Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 1973 -- \o/
Notes: Sam/Gene. This was meant to be for porntober as well as the latest 1973flashfic challenge, but it never actually got to the porn.
Summary: Sam and Gene pull an all-nighter over a murder investigation.
Unhappy the land that has no heroes . . . No, unhappy the land that needs heroes.
The chill of the night air exacerbated the ominous tension stretching into the darkness as they stood waiting for the uniformed officers and forensics team to arrive. Sam sighed as he noted the soft whirr of distant traffic and a flickering streetlamp. They were not distraction enough. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself, absently doing up the buttons. When he was finished he stuffed his hands into his pockets, finding a farthing he’d seen trapped amongst the files in the collator’s den, a scrap piece of paper reminding him he needed to buy milk, and a pen lid. His fingers stroked against the edges and grooves, the paper crinkling with the movement. Gene flicked his gaze in Sam’s direction at the noise, mouth a thin, set line.
Dennis had radioed not ten minutes before, just as they’d left the pub, morose acceptance etched into every tone, audible even through the crackle of interference. A dead body found in an alleyway, anonymous tip given by an indistinguishable voice. The body was lying in a pool of blood, eyes open and vacant. It wasn’t nauseatingly grisly, just one slash across the neck from the look of it. One slash too many. Sam had insisted they touch nothing, but they’d both canvassed the area carefully, looking for clues, of which they’d found a grand total of zero, zilch, nothing.
“Another all-nighter?” Sam asked, mostly to fill the silence than for confirmation of something he already knew.
“Looks like it. What’ll that make the tally this month?”
“At least six. Perhaps more like nine?”
“Wonder if we’ll get paid double time?” Gene queried with a vein of sarcasm winding through his words. He stared at Sam with the weary air of someone who’d seen it all too many times. Sam returned the look.
When the sirens finally neared the crime scene, Sam gave a huff of relief that was met with a forceful clap on the back. Gene strode to the first officer to get out of the car, a tall, young man whom Sam recognised as PC Banks, and began to issue his orders.
“Go, go gadget Guv,” Sam muttered to himself, waiting to liaise with the forensics team.
The ominous feeling had dispersed, to be replaced by a flurry of activity that seemed to Sam to be two-parts necessity, one-part show. For some reason, none of this cheered him up.
The hours ticked by at varying speeds according to Sam’s sleep-deprived mind. One hour would trickle, another would surge. Bleary-eyed and unshaven faces floated into his field of vision between written witness statements given by rancorous neighbours, a quick initial report by Oswald, and case files from similar instances, dredged up from his colleague’s memories.
At approximately four in the morning, Gene leaned over Sam’s desk. “You should go home, get some kip. At least one of us should be firing on all cylinders tomorrow.”
“If you’re here, I’m here,” Sam said, hoping it sounded more like solidarity than accusation.
Gene studied him for a moment, a twitch in his jaw, and Sam wasn’t sure how he’d reacted, until he shrugged one shoulder and said, “Fair enough.”
He didn’t step back into his office like Sam expected him to, instead straightening up, solid as a monolith and twice as imposing.
“Get your jacket, we’re going for a wander.”
Sam was in no mood for an argument, so he followed the instructions wordlessly, unwinding his leg muscles and cricking his neck as he stood and pulled his jacket from the stand.
Out again in the cold and crisp, Sam immediately regretted his decision to follow orders. He lagged two seconds behind Gene, heels scuffing the damp pavement, lower legs unwilling to cross vast distances, creating stilted, jerky little steps instead. He had to give a hop and a skip to catch up.
“Slow down already,” Sam called, and he could hear the whine in his voice.
“If I do, I’ll freeze to death,” Gene retorted, swivelling to look into Sam’s eyes. He gave a grim smirk that held more grimace than amusement. “And so will you, so shift it.”
Sam sucked in a deep breath and turned his faltering steps into more of a jog. He was cold and tired and sick of it, sick of it all. Gene was just as tired as he was, he knew it, could see it in the lines of his face and the slump of his shoulders. He was just as disillusioned. They fought and they fought and they fought and for what? An occasional twist of victory and justice and ever-increasing kicks in the teeth.
It was his duty. He’d signed up for it. Most days he thrived on it. The opportunity to make a difference, help other people, in his own, insignificant way. A cog in a machine that needed attention and care, oil to get the parts moving smoothly again, a replacement of components that had corroded beyond repair.
They’d been walking for twenty-five minutes when Sam finally realised their intended destination. Gene had taken the back route, and Sam couldn’t help but think of him as a manipulative bastard.
“You’re taking me home,” he said, masking anger with forced wonderment and stopping dead in his tracks.
“I commend your detective work. You should consider it as a career.”
“I don’t need sleep any more than you do.”
“You don’t need it any less either.” Gene took Sam’s sleeve and commenced tugging. “C’mon Sam, go to bed.”
