Tranquillity reigned in the Officers’ Lounge one afternoon in February. With the exception of Captain Scarlet who was still recovering from injuries he’d sustained during the last Mysteron threat, the remaining four field agents were taking it easy while they had the chance.
Captains Blue and Magenta were playing a game of three-dimensional chess, Grey was engrossed in a magazine, and Ochre was at the farthest away table, fiddling with a particularly tricky model of a sailing ship.
“I’m thinking, guys…” he announced, “Valentine’s Day is coming up real fast. We need to think of something nice to give to the Angels.”
Magenta and Blue looked up from their chess game.
“How could we possibly top their effort last year?” the Irish-American replied. His mouth curved in a happy, not to mention, libidinous, smile as he recalled the photograph the five young women had presented to them the previous year.
“Yeah, that was some car,” Blue said in a nonchalant voice, although his eyes were fastened intently on the tiered board. He swiftly moved his bishop to a spot on the second level.
Magenta grinned. “I don’t seem to remember you ogling the car, Adam.” His eyes returned to the board for his move, and, a few seconds later, his face fell as he realised Blue had him in checkmate.
“Oh, hell, that’s not fair, I was distracted.”
“Never let a woman distract you from your mission,” Blue said, with a lofty grin as he put his arms behind his neck and leaned back lazily in his chair.
Ochre snorted. “Nice one, Adam. We’ll all be sure to keep that in mind the next time you and Karen are having another bust-up.”
“We do not have bust-ups, just the odd disagreement, now and then.”
That’s kinda like saying Lake Huron is a puddle,” Ochre said, and grinned over at Grey, who had finally looked up to see what all the banter was about.
“Look, let’s forget about my personal life and get back onto the subject that you raised, Rick,” Blue flashed back.
“Okay, point taken. So, anyone, suggestions for Valentine’s Day?”
“Flowers, champagne, chocolates?” Grey offered.
“Too obvious, we’ve done that at least three years running,” Ochre said. “We can’t let them think they have the upper hand in originality, we’ll never live it down.”
“I didn’t know it was a competition,” Grey drawled quietly.
“Where’s your sense of fun, Brad?” Ochre replied.
Grey only shook his head with a wry smile. “Oh, I have one; I let it out on birthdays. But remember, whatever we do, we’d better not rouse the old man’s suspicions.”
“Maybe Scarlet can think of something; he’s gotta be bored stiff in the Infirmary,” Ochre pondered.
“He’s due out today,” Blue replied. “We can ask him when he gets here.”
Colonel White was studying the reports submitted by his officers of their last mission. He was in the middle of Scarlet’s and gave a short sigh of despair. Spectrum’s number one agent he might be, but his grammar sometimes left a little to be desired.
“I have the World President on the line for you, sir,” Green announced.
“Put him through, Lieutenant,” White said, his craggy face visibly tightening as he pressed the button to lower his privacy screen.
“Colonel, always a pleasure,” John Roberts’ voice came through his intercom.
“Indeed, sir,” White replied evenly. “What can I do for you?”
“I wanted to thank you for your guys’ excellent work a few days ago, and I wanted to make sure Captain Scarlet, in particular, was doing okay.”
“He is practically recovered, thank you, Mr President.”
“Good, good. Well, I won’t stand on ceremony. I wanted to ask a favour of you, Colonel.”
White braced himself.
“I’m not the only new face in the government, and I have to say that there are a few folks who aren’t completely happy with the way Spectrum is spending what they see as their money.”
“That has always been the case, and will no doubt continue to be so,” White replied dryly. “I seem to recall that I have to sit in a darkened room every year around this time, and listen to the same arguments being rolled out again and again.”
“Sure, that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? But it doesn’t help when Spectrum continues to be so secretive. I want to change that; I want to show all the dissenters that there are faces behind the uniforms. Your Spectrum captains, they’re brave men – heroes – and the world needs heroes, Colonel.”
“Sir, secrecy is vital in this war against the Mysterons; can you imagine the panic amongst the public that would ensue if – “
“Hell, Colonel, I’m not suggesting we parade your guys along Times Square. I simply want to thank them in person for doing a great job.”
“Sir, they hardly need – “
“Everyone’s ego needs a little stroking now and then, and I don’t believe your guys are any different.”
