A/N: This idea has been in my head since not very long after I started watching A2A, and has developed from a fairly silly two-shot into something much longer. Still a work-in-progress, but I was so excited to get some of it done that I thought I'd start posting now. (I should say, apologies if this bears any similarity to other fics that have been published - that's the risk of coming late to a fandom!)
Set between S1 and S2, and will veer away from canon (although really, this is how I wish it would have been). And little warning, it's not going to stay T for very long...*ahem*
None of the A2A world belongs to me, but instead to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah/Kudos/BBC etc. Special thanks to bugsfic for the gorgeous caps for the cover art and for the encouragement to venture further down the yellow brick road (check out that Wizard of Oz reference!)
(if only the song would have been released earlier than '86...)
Addicted To Love
As strange and almost indecipherable as this world was, there were familiarities that offered shelter from the unseen storm. Half-forgotten fragments of childhood glimpsed on the corner of a street or the fashions that were paraded as though they were nothing out of the ordinary, colours and patterns so garish that they made her eyes water. And then there was the nightly decamping after a day's work, reliable as clockwork – or 'beer o'clock' as Gene so typically put it. Alex enjoyed it more than she would openly let on; through no calculated choice she had all but isolated herself in 2008 and the camaraderie and communal experience of the 1981 – now 1982 – after-hours was a refreshing change.
She did feel sorry for Luigi, never getting a night off from them all. Tonight the mood was a particularly rowdy one, a gruelling case that had been driving them up the wall for weeks finally done and dusted. Her gaze went to the kind-faced proprietor hiding behind the bar, looking harangued by the lairy shouts and jeers. The little bars and bistros of Italy were surely much more refined, a million miles away from Fenchurch East.
At the current moment all eyes were on DS Carling as he recounted the previous evening in great detail.
"So I said to 'er, we're not issued with truncheons any more but I do 'ave somethin' else long and hard that you can get yer 'ands on."
The remark was met with a chorus of 'waheys' as Ray waggled his eyebrows, looking immensely pleased with himself. Alex and Shaz rolled their eyes simultaneously, the former taking a long gulp from her glass of house rubbish.
Chris leaned into his partner in crime, expression lighting eagerly. "What 'appened next?"
There was a not-too-uncharacteristic moment of silence while Ray pushed back in his chair, examining the mat beneath his pint with sudden enthusiasm.
"Err...she said somethin' about washing her 'air," he supplied, rubbing his hand awkwardly at the back of his neck.
Laughter erupted amongst the assembled gang, the punchline never seeming to get tired.
"Nice one, Raymondo," Gene barked, greatly disappointed in his oldest charge. "I was gettin' quite randy there, but now I'm goin' to 'ave to look elsewhere. Can always rely on you to be a letdown in that department."
"Yeah," Chris chipped in, near breathless as he endeavoured not to let the moment pass by, "and that's what she said 'an all!"
Another round of cheers erupted at DC Skelton being so quick off the mark, the aforementioned pumping both fists in the air.
Over the din, a sulking Ray struggled to make himself heard. "She looked like a right tart anyway. Probably wouldn't have even appreciated what was on offer."
"Of course," Alex interjected, holding her glass aloft, "because what discerning woman could possibly resist such charms?"
"Reckon she 'ad a pole stuck up her arse as well," Carling continued. "Right moody cow. Wouldn't want anythin' else to do with 'er."
He had pointedly looked towards Alex whilst making the affirmation, and she found it rather amusing. Well, she had to get her kicks from somewhere. She tried to picture it vividly; a night of passion with DS Ray Carling. She couldn't last for more than five seconds without giggling helplessly into the top of her glass, feeling somewhat repulsed by the images her mind had managed to conjure up which she didn't imagine to be that far from the truth – though she had no idea where Ray would have got a fake leopard-print rug from.
From the other side of the table Gene was riveted by the display from his delirious DI. For Pete's sake, why was he always saddled with the loony ones? He had thought Tyler was batty enough but Gladys had nothing on Bolly Knickers for sheer weirdness. For a minute he was tempted to ask her what was so bloody hilarious but he swiftly thought better of it, knowing that she'd more than likely start spouting some psycho-babble nonsense or otherwise maintain that he just wouldn't get it with a smug smile on those luscious lips of hers. She thought he was as thick as two short planks and nothing was likely to change that. He should give up even trying to figure her out; God knows he had bigger and better things to occupy his mind. Trouble was, they had all seemed to have deserted him several months ago. In fact he could pinpoint the very day and hour.
