Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 1840 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. No spoilers for series two.
Sam is scowling and Gene’s surprised, but he thinks it’s worth it so long as Sam is here in front of him. Sam’s not only scowling, he’s pacing and banging his hand against the top of his leg and muttering something under his breath at a constant rate. He reminds Gene of the boy he met during National Service who ended up blowing his brains out with his best friend’s gun. It unnerves him, so he swings his legs off the desk and leans forward and Sam stops pacing for a moment to stare at him, wild eyed and frantic.
“I hate my life,” Sam says and Gene nods, because he’d already guessed that from the first five times Sam had yelled and made a fuss.
Gene can’t entirely cut the sarcasm out of his tone. “What can I do to make it better?”
Sam’s jittering hand reappears, joined by a tense quirk of his eyebrow. “You can’t.”
The case is stuffed. There are professional terms for it and probably professional solutions too, but when it comes down to it, ‘stuffed’ is the best word to use and the solutions are a pile of dogshit. Gene is very honest in his explanation to all involved. More honest than usual, actually, and that means the brutality of his expression is up to a whole new level of brutal.
He’d like to provide consolation. He’d enjoy the freedom of being able to reassure his team that their day will come. He longs for it to become easier, more regulated, less up-in-the-air. No, that’s a lie. Gene doesn’t really care about any of these things. He just wants to catch a criminal. He wants to bang them up so they stop harming others. It isn’t too much to ask. It’s almost always all he ever wants to do.
There are exceptions.
For instance, in this moment - this very precise moment here, Gene genuinely wants to tell Sam to cut it out. But he knows that if he does so he’ll get Sam ranting again and that’s the last thing anyone with any sense would instigate, even if they were slightly concerned that Sam’s eyes might just pop out of his head within the next minute.
Ray and Chris fumble with the piles of folders and Geoff is staring at them blankly, holding a mug of tea in his hand, but Paul’s making good headway on sorting through papers. Gene watches this, peering through the partially closed blinds of his office. He almost smiles to himself.
They ignore Sam as he goes sailing past, but Sam doesn’t seem to mind. He flips through the reports on his desk, takes one of the bourbons lying haphazardly on a plate and disappears out of view, reappearing at Gene’s doorway.
“They’re bloody useless.”
Gene rolls his eyes and pulls away from the blind, going to perch on the edge of his desk with his arms crossed. “You think everyone’s useless.”
“That’s because they usually are.”
Sam nibbles on the biscuit in his hand and there’s something so strangely endearing about it that it makes Gene want to punch him. But he doesn’t, this time. He eases his body back and throws his chin forward and tries to disagree, but finds he can’t. Sam has such a knack for saying unpleasant facts that occasionally Gene’s head spins at the thought of it.
“What would you have me do with them, Sammy-boy?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Give them a pamphlet on policing, perhaps?”
Gene wills himself not to smile at Sam’s insulting cynicism, but he cracks and smiles anyway, the corners of his eyes crinkling and his cheeks growing ruddy. Sam smiles back and it’s a rare but mesmerising expression on his angular face. Gene files away the mental picture in a grey cabinet at the back of his mind.
“We’ll figure it out, Sam.”
“How? Are you expecting the answer to fall from the sky? Because you might be in for a terrible shock.”
“It’s happened before.”
“Really?” Sam asks, flat and uninterested.
Gene takes a hip flask off his table and raises it to his lips. “Yeah.”
“Just out of nowhere?”
“Not quite nowhere. An aeroplane. See, we once had this case where there was this box of cigars and no-one had any idea where they came from. In the end, it turned out they’d crashed to earth when the cargo hatch of an inbound French plane had broken off. Took us weeks, that one.”
“That wasn’t the answer falling from the sky though, was it? That was the actual case.”
Sam sighs. “No. No it’s not.”
“I don’t think you’re entirely grasping the situation as it rests, Sam.”
“Rest. Now there’s a concept I wish I hadn’t forgotten.”
Sam falls onto Gene’s brown settee and Gene would tell him to shift it, but he’s obviously very weary, his eyelids drooping and the creases in his face deepening, so instead he takes another swig of scotch and hands the flask out for Sam to grasp.
Gene resigns himself to the fate of failure. He knows it’s most likely a marker of his increased weakness that he’s even contemplating defeat, but he also knows that there are other battles to be won and many small battles comprise a war. So he accepts that this time, this one, small, obvious but insignificant time, he hasn’t quite made it.
