Well, here we are, folks. I can't believe I've had this story in progress for nearly two years, although I know that's partly because I put it on hiatus for quite a few months in the middle when I was at a point where I thought I couldn't finish it. But hey, I came back and look where we are now – last chapter! :P I can only apologise profusely for how long it's taken to get this to you. Thank you all for sticking with me and for subscribing, favouriting and reviewing; it means a lot to me, as you know. :D Anyway, I hope you enjoy this last chapter! :D
Disclaimer – I don't own Ashes to Ashes, but I am proud to say I own this story, because I love it. :P
Chapter 34 – Someone To Rely On
"Are you going to tell me where we're going yet?"
Gene looked over the roof of the Quattro, shining brightly in the spring sunshine and gave her a brief smile. He chuckled and shook his head. "Nope. Now get yer arse in the car, Bolly, or we'll never actually get there so yer can find out."
Roughly pulling the sunglasses from her face so she could see properly, Alex narrowed her eyes at him and let out a small huff of annoyance. Much as she liked surprises, she did like to know where she was going too. She threw a slightly worried, indecisive glance towards the boot of the car, where hers and Gene's bags had just been loaded in. "But… What if I've packed the wrong things, Gene, or if I've-"
"Quit nagging, will yer, woman?" Gene cried good-naturedly as he flung the driver's side door open. "What you've packed is fine. Now arse – car. Mush."
"Fine. But this better bloody be good, Gene Hunt, or I'll kill you for building up the suspense." Huffing again, Alex opened her door too and dropped down into the passenger seat, pulling the door shut and reaching for her seatbelt. To her surprise, Gene didn't say anything about her being a police officer, not a vicar, and didn't even spare her a disapproving glance as she clicked the metal clip soundly into place.
As Gene turned the key in the ignition, bringing the Quattro to life, the engine roaring hungrily, Alex smiled and settled back in her seat. It wasn't that she was actually desperate to know where they were going or that she was at all worried where Gene might take her (he could take her to the grotty hotel down the road for all she cared, so long as they were there together), the anticipation was just killing her. The fact that Gene had even thought to book them some time off together and take her away made her feel happier than she had in a long, long time, and as they set off, Alex felt an overwhelming surge of love and optimism rising up inside her. She glanced across at the man sat next to her, and her smile spread into a grin.
Gene caught sight of her wide, inexplicably happy grin in his peripheral vision as he expertly raced the Quattro through the familiar London streets and chanced a glance across at her as they neared a red traffic light.
"What are you grinning about, Bols?"
Alex immediately dropped her gaze, a slight blush touching her cheeks, but the grin nevertheless refused to fade. "Nothing, Gene." She glanced back up at him and tried to adjust her expression into a bright, easy-going smile. "Nothing."
Chuckling, Gene shook his head at her obvious lie but turned his attention back to the road as the traffic light switched to amber, and then green."Yer look like a child being given a lollipop fer free, Bolly."
She smothered back a laugh at the connotations of his comment that instantly flooded her mind, and thought suddenly that she must have been spending far too much time around Ray if her imagination was jumping to such conclusions that easily. She couldn't help the almost smug, seductively gleeful smile that spread across her face though as she wet her lips. She gave Gene a coy, sideways glance.
"Well, maybe I am, you know… Just a very naughty little girl who's been given a very nice lollipop to suck on…" As she spoke, the words sliding slowly and deliberately off her tongue, Alex reached out and gently placed a hand on Gene's thigh.
The effect was instantaneous. He jerked with the speed of someone who had been electrocuted, and for a brief moment Alex thought he was going to slam on the brakes. He did, however, manage to maintain his control over the Quattro, his grip on the wheel tightening until his knuckles burned white with the effort, and Alex could see him gritting his teeth, could feel his leg tense under her hand. She bit her lip to stop a slight giggle from escaping; it still amazed her how she had the power to provoke such reactions in him.
"Bloody bleedin' hell, Alex, what in Viv's name do you think yer doing?" he hissed. "Trying t' give me an 'eart attack before we even make it to bed tonight?"
She could hear his heavy breathing and was almost sure she could feel his heartbeat thudding throughout his entire body, and the smile playing saucily on her lips only widened. "If I have my way, Gene, we might not even make it to the bed… And it might be long before night time comes, if you're lucky…"
Gene still didn't slam on the brakes, but at these latest words, falling so appealingly from between her moist lips, setting fire to the mischievous twinkle in her eye that she got whenever he was teasing him and that he couldn't help but love, he abruptly turned the wheel of the Quattro and swerved it into an abandoned petrol station at the side of the road. Only then did his foot come down heavily on the brake pedal as he turned to stare at Alex, eyes wide, shocked, incredulous, and black with lust.