"Well, you know what that means, mate." Viv was the voice of reason, the bastion of sanity, clapping Ray on the shoulder as he raised his near-empty glass in his other hand.
"Yeah, yeah," Ray sighed, getting to his feet with a certain resignation.
"Somethin' you're first class at," Gene agreed, nodding towards Ray, "puttin' yer hand in yer pocket."
"An' that's what he'll be doin' later as well," Chris quipped, waiting for the applause, but lightning didn't strike twice.
"Same again all round, I 'spose," Ray enquired, picking up the empty glasses that were crowding the tables in pairs.
Everyone nodded or grunted, aside from Chris who appeared deep in contemplation.
"I thought I might try one of those Snakebites, see what the fuss is about."
Alex raised a hand. "I'd advise against it, Chris. It might seem like a good idea now but you'll end up regretting it later. Trust me."
She'd never been able to shake the memory of being fifteen years old, starting the evening perfectly dandy but ending up slumped against one of the benches in Regent's Park, willing herself not to throw up in a flower-bush.
"And don't forget," Shaz smiled sweetly, "a Tab for me."
Ray shook his head in contempt. "All this bloody Tab nonsense. You," he jabbed a finger in the air towards Chris, "need to 'ave a word with that missus of yours."
"I'm not invisible, you know," Shaz exclaimed, folding her arms against her.
"I wouldn't take it personally, Shaz," Alex said, "it's fairly typical behaviour for misogynists. DS Carling can't help it."
If his hands weren't full, she was fairly sure that Ray would have raised both middle fingers towards her.
Gene leaned both of his arms on the table, pout firmly in place as he looked Shaz squarely in the eyes.
"What's this all about, Granger? If you carry on like this much longer I'm goin' to 'ave to take yer uniform off you."
A burst of 'waheys' went up at the Guv's remark, and Alex watched keenly, detecting the faintest hint of red rushing into his cheeks.
"Dirty bastards, you bloody well knew what I meant," he quickly added, keen to take the heat off himself.
Shaz smiled in recognition of the Guv's embarrassment, before explaining herself. "I'm having a month off alcohol. Haven't slipped up yet, and I've only got a couple more days to go."
The idea was so foreign that she may as well have been explaining the theory of relativity in minute detail, the assembled faces around the tables utterly perplexed. Alex was the only one to get it, her eyes going wide and one arm raising as though they were in CID and she had come up with a winning theory.
"Dry January," she announced, causing even more blank stares from those around her.
"Umm, I s'pose you could call it that, Ma'am," Shaz said sympathetically, not wanting to make her superior look like a fool.
Of course – the phrase was a modern one, and the whole notion was alien in the early '80s, especially to a group of coppers, to whom having a drink or several at the end of the day was as common as telling a bunch of scummy criminals that they were nicked.
"Bloody 'ell," Ray exclaimed, not yet over the horror, "as if January wasn't depressin' enough. The idea of goin' the whole month without a pint would make me want to top meself after Big Ben 'ad chimed."
"It has its benefits," Shaz countered.
"Well, it gives you a chance to detox after Christmas." None of the men were convinced by that. "You get a whole new perspective on things, your head's not so cloudy all the time. Plus, you save loads of money."
"Bollocks to that," was Ray's cultured opinion. He leaned over Chris's shoulder, lowering his head to his colleague's ear. "Are you sure you 'aven't got her up the duff?"
DC Skelton's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he turned to his girlfriend, panic-stricken. "Umm, Shazza...?"
"No, baby," Shaz assured, laying one of her hands atop Chris's. "I'm on the pill, remember?"
"Too much ruddy information," Gene muttered, thoroughly disgruntled.
Shaz shook her head, looking round at the team. "I think you should all give it a go. It's not that difficult once you get used to it. People do it for charity, we could all donate what we save to the Police Benevolent Fund."
"We'd be needin' to dip in ourselves after a month off the booze," Ray grumbled.
"I think it's a wonderful idea, Shaz," Alex said, smiling at her younger colleague and then looking round at the others one-by-one. "I'm fairly certain that you'd all live. Who knows, some of us might even grow a few extra brain cells as a result."
