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“I don’t think about my past.”

Sam keeps going trying to coax something out of him, and Gene’s speech on the thankless task of policing Manchester is enough to cover up the fact that he’s lying through his teeth.

Because right at this moment, all he can do is think about his past. His best moments, are moments he’d simultaneously rather forget. Moments laced with pain and suffering, but so much joy it could have killed him. Gene has never been a talker and he’s not about to start opening up old wounds for Sam to start digging into. Or start talking about his feelings like some sort of girl. There’s too much of Gene’s existence that he’s kept to himself. Too much of his life he’s not prepared to share with anyone, not after all this time. But here he is, possibly about to die and it almost all just spills out.

Gene closes his eyes and sighs, more to himself than anyone else, and thinks about the moments he’d want to remember. The day he met Kathy, the first day her smile lit up her face and made him stop. He can remember her blue dress, the way it flared out when she’d spun during a dance. He can hear the sound of her laugh and the way her neat curls bounced on her shoulders.

He thinks about their wedding day, her walking down the aisle towards him and the feeling of utter happiness he felt. He can see her white dress that one of her aunties had made. The wedding cake her mother had baked and more Aunties had decorated with white royal icing, her dark hair curls and red lipstick. Her perfume as she danced with him, the way it lingered on his suit, even after they’d started making rounds to speak to guests, her laughter drawing his eye across the room.
He can remember that night, carefully undoing the buttons at the back of her dress as he kisses her neck. Kathy shuddering slightly and gasping-

Gene shakes his head. He feels the familiar sting of grief that he tucks away back in its place.

He thinks about the day they handed him his Grace in the hospital; this small person that had his blue eyes and Kathy’s dark hair. This tiny baby, who could barely open her eyes and the responsibility of fatherhood and the joy, came all at once. When Cartwright asked, that’s the first moment he thought of, holding his little girl and looking across at Kathy, tired, but smiling, dark hair in a halo around her head. He had a family. He had responsibility and in the moment he swore he would never hurt them like his dad had him. He wanted nothing more than to protect them from everything that Manchester and the entire bloody world could throw their way. He can feel Grace’s tiny hand wrapped around his finger.

“Guv?” it’s Cartwright, she got a look on her face that says he’s missed something. He grunts in response, waiting for a response but it never comes.

“S’nothing,” she says, and her and Tyler share a look, and Gene looks at his watch. Quarter to Two. He feels sadness and guilt all well up in his chest, and he can’t push it away. It lingers, thick like cig smoke in a pub.

He remembers the day DI Marcus, his first DI, sat him down and asked, simply, what he needed. Gene didn’t know. His life had collapsed. Crumbled beneath his fingers and Gene had no bloody clue what he needed. He can remember Marcus offering him a cig and a cup of tea, as Gene just sat there.

Marcus was a widower as well. Gene remembered from being on the beat that his wife had died after a car accident. No children, but Marcus understood. They just weren’t about to start talking about their feelings. It was a show of support from someone who understood. Marcus still wore his wedding ring, even with no children from the marriage and young enough to find someone else. He’d stayed single, and wore his wedding ring. Gene looked down at the wedding ring on his left hand and felt ill. He had Kathy’s ring in his pocket, kept it for Grace, who was with his Mam. She’d been helping and Gene was grateful even if he couldn’t say it. He needed to DO something, because he was afraid if he stopped he’d fall to pieces.

They’d said it was just the “Baby Blues”. She was tired all the time, even a few months after Grace was born. She wasn’t connected; Kathy sometimes looked at him like he wasn’t there. He’d taken her to the doctor and she never argued, she didn’t even say a word. Gene did all the talking. He’d left Grace with his Mam then as well. He can remember the fear that rose up when the doctor started asking questions.

Gene had looked across at Kathy who had fixed her eyes on a spot on the wall where the paint had chipped away. The doctor told them to just, ride it out and help as much as possible. So between his Mam and Kathy’s Mam they’d made sure there was always someone to help while Gene was at work.

Kathy’s Mum had taken Grace with her to the shop. They’d needed bread and eggs.

Gene got home on time for once and walked in the door to find his house empty and his wife-

Gene shook his head. He can feel stinging in his eyes. He doesn’t need that. That was the lowest point his life had ever reached. Stuart’s decline, his death, Gene’s shit dad throwing his weight around, Harry killing himself, none of it compared to coming home and finding Kathy, his Kathy, had taken her life as well.

So when DI Marcus asked: “What do you need?”

Gene didn’t know, not really. He didn’t know how he was meant to continue. How in the name of Christ was he meant to raise Grace without Kathy? What he needed was for everything to just stop, so he could catch his bloody breath and work out what the hell he was supposed to do with a six month old.

Marcus and Gene had stayed in silence until eventually Gene had said: “I’m moving back to my Mam’s. She’s gonna have Grace when I’m working.”

Marcus had just hummed a response, nothing else. He left Gene with his cup of tea and a careful hand his shoulder.

