Notes: The first part is very similar to my gen story "Christmas Eve at CI5" but then it changes somewhat (no, really?)

A "Combi" story: Sellotape, under the Christmas tree, Sister Noel

George Cowley glanced at the tree, a little surprised. Not that it was the first time somebody had decided to put one somewhere or other at HQ, but it was a real fir rather than the artificial monstrosities he'd seen in the past.

Knowing his squad and a few of them in particular, he sighed, somebody had been out in a forest somewhere with an axe. And if they'd been caught, he was equally convinced they'd have flashed their IDs and said it was a matter of national importance.

Absently, he tweaked a piece of tinsel and stared up at the angel. She was a bit battered: the white dress wasn't exactly pristine, and the gilt on her halo had faded a little. As for the wings, the thin netting had a few holes in it that had been patched up with Sellotape.

She looked like he felt: a little worse for wear but still doing her job.

The angel also reminded him of something, and more precisely of Ruth Pettifer leaving earlier in the evening amid a few ribald remarks about her 'making sure her halo didn't slip'. What was all that about?

He could hardly ask. Not even when Murphy and Bodie had joked about green tights and how at least Jax's kid brother had stepped in and saved them having to co-opt Doyle. Murphy had muttered something about it being better than a limping elf, and predictably enough Bodie had grinned and said as long as he wasn't a limp elf....

Doyle had retorted that it was his ankle that was out of action, not other parts of his anatomy.

Naturally, the conversation had stopped when they saw Cowley.

So what were they up to? He'd probably never know.

Suddenly weary and feeling anything but festive, Cowley pushed open the door to his office and went in.

The voices from the briefing room next door surprised him at first, but then he realised what was going on. Bodie and Doyle were obviously sorting out old clothes donated by the squad for the "Christmas Nun" as Bodie had dubbed her. Sister Noel - that was right. She'd managed to persuade him to include CI5 in the whole scheme, or rather he'd agreed simply because she was extremely persistent. The epitome of the nagging woman, he sighed. Even worse than Kate Ross because somehow it was hard to tell a nun - and a black one to boot - to go away and stop pestering him.

Mind, both women seemed equally unafraid of him although at least Ross was at least paid to do her job. Sister Noel... well, she obviously hadn't lost her ideals yet if she could work at a hospital, help with a shelter for tramps, and do it all for the love of humanity rather than a decent salary. Ross' ideals were probably still around somewhere too, although she kept them better hidden, like her legs these days. Shame.

Absently, Cowley allowed himself to think of Ross in a pair of green tights and a very, very short skirt. Or any colour tights, really.

He'd always been a leg man, he mused. In weak moments he'd still admire a good pair, too. Rather regrettable that trousers seemed to have more or less taken over among the women on his squad. Practicality. Not that anyone would ever dream of Cowley thinking thoughts that were the slightest bit suggestive, he supposed. He couldn't afford that.

Not much point in thinking about skirts any longer, he chided himself. It was just because of the clothes, of course. Even he'd brought along an elderly sports coat and two Argyll sweaters and put the bag on the table with all the rest. A man had to show an example.

"You have to be joking." Bodie's voice came through the thin wall clearly, only inches from Cowley's desk. "I mean, can you really see some sort of down-and-out wearing that?"

"Down-and-outs aren't only seedy old men," Doyle said shortly. "Why shouldn't they wear sweaters with sparkly bits on them? Eh? Apart from queer 'uns, maybe."

"Think it'd suit me?" Bodie lisped.

Cowley raised his eyebrows at that one, since 'Bodie' and 'queer' didn't really go together in his mind.

"Not quite your colour, darlin'" Doyle said.

"Speaking of which," Bodie said. "You should be glad you didn't get to wear the green tights."

"I am, believe me. But I'm here, aren't I? Of me own good will. Helping you sort stuff into piles rather than anything else?"

"Yeah. So what would you have been doing? If you're honest?"

"Guess," Doyle chuckled softly.

"Well yeah. That," Bodie agreed.

What? Cowley wondered. Some girl, no doubt.