Alex merely looked back at him with slightly widened eyes, a small, innocent smile resting prettily on her lips. She blinked once. "What?"
"You bloody well know what," Gene growled, and before Alex even had time to register what was going on, his hand had found its way to her neck and he was crushing his lips to hers, kissing her with an almost bruising passion that made her feel dizzy.
His tongue quickly overpowered hers as his hand tangled in the soft curls of her hair and Alex responded to him with just as much ferocity, an almost feline moan escaping her as she bit down on his lower lip and inched the hand that was on his thigh just a little bit higher. Her head was spinning, and the blood in Gene's veins was throbbing as they kissed. Both were sure they would never get enough of this, could never have enough of each other. They were both adults but sometimes Alex thought they acted like teenagers. They could be walking along one of the corridors at the station and Gene would sometimes surprise her and push her into the nearest interview room, kissing her out of the blue for no other reason than the fact that he wanted to. They'd be on their way up to Alex's flat and she'd find herself suddenly pressed up against the wall of the stairwell, the cold concrete against her back and his warm body keeping her there.
The hundreds of similar memories brought a breathless smile to Alex's face when Gene finally pulled away, releasing her lips from his. She smoothed them over with her tongue to check any damage, and a small laugh escaped her.
"Are we here then?" she asked teasingly, looking out of the window at the abandoned petrol station, the old brick pay kiosk almost at the point of crumbling down. "Well, you could have picked somewhere a little more romantic, Gene, but I suppose they'll be no prying eyes…"
"Shut yer trap, Bolly." He threw the good-natured remark carelessly her way as he put the Quattro back in gear, and drove back out onto the road as though nothing had happened. "Yer might want t' have it in full working order later."
She laughed. "You might want it in full working order, you mean. And hey, you're not the one who was just suddenly attacked for no reason – you almost bruised my mouth!"
A low chuckle came from deep within Gene as he flicked his gaze towards her, allowing it to linger a moment on her swollen lips. Pride flared up inside him as he thought of the fact that he had done that to her – he had caused her lips to look like that, had made her eyes go bright and her skin flushed. She was his. The reality of it still took his breath away sometimes. She took his breath away.
"Oh stop moaning, Bolly, yer almost split mine with those teeth of yours so be a good girl and sit quietly, eh? And then we won't be needing anymore impromptu stops to teach you a lesson."
Alex raised one eyebrow in his direction and smirked, though she knew he was looking firmly at the road ahead now as they began to travel north out of London. "Oh well that's just no fun…"
"Don't tempt me, Bols. Or we'll never bloody get there."
She smiled and settled back in her seat, running the tip of her tongue over her lower lip again, still feeling the lingering taste of him as yet another smug smile spread across her face. She had him – he was hers. And the thought of that only made her smile more. She felt a bit like a love-struck teenager, smiling every time she thought about Gene, but then she decided she didn't care. There weren't many better feelings in the world she could think of than falling head over heels in love with someone who clearly loved you just as much as you did them. He was her rock, her partner, her everything in this world. When she was growing up, Evan had always told her that everything would be okay, so long as she had someone to rely on. Well that was who Gene was now – he was her someone to rely on. And she would always run to him, because he would always be there for her, wherever and whenever he was needed.
"Wake up, Sleeping-bloody-Beauty, we're 'ere. Unless yer not interested anymore."
Alex felt a gentle hand shove her arm and then tug at her seatbelt and she blearily opened her eyes, turning her head to look towards Gene. A smile made its way sleepily onto her face and she sat up, opening her eyes wider as she woke up properly. The smile became more alert and her eyes brighter as she realised where they were. She looked back at Gene properly and grinned, the sunlight illuminating her face.
Gene couldn't help but return her grin briefly, his gaze flickering out to look at the packed beach, and then back at Alex again. "Not too common for yer, is it, Bols?"
She laughed. "Of course it isn't, you wonderful idiot!" she exclaimed delightedly, giving his arm a light whack and wondering only half-seriously if Gene was ever going to stop thinking of her as 'posh'. She placed a hand on the car door handle, eager to get out into the warm sunshine and sea air. "I love Blackpool – I haven't been in ages!"