He takes his trophies one by one and cleans them, doing away with grime accumulated from cigarette smoke and spilt drinks and whatever else has graced his office since the last time he picked the shining objects up. As he does so, he tries to think of ways to make the solving of the next case a success.
“Gene, are you busy? I’ve had some ideas.” Sam’s voice cuts into Gene’s thoughts and he sidesteps, swivels and plants himself in his chair.
“Go on, then, I’m all ears. In a few hours I’ll be all beers, so you better get it in quick-like.”
“I was just thinking, we’ve got, what, over fifteen men out there.”
Gene nods assent and plays with the end of his tie, flicking it up and down. “Yeah.”
“And all of them were working on this last case.”
“Could it have been too many cooks spoiling the broth?” Sam’s tone is unnaturally unconfident. He’s pandering to Gene’s ego.
“This coming from the man who thinks ‘chicken in a basket’ is a fantastic idea for a meal.”
“Yes. And no. But mostly yes. I just think it would be more constructive to have lots of people working on lots of things, instead of your current scheme, which appears to involve everyone piling on until there’s nothing left for Paul or Eric to do but watch the telly and make crude jokes about Fanny Craddock as the case does or doesn’t get solved and we move onto another.”
“That’s all they’d do anyway, the lazy sods. It often takes several people to do the work, Sam.”
Sam is careful in the manner in which he responds. “I know this, I do, but in those cases, we’d delegate. We’d tell Chris to go work on so-and-so and Ray to go work on another so-and-so and then if we had something big, we’d have them both working on so-and-so.”
“This is your brilliant plan, is it? Get them all working on individual cases until such time as you see fit to let them work together?”
“At least then they’d be working. On something. Anything. Anything would be good.”
Gene drags his hand down from his forehead to his chin, rubbing away dry skin and several days’ worth of worries.
“Why should I listen to you, Sam?”
Sam’s tone is dry and unforced. “Because you love me.”
When the other detectives find out about the new division of labour, they rail against it. Gene’s pretty sure the only reason they don’t have pitchforks is that the hardware shop is closed on Wednesdays.
He corners Sam in CID after everyone else has gone home. Sam doesn’t look especially happy to be there, but then, Sam almost never looks happy.
“Why do you do it, Sam?”
“Maybe I’m sick of us never getting anywhere,” Sam shouts, throwing his arms out wide. Gene notes that it’s one of his most dramatic movements, up there with pointing his fingers by his head and bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Or you might just be a whiny bastard.”
It’s exhilarating in ways it shouldn’t be. This push and pull is something Gene claims infuriates him, and this isn’t a complete lie, because it’s infuriating in the extreme, but the lie would be saying that he doesn’t also enjoy it on some level. He does. There’s something life-affirming about pissing Sam off and he takes the opportunity whenever it’s afforded.
“You think you’re made of win and glitter, don’t you? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not. Not always. Not even often. You’re just a pain, Gene. A royal pain in the arse.”
Gene pushes at Sam and shows him exactly what he thinks of him, allowing his fist to crash into Sam’s arm with force. Sam lashes out and before Gene knows it, they’re face to face, Sam’s back against the wall and their bodies inches apart. Gene’s hand is no longer a fist. It’s outstretched and splayed on Sam’s chest.
Sam is warm and solid beneath Gene’s fingers and he smells like sweat and tobacco, passively absorbed. His breath catches in his throat as Gene leans in and Gene feels his heart beat faster. He’s nervous, but expectant, and Gene knows that Sam's wanted this as long as he has.
Except that this doesn’t happen, because Sam’s not real. Sam left, a long time ago, to go back to where he belonged. Gene remains with a remnant but lucid memory and dozens of regrets and an abundance of cases he has to solve without oddly orchestrated techniques and insistence on proper procedure. And he misses it. He misses Sam.
He doesn’t know when Sam crawled under his skin and took up residence, but he’s always there, telling Gene what to do. Gene finds himself alone in his office, hearing the steady clacking sound of Sam’s boots against the concrete floor and Sam humming tunes he’s never heard of. He smells Sam’s distinctive scent after a long day on stakeout, touches the fine hairs on the back of his forearm, can see Sam’s fury and righteousness and humour and fear and determination and empathy and insanity, and he doesn’t know what he’ll do without it.
Gene stares at the wall he’s leaning on before closing his eyes. A cruel part of him hopes Sam misses him too. An even crueller part hopes Sam is as haunted as he is. The cruellest part is twisted up in a heap at the base of his stomach, wishing he hadn’t let Sam leave in the first place.