Nothing to do with my ongoing fic Rage Against Time but a quick angsty one-shot inspired by a song on the radio. But as always with me I can't resist giving a little hope at the end. Setting is post episode 8 of series 2. Hope you like.

I don't own Ashes to Ashes or the music and lyrics of this wonderful song.

Sometimes when we touch

When would he ever learn? Gene asked himself this question again and again as he sat next to silent, unmoving figure in the hospital bed. Even if he'd spoken the question out loud he didn't suppose that he'd get an answer that would make any sense. Why would he never learn that she was always right? Well, nearly always, he amended. Why couldn't he have just believed her instead of doubting her motives and ruining everything?

It was supposed to be a punishment – him sitting here next to her. Released on bail pending further charges and suspended from the only job he knew how to do, Gene had thought he'd go mad with anger…grief…or whatever it was he was feeling. But then they said he had to come and visit Alex as part of his bail conditions. Talk to her they said. Apparently, the hospital staff had told them that his voice was the only one she responded to. All the others had tried – Ray, Chris, Shaz, Viv and even that bloody Evan bloke – they'd all tried without success to get a reaction and so far none of them had succeeded. Except him.

So here he was, pretending like it was some sort of punishment, when in fact this was the only place he wanted to be. Next to her.

"Not sure what to say," he said finally. "Think I've told you everything that's happening. Shaz sends her best – she's coming in later." He glanced around the ward but he couldn't deal with the sympathetic stares of the other visitors, and the downright hostile stares of the nurses – those who knew he had shot her.

"What about some music Bols? I know you like your pop music." He flicked the switch on the radio and twiddled the dial until something vaguely intelligible start to play. He sat back and listened without really hearing, desperate for a drink or a fag but not feeling bold enough to do either. Christ it was a cold day in hell if Gene Hunt – The Manc Lion – couldn't bring himself to defy authority!

He was vaguely aware of the radio DJ chatting and the start of another nameless tune. Only this one he vaguely recognised – something from the seventies was it?

'You ask me if I love you, and I choke on my reply, I'd rather hurt you honestly than mislead you with a lie.'

Gene closed his eyes briefly and inwardly groaned. What would he say if Alex asked that question? Do you love me? His heart raced at the very idea, panic twisting at his gut. But he knew in his heart of hearts that if he said 'no', then he would be lying. But could he say 'yes' out loud? Love was for other people, for pansies and poofters and the emotionally incontinent, not for Gene Hunt. Maybe if she said it first, if she told him that she loved him well…he wouldn't stand a chance would he? Not really. He knew that now.

'And sometimes when we touch the honesty's too much and I have to close my eyes and hide.'

That much was true and he couldn't deny it. Whether she was holding onto him for protection or slapping him around the face, it always felt real and honest – no faking with Alex. But it was definitely too much for him to cope with and he knew that he hid his feelings behind crass actions and cutting words – anything so that she wouldn't find out exactly how he felt about her.

'Romance and all its strategy leaves me battling with my pride. But through the insecurity some tenderness survives.'

He was no good at this romance crap – never had been, never would be. And that's what women wanted wasn't it? Bit of romance – soft words and a few compliments before they'd let you anywhere near. When he was younger he could pretend – and had done to get what he wanted. But he was too old and cynical for that now. A quick one-night stand was the best he could hope for. Mind you, look where that had got him. A few sweet words from a tart like Jenette Rivens was all that it had taken. Felt like shit the morning after and now look…his beautiful Alex was in a coma and it was all his fault.

'At times I'd like to break you and drive you to your knees. At times I'd like to break through and hold you endlessly.'

Gene smiled bitterly at the perceptive words coming from the radio. That was it – his relationship with Alex in a nutshell. He didn't know whether to love her or hate her, break her into tiny pieces or shag her senseless. But his lonely heart ached at the thought of losing her forever. He'd do anything to have her back, even if he could never actually have her for his own, he'd be content just to see her every day. As long as she was alive then so was he.

"So Bols, what's it to be? You gonna punish me by lying in that bed for the rest of your life? Or you gonna wake up and give me hell about it? Tell me what a bloody idiot I am and give me grief for the rest of me natural?" He gently took her fragile looking hand, so pale and small as it rested in his own palm. He lifted his eyes to her face and all pretence and swagger dropped away. "I'm…I'm sorry Alex. Never meant for any of this to happen – you know that. Never meant those things I said – any of them. Just come back eh? We can sort it all out. I promise."

Her face revealed nothing - not a grimace or a twitch. With a sigh he looked downwards, his eyes coming to rest on their lightly entwined hands. Her hand looked so small in his – so helpless. Reminded him of a little girl he once helped. He was so busy staring that he almost missed the barely imperceptible movement of her fingers as they attempted to grip his hand.

"Alex?" He blinked away the confusion and glanced from her hand to her face. "Alex? Can you hear me?"

There was another movement of her hand as she attempted to squeeze his fingers, and then a sharp intake of breath as her eyes shot open.

"Gene?" Her eyes darted anxiously around, not resting until they came to rest on his face.

"I'm 'ere Alex."

The nurses came rushing over as they heard the commotion, doctors prodding and poking until they were satisfied and then the nurses making Alex comfortable and tucking her in and telling her she needed to rest. And all the while Gene sat there not leaving her side. And all the while Alex looked at him, her eyes never leaving him for a single moment. She didn't know why she was still here but she had a feeling it was something important – and something to do with the man sat at her bedside, brooding magnificently as always. Although she felt angry and despairing and lost – he was still here. And she needed him now more than ever.

The nurses left them alone again.

"So," he said, "you're awake then?"

"So it would seem."

"I'm sorry I…"

She laid her hand over his. "I know you are…I heard you talking."

"Ah." He paused and studied her face. Was she gonna throw him out? Never speak to him again? "I'll go if you want me to," he said, half standing as he began to move away from her bedside.

"No," she said quickly, "don't leave. I need you to stay – at least for now."

He nodded and retook his seat next her, watching as the pain and fatigue slowly took her away from him again – but this time only into sleep.

"I'll never leave," he whispered as he settled down to keep watch.

'I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.'