Okay, I really was only going to do my 'Snapshots' and call it day on the fanfic writing, but I had to get this written after it took root in my mind! Please bear in mind that it was written in a day! I know there are probably about a thousand fics like this after the finale, but if you like it, please drop a little review and let me know!
Big thanks to Warbs1981 for the awesomely fast beta job!
The Great Pub In The Sky
It wasn't that she didn't like it there, that wasn't it at all. She just wasn't at peace, completely happy and that seemed wrong in a place that should have offered those very things. She sighed and reached for her glass, finishing the last dregs of wine in it and putting it down on the bar.
"Same again, sister?" came Nelson's smooth, friendly voice, shaking her out of her mental wallowing. She lifted her head and tried to give him a sincere smile. "I suppose so, Nelson," she replied, pushing the glass toward him and looking down at her hands. She had a lot of time for Nelson; oh who was she kidding, she had a lot of time for everything nowadays, but she spent most of evenings in the company of the landlord, discussing psychology and listening to his tales of those who had come before and moved on again.
Nelson watched her for a moment as he topped up her glass, hating to see her so sad, and for the first time, he wondered if maybe it had been too soon for her. "Be patient, Alex," he said quietly, using his real accent as he often did when it was just the two of them talking, even though there was really no need in this place.
"I'm trying," she replied her voice wavering. "Honestly, Nelson, I'm really trying." He smiled and patted her hand. "I know you are, sister," he said sympathetically as he moved down to the other end of the bar.
She wished, for the thousandth time since she'd arrived a month ago, that she could go back, just for a little while, that she could tell Gene what it was like here, that he didn't have to give up who he was to come here, that it really wasn't that different than it was at Fenchurch East. Nelson had explained it as best he could, minutes after she'd arrived through the pubs front doors and realised that she'd made a mistake. She'd tried to get back out, had screamed, shouted, caused a scene and eventually slumped to the floor in a sobbing mess as the delayed reaction had set in and the reality that she alone had dawned on her, that she had left Gene behind.
It wasn't what she'd originally thought it to be, The Railway Arms, not quite anyway. You had a choice once you got there, to have a drink and move on to whatever came next or to stay here and continue 'living' the life you wanted but without any of the baggage that plagued you when you first died. At least that was the theory. She had been surprised to find that there were police stations, criminals and coppers in this place, and for the criminals it was a last chance saloon, redeem yourself and you could go on, reoffend and...Alex shivered, remembering what Shaz had told her about Keats's lift.
Regardless, the police were still needed here and after she'd eventually been calmed down by Ray, Chris and Shaz, along with Sam, Annie and a host of others that she hadn't known, she'd decided to stay, for one reason only; so she could be here when he arrived. She just hoped that he would remember her; and what they'd come to mean to one another.
She thought that she should probably go home, that sitting at the bar alone for another night wasn't the most productive of things to do, but she just couldn't face going back there, there were too many memories. It had taken her days to get her head around the fact that her flat was the exact same flat as the one above Luigi's, and that the man himself, wasn't in Italy at all, he was serving the same exotic food and drinks as he always had. He had been thrilled to see her and occasionally she popped in there for a drink after work, before heading to the Railway Arms...Just in case.
In the last two weeks, however, she'd found a lot of strange things in that flat, things she was sure weren't there when she lived in Fenchurch, and even when she'd first arrived here; a razor in the bathroom, a copy of the Racing Post tucked down the side of the sofa, and cowboy films, lots and lots of cowboy films. When she'd first seen them, stacked up behind the TV she'd wondered if it was some kind of sick joke, before reasoning that no one here would do that. Then she'd hugged them to her as though by doing so it would bring her closer to Gene. Finally she'd sat on the sofa where they'd spent their last time together in the flat, and watched them all.
Looking around his office, Gene felt the strangest sensation. He knew the time was coming, had been feeling it for almost two years now. DI Roberts had arrived almost immediately after...After she'd gone, and although he had been as much of a pain in the arse as those who had come before him, Gene had struggled to warm to the man. It had been months before Gene realised why that was. They were too similar, very similar, and when Roberts had made it clear that he was in it for the long haul and had no intention of ever moving on, Gene had known that it was time for him to go.
The thought filled him with terror like he hadn't felt for, well, he couldn't remember a time when he had ever felt so scared and he reached into his jacket pocket to lightly touch the epaulette number that Alex had given him before she'd left. He knew he shouldn't still have it, should have disposed of it as soon as the doors to the pub had closed behind her. But he refused to forget this time, didn't want to forget Alex, their parting kiss or the fact that she was gone. If he forgot then he might stay here for longer than he was needed, and now he had something, someone, waiting for him there. So he'd kept it and whenever he faltered or lost sight of himself, he touched it and knew that she was with him.
Walking to his filing cabinet, he pulled open the top drawer, looking out in to the empty darkness of the office, he sighed to himself, the rest of the team had long since left, including DI Roberts.
When Luigi's had closed, a wine bar had replaced it, Roberts and the rest of the team had crashed in there and claimed it as their own, ensuring that no new money yuppies would ever set foot in the place, but still the manager would continue to make a profit. Gene had never set foot in there, the pain of knowing how much Alex would have loved it, made it too hard.
He reached into the drawer for his whiskey, only to find it missing, a scowl appearing on his face. He knew it had been there that morning and he looked around the deserted offices once more, as if expecting it to just appear out of nowhere. Slumping down in his chair, he thought back a couple of weeks. His razor had gone missing and he was still yet to find it, and his VHS of High Noon which he knew he'd left in the video recorder had also vanished.
