A/N: Not mincing words; this was born of a combination of losing my confidence, wishing I'd never started writing again and pain that reached an unbearable pitch last night.
My first A2A fic was 'Out of the Window', which saw Alex jumping out of the toilet window in the Railway Arms to go back to Gene and make a fresh start with him and his world. But what if she'd jumped from the wrong window? What if she'd landed in the other side of the car park and hadn't been alone?
I'm not apologising for the tone of this piece, it's dark for a reason.
She could see her breath in the air on the cold, winter's evening as she stood there, scanning the familiar space with her eyes. She felt a little breathless as she took in every detail of the car park; the one she'd passed through on a daily basis for the last 3 years, the one she thought she was never going to see again.
"I'm home," she whispered.
It was funny but until just an hour or so before she would never have thought of it as home. Home was where Molly was waiting for her. Home was where her body was fighting against the bullet, the infection, the weakening that it had been through. Home was where she had her house, her clothes, her car, her furniture, all of her memories. That's where home was.
But as she bowed her head she pictured the watch she'd looked at earlier that night. 9:06. Eternally 9:06. She was never going to see the hands moving again because her body had given up. Was it her fault? Could she have done anything more? Had she become too attached to Gene's world and stopped fighting hard enough? That thought stung her heart but she knew it was possible.
Molly had been everything to her. Her daughter, her flesh and blood, her reason to fight. But as time had gone by she found herself thinking of her daughter less and less as Gene's world swallowed her up. She integrated so completely that Molly ended up far from her thoughts. There was someone else with whom she found herself concerned instead. Gene. Her rock. Her constant, her Guv. Their solid partnership had become a close friendship and it drew so near to becoming something far deeper, They'd had their date, they'd danced. They'd come so close to moving things forward and finally they'd shared a kiss, but it was a kiss goodbye. She'd spent so long denying what was in her heart until it was too late. Her feelings for Gene had grown steadily. Had they overpowered her desire to return to Molly?
Whether that was true or not she knew where she was. She was home. She belonged by Gene's side, she belonged in his life. She had a whole life of her own at Fenchurch East now. So some of her friends and colleagues had moved on. It was right for them. They had each other, they had grown and they had learnt. But Alex still had her time to play out, and she needed to give life with Gene a chance, a proper chance. No more fighting. No more trying to go back. She was already home.
Alex's blood ran cold as she heard that voice. She heard him say her name and it sounded like hell approaching. She spun around and there he was before her, hiding in his long coat, his spectacles masking what was truly hidden behind his eyes.
"Jim," she felt sick as she stared at him, the thought that she had ever trusted him eating away at her soul.
"Now do you believe me?"
She blinked as she tried to work out what he was talking about. For someone who had just gone through the terrible charade that he'd put them all through that day he was certainly not backing down.
"It's over, Jim," she said to him bitterly, "whatever you were really here for – to destroy us all, to bring down the team, to destroy Gene – you failed. It's over."
"Yes, Alex," Keats told her angrily, "It is over. For you."
She stared at him. There was a panicked look in his eye.
"I've come back," she whispered, "I know I'm not alive out there… not any longer… but I still have a job to do… my place is here, and –"
"After what he's just done to you you'll still put him above your own life?" Keats cried, "above your own happiness?"
Alex couldn't make any sense of his words.
"What are you talking about?" she whispered, her confusion mingling with anger.
"You trusted him, Alex, you trusted him blindly even though I put my own neck on the line to show you who he really was and now you have nothing!"
"I have Gene," Alex tried to sound defiant but her whole body was beginning to shake.
"You've got nothing!" Keats cried. There was an ironic laugh in his voice, "you really think you have a job to come back to? A life?You think Hunt is going to… what… sweep you off your feet? Carry you over the threshold?" he shook his head, his eyes fixed on her as her stare began to falter, "he lied to you for all that time and I showed you who he really was. He kept you here against your will and I showed you how to get home. I gave you the scarf –"
"Molly's scarf," Alex breathed. She stared down at her empty hands, "it… it faded away," she whispered her eyes turning back to him and her voice becoming louder and stronger as she continued, "It wasn't real, it was just an illusion –"
"An illusion?" Keats gave a bitter laugh, "This whole sorry world that Gene's built for himself – that's an illusion. The pub? You think heaven serves beer and spirits and a selection of pork scratchings? Do me a favour. What do you think is going to happen to them all?"
