Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 4,200 words this part, 15,300 words overall.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. Title from the song by Radiohead.
They’ve been through this, of course, loads of times. Gene thinks that if he has to tell the nancy-boy again, he might just explode in a ball of something large and deadly. He whacks him once, twice; third time's the charm – right in the knackers, to show him who’s boss – no, who’s The Guv. And he lets him go limp in his arms and drops him.
That’s when the regret sets in. Not much, but enough. He’s gone too far this time. Sam’s coughing, wheezing, eyes shut and body racking. Gene bends forward to help him up and Sam, the little git, grabs hold of his hair, drags him down to the asphalt and kicks.
“Thought you were above violence?” Gene shouts, just getting the words out.
“Never said that. Just said there’re other ways, Guv,” Sam replies and there’s traces of amusement and anger enmeshed with the monotone.
Sam stops and Gene rears back up, spitting to the side. There’s a smile playing on Sam’s lips and Gene’s already planning on smacking him when a song playing on a radio and a squeal of car brakes arrest his attention and he turns around to see… blackness.
“Why’s it feel like I’ve a horde of go-go dancers tramping about my insides?” Gene asks. He doesn’t know who he’s asking, but there’s a body next to his, so someone’s there, it’s not just him.
“Dunno,” Sam’s voice retorts. He sounds like shit, deep and croaky. “But I think I’ve the music they’re dancing to pounding in my brain.”
Gene opens his eyes. He’s expecting blue sky, since it was an unseasonably bright Autumn day last time he’d looked. But he sees grey clouds instead. He frowns and turns to Sam, who’s fixated on something across the road. His face has gone the opposite of pitch, as white as white can be and he’s breathing strangely, hardly breathing at all, really, just a shallow gasp here and there.
“What’s up, will-o'-the-wisp, seen a ghost?”
“No,” Sam says, flatly. “This can’t be happening.”
“Oh God, it’s another one of your bloody attacks again, in’t it? Sam, your episodes are far from charmingly endearing. If you keep going on, I might have to tell the men in white about them and then I’d be down a DI.”
“Gene – look.”
Gene looks and sees a car like none he’s ever seen before. It’s the ugliest pile of metal ever to grace Manchester, he reckons, uglier than his sister-in-law and Esther Rantzen combined. At least, he thinks it’s a car. It looks more like a military vehicle. It’s like someone asked a four year old to make a mould and then shoved clay into it – but the mould was actually a die set and the clay some tin, some alumnium; Gene has a couple of moments to himself where he realises he doesn’t know what cars consist of.
He shrugs, looks back at Sam and notices that he’s wearing different clothes – a blue suit and tie instead of fitted leather. This leads him to look down at himself and there he is, bedecked in a foreign fashion - tight blue denim and light green shirt, no camel-hair in sight. And they’re in a mostly empty carpark, buildings far away.
“Right, what’ve you been doing, Tyler? Is this an early birthday joke? Because I’m the only one with the authority to piss about with elaborate schemes dedicated to humiliation.”
“It’s not me. At least, I don’t think it’s me. I mean, I haven’t done anything, but… Gene – we’re not in 1973 anymore.”
Gene snorts. “Right’n, click your heels together three times and we’ll be set.”
“I’m serious. Come on, get up.”
Sam stands himself and grabs Gene’s arm, dragging him off the damp asphalt – why’s it damp? It wasn’t damp before – and propels him forward. Gene’s about to swivel and punch him one, but he hears music. It’s the same music he heard before… before what, exactly? All he remembers is the music, a screeching noise and… and there’s something else, but he can’t muddle through the grey to get to it. Sam’s walking towards the car like he’s in a trance, sleep-walking. He looks in at the window and, if it’s possible, gets paler.
Gene follows, might as well, and the inside of the heap of junk’s as unsightly as the outside. The set designer for one of those ridiculous sci-fi shows, Star Trek or Lost in Space, must have had a field day. Gene has the desperate urge for a fag, but there’s nothing in his pockets, he’s already checked.
“The game’s up. You’ve done a good job, but I’m not buying it.”
Sam’s eyes go wide and wild. He claws at Gene’s arm. “I haven’t done anything.”
“Then what’s going on?”
“We’re in Hyde?”
“No, Gene. I’m home. 2006.”
“Okay then. You stay here, I’ll get the loony bin.”
Gene rolls his eyes and puffs out his cheeks. And that’s when it starts to rain, pelting down like cats and rats.
