A/N: Thanks to all of you who have read and reviewed and for all your lovely comments. I feel happy to join this fandom!
I've written in several fandoms, and my fics tend to be very angsty. I'm not sure how successful I've been so far, but I did want to try something a little bit lighter. I hope you enjoy it.
She was still sipping at her tepid glass of white wine by the time each of Shaz's friends had finished off three of those blue, tropical girl drinks a piece. They were at some wine bar, one of those chains that would begin popping up all over the capital in the next decade or so. All glass and chrome. Shaz's friends were shrieking on the dance floor to the sound of Adam & the Ants and Human League while Alex, who had a good ten years on most of these girls, sat by herself at the bar, taking it in with a wry smile.
Finally, Shaz tipsily crossed the floor to where Alex was sitting with her glass of wine.
"Having fun, ma'am?"
"Absolutely," Alex lied.
"I'm glad you could come. Really." Shaz said with sincerity.
"Well, I'm glad you asked." She almost hadn't come tonight. She hadn't wanted much company these last few months since the explosion, so she had forced herself out of her flat. Despite the noise, the ridiculous t-shirt she had been forced to wear, and the questionable company, she was glad in a way. She felt somehow more affectionate, more protective of Shaz than the others. Perhaps because they were both women in a testosterone-charged environment. But it was something else. Gene, Ray, Chris…they were all constructs she had borrowed from Sam. Shaz was hers, and she felt like the younger sister Alex never had.
"Of course I asked! I'm getting married tomorrow, and I wouldn't be here without you." She let out a sweet, tinkling little laugh. "You saved my life, ma'am!"
"Please, Shaz. We're the only women in CID right now. Let's show some solidarity. For tonight, call me Alex, will you?" Shaz wrinkled her nose slightly, and Alex gave a little sigh. "Well, it was worth a try. Ma'am it is, then."
Alex sipped at her wine as Shaz perched herself on the barstool next to her.
"Ma'am…you were married before, weren't you?"
"The operative word here is were." Alex said with a snort, but as she glanced over to Shaz, the younger girl was looking back with large, dark eyes. "Are you all right, Shaz?"
Shaz licked at her lips nervously before continuing. "What if…what if things don't work out with me and Chris? I don't want a divorce…"
"No one wants a divorce, Shaz…"
"What I mean is…I don't believe in it, ma'am. I'm Catholic."
Alex's eyes fell down to Shaz's neck and the little gold crucifix she always wore. She remembered it well, the glint of it against Shaz's blood-soaked shirt on the night she almost died. Alex reached out and placed a comforting hand on top of Shaz's.
"You didn't see Chris the night you were stabbed. He really loves you. And you love him, don't you?"
Shaz's eyes dropped down to the bar, and Alex watched as a pink blush crept up her cheeks. "Yes," she said quietly. "Ever so much."
Shaz was smiling, blinking back soft tears when she looked back up, and Alex felt a stab of something at the center of her. What was it? Regret? Envy?
She could feel the prick of tears in her own eyes. "You're going to very happy together. I know it."
It's my trauma-induced hallucination, and I'll bloody well give them a happy ending if I want.
Shaz smiled gratefully, but after a moment, her mouth turned down at the corners, and her eyes darkened again.
"Ma'am…can I ask you something?" She started with an uneasy edge to her voice. "Only…I can't really talk to my mum. And my friends would just laugh."
"Of course, Shaz. You can ask me anything."
"Well, you've been married, and I've seen you…well, there was that fella at Luigi's with the red braces…"
"Oh, that…" Alex pressed a hand to her forehead with a groan. Somehow she got the feeling that her embarrassing tryst with the Thatcherite wanker had qualified her in Shaz's mind as a scarlet woman or some kind of bedroom agony aunt.
"It's just…Chris and me…we never…" Shaz's eyes flitted around the room, anywhere but on Alex. "It's like I said. I'm a good Catholic."
Alex blinked as the weight of it settled on her. It was hard to imagine that even in 1981, there were London girls like Shaz. It was sweet, really. "Oh, Shaz…"
"Mind you," she went on with a sly, cheeky smile, "we have a bit of a laugh, Chris and me, and I'm not completely thick. I'll know what to do on the night. But…Chris is a bit older, and I know he's been with other girls. What if I'm a disappointment to him?"
Alex couldn't help but smile a small, tender smile. As if sweet, bumbling Chris could ever be disappointed in someone as feisty and alive as Shaz. "You won't be a disappointment. How could you be?"
"But…what if…what if it's not what I imagined?"
Alex gave a wry smile. "First times seldom are." She chuckled mildly at the faded memory, but when she looked over at Shaz, she had lowered her eyes again with worry. "Shaz. Most first times are meant to be bittersweet experiences. Maybe you look back on them with nostalgia. But mostly it's meaningless and uncomfortable and you're scared and maybe a little drunk, and you're not entirely sure the other person remembers your name. Even the second and third and fiftieth time can be like that. Even when it's good. Really, really good like with the man from Luigi's."
