Tradition: A Professionals Christmas
"This thing weighs a tonne, mate. I don't know why we bother."
Ray Doyle smiled indulgently at the grumbling man struggling to place the six-foot Norwegian Spruce into a brightly decorated bucket.
"Because you love it," he replied in a teasing tone. "Admit it, Bodie. You're like a big kid about Christmas and you love having a real tree." Before his partner could interject he carried on with a laugh. "Plus it's tradition - for the last twenty years we've always bought a real tree on Christmas Eve and dressed it together...and every year you've enjoyed pretending to have a moan about it. See? It's tradition!"
Turning from his completed task Bodie stood back and viewed his handy work. The tree stood tall and straight in its designated place in the large bay window near to the fireplace.
"S'pose so," he muttered but there was an undercurrent of laughter in his voice and his dark eyes shone with excitement.
Moving to stand in front of his lover, Ray placed his hands on his hips and chuckled. "Come on, you - let's unpack the decorations and dress this masterpiece or the day'll be gone!"
Moving with a co-ordination borne of familiarity the two men worked happily together, stopping their industry only to sip from large glasses and to share brandy-flavoured kisses. Soon strings of tiny white lights, as yet unlit, were strung across pine-scented branches and long threads of gold and red beads were looped casually from bough to bough.
Reaching for a large box filled with tissue wrapped objects Ray smiled and remembered the first year that he and Bodie had done this....
It was their first Christmas together as lovers and they were sharing a CI5 flat in Chelsea. There'd been a spate of IRA bomb threats and the whole squad had been on call and run ragged for weeks. He hadn't even thought about Christmas and it was only when they'd both staggered back home late on Christmas Eve that he'd remembered at all. He'd felt awful that he hadn't got a present for Bodie and that the flat was totally bare; not even a card on the mantle piece. It was then that he'd pushed open the door to the lounge and seen it...the tattiest, straggliest, ugliest little fir tree that he'd ever clapped eyes on. It was only about three feet tall and was listing alarmingly on a small coffee table in the corner of the room. The branches were drooping and looked practically bare of needles.
'Bodie!' His partner had crept up behind him and with a sheepish grin and a hug had explained how he'd managed to salvage it from the bins behind a grocer's shop when he was following up on a lead earlier in the day. He'd then dropped it off at home on his way back to Central.
'Just wanted us to have a tree, sunshine,' he'd said with that 'little boy lost' look that tore straight through Ray's soul. 'I even got some baubles too - but I was waiting so we could dress it together.'
At that moment Ray's heart had melted just a little bit more and he'd turned and kissed the life out of his delighted partner....
So that was how it had started and every year since they'd always found time to get a tree and decorate it together. Over the years various CI5 flats had finally been exchanged for the large, comfortable Georgian house where they now lived. They'd bought it when they eventually traded working the streets for promotion and co-control of the organisation. No matter where they lived though, the Christmas Eve tradition had still remained.
Doyle was roused from his reflections by an earthy chuckle at his side and a nudge from his partner.
"Hey mate," Bodie laughed as he unwrapped a shiny brass tramcar from its layers of tissue. "Remember when we bought this? It was that week we spent in San Francisco and we found that shop that only sold Christmas stuff. Remember? It was the middle of flamin' August and there we were getting all those odd looks 'cus we were tryin' on Santa hats and laughing so much!"
"You were tryin' on Santa hats, you mean," Ray grinned, remembering the impish look on his lover's face as he'd posed outrageously in a fur trimmed, red hat. "I was the very picture of decorum and respect as I recall," he continued with assumed gravity in a fake upper class accent.
Bodie smothered a guffaw and threw an arm around the other man, drawing him into an affectionate hug. "Oh yeah, I remember how you looked, sunshine." He winked and licked his lips. "Especially back at the hotel when all you'd got on was that bloody hat and a smile!"
And so it continued throughout the late afternoon; each newly discovered ornament recalled fond memories for the two men as they worked side by side and the tree slowly came to life. Treasured mementoes hung from every branch; reminders of holidays and events from down the years....
...a tartan bell bought on a weekend in Edinburgh....
...a home-made star coloured by a, now, long grown niece of Ray's; 'Love to Uncle Ray and Uncle Bodie' scrawled across it in a childish hand....
...a hand painted, glass globe from a tiny craft shop in Cornwall....
With each unwrapped bauble the men recalled and shared happy times from their life together.
As the sky outside turned dark and a chill wind began to whip through the trees, the job was almost done. There was just one last part of the tradition.
Ray cleared away the empty wrappings and boxes from around the tree and Bodie topped up their glasses with more brandy that shone like rubies in the firelight. Coming to stand behind the smaller man, Bodie handed him a glass and wrapped his free arm around still slim hips. Resting his head back against Bodie's shoulder Doyle smiled and covered the well-muscled arm with his own.
"Ready, love?" The words were the same every year and the question was tinged with love.
"Mmm yes," came Bodie's soft reply as he bent to kiss greying curls.
Maintaining his hold on the younger man, Ray flicked a switch and smiled at the sight that was suddenly lit before them.
The tree was a blaze of soft, twinkling lights and muted colours shimmered and shone on every bough. In the background the radio was still playing softly and old, well loved carols drifted across the room.
Turning within the circle of his lover's embrace and placing their glasses on the coffee table, Ray looped his arms around Bodie's shoulders. The only illumination in the room came from the dancing flickers of the fire and the glimmering lights of the tree. Impossibly blue eyes that shone with love gazed at him and Ray knew that his own eyes reflected the same depth of emotion.
Tilting his head upward slightly Ray smiled into the face of the man that he loved and to whom he had committed his life.
"Merry Christmas, Bodie-love."
His smile was returned and followed by a gentle brush of lips that promised so much more.
"Same to you, sunshine...I love you."
-- THE END --