It was Christmas Eve and Ray Doyle had to work. This was his first holiday season as a CI5 agent and by tradition he was required to put in hours on the 24th, 25th and 26th of December. His partner of six months, William Bodie, had the three days off. In fact, Bodie had been gloating about that fact for over a week. His details about the goddess that he intended to spend the time with had already become legend leaving those of his colleagues to discreetly excuse themselves whenever he appeared in the rest room.
Doyle had listened loyally for a day or two and then he too had taken to making himself scarce. How many times could a man stand to hear about a blonde of luscious proportions who virtually came across at the price of one drink? Clair--Doyle thought her name was Clair--could also cook and she had her own flat. Doyle could almost imagine Bodie and Clair hibernating in bliss for the three days whilst he had to work.
It wasn't that Doyle was particularly religious or even that caught up in the holiday spirit, but it would have been nice to enjoy an hour or two in his partner's company for a drink or a nosh; something to celebrate their partnership's survival.
That survival had been in doubt during the early days since both men were competitive with insults which might have been subtle but they were definitely there. Doyle hadn't been too impressed with 3.7 despite his SAS credentials or perhaps because of them. The man was all action, no thinking.
For his part Bodie hadn't seemed too awed with Doyle either which wasn't surprising since the bigger man had made it clear that a copper didn't exactly mesh with his idea of partner material.
The six months had seen several rough moments between them, but they had finally reached a truce which had grown into trust and a realisation that they were better together than apart. Of course, neither man had audibly acknowledged that to the other, even though they both knew it to be true, especially after Cowley had confirmed their permanent pairing at the beginning of December.
That night the two men had shared drinks at Ray's local to celebrate with Doyle buying more rounds since he was the newcomer. Ray knew that Bodie was one of CI5's best agents, even though he hadn't been part of Cowley's mob all that long either. In fact, there was talk that somehow Bodie had conned the Scotsman out of doing his full three days of holiday duty the year before and no one could understand how 3.7 had wangled all three days off this particular year. Still, no one called him on it. They had all seen Bodie in action and didn't want that ferocity turned on them.
Resigned to a quiet day in Records on the 24th, Doyle plugged away at his work. If there was a call out, he would go into action but George Cowley was not a man to let his agents sit around on the off-chance that there would be trouble. Since the villains of London seemed to also enjoy the time off, Doyle endured the dust and boredom going over old cases that might give clues or just needed tidying.
After work he stopped for some takeaway before heading to his flat. Tempted to stop by Bodie's just in case he was free, Doyle gave the flat a quick drive by, but there were no lights nor was Bodie's car in evidence. Doyle gave up and went home to his rapidly cooling takeaway.
The next morning, Doyle chided himself as he drove to work. Bodie was entitled to spend his holidays with whomever he pleased. He didn't have to consider his partner's feelings. Doyle was a grown man--had he chosen to find a bird, he could have had a warm bed companion too--he just hadn't felt like it.
Walking into headquarters, Doyle could smell the evergreen boughs that someone had put up in an effort to make the day more cheery. It was a nice thought on someone's part, but didn't raise his spirits that much nor did the ringing of nearby church bells.
The rest room was empty since almost everyone who could take the day off had done so. Glancing at the assignment board, he was pleased to see that he had been assigned to communications. At least he would have someone to talk to--providing that there were any calls which didn't seem as likely. Even Cowley intended to be out of the building today. It was Christmas after all.
The Victorian building seemed almost empty although he knew there were others scurrying about. Even the canteen was on minimum staff with only hot drinks, sandwiches and other snacks available. No hot food. Not like the Christmases which he had spent with Syd Parker and his family. Syd's mum was a fantastic cook. She had made enough to even fill up the two hungry young men at her table. Then Syd had been killed by Bill Heydon and Mrs. Parker had been devastated by his loss.
Ray shook his head at that memory. Better not to let his thoughts wander in that direction. That was the problem with being on stand by or assigned to quiet duty--too much time to think, to remember. Better to be out on the streets with Bodie who always seemed to keep his thoughts on the present. What little he knew about 3.7 was part of his file; Bodie rarely revealed anything voluntarily.
Naturally, there were rumours about Bodie. Some of the other agents had hinted at things, particularly after it became apparent that Doyle had made the grade as Bodie's partner. The common attitude seemed to be, "Better you than me."
Doyle could understand that; Bodie wasn't easy because he didn't suffer fools gladly. He expected a great deal of his partner and himself although the dark-haired man tried to maintain a blase appearance--just do the job, collect your pay and enjoy your off-duty.
There was no question that Bodie knew how to enjoy off-duty. After adjusting to each other, they had frequently spent time together at various pubs around London. Bodie always seemed to enjoy buying a drink for a barmaid or the occasional entertainer. When they double-dated, it was usually Bodie who insisted on 'just one more bottle.'