"I…" Alex hesitated, She didn't know. She knew that Chris had bought everyone a drink. She just supposed they would drink… and drink… and drink some more… "I thought… maybe time… she trailed away. She didn't know. She just didn't know.
"Heaven isn't an eternal bender," Keats told her, "you go in, you get your drink and that's it. You fade away because he's finished with you. He doesn't need you any more. He's moved on."
"No," Alex shook her head, "that's… that's the reward. At the end."
"Does it make sense to you?" Kats asked her grimly, "just sitting in a pub, drinking forever? What, do you never go to bed? Never take a bath? Never have a proper meal? Can't live on cheese and onion all your life."
"I… don't know," Alex fund herself shaking, "I hadn't thought that far…"
"They never do," Keats told her, "They just believe. They just trust him blindly. They just do as he says,. They just walk through that door, just like you did. Away from your life. Away from your little girl forever."
"I'm already dead! I can never get home to Molly!"
"Is that what you truly believe?" Keats looked her in the eye, "you really believe in your heart? You don't think for one minute that Hunt was trying to stop you from leaving? That he wanted to keep you here? Keep you all for himself? You were still alive out there, Alex, and I could have helped you home. I showed you the proof. I had Molly's scarf but you still trusted the word of an over-the-hill-stroke-teenage-alcoholic over me. The scarf faded away because you did. You let go of your life the moment you walked into the pub, on his request."
Alex took a step backward, trembling from head to toe.
"Yes," he moved forward and reached towards her, cupping her face in his hands, "Alex, listen to me," he urged, "you played right into his hands. Even after you knew the truth you still believed that he knew best. He misled you. He told you that you were dead and told you to go. He told you to leave, Alex. He told you to leave him. If he loved you what would he say that for?"
"To protect me. He wanted –"
"He wanted to keep you away from your daughter," Keats told her, "your time here was over. You had to go home or go forward and he wasn't going to send you back. He just wanted you for himself and when he couldn't have that he wouldn't let you home either. If he couldn't have you no one could."
Alex's mouth gaped as she tried to take in what he was telling her. She couldn't believe it. She didn't believe it… not really… yet some seeds of doubt were there in her mind. She swallowed and shook as she pushed him away and whispered,
"Well… I'm back now. By my own choice. I left the pub to be with Gene. And whatever his reasons, I've chosen to stay here."
Keats's expression hovered between a grin and a glare.
"Oh, you silly girl," he said, shaking his head, "don't you get it?" he leaned a little closer, his hot breath on her face as he told her, "He's moved on. "
"I've only been gone –"
"Two years, Alex," Keats told her, "Time moves quickly here, when it needs to. Too much water has passed under the bridge This isn't your home any more. This isn't the place you knew. There's no one here to welcome you with open arms." He hesitated, trying to keep away the smile, "Well. There's one person."
Alex stared at him. For some time she felt as though she was frozen. His eyes were locked on hers, urging her to speak, to give in, to bend to his will. She thought about it, her mind went back over everything that she'd been through since she was shot in the stomach. Her coma within a coma, Keats arriving on the scene, the distrust that built up between herself and Gene… and Keats had encouraged that, but if Gene had told her that truth in the first place then that would never have happened. But he hadn't. he might not have lied to her but he deliberately kept her in the dark.
Keats's eyes were deep and impassioned. They bore right into her soul. She felt as though he was reading her from the inside out, like every thought was laid out in plain sight for him to see. His expression began to twist into a smile; one of those open, friendly smiles that he'd used so many times to lure her in. But what if she was wrong? What if they were open and genuine and her initial choice of trusting him was the right one? Gene hadn't been honest with her. He'd misled her – he'd misled them all. So he didn't remember – he must have known something wasn't right – why would he have followed her way all the way to Farringfield Green if he hadn't? Why would he have aimed a gun at her head?
