Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 6600 words.
Notes: Sam/Warren non-con, Sam/Gene preslash. Initially written in a condensed form as a response to a prompt in The Life on Mars Anonymous Pornfest II.
Warning: Graphic depiction of non-consensual sex.
Summary: Episode 1.04 AU. Warren uses Joni to get Sam to come to him.
Sam swallowed thickly, rolling his head back. He knew what Warren was implying, and it wasn't mere implication. His message was loud and clear. He had the power. He had the power and Sam had nothing.
"I'm gonna go out of my way to make life as difficult for you as possible."
"You're new here, son, so I'll let that pass. Others have tried to wear the white hat, and all have failed."
"I just caught one of your landlords harrassing one of your tenants. Don't ever let me see that again."
"What's his name? I'll see that he's dealt with."
"The easy days are over. I'll be watching you."
"So you say, Mr Tyler."
The Arms was dim from smoke, the stench of stale beer in the air. Sam didn't know what he was doing, standing awkwardly in the doorway. Gene was at the bar with Ray - an early lunch, Sam supposed, since it hadn't yet gone noon and there were shot glasses in view. He had his head back, was barking out a laugh. Seemed comfortable and relaxed in ways he never was with him, and Sam felt a twinge of something indecipherable low in his gut.
He wanted to crow about giving the money back to Warren, he realised. Wanted to tell Gene this was the way to go, that a bent copper was worse than a crook, because he had no sense of loyalty of anything to anyone. And Gene lived for loyalty, if there was one thing Sam was beginning to learn about his Guv, it was that. Sam wanted to wash the taste of his encounter with his mum out of his mouth with a stiff drink and companionship. She had refused his offer of money with such repugnance, he didn't think he'd ever rid himself of the memory of her expression.
He wanted to just be with Gene, concentrate on that instead of the conflicting emotions jostling about for attention. Since arriving in this Godforsaken place, Gene had been a revelation he couldn't have anticipated. He'd never thought he'd grow to enjoy his company, to actively seek it out. But having saved each other's lives more than once, they'd formed a bond. One that wasn't as strong as Sam constantly wished it was. If Gene were going to continue ignoring Warren's criminal activities in order to line his pockets, then Sam was going to have to do something to prove a point - maybe, in this situation, words weren't enough.
He didn't move. He simply stood like a sentry guard to hell. And Gene never even noticed he was there. Sam turned on his heel and pushed back out through the door. He'd go to the station, grab some food in the canteen. It was pointless trying to talk sense until he had Gene on his own, and he'd find a way to secure that happening.
The corned beef hash was about as disgusting as Sam remembered, greasy and slick against his palate, but at least the company was good, even if Annie refused to listen to him with an open mind. Any semblance of enjoyment was stripped as soon as Phyllis told him about Joni, though, and all he could think was 'opportunity'. He remembered her from the club; dark hair, sad eyes. He'd sensed she didn't like her position as one of Warren's dancers, but the music had been too loud, and the club too packed, to strike up a real conversation.
"I'm frightened. Really frightened."
"Frightened of who?"
"Stephen Warren. He says he's gonna kill me if I don't deliver you to him. Wants me to act as a honey trap. Says if I don't, he'll... he'll..." Joni started to shake, her eyes wide and wild, her arms crossing over her chest, and Sam's protective instincts went into drive. He subconsciously stepped forward, hands held out, placating.
"Calm down, Joni. It'll be okay."
"You don't know him like I do, DI Tyler. He's ruthless, has high-up people on his side."
"I need evidence. It's his word against yours, otherwise. I can't just go storming in with the full weight of the law."
"Can you talk to him? If you pretend you're going along with his plans, maybe you'll get what you need?"
He sighed, rubbed the back of his head. "Even in this day and age, I'd be compromising a potential investigation."
"Please, DI Tyler? Sam? I know a place where he's cut off from his thugs. I could ask him to meet me there and you could go instead."
"And what do you expect me to say? That I'll play his little games? Because I won't, Joni. I'm not corrupt."
