Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 3080 words
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. Continuation of We Both Go Down Together, Red Right Ankle and Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect. Title from The Decemberists.
Sam gives Leonard a small, commiserating smile that takes a lot of energy to muster. Leonard returns it. They stand side-by-side as Gene awkwardly shrugs on an anorak and refuses help. Chris had managed to find a leather jacket in Sam’s size, but no camel-hair coat for Gene. The torrent of scorn could fill an entire canal.
“You could have asked me for help, you know,” Leonard says, without bitterness.
“This wasn’t my idea. Trust me. Last thing on my mind was bringing an innocent man into the equation.”
Last thing on Sam’s mind was bringing any man into the equation. Last thing on Sam’s mind was the equation.
Sam clutches onto a few of the folders from Mack’s, to skim through if and when they’re to be holed up in the car, waiting for their ‘informants’. Sam has cast a glance at the list and most of them are petty crims Gene’s had contact with before. Physical contact, with clenched fingers and upper body arcs.
“Is his wife going to approve of this?” Leonard asks.
Sam flicks a glance his way and shakes his head. “Up in Newcastle with her sister,” he lies. It might not be a lie, it could be the truth for all he knows. Sam finds it interesting that Leonard thinks to ask this straight away, but it never occurred to him to ponder just where Gene’s wife was. There are lots of things Sam never thinks about; he wishes he could be that way on certain pressing issues in his life.
Gene looms at the doorway. “Right, Dorothy and Tin Man, let’s get at it. If we finish up quickly, you’ll have time to dance with the Munchkins.”
“What’re you after, Guv? A heart? A brain? Some courage? Or all three?”
Gene doesn’t look at Sam, Sam doesn’t look at Gene, and Leonard looks in at the Cortina window.
“We taking this, then?”
“What? No bloody way!” Gene shouts. Leonard recoils in shock, clutching his hearing aid.
“I’ve only a two-seater,” Leonard explains, nervously, biting his lower lip.
“Those stupid, poncing pillocks,” Gene mutters, mouthing a few more choice words besides, which Leonard raises his eyebrows at. He places his palm close to Gene in an act of extreme bravery, requesting the keys.
The first on the long list of those to ‘coax’ into giving ‘information’ is Dastardly Derek, an old friend in the sense that he’s not a friend at all and he’s actually quite young, but he’s been on the radar for a while. He claims to know nothing, even when stared down by three men. Leonard was told to wait in the car, but he doesn’t. Gene doesn’t believe Derek, but he doesn’t push it – there’s plenty of other leads and Sam has a feeling he’s already feeling the effects. Sam wraps up any concern he harbours in a little box and flings it into a cupboard at the back of his mind. It serves Gene right if he’s feeling like crap. He decided to go on this wild goose chase.
Five blokes, two lengthy stony silences, and one disgruntled Leonard later, it’s nearing lunchtime. They stop outside a chippie owned by the seventh name on the list and a place to get something to eat.
“Hurry up, deaf-aid, we’re not in some kind of dawdling competition, first prize Diana Rigg’s knickers,” Gene says, arm slung around Leonard’s shoulders as his ankle’s finally given up the ghost.
“If you’re gonna insult Leonard, you could at least use his name.”
“It’s a stupid name.”
“It’s okay, DI Tyler,” Leonard intones, resigned. He half-shrugs. He’s used to being treated like the muck found on the bottom of a shoe.
“No, it’s not,” Sam responds. He pokes his index finger in Gene’s direction as he walks. “You’re gonna apologise, Gene.”
“Dear Leonard, I’m sorry you’re an ugly weasel with a nasty little ‘tasche. I’m even more sorry you’re deaf and dumb, though sadly not incapable of speech. I couldn’t be sorrier that you’ve been behind the wheel of my Cortina, driving like a div. And most of all, I’m sorry I’ve any idea who the bloody hell you are.”
Sam’s blood boils and he feels physically sick. “You’re a fucking git.”
Gene laughs his contempt away. “Next in the headlines; Gene Hunt’s an unpleasant scrote - new evidence found.”
