A Little Piece of Mistletoe
Doyle put his glass down very carefully. Not that he was drunk. On the contrary, he knew he was perfectly sober. Well, no, maybe on second thought, perhaps just a little tipsy. In which case he should have felt happy enough ... but he didn't. He hadn't even wanted to come to this party, wouldn't have bothered if he'd had his way. He'd much rather have been home alone with Bodie, just the two of them curled up together with a quiet drink. But if they didn't put in their obligatory appearance at these CI5 Christmas parties, and kiss a few girls under a few pieces of mistletoe, he supposed they'd only perpetuate the rumours and speculation he sensed were already rife about them, because for all their strenuous efforts to appear as nothing more than jokey mates in public, he suspected they still came across as much too close and intimate, which was very worrying, especially when Cowley was around, as he was tonight. He'd often suspected Cowley might even have guessed the truth about their relationship by this time, because he had the annoying habit of putting two and two together and always coming up with a resounding five ...
But Cowley wasn't the main reason for his depression tonight. No, the source of his downbent mood was much more straightforward, and very close at hand ...Karen ...
A nice girl, with CI5 for years. An old girlfriend of Bodie's from way back, from long before he and Bodie had become lovers ... and the girl Bodie had been with almost from the moment they'd arrived here tonight. From what Bodie had let slip about her, Doyle gathered he'd had quite a thing going with Karen a couple of years ago, and she'd taken charge of Bodie tonight as if she owned him, as if their relationship had never ended. Simply slipped her arm through his and walked off with him ... and Doyle had hardly seen him since ...
He wouldn't have minded so much if Bodie hadn't so obviously been enjoying her company, because pretending they were still into playing the field and looking for girlfriends was accepted practice by now. Aggravating, but something they had to put up with when they were in public. But Bodie looked like he was really lapping up every minute of Karen's company.
Doyle glanced across the room and took another look at him. Yeah, there he was, still smiling, talking nonstop, giving her the real Bodie treatment, while she looked up at him adoringly, and hung on his every word.
And Doyle supposed he couldn't really blame him. It was flattering to have a beautiful girl wanting your company, and Bodie liked women ... he always had done. And they liked him. Doyle knew he couldn't suddenly expect all of that to stop simply because they'd become lovers.
And he knew he was over-reacting too. Rationally, he knew Bodie was merely doing what they both always had to do at these parties ... playing the game that was all too familiar by now, pretending there was nothing they wanted more than a pretty girl hanging on their arms, but the fact that Bodie had known Karen in the past only increased Doyle's insecurity. And Bodie didn't even look like he was merely going through the motions tonight. From the bright-eyed, cheerful look of him, he obviously wasn't bored either, setting at least a dozen alarm bells ringing in Doyle's head.
He hated himself for feeling so jealous, knowing there wasn't even any justification for it. He was as sure of Bodie as it was possible to be sure of another person. But the worry and doubt still wouldn't go away. If there was no need to worry, why hadn't Bodie ditched Karen after he'd made the obligatory few minutes of polite conversation? Why had he stayed with her? Why was he still with her, hours later? He'd stayed by Karen's side all night and not come back to him, hardly even sparing him a glance.
Keeping him on his toes perhaps, Doyle wondered? Warning him not to take him for granted? No, that wasn't Bodie's style. He never played those games. Straight as a die was Bodie ... with him at least. He'd never gone in for this kind of devious behaviour before ...
A coloured streamer suddenly came whizzing past him, interrupting his unhappy thoughts, landing half on the back of the sofa where he was sitting, and half tangling in his hair, clinging to the heavy curls. He shook his head irritably, trying to dislodge it, but only succeeded in shaking one end of it loose to dangle in front of his nose. He blew it out of the way, aggravated, tried to detach the other pieces from his hair -- without much success.
"Cheer up, mate, it's Christmas Eve," a friendly, Christmas spirited voice called out as it wafted past him, "... got a face as long as next week."
He squinted up through the dangling streamer, searching for the speaker. It was Reynolds, pretty girl in tow, Christmas glass of champagne bobbing precariously in his hand.
He smiled back half-heartedly, but Reynolds was already lost to him in the noisy party throng. Reynolds' comment made him realize how much he was moping though. Normally he'd have been right there with the rest of them, joining in the fun, because there was nothing he liked better than a good party, but tonight ... well, tonight, he was sitting here by himself, longing for Bodie, and trying to hide the fact that he was spending most of his time searching out Bodie's sleek, dark head in the crowd.
