Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 4,957 words this part, 15,300 words overall.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. Title from the song by Radiohead.
Tests. It’s always tests. Examinations. Analysis. But they don’t actually provide much, in the long run. Gene has more than half a mind that this job would be ten times easier if they just gave up on words, numbers and facts and dealt only with feelings and instincts. But Sam says it has to be both --- and there’s something about that that pleases Gene, like he has, actually, got through to Sam, because he’s fairly sure once upon a time Sam would have said the tests were the be-all and end-all.
Sam sits at his table tapping out a rhythm. They’re waiting for a list of Marc Quinton’s friends and acquaintances they can go interview. They’re also waiting to find out about that blood at Quinton’s house. And they’re waiting to hear the results of Maya’s ‘discourse’ with James Grantham. Meanwhile, Sam’s tapping at that bastard keyboard and filling out forms, and Gene’s looking around the office in disinterest. It’s grey and light, the air disgustingly clear and smelling faintly of pine. The people around him are all well-kempt, talking on telephones, looking at their screens (computers, Sam had said, a little too joyously.) If they weren’t surreptitiously glancing at him every four seconds, he’d say they were more business-like than he’d expect those in the force to be, but copper curiosity was getting the better of them.
Sam knows these people, has worked with these people, but he treats them with cool regard. There are no nicknames, or terms of affection. There are orders, short conferences, to get Sam ‘up to speed’. Sam doesn’t act like he’s missed his team and that’s all wrong. They’re his. He should be glad to see them again, even if he’s none too pleased with the circumstance. Sam’s confusion on Gene’s acceptance is making glaring sense against bright lights and metallic surfaces.
“Sorry, did you want a go?” Sam asks absent-mindedly, turning to look at Gene.
Gene raises his eyebrows. “Will you be really offended if I say no?”
“No.” Gene cracks his knuckles one by one, flicking his gaze over Sam’s expression, which is a mixture of resignation and forced coercion.
“I could get you up to speed with modern politics.”
“I don’t give a toss.”
Sam frowns. “I don’t want you to feel like I’m leaving you in the lurch.”
Gene is surprised the bitterness in his words is real. “I’ve never seen you so considerate. Slotting back into your old life has brought you newfound insight?”
Maya steps forward at that moment, placing a manicured hand on Sam’s shoulder. Sam looks at it nervously, but not for the reasons Gene would usually assume. He still seems on edge, as if everything he’s doing, the routine, is his only grounding. He’s not doing this because he wants to, he’s doing it because he thinks he has to. Gene wants to know where Sam got that notion from, but he has a horrible feeling he already knows the answer.
“Not much could be gained from him,” Maya says, despondent. “Grantham’s not the world’s most observant man.”
“Keep tabs on him, but I doubt he’s got anything to do with it,” Sam replies, automatically.
Maya hands out a clipboard. “All of Quinton’s contacts we could find. Did you want me to come with you?”
“How about we split up?” Sam says, “you take this page, we’ll, uh, take this one?” The paper bends in half in Sam’s hand, pathetic.
Maya blinks once, twice, does little to cover up that she’s staring at Gene. “Okay.”
From waiting, to action. Gene stands and crosses the floor of the office before Sam has a chance to separate the pages from the clipboard.
Sam drives like an old biddy, all soft turns and moderate speed. Gene’s almost desperate to push him out of the seat, but he lights a Sam-bought cigarette instead. As he stares at the streets of New Manchester, as he has internally termed it, Gene is forcefully reminded that everything he loves about Old Manchester has fled or been banished; daggy shop fronts, uneven pavements and real character. The sound that blares out of buildings now is worse than the sound of his time, and worse again the sound of his generation.
“Do you think we have to solve this crime?” he asks.
“To get back. D’you think we just have to figure out how and why this bloke carked it and then we’ll be whisked once more to 1973?”
“That’s what I’d hope would occur with the Susie Tripper case. That I’d come back here if I solved it there. But that didn’t happen, did it?”
“So you’re saying no, then.”
“I’m not --- I don’t know, do I? I’ve no more idea what the hell’s going on than you do!” Sam’s voice has risen in pitch, until he sounds like a seven year old stuffed with helium. His eyes are bugging out of their sockets and the angles of his cheekbones look even more severe than normal.
