Summary: Sam hits rock bottom. Sequel to Serpent's Tooth
Rating: M - Mature Adults only (may contain drug references, violence, nudity, coarse language, sexual references, adult and supernatural themes)
Warnings: Loosely based season one
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended
Gene kicked open the door and charged into the room, waving his gun at anything that moved, but nothing did. There was just one junkie lying strung out on a stained mattress, rubber band still wrapped around his arm, needle by his side, a little vomit drying on his rumpled clothes and a week's worth of beard. He was about to kick the filthy little shite on the floor when he saw who it was. It was Sam.
He'd found him, at last. Quickly, he fumbled for a pulse, and found it, after several terrifying moments. Just a run of the mill mild overdose then, nothing lethal.
"Chris!" he bellowed from the doorway. "Chris!"
Chris came running up like an annoyed schoolboy taken from his games.
"Chris, stay on this door. Nobody comes in or out without my say so. Got it? And keep the door shut, for fuck's sake. Don't give me that look. Just do it."
There was no arguing with the Guv when he had that look on him. Those that had tried had ended up sucking their food through a straw afterwards.
It was only once the squat was cleared of every rat, human or rodent, and the last copper had shuffled off in the paddy wagon, that Gene returned to where Chris was still standing guard. Good boy.
"Guv?" Chris had to ask, as the Guv walked right past him and inside the room. It was then, when Chris finally had a good look at who was lying on that bed, did he understand why the Guv was so worked up.
"Help me get him out of here," was all the Guv said.
"What's Sam doing here?" Chris had to ask as he helped Gene carry the limp body between them down to the Cortina.
"Undercover work that went tits up. I'm not taking him to hospital and I don't want anyone knowing anything about this, you got that?" he demanded of Chris once they'd heaped Sam into the back seat and slammed the doors shut. "I'll get him straightened out, then I'll get the bastard who did this to him, but not a word, you got that?"
Chris nodded, frankly terrified of Gene at this precise moment.
"Right. Off you go them, and be a good lad and keep schtum."
Gene watched him trot off and hoped that he could trust him. He didn't know any more. He didn't know anything any more. He leant on the car roof, just for a moment, then summoned strength up through the ground and the soles of his shoes, stood up properly, shouldered his burden and carried on.
Fortunately Sam's neighbourhood was not the sort of place where half carrying, half dragging someone clearly the worse for wear was the sort of thing that caused an inordinate amount of curtain twitching. It was also damn convenient that Sam hadn't bothered to ask for his key back.
Gene dumped Sam roughly on the bed, checked his vitals again and glowered at him for a several long moments, then started to make himself a cup of coffee, with a healthy dash of whisky in it, for himself, not Sam. Mind you, easier said than done. Sam had no tins of instant lying around, so Gene had to boil it up from scratch in a saucepan, unable to locate Sam's coffee pot in Sam's tiny kitchenette. It was sitting right there in plain sight, but Gene couldn't see it. He was upset, beyond upset, but he wasn't about to admit it to himself.
The coffee was bitter and horrible, but it was going to be a long night, for both of them. He was going to let Sam sweat it out. It'd serve the bugger right, for all the bother he'd put Gene too. Let him come down hard. Let him see how much fun it was then.
Gene had to lean on the sink, gulping air all of a sudden, blinking back his grief.
The stupid, stupid bastard. He'd known Sam had been sliding off the rails for some time, but Sam had rebuffed him, avoided him, and then had just dropped off the radar all together. Until Gene had found him, today. Two weeks. Nearly two weeks he'd been gone. And look at the sorry state he'd let himself get into. Stupid, stupid bastard.
Gene could have thumped him, if he thought it would do any good, but right now Sam probably wasn't feeling anything.
Sam started murmuring some gibberish, twisting slightly, as though locked in some battle, but Gene ignored him, picking up the phone and making several calls, none of which he wanted to make, but he had to, if he was ever going to pull their arses out of this one.
Gene swallowed the last of his coffee, then bent then got down to the grim business of stripping Sam's bed down to the luridly patterned mattress, then stripping Sam down to his stained singlet and even more luridly patterned y-fronts. And it was grim, for Sam was showing all evidence of not having bathed in days. How the bloody hell had it come to this?
