Doyle couldn't sleep.
He leaned against a boulder on the border of his land, gazing out over the moon-drenched lake, rolling the jade egg between his hands. His face was calm, to all intents and purposes serene - but his mind was churning, trying to make sense of all that had happened. It had been a long, long day, filled with so many things - misunderstandings, memories and pain.
He'd always been able to 'read' Bodie - oh, not perfectly, the man was too private, too self-contained for that - but well enough to know more or less how he was feeling. Well enough to second-guess him most of the time. And certainly well enough to know how to hurt him.
There had been times, during their partnership, when he'd allowed his temper to get the better of him. Sometimes it had proven useful - the combination of his casual appearance, CI5 authority and a simmering rage had been enough to frighten many a villain. Other times it had erupted at precisely the wrong time. And who had always born the brunt of it, contained it, stopped it harming others or wrecking an assignment? Bodie. Always Bodie. Always there...
There'd been times when he'd hurt his partner accidentally, with a casually callous jibe or comment - not that Bodie ever let it show. Except in those deep dark eyes, and then only to one who knew him very, very well. And there'd been those other times, when he had gone out of his way to be hurtful. He'd succeeded, too. Yet Bodie always came back for more. Christ, there were times you'd think the man was a masochist!
(No, he'd corrected himself, feeling chilled. Not a masochist. Unless affection, fondness - love - was masochism... But then, perhaps it was... Doyle had picked carefully around the edge of that perception, and drawn back, not yet ready to face the demons lurking underneath.)
So, knowing how vulnerable Bodie could be where he was concerned, knowing how much power he had over his partner, to hurt, or to cheer, he'd run away. Without a word of explanation. Just upped and left. What a complete bastard.
Oh, how Bodie must have suffered. Not obviously, of course - he'd never let anyone see it. But he'd left CI5 less than a year later - left the only place he'd ever really felt at home. And what was he doing now? Helping those very people they'd battled, together, all those years ago...
Doyle groaned to himself, burying his face in his hands. He hadn't known what Bodie was up to until Rachael had found him. He'd refused to have even newspapers at the villa, let alone a phone or TV. He felt he'd had enough of the horrors of the outside world to last him the rest of his life: now it was time, finally, for him to concentrate on himself. And he'd succeeded: his paintings had been compelling expressions of the beauty inside. To start with, at any rate...
Rachael... Oh god, was there no end to his guilt? She'd been so loving, so happy and excited to have found him after so much searching, so many blind alleys and so much heartache. And he was so proud of her, loved her so much - and they'd ended up fighting tooth and nail, hurting each other, all the time... Too similar. They were too much alike. They couldn't live together. So he ran away. Again. Coward... God knew what she thought of him now. But she'd done as he'd asked, he knew that much from Bodie. And it had been a mistake. Now he felt he had no past at all. As though his existence had been wiped out. And his paintings reflected the nightmares of a man who no longer knew if he was real or not...
And Bodie. Bodie had become what he'd most despised. What that his fault as well? He'd always been able to force Bodie to think about the consequences of his actions - either that or do his thinking for him. Amoral Bodie, with his non-existent ideas of right and wrong. And he'd failed him. He hadn't been there to make sure Bodie made the right choices...
And now he'd turned up, out of the blue, with a request from Cowley's replacement - no, not his replacement: nobody could replace Cowley - from Malone, to assist CI5. The outfit that had first turned him into a killer, then nearly taken his life. CI5, synonymous with disgust. A good example of Bodie's frequent blithe disregard of his partner's feelings...
He caught himself. But Bodie didn't know that, did he? Doyle hadn't taken the time to explain how he felt. Oh, there'd been occasions when he'd made his feelings plain, of course - during that nightmare week of the inquest into Paul Coogan's death, for one. But he knew Bodie, and he knew Bodie wouldn't remember. Except that it had become clear, during their discussion throughout the day, that Bodie had been aware of his feelings, on some strange, non-verbal, instinctive level. Far more so than Doyle had ever given him credit for.
He gazed down at the egg, remembering the time Bodie had given it to him. He'd spent almost the entire day fretting about something - he couldn't remember what, now - and Bodie'd handed him the small package in the pub that evening.
"You worry too much. Give this a try. I don't think it needs batteries..."
And amazingly it had helped - for a while anyway. Then when he'd resigned, he'd left the egg and his copy of Desiderata for Bodie, in the confused hope they might prove as inspirational to his partner as they had to himself. He'd missed them both, later, when he'd managed to more or less come to terms with his new life...