She made a point of turning towards DS Carling as she said that, smirking with a sense of mischief.
To her surprise he didn't glower at her as expected, but had the beginnings of a smile playing on his own lips.
"Well, y'know, I don't even reckon it'd have to be all of us," Ray suggested. "There's two people 'ere that spend more on booze than the rest of us put together. They'd make a fortune doin' the Dry January or whatever on their own."
The penny suddenly dropped, Alex turning to face Gene as the eyes of every other member of Fenchurch East CID fell upon them. She forced her mouth shut from where it had hung open, feeling herself grow warm from the cheers and chants that surrounded them. Certainly not from the striking steel-blue of Gene's gaze trained upon her.
Well, I could do it easily enough. But Gene? It'd probably be the end of him.
"What do you say, Guv?" Ray piped up again, relishing the rare opportunity to challenge his superior.
Gene thought for a moment or two before leaning back heavily in his seat, chin jutting upwards and arms firmly crossed against his chest.
"Piece of piss, Raymondo," he uttered with confidence. "Could do it in me sleep."
Alex couldn't stop herself from laughing at that remark. For some reason she could quite easily picture Gene in thread-bare pyjamas, knocking back a pint or two completely unawares.
There she goes, chucklin' away again. I don't think she'll find a month without dousin' 'erself in house rubbish quite so funny.
"What about you, boss," Chris asked, shaking his head swiftly, "er, I mean, Ma'am?"
She smiled from beneath her eyelashes, answering DC's Skelton's enquiry but not taking her eyes from Gene.
"Not a problem," she replied. "I hardly ever drank before I came here. I had to employ some kind of coping mechanism."
Gene scoffed at that, dropping his eyes to the table-top. Nobody was capable of that much of a transformation.
"That's settled, then," Ray grinned, clapping his hands together. "The Guv versus Drake over February. May the most sober win."
Both Alex and Gene watched as Ray headed towards the bar, looking so victorious that anyone would have thought he'd found a £50 note crumpled in the pocket of his leather jacket. Alex slugged the remainder of the red in her glass, regretting the fact that she'd put an order in for another bottle. Still, there was no law against it for a couple of days at least.
"Good luck, Guv," she uttered, lifting the empty glass by its stem with her elbow planted on the table.
Gene's face turned to a frown. "Don't need luck, Bolly. Though I s'pose I'd better stop callin' you that, wouldn't want to put any temptation in yer way."
Alex's curls bobbed wildly as she shook her head in defiance. "Oh, if you think I'd be swayed so easily then you're very much mistaken. This is a trained psychologist you're talking to, remember?"
"Like I'd ever bleedin' forget..."
Over at the bar Ray had just put the order in when Shaz sidled up beside him, red lace-gloved hands resting upon the surface.
"Just checking you've got my request right."
"Yeah, right," he replied, turning his back to the bar and looking over to the table occupied by the two highest-ranking members of the team. "You do know that it's not goin' to work, don't ya? They'll be at each others' throats within 'alf an 'our."
"That's the general idea." A twinkle lit up Shaz's face as she glanced over her shoulder towards the Guv and Ma'am, who were making eyes at one another as she spoke. "I'm tellin' you, it'll happen. When you stop drinking, you get other ideas in your head very quickly..."
It was February 3rd and Alex was feeling good. Very good, in fact. Shaz had a point – her head was remarkably clear, it made a real difference not to wake up and have the haze of wine still hanging heavy and fuzzing her senses, as well as making her throat feel terribly dry. She had been more of a morning person back in 2008 and it had been nice to get back to that, waking up naturally with the sunrise rather than dragging herself out of bed with a pounding headache.
This was a wake-up call, really, and one that she hadn't realised she needed until now. It had scared her to think how easily she'd slipped into the culture, not only to escape the torment of trying to figure out precisely how and why she had ended up here but also to prove that she was just as capable as the rest of them. You're a modern girl, Alex, she told herself and did so again, still a product of your time. There was no need for her to become embroiled in the boys' brigade to show that she was as good a DI as anyone else.
She moved with purpose through the offices of CID, making a pathway for the room at the end, the tightly-closed blinds shutting out any light and signs of life.
