Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 3580 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene, set 1989. Title from ‘Changes’ by David Bowie. Part eleven in the Changes Series (link takes you to the previous parts.)
Warning: Prior character death. Sex between an adult and a teenager who is over the age of consent by today's standards, but not by 1989's. There are issues of race in this story.
Summary: Gene sucks on his cigarette and lets the memories flow. The good times and the bad. The happiness and the disappointment. Sam sits and stares, not attempting to interject, which is a rare blessing, and one that Gene daren’t take for granted.
Sam gives as good as he gets and by the time night rolls around, Gene is wrecked. They lie in bed together, watching the light change and shadows stretch on the wall. Sam talks about work and how it isn’t everything he thought it would be, how it doesn’t seem like it ever will be in the long run. Gene rubs spirals over his torso and makes assenting noises, aware that advice would only get in the way of much needed venting. He likes listening to Sam’s voice, rolling over him in rich waves, and he’s concentrating on that, on the fact that Sam is here beside him, so he doesn’t realise Sam’s asked him anything until Sam pokes him and reiterates the question.
“Did you ever feel like this?” Sam asks, plaintive, “like maybe you were wasting everyone’s time playing at cops and robbers?”
“I never gave myself time to,” Gene admits. “Job satisfaction didn’t exist as a concept. You did what you did.”
“I think a large part of my problem is that I actually get to do very little.”
Sam frowns majestically, brows drawn tight and lip pouting. He glares at Gene, but Gene knows he isn’t the source of the expression, he’s just in the way of his train of thought. After a second, Sam gives a short huff of breath and clears his face.
“Sorry. I’m being annoying.”
Gene can’t help but chuckle at his ever-changing mood. “Yes, you are, appalling.”
But he kisses Sam again to make it clear he doesn’t mind, and Sam cranes into it, making happy little noises.
They kiss for a long time. Gene explores Sam’s body, touching and licking and sucking until Sam shakes his head, pulling Gene off, stomach muscles tensing erratically and eyes heavy-lidded.
“I can’t...” Sam says, bunching his hand into a fist. “Can’t anymore...”
But by the time morning is illuminating the room, Sam’s easing up against him, thigh thrown over Gene’s, hips working.
“Aren’t you sore?” Gene mumbles into his shoulder, joints aching and nose twitching from the smell of them; stale sweat and morning breath.
“Don’t care,” Sam says, and proceeds to speed up.
Gene anchors him, ignoring Sam’s greedy noises of protest, and lowers down until he’s peering up at Sam.
He loves the reaction he gets when he slides his tongue from the base to the tip of Sam’s cock --- quickly-staunched rutting hips, fluttering eyelashes and a smile that is sweet and dangerous.
Life is good.
Despite being ostensibly half Gene’s size, Sam takes up the whole of the bed. He’s like a reverse-TARDIS. He looks small and compact, but he unfolds to be larger on the outside. His arms and legs sprawl to the far reaches, until there isn’t a space Gene can go without inches of Sam pressed up against him. Sam’s breath jets against his neck, his hand is splayed on his chest, and Gene is not at all fazed by Sam lying all over him. He’s warm and hard and smooth like Gene’s best scotch, elicits the same levels of fondness and calm. He could stay here forever, but too much of a wonderful thing...
There’s more to that train of thought that Gene can’t be bothered with. Everything except enjoying Sam in the lull of life takes too much of an effort. He can’t tell if it’s the calm before the storm or the eye of the hurricane, but he’s going to appreciate it whilst he can. Everything is simple here, tangible, and that’s all that matters. Sam’s age is less a concrete barrier and more an esoteric quandary --- and he’s never cared about those. Too many syllables. Whenever he glances at Sam and feels a pang of conscience, a more insistent inner voice reminds him that by the age of nineteen he had already been halfway around the world fighting for someone else’s peace, that he had watched a man be blown in two, that he’d had blood on his hands thanks to Harry Outhwaite’s eviction from the Force and eventual suicide.
Were this a different time, were he a different man, yet another voice might have reminded him that all of that had been a lifetime ago.
“Anyone ever tell you you’d make a good mattress?” Sam asks, mid-yawn. He stretches and nestles his head closer into Gene’s neck. It tickles.
“Most people who encounter me value their lives,” Gene replies, wriggling to shift his weight just enough so that he’s comfortable, but not enough to dislodge Sam.
“You mean they’ve never had the pleasure of knowing how warm and spongy you are?”
“They’ve never had the idiocy to tell me.”
“Have there been many?” Sam asks, feigning casual so obviously, Gene wonders if it’s a double bluff.
“What do you think?”
