Of Christmas Present


Written for Discovered in the Mistletoe, on the discoveredinalj livejournal community.

Thanks are owed both to Slantedlight who beta'd this, and Izzie who continues to help me sound somewhat less Canadian when I'm trying to write Pros.

This is not the worst Christmas ever.

The worst Christmas ever would be Bodie, looking in the wrong direction entirely, coming around the shipping crates with his gun drawn and his head turtled down in his coat collar as if he's anticipating twin barrels of buckshot between his shoulder blades.

It would be not seeing fuck-face -- correction, Gerald Darby -- coming up behind Bodie with his shotgun raised.

There's no time to shout, no time to draw a gun, no time to do anything but leap, grabbing Darby around the waist, knocking him off his feet as the shotgun discharges with a deafening crack and boom.

The worst Christmas ever would be doing all that, and still seeing Bodie taken down, just as you know will happen eventually. Unless you're killed first, which you're ashamed to admit is unquestionably the way you'd prefer it these days.

But not today. Today you hit the dock, rolling with a grunt and a gasp as Darby's boot lands in your ribs, and suddenly the ground beneath you vanishes and there's no time to think anything but oh shit a fraction of a second before you hit the water.

It's cold. Soddin' hell, it's cold. It feels like a fist in the solar plexus, knocks the air right out of you and you can't even scream.

But you can fight. You've got to. Fuck-face is wrapped around you like a bloody octopus, dragging you down. Just before the water closes over your head you catch one last glimpse of him, his mouth wide open, his eyes terrified. It's not black down here. It's dark green, and endless, and the light is attenuated, filtering into eternity. Bastard's too heavy...

You hurt him. You break something in his hand and he lets you go. You use the top of his head to push yourself up toward the surface. You're not feeling the cold now. You're not feeling anything. You haven't got a body. All you are is a pair of lungs squeezed in a vice, struggling futilely for air. Your ears are roaring and you realize there's black down here after all. It's on the periphery of your vision and moving closer with each passing second.

Then you feel a hand grasp yours and suddenly you're out of the water, and you realize with a vague sense of astonishment that this isn't going to be your last Christmas after all.

It might still end up being your worst Christmas, though. Because the air that you craved so desperately just a few minutes earlier turns out not to be your friend. It stabs your lungs with ice cold knives, leaving you on your knees, gasping and retching, forehead pressed to the concrete of the dock. You're so miserable, you're not even grateful when Bodie hauls you back, saves you from landing face first in your own vomit.

Instead, you decide you hate him. Stupid bastard. Can't even watch his own back. It's his fault you ended up in the water. You'd tell him that, too, if you hadn't just started shaking so hard it's a miracle you can manage more than a handful of one syllable imprecations.

Git. Berk. Sod.

That last one is hard to say. Leaves you hissing like a tea kettle, and you wait for him to laugh. To say something. Prove what a bastard he really is.

But he ignores you, heaving you up off the ground instead. Before you know it, you've been wrapped in a blanket and bundled into the car. You're vaguely aware of him on the R/T, his voice clipped and impatient, but you're not interested in the words. The car heater is on now, blowing in your face and it feels like your skin is on fire.

Fire and ice. Outside, the sky is that impossibly bright blue that you only see on the coldest of days, and there are frost crystals forming on the windows of the car. You can see Darby, floating face down just below the surface of the water. Dead. You don't care.

Time telescopes. An eternity of shivering is crammed into the blink of an eye. You watch Bodie giving the coppers their orders. A meat wagon shows up, and then an ambulance. The doctor opens the door of your car, letting in the cold air, and you tell him exactly what you think of that, in small, easy to pronounce words of Anglo-Saxon origin.

He doesn't take you any more seriously than Bodie did. But he's got less right, and by the time he's finished with his examination you're ready to feed him his own head. When he recommends that you go to the hospital overnight for observation, you flatly refuse. You're going home to your own dry clothes and your own warm bed. You're going home if you have to drive there yourself, if you have to walk, if you have to drag yourself by the fingernails...

Bodie interrupts, possibly saving the doctor's life. He'll drive you. Instead of being grateful, you growl at him. And instead of getting shirty with you, the way you deserve, he gives you a brilliant smile.

It's not far, but it's far enough. Your skin is crawling, your head hurts, your muscles ache, and you finally know what they mean when they say, "Chilled to the bone." Bodie is still grinning like a fool, and something about his glee must be contagious because you decide that maybe you don't hate him after all. Just as long as he doesn't say anything stupid.