That can't be good. The Lion must have a sore head.
At least it didn't have anything to do with a stinking hangover, though he never seemed to get them anyhow. He was probably more than immune by now, after so many dedicated years on duty. Gene was capable of looking after himself, as well as taking care of others (in more than one sense), but she was concerned. His moods weren't the most amiable at the best of times, and part of her was worried that he had become so reliant on the booze that leaving him to go cold turkey was akin to removing life support for a coma patient.
As she opened the door, knocking beforehand to give him enough warning to send her away if he so wished, she was engulfed by a thick cloud of smoke. She coughed as the substance hit the back of her throat immediately, waving her hand about to try to see better. The air was so polluted that she struggled to make Gene's figure out at first.
"Guv," she spluttered, "what are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doin', Bols?" he retorted, his voice gruff, already affected by the tons of cigarettes he was ploughing his way through.
There was no smart-Alec quip to accompany his question, which indicated that the situation was very grave indeed.
"It's a serious fire hazard in here," she replied, aghast. "We should be grateful that Scarman made his visit some months ago because there's no way you would have passed muster with all of this."
She tried to think of the same scenario in 2008, although she wasn't sure that it would be the matter of smoking like the proverbial chimney that would have got Gene slung out of the force on his arse.
Mmm, his arse does look especially nice in those trousers. If he'd just lean a little further over then it'd be perfect...
The thought took her by surprise with the grasp it held on her mind; not that she hadn't considered the same thing before, but right now it seemed to be all that she could focus upon.
He turned to face her, raising the tip of the next in line to his lips, and now she was preoccupied with his fingers as they held the cigarette with more finesse than she had come to associate with Gene. Those fingers, so long and surprisingly elegant, powerful when he was brandishing his gun. They had gripped onto her more than once, carrying her away from chaos, stroked against her skin softly to rouse her from the brink of unconsciousness. If she were honest, she wished she would have made more of the moments they were held to her.
They were teasing now against the cigarette and she wondered if he was doing it deliberately, attempting to play upon her weakness.
"Does it say your name on the door?" he questioned, a hard edge to his tone. "Didn't think so. My kingdom, my rules."
She sighed as she made her way in further, holding her breath as much as she could.
"You'll have taken several years off your life in the space of a couple of days."
Such a threat didn't faze him, at least not outwardly.
"You're a long time dead, Bols."
Alex frowned, arms folded against her. Of course she shouldn't have been surprised, any psychologist worth their salt could have predicted the course of action. He was swapping one addiction for another. On balance she preferred the drinking, and considered that it was going to be a long month – and that she would need to wear more perfume to drown out the scent daily.
Gene strode forward, emerging from the thick cloud not quite like an old Hollywood hero from a great romance. His expression was fixed as he stared her down, any vague sense of nostalgia completely removed.
"You come to check up on me then? See that I 'aven't got any secret stashes?" he all but accused her, opening all of the drawers in his desk with a series of loud slams. "Feel free to do a body search if you like an' all."
Oh, don't tempt me, Guv.
"See," he crowed while she peered into and shut them one-by-one, "Nothin'. When I do somethin', I do it properly."
"I didn't suggest otherwise."
"Still," his eyes were on her as she gazed back towards him, not realising that he had got so close to where she stood, "just so you're sure."
God, he was so suspicious all the time; she was half-surprised that he hadn't burst through the door to her flat in the dead of night, ransacking the place for bottles. It must be utterly exhausting being him, she considered.
"Are we off to Luigi's, then?" she asked him. "The others will be on their way, once the last of the paperwork is done."
He looked at her as if she were stark-raving bonkers; which to be fair, wasn't a particularly rare occurrence.
"We're off the booze, Bolly. Wouldn't that be like bunking up in a brothel when you've sworn celibacy?"
She let out a sigh, both hands planted on her hips. "We can just go there to eat, and soak up the general atmosphere."
He raised his eyebrows at her. "You using this as an excuse to pile on the pounds? Be careful, Bols, else you won't be able to squeeze yerself into those tight jeans of yours soon enough."
Cheeky bloody git. Two can play at that game.
"What was your plan for the night then? Slippers and a cup of cocoa? You're not that old."
"Oi, I should call that a punishable offence."
