During the three years Alex had spent in Gene Hunt's world, there was something she'd occasionally thought about doing. Those thoughts had come to her in her more abandoned moments. Or her vulnerable moments. Or her honest moments.
She was thinking about it now. This time, however, she followed through.
She reached over as Gene drove the pool car he'd booked out down the approach road to the Blackwall Tunnel, and when the evening darkness was replaced by the flash-flash-flash of tunnel lights speeding by, she pressed her hand to his left leg. And rubbed. Sensually.
"Christ, Bolly," Gene muttered through clenched teeth.
"Too much?" she asked.
"More like not nearly enough. But there's a time and a place, wouldn't you say?"
His grasp on the steering wheel tightened. There was the faintest creak of leather against vinyl over the engine sound. Alex thought about those hands in those gloves, and she needed to squeeze her thighs together. She let her head fall back against the seat, and her frustrated desire escaped in a throaty groan.
"I mean it, nympho-knickers – do you want us to get there in one piece?"
She reclaimed her hand. "Sorry," she said, a little breathless. "I've just wanted to do that for a very long time."
"Touch me?" He sounded surprised. "I've never been far away."
Alex frowned. "Oh, so it's my fault?" She looked at the bland concrete walls of the tunnel and thought about all that had happened between them: the things that had kept them apart. The unanswered questions, the lies, the disbelieved truths. "It's me. I've been holding us back all this time."
"Are you by any chance getting annoyed wi' me?" There was too much amusement in his tone.
"Yes!" She sighed and turned to him. "No. Yes."
"Make up your mind."
"Yes, I'm annoyed. Feels like we wasted a lot of time. But it's not just you. I'm annoyed with myself."
Gene glanced her way before returning his attention to the flow of traffic. "Don't think it was ever much of a secret, Bolly – you could've had me any time you fancied it."
"I told you I fancied it once," she countered. "And I ended up with a 'yuppy twat'. An encounter that you referred to just the other day. Three years on, and you still keep my single bloody one-night-stand stored away as ammunition, ready to sling at me when you feel wounded."
"So maybe wounding me wasn't a good idea."
Alex sagged in her seat. "Yeah, well, can't argue with that."
"Oh, I'm sure you could. If you put your mind to it."
She sighed a big sigh. "I don't see the point. I was...you had every right to feel wounded."
Gene shifted his weight in the unfamiliar driver's seat. "Right. Well. Since you brought this up – are we, er, are we going to discuss the other night?"
Alex snorted and looked at him. Gene glared at her when she didn't give him any more of an answer than that.
"What?" he demanded.
"Are you serious?" Alex asked. "Gene Hunt is asking to discuss an emotional issue with me, in a mature and adult fashion?"
"Didn't specify the fashion, did I?"
"Well, it's a start," she conceded. "But I already told you. It was too much. I panicked. I ran away. And I didn't run far, by the way. I slept at my desk."
"So I was supposed to come and find you, was I? You know, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I didn't think foreplay extended to playing hide and bloody seek."
"I...god, I don't know, Gene. Is there some part of 'panicked' you're not clear on?"
He gave a huff. "Yeah, well, you didn't seem that panicked before Keats knocked at the door."
"How did you know it was Keats?"
He shot her a look. Alex shrugged.
"Okay. Okay, couldn't really have been anyone else." Alex briefly closed her eyes. For a night that was supposed to be about new starts, about moving forward, they seemed to be far too intent on dwelling on the past. Perhaps these words were necessary, though. "Keats – he showed me the photo," she told him.
"So it was the building!"
Alex rolled her eyes. "Seriously, Gene, you can drop it. You've proved you're incapable of mature discussion." He didn't betray himself with a smirk, but she had the strongest sense that it was there, hidden away behind the habitual pout. "Look, the thing was – I'd seen it before. The farmhouse. The weathervane."
The pout slipped and he frowned. "Where?"
"In my dreams. In waking visions. In all the spooky stuff that happens in this little corner of purgatory."
Alex rubbed between her eyes. "I mean, try to see it from my point of view. One minute, I've completely surrendered to the way I feel about you. Next minute, someone's handing me apparent proof that you buried a body in Lancashire. It was...it was too much."
"Really? Here's a thought. You could've shown me the photo and asked me to explain."
Now it was her turn to shoot him a look. "And how would that conversation have gone, do you think? 'Oh, that old farmhouse? Not to worry, Bolly-knickers, it's just the place where I got shot in the bloody face.'"
He shifted in the driving seat. "Not the point."
Alex sighed her irritation away. "Actually, that's fair. It isn't the point. I should have trusted you enough to ask the question. But I didn't."
"Not always the brains of the operation, then, are you?"
"Depends," she said in a level tone. "Does 'the operation' consist of you and me?"
He glanced her way as they drove out of the tunnel and down the southern approach road. "I liked it better when you were saying I was the best DCI in the world."
"You are," she said. "But I'm still the brains of the operation."
He glared his disapproval, but he didn't disagree. "Have it your way." And he reached over and clasped her nearest hand, then tugged it towards him and pressed it to his leg. "Just as well I'm the good-looking one, then, eh?"
She chuckled, and rested her head again, this time watching him as he drove. When he moved his covering hand to shift gear and take the car down to the Woolwich Road, she left hers warming his thigh.
This was how it felt to be in love. She was glad they could still argue too.
Gene lived in a narrow, tidy, mid-terraced house on a quiet residential street, around the corner from a darkened local police station. As they drove past the station, Alex wondered about the lost souls and the memory echoes within. Everyone mattered, she reminded herself.
