No infringement of copyrights or trademarks held by Avenger Mark 1 Productions or London Weekend Television is intended.

Ours But To Do

Copyright 1997, Bardicvoice

"Nursemaid a drug lord?" Doyle's indignation was manifest in his outraged voice. Bodie merely raised an eyebrow, cocked his head, and shrugged. Cowley's distaste for the mission was evident in his choice not to slap Doyle down for his objection, but just continue with the briefing.

"Aye, he's no one's model citizen. But he's turning Queen's evidence, and it's our job to keep him alive to testify. Drug Squad heard a contract's been let; we take their information seriously. We know the gaol's compromised. You two will head the detail. You'll have Connors, Jax, Murphy, and Royce on two-man team rotations for your perimeter. Use the safe house on Gower."

"Other players?" Bodie asked.

"It's all ours. You pick up Jameson, keep him safe, and deliver him to the court on Monday morning. You repeat the process for as many days as his testimony takes. No one outside this office is to know where you are. Questions?"

Bodie glanced at his partner. Doyle met his eyes briefly, then looked away, finding a blank patch of wall somehow compelling. Bodie bit back both his smile and his sigh; Doyle in a mood would not be fun company for a long weekend, especially not in the close quarters of a safe house with a man he obviously knew and didn't like.

"No, sir." Bodie spoke for both of them. He knew from long experience that Doyle wouldn't, not under these circumstances.

"Then what are you standing there for? Get on your bikes!"

They were in the car and nearly halfway to the gaol before Bodie finally gave up and broke the frigid silence that Doyle had maintained since Cowley's office. Stealing glances away from the traffic as he drove, he tried to read his partner's carefully blank face.

"So -- what's the deal, Doyle? What's Jameson to you?"

Predictably enough, Doyle wrestled with the silence for another minute before letting the floodgates open.

"You know how long we tried to get something on Jameson? All the years I spent in the Met, we had an open file on him. Never stopped working the angles. Oh, but he's slick. We knew he was dirty, we knew it -- but we could never prove a thing, never get enough even for a warrant. And it's not just the drugs. He had a piece of everything, right up to murder -- more than one. And now we've finally got him, he's going to turn around and get away again. And we've got to help him do it."

"Ours not to reason why, mate."

"Yeah, well, I'm not inclined to go to the end of that quote for the likes of him."

Bodie almost laughed out loud, but throttled it back to a snort. He couldn't manage to keep the amusement out of his voice, though.

"You'd rather do it for some of the others we've guarded? He any worse than Mid-East fanatics and African dictators? Not to mention outright imposters?"

"It's different," Doyle protested.

"The devil you know?" Bodie suggested. His sideways glance caught Doyle turning away, striking his thigh absently with an unconscious fist. Doyle stared out the window for a quiet moment, then looked back at him. His eyes were calmer, and his hand opened to drop back and rest lightly on his knee.

"Yeah, maybe. I saw the effects of what he did. It wasn't pretty."

"Never is."

Bodie's voice was as neutral as ever, and his face was still. Doyle watched as he wove the car through the traffic with his customary excess speed and seemingly careless ease, but other impressions overlaid the image his eyes provided. He pictured Bodie in situations he'd only heard fictional tales about -- the jungles of Africa, the deserts of Jordan, the back streets of Belfast -- and wondered about all the things he'd never asked. Abruptly, he decided to try.

"It ever bother you? I mean, standing shield for some of the blokes we've had to protect? Might've been out of your past, some of 'em."

"Hasn't happened, has it?"

"Not sayin' it couldn't."

Doyle watched Bodie consider the idea for a moment before shrugging it off. Nothing in his manner or his handling of the car changed as he shook his head fractionally.

"Wouldn't matter."

"If it'd been Krivas?" The reference to the one enemy whom Doyle knew out of Bodie's shadowed history brought something cold and ugly into his partner's dark blue eyes, and Doyle remembered his voice going bleak and dead when he'd mentioned the woman Krivas had killed. That same shuttered expression closed his face now, but none of that reaction touched his driving, and after the barest instant he blinked once and the iced rage disappeared.

"Wouldn't matter," he repeated, and his voice was level.

"Be a hell of a thing, to die for a man you hate."

"Wouldn't be for him." The flatness in Bodie's tone brooked no argument, and all Doyle could do was shake his head.

"You're an odd one, Bodie."

The black-haired man grinned, his face and eyes alight with sudden humour, dispelling even the memory of shadows and hate.

"Part of me native half-Irish charm," he agreed, affecting a broad brogue, and Doyle scrambled for any small thing to throw at him before both of them laughed.

The detective inspector pushed his prisoner into the room with all the distaste of a man handling rancid old garbage.

"He's all yours. Want the cuffs on, or off?"

"On," Doyle said shortly. "I trust him a lot less far than I could throw him."