Never in his wildest dreams had he believed he could become so involved with anyone, let alone another man. Before Bodie had entered his life as lover as well as friend, he remembered he'd even been very cynical in some of his relationships with women, detaching himself from them, and regaining his freedom with no compunction at all. But now there was Bodie, and everything was different. And as far as he could tell his feelings were only getting stronger as time went on. Crazy ... because he'd always thought of Bodie as the possessive one, and possessiveness had always been something he'd hated anyway ... before Bodie ... but now ... he simply couldn't help himself ...
Perhaps the way he was feeling at the moment though had something to do with it being a special time of year, and wanting Bodie more because of that. And, after all, it was their first Christmas together, or it should have been, until Karen stepped in and put a stop to it. God, this time last year, he remembered he'd still been half-heartedly dating Gillian, the air hostess he'd met at another party -- a party he'd enjoyed much more than this one. Twelve months ago ... a lifetime ago ...
He came back to earth with a thrill of shocked pleasure to discover that Bodie was suddenly, miraculously, no longer on the other side of the room, but sitting by his side on the sofa, patiently attempting to extract the recalcitrant remains of the streamer, which were still caught up in his hair.
Ridiculous, Doyle thought, as his heart started to pound at Bodie's nearness, that simply having him close to me can affect me so much ...
"Got yourself in a right mess here, haven't you, sunshine?" Bodie was saying levelly, "should've known it'd get caught up in all this woolly hair of yours. Who threw it at you, then?" his eyes concentrated on Doyle's hair rather than his face, as he tugged the bright, varicoloured strands loose.
"Christ, Bodie, don't do that here," Doyle hissed under his breath, "this lot don't need any encouragement to assume we're bent as a L3 note as it is."
"Over-reactin' ..." Bodie said calmly enough, as he pulled yet another painful strand free, "besides, it's Christmas ... no one'd even notice. Hang on, nearly got 'em all now ..."
Doyle was glad about that because he was feeling distinctly uncomfortable with Bodie sitting so close to him ... so close he could feel his brandy-tinged breath hot and sweet on his cheek, the warm pressure of Bodie's thigh against his own, and the soft, occasional brushing caresses of Bodie's shoulder against his arm, sending shivers of longing up and down his spine.
"There you go ..." Bodie said, pleased with himself, "last one ..." holding it up for Doyle's inspection with a cocky, Bodie-like grin. It was bright red and crumpled, and Doyle wasn't particularly interested in it. He was too busy trying to control the desperate urge to hold Bodie very close instead.
A rousing chorus of "Roll Out the Barrel" was going on behind them, and under cover of the raucous, offkey din, Doyle took the opportunity to whisper, "I see Karen's nabbed you for the night. You stayin' with her then?"
Bodie shrugged, put the red streamer down in a convenient ashtray. "Have to now, won't I?" sounding noncommital about it. He paused. "You okay? Not your usual sparkling self tonight," a worried frown settling on his face.
"I'm fine," Doyle hissed back, immediately on the defensive, furious he should have given anything of his feelings away.
Bodie fished the discarded, crumpled red streamer back out of the ashtray again, playing with it, screwing it into a tight little ball in his hand. "Come on, Ray, you're not happy. What's wrong?"
"Nothin'," Doyle said stoically, "for God's sake, go back to Karen, will you? Can't talk here like this, and it'll look funny if you're away from her too long."
But Bodie didn't move. "What happened to Denise then?" he asked, eyes scanning the room for her, "you were sittin' with her earlier on, weren't you?"
"Ditched her," Doyle said shortly, "Christ, Bodie, this should be our Christmas. We shouldn't have to go through this bloody performance for the benefit of the tongue waggers."
Bodie took in the fierce angry glint in the green eyes, and the barely controlled frustration in the lean body, and saw all too clearly that Doyle was settling into a mood, and a dangerous one at that. He hadn't realized the party was getting to Ray quite this much when he'd safely left him in Denise's amiable company earlier in the evening. In fact Karen had been hogging his time and attention so much it was only a few minutes ago he'd realized Ray was on his own, and had come over to investigate when he'd seen the moody, unhappy little look he knew so well, settle on his face.
He was sorely tempted now, to suggest they leave before Ray really lost his cool and perhaps did something stupid, because he couldn't stand the thought of Ray being unhappy anyway, and suspected the fact that he'd been with Karen all night, had to have a lot to do with it. Bodie felt badly about that, but he didn't see that there was much he could do about it ...
It'd look ridiculous, and highly suspicious if they left the party so early together now, specially as he'd been with a girl all night. As Ray'd said, they needed to be very careful, for their C15 colleagues needed no encouragement at all to assume they were much too close anyway ...