He parked up, cut the engine and busied himself taking his gloves off. He didn't look at her. "Here we are then," he said. "This is home." The gloves were shoved into the pocket of the driver's side door.
She thought about saying, 'I've been home for the last half an hour.' But it sounded far too saccharine, even to her ear. Instead she said, "You know, I'm not asking to move in or anything. I-I can sort myself out with another place. It was just easier to give Mike my–"
He turned and pressed a finger against her lips to quiet her. Then he said, gently admonishing, "Alex."
But there was something she needed him to understand. She reached up and took his hand in hers, and freed her mouth to speak. "Gene – last time I lived with a man, I did such a great job of it that he buggered off."
"Molly's dad." Gene shrugged. "So you married an idiot."
"Oh, I was an idiot too," Alex confessed. "I was never there. We met young, me and Pete. Married young. I mean, I was barely out of university. Then there was training, and my secondment to the US. I was so focused on my career. And then I had Molly, and I reined it all in – I really did. I remembered what it was like to have a mother so wrapped up in her work that you just end up feeling like...like a hindrance."
The two of them looked at each other for a moment, reliving an ancient argument of not two days earlier.
"Right," Gene said, a little gruff. "Yeah. That was a-a shit choice of word."
"I'd wounded you."
Gene gave a sigh, then he pulled their linked hands over and lifted them to his mouth. He closed his eyes as he pressed a slow kiss against her skin. "So," he said when he was done and Alex was melting, just a little. "Want to swap former-life stories out here in the street, or shall we go inside and make ourselves more comfortable?"
"I just wanted you to know that I may not be the easiest person to live with," Alex said.
"Whereas I'm Mr Domestic Bliss?"
"And I didn't want you thinking I was making assumptions about where this is going."
"We both know where it's going. I'm happy enough with that. Are you happy?"
"I came back."
"Glutton for punishment."
"Or maybe I earned myself some heaven, and this is what my brain came up with."
He stared at her, his expression too flat to read. "And you're still sure you're the brains?"
"Well I have to be. You're the handsome one."
His expression warmed with a small smile, and he shook his head. "If you're back to flirting, we definitely need to move this inside."
They got out of the car and went to the front door.
Alex remembered her earlier threat-stroke-promise about what would happen when they were behind closed doors. She didn't make good on it. The time spent driving here – arguing and flirting and remembering and worrying – had done enough to offset her libido. Gene didn't remark on this, though she knew he was aware of her new hesitancy.
He led them down a narrow hall, past a closed door to the front room and then a staircase behind it, into the living room which stretched the whole width of the house. On the other side of the living room an open doorway led into the kitchen, built in a modern extension at the rear of the original terrace.
While she took off her coat in the living room, Gene moved to the kitchen. Alex tossed her coat over an armchair, hesitated, then she removed her jacket as well. Feeling a little exposed, she hugged herself and breathed. She tried to organise her thoughts. A whole lot had happened at what felt like breakneck speed.
Was she doing the right thing? Was she here for the right reasons?
She was, she decided, as sure as she could be that this headlong dash back into Gene's arms wasn't some kneejerk response to grief. She'd wanted to dash in that direction for a long time: a whole lot longer than she'd been ready to admit.
And she was sure, too, that this wasn't some misplaced desire for protection from a figure of authority. She'd never demonstrated that kind of proclivity before, in spite of the traumas of her childhood. No, the simple fact was that she'd met Gene, and her feelings had developed, and here they were.
She looked through the doorway into the kitchen, just to reassure herself that this was all really happening. Gene was pottering around in the nervous, turn-this-way-and-that manner he tended to adopt when he wasn't in his comfort zone. It was as though his kitchen had rearranged itself since last he'd been in it. His uncertainty was endearing. Alex's own nerves recognised that they weren't all alone and eased off.
Honesty, she told herself. That was what this night had to be about. For one reason or another they'd never had the chance to be who they truly were with each other. Certainly not at the same time. Not until that farmhouse in Lancashire, when 'he' had become 'you'.
What had Nelson told her? It was all about connection. That much made sense. And honesty could help them connect. They had quite a lot in common after all, never mind Gene's insistence that 'all we are is difference...'
By that time Gene had retrieved a bottle from a countertop wine rack and was uncorking it with practised hands. She was in danger of becoming mesmerised by his hands and stopped watching. Instead she turned to examine the room.
It was so ordinary. She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting – a homely parlour circa 1953, perhaps, or a Western saloon – but it wasn't this. It didn't look old-fashioned; it didn't look modern. This was timeless: at least from her perspective. Sofa and armchairs, coffee table with a stack of car magazines and three empty beer bottles, a television set and a hi-fi system. The latter two items were the only things present that placed the room in its proper timeframe. The wallpaper was woodchip, but neat and new and painted a soft off-white. The carpet was plain grey-blue. The sofa was wide, navy blue and inviting. Alex took a seat at one end and reached down to take off her shoes.
Her ruby red slippers. Her going-home shoes. They'd seemed appropriate at the time. Now they just seemed poignant. An indication of how much she'd failed to understand.
Gene came back to the living room and placed a wine glass down on the table before her. He poured her a glass of wine from the bottle and then stood it on the table too. Alex glanced at the label. It was a Rioja: a good one. He'd been expecting her here at some point. She didn't mention this, but their eyes met before he went back to the kitchen and retrieved another bottle and a tumbler for himself.
"When did you last eat?" he asked when he'd come back.
Alex frowned. "Motorway services, I think. Grabbed a sandwich. On my way north.
"You haven't eaten for more than a day."
