BY KELLY HAYCOCK
Captain Blue looked over the table at his partner, Captain Scarlet, and nudged him again.
“What?” he asked, startled, raising his head.
“You were falling asleep again.”
“I was?” Scarlet asked, his eyes drooping.
“Yes, you were, you’re doing it again!” Blue said, pushing his arm. They were seated in the canteen having a coffee while they were both off duty. Due to a sudden bout of flu, the pair of them had been given extra duties to help keep up to date, but Captain Scarlet had managed to talk himself into being given a lot more work than his American partner. This had annoyed both of them, as it was already mid-December. It was barely a week until Christmas, but they had agreed, not wanting to anger the Colonel for that very reason.
Scarlet leaned his head on his hand again, his elbow propped up on the desk and his eyes about to flutter closed again. “Paul!” The other officer didn’t hear him, so Blue resorted to pushing his arm again; knocking Scarlet off balance and making him head butt the table.
“What?” he asked again, drowsily.
“Why don’t you go to the Room of Sleep, try to get some shuteye?”
Scarlet glanced at his watch, but found it hard to focus on the numbers.
“It’s just gone half past three,” Blue provided after a quick glance at his watch. “You’ve got well over an hour before you have to be back on duty.”
“But what about...” Scarlet had to break off as he yawned. He covered his mouth with his hand, then continued: “Excuse me. What about that research I’m doing for Lieutenant Crimson?”
“I’ll do it,” Blue offered. “Just go and get some rest. I know your retro-metabolism usually handles it, but if you don’t sleep at all, how will it be able to?”
Scarlet looked at him, a little confused as he was too tired to take anything in, but nodded his agreement. “Will you inform the Colonel for me? I don’t want to...”
“Paul, will you stop worrying about work and go and get some sleep?”
“All right, I’m going.” He got up, sighing. “Just once I wish I didn’t have to do so much work, that I could have some fun.”
Blue wasn’t the only one to have noticed this reluctance to sleep in Scarlet. Rhapsody Angel had spotted it, too.
“He’s stretching himself too far,” she said to Symphony while the two of them were on stand-by duty. “It’s beginning to get him down, too. He’s been so depressed over the past few days.”
“I’m not surprised,” Symphony said. “He’s trying to do too much.”
“I know,” Rhapsody replied, sighing sadly. “If only there were something we could do for him, you know, to cheer him up.”
Symphony shook her head. “I don’t know what, though.” She looked around the room. Some minor officers were milling about, hanging a few garlands and decorating the shelves with festive ornaments. She smiled. During their off duty periods, the junior officers had offered to decorate a few of the more regularly used places like the Amber Room, the canteen and the Promenade Deck. They still had to pluck up the courage to ask the Colonel if he’d mind them getting in the way for a little while just to put a few bits and pieces in the Control Room and Conference Room.
The door opened again. The two Angels took no notice of it as they were getting used to the ‘decorators’ coming and going as needed, so they paid it no attention.
“Hi there,” Blue called out to them, making them both jump.
“Adam!” Symphony said, hitting him playfully on the chest when he approached. “You could have warned us you were here!”
“Sorry,” he answered, smiling as he sat down.
“Where’s Paul?” Rhapsody asked.
“I sent him to the Room of Sleep,” Blue informed her. “He was practically sleeping in his coffee mug!”
“Poor thing,” Rhapsody said, sighing.
“Dianne was just saying that she wished there was something that we could do to help cheer him up.”
Blue shook his head. “But what?” he asked, as the door opened again. The Captain looked up and saw two lieutenants walk in carrying a small Christmas tree between them. He watched them thoughtfully as they stood it in a corner and pulled a box of tinsel and baubles towards them. As they began to decorate the tree, a thought occurred to Blue. He turned to the two Angels.
“Dianne?” he asked, addressing the British Angel. She turned to face him, taking her gaze away from a glittering star hanging above the bookcase. “Has Paul decorated his quarters yet?”
She tilted her head, frowning. “I don’t think so, why?” she asked, suspiciously.
“Just curious,” he replied, watching the ‘decorators’ with a grin.
The two Angels exchanged confused and intrigued glances.
“No, come on, Adam,” Symphony said. “Why d’you want to know?”
Blue turned away from watching the lieutenants place an Angel on the topmost branch of the tree and looked at the two women with him. “I think Paul deserves to have his wish granted.”
“Now are you both clear on what you have to do?” Blue asked the two Angels.
“Yes, Adam, quite clear,” Rhapsody answered, a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.
The American captain checked his watch and grimaced slightly. “Well, I suppose I’d better go make myself useful or the Colonel’ll go mad.” He stood up, still grinning. “Don’t forget to talk to Pat and Rick.”
“We won’t!” Symphony insisted, smiling.
