First Footing


"Jane rang me the other day," Bodie announced to the man in the passenger seat of the silver Capri. From the corner of his eye he watched to see if there was any reaction.

Doyle slowly lifted his head from the back of the seat as if the weight seemed to overwhelm the curly-haired man. Knowing something was expected of him, Ray quietly asked, "Which Jane is this?"

"You know," Bodie prodded, "the big blonde tennis player. The one I ran out on during the Biebermann op."

"Oh. The one who sent you a telegram saying, 'Drop Dead!'?" Doyle carefully inched his body around so that he could see Bodie's profile better.

Bodie's nose twitched, but he nodded. "That's the one. I've decided to be big about it and forgive her. She's still lusting for my body 'n I don't like to be cruel."

"Thought when she sent you that dead rat you said you din't want to see her again?" Doyle inched back the other way, trying to find a comfortable position.

"Doyle, Doyle, Doyle, you're always the one who believes in second chances. The poor thing made a mistake 'n now she needs my sympathy and understanding." The tip of Bodie's tongue ended up just peeking through his lips.

"Lucky you. So you're seein' her t'night?"

"Thought you might be interested in a double date. 'Course 'm not sure which bird you've got on the line right now. Know it can't be Debra."

"That's for sure. She returned my greetings telegram ripped up 'n stuffed inside a vial of hydrochloric acid."

Bodie tsked in sympathy. "Just don't know how to treat a bird, 4.5. Should have sent flowers." The implied words, "Like me," hung there between them. "So who's receiving the patented Doyle line now?"

When Doyle didn't answer, Bodie asked again. "You tryin' to hide her from me? I know they all go for the tall, dark, 'n beautiful look, but I'll make the sacrifice this time 'n keep me hands to meself."

Ray's head dropped back against the seat. "Ta, very much but you don't have to worry. 'm not seein' anyone right now."

Bodie said nothing for a moment, but then an idea occurred to him. "Could call up Jane 'n ask if that tennis partner of hers is available?" He suggested brightly.

Doyle winced as he sat up slowly. "Not tonight. Think I'll go home 'n soak me bruises. You enjoy your evening with Jane 'n if you don't show up tomorrow I'll know she decided to use your guts to string her racket."

"Don't say that, mate. She was just oozing remorse even after five months."

"Right," Ray replied as Bodie pulled up outside of Doyle's flat. "See you tomorrow."

"Ray? Wait." Doyle halted with the door to the Capri partway open.

"Are you sure you don't need to see a doctor? That bloke landed a few hard punches today."

"Yeh, 'm fine. He was nothing like that sadist Pendle. Just a scared kid. By tomorrow I should be feelin' more the thing."

"If you say so."

"I do. Enjoy your strawberries 'n cream." Doyle stiffly walked to the door of his building, waved at his partner and then went inside.

Bodie put the car into gear. The lamps of London were already on in the growing darkness even though it really wasn't that late. He had more than enough time to stop by his flat for a shower and shave before picking Jane Anderson up.

Despite his confident assurances to his partner's questions, Bodie had to admit he was a tad anxious about meeting up again with Jane. The woman had been furious with him when he had left her at the tennis court and his gift of flowers hadn't helped. Just the fact that the dead rat had arrived lying on said flowers was evidence of that. Still, she wouldn't have called him if she didn't want to see him again, would she?

In the five months since the Biebermann op Bodie had dated several luscious birds so the loss of Jane Anderson certainly hadn't been an irrevocable blow to his ego. Birds had dumped him before and they would do so again. His job guaranteed that.

As soon as he reached home, he grabbed a lager and a snack, just in case Jane wanted to indulge in some horizontal callisthenics before going out to dinner. She'd always boasted of a voracious sexual appetite. Suddenly that thought hit Bodie right in the solar plexus. It had been five months since he'd seen the blonde, was it possible, he'd always used condoms, hadn't he?

