Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 4,960 words this section. Approximately 11,500 words overall.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash, with mentions of Sam/Annie. Set after 2.08.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11.)
'and they all go marching'
Sam’s shoulder crunched into the wall with a sickening crack. “Watch it, boys, he’s got a shooter.”
Chris nodded furiously. “And she’s got a stabber.”
“A stabber?” Sam asked, incredulous look on his face. He leaned into Chris. “What the hell’s a stabber? Do you perhaps mean a knife, Chris?”
“Tyler, shut your hole. Chris is merely communicating that the bird’s got something that’ll mar your pretty pouty face, okay? Now, if we could decide whether to try and take them on, or keep legging it, I’d appreciate it.”
“Take them on,” Sam replied immediately. “There’s three of us, two of them.”
“As we’ve seen, they have fully operational weapons and unless you’re hiding something down your trouser leg, we’ve got nothing but brains and brawn.”
Sam took deep breaths and turned Gene’s words over in his mind, trying to figure out an angle to convince Gene that his course of action was the best. He snapped his fingers. “We’ve got the element of surprise.”
“Right, Chris, get the birthday candles,” Gene said, jabbing his head forward. Chris stared at him blankly as he continued, “We’ll light ‘em and sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow” at the top of our lungs. It’ll work like a charm.”
“I’m serious. They’re not expecting us to make a stand, are they?”
Sam rose on his haunches gently, shifting the balance of weight in his body. Gene similarly dragged one of his feet forward, turning to face Sam.
“For good reason. Those who go against those better equipped belong in bedlam.”
“And quitters don’t win.”
“This isn’t a game, Tyler. We’re not playing football in the park.”
“Wish we were,” Chris chimed in. “We should start a team, Guv. I reckon Ray’d be a great goalkeeper. He’s always blocking my shots when we play in the office.”
“Great idea, Chris, I think it’d really boost CID morale,” Sam said with a grin and a pointed eyebrow quirk at Gene.
Chris was oblivious to the sarcastic undertone of Sam’s words. He grinned back. “Thanks, boss.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, could you two button it. I’m trying to think, here.”
“The great Gene Hunt doesn’t think. He just does.”
Gene placed a hand on Sam’s shoulder and pushed back. Sam went crashing to the ground, a few chosen words spilling from his lips as he went to collect himself. Gene edged around the corner, his coat dragging along the glistening tarmac.
That was when the sirens sounded, coming from the top of Leeming road and toward them with what felt like fierce determination. Within minutes there were engines coming to a halt, doors opening and closing, and Ray and Annie brandishing their badges as they told Sandy and Sunny to get on the ground. Arrests were made.
Locking the suspects away was the easiest part of the job. It was an hour until knocking off time and Gene very kindly gave them a few early minutes. They arrived en masse at the Railway Arms as the sky took on a bright pink hue, the clouds dispersing and the sun slowly sinking below the horizon line.
Chris bought the first round. He hadn’t intended to, but Ray made sure. Annie recounted the capture of the criminals to Geoff and Clive, using what Sam thought was an overwhelmingly cheerful voice upon describing coming across Chris, Gene and Sam, hunkering behind a brick wall.
Sam bought the second round. It seemed only fair. Chris had nervously started mumbling about needing money for the pictures on Saturday and he knew no one else would plump up the cash. Gene asked for a whisky chaser. Or rather, he demanded it, vigorously, with a hand like a vice on the back of Sam’s neck.
They sat together, licking their wounds as various other members of CID attempted to pour salt in them. Their conversation quickly turned to who had been most useless in the crisis situation. Sam would have liked to say he was losing this particular battle, but he had to quietly concede to himself that Gene, perhaps, had a point or five.
“Oh, you were doing a magnificent job there, Susie,” Gene reiterated, pointing his index finger in accusation.
“And so were you, Jeanette.”
“You did not just call me that.”
“I did.” Sam narrowed his eyes and took another sip of beer. “And I think I’ll keep doing it, too.”
“You know, I’ve always known you were trouble.”
“Delightful, charming trouble.”
“With an ego the size of Barbara Windsor’s chest and the make-up to match.”
“How many times do I have to tell you this is all natural?”