“Honestly,” Rhapsody said as Blue left. “You’d think he didn’t trust us!”
Captain Scarlet was back on duty and still depressed. Getting some sleep had helped a little, but it wasn’t enough. It was a strange feeling for him as he was used to only needing a few hours a night, but where he’d not been going to bed at all on occasions, it was slowly catching up with him.
He wandered sleepily across the base until he reached the Control Room. “You wanted to see me, Sir?” he asked, approaching Colonel White as he was invited to.
“Yes, Captain,” the Colonel said, looking him over. He regretted having to give him so many extra duties, but he’d had no choice. He needed the extra help due to the situation, as work had to be done. “I thought I should let you know first, it’s only fair on you. Dr Fawn has just reported that his patients are starting to recover so it won’t be long before they’re back on duty.” He watched Scarlet for a reaction and saw relief on the man’s features, but it was hidden by his fatigue. “Are you on duty now, Captain?” he asked with concern.
Scarlet nodded, covering his mouth with his hand as he yawned.
White shook his head. “I think you should be in bed, not on duty! How much sleep did you get last night?”
Scarlet looked a little blank, then thought. “Um, about, uh…” He thought harder, then frowned. “I don’t remember going to bed at all last night.”
“Explains a lot,” White said. “Scarlet, talk to some of the others, see if they wouldn’t mind taking some of your extra duties. I don’t know why on Earth you volunteered for so many in the first place!” He sighed, looking at his junior officer seated, trying not to fall asleep before him. “Go back to the Room of Sleep until someone comes for you, alright?”
Scarlet knew there was no point arguing with the Colonel. He’d either pull rank on him, or ask Dr Fawn to declare him unfit for duty. “S.I.G., Colonel.”
Harmony and Melody’s arrival couldn’t have been timed better in Rhapsody and Symphony’s eyes. Ever since their little chat with Captain Blue earlier on that day, they’d been eager to get away and talk to Captains Ochre and Magenta.
They almost ran together through the corridors towards the Officers’ Quarters. They’d decided to check there first in case they were off duty.
Reaching the first of their targets’ quarters, Captain Magenta’s, they pressed the buzzer that served as a doorbell and waited patiently, if not quietly.
They were in luck. It wasn’t long before the door slid open and Magenta looked out. “Oh, hi, girls,” he said, seeing them and offering them a smile. “What can I do for you?”
“There’s exactly something you can do for us, actually, Pat,” Symphony responded.
“Or more to the point, something you can do for Paul,” Rhapsody corrected.
“Paul?” Magenta repeated, a little confused.
“Can we come in?” Symphony asked. “Then we’ll explain everything.”
““So, we need you and Rick to keep him away from his quarters for us,” Rhapsody finished about half an hour and a plate of biscuits later.
Magenta sat back in his armchair, chewing on a choc-chip cookie as he thought. The Angels watched him anxiously, hoping he’d be willing to help. He suddenly leaned forward and grinned at them. “Of course I’ll help!”
Rhapsody and Symphony smiled. “Great!” the latter said. “Will you have a word with Rick for us then, please?”
“Sure thing,” Magenta replied. “I think Paul could use some cheering up.”
“You’re a star, Pat,” Rhapsody said, getting up. “Well, we’d better go. We told Adam we’d tell him if you agreed.”
“Fair enough,” Magenta replied. He led them to the door and opened it for them. “And don’t worry, Rick and I’ll keep Paul away from his quarters, I can guarantee that.”
“That’s why we asked you!” Symphony responded, grinning.
Captain Blue sat in the Radar Room, carefully checking over all the equipment in the room and making sure everything was up to scratch.
The pounding of booted feet and the sound of giggling outside heralded the approach of the two Angels he’d first asked for help with his little ‘project’.
“Hello, you two,” he called out without looking up from the instrumentation.
“How’d you know it was us?” Symphony asked.
Blue turned to face her. “Well, thundering around like that and giggling your heads off? Wasn’t likely to be the Colonel, now was it?”
The two Angels grinned. “Sorry, Adam. Can’t help it,” Rhapsody said. “I mean, when was the last time we planned something like this?”
“Probably Paul’s birthday,” Blue answered. Only four days ago, it was Captain Scarlet’s birthday, but as they knew he would probably have had a lot of extra duties that day, they’d had a big party for him a week earlier. They could tell he’d thoroughly enjoyed himself. They’d organised very childish, but immensely amusing games to play to take their minds off their work, and Magenta even managed to talk the Colonel into trying to pin the tail on the donkey.
“Well, aside from that,” the redheaded woman replied.
“All right, all right,” Blue said. He had to do something to calm them down before they got into trouble. “I’m off duty in half an hour. Have you managed to convince Pat and Rick?”