Sam clenches his teeth and keeps his eyes fixed on the door to the chippie. He almost can’t believe he ever feels anything other than disgust towards Gene – a man with a vocabulary that outshines Gordon Ramsay.
Leonard is stoic, Sam’s pissed off, but Gene seems amused more than anything. He convincingly plays his hard man act against Steve the Skeeve. He swings the short, fat man into a wall and holds him there, hand around his neck.
“You’re gonna tell me everything I wanna hear, Stevie, or your hand’s gonna have an unfortunate rendezvous with a hotplate.”
“Don’t know what you mean, DCI Hunt.”
“What do you know about big loud bangs that rattle windows, Stevie?”
“Nothing! I swear.”
Gene tightens his hold, lighting up a cigarette with his other hand as he does so. “Let’s try that again. What do you know about the acquisition of explosives, Stevie? See, a little birdie’s informed me that you’re the man to go to if you want a bit of bing bam boom, all due to your past life as a construction worker who’d magical wandering fingers.”
Stevie begins to claw at the air, his eyes bugging out of their sockets. Gene relaxes his grip.
“Two blokes come into the shop the other day, yeah? Asking me much the same thing. I turn ‘em away ‘cause I’m a good and honest citizen, DCI Hunt.”
Gene barks laughter, puffing smoke in Stevie’s face.
“And I haven’t got nowt,” Stevie concludes.
“We need names,” Sam says quietly, leaning against the counter.
“Billy Baker. That’s the only one I know.”
“Good boy,” Gene states, patting Stevie on the head with more force than necessary. “Now, we’re gonna have a lovely lunch of haddock and chips for three. Tyler’s paying.”
Sam mumbles to himself that Gene could at least have had the decency to threaten Steve into giving them the food for free as he digs his hand into a pocket and rifles for the appropriate change.
There’s no address for Billy Baker. They ask around, but no one else has heard of him. They go after some other names that they can assail without too much fuss, but come up empty.
It’s long past dark by the time Leonard timidly states he has a girlfriend to get back to, but that he’ll be at DCI Hunt’s bright and early in the morning. Sam finds himself attempting to keep his shock well and truly concealed.
“Actually, Leonard, drop me off at my flat,” Sam says. “And could you pick me up tomorrow, after you’ve collected Gene?”
“No worries, DI Tyler.”
Gene doesn’t acknowledge this exchange. When the car pulls up, he doesn’t say goodbye. He gestures rudely at Leonard and shouts something about ‘shifting it’. Gene Hunt doesn’t do polite.
Sam takes a deep breath and trudges up his steps, going to his door and turning the key. The flat is the same as when he left it; a sty that swine would gladly wallow in. It hasn’t occurred to him before that his flat is actually very small, but this is painfully obvious as he takes four stilted strides to the kitchenette and pours himself a glass of tap water and fine Manchester sludge. He’d kill for a bottle of Evian.
Sam crawls onto the cot and stares at the ceiling, meticulously detailing the various statements they’ve received. Few of them are useful at all. He knows this. It doesn’t stop him from working over each sentence, each phrase, as if there’s a message waiting to be decoded. The employment records from Mack’s are similarly bleak and uninteresting.
The flat is stifling. Sam stands, flings open a window, takes off his jacket and shirt where wisdom would tell him to rug up. He drags his hands against his jeans and goes for the pyjama bottoms crumpled in a heap below his mirror.
When the question echoes through his mind, he groans and sits with his back against the wooden headboard.
What’s Gene up to?
Well, knowing Gene, he’s probably terrorising his neighbours, making designs on storming after anyone and everyone who has - in his estimation – mistreated him, and being an uncouth loud-mouthed prick. Sam balls his fists up, flings his head back, and wills himself not to think about other things Gene might be doing – bringing himself to full hardness, fantasising about Sam’s lips around his cock, hating himself and Sam for it.
