A/N: I don't own 'em, but I'm willing to share.
It was Gene.
She keeps replaying it in her mind.
It wasn't a dream, really. Just warped flashes, fragments. Like a tape left in the sun too long. There was the feeling of falling, the pyjama top cool against her skin as she tumbled in blackness. Landing. Dazed, breathless but somehow safe. The arm, pushing back covers, reavealing…
Evan. She had assumed it was Evan, comfortable and familiar, the only bridge that tied her to her old life. It was Evan, wasn't it? Young, handsome. He had always seemed so old to her, the way a 25 year old seems ancient to a teenager, but he had been the same age she was now. Why hadn't she really noticed him before, even now, as an adult? So handsome, charming, witty. Of course it was Evan in her dream. Of course it was.
And then the realisation it wasn't. It was Gene. Everything that Evan White wasn't. The opposite of everything she was supposed to want.
Just a dream, she reminds herself. It means nothing. She had a dream once she was marrying Ken Livingstone. There was nothing in that, either. It meant nothing that she had awakened next to Gene Hunt.
Gene Hunt. The "Manc Lion" as Sam had once called him. He wasn't a lion; he was an ape.
But this wasn't quite the Gene Hunt that had been painted so vividly for her by Sam. All booze and fags and chest-beating. There was something else there in his eyes. Loneliness, loss, disappointment. Something else, too. She had seen it in the dying light of the vault when she had her head pressed against his sweat-sodden vest and his voice had rumbled up from his chest and echoed in her ear. She had seen it in his eyes when he revived her hours earlier at Cale's restaurant and her fingers had brushed against his rough cheek.
What was it?
She looks over at Evan, not realising she's spoken out loud.
"Nothing. Never mind."
He pulls the car to a slow stop outside Luigi's. "You've been awfully quiet. I don't think you've said a word since we left the hospital. Everything all right?" She can hear it in his voice. He is concerned, genuinely concerned, and his forehead is creased with worry for her.
"I'm fine. Really. Thanks for the ride home."
He nods once but says nothing for a moment. "Do you want me to come up?"
"No, it's all right. I'm just going to go straight to bed." Bed. She sees him there again. Pushing back the covers, turning to her. "And…I don't think I'd be very good company."
"Are you sure? That was quite a blow." He reaches his arm out as if he is going to touch her, and she finds herself moving away from him. Just a slight movement of the shoulders, really, but he stops himself, and she realises that yes, he had reached out to touch her head.
There is a small airless silence while his hand hangs awkwardly in the air. "I should go," she whispers and lets herself out of the car before he can speak.
She might have wanted this to happen before. He was only her godfather, after all, not blood. There had always been that physical tension between them. She'd felt it, ever since her divorce. For so many reasons, Molly for one, it had been out of the question. But there were no rules here, wherever here was. Didn't she deserve some pleasure? Didn't she deserve a moment or two of comfort in this…waking nightmare?
But if they had a moment, it has passed, she knows as she fumbles for keys. It is not Evan that she wants. Finally, she can hear the car pull away and her shoulders sink with relief.
The flat is empty when she pushes the door open and flicks on the light. There's always a moment of disappointment, even after all these weeks, as if she expects Molly to run in and throw her arms around her. Perhaps it was the nearness of death, but she feels Molly's absence keenly tonight – this morning– and for a moment, she can't breathe.
She steadies herself, inching herself hand over hand along the wall, until she reaches her bed and sits for a moment until air once again fills her chest.
She'll sleep. Long and hard. Things will be different when she awakens. She won't be home, but she will at least have shaken this strange feeling that has settled on her like a heavy blanket. She will sleep, she almost manages to convince herself, a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
He stands, fingers curled, hand poised inches from her door. Then he drops his arm and takes a step away.
What the hell am I doing here?
But then he knocks. A lamp switches on, and the light spills out from under the doorframe. He can hear her voice answer, and the door opens. She is standing there, matted curls, no makeup. She has hastily thrown on a dressing gown, and he can just see the curve of her breast as she leans her head sleepily against the door.