"I suppose I'd have 'ad to go up to me sister's if we'd had leave," Doyle added.

"With me?"

"Hardly. She might think she's broad-minded, but... hardly about that and they've only got one spare room."

"And a double bed?" Bodie chuckled. "See the problem."

Cowley couldn't quite see the problem, he decided. Although anybody would think they'd...

No. Not those two. But what did they mean by the 'that'?

"Not exactly happy families, though." Doyle added. "Was quite glad to get out of it by saying I've bust me ankle and will be working late so can't make it up there. Wish you weren't on duty though."

"Yeah," Bodie sighed. "Third Christmas on the trot we're here. Almost be worth gettin' married just to remember what it's like to do the whole 'tree and carols' stuff. Newlyweds always get Christmas off, remember."

That, Cowley said to himself, was typical Bodie-logic. Not that Bodie seemed to have had many girlfriends lately.

"Right," Doyle chuckled. "Good thing I can't quite see anybody making an honest bloke of you any time soon."

"Right. Oy, stop it..."

"Blimey, Bodie - now this I never expected to see. Hurt, did it, to get rid of it? Or are shirts with little hearts on out of fashion?"

"No more than plaid jackets with striped rugby shirts," Bodie sniffed. "Bet you didn't contribute those. Anyway, it's a bugger to iron."

"Iron?" Doyle sniggered. "Y'know somehow I never imagined you ironing. Suppose you had to, right? Uniform and stuff."

"Right. Unlike somebody who always went for 'rumpled is sexy', of course."

"I pay for the laundry to do it, remember," Doyle said. "Hey, wonder if Cowley does his own ironing? Thrift, y'know. Ironing's expensive."

"Might do. He had uniforms," Bodie said mildly. "You seen him tonight?"

"He was out - some meeting. Wonder what he does at Christmas?"

"No idea. Church, genteel lunch with some maiden aunt?"

"Followed by a brisk walk, an extra half-finger of malt and then back here," Bodie added.

Suddenly, Cowley felt uncomfortable. Not only was it true (although it was a cousin and not an aunt), but the faint tone of pity in Bodie's voice was embarrassing.

"So what did you do at Christmas when you were a kid, then?" Doyle asked.

"Ate too much. Got bored. Telly. Traditional English Christmas. You?"


Silence. Cowley tried to picture the two of them in there, busily sorting the clothes.

"Better now, though," Doyle said. "Right?"

"Right. How about..."

"Mmmm. Nice."

Doyle sounded breathless, Cowley decided. What was nice?

"Shame you're on all night," Doyle said.

"So you said. Can't all be playing the injured prima donna on sick leave."

"Didn't exactly fall into the car on purpose. Who didn't wait until I was in it before he drove off? Eh?"

"It was a case of drive off and risk Sir breaking something or wait until Sir had closed the door and fastened 'is safety belt. And Sir would probably have been sporting a couple of additional orifices if I'd waited."

"True," Doyle chuckled. "And apparently I already have enough."

"Definitely," Bodie said. "So they're dishing all these clothes out tomorrow? Not as part of tonight's festivities?"

"Nah. Tonight's just some sort of party for the kids with Santa and angels and a kid in green tights doing the elf bit. Tomorrow they get Christmas dinner and old clothes as presents. Bit sad, really..."

"Yeah. I mean, me own folks weren't wealthy, but we did get presents. And new clothes when we needed 'em."

"So did we," Doyle said. "Used to like Christmas when I was a kid. Can't stand it now when I do get up there. Me mum moans about me sister's kids, me sister's brother in law gets pissed..."

"Fun," Bodie chuckled. "Mind, better that than some crappy hotel in Benidorm. Can't understand what me mum and dad see in all that. They invited me once, years back. Never again."

"What, no sexy senoritas?"

"No. Just a load of pensioners drinking sangria and getting nostalgic about Christmas in Liverpool," Bodie sighed. "Not that I remember it as being exactly memorable. Dry turkey and over-cooked sprouts."

