Hello! Here's part two of this loosely holiday-themed story. This is now my first completed LoM fic. *Jumps up and down with large drink in hand* *Spills drink* Oops! I'm just excited, okay? More notes at the bottom if you're into that sort of thing...

Beyond: Part 2

He invited himself in for a nightcap.

People sometimes made the mistake of thinking that there was nothing complicated about Gene Hunt. That trademark camel hair coat was like the earth's crust; beneath the gruff and impenetrable exterior there were layers to be discovered, untold anomalies that were rarely seen or understood, and a bubbling magma of emotions that occasionally erupted out of nowhere.

Annie watched him in the kitchen. He had never been in the house before without Sam there, and it made her realize how large and empty the place was with only herself to fill the space. Being alone here with Gene seemed odd; there was something about the situation that made her feel like a naughty schoolgirl sneaking a boy into her bedroom while her parents slept down the hall, blissfully unaware. She would be lying if she said she'd never thought about Gene in that way before, but those pathways of dubiously innocent speculation had tapered off a long time ago, even before Sam. At least, she thought they had.

Gene was opening and closing cabinets, obviously looking for something. "I haven't got any whisky," she offered.

"Just looking for a glass, love. Brought me own." He produced a flask from somewhere within the confines of his coat, peering over his shoulder as he brandished it.

Shaking her head with a small smile, she walked around the corner to the dining room and produced a tumbler from the cupboard where the glassware was stored. Pausing at the kitchen door, she showed it to him and gestured to her left. "The sitting room's just there. Would you like to come through?"

He pouted, an expression Annie had seen on his face a thousand times. "Thank you, Nancy Drew. I have been in a house before, you know." Nevertheless he followed her, stripping off his coat and the jacket to his suit, laying them on the back of the armchair and flopping down next to her on the sofa. Pouring a measure of Scotch into the glass, he handed it to her.

"I don't-"

"Just indulge me, alright? This conversation will be a hell of a lot easier if we're both a bit pissed."

Obediently, she took a tentative sip. Gene was very still, and there was suspense in the air, constructed of anticipation and words that hadn't been said yet. There was something else going on, too, but Annie couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. She glanced at him, following the line of his throat with her eyes as he took a pull from the flask. Her stomach was tied up in knots.

After a long and uncomfortable silence, he finally spoke. "What you were saying before. About Tyler, and how he always rambled on about bein' alive? He used to say it to me, too." Patting his pockets, Gene fidgeted restlessly when he realized he had left both cigarettes and lighter in his jacket pocket. He looked like he needed to do something with his hands, toying with the flask as he leaned forward.

Annie's shoeless feet were folded beneath her, and she propped one elbow on the back of the sofa as she watched him chew the inside of his lip thoughtfully. She remained quiet, knowing that the slightest misstep could shatter the moment and send Gene running. He was full of nervous energy, fraught with tension, and not for the first time she was dying to know what was going on in that incomparable brain of his.

"Sam was my friend, and he was a good copper." He paused, looking down at his hands and slowly inhaling a lungful of air. Leveling her with a gaze that betrayed his sense of frustrated apprehension, he huffed and threw himself back against the sofa cushions. "Shit. Forget it. What am I doing here, talkin' about my feelings?. Bunch of nancy, fairy-arsed bollocks…"

There was just enough time for Annie to grip Gene's wrist as he attempted to rise. She pulled him back down, knocking him off balance and causing him to pitch forward and land close enough so that their thighs were pressed flush against each other. Annie ignored the tingling sensation she felt at both points of contact, focusing on his face as he used his free hand to brush a rebellious lock of dirty blonde hair away from his eye.

"Gene," she implored, loosening her grasp on his wrist as he settled. "I need to hear it." They were close now, and Annie was dimly aware of the perilous intimacy of the scene. It didn't matter. They were rushing toward a revelation or a breakthrough, a catalyst to jolt them out of this cycle of pain, and she wanted that more than anything.

He capitulated, tilting his head against the back of the sofa so that he was staring at the ceiling as he spoke. "Sam was right… and so were you. He woke me up, forced me to be a better person. I didn't made it easy for him, and there were days where I would have liked nothing better than to lamp him one. There were plenty of days where I did. You know that." Tilting his head sideways, Gene watched her intently. She returned the favor, round eyes studying him at close quarters. He continued. "Tyler was more alive than any person I've ever met. It sounds bloody stupid, but he made me feel that way too. And now?" he snorted, straightening slightly and staring straight ahead. "Maybe I am just as dead as he is, the bastard. All that life, all that… goodness? He must have brought it with him to the other side, because I sure as hell can't feel it anymore."

