Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 3,530 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene, set 1988. Title from ‘Changes’ by David Bowie. Part six in the Changes Series. You need to have read never caught a glimpse, time was running wild, the taste was not so sweet, how the others must see the faker and strange fascination, fascinating me first for this to make any sense.
Warning: Prior character death. Mentions of incest.
Summary: “I mean it. We’re through. Whatever it is you think this is, it’s finished.”
Gene stops the kiss two seconds too late. Late enough that he’ll never be able to forget the warm brush of Sam’s lips against his, the press of his body, the fingers that tangled into his hair. Late enough that he doesn’t give a thought to the sound of his sunglasses clattering onto the bitumen. Late enough that he can taste spearmint and beer. A single kiss shouldn’t feel simultaneously like the beginning and end of the world, but it does.
He pushes Sam away, not with a harsh shove, but with a gentle press, and realises he should have shoved when all he wants to do is draw Sam back upon looking at his confused, rejected expression. Sam looks so hurt, and Gene’s body thrums with the need to fix that.
“Fuck,” Gene exhales, winding a hand behind Sam’s head and pulling him close.
He can’t time this kiss in seconds. He doesn’t try after Sam licks over his teeth, sliding his tongue into his mouth. He hasn’t kissed anyone in years --- the people he’s bedded now and again not close enough for that kind of intimacy --- and he thinks he may have forgotten how, because this is nothing like he remembers. He’d expected this to feel familiar, like a million other kisses, but it doesn’t.
Sam makes a desperate sound against his mouth, cranes forward as if he wants more. Gene reflects that few red blooded men --- hell, few red blooded women --- would be able to turn this down. Morality doesn’t seem to have any standing against the needs and wants of his body. He leans back against the wall Sam had dragged him against, not because his knees are weak, but because it’s easier to match Sam’s height. He licks Sam’s lower lip, then presses a kiss against the corner of his lips, then dives in again for something deeper, longer.
Sam makes an entirely different noise, grabs Gene’s hands and begins to haul him off the wall, pull him down the road.
“What’re you doing?”
“I’m taking you back to mine. It’s not far from here.”
“Can get by without me. They’ve had to before.”
“Don’t you share?”
Sam laughs. “No one wanted to. Notorious for violence, me. Completely unsavoury.”
Gene thinks he should be resisting, in fact, he’s sure of it, but he doesn’t resist. He allows Sam to propel, push and guide him down two streets. They don’t talk. Occasionally, Sam drags him into another kiss. At one point, Gene stumbles, uncoordinated like he’s had a few dozen too many. He watches as Sam clambers up the steps to a set of flats, eyes intent on the curve of his arse in sadly baggy jeans. There’s a sliver of skin showing above his waistband and below his ridden up shirt that Gene wants to lick.
The short glimpse Gene gets of the flat reminds him of the early days of Sam’s flat in Manchester. There are books strewn on the floor, cans of open soft drink on the table, three dirty plates in places plates should never be, but before Gene has time to chastise Sam, his knees are against the edge of the bed and he’s falling back. Sam straddles his hips, grinding a couple times, pulls at his collar and flicks his top button undone. He nuzzles into the exposed stretch of Gene’s neck, and Gene can’t help but give an embarrassingly long moan at that.
“I know you’ve wanted this as long as I have,” Sam murmurs against the juncture of his neck and shoulder. “That night at the club. I wasn’t imagining things.”
Longer, Gene thinks. So much longer than that.
Gene thinks about sliding his hands up under Sam’s shirt, brushing his fingers against smooth, tempting skin, but he hesitates because --- because there’s a line --- and it may be fuzzy, and it may sometimes seem to shift, but it’s still there.
Sam rocks his hips again, moves to unbutton more of Gene’s shirt, but Gene takes hold of his wrists. He doesn’t squeeze tight, but he can feel a pulse; he can’t tell if it’s his own or Sam’s.
“No,” he says, with as much authority as he can muster.
“Don’t try to tell me you’re no longer in the mood. I can feel you,” Sam says. He swivels his hips again as if to prove the point.
“I’m no longer in the mood.”
“Would you like me to call you Daddy?” Sam teases.
Gene flings Sam off and wrenches himself away. He goes to stand by the door, actively stops himself from shuddering. “Don’t,” he says. “Don’t say that.”
Sam sidles up him, traces of humour now dispersed amongst confusion. “I’m making fun of your ridiculousness over the age difference, that’s all. The sulking and the angst because I was born in a different decade.”
