Author's Note: The final chapter! Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited or set alerts. Means the world to me! xx
This story is continued in Eyes Completely Open ( s/8956847/1/Eyes-Completely-Open)
For Ever and Ever
Alex awoke from a dreamless sleep just as the winter sun was attempting to make an appearance and turned over to find Gene still asleep beside her. She felt a soft smile spread over her face, relieved to see that the tension she'd seen in him since she'd been back had faded. She'd only ever seen him this relaxed on a few occasions in all the time she'd known him.
In the growing morning light, everything about him seemed… gentler; his features more open, his posture relaxed. Even his hair seemed somehow blonder, a lock of it breaking free and falling over his forehead. From Sam Tyler's account, she knew Gene had been much more at ease in Manchester, had laughed that much more, his emotions lying closer to the surface, more easily accessible.
But Sam had left, his marriage had broken down and Alex had found a very different Gene Hunt in London. Darker, angrier, more aloof. She remembered a conversation she'd once had with Ray and Chris about the decision to move to London.
'So he asked you to move to London and you both just followed him. Like good little dogs. How does he do that?' Alex said, slurring slightly as the wine warmed her blood.
Ray stopped staring at the blonde at the next table and looked at Alex. 'Weren't like that.'
'You don't know 'im, boss. Ma'am.' Chris said. 'He weren't even gonna tell me and Ray.'
Alex sat up, her interest piqued. 'Really?'
Ray shook his head, taking a drag on his cigarette. ''e didn't come to the darts match against B division one night.'
'Not like him,' Alex observed drily.
'No,' Chris agreed. 'Well… 'is missus'd gone by then so we thought 'e might be with a bird, like.'
'So, anyway,' Ray said loudly, giving Chris a look which Alex pointedly ignored. 'After we lost the match, me an' Chris went back to the station to raid the Guv's scotch an' 'e was there, packin' up his office. I asked 'im what the bloody 'ell was goin' on. Told us 'e was transferrin' down 'ere.'
'He said it weren't the same after Sam died,' Chris added.
'I asked why 'e didn't tell us,' Ray said.
'And? What did he say?'
'Raymondo,' Chris said in a passable impression of Gene. 'Didn't want you two gettin' all teary eyed. I've already 'ad to comfort bloody Phyllis. A situation I won't be repeatin' with you two tarts.'
Ray nodded. 'We told 'im not to be daft, we were comin' with 'im.'
'What did he say?' Alex asked, glancing over at Gene's brooding figure, propping up the bar. Even now, she could see the remembered hurt on Ray's face and wondered why Gene would think he had to go off alone. Why he'd think he could.
'The usual,' Ray said, sitting back. 'Told us not to be so bloody Dorothy and left. Didn't say anythin' when we were waitin' by 'is car the next mornin' though.'
And now they were gone. The people who had known him best – the people he trusted – were gone. They'd all left him in one fell swoop.
Except me, Alex thought. I came back.
She allowed her eyes to track over his duvet-covered form until she reached his chest. As her eyes moved over the bandage on his upper chest, she felt a frown form on her forehead, darkening her good mood. The image of him, lying pale and still on the floor of the cellar they'd found Tina Eastridge in floated to the surface of her mind and she felt panic rise in her throat. She shook her head to dispel it, concentrating on the regular movement of Gene's chest as he breathed, the warmth she could feel emanating from him.
The sheer stubbornness of the man astounded her. Shot twice in the last week and still throwing his weight around at Fenchurch East, still able to make the lower echelons of East London society quake in fear and still managing to ensure she was running on what amounted to half the quantity of sleep she was used to.
Gene rolled onto his side and slid an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. 'Stop starin', Bolly. You'll 'ave me blushin',' he murmured into her hair, his voice rough with sleep. She turned so her back was pressed against his front, smirking as she heard him stifle a moan. 'Time is it?' he asked, long fingers lightly skimming over her rib cage.