Knowing what it must have taken for Gene to say these things, her heart went out to him. The words affected her, made her throat feel tight, because in a lot of ways she felt the same. He looked so deflated, so lost, and she almost wished she hadn't pushed him. Selfishly, she needed his strength. Gene Hunt was supposed to have enough backbone and fuck-off bravado to keep both of them sane in a world without Sam. Seeing him lose that resolve reminded Annie of how weak her own grasp was, and how much she'd been relying on Gene to hold her steady.

She managed a response, allowing her shoulder to lean against his. "I shouldn't have said that."

Gene snorted. "Why not? 'S true enough. What am I now? A washed up old copper with a broken moral compass and a liver packed so full of Scotch I could get the whole of A Division and their tarty wives pissed at this year's Christmas party." He peered at her from beneath those long eyelashes, and she couldn't tell if he were angry or if the spark that was still flickering there was calling out for her to contradict him, to remind him that he was more than that.

"That isn't true, Gene. You're a good man. Sam-" She got a bit choked up saying his name, and it made Gene flinch. Annie bit her lip. "-Sam didn't make you that way. And it hasn't changed just because he's gone."

Uneasy silence stretched between them for long seconds. Their faces were not far apart. Gene was leaning back against the cushions of the sofa while Annie perched next to him, body angled toward him. Not sure what else to say or do she studied his face from the furrow between his eyebrows down to his lips, which were set in a hard line with the corners slightly downturned.

He regarded her with an intent seriousness that sent shivers down her spine, and there was a flash of danger in his eyes as he returned her attention with interest. Annie held her breath, certain that he leaned imperceptibly closer as his gaze rested on her mouth and dragged lower. Gene reached over to take the tumbler of Scotch from her hands, draining its contents and setting it on the coffee table. Watching the movement of his arm, she was struck by the sheer physicality of him, and she had a sudden epiphany concerning the strange hum she had felt throughout her body ever since he had followed her through the door. With this new awareness, she could feel the heat radiating off of Gene as he resumed the task of staring at her.

It felt like hours before he spoke. "And that's what you think, is it? That I'm one of the good guys?"

Annie's mouth opened and closed, too dazed and disoriented to properly form a response. She gave a shaky nod.

"Well if I'm such a shining example of bloody saintliness, why am I about to do this?"

His lips crashed onto hers, one hand gripping the back of her neck and pulling her closer. At first she was too stunned to react, like a wild animal caught in a hunter's sights. Then his tongue snaked its way into her mouth and suddenly she was right there with him, hands in his hair, up on her knees pressing closer as one of his arms wrapped around her waist and yanked her body towards his.

Why? That was an excellent question, and Annie had a few ideas. Something to do with the Stages of Grief- which one was this? Bargaining, maybe? She had read all about the stages in a psychology journal, and she would think a bit more about them later, when she was finished snogging Gene Hunt. This was, she reasoned as she slid one of her hands down the side of Gene's face and beneath the collar of his shirt, this was probably what Phyllis had really been trying to warn her about. It was definitely wrong in so many ways, and as for revelations and breakthroughs Annie really didn't think that this was at all helpful in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand his kiss was confident, demanding, and full of the boldness she had always associated with Gene but hadn't seen present in him since they'd lost Sam. There was so much of him in that kiss, she couldn't help but respond to the same degree, giving as good as she got.

Gene certainly knew what he was doing. A hand slid up the back of her blouse for an enticingly fleeting moment and then proceeded to drift downward, over her hip and further. Annie gripped the front of his shirt, tugging at the buttons as their embrace continued to spiral. In a sudden show of strength Gene pushed her down onto the sofa, forcing her leg around his waist and sliding warm fingers up the outside of her thigh beneath what had previously seemed like a perfectly demure wool pencil skirt. She shivered, pressing her hips against his as he insinuated himself between her legs.

They were not handling each other gently. Annie's arms slid behind Gene, pulling his shirt tails out of his trousers. Hands inside his shirt, her fingertips dug into the skin of his shoulders and back, clutching. She sucked at his bottom lip as he broke their kiss, trailing his mouth down the side of her face and along the line of her neck to scrape his teeth over her pulse point. These actions caused her to emit a small moan, firmly entrenched in the process of forgetting everything other than how good it felt. Gene's head shot up at the sound and he looked at her with wide and unfocused eyes, as though he had no recollection of how they had ended up tangled together on the sofa with the fingers of his right hand stroking her through the cotton of her underpants as she reached impatiently for his belt buckle.

