Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 10,423 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene slash of an angsty nature. Warning: Character Death. Title from “Weather With You” by Crowded House.
Summary: Sam is finding it difficult to distinguish between reality and unreality.
It’s cold this Monday in the way it hasn’t been for years --- a deep, unremitting coldness that strikes through material and flesh straight to the bone. Gene supposes he shouldn’t be surprised as he stands in the rain, but for some reason he is. It’s cold. He’s cold. He wraps his coat tighter around himself and watches as Sam stages his reconstruction.
He’s been odd lately. Not that he ever isn’t; Sam’s default is batshit crazy. But he’s been even worse than that, and if he’s slept it doesn’t show, and Gene doesn’t know why that bothers him, but it does.
Gene knows it’s likely due to their last case. Sam took the death pretty hard, and though he wanted to be consoling, he’s fairly sure he wasn’t, because Sam might self-medicate with the rest of them, but it never seems to cure him.
Sam looks up, straight into his eyes, as if he’s aware Gene’s been thinking about him --- worrying about him. But all he does is give a grim nod and come walking over, his swagger stiffer than usual and his expression the other side of bitter.
“This reconstruction’s going about as smooth as a tranny’s arse,” Gene says, as soon as Sam’s within earshot.
“Hard not to. For all your organisational skills, Sam, you never seem to make space for the basics.”
Sam rubs a hand against his neck. “Which in this case would be..?”
“Tea and coffee for the poor bastards who comply with your every whim for a start. Checking the weather forecast for another.”
“I did check the forecast, it was meant to be sunny.”
Sam mutters something incomprehensible, pouting like a child and Gene knows he should feel no remorse, everything he’s saying is the truth. He looks down at Sam.
“I’ll go see about arranging some thermos flasks. Fix your mistakes for you.”
Gene can tell Sam’s about to say something. His mouth opens and closes. But that’s all there is and Gene walks away without looking back.
Sam puts his heater on as soon as he gets home. It’s a grotty little thing, filled with dust and grime, and it whirrs persistently in the kind of way that can never simply become background noise. He scowls at it as he strides to his kitchenette and begins making something quick to eat. He settles on cheese on toast.
Another day in the deep, dark depths of hell. Trying to make a difference. But he hasn’t, of course, because that would mean actually being able to change things --- and either everyone’s too stubborn, or he’s not stubborn enough. Just what does it take? For a short time, he had thought he had a reason for being here, but he has lately been shown the error of his ways and now he’s back in a monochrome world where he has no purpose.
He sits down at the table once he’s made his meal and re-reads the case notes he’s been poring over for the past three days. He keeps thinking there must be some detail he’s missing, that maybe his sight’s blurred, or that it’s too abstract for his literal mind, but every time he thinks he might just be able to see it, peeking out from his peripheral vision, it’s gone again.
He’s going to go to sleep soon. He’s going to close his eyes and everything will disappear. And when he wakes up, if he’s lucky, it will be 2006.
Sunshine peeks through the cracks at the edges of the curtains and darts against the wall. He watches the strobes of light with a small, confused frown.
It’s warm today. He’s almost tempted to leave his jacket off as he walks out the door of his flat. He spots kids playing hopscotch on the pavement on the journey to work and finds himself smiling at the carefree laughter, energetic movements and cries of delight. He remembers this --- not him, it was hardly ever him --- but the others, with leaves through their hair, scrapes on their knees and Strikas leaning against the bricked walls of their houses. The uncomplicated life of youth. Sam had always been a little too serious, planning for his future, drawing up lists for how he could achieve his goals. He realises this, but he doesn’t regret it.
At the station, Sam’s greeted by a warm smile.
“You look decidedly happy today, Gene. Did you win at the races? Uncover plans for mass Manchester domination? Read an article humiliating Litton? Better yet, did my reconstruction work?”
Gene gives a slight frown. “There’s no reason. I’m just smiling.” He comes to walk next to Sam and clasps a hand on his shoulder, but not roughly like he has many times before, just so it settles there, gently steering.
“Because that happens all the time,” Sam says with sarcasm, then realising he’s being propelled somewhere, “where’re we going?”
“Interview room. We’ve a suspect for the Kelly case.”
Sam doesn’t remember a Kelly case. He also doesn’t remember Gene ever referring to Lost and Found as an interview room. It’s both unsurprising and shocking when that isn’t their destination. Instead they arrive at a small room with a PC standing by the door, a desk, and a tape recorder. Behind the desk is a thin man Sam has never set eyes on before.
Gene conducts the interview and Sam stares. He’s professional. He’s polite. He makes Howard aware of all of his rights. He’s firm, and quiet, and scary for entirely different reasons to normal. Sam gapes at him, open-mouthed, unable to understand what’s going on.
Sam waits until they’re in the lift together before he begins his interrogation. “Gene, have I gone anywhere recently?”
Gene considers this, widening his eyes. “No. Why, did you want to? I’m sure you’re up for leave at some point soon.”
“Have I been hit in the head?”
“Not that I’m aware of. Are you feeling ill?” Gene presses a hand against Sam’s forehead and Sam stills. He can feel every pulse of blood through his veins as Gene leans closer and peers into his eyes. “You look alright. You’re not running a fever. Still, I best be giving you lighter duties, if you’re coming down with something. Can you take care of typing up those reports you promised me?”
The lift stops and they step out, Sam finding it difficult to breathe. Something’s happened and he doesn’t know what. He gazes at everything as if he’s seeing it all anew. Was that drinks dispenser always there? What about that noticeboard?
Gene turns to Sam before the doors of CID. “I’m off to go talk to that witness, Sophie. You manage this lot whilst I’m gone.”
In CID Annie is chatting with two other women Sam surmises must be other female detectives, given that she’s not treating them as suspects, and they’re wearing plain clothes.
Sam sits down at his desk, looking at the neat and orderly piles of paperwork and wondering how and when he arrived in a whole new world.
The day is spent observing everyone around him, and time seems to flash by as Sam finishes typing up reports for cases that for all intents and purposes were efficient and successful. He marvels at how familiar and right everything feels, even though, logically, he knows it’s all wrong. He tries to find out more, but it’s difficult to do without appearing barmy, and he doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t want to ruin this.
It’s late afternoon by the time he sees Gene again, striding through CID and coming to perch on the edge of Sam’s desk.
