|A Scarlet Letter
Author: Eleantris PM
Unbeknownst to Alex, Gene has a teenage daughter. But when she arrives at the station, demanding to see him, both their lives get turned upside down. Alex never expected that a troubled teenager would cause her to fall in love with her DCI. Galex! :DRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - G. Hunt & A. Drake - Chapters: 25 - Words: 61,486 - Reviews: 224 - Favs: 36 - Follows: 65 - Updated: 02-23-13 - Published: 08-09-11 - id: 7268926
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello, dear readers, remember me? :) The revision is going well and I've found some time to get this chapter written – I hope you enjoy it. Thank you all so much for your lovely reviews and understanding about my exams and things last chapter, I really really appreciate it!
Disclaimer – I don't own Ashes to Ashes… You'd think after writing this many stories I might get a share, but no! :P
It was overcast outside; a cover of murky, indistinguishable grey seemed to be covering all of London, or certainly at least the area where Gene lived, and despite it being morning, Alex had flicked on the light in the kitchen to give the room a feeling of warmth as she boiled the kettle.
An absent smile played on her lips as she dropped teabags into two mugs and pulled the sugar bowl towards her. She fished a teaspoon out from the cutlery draw, steam starting to whistle from the kettle, and wondered what the others might say if they could see her in that moment. She had certainly never thought she'd find herself in this situation – downstairs in Gene's kitchen, making them both a morning cup of tea whilst he continued sleeping upstairs, oblivious to the world.
Alex's smile widened a little. She had woken just ten minutes earlier to see Gene curled up into his pillow, hair messy and boyish about his face, mussed up by the covers, and a peaceful pout on his lips. When he slept, all the lines seemed to relax around his eyes and mouth, the bliss and quiet of unconsciousness taking ten years off of him. She didn't like to consciously admit it to herself, but Alex couldn't help but think that it really wasn't a bad sight to wake up to every morning. Of course, they'd have to talk about her sleeping on the sofa or something at some point. They couldn't keep sharing a bed like this, it wasn't…
She sighed. That was exactly the problem. It wasn't…what? Proper? Appropriate? The 'done thing'? Alex wasn't really sure anymore. It seemed like, since Scarlett's arrival, some line between her and Gene had become blurred and crossed, only she wasn't sure exactly when or how, and she didn't really know what that line was, just that it had been breached, and there was somehow no going back from where they were now. Whatever that was.
Colleagues? No, a colleague doesn't move into another colleague's house, share their bed and help them with their troubled teenage daughter. Friends? Hmm…maybe. She felt like Gene's friend, at least… But she also felt… She wasn't sure.
Swallowing, Alex lifted the kettle and poured the boiling water over the teabags, setting it back down heavily on its stand with a sigh. Unbidden, her teeth sank into her lower lip as she stirred the contents of both mugs, watching as the tea slowly leaked out of the bags and turned the water a rich brown colour, steam rising from them, smelling like heaven. She and Gene were friends, yes.
So why was it that labelling their relationship as a 'friendship' didn't feel right somehow? Almost like it didn't quite cover what they had…
"You'll stir all the heat out of them if yer not careful."
Alex about jumped a mile. Her fingers splayed and dropped the spoon they were holding as her head snapped towards the door, musings forgotten. When she saw who was stood there, she relaxed, breathing evenly again.
"Scarlett," she said, giving the teenage girl a small, quick smile. "Sorry, I was miles away." Hesitating, she looked at Scarlett, taking her in.
She was still in her pyjamas – a faded hoodie pulled on over whatever t-shirt she wore to bed, bleach damaged hair scraped back into a ponytail. Her face was still too pale, her eyes still a little tired maybe, but the circles beneath them weren't as prominent as before, and the stony look she usually wore was softened slightly into something that more resembled apprehension than mistrust. She was lingering in the entrance to the kitchen, one hand nervously resting on the doorframe as though ready to flee at any minute if necessary. Alex guessed she had been expecting to find Gene, not her, down here.
Eventually, Alex spoke again. "How… How are you?"
"Fine, yeah…um… Okay, I guess." She shrugged, and it almost amused Alex to see that Gene's daughter deflected personal questions in pretty much the same way as he did. Scarlett's gaze flickered to the tea on the countertop and she nodded towards them. "Can I 'ave one of those?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," Alex said, opening the fridge to retrieve the milk. "How do you like it?"
Scarlett looked surprised - almost like someone offering to do something for her was a new concept. Or perhaps she was just surprised that it was Alex who had offered. "Oh, um…A little bit of milk, lots of sugar…I usually put about four in."
And then, to Alex's surprise, she smiled. It was a very brief smile, albeit – just a quick, sheepish quirk of the lips, but a small smile nonetheless. Alex smiled in return – widely and warmly, and set about adding the milk and sugar to the tea.
"You have it exactly the same way as your Dad does. Here you go." She handed the steaming mug over to the teenage girl, and then added some milk and one sugar to the other one. Leaning back against the countertop so that she was still facing Scarlett, she took a deep drink and looked at her over the rim of the mug.
"He's still asleep, so I guess he can wait for his tea." She smiled slightly, because she wasn't really sure what else she was supposed to say or do, and went back to drinking her tea. Scarlett did the same.
A few minutes passed in silence – uncomfortable silence at first, the void empty and awkward, but it grew more normal after a few seconds, a sort of companionable silence in which the only sound was the small noise their lips made as they sipped their tea. Alex knew that the best way to make Scarlett feel comfortable enough to open up a little more was to say little or nothing at all in the way of prompting; no-one likes to talk when someone is so obviously eager for them to.
