I don't own any Ashes to Ashes characters


Put Yourself In Her Position

All She Needs Is Recognition

Love's Not Enough When You Say It,

Don't You Know You've Got To Mean It?

Screwing Up The Best Thing Ever Is Something You'll Regret Forever,

Take Her and Make Sure She Feels It,

Let Her Know You'll Never Let Her Go

Sleepless Nights (Never Let Her Go)- Faber Drive


Gene Hunt wasn't the sort of man who liked wording his emotions; for as long as he could remember, he vented anger, frustration and hatred through physical violence. In the same way, he showed love, affection and caring in the only way he knew how; sex. He was good at it. He knew it, and most of all, women knew it, and that was all that mattered. His ex-wife had never really seemed phased by it, and so it didn't bother him as much as it might have done. Perhaps if she'd exerted her influence back when he was twenty two and still prime for change, he could have avoided much of this misery he was enduring, but she relied on physicality as much as he did, and he didn't think that the words 'I love you' had ever passed between them when one or other of them was not inebriated and seeing double. He doubted sometimes if they had ever loved one another, or at least if he had ever loved her, but there wasn't really a definition for love; he'd thought about it, and when he asked her to marry him, he'd gone by the initial thought that he could probably get through the rest of his life without smashing the house to pieces and walking out on her, and so the reasonable thing seemed to be to get married. Evidently, that seemingly logical musing was ineffective.

Now, he was in the first real relationship since his divorce, three years on, after a series of ill-handled affairs and a trail of meaningless one night stands. He'd not considered the fact that he was going to ever be in a serious relationship again before, but now, his one-year anniversary with DI Alex Drake was dawning, and he knew she was getting pissed off.

He wasn't a bad boyfriend, he thought, at least not in his own opinion. He took her out to dinner, he watched romance films that made them both want to weep, but he for very different reasons than her own sentimental ones. He hadn't cheated, either, which he considered a big deal, considering that before her he was tangled up in a web of five women on different nights of the week. But the thing was, she didn't seem as happy as he thought she should be. When he asked, she said nothing was wrong, then slipped off to the kitchen and took about half an hour making them both a cup of tea, which she ended up leaving on the bedside table as she went to sleep. A few times, when he leant over to press a kiss to her cheek before turning in himself, he was sure he could taste salt on her skin, and sometimes there was the telltale lines of mascara running down her cheek, which told him all he needed to know.

Gene often wondered if she regretted becoming involved with him; a good fifteen years her senior, past his peak and an alcoholic to boot, it stood to reason that she would feel unhappy stuck with him for the rest of her life. A few times, the topic was breached in furious arguments which started at work and carried on until the evening, when one of them would overstep the anger mark and they'd end up on the sofa like a pair of randy teenagers. Whenever he asked, she swore she was happy, that she wanted to be with him and that she loved him. She generally prevented him from replying when she either tenderly caressed his cheek or shoved him viciously down onto the sofa where she'd have her way with him, but on the odd occasion when she didn't give him that escape route, she'd look at him expectantly, every now and then blinking as though to keep something out of her eye. It was usually up to him, on those occasions, to take the few steps forward and gather her into his arms, though it was those evenings, he knew, that her tears fell the most.

It wasn't that he didn't love her; if he had any idea what love was like, he supposed it had to be what he felt for Alex. It was raw, it was unbridled, it was passionate and devoted, and yet he couldn't be sure. What if he was wrong? Surely lying to her was worse than not saying it at all? And so, much to his chagrin, on the eve of he and Alex's year anniversary, he sought out Chris while Ray and Alex were out on a call. Pulling the young DC into his office he perched himself on the desk and looked at him expectantly.

Chris looked worried, and Gene wasn't quite sure how to handle it. "I got those addresses you asked for Guv... they're just on me desk, I was 'bout to give 'em to you but you pulled me in 'ere..."

"Good... that's good... what's erm... how're you 'n'... how's Shaz?" Bloody hell, he thought, bloody, bloody hell, you illiterate nancy poof.

Looking taken aback, Chris blinked. "We.. I'm... she's... fine, Guv." It was an odd question, Gene reasoned, and so the flustered response was probably normal. "How's DI Drake?"

Gene ground his jaw slightly at that. He'd rather be having this conversation with Ray, but he knew the response he'd get; Ray didn't like him being taken and exclusively Alex's man. He'd have told him to stick love up her arse and offer a shag that she could either take or leave. Ideal for Ray, maybe, but Alex's response would be enough to shatter Gene's heart. "She's fine. A bloody posh tart with a gob the size of the Mersey, but fine."