'About seven,' she said, judging by the light outside. He sighed and rolled onto his back. 'What's wrong?' she asked, rolling over and propping herself up on one elbow.
'See, Bolls, what I want to do is stay 'ere and allow you to take advantage of me again. But I've got to go 'ome before work an' if I want to get in there before Deighton's brief I'll 'ave to step lively.'
She smiled down at him, running her hand down over the part of his chest that wasn't covered by bandage.
'An' you can stop that an' all,' he growled, looking every bit as though he would welcome the distraction. 'Gives me the 'orn.'
'Surely we've got time…' she said, trailing off as he smirked at her.
'Thanks to you, Bolls, I 'ad the afternoon off yesterday. No tellin' what that bunch of clowns has been up to.' He sighed and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and standing.
'They're more than capable of running the station without you for a day or so, Gene,' she chastised, watching appreciatively as he stretched.
He turned, poised to make a snappy retort but his pout dissolved into a smirk when he caught her watching him. 'Oi! I'm not just here for you to ogle, woman. Got a nick to run.'
She looked up at him, annoyed that she could feel herself flushing slightly. 'Still a bit early,' she pointed out.
'Told you, Bolly,' he said, pulling his shirt on. 'Got to go home first, have a shave and change me clothes. Otherwise I could stay 'ere and be at your mercy.'
She rolled out of bed and walked around towards him, picking up her dressing gown from the floor and slipping it on. 'You should just bring your things here, really,' she said, concentrating on tying the belt.
When he didn't respond she looked up to see him paused halfway through buttoning his shirt, watching her carefully. She tracked back through what she'd just said and reddened slightly. Had she really all but asked him to move in?
'I mean, if you wanted to,' she said hurriedly. 'It would be easier. For work, I mean. If you…' She trailed off and turned away from him. 'Right,' she said, feigning a bright tone she didn't feel. 'I'm just… I'm just going to have a shower.'
As she closed the bathroom door, she heard him call her name, followed by something else she didn't catch, drowned out as it was by the sound of the shower. 'I'll see you at the station!' she called though the door.
When Gene strode in to CID ninety minutes later Alex was already at her desk. He barely paused on his way to his office, slowing only to drop a white paper bag on her desk.
She opened it curiously, expecting to find a bacon sandwich or some other typical example of what the Guv considered an appropriate breakfast. She was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find the bag contained a bagel of some kind. She looked up to thank him, but he was already in his office, shrugging out of his coat.
He leaned out of the door to shout 'Harper! Tea! Five sugars!' before closing it and moving around behind his desk, picking up a file and sitting down, propping his feet up on the desk.
Gene and Alex interviewed Lawrence Deighton at ten, managing to get through a whole half an hour before the man's brief arrived, although Deighton himself didn't seem to care one way or the other.
After the interview, Gene seemed thoughtful. As Deighton was led back down to the cells, he stopped Alex in the corridor outside CID.
'What d'you think?' he asked in a low voice.
'He's pretty cocky, Guv,' Alex said, keeping her own voice low. 'Thinks he's untouchable.'
Gene nodded, agreeing with her assessment. 'Probably got a few bent coppers in 'is pocket. Thinks he can afford to play smiley the happy bloody clown with us.'
'Well, surely no one at Fenchurch East..?' Alex asked quietly.
'This lot?' He shook his head. 'No, after that business with Super Mac they know the score. If I get to 'ear of any bloody idiot linin' his pocket I'll 'ave their head on a plate and their balls in a vice.'
'I think he thinks we have no evidence.'
'Don't need evidence to 'old 'im. Got eyewitness testimony. Evidence can't be far behind.'
'Moira? Do you think she'll testify, Guv? She seemed pretty terrified.'
He straightened, his voice switching from secretive to his normal brash tone. 'Course she will, Bolls. After you've 'ad a word. I 'ad Moira and Carlisle put up in a hotel last night. Take Sawyer.'
'Don't you want to come?' she asked, tilting her head to one side in surprise.
