Not a Very Silent Silent Night
"Once upon a midnight drear..." Bodie muttered. He checked his watch. Only ten. Two more hours to go until Christmas. Terrific.
He flicked on his R/T. "Doyle?"
A familiar voice replied, "What happened to call signs?"
"Bugger 'em. We're on a closed channel, remember? Besides, no one's going to burgle this house tonight. All the sensible people are snug at home, waiting for Saint Nick, including the criminals. Only mad dogs and CI5 agents spend Christmas Eve on stakeout."
"Tell that to Cowley." The R/T crackled as Doyle switched off.
Bodie sighed and took a sip from the small flask of Scotch he'd brought for fortification during the long night. He and Doyle were guarding the Belgravia home of an MP who had taken his family to his country estate for the holidays. Since the first of December, the vacated homes of three MPs had been burgled, each time with important papers taken. The crimes were handled by Special Branch. Tonight, however, most of the Branch men had the holiday off, and the homes of the most vulnerable MPs were under watch by the Met. But this particular MP was an old friend of Cowley's. So Cowley generously offered a better class of night watchman--or rather, he offered to send his top team to help out.
They had taken up their posts at dusk, on the top floor of the three-story home. Bodie settled in a bedroom at the front, where he had a good view of the street below, while Doyle stood guard in a study which overlooked the back garden.
Bodie used his R/T again. "Oi. Agent 4 bloody 5."
"What?" Doyle said with irritation clear in his voice.
"What do you reckon Cowley is doing right now?"
There came a long pause. Then Doyle said, "Counting his blessings. One of which is, 'never having to fret over the sanity of my top team'."
"I'm not losing it," Bodie protested. "I'm just bored. Talk to me."
"Anything. How about what you'd rather be doing right now. Visiting the family, say."
There was another pause. "Nah," Doyle replied. "We don't get on."
Bodie considered this, then tried another tack. "All right, how about staying home--with a lovely, eager bird?"
The pause was even longer this time. "Just staying home would be enough."
"Yeah? All by yourself?"
Instead of answering this, Doyle turned the tables on him. "So what would you be doing?"
Bodie thought it over. He liked his family well enough, but he preferred to see them one on one, for whenever they gathered in a large group, tiffs tended to break out. He'd spent quite a few enjoyable Christmases Past with birds, but wasn't seeing anyone at the moment. "I'd probably go out to a high-class restaurant," he said. "Splurge on a gourmet meal."
"All by yourself?" Doyle replied.
It was Bodie's turn to pause. "Well, naturally, if you weren't too busy staying home alone, I'd ask you to join me."
"That's better. I'd like that very much."
Bodie wondered at the note of wistfulness he heard, and wished he could see Doyle's face. "Why don't you come in here for a bit? Keep me company."
"I'm watching the garden," Doyle said.
"Who's going to leap a six-foot brick wall lined with broken glass on top?"
"You never know. Some burglars have glass-proof gloves."
"Have it your way." Bodie didn't push it. While he had extreme doubts anyone would knock off this house tonight, he wasn't so far gone he'd risk their jobs for a little idle chatter. He looked out the window for signs of imminent attack just in case. All he saw were the twinkling lights on a Christmas tree inside the home across the way. He watched for a while, and saw people moving about in the large living room. A young couple came in and out of view, drinks in hand, talking, gesturing, laughing. They stopped near the tree, and kissed. Bodie looked away, looked towards the hallway, and thought about Doyle not too far down in the study. He picked up the R/T. "Say, Doyle."
"Oh, stop that. Listen, did your family do a tree every year? You know, trim it with lights and balls and garlands and such?"
"Christ, you are bored."
"Just answer the ruddy question."
"Sometimes, yeah. We stopped doing it when I was nine, though."
"Why?" Bodie's family had never had a real tree. His mother thought the practice wasteful and settled for a small, fake table top travesty which lost more of its branches each year until by the time he'd left home, it was a Christmas stick.
"Because," Doyle replied, "the Christmas I was nine, dad got more drunk than he usually did on Christmas Eve, knowing he wouldn't have to work the next day and could sleep it off and all, and he crashed into the tree and knocked it over, and then he passed out on top of it after throwing up."
"Oh." Bodie decided the topic of trees had been ill-chosen. "Sorry."
"Hardly your fault."
"So tell me," Bodie said, "have you got any good memories of Christmas?"
The silence dragged on. Then the R/T crackled to life again. "I had a good Christmas three years ago. Best one ever, in fact."
