Disclaimer: I own literally nothing. You can have my student debt if you want. No? No. Okay.
A/N: Erm... so yes. This story is largely about paperwork, for which I apologise. It's also fluffy, which is good. Maybe. I hope. Let me know! Rated T for language...
Done. She was done. She'd done her case reports, her weekly and her monthly paperwork and even organised every single drawer in her desk. The weekend had officially begun. Alex stood up from her desk, pulling on her jacket and already imagining the chilled bottle of wine and box of chocolates she had waiting for her in the fridge at home, ready for a truly lazy, girly Friday night.
There was a thump from inside Gene's office, drawing her attention away from her thoughts of her pyjamas and box of Milk Tray. He'd been locked in his office all afternoon, blinds shut and door locked. He'd punctuated the general hum of activity in CID with periodic crashes and bangs of what Alex could only assume to be office furniture, but his office had otherwise existed in the middle of a field of tense, fragile silence. Gene hadn't even come out when everyone else had left an hour ago.
Sod him, Alex thought. If he's going to spend all day throwing things then he can just get on with it himself.
She pushed in her desk chair and turned to go which, predictably, was when the door to Gene's office finally opened.
"Drake," he said, a bite in his voice.
She turned her face away so she could cringe without him noticing, then turned back to him and plastered on a bright, only slightly false, smile. "Guv. I'm just off. See you on Monday."
He was staring at her in that way of his, the one that made her want to drop everything and find out whatever it was he was up to. She wasn't going to fall for it this time. She gave him a little wave and then headed off towards the door.
"Alex." He'd dropped the attitude then, said her name with something close to a plea.
Damn him. He rarely called her by her proper name; every time he did it did funny things to her insides. She stopped but didn't turn. "What?"
"Before you go, look at something for me?"
Well, it wasn't the nicest proposition she'd ever heard in her life, but it wasn't the worst either. And for him, it was actually fairly unprecedented, tantamount to actually asking for help.
She supposed her lovely wine and chocolates could wait another five minutes. She faced him again, arms folded defensively across her chest to let him know she didn't plan on getting too involved. "Look at what?"
His gaze flicked from her to his office and back again, as though he was nervous about her going in there. He didn't say anything, just stood to one side of the doorframe and waited the twenty seconds it took until she caved, crossing the floor to walk past him and into his office.
Alex couldn't contain the snort that erupted from her. "What the hell happened in here? I thought you were meant to be organising your paperwork, not making a volcano out of it."
"I was organising it," he protested, brushing past her and hastily picking up handfuls of loose sheets from where they'd spilled on the floor, tapping their edges on the desk to make them into a neat-ish pile. "I just –"
"Hadn't done half of it so you were making it up as you went along and then somewhere along the way it all went wrong?" She raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to deny it.
He couldn't deny it. He shuffled his feet and started on a new pile of paper. "Something like that."
"Right, well. I've looked at it now, so I guess I'll see you after the weekend." She knew where this was heading, and there was no way she was going to stay to help him, the idiot. Served him right for never doing his paperwork on time. She had to resist the urge to gloat about her own impeccably organised files.
"Bolly!" He grabbed her arm as she made to leave the office, dragging her back inside and slamming the door shut with his other hand. "I'm not doing it by myself."
She extricated her arm from his grip; patting his hand in what she hoped was a patronising manner. Cheeky sod. The look on his face suggested that it was indeed patronising, but he was straining to hold in the urge to snipe at her. "I'll think you'll find you are doing it by yourself, Gene," she informed him, then took pity at the slight look of panic in his eyes. "I'll get you Shaz's case index before I go, it'll help you organise it all."
"You're going to help me organise it all." He was doing his looming thing, trying to look intimidating.
Alex Drake did not give in to bastard men who tried to intimidate her, not even the ones she liked. She laughed instead. "Oh, I don't think so," she said sweetly. "This is your mess."
Gene blocked the door so she couldn't get out. "All right, fine. I'm asking you nicely." And it was obvious it was causing him considerable pain to keep his tone even and neutral. "Alex, please. Stay and help me with this mess. Please."
"Well, that wasn't really asking, was it?" She could feel herself beginning to cave. No, she thought, resist him. Don't think about the fact he just said 'please' to you and meant it. You have wine in the fridge, and chocolate. Girly Friday, Alex. There was something about Gene Hunt that made her want to give in where, if she was having this conversation with anyone else, she would've shoved them out of the way thirty seconds ago and been across and out of the office like a shot. She hated that about him, and at the same time found it intriguing.
"Gene, it's Friday. It's the weekend. I have plans."
"You have plans with a bottle of wine."
Oh, he knew her too well. "So? They're still plans. And I've done my paperwork; I don't need to do yours too." Well, that had blown it somewhat. Going on the defensive was never a good thing.
"Bolly, the super is coming on Monday to check out our documentation and records for the past year. If all this paperwork isn't right, we're all up the swanny. And you know the team doesn't deserve that. We've worked hard, all of us. Make sure it shows, yeah?"
Ooh, that was low. He definitely knew the location of all her buttons and exactly how to push them to get the response he wanted. She shook her head and looked at the floor, not yet ready to admit defeat. She wanted to be angrier about it, but for some reason she couldn't summon up the will. Bloody Gene Hunt.
"Bolls, please," he said softly. "I'm useless at this. Help me sort out this giant festering mess and I'll buy you dinner tomorrow to make up for it, yeah?"
Well. There was no way she could conceivably pass up the possibility of dinner with Gene Hunt, was there? Especially if he was going to be in charm mode as part of his efforts to make it up to her. Which he would be, or else she'd kill him.
She lifted her head and looked at him. "Fine."
He smiled at her, a genuine smile full of relief. "Thank you."
She was fairly sure she hated her DCI. She hated him for making her stay late to do work that wasn't even meant to be her responsibility in the first place, she hated him for making her give up her lovely evening of wine and chocolate, and she especially hated him for making her actually want to help him.
Yep. She was pretty damn certain that Gene Hunt was a bastard of the highest order.
An oddly attractive bastard, though.
Alex took another swallow of the whisky Gene had poured for her and then settled back down, sitting cross-legged on the floor with her back against a filing cabinet, an entire rainforest's worth of paper scattered around her. She was still trying to find the method in the madness that was Gene's paperwork, but was beginning to come to the unfortunate conclusion that his only method when it came to paperwork was to not do it unless absolutely necessary.
She sighed and slammed her head back against the filing cabinet, then let out a little noise of excitement as she found two pieces of paper that actually related to the same case. A breakthrough, of sorts.
She was concentrating hard, head down, trying to find the rest of the corresponding files when Gene came clattering back into the office from his mission to liberate some ring binders from the front desk. He dumped the folders down on top of the cabinet behind Alex, and then joined her on the floor, putting a bagful of Chinese takeaway down in front of her.
"Dinner time," he said.
"God, I'm ravenous." Alex carefully stacked her papers to make sure she didn't lose her place and then stretched out her legs in front of her, muscles protesting from sitting too long in an awkward position.
"Makes a change." Gene was unpacking cartons of rice and meat, along with some forks Alex was fairly certain he'd nicked from the canteen. "Pork or beef?"
She shrugged and so he took the beef, pushing the tray of pork and vegetables towards her. "That smells so good. Thanks."
"Yeah, well, got to keep your strength up. Lots to do still, Bolly."
"Don't remind me." She was already digging into the food, not caring that there were no plates. Chinese food on the floor of Gene's office wasn't exactly her idea of a wonderful evening, but it was good enough.
"Doing well though," he said, glancing around the room at the ordered piles she'd made in his absence. "It's starting to take shape."
"I suppose." She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from sniping about how she'd been the one to get most of it into shape when it was his mess to start with. His looking confused and standing around while holding a stapler for half an hour before buggering off on various trips to steal folders and buy Chinese food did not count as a proper contribution to the Great Paperwork Organising Project.
Gene shovelled in some more beef in black bean sauce. "I hate paperwork," he said when he'd swallowed.
"Yes, I did get that impression."
He sniffed at her sarcasm. "Just a pain though, isn't it?" It was clearly a rhetorical question. "Gets in the way of the job, takes up time we could be spending out on the streets, catching bastards."
"It makes sure we're thorough, though," she countered, aware that it was at best a half-hearted effort. It really was impossible to defend such extremes of bureaucracy. And she had insider knowledge; she knew that the red tape menace would only get worse. Gene would probably go insane from it before the end of the century. He'd probably end up murdering someone.
"Don't need to tick boxes to be thorough."
She shrugged. "It keeps us accountable, so that when people hold policing up to the light, we can demonstrate that we've kept to the highest possible standards. Otherwise it's just our word against someone else's, and we both know how frustrating that is."
Gene half-smiled in the way he did when she had a point but he was reluctant to concede defeat. "Whatever it's for, it's a pain in my arse I could do without."