He looked down at her, narrowing his eyes. 'Can't 'ave me all to yerself, Bolly, the others'll get jealous. Mush.'
The rest of the day passed relatively quickly. Moira Allen had been more than happy to help in any way she could with the case against her stepfather, so long as Fenchurch East CID stayed involved every step of the way.
Alex and Sheena arrived back at CID to find most of their colleagues gathered around a whiteboard, industriously trying to piece together Deighton's human trafficking operation. Alex sat at her desk, watching as Gene took the board marker from Tremaine and added to the list of known associates already on the board. As he handed the pen back the doors to CID opened again, admitting Liam Clarke.
A hush fell over the room, attention swaying between Gene, still looking intently at the board and Clarke, who was watching the back of Gene's head carefully. Alex could feel the tension in CID as the room collectively held its' breath, waiting for the Guv to react.
Gene glanced over his shoulder. 'DI Clarke. Yer late. Get yer arse over 'ere and help us build this profile. You too, Bolls.'
A couple of hours later, Gene called time on the day and the entire department headed over to Franco's for a late 'lunch'.
'So really, we've got-' Alex broke off as she reached the steps down to the trattoria, realizing she was alone. She turned to see Gene standing at the kerb, his hands in his pockets. 'Are you not coming to Luigi's, Guv?'
'Franco's,' he corrected.
She rolled her eyes. 'Whatever. Aren't you coming in?'
'Not tonight. Quite fancy a night in,' he said, glancing down at his boots as he spoke.
'A night in?' she repeated, raising her eyebrows questioningly.
'Yeah,' he said, scuffing his feet on the kerb and looking more uncomfortable by the second. 'Just the two of us. Quiet like.'
She smiled, torn between relief that this morning's embarrassment seemed to be completely behind them, and amusement at his awkwardness. 'Oh yes?'
He looked up at her, blue eyes suddenly piercing as discomfort was replaced with a heated look she'd come to recognize. 'Yes,' he said, stepping into her personal space, the tone of his voice making her shiver. 'So let's be 'avin you, Bollykecks, before that lot – '
Alex almost moaned aloud in dismay as Simon Tremaine reappeared at the top of the stairs.
'I told you to bloody 'urry up,' Gene growled at her.
'You coming for a drink, Guv? Ma'am?' Simon asked, apparently oblivious to the fact that he was interrupting a moment.
'Of course,' Alex said, smiling.
'Of course,' Gene repeated, murmuring in her ear as he moved to precede her down to the restaurant. 'One drink. Then I'm carryin' you up those bloody stairs.'
One drink had turned into two, and then a bottle as Alex and Gene sat with the rest of CID. Towards the end of the bottle, Alex found herself watching more than taking part, seeing the way the team fitted around Gene, the easy way he interacted with them now his guard was down.
Realizing the wine bottle was empty, she got up to order another before Gene could shout at Franco. In the mirror over the bar she saw Liam Clarke slip into her seat opposite Gene, putting two glasses of scotch down on the table between them.
'Clarke,' Gene said, his voice just reaching Alex's ears over the chatter of CID. 'Been wantin' a word with you.'
'This is going to be about Alex, isn't it?' Liam said.
'Drake?' Gene scoffed. 'She bloody wishes. This is about you and me, Clarke.' He took a sip of the scotch. 'You see this place?' he asked. 'It may be filthy, scum-ridden and too many miles bloody south, but it's mine. And that lot, busy gettin' blind drunk over there?' he nodded towards the rest of the team, currently engaged in a drinking game Alex vaguely recognized as something she'd seen Gene and Ray play once before. 'They might be lazy and tarnished and so bloody stupid sometimes I wouldn't trust 'em to count their bollocks twice and get the same answer. Except Sawyer, o' course. And that's only 'cos she doesn't 'ave any and it's easy to count to zero. But they are mine. That man you were cosyin' up to…. that man is dangerous. And if I ever 'ave even the sniff of a suspicion that you are puttin' any of my team in danger again – any of 'em – you'll find out just how much of a bastard I can be.'