And as for Karen ... well, it was ludicrous. Karen meant nothing to him. Oh sure, he was enjoying her company, and it was good to see her again after all this time, and, as he'd had to find a girl to spend the evening with, she was better than most, but he was only staying with her out of necessity, not desire. Even when he'd gone out with her originally it hadn't been that fantastic. In fact he was beginning to wonder if he'd ever felt seriously about anyone ... before Ray ...
"Look," he whispered under his breath, "if you're worried about Karen ... well don't be. Come on, Ray, what's the matter with you all at once? This is only what we normally have to do when we come to parties.
"Yeah, I know," Doyle sighed, "just ignore me. Maybe it's gettin' to me more tonight because it's Christmas ... and it should be special ... for you and me ..."
"It will be special," Bodie promised, "just wait and see. Got a Christmas surprise lined up for you for a start. Got it all arranged ..." He held the worried green eyes with his own for a second, trying to make sure Doyle believed what he'd said. And the surprise was genuine too, not a spur of the moment thing he'd just thought of to cheer Ray up. He had in fact carefully arranged it all earlier in the evening.
"Oh yeah? What's all this about a surprise then?" Doyle asked suspiciously, but sitting up and taking note all at once, looking a bit more cheerful.
"Ah ha ..." Bodie said mysteriously, with a cheeky smile, "wouldn't be a surprise if I told you, would it? You'll have to be patient and wait and see."
He glanced worriedly across the room, saw Karen waiting impatiently for him. "Better get back ..." he said, standing up, "she'll be missin' me ... Chin up, sunshine ..." bending down close to his ear, "won't be long now, and then we'll have three whole days all to ourselves, without havin' to put on a show for anyone's benefit ..."
Doyle watched him weave his way back across the room to a smiling Karen, who immediately slipped her arm through his again ...
He sighed, not feeling noticeably any happier after their whispered conversation, his eyes wandering round the room till they found Denise standing disconsolately by herself. Yeah, Denise ... it'd been unkind to treat her the way he had earlier on ... she was too good for that kind of treatment.
He glanced at his watch. Ten past ten. A while to go yet before midnight, when he hoped they could respectably make a discreet exit ...
And in the meantime, there was nearly two hours to be got through as congenially as possible. In which case ... he got up from the sofa, fixed his most charming "I'm having a good time" party smile on his face and wandered over in Denise's direction ...
As the last of the chimes died away, heralding the arrival of Christmas morning, Doyle released Denise from the obligatory celebratory kiss he'd Just given her, and glanced across the room to find Bodie doing exactly the same thing with Karen. Doyle felt his insides lurch painfully, knew the jealousy was still there ...
He soon had other things on his mind though, for a few seconds later the room was suddenly plunged into instant and total darkness, not even the lights on the Christmas tree remaining on.
Amidst muffled curses and complaints, and little excited squeals from some of the girls,Doyle suddenly felt himself grabbed hold of in the darkness, held in a strong bearhug, and given a resounding and meaningful kiss full on the mouth. He would have protested, but the hot mouth covering his was very familiar, and the caress of the capable hands sweeping fleetingly through his hair more familiar still.
"You bastard ..." he whispered lovingly under his breath, once the kiss was over.
"Told you I had a surprise for you ..." a silken voice whispered back, very close to his ear, the brandy-tinged breath even sweeter than before, "Happy Christmas, sunshine ... love you ..."
"Love you too ..."
Then the interloper was gone, and the lights came back on again amazingly quickly, in a matter of seconds.
He looked round, blinking dazedly, to find that Denise was still by his side, and everything was back to normal. He would in fact have believed he'd imagined it all if his lips weren't still stinging so deliciously from the kiss.
The party quickly got back into its stride again, most people assuming there'd been a momentary power cut, but Doyle knew better than that. When the pounding of his heart had finally subsided, he looked across in Bodie's direction to find his partner standing on the other side of the room with his arm casually draped round Karen's shoulder, looking as innocent as the day he was born, but to Doyle's shrewd eye his partner was flushed and still breathless, and the dark blue eyes were sparkling mischievously.
And when he looked down he saw that Bodie was twirling a little piece of mistletoe in his hand ...
Feeling a bubble of irresistible laughter rising in his throat, he looked quickly away again, turned back to Denise with his first genuinely happy smile of the night, all of his depression gone ...
He looked round the room, taking in the Christmas revellry ... suddenly liking it very much. No, not such a bad party after all, in fact he'd decided he might even start to enjoy it from now on ...
-- THE END --