Bodie thought back. Three years...that would be the second year they'd been partners in CI5. They'd been on duty or standby for weeks due to a rash of bomb threats, but the criminals were caught on Christmas Eve, and Cowley graciously gave them Christmas Day off. They'd both been extremely tired, and neither had made any plans or preparations, not knowing they'd be free to do so. They had wound up grabbing some takeaway and then had gone to Doyle's flat, as he had an unopened bottle of Glenfiddich about. They'd spent the day lounging on the sofa, eating a bit, drinking a bit, watching a little telly. They'd played some Mastermind and then gin rummy, and later they'd gone for a short walk round the neighborhood park. And they had talked a lot, about what Bodie couldn't really remember. He did remember that they had a lot of laughs, that Doyle had been very good company. He hadn't wanted to go home to his own flat when it grew late, but he had.
"Yeah, that was good," he said. "If we're not on duty tomorrow, you want to have another go?"
He got hissing in reply. "Doyle? You still there?" Now he got crackling as well as hissing, and he stood up, ready to check on Doyle's safety. "Ray? 4.5?" He moved swiftly to the doorway, reaching for his gun.
Bodie halted, tucking the gun back into its holster. He glanced along the hallway, didn't see or hear anything suspicious. "You okay?"
"Well, don't wait so long to answer," Bodie said. "Makes me nervous." He walked to the window and took up his position once more.
"It's quiet over here," Doyle replied.
Must be in one of his odd moods tonight, Bodie thought. Well, so am I. He took another sip from his flask. "Same here."
"Got all the lights off in the study," Doyle went on. "The better to see the garden with. There's a porch light down there, lighting up the patio. The grass is black as night, though. I've taken the desk chair, very comfy leather recliner, and moved it near the window, the better to report all this. As you said, there's a brick wall surrounding the garden, and a garage at the end. Can't see much in the way of flower beds, except a few scraggly remnants of rose bushes. Everything's hibernating for the winter. Dead quiet.
"The sky is clear for once. I can see the stars. Well, one or two, anyway. No clouds means no snow. Won't have a white Christmas this year. When did we have the last one? Does anyone remember? Doesn't stay white here long anyway, not in the Smoke. More like a gray winter, even if it does snow. Wouldn't mind going up north some year, way far away from any city, and see the real thing. Snow lying thick on the hills and fields, snow banks, snow drifts, wisps of new snow drifting across the roads, sparkles of frost on the rooftops, icicles on the eaves, frozen ponds...a shaggy-maned draft horse standing by the fence, white puffs of breath in between its snuffling and snorting--"
He broke off, as if abruptly aware of how he'd gone on. Bodie hadn't minded at all how Doyle had gone on; he'd been fascinated. In an odd mood barely covered it.
"You still there?" Doyle asked softly.
"Yeah," Bodie said. "I'm still here, 4.5."
"'Doyle' is fine, you know."
"I know. I'm not bored anymore, Ray. You can keep talking all night if you want. I can listen all night. It's very soothing, the sound of your voice." He glanced out the window. The curtains had been drawn in the house across the way, the tree no longer on view. "It's the only comforting thing out here tonight."
"I was only rambling," Doyle replied.
"No, you made a picture for me," Bodie said. "I'll bet you'd like to take that paint box of yours up north some winter, and paint a scene like that."
"Yeah, I would. Get it down on canvas, instead of just words in the air."
"Words are good, too, Ray. Very powerful, especially on a night like this."
"I thought this was supposed to be a silent night."
"Not my cup of tea." Bodie certainly didn't mind, in general, being on his own. And he didn't usually mind having peace and quiet, but not tonight. Not on Christmas Eve. He had spent too many of those alone, or in company he didn't care for. His family memories of Christmas were nothing to shout about, and he often preferred being on duty to being home. If he were occupied with work, he wouldn't have time to dwell on the fact that the holidays were meant to be shared with loved ones. Doyle was right--the best Christmas in recent memory was the one they had spent together. And here they were now--together. Working, yes, but that didn't matter. He wouldn't have wished to spend this night any other way. Sod the gourmet meal. Being with Doyle was all he wanted. Ever. And Bodie wanted to make the most of it, wanted to feel close to Doyle. Talking and listening in the darkness brought Doyle nearer.
"Hang about." Doyle's tone changed, briskly dutiful. "I heard a noise."
"I'll join you." Bodie rose.
"No need. I think it's a cat."
Bodie kept heading towards the door.
"Yeah, I can see it now," Doyle said. "It's having a pee in the rose garden."
Bodie hesitated. "How'd it get in? Over the wall?"
"Over the garage roof. Heading out the same way. I can hear someone calling it home."
"Lucky cat." Bodie retreated to his window.
"We'll get there," Doyle said. "Cowley might keep us out here all ruddy night, but there's always breakfast. Have you got any food in?"