Her face registers. Surprise. Something else? It's as if she's been caught by the head teacher doing something she oughtn't. "Gene…"
He shakes his head to rid himself of the image of Alex as a naughty schoolgirl and interrupts with force before she can finish her thought.
"How's the head?"
She gives him a wry smile. "It's been better. But not too bad."
"Good." He says nothing for a moment. "Just came by to make sure that Evan bloke got you home all right." He's not Evan. He's that Evan bloke. "You weren't asleep, were you?"
She sighs. "No. Can't sleep. It's not as if I haven't tried." And then her face changes, something he quite can't read, her eyes drop to the ground. When she speaks again, he has to lean in to hear. "I think I'm afraid to go fall asleep somehow." Then she lifts her face back to his. She's smiling, but her eyes are sad. She's tall, almost his equal in those tarty boots she likes to wear, but she seems so small and breakable standing in front of him like this. For a moment he thinks he might…
Never mind what you might do, he growls to himself. He's checking on a team member who almost died a few hours earlier. He'd do this for Chris or Ray or anyone.
"Well, then." He says aloud but doesn't move.
There is a silence and he almost turns to go in it. "I know it's a bit early," she says, "Even for you, but would you…like to come in for a drink?"
He stands there, hands in pockets, his lips pursed in that way he has and he rocks back on his heels for a moment. "I won't say no."
"I'd like the company, to be honest." She smiles again, that same almost-sad smile, and opens the door a little wider for him as he passes through. He hasn't been inside since she moved in here more than a month ago. She's added some things, a jug of flowers, some poncey artwork. He can see her clothes from earlier that day are draped over the back of a chair, and the covers on her bed are in a jumble for her restless attempts at sleep.
He can't bring himself to sit but stalks around the tiny flat, pulling at his tie as she brings him a drink. Her fingers brush against his as she passes him the glass.
"Ta." His voice is rough as she sinks onto the sofa and curls her feet underneath her.
What the hell am I doing here? he thinks again as the feels the first welcome burn of the liquid against the back of his throat. Just leave now.
But he doesn't, and he can feel her watching him as he pulls a chair to the other side of the coffee table from her and sits there. He needs something to do with his hands so he rummages for his cigarettes and lights one. He can feel her watching him, but she says nothing. "What, no speech?"
"You saved my life tonight. The least I can do is let you kill yourself slowly with those things," she says wearily.
"Haven't you heard, Drake? The Gene Genie lives forever." He takes a long drag and the smoke circles his head. There is a long silence, and in it, he feels that same, queasy sensation he has been trying to shake for days now. It creeps up every time he's seen her lately. He's always gone back and forth between wanting to shag her or shake some bloody sense into her, but this is something else altogether.
He lifts his free hand and waggles his index finger at her. "You're not cold anymore."
"What?" She tilts her head curiously and draws her eyebrows together. "How did you.."
"Your face. It's gone red."
Her eyes widen, and her hands fly up to her cheeks. He can see the pink spread from between her fingers. "It's warm in here, that's all."
But it isn't particularly. They lapse into another silence. He leans back, his knees open, one arm draped around the corner of the chair.
"You scared the piss out of me tonight, Bolly."
"Yes." He takes in a chestful of air. "Yes, you did."
His eyes are on hers, and neither of them can look away. It's agonizing. He's a fool for coming here, but he's rooted to the spot, unable to turn his gaze as her eyes begin to fill with tears.
He had never been able to stand the sight of a weeping woman. He'd had rape victims and the mothers of slain children sob in his arms. It was all he could do to pry them loose and get away as quickly as possible.
Why not now? Why can't he move?
"I won't…I won't cry." She frantically rubs at her eyes with heels of her palms. "I won't let you see me cry, Gene Hunt." She is angry at him, at herself, but it only seems to make her cry all the harder, and she covers her face with her hands. "I won't give you the satisfaction of seeing me weak. That's what you think, isn't it?"
He looks at her dumbly, his mouth open. He's as helpless as she is now, but he can feel his anger rising, too. "How would you know what I think, you daft cow? You don't know a thing about me."