Gene squeezes his eyes tight, then opens them again, almost wishing he could cut Sam with a glare. “You think my problem’s the age difference? Of course you do. What other reason could there be?”
Sam’s expression changes over a series of seconds, ranging from confusion to annoyance to horror.
“Oh God,” Sam says. “You’re not my biological father, are you? I mean, that would explain ---”
“Don’t be such a dick,” Gene snarls. He gives Sam the once over. In his confusion and momentary dismay, he looks more vulnerable than ever. “I can’t believe I was gonna do this.”
“You mean do me?” Sam retorts, curling his lip up.
“Yeah, if you’re a juvenile twat... oh, wait... ”
Gene places his hand on the door handle. Sam looks torn between wanting to catapult him out the door and entangle him in another embrace.
“Have a nice life, Sam. I won’t be bothering you any more.”
“Do you mean it this time or will there be a repeat performance in a few months? I’d like to know, so as I can make holiday plans, you know how it goes.”
“I mean it. We’re through. Whatever it is you think this is, it’s finished.”
Gene yanks open the door and storms out. He thinks he hears Sam call after him, but he’ll not turn around.
Guilt sets in five strides down the road, but he doesn’t stop. He’s keenly aware that to Sam it looks like he overreacted to a poorly timed joke, that now he’s been left in the lurch over a triviality. That’s not strictly fair. But Gene had no choice. He’s never been one for mixed signals before. Always made his decision and followed through. He came too close there, far too close to losing his head, and it’s Sam who’d suffer the consequences, not him. He thinks about Annie’s words. Do you let it consume him? He’s already affected. Fuck. And Sam can’t know, Gene can’t explain, that while, yeah, the fact he’s little more than a kid is a bastard big contributing factor as to why he’s reticent to allow this to go any further, that’s not the whole of it. How can he say, ’I’m still in love with a version of you, I don’t mean that metaphorically, and this wouldn’t be fair on any of us’?
Fairness, Gene muses, is a loaded concept. He’s not sure he’s ever mastered it.
Mexico, he decides in a snap. He’ll make arrangements for Mexico. It’d always sounded attractive in Sam’s stories. Harder to hop back into the country on a whim that way, and since, at this current moment, he’s itching to go back and talk to Sam --- only talk; not lick, and nip, and bite, and kiss the whole of him, and take and give and worship --- he’ll have to be far away.
It’s shockingly easy to quit his job. They hold a party for him and hand him a watch, and he gives a speech he doesn’t remember, because he couldn’t have cared less about the people he was delivering it to. He gets a card from Chris two days later, waiting for him in his emptied office, on the boxes of relics he’d half a mind to chuck. The message is long, but it boils down to, ‘you were the best Guv I ever had’. It makes Gene want to crush it into a ball, but he pockets it instead.
No more mission. No more catching crims. The revelation shouldn’t make him shrug. The realisation that he’s the worst kind of hypocrite stings only so long as he’ll let it.
He’s off to collect his airfare when he opens the door to his motel room to find Sam pacing the courtyard. Seeing him sends his heart pounding instantly, and his mind whirling into overdrive.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Gene bellows. If he’d had any sense, he’d have kept quiet, gone back inside, and watched Sam out his window, but he can’t control all his reflexes all the time, and it surges out of him without a second thought. “What are you doing here?”
Sam looks altogether nervous, brash, and insistent. “I’d like to claim it’s a coincidence, but that would be a lie. I’m fine-tuning my detective skills. You have to admit, I’m pretty good.”
Gene admits to himself that it’s true. That Sam found him here is impressive. Terror-making, heart-breaking, annoying-to-the-nth-degree, but impressive.
“You should be at training.”
“I went to see my Doctor about the terrible stomach bug I’ve got --- feels like I’ve a thousand creepy crawlies dancing a jig in there. He gave me a certificate for three days.”
Gene lets out a sigh. “You’re like a dog with a bone.”
Sam raises an eyebrow. “Interesting metaphor.”
“It’s a simile.”
“Let me in.”
“Then scream. I said I wouldn’t bother you again, why are you bothering me?”
Sam steps forward, frowning slightly. His lips are curved in a pout. “I think I deserve answers.”
“I don’t have any. I’d’ve thought I made that abundantly clear.”
“No. Let me in.”
Gene half-considers stepping back into his room and slamming the door in Sam’s face, but there’s no doubt in his mind that Sam would scream, the authorities would be called, and hell would reign on earth. He allows Sam into his room and watches as Sam flops onto the bed, lazily spreading out his arms. Gene leans against the doorjamb, close to a point of escape.
“You have to stop doing this, Sam. It’s not right.”