“They are not celebrities in need of adulation,” White protested briskly.
“Of course not, and that isn’t the real point, anyway.”
White privately thought that somehow, he didn’t expect it would be.
“The world leaders and their bean counters sit behind their cosy desks; many of them have little concept of the danger that your men face each day, or the fact that they lay their lives on the line for them - and their constituents. I firmly believe that meeting Spectrum’s finest, in the flesh, will shame them into loosening the purse strings and liberating the money we need to continue to fund Spectrum’s projects for the coming year.”
“Are you suggesting that my officers come to Futura?”
“You got it in one. I want to present a medal of bravery to each one of them – at a banquet in their honour. I know you’ll be with me on this one, Colonel.”
“Sir, with all due respect -”
“Sorry, Colonel, I have several members of Security Council banging on my door. I’m going to have to end this communication. But I expect to see your five senior officers in Futura City this Friday afternoon.”
White tried vainly to protest, but he might as well been King Canute railing against the tide.
Even the news that Captain Scarlet had been pronounced fit for duty had done nothing to alleviate Colonel White’s bad mood. He waited until his five colour-coded officers were seated around his curved desk before clearing his throat to address them.
“I have just received a communication from World President Roberts, and, I suppose you could say I have some good news… and some not quite so good news.”
Curious glances were exchanged between the men.
Ochre swiftly broke the pregnant pause. “Well, I’m always a good news kind of guy.”
“Very well,” White continued. “He wants to present each of you an award for your work in saving Futura City once again from the Mysteron threat.”
“We were all just doing our jobs, Colonel,” Scarlet said.
“Yeah, and we don’t need fancy gongs to prove it,” Ochre added, with a grimace.
“Of course, gentlemen; I quite agree with your sentiments and I said as much to the president. However, he will not be swayed on this matter, for, as you know from first hand experience, he is a very forceful character.”
There were nods and glances of agreement at this.
“So, is he coming to Cloudbase for our… presentation?” Blue asked.
White cleared his throat again.
“I got a feeling this might be the bad news, guys,” Ochre muttered.
“I’m afraid not, gentlemen,” White said. “Roberts wants you to fly down to Futura City in order to receive the awards at a ceremony in your honour.”
Ochre made an almost imperceptible groaning sound in his throat.
“But sir,” Scarlet said, “We can’t leave Cloudbase and fly off for a party with the possibility of another Mysteron threat at any moment! Surely, he knows that?”
White raised a hand. “Believe me, Scarlet, I tried to press that fact upon him, but he argued that it will be just as easy for you all to respond to a threat from Futura, as it would be from Cloudbase.”
“Why doesn’t he just come up here to give us the medals?” Ochre asked.
“That isn’t the point,” Blue said with a trace of sarcasm in his voice. “Where would be the publicity in that? Politicians never do anything without being seen doing it.”
“So you agreed to this, sir?” Grey asked.
“I hate to say I had little choice, Captain, but the alternative was too horrifying to contemplate.”
“That he and his guests came to Cloudbase.”
The captains traded looks of dismay.
“Jeez, imagine the security we’d have to deal with,” Ochre said.
“Not to mention the Mysterons. Cloudbase would be a prime target,” Scarlet added.
White nodded gravely. “Yes; in consideration, I felt it best that we agreed with the first option: flying you all to the ceremony. Far less hassle in the long run. But, before you go, there is one other thing. He insists that he has a private photograph taken with the five of you, with your awards, after the ceremony.”
This announcement signalled a general outbreak.
“Oh, no, sir, that’s going a little far –”
“What about our security?”
“Aww, this is nuts…”
White raised a hand. “Gentlemen, I know, and I was as unhappy about the proposal as I obviously knew you would be. He assured me that any publication of this photograph will preserve your anonymity and privacy and, I shall veto anything which does not achieve that aim.”
“Can’t you just tell him we’ve all gone down with a virus, huh, sir?” Grey asked hopefully.
“Yeah, facing Mysterons would be more fun than dining with a bunch of politicians,” Ochre added sourly.
White gave them a grim smile. “I wish I could, but barring a Mysteron threat, which I add, I do not wish, you will all be heading down to Futura City on Friday.”
Resigned, the five captains left the Control Room.