He looked slightly alarmed even as he continued to press himself against her. She wondered if he had intended for her to rebuff him, to slap him one or tell him to leave the house. She could expect that of him, that he would try to pick a fight in order to distance himself. Now their dangerous dependence on one another was manifesting itself in an irrepressibly carnal rush, and Annie could almost see the last shreds of his nobility being torn away. "Fucking 'ell, Annie. We can't-" His protests broke off as she reached into his shorts and gripped him firmly. He growled against her collarbone in apparent surrender, pushing himself into her hand and tugging her knickers down her legs.

Soon her skirt was all the way up around her waist and she could feel his cock testing and teasing, deliciously thick and so incredibly hard. She wrapped her legs tighter around him, urging him forward and whimpering as he slid into her. Gene's breathing was uneven, hot against the shell of her ear. Annie arched against him as he ground his hips into hers. She was overwhelmed by sensations that were both new and hauntingly familiar, trying not to think about the reasons why. Gene attempted to prop himself up to gain some leverage for his thrusts, but she pulled him back in. Her lips brushed against his as she spoke, their noses touching. "Need you closer. Please…"

This entreaty seemed to spur him on. One of his arms slid beneath her, chests crushed together and bodies fused tightly. The thumb of his free hand stroked her cheek from the corner of her mouth over to her earlobe as they rocked against each other, gradually gaining in speed and force. Annie's head lolled to the side as Gene grasped at the base of her neck, pushing one knee forward and penetrating deeper. Her attention was split between the exhilarating and filthy things he was doing to her body and the haphazard pile of Sam's slightly pretentious coffee table books that were directly in her line of sight. She squeezed her eyes shut, determined to just feel.

And that was the crux of it, really. This had nothing to do with love, or even desire, so much as a burning mutual need to crawl inside each other. Maybe they needed to feel alive, because of what Sam had told them. Maybe they were each clawing desperately to reach the bits of Sam that were concealed within. Annie Tyler had always known that there was a part of Sam locked away, belonging to Gene and no one else. She was also sure that she must be the owner of such a piece herself; and perhaps the idea of possessing those remnants, or even just touching them for a fleeting moment, was enough to explain this sudden explosion of lust.

On the surface of things, Gene's sexual instinct was astonishingly well-tuned. Annie's breathing was coming in short, gasping moans as she approached her climax and he redoubled his efforts accordingly. Angling his thrusts so that he rubbed at her just so with each downward motion, he clasped her hard against him as her inner walls squeezed and pulled at his cock. They flew over the edge in impressive harmony. He buried his face in her neck and groaned as Annie writhed and shook beneath him, biting at his shoulder to muffle her cries. Gene's hips wrenched and twisted as he shot into her, holding himself deep inside, prolonging her orgasm and riding through his own aftershocks.

The weight of Gene's body, collapsed on top of her on the sofa as their breathing slowed, was oddly comforting. One of her hands was buried in his sandy-colored hair, the other wrapped around his back. His head had fallen onto her shoulder, lips against her neck. To a casual observer the scene could almost look rather sweet; they still wore most of their clothing, and the tell-tale signs of the furious sexual upheaval that had just been shared between them were not as obvious as one might expect. They didn't speak, momentarily unable to process what had just occurred and equally unwilling to extract themselves from the tangle of limbs they had ended up in. Long moments passed, and his breathing steadied to the point where she thought he may have drifted to sleep. She was therefore startled when he moved abruptly, sitting up and reaching for his flask.

Running a hand over his slightly stubbled jaw, he looked at her with an expression that was completely unreadable. "Well, I'm glad we've had this little talk."

Annie couldn't think of an answer to that, simply levering herself into an upright position and pulling her knees up to her chest with her legs crossed at the ankle. He offered her the flask, and she almost laughed at how intimate it felt just drinking out of the same container after what had just passed between them. Rising from the sofa and gathering his things, he gave her one last uncertain look. In a surprise gesture he bent and gently kissed her cheek before turning on his heel and walking out of the house, leaving her alone to wonder what that ridiculously chaste kiss was meant to signify as she heard the front door slam.

xxxxx

Things at work the following day were disturbingly… normal.

