Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 2,850 words.
Notes: Gen with a Sam & Gene friendship focus. This is written for neuralclone for a prompt she gave me, er, half a year ago. This turned out slightly slashier than I intended, sorry NC. It's more Guy Love than slash, though. ♥
No one gave much of a fig when Sam threw his typewriter on the floor and kicked it a couple of times. By now they were well used to his bouts of violent madness. Things didn't go DI Tyler's way and an object bore the brunt of his wrath --- from that sorry typewriter, to the radios, even the canteen kettle. Gene knew that, to them, it was better than when 'the Guv' got angry. They'd never noticed the only bloke on the force he ever punched was Sam, and only 'cause he knew he could take it. For a bunch of people who were meant to be good at observation, they rarely saw what was dead in front of them.
Like at this moment, Sam was muttering to himself as he picked up his report, and hopping on one foot, and cursing black and blue, and not one person had moved to see if he was alright. Gene thought he'd render some assistance, sauntering over all casual-like and bending down to pick the wrecked metal up and dump it on Sam's desk.
"Tyler. My office. Now."
He was surprised when Sam followed, more surprised when he flopped onto the sofa and started to babble, but he let him continue because some days he liked the sound of Sam's voice, low and steady and so unlike everyone else who treated him with such misplaced deference they made his teeth ache.
"One day, Gene, we'll all have computers, and if we make an error, we'll be able to hit the back button, or delete. We'll have the facility to begin a report, save it, go onto something else, type up new information, go back to the first report, and copy and paste. We'll email and transfer files and the worst we'll have to contend with is the bloody thing freezing or the blue screen of death."
Blue screen of death? Gene's mind ticked and turned overtime trying to puzzle what that might mean. He was put out by Sam's delusional enthusiasm, but was curious to know what other craziness he was going to espouse. "What do you mean by all? Every station?"
"No, every officer. A computer on every desk."
Gene imagined a room full of desks bearing giant metal boxes and didn't like it for one second. He could almost hear the bleep and bloop of the machines, all churning out paper full of mathematical gobbledegook.
"They'd never fit."
"They'll be smaller than a typewriter--- getting smaller by the minute. They'll upgrade about every three months," Sam explained, patient, but not condescending, which was a new attitude for him and well worth the time it took to achieve.
"And you think this would make our lives easier?" Gene asked, frowning. There wasn't much else he could do.
"By miles. The world'll seem much smaller --- much easier to manage."
Gene considered this, stared at Sam, wondered if he'd stubbed his head as well as his toe. "Handwrite your report. I'll get a plonk to type it for you."
Sam slumped. "You wait and see, Gene. I'm not wrong."
Gene walked over and grabbed hold of Sam's collar, hauling him up. "You're not right, either," he said. "Not at all right." He watched as Sam walked out of his office, calmer now, but no more sane. "Not in the head."
Gene didn't consider himself a betting man. He liked a game of poker every week or so, had a flutter on the horses, had, on several occasions, competed for a Party Seven, but his risks were never really all that risky. To be a real betting man, in his book, you had to place yourself in a position where you had the potential to sacrifice it all. And he wasn't that stupid.
Until he met Sam.
See, Sam --- Sam could undermine him very effectively with nowt much at all. A word or a look, a hand on his arm. He just had to make a suggestion and Gene looked like an idiot to those around him. And anyone with any sense would get that seen to, but he found that constantly being on edge, waiting for whatever thick-arse manoeuvre Sam was going to pull next, kept him on top of his game. So, instead of doing the rational thing and nipping it in the bud, Gene let the situation develop until he and his right-hand man were at loggerheads more days than not, with all sorts of stipulations in place.
If Sam didn't do this, he had to do that, and look like a complete pansy for it. If Gene wasn't right about that, he'd have to admit this, and act like a complete prat for it.
Sometimes, it was fun. Even when he lost.
When Sam kept spouting on about being able to predict the '75 FA Cup, even down to the scores, Gene knew he was onto a red hot winner. He allowed Sam his moment to parade around like a pillocky peacock, all pomp and circumstance and no chance in hell of being right. He couldn't think that with all of their managerial problems, West Ham could score 20 goals in their first four games combined. And they sure as hell wouldn't beat Fulham in the final, because hell would freeze over before Fulham ever got that far.
"Do you know, they'll be the last totally English team?" Sam asked, sipping on his beer with far too much worship for Gene's liking.
"How do you mean?"
"Pretty soon, imports will become rife. The mentality that'll bring them in will change the game forever. It'll all be about sponsorship and profit. The game won't matter as much, anymore. And the players will be amazing, don't get me wrong, but we'll lose some of the magic."