“Reminds me of that debacle of that first calendar shoot,” Blue said, as he and Scarlet took the lead, heading for the elevators. “Now there was a publicity stunt that went wrong.”
No one but Magenta, walking alongside his partner, noticed that Ochre’s face had visibly tensed at the mention of that particular sojourn in Futura City.
“That was hardly Mary-Sue’s fault,” the Irish-American said in defence of the photographer, since Ochre seemed unusually tight-lipped about it. “She had no idea that assistant of hers wasn’t on the level.”
“Yeah; well, at least on that visit to Futura we had the Angels for company at dinner,” Ochre snapped.
“Not to mention a pretty photographer,” Blue couldn’t resist saying, with a wink at Scarlet. “Did you ever see her again, Rick?”
“A few times,” Ochre replied in a non-committal tone.
“Damn good pictures she took,” Blue admitted. “Even if I was against the whole thing from the start.”
“Let’s change the subject, guys, huh?” Ochre muttered, and squeezed past Blue and Scarlet.
Blue shrugged as the gold-uniformed captain strode away from them. “Who yanked his chain?”
“I think you did, Blue,” Magenta’s voice answered gruffly from behind.
“Tell me again why we’re doing this?” Ochre said, as he paced across the deep pile carpet of a suite in Futura City’s swishiest hotel. He stopped to take a swig of coffee from a china cup which looked far too dainty in his broad hand.
Grey looked up from idly flicking through a brochure about the island. He had made himself at home on one of the flamboyant damask sofas, with his booted feet on the edge of an equally ornate coffee table.
“Because Roberts is the old man’s boss, and we’re good at following orders.”
“Jeez, I knew there was something I didn’t like about being in the military.”
“Look, it’s only a meal, which might actually turn out to taste half-decent, and then we get our medal and shake some hands. After a good night’s sleep we get to go home. With any luck they’ll stick us either side of Blue at dinner, so he can tell us which bit of silverware goes with which.”
“Hey, have you guys forgotten that I have some familiarity with the finer things in life?” Magenta piped up from the window, which framed a spectacular panorama of the cityscape.
“Fat chance of that,” Grey drawled, with a grin. “You insist on reminding us of our cultural shortcomings at every opportunity.”
“I guess so; and at least we’re wearing our uniforms, rather than dress up in monkey suits,” Ochre muttered.
“Look on the bright side, Rick,” Magenta said, “You might get to sit next to some pretty dame.”
“If she talks politics, I don’t care how pretty she is…”
“Am I hearing right?” Grey said. “That’s gotta be a first for you, Rick.”
“I like female company, so sue me.”
He wandered across to the window to join Magenta and stared out beyond the glass, while a rueful expression flitted across his face.
“Something on your mind, partner?” Magenta asked quietly.
Ochre’s gaze didn’t waver. “No.”
“You’ve been a bit, well, subdued, ever since Blue mentioned –”
“You mentioned her, Pat.”
“Yeah, right, I did. I was thinking, wondering if maybe, she’s our photographer.”
“It’s possible, I guess.” Ochre’s expression remained unreadable, and Magenta thought that for all his partner’s good-natured banter and outward appearance of frivolity when off-duty, there were times when he could be remarkably tight-fisted with his feelings, when he chose to be.
“Rick, I know you never said why…”
Ochre turned to face him at last, and his voice was quiet and even. “No, you’re right, I didn’t say, and I don’t intend to start now; so let’s just forget it, shall we?”
“Sure, I just…”
The door opening interrupted them, and Scarlet and Blue strolled in dressed, like the others, in their uniforms. Blue looked as immaculate as usual, with not a blond hair out of place, although this didn’t stop him looking uncomfortable about the whole charade. The two of them helped themselves to coffee, with the resigned air of prisoners awaiting execution. A few minutes later, the door opened again, and in strode President John Roberts, followed by two of his aides.
Grey snapped to his feet from the sofa in an instant, and joined the others, who unconsciously drew together in a line. Roberts immediately began to pump their hands vigorously in turn.
“Great to see you guys again. I hope everyone has been taking good care of you?”
There were mumbles and nods of agreement.
“I really appreciate you all coming down here, since I’m only too aware of how busy your schedules are. But I don’t think anyone minds a little rest and relaxation when they’re offered, huh?”
There were more nods.
