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Ghost of Christmas Past - a Pros ficlet

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  • Ghost of Christmas Past - a Pros ficlet

    Disclaimer: The Professionals, CI5, and the characters of Doyle, Bodie and Cowley belong to Mark 1 Productions. This story is written for my own amusement, without permission, and I am making no profit from it.

    This is my answer to the Christmas Combination Challenge, using the combination of: Doyle's Dad, railway station, Christmas tree

    Thanks to Birgit for the inspiration, and Tracey for the fine-toothcomb work.

    Ghost of Christmas Past

    Bloody Cowley.

    Christmas Eve. Could be safely tucked up in bed, looking forward to Christmas with the family and my Mum's Christmas dinner. But where am I? Hanging around some train station in the middle of nowhere, looking for some pathetic little sod who probably won't even turn up.

    Bloody typical.

    Wonder when was the last time I didn't have to work at Christmas? I can't even remember.

    And when was the last time I got to go home for Christmas? Can't remember that either, but Mum could probably tell me. She could tell me how many times I've pulled out at the last minute, too.

    Mum's Christmas dinner ?

    "Oi, wake up, Doyle."

    Bodie waves a hand about half an inch in front of my nose, and I shove it away, irritably. "I wasn't asleep," I point out.

    "No? Looked like it," he grins cheerfully. "Wish I was."

    "Wish I was anywhere but here," I tell him.

    He rolls his eyes. "Whose bright idea was this anyway?"

    "Cowley," we both say in unison, and I have to laugh, in spite of myself. "Bloody Cowley. Isn't it about time we had a Christmas off?"

    "Great idea," Bodie tells me, enthusiastically. "Why don't you suggest it to him? But let me know, before you do, so I can leave the country first."

    I let out a long sigh, slumping further down into the uncomfortable plastic bench. Then I spring to my feet, stretching hard to rid myself of the kinks in my spine, arms and legs. "How long have we been here now?"

    Bodie stares dispiritedly at his watch. "Too long. He's not going to show, is he?"

    I flop back down onto the bench. "Course not. That would mean our being here actually had a purpose, instead of being part of a dark conspiracy to ruin Christmas for both of us."

    "Ah," he nods, sagely. "Is that what this is all about?"

    "Didn't you realise?" I am all prepared to play the conspiracy theory game for as much mileage we can get out of it, in the absence of anything better to do or say, when a huddled figure scurrying past in the direction of the ticket office catches my eye and the words freeze in my throat.

    "Doyle?" Bodie sounds puzzled, obviously wondering what has got into me, but I am barely aware of him as I swivel abruptly in my seat to focus on the man who just passed me. I watch him swerve around the drunken-looking and pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree, which is leaning at a precarious angle in the middle of the foyer, to join the queue of last minute travellers at the ticket office.

    It can't be him. Can it?

    Talk about a blast from the past.

    I'm being silly. Of course it isn't him. Can't be.

    I turn back to Bodie, determinedly. "What was I saying?"

    He gives me a quizzical look. "You were suggesting that fate has determined we should spend Christmas here. What's wrong?"

    "Nothing, sorry, forget it."

    He frowns at me slightly, looking unconvinced. He takes me at my word, however, and starts suggesting other possible villains behind the conspiracy to ruin Christmas.

    But I can't concentrate on the conversation. My mind is many miles and many years away.

    It wasn't him, was it?

    It must be twenty years. More than twenty years. How can I be sure I'd even recognise him?

    It looked like him. Right height, right build, right way of walking. Couldn't see much of the face, but the rest ?

    There must be thousands of men out there of the right age who look like that. The light isn't that good here, I just made a mistake. That's all.

    "And you aren't listening to a single word I'm saying, are you?"

    I suddenly realise that Bodie is asking me a question and come back to the real world with a start. "What?"

    "You were in a world of your own, there. What's up, have you seen him or something?" He starts peering around, looking perplexed.

