Loz (lozenger8) wrote,
Loz
lozenger8

Everything in its Right Place, Part 3 (of 3)

Title: Everything in its Right Place, Part 3 (of 3)
Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 6,100 words this part, 15,300 words overall.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. Title from the song by Radiohead.



Sam can be unbearably pompous. He knows this. Gene is positive Sam enjoys it. It pains Gene to think that he'd prefer Sam at his very most pompous than like this - being carted into an ambulance, eyes closed, blood dripping. The ambulance driver is trained in medicine. She keeps going on about Sam's 'low BP' and mentions that they should get the saline ready. Gene doesn't understand, though he thinks he's heard it all before. Gene stands at a distance, watching, not knowing how to contribute.

"D'you wanna come in the back?"

He doesn't have much choice. Gene climbs up onto the bench next to Sam's stretcher and concentrates on the implements lined against the white metallic wall. He wants to take Sam's hand, but he won't. He might bust something.

"Are you friends?"

"Partners."

Charles got away. He shouldn't be thinking about that, he knows he shouldn't be thinking about that, but it nags at his insides. Charles is out there and he might be the solution to this case and this case might be the solution to his existence and Sam's a complete fucking wanker for not looking where the hell he was going. Trust Sam, the only one in this deal who has any idea how to act in this foreign land, to be the fragile one that drops at the smash of a car. Gene's thick head is fine, a little shaky perhaps, but still screwed on. If Sam doesn't wake up - of course he would - but if he didn't, Gene doesn't have a clue, about anything. Because he can handle two thousand and sodding six, with Sam by his side. Sam's been through this before. And he may not be the most stable of blokes, but he's - well, he is who he is. He's the only person Gene trusts - trusts him more than himself. For a second, maybe four, Gene's not sure he can handle life without Sam. The thought makes his chin feel heavy and he turns to the bloke beside him and says, "Think I may be in shock, after all."

The hospital isn't too far off. Inside there's a lot more waiting. More tests. Examinations. Analysis. He's not in shock in the strictest sense. He doesn't have concussion. Physically, Gene Hunt is fighting fit. But Sam is still unconscious.

"He's not critical," the doctor says, and Gene guesses he should be happy about that. He sits by Sam's side and waits for him to wake up. He'll give him a right talking to when he does.

Sam lies in a God-awful hospital bed, looking thin and frail - not his usual lithe and wiry. He's pale and ashen like last week's porridge and the cut that marks his forehead is nasty, angry looking and is going to have stitches as soon as a nurse has more than a few moments to spare. He has a broken arm that needs to be put in a cast. This place isn't known for its speed.

"This is perfectly natural," another bloke says, wheeling a trolley by, "he'll probably wake up in half an hour, good as new."

That's another thing that worries him. What if the Sam who wakes up isn't his Sam? Chances are, someone's been living his life as he's been learning a lesson or two on how to be a real cop. And Gene's remembered how they got here. The jolt of something similar happening again made the memory resurface. They were mowed down by a car. Is it coincidence? Something more?

It's ridiculous that he's worrying about it at all, but ever since Sam waltzed into his station, life hasn't made much sense. He's hated him for it sometimes, he almost hates him for it now, but his concern clouds his hatred and mostly he just feels lost.

He sees Maya out of the corner of his eye. She stands, seemingly ill at ease, one foot before the other, her elbows sticking out as her hands rest on her hips. She makes a darting movement forward, but stays stationary.

"How is he?"

"Oh, fine. He was dancing a jig three minutes ago," Gene replies automatically.

"What happened?"

"Car crash."

"I know it was a car crash. How?" Maya sounds strained, like she's been crying.

"Well, sweetheart, what happens is one car gets hit by another car and before you know it, you're arse over tit. But I'm sure you've been in that situation before."

"Cut the crap and explain it to me."

Gene hunches his shoulders and brings his head up to look directly at Maya. "We were going after Bruce Charles. We went to his place, Sam flashed his badge, Charles went rushing off and we followed."