“Great. So we’ll be heading off for dinner in a few minutes, but first, I’ll introduce you to the photographer, just to set your minds at ease.” He stopped as the sound of quickly approaching footsteps could be plainly heard in the corridor. “Ah, I think that might be the young lady now.”
All five captains stared at the doorway, and the only outward sign of Ochre’s feelings was a small muscle that ticked in his jaw. Despite being half-prepared, he still let out an audible breath when a petite, dark-haired, woman entered the room.
“Jeez, Mary-Sue,” he muttered.
“It’s very nice to meet you all again, Captains,” she said, giving them a bright smile, which slipped a fraction when her gaze alighted, briefly, on Ochre.
“It’s been a while,” Magenta said pleasantly, and as the American hesitated, he stepped forward to shake her hand. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Well, this is great, you all know one another,” Roberts said with a satisfied tone. “I chose Ms Mackay-Wells since she not only takes great pictures, but is an expert in digital manipulation. I’m confident you, or Colonel White, won’t have any reason to fear that your identities will be exposed.”
“Och, you can be sure of that, captains,” Mary-Sue insisted, with a firm nod. “I would never do anything that would put any one of you at risk. That’s why I agreed immediately to President Roberts’ proposal. I couldna allow anyone else to make mistakes with something as important as your identities.”
Roberts beamed, happy that his guests of honour had evidently been somewhat mollified by his choice. “Great; well, if you gentlemen are ready, we’ll head off.”
They filed out of the room, following Mary-Sue and Roberts, who had gallantly offered his arm to the photographer. She chatted happily with Scarlet and Blue as they made their way along the corridor towards the grand ballroom.
Magenta leant his head and muttered to Ochre, “Maybe she had another reason to come, buddy?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Ochre replied. Mary-Sue hadn’t exactly looked pleased to see him when she arrived, and he was annoyed at himself for feeling guilty. He didn’t think he had anything to feel guilty about.
A small sigh escaped his lips as they all trooped towards the ballroom. His relationship with the diminutive Scotswoman had blossomed swiftly, since their stroll along a silver-sand beach on this island two years ago, and a short time afterwards they had spent an exhilarating couple of weeks on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The sharp memory of some of those uninhibited nocturnal – and not so nocturnal – activities sent blood rushing to parts south. But it wasn’t all just animal passion; he admitted to himself that it hadn’t been all that long before they’d opened up to one another on an emotional level. But, between his Spectrum commitments and her work schedules, their relationship had become one of quality over quantity.
He thought she understood that he couldn’t offer more of himself at this point in time, but maybe, just maybe, he’d thought wrong. But he honestly wouldn’t have believed she would drop him dead, the way she did, with no explanation.
The dinner was, as Grey had predicted, more than just edible, it was a gourmand’s fantasy; and, since they were all seated at a table of honour with Roberts, Ochre didn’t even have to worry about making small talk with a bunch of hot-air senators. Even so, he felt decidedly uncomfortable being the centre of attention, having spent a considerable part of his life trying to blend into the background.
“I wish they’d given us the medals first,” Blue, seated on his left, muttered, seemingly reading his mind. “Then I could have enjoyed my food. Now I know how the groom feels, when he’s got to sit through the meal before making his speech.”
“Well, it won’t be such a shock then, when you have to do it for real.” Ochre couldn’t resist the taunt.
Blue waved his dessert fork under his nose. “You just wait, buddy. One of these days… it’ll happen to you, and I’ll be first in line, laughing my socks off.”
“They have to catch me first,” Ochre replied, deadpan. And then, as an afterthought, his eyes raked the room once again, to see if he could catch a glimpse of Mary-Sue. He blew out a long, slow, breath when, once again, he came up negative.
The applause rang around the room as Roberts finished his speech and presented each one of the Spectrum officers with their medals.
Afterwards they adjourned to the suite, where Mary-Sue was waiting for them. A young, blonde-haired man, who looked about six years her junior, was helping her check the equipment, and they were chatting and laughing together. At one point, Mary-Sue placed a hand on one of his tanned arms, in what looked like, in Ochre’s opinion, an intimate gesture.
“Oh, there you all are,” she said brightly, as they filed into the suite. “I hope you enjoyed dinner?” There were mumbles of agreement, and she waved a hand in the direction of the younger man at her side. “I hope you don’t mind, but I needed my assistant here to help me with the camera equipment, it’s quite heavy, as some of you gallant gentleman might remember.”