It was three days until Christmas, and CID was dealing with the typical wave of desperate holiday-related crimes that tended to strike around this time each year. Gene did not smile secretly at her during the next morning's briefing, and Annie did not bat her eyelashes at him in the incident room. She was surprised to feel an inappropriate sense of calm when he was near, and she knew that couldn't possibly be a good sign after what they had done. Surely she should feel uncomfortable, despoiled, angry at him or even at herself, but she did not.

Nothing unusual happened between them until late in the day. Annie had sensed him looking at her a few times, studying, perhaps trying to gauge her reaction to him. As the afternoon wore on Gene seemed to accept her unbothered demeanor at face value, gruffly shouting for her as usual when a call came in and they were needed out on the streets once more.

If she had wondered about his behavior at all, he hadn't given her much reason for concern in the first half of their work day. Indeed, he hadn't exhibited any quirks worthy of note until they found themselves parked up in the Cortina on a quiet back street, hoping to spot a perpetrator who had violently mugged three different Father Christmases so far this week with only information from a slightly dubious tip off to inform their search. After sitting quietly for three quarters of an hour she noticed that Gene was fidgeting restlessly in the driver's seat, leather-clad hand tapping against the steering wheel in an agitated rhythm. Annie bit her lip, his uneasy comportment making her feel a bit nervous herself. She tilted her head forward and to the side, trying to catch his eye. "Something wrong, Guv?"

"Yep."

Rolling her eyes, she let her head fall back against the headrest. It was her own fault, she supposed. When dealing with an experienced interrogator like Gene Hunt, if you asked a simple question, the simplest and least informative of answers is all you could hope to expect in return.

What she could not have anticipated was that in the next moment he would be pulling her into his lap, holding one of her wrists tight against his chest with his gloved hand and kissing her feverishly. It was easy to get lost in him for a moment, to yield in the face of his forcefully assertive and highly sensual assault- but no matter how potent Gene's kisses might be, Annie knew that this wasn't right, that doing this would just break them into smaller and smaller pieces until nothing was left but sparkling dust. She pushed at his chest, squirming awkwardly in the confined area to try and put some space between them.

Gene simply tightened his grip, gaze steady, and she tried not to notice that the feeling of leather against her skin was an undeniable turn-on. "No, Gene. We both know this isn't right…"

Shaking his head, he wrapped her in his solid embrace and nuzzled the sensitive area behind her ear. "Don't care. Just want to be close to you."

She couldn't say no, not when his justification was so similar to the reasoning she herself had invoked the night before. His hands slid inside her jacket, still clad in those familiar leather gloves and deftly maneuvering their way beneath her blouse. His consuming touch was like a balm for her ravaged emotions, and it was almost impossible to worry about the aftermath when he felt so good pressed against her. Twisting in Gene's arms, she searched his changeable eyes with her own blue ones. The pain and need she found there were a reflection of what was in her own heart, and Annie's resolve crumbled. She cradled his face with both her hands, pressed her lips against his, and gave in.

xxxxx

Gene's wife left him on Christmas Day.

Apparently the accumulation of grievances in what was already a rapidly disintegrating marriage was pushed over the edge by the tell-tale presence of Annie Tyler's perfume permeating his clothes, and the missus took a large suitcase and high-tailed it to her sister's house while Gene was down at the station raiding the bottom drawer of his desk for emergency fags and a bottle of Christmas cheer.

Annie had reluctantly accepted her parents' invitation for Christmas day, figuring that staying on her own in the house would only make her feel depressed. She'd even spruced herself up to a degree; there was a dress in a very flattering jade green that had been sitting in her closet, purchased before Sam's disappearance and intended for just such an occasion. She had even twisted her hair into an elegant up-do and worn proper stockings instead of tights. It actually felt quite good, taking such care with her appearance, and the psychologist in Annie was smart enough to know that it was probably another small leap forward in her healing process. When she arrived back home to find a rather disheveled Gene Hunt on her doorstep, however, she felt distinctly overdressed.

It was still very early in the evening, not even six o'clock. Annie had enjoyed the company of family and friends, but there was a point at which it all began to wear. She had done the polite thing and waited until her mother offered coffee before taking her leave, intending to go home and draw herself a hot bath. Those plans were relegated to the back of her mind when she came upon Gene leaning against her door with- she was relieved to note- a mostly-full bottle of Scotch clutched in one hand. In point of fact she could almost say she was glad to see him, if she wasn't so sure that his brooding presence meant that something had gone terribly wrong.