And then the pub. He'd taken them all there, never explaining to them for a moment what was about to take place. Ray, Chris, Shaz… they'd discovered their deaths and had time to take it in but as soon as Alex was told she'd lost her battle Gene was hurrying her into the pub, Alone.
"Think about it Alex, " Keats began as though he could read her mind, "if he cared about you so much then why did he want to get rid of you? Why did he send you in alone? If he's the man you think he was why didn't he walk through that door by your side?"
"Because," her voice wavered, "because he still has a job to do… he…"
"What do you mean, gone?"
"Moved on," Keats shrugged, "didn't hang around for long after you passed over the threshold."
"Just wait a minute," Alex began angrily "I only left the pub…. not fifteen minutes ago…" Her heart was racing. How could she be dead if it was beating so fast?
"I told you," Keats smiled, "time moves differently here. It's sped up. Just while we've been talking here the years have passed. Two years disappeared… and a new recruit stumbled through the doors… then moments later another year had flown and Gene had transferred out,."
"I don't believe you," Alex hissed, turning around and marching towards the station.
"Stay with me, Alex," Keats called after her, "stay with me and you can begin again. New job, new station, new life." He watched her walking away and raised his voice. "he's not there, Alex," he cried, "he's moved on long before now. There's nothing left."
Alex shook her head bitterly as she carried on walking, pulling her coat around her. Keats had told one lie too many and this time she wasn't going to fall for it. She'd been gone only a little over an hour – things couldn't have changed that much. Her face flushed with fury as she slipped from the cold night air into the warm atmosphere of the station and strode to CID.
Immediately she could tell the difference. The change was indescribable. It was dark, cold, unfriendly. Something wasn't right. As she walked through the office the ceiling panels flickered but never quite managed to burn brightly. Where were all the usual faces? Terry? Bammo? There were empty desks and an empty atmosphere as she paced towards Gene's door; the door on which she thought his name had been eternally emblazoned. Now all that remained of it was a slight discolouration where it used to be. Through the glass she could see a man she didn't know and before she could stop herself she'd opened the door and stepped inside.
The man behind the desk looked surprised and somewhat annoyed.
"Yes?" he barked.
Alex stared on. She didn't know what to say at first. What he hell was she even supposed to? What could she even ask? She swallowed, then ran her tongue around her dry lips before she whispered,
"Gene. Where is he?"
"Gene?" the men behind the desk frowned.
"DCI Hunt," Alex said stiffly, "He… this is his… was… his office," she flinched a little as she used the past tense but a tiny spark seemed to ignite in the man's head.
"Ohh," he said, "he's gone."
"Gone where, exactly?" Alex asked.
The man shrugged.
"Moved on. Different station. Somewhere down on the south coast I think."
"Do you know where exactly?"
"Wouldn't have a clue, love," the man told her, "Who's asking anyway?"
"I'm his DI," Alex said coolly.
"Then you'd know better than I would."
"Was," Alex flinched again, "I was his DI. Back when he worked here."
"DI… DI…" the man sighed and shook his head, "think I would have remembered a woman DI in the place. Last one he had before he moved on was some pillock; went by the name of Shoebury. You sure you're in the right place?"
A very cold sensation fell upon Alex and trickled from the top of her head right through her body. She shivered visibly.
"No," she whispered, "I'm not sure that I am." She slowly turned around, her head lowered, "excuse me."
She left the office, shaking and trembling as a terrible sense of anxiety ravaged her limbs. She could hardly force herself to walk on, scarcely wanting to seek the truth but knowing all the same that she had no other choice,
She enquired about taking a car from the pool but the officer on the desk looked rather cautious,
"ID?" he asked, he'd never seen Alex before in his life, and for that matter Alex had never seen him either. Who the hell was he anyway? Why was there no one that she recognised? She hadn't seen a single familiar person since she set foot back inside the building.
She handed her ID to the officer.
"Here," she said stiffly and leaned back nervously against the desk while he checked it, A moment later it came back towards her.
"Tell me exactly what you're sorry for?" she demanded.
"You need a current arrest warrant," the officer said apologetically, "this one is three years out of date.
"What do you mean?" Alex demanded, "I've used it all the time. I just used it yesterday and there was no problem,."