"Sounds horrible. Must say I always used to think Christmas'd be special somehow and it never was. Remember the one we spent on that stakeout?"

"Could I forget it?" Bodie agreed. "By Boxing day evening I could have wrung the Cow's neck."

"Until he broke out the malt," Doyle agreed. "Hasn't been doin' much of that lately. Mind, I bet he wouldn't have then if he'd known about our own little celebration."

"Oh, I remember it well. Including you nearly doin' yourself an injury with the handbrake."

What on earth...? Cowley decided his imagination was running away with him.

"Yeah," Doyle chuckled, sounding almost hoarse. "Painful, that was. But look the bright side. You could've been stuck on obbo with Jax tonight instead of pulling the night shift in the cosy, welcoming warmth of HQ."

"There is that."

"Who else's on?"

"Two teams on stakeout. That blonde in the computer room, but she's got a boyfriend. Murph here on standby. Two radio operators."

"Let's hope world war three doesn't start, then," Doyle said glumly. "Suppose I'd might as well go home, really. What's the chances of getting a taxi at nine on Christmas Eve, eh?"

"Snowflake in hell?" Bodie said. "Get somebody to start ordering one. You might just be home by midnight."

"Oh, ta."

"Or you could kip on the settee in the VIP room?"

"Lovely. The perfect Christmas eve," Doyle muttered.

"You'd have my delightful company. We could break out the scrabble board. Play poker..."

"Fantastic. I mean who'd want an evening of Christmas joy and sexual athletics, log fires, music playing softly when they can have a game of scrabble?"

"Suit yourself. Murph said something about Ruth calling in on her way back - maybe she'll give you a lift home?"

"She might. Or more likely she an' Murph'll go for a snog or a cuddle, lucky buggers. You did notice the mistletoe in there? I'm sure that was 'im."

Well well. Cowley felt his eyebrows rising. Murphy and Ruth Pettifer. That was one piece of gossip he hadn't heard.

"Yeah," Bodie chuckled. "It was a dare. He put that up or I said I'd tell Ruthie about him and that bird he was chatting up the other day. She'd probably castrate 'im for less."

"Charmin'. Well, looks like it's either fighting them for the settee or hitch-hiking home. Host of exciting opportunities. Or, of course, scrabble."

"As long as you don't cheat," Bodie said. "But if Ruthie brings a mince pie or two it could be quite cosy. She said something about driving 'im in earlier and I'm sure she said mince pies. Don't think she'd be into group sex or sharing the place somehow, though. Or Murph."

"Definitely not. And even I have some principles..."

"You and me both. Can't quite imagine snogging in front of 'em."

What on earth? Cowley felt himself tense. Surely not... each other.

"Nah," Doyle said. "Although I must say he was fairly good about it all. Y'know, I almost wondered if he'd quite fancied that new kid at one point."

"Don't think so. I mean partners are supposed to bond, even if it's only a temporary pairing like they were. Besides 'e's been with Ruth for, what, six months?"

"Must be," Doyle said. "She was pretty good about us two as well come to that. Jesus, wouldn't mind a bit of bonding right now, if I'm honest."

"As in our own particular brand thereof?"

"Don't," Doyle said. "We can't. Imagine if the Cow came back?"

"Could take some explaining," Bodie agreed. "Although there's more room than there was in the car the other Christmas eve."

"Right," Doyle said. "Christ, you've got me really randy now."

"Surprise surprise. And you most certainly are randy, my lad. Does this door have a lock on it? And you're sure the Cow's out?"

"Think so. To both. Jesus, Bodie... we shouldn't."

Cowley didn't move a muscle. Shock? Yes, definitely. Anger with himself for being blind. A little fascination in there too. Surely they were only fooling around?

But he knew they weren't if he was honest with himself. It was all falling into place now.

Bodie and Doyle were lovers.

He heard footsteps across the floor and held his breath in case Bodie decided to put his head around the door. He didn't.

"Locked. C'mon. Oh my. Definitely not a limp elf. Very... tantalising."

More silence. Then moans.

