Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 2,519 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash. A continuation of We Both Go Down Together, Red Right Ankle, How I Dreamt I Was an Architect and Of Angels and Angles. The title is from The Decemberists' song, which in turn is most likely a reference to the book by Keith Waterhouse. Intertextuality out the wazoo.
Sam isn’t especially happy to find himself once more in a hospital room. The air still smells grey, though now he can detect sub-smells of excrement and blood that the liberal dose of disinfectant and detergent are attempting to mask. Unlike the days he spent here, where human contact was minimal and contained, there are several people housed in the cramped area; a bed-bound man, himself, Gene, Leonard and Nurse Gloria
In an adjacent room is Billy Baker, despite Sam’s vehement remonstration against such an action. Billy has remained unconscious, is currently deemed harmless, and they don’t have any other space. There are two uniformed police officers stationed there by Ray on direct orders given by the Super.
“Is he gonna die?” Leonard asks, pointing at Jack with wide eyes.
“No,” Gene says quietly. Sam can tell he doesn’t believe it.
Jack lies, skin blanket white and limbs unmoving. He reminds Sam of when he first saw Gene after their rescue and Sam turns to concentrate on the heart-rate monitor. He sees Gene patting Jack’s foot in his peripheral vision.
“You’ll be right as rain in the morning.” Gene takes a deep breath and claps his hands together. “Right, time to get some answers out of the gobshite across the way.”
A voice halts their movement. “Mr Hunt, I’m not entirely sure that’s a good idea.”
The doctor. Sam glares at him, sucking in his cheeks and imagining something unpleasant he heard once involving some chair legs, a rubber duck, and reaming.
“You have sustained a great deal of trauma in the short period you’ve spent outside the hospital. You belong in a bed of your own,” the doctor continues.
“I’ll delegate the really rough stuff,” Gene replies, rolling his eyes.
“Really, Mr Hunt, I have to put my foot down,” the doctor asserts, taking hold of Gene’s arm.
Before Sam can say or do anything to stop him, Gene pretends reconciliation. He leans closer to the doctor and grasps his shoulder. A second later he lifts his good foot and brings it down on the doctor’s with a grunt.
The doctor shrieks in pain and bends over, his eyes watering. Gene roughly shoves him closer to Jack’s bed as he gestures towards Gloria.
“Get the other officers in here,” the doctor says in the strangled voice of humiliation.
Gloria scuttles out of the room and returns with the unsuspecting plods.
“Do anything and die,” Gene snarls.
The woodentops remain wooden, both scared rigid.
“Don’t know what’s going on, Sir,” one states bravely.
“This man is under arrest!” the doctor screams. Sam bites his lip to keep a handle on his burgeoning amusement.
“No, he’s not. Go back to guarding Baker - that’s where you’re really needed,” Sam says, taking charge. The woodentops follow his orders with rapid strides. The doctor opens his mouth in outrage, but Sam silences him with a warning finger. “Your attempt to manhandle my colleague here could be construed as assaulting a police officer. Such an action carries an instant prison sentence.”
The doctor flounders, Gene nods at Sam, showing appreciation for the support, and the woodentops bound back into the room.
Sam slaps his hand against his face and drags it down, groaning. His life is a ‘Carry On’ film with slightly less innuendo and more sobbing.
They don’t run. They want to run. They limp. And order for all exits to be sealed. And yell some obscenities – though mostly that’s Gene, snatching a crutch from a nearby elderly man and thundering down the corridor. Sam catches him up and adds more of his support, which consists of shouting for people to get out of the way and opening doors. The doctor doesn’t follow or try to stop them and Sam hopes that indicates he’s learnt his lesson.
It takes fifteen minutes, but eventually Leonard finds Billy in one of the many cleaner’s closets, amongst cloth and mops. Gene grabs him by the scruff of his neck and hauls him onto a trolley.
Billy’s the kind of man who thinks creating fear is a perfectly acceptable form of human expression, but he doesn’t appreciate the technique being used on him. He squints at Gene with his piggy eyes, wrinkles his piggy nose, and when Gene twists his finger, squeals like a pig. He reminds Sam of bacon, freshly fried.
“A bomb, Billy. What of it?”
“Not gonna tell you nothing.”
“Oh dear, is that the case? Guess I’ll have to sort it so that you are going to tell us something.”
