Fandom: Ashes To Ashes
Word Count: 2360
Copyright: Title’s from Ashes To Ashes by David Bowie, as per usual.
Summary: Still, she offers him a glare, because she likes him better when he doesn’t like her.
Author’s Notes: I really love this pairing way too much considering that Alex annoys the hell out of me. Set towards the end of series two (but pre-finale), in preparation for series three :D I wish I were less invested in these people...
Who are you fooling?
Don’t need a shrink but an exorcist.
“I am without purpose,” she sighs over the breakfast table.
(Soggy cornflakes and shitty coffee and a cigarette because packets without cigarettes will fuck you up printed across them are a novelty and anyway she doubts that lung cancer will be a problem.)
Even the television set remains sullenly quiet. She has been abandoned.
Gene’s mouth thins when she repeats it later. She suspects she’s a joke that’s gone stale; so fucking insane and desperate that the punchline’s vanished and she isn’t really funny anymore.
(Still, she’s got good legs and her own teeth and really, how much more can Gene expect?)
“Maybe you’re too busy buggering about to have a purpose,” he suggests sourly.
The man may have a point, she concedes. Still, she offers him a glare, because she likes him better when he doesn’t like her.
Alex writes something is rotten in the state of Denmark on a piece of paper and sticks it to her wall alongside all the other useless schemes that have utterly failed to get her out of here.
She doubts that Shakespeare is really the key, but who knows what the hell her mind will throw up next. Alex has spent years enjoying wandering around in the dark spaces in the back of people’s minds, but she’s learning to fear her own subconscious. She should be in control of this whole world, should be able to get hold of all the strings and tug them until everyone’s dancing to her damn tune. But she can’t, and there are no words for how afraid she is.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
“Yes,” Alex sighs, tapping a biro against her lower lip. “Yes, and I rather think it’s me.”
There’s something reassuring about listening to white noise on the radio. Dull crackles that slither up and down Alex’s spine as she sits very still and stares at the growing mass of pictures and words on the wall.
It looks like the work of a crazy person. She is a crazy person.
She spent hours earlier, searching each channel for a clue of some kind, for news of how she’s doing. Her bones ache, her head is pounding, her eyes can barely stay open, but for all she knows it’s in her head. Alex has lost the difference between reality and imagination, and although Molly is her lifeline, she is all that Alex knows to be true.
The radio buzzes on, hypnotic and peaceful. Alex would love an update, would love to know if she is dying or living or doomed to stay like this forever, but she likes the noise too; there’s no truth in it, but then there aren’t any lies either.
It would be too easy (much too easy) to snap I’m fucking tired at Gene and walk away from all this, from roses and lies and traitors and whatever it is she thinks she’s doing here that isn’t enough anyway because if it was she’d be home by now. Whatever that means now, anyway.
The bridges are burning around her, ugly and bright, and her evening has involved too much alcohol and too much Gene Hunt, sitting glowering beside her at the bar, worn out and so tired, so tired. They’re all worn too thin now, shreds of themselves, and Alex can’t help wondering if this is her mind breaking down, the bullet’s damage leaking the colour and the order out of her world, sapping at the personalities of those around her until they’re left with one thin overlying emotion each.
Alex’s is apparently despair. Gene’s appears to be anger.
“I’m taking you home,” he tells her eventually, resigned, one hand too tight around her arm. Alex follows him easily enough, the world slipping around her because she’s drunk too much, yet again, in the hopes of making this more than it is. It hasn’t worked; it never does.
Streetlights stripe between her closed blinds, fill the room with a grey sort of impenetrable light, and Gene and Alex look at each other for a very long moment, silent in a way that they never are.
“Why haven’t you?” Alex asks, as though it should make sense, as though continuing a conversation that they’ve never actually had. Her hand is splayed against Gene’s chest and his eyes glint, just slightly.
“You’re making it increasingly difficult for me to be a gentleman, Bolly,” he warns her, soft and rough.
Alex swallows. “I’ve never thought of you as a gentleman.”
Gene pushes her backwards onto the sofa, so hard that she hits her head on the arm and closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens them again, he’s gone.
Evan looks confused when he opens the door. Alex attempts a smile.
“I just... I just wanted to see how you and Alex were.”
It’s basically a lie, but she hasn’t worked out which bits are and which bits aren’t yet, so she can’t think of anything better to say.
The Evan of her imagination – of this fucked-up little world with edges that are fraying, God, fraying around her – looks younger than Alex ever recalls him being. Evan who took her in and brought her up and who Alex cannot be in love with because that’s ridiculous, that’s more broken than she thinks she’s ever been. She closes her eyes and when she opens them up again a moment later he’s still standing there, half-smile quirked against his lips.
“You’re a good woman, Alex Drake,” he says, after a moment.
He’s said that to her in the real world, years into the future, and it wasn’t true then either.
The Quattro is going too fast, music screaming from the speakers, and Alex closes her eyes against Gene’s manic driving and the way he won’t quite look at her, hasn’t quite looked at her in days, and if she didn’t know him better she’d say she’d hurt him. Chris and Ray are laughing in the back seat, but Alex doesn’t bother to listen in because she never really wants to know.
The engine cuts and the radio has turned off but the music keeps blaring, bright and loud and energetic, as it always does; one of the least obnoxious areas of all this brain damage.
Alex sighs and gets out of the car; at least her life has a good soundtrack.
Gene doesn’t blink when he walks into his office and finds Alex sitting on his desk, legs spread open in invitation, dress riding up her thighs to the point of indecency.
He closes the door behind him. “It’s been a long day,” he tells her, voice losing none of its sharpness for all that he’s murmuring, keeping this hidden from those outside.
