An Outing on Christmas Eve
Written for "Discovered in the Brandy Butter" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community
Ray threw a handful of pants into the open holdall with far more vigour than was necessary. "You're going with me, Bodie, or I'm not going!"
Bodie sighed, sinking deeper into the soft bedside chair and cradling his glass of whisky ever more closely. Absently, he watched the lamplight illuminate the amber liquid. "Then I'm not sure why you're packing, Doyle. I'm not going."
"Yes, you are."
Bodie shook his head, still staring at his glass. A small, rude smile was on his face. "No."
Ray whirled around, a picture of fury in blue denim and tan pullover. "It's Christmas Eve, Bodie!"
"You keep mentioning that -- I keep telling you I don't care what day it is. I'm not going." He held up his hand, looking up at his partner. "And I'm not sure why, after all these years, you feel it necessary to obey a maternal summons that you've successfully ignored for as long as I've known you."
"It's different this year," Ray snapped. "Do I have to draw you a picture?"
"The only thing that's different this year is that we've begun enjoying carnal relations with one another. I'm sure your mother would be thrilled to hear the details."
"That's what's different," Ray explained, his voice calmer now. "You have it exactly. I want to tell her about us, and I want you there when I do so."
Bodie stared at Ray. He felt his eyes widen. He heard his voice, almost shrill with astonishment. "You are mad. Absolutely mad."
"No, I'm not," Ray argued. "This is important. This is . . ."
"Ray," Bodie said, speaking more quietly now as well. "I know what you mean. How you feel. But we can't tell anyone. Not even your mother." He hesitated a moment. "Especially not your mother."
Doyle spoke, flatly: "Cowley knows."
"Cowley guessed, and I couldn't lie to him. Not when he asked me a direct question."
"But you didn't mind him knowing, did you?"
Bodie shook his head. "No, I didn't. I don't. I felt -- "
Doyle's voice was still emphatic. "You felt like you owed it to him. You felt you had to be honest with him."
"Well, that's how I feel."
Bodie felt his irritation surge again. He tamped it down. "How do you 'owe it' to your mother to tell her you're gay?"
"I'm not going to tell her I'm gay. She'll figure that out on her own. I'm going to tell her about you. And you have to be there."
"So she can murder me!"
"She'll be disappointed, yes."
"She'll be crushed, Ray! Give me some credit. I may have never met her, but I know her well enough to know that."
"Oh, so now you're an expert on my mother?"
"I'm an expert on women." At Ray's short bark of laughter, Bodie continued. "Hear me out, Ray. You're her only son, her baby. The one man she pinned all her hopes upon after the divorce. You're the light of her life. Even though you never visit her, you never call . . . I can picture her after church each week. Or at the shops, running into a neighbour she's not seen in a while, or maybe taking the air in the park. She's talking. Talking about her son, the policeman in London who works for the government now -- something top secret, she can't discuss it, but it's important . . . I can see every moment of it when she gets around all the other women. She's so desperately proud of you."
There was a moment of silence.
Bodie was relentless. "Isn't she?"
Ray was still quiet. Finally he spoke up at the same time he lowered himself to the bed's edge to sit near Bodie. "Yeah, I suppose so. She is."
"It's commendable that you want to go home and see her, with it being Christmas Eve and all. I know she'll be happy, so proud. She'll drag you to midnight mass and show you off to all the other biddies." Bodie paused and then spoke with determination. "I have no place there."
"Yes, you do," Ray answered, passionate again. "You're my partner. You're my lover. You're my . . . you're my whatever we should call it! I can't go home, only half of myself. I can't sit through everything if you're not there, fending off enquiries about my girlfriends, and when I'll be getting married, like all the girls are. Acting like a swinging single who just hasn't found his special bird yet! It would be hypocritical -- I'd be lying to her, to her friends, to my sisters and my nieces and nephews . . . that's not how I live my life."
"It's not a lie to keep some things to yourself. Especially things that should be kept to yourself."
Ray seemed awash with emotion. "Just because we're both men? I can't take you anywhere with me, because you're a man?"
"Think about it, Ray," Bodie growled, his temper short. "You're not listening to me."
Taking a deep breath, he then reached for Ray's hand. "No one can say what we have is anything less than what a married couple has, but we can't advertise. And we shouldn't. Cowley would have our heads."
"I'm not talking about announcing banns, Bodie. I wasn't planning to tell The Times. I'm just talking about being forthright with my mother."
"I can't see it."
"You can't see it because you don't want to see it. You don't care to have anything to do with your family. But I do."
"My mother is dead," Bodie said, coldly.
"I know your mother's dead, idiot," Ray sighed, his exasperation clear to see. "I've read your file, remember? All those tales of your misspent youth that you'd never tell me, in the early days? I already knew all of 'em. I wasn't going to be partnered with someone I knew nothing about."
"I still can't believe you did that," Bodie reflected, with no amusement in his voice. "And I can't believe Cowley never found out."
"I'm not sure he never found out," Ray admitted. He pulled his hand from Bodie's, then patted his knee. "I know your mum's gone. And I certainly know why you're estranged from your dad. I would be, too, if I'd gone through what you did at his hands. But you can't apply your background to my family. They're completely different."
"You should thank any appropriate deity in your life for that."
