I don't own Ashes to Ashes to Ashes

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So, after finishing NaNoWriMo, I decided to start posting after having edited the prologue. A huge thank you to Feline to agreeing to beta yet another one of my stories and for doing it so quickly!!! The story itself is still in progress, and the bits that I've got need a lot of editing, but I hope its worth it! I'm going to get started on The Art of Living again soon, but thought I'd post this first and see how it goes down.

Enjoy!

Mage

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His throat was tight and narrow; he couldn't breathe, and no matter how hard he tried, the air would not infiltrate his lungs. He felt encased by iron, wrapped in a cocoon of guilt and anger so fresh that he felt it like a physical wound, a bleeding gash that refused to clot and heal. The gun had been taken away, probably filed away with the evidence and witness reports by now, and his trembling hands itched for something to hold, to squeeze, to provide him with an outlet on which he could vent out his anger, to replace the guilt with something constructive, whatever it may be.

Alex lay in the bed, her light makeup still on her face, her hair still styled meticulously, with barely a trace of flyaway strands, its body still bounding around her face, full of colour, of vigour, of volume, of life... life, he thought, which he may well have taken away from her, and which seemed to evade her now as she lay there, attached to a machine that said her heart was beating, even though she gave no trace of movement, no sign of ever having been able to lift the delicate hands which now lay so uselessly at her sides.

His legs were numb, his arms dangling limply at his sides, and although he wanted it more than anything, he could not bring himself to sit down in the visitors' chair, nor move himself close enough to her sleeping form that he could reach out and stroke her cheek, to apologize, to beg her forgiveness... He was scared to touch her, scared that she might break, that if he so much as grazed his skin against her own, the sound of beating would stop, and the pulse that sounded so strong and steady at this moment in time might cut out... He couldn't bear the idea of killing her.

The colour had drained from her skin the moment his bullet had entered her stomach, tearing into the soft tissue and issuing blood almost instantaneously. Her mouth had fallen open, and however much he wished differently, Gene had been unable to do anything but repeat -in a pointless, hollow, empty voice that gave no sign of emotion- the single word of "Bolly."

It had been a rhythmic and desperate and pleading mantra, even as Ray, Chris and Shaz had turned their fearful, disbelieving eyes upon him, even as he had sank so weakly to his knees at the side of her fallen body, his mouth open and slack as he looked down at her, feeling completely useless, horrific, guilty...

Her blood had spilled onto the pavement, the warm, scarlet liquid staining his trousers as he stared so helplessly at her pale and lifeless face. His right hand had shaken, causing him to drop the weapon from his rapidly clenching and unclenching fingers as he reached out, touching the small trickle of blood that slid from her lips, pressing his other hand almost fearfully to the wound in her stomach- the wound he himself had inflicted, and the wound that now stained her with blood and smeared that perfect white leather with scarlet markings, the dramatic contrast imprinted upon his mind's eye, even as the ambulance had arrived, the paramedics lifting her bleeding body onto a stretcher and carrying her swiftly away from him, leaving him there with her blood all over him, the black leather of his gloves glistening with a thin sheen of red, his wrist smeared with a trickle of scarlet liquid where the strap failed to cover up his skin...

He'd left the scene before they could arrest him; in the flurry, the bustle and the confusion, nobody had even tried to stop him... He had thought for a moment, as he pushed past Ray, that he saw a look of loyalty, of uncertainty, but by no means any less understanding, and it was a mutual agreement not to take him in, not yet, not without orders... Gene had left before any of the others had come round from their state of shock, tearing the gloves from his hands as he climbed into the Quattro, tossing them onto the passenger seat and speeding away, his mind blank, his head spinning, desperate, confused, completely and irrevocably ridden with guilt... All he could do was press down on the pedal, hoping and praying that, if he drove far enough, he would never have to confront the vile act he had just been a part of.

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He'd driven for hours until, almost inevitably, he'd ended up outside the Hospital; he couldn't have stopped himself if he'd wanted to. Even as he saw the unmarked Police car that Ray so often used, he couldn't force himself to leave, knew with innate certainty that he simply had to see her, had to know that she wasn't dead, that he hadn't killed her, that he hadn't ruined his Bolly...