Bodie watched silently, content to let his ex-cop partner deal with the kind of men who used to be his mates. He eyed Jameson, looking for any overt signs to explain the cops' obvious dislike. A short man, Jameson looked like any prosperous businessman in his early fifties, but the edges were beginning to show -- his expensive suit was rumpled and creased, the jacket fitting poorly over a bulletproof vest, and there were lines of fatigue and strain around his eyes and mouth. Despite his disheveled appearance and the steel bracelets on his wrists, though, his expression was arrogantly smug. Bodie decided clinically that the set of his shoulders and the look on his face were reason enough for irritation. Noting Doyle's tension, he decided to play some cards of his own, and when Jameson looked his way, eyeing him up in turn, Bodie thought of Krivas in his place, and felt his lip curl into an expression that belonged back in the jungle. Jameson's eyes widened and he jerked them away.

Doyle signed the necessary transfer papers and thrust the clipboard back at the inspector.

"Need any help?" the cop asked, and for once Doyle didn't bristle as he nodded toward Bodie, who flowed into guard position with panther smoothness and a deliberate total absence of expression. Jameson shifted uncomfortably.

"Got all I need with him. You'll have a team to cover the court on Monday?"

"Ready and waiting. Don't misplace him."

"Not a chance. C'mon, you."

Even in the police station, Bodie and Doyle walked in automatic tandem, splitting guard roles with a familiarity that belied any need for words. Doyle was slightly ahead, eyes sweeping the front and sides for threats, while Bodie stuck close to Jameson, splitting his attention between the sides and the rear with an occasional glance at Jameson only because he was their prisoner as well as their principal. Jameson studied them, and what he saw fed his cocky assurance.

"So, you're going to keep me safe, eh?"

"That's the idea." Bodie didn't waste a glance with his curt answer.

"Good. See that you do."

"Keep your mouth shut, and we might."

Doyle ignored the exchange behind him and pulled out his R/T as their little group neared the doors.

"Four-five to six-two."

"Go ahead, four-five." Even across the tinny R/T, Murphy's voice was unmistakable.

"How's the weather?"

"Bright and sunny, not a cloud in sight. Come on out."

Doyle tossed one look back at his partner, and both men checked their guns. Bodie nodded, and Doyle pushed the door open. Even knowing that Murphy and Connors were on watch outside, both agents felt the familiar tightening that presaged the start of a mission, the edginess that came with the scent of danger and the rush of adrenaline. Bodie's silver Capri stood invitingly at the curb, a flimsy security, and they headed for it with every sense at the ready. Doyle registered the locations of the two cars carrying their backup, but didn't let his eyes stop on them, instead scanning the area around them constantly. He opened the car door and bundled Jameson inside, sensing Bodie switching gears to guard for both of them until they were both in the car. Then Bodie slid into the driver's seat and gunned away from the curb, seeing Connors' blue sedan fall in ahead of them while Murphy's tan Triumph brought up the rear.

"Smooth, very smooth," Jameson said with a mix of sarcasm and genuine praise. "Practice this a lot, do you?" The two CI5 agents ignored him completely. Bodie reached for the car radio.

"Three-seven to five-eight."

"Five-eight. All's quiet, we're secure."

"Thank you, five-eight. We're rolling." Royce and Jax were waiting at the safe house, on the off chance that a leak might have compromised its location. Transport was always the most dangerous element, once you knew your safe house was secure. A safe house was designed to be defensible; a car was nothing more or less than a target, and the moments spent getting into and out of it were worse. Bodie and Doyle took nothing for granted, knowing better than to relax until they had solid walls around them again.

For all their raw-nerved caution, the drive was uneventful. The safe house was a secluded brick home, landscaped with a subtle eye towards preserving an open field of fire that turned the yard into a killing ground. There was no cover nearby to shield a gunman, and while there was no way to guard totally against a sniper, the possible range would be long for anyone less expert than the CI5 men themselves, even using a scope. Still -- Bodie reminded himself of laser sights, and felt his wariness crank up another notch.

The house was close to perfect, marred only by its lack of an attached garage, which would have provided better cover for unloading and loading the car. But as Bodie swung the car up the driveway, he saw Jax standing on the front stoop, alert and ready, scanning outward. Royce was out of sight, but Bodie could almost feel him nearby. So far, everything was according to plan and running on a clockwork schedule.

"Stay in the car until I say otherwise," Bodie said shortly as he braked to a stop. He didn't wait for an answer, but was out of the car almost before it stopped rolling, eyes everywhere. His glance crossed Jax's, and the slender black agent nodded; then Bodie turned his entire attention to Jameson. His focused intensity conveyed such menace that the man closed his mouth on the protest he was about to make.

"Okay, with me; straight into the house, don't stop to look around." He reached in, helped the other man out, and then practically shoved him up the walk and into the house, both arms around Jameson's torso from behind. He felt Doyle at his exposed back, and that presence soothed the itch between his shoulder blades. Doyle slammed the door behind them, and only then did both agents fractionally relax, trading a look and matched tight little smiles.