The can he was holding slipped from his sweaty palm, spilling onto the floor. He'd always been so careful, but could something have gone wrong? Shivering at the thought of unwanted fatherhood, he forgot about the remaining piece of sandwich on his plate. Instead, he headed to the shower to ease the chill in his belly under the hot spray.

Scraping away the stubble from his face with a razor, Bodie stared into the mirror. He didn't want to be a father. He was content with what he had--a job he enjoyed, enough money to be comfortable and a partner he could trust. The dark days of his past were over, and he certainly didn't want a mistake from his past to blight his future.

William Bodie was not a man to believe in divine providence. He had made his own life, controlled and directed it. He had chosen to run away at 14 and hadn't looked back. In his adult years he had decided to be a mercenary before moving on to the Queen's service and finally into CI5. All his choice but then George Cowley had thrown a ringer--in the person of Raymond Doyle--into Bodie's life. He and the green-eyed ex-copper had been at odds for some time before both of them had seen the folly of their actions. As a result, their partnership had taken on new dimensions both in the field and off-duty.

Just the fact that Bodie had let Doyle past some of his barriers astonished the big man. He hadn't been looking for a best mate, only someone competent enough to watch Bodie's back since Cowley had mandated their partnership. Over time they had grown very close so that no longer did 3.7 think of himself as the best agent. He had spoken only the truth on the memorable bus ride looking for the criminals who had snatched the Israeli minister, "We're the two top operatives...."

Doyle's often stroppy personality and idealism wasn't always to Bodie's liking, but he had long ago acknowledged his need for the other man as no other. Birds came and went but the 3.7/4.5 unit remained.

Dressing carefully for his date, Bodie still felt uneasy about seeing Jane Anderson again. It wasn't likely that she had any other reason to see him other than a need for his form, but he still wished that Ray had agreed to come along. She wouldn't have dared try anything with Doyle there. Not that William Bodie needed a chaperone of course. He'd been handling those of the female sex since adolescence, but he enjoyed his partner's company too or he had until recently.

Grabbing up his keys and warm jacket as protection against the December chill, he descended the steps and into the Capri. Driving across town, his thoughts surprisingly centred on his partner rather than his coming date.

It hadn't been the easiest period for the two men. The aftermath of the Coogan investigation along with Brian Forrest's deadly conspiracy and Barry Martin's betrayal had put new stresses on their partnership, ones which they had weathered or so Bodie had believed until Doyle had started to withdraw from Bodie's company.

It had started subtly. There had been several nights when Doyle had turned down the chance to drink on Bodie's largesse. An invitation to play squash refused without giving a reason. Naturally, Bodie assumed that Doyle had a new romantic interest, but his curly-haired friend hadn't mentioned any birds.

Something between the two of them was out of kilter and Bodie didn't like it. He preferred the way their minds seemed to be so attuned to each other as the day when they had met the lovely blonde and her dark-haired companion in the canteen. Bodie hadn't even blinked as he had picked up on Doyle's comment about the private dining room.

Remembering the incident in the canteen, Bodie grimaced. He had tracked down the blonde from the Met a few days later, only to be turned down for a date. Fortunately, he had easily found other feminine companionship.

As a result, he hadn't recognised that Ray seemed to be avoiding him--at least when they were off duty. Their assignments presented no problems since they worked well together as always, but there was a look in the jade eyes that mystified Bodie. Tempted at times to ask, he kept silent. He was the last man to demand that someone open up about their feelings.

Then, early in October Doyle had asked for some time off which Cowley had granted. Ostensibly the reason given was that a relative of Doyle's had died so he needed time to attend the funeral. Bodie had poked and prodded for the identity of the relative since Doyle had never mentioned any close relation in Scotland, but Ray had avoided the questions, promising that he would return in a week.

The man who returned from Scotland seemed a shadow of the feisty sod who was Bodie's partner. Doyle said little about the funeral, but the dark circles under his eyes spoke volumes about his lack of sleep. Bodie had made an effort to find out the truth, but Doyle had just smiled, saying that he was fine and just needed some time.