Alex chuckled. "I'm not sure you have the strength at the moment, Guv." She tried to suppress the tingling rush that surged through her body at the thought of Gene disciplining her in a very particular way. "The best way to face challenges like these is to continue with routine as normal. We want to be seen to be actively avoiding temptation, rather than hiding away. That way we can't be accused of anything."
The best way to get him to co-operate was to appeal to that mistrustful nature – unless it only happened to be extended to her.
Both hands planted in the pockets of his dark-grey trousers, he gave a grunt of agreement.
"Fair dos," he muttered. "What is it they say; 'if you can't join 'em...'"
"Beat them?" she bit back a laugh. "Well, I don't know if there's any need for that."
"Oh I dunno, Bols," he replied as they headed out of the door, steps falling in tandem, "'ave you been around Ray when 'e's pissed and you're sober? Enough to drive the bloody Pope to violence."
His ears were filled with the incessant chatter and whoops of laughter from the other side of the room – right ruddy racket they were making – but his eyes were focused on another sight entirely. Gene took a last long drag on his one remaining cigarette, inhaling deeply as he watched Bolly standing at the bar. The back of Bolly, to be absolutely precise.
His gaze raked up at a snail's pace, past those ridiculous red boots – she had no need for heels that big, she was near enough rivalling him for height as it was – to settle happily upon her legs. Those legs, so bloody long that they could reach up to her neck. He found himself fascinated at how they managed to be both slender and shapely at the same time. Oh yes, Bolly's legs were at the centre of many of his thoughts, most of them unrepeatable. He rather preferred them in that prossie's costume, barely covered, but the figure-hugging jeans did the job as well. The latter also had the advantage of showing off her arse to the finest degree. And what an arse it was. He teased her by claiming that it was bony, but as he looked at it now – really looked at it – he could tell that it was anything but. The memory of her bending over, hands behind her back as he held the stamp aloft that peachy backside came back into his mind with alarming detail, and he longed to be back there now, just the two of them. If he could play the scene again, he'd do a damn sight more than just stamp her bum...
The thoughts he'd had from the minute she walked in here on that first night, the same white leather jacket draped about her and fingers curled in the loops of her jeans, had persisted ever since; they'd only grown stronger and more vivid. Usually he had the luxury of downing a couple of glasses of scotch to quieten them for an hour or two but that option was lost to him now. Fan-bloody-tastic. Surviving without the fall-back of booze was bad enough; the last thing he needed was to have the horn so badly that he could barely sit straight.
She sauntered over to the table, 'drinks' in hand, hips wiggling to-and-fro. Infuriating bloody woman, she knew precisely what she was doing.
"Cheers," she said, sounding far too chirpy for his liking, clinking her glass against his before they both took a sip.
"Jesus Christ," he grimaced, "flat as a ruddy pancake."
She let out a laugh, swirling the dark liquid in her hand. "I'd swap, but mine's not much better. I suppose Luigi hasn't had much call to use it, so God knows how long it's been sitting there."
Gene shook his head at the state of affairs; he'd rather go thirsty than assault his throat with that kiddy crap.
"I see what you mean about Ray," she peered past his shoulder to where DS Carling was currently brandishing a lighter in one hand and getting DC Skelton to lean forwards like a barrel, "his sense of humour isn't up to much to begin with, but at least alcohol puts a bit of a shine on it."
He huffed loudly, crossing both arms in front of him. "You see why it's become a 'abit, then."
Hazel eyes went wide as they stared at him; at the same time she put the straw carefully between her cherry-painted lips, chewing upon it and then sucking the contents of the glass up through it. Dear Lord, if this is a test then there's no doubt I'm goin' to fail spectacularly, not to mention embarrass meself in the process.
It bobbed away from her mouth as she placed her chin against the curve of her hand. "It's going to be a long night. Might as well fill it with some conversation."
"No politics. Or feminism." He had to regain some control over the situation, if only for his sanity. "And none of that bleedin' psychology, either. Bad enough 'earing about it when I 'ave to as well as off the clock."
She had the look of a rabbit caught in the headlights, gawping and making him feel frankly uncomfortable, as though he was the one in the wrong – which was always the bloody case with her. All she did was throw him off his stride, headlong into the opposite direction.
Her stunned expression shifted into a smile, leaving him intrigued, aroused and even more pissed off.