Chris smiled; he and Shaz seemed almost overly supportive of their superiors relationship, and it was slightly disconcerting to Gene, but less so to Alex, who claimed it was something to do with some psychotwattery about deviant partners or something along those lines... From what he'd managed to glean from the conversation, Chris was relieved to have another male member of CID in a relationship, because it made him less of a nancy. Gene wasn't so sure about that, but he didn't plan to argue. "So all good then, ey Guv?" Chris looked relieved, and Gene shrugged.

"Almost... Chris... you tell anyone else what I'm about to say – and I mean anyone, Shaz, Ray, Vic or any of them- I will cut your goods off with a blunt spoon and pickle them so that Shaz can put 'em on the mantelpiece, understood?"

Chris nodded hurriedly. "Yes Guv. Course Guv. Nobody Guv."

Gene clapped his hands together with his trademark grin. "Right then you nancy, bender, cross-dressing poof... does Shaz know?" He didn't know why, but he felt it necessary to precede the question with a string of insults, as though to reiterate something, though other than the fact that he was terrified of emotions and anything in relation to it, he couldn't quite work out what that would be.

Chris looked at him uncertainly. "Know that I'm in 'ere, Guv? I expect so... unless she's with Ray and DI Drake..?"

"No you stupid bellend!" Gene growled. "Does she know?" He waved his hand expectantly, as though this might trigger something in his DC's mind that would make him understand.

Chris frowned. "Know what, Guv?" He asked after a long pause in which he deliberated over what the Guv could have meant.

"Does she know that you want to lock her up in your bedroom and have her little kiddies?" Gene was agitated, and it was blatantly obvious. Chris edged slightly backwards, but looked relieved.

"Oh that... course she does, Guv. Told her myself." He looked insanely proud of this, and Gene couldn't keep the grimace from his features.

"Those were your exact words, were they?" He supposed if it was good enough for Shaz, if he turned to Alex and told her she was thoroughly shaggable and he wouldn't mind impregnating her, she might take that as meaning he loved her...

"Oh not quite Guv... nah... only takes three words, dunnit Guv?" He still held that unmistakeable aura of happiness and Gene wondered what Ray would do if he were stood in the room watching his friend go dewy-eyed.

Gene ground his teeth briefly, then said. "Three words?"

"Yes Guv." He waited several moments, then said, "does DI Drake know, Guv?"

"No she does bloody well not!" On the defensive, Gene stood up and prowled round his desk, looking at some case notes as though his life depended on them as he heard blood pounding through his ears. Chris had jumped like a frightened rabbit at his outburst, and after several moments, Gene's breathing slowed to normal.

Chris stepped forwards tentatively and leant forward in a conspiratorial manner to whisper. "Has she told you... you know...?" His eyebrows raise repeatedly in question, but Gene didn't need to see them to know what he meant.

"Yes. And that goes no bloody further either!"

"No Guv. Course not... Didn't you say it back though Guv?"

Gene closed his eyes. "Are you a Detective, Skelton, or just a ten year old in a nancy-boys body? If she doesn't know, then evidently, I didn't say it back!" He was unwittingly fuming at his own inability to say it aloud, and Chris' attitude was so blasé and open it made him feel almost like a two year old receiving a telling off for stealing a cookie.

"Soz, Guv," Chris muttered. Another long pause, which Chris broke, uncharacteristically. "Don't you though, Guv? I mean... love her, like?"

Gene groaned and sank into his leather chair, face in his hands. "Is this the bloody interview room, Chris? I brought you in here not the other way round!"

"Sorry Guv." He fell silent, looking at the floor and awaiting a dismissal or a reply. Eventually, the latter came, and it shocked him.

"I don't know if I do, or if I don't."

Chris looked at him, then walked round to perch himself on the desk and looked at his DCI with something akin to knowledge behind his bright eyes. Gene felt ashamed that the young officer he'd taken on was evidently more learned in life than he himself. "How'd you feel 'bout her then Guv, if you don't love her? I mean... it's not just sex like, is it?"

"No. It's not." Gene crossed his arms and tapped his foot, then sighed. "I like her." It sounded strangled and his voice cracked, but when he looked back at Chris he realized it wasn't enough of a statement to convince him. "What? I'm not spilling me guts out 'ere if that's what you want."