“Alright, keep your shirt on,” Gene remarks. Sam doesn’t immediately respond. Actually, maybe that’s what Sam needs to get him back on balance. Gene’s mind quickly wanders to images of Sam, shirtless, Gene pressing up tight, his thigh between his legs---
“You have a one track mind,” Sam says and Gene stares at him incredulously, unaware that Sam could list ‘mind-reading’ among his many attributes. Sam grins, looking more like himself on a good day. “Hah! I knew it.” Sam shakes his head. “You’re like… I don’t know what you’re like. One minute you’re worrying we may never get back to 1973 and the next you’re thinking about sex.”
“Maybe if you had more of my personality you wouldn’t always be so strung out and I’d not have to beat some form of humanity into you.”
They pull up outside the first address. Quinton’s next of kin, an older sister. This is the worst part of the job; above paperwork, dealing with the press, and listening to Sam’s tirades on Gene’s inability to read concept maps. The car doors bang in unison and they sidle up to the blistering red front of Shania Quinton’s house.
“Shouldn’t this have been done before?” Gene asks out of the corner of his mouth. Sam glares at him.
The door opens, an attractive brunette stands looking at them in curiosity. She looks a little like the bird down at Gene’s local chippy and he stares appreciatively at her tits. Sam may be his right-hand man, but that hasn’t stopped his left hand from reaching for a nice bit of skirt.
“Shania Quinton? I’m afraid we have some bad news.” Sam says, using consoling eyes and gestures.
“Your brother’s now living-impaired,” Gene finishes.
Shania opens her eyes wider and darts her head forward. “Excuse me?”
“Sorry, Ms Quinton, can we go inside so that I can talk to you about this in an appropriate manner?” Sam looks ready to shoot Gene, vein in his forehead throbbing a waltz.
“What? I was politically correct,” Gene whispers, shuffling into the house behind Shania and Sam. “I could’ve said he’d kicked the bucket, was sleeping with the fishes, or pushing up the daisies, but no, I made it all pretty-like.”
Shania’s living room is strangely familiar in russets and autumnal colours less suited to the world outside and more to the world inside Gene’s mind.
“Marc’s dead then?” Shania calls from the kitchen, after offering them tea and setting about making it.
“If you say ‘as a doorknob’, I will fucking kill you,” Sam quietly intones as Gene opens his mouth.
“Yeah, sorry about that, love.”
“He was an arsehole, my brother,” Shania says as she sets the cups down. “Complete fuckwit. Owed me thousands and showed no signs of ever giving it back. I know it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, but he really was a giant dick. After the parents died, he just got worse.”
Gene is shocked by her language. Sam thought he was crude, but she’d make millions on the oil market.
Sam takes a sip of tea. “You weren’t close, I take it?”
“Not even when we were kids.” Shania tips her head back and reminisces. “He used to steal my toys.”
“He was murdered,” Gene says forthrightly. “So far, you’re sounding like a suspect. Can you tell us where you were between between 2 am and 4 am this morning?”
“Sleeping. In my bed. In this house. If I’d’ve killed him, I’d be dancing on his broken bones and would willingly give myself up, just for the glory. But I didn’t. Wish I had. Never had the guts.”
“What did he do for a living?”
“Art dealer, if you could call it that. Small-time fencing, I’d say. Had a mock-gallery, just off George Street. Don’t think he ever dealt anything.”
Sam bites into the biscuit he’s nursing between tense fingers. “And could you give us a list of people who might hold a grudge against him?”
“Only as long as my arm. You got a couple of hours?”
They sit and wait as Shania scrounges around for paper and a pen, drawing up their steadily increasing list of potential suspects. Sam asks pointed questions about Marc’s business and life affairs, receiving a plethora of negative responses, until the picture of Marc is equal to a picture of such a miserable scroat that Gene’s tempted to desecrate the corpse. Reminding Shania not to go travelling, they leave the house and set off once more in Sam’s hunk of junk.
“She was delightful. Are they all that charming?”
“Yeah, you’re right in your element.”