The wistful note was back. Bodie's curiosity was piqued by the way Doyle kept inviting himself to share his holiday meals. "Eggs, toast, a few sausage rolls. Coffee. That's it."
"Oh, it will, eh?"
Doyle, of course, couldn't see the smile on Bodie's face, and concern crept into his voice as he said, "You don't mind, do you?"
"'Course I don't mind," Bodie reassured him. "You can invite yourself over any time."
"You know," Bodie said, "I worry about you sometimes."
"Like now?" Doyle sounded wary. "I thought you were the one in a funny mood tonight."
"Could be we both are."
Bodie smiled, even though Doyle could not see, because he was amused by their mutual perception of each other's state of mind. Then the smile turned to a puzzled frown as the significance of the thoughts he'd had earlier suddenly became startlingly clear.
Christmas was meant to be shared with loved ones.
Being with Doyle was all he wanted. Ever.
"Bloody hell," he murmured.
The R/T was still on. "Something up?" Doyle asked.
"What?" Bodie jumped at the sound of Doyle's voice, nearly dropping the R/T. "No, no. Nothing's happening."
"So that was just a random 'bloody hell', then?"
"Everyone's entitled to a few of those once in a while."
"Fine," Doyle said. "Don't tell me. I'm only your best mate, after all."
Too true. Bodie wished he could see Doyle's face. Then again, maybe this was better. Maybe it would be easier to bare one's soul as a disembodied voice in the night. "Tell me something," he said. "Why do you want to spend Christmas Day with me?"
But then again, there was also something disconcerting about disembodied silence in the night.
"Ray? Did you hear me?"
"Yeah. I heard you."
He thought he could hear Doyle sighing. Or perhaps it was merely a draft in the house.
"Because I've had a lot of unhappy Christmases," Doyle replied at last. "And I don't want to have another one."
"Meaning you're not going to be unhappy simply 'cause I'm around?" Optimistic, Bodie thought.
"That's what I mean."
"How can you be so sure?" Bodie was trying, though not terribly hard, to not believe they were so well suited to each other. "We're not perfect. We've had our tiffs."
"Nothing we couldn't work out," Doyle said.
Bodie gave it another shot. "We don't always like the same things." Doyle's taste in films got up his nose, for instance. He knew he could think of others.
"Nothing we couldn't compromise on."
Bloody optimistic. "We get into moods," Bodie offered.
"Lame," Doyle said. "Can't you do any better than that?"
"Yeah," Bodie replied. "You've got a sarky streak a mile wide that can start to irritate a mate after four or five years."
Doyle laughed. "Oh, that's bound to spoil things, all right. Can't possibly have a happy Christmas if I make a sarky comment or two. Sorry, Bodie, but if that's the worst you can come up with, I think we're doomed."
"I reckon we are." Doomed to spending Christmas together, or doomed to spending their lives together, that was the question. "Hey," he said, searching for a distraction, "you said my name, 4.5."
"Did I? Me brain must be addled."
"Happens to the best of us."
"Been addled for a while, actually," Doyle said.
Bodie felt a tingle up his spine, and he wasn't cold. "Got something you want to confess?"
"You told me to talk," Doyle replied. "Said you could listen all night."
"So I did. So talk to me, Ray." Tell me the things that I need to hear.
There came another silence, one of anticipation. Then into the quiet night, Doyle began to speak.
"Last month I went to my sister's wedding in Derby. Kathleen, the youngest of the Doyles. There are a lot of us--I know you can never keep track of my family; I can hardly keep track myself. I'm the second oldest of six. Kathleen is ten years younger than me. They're all married. Each and every one. And they were all there, and they've all got kids. Even Kath was well on the way. Everywhere I turned around, there they were--families. You can probably guess what happened."
Bodie shivered. "You got nagged."
"In a big way. When are you going to find someone. Only one more wedding left to go. About time you joined the rest of us. All of them did it, and me mum as well."
Bodie dared to ask, "And your dad?"
"No. He was sleeping off a bottle of Scotch in the back of his car."
"Ah. Small mercies."
"Yeah," Doyle said, "you could say that. It was dreadful, I'm telling you. Happy couples wherever I looked."
"Well, there are two basic reactions to that kind of thing. Either you run away in terror, or you wish you could join them."
"Neither," Doyle replied. "At least, not in the way you might think. You see, after the partying was over and done, they all got into their cars together, and they all drove off home together. And I watched them all go, and then I got into my car by myself, and I drove back home by myself--"
"Thought you liked that," Bodie interrupted. "That's how you said you'd prefer spending Christmas Eve--just staying home, by yourself. Until you invited yourself to my gourmet dinner, that is."