"But like... don't you get all the... the butterflies, like?" Chris looked equally embarrassed and astounded as his eyes shifted from the floor to his DCI nervously.

"The what?" the disgust in his voice was evident and Chris flushed.

"Like... don't your stomach tie in knots like? When she kisses you an' stuff?" His voice was quieter, less assured.

"No I bloody don't!" Gene snapped back. He was lying, naturally. She kissed him and he thought someone was making a balloon character out of his stomach lining. Chris looked at him, saw his unease, and felt seemingly reassured.

"When she ain't there though Guv, don't you get... cranky, like? Like you don't know what's 'appening to 'er and you can't look after 'er 'cause she's not with you like?"

Well, Gene thought, he couldn't well deny that one. The whole of CID had seen what he was like when Alex went out on a call without him; it was like sharing a cell with a manic lion starved of food, and everyone else joined his relief when Alex walked back through the door because the murderous look in his eye dissipated out as he wrapped his arms around her. "Next question," he growled, and Chris knew him well enough not to make any comments at this point.

"Do you cuddle 'er Guv? After... after... it, like?" The expectant look in Chris' eyes was disconcerting on a new level. He really didn't want to discuss his intimate relationship with Alex in the office with his DC, but it seemed as though Chris was slightly more certain in his own feelings than Gene.

"No." He answered instantly, then sighed. "Sometimes." He gulped. "Mostly."

"All the time?" Chris asked, smiling.

"Shut up you ponce!"

"Sorry Guv... it's just... you know... Shaz says couples who don't cuddle afterwards are more likely to break up within the first year of marriage..."

"Where the hell did she hear that bollucks?" Gene had the sinking suspicion he knew exactly where, but he wouldn't say so. And it was bollucks, as far as he was concerned. He and his wife only 'cuddled' as Chris put it on anniversaries and birthdays. The rest of the time it was in and out and off to the other side of the bed without a second thought.

"DI Drake told her Guv. Before we got engaged, I think."

Gene said nothing, looking at the cold cup of coffee on his desk with more interest than it really needed. Chris obviously thought this was his cue to speak. "Tell her Guv. Just grab her like, and tell her you... well... you know... that you do..."

Gene stayed silent, rubbing his forehead tiredly. Just because he got butterflies, and he happened to want to be with her every second of the day to make sure no thatcherite wankers were trying it on, and he also happened to enjoy the fact that when they ended their couplings her head would always end up on his chest, his arms around her waist and nose in her bushy hair, didn't mean he was in bloody love with her. It was Chris' next question that did it. "Could you live without her, Guv?"

He didn't even bother to disguise his feelings on that question. "Bollucks to that, Chris. I'd rather have my arse raped ten times over by everyone in the bloody gay pride march."

Chris smiled. "Just got to tell 'er then, 'ey Guv?"

Gene groaned.


He looked across at her, wondering if he should tell her now, or wait until tomorrow instead. He'd already booked a fancy restaurant, and he'd even bought her a necklace. He wanted to tell her. Chris might have been a sissy, but at least he'd made him realize just how much she meant to him. What if she walked out though? What if he told her, right here, in the middle of Luigi's, and she laughed and told him to go home? It didn't help, either, that Chris was sat looking at him expectantly from the other side of the room, and nor did it go unnoticed.

"Why does Chris keep looking over? Is everything ok with him and Shaz?" Alex looked worried and Gene shrugged.

"They're fine. He's just a sissy." He caught her hand as she traced her fingers lightly across the back of his palm. He looked at their hands with interest and was struck with an incredible wave of warmth as he acknowledged the fact she was here with him. Oh Jesus. How had it taken him this long? Surely he should tell her now? But they'd argued the night before. What if she thought he was just saying it because he felt duty-bound to do so? Well, he considered, that would be true tonight or tomorrow.

"Alex," he said softly, bringing her hand tentatively to his lips. Alex blinked. He rarely indulged her with kisses and affection in Luigi's, and it was odd to experience it. She instinctively blinked back tears, worrying that he was about to end things. Stupid, irresponsible logic, she told herself, but she couldn't fight it off.

"Yes?" She managed. Don't talk alot, she told herself. Let him do the talking and then we'll see.

