morganstuart: (As You Now)
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This wasn't the Lewis Collins tribute I'd originally planned -- that one is in progress -- but this happened anyway.

Title: As You Now Are in Your Blood
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: The Professionals
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: Bodie faces a no-win scenario.
Author's Note: This is offered in memory of the unforgettable Lewis Collins.
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Implied violence, torture, and character death.



"Bodie, is it?"

The whisper cut through the blackness, throaty and hoarse from newly-shed slumber.

Springs creaked as the old man turned — an unhurried movement, carefully measured — to switch on the lamp.

The single light bulb offered a feeble protest against the night, almost failing to reach Bodie where he stood at the foot of the bed.

"You knew it was me."

"How many people do you imagine are capable of slipping past my security?" Cowley blinked into the shadows as he eased himself up to a sitting position. "And if your captors sent only one of you for me, then you were the logical choice, 3.7."

His sidearm rested on the opposite bedside table, Bodie noted. The Cow had chosen the light, not self-defence.

Bodie's own weapon grew heavier in his grip. He lowered himself to sit on the corner of the mattress.

These few months had aged Cowley to a shocking degree. His hair, mussed from sleep, framed his lined face in a dishevelled, sandy-grey halo. "Is your partner still alive?"

It cost Bodie effort, unclenching his jaw to reply.

"Not for much longer." Because disobedience had its consequences. But he mustn't think of that.

As he shook his head the room swam before his eyes. Clinging to his cold resolve, he rode out the wave of dizziness and the cruel pain that fuelled it. "What they–" He swallowed. Cleared his throat. "He's fought harder than anyone I ever saw. You'd be proud of him, sir."

"I'm proud of you both, my lad." Cowley was matter-of-fact, devastating in his forthrightness.

No triple-think now in these darkest hours before the dawn.

"We never stopped searching for you," Cowley added. "Twice these past weeks we attempted extractions at locations that… Well. You're not here to catalogue my failures, are you? Not ones you know all too well."

"The original intel was wrong," Bodie said. "On purpose. We walked into a trap. There's a plant somewhere inside pulling strings, even now. We've heard the names Parkhurst, Maddock, and Claremont, and repeated mention of Brussels."

Cold sweat followed fresh agony. Bodie mopped his sleeve across his brow and shivered. If only he would take aim; if only he would squeeze the trigger… "You must've come close to us, though. They moved us more than once to keep a step ahead of you."

Cowley twined his fingers together and folded his hands over his pyjama stripes. After a considered pause, he said, "They treated you to 're-education,' I expect? Is that what we're calling it these days?"

Gesturing toward his temple, Bodie said, "Been re-wired a bit, yeah." Pain ricocheted inside his skull, punctuating the admission, but he forced himself to square his shoulders under the Cow's scrutiny. He almost believed the man could make out each scar left by the long weeks of syringes and electrodes and struggle against restraints.

Bodie wasn't the same man anymore.

He wasn't quite as scrambled as his torturers believed, either. But dear God, what he'd done to convince them otherwise…

Blood on his calloused hands. Forgiveness on Ray's pale, determined face.

"I had to come here," he continued, hearing how the strain drew his voice taut. "If I—"

"You needn't explain," the Cow interrupted. "I do understand the endgame in play, 3.7." Bodie read weariness in those dark eyes coupled with resignation and regret.

No fear, of course. Tough old bastard.

The undisguised fondness, however — that took Bodie by surprise, given the circumstances.

There would've been fight in the old man if another would-be assassin had loomed over him in the middle of the night with loaded weapon in hand, Bodie knew. But not now. Not for him. Just this profound, calm dignity.

Bodie bowed his aching head over his semiautomatic. Tears prickled behind his lids, but the fire in his brain seemed to turn them to scalding steam.

The torture would end, if only…

"Your guards downstairs." Burning knives stabbed behind Bodie's brow, through his eardrums, into his throat. His nostrils flared and his breathing grew shallower as the pistol sang to him like a siren. "The agents. They're unconscious, but they're alive. Should come 'round any minute."

"Thank you." It was clear that this knowledge lifted a burden from Cowley's shoulders, as Bodie had known it would.

Each heartbeat reverberated like a thunderclap in Bodie's chest. He couldn't swim against the rising tide of artificial compulsion much longer.

"I'm sorry, sir."

"As am I, laddie." The Scottish burr thickened. "For you and for Doyle. For this whole bloody mess."

Now was the time.

Bodie recalled his partner breathing faint words into his ear, fierce despite their choked hush. Acceptance of this shared sacrifice. Faith in Bodie's strength. Absolution.

He raised his pistol. Cowley lifted his chin and went still.

Bodie's hurried whisper was soldier-sharp, nearly silent but urgent as a scream: "I didn't cut the outside lines. For Christ's sake, sir, call for backup. They're watching and waiting, but the sound of the shot will buy you and the lads some time. Get this plant before he gets you."

Only then did horror dawn on the old man's features.

Bodie squeezed his eyes shut against the sight. He slid gracelessly from the bed to the floor, crumpling to his knees like a child at prayer. With a herculean act of will, he turned the gun barrel away from his mentor to rest against his own temple.

A shout carried his name like a plea. Frantic movement shook the mattress.

"'Sbeenapriv'lege," Bodie managed through white-hot agony, and he meant it.

Freedom for two, bought with one bullet. Safety, he hoped, for the one they both served.

He too chose the light.

THE END


Vital Stats: The title refers to the lyrics "As you now are in your blood/ Fall in light..." from "New Year's Prayer" by Jeff Buckley.

Originally written in December 2013.
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"To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty."
- H.P. Lovecraft, 1921

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