“You feeling any better?” Gene asks, sounding genuinely concerned. The answer should be no, but Sam nods, attempting a wan smile. “Great, you can come down the pub, then.”
Gene takes Sam by the arm again and Sam can’t help but look at the hand by his elbow.
“Gene, are you sure I... haven’t been acting strangely lately?” Sam asks once they’re heading to the Arms.
“Should you have been?”
“No, it’s just...” Sam peters off, not knowing how to express what he wants to say. It’s just that Gene would usually have punched him about now, that it’s meant to be autumn, not sunny, and the only female detective is Annie, and only then because Sam fought for her inclusion.
Gene’s response simply adds to the confusion. “I know it’s a hard ask, Sam, but we’ve gotta be discreet.”
Gene gives a bark of a laugh. “See, this is why we’re a team.”
It doesn’t answer Sam’s question, but it does make him feel good.
It’s brighter. That should be consolation, at least. The wind isn’t so biting, so cruel. Gene steps out onto the gravel and lights his third cigarette of the day. Today, with any luck, they’ll make some headway with the murder enquiry. Maybe Sam’s stunt wasn’t so useless after all. It’s wishful thinking, but that’s all Gene has sometimes, not that he’d admit it.
What he needs, what he really needs, is some scotch, but all three of his flasks are empty. He powers up the steps and into the station, waving hello to Phyllis and Dennis and making his way to CID. It’s early, earlier than he usually gets in, so only Chris, Geoff and Paul are there. He knows Sam would normally be there too, so he casts his eyes around, but can’t see him.
In his office he spends a few minutes filling his flasks and isn’t all that surprised when his door bursts open and Sam stands, looking a few cards short of a full deck.
“Gene?” Sam asks, and it’s a pathetic sound that makes Gene want to walk over there and squeeze him. He’s not sure if it’s a desire to cause pain or the opposite.
Instead he raises an eyebrow. “You look like shit warmed up.”
Sam squints, his lips forming an ‘oh’, but then he steps forward. “What day is it?” he asks, as if it’s a perfectly ordinary thing to ask, and not at all an indication you’re completely off your rocker.
“Tuesday,” Gene returns, knowing he may as well play along with Sam’s little game. Sam frowns, then nods to himself, and the look of dejection that crosses his face is painful, even though Gene has no idea why it’s there.
Sam settles onto Gene’s sofa, rubbing his hands through his hair. “Have you ever had a dream that was so real, you could taste it? You could feel every touch?”
“I once had a nightmare I was rutting into my old schoolmarm. She was built like a brick shithouse and well over sixty. I woke up drenched in sweat, clutching tightly onto my pillow. That was about as real as it gets.”
Sam groans. “That’s not what I meant.”
Gene ignores this, ignores the plaintive whine of Sam’s voice. “I want you down at Lost and Found. We’re reinterviewing Carlisle.”
“I don’t think we’ve wrenched everything out of him yet.”
“You’ve given up on me being right about Hopkins, then?”
Gene doesn’t know how to sugarcoat this, so he doesn’t bother. “Of course.”
“It’s not like you’ve never been wrong before. You act like I should always do whatever you say, agree with whatever you think, but you’ve made monumental mistakes before now, putting my officers and yourself at risk. You’ve almost been shot in the head countless times, even by people you’ve been trying to help. Forgive me for not always trusting you’ve the right idea.”
Sam looks up, bleary-eyed. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ll be out of your way.” He stands, arching back his shoulders and rubbing against his stubble with one hand.
“No, don’t. Just...” Gene doesn’t know how to get Sam to stay, doesn’t really understand why he wants him to. He strolls over, doing his best to remain casual, and proffers a glass of whisky.
“It’s nine in the morning,” Sam says, scathingly.
“It’s not like you don’t need it.”
Sam spins around and is out the door before Gene can say anything else.
It must have been a dream. The best dream he ever had. A place where he was wanted and needed. Treated with kindness and respect. Sam rolls his head back and scrunches up his eyes, trying not to cry. It would be so easy to let it all out.
But it’s dangerous to show emotion. Even more dangerous to show this kind of emotion in a testosterone filled station where he has thugs for colleagues.
He interviews Carlisle, not because he wants to do what Gene told him to, but because he wants to solve the case. It’s a wash-out and he isn’t in the least surprised. Carlisle doesn’t know anything, he’d figured that out from the start. Hopkins is their bloke, but Gene’s too thick-headed to listen to reason.
He doesn’t go to the Arms after a long day of avoiding Gene. Can’t bear it. Can’t put on a fake smile and act like everything’s okay. He gets fish and chips and goes to the flat to eat them, watching the television in a near catatonic state.
He had thought he fell asleep watching television, but as Sam wakes up he realises he’s in bed with the lights turned on.
It’s not his cot. It’s too comfortable to be his cot. The pillow underneath his head is soft. The blankets over his chest are warm. And the body next to his is breathing rhythmically, rising and falling with what feels like a gentle ebb and flow.
It’s Gene. Sam can smell him, cigarette smoke and aftershave, and the unique scent that can be overpowering at times, but is pleasant now. Sam rocks onto his shoulder and gazes at Gene’s face, soft in repose, eyelashes long and thick against his cheeks, mouth slack and open. He watches him for a long time, thinking about what it must feel like to card his fingers through that hair, or caress the stubble along his jaw. Their legs are entwined and the heat radiating from Gene sends a shiver down Sam’s spine.
So this is what he meant by needing to be discreet.
Gene awakens with a dozy smile, automatically reaching out and pressing a kiss against Sam’s lips, and for a dream world, the details are amazing, because Sam’s tempted to tell Gene to brush his teeth. He doesn’t, he just stares when Gene pulls away and contemplates kissing him again, this time with a little more passion.
“What time is it?” Gene asks and Sam looks at the clock behind him.
“Just after three.”
“Shit. I’ll drive you back. Our clothes are in the lounge as far as I can remember.”
Sam gazes as Gene gets out of bed and enjoys the view of him stretching, yawning as he pads to the door. He follows soon after, wrapping one hand around Gene’s waist and leaning into him. He figures he’ll make the most of it whilst he can.
They dress and leave, chatting amiably in the Cortina. Sam gives Gene a longing look when they roll to a stop outside his flat.
“I’ll see you in a few hours,” Gene says, taking hold of Sam’s wrist and rubbing his thumb against the pulse. “And then we’ll get started on sorting out those suspects for the Kelly case. I reckon you’re onto a winner with it being his cousin. There’s too many loose ends suggesting it’s someone close.”
