The Sweat of His Brow

by P. R. Zed


The day had been scorching hot, and the setting of the sun had done nothing to cool the temperature. London was in the grip of a full-blown heat wave and there would be no relief for anyone until it broke.

The air in the warehouse was even more stifling that that outside. Crouched behind a stack of boxes, Doyle felt as if the very air had turned molten, burning his lungs with every breath.

As he waited, he felt a droplet of sweat run from his hairline, down his forehead and into one eye. He blinked furiously to clear it, not wanting to be blinded, even for an instant. Not when so much depended on him.

Not when his partner needed him.

Bodie was in here. Somewhere. The stupid, brave bastard had volunteered when Cowley had asked for an agent to recce the warehouse. The warehouse that they'd been told held a huge arms cache, along with the dealers who were trying to sell it, providing death and destruction to any nutter with ready cash and an axe to grind.

A recce: that was all it was to have been. A quick in and out and then Bodie should have been back safely at his partner's side.

But it hadn't worked out that way.

Bodie had winked at him and made his careful way to the warehouse before disappearing into its depths. Five minutes had gone by, then ten and fifteen and finally Cowley had faced the fact that Bodie had likely been seen, had probably been captured. There had been no gunshot, so Doyle wasn't even going to consider another possibility: that Bodie was dead, his body tossed into a corner by the bastards they had surrounded. Deliberately, he put aside all thoughts of the silent means of taking a life, telling himself that nothing could kill Bodie. He was too tough, too indestructible, too much a force of nature. But Doyle's traitorous mind kept reminding him of times when Bodie hadn't dodged a bullet, hadn't avoided the cut of a knife. He kept seeing Bodie's face as he'd seen it far too often, white from loss of blood, his mouth drawn into a thin line as he gritted his teeth against the pain.

He'd been in this position before, of course: waiting to find out if Bodie was living or dead. But this time he couldn't help thinking about another summer night, another heat wave, another partner. Syd Parker had died on a night like this, shot down by a villain as PC Ray Doyle had waited downstairs. Doyle had been drenched in sweat that night too, his uniform shirt clinging to his back, his slightly too long for regulation curls plastered to the nape of his neck. Even all these years later, he could still remember hearing the first gunshot, could remember running up the stairs, truncheon clutched uselessly in his hand, heart pounding in his chest. He could remember bursting through that door and finding Syd's body, and Fitch's, in the flat. Could remember how gutted he'd felt, even as his training had taken over and he'd pursued Bill Haydon to his home.

Syd's death had hurt Doyle, hurt him badly, but how much more would Bodie's death wound him. Syd had been a good partner, a mentor, a friend, but Bodie was everything to him: partner and friend; protector and responsibility.

Lover.

He thought back to the night before. He could still feel where the beads of sweat from Bodie's chest had struck his skin. He could feel the rough sensation of Bodie's tongue as he had licked the sweat in a line to Doyle's throat. He could feel where Bodie had bitten at his chin, at his earlobe, hard enough to smart, but not hard enough to leave a mark.

Doyle couldn't bear it if last night was the last night they would have together. He didn't want that smug wink to be his last sight of Bodie's face.

He would find Bodie, and find him alive, if determination had anything to do with it. Settling back against the boxes, he checked the clip in his gun one last time and awaited Cowley's signal.

It wasn't long coming. A single word on the R/T, and the combined forces of the A Squad moved in on the warehouse. Shots echoed in the cavernous depths around him, but Doyle didn't so much as flinch. He followed the plan, took out anyone in his path who offered him resistance and headed for his assigned goal. There was one obvious place that Bodie could be held, an office built into the far end of the warehouse, and Cowley, knowing his men better than they knew themselves, had given Doyle that location to sweep. Doyle made his way to the office with an efficient ruthlessness.

He paused only briefly on reaching the office, then took a deep breath and put a booted foot to the door. He was through the door before anyone inside could react, gun firmly in firing position. One of the two men inside raised a gun in his direction, and Doyle shot him. The other one decided to show the better part of valour and threw down his weapon. Doyle had him handcuffed and on the floor before the man could say a word.

Immediate threats dealt with, Doyle searched the dim confines of the office. And felt his insides hollow out as he found what he'd most feared: a body with a familiar cap of dark hair crumpled behind a desk.

As always, training took over. He was at Bodie's side immediately, feeling for a pulse that was present and a pool of blood that was blessedly absent. He eased his partner onto his side, made sure that he was breathing easily and then called Cowley on the R/T. Afterward, he couldn't have said what he'd told the Cow, or what their boss' response had been, so focussed was he on the man beside him.

Doyle felt his partner's head, finding the goose egg that must have been the result of the blow that had knocked Bodie out. Doyle stroked Bodie's cheek, calling him back from the chasm he'd fallen into, only wanting to see the blue eyes open and look at him with mischief and affection.

And at long last, open they did. The lashes fluttered and then Bodie's eyes met his, though his expression showed more of pain than mischief.

"Make 'im stop, would you," Bodie said, his voice a mere whisper.

"Who?"

"The bloke with the jackhammer who's digging the hole in my skull."

"Daft bastard," Doyle said, smiling, even as his vision became suspiciously blurry.

"Oi," Bodie said, moving a hand sluggishly up to wipe at his face. "Don't you go crying all over me."

"'M not crying," Doyle said, trying not to let out a telltale sniff. "It's sweat, isn't it?"

"Ah, that must be it," Bodie said, even as he reached out to take Doyle's hand. "Bloody heat wave."

"Yeah, bloody heat wave," Doyle repeated, not trusting himself to say more. Squeezing the hand in his grip, he gave thanks that his own personal heat wave had broken.

Fin



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