The Path Not Taken


Bodie scowled, muttering darkly about mothers with pushchairs even as the one who'd run over his foot apologised without looking at him and scurried away, her mind already on more important things.

Looking up from his abused toes, Bodie gazed despairingly around him at the crowds of people fighting for position as they flocked up and down the high street.

"It's ten o'clock on a Thursday morning for Christ's sake." He protested. "What are all these people doing here?"

Doyle smothered a grin as Bodie began what had to be the twelfth tirade about shoppers he'd heard that morning. Patiently, he started the same explanation he'd used the first time.

"It's Christmas, Bodie. That's what people do before Christmas. Shop."

"It might be what you do, Doyle, but I have better things to occupy my time."

"Really." Doyle drawled, raising both eyebrows in disbelief. "Then explain to me why you're following me round while I'm shopping, instead of off doing these wonderfully exciting things, then?"

"Pity." Bodie announced, airily.

"On me?"

"Nah. On the people you're buying for. I wouldn't want to inflict your dodgy taste on anybody."

"Oh, cheers." Shaking his head, Doyle wandered away from Bodie and into Woolworths, searching for a suitable CD for his nephew.

It was Christmas Eve, and Doyle was simply out doing some last minute shopping, taking advantage of the late night opening hours and a shorter day at work than he'd expected.

As far as he could tell, Bodie had done nothing to prepare for Christmas. They had been flat out at work for weeks, and any time off Doyle had spent buying presents, usually with Bodie tagging along making derogatory comments that would have been more suitable in A Christmas Carol. Definitely, Doyle decided with a nod. With the mood Bodie had been in the past few weeks, he would have made an ideal Ebenezer Scrooge.

God knows what was wrong with the man. The usually cheerful, devil-may-care William Bodie always became a little down at Christmas, but never quite like this year. Every year he spent the weeks running up to Christmas proclaiming his disdain for the traditions, but after the day had been and gone, there was never any mention of it, and Bodie never produced justification for his views from any kind of personal experience.

Pulling the CD from the display cabinet, having been assured by his sister that this was the latest album from the band his nephew Jason listened to twenty-four hours a day, Doyle glanced back over his shoulder as Bodie trudged over to him and they joined the queue to pay. Doyle was grateful that he'd done most of his shopping weeks ago, being well aware that Christmas Eve wasn't the best day to go shopping, but Jason had reached the awkward teenage years when present buying was a nightmare, and it was only yesterday that his sister had finally come up with something he could buy.

"So what are you doing Christmas day?"

Bodie just shrugged. "Dunno."

"Haven't you got anything planned? Seeing family or something?"

"I don't have any family to see, Doyle." Bodie snapped back.

Doyle faltered. "Oh, yeah. Sorry, Bodie."

In fact, Doyle was pretty sure that Bodie did have family up North, but he never spoke about them. From what little Doyle had been able to decipher from cryptic comments over the years, some kind of family argument had sent Bodie running off to sea at fourteen, and they'd not spoken since.

He'd always been curious to know exactly what had happened to break up the Bodie family quite so badly, but had never pushed the issue. Some things were private, and since Doyle had his own secrets, he respected Bodie too much to stick his nose in where it didn't belong. Besides, the few occasions when Bodie had mentioned them, there'd been an obvious hurt in his words, proving that Bodie did, in fact, have feelings. Something that quite a few of the squad would find difficult to believe, especially in view of his partner's recent behaviour.

The squad had been maniacally busy for weeks, and most of them were running on adrenaline alone, sleep having been almost totally sacrificed back in November. Still, he mused, there was light at the end of the tunnel, thank God.

Most of the major operations had been wound up over the past few weeks, and all that was left was the mountains of paperwork that always followed. Strangely enough, the usual complaints about working behind a desk for weeks on end that usually circulated the Squad had been missing, just lately. Doyle was quite prepared to believe that, like him, everyone else was too exhausted to care about the paperwork, and just glad to be finally given the chance to rest. Getting shot at when you were practically too exhausted to see straight was not an experience he treasured.

A resounding cheer had gone up in CI5 when Cowley had announced that most of the Squad were on standby for the few days over and including Christmas. While that meant they still had to be on call in case something did come up, for most of the agents it meant Christmas at home with their families - a precious commodity for everyone, but especially given a job like theirs.