"Was it a day, though? I lost whole chunks at a time."
Gene gave a shrug and eased himself down to sit beside her. "The world was falling apart." He looked at her as he spun the cap from the bottle of Scotch. "Don't have much in the way of provisions. But there's a Chinky up past the railway station, stays open till midnight. Not bad, n' all."
"I'm not hungry."
"Liquid diet, then?"
"Why break the habit of an afterlife-time?"
He poured himself a generous measure of whisky and put the bottle down. Gene saluted her with his glass and then knocked back a mouthful. Alex returned the toast and sipped her wine.
There was a pause, and it stretched. Just as Alex was trying to work out whether it had become uncomfortable, Gene broke it with the words:
"You stepped in front o' me."
Alex blinked. "Hmm?"
"Ray. He had a shotgun and he pointed it at me, and you stepped between us."
"You did. He wasn't going to shoot me, Alex."
"Of course he wasn't."
She remembered now. The move had been instinctive. She gave a tired smile of understanding. "Maybe you don't have the monopoly on 'protective'."
Alex curled her legs under her and leaned against the back of the sofa, facing Gene. "We have more in common than we thought."
"Well, we're both coppers with issues."
"And we were both shot in the head by very bad men."
Gene gave a slight frown and looked down at his glass. "It's so nice, isn't it, Bols, to find some common ground," he bit.
"Hey. I didn't shoot you."
"And I didn't shoot you." He frowned harder. "Well, er, apart from that other time. When I did."
"By accident. Gene, look at me." He did so, but his eyes were hard. "When we were dancing, the other night–"
"Yeah," he said. Too fast. Like he knew what she was going to say.
"You kissed my forehead," she went on, though he clearly didn't want her to. "And right now, remembering that, knowing what I know–"
"It was just a kiss," he said. "Couldn't reach anywhere else. Though if you'd felt like thrusting your boobs in my face, I wouldn't have been aver–"
He gave a long-suffering sigh. "It was just a kiss."
But Alex wasn't going to let this go. "It was more than that. It was like you were trying to kiss a bullet wound away."
"I didn't know, then, did I?"
"Not on a conscious level, no."
He stirred and looked all around the room, anywhere but at her, exuding irritation. "Oh, so this is more psychiatry bollocks, is it?"
"Psychology," she corrected automatically. "I think, in your heart of hearts, you knew. That's why you let Sam go when you wanted him to stay so badly. It's why you were so angry when I told you the truth about what happened to me. It's why you were off your game in St Joseph's Gardens. And it's why it took you six bloody months to answer a simple question about the disappearance of an inspector you were close to."
"Bit of an all-round bastard, aren't I?" he grumbled.
"You were trying to protect your world. Your team. From a posh mouthy tart with a-a complete inability to know when to shut the hell up."
He softened, and he managed to look at her again. "Well, there's that, I s'pose."
"Point is, somewhere deep inside, you knew. So maybe I'm not completely wrong about that kiss."
"I was trying to get into your knickers, Alex. Not kiss you better."
"Maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive?"
His lips quirked. "Maybe."
Alex exhaled, then she finished her glass of wine and set it down on the table. "How do you feel about cuddling?" she asked. "No, don't tell me." She adopted the closest approximation to a northern accent she could manage. "'Gene Hunt does not cuddle.'"
"Maybe he does. Maybe he'd just forgotten."
"Well," she said, shuffling a little closer, "maybe that's why I'm still here. A reminder."
Gene set his own glass down after draining it, and he reached to draw her to his side. They settled together, her knees resting over his nearest leg, her head against his shoulder. Alex sighed as she got comfortable. His arm was heavy around her back, and his free hand smoothed the hair from her brow. After a moment she sensed him press his lips to her forehead.
She felt like crying.
"I love you," she said, because she couldn't help herself.
"I know," he murmured into her skin. "It's all right."
Her breath caught and she sat up. He pulled back and found her eyes, and they studied each other for a moment before Alex moved. She knelt up on one leg and tossed the other across his lap so she could sit straddling him, her hands on his shoulders. Gene clasped her hips and watched her. His breath had quickened. Alex examined his familiar features – the eyes, lashes, the lines in his face etched by years of an almost permanent scowl – then a small sound of distress caught in her throat. She remembered another face: a young copper, solemn, damaged, bloody. She thought of his reckless heroism, cut short in an agonising second of surprise before life seeped away.
"Oh, Gene," she whispered. She leaned in close, and she pressed a kiss above his left eye.
The kiss lingered. She poured herself into it. She couldn't take the ghost of that injury away, no more than he could for her, but she could offer him her sympathy and her sorrow, and every ounce of desire she had to make things better. They both understood. They'd both of them deserved more.
Nelson had been right; this was important.
Though her eyes were closed she felt tears leak from behind her lids and run down her face. Gene lifted a hand and stroked her hair. Alex pulled away and looked at him. Through the blur of her tears she saw light sparkle against the unshed moisture in Gene's eyes. His jaw was set, almost like he was afraid to breathe.
"I got shot," she whispered. "I got taken away from my life."
"Me too," he whispered back.
Her breath hitched. "I'll never see my little girl grow up." She thought of the scarf that was in her coat pocket. "I hate that."
"I know." His throat moved as he swallowed. "Stop talking. Let it go."
She collapsed against him, pressed her face into the crook of his neck, and she let herself cry for her losses. This was different to the tears she'd shed at The Railway Arms. This was the kind of 'raw' she couldn't have shared with an almost-stranger. Reaction; release; catharsis.
Sometimes it did you the world of good to remember how to cry.