“I look forward to it,” Sam answers with a smile, and he’s about to kiss Gene again before he realises it’s probably a bad idea on an inner city street, even if it is early in the morning.
He’s not answering his phone, but the landlady didn’t see him go. Sam must still be sleeping, which is a blessing and a curse. Blessing, because he might just lose the purple bags under his eyes and stop looking so damn exhausted. Curse, because Hopkins just went missing. There’s a chance. A small, but significant chance, that Sam was right.
Gene doesn’t bother knocking. He gives the door the shoulder and stumbles into the room, and there Sam is, sprawled out on his bed half naked. Not asleep, though.
“There you are,” he says with a soppy grin, and the next moment Gene’s pushed onto the cot and Sam’s settling onto his lap. He should be pushing him off, but he’s too shocked to move. And he won’t admit it, out loud or to himself, but he likes the warmth and weight of Sam. “Missed you,” Sam says, before tangling his hand into Gene’s hair and kissing him.
The kiss is soft and supple and Gene arches into it, even as he contemplates whacking Sam over the head and running for cover. Sam’s tongue teases at Gene’s teeth and he opens his mouth, allowing the access so obviously craved. It’s everything Gene thought it would be, which is bad enough in itself. He can feel Sam getting hard and knows that’s worse.
He pulls away, steadying his hands on Sam’s hips. “Hopkins has disappeared.”
“Hopkins?” Sam looks confused, his brow creasing. Then his eyes widen and he climbs off hurriedly. “I... sorry.” He looks like he’s going to be sick.
Gene shrugs. It takes a lot of willpower and he’d prefer to wrap Sam in his arms and tell him not to be.
“Get dressed. We’ll go do a search in all the likely places.”
Sam can’t look at Gene. He fixates on the streets whirling by. He’s fucked up. He’s really fucked up. He should be thankful he’s still alive. He sucks in a deep breath and tries to concentrate on the case, piecing together what he knows of Hopkins and how this might help them find him. It distracts him for a good three minutes.
Maybe he could explain? No, the explanation isn’t particularly helpful either. “I only mauled you because I thought you were the nice Gene,” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it, even though it’s true when it comes to the technical details.
“Where was he last seen?” Sam ventures, eyes staring pointedly away from anywhere near Gene.
“Market Street,” Gene answers, and he sounds distant. Sam’s memory flickers to Market Street and the last time he was there; the shouting and commotion, the indecision. He shakes his head and tries to banish those thoughts, the memory of the trigger against his finger.
They don’t speak for most of the day, even though they’re alone. They only talk when they have to talk, and that’s when exchanging information in short, sharp sentences that leave no room for alternative interpretation. Sam catches Gene staring at him once or twice, but looks away immediately.
They don’t find Hopkins. Wherever he’s gone, he’s found a good hiding place, and they just don’t have the contacts. Gene drops Sam off at his flat without asking and Sam doesn’t even bother with dinner, just crashes onto the cot and wraps himself up, willing sleep to come.
The sun streaming through the window is enough to tell Sam he’s back where he wants to be. He smiles to himself and stretches, noting how his muscles aren’t sore and there isn’t an ache in his bones; these conditions he’s become so used to living with, day in, day out. He decides a wash is in order, so he runs a quick bath and shaves as he’s waiting for the tub to fill. It takes him a while to realise that none of the tiles in this bathroom are cracked, and in fact, the entire flat looks neat and almost home-like.
The telephone rings and Sam answers it, cradling the receiver between his head and shoulder as he dries his hair. “Sam speaking.”
“Need you at the station sharpish, Sammy-boy. Kelly’s cousin has been spotted at the Seven Stars. I need your tactical skills up and at ‘em.”
In the next moment, Sam is driving the Aston Martin he found the keys for towards the station. He feels like Bond. Only nine times cooler, because he wears a leather jacket. He swerves to a halt and runs up the concrete steps of the station, only to collide head on with the solid trunk of Gene’s body. Gene’s hands wrap around his shoulders and he raises an eyebrow, surveying Sam keenly.
“There you are, good. We’re off to the Seven Stars straight away.”
“We’ll take my car.”
“Sure.” Gene doesn’t let go of Sam’s right shoulder, but uses it to follow Sam back down the steps. The touch is warm and comforting and Sam presses into it. They stop by the Aston Martin and Gene holds his hand out. “Hand over the keys, then.”
Sam’s shocked. “What? No, I’m driving.”
Gene twists his mouth up. “You drive like a div.”
“Tough titties, we either take my car with me behind the wheel, or we take yours with you.”
“Fine, we’ll go in the Cortina.” Gene begins walking to the Cortina and Sam watches, perplexed. This is tame compared to what he’s used to, but this is also the Gene that’s proved himself to be kind and conscientious, so it doesn’t fit with his preconceived notions of what should be happening and how. It takes a full minute before he realises that Gene’s not going to budge, gloved hands poised on the steering wheel, and Sam climbs into the car, muttering obscenities.
“Sourpuss,” Gene says, then settles a hand on Sam’s thigh. “I’ll get you grinning soon as the day’s out.”
Sam doesn’t doubt it, doesn’t really want to, and leans back in the car seat, prepared to spend the trip to the Seven Stars grumble-free.
It doesn’t take long to get to the small pub with the ornate but battered sign out the front and several locals standing within the doors, ready to pounce on intruders should they put up a fuss.
“We’re looking for Tim Kelly,” Gene tells the barman, leaning against the counter and affecting an insistent, but unaggressive air.
“Haven’t seen him.”
“A little birdie told me he was here.”
Sam looks around the pub at the leering faces and notices one that’s turned away towards the wall, jacket collar pulled up. He touches Gene’s arm and points. Gene pivots, following his line of sight and stalking meaningfully towards the figure.
“Kelly, it’s best for you if you come without a hassle.”
“Don’t think so, DCI Hunt,” Kelly returns.
Sam’s horrified to see that he’s pulling a gun from underneath his jacket and aiming it at Gene. It’s a split second decision, but Sam makes it without truly thinking. He launches himself into Gene, pushing him to the ground, as the crack of gunfire rings through the air. There’s the sound of a chair dragging against the wooden floor, then quick-paced footfall, and a slam of a door. Sam swallows deeply, listening to his own heartbeat as it batters against his ribcage.