"Five-eight to three-seven."

"Go, five-eight."

"Six-two has your perimeter. Seven-five and I are on the pad; we'll be back in eight." Bodie glanced at his watch; four-fifteen. So Murphy and Connor had the first watch, and shift change would be at twelve-fifteen. He tapped the dial, and Doyle nodded.

"Roger, five-eight." Bodie's impish humour just couldn't stay down. "Sweet dreams."

"Sod off, three-seven," the radio crackled, but they could hear the laughter in Jax's voice.

Glancing around, the agents checked out the preparations. Jax had clearly done his part; all of the blinds were drawn, and while the house was not furnished in proper suburban style, it had the essentials. Bodie even stuck a nose in the icebox, and grinned to find ample food laid in.

Momentarily secure, at least, Doyle turned to their prisoner, and brought out handcuff keys.

"Ground rules, Jameson," he said, reaching for the locked wrists. "First off, you stay inside. You don't go anywhere near a window. You don't go to any room in this house without one of us at your side. You want something, you ask. Politely. You sleep cuffed to your cot. You violate the rules, and we'll handcuff you to the W.C. and leave you there until Monday morning. Got that?"

This clearly was not the treatment Jameson had been expecting. He rubbed his wrists and looked from one of them to the other.

"You can't do this. I made a deal -- you need me. You need what I know. You can't treat me like this!"

"You made a deal," Bodie echoed him, but within the one sentence, his voice went from teasing banter to dry ice, and when he took one step forward into Jameson's space, pushing the full force of his personality ahead of him, the man stumbled two steps back. "We keep you alive, and you talk. Five-star wasn't any part of it." He nodded at the nearly bare room, which looked all the dingier for what dim daylight did make it through the blinds. His smile was barbed and his eyes glittered. "Welcome to Chez CI5. And save the talk for Monday, in court." He looked deliberately past Jameson at Doyle, and this time his eyebrows rose over a smile genuine, teasing, and warm, and his voice was light. "Care for a bite and a cuppa?"

"If I said no, you'd just eat my share too. Get on with it." Doyle flopped casually into the nearest chair, nodding at Jameson. "You may as well get comfortable. We're going to be here a good long while. And Bodie's a lousy cook."

"I make a perfectly fine cuppa!" Bodie protested with his best injured look. "And we don't have what it takes for one of your creations." He jerked his head at Jameson, whose veneer of arrogance was peeling visibly, and his voice slid down the scale from laughter to cold contempt. "Be wasted on him anyway, now, wouldn't it?"

It wasn't quite good enough for a laugh, but Doyle found a grin. Bodie might make even this assignment bearable.

Fatigue was the enemy, and two and a half days of split watches and constant low-level tension created an army of it. Doyle rubbed sandy eyes and yawned until he heard his jaw pop. The sun was nearly rising, and even as he tried to work the kinks out of his back, he felt the first tendrils of relief starting to tease at his overstretched nerves. It was Monday, and in a few hours he and Bodie could hand Jameson off at least for a while to a team from the Met. Be better if all his testimony went down in one day -- then it would be over for good -- but he didn't really think he could expect that.

Still, it hadn't been as bad as he'd expected. Jameson seemed a lot smaller now than he had when Doyle had been in uniform. He'd never recovered the bluster that Doyle remembered so well, the arrogant assurance that he held the upper hand. Oh, he'd tried, early on, but every time he did, Bodie pulled something out of his bag of tricks. Bodie on a roll could flip between deadly intensity and manic lightness faster than anyone else Doyle had ever met; by now, Jameson probably thought he was mad, a trained psycho. Doyle himself wasn't always entirely sure that he wasn't, but it was a madness he welcomed.

Even asleep, Bodie made him smile. He was curled up like a cat on a couple of packing crates dumped in the corner, looking deceptively vulnerable and innocent despite his stubble of beard. Doyle envied him his childlike ability to fall asleep anywhere, under any circumstances; he didn't think he'd gotten four unbroken hours of sleep himself at any point during the weekend.

As if he felt the pressure of Doyle's eyes, Bodie stirred and lifted his head, bleary eyes tracking unerringly toward his partner. He raised an eyebrow.

"So where's the coffee, already?"

"If you'd waited until I woke you, you'd have it," Doyle laughed. "Can get it yourself, now, can't you?"

"Ahh-aargh," Bodie said unintelligibly, and started rearranging himself, rolling his stiff neck and shoulders and then stretching like a big lazy tomcat. Doyle grinned. Bodie gave him an offended look and turned ostentatiously away. He kicked the cot where Jameson slept.

"Rise and shine, songbird."

The man jerked awake, and Doyle observed with sour humour that he didn't look any more rested than Doyle himself, and far less comfortable than Bodie.

"Time to make yourself presentable, assuming that's possible."

"But -- it can't be past six!" Jameson protested. "Court doesn't convene until half ten."

"Which is why we'll be there by seven. They'll be expecting us to arrive just in the nick."