Sam waited for a typically caustic Gene Hunt response, but it didn’t come. Gene finished his drink and said he was off home, leaving Sam with the beginnings of a headache and half a pint of beer. He downed the beer, hard earned as it had been, and wandered home himself. It was only when he was lying on his cot that he allowed a grin to spread across his face.
Sometimes, life was brilliant.
The next few cases that presented themselves required less running down streets and more filing reports. Sam secretly felt this was a curse as opposed to a blessing. This didn’t stop him from being anally retentive when it came to regulating report format. When Paul handed up half of his report written on the back of a picture of a topless model, Sam made him go back and rewrite it, amidst a vocal chorus of disapproval. He gave the offending evidence of laziness to Gene, who confiscated it, ‘for assessment purposes’.
“You persist in making everything that much more work for everyone. Just because you’ve no life, you want others to suffer in like mind.”
“No, I just have a healthy concept of thorough.”
Gene raised his eyebrows. “Sam Tyler and healthy aren’t words I’ve ever had in the same sentence before.”
Despite Gene’s words of remonstration, he, like Sam, spent many late evenings in CID. They would work, separated by methodology and physical space – Gene in his office, Sam at his desk. Or sit talking on Gene’s settee. Or, on a couple of memorable occasions, going through the Collator's Den together, sorting and discussing previous cases. Sam tried broaching the subject of Gene’s prolonged absence from home once or twice, but was met with stony silence. Sam didn’t explain why he was there instead of on dates with Annie.
Gene started telling Sam stories about his youth, dwelling in the past, although he said he didn’t like to. Sam would do the same, but had to be careful in what he chose to say. He didn’t want to lie to Gene, he’d done enough of that. He had to omit, gloss over, avoid. He did tell Gene about breaking his arm when he was twelve and Gene joked about the dangers of him now knowing another area of weakness should he need a tactical awareness next time they fought. Sam insisted they wouldn’t lay hands on one another anymore and Gene punched him quickly and violently in the lower abdomen, just to prove a point. Sam, of course, punched back. They were bloodied and bruised the next day, but still talking to each other. Cheerfully, in fact.
Annie expressed her inability to understand their relationship when Sam finally took her to dinner the next evening.
“You’re always against each other,” she said halfway through the meal, a small frown creasing her forehead.
“It keeps the blood pumping.”
“Well, yeah, maybe, but wouldn’t it be easier to just get along?”
Sam shrugged. “We do get along. In our own way.” He picked at his food with his fork, skewering a piece of chicken. “I like it the way it is. It’s not like I’m the Moriarty to his Holmes.”
“You’re not the Watson, either.”
“And I wouldn’t want to be. Why does it bother you anyway, Annie?”
“I think it’s counter-productive.”
“Did you just say that, or are my ears deceiving me? You’re beginning to sound like me, there. It’s a bit worrying.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“There’s only room for one Sam Tyler at the station. You should concentrate on being WDC Annie Cartwright.”
Annie’s eyes hardened. “Putting me in my place, Sir?”
Sam sensed that there was little humour in her words. “No.” He shook his head, extending his hand. “No, Annie.”
Annie didn’t look into Sam’s eyes when she finally spoke. “I don’t think it’s working out between us.”
“I like you, Sam. I more than like you. But working with you and dating you, it’s… too much.”
Sam opened his mouth and closed it again. He dug his fork into another piece of chicken and contemplated it. He spoke quietly. “What you’re really saying is that I’m too much.” Annie didn’t respond and Sam continued, his voice quickening in pace, but not pitch. “So that’s it, is it? A few weeks of grand romance and you’re dumping me.”
Annie stared at the table and took a deep breath. “Yes.”
Sam nodded to himself. He stared at Annie and willed her to look into his eyes, so that she could see that he understood. She did, eventually, her eyes glistening and her cheeks turning pink.
“It’s probably for the best.”
They chatted some more, reassuring one another that they would still work together with few problems. Sam wasn’t entirely sure he believed it. All he knew was that a large part of what he was feeling was relief and he hated that, didn’t understand how, couldn’t figure out why the emotion he had thought was burgeoning love dissipated after a couple of weeks. It wasn’t Annie – she was wonderful; beautiful, intelligent, sweet. She was everything he had dreamed about as a boy, the perfect wife. It was him. It was them, together.