And sure enough, after a few minutes of silence had passed, Scarlett asked quietly: "How long 'ave you been working with 'im? Since he came down 'ere?"
Alex looked up at Scarlett and lowered her cup of tea, set it down on the counter. "No… No, he was here when I arrived… I've been here about…Nearly ten months now, I think, roughly." She smiled, glancing down at the floor and then back up again. "I was at this party on a boat, working undercover, and then later something happened, I'm not sure what… But some uniformed police turned up and this man, Markham – a nasty piece of work if there ever was one – decided to put an arm around my neck and a gun to my head. I don't know why or how but he seemed to think I'd called the police… I didn't really know what was going on at the time…"
Alex paused, and Scarlett noticed a kind of faraway look come into her eyes as she smiled, picking her tea back up again and taking a sip.
"I thought I was going to die…"
"So what happened?"
Scarlett looked surprised at herself that she had asked the question, just for a brief second, before she refocused her curious gaze on Alex, hands wrapped around the mug she was holding, as though she was drawing comfort and confidence from it as well as warmth.
Smiling, Alex leant back more against the counter, gaze lifting from the depths of her own mug to look back at the teenage girl stood across from her.
"There was a screech of tires," she said, and the barely-there, faraway smile was audible in her voice as well as visible on her face and in her eyes. "A flash of red in the distance, growing nearer… Your Dad's Quattro came screaming to a halt in front of me and then out he got, all dark shades, crocodile skin boots and witty threats. He saved my life, though you wouldn't have caught me admitting it at the time."
"You didn't like him." It was a statement, not a question, as Scarlett placed her now empty mug back down onto the counter. She was leant against the doorframe now, though she didn't know when she had moved into that position to be more comfortable, to face Alex properly as they talked. But a part of her was too tired to scowl, too worn out and fed up to glare. What was the point anyway? None of this was Alex's fault – this woman had nothing to do with any of it, really. She hadn't done anything to her. And her Dad…
"Not at first, no," Alex said, chuckling and knocking back the rest of her tea. "Good God, I think I actually hated him for a little while. I soon changed my mind though, as time went by… I don't know, I just... I began to see the other sides to him, the man behind the tough exterior he wears like armour… I realised that I'd judged him before I truly got to know him, and we… Well, we became friends, I suppose… Or I wouldn't be here now."
She smiled, and there was a short pause. A static, hesitant pause, and then:
"You love him."
Again, it was a statement. Not a question.
"I…Wh-…No…I…Well, n-…You-… What?"
Alex stared at Scarlett, eyes suddenly wide and stunned, eyebrows arched in what could be described as subtle panic. And Scarlett merely looked back at her, face blank as a sheet, but on closer inspection, a tiny glint was visible in her eyes, a small spark of life that hadn't been there before. It was stubborn, challenging, a little frightening perhaps, but nonetheless there – a sign of mischief, of humour.
"Where on Earth did you get that idea from?" Alex asked, once she had regained the ability to form a coherent sentence again. She felt slightly winded, like all the breath had been snatched from her lungs, and she needed to breathe deeply to get it back again. Why was her heart thudding in her chest, her stomach churning all of a sudden?
Shrugging dismissively, Scarlett bit her lip and looked down at the floor. "I dunno, you just… The way yer talk about 'im, and…well, no offence, but the fact that you're here. I don't really see what I've got t' do with you but yer still trying to help me, so it must not be that you want to help me as such, but that you want to help my Dad."
Alex frowned, then widened her eyes, then frowned again. "Yes-no, but…" She was too confused to fully process what was being said. "That doesn't mean I love him, good grief. Your Dad and I are friends – colleagues. That's all. I'm a psychologist; I have some experience with teenagers… I just want to help. Your Dad and you, that means, and…. We're having a conversation, aren't we? So I know you're not as bad and mouthy as you must like to make out sometimes."
The tables turned, Scarlett immediately dropped her gaze to the floor, chewing her bottom lip for a second without knowing it. "Yeah, well… Whatever. I just… I'm not going t' be rude to yer… Yer haven't done anything to me. Well, err, thanks fer the tea anyway, Alex."
The frown returned to Alex's face again as she watched Scarlett make to leave the kitchen, her heart still thudding a little in her chest, scared, worried. About what?
"Oh, um, okay… Well you're welcome, Scarlett. And remember what I said, okay? I know you're not a bad person at all, I know you don't want to be surly and rude with everyone all the time, not really. Especially not with your Dad. You know he really is sorry. For everything."
"Huh," Scarlett said, pausing as she turned to leave. She then muttered something under her breath that Alex didn't catch. Turning back to face her a little again, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear that had fallen out of the ponytail. "Well, you too."
Scarlett nodded once. "Remember what I said."
"Oh… Wait, what?"
But the teenage girl had already gone – disappeared back upstairs, a shadow of avoidance and mystery. Alex was left standing in the kitchen, clutching her empty tea mug, wondering what had just happened.
Well… that had been a sign of progress, at least, she supposed.
She just wasn't sure what kind of progress she was thinking of anymore, and whose progress it was. Scarlett's… Or hers?
Hm, well I don't know about you for reading, but I quite enjoyed writing that, so I hope it was okay. :) It just feels good to have written something after not actually writing anything in a while. I know my updates do sometimes take a while anyway, even without exams, but then I am usually doing a little bit of original or poetry writing in between times… But this is the first time I've written anything in weeks, so it felt good! :) I hope you liked it, and please review to tell me your thoughts!