Never one to let on how he's feeling, our Bodie. Never very forthcoming about his past either, however much I pry. 'Course I don't blame him, if Krivas and his crew are typical of his former acquaintances. Bunch of bastards, the lot of them.
Wonder what Bodie was like. Before. When he was in the jungle.
Had he been a bastard too? Had he been the one mercenary with a heart of gold? Or had he just been a scared kid who'd gotten in over his head and couldn't see a way out?
He looks a bit like a kid now, sitting beside me in the car, face bloody and bruised, clothes torn to shreds. He's staring straight ahead, eyes fixed on some point a million miles away, a slight frown on his face. He might look imposing to a stranger, but I can see the cracks in the façade. I can see the vulnerability he hides from everyone: from the Cow, from his birds, even from me.
He looks over at me, and I force myself to concentrate on the road, shifting down unnecessarily as I take a corner.
He breaks the silence first. "Well," he says.
"Aren't you going to ask it, Doyle?"
I don't say anything for a minute. The problem isn't that I don't want to ask him a question. The problem is that I have too many questions. And I'm afraid any one of them could lose me a partner. Lose me a friend. Lose me more than I'm willing to surrender.
So, I play thick. "Ask what?"
There is a long pause, the tension building between us until it becomes a living thing, an angry entity coiling around us both.
Bodie takes a deep breath, and then he speaks. "Ask what it's like to kill for money." He glares at me, as if daring me to condemn him, daring me to disappoint him. I meet his gaze calmly and try to manoeuvre through the minefield that's opened up before me.
"You could ask me the same question. Isn't that what we do for Cowley?"
"Don't be bloody stupid, Doyle. It's not the same and you know it."
"Maybe, maybe not. But I'm not going to judge you, Bodie. Not without knowing what you went through."
"That'll be a first," Bodie mutters, turning back to the road.
"Then you should enjoy it while you can, sunshine, shouldn't you. Not likely to happen again, is it?"
Bodie snorts, the first sign of his usual good humour he's shown since he got in the car. I can see the muscles in his neck relax as he sits back, see the frown lift, ever so slightly, from his brow.
I begin breathing normally again as I realize that I've made it through the minefield unscathed.
It's not that I don't want to know what he went through. I do. But I want Bodie to tell me on his own terms, when he's ready. When he knows how much he can trust me.
When he knows that he can trust me with his heart, as well as his secrets.
Until then, he can keep his silence, and I'll keep mine.
For now, I'll take him back to his flat. I'll clean him up and bind his wounds. I'll give him a double shot of scotch and watch football with him in the lounge until he drops off to sleep.
And if my hands linger on his skin longer than necessary, if my eyes take in his form more than they need to... well, that'll be my secret.
Got any comments? Send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org