It’s four in the morning before sleep finally overtakes him, catapulting him into a world of mercilessly dreamless black. But he doesn’t get to sleep for long. He jolts awake when the Cortina horn sounds and he’s forced to haphazardly collect fresh clothes. He doesn’t shave. He clatters to the street, looking like he might just live there.
“Sorry, DI Tyler, would’ve come later, but there’s been a development. DS Carling ordered me to come over quick-smart.”
“I’ll knock his head into a filing cabinet ‘til he forgets your number,” Sam promises.
“And address,” Leonard adds, opening the car door for Sam.
The trip is quick and familiar. Sam and Gene share a glance as they both realise where they’re going.
The car comes to a stop and Leonard stays still, but indicates for Sam and Gene to depart. They stand on the sidelines, watching as tarpaulin is placed down and the body rolled onto it. Even from this distance it’s easy to see it’s a man, same height – or rather, length – as Nick, same hair colour. Bloated and grey. Ray raises his thumb to them surreptitiously in confirmation.
Sam knows that the responsibility he feels is artificially constructed. It’s not his fault, not really. Nick didn’t die simply because of his association with them. Nick was a fence, a criminal, a friendly and warm bloke most days than not, who was making a living – the wrong living, but he had to survive somehow. It’s rare that Sam truly considers that the victims they find are people, men and women with lives not dissimilar to his own. When he does, he loses focus and plots revenge. Justice is not about being a vigilante. But then, Sam does have a shiny badge.
“I’ve been thinking,” Sam starts, turning to Gene. “Maybe we’ve been going at this from the wrong angle. Why chase the bastards down when we can have them come to us?”
“What’s the plan?” Gene asks, curiosity piqued.
“We feed a bit of our own misinformation.”
“Let’s say we have a shop that’s gonna be getting a brand new shipment of something rich and sparkly. Diamonds, or amethysts, or golden monkeys, who knows? Something that’d attract cocksure and crazed criminals…”
Gene narrows his eyes thoughtfully. “Lay a trap.”
“You can be devious, you can, when you put your mind to it.”
Sam grins and for a second it’s like Gene’s forgotten everything that’s gone between them, because he smiles back. This is them again, two antagonists who manage to make a partnership work. Sam wonders if he could act like there’d been no fumbling in the dark, if this isn’t the only way to ever bring them back to normalcy. But then Gene’s expression reverts to caution and alarm with a not-so-silver lining of abhorrence and Sam knows that there’s no way they could ever be the same again. Mort and la petite mort have changed them irrevocably.
“I’ll have a talk with Chris. See if I can’t get some firearms on our side.”
When he was training to be on the force, Sam won an award for his organisational skills. It was a prank, a joke at his expense, made by those who found his anal retentive nature obnoxious, but Sam thinks of it in moments like these, when it all seems a little too much like hard work; daunting and all-encompassing.
Throughout the day he co-ordinates, he discusses, he convinces. He sinks himself into it, becoming wholly engrossed in details and necessities. He’s in his element, he’s busy, he’s ignoring Gene’s constant barbs in Leonard’s direction, because at any second he’s about to snap and announce to the world that Gene belongs in a minority group himself so he can shut the fuck up.
After what seems like too long, they have a base of operations, a persuasive frontman - Jack, who owes several hundred pounds worth of favours - and Gene has spread the word in an elaborate mimicry of Chinese Whispers. The minor errors that wind themselves into the final message add to the authenticity and everything’s set up just the way Sam wants it.
Sam tells himself things are bound to go wrong if he ruminates on it. The less he worries, the less chance there will be. They have a couple of days in pocket because they know from the previous instances that the trio case the joint thoroughly first, learning routines and procedures. Sam’s not especially superstitious, but he knocks on wood.
“Oi, Beethoven, are you gonna stand around like a spare part, or are you gonna get involved?” Gene asks as they wait in the thankfully cavernous back room of the jewellery store.
“You don’t have to do anything, Leonard,” Sam asserts.
“I’m happy to help in any way I can.”
Sam quirks an eyebrow. “Do you have the patience of a saint?”