"Tell me you don't think I'm some pathetic, sniveling woman with no place on the force." Her eyes are dark and angry. "Tell me when you found me in that freezer part of you didn't want to turn around and close the door on me for being so stupid and weak."
He quickly drains the glass and sets it with a hard rap against the coffee table. "I save your life, and this is the thanks I get?" He says as he stubs out his cigarette and stands. "Maybe I should have left you there."
She is behind him as he strides to the door, and he can hear her let out a sharp, humourless laugh that doesn't quite mask the tears behind her voice. "That's right, go. Just go."
"You couldn't pay me enough to stay."
"What are you afraid of? That someone might actually find out you're human? Too bloody typical. No wonder your wife left you."
He wheels around to face her. "That's none of your fucking business," he hisses.
"What are you afraid of, Gene? The truth hurts, doesn't it?"
"What would you know about the truth?' He turns to her fully, hands on hips. "You wouldn't know it if it bit you on that useless, bony arse of yours, you toffee-nosed bitch."
He's said far worse to her, of course, but he can suddenly feel the sharp smack of her hand against his cheek. She steps away from him, trying to project defiance. He sucks at the small cut on his lip she has left for a moment.
"Try that again, Drake, and I will forget you're a woman," he says with quiet menace.
But she hits at him again, her hands flying against his face and upper body. He tries to deflect the blows, but she is striking blindly. "That's enough!" He wraps his arms around her, pinning her arms to her side. He can feel her body shake against his, as her knees finally give way, and she sobs with abandon against his chest. "That's enough, Alex," he says softly now. "Enough."
He stands that way for a long, silent moment, and he finds that when her tears finally subside, he has been stroking her hair.
"I thought I was going to die," she says.
"I know. But you didn't."
"No." She pulls away from him and looks up into his face. "I'm alive."
"Very much alive," he says. He wonders if she can feel his heart pound, but his question is answered when she runs her hand from his waist and tucks it inside his jacket the way she had the day they met.
"We're both alive." She says, as if the idea had just occurred to her. "I thought it was Evan. All this time, I thought it was Evan. But it wasn't. It was you, Gene."
Gene. Her voice, the way she turns his name over with it. It makes him ache. He can't tamp down this strange feeling forever. He's not sure he even has the strength and the will anymore. He wants this. And not just for some knee trembler. If he'd wanted to shag her, he could have. Many times over. But that wasn't it. Not anymore.
"It was you," she repeats. She pulls her hand from his heart and lets it rest on his cheek. "God help me," she laughs. "It's you."
God help me, she repeats to herself silently.
"What we gonna do, Bolls?"
"I don't know."
He takes her face in both of his hands. Her eyes are swollen and her nose is red. "You're a sight."
"I must look awful."
"No," he says with a rough voice and brushes away a strand of hair from her face. "Not awful."
His face his handsome, she thinks to herself as her fingers brush against the line of his jaw. Not like Evan or that ridiculous Thatcherite wanker with the braces and floppy hair. But handsome, masculine, lived-in. She had thought it was Evan who was meant to be her anchor, her saviour. But it was Gene. And perhaps, in some way, she was meant to be his saviour, too.
"I'm putting you to bed."
"I'm not tired."
"That's an order, DI Drake," he says, but his voice is gentle.
Shesuddenly realises how exhausted she is, exhausted beyond sense, and her eyelids begin to droop. She is aware of his hands on her shoulders, and her dressing gown falls away. His mouth is close to hers, there is a flutter at the center of her, but then she feels his lips pressed against her forehead.
"Please…" she whispers, her mouth inches from his. "Stay."
There is a moment, but he speaks. "I'll stay, Alex. Now go to sleep."
Her body is heavy as she falls onto the bed. She hears his boots drop, one and then the other. The mattress springs creak and sag under his weight as he moves in against her. She can feel the steadiness of his breathing against the back of her neck, and then an arm curves around her.
And then there is only a peaceful, dreamless sleep.