by Fanny Adams
Story #10 in the Emma universe
"Mr. Cowley," the note began, "that you are reading this means that I am dead and that Michael has been delivered to you. For whatever inconvenience this causes you, I apologize, but I have very little choice in the matter of my son's welfare. I feel that you are responsible in part for the situation and as such I have the right to demand your help. If I am gone, my son has no one to provide for him.Cowley lowered the paper and stared at the child who sat opposite, dwarfed by the chair in which he sat so quietly that Cowley had all but forgotten his existence. Silent and too serious for a child of...three? He thought back to the case involving Kate Jordan and counted forward. Nearly four years old. Michael met Cowley's gaze with cool blue eyes rimmed with absurdly long black lashes. It was all there--eyes, tilted nose, and wilful, vulnerable mouth, and his hair a riot of soft black curls. The child was Bodie over again, only silent. Much too silent. "Michael?"
He'll need love, too, but I don't know if you can or will give that. Please don't send him away to school and forget him; surely you'll be able to find someone to love and care for him. He's an affectionate child--very dear.
His father doesn't know about him. I'm not sure he'd care much if he did know, but now the choice is yours. Tell him or not, as you will. You may have noticed the resemblance; it's distinct."
The dark blue eyes, so like his father's, unnerved the old soldier. He was unused to children, particularly such self-possessed ones. "Well, and are you hungry?" he asked, folding the letter and slipping it back into its envelope.
"Yessir." The voice was soft but distinct--a clear, light childish soprano.
Cowley buzzed for Betty. "Let's see what we can find for you. What do you like to eat?"
The blue eyes sparkled. "Chocolate!"
"I'll see what I can do," Cowley promised.
"Ice lollys," Michael volunteered with a broad grin.
Another heartbreaker, Cowley decided. Betty stuck her head into the office. "Betty, the wee lad is hungry."
"I've got something on the stove. It should be ready in about five minutes." She turned to Michael. "Do you like shepherd's pie, love?" Michael returned her smile and nodded. "Can you hang on for a few minutes?" Another nod and she was gone, leaving Cowley alone with the child.
"Where's Mum?" Michael asked. "She went away. Where?"
"I don't know, laddie," Cowley confessed, surprised that a small child could make him feel so miserable.
True to her word, Betty was back almost immediately with a tray. She'd brought a cup of tea for Cowley, and he sat back and savoured the familiar, comforting smell of bergamot. "Are you psychic now as well as being the most efficient secretary I've ever had?"
"I'd have to be psychic to work for you. Anyway, being a mum hones your e.s.p." She tucked a napkin into Michael's collar. "Can you manage, darling?" she asked and he nodded. "What's going to happen to him now?"
"I don't know. Any ideas?"
She shook her head. "I'd take him if I could, but Julia needs so much attention...."
"Och, so, it'd be too much to ask even if it wasn't for Julia." Her daughter Julia had contracted rheumatic fever as a baby which had permanently damaged the valves of her heart. She was a small, sickly child who, until she'd reached school age, had taken up all of her mother's time and attention. Fortunately, in the last two years her improvement had been startling, and though she still required a lot of care, Betty had been able to work on a limited basis. For the last six months she'd worked full-time. Of course, taking another child on was out of the question though Cowley could hardly hope to find a better family for Michael.
"Will you tell Bodie?" she asked. Michael, blithely unconscious of being discussed, ate with real enthusiasm. He had a thin milk moustache clinging to his upper lip. "He deserves to know."
"He won't take it well, Betty."
"I think you underestimate him."
"Perhaps," he admitted thoughtfully, sipping the Earl Grey. "I can't help but wonder if he'll blame me."
She shrugged eloquently and wiped Michael's mouth. "There may be some cake left...."
"Indeed?" Cowley asked before he realized that she was talking to Michael.
"What kind?" the boy asked with real enthusiasm.
"Chocolate." His mouth became a tiny 'o'. "I'll bring you a slice, shall I?"
"Oh, yes, please," he breathed.
"Good manners," she observed. "Would you care for one as well, or is that a silly question?" She carried the tray to the door. "Shall I send him to see you when he checks in?"
Cowley sighed into his cup. "Yes, of course. Better to get it over with." The door closed behind her with a soft click.
"...and the next thing I knew, he was running down the street yelling, 'The Russians, the Russians!'"