Gene rolls over and takes Sam with him, his eyes wide and startled. He lifts his hand and touches the side of Sam’s head and it stings so badly, Sam’s eyes water. He dimly recognises his own blood on Gene’s fingers as they come back in front of him.
“What were you thinking?” Gene asks, voice unnaturally high.
“Nothing much at all,” Sam replies. He reaches up and feels the graze for himself, knowing but unable to understand that if it had only been another inch, he’d be dead. “We better go after him, he’s a lunatic.”
“You need to be seen to.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, you won’t. I’m taking you to a doctor, and if you even think of complaining, I’ll tape your mouth shut, alright?”
Gene radios the station and gives Phyllis the description of Tim Kelly, then asks Ray and Chris if they can come to the Seven Stars to conduct interviews. Sam watches as he works efficiently, co-ordinating as if it’s second nature. And it is, he knows it is, but this time Gene’s even doing all of the things Sam would ordinarily feel the need to suggest, without any prompting.
They’re at the hospital before long, Sam being tended to by an irascible and over-worked doctor, who informs him in no uncertain terms that all he needs is a scotch for the shock and a plaster.
“Lazy git,” Gene mutters darkly, eyes almost murderous as he escorts Sam to the Cortina. “Let’s see him get shot and see how he reacts then.”
“I wasn’t shot.”
“You could’ve been, you dopey dick. Just what was going through your mind, eh? You’ve been odd lately and it’s not only annoying, it’s downright disturbing.” Gene starts the car, navigating out of the car park with ease. “I’m not used to seeing you so reckless and... I don’t know. You look so bloody miserable.”
Sam raises his eyebrows and doesn’t comment.
“I’m dropping you off at your flat,” Gene continues. “And you stay there until I come for you, okay? No gallivanting off on your lonesome.”
Sam is more than tempted to tell Gene where to shove it, but he whiles away the hours cooking, because it turns out he has a whole range of interesting ingredients. For the main meal, he makes Ropa Vieja, one of the many dishes he learnt in Mexico. He labours over chocolate cheesecake for dessert.
Gene arrives just as Sam’s finishing the washing up. “We caught the bastard boarding a bus,” he says, tilting his head to the side, then, “you cooked.”
Sam ignores the latter remark. “Why aren’t you interviewing him as we speak?”
Gene settles down at the dining room table, cigarette placed between his fingers, eyes intent on Sam’s every movement. “I’m liable to kick the shit out of him if I do. And we know what’ll happen then. The little shite will get off scot free, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting that happen.”
“It’s never stopped you before.”
Gene momentarily looks surprised and then scowls. “I know you’ve been through a lot today, but that doesn’t give you leeway to say whatever you like.”
“No, being a grown man gives me leeway to say whatever I like. I’m not some stuffed toy you’ve got to take care of, Gene. Prop me on the pillow and keep the vicious claws away.”
“What the fuck were you doing today if not taking care of me? What’re you doing now, making the evening meal, you stupid tosser? Funnily enough, people who love each other tend to protect one another --- strange a concept as it may seem to some.”
Sam stops what he’s doing and stares. He can’t think of a single word to say. And that’s when the phone rings.
It’s Gene on the other end of the line.
Sam crinkles up his eyes and gazes blearily around him. Rain is battering at the window and as he turns to look, he sees the curtains open and that the sky is grey.
“Tyler, you there?” Gene’s voice asks, tinny, but forceful.
“Yeah, yeah, ‘course I am. What d’you want, Gene?”
“I’ve a lead on Hopkins. Be dressed in five minutes. I’ll be there to pick you up.”
Sam rubs his head. “I’ve only just awoken, haven’t had time to wash or shave.”
“So?” Impatience winds itself through every tone of Gene’s voice. “Be ready.”
The line goes dead and Sam rolls to his side, cringing as pain shoots up his side and his head throbs.
Things are feeling decidedly fuzzy. It occurs to Sam in a split second of intelligent thought that he’s finding it hard to distinguish fiction from reality, and this is not a new sensation. Part of him has never truly believed that what he is experiencing here in 1973 is real, so that leaves him wondering --- is he living an unreal life through his dreams sleeping in another unreal world? Or is it all real? Parallel dimensions, universes, splayed out for him to journey across through time and space.
It sounds like science fiction, but so does time travel, and Sam has spent months here waiting to wake up, assaulted by sight and taste and smell that are all a little too visceral to not really exist. Except maybe they don’t. Maybe he doesn’t.
He can’t think right now, his head is still steadily drumming a flamenco and his stomach is churning. Sam stops staring at the ceiling and starts getting dressed. He’s managed to put his arms through his sleeves when Gene comes crashing through the door.
“I told you to be ready.”
“I am, almost.”
Gene’s expression is pure disgust, and Sam calmly looks back at him, taking a deliberately long moment buttoning up.
Gene’s lead is a warehouse which Hopkins may or may not have been seen entering. They talk to the workers, trying to ascertain Hopkins’ whereabouts. They’re met with the usual barely contained malice. Gene frowns as Sam sighs in resignation before they even get started.
“Not never seen him,” the last tall, burly bloke they talk to says, with a blackened eye and missing teeth. Gene weighs up attack in his mind and finds himself being steered away by Sam’s hand on his elbow.
“What’s your instinct saying?” Sam asks. Gene looks at him, noticing the dark shadows still looming under his eyes, the obvious stubble around his jaw. He wasn’t joking about just waking up, and yet, Gene knows that Sam’s usually up early, jogging. He takes another look at the last idiot they talked to and shakes his head. If he’d thought there were answers here, he’d never have hesitated, his fist would have been itching for connection.
“It’s a no go. Another dead end.”
“Square one,” Sam agrees, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back on his heel.
Gene is less than impressed with Sam’s attitude. Where once he would fight, bring up a whole host of annoying and tedious things they could be doing, now he simply complains. He knows Sam’s going through something --- not that he’s even close to sharing what the hell that is, but this is inexcusable. He wants the picky pain back, not the one who doesn’t care which way or the other. The one who’s scarred because of an old acquaintance making a reappearance that ended with tragedy.
He lurches forward and crushes the top of Sam’s arm in a vice-like grip, trying to bring him back to reality. “You want everything to be easy.”
Sam barely changes expression. “Maybe I do. So sue me. Wouldn’t it be nice, just once, Gene?”
Gene attempts to talk quietly, but he’s always louder than he intends. “Not every investigation has to end with someone getting shot.”