“Get in the car,” Sam orders quickly. He’s acquired a key from somewhere and is shoving it in the lock.
Gene braces his shoulders and pushes his chin up. “Why?”
“Do you want to die of hypothermia? I’d be only too happy to leave you out here ‘til you’re blue.”
Gene acquiesces, grumbling all the while. The car seat is surprisingly comfortable, but he hates being on the passenger side and is soon scrabbling for the key.
“Just hand it over, Tyler.”
Sam frowns, shakes his head and pushes the arm with the keys out of the open window, not seeming to mind the drizzle that soaks his sleeve and flies in through the gap.
“There is no way in hell I’m letting you loose on my streets.”
“Yeah. 1973 Manchester’s yours. 2006 Manchester’s mine.”
“I’m still not convinced this is 2006.”
“You soon will be.”
Sam brings his arm back in and like that, just like that, starts the car and drives them to the edge of the car park, towards a big metal fence.
He lowers his head and looks at Gene. “Can you get out and see if you can move it to the side?”
“You do it,” Gene replies obstinately.
“Thanks for your co-operation.”
“Why should it be me?”
“Because I asked you.”
“Since when do I ever do anything you ask?”
“Brilliant point. Shows the strength of your character, that.”
Gene watches as Sam climbs out of the vehicle and begins pushing at the fence. He’s trying to remain calm and collected, trying to convince himself that this is all part of the practical joke, the plan – make him crack and laugh uproariously before he caves their heads in. But he’s got a terrible tingling in his tummy button that suggests he’s fooling himself. Sam may be a lot of things, but a clown isn’t one of them. In fact, Sam’s singularly without humour most of the night and day – Gene has first hand experience of just how unfunny Sam is – and even if he were one to faff about, where’d he get the materials and cash for this kind of set up?
All that talk of time travel has been summarily ignored because it’s madness. And as if to spite him, as if to stamp on his toys and fiddle his bets, it’s decided to get its own back and send him to a new place, what appears to be a new land entirely and worse yet, stuck with Sam. Sam, who has an unfortunate habit of always thinking he’s right. And Sam, who has an unfortunate habit of often being so.
“And this is my kitchen,” Sam finishes with an outstretched arm and uncharacteristically bright grin.
Gene looks from one stainless steel contraption, to another glass surface and leans against the wall. “Much like your personality.”
“Clean, shiny, practical, but totally devoid of any real life or experience.”
Sam’s grin disappears in a second. He draws himself up and exits the room, leaving Gene alone with the clinical scent of disinfectant and fairy liquid. Gene wanders back into the living room that is also clean, shiny and practical; although it does possess some moderate charms – a giant television, for one. An expensive well-stocked bar (‘for guests’, Sam had said), for another. And some photographs that suggest that Sam does, occasionally, go out.
“You’re not gonna be a sissy and sulk, are you? There’s only so much one man can take in a day. I’ve just been told that I’ve somehow, magically, been transported thirty-three years in the future. That my DI, is not, actually, totally tossed off in the brain. That Manchester’s to become this… this… this cardboard cutout of a city that’s nothing like I’ve worked for. The last thing – the very last thing - I need, is my partner crying into his pillow.”
“I’m not your partner and when have I ever cried into my pillow? When have you ever seen me with my pillow?”
“The countless times I’ve burst in on you. And other times besides.”
“Okay, fine. One point to you.” Sam crosses his arms, sitting on the back of his settee.
“Ten points,” Gene says. He doesn’t know why. “I’m not gonna apologise.”
Sam raises his head, obviously surprised that Gene’s even mentioned it. “Well, did you mean it?”
“Course I meant it,” Gene snaps waspishly. “I haven’t had a smoke going on an hour.” His brows come down and he doesn’t understand why the tremor of a pout along Sam’s lower lip is making him want to say things he’d ordinarily not say. “You’re more than that,” he finally says. “You know it, you don’t need me to tell you.”
Sam seems to understand that that’s the closest to a ‘sorry’ he’ll get. He gets up and walks over, putting a hand on Gene’s shoulder, all Dorothy-like. “Thank you.”
Gene glances at Sam’s hand and is aware of it resting there, devilishly hot and heavy. He’s reminded of what they’d been arguing about in the first place and he pushes his lips forward, not quite an invitation, but enough that Sam would pick up on the signal.
“Nice settee you’ve got here,” Gene says, eyes glittering.
Sam almost smiles. “I have a king sized bed too.”