Joni's eyes hardened, her jaw set. "No, you're not. You're meant to be a good cop. The only decent one in this whole stinking place, but I'm coming to you for help here, and all you can do is leave me to die."
Sam was stung by her words. Her disgust was an echo of his mother's, cutting deep into his veins. He needed to go by the book on this one, but it was a different book. He couldn't rely upon Gene, Annie didn't believe a word he said - he didn't know who he could turn to.
"I'll do what I can, Joni, but I can't make any promises."
Sam tried to ignore the anxiety uncoiling within him as he drove, his quickened heart-rate and sweaty palms. He had to show Warren he wasn't intimidated. And if that wasn't true, he had to fake it. Sam pulled into the alleyway Joni had scrawled the directions to on a burger wrapper. One of the growing collection of abandoned textiles warehouses loomed to his left. A good place to do business, Sam thought. Quiet, out of the way, and not yet under suspicion by law enforcement, because it was hard to tell which businesses were still operating. He had to give Warren his due - he was a smooth operator.
Sam climbed out of the car and made his way to the door, knocking five times, as he'd been told. The door opened, but no one appeared to be in the immediate vicinity. Sam went on immediate alert, and it occurred to him that it had been foolish to come here without taking a gun from storage, or at the very least, a cricket bat embedded with nails. If Warren had intended on killing Joni, didn't have any qualms about throwing wads of cash at people who were meant to be his enemies, and had a job description that included drug-smuggler, gun-runner and dodgy estate dealer, he'd probably not think twice about attacking a cop. On the other hand, if Sam went in fists blazing, he might provoke that kind of reaction when none had been intended.
Sam held back, readying himself, taking a few deep breaths. He stepped into the warehouse, his footfall a steady crunch against dust and grit long set.
"DI Tyler," Warren's voice echoed from behind him. "What a pleasant surprise."
Sam had started to turn when he felt the dull weight against his head, his legs crumpling beneath him. He coughed through the plume of dust that rose with his fall. He was about to speak when there was a second thump and he was rendered insensible to the world.
When he came to, he was bound to a bench, naked. Judging by the distance of the ceiling and his view of the door in his peripheral vision, he was placed higher than he would be on a bed, lower than on a table. A rush of warm air was playing against his stomach. There were handcuffs around his wrists, he could feel the cold, solid metal digging into his flesh as he experimentally pulled his arms up, fists bunched. His legs, on the other hand, were tied with rope against the wooden bench legs - coarse fibres rasping against his skin. An inner voice told him not to panic, but his real voice sounded strained to his ears.
"What're you doing, Warren?"
"I'm giving you exactly what you wanted. A little time alone to tell me how you really feel."
"Great. Well, then, I feel that you're a despicable pissant who preys on innocent people."
"I always considered myself more puissant," Warren said with a smirk that was unnervingly menacing. "And if you're referring to Joni, she's far from innocent."
Sam's muscles tensed as a hand settled low on his abdomen, thumb brushing idly towards his cock. A blade twirled in Warren's other hand, a flash of his distorted reflection flickering before Sam's eyes. He choked back a gasp, gaze roving to find a smirk that repulsed him, blue eyes that glinted in the meagre light.
"I would never touch her," Warren continued, stroking, now, sending tremors up Sam's spine. "She's one of my best earners, very accommodating to those she's tasked to take care of. And she's much too soft. I like them hard, DI Tyler. That way, I can see them snap."
Sam swallowed thickly, rolling his head back. He knew what Warren was implying, and it wasn't mere implication. His message was loud and clear. He had the power. He had the power and Sam had nothing.
The hot breath was against him again, turning his skin to gooseflesh. As much as he wanted to deny that this was happening, to claim that this didn't happen, to anyone, but especially to men, to coppers - the reality of Warren's hand against his cock and warm mouth starting to suck on his balls begged to differ. Sam struggled in his bonds again, starting to shout.
"No one will hear you," Warren said, pulling off. "It's just you and me. I thought about letting my guards watch, but I wanted this to be a private moment between us. I wanted you to enjoy it as much as I will."