Before he’d retired, Marcus told Gene, by then his DI, that he’d understood what he was asking for, even if Gene wasn’t sure himself. That’s why, three weeks later, when DC Gene Hunt had turned up on a weekend Call Out with Grace in a carry cot and a bag of baby things, he’d done nothing but call one of the WPC’s up to the floor to watch her. And he’d made sure that DS Maxwell, kept his mouth shut.

Gene smiles, he doesn’t think he’d have taken it that well. He’d not even had to explain. Marcus had just raised an eyebrow, rang down to the front desk and asked for a WPC to come up, with a warning glance to Maxwell for good measure.

What would he do, if Chris appeared one day with a baby in a car seat and look on his face that said he was in over his head? Would he do the same thing? Probably.

As Grace likes to remind him constantly, he’s much less of a bastard than he lets on.

He thinks of Grace. The way she looks like her mother. So much dark hair, wavy, and wild. But she has blue eyes, his Mam says they’re his eyes but he’s never thought too much about it. He can remember Friday evenings, when she was in Primary School, he’d stop at the chippy on the way home and they eat at the kitchen table. She’d excitedly tell him everything that had happened in her week, what she’d learnt, and the gossip from the schoolyard. Then he’d clear the plates away and he’d test her on her spellings. He’d test her and test her until she could recite them all perfectly and then he’d wash up and leave her to the rest of her homework.

When she’d left home to go to Uni, she’d asked about the spellings. Why did he make such a big deal of it, and he’d told her the truth. He’d long since worked out that she was so much smarter than he was. He realised it the first time she’d taken two numbers and added them up in the same time it’d taken him to say them. He liked the spelling because the answer was right there in front of him. He couldn’t get it wrong or lead her astray, because the answer was right there. It was his way of staying connected and being involved. As it turned out, it was one of the best memories she had from being young, having him all to herself every Friday.

He remembers the first time she was stood on the other side of a piquet line to him. He caught sight of her in a crowd of students and their eyes had met. She’d shrugged helplessly and disappeared into the crowd. The following Friday he had sat her down and they’d had a talk about ideas and views of the world. She’d used longer words but that’s what it was about really.

But it was also about Gene making sure that she didn’t get in trouble, or get hurt. They agreed that they were not going to agree on things, and while he hated the fact that she was there, she didn’t live at home anymore, and he couldn’t stop her. He told her to listen to her instincts, to run when she could feel it about to kick off, to head to the station if there was nowhere closer.

The relief he’d felt after a riot, returning to the station after hours and hours of working, to find her and her friend sat on the steps, unhurt, without a scratch or a bruise, had made him breathe easier. It made him realise that at nineteen she was very much an adult.

They’d disagreed on a lot of things; Maureen being one of them. When she was presented with this woman, who was not her mother, who was nothing like her mother, she had decided to go live with his Mam. At ten years old, she had come to him and said, she wanted to live with her Granny full time. Gene had found he couldn’t say no, because he’d seen hurt in her eyes. But even when she lived away from him, they always had their Friday evenings. It was clear Grace wanted nothing to do with Maureen; and Maureen wanted nothing to do with Grace either.

He’d never married her. He’d told her straight up, he wasn’t going to marry again. He never took off the wedding ring that Kathy gave him, and eventually people just started calling her Mrs Hunt. He’d started calling her the Missus and things had settled. The older she’d got, the more Grace had tried. She’d worked out that Maureen wasn’t about to go anywhere and she’d tried because Grace could see he was a bit happier. At least for the most part he had been, not like with Kathy, but he’d been happy enough. Now he wasn’t so sure. They rowed and argued, and she’d started to spend more and more time at her mother’s house in Blackpool, and Gene had started to care less. He figured eventually she’d just, not come home, and for a while it had made him sad, but then, much faster than it should, that feeling had gone away.

Here he was minutes from dying and his Missus had barely crossed him mind.

He thought about Grace finding out. Who’d tell her? Ray and Chris? He hoped not, they could be great coppers if they’d just stop being such divs, but them having to sit Grace down and tell her there’d be no more Friday nights? No more Dad? That she’d be all on her own now? No.

When Gene really thought about it, the only person he trusted to tell her was… Sam. Gene smiled to himself slightly; that was no bloody use because it was his fault Gene was trapped in a stationary cupboard in the first bloody place.

He wondered if anyone had bothered to tell her. She was in Manchester, working at the Uni on something to do with space. It was something to do with maths, but what it was Gene couldn’t have begun to tell anyone.

He was so proud, even if he didn’t have a clue what she did.

Gene looked at Cartwright and thought about how he’d feel if someone treated Grace the way he treated her., and he scowled. What is it Grace says?

“At least you’re self-aware Dad”

Then Jackie Queen is at the door. The moments gone. Cole is opening the door and it all going to be over soon.

He stands in the offices of The Gazette and as Sam kneels waiting for two o’clock to get here. Gene says a silent goodbye to his little girl, and hopes that when he sees her again, Kathy doesn’t kill him all over again.