"Tomorrow morning," Doyle gasped at one point, "I'm gonna fuck you so hard, Bodie."

"Hold you to that and will no doubt return the favour when I've had some beauty sleep. But this won't do?"

"Nice. Do the same for you after, but... a bed and some lube would be nicer."

"You're spoilt, that's what you are. Next thing you'll be telling me you want to come on my shirt with the hearts?"

"Good idea," Doyle said. "Grab it. Best... thing... Christ... for it."

"I'm offended. Better than that scratchy sweater though. Still only nice?

"Bloody... marvellous. Long time since you did me like this. Just... hands."

"Harder? Finger in that rather delectable orifice of yours while we're at it?"

"Jesus yes..."

"Roll over a bit then. And no complaining if the floor's hard."

Cowley's mind went into overload. He was erect himself, he realised, as he pictured Doyle lying there, Bodie's hands coaxing him, stroking him.

"Come for me," Bodie urged, and Doyle obviously complied, crying out.

"You really were randy weren't you," Bodie said mildly, soon afterwards.

"You can talk, and you still are. Randy, I mean. Want me to finish you off with my mouth?"

"Wouldn't say no."

"On yer back, sunshine."

Bodie, by the sound of it, was soon enjoying himself immensely. Cowley tried hard not to let his hand stray to his own penis.

He was not a homosexual, he told himself between clenched teeth. He'd known a few in the army, though, and never found it particularly revolting even if he'd never been tempted himself - and even if his Presbyterian minister would be horrified if he knew the upright Mr Cowley condoned the idea of sexual intercourse between two men.

Although... his men? Those two?

Why wasn't he disgusted?

He didn't know. But dammit it was erotic.

Mind over matter, Cowley decided, trying to ignore the growing need, although it was hard not to imagine Doyle's lips around Bodie's shaft at this moment. Or to ignore visions of Doyle thrusting into his partner on a bed, Bodie with his legs splayed. Or the other way around: Doyle impaled, eyes wide with lust. He'd seen enough pornography to substitute their faces, imagine their bodies...

He slid open his desk drawer, very quietly, and took out a clean handkerchief before sliding open his zip below the desk top.

When Bodie climaxed, loudly, so did he. Silently.

"Better?" Doyle said after a few minutes.


"Love you, Bodie."

"And you, Ray."

Cowley's breath, still ragged, caught in his chest.

Love? Oh dear God. He hadn't expected that.

"I'm hungry now," Bodie said conversationally. "Think Ruth will bring mince pies?"

"Dunno. Could eat one meself. They should be here soon. Better get tidied up."

"Yeah. Maybe they're 'avin a quickie in the car before Murph 'as to start his shift."

"Yeah, right. Think they'll tie the knot before next Christmas? And if so, will Cowley consider 'em as married when it comes to time off?"

"Nah, 'e'll re-write the small print to make sure of that," Bodie said. "Decide if they're going to be together over the festive season, they might as well be at work. Newlyweds or not."

"Sometimes think 'e doesn't have feelings."

"Yeah. Suppose he can't in this sort of job."

"Ever wonder if we'll turn out like 'im?"

Cowley stiffened, suddenly afraid to listen and desperate to get away. But he stayed, the old phrase 'listeners never hear good of themselves' playing through his head.

"Me? No way. Self-sacrifice like that? I want to be rich." Bodie chuckled.

"Think we should rob a bank and move to California? Or somewhere else we don't have to hide all this?"

"Dunno. Wouldn't mind. Not yet, though I suppose. What about you, then?"

"Me as Cowley? Give me a break. I'm gonna be..." Doyle paused.

"What? Rich and famous?"

"Dunno. Head case, probably. Or dead."

Suddenly, Cowley noticed, Doyle's voice was deadly serious.

"C'mon, sunshine. No need for dramatics. You only busted your ankle..."

"You know what I mean. Of course I'd things to be different. Other times I think this is all I'm good at. And even then..."

"Stop it," Bodie said briskly. "No point in getting maudlin. That's the bloody trouble with Christmas, innit? Gets you thinking too much."

