Disclaimer - I don't own any of the Ashes to Ashes characters - I'm just using them for my own evil purposes.
Chapter 1 - Heaven
Gene sat at the bar, long fingers grasping his customary glass of whisky and swirling the contents before finally gulping a long mouthful. He grimaced slightly at the acrid taste. Bloody rubbish and expense rubbish at that. Still, he had a feeling he would need a couple more before the evening was over. He turned in his seat and took the opportunity to examine the habitués of the somewhat ironically named strip club, 'Heaven'. Well if this was Heaven, Gene definitely wanted his money back or he'd gladly make his way to the man downstairs – a deal with the devil perhaps? His intent gaze encompassed the usual crowd, a mixture of sad loners and tanked up stag nights, with just a scattering of expert connoisseurs – skilled aficionados of the teasing art of strip.
It wasn't really his sort of place – not that he was averse to gorgeous women whipping their togs off without so much as a by your leave. Quite the contrary in fact. But he usually preferred to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle delights of the flesh in privacy of his own bedroom – and without a cheering audience. But then he wasn't here to enjoy himself. He scanned the noisy smoke-filled club from the relative anonymity of the bar area set at the rear, well away from the stage. He frowned as he caught sight of Ray, eyes on stalks and mouth agape as he watched the busty blonde on stage do her thing. Now there was a man who had immersed himself in his job – except that his job was supposed to be watching the punters – not the talent! Twat!
Gene sighed. It was getting late and they had no fresh leads on the case; a brutal attempted murder, which had taken place just outside the club on Dean Street a week ago. All they could do was watch and wait – and hope that the potential killer didn't strike again. He reached for another cigarette and fumbled for his lighter, cursing colourfully when the flint refused to catch. Frustration mounting, he threw the cheap lighter aside, patting his pockets for the matches he instinctively knew wouldn't be there. Just behind him there came the blissful hiss and flare of ignition accompanied by a polite enquiry.
"This what you're looking for?"
His eyes darkened they travelled the full length of the beautiful creature before him – long legs leading to paradise, hips encased in tight gold hot pants and a halter-neck top that was doing a very poor job of enclosing a more than generous cleavage.
"Thanks," he said. He leaned forward to accept the light, fingers lightly enclosing those of his rescuer. He inhaled a lungful of nicotine before gratefully exhaling into the already smoke-filled atmosphere. "You took your time Bolly."
"Some of us have work to do Gene."
"What? Wiggle yer arse and fetch drinks for the punters?"
"It could have been worse." She moved closer and cupped her hand around his ear against the deafening noise of the now insistent music. "I could have been on stage," she teased.
Gene eyes widened and his eyebrows hit the ceiling, "Not on my bloody watch."
Alex rested her hand on his shoulder as she moved to yell in his ear once more. "Well it might shake things up a bit – we're getting nowhere fast here."
He put his hand on her waist and pulled her closer. "You are not taking your kit off in front of a load of dirty old men."
"Well, I wouldn't have gone that far!" she said as she stroked his cheek, the action belying the tension in her voice. She looked around nervously, hoping the rest of the clientele would see what she wanted them to see – a strip club hostess chatting up a prospective client.
"You would have had to, you dozy tart. All the punters in here want to see are your tits." And who can blame them?
"Well you could be right, however I'm not planning to get them out for the boys just yet," she shouted into his ear. "And just as a matter of interest, exactly how long were you intending to grope my arse?"
He grinned before replying, "For as long as it takes Bols – I'm just trying to blend in with the crowd."
She smiled indulgently before moving his hand back to her waist. "Oh you're blended alright." She turned and wiggled away from him, weaving her way through the mob.
His lips twitched with amusement as he watched her walk back into the crowd, quietly appreciating the swing of her hips and the peachy roundness of the arse he had been so recently groping. Well, you couldn't blame a bloke for trying could you? He was lucky she hadn't gone for the slap – wouldn't have been the first time.
His wry smile turned into a frown, as a large and leering punter approached Alex, pinching her arse for good measure. He felt a strange contraction in his gut as the bulky stranger grabbed her arm and leaned in closer. Gene quickly stood up from the bar stool and took one step towards her – a movement that was as instinctive as it was potentially menacing.
