Rating: pg-13 (due to language...no surprise there)
Characters: Gene Hunt, Alex Drake
Disclaimer: I wish. One line in here is also lovingly paraphrased from an episode of Doctor Who.
A/N: You know, I could have sworn that I didn't have time for another fandom. But then last week's episode of A2A came along...which then produced this. It's my first piece for either LoM or A2A, so please let me know if something strikes your eye as being too much out of character.
Alex sat on the couch with that god awful blood red sheet from her bed wrapped around her and shivered. She’d made all the connections, figured out the puzzle, got the bad guys, been saved herself, and watched a little boy experience the joy of seeing his new sibling for the first time. So why did she still feel cold? She exhaled slow and long, and watched as a stream of foggy breath came out of her mouth.
The ice shatters and breaks, melting off into puddles of liquid crystals, catching the cold sun as she lies in the middle of it, like Sleeping Beauty just inches away from waking up.
Why couldn’t she stop shaking? She was so close, she could feel it. Everything was coming together, pieces clicking into place and showing her the right way to save her parents. And if she saved her parents, she should be able to get home, right? She laughed lightly and looked off to the side. “Can’t sleep, Mols, clowns will eat me,” she giggled, reciting a line she’d seen ages ago on a t-shirt in some joke catalogue.
The clown moves closer and closer, all pancake makeup, painted lips, and glimmering fabric. This image wavers and flashes as well, moving back and forth between the clown and something bigger and darker.
No, that’s not right, Alex thought, shaking her head. She’d have to re-evaluate him, find out more about that clown and what it meant. Something was off about that piece, but not in the way she had previously thought. Just another part of the puzzle. Figure out the puzzle, make the connections, and get home, get back to Molly, to 2008, and on with the rest of her life. Or at least get home long enough to say good-bye.
The bullet whirs through the air heading straight for her, making her gasp as she finds herself falling through the darkness again, a tangle of red in the blackness of nothing. And oh, how she falls, falls forever, the only thought that manages to make it through her horribly scared brain being ‘this is IT’.
The loud and persistent pounding at her door pulled her out of the vision, making her sit upright on the couch with a terrible gasp. Pulling the sheet even tighter around her to stop the shaking, she got up and slowly made her way to the door. When she opened it she found none other than Gene Hunt slouched against her doorjamb, a hot toddy in clutched in one hand and the rest of him looking like it had already been into more than a few pints.
She looked down at the drink then back up at Gene’s face with a knowing look in her eyes. “Luigi again?” she asked.
Gene shrugged, pursing his lips. “Pushy bastard thought a nice warm drink would help you after finding out you’d spent the better part of the morning in a meat locker.”
“So you thought you’d be a gentleman and take that up here for him?” Alex said, opening the door wider to let Gene stumble inside, impressively not managing to spill one drop of the drink.
“If it’d shut him up, yes,” Gene said, pushing the drink into her hands and flopping down on the couch. There was something in his manner though that told Alex Luigi had said far more than that, but obviously Gene wasn’t going to offer up anything further. She settled herself in on the other end of the couch and sipped at the drink. It felt warm in her mouth, but didn’t make it much further than that, and her limbs still felt like ice.
“What are you really doing here, Gene?” she asked, tucking her legs under her. The black sleep shirt and sheet weren’t doing all that much to warm her up.
“Bringing you your drink,” he said, rolling his head on the back of the couch to look at her. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he grunted.
Alex shrugged. “Not tired, not really,” she lied. She was bloody exhausted, but if she tried to sleep she knew she’d fall right back into that nightmare, and maybe this time she wouldn’t wake up. If she was awake she could fight, fight to live and fight to get home.
“Well that’s a load of shit,” Gene said, not pulling his eyes from her. “When was the last time you slept?”
“Aside from being unconscious in the freezer this morning?”
“Drake,” he warned.
“All right, it’s been a while,” she conceded, taking another long drink of the toddy.
“Then what are you waiting for? Pass out so I can go back downstairs and finish my drink in peace,” Gene said, rolling his head back towards the ceiling and closing his eyes.
“Ever the charmer, aren’t you, Gene?” Alex said with a wry grin, shaking her head.
“I’ll sleep when I’m tired. I’m just not…tired,” she said, shrugging. She felt a bit odd, trying to justify herself to an imaginary construct, but after having been stuck here for what felt like a few months by now, she had realized that it was sometimes the only way to get by with this lot.
“If you don’t sleep you aren’t going to be worth diddly-shit to my team,” he retorted, throwing her words from earlier right back in her face.
“I know.” She knocked back the rest of the drink in a few quick gulps, wishing that she’d begin to feel it in her bones. Alex wrapped the sheet even tighter around herself and curled into the corner of the couch, tamping down the shivers. She should not be feeling like this – it was over, done, mystery solved, time to warm up and wake up, get the hell away from that damn dream.
It was Gene’s expectant look that made her blurt out a few things she hadn’t planned on sharing. “It’s like, every time I close my eyes I see myself back there in the meat locker, freezing cold, and as soon as my eyes shut I’m dying, falling right into the darkness, and I’ll never wake up.”
Who’s gonna catch you when you fall?
Alex knew there were many reasons for those thoughts going through her head, post-traumatic stress being one of the main ones. It was understandable for anyone to be rattled after an experience like that, and nightmares were part and parcel of that. But a nightmare within a dream within an imaginary world inside her head…oh, she was giving herself even more of a headache just thinking about it. She pushed herself off the couch and headed over to the window, watching a few cars zip by on the street below her.
