Disclaimer: Kudos and Monastic own Ashes to Ashes – the characters, the context, the backstory. Thanks to Matthew and Ashley for such fantastic characters.
STORM IN A D-CUP
'I've had enough of your games, Bolly,' snarled Gene, pushing back his chair and getting to his feet. Glaring at Alex, he pushed past her and left the bar, his team watching his departure with shocked amusement.
'Bloody 'ell,' said Ray to anyone listening, 'She must have worked hard to piss him off enough to walk out. He usually puts up with twelve kinds of crap from her.' He chuckled. 'With a bit of luck, the rot's set in, and we'll be rid of her before Valentine's Day.'
Alex heard that, as Ray intended. She threw back the rest of her wine and was about to leave when Shaz came across. 'Mind if I join you, Ma'am?'
'No, of course not, Shaz. Sit down.' She smiled at her young friend. The police didn't encourage friendships between senior and junior officers, but as the only two females in CID, and given their shared history, it was hardly surprising that the WDC and the DI had become close. Now that Shaz had been co-opted out of uniform and on to CID strength proper, Alex had become her mentor, seeing potential in young Sharon Granger that she was determined to foster. Who knew – she might get home to 2008 to find Shaz in her late 40s, assistant commissioner somewhere. Well, someone like Shaz. She was, after all, just a construct, Alex reminded herself. She had to keep reminding herself. If Shaz was real, Gene was real, and she'd just lost another chance to get closer to him. But he's not real. None of this is real. He doesn't need me, because he doesn't exist. I'm lying in the rusty bottom of a Thames barge, bleeding to death – not much cop as a cop when you're damp and unconscious.
She laughed out loud, and Shaz frowned, puzzled. 'Did I say something funny?'
Alex touched her arm in apology. 'No, Shaz, sorry – just thinking about something stupid. I've had too much wine, as usual. Ignore me.'
'What Ray said just now...'
'Ray is an arse of the first order, Shaz, but for once he might be right.'
'No, Ma'am. The Guv thinks the world of you. We all do. It'll be fine.'
Alex patted Shaz's arm, grateful for her reassurance. 'Thanks, Shazzer. I hope you're right. I really do.' With a tired smile, she stood and headed upstairs to her flat.
Gene stood in the lee of the building, fag in hand, waiting. Walking out on Alex was a stupid impulse, and he regretted it. Wanted to go back in but couldn't stomach giving in so easily. He was hanging around in the faint hope that she'd come chasing after him. She had before, once or twice.
He thought of her a couple of months ago, racing after him up these very stairs, standing at his shoulder, facing down a nutter with a gun. Not short of courage, his Bolly. Fucking amazing woman – cool as a polar bear's toes, hot as Old Nick's knackers. Completely insane, of course, but you can't have everything. He smiled at the thought of her in full flow – a storm in a D-cup...
No sign of anybody doing any chasing tonight, though. He took a vicious drag on his cigarette and flung it into the gutter. Maybe he'd blown it completely. He never really thought he'd win her, but there'd been moments when he'd begun to hope. Destructive bloody emotion, hope. Keeps you dangling from a hook right through the tender bits. Sodding painful.
He shoved himself upright and with a last look at Luigi's door, went to the car. He gunned the engine and took off, tyres squealing, rage fuelling his right foot. Kill hope. Cut the strings. Get on with it. Plenty of bloody women out there gagging for the Gene Genie's attentions – about time I did them a favour.
Alex reached the top of the steps in time to see the Quattro whip round the corner and vanish. Had Gene been waiting for her? She swore with such vehemence her body convulsed, and she spun round on her heels in frustration. It hadn't occurred to her that he might have waited for her. It wasn't his style. She realised that Gene probably stopped to talk to a copper outside the station. Nothing to do with her at all. Time to grow up. This isn't real. Not real. All in my head. Gene Hunt is a figment of a dead man's imagination that caught mine...