Absolute fruitcake. He could live to a hundred or more and he'd never work her out. More complex and irritating than one of those Rubix Cube thingies.
They fell into it right enough, talking as they usually did and mainly on the subject of work. The absence of a bottle or two didn't even occur to him after a few minutes; they didn't need it to fill in any gaps or lulls. Talking with Bolly was easy, mainly because she had a gob so unstoppable that she'd go to most of the effort.
"So," she uttered, her palms flattened upon the table, "what's your chat-up technique?"
The shift in topic caught him off guard, as well as the way she was looking up at him, best interrogative face in place.
"Eh? Why d'you want to know about that?"
"No real reason," she explained, leaning again on her elbow, "I'm just curious to see if you're the one who taught Ray everything he knows."
"Give me some credit."
She sniggered. "Go on, then. Tell me." After a second or two she inched nearer, bringing her face closer to his and getting into his personal space. "Is it all 'alright petal, fancy a shag?' Or something more refined, after all."
He would have laughed at her attempt at a Mancunian accent – she'd spent too long in those elocution lessons to sound like she hailed anywhere other than as far north as Watford. But the truth of the matter was that he couldn't avoid being wounded by her judgment of him, as apparently unchanged from the first day they'd come face to face. She thinks I'm a heartless bastard, no better than some ruddy pig grunting and rolling about in its own muck. When the fact of it was he did have a heart – she'd felt it beating for herself, and now she'd wheedled her way inside and had made a throne there, sitting all prim and proper and dictating everything he did.
Christ's sake, she was turning him into a proper ponce an' all. Probably best that she did believe he was a caveman, for both of their sakes.
"Nothin' wrong with bein' direct," he answered, seeing her smirk deepen. "Although I'd buy 'er a drink or two first."
He leaned forward in his seat, coming almost nose to nose with her, willing himself not to drop his gaze to her parted lips.
"Maybe even take 'er to dinner." She was keeping a poker face, taking another slug of Diet Coke. "Depends what she was into, really. But if I really fancied 'er, then somethin' nice. Trout and almonds. Or Dover sole, if she was lucky."
He shouldn't have said it. Showing his hand when he didn't have any aces, kings or queens hidden there. Gallopin' great idiot.
"But that didn't..." she muttered under her lipstick, a look of puzzlement washing over her pretty face. "It was only because I was going. Or I thought I was."
"Come again, Bols?"
He watched her intently as the cogs whirred in her mind, that perm of hers wavering as she shook her head firmly – as though she was trying to rid herself of something that was clinging onto her whole body.
"Never mind," she said eventually, leaving him exasperated once more. Everything was always half-finished with her, or she'd only give him part of the story before rushing off to solve it for herself.
"What about you," he moved quickly, not knowing how to change the subject other than have her kill it stone-dead, "'ow d'you go about snaring all those poor defenceless souls?"
She scoffed, pretending to play the innocent when he'd been party to the evidence himself. That dozy prick Danny Moore - though something told him that that encounter hadn't gone quite the way she had planned - and then the jumped-up city twat with the red braces and smackable face. And those were the ones he knew about. Neither of them good enough for her, though he wasn't sure that he was in any better league.
"Well, I'd talk to them, obviously."
"Bore their kecks off, more like. At least it'd save you some time later on."
Her fingers ran in little circles along the dented surface, tracing the condensation that had dripped down the side of her glass.
"But really, it's the non-verbal signals that work best. Subtle stuff. Most men aren't wired to even pick up on it."
She had brought her hand up to brush against the slope of her neck and by the lobe of her ear, winding a couple of fingers around a ringlet of hair. Either she had banged her head and forgotten that he was a Detective Chief Inspector or she was playing him like a fiddle.
Or she simply didn't believe that he was interested in her.
"Sounds very clever," he said after a few moments of being tantalised. Couldn't let her think she'd got the upper hand, whatever was going on in that pretty head of hers. "Be careful you don't give away all of your secrets, Lady B."
"Oh, I think I can trust you with them, Guv. It might even prove to work to your advantage." She smiled as she straightened her back and shoulders, thrusting out her chest. Yeah, he definitely wasn't going to fall for that. "I'd be happy to give you a demonstration now, if you like."