And Bodie had brought the egg back, given it to him as though he'd only been guarding it for his partner, just as he'd always guarded the man himself. He'd come because he wanted to see his partner again - the CI5 situation was just an excuse. Jade. The Chinese word for jade meant 'precious'...
Then he realised he'd been thinking of Bodie as his partner.
He rubbed absently at his forehead, trying to ease a headache that was pounding relentlessly in time with his heart. They weren't partners, not any more. And he'd underestimated Bodie. Perhaps he'd always underestimated him. Certainly there'd been times when he'd viewed him as something of a clown, a court jester, a foil for his own wit. What a way to treat your best mate!
Angry with himself, with Bodie, with CI5 for exhuming things he'd thought were long-dead and mouldered to dust but which had only been in hiding, just waiting for the right time to resurface, he began to pace, the moon casting long shadows behind him.
It had taken him years to find himself, regain some sense of his own identity. To overcome ten years of thinking as one half of a partnership, of unqualified reliance on another for balance and completion - Bodie possessed everything that was lacking in his own character. Together they made up a whole person. No, he qualified the thought - more than a whole person. Their partnership was greater than the sum of their individual beings...
He shook himself. Stupid way to think. They were both individuals. They'd both managed to survive perfectly well without each other, both before they met, and after they'd - he'd - split the team. Can't get sentimental over something that's been over for so long. He'd made a success of his life - by himself. He no longer needed Bodie...
Bleakly, Doyle stared out at the landscape he'd come to love, seeing only the incredible loneliness he hadn't even realised was there until Bodie had returned.
Bodie tossed and turned, but couldn't sleep. It had been one of the most difficult days of his life...
To start with, it had been a pure, simple joy just to be with Ray again, hearing his much-missed voice, basking in his presence - not for nothing had Bodie called him Sunshine, back in the old days. Ray had always made the day feel brighter, no matter what sort of mood he'd been in. But the pleasure had soon turned to unease. Ray had changed, and changed beyond anything Bodie had ever imagined.
The incredible bitterness with which he spoke of CI5 took Bodie somewhat aback. Fair enough, Doyle had good reason to loathe them - but surely he'd atoned for what he seemed to see as his sins of violence in the years since resigning? And the physical damage didn't seem to have caused him any permanent problems - though since he refused to speak of it, perhaps that wasn't altogether true... But CI5 had changed, too. He'd tried to explain in what high regard the organisation was now held, the vital, lifesaving work with which it concerned itself. Doyle had stared at him as though he was talking gibberish.
And as they spoke, Bodie had felt an inescapable and growing sense of foreboding. He knew at some point Ray was going to ask him what he'd been doing in the intervening years, and he'd have to answer. It was no use trying to lie: even if he could do so convincingly, which was doubtful at the best of times, Doyle would eventually find out the truth. And while Bodie had no moral scruples about what he was doing - after all, if he didn't do it, someone else would, and at least he did something useful with the money it made him - he'd been simply dreading how Ray would take it.
Much as he'd have loved everything to be the way it used to be, Bodie wasn't a fool. If he was entirely honest with himself, he never had been, although sometimes it had been easier to play the fool and let someone else - usually Doyle - do the work than make the effort to take the responsibility himself. Bodie knew he had a lazy streak, and a tendency to let himself drift with the flow. Most of the time he just let it happen. And it had got him into trouble on more than one occasion. But Bodie had been born lucky as well as tall, dark and beautiful... He'd always managed to extricate himself from the many and varied crises that had added spice to his life, one way or the other. Only this time, it looked as though he was stuck with the consequences. He'd forgotten that Doyle had had the disquieting ability, on occasion, to force him to look closely at himself, to examine his feelings and motives. It looked like now was to be one of those times...
He'd glossed over his career as best he could, giving only the minimum of detail, but nevertheless Ray had been quietly horrified. He'd said little, but there was a sick look in his eyes that made Bodie feel ashamed for inflicting such grief on his mate: then his face assumed that hooded, introspective look that heralded a bout of self-recrimination, and that really hit Bodie hard. Given half a chance Ray would blame himself for the invention of gunpowder... (He remembered saying that to Cowley, many, many years ago. He'd known some elements of Ray much better than anyone had realised, even perhaps himself, even then, many layers of friendship and danger ago.) How much more would he blame himself for what he saw as deserting his partner? Bodie saw it in his face, and it hurt. More than just about anything he could remember.