When Gene pulled off Sam's shirt and saw all the track marks dotting scabby lines up and down his pale arms, it was too much, and, as Sam tried to resist him, coming 'round just a little, Gene smacked him hard across the face. Sam whimpered and tried to curl into a protective ball, but he was still too far gone, and Gene wanted to smack him again, but he stopped himself, and he just continued stripping Sam in a cold fury.
Sam deserved a good thumping, and then some, for everything he'd put Gene through, and everything he was yet to put him through. The stupid bastard had messed himself up badly, and Gene wasn't sure he could put it right this time.
Gene didn't even say a word, because he knew once he started, he'd never stop screaming at Sam. So instead he just draped one single blanket over Sam and lined up newspaper, a bucket and old towels and waited for the worst of it to kick in. Sam had to come down first, and from the looks of his pupils, that wasn't going to be any time soon. He was loaded to the gills, and it was a bit touch and go, but Gene had seen his fair share of junkies of late, and he was pretty certain Sam would pull through. A more careful man would have dumped Sam at the nearest hospital and be done with it, but that would have finished Sam for sure. This way, at least, there was still a chance that Gene could pull him back. And if Sam died on him, well, he'd just have to cross that bridge when he came to it.
He wasn't about to let Sam go, though, not without a fight. He leant close and slapped Sam again, not in anger this time, just in frustration, just to irritate Sam, annoy him enough to make him want to fight. He slapped Sam again and this time Sam tried to reach out and stop him. Good. There was still a spark of the old Sam left then, and where there was life, there was hope.
Sam mumbled something unintelligible and then fell back into the hard grip of Morpheus again. It didn't matter. There would be words later.
Right now, Gene wasn't sure he could speak. Scream and swear yes, but not give voice to anything sensible. The track marks that bruised Sam's arm made him want to weep like a woman.
Of course it wasn't entirely Sam's fault that he'd ended up like this. His own father had given him that first massive dose of junk, just to keep him quiet, and the hospital had dosed him with morphine for much the same reason. By the time he'd checked out, Sam must have been a full blown addict.
Now Sam had a habit and a life he obviously needed to escape from. That's what hurt Gene the most, that Sam had run away. Not back to Hyde, but up a needle. Either way, it said everything that needed to be said: that Sam didn't care about him, not one bit. Sam had just blocked Gene out of his life, and everything else, apparently. Stupid, selfish bastard.
Gene sat down on the end of the bed, which protested with an alarming tinny death rattle, but withstood his added weight once more. Briefly glancing upon Sam, strung out as he was, Gene wondered again if Sam had been on his own private planet when Gene had tried to, as clearly as he could, he thought, explain the importance of Sam staying squeaky clean, considering the thinness of the thread Sam's career was currently dangling from. He wondered again if Sam ever really listened to a word he said.
Hunched forward, Gene considered the facts as he knew them. It was true that Sam had been undercover on a case. Some southern boys had moved in and set up shop and where once it would have been Warren who sent them packing, it now fell to Gene and sadly the threats of one pissed off policeman weren't what they used to be.
So he'd sent in Sam, still the new boy and least likely to be spotted, to go in there and get something they could use to move the bastards along, as it were. It should not have been a surprise that Sam had taken to undercover work like a fish to water, but somehow it had been. Gene had been a little taken aback when Sam had turned all Method on him, and been a little worried, quite frankly. He should have been more worried. He should have pulled Sam out of it the moment he'd realised he wasn't talking to Sam Tyler any more but Vic Tyler, Junior. Unhappily the moment Gene had realised something had gone very seriously wrong, Sam had disappeared. Gene had feared the worst and had been tearing the town apart, piece by piece, trying to find him.
Well, he'd found him. Still alive, sort of. Gene had known they were dealers, amongst other things, and he kicked himself for his stupidity in sending Sam in amongst them. They'd obviously given Sam a few free party samples and had kicked along an addiction that might have died a natural death otherwise.