'You did shoot me, Guv,' Liam said mildly.
'Consider it a friendly warnin'.'
'He said you broke his jaw.'
Alex smiled as she heard Gene snort in amusement. 'Did he now? 's nothin' to what I'll break if 'e comes round 'ere again.'
'I was staring into an abyss, Guv,' Liam said. 'I'd lost everything. You can't imagine what that's like.'
In the pause that followed, Alex rolled her eyes in anticipation of Gene's response. No. Because I am not a bloody fairy.
'You know, I think I can,' Gene said quietly.
Liam regarded him in silence for a moment before taking a sip of his scotch. 'God that's strong,' he wheezed. 'How you can drink that at nine in the morning I'll never know.'
'Poof,' Gene sneered.
'So what do I do if it happens again?'
Alex heard the click of Gene's lighter as he lit a cigarette. There was a pause and she watched him take a drag before exhaling the smoke, watching Liam through narrowed eyes. 'The job.'
'And if that's not enough?' Liam sounded just as desperate as he'd been outside the warehouses, but it was different now, as though he was asking Gene for reassurance. 'It wasn't… before.'
'That, Inspector, is where I come in.'
'I hear things sometimes.'
'You want to get your 'ead examined.'
'No. From… there,' Liam said.
'Don't know what you mean,' Gene said flatly.
'You really don't, do you?' Liam said thoughtfully. 'The boy on your warrant card. Who was that?'
Alex stiffened, remembering Liam's reaction when Gene showed him his warrant card. But, that can't be yours. That's just a kid…
'Me,' Gene said. 'Look.' He fished in his pocket and retrieved his warrant card, flipping it open and dropping it on the table.
'But that's not… It was different before.'
Gene stubbed out his cigarette, regarding Liam with the steady, unflinching gaze only a career criminal or a copper could bestow. The look, in fact, of a born bastard. 'Don't know what you're talkin' about.'
'Why am I here? Everywhere I could have gone and I end up here.'
'I know why,' Gene said softly as he stowed his warrant card away in his inside pocket. 'Same reason I am. Some part of you still believes this - what we do - makes a difference.'
'And Alex? Is that why she's here?'
'That's her business,' Gene said, his voice regaining its usual brusque tone.
Liam was silent a moment before responding, his tone more jovial this time. 'And yours I reckon, Guv.'
Alex tensed, expecting Gene to react badly, but he responded in kind. 'Oh you do, do you?'
'You should be over there with her, instead of here talking to me.'
'You know what, Liam? You're spot on. 'scuse me.'
In the mirror, Alex watched Gene rise and drain his drink, moving around the table and heading for the bar.
Liam turned in his seat. 'He knows you Guv,' he called. 'That man we were talking about. He knows how to break you.'
Gene looked up, catching Alex's gaze in the mirror for a moment before turning back to Liam. 'That a threat?'
'A warning. I don't want him to get to them. He's D and C. When you shot me, you were basically inviting him in to Fenchurch East.'
'He's not a bloody vampire, Clarke.' He appeared to consider this for a moment. 'Mind you…'
'I mean it, Guv. He knows where you're vulnerable.'
'Nothin' vulnerable about the Gene Genie, Clarke.'
'I'm talking about Alex. He got me to use her against you.'
Gene glanced at the rest of the team, but they were paying no attention to he conversation between their DCI and DI. 'Bolly's tougher than she looks. She can look after herself.'
'And when she can't?'
'Sorted you out, didn't I?'
'Gene, he knows how to get to you. Knows it's her.'
Alex watched Gene walked back towards Liam and lean down, putting both hands on the table, saying something that was too low for her to hear.
They stared at one another for a long moment, before Liam gave a relieved nod and Gene straightened, turning without another word and joining Alex at the bar. She pushed a tumbler towards him.
