Loz (lozenger8) wrote,
Loz
lozenger8

Common Failings Among Honourable People

Title: Common Failings Among Honourable People
Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4,800 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash.
Summary: Gene does that thing he does where he stares at me like I’m reciting Nostradamus in reverse, and I don’t know, maybe I’m doing the equivalent, but I can’t be bothered to explain any more.




It’s a late night. I’m starting to get sick of them. I’ve used the, ‘I’m going jogging in the morning!’ excuse to a chorus of jeers, so there’s really nothing I can say.

I yawn, sitting opposite Gene. We’re working on our latest case; something to do with arson or some such. I should remember, but I’ve had a couple and Gene’s going on at me – as he does – so I’m not entirely there and I don’t entirely want to be, so that’s okay. And this is when I have my revelation.

“Oh God. We’re buddy cops.”

I choke, the whisky I’d been sipping burning the back of my throat.

“What?”

I repeat myself, thinking he didn’t hear me above the spluttering and retching. “We’re buddy cops.”

Gene’s face is the picture of oblivious. He nurses his beer and raises an eyebrow. I try to think of examples, but every one that sails forth is from a time he’s not acquainted with.

“Two men of conflicting personalities, who, against all odds, form an unstoppable partnership,” I say, waving my hand to get the point across.

“Just because no one’s stopped us yet, doesn’t mean we’re unstoppable. Are you trying to get us killed, Tyler, or do you have some sort of self-destruct mechanism that’ll do it for you?”

I pretend to ignore him. “Yep, that’s it. We’re Freebie and the fucking Bean.”

Gene does that thing he does where he stares at me like I’m reciting Nostradamus in reverse, and I don’t know, maybe I’m doing the equivalent, but I can’t be bothered to explain any more. I down more whisky, hoping it’ll take the realisation that I am one half of a cliché away.

“What’s wrong with being… friends?” Gene says, hesitating on the last word most likely because he can’t bring himself to utter the word, ‘buddy’.

“Nothing. But it’s --- well, the whole point is that we mostly work together.”

“…Yes.”

“And only us, together.”

Gene’s response is short and impatient. “Yes.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little strange?”

“No. It’s the classic mentor/protégé relationship.”

“Except that you’re not my mentor.”

“Course I am.”

“No you’re bloody not. Since when have you ever taught me anything constructive?”

“Look, just because you don’t listen or take my advice, doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re my…”

“Pet project?” I set my glass on the table for the final time. “We’re equals, Gene, and you know it.”

Gene’s frowning. I don’t think he’s understood a word I’ve said. I stand, consciously making a decision not to sway and meet the floor.

“You’re off, are you?”

“Yeah, got a problem with that?”

“I was hoping you’d piss off half an hour ago, but you didn’t take the hint.”

I halfheartedly wave goodbye. We’ve been working five hours straight, so I don’t think Gene’s got the energy or the inclination to stop me.

*

I’ve been assigned to work with Ray. Gene’s sense of humour is as twisted as they come. I know it’s a form of revenge. I insulted him and now I pay the price. I should set aside some time during the day to talk – to explain that what we have isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that I was exaggerating - but I won’t. Let him sook and sulk, if he needs to. Big baby.

“This is what you wanted, innit?” Gene says when I interrogate him. And I think… well, yeah, true. But not like this. I don’t say that either. I spin on my heel and go towards Ray, who’s all glittering eyes and bark. Couldn’t have been Chris, could it? Chris, who’s grinning up at me almost maniacally.

“I get to work with the Guv!” Chris intones with a kind of cheer that tells me he’s never been on the receiving end of one of the Guv’s punches. He’ll learn.

Then again, maybe not. Chris’ll probably do exactly as Gene says, when Gene says – up to and including regulating bowel movements. Me? I’d shit on his desk just to prove a point. Yeah, this is it. It’s all coming into focus. Ray knows the Guv too well. I’m contrary for the fun of it. Chris can be Gene’s pretty little protégé.

Gene couldn’t be any more transparent if he wrapped himself in cellophane.