"This is what a look into your crystal balls has told you?"
"Something like that."
Gene twisted his lips up, partly from amusement, and partly from Sam's non-reaction to his innuendo. "If you're right about West Ham, what do you want me to do?"
"What's my wager, you mean?" Sam asked, eyes lighting up. He glanced around the Arms for a moment, then looked back at Gene. Gene knew he was deliberately attempting to provoke fear, but it worked, just a little bit. Sam continued, pretending to think it over. "God, it's so hard to choose. Should I make you my pet for the week? Oh, but we had a taste of that when you were DI Hunt last April. How about making you wear a nice sequined dress? But could I really subject everyone to that horror?"
Gene cut in. "Don't drag it out. Tell me your terms."
Sam quirked an eyebrow and spoke with slow deliberation. "You, my dearest Eugene, will sing a number of my choosing at this year's Lancashire Constabulary Dinner and Dance."
"Well, my dearest Samuel, you'll wish you asked for the dress if you win. But believe me, you won't do that. Do you wanna know what's gonna happen when it's proved you're a division-A div?"
"Yeah, go on. Thrill me."
Gene downed his whisky and narrowed his eyes, deeply pleased by Sam's unconscious recoil. "You'll find out when you lose."
Gene hadn't understood why Sam suddenly bought himself such a large telly, with the control always getting lost in the sofa cushions --- another new piece of furniture --- and a level of sound that was really quite impressive. It had taken Sam long enough to buy these things ("I've time," he'd said, as if no one could guess), so it had seemed entirely whimsical when he announced it to all and sundry. It did mean that Gene spent more time at Sam's flat, though. They'd go over a case, away from prying eyes, and on Mondays and Wednesdays end up watching Corrie --- something that Gene liked to complain about constantly, although he worked actively towards never missing an episode.
"This is the worst shit I've ever had the misfortune of watching. It's like seeing some poor wanker with his tadger stuck in a jam jar."
"It's not, it's genius, and if you think this is bad, wait until Big Brother."
"I don't give a shit about the thought police. I dare them into trying to intimidate me to change my mind."
Sam shook his head. "It's a TV show." He amended himself. "It's going to be a TV show. They put 12 so-called ordinary people in a house that's got cameras in every corner --- even in the showers. An audience watches them on telly every night, and over the live streaming feeds. The public calls in to vote a person out of the house each week. In the end you're left with one contestant who goes home with a cash prize. It's termed 'reality television'."
"You don't half come up with some cocked-up shite, Sammy-boy."
"I'm serious. Ridiculously huge amounts of people watch it, to the point where any random on the bus will ask you if you like the black bloke or the gay the best. It's bile-inducing."
"And when is this?"
Sam dithered. "Not right now, obviously."
Gene pursed his lips, looking again at the screen on which there pranced an array of felt and plastic. "Obviously."
"You remind me of Statler & Waldorf, you know."
"Who are they?"
"The old geezers in the box, heckling the acts."
"That makes sense. They're the only decent thing about this crap."
Sam sighed. "You know how you keep asking me why I got this telly?"
"Not likely to forget since I've asked you nine times."
"I got it for this."
"A show about moppets?"
"Muppets! Muppets! The Muppet Show. It's a classic."
"It started last week."
"You will never understand."
Gene looked at Sam, the flush of his cheeks, the determined set of his jaw, and decided he didn't want to.
Gene hated paperwork. Hated that there was so much of it these days. Hated that it took so much concentration to get it right. He glared at his desk, then at Sam sitting in his own spot in the corner. No paperwork on Sam's mahogany monstrosity, it was already finished and filed away.
Sam was making an inhuman, infernal noise as he read Chris' latest report. It was hideous. Worse still, he called it music. Gene wasn't sure he could handle much more of it and was contemplating attack. Sam had always prided himself on his decent voice, mocking him with it when Gene had had to sing at the Dinner and Dance a couple of years back. Sam had called it 'coming to his rescue', Gene had called it 'showing him up'. But this wasn't Sam singing. This was Sam imitating cats being trodden on by elephants. This was loud, and high-pitched, and insufferable.
"For the seventieth time, Tyler, shut it."
Sam ignored Gene, continuing to belt and screech. "'Cause tourists are money, and our figurehead is not what she seems."
Drastic measures had to be taken, mostly because Gene couldn't understand most of what Sam was yelling, but the words he could hear sounded like highly uncouth bollocks. Gene himself was the only man allowed to spout such eloquence around the station (he had to give special dispensation to Phyllis, and only then because she'd punch him one otherwise.) He dug into his drawer, pulled out a roll of duct tape, snipped some off and came behind Sam with stealthy strides. Sam had just finished a note and snapped his mouth shut when Gene taped him up for good.
