Stormbringers

Author's note: This story was written for Summer of 78, a livejournal ficathon. It is dedicated to Hisluvpet. I want to thank to everyone, who helped along the way. Mostly my fantastic beta reader, Vesta, who is the main person to thank to that this story even exists. Then my two friends Tana, how never faltered in her belief in me and listened to my constant whining. And Mira, who in time of dire need stepped in and helped more than I deserved.
If I wrote this story now, it would be different. But I gave up on my bad habit of rewriting stories, so here it is. If you see any typos or mistakes, shoot them at sight, then blame me.

Story note: I am aware of the fact that stomach flu is not an actual diagnosis, but for the sake of the flow I went with the medically totally wrong name, which I deem much easier to stomach and understand. Any discrepancies are mine. I don't own anything.

Disclaimer: The people mentioned in the show like Bodie and Doyle are the property of their owner. Other characters were created by me for the sake of the story. I don't make any profit. Was all pure fun.

WARNING: The story contains a sexual situation of homosexual nature at the end, so it's slash and it's non-con-ish. Its beginning and the end are marked with "", you can skip it. Consider yourself warned, any comments concerning this will be ignored.

Constructive criticism is appreciated.

STORMBRINGERS

"My life for your own
Your truth for my lie
When we walk we are one
And thus together we'll die."

Blood Brother by Heather Alexander

CHAPTER 0

Sweaty bodies were swirling in time to the rhythm of the music. The anonymity of the dance floor allowed more privacy. Its intimacy was visible at first sight, yet many spectators preferred the darkness away from the floor and were gathering along the walls. The dark-haired man known just as Bodie accepted another Scotch from the barman and turned around to look at the seething mass.

There were more people than usual for a Wednesday night.

"Lot of people, aren't there?"

Bodie looked at the man leaning towards him intimately.

"Yeah," he responded coolly.

"Good, isn't it?"

"Eh?"

"You can meet more of them," the man gestured towards the dance floor.

"You mean get them into bed," Bodie remarked and took another sip.

"They'd certainly jump into yours fast enough."

"I prefer quality," Bodie lifted his glass and pointedly turned away, walking through the crowd at the bar, when suddenly he bumped into somebody. He glanced at the other man fleetingly, but his casual apology froze when their eyes met.

"Sorry," mumbled the other, but he didn't pause and hastily pushed through the crowd not turning back.

CHAPTER 1

"Now, I'll take a blood sample and your annual physical examination will be over, 3.7," said the doctor professionally.

Bodie rolled up his sleeve and offered his smooth, almost hairless arm for the needle. A thin silver bracelet hanging from his wrist glistened in the bright lights of the dispensary. He gave the doctor a seductive smile that had a dangerous edge.

"All well-tuned, I hope," he drawled, well sure of the truth of the statement.

The doctor concentrated on her task, seemingly immune to his charms.

"All your results are the same as your last physical. Except your weight."

That statement attracted the attention of the second agent who was staring boredly out of the window. He straightened a little, flashing a mischievous smile as the doctor continued, "You've lost ten pounds."

Bodie's eyes gleamed before his face returned to its usual composed indifference.

"Been on a diet, have you?" Doyle smirked.

"Plenty of exercise," Bodie told him with a grin.

"I can imagine." Doyle got up. "All the running and lifting weights," he mocked.

Bodie shrugged into his leather jacket and zipped it all the way up.

"A gentleman never tells."

"Gentleman? That's a new one. Now move it, we'd better not keep the Old Man waiting."

Bodie looked over his shoulder to smile at the doctor again. "See you next time, sweetheart."

"I'll send your files to Mr Cowley. Until the next checkup, watch that weight loss. Don't overdo the...exercise."

"It'll never happen. Not to him, the lazy git. Now hurry up, will you?" Doyle growled from the hallway and Bodie moved to join him.

As they fell easily into step, Doyle told him, "HQ called ten minutes ago. All agents are on full alert."

"Something big?" Doyle only shrugged.

Five minutes later they walked into HQ. Betty, hands full of folders, sent them straight into the Controller's office and carried on with her work; two pairs of eyes followed her intently until she disappeared from view and they grinned at each other in perfect understanding. Through the heavy door they heard the head of CI5 barking orders; they exchanged a brief glance before knocking smartly and entering without waiting for an invitation.

Cowley glared angrily over the rim of his glasses at the interruption, but waved them in once he realised who it was.

"Yes. Do it! I expect your report in one hour." He hung up and scrutinised his top agents closely.

"I got the results of your physical, 4.5. How's your leg?"

Doyle didn't flinch as he replied. "It's been cleared by the doctor."

"I didn't ask if it was cleared, but how it is!" Cowley barked impatiently. "It's fine. Sir."

"Good. Because I've got a job for you two." He handed over a police file with a photo pinned to the outside, continuing, "That is Seamus Sims. He's been convicted of small crimes, nothing big. He was a driver for Morris Callaghan, but he wasn't - ah - happy in his work."

"So he sold Callaghan out," Doyle surmised.

"Exactly. The trial is in a week. I want you to protect him."

"Babysitting!" Doyle grumbled.

"You've been on sick leave for six weeks with that leg. I want you back in action, not dead, and this is the perfect solution. You'll take him to a safe house and keep him there," Cowley concluded firmly and handed them a few files.

"Are you expecting trouble?" Bodie flipped through the files absently.

"Callaghan's base is on the continent. The Netherlands, to be precise. He's the biggest drug supplier in those parts and now he's trying to move in over here."

"And Sims will bring him down now?" Bodie lifted his eyebrows quizzically.

"Aye. He's a petty criminal, who learned a few big things. Entirely by chance, of course."

The telephone rang suddenly, and Cowley snatched it up.

"Well?" He listened in silence for a short time, and then replaced the receiver in its cradle as he informed them, "Murphy's waiting for you with Sims. Here's the address," he handed them a slip of paper and sent them out with a wave of his hand.

The safe house Cowley had chosen was in a neighbourhood with a reputation for being on the rough side, and as they pulled up in front of the building Doyle looked around doubtfully.

"Park the car in the side street; we'll still need the tyres."

"Why is it always my car?" complained Bodie as he obediently turned the corner and drew into the kerb. Doyle grinned as he opened the door, climbing out carefully.

"Because you always insist on driving. Come on, let's find Murph."

Murphy was waiting inside a small, spartan living room furnished with only basic items; with him was a small, nervous, sickly-looking man who was visibly sweating. Thin black hair was plastered to his skull, the yellowish skin of his scalp showing through in places, and his dark eyes darted around restlessly.

"Finally!" Murphy pushed the man towards them as they moved further into the room, and Bodie glanced at their charge with disgust.

"Are you really that glad to be getting on with your work?" he remarked with false sweetness.

"The Cow's got me and Anson out on the street. You'd better not leave the building, seems the vultures are circling," Murphy warned as he checked his gun before holstering it again.

"Nasty lot," Doyle grunted.

Before Murphy could answer, his R/T beeped and Anson's voice crackled into the room. "Murphy! where are you, man?" The partners smirked at him knowingly, Bodie only asking, "The coast is clear, then?"

"No problems so far. Have a nice time, lads."

Bodie followed him to the door, closing it firmly and setting all the locks with care as Doyle grabbed Sims and pushed him into the nearest chair.

"You stay there. No phone calls, no walking in front of windows, no opening doors. If you need anything, you come to me, or Bodie. You stay alive."

Scared by the harsh words, Sims shifted his small eyes to Bodie, who just glared at him and said softly, "If you make trouble, I might get a little clumsy. A few bruises won't stop you testifying - you just need to get there alive."

Doyle frowned at his partner.

"Bodie. Find out what's to eat, will you?"

Bodie hesitated, but finally left to find the kitchen, Sims looking after him with suspicion and dislike written on his face. When he noticed Doyle gazing at him, he shrugged.

"Thug."

"Watch it," Doyle warned sharply, and Sims started to sweat again.

Bodie returned and tossed Doyle a can.

"Anson's been shopping. There are a few cans of beans, sausages, some eggs..."

"Chili beans?" Doyle rolled his eyes and tossed the can back. "His final revenge. D'you want to make some? I'm hungry."

"I'll check the place first and then warm them up," Bodie said, took out his large Browning and checked it automatically as he moved out of the room; for the next few minutes, only the occasional squeaking of badly sprung floors betrayed his presence. "Can he be trusted?" Sims looked to Doyle with wide eyes, unconsciously picking at a broken nail that immediately began bleeding.

"If he can't, you're dead." Sims jerked, as if from cold, and grimaced.

"So what happens now?"

Doyle took a seat opposite him to keep one eye on the door and grinned sourly.

"We spend the next five days getting closer to each other."

"Five whole days? In this place?"

"What's not to like? A small, charming house with all three windows and two doors locked and nice elderly neighbours without armament? It's as good as it ever gets. The beans are heating up now, by the way."

Sims jerked at the sound of Bodie's voice; he hadn't heard him come back in, and Doyle smirked briefly at his partner leaning against the doorframe in the most intimidating fashion possible. He turned to Sims, saying, "What do you want for breakfast and lunch tomorrow? You can have beans with sausages, or beans, or sausages."

"I hate beans."

Doyle faked a smile. "Sausages then."

"I don't eat meat. Do you know what they do to those animals?" Doyle's eyes narrowed with sudden, barely controlled fury.

"Do you know what drugs do to kids?" Sims glowered at him defiantly.

"I'm only a driver. I'm innocent." Bodie snorted contemptuously.

"Lily-white, isn't he, Doyle."

"Yeah." Doyle got up and went over to his partner, turning to glare at their sullen prisoner. "Don't you move from that spot, Sims."

They stepped into the darkened hall, Doyle lowering his voice as he asked, "So, what you do you think?"

"The place seems secure. Solid doors and sound window-shutters. There are houses overlooking the back, but the front's all clear. Only two access doors and a cellar. The stairs squeak, so does the floor in the bedroom."

"I heard," Doyle commented grimly.

Bodie fell silent for a moment and looked past him into the living room where Sims sat unmoving. Doyle's eyes sharpened at the closed expression on his partner's face; he said quietly, "You've got a bad feeling?" Bodie only shrugged.

"You?"

"It's a routine assignment, remember?" The easy comeback brightened Bodie's drawn expression and his eyebrow quirked as he grinned.

"Routine. Sure."

They went back into the living room, and Sims looked up nervously.

"Is something going on? Trouble?"

"No. You're absolutely safe here."

"Safe, ha. What are we supposed to do for five days?"

Bodie snorted and sat down near the window, looking out through the tatty curtain with hawk-like concentration as Doyle explained, "We spend them in this room. You can go to the loo opposite, or to bed in the next room. We're not using the upstairs rooms."

"What do we do all day?"

Bodie scoffed, not turning away from the window as he drawled, "What, you didn't bring a book?"

"I did." Doyle reached into his bag and took out a book and three magazines; Sims peered at the book's spine and grimaced.

"I don't read much. Who's Immanuel Kant?" Doyle dropped the book on the table, and threw Sims a magazine with a naked woman on the cover.

"Here. Not too many long words in this."

Sims grabbed it and started flipping the pages, occasionally sighing or whistling with appreciation. About halfway through he suddenly got up, and both agents tensed.

"Oi. Where are you going?"

"To the loo."

"With the magazine?"

Sims hesitated a moment, a small smile playing over his thin lips.

"Something to read," and he left the room.

After a moment of silence Doyle muttered, "I'm not touching that thing with a pole when he brings it back. What's going on out there?"

Bodie shrugged, not looking around as he answered, "Quiet neighbourhood. Not a young bird in sight, just some old battleaxe at Number 14. And a few boys running about."

"Kids? At this time of day?" Bodie chuckled at the outraged tone in his partner's voice.

"Don't tell me you never played truant?"

"Probably more than you did, mate. I loved my English classes with Mrs Brewberry, though."

"Mrs. Brewberry?" Bodie snorted. "Was she that good?"

"The greatest cleavage ever. She certainly had something..."

"Yeah, cleavage," Bodie responded wryly, and Doyle sniggered.

"Amongst other things... do you want some beans then?"

"Not hungry. Not for beans anyway. Ate them the whole time in the army."

Doyle had just served their food when Sims returned. He took the food with little enthusiasm, yet he didn't comment on it. While they were eating, Bodie was guarding their back, his eyes not even straying to the table.

"So you're turning Callaghan in, eh?" Doyle asked Sims casually, not as much as glancing at him.

"What's it to you?" Sims shifted in his seat, irritated. "You want me to give you the information now, here, in case I get killed?" Doyle sighed audibly.

"Nobody's going to get killed."

"How will you stop them? Callaghan's got money, maybe he's even hired a hit man." Bodie laughed.

"Don't flatter yourself. He wouldn't waste the money."

"How would you know?"

Before a fight could develop, Doyle stepped in.

"We're CI5. We'd know."

"CI5, MI5, all sounds the same to me."

"You should be glad it's us. If you were with MI5, you'd be dead in a flat minute. Amateurs." After such arrogance from Bodie, Sims sank back into sullen silence. Both agents ignored him; Doyle nudged Bodie with his elbow, feeling the need to lighten the atmosphere.

"So how was your exercise with the beautiful Wendy?"

"I let her go. She wanted to introduce me to her parents," Bodie said drily.

"Dropped her like a hot potato, did you?"

"I'm shocked and appalled, Doyle. I'd never treat a lady like that."

"Lady? Is that a cat or something?" Doyle winked at him.

"Berk."

"So who's up next?"

"Eh?"

"For a hot date."

"I've got a tip or two."

"Anybody special?"

"What? You worried?" Bodie waited, but when no reply came added, "Don't be. None of your birds. Mine have class."

"Only a class D cup, mate."

"It's an asset, isn't it?"

Doyle snorted affectionately, moving to sit at the table with a magazine and a pen. Hopefully there was a crossword...

The boring morning dragged slowly into afternoon.

"I need one more word," Doyle said into the silence. Bodie turned away from the window for a second.

"It's not like it matters."

"Oh, c'mon Bodie, think. A nymph, six letters, starts with a u and ends with an e." Sims slanted his eyes, apparently thinking.

"Undine," Bodie said in a strange accent.

"What?"

"Undine. It's German," he explained slowly.

"That's it, fits in great. Didn't know you spoke German."

"I was posted in West Germany for a while. Caught a few words."

Doyle looked up from his crossword and looked at his partner askance.

"That's a strange word to catch."

"It's a strange place to live."

"I have an aunt who lives in Germany," Sims said suddenly. "She lives in Berlin."

"Really? Interesting." They answered him at the same time; Bodie snorted, nodded to Doyle and disappeared in the direction of the toilet.

Sims leaned back, puffing slightly. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked at Doyle.

"He's a strange one, your partner. Doesn't say much."

"Unlike you, you mean? Just remember to be as chatty in front of the jury. We're putting our heads on the block for you. You're lucky Cowley wants you as a witness."

Sims stretched out on the sofa, taking a magazine.

"I'm an important man, sonny. Live with it."

"I thought this was supposed to be a nice, easy way to get back into action," Doyle muttered, hand curving around his gunbutt absently as Bodie re-entered the room. Sims suddenly sat up, looking at them suspiciously.

"What do you mean, 'back into action'. You're professionals, aren't you?" Bodie grimaced.

"Ah, well, you see, Mr Cowley didn't tell you everything. Doyle's been on suspension for threatening a witness with a knife. That worried us a little. But he's back to his old self, aren't you?" he grinned at Doyle wickedly.

"They wouldn't let you into this mob if you were a certified loony!" yelped Sims, but Bodie just raised his eyebrows.

"Did I mention certified? - although, you have to be daft to do this job..."

"Then I know why they hired you," Sims grumbled and scooted out towards the kitchen; Bodie snorted with amusement and settled back into his position by the window.

"A daytime attack isn't very likely," Doyle remarked off-handedly, and his partner shrugged.

"Doesn't hurt to check twice. I've got a bad feeling."

"Too early. Too many people in the streets."

"Unless they decide to Hell with it, start a shooting spree and kill everyone around," Bodie argued, and Doyle nodded.

"Did you call HQ?" he changed the subject.

"Ten minutes ago when I went to the toilet and grabbed something in the kitchen."

"Anything?"

"Didn't get to chat much. They sounded busy."

