Hello! So it might be a little early to start posting Christmas fics, but I think this one is going to be about three or four chapters in all, so I decided it was best to get the first chapter posted up around now. The title is the title of a traditional Christmas hymn, but the story has nothing to do with it really…I just liked the title. :) So…nothing more to say really, except enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
P.S – Request from me in advance: Please don't kill me. :P
Disclaimer – I don't own Ashes to Ashes, or A Christmas Carol, which is referenced here. :)
Awake my Soul, Awake my Tongue – Part One
The almost inhuman shriek echoes about the abandoned warehouse, slamming into the concrete walls and reverberating back into her ears. It takes Alex a split second to realise that the yell came from her, and then everything is happening too quickly.
A shot is fired – louder than her scream – and it bursts through her eardrums. She watches with wide eyes as Gene dives, and she feels a pair of strong arms – Ray's, she registers, somewhere in the back of her mind – wrap around her torso, holding her back. But she's trying to surge forwards, screaming, and all she can feel is the gunshot echoing in her mind, over and over again to the rhythm of her pounding heartbeat.
Bammo has Slater, is pushing him against the wall, grinding his jaw into the gritty surface as he claps the cuffs on him none too gently.
Slater's gun is on the floor, still smoking, and Alex's nerves are alight and scorching themselves into tethers as a cacophony of sound clatters in her ears. She can't register anything quick enough. Slater – the killer – arrested, Ray still holding her back, Gene on the floor, black Crombie coat covered in dust, but he's moving… the still echoing shot of a gun.
And then she sees her. Fourteen year old Marie Tilsley, eyes wide in shock, slumped helplessly in the corner, trying with a feeble hand to stem the flow of blood from her gut. Her chest is pulsating, gargling in breaths, and now a trickle of blood is slipping from the corner of her mouth. Alex vaguely registers Chris and Shaz rushing towards her with some of the others, shouts for an ambulance, Gene getting up, radioing to the station. She catches his string of swearwords, his desperate eyes as he glances at Marie. And still Ray is constraining her, struggling as she struggles back, not thinking.
"Let me go!"
"Ma'am – "
"Let me go, Carling!"
She wrestles free of his arms, strong as they are, and almost stumbles towards the figure of the bleeding teenager on the floor. Her face, so young, is slumping along with the rest of her body, and Alex feels the bile fighting to surge back up her windpipe. Her eyelids are fluttering, fighting, and she sees Gene pumping up and down on her chest, Chris trying to stem the flow of blood with his, Shaz's, denim jacket, and Gene's desperate pleas, the orders to stay with me, the no you don't, and then Marie's feeble - "I promised…"
And then her eyes are closed, and Alex is too late, as though she could have somehow prevented it from happening if she had just got there sooner. Marie Tilsley's eyes flutter to a close, her chest stops jumping; her body goes limp in Gene's arms. And all Alex can do is fall to her knees as if in prayer, crawling towards her body, tears streaming down her face until they fall to mix with the blood on the floor. Salt and iron. Rust. Decay.
So much blood. So much life. So much death. So much youth and so much beauty.
For a moment, staring at Marie's lifeless face, she almost wishes the bullet had hit Gene instead. She hates herself for the thought as soon as it flickers in her mind. Not Gene. Never Gene. He can't leave her. He can't die. Can he?
Alex is drowning in a river of red, of dirt and grime and the lifeblood of a young body that should never have been there in the first place. She hears sirens, the wailing of an ambulance. Too late, she thinks bitterly. Slater has been bundled off into a police car, and she hasn't even the heart to ensure that Bammo keeps him in one piece. He can pound the bastard to a pulp for all Alex cares now.
She doesn't know what to do, what she can do. All she can feel is the skin under her hands, damp and warm with blood. All she can do is clutch Marie Tilsley's lifeless hand and whisper apologies over and over again, a syllable for every tear.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
She sees Marie's parents in her mind's eye – Mr Tilsley's horn-rimmed glasses, his wife's trembling lip and manicured nails, torn to shreds with the worry. A deep crease in her forehead that will never be smoothed away now.
"Bols, Bolly…C'mon…Come away…"
She can feel Gene's hand on her shoulder, trying to coax her back, pulling her away. She clutches the dead hand in hers tighter.