Sam found his inner reserve of steel. "I never could, Warren. This is sick. You are."
"You might want to tell your body that, Sam," Warren said, adding weight to his name. "Although maybe you're imagining I'm someone else? Your superior officer, perhaps?"
Sam squeezed his eyes shut and ignored the hardening of his cock, bile bubbling at the back of his throat. He didn't want this so why were his nerve endings responding to Warren's ministrations? There wasn't any truth to his proclamation that he was thinking of Gene, but he wanted something he couldn't explain, that was true. It was confusing, a feeling he couldn't reconcile with everything he had previously believed about himself. It was unsettling that Warren somehow knew this - that the short time they had spent in each other's company revealed a secret so close to Sam's heart.
No. He couldn't see Gene in his mind's eye at this moment - refused to taint his image with these feelings of disgust. He had to imagine something else, someone else if needs must, but not the person he'd been dreaming about since he arrived in 1973.
1973. Imagination. That was small consolation. Perhaps none of this was real, perhaps he was safe and warm in a hospital bed, thirty-three years from now. But why would his mind conjure up such a horrific scenario? And why could he feel every vile touch, smell the cloying stench of Warren's cologne?
He was aware of Warren rounding the bench, fingers clenching into his hair to wrench his head up.
"Suck, my sweet. You'll want to get it good and wet. And if you even think about using those sharp little teeth of yours, I'll slit your throat."
The head of Warren's cock brushed against his lips and Sam kept his mouth firmly shut. He refused to make this easy for the deranged creep who held him captive. This didn't stop Warren, who pinched his nose until Sam had to open his mouth to suck air into his burning lungs. He managed one mouthful before Warren was thrusting into him, his cock thick and heavy against the back of Sam's tongue, triggering his gag reflex. Sam's eyes watered as he looked into Warren's face - not crying, he wouldn't cry about this - but stinging from the pain of the violation.
"I wanted to feel your pursed mouth around my cock the second I saw you," Warren crooned. "You're so unlike all the other cops. You have style and conviction. They're very attractive traits in a man."
Sam wished he could silence Warren, needed him to stop talking. He was pretending this was about desire, but it wasn't, it was about domination. And somehow, that Sam could handle, it made sense within his understanding of the world. He hated it, but he understood. The idea that Warren might do this because he wanted him was sickening beyond words.
"I'm going to take you now. It will hurt as I split you open, mould you around my dick, loosening you with each thrust. But don't worry, dear boy, it'll start to feel special soon enough."
Warren undid the ropes tying his legs and Sam kicked. He made a concerted effort to struggle, yanking his arm down so hard the sharp crack of his thumb breaking rent the air. He screamed, still pulling, hoping the sweat trickling over his skin would help him slide his hand out from the handcuffs. If he had a hand free as well as his legs, he'd be able to keep Warren off, at the very least, until the knife came into play.
Warren laughed, the sound low and cruel. "Feisty to the end. I love it."
"I'm gonna kill you."
"No. I'm going to have you and then I'm going to let you live with this lesson etched into your mind. There will be no death today."
Sam kept kicking, but Warren got hold of his ankles and hoisted him up until his lower back was off the bench, his weight resting on his shoulders and neck. Warren climbed onto the bench and started dragging his cock up Sam's crease. Cold, clenching fear overtook all of Sam's senses as he contemplated how simple it was for Warren, that he was nothing but a mere ragdoll in his grasp. Warren dropped one of his legs and he meant to kick, but then fingers were at his hole, digging in, and the pain was distracting. He didn't move.
"I was going to prepare you properly, but I think you'll only make things harder for yourself if I take the time and effort, so this will have to do."
Sam thought about lying, saying that he'd do whatever Warren wanted so long as the pain would stop, but pride prevented him from being so weak. He couldn't stop himself from screaming when Warren forced his cock into him, though. Couldn't do anything but wheeze at the feeling of being stretched beyond his limits. Warren drew back until only the head of his cock was still within him, then pounded forward again. He repeated the action, but quicker. Sam's skin crawled as Warren moved, grunting as his face turned red.