Gene imagined scene after scene, each more terrible than the last, all of them tumbling through his head in lurid detail: Sam being dared to partake of a party favour; Sam being restrained in a chair and doped against his will; Sam, smiling, reaching for the hypodermic and rolling up his sleeve under the gaudy backroom lights of the nightclub. After that his imaginings turned even more feverishly Bacchanal, and he just had to tear his way from his roiling thoughts.
Gene buried his face in his hands. He'd done this. He'd wanted Sam back into the swing of things, so he'd thrown him in at the deep end. He'd never thought for a moment that Sam would have sunk to the bottom of the pool. Not waving but drowning.
He'd pushed him, he'd put him in harm's way. Sure, he hadn't actually stuck the needle in Sam's arm, but maybe Sam hadn't had a choice. Maybe it had been a test of loyalty, a test of will. At least that first time. Or maybe Sam had wanted to, for whatever reason he'd told himself. Sam had made his choice, though, by staying in there instead of backing out when things had got heavy.
Stupid, stupid bastard. He should have pulled Sam out at the first taste of it turning sour.
Distressed, Gene fell back on first procedures and began to treat Sam's flat as a crime scene, searching for clues as to why Sam had done this, something, anything, that would tell him where and when it had all gone horribly wrong. Sam had obviously been hiding his problem, but something had pushed him over the edge. Something had made him take that giant leap into the abyss.
At least, Gene wanted it to be a sudden push, some external force that he could blame, some heavy gangster forcing Sam into it at gunpoint, all the while knowing that he, himself, who had pushed Sam away. He had been too busy trying to save his own arse, too busy trying to juggle everything, that he'd let Sam down when Sam had needed him most.
He kept asking himself again and again why he had not seen it, or why he had ignored it and not acted upon his terrible suspicions that Sam was far more fractured than he pretended to be. Because it had become habit, he supposed, ignoring Sam when he wasn't quite right, hoping that the wind would change again and he'd have his Sam back, the one he loved with all his heart (as opposed to the one who worried him and at times frightened the life out of him).
For someone who could be so close that he could finish or answer thoughts of the other without even speaking, Sam was a complete stranger to him at times. That's what made it so shocking, the realisation that he didn't know Sam as well as he thought he did.
It hurt terribly, to realise that much of his love was mere illusion, easily stripped away by harsh realities, and he wondered in his darkest moments if he was really in love with Sam at all.
Gene crouched by the grimy bath and expertly removed a loose tile in the second row from the bottom. This was Sam's secret hiding place, and a quick peek in with the torch threw up its seedy contents: a couple of magazines of dubious worth as reading material, a vibrator, and a small brown shaving case.
The vibrator Gene left where it was. Sam had ended up with it after a raid on one of Tyler's porn shops, only Gene had kept that one detail of proprietor from Sam. Making light of the matter as he'd strode into the premises with his boys, he'd picked up a large phallus and tossed to it Sam as a joke. Sam, not wanting to stand around with a rubber dick in his hand for a second longer than he needed to, Ray already sniggering at him, had slipped it quickly into his coat pocket and had entirely forgotten it was there, caught up in the business of policing, until he'd taken his coat off that night and felt something lumpy still in his pocket.
Waste not, want not, and at first Sam had only used it on himself, in those lonely nights he was forced to endure in his tiny little flat. Then Gene had come over one night and Sam had shown Gene just what a vibrator could do, playing it all over Gene in places he'd never imagined, and Gene had been a convert ever since. It seemed like years ago now, not weeks. Gene exhaled softly, grieving again for his Sam and what they had once shared.
The little shaving case he took with him, and opened it up, unzipping it around its corners, as he walked back into the main area of Sam's grim little bed-sit. He'd known what he might find, but it was still a shock. There in his hands was Sam's kit: needles, heroin neatly wrapped up in tin foil, a blackened spoon and a length of rubber tubing. There was the stub of a well used candle near the kitchen sink. He must have cooked up at least every night.
The idea of Sam doing that, in this flat, alone, every night, it made Gene shudder. How had things become so bad that Sam could do that, that he needed to do that, and there was no one around to stop him?