Sam gazes up at Gene knowingly. “I think you have a strict moral code. That you’re supremely loyal. That when you love, you love deeply. You’re a right monogamist, I can see it now.”
“More of that foolish idol worship, I see. You’re wrong. I wasn’t a monogamist. Not always. You’re forgetting that I’m a man with urges.”
“You’ve been remarkably good at containing them where I’ve been concerned. I reckoned you must have always been that way.”
“You reckoned wrong.”
Sam rises up out of bed and pads to the bathroom. He doesn’t look at Gene or offer an explanation. Gene has the annoying compulsion to provide his own.
“It’s not like I went out of my way to be unfaithful,” Gene calls. “It’s like I said, I had urges. And sometimes circumstances conspire to make you see things differently than you might otherwise.”
“So, as long as you don’t see it as cheating, it’s okay, is it?” Sam asks, and he sounds hurt, like Gene’s already broken his heart.
Gene squeezes his eyes tight for a couple of seconds before standing and going into the bathroom. Sam’s about to switch on the shower, hand on the tap. His back looks sculpted, his arse pert, his legs thin but muscular. He is almost as striking from behind as he is from the front, and that’s without being able to see his beautiful mouth and ever-watchful eyes. Gene steps forward and wraps his arms around his middle. His fingers stroke against Sam’s stomach and he clumsily rests his chin on his shoulder.
“I have a history. It’s long; full of pain and joy, mistakes and victories. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, but I regret precious little. Just because I played away before, doesn’t mean I will now. Anyway, I’m thrilled you think I could find anyone else who’d want me. Not everyone’s as generous nor blind as you.”
“It isn’t that,” Sam says. He twists the tap and the water splays over them, right in Gene’s face, until he steps back for fear of accidentally swallowing the torrent and choking.
“What is it, Sam?” Gene asks, because he refuses to be distracted.
“I come to a point where I think I know you and then it turns out I don’t. At all. I can’t predict what I’m gonna learn next. It’s so disorienting, always being wrong in some way. Not quite getting the subtleties. Building up an idea that turns out to be false.”
“You poor darling, how can your head grow big and bulbous if you’re aware you’re never right?” Gene mocks. He turns Sam around and kisses his forehead. “Look, you. We agreed I’m not perfect. I’m sorry if it disappoints you, but I can’t go back in time and change that.”
“You don’t even wish you could.”
“No point in it, not for me. I’ve a mind it’s stupid to wish to change all even if it were possible.”
The words tumble out of Sam like they’ve been threatening to for a long time. “Did you cheat on the man I remind you of? What was his name?”
“First of all --- not exactly. Second --- I’m not telling. As a bonus --- stop bringing him up.”
“What does ‘not exactly’ mean?”
“I’ll tell you all about it after you’ve had a good scrub,” Gene insists, grabbing soap from the soapdish and rubbing it up Sam’s back. Sam grumbles for a moment, then arches into the touch, getting playful as Gene’s fingers slip.
He slowly and methodically washes Sam, gliding his hands over his muscled physique and into his hair. The damp waves curl over his fingers as he applies shampoo. He rinses Sam clean and stays still as Sam soaps him up, something close to sinister in Sam’s expression as he slides his hands up his inner thighs.
It takes a good half hour before either of them is in a fit state to leave the bathroom. Gene watches Sam as they each dress, initially doing up his buttons incorrectly due to his lack of concentration. Before long, they’re clothed and sitting in Gene’s lounge with mugs of coffee and a noticeable distance between them, as if by mutual unspoken agreement this is a discussion that must be conducted under strict regulations.
“I loved my wife deeply at first,” Gene starts, putting his mug down on the coffee table and fiddling with his cigarette packet. “We were married twelve years before the cracks began to form. We’d not been able to have children, and she refused to say, but I knew she was bitter about what I couldn’t give her. I was always at work and when I wasn’t at work, I didn’t want to talk about it so we got to a point where neither of us was willing to give the other time. There was an atmosphere between us --- it haunted everything we did. Even though I still loved who she’d been, I didn’t want to be with her as she was. And she didn’t want me either, because what I was showing her wasn’t the whole picture, and she wasn’t content with a corner.”
Gene sucks on his cigarette and lets the memories flow. The good times and the bad. The happiness and the disappointment. Sam sits and stares, not attempting to interject, which is a rare blessing, and one that Gene daren’t take for granted.
“I’d enjoy the company of a fair and accommodating lass every now and then. I’ve no doubt in my mind that the missus had her own lovers. We didn’t talk about it; we just did what we had to do, and kept together out of --- duty, I suppose. Until, finally, she couldn’t take it any more. Up and left me, went to live with her sister in Blackpool.”