To Bodie's relief, time did seem to help. Doyle's sarky nature resurrected itself, but there was still something lurking in the green eyes--something that disappeared whenever Bodie asked if Ray was all right. Doyle would just laugh it off and then offer to buy Bodie a drink.

Pulling up in front of Jane Anderson's house, Bodie took a deep breath. He was ex-SAS, he was one of Cowley's finest. He could do this. He could handle anything--maybe.

Just then Jane's familiar curly blonde head appeared in the doorway of the building. Waving madly, she called out, "Bodie! I'm so glad to see you. Come in!" Bodie calmly climbed out of the car and went to meet his fate.

Bodie hated the winter days before Christmas. During his days with the mercenaries some of his mates, particularly the younger ones, would reminisce about their homes and the joy of being with their families. Hard men with tender memories. Of course, Bodie had long believed that most of their memories were false, made up out of wishes and disappointments about things that had never been. He'd never voiced those doubts since it was obvious that those men needed something to keep them going despite the blood, death and suffering.

That was never more obvious than one 25 December when a young recruit died as a result of wounds from a mortar round. Bodie had sat by the young man until his last breath. Even through the intense pain the boy's last thought had been, "Wish I could tell Mum Happy Christmas."

Upon his return to England, Bodie hadn't found that much joy in the darkness and cold of December and the holidays. So much of the happiness seemed forced with people spending money they didn't have. After joining CI5, Bodie found even less reason to celebrate. The realities of life in the field didn't predispose the ex-SAS man to "Peace on Earth".

His first year with CI5, Bodie and his new partner, had upheld Queen and Country by working both the 25th and 26th. The second year they were on stand by so Doyle had managed to cook Christmas dinner for the two of them, but then they had been called out with the dishes still soaking in the basin. By the time they returned, what might have been delicious leftovers were inedible. Doyle had ended up tossing one of the encrusted pots rather than spend the time scrubbing it clean.

This year had been so different. Smiling to himself as he dressed in a dark suit with white polo neck jumper, Bodie happily recalled the two days he'd spent with Jane. To his relief her joy at seeing him again had proven sensual and satisfying to both of them. The two of them had spent most of his free time together. She had even insisted that they spend Christmas and Boxing Day with each other since 3.7 was off duty for the two days.

After determining that Ray had prior plans, Bodie had agreed to her invitation. It was true that she wasn't much of a cook; but Fortnum and Mason had provided many of the necessary goodies and once they were done eating, Jane invited him to her bed in a particularly generous manner. So much so that when she asked if they could spend New Year's Eve and 1 January together, he had readily agreed, planning to take her to the CI5 party on the 31st.

Staring into the mirror at his immaculate appearance, Bodie grinned in anticipation with what the night would bring. A few hours at the party, letting his colleagues envy him Jane's company, and then the two of them could celebrate in their own way. Bodie had caught a glimpse of the skimpy red dress Jane planned to wear and knew that tongues would be hanging out, however, there was only one downside to his plan--Doyle wouldn't be there to show his envy.

Bodie had called his partner just that morning to inquire if Ray would be attending. Doyle's answer had surprised him since the curly-haired man usually loved to party. "Not tonight, mate. Got plans of me own."

Somehow managing a leer in his voice, Bodie asked, "Do I know her?"

"No, and you're not going to. Enjoy the party and I'll see you on the 2nd." Without another word, Doyle had hung up.

For one moment Bodie had been annoyed at Doyle's stroppiness, but he definitely had more pleasant things on his mind than his snarky partner.

Bodie arrived at the hotel where the party was to be held precisely on time. To his chagrin Jane had said she preferred to arrive by herself since she had a late appointment with her hairdresser. Knowing the vagaries of women and their need to be beautiful for special occasions, Bodie didn't protest too much. He was looking forward to an enjoyable party and an even more enjoyable after-party celebration.