"Bad idea to let your enemy pick the ground and the time," Bodie added. "Can't change the ground, so -- we change the time."

Doyle winked at him.

"Always be purposely ..."

"Unpredictable!" they finished in chorus. Bodie turned to Jameson and raised a solicitous eyebrow. "Unless you'd rather we let them do you?" he offered, and saw the man shrink back. "Didn't think so."

The trip to the court was clockwork smooth; almost the previous day's venture in reverse. There wasn't even much traffic to deal with, since they were running so far in advance of most peoples' business day. They avoided the prominent courthouse steps by choosing a side door used mostly by clerks and secretaries, regretting that the building was too old to have an enclosed garage beneath it. The distance to that side door looked like a football field when you knew you might be walking it under a scoped rifle, and when they reached the safety of the hall within the door, Doyle saw even Bodie visibly relax a bit. They kept Jameson in a disused jury deliberation room until it was time, and then walked him to the courtroom door. Only after it closed and two uniformed officers took their places in front of it did the partners breathe easy. By unspoken mutual agreement they found coffee and took refuge in an empty set of chambers.

"Wonder what he's giving them," Doyle mused suddenly. "What's he got that could outweigh everything we've wanted him for?"

Bodie shrugged.

"No way to know, mate. Not going to tell us, are they? We've just got to make sure he's here to do it."

"Yeah." Doyle looked into his coffee, but found no answers there. Bodie watched him for a moment, and then decided to force him to shift gears and stop brooding.

"Which door do you fancy for the trip home?"

"Not a great lot of choices, have we? The front's out -- those steps are too much of an invitation. Could use the way we came in."

"Maybe. Rush hour traffic gets pretty bad on that street, though; could hold us up, give them chances at the car. The back?"

"Maybe. Predictable, though; looks like our best option, so maybe it isn't." Doyle exhaled an exasperated breath. "What I wouldn't give for a tunnel. Or better yet, for everything to be through before closing time."

"Not our call, Ray. We play what we're dealt, that's all."

"Yeah, I know. Let's make it the back, then."

Bodie suddenly grinned.

"I wonder if our little stunt this morning put their noses out of joint. Great if they were late to the party, innit?"

"Yeah, well, they won't be this time. A stunt only works once."

"So maybe we stack the deck. Vests?"

It was a measure of their paranoia that Bodie suggested armour. Doyle knew how much Bodie disliked wearing a vest because he shared the feeling, even though they could save lives. Bulletproof vests were bulky and awkward, not to mention heavy and hot. The new Kevlar models were a lot sleeker than the old jobs had been, but they still traded off speed and maneuverability for the limited measure of security they offered. Given the unpredictability, high speed, undercover, and close-quarters nature of most CI5 operations, vests weren't well suited for regular use, but there were exceptions.

"Dunno. It's more likely to be a distance job than close-up, but we could still need to move in a hurry."

"Split the difference, then," Bodie suggested. "One yes, one no."

"Let me guess how you'd break that one out," Doyle said wryly, and Bodie grinned.

"No question, mate: I'm driving. Need me light on me feet, you do. And free with me arms."

"Don't like it."

"Do the math. Jameson alive, safe, and out of here: that's our job. We do what it takes."

"I know, I know -- still don't have to like it, do I?"

Bodie smiled for his disgruntlement, understanding it all too well, and satisfied with the outcome. He pulled out his R/T.

"Three-seven to base."

"Come in, three-seven."

"Sharon, love, would you have one of the lads bring over a vest for four-five? We're at the courthouse."

"So one of you has finally gotten some brains, eh? I'll have it there in an hour."

"Sweet. Thank you. Out."

Doyle raised an eyebrow.

"Losing your touch, Bodie? No snappy comeback?"

"Eh, Sharon's taken, didn't'cha know? Seeing Cocker, in Forensics. I never poach on me own company," Bodie finished piously. Doyle grinned.

"Yeah, right, mate -- we'll see how that applies when the bird's a raver, not just a sweet thing."

Bodie ignored him, looking mournfully into his empty cup.

"'M hungry -- whaddaya say we grab a bite?"

"Rather grab a kip. We don't all have your talent for sleeping on crates, y'know."

"First a bite, then a kip?"

"Hell -- you're on."

A few hours sacked out on some judge's couch had vastly improved Doyle's mood, but he still felt the knot tighten when the courtroom doors opened and a solicitor and two cops brought Jameson out. The man hadn't been wearing either vest or cuffs in the courtroom, so it took a few minutes to get him re-equipped. Doyle shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably under the weight of his own vest, and checked again to make sure of clear access to his shoulder holster. He felt as if he were coated with thick molasses, every move restricted, and envied Bodie his easy and unimpeded movement. He nodded, and Bodie keyed his R/T.

"Three-seven to five-eight -- roll."

"Five-eight -- wilco."