The Doyle family Christmas was so steeped in tradition that it was almost ritualistic, but a ritual that Raymond Doyle adored, nonetheless. His mother's house in Derby on Christmas Eve, where all the family would gather some time during the day. A horribly early start on Christmas morning, though exactly when the day would start depended entirely on how long the children could bear to wait before they absolutely had to find out what Father Christmas had brought them.

Doyle knew that particular tradition would last long past the time when the children were told the truth about Santa. Every single member of the family had a Christmas stocking, including him, and even though he knew the gifts hadn't been wrapped by small elves and delivered by a jolly old fat guy and some reindeer, that didn't make the tradition any less precious than it had when he was a boy.

The adults shared out responsibility for assembling the stockings; he bought his sister's, his sister bought his mother's and so on, so that money wasn't too much of a problem for any one person. While hardly poverty-stricken, the Doyle's weren't the Royal Family, either.

Every year the stockings were given out, then new presents were admired and played with until lunchtime, when the Christmas Roast was devoured during the Queen's speech, after which the main presents were unwrapped. Sometime during the day his mother would bring up the subject of marriage, which he would carefully avoid, and then she would quietly express concern about his job. His family were all too well aware of exactly what Doyle's job entailed, having visited him in hospital too many times over the years.

Even if they hadn't fully realised how dangerous it was, the phone call from Cowley two years before informing Mrs Doyle that her son had been shot twice and was critically ill in hospital had certainly brought the reality home. In a strange way, Doyle had noticed a change in himself after he had recovered, particularly around Christmas. It was as if the day had become even more important to him, because it meant another year had passed, and he was still here to celebrate it. He had come to cherish time spent with family and friends, since he was all too aware of how easily it could be lost, and very nearly had been.

Either way, he treasured Christmas, and couldn't imagine the holiday without his family around him.

Bodie, on the other hand, had no family with which to celebrate Christmas, and whilst he usually spent Christmas with some girlfriend or other, Doyle was all too aware that Bodie was currently single, having been present at the spectacularly nasty break up of his most recent relationship.

As they finally reached the end of the queue and he handed the CD to the girl behind the counter, Doyle came to a decision.

"You should spend Christmas with us."


"Come up to Derby with me. Spend Christmas with me and my family."

"No thanks, Doyle."

"Why not? Had a better offer, have you?"

"Something like that."

Doyle grinned. "Come on then, spill. Who is she? Tall, blonde, and leggy, right?"

Bodie smiled, and said nothing, but it was a weak version of his usual grin, and Doyle suddenly knew for certain that Bodie had received no other offer.

Part of him was hurt that Bodie had turned his nose up at his hospitality, but he simply shrugged, saying nothing. If Bodie wanted to be alone over Christmas, then so be it.

"Well, the offer's there if you change your mind."

With that he walked out of the shop, leaving Bodie to follow along behind, scowling.

Three hours later, Bodie stalked into his flat, and even the black cloud that had been gathering above his head winced as the door was slammed shut.

Throwing his keys on the sideboard, he poured himself a scotch and downed it in one go, then poured himself another and sank gratefully into a chair.


Bah humbug. Charles Dickens had had the right idea years back.

Bodie had never seen the point of Christmas, not even when he was a kid. Christmas was for families, a time for loved ones to be close together, but that was something he'd never had. Oh, sure, he'd had a family, but there was a great difference between blood relatives and the people with whom you'd choose to spend time.

As someone famous once said - though he couldn't remember that person's name - you can't choose your family, but you can choose friends. The only thing Christmas had ever meant to him was that he was forced to spend a whole day indoors with his parents, rather than staying outside playing, which was what he usually did when he wasn't being forced to go to school.

Christmas had always been a poor excuse for a celebration in the house where he'd lived with his parents - he'd never been able to bring himself to call it home, Bodie had felt more at home in the African jungle - and it was this time of year beyond any other that he'd learned to dread.

Mainly because it was the one holiday he'd never quite been able to see the point of.

So a baby had been born in a stable. Well, yippee. So what? Babies were being born every single day. Too many kids, as far as he was concerned, and not enough people to care for them.

And did it really make any difference that the baby was supposed to be the son of God? As far as Bodie could see, the very fact that his job was necessary proved that Jesus' birth had been one big disappointment. If, in fact, it had happened at all. He still wasn't convinced of that one.

Not that this was an opinion he'd be sharing with Cowley, or even Doyle, any time soon. Cowley was devoutly religious, and, Bodie knew from bitter experience, would happily tear strips off anyone he heard blaspheming.