"Detective inspector Alex Drake hasn't been a part of this station since nineteen eighty three," the officer said almost apologetically, "I would like to know how you came to be in possession of her identification."
"Because I am DI Alex Drake!" Alex cried.
"DI Drake died three years ago," the officer told her.
Alex froze and stared at him. She couldn't look him quite in the eye. His words had scared her beyond recognition. She felt herself trebling again as she stared at the ID in her hand.
"How…" she swallowed and took in a deep breath. "how did she die?" she whispered.
"Heist gone wrong," the officer told her, "wiped out most of CID. You must have heard about that, it was all over the headlines." He nodded towards the ID in her hands. "So I'll ask you again. Where did you get that?"
Alex felt herself backing away. Her fear levels had risen beyond all recognition.
"it's mine," she whispered as she began to turn and her pace picked up from a crawl to a run, "It is mine!"
She raced from the building and out into the car park, eyes scanning the expanse for Keats but there was no sign of him. What the hell was going on? where was Gene? Why did they say that she'd died? It made no sense… nothing made sense.
She stumbled out of the car park and down towards her flat; her sanctuary. She would escape into Luigi's first and down a bottle of red to take the edge off, then she would roll up into bed and sleep deeply until she awoke tomorrow with a sore head and, hopefully, a world returned to right. But her plans hit a snag as she found Luigi's empty and boarded up with the same fate befalling her flat.
"No," she cried, her voice surprisingly high and anxious, "no, this isn't right…" she knew that Luigi had spoken about going home just a day or so before but for things to happen this fast? Almost overnight? What about her flat? What about all her things? She struggled to pull away a board in the hope of entering the building but she couldn't free it. It didn't matter what she tried, the boards were going nowhere, and even if she'd been successful it would have done no good; all of her things had been removed and put away in storage somewhere three years earlier. Others had even come and gone in that time. But now it was empty, decrepit and desolate.
As she gave the board a last, furious jolt with her shoulder she cried out in pain. She'd tried too hard and now her skin felt bruised and her joint a little out of place.
She paced away from the building, rubbing at her shoulder, trying to get a grip on where she was or what she was doing. She checked her pockets. If she had money then she could at least find a hotel to sleep until morning and then go from there. Maybe she could see someone at the station, her superiors, maybe the Superintendent – presuming he was still there. But then again, she was – dead? Killed in the heist? No, she wasn't dead. But she had moved on. The pub. Heaven – whatever passed for it at least. So technically… she supposed that meant she was dead. In a way.
She put her hand to her head and came to a halt by the road where she sank onto a wall, breathing heavily. She felt like she could hyperventilate at any moment. Dear god, was this a panic attack heading her way?
Keep calm, Alex. Stay calm. you can get through this.
She sat there for several minutes, taking in her breaths one after another, trying to stay as calm as she could until she felt her breathing return to normal and her heart stop thumping like a rogue bassline in her chest. When she'd calmed down enough she reached for her pockets once again. There had to be something in there, something apart from her defunct ID. A cheque book? Some cash? Even a fucking library card would have been better than nothing but the ID was all that she had. No money. Nowhere to go. No one to turn to. Gene had gone, her friends moved on and she was never going home.
Who could she turn to? Who could help her back on her feet? There was no Shaz, no Chris, no Ray. Her parents were dead, just as they had been the first time around. There was Evan? But that was a longshot and she really didn't want to see him again after the things she had found out about his connection with her parents' death. And besides, Little Alex wasn't so little any more and she didn't want to risk him spotting the similarity.
She found herself ailing; wandering the streets, It was a freezing cold night but she felt so numb that she didn't even notice. She wasn't sure how long she walked for. She tried to find something that was open, a café or a restaurant, but even when she found some place she had no money and was asked to leave. 'Please may I have a glass of tap water' apparently didn't cut it.
So she walked again. And Midnight arrived. One, two a.m. Her fingers were almost blue from the cold and her lips were tingling where they were chapping on the spot. She licked them to keep them moisturised but then the freezing air simply did further damage to their delicate surface.