Jax and Royce were on the transport detail this time, and to throw an added wrinkle into the mix, they'd sprinkled red herrings about. Royce, driving Bodie's silver Capri, was arriving outside the side door. Simultaneously, Jax would pull up to the back in a brown sedan -- the car they would really use. Jax's own chase car had been parked nearby hours earlier by the CI5 runner who'd delivered Doyle's vest. The plan was simple. Royce would hopefully decoy, using the car anyone watching so far would expect. Jax would pull up in the sedan and leave it, just as Bodie, Doyle, and Jameson emerged, and then would use his own car to lead off.

But even the best plans sometimes fail.

It happened both all at once, and in slow motion like some arty film. Doyle was ahead, eyes forward and left, and Bodie was just behind and to Jameson's right, eyes right and back. The car was idling at the curb, with Jax not yet ten feet from it.

"Gun!" Bodie was moving the same instant he shouted. It was reflex, pure and simple, trained motion without conscious thought; he threw himself forward, his left arm sweeping back and down to shove Jameson aside as he simultaneously turned and drew his gun right-handed. In that fraction of a second, he stood where Jameson had stood -- and a bullet caught him high in the chest and smashed him back and down, to land partially on top of Jameson even before the other man had fully fallen.

"BODIE!" The scream tore the breath from Doyle's throat, but there was no response -- he knew there'd be no response -- and time stopped long enough for his mind to photograph the image of his partner sprawled gracelessly on the pavement, arms wide and eyes closed, blood glistening wet darkness on his black pullover. But then the clock was ticking again, and hating himself, Doyle grabbed Jameson brutally by the nearest arm and hauled him up and aside, yanking him free of Bodie's dead weight and nearly throwing him toward the car. "Jax! Drive!" He fired without clear targets, peppering lead in the direction from which the attack had come, aware in the periphery of Jax sprinting back and diving into the driver's seat of the sedan, hearing himself cursing at Jameson to run, to move, and shoving him backward into the car with one hand while he kept up fire with the other. And always aware, always terribly aware, of Bodie lying too still and alone. Then he was in the car, and Jax took off with the door still open -- damn, the way that Bodie always would -- and the door swung back and slammed shut.

"Bastards! Bastards! Bloody hell, goddamn, Bodie ..." Doyle wasn't even aware of what he was saying, nor that he was crying with rage and grief and guilt and outright hate as he fumbled automatically to eject the spent clip and reload his gun. He had to interrupt his tirade long enough to breathe in one great gasp and then another, and only then did he take in Jameson cowering half on the floor of the back seat and Jax urgently shouting at the radio that three-seven was down, that they needed backup yesterday, and that they were diverting to their alternate location with Royce in support.

Bodie's absence was a void, and the image of his body abandoned on the concrete was fixed in Doyle's mind, painted on his eyelids every time he blinked. But Jameson twitched away from him, seeing hell open for business in Doyle's face, and his terror fed the anger running wild in Doyle's soul. He grabbed Jameson's collar in his free hand and twisted, forcing Jameson's face closer to his, and spat every word like poison.

"You bloody bastard -- he did it for you! For a worthless piece of rotten scum like you! And I had to leave him ..."

"Doyle! Doyle! Ray, for godsake, get off him!" At the speed he was driving, Jax couldn't spare the attention to look back, but what he could see in his rearview mirror was more than enough. "Ray!"

Something of sanity reasserted itself, but it was cold and bitter, the iron taste of duty. Slowly, Doyle forced his fingers to open and release their punishing hold. Shock was settling in; he felt its cold spreading through his body and knew it for reaction, but when the trembling started he couldn't tell whether it was adrenaline or grief. He pushed Jameson away and slumped back in the seat, still panting, but his voice sounded almost normal in his ears, an eerie unreality amidst the ruin.

"Goddamn -- where were they, Jax? I never saw them ..."

"Office building on the right. Sixth floor. The Met guys were moving in ..."

Doyle let his head flop back against the seat and his eyes closed, but all he could see was Bodie, so he forced them open again. The blurred streets outside the window made for easier viewing than that one indelible memory. Jax, all business, continued to talk for his own benefit as much as for Doyle's; shock and reaction put an occasional tremor in his voice too.

"Royce reports our backtrail clear, but he's staying on it. We're heading for the Sharpe Street house, not Gower, just in case. Connor's holding station, but Murphy's en route." He didn't say, to replace Bodie, but they both heard it anyway. Doyle's fury rose again, and he forced it down by main will.


"Probably at the court by now." Glancing in the rearview, Jax risked compassion. "Don't write him off yet, Ray -- we don't know for sure. Bodie's been down before and bounced back."

"Bloody goddamn rubber ball," Doyle muttered. He could almost hear Bodie laugh. In the mirror, Jax gave him a poor ghost of a smile.

"Bad penny," he offered. Doyle sniffed and looked away.

"Better be." He closed his eyes again, and his voice dropped to a whisper. "Damn you, Bodie, you silly sod, you'd better be." In his mind, he heard the rest of what he didn't say: And why did you have to spend yourself for him?