Doyle chuckled and shook his head. "What'd you do, then?"
"Ran after him yelling, 'Nyet, nyet, ya ni Russki, ya Amerikansk,' and the poor bastard bloody near fainted dead away. Easiest cop I've made in years." He shrugged out of the holster. "Well, almost," Bodie amended with a sly smile. He stretched and groaned. "I'm getting old."
"How is it you score the nutters?" Ray asked. "Oh, bloody hell! Somebody finished the cake."
"There's a moral there, old son, but it doesn't pay to consider...the whole bloody cake?" Bodie was outraged.
"Bodie, Mr. Cowley would like to see you." Betty's soft voice cut short Ray's tirade on the character and parentage of the person or persons who had deprived them of the chocolate cake.
"Oh, God, what have I done now?"
"He's not upset, he just wants to talk to you," she said, with one of those motherly smiles that Ray had started to see on Emma's face lately. Bodie gave her a chaste kiss as he slipped past her.
"You can tell me, Betty, what's he done? You know I'll use it against him."
"Cheekier than ever, Ray Doyle," she said, but she looked pleased. It was lovely having her back.
He made a pot of tea, set out two mugs, and sat down to wait for Bodie. He shut his eyes and hummed an old tune--one that Danny had sung to him the last time they were together. His mother must have taught it to Danny, he realized.
"Ray." Betty was in the doorway. "He wants to see you, too." There was something...not wrong, but something definitely not right. Before he could ask, she assured him that it was nothing serious. "A small problem," was all she would say.
He puzzled over that one as he approached the office, and as he entered he saw the small problem. "Bodie!" he blurted.
"Caught the resemblance, eh, Sunshine?"
Ray approached the child with something like fascinated horror. "Who does he belong to?" he asked.
"Innit bloody obvious?" Bodie asked bitterly. His eyes were hooded, unreadable.
"His mother was Kate Jordan," Cowley offered. "His name is Michael."
Doyle squatted beside the child's chair and ruffled the dark curls gently. "Was?" he asked, recalling her very well. She had been one of those who Cowley had sacrificed for the greater good. Four and a half years ago and Ray still remembered that she had loved Bodie--he had seen it in her eyes when they brought her in for questioning. She wasn't a memorable woman otherwise. Her child was exquisite.
"Any chance that it wasn't an accident, sir?" Bodie asked, all clipped business-like tones.
Ray didn't hear Cowley's answer, so fascinated was he with this perfect miniature of Bodie. "It's not your fault, Bodie," he said softly.
"Doesn't do the poor little sod much good, does it?"
Something touched Ray's face. Small fingers traced the misshapen bones of cheek and brow. Ray looked into serious blue eyes and was rewarded with a shy smile. He picked Michael up and sat down in his place, holding the boy on his lap. "Hullo, Michael, my name's Ray."
"What's going to happen to him?" Bodie asked.
"I have been appointed legal guardian, apparently. It's up to me to find the boy a home. Miss Jordan, quite rightly, placed a large portion of the blame on CI5."
Blame? Ray thought, for something so wonderful? Bodie reached out and brushed cake crumbs off the boy's mouth. Michael plucked at his sleeve, but he pulled away. "No family?" Ray asked as Michael began to move around restlessly.
"We're checking, of course, but it seems likely that if there was some close family, Michael would have been sent to them. There is, however, always the possibility that she's sent him to us for some sort of revenge...."
"She wasn't like that," Bodie insisted. Michael squirmed and shifted. "So the responsibility falls to you? Did she make any financial provisions?"
"In so far as she was able." Cowley sorted through the papers in the solicitor's envelope. "Some small amount has been set aside in trust. She had not expected to die so soon, I imagine."
Michael chuckled, but when Ray followed the child's gaze to Bodie, he found his partner's face mask like and unreadable. "We never do," Ray observed more to himself than the others. Michael laughed again and again Ray found an inscrutable expression.
"It's not nearly enough to raise the boy in any event. My major concern, however, is to find a suitable home for the child."
"So you'll have to rely on the goodness of someone's heart." Michael was pulled out of his grasp.
Bodie cradled the grinning child, a Madonna-like expression flitting across the handsome face. "Speak roughly to your little boy, and beat him when he sneezes...."
