closing his eyes and drowning in the illicit relief of a grief he'd kept hidden for a third of his life. If only he could have shared it, allowed Bodie to share his own, both of them, openly. If only...

Bodie was drawing him to the bed and half stumbling, they fell upon it. Before he could lose himself, Cade rose for air. "Please. Turn out the light."

Bodie's voice was a little hurt, "That won't make me a woman."

"I bloody know that! Do you think I'd be here if I was that stupid?"

Meeting his gaze, his breathing coming hard and fast, Bodie murmured, "Say you want me."

"Christ, Bodie," his voice came strained now and suddenly he couldn't remember why he was here or why he shouldn't be here and why he wanted to be here and why he never wanted to be anywhere else. "Of course I want you. Now shut up and turn the light off before I change my mind. Please, I'd love to look at you but I just don't feel comfortable. Can you try and understand that?" Only with the light out did he dare be himself -- and he needed to be himself to make love to Bodie.

"Then this is your first time with a man?"

With the light on, Cade replied, "Yes." Then the light went off and Doyle added in the silence of his own mind, No, it's not. God, I love you so much, Bodie. I've missed you so much.

And thinking him a virgin, Bodie took it slowly and gently, undressing Doyle with so much care it was all he could do to hold back tears. His body was lavished with kisses but every time that mouth approached his, he turned away. He knew he hurt Bodie by the denial -- but he simply couldn't risk it. He was going way too far as it was but with any luck, the years and his body subltly altered by age and the darkness would blind Bodie to any further clues.

Hope was all he had and he clung to it like a lifeboat.

Bodie's hands were like torches, lighting fires all along his flanks, burning into his gut, twisting his heart and shredding it into tiny pieces. Only when Bodie brought him to the brink of insanity did he force himself to move -- before it was too late. He pushed Bodie back and began to work his mouth on that smooth chest, the muscles still hard and unyielding beneath, the nipples so ready to rise as his tongue raked over them, elliciting a groan.

The years fell away like scythed wheat. Suddenly they were in Bodie's flat again, some night after a long day at work when they were both tired and yet keyed up by stress and adrenalin. Doyle loved Bodie's body as he had always done, no longer able to keep up any facade that pretended he was an innocent.

Then his hands found the stiff erection which pressed against his thigh and he shifted until he could take it in his mouth. Bodie cried out as he was buried inside the warmth and at last Doyle heard the name he'd wanted to hear. A breathed whisper, as quickly stifled.

"Ray."

Yes, Bodie, I'm here. I'm here and I'm making love to you. I love you. Please remember I always loved you.

And he wanted to take that love, draw it out of Bodie, take the love Bodie so desperately needed to give.

But Bodie stopped him before he could, drawing his mouth away to pull him back until Doyle lay on top of him. Pausing a moment to catch his breath, Bodie stroked his back, felt down to his buttocks, forced them to simply be together before moving on again.

"Why?" he murmured in the darkness and Doyle wished he could have left the light on. He'd always loved watching Bodie make love to him. "Why won't you kiss me?"

"Sorry. Just can't."

"I'm not thinking about him..."

"I don't mind if you are. Really." He swallowed a moment before letting himself get so close to the truth. "You loved him. I don't mind, I promise you. Let me be him, at least for a moment. Let me give you that."

"Christ, Alan!"

"Call me Ray."

"No."

"Please, Bodie," Doyle allowed his voice to be firm. "Guilt is something neither of us can afford. Be with him. That's what you need." With that, he brushed his fingers over Bodie's lips. In response, Bodie kissed them -- then sucked, bringing the urgency back with a rush of heat.

With a moan, Bodie rolled him over again, his hands going down to find the hard shaft begging attention. Doyle arched up at the touch, then reached down and pushed Bodie's hand further between his legs, pressed the fingers up against the entrance to his body. Unresisting, Bodie found the tight knot of flesh and rubbed gently.

"You want me to?"

"Yes." Doyle breathed, danger and love mixing him completely.

"It'll hurt."

"Don't care. Do it. Please."

And Bodie shifted until he knelt between Doyle's legs. He brought a hand up to Doyle's mouth and sank two fingers deep inside. Doyle lathered them with his saliva and then they disappeared again. In the darkness, he had no warning -- and suddenly his body was being invaded by first one finger and then another, gently, softly, lovingly.

He spread his legs wide, urgent now yet knowing it had to be taken slowly. He'd not had a man inside him since Bodie had left. Still Bodie used only gentleness, relaxing him, preparing him carefully, easing him open until he was ready.

Bodie shifted, taking his weight on his elbows. "Are you sure you want to do this? Most men refuse the first time they go to bed with another man. I want you to be certain."

"I am," Doyle breathed raggedly. "I know you won't hurt me."

"I'd never hurt you."

"Then do it."

Bodie said nothing then, lifted Doyle's legs before he pressed the head of his cock against the opening. Slowly he pushed and Doyle deliberately relaxed, knowing he would feel some pain but knowing also that it would be fleeting.

And then he was sliding in, deeper and deeper and Doyle almost cried out with the relief of it, the sheer dizzying joy of finding Bodie alive after so long, and now in bed with him buried inside his body.

Fully sheathed now, Bodie held him, covering his face with kisses his lips had denied -- and slowly he began to move in and out.

Doyle was having trouble breathing. His heart and body were finally at one and he thrust up with his hips to meet every move, desperately seeking more. Bodie continued slowly to make sure Doyle enjoyed it. Then his hand came around and took Doyle's shaft, a thumb rubbing over the head, teasing him with a feeling so good he almost passed out. Doyle reached up and caught his teeth on Bodie's ear, knowing it would send him crazy. Suddenly Bodie's movements quickened, his thrusts coming harder and he began to moan, breathing sounds that were almost words until they were words, harsh from his belly out.

"Too late... love you... Ray..."

It was too much for Doyle. With a cry, he arched his back and took the deepest thrust yet. With Bodie buried deep inside his body, he shook and spurted his seed all over Bodie's hand and their bellies. Bodie rode out his climax, thrust once more and sent his semen deep into Doyle, again and again, whispering with each wave.

With a gasp, he fell forward, his lips pressed against Doyle's throat. In the darkness, Doyle felt tears on his cheeks but made no immediate move to wipe them clear.

It was a long time before either of them moved. Then, all gentleness again, Bodie withdrew and slipped to lie along side him, gathering him up in his arms, planting soft kisses on his eyes, his nose -- but making no move towards his mouth.

It was a good thing, really -- Doyle would have made no move to stop him this time.

And there, bathed in the warmth of the man he loved more than his own life, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

He woke an hour later to find Bodie still wrapped around him. He took a long moment to look, to enjoy the feeling of unbelievable closeness -- and then he forced himself back to reality. He had to get back to his own room before anybody noticed he was missing. He could afford to be gone a few hours -- but not all night.

Hating it, but knowing it was necessary, he gently disengaged Bodie's arms and legs, careful not to wake him. Then he gathered up his clothes and put them on, making sure he was dressed perfectly before making any attempt to leave. Still Bodie slept on. He wanted to pause to give him a kiss -- but he'd already taken too many risks tonight. Instead, he crept to the door and let himself out.

His room was cold and empty by the time he got there. But he didn't mind. Tonight, he had warmth inside him and with any luck, it might indeed keep the loneliness away.

***

Just as he had done for the last twenty years of his life, Bodie woke on the breath of dawn. He lay flat on his back, his eyes opening to gaze at the ceiling. He didn't need to reach out to know the bed beside him was empty.

He stretched carefully, easing out the knots of sleep from his muscles -- but the movement turned into a shiver. Deliberately, he rolled over onto his side, away from where Cade would have been lying -- if he'd stayed the night.

Fresh cold light seeped through the cracks in the curtains and he focussed on that and on the day ahead, on the work he had to do. Only then could he get himself out of bed and into jogging clothes. He slipped out of the hotel and did his rounds of the golf course without really seeing anybody. Then, showered and changed, he turned up for breakfast.

With a shock, he realized Cade was already there, seated at a table with the only other delegates up so early -- and unfortunately, there were chairs empty. Bodie couldn't avoid sitting with them.

He gave them all the same level nod goodmorning, his glance staying no place longer than any other, then faced his food with little enthusiasm. The discussion continued, covering ideas broached in the previous day's workshops, hinting at further today. While forcing food into his mouth, Bodie let his gaze sweep over the others as they talked, giving him permission to also look at Cade.

The man looked positively happy. There was no other word to describe it -- and yet, even so, he kept it well banked, not allowing himself to display too much. But Bodie was no fool -- especially since he had a damned good idea why.

Bloody idiot! Why couldn't he have simply listened to Kate? Why had he so smugly blinded himself to the danger? Cade was an innocent -- even though his performance in bed last night had hinted at a willingness long held at bay. Bodie should have listened and kept clear. Cade would never have made any kind of move towards Bodie on his own.

And yet, Cade did look happy and there was a quiet voice inside Bodie whispering how good it was to have been in some way responsible for it.

"How's your headache this morning, Bodie?" Cade was looking at him, his deep green eyes giving nothing away.

"Much better, thank you." Bodie managed to make his voice sound as normal as Cade's. "Looking forward to today's little excitements."

Cade nodded and smiled -- then got up from the table. The others moved also and Bodie took the opportunity to get out of there. He had more than an hour before the first session of the day so he headed outside. Already there were a few eager punters on the course, getting in a few holes before work. Bodie kept to the fringes, away from everyone else, not moving far, simply breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sunlight on his face.

"Are you alright?"

The voice startled him but he didn't show it. He glanced aside to find Cade wandering towards him, hands thrust deep into his trousers, a forest green sweater over his crisp white shirt. Too damned sweet by half.

"Why shouldn't I be?"

Cade came to a halt, watched Bodie for a moment, then turned his gaze out to cover the golfers. "You don't need to worry."

"About what?"

"I won't cause you any problems."

"Make youself clear, will you?"

Cade lifted an idle shoulder, "I know last night was a one-off."

"Oh?" Bodie's ire was ignited immediately, having simmered since he'd woken alone that morning. "Why? Decide you didn't like getting fucked on your first date?"

Cade froze but didn't look at him. The cool control of the other man only drove Bodie's anger further.

"Didn't feel like that to me last night, while I had my cock inside you. Especially when you were lying there like a hooker, begging me to do it."

"Bodie..." the voice was low, warning but he paid no attention.

"What did you expect? Sweet nothings in your ear? A bunch of roses?"