The next fifteen interviews paint the same portrait, until Gene thinks he’s heard more insults than a kid with a wonky eye and a limp. Sam calls Maya to check that the names given to them by Shania are ones they already have addresses for, and they are, for the most part, apart from one that sends them to an estate. A name that wasn’t on either of their lists – so, a new acquaintance, or the lead suspect?
What once was gleaming concrete is now cracked and muddied. Gene hadn’t liked these atrocities when they were newly built, and he sure as hell doesn’t like them now.
“It’s disgusting,” Sam says, nodding, “that people are forced to live in scum like this.”
“The reality is, these places attract more scum. Filth begets filth.”
“Reality’s just a state of mind,” Sam replies, obliquely.
“Maybe in your world, Sammy-boy, but in mine, it’s rather more serious.”
The door to the flat is ajar. Sam pulls a baton out of nowhere and starts edging down the hallway, his head turning from side to side. “Clear,” he calls, after inspecting the four rooms that comprise a home. As dark and grimy as it is, the place is actually considerably nicer than Sam’s own abode in 1973, with new carpetting and decent furniture.
Gene surveys the kitchenette. There’s a steaming cup of tea on the counter, a wedge of lemon dangling precariously on the side.
“Hasn’t been for long,” he calls back. “Now, either Rory Davies has seen us coming and pissed off, or he’s gone for some sugar next door. How’s about you go down, see if you can see him anywhere, and I’ll stay here in case of his return?”
Sam quirks an eyebrow. “No.”
“I’m not leaving you alone.”
“I’m a grown man, Tyler! Much as I like sucking on your teats, you’re not my wet-nurse.”
Sam scrunches up his nose and seems to contemplate this. His mouth twists in a cruel zig-zag and eventually he hunches his shoulders, dives into his pocket and pulls out his little black box.
“There’s a payphone down there. Take this, so I can call you if I see him coming your way.”
Gene takes the ‘mobile phone’ and stares at it assessingly.
“Just press this button, put the phone up to your ear, and then wait for me to say hello, got that?” Sam continues.
“So I press this button, here?” Gene asks, placing his finger against the green receiver Sam has indicated.
“Yes,” Sam replies, stepping towards the door.
“Just this one, here?”
Sam steps back, impatient. “Yes.”
“Just get my little finger and press it against this little green button?” Gene reiterates. There’s innocence in his eyes, but a smirk on his lips.
“Stop being a prick,” Sam says, moving away again.
“Can’t, it’s second nature.”
“First,” Sam retorts from beyond the doorframe.
Gene throws the mobile phone into the air and catches it with ease whilst sitting down on one of Davies’ plush grey armchairs. As he sits he thinks about insanity and whether it’s taken over his body. Part of him wants to say that this is all a dream, but despite the fact Sam has spent the better part of the last month telling Gene about this magical future he claims to be from, Gene doesn’t think he’s had enough detail to construct this – the information age, lacking almost everything he knows and loves.
When Sam first tried to explain, Gene’s brain told him to get the men in white coats, but his gut told him to believe the earnest, pleading eyes. It was after their first proper shag, a romantic affair, up against the garish flowers of Sam’s wall. Gene figured he’d come this far, what harm was another step?
He’s stepped so far, he’s not sure he knows who he is anymore. And most of the time, that doesn’t really bother him, because it’s not like he was overly happy with who he’d become. But when he’s prone to inward gazing – and that occurs far more often than he’d like – he wonders about the intelligence of giving Sam a little piece of himself.
The phone starts to buzz in his hand, an oddly arousing sensation. He opens it and the screen displays two words, “Battery Flat”, before it flickers to black.
“Bloody useless,” Gene mutters.
Still, he knows why it would be ringing, so he readies himself for Davies, hiding behind the door. After a few moments, a figure blocks the light from the doorway and sails into the room. Rory Davies is tall, taller than a man has any right to be, and he leans on a tilt. Gene sets his shoulders and says his name, clear as day. Davies spins round and looks at Gene in combined horror and anger.
“What do you want?”
“I wanna ask you a couple of questions about Marc Quinton, Rory.”
“You know who I mean.” Gene advances, not letting a little thing like five inches put him off.
“Who are you that’s asking?”