“I really like the fact you have the audacity to be proclaiming right from wrong,” Sam says. He changes tone. “You want me, why won’t you have me? Especially if it’s not because I turn nineteen in three weeks.”
Gene winces. “It’s also because you’re touched in the head.”
“I don’t think of you as a father figure,” Sam says. “I promise. I was being an idiot. I’d a little too much to drink --- I always do when I have to perform.”
“I don’t mean your half-arsed attempt at humour. That’s the least of it. Look at yourself. Think about what brought you here today. That sort of obsession’s far from healthy.”
“So you’re touched in the head too?”
“I’m not obsessed.”
Sam springs from the bed. “You damned well are. And you appear to be a masochist. Of the two of us, I’d say you’re considerably more screwed up.”
Gene considers this, but, for once, doesn’t want to relent. He may be more of a headcase, but he at least has reason to be. Why is it that Sam’s three quarters cracked even when, by rights, he should be well-adjusted? After a time --- over a year, admittedly, but the point still stands --- Sam had settled into what could almost be called normalcy. The discrepancies between his and Gene’s sanity had all been based on differing experiences and beliefs, and made much more sense once the truth was known. Nothing too outlandish, either, no matter Gene’s claims on the subject. Gene had never thought he was irrevocably damaged.
“I promise I won’t say anything stupid this time,” Sam says, now, wheedling into Gene’s personal space. “I won’t speak at all, if you don’t want.”
“That doesn’t sound like you.”
“I don’t have to be me. You could pretend I’m whoever it is I remind you of.”
Impossible, Gene thinks. And painful.
He takes Sam by the shoulders and sits him back on the bed. “Jesus, Sam, are you really so greedy for affection?”
“It’s not greedy, it’s starved,” Sam says absently.
“No, in your case, I think it’s greedy.”
Gene regrets that he doesn’t keep a flask on him, then, as he pats down his clothes and finds little but a lighter and his three remaining cigarettes. He could do with a drink, badly. He proffers Sam a cigarette, but it’s rejected.
“You know you’re not hideous, don’t you? Someone with a looser tongue might even go so far as to say you’re drop dead gorgeous. You could have man, woman, or beast mewling for your attentions.”
“That’s all well and good, but this isn’t about sex.”
“If that’s the case, why’d’you keep trying to seduce me?”
“Okay, it’s a little bit about sex. But that’s not all of it.”
“Good. Because I prefer you more as a twonk than a twink.”
Sam’s smile is wide, warm, and genuine. “You’re the only person I’ve ever met who could say that with a straight face. Not just straight, but grumpy. It’s a wonder to behold.”
“You’re infatuated with me,” Gene says. “Which, I’m not going to deny, is flattering. But I can’t give you what you want. I won’t.”
“Why not?” Sam asks. It isn’t a whine. He doesn’t look like he’s being manipulative, and Gene’s seen that enough times to be reasonably sure. He’s simply confused. “I think it’s the not knowing that’s making this all so difficult for me to grasp.”
“You’re right in that you remind me of someone,” Gene says slowly. “And I --- I was constantly surprised by how well we fit together, when most of the time, we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. He brought out the best in me, provoked the worst in me, and sometimes we were happy.”
“You loved him,” Sam says.
“Why does everybody keep telling me that?” Gene snaps. “I know my own heart.” He puffs on his cigarette, allows the smoke to billow into the air. “Yes, I loved him. I actually thought we’d be together until the day I died, which, given his propensity for being a prick who didn’t listen to reason, could be any day of the week. But, naturally, the bastard had to go and get himself killed first and I’ve never been able to forgive him.”
“Do I look like him?”
“Yeah, you do.”
Sam studies Gene. “For some reason, I feel like there’s more.”
“That’s all you’re getting. So. Now you can go on your merry way.”
Sam shakes his head, places his hand high on Gene’s leg. “I disagree. I think that now I know the truth there’s no reason we can’t act out our desires. We each know why the other’s invested. It’d help me get over you. It might help you get over him.”
“I know that young men are permanently horned up, but Jesus, give it a rest.”
“No, really. What’s stopping you?”
“I’m a man of honour.”
Gene grits his teeth. “I am.”
Sam persists. “The way I see it, we’d both be benefitting, and what more could anyone want?”
Gene stands, crosses the small space back to the door. “Stop throwing yourself at me. You’ll regret it, believe me. I’m only human.”
“I’m sort of counting on that.”
Gene glares. It’s all he can do other than leave all his worldly possessions behind and make a noble and valiant escape. “Listen, if this isn’t about sex, let’s make a deal. I’ll be your friend long as you stop being Marilyn Chambers.”