"Essentially, yes," Cowley answered, watching Bodie. He and Ray fell silent, watching father and son as they became acquainted.
"He only does it to annoy because he knows it teases." Michael gurgled with laughter and Bodie hugged him close. "My God, I want to keep him," he whispered.
"I'm sorry," Cowley told him.
"What's your name?" Michael asked.
"Bo?" He giggled. "Bodiebodiebodie. That's silly."
"You're silly!" Michael insisted and squealed as Bodie found all the ticklish spots. When they finally settled down, he rested his head against his father's chest and closed his eyes.
"I find it a little hard to believe you didn't know that she was pregnant," Bodie muttered. "You've always had eyes in your back side."
"I could say the same for you; anyway, I had no reason..." Cowley's voice rose and Ray shushed him, pointing at the sleeping child. "...no reason to expect that she was. You're supposed to be more careful."
"Yeh, well, CI5 forgot to issue contraceptives that week. Accidents do happen, you know."
"Aye, well, that's too bloody obvious, isn't it?"
Ray studied his lover's face and found there an unnerving combination of anger and tenderness. His touch of proprietary gentleness, the way he looked at his son, all said 'rival' to Ray in a nasty, nagging little voice. Michael's mouth had dropped open in his sleep and he was drooling on Bodie's crisp blue shirt. One small fist was wrapped around his father's index finger.
"He's awfully small, isn't he?" Ray observed. He remembered Kate Jordan as being about five foot nine and about eleven stone, and for a moment he had the wild hope that this was not Bodie's child after all.
"He'll grow. I was like that as a kid--undersized. Got tall at sixteen or seventeen, but I was weedy until I got into my twenties."
So.... "Grew the muscles then, did you?" Ray asked with bitter humour. It was madness to be jealous of a child.
"Something like that." Bodie smoothed the tangle of dark curls with his free hand. "I want to keep him for a few days. I deserve that much." For a moment Ray thought that Bodie and Cowley were about to square off, but Cowley put on a beneficent smile.
"Of course," he said, all honey and common sense, "just as long as you realize that it can't be anything but temporary."
"And if I decide to quit and become a bachelor father? How do you think you'll stop me?" Bodie demanded. Ray saw a look of pain flit across Cowley's face. "Michael...Sunshine, wake up." Bodie shook the child gently, but when Michael whimpered in his sleep, he propped the boy against his shoulder and strode out of the room without a farewell.
"You shouldn't have said that to him," Ray observed as he drove them back to his flat.
"Which of my objectionable comments do you object to?" Bodie was obviously in a difficult mood.
"The one about quitting. He didn't deserve...." The look on Bodie's face froze the words in his mouth. "Okay, okay. But I didn't deserve that either. It frightened me." He was a little surprised at being able to admit that so freely. A year ago he would have shouted at Bodie to leave if he wanted to and good riddance. Being in love was having a mellowing effect on both of them. A small hand patted his shoulder.
"Ray? K'n I drive?"
He grinned. "Another time, Sunshine, we're almost there now." Michael settled back on Bodie's lap and played with the buttons on his father's jacket. "Emma's going to love him," Ray said.
"She'll probably try to kidnap him as a toy for Danny."
"A toy for Em, you mean, and for Mum, too." He groaned, thinking of his mother fussing over Michael the way she fussed over Danny. "Mum's mad about you. Imagine how she'll feel about a lost lamb like Michael. She's crazy about Danny, y'know."
"Is that some sort of not-so-subtle hint about Danny's parentage?"
"Touchy. Still, if the shoe fits...or if the kid looks like you...."
"He looks like a Doyle, Raymond, in case you hadn't noticed--all hair and those damn cat's eyes."
"But they're blue," Ray reminded him.
"So are your mother's. Doyle genes." Bodie grinned and waggled his eyebrows, mock lecherous. "I've always been mad for your genes, especially when you wear 'em that tight."
"Pillock," Doyle snapped, trying not to laugh.
"Anyway, Emma treats Danny like the immaculate conception. He doesn't have a father--she made him all by herself."
They parked, and Bodie tucked Michael under his arm as they made their way up to Doyle's flat. "I'm hungry!" Michael announced in a surprisingly loud voice.