"Yeah. So you think a game of scrabble or spending tomorrow morning fucking each other through the mattress'll fill me with Christmas cheer?"

"Miracles can happen," Bodie said. "And I'll certainly fill you with something."

"I bet," Doyle chuckled throatily.

"Just keep thinking about it. But for now, shove me those tags over so's I can mark what's what. And chuck that shirt in the rejects pile. Don't want some poor geezer ending up with that, do we?"

"Probably not," Doyle chuckled. "And thanks, Bodie. Needed that. And I'm not really getting' maudlin. These last two years...can't complain really. 'S been good. Us, at least."

"Been bloody marvellous, like that was just now. Even if I tend to agree with you about bed and lube being a rather more enticing prospect than carpet burns. Much as it was worth it. God, watching you come...."

"Now who's a randy sod?"

"You complaining?"

"Always. Part of me charm remember."

"True. Right, Raymond. Let's break out the scrabble board. And hope Murph and Ruth don't hog the bloody VIP room all night as I most certainly wouldn't mind a replay."

"Obsessed. That's what you are."

"Yeah. Good, innit? Right. We all done?"

Cowley heard chairs scraping, and knew it was time to make himself scarce. Yes - that was it. Rapid move to the gents. He grabbed his overcoat and went out.

Only a few minutes later he strode briskly - and noisily - into his office again, wearing his coat. Bodie and Doyle were still next door, so he opened and closed a few desk drawers before striding out to see two dishevelled agents emerging.

"Drink?" he said curtly.

The two men looked at each other, then followed him into the office.

"You just arrive?" Bodie said, obviously aiming for neutral but looking at the wall of Cowley's office with a slight frown."

Cowley didn't answer, mainly because he didn't enjoy lying. What the hell was he going to say? Do?

Before anybody said anything however, Murphy arrived, flanked by Ruth Pettifer and Sister Noel.

"She made a delightful angel, Ruth did", the nun said as they all drifted into the room where the clothes had been sorted. "So did the little lad we just took home, even if he did complain about the tights."

"Tights?" Cowley said careful not to give away the fact he'd been eavesdropping, and noticing Murphy agreeing about the 'angel' part. He couldn't look at Bodie and Doyle.

"Elf-wear," Sister Noel said. "These people have been helping with our party, Mr Cowley. Oh, and Kate's on her way in."

"Kate?" Doyle asked. "Kate... Ross? You're not telling me she was an elf as well..."

"Good gracious me no," the black face broke into a huge smile. "But she made wonderful egg sandwiches. Speaking of which..."

"Egg... sandwiches?" Bodie spluttered. "Dr... "

"And trifle. In fact I'd say it was a great success. And that nice Mr Anson playing Father Christmas. Even if he did have to wave those horrible cigars around."

"He wasn't bad," Murphy agreed. "And I discovered a new talent in playing referee for musical chairs. And mopping up orange juice. Was quite glad to come into work after all that."

"However", Sister Noel said sweetly, "Mr Anson's gone home to his family now but assured me he'd be quite happy to stand down in your favour next year, Mr Cowley."

Doyle made a strangled noise, but Kate Ross' arrival disguised that nicely. She did, Cowley decide, look decidedly festive in a red dress. And my goodness those legs weren't bad at all and the black tights were most... interesting as she sat down and the skirt rode up a little. Much better than green. It almost took his mind off the issue of Bodie and Doyle for a while, but not quite.

"Here we go," she said. "And the off-license even had these."

Cowley raised his eyebrows as Kate Ross fished a carton out of the holdall she was carrying.

"Crackers," Ruth chuckled.

Cowley started to worry about the ignominy of paper hats. Even that was easier than thinking about Bodie and Doyle having sex in the room next door, or the fact they'd obviously been lovers for two years. How could he possibly have failed to notice?

"For the lot on duty tomorrow," Kate said, tossing them onto the table and reaching into the bag again. "Hands off."

Cowley relaxed a little.

"But as promised," she added. "I also brought... this."

"Beer," Bodie said faintly. "You brought beer."