As befitting an organisation which counted security as its number one priority, the attendees from CI5 had been alerted to use the private entrance to the former ballroom where the evening's gaiety had already started. Bodie had elected to stay in the lobby of the hotel so that it would be easier for Jane to find him. Ordering a pint, he took a seat in the lobby and began his wait.

By 10:00 Jane still hadn't shown and Bodie had made three calls to her flat where there was no answer. Fearing that something might have happened to his date, he decided to drive over to Jane's flat when the concierge caught his attention. Handing over a small slip of paper, he moved away quickly.

Bodie read the note then crumbled it up before stuffing it into his pocket. Standing there quietly, he didn't notice the man approaching him until a familiar voice asked, "3.7, what are you doing down here? I would have thought you'd be upstairs with your young lady."

Bodie turned to face George Cowley. Forcing himself to smile, he evaded the question, "Uh well, yes sir but she's unable to attend. I was just about to go upstairs to have a drink," he lied. He definitely wanted the drink but not to mix with all the well-jollied up operatives of CI5.

"Is 4.5 upstairs? Unfortunately, I've arrived rather late. My sole remaining aunt, who lives in Scotland, called for Hogmanay. She does tend to ramble at times, but I suppose that's permissible when you're 83."

Bodie just stood there, Cowley's words not even registering, except for his mumbling something about Doyle not attending the party.

"I suppose that only makes sense." Cowley hesitated and then asked, "Are you all right, 3.7?"

Bodie nodded.

"Why don't we go into the bar and have a wee dram to celebrate the holiday? I don't have much desire to go upstairs where the band is playing. I prefer bagpipes." Cowley watched his agent out of the corner of his eye. The big man didn't even react to the word bagpipes.

It took the Controller only a few moments to find two comfortable chairs where they could sit and order drinks. As soon as the two doubles arrived, Cowley leaned back in his chair and started to indulge in small talk. He could see that Bodie had received some sort of shock and didn't want to embarrass the man by asking questions.

Taking a drink, Cowley savoured the smoky taste. "My aunt Mary was just telling me that her village doesn't plan to celebrate Hogmanay in the usual style this year. Most of those who believe in the old ways have died and the young people don't seem to care. They've all gone to Edinburgh or one of the other big cities to join in the festivities. It's unfortunate that we're so far from her village. I'm sure she'd make you welcome you as her first foot."

Bodie took a large drink of the liquor, almost choking before replying, "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what you mean."

"Och, I forgot you wouldn't be likely to know the traditions of Hogmanay. When I was a boy, it was one of the highlights of the year. You know that for hundreds of years most of Scotland didn't truly celebrate Christmas the way they do here in the south. We boys would sometimes dress up in skins and went around fighting mock battles for the New Year. There were bonfires, ceilidhs and first footing was one of the most important traditions."

Bodie took another drink. "'S nice to have traditions. I mean for some people."

"Ah yes, I don't suppose you've experienced that many traditions, have you, laddie?"

Bodie shook his dark head. "No, sir. Hard to think of Christmas pudding when you're in a jungle."

"Yes, I can see that. Uh, would you like another drink?"

Bodie held out the glass. "Thank you, sir. Why would your aunt be happy to see me at this first footing?"

"Because you are precisely the first foot every good Scot wants to see right after the clock chimes midnight--a tall, dark stranger bearing coal, salt, shortbread, black bun and whisky. If such a person is your first visitor then prosperity for the coming year is likely."


"For the fire. Fire symbolises the bringing of the light of knowledge to the world and putting the darkness of the past behind you."

"I'll drink to that." Bodie smiled as the waiter brought two more drinks.

"I suppose in a way that's what we'd all like to do; put the past behind us, start afresh with the New Year, but that's not always possible, is it, 3.7?"

"No, sir. You can try to bury the past, but it doesn't always stay buried."

"Very true. I know that's been especially difficult for your partner. I've noticed that he still seems to be grieving, but then he was expecting to be in Scotland tonight."