But with everything he'd seen in his life, everything he'd experienced, Bodie simply couldn't bring himself to rejoice at the birth of a baby boy. It wasn't as if it had really made that much of a difference. Drugs were still sold, people still died, petty little wars broke out over stupid things, and all in all, the world wasn't a wonderfully cheerful place to live in.

Draining his second drink, Bodie started on a third.

When he'd first met Doyle, after he'd worked out that the man's temperamental mood swings and idealism weren't going to change however much he tried to bully him out of them, he'd secretly rejoiced.

Surely, with all the soul searching Doyle did, and considering how much he lamented at the state of society, this was one man who would share his dislike of the Christmas period, seeing it for what it really was: a commercialised, pitiful excuse for a holiday where people pretended to be nice to others, with whom at any other time of year they wouldn't even pass the time of day.

And on top of that, all the promises made to children around Christmas did nothing but cause big disappointment, when those children finally realised that Christmas or no Christmas, life was hard, and resolutions of 'goodwill to all men' just lasted long enough to carve the turkey - if you were lucky.

At least, that was what Bodie had found.

So he'd gleefully broached the topic with Doyle years before, after McCabe's cheerful rendition of Merry Christmas and the rest of the squad's enthusiastic discussions of who was doing what on 'The Day' had driven him to distraction. He just couldn't understand how people could forget their problems and pretend was all champagne and roses simply because the calendar said you should.

And Doyle had proved to be another big disappointment.

Far from agreeing with Bodie's rant about the evils of Christmas, Doyle had first stared at his partner in utter astonishment. After which, he proceeded to tell Bodie in glorious detail, why Christmas was so utterly wonderful, how much he looked forward to it every single year, and just how much of a killjoy Bodie was if he couldn't see why Christmas was so important.

Bodie had never broached the subject again.

But he had watched, and observed, and was amazed at the transformation he could see in Doyle every year. His normally moody partner spent hours traipsing round the shops buying presents for people that, as far as Bodie could tell, he never saw throughout the rest of the year. In the weeks surrounding Christmas, Doyle acted like an excited five year old at the thought of opening his Christmas stocking on December 25th along with his nephews and nieces. Bodie had laughed out loud the day he'd heard Doyle talking about Father Christmas, at which point Doyle had lost his temper, angrily informing Bodie that people's charity and simple enjoyment of the day proved that despite what happened the rest of the year, Christmas was a chance to forget all the bad things, and gather with family and friends to celebrate what you did have. And if Bodie couldn't see that 'then he deserved to spend Christmas alone.'

At which point Bodie had sweetly asked why, if that was the case, Christmas was the ambulance and emergency services' busiest day?

But it was this, Bodie grudgingly admitted to himself, that was the main problem. Christmas was a time when family gathered together to celebrate, and Bodie didn't have a family to go to. So he usually spent Christmas alone, or in the arms of his latest girlfriend. While a day in bed with a woman was usually welcomed, it seemed an empty way to spend Christmas day, which just emphasised to him exactly how lonely he was.

Doyle had invited him to spend Christmas with the Doyle family, and Bodie would have dearly loved to go, but he was all too well aware that being in a room with lots of people he didn't really know would simply drive home what he always spent Christmas trying to forget - that essentially, he really was alone.

Ray Doyle was his best friend, and Bodie knew that he did have friends, but as Doyle had said, Christmas was a time for family. Whilst he would never begrudge Doyle the time to spend with a family he was very obviously close to, part of him still felt abandoned every time he woke up alone on Christmas morning, left to open what few presents he had, on his own.

And the more maudlin part of him wondered whether it would really matter if he wasn't there, if anyone would really miss him. It was only at Christmas that these thoughts actually occurred to him, since it was the only true holiday where family was focused on - almost to the exclusion of all else - and yet another reason to hate the winter holiday.

Placing his half drunk glass on the table in front of him, Bodie realised that while he had been lost in thought, the afternoon had worn on and it was growing dark outside. His scotch bottle was almost empty, he and Doyle having drunk a great deal of it when the recent CI5 Operations had finished successfully.

Well aware that, like most years, he was going to spend most of the next few days getting quietly drunk on his own, and also aware that it was the last bottle of scotch in the flat, Bodie picked up the keys to his motorbike, and headed out into the fading light.

Heading for the nearest off-licence, his mind was still lost in thought, and it was only when he was halfway that he started wondering how he was going to get the amount of alcohol he wanted to buy back to his flat on a bike rather than a car.