"It would have been easier to lie you on your front, but I wanted you to look into my eyes when I did this, Sam," Warren said, triumph making his voice coarse. "I wanted you to see that I owned you - body and soul. You thought you were above my money, but you weren't above my lust."
Warren snapped his hips, changing the angle until Sam realised with mounting horror that his body was responding again. He prayed to a God he didn't believe in that he'd lose consciousness as the pounding got faster and his cock hardened between their bodies.
"Yes, that's right. I knew you would love this. I told you it would be special," Warren continued, sounding exalted.
"You're positively Machiavellian, Warren," Sam spat back.
Warren bent down and kissed him. Sam felt his resolve to remain strong cracking, the prickle of tears harsh against the back of his eyes. Warren slobbered over him, tasting of bitter coffee and cigars, and Sam wanted the world to end.
Four more thrusts and Warren was coming, pumping into Sam with a guttural growl. He collapsed, body slick and stinking of sweat. Sam's instincts took over and he kicked again, drawing his legs up and twisting his hips. He screamed with the exertion, almost achieving success when he heard an almighty crash and recoiled as light flooded into the room and the door to his left rocked off its hinges. Warren pulled out of him, half stumbling, half running towards another exit in the building. Sam heard the thunder of running footsteps follow in the same direction. His muscles buckled and he sank onto the bench, the fight left in him slowly dissipating.
A familiar silhouette blocked the light and Sam's stomach turned. In all of this, he had never thought there might be a chance for someone coming to his rescue, but here he was. Gene, looking down at him with such revulsion, Sam's heart stopped beating. At first, he thought the disgust was directed at him - that he could be so pathetic to allow himself to be used, but then Gene was stroking Sam's head with one hand, trying to undo the handcuffs with the other.
"I'm so sorry," Gene muttered, soft, but desperate. "I knew what he was, but I never thought he'd go to these lengths. I should've warned you."
"It's my fault." Sam choked out, overwhelmed. "I was too stupid to realise this was a trap and too weak to stop it when I finally twigged."
Gene's expression was maniacal as he shook his head. "No, Sam, don't ever think that. You were the only one brave enough to stand up to Warren. The rest of us are the idiots and the cowards."
Sam wished he could believe it as Gene took off his coat and laid it over him. Wanted to agree when his wrists were finally free of the handcuffs. Knew he never could when he watched as Warren was dragged away by Ray and Lytts and terrified nausea clutched at him and didn't let go.
He didn't expect Gene to look at him the same in the ensuing days, and he didn't. Gene was there when he was examined by the doctor and there when he was sent home. There was a protective, watchful streak to his gazes that were unsettling and comforting all at once. Sam was on some kind of suicide-watch, he could tell. Gene insisted on him staying at his house, and he would have said no, was going to, but the thought of being alone in his flat put a stop to his refusal. Gene initially said that his wife was staying with her sister, but Sam could see he was lying by omission, and a week into his stay Gene admitted they had split.
"I can't believe he took the risk," Gene said, filling up two glasses with scotch.
"He didn't think it was one," Sam replied, softly, watching the liquid swirl. He looked up at Gene to see his brows knit together, a hesitant flicker in his eyes. "Warren was banking on me being too humiliated to say or do anything."
"And was he right?"
Sam took a large mouthful of his drink. "I don't know. It's not - I couldn't - description doesn't do it justice."
"Nothing will do it justice. Warren could rot in hell for eternity and it wouldn't be enough," Gene said with a low growl.
Sam silently agreed, longing for a time he wouldn't be able to recollect every sound and movement, for the words to stop reverberating in his head. The worst aspect was that he knew exactly what Warren had been doing - psychologically he understood the motivations and purposes, could write a whole essay about it - but he still woke up every night covered in a cold sweat, rocking from side to side, sobbing into the night air.
"He'll be going into maximum security," Gene said, breaking into his thoughts. "Just got the word today. Not sure how long for, yet, but it's a start."