Cade slowly shook his head, pulling in his bottom lip -- the lips Bodie had not been allowed to kiss last night -- even though he'd wanted that more than anything else. The sight sent him black inside. "You're either the greatest actor I've ever seen -- or you screw around a lot. A virgin usually only gives something like that to a man he loves!"

Now Cade turned -- but away from Bodie. His feet took him two steps and then paused, head shifted slightly to murmur sword-like words in return. "How do you know I didn't?" And then Cade left him, walking back towards the hotel, his shoulders stiff, his head held high.

***

After a long day filled with talking and listening, of arguments and posturing and complaints about budgets and manpower, Cade needed some respite from the bustle downstairs and took himself up to his room before the evening's events.

He couldn't be displeased however; it was obvious that there were more than a few delegates who were coming around to his way of thinking -- some were reluctant, others greedy for any idea that might alleviate the problems in their own areas. If nothing else, he'd certainly set the cat amongst the pidgeons.

Whether anything concrete would come out of this week was another matter. He could talk until he was blue in the face -- but unless a few of these people could find the courage to try the program on their own patches, he would have wasted five days and a pile of money from his already stretched budget.

And he knew as well as anyone did that any solution he might have would still need to be supported on a political level. No Chief Constable had the power to decriminilize drugs just like that. But he had no desire to. He simply wanted to show these people that were were alternatives -- and that continuing to fight the drug war the way they'd been doing all along was a waste of time, money, resources -- and ultimately, lives.

He unlocked his door and slipped inside, dropping his jacket on a chair as he passed. He didn't bother turning lights on. He simply kicked off his shoes, threw his tie onto the bed and pushed the French windows open wide to let in the warm fresh breeze. His room was on the seaward side of the hotel, opposite to the golf course. He could smell salt on the air but in the darkness, could see nothing of the ocean in the distance.

He looked down to the lawn before the hotel where an open pavilion on the left was half full of delegates. One of the Americans had offered to give a talk on open drug programs in Atlanta and the turnout looked promising. Supper had been a light affair with two other discussion groups scheduled for afterwards. In the shadows of his balcony, Cade idly wondered if he could get away with not making an appearance at either of them.

He was tired. Bone tired. Head spinning with words he could only half understand. If he didn't slow down a bit, he'd be burnt out before the conference was over. He needed to remain fresh and sharp or they would take his flagging energy as a sign he didn't really believe in what he was doing.

A small movement to his right caught his eye. From two floors up, he had to concentrate hard to make out the figure -- but within a second, he knew who it was. A brush of light from the pavilion made Bodie appear like a ghost, sitting on a park bench, alone.

Knowing he couldn't be seen from below, Cade took the opportunity to study the man, his eyes growing accustomed to the dark until he could see more of that face, read more of the body language.

Bodie had avoided him all day, choosing to attend workshops where Cade himself was absent. Unlike yesterday, when he'd been all too aware of Bodie's silent gaze, today, he'd missed it -- but not allowed himself to be distracted by it. Only during the breaks between sessions had his gaze reluctantly cast about for the other man -- to little effect.

Now, gazing down at him, he felt again the awful well of darkness inside, threatening to engulf him. He'd lost Bodie's respect and was horrified to find that it was almost as painful as losing the man himself had been fourteen years before.

Had it all been just a ploy, designed to control him? To hurt him? Would he find it used against him in the future?

He had no doubt Bodie was ruthless enough to use it if he needed to -- and his own part in the matter need never be alluded to; the head of CI5 was nowhere near as public as a Chief Constable, only nominally answerable to the people. Bodie had in his hands, the means by which he could ruin Cade -- and they both knew it.

He should never have gone to Bodie's room! He'd behaved like an adolescent and the price was still in negotiation. Whatever reasons he'd had, whatever causes, no matter how deeply buried -- meant nothing now.

So why did a part of him still want to go down and talk to Bodie? To find some way to make it better?

Why was he stupid enough to think he could?

Unbidden, Bodie's viscious words rekindled his shame, reducing last night from a thing wanted and cherished to nothing more than a sordid tumble. Bodie hated him for giving in so easily, for being willing to play Doyle -- for caring enough to do so.

Bodie had always been a hard man and it had come as no surprise -- all other considerations aside -- that he would be chosen to run CI5. More than once, in the six years they'd worked together, he'd seen the sharper side of Bodie's character; but back then, he'd grown to understand it, sensed the experiences which had led him down that path. But back then, Bodie had still been young enough to care. Fourteen years appeared to have driven all that away.

He'd only wanted to bed Cade because he looked so much like Doyle. Now used, he would be dispensed with and Bodie would move on, looking for another victim.

Cade sighed and leaned back against the window. Below, Bodie sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, oblivious to the gaze that watched him with such sadness. Then suddenly he moved and Cade heard the bleeping of a mobile phone reach him on the breeze. Bodie held the phone to his ear -- then came to his feet, his stance abruptly changing. Swiftly, he began walking towards the building and he disappeared from sight.

Leaving his balcony, Cade turned inside and headed for a quick shower. He would have to make an apearance downstairs at least once. With any luck, he wouldn't have to speak to Bodie again tonight.

Refreshed, his weariness held at bay a while longer, he decended through the hotel heading for the conference room. He was crossing the foyer when Sean caught his attention, approaching with a frown. Behind him, Cade could see a car pulled up to the front door of the hotel and a familiar figure standing on the opposite side, putting something in the back seat.

"Ah, Chief, Mr Bodie has asked me to pass on his apologies. He's had to return to London urgently."

"So I see," Cade murmured. Bodie got into the car -- but not before his gaze met Cade's for a brief second. The anger in those blue eyes shook him. And then Bodie was driving away and Cade gathered himself together. Suddenly he knew he could do this, finish the week off without a problem. He gave Sean a smile, "I want to congratulate you on the work you've done. None of this would have happened without your efforts. You've done Eastland proud -- and made me look very good in the process. Thank you."

Sean's face crinkled with a weary smile, "Thank you, sir -- and if we're both lucky, we may even see some results."

"Indeed we may. Come on, let's give the next session a miss and I'll buy you a drink."

***

Bodie stormed into his office and waited only long enough to get the report in full before he gave vent to his pent up anger. "Jesus Christ, Richmond! How the hell did you manage to fuck it up so well! Twenty-four hours ago, you said the op was running smoothly. Bates was in, nobody had twigged his identity and the drop was going ahead as planned. Now you tell me Bates has gone missing and the drop has been delayed by four days. Bloody hell, I knew I shouldn't have gone!"

Three hours in the car had done nothing to still his temper. He rumaged through his briefcase and pulled out the file, grabbing the newer papers from Richmond's hand before the other man could say a word. Too keyed up to sit, he took a map from a drawer and opened it out on the desk, frowning down at it, tracing the coastline from Harwich north.

The only sound came from the clock ticking on the wall and Bodie ignored that as he usually did. Of Richmond, he gave no other sign. Finally, he grunted, "How long since Bates' last contact?"

"Two days. He was supposed to meet with Harrington this morning but never showed up. Harrington hung around, taking a look at the place before reporting in. Bates knew that if he couldn't make a contact, he had to leave a sign in the B&B window. It never appeared. That's when he called me -- and that's when I called you."

Again, Bodie grunted. "How many men have we got available?"

"With the minister's conference, not enough to go in and take them. Not unless you want to pull a few off Cade's little party."

"No." Bodie replied shortly. "There's too many precious heads up there. With these bastards so close, we can't afford to slacken off. What about Serious Crime? Can they spare us anyone?"

"No -- and I did ask."

Bodie sighed and looked up, deliberately allowing his gaze to freeze the man to the spot. "You've really dumped me in it, you know? We've got two days to find Bates and be ready to grab the guns on the beach -- and we're gonna need help."

"Yes, sir," Richmond nodded, swallowing. "I should have called you earlier."

"Yes, you damned well should have!" He turned to the door and yanked it open, yelling for coffee. Then he turned back to his Second, shaking his head, his voice low and cruel. "Cade is going to kill me."

***

The drive back from the hotel to home should have been relaxing -- but in his car alone, Cade had to do all he could to stop himself from yelling out loud with the sheer stupidity of it all. Richmond had left it to the last minute to call and he'd at least been able to finish the conference properly. Leaving the last night would do nothing to endanger the fragile agreement he'd won. Nobody would miss him on the last morning -- and Sean could handle what he'd left undone.

But now he had to go back and clean up the mess CI5 had left on his doorstep. It was an hour's drive back to town and by the time he pulled up in the carpark, his fury was well-stoked -- and if Bodie had the courage to face him personally, so much the better.

He slammed the door as he entered the building. At this hour, there shouldn't have been so many men on duty but he hardly noticed them as he took the stairs two at a time. Down the corridor and he found Dianne ready for him.

"Mr Bodie and his people arrived a few minutes ago, sir. They're waiting in your office."

"Right. Call Sean and let him know what's going on and tell Rose we'll meet her in the briefing room when she's set up."

"Yes, sir." Dianne was already picking up the phone when he turned for his office door. He pushed it open and strode inside. Four men came quickly to their feet. He sent a searing gaze over all of them before stopping behind his desk. He paused only a moment before turning at last to Bodie, keeping his anger leashed in.

"I sincerely hope you have a damned good excuse for pulling a stunt like this. You had four days at the retreat to give me ample warning that you had an op running on my patch and yet you didn't say a word -- and now you expect me to pull people in, hash together a raid out of thin air -- all in the space of twelve hours. What kind of game are you playing?"

Bodie's gaze narrowed, harsh and uncompromising, "Games are not my business, Mr Cade. Catching terrorists is. What kind of outfit do you run here if you can't manage to sort out a little aid at short notice?"

"The kind that has sweeping responsibilities that go beyond a few hours running around on the beach, Mr Bodie!" Cade came around his desk, keeping his gaze squarely on the other man. "This is a flagrant abuse of regulations about intel sharing and because of your behaviour, I must now risk my own men to save your hide! Men who do not have the training your own have -- as you well know. I should have been told about this weeks ago, at the planning stage."

"We didn't have that long to plan it," Bodie snapped back, his own temper flaring. "And I am not answerable to you nor any other Chief about the ops I run -- no matter where they are. Try reading the fine print on my authority."

Cade could have hit him, "I know all about your damned authority and don't give me that old story about responsibility -- there's a reason for the rules and you know it. You are no more immune to them than I am. You should have told me before now. Christ, and you people wonder why the police don't like working with you!"

"Probably because we're more interested in doing the job than finding a scapegoat." Bodie replied, half turning away.