Billy opens his mouth and Gene sticks his finger in at the corner, making Billy his fish on a hook. He drags him to the opposite wall before he has time to bite and smashes his head three times, pauses, and then shoves four more times for good measure.
“Bomb. You. Answers. Now,” Gene booms, rubbing his spit-drenched hand on his trouser leg.
Blood gurgles out of Billy’s mouth as he speaks. “Set to go off at four, Roach Textiles, Heathfield Road.”
The uniformed police officers come around the corner, mercifully holding cuffs and listening intently to Gene’s orders that they extract some very specific information. He wants Billy’s accomplices and he wants them yesterday. They haul Billy back towards his room and he doesn’t stop them, possibly out of desperation to get as far away from Gene as possible.
“Another textiles factory – has to be a link,” Sam says, but Gene acts like he can hardly see him.
“I am not going to let them explode another part of my city,” he mutters, cracking his knuckles. “Better get on the blower to Ray, organise bomb squad, evacuate the area.”
It’s the most organised Sam has ever seen him.
“Why’re they doing it?” Leonard questions, his lips pursing together and his forehead furrowed as he props himself under Gene’s arm without being asked. “Shouldn’t we ask him?”
“Who gives a toss?”
“I do, for one,” Sam interjects, following them down the corridor at a steady pace. “If we know why, we can predict how and where and what the weather’ll be like and any other query we’ve got.”
Gene stares at him, this time seeing him, with utter contempt in the expression. “Oh yeah, Samuel, find out that Billy’s mother used to spank his little bottie and we’ve all the ammunition we need for why he’d turn criminal.”
“I was thinking more in the way of monetary value.”
“Right then, Gladys, you go ask. Make sure you find out which shampoo he uses and the last flick he saw down the Odeon. Leave the real work to the big boys.”
Sam tilts his head and looks up at the ceiling. He could let Gene’s words get to him, or he could do his job.
He does a little of both. He quickly scrawls out a list of questions on his notepad to press into the hand of one of the bobbies, then rushes to get to the Cortina before Leonard puts the pedal to the metal. Since arriving to help on that first fateful day, Leonard has turned into a full-fledged maniac on the roads, a fact that appears to please Gene immensely. Sam wonders if it’s the car, the pressure, or Gene practicing hypnotism. Traffic is clogged and Leonard darts from clear space to free spot like a man possessed.
They have three hours and it seems like this is a day when everyone who ever thinks they might need a tub of margarine or canister of vim decides this is the very minute to buy it. Sam never noticed how many people were to be found on the streets of Manchester until ruminating on the risk of them losing limbs. Children, above all, skipping between parents with high-pitched voices screaming delight, cause a chill to shudder down his spine.
They screech to a halt across the street from Roach’s, already cordoned off. Ray’s there, looking flustered. Chris is obviously trying to be helpful, shooing people away from the cordon in an exaggerated mime. They shrug their shoulders and stare blankly at him, even as he waves his badge.
“There might be a big bang soon,” Chris says to the elderly woman in front of him, spreading his hands in a mushroom cloud. “Well, not that soon, a couple of hours, but it’s really best you get along now, or you’ll get bits of plaster in your hairnet.”
“I wanna see it!” she responds, like nails scraping down a washboard.
“No you sodding well do not,” Gene shouts, right by her ear. She jumps and smashes him with her bag.
“Nasty swine! Give a woman a heart-attack!”
“If that shifts you, I’ll go again louder,” Gene barks. She gives him a look that suggests she’s thinking of hitting him again, but she shuffles away, grumbling the entire time. Gene turns back to the members of CID attempting to evacuate the area, managing to make his hobbling impressively menacing. He’s at maximum projection, which Sam likens to the trumpet of an angry elephant through a megaphone. “Is it just me or are you lot totally bloody useless?”
Sam leaves Gene to co-ordinate, knowing he’d only be seen as getting in the way, and looks at Leonard staring anxiously towards the opposite building.
“Leonard? Go home. We’ll be waiting a while – it’s not like we’ll need to be driven anywhere, but if we are, we can always get one of the boys to take us.”
Leonard turns to him, eyes cold. “I’ll be fine.”
“Look, you never signed up for this.”
“You’re as bad as he is, in your own way,” Leonard mutters, moustache quivering as he sticks his thumb in Gene’s direction.
“What? I most certainly am not.”
“Yeah, you are, Sam.”
Sam stares at Leonard. Of all the conceited, pig-headed, ungrateful… he checks himself. Maybe Leonard has a point.
“I’m just trying to make sure you come out of this intact,” he says, sounding more wounded than he intends to.
“Noble gesture, I’m sure. You’ve protected me before, I know you have, but this –” Leonard points at his hearing aid, “doesn’t suddenly make me useless.”
“I never suggested it did. I just --- you’re not a copper.”
“Tell me when coppers who aren’t on bomb squad were magically more equipped to deal with things going bang and I’ll bow down to your wisdom.”
Sam twitches. Part of him wants to pat Leonard on the back and another wants to punch him out. “Not leaving, then?”
“You’re either brave or insane.”
Leonard grins, making Sam feel it’s definitely the latter, but then he squares his shoulders. “I’ve not had many experiences. Not many positive ones. I’ve been on the outskirts all my life. Here, I’m a part of something.”
Sam swallows. He wants to tell Leonard that the ‘something’ isn’t wonderful. The ‘something’ brings to mind tight, confined spaces and dust – so much dust – and words that shouldn’t have been spoken and actions that shouldn’t have been taken. And blood. And pain. And a situation that means Gene isn’t talking to him, not like he once did. He stares at Gene and envies him his total absorption. Sam’s mind is swirling with hundreds of thoughts clamouring for attention; what it felt like, not feeling his feet, how his throat was blocked, how he was so sure he was going to die, how he was so sure Gene was dead.
Sam takes a deep breath, rubs his sore eyes, and suddenly, running around playing cop doesn’t seem all that fun anymore. Better to leave it to the professionals.
No. What’s he thinking? He’s Sam Tyler: Duracell Bunny, powering on whilst all other bunnies power down. Except that it’s years before this analogy will make sense to those around him. And actually, would probably garner him a glare and a punch.
Bomb squad arrive within the hour, suitably kitted up. They canvas the area, tell Gene to get back beyond the cordon with everyone else. Gene Hunt doesn't do compromise. He's not best pleased. He rants about it for an hour or more, head moving more erratically than usual as he attempts to look at everything at once. Sam might describe him as furtive, if he ever thought such a description could be used without Gene instinctively knowing and striking him down.
“You’re looking queasy,” Gene says, eyeing Sam quickly and proffering his flask.
“Feeling queasy,” Sam admits.
“Are you always this supportive or is this a new trait brought on by brain damage?”
Gene grabs the flask off Sam as he’s mid-swig and places it back in his pocket. “Wanna talk about it?” he mocks, lip curling derisively.
“Surely you must have some idea how I feel,” Sam says. Despite his very best attempt at giving the impression, Gene is not an emotionless lump of clay. Sam knows this from personal experience.
“I never know how you feel,” Gene says. The tone of his voice gives the impression he’s not joking.
As time passes, Sam gets more wound up. The memories overcome him and he can sense his grip on calm reflection of what’s happening beginning to dwindle. A horrible thought occurs to him – the art of misdirection. What if Billy had said Roach’s to get them off the track? He’d have to be mad, surely, but then, you had to be mad to knowingly endanger a DCI and DI, right? And it isn’t just Billy, there are two others working with him, and he and Gene and Leonard - they haven’t done any research, they don’t really know who they’re up against, and they have those employment records they’ve never properly looked through, that Gene would never look through, and this is another textiles factory, there has to be a connection, and within the hour, if bomb squad can’t defuse the bomb, there will be another explosion, and no, he isn’t in the damn building this time, but he’s still close.
He tells himself to suck it up and grow a pair. It’s almost like Gene speaking in his mind. He wouldn’t put it past him.
Sam glances at his watch, then the building, then his watch again. Twenty minutes to go.
“This is all too sickeningly familiar.”
“Good thing there’s no one here for you to taunt,” Gene grunts. “On second thoughts, Little Lenny, how’d you like to do some reconnaissance work?”
Leonard ignores him. Sam wonders if he’s turned off his hearing aid to get some peace. He wishes it were an option he could take, even better if it could drown out his own inner voice.
Bomb squad are scattered to the right and the left when the explosives go off, fifteen minutes before schedule. There a plume of smoke and dust, a sudden rush of fire spiralling into the sky. Sam’s aware of shouting above the thumping of his heart. Leonard stands tall beside him, looking on in horror. Sam looks at Gene and sees a reflection of his own shock replaced by anger.
“I’m gonna kill him,” Gene roars. Sam can’t help but think it’s true.
Next Part: The Perfect Crime #2