Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 1200 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene, in a manner of speaking. Warning: Character Death. This is sort of a companion piece to Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes, in the sense that it's based on another Beck song and it deals with similar themes, but it's set in an alternative universe, to both that story and the show. The other fic has spoilers for 2.08, but this one doesn't.
These are the things he remembers: the crisp starch of his collar, the rhythmic clack of his shoes, his eyes when he smiled, his chest softly heaving.
He'll never say it. Hardly ever thinks it. It's not done.
When he went - fucking bastard - he left a chasm, deep and dark, stretching on like time. A myriad of instances and opportunities, trickling down underneath it all, underneath everything. Yes and no and maybe, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe never.
The memory clings to him; moss and lichen, well worn and newly grown. The things they said; the things they didn't say. And it's stupid, it really is, it's the pinnacle of ridiculous that he cares.
Often he thinks that it wasn't Sam, but the idea of Sam that made him feel the way he feels, because that person who stood by his door, quietly remonstrative, wasn't the same as the person who sat in his Cortina, softly humming. He was light and shade, like everyone, and a good deal of the time, it was Sam's shade that got Gene revved up, not his finer qualities. His inability to see the bigger picture, his obsessive, nit-picky tedium. For someone who seemed to see everything in black and white, Sam was grey; monotone as his voice could be.
The thought of Sam isn't enough. If it were only the idea, you'd think he'd be sailing on cloud nine with the frequency Sam appears in his dreams, when Gene can't control the flickering images, tone and smell of Sam, the tactile warmth of Sam's skin as he held him.
He has a marriage of convenience with the bottle. When the night falls over Manchester like a corpse being dropped into the canal, the glass is set to full. This isn't too different from other escapades, his previous life, but it feels it, when his limbs become weighted and fixed and his eyes blur. He always used to drink with friends, with colleagues, with criminals by his side. Now he drinks alone. Drinks to banish, drinks to forget.
Makes him look a cliché. And he is, a cliché, a cardboard cutout, devoid of depth and tenor. Sam always seemed to think of him as a biscuit; tasty, but trivial, something he was liable to have in excess. Gene thinks of himself as one of the fancy ones, creamy chocolate coating and soft marshmallow in the centre; only the coating is pure, unadulterated arsehole and the centre is something that needs the protection afforded.
Gene Hunt does not pine over skinny blokes. Gene Hunt punches skinny blokes. Preferably often. With a knuckle duster. And a couple of kicks.
There's no one to punch.
These are the things he forgets: the shimmer of mid-afternoon sunlight highlighting the creases in his frown, the taste of acrid smoke in the air after the shot was fired, the bleep and twang of the hospital machinery as it kept the body thriving as the mind carefully, incrementally slipped away.
He doesn't notice; they disappear gradually, over time; hop, skip, jumping into the ether.
The blame is ascribed directly to those responsible, not some unspecific deity. And Sam was responsible, so he bears the brunt of Gene's wrath. Idiot. Always having to save the day, be the victor, finish the quest. His words dance like electric flashes in Gene's mind, "they need to be taken down, Gene," and Gene's response, "just make sure they don't take you with them," echoes back in a constant refrain that beats against the walls and shatters into the night.
Things go wrong. They always go wrong. The potential lurks there, waiting for an opportune time to spring out and rollick in devilment. He never learnt that, wouldn't listen when that was explained, deserves what he got, in the end, at the end, the end of everything. Only Gene doesn't know which 'he' he's thinking of; Sam, the perfect prince with glowing eyes and razor sharp ideals, or himself, dulled and deserted.
To tell him that he's sorry --- he didn't get the chance. He only once said thank you. Never said, 'I want you', 'I need you'. It's just as well, because that would have made him sound like all of those things that casually spill from his lips. All of those things that he won't admit to.
He doesn't know what Sam's reaction would have been. He can guess. Something smug, no doubt. Laughter. Then, as realisation set in, that look, that look of compassion and empathy, understanding and tolerance. Another apology. It makes Gene sick to think of it. "Hidden depths," Sam would say. They're made of fluff and sponge. "If I had known..." That was the point, that no one would know, no one would dare to even suppose, let alone construct a solid working hypothesis by which the fact may be gleaned.
And then him; horrible him, wonderful him, had to be him, of all the men it could have been, men he'd not looked at, spoken with, or given a second thought to, in deliberation. Had to be the one who spoke constantly of caution and never followed it, the one who niggled and nattered, showing everyone he was nutty. The one who was dumb enough to throw himself into the line of a bullet.
These are the things that get pushed away, to somewhere else, a realm where they need not be dealt with, because that just doesn't happen.
He can't mourn for him, the way he should. He can't celebrate his success, nor criticise his stupidity, can't use him as an example of what or what not to do. Not in public, not for their eyes. So he does what he does and silently loses the battle. Down like a champion, like Sam, felled in a great swoop of heroism. Fucking weak.
He sees the blood, in those dreams of his, as clearly as if it were pooling in front of him now, deep red and glistening; after time congealing, as Gene held on tightly, to hopes and dreams, to a body that wouldn't let go of life, forcing Gene to wait for weeks.
There's nothing quite like prolonged loss - to see flesh, hair and skin and know that's all it is, that the person inside is as ethereal as the rustling leaves, crunched and crinkled underfoot. Nothing like having to pretend you're fine inside, that you're experiencing the appropriate level of sorrow for the life of one of your own. And maybe he doesn't show enough of that; perhaps he just looks callous and cold to anyone who'd be bothered to look. But that's the best way. "He died for you," he thinks once, and never thinks it again, because it hurts less to think of it as betrayal, as an action taken to spite Gene.
So this is what he's left with, the remnants of a someone he used to be and a someone he doesn't want to be. Remnants and not much more, because the foundation that he'd been working on, that they'd worked on together, has crumbled into dust. And nothing can bring it back. Nothing can bring Sam back.