Gene scrubbed at his face, horrified. He'd thought he'd been doing what Sam wanted, giving him the "space" he'd demanded. Now he knew better.
In his mind Gene saw Sam setting up in the kitchen, passing the spoon over the flame of the candle, priming his syringe and then wandering back to his bed. With the Stones playing in the background Sam would have sat down on that horrid bed, roll up his sleeve and tied on the rubber tube, pulling it tight with his teeth. He'd have pumped his arm, found a vein, flicked the needle and then shot up, falling away into nothingness.
Gene leant heavily on the kitchen sink. Sam, please, no. It didn't have to be like that. It shouldn't have been like that.
A frantic knocking on the door startled Gene back into the present.
Swearing under his breath, Gene swung the door open and leant there, intimidating, arms folded, barring the way.
"I was wondering when you'd get here."
Annie looked past him to Sam, lying sprawled in the bed.
"What happened? Where's he been? Chris said he was undercover and there was an accident."
She ducked past Gene and into the room, racing over to Sam, pressing her hand to his forehead.
"He's clammy. He looks like he should be in hospital."
Gene looked her up and down suspiciously when she started to protest.
"You mean you honestly don't know? Is everyone at my station deaf, dumb and blind?"
Gene made a disgusted noise when she didn't answer him.
"You were the one shagging him. Didn't you notice the track marks?" Gene demanded as he held up Sam's pale arm, then let it drop again.
She shook her head, mortified.
"Some detective you'd make," Gene sneered. "Never noticed how he suddenly kept his sleeves rolled down, that his work dropped off, that he stopped caring? I bet he kept insisting on the light being off, too."
Sam had, but he'd barely been near her of late, or even spoken to her, outside of office talk. She'd put it down to him being in one of his moods again, and she'd even asked him if he was okay, but had been relieved when he'd fobbed her off with a smile and a shrug and she'd not pushed, because she'd not wanted to shake free all the madness again. He'd shut up about all that, and she'd thought at first that he'd been cured when they'd cut his head open, but then she'd seen the shadows creep back, and she knew he'd been only pretending, but she'd still said nothing.
Gene had known. He'd known instantly and from the first that something was very wrong, but the more he'd tried to drag the truth out of Sam, as heavy handed as Gene could be, the more Sam had resisted and pulled away, until one day he'd just vanished. Gene had said Sam was working undercover. Even now, that's what he told her. She suspected he was lying through his teeth.
She glared at him, angry and upset. He was right. What use was she if she could be lied to so easily? What sort of a friend was she, if she could just stand by and let this happen, and not say anything?
"Well, I hope he at least used a franger because I don't want my WPCs up the duff or dosed with the clap." He saw her expression. "We don't know where he's been." Gene almost relished putting the boot in, taking out his compounded misery on a convenient bystander.
She ignored Gene and regarded Sam with actual horror and not a little disgust. It had been so nice. He had been so nice. Finally, finally Sam had make his move, and what moves. He'd done things to her she'd only ever heard of, and some she hadn't. He'd gone down on her and made her squeal with her first real orgasm, and he'd laughed at her, actually laughed at her. She would have kicked him off the bed right then and there if she hadn't wanted more. When he'd been inside her, with her legs wrapped around him, she thought he'd belonged to her, that he wanted to be here, with her, now. It had been so nice, being with Sam. But it had been a lie, all of it. He was a total headcase, and she couldn't take it any more.
Sam stirred slightly and murmured something and Gene leant close. He saw Cartwright starting to make a move for the door and stopped her with a look.
"Don't go yet, love. He's fun when he's like this, out of his skull. He's been muttering away for about an hour now. You can ask him all sorts of questions, like some sort of oracle, and he'll tell you all sorts of shit in return. Watch this: Sam, who is the Prime Minster?"
Gene gave her his told you so look.
"Does England win the world cup?"
Gene scowled at that.
"Tell her what happens to John Lennon."
"He was shot, by Mark Chapman."
"That's horrible," Annie insisted, alarmed.
"Tell her when Clint Eastwood won his first Oscar."