Davies’ cheeks puff out and he bares his teeth. “I’m not talking to a pig.”
“Oh, you will.” Gene feels a surge rush through him – power and revulsion. “Tell me everything you can about Marc Quinton and that’ll be that. Don’t tell me, and I’ll have your head bent so far back, you’ll spend the rest of your life counting flies on the ceiling.”
Davies rolls his eyes. “Tough man, eh? Been watching one too many gangster flicks?”
Gene pretends to laugh, balls his fingers into a fist and hits Davies straight in the gut. Davies bends over and Gene cracks his head into his knee. He leans down and yells in his ear, “I want some information and I want it now.”
“Gene – no!” Sam’s voice yells. He runs into the room and draws his face into a tight mask when he sees he’s been too late. Davies is quietly moaning, blood dripping from his nose. Sam fixes Gene with an accusatory glare as Gene lets Davies go with a thump. “Why didn’t you answer the phone?”
“I went to, but the battery was flat.”
“What do you mean, the battery was flat?”
“I don’t sodding know, do I? Only, I flipped it open, like you so judiciously showed me, and there was that little tidbit of information, glinting out from the screen – Battery Flat.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake…”
“Temper, temper, Sammy-boy.”
Contempt bubbles in Sam’s voice. “What use is technology if it doesn’t fucking work?”
“You tell me,” Gene replies, finding himself smiling, cruel humour twisting up to clamp around his heart. Sam’s angrier than he should be for such a minor mishap; it’s almost as if he’s been betrayed.
“I was gonna remind you not to use force.” Sam groans, bringing his hands to his forehead. “I don’t know what we’re gonna say to Maya.”
“We’ll have to say something! We could get sued. Do you not get that? None of our charges against Davies will stick – even if he’s guilty as sin. Just how many, ‘where I come from’ speeches have you glossed over in our time together, Gene?”
“All of them, if I’ve been lucky.”
“Shit. You’re incorrigible.”
Gene rocks back on his heels - he hates these shoes - and pierces Sam with his own, defensive, glare. “He’s an arsewipe, he had it coming.”
“Maybe, but not like that. Never like that.”
“Back home like that.”
“No, that’s what I’ve been saying. You shouldn’t be punching suspects around in 1973, either.”
“But I do. And it works.”
“Not always. I bring your attention to one Graham Bathurst, wrongly accused of murder, mostly because you used your fists, when you should’ve been using your brains.” Sam points his fingers by his temples, scowling as he does so.
“And I bring your attention to Kim Trent, who, without being punched by me, would have lodged a bullet in your pretty little head. My methods get results.”
“That’s a completely different situation and you know it.”
“You’re fussing over nothing.”
Davies moans louder and for a second it almost looks like Sam’s going to kick him, but he hauls him up instead.
Sam is technically not accountable to Maya, but he acts like he is, and she perpetuates the notion. Gene sits out of sight, sipping on his procured whisky, listening to their discussion.
“This is a disaster,” Maya says, and Gene can imagine her brown eyes glittering with anger. “When we were together, you wrote entire odes to the extinction of police brutality, and now you’re wandering around with Harry Callahan.”
“It was an honest mistake, Maya.”
“He compromised the investigation, Sam. I know he’s your friend, but…”
Sam sighs. “I know. He’ll stay home this time.”
“When you say ‘home’…”
“I mean mine.”
“Yeah, thought so. I do deserve the rank of Detective Inspector, you know. I wondered when you’d figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“Your desperation for masculinity.”
Gene almost smiles at the sounds of Sam choking, even whilst he’s itching to punch him. Maya walks away, muttering about measures they’re going to have to take. This is ridiculous. Gene was trying to get them something, anything they could work on. Maya confessed she’d come up empty, and their other interviews hadn’t yielded any results. Gene takes another swig and stands to lean near Sam.
They drive to Sam’s flat in silence. Gene won’t make any excuses for Sam, and he seems too pre-occupied to force conversation. Muted colours whirl by the window, grey, blue, black, and light reflects off glass. When they pull up outside Sam’s flat and he lets them in, Gene contemplates headbutting him into submission. Sam flurries around his flat, getting various things in order and then stands by the door.