That was it. Cade had had enough and he was not prepared to stand here and listen any longer. "My Ops Director has a briefing organized in the meeting room two doors down. If the rest of you will wait in there, your... boss and I need to have a quiet word."

Silently the others filed out while Bodie turned to him, a vague edge of fear around his eyes. Yes, he would be afraid -- as well he should be.

Cade approached him, silent fury burning through every muscle in his body. He came to a halt, perfectly contained and perfectly dangerous. He took in a breath and spoke, keeping his voice level and unstrained. "Bodie, I don't give a damn what your personal opinion of me is and if I'd known what would happen, I would have kicked you out of here the first day you showed your face -- but whether you like it or not, I will have your professional respect. You speak to me like that in front of your men again -- or if I find you speaking out of turn to anyone during this op -- I will snap you back so hard your bones will break. Do I make myself clear?"

Bodie lifted his chin but said nothing.

Cade continued, his voice still flat, "We have eleven hours and counting to find your man, get him out alive and pull these terrorists in. Now if you can't manage to work without your personal dislike of me getting in your way then you're obviously not the man I thought you were -- and you're not half the man Cowley was."

Bodie's anger flared again -- but only in his eyes. He contained it sharply and gave a brief nod. "Let's get to it."

Mercifully, the briefing ran for only twenty minutes; Rose had done her work well. Bodie -- his behaviour perfectly moderated, made small adjustments to her efforts but basically approved the plan for the raid -- while insisting those who were actually going in carry weapons. Cade hadn't argued; he'd done this sort of thing before.

Then they were moving. Bodie and his men heading straight out to the coast, Cade back home only long enough to change. He stopped off at the office to draw his own weapon, then drove on into the night alone.

He'd chosen to wear a holster and the Walther sat beneath his left arm, a bulk oddly comfortable, like an old friend he hadn't realised he'd missed. He hadn't worn a gun since his last day at CI5, hadn't had much chance to practice -- and when he had done, he'd needed to keep his skill as cloaked as the rest of his secret past. Cade had never had much training in weapons -- no more than the average copper; it wouldn't look good if he suddenly turned out to be a Class A marksman.

And how odd to be going on a job with Bodie -- even if it was a Bodie who hated him. Of course, they would both stay back from the action. Rose had squared off a set of empty farm buildings half a mile from the beach from where they would direct the raid -- and be able to cut off any escapes.

As always, the adrenalin began to surge as he got closer to the action. Strangely, it was only at these times that he missed it. It was getting harder to remember that he'd once revelled in it.

He parked in a wood not far from the farmhouse and walked the rest of the way alone. He was challenged before he even got sight of the building. Then he was inside and trying to get his eyes to adjust to the dark.

Bodie and Rose already had everything set up. Radios crackled with short coded messages, men taking up positions, coast guard reports, weather reports, observation post reports. So far so good.

Rose saw him and gave him a brief smile. "We've got another four hours before the boat is due on the horizon, sir."

"Coast guard sighted it yet?"

"Aberdeen was the last sighting -- but she was on course for our position six hours ago. There's no reason to think it won't appear right on schedule."

Cade raised an eyebrow, not looking at Bodie seated beside the radio desk. "Unless Bodie's man has broken."

"Yes, sir." Rose glanced once more at the radio. "I organized some coffee and sandwiches. I'll go and get them from my car. Back in a minute."

As she left, Cade took a moment to familiarize himself with the building. Smallish, a crumbling wall on his right, a rotting roof above, a second smaller room beyond an open doorway. Two windows sat close by, overlooking the road. It stank of rotting straw and rat droppings. Not the best place he'd stayed in -- nor the worst.

"Bates won't break."

Bodie's voice slotted into the near-darkness like it belonged there. Cade wandered to the window and did his best to ignore all the things he wished time and convenience would allow him to say.

"He's too good to break." Bodie added, almost as an afterthought.

"No man's that good," Cade replied, testing the window's view of the road. He pulled at a broken shutter until it came away in his hands. Then he began clearing the debris away from the floor, so if he needed to get to and out of the window quickly, he could.

"He's trained to be that good. CI5 doesn't accept people unless they are that good." There was nothing of the boast about Bodie's words, not even an old pride in his own outfit; simply the facts as he knew them to be. "That's why we do what we do and you lot don't."

"Except that my lot are doing it tonight, aren't they?" Cade continued working, clearing the window ledge, leaving one unsteady shutter in place as cover. When he was done, he began on the other window. "Training isn't everything."

"Yeah? And I suppose you worked out how to secure an observation post all on your own, eh?"

Oops. Oh well, Bodie could just damned well wonder for all Cade cared. "And you with the training and all are sitting there just watching. Yes, I suppose training is more important than I realised."

"What the hell would you know?"

Bodie got to his feet and wandered to the window Cade had finished with. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, gazing out into the darkness.

Something unrecognized in Cade made him speak, though he didn't stop working. "We don't know Bates has been taken."

"You mean he could already be dead?"

"No, I mean he might have been put in a position where his cover would be blown if he kept his contact. You know that as well as I do." He finally finished and came to a halt, half-sitting on the empty window ledge. Carefully, he took out the Walther and pulled back the release, felt the satisfying click as a cartridge snapped into the chamber.

"Careful where you point that."

Cade glanced up but Bodie wasn't looking at him. He'd returned to his seat, holding an earpiece up to listen and monitor reports.

For a moment, Cade forgot the stinking building, the tension of the op, Rose on her way back -- even the gun in his hand. Just looking at Bodie sitting there, all shuttered in, closed off from the rest of life, forced a memory into him -- of two nights ago. It was so hard to belive that a mere forty-eight hours ago, they had been in bed together, conjuring up the semblance of love. A wave of bitter despair rocked against the darkness.

Yes, he'd given himself the chance to say goodbye -- and strangely it appeared the man he'd loved had left that night, as though himself, waiting for such a thing.

Deliberately, he turned and watched the road, turning his thoughts away from all that, knowing that if he didn't concentrate, their lives could be at risk.

"Your superintendent is taking a long time coming back."

"Knowing Rose, she's probably checking up on your sentries," Cade replied without budging.

"You intend to fire that -- or are you just going to sit there and play with it?"

Cade glanced down to realize he still held the Walther in his hands. Making sure the safety was on, he tucked it carefully back beneath his arm. It was about the only comforting thing he had with him.

"You had much experience with firearms?" Bodie's question shot across the dark, an arrow intended to find a mark.

"Enough."

"For what?"

To shoot you from where I sit, he thought to himself. "We're not likely to see any action sitting here so what's the point of asking?"

"There's always a point, Cade. If you don't intend to fire the thing, you shouldn't carry it."

"I'm prepared to fire it -- I just don't plan to. There's a difference."

"So how much experience have you had?"

With a sigh, he replied, "I qualified two years ago. Like a good little copper, I go back every six months for retraining."

"But do you practice?"

"Once a month, for Christ's sake! Why all the fuss!"

Bodie grunted and settled further into his seat, "Just want to know in case my life depends on it. I once had the best partner alive, the best shot in the business -- and he got murdered because I wasn't around. It's a CI5 rule -- know if your backup is capable of watching your back."

And the words sent Cade completely silent with enough memory to make him want to avoid talking to this man from now on.

As mistakes go, he'd broken every rule in the book and it was obvious he would pay for them for the rest of his life.

***

Bodie made short work of his share of sandwiches, gulped some hot coffee then wandered out into the dark to do his own check on his men, leaving Cade alone with the efficient superintendent. He had to admit, Cade's operational staff were pretty good, though hopelessly outclassed by the opposition. He only hoped none of them would get caught in the crossfire.

Damn Cade and his self-righteous attitude! He had no idea what he would be facing -- and being ignorant might just get him killed.

Bodie passed a log and gave it a vicious kick. Damn Cade -- and damn himself for being such an idiot and putting them into this position in the first place.

He did the rounds and found his men awake and attentive, all where they should be, all getting cold and saying nothing about it. He walked back slowly, unwilling to spend any more time with Cade than he absolutely had to.

Instead, he used the minutes to do something he'd not had time to do since this whole op had blown up.

He'd ruined everything. In his need and yes, his desperation to find something he'd lost so long ago, he'd destroyed something fragile he should have taken greater care with. And the worst part about it was that if he'd bothered to wait, if he'd just taken the time, put the effort in, he and Cade could have been friends -- real friends. As lovers, they'd never had a future -- but as friends they could have lasted. But instead, he'd allowed the bad habits of the last decade and more to govern his actions, his sense.

All because he could never really let Ray go. He'd known and lost so many people over the years, had been able to grieve for them and go on with his life -- but not Ray. Ray had always been his anchor and since he'd died, Bodie had felt more and more like a ship tossed on the tide, no way of making himself stop and take hold, the anchor chain drifting, searching for another to grasp it.

By rights, Alan Cade was the one to do that. It was there inside him -- Bodie was sure of it. But even so, he simply couldn't put the past behind him. After so long, it was impossible. Dead or alive, Ray would stay with him for the rest of his life, just as much a part of him now as he had been that moment, years in the past, when they'd finally found each other.

Bodie returned to the building, stuck his head through the window to let them know he was back -- then found a log beside the wall and sat down, resting his head back. Slowly now, he closed his eyes and allowed the memory to come forth, untouched by anger or need or self-hatred.

There were good weeks behind them, a few successful jobs, they were riding high on it, sensing without saying it in words, that it only took a moment for it all to fall to pieces. They'd been happy -- and out for a drink before commencing a well-earned four days off. They'd each tried making plans for the free time but in the end, had agreed to go to the country for a few days peace and quiet, willing to spend the time together.

So they'd gone to the pub and they'd had a few drinks, the wave of freedom keeping them bouyed all night. They'd flirted with a couple of girls and then, wanting to get an early start the next day, they'd gone back to Bodie's place where Ray had left his bags that morning.

But they'd not been able to sleep and instead, had sat side by side on the sofa long into the night, carefully working their way through a bottle of the best eight-year-old. They'd talked, about all sorts of things, nothing really important, the telly drifting on in the background. Tired, Doyle had let his head slip onto Bodie's shoulder and Bodie had shifted to accommodate him, feeling again the welcome touch of a live body on his own. For some reason, that had always meant a lot to him; to be able to show affection for Doyle. He hadn't done it often, but enough to keep the cold at bay, remind him that there were other human beings in the world, those he could trust.

And the night had worn on and Bodie had found his arm tightening around Doyle until the other man had shifted, looking up at first in simple companionship -- and then, as the seconds ticked by and their gazes never really disengaged, Bodie had seen quite clearly something he'd never seen before in Doyle's eyes -- and knew it was being reflected by his own. Like a true child of innocence, he gave no thought to his next move. He simply leaned his face closer and found Doyle's lips rise to meet his. With a delicious twist of fear and excitement, they kissed. So sweet and warm and tender. So loving, that first kiss, that first moment. Then without pausing, Bodie had pulled him closer and Doyle's arms had gone around him and together they had stretched out on the sofa, deepening the kiss, making it permanent.

In those few precious moments, Bodie had fallen in love. Totally and utterly, as though he'd never fallen before -- even though he realized hours later, that he'd been in love with Ray for a long time. He'd just never seen it that way before. For an hour or more, they had laid there, simply kissing, holding each other, sharing the warmth and the comfort and the understanding. In that hour, everything Bodie had ever believed in had been turned around, inside out and back again, as though his whole life was subject to Ray Doyle's kisses.

It had been Ray who had made the next move, his hands drifting down to touch Bodie's body, slowly, giving him time to object should he want to. Of course he didn't -- and sent his own hands working in reply. Still no words were spoken until, tangled and breathless, half-undressed and bordering on insanity, Doyle had gazed deep into Bodie's eyes and said, "Let's go to bed."

And they had made love and Bodie had flown with the sheer dizzying confusion of it, reeling before the sensuous attentions of his partner, soaring to heights where the air was thin and his soul burned bright. In the stratosphere he met Ray again and they merged together, tumbling down the beautiful slope as one. And it was all so wonderful and so surprising and so right he knew at that moment that he would never love anybody the way he loved Ray.

In the morning he had said as much, keeping his words a little distanced for fear of treading on himself too harshly. Fragile and so afraid he then heard Ray's reply, then felt it with his body and once more they flew together and this time became one in body as well as spirit.

For the first time in his life that morning, Bodie had felt tears from his own eyes and was unsurprised. When they'd finally emerged from the flat to drive south, Bodie had been a little shocked to find the world around them unchanged by such momentus events.

And they had kept their little secret. From everyone. Including Cowley. The Old Man had never guessed. The only person who did was the one person who should never have known.

Willis.

A blackbird cheeped in the tree overhanging the road and Bodie opened his eyes to look around. He glanced at his watch; he'd been sitting there five minutes only. Just five minutes it took to remember so much. All those years spent trying to forget; all a waste. He should have known better.

A rustle of movement from inside the building and Cade stood there at the door, a ghost in the darkness. Bodie didn't look at him but instead, put his head back again and closed his eyes. After a long pause, Cade moved and sat beside him. Without a word, he reached out and took Bodie's hand, holding it gently between his cool fingers.

And in that moment, Bodie knew he'd been a fool to think he would never love anybody again -- even though it had taken somebody so like Ray to make a liar of him. But Cade held his heart now as surely as he held his hand, and as dangerously -- even though Bodie would never say so, never admit to it and never, ever let go of Ray. He would make himself let go of Alan -- simply because he loved them both.

Working hard, he gathered the threads of himself together and mustered a whisper so low he was worried Cade might not hear it. "Christ, Alan, I'm so sorry."

There was no sound from the other man for so long, Bodie had to turn and look. Cade was staring at the ground and slowly, he nodded. "I know. So am I."

Before Bodie could say another word, Rose moved inside the building and Cade's hand slipped from his. She came out the door, hand radio held aloft. "Time for me to join the boys, Sir. Mr Bodie, I would appreciate it if you make sure the Chief gets back in one piece."

"Do my best," Bodie replied in a perfectly normal voice. "Good luck."

"Be careful," Cade added.

"You too." And then she was gone in the darkness -- and then Cade was gone too, back inside to man the radio.

Bodie took another moment to clear his head, to focus back on the job as he needed to. Time to think about Doyle and Cade later, when his life no longer depended on it. Coming to his feet, he stretched, pulled out his weapon, checked it with movement borne of many years' practice, shot one up the spout and took the safety off. Then, his mind crisp and ready for work, he headed back inside.

***

The radio traffic came in fits and bursts and more than once, Cade had to glance up at Bodie for confirmation of what he was hearing. The boat had appeared right on schedule and was approaching the shoreline. A lifeboat was being lowered and men moved into position. Bodie shortened the orders with crisp ones of his own, cooly commanding the op with obvious skill, keeping his and Cade's men perfectly in line. Like blind men they heard descriptions of those aboard the boat -- one of them identified as Bates.

Bodie's ridiculous grin at hearing the news was visible even in the dark shack.

The lifeboat was loaded with boxes and rowed ashore, unloaded and then returned for another lot. Three times this was repeated before Bodie gave the order for the coast guard to move in ready to snatch the ship as it headed out to sea. With the load of arms waiting on the beach, they heard vehicles rumbling down the road and they kept very still as they went by the hut. Still the whispered, static reports came in and Cade's insides twisted as they approached the climax of the night.

And then all hell broke loose. Gunfire had Cade up at the window, his eyes searching for some sign. He could see nothing but the odd flash. He heard yelling over the radio but Bodie avoided giving orders that would mean nothing in the firefight. The chaos lasted a full ten minutes before abrupt silence greeted them. Then a voice over the radio.

"All clear, Alpha. Five captives, now unarmed, one in flight. 7/1 and 3/9 in pursuit."

"Direction?" Bodie shot back.

"Towards the road. Don't worry, sir, he's wounded. Won't get far."

"Secure the position. I'll be down shortly."

Cade stayed where he was and almost jumped when he heard another shot much closer than before. His heart pounding, he relied on reflex, pulling out his weapon as he had always done, slipping it into his right hand to feel the comfort of it, ready if the action should get this close. Then another shot, clear and sharp, followed by a grunt no closer than fifty yards away. Then another voice on the radio.

"Alpha, 7/1."

"Alpha?"

"We got him, sir. We'll take him back with the others."

"Well done."

Bodie's voice was clipped as he turned the radio off. Cade released the safety and put his weapon away, only gradually starting to relax. Taking in a deep breath he eased himself away from the window and turned--

Bodie slammed into him, shoving him hard up against the wall. His greater weight and size used to advantage, he grabbed Cade's hands, crushed them to the stone, pinning him, helpless. Outraged, Cade drew in a ragged breath, "Bodie, what the hell are you..."

Then he saw Bodie's eyes, wide and open, enough light coming through the window for him to see the horrified, disbelieving expression.

Bodie was shaking, his breath shaking along with the rest of him, coming in short sharp gasps, one at a time, measured, as though he had no control over them at all. Cade couldn't break free, Bodie held him so tight -- and he stopped trying, his gaze glued to Bodie's frozen face.

For long moments, nothing happened, then Bodie's eyes left his, grazed over the rest of his face, fractionally, painfully, agonizingly, again and again, over the same small distance, back and forth. Then, still shaking, he leaned his head closer until his cheek pressed against Cade's, cold and hard, and one single word was spoken into the harsh silence.

"Ray?"

Cade's whole world came to a halt. His stomach lurched and icy fear ran the length of his body. Bodie's stunted breathing fell into his ears, counting out the seconds, each one a year, each one a betrayal, a lie. He stood on the edge of time, bereft of speech, empty of all but simple terror. His breathing still short and ragged, Bodie lifted his head again, to rest his forehead on Cade's, his eyes closed now, his grasp lighter. "Christ, Ray!"

The whisper, more harsh and loud than any bellow, tore Cade apart with the agony of keeping the secret, of the history behind it, of the desperation in which it had been born and of the life that had ended to give it creation. He wimpered under the onslaught and abruptly, Bodie pulled back, letting him go. He stood there, staring at him with eyes black in the night -- then without warning, he swung his hand. The force of the blow was so strong Cade stumbled against the wall. Then, before he could say anything, Bodie was gone.

Numb and trembling, Cade straightened up and put a hand to his mouth. He felt blood. Carefully, he wiped it away, pressing to stop the bleeding. Already, a part of his mind was preparing an answer to the question when it came. Stumbled on debris in the shack. A scratch, nothing more.

His feet carried him outside and onto the road. Car lights ahead showed him where to go. He followed them dumbly, no outward sign of his crumbling interior. So much practice playing the role gave him enough foundation not to crack now. He found the squad clearing up, crates opened, their contents examined. Six men lay on the pebbly beach, on their stomachs, hands clasped behind their heads. Three of them were bleeding -- but the wounds weren't life threatening. No other casualties.

As though he were a man in perfect control of his life, he listened to reports, gave a few orders and handed out congratulations -- all within hitting distance of Bodie. Not once did the man so much as look in his direction.

When it was time and not before, Cade handed the rest of the cleanup to Rose and headed back up the road, stepping aside for the ambulances to drive past. He continued on until he reached his car. Without pausing, he climbed in, turned the engine on and drove into the dwindling night, heading west.

The 4am dawn followed him, catching him as he drove into his driveway. He was just in time to watch the timer light flick off. He turned off the alarms, stumbled into the lounge and fell onto the deep couch.

Beyond caring about anything any more, he let himself go straight to sleep.

***

The phone woke him. Bleary-eyed and confused, he grabbed it, his voice not working properly, "Cade."

"I'm sorry, Sir," Dianne's voice, gentle, apologetic. "Superintendent Penfold just wanted you to know that she's holding the debriefing of last night's operation at midday. Did you want to come in for it?"

"What time is it now," he replied, not bothering to sit up or even open his eyes.

"Eight am."

"No -- not after the week at the conference. Tell her go to go ahead and call me if she has any problems. Pass on my congratulations to her, will you?"

"Yes, Sir."

"And Dianne?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Don't call me again unless world war three breaks out."

A short laugh, "No, Sir. Sleep well."

She was gone and silence reigned. He dropped the phone on the floor and turned over, determined to get back to sleep. Time enough later to catch up on all the horrors waiting for him.

He dozed fitfully, flashes of gunfire drifting in and out between images both old and new, all so confusing he couldn't catch hold of any of them. Towards the end, he sensed the danger mixed among them, a warning buried deep, a suggestion of something he should be aware of--

Waking suddenly, he realized that it wasn't a dream. He could hear noises -- soft -- but noises nonetheless. He remained where he was, his mind clearing instantly. Now he listened carefully, pinpointing the direction of the sounds; the garden doors.

Slowly, he sat up, peering over the back of the sofa. Shock washed him wide awake as he saw Bodie standing there, pulling the door closed behind him.

"You could sleep though a train crash, Doyle," Bodie said by way of greeting. "I've been sitting out there for an hour, waiting for you to wake up. Thought I'd come in and make myself another cup of tea. Want one?"

As though he owned the place, Bodie sauntered past, his cup in his hand, heading for the kitchen.