Sam wrenches himself free, recoiling as if to punch Gene. “Shut the fuck up.”
“No, I don’t wanna hear it. Back to the station. Now.”
Gene stands still, feeling distinctly useless --- a feeling he’s not used to experiencing and never wants to experience a second time. He keeps thinking about what he could be doing to get through to Sam and one of them attaches itself to a memory of Sam straddling him, fingers through his hair, lips against his own.
Best not to remember that one. Nose to the grindstone. Again.
Sam walks through CID and goes to perch on the edge of Gene’s desk, fiddling with the lamp. Gene isn’t there, so he waits, looking at the neat stacks of files and contemplating rifling through. He might find something they’ve been missing. He reaches out his hand, is about to pick up the top folder, and Gene comes through the door, grinning wildly.
“Cleaning up after me?” Gene asks, stepping forward and placing a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I’d’ve thought you’d’ve got over that by now. Anyway, it’s not as bad as it could be is it?”
“Why so cheerful?”
“This isn’t cheerful, dearest Samuel, this is bloody ecstatic, and you know why.”
“No, I don’t.”
Gene raises an eyebrow, his hand now softly stroking up into the hair at the back of Sam’s neck. “Tim Kelly behind bars and rock solid evidence that’ll keep him there for years? It’s enough to make me do the sodding can can. But not you, you still look like someone switched your coffee for cat crap. I know what’ll make you feel better. See you at mine in an hour.”
Sam stares at his retreating back and shakes himself loose. Gene’s in an hour. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out what’s coming, so it’s not really a surprise that his muscles seem to coil within him and his heart beats two times faster than it should.
Time seems to slow as Sam waits, finding his eyes drawn to every clock and watch within stepping distance. He fills the time with idly glancing at the folders lying on his own desk. At getting a tea and biscuit for Chris, met with a surprised opening of mouths from all in CID. It takes fifteen minutes to get to Gene’s place on foot. Waiting for those precious fifteen minutes is akin to water torture.
But soon he’s on his way, careful not to run or rush, although he’s quicker than he might be any other day, bouncing on the balls of his feet with a light gait that diminishes his habitual swagger.
When Gene opens the door and stands to the side to let him through, it takes every ounce of Sam’s willpower not to launch himself at the trunk of his body and rip his clothes off.
“This is more the kind of thing I like to see,” Gene murmurs, closing the door behind them and immediately wrapping his arms around Sam’s waist. Sam stops walking and leans back into it, feeling the heat and the soft huff of breath against his skin. Gene propels them down the hallway and his fingers loop into Sam’s waistband, just as Sam reaches back and grips the back of Gene’s head, wriggling his lower body insistently. “Anyone’d think you’ve been celibate going on seventeen years, the way you’re carrying on.”
“It feels like it,” Sam admits, revelling in the warmth and sensation, the contact he’s been craving for too long.
“As you know, I don’t like using words like ‘slag’ on the ones I love...”
Sam smiles at Gene’s self-deprecating tone. “But I’m your slag?”
“You’re my filthy little slag.” Gene punctuates each word with a nudge forward, until Sam needs to move or they’ll end up shagging in the doorway from the hall to the kitchen. Better to make it entirely into the kitchen, all things considered.
Sam twists around and jumps up onto the table in no time, threading his fingers through Gene’s hair and kissing him possessively. He winds his legs around his hips until they’re tight against one another, hardly any space at all, loving every point of contact.
“So it’s you this time, is it?” Gene asks between kisses, sounding faintly amused and more than a little distracted from his ability to construct coherent sentences.
“What d’you mean?”
“You’re taking the lead. Leading the charge. Charging in?” Gene enhances and clarifies his question by cupping Sam’s crotch.
“No,” Sam says, surprised by how quickly he can say the word. “I want you to fuck me, Gene. I really want you to fuck me.”
In order to get his point across, he methodically undoes his belt, wriggles out of his jeans and boxers and shucks his shirt and vest over his head within ten seconds flat. He then shoves Gene back and turns until he has his hands braced against the table top. He looks back meaningfully.
Sam waits as Gene makes for the oil, chuckling as he fumbles. He spreads his legs wider, every nerve in his body on edge. He can’t wait to have Gene’s fingers caressing over his skin, his cock surging in and out of him.
Gene returns to his position behind Sam, placing the bottle of oil on the surface of the table, slicking a finger down the curve of his arse.
“I like you when you’re wanton,” he growls, lips by Sam’s ear. “Spend most of the day imagining you slung over my desk, jeans around your ankles just like this, and cock hard and ready to be stroked.”
“I’d whimper as you edge into me,” Sam continues, knuckles whitening as he grips the table tighter in anticipation and Gene spreads his cheeks apart. “We couldn’t make a noise, but I’d be so tight and you’d be so thick, and we’d be trying so damn hard not to grunt.”
Gene presses a finger into Sam, breath already ragged. “You’d bite your lip to keep from making a noise, God you look gorgeous when you do that, and I’d grip you hard enough to leave bruises.” He adds another finger, opening Sam up, obviously confident with every movement.
Sam writhes, feeling sweat prickling over his back. “Why is this taking so long?”
“I don’t wanna hurt you.”
“And there’s the fundamental difference right there.”
Sam dismisses the question, pushing back onto Gene’s fingers. He adjusts his body lower, legs spread further apart, head bowed towards the table. Gene positions himself and eases into Sam carefully, seeming to know exactly how to do it to minimise pain. He takes hold of Sam’s cock and stays there for a while, pressed close into him, skin against skin. Then he begins rocking backwards and forwards, minute movements that gradually increase in speed and depth, until he’s hitting Sam’s prostate on every stroke.
He gets harder and rougher and Sam loves it, arching back into every thrust, moaning when Gene’s fingers clasp around his hips hard enough to leave bruises, just as he said they would. Gene’s hot and hard and Sam feels like he’s aware of every inch of them touching, shooting electrical signals through every nerve. He bangs into the table, but doesn’t care at all, concentrating too much on the sound of them as Gene pistons in and out, the way their bodies slide against each other, the texture of the table beneath the pads of his fingers.
Sam feels lips press to the nape of his neck and that’s it, he comes all over his chest, shuddering through the aftershocks as Gene stills and comes within him.
The sheets are damp and Sam groans in a way he hasn’t for years, tipping over the edge of the cot and onto his feet, gathering them up in arms that twinge with the exhaustion of a strenuous work-out.