He said it with a detached air that was so unlike himself, Sam wanted to punch him to get him back to treating him how he used to. But that detachment stopped Sam from flashing back to being tied to the bench, rope scratching his ankles.
Gene plied him with more alcohol, thinking it a cure for all ills, and Sam accepted because it dulled the pain and humiliation, for an hour or two.
In the next couple of weeks, Sam tried to get back into the rhythm of work, although Gene was understandably reluctant to let him. He wasn't the only one treating him with kid gloves. Most people at the station could hardly look him in the eye. But Sam was insistent and he had to have this, because without it, all he had were his thoughts.
"I need a case, Gene. Something to focus on. Please."
Gene's stare was guarded. "Alright, but it's strictly a desk job."
"You're not to be out on the street."
"I get it."
"It's not that I don't think you're capable," Gene said, touching Sam briefly on the shoulder.
Sam had expected to want to flinch away from his touch. Most of the rape cases he had encountered previously suggested he would, but Gene's skin against his own calmed him and he found himself moving into it more often than not, even initiating contact. It was a grounding influence, an overwhelming sensation of familiarity that cut through the memories that kept him up at night. And a lot of the time, Gene wasn't afraid to touch Sam, which he supposed could be through ignorance, but it felt more like he knew what Sam could take.
The physicality of their relationship had changed. Gene was more willing to talk, less ready with his fists, but he would put a steering hand on his elbow, sit close to him on the settee - seemed to think he could erase Warren's fingerprints dancing across Sam's body - and sometimes, he could.
But at this moment all Sam wanted was to be left alone.
"It's not that you don't think I'm capable, I'm just not," he said monotonously, winding his arms across his chest and withdrawing into himself.
Four months passed and Sam was still plagued by nightmares, although they had abated to once or twice a week as opposed to every night. He was bathing less, too, not needing to scrub so hard. These were encouraging signs, he thought - signals that he might be working towards passing for normal. He still lived with Gene, though. Hadn't found it within him to gather the confidence to step out on his own. Gene didn't seem to mind. Although he afforded Sam more and more responsibility, he still sheltered him - giving him easy cases, keeping a close eye on how people at the station treated him.
Occasionally, this pissed Sam off and he rallied against it, but then there were those other times when he needed someone to bolster him up, and Gene was there, caring more than he probably should and making Sam feel an emotion that wasn't numbness and disconnection. There was a look that Gene would get that suggested he was waiting for a certain reaction from Sam, an uneasiness in their interaction that pointed to depths Sam didn't yet have the strength to uncover. Gene stood by him and Sam had to be thankful for this.
Sam began covertly working on a draft proposal for a specialised unit that would help support rape victims. He hated the word victim, would more often refer to survivors, but he knew from previous conversations that no one else understood his reasoning. He envisioned a place where people could go to talk to counsellors and health care professionals - a centre that had close allegiances and initial funding from the police, but would ultimately operate separately.
Gene looked at him as if he were mad when he put forward his idea.
"It would be a recovery centre," Sam explained, sitting on Gene's brown leather settee, half a scotch swirling in the glass in his hand. "People are afraid to talk about what's happened to them, but for some, it's necessary."
"Isn't it a little too close to the bone?" Gene said, concern deepening the frown line between his brows.
"It's precisely because I have personal experience that I am the person to head this," Sam replied, obstinately.
"We won't secure much funding."
"I'll do my best with the little we're given. I'm sure there'd be volunteers."
Gene kept frowning. "How would you be able to tell if the people you were trying to help were others like you? Not just tarts who didn't get their way?"
Sam rose quickly, spinning on his heel, surprising Gene with his swiftness. His fist connected with a satisfying crunch and he would have hit again, but Gene stepped away, holding his hands out.
"Wrong thing to say," he grunted. "I understand."
"No one deserves to be raped. Not every case may be genuine, but you're a fool if you think that's the majority."
"I never said that."
