"'Ello, my darlin'. My beautiful boy. 'Ow yer doin'? I 'ope yer feelin' better now. Yer look a bit better, any road. The colour's back in yer cheeks. Oh, my boy… I don't think I could've lived with meself if yer'd died an' the last time we'd been together we'd argued… an' over somethin' so trivial. I was wrong, my darlin'. Wrong. I'm sorry.
"Yer goin' ter be the considerate lad I brought up an' open yer eyes fer me? What about our Maxy? Our gorgeous little thing. Little Max. Anne'll be comin' in later, she's got some charity car wash an' then she's goin' ter work fer the afternoon. I'm pickin' Max up from school, so I might bring 'im straight 'ere an' they can visit then. Eh? Our lives 'ave centred around you, Gene bloody Hunt. An' you don't even bloody know it. No courtesy anymore, is there? Yer'd think yer'd open yer eyes at some point, say 'ello. An' yer can now, they've changed yer vent. Did yer know that? Maybe feel it? Yer on a nasal vent now, in case yer wake up. Yer look bloody weird, all strappin' round the back o' yer 'ead an' everythin'. But I can do this…"
A faint, warm pressure on his lips. A foreign breath feathering across his face.
"I know yer always protest when I do that, but oh, Gene, I've been waitin' ter do that fer weeks now. Can't yer open yer eyes an' bawl me out now? Isn' that what yer always do? Come on, sweetie. Please."
Someone taking his hand. Soft, warm fingers on his, the smooth sheen of a ring.
"Genie, come on now. Yer've been out fer so long now… we can't carry on like this. I can't. I can't go back ter Manchester 'avin' seen yer now. Before, I… I could go back, because I didn' want ter see yer so frail an' lifeless. I know it's not what other people say, but it would be 'arder than I could ever manage ter sit 'ere an' watch yer die… but yer won't. Yer won't. Not now."
Everything was dark, and yet there was so much light hidden from him, right in front of him. He tried to feel for Alex beside him, but to his horror, nothing would move.
"Gene? Yer 'eartbeat… doctor, what's 'appenin'?"
"I don't know. He's just had a burst of adrenalin. I think he might be able to hear you… Gene? Gene, can you hear me? Can you hear your mother?"
"Gene? Darlin'? Please, Genie. Wake up."
"Gene, can you try moving your fingers for me? Your mother's holding your hand. Can you try and squeeze her fingers? Just give it a go for us, Gene. Come on."
Alex? Where was she? Where was Alex? Where was he, what was happening-
Gene panicked, thrashing away from the doctor and his mother, pain ripping through his body as he writhed, eyes still closed. Something was forcing him to breathe from the outside, and he wanted to reject it, but when his hand strayed too close to it someone grabbed him and pulled his hand away from it.
"Gene- Gene, stay still. Gene-"
"Gene, yer stupid lump, lie still! Yer gettin' yer IVs all over the bed. Lie still!"
His mother's voice shocked him into submission. Gene forced himself to stop moving, and almost immediately the pain enveloping his stomach subsided.
What the bloody 'ell's goin' on?
"OK, Gene. All settled now, no harm done. Do you think you can move your fingers for us? Nice and careful."
Someone was holding his hand, he could feel that now as he squeezed their fingers. Definitely his mam. He'd know those gentle fingers anywhere.
And the ring. The ring her second husband had given her, the same husband whom Gene hadn't even met for a year after they were wed, so scared he was that he would be just like his father. The ring he'd admired as Eric stood by and smiled, with the three little diamonds his mother had given names to.
Her ring was beneath his fingers, his alarmingly weak fingers as they tried to bring his mam's hand closer, tried to work out what was happening, where Alex was, what had happened to Ray's flat-
His eyes slipped open almost of their own account.
He must have overslept. He was so tired.
