If she'd had the presence of mind to observe her surroundings, she might have been amazed at the way the place seemed to simply reconstitute itself from thin air. All the familiar faces, bustling about like it was any other day of the week; all the chairs and desks righted, all the papers tidied away (well, as much as they ever were). If she'd been paying attention to anything else but him, she would have marvelled at the sheer normalcy of it all.
But she didn't. She was still at his shoulder, still and calm now, trying to give him the support he needed now to get them home. Would he leave too? Her thoughts wandered as she follows him back into his office. Would he finally get to rest? He looks so very tired. Every step seems to require a strength he can barely muster, but he keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Quiet desperation seems to be the order of the day, here. Her fingernails are still dark with the mud of his grave, but her thoughts glance off that reality and veer back towards her purpose.
She closes the door behind them, and moves past him to sit on his desk. His gaze is fixed on a point a million miles away, and she thinks she knows what he needs to hear.
"You're Gene Hunt." It is a simple statement of fact. "You're their Guv."
The moment she says the words, his head comes up.
"That's what I'm here for... If nothing else." She can't keep the sorrow from her voice.
When he looks at her, she can see something in his expression. Humility, perhaps. And something deeper. Gratitude. "Thank you."
She only smiles up at him, swallowing the tidal wave of emotion that is pressing against her breastbone. Foil the blag. Go to the pub. Maybe, in the light of everything else, it really can be that simple.
When he leaves his office again, the world is just as they left it. The team arrays around them, smoking their last cigarettes, checking their weapons. An army arrayed for battle, and he at their head, the Lion of Fenchurch East tinged with gold.
PC Granger -- Shaz enters the squadroom, dressed in the flawlessly elegant stewardess uniform. There's a strength and grace about her now, Alex can't deny. She's always been a fighter.
(Never fought so hard.)
"They'll be expecting a courier, Guv." Shaz takes her place among them.
"DI Carling? DC Skelton?" Alex can hear the resignation in his voice, as if he already knows the answer to that question.
"I'm sorry, Guv." Shaz can't tell him what he needs to hear.
"Are you all right, Shaz?"
"About wearing a dead woman's clothes? Seems appropriate, ma'am."
They all know their parts.
"Morning." Gene begins, and she thinks, this is the first time she's heard him speak with confidence since she walked away from him in that corridor. (Was that yesterday? This morning?)
"Morning, Guv." The troops stand ready for their general to give his orders.
"Right, they're from Holland, and they're nasty. Apprehend with rampant prejudice. Seen the map?"
"Know your positions?"
"Are you armed bastards?"
Alex can't help but smirk at that last bit, watching as he holsters his ridiculously large revolver. (Like John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. Gary Cooper in High Noon.)
"Right, gentlemen. Saddle up."
It's the last time she'll ever ride in the Quattro, though she doesn't know it at the moment. She watches his silhouette as he drives, both hands gripping the steering wheel, his gaze searing a hole in the horizon. (The image of Jim Keats sitting in that seat, blasting his music and singing at the top of his lungs still haunts her. This is the way the world should be. Gene Hunt behind the wheel of his chariot.)
She's not even sure how long they drive, but neither of them speak. The hangar appears in the distance, morning sunlight cutting through the fog. They park the Quattro out of sight and take up their positions, Gene and Alex hiding behind a row of steel barrels that seem strangely staged for that purpose.
She watches him key the radio to life as the brown Mercedes-Benz pulls into sight. "Hoorsten's just arrived. All units sit tight."
Shaz answers. "Standing by."
"It's nearly twelve. Could have done with Ray and Chris here."
"They'll show." She tries to reassure him, but the dark tone he takes tells her, he's well aware of where they stand.
"No, they won't. We lost them to Keats, Bolly. It's not going to happen."
She keys her radio as the Mercedes disgorges its passengers. "All units standby. Get ready for take down."
Shaz strides out of the hangar, briefcase in hand, looking for all the world like she was born for this role. "Good day, gentlemen."
They don't see the exchange. Gene is already moving, back to the Quattro, listening on the radio as the Dutchmen walk through the exchange. Before she can blink, tyres are squealing on the pavement and bullets are flying through the air.
And the rest is, as they say, history...
One last job. He can do this one more time.