"Murphy mentioned all agents were on alert... damn this leg," Doyle swore, "it's keeping us out of it!"

"Better here than being left to Macklin's tender mercies. On the other hand though, he has some good points," observed Bodie thoughtfully.

"Like?" Doyle was skeptical.

"Eggs and bacon in the fridge," was the prompt response, and they both laughed.

"And Towser behind the corner waiting to beat it out of you. All right, your watch is over now. Get some kip, Bodie."

"Wonderful. I'll leave you to him then," and with a wicked grin Bodie ducked out of the room.

Doyle smirked, then decided he might as well check his handgun properly; the Smith and Wesson was fully loaded, working smoothly, barrel gleaming in the dull light of the setting sun.

Next door a woman was shouting. Something thudded into a wall, or a floor, and the sound of broken glass followed. The shouting continued.

"Where's your partner?" Sims slouched back into the living room.

"Getting some sleep."

Sims restlessly played with his hands. "Can I switch on the radio or something?"

"No. I need to be able to hear."

"Through the racket that lot is making?"

"It won't go on forever."

Sims snorted and sat down on the couch that sagged under him.

"I grew up in a house like this, the walls are just as thin. They could go on all night."

"For your sake, I hope they don't."

Sims wordlessly picked up a magazine and leafed through a few pages.

"I can't read when they shout," he whined.

"Try to sleep," Doyle suggested wearily.

"I have to testify in a few days and someone's going to try to kill me. How can I sleep? Can't you go and make them shut up?"

"Nah. Never come between a woman...and her woman. Besides, I can't leave you unguarded."

"How about him?" Sims jerked a hand towards the next room, and Doyle bared his teeth.

"If you wake him up, I'll personally break both your arms. Twice. You don't need them to testify."

Sims frowned.

"It was only a suggestion. You're not easy to get on with, y'know."

"I'm very easy to get on with. Just don't interfere with my job. Our job. If either of us is a second too slow, we're dead. All of us."

Sims paled and huddled deeper into the couch, not saying a word for the rest of the evening.

CHAPTER 2

Bodie awoke to someone urgently squeezing his shoulder and sat up in alarm, focusing his gaze on Doyle who was crouched by the bed with his gun drawn.

"They're here," Doyle hastily gestured towards the window. "Two out front, another three or more behind."

On the other bed Sims propped himself up, his teeth chattering. Bodie grabbed his Browning.

"You think there are more of them?"

"Saw a shadow or two moving. Can't tell how many. They're getting ready to attack."

"Stand and fight?" Bodie grunted, but Doyle shook his head.

"Too many civilian casualties."

"There's a small window in the cellar, leading to the side street," Bodie remembered.

"It's hidden behind a bush. You could crawl through it to the car. Have to be careful of sharpshooters, though."

"What about you?"

"I could try to bring a few of them down."

"What about him?"

They both looked at Sims, Bodie's eyes gleaming darkly.

"His nerves are shot to hell," Doyle muttered, "we'd better all go together." He stared at his partner steadily until Bodie relented.

"All right. Let's go then."

Bodie led the way, sneaking along the walls in an effort to prevent the wooden floors and stairs from squeaking. The door leading to the cellar looked unused, and he winced as the handle squealed in protest - then swore as the hinges did the same. Somewhere above them a window shattered and they pushed inside, bolting the door after them. Putting his ear to the door, Doyle heard the rumble of feet on the staircase and glanced towards Bodie who was halfway out of the small window set high up. His upper body was outside when suddenly he jerked and a succession of rapid shots came from the Browning.

"Bloody hell," Doyle cursed, pushing Sims towards the window as Bodie finally slithered free. "Your turn!"

The cellar door shuddered as the first concerted attack from the invaders almost broke it off the hinges. They only had seconds.

"I think I'm stuck!" Sims whined; Doyle glanced up from his defensive crouch and cursed at the sight of the wriggling body jammed in the window space, moving neither in nor out. He jumped as the cellar door shuddered again at the hail of bullets slamming into it from the other side, splinters flying everywhere. Suddenly Sims yelped and cried out, finally vanishing into the darkness outside and freeing the only exit. Grabbing his chance, Doyle ran over and jumped up; as he gripped the sill another pair of hands grasped him by the wrists and pulled him out, almost wrenching his shoulder in the process. He could hear a dull thudding behind him as large bodies slammed against the still-solid door and realised that it would take their attackers a moment to find out their prey was gone.

"Move it!" Bodie urged him, leaping into the car and gunning the motor loudly. Sims cowered in the back seat, wrapping his arms around his head with a shriek of terror as the rear window shattered, sending splinters of glass all over him. Doyle dove into the open passenger door and snapped a shot at the shooter on the rooftop as Bodie floored the accelerator; the tyres screeched as he threw the car into a sharp turn, throwing Doyle and Sims hard against the doors.

"Watch it!" Sims thudded to the floor and breathed in hiccupping gusts.

"Keep your head down!" Doyle shouted when another car began pursuing them. "They're behind us!"

"I see!"

The engine screamed with effort as Bodie urged it forward; Doyle stuck his head out the window, wind howling past his ears, and realised they hadn't got much of a head start.

"They're too close!" Suddenly the driver's window shattered, blown out by a shot they didn't even hear.

"Bastards!" Doyle fired back, his gun barking loudly into the night. The pursuing car started to weave on the road, still keeping dangerously close. "Get the driver, Doyle!"

Doyle wedged himself firmly between the dashboard and his seat, taking a few seconds to aim as he swore roundly.

"Sticking like a bloody flea," he grumbled, and then fired. It was a good shot, he was positive - and sure enough, the pursuing car suddenly careened wildly across the road as its offside tyre blew out. A few stray shots whizzed by his ears, but after a few more hard turns, he was certain they were no longer being followed.

"All right?" Doyle asked of nobody in particular as he settled back into his seat. Bodie nodded briefly, but Sims scrambled up off the floor and leaned forward between them.

"Stop!" he ordered shakily.

"What?"

"I'm gonna throw up."

"No bloody way," Bodie shouted. "Not in my car, mate."

"Then bloody hold it!"

Bodie slammed on the brakes and skidded into the kerb, Doyle leaping out with alacrity as the car stopped moving and pulling the seat forward to let the retching Sims clamber out; staggering a little, the little man fell to his knees and vomited noisily into the gutter. Disgusted, Bodie turned away and stared intently into the rear vision mirror as Doyle pulled out his R/T.

"4.5 to Alpha One. Come in,"

"Doyle! What's going on?"

"Somebody tried to rob us of our beauty sleep," Bodie remarked dryly.

"What's that?" Cowley snapped impatiently. "Repeat!"

Doyle shot Bodie a dirty look and explained, "A group of armed men attacked the safe house. We retreated, they followed us, we got rid of them. Their car is on Burnes road and there'll be a few corpses in the vicinity of the house."

"All right. We'll take care of that. Where are you?"

"On our way to another safe place - " he raised his eyebrows at his partner in query. "Berkley Street," Bodie supplied, still watching his mirrors.

"Do that. Keep me informed - and watch your back. Alpha out."

Bodie and Doyle looked at each other gravely, the silence lengthening, until finally Doyle broke it.

"We should change the car. It's too conspicuous," he suggested.

"What's so conspicuous about a car with no windows and riddled with bullet holes?" Bodie muttered sarcastically, and Doyle snorted.

"The nearest stash house is about ten minutes from here." He reached out to grab Sims by the collar, yanking him to his feet and all but throwing him back into the car as he added, "Let's go. Take the first right."

The car rolled quietly to a halt in front of an anonymous house in a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by dozens that looked similar. Bodie cut the engine and after a moment they left the car, guns drawn, keeping Sims between them as they moved towards the garage door, its smaller access gate opening with hardly any noise. "CI5 leaves its doors unlocked?" Sims muttered in disbelief.

"Shut up!" Bodie growled, slipping inside; after a few moments, the lights came on. "It's safe. Nobody's here," Bodie assured them, and Doyle pushed Sims ahead of him as he entered. The garage was small and quite empty, apart from a few boxes and tools stacked against the walls and the green Capri sitting forlornly in the middle of the floor. It was a little dusty, but obviously had new tyres; in its boot they found three guns, two rifles and an automatic, along with a decent supply of ammunition. Bodie grabbed the automatic.

"We should have had these earlier."

"What, so we could kill all the neighbours as well?" Doyle protested while checking the pair of R/Ts stored in a separate box, tossing one to Bodie when he was satisfied. Bodie caught it one-handed smirking at him.

"Relax, petal. It's quite safe - in the hands of a master, that is."

"We should go," Sims urged, already settled in the back seat of the car. The key was dangling from the ignition, and he made a noise of disbelief. "Why hasn't anybody stolen all of this?"

Bodie stopped in the act of climbing behind the wheel and stared at him levelly. "Never try to steal from CI5," he advised. "It's hazardous to one's health."

Sims blinked uncertainly as the dark-haired agent started the engine and drove out of the garage, waiting until Doyle had closed the doors behind them and got into the front passenger seat before saying, "How long till we get to this new place? Have you been there before?"

"Once, ages ago. We'll be there in about three hours."

"Three hours? Where are you taking me, the ends of the bloody Earth?" Sims protested.

"Something like that. Far from the madding crowd, it is. Safe."

"You said that about the last place. Is this how CI5 protects its witnesses?" "You're alive, aren't you?" Doyle snapped back.

"It's a bloody wonder after the way I've been used for target practice. I hope the next place is really safe - not the way you understand it!"

"Don't worry. We'll have a nice, short holiday there. No neighbours, no felons. no dogs or cats. Only you, us and Mother Nature," and Bodie grinned wickedly.

"It is quite a long drive, though. You should try to get some rest," Doyle suggested, but Sims shook his head vigorously.

"Don't fancy having my head shot off while I sleep. If I'm going to die, I want to see it coming."

"Of course you do," Bodie drawled sarcastically. "A man of honour and action we have here, Doyle."

Sims grimaced, not daring to snap back, and lapsed into sullen silence.

"So." Doyle spoke first. "Who were those blokes back there, d'you think?"

"Probably some hired mercs. Not very good ones, though. Callaghan having money troubles?" Bodie suggested, and Doyle shook his head vehemently.

"Not likely for a drugs baron. Maybe he just underestimated us." Bodie shrugged. "Stupid mistake for a pro to make."

"Maybe he's a tyro."

"What, with his amount of influence on the continent?" Bodie glanced at him sideways, and Doyle just scratched his head thoughtfully.

"Still, it wouldn't be the first time we've been underestimated," he muttered, and Bodie grunted in reluctant agreement before concentrating on the road.

They made it out of London before the pre-rush hour traffic built up, and were soon driving through the countryside with the early morning sun trying to break through the gathering clouds. Sims had nodded off in the back seat, his head lolling in a way that promised a badly stiff neck later on, and Doyle alternated between light sleep and awareness. Bodie, who preferred travelling in silence, was fighting his boredom with carefully fed paranoia. It had been a long time since they'd left the outskirts of London and even though traffic was relatively scarce this early, he kept on checking the rear vision mirror. It seemed clear, though.

Personally, he couldn't imagine how anyone could have got on their tail; CI5's witness protection procedure was very specific and thorough and was always followed to the last detail. Safe houses in the city were always a little risky simply because of the size of the suburban population, and no amount of care could make them as anonymous as they preferred. George Cowley ran a tight organisation - and the thought that they might possibly have some kind of a leak was an alarming thought at best.

"What are you thinking?" Doyle murmured hoarsely.

"Nothing much."

Silence settled between them again, but at last Doyle asked quietly, "Do you think there's a leak?" Bodie shrugged noncommittally.

"Could be."

Doyle groaned, rubbing at his eyes tiredly.

"Don't you just love how these simple assignments always turn sour?"

"It must be you, mate. I'm known for my streak of Irish luck," Bodie grinned tightly.

"I don't think your lucky streak at cards has anything to do with the luck of the Irish."

"If you're suggesting that I cheat, I most certainly do not." Doyle snorted, then laughed as his partner finished, "However, I usually have a surprise or two up my sleeve."

A little later the countryside became hillier; the sun had given up the fight and was hidden behind rain-heavy clouds as they left the main road and kept turning into ever-narrowing lanes. The car rocked and bounced along the uneven ground, making conversation impossible because it meant running the risk of very probably biting through their tongues. Finally, Doyle spotted the green roof of the building they were heading for, easily overlooked against the backdrop of the woods that surrounded it, and as they pulled up he thought that it looked abandoned, the windows in the front dark and lifeless.

"Cozy, isn't it?"

"Like a dungeon," muttered Bodie. "Reckon we're still in R/T range?"

Doyle shrugged, pulling a handset out of his pocket.

"One way to find out... Doyle to Alpha, 4.5 to Alpha." He repeated the call until finally, Cowley's voice crackled through.

"Alpha here..." the sound was distorted and very bad. "...can't...repeat..." Cowley's voice came through.

"We're at the second safe house."

The R/T spluttered a little.

"...every two hours."

"4.5, understood. Make contact every two hours. Out."

Bodie pointed at the dark clouds gathering overhead.

"The clouds and that hill will be blocking the signal. Maybe if the weather clears up, we won't have to run up that hill every two hours."

"Oh great, how much worse can it get?" Doyle groaned. Bodie rolled his eyes.

"Don't jinx us," he muttered, opening his door to climb out and stretch until his shoulders popped. "Let's see what we've got to put up with for the next week, shall we?" and began to walk towards the house; opening the door, he looked around glumly and decided it was just as harsh and uninviting on the inside as it was on the outside.

"It's cold!" he complained, shivering theatrically.

"Running up that hill'll make you warmer," Doyle snickered. "Let's have a proper look then, see what this pleasure palace has to offer. Sims, you stay in the foyer - and don't move till I say so."

Eventually, they all stood in the kitchen, Doyle glaring at the fridge accusingly. "I don't believe it, it's not working - the only food we've got is canned. Don't even look!" he warned as Bodie's eyes widened in horror.

"Not beans," he groaned miserably, ignoring Doyle's outstretched hand and grabbing a can out of the cupboard, swearing as he read the label.

"Told you not to look."

Sims looked at the amount of cans dubiously.

"Is there enough for us all?"

"Enough to feed an army for a week. Even counting him," Doyle pointed at Bodie. "Well, that's something at least. We'll have to stay put until HQ finds out what went wrong."

"What d'you mean?" Sims looked at them anxiously.

"We're stuck here for the next three and a half days."

All three men suddenly flinched reflexively as a flare of lightning lit up the room, a deafening roll of thunder following seconds later.

"I hope the loo is inside," Sims whined and Bodie pointed in the correct direction silently, watching their charge scuttle off.

Doyle looked at his partner.

"You haven't had much sleep. Take a nap. I'll take first watch."

Bodie glanced at him and nodded tiredly.

"I won't argue. Let's get the weapons inside first, though. And I hope there are extra blankets somewhere, the heating doesn't work. The place is as cold as a tomb..."

"Oh, wonderful choice of words, there, mate," Doyle said sarcastically. "Bite your tongue."

"Once the guns are inside, you can wake me up in four hours for my watch," Bodie tossed over his shoulder as he headed for the front door.

Doyle frowned.

"Yeah, sure."

CHAPTER 3

"What time is it?"

Bodie wandered into the kitchen where the others were sitting by the table, wrinkles from the pillow still imprinted on his face. Sims jerked at his silent arrival, but Doyle didn't react; he'd heard his partner stirring a few minutes ago.

"What's the time?" Bodie asked again, yawning.

"Almost eleven," Doyle responded stoically.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Bodie grumbled with dismay.

"I tried to, but you were out cold. Guess you needed it," Doyle replied casually, and Bodie snorted. "Have some breakfast. Or lunch, more like," he amended with a grin. "I heated up some beans, they're on the cooker."

"Real domestic bliss." Bodie ambled to the cooker and found the food, poking it with a spatula. "Charming," he muttered with disgust.

Doyle turned to him and urged, "Go ahead. It's all yours, we ate already. And by the way, you're doing the dishes."

"What?" Bodie turned away from the cooker, looking at the pile of dishes waiting in the sink.

"I cooked, so you're doing the dishes," Doyle said firmly.

"Cooked? You just heated up some beans!"

"Fair's fair, mate."

Bodie carried the pot over to the table and joined them. Doyle lifted his eyebrows, pained.

"Can't you use a plate?"

"Nah. Too much to wash afterwards."

"Lazy sod," Doyle scoffed, but after a moment grinned amiably.

"So what's happening?" Bodie asked.

"I've checked the house, it's nothing special. R/T reception's best in the attic, but if we needed help, it'd be better to call from that hill. It's been raining cats and dogs, that doesn't help either. If it carries on, we'll be like Noah's bloody Ark."

Bodie looked at him without comprehension.

"You planning on taking in animals?"

"I meant it's only us and water everywhere around," Doyle scoffed.

"Good that we have a pigeon to send out then," Bodie murmured looking pointedly at Sims. "It's no white dove, but it'll do."

"Bodie," Doyle warned, but the corners of his mouth were twitching. "Oh, by the way, there's only red underwear for you." Bodie scowled at him. "I found some standard issue briefs in the wardrobe. I took the blue, Sims wanted the white, so you get the red."

Bodie put down the spatula and looked at him with horror. "The red's so bloody bright it would stop traffic. Are we fighting in flag colours now?"

"Don't worry about it, sunshine," Doyle whispered wickedly, "red is the colour of kings, you know."

Bodie scowled at him, "Very funny, Doyle."

Doyle suddenly became serious.

"All right. Now eat up, you haven't even touched it. Or are you doubting my culinary ability?"

"Found a dictionary and got yourself a new word for today, I take it. I like it. Culinary...has a nice sound to it."

Doyle's eyes narrowed thoughtfully, but he refused to be diverted.

"C'mon, I tried to spice them up a little for you..." Bodie opened his mouth to ask, but Doyle stopped him with a dramatic gesture.

"Don't ask. Just taste."

He stared steadily at his partner until Bodie gave up and slowly, deliberately, tasted a spoonful.

"Well, how is it?" Doyle asked, ignoring Bodie's sour expression.

"Oh, lovely. Thanks a lot, mate."

"Don't forget the dishes, now."

"How could I, with you to remind me?" Bodie sighed, and Doyle grinned in wide-eyed innocence.

Suddenly the almost-forgotten Sims stood up from the chair that he'd backed into a corner of the room.

"I'm going to bed," he announced sullenly.

"At quarter past eleven in the morning?" Doyle asked in disbelief, checking his watch. "Not much else to do, is there?" Sims snapped back, stalking out of the room: Doyle shook his head wonderingly and turned back to his partner, who just shrugged and asked, "Have you been in touch with HQ?"

"Yeah...didn't get much joy, the signal's really bad. The Old Man seemed pissed off though. Something's definitely going on."

Bodie rubbed his forehead absently.

"Well, don't tell me you'd trade this," he waved his hand in a gesture encompassing the whole room.

"Not funny, mate." Doyle growled deeply.

"All the peace..."

"Bodie!" Doyle warned.

"The outstanding cuisine..."

"You're pushing your luck, mate..."

"And all the sunny weather you could want..."

"Bodie!" Doyle shouted, really angry, but Bodie didn't budge.

"And pleasant company, of course." Bodie finished with a wide grin, looking at his partner unfazed. After a few tense seconds Doyle's angry expression melted.

"Idiot," he exclaimed and laughed shortly.

Bodie grinned, but then his expression became serious again.

"Your turn now. Get some sleep."

"Yeah, okay. The next check-in is at one; call from the attic. Oh, and the best place is in the pile of bird shit in the right corner." Bodie put the spatula down, disgusted.

"Do you mind? - I'm eating!"

"Pushing it around the plate more like. You could at least take a fork and pretend that you're eating," Doyle observed shrewdly. "Have a look at the cellar."

"Any chance of finding decent food there?" Bodie asked hopefully, pushing the pot away away.

"Only for the rats, if they can chew through the bodybags," Doyle tossed over his shoulder, heading for the door.

"You do know how to brighten my day, don't you?" Bodie sighed, and Doyle turned back from the doorway.

"Don't forget. Bird shit, right corner."

Bodie rolled his eyes, scowling as his partner left the room and the house fell silent. He heard the bedroom floor squeak a few times as Doyle turned over in bed, but after a moment those sounds ceased too.

For a long moment, Bodie luxuriated in the relative warmth of the kitchen; but at last, he got up and walked past the dishes on his way on the toilet.

He emerged a long time later, a sour expression on his face as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

CHAPTER 4

Doyle awoke to soft, sneaking steps in the dark bedroom. Instinctively he grabbed for his gun where it lay on the headstand, then blinked as he realised there had been no reaction to his sudden movements. Then he remembered they were in the safe house, far from dangerous London, and Bodie was guarding them now.

"Mr Doyle," a small, tentative voice intruded on his thoughts. "Mr Doyle..."

"I'm awake now," Doyle sat up and strapped on his holster and replaced the gun. "What do you want?"

At the sharp question Sims jerked and sat down on the opposite bed.

"I'm sorry. You were sleeping." Doyle rolled his eyes.

"I was, until you woke me," he growled. Sims rubbed his sweaty hands together.

"I've just been to the loo..."

Doyle got up from his bed abruptly and looked down at the sitting man.

"If you have a prostate problem, I don't want to know about it."

Sims averted his eyes, but continued, "Have you known the other agent long?"

"He's my partner." Doyle frowned, and the petty criminal twisted under his stare. "Is he ill or anything?" Sims' voice caught.

"What do you mean?" Doyle finally snapped and Sims shrank back as if slapped, but then snapped back, "I heard him throwing up." Doyle gave a snort of laughter.

"Is that all?"

Sims nodded slowly, watching him through slitted eyes.

"If Bodie's not all right, he wouldn't be here," Doyle stated confidently.

"But..." Sims protested weakly.

Doyle gave him a hard look, enunciating carefully, "Bodie is all right."

Sims was gazing back at him fearfully, visibly shrinking in size.

"Your partner is all right," he repeated, unable to argue.

"Never come to me behind his back again," Doyle warned. This time Sims only nodded, looking away. "You're a coward," Doyle accused in a low voice, and the other man glanced up, quickly looking away again at his unforgiving expression.

"Maybe," he muttered.

Doyle shook his head with disgust and left to find his partner, finally locating him at the door to the cellar.

"I thought you looked there already?" Doyle leaned over the bannister and looked down.

"I think I found something. There might be a passage leading from the house, probably into the woods on the hill."

"Reckon that's why Cowley bought the house?"

"Possibly. He could pick any house in the country, after all." Doyle moved away from the bannister lazily and went down the stairs to join his partner.

"True. What now?"

"I want to try getting into it. The foundations might be damaged if it rains like this in winter every year. Part of the passage wall has collapsed - it's solid mud."

"Reckon the rest of it is still holding?" Doyle looked into the dark cellar dubiously as he turned on the light. It smelled of mud and water. "I hope there isn't a faulty circuit, with all this water around," he continued darkly.

"Nah, I'm still here, aren't I? It looks bad though, and the passage is probably even worse off - or will be, after all this rain. But I want to check it out properly."

Suddenly there was a loud bang and darkness covered them again. Doyle chuckled.

"My kingdom for a light bulb, Mr Edison." He waited for Bodie to say something, but there was only the sound of squishing mud. Finally, he sighed and moved after his partner.

"Does Cowley know about the passage? What did he say?" Doyle asked, more to locate Bodie in the darkness than out of any real curiosity.

"Not much. He's waiting to see what we find, I think."

"You think?" Doyle snorted in disbelief.

"Wait till the rain stops and you can discuss it with him as long as you want," Bodie mumbled darkly.

"Don't reckon it will stop anytime soon."

"Shouldn't you be up here protecting me?" Sims stumbled into the darkness after the agents and stepped on something that scraped harshly on the muddied cement floor.

Doyle yelped as Sims fell into the mud followed shortly by something wooden and also metallic.

"Bloody hell!" Doyle swore, drawing in a shocked breath.

"Sorry," Sims cried out.

"What's going on?" Bodie demanded.

"I tripped over something - a rake, I think," Sims whined, his voice quivering.

"And it whacked into my hand and thigh...a rake? What...?"

"Only thing available," explained Bodie, adding suspiciously, "Which thigh?" "Guess," Doyle bit out miserably.

"Is it bad?"

"No, no. My hand caught most of it, but it'll be all right. Let's get out of here."

They went out of the cellar and back upstairs into the kitchen; Sims slouched miserably in his chair as he sat down in one corner, as far away from Bodie as he could get.

"How's the hand?" Bodie sat down at the table with a cup of tea that had been standing on the counter since morning.

Doyle leaned against the bench, studying his knuckles, and after a short inspection flexed his hand carefully.

"S'all right. Only bruised. I can use a gun."

"Good," Bodie replied absently, stirring sugar into his tea.

"Oi! Leave some sugar for us. Cowley won't be happy if you gain weight so soon after those tests!" Doyle teased and Bodie grinned.

"Why not? I'd get peace for half a year. No needles or poking."

"You didn't seem to mind the poking in Africa," Doyle snorted, and Bodie brightened considerably.

"Ah, but there, I was the one doing the poking."

"The new doctor. She seems worth a try..." Doyle started thoughtfully.

"Doyle, there's no point trying," Bodie smirked and added smugly. "You try. I succeed."

"That's not what she told me while you were dressing."

"You're pitiful, the pair of you," Sims scowled. "I'm going to have a wash and get some rest."

Bodie looked after the departing man with a deep frown.

"Idiot."

"Forget about him," Doyle said, mindlessly shredding a bit of paper he'd found in his pocket. Bodie got up and leaned against the bench next to him, arms folded across his chest. Doyle moved away languidly.

"We should check that passage."

"Right. Where do we get a light bulb from?" Bodie said slowly, still not moving, but Doyle had already given the problem some thought.

"The pantry, nothing there but beans anyway." After a moment, he added, "Speaking of which...want something to eat first?"

Bodie unfolded his arms, instantly alert.

"Not now. I want to finish checking that passage."

Doyle frowned, but didn't comment on his partner's sudden interest in their unfinished work.

"We should take him," he gestured vaguely towards the bedroom, his arm dropping with a thump against his thigh.

"Why? He's useless," Bodie snarled.

"Cowley wants him alive. What if there's an attack?"

"I don't want him down there. He's dangerous." Bodie was strung tight, fiercely resisting any objections to his plans.

"C'mon Bodie. It was an accident." Doyle grinned and flexed his hand. "Nothing serious happened."

Bodie fell silent, his face drawn into a dark scowl.

"And the leg?"

"What?" Doyle was surprised at the question and snapped back, "I told you I'm all right." He looked at Bodie squarely, his temper suddenly cooling. "Why so worried, partner? Don't you trust me?"

Bodie growled something unintelligible.

"Is that it, Bodie?" Doyle pressed. "I know my job, but if you're having doubts..."

"I'm not."

"Then what's eating you?"

"It's been a long time since we were in action. We haven't had a refresher course lately, is all."

Doyle shook his head in disbelief.

"You're sorry that Macklin didn't get to work us over? Don't be. I'm ready."

"Right," Bodie straightened quickly, ending the argument. "You watch him and I'll check the passage."

Doyle ignored him.

"Wait, I'll call the Cow first."

Bodie leaned back again, looking towards the window and the heavy rain whipping against it.

"If you manage to get a signal, tell him the weather's getting worse. If it keeps up, there'll be floods for sure. Nobody gets in or out."

Doyle grinned.

"That's not so bad. Best holiday I've had for the last ten years, really."

Bodie grinned, relaxing as well.

"That's because you've got my dazzling company. Call the Old Man, I'll change the light bulb."

The moment he disappeared back down to the cellar and Doyle was alone again, Sims appeared.

"That was a really short shower and rest," Doyle commented sarcastically, toying with his R/T.

"I got bored," Sims replied, too quickly.

"I'm not the funny one, mate. Bodie just left," Doyle poked.

Sims thought about that as he sat down at the table, picking up a pen and drawing random patterns on the surface, looking at the blank wall opposite.

"That's CI5 property you're damaging," Doyle pointed out off-handedly. Sims jerked and clicked the pen off.

"Have you spoken to him?"

Doyle ignored the question, pretending he couldn't hear through the static.

"You know, about his health...he looks pale."

"That's his natural colour. Besides, it's none of your business."

Sims took up the pen again, clicking it on and off slowly. It sounded very loud in the quiet kitchen, even with the sounds drifting up from the cellar. He clicked it again - then glanced at Doyle and clicked it off.

"Are you going to write with that, or not?"

"You should talk about it. With him."

"We're under the care of the best doctors. If Bodie had a problem, they'd know."

"Doctors make mistakes. You seem to be friends...I just thought you'd want to know."

"There's not a problem." Doyle turned on a heel, striding out of the room and leaving Sims behind.

He went over to the cellar stairs and shouted down, "How's it going, Bodie?"

"Wait a mo'," was the answering yell, and Doyle yelled back, "All right. I'll try calling HQ."

Doyle nimbly ran upstairs to the ladder leading into the attic. It didn't look particularly safe, but he climbed it up in no time. The attic smelled of birds and wet dust. He found the pile of bird shit, the best spot for transmission; but the R/T only spluttered uselessly. Listening to the pelting rain, Doyle realised his attempts were futile and returned to the cellar just as Bodie appeared out of the passage, mud on his hands and smudges on his face and jacket. "The entrance is okay, but about twenty feet further on the ceiling's collapsed. It's full of mud."

"Any chance of digging a way through?" Bodie shook his head.

"Not a snowball's. The soil's soaking and it could get worse. It could collapse completely."

They listened to the incessantly drumming rain, loud even in the cellar. "So what's your plan?"

"We have to try and get in touch with Cowley."

"I just did but there's no signal. I think the rain's getting heavier. We need to get higher, up the hill."

"I'll go." Bodie looked at his partner resignedly.

"You already did all that digging," Doyle objected.

"Look, if it doesn't work, I can climb a tree in the wood. They're tall and not too dense."

"It's dangerous. It would be windy as hell up there - and the wood didn't seem very healthy."

"I've done it before," Bodie insisted again. Doyle rolled his eyes.

"Or we can send him," Bodie joked, pointing at Sims, who had just joined them.

"Yeah. How do you feel about having a real shower, Seamus?"

"No. I might get struck by lightning, and you need me alive," Sims replied sourly, and Doyle laughed.

"Pity about that, isn't it, Bodie? He'd make a great squirrel." Bodie grunted.

"I'd better get going. How overdue are we?"

"Twenty-one minutes." Bodie winced, and Doyle nodded solemnly.

"Yeah."

As they went back upstairs and headed for the front door, Doyle remembered, "I saw some some raincoats hanging in the foyer."

"Nah. They're too bulky for climbing in."

Bodie stood on the doorstep, looking out at the terrible weather awaiting him.

"Great." He shoved an RT into his inside pocket and zipped up his jacket, then with a curse dived out into the rain.

"I hope he doesn't mess up..."

"Shut up, Sims!"

CHAPTER 5

It didn't appear likely that the rain would stop; if anything else, to Bodie it seemed the downpour had got even worse. Cold air stabbed his lungs and burned his throat all the way down, making it difficult to breathe properly.

"Bloody hell! All I need is pneumonia," he cursed to himself, trying to catch his breath. The hill wasn't very steep, but it was damn slippery with all the rain, and the climb was harder than he had expected.

Once he'd reached the top and was able to see more, their situation started to look even more bleak. In the distance he could see houses, small indistinguishable spots on a green-grey background. The road they'd driven down was now a muddy stream; the river had burst its banks, and the countryside was hidden under a veil of glassy rain. He shook his head and took out his R/T to call HQ.

"3.7 to Alpha."

He waited a moment and repeated the call, but his attempts were futile; not even a distorted signal came back. He turned around and slitted his eyes against the whipping rain as he looked for a better, higher position.

"Doyle," he changed the frequency and tried again.

"I'm here," came the immediate reply. "Any luck?"

"Not yet. I'll have to climb one of these trees."

"Don't climb too high, you're not exactly a featherweight." Bodie stared at the RT indignantly, water streaming down his face.

"Very funny." Doyle snorted and broke contact, and Bodie grumbled, "As if I was doing this for myself," while trying to stick the device back into the safety of his pocket with cold, numb hands. His boots, not intended for hiking or tree-climbing, were ruined, and Bodie looked down at them mournfully, knowing they were beyond saving. After slipping and falling several times his clothes were dirty, maybe even torn, and he smelled of water and mud.

"Luck of the Irish," he muttered.

He glanced at his watch. Forty-three minutes late. They still had some time before Cowley would assume the worst. Bodie knew the controller never wasted resources and, if he sent help only to discover their RT wasn't working because of the rain, he'd have their heads on a platter and their penance would be more than a mere refresher course with Macklin.

A gust of cold wind found its way into his wet clothes, biting into his skin and he cursed again as he began looking for the sturdiest tree on the hilltop. His stiffened muscles were aching mercilessly, fighting the strain that was setting in.

In Bodie's opinion high temperatures were one of very few pluses the jungle had compared to Britain; he'd rather sweat buckets than freeze, any day. He set his jaw, bearing in mind he'd have to force more out of his muscles if he wanted to send out a signal in an acceptable time span and finally spotted a tree that would serve his purpose; it was sleek with no low branches, but very tall. He tried to embrace the trunk, but his limbs were too stiff from the cold. He rubbed his arms vigorously to get the blood moving and then tried again. For a moment he rested, holding the trunk numbly, waiting until his breathing calmed and his arms stopped shaking before he tried to climb higher. Despite the age of the tree the branches were quite sturdy and he climbed higher than he had originally meant to, wedging himself on one of the highest branches. There were more above him, but the wind was shaking the tree too wildly and with his added weight the top could easily break.

Carefully, one arm firmly embracing the trunk, he tried to retrieve the R/T from his pocket as he glanced down with dread; even if the device survived him dropping it, Bodie wasn't sure he'd have the strength to attempt the climb again. Out of habit he swept his gaze over the woods, stiffening when a sudden movement caught his eye. He sharpened his gaze, wiping his eyes clear of rain; the trees around him whined in strong gusts of wind that shook them as if they were mere twigs.

"What the hell...?" he cursed. The constant motion of the surrounding trees confused his peripheral vision; it was difficult to decide if he'd seen natural movement - or something else. Suddenly he saw it; a shadow moved and quickly blended again with the background, and it seemed another one followed it.

In the direction of the house.

"Doyle!" he shouted into the R/T.

"You took your time, mate," Doyle grumbled back.

"There are men heading your way. I saw two, I think there are much more. You've got about two minutes."

"Damn, I see them. We..."

Bodie was about to reply when the R/T suddenly went dead.

"Doyle?" he shook the R/T, turned it off and then on again. "Doyle!" But the device remained mute. Awkwardly he switched to another frequency.

"Bodie to Alpha. 3.7 to Alpha."

When no sound came from the device, he gave up and looked back toward the house; it was too far for a shot to be effective - but the very moment he thought about it, a shot sounded faintly in the howling wind. Bodie squinted but couldn't see anything, and at this distance he wasn't even sure if it was Doyle's gun he'd heard.

He shoved the useless R/T deep into his pocket, took a deep breath and let go of the tree trunk, half-sliding, half-swinging down through the branches. He collected a few bruises, but it was the quickest way down apart from jumping, and as soon as he hit the ground he started running. Then sliding.

The descent seemed more complicated than the climb up; even his military training and jungle experience didn't help much when he tried to control his headlong rush down the slope. He fell more than once, hands sinking deep into the mud and feet looking for a solid foothold; distractedly he noticed that the rain was so strong, streams of muddy water had carved channels in the hillside. Once he reached level ground, he moved through the woods in the direction of the house, trying to come up with a plan. Running across the front lawn was unthinkable; even in this weather it was impossible that he wouldn't be seen. Coming from the side, hidden under cover of the woods, he at least had some chance.

Two shots sounded close together; the first was Doyle's, he was sure, and when it wasn't answered Bodie lengthened his stride. He was running past a fallen tree when he heard an audible crack nearby and a second later a knife sang past his ear and thudded into a tree. Bodie froze, glancing in the direction it came from; about ten feet away a man stood with eyes shining in a face streaked with paint and mud. A small movement warned Bodie the other man was reaching for something and he lunged forward, slamming into him heavily but his attacker recovered quickly and dug his knee into Bodie's midriff. He gasped in agony, fighting for breath, but slammed a fist into the other man's ribs, leaving both of them gasping for air. Bodie recovered a heartbeat sooner and his hands shot out to brutally snap the other man's neck.

No sooner had the man hit the ground than Bodie was moving. There were likely more men around, hidden in the forest waiting for orders, but that didn't matter - because if Bodie didn't get to Doyle and Sims in time, they'd all be dead anyway. From what he'd seen they were outnumbered and despite this minor victory he realised their defeat was only a question of time. They had to rely on the fact that someone on duty would notice their checkin was late; and with all teams out and a drug war brewing in London...well, an hour late wasn't that late after all, was it?

CHAPTER 6

"Bodie!" Doyle yelled into the mute R/T and slammed it down on the table. He looked to where Sims was and shouted, "Get away from the window!" Sims jerked and stepped into the middle of the room hastily as Doyle moved to the window, still barking orders.

"Bring all the weapons from the bedroom." Carefully, he took a peek from the window. The situation seemed unchanged, it was raining cats and dogs and there seemed to be no apparent danger. Slowly, Doyle took out his gun and checked the room behind him. Sims was rooted to the spot, staring at him with wide eyes.

"Move it!" Doyle barked. "And keep your head down."

Sims finally came to himself, moving woodenly along the walls. He returned in a few moments, handing the weapons over with shaking hands.

"Load them!"

"I don't know how!" Sims replied, verging on hysteria.

Doyle snarled, "Learn quickly or we're dead."

That spurred the other man into action. He jumped to the counter and took two boxes of ammunition. When he crouched down to open them, they fell out of his shaking hands and spilled all over the floor. Deafening silence settled as the last bullets stopped rolling.

Doyle turned away from the window and when he saw Sims crawling on all fours, he grinned, "Hiding it under the floor for when things get worse?"

Then he turned back and smashed a windowpane with the butt of his gun. After a glance, he sent a flurry of shots into the darkness, and heard a hastily barked order before the window was pelted with shots, splintering the window frame. Suddenly the light bulb shattered and the room fell into grey twilight.

"I can't see!" Sims shrieked in panic.

"Shut up!" Doyle yelled. "Neither can they," he added, trying to identify anything outside to shoot.

"They're good," he mumbled to himself absent-mindedly, and Sims heard him. "Better than you?" he inquired fearfully, bullets dropping from his hands.

"We'll find out soon," Doyle replied thoughtfully, calculating. "Bodie'll take some of them out."

"If he didn't run for the woods." Doyle turned away from the window.

"Any more of that rubbish and they can have you without me wasting more bullets."

"He isn't here, though, is he?" Sims said, looking away from Doyle's stare.

Doyle looked into the woods surrounding them.

"He's out there."

Sims snorted and dropped more bullets.

"You won't get them loaded like this! Move it! There are a lot of them."

"You sure?"

Doyle emptied his clip.

"Quite sure. Give me another one!" Blindly he reached out and felt a gun being pushed into his open palm. Automatically, he checked the clip and readied himself for another round. Sims turned to the only door to the room.

"What if they come from behind?"

"No windows there. Unless they've got explosives, we don't have to worry."

"If they do?"

"They don't," Doyle denied angrily.

"Why?"

"We're still here. Prepare another gun, the one with the very long barrel."

"Not a machine gun?" At the question Doyle rolled his eyes and gripped his gun tighter. He explained in a tight voice, "We'll need the power when we've drawn them closer."

"Are you mad?" Sims cried out. "Keep them back!" Doyle didn't answer, continuing to keenly observe outside. When Sims didn't get an answer, he complained loudly. "You said it'd be easy to protect us here!"

"Too many of them. And they're good. We have to break through." Sims crumbled into a shaking heap by the wall.

"How?" he whined.

"We've got a car, remember?"

"Right! We head back to London!" Sims shouted, but Doyle ignored him and continued calmly, "No chance. Remember the river we drove past? The bridge is the only way out, and I bet it's under water by now. We have to go for the woods. We stand a better chance there."

In a moment Sims was standing at Doyle's shoulder, pointing at the dark line of the woods.

"Get the car up that hill? You wish."

"You'd better hope we can," Doyle replied grimly.

For a moment Sims fell silent; when he spoke up again, it was in a hushed, determined voice.

"What about that partner of yours?"

At the question Doyle looked up.

"He'll be there."

"How do you know?"

"I know," Doyle replied firmly, cutting him off. Sims, silenced, looked away. After a moment he murmured, "I don't remember any escape plans getting made." Doyle sighed and hissed, "Bodie knows the way I think. Now take the weapons into the garage then unlock the gates and get the car started."

Sims glanced at him as he was picking up the weapons.

"Open the gates? I thought the point was to be locked in."

"The car's not tough enough to break through. We've got to risk it."

"Oh. Well that's good because I was beginning to worry," Sims tossed over his shoulder as he was leaving. When he'd finally left, Doyle breathed out loudly. They were running on borrowed time.

"I'm ready!" he heard Sims' indistinct voice.

"Now!" Doyle sprang away from the window, sending out a few warning shots that were quickly answered. Almost jumping straight down the stairs, he burst into the garage and dived into the car. Sims was sitting in the back, head down, not even peeking.

"Get behind the wheel," Doyle ordered.

"What?" Sims glanced at the agent.

"Either take the wheel or the gun!"

Sims looked at the gun in Doyle's hand and quickly pushed into the driver's seat. Doyle rolled down the window.

"Pedal to the floor and keep your head down. Go!"

The engine roared, and tyres squealed as they sought purchase, and then the car leaped forward and burst through the gates; the right side tore free of the hinges, sending splinters into the car that scratched their hands and faces. Doyle noticed shadows jumping out of the way and fired; he had no way of knowing if he'd scored, but he was sure he got a few of them. A bullet swished past his ear and drilled into the upholstery and Sims screamed. They were almost at the wood; the car swerved wildly, sliding on the grass, engine screaming at full revs.

Doyle noticed men falling to the ground - and then saw a dark figure rising on the left.

"There's Bodie!" Doyle shouted, firing at the men that turned to attack his partner - and at that moment the car gave out, all the tyres flat and a stench of oil filling the air.

"Get into the woods!" Bodie shouted, firing at anything that moved, and with a few long strides they reached the trees.

"Careful. There might be more of them," Bodie slowed into a quick trot.

"You seen any?" Doyle looked around wildly.

"A few. They're good."

"I noticed."

"Did you call Cowley?"

"No. R/T's gone."

"How late are we now?"

"Ninety-three minutes."

"Late enough to send backup."

"Maybe," Bodie said doubtfully.

Doyle looked at him sharply. "How many do you reckon there are?"

"Ten, maybe more. Colourful bunch they are. One was throwing knives at me."

"Friendly." Doyle looked at Sims who was lagging behind, his breathing harsh.

"Sims is finished. We'd better go to ground!"

"He'll keel over soon," Bodie remarked cynically, starting as Doyle snapped a shot past him, and a choked scream hinted at another dying man.

"They're everywhere." They grabbed Sims by the elbows and dragged him mercilessly between them.

"The wood's small. We've nowhere to run," Bodie remarked grimly.

"Any ideas?"

"Sorry."

"What do you say? Risk it?" Bodie looked back. There was nobody to be seen.

"Risk it."

"Can you climb?" Sims was surprised at the sudden question.

"No...not...much," he tried to push out the few words.

Doyle looked around and pointed at a fallen tree.

"Hide behind that."

"Alone?"

"We'll cover you from above, the branches are low."

"You can't leave me here."

"We said it was risky."

"Nobody asked me!"

"Were we supposed to?" Bodie asked, his voice hard. "Get down there. And take this."

He pushed him a gun into numb hands. "The safety's off."

Sims looked at him wide-eyed.

"I can't shoot. I'm a driver."

"You'll manage. Now go," Bodie remarked, eyes darting around them. They waited until he was hidden; the twilight had changed into darkness within the wood, and Sims blended in perfectly.

"Good. You first," Doyle motioned to Bodie, who climbed up swiftly.

"Okay," came the soft call, and Doyle climbed up too. The howling of the wind wasn't as strong here, in the heart of the wood, but the upper branches swayed under the force of the whipping wind.

It was getting darker and colder. The woods were cracking and howling; noises were coming from all directions, making it difficult to tell which were natural and which man-made Doyle looked for Bodie and needed a moment to spot his partner in the branches; the only sign somebody was hidden up the tree was a slightly thicker trunk, and he pushed himself close against the tree, imitating Bodie. Cold rain was finding its way through the leaves and soon his arms were drenched and frozen and he felt the wetness seeping into his bones. He had to clench his teeth together to stop them chattering.

A twig snapped nearby, and Doyle grinned. Not all of their pursuers were skilled then... he could see three men coming their way, weapons at the ready as they looked around alertly. Two of them were small in build, though that didn't mean anything; the third was bigger, but not sturdy. They were nearing his tree, moving close together and not looking up, and Doyle imagined he could hear their breathing. One of the smaller men made a quick gesture, ordering one of his fellows to check the fallen tree; but none of them got a chance as Doyle threw himself on them and they fell to the ground in a heap. Bodie was there as well, his gunbutt knocking out one of the smaller men as Doyle put out the other with two blows to his face, feeling something snap. He had probably broken the man's jaw or teeth, enough to make sure he wouldn't be following them the minute he came round. He turned to Bodie as he struggled with the larger man; watching their fight for a second Doyle wasn't sure who was beating whom. Both men were clutching each other and muted sounds of hard blows interrupted the silence- but finally the big man fell unconscious. Bodie got up and nudged the body with his foot.

"You're getting soft, mate," Doyle teased.

"Sod off, I had the big one."

"I've seen you beat bigger."

Sims crawled out of his hiding place.

"That was fantastic. I had no idea you were that good."

Bodie smirked at Doyle.

"See? It was quick and silent."

"Much more silent than quick," Doyle muttered. "What now?"

"I was listening. There didn't seem to be anyone coming from the north."

Doyle nodded, knowing Bodie was probably relying on his jungle experience; his own hearing was more attuned to the noises of the city.

"What about the other sides?"

"I think I caught something from the west, but the bloody river's roaring too much to be sure." Bodie frowned darkly.

Doyle suddenly realised that he could hear the river as well. They must have gone further than he had originally thought. If they were surrounded, as Bodie seemed to think, there was nowhere else to run but the river. Doyle glanced at Sims' untrained figure. In the swollen torrent, even with his two guardians, he'd probably drown.

"How long?"

"An hour twenty-seven. Cowley must have dispatched a team by now."

A shot thundered out nearby, and they looked at each other in concern. Bodie shook his head.

"We won't make it with him. We took three of them down, but if any more of them come at once we're dead."

"There's only the river down there," Doyle objected, and Sims piped up at last.

"I'm with him. If you ask me, I'll take the river rather than a bullet."

Doyle capitulated when he saw Sims' expression. He looked at Bodie and nodded.

"How much ammo do we have?"

Bodie checked.

"I've got three here. And two other clips. You?"

"Six bullets in and other fifteen to fill in."

"Better than I thought. You ready?" He turned to Sims.

"Give me a moment," the little man muttered through clenched teeth.

"No time. Let's go." Doyle grabbed his sleeve and pushed him along between them.

"Run."

"I can't," he baulked.

"Then just move!" Bodie urged.

They were wet and shivering; Sims teeth were chattering. From time to time one of them stumbled. The wood was dark and they often tripped over fallen branches or tangled roots.

The rumbling of water was getting much louder, drowning out all other sounds.

CHAPTER 7

"Mr Cowley? Doctor Watkins speaking. I'm sending you the results from the last round of examinations."

Cowley straightened in his chair, putting down his pen for a moment. He put down his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

"Thank you, doctor. Anything I should know about?"

"Agent 2.6 has put on weight, I recommend he be sent on a training course. Agent 4.5 had very good results, his injuries healed well and his physio was very successful. 3.7's blood test shows minor iron deficiency, amongst other things..."

Cowley put his glasses back on and grabbed the pen again.

"Is it anything to be concerned with?"

"No, sir. A slight change in diet should solve the problem -3.7 probably isn't even aware of it."

"So in other words, my agents are healthy," Cowley leaned back and took a sip of Scotch.

"Put simply, yes. I'll send you a detailed report on all agents as soon as I can."

"Thank you," Cowley nodded and hung up. He reached for another pile of files needing his attention, agent evaluations from the resident psychologist, and was about to open the first file when there was a knock on the door.

"Yes?"

"Good morning, George. I hope you've had some time to look at the files I sent you." Cowley gestured to the large woman in the doorway to come in.

"Afraid not," he waved at his desk, littered with files. "A lot of work. But I can rely on you to tell me," he added with a slight smile.

"I see nothing's changed. You always have to try your boyish charm."

Cowley got up to fetch the bottle from his cabinet and poured them a drink. With a grimace he sat down again.

"Aren't we a tad too old for 'boyish' charms?"

"Speak for yourself. I could never resist a boyish smile," the psychologist laughed loudly.

"Why don't they try it more often, then?"

"Your boys don't have a clue. They know nothing about women," the psychologist said, making Cowley smirk before he grew serious again and asked, "Anything changed since the last tests?"

She looked straight at him, swishing the Scotch around the glass thoughtfully.

"I still don't agree with you employing Thomas McKay." He laughed dryly. "As usual. Yes, I know."

"And as usual you disregard my professional opinion. The man's dangerous." She looked at him over the rim of the glass. "You're lucky I'm not overly touchy about being taken seriously."

"You're right. Tommy is dangerous, but for the other side."

"And for us," she reminded him.

"He'd never turn against CI5," Cowley argued firmly.

"Which is the only reason I allow him to stay." She quickly cut him off and poured herself another drink.

Cowley leaned forward, offering her his glass for a refill.

"Which is not why we're here."

"No," she looked at him thoughtfully, "I've noticed one of your boys has been tense lately. And not sleeping that well."

Cowley steepled his hands.

"We're in the middle of the worst situation we've had for two months. I'm surprised it's only one of them."

"He's not a habitually nervous person," the psychologist objected immediately. "It's Bodie."

"Bodie?" Cowley looked at her expectantly, waiting for more details.

"His results are equivalent to the stress levels typical for undercover ops."

"I haven't noticed anything," Cowley said doubtfully.

"His results show it clearly, but he's covering it well. Doyle's unaffected. His results are excellent." She waited for the Controller to get her point.

"So, it's personal?"

The psychologist sat back and crossed her legs.

"I'm not a magician. I can't read his mind," she stated carefully.

"But you have a suspicion, or you wouldn't be here. Try an educated guess, then. Is it personal?"

"Possibly," she replied in the same careful manner.

"That's not an answer. Is it serious?"

"Not yet. But the cracks will show soon."

"Could Doyle be the cause?"

She looked at him intently.

"Why do you think that?"

Cowley thought for a moment and shrugged.

"They're partners...rivalry is their modus operandi. That creates tension."

"Tension is all right, if they can handle it. If they start cracking, it's bad." "Is it possible that Bodie feels pressured by Doyle?"

"Unlikely. Nevertheless, are there big differences in their latest training tests?"

"I've got them here, wait a moment." Cowley searched in his papers for a moment and finally pulled out two large files. He leafed through them, checking a few numbers. "Results are within their standard limits. Bodie's slipped a little, but it's barely significant."

"Any areas where Doyle obviously surpasses him?"

"No. They're different, but capable. If they weren't, there'd be no place for them in this organisation," he said with finality.

The psychologist stared at the Controller for a moment, and then nodded slowly. "Another source then. Sexual frustration?"

"3.7?" Cowley's eyebrow went up. "Not likely."

"A painful break-up?" He looked up with a frown.

"You may be surprised, but Bodie's getting to the age when he may need some stability in his life," she admonished him.

"Men like Bodie, soldiers, don't want relationships."

"Maybe you're not qualified to decide that," she argued.

"There are currently 27 men in this organisation. Only three of them are married and four in relationships that have lasted longer than two years. In our line of work, relationships become liabilities."

"It's that cynical approach that makes it difficult to build any," she reproached sternly.

"It's safer that way. I'm not one to stop them, and if any one of my men decides that he wants to marry and his intended passes all screening procedures, I'd gladly give permission and even attend the wedding. But they know that every day they go out on a job, they may not return. Or they return to an empty flat. Or their sons are hostages. It's a risky business. Most won't live past forty, despite excellent training and the best equipment."

"It's a hard world, isn't it?" she said cynically. Cowley ignored her and said pointedly, "It would be much worse without men like these."

"That still doesn't solve our problem," she brought their talk back on track. Cowley returned to looking at the files.

"What do you recommend?"

"I think I'll try more observation. Maybe it's only a small crisis and will resolve itself without intervention. Bodie doesn't like people poking into his life."

"If it becomes necessary, he'll have to deal with it. He's my man, in my organisation, under my rules," Cowley said sternly.

A sudden knock on the door interrupted them.

"Aye?"

Anson entered, carefully balancing a stack of papers, covered with numbers, and maps. He ignored the psychologist, laying his burden on the edge of the table and reporting, "We've tried to contact the local authorities, but it's useless. Roads are flooded, lines are down. The local fire brigade and the police are on it, but I don't think they'll be able to cope."

"Aye. I was afraid of that. How long since the last check in?"

Anson consulted his watch.

"Two hours and 37 minutes."

"That's too long even for them," Cowley said pensively.

Anson took out his cigar, puffing out gusts of smoke.

"Yes. Even for them." His brisk reply tore into the Controller's thoughts and he glanced at him angrily.

"Get me Craine, Tommy and three others. I'll brief them in ten minutes."

"Nearly everyone's assigned to the Callaghan op. Tommy and Jack are on the McIntyre case."

Cowley looked at him gravely.

"We need to save the living. Call Tommy and Jack off." Anson left hurriedly.

"You care about them," the psychologist said, organising her papers as she stood up to leave.

"I care about all my men. McIntyre is probably dead. He'll get an official wreath, of course."

"Of course," she said darkly and left.

Betty knocked at the door frame.

"Jack Craine is calling you from the training centre," she informed Cowley, pointing at his telephone, and he snatched it off the cradle.

"Jack? Yes. I need you to take care of something. I'll send four agents with you. Yes, very easy. Anson'll give you all the details. It's important. Bodie and Doyle are handling it. Yes, despite his injury. No. No news of McIntyre. I don't think so." When Cowley hung up, he rubbed his leg vigorously, continuing his work with his usual composure.

CHAPTER 8

Bodie took another few steps, moving forward carefully as he checked for traps or other surprises. Doyle looked back to check if their pursuers were in sight. Then he crouched beside Bodie who was studying something on the ground and whispered, "See anything?"

"No," Bodie murmured and got up.

"I still don't think they'd laid anything. Wasn't enough time," Doyle insisted. Bodie snorted sourly and moved ahead.

"If you're wrong, you'll be the first to know."

"We have to move faster," Doyle said urgently.

Bodie glanced over his shoulder at his partner, then at Sims and frowned. Despite their slow pace, Sims was struggling to keep up; even now, he was using the time to catch his breath.

"There's nowhere to run," Bodie hissed to Doyle, making sure Sims didn't hear. "They're all around, herding us towards the river."

Doyle jerked his head forward.

"There too?" Bodie nodded mutely.

"We need time." To confirm their grim conversation a bullet whizzed around them and peeled off some bark from the nearest tree. Both agents dived for cover behind nearby trees, peering into the darkness to assess their situation, and Sims threw himself on the ground into days-old mud.

They sent out simultaneous shots in any direction where anything moved.

"They're everywhere!" Doyle shouted.

"Apart from the river," Bodie remarked cynically. "This is my last bullet."

"I've got four. With five we could manage to get to the river," Doyle said as he loaded his last shots.

"And jump?" Bodie asked cynically.

"It's a chance. Are you with me?" he glanced at Bodie, looking for confirmation. "We won't break through!"

Doyle ignored the negative response and blinked away the rain from his eyes, checking the position of their followers.

"Are you with me?" he asked again.

Bodie gazed into the woods, now swarming with men, then looked at his gun. After a second his eyes settled on Doyle.

"On three. I'll take Sims, you cover our backs." With that he jumped away from the tree, yanked Sims up and began dragging him forward; but after a few steps the man fell down and cried out. A few shots whizzed around their ears, drilling into the trees surrounding them.

Bodie grabbed Sims again and supported him as they ran towards the source of the constant roaring noise that grew louder with every. The only barrier between them and the river was wild growth at the end of the wood. They ran into it at full speed and rammed their way through it blindly. Through the noise they were making they couldn't even hear their pursuers but they heard clearly the shots that followed them. The darkness was fading as they neared the last line of trees. The river was about twenty yards downhill, the dark waters carrying trunks of trees and litter. Although it looked fairly tame, it was only an illusion.

They ran out of the trees into open air. The river was tantalisingly near now, but the men behind them were right on their heels, using the path they'd beaten to get through the wild growth. Bodie and Sims were almost halfway to the river when Sims suddenly cried out and fell down, pulling the unprepared Bodie with him. At once Doyle, covering their backs, grabbed Sims to pull him upright, almost tearing his sleeve. "Get up!" he screamed above the roaring water but as soon as Sims stood, he screamed and fell again. Bodie tried to pull him up too, but to no avail. The ground at their feet danced as wet tufts of grass jumped up and down, torn out by bullets. Both agents jumped in front of Sims in a futile attempt to protect him with their own bodies but the lethal bullets never reached them; instead, the men standing in the meagre cover of the last trees were falling, their bodies jerking wildly. Doyle looked at Bodie in confusion, but his partner's face was just as surprised.

They looked up to see a helicopter flying their way, looming like a large bird against the dirty skies. As it descended, they saw Tommy McKay sitting in the open hatch with a machine gun in his grasp, wearing a happy smile as he showered their attackers with a hail of bullets until they were all on the ground.

Bodie and Doyle collapsed beside the shivering Sims and began laughing madly as the helicopter set down within a few yards, several men jumping out and running toward them. Jack Craine crouched beside them and shouted.

"Are you all right?"

"I think I've got a broken ankle," Sims whined. Craine looked at him with disgust and then turned towards the two other men. "And you?"

Doyle looked at Bodie.

"Yeah. We're all right."

"Cowley's waiting for your report," Craine shouted as he gestured towards the helicopter and they walked towards it as other men fastened Sims to a stretcher.

"I want clean clothes first," Bodie protested, gesturing at his wet, muddied clothes. Craine glanced at them with understanding.

"Shower. Clothes. Then your report."

"We get to go home?" Bodie asked eagerly and Craine snorted.

"Cream puff. Getting soft, are you?"

Doyle laughed and nudged Bodie forcefully, and he swatted his hands away.

"You've got clean clothes at HQ," Craine puffed out as he climbed into the helicopter. "Right, so I have. What was I thinking," Bodie grumbled as he sat down inside the humming machine. Almost immediately after they were settled, Sims and his stretcher were strapped in and the rest of the men climbed aboard. The helicopter rose smoothly. "Nobody's staying?" Doyle wondered. Craine looked back.

"The roads are flooded, there's nowhere to go. Your safe house was like a cozy island."

Doyle looked back at the wood.

"Very cozy."

"You know how time flies when you're enjoying yourself," Bodie quipped.

"After the report Cowley'll probably let you rest. Both of you. You look knackered."

"Maybe the Old Man's getting soft too," Doyle nudged Bodie again. Craine looked at him strangely.

"Obviously, your sense of humour survived. Pity." They both looked at Bodie, but he ignored them.

Sims, settled on his stretcher, turned around and pointed at the two agents.

"I tell you, these men are heroes."

"No, they're just well trained."

"They saved my life!"

"That's their job," Craine said bluntly.

The helicopter headed into the darkness and the men looked back at the battlefield they were leaving. The wood seemed small from this height. It was a forgotten piece of land on the top of nowhere.

CHAPTER 9

Their landing, at a secret military strip outside London, was rougher than they expected and none of the agents relaxed until the machine had finally settled to the ground. Craine herded them into waiting cars.

"We'll drive to HQ now."

Bodie looked at him crossly.

"Hang on a minute! I need to go to the loo." Without waiting for a response he headed for the nearest building, and Craine turned towards Doyle and lifted an eyebrow. "What's gotten up his nose?"

"Rain," Doyle grumbled back, in similarly foul fashion.

"And Cowley soon," Craine said darkly.

Doyle glanced up to meet his stare.

"Why? We followed procedure. It's the Cow who should give a few answers," he growled defiantly.

Sims jerked and glanced at him apprehensively.

"I think I'll go too," he said and untied the straps holding him down. He stood up and attempted to take a step forward, but as he stepped on his injured leg he whimpered loudly. Watching his struggles, Doyle shook his head and growled impatiently. "Can't it wait?"

"No," Sims said between his teeth. Doyle motioned to an agent standing nearby to help the injured man and returned his attention to Craine. "So what's up?"

Craine shrugged.

"It's a gut feeling. He didn't tell me anything, only asked me to lead the team." Doyle hesitated, then turned towards McKay, who was leaning against their car with the machine gun held loosely in his hands. He seemed relaxed, but his finger never left the trigger.

"How about you, Tommy?"

McKay shrugged.

"Beats me, I got pulled off a case and I'm going right back to it."

Bodie returned in time to hear the last few sentences and he whispered to Doyle in a conspiratorial voice.

"It's a big secret. They won't tell us," and patted his shoulder roughly.

"Get off," Doyle pushed him away.

"Why's Sims taking so long?" Craine looked at his watch.

"Hopping around the toilet. The ankle doesn't look like it's broken."

"It'll take him ages. I want these damp things off," Doyle swore.

"Maybe Cowley'll give us a few days off," Bodie started hopefully, but McKay stopped him.

"Don't even think about it. He's up to something. All agents are working, no holidays, sick leave, days off."

"Just this once. Three or four days leave," Bodie complained loudly. When he saw the doubtful faces staring back at him, he amended, "All right. Two will do."

"Not after Doyle's been off so long." Craine dashed his hopes.

"But I was working!" Bodie protested. "And I helped him to recuperate."

Before he could protest further, Sims hopped out of the base with a stream of curses and complaints, an agent trailing behind him. Obviously he'd given up helping and merely walked behind to make sure Sims didn't keel over.

"Jack, I need some stuff from the first safe house. We left in hurry, you know," Doyle pleaded, despite the fact that Craine was consulting his watch and hissing nervously. At the request, he shook his head decisively.

"It is still there, isn't it? The house, I mean," Doyle said suspiciously.

"Still there. With all neighbours alive. As miraculous as it seems," Craine assured him dryly.

"We left quietly," Doyle told him.

"It was them who were making all the noise," Bodie added smartly as Sims finally got into car and Craine got behind the wheel.

"I'll drive. You both look like death warmed up."

Doyle wanted to protest, but Bodie only shrugged and climbed into the car. Doyle frowned, but followed him. As he settled next to his partner, he muttered.

"You could've said something."

Bodie, who was looking out of the window, blinked. He glanced into the rear vision mirror, smirked and said particularly loudly.

"Look on the bright side, mate. Except for the Cow, we're the only ones with a private driver."

Doyle noticed Craine's sour expression and nudged Bodie in the ribs.

"Berk! Wait for the next combat training," he murmured, but then laughed softly.

"It was well worth it," Bodie smirked. Craine's eyes found them again in the rear vision mirror, but except for a frown he didn't show any reaction. After a moment Bodie slumped into the corner, leaning against the window and shivering.

"I hope some of my things are still there."

"There's a blanket under the seat in front of you, if you like," Craine offered, not taking his eyes off the road.

"Nah. Not for me. I'm okay," said Doyle, but was silenced as Bodie said, "You can catch pneumonia, Doyle. I'll take the blanket."

"Pneumonia? You don't even know what it means."

"I know it means trouble," Bodie told him and pulled out a thick blanket from under the seat in front.

"Anyone ever called you simplistic?" Doyle snorted.

"I call things by their real names. It's less confusing."

Soon they were driving down the street they'd used to escape only a few days ago and parked in front of the safe house. It looked the same; the only hint that something had happened were tyre tracks on the road.

"We'll wait here. Hurry up," Craine waved them out of the car.

It was much brighter in London than in the woods and only now could they see how wet and muddy they were. An old woman on the other side of the street was watching them suspiciously, and her alarm grew when they headed for the house opposite hers.

"What's she staring at?" Bodie growled to Doyle.

"We look like two mermen!" Doyle chuckled.

Bodie looked at her and smiled cheekily; she went into her house and closed the door loudly, watching them from behind a curtained window.