"His father's son," Ray said with a sigh. He took Michael from Bodie and hugged him tight. It was terrible, he realized, he already loved this little boy. "We'll have some supper as soon as my daughter gets here."
Michael frowned. "Dot?"
"My little girl," Ray explained.
"You have a little girl?" Michael asked, wide-eyed. "K'n I see her?" He tugged at the pocket of Ray's jacket.
"She's not in there. She's not that little." He grinned at Bodie. "Four years and already big with the little girls, eh?"
"His father's son," Bodie said with a hint of pride, as he unlocked Ray's door. "Why don't you make something to drink while we wait for her? Cocoa would be nice, wouldn't it, Michael?"
"Yeah," Michael agreed. He sounded just like Bodie. It was eerie.
"Why is Emma coming by anyway?" Bodie asked. "I'd have thought she'd have taken to her bed to await the second miraculous birth." He found some cookies in a jar and handed a few to Michael, eating the rest himself.
"Obstetrician. She's moving slowly, but she's moving. Maybe we should get Chinese take-away."
"I'd feel better about it." He sat down on the couch and Michael flung himself at his father, squealing, "Bo-deeee!" and giggling madly.
"Daddy," Bodie said softly and Ray felt something in his stomach sprout wings and flutter around crazily.
"Daddydaddydaddy." He pressed his lips to Bodie's cheek and made a loud smacking noise.
"No, no, I want a proper kiss," Bodie insisted, his eyes strangely luminous. Michael complied.
"K'n I have 'nother cookie daddy?"
"There aren't any more. We ate them all."
The doorbell rang just as the kettle began to whistle and for a moment Michael looked frightened, but then he pulled away from Bodie and ran for the door. "It's Mama!" he cried. Ray sighed and took down a cup for Emma.
"Hullo, who's this?" Emma's voice sounded tired but cheerful.
"My God, you're enormous!"
"Thanks, Bodie. Give us a kiss?" She pulled off her coat just as Ray carried the tray of mugs out of the kitchen. "Hullo, Da. Now, don't tell me...this is...a Bodie, yes? Hello, darling," she said to Michael who stood behind Bodie's leg, small fist jammed into his mouth.
"I smell cocoa. Do you want to have some cocoa?"
"Hello, Michael. I'm Emma."
"Ray's little girl? You're not little."
"I will be soon I hope." Michael giggled and she held out her hand to him. "Let's have some cocoa." She sat on the couch where Bodie had been lounging a few minutes before, and she picked up the smallest mug. "Here, darling, I'll hold it for you, shall I?" She held out the mug and he approached cautiously. Ray was always surprised at her patience with small children. "Careful now, it's hot." She tilted the mug to let the child drink. "So who's his mum, then? Old girlfriend?"
"Old assignment. I was supposed to 'get close to her'," Bodie explained, sounding bitter.
"She was a criminal?" Emma asked. Ray was surprised at the slightly shocked tone. He didn't think that anything could shock his daughter.
"No, just a lady caught in the middle."
"I'm sure you're going to think this is a vulgar question, but did you care for her at all?"
"In a way, yes. I liked her."
And she loved you, Ray thought. The image of Kate Jordan came to mind involuntarily. Unmemorable, but not unremarkable. "She's dead," Ray blurted, and the image vanished. "George is his legal guardian. She put the responsibility on CI5, not on Bodie."
"More," Michael demanded. She held the cup to his lips. When he was done, he pushed her hand away and wiped his own mouth.
"Want a cuddle, sweetheart?"
"Yes, please." She pulled him into the little bit of lap that remained to her and hugged him fiercely. "What's in here?" he asked, patting her stomach. "You eat too much?"
"No, it's a baby," she told him. His mouth dropped open and he pressed his ear to her stomach.
"It's not crying."
"It's asleep. It'll sleep for a long time and then when it's born, it'll cry a lot."
"Oh," he breathed. He lay with his head on her stomach and petted the bulge. "Sleep, baby," he crooned, "and don't cry."
"Is he too heavy?" Bodie asked.
Emma shook her head. "It's well cushioned. Danny does this a lot. He likes to feel the baby kick." She brushed the tumble curls and stroked the child's back. "George won't let you keep him, will he?"
"Can't. The job. I'm no kind of Da for a small child."
"Nonsense, you'd be a wonderful Da. Despite everything, I wish I could have a little brother or sister. Not likely, is it?" She looked from Bodie to Ray and grinned.