She approached him cautiously, unsure of what to expect. His gaze was focused and alert, trailing over her face. Annie hadn't seen him look so thoroughly rumpled in a long time; tousled dark blonde mane, unshaven face, no tie, unbuttoned overcoat, and a strangely incongruous footwear choice of what appeared to be snakeskin boots. He looked like he had been sitting there for awhile, sprawled on the step with one knee drawn up so his arm could rest there.

"Gene? What are you doing here?"

One corner of his mouth quirked involuntarily, creating a brief smirk. "Straight to the point, eh Cartwright? Merry flamin' Christmas to you and all."

Ignoring his reversion to addressing her by her maiden name, Annie tilted her head, gesturing with the house keys that were in her hand. Slowly Gene drew himself up. It was like watching a mountain uprooting itself from the surrounding tundra. He stretched his neck, rolling his shoulders and brushing imaginary dust away from his coat. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as she let them into the house. She turned to re-secure the door and could feel him behind her, watching, blatantly disrespecting the boundaries of personal space as she threw the deadbolt.

Gene seemed to find her actions amusing. "More of a stickler than Sergeant Dobbs, you are. Trying to keep the burglars out, or making sure sure I stay in?" He waggled his eyebrows, rocking on his heels and leaning towards her as she turned from the door. Although he had a grin plastered onto his face she could sense the emptiness beyond the joke and knew that he was covering up for whatever had led him here, alone on Christmas Day.

"Sorry. I spend so much time on my own these days, I guess it's become a habit." She pushed past him into the hall, removing her overcoat and hanging it on the rack. Stepping out of her shoes, she peered over her shoulder at him. "Can I get you anything? A glass, maybe?"

He nodded and followed her. Annie felt unaccountably nervous, which was stupid after the things they had done in the past few days- a string of turbulent sexual encounters in places as exotic as the collator's den and the rarely used ladies' toilets at the Railway Arms. It was so completely and utterly wrong, but the sense of closeness she felt and the way it made her forget everything up to and including her own name? It was hard to resist. They were using each other and skirting around the real problem, but the acts themselves were spine-tinglingly pleasurable and delightfully forbidden.

Annie found it quite unsurprising when Gene came up behind her in the kitchen. Placing the Scotch bottle off to the side he trapped her against the counter within the circle of his arms, his chest just barely touching her back. Eyes shut, Annie leaned against him as he trailed his hands down her sides. Gene seemed quite intent on his task of feeling the smooth material of her dress, pressing his steadily growing erection into the small of her back while both his hands trailed down over her hips. One arm slid around her waist and he leaned in even further, long legs sandwiching with hers as the fabric of her dress bunched and the clever fingers of his other hand discovered the top of her stocking and the attached suspender. He made a purring noise deep in his throat, lips hot against her ear. "Christ on a bike, whose Christmas present were you supposed to be?"

There was no time to reply. Annie found herself spun around, edge of the counter digging into her back as he kissed her. The dress was pushed up even further, and she gasped when the top of Gene's thigh rubbed against her most sensitive place. Then he was deftly unpinning her dark hair, nibbling at her earlobe as she shook against him. She was only just able to gasp out a futile protest. "This isn't-"

Pressing his thumb to her lips, he silenced her. "Annie, shhh."

His eyes pleaded with her, greenish silver with raw heartbreak and a directionless brand of despair for which he seemed to have no other outlet, no alternate means of dealing with the pain. She couldn't stop it, sliding her hands inside his coat and biting the slightly stubbled skin on the underside of Gene's chin. She soothed the area with her tongue as he pulled her into him and her lips slid to the edge of his jaw.

Within minutes Annie's dress and her best bra were discarded on the kitchen floor along with Gene's coat, and he was bending her compliant body forward across the small breakfast table. Shirt hanging open, he swiftly unfastened his trousers with one hand and ran the other down the center of her back. Gene didn't seem to have the patience to deal with her remaining garments, and simply yanked her knickers down and to the side to give him access. A muffled groan escaped his lips as he pushed into her and she squirmed, grinding back against him.