Sam pushes his lips forward, contemplates this new information. “What about him?”
“You know who I mean.”
“My wife hadn’t yet gone by the time we got together. Though we weren’t sharing the same room. Hence the ‘not exactly’. Is that enough?”
“No. Does that mean you never cheated on him? And if not, what made him different?”
Gene rubbed his forehead, took a deep breath. “Why do I invite your curiosity? Remind me again why I encourage you?”
“I’m adorable, that’s why. So --- answers.”
“I didn’t feel the need to sleep with anyone else whilst I was with him, because we gave one another everything we needed. He was my friend as well as anything else, and he understood the pressures of work, so there was never any conflict in me wanting to spare him the horror.”
“He was a cop?” Sam asks, looking like he’s alighted on the answer to the mystery of the universe.
“I never said that.”
“But he was, wasn’t he?”
“Yes he was. And no, it still wasn’t Ray.” Gene stubs his cigarette out in the ashtray on the coffee table, frowning to himself. “I’ve answered your questions, now you answer mine --- do you really not enjoy being a copper?”
“I keep thinking I should, but I... I really don’t. There are moments when I feel like I’ve achieved something, but they’re few and far between. Truthfully, I’ve been thinking about packing it in for a while now.”
“Why don’t you?”
“It’d seem ungrateful, after all the trouble people have gone through to get me in the position I’m in. I don’t wanna quit on a whim. Not any more.”
“I’m gonna go see Jackson today. Feel like joining me? He’s asked after you. I think you could probably call him one of your success stories.”
“You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
Sam shakes his head. “I’m actually on at two, a training session at Sedgley. Sort of why I didn’t protest getting dressed,” Sam says with a rueful smile. “But I’ll come next time. It’s been a while.”
“I hope so, because it might change your mind about the good that you do.”
Sam has an expression that Gene can’t decipher. Equal parts awkward and something else, something confusing, or confused. He stands, rubs the back of his neck.
“I need to put on some other clothes. I’ll see you later?”
“I’ll be home about seven if you’d like dinner.”
“That’ll be --- edible, I trust?”
“I’ll make sure you stay as far away from the pots and pans as possible, and yeah, it won’t rot either of our guts.”
Sam kisses Gene on the cheek. It’s endearing in how naff it is, how chaste, how conventional. Gene can’t help but feel the corners of his lips curve upwards.
“Seven it is, then. Uh, have a good day.”
“Sam... you know that it’s not that I wanna lie to you?” Gene says, holding onto Sam’s arms to keep him still. “The reason I keep my cards close to my chest? I’ve always told you what I believe to be true. As much as I’ve felt able, at any rate. But there are some things that I can’t talk about.”
“I know,” Sam says, pulling away and heading towards the door. He calls over his shoulder. “One day I may even understand.”
Gene is far from overjoyed at having been left alone, but life must go on, it’s impossible to live in fiction forever, all good things must come to an end.
He hopes that he made the right decision in being honest with Sam. He thinks he did. It’s important he be as open as he can, because it puts them on an even level, and inequality is exactly why they shouldn’t be together. Sam’s curiosity reminds him of that. Nineteen is no longer an esoteric quandary. It signifies lack of real world experience, unfair disadvantages, immature ideals. And to load that with the things he’ll have difficulty saying, circumstances he can never explain, the people he can’t talk about --- it’s all too much. Too far, too much; everything’s surplus to requirements.
He readies himself to visit Jackson. Easier to get on with life than to muse. He’s had to cash in favours in order to see Jackson so regularly, but that’s been second nature since he was twenty. Jackson looks pleased to see him, but he also looks worse for wear; dark purpling just visible around his neck, pronounced bags under his eyes. He’s a tough kid, but he’s not invincible, and Gene knows only too well what imprisonment can do to a man. He can’t count on his fingers and toes how many of the young offenders he put away came out with more skills and determination in pursuit of crime. The system has a lot to answer for, but it’s the best system they’ve got.
“How’re you holding up?” Gene asks, nodding to the guard closest that they’re alright.
“It’s no Britannia Hotel.”
“I expect not. Smaller rats.”
Jackson gives the semblance of a smile. “Tamara came and visited me yesterday. She’s got herself a new boyfriend. He’s not like the others. He’ll take care of her.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“And Trisha came with her mum. They brought me some books, but I wasn’t allowed to keep them. Been getting lots of visitors. Lots of calls.”
Jackson says this as if it’s a burden as opposed to something to be celebrated. As if Gene’s imposing.
“Everyone cares about you,” Gene says, pointedly.