"I did indeed," the psychiatrist said cheerfully. "I need it - throat's dry from yelling at kids. Don't look so shocked, Bodie."

Bodie continued to stare at his archenemy, who picked up a bottle and proceeded to drink from it, smiling sweetly at him and obviously rather enjoying the effect she was producing.

"Mince pies," Doyle said, sniffing at a large box Ruth was carrying. "Home made?"

"You really do want it all, don't you?" Ruth rolled her eyes. "But yes. You're lucky - the kiddies didn't get these because somebody was a little generous with the brandy or whatever it was the kind cook put in them."

"Somebody? You didn't make them then?" Murphy asked, looking slightly disappointed.

"No. Couldn't quite fit in some baking as well as...."

"As well as what?" Bodie teased. Ruth and Murphy both glared at him. Cowley pretended not to notice anything untoward.

"As well as making myself an angel costume. And we won't even go into what you two might have been up to."

Well, it was neutral enough, Cowley decided, although both men threw each other, and Ruth, a brief glance.

"I made them," Sister Noel said cheerfully. "Can't have alcohol lying around the shelter. And I'm not supposed to drink it. But when it's used for cooking it's not alcoholic, and the flavour's lovely."

"I'm sure," Cowley said pleasantly, taking one fragrant pie and passing the box to Bodie and Doyle.

"Beer, sir?" Kate Ross held a bottle out. "Bodie, get some glasses in case Mr Cowley prefers Scotch."

Obediently, Bodie disappeared. The man's expression of amazement seemed to be stuck in place, Cowley noted. Not that he wasn't quite astonished enough himself.

"So," Sister Noel said once everybody appeared to be holding a glass. "Thanks to all of you and a very Merry Christmas indeed."

"My thanks to all of you too," Cowley said quietly. "For the jobs you all do, and for making sacrifices. Including you, Sister and you, Doctor. And no, I am not making a speech or Bodie will steal the last of these pies."

Doyle chuckled, handing a pen over to Kate Ross to sign his plaster.

"Oh my," Bodie said cheerfully. "Don't forget to put a couple of kisses on as well. Or give 'im one, considering it's Christmas."

"Prat," Doyle said affectionately. "Although..."

"Consider your next assessment brought forward a month, both of you," Kate said mildly.

"Spoilsport," Bodie grumbled. "And I suppose any moment now you're going to tell us we're a load of hormone-ridden apes."

"You're a load of hormone-ridden..." she started and then actually blushed. "Well, not all of you. Sorry, sir. Sister. Ruth, you too. Anyway, I have to get going. I have a thing called a date, Bodie, hard as this may be for you to believe."

Looking at the woman's legs, Cowley for one didn't find it hard to believe at all.

"I'd take you but I've got to do the family thing," Ruth said, glancing at her watch. "And I promised to drop Sister Noel off."

"Indeed," the nun nodded. "So see you tomorrow with the clothes. Who's bringing it all?"

Doyle started to jerk a thumb in Bodie's direction, but Cowley interrupted.

"I am. As long as I am not required to arrive in costume of any kind. Bodie, you can come along as well as apparently you'd already volunteered?"

"No problem, sir," Bodie said, as though nothing much more could surprise him tonight. "Although Doyle's coming as well. Owes me a drink."

"Does he indeed?" Cowley feigned innocence. "Well he can buy me one as well. The first round, anyway. For now, however, take Doyle home, Bodie. Consider yourself replaced for tonight. And the second round will be on you, by the way."

"Replaced?" Bodie stared. "By?"

"Me. I have a bed here. Murphy can wake me up if anything untoward happens. I do think I can handle acting as the night manager once in a while. I believe you two had other plans for tonight."

"I..." Bodie was lost for words. Then he glanced at the wall again and Cowley saw him tense a little, exchanging a fleeting glance with his partner.

"We... didn't realise you were in at all, sir," Doyle said neutrally. "Earlier. When we were..."

"Sorting clothes," Bodie finished for him. "And... er... discussing our plans. I thought you'd only just arrived when we... finished in there."