"You... I'm..." he frowned. "Come here." He pushed his chair out slightly and patted his thigh gently, still holding her other hand in his. She blinked and then stood, tentatively placing herself in his lap. His arms went around her back and his face settled into her neck. His hot breath sent tingles down her spine and she held his shoulders lightly. After a few moments, he lifted his mouth to her ear, pressing a gentle kiss to her earlobe before he spoke. "I don't want to screw this up," he said sincerely, eyes closed as he inhaled her scent. She shifted closer to him in his lap, arms wrapping around him more tightly as the blessed sense of relief washed over her.

"I'm glad," she replied softly, hand rubbing gentle circles into her skin. "You wouldn't be my favourite Gene Genie if you did!" She felt his mouth crack into a smile and gently kissed his forehead. He looked up at her, meeting her eyes.

"When you say it Alex, do you mean it?" His hand rested lightly on her thigh as he watched her eyebrows knit into a frown.

"Mean what?" She asked, "that you wouldn't by my favourite Gene Genie?"

He shook his head. "No... What you said... last night... and... Other nights. Do you mean it?" He was appalled that he was so hopeless he couldn't even bring himself to say it when it was someone else's feelings as opposed to his own, but he didn't know how else to approach the situation.

She cupped his face. "Do I mean it when I say I love you, you mean?" Gene nodded almost imperceptibly, and she smiled. "Of course I do."

He gently pulled her face down to his, kissing her with tenderness he wasn't sure he could remember ever employing before. From the look on her face when she pulled away – confusion, bewilderment and flustered blushing- he definitely hadn't employed it on her, and as far as he was concerned, that meant he'd never used it on anyone. "You're bloody gorgeous, Bollyknickers," he murmured, eyes fluttering closed as he leant forward to press a gentle kiss to her neck. "And when I say it, I promise I mean it." His fingers stroked the back of her ear as he looked her in the eyes. She looked hurt, and he couldn't understand it. She looked expectant, and he knew he couldn't say it here; he wanted her to know that, when he said it, he meant it. He wasn't going to settle for a dingy corner of Luigi's with half of CID watching. He wanted to take her in his arms and tell her, show her she was his everything, that his life revolved around her and that he wouldn't let her go without a fight.

"Right," she said eventually. "I should probably go to bed." She pressed a chaste kiss to his lips and pulled away before he could respond. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Gene stared as she slid from his lap and headed towards the stairs without a backwards glance. He looked over at Chris, who looked just as confused as Gene, then stood up, following Alex's footsteps and taking the stairs two at a time so that he leapt onto the last one just as she put the key in the lock. He was terrified to hear her sobbing and instinctively stepped forwards, placing his arms around her. "Bolly..." she shrugged out of his arms and twisted the key, not looking at him as she stepped over the threshold and spoke through her tears.

"I suppose I'll speak to you in the morning... if you remember what day it is?" And the door was in his face before he could reply. He blinked. Did she think he didn't remember? Did she think he could forget the day that turned his world the right way up again? Bloody women.


There was a red rose on her doorstep when Alex went to leave the next morning, and, still reeling from the night before, she thought it was from her mysterious stalker. He had a habit of leaving her such gifts after all. When she picked it up however, a note was tied to the stalk, and, with shaking fingers, she twisted it so that it was readable.

Just for being mine.

She blinked back a tear; he'd remembered. Whether or not he'd said the words or not, he felt something; she just had to wait.


She arrived at CID, the rose still in her hand as she headed straight into his office. He was leant over some notes, tapping his pen in frustration as though something were evading him. There was a strange tightness in her chest as she looked at him, and she passed around the desk, placing the rose down and putting her hands on his shoulders, rubbing them lightly. He looked up at her, seeing the warmth in her eyes, and he prayed he'd been forgiven.

"Thank you," she whispered, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips. He lazily kissed her back, then pulled away, standing up and pulling her into his arms, head resting on hers as he sighed in relaxation. "You free tonight, Bollyknickers?"

She smiled. "For you, Gene, I'm free any night of the week." He chuckled, gently stroking her hair.

"Then what say me an' you go out for a slap-up meal, get steaming drunk and end up having sex in Luigi's restaurant?"

Alex smiled. "I might be able to accommodate that idea..."

"It's a pretty big idea, Bols; sure you're up for it?"

She smiled. "Yes. I'm sure." She pressed another kiss to his mouth and they stood there, lips caressing languidly, for several minutes, before Gene pulled back to cup her face in his hands.

"Happy anniversary, Bollyknickers." With a smile that threatened to split her face open, she stroked his tie dotingly.

"Happy anniversary, Gene."


