Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 2175 words.
Notes: Gene/The Missus. Gene’s had one of those tiring days, but his wife brings home a visitor. This continues in the vein of idealised relationships, mostly because I really am a great big sap. Thank you to v23474 for beta :)
Another hard day at work. Just one in a long line, really. He wouldn’t complain about it. He wasn’t exactly the complaining type. He was too quick, too in the present. No, he’d just sit here on the sofa letting the air ripple past his lips until he sounded like an excitable horse. Made life easier, rolling with the punches, letting things hop, skip and jump on their merry way.
Time ticked by. He had to ask, when had it got to this? At what point in his life had he acquired the feeling that every day was another day like any other and the point of these days made little sense? Actually, he knew. He had a fair idea, anyway. It appeared around the time he took his first backhander, and hadn’t stopped since.
Except, occasionally, he didn’t think like this. Every now and then, a certain moment became something to be revered. It didn’t merge with all the others to become this big bowl of trifle. It was an event to be valued. And he knew, or at least part of him knew, that one of the reasons this had started happening more frequently was the newest addition to his team. Sam Tyler. Mad as a hatter, but brilliant in his own way. And he cared so much. Did Sam ever go home wondering whether the next day would be as monotonous as the last?
He’d been there ten minutes when he decided he’d take off his coat. It was another twenty after that before he took off his tie. And he undid the first two buttons on his shirt and leaned back, resting his head in his hands. He wallowed for a while, letting his eyes open and close periodically and his mind wander into the far reaches of space.
The television was on. He hadn’t been paying attention. It was just noise and moving pictures. A comforting cacophony. He started to wonder where Clara had got to. She wasn’t usually out when he came home. Then again, he came home at a different time each day – if he came home at all.
Several more minutes went by and Gene was half-contemplating actual movement. He was startled into action by the doorbell ringing. Right. Who could this be? Gene stood up and lumbered over to the door. He only opened it a crack before seeing it was Clara.
“Good thing you’re home. Forgot my key,” Clara said, adjusting auburn curls. “I met a friend of yours down shop, love,” she added, bustling past Gene into the hallway.
“Friend? In a shop? None of my friends go shopping, they get their wives to do it for them,” Gene said, turning back around and opening the door wider.
There was Sam, standing on the doorstep, holding a bag of potatoes and looking very much like he had something to be guilty about. His head was tilted to one side and the eyes which were usually so fierce, or terrified, or full of barely kept moral outrage were sheepish – as if to ask that he not be killed please, at least not for a week or two.
Gene stepped back, pursed his lips together. “Sam.”
“I invited him for dinner,” Clara called from the kitchen. She stepped back into the lounge and smiled at Gene. “You don’t mind, do you, love?”
Gene wanted to yell, stomp his feet and say that he minded a lot, but somehow he thought this reaction might not be looked on very favourably. He stepped aside and ushered Sam in. Clara took the bag of potatoes and deposited them in the kitchen, then came back and sat on the sofa with her hands neatly folded in her lap.
“So how did you two meet?” Gene said, trying to keep his voice all casual-like.
“It’s a funny story. I was reaching over to get the potatoes, and wasn’t looking where I was putting the basket. I knocked straight into Sam. Got you right in the chest, didn’t I? I felt terrible.”
Sam gave a small smile. “It didn’t hurt that much.”
“No, you’re a strong one, aren’t you? Tough, like Gene. You have to be.” She turned back to Gene. “Anyway, I explained why I was getting the potatoes in the first place, you know how it gets, you feel like you’ve got to justify your every move -”
Gene interjected. “Not really.”
“- and I told him about you, Gene, how I was planning on making you a special meal because you’d been working so hard lately.”
“I realised it was unlikely there was another Gene in Manchester who was a DCI,” Sam explained, still standing awkwardly off to one side.
“Naturally, I asked him over. Poor boy looks like he hasn’t been fed in months.” Sam grinned at this, crossing his arms against his chest. Gene attempted not to glare and failed. “You really should ask your work colleagues around more often. We could have a proper dinner party, all formal. I could make my brioche.”
Gene sighed. A long, drawn-out sigh which bore the weight of the world.
“Do you mind if I go use the loo?” Sam asked, shifting from his right foot to his left.
“No, go right ahead. It’s straight forward once you’ve gone up the stairs,” Clara replied. Gene moved to let him past. Clara waited until Sam would be out of earshot. “You never told me he was so handsome!”
“It’s not the type of thing a man usually goes telling his wife, is it? I’ve a new work colleague, and by the way, he’s bloody gorgeous – slim and defined with a firm little -”
“Alright, alright, no need to exaggerate.”
Gene lowered his head and looked up at Clara. It wasn’t quite a glare, it wasn’t quite a frown, but the sentiment hovered between these and more.
“Why’d you invite him?” he whispered, bringing his hands up to hips.
“Because I’m sick of only being a tiny part of your life,” Clara whispered back and then smiled triumphantly at Gene’s reaction. “Plus, he seems a sweet sort. He’s not as thick as that Ray, and less eager to please than the younger one.”
“What about Chris?” Sam asked, coming back into the room and patting his hands down by his sides.