Gene’s eyes glinted, but that was all the warning Sam got before he was barrelled into a fireman’s lift. He struggled, stamped with the heels of his palms and kicked whatever he could reach for good measure, but Gene ignored his protestations and violence and carried him into the block of flats. He was breathing hard by the time he got to Sam’s door, and had slowed to a crawl much to Sam’s cruel satisfaction, but he still jimmied the lock and stormed in. Gene practically threw Sam, who could now see how red his face had become, sweat pouring off him and plastering his hair to his forehead.
“Jesus Christ, Gene,” Sam said, keeping his voice low, more of a growl than a statement. “What makes you think you have the right?”
“My superiority in all things, including rank.” Gene crashed down on the chaise longue and extracted one of his hip flasks.
“I cannot believe you did that. I’m not some damsel in distress.”
“You threw the gauntlet down, I picked it up. And you may not be a damsel, but I’d say you’re in considerable distress. You think I don’t notice the glaze in your eyes?”
“I’m not the only one. Who was lamenting the lack of extra pay not a few hours ago?”
Gene’s upper lip curled, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Sam tried to determine why he hadn’t yet punched his way to vengeance, knowing on any other day he’d enjoy seeing Gene’s nose smash beneath his knuckles. He continued to sit on his cot, already contemplating lying down, bones heavy and aching.
“I should be getting back,” Gene said, making no effort to move. His head hunkered lower, limbs relaxed.
“Do we really need to be there?” Sam asked, surprising himself. “There’s not much we can do until daybreak, surely? Let’s face it, the skeleton crew were managing just fine with the tasks you assigned.”
Gene stared steadfastly at the carpet. “Need’s a tricky thing. It rarely strikes the same way twice. You feel you need something and you do, it becomes physical. Swallows you whole.”
“You need to be in command, because sometimes it’s the only power you have,” Sam replied, nodding dimly, beginning to understand.
Gene looked up. “That’s not what I meant.” His expression softened. “But that sounds about right.”
“We can’t win all the time,” Sam said.
“I don’t know about you, but I often wish I didn’t know that.”
Gene pouted against the rim of his flask and levelled Sam with another calculating stare.
“I get frustrated sometimes, that’s all,” Sam continued, dodging the intensity by standing and going to the kitchenette, planting two mugs on the counter. “Why’s it always us that has to pick up the pieces? We try our hardest, do our best, might not always do the right thing, but we’ve the right intentions. And it’s never good enough. Why do I struggle day after day, when it comes to so little, then feel like I’m weak because I grow steadily apathetic? How come it’s selfish to want reward, even if that’s nothing more than acknowledgement? And I know the answers, Gene, so don’t bother with the wise mentor bit. I just --- I ask these questions on occasion.”
Sam was aware of Gene rising and nearing close, two hands gripping once more around his sleeve, but this time gentle as they pulled him away from the counter. His heart-rate quickened, his palms felt clammy, and suddenly he realised that the undercurrents he’d been sensing between them were less under and more current.
“You know the answers?” Gene asked. “Feel like sharing?”
Sam gave a soft smile. “Why’s it us? Because we were the fools who asked for it. Why do I struggle? Because someone has to. Why’s it selfish? It’s not, stop being a prick. Go to bed when your boss tells you and learn to wind down. This is life.”
Gene pulled Sam closer, winding a hand into his hair. Sam instinctively nuzzled into his neck, inhaling a heady mix of tobacco and masculinity.
“See, you, Sam, you only think you know the answers. You don’t. You don’t struggle because someone has to. Someone could be anyone. It’s you because you’re a good man. A bit cracked, maybe. Definitely poncy. But your heart’s in the right place, and your heart reminds me of why I ever bothered with this lark to begin with. You care like few others care. Naturally, when the odds are stacked against us, you’re gonna care about that too.”
“You did it again,” Sam said, unable to render his gratitude for these remarks appropriately. Gene was not relinquishing his hold and he didn’t want him to. If anything, he arched closer into the trunk of his body, one hand stroking his side under the camel-hair coat and the other at the small of his back. “You did the whole mentor bit. You’re not my mentor, Gene.”
“No,” Gene said again, pulling back so that they faced each other. He seemed to be waiting for Sam to give him a signal, and even though Sam could guess at what it was, he wanted this moment to last.
“You know,” Sam said slowly, drawing the words out. “One way of easing frustration is to channel it into other emotions, other... sensations.”
Gene faked naivety entirely unconvincingly. “Like what?”
“Hard to say. Better to demonstrate,” Sam said, tilting his head to one side.
He eased forward until there was only an inch between them and waited for Gene to meet him halfway. Sam parted his lips as soon as Gene’s touched, sliding his tongue into Gene’s mouth, deliberate in his actions. He noted, with wry amusement at his habit of being detail-oriented, that their stubble rasped with every slight movement, adding friction. The kiss was long and languorous, the kind of contact Sam had craved since he couldn’t remember when.
And for that moment in time, Sam felt better. Thought it was all worth it. His life wasn’t perfect, and neither was he. There was still a difficult murder case to solve with limited resources and not enough evidence. But he wasn’t alone.