She kept muttering instructions to herself all the way upstairs, and to silence the internal critic she stabbed the TV on button and let Kenny Everett calm her down with his manic genius. 'It's all in the best possible taste!' He can't have seen Gene's disgusting ties, she thought.
The following morning Alex was in early, although she refused to admit, even to herself, that it was in the hope of having a quiet word with Gene. She had a heap of files to go through and a list of witnesses to get seen. But Gene didn't get in till nearly 10am, looking sharp. He didn't so much as glance at her on his way through the office. She waited for the summons to his office, but Gene shut the door and all was silent for the next half hour.
Chris was predictably rehashing last night's Kenny Everett show. Parading like Sid Snot, Chris was doing a creditable take of the Scouse comic's London accent, prompting mass hysteria.
That brought Gene out of his hole. 'Granger!' he snapped. Shaz leapt to it; new detective or not, she was still at the bottom of the pecking order, and the first in line for tea duty. But order given, Gene returned to his lair, although the door was left open.
Alex waited till Shaz emerged from the kitchen with Gene's tea and biscuits, and intercepted her. Taking the elevenses through the door, Alex greeted him hesitantly. 'Morning. Your tea, Guv.'
'What's this, Drake?' Gene was on his guard. 'What are you after?'
'Nothing, Gene. Thought I'd update you, that's all.'
'Right, well, let's have it, Bolly.' He pushed his chair back and put his feet on the desk, crunching into a chocolate finger.
So there was no row brewing, she thought. He wasn't angry with her. Alex relaxed, and ran through the day's list – clearing up the spate of muggings at St Katherine's Dock, forensics results on the body found by Wapping Steps, and chasing up statements about the wages robbery at Grey Seal Greases.
'Glad to see you're earning the taxpayers' money, Drake. Need my help on anything?'
Alex hesitated for a moment. Gene's eyebrows rose.
'Yes, actually, you could have a word with the boss at Grey Seal. Gerry Sanders. Thinks he's a bit of a comedian. Fancies himself, too – was trying a bit too hard to impress me, and there's something not right about that place.'
'Say no more, Bolly. Let's go and give him a dose of the squitters.'
Gene was out of the door in seconds, shouting for Ray.
'Oh, but I've asked Ray to go...'
'I need a chaperone, Bolly. Raymondo will protect my virtue. Come on, shift your arse.'
Having reduced Gerry Sanders to a pool of brown liquid, Gene drove Alex and Ray back to Fenchurch East. Walking up to the office, Alex said softly: 'Gene, could I have a word?'
Gene halted, and after a quick look at her, turned to Ray. 'Get Granger to put the kettle on, Raymondo.'
'Guv.' Ray nodded, and pushed through the double doors.
Gene swivelled back to face Alex, eyebrows raised.
'Er, last night. I upset you...'
'Upset me, Bolly? Impossible. I'm the epitome of even temper.'
'But you walked out on me.'
'No, Bolly, I left. Grand Prix to watch. Stuff to do.'
'But you don't usually...'
'Maybe not, but I do have a life outside this little family of ours, you know.'
Alex looked gobsmacked. 'Since when?'
Gene sniffed. 'Right. If that's all, you have work to do, DI Drake.'
And pushing open the door for her, Gene didn't follow her in but swanned off, coat flapping, in the direction of the Super's office.
At the end of the day, Alex went with the others to Luigi's, expecting to find Gene already there, but he followed them in a few minutes later. He bought the first round and sat with the group, leaving Alex at the bar, chatting to Luigi. Half an hour later, after one pint and a chaser, Gene got up and made his way over to Alex.
Patting her on the shoulder, he nodded towards the team. 'Go and join them, Alex. Does you no good to sit on your own. Goodnight.'
And he was gone. Alex went over, as instructed, and sat next to Shaz. 'Did the Guv say where he was going?'
Shaz shrugged. 'Only that he was meeting someone. Didn't say who, or where.'