Shockingly, he doesn't.

He stops in front of your flat, and you're concentrating so hard on getting out of the car without falling on your face that you almost miss that moment of hesitation. He's standing within arm's reach, poised to grab you at the first sign you're about to topple over. Your initial impulse is to chase him off, tell him to go home, leave you alone. All you want is to go inside and bury yourself under blankets until you feel better. But something in his face makes you stop.

He's expecting you to react like this.

That alone is enough to make you change your mind. You're not just being contrary, either. If anyone has the right...

Without saying a word, you hand him the keys. He unlocks the door, and resets the alarms while you disappear into the bathroom.

You decide a shower would be warmer than a bath. You start the water, step in, and immediately start swearing at the heat, trying to turn it down to something reasonable before your skin is scalded half off. Fucking water heater must be on the blink.

Bodie strolls in without knocking and sticks his hand under the water. He's laughing as he tells you it's hardly lukewarm. And then his eyes track down, and he smirks, telling you too that your reputation would be ruined if anyone saw...

Macklin would be proud. You peg him right between the eyes with the soap. Perfect aim. Bodie takes off before you can find any more projectiles to pitch at him.

The shock of the warm water on your frozen skin changes to blissful appreciation as your body adapts to the temperature change. You turn up the heat by slow degrees, keeping it just on the edge of tolerable. The chill in your bones eases, replaced by an exhaustion so deep that you feel like you might fall asleep standing up. You're actually leaning against the wall with your eyes closed when Bodie comes back to tell you that there's hot soup waiting.

You're not sure where you muster the energy to pull on the tracksuit he leaves over the sink. Maybe some of it comes from Bodie, since he seems to have plenty to spare. This is a happy Bodie, a bouncing Bodie, clattering around your kitchen. You're vaguely aware that there's something strange about that... but you're too tired to try and work it out now. You sit down heavily on the chair by the kitchen table and prop your head up on your arm to watch him while you eat.

You don't remember closing your eyes, but suddenly you're falling. You start awake, and your hand slams down on the table, catching the edge of the soup bowl. Hot soup splashes across the table and you yelp.

You feel ridiculously close to tears. Big, tough CI5 agent -- crying over spilt soup... You can't handle this right now. You're too tired and your emotions are too raw, too near the surface. But Bodie is there, hustling you out of your chair and into bed before you can make a complete arse of yourself.

Going to bed fully clothed has never felt so good, and the weight of the extra blankets Bodie heaps on the bed is heaven. There's still something nagging at the back of your mind though, something you ought to know. But your thoughts are muddled, all over the place. The only constant in all the chaos is Bodie.

If only you could work out why.

When you open your eyes again the room is dark. The silence outside makes you think it's either very late or extremely early. There's a sour taste in your mouth, and a pressure in your bladder, telling you that you've been asleep for a long time.

You sit up, groaning. You feel like you've been run through a mincer and pieced back together with brown paper and tape. But your head is finally clear for the first time since you fell off the pier.

It scares you half to death when Bodie suddenly asks if you're okay. He's sitting in the chair by the bed. If you thought about it at all, you thought he'd go home, not spend all night watching you sleep. And from the rough gravel of his voice he's mostly asleep himself.

It's the sound of that voice that decides you. Never mind the sofa downstairs. You give him hell for sleeping in the chair, and then order him into your own bed. He must be exhausted, because he doesn't protest. Doesn't even joke about sleeping with strange men. Just climbs in and pulls the covers up.

By the time you stagger back from the bathroom, he's fast asleep. Moved by some impulse you're too tired to examine, you sit on the edge of the bed and take a good long look.

Bodie is lying on his side with the blankets pulled up to his ears. One hand is tucked under the pillow, and the other is covering his eyes, his thumb resting on his temple and his fingers splayed across his forehead.

It's a curious gesture. Was he shielding his eyes against the light from the hallway, when unconsciousness took him?

In the dark, it's easier to see the shapes of things, without all the distracting details. Bits and pieces of the day begin to fit together. The warmth of his hands, when he pulled you up from the cold ground. The way he kept glancing at you on the drive home, and the brilliance of his grin whenever you caught him at it. The flicker of heat in his eyes when he'd interrupted you in the shower...

Yeah, that last. That's it.

You're not sure what you think about it. Not yet. But you do know one thing for sure. This is not the worst Christmas ever.

It might even be the best.

-- THE END --

December 2006

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