"Yeah, I said that," Doyle replied. "I didn't mean it."
Bodie felt a flush of warmth spreading out from somewhere deep within. "What do you want, then?"
"Someone to get into the car with." Doyle spoke so softly that Bodie held the R/T tight to his ear to hear. "On the long drive back to Town, all I could think of was how good it would feel to have some company--not just then, not just there, but all the time, everywhere I turned around. Someone to laugh with when things are good, someone to hold tight when they're not. Someone to share all the little things with, to help bear all the large things, someone I could watch fall asleep beside me, and wake up to in the morning. Someone I could talk to, not have to talk to, agree with, argue with, someone I could rise to the heights with or go through hell with--all of it, everything, good and bad. I want someone to share my life with, all the way up to the stars, and all the way down to the nails on the coffin." Doyle paused. "But mostly, I just want someone to be with on the long drive home."
Bodie's hand felt frozen on the R/T. He couldn't bring it to his mouth, he had no words to match Doyle's. But he felt an amazing power within him, a strength and a love he had not known possible.
"When I got into Town," Doyle went on, "I rang you up. Because when I thought about who I wanted to do all those things with, you were the one who instantly came to mind, first, foremost, and always." He paused again, and his next words sounded more down to earth. "Pity you weren't about that day."
"I was at my local." Bodie managed to get the R/T to his mouth. "Feeling lonely."
"Quite the pair, aren't we."
Bodie ached to go down the hallway. He stayed firmly in his place by the window. "There's one small piece of that lovely speech which I'd rather like to pursue a little further."
"Oh, yeah? Which part would that be?"
"The part about falling asleep and waking up together."
"Oftener than not, there's a bit of something that takes place before sleeping, at least if you're in my bed."
His attempt to keep this light-hearted succeeded, for he heard Doyle laughing lightly.
"Just 'a bit'?" Doyle said, and Bodie could hear the relief mixed in with the cheer.
It had been quite the confession; he must have been terrified at Bodie's reaction. He needn't have worried. Bodie might not have consciously thought about him and Doyle as lovers before this night, but the moment the idea hit, he knew it had been lurking within his subconscious mind for a long, long while, waiting for time and circumstance to bring it to the surface.
"Well," he replied, "it's a bit of this, a bit of that, and a bit of the other."
"Oh, Christ," Doyle said, his tone turning more serious again, "I wish I could see your face."
"What you would see," Bodie replied, "is the smile of someone who wants very much to share the drive home with you."
Whatever Doyle started to say in response was abruptly drowned out by the sound of a ringing telephone.
"What's that?" Bodie asked.
"It's a phone."
"I know that, you berk. Who'd be ringing here?"
"How should I know?"
"Well, pick it up!"
Silence returned. Bodie leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes. What a crazy night. He had no idea how it would end, but he had an idea how he wished it to end. He felt a familiar heat in his groin. If the image alone of going to bed with Doyle was enough to excite him, what would the act itself be like?
Before he could get much further with his imaginings, the R/T crackled to life. "We're free," Doyle said happily. "That was Cowley."
"I'll be damned. Not counting his blessings, then?"
"He probably is--they've caught the burglars."
Bodie heard footsteps along the hallway. "The Met?"
"Yeah, one of their stakeouts nabbed 'em." Doyle's voice grew closer, louder.
"We can go home now?" Bodie stood and moved towards the doorway.
"Yeah." And there Doyle was, walking into the room. He lowered his R/T and stopped just inside. "We can go home."
Bodie tucked away his R/T, took three large strides to meet him, and the next moment they were locked in an embrace that had been years in the making, and Bodie took Doyle's mouth with his in a kiss that held a lifetime of promises and pain, of joy and sorrow, of the clearly seen and the unforeseeable paths that would mark the wide compass of their companionship.
When they broke the kiss at long last, Bodie touched Doyle's cheek, holding him tightly still, and said, "So much for silent nights."
"I think I'm all talked out," Doyle replied. "And right now, I think that's a good thing, 'cause we have better things to do."
Bodie gently turned him round and shoved him out the door. "My flat. It's closest."
"And you've got food in for breakfast." Doyle led the way down the stairs.
"And you'll be there for breakfast."
"I'll be there for a lot of things."
"For everything," Bodie said.
Doyle paused on the landing and gazed up at him. "Yes. I will."
"So will I," Bodie replied, and he meant it with all his heart. "Happy Christmas, 4.5."
Doyle grinned. "Happy Christmas, 3.7."
They went on down the stairs, locked up the house, and drove on home to spend this Christmas, and many Christmases to come, together.
-- THE END --