*

Two weeks of working with Ray is hell on a pogo stick. So much so that I allow myself to be humiliated and give Gene his vindication.

“Let me work this one with you.”

“Why?”

“I think I can provide some solid leads.”

“What’s the real answer?”

“I hate working with Ray.”

Gene flicks his newspaper. He’s making me wait for the no. Or he’s gonna say I can go work with Phyllis in the front office. I can see his mind clicking away at an appropriately offensive response… must be tired, they’re usually his default.

He tears off the corner of his paper, leans forward and scribbles before handing it to me. “Make yourself useful and get these from the Collator’s Den.”

Okay then.

“Okay then.” I take the paper.

The Collator’s Den is thick with grime. I settle myself into the arduous task of a search akin with an archaeological dig. At the rate it goes, there’s more chance of me discovering Cleopatra’s jewels than the information I need. It takes a while to realise that the symbol I had been interpreting as a ‘2’ is actually a ‘z’.

When I come upon Gene with the folders he requested, he kicks his legs off the table and repositions himself upright. He gestures to the seat in front of his desk and I’m immediately uncomfortable. I get the horrible feeling I’m being set up.

I pick up one of the files and listen attentively as he gives me the rundown on the blags and why he thinks they’re connected with the past cases he made me drudge up. His reasoning is sound, so I agree to accompany him as he kicks in some doors. And I have to admit - to myself, if not to him - that it’s comforting to once more be in my element.

*

Dinner together, the whole team. It’s a scene of domestic warmth in contrast with a world that concentrates on bruising, battering and other nasty words that begin with ‘b’. Nelson’s allowed us to bring food in – the local chippy does the best battered cod around. We’ve rearranged the tables. It’s celebration after success. And I feel successful. It’s a great sensation. When you’ve done it right, it’s hard not to revel in it. Everyone looks like revelling. From Ray and Chris, who’ve been interviewing suspects all day and are now leaning back, chatting, to Annie and Phyllis, who’ve put the jukebox on and are dancing, swaying softly to the chainsaw sound that is Rod Stewart’s voice. I stare for a while, enjoying their enjoyment, but then my eyes settle in front of me.

They say that we judge beauty by symmetry. Nothing about him is symmetrical. And I have to be honest, can’t say I’ve ever thought of him as remotely beautiful either. But there are times, like right now, when the light’s just behind his head, giving him this ironic halo and he’s smiling and I don’t know what it is, but my heart thumps a little faster. It’s like, sometimes, you appreciate those things that most of the time you ignore. And I appreciate it when he’s smiling, when everything’s relaxed and we’re not all worrying about the next corpse. So it’s --- well, I guess it’s happiness. Not an emotion I have too much history with, so it’s little wonder I find it hard to recognise.

Most people have finished, but I’m still eating chips and he leans forward to take one off my plate. Bastard.

“You’re being unnaturally quiet, Samantha,” he says, shoving his conquest in his mouth and speaking through potato.

“Sore throat,” I lie.

“Hasn’t stopped you before.”

I smirk. “Have another chip.”

It’s not like he needs the invitation. His hand’s already halfway to my section of the table. His knuckles brush against mine and I find myself gazing at our hands, thinking about how much they say about us. His hands have fingers that are large but elegant, mine have fingers that are thin and bony. He has calloused fingertips; I’m in serious need of a manicure.

“I’m not sure I like this deaf and dumb version of you,” Gene says, wrapping his hand around my wrist. His skin is warm.

“Sorry, did you say something?”

“Only a dozen somethings. Come on, get your jacket on, I’ll drive you home.”

Gene, my Lord and Protector. No, scrap the Lord part. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, not even in my internal monologue.

We walk to the Cortina, Gene tossing the keys into the air and catching them again in an action that appears absurdly carefree.

*

Gene and I manage up to three days with little friction, which is miraculous for us. Of course, we have this case land on our laps that brings Gene’s outer bigot to the fore. He goes around using words that put a new spin on the term, ‘politically incorrect’. I seriously contemplate wrapping my hands around his neck. I don’t do it, even with temptation and itching knuckles.

