Of Christmas Present
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
It would be not seeing fuck-face –
correction, Gerald Darby – coming up behind Bodie with his
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
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
Without saying a word, you hand him the keys.
He unlocks the door, and resets the alarms while you disappear into
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
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
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
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
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
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
It might even be the best.