It’s as it should be. He drives up in a blaze of glory, only for the bastards to open fire. The hero trapped in a tight spot, in extreme danger. And the day saved at the last minute...by Ray and Chris, appearing out of nowhere and stopping the bastards getting away by ramming their car. Magnificent. Just as it should be. A job befitting the final day, one last stand, gunfight at High Noon, etc.
He should stop watching so many Westerns. Only not, because then this wouldn’t be any fun, right?
There’s one casualty though, as there always is in these situations. He stands in dismay as the pandas close in to finish the clean up.
‘He’s killed the Quattro.’
No doubt about it. There’s no garage in any world that could fix this damage.
‘He’s bloody killed my Quattro...OI! I am arresting you for murdering my car, you dike-diggin’ tosspot!’
He doesn’t bother with the arrest, actually. He shoots him instead. It’s what murderers deserve, and anyway, he isn’t real. He tried to raise a gun too. Plausible deniability. See, Bolly? He did listen, sometimes.
He walks to Ray and Chris, Alex by his side. There’s no need for deep and meaningfuls. They’re here, he’s here, she’s here. Says it all, really.
‘That’s a takedown. Job done.’
And of course she sounds happy about it. He feels a cold hand settle around his heart. She thinks that’s it.
‘So, what now then, Guv?’ Ray talks like this morning didn’t happen. Fine with him. He looks to each of them. His team.
Because that’s what you do after a job.
His words come back to him as they walk, him at the front, her at his right-hand side. The team fanned out behind. There’s peace in him now, for the first time since yesterday. This isn’t what he wants to happen, but it is right. It’s what he’s here to do.
Darkness has fallen, no matter that it was noon less than an hour ago. That’s how things are supposed to be – the day’s work ends at night, when there’s drinking to be done. He’s aware of things happening because they’re how he thinks they should be, but leaves the thought in a dark corner of his mind, undisturbed. He knows it’ll fade soon enough. At this point in proceedings, he knows everything he has to know.
He stops. The Railway Arms sits in front of them, shining out in the dark like the last beacon of hope. Ray sounds surprised, but he just waits. Not for long. The door opens, and he smiles. It’s always good to see an old friend. And Nelson’s arms are open, grinning fit to burst.
‘Nice to see you again, mon brave.’
‘Beer still the same, Nelson?’
He laughs. ‘Of course it is.’
He turns on his heel as Ray points out the obvious – that this pub can’t be here. But it is. And this is it. This is what you do, after you foil a blag.
‘Ray, stop actin’ the Drippy Alice an’ get a round in. An’ get one in for me, an’ all.’
Shaz is the first one to get it. Drake always said she was the smartest of all of them. She gives him a kiss on the cheek, and a smile – forgiven, he thinks. He hopes.
He nods towards Chris. ‘You keep him out of trouble, Detective Constable Granger.’
She smiles. ‘Yes, Guv.’
Chris is as oblivious as ever. Or maybe he just doesn’t like goodbyes. Either way is fine with him.
‘You not comin’ in, Guv?’
‘No, not right now.’
‘You don’t want a pint? Red wine? Or a short…’
He babbles on. Gene watches him go, watches Shaz catch up to him. They’ll be alright, those two. She’ll keep him right, and he’ll keep her busy.
He turns back to Ray. This could be tricky, because they’ve always been alike. He doesn’t want it to end badly. Ray’s been his wingman for more years that he can count. They watch each other for a moment. And then,
‘You are, and always will be, the Guv.’
Relief bursts through his chest.
‘Danger of getting’ poofy, Raymondo?’
He offers his hand. Ray takes it. For a long moment, they stand like that. He wonders if he’s thinking, like him, not of this morning in CID, but of all the laughs they’ve had. All the hours playing darts, and talking about football. All the pints they’ve drank together. Ray was always more than just a colleague.
A final nod, and he goes to join Chris and Shaz. Gene watches him all the way, all three of them, as they bicker outside the door. But he turns away before they go inside. He doesn’t want to watch that bit. And when they’re gone, it’ll just be him and her.
He can hear music. He closes his eyes, and pulls in a long, slow breath. He turns as the door closes, standing a distance behind her now. And just waits, the fingers of one hand tapping nervously.
Keats lied to her back at the farmhouse. And he didn’t say a word. He’s been dreading this moment since then.
Dreading this moment for three years.