Alex smiled sweetly at the drunken yob who had accosted her, as he swayed drunkenly and spat out his filthy intentions. She could see Gene poised, ready to pounce at the least provocation and knew she had to act fast before things got out of control. Out of the corner of her eye she could see another hostess approach, tottering precariously on mile-high heels and balancing a tray full of drinks. Before her assailant had time to register what was happening, he had somehow 'tripped' and crashed headlong into the tray of drinks, leaving Alex to escape his drunken clutches. She deliberately made her way back towards Gene, casually brushing past him as if on the way to some other destination.
He squeezed her arm briefly as she passed by, reassured by the brief contact. "Be careful Alex," he growled. His heartbeat gradually returned to normal as she returned the squeeze, glancing back at him with the kind of smile he could live on for a month.
He needed some fresh air.
He passed Ray on the way out, pausing just long enough to issue dire warnings and promises of the retribution to follow should anything, anything at all happen to DI Drake in his absence.
"Gene? Gene Hunt?"
He had only just reached the small lobby of the nightclub when a familiar voice rang out behind him. Gene turned, a look of surprise and delight creasing his face, a face more accustomed to frowns in more recent years. He was immediately engulfed in a bear hug of immense proportions, all the more welcome for it being totally unexpected.
"Dougie Fletcher you old bastard!"
"Oy! Less of the old, if you don't mind. I seem to remember being a couple of years younger than you. You're looking well though – London must agree with you?"
Gene shrugged his shoulders. "Its not Manchester but it'll do for now."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
And Dougie knew exactly what Gene meant. He had been brought up on the same rough streets of Levenshulme, knew the same people, had the same values – mostly. Physically they looked as if they could have been related; same dark blond hair, cocky attitude and physical strength – Gene may had have the height advantage but Dougie could hold his own in any fight – and had the scars to prove it. Only the eyes were different – deep chocolate brown as opposed to the sea-changing silver blue of Gene.
"So," Gene said, "You 'ere for business or pleasure?"
Dougie laughed, a deep rich sound that seemed to rise up from the tips of his toes, "Bit of both. You?"
Gene steered his old friend away from the nosy receptionist and past the bouncers on the door before speaking. The cool night air was a welcome relief after the heated smoke-filled atmosphere of the club and Gene filled his lungs with blessed relief. Once outside Gene told him about the attempted murder, sparing none of the gruesome detail. Even now the victim was fighting for her life in hospital, meaning this could turn into a full-scale murder enquiry at any moment.
"Christ," Dougie exclaimed, "You don't half get the good jobs."
"Comes with the territory. You should go home tonight Dougie – steer clear of this place for a while."
"I'd love to – trouble is I'm 'ere with a few mates…well, business associates if you get my drift. Can't let the lads down now can I?"
Dougie laughed and shook his head. "Trust me Gene, it's all above board. My life of crime is over – finished."
"Better had be son – if I find you dealing…"
"I don't do any of that – no dealing, no using – I swear it! I'm a respectable businessman now – and that's all down to you."
"Well, I dunno about that." Gene said gruffly.
"You saved my life Gene," he said taking Gene's arm, "I'll never be able to thank you enough. If it wasn't for you I would 'ave ended up like Stu."
Gene nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, well Stu didn't wanna be saved did he? Pissed up crackhead."
"Yeah he was that. But he still loved you – thought the world of you he did. That's why he disappeared Gene. He didn't want you to see what he'd become. So proud of his big brother the copper. I know he would have been really made up to see you now."
"Thanks Dougie," Gene muttered, "means a lot." He shifted uneasily from foot to foot before clearing his throat. "Listen, you'd better get back to your mates –they'll be wondering where you are."
"Yeah, suppose so…or we could 'ave a drink – somewhere a bit quieter where we can talk about old times?"
"Better not mate. Duty calls and all that."
"What about tomorrow night? There's a pub in Smithfield – The Old Red Cow. You heard of it?"
Gene nodded. "I've heard its okay."
"Waddya say then? A few drinks, grab some grub and catch up on old times?"
Gene thought for a moment. Why not? A night away from the rest of the team and catch up with an old friend. He smiled broadly.
"Yeah, go on then."
"Great. Look, here's my number in case anything comes up and you can't make it." Dougie handed over an impressive looking business card. "Otherwise I'll see you there. 7.30 alright?"