'You heard all o' that I take it?' he said, draining the glass in one gulp.
'Most of it. You didn't hit him,' she said, looking down into her wineglass to hide her smirk.
'Thought about it,' he replied, pouting as he watched Franco refill his glass.
'But you didn't. I'm proud of you,' she said, raising her glass. 'What did you say to him, just then?'
'Gene – '
'Do me a favour an' put a sock in it, Bolls.'
She smiled, watching his throat convulse as he knocked back his scotch. He set his glass down on the bar with a thump and looked down at her as he pulled his coat on. 'Right. I've 'ad enough socialisin' for one evenin'. Allow me to escort you upstairs, Lady Bolls?'
She nodded and he held her coat out so she could put her arms through the sleeves, brushing his fingertips against her neck as he straightened her collar. She shivered, knowing he would see it but unable to stop her reaction.
She turned to look up at him but froze at the expression on his face. He was looking beyond her, towards the restaurant door. She looked around quickly and saw the tail of someone's coat as they left the building. She turned back to Gene.
'Gene what – '
'Guv-' she protested, reacting to the tone in his voice. But he was gone, out the door and up the stairs before she could stop him. 'Wait here?' she muttered. 'Not bloody likely.' She headed up the stairs slowly, stopping before she reached the top and peering through the railings. Alex felt her stomach turn over as she saw a hunched figure leaning against the Merc, bathed in the orange light of the streetlamp overhead.
'Detective Inspector Keats,' Gene said, stopping a little way away, still shrouded in shadow. 'To what do I owe the… well, I'd say pleasure but we both know I'd be lyin'.'
'It's DCI actually thanks Gene,' Keats said, looking up. 'Car looks good,' he added, tapping the bonnet of the Merc. 'Nice paintjob.'
'Heard you were demoted.'
'My boss recognizes an honest mistake when he sees it.'
'Why do I get the feelin',' Gene said contemplatively, 'that you're not talkin' about your Super?' He lit a cigarette and dropped the lighter back into his coat pocket.
'Displacement activity,' Keats said, smiling and nodding towards the cigarette. 'I must make you nervous, Gene.'
'Don't flatter yerself, Jimbo.' Gene asked. 'Want one?' Keats nodded and Gene tossed him the packet. Keats lit a cigarette and made to throw the packet back. 'Keep 'em,' Gene said, making no effort to help light the other man's cigarette. 'Can't smoke upstairs anyway.'
'Oh yes. Alex Drake, practically living with her DCI, what will her colleagues think?'
'They'll think she's a lucky bloody cow.'
'Could make things difficult for her,' Keats said, looking at the tip of his cigarette in mock contemplation.
'Can't say as I care, Jim. Don't think Alex cares what that bunch of twats thinks either.'
Keats smiled, the streetlamp overhead casting strange shadows on his face. 'I can help you with that. With all of this really…'
'That why you're 'ere?' Gene asked. 'To offer me a way out?'
'I've got the power,' Keats said. 'Quick transfer…'
'You've got nothin' I want, Jimbo.'
'I think I do have something you want, Gene. I can guarantee her safety.'
Gene hesitated a moment and Alex saw his shoulders tense. 'I don't make deals wi' people like you. Not anymore.'
'Not even to save Alex? Not even to keep her safe, Gene?'
When Gene spoke, his tone was one of deep disappointment. 'Oh, James. When are you gonna learn that you can't tempt me? You've got nothin' to offer that I can't sort out meself.'
'Actually, I think you're right, Gene,' Keats said, dropping the cigarette to the road and grinding it underfoot. 'You don't have it in you to see what I'm offering. Alex though, she's a smart girl. If you hadn't been there that night I reckon she'd have come with me.'
'But I was there,' Gene said. 'And I'll always be there.'
'You're just a PC in plain clothes, Gene. The boy who never made it past his first week on the job. Who died all alone in a remote farmhouse while everyone he knew celebrated the coronation.'