The house on Sharpe Street was a déjà vu echo of Gower, except that it was better furnished. Doyle was just thankful that it had no scatter of crates in the corner to remind him of the morning's first sight of Bodie -- except that he needed no reminder to call up that picture and place it alongside his last glimpse of his partner. Damn.

They were on radio silence except for emergencies. In the two hours since they'd arrived, uneasy silence had reigned. Doing his best not to be noticed, knowing that his presence under the circumstances was like sandpaper on a burn, an unusually somber Murphy had quietly taken charge of the now very shaky and ill Jameson, putting him in a back bedroom out of sight. After doing a quick once-over of the house while Doyle and Jameson had waited in the car, Jax had gone back outside to assume the perimeter guard with Royce. Doyle was edgy enough, though, that when he heard tyres crunch on the gravel outside he peered through the blinds to see for himself what Jax and Royce had let pass. Something cold settled in his stomach when he saw without surprise that it was Cowley, driving himself. He opened the door wordlessly before Cowley even reached it, his throat closed on all the things he couldn't bring himself to ask.

Cowley looked him up and down, and gave a little nod as he closed the door.

"Bodie's alive, Doyle. In surgery, but alive."

Hope he hadn't dared to feel punched the air out of Doyle's lungs, and he slid bonelessly down the wall to sit on the floor, arms draped carelessly over his knees. Light-headed with relief, he let his head rest back against the wall and closed his eyes for a moment.

"Christ," he said, and it was as honest and heartfelt a prayer as he had ever made, fear and relief and warmth and new dread all mixed together. Cowley gave him that moment's grace before dragging a chair nearby and sitting in it.

"I need your report, four-five."

Doyle forced himself to refocus, but he couldn't bring himself to stand just yet.

"Not much to it. Bodie spotted the shooter: I never even saw him. It was textbook. Bodie covered Jameson and drew on the shooter, but never got a shot off; took the bullet meant for Jameson." Sudden bitterness edged his voice. "Stupid sod shouldn't have done it -- Jameson had a vest, he didn't."

Cowley flared, his Scots temper hot in automatic reaction.

"He did his job, man -- no more and no less! Nought but what I expected of him," he added a bit more gently, and then shook his head. "The vest might have made no matter. The angle of the shot, coming down from that height -- well, chances are it would have hit above the collar of the vest. He must've been trying for a head or neck shot."

"Christ," Doyle said again, seeing that moment replay in his mind's eye. He found a shopworn smile from somewhere. "Just lucky Bodie's taller than that son of a bitch."

Cowley took no offense, knowing all too well what Doyle was feeling; he'd been experiencing it himself ever since Jax's broadcast had come over the radio. For all his long and jaded career, his own stomach had turned at his first sight of Bodie lying in blood on the pavement. It never got any easier, seeing his own men hurt or killed, and Bodie had always been a special case, his own personal project. There had been many who had opposed his acceptance into CI5 -- an ex-mercenary with who-knew-what crimes on his nonexistent conscience and all the apparent morals and loyalty of an alley cat -- but Cowley had seen something else there, the buried heart that had turned a man from fighting for money to taking on the harsher and less profitable missions first of the British Army Paras, and then of the SAS. In many ways, CI5 completed his redemption, demonstrating once and for all that, whatever his past, his soul had an unyielding core of incorruptible honour. He'd never admit it, but it was there all the same.

"Continue, four-five."

"There's not much. Bodie went down," he swallowed once, hard, but kept going. "I grabbed Jameson, put up covering fire, and ran for the car. I never even saw what I was shooting at -- just wanted to throw them off, keep their heads down, get Jameson out of there. Jax took the wheel, and we left. That's all." He shook his head. "It all happened so fast. I couldn't think, couldn't see -- just move. We got clear and came here. And that's it."

"You did your jobs, the both of you. And you did very well." He hesitated, and then decided to go ahead. "I know it wasn't easy, leaving Bodie, but it was the right thing. You did your duty, lad."

"My duty." The words were hollow, and the laugh that followed as Doyle pulled himself back to his feet was even emptier. "Duty -- for a piece of slime like Jameson." He was angry enough to meet Cowley's eyes and hold them. "What are Bodie's chances?"

"Too early to say. But the doctors were hopeful -- and he's a fighter, is Bodie."

"Was it worth it? If he dies -- could anything Jameson has be worth it?"

Cowley regarded him calmly despite the challenge and the burgeoning insubordination.

"It would seem that Bodie believed so."

Doyle gave an explosive snort of mingled scorn and disbelief.

"Bodie believes in Bodie, and that's where he stops. Jameson didn't mean a thing to him, except a job. Except doing what you wanted. Mad bastard."

"That's as may be." Cowley was unflustered. "But whatever his reasons, they were enough for him."

But not for me, Doyle thought, and in that sure knowledge he had to turn away from Cowley's steady regard, fighting to maintain his composure.