"Up to you, Bols," he shrugged, "I could do with a laugh, seein' as Raymondo is about as funny as a hole in the arse."
He followed her gaze over to the bar, noticing her eyes lighting up after a few seconds of delectation.
"Ooh, he's rather nice."
His stomach churned with jealousy at the mere thought of her fawning all over some other bloke, but he resolved to keep his emotions in check – he'd done well enough up to now.
"Hellfire, Bolly," he spluttered, "I didn't know you were into cradle-snatchin'."
Her nose scrunched at his observation. "He must be at least mid-twenties. If it was the other way round and there was some young girl propping up the bar you know that all the guys would be telling you to 'get in there'."
Gene shook his head, only half in denial. "Doesn't look like 'e's long out of short trousers to me." She's probably picked 'im out specifically to get up my nose. "You're old enough to be 'is mam. Is that what it is; speak to those maternal instincts of yours, does 'e?"
Bolly's face fell ashen suddenly, her bottom lip wobbling precariously. He barely had time to put the pieces together than she had got to her feet and was rushing in the direction of the ladies'.
"Bols, 'ang on..."
Before he could even get to the door where he dare not enter she had slammed it shut, the rush of air hitting him square in the face like her left-hook had done not too long ago.
Bollocks. Well done, Genie-boy. There you go, putting your crocodiles firmly in your gob again.
He stood outside the loos like a lemon, his back against the wall and thinking over and over what a stupid bastard he was. People said that all of the harshest truths came out when you got pissed – Bolly had given it a tarted-up name once, 'in vino veritas' or some other fancy Latin nonsense – but as it turned out he seemed to be more of a vindictive prat when he was as sober as a judge. It'd be too easy to blame his old man or anything else for it; he was what he was and he was too bloody lazy to do sod all about it now. It was better for everyone when he'd had a skinful, so why on earth he'd agreed to this stupid challenge in the first place he hadn't a clue.
Because Bolly was harping on about what a good idea it was, and he just wanted to impress her like some nancy schoolboy.
She emerged after a few minutes with a bit of tissue balled into her hand, the bright blue gunk around her eyes smeared slightly and tempered with pinkish-red.
"Bolly," he began hesitantly, keeping his distance in case she decided to lamp him one. Not that he wouldn't have deserved it right then.
"I'm fine," she replied, the usually flawless tones of her voice shaking.
She lied to him too often - he was starting to suspect it was second nature to her - but he'd let this one slide.
"C'mon, I'll buy you a..." he just about caught himself in time, "Shit."
Beneath her facade she managed a weak smile. "I don't know if it was the right time to do this."
"It's never the right time for anythin', Bols."
She nodded and dropped her gaze to her silly boots, with Gene swiftly following her lead. What had been a great night had turned sour, all thanks to his mouth working before his brain had got into gear, and now neither of them knew what to do to diffuse the atmosphere.
"Um, we could go back to the station," he offered after what felt like a year's worth of silence, "there's a fair few files stacked up that could do with lookin' at."
It was a shit suggestion, but he couldn't come up with much better. Besides he didn't want her to go off and leave him on his own, because he had a fair idea that he'd end up throwing in the towel and would wake up in the morning face-down on the floor with Luigi standing over him, muttering a load of things he wouldn't be able to understand.
"We could," she said, tilting her head to the side, "or I could use the time to take you through some of my methods, step-by-step."
"Did you not 'ear what I said back there?" he bellowed, starting to feel the rage bubbling up from beneath the surface. "No ruddy psychiatry!"
Her eyes flared at him as her hands flew out from her sides. "Psychology! For god's sake, if you can manage it once then it shouldn't be too hard to remember the rest of the time, unless you do it on purpose purely to piss me off!"
His lips curled into a defensive pout as he shook his head at her. "Dunno why you want me to understand the foggiest about it, seein' as you bloody love bein' the expert on everythin'. Surely you'd miss the chance to lord it over me at every opportunity."
"I'm not suggesting that I teach you everything. The basics would be enough."
"Oh yeah, 'cause I'm too thick for anythin' more complicated."
"I didn't suggest..."
He watched her with blazing eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose, took in a deep breath. This could go on all night, and with no way of drowning out his frustration - he tried not to fool himself that it was sorrow he wanted to hide - he was more than up for it.