Alex rolled her eyes and took a breath before going on. "But when you love the other person? And you can see in their eyes that they love you?" She had to sniff a little to hold back the tears that had formed behind her eyes. "That's when nothing else matters, and it's more wonderful and amazing than you can imagine."
Shaz looked up at her through her dark fringe of hair. "Really?"
Shaz exhaled in relief. "Please don't tell anyone."
"Your secret's safe with me."
Alex reached out and gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.
"Oi! Shazzer!" one of her friends called out to her from the dance floor.
Shaz smiled and slid off the stool. She took a few steps away before she turned and impulsively threw her arms around Alex. "Thanks, ma'am. For everything."
Alex felt herself soften. "You're very welcome. Be happy. You deserve it."
She watched with a fond smile as Shaz joined her group of friends, her face flushed pink with sheer joy. She was so bright, so happy, about to begin a new life. Alex was happy for her, genuinely so, but there was still an ache at the center of her, and yes, it was perhaps a bit of envy she felt.
Shaz was in love, and she was loved back.
Alex quickly swatted away a bittersweet tear and drained the last of her glass.
They had never got around to hiring a stripper, and no one seemed interested in matching t-shirts, so in the end, they had merely stumbled over to Luigi's for Chris' stag night.
Chris had been made to do shots of something thickly sweet and disgusting whilst lying on his back on the bar, and he was now propping himself up on a stool, elbow on the bar, chin on the palm of his hand.
"I wonder what Shaz is doing right now," he slurred.
"Trying to flee the country, if she has any sense." Gene stubbed out the last of his cigarette and pulled another from the pack.
"Do you think so?"
"No, you twat. She's probably at some poxy wine bar with the other Sharons and Tracys. Drinking themselves legless and doing unspeakable things to complete strangers."
Chris attempted to straighten himself up but almost teetered backwards off the stool. "DI Drake's with 'em. She'll keep an eye on 'em, surely."
"It's DI Drake I'd be worried about," Ray snorted, forgetting for a moment that only DCI Gene Hunt was allowed to make comments about Drake's presumed level of depravity. Gene reminded him with a withering look. "Sorry, Guv."
They were all three feeling the effects of the copious amounts of liquor consumed that evening, and they sat silently nursing their lagers while most of the revelers had already straggled home.
"Guv?" Chris said finally.
"What is it, Chris?"
"I'm gonna be sick."
So, Gene sat with him while he chucked up the remnants of his stag night booze binge into the toilet. Afterwards, Gene passed him some wet paper towels to wipe his face clean, and the two collapsed on the floor in the men's toilet at Luigi's, their backs slumped against the cold tile walls.
"Bloody hell, Chris. I've known little girls who could hold their booze better than you."
"Guv?" Chris' voice was thick and drowsy.
"Don't tell me you're going to be sick again."
"Nah. I just wanted to say…I really love her. Shazzer."
Gene sneered. "Now I'm going to be sick."
"No, really. I do, Guv. And I'm really glad we're getting married and all."
"Yeah, yeah." Gene waved his hand dismissively. "I'm sure she'll iron your shirts and scrub your pants and get your tea on the table on time and all that."
"No, it's not like that, Guv. Well, I mean, yeah…but the thing of it is…I love her, but I really like her as well." He let out self-conscious little laugh. "It's like I'm marrying one of me mates!"
"Flamin' Nora. The south really has turned you into a poof, Christopher."
Gene squirmed uncomfortably on the floor. Love. Marriage. Not exactly two topics he wanted to discuss on the floor of the men's toilet with his shit-faced DC. He didn't want to discuss it anywhere with anyone, for that matter. He wasn't sure he knew a damn thing about the first, and he'd buggered up the second miserably. He tried to pull himself back onto his feet to make his escape, but his right leg had gone to sleep, and he was too far from the sink to hoist himself up.
Chris sat there with that same lopsided, drunken grin, but then a thoughtful look came over his face.
"I always wanted to be like you, Guv."
"Son, everybody wants to be like me." Gene puffed out his chest.
"I always wanted to be like you," Chris repeated, ignoring him. "You're like a lone wolf, you are. You love 'em and leave 'em, eh, Guv?"
"Me? I can't do it. It's not in me." He gave Gene's arm a matey shove, something he wouldn't have dared do if he was anywhere approaching sober. "You? Some blokes, blokes like you, I reckon you're just meant to spend your lives by yourselves. Never needing anyone. All alone."
"Yeah." Gene's voice was rough when he finally spoke again. "I'm a lone wolf, me."
"Well, I'd best be off. Big day tomorrow," Chris said with sudden cheerfulness. He slapped Gene on the knee before he struggled to his feet and staggered out of the toilet. "Night, Guv."
Gene said nothing in reply, but sat for a long moment on the cold floor before pulling himself to his feet and heading out.