"What about the shooter?" he asked, when he'd gotten his voice at least partially under control. Cowley smiled slightly.

"I shall have to buy a scotch for Inspector Grayson. His guard team on the courthouse turned out with commendable speed and blocked the exits. There was a bit of a barney -- more in our line than theirs, that sort of action -- but they took him." He paused a beat to attract Doyle's attention, and then casually added the name. "Edmund Seriam."

He was not disappointed. Doyle swung around, startled and showing it.

"Bit out of his usual line, innit?"

"Aye -- so it would seem. Or else what Jameson has is worth far more than you credit." Seeing the point register in Doyle's face, Cowley was content with the lesson and didn't push it as he levered himself up to his feet. "Oh, we'll get nothing from Seriam, not that one; he's of the old school, and no mistake. But where there's money for one like Seriam, there may well be another. We'll be on Jameson for a while, yet."

That did strike a spark in Doyle's green eyes, a flare of heat and rebellion mixed with something deeper and deadly dangerous. Fortunately, Cowley heard the other sound he'd been waiting for: the arrival of another car.

"Ah -- that will be Connor. He and Murphy will be taking over the detail. You may as well come back to hospital with me; God knows you'll give me no peace, else."

Braced for a fight, Doyle blinked and swayed as the resistance he was expecting evaporated. There was a sly gleam of humour in Cowley's eyes, but it was overlaid with gentle and unexpected compassion, and Doyle felt some of his brittleness dissolve.

"Thank you, sir," he managed, and Cowley nodded approval.

He sat in the dimly lit room and watched his partner sleep, listening to the myriad little beeps of the monitors and counting each slow breath. Silly, really. The doctors said that Bodie would make it, and sitting here, able to see him and close enough to touch, Doyle could finally believe it. Almost.

He just wasn't quite ready yet to let Bodie out of his sight and take it on faith.

It was his good fortune that the night nurse had been willing to take pity on him and break the rules to let him stay. He wasn't sure if he'd won that victory on his own, or if Cowley had had a quiet word with her too, but she watched him with the same soft concern she showed for Bodie each time she came by to check his condition as the hours slowly passed.

The regular sounds had a lulling rhythm and he did feel calmer, truly he did, but he couldn't let it go yet. His mind kept running wild, refusing to slow down, refusing to stop flipping through images that he knew he'd see in nightmares for weeks to come: Bodie, shot and falling; Bodie left behind on the pavement, looking dead.

"You silly sod," he whispered, looking at the pale and still-too-peaceful face that hadn't changed in hours. "Bloody great stupid mad half-Irish bastard -- what'd you go and do that for? Why bloody damn near die for him? I don't care what you or Cowley think -- he's not worth the price. No matter what he's got."

In response to the unaccustomed sound of his voice in the stillness, the long eyelashes twitched and the dark head shifted ever so slightly as the pattern of Bodie's breathing changed. Doyle pulled his chair closer and reached out, his left hand loosely grasping Bodie's right, his thumb stroking lightly back and forth across the back of his partner's hand and wrist, giving him something real to focus on. After a hard struggle with too-heavy eyelids, dark eyes flickered open, then closed and opened again, and dry lips shaped one breathy word.

" -- Ray?"

"Right here, mate. Right here."

" -- 'appened -- ?"

Doyle chuckled despite himself, the sound low and rich and alive against the mechanical background of hospital noise.

"You got yourself shot, you clumsy idiot. When are you going to remember to duck?"

Something that may have been a chuckle or a snort or an inelegant protest halfway made it out, and then Bodie struggled again with enormous effort to produce a word.

" -- Jameson --?"

"Safe," Doyle said firmly. "CI5 have him. Met caught the shooter. Jameson's safe."

The fatigue-bruised eyes closed again, but Bodie's fingers curled weakly around Doyle's.

"You're going to be fine, Bodie. Just sleep now. Everything's fine. The rest of us made it without a scratch." He never stopped gently rubbing the back of Bodie's hand with his thumb, left and right, left and right, a steady and reassuring touch that echoed the rhythm of Bodie's breathing. Bodie rolled his head slightly on the pillow, but it seemed too much effort for him to open his eyes again.

" -- Ray?"

"Right here. I'm right here. Everything's fine." Abruptly, Doyle remembered another time when he'd sat beside his partner in a surgical recovery room; every couple of minutes, Bodie -- drugged to the eyeballs -- had asked the time, and each time he'd been told, he quieted down for a bit, only to stir a minute later and ask the time again, until Doyle had been ready to strangle him. The memory brought another snort of genuine laughter, and Doyle relaxed even further. At least this time, Bodie wasn't fixed on the clock.

" -- Jame -- son --?"

Then again, maybe this was worse. Doyle tightened his grip just the merest fraction.

"Jameson's safe. You kept him safe, Bodie. Everything's all right." The frustration of the weekend caught up to him then. "Even if we don't know what the hell it's all for," he added under his breath.