"You were together?"

"Yeah, see, thing is, Sam doesn't much like to leave me on my lonesome, doesn't think I'm tough enough to nut it out."

"That's not what he said yesterday. Seems to think you're God's gift to the earth. Wouldn't shut up about you." Maya pauses. Gene expects a torrent of abuse, but gets a faint head-tilt instead. "You're not the kind of bloke I'd expect to be… you know."

"Yeah, well, I didn't expect it either."

"He's always been really secretive. I've never understood why."

"You and me both, glitter teeth."

Maya purses her lips. "Why do you do that? My name's Maya, you know that."

Gene nods at Sam. "I call him Gladys. Majorie. Dorothy. Any girl's name I can think of. Sammy-boy, Deputy Dog, Sherlock, Brainiac…"

"Loving relationship, then."

Gene doesn't know why he isn't shielding himself. There doesn't seem much point. Maya has good instincts, he can see it in her approach. She'd already sussed them out.

"I wanna solve this," Gene says, more bite in his tone than he intends.

"You're not going to stay by Sam's side?"

Gene wavers. He crosses his arms and grunts, low in his throat. "Half an hour. If he's not bright-eyed in half an hour, take me with you to kick in some doors."

"I'm not doing any door-kicking."

"No, that's my job."

*

The plastic cup makes a cracking sound as Gene's hand involuntarily clutches it. It contained tea, but that got slurped up an hour before.

"Could you keep it down? Some of us are trying to sleep," Sam mumbles.

Gene leans forward, resting his weight on his toes. "Sam?"

Sam's eyes flicker open and he stares at Gene blearily. "Have we been playing rough and tumble again?"

"No. Motor accident."

"Oh. Great. Can't have too many of those in your lifetime. Shit."

"So you know who I am?"

Sam quirks an eyebrow. "Intimately acquainted. And I do mean that."

Gene can't express the relief and gratitude he feels at this. He's incoherent with it. He sits and watches Sam for a while, cataloguing his features and imagining kissing every square inch. He thinks about batting Sam on the arm, but decides against it. He's made of stiff stuff, Tyler.

"Well, now that you're awake and sentient, I'm off."

"Off? Off where?"

"Off with your exciting ex, to see if I can crush some nuts. Those belonging to Bruce Charles if I'm really lucky."

Sam perks up, colour flooding his face. "You've got to be joking."

"I never joke before beer o'clock."

"Bad idea. Very bad idea. Worst idea you've ever had, Gene."

"That's what you said when I tried to convince you to go to that fancy dress party as Roger Whittaker."

Sam grins, though it looks painful, then his expression becomes sombre and he tries to push himself into an upright position.

"Really, Gene, terrible idea."

"I don't care. I'm going to fix this. I'm gonna sort it out. Meanwhile, you need to rest up." Gene starts to stand and gazes down at Sam with a mixture of affection and determination.

"What's wrong with me?"

"Broken arm, broken head, apart from that, just your inability to see the big picture, your insistence on filing and your unwillingness to call me Gene Genie."

Sam groans and speaks in a harsh whisper. "If I call you Gene Genie, right now, if I scream it out next time we shag, will you, for the love of God, not go gallivanting off by yourself?"

Gene fidgets with his hands, digging them into his pockets, as if he's wanting to light a cigarette, but he's already been told off twice for trying to smoke inside and he only has two left.

"Not gonna be by myself. I'm gonna be with Maya."

As if on cue, Maya appears, hovering at the end of Sam's bed.

"You're awake!" she says happily. She bends down and kisses Sam lightly on the cheek. Gene sees a flash of fear and confusion cross Sam's face.

"Maya," Sam pleads.

She smiles benevolently at him and shakes her head. "You'll be okay, Sam, and when you are, you can take charge again, but for the time being, we'll hand wave the paperwork and let Gene handle it."