“I don’t think Pat really needed convincing,” Symphony said. “And as for Rick, Pat’s gonna work his magic on him.”
“Well, of course you can,” Colonel White said, smiling. “Just try not to get in the way too much, and you’re welcome to decorate in here.”
Two of the more recently recruited lieutenants had, as it would appear, been volunteered to ask his permission to decorate the Control Room. As for the Conference Room, this was also absolutely fine by him, as long as they were prepared to vacate at a second’s notice should they need to use it for private meetings. They’d agreed readily. This didn’t surprise the Colonel at all. He knew how the newer officers feared him and in some ways it was entertaining, and in a way useful if ever they stepped out of line; by agreeing to let them decorate, he’d shown that he wasn’t as bad as they thought. He also had a sneaking suspicion that some of the senior officers liked to try and scare the rookies into behaving themselves.
He shook his head and watched as a small group of them walked in carrying a few boxes of decorations. He caught Lieutenant Green watching them, leaning forward in his seat to get a better look at what was in the various packages.
“Lieutenant, if you really want to, you can help them,” White said, smirking behind his hand when Green jumped. It was clear that his young aide hadn’t realised he was being watched.
“Thank you, Sir,” Green said, eagerly and jumping to his feet. White smiled, watching Green pick out things to decorate his workstation with. He couldn’t help but laugh when the two lieutenants came over and started hanging baubles off his desk and throwing tinsel round his shoulders. He shook his head, still laughing when they left again.
“You’re in a good mood, today,” Green noted.
“It’s nearly Christmas, Lieutenant,” White said, cheerfully as he pulled the bushy length of tinsel from his shoulders and lined it along the front of his desk carefully. “And then there’s the fact that Dr Fawn says everyone’s flu’s been dealt with and his patients are being, uh, ‘evicted’, I think was the word he used.”
Green laughed. “Sounds about right for him, Sir.”
White smiled and went back to reading reports, still chuckling every now and then.
Captain Blue had managed to organise enough people to help. He had sent Ochre and Magenta to Scarlet’s quarters ahead of him to check they were unoccupied. Scarlet hadn’t been there, but if he had, Ochre and Magenta’s job was to get him out and away.
Once given the all clear, Blue, Rhapsody and Symphony had gone into Scarlet’s quarters, located his stereo and put on a Christmas CD.
Blue laughed as the two women with him danced around the room, hanging colourful garlands and placing various seasonal ornaments on the shelves. He’d decided to play around with a can of spray snow and had started to empty the contents of it onto the mirror to make it look like snow had settled around the edges of it.
A knock on the door made them all stop and stare at the entrance to the small living quarters.
“It’s ok, you know,” came the voice of Captain Grey. “It’s just me and Eddie. We’ve got the tree!”
“I wish you wouldn’t call me that!” Dr Fawn could be heard to reply as the three decorators relaxed and opened the door.
Grey just grinned at him. “Sorry, Edward.” He turned to Blue. “So, where shall we put this shrub then?”
“Shrub!” Rhapsody exclaimed, looking at the tree. “That’s no shrub, Brad, I assure you of that! That’s a really nice Christmas tree. D’you pinch it from the Amber Room?”
Grey laughed. “No, one of the rookies gave it to us when they found out we were after one. They’d just received a delivery of some more and let us pick the nicest. Anyway, we’d best be off, we’ve still got work to do, even if you guys can play!”
Blue shook his head, amused. “Sorry, Brad. Thanks for your help.” He looked at the tree they’d leaned against the wall and grinned as a thought occurred to him. “There’s gonna be a huge cleanup operation after Christmas to remove all of the pine needles that’ve been shed!”
Symphony smiled. “And mistletoe berries.”
“Oh, of course! I almost forgot about that!” Blue exclaimed.
Symphony looked at him with mock disappointment. “I expected more from you at Christmas! Just when I had an excuse to kiss you and not worry whether the Colonel’ll catch us!”
Blue laughed. “Oh, don’t you worry, we can test all the mistletoe later,” he assured. “But we’d better finish up here before-”
“Paul!” Rhapsody suddenly exclaimed, interrupting Captain Blue. In the doorway stood a very confused-looking Captain Scarlet.
Captains Magenta and Ochre looked at one another uneasily. The Colonel had asked to see them to inform them about the resume of the normal duties when those affected with the flu were released back to duty. They sat before him, listening to him and reporting on anything they’d contributed to during the bout of sickness.
White sighed. He could tell they weren’t really listening. They were present enough to know what he was saying and know when to talk, but their minds were elsewhere. “Captains, have I called you away from anything?” he asked.
Ochre and Magenta exchanged glances. Should they tell him? Without so much as a word, the two Captains seemed to agree on one thing.