Three a.m., four, five. She ran out of energy for waking and curled up on a bench neat the Thames. She longed for a pillow to rest her throbbing head or a blanket to draw around her shivering frame. Her tongue felt like sandpaper. She was desperate for a drink, her thirst had been growing steadily for the last few hours and it reached a point where she couldn't stand it any longer. She'd tried desperately to find a free source of water. She'd looked for a public fountain or even rainwater collecting somewhere clean but there was nothing. She walked outside of pubs and restaurants hoping to see a discarded bottle or a glass but her thirst remained unquenched. It began to drive her crazy. It was all she could think abut; her rasping tongue, dry and rough. There was a funny taste in her mouth and she would have killed to at least clean her teeth but if water was beyond her reach then how was she going to get hold of toothpaste and a toothbrush?
Six a.m. Seven a.m. Eight rolled around. She would be heading to work now. She should have been dried off from her shower; teeth cleaned, breakfast in her belly and a cup of coffee in her hands as she checked her appearance in the mirror. Usually she would be starting out immaculately; there would be not a hair out of place. As it was, her hair fell frustratingly over her eyes. Her hair clips had migrated and her style had followed. Her hair was lank and heavy from the spitting drizzle in the air and hung limp around the sides of her face.
Eight o'clock turned to nine and she felt a deep, hungry rumble in her stomach. She'd been feeling the hunger pangs for a while but they took hold of her quite severely now. She hadn't managed to eat very much the day before, nor the day before that for that matter. No wonder she felt so empty and so drained.
She sank against another wall in defeat as she closed her eyes and tried to choke back tears. She'd lost everything. Everything that was good in her life? And why? Because she hadn't trusted Gene. She'd chiselled away bit by bit at his world until it cracked open and its heart was revealed for all to see, Now there was nothing left; the pieces discarded, Gene gone, her friends unreachable and her future null and void.
As the morning rolled on she felt in pieces, her body cold and tired, dark circles beneath her eyes signalling her lack of sleep and a trickle of blood that ran unnoticed from her lip that had cracked so severely in the icy air but she couldn't feel because the cold had set in so deeply. The soft, pale skin of her cheeks was chapped and icy to the touch and her coat did little to protect her from a night out in the elements.
She had nowhere to go. There was no one to turn to for help. Everyone she knew was gone. If she only had some money to buy her a little time; find somewhere warm to sleep for a few hours, put some food in her stomach and quench her raging thirst, then just maybe she could work out where to go next.
She found herself walking almost aimlessly towards the bank. Just maybe her account was still in existence. Maybe they could issue her with a new cheque book, enable her to access her money, allow her to pay for something to eat and drink or somewhere to sleep for a night sothat she could regain the strength and the fight she needed to begin anew. She felt the warm air strike her as she came in from the cold. Her cheeks started to burn up, her body suddenly taken by the heat after endless hours in the cold. Her skin struggled to adjust to the change of temperature and she shed her coat to keep from suddenly burning up.
"Can I help you?"
She turned around, realising how lost she must have seemed. She gave a strained smile to a lady behind the desk and said awkwardly,
"I… I hope so." She froze. What was she supposed to say? What explanation could she possibly give? She closed her eyes briefly and took in a deep breath. What explanation could there be? She couldn't very well say that she hadn't existed for the last three years. "I haven't used my account for a long time," she said, her eyes drawn anxiously to the date and time clock on the wall. 22nd January 1986, the date read, while the clock merely said it was 9:06 as usual. "I've been out of the country. I was wondering if it was possible to access my funds."
"Right," the woman tapped on a rather rudimentary computer to access the brand new customer database that they'd been given just a few weeks before, "did you close your accounts before you left the country?"
"No," said Alex. She hesitated "I mean, I… I don't think so…" she bit her lip nervously. "I'm not sure..." she realised that the woman was regarding when with suspicion. She knew that she must have looked a sorry sight, coming in from the streets, frozen, bedraggled, in dire need of sleep and sustenance –
She glanced back.
"Pardon?" she whispered, shocked by how quiet and passive her own voice sounded.
"What's your name, madam?" the woman asked.
"Alex Drake," Alex told her, "Alexandra, I suppose. Alexandra Drake."
The woman tapped awkwardly on the keyboard she was struggling to get used to then looked up. "I can't seem to find any records in your name," she said, "are you sure you didn't close your account?"