After a while the conversation had petered out, and they'd sat in a troubled silence - the one unable to express his feelings, the other unwilling to do so, the past unresolved, the future lonely, neither finding any common ground. Bodie still not knowing what it was that he'd done to drive Doyle away - or if not that, then to leave him feeling that he couldn't share what was tearing him apart. And amongst the mingled frustration and restraint, Bodie could feel Ray slipping away from him again, and couldn't find the words to stop it happening.
Doyle had served up some sort of meal - crusty bread, cheese, sweet, ripe tomatoes and olives, as far as Bodie could remember. Then he'd started talking. Small talk, asking about mutual acquaintances, news from England, from London - inconsequential chat, determinedly avoiding anything of any importance, his eyes shuttered, his pain locked tightly away inside. Bodie could only bear it for a couple of hours - Ray obviously wasn't going to open up, and this... withdrawal... only emphasised how far apart they'd grown - and pleaded tiredness due to the previous day's long drive as an excuse to retire early. Doyle had shown him to a spare room and left him to his own devices, returning to the painting Bodie had interrupted. And entirely unable to continue with it, as Bodie was unable to still his mind sufficiently to be able to sleep.
They spent the rest of the day apart, as they had spent the previous thirteen years.
In the cold stillness before dawn, Doyle found a kind of peace. Exhausted from thinking endlessly in circles, torn in several directions and unable to determine which way to go, he came to a decision. It wasn't the one he wanted to make, and knowing how his luck usually turned out it was probably the wrong one. But he made it, and resolved to live with the consequences.
As the rising sun lightened the land, Bodie rose and went outside. He wasn't in the least surprised to find Doyle already there. But he looked calmer, more relaxed, despite the tiredness. Thought it all through and come to his decision. Bodie told himself, bleakly. He was pretty certain he knew what that decision was.
They stared at each other across the years. Bodie broke the silence.
"Made up your mind?"
"Yeah." Doyle averted his eyes and didn't elaborate. Bodie waited for a moment, but he seemed disinclined to continue.
"So what's it to be?"
Doyle turned back to face him, eyes heavy with lack of sleep.
Bodie hadn't expected anything else, really, but he'd hoped for more. Either it showed in his face, or Doyle was as much in tune with him as ever. For the second time in twenty-four hours he laid a hand on Bodie's shoulder, a rare, comforting gesture.
"I'm sorry. I can't go back to CI5, not even just on stand-by. I... can't go back..."
Deep blue eyes met leaf green, and sudden comprehension sparked. Bodie smiled faintly.
"Yes, I do. And I don't blame you." He pulled a card from his wallet and handed it over. "If you ever do want to get in touch, or if you need me, just call."
Doyle inclined his head, a shadow of his old smile on his lips.
"Call the master himself, rather than the hounds, eh?"
Bodie grinned, but it was tinged with sadness.
"Can't blame me for worrying about you. Can't change the habit of a lifetime."
"The past is a different country. I don't live there any longer."
Bodie laid both hands on his shoulders, gently now, and gazed into his face, memorising every feature anew. It might be all he would ever have.
"Neither do I. But there're always bridges, y'know. Please call."
"No promises. But I might."
It was all he could expect. Bodie lowered his hands and glanced at his watch.
"I'd better make tracks."
"Want breakfast before you go?"
"No, it's OK. I'll be happier once I'm on the move."
"You haven't slept."
"I'll sleep on the ferry. And stop for coffee all the way. With doughnuts..."
Doyle chuckled, though it sounded somewhat strained - striving for normalcy now the encounter was almost over. "See what you mean about habits!"
Bodie dug his keys from his pocket and paused, so much wanting not to leave, but not willing to prolong the agony. As he hovered, his mobile sounded softly. It was Malone.
Doyle withdrew slightly - one-sided phone conversations always irritated him. Then a word caught his attention.
"Ghost? What the hell is Ghost?"
Behind Bodie, unseen, Doyle froze, wide-eyed, his face paling under the honey-gold tan.
By the time Bodie finished with the call, and stood frowning in puzzlement at his mobile, Doyle's face was back to normal. Bodie glanced at him, quizzical eyebrow raised.
"Well, something's happening at HQ. I suppose I'd better get back. Not that there's any hurry. And not that I can do much when I get there..." He hesitated for a moment. Doyle stared at him, frowning slightly, measuringly. The intrusion of CI5 had broken the almost-intimacy of the farewell: Bodie half-smiled ruefully, and held out his hand - a forlornly formal gesture.
"I suppose this is goodbye."
Doyle ignored the hand.
"No, it isn't. I'm coming with you."
© 2000 WordWrights.