For a second, Cade didn't move. Then, like man breaking in new muscles, he levered himself up from the couch until he could stand. Absently he noticed he'd slept in his shoes and he kicked them off, rubbing a hand over his face. When he heard the kettle whistling, he gingerly walked through into the kitchen and came to a halt in the doorway.

Bodie had made himself at home, pulling things from the fridge to place on the central table. Cade could smell toast grilling, heard the hiss of water poured over tea but the air of unreality about the scene kept him to his place. It felt like he was still asleep, and this nothing but a dream. A glance at the clock told him it was 11am. He'd slept since four -- and yet it seemed like only a moment since he'd fallen onto the couch.

Bodie dumped a mug on the bench in his direction and turned back to his toast. "Still into the healthy stuff, I see. Nice to see some things don't change."

Finally, he got his voice to work, "What are you doing here?"

No glance in his direction gave anything away. "Considering you must think me the biggest idiot alive, that's a dumb question, coming from you. Why do you think I'm here?"

"I... don't know."

"You tea's getting cold."

Absently, he moved forward only close enough to pick up the mug. He blew on the surface and took a hesitant sip.

"You can sit, you know. I won't take another swing at you."

Everything about Bodie appeared to be quite normal, as though nothing unusual had happened in the night. Doyle had always been the one famous for his mood swings -- but this far surpassed anything he'd ever managed. Carefully, he moved a little closer, pulling out a chair so he could sit. As soon as he was down, a plate appeared before him, steaming toast piled high. Bodie sat opposite and set about demolishing half of it.

"Yeah," Bodie continued, as though they were in the middle of a commonplace conversation, "I admit, now that I know what I'm looking at, I can see how you did it, how you managed to pull it off for so long. Somebody would have had to have known you very well -- really well -- to pick anything odd in the setup. Let's face it, I didn't -- and who knew you better than me?"

Another proper mouthful of tea and he could form a response, "How... did you..."

"Work it out?" Bodie half-smiled, but the look was bitter and the eyes were full of a dangerous glint he'd not noticed before. He'd been right to be wary. "When you pulled your gun. I've been in this business for almost thirty years, Doyle, and I've never met or seen or even heard of anybody who pulled his weapon from a left holster with his left hand first before he transferred it to his right ready for firing. I worked alongside you for six years and almost never saw you draw your weapon any other way." He took another mouthful of toast, munched for a second before continuing. "'Course, it was a lucky glance. I'd only just looked up when you did it. If I'd been a second slower, I would have missed it and your secret would still have been safe."

Adrenalin, the unconscious movement, never requiring the need to alter that one old habit. One simple reflex had blown away fourteen years of lies.

"So," Bodie continued, his gaze flinty and hard, "tell me how you did it. I realize there must have been an Alan Cade -- not even you could manufacture a whole career in the force."

"No."

"No? Then who was he?"

"No, I don't want to talk about it now." He sighed and ran a hand over his face again. He needed more sleep -- but he could hardly just walk out on Bodie.

"Actually, I don't really want to talk about it now, either," Bodie nodded, putting his cup down. "That's not why I'm here."

"Oh?"

"I think we should go to bed."

Doyle sprang to his feet, taking a step back. "What? Are you mad?"

Bodie rose and came around the table, his gaze deep and unfathomable, harsh and unyielding. "Yeah. I want the chance to see what I missed, to finish what we started."

Doyle backed away but Bodie was fresher, more determined and cut off his exit. "Bodie..."

The eyes gazing at him reeked sheer fury. "When I fucked you, I thought you were somebody else -- but you knew who I was. Now I want a rematch. Figure I deserve it for the little game you've been playing. Had a good laugh, have you? My, it must have been such a treat to have a chance at your old sack-mate without having to take responsibility for it."

"I'm not laughing, Bodie."

"No?" Bodie arched an eyebrow, inching his way closer. "Not on the outside, maybe -- but then you always were a secretive bastard, Doyle." With that, he lunged and Doyle wasn't quite fast enough to get out of the way. Bodie caught his arm, dragging him back, pinning him against the wall with an arm across his throat.

Doyle froze, only too aware how easily Bodie could kill him from this position. Already it was getting hard to breathe, impossible to swallow. "Bodie, please..."

"Yeah, that's what you said to me that night," Bodie hissed pure venom. "Please, you said. Do it. Let me be him for you. Let me give you that. Like words of love they were, got me right in. Great bloody idiot I was, all these years."

Doyle brought his knee up and sank it into Bodie's stomach. The other man pulled away and Doyle hit him hard enough to make him stumble. Instantly, he sprang for the door but he was barely a foot down the passage before Bodie caught him around the waist, throwing him to the ground. He struggled, but Bodie's greater weight had him pinned.

A face full of hatred came close to his, "Yeah, all these years I thought I loved you and only now do I see the man I loved as he really is. Cold, hard, manipulating. Selfish. That's what you are, Doyle. Selfish."

Doyle struggled again but Bodie simply held him harder, his voice coming out in harsh slashes, "I stood there and told you about the long lost love of my life and you simply hop into bed with me for a quick one-night stand. Enjoy it, did you? Like old times was it? Make you feel good to fool old Bodie so completely? To treat me with such contempt? Lights out, no kissing. Yeah, I was fooled. And you know why?"

There was something in that terrible gaze which froze Doyle's struggles.

Bodie swallowed, "Because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe I could love you, that I could feel like that again. Some stupid part of me thought you might love me. I fell in love with Alan Cade, Doyle. Damn you, you made me fall in love with you -- twice!"

"Bodie, I tried..."

"No you damn well didn't!" Bodie yelled. He pulled Doyle's wrists in tighter, his grasp burning. "You didn't say a fucking word! You sat there and watched me walk into your office like I was the bloke next door. Fourteen fucking years, Doyle! I thought you were dead for fourteen years and you didn't say a fucking thing! Christ!"

Very scared now, Doyle twisted his body, gaining a few inches, "Bodie, let me go..."

"Or you'll what?" Bodie spat. Then abruptly, he let go and sat back, disengaging himself as though he would rid himself of something repugnant. "Believe me, Doyle, you couldn't possibly hurt me now."

Finally free, Doyle scrambled to a crouch, his own anger simmering to the boil inside him, a seething mess of half- imagined plagues and way way too much stress. "You bastard!"

Bodie barely glanced at him.

"How dare you presume to know what I did and why!" Ignoring the danger, he reached out and grabbed Bodie's collar. "How dare you!" He pulled Bodie's face close, gasping in breaths, painful and harsh, "You said you would never hurt me. What's this, Bodie? A playfull romp? You fucking bastard."

Bodie slapped his hands back, "So bloody self-righteous! Always hated that in you."

"So you hate me now? Fell in love with me twice and now you hate me? So damned simple, isn't it? You walk into my office and within minutes start trying to charm me. You moaning about the love of your life -- trying to screw the first person you meet who looks like me? Great way to show love. Bodie, you seduced me! "

"You didn't have to say yes!"

"Didn't I? And how the hell could I have said no!"

Bodie's gaze became brittle, his jaw clenched, "You could have told me the truth."

"And how could I do that, Bodie? How, exactly? Just waltz up to you and say, hey, mate, it's me, alive after fourteen years?"

"Yeah, exactly."

Doyle let him go, pushing him away. Unsteadily, he climbed to his feet, struggling to gain some control over his breathing. "You have no idea what you're talking about."

Bodie scrambled up, facing him squarely, "I deserved to know the truth."

"You don't deserve the time of day." Doyle turned for the stairs. Empty, drained, he needed a shower. He needed sleep. He needed to get away from Bodie before he did do some real physical damage.

"Doyle!" Bodie caught his hand against the stair rail. "You tell me what happened or I'll..."

"What?" One step up, he looked down sadly, deliberately parodying Bodie's own words. "You'll hurt me again? Believe me, Bodie, you couldn't possibly hurt me more than you did the day you went with Willis. The day you left me."

With that, he pulled his hand away and went upstairs. Blindly, he tossed his clothes on the bedroom floor and buried himself in the shower, craving the burning hot water on his flesh. For a long time he stood under the spray, welcoming the solid pounding against his aching muscles. Then finally, he turned it off, dried himself and threw on a t-shirt and loose trousers. Not giving a damn whether Bodie stayed or left, he climbed onto the bed and closed his eyes.

***

Bodie stumbled into the living room and sank onto the couch, burying his face in his hands. For some reason, he couldn't stop shaking. He tried relaxing his muscles, tried tensing them -- but it did no good.

He'd come that close to...

Jesus fucking christ. He'd come so close to killing Doyle.

How could he do something like that?

What had happened to him?

How could so much love turn into so much hate in the space of a few seconds. For fourteen years he'd wanted nothing more than to find out that Ray's death had been a mistake -- and now that he'd discovered it was, his insides were filled with nothing but this seething blackness threatening to swallow him whole, making him shake from his head to his boots.

But worse than that was the ache inside. The pain that took his breath away. Worse, so much worse than anything he'd ever felt before. Almost as bad as when he'd heard Doyle was dead.

Ray had never loved him. Never. It had all been some kind of game, easily tossed aside, easily picked up again when the quarry returned.

The day you left me...

He clenched his fists and pushed them against his temples.

The day you left me...

He took in a ragged breath and held it, trying desperately now to stop the trembling.

The day you left me.

With a start, he opened his eyes and stared blindly at the fireplace.

You left me.

"God, Ray!" He whispered into the silent morning. "What have you done to me?"

***

Doyle never slept. He tried but failed. Instead, he laid on his bed, eyes closed, and tried to still the raging battle going on in his head. Birdsong reached him from beyond the window, shattered sunlight bled across the floor and through his eyelids. Bodie was still downstairs -- there'd been no sound of him leaving.

If only he would just go. Couldn't he see that it was all just a terrible mistake? That dragging it out only prolonged the agony for both of them? There was no point to any of this. Every second they spent together now would only make it worse. Bodie just had to go.

And he would. Doyle knew that much. It might take him an hour or more, but eventually, Bodie would get in his car and leave. Leave Doyle. Just like he'd done fourteen years before.

A great wave of heavy restlessness crashed through him and he rolled over, away from the door, tried to get comfortable again.

If only he hadn't been so stupid, allowed himself to be so vulnerable. What kind of fool tries to rekindle the memory of a love so old and so tortured? Bodie hated him -- and with good reason. It was all his fault. He should have stayed away. He should have been more prepared to let Bodie go.

He should have fought harder to make him stay.

He lifted his head, punched the pillows a few times then tried to settle once more.

