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Celebration for Three Mages and a Wise Man

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For all the policing Peter'd had to do over the holidays, including his personal favorite--Boxing Day, or Laying-About-the-House-Watching-Cartoons Day, as he preferred to think of it--he magically got New Year's off.

"Magically" in the metaphorical rather than literal sense, for once. Since coming on with the Folly, he'd been spared the routine patrolling of the major hols, from Guy Fawkes to the Jubilee. He'd almost been pressed into service during the Olympics, but he suspected Nightingale had intervened; he'd watched the telly as devotedly as anyone else, and had managed to get a fair amount of filing done as well. For all that every country in the world descended on the city, it seemed not even the tourists wanted to muck about with a bit of magic here and there in favor of World Peace or something like.

Peter was grateful--he didn't much fancy going out into the slush and drizzle to corral drunks and escort underage teenagers home. But he missed it a bit, too, in a way he didn't expect: there was a camaraderie in facing all that together, the riot of London in her cups, the tales of foolish people doing foolish things for CCTV and the iPhones of the passers-by to catch. It reminded him that while he was still police, no matter how odd it got, he was separate from his colleagues at the same time.

But being morose wasn't really his style, so he busied himself with journaling his experience on his laptop, using his statements and notes to flesh out the casefile. It made him feel like John Watson crossed with Dick Wolf--Law and the Magical Order, like.

Nightingale had informed him that they'd be having a quiet New Year's celebration at the Folly, should he not have other plans for his free night, and after a quick text to Lesley confirming she'd be back from Brightlingsea for the night, he said he'd be delighted. Nightingale smiled one of his odd little smiles, the ones that looked a bit wrong on his face for lack of use, and told Peter to be in the library (not the actual library, the library that was really more of a front room apart from the floor-to-ceiling leatherbound books that looked as if it were transported from some manor Lord's house in the 19th century) by 9.

For New Year's, the city got started early; by eleven in the morning, there were already dozens of exasperated calls reporting drunk and disorderlies all over town. The channels on his Airwave were full of chatter, and Peter kept it on like a pleasant, familiar hum as he sorted out the digital and hard-copy-in-triplicate forms the Folly had to file before the close of the year. He hadn't precisely meant to leave it to the very end of the year, but Nightingale never seemed particularly bothered about the paperwork, so Peter figured as long as he got an initial here and a signature there, it wouldn't quite matter if the hard copy didn't make it to the Administrative Officer's mail slot until the morrow.

It took him most of the day and evening, stopping over only to scarf down a ploughman's sarnie and put the cricket match on the telly. Nothing kept him on a boring task quite like watching cricket--if only because the paperwork was infinitely more interesting than the sport. Before he knew it, eight-thirty was there, and Peter swore and scrambled to finish the last few fields on the form, clicked to send it and print it out, and stumbled over to the Folly to run upstairs and change. It was likely Nightingale had intended him to wear something a bit more put together than his trackie bottoms and a holey hoodie.

When he came back downstairs, there was music coming from the library--Frank Sinatra by the sound of it--and the smell of food setting his stomach to a rumble. Sure enough, Molly had taken the occasion to the extreme, preparing a full goose, at least three kinds of pate, and an entire table devoted to all manner of sweets. Peter was, as usual, overwhelmed, but started picking at things he mostly recognized as he made his way to Nightingale and Dr Walid, who were standing by the proverbial English fireplace looking as though they'd make a very nice engraving in some Victorian treatise on gentlemanliness.

Peter stuffed a canape in his mouth--he wanted to say anchovies, but wasn't sure he'd much like the right answer--and clapped Dr Walid on the back. "Happy New Year," he said through his chew.

He could see Nightingale stifling a sigh, and Dr Walid's laughter was evident in his eyes. "Happy New Year to you, Peter," he said, returning the pat on the back. After a beat, Nightingale did the same, sporting his odd little smile again. Peter grinned back, wondering if there were bits in his teeth. Quite possibly, from the look of long-sufferance that crossed Nightingale's face.

They chatted about the weather and the food and the more interesting arrests Peter had heard that day, and it wasn't much later when Lesley chose to come down. Peter hadn't even realized she'd come back from Essex, but there she was, wearing a pretty blue blouse and dark skinny trousers.

When Peter looked up from surreptitiously checking her out, he blinked in surprise. Right on the cheek of her mask, where a beauty mark might've landed, was a bright gold star, like the one on children's reports.

"What's that, then?" he asked, trying to be delicate yet supportive all at the same time.

"I'm being festive, Peter." He could hear her smile in her voice, and was gratified for it. He smiled at her, threading an arm around her shoulders and drawing her into the group.

It was a very pleasant New Year's Eve, better than most of the last few years which had primarily ended in working vomit of startling colours out of his uniform trousers. They ate through some of Molly's epic spread, and Peter waved at her in thanks when she hovered around the doorframe, watching. There was some lovely mulled cider, and close to midnight Nightingale turned on the old radio, which looked like a Doctor Who prop but worked perfectly well to pick up the BBC.

At midnight, raising their glasses of expensive French champagne (Peter had seen the label and sucked in a surprise breath; that was in the glass case at M&S, and he only knew it because of a girl he'd chatted up once) they toasted.

"To a very good year," Dr Walid said, raising his soda and lime.

"To surviving it," Lesley said, a thread of resolve in her voice.

"To another year to come," said Nightingale.

"To a right jammin' team of crack police," Peter said solemnly, adopting his grandfather's accent and startling everyone into a peal of laughter.

The fireworks went off over the River Thames, and Lesley tugged Peter into a hug. He held her tight for a moment and felt her squeeze back. Dr Walid shook his hand firmly and gave him something of a bro-hug. Nightingale rested a hand on Peter's shoulder, squeezing it for a moment, and then, to his surprise, ducked down to plant a kiss on his temple.

"Thank you," said Nightingale softly, and disappeared into the side room, presumably to make sure Molly wasn't making any more food.

Peter blinked for a moment, well surprised, until Lesley tugged on his arm. "Let's dance," she said, pulling him closer to the radio, which was wailing out Auld Lang Syne as done by a boyband.

He looked at her and didn't avert his eyes; she let him, and met his gaze. With a shared smile they danced, Dr Walid looking on and the fireworks cracked through the night.