Gene couldn't help but allow a little happiness and relief to flood him at the sight of Alex's eager smile and bright eyes and he shook his head a little at her, but grinned again nonetheless. "C'mon then, Bolly, shall we take a walk down the promenade or whatever it is you posh hoity-toity types call it. We can check in at the B&B anytime, so we might as well enjoy this weather while it lasts."
They left the Quattro with the countless other cars parked on the seafront, in front of the row of shop after shop selling sticks of rock, candyfloss, ice cream and a billion other seaside treats, and made their way towards the concrete promenade that ran all along the back of the beach, all the way up to the pier and beyond. The sun was shining, the beach crowded with families, couples and groups of friends, and as they walked, the smile on Alex's face refused to fade. She hadn't thought to bring sunglasses so she was squinting slightly into the sun, but she didn't care. In fact, she was sure that a storm cloud could suddenly appear overhead and it wouldn't dampen her spirits. The case was over, she had Gene by her side, and everything was as it should be. What more could she ask for?
Gene's voice brought her back down to earth as they stopped, and she turned to see him digging in his pocket for some change. "Fancy an ice cream, Bols?"
Her gaze alighting on the traditional Mister Whippy ice cream van sat nearby, with a small queue of people milling in front of it, Alex beamed and all but skipped up to it with him. "Another thing I haven't had in ages – a good, plain and simple Ninety-Nine ice cream. You do know how to spoil a girl, Gene."
He rolled his eyes and pulled out a handful of change, but couldn't help but chuckle at the almost childlike delight on Alex's face as he ordered two large ice creams with extra raspberry sauce for them both, and a warm feeling that had nothing to do with the sunshine spread through him at the thought that he had put that look on her face. He was the one to make her look happier than… Well, happier than he was sure he'd ever seen her.
"Bloody hell, Bolly, you didn't forget t' take yer happy tablets this morning then?"
"Oh shut up," she told him, grinning as she took her ice cream from him and quickly flicked her tongue out to catch some of the raspberry sauce that was threatening to drip and fall from the top of the flake to the floor. Her eyes, sparkling with joy, met his and she grinned again.
They carried on walking, and if Gene was surprised when he felt her soft, warm hand slip into his, almost absently along the way, he didn't show it. Squeezing her hand, he looked across at her, watching with an unconscious smile on his face as she gazed out at the sea, all the way out to the point where the sun danced on the water and merged with the blue of the sky on the very edge of the horizon. Then, he realised that to any passer-by (and there was plenty of them), he probably looked like a complete poofter, staring at her, wide-eyed and smiling like some love-struck puppy, and he checked himself. He looked back at the promenade ahead, biting down on the ice cream cone in his hand and trying to ignore the sight in his peripheral vision of Alex's tongue expertly curving around her own ice cream, disappearing back into her mouth again as she savoured every last bit of it.
"So, why Blackpool, Gene?" Alex asked a while later, after they had finished their ice creams and were leaning against the railings at the end of the pier, watching the swimmers and children playing amongst the glittering waves.
He glanced across at her and smiled slightly before looking back at the ocean. "There was one summer, when I was about… Ten, I think, and Stu just a little bit younger, when our Mam brought us here almost every other weekend… It wasn't much, then, I suppose, but we'd never really gone much of anywhere before, yer know… Just us three." His gaze flickered up and sideways to look at her again, and there was a small smile on her face, but her eyes reflected the slight sadness that was in his own.
"Where… Where was your Dad?"
Gene snorted. "That was the year he got banged up fer a few months – dangerous driving, or drunken misconduct, I can't really remember… All I can remember is being relieved that he was gone fer a bit… That was why our Mam brought us here, I can't remember 'er ever being happier than those few months when my Dad was in jail. She was like a different bloody woman – all smiles, no 'ardship. Me an' Stu 'ad the best days 'ere on those weekends we came, before… Before Dad got back out again."
Alex watched as his eyes hardened a little and he glared down at the sea. He swallowed, and she immediately moved to put an arm around him, her cheek resting against his shoulder. She felt him shift slightly against her as he brought his arm around her too, so that they were stood in each other's arms, looking out at the horizon.