“Easy to accomplish, since I’ve no idea who she is,” Sam says blithely. “What kind of friend are you gonna be from overseas?”
“A distant one. Which is the best way. But I’ll talk if you need it, and I’ll listen even better.”
Sam curls his legs under himself, twines his fingers. “Okay. Can we start now?”
They go to a café. It’s best to be somewhere there’s no bed that Sam can loll on, and Gene’s stomach begins to growl merely at the suggestion of food. They sit across from one another and they talk. Mostly, Sam babbles and Gene lets him pour his heart out. There's a lot Gene can give advice on, and a lot for which there's nothing to say. Sam’s worries and fears are familiar. He’s got more than halfway through training, but he’s still not sure he wants to be a cop, because it sounds like it requires unlimited reserves of patience and dedication that he doesn’t think he has.
“And the patience and dedication you showed in finding me twice mean nothing?” Gene asks, because he’s still a bit terrified Sam managed it.
“I wanted to find you. I was sure it could be done. I don’t feel the same way about policing. It’s a hard slog for little reward.”
“Then don’t become a cop,” Gene says. “In fact, don’t try to do anything other than fuck over other people and big note yourself, because few jobs offer any reward at all. And rewards always come at a price.”
“Is it really naive to expect happiness from life?”
“It is if you’re not willing to work for it.”
“Oh. Right. No one ever tells you these things when you’re growing up. It’s always ‘be the very best you can be and everything will be wonderful. Here, Sam, have a gold star’.”
Gene snorts into his coffee. “Real life’s not always horrible. For me, the reward was knowing that someone was out there doing their best, even if they didn’t always succeed.”
“I read about whispers of corruption directly involving you. Your reward was also a tidy sum of banknotes and the occasional assisted collar.”
“No, Sam. That was the price.” Gene takes a swig of coffee, bitter and sweet on his tongue. “And I gave that up earlier than the press would’ve had you believe.”
“What kept you going? Belief and hope, was that it?”
Gene thinks about it. It's a fair question. It's not something he's ever wondered about until recently. He'd always simply gone on with the job. And he'd had his ups, and his downs, but he'd never faltered so far he'd lost his step forward.
“There’s no such thing as ‘it’ in that case. Hope is a strong thing. Belief even stronger. Without them, very little would be accomplished.”
“But you’ve quit now.”
“Do you know every little last detail about my life, or what?”
Sam gives a sly grin. “I know that. You’ve packed it in.”
Gene fiddles with his slice of fruit cake, trying to determine if he could fit it all in his mouth in one go. It’d be nice to have an excuse not to answer any more difficult questions. He shouldn’t have made the offer.
“I packed it in because I’ve lost the will, and soon I’ll lose the way. It’s time. But you’re young and full of ridiculous amounts of verve and vim. You could make a real difference.”
“You think I should be a cop.”
“I think you’ve already proved you’d be one of the best. But you do have to want it. You have to have some faith. Even if it’s simply in thinking that there are people who need protecting, that there are people who deserve to be helped.”
“I do think that already.”
“Do it for them. Not because you wanna catch the most scum, or because you think you can change the world with a flick of your fairy wrist.”
Gene smiles into his coffee. “Think about the single life you could improve. That’s when it’s worth it.”
“You’re far more of a --- well, I hesitate to say idealist, but it’s what’s springing to mind --- than I ever gave you credit for being.”
“I’m a lot of things you’d never give me credit for being.”
“Will you call me from wherever it is you’re retiring, if I give you my number?”
“Finally, something you don’t know,” Gene jests. “Probably not.”
“I’d like it if you did. It does help to talk to someone about this kind of stuff. And you said you’d be a friend.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Gene says.
He regrets it the second he says it, but it’s true. He can’t leave Sam like this. He wants to see him marginally well-adjusted before he tries. And he may be the cause, but it does seem, very much, like he’s also the solution. Sam’s is the single life he could improve, and, regardless of the dangers, the allure of that is strong.
“Good,” Sam states. “Good.”
Gene looks at Sam as he takes a bite of his own fruit cake. He can’t be certain whether he disagrees.
Part Seven: i turned myself to face me
1. never caught a glimpse, 2. time was running wild, 3. the taste was not so sweet, 4. how the others must see the faker, 5. strange fascination, fascinating me, 6. just gonna have to be a different man, 7. i turned myself to face me, 8. the days float through my eyes, 9. grow up and out of it, 10. still don't know what i was waiting for