I am hoping to do another full length fic shortly but in the meantime here's another post Ep 8 story.
I don't own the characters from Ashes but if I did….
"Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you…."
Gene looked up as the voice of DS Ripley penetrated his reverie. He nodded distractedly. "Yeah. Night."
The young sergeant paused at the threshold of Gene's office. "See you over there?"
"Not tonight Rippers. Catching scum tends to lead to more bloody paperwork these days. Need to catch up."
"Rather you than me Guv. See you tomorrow then."
"Yeah. Tomorrow. Turn the main lights off when you go."
Ripley nodded but he could already see that the Guv was in a world of his own. He turned off the main office lights as instructed, leaving Gene cocooned in the safe familiarity of his own lair.
Gene hardly noticed when the outer office plummeted into darkness and he was left alone with his own thoughts. He poured another generous measure of single malt into his glass and took a mouthful, only relaxing when the warmth of the alcohol began to seep through his body. It wasn't an unusual occurrence these days though – sitting alone in the dark. After the events with Keats and the upheaval of his carefully constructed world, he had found himself retreating here more often than not, rather than force himself into the false conviviality of team celebrations in the local wine bar. Oh they were good enough his new team – quite a laugh some of them. But he knew in his heart of hearts that nothing could quite replace the old team – Raymondo, Chris and Shaz and of course Bolly…Alex.
He stood abruptly, glass still in hand, and wandered into the darkened outer office. It seemed unnaturally quiet, almost as if he were the last man on earth, but he imagined that if he held his breath and just squinted his eyes a little, he could see them again. He stood in the centre of the room and smiled faintly as the memories flooded back; Shaz raising her eyebrows in despair as she went head to head with Raymondo and the rest of the team; Chris, gormless as ever but every so often coming up with a gem of lead; and Raymondo – his loyal lieutenant, his right-hand man – always there when needed.
He had thought that the memories would fade – wasn't that how it was supposed to work? But this time something compelled him to remember. Oh he didn't remember every single detail, still couldn't get his head around how they had all landed here under his protection, but at least he understood what he was here for now, why they had to move on. He didn't like it – but at least he understood.
So his world stayed much the same, only the people in it changed. Sometimes he could figure out immediately who was in trouble and who had been sent here for help – and he also figured out those who were only visiting and those who were 'going to the pub'. In fact his latest DI had only moved on tonight – perhaps that's why he was feeling out of sorts.
"Shall I get one in for you Guv?"
Gene had shook his hand and nodded. There was an unspoken understanding.
"I'll be in later."
Gene took another sip of whisky before he inevitably turned towards the desk he always thought of as 'hers'. Bolly, Bolly-knickers, Bolly-kecks. All the names under the sun that he had called her, but in his head now she was simply Alex. He stood next to the now empty desk, his fingers tracing the numbers carved into the surface. 6-6-20. A permanent reminder of his origins. If he closed his eyes he could see the past quite clearly.
"Look at us two. Like 'Sapphire and Steel'. I'm him and you…are her. Teamwork. Cop solidarity."
And she'd smiled. Oh she thought he couldn't see her, but he'd seen her reflection and caught the wide beam of approval she'd sent his way. Had him walking on cloud nine for hours. A ghost of a smile creased his features and then just as quickly vanished as he sat down in Alex's empty chair. He glanced downwards and frowned as he noticed something sticking out of a drawer. Shouldn't be anything in here – everything had been cleared out in preparation for a new arrival. Wasn't always a DI of course. In fact Gene was convinced that his new boss Superintendent Freddie Flannigan, had more to him than met the eye. They'd butted heads at first, with Gene reluctant to take on Flannigan's new fangled ideas, but gradually they'd fell into a way of working together that seemed to be reaping benefits for all of the team. Although strangely Freddie didn't seem to be showing any signs of 'going to the pub' yet.
Gene's fingers reluctantly latched onto the soft red material sticking out of the drawer and teased it out until he was holding it in his hands. He swallowed hard as he brought Alex's scarf up to his face. He just couldn't help it. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, breathing in her still potent scent until his head began to spin.