The telephone rings. Typical. Absolutely bloody typical, just as they were coming to some sort of understanding, the damn thing goes off, blowing it. It looks more walky talky than phone, small and black. It doesn’t even have a cable. Sam answers, his voice becoming higher with every sentence.
“Maya? You’re okay?”
“What about Kramer?”
“Not Kramer? The Raimes case.”
“Right now? I, er, I have a friend with me.”
“Gene Hunt. He’s a DCI.”
“Okay, we’ll get over there. Maya, it’s so good to hear your voice.”
“No, I haven’t fallen down any stairs recently. See you soon.”
Sam puts the phone back in its plastic holder and raises his eyebrows at Gene. “That was Maya.”
“Oh really, brainiac? I thought it were Sid James. Who’s Maya?”
As soon as Gene says it, he knows he shouldn’t have, because Sam’s close and obviously these days inclined to punch when he’s angry.
“What’ve I said about using those kinds of derogatory terms?”
Gene catches his breath. “Don’t know. I space out once you’ve been rambling on for half a minute.”
“Don’t.” Sam narrows his eyes. “Come on, we have to go.”
“The station. They’ve fished a body out of the canal. Gene, you finally get to see all those procedures and techniques I’ve been raving on about for months on end.”
“Bloody hell, do I have to?”
The traffic is full of ugly hunks of metal. Sam’s not the only one with no taste. He sees a Ford Cortina he recognises, once, but it’s a rust bucket, nothing like his glorious bronze beast. He hates that Sam’s the one driving. He hates that he’s here at all. He hates that he was halfway to slipping Sam one before they were called away. He puts his hand on Sam’s thigh, but Sam pushes it off, glaring at him in warning.
“Concentrate on the matter in hand,” Sam hisses.
“Can’t, don’t have any matter in hand,” Gene replies. He looks about him at Sam’s Manchester and scowls. Shop fronts display items he’d never want and most people’d never need. There’re square tall buildings and lots of glass, people standing on the street talking – not to each other, to little devices (‘mobile phones’, Sam had said.) And everything’s blue and grey and boring. Lifeless, like Sam’s flat. Like Sam can be when he’s not snapped to attention, fighting or fumbling.
They drive by a shop and either Sam’s sick of Gene’s tapping against the dashboard, or he’s come out in sympathy, or he has his own nicotine addiction, but he quickly turns round, parks, dashes in, dashes out and drops a packet of Marlboro and a box of matches in Gene’s lap. For a brief but powerful second, Gene admits to himself that he loves Sam. He really, truly loves him. He takes a cigarette out, lights it with relish and lifts it to his lips. The first intake is heady bliss, slightly dizzying and tastes not right, but good. Very good.
“Ecstatic, Sammy-boy. Gonna let me drive now?”
“Not on your life.”
Sam continues driving again and Gene gets out the bottle of whisky he pilfered from Sam’s wooden cabinet, still sealed.
Sam looks over momentarily, stopped at the lights. “Where the hell’d you get that?”
“Your place,” Gene answers, starting to unscrew the top.
“Oh. Right. You can’t drink it.”
“Bloody well can. And will. Don’t try and stop me.”
“Jesus, Gene. What kind of man are you? Can’t go longer than an hour without a fag and swig.”
“Least I don’t have a stick up my arse.”
“Last I checked, you were hoping to be the one to…”
Gene grabs hold of the wheel. “Watch out for that old bat, you almost knocked her flying.”
He frowns. That’s familiar. Now, why is that ringing little bells?
“I was nowhere near that elderly female citizen,” Sam says caustically.
Gene rolls his head back and gazes at the inside of the car roof, before opening the top of the scotch and taking a gulp. He smacks his lips appreciatively. This tastes different too, but not as different, in fact, it tastes better than most he sucks down every day. He has a gander at the bottle – oh yes, it’s the expensive kind; a single malt, not a blended whisky.
“I don’t know how I’m gonna explain that my DCI friend is cut.”
“You won’t have to, I won’t be, will I? I’ve the constitution of a bull, me.”
“And the brains to match.”
“Oi, I didn’t ask to be put on this little adventure with you. I’d sooner you’d’ve left me with your soft porn mags in your flat, but you insisted, didn’tcha?”
“I told you before, it’s SFX, not SEX.” Sam pulls into the car park and nods at the corrugated concrete monstrosity. “We’re here.”
