Disclaimer: BBC, Kudos, Monastic and Mary Hoffman (see below) own everything. If I did, I would be a richer woman.
My debut fic on this site! It's the sequel to my first fic,"Ashes to Ashes: Loss and Gain", which is on the Collator's Den (if you're interested in reading it, see my profile for details).
This story is inspired by Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza books, hence the title. If you don't know them, don't worry - Molly will explain all in Chapter 2.
Spoilers for "Loss and Gain" in Chapter 1 (sorry, but I need them to set this story up) and Chapter 9, for the Stravaganza series in Chapters 2 and 3, and for "Ashes to Ashes" Series 1 throughout.
Please read and review - I really want to know what you think.
On with the story...
Alex Drake knew that she was lucky. Everyone had been telling her how lucky she was, ever since she awakened from her coma. But as she lay in her hospital bed, she had never felt such desolation in her life.
When she had first awakened to find Molly at her bedside, the ecstasy of reunion had overridden all else. But then the shocks had started. The first, which had kicked in almost immediately, was that everything about her life in the1980s had to be a dream after all, just as she had begun to accept that it was real. The sense of loss was as as great as if a whole group of her friends had been wiped out in some great natural disaster. She felt an irrational sense of guilt, as though she had destroyed them by awakening, even though common sense told her that they had never existed outside her overly vivid imagination. Above all, the thought that she would never see Gene again was almost unendurable.
The second shock, which kicked in right on top of the first, was the discovery that she had only been unconscious for a day and a half - "and a lot of that was down to the anaesthetic while they stitched up your bullet wound," Molly told her importantly. "You were really lucky, Mum, the police said that that horrible Layton must have been so high on drugs that it spoiled his aim. The bullet only grazed your forehead. They were able to track your location from the call he made to Evan, so you were found almost immediately. They lost him, but they say they're bound to find him soon."
Alex was barely listening. A day and a half - during which she had lived nearly fourteen turbulent months in the 1980s, had had enough adventures to last her a lifetime, had learned the truth about the deaths of her parents, had found the love of her life. How could the two ever be reconciled? How could she have experienced so much in so little time?
"Are you all right, Mum?"
"Yes... sorry, I still feel so tired. Funny, you'd have thought I'd have slept enough by now."
"Get some sleep, then. I'll still be here when you wake up. The doctors said you'd feel woozy from the anaesthetic for some days after the operation," said Molly wisely.
Just as I did after they operated to save my life when Layton shot me in February 1982. When I miscarried Gene's child. Our child. Oh, Gene...
The blow fell the day after she recovered consciousness. A DI and a WPC, neither of whom she knew, called at the hospital to tell her that Layton had been arrested.
"He tried to use one of the credit cards he'd stolen from the handbag you left in your car," said the DI, a tall, thin, dark man with a moustache. She hadn't even known that he'd taken her credit cards. "It was in the name of A. Drake, which was why he thought he could get away with using a woman's card. Fortunately shops and banks had been alerted to look out for cards in your name, and a shopkeeper spotted it and warned us in time to catch him. We're here to let you know, and to ask you to give us a statement when you feel strong enough."
She insisted on giving the statement right away. She didn't want to have to remember that dreadful day for any longer than she had to, and she hoped that concentrating on something in 2008 might help to lessen the hold that the 1980s still kept on her mind. The WPC took it down at her dictation, and she read it over and signed it.
"There's one other thing," said the DI, as the WPC handed him a small plastic evidence bag. "This was found at the scene, among the blankets where you were lying. We presume it's yours as your name is engraved in it. You must have dropped it when you fell. Could you identify it for us, please?"
He reached into the bag and took out an exquisite diamond ring.
It can't be. There must be hundreds like it. Mine didn't exist.
"May I look?" she heard herself say. The DI handed it to her. She turned it over, looked inside the hoop, and read the words that she had already seen there so many times:
ALEX - GENE - LOVE IS FOREVER
She remembered how moved she had been, when she had first found them there. She had teased him that he wouldn't have been able to take the ring back to the shop if she had refused him. She remembered the look in his eyes when he first slipped it onto her finger, at the party at Luigi's to celebrate her discharge from hospital.
Forever, Gene. Forever.
"Yes," she said softly, putting it back on her finger, where it belonged. "Yes, it is mine. It was given to me a long time ago, by someone whom I love very much. I thought I would never see it again."
She began to cry. She cried and cried as though she would never stop. The WPC made to take the ring back - "It's evidence" - and she closed her hand over it and screamed. A doctor whispered anxiously to the DI and prepared to sedate her.
"I don't think that's necessary," said the DI tactfully. "It was found at the scene but wasn't actually stolen, although it's surprising that Layton missed it. As DI Drake has identified it as her property, she can be allowed to retain it. I'm sure she'll produce it if we ask her to do so."
Alex nodded, still howling out her despair. The DI and WPC left, murmuring their apologies for distressing her, and she felt the hypodermic plunge into her arm. Then merciful oblivion.
She was awakened by sunlight slanting through the holes in the Venetian blind and striking across her face. She was snuggled under the red duvet, a matching pillow cradled her head. 80's pop music thrummed gently from the restaurant downstairs.
She rolled over. She was alone in the bed.
Her eyes filled with tears. Oh, love, you didn't wait for me...Sunlight? Music? Luigi's must be open...What time of day is it?
She rolled back to look at her alarm clock. It read 14.47 September 16.
What am I doing in bed in the middle of the day? Why didn't the alarm wake me up? Gene must have gone to the station and let me have my sleep out. Just as he did the day I went back to 2008.
September 16th. I left here on the 14th. Is it still 1982? If it is, I've only been away two days. The same amount of time I've been back in 2008.
I must go to him. Now.
She threw the duvet back and tried to get out of bed, but as soon as she sat up she felt sick and giddy, and had to lie down again. Looking down, she saw that she was still wearing her white hospital gown from 2008.
That didn't happen before. I turned up in 1981 dressed as a prostitute. The only thing I brought with me was my warrant card.
She glanced down to her hand, and saw with relief that the ring was still there. Gene would have something to say if I turned up without it.
Again she tried to get up, and this time, she managed to stand, but almost fell, and had to collapse back on the bed.
What's wrong with me? Maybe it's because I was sedated in 2008.
Giving up the struggle for the moment, she lay down and covered herself with the duvet.
I'll give myself some time to get my head together. Then I can go down at 5.00 and catch him in Luigi's. I'll bring him up here and explain everything.
She closed her eyes.
When she awakened, it was early morning. She lay in her bed in hospital, and she had never felt such desolation in her life.