He'd run to the desk, flashed his badge and asked where she was, knowing that they wouldn't argue unless they knew for sure that he was the one that put her here, the one presumably gunning for her life, that he was the officer to be stopped from seeing her... Not that Ray or Chris would have had the brains to tell the receptionists not to allow him in, he had thought shrewdly as he descended the stairs. He'd been on her floor in moments, mind awash with worry and guilt, unaware of anything but the signposted corridors towards the 'Willow Ward', until he had come face-to-face with Ray, whose face was still home to that same understanding, but was now riddled with added pain, confusion, hurt...

"Can't let you in there, Guv..." he said, and it was evident that the order didn't sit well with him, even in the circumstances. Gene felt an unwitting surge of gratitude, even as the other man went on. "Should bloody arrest you by rights; Super wants yer head on a plate with his afternoon tea! Says anyone who sees yer has to turn you in-" he gulped, glancing from Gene to the door, and then shaking his head imploringly. "Don't go in there, Guv... It won't do yer no good. Yer should leave, and get as far away as bloody possible before they get crime-squad in on it..."

Ray was bristling, wracked with indecision, and for a brief moment Gene wanted to hand himself in, to stop Ray turning as bent as the rest of them by letting a guilty man walk free, and maintain that thin slither of hope that maybe, just maybe, not all of his team had passed over to the other side of the thin blue line... But he couldn't.

He was desperate to see her, could feel his heart pounding in his chest like there was no tomorrow; there was nothing else but the rapid pulsation of blood through his ears, obscuring all sense of reason, becoming violently irrational as, above all else, he hoped and prayed that Alex was still alive, that she was still able to hear that same pulse in her own ears as blood thumped through her brain, that when he walked through the door she would leap out of bed, give him a good right hook around the chops and tell him to get the fuck out... He could live with it, he thought, as long as he knew she was alive.

"I didn't shoot 'er Ray!" Gene said in a low voice, glancing over Rays shoulder at the room behind, seeing nothing but the outline of a pair of feet beneath a white blanket. "I mean... I didn't try an' kill her! Bloody stupid tart ignored me and came anyway, and then bloody Jenette just-"

"I know yer didn't mean to, Guv," Ray said, looking down. "We caught Jenette buggerin' off right after you did, only the Super wants yer pulled in for questionin' anyway... He ain't 'appy, Guv."

Gene said nothing, looking desperately towards the door of Alex's room, before meeting Ray's blue eyes with his own. "I ain't a bloody killer, Ray..." He could see the pain in Ray's gaze, knew that he was unsure of where his loyalties should really lie, that whether or not he believed the shooting had been deliberate, he was fighting with himself not to cuff Gene like a common criminal...

"Five minutes," Ray said eventually, turning away a moment later and heading swiftly towards the other end of the corridor. "I'm off fer a fag..."

Gene knew what he meant straight away- five minutes, before he came back and did his job like any decent copper should. He could only nod, unable to show the true depth of his gratitude as he stumbled weakly through the door to Alex's room, his eyes blurred with fear as he walked in.

The moment his blue eyes fell upon her sleeping body and he saw her, the world crashed down around his ears.

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It wasn't rational, but having stared at her blankly for several minutes, his heart hammering and his whole body trembling at the sight of her so weak and vulnerable, he had begun to babble, his words incoherent for what felt like forever, babbling apologies, murmuring curses and running a hand through his hair nervously, before suddenly, out of nowhere, he found himself ranting for her to wake up, threatening to slap her, his heart-rate thundering out of control, trying to keep his voice and temper levelled while begging her to come back, trying to tell her how desperate he was, to convey the fear, the guilt, and the sorrow without sounding like a nancy...

Sam always said they could hear what was spoken in the room, that talking to them helped, that it might give them something to come back to... he'd done a lot of things since the two of them had landed themselves on his doorstep, but he wasn't completely comfortable pouring out his feelings to a conked out posh-bird with a poker up her arse... Not that he didn't want to– Oh, God, he wanted to. There was something desperately clawing at his stomach, begging him to simply tell her, to show her how worried he was, to convey his sincerest promise that he would never have deliberately shot her, to explain that he had only been trying to protect her, and that he was a dozy twat for having clenched his finger in panic, but would she please just wake up and tell him what a complete and utter knob he was so that he didn't need to be scared?

But he was scared. And he wasn't even sure what scared him the most; the knowledge that he had almost shot a fellow officer dead, meaning that he had almost been guilty of the crime he had most despised since his first day as a copper, or that he had shot Alex?

Because Alex wasn't just a copper, was she? She was a bird- which was pretty damn bad in the first place, because no decent bloke turned his gun on a bird, no matter how pissed he was – but even that wasn't it... She was his Bollinger Knickers, constantly retorting, arguing, talking him down, snapping back at his suggestions with Psychiatrical insights that boggled his mind and made him want to shake her until she gave into his way of thinking... But that still didn't quite cut it, did it?