    I'm startled at that. He must be psychic. "Seen who?"

    Bodie sighs at my obtuseness. "You know, Mickey Collins? The guy we came here to look for?"

    God, I'd forgotten all about that, wasn't even looking. "Oh him, no, I haven't seen him. Why? Have you?"

    Bodie looks even more annoyed at that. "Ray, what the hell's going on?"

    "Nothing." I glance over my shoulder past the sickly fairy lights twinkling half-heartedly on the Christmas tree, in time to see the man who looks so much like my father pocketing his ticket and heading off in the direction of Platform Six.

    It is him. I'm sure it is. Twenty years older but other than that just like I remember him.

    Isn't it?

    I suddenly need to be sure.

    I leap to my feet. "I need to stretch my legs, be back in a minute."

    "Doyle?!" Bodie calls after me, but I ignore him, heading for Platform Six in pursuit of the man.

    What if it is him? What should I do?

    Why do I even care?

    He walked out on us. Left Mum on her own with a mortgage to pay and a family to feed and clothe. She ran herself practically into the ground trying to hold us together, working all the hours God sends for an absolute pittance.

    Arriving at Platform Six I can see him waiting for his train. It's running late, surprise surprise. This is British Rail, after all, and it is Christmas Eve.

    There are plenty of people milling around, so it's easy for me to lose myself in their midst and not be noticed, watching him as he settles himself on a bench with a newspaper to wait for his train.

    He checks his watch, frowns in annoyance at the time.

    How can I be sure it's not just someone who looks like I think he would look now?

    He seems to sense my scrutiny and glances up in my direction, looks straight at me ? and straight through me. No recognition.

    It can't be him.

    But on the other hand, there's no reason why he should recognise me, is there? It's been twenty years; I was just a kid. I've changed a lot since those days. And he wouldn't be expecting to see me here any more than I was expecting to see him.

    I can't be sure.

    The only way to be sure is to go over and speak to him.

    Do I want to speak to him?

    He made life hell for our family, even before he took off. Nearly destroyed Mum. Nearly destroyed all of us.

    Mum did her best, drummed morals into us, but there was nothing to reinforce those morals. No discipline. Mum was out working; first light every day and nearly every night of the week, cleaning in shops and pubs. And while she was out working her fingers to the bone to put food on the table, we were out running wild: hanging around with the roughest kids from the roughest areas, getting into trouble, running with the pack. And she would worry, worry, worry, all the time, that she was letting us down somehow. Worrying that for all the hours she worked she didn't have enough money to give us the best, and that because of the hours she was working she wasn't there enough for us. Worrying that we would get into trouble. Worrying that her best wasn't good enough.

    Get that. She thought she had let us down.

    It was his fault. It was always his fault.

    What would I do if I spoke to this man and it really is him? What could I say? Other than maybe to ask him why. And what could he say that would be worth anything? What would be the point?

    Would he even want to know? After all, he didn't back then.

    And what if he did?

    We are nothing to do with him now. Anything that any of us has achieved, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps when we could have gone down the gutter for good, has been down to us, and especially to Mum for never giving up on us even at the worst of times. Not him, he did nothing for us ? except leave.

    I don't want to talk to him again, ever, and I don't want to hear his excuses.

    Do I?

    Across the platform, the man who looks like my father checks his watch again, folds his newspaper and rises from the bench as a train pulls into the station and weary passengers begin to spill from its doors.

    It looks like him, so much like him.

    If I let him go now, I'll never know for sure.


    I can see him seated at a window as the train pulls out.

    What would I have gained, really, from speaking to him? Let the past stay where it belongs, where it can't hurt anybody.

    Suddenly remembering the reason I came here in the first place, I head back to the main concourse where I can see an annoyed looking Bodie waiting for me to return. Mickey Collins is with him, securely handcuffed and all set to go.

    Looks like I might make it to Mum's in time for Christmas dinner, after all.

    ? Jo ? December 2002