Sometimes, life was confusing.
As predicted, things weren’t smooth. Ray took every opportunity he could to rub the relationship failure in Sam’s face and one day he snapped, had Ray on the ground, his fist raised in the air and his teeth bared in rage. Gene dragged him off and Sam yelled at him for half an hour, asking why he wasn’t allowed just retribution. Gene remained calm throughout the exchange, disturbingly calm, not laying a hand on Sam, just letting him scream. He gave Sam a couple of new cases to work on and said he’d speak with Ray. Ray never said another word.
Sometimes, life… well, it just was.
'a merry old soul was he'
“So there we were, running like mad, yeah? And Mickey, well, he falls arse over tit, screaming at the top of his lungs like he’s being attacked by a bear. I had to go over and drag him up, whilst Brian were making these God-awful siren noises. I’m bloody lucky to be here today, ‘cause our Headmaster was the hardest nut around. I base some of my interrogation techniques on his.”
Gene ended with a grin and Sam laughed, the beer in his glass sloshing over onto the coaster as he set it down. Gene placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking him enthusiastically.
“Don’t you have anything similar? I can see you now, the little weasel you invariably were. You must’ve got up to murder with your lot. Little Timmy crawling under cars. Best friend Johnny throwing rocks at people. And you keeping a lookout.”
“We moved about a lot when I was a kid. When I did make friends, I was mostly friendly with girls.”
Gene’s grin widened. “Why am I not surprised? You’d a childhood of tea parties, right?”
“No. No, if we weren’t playing doctors and nurses, we’d be climbing trees and stuff. Mostly what you were doing with your boy friends, but-”
Gene interrupted. “They were not ‘boyfriends’.”
“There was a space there. Boy. Friends. Friends who are boys.”
“You better make sure you keep that straight.”
Sam laughed again. There was a moment of silence as they listened to the jukebox playing George Harrison. Sam tilted his head to the side and looked Gene in the eye. “I didn’t really have a very happy time when I was growing up.”
“Me neither. And not just ‘cause of the old man. Let's put it this way - when I was five we’d been through one war and we were about to be in another. Manchester streets were ruled by fear. It’s partly the reason I became a cop. Wanted to make things safe.”
“And yet --- you rule by fear,” Sam said, an almost nervous jerk to his movement as he leaned back.
Gene played with the lighter in his hand, flicking the lid open and closing it again. “They had it right, didn’t they? Like Mr Growler, my old Headmaster. You have to. Create fear and gain respect. It’s the only way.”
“And if it weren’t? If our prisons rehabilitated instead of just locking up? If we relied upon trust instead of suspicion?”
“If. We don’t have time for ifs,” Gene said. “And rehabilitation? It’s a load of shit. People don’t change.”
“Yes they do. You did.”
“Oh really? When?”
“Well, you listen to me sometimes, for a start,” Sam replied, with a twitch of his hand.
“And you think that’s me changing, do you? It’s not that I’ve always been inclined to listen to skinny blokes with too many opinions?”
“You stopped taking backhanders.”
“Because I never wanted to take ‘em in the first place. That’s not change, Sam. I’m still the same person that I was when I were being chased down the street by an angry school caretaker at age eleven. Terrified, but determined, and sure I know exactly what’s best.”
“Every day. Nearing on every hour. But unlike some, who clamp their hands over their ears and ‘la la la’ along, I do what I have to do.”
Sam put his hand on Gene’s briefly, the warmth sending a small pulse up his arm. Gene didn’t tell him to move. “You’re a man of constant surprises.” He pointed to Gene’s empty glass. “D’you want another?”
“Yeah,” Gene replied. “Actually, no. Make it a whisky chaser.”
Sam stood, edging toward the bar. Nelson stopped cleaning the glass he was holding and nodded in Gene’s direction. “A difficult day, mon brave?”
“Yeah.” Sam rubbed his forehead as he leaned on the solid wood. “They found the body of a young boy in the canal. The dad was an old friend of Gene’s.”
“No, I don’t think you do, Nelson. It’s not a singular event. We have to deal with this kind of thing all the time.”