Despite Gene’s colourful usage of the English language, the bust is a success. I love it when we can say that. Uncomplicated. Straightforward. Success. Of all our undercover missions, this has gone the smoothest. And it means that we’re championed, if we hadn’t already been before.

The light that flows over bricked buildings is arresting as I make my arrests. I squint up, shielding my eyes. It’s so hot, I contemplate taking off the jacket, but I’d have nowhere to put it and I feel like a prat slinging it over my forearm or my shoulder, presenting a nervous businessman or male model to the world. Let’s face it, I’m far from being either, so it stays on and I slowly melt. My St Christopher’s medal clings to my skin and my shirt is tight against my back.

Gene glances at me and rolls his eyes. I’ve missed an entire conversation there, I know I have.

“Any reason you look so cheerful?”

Do I? If he says so.

“Nah, just out in the midday sun, you know.”

“Mad dogs and Englishmen.”

I raise an eyebrow. “I’m the dog?”

“How’d you guess?”

It doesn’t get much friendlier than that, as the day wears on.

*

We’re worse, in the argument stakes. Near on every paragraph I utter sets him off. I’m not even doing it deliberately.

“Get yourself over here,” Gene barks. One of these days I’ll have him on a leash. “Have you done a thing that I’ve told you this morning?”

I raise the folder in my hand. “I’ve been collating witness reports with Annie.”

“I told you to sort out the background information on those suspects.”

“Better to do this first. More efficient.”

“I don’t give a nun’s blue balls what’s more efficient-”

“Clearly.”

“-I asked you to do a job, so you should bloody well do it, understand?”

Oooooh, Mr. Tough Guy. There’s a twitch in Gene’s cheek and he’s hunching his shoulders. He’s close to apoplectic. I’ve only just managed to get rid of the last dark spot on my right arm. Not sure I want another.

“So you want me to get Annie to continue in my grand tradition alone?”

Gene snarls. “Forget fancy-pants and concentrate on your own damn work.”

I’d’ve thought Gene would have given up trying to assert his authority over me in loud and dangerous ways, but it appears not. If I had luncheon meat instead of spam for lunch, he’d probably deck me one. He’s got some kind of obsession with ruling over me. It’s always, ‘do this, do that, at this precise time, in this precise manner’. I know he’s DCI, but like with everything, he takes it to extremes.

I make a face, but follow instructions. Might as well. I’ll talk to him later in the pub and explicate why my approach is the simplest. If he’s had a few, he might even listen.

*

Gene’s glowering, refusal etched in his posture. One simple request and he becomes tightlipped as a monk.

“Look, you don’t have to. I was just asking.”

He punches me in the head, hard. I recoil, blood dripping from the cut he carves in my cheek.

The look in his eyes is nothing short of hatred. Gene’s not usually taciturn, he tends to be voluble in the worst imaginable way, but he’s deadly silent now, staring at me like he’s staring down the barrel of a gun – disgusted and repulsed. Well done, Sam. Looks like some heavy-duty damage control is gonna have to be launched on Monday.

Gene leaves, without a word. He even flips off the light, leaving me encased in shadow. After I’m sure he’s well away, I stalk over and turn it back on. I’ve still got several hours of the hard slog ahead of me if we wanna make any headway on this bastard case and I’ll not be able to lug the number of folders home with me all that easily.

All I did was ask him to stay with me the night to sort the mess out. I might have made a crack about it being generous male-bonding time. Sometimes I think he might have a split personality.

*

Okay, so rifling through the desk of one’s superior is generally frowned upon, but I’m in desperate need of a drink and he always keeps a scotch around here somewhere. I thought it was in the filing cabinet, but he must’ve finished that one.

My hand brushes over paper and I drag it out, hoping the bottle’s underneath. It’s not. But a word on top of the lined and official looking document catches my eye.

It’s a Transfer Form, filled out. With my name. My details.

Oh. Right. Of course. We’ve been driving each other nuts, so Gene’s going to do what he always does and take action. Makes sense. And Gene would never talk to me about that. He’d just go and do it.