"Old witch!" Bodie cursed.

"Disrespectful towards the elderly. That's so unlike you," Doyle remarked as he wrestled a bunch of keys out of his pocket. "Seems like nothing happened there," he added, "the paint's not even nicked. Somebody covered up nicely."

Finally the door opened to reveal the dark corridor.

"I'll get my stuff," Bodie said, disappearing into the bedroom as Doyle walked into the kitchen. Everything was as they had left it, he noticed. The dishes were still in the sink and a can of beans was standing on the counter. He walked over and picked it up, turning it in his hands thoughtfully.

"Bodie, let's get some lunch," he shouted to nowhere in particular.

"Eh?" His partner showed up with a bag in his hands.

"Let's eat. Food."

"The Cow's waiting," Bodie ignored him and went towards the door. "He's probably spitting fire by now. And you can tell him the fridge isn't working. If the rat isn't tattling through the R/T already."

"Didn't like him much, did you?" Doyle asked casually.

"Very observant, Doyle," Bodie smirked.

They went back into the bedroom together, where Doyle began gathering his things. "Your charm didn't work this time, apparently."

"Why would I charm that?" Bodie suddenly tensed and reached for his gun, but relaxed again when Craine said from the door, "Are you getting married and staying here?"

"Living at the expense of Uncle George," Doyle pretended to give it a serious thought. "Babbling like old maids, you are. Move it," he ordered briskly. Suddenly the R/T in his hand beeped.

"Jack, where are you?" Cowley barked angrily. Craine sighed.

"We'll be back at HQ in twenty minutes."

"Twenty?"

"Yes, counting a short shower."

"Shower?"

"You don't want them sneezing all over your papers," Craine grinned.

"Thirty minutes, not a second more. Cowley out."

Bodie looked at him with raised eyebrows.

"You get away with a lot."

"If you'd known Cowley for fifteen years, you would too."

"Reckon he's getting human?"

"Not one bit. Step over the line and he'll roast you."

"See, Doyle? So wash that mop carefully," Bodie cautioned, pointing at Doyle's curly head.

CHAPTER 10

Cowley sat at his desk, hands steepled, gazing at Sims tensely. After a lengthy silence he said gravely, enunciating each word very carefully, "Mr Sims, I am trying to avoid any misunderstanding. You're telling me my agents didn't protect your life?"

Sims shrank in the chair so much that he knocked over his crutches and they fell noisily.

"No! No! Mr Doyle did his job outstandingly. The other one, Bodie, I noticed was... not so dedicated," he said nervously.

"Not dedicated?" Cowley raised his voice slightly.

"He was often...indisposed."

"Sims, I don't have all day. What do you mean?"

"Vomiting. Several times," Sims finally pushed out.

"Did this actively endanger your life?"

"No..."

Cowley leaned back and folded his hands in his lap.

"Then, in my view, he did his job well," he said resolutely and closed the file in front of him.

"I told Doyle about the problem, but he ignored it, just like you," Sims insisted.

"Leave my organisation to me, it's none of your concern. Our task is to keep you alive until the trial. My men will escort you to the visitors' area. You'll stay there until further notice. I hope our medical services were to your satisfaction," Cowley finished a little absent-mindedly as he leafed through a small address book.

"The doctors are a little rough," Sims remarked sourly.

"Yes. Yes. They're accustomed to hard men. They put them back together very efficiently," Cowley finally found what he wanted and shifted his attention back to Sims.

"You only have the best," Sims said flatly.

"In everything," Cowley confirmed, then motioned to the agent hovering in the doorway. "Agent Murphy will escort you."

Sims got up and took up his crutches.

"I hope your ankle is better?" Cowley inquired politely.

"It's badly sprained. I thought it was broken, but your doctor said not."

"I see...Betty," the Controller said into his intercom as the door closed behind the little man, "I want to see Doyle. Then I want Bodie."

He buried himself in his work until Doyle showed up, Bodie waiting outside already. Both faces were unreadable.

"Sit down, 4.5. I want to hear your recollections of what occurred. And be specific," he ordered sharply.

"Sir?"

"Come on, 4.5. Everything."

Doyle sighed, but started from the beginning.

When he finished talking Cowley cocked his head and said mildly, "Nothing else?"

"No, sir," Doyle said firmly.

"Sims mentioned several times that Bodie had been... 'indisposed'."

"Oh that," Doyle seemed startled. "Yeah, he mentioned it."

"But you didn't," Cowley reminded him sharply, and Doyle shrugged.

"I didn't think it was important."

"If one of my men makes mistakes, it's important."

"Didn't notice any mistakes," Doyle objected leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

Cowley waved away the protest and continued calmly.

"This Sims character. How did he get on with Bodie?"

"They didn't like each other," Doyle admitted shortly.

"Aye, but did he have any reason to accuse Bodie of anything? I want the truth. Did he?"

"I don't think so. But I want to point out that..."

"Thank you 4.5, you can go. And send Bodie in."

"But..."

"I want your report on my desk by tonight. Now send him in."

Doyle frowned, but didn't protest and marched out to meet the waiting Bodie. "Bastard," he swore.

"What. The Cow roasted you?" Bodie grinned, but it didn't reach his eyes, and before he could say more, Cowley yelled at him to enter.

"Sit down, 3.7."

"Thank you, sir."

"Now, tell me your recollection of the Sims case."

Bodie's report was almost a straight repeat of Doyle's, and as he finished describing the helicopter rescue, he grinned and commented flippantly, "By the way, the fridge in safe house four isn't working," Is that all?" Cowley asked, irritated.

"The toilet worked well, sir," Bodie ignored the controller's bad mood.

"We have to protect an important witness, and you think it's not important to mention you have physical problems?" Cowley attacked.

"No, sir," Bodie said flatly, without hesitation. Cowley looked at him, surprised, and frowned.

"Explain yourself."

"I was there to protect him and I did that. He's alive. Details don't matter," Bodie replied stubbornly.

"Don't you go all arrogant on me. You took a chance with Sims' life. Doyle's too." "Oh, and nothing else jeopardised their safety?"

"We're talking about you. I paired you with Doyle despite strong objections from several trainers. You're there to cover each others backs..."

"We got out of it," Bodie interrupted the controller.

"Yes, you're good, but Doyle would have gotten out of there paired with anybody. Your being below par endangered him," Cowley said harshly.

"I protected him!"

"That, I believe. He believed it surely too, but did you tell your partner about your problems, 3.7?" Bodie hesitated, and Cowley bore deeper.

"You didn't! He trusted you to cover him and didn't know you might be off somewhere throwing up! I invested a lot of time and money in you. And every other agent here. I'll not tolerate such behaviour, is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," Bodie muttered, but looked away, still frowning.

"As of now you're on sick leave. I've made you an appointment with Dr Hedley, he's expecting you in ten minutes. You won't be returning to active duty unless he approves it."

"It's just a bloody stomach bug," Bodie exploded.

"That 'bug' could have cost us TWO agents worth thousands of pounds and an even costlier witness. There's no rank in CI5 because you should know how to use your head! Maybe that was poor judgment on my part." Cowley got up and rubbed his leg vigorously as he stamped around his desk. "Doctor Hedley's expecting you in five minutes in the Medical Centre. He'll decide how we proceed."

Bodie stood up woodenly and left the controller's office, finding Doyle already gone. Murphy, passing with a handful of files, said, "Hey Bodie! Your better half..."

"Or healthier half at least," put in Anson, walking beside him "...is with Sims. He's got top priority until he goes to court tomorrow."

"Great," Bodie muttered.

"What did you find out about the safe house? Who talked?" Murphy asked curiously but Cowley stuck his head into the corridor and barked, "Bodie! Five minutes. Get moving."

And they all moved.

CHAPTER 11

A very long day was finally nearing its end and, for the first time, Cowley allowed himself to put down his pen and look up. Unlike other times, his gaze didn't go up to a large map hanging on his wall, but to the black phone resting on the edge of his desk. His eyes flickered towards the more important red one, but it seemed like there was no catastrophe looming and for once, he could take care of internal affairs. He picked up the black phone and off the top of his head dialed a number.

"Cowley here. Can you get me Doctor Hedley? Evening, doctor. Can I have a few words with you? No, I'll come around in ten minutes." Satisfied, he hung up and looked at the towering pile of files on his desk. He took the thickest from the top and pushed them into his briefcase until it was bulging. With the important trial on his hands, it was going to be a long night; internal problems were only adding to his already punishing schedule. The weather wasn't improving much either...

It was only a few streets away by car, but when he got into the health centre Cowley felt very tired. Luckily, the doctor met him halfway and they walked together into his office.

"Mr Cowley. Are you sure you don't want to take that bullet out?" Doctor Hedley asked after looking at the controller's drawn face. "The weather must be giving you hell." "The leg is," Cowley replied succinctly.

"Yes, I feel it in my bones too. It isn't getting any better. The weather, I mean. You seem tired. Are you keeping to the health plan I gave you?" he asked sternly. "We're here to discuss one of my men, not me," Cowley told him harshly as they entered the office.

"I notice we never find time to discuss your health," the doctor responded dryly and motioned Cowley to sit. "Very well. We'll talk about the agent, but we'll find some time for you as well."

He didn't wait for a reply, but pulled out a file from a large safe. "All right then, agent 3.7, Bodie. We gave him a complete physical, I've got his results here. By the way, he's very temperamental, that lad of yours. Luckily there's no family history of cardiac problems... judging by his weight loss, he's had this problem for three to four weeks. He's suffering from loss of appetite, dull stomach ache, aching joints, tiredness..."

The doctor put the file down and looked at Cowley.

"What do you think's causing it?" the controller asked impatiently.

The doctor weighed his words before saying carefully, "He's been ill for a while... he might not even remember the original symptoms, now that the complications have set in."

"What's your educated guess?"

"I believe it was what people usually referred to as stomach flu, although I don't agree with this term at all since..."

"Stomach flu?" Cowley interrupted him in disbelief.

"Yes. It's difficult to be sure, though. Such things usually only last a week or so, but if the patient isn't careful, it can take another two or three weeks for the internal organs to get back to normal. 3.7 doesn't seem like a very careful man." "It seems a little too trivial..." Cowley wondered aloud.

"Don't underestimate it - if left untreated, it can be fatal. I think the flu was the original problem, but because he didn't get treatment, his gut couldn't recover. We'll need to rebuild his immune system. He'll have to go on a special diet."

"Any complications to be expected?"

"Not from the flu. From what he told me, today they spent a large part of the day running around in wet clothes. His temperature was slightly elevated, but that doesn't mean anything. He was feeling well enough given the circumstances, so I gave him a shot and sent him home. I want to check on him tomorrow, but I don't think you should worry."

"Thank you. How long until he's fully recovered?"

"We'll see how much damage he's done. Surely more than a week. We'll start with a light diet to make his digestion work again. With his build he should be about ten pounds heavier. Naturally that will take some time."

"I'm sure he won't have any problems with that," Cowley remarked acerbically. "He'll work in Records until then."

"Give him the day off tomorrow, he needs sleep more than anything. Once he reports in, we'll work out the details."

Cowley frowned, but eventually nodded.

"All right. One day."

Hedley clasped his hands together contentedly and smiled.

"Now, we can talk about you."

"I'm sure that can wait a bit longer," Cowley replied evasively and got up.

"It always can, can't it? Do you want something for the pain at least?"

Cowley patted his injured limb thoughtfully.

"No. It'll go once the rain stops. Keep me informed."

And before the doctor could answer, the most powerful man in CI5 limped out and was gone.

CHAPTER 12

Bodie woke up to an insistent and irritating buzzing in his head. He tried to ignore it, hiding his head under the pillow - and to his surprise the buzzing really got weaker. That woke him up properly. When he came to his senses, he realised that the strange buzz wasn't his imagination, but the doorbell of his newly assigned flat. He slowly crawled out of the bed and found a gown. Yawning hugely he looked to see who was disturbing his peace and then opened the door.

"Finally. I thought you were dead!" Doyle growled and pushed past while shaking his head wildly to get water out of it. "Bloody rain. I'll be all curly," he complained. "For a change you mean," Bodie yawned again as he watched his partner leaving wet footprints on the clean carpet. "Wait. I'll get you a towel," he finally said and went into the bathroom, but Doyle followed him.

"What's going on? Cowley's been barking the whole day and you're off the duty roster," Doyle looked at him suspiciously.

"I thought you were at court with Sims." Bodie handed him the towel, looking curiously at the already wildly curling hair.

"Was," came the muffled reply as Doyle tried to make himself presentable.

"Oh. What time is it?" asked Bodie, rubbing the stubble on his chin.

"Three," Doyle looked at him with surprise, but Bodie left him standing there and went into his bedroom.

"Did it go well?" he shouted, and Doyle followed him to the bedroom door.

"Yeah. The judge hasn't pronounced sentence yet, but it's getting there. What are you doing?"

"Getting dressed. The doctor expected me around twelve," Bodie explained briefly Were there any problems?"

"One gunman waiting on the way to the court. I've got a few hours free now, the Cow'll call me later. What did the doctor say?"

"Not much. Just stomach flu. Everyone's all right?"

"Yeah. Got him in time. What d'you mean, not much?" Doyle remained standing in the doorway, watching his partner intently.

"One day gone and you hog the whole show. Just that - not much."

"Cowley doesn't think so. So when are you back? 'cause when you are, we're scheduled for Macklin."

"Great. Well, the Cow's Scottish. Generosity isn't in his blood. A week. Probably." "If he weren't generous, you wouldn't be here," Doyle reminded him, but then asked again, "One week?"

"Probably."

"So what now? I'm alone out there."

"I'm in Records," Bodie growled and hurried past him. "I have to go. I'll see you later." He was already by the front door when Doyle caught up and stopped him.

"Wait! Where did you catch it anyway?"

"Eh?"

"Your flu."

"Maybe Sheila," Bodie shrugged.

"She broke up with you two months ago." Doyle scratched one ear absently as he added, "I heard Tony Miller was sick too."

"Then I probably caught it from Tony," Bodie said, looking at his partner curiously.

"I thought it was transmitted by bodily fluids," Doyle persisted.

"Are you planning on a new career?"

"Good idea. All those nurses around." Bodie rolled his eyes.

"Whatever. I have to go."

"Sure. Go," Doyle muttered, although the other agent was out already. He looked around the flat, but there didn't seem to be new additions to the peculiar mix of military neatness and combined styles. There were a few pieces of memorabilia as well, but when he remembered how much Bodie had travelled, Doyle wondered why there wasn't more. He ran his fingers over a few shelves in the living room. There wasn't a grain of dust, though he had never seen Bodie dusting. His eyes went to the bookcase; there weren't any new books either. Everything in the same order as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Doyle sat down on the sofa and looked around thoughtfully. He picked up a book at his feet and opened it where Bodie had marked it. He began reading, but it wasn't anything interesting and soon he drifted into sleep.

When Bodie arrived at the medical centre, Doctor Hedley was in his office dealing with paperwork. His door was open so Bodie walked in.

"3.7. Please sit down, I'll just finish this," the doctor greeted him without looking up. "We've got a lot to discuss," he added as he signed another paper and then put the pen down. Bodie grunted noncommittally as the doctor picked up his file and began sternly, "You're here because you've got a problem. You don't want to be here and I've got other patients, so listen carefully. I'll do it quickly."

Bodie gaped at him for a second, then smirked slightly and nodded.

"Very well. Did you get some sleep?" the doctor asked in a friendlier tone.

Bodie nodded slightly.

"The strong silent type, eh? All right. You had stomach flu. Your blood tests came back clear and all other tests were negative as well. There's no infection. Your nausea, lack of appetite and stomach cramps were all symptoms. Because you didn't deal with it, there were additional complications. I'll give you a strict diet and you will obey it. You've lost weight and your body is worn by stress. Do what I say and in about a week or two you'll be ready for Macklin. The longer, non-intensive course, naturally."

"Better than Records. The only action I get at the moment is writing reports," Bodie grunted.

"That's good. You may feel well, but we can't risk any further infection. But that probably won't be a problem; Mr Cowley assured me of your full cooperation. I've prepared the instructions," the doctor handed Bodie a sheet of paper covered with small writing. "Read it and let me know if you have any questions." He waited for Bodie's confirmation of his instructions and then carried on, "I've got a question," he opened Bodie's file to make a note. "Have you been in contact with anyone who had the flu?"