It took long minutes, but her breathing steadied and her hands began to caress instead of clutch. Alex pulled back to look at Gene, who'd sat quietly as she wept, barely a tremor passing through him to indicate that he was suffering through his own emotional reaction to the last few days. When their eyes met, they both gave a small smile.
"Not really how I imagined it," he said ruefully. "Taking you home and plying you with wine?"
"No, me neither," she agreed. "Still. I think I needed that. Sorry."
He lifted a hand and used a thumb to brush the traces of moisture on her face away. "You don't need to be sorry."
She drew a deep breath and straightened her hair. Then she moved her hands to his face and began to trace his features.
"You know, I had the strangest dream about you, a few months back," she said.
"Mmm. You were singing me a song."
He looked faintly outraged. "Gene Hunt does not serenade."
She brushed her fingers down his sideburns. "And doing a little dance routine with Chris and Ray."
"Or dance," he said. Then he frowned. He'd contradicted this statement only two nights ago. "Um, with blokes. Gene Hunt does not dance with blokes."
"I said it was strange."
"What the hell goes on in that mind o' yours, woman?"
"I've been trying to work that out for three years." She leaned close and pressed a brief kiss against his lips, then she moved back and resumed her light caresses. "For the record," she said as he closed his eyes and let his head fall back, the better to enjoy the intimacy, "I'm not trying to kiss you better anymore."
"Oh? Trying to get into my knickers?" he asked.
"Mmm. How do you rate my chances?"
"Fair to middling," he decided with a smirk.
"Goodness. That's almost encouraging."
"Well, I'm not a complete slapper."
Alex shot him a pointed look, not that he could see it. "You slapped me once."
"You were in a coma. You punched me twice."
"You were being a git."
"Hell of a punch, too."
"A really big git."
He chuckled under his breath as Alex brushed her thumbs over his lips. "Mmm. Your odds are plummeting, you know. Below evens now."
Alex wriggled on Gene's lap. "There's a part of you that seems to think otherwise."
He opened his eyes, then pulled her in closer. Alex gave a gasp and steadied herself on his shoulders, but he was already gazing at her mouth.
"C'mere, Alex," he whispered.
They came together in a passionate kiss.
She only pulled back when she sensed his hands at the hem of her jumper. He drew it up, his fingers searching out her skin beneath and instead coming up against the sleeveless shirt she wore. Alex pulled her jumper over her head and let it drop to the carpet. She felt a thrill, a shiver, at the heat in his expression.
"More," he said.
She wet her lips and leaned back further, then she reached for the bottom of her shirt and lifted it smoothly over her head. She tossed it aside and sat there, naked to the waist aside from her bra. Gene's gaze dropped to appreciate the curves of her breasts. He reached to touch.
Alex gave a gasp as his thumbs brushed where she was sensitive. Her hips undulated. Gene's hooded eyes followed his fingers as they found her bra clasp between the cups and snagged it undone. The cups parted until her breasts spilled free and the bra hung from her shoulders. Alex drew her arms back to get rid of it as Gene's hands covered her, skin on skin.
While his focus remained on his hands, Alex reached to unknot his necktie and pull it free of his collar. She began to undo the buttons of his shirt. Excitement told her to hurry, but she was liking this slow pace. It reminded her that they were no longer working against some metaphysical clock, some countdown set on denying them their moment.
"Look at us," she whispered. "We finally got around to making love."
Gene gave a grunt of agreement. "Someone knocks at the door? We're not answering."
"Too bloody right." Alex parted his shirt, disappointed by the presence of an undershirt. "You take some unwrapping, don't you?"
"I'm like pass the parcel."
"I'm not passing you along. I get jealous. I've already had to watch two other women kiss you."
Gene arched a brow. "Two?"
She slid a hand up his arm and covered his caressing hand. With a sigh, she said, "The woman from the dating agency."
"And I saw you kiss Jenette." She frowned. "In my head, anyway. Did you ever kiss her?"
"Well that makes me jealous."
Gene looked around the room pointedly. "She doesn't seem to be here now."
"Good. Let's move this to the bedroom."
"Will that require me taking my hands off your voluptuous bosom?"
"Ah, well, no can do, Bols."
Alex rolled her eyes. "I'm not shagging you on this sofa. Well, not tonight, anyway."
"That's what you said about my desk."
She gave a wide smile. "I'm leaving my options open."
"It's like you've got a list," he said, and he didn't look altogether disapproving.
"Oh, and you don't?"
"Might have had a thought or two. In my time."
"Well, I'm afraid the Quattro's out, now." She tut-tutted. "Which, frankly, is the most horrific shame."
"I was thinking about a Merc."
"Really? Maybe we should take one out for a...test-drive?" Alex widened her eyes suggestively at him.
"Says the man who's refusing to let go of my tits." Alex looked down at where his hands still covered her. "If you want me to lose the rest of these clothes then you're going to have to let go at some point."
Gene gave a groan of concession and flopped back, dropping his hands. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "You'd think if this is my world I could just blink us undressed. And upstairs." He blinked hard, like he was trying the idea out.
Alex leaned in closer. "I don't think it's as much fun when you haven't earned it." Then she lifted herself off his lap and stood straight. She collected the wine bottle and glass. "Look at it this way. You can follow me upstairs and leer at my arse."
"Fair enough." He stood up and adjusted his man-parts with a slight grimace. "Strewth, woman, you've got me hornier than a pack o' ruddy rhinos."
"Do rhinos come in packs?"
"Oh. Good point." He shot her one of his more exasperated looks. "Hold everything, I'll just look that up. Wouldn't want any incorrect nouns to intrude on this magical evening, would we?"