"We never came 'ere again after that summer, but me an' Stu always talked about it… Yer know, silly childish talks about saving up our pocket money and bringing Mam 'ere, finding somewhere t' live and never going back home again…" A slightly embittered, sad smile curved up the corners of his lips. "Well, that was, until… Until he went off the rails too - drugs, drink, wrong crowd… Then I joined the force and didn't behave much better, really… Me Mam faded away into the background, cleaning, cooking, washing, doing anything to avoid Dad's temper…" Gene swallowed again, and the hardness was visible in his eyes now as he glanced down at Alex, his hold on her tightening.
When he spoke again, his voice was slightly strained, and Alex felt her heart wrench in her chest for him, tears coming unbidden to her eyes.
"They said she died of overwork, of a combination of tiredness, some underlying 'eart condition and whatnot… But…" He shook his head and looked back at the beach. "We killed 'er, really… Me, Dad and Stu… Perhaps Dad most of all, but us too…"
Without hardly knowing it, Alex was shaking her head, her eyes wide and pleading as she twisted in Gene's arms to look up at him properly. She met his gaze with her tearful one and wet her lips, bringing a hand up to rest gently against the side of his face, as though she hoped to smooth away the tortured expression there.
"Don't blame yourself, Gene… It was just… It wasn't your fault, you couldn't have known, you couldn't have stopped him – your Dad or Stu." She gave him a small smile. "You're a good man, Gene Hunt, and don't you go telling me that you're not."
Letting out a long sigh as everything melted away from him, Gene bent his head down to rest his forehead against hers, his arms holding her tightly to him. His nose brushed hers intimately and he sighed again, relief at having seemed to have lifted a load off his shoulders sounding with the small exaltation of air.
"I love you, Alex," he murmured, his thumb tracing over the outline of her lips, the sun slanting in between them. "So much."
Her lips curved into a small, gentle smile under his touch as her fingers slipped into his hair, her eyes closing. She breathed him in, revelling in the feeling of connection, of the love and care that swelled up inside her.
"I love you too," she whispered, smiling again.
"And you'll never leave me, Bols? I know I can be a bastard sometimes and maybe I'm not yer Prince Charming on a white horse or anything, but… I love you, and I mean it when I say I don't want you t' go anywhere."
Alex's eyes fluttered open, so that her gaze connected with his – blue and hazel drowning in each other. There was a gentle smile written all over her face and shining within the depths of her eyes. "You bought me an ice cream, Gene," she whispered to him, a soft laugh in her voice, "That's charming enough for me." Her lips touched his briefly. "I promise you I'm not going anywhere."
Her lips met his in a gentle, searing kiss that contained all the emotion of their words, and a million more things that neither could describe. His tongue caressed hers lovingly, his arms providing a circle around her body that she couldn't escape, and both distantly heard a low whistle come from a passing stranger nearby on the pier, but they ignored it.
When they broke apart, Gene was smiling, and all the hardness in his eyes had melted away, a weight lifted off his shoulders now that he knew Alex knew all there was to know about him, but accepted him anyway. She loved him, despite his faults and his past. He had finally found someone he could rely on to always be there, and keep their promises. She had promised she wasn't going anywhere, and he believed her, to the end of the Earth.
"Reckon we should be heading to that B&B now, Bolly?"
"Mmm," Alex's lips curved up into a seductive smile as her hand slipped into his again and they turned to walk back down the pier, "You read my mind, Mr Hunt."
Aww, I'm feeling slightly teary and smiley now. :) I hope you enjoyed this, I think it was definitely my favourite chapter of them all to write! Thank you so, so much for all your support and reviews throughout the course of this story; I actually love you all so much. :D Please leave me just one more review to go out on, and Happy Easter to you all! :D
P.S – I am hoping to get the sequel to An Illusion of Life underway soon, but I can't make any promises at the moment as I've started revision now for my summer exams (Final GCSE exams – am scared as hell! :P), so I don't really know how much time I'm going to have on my hands as they get nearer and so on, but I will try my best as you know! Finally, on quite an important note, I'm changing my penname soon! I'm going to wait a few weeks until I've updated my other two stories so all my readerships know, but yes, I'm going to be changing to 'Eleantris', which is kind of a play on my actual name that a friend came up with… I'm kinda sad to leave the 'XTimeGirlX' behind, but it was starting to feel a little childish… since it is the penname I've had since I was thirteen! :P Anyway, I'm going to shut up now (Lord knows you've probably all had enough of me by now!) and I'll just remind you one more time to drop a last review on your way out! Thank you! :D