Bodie thought for a moment.

"I think one of the new guys, Tony Miller."

"Ah yes. I remember. Came in about a month ago. Young chap, dark hair," the doctor squinted as he fished in his memory.

"That's him."

"Interesting," he mumbled and made a note into the file. "You work with him?"

Bodie frowned. "No. But I visited him once."

"Yes, that's probably when you caught it," the doctor said thoughtfully and looked at him. "All right. That's about it," he closed the file. "Don't forget to work on your diet. Gain at least six pounds."

Bodie looked down at himself sprawled in the chair.

"I'm not exactly skin and bone," he protested.

"No, but you're not built to endure stress with a low body mass. And when you stopped eating, you didn't only lose fat, but also a lot of muscle tissue. Which you need, of course. How do you feel during training?"

"I'm sick after I've been running," Bodie admitted slowly.

"And tire more easily? Thought so. This week, try to make your runs longer, but not so punishing. Spare your body a little to give it time to recuperate. I've seen your history, and your body is highly adaptable, I'm sure it will return to normal sooner than you think."

"But my results..."

Suddenly a nurse broke in.

"Doctor! Phillips!"

The doctor immediately got up and ran to the door after her.

"I'll give you the details later," he shouted over his shoulder.

Bodie sat there a moment longer, looking thoughtfully at his file resting in the middle of the desk. He glanced at the instructions, stuck them into his pocket and left.

When he arrived at HQ, Records was humming with lively activity.

"Hello, Brenda," he called out into the narrow corridor, its many doors leading to storage rooms, hoping for an answer. After a moment, a woman appeared in one of the doorways.

"Ah, Bodie. Mr Cowley's called three times already to ask if you were here." "What did you say?" Bodie grinned.

"That you weren't, of course. The great pile of files in 327 is yours. Mr Cowley assigned it to you specifically," she led him to Room 327 and pointed at the desk.

"What? Why? Anything special hidden in there?" Bodie wondered when he saw the unusually high pile.

"I don't know, he told me to show it to you and then send you up," she said shortly. "He's expecting me then?"

"The whole day," she said grimly, "it must be important, so hurry up."

"Isn't it always? Dismantling a bomb, neutralising a dangerous criminal..."

"Come down to Earth, superman. Pushing around files and pins and drinking gallons of coffee, more like," she smirked at him, picked up a few files dated twenty years back and left.

Bodie frowned sourly and headed for his controller's office, where Cowley was waiting. "Bodie, finally. Doctor Hedley called to say you were on your way. Sit down, I'll explain. We have an unidentified man in hospital and one agent missing, presumed dead.

Betty gathered all the information available, the files are waiting for you in Records. I want you to find a link between them."

Bodie lifted his eyebrows, but only asked, "Who's missing?"

"Ian McIntyre," Cowley said and waited for the reaction.

"He's one of the new lads?"

"On the contrary, 3.7. He's one of the very first. He retired before you joined. He lives in the Netherlands. I understand you've been there," Cowley looked at him searchingly.

"Yes. A long time ago, for a while," Bodie said shortly.

"Maybe that'll help. That's all we know. Get started - and don't show the files to anyone. It's highly secret matter, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir. Is this connected with Sims?" After a brief nod from Cowley Bodie asked, "You think somebody sold us out?" The controller looked at him thoughtfully.

"Any suspicions of that on your side?"

"No. But they found us twice. And not by chance."

"Go on..."

"I've been thinking. If an agent sold us out, the killers wouldn't have taken so long to find us. With Callaghan's resources, he'd have an army in a blink."

"How long do you think?"

"Not more than a few hours. I bet Callaghan's got his own private army anyway. A small one, maybe ten men, but trained and able to cover a large area. There aren't that many good mercs around."

"You wouldn't know the right people to ask by any chance?" Cowley looked at his agent calculatingly.

"Fat chance, sir. I can try a contact or two, but don't expect much."

"No. Krivas cost you your reputation. But try anyway. Maybe the files will give us a lead."

"You suspect it's an inside job?" Bodie asked darkly.

"We've got to consider everything."

Bodie frowned. "Any specific place I should start?"

"No. I want your unprejudiced view. Go through the records and find me a link. There has to be something," Cowley ordered.

"It'll take days," Bodie objected quickly.

"You'd better get started then. Sims is in danger," Cowley advised.

"Who cares about him?" Bodie asked sharply.

"As long as he's Doyle's responsibility, you do."

Bodie was silent for a second, looking at his boss squarely.

"I'll find the link," he said finally.

"Do that. Give me regular reports. This is priority and you're not to discuss it with anyone. From now on, you answer directly to me," Cowley dismissed him with a wave.

Bodie started to leave, then he turned back from the doorway to ask, "Any other news? What about Doyle?"

"He's my best man so he's on the job again as of twenty minutes ago. Sims has to stay alive until the end of this, at least."

"Doyle was injured. He didn't even train..." Bodie trailed off, his face drawing into a dark scowl.

"He doesn't have anyone to protect his back, you mean," Cowley supplied, "Anson is constantly nearby, monitoring everything. Contrary to what you believe, I don't send my agents out to be killed."

Bodie frowned, "I didn't say that."

"Of course you didn't. Now stop wasting time and go."

"Yes, sir. If there's anything..."

"... you'll be informed."

Bodie returned to the records department immediately, only stopping to pour himself a cup of coffee. He shut himself into the windowless room, ensuring complete privacy; there was only one desk with a few pens and sharp pencils, a single chair and a small, uncomfortable sofa. He glanced at the pile of files on the corner of the table, and sighed. The first was dated ten years before CI5 was formed.

Diving into the history of CI5, it soon became clear that Major Cowley had a large network of contacts even back then. It wasn't hard to imagine how large it must have grown after several years of conscientious development and careful grooming; there probably wasn't a sphere of influence where Cowley didn't have any friends - and enemies - reaching from the past to the present. Many of those relationships were very complicated and full of potential traps.

Writing down important names to check, Bodie realised that a surprising number of people involved with the birth of CI5 were still alive, although the standard life expectancy of the average agent wasn't much above thirty years. Many agents didn't survive their first year of duty; they were facing the worst kind of criminals, after all. And more often than not they were the worst equipped, although they had the best the government had to offer. Ninety percent of agents ended with a bullet in them, yet there were a few tagged with a short note: Undercover or MIA. Bodie paid special attention to those who had no note at all. Many of them had tracks that ended on the continent.

He had studied about five files and already had a dozen names to check, each promising to be a possible link. He was about to open another one when suddenly his R/T buzzed. "Alpha to 3.7." Bodie grabbed it.

"3.7 here."

"We got positive identification on the man in hospital. It's Robert Stevenson. He was born in London in 1930. He served for five years in the RAF, but after a bad injury on one mission he had to end his military career. He refused a position in the command structure and resigned. In 1960 he moved to Belgium and in 1968 he took out citizenship. He never married and as far as we know has no children. His income's derived from occasional successful investments, mostly in commodities," Cowley cited. "Not much there for us," Bodie sighed.

"No. I checked his military records and spoke with his commanding officer. He remembered him well, but didn't tell us anything we can move on."

"When can we talk to him?"

"I spoke with Hedley. The prognosis isn't good, Stevenson suffered serious brain damage. He'll never regain consciousness."

"Bugger. This bird won't sing then," Bodie cursed and looked at the files, which were their only hope for success now.

"No. How's it going with the files? Have you got anything?"

"I got through a fifth of them and found twelve names to check out. No real link yet." "Keep at it."

"Yes, sir. Any news on Doyle?"

"His status is unchanged. Up until now, there haven't been any signs of another attempt on Sims' life," Cowley responded evenly.

"Yes, sir."

"Bodie...I hope you aren't prolonging your sick leave by ignoring the doctor's diet." Bodie looked at his cup of cold coffee.

"Following it to the last dot, sir."

"I certainly hope so, 3.7. Alpha out."

Bodie looked at the pile of files and rubbed his tired eyes.

"Sick leave. As if I could leave, sick or not," he mumbled to himself and took a sip of the coffee. The very first sip made his stomach roll and bile rose into his throat, burning everything along the way. It was no use, Bodie decided; he had to get something into his stomach if he were to continue his work. He could get a sandwich on his way to the computer room. He looked at the pile of files and decided that maybe one of the names could be the correct lead and it was worth it to check them out straight away.

When Bodie reached the computer room, sandwich in hand, he still wasn't hungry enough to eat it. He was studying the lettuce when he bumped into a smallish blonde man leaving the room. Bodie recognised him immediately from the bar he frequented. "Peterson?"

The man straightened a little and looked at the agent narrowly.

"The name's Peters, actually. What do you want?"

Bodie looked at him and frowned, "I came to check some data. I need a free computer with access to the database, including closed files."

"Unauthorised personnel aren't allowed to view those files."

"Cowley gave me authorisation," Bodie looked at the lithe man crossly. Hearing that, Peters gave up.

"All right. Do you know to use the files section? The system is quite difficult."

"I'll find my way around," Bodie snorted. "Just give me a computer."

"Every file you view will be recorded," Peters warned him, leading him to the back of the room where a row of computers stood.

"Afraid I might stumble onto something, are you?" Bodie mumbled in a low voice.

At first Peters didn't react, but once they'd passed two agents working at the front of the room, he murmured, "It's not there. And it's not in your file either. I don't advertise it. And I want to keep it that way." Bodie frowned.

"They won't hear it from me."

"Thought not," Peters smiled. Then he added loudly, "Computer Four is free. You'll have enough privacy there. I'll check your authorisation with Alpha."

"Do that. I'll make a quick call," Bodie said throwing a suspicious look over his shoulder as they parted. He went to the phone in the hall outside, fishing a few small coins from his pocket and dialling a number from the top of his head.

"Martell? Bodie," he said in a businesslike voice.

"Nice to hear from you," Martell greeted dryly, not at all surprised to hear the agent.

"I need a favour. Ask around about a Robert Stevenson, I need to know his connections - past, and present. Yes. No. You know where to find me. And Marty, make it fast. It's important. Yes, more than usual."

Bodie cursed and hung up, going back into the computer room where Peters was waiting. "Cowley confirmed your authorisation and said you should let him know the results right away," he informed him in clipped words.

"All right." Bodie growled and sat down at the computer, scowling at the other man. "I can take it from here, thank you."

"These machines are the brains of the whole organisation, be careful," Peters pointed out.

"Nothing but a box full of numbers. A gun, mate, that's what helps out there." "So why don't you send one to Doyle?"

Bodie looked at him sharply and stood up. Peters took a step back, then shrugged and returned to the main computer terminal. Bodie sat down slowly, watching him angrily. Then he started to feed the names into the computer, prepared to follow every trace he could find.

However after about two hours he found many of them were false leads and it looked like he'd have to go through all the files.

Just as he was about to check the last name, Peters approached him cautiously. "You have an outside call, redirected through central. Take it on my phone." Bodie nodded and carefully closed his open files. It took him about a minute, but after his controller's warning he didn't want to take any chances.

He went to Peters' station and picked up the phone, ignoring the man's sideways look as he said, "Yes? Yes, Marty, what have you got? You checked it? Is it confirmed? That's rich. Yes. Yes. I owe you. See you around."

Bodie hurried to gather all the papers on his desk and called over his shoulder at Peters, "Shut the box down for me, will you? I have to see Cowley," and left.

When he got to the controller's office, he was almost out of breath. He knocked and without waiting for a response burst in. Cowley looked at him with disapproval, but motioned towards a chair.

"I take it you found something, 3.7," he said dryly.

"Yes. I put Stevenson's name into circulation and a pigeon just called back."

"A pigeon? Who's that?" Cowley looked at him searchingly.

Bodie halted for a split second, but then admitted reluctantly, "Marty Martell."

"And this Marty Martell is trustworthy, I take it." Cowley said, considering his agent's reaction carefully.

"He's helped me out before."

"I don't doubt it, but we have to be sure. If we strike, it has to be hard, quick and precise."

Bodie merely nodded and continued, "Stevenson's a regular in old merc circles. He worked on the continent. Then he moved into recruiting for drug lords and the like."

"Where's the connection, man?"

"The Netherlands. He's worked there for the last two years. He and McIntyre lived two streets apart. Maybe Stevenson discovered he had a former CI5 agent right under his nose and sold him out to Callaghan. McIntyre knew the location of our older safe houses and how we work." Cowley nodded thoughtfully, "Everyone breaks under torture."

"They had addresses, but didn't know which was the right one, so they checked them all."

"Sounds feasible, but there are too many maybes. We need to check the possibility it came from inside as well," Cowley thought aloud, then looked straight at Bodie. "How would Stevenson have found out that McIntyre was a former agent?"

Bodie shrugged.

"No idea, but Sims'd be probably safer if he was moved to a place off the books." "I'll reassign the party immediately. Callaghan would gladly still finish Sims off," Cowley remarked, still buried in his thoughts. When he noticed Bodie's expression, he lifted his eyebrows. "Not that he's the only one. Good work. Now. What were you planning to do now?"

Bodie blinked surprised, "Oh, nothing definite, sir."

"Good, we'll go to dinner then. Just give me a minute to make a call or two." "Dinner?" Bodie asked suspiciously.

"Yes. I've got a reservation at my club, but didn't get time to cancel. We can go there. Unless you have other plans? In that case, I'll dine by myself, of course," Cowley looked at him, expecting his decision.

"No, sir. It'd be my pleasure," Bodie said.

"Meet me in the car park in ten minutes then."

"Sir," Bodie acknowledged the dismissal and left, heading straight for the car park.

He spotted his car in the corner waiting for repair. It still looked bad.

"Hello, Roy," he shouted into the large garage. His voice echoed hollowly. A lanky old man looked out from one of the cars.

"3.7. They brought me your car. The state you always bring it in...you handle it like a wild horse," the man grumbled.

Bodie snorted at the complaint.

"My driving is the best around."

"So's your ability to damage the clutch in a few days," grinned the mechanic.

"Thanks to me, you've got work to do," Bodie tried again.

"I never complain if there isn't any," the old man replied.

Bodie smirked and took the keys he was handed.

"Yes, but as Cowley would say, you aren't paid for doing nothing."

"Bodie! Stop quoting me and move it." Cowley entered the garage, limping heavily, and Bodie jerked.

"Ready, sir."

When they'd climbed into the car, Cowley ordered, "To my club. And not the way you usually drive. Five minutes or fifteen aren't important anymore. I called to say we're running late."

"Generous of you," Bodie muttered. Cowley looked at him, then opened his briefcase, took a file from it and started reading. When the engine occasionally grew louder, the controller lifted his eyes and frowned, immediately forcing the agent to slow down.

Bodie looked at his boss from time to time, but returned his attention quickly to the road.

When they arrived at the club, he shot out of the car, followed by Cowley; the doorman eyed them expectantly.

"Morris, this gentleman and I have a table reserved for dinner," Cowley said evenly, no trace of his original foul mood, and the man nodded and held the door open for them.

"It's not often we get called gentlemen."

"Manners do apply in some circles," Cowley remarked dryly, leading the way to his usual table.

"People from those don't work on the mean streets," Bodie protested.

"No. They don't. More often than not they're running the mean streets. Now sit down, lad."

A waiter appeared at their side.

"I made special arrangements, Morris, the kitchen will have the meals ready."

"Yes, sir. Your favourite chef is on duty today."

"Give him my regards then." When the waiter disappeared, Bodie wondered aloud, "Special arrangements?"

Cowley looked at him with narrow eyes and spread a napkin on his knees.

"I ordered when I called to say we were running late. Your meal is prepared exactly to doctor's orders. I brought you here for more than food, Bodie. We'll discuss your illness and the situation you put us in."

"I thought I'd heard it all already," Bodie growled tiredly.

Cowley's expression hardened.

"You'll listen until I say so! Am I clear, 3.7?"

"Yes sir. Crystal clear," Bodie said, subdued.

"I thought you were a professional, Bodie," Cowley accused sharply.

"I did my job! That's what counts!" Bodie responded indignantly.

Cowley regarded him coldly.

"Not if there are other options."

"What other options? There weren't any."

"In my organisation, there are always other options."

"You recalled all agents, on holiday or sick, whatever," Bodie argued hotly, but Cowley remained composed.