Shadows blinked and danced all around him, nothing distinct, everything swathed in this all-pervading bright light. He was waiting for Alex's brown curls to emerge from somewhere, for her grin as she teased him about being a lazybones, her hand on his as she threw his clothes at him and told him to get his grabbable arse in the shower before she did something he could class as sexual harrassment.
"Gene? 'E's wakin' up… oh, Gene!"
And then his mother was there, beaming through her tears. His mother. Mammy.
Not even bloody Ray.
And then it hit him, with the force of a nuclear bomb.
He was home.
"Gene? Gene, what's wrong? Sweet'eart, what's wrong?"
The doctor was standing there, a drip lead in his hands, staring down at Gene with confusion written on his weather-worn face.
"Alex?" he whispered, his voice no more than a strained whisper. The doctor's eyes flicked from Gene to his mother, something akin to hesitation in his face.
"Alex," he pleaded, almost begging, struggling to sit up and failing miserably. "Alex… OK?"
"Alex will be fine, Gene. But she won't wake up for a while. I'm afraid she had another infection, and it's knocked her for six- she won't be back with us for a while."
He stopped there, but it was hanging in the air, unspoken: if ever.
Mrs Hunt grasped her son's hand tighter, a single tear slipping down her face.
So she's stuck in the eighties without me, an' I'm stuck 'ere in 2008 without 'er. Oh, bloody 'ell. Bloody bloody 'ell.
Gene turned his face away and tried in vain to stop his chin wobbling.
He didn't want to be here any more. He wanted to be with Alex, in the 80s, with the Quattro and Ray and Chris and Shaz. He wanted to storm into CID with Alex at his side and clump over the chessboard tiles in his snakeskin boots. He wanted normality. He wanted Alex.
"Gene? Say somethin'. Talk ter us, Gene."
He didn't want to talk.
"Mrs Hunt, Gene's waking up from a coma. He will be confused, he may have mixed emotions for a while. Just let him wake up and everything will come back to him."
It already 'as. I've left Bolly on 'er own in the 80s. I don't even know if she will wake up 'ere. Nothin's certain.
"Gene, sweetie. Look round at me. Yer scarin' me now. Gene?"
He pulled his hand away from his mam, curling up on the opposite side of the bed. She was hurt, he could tell from the change in the atmosphere. He didn't care.
"Is 'e alright? Gene, I'm sorry, I'm sorry about the argument. I was bein' silly. I'm sorry."
Nothing made sense anymore. Gene closed his eyes, desperate to escape whatever had just happened to him, ignoring his mother gently pulling the sheets up over him. He didn't have the strength to resist her taking his hand again.
Sleep wouldn't come, and Gene lay for hours in silence, trying to imagine brown curls tickling his chin, sparkling eyes flashing as they teased him, slim, elegant fingers on his. The doctor, when someone he was fairly sure was Anne turned up, was adamant that only his mother could be in there for the moment. Gene's confused, very tired, he's had an emotional day. I'm sorry, but no more visitors. Maybe tomorrow. Gene had no strength to argue.
There was only one visitor he wanted, and she might never hold his hand again.
Gene closed his eyes again and tried to ignore his mother's silent weeping.
One week since she had woken up and Gene had been nowhere in sight.
Gene was now officially a Missing Persons and CID had already combed the city for him. Alex had been with them, calling his name down alleyways, questioning the clientele of local restaurants, bars and pubs. Nobody had seen Gene Hunt, nobody had heard where he might be.
He'd left his warrant card, the Quattro keys, everything important to him, and vanished in the fairytale puff of smoke.
He didn't even have the bloody decency to ring.
Alex kidded herself he was still there, because it was less painful. Less painful than the realisation that Gene had gone home, that he'd woken up, he was back in 2008 with Molly and his Max. So far out of her reach he may as well have been dead.
For now, and perhaps for ever.