The basic truth was, Christmas reminded him of what a dead loss his family had been, and that, apart from Doyle and maybe one or two others, he had no-one close to share the holiday with.

Again, he had to wonder whether anything would really be any different if he died. Or if he'd never been around in the first place.

Bodie shook his head as he approached a corner in the road; he was getting as maudlin as Doyle.

He didn't see the car that came out of a driveway to his right, and Bodie was over the bonnet and landing in a crumpled heap in the road before he even knew what was happening.

The pain as he hit the ground was intense, and for a second his vision failed. Then the pain was gone, and Bodie stood slowly, still trying to register what had happened and noting with surprise that the pain had gone.

In fact, he felt fine.

The visor of his crash helmet had shattered, as much as Perspex could, and he removed the helmet carefully and shook his head.

"You're an idiot, Billy."

The voice came from behind him, and he turned round. Surely the driver of the car had been in the other direction. And how on earth did he know his name?

What he saw made his blood run cold.

"K…Keith?" He whispered. Keith Williams looked exactly like Bodie remembered the last time he had seen him, which was barely three months before Keith had been murdered by King Billy and his thugs.

The figure walked towards Bodie, a sad smile on his face.

"You've got a problem, mate." Keith told him.

It was a few seconds before Bodie was able to form a sentence. "Aside from the fact that I'm talking to a dead man, you mean?"

He shrugged. "Well there is that, I suppose. But I'd say you've got an even bigger problem." Keith pointed over Bodie's shoulder, and he turned round just in time to see the driver of the car that had hit him, get out and stumble over to a body lying motionless on the ground.

His body.

Bodie backed away from the scene in confusion, and Keith came to stand next to him, putting a supporting arm on his shoulder.

"What…?" he whispered.

"Well let's see. You're talking to a ghost, you've been hit by a car and you're looking down at yourself… At a rough guess, I'd say you were dead, mate."

There wasn't much Bodie could say to that. Instead he watched in stunned silence as the car driver turned his body over, and a passer by ran up to join the scene. The two people began CPR, but Bodie felt nothing.

"So…I'm dead?"

But Keith shook his head, becoming serious. "Not yet, Bodie. Almost, but not yet."

"So what's going on?"

Keith gestured to the scene playing out in front of them. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?"


"Nobody would be bothered if you lived or died, right?"

Then Bodie remembered his train of thought just before the accident. "What, is this one of those near death experiences? Am I going to be walking down a tunnel towards a bright light in a minute?"

Keith shook his head. "If you get that far, nothing will bring you back. But you do have to make a decision."

"About what?"

"Whether you want to live. Whether there's any point, whether you being alive will make a difference to anyone. And there are no guarantees. It might be too late anyway."

Bodie wandered over to the side of the kerb and sat down wearily on the edge of the pavement.

"I've seen you down before, Bodie. Jesus, the mission you went on after my death was something, but this is something different, isn't it. Part of you really does believe that nothing you do makes a difference." Bodie hesitated, and Keith continued. "Be honest, Bodie."

Bodie shook his head. "Doyle's moods really have started to rub off on me." He muttered. "Alright, yeah. Maybe some of me does wonder whether there'll ever be a point to all of this. Especially at this time of year."

Keith nodded. "You sound like a regular Scrooge."

"You going to send three ghosts to me, then? Show me the error of my ways."

"Nah. There aren't enough of us to go round as it is, let alone sending three to each person."

"Each person?"

"You think you're the only one to feel like this at Christmas, Bodie? Because you're not. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but to people like us who never really settled down, it can also be one of the loneliest. But you have to really believe, Bodie. No doubts. Otherwise your life is going to end in a stupid bike accident. That's not how you're meant to go, Bodie, but if you have even the slightest doubt, not even I can do anything to help you."

Bodie said nothing, just watched as the ambulance pulled up and the crew raced over to his body. But none of them noticed the two figures sitting five feet away on the pavement.

"This is too weird." Bodie muttered. "You sure I'm not just dreaming?"

Keith frowned. "We don't have time for this, Bodie. You never did believe in stuff like this. Then again, neither did I until it was too late. I didn't get a second chance, Bodie. But you do. Don't waste it."

Bodie shook his head. "The Keith I knew would never say something as soft as that. This isn't real."