The younger man looked up and waved. “Hi, I’m Matt,” then he immediately lost interest in them and turned away to check an umbrella flashlight.
Mary Sue took charge, pointing them towards the large, neutral, canvas background on a metal support that she had set up in front of one of the walls of the suite.
“Yes, that’s right, Captain Grey; if you stand at this end. Captain Magenta, if you please, next to him, and then you, Captain Blue.” They shuffled obediently into position. “Now, President Roberts, please stand in the centre, with Captain Scarlet beside you, and I’d like the two of you to be shaking hands. Then Captain… Ochre, you complete the line.” She squinted at him and Scarlet. “And if you both wouldn’t mind adjusting your… weapons so that they’re on the other side of your hips, please?”
Ochre frowned. “But, I’m right-handed and so is Scarlet.” The faint stirrings of jealousy on seeing her being familiar with ‘surfer-boy’ made him sound bad-tempered.
“Oh, you could hardly expect me to have forgotten that, now Captain?” Mary-Sue replied, with a steely glint in her eyes that wasn’t lost on the Mid-westerner. Then, as she realised what she’d said, and its implication, a faint blush bloomed on her cheeks.
Scarlet put a hand over his mouth to stop a smirk, and Magenta studied a point on the ceiling. Roberts, thankfully, remained oblivious to the little by-play.
She quickly recovered her composure. “Has no one heard of artistic licence? The picture will have better symmetry, not to mention adding an extra layer of precaution to disguise who you all are. Now, let’s get on with it, shall we?”
Sighing, Ochre removed his belt and refastened the holster on the opposite side. Mary-Sue took a few steps back in order to survey the assembly.
“Right, everyone, please hold your medals out, so I can see them. Och, no, Captain Grey, that’s no good at all. You look as if you’re holding a grenade that’s about to go off.” She scooted across and fussed with the positioning of his hands until she was happy.
Ochre watched her fluttering around them, checking and re-checking the flash levels and adjusting the reflectors, biting her bottom lip in a gesture of concentration that he remembered only too well. She returned to the camera on its tripod, and fired off half-a-dozen shots in rapid succession, while they posed with fixed expressions. There was low-key consultation with Matt, and finally Mary-Sue gave a satisfied smile.
“Well, everyone,” she announced. “‘That’s a wrap’, to quote some of my Angeleno friends. Mr President, I’ll prepare these final prints, and create the doctored ones for the press release, and then send them to you and Colonel White, for approval.”
“Nice job, Ms Mackay-Wells,” Roberts beamed, and as the Spectrum officers relaxed, he vigorously shook hands with them again, while Mary-Sue and her assistant started to pack their stuff away. From the corner of his eye, Ochre noticed her straining on tiptoe, trying to remove the canvas background from its holder. Her assistant hadn’t seemed to notice, so Ochre made a decision, there and then.
He strode across the room to her side. “Here, let me.”
She looked up at him, towering over her, forced a smile, but it didn’t quite get all the way to her eyes. “That’s very kind of you, Captain, but I’ll get Matt to do it, I’m sure you have pressing business elsewhere.”
Ochre frowned and took a step back, stung by her cold manner. “Sure, no problem, just wanted to help.” He turned on his heel to leave her to it.
Roberts had just left the room with his aides when Magenta brightly suggested they all have a nightcap in his hotel room. “I’ll pay the tab tonight, guys; we may as well enjoy our night of freedom, as long as it lasts.”
“Sounds good to me,” Grey concurred.
“Coming?” Magenta asked, as Ochre returned to his side.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” he answered with a casual shrug.
The five of them left the suite and wandered along the corridor to the rooms they had been assigned. Magenta muttered to Ochre, “Faint heart never won fair lady, boyo.”
Ochre turned and raised an eyebrow. “You think, huh?”
“I’ve never known you to give up on anything, so why start now?” He dug him gently in the ribs. “Go on, I dare you.”
Ochre gave a rueful smile. “That’s fighting talk, buddy.”
He headed back down the corridor to the suite. When he peered around the door he saw her, bending over a metal crate. Thankfully, her bleached-haired assistant was nowhere in the vicinity.