“Really, Doris? I’d no clue. Could this possibly be the Police Station?”
“Oh, just once, Gene…”
“What?” Gene asks, getting out of the car at the same time as Sam, watching as the lock moves without him touching it.
“My lips are sealed.”
Sam’s expression has gone from mild annoyance to blind panic within three seconds flat. He’s doing that thing he does when nervous, rubbing down his jacket and buttoning it up. There are no outer pockets for him to place his hands into, so he fidgets. Gene almost wants to take his hand and hold it, squeeze it, tell him to get a grip, but he doesn’t, because that’d be too girly and he’s already done a hundred things with Sam that he considers on the verge.
He starts walking, following Sam. He doesn’t know why, but he’s always expected the force to shift their base of operations. His station seems ill-quipped to deal with the kinds of crime Sam’s told him about in countless speeches. He’s always assumed that there was another building somewhere – like those he’d seen on their journey here – big and glass and impersonal. But maybe his station is impersonal and he just never noticed, made it his own space, a place of comfort and familiarity, a place for his team.
“We are going back, aren’t we?” he asks. He sounds shakier than he meant to.
Sam glances at him. “Going back where?”
Sam swallows, looks at the station with a tense jerk and then back at Gene. He’s scared and he’s annoyed and he’s trying to be consoling, Gene can see it all.
“I don’t know.”
She’s beautiful, he’s not too proud to admit that. He can see what Sam saw in her. Hell, he’s finding it hard to understand why they’d ever split. They look the perfect couple, two business suits, two professional approaches, two good looking thirty-somethings. Almost makes him feel inadequate, but not quite.
He doesn’t feel any jealousy when she places a hand on Sam’s arm, being all sweet and tender. Okay, maybe a little. But he’s more concerned about Sam, who’s been asking questions surreptitiously, trying to gain information on what’s happened. He’s grown increasingly unstable, like he’s on the edge of one of his ‘moments’ and that’s about up there with interrogation on where Gene’s from on the list of things they really don’t need.
“The pathologist estimates time of death as between 2 am and 4 am,” Maya says.
“How’d he narrow it down so much, love?”
“She narrowed it down by checking core body temperature and examining the wristwatch that had stopped.”
Sam interjects. “When was the body found?”
“A few minutes before I called.”
Gene’s shocked. “And it were done in that amount of time?”
“It would have been sooner, but Sandra was on her lunch break.”
Gene doesn’t say anything about her getting the wrong end of the stick. Instead he does what he does best - exacerbate the situation. “Where I’m from, we don’t take lunch breaks.”
“Well then, you must be a bunch of robots.”
“He’s only joking,” Sam says. “Of course they have lunch. Sandra’s done a great job.”
“Ever the diplomat,” Maya returns. She smiles at Sam with a warmth that’s more than friendly. He smiles back. Inadequate isn’t the word for Gene. Invisible’s more like it.
“What do you want us to do then?” Gene asks.
“Well, Sam has to lead the investigation, naturally.” Maya stares at Gene, flummoxed.
“I always forget he’s DCI. Do you know, I’ve known him since he were just Detective Inspector? Seems like only six hours ago.”
“I…” Maya starts. She pauses and brief emotion sweeps across her face; confusion, disappointment. “How come I’ve not heard of you before, DCI Hunt?”
“I’m his secret weapon. Brings me out when he needs the big guns, ain’t that right, Sammy-boy?”
“If by ‘big guns’, you mean ‘a right mouthy bastard’, then yeah, that’d be dead on,” Sam says. He’s shooting daggers at Gene, who picks them up and throws them back with a little more force.
“Here’s the address for co-ordinating the collection of evidence at the victim’s house.” Maya hands over a notepad, looking from one man to the other. “I’ll go and interview the man who saw the body.”
“You don’t know that it is a victim yet, do you?”
“Didn’t I say? Three bullet wounds, lower abdomen.”
Sam double-takes, exasperated. But he sounds fond. “Your communication skills, sometimes, Maya...”
“What do you expect? I had you as my teacher.”
“Better get going, hadn’t we?” Gene asks. He’s trying not to say or do anything that’ll come across as whiny, because Sam’d be over the moon. If he ever noticed.
“I’ll give you a call,” Sam says to Maya, touching her hand. She picks up a folder and pen and stands there, acknowledging Gene’s goodbye salute. And they’re off, back into Sam’s load of bollocks and travelling to Drake Road.