"No, but you've thought it before now, haven't you? Oh, she's a woman, she must have asked for it, invited it, with her bedroom eyes and slutty clothes. Me? I was obviously abused, no bloke would ever want to be tied down and fucked like that."
Gene winced, avoiding looking at Sam.
Sam stood his ground. "I'm doing this. You can help or you can hinder."
"Why? Why not try to forget?"
"Because I've tried and it hasn't worked. I'm not gonna let this crush me, Gene. I'm not that weak."
Gene's eyes were evasive, his hand curled into a fist so tight his knuckles whitened. "There's a difference between weakness and dealing with whatever it is you're dealing with."
"This is how I deal."
Gene took a swig from his flask, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. "What do you want me to do?"
"Smooth the way with Rathbone."
"Is that all? Would you like world domination served alongside that? Maybe a side-order of eternal youth?
Sam gave a tight smile. "Do your best, Gene. That's all I ask."
Sam sat across from Dr Tracy Wickham at a canteen table, jotting down notes to type up later.
"I'd really like to provide a counselling service - not just for the survivor, but for friends and family too," he said, waiting to gauge her reaction.
"If you're looking to set up counselling, you'll need a more comforting environment than this place. It's intimidating, all grey stone walls and taupe carpet," Tracy replied, screwing her face up as she glanced around them. She pushed her glasses further up her nose - a habit Sam had got used to seeing the past two weeks they'd held these discussions.
Sam smiled as he followed her line of sight. "Yeah. Shockingly medieval, in't it? I'm not sure that the station is the best base of operations."
"No, so where were you thinking?"
"I've been looking at property, but at this stage it all takes money. I was wondering if you knew of any health centres that'd be able to find the space?"
"I might." Tracy pushed her lips forward in concentration, obviously running through a mental list of names. "That reminds me, I've a couple other people you might be interested in talking to."
"Great!" Sam poised his pen, preparing to take down names and numbers, when Annie came and placed her hand on his arm.
"Sam, we need to talk."
Sam stood, gave Tracy a small, confused smile, and followed Annie into Lost and Found.
"Why're we here?"
"Some privacy." Annie sat perched on the table, played with the hem of her skirt, her eyes fixed on her fingers.
"What's this about, Annie?"
"The Guv wanted me to tell you, because - well, I'm not sure why," Annie said, voice even higher than usual, and soft, too - as soft as she used to get when telling him he was mad for not believing the world was real.
Sam felt tightness clutch his chest. "Tell me what?"
"Warren rolled over on all his contacts. They're transferring him to a minimum security prison and lightening his sentence."
Sam felt his mouth drop open, his throat constrict. "You can't be serious."
"I wish I wasn't." Annie raised her hands and stepped forward, brushing her thumbs against his face with soft strokes. "Oh, Sam, I'm so sorry."
Sam pulled away. "He sexually assaulted a police officer," he said, still not able to comprehend how this could be possible.
"He has ties to international crime syndicates, not to mention a fair few friends still in positions of power."
Sam went to punch the wall, thought better of it, and stared steadfastly into Annie's eyes, his chest heaving, face flushed. Each word he said was thick with anger and resentment. "Every time I think there's some justice in the world, I'm shown that's just not the case."
Annie's expression was earnest. "Isn't that why we do what we do? To try and change that?"
Sam nodded, more to himself than to Annie, willing himself not to conjure Warren's face into his mind. "Can you go and explain to Tracy that I'll have to reschedule?"
"Tell her I'm not sure when that'll be," Sam said, rubbing his hand against the back of his head.
"Maybe next week?" Annie said with a hopeful lilt.
"Don't make any promises, Annie."
The nightmares returned in full force, flashbacks cascading across his eyes, until one night he woke up yelling, Gene's arms around him. Sam peered into the darkness, knowing it was Gene, but unable to stop from shuddering straight away.
"You were crying," Gene explained, awkwardly. He let go, moved back, but Sam crawled towards him.
"No," he said, voice fractured. "Stay."