It was different from the other times. There was a controlled violence to his actions that was hard to overlook, and an undeniable sense that his attention was elsewhere. Annie could twist her neck just far enough to see him behind her, eyes squeezed shut, speaking to himself almost too quietly for her to hear. She could catch a few snippets; he said her name, a string of curse words, Sam's name, his wife's. Gene's exclamations weren't coherent, and Annie was in no position to try and analyze. His fingers dug into her hips hard enough to bruise, one thumb still hooked through the elastic of her soon-to-be-ruined silk knickers to hold them aside. The sensation of his large cock driving into her over and over was more than enough to derail Annie's train of thought, regardless of what filth- or what surprising revelations- might be coming out of his mouth as he fucked her.

And God, it was good. Unrelenting, brutal, and completely bittersweet. She whimpered and cried out with each twisting thrust, hoping he could feel how much she needed this too. Cheek pressed against the cool wood of the table, Annie reached back and covered one of Gene's hands with her own where it gripped her, encouraging. His eyes shot open at this, and he noticed her watching him from the corner of her eye. The link between them crackled like a live wire, and everything that their relationship was or ever would be was laid bare on the table just like she was- loss, regret, respect, desire, resentment, jealousy, admiration, loyalty, betrayal, even friendship… for a fleeting moment they shared everything.

Gene inhaled sharply and bore down on her as she clamped around him, sliding one of his hands beneath her to grip a breast and the other down to rub her in time with his rapid thrusts while the first waves of her orgasm crashed over her. Then his arms were wrapped so tightly around her that her body left the table, back arching and pressing against his chest. She reached back to tangle a hand into his hair as he joined her in oblivion, shouting and swearing as he found his release.

Boneless and spent, Annie and Gene collapsed onto the kitchen floor. They were lucky enough to land on top of their own discarded clothes, Annie turning in his embrace so that their chests were pressed together. He stroked her hair, brushing it away from her face, mumbling breathless apologies against her temple.

"This has to stop. We're only making things worse." She pressed her face into Gene's neck, relaxing into him as the sweat cooled on their skin.

He gave her a light squeeze, reassuring. "I know, love. I know. Just… let me stay the night."

Annie agreed without hesitation, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was what she needed too.

xxxxx

She invited him into her bed, the bed she had shared with Sam, and they shared a cigarette.

It was obvious that he wanted to say something. Annie waited. She was nestled into his side, one of his arms wrapped around her as they leaned against the headboard. Stabbing the fag end into a makeshift ashtray, Gene frowned slightly. "D'you ever think of him? You know, when we're…"

Stroking her fingers along his collarbone, Annie answered honestly. "When we're shaggin'? No. It helps me forget. At least… sort of." She smiled ruefully against his shoulder. "Why, do you?"

Gene narrowed his eyes, glaring down at her in an oddly non-threatening manner. "You were anyone else, I'd be wearing your guts for garters if you asked me that."

"Sounds a bit kinky."

He gave a short chuckle. "You're one to talk, sexy knickers." He reached down and snapped the suspender against her left leg not far from where it hooked to the stocking. She decided it was best not to mention that he hadn't actually answered her question.

There was a comfortable silence, followed by a deep sigh from Gene. "The wife finally walked out on me today. Not so much as a by your leave, never mind a partridge in a soddin' pear tree."

"I assumed. After all, why else would you be here?"

"Clever girl, you should be in CID."

Annie gave a short laugh, lightly slapping his chest. "What are you going to do now?"

"Do you know, I honestly haven't got a clue."

The pout on his face was familiar, but the expression seemed sadder and more thoughtful than before. Gene Hunt was a man who had lost his best friend, and now his wife. The fact that he would come to her for comfort made Annie feel oddly privileged, and she was overcome by a wave of affection for him. It made her think that perhaps in another lifetime, another place where they weren't both broken beyond the hope of repair, it could have been easy to love him. It wasn't the same as what she felt for Sam- nothing ever could be- but that didn't make it any less real.

"What about you, Mrs. Tyler? Any plans for the future?"

His acknowledgement of her married name should have felt like a hard-won victory, but it just caused a lump to form in her throat. "Dunno… got to move on, I suppose. Keep living, like Sam said."

Gene made a small noise that sounded like agreement, drawing Annie into his arms as he pulled the duvet up and around them. He held her silently as she finally let the tears stream down her face, dripping onto his warm and solid shoulder. It felt good to allow her emotions the outlet they truly needed; especially now that they were tempered by the comforting and familiar scent of whisky, cigarette smoke, and Brut.

It was like this that they fell asleep together, for the first time and the last.

xxxxx

On New Year's Day, 1980, Gene turned up on her doorstep wearing his black overcoat.