“And I hear your stories, Sam - during the day, in the evening.” Nelson finished pouring the whisky and waved away Sam’s money. “On the house.” He dipped his head closer and lost the Jamaican accent. “Just this one round, mind. I’ve the rent to pay.”
Sam took the drinks Nelson placed on the bar with gratitude and shuffled back to Gene’s side. Gene was staring into the distance, all trace of earlier good humour evaporating into the smoke-filled air.
Sam sat down and brought the rim of his glass to his lips. “I do have one tale that I think will sustain your interest,” he said, instead of taking a sip. “It involves looking up skirts.”
Gene’s attention swivelled to rest on Sam. “You filthy bastard.”
“Are you coming, Annie?” Sam asked. Things were still slightly strained between them. Sometimes she would smile at him, but the expression wouldn’t reach her eyes. Or he would avoid going to the canteen because he knew she would be there. Mostly, they worked together well.
“No, I’m working on the case of a lost slipper with Chris.”
“That sounds --- interesting. The Guv’s assigned you a fairytale?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me if he did, but this is actually a genuine crime, by the sound of it.”
“Good luck then,” Sam offered unhelpfully. He made his way to the Cortina, the engine already revving.
They were supposed to only be watching the shop, but it was immediately apparent that criminal activity had already begun. Several high-pitched screams floated from the establishment as soon as they exited the Cortina. It almost sounded like the screams were directed at them, but the noises continued, even as they stood stock still, trying to determine which action to take. Eventually, after what seemed like minutes, Gene sprang into battle. Sam was hot on his heels.
Sam recognised the man standing by the counter, waving a knife around. They had arrested him a month before for a similar crime. He’d managed to find a lawyer who knew his business and had been let off on a technicality. As soon as he saw Sam and Gene, he ran swiftly out the door. A man who Sam assumed was the shop owner was on the floor, clutching his arm and gasping wildly.
“Myocardial infarction,” Sam said seriously. Gene stared at him and Sam moved his hand expressively whilst he explained. “Heart attack.”
“I know what it is, Tyler. I was just wondering about your persistent need to state the bloody obvious in elaborate language.”
Sam would have frowned and opened his mouth to retort, but Ray came barrelling in alongside them. “He’s getting away.”
Gene signalled for Sam to stay with the shop owner, as he and Ray chased after Fielding. Sam did so, calling the ambulance, trying to be a comfort and most likely failing, given the man’s response to his words.
The ambulance arrived before Gene came back. Sam packed Barry off, explaining the circumstances to the ambulance drivers, and lamented their inability to do anything for someone who really needed medical attention immediately. He waited at the shop for the Cortina to arrive again. He waited for an hour and eventually realised that he’d be making his own way to the station.
“Nice of you to come back for me,” Sam said as he walked into CID. Ray smirked as he looked up from his desk, but Gene, who was standing talking to Clive, merely shrugged.
“Thought you’d wanna stay with the bloke with the dicky ticker, Florence.”
“Yeah well, maybe if we’d co-ordinated it a bit better...”
Gene finished the sentence. “You wouldn’t’ve had to catch the bus.”
“Basically,” Sam deadpanned.
“Swallow some of your pride, Napoleon.”
“Have you interviewed Fielding yet?”
“’Course not. I was waiting for my second in command to wrap his head around the concept of public transportation.”
“Ask a silly question…”
“And get a dead accurate answer.”
“I guess now is as good a time as any to start then, Guv.”
Gene nudged his shoulder into Sam’s as he walked past.
Lost & Found housed the not-so-lost soul of Peter Fielding. Fielding had robbed a string of shops at knifepoint. He also knew the whereabouts of another armed robber they’d been after for a fortnight.
They asked a myriad of questions and received little reply. Gene lowered his head, looming over Fielding, He grabbed Fielding’s chin and forced him to look into his eyes. At that moment, Gene looked animalistic, inhuman, like he might belong bounding over raw African veldt, as opposed to a smoke-filled room. And something in Sam wanted to be bounding with him.
“Tell me what I wanna hear. Now.”
“This is just typical,” Sam muttered quietly.