Bodie's blue eyes opened wide. "Why would he be in Scotland? He doesn't.... I mean the only person he knew there is the relation who died as far as I know."

Cowley opened then closed his mouth. "Perhaps you should ask Doyle but I believe it was a friend who died, not a relative. He had already asked me for time off to visit Aberdeen for Hogmanay, but his friend was killed. Didn't he tell you?"

"Just something about a relative dying. Can't understand why he din't tell me the truth."

"Perhaps he felt the need to work through his grief on his own."

"But he's seen lots of death," Bodie protested.

"True but who ever becomes used to the loss of a friend or loved one? Whilst in my army days, I wrote many letters to the families of those who were lost. I could move on, but many of them couldn't."

"Guess so. Can't imagine what it was like for the families of the men I fought with in Africa or Northern Ireland. Thank goodness most of 'em never found out how their men really died. Thought it was clean and fast."

"Ah yes, it's never easy. You always hope they'll be prepared, but we all like to think we're immortal, don't we? I suppose in a way we are as long as we have someone to remember us." Cowley finished the drink in his hand.

"Don't have anything to worry about there, do you, sir? Lots of people will remember the name of George Cowley."

"Perhaps but not all of them with fondness. Do you remember our little talk before the Turkel op--something about my speech to new recruits having Fascist overtones?"

Bodie flushed and then nodded.

"I was annoyed with you, I must admit; but there was an element of truth in what you said. Sometimes I don't know how far I would go to protect the integrity of CI5 and the safety of this country, and that frightens me. Does the end always justify the means?"

"Can't tell you the answer to that, sir. I've done things I'm not proud of, but I s'ppose that's true of most people."

"Unfortunately, I believe you're right. I suppose it's all we can do to answer to our Maker when the time comes." He hesitated and then continued, "Well, I'd better go upstairs for a few minutes at least so I can make my escape. That way the party can really begin. Are you coming?"

"Don't think so. I'm not in the partying mood right now, but thanks for the drinks. Good stuff."

"Definitely. I forgot to mention that the tall dark stranger who arrives for first footing is sometimes rewarded with a wee dram and something to eat. I'm sure that would suit you fine."

"No question, sir," Bodie assured him.

"Well, then I'll bid you a Happy New Year. I will see you on the 2nd, won't I?"

"I'll be there."

"Good. In Scotland the 2nd is usually a holiday as well, but crime doesn't take many holidays so I'll need you and Doyle fighting fit. I can count on that, 3.7?"

Bodie nodded as the shorter man limped off towards the lift. Turning on his heel, Bodie left the hotel. There was only an hour 'til midnight and he had things to do.

Bodie stood outside the door to Doyle's flat. Big Ben had just finished sounding midnight whilst faint noises of shouting could be heard outside. Transferring the bag he held to his left hand, Bodie knocked at the door--loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to summon the wrath of the next door neighbour. After waiting for a minute, he knocked again. This time Doyle opened the door.

Standing there in an incorrectly buttoned shirt and jeans that hung from his hips, Ray Doyle stood there, eyes slightly glazed and unfocussed. He started to mouth the words, "What are you doing here?" when Bodie deftly stepped past him and into the room.

"I'm your first foot!" Bodie smiled with pleasure. "And I've brought you me saltcellar, a box of stale shortbread 'n some whisky but no coal or black bun."

The green eyes blinked nervously, but the words did seem to penetrate the alcohol-soaked brain. "You're here for...Hogmanay?"

"'S right. Cowley told me about your friend and about the tradition of first footing. Thought maybe I'd cheer you up. That is, 'less you've got somebody here to do that already." Bodie glanced around. There didn't seem to be any evidence of a female presence.

Doyle took a step backwards, shaking his head. "Nobody here but me. Wanted it that way, din't I? 'Sides din't Cowley tell you 's s'pposed to be a stranger who comes calling?"