“I’ll see you later,” Sam says, hurriedly. “I shouldn’t be more than a couple hours. I’ll keep you posted.”
“I hit a bloke,” Gene responds. “By the way you’re all acting, anyone’d think I’d killed him.”
“Might as well’ve.” Sam balances his weight from foot to foot. “This is usually the part where we kiss.”
“You can’t be that angry…”
“I am positively incandescent with rage.”
“Oh yeah, I can see it glowing out your arse.” Sam moves forward and wraps his arms around the trunk of Gene’s body, voice muffled as he talks into Gene’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. But you’re safest watching tv. I even set my laptop up for you.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” Gene replies honestly.
“Computer. It’s on the coffee table. You can look up porn.”
“Now, why would I want to do that, when I’ve the real thing right here?”
Sam smiles at that, pulling away and waving his hand in a farewell gesture that’s tinged with sorrow.
The telephone rings for the fifth time and Gene glares at it. The first time, two hours before, it was some Indian bird trying to sell him a ‘24 month plan’. Gene never did sort out what type of plan it was, but doesn’t feel too disturbed on the matter, as he crashed the receiver down with an echoing bang. The second time was Sam, to inform him that the blood at Quinton’s house was animal blood, not human at all – not a trace of it Quinton’s - and Gene mused over that for a while, before deciding he didn’t give a shit. The third call was Sam’s mother. That was nice and awkward. Gene had to try and explain he was a friend of Sam’s from work, but Ruth Tyler was convinced she recognised his name for a different reason.
This time Gene doesn’t know who it is, as he refuses to answer. He’s having too much fun watching some show about cars, Cap Gear, or some such. One of the hosts is greatly amusing and Gene snorts tea through his nose at his comments. Nice to know that political correctness is shoved to the side every now and then.
He’s thought about leaving the flat hundreds of times, but something holds him back. It’s definitely not loyalty to Sam, so Gene has to admit that it might just be fear. He feels feeble, but it’s a survival instinct pushing to the fore. He spends a great deal of his time wondering what Ray and Chris are up to, how CID is coping without them, but he’s not even sure such a thing is happening.
The door opens half an hour later, Sam easing through the crack with cartons of Chinese takeout. “I called to ask what you wanted for dinner, but you didn’t pick up.”
“You didn’t want me to make it? I could’ve rustled you up a lovely avocado terrine,” Gene says, sarcasm so thick it could block the Blackpool tunnel.
Sam rolls his eyes and starts with the plates. “Anything interesting happen whilst I was gone?”
“Your mother rang.”
Sam stops dead at that. “She… she did?”
“Yeah, wants to know if you’re gonna come to tea Sunday. I said yes, not knowing if we’d still be here or not. Seemed polite.”
Sam sits down and doesn’t speak. Gene watches as his whole body transforms. He seems to crumple in front of Gene – to crease and crinkle, his limbs lying dead by his sides.
“I… I’m not sure I can ever face my mother again. I turned my back on her,” Sam says, quietly, his shoulders arched and his neck tense. He fixates on the turquoise carpet and tears form in his eyes. “I decided 1973 was my place, and I left her, alone.”
Gene’s staggered by the vehemence of Sam’s reaction to what he thought was simple information. “We all leave our mothers, Sam, has to be done.”
“She was by my bedside.”
Gene frowns. “No she wasn’t. Far as she knows you’ve never been anywhere else.”
“In my head, she was. I’d hear her on the radio, through the tv. I knew it and didn’t try to get back. Until, one day, I just stopped hearing her. And you know what, Gene? I was happy.” Sam brings his fist up to his mouth, biting down on his knuckles, the tears falling thick and fast. Gene’s surprised he doesn’t harbour the urge to punch him.
“You’d leave us, to gain her?”
Gene doesn’t know what to say. Nothing he says will be soothing. It’s best to leave Sam to sort through it on his own, especially as Sam did just the same to him earlier. But he doesn’t leave. He hovers by the sofa and states, in hushed tones, “I’m glad you didn’t. I hope you don’t.”
Sam replies through his sleeve. “Well, it’s not that easy, is it?”
“Nothing ever is.”