"Look, I won't be here forever. And before I go I want to leave you with something. You can't use threats and your fists to solve every case for the rest of time." Her voice calmed, turned softer as she tilted her head towards him. "You have to move on. I'd be doing it for your sake, Gene."
He wasn't entirely sure that he liked her using his name in this context, his arms folded tight against him to keep up a barrier; stop her from creeping in further to his thoughts and confusing him even more.
"Well, it works, doesn't it?" he muttered, low enough that it wouldn't start her off screeching like a banshee again. "An' I like the way I do things. Gets results, and makes me feel bloody good an' all."
"Oh well," she exclaimed, throwing her hands into the air, "that's all that matters, isn't it? As long as the almighty Guv is happy, then screw the rest of us."
Okay, he hadn't been entirely successful in placating her, but he didn't mind the 'almighty' bit, at least.
"I didn't ask for this, you know," she said, her chest heaving with her exertions as her eyes locked with his. 'ere we go again. "It's not like I thought, 'if I could go anywhere I could possibly think of, why not be stranded in 1982 with a pig-headed, obnoxious, arrogant, brash Neanderthal who thinks his way is the only way and stuff everyone else; yes, that'd be an absolute paradise'. You have no idea, Gene. Absolutely no idea."
He should have been used to this by now. Her rabbiting on with her crackpot thinking, and him taking the brunt. She was blinking at him, eyes blurring with tears, shoulders shuddering. She looked entirely lost, and he had the urge to pull her into his arms, shield her from everything she was fighting so hard against.
He didn't know what to do, and he never would, so sod it.
"Can't bloody take any more of this."
"Oh, come on, Gene, it hasn't even been 72 hours. If that's the case, then you do have a serious prob – "
He crashed his lips to hers, holding her face with both hands and pushing her back against the archway. From beneath his frame he could feel her start to yield to him, and he dared to hope that he hadn't been fooling himself after all.
Her eyes were still blinking fiercely as she opened them again, her mouth opening slightly though nothing emerged but warm breath.
"Christ, if I'd known I could shut you up this way I would 'ave done it a lot sooner."
One of his hands was still cupped against her face; he rubbed small circles over her cheek with the pad of his thumb, wearing a small smile as he leaned in again. This time he went slower, savouring every second that his mouth moved with hers. He was careful and considerate, but not a ponce; the longer they remained the more determined he was to show her the passion he'd been doing his best to conceal from her. He hadn't kissed a bird like this in...well, ever. It wasn't all about getting his own satisfaction. He teased his tongue against her lower lip, asking for entrance, and when she granted him it he felt her hands grabbing fistfuls of his jacket, then sliding up to his hair, tickling against the back of his neck. Without warning he was aware of his trousers beginning to feel that bit too tight. Control yourself, Genie-boy.
"I...Gene..." she uttered breathily, which did nothing to help matters. "What are you...?"
He couldn't help but smirking at the effect he'd had on her, struck dumb and still unable to form complete sentences. Something that he never thought he'd be witness to as long as he lived and even afterwards.
"Like I said, Bols, never the right time. And by that reasonin', never the wrong time, either." He stared into the hazel pools of her eyes, his hand pressed against the wall keeping her in place, the curve of her body nestling dangerously close to his. "If we're both goin' to go through this, might as well make it worth our while. Don't yer reckon?"
She gulped in some air, and he worried for a moment or two that she was going to tell him where to go or give him a swift knee to the balls. If it was going to be anything, he'd prefer the former.
"'sides, we've already had dinner. And seein' as I can't get you a bottle of house rubbish to sweeten the deal, I don't reckon there's any other option but to go straight for dessert."
He felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff, waiting for somebody to tell him what a knobhead he was being before giving him a helping hand to freefall.
Her fingers came up to her shoulder, twirling her hair between them, the tip of her tongue darting out from between her lips.
"Well, I don't see why not. Your methods of persuasion are very effective after all."
She pushed herself off the wall, and he thought she was going in for another snog until she swerved her head further to the side, angling her mouth to whisper in his ear.
"I think you might want to get your coat, Guv. Because you've pulled."
A/N: I know Gene smokes cigarillos rather than the conventional ciggie, but I'm not sure whether he could chain-smoke those (fairly irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of things, I know...).
Would love to know what you think so far!