The small part of his mind that he tried to shove away whenever she was around knew as much; she was his friend, and his colleague- not just a woman, but a woman he had learnt to respect, come to trust, to appreciate, to genuinely care about... And even if the day before had been a bucket of piss, one that still rankled and confused him like nothing else ever had – because how else had she expected him to react to hearing that she apparently came from the future? - it didn't matter; not really- not when he considered the fact that her life was now hanging in the balance as a result of his own, stupid and juvenile actions.

He'd practically spilled his heart out to her, shown her the depth of his pain and grief when Chris had turned out to be bent. He had told her, in not so many words, that he relied on her, needed her, that she was the only one he could trust... It had barely been three days since then, and here he was in the hospital, looking at her lifeless form, comparing the pallor of her skin to the white of the sheets and feeling his throat constrict with the worry that she was going to disappear into it any second now. Even as he looked at her, his mind filled with the sight of her so lifeless and empty, he could still smell the red wine, the soft perfume of her skin, the musky smell of her flat that was homey and welcoming in a way he had never been able to understand. He could still hear the dull clink of her glass against his, see the soft twitch of her lips, the understanding in those pale brown eyes that held his entire world in their depths, and the delicate fingers that wrapped around that glass so tenderly - the same fingers that had the power to crush him into oblivion, a feat that her tape had very nearly achieved...

He stared at her, simultaneously pleading for her life and yet still praying for an explanation, for her understanding, for a reason that she would say those things about him and then be so God-damned bitter, making up bollucks about the future, about being shot, about Sam...

The irony was, he'd always compared her to him, really, at the very back of his mind – he'd seen Sam in her, in the expressions they used and the way that they worked, in their plain, outright acceptance of things that made no comprehensible sense to him, or to Ray, or to Chris...

Even more ironic, he realized, was the fact that she had claimed to have been shot, and woken up with him, and now he'd gone and bloody reversed her mental fruitcake loop by shooting her, sending her away from him and into the bloody coma she claimed she was already in... If he'd thought about it, at the time, he thought, the rational thing would have been to send her to see someone- a doctor, he supposed, or one of them Psychiatrists - or Psychologists, or Psycho-analysts, or other fancy-bollucks titles that made no bloody difference and all amounted to the same thing – that she had always been so fond of. Maybe then they'd have gotten back to him and blamed everything on a difficult childhood, given her a couple of pills and put her right again...

He glanced at the clock on the wall. He only had a minute before Ray would be back, but still words evaded him, catching at the back of his throat, his mouth paper-dry, and his tongue heavy. He wanted to talk to her, but he couldn't. He wanted to reach out and touch her cheek, to caress the line of her mouth with his thumb, to trace a gentle finger down the line of her nose, to press his lips to her forehead and whisper for her to come back to him... He couldn't.

All he could manage was to step forwards, nervously sliding two of his fingers beneath hers, daintily squeezing them in his grasp, feeling the coolness of her skin against his and wishing that she could feel the warmth of his own hand against hers, if only for these briefest of moments... His cool blue eyes fixed on her face, taking in every detail of it, feeling it scratch itself into the very essence of his being, burning against his mind's eye, echoing, with terrifying clarity, the evidently peaceful, but yet still so painfully unresponsive expression.

He could feel something clench in his chest, felt a twisting in his gut, before he let her go, wrenching his hand away with a harsh pang. He took one last sweeping look at her face, his thoughts remaining desperate and yet still unspoken, before he was gone, leaving the room with both hands shoved defiantly into his pockets, slipping out of the front door just as Ray re-entered. He nodded at his DS and long-time companion, hoping against hope that he could understand his gratitude in that simple action, finding himself incapable of speech, walking blindly towards the car and slipping into the seats with a gasping breath. He placed the key in the ignition, not turning it, but instead reaching into his jacket pocket, drawing out the leather covered warrant card that he had taken from Alex only the day before.

He flipped it open, taking one look at the familiar face - the perfect cheekbones, the soft red lips, the curly hair- before he pushed it firmly and decisively into his left-breast pocket, resting just above the fearful pounding of his heart, feeling warm and welcoming against his chest, even as he turned the key and pulled away from the parking lot, his mind filled with dread.

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Hope it was alright, let me know :-)

Mage of the Heart