Ray faltered a moment, almost imperceptibly. "Perhaps I have. Perhaps I've thanked him for keeping you around -- alive and sane -- until I met you."
Surprise flooded Bodie and he inclined his head in acknowledgement.
Both men were silent, then Bodie tapped his watch, picking up the argument again. "Shouldn't you be going? It'll take you at least three hours to get up there."
Ray sighed. "I think this is where I came in." Standing up, he strode over to the wardrobe and pulled out some of Bodie's trousers. "I'll pack for you."
"You can pack up the entire flat, for all I care. I'm still not going."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes -- "
Bodie heard himself say words he really didn't mean. "Ray, can you please shut up? And leave? Now?"
"Bodie -- "
"Have you thought about anything I've said?"
"Likewise. Have you?"
Bodie snapped his mouth shut. This entire conversation was causing him to feel increasingly out of control. "Point taken."
"Now give me the same courtesy."
Ray's voice was almost serene. "I have. You're simply wrong."
"No -- "
Ray walked over to the chair in which Bodie was sitting. Gracefully, he knelt down. Leaning forward, he cradled Bodie's face in his hands. "Go with me and I'll make it worth your time."
"Bribing me, now?"
"Any port in a storm."
Bodie opened his mouth slightly, kissing Ray gently. Pulling back, he said, "Sex? On Christmas Eve? In your mother's spare bedroom with its two single beds and only one thin wall separating it from her bedroom?"
"How do you know what my mother's spare room is like?"
"It's universal with elderly dowagers -- and I've had to visit enough birds' mothers to know."
Bodie's humour bubbled up. "So, you may want to make it worth my time, but I don't think I can be quiet enough whilst you do so."
Ray laughed as he regained his feet. "Okay, fair enough -- one night of celibacy tonight and I'll make Christmas night a night to remember."
"If we stay here, we can make both nights special."
"Tonight will be special," Ray told him, seriously. "Even if we don't touch each other once. Tonight will be the first night we tell someone about us -- without having it forced out of us under threat of termination."
Bodie was weakening. He felt it and he knew Ray sensed it. "Your mother. On Christmas Eve. May I ask? Will that be before or after we attend mass with her?"
"After," Ray proclaimed, with the air of someone who had everything planned out. "Share and share alike. You're going to have to deal with the other parishioners who had too much Christmas cheer before mass, just like me. You're going to have to sit through Father's rambling homily. Just like me. You're going to have to listen to the choir massacre the Hallelujah Chorus, just as they do every year."
"Oh, it is. Always a crowd pleaser, that is."
Bodie had to ask. "I have to ask . . . then we'll . . . ?"
"Then we'll head back to the house, sit around the Christmas tree with the fairy lights, sipping our sherries -- "
"I hate sherry."
"Never knew you to be particular when it comes to alcohol," Ray remarked, accurately. "But that's all she'll have in the house. You'll have to bring the Glenlivet if that's what you want."
Bodie nodded, slowly coming to terms with defeat. "Sipping our sherries, and?"
"And I'll tell her."
"That will go down a treat," Bodie ventured to say, frowning. "I couldn't begin to - "
"I can and I will. I've had time to think about this, since I told her we were coming."
"Yes, and thanks for that. I usually manage to respond to invitations myself. Don't need to have my social secretary do it."
Ray was peering into the wardrobe again, his back to Bodie. "I'm not your social secretary, Bodie. I'm your partner. In all things now. You can't have it both ways."
"I'm not trying to -- "
Ray looked around, fixing Bodie with a stare. "I know you're faithful to me. Not worried about that. I know you've gone off the birds. Permanently."
That was nothing but the truth, and Bodie nodded, warily.
"But we're living together now. We're married, maybe not in the eyes of the law or the church, but in every other way that matters. I'm not going to celebrate Christmas in Derby when my lover -- my spouse -- is in London. It's not going to happen."
Bodie nodded again, finally beaten. "You win. As usual."
"I'm right, as usual."
"Yes. Yes, you are. For your reward, you can pack a few things for me, as well."
"Yeah, thanks, already did."
"I'm still not sure how you intend to share the news of our wedded joy with your mother, though. And I still can't believe you're going to do it on Christmas."
Ray zipped up the holdall. "Well, it will be a Christmas she'll remember, wouldn't it?"
"I have a feeling," Bodie opined, bleakly, "that all three of us are going to remember it, for quite a while."
Ray closed his eyes, a tiny, blissful smile on his face. "Yes."
"So, we're sitting 'round the tree, and you say to your dear old mother . . . "
Ray opened his eyes again. "I'm simply going to say that you and I are living together. She's not feeble-minded. She'll know what I mean."
"If she needs clarification, you'll be the one that provides it. Not me."
"I can clarify it for her, discreetly."
"That I would like to see. How so?"
"I'm going to tell her we have one flat, one bedroom. One bed -- "
"Oh, my god." Bodie was well and truly appalled.
"It'll be fine. You'll see."
"I sincerely doubt it." Bodie stood up. "I'm going to wash and get ready to go; we'll have to leave soon if we're going to make it in time. Even if I drive."
"But I'm sure of one thing, Ray," Bodie declared.
Ray looked over at him, questioning.
"There'll be no Toblerone in the bottom of your Christmas stocking this year."
Ray nodded, peacefully. "Only coal for me. But I have you."
-- THE END --