There were some muffled notes that sounded suspiciously like "duck you, Hunt...", though Gene had to admit, it could be something else.
"That'll serve you your deserts for not heeding my warning."
Gene realised his mistake in the next moment, when Sam came at him with a right hook, then ripped the tape off, wincing so much a tear ran down his cheek.
"You stupid bastard."
"Yeah, I know. Forgot the handcuffs, how could I be so short-sighted?"
"You've no taste and no sense. This song's gonna be a huge hit in a month's time, and then look at you."
"I'll be wearing earmuffs all the live-long day?"
"You'll look a right prat."
Gene matched Sam's scowl. "Funnily enough, I don't give a soldier's rusty bayonet. The message is clear --- keep your mouth shut, or I'll shut it for you."
Sam's scowl deepened. "Do your worst."
Gene clipped Sam round the ear, then reared back when Sam swung at him. He grabbed Sam's arm, twisted it behind his back, and wasn't at all expecting the headlock he found himself in moments later.
Sam growled, low in his throat. "Do you surrender?"
Sam began howling again, random noises that weren't in Gene's extensive vocabulary. He tightened his hold to the point where Gene thought his head may roll off. Sam stopped, shook Gene.
"Not even a little."
Sam started his first scream, but at that moment Chris walked into the office.
"Er. Should I come back later, Boss?" he asked, and Gene had heard that tone too many times in recent years. It was an acceptance of Sam's psychosis, and bewilderment that Gene put up with it. And something else that Gene couldn't and wouldn't pinpoint.
"It's fine, Chris," Sam said, letting Gene up.
"Pretty soon you won't be," Gene threatened, hobbling back to his paperwork and sweet, precious silence.
The death of Afghanistan President Daoud Khan was all over the news. It meant little to most of CID, who couldn't place Afghanistan on a map if their lives depended on it, and weren't all that keen on foreign politics when all was said and told, but Sam --- of course, Sam --- sat riveted on the edge of his stool.
"The more things change," he said, eyes lit by a strange glow. Gene couldn't tell if he was happy or distraught, or something entirely different.
"One day," Sam said, seemingly measuring his words carefully. "One day the world will be rocked by the fallout of events like this."
Gene smiled to himself, always amused when Sam said things that he clearly considered revelatory, but were simple common sense.
"I'm shocked," Gene said with irreverence, settling next to Sam at the bar. "One day, with any luck, I'll never have to hear you predict the future again."
"You'd miss it," Sam replied in all seriousness. He took a swig of beer and nodded. "You'd remember all the times I was right and wish I kept on it, because it gives you insight into things no other person in the world could possibly know."
Gene contemplated this. Throughout the years he'd kept a mental record of all of Sam's blathering, and he had to say that Sam pain-in-the-arse Tyler was right more times than not.
"It's just us, with this secret bastion of knowledge?" Gene queried. He felt an insistent twinge in his stomach at that, as if someone were pulling on a cord.
Sam gave a small sigh. "Almost always."
"You've never been afraid to entrust me with it?"
"Oh, believe me, there are things you won't know until they're right in front of your face."
"Probably just as well. I don't believe in destiny, but if I did, I wouldn't want to know it."
"Wish I could say the same," Sam said, oddly maudlin; so much so that Gene contemplated patting him on the back, or even buying him a drink.
Gene signalled to Nelson for another round before leaning over and switching off the radio. Sam glanced at him, expression clouded.
"You would miss me, wouldn't you, Gene?"
"You'll not give me the chance," Gene answered, trying to maintain his joviality. That idea was put paid when Sam's eyes darkened and he worried his lip. He'd have to confront this head on, which annoyed him because he'd hoped he could skirt around the issue for longer. "What makes you think I'm gonna have to?"
"It's nothing, really. It's just --- I heard something on the telephone the other day that made me think about it."
"When I was recommending you as DCI. You weren't meant to hear that."
Nelson brought the drinks and Gene slid one over to Sam, touching him briefly on the wrist. Sam's face was a picture of wrinkled confusion, lips downturned and eyes scrunched.
"You don't have to transfer, if you don't want, it's just, I thought you'd jump at a chance for your own team. There's been other opportunities and I didn't take them at the time because I still felt I needed you. Maybe I do, but I think this would be for the best. You can't be under my immensely brilliant shadow forever."
Sam looked at Gene with something akin to reverence and it made Gene's chest tighten. "That wasn't what I heard," Sam said quietly, that air of sadness still lingering. "But thank you."
Gene turned away, staring at the jukebox because he couldn't bear looking into Sam's eyes. Years of predictions, many of them right, and only one that Gene truly believed.