There was clearly nothing wrong with Bodie's ears. His lips twitched in what would pass for a smile under the circumstances, and he collected himself for another supreme effort.

" -- ours -- not -- reason -- why --"

"Oh, hell -- not that again! Dammit, Bodie, just go back to sleep, huh? Everything's fine -- I'm fine, Jameson's fine, you're going to be fine. In spite of getting yourself shot for a goddamned drug lord!"

Bodie's head moved the merest fraction from side to side, and for just an instant the dark eyes glittered through half-open lashes.

"Not -- him," his ghost of a voice persisted stubbornly.

"For what, then?" Doyle demanded, exasperated, but Bodie's eyes slid closed again. Doyle had given up on an answer when Bodie spoke, very softly, one long exhaled contented word.

" -- me --"

His breathing evened out and he drifted back to sleep, leaving Doyle to stare. Well, you wanted an answer, he thought. If only you could figure out what it means ...

He'd have understood if Bodie had said, Cowley; he'd demonstrated more than once that he'd walk through fire if the old man told him to. Hell -- if the old man so much as hinted that he wanted him to. Cowley held the mortgage on his soul, and no mistake.

But, me: that was a poser. It couldn't mean that he was trying to die, to get himself killed: no one with a death wish would pass the psych screen into CI5, and besides, no one Doyle had ever met matched Bodie's burning will to live, to win. No one matched Bodie's will, period. Well -- maybe Cowley. No -- definitely Cowley.


Bodie'd never been introspective. He wasn't one to think around things from every angle, to itch and wonder and dig for answers. That was Doyle's role on the team. Bodie was no detective, and apart from his genuine ability to charm or intimidate with a look, he made a lousy interrogator. He didn't like questions. He didn't care about reasons why, just about facts, about cause and effect. He liked answers, and between his gift for detailed observation and his positive instinct for gut-level intuition, he was scarily good at jumping to the right ones. But he didn't churn things around in his head and brood over them.

Well, that wasn't quite true. The things he felt, he held inside, and what he did with them no one could see. Oh, the little things -- comradeship, lust, frustration, the day's joys and irritations -- those skittered about on the surface like his expressive eyebrows, instantly visible and constantly displayed. But the important things -- love, hate, genuine caring -- those he showed rarely. Those he thought about, but what he thought, he almost never shared. Doyle had gotten close enough to realize more than most, but he knew he'd never know it all. He was sure he'd never be able to understand everything that went on behind his partner's eyes; their backgrounds and natures were just too different.

Even drugged and relaxed, Bodie's face gave no answers. Doyle couldn't see that Bodie's wilder life had marked it much. When he was asleep, at least, nothing there spoke of his years of easy killing, of his fast, hard growing-up in African jungle wars and the tangle of the Middle East. Nothing explained his decision to quit the often short but lucrative mercenary life and join the Army instead, nor his drive once there to make the SAS elite. And from the SAS to CI5 to become Cowley's black dog, a predator wolf turned vigilant guardian of the sheep ...


Very slowly, Doyle started to smile. Maybe he'd just been looking too hard for something that wasn't that hard to find. Maybe it really was just that simple: that in standing between someone -- anyone -- and harm, Bodie was just being himself, doing something essential to his nature. Something that had been missing during his mercenary days. In effect, protecting others was what he'd been doing ever since he left the mercenary life, and his progress from Army to SAS to CI5 just saw it becoming more direct with every step. Oh, he always said that this was all he knew and that money was his only reason for risking his life, and he might even believe it -- though he could've made far more if he'd stayed in his original line of work. But perhaps his need to guard and defend was an imperative so integral to his character that he couldn't even define it to himself, and it would never occur to him to ask why; he just knew that doing what he did made him comfortable, made him feel satisfied. That it was just his to do.

So he did it -- for himself.

The logic was so perfectly Bodie that Doyle was suddenly sure he'd pegged it right.

"You fraud," Doyle said fondly, but this time, Bodie was too far under to react to his voice and slept on undisturbed. "The great self-centered, hard-nosed bastard in it just for himself and the money, eh? Fraud. I'll figure a way to get you with this, see if I don't."

He settled back in the chair, smiling. He'd stay a while longer, an hour, maybe, just to be sure Bodie wasn't likely to wake and find himself alone, and then he'd go home and grab a kip and a shower. Cowley's concern would probably be good for another day, if he played it right. After that he'd be stuck in three kinds of hell until Bodie was recertified for duty. The Cow would probably land him on a desk for a week, and then give him temporary assignments with interim partners whose habits would drive him potty. And once Bodie recovered enough to do more than sleep, he'd be impossibly moody and irritable until the doctors and Cowley let him back on the squad. Doyle didn't look forward to that phase, but it was better than what he'd lived with from the moment Bodie was shot until now. He'd survive. And so would Bodie.

And they'd both do what they had to do, no matter the reason why.