He felt like a dog shit in a palace. The restaurant was sleek, with designer sofas in the waiting area, intricately carved seats and tables, and candles set in golden holders. Alex looked gorgeous, wearing a sleek black dress that showed off her legs and tits yet still managed to look moderately decent. She was settled in the crook of his arm on the sofa as they waited to be seated, her hand delicately running over his thigh as he tried desperately not to get aroused by the situation. He ended up catching her hand in his when she drifted a little too high, forcing him to emit a groan, to the disgust of the elderly couple sat opposite them. She covered her mouth with the back of her hand to hide the giggle that threatened to burst out, and Gene smirked, keeping a firm hold of her hand, even when she pouted and began to whisper naughtily in his ear.

Thankfully, he didn't have to listen to a great deal of that, since they were escorted to their seats and given menus, and the distance of a table between them stopped it being quite so easy for her to make suggestions of him in a manner that was not publicly noticeable. Eventually, she settled for simply running her foot up his leg beneath the table, and Gene could hardly muster the words to argue.

"Are you ready to order sir?" The waiter appeared out of nowhere and Gene jumped, looking up at the well-dressed man and then back down at his menu. "Erm... not quite, thanks..."

"Anything to drink then, sir?"

Posh nonce, Gene thought. "Yeah... I'll have a... a beer... and she'll have..." He looked at Alex expectantly, and she smiled.

"We'll have a bottle of red, thank you." She briefly touched Gene's hand as the waiter turned away and busied himself with getting their drinks. He met her eyes and managed a weak, nervous smile. Bloody hell, it wasn't like he was asking her to marry him tonight, he just wanted to tell her he loved her for Christ's sake, it wasn't rocket science!

"I'm sorry about last night, Gene," Alex said softly. "I don't know what came over me..." she met his blue eyes and saw them smiling back at her.

"It's fine," he told her, threading his fingers through hers and giving them a brief squeeze. "You know what you want?" He pointed at the menu in front of her and felt his stomach turn as another flash of hurt went across her face.

"Yes," she said, sitting back and pulling her hand from his. "Thank you."


The meal passed by, the initial chill fading when the waiter tripped over his own feet and Alex fell about laughing, as the elderly couple who had shown their disgust in the waiting area were splashed with Gene's beer. He too grinned, and they spent the next few minutes amusing themselves as the old man attempted to dry his trousers without looking as though he were touching himself. By the time the starter arrived, they were talking softly and intimately as if nothing had happened.

When they walked out onto the street, Alex's arm around Gene's waist and his around her shoulder, Gene thought the evening had gone rather well; he hadn't said it yet, but he thought she was warmed up for it rather nicely. Her hand slid under his jacket as they walked back to the Quattro, gently stroking him through the fabric of his shirt and causing him to sigh in relaxation. When they reached the car, she went to pull away, but instead he drew her close, pressing a light kiss to her lips that sent shivers down his spine.

"I don't want you to go, Bols." He stroked her cheek with a shaking hand and she caught it in her own.

"Why would I go anywhere?" Her forehead was creased in a frown and he wanted to kiss her, to forget this stupid conversation ever started, but he knew he couldn't. Instead, he leant forwards and kept his lips next to her ear.

"'Cause you think I don't love you..." His voice was cracking, and Alex heard it, feeling her heart splinter at the obvious effort he was making. "But I do, Bols... you might be a dopey tart sometimes, and you drive me round the bend to boot... but I don't care." He kissed her neck lightly as he waited for her to say something, anything.

Her grip on him tightened and she turned her head to his. "I know you do Gene... I just want to hear it." She kissed his lips lightly. "Now take me home."