“Seems like it, doesn’t it? It’s nice, yeah? Makes me want to be proud. But it’s difficult too, right, ‘cause everyone expects so much.”
“You don’t think you deserve their expectations?”
“I’ll only let them down. Or do you think I’m the one black offender who’s gonna get out and make an honest name for himself?” Jackson says, looking close to tears, now, jaw working.
Gene thinks about the automatic assumptions he’d made when he’d heard about the incident Jackson had been involved in. How he hadn’t thought twice before blaming instinct, how he’d felt it was inevitable purely because Jackson’s black. He thinks what Sam said, about his kind of thinking perpetuating society’s ills. He doesn’t like to admit he might be wrong, especially not if it’s just to conform, but maybe Sam has a point. Jackson himself believes he isn’t good enough for second chances, and that’s not right.
He hates it when he’s forced into recognising he’s not God on earth, that he’s wrong-headed or obtuse. Sam’s such a git.
“I think,” Gene says carefully, “that it doesn’t matter what others in here will end up doing. Or what others have done before. You need to trust in yourself. Everyone else does.”
Jackson bites his nails, stares into space.
“You have come too far to give up now, young Mr Jackson. I won’t hear a word of it.”
“It’s better to die trying and all that?”
“If someone’s been harassing you, you need to tell me.” Gene leans forward, ignoring the glare from the guard opposite. “Especially if it’s someone who’s meant to be protecting you.”
“No one’s harassing me,” Jackson says, tetchily. “No more than is usual. I don’t, like, need special treatment.”
“You mightn’t need it, but that won’t stop your loved ones from giving it to you. As I said, we care. What’s happened to the cocky kid for whom butter wouldn’t melt?”
“I’m growing up.”
Gene frowns at Jackson. “Growing up doesn’t mean accepting injustice.”
“My being here isn’t injustice, Oink. I nearly killed a man.”
“There were mitigating circumstances and those who know a thing about your case know that first and foremost. Everyone --- and I do mean this --- everyone can make a mistake when pushed to the brink. Don’t think that this is your lot in life because of one error. If that were the case, I’d’ve been gaoled six times before breakfast.”
Jackson seems fit to cry again. He gestures between them. “Look at you, yeah? Then look at me. Which one of us do you think is allowed to make mistakes?”
“The both of us. You’re on remand, Jackson. You’ve not been given a death sentence. You never will be. You can and will get through this, so don’t give up hope.”
“Because when you wish upon a star dreams can come true?”
“Something like that.” Gene gazes at Jackson. “You’re gonna have to put on a brave face at your trial. Gotta be sympathetic, but if you look like you found out your girlfriend’s shacked up with Angela Rippon in pursuit of a real man, you won’t make a good impression.”
“So now you’re telling me to pretend to be happy. Brill,” Jackson says, rocking back in his chair. “Have you seen Sam recently? Trisha said he hadn’t gone to the community centre since my arrest. He didn’t say that when he came here.”
“I spoke to him this morning. He said he’d come see you soon.”
Jackson smiles, sly and mischievous. “He was angry with you. Said you were a right dickhead.”
“See what I mean about mistakes? Easily made.”
“You kissed and made up?” Jackson asks. He looks at Gene like he’s waiting for a specific response.
Gene won’t dignify him with wariness or shock. “Tongues and all.”
Jackson’s smile widens. “Your balls are massive, man. You don’t get frightened by anything, do you?”
“I get frightened,” Gene says. “And I feel guilt. Don’t think you’re alone in any of this.”
“I don’t --- that’s part of the problem. I don’t want to be a disappointment.”
“You won’t,” Gene insists. “Hamilton’s a good barrister, you have a strong case.”
Jackson raises his eyebrows. “I wish I had your faith, Oink.”
“You can borrow some any time you like.”
It’s twenty past seven when Sam turns up. He has a bottle of wine in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other.
“You’re a bloody smart-alec,” Gene says, shaking his head. He pretends to close the door on Sam.
“Steady on, these aren’t for you. I’m visiting my mum tomorrow morning. Do you have a vase?”
“Do I look like the kind of man who’d keep a vase?”
Sam smirks. “There’s no safe way to answer that. Do you have a bottle?”
“I have an endless supply of bottles underneath the sink. You get one, I’ll serve the meal.”
“Tell me about Jackson in the meantime,” Sam orders.
Gene tells Sam all about it, including the line about Sam having called him a dickhead. There’s a warm and altogether cruel chuckle at that. They settle down to eat together, knees knocking under the table.
Life may not always be good, but for now, Gene’s going to enjoy what he can.
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