Cowley took pity on them both, and decided that there were times when a small lie wouldn't come amiss. It was Christmas after all.

"Indeed I had just come in. Why? Been gossiping behind my back, have you?"

He was rewarded with two extremely wide smiles.

"As if we would." Bodie was the first to recover.

"We were just... making sure it'd all go to a good home," Doyle added. "The clothes. Not really gossiping at all. Been really busy, in fact."

"I'm quite sure you have," Cowley nodded. "Och, get off with ye. Just make sure you're here in decent time tomorrow, without hangovers."

"Running all the way, sir," Bodie grinned.

Cowley watched them all file out of the room, realising he was smiling. Then set off back to his office sparing a glance at the Christmas tree as he did so.

"Murphy? Bodie? Where did the tree come from?"

"You don't want to know, sir," Murphy said politely. "Does he, Bodie?"

Bodie did his best to look innocent.

"Ask Murphy about the mistletoe," Doyle threw over his shoulder. "That wasn't Bodie."

"Piss off, Doyle," Ruth said calmly. "And if I remember correctly, broken ankle or not you had a hand in the tree as well."

"Not very angelic all of a sudden, Ruth," Bodie said.

"And a Happy Christmas to all of you," Sister Noel said sweetly and diplomatically. "It really is a very nice tree."

"Indeed it is," Cowley said gravely. "Definitely."

"Oh, and look under it, sir," Doyle said casually as the door closed.

Suddenly, he was alone again. Cowley picked up the mince pie that - miracles of miracles - Bodie had somehow overlooked - waste not, want not was a reflex he'd never forgotten - and bent under the branches.

The parcel simply said 'Mr Cowley, from the squad', and contained a bottle of extremely good malt. It wasn't the first time he'd received such a gift, but it gave him as much pleasure as it always did. The message (in carefully disguised writing that he thought was Bodie's), saying 'sharing not prohibited' was, however a first. Message understood, he decided.

Then he went back into the office and sank down into his chair, catching sight of the semen-damp handkerchief still on his chair.

So what was he going to do the following day? Punish them? Fire them? Admit he'd heard them after all?

Or would he keep quiet, while envying them a little, which he knew he did? Not for the nature of the relationship, of course, just the fact that they had one. Just as Murphy and Pettifer did.

Did they work any less efficiently for being lovers? Any of them?

No, he decided.

He poured himself a generous measure from the new bottle, feeling the residual throb in his genitals.

They'd been discreet, certainly. They'd always fooled around, too. Plenty of touching, particularly on Bodie's part, even before they'd... taken it further.

What rankled most, probably, was not noticing: George Cowley who thought he knew his people. Was he really getting old?

Probably. Although when he thought about it, a few things fell into place. A few looks that were a little more than male bonding, perhaps. A couple of times they'd arrived at work looking... well-fucked, wasn't that the word? Except that he now knew they hadn't each been satisfying their needs with a member of the opposite sex.

Well... was he going to admit he knew?

No, he decided. At least not for the time being. Maybe not ever. As long as they were damn well discreet in future, he'd put tonight's antics down to...


Visions of them driving home, perhaps Bodie driving and Doyle with a casual hand on his lover's thigh came to mind. However, he noted with satisfaction that this time his reaction was not purely physical, non-sexual one, just one of... of what?

Benevolence, dammit.

Heaven preserve him if he was going to start with all that sort of thing. But yes, benevolence was probably the only way to describe it. Plus a wistful memory or two as well, perhaps, of times when orgasms hadn't been silent, snatched affairs that happened now and then, in private.

What was the world coming to if he was starting to wish for a shared bed again?

Well why not, George, he told himself. Maybe in the New Year. Perhaps a small country hotel and that charming lady from the Home Office...

Cowley smiled and raised his glass to nobody in particular but in the general direction of the tree outside, complete with its battered angel.

"Merry Christmas," he said softly. "To all of us. And I'll still give those two hell if they're late tomorrow."

-- THE END --

Brenda, December 2003

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