“You helped me once, Sam,” Leonard says. Sam notices the change of name and smiles grimly, wishing he could be warmer. He did help Leonard, once, but only after placing him in trouble in the first place. It seems to be the main pattern in his life – destroy and then assist, if he’s lucky.
“You can make the tea,” Gene snarls, flinching as he adjusts position. “Shouldn’t be above your level of skill.”
“Back pain?” Sam asks, feigning innocence.
“Yeah, gets like that when I think someone’s about to stab,” Gene retorts.
Another evening descends. Gene goes to his large, empty house. Sam goes to his small, empty flat. Sam shoves as much of his furniture to the sidelines as possible, trying to give the illusion of space.
That night he dreams of choking to death on dust, awaking with his hands wrapped around his throat. He stumbles into the bathroom and vomits all over the floor, missing the toilet bowl in a spectacular show of ineptitude. Sam gazes at the telephone and his fingers itch. Gene must know what he’s going through, he might have an idea of how to combat it. He’d most likely tell Sam to stop being a pansy and then follow with a string of abuse.
Sunlight filters in through the window and Sam doesn’t remember when he drifted off enough to wake up to it. He showers and shaves, dresses himself with more exactness than he has on other days, readies himself for a new day and a different direction.
There’s a buzz in the air at the jewellery shop. Sam crosses his fingers to it being adrenaline. Gene has gone the opposite of Sam; looks worn out and used, more irritable than usual. He snipes like he has a degree in malignance.
“You could always try kicking it up a notch,” Sam suggests after one especially violent threat involving the legs on a chair, a rubber duck, and reaming. He glints at Gene, holding his gaze, silently challenging him. Gene hastily looks away. Leonard crosses his arms and pretends to ignore them.
It’s the sound of a scuffle that alerts their attention. A strangled call and syncopated crash. All three men leap to their feet, but Leonard’s the only one with speed on his side. He flings himself through the door before Sam can warn him against it, waving a gun he doesn’t know how to use in the air. Gene, who was situated closer to the door, is next.
Sam rushes as fast as his weakened body allows to see a tall black-haired man matching the description given to them of Billy Baker pointing his shooter at Leonard’s head, Gene scowling and beginning to push Leonard to the ground, and smoke from a barrel. Sam doesn’t know what’s happened. He launches himself at the audacious tosser with thick-set shoulders, jabbing a right-hook and swinging his leg at his knee. The man crashes into a kneeling position and Sam lands him to the ground with a well-placed boot to the teeth. Sam determines him to be unconscious and immediately spins on the spot to aid his colleagues.
“You alive?” Sam asks, hushed, hand firm on Gene’s shoulder as he rolls him off Leonard.
“The jury’s still out on that one,” Gene returns and Sam almost sobs with relief. There isn’t a mark on Gene – not an additional one, at least.
“You’re a legend,” Sam chokes, teeth wide and bright in an otherwise anxious face.
“Been telling you that for months, you raging nancy-boy.”
Leonard looks dazed and winded, but he’s intact. Sam’s about to help him up when he catches movement in his peripheral vision. The man that Sam feels sure is Baker has shambled to his feet and instead of doing the wise thing and scarpering, is edging towards Sam with malice in his glare.
Sam cracks. Every last vestige of aggression Sam has grasps onto his propriety and he yells as he pushes his upper body into collision with Baker’s. He screams as he punches him in the throat, then rocks Baker’s head straight into his bent knee. This time, Baker is definitely unconscious, his breathing shallow and blood gushing out his nose.
Gene regards Sam with an expression that is vaguely terrified and impressed in equal measure.
“I think this calls for a curry,” Gene exclaims as Sam helps him up.
“You’ll wanna hold off on food,” a voice says meekly. Three sets of eyes turn to the erstwhile shopkeeper, Jack. “That bloke just said he’s set a bomb.”
“He said there’s a bomb,” Leonard repeats.
“I know what he sodding said,” Gene barks. “How? Where?”
“You’ll have to ask him, I’m afraid.”
It’s only at that moment that Sam realises Jack’s bleeding from a wound set just below his heart.
Next Part: Billy Liar