"I know, I know, I know…"
He cringed at his desperately inadequate reply now. But what could he have said in all honesty? But then he remembered her frantic pleas to stay.
"I can stay here... with you. You can't do this... you can't do this on your own. You need me, Gene. I can't... I can't go in there!…"
He could still hear her voice now…every night it haunted him, every night wondering if he should have let her stay…always supposing that it was even possible. But every night he managed to convince himself that he had done the right thing. She was at peace now – but more importantly she was safe from Keats and all of his kind. But she had been right about one thing…he had needed her. In all sorts of ways.
Gene shook away the still painful memories and looked up to find Superintendent Freddie Flannigan standing by the desk, an expression of veiled concern flitting across his weathered face.
"Surprised you're still here sir," Gene said brusquely.
Freddie laughed. "Feels like I'm part of the furniture sometimes Gene. You not off to the pub?"
Gene paused slightly before answering. "No decent boozers around here any more."
"No. Maybe not." He indicated Gene's glass. "You don't go short though?"
Freddie nodded. "Why not."
Gene stood and led the way back to his office, Alex's scarf safely tucked away underneath his jacket. He poured two glasses of whisky and passed one over to Freddie. As he handed the glass over he noticed his superior officers' slightly nervous demeanour. That was unusual for Freddie to say the least. Gene sat behind his desk and took a mouthful of alcohol.
"Spit it out then sir."
Gene laughed grimly. "You look more nervous than a pig in a sausage factory."
Freddie smiled and the underlying tension was broken. Ever since he'd arrived here he'd envied Gene's way with words – never afraid call a shovel a spade. He slowly removed a folded piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it over to Gene.
Gene frowned as he took it. "What's this?"
"You could try reading it Gene."
"Actually I'd rather you told me. Don't trust anything written down by the wankers in admin."
Freddie nodded. "But you trust me?"
Gene took a deep breath and exhaled just as deeply, letting the weariness seep out of him. "Yeah…I do. Probably more than anyone else round here." At least since Alex left.
"It's time Gene," Freddie said quietly.
"Oh." Gene stood and turned his back, instead concentrating his gaze on the wine bar outside the station where Luigi's once stood. It was his default position when trying to assimilate something unexpected…although to be honest this wasn't totally unexpected. "I'm being booted out then? Services no longer required?"
"Nothing like that. More like a transfer in fact. Reward for a job well done. More time to be with family and….friends."
"Friends." Gene repeated the word quietly, conjuring up visions of the past, when he had laughed and drank and enjoyed the time spent chewing the fat, discussing old cases and losing himself in a pair of hazel eyes. As he continued to stare he thought he saw a small, fat Italian standing outside the wine bar and looking at the stars. Luigi? Was he back in town then?
He turned back to face Freddie. "It's all settled is it? No chance of reprieve?"
"Is that what you really want Gene? A reprieve?"
He paused for only a second. "No. Not really. It's time isn't it?" He looked beseechingly into Freddie's eyes, looking for the final guidance from the man he had come to trust.
Freddie nodded. "You've done your bit Gene. Time for a rest."
Gene nodded. "What'll happen here? Closed down or…"
"I'll be here," Freddie said with his customary air of authority, "Fenchurch East is safe in my hands." He put forward his hand towards Gene.
Gene hesitated but then shook his hand warmly. "Thanks. For everything."
"It's you who needs thanking Gene. Without you here I dread to think what would have become of so many fine police officers…what would have become of me."
"Yeah…well…no need to come over all Dorothy now..." He turned back to the window, swallowing the unaccustomed lump in his throat. His attention was immediately caught by the strange glow that now surrounded the wine bar…and by the warmly beckoning lights and the freshly painted sign that now proclaimed 'Luigi's'. Gene smiled and then turned back to Freddie. "Right. I'd better be off then."
"Well, not point 'anging around getting in your way sir. Besides," he glanced towards the window and then back again, "I think I'm on something of a promise."
As Gene slowly walked towards Luigi's he could hear his heart hammering in his chest loud enough to wake the dead. Which was funny really – considering. His boots crunched noisily on the gravel path that led to the little Italian trattoria that had been CID's choice of watering hole for the most important part of his life – the time that he had spent here drinking, arguing and most importantly, learning to love Alex Drake.