"Do women normally find your sarcasm-reflex attractive?"
"Devastatingly." He tilted his head. "Course, that's probably because my brain made 'em that way."
Which was an unsettling thought. "Oh god," Alex muttered. "I never thought of that."
"How am I supposed to compare?"
"Compare to what?"
"All the women your world's conjured up over the years!"
"Bolly," he said, and he stepped close to her. "Don't be so bloody daft. I mean, blimey, what did they teach you at that university? How to be dozier than a dormouse in a teapot?"
"I think it's a fair concern," she protested. "You're the heart of this world. You define it. The women it makes for you are bound to be all sexy and sultry. Flawless. The ultimate fantasy."
Gene raised his eyes to the ceiling as if searching out patience. Then he looked at her and told her, "If I didn't already know you're real, I'd have to assume that's what you are."
Alex arched a surprised brow. "Wow. When did you get the gift of the gab?"
"Kissed the Blarney Stone, did we?"
He actually looked a little outraged. "You calling me a Mick?"
"No, I'm calling you a silver-tongued–" She stopped at the teasing gleam in his eye. She'd been had. "Git."
"A silver-tongued git," he mused. "Well, I've been called worse."
"I know. I'm usually the one doing the calling." She leaned in to him. "My point was, it was a very nice thing to say. So I'm going to wiggle my arse on the way upstairs, now."
"Yeah? I'll be pole-vaulting up there right behind you." He retrieved his glass and bottle of Scotch.
Alex walked back through the door into the hall and turned to make her way up the staircase. Gene followed. She wiggled as provocatively as she could, and heard him hum his appreciation.
"Thought you were going to wiggle," he said as they got to the top.
"Ha bloody ha."
"No, I mean, more than usual."
"Door on the left," he said.
They were on a small landing. Alex pushed open the bedroom door and snapped on the light. The eaves of the house cut a diagonal between the opposite wall and the ceiling. The double bed was made, but not by anyone who bothered about smoothing creases.
When she'd taken all this in, she moved to set down her wine and glass on the nearest bedside table. Gene did the same with his whisky, then he hooked his arms around her and pulled her in close.
"Better," he said. He moved in for a kiss that heated up quickly. Alex snuck her hands inside his jacket and shirt and embraced him under as many layers as she could manage. "Course you realise, Bols," he murmured when he moved his mouth away and down to her neck, "I haven't changed in two days."
She gave a snort, and he looked up, confused. "Sorry," she said. "Got an attack of the ironics."
"What are you blithering on about?"
"You. Saying you haven't changed."
"I was talking about my bloody kecks!"
"I know. Sorry. Inappropriate laughter." She tried to school her expression into solemnity-with-a hint-of-remorse, but the laughter leaked out. "Ohh, sorry."
"It's like you're asking to be put across my knee."
"Believe me, Gene, when I want that you'll know about it."
His eyes bored into her, then his embracing arms dropped and he cupped her rear and pulled her against him. "Are you trying to snap my restraint?"
"Yes. Are you under the misguided impression that anything you could say will shock me?"
"Well at least pretend," he cajoled, changing tack.
"Not tonight," she said. "Tonight we're being honest."
His expression grew more serious. He hesitated, then he nodded. "You're on."
"Good. Because right now? Honestly?" She leaned in close and finished in a whisper, "I want to get into your knickers."
He closed his eyes. "Not really all that much room to spare in there at the moment, sweetheart."
"Take your clothes off."
His eyes blinked open. He managed a glare. "After you."
"I'm already halfway there."
"And if a job's worth doing? What can I say? I'm thorough."
Her eyebrow flickered. "I'll hold you to that."
"I don't doubt it for a second."
She stepped back from his embrace, and she smiled with the slow, heady sensuality that had replaced their earlier passion. Alex grasped the waist of her leggings and lowered them to the floor. She stepped out of them, clad only in her underwear, and straightened up. She smoothed her hands up her legs as she did so, then continued the caress over her ribs, then her breasts, then her neck and face, until she could stretch her arms over her head.
"Oh, I like this honesty lark," Gene breathed, when he'd finished sweeping his gaze over her body.
"Not bad, is it?"
"Getting better by the second." He looked pointedly at the scrap of silk that still hid parts of her from him.
"Oh, no," she said. "For that, you lose the shirt."
Gene seemed to find that an equitable exchange. He shrugged off his suit jacket, then took off his open shirt.
"And the vest," she added.
He glared again, but he pulled his undershirt from his trousers and tugged it over his head. His hair, already tousled from their embraces, mussed up even more. Something in Alex's chest squeezed.
"Nice," she said. She stepped up close and pressed a hand against his heart. His pulse thudded fast and strong against her fingers. "Do you know, in all the ways that matter, I think we're alive."
"Maybe living's a state of mind."
"It's rather looking that way." She stared at her hand against his chest. Then she moved it to caress. It felt good to touch him. "Mmm."
Gene reached up to capture her hand, and he lifted it to his mouth and kissed her fingers. Then he cupped her face and draw her close and he pressed a kiss against her lips. The kiss deepened. Alex was adrift now, sensual currents pulling her this way and that. She stroked and scratched her way over the broad expanse of his back, and she smiled against his mouth when she felt one of his hands creep between their bodies and capture a breast. He smiled back when she reached lower to squeeze his rear.
They drew back and looked at each other. Alex held his eyes as she moved her hand from his backside to his hip, then over his groin. She pressed the palm of her hand against the bulge there. Gene swallowed, breathing hard.
"So you're pleased to see me, then?" she whispered, teasing.