They practically fell through the door of her flat, stumbling across the living room and into her bedroom, arms wrapped around each other as they collapsed onto the bed together, hands making quick work of one another's clothing, with Gene's shirt and tie being thrown aside practically the second they hit the mattress. Gene undid Alex's dress and rolled her on top of him so that she could slide it off her body more easily. Their mouths were inseparable, tongues caressing and teasing each other as hands roamed over bare skin. He didn't have the time to appreciate the bra and knickers that she'd put on, since they were both discarded in a matter of seconds without him having opened his eyes. Her hands were working on his belt buckle whilst his slid upwards, one tangling into her hair whilst the other squeezed and caressed her breast, feeling her nipples harden at his touch. He rolled her onto her back again, mouth leaving hers with a loud gasp before he moved to press feather light kisses to her neck and collarbone, hearing the soft mewls of enjoyment, just as his lover's hands pushed his trousers and boxers off his body. Naked, he pressed himself flush to her body, feeling her own skin hot against his, loving how they melded together so perfectly, her body aligned with his like a divine match. His hand slid down her side, round to her back and over the soft curve of her buttocks, round to her thigh which he stroked gently, moving slowly downwards with his lips and tongue, flicking out at certain areas of her skin and hearing her moan. He reached her belly button, smirking, knowing how much she liked it when he touched her there, and bending down to cover it with his lips, flicking his tongue in briefly and hearing her breath catch, the slight squeak of enjoyment... he grinned, moving lower, over the line of her pelvic bone, which he traced lightly with his tongue. She shivered beneath him as he reached her centre, gently nudging her legs aside as he stroked her thigh and leant forwards to taste her. She was hot and wet, she tasted like honey, sweet, warm... he murmured his approval as his tongue traced over her folds lightly and briefly, pulling back again to return to her mouth, kissing her with a desperate hunger. She shuddered beneath him in pre-orgasm as she tasted herself on him, trembling on the brink.

"Please... Gene..." her own hand slid between them, brushing against his erection but passing it by as she reached for herself. He pulled his mouth from hers to look at her in disbelief, then watched, transfixed as her fingers moved within herself.

"That's my job..." he muttered, but made no move to stop her as she continued on, her eyes closed as she pushed her hips to meet her own hands. He groaned, reaching for himself as she moved continuously, lips parted and breath short. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done this, but he had a newfound respect for it as he watched her pleasure herself. He turned his face to hers, capturing her lips as his hand worked up and down his length. She reciprocated, moaning into his mouth as her body went into spasm, hands working her clit. He grunted, about to urge himself on, but her hand caught his, pulling it away as she rolled on top of him. With a moan of his name she slid onto him, just as his hands shot to her waist, holding her in place as she murmured her approval.

"So big," she murmured. "So good..." and then she was moving on top of him, up and down, slowly. He leant up to capture her lips with his own, eyes closed in passion as she moved over him. It had never been like this, he realized. It had always been different somehow; this wasn't just a shag anymore- somewhere along the line it had become making love. Gathering her closer to him, he rolled her to the side, her leg thrown over his as he thrust slowly in and out of her, sweat gathering on his forehead as her body heat surrounded him. His tongue twisted around hers, stroking across her mouth and lips in a silent declaration of love. Any other day, he'd have rolled her onto her back and slid into her faster and faster, kissed her neck until she had a bruise to mark her as his and brought her to orgasm twice before he considered letting up. Now he just enjoyed the feel of her around him, the scent of her hair and the smoothness of her skin. She kissed him softly, arms around his neck as she moved her hips slowly, meeting him thrust for thrust. He hadn't known it could be like this; even with his ex-wife, he'd never known this slow, gentle pace to give him such unbeatable joy. It was like she was made for him, as though every fibre of his being longed to be here, with her.

It took them almost an hour to reach their climaxes, drawn out in a gentle haze, their positions varying only every so often, continuing the slow pace that made Gene's insides hum contentedly. She was murmuring her pleasure as her slow orgasm took her, her lips falling to his shoulder as he sighed gently. His hand caressed her breasts as he breathed softly into her ear, his orgasm pulled from him in a soft groan before they both shifted slightly so that her head rested above the pounding of his heart. His hand trailed over her lower back as he pulled her lips up to his, kissing her gently and slowly before looking her deep in the eyes.

"I love you, Alex," he said, his voice gruff but full of emotion. And he knew in that moment, he'd never been so sure of anything in his entire life. She could drive him up the wall and round the bend without trying, but he adored her, he couldn't live without her, and as he wrapped his arms around her and whispered it to her, he hoped she knew it. He'd had to know that he loved her, because if he hadn't, and he'd lied, he'd have screwed up his chances with the one woman who accepted him as he really was... but he knew, and as he felt her breath on his face, the gentle brush of her hand on his arm and the feeling of her heart beating against his own, he understood that he would never feel this same sense of satisfaction with any other woman. "And I know it took me twelve months too long to say it, but I'm saying it now, and I bloody well mean it... you know that, right Bols?"

She snuggled into his chest. "Yes. I know... and thank you?"

"For what?" He grunted, "taking my bloody sweet time?"

"No," she smiled, nuzzling his nose lightly with her own, "for meaning it."

Gene's hold on her tightened and his eyes narrowed. "What did Chris tell you?"