Damn you, Bodie. Why did you have to do this to me? My life was fine until you came back into it. Alan Cade didn't have a secret lost love. His life was well ordered, structured and determined. His work fulfilled him. He didn't need anyone else. He... didn't... need...

Bodie.

Like a slicing blade, pain swept through him, making him gasp, holding him in a vice, clawed and torn. A cascade of memory tumbled over him, tearing him apart, scattering pieces of Alan Cade and Ray Doyle to the far winds until he could no longer discern which was which. Desperately, for dear life, he clung to whatever he could find, snatching bits together, trying to make a whole out of the mess.

But it was useless.

It didn't matter anyway. Nothing could alter the simple fact which stared him back in the face: he loved Bodie just as much now as he'd done so many years before and no matter how hard he tried, how much Bodie hated him nor even how impossible the entire situation was, nothing was ever going to kill that love.

Was that why he'd determined not to tell Bodie the truth? For fear of wanting to love him again? But who was doing the loving? Cade or Doyle? Doyle wanted Bodie close -- but what did Cade want? Was he the one who needed to be solitary? Or was Doyle simply afraid that he would love Bodie again only to lose him again? Had Doyle reached out for Bodie only to have Cade push him away?

What would Cade have done? What did Cade want? No, hell, he was Cade! Ray Doyle was dead! He was Alan Cade, damn it. He was... he was...

A creak from the stairs cut through his despair. He didn't dare turn. If Bodie thought he was asleep, perhaps he might just go after all. Go and let everything settle down, let Doyle/Cade work out where the lines were. He had to -- and he had to do it now, before it was too late.

He felt a pressure on the bed behind him as Bodie sat. He could hear nothing but the other man's breathing, soft and steady, no longer forced and controlled. Every part of him screamed release, crying silently into the afternoon with words that no longer kept pace with any form of reality. Like the scales of justice, he balanced on the arc, ready to fall either way.

But no matter where the panic pulled him, in the forefront of his mind sat the knowledge that this was his Bodie. Lost and regained, and now lost again. But Bodie nonetheless.

A long silence filled the room during which he dared not move, where he tried vainly to keep his breathing steady. Eventually, without words, Bodie shifted, coming closer until he laid alongside, wrapping one careful arm about him.

"I'm sorry."

The words, whispered in his ear, soft and determined and so full of regret, caught him off guard. He caught in a breath and stiffened.

"Don't move," Bodie urged gently. "Please. I won't hurt you. I just want to... apologize. I want to make it right. I know I can't... but I ... need to try. Please, Ray."

Swallowing, he tried to speak, "Bodie... I..."

"Shh. It's okay. Really." Carefully, Bodie shifted again until he held Doyle closer. Hesitantly, Doyle lifted his hand until his fingers touched against Bodie's wrist. Bodie took a deep breath and continued, "I'm so sorry, Ray. I didn't mean to hurt you. It's just ... you know, such a shock... that it's really you and... you were alive all this time. It's unbelievable. I just can't... I didn't want to hurt you... it's just that... I was so angry that you'd... you'd..."

"Lie?"

"Yeah. Can I ask just one question?"

Doyle nodded, not really sure if he wanted to answer anything.

"Fourteen years ago, before I left, when we were together -- did you... did you love me?"

Doyle's eyes widened and before he could stop himself, he twisted out of Bodie's grasp and rolled over to face him. "What do you mean, did I love you? I told you often enough, didn't I? Of course, I bloody well loved you!"

Serious blue eyes gazed back at him with uncertainty, revealing a vulnerability Doyle hadn't seen since that time long before. Something in that gaze caught him unawares and without thinking, he reached up and touched Bodie's face with one finger, tracing a line from cheekbone to jaw, a caress born of the present rather than the past.

For long seconds their eyes locked, as Doyle's heart thudded in his ribcage. He knew he shouldn't be afraid -- Bodie wouldn't hurt him again -- but he also wasn't sure that that was all there was to be scared of. And Bodie kept looking at him, watching, waiting -- hoping, perhaps -- and also afraid. Afraid that everything he'd said was true, despite Doyle's words. Afraid that what he was looking at was no longer somebody he knew, or worse still, some kind of cruel nightmare from which he would awake cold and alone once more.

Mesmerised by what he saw, Doyle let his hand move again, dusting the backs of his fingers along Bodie's cheek and down across his mouth -- and there Bodie caught the hand with his own, pressing his lips to it in a kind of prayer.

Bodie needed reassurance -- and there was only one way to give it to him, and oh, how Doyle wanted him to have it. Slowly, achingly, he brought his face closer, taking their hands away, entwining his finger's with Bodie's. And then he brought their lips together; a touch, an invitation, no more.

He felt Bodie's whole body stiffen -- but he didn't move away. Instead, arms caught tighter, drawing Doyle closer. Again, Doyle kissed him, more deliberately this time and for a second, he thought Bodie might resist -- but then suddenly he was crushed against the other man, mouth devouring his, a moan, deep and mournful splitting the silence.

And Doyle held him in return, like Bodie, remembering with every touch, gathering in the hurt, the wounds, the agony from so many years and trying to dispel it in only moments. This was his Bodie, in his arms, alive and for those few brief moments, that's all he really gave a damn about.

Finally, the need to breathe broke them apart and Doyle opened his eyes to find Bodie watching him steadily, the vulnerability still there, but in the background, now. Eyes wide, Bodie shook his head slightly, once more, gazing at every facet of Doyle's face. "So incredible, Ray. Thought I was goin' crazy when I saw you draw that gun... but it is you -- and you are alive. So incredible."

And then Bodie held him again, kissed him again, deeply, gently with all the longing of fourteen years. Doyle relaxed into the embrace, content for the moment, to forget all the other things that needed to be said. Just feeling those arms around him was enough. He waited until Bodie's heartbeat gradually returned to normal, his own along with it, waited for the desperation of their kisses to subside a little. Then once more, Bodie was studying him with those blue eyes, and the expression changed slowly, as he recalled all the little things of the reality around him. His voice quiet but level, he said, "Tell me about Alan Cade."

Doyle groaned. "Bodie, please."

"I need to know what happened."

"I know, I know but--"

"But what?"

Doyle bit in his lip, unsure whether to go on -- or whether he could actually talk about it now. He'd never spoken a word to anyone in all these years. Though he knew he had to do it, he also knew it wasn't going to be easy.

"Well?"

"Let's go downstairs first. I think I'm going to need a drink."

With a shadow of humour in his eyes, Bodie nodded, "Me too." Reluctantly, he let Doyle go and together they went downstairs -- not quite hand in hand, but never too far away from each other. Doyle poured drinks and then they settled on the sofa, at either ends, watching each other. Bodie laid his arm across the back, his land laid flat against the soft surface, his deep blue eyes watching Doyle with unveiled expectation.

Taking a small sip of whisky, Doyle turned his attention from the man before him and deliberately tried to calm his mind, to set free the memories he'd kept hidden for too long. He took his time and only when he was ready, did he begin to speak.

"You were right, there was an Alan Cade."

"How did you meet him?"

Doyle's gaze drifted to the mantle and the picture sitting there. "It was all an accident, a twist of chance."

"Go on."

"You... know what happened in London?"

Bodie's voice was low and harsh, like gravel, "Cowley told me. He said you received the news of my supposed death in Africa very badly. He took you off duty but the next day you came back in and resigned. He argued with you but you didn't stick around long enough to let him change your mind. Then you left London. He kept track of you for a few weeks, just to make sure you were okay -- but then you went underground and he lost you completely. The next time he saw you was in the morgue."

Doyle glanced once at Bodie, "Did he blame himself?"

"What do you think?" Bodie raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his drink. "It was even worse after I turned up eight months later, alive and well. He pulled out all the stops to find you but all to no avail."

"Did he..."

"Know about us?" The ghost of a smile flashed across Bodie's face and was gone. "No. But I told him. A few years later, just before he died. I didn't want him to go, believing it was all his fault."

"And what about Willis?"

"No," Bodie shook his head. "You tell me about Cade. After Cowley lost track of you, where did you go?"

Doyle swallowed again -- but he knew it was time. "Liverpool."

A wash of pain drifted over Bodie's eyes, "Jesus," he whispered. Doyle simply shrugged. "I met Alan a month or so after I left London. In a pub. I didn't realise it at the time, but he was in the early stages of a long-term undercover op, infiltrating a drugs ring operating in Liverpool. Anyway, I was sitting on my own, busily working my way through another pint when he walked in. He got a drink from the bar and turned to survey the room, obviously looking for someone. That's when I saw his face -- and he saw mine. We just looked at each other like a pair of idiots." Doyle couldn't help smiling at the memory. "He walked across to my table, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. The rest of the night we sat there talking, trying to find out if we shared any ancestors."

"Did you?"

"I think so. There's a couple of years' difference -- but we appear to have shared two sets of grandparents from different sides of the family."

"Thank god."

Doyle glanced up to find a weak smile on Bodie's face. "Why?"

"I always shared Cowley's distrust of true coincidences. Go on."

"Well, we agreed to meet up again -- then it became a bit of a habit. As I got to know him, I noticed certain things about him, the company he kept, the things he didn't really say, about what he did for a living and everything. After a few weeks however, I cooked him dinner and he opened up about his job and what he was doing there. Then it all made sense and to be honest, I was rather relieved. Then he admitted that he'd checked up on me and that's why he felt safe telling me the truth. You see, he was really deep undercover. His contacts with his control were sporadic. He was right out there on his own..."

"Without a friend in sight except for Raymond Doyle."

Again he glanced up but Bodie's expression was shuttered. "Something like that."

"So what happened?"

Doyle shrugged again, "We became friends. I think he needed me -- needed somebody to trust, some one he could be himself with, who wasn't mixed up in the dirty work of drug dealing. I didn't see him every day -- but just about. I got some work on a building site under an assumed name and we met up at a different pub or he'd come over to my place so I could get some food into him."

"It must have been strange looking at somebody wearing your own face."

"Like you wouldn't believe. But he wasn't identical to me -- not completely. His hair was short, like mine is now -- and he didn't have the cheekbone either. I had to incorporate that later."

"Of course. And?"

"And what? We became friends."

"You said that. What else?"

Suddenly restless, Doyle turned away. "He talked about his work, the people he was getting close to. Some nights he'd get to my place riding on the edge. We'd stay up for hours just talking it out, getting him fit to go back out there. Sometimes I was worried sick because I wouldn't see him for days on end -- and then he'd knock on my door at three am, exhausted and hating himself for what he was doing and the people he had to deal with. It really ate away at him."