I read through it carefully, cataloguing every mark of ink, every crease. It’s such a simple looking piece of paper, for something that’s more than slightly life altering. Then again, I always thought ‘Life on Mars?’ was a relatively simple song, albeit fantastic. And look where that got me. He’s going to send me off to York. Nice, that. Beautiful buildings to visit, in York.

All good things must come to an end. Or so they say. It doesn’t last forever. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Buy two and get one free. I guess I knew that one day we’d kill each other and that would be that, but --- well, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever entertained the thought of us not working together, not even during our trial separation. Not seriously. I’m not very good at predicting the future. I live in the present. Or the past.

Here it is. No more absolutely gorgeous cop, bad cop. No more constant sniping. Gene’s gonna force through my transfer and I’ll be in another division. In another city. I might even have the chance to rise through the ranks and become DCI again, since there’s no way in hell it’s happening whilst I’m still Gene’s right hand man.

This is a good thing. I mean, it’s a wise choice. Gene’s not usually one for making wise choices, so I should be extra congratulatory. We distract each other. I spend half of my time trying to pull Gene back from hot-headed murder instead of solving the bloody cases. And he spends half of his time coming up with girls’ names to call me. This is for the best.

*

“Come on, Tyler - wakey, wakey, hands off snakey.”

God. He did not just say that. Yes, yes he did. He’s looking down at me from his vantage point at my door. I wanna tell him to shove it. His eyes are glittering and it’s obvious he’s taking malicious pleasure at waking me when I’ve only had 2 hours of sleep. Arsehole.

“Is there a reason you’re standing there like the leaning tower of Pisa?”

“Yeah, I’m waiting for your lazy arse to get out of bed.”

I’m surprised he’s bothering, given recent revelations.

“Lemme get my shirt on.”

“Some trousers’d be appreciated too.”

When I think about all of my past failures, the catalyst always seems to come from external forces. Just take me and Maya. It was work that drove us together and work that drove us apart. After I was promoted, we both became trapped in expectations. I don’t know if it was that Maya secretly wanted to be DCI, or we worked too hard, but that was when the cracks started to form.

Often I think that if I can be really fucking fantastic at one thing – just one tiny thing – it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t do a hundred others. I’d have my niche. But I think I might not even have that --- and where does that leave me?

With Gene and me – that’s work too. Because we get along well enough without it. I mean, obviously, we’d never have met if we hadn’t both been cops. Issues of time travel notwithstanding. But we can chat about most anything, even disagree about it, and never come to blows. It’s when we want the same outcome, but approach it from opposite sides of the spectrum, that trouble brews. Wish there was a way to stop that from happening, but I won’t back down and neither will he.

“You done yet?”

“Almost.”

*

I don’t believe in logic. Not really. I say I do, but it’s a lie. I don’t want to go to York. I wanna stay here.

Manchester is a myth. It’s not, of course, it’s a real place, it really exists; plenty of people visit, year in, year out. But it’s so much more than it is, home to a world-renowned soccer team, planned city-wide renovations, and the soon-to-emerge birth of New Wave. Manchester is bigger than New York, somehow. Fancier than London. More romantic than Paris. Manchester is Gene’s hometown.

Gene is a myth. Both the strongest and weakest individual I’ve ever known. Charming, bombastic, brutal and thick-headed. It’s more than that. Gene’s an icon, a symbol. He represents unreconstructed man in all his glory. But he’s more than that. Gene changes – changes the way he speaks, changes his attitudes, changes his mind.

And I think that together, Manchester and Gene, they’re home to me. It could never be one without the other, because Manchester is Gene’s, and Gene is Manchester’s.

Sometimes I feel like running, getting away from the city that’s too much work, from the man with whom expectation is paramount – both directed at and without him. But most of the time I look at the skyline, gaze at the streets and think this is it.

So how do I tell him that, without him falling asleep?

*

He’s gonna hit me and I want him to. I’ve talked to him now and he knows where I stand. He doesn’t look awash with joy and sparkles.