Keith stood up and ran a hand through his blond hair. "Then I'll prove it to you. You want to be dead? Better still, you want to have never been born? Fine." He clicked his fingers, and suddenly things changed. The car that had hit him was halfway down the road, the ambulance disappeared, and there was no sign of his body, or of the broken shell of the motorbike.

"What have you done?"

"Given you your wish, Bodie. You were never born."

"Things don't look much different to me."

"Don't they?"

"No. Except for that car. Bloke won't have to claim on the Insurance, now. Looks like I've done him a favour."

Part of Bodie knew he was being ridiculous, even if this was all true and not some bizarre alcohol induced dream, but he just couldn't shake the feeling that he had never really achieved anything worthwhile in his life - a feeling he often found himself wallowing in around Christmas time.

"I think it's time for the ghost of Christmas Present, don't you?"

Bodie rolled his eyes. "Oh, please."

"Hey, I know it's a corny concept, but it's apt enough. Let's go pay Ray Doyle a visit. Come on." With that, Keith turned and walked down the street.

"Aren't you supposed to have wings and a harp, Keith?"

"Only at Halloween, Bodie, will you ever find me wearing wings and a harp."

Bodie laughed, but followed his old friend nonetheless. It looked like he was going to be spending Christmas with Doyle after all.

Turning the corner, Bodie suddenly found himself standing across the street from a blue car. Four people were assembled by the car, and while Bodie recognised the slim form of Doyle's mother, Catherine, he couldn't see Doyle at all.

"Welcome to Christmas in the Doyle family. This is what will happen tomorrow."

"Where's Doyle? Trust Ray to be late…"

But Keith placed a hand on Bodie's arm, stopping him from finishing the sentence, and ushered him into step behind the four people who had started walking away from the car and through some gates…

…into a graveyard.

"Keith?" Bodie found himself whispering, his voice suddenly uncertain.

"It's all right, they can't hear you."

"What are we doing here?"

"Visiting Doyle. At least, they are. This is the Doyle family Christmas, Bodie."

"But…" Keith hushed him again.

The small procession came to a stop in front of a marble tombstone, where the four members of the Doyle family stood silently.

Stepping around them, Bodie drew in a sharp breath when he read the inscription on the tombstone.

'Raymond Doyle.
Born 1948.
Died 1981.
Dearly Missed
May he find peace.'

"They visit his grave every Christmas morning. His mother never really came to terms with his death."

He whirled round to face Keith. "What happened?"

"He died, Bodie."

"I can bloody well see that!" Bodie yelled. "How? W…What happened?"

"I'll show you."

Bodie blinked, and found himself inside Doyle's old flat. Some of the curtains were drawn, there were miniature soldiers laid out on a side table, and Bodie and Keith were standing in the lounge, by the heavy curtains.

Classical music was playing, but it was obvious Doyle wasn't in the flat. That didn't mean that they were alone there, though. As a young woman fitted a silencer onto the end of a gun, Bodie groaned.


"That's right."

"But this has already happened. He pulled through!"

"No. He didn't."

There was the sound of a key scraping the door, and Bodie watched in growing horror as Doyle stepped into his flat, laden down with grocery bags.

"Doyle!" Bodie started forward, but Keith grabbed him and held him back even as Doyle noticed Mayli's presence and stepped into the room.

"We're only observers here, Bodie. There's nothing you can do for him now."

"How did you get in here?"

Bodie watched helplessly as the first two gunshots threw Doyle backwards across the table, and his partner landed face down on the floor.

As the phone fell from the broken table and landed near Doyle's body, the milk from the broken bottles began to mix with the spreading pool of blood.

A final shot, and then Mayli left by the fire escape.

Bodie fell to his knees beside Doyle's body, staring down at his partner even as the man's breathing began to slow down. Doyle had never spoken about what had happened the day he was shot, and even seeing it with his own eyes, Bodie found it difficult to take in.

He waited in silence, transfixed by what was happening, and expecting to see himself coming in the fire escape at any moment. But time passed, and nobody came. Finally he looked up at Keith, confused.

"But…he pulled through. She activated the alarms when she ran. I found him…" He trailed off as he began to realise what he was saying.

"Exactly. You were only a few minutes away when the call came in. You were on your way to see him, remember?"

Bodie nodded absently. "I knew he was brooding over the two terrorists, so I thought I'd drop by, make sure he was okay."

"But you didn't. Because you were never born, remember? You never joined CI5, and you never met Doyle."