He lay on his cot, staring at the ceiling. His hand brushed idly down his chest to his stomach, resting just by his hip. He groaned in frustration. He was thinking about Gene. He didn’t know why. They hadn’t recently argued. They weren’t currently embroiled in a battle of wills. But he kept seeing Gene’s face, replaying conversations. Gene’s voice sounded in his mind and Sam’s cock twitched.
He rolled over onto his side and squeezed his eyes shut. “Shit.”
'he played knick knack on my knee'
The weeks wore on and Sam found his awareness of Gene’s presence grow stronger than it had ever been before. Whenever he was in the same room as Gene, his pulse quickened. It was ridiculous. He felt like a young teen again, swooning over the best looking kid in class. But Gene wasn’t the best looking kid. Gene was far from the best looking kid. And Sam was too old for any of it anyway.
He gained enhanced sensations from their proximity, and it seemed that he spent increased time in Gene’s company. The criminal side of Manchester was ostensibly working double bubble; slow days were rare. And if they weren’t working, they were drinking, playing poker or darts, perhaps even having dinner together. Sam hated it and loved it at the same time, because being with Gene was thrilling in ways it shouldn’t have been.
There were no words. Nothing Sam could say. He wanted to try and distance himself, but every time he tried, he brought them closer together. Gene responded to any offensive phrase by slamming Sam into a wall, or the Cortina, or, on one memorable occasion, the settee in his office. Instead of further apart, they’d be skin on skin. It would be so easy for Sam to ease forward and kiss Gene. He could just place his hands by the side of Gene’s head, push his lips against Gene’s and wait for the reaction.
Most of the time, Sam had a keen sense that if he ever did what he thought about late at night, he’d lose Gene forever. But there was the odd moment when the possibility that Gene might kiss him back presented itself. He’d catch Gene staring at him and there’d be a glint in his eye he couldn’t decipher, or Gene would rest his hand on Sam’s thigh, after the third drink, but before the fifth. And it was decidedly un-1973, Sam decided, as he waited in a shop, the way Gene would tell Sam things he surely hadn’t told anyone else.
“That’ll be 10p,” the man behind the counter said in the monotonous tone of the very bored. Sam paid, took the packets of crisps and went back to the Cortina. That was something they did a lot; what Sam called surveillance and Gene called nosing about.
Settling into the car and staring out the windshield, Sam asked the expected question and was given the inevitable reply. He looked across at Gene, who puffed out his cheeks and opened his smoky bacon crisps.
“How bored are you right now?”
“I don’t get bored. There’s always something to occupy my mind, even if there’s nothing to occupy my body.”
“Well, when you were out of the car, I was wondering where you got your swagger from.”
“Is this slang I haven’t picked up, or…” Sam tailed off, not knowing any alternative option.
Gene frowned. “The way you walk.”
“Oh. I don’t know. Must be the boots.” Sam hunched his shoulders and frowned in reflection with Gene. “Hang on - you were thinking about me walking down the street?”
Gene opened his eyes wider. “Yeah, that’s not weird, is it?”
“It’s a bit weird.”
“Fine, then. Next time I’ll tell you I was thinking about tits.”
“Even if you were really thinking about me?”
“Well, yeah – the tit that you are. Then it wouldn’t be a complete lie.”
Sam smiled despite himself. He moved to lightly punch Gene’s arm, but Gene grabbed his wrist and wouldn’t let go. His fingers were a vice and Sam was sure Gene would be able to feel his pulse rattling at double the acceptable pace. When Gene finally started to give Sam back his wrist, he did so slowly, his fingers brushing teasingly against his skin. The action seemed too provocative to be accidental. Sam found himself unable to speak.
Gene’s eyes were intense, holding Sam’s attention as forcefully as Gene had been holding Sam physically. Heat rose in Sam’s body, spreading from his spine up and over his skin, tingling and taunting. He shifted position in his seat, edging closer to Gene. A trickle of sweat slid slowly down Sam’s forehead to the hollow of his neck and Gene’s eyes flicked away from Sam’s to follow its progress, his tongue running over his lower lip as he did so.
A crashing sound hailing from nearby dust bins broke the contact between them. They left the Cortina to check the origin of the noise. It turned out to be a stray cat. When they returned to the leather interior, the moment was gone and Sam didn’t know if the emotion thumping against his chest was disappointment or joy. He suspected it to be a combination.