“You want this,” Alex points out, pushing, reckless, “what more do I bloody have to do, get on my knees?”
His expression remains unreadable, calm. He walks over to his desk and rests one hand on each of her legs and Alex tilts her chin up. For a long moment she thinks he’s going to kiss her, and for a second, when he blinks, she realises he thinks he’s going to as well. In the end, he merely pushes her thighs closed, touch more gentle than Alex was expecting.
“Fuck off home, Bolly,” he says, weary rather than accusing, and walks around the other side of the desk to sit down.
She thinks of a dozen things to say, but in the end she stands, smoothing her dress back down her legs, and, for once, obeys.
There are altogether too many dictaphone tapes, all of them asking too much, full of questions without answers and hypotheses without proof and oh God, so much frustration and fear and boredom. There’s Shakespeare, Dickinson, Tennyson, metaphors, desperation, every last clue or thought recorded and slapped down for posterity. Alex is insane and she cares less about it every day.
She sips black coffee and smokes a cigarette she doesn’t particularly want and talks to herself because there’s no one else to talk to.
“Is falling in love with Gene Hunt inherently narcissistic?” she asks, and then laughs until the tape runs out with a barely discernable ‘click’.
Evan calls and asks her if she’d like a drink. She pictures him fucking her mother with that same smile and those same earnest eyes and wonders if she’s always despised him somewhere dark and deep down and unnameable or if this is a new development.
Alex is going to have to ask him a lot of questions when she wakes up. If she wakes up. You know, that sort of thing.
She flips through channels on the television while listening to him speak about nothing in particular. Zippy and Bungle are laughing at her, vicious and hard, and Alex almost preferred the blanket silence. She hangs up on Evan mid-sentence, tugs the phone cord out at the wall.
“I don’t even know what home means anymore,” she sighs, over instant coffee and burned toast, hair wet and spitting cold drops down her neck, early in the morning with dead bodies on her conscience. Imaginary dead bodies.
She tries to picture Molly and for a dull moment can’t, just sees a shimmer of hair and the edge of a smile.
Alex doesn’t even panic properly, not the way she thinks she ought to.
The room is lurching as though in a storm, caught in a tornado, you’re not in Kansas anymore and fuck, fuck she always hated that movie, really hated it, the twitches of imagination and the knots it ties you into when you’re concussed and sick and the worst of it is that she’s living it now. Only with less singing and fewer Munchkins and no ruby slippers at all, no yellow brick road to follow, just empty promises and truths that might not be true at all.
Gene’s heart is broken in a way that Alex didn’t think was possible, not until the moment she looked into his eyes and saw crushed glass staring back. Broken in the only way you can break it; Chris is the traitor, Chris has sold out and ripped them apart and Gene is wounded deep, so deep that Alex didn’t bother trying to offer a cheap shag to salve the ache. It wouldn’t have helped.
She lies, curled on her floor, as the room pitches and tosses around her, scrabbling her fingers for purchase against the floor.
“Sam Tyler, I broke your world,” she murmurs, breathless, half in apology and half in wonderment.
Had we but world enough and time, reads the piece of paper stuck to her wall. Alex stares at it until the words blur, until her chest starts to ache.
A clown presses itself against the glass of her television screen, white teeth bared in a greasepaint reddened mouth. She refuses to look at it, though she’s trembling.
“I have too much time,” she says to the room at large. “Too much time and all I’m doing with it is destroying everything around me.”
It’s dark in the office, dark and quiet, and the edge of her desk is starting to hurt where it’s digging into the back of her thighs. Alex won’t move though; wouldn’t move for the world.
The only place they’re touching is their mouths; there’s a careful distance between their bodies, and Alex’s hands are braced against cardboard files, Gene’s hands clenched by his sides. Her eyes are closed; his are open. It’s not what she would have expected, but she also knows it’s not what he would have expected either. They’re both surprised, flying blind, and kissing like the world might end tomorrow.
(Then again, this is Alex’s subconscious, after all; there’s every chance it could.)
She startles herself for a moment by thinking: I want this to be real.
The implications of this thought are too much and she pulls back, not that there’s really anywhere to go, and Gene doesn’t follow her.
“This calls for wine, Drake,” he tells her, sharp and business-like. “A lot of wine.”
“No argument here,” she says, as he steps back and she straightens up, the backs of her thighs smarting.
He palms her arse on the way out the door and she looks up at him. “Does this mean-”
Gene already feels out of place in the eighties; there’ll be no space for him whatsoever in the noughties. He’d hate it and Alex would feel ceaselessly guilty and probably more than a little ashamed – whether of him or of herself, she’s not entirely sure – and yet.
“I want to take him home with me,” she says aloud to the empty room. “I don’t want any of this shit but I do want him.”
She has drunk a lot and not kissed him again and they kept their hands to themselves and their remarks more caustic than usual and Alex can’t even bring herself to be angry about this.
“God,” she breathes, eyes on her ceiling, reflecting that she isn’t fighting nearly as hard as she should be, “I really am out of my mind.”
She laughs until the laughter becomes tears, and then she rolls over and buries her face in the pillow.
“You are not my purpose,” she says crossly the next morning, sunglasses fixed in place and jeans just a little too tight.
Gene glares at her and it’s easy enough to believe that none of last night happened, which is probably a good idea because Alex has a life at home and Gene shouldn’t be a part of any of that.
“Well, you’re clearly my penance,” he says, sounding almost amused. “Just get in the car, Bolly.”
A mile down the road, Quattro humming with the sounds of The Stranglers, he glances at her. Chris and Ray are bickering in the back, attention focused solely on each other, and Gene throws her something that’s very nearly a smile. Alex smiles back, fingers curling in her lap.
The world wavers, but it doesn’t quite fall apart.