“Hi there,” he said, in as neutral a voice as he could muster.
She jumped at the sound of his voice, turning around to regard him with a flicker of uncertainty in her pale-blue eyes. She unconsciously drew herself up to her full height, trying to stare him out.
“Can I help you, Captain Ochre?”
“Uh, Mary-Sue, why didn’t you tell me you were coming to Futura?”
“Now why would I have wanted to do that?” she replied in a frosty tone. “Don’t get above yerself, Captain. I’m doing this for my pension fund. President Roberts is paying me a good fee for this shoot.”
“Right, fine, have it your way. I guess I thought, after all that we’d meant to one another, we could at least remain friends. I like you too much to lose all contact and I thought you… liked me too… but, I guess I was wrong.”
She blinked, his words knocking all the anger out of her. “You like me?”
“I just said it, didn’t I?”
“Then why didn’t you return any of my calls?”
“Huh?” Ochre surrendered to his own moment of confusion.
“I never received any communication from you,” she continued. “Not since you called to say you couldn’t make Paris. I thought you’d grown tired of me.”
“Are you kidding? But… I called your number and got a voicemail message, and you never replied, and I well…” His voiced trailed off as he realised what an impulsive idiot he’d been.
“Och, you great fool, my voicemail wasn’t working; the bloody lines had been damaged in the earthquake we had six months ago. When I did get it fixed, I didn’t hear from you. Why didn’t you call me?”
He gave her a self-deprecating smile. “When I thought you didn’t want to see me again, I guess I got a little mad, and wiped your number from my list, so I couldn’t call you back. Believe me, I did try. Technology… you have to love it, huh?”
She raised a sceptical eyebrow and her hands moved to her hips. “You were unable to contact me? What, with all the fancy gizmos on Cloudbase, not to mention Lieutenant Green at your disposal? Come on, ye hardly expect me to believe that now, Captain?”
Ochre cleared his throat, and attempted one of his most charming smiles. “Uh, jeez, Mary-Sue. The honest truth is, I felt a complete idiot and well...”
“Let me think, your male pride got in the way?”
“I guess so,” he admitted.
“Oh, Rick…” She was frowning now and looked up at him with a solemn expression in her eyes.
He held out his hand in a gesture of conciliation. “Is there anyway I can make it up to you?”
She didn’t take it, keeping her hands firmly on her hips, but there was a tell-tale shimmer in her eyes. If he wasn’t mistaken, the frost was definitely melting.
He moved closer and this time his fingers closed around hers. She finally relented and allowed him to pull her hand away to rest, oh-so-comfortably, in his.
“I’ve never stopped thinking about you, Mary-Sue.”
“Don’t think you can get around me that easily, mister,” she answered quietly.
“Tell you what,” he said, emboldened, as he sensed her resolve weakening. “I’m here in Futura until Symphony picks us all up tomorrow morning, so why don’t we go for a drink, and get reacquainted?” He hesitated, wondering if he was going too fast. “Uh, that is, unless you’re already spoken for…”
She gave him a blank look. “I’m not following you…”
“Matt… your assistant?”
Now, she was obviously fighting hard not to smile. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were just a wee bit jealous?”
He responded with a lop-sided grin of his own. “So sue me.”
“A drink, you say?” she considered his proposal. “Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so I’ll be expectin’ champagne, at the very least.”
“It’s a deal. And maybe, we ought to celebrate in private? My room or yours?”
She chuckled, but he saw the way her pupils dilated. “There’s no beatin’ about the bush wi’ you, Captain, is there?”
“Not when it’s you, Mary-Sue. And in any case, I don’t seem to ever recall you objecting…”
Eyes bright, she held his gaze, and he could almost swear there was a sudden heat filling up the short space between them. She leant towards him, on tiptoe and he found her lips tantalisingly close.
“Richard Fraser, you are incorrigible,” she whispered. “You know damn well I’ve never been able to resist you…”
In a complete reversal of mood, Ochre made a fervent wish that the Mysterons would take the night off. He bent his head, and caught the scent of her, and it sent his pulse racing.
Then he kissed her.
Later, much later, Ochre rolled over in the crumpled bed in Mary-Sue’s suite. She snuggled closer, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, tucking his other behind his head.
“You don’t suppose the others will wonder where you’ve got to, will they?” she asked.
