Epilogue

Now that he'd got hold of his partner, Bodie just wanted to frogmarch him out of this Hades as quickly as possible. However, he didn't want his friend to know how scared his was. He'd only want explanations and Bodie simply hadn't got any. He forced himself to follow Doyle back to his side-ward and wait while he disappeared into the bathroom to change. Bodie closed his eyes, trying to block out the hospital smell and, more specifically, the paraphernalia of disabled living which decorated the room. He was sweating by the time Doyle emerged.

"I'll say a few goodbyes, then we'll be on our way," Ray said happily.

Bodie wanted to lift him bodily, tell him to just shut up and get out now. He did nothing of course but trailed behind his mate as they made a tortuously slow exit. How many people do you get to know over the course of a few days? It seemed that Doyle was pally with half the staff and most of the in-mates! That he couldn't walk very quickly yet added to Bodie's misery. They eventually emerged into a cold and sleety day. Bodie resisted the urge to lift his face to the elements and take in deep lungsful of fresh air.

"You forgot a jacket and socks, Bodie. Do you want to add hyperthermia to my list of ills?" Ray was trying to be flippant but his friend wasn't in the mood and just wanted to snap at him. They got in the car and Doyle tentatively stretched himself.

"Let's not go home yet, Bodie. If you've got the time can we go to Marlow?"

Bodie's heart sank. Doyle still smelt (to Bodie at least) of the hospital. He was also fearful that Doyle might want to talk about events – the last thing Bodie wanted to do. Let the past bury itself was Bodie's philosophy. But he knew Doyle was of the view: let's examine the past, come to terms with it, then bury it. Bodie tried to sound natural and cheerful.

"Sure. Cowley's given me a few days off. If you want Marlow, Marlow it is." It was miles away.

Doyle was silent on the journey and eventually drifted off. It was only as they were pulling into a riverside pub they both knew, and the engine was switched off, that Bodie could check whether Doyle was feigning sleep so as to avoid conversation. His breathing was deep and regular. He was gently snoring. It looked genuine to Bodie's fine scrutiny. He pushed Doyle's thigh gently. He still wasn't sure if his friend would break into pieces if pushed or knocked.

"Haven't you done enough sleeping?"

Doyle looked sheepish as he rubbed his eyes and looked about him till he got his bearings. "Pity it's raining. I'd've liked a stroll."

They walked slowly into the pub and Bodie bought Doyle a pint, saying he'd deserved it. He began to relax a little as they propped up the bar and Doyle was brought up to date with events – CI5, personal and international.

Getting their second pint, Doyle prised himself off the bar and said, "Let's go somewhere quiet."

Bodie looked at the four customers in the pub and wondered how much quiet Doyle needed and, more significantly, why. The blasted man wanted a deep conversation, didn't he? Well, let's get it over with. Now that Doyle was on his feet, if the conversation turned into a row Doyle could bloody well walk home. There was a conservatory at the back overlooking the river which customers used when it was too wet or cold to sit in the beer garden. No-one was using it at that moment and they settled themselves down across a table. Doyle had been giving a lot of thought to this conversation and still hadn't found a way through. If he didn't handle it right, Bodie could just fly off the handle and storm out. He needed to begin straight away in case Bodie walked out anyway. He started off the batting.

"Bodie, what's a 'darkling thrush'?"

Whatever Doyle was going to say, Bodie certainly hadn't anticipated that. Perhaps his partner was on the tablets and shouldn't be drinking alcohol. Bodie looked more carefully into Doyle's eyes. His pupils looked ok, and his hand/eye co-ordination – if his recent drinking was anything to go by – was ok too. Perhaps just plain insanity then? Best to humour him and see what happened.

"What's that to do with anything?" Bodie asked gently.

Hearing the tone, Doyle smiled. "I'm not completely insane or dangerous, Bodie. Just a bit unhinged. Tell me."

Better humour him. "Well, there was a Victorian writer called Thomas Hardy."

Doyle snapped his fingers. "Got it now. Hound of the Baskervilles," he interrupted brightly.

Bodie rolled his eyes. "Tess of the d'Urbervilles."

"Yeah. That's the one."

From the amount of books on his shelves, Bodie wondered whether Doyle was just pretending to be dim but he pressed on.

"Well he also wrote poetry. Depressing dirges, but the Victorians liked them. Anyway, he wrote a poem about winter. Everything was dead and cold and bleak. I told you he was a depressive. But then a thrush – don't ask me what a darkling is, he didn't say, right?" Doyle nodded. "Well this thrush started singing and it gave hope to the world – winter doesn't last forever; not dead but sleeping; that kind of thing. So?"