Alex gave a feeble smile.
"I… perhaps I did," she said quietly.
"Do you have any form of ID?" the woman asked and without thinking Alex handed over her arrest warrant. The woman seemed a little happier now. "Sorry, Detective Inspector," she said, "I-I didn't realise…" she felt a little anxious. Perhaps this customer had been undercover. No wonder she didn't have a bank account. She got to her feet. "Let me just go and check this for you."
"Thank you," Alex smiled with pure relief. Now she was finally getting somewhere. There had to be a trace left of her account. Even if it was now closed perhaps they could find out where the money had gone or even just re-open the account to help her to prove her identity to get another job. Not that she even knew where to start looking, considering she was of no fixed abode and had not a thing to her name.
Goodness, she was taking an awfully long time, wasn't she? Alex stared at the clock, watching the second hand judder while never going anywhere. She stared out of the window. She tapped against her leg. She held her bundled up coat against her middle to drown out the hungry growls. She closed her eyes and felt herself swaying as she struggled to say awake. Her head snapped back up before she plummeted from her comfy chair and she glanced around, embarrassed, to make sure no one had seen her. Phew. Just about got away with that.
It felt like an eternity before the woman returned . She didn't seem to have Alex's ID any more. She sat down looking perturbed and wouldn't quite meet Alex's eye.
"Is everything alright?" Alex asked.
the woman bit her lip a little nervously.
"My… colleagues are trying to sort this out for you now," she said "Ms Drake… where did you get the ID?"
Alex froze and her eyes fixed themselves upon the woman.
"It's mine," she said quietly,
"Right, yes," the woman looked tetchy, "well, the thing is… it's not yours. Is it?
Alex felt her heart speed up and a wave of dizziness overcame her. Was it through lack of sleep or food? She didn't think so. It was from the fear. The fear that her 'death' was about to come back to haunt her.
"That's my ID," she said quickly, "there's been a mistake, someone said –"
"This ID belongs to a detective inspector who died three years ago," the woman told her, "You shouldn't have –" she stopped as she watched Alex scramble to her feet, "madam, I've been told to ask you to wait while we – madam!"
As weak and unsteady as she felt, Alex stumbled at speed from the bank onto the street where she heard sirens coming toward her. Surely they weren't looking for her? It wasn't a matter of that much importance was it? Even if the world thought she had passed away just being in possession of her ID wasn't that severe a crime. True she knew that impersonating a police officer was a fairly serious offence but when she already was a police officer, now severe could that be?
Although… she couldn't prove that.
She had no ID. She had no home, She had nothing, there was nothing to say who she was, where she'd come from or what she did.
She had nothing, no one and now she was possibly on the run. All she had was fear. Fear for herself her future, her terrible situation. Fear, and loss, and hunger, thirst, exhaustion, desperation…Her head spun and her legs gave way beneath her as she found herself succumbing to fatigue and the lack of food and water which were all eating away at her. Her body collapsed in a heap, her coat fell from her grasp and shocked onlookers gasped and tutted and 'well I never'ed at her but with her head going round in circles, her vision black and her hearing tinny she couldn't even see or hear them. She didn't give a fuck. It was over, everything was over, Everything she cared about - gone. Home, Molly, her life, Gene, her job, her friends - there was nothing for her here and no way of ever getting home. She had nothing; literally nothing but the clothes draped around her body and the tears that fell indiscriminately down her cheeks. She lay there choking out angry tears, unable to move or even to care. It was over. Everything was over.
She slid quickly into an exhausted, irresistible sleep and complete darkness enveloped her.
When she awoke she was laying on a table in a darkened room. The lights on the ceiling above her swirled into focus and she realised where she was. She knew it well; the medical room at Fenchurch East. The room where –
"Where the suspects go," she whispered. Anyone in need of medical assessment or treatment before questioning would find themselves tucked away there. So what did that mean for her?
She soon found her answer. The sound of metal clanking as she moved her wrists made her gasp and she looked down to see her hands cuffed together. A wave of panic rose inside her and her hear began to beat at double-time. She was a criminal, a damned lowlife criminal. She'd stolen her own identity and as far as anyone knew she was probably some crook trying to get hold of DI Drake's accounts. And there was no one to save her. No one to vouch for her. No one who knew her because they had all seemingly moved on. So with no-one there to clear her name and no way to prove who she was how was she ever going to escape the never-ending nightmare that she'd entered the moment she took that leap of faith and jumped out of the window? The world had moved on. It had moved on without her and so had Gene. She was alone in the world. She might as well have died all over again.
She jumped as the door opened and she watched a figure step in from the shadows. His flowing coat gave him a mien of power and strength; smoke hung around him like a mist and from the darkness his features illuminated as he stepped into the light. The glint from his glasses made her blink and turn her head for a split second before it passed and he stood right before her; a look of sadness and sympathy upon his face. Was it genuine? She just didn't know. She felt like she didn't know anything anymore.
"What have they done to you, Alex?" his voice was gentle; comforting, full of empathy. Was this real? How could she tell? She'd had a hard job of identifying the truth so far. He knelt down beside her and looked her in the eye. "I tried to warn you, Alex. Didn't I tell you things had changed? That Hunt had left you high and dry? He didn't just abandon you in the pub, in his so-called heaven – he's left you here with nothing and no one. He knew you would cling to his shirt tails… he probably knew you were going to come back, but he's abandoned you here anyway." He looked deeply into her eyes, watching her shake through the nerves and exhaustion. "Look what he's done to you."
"It's not his fault," she whispered.
"Where have you been all night, hmm? Walking the streets?" he could pretty much see that from the state of her. There was a jug and some paper cups across the room so he walked slowly towards it with deliberate, methodical footsteps. "Are you thirsty?"
"Yes," Alex tried not to sound too eager, "Yes, I-I am, a little, "she whispered.
Keats couldn't have poured the water any slower if he'd tried. She could swear that he bent the laws of physics to slow down the liquid's journey from the spout to the cup. He sat the jug down, taking an incredible amount of time to make sure that it was at the correct angle compared to the cups and other implements then took the most leisurely, sluggish walk of his life back to Alex on the table. Very slowly he extended his arm. She hesitated before she took the cup. She didn't want him to see how desperate her thirst had grown. She didn't want him to see her weaknesses, nor think that he could win her over with a cup of water in fear of him withholding the next. She drew it slowly to her lips but the second she felt the cooling liquid coat her tongue and swallowed it down she couldn't stop and finished the whole cup in seconds.
Was that a smirk? She couldn't quite tell as he took the cup from her and watched her catch her breath from her swift gulps. She ran her tongue around her lips, catching the rogue droplets that had escaped, eyeing the empty cup and silently begging for him to refill it.
"Was that enough?" he asked.
Alex hesitated. What was the right answer here?"
"I could drink some more," she said quietly.
"Maybe in a minute, hmm?" Keats said amiably, setting the cup on the desk behind hm. He turned back to Alex. "Your lips look sore," he reached out with one finger as though he was about to touch them but she drew back a shade. He seemed a little angry with her reaction. "You just won't let me help you, will you Alex?" he said, a hint of resentment creeping into his voice, "I tried to help you from the minute I arrived. I warned you about Hunt, you didn't listen. I led you to the truth and you still stuck by his side. I gave you the option to go home! To your little girl! And you trusted the word of a man who sent you away without second thought over mine. Who's really at fault here, Hmm? Is it Gene for misleading you for all this time? Is it mine for taking drastic steps to show you the truth? Or is it yours?" he looked so deeply into her eyes that he almost reached right inside her mind and spoke deeply into her consciousness that he could have almost stepped into her head, "for ignoring all the signs, and letting your short-term hormonal urges get the better of you? because that's all that it was, you do realise that? Stupid, hormonal, school-girl lust."
"I'm not a bloody schoolgirl!" Alex cried but after all she had been through, with her body weak and her voice rasping from the dryness of her throat, her words held little strength or power.
"He was motivated by a drive to bury his head between your bosoms and you wanted your bit of rough."
Alex began to feel her anger rising.
"You have no idea-"
"Don't I?" he took off his glasses and set them to one side so that he could stare at her with no barrier between them, "how long have I been observing you at work now, hmm? How many weeks have I seen the two of you together? I've seen the way he looks at you. Did he ever manage to look you in the eye? Or was it always down here?" his eyes skied to her chest to prove a point but before she could react with anger he looked her in the eye again. "I can see more than that in you, Alex. You're not just a nice bit of posh skirt, glamming up the place. You're a strong, confident, intelligent woman. You deserve to do your job on your own merits, not on how many of the station's senior officers want something pretty to look at." He reached forward and as he touched her chapped cheek gently she didn't move away, flinching only for a moment. "I can give you that, Alex," he breathed, "I can give you everything that you want."
"You can't –" Alex began to argue.
"A whole new life," he told her, "a job. A department where you're in control. No one storming in, ham-fisted, bringing charges of police brutality to sully your good name. All Hunt ever wanted was what was in your bodice. I want what's in here," he reached up and placed his fingers to the sides of her head, staring intently into her eyes in a way that sent a strange chill through her spine. "Just say the word and I'll help you," his words were breathy and passionate, "Just ask and these charges will be gone from your record. You'll be back on your feet; new home, healthy bank balance, name on your office door –" he heard her stomach groaning, "- and a full stomach, all by noon. But you have to trust me. After everything you've seen, who is the one who told you the truth?" he saw her eyes dart a little with nerves, "who told you that Hunt wasn't to be trusted? Who led you to the facts about this world? Who told you that things had moved on without you?" her mouth hung open a little, an answer on the tip of her tongue. The handcuffs rubbed her wrists, her stomach ached with hunger, her tongue yearned for another cooling cup of water, and in his eyes she saw all of that. All of that and more. A way out. The end to this nightmare. She couldn't go to prison, she just couldn't - she'd lost her daughter, she'd lost the man she loved, she wasn't going to lose her freedom too.
"Yes," she whispered before she could stop herself.
The glint that arrived in his eyes was immediate.
"What was that, Alex?"
"I said yes," she swallowed as she trembled and tried to fight the strange nausea that built inside of her as she told him, "I'll do it. I'll work for you. I'll do what you ask me to." She was shaking again as she whispered, "I don't' want to feel this way any more,"
A smile washed over Keats's face, bringing his expression to life. He cast his eyes fondly to her face and ran his fingers down her cheek.
"Well done," he told her, "You've made a very wise decision."
The moment that passed between them as he looked into her eyes took whatever was left of her self respect and replaced it with a haze; a mist that came down over her waking thoughts, almost as though she'd been hypnotised. She felt numb again, but this time emotionally so. He'd taken something from deep inside of her He'd stolen her life. He'd stolen her drive. Everything that made Alex so alive and so full of passion faded away with the promise he made as he told her,
"I'll get these charges dropped immediately, and then we're going for a very long lunch to celebrate." He got to his feet and strode to the door. There was no hesitation now; no long, slow walk as there had been to the water jug. He turned around and threw one last smile in her direction. "Welcome to your future, Alex," he told her, then he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
One lone, cold tear ran down her stony face. She couldn't feel it enough to wipe it away. She felt cold and hard; drained of all hope and all emotion. He had stolen from her the last asset she had left – her desire to keep fighting, and in that moment she knew that he'd won. It was time to raise the white flag. She surrendered.
The fire in his eyes and the evil gloat across his face were the outward signs of the expectation he felt inside. He had waited for this for such a long time. All those days and nights he'd read about Alex in her files while she lay comatose in hospital, all those times he'd tried to lure her to his side, all the steps he'd gone through to show her the truth about Gene and now, finally, she had seen the light.
Well, the darkness.
A strong feeling of heat built up inside of him as he thought about it. His. She was his now. He had finally won. He would get to achieve everything that Hunt had failed to accomplish.
The smile that grew across his face could be seen for miles around; it could almost be seen from space along with the Great Wall of China and Evan's beard. He had it all now, because he had Alex. That was all he wanted. It was all he ever wanted.
"You're mine now, Alex Drake," he whispered. His future grew brighter as hers grew evermore bleak.
Her soul began to burn.
All that awaited her now was darkness.
"Welcome to hell Alex. Welcome to hell."