Bodie handed over the bag and then took a seat. "As a matter of fact, he did, but seein' as how we haven't been together much lately, I think I qualify."

Doyle set the bag down and then carefully lowered himself onto the couch. "Thought...thought you were seein' Jane t'night?"

Bodie's jaw flexed angrily before he took out the small piece of paper from his pocket. "I thought so too, but she set me up. Had this delivered to the hotel." Handing over the note, he watched as Doyle tried to bring the words into focus.

"NOW YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS." Ray read it again, his lips forming the words with no sound. "Christ! She's a vindictive bitch!"

"Yeh, figure 'm well out of it. Don't ever want to see her again."

Doyle swayed as he took to his feet, moving over to the table where the liquor bottle stood. Carefully, he poured two glasses, handing one to his friend. "'S another tradition, offerin' whisky to the 'tall, dark, stranger.' 's what Ian told me."

"Ian? That was your friend's name? How long did you know him?" Bodie sipped at the scotch. It wasn't as smooth as the one Cowley had offered him, but it would do.

"Ian Craig. Met him at art school--not when I was a kid, but just lately." Doyle took a gulp which warmed him. "Din't tell you that, did I? Went back to art school. Found a place that would give me lessons when I could make it. Ian was there too. He...he was good." Ray leant back against the cushions on the couch. "Was nice bein' with someone who loved beauty 'n not caught up in the dirt we deal with. Never complained when I had to report for duty like birds do."

"Why didn't you introduce him to me?" Bodie asked quietly. He had never thought about Doyle being close to another human being besides himself.

"Thought about it, but you know how it is. Wanted to keep something private. Cowley probably knows what cereal I eat," Ray complained with a touch of bitterness.

"But you told Cowley about Ian."

"Had to when he died. His parents called me from Aberdeen. He'd been up there visitin' and some drunk hit his car. Thought they were lyin'. Couldn't be the same Ian Craig. We'd already planned to visit Aberdeen and Stonehaven for Hogmanay. He told me all about it--the fireballs, the fireworks and the joy of welcoming in the New Year. Now, he won't see any of that. He's in the cold ground 'n I can't seem to warm up either."

Silently, Bodie moved over to sit next to his partner. "Wish you'd told me. Wouldn't have had to go through it alone."

Doyle blinked back the wetness in his green eyes. "Couldn't. Din't think you'd understand."

Bodie scoffed. "You thought I'd be jealous because you had other friends?"

"'S not that. You're not the petty type."

"What is it then?"

"Ian was my lover. He...I think I was halfway to fallin' in love with him. Reminded me a lot of you in some ways--didn't like talking 'bout his past, tall and dark but with grey eyes. Scary those eyes, like he could see right through me. Could tell I was looking for something."

Bodie sat there speechless. Ray had had a male lover. Ray was gay and Bodie hadn't known.

"Are you angry?" Doyle bent his head so he could see Bodie's face. "Just wasn't sure what you'd say. Talked about your reputation during the Pellin op. Thought you might, well, you might want out of our partnership if you knew."


"'S all right, Bodie, it won't happen again. Losin' Ian made me see how naive I was. Cowley thinks Ian and I were just friends; he'd probably throw me out of CI5 if he knew the truth. Won't take that chance again. I promise I'll stick to birds. No reason to be angry."

"Ray, will you shut up? I'm not angry! I just thought we trusted each other more than that. Did you really think I'd get the vapours and scream, 'Rape!'"

Doyle grinned in spite of himself. "Can't imagine you havin' the vapours. Be more likely to hand me my head."

"You might be surprised."

"What's that mean?"

"Just that you're not the only one who's been with a man." When Doyle opened his mouth to protest, Bodie placed one finger against Ray's full lips. "I know what I said up at the gay centre. 's not the first time I've used camouflage. Saves trouble when you're not sure which way the wind is blowing."

Doyle took a deep breath. "So I was worryin' for nothing? You're okay with knowin' about Ian?"