Gene moves his arm around her waist, his mouth by her ear, forehead against her temple. "Alex, please."
He sounds so broken, so desperate that she relents, and allows him to pull her away to let the paramedics in.
Hardly thinking, she turns to bury her face in Gene's neck, and when a sob escapes her, he just holds her closer. He is clutching her as tightly as she is clutching him, two lifelines intertweined, and she hears him murmur to her, over and over again.
"Shhh…I'm sorry, love… I'm so sorry…my fault…my fucking fault…"
And if it's true, that a policeman bears the weight of each soul they see lost whilst on duty upon their shoulders, Alex thinks that theirs must be a heavy burden to bear. For a moment she sees the shackles of Jacob Marley winding themselves around her ankles and around Gene's wrists, hears the strike of Big Ben in the distance, and feels the guilt tearing its way like a whirlwind through her veins.
No parent should ever have to lose a child. But on Christmas Eve?
She sobs into Gene's shoulder as snow begins to fall outside the warehouse. White, pure, unclean and untainted. Alex feels anything but.
She shouldn't have been there.
She should have been at home, listening to Slade, decorating the tree with her parents, kissing some boy under the mistletoe at a party she'd been told she wasn't allowed to attend, wrapping last-minute presents for her friends… Anything but there in that warehouse.
She should have gone to bed that night, pretending not to be excited for the morning – because she was fourteen and far too old for that – but secretly anticipating her presents, the turkey, the look on her Mum's face when she opened the bracelet she and her Dad bought for her together. She should have been at home to see the first snowflake fall, to run outside with the dog and try to catch more on her tongue. She shouldn't have been bleeding out onto concrete, surrounded by strangers, as all those snowflakes fell to the ground, uncaught.
She shouldn't have been there.
Alex stares down into her wine, wishing she could drown in it, and wanting to scream something. Anything. There are diners in, enjoying their Christmas Eve, talking jovially with Luigi, clinking their glasses and admiring the tinsel strewn everywhere, oblivious to the sombre-faced group of detectives nursing their drinks in the corner.
They shouldn't be happy, she thinks, almost viciously as she slams down her glass and feels the pinpricks of tears in her eyes again.
Don't they know? Don't they see?
But that's the problem. They don't know. They don't see.
They don't know that there is now a family gathered around their Christmas tree, no longer anticipating the morning. They don't know how someone's little girl lost her life tonight, at the hands of a man who never even knew her, who got it wrong.
Alex wants to scream at the injustice of it all. She wants to go outside, turn her face to the invisible stars and the falling snow and scream at how unfair it is. She wants to feel the sting of freezing wind on her face and just one tenth of the pain and confusion and devastation Marie must have felt in her last few seconds on Earth.
Those had been her last words. The words of a dying girl, taking her last breath too soon. Decades too soon.
Alex feels the iron lump form in her throat, rough and gritty, scratching her flesh, blocking her windpipe. Good. She doesn't deserve the flow of oxygen, the exchange of gases that keep her cells alive.
She wonders what Marie meant. What had she promised? What had she said she would do?
Alex imagines it was something small, the sort of detail that only means something when you're dying. She knows her last thought as Layton's bullet penetrated her brain was candles. She had promised to blow out the candles with Molly. She never got to keep her promise either.
She thinks that maybe Marie had promised to hang up the stockings with her Mum, to help her Dad defrost the turkey. Perhaps she was going to take the dog for a walk, or tidy her room before Santa came.
She never would.
Alex reaches for the near-empty bottle of wine at her elbow, and fills her glass back up to the brim. Gene glances at her, but says nothing. He only takes the now empty bottle, goes up to the bar, and fetches a new one.
They say nothing to each other. Because there is nothing to say. That morning, Marie Tilsley was alive. Tonight, she is dead.
And all either of them can hear is the dreaded whisper of convicted guilt: my fault…my fault…my fault…my fucking fault.
Just a bit of a grim start… Those of you who follow me on Tumblr will know I've been warning that my Galex Christmas fic this year would be a little darker than my previous ones though. I hope you're still interested to read more though, and please review!