He stopped as he took a final drag from his cigarette and then firmly annihilated the stub under his boot. He took Alex's scarf from his pocket and put it around his neck, ignoring his inner voice shouting 'pouf' in his ear. He nervously smoothed down lapels of his dinner jacket and took a deep breath as he surveyed his surroundings. It really was Luigi's. Somehow he had been expecting The Railway Arms when his own time came, but the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. This was where she would be – not some grotty pub in Manchester. Still, he wouldn't be who he was if he didn't have a little pang of regret over his lost boozer.
Gene looked towards the heavens as he took on more lungful of clean, crisp air. It seemed to him that the stars were shining even more brightly than they should be, that the moon was huge and luminous and the air still and quiet in a way that should be unnatural in London, but felt absolutely right. With a deep breath he pushed open the door and entered.
It wasn't quite what he expected.
Oh it was Luigi's all right – right down to the chequered tablecloths and the mural on the wall. But it was totally empty. He had expected something more…something…
"Ah Mr 'unt – you have come at last."
"Luigi," Gene grunted as he looked around the deserted restaurant. "Bit quiet tonight."
Luigi grinned broadly as he ushered Gene towards a table. "Is a special occasion no?" Luigi indicated Gene's dinner jacket.
"Could be." He looked around nervously at the empty restaurant. Could he have made a mistake? It seemed like he should be here and it all appeared normal – there was a delicious aroma of food coming from the kitchen and Luigi and put some music on – Italian opera which warbled in the background just as it always had.
"Your ususal Mr 'unt?"
"Yeah. Pint of bitter Liugi."
"And one for the lady?"
"What lady? What the…." He followed Luigi's stare and then leapt to his feet. "Yeah…one for the lady. Champagne…now!"
Luigi bustled off with a smile and sighs of 'amore, per sempre amore' and left his two favourite customers together.
"Hello Guv." Alex said simply.
Gene opened his mouth but was mortified to discover that he couldn't speak – there seemed to be a huge lump in his throat that blocked any attempt to vocalise his thoughts. The fact that Alex looked like some beautiful goddess come to earth probably didn't help. In fact she looked just as she had done on the night of their interrupted date – a vision in cream, silk stockings and high heels.
Alex smiled and decided to rescue him. She moved closer and gently fingered the red scarf around Gene's neck. "My scarf. I wondered where that had gone to."
Gene finally found his voice. "I was just looking after it. Besides, you left in a bit of a hurry."
"Yes. Yes I did." She pressed her lips together but said nothing. Recriminations for that hurried goodbye were not in her game plan for tonight.
"You took yer time…tonight I mean? Thought I was gonna be here my meself."
Alex laughed and Gene couldn't help smiling in return.
"I like to make an entrance. Besides…I've been waiting a long time A few more minutes won't harm."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I got 'eld up."
"And now?" Alex held her breath as she watched his face.
"I'm on transfer. Permanent transfer."
Alex smiled with relief as they both sat at the table and Luigi brought the champagne. Gradually as they talked, the barriers between them eased and then totally disappeared. There could be no pretence between them now given all that had occurred. The conversation flowed as easily as the champagne as Luigi flitted around, serving food and topping up glasses.
"Is it always this quiet?" Gene said finally when the meal was over.
Alex giggled, although not entirely sure if it was the champagne or Gene going to her head. "Am I not enough company for you Gene?"
"What? Oh no…course you are Bols. Just I though 'eaven would be a bit busier is all."
She leant closer. "I managed to pull some strings. Figured we both needed some time alone. Besides, this isn't Heaven…not really."
"Oh?" Gene finished his glass of champagne and gazed at Alex. "Could 'ave fooled me."
Alex opened her mouth to explain…but then stopped as she lost herself in his eyes. Explanations about the nature of Luigi's and the afterlife could wait. They had an eternity to figure it all out. She smiled at Gene and then wandered over to the bar where Luigi was waiting and whispered in his ear. Luigi smiled and nodded as Alex returned to Gene.
She held out her hand. "Dance?"
This time he didn't hesitate and stood up to take her hand. "Dance."