"You can't! You cannot hand wave paperwork in 2006, that's just not done. And Gene --- he punched a suspect. He broke his nose."

"And I'll break your nose if you don't shut it. I'm doing this for you."

Sam makes a half-hearted flailing movement with his free arm and pouts.

"Histrionics over?" Gene asks. "Good. See you in a few hours. Get some kip."

He very nearly mirrors Maya's earlier action, but he gently grips Sam's good shoulder as an alternative, the warmth of Sam's skin a sensation he wasn't sure he'd ever get to experience again.

*

"So how did you two meet?"

"Look, I know you're a copper. You know I'm a copper. We don't have to interrogate one another."

"I'm not. I'm just curious."

Maya drives on the edge of reckless, winding the car around with speed and daring. She takes corners liberally and, for a while, Gene thinks a sadist might have a handle on his fate and he'll be sailing into a lamp-post.

"He came into my department and demanded my attention," Gene says eventually, carefully avoiding saying anything that doesn't sound like the truth.

"That sounds like Sam. And was it love at first sight?"

"You're a riot, you are, bouncy bra."

Maya stops her teasing, pulls into the station car park, and shuts off the engine. They clatter up the steps, an aeroplane soaring overhead muffling the voices of those nearby.

"Right, so we have a couple of informants who can tell us where Charles is staying," Maya says as they push through the front door. "Now, his relation to Quinton is this - he worked as Quinton's delivery boy. Would package up and send paintings to his various clients, usually by personal courier."

Gene taps his chin, leaning by the lift and looking down at Maya thoughtfully. "His sister said he didn't have any clients."

"Either she didn't know about them, or she was lying, because he was making a pretty penny. There's insubstantial, but convincing evidence that whatever was going on at that gallery was dodgy."

"I'm shocked and in awe."

Maya presses the button to go up. "Do you take anything seriously?"

"Try not to, it's bad for my digestion."

"Anyway, there's been suggestions of copies being bandied about."

"Of famous artworks?"

"Not too famous - no Van Gogh or Rembrandt. But yeah." Maya walks into the clean, sterile CID, a line in her forehead marring her otherwise attractive face. "The only reason I'm doing this is because I think you wanna do the best by Sam. And I get that.

"But you can't go around punching suspects, okay? No actual kicking in doors. This is real life. This isn't some vigilante flick, or Western or something. Appeals of self defence only get you so far."

"Self defence? Is that what Sammy-boy told you Rory Davies was?"

"Why? Would you tell me it was something else?"

Gene's lips twitch and he coughs to conceal his desperate urge to laugh. "No. I wouldn't tell you a thing."

Maya tenses her jaw. "This is seeming more and more like a bad idea."

"That's what Sam said."

"Yeah, well, he's not always wrong."

"He's not always right."

They leave it at that. Maya collects intel about what's been happening since she's been gone and announces to anyone who's listening that she and DCI Hunt are going on an expedition. Some tapping halts and a couple of heads look up, but there's not an overwhelming gush of interest and Gene concludes that he has ceased to be flavour of the week.

"You're not gonna get them helping?"

Maya shakes her head. "They're all working on other projects. As of yesterday evening there's been two other murders and a robbery. It's go, go, go."

"My team would be bending over, waiting for the spank."

"Why don't you call them, then, bring them in?" Maya asks, holding up her mobile.

Gene feigns nonchalance. "They're busy with their own cases." He looks at the metal boxes arranged on each desk and points to the closest. "How important would you say these are to the job?"

"Vital. But ever since we got upgraded, our database has trouble loading. I swear, the more patches they issue, the more difficult it becomes. What's your database like?"

"Sam is our database," Gene says.

"Really?"

It registers that this must sound odd, considering they're supposed to be working in different places entirely.

"He's like our database; stubborn, mouthy, particular, needs everything just so before it'll work."

Maya gives an amused smirk and signals that they're leaving.