At first Doyle had been embarrassed by Bodie's largesse. He had interpreted it as implying that Doyle was parsimonious, but then he had realised that Bodie enjoyed buying drinks. It was Bodie just as much as having blue eyes and a slightly up-turned nose was Bodie.
As expected Christmas was a quiet day except for one incident which would provide an interesting story for the rest room after everyone returned to work on the 27th. Hopefully Boxing Day would also still be quiet. The streets of London had seen too many disturbances over the holidays in the past few years. It was difficult to remember it was supposed to be a time of "Peace on Earth" when bombs exploded, killing and maiming.
Sighing with relief as his shift came to an end, Doyle walked out into the frosty air. It hadn't snowed, but it looked as if it might. Crossing the car park to his motor, Doyle stopped, quietly reaching for the gun in his holster when he recognised the voice calling his name.
A nearly out-of-breath Bodie ran up to him, flashed a smile, proclaiming, "Happy Christmas" whilst thrusting a bag into Doyle's hand.
"What's this and what're you doin' here? Thought you were with Clair?"
"'S your Christmas present. Din't have a chance to give it to you before."
Doyle stood there, hesitated and then asked, "Should I open it?"
"'Course, you prat. 's yours."
In the dim light of the December evening it was difficult to see what was in the bag, but Doyle gently pulled it from its paper enclosure. It seemed to be some kind of cake, probably chocolate. "Ta. Looks good. I'll have it later."
Beaming with pride, Bodie informed him. "'s a Swiss roll. One of me favourites. Know it should be a Christmas pud, but I've lost me recipe."
Doyle stood there not quite knowing what to say. "That's okay, not much on Christmas puddings anyway. Almost singed me hair one time when Mrs. Parker made one."
Bodie had no idea who Mrs. Parker was, but with Doyle's mass of curls, he could understand the problem.
"I...I've got your pressie at my place if you've got time to stop by."
Bodie blinked. "You got me a present?"
"Forgot you were going to be with Clair. Thought I'd see you today. Can you come home with me?" Doyle tried not to sound too eager. Be cool. Bodie was always cool.
"Why not?" Bodie put on his most charming smile. "We'll have to take your car though. Mine had a puncture on the way over here. That's why I was running. Din't think I'd catch you before you left."
"You left it somewhere? What if someone nicks it?"
Bodie scowled as if he'd never thought that anyone would ever nick his motor.
"C'mon. I'll give you a lift; we'll take care of your tyre and then go on to my place."
Before Bodie could even say a word, they were in the Rover, tooling their way through the strangely quiet streets. Since it was only a few streets away, they soon had Bodie's tyre changed and ready to roll so the two cars could make their way to Doyle's flat where they were fortunate to find parking spaces nearby.
Bodie carefully carried the Swiss roll whilst Doyle opened the door to his flat. He hadn't bothered to put up any decorations, but he didn't think Bodie would mind. His partner had never seemed the sentimental type. Truthfully, Bodie's gift had taken him by surprise.
"Sit down and I'll get your pressie. Are you hungry? The woman next door brought over a casserole to thank me for helping her with a broken tap. Won't take long to heat up."
Bodie's stomach growled loudly. "Uh, well, I could eat a little something," he replied almost shyly.
"Great. It's bloody huge 'n I was figuring I might have to eat it several nights in a row. I'll just pop it in."
Doyle hustled into the kitchen, taking out the casserole to place in the oven. Then he hunted up Bodie's present before returning to the lounge. "Sorry, it's not wrapped. Kind of an awkward shape." Doyle handed over the bottle of pure malt with its ribbon around the neck.
Bodie handled it gently before commenting, "You've got good taste. Should we open it now?"
"If you want, but I thought you might like to take it home."
"No one to share it with there. Let's open it. We can drink a toast to our partnership."
Doyle's green eyes opened wide. "You remembered 's six months today?"
"Of course. 's not often I'm saddled with a hot-tempered golli who shoots like an angel and punches like a devil."
"Saddled?" Doyle teased. "Everybody knows Cowley put us together so I could whip you into shape."
Bodie patted his chest. "Nothing wrong with my shape, 4.5. You, on the other hand, are a skinny runt so you'd better have a big slice of that Swiss roll."
Doyle started to retort when he saw the twinkle in the blue eyes. "Speakin' of the Swiss roll, I'd have thought you'd be wadin' knee deep in goose 'n stuffin' with all the trimmings at Clair's. Didn't you tell me she was a fabulous cook?"
The twinkle quickly left the blue eyes. "Thought so too. Turns out I was over at her place when she told me that we were going to her parents' house for Christmas. They wanted to meet me since she'd told them all about us." Bodie grimaced and then continued, "When we got there, it was obvious that they thought we were all but engaged. One of her brothers even took me aside and started askin' questions about my financial status and what kind of job I had. Couldn't take that so I handed Clair her present and then took off. 's not likely we'll be seein' each other again."
Doyle didn't say anything for a moment then he smiled. "You must be hungry then. I'll get some glasses for the whisky. Dinner should be ready soon."