As he folded Alex into his arms, Gene was only vaguely aware of the dimmed lights and the discreet exit of Luigi and his waiters leaving them entirely alone. He was much more aware of how Alex felt in his arms, like she belonged there. He wasn't even aware of the music playing until a voice started singing:
"Now the party's over, I'm so tired, then I see you coming out of nowhere. Much communication in a motion..."
"Still no Herp Albert then?"
Alex laughed as she looked up at him. "Maybe later…much later."
She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed softly. She had waited such a long time for this…almost an eternity it seemed. But now it felt so right…like coming home again. She revelled in the warmth of his body next to hers, the weight of his hand on her waist and the butterfly-light touch of his lips against her forehead.
Slowly she looked up into his face. "Did you miss me?"
Gene looked puzzled for a moment. "Nope."
"Oh." Alex gulped away the disappointment and hid her face against his shoulder again.
Gene brought the dance to a gradual halt and took her face in his hands. "I didn't miss you because you were always here Bols." He tapped the side of his head with his fingers. "Never a day went by when I didn't think about you."
"Careful Mr Hunt. That sounded dangerously romantic."
He smiled. "I'll try not to do it again…not in public anyway."
The music stopped and the air hung heavy between them, full of hopes, fears and mutual longing.
"Shhhhh…" She hushed him with her fingertips against his lips, her heart missing a beat as he took her fingers and kissed them, before moving in closer until they were a hairsbreadth apart.
Whatever she had been about to say was lost as his lips finally found hers. She tried to restrain a small whimper as the years of waiting and missed opportunities were finally ended in a kiss of almost unbearable tenderness. His lips were warm and sweet, far sweeter than she had thought possible even in her fevered imaginings. Their bodies moved closer, the better to deepen the kiss, and she allowed Gene to guide her through the first waves of desire, clinging to him as she met him, kiss for fevered kiss, until finally they emerged gasping.
"Not bad," Alex finally said.
"Not bad! I'll have you know that was my best 'get yer knickers off, you've pulled' snog."
She giggled at his disgruntled expression. "And have I? Pulled that is?"
His expression softened as he recognised her teasing tone. "Oh I suppose you'll do. No one else is there?"
They looked around the deserted restaurant.
"Not really no," Alex agreed. "My place then?"
"You've still got a place?" he said, as she led him by the hand.
"Right where we left it."
Many hours later Gene woke slowly, only gradually becoming aware of a cool breeze against his naked body and the silk sheets beneath his skin. With a growing smile he opened his eyes and found himself exactly where he had always wanted to be – in bed with the woman he apparently couldn't live without. The breeze was coming through the open bedroom window and he got up and closed it just a little, taking time to look up at the glorious night sky. "Thank you," he whispered to no one in particular.
He quickly got back into bed but not before taking the opportunity to examine Alex in greater detail. She was sprawled on her stomach, gently curling hair covering her face and her head resting on her arm. Their lovemaking had been both tender and passionate in turn, full of laughter and sighs, and at times desperate as they both tried to demonstrate the feelings that mere words couldn't possibly hope to describe.
Gene couldn't resist any longer and he leaned over and kissed the delicate spot at the top of her spine. She shivered but didn't wake. He grinned and then placed another kiss between her shoulder blades, continuing the gentle kisses down the curve of her spine until he reached the bottom – her bottom.
She wiggled under his caress and turned into his arms as he kissed her awake.
"You woke me up," she mumbled.
"Yeah well, didn't know how long we've got here."
"Hmmm?" she said sleepily.
"I mean…we must have to move on. Right? To the pub?"
Alex shifted onto one elbow to look at him, seeing the expression of concern on his face.
"Yes. The Railway Arms is the next step…but not tonight."
Gene looked relieved. "Oh. I mean good because I…I don't think I'm ready. That is I think I'd like to stay…with you."
"I'll always be here Gene. With you." She caressed his face with her fingers. "This night lasts as long as we both want it to and then when we're both ready…."
Gene smiled and then kissed her again, taking her into his arms as his lips wandered over her body, his fingers following as he explored her body to their mutual satisfaction.
The Railway Arms could wait. For now.