Written for the OMG Challenge - not my usual style, but it arrived almost fully formed in the middle of the night demanding to be written, so what could I do? Not sure I can leave it like this, so there may be a Ch.2 at some point, depending on reviews ...

The Manc Lion's Pride

He gazed at her through the open door, his brows furrowed, blowing a column of smoke slowly from the corner of his mouth.

She was on the phone to Him again, he could tell by her soft expression and flirtatious body language, even though she knew He couldn't see her. As he watched, she sat back and he heard her giggle, fiddling with a pen as she whispered something low and husky into the receiver.

The jealously coiled itself tighter in the pit of his stomach as he poured himself another large measure of Scotch, knowing he only had himself to blame. He'd had his chances, she'd offered herself to him on more than one occasion and he'd turned her down, even though it nearly killed him to do so. He'd told himself he was being a gentleman, but really he knew it was his stubborn pride. He needed to know she really wanted him, wanted more than just a drunken one night stand, even though instinctively he knew it was far more than that. And he also knew neither of them would ever have had the courage to make the first move sober.

So that was that, he'd squandered his opportunity and all he could do was watch as she flirted with Him, led Him upstairs to her flat and they became an item. Night after night in Luigi's, gazing into each others eyes before vanishing upstairs, and he drowned himself in whiskey imagining the two of them entwined in her bed.

She had the phone balanced in the crook of her neck now as she scribbled something down on a pad, and his eyes raked over her stunning features, down the lines of her elegant neck and lingered over her full bosom. His breath caught in his throat, convinced she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Bloody feisty with it. And sharp as a tack, of course. He admired the way she stood up to him, challenged him, even though he'd die before he admitted it to her.

And in that single moment it hit him like a ton of bricks, that thing he'd been trying to deny to himself for so long. He was completely, utterly and hopelessly in love with Alex Drake, and he could never tell her. It was too late.

The huge solitaire diamond on her left hand caught the light as Gene's lonely heart shattered into a thousand pieces …