"Bollocks", he muttered, lighting a cigar and reaching into his pocket once more. "Must be about that time then."
Sipping her drink, Alex rested her elbow on the bar, propping her chin up with her hand. She smiled as she heard the soothing voice of Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World" spread through the pub, she didn't need to turn around to know what was happening, Annie would be walking away from the jukebox with a smile on her face, Sam would take her in his arms and they would dance, like they always did on a Friday.
So she was surprised when Sam came to stand next to her at the bar. "Alex," he said with a smile. "Would you like to dance?" Alex's raised an eyebrow and turned to look at the rest of the bar, her surprise softening as she saw Annie look away quickly and pretend to be engrossed in conversation with Phyllis.
"Did Annie send you over, Sam?" She asked, her smile widening for a moment at his slightly guilty look. She'd gotten know Sam quite well since she'd arrived, especially working alongside him and Ray every day under their ancient and very lazy DCI in Fenchurch North CID.
"Yes, you got me, but she just wants you to be happy, we hate to see you like this." Alex let out a long breath, she was exhausted, she'd been so angry and upset since her arrival, "Sam, I've told you before, if you were here and Annie wasn't you wouldn't be happy, wouldn't even try. Look at what you did to get back to her!"
Sam nodded and leaned against the bar. "I know, Alex. It's unfair and it's bullshit that we're here and he's not, I miss him too. But you know how bloody stubborn he is, he'll take his own sweet time to get here, especially if he's forgotten who he is again."
"You're right," she said sadly, and gestured to Annie with her head. "Now go and dance with your wife." He grinned, looking almost boyish before heading over to Annie. "He hasn't forgotten," she murmured to herself, "not this time."
Standing outside the pub, Gene crushed his cigar under his heel. He'd left his office in order, a letter for DI Roberts or DCI Roberts, as he would now be known, placed carefully on his desk, and now he was here. He swallowed hard. So many years and now it was all over. He had no idea what he would find on the other side of the door. He could only hope. Reaching into his pocket, he slid his thumb over the numbers and felt a calmness settling over him.
"It's about time, mon brav, I was starting to think you really had forgotten about us!"
His lips quirked as he looked over at Nelson but he didn't say anything.
"Take your time." Nelson grinned and turned to head back inside.
"Nelson, is she...Are they..." He faltered.
"Of course she is, they're all here. It's Friday night after all!" He headed back inside and Gene looked around him once last time, glad that it was such a clear night, a dark sky full of stars. "How it should be," he said to himself before walking to the pub, opening the door and stepping inside.
Alex was just finishing her third glass of wine when the pub suddenly descended into silence. The Railway Arms was never silent, no matter what time of day or night you went in there. It reminded her of one of the cowboy films she'd watched recently, except instead of the piano player falling silent, the jukebox stopped halfway through 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'. Her breath caught in her throat as she tried to imagine what sort of person would cause this reaction; and then she knew. There was only one person who would. She was frozen to the spot, to afraid to turn around, knowing that if she were wrong, the disappointment would be crushing.
She felt a presence behind her, the hairs on her arms standing up, tears springing into her eyes, her stomach clenching painfully. And then he spoke.
"Pint of bitter for me an' a glass of 'ouse rubbish for the lady, please Nelson."
"Coming right up, mon brave!"
He'd seen her the minute he'd stepped inside, taking no notice of the fact that the place he'd finally arrived at, looked just like a pub and nothing more. She was sitting at the bar; no slouching would be a better description, and even though he could only see the back of her, he could picture her face in his mind as clear as if he'd seen her yesterday and not two years ago. He wondered how long it had been for her and tried not to think of how she must have felt, he hoped she had felt the same as him.
Nelson put the drinks on the bar and grinned at them both. "First round is on the house...What am I saying? All the rounds are on the house!" He winked at Alex who was still frozen in shock and sauntered off.
"Gene?" She breathed, her voice clogged with unshed tears, unable to believe that he was really here. "Who else were expecting Bolly? Elvis?" His voice was rough, hating to hear the tears in hers. He leaned on the bar next to her, turning his head to look down at her. "Look at me, Bols," he said quietly.
"I...I can't." She whispered. "I'm scared that if I turn around then you'll be gone."
"Well that's just fruitcake, psychiatry bollocks," he said with a sniff, smiling as she gave a choked laugh. "Alex, look at me, please."
She took a deep shaky breath and turned her head, the tears spilling down her cheeks as she found herself caught in the gaze of his piercing blue eyes. "Hello, Guv," she said with a watery smile, before a sob escaped her and she got off of the bar stool, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tightly.
Gene felt something release deep inside him, the burden that he had carried for so long, lifting as his arms moved around her, returning her embrace, his lips finding her forehead, her cheeks and then her lips, ignoring the cheer that went up behind them as his hands moved into her hair, kissing her with years of longing and loneliness.
Alex finally felt what she was meant to in this place. As their lips touched, their kiss deepening, she felt like she was home, where she was supposed to be, with the man she loved, forever. She finally broke the kiss and looked up at him with a smile, seeing the others in the background all waiting to welcome him. "I missed you," she said softly, her hand caressing his cheek, frowning slightly at the soft scratch of whiskers she felt.
"I missed you too, Bols." He saw her frown and shrugged. "Some toe rag nicked me razor, can't find it anywhere!"
She laughed and slid her hand into his as they turned to face the others. "Don't worry; I just so happened to find one at the flat."