*

Bruce Charles has a face like squashed Alsatian shit, ugly as sin. Gene feels he should have noticed that before, but he was too caught up in chasing after the git to give it much thought. Of course, Charles is predictable like Corrie and attempts to escape again, wedging a lounge room between him and the two cops hell-bent on getting their own way.

Gene has the opportunity to kick in a door, but he waits for Maya to wave her hand in consent before he completes the action. It's courtesy more than anything, and the relish that he feels when his foot crashes against the wood is scotch in his blood.

"Charles, you scum, you'll be eating from a tube if you don't come quietly."

Maya opens her eyes wide. "Have you spent every weekend of the last twenty years watching The Sweeney, or what?"

Gene swivels his head to glare at Maya quizzically. "The whatee?" He turns around, directing his harsh tones to the corner. He's seen blue denim peeking out from behind an armchair. "Hands where we can see them, Charles."

Charles moves, reluctantly, heels dragging against the carpet. Gene seizes him by the shoulders. Maya changes personality; a chameleon. She's suddenly hard, and brutal, and scary even to Gene, who's used to broads and fishwives.

"Bruce, you've been a bad boy, wanna tell us what you know?"

"I didn't kill him. Marc."

"Then who did you kill?" Gene asks, shark-like teeth and piercing green eyes.

"No one. Haven't killed nowt."

Maya interjects. "But you know who did? Kill Quinton?"

"Not exactly. I could tell you a motive."

Maya's cold and in charge. "I could make up any manner of motives. Love, lust, greed, revenge. I don't want a motive. I want the reason."

Gene's impressed. Sam always does know how to pick them.

"Marc was all about selling dodgy paintings, yeah?"

"We've heard that before."

"There was a massive scandal with one of the suppliers. Warnings, shattered windows. Marc got hit, badly, bashed up by a couple of thugs. His sister, Shania? Took great pleasure in it all."

Gene bites his lip, narrowing his eyes at Charles. "We've spoken with Shania Quinton. She made her happiness bright and shiny, but she didn't kill him."

"You're positive?" Maya asks, shifting her attention from Charles to Gene.

"As sure as Liz Frazer's tits are gorgeous."

Maya's mouth flattens and she gives a near-shudder. "You're a colourful man, Gene Hunt."

"And you're a colourful bird."

Maya goes rigid for a second, cocks her head, and then starts prodding Charles towards her Audi. "You're going to help our investigation and you're not going to complain, because if you don't give us something useful, we'll lock you up for obstruction."

They go to the station with quiet professionalism, Charles staying silent in the back.

Interrogation involves a tape recorder and some special glass. Gene supposes he shouldn't be overwhelmingly surprised. He does, however, miss Sam at this moment, and that makes him feel nice and pitiable, because it's only been two hours since he was keeping a vigil by his bedside. Still, he knows Sam in this environment. He's reliable, in his own way. And he wants answers, he burns for them. Why did Marc Quinton die? Who killed him? It's not just his quest for justice, in fact, probably less than ten percent is his quest for justice, because these streets are not his streets, despite the names. It's wanting to make sense of it all. Whether or not any sense will be made is neither here nor there.

"Bruce, you're not a regular witness. We usually offer those witnesses tea and biscuits, but you lucked out when you commenced a dangerous car chase that wounded one of our own."

"I what?" Charles asks, shock evident in every convulsion. Gene's nails cut into his palm as he stems the compulsion to smash him one. "Go to the gallery."

"I've been to the gallery," Maya says, exasperated.

"Go again. Shania's boyfriend Pete, butcher extraordinaire, has taken over. I mean, there's not much more I can tell you. That's all I know."

"Tell me about the warnings again."

*

The gallery's shut. No one's at Shania's. They wait for hours, before setting surveillance up and calling it a night. Gene wants to go to the hospital, but Maya softly reminds him visiting hours are over. He thinks he's going to collapse before he takes a step within the door of Sam's flat. Maya's given him her spare key, driven off. He'd been tempted to offer her a drink, but she'd staunched his proposition before he'd made it, talking about being glad she was finally going to be spending the evening with her fiancée.