Here goes, thought Doyle. He took a deep breath. "Well, when I was lying in the debris, a bird – don't know if was a thrush, darkling or no – starting singing and it sounded beautiful. It reminded me of the skylarks in the battlefields that the First World War Tommies used to write poems about. Then I got to thinking about that thrush poem. I couldn't remember it but I knew that you'd know it. You know, for someone who never opens a book, Bodie, you seem to know a hell of a lot about literature. Anyway, I wanted to ask you about it then. But more than that I wanted you to know that I wasn't angry with you leaving me. I understood, really I did. I didn't want you involved."

Bodie was getting angry though. Doyle saw the signs: flared nostrils and his lower jaw rolling like a ship in a storm. "Don't you dare make the dark skies blue, Doyle. I left you to die alone and there's nothing on God's earth that you can say or tell me that will make me feel good about that."

"We were both hysterical Bodie. We both jumped to the very obvious conclusion …"

"I won't listen to any more of this," Bodie exploded. It was fortunate that there was no-one in the conservatory.

Doyle laid a hand gently on Bodie's sleeve to stop him leaving. "Bodie, could you do something for me?" he asked, trying to keep them both calm. He'd halted Bodie's anger – for the moment.

He looked suspiciously at his friend. "Such as?" he asked guardedly.

"Just listen to me for ten minutes. That's all I ask. Ten minutes. I can't make you feel better about this, Bodie, and I'm not going to try. I just want you to know how I felt and am feeling. Then we can put it away and not talk about it again."

Bodie knew he owed him that at least, but baring one's soul – his own or anyone else's – wasn't something Bodie was comfortable with at all. He nodded reluctantly. Unburden yourself if it makes you feel better, but just keep your feelings to your side of the table, Bodie thought angrily.

"See, when I was lying there I worked it out. I was glad you'd left in the end even though I couldn't tell you. I wanted you to kill me and if you'd stayed you would have. Not because of my hysterical whining, but because you thought it was the right thing to do. As it turned out, we were both wrong and you could have been done for a murder you didn't need to commit. You may have thought you'd committed the perfect murder but, as a copper Bodie, I can tell you that there are a lot of people banged up because they thought they'd covered their tracks. Anyway, as time ticked along and it got darker I felt – hoped, I guess – that I'd die of hyperthermia. I could even have been bleeding to death and I wouldn't have known. Then I heard the ambulance. Guess what?"

Bodie continued staring at him, still on the edge.

"I was bloody furious. I kept shouting in my head: I'm not dead yet; give me more time. I couldn't even finish myself off because you'd put them bloody bricks at the side of my 'ead to stop me thrashing about. Instead of killing me, you'd saved me and I hated you for it. You know my rages Bodie and I was storming. It was fortunate you weren't there. I called you every name I could think of! I don't remember hating anyone as much as I hated you then. Then the doctors came and sedated me. I woke up at the hospital as terrified as when I was out in the yard." Bodie could see that Doyle was finding this difficult. His friend's knuckles were turning white as he clung to his beer and his breathing sounded jagged as the memories flooded back. But Bodie heard the need in him to continue to the end. He still didn't know why. If you're hurting, stop. But Doyle couldn't.

"I started to panic and a doctor came in and calmed me down and told me that I'd be ok. He had to tell me several times before it'd sink in, and I was starting to get feeling back anyway so I knew he was telling the truth. I knew that he'd have told you I was going to be ok, or the hospital would have told Cowley and he'd have told you. He'd not keep that happy news to himself. So I couldn't understand why you weren't there; why you didn't come to visit. Jax came. [This was news to Bodie.] He never said anything. Then Cowley next day. [Bodie didn't know about that visit either, but it made sense.] And he never mentioned you. Course I didn't say anything. I kept thinking that if anything had happened to you either one of them would have told me. That's why I was angry on the phone. And I'm sorry for that." Doyle didn't give Bodie time to comment on his dereliction. He pressed on, aware that his ten minutes was probably up by now. "When I was lying there, after being told I'd recover, the doctor suggested I see a psychiatrist." Bodie snorted but said nothing. "Course I said 'no'. Then they suggested it again just before I left. I'd been thinking it over, as they knew I would, and I said 'yes' this time."

Bodie looked incredulous. "I know I say that your head needs shrinking, Doyle, but that's going a bit far isn't it?"

"There's a good reason, Bodie. Listen. I need to be sure – absolutely sure – that I won't have a panic attack when I'm up on scaffolding, or have a fainting fit running up or down stairs. I'm not 100% sure of that now, Bodie, and I need to be."

Doyle was looking intently at his partner, willing him to understand. Bodie did understand. Doyle's job was, among the myriad of other things, to watch his friend's back and he couldn't do that if he had an attack of vertigo. He never was good at heights at the best of times but had never let it get the better of him - till now? His ten minutes was up, but Bodie let him continue. He seemed to be coming to the end of his monologue.