There were days that seemed endless, especially when they had to interview suspects who were less than agreeable and inclined to do stupid things like spit at them. The man they had hauled from the cells to Lost & Found that day had been particularly odious.
“He’s like Uriah Heep, he is,” Gene said, visibly shuddering as he wrung his hands in imitation of their suspect.
Sam scrunched up his nose. “How is he like a rock band?”
“No, from Oliver Twist, I thought you were the literary-minded one in this partnership?” Gene barked, raising his hand in mock-threat.
“I think you mean David Copperfield, Guv,” Ray piped up, before turning quickly away as Gene rounded on him in ferocity. Annie initially laughed and then closed her mouth with a snap upon seeing his reaction.
When the day was done, most of CID left for the pub or to go home. Sam stayed typing up his report. He wasn’t aware that Gene had remained behind too. Sam had tried to avoid late night sessions with Gene, thinking that there was an underlying current of danger in the action. He had just finished checking over his work for errors when Gene loomed out of the shadows, presumably having come into the office from another part of the station.
“They get real pleasure out of causing mischief and mayhem.”
Sam swivelled, not letting shock affect his movements.
“You know. Them.”
“Right,” Sam said, although he had no idea what Gene was going on about, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“You done here? I’ll drive you home.”
“It’s alright. I can walk.”
“It may be summer, but it’s still nippy.”
“And I’m a grown man who can take care of himself.”
Gene adjusted his coat and tipped his chin back, blasé. “Alright, whatever you want. Just trying to be nice.”
“You? Nice? What was that you once said to me? Gene Hunt and nice aren’t words I’ve ever had in the same sentence before.”
“Then you’ve been sadly deprived.”
Sam stood. He swayed slightly and Gene caught his arm, bringing him upright. “Okay then,” Sam said, his voice coming out lower than normal, throaty. “I’ll let you drive me.”
“You’re too kind,” Gene said laconically, not taking his hand off Sam’s arm until they’d reached the door.
Sam didn’t speak during the short car ride. He didn’t speak when Gene mounted the stairs up to his flat and followed him in. He silently passed Gene a tumbler of scotch as Gene sat in one of his chairs. He wandered over to the reel-to-reel and set it playing.
“You’ve been acting funny around me lately,” Gene said, after taking a swig of scotch. Sam was tempted to push him out of the flat. He flexed his shoulders instead, rolling his head around to loosen the muscles at the back of his neck.
Gene looked unconvinced by Sam’s act of innocence. “Funnier than usual and that’s remarkable in itself.”
“I can’t think of a suitable response,” Sam said honestly. He sat opposite Gene, on his cot, undoing his top button in an attempt to alleviate his inability to breathe. He realised too late how intimate an act it was, when Gene rearranged his legs and avoided looking at him. “I, er, I guess it’s stress.”
This wasn’t a lie. It was the same as his childhood stories – the truth – only with details omitted and glossed over.
“I’ll let you get your beauty sleep, then. Lord knows, you look like you need it.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Sam said, surprising himself as much as Gene. “Not yet,” he qualified. “Have one more.”
The reel-to-reel played Led Zeppelin – “What is and What Should Never Be”. In Sam’s mind, the title was terrifyingly apt.
“One of these days, you’re gonna be the death of me,” Gene panted as they turned into the alleyway. Another day, another potentially life-threatening situation.
“Me? How is this my fault?”
“It was your idea to be here, you’re the pillock who riled the stupid bastard up. If that’s not your fault, you also don’t have short brown hair and scrawny arms.”
Sam opened his mouth in protest. “I certainly don’t have scrawny arms. Next you’ll be calling me a weakling. I’ve held my own plenty of times against your assaults, have I not?”
“They were just love taps.”
“Love taps, hey? Oh, I’ll show you a love tap.”
Sam shoved Gene into the bricks and kissed him. He let his tongue slip into Gene’s open mouth and pressed close into the camelhair coat. His heart rate increased and the steady beat reverberated through his mind. Rather than resisting, Gene tilted his head and kissed Sam back, sliding his hand down Sam’s shirt.
When they finally pulled apart, the siren that had been blaring in the distance increased in volume. Sam realised it meant that the police car they had frantically requested ten minutes before was at the end of the street.