Alex looked at Gene. In the half-light from the streetlight, it seemed as though the long dark material of his coat was different. Silver insignia glinted at his shoulders for a moment before he shifted, dispelling the image.
'Rather be a PC in plain clothes than whatever the bloody 'ell you're supposed to be. 'Cos you just can't work it out, can you? Can't work out why you lost Chris, Ray and Shaz. Why Alex and Clarke wouldn't come wi' you instead of stayin' with me.'
'I tore your kingdom apart once before, Guv. I can do it again,' Keats said, his voice coming out in a hiss. ''Cos I know everything about you, Gene. Every nasty, violent thing you've ever done. Every backhander, every blind eye turned, every time you've gone that bit too far with a suspect. Your whole life, Gene Hunt.'
'Try it,' Gene growled. 'Just you try an' bring me down again. I might not be able to bury you, Keats. But I can promise you that I will make sure you never set foot inside a police station again.'
'Thing is Gene, you make yourself so visible, don't ya? Always have to be "the Guv". The Manc Lion, large as life and twice as ugly. Me, I keep my head down. Makes it easier to get about. Talk to people.'
'Yeah?' Gene asked, stepping forward into the pool of light surrounding Keats. 'Well, you're gonna 'ave to do that elsewhere. I catch wind of you anywhere near my officers and I will tie you to the rear bumper of my car and drive up the M1. And another thing, if I ever 'ear you're even thinkin' about Alex – and I will hear about it – I will make sure you're singin' soprano for the rest of eternity.'
'I wondered why you didn't send Alex back. You think you're stronger with her here, Gene, but you're not. What about when she forgets? How are you going to hold onto her then? When she doesn't need you to fill the hole left by her little girl anymore? When she doesn't need the Guv to make it all better,' he sneered. 'When you've forgotten again.'
Gene stepped forwards, stopping just in front of Keats and towering over him as the other man continued to lean against the Merc. 'Firstly, get your arse off my car. Secondly, don't you ever talk about Alex's daughter again.'
Keats stood slowly, brushing himself off in an attempt to appear nonchalant, but Alex could see he was rattled. Something about Gene was worrying him. She didn't blame him, even unable to see Gene's face she could sense the righteous anger radiating from him, could sense the need to protect his team – to protect her – pouring off him.
'And thirdly?' Keats hissed.
'Thirdly, DCI Keats. I will never forget why I'm 'ere. But it doesn't make a blind bit o' difference to what I am. I'm a copper. And I'm a bloody good copper. I'll make sure that lot are bloody good coppers too. And I'll keep Bolly as close to sane as she's ever been,' he snapped, punctuating the last word with a shove to Keats' shoulder. 'And while I'm at it, I'll keep 'er just annoyed enough to remember who she is and keep a bloody smile on 'er face every night, which is more than I suspect you've ever done for anyone in your entire pointless existence. And don't you worry about the Gene Genie, Jimbo, 'cos I'll be sitting pretty in my kingdom, watchin' my little soldiers marchin' to the beat of my drum and I will weed out any rotten apples with before they can poison the whole bloody crop.'
Keats stared, his mouth open as though he was going to speak but couldn't find the words. Alex looked between them, admiring the aesthetics of the scene itself. Keats, dark and secret somehow, twisted by the force of the tirade that had been unleashed upon him. And Gene Hunt, seeming to tower over him, the blond of his hair under the streetlight contrasting with the dark collar of his coat. She remembered what she'd thought the first night she'd been back. Her angry angel. And he was every inch of that right now.
'This place is all about balance, Gene,' Keats said finally. 'The balance between you and me. And I'll always be there. I have every confidence that even your officers'll see the clear choice between a brash, violent brute and a decent hardworking copper such as myself. The minute your back's turned I'll be there.'
'I don't bloody doubt it,' Gene snapped. 'Now I want you to get into whatever shit heap of a car you used to get 'ere and drive away, Jimbo. Now.'