"That cuts a little too close to your Da's domestic urges, doesn't it, Sunshine?" Bodie's smile was gentle and loving.
"I refuse to go about in maternity fatigues," Ray insisted. He grew suddenly serious. "Bodie, listen. If it's that important to you, then you keep him. Quit and keep him."
"I've never stopped regretting not being with Em while she grew up...."
"Do what you have to do and I'll back you the whole way."
"Do you suppose," Emma began, a distinct quaver in her voice, "that Alec and I would rate as proper foster parents?"
"Em, you can't be serious," Doyle said. "It's too much to ask with the baby and Danny and all."
"Too much to hope for," Bodie said quietly.
"Neither. Look, having kids is like having cats. Once you have one, you might as well have half a dozen. Frankly, I planned on having a big family and Alec is blissful about that. You'd just save me nine months of looking like a lorry on legs if you let me take Michael. He needs a mum, y'know."
"It's all right with me, love," Bodie said, "but I don't know about George."
After dinner Ray dropped Bodie off at his own flat and drove Emma back home. It was strange to be alone with a child so much a stranger and yet so much a part of yourself, Bodie reflected as he hunted up an old shirt in which Michael could sleep.
Michael crawled into Bodie's arms as they settled down to sleep and the scent of small child made him smile. "Daddy, where's Mama?" he asked, sounding more sad than sleepy. How long had Kate been dead? Less than a week?
"I don't know where she is, Michael. I know that she had to go, but that she didn't want to leave you. She's sorry."
"I want Mama." The small voice was unsteady.
Bodie remembered the loss of his own mother. "She still loves you, Michael, but she can't come back." Michael began to cry softly against Bodie's chest, and he stroked the child's back and held him tight.
"She got dead an' went 'way," he sobbed.
Eventually the tears slowed and Michael dropped off into a deep sleep. The best thing for him, Bodie decided, shifting around until he was comfortable with Michael in his arms.
Thank God for Emma, he thought. Still, the options remained open and he knew that despite everything, the most tempting prospect was to opt for bachelor fatherhood. The thought of watching Michael grow up, of raising a child of his own was sweet. It'd be different for Michael, he thought. Michael would have all the love and attention he could give no matter who raised him--he'd insist on that. He'd go to a good school, but a day-school; no boarding for Michael, and no running away from home--he'd have no reason. Nobody would be allowed to give him a reason to want to leave.
An overwhelming mix of emotions washed over Bodie suddenly--anger, fear, sadness, and a loneliness that he hadn't felt in years, as well as his love for his small son. There was so much about life that was uncertain, and Bodie who knew that uncertainty better than most, ached to make life smooth for Michael. He wanted to pave the way with gold and give him rainbows to play with. Crazy. It was something like the way he felt about Ray--protective; insanely so. He wanted to be their cushion against all of life's batterings. He wanted to be everything to them.
It was fortunate that along with the ability to love fiercely, he'd been gifted with a whacking great dose of common sense that told him that such single-minded love was unhealthy. He'd seen it in his father's love for his mother and he'd felt its recoil. It was no way to love a lover or a child, but it was a damn good way to drive them away, and the thought of finding himself an old man with all his grains of sand run away, frightened him.
Michael moaned in his sleep and Bodie rocked him a little and kissed his head. The thick black curls smelled vaguely of apples. Life's little bumps and bruises were character builders. It was the damaging things he wanted to spare Michael--the loneliness, the very real terrors of life.
He was suddenly angry at Kate for leaving her son alone in the world. "You should have told me," he whispered.
"And what would you have done?"
There was no answer. Nothing would have changed. Dead is dead and Michael would have been alone anyway. "Oh, Katie, there are times when I've missed you," he sighed. He had cared for her, but Ray was and always would be the most important thing in his life, and Kate, for all her loving couldn't change that...except now, the part of her left behind had captured parts of Bodie's heart that he'd thought belonged to his partner. Would Ray mind, he wondered. It wouldn't change things even if he did. Bodie could never stop loving Michael now. He was a small miracle, was Michael, a gift as great as Ray's love. He wondered absently as sleep began to overtake him, what he'd done to deserve the two of them.
That night he dreamed, as he never had before, of his childhood.
-- THE END --