So the plot bunny has bitten once again and I couldn't resist. Hopefully this story will not be on quite the same epic scale as my previous stories and I'll get through it a bit quicker! This is totally AU, taking place after 3.8 but with Alex having made it home instead of going into the pub. I hope you'll read and enjoy.
Cogito Ergo Sum
It had been six long hard months since Alex Drake had woken from her coma. Six months in which she had fought to recover from a bullet which had lodged in her frontal lobe and had very nearly killed her. Her doctors had called her recovery miraculous but the rehabilitation process had been anything but. Not only had she had to deal with the mental aspects of her injury – problems with memory, speech and impulse control – she had also had to contend with physical weaknesses, a balance problem made her fall over and having to learn to walk again. Still, it could have been worse. Much worse.
Cogito Ergo Sum. For some strange reason the Latin phrase kept popping into her head at unexpected moments. I think therefore I am. But who am I exactly? Am I the same person that Arthur Layton shot? Sometimes, especially when her now erratic temper got the better of her, she thought she was another person entirely. But did it really matter?
She paused and looked up towards the weak sun shining in the sky. For a moment she closed her eyes and enjoyed the faint trace of heat upon her face. She was alive. And for that she gave thanks. And in many ways that's why she was here today – to give thanks. No other reason to be limping around an almost eerily quiet cemetery in Manchester. She briefly glanced back towards the entrance where Molly and Evan were standing. She gave them a reassuring wave and then started to walk, very slowly, towards her destination. They had wanted to come with her to the graveside but she had insisted on doing this alone – she had a few things to say that they just wouldn't understand. She paused and briefly glimpsed at the directions on the piece of paper she was holding, looking around the serried ranks of gravestones to get her bearings. In theory he should be easy to find – a lot of the gravestones were old and not exactly in the best of condition. A brand new gravestone should be easy to spot.
And then suddenly she saw it – an obviously new and recently erected black granite headstone standing out from its older brethren. With a deep breath and a flutter of apprehension she gripped her walking stick and then walked towards it. She arrived at the graveside, slightly out of breath but with a sense of achievement as she looked down at the headstone. She smiled with satisfaction – it was exactly as she had wanted. "Hello Guv." She had to close her eyes against the sudden rush of emotion that threatened to overwhelm her and she was almost sure she could hear his voice in her head. 'You took your time then'.
She opened her eyes and laughed softly. "Sorry I'm late." She knelt awkwardly by his headstone and traced her fingers over the inscription. 'In Loving Memory. PC Gene Hunt. Killed in the line of duty 2nd June 1953 aged 20. Sadly Missed.' She suddenly remembered the small posy of violets that she was carrying and laid them carefully on the grave. Not that Gene would have cared about such things of course – especially given the length of time that had passed since his actual death. But to her it only felt like yesterday since she had seen him, laughed and cried with him….kissed him.
"Thank you," she said finally, "thank you for…for whatever it was that you did. For making sure I got home."
She had thought that the memories would fade in time – her psychologist certainly thought so. But they hadn't and the recollection of her final days with Gene and the CID team were as fresh and vibrant as ever. Particularly the memory of that eventful final day.
She still remembered standing outside The Railway Arms following Ray, Shaz and Chris' departure. There had been an awful, heart stopping moment when she thought that she had died and she too would have to go into the pub. Jim Keats had been there, taunting Gene and daring him to 'do the right thing'. But Gene had simply smiled and then dispatched Keats with one almighty thump to his jaw which had left him unconscious and sprawled on the hard ground.
"You have to go now Alex."
"No. Listen… listen to me. 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!
"Can't have you putting me off my stride, can I? I mean, I'll end up wondering if I'm not completely right all the time. Can't have that. Weren't bad though, were we?"
Alex shook her head numbly. "We were good. Very good."
He nodded. "Good girl."
And then unexpectedly he had taken her into his arms and held her close. Even now Alex could remember his masculine smell and the rough scratch of his coat as she had buried her face against his chest.
"Besides," he said, his voice rough with emotion. "You've got to go home now. Molly's waiting for her mam."
"What?" She looked up at Gene with confusion – and at almost the same time she heard a little girl's voice. 'Mummy! Wake up Mummy'. She turned around to see a railway viaduct with an eerie bright light almost beckoning her forward.
"Time to go home Bolly. Time to go where you're needed."
She looked again at the light and then back towards Gene. "But…I can't…"
"Yes you can." He took her face in his hands and finally kissed her, a kiss full of repressed longing, tender but passionate –a goodbye kiss. Then he gently pushed her towards the light. "See you around Bollykecks."
She started to walk towards the light. "Goodbye Guv…Gene."
The last thing she remembered was his kiss and his voice urging her forward "Go on Alex, you'll be fine." The next thing she knew, she was in a hospital bed with Evan, Molly and a host of doctors surrounding her bed. She had been connected to so much medical paraphernalia that she had been unable to do anything but blink her eyes in response – but she was alive and back with her daughter and in the end that was all that mattered.
The sound of Evan's voice roused Alex from her remembrance of times past. He held out his hand and helped her to stand.
"You shouldn't be sitting on the hard ground," he chided, as he steadied her and handed her the walking cane.
"Don't nag Evan please. Where's Molly?"
"She's in the car waiting. Listening to something infernal on that iPhone of hers no doubt." He glanced over at Alex. "So, are you happy now?"
"Well you've been going on about PC Gene Hunt's last resting place ever since you woke up? I just wondered if this was the end of it."
"He deserved to have a proper burial," Alex snapped, "and a headstone to mark his grave. Everyone deserves that surely?"
"Of course," Evan soothed. "But I just don't understand why it had to be you that arranged it. He died such a long time ago – before you were even born."
"And he lay in an unmarked grave for over fifty years – he deserved much more than I could ever do for him."
Evan sighed. Ever since she had woken from her coma, Alex had developed an unhealthy obsession with PC Gene Hunt – whose body had been discovered on the same day that she had woken up. Her psychologist thought that she should be allowed to follow this through as it wasn't doing anyone any harm but Evan was beginning to wonder. "Didn't he have any surviving family?"
Alex shook her head. "Not really." He had no wife, no children and the only relations left seemed to be distant cousins of his mother. It wasn't as if she hadn't tried to find someone, anyone, who was related to or could remember Gene Hunt, but any of his friends and contemporaries were dead or couldn't remember him. Even the official police records just had him down as 'missing'. Once Gene's remains had finally been identified, Alex had pushed for him to have a proper burial – to have the recognition that he should have had all those years ago. She didn't know if it would make any difference in his world – she only knew that it made her feel better.
"Well," Evan said. "You did a good thing. That young man is at rest now – and speaking of rest….."
"I know, I know….I'm not a child Evan."
"I know you're not, but you do still tire easily and I don't want you to have a relapse. Please come back to the hotel now and rest."
Alex sighed but gave in gracefully. It had been a long day and an emotional afternoon. She could afford to take a break and spend some time with Molly. "Back to the hotel it is then."
" Good." Evan patted her hand as they walked back towards the waiting car. "And have we done with Gene Hunt now or is there anywhere else that we need to go?"
"Just one more place and then I'm done – but we can go there tomorrow."
To be continued…