"Then you were real friends," Bodie murmured, almost in satisfaction. "Did you tell him about me?"

"Eventually."

"Yeah? What did he say?"

Doyle closed his eyes, trying not to remember -- but having to. "He was sorry for me. He was... good about it, not fazed by the fact that you were a bloke. It didn't bother him at all. Not even..."

Bodie leaned forward, "Not even?"

Doyle took in a deep breath, steadying himself, "Six months after I'd found out you were dead, I... got a little upset one night. Drunk. He... stayed with me."

"You slept with him?"

"Yes. Just once. I think we both needed it."

"I'm not bloody surprised!"

Doyle had to look up to see the force of the words expressed on Bodie's face. For some reason, that single look made him feel a little better. At least for a moment. "It wasn't long after that when it all came to an ugly end."

"How?"

"He went missing again -- for longer this time and I was worried sick. After five days, I went looking for him. It took me a whole night to find him, following up leads he'd given me over the months. I found him in an empty warehouse, way out of his own area. From what I could tell, he'd been there a couple of days." Doyle paused, swallowing down the lump already forming in his throat. But Alan deserved the story to be told -- at least once. "He was alive -- barely. Enough to tell me a rival gang had abducted him to get information on the group he belonged to. They'd beaten him to within an inch of his life then dumped him in the warehouse to die. His face was a mess, teeth broken, cheekbone, ribs, right arm, ankle. Internal injuries. The lot. How he'd hung on so long was anybody's guess. I wanted to get him to a hospital but he insisted on talking first, in case he didn't survive. Then..."

He paused again, trying to get control of feelings too long bottled up, "Then he told me how much my friendship had meant to him, that he'd never had a friend he'd trusted so much. He asked me to look after his daughter and then... I held him as he died in my arms."

A drop of moisture hit his hand and he looked down to find it was a tear from his own eyes. He wiped his face clear but didn't look at Bodie. "I'm sorry. It's just that, I've never told anyone this before. Nobody knows he's dead, you see. Not even Elena. There was nobody but me to mourn him and I've had to do it in silence all these years. And he didn't deserve that. He deserved more. So much more. He was a good man, a friend and yeah, I loved him as a friend. By that point, I knew what that meant, I understood it, appreciated it for the incredible thing it was. But I still lost him that night and I still regret not being able to help him more."

Bodie was silent, letting Doyle climb back from the edge in peace. Then, his voice soft, he added in the rest of the details, "So you put your ID on his body, got a car from somewhere and drove him four hours south of Liverpool to dump him in a park beside a church for the vicar to find after Sunday services. With your ID on him and him bearing such a strong resemblance to you, you figured Cowley wouldn't bother fingerprinting to identify the body. Then without batting an eye, you went back to Liverpool and became Alan Cade. You took over his work, playing sick for a while as the injuries from your alleged beating healed -- and then you took over his life. Just like that."

"Don't!" Doyle turned savagely, "Don't you ever say it like that! You have no idea! I didn't do it on some whim!"

"Then how?" Bodie's gaze held him, drawing the story out from the depths of his being.

"I wanted to get the bastards who'd murdered him! I wanted to make them pay for taking him away from me like... I wanted to finish the job for him -- nothing more. Not at first." He took a breath to calm himself, to steady the hideous rattling inside. "Do you have any idea what it's like to lose somebody like that -- twice? Do you, Bodie?"

"Yeah. I do."

Doyle met his gaze and what he saw there turned him cold inside. It was enough to get the last of the story out. "After the first few weeks, it got a little easier. Nobody really suspected anything. Alan had told the gang he and I were cousins but that I wasn't involved with his work in drugs. As Cade, I told them my cousin had been beaten up by the opposition, thinking it was me, a case of mistaken identity. That secured my position within the gang. From there on, I was so deep into it I didn't have time to question what I was doing and what I would do when it was all over. I knew enough about Alan to carry it off -- and after a year, we pulled them all in and I had enough evidence to convict the three men who had killed him. By then, I was Alan Cade through and through. Ray Doyle died and Alan Cade lived. I preferred it that way. Especially when..."

"When what?"

"When a year after that, Elena's mother got in contact and told me I could see my daughter for the first time, that I could be a father to her properly."

Bodie watched him with a shuttered expression, his eyes hooded. "I don't believe you."

"What?"

"I don't believe it was an accident. You haven't really told me why you did it -- just what you did. I want to know why you were there in the first place. Why were you so happy to kill yourself off and leave your old life behind. Why, Doyle? Why?"

"Jesus, Bodie," Doyle put his head in his hands, shaking it from side to side, "Can't you work that much out on your own?"

"Tell me."

"Fuck off."

Bodie paused and leaned close, dropping his voice, changing it completely. Softly now, he said, "I didn't leave you, Ray. I promise you, I didn't leave you."

Doyle couldn't take it any more. He stood abruptly, putting his glass on the coffee table. Restlessly, he stode to the mantle, placing his hands on it and bowing his head. "Please, Bodie, we don't need to go over it. It's all history now. We both know what happened. Willis seconded you, sent you off to Africa then lied to Cowley that you'd died. What more can we say? It happened. Perhaps it was..." he paused, pulling in a breath.

In a second, Bodie was off the sofa and standing beside him, "Perhaps it was for the best? Is that what you're going to say? After fourteen years, you're finally going to let Willis win?"

Doyle spun around, "I told you I don't want to talk about it any more. Jesus, Bodie, I can't do this any more! You don't know how much..." he swallowed, raw and treading that precipice so close now he would fall any second. "Yeah, maybe it was for the best. We would never have lasted together. I know that now."

"Oh? How?"

Biting his lip and trying desperately to get a hold on his ragged breathing, Doyle spared his reply, "We just wouldn't have."

Clipped and determined, Bodie shot back, "How do you know?"

"Because... because you left, Bodie!" Doyle snapped. "I know Willis didn't give you much option, but you did leave with him. What else could I think but that..."

"That what?" Bodie's gaze bore into him, intense but not dangerous.

Doyle didn't want to say anything else, but under that scrutiny, had no other choice, "You didn't really believe in it. In us. We were so happy those three months and then the first chance you had to get out, you took it."

"You really believe that?"

"What choice did I have, Bodie? I've had fourteen years to think about it and all I can be sure of is the fact that when Willis pushed you, you didn't fight back -- and you didn't fight hard enough."

"So it's all my fault."

"I didn't say that!" Doyle shouted, gulping in air to quench the tears that threatened. "It's my fault too -- I didn't fight to keep you. I wish I had. I wish I'd known what would have happened. I just thought that if you really needed to get away from me for a while, I should let you, that holding you would only make me lose you sooner. I didn't know, Bodie, I didn't know he was going to lie and tell me you'd died! I didn't know!" And with a gasp, he dropped over the edge, tears skinning down his cheeks, huge sobs wracking his body. Bodie said nothing, but reached out and held him tight. Carefully, Bodie led him back to the sofa, making him sit within the confines of strong arms.

Slowly he came back, easing the tightness in his throat, wiping the wetness from his face. Bodie just held him, smoothing down his hair, remaining steady regardless. But then, Bodie's moods had always been like that. Sharp and close to the surface, easily voiced and then quickly extinguished, as though the brief flare was all he ever needed to maintain control.

Bodie leaned forward and grabbed his glass, holding it up for Doyle to take a hearty mouthfull. Then he settled back, his arms encompassing once again. As they settled into the quiet, Bodie spoke softly. "I didn't leave you, Ray. I loved you. We were happy. I loved you and I didn't want to be anywhere but with you. I want you to understand that and believe it."

His throat still tense, Doyle murmured, "So why did you go?"

A long silence followed, ended only when Bodie replied, voice flat, "He found out."

Doyle frowned, "Who found out what?"

Another pause, then, "Willis. He found out we were sleeping together."

"What?" Doyle sat up, turning so he could see Bodie's face. "How?"

"How do you think?" Bodie shrugged. "That last morning, remember I'd stayed the night at your place? I left early to go home to get a change of clothes. Outside your flat I saw the same car that had been parked outside my place the night before."

"Yeah. We'd been at your place that night. Willis's men?"

"Exactly. I didn't say anything and was going to do something about it when we got into Central, but then that bank job blew up and we were on our feet for the rest of the day. By the time I thought of it again, it was too late." Bodie's glance came back slowly, darkness shadowing his eyes. "As Willis was on his way in to see Cowley that evening, I met him on the stairs. You were a little way ahead of me so you didn't hear what he said."

"I remember him talking to you -- I was worried it might be some reference to Marikka."

"It was -- in a way. He said, 'I killed one of your lovers off -- if you put up any resistance to my demands, believe that I will kill Doyle just as easily.'"

Doyle's mouth opened but for a moment, words completely failed him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, things took shape, made sense for the first time in longer than he could remember. "He threatened me? He... did that? Bodie, you wouldn't lie about something like this..."

Bodie shook his head sadly, "No. Ten minutes later, we were called into Cowley's office and you know what happened then. He told me I just had to go to Africa for a couple of months, to set a deal up before he could get his own people in there. He needed somebody with my background, my time in CI5 to make it believable. Then I would be allowed to come home. Except that he never intended for me to come out alive. He set it up so I would get killed on the first meeting. Only problem was, I got suspicious and went to ground for a while. Not that I suspected Willis immediately -- that came later. However, by the time I found out, it was too late. I'd tried to send you messages, but I know Willis never passed them on. By that point, he'd told Cowley I was dead -- and you'd gone off and done the deed in Liverpool."

"Jesus, Bodie!"

"Yeah."

"And... what happened after you got back?"

"Cowley wanted me to return to CI5 but by then I knew Willis had set me up -- the problem was, I couldn't prove it. Willis, true to his nature, didn't want to let me out of MI6 so I decided to stay on, find enough evidence to prove once and for all what the bastard had done to me out of spite. Willis died not long after Cowley -- and by that point, I no longer wanted to go back to the squad. Not without the Old Man there."

Numb now, Doyle shook his head, "I... Christ, I wish Willis was still alive!"

"And you a copper, too." Bodie replied with some dark attempt at humour.

"Bastard didn't deserve to die of natural causes. A stroke was too good for him. He didn't suffer anywhere near long enough."

"Willis," Bodie said, his eyes fluttering away, "didn't die of a stroke."

Doyle froze, his gaze fixed to Bodie's face but Bodie said nothing.

"Are you telling me... you..."

"I'm not telling you anything." Bodie said evenly. "Except that Willis didn't die of a stroke."

"Bodie," Doyle said, tone full of warning. "Did you..."