"Yes, well." Alex shifted, trying and failing to get comfortable. "Currently the biggest pain in my arse is because of this floor, although I have to admit the paperwork is coming a very close second."
"I can think of a way to deal with at least one of those pains." He looked at her suggestively, his meaning all too clear. Subtlety wasn't his strong suit.
Alex decided to play dumb, for fear she'd reveal too much if she acknowledged what he was actually referring to. "I suppose we could set fire to your office and that would take care of all the paperwork."
Apparently Gene wasn't going to let her get away with misdirection this time, which contributed another entry to her list of reasons to hate him. "You know exactly which pain I mean, Alex."
"Yes, I do, but this is hardly the place for it, is it?"
What? Oh, why had she said that? She cursed herself for not thinking before speaking, knowing how Gene would choose to interpret the remark even though he undoubtedly knew she had meant it as a brush-off.
Well. She had mostly meant it as a brush-off. It was also very true. A police station was definitely not the place for enlisting the help of her DCI to deal with floor-induced arse pains. She chose to ignore the glimmer of some other meaning behind her words.
"We could go back to your place after, if you're after a more intimate problem-solving location," Gene said, responding exactly as she knew he would, a hint of mirth in his eyes along with a hint of something else.
Something that she would've call sincerity, if not for the fact she was somewhat scared of sincerity when it came to flirting with Gene.
He went on, "You must have all sorts of girly lotions and potions at your flat, I'm sure one of them would be excellent for that pain in your arse. I'll even rub it in for you."
"That's really big of you Gene, thanks."
He had caught her with his stare and she couldn't look away. Why couldn't she look away? And why did she sound so sincere herself in that last comment? She had meant to sound sarcastic.
"Then after that," he shifted and cleared his throat. Alex couldn't tell if it was because he was physically uncomfortable or if it was down to nerves. "After that," he said again, "you could return the favour."
"What, rub my girly lotions and potions on your arse?"
"Don't sound quite as romantic when you put it like that, Bolls."
"Oh, you were going for romance, were you?" And, she realised as soon as the words had left her mouth, he sort of was. Or, at least he was making an effort to move from snarky comments and on-off flirting to something… sincerer. That bloody word again.
She found she liked it more than she should.
He was obviously choosing to ignore her unwisely callous tone. "How'd you reckon I'm doing so far?" he asked, as though not really expecting an answer.
She regarded him carefully. "I think… I think that spending an evening in intimate contact with a year's worth of bureaucracy is not the best conduit to romance there ever was."
His face fell.
She carried on before he could withdraw from her. "That said, you're a surprisingly excellent host and your offer to help with my, erm, aches and pains was very nice, if a little blatant. Take me out for that dinner tomorrow evening and we'll see about the romance then."
The little pleased smile was back on his face, and he turned back to his dinner, careful not to seem as though he was paying her his whole attention when he said, "Yeah, we will."
Alex smiled back, fiddling with her fork and rice as they both tried to be nonchalant and failed.
Hours later, Gene sat at his desk, scribbling his signature on yet another form. His hand was shaking slightly, partly from having to write his name so many bloody times in one go and partly from the onset of MSG shakes, compliments of the dodgy Chinese takeaway he had gone to.
He looked up and opened his mouth to ask Alex for the next completed folder for him to check, only to see that the MSG in their dinner hadn't given her the inevitable jitters at all.
She was propped in the corner between the filing cabinet and the partition wall, head back, eyes closed, mouth slightly open and hair spilling over her face. Stacks of folders and the last few remaining unsorted papers were piled around her, along with the remains of the Chinese and an empty glass.
Gene felt slightly guilty as he watched her sleep; he'd wrecked her Friday night by making her stay late and then worked her so hard she'd fallen asleep on the floor. But it hadn't been a totally awful evening, he was certain of that. They'd spent most of the time joking and bickering, and she'd seemed to not totally hate him for making her stay, no matter how much she had protested otherwise.
It was late now, though. Well. Early, really. Half past two on Saturday morning. They'd been at it for over eight hours. Bloody bureaucracy. Bloody by-the-book new super. Anal bastard.
Half past two on Saturday morning and he was meant to be taking Alex out for dinner that night. He knew there'd be some serious grovelling and favour-repaying to be done on his part, which he knew would undoubtedly cause him great pain and her great mirth and general glee, but he was still looking forward to it. Her comments earlier suggested that she was looking forward to it, too. He for one was certainly eager to see what would happen as a result of their earlier discussion on aches and pains and romance. It was a topic he would definitely be bringing up again.