Gene's hands settled back around Sam, a lingering note of discomfort in his posture. Sam waited as his eyes adjusted to the light and he could see Gene's Adam's apple bob in his throat, his gaze resolutely turned towards the wall. He thought about telling him to go, about getting up and finishing his draft proposal for the recovery centre, and was about to do so when Gene started to speak.
"This reminds me of me and Stu, back in the day. Waiting for the racket to stop."
"How come I didn't know you have a brother?"
"Had. Past tense. He died, ten years back. Got into drugs 'cause he'd memories he'd rather forget."
"Of the war? Must've been terrifying for a young kid."
Gene shook his head. "My old man was a drunk and he used to make us toe the line in various creative ways. His favourite was a punch, straight in the gut, then a right-hook to the chin."
"It's alright. I learnt to live with it. But Stu..."
Sam filled in the lingering blank. "He didn't."
"I'd protect him best I could, but it was never enough."
Silence stretched between them, Sam shifting so that he was propped up against the wall with his feet flat against the bed, no longer enveloped by Gene's arms. He sighed to himself, the noise sounding too loud in the space between them.
"You don't have to protect me," he said eventually, not wanting to sound like he was rejecting Gene and not entirely positive he was telling the truth anyway.
Gene dug into his pocket for a cigarette and lit it with a detached shrug. "I take care of all my officers."
Gene stayed with him through the night and they talked about anything other than Warren. But by the morning, Sam had made his decision.
"I need to go and see him."
Gene understood who he meant, despite their conversation recently veering into a discussion of George Best. "I don't think that's wise."
"I have to. I have to prove myself to him."
"You can't understand."
Gene reached out, increasing their contact. His tone was gruff, but Sam could hear an underlying note of concern. "Then tell me, because I think I need to."
"He took something from me that day, Gene. He stripped me of my spirit, of belief in myself. It was why he did it. He said it was about lust, but it was about power, so I have to show him, show myself, that he doesn't hold that over me anymore."
Gene voiced Sam's doubts. "But what if, after all of it, you still feel like he does?"
"Well, in that case, I'll expect you to stop me from killing him."
They hovered by the door of the interview room. Sam stopped himself from pacing, but only just, his hand jittering against his thigh.
"I could come in with you, if you'd like?"
"It'd undermine my intention, I think."
"The offer's there, if it gets too much, or you discover you wanna beat him to a pulp after all."
Sam gave the hint of a smile. "I'll yell if that's the case." He took a deep breath, looking Gene in the eye. "You shouldn't be letting me do this, you know."
Gene shrugged, expression vacant. "It's what you wanted, and I've learnt not to get in your way when you set your sights on something, no matter how I feel about it."
"You make it sound like I'm headstrong, stubborn."
"Yeah, what a ridiculous notion, however could I think that?"
Sam raised an eyebrow. "It's not so true anymore."
Gene's blankness disappeared, replaced by a look akin to outrage, skin tightening and eyes boring holes. "Is that what you think? That just because you have bad dreams you're somehow less than you were? You've proved that you're strong - stronger than many. You wanted this, so I'm here, but don't think for a second that I think you need this."
"I don't just have bad dreams. If you think that's all I go through ---"
"I don't," Gene said, shaking his head, eyes wide. "I know that isn't everything, but you're still you, despite what that limp-wristed sexual-sadist did, regardless of whether you'll feel better after this or not. I know that you'll come out of there the same stubborn prick who went in. The confidence you've got hasn't gone. It's just been whacked around a few times."
Sam pursed his lips, not sure if he should show anger or gratitude. He didn't know if Gene was right, whether Gene's belief in him was borne out of an inability to understand the ramifications of his encounter with Warren. But he did know that he'd come this far and he had to see it to the end.
Sam opened the door and stepped through. He was aware his body language was betraying him, that he kept his back to the wall and stood upright and tense, ready to spring should Warren turn into an attacker. Warren didn't seem to notice. Gaol had not been kind to him. His hair was long and lank, he was no longer wearing fine clothes, and he was thinner now, more haggard. But none of that stopped him from regarding Sam with amusement.