“Go on then, stick the knife in,” I say caustically.

Gene’s eyelids flicker and he grips my shoulders tightly. “Nothing is ever easy with you, is it?”

“Not what you said when you found me handcuffed to my cot.”

Something in Gene cracks. I see it crash through his barely kept façade. He closes his eyes and swallows deeply, gritting his teeth. I might just die now.

I expect to be pushed away, but Gene pulls me closer. I open my mouth in protest, but the sound is smothered. Gene’s performing CPR on me, not realising he hasn’t yet dealt the fatal blow. No. He’s kissing me. His hands tighten on my shoulders and his lips brutally smash against mine. I tilt my head and he slips his tongue between my teeth, relaxing his grip and the force of his assault. I reciprocate, placing a hand at his side, the rough of his camelhair tickling my palm.

Then it stops, all too soon, before I can get into the rhythm of it. Gene’s staring at me, his eyes are the brightest I’ve ever seen them, and I have no idea what the fuck to say.

“Well, that was different.”

Why, Tyler, d’you win awards for your oratory skill? Jesus Christ. A pulse passes through Gene’s body. I’d call it a shudder, but that would be offensive and inaccurate. It’s like he’s been zapped. He’s tense and rigid and I’m not positive, but he may have had an aneurism.

He doesn’t say anything. He walks away with a speed I’ve only witnessed once before, running from Chris and Ray.

I can still taste tobacco and whisky, which – remind me never to kiss a smoker again – but it’s… I want… I think… fuck. It’s not too often that I’d say I’m bone shakingly confused, in fact, I don’t think I’ve said it ever before. But I am bone shakingly confused. It’s just… no. This is Gene Hunt we’re talking about. Whatever I think just happened didn’t happen. At all.

There it is. The action, echoing and looping through my mind. Gene’s tongue against mine. His tongue. Against mine. The different levels of wrong still wouldn’t convey the wrongness of that.

And I liked it.

A lot.

*

We don’t talk about it. It’s like it never happened. Actually, I’m beginning to assume it was complete fantasy, though which dark recess it crept out of, I’ve no idea.

This is the beginning of the great silence before the fall. I can feel it. I should start packing my bag. There’s nothing material I wanna take and that’s a sad realisation in itself. As much as I think of myself as a fixture here, my flat’s got nothing of value.

Gene’s looking at me like he may just want to shove me headfirst into the nearest bin. And, knowing him, he might, so I take a step or two back.

His tone is low and throaty. “You boil my blood, Tyler.”

“It tastes especially good with a soupcon of tarragon…”

Gene tightens his fist and growls. “You poncey, arrogant, limp-wristed, pretentious, apron-wearing, prickish…”

“Man United supporting poof. Yeah, yeah.”

“You delight in causing nothing but… what the hell’d you call it? Angst. That’s right. Nothing but melodramatic bastardisation.”

“Is that the Oxford definition?”

I know I’m pushing him. Any second now a barrage of blows is going to knock me for six, but I can’t help myself. A sick part of me is enjoying this. The healthy part’s pretty engaged too.

“Sam, I am too tired for your shit. Just answer the question.”

“I can’t remember what it was, now.”

“You’re fucking senile.”

“Bit young to be senile, don’t you think?”

“Oh yeah, you’d think so, but you’re only gonna live for another five seconds.”

Great. I have no idea what to say. I remember the question alright. I just don’t want to answer it.

"Sam, what the hell were you doing last night? I rang five times.”

“Well, Gene, I was wanking to the soft strains of Led Zeppelin.”


“I went for a walk.”

“Was that so hard?”

Yes.

“No.”

“What took so long?”

I was thinking about you.

“I just like to piss you off.”

*

I’m replaying the steps that got me to this point, up against a filing cabinet. It all started with a car crash. Crazy stuff happened. Someone gave me a lobotomy. I’m involved with my hyper-masculine senior officer.