Gene beamed at her.
"Go on, ask him something. It's like a party trick."
"Alright," Annie agreed, shaking her head and looking at Gene as if he'd lost his marbles, too. Sam could be dying and he was just playing with him.
"Will there ever be a woman prime minister?"
Gene snorted and Annie looked triumphant.
She came closer, bending low to ask her second question. "Will Britain ever go to war again?"
She drew back as if scalded, shaking her head.
"I don't like this. I don't like any of this."
"No, it's not pretty, and some of the things he's said, it's not a nice world, where Sam comes from."
"You believe him?" She was caught suddenly, topsy turvy. One minute it was bad enough to find Sam like this, the next Sam was babbling nonsense and Gene of all people was listening to him. The world just wouldn't stay still, or sane.
"Sometimes," was all Gene would say on the matter. He could see she was anxious to leave, backing towards the door nervously like she was desperate for a pee or something.
"Well, off you go. I'll clean up the mess, don't you worry about that, Luv. I always do."
She gave him a look that was a mixture of pitying and annoyed. Let him deal with Sam. She'd had enough. Any more, and he'd be dragging her down with him, she could see that now.
Annie stared at Sam one last time, realising it had all been a lie, all of it. Every minute. He'd stopped seeing and hearing things and she thought he'd finally settled down, that he'd finally snapped out of it. She thought he'd gotten better. Only he hadn't. He'd been shooting up and masking the symptoms, drugging himself so the nightmares no longer bothered him.
She covered her mouth, choking back a sob. He'd lied. He'd lied about everything. He was as messed up as he ever was. More so.
"Don't judge him too harshly," Gene called to her as she fled through the door, stopping her for just a moment. "He's had a rough time and he's always been a sandwich short, to start with. I should have done something, had a word, before this."
She glared at him. Yes, he should have. He'd fobbed her off then, and it was too late now to fix things. She went through the door, glad to be out of it. She managed to make it almost all the way down the hall before she burst into tears.
The sky had darkened considerably when the withdrawal had started to really kick in. It was probably about time for another dose and this time Sam wasn't getting it. Instead of letting him lie there and whinge and writhe, Gene had pulled Sam to his feet and bullied him around the room like a drill sergeant, not letting him stop, drop or sleep.
"It hurts. Oh God, it hurts," Sam whimpered breathlessly. He tried doubling over and dropping to his knees, but Gene wouldn't let him.
"You should have thought of that first," Gene scolded, but when Sam expelled one single wracking sob in response, Gene felt like even more of a bastard.
"I know it hurts, Sam. Come on, you have to keep walking." He kept a firm hold on Sam, like he was just another collar, struggling to break free, and frog marched him around the room again.
Sam was in screaming agony. Every muscle, every joint was tearing him apart, but Gene wouldn't let him lie down. He kept walking him around the room, around and around. Sam started crying and still Gene wouldn't stop, walking him around and around until Sam couldn't walk any further. He just came to a stop, curling up on the floor.
Defeated, Gene helped him, half carried him, back into bed and tried to soothe him, wiping away the sweat and snot and tears and wondering again when was the last time Sam had bathed. Sam just rolled back and forth, hissing his breath between his teeth and clutching his stomach, wracked in agony, thin and pale.
There was nothing Gene could do for Sam. He was just going to have to tough it out.
It was just about the worst night of their lives.
Sam was thrashing about, seeing things, screaming his head off so loudly that somebody ended up knocking on the door.
Gene shot the insensible Sam a filthy look and then strode to the door, pulling it open as far as the newly installed security chain would allow.
"What?" he demanded with menace.
"If you don't him shut up, I'm calling the police."
Gene shoved his warrant card in the guy's face.
"I am the police. Now fuck off."
"What's wrong with him then," the rubbernecker insisted, catching a glimpse of Sam twisting and howling on the bed behind Gene.
"Kiddie through the windscreen in an RTA. He just spent all night hosing all the bits down the gutter. Now piss off." Gene slammed the door shut.
Sam was sitting up in the bed, his eyes wide open with terror. He was backing up. Away from something invisible in absolute horror.