It's him and four cream walls. Not what he'd call the most exciting or appetising of evenings. He switches the tv on, but some disturbingly pink show's playing, with a bunch of blokes talking about interior design. He tries to turn on the laptop, but there's a flashing light over an image of a battery that Gene supposes indicates that it's flat. Typical.

Gene sees his future spread out before him and it does not look promising.

There's a rattling and scraping sound from the front, so Gene rises from the sofa, drawing himself to his full height - no mean feat with the weight of exhaustion.

The door opens and Sam's standing there in an oversized grey shirt and baggy jeans, his arm in a cast and sling, his head still looking a mess, albeit sewn back together, and a scowl that could rival any child after a sherbet fountain.

"What're you doing here?" Gene asks, faking irritation and secretly overjoyed.

"You left me, alone," Sam says angrily, twisting his left hand in his loose t-shirt and coming across the threshold.

"You did the same to me, day before."

"I left you in a nice flat. With television. And easy-to-access porn. You left me in a hospital. I fucking hate hospitals."

Sam walks closer to the middle of the room, looking about himself with squirrel-like tics.

Gene rolls his eyes. "First of all, you're obsessed with porn. Second, stop being a melodramatic wimp."

"You're a fucking bastard."

"So many different ways to say 'I love you', yet Tyler chooses the one that involves grappling," Gene says to the air.

Sam goes still, the vein on his forehead popping once more, this time throbbing a lively flamenco. He ducks his head and swallows, his frown making him appear ten years older. He bounces on the balls of his feet, tense and restrained.

Gene lowers in pitch, insistent and forceful. "I was trying to get us back home."

"But what you've failed to notice, Gene, is that I've never once called 1973 home. You belong there. I don't." Sam sucks in a breath and his eyes are hollow when he stares back at Gene; he's tucked away every emotion. "I could pick up my life, here, easily. You saw me do it. It's routine. It's familiar. If I went back-"

Gene doesn't recognise his voice, deep and husky, as he interrupts. "What do you mean, 'if'?"

Sam continues, pretending he doesn't hear. "-It'd be for you."

"And what is here for you? Because, forgive me, Sam, if I'm missing something remarkable, but you're miserable here. I've not seen you so --- the only time I've ever seen you look this demoralised was when we fished Joni out of the canal. You wanna live in a place that makes you numb? What about Annie? What about Chris? Hell, what about Ray? What'd he do if he didn't have your tight jeans to glower at every ten minutes? He might even make Inspector, could you live with that?"

"Wouldn't have to, would I?" Sam stares blankly at the wall. "It's not about what I want. It's about what's right."

"Hate to break it to you after 37 years of life on earth, but no such thing exists," Gene yells, finally letting the anger creeping up to take hold. "The laws of time and space are anything but right. They're the other side of wrong. If this is about your mother, I think you need a little chat with Dr. Freud."

Sam half-shrugs, dejectedly. "This isn't about my mother."

"What is it, then? Is this about you being a scared little pussycat? Can you not take all Guv all the time?"

"And it isn't about us."

"I don't get you. I think I do. But then I find, no, there's more of a labyrinth in there than Edward Heath's bowels, spewing out more bullshit than the entire bovine nation."

"I was four in 1973."

"So what? I was four in 1934. Look at me now, haven't I aged well," Gene barks. "Do you want me to stay here with you, is that it? Where you can have all your fancy technogadgetry and procedure and league tables and concept maps and I can feel like an old dinosaur, just crawled over from the prehistoric era?"

Sam's on the edge of hysteria, now, face contorted. "No, that's my point."

"I still can't see it, it must not be sharp enough."

"You are so frustrating."

Gene edges forward, wanting to get their bodies into contact, because that speaks to Sam more than ten thousand words. "You love it. Maybe if you just said it, you'd feel better."