“We were just making up a list for the next load of coppers we’ll invite for tea,” Gene said. He flung his hand towards an armchair. He might have been offering Sam a seat, or he might have been gesturing in frustration. Sam appeared to think it was the former and sat down awkwardly, perched on the edge with his elbows resting on his knees. Gene sat next to Clara on the sofa. They all stared at each other for a moment, the late summer light filtering through the window and tinging everything a shade of orange.
“How was work?” Clara asked eventually.
“It was… good,” Sam replied, ducking his head down.
“Catch many criminals?”
“All the time. He’s a criminal catching machine, aren’t you Sam?”
“Er. Yeah. I suppose I am.”
Clara beamed at Sam and then stood up. “I think I better start dinner, how about you two chat for a while about your latest case or pottery or something, and I’ll go peel some potatoes.”
“I can help, Mrs Hunt,” Sam said, starting to move from his seat.
“Remember, I said to call me Clara.” Clara looked down at Gene and then back to the already standing Sam. “Well, okay then. It will be nice to have another pair of hands helping out.” She pointed to Gene. “He never does anything related to housework, the lazy sod.”
Gene was going to protest, but decided he couldn’t be bothered. He watched as Clara and Sam left the room. He fidgeted for five minutes, listening to pots and pans and the occasional laugh coming from the kitchen. He watched the twilight darken and the shadows grow longer on the walls. He wondered what they were up to and finally decided he’d rather not wait in here and would instead find out. Entering the room he saw Clara in her oldest cooking apparel and Sam in the small pink apron he’d bought Clara on their tenth anniversary.
“You look…” Gene began. He was going to say ‘like a fudge-packer’, or ‘a complete fairy’ but settled on “ridiculous.”
“Thank you,” Sam said, another grin radiating. Gene hadn’t realised how rarely Sam smiled before, but the white teeth and boyish demeanour drove the impression home. He’d remember if Sam smiled more often, it would be the thing he’d associate with him most. As it was, he usually thought of Sam as the sullen serious type. Someone who needed a kick up to the arse to learn how to enjoy himself.
Gene sat at the kitchen table, occasionally lending a hand, watching as Clara and Sam worked methodically. They set up a system whereby Sam would do the preparation and Clara would perform the more complicated operations. They shared recipes and cooking tips. They laughed over common cooking disasters. It was startlingly domestic, quite at odds with Gene’s usual everyday activities. The kind of thing you take for granted.
Forty minutes went by. Gene was set the task of setting the table. He got a bottle of wine ready. He sat down and watched as Clara placed the plate in front of him. Sam sat across the table with his own plate.
“So what do we have here then?” Gene asked, examining the different colours.
“Potato souffle with honey nutmeg carrots and celeriac on the side.”
“In short, fancy food.”
Gene tentatively shoved his fork into the light brown mound before him and lifted it to his mouth. He let it hover there, aware of two pairs of intent eyes. He waited another moment before Clara waved her hand, ordering him to stop being such a tease.
He had to admit, it tasted good. It didn’t just taste good, it was positively delightful. He’d heard Clara use a really poncey word for powerful tasting once. Piquant? Yeah, that sounded about right. It was sort of stimulating in a way which seemed almost indecent for something you were supposed to eat.
“I’ve had a few things in my mouth over time, and of the things you swallow, this is one of the best.”
Sam spluttered onto his plate and tried to conceal it by grasping hold of his wineglass.
They continued eating in silence.
“I just realised something,” Clara said, grimacing.
“We don’t have any dessert. I was so busy thinking about getting the souffle right, it didn’t even occur to me.”
“We’ve got a packet of Angel Delight. Saw it on counter.”
Sam sniggered and Clara rolled her eyes.
“My husband, the connoisseur.”
“What? What’s wrong with Angel Delight? Good stuff, that is.”
Sam nodded and looked towards the counter. “Actually, I’ve always had a weakness for strawberry, is that the one we’ve got?”
“In the same vein,” Clara said, “I don’t know about you, but I always find that people look down upon the potato. It’s not really valued when it comes to fine cuisine.”
“I completely agree. Most seem to equate potatoes with mash and chips – these aren’t exactly awash with the notion of high culture,” Sam said, waving his fork around and taking a sip of wine.
Gene purposefully grunted and made it clear that he thought little of their conversation style.
“I think you should know that you two are disturbing on multiple levels. No nicking off with my wife, Tyler.”
Sam shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “The thought never crossed my mind.”
“No? Shame!” Clara fell into a fit of giggles and didn’t return for a good minute. Gene found his lips curving into a small smile and Sam returned the look across the table.
It was quite pleasant, this. His partner at home and his partner at work. What? Had he just referred to Sam as his partner? Yes, he supposed he had. Well, the point remained. It was an odd situation, having to be two people at once, but somehow it worked. Sam knew more about him than any other copper, after all, and Clara usually put up with him at his most annoying. He could almost get away with being himself. They cleared away the plates and went back into the lounge.
It was completely dark now. Gene drew the curtains. The world outside could keep for a while. They didn’t need to worry about other distractions, they had their own realm.
Gene said goodbye to Sam with a shared unspoken agreement that no word would be said of this at the office. They both understood the importance of having separate personal and professional lives.
It had been another evening after a hard day at work. But in contrast with the day, not an evening like any other. Good company, good food and good prospects for the future.