Keats glanced up at him and seemed to shrink back even further for a moment, before turning and walking away, his shoulders hunched as though trying to protect himself from Gene's glare.
Gene lit another cigarette and took a drag before turning and leaning against the Merc, watching Keats move down the street. 'Come on out, Bolls.'
Alex climbed the last couple of steps and moved to lean against the car at his side. 'Guv.'
'Are you ever goin' to do as you're bloody well told, woman?' he asked mildly, not taking his gaze from Keats' back.
'I thought you might need me,' she admitted.
'What?' she asked.
'Knew you were there.' He glanced at her. 'Thank you,' he added, returning his gaze to Keats as the other man got into what looked like an extremely beaten up Volvo 343. 'He offered to keep you safe,' Gene said contemplatively.
'I don't need to be kept safe.'
He snorted derisively. 'You bloody do. Don't think I've ever met anyone who was as much of a trouble magnet as you.'
'Pot. Kettle. Black, Gene.' He glanced down at her before returning his gaze to the street. 'I'll do you a deal, Guv. You watch my arse and I'll watch yours.'
The side of his face she could see looked amused at her choice of words. 'Can think of worse ways to spend me days I s'pose.'
Alex dropped her hand to rest beside his on the bonnet, her eyes widening in surprise as she felt him run his little finger over hers. She glanced down at their hands, trying and failing to conceal her smile at the unexpectedly tender gesture, performed while Gene continued to glare after Keats, pout firmly in place.
'Should we go up?' she asked as Keats' car turned at the top of the road.
'You go on, Bolls. I've got keys. Gonna send that miserable lot 'ome and make sure that jumped up little prick doesn't double back.'
Alex nodded and moved away from the car, heading for the flat door. Before she reached the kerb on the other side of the road, she turned and walked back towards Gene. He looked up as she approached, confusion flashing in his eyes in the split second before she grabbed his tie and pulled him towards her, pressing a hard kiss against his parted lips.
Before his surprise could fade enough for him to take an active part in the kiss she released him, stepping back and looking up at him through her lashes. 'Don't be long, will you Guv?' she murmured, smirking at the look on his face.
'Don't be long?' he repeated, recovering slightly. 'At this rate I'll be there before you and you know that's not 'ow I like to do things.'
Alex smiled and walked to the flat door, feeling his gaze on her back all the way.
When she reached the flat she headed for the bedroom, aware she'd left it in a bit of a mess that morning. Upon entering the room, however, she saw the bed had been made and the previous day's clothes were in the laundry bin. Suspicious, she moved into the bathroom, where her towel had been picked up from the floor and hung on the rail. As she turned to leave the room, she froze. Something was wrong.
Alex turned slowly around in the tiny bathroom, trying to work out what had changed. Finally, her gaze alighted on the sink. A man's razor was resting on the edge of the sink. She stepped forwards and picked it up. Perfectly innocuous object that it was, it seemed to weigh an awful lot in her hands. You should just bring your things here, really.
She put it back down and walked back into the bedroom, moving to the wardrobe and opening it. Her clothes hung on one side, as they had the whole time she'd lived in the flat. Alongside them were the men's shirts the wardrobe had always contained, but they seemed to have been joined by others, along with several suits she recognized.
She reached towards one of the suit jackets and ran her hand down the sleeve, well aware that she had a slightly soppy smile on her face.
'You were right, Bolls.' Gene's voice sounded from behind her. 'I can think of a much better use of my time in the mornin' than goin' 'ome. Much better start to the day. That ok?'
She turned, still holding the sleeve of his jacket. 'It's more than ok, Gene,' she said softly.
'Soppy mare,' he said, looking slightly uncomfortable. He glanced down at her hand. 'Real thing's probably better, Bolls,' he said, holding out a hand to her.
She took it and stepped towards him, feeling him slide his arms around her waist as she pressed herself against him. 'Now,' he said, the gravelly tone of his voice making her shiver. 'Where were we?'