Parallel dimension, definitely. There is no way in hell that could be a dream. Too many of his senses have come alive with it and if impossibility is the only thing holding him back, he has a little girl from the test card and talking radios to contend with. And maybe they’re the conduits, perhaps he’s the key between universes, stretching across infinity, forced to live in multiple places at once.
He can still smell Gene, still taste the whisky on his tongue.
Sam goes into the bathroom and shaves. What he would really like to do is go back to sleep, but that’s not going to happen without copious drug-taking, and since he’s already up, he may as well go into work. He stares at himself in the mirror and has to confess he doesn’t look close to his best. He’s beginning to understand the veiled worry in Gene’s expressions now; both Genes, if he’s perfectly honest. His skin has the oily remnants of bad diet and lack of sleep and the lines of his face are deeper.
At the station, everyone stares at him, and if he hadn’t been feeling self-conscious before, this certainly would have done the trick. Do they know? Are there suspicions about what’s happening to Sam? Or is it really just that he looks like he’s crawled out of the gutter to be with them today?
A small, malevolent part of him wants to stand on his desk and tell everyone he looks like shit warmed up because he spent all night fucking Gene, but in some ways that would be a lie, and in others it would most likely get him lynched, so he sits down at his desk instead and feigns interest in the reports splayed out for his consideration. The Kelly case might be solved, but the Hopkins case is still alive and kicking, and he hates that.
Looking through one of the reports --- he thinks it’s Ray’s --- he stumbles across a line that catches his interest. Hopkins has a cousin who lives in George Street. It could be entirely coincidental, but ‘parallel’ does suggest to Sam that certain aspects may mirror themselves from one reality to the next, so, he may as well give it a shot.
He walks into Gene’s office without bothering to knock, noticing Gene sucking down a scotch at 8.17 in the morning.
“Did anyone interview Hopkins’ cousin?”
“You’re here, are you? Surprise, surprise.”
Sam stands his ground, crossing his arms. “Answer the question.”
“No, they didn’t. Didn’t seem to be any need from what I gathered. By all accounts they haven’t spent time together for years.”
“It’s another avenue, we may as well check it out.”
Sam doesn’t detect any trace of sarcasm in Gene’s tone as he says, “good work, Tyler”, but he knows it must be there somewhere.
Sam’s slightly saner today, which Gene supposes he should be happy about. Still looks like someone stole his first self-bought car and crashed it into the canal, but he’s doing his work of his own volition at the very least, which is something.
Gene tries to chat in the Cortina on the way to George Street, but Sam’s still not up for complex things like polite conversation and gets instantly cagey when Gene asks how he spent his evening. All he’d expected was a talk about television, since that’s all Sam ever seems to do in the evenings he’s not working or at the Arms, but maybe this time was different. Or maybe it wasn’t and Sam never wants to talk to Gene anymore.
Maybe Sam wants to do something else with Gene and it’s eating him up inside. On the scale of Gene’s pent-up desperation, the intense frustration of this would be nothing new.
As soon as they pull up, Sam’s out of the car and walking towards number eleven, a man on a mission. Gene locks up and follows as quickly as he can, knowing that he shouldn’t be wary to let Sam deal with things on his own, but equally aware he’s wary to let Sam deal with anything, anything at all.
And the very fact that Josiah Clinton runs as soon as he sees their badges and that Sam runs after him with obviously little regard for even thinking about back-up shows Gene that his instincts are bang on, as usual. He’s torn between knowing he should radio the station and wanting to ensure his DI doesn’t kill himself like the pillock he invariably is.
He chases after them, only just catching sight of Sam’s leather-clad back as he runs through the house and into the back garden, towards a rickety old shed that looks like it fell down in the second world war and has been propped up with sellotape ever since.
Gene is fairly sure Sam has forgotten Hopkins is wanted for murder. He shouts, loudly, provocatively, as if begging to be killed.
“I know you’re there. Come out, Hopkins. You tried to frame your good mate Carlisle, but we saw right through it, you stupid fucking tosser.”
It’s not an approach he’s ever seen Sam take before. It’s apathetic and bitter. He sounds coarse and cruel, and like he’d be only too happy for Hopkins to blow his brains out rather than give himself up.
“Hopkins, tell us your side of the story,” Gene yells, uncomfortable when he sees Sam staring at him in his peripheral vision. He keeps yelling. “Maybe we can sort something out?”
Clinton and Hopkins exit the shed with their hands up, which has Gene thanking his lucky stars, because he really wasn’t sure what his next action would have been. He gets his handcuffs out and signals for Sam to do the same.
Gene buys Sam several drinks and wonders how hard the slap would have to be to get him to stop looking so morose. Harder than he could hit, probably. Through the interviews, Sam was quiet. Seemed mostly in his own world. And now he sits at the bar with a drink in his hand and looks like he wishes he could be anywhere else.
With a stab of something that could almost be pain, the image of a soppy grin and joy at his arrival dances in front of his eyes.
A soft, orange glow fills the room. Sam stretches, then curls back into the body next to him.
“Wish I could stay like this forever.”
Sam turns and smiles. “Everyone dreams of waking up next to the Gene Genie.”
“D’you dream, Sam? Sometimes I think you’re incapable. You’re always on the go. You seem to work in your sleep.”
“Yeah, I dream. I just told you --- I dream about you.”
“That’s really quite sickening. I may have given up telling you you’re a pansy every day, but don’t think it never crosses my mind.”
A grin spreads across Sam’s face as Gene tells him it’s their day off. The one they promise themselves every month. It feels very much like there’s a whole new world at his disposal.
“There’s no such thing as forever,” Gene says, gliding his hand over Sam’s arm possessively. “But there is today.”
Gene glares down at Sam and tries to decide if water or a kick would be worse. The kick, in all likelihood, especially given how much force he could put behind it. Wants to put behind it. But seeing Sam wet and confused would be a bonus. He settles onto the cot beside Sam’s curled form, aware of the metal buckling under the additional weight.
Sam’s eyes open and he twists away, grumbling. “It’s my day off.”
“It’s one in the afternoon and I need your expertise.”
“Well you can’t have it, I’m betrothed to another.”
“Did you just say ‘betrothed’?
“Fuck off, Gene. I don’t want you, I want the other one.”
“Other what? What on earth are you rabbiting on about?”
“I want the Gene who loves me.”