Gene fixes his eyes on some point in the distance, finally letting himself wonder how Sam managed it. Things look the same, but they’re not. Or they look different and they’re not. Flirting, for instance. It’s all veiled insinuations with the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Whatever happened to a simple, plain as day pinch? More honest, that. Less painful in most ways too. Sam starts babbling, but Gene ignores him. It’s only when Sam punches his arm that Gene pays attention.
“Don’t tell me. This is you being the jealous type, in’t it?” Sam asks. He turns the car around a corner.
“I’m not one for jealousy,” Gene answers.
“Yes you are. You go green if you see someone eating the last pink wafer. And whilst it suits you beautifully, it’s not all that conducive to policework.”
“All right then, I’m pissed off,” Gene admits, more than he’d usually want to. “You practically had your hands inside downstairs there.”
“You’re not some limerent object, Gene.”
“What on God’s green earth are you on about?”
Sam presses his lips tightly together and moves his hand in exaggeration. “This isn’t just a crush.”
“You know, I could almost have sworn I stopped going to school thirty years ago… wait… wait, yeah, I’m pretty bloody sure.”
“The point is –”
Gene interjects. “You have one?”
Sam rolls his eyes, not focussing on the road for a few perilous seconds. “The point is that you’ve nothing to worry about.”
“Who said I was worried? I was angry, if anything, not worried. I give as good I get and don’t you forget it.”
“It’s just, if you thought that now I was around Maya again…”
Gene bites back, impatient. “Your wings are showing.”
“My angelic nature’s that obvious?”
“Your fairy wings.”
“Really, now? And where do you keep yours?” Sam swerves the car.
“Just what are you implying?”
Sam laughs. There’s a touch of bitterness. “I don’t have to imply, do I? I’ve had your cock up my arse enough times to know that by your standards you’re the king of the bloody fairies.”
“The operative word in that sentence there was ‘King’, meaning in charge, meaning the one with the power, meaning I’m gonna punch your sodding lights out if you ever say anything like that to me again.”
Sam appears to understand that the threat is real, because he changes tack as he changes lanes. “I’m more worried about what we’re doing here – about the fact that time’s seemed to have passed without me - than, you know, anything else.”
“You worry too much. Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted? The future, all laid out for you.”
“Not like this, I haven’t.”
“Like what, then?”
“To be honest, lately, I haven’t given it much thought.”
Sam returns his attention to the road, the woman honking her horn at them to go through the amber light, and navigation. Gene curses some and thinks about Sam’s attempt at reassurance, telling himself he doesn’t need it, but knowing that he’s just pansy enough that it means something.
There are men in white suits, with masks and plastic bags – more sci-fi – Gene’s beginning to realise why he’d never had much interest in any other genre than the noble Western.
“What’s with the get-up?” Sam asks and Gene is vaguely surprised that this is apparently going against the grain.
“It’s precaution,” is the muffled reply.
“Against what?” Sam scoffs. He raises his eyebrows at Gene, who shrugs back. Sam stares at Gene for a while, as if expecting him to take charge, but despite given the opportunity, Gene stays rooted to the spot. He tells himself it’s not nerves, it’s just common sense. This is Sam’s element; clinical, exact. He’s better at the more important stuff; getting confessions and organising piss ups in breweries.
The white figure in front of them answers Sam’s question. “We don’t want to contaminate the scene. There’s a lot of blood.”
Sam looks nonplussed. He dithers, searching in his jacket for something. When he finally extracts his notepad, Gene rolls his eyes. Sam starts noting down all of the evidence bags, various movements of forensics and items that catch his eye.
They spend an hour in this way. Gene doesn’t quite see the point. Sam’s distracted by fiddling with annoyances of minor importance when he should be discerning what happened. It doesn’t really matter whether the label on that bag is correctly formatted, but this is what Sam concentrates on, slipping into irritability and banal anal-retentiveness with terrifying ease. Gene attempts to help, but Sam glares at him mistrustfully, ignoring his advice.
So this is how they solve crime in the 21st century. If they solve crime at all. Somehow, Gene isn’t overawed and ecstatic. He does, however, feel a deep sense of gratification that Sam appears to be similarly unimpressed.
They’re given some suits and allowed to go in. The place is covered in slick, deep red. It’s nauseating even for Gene, who’s seen more than his fair share of horror.
“This can’t all be the victim’s, surely?” Sam says, expression on the edge of disturbed.
“We won’t know until we’ve run some tests.”
Part 2, Part 3