But not just yet. He rubbed his gritty eyes and then shoved his chair back, quietly stepping across the small office to crouch down next to Alex, wondering how best to wake her up so he could take her home. He supposed yelling or giving her a shove would do it, but this wasn't the time to be a bastard. By all rights, she should've just laughed at his hopeless methods of persuasion earlier, told him to sod off and left him to sort out his own deluge of paper, but instead she'd taken pity and stayed.
She'd stayed, even though she'd blatantly known he was manipulating her, and wasn't that an interesting notion?
Point was, acting like – well, acting like himself right now wasn't really an option unless he wanted her fist in his face (again) and all of his lovely neat paperwork torn into confetti.
He reached out a hand and gently pulled the hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear and smoothing it down. He tried not to focus on how soft the strands were or the way he could feel her breath on his hand, or the little noise of contentment she let out at his soothing touch. "Bolly," he said.
She frowned. "Bugger off," she mumbled, still mostly asleep.
Gene chuckled and gently rubbed her frown with his thumb until she relaxed and it disappeared. "Come on, Bolls, bed time. Let's get you home."
She muttered something indistinct and turned her head until her forehead hit his shoulder, further wrinkling his already crumpled shirt. She huddled in closer, resting some of her weight on him. "Cold."
Certainly doesn't feel cold to me right now, love. He nodded even though she couldn't see. "Yeah. Warm at home, though. Come on. Wake up. You've eaten too much for me to carry you all the way." He patted her knee a little awkwardly. "Drake, wake up."
"See, I know you're awake, you're talking to me." He rolled his eyes and prised her head from his shoulder, fingers tangling slightly in her hair to keep her upright. "Eyes open, now." Still no real response. He tried again. "The folder for May is all out of order, Bolly."
That did it. Her eyes flew open and she sat bolt upright, staring at him, indignant. "No it is not!"
"No, but it woke you up though, didn't it?"
She blinked blearily and wiped a hand across her face. "Ugh. What time is it?"
"Time to go. Come on, I'll take you home."
"You don't need to do that."
"No arguments. It's late. You're not thinking straight. I'll take you."
To his slight surprise, she agreed with no further argument, her brain probably too fuzzy with sleep and tedium to come up with a snappy retort. "Okay. Are you going home too?"
He shrugged. "Probably come back here after, finish autographing and date-checking the rest of this lot. Wide awake from that Chinese, anyway." That was true, although he was starting to feel the weariness creeping in. He yawned without warning and Alex raised an eyebrow at him.
"Liar. You can sleep on my sofa if you want."
Don't tempt me. He should say no, turn her down and come and take care of all the loose ends, then go home and get a bit of sleep before taking her out for dinner later. He really, really should say no. Staying over was not a good idea, not after the night they'd just had and the thoughts that hadn't left his head since she'd inadvertently planted them there hours earlier and her current, lovely sleep-crumpled look. "Do you mind?" he found himself saying.
"Yeah then, thanks," he said, the thought of just lying down and giving into sleep suddenly very appealing. God, it had come on so fast. One minute feeling so wired he thought he'd be awake until the millennium, the next so shatteringly tired he had to blink to stop himself from seeing double. Although, he thought, seeing two of Alex at the same time wouldn't be too much of a hardship. As long as she was quiet, of course. Christ, the woman could talk when she wanted to.
Not so much now, though. She didn't seem to have the energy to make conversation as she struggled up from the floor, moaning as cramped muscles protested from being propped in the corner too long. Gene staggered to his feet as well, shifting all the stuff left on the floor to his desk to be sorted out soon as. Then he shoved his arms into his jacket while Alex went to her desk and got her stuff.
With a last glance at the war zone that was his office, he went to join her, taking her arm to guide her when he saw her weaving slightly with exhaustion. It was on his lips to mumble something in the way of apology and/or piss-take when she leaned into him, her body pressing against his and abruptly ruining his power of speech as they left CID and went outside. Her hair brushed his chin and her arm pressed against his side as she sagged against him. Gene still felt warm despite the chill of the night air. His arm went round her shoulders of its own volition, and he decided that dinner that night was going to be very, very interesting indeed.
A/N: This story will have a chapter two, which I'll try and post ASAP. I'm hoping that posting the first chapter will give me the kick up the arse needed to get the rest of it done. Here's hoping.