"No, it's just a truncheon in my pocket."
"Your truncheon is shaped just like a penis."
"Mmm. This." She rubbed a little, felt him twitch against her. "You know, you're very sexy when you're honest."
"Yeah? You're sexy when you're breathing."
For the first time since her losses had hit her, Alex felt no need to correct the language in her head. She was alive, and she was breathing. She was in love. If everyone mattered then this mattered too.
"Okay," she said, "I'm about ready to move this along. What about you?"
"Bit busy trying not to be way ahead o' you."
She smiled at the way he trembled, and stopped teasing. Alex reached for his hand and pulled him over to the side of the bed. He turned them, sat down on the bed and drew her between his knees to stand before him. His eyes gazed up a moment, all ice and fire, then he leaned close and pressed a kiss between her breasts.
Gene didn't stop there. He nuzzled against her, kissed every curve and swell and hollow. Alex gasped as he took a nipple between his lips and teased her. Her body started to rock with the rhythm of escalating arousal. His hands caressed her back, then his fingers slipped inside her underwear and slowly drew it downwards. She stepped out of it on autopilot, soft moans escaping her with every brush of his tongue. Her legs were threatening to shake.
He pulled back and looked up at her again. "Lie down, Alex. Before you fall down."
"Good idea," she agreed, a little dazed. As she crept past him on the bed to lie down on the far side, Gene reached to tug his boots and socks off. Then he stood up and took a hold of his belt buckle. Alex licked her lips and watched.
The belt was undone. The trousers were undone. Alex was pretty sure she was undone in the most delightful sense of the word. Gene took his trousers off without meeting her eyes and then settled down next to her on his bed, his boxer shorts doing nothing to hide his enthusiasm.
They lay on their sides, facing each other. Alex smiled. "We're doing this a lot slower than I thought we would," she admitted.
"Feels like something to savour," he said.
"Like we've earned the right to take our time."
"Yeah." He gave a light frown. "It's not just that."
"It's about what we did. Today. What we achieved."
"Foiled a blag. Went to the pub."
"Hell of a blag," Gene pointed out. And he was right. They'd foiled the machinations of the devil.
"We were magnificent," Alex decided. "You're right. We have to do that justice." She gave a little smile. "And there's the whole 'three years of simmering sexual tension' thing."
"You know, you got very good at making sexual tension look like 'I can't stand the ruddy sight of you.'"
"Self-preservation." She frowned. "Completely misguided self-preservation."
"Sort of my point," Gene said. He shuffled closer to her and draped an arm around her waist. "We made our mistakes. After everything, I think we're nervous. That this might be anything less than perfect."
She blinked. Because she realised he was right. He may not have been trained in psychology, but Gene Hunt had always demonstrated a finely honed instinct for people.
Alex gave a short laugh. "And I was all about the honesty. God, what a mor–"
He stopped her with a kiss. When he pulled back he said, "Your problem, Bols? You think too much. Stop it."
"Make me," she challenged him.
Alex arched as his hand slid between her legs. "Ohh," she breathed. Her eyes were closed, as they'd been closed for the minutes the kissing and touching had escalated. He stroked her intimately and her body welcomed the caress. "Oh god, that's good."
"Mmm," he agreed, his head bent over her breast. He pinched his lips around a nipple as his fingers traced the shape of her. She felt his smile against her skin as she murmured her pleasure. His touch was gentle but sure. He'd learned a thing or two in his thirty years in Gene Hunt country. Of course, it helped that she was utterly and unapologetically wet for him.
Her body moved instinctively to guide his rhythm. She lifted one leg at the knee and let if flop down to the side, spreading herself. Then she rocked against him, and he stroked and teased, and the novelty of this intimacy was lost in how ridiculously natural it felt.
Her moans grew urgent as her excitement mounted. He'd trapped her other leg between his and was gaining what friction he could for himself. She sensed the hard heat of his erection against her thigh in those moments when his mouth and his hand weren't demanding all her focus. Still, he didn't seem in any hurry.
"Please," she gasped, as the tensions became too much. "I need – please, Gene..."
The sensual pressure of his mouth left her breast, and his caresses quickened just enough. Alex forced her eyes open to see him watching the expression on her face. His eyes were hooded and dark with arousal, and his tongue wet his lips.
"Alex," he whispered. Sweat was beading on his brow. He held her eyes now he had them. "Show me." There was something needy in his voice.
She cried out as a jolt of bliss passed through her and orgasm took hold. Alex trembled through the pleasure, no longer able to keep her eyes open. Her head was thrown back into the pillows. The moment was so perfect, she wasn't sure whether to laugh with the exhilaration or sob with the relief.
When it all tapered into a warm and contented afterglow, she tuned in to the sound of her own panted breaths. Gene rested his hand a little below her navel. She sensed he was still watching her and blinked her eyes open.
"Gene," she said with a slow smile.
"Present and correct," he replied. "Nice?"
"What do you think?"
He returned her smile, just briefly, and gathered her into his arms. She followed as he rolled to his back, and she tossed a leg over him with easy intimacy.
"I think," he said, "it'll be a ruddy miracle if I can even look at you tomorrow without trying to create the New York skyline in my trousers."
"In that case I definitely won't look at you without checking."
"Won't that be professional," he said flatly. "Me limping around the department and your eyes locked on my flies."
"Oh, I'll be discreet. And...maybe you should keep your jacket on."
"Mind you, that's not going to help us when one of the lads walks in on us snogging in the kitchen."
"Depends what they have in the pool, I s'pose."