Not talking about it doesn’t lead to it stopping, which surprises me greatly. We have this argy bargy in the Collator’s Den. Nothing too serious. Only two punches are thrown. And suddenly he’s all over me, stroking his fingers up my back and dancing the fandango with his tongue. He leans his forehead against mine to catch his breath and I arch into him, my lower body operating with a volition all its own.

This is ample motive, I realise, for Gene’s casting me aside like a used workhorse. Tyler glue, best around. In this context, I can’t say I blame him. It’s potentially career destroying. Hang on, lemme rephrase that, there’s no ‘potential’ about it. It’s career destroying.

I always think the term ‘falling in love’ is terrifyingly appropriate. You’re never sure if you’re gonna land. Every time I’ve fallen in love, I’ve landed awkwardly; ankles rolling, knees incorrectly bent. Something tells me that if this, whatever this is, if it’s that, then the landing this time might be slightly more mangled. The parallels in my life would be almost amusing, if they weren’t so edged in darkness.

I don’t stop Gene, I don’t stop myself. We kind of stop together, when we hear Chris’ voice come through the door. Shit.

*

We’re in my flat and I think I’m gonna explode. I have to confront him about this, properly.

“What’s crawling around your insides, Tyler?”

You are.

“You are.”

“Well, then, shove off. Go on. Find yourself somewhere else to be for the next forever, I’m sick of the sight of you.”

“You can’t solve every tiny problem with a fucking transfer, Gene.” I can feel a familiar prickle at the back of my eyes, but I’m determined not to show a sign of weakness. “At some point, you have to accept us, that this is what we do. I’m not leaving, just like that.”

“Transfer? Leaving?” Gene’s face is blank. “What’re you taking about, you great big nancy?”

“The form. I saw it, Gene. Don’t lie to me.”

Recognition sparks and Gene shoves his head forward. He still doesn’t respond the way I need him to. “Oh. Right.” He glares. “You’re not happy working with me, you’re not happy working without me. When are you happy, Sam?”

“When we’re kissing.”

I have no idea where that came from. I wanna crawl into a hole in the wall and die.

I have performance anxiety. Is this where I say, “I’m yours, Gene”? Fuck. Fuck. He had to do it, didn’t he? I think he might have done it just to spite me. Turn me upside down, inside out, pin me on the sodding clothesline.

Gene tenses his jaw and the muscles in his neck. He stares fixedly at a spot on the floor. I have a look, but can’t see what’s so fascinating.

“I thought that if we stopped spending as much time together it’d just disappear. But you’re a bloody masochist, aren’t you, and you had to drag me into it,” Gene says in an odd, faraway voice. “Came running back and I opened my arms wide.”

To be deathly frank I’ve no idea what he’s going on about, but the angle of his head and the tone of his voice are mesmerising.

“An unstoppable partnership, eh?” he continues and suddenly I catch on. Buddy cops. My dalliance with Ray.

“That was you trying to distance yourself. To distance us.”

“Signed the paper and everything. And two weeks later we were sharing a meal together. Worked a charm, didn’t it?”

That was weeks ago. That was before any of this started. I thought we were breaking apart, but…

“Made me realise that it was more than a cliché. That we were,” I admit. My voice sounds husky and I don’t know why.

Gene stops staring at the floor and instead stares at me. My stomach knots, the pain sharp and piercing. I should have talked to him directly before, as opposed to skating around the issue in metaphors and similes. After all, we all know he gets them jumbled up.

“I want you,” Gene says quietly.

“I want you too,” I reply, attempting to keep my voice as level and neutral as possible.

Gene unfolds his arms and almost smiles at me and I dip my head, acknowledging the gesture. And then we’re all hands and lips, doing what we want to do, what we really want to do, rapidly thrusting together.

It’s good.

Oh, forget the false modesty. It’s bloody amazing.

I wrap my hand into the nape of his neck and hold him tight and it’d be almost romantic, if he weren’t viciously tugging on my zip. Well, we want each other. We’re men. I’m not complaining and neither’s he - for the first time ever in our relationship.


Tags: life on mars, medium, rated pg, slash, writing
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