"So I agreed." I've led him this far down the road, Doyle thought, now here comes the hard part. "Then I told him that a friend had witnessed the accident and seemed disturbed by it. The doctor said that family, friends and witnesses can often be badly affected by an accident like this. I asked whether said friend could see the psychiatrist, too, if he wanted to. The doctor thought it a very good idea." Doyle noticed that Bodie was on the edge of a storm again but he allowed Doyle to carry on. He knew where this was heading now. Doyle slipped a business card from his trouser pocket and slid it tentatively towards his friend. Bodie didn't move or even look at it. "There's an appointment written on the back, but you don't have to go. It's not at the hospital. His 'office'," Doyle continued, pointing to the card, "seems to be at a café on Bayswater. So we'd never have to see that bloody hospital again, or any white coats or anything. I'd like you to go, Bodie, but you don't have to if you really don't want to. You can cancel. The phone number's there."

Bodie continued to stare. For God sake say something, Doyle yelled in his mind.

"You bastard, Doyle," Bodie snarled slowly. "You arranged the bloody thing, you bloody cancel it. Course I was scared for you, and I'm sorry that I didn't visit, ok? Christ, I'm sorry about everything, but having my head examined isn't any answer cos there isn't any problem. Got it?"

"I think there is, Bodie. It's more than just not visiting. You're scared of something, something beyond the accident." More quietly he added, "It's ok. We all have our Room 101."

"Stop bloody patronising me. We're hardly likely to be mugged by a sniper in a wheelchair, are we?"

"You need to do this, Bodie." Doyle was beginning to get angry himself.

"Don't tell me what I need and don't need." Bodie got up, towering over his partner to emphasise his words. He stormed towards the door. Doyle pushed his chair back quickly to stop Bodie leaving. Unfortunately his co-ordination still wasn't there and he caught his foot in the chair leg and fell to the floor with a crash. Bodie turned back and was there in an instant, his anger forgotten.

"Ray, are you all right? Have you broken anything?" He knelt by his friend, immediately concerned, raking his eyes over his body. He tried to hold him but Doyle pushed him away, angry and humiliated.

"I'm not a china doll!" he screamed, his face distorted by rage. "I'm not going to fall apart!" Then the swearing started and couldn't stop. The verbal vomiting was like hot lava flowing from an erupting volcano. Doyle hugged himself trying for calm and missing by a mile. Hearing the commotion, and the language, the landlord came in to protest.

"Close the bloody door," Bodie screamed at him.

Seeing the look of murder on Bodie's face the landlord wisely retreated, closing the door behind him. His wife drew the curtains on the pair, blocking the view from their bar customers' curiosity. Despite protests, Bodie held Doyle close and let the words flow. Finally Doyle shuddered against Bodie's chest and the swearing turned to convulsive sobbing. Bodie clung on. The landlord and his wife peeped through the curtains and saw the pair on the floor, holding each other.

"Poor love," she murmured.

"I'll give them 'poor love', Edie. That kind of thing shouldn't be allowed. I'm going to call the cops."

"It is legal now, Reg," she said.

He had to concede that one. "Well, any of the Flash Gordons and they're out."

She had to concede that one. One-all. They moved away from the curtain and left the pair to it; whatever the 'it' happened to be.

Bodie rocked Doyle gently. "Let it out, Ray," he soothed quietly. Doyle allowed himself to be held and comforted. It felt good to be on the receiving end of caring for once. But Bodie couldn't stand against his partner's emotions as well as his own. He lowered his head to Doyle's shoulder and wept with him. His fear had finally found an outlet. Eventually Doyle pulled away slowly.

"Right pair of fairies, aren't we?" he said shakily, scraping his dripping nose against his sleeve. "Sorry, Bodie."

"Don't be," he said, doing much scraping of his own. He let Doyle get to his feet on his own. They headed to the door together but Doyle held him back.

"Look. I don't know what's going on in the landlord's head, but I've a fair idea. So I don't think we should go to the Gents together. Know what I'm talking about?"

Bodie smiled sheepishly, turning back to the window, as his friend left. It didn't need to be spelt out. After dunking his head in cold water for a while, Doyle felt more ready to face the world. He went over to the landlord to apologise for his behaviour. He explained to them both that they'd lost a close friend recently.

"He must have meant a lot," the landlord sneered.

Doyle snarled, "He was a 'she'. And bereavement hits you like a train sometimes, not that you'd know," he added nastily. He glanced at Edie who looked away shame-faced. Doyle apologised again to them both and returned to Bodie who was looking out onto the river. He explained that they were meant to be grieving for an unknown female. When Bodie came out of the loo Edie gave him a couple of whiskies on the house. Bodie felt guilty but accepted anyway, carrying the glasses into the conservatory.

"I think we better drink up and get out, Ray," Bodie whispered as they savoured a very nice malt.

"I don't think we'll be welcome here again. Sorry about that."

"It's ok. I've been barred from other, less savoury watering holes."

"I bet you have."

As they left, Bodie quietly pocketed the business card.