“It’s all over, Bolly,” she heard Gene say behind her. “Game’s over, Chas is going to be locked away for a good long time, and you’re alive. So stop worrying your pretty little head and get some sleep.”
She smiled wryly and placed a hand on the glass, tracing random patterns out with her fingertips. “Am I alive?” she asked, almost rhetorically. “I could still be one second away from death right now, and not even know it.”
The bullet whirs again, impacting and pushing her backwards, making her fall, fall, fall into the darkness once more. Oh, there’s Molly, she’s just about getting ready to blow out her birthday candles. She’s got to make it back for that, absolutely has to, but she’s not sure if she can anymore.
Gene came up behind her and bodily turned her away from the window, leaning down just slightly to look her in the eyes. “You sure the medics cleared you? Because you’re still talking as if you’ve been whacked in the head.”
“I’m not concussed,” Alex insisted. “Just…contemplative. These things happen when you could be dead within seconds, you know?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and kept staring at her, obviously unconvinced. “You know, Bolly, you have a very strange obsession with death, so much so that I’m still wondering if you’re not right in the head yet.”
“It’s not an obsession, just a part of life that I don’t have any problem with speaking about.” She looked up at him again. “Isn’t that something that we do every day? We protect the people from the bad guys so they can get to that death as naturally and normally as possible.”
“Yeah, well, a word of advice, missy, you keep getting this obsessed with death you’re going to forget how to live.”
The clown flickers in the corner of the room, silver turned gold from the street lamps outside, and with a sudden snap of reality he’s right in front of her face. The floor drops from under her and she’s falling again, a tangled mess of red and black and skin.
The room swam in front of Alex’s eyes and her legs buckled, sending her towards the floor. The only thing that saved her from landing in an undignified splat was Gene’s quick movements, scooping her up and carrying her towards the bedroom. “That’s it, no more arguments, you need to sleep now.” She didn’t say anything as he headed into her room and put her down on the bed, the exhaustion had caught up with her. As scared as she was that she wouldn’t be able to wake up, it was impossible for her to keep her eyes open, so they slid closed as her body hit the mattress. She felt the sheets being arranged around her haphazardly, but sure enough to cover her fully.
“Thank you,” she murmured, feeling the haziness of sleep begin to flow through her bones. Once she heard the door click she could let herself go and sleep. It was a risk, but one that had to be taken. So needless to say she was hugely surprised when she felt the bed dip sharply next to her. Alex cracked open one eye to find Gene settling in next to her, jacket and tie gone. “What the hell are you doing?” she said.
“Considering how concerned you are with preventing the public from unnatural deaths, I thought you’d appreciate me not hitting the streets while in my slightly inebriated but mostly exhausted condition,” Gene said, wriggling about a bit to get comfortable.
Alex opened her mouth, about to shoot back some comment, when she caught the look in his eyes. There was something there, something that couldn’t be said, and if she dared to ask the response she got would be something snarky and sarcastic. It wouldn’t mesh with that look that was aimed right at her. “All right,” she eventually said, curling up with her back towards him. “You’d better not snore.”
“Don’t ever remember any other birds complaining about me habits,” he grunted, the bed shifting beneath her again.
“That’s because they probably had earplugs,” she said. Or, at least, she had meant to say it, but sleep had her in its firm grasp by now, and what had come out her mouth was a soft string of muttered incoherence.
The bullet spins 21 million miles an hour right at her.
I’m happy, hope you’re happy too.
Run away little Alex.
She’s falling again, down, down, down, sheet slipping over and wrapping around, threatening to choke her and drag her further into the darkness. Just give in, she thinks, whirling around and not knowing what’s right or wrong, up or down, black or red. Just give up, and fall forever.
Alex wasn’t sure if she hit the bed in the nightmare or reality, all that she did know was that she bounced. She hit the mattress with a rough gasp then sat straight up again, dashing her hands through the limp curls on her head as if they were the only solid thing she could hold onto.
“Christ, Bolls, it’s only half-five, go back to sleep,” the lump next to her said in a voice that sounded like it had been dragged over gravel a couple of times. Her eyes darted to the window, seeing that the sky was only just beginning to lighten up. She let her hands drop back onto the bed, still gasping for air. Just a dream, she thought, it was only a dream.
The lump next to her shifted again and Gene’s head poked above the covers. “What the hell’s got into you?” he asked, although not totally unkindly…or, at least, not unkindly by Gene Hunt’s standards.
Alex opened her mouth but her voice stuck in her throat. When she was finally able to force it out, only one word made it through. “Nightmare.”
He nodded. “Not unexpected, that. Try and get another couple hours of sleep.”
She shook her head, eyes focused on the red sheet covering her knees. “No, can’t sleep. If I go to sleep, I’ll freeze again, and I’ll fall, and I’ll never get home.”
Alex felt more than heard Gene sigh next to her. “Come here,” he said, as the bed shifted again and he wrapped an arm around her back. He pulled her forward just so her head was resting on his shoulder. “You’re not going to die this morning, I promise,” he said.
Too many unnamable feelings whirring about in her head, Alex just nodded. “I’ll try,” she whispered. Sure enough, she soon fell back asleep, with one hand carefully placed just so that she could feel his heartbeat against her fingers.
Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump……