Fandom: Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Word Count: 1450 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene implied. For strangeumbrella. Title from Jimi Hendrix’s "Little Wing".
“So, you were telling me about that band you had as a kid.”
Sam took a deep breath, attempting again to get his hand free. He only needed one. It wouldn’t budge. “No, I wasn’t. You wrung the words from my lips.”
“Yeah, well, can’t help but be curious when you casually mention things like ‘I am creative, I used to be in a band’. What did you used to play? Or were you the lead singer? I can see you as a crooner.”
Sam wriggled in his seat, the rope cutting into his wrists. “Guitar. I played guitar. Now shut up and help me, Gene, or so help me God, I’ll do something drastic.”
Sam bowed his head. “I don’t know.” He looked back up when he felt Gene rocking from side to side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.“
And the chair crashed to the left, the wood cracking, but not splintering.
Half an hour later, Sam was furiously kicking, trying to gain leverage. His biceps ached, his ribs were sore, he could feel the heat of Gene’s shoulders against his own, and Gene wouldn’t stop talking. He’d been in some relatively terrible situations before – on the other side of a screen as Ray sucked face with their target, on the receiving end of a kidney punch by some bloke who thought he was being a perve, with Chris on stake-out for nine hours – but this, this managed to be ten times worse than any of that.
“I said to him, I said, if you don’t cram a fist in it, I’m gonna show you what’s what ‘til you’re seeing stars. And that’s how I got my first ---“
“I don’t wanna know!”
“Job.” Gene was infuriatingly still. Sam just about felt his head tilt to the side and Gene’s voice got slightly louder. “Are you still at it?”
“We can escape if we put together a united front.”
Gene sounded amused. “Bit difficult, back to back.”
“Maybe, but not impossible.”
“Nah, we’ll wait for ‘em to cut us free.”
“And kill us.”
“You maybe. Not me.”
“You are a git and I hate you.”
Gene chuckled. Sam felt the vibration and kicked forward again, annoyed that he couldn’t kick back.
“How old were you when you played guitar in a band?”
“We’re not onto that again, are we?”
“Yeah. How old?”
“Fifteen. Well, no, actually, I’d been playing since I was eleven with a friend of my Auntie’s, but, uh, formed a band out of mates from school that’d play the local gentlemen’s clubs. There were four of us. Mickey the drummer, Toby the keyboardist, Terrence the bassist and singer, and me, on guitar and back-up.“ Sam paused as he felt Gene writhing. “You okay?”
“Dying for a fag. I’ll be fine. Continue. What style’d you play?”
“The usual, you know, T Rex and Bowie, The Sweet.”
“Could see into the future, could you?” Gene asked, tone edged with exasperation.
“How could you possibly be playing that load of noise when they’d not released any songs yet?”
“Oh. Oh. I meant their contemporaries. Uh... Cliff Richard? Elvis. Other musicians from the 50s.”
“Right. How come you’ve not serenaded us, then?”
Sam frowned to himself, fairly sure he didn’t want to admit to Gene that he was afraid of being mocked mercilessly.“I stopped playing guitar years ago.”
“Why? If you pride yourself on being creative, I’d’ve thought you’d’ve continued in your spare time, like.”
“I’m not actually all that good.”
“Liar. You? If you were gonna be in a band, you’d make bloody sure you were note perfect, timing perfect, in every single way.”
Sam snorted. He had long stopped trying to get free of his bindings, instead, resting his head back against Gene’s and breathing deeply. “Didn’t have the same discerning tastes I have now. Full of myself. Used to wear these God-awful shades at school and slick my hair back – it was really wavy then – still is, actually, which is why I keep it short – and I was a right poser.”
“You’re saying this as if it should be a shock to my system,” Gene said, his voice thick with amusement. “If I tell you you haven’t changed, Sam, what’ll you do?”
“Bite you. Hard.”
“I might enjoy that.”
Gene wriggled again. “Would you play for me?”
“Tied up at the moment.”
“Yeah, but, when we get out of this.”
“If we get out of this.”
“Look, it’s your standard blag. They’d’ve killed us by now if they were going to. We wait it out, they let us go, we go after them.”
“We better,” Sam intoned grimly. “I’m not letting them get away with another jewellery heist.” He struggled once more against the ropes, but only succeeded in rubbing his and Gene’s hands together.
“Gene, why are we here?” Alex asked, looking at her surroundings, her lip curling in distaste. “You said you had leads, so I came with you, but so far all we’ve been doing is going from one club to the next.”
Gene whirled around, practically snarling. “That’s my lead, alright? Clubs. That’s it. I’ll go to every damn one if I have to.”
Alex forced her voice into a calm and reasonable tone that counteracted the hysteria inside. Lately, Gene had been bordering on psychopathic, and she had spent long enough with him to know how to read the signs. He was on edge and it made her just as tense.
“I don’t understand. If you let me know what’s going on, I might be able to help you.”
“I don’t want your help, Bolly. I want to find ---“ Gene stopped in his tracks, his eyes staring towards the stage area of the club and his mouth open. “Sam.”
Alex span on her heel, arching an eyebrow. There were four teenagers on the stage, setting up instruments. A pudgy teen with blond hair who was adjusting cymbals, another thinner boy who was connecting cables to an amplifier, one redhead standing tall, strumming on a bass guitar, and the one Gene was looking at intently – gaunt cheeks, slicked back wavy hair, dark brown serious-looking eyes.
Gene surged forward, nearly knocking over several tables, finally thumping himself down into a chair by the stage. Alex had no choice but to follow him.
“Is he your lead?”
Gene didn’t answer. His eyes were still fixed on the guitar-wielding youth, an odd glimmer dancing in their depths. Alex huffed out a sigh and decided not to force the issue. It had taken a lot of willpower to learn when to fight and when to let Gene be.
The band began tuning and after another two minutes started to play. There were no words exchanged, no explanations. The band wasn’t especially good, but then, they didn’t look out of secondary school, so that was unsurprising. They played “Jean Genie” and “Rebel Rebel”. The lead singer sounded like a cat on steroids.
The guitarist that Gene was so focussed on had some skill, but no flair. He looked nervous and uncomfortable under the gaze of the audience, like he’d prefer to be anywhere but in the spotlight. His eyes flickered onto Gene’s and that’s when Gene’s jaw twitched and he looked hurriedly away. The boy looked a combination of disturbed and confused, and started steadfastly playing towards the other side of the room. Alex frowned.
“Do you know him? He doesn’t seem to know you.”
“Sam,” Gene murmured again, and this time, Alex realised.
“Sam? Sam Tyler? But he died --- I mean, he was a grown man and he died, you haven’t mentioned him since I came here...” Alex could feel her world crashing down. “He must be, what, fifteen? A fifteen year old Sam Tyler.”
Gene nodded, licking his lower lip and biting down on his knuckle. Alex had seen him brood before, but this was different.
“He told me, before it happened. Before he died. Told me about this. Not this, but playing, here. Something you said the other day reminded me. You talked about the future – two years time – in a knowing way. You mentioned something Sam once had about the IRA and Semtex. And I thought --- what if you weren’t both mad? What if Sam was here, like he said he’d be?” Gene’s voice cracked and he punched the table.
Alex looked back at Sam, whose gaze had shifted unerringly back onto Gene. He strummed in rhythm and tilted his head; inquisitive, examining. Gene didn’t acknowledge it.
Alex was breathless. “If I talked to him, could I go home?”
Gene finally glanced in her direction. “There’s only one way to find out.”
Alex swallowed deeply. She laid a hand on Gene’s arm. “He’s not your Sam.”
Gene stared at her with cold eyes.“No. And he might not be your salvation.”