“Well, Sir, it’s like this,” Magenta started. “Um, this sickness, Sir, you know how it means we have more work to do?”
White merely nodded. He could see Magenta was struggling to find words to convey what he wanted. Ochre chuckled slightly, having noticed the same thing. “Give up, Magenta.” He turned to the Colonel. “Well, Sir, Captain Blue, Rhapsody Angel and Symphony Angel came up with an idea to help Captain Scarlet.”
“Captain Scarlet?” White asked, suddenly curious. “What about him?”
“Have you noticed how tired and depressed he is lately, Sir?”
“Yes, I have,” White answered. “I sent him to the Room of Sleep earlier and told him to ask you all to take a few of his extra duties.”
Ochre nodded. “We’ve done that, Sir, but we wanted to help cheer him up, too. So, Rhapsody, Symphony and Blue have asked us to keep an eye out for Scarlet and make sure he doesn’t go near his quarters while they decorate them for him.” As he spoke, he absently fiddled with the sparkling tinsel hanging in front of him.
“So, they’re there now, and you’re supposed to be making sure he doesn’t go there?” White asked.
“That’s about the jist of it, Sir,” Magenta said.
“In that case, I’ll let you go,” White said, smiling. “We can’t let his surprise be spoiled, now can we? I’d finished with you, anyway.”
The pair grinned and got up. “If we’re lucky, we’ve not missed him leave the ROS.”
“What’s going on?” Scarlet asked, looking around him.
“Uh,” Blue started, moving towards him. “It was supposed to be a surprise. We were hoping to cheer you up.”
Scarlet walked into the room fully and let the door close behind him. He looked between each officer, a stern look on his face, which soon softened into a smile. “I’m touched,” he said. “Really I am. But I want to know, have you finished?”
Blue looked around him. “Not really,” he said. “We weren’t expecting to see you, see. We’d asked Ochre and Magenta to keep you away.”
“I see,” Scarlet said. “Well, seeing as I’m here now, can I help?”
Blue chuckled. “Paul, they’re your quarters!”
The four of them spent hours between duties enjoying themselves in Scarlet’s quarters. They hung metallic garlands from the ceiling, as well as long brightly coloured streamers that stretched in arches from corner to middle to corner. The tree had been stood up in a bucket in the corner near Scarlet’s desk and had been decorated with elegant baubles, trailing lametta, plain white fairy lights and was topped with an Angel dressed in a pure white gown.
The others had looked at Scarlet with curiosity when he’d gone into his sleeping area and started rummaging under the bed.
“What’re you looking for, Paul?” Blue asked.
Scarlet looked up at him from his crouched position on the floor. He still had his arm reaching under his bed, as he grinned, remaining silent until his hand came across what he was looking for. “What’s a Christmas tree?” he asked, pulling the items out from under the bed and standing up. “Without presents to put under it?” In his arms he held a variety of differently shaped and sized gifts, all wrapped neatly and topped with a small card, stating whom the gift was for.
“You’ve been given gifts already?” Symphony asked.
“No,” Scarlet said, smiling. “These aren’t for me, they’re from me! I’ll leave them under my tree until Christmas Day, then I’ll give them to their rightful owners.” He walked over to the tree, crouched down and started to arrange the boxes underneath it.
No sooner had he finished, though, than had Blue wrapped tinsel round his neck.
The tickling decoration made him jump and he toppled to the floor, laughing. “Adam!” he exclaimed, trying to get up, but Symphony had pinned him down.
“Quick!” she yelled. “While he can’t move! Let’s decorate him now!”
Crying out protests, and laughing to make up for all the depression he’d felt previously, Scarlet pretended to put up a fight as they wrapped tinsel round his arms, hung baubles from the zips of his uniform and practically tied him up in fairy lights.
Later that evening, Symphony sat with Blue in his quarters. Somehow, Symphony had managed to get most of that day off, but would make up for it with extra duties the following day, while Blue had had to go on duty about forty-five minutes after Scarlet had arrived back and found them.
“I think we really helped Paul,” Symphony said, suddenly, resting her head on Blue’s shoulder.
“So do I,” came the reply. “He looked like he was enjoying himself, didn’t he?”
“Almost as much as he did at his party.”
“He looked relieved when he found out all the extra duties have been reassigned to their rightful owners,” Blue stated.
“Not all of them!” Symphony reminded, with a grin.
“Oh yes, my extra duties for Lieutenant Cyan,” he replied. “I hope she gets better soon, for both our sakes!” He chuckled. He did mean for her to get well, but he also wanted her to get back to her duties so he could concentrate on his own.
“Oh well, at least we know Paul won’t be so depressed now,” Symphony said.
Blue smiled. “I’m sure glad he had fun.” He shook his head. “I know I did!”
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