For a split second, Gene is overwhelmed with the desire to say, “that is me,” but it flickers away as quickly as he feels it, because something is seriously wrong with Sam and he needs to keep his head on straight.
“You’re not making any sense. Are you coming down with something?”
Sam buries his head deeper into the pillow, voice thick and muffled. “Look, you keep taking me from my parallel world and it’s pissing me off, just let me sleep and get on with it.”
Gene is hindered by curiosity. “Get on with what?”
“Living the life I want to.”
“With the Gene who loves you.”
“Exactly. So, go on, sod off, back to your miserable existence.”
Gene doesn’t let Sam’s rejection get to him, because it’s not borne of logic or any sense of reason. In fact, they’re clearly the words of a madman. “I think I need to take you to the doctor.”
Sam appears to fully awaken at this, but all he does is scowl. He reaches up and places his hands on Gene’s shoulders, only to push him back. Gene frowns as Sam’s weight edges him off the cot. It doesn’t have to, of course, but he’s loath to put himself into another situation he can replay ninety times a night.
“They said you’d need counselling and I didn’t listen. Thought it was a load of tosh. Thought that if you needed to talk about it, you’d talk to me,” Gene says as Sam drives him steadily towards the door.
Sam doesn’t appear to hear him, and if he does, he definitely doesn’t care. Gene finds himself shoved outside the flat in a short space of time, though this is due in large part to his lack of resistance. He has to contact someone who could help, but he has no idea who that someone could be.
Typical Gene, with his fucking need to interrupt all the fucking time. Sam crawls back onto the cot and pulls the blanket up, trying desperately to block his mind to the persistent whirr of the refrigerator and the piercing light of the afternoon. One of his neighbours is watching television and the crackle of voices and cheesy theme music, words and melody indistinguishable, filter through his walls.
He can never go straight back to sleep once he’s woken up. Not without a whole lot of alcohol in his system. But he wants, he wants so desperately to escape back to somewhere he feels joy.
There’s nothing like that here. Here there’s relentless pain. Having to destroy and unable to properly grieve. Cases that require the utmost patience and tedium before they’re solved. No simple answers. No time for respite. Just hard work every day, amongst people who have never understood him and never tried to.
There he has something, and it isn’t perfect, not even close to it, but it’s something he can hold onto when he needs to.
But he still can’t sleep.
He walks down the street, heels clattering against concrete with his steady but slow strides. If he tires himself out, then he’ll be able to sleep. He’ll get some liquor to help him on his way. Perhaps even some aspirin, just in case. Sam travels the streets near his flat, dimly watching all around him.
There’s a couple arguing loudly, hands flailing in all directions, and he can see how this will end, when they’re not in the middle of the street. With a black eye and furiously packing bags and shrieks that could make eardrums bleed. But there’s no such thing as pre-emptive policing in 1973 and he has no grounds for arrest, so he continues walking, past the corner shop that has a smashed window and graffiti laced with the words “arselicking Paki” scrawled across the brickwork.
And this, this is normal. This isn’t the worst part of town.
Sam shields himself against the cold and keeps walking, bowing his head down low towards the pavement.
Once upon a time, all of these little problems offered around by time and circumstance might have given him the energy to fight. But he’s sick of fighting, of feeling like that’s all he has. Just once, he wants to celebrate victory and not feel like there’s another crisis around the corner. Just once, he wants to be a hero and not a murderer.
And there is nothing for him here.
“Sam? Sam, what’re you doing?”
Gene. Of course. He whirls around. “I thought I told you to leave me alone?”
Gene raises his eyebrows. Sam clenches his fists tighter, his nails digging into his palms.
“I mean it, just fuck off, alright?”
“Your mood swings are more than a little disturbing. One minute happily munching through liquorice, the next looking nigh on murderous. It’s a wonder I take you anywhere.”
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
Bile rises in Sam’s throat, confusion clouding his judgement. “I’m sorry, I’m --- stress, I don’t know what I’m, where I’m --- ”
Sam stares up at him wild-eyed and frantic, mouth opening and closing. He grips onto Gene’s shirt with clawing fingers. He looks like he’s not really there, that he’s staring unseeing. Gene glances back at the doctor, pleading for him to do something.
“He needs to be sectioned.”
“What? No he doesn’t. He needs some help, that’s all.”
“From everything you’ve told me, he needs intensive care. The institution I liaise with has the facilities to aid him.”
Gene juts his chin forward, looking back down at Sam. “If I’d’ve known you were a short-sighted prick, I’d never have done this,” he says, not entirely sure who he’s talking to. “I’ll handle the situation myself,” he says louder, this time to the doctor.
“He appears to be in a severe dissociative state. He needs medical attention.”
“And I’ll give it to him. More than you can, judging by how many words you seem to think you have to use in a simple sentence.”
“You’re being small-minded.”
“And you’re gonna be ripped in half if you don’t shove it.”
Gene hears the thump of the door and knows that his proclamation held just the right lingering note of threat. But he expects Doctor McIntyre will be back at some point, with restraints and the appropriate paperwork. And he doesn’t know why a part of him thinks that may very well be the best outcome.
Sam grasps at Gene again and he turns to see confusion switching to ferocity, Sam’s jaw tensing and his mouth curling up into a cruel snarl. Shit.
“Why do you keep doing this? Don’t you think I deserve happiness, is that it?”
“Sleeping all day long isn’t happiness, it’s you being a fucking wimp.”
Sam pushes him back, but this time Gene’s ready for him, and shoves Sam deep into the cot, placing all of his weight into keeping him pinned.
“I’m not sleeping, I’m going to another world.”
“A parallel one,” Gene deadpans, expecting Sam to backtrack, but he doesn’t, he nods vehemently.
“Yeah. A parallel world where you’re not such a prick and we’re happy. Do you remember that? Happy? No, you don’t, do you, that’s why you keep tearing me away from it.”
“Living in fiction isn’t happiness, Sam. It’s weak. You may be a lot of things, but you’re not that.”
Sam struggles again, his legs brushing against Gene’s own. He sounds strained and sickened. “It’s not fiction, it’s real.”
Gene can’t take this anymore. He eases himself up, away from Sam’s body, releasing him. Sam stands, and Gene catches that his legs shake momentarily with the effort of it, as if his whole body is shutting down.
“You’re too far gone, aren’t you?” he asks hollowly. “I knew you’d taken it badly, because we never wanna get ourselves into that situation. Never want to have to pull the trigger. And you had a mania about him from the start.”