It takes a moment, but Gene comes to sit next to Sam, placing his hand gingerly on his far shoulder. It’s awkward and he feels a fool, but Sam leans into the touch, until he’s resting his head against Gene.
“I’m a prick.”
“Yeah, we all know that. Doesn’t make you a bad son.”
Sam swallows and nods his head. “Does.”
“Not as bad as others. I used to stand by and watch my mother get beaten to a pulp. Never did a thing about it. When I finally did throw a punch of my own into the old man’s gut, it wasn’t for her, it was for me.”
“That was different.”
“Of course it was different. Different time, different circumstance, different people. It’s always gonna be different, you pillock.”
“You think I’m a complete baby, don’t you? Oh look, there’s Tyler, crying over his mummy.”
Gene damn near laughs at that. “Does it really matter what I think?”
Sam draws away and holds his gaze.
“You’re a child sometimes, my dearest Samuel,” Gene says. “But you’re not a baby. It’s almost consoling that you’ve the heart.”
Sam scowls, knitting his brows together and curling his upper lip. Gene presses his thumb to those lips and stares intently, trying to say in a look what he’s finding it difficult to say in words.
“I should leave you here,” Sam says, doing up his shirt and gazing at Gene from his vantage point above the bed.
“But you won’t.”
“No, against my better judgement, I tried that, and I just can’t stand to.”
“That’s so sweet. No, really, I’m gonna need extra strong toothpaste if my teeth are to get out of this alive.”
“It seems Davies did have something of interest. Maya said it was a possible lead – nothing conclusive.”
Gene gets up on his elbows and presses his cigarette to his lips, speaking through the smoke. “You say that about most things.”
Gene joins Sam in dressing, having only the clothes he woke up in the day before. He announces that he’s ready after a swig of whisky and a full bodied stretch.
Sam still won’t let Gene drive. On the way, he ‘collates’ the facts as they have them. Dead body, crap art dealer, animal blood sprayed about his house, Rory Davies number one suspect, but additional chance with this new bloke, Bruce Charles.
“You know, Maya went to the gallery, but I think we should too,” Sam says, switching on the left indicator and turning with smooth precision.
“Before or after we go talk to this Charles bloke?”
“After, of course.”
“Does your bit know I’m along for the ride?”
“No. Didn’t think it the wisest thing to tell her. It’s horrible. The more questions I ask, the stranger she looks at me. Apparently we split up just after she was kidnapped, even though I saved her life. But how did I do that, when, by that stage, I was with you?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“I’m not. I’m just thinking out loud.”
Gene rolls his shoulders forward. “They could lock you away for that kind of behaviour.”
“For the longest time, all I wanted was to go home. Then I went and fell in love. And now there is no home.”
“With 1973. It’s like a character in its own right. Has its own dialogue and personality.”
Gene doesn’t say what he’s thinking – that he’d sooner Sam admitted that it might not just be 1973 that has a hold on his heart, but he understands the reluctance. When you put things into words they hold more power and neither of them are ready for that, yet – they’re both too weak.
Sam stops the car and they get out, a single bang clattering against the bricked walls of the establishments near by. They knock on the glass door, Sam flashes his badge, and Bruce Charles goes running out the back.
“The action of an innocent man, d’you think?” Sam asks.
Gene shakes his head, about to go running after, but there’s the roar of an engine and he motions for the car instead.
“When we catch up with this one, you cannot beat him up, understand?”
“What if he’s trying to kill you?”
Sam grimaces. “Well, then you can.”
“Double standards, Sammy-boy.”
They set off at a furious pace. Sam gets Charles’ car into sights and starts calling Maya, but his ability to multi-task is greatly hindered by the high-speed pursuit as they go careening around the corner.
Even Gene wants to tell him to slow down and grabs hold of the handle above his head. The asphalt is a grey streak below them, Charles is a blue dot in front of them, and the traffic lights are a blur of first green, then amber, and finally red. Sam doesn’t pay them any attention. He races on through the first set of lights, yet comes to stop at the next one, when a white mini-van launches itself into the right side of the Jeep.
There’s the scrape of metal against metal, a deafening crunching sound, and Gene swivels to see blood pouring from an open wound in Sam’s head.
Part 1, Part 3