The Birthday Present
by Jane Carnall
Doyle looked, in stupefaction, at the gaily-wrapped package that Bodie had just dropped in his lap. "You what?"
"It's a birthday present," said Bodie, nonchalantly. "You remember birthdays?"
"Yes," Doyle agreed suspiciously. "I also remember that you never bought me so much as a bloody card for the past three years."
"Oh, be fair. Bought you a drink or three. Or five. More than you've done for me."
"I'm not the tightwad in this room. Even though you've managed to convince half the Squad."
The evening seemed about to descend into one of those long drawn out and, to an outsider, incredibly trivial arguments that were among the characteristics of the 3.7/4.5 team. Mostly, both of them enjoyed it, with or without an audience. This time, Bodie snapped, "Look, just open it, will you?"
"Why now?" Doyle demanded, prodding the gift. It felt soft, like cloth. "Or is it ten months late?"
"Saw it when we were on stakeout," Bodie explained. "Thought it would suit you. OK?"
"Yeah," Doyle said, scenting embarrassment, and planning to follow it, "but-"
"Just --open--it," Bodie said crossly. "It won't bite. He smiled suddenly, an always-unexpectedly charming grin; "Ah, come on, Ray."
Touched, Doyle ripped the sellotape off. He could always rag Bodie afterwards.
It was a black sweat-shirt. Heavy, good-quality cloth, edged with knitted cotton, hard-wearing. An unexpectedly practical gift from Bodie. Then he unfolded it and saw that printed in white on the front were two words in large graceful Cyrillic lettering. "What does that mean?" Doyle asked.
Bodie shrugged. "Peace, or peace and goodwill, or something, I think."
Doyle looked down at it again. "I like it. What d'you reckon Cowley's going to say, one of his men walking around with a message like that on his chest?"
Bodie choked into his drink, spluttering with laughter. "I don't know," he got out, "but you could always tell him it's a Christmas message."
"Wear it at the Squad Christmas party?" Doyle mused, grinning at Bodie. "Well, he couldn't say much. Or I could just blame it all on you."
"Oh, I'd expect you to do that," said Bodie very seriously. "Absolutely."
"OK, it's a deal." Doyle lifted his glass, clicked it against Bodie's. "I'll wear it, and blame it on you."
Bodie laughed again, apparently unexpectedly tickled. "OK. Hell, why wait for Christmas? We'll probably be on duty anyway. Wear it tomorrow."
"You have had too much to drink," Doyle concluded.
But he did; partly because when he tried it on and looked at himself in the mirror, he liked the effect; but mostly, he admitted with a wry grin at the futility of it, because it was a present from Bodie. He was rewarded by a bright grin and on e of his partner's quick hugs to which Doyle never quite knew how to respond. "You look great. It suits you."
They went into HQ side by side as usual, and along to the VIP Lounge for a fast coffee before they had to see Cowley. He didn't look in a good mood; he hadn't looked in a good mood for the past week. He briefed them on the Bakyaro case as thoroughly as usual, but coldly and without one leavening trace of humanity; even Bodie didn't try one of his usual daft jokes, for which Doyle was actually relieved; the explosion would have been of thermonuclear proportions, and cold.
Cowley looked up from this papers for perhaps the sixth time since they'd come into the office, to give them a final parting glare, but this time actually seemed to notice them in any detail. "Doyle. What's that you're wearing?"
"Sweatshirt, jeans, trainers, wrist-watch," Doyle started, poker- faced. "Ach, I can see tha," Cowley snapped. "What's that--"
"Birthday present, sir," Bodie said, at his most military.
"Birthday present?" Cowley repeated, looking at Bodie, then at Doyle, and back at Bodie.
"Yes, sir," Bodie said. There was the oddest expression on his face, Doyle thought, looking sideways at it.
"Doyle's birthday is in January."
"Know that, sir."
There was the same, odd expression on Cowley's face now as well. "I see. Well, be off with the pair of you." It was the most human thing he'd said in a week.
"What does it say?" Doyle demanded, pushing Bodie into the men's lav, the one with the brass plate on the door that everyone usually avoided. "You were practically smirking at each other, and I want to know why!"
His partner's previously well-smothered grin broke loose. "It says 'Daddy's Boy' in Russian," he said, and started to laugh.
"What..." Doyle stared at him. "What?" How many people in HQ could read Russian and how many of those had seen him and Bodie must have had to have it specially printed and what the hell did Bodie have to find so bloody funny -- "Bodie, what the hell did you do that for?"
"I thought Cowley need cheering up," Bodie shrugged, still with the laugh in his voice, and as Doyle looked at him, uncomprehending, added, as if it explained everything, "It's his birthday."
-- THE END --