"You want me to say I love you, but if I did that, and you went back, and I stayed here…" Sam opens his mouth wide, his chest rising and falling.

"I love you, Sam. Never thought I'd have the courage to say it, but by God, I'm stronger than you are."

Gene doesn't want to put Sam's body through any more wars than it's already been in, but he needs to touch him, so he gently presses his hand to Sam's lower back and leans in for a kiss. Sam doesn't resist. He arches into the movement, defiant, kissing Gene back with vigour.

"I love you," Sam says, like it's a test, then quieter, his eyes staring straight into Gene's, warm and accepting, "I love you."

"Good boy," Gene says, a small mocking smile on his lips. "Because I'm not letting you go."

There's an immobility eerily like resignation in Sam's stance and he nods, once.

*

"We go in guns blazing."

"I don't have a gun. I have a baton."

"Sammy-sweetie, I've seen your baton - hard as it may be, it might not do the job."

Sam moans, again, for what's possibly the fifth time that morning, though for differing reasons, and it's only six am. Gene didn't even know this mythical time existed past being the dead hour of an overnight binge.

"Let's work together, for God's sake. A true marriage of our respective skills."

"Marriage? I don't think we're quite up to that," Gene says, flippantly, before his face goes blank and he asks, "could we? I mean, is it…"

"Nope, you'll be pleased to know that 'fruity tutti's' can't get married now either," Sam replies, tone caustic and the set of his jaw displaying seething anger. "Civil partnerships, though. They're as close as we're gonna get, by the looks of things."

"By 'we', you mean?"

"Society in general. I'm not sure I could handle Gene Tyler."

Gene flicks his head back. "It'd be Sam bloody Hunt."

"Can we get back to, you know, reality?"

"I thought you said reality was just a state of mind?"

"Yeah, well, my state of mind is decidedly fucked at the moment."

Gene cradles his coffee and eyes his, as yet, untouched bacon butty. "What do you suggest?"

"Forget the crime, let's just shag all day."

"So you were being suggestive with that baton of yours."

Sam smoothes his fingers up his face and smiles, his nostrils dilating as he exhales slowly.

"We go back to the station, see what surveillance has turned up, see what's been done about that animal blood. Go to the gallery, make some noise… you know, the usual, tedious stuff you never get to see on primetime telly."

"Usual and tedious is about the long and the short of it. There's good reasons, Sam, that DCIs like us delegate."

Sam speaks with slow, sacred tones. "You called me DCI, my life is now complete."

"Your humour, it cuts me raw."

Gene had spent a long time thinking that telling Sam how he felt would cause a chasm to come between them, because it seemed too fairy-like, too weak, too close. But it's lifted a block he hadn't been aware of, and now he can look at Sam and say that he gets him. Not everything, there's still compartments that have keyholes no one could spy through, but he gets a large part of him and that's enough.

"Butcher," Gene says, after a flash of inspiration.

Sam stops digging into his grapefruit and snaps his head up. "What?"

"Charles said that Shania Quinton's boyfriend was a butcher. Animal blood."

Sam catches on. "Oh. Oh, that is great. You are great."

"I've been saying that for months, but do you listen?"

Gene, after much anticipation, gets to drive. Only, Sam's Jeep is well and truly wrecked and the car Maya provides is a no-nonsense unmarked run-about that goes at speeds Gene's veruca-infected snail could beat. Gene drives uncharacteristically safely, blaming the car, even though the true reason is that Sam looks like a rag doll and Gene doesn't have enough string to bind him back together should peril loom.

Shania Quinton is at the station, hurling obscenities like a fast bowler. Maya bats them away with disinterest. They watch from behind the two-way mirror.

"I didn't kill him, I've told you that, you two-faced whore."