She hadn't seen him since Boxing Day. He had left her that morning with one last kiss, long and slow, a mutual absolution. The next day when she'd gone into the station he was nowhere to be seen, and Phyllis informed her that he'd decided to collect on his accumulated leave and wouldn't be back for the rest of the week. It was odd, and Annie wondered where he was. Perhaps he had gone looking for his missus? It seemed unlikely, but with Gene it was hard to say. He could just as easily be off on a wandering journey like that bloke in Kung Fu, although anyone who dared refer to the Guv as 'grasshopper' would probably get a personal training session in the simplicity and immediate effectiveness of Gene Hunt karate.

His visit was certainly a surprise, as he wasn't expected back for several days yet. She offered him tea, which they took through to the sitting room. Making casual conversation on the sofa where they'd shagged each other's brains out just over a week ago was not as difficult as Annie had anticipated. She found out that he had been in London, and had met up with a former colleague from back in the Manchester and Salford days. Apparently there was a magnitude of scum on the streets of East London that needed a firm hand for the sweeping, and Gene had been offered a vacant chief inspector's post at Fenchurch. He'd be headed down in less than a month's time, Ray and Chris in tow.

"I thought about taking you with me, but I… well, I found you something better." He'd handed her a slip of paper. On it was scrawled an address in Hyde and some perplexing instructions, in what was unmistakably Gene's handwriting. "It's your choice of course, but I think this is a transfer you'll want to take."

She looked up at him, confused. "I'm not sure I understand."

Reaching out, he enfolded her hand between both his leather clad ones. "You will, petal. Trust the Gene Genie." He rummaged in his coat, drawing out a set of keys. "You can take me car. I won't be needin' it anymore." He took one last reluctant look at his beloved car keys before handing them over. "Don't scratch the paintwork, mind."

They stared at each other, and Annie wondered why he looked like he was trying to memorize her face. His bearing was strange; he seemed both more himself and less, like his natural fire was now concealed under yet another layer of carefully constructed defenses. The darker clothing he wore made his eyes shine a steely blue, sorrowful but determined. After a long moment he rose abruptly and kissed her in the middle of her forehead. "Bye, Annie."

He swept out of the house without another word, not even the sound of a slamming door. Annie was left alone on the sofa, completely bewildered, clutching the slip of paper and the keys to the Cortina, somehow knowing that she would never see Gene Hunt again.

xxxxx

The narrow lane was quiet, one flickering street light the only illumination here in the dead of night. Annie parked the car and glanced down at the slip of paper in her hand. Her footsteps echoed on the paving stones as she walked around the corner, mouth dropping open as she reached the address to which Gene had directed her. The light from the pub windows glowed out into the gray and unlit street, a low hum emanating from behind the door. Thinking back on the past seven years, there were many times when Annie had thought her husband was slightly insane. Recently she had wondered about Gene, too, and now she questioned her own sanity as she stood at the threshold of this mysteriously transplanted version of the Railway Arms.

She put her hand against the door and felt… something. She wasn't sure what. But as images from her life flashed before her eyes Annie knew that no matter what she found on the other side of that door, it was exactly where she needed to be.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door open and stepped into what lay beyond.

xxxxx

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Woo, it's finished! This was my first foray into Life on Mars fic, so I hope you guys liked it! I'm not totally happy with it, but I couldn't allow my cold-medicine addled mind to poke at it any further. Incidentally, please point out any errors. I was a bit ill this week, so my editing/Britpicking filters may not have been up to the task.

It may be hard to believe, but this didn't turn out nearly as angsty as I had intended. As much as I expound on the virtues of character torture it seems I'm just a big softie at heart.

At some point I might like to try writing a companion piece to this from Gene's perspective. If anyone would be interested in reading such a thing, please say so! I'd be curious to tackle the challenge of trying to convey all the mysterious things going through his mind behind the scenes here.

My only other concern with this fic was that Annie may have come off a bit too... passive. I tried to make it clear that even though Gene was most often the instigator, Annie was right there with him in terms of the more physical turn their relationship took. Who knows, perhaps in the other encounters that were mentioned, Annie was the aggressor. *imagines Annie shoving Gene up against a filing cabinet* Hmm. ;)

Anyway... happy holidays to everyone. Reviews will be rewarded with a glass of bubbly. Possibly Veuve Clicquot if you're very lucky! :D