Bodie leant back against the chair. He hadn't intended to tell Doyle about the dinner at Clair's parents, but it had just spilled out. Somehow it didn't seem to be a day for pretence.
By the time the casserole was hot, the bottle of pure malt had diminished considerably. Switching to a bottle of red wine, the partners enjoyed it as a complement to Mrs. Sinclair's Steak and Kidney Pudding. With the Swiss roll and coffee for afters, the two were replete with satisfaction and full stomachs.
"'S not a bad way to celebrate," Bodie remarked as he moved into the lounge with his second cup of coffee.
"Yeh, think I'm going to leave the dishes 'til later. There's a movie on the telly if you want to watch."
"What is it?"
"A Christmas Carol. The Alastair Sim version. I like it better than the earlier one."
"Ah, Tiny Tim and all the happy little Cratchits. Why not? Makes you appreciate we're not in the 19th century. Wouldn't fancy bein' in one of those workhouses."
"Still the same problems though, innit? Sometimes I wonder if there's any point to what we do."
Bodie glanced over at the man sitting in the chair across from him. "Gotta learn to accept what you can't change, Doyle. Thought the Met would have taught you that already?"
"You mean because I was a copper? I s'ppose you're right in some ways. Just can't give up though. 's why I joined Cowley's mob. It's not much, but better than what I was doing."
"Yeh, I know the feeling." Bodie turned on the telly and then found a comfortable spot to sit.
From time to time Doyle would catch Bodie staring at him, but then the dark-headed man would quickly return his gaze to the screen.
When the last "God bless us everyone" had been uttered, Doyle turned off the telly before asking if Bodie wanted another drink. Bodie started to shake his head and then changed his mind, "Just a small one. Should be getting home. You have to work tomorrow."
"Thanks for reminding me," Doyle replied with no real malice. "Here, pour what you want," as he handed over the bottle. "Of course, it's obvious you have no manners. Didn't even ask how my day was."
In solemn tones Bodie asked, "How was your day?"
"Dull except for Winifred Dillon."
"Winifred Dillon? You're supposed to be taking care of communications and you get involved with a bird?"
"She's not exactly a bird. Must be sixty-five if she's a day."
Bodie trooped his way out to the kitchen where he grabbed the last slice of Swiss roll. Returning with his mouth full, he mumbled, "Ho'di'you mee' 'er?"
Doyle shook his head, but was able to interpret the mishmash of words. "She called base. Said some IRA terrorists lived in the next flat and she was sure they were going to bomb the Bank of England."
Bodie's mouth opened then shut quickly. Gulping down the partially macerated confection, he demanded, "She thought what?"
"Said she had already called the coppers, but they wouldn't help her so she'd seen Cowley's name in the paper and decided to call us."
"What'd you tell her?"
"I took down the information. Told her I'd find out what was going on."
"Turns out she does live next to an Irish couple. Man works in low-level weapons research for Apex-Makinross. Mrs D.'s the type who always has her ear to the wall so she must have heard him mention something about bombs and got the idea he was a terrorist."
Bodie started to splutter with laughter. "So what did you do?"
"Told her they were undercover agents working for MI5 so they didn't want anyone to know their identities. Told her their lives were in her hands so she'd need to keep quiet about them."
"She practically started singin', 'God Save the Queen.' Told me she worked at Bletchley Park during the war so she knew how to keep a secret."
Bodie's snigger became louder. "Wish I'd been there to hear that."
"Wish you'd been there too," Doyle admitted.
"Miss me, did you?"
"Was kind of quiet. Never thought I'd complain about CI5 being quiet."
"Yeh, well, I'd better go. You've got one more day of holiday duty. Wouldn't want the Cow to blame me for your fallin' asleep on duty."
"Guess so. Thanks for comin' over. Sorry there's not much left of your pressie."
"Don't worry about it. There's nothing left of yours." Bodie stood there, wanting to say something, but not sure what. Finally he settled for, "Guess I'd better go."
"Uh, are you doing anything tomorrow evening? Thought we might do something after I finish at work."
Bodie thought it over for a moment. "Good idea. We can go to my local if you like."
"Sounds fine to me. Haven't been to your local, have I?"
Bodie smiled at the other man. "I usually go there alone; it's a good place for clearing the head."
Ray cleared his throat. "I don't want to interfere."
"You won't, sunshine. Think I'd like to have you there with me."
"It's a date then." Doyle flushed slightly. "I mean...."
Bodie took a step nearer his partner then held something over their heads. It was a small branch with bedraggled berries on it. "Planned to use this with Clair, but I think I've got a better use for it." Bodie lightly brushed his lips against Doyle's and then walked to the door, opening it in one quick motion. "See you tomorrow...partner," and then was gone.
Doyle stood there for a long time before walking into the kitchen to take care of the dishes, an onerous duty he'd always hated. This time he barely noticed them. The coming New Year had suddenly taken on a whole new outlook--one definitely filled with delicious promise.
-- THE END --