"Did your boyfriend? Pete, is it? His name was conspicuously missing from the list you gave my esteemed colleagues, even though a little white ferret told me he's decided to take charge at the gallery. Also, didn't he used to work with animals? Cutting them up, perhaps?"

"Brucie, the shit-eater."

"Was he the only one who knew about your arrangement? No wonder you scared him senseless."

"You're a good actress, Shania, but we're discerning critics," Sam says, leaving Gene's side and stepping into the room.

"What happened to you? Become a human pin cushion? Oh wait, you'd have to be human, right?"

"A comedienne too, truly the world will be lost with you behind bars."

Shania slaps her palms against the table and shrieks, "But I didn't do anything."

"Conspiracy to murder? Accessory to murder at the very least? You did nothing, Shania, nothing that will help save yourself."

*


They go to the gallery, simply to see what all the fuss is about. Charles is there, fidgeting with some packing tape.

"You're here?" he asks, chewing on the inside of his lip. Gene doesn't quite recognise the tingling in his tummy button that insists something is amiss.

"Not for long," Sam assures him, blasé.

The artwork is hideous. Garish and cruel. No form of enlightenment or beauty amongst the canvas. Either that, or encrusted with sentimentality, exaggerated butterflies and rosy-cheeked cherubs. Gene bends his head this way and that, but can't see as to why anyone would want one version of any of the monstrosities, let alone several copies in existence.

Sam unveils a piece that they both recognise, a Monticelli, and Gene smiles when he recalls Maya's earlier remarks disclaiming a Van Gogh. He guesses she hasn't had art history shoved down her throat by an aspiring perfectionist of the palette.

"Wow," Sam says, reaching out in an impression of touching it.

"This is the worst copy I've ever seen."

"How d'you mean? It's perfect. The colours, the angles of the strokes..."

Gene sets his shoulders, tossing his head towards the canvas. "It's the original."

"You can't tell that just by looking at it. I mean, an expert could, but you sure as hell couldn't."

"Alright, how much d'you wanna bet?" Gene gives a blinding grin. "Think about it, Tyler. They didn't try to kill Marc before, even though, by all accounts, he was an obnoxious tosser. No, they killed him when they found out he and Bruce were scamming them even further than they'd predicted. Stolen paintings being reproduced ad nauseum, because the originals never did get to their prospective buyers."

Sam looks at the painting and then back at Gene. He picks up his radio and tells uniform to keep tabs on Charles. He drums his fingers against his leg. "How did you know?"

"My name and the word genius don't start the same for no reason."

"No, really, how did you know? What was it about the painting that pinged on the gregarious Guv's radar?"

"You're a daft div sometimes, you do know that, don't you? It wasn't the painting. It was all Charles. I deal in people, Sam, in body language and figures of speech. He were still twitchy, had something to hide. What was he hiding? The logical conclusion had to be something to do with the paintings, right? And I should not be having to explain this to you in fine detail."

"Did you just say, 'logical conclusion'? You have logical conclusions?"

"Oh, I do. How about you? Sort this one out. If my fist travels towards your face, what'll happen?"

"I'll block it, twist your arm around, and give you a good kicking."

"I'd like to see you try, my little one-armed bandito."

"Go on then."

Gene's going to sling his fist forward, but he catches Sam by the back of the head and crushes his lips with a kiss. He seeks Sam's tongue, the wet and warmth of his mouth enticing and comforting all at once. Sam clutches at his hair and pushes Gene back against the wall, taking control. Gene murmurs, over and over, until the many little sounds combine into one long sound. And Gene forgets about 2006 for a minute, maybe more, as Sam takes him somewhere else, somewhere he wants to be.

*

Maya makes a big song and dance thanking Gene for his involvement. He accepts the scotch and tucks it away somewhere safe to consume at a later date. Sam suggests they revisit his flat, a proposal that has Gene hoping for rumpy pumpy, but it doesn't seem that way from Sam's demeanour.

"I wanna see my mother," Sam says, almost as if he's asking permission.