"Couldn't stay away, could you? Had to see the man who opened your eyes to a whole new world."
Sam regarded him for a long time, until Warren's smirk slackened and he began to look uneasy. This was the opening Sam needed - a quick pulse of energy thrumming through him. He sauntered forward and sat at the table.
"You thought you could break me," he said, conversationally.
"Don't tell me," Warren said with obvious trepidation that was revealed to be fake in the next breath. "I didn't?"
Sam shook his head slowly. "No."
"And why is that?"
"It's simple. There are more important things than you in this world."
"And more important things than you, I imagine."
"But you don't still think about my cock driving into you, Tyler? Claiming you? Marking you as mine?"
Sam was surprised that Warren's obvious attempt at intimidation didn't work. He calmly quirked an eyebrow. "I try not think about vile experiences."
Warren chuckled, the sound thick. "You're still a hard man. That's really very sweet."
"You failed to understand that being hard and being flexible aren't mutually exclusive. I don't snap easily."
"Really? Then why have you come to speak with me today?"
"Because, thanks to you, I've now found my place. See, I was lost before. Didn't know what I was doing here, couldn't understand why I bothered every day. But now, I have something to believe in."
"Yeah. I'm gonna do everything in my considerable power to stop bastards like you. But if I can't always manage it, I'm going to ensure that people who think they've been broken can see just how strong they are - that the actions of weak-willed individuals like yourself don't have to dictate the way they lead their lives."
"Good for you." The bitterness was sharp in Warren's voice. Whilst he wouldn't let his expression betray him, Sam could tell he was seething. And he realised, in that moment, that his objective had been achieved. He had done exactly what he set out do to. And Gene had been right all along.
He stood, turned his back on Warren, and didn't flinch when Warren spoke.
"I'll be seeing you, Sam."
Sam put his hand on the door handle, pausing to glance over his shoulder. "No. You won't."
Sam sat in the Arms, the fug of smoke hovering above his head and the stench of stale beer flooding his nostrils. He had been discussing the latest advances in the recovery centre proposal with Annie; the idea of implementing training with WPCs and bobbies, until she had unceremoniously declared she needed to use the loo.
"What about me?" Gene asked, nudging across the bar closer to Sam and looking at him like he wished to look through him, a dark inquisitive glint to his gaze. "I don't get any of this namby pamby training?"
"The very fact that you used the words namby namby, Gene, show that this would be a very lost cause."
"What? I can't be sensitive?"
Sam felt a laugh bubbling up inside, threatening to escape.
"Oi, you slag, d'you wanna talk about it with the Gene Genie?" he asked, imitating Gene with an accuracy even he was impressed with.
Gene concealed amusement through furrowing his eyebrows in a comically exaggerated fashion. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing, Guv," Sam said, shaking his head and smiling. He felt, for the first time in a long time, that it was genuine amusement --- he no longer needed to pretend to be okay.
They shared a look, Gene regarding Sam carefully, as if sensing a subtle yet significant change. Sam acknowledged this with a slight head-tilt, wondering when he'd have the courage to thank Gene for the time and patience he'd given him. Despite the jokes and protestations about Gene's lack of sensitivity, he'd shown Sam a side that he knew few had ever been privy to. They shared a closeness that Sam felt positive neither of them had experienced before.
"Another... water?" Gene asked, peering down at the empty glasses on the counter with a raised eyebrow that provoked another smile.
"No. I'm alright, thanks."
Gene wound an arm across his back and clutched his shoulder, the weight still warm, familiar and comforting, but with an extra spark too. Sam leaned into it and contemplated him with a lazy grin. Gene's eyes widened a fraction and his lips seemed to soften, until he recovered his senses and he loudly and rambunctiously ordered another round.
"'Course you're alright," Gene said when his beer was on the bar. His eyes were on Sam's glass, but his arm was still holding firm. "You've got me, haven't you?"
Sam didn't need to say anything, but he nodded and gave a self-mocking twist of his lips. "And for better or worse, you've got me."