"Pool?" She adjusted her head against his shoulder and indulged in a snuggle. "What pool?"
"The 'when will the Guv and the Ma'am stop sniping at each other and just sodding well do it' pool."
"There's a pool?"
"Course there is." Gene gave a sniff. "They think I don't know."
"Bloody cheek." She sighed. "Have we been that obvious?"
"I've walked in on the odd conversation." He grunted his disdain. "Like a bunch of bloody fishwives, that lot."
"Well they can mind their own business."
"That's going to be tricky if we're going at it in the kitchen."
Alex smiled. "Fine. Your office. And we'll pull the blinds down."
"That'll be subtle."
"Too bad. It's been a long time since I got to enjoy the 'can't keep our hands off each other' stage of a relationship. And while I was waiting? I died. I think I've earned some fun."
"So you're not going to overcompensate tomorrow? Go all cold and distant and professional on me?"
"Well, I can see why you'd think that," he said sarcastically, but the mood was warm and she was able to laugh. "We're going to be fine, Alex."
"You got your breath back yet?"
"Can we get back to the fun stuff, then?"
She propped herself up on an arm and looked down into his face. "Good idea," she whispered, just before she moved in to kiss him.
She'd deliberately refrained from paying attention to the more enthused parts of his body when she'd finally got him out of his boxer shorts. Instead she'd straddled his thighs, leaned over him, and kissed his mouth, then his neck, then his chest.
Only now she'd moved low enough to need to shuffle further backwards. She did so without breaking the trails of kisses, and she lowered her body against him and pressed his erection into the softness of her breasts.
Gene's hips lifted and he gave a groan, more visceral than the rumbled murmurs of pleasure he'd thus far granted her. "Alex," he gasped on the subsequent inhale. She looked up as she nuzzled above his navel. He'd lifted his head and was looking down his body at her. He swallowed hard. "Honest to god, love, this is going to be over really fast if you keep that up."
She relented with a smile and moved back over his body to stretch out on top of him, propped at her elbows. "Fine," she said as she studied his mouth. "We'll do oral sex another time."
"Any time you have a spare ten seconds should be fine," he agreed, voice straining.
Alex was more intent on the way she'd aligned their bodies. The thick length of his cock slid easily against her as she moved: pressing, promising, pleasing. Gene caught his breath again and his hands reached down to grasp her hips.
"For the record?" she suggested as she fought to keep a new urgency at bay. "We can stop worrying. It's already perfect."
Their eyes met and held, then they were kissing like their lives depended on it. Gene's hands moved from her hips to her bottom and he squeezed and stroked, and his fingertips brushed over the cleft. Alex murmured into his mouth, and lifted her hips. He reached to guide her, and she felt his cock nudge just where she wanted it.
The kiss gentled and then paused. Alex opened her eyes and looked at Gene, then she relaxed her poised posture. Her body slid and sank, and she welcomed him inside. He met the motion with a lift of his hips and an unmistakable look of relief in his eyes. As he filled and stretched her, Alex made a sound: part sigh, part moan.
They stayed like that for a moment, watching each other. Both of them were breathing hard. Alex already felt heat gathering where they were joined; she wanted to move, to feel him move within her. She trembled against the urge to surrender to a feral kind of need. "Gene?"
"Just gimme a sec," he said. He squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled a slow breath. "Christ."
She supposed they had waited for this a very long time. And they'd had a hell of a few days. And she had Gene at a disadvantage; she'd already enjoyed one orgasm that night, which surely should have taken the edge off.
"Take your time," she said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Gene's eyes blinked open and he wet his mouth. "Good. 'Cause I think I'm about to show you the best thirty seconds of your afterlife."
She smiled. "We've been making love for half an hour, now, and it's already the best time I've known in three years."
He glared at her. "That's not helping. Say something bollock-shrinking."
Alex hummed her amusement. "Um, Geoff Capes. In a basque and fishnets, holding a riding crop. Winking and blowing kisses at you."
He held her eyes a moment longer, his expression flat, then he caved and barked a loud laugh. Alex laughed too. "Blimey, Bols, your mind's a piece o' work."
"How's the shrinkage?"
Gene considered. "We might just manage a whole minute now."
"Wow. I might come twice."
"And we're back to thirty seconds."
"I don't care," she told him. "I'd rather have an honest thirty seconds with you than anything else in the whole world." And to prove it – and because she couldn't keep her own urges at bay any longer – she dug her knees into the mattress and lifted up. Gene grunted as they slid together. His hands grasped her hips again. When she let herself sink back on him, he thrust to meet her, hands pressing her against him.
She gave a gasp; the new depth to their congress was delicious. Then she repeated the motion, watching his face. He didn't reveal much – he never did – but she saw enough. He was definitely feeling it too.
And now they'd started, they couldn't pause. The explorative movement became a rhythm, and the rhythm quickened as their bodies grew confident with how they fit together. Alex had always enjoyed this sexual position: her own hips dictating the pace, the friction where she needed it. As the pace grew urgent and her passion grew vocal, Gene's hands at her hips kept her steady. Her breasts rubbed against his chest and sent additional tingles of pleasure through her.
Gene's eyes closed and his head pressed back into the pillows. A frown of concentration creased his brow. "Fuck..." he breathed. "Oh fuck."
She sensed the beginnings of climax. Her knees were starting to slip against the bedclothes, and the rhythm of their bodies was frantic now. It took mere seconds before she gave a strangled cry that might have been an attempt at his name. Pleasure erupted where they were joined and slammed through her body in waves. She shuddered hard, lost in this maelstrom. It was from a strange and abstract distance that she heard Gene find his own release.