"Want me to come along?"

Sam doesn't shake his head all the way, but his intention is clear. Gene waits in the flat for three hours, finally making use of Sam's laptop, reading through the detailed instructions Sam left him. He gets up to step number eleven part n), typing into something called 'Google'. He tries his name, but scientific stuff comes up, boring as batshit. 'Sam Tyler' yields first and foremost a photographer's page, a fan of bluegrass music. And 'porn' has over 138,000,000 results, none of them remotely titillating, as far as Gene can see.

Sam returns with red-rimmed eyes and pale skin.

"Well, she now thinks I need severe psychiatric help."

Gene reels back on the sofa. "You didn't try and tell her?"

"No. Just sobbed every time she spoke."

"Pansy."

"Thanks."

They decide upon an outing to the local pub to celebrate their victory. It would be okay, but the place is all slick wood and blokes watching telly. The atmosphere lacks warmth and camaraderie. Football's on most screens - Manchester United, so Gene turns away and gazes at the only one that's showing the evening bulletin.

"Is this the world we fought for?" Gene asks, suddenly. He stares into the pint by his hand. "I was fighting against this kind of bollocks as part of my National Service. And now, decades later, it's still on the news. Different people, same bloodshed."

Sam frowns, diverts his concentration to the display that proclaims 'seven dead in suicide bombing'. He lifts his beer to his lips. "Where were you?"

"Palestine. Most of the time it were pretty quiet, but once in a while the aggression'd flare up and we'd be there to keep the peace. Never felt like it, peace keeping. Always felt like war - conflict and ruined lives. Not what I'd hoped for when the tasty uniformed tart'd asked me to drop my trousers and cough." Gene pauses. "I've never told anyone that before."

"I'm sorry," Sam says. Gene doesn't understand his expression. "I wish I could say it's all over, we got through it, thanks to the bravery of those who came before, but I'd be lying. You're right, different people, same bloodshed. We don't learn."

Gene sighs deeply, finishing the last of a beer that hasn't changed, despite thirty-three years of global machinations. "I guess we can only hope to do something worthwhile for our current situation. Sod the future, what about today?"

Gene doesn't add the auxiliary thought that this is the future, that his today is yesterday. Sam seems to pick up on the unspoken words, because he's morose and quiet for the rest of the evening, until it gets to a point where they both start shrugging on their coats to go back to Sam's flat.

Outside in the cooling dark, sirens blare from afar, and there's the stench of rotting leaves. The little man at the pedestrian crossing flashes green and they start to walk across the road, but a screech of tyres arrests Gene's attention and he goes wide-eyed before everything goes black.

*

"Sam?"

"Gene?"

"If this is 1873, or 2206, or anything other than what's to be my favourite year ever, I shall have your guts for garters."

"How many times do I have to tell you I didn't do anything?"

Gene opens his eyes and looks up at a blue, bright sky. He checks his body for cuts and bruises and finds none. He launches himself upright and looks around the car park of his station. Sam's still on the ground, fitted leather, too-tight jeans and curious expression.

"Back home?" Sam asks.

"Back home," Gene asserts. He goes to help Sam up, then thinks better of it, and starts walking in the direction of his Cortina. "I won our little fight," he calls over his shoulder. "You're the one slung over the tabletop."

"You so did not," Sam shouts back. "I had you begging for mercy."

"Like hell you did. My mind's made up, Tyler. I've been to hell and back for you."

"And I haven't?"

Gene spins on his loafers, crossing his arms. "Okay, compromise - we take turns, but I go first."

"I can deal with that. Just about."

"Great, because like with most things, you've got no choice."

"There's always choices, Guv."

Gene doesn't let himself look at Sam's expression. He slots his key into his car door and relishes the metal against metal, knowing soon he'll be relishing skin against skin. He breathes a deep sigh of relief that everything's in its right place.



Part 1, Part 2
Tags: life on mars, rated pg-13, slash, writing
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