Sam draws a hand against the back of his neck, sounding nothing but resigned. “I didn’t have a mania, he’s my father. Was my father.”
“He was younger than you, for Christ’s sake.”
“And see? This is how little you know. Your tiny pocket of experience doesn’t lead to any sort of understanding that maybe what I’m saying is the truth, that there are places that exist outside your sphere.”
“You’re talking crap.”
Sam goes to punch Gene, but isn’t quick enough. Gene grabs hold of his arm, has him on the floor, fist at the ready. He doesn’t expect Sam’s next movement, flipping him onto his back, suddenly finding himself sprawled, handcuffed to the cot. Ideally, this would be when Sam would straddle him, show him what he has with this imaginary Gene who tells him he loves him. But this doesn’t appear to cross Sam’s mind in the least.
No, Sam simply walks out the door.
The motel is a shithole, but it’s safe and doesn’t cost much. He checks himself in and starts to drink. An unhealthy measure of scotch later he’s giggling to himself for no reason and waiting for sleep to overcome him. Maybe, with time, he could learn to control how he passes from one universe to the next, not that he has any idea why he’d return here, but for now he has to rely upon his system crashing and that takes an infuriatingly long time.
CID is a teeming mass of bodies. Chris, Annie and another female detective are discussing something that only comes to Sam in snatches of dialogue. Something about some bloke called Terrence. Another comment about Chris’ plans with his girlfriend. Sam smiles at them as he walks past and into Gene’s office.
Gene is just getting up from sitting behind his desk. “Just in time. Just heard on the blower there’s a blag going on at the jeweller’s down Princess Street.”
“Nothing new, then?”
“No, but I’ll bet it’ll still be exciting.”
Sam grins at this, walking with Gene out of the station. He settles into the Cortina, buckling up and holding onto the handle. But Gene doesn’t drive like a maniac. He steers with precision and avoids crashing into the rubbish bins on the side of the road.
Their doors slam in unison and Sam watches Gene over the roof of the car, stepping to the side and around, tempted to link arms.
He shakes off some of his elation when they go into the jeweller’s only to discover the blaggers haven’t already made off with the wares and are, instead, standing fully armed. But he’s still confident, so he approaches them as if he has nothing to lose.
“Come on fellas, we can sort this out. You come to the station peacefully and we’ll shave some time off your sentences.”
One of the armed and balaclava clad men speaks, tilting his gun to the left. “Look, Ronnie, told you the kid’s loco.”
Sam recognises that voice. He baulks and tries to convince himself he doesn’t know that leather jacket, has never held it in his hands. He tells himself that he can’t really remember those soft yet deceptively cruel tones, not with such piercing clarity. It must be someone else. Because he is dead, and maybe now, for the first time, Sam’s able to accept that he’s glad.
He holds out his hands, placating. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Maybe not, DI Tyler, but I will anyway.”
There’s a flash and a bang. Sam has no idea what’s happened, except that his head was knocked painfully against the parquet floor.
He scrabbles onto all fours just as the door crashes and he vaguely sees figures leave the shop. But his main attention is on Gene, who’s lying awkwardly, head at an angle that instantly has Sam’s stomach churning. But it’s not the head that disturbs him most, when he takes a proper look. It’s the blood pooling on the floor, and Gene trying to stem it as it seeps from his torso.
Gene’s eyes are open and he’s blinking. Sam thinks he’s going to be sick. This can’t be happening. There’s no way for him to radio for backup without leaving Gene’s side. He shouts as loudly as he can for an ambulance and prays someone heard the gunshot and has contacted other members of the police force.
“Gene, everything’s going to be alright.”
“No it’s not, Sam, I’m dead,” Gene croaks back.
“Don’t be stupid. The ambulance will be here in a moment.”
“There’s no such thing.”
“You’re talking gibberish.”
“Not me. Never me. You, yeah, all the bleeding time. But I’m always a voice of reason, remember that. This is it, Sammy-boy.”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
“Of course it does.”
Sam holds on tight, straining painfully. “Stay with me. I’m not letting you go. Just stay with me.”
“You don’t get to choose, Sam. You take actions and there are consequences.”
“But it’s cruel. It’s unfair.”
One second Sam’s holding Gene’s dead body, the next there’s empty air. Sam blinks, unsure of if he’s skipped to another universe, or if time has stopped still for him and nowhere else, or if he’s just mad. He tilts his head back and looks around and realises that the shop is no longer a shop, but a large white space, devoid of anyone and anything.
And his reality is gone.
The upside to McIntyre being an anally retentive pissant is that Gene doesn’t die a slow death of starvation chained up in Sam’s flat. He’s released from the cuffs without wrenching the cot from the wall and smashing it to bits.
And so begins the search. Sam wasn’t careful about covering his tracks. All Gene has to do is ask where the skinny man wearing little clothing in stark winter iciness went. He supplements his enquiries with cash and phrases such as “I’ll make it worth your while”, and maybe he will, he doesn’t know. For now, he’s too concerned with finding Sam before he does serious damage, to himself and to others.
He ends up at a Little Chef. He uses his badge to ask where Sam might be and tells himself he isn’t holding his breath when he’s pointed in the right direction and given a key.
Gene finds Sam in the room indicated, curled tight around himself, tears rolling down his cheeks. There’s no fire, or fury, and he isn’t asleep. His breathing is irregular and stutters across the space between them.
He should hate him, in that moment. Condemn him for being a selfish simpleton who’s nothing but crazed and melodramatic.
But he can’t.
He doesn’t know why Sam is the way he is, but he knows he has to help him. That he needs him, despite the lunacy. Even at his most cracked, Sam gets results. And it would seem that the key defining difference between Sam’s fantasy and the real world was him, so he knows this isn’t a one way street of pain and longing.
He bends down and lifts Sam up, cradling his head, stroking his fingers through his hair. Sam makes low, soft sobs, his whole body gently quaking. He’s a mess.
“It’s finished.” The words reverberate, and Gene keenly feels the sorrow attached to them. “It all disappeared. You were right, it wasn’t real. Nothing’s real. I killed him. I killed them both.”
“It’ll be alright. I’m here, Sam. I’m here for you.”
“You’re not my Gene,” Sam says, and he sounds pathetic and small.
Gene stares into his eyes, and allows himself a moment of raw honesty. “Yes. I am.”