"Are you telling me they didn't send anyone to check the alarms?"

"Oh, they sent someone. They sent Lucas. You never joined CI5, Bodie, and Doyle was never partnered with anyone. Cowley was never able to find anyone to team him up with. He was a good agent, but he never let anyone get close to him. So the day he was killed, no-one realised he was brooding, and no-one thought they'd drop in on him. Lucas was the closest when the alarms went off, but he was still a good half hour away. By the time Lucas got here and called for help, it was too late. Doyle was already dead."

Bodie looked back down at his partner's body, and could see that the man was close to death, much worse than he had been when Bodie had come in through the fire escape and found him.

"Jesus." He whispered.

"Don't you see, Bodie? You made a difference here. You saved his life. And all those times you cheered him up, stopped him from brooding, nobody else did that. Everything you do has an effect Bodie."

Bodie nodded, finally beginning to understand.

"It's not just him, either. All the people you've helped over the years; the criminals you stopped, the wars you fought in. You made sure that my murderers came to justice. Do you remember the Myer-Helmut terrorist group? The ones you cornered in the vicarage? Six months after you didn't stop them, they blew up an Underground station in London. 187 people died, Bodie, including Murphy."


Keith nodded. "He was on their trail, but the bomb went off too early. Do you get it now? Whether you think so or not, you're important to a lot of people."

Bodie stood slowly, painfully aware that his partner was no longer breathing. He felt sick, and turned away.

"Let's go." He said quietly.

Keith nodded, and they walked out of the room and down the fire escape in silence. Only when they reached the last few steps did Bodie realise he wasn't outside Doyle's old apartment, but back in the road where he had been killed.

"So what happens now?"

"That all depends on you, Bodie."

Bodie sighed. "Enough with the cryptic rubbish, Keith. It's all very well you showing me all this, but if I'm dead then it's come a bit fucking late."

"By rights you should be, Bodie. But you never know…" he trailed off, grinning.

"What?" Bodie snapped.

"Miracles do happen, Bodie. It is Christmas, after all."

"So what am I supposed to do? Click my heels three times and say 'there's no place like home'?"

"Not exactly. Like I said, it's up to you."

Bodie's vision suddenly faded slightly, the way it had when the accident had first occurred. As it cleared, Bodie realised he was back on his bike, wearing his helmet and travelling towards the site of the accident all over again.

It took a few seconds before he worked out what was going on, then he realised exactly what Keith had meant when he'd said that it was up to him. He hit the brakes, and the bike skidded to a halt, the engine protesting at the sudden stop. Less than a second later, the same driver as before pulled out of the driveway without looking.

Having reversed out into the road, the car drove off down the road as if nothing had happened. Which, Bodie supposed, was because it hadn't.

Checking his watch, Bodie saw that no time had passed since he had first been hit by the car, and began to wonder if this had all been some kind of hallucination after all. There was only one way to find out.

Ignoring the strange looks given by a curious passer-by, Bodie wheeled his bike down to where he knew there was a phone box, and dialled Doyle's number with shaking hands.

It was a few minutes before the number was picked up.


Bodie breathed an intense sigh of relief at the sound of his voice, since it was proof that Doyle was indeed alive and well.


"Yeah, Bodie. What's up?"

"Tell me something, Ray. Do you remember when Mayli Kuolo shot you?"

There was a pause at the other end of the line. "It's not something I'm likely to forget, Bodie." Doyle's voice was sharp, and a little confused.

"What did you say to her?"


"When you went into your flat and saw her. What did you say?"

"Something about how she'd got in, I think. Yeah, that was it. Why, Bodie?"

Bodie grinned. "Never mind. Listen, does that invitation to Christmas dinner with the Doyle's still stand?"

There was stunned silence from the other end of the line. "Erm…yeah, course it does. What's going on, Bodie?"

"It doesn't matter, Doyle. You're going up to Derby tonight, yeah?"

"That's right."

"Give me an hour, and I'll be over."

"Alright, Bodie."

Bodie hung up, and stared at the receiver thoughtfully, still trying to absorb what had happened in the past hour. Finally he gave up and headed back to his flat, keeping a careful look out for reversing cars as he did so.

Maybe it was time to see exactly what there was to all this fuss over Christmas. After all like the man said, you might not choose your family, but with close friends around, it really didn't matter.

As he pushed the key to his flat into the front door, Bodie could have sworn he heard Keith's quiet laughter in his ear.

-- THE END --

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