"Not the ones vomiting at every turn."

"Three times is hardly 'at every turn'."

"Too many for my liking - and certainly for Doyle's."

"He hasn't complained."

"Because he didn't know. Now there's no point."

"He wouldn't have anyway," Bodie said firmly.

"You seem very sure of that, 3.7." Cowley's voice was cool as he gazed at the agent piercingly. Bodie took a deep breath and pressed his lips together.

"I am."

"That's what concerns me. You've grown very close," Cowley said, his voice low.

"Isn't that what being a team is about? Reading each other minds?"

"But loyalty to CI5 must come first."

"And everyone else is always loyal?" Bodie growled.

"What do you mean?"

"Shotgun Tommy, McKay, doesn't give a damn about CI5. It's just a means to an end." "Tommy is loyal to me."

"And that's enough?" Bodie scoffed.

"Enough to convince the minister that he's fit for CI5. Enough. Until you're recovered, you're going to work in Records. After that I'm going to re-evaluate your performance; and Doyle's too. Such irresponsibility is unthinkable."

"Doyle's not responsible for this," Bodie objected.

"I'll decide that."

"If you want my resignation..."

"Stop before you say something you'll regret," Cowley warned and moved aside as the waiter put their plates down. He waited for the man to leave and then took up the cutlery.

"Now eat."

Bodie looked at the formless meal dubiously and frowned.

"I've lost my appetite."

"A long time ago, I know. That was an order, not an invitation. I won't have you prolonging your recovery because you're sulking."

Bodie picked up his cutlery and dug into the food sullenly.

"How did the work on the new computer go?" Cowley asked as the silence lengthened. Bodie replied politely, "I didn't notice it was new."

"No. Of course you didn't. Peters worked out a more effective data storage system. You were the first to use it except for testing."

"I didn't notice any difference."

"That's good. He assured me agents will have no problems using it."

"Maybe we won't need records then. You'd have to find a new dungeon to hide your convalescing agents," Bodie suggested with a smirk.

"There's always a lot of small, tedious jobs to be done," Cowley grinned. "So, are any big, un-tedious jobs happening right now?"

"Nothing big. We wrapped up a few. There's only Doyle's case still open, so I'll finally have time to talk with the minister about the budget and reinforcements for next year."

"Politics," Bodie snorted with distaste and poked into his meal.

"You may be right, Bodie. But unfortunately we need their support to function. CI5 is a highly risky business. One wrong step and the public would tear us apart."

"They've got no idea..."

"And so it should stay. CI5 is a sensitive and low-profile organisation. Criminals should fear and citizens remain ignorant."

"Have you thought of doing theatre, sir?" Bodie smirked.

"Don't be smart, Bodie. I've got a briefing in twenty minutes, I need to study Black Jack's file." Bodie twitched and looked at him in bewilderment.

"I thought I gave you Stevenson's file."

Cowley looked at him.

"I mean McIntyre."

Bodie put down his fork and leaned forward, gazing at Cowley intently.

"McIntyre's Black Jack?"

"Yes. It was his unofficial codename. It isn't in the files, but his CO remembered it."

"Is there anything else not in his file?" Bodie asked cautiously.

"You found out something?"

"It might be a coincidence, but Stevenson also moved in other...circles."

Cowley frowned deeply.

"Other than mercs?"

"Ah... yes, he's known under a codename too. Black Jack's Lady." Cowley straightened in his seat.

"Lovers? That'd explain why Stevenson got hurt. They probably used him to get to McIntyre, but overdid it," he speculated.

"Or not," Bodie said darkly, assessing the controller's reaction.

"We'd better go. Stop poking at that food and come on." Cowley immediately put his words into action and Bodie followed. As they hurried towards the car Bodie asked, "Sir...are you going to mention it on the briefing?" Cowley glanced at him in surprise as he closed the door.

"No. No, I don't think it's necessary."

Bodie fell silent, concentrating on getting them to HQ quickly.

They got there just in time. All unassigned agents were waiting for the details regarding their new case. Betty pinned several photos of varying quality to the notice board as Cowley delivered the briefing, and Bodie stayed behind to listen, although he already knew it all.

"...we've got a witness, Seamus Sims," a series of chuckles passed through the room and Bodie noticed with surprise that Doyle was at the briefing too, grinning just like all the others. "The man we're trying to bring down is Morris Callaghan. He's a drug lord from the Continent trying to establish himself in London. We asked the relevant police departments for assistance and they've sent information on some of his men. Trace them. Use all your connections on and off the street. But do not take any overt action yet."

Bodie sighed and slipped out of the room as he realised the briefing was about to end. Doyle joined him soon after.

"Going to contact your pigeons, are you?"

"I already tried. How about yours?"

"Fat chance. Not the right circles. Still stuck in Records?" Bodie looked at him crossly. "Until I'm recovered."

"Then back to duty?"

"Macklin, rather. For a complete re-evaluation."

"Cowley's pissed off with you," Doyle finally stated. Bodie stopped and looked at his partner.

"He's spoken to you?"

Doyle stopped too.

"Why?" he asked suspiciously.

"He thinks you were covering up for me," Bodie admitted with a wince.

Doyle shook his head angrily.

"Bugger it."

"He wants to re-evaluate our partnership," Bodie said bluntly.

Doyle frowned and looked up and down the corridor. Then he pushed Bodie into an office behind them and shut the door.

"He wants to split us up?" he almost shouted.

"No. He can't. We're his best team," Bodie responded tiredly. "Look, I have to go. Got tons of work down there."

Doyle firmly closed the door his partner was trying to open.

"No, you don't. Why didn't you tell me about it?"

"It wasn't important."

"It was stupid, mate. That's what it was," Doyle accused him. Bodie looked at him, offended. "This is London and not damned Angola," Doyle exploded, "we don't wear face paint and stab you in the back if you admit a problem." Doyle punched the wall in frustration.

"What do you want me to tell the Cow?"

"Don't worry about that. He knows everything already," Bodie told him calmly.

"You don't get it! He could throw you out!"

"We're his best team, he won't do that," Bodie said confidently.

"Not we. We're talking about you!" Doyle corrected him.

"What's the difference. Still half of his best, aren't I?" Bodie smirked, Doyle sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"You're far too sure of it, mate."

"It's not like this is the first time he's been angry."

"Start using your head, Bodie! One badly washed cup in the restroom and half of the squad gets sick!"

They stared at each other for a long moment.

"I've got work to do," Bodie declared suddenly and turned away.

"It can wait," Doyle said resolutely, forcing him to turn back.

"What do you want? An apology? All right. Sorry I protected your back!" Bodie shouted.

"Don't make a big deal of it, that's your job," Doyle growled back.

"Alpha to 4.5. Come in," Doyle jerked and looked at Bodie.

"This isn't over yet," he gritted between his teeth, then acknowledged the call. "4.5."

"Come to my office, 4.5. I've got an assignment for you."

"I'm coming." Doyle growled and looked at Bodie. "He didn't sound very generous." "Just busy," Bodie shrugged.

Doyle narrowed his eyes as he regarded his partner and sighed. "He'll let us stew in it."

"4.5, if you happen to meet 3.7 on the way, tell him he's expected in Records," the RT buzzed.

"Yes sir. If I meet him, I'll tell him," Doyle said, grimacing.

They parted at the door. Doyle smirked half heartedly.

"Don't let the women in Records get to you."

Bodie returned the sour smile.

"I'm the best thing that happened to them in the last fortnight."

"Are you? Then, it's really been a miserable two weeks."

"Bugger off!"

Bodie walked into his small room with its piles of records and found Peters leafing through them.

"Oi, what are you doing?" he shouted and slapped the file shut. Peters looked up at the agent looming over him.

"I've got higher authorisation. I can view any file I like. Even yours."

"And you did."

Peters cocked his head thoughtfully.

"You know I did."

"What do you want here?" Bodie snapped.

"Not what you think. I only needed to see the structure of the oldest files for computerisation." He looked around. "As it happens, the oldest files are here, with you."

"I'll return them right away," Bodie began piling the files he had read, but Peters stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

"No need to hurry. Take your time."

Bodie shook him off.

"Look, you might know me from...another angle, but that doesn't mean anything," he said crossly.

"I'm aware of that," Peters replied icily.

"You know the rules in The Red. No bounds."

"Not exactly, when it comes to bounds and bonds," Peters grinned knowingly.

Bodie shrugged.

"We happened to be there at the same time, there's nothing more to it."

"Peters, could you leave us for a moment?" They stopped arguing and both snapped their attention to the door where Doyle stood looking at them coldly, hands rammed deeply into his jacket pockets.

"4.5. I thought were on an assignment," Peters muttered nervously.

Doyle shook his head slightly.

"I needed to check something with Bodie first. It's confidential," he stressed.

"I've got high level authorisation..."

"Leave. Now!" Doyle growled, jutting his chin forward.

Peters' gaze flickered uncertainly between the two agents and then he left, giving Doyle a wide berth. When he was gone, Doyle closed the door firmly.

"That wasn't necessary," Bodie growled, but Doyle shook his head and put his hands on his hips.

"I know the bar he meant. You're going there with him?" Bodie laughed harshly. "No!"

Doyle moved away from the door, his arms hanging, hands balled tight into fists.

"Going there with other men then?" Bodie narrowed his eyes.

"What's it to you?"

"A lot," Doyle said in a low voice and stopped moving, keeping the desk between them.

"Were you there with Miller?"

"What...?"

"Is that how you got sick? Close personal contact, Bodie?"

"Tony's not..."

"What's the deal with Tony, then?"

"Your precious machine. I bought some of his bike parts for your birthday," Bodie snarled, and Doyle halted for a second, surprised.

"Is that all?"

"Yes," Bodie said vehemently.

"And the payment?" Doyle pressed on suspiciously and Bodie eyed his partner.

"Money." His voice was hoarse.

Suddenly Doyle's arm shot over the table to grab a handful of Bodie's shirt and pull him close. Doyle leaned forward quickly, kissing his partner roughly. He sucked in Bodie's lower lip and bit in. Hard. Bodie yelped and pulled away.

"You know, you're..." he began, surprised, but Doyle silenced him with another bruising kiss. This time Bodie responded, kissing back just as harshly. Holding each other fiercely, they slowly moved around the table, hands groping anything in reach. Finally, their bodies met in a mutual thrust and melded together. Frantic hands found the buttons of Bodie's shirt, ripping it open, and the exposed neck was immediately attacked by Doyle's hungry mouth.

"No other men, Bodie," he said breathily as he licked the juncture between the shoulder and neck. "You've got me now," he finished and bit down again. Bodie's head snapped back.

"You!" he growled throatily, his hands reaching up to Doyle's back to draw him closer. Scraping his teeth over the new mark that was already forming against the pale skin, Doyle licked around greedily, as if to soothe the abused area.

"Nobody but me," he gently sucked and lapped over the bite a little more, wanting to leave a permanent mark of ownership.

Bodie grabbed the back of Doyle's head tilting it until he could look him in the eyes. "The same goes for you. You're mine," he growled into his partner's face, then kissed him roughly.

Surprised at the driving force, Doyle yielded for a moment, but then started kissing back.

"Yours," he breathed against his partner's mouth. His hands found their way into Bodie's shirt and he ran his fingers lightly over his ribs. His hands worked of their own volition, moving by instinct, driven by desire. Fabric tore, but neither of them noticed; they were gazing at each other hungrily, their shirts hanging open and their chests covered with sweat, and with a wordless grunt Bodie attacked the zipper of Doyle's jeans.

"Getting impatient?" Doyle chuckled, moving to help his partner, but Bodie swatted his hands away.

"Shut up."

Doyle growled and remained standing, holding onto Bodie's shoulders to steady himself.

"I hate tight jeans. Much better this way," Bodie said, satisfied, when he finally pulled the obstructive piece of clothing away and Doyle's straining cock sprang free. Doyle moaned appreciatively and shivered in anticipation. Bodie lifted his eyebrows and grinned smugly. "Commando? Preparing for a special occasion?"

Doyle looked at him, then grabbed him by the hair and kissed him thoroughly chuckling at his hungry expression when he let him go.

"Something like that. Have been for a long time," he growled throatily.

Bodie licked his swollen lips, looking straight into Doyle's eyes.

"How long?"

"A month."

"What took you so long?" Doyle grinned.

"Until recently you weren't gay." Bodie grinned at him, pulling the upper part of Doyle's shirt down to his elbows, effectively pinning his arms to his torso, and Doyle tested the new bounds. "Seems I shouldn't have worried," he continued smugly.

Bodie sucked in a deep breath, trembling a little, then finally grasped Doyle's cock and gave it a firm stroke, his hand slick from the pre-come that was already glistening on its head. Doyle shivered against him, fighting the orgasm, and rested his head on Bodie's chest to steady himself, digging strong fingers into his partner's arms. Bodie lapped around his ear wetly, teasingly.

"Hot for it, aren't you?" he whispered seductively, and when Doyle moaned loudly gave him another stroke, long and slow, massaging the sensitive head with his thumb. "Come for me, Doyle," he coaxed and underlined the order with a firm, quick stroke.

"You bastard!" Doyle groaned, as he tried to catch his breath, rolling his head to the side and biting down into the exposed shoulder, his body tightening as an intensive orgasm rocked him.

Bodie wrapped his other hand around him, gently massaging the wet scalp. "Got a hanky?" he whispered, with mirth in his voice. Doyle smiled into the shoulder, recuperating. "Tad too late to ask," he glanced at Bodie's hand covered with semen. His hand snaked down Bodie's ribcage into his open trousers and straight to his crotch, and Bodie tensed in expectation when the hand cupped his balls and fleetingly passed over his hard cock, closing his eyes and moaning deeply. Doyle stroked him deliberately.

"Want me to finish you?" he purred.

"Do it!" Bodie ordered harshly, and Doyle firmly pushed down his cords to gain better access.

"Or we could take it slow. Although," he jerked his head towards the door, "someone could come in anytime and find us," Bodie jerked and his cock hardened even more as Doyle continued, "find you and me in here, like this, covered in semen for all to see ..." he murmured into Bodie's ear as he sped up his strokes. Bodie moaned and pushed back against the table for support and Doyle covered his mouth with a hand. After two more strokes he came violently, his cry merely a muffled moan. Doyle pulled out a few crumpled tissues and cleaned them both; once Bodie came to himself he looked at Doyle.

"What now?"

"I've got to finish my assignment. I'll wait for you tonight. My flat," Doyle grinned and his hand suggestively moved lower.

Bodie looked at him thoughtfully.

"That's not what I had in mind," he said, but didn't pull away.

"I know," Doyle said quietly. "But you said it yourself. We're his best team after all."

"You reckon we should tell him?" Bodie said as he pulled up his pants again.

"Who? The Cow?" Doyle wondered.

"He'll find out," Bodie warned, looking at his partner squarely.

"My bed's my kingdom," Doyle growled and pulled up his trousers quickly.

"You don't mind telling him about your birds," Bodie finished dressing and gazed at his partner piercingly.

"That's different," Doyle mumbled.

"I don't see much difference," Bodie said stubbornly.

"So you'd tell him?" Bodie thought for a moment, then his face drew into a scowl. Doyle nodded, but didn't say anything.

Suddenly the door burst open and both agents jerked guiltily as Murphy halted in the doorway.

"Bodie," he looked at them, surprised, "...Cowley's looking for you. For you too, actually, Doyle. Your R/Ts are off," he grinned and left them looking at the table where their mute R/Ts lay among crumpled tissues. Bodie sighed.

"What?" Doyle asked.

"He knows," Bodie replied grimly. At Doyle's doubtful stare he waved his hands around the room, then repeated darkly, "he knows."

"Think he'll tell Cowley?"

Bodie shook his head vehemently. After a moment's silence, he glanced at the table.

"Cowley's waiting. We'll throw them out on the loo. Nobody'll notice tissues there."

Doyle looked at him narrowly.

"Seems you've had practice at this." Bodie looked back at him sharply, but Doyle just winked at him.

"Moron," he said fondly. "You know, McIntyre and Stevenson were together."

Doyle laughed roughly.

"What did the old man say to that?" he asked as he collected the tissues on the table.

"Nothing," Bodie said and went out, Doyle following. "Even if he had," he grinned, "like you said; we're his best team after all."

THE END