"Wouldn't go that far, sunshine. I'm sorry you lost someone you cared about, but I wish you had told me about liking men too."

Doyle yawned loudly. It had been a long, emotional day. "Why? Doesn't make much difference now, does it? Ian's gone and 'm not going out looking."

When Bodie didn't say anything, Doyle began to softly hum, "Auld Lang Syne," then he stopped. "Promised Ian we'd sing that at midnight, but I couldn't. Hurt too much. Doesn't seem to hurt so much now." Continuing to hum the song, he got up to find another drink.

"Don't you think you should forget that and go to bed?" Bodie suggested.

"'m fine, Mum, but it's nice of you to be concerned, to take the time to come over." Doyle stopped in the middle of taking a drink. "If you didn't know the truth about Ian, why did you come over?"

Caught out by Doyle's sudden revelation, Bodie shifted to the offence. "No law that says a mate can't be with his partner at Hogmanay, is there? Who better? You can't choose your family; 'sides neither of us have one so why shouldn't we be together?"

"Easy there, Bodie." Doyle handed another wee dram to 3.7. "Din't mean I'm not grateful. 'S just that you could have gone to the party 'n found someone to take Jane's place. Must still be a few typists you have dated yet." The hint of sarcasm didn't pass unnoticed, but Bodie said nothing. "I told you I had plans, but you still came over, even brought me some pressies although I think a full saltcellar might have shown more holiday spirit."

"You're gettin' picky in your old age, Goldilocks. Meant to fill it, but I din't have much time. Wanted to be here right after midnight. Thought you could use some good fortune for a change."

Something flickered in Ray's green eyes. "Oh, I dunno."

"Ray! I was stabbed, you were beaten up twice, CI5 was almost disbanded by that bitch Mather, Kathie Mason almost got you killed and you lost someone you cared about. I'd say that's not a good year!" Bodie exclaimed indignantly.

Doyle rubbed his hand through his already dishevelled curls. "Can't deny that, but I can't regret knowing Ian. We were good together. 'Sides you and I did manage to take down Chives 'n Green as well as Temple-Blake Limited. Even put it to the KGB and those two mugs of Yashinkov's. And what about that atomic bomb? Saved five miles of prime London real estate, we did!"

"That was last year," Bodie pointed out.

"What?" Doyle stopped to think it over. "Okay so you're right; it was last year, but we did some good. Couldn't stay with the mob if I didn't think we were doing some good."

"That's my Ray--always wanting to bring hope and enlightenment to the world."

"You laughin' at me?" The green eyes darkened.

"Never--well almost never. Nothing wrong with seeing the light instead of the darkness. 's what Hogmanay's all about, isn't it?"

"Yeh, it is and there's one thing I forgot."


"It's about bein' with those you care about: family, friends, partners, lovers. And that's you, Bodie."

"Uh, well, uh not the last, am I?"

"Not yet. You know I think you're right about going to bed. I am knackered. You're welcome to stay over in the spare room. I'll make a big fry-up in the morning."

"You sure you want me to stay over? I haven't had that much to drink."

"Know that, don't I or I'd insist you stay here. Want to keep you safe. Don't want to start the New Year looking for a new partner."

"Okay then, I'll stay. Kind of tired meself and I don't fancy going out into the cold again. Good thing we both have the day off. Cowley warned me that we should be in on time on the 2nd."

"Man's a bloody machine!"

"Oh, I don't know. Think his aunt Mary might have his number."


"I'll tell you about it in the morning. Those big green eyes of yours are almost closed now."

Doyle smiled sleepily then whispered, "Happy New Year!" before heading off to his bedroom.

Bodie watched the retreating figure until the door closed and then headed into the spare room to take the sheets out of the airing cupboard. With an efficiency born of service in the SAS, he had his teeth cleaned and himself between the sheets in less than five minutes. It was only then that his tired mind registered the two momentous words: "Not yet."

Bodie fell asleep smiling.

-- THE END --

December 2005

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