He gave her a deep chuckle. “Oh, I imagine they’ll know exactly where I am, even if Pat hasn’t given the game away.”
“And you don’t mind?”
“Nope, I don’t mind.”
“That’s sweet.” She stretched up to kiss his rough cheek.
They lay silent for a few more companionable minutes before Mary-Sue asked him how the Angels were doing.
“They’re fine. Symphony and Blue still argue like crazy, so nothing’s changed there. I hope he’s got her something special for Valentine’s Day or we’ll all be paying for his sin for weeks.”
Then he let out a slow groan, as he remembered.
“Rick, what is it?” She half-sat up in alarm.
“Nothing, nothing,” he replied hastily, not wanting to rouse any jealousy on her part, just when things were starting to take off real nice again between them. Valentine’s Day was celebrated slightly differently in Britain, he understood, and gifts were exchanged mostly just between lovers and married folks. He wasn’t sure how she’d take the fact he was planning to send gifts to the Angels. But the Scotswoman’s curiosity was aroused, and he knew from experience that she wouldn’t give up until she’d wheedled the answer out of him.
He sighed. “We, that is, me and the other guys, wanted to get something nice for the Angels this year.” He told her about the photograph of the five pilots dressed in the skimpy ‘angels’ costumes, and then he breathed a sigh of relief when she giggled about the whole affair. “Yeah, we had no idea what they were up to. We all suspected something, but even Blue couldn’t drag it out of Symphony, and God only knows what threat the others were holding over her, to prevent her telling him everything. But it’s a bit late now, there’s no way we’re going to be able to organise anything, not even flowers.”
Mary-Sue’s expression had suddenly changed, as if a light bulb had winked on.
“What’s going on in that pretty head of yours?” he asked, intrigued.
“Just a wee idea on how you can get your own back on the girls,” she said airily. She sprang up and peered at the bedside clock. “When is Symphony arriving for you all?”
“Uh, I think around seven…”
“Fine, I’ll get Matt to set up the equipment in here…” She mentally counted things off on her fingers, while Ochre looked on, bemused.
“Mary-Sue, do you mind letting me in on the secret?”
“Certainly.” She took pity on him with a kiss. “I’m going to take a photograph of the five of you, just like the one with Roberts… without him, naturally, and in a far more glamour-shot style…”
“You have to be kidding…”
“Well, I’m not expecting you all to be completely naked – you’ll be keeping your trousers and hats on – not to mention your guns…” She bestowed him a wicked smirk. “I’ll be able to print the pictures almost immediately, and you can take them to give to the Angels for Valentine’s Day.”
He stared at her for a second, not sure if she was entirely serious.
“I mean it; I want to do this,” she insisted, “that is, unless you have any better ideas?”
He burst out laughing. “You are some thing else, kitten, and I’ve gotta admit, it’s one helluva idea, but I’m not sure the others will go for it, though.”
“Och, it’s not like I haven’t seen them all in the – nearly - buff, for goodness sakes, you’ll be wearing more than you did for that calendar shoot.”
“I’m not sure. I was kinda hoping to spend every minute I had between now and leaving the hotel, with you, right here in my arms…”
She squinted at the clock again, and then slid across him, with an artful expression on her face. “We still have a couple of hours left. That is, if you’re not too tired. After all, I am forgettin’ you’re a wee bit older since we last saw one another…”
For an answer he rolled over, pinning her beneath him. She let out a little gasp and he saw her pupils dilate. He grinned, wolfishly.
“Then, I guess,” he murmured, “I’m just going to have to prove how wrong you are…”
This fluffy ficlet was inspired by the above photograph by Caroline Smith. I’d like to thank Marion Woods for beta-reading it for me and to Chris Bishop for her wonderful website. I am just borrowing the hunky men of Spectrum for a short time and I promise I’ll put them back afterwards… Some of the events in this story were inspired by ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’.
Any mistakes in the story above are entirely my own fault and I really ought to invest in a good pair of glasses, but they don’t pay us investigative reporters all that well.
My thanks to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, whose wonderful creations have given us so much joy and excitement over the years.
This story used characters from the TV series “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” ©, which is the creation of Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson. The rights of the series were once owned by Century 21, ITC/Polygram and now by Carlton International.
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