Alex couldn't support her own weight. Her elbows sagged and she collapsed on his chest. Gene's hands still grasped her hips, and he continued to move her against him: tiny undulations drawing out the sensation of his orgasm and her own. She wriggled to make the most of them, gasping with every pulse. Her face buried itself against his neck.
"Alex," Gene managed to whisper on an exhale. "God."
"I know," she whispered back.
The pleasure began to taper, and their bodies stilled. Gene's hands left her hips and he embraced her properly. She lifted her head and met his eyes. He looked dazed, which made her feel better about her own head-swimming delirium.
They kissed: sated, sweet, slow kisses. Alex only stopped when her head became too heavy to hold up, and she nuzzled back into the curve of his neck.
"Am I squashing you?" she mumbled.
Gene gave a disdainful snort. She took that as a 'no'.
"Good," she said. Her breathing was beginning to even out again. "Just roll me off you if I start snoring."
"Isn't that my job?"
"After making me feel that good? Feel free."
"Mmm." One of his hands moved up her back so he could weave his fingers into her hair. He stroked lightly, almost absently, over her scalp. "Weren't bad yourself, Bols."
"Praise indeed," she said, smiling. A new sensation where they were connected turned the smile into a frown. Their union was fading. "No," she complained.
"Sorry, love. Sergeant Rock needs a half-time orange."
Alex feigned a groan of protest. "Half-time? You want to go again? You do realise I'm already shagged out?"
"Oh, I think there's life in the old girl yet."
"Bugger off. I haven't slept for two days. Or, one day and a few stray chunks of a day. Oh! And when I last slept, I was napping uncomfortably at my desk, because yes, I'm an idiot, so you don't have to–"
She lifted her head again and arched an eyebrow at him.
"You want to go to sleep?" he asked. "Go to sleep. You want to make love again? We'll do that. But either way, we'll do better under the covers."
He was right, she realised. Now they were no longer generating their own heat, she could feel the sheen of perspiration cooling against her skin.
"Stupid practicalities," she muttered. "Where's the bathroom?"
"Door opposite the stairs."
"Right." She gave a theatrical groan as she heaved herself off him and rolled to her back. Then she rolled again, to the edge of the bed, and she pushed up to stand beside it.
Gene studied her, taking in her nakedness. For some reason she'd never felt less inhibited. He seemed to share the feeling; he folded his arms behind his head and made no attempt to cover himself. The sight of his semi-erect penis shrinking into sated flaccidity made her want to smile.
"My legs feel funny," she said. She tried a step and they almost buckled. "Oops." On the bed, Gene was rumbling his humour as he watched her. "Oh, laugh it up, why don't you?" She was leaning heavily on the mattress again, bent over. "Nothing funnier than taking away a girl's ability to walk straight." She stood up again and stretched her muscles. "Okay. I can do this."
"Want me to carry you?"
"Stop looking so pleased with yourself!"
He just shook his head fondly as she teetered around the bed, heading for the bedroom door. "You're waddling," he observed.
"Nonsense. I'm...tottering. Gracefully."
He snorted another laugh. "I've seen you 'totter' a hundred times. Too much booze and those daft ruddy shoes you wear? This is definitely waddling."
"Maybe I've been reincarnated as a duck."
"Pretty sure I wouldn't fancy you this much if you had."
"Oh, I'm fanciable even when I waddle, am I?" She paused at the door and looked back at him.
"Told you. When you're breathing."
She discarded her faux-indignation and smiled. "Pour me a glass of wine," she said. "I'll go and get Sergeant Rock's orange."
"Actually he prefers Scotch."
"Then we're all set." She moved into the landing and turned to the bathroom door. Over her shoulder she called, "I think yours is a large one."
As she went into the bathroom and snapped on the light, she heard Gene splutter his surprised approval at the double entendre.
At least it had stopped him making fun of her walking.
"You know," she murmured some time later, comfortable and warm in their embrace, "we should save the world more often."
"I'll put a note in my diary," he mumbled back. Admittedly, he had to be pretty worn out at that point.
"You don't have a diary."
"I do." A pause. "Probably. Somewhere."
"Huh. Well, you have to admit, it makes the sex intense. Like make-up sex. Only more so."
"Got no complaints," he told her languidly.
They were quiet for a while. Alex's thoughts drifted. One stray idea in particular began to press for attention. She frowned through the sleepy haze enveloping her.
"Do you think we'll forget?"
He didn't ask her to clarify the question. He just gave a small sigh. "Maybe some things," he admitted. "Not everything, though. Not like before."
"How can you be sure?"
Gene breathed deep. "You've got a scarf. I've got a badge. Same numbers 's are scratched in your desk."
"And we've got each other," she said.
She rubbed her cheek against his embracing arm. "I don't want to forget them. Our friends."
"Sometimes remembering is harder."
"Sometimes it's worth the effort."
He grunted, and it sounded like agreement. This was confirmed when he said, "Then we'll make the effort."
"Yes." She lifted her head from its cushion at his shoulder, and she looked at him through the soft light from the bedside lamp. "Time to sleep?"
He studied her a moment, then drew her down to kiss her. He reached to turn the light off and she rolled to her side, her back to him. In the intimate darkness he settled behind her, their bodies tucked together. He wrapped one arm around her middle; his hand settled against a breast. He nuzzled in and pressed another kiss to the back of her neck.
"Night," she whispered.
"Night, love," he murmured back. Then, perhaps in the interests of honesty, he said, "Glad you came back."
Connection. She smiled in the darkness and stopped fighting the urge to sleep.