Both times, there is music. Both times, she is filled with a fierce belief in him, in them. Both times, they are teetering on the boundary between two worlds, two lives, and neither of them wants to let go. And both times, he makes everything better.
When they dance, cast in the shadow of what lies ahead, she feels safe for the first time in three years. She has taken off her heels and her head fits into the cradle of his shoulder and when he turns just enough to press his lips against her forehead, she realises this is not the same man with whom she battles relentlessly in the police station. This man is a little more vulnerable, a little more human, and the bluster, the arrogance has melted into a quiet tenderness that is so captivating.
"Alex." There's nothing else to say, really. This isn't a cheesy romance, where he'll bare his soul and declare his love and in turn she'll heal his many wounds. They won't run hand-in-hand into the sunset and set up shop catching petty thieves in suburbia. There is just them – Alex Drake and Gene Hunt – and this moment, because in the harsh light of day those walls will be back up and she will no longer be allowed in.
His hand is warm in hers, and where their wrists touch she can feel the quick beat of his pulse. He wants her, and the thought is heady, the knowledge that just this once she holds all the power in this mad, dark world.
"Wouldn't have had you down as a Tony Hadley fan," he murmurs, and his breath stirs her hair as his lips slide across to whisper in her ear.
She smiles although she knows he can't see her, moving her hand in his so that their fingers are interlaced. It feels incredibly intimate, cheek against his chest and fingers tucked between his, stomach to stomach, thigh to thigh, and she is vaguely aware that his free hand is on her back, stroking lightly, idly, with a touch so tender it seems impossible that it comes from Gene Hunt.
"Wouldn't have had you down as a dancer," she retorts, then lifts her head a little to look at him. "Don't talk anymore or I might remember you're a misogynistic bigot."
"Easy on the compliments, Bolls, I can feel myself getting big-headed."
She smiles again, and she is suddenly overcome by the need to touch him, to cling to him, because surely no one who makes her feel this safe could ever be a killer. His hand has slipped to her waist and she feels warm wherever he touches her, as though he is painting her with his security, with his solid reality.
"I believe in you," she whispers, and just for a moment she wonders if he didn't hear at all, because there is a long, heavy silence, but then he speaks, that familiar gruff voice soft in her ear.
"Don't talk anymore or I might remember you're a pretentious bloody nuisance."
"Quite right," she answers, smiling, and although he doesn't acknowledge her confession, he presses his lips once more against her forehead, an acceptance, a thank you. She wonders if he knows what she means, or whether he is accepting it as one of her emotional whims. I believe you're not a killer, she wanted to say, I believe you're good. But then does it make it any less of a confession of belief, when she is admitting she doubted him in the past? So she settles for I believe in you and hopes he understands.
Somehow, she thinks he does.
She's never seen 'The Railway Arms' before, but she's read about it in Sam Tyler's notes. It feels like a lifetime ago that she was sitting at her desk, surrounded by mod-cons and gadgets she hasn't missed once since she arrived here, poring over his file with the sort of deep and indulgent interest one gives to small, enthusiastic children. And now she's living it, this strange world of shadows and dreams, and when she sees that fated pub in front of her it is like the bottom has fallen out of her heart.
She doesn't realise straight away that she can't get home to her baby. She doesn't realise that she's been living a lie for months and months and months, fighting a battle she could never win because she'll never be able to see her again.
It beats in her head.
And then she looks at him and she is gasping, crying, her whole body aching with this sudden, insurmountable grief, and he just steps forward and holds her. He doesn't whisper words of comfort in her ear, and he doesn't stroke her face. He doesn't dry her eyes, and he doesn't tell her she can stay. There is nothing he can possibly say that could ever make this right, so he just holds her beneath those treacherous stars and waits for her to draw breath, for her sobs to lessen and then die out completely.
"My baby..." she whispers, and it hurts all the more because she realises she can't even really remember her face all that clearly anymore. She remembers the way she would smell like toast in the morning and the way she would always try and haggle for ten more minutes before bed, the way she hated tomatoes but loved ketchup, her blonde hair, her exercise books, her stripy socks. Her face is still there, just a little blurry, a little fuzzy, as if it is made of ink and this world has rained all over it.
When she has cried herself out, she finally looks up at Gene. She is clutching him tightly, fistfuls of his shirt grasped in her hands, and he is solid, warm, real.
"Bloody hell, Bolls, cry any more and you'll flood the Thames."
She laughs shakily and steps back to rest her hands on his chest. "You're a good man, Gene."
He looks at her and for a moment she thinks he is going to say something, but then he just closes his mouth and nods towards the pub.
"Go and get yourself a drink, Bollyknickers." He pauses, and there is such overwhelming sadness in his eyes it breaks her heart to see it. "And get one in for me and all."
"Oh, guv..." She trails off, shakes her head, struggles against the terror, the unknown. "I don't think I can go in there."
"Course you can." There is a small, bitter smile on his face.
"But what about you?" She hasn't moved her hands from his chest and she can feel his heart beating beneath her right palm, strong and steady. It gives her hope. "Can't you...?"
"Bastard scum to catch, Drakey. No rest for the wicked."
There is a long, long silence. His eyes are blue, she notices suddenly, blue as cornflowers and the sea and the sky on a bright July day, and she is suddenly overcome with the fiercest urge to kiss him, to have this final touch of humanity before she lets go of reality forever.
It isn't mad with passion, and it isn't charged or heated or any of the things she once expected from Gene Hunt. It is gentle and slow and sad and she knows unequivocally that it's a goodbye. His hand rests on her cheek in a gesture that is almost tender, and his thumb brushes lightly over her lip just once, as though to touch her any more would somehow break her into a thousand pieces.
He steps back, cocks his head towards the pub.
"See you around, Bollykecks."
She smiles, and although she knows this is the end, that they will not meet again in this life, she can't help feeling a little bit comforted, a little bit hopeful.
She walks towards the door, opens it, looks back over her shoulder. He is still watching, hands in pockets, eyes sad, and when he sees her hesitate, he nods, quirks the corner of his mouth up in a half-smile.
It gives her courage, and Alex Drake steps through the door.
Alex has long known it is not easy to love Gene Hunt. He is a misogynist, a homophobe, a bigoted, racist, prejudiced hypocrite, and yet she finds herself totally dazzled by his presence, his accent, his stance. The way he holds her now, the way his lips map the slope of her jaw is so human, so gentle, that she feels as though her heart is breaking, because there is so much more to him than she ever realised.
"I can hear that mind of yours whirring, Bolls," he murmurs, straightening enough to slide his nose along her cheek. "Let me guess, you're rendered speechless by the seductive powers of the Gene Genie. Don't fret, you're not the first."
She laughs then and she feels him smile against her forehead, so she curls one hand behind his neck to draw him down to her. His eyes meet hers and she sees the vulnerable little boy lurking behind the bravado, the broken soul that has only been mended by the creation of a rock-hard shell few can penetrate. She feels her heart swell with the knowledge that, just for tonight, she has been allowed in.
Finally, sensing his discomfort as she watches him, she smiles, a small smile, a secret smile, one that is meant only for him.
"Kiss me, Gene," she whispers.
So he does, as the clock ticks and the stars shine and the tape whirrs steadily, inexorably onto its final song.
Both times, there is music. Both times, there is him and her and the stars and the night. Both times, she listens to his heartbeat and finds the reality she's been searching for.
And both times, he makes everything better.