She'd heard the doctors. Since the fifty millilitres, she'd begun slipping back down, her health had deteriorated and she'd had another infection. Only a small one, but anything was detrimental for Alex at the moment. She'd been shivering as she'd combed the streets of London, searching for a tiny wisp of hope somewhere amongst the hookers and loan sharks and disinterested passers-by. Nothing had helped, or worked. Her future was uncertain, and all she could think about was whether it would contain Gene and Molly, or not.
God damn you, Arthur Layton!
She was sorely tempted to find him, simply so that she could kick seven bells out of him for landing her in a position worse than impossible. He had no idea what his future self would do to her… but that didn't bother Alex. Frustration seemed to be the only emotion she ever felt nowadays. That and loneliness.
Alex looked up at Gene's old office, the title of DCI GENE HUNT still proud and tall emblazoned on the door. His sports trophies and posters, fag filters, the pen she'd so often seen him sucking as he doodled on that pad of paper he kept in his locked drawer. Overflowing in-tray, almost empty out-tray, and a pending tray heaped so high it would give Mount Everest a run for its money. So Gene.
She bent her head again and let a solitary tear drip onto the file she was pretending to read.
He was cold. Shivering, and yet nobody was helping him warm up. Someone had taken his sheets off him.
"Sorry, Gene. We'll get you warmed up soon. Let's have a look at your stomach, shall we?"
The person hovering above him was plucking at his robe, pulling it up, exposing his worryingly thin body to the cool air. Thank goodness he had his boxers on. A man had to keep some dignity.
"That's looking fine. Yes, healing very well."
He was croaky and hoarse, his tongue feeling too large for his mouth. The someone smiled, easing him up, shining a bright light on his midriff to reveal a wound, thick stitches everywhere, running from just below his breast bone to his belly button. Gene winced. Christ. Tony really did 'ave it in fer me.
"It was a severe wound, but we repaired the internal damage and you'll be back on your feet soon. Do you feel ready to see your mother again?"
"She said… we argued. What… about?"
I never argue with Mam. It's just somethin' I don't do. Apparently that's different 'ere.
"I'm sorry, Gene. I don't know. Perhaps you should ask her yourself?"
Take the bull by the 'orns, Genie boy.
"Brilliant. Let's get you re-robed and a bit warmer and then I'll tell her she can come in."
"Doctor! Alex Drake, we need your opinion on her condition."
"Alex, I need ter-" he choked out, trying to push himself off the bed; the nurses and doctor grabbed him, firmly keeping him in place. Not letting him be near Alex.
Gene could have cried with frustration.
"Gene, you need to stay here. I'm sorry. I'll tell you how Alex is as soon as I've tended to her. I will be right back, because you need these dressings changed and a scan. OK? I'll try not to be too long."
He patted Gene's shoulder and left, disappearing as the ward sister began fussing over him, moving drips and wires and putting Gene's robe back on. He ignored her, his gaze fixed on the door, heart pounding and chest aching, burning in the knowledge that his Bolly was in danger and there was nothing, nothing, he could do.
His Bolly might never be his again, and there was nothing he could do except make good on his threat to jump off Tower Bridge.
And where would that leave him?
Was he even capable of that?
Could he leave Max, and Anne, and his Mam, for an existence he didn't know was real?
But then, what was this one? And who was he here? Was he the same, the Gene Genie, or was he some limp-wristed pen-pusher, giving people fake smiles from behind some God-forsaken desk in the middle of a police station?
Gene closed his eyes, hugged himself hard round the chest, and tried to remember who he was.
A/N: Gene doesn't know who he is. Alex is still in the 80s with a diminishing chance of getting home and a rapidly worsening life. And my mum is on her way to Londis to get me a Flump. Oh yeah, that's not really relevant to the story, is it? I just really like Flumps. Sorry. Anyhow… sorry for the delay, but I haven't been very well. (Understatement.) So please review, and keep tuned for the sequel to Who's Gene?, in which Gene just might be able to understand himself a little better, and Alex just might be able to find herself too…