Now Bodie turned and took that gaze full on. "Ray, all you need to know is that I didn't leave you. But I knew that if I didn't go, Willis would find a way to get at you. He would have done it simply to get at me. He hated me that much. When I found out you'd been murdered, I assumed he'd had something to do with it. Then I found out he didn't -- but in the end, he caused your death, just as surely as if he'd given the order himself. His lie sent you away. He only did it to hurt you, knowing it would hurt me -- because I'd so inconveniently managed to stay alive. I'm sorry, you're right, I should have fought harder -- but all I could think about was what Cowley would say if I tried to tell him. And what evidence did I have to back it up? The Old Man would have believed me -- but what could he have done without evidence to move against Willis? If I'd simply ignored Willis, there was no way I would have been able to do enough to keep you safe. Somewhere along the line, Willis would have found a moment when I wasn't around and you would have been dead. Ironic, isn't it? In an effort to save your life, I ended up killing you."

"Bodie..."

But Bodie just held up his hand, "I just wanted you to know. I don't want you blaming yourself -- or me, for that matter. Neither of us could control what happened. It just did."

Slowly, Doyle shook his head, for the first time in a long time, the pain of old, lifting from his insides and finally, he could say the words he should have said a long time before. "I'm sorry, Bodie."

"Look, didn't I just say..."

"For not telling you who I was. I'm sorry." Doyle looked away then, finding a thread on a cushion his fingers could play with. Feeling suddenly very small, he said, "I went to Africa, you know."

"What? When?"

"Got back just over two weeks ago."

"Why?" Bodie's voice was soft, surprised and very close.

Doyle could only shrug -- but when Bodie took his hand, lacing their fingers together, he tried to answer. "Wanted to find you. Wanted to... find some mark of you, some, I don't know -- maybe some evidence of you. Something I could understand. Something I could..."

"Believe?"

At that, Doyle looked up to see a wealth of understanding where, for some reason, he'd expected mockery. "Yeah. I suppose so. Was it... bad... for you? Over there? Were you hurt?"

"Nothing I couldn't deal with." Bodie blinked twice, his face giving away more than usual, a complex layer of pain and determination, things, feelings that words had no business with.

But this time, Doyle couldn't bare to leave it like that. He had to know, had to be sure because everything was so crazy, so unreal, there had to be something in all this he could hold on to. "Don't dismiss it, Bodie, please. Tell me?"

For a moment, Bodie held his gaze, as if judging if he could be trusted, or if he wanted to talk about it, or if it really mattered one way or the other. Then he ducked his head a little, shrugged a little and shifted his grip until he held Doyle's hand more firmly, the way he always used to, when they were alone, or sitting in a car late at night, on duty. When they could allow themselves no other gesture, no word or sign of how they felt, they would always simply sit and hold hands within the shadows, never distracting them, never interfering with anything. At first, it had seemed so simple a gesture -- but soon it became as important as everything else, a daily reaffirmation of their connection, something never shared with anybody else.

Something so strong, even Bodie noticed. "You held my hand, outside the shed, last night. I suppose, if I hadn't already been so distracted by you, I probably would have realised who you were then."

"I think in that moment, if we hadn't had the op on, I would have told you the truth."

Bodie shrugged again, "Doesn't matter really, does it? I know now. In Africa... I... got shot... twice--"

"Bodie!" Doyle sat up but didn't get the chance to say anything more as Bodie held up his other hand, not breaking their connection.

"The second was little more than a scratch. The first got me in the leg. I was out of action for three weeks. Got an infection -- you know the drill. Found an ex-army doctor who fixed me up without asking too many questions. Could've been worse though -- the bullet was meant for my head. Spent a lot of time drifting, trying to keep out of just about everybody's way. Then... then I... heard... you know... I er... heard you were dead and I..."

As Bodie drifted into silence, Doyle reached out until his hand could bring Bodie's face around, so he could see -- something raw and unhealed bleeding out through Bodie's clear gaze, a layer of tears unshed in his eyes, everything open for Doyle to see -- before it was closed down again, the protective walls back in place, though not harshly. Enough for him to go on breathing, talking, living, no more. When he finally spoke, his voice was low, a little bitter, a little weird. "I promised all sorts of things. Begged, really. Begged a god I didn't believe in to make it all a mistake. That I would get back to civilization, get in touch with Cowley to find you couldn't come to the phone simply because you were out on a job, safe and sound. There was a lot of begging for a while, a lot of drinking and some stuff I don't remember too well. I did a few stupid things but my friend the doctor pulled me through those first weeks until I was ready to think about what might have happened. Blaming Willis was part of what made me survive long enough to get back. Of course, what I came back to was... worse. It took me two weeks before I could bring myself to sleep in the bed."

"Why?"

"Kept thinkin' about how we'd made love there, two nights before we were split up."

In the faintest whisper, Doyle said, "Did you hate me?"

A pale shift of the eyebrows and Bodie nodded slightly, "Yeah. How'd you guess?"

"Some part of me hated you, for going, for dying without me beside you. It's natural."

"I suppose so. Didn't make me feel any better to know that at the time."

"No, no better at all."

Bodie's response was a small smile, "Never told anyone, you know, about that part of it. Didn't seem right."

"Me neither."

"Not even Cade?"

Doyle shook his head, "No, not even Cade."

The smile grew a little wider, Doyle coming up with his own to match it. For just a moment, they stayed like that, living it, breathing it, making it as real as it could be under the circumstances. Then Bodie let out a low-voiced chuckle.

"What?"

Bodie shook his head, "God, Doyle, all this talk -- I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!"

Unable to help himself, Doyle got to his feet, taking Bodie's hand and pulling him up. With Bodie trailing behind, he went into the kitchen, pushed aside the things left from the morning and began putting together the best meal he could with the scant things in the fridge. Twenty minutes later, a plate of steaming stir-fry and noodles sat on the table between them. Bodie helped himself, his first mouthful bringing an instant smile.

"Good, very good. So you can still cook."

Doyle laughed -- not entirely sure why. They ate in silence, finishing half a bottle of wine between them as the light outside began to fade. When the plate was empty, Doyle rose and gathered things together in the sink. Abruptly somber now, he filled it with hot water and slowly washed each plate, as though it would make time stretch out. He heard Bodie get up from the table, saw the last of the dishes join the others in the water -- and then Bodie was standing beside him, his hand left hand in the water, finding Doyle's, his touch silky soft and wholly seductive. Gently, he took the hand while his other arm wrapped around Doyle's waist.

Without thought, Doyle forgot the dishes and leaned into the embrace, unable to stop himself drawing on that solid strength, that awesome familiarity which leaked back over so many empty years. His hands stilled in the water as his head rested against Bodie's. A soft kiss pressed against his temple before words were whispered into his ear.

"So, where do we go from here?"

Closing his eyes against the new pain, Doyle shook his head, "Nowhere."

"Why?"

"Please, Bodie," Doyle murmured, breathing in the scent of the man. "Don't play dumb."

"But you love me."

"Yes," Doyle breathed, dejected. "I love you."

"And I love you. So why?"

Opening his eyes to gaze out of the window before him, Doyle replied, "Do you have any idea the risk I'm taking, standing in front of this window with your arms around me?"

"Ray..."

"I'm the Chief Constable of Eastland, Bodie -- not some agent in a shady criminal organization. You know what would happen if anybody found out about us. It would be splashed all over the papers."

"They can't sack you."

"They'd bloody well try."

"Then I'd slap a D-notice on it."

"Bodie!" Doyle turned to face him. "You can't abuse your position like that!"

"Why not?" Bodie replied with a smile. "MP's do it all the time. You'd be surprised the number of them who share illicit beds. The papers know all about it but it's considered a security risk to have it published -- so they can't say a word."

"I don't believe you."

Bodie pulled him close again, once more wholly captivating. "I can prove it, if you like."

"No. It wouldn't work. I'm not an MP. I'm a police officer -- no security risk at all. On top of that, even if you could silence the papers -- they're not the biggest problem. The powers that be are. How do you think they'd like it to find a chief constable and the new head of CI5 in bed together -- literally. They'd have a collective fit."

"As if anybody would notice -- or care."

"I care!" Doyle said firmly. "Look, you can break the rules whenever you like in your job -- but you're not immune to the problem yourself."

"Well, er, actually, strictly speaking, I am. I told the cabinet all about my sexual preferences on my first interview. They just warned me to be discrete."

Doyle shook his head; Bodie was still not taking this seriously enough. "Fine, you can live with the furore when it blows up. I can't. My force won't accept me if they find out and though you may have forgotten it -- I do have a daughter to think about. I couldn't do that to her." He took in a breath as Bodie frowned. "I couldn't do it to myself. I'd lose everything I've worked for."

Bodie's gaze narrowed. "So it's the job, is it? The job means more to you than I do?"

With a sigh, Doyle dropped his head to rest against Bodie's chin. "God, you're an idiot, Bodie. Of course not -- but it's not just the job. You were at the conference. You know what I'm trying to do. It's not simply a case of me throwing employment out the window. I'm trying to help those people -- and this is the best way I can do it. I can't abandon them now. Not after all this time." He paused, not wanting to go on, but having no choice. "Not even for you, for this."

Slowly, he lifted his head -- and then he was kissing Bodie, slow and deep, drawing them together close, as though nothing would ever part them. Bodie held him tightly, after a moment, speaking in a whisper, "Please, Ray, don't do this. I've just got you back. I can't lose you again. Not now."

"You won't ever lose me, Bodie, I promise. I love you. If I've learned anything over the last few weeks, it's that nothing is ever going to change that. I just can't risk us being together. But we can still see each other. We can be friends, can't we? Like we used to be? Surely we can make that work, if we try."

"I want you in my life, Ray, in my bed. I know I'm being selfish but I can't help it. I love you. I want you. Is that so hard to understand?"

"No -- because I want the same thing -- but I'd rather have you in my life as a friend than nothing at all. And maybe, when we've both retired, when nobody gives a damn any more, we can be together -- if we still want it."

Bodie lifted his head and gazed steadily at him. He swallowed, then nodded. "Well, if I can't have a future with you, let me stay tonight. I don't have to be in London till the morning. Let's just have this much, okay? Then we can try being friends. For tonight, let's leave everything outside and just be together. I want to make love to you -- not Alan Cade -- you. Properly -- the way we didn't the other night. After fourteen years, I think we deserve it. That is, if you want me?"

"I was right the first time," Doyle half-smiled and pressed his body up against Bodie's. "You are an idiot."


~ End of Part I ~


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