"You're on." Gene watched as Dougie made his way back inside Heaven, fingering the thick business card before tucking into his jacket. "Oy…Dougie."
Gene ran the few steps it took to catch up. "Don't 'ang around here too late eh? And keep with yer mates – don't go wandering off alone."
Dougie smirked. "Yes Dad."
"Go on, get out of here," Gene grinned.
"You're in a good mood," Alex said. She cast a sidelong glance at Gene as he steered the Quattro away from Soho and headed towards Alex's flat. She was still wearing the tight hot pants and revealing top that had been her 'working' attire earlier in the evening, but now that she was alone with Gene she realised that she felt ever so slightly under-dressed.
"Me? I'm always in a good mood Bolly."
"You keep it very well hidden some days…most days."
Gene frowned, "Well we can't be little Miss Sunshine now can we?"
"I suppose not."
But he was definitely in a good mood – she could tell. In fact, she could now interpret most of Gene's moods – good, bad or indifferent; knew when to keep her head down and leave him brooding in his lair, knew when it was safe, when he could be humoured and cajoled, and most rare of all, the times when he wanted to talk about his personal life. Those times were as rare as hen's teeth and she treasured these occasional insights into his psyche.
"You didn't have to drive me home," she said after a while, "I know it's out of your way."
"Do you honestly think I'd let you loose looking like…like that?" He said gesturing at the skimpy outfit.
"Well it's hardly my fault is it?" she said sharply, her voice growing louder as she warmed to her subject. "And while we're on the subject, why is it that I'm always called on to dress like a tart when we go undercover?"
"I could hardly ask Ray could I? The tash is a dead giveaway!"
"You know what I mean! Why is it always a nightclub or posing as some hooker?"
Gene sighed. "Okay, next time we need to go undercover at a school or a library, you're in – until then 'ookers and nightclubs it is. Anyway," he said with a smirk, "be a terrible waste of natural resources."
"But I…." Alex caught her breath in surprise as Gene moved to change gear, his leather-encased fingers brushing against her leg. As the tingle raced through her body, she thanked God it was dark and he couldn't see the rosy blush that had suddenly appeared on her cheeks.
"Err…nothing. You never did tell me why you're in a good mood."
"A friendly face from the past Bols."
"Oh?" Male? Female? Alex had to bite her tongue – she would not give him the satisfaction of knowing she was interested. Even if she was. However it seemed that Gene was not prepared to expand on the reason for his good mood and they soon arrived at their destination.
"Ere you go, home sweet home." Gene said as he killed the engine.
Home. Was it home Alex wondered? And if so was it permanent or temporary?
"Actually I've been thinking of moving," she said, shocking herself as much as Gene.
Gene's eyes narrowed as he turned towards her. "Why?" Gene's mind raced as he contemplated her decision. She hadn't put in for a transfer – at least as far as he knew and she hadn't been withering on about leaving for months now.
"Well, its hardly ideal is it? Living about Luigi's."
"Handy though – for the station as well," he offered lamely.
"Too handy sometimes," she said warming to the idea. "I think I need to get away, find something a bit more…me."
Gene nodded, his bottom lip forming into a small but still significant pout. "Not thinking of leaving us again?"
"No. Although actually I'm not sure if I can." she finished quietly.
"You don't want me to go?"
"Course not." He paused. "Bloody murder training up new DI's."
"And I'll miss crashing out on that disgusting couch if you move."
"I'm sure Luigi would still let you have exclusive use of the sofa when needed."
"Yeah…not the same though."
Alex shook her head. That was probably the nearest he would get to admitting that he didn't want her to move…maybe that he even liked her.
"I promise that if I move, you'll still have exclusive sofa rights in my new place."
"Really," she promised.
"Right then. It's a deal."
"I'd better head on up I suppose…its late and I…err" she mumbled.
"Course – of you go then. I'll see you tomorrow – don't be late!"
"I won't. Night Gene."
She didn't look back as she let herself in the entrance; she knew that he would be watching her, making sure she got in safely – and probably watching her arse at the same time of course. She ran quickly up the stairs and let herself into the flat, turning on the lights as soon as she entered, and made her way over to the window and looked out. As she had expected he was there, window wound down so that he could see clearly; with a quick wave and flash of the lights he was gone.
…..to be continued