"Sam, there's nobody here," Gene tried, walking around the bed, waving his hand through empty air, but Sam was off his head, hallucinating. He was coming down badly.
"No no no no." Sam was almost tearing at his hair, clawing at his own skin in fright.
"Sam, for god's sake, snap out of it."
Sam just wouldn't stop screaming. He'd completely lost it, right out of his head with terror and Gene was suddenly very frightened that Sam was never going to come back from this. So he slapped him. Hard. Then he slapped him again. On the third strike Sam suddenly blinked at him and looked at him with red rimmed, tearful eyes.
Fuck, Gene thought as he held him, it was going to be a long day as well.
"It's just a bad dream. Go back to sleep, Sam," Gene soothed, gently getting him to lie back in bed and tucking him in.
"Go back to sleep," he urged, and Sam closed his eyes, falling into a deep sleep almost instantly. It made Gene think Sam had been dreaming the whole time, sleepwalking as well as tripping. The poor sod. Gene could almost understand why Sam had done it, if it meant trying to stop nightmares like that.
Sam's world split open with a sudden shock, plunged into freezing cold water, thrashing about, unable to breathe as a heavy hand pushed him down under the water. He struggled and clawed his way to the surface and managed one ragged breath before he was thrust back down again and pinned there. Scrabbling in terror now he kicked and thrashed and managed to claw at his assailant and get one last strike before he fell back in the water.
Gene was sitting sprawled on the wet tiles, blood smeared over his face.
"Fucking hell, Sam."
"You tried to drown me," Sam screeched his accusation, red faced and frightened, shaking in what remained of the icy water.
"You needed a bloody bath," Gene cut across him.
"In cold water?"
"Of course bloody cold water," Gene answered in challenge. "You needed waking up. You were slipping away and you scared me."
"I scared you?" Sam rocked back, feeling violently sinned against more than sinning.
"Yes," Gene answered quietly, wiping his face on the nearby towel and leaving a bloody smear down the fabric.
As a minor concession, he reached over and began filling up the tub again, with hot water this time. Sam's skin slowly changed from blue to pink.
"You don't half reek, Sam," Gene further chastised, now scrubbing at Sam with a vigour usually reserved for getting out blood stains or spaghetti sauce.
Sam made a face like a much crossed wet cat but said nothing and endured the exfoliating onslaught. There wasn't anything sensual in their interaction aside from the unspoken familiarity with which Gene twisted his naked limbs this way and that, lathering and rinsing, just to make sure. Had there been any Lysol or carbolic to hand, Gene probably would have thrown that in there as well.
It was only a little later, as Sam sat, wet hair askew and pink skinned like a peeled prawn in the bath and Gene pissed casually into the toilet that some sense of domesticity returned.
Gene didn't want to ask what had happened and Sam didn't want to tell him so they just fell into silence, but it wasn't an entirely uncomfortable silence. They were too used to each other for that. Too many long stake outs for that.
"Hungry?" Gene asked, leaving the lid up.
"No," Sam answered, shaking his head and closing his eyes. Just tired.
Sam closed his eyes and let himself sink down into the bath, feeling the warm water lap over him. He was tired, so tired.
Strong arms were suddenly manhandling him out of the bath and onto the cold tiles.
"Didn't your Mam ever tell you never to go to sleep in the bath?" Gene was scolding him.
Clearly this was some maternal advice he'd missed out on, but such thoughts were shaken from him as Gene dried him with bone rattling thoroughness.
Rubbing Sam's hair dry, Gene enfolded him in his arms, just for a moment, and Sam stood there and let himself be held. He leant into Gene, finding his strength so comforting and warm. Just for a moment, Sam felt protected.
Sam was gently embraced a little longer, then quietly led back to his bed. Gene settled him in, Sam still as naked as the day he was born, and tucked the sheets around him. He rested his hand on Sam's shoulder for a moment, then withdrew.
Sam closed his eyes, still feeling the warmth of Gene's hand like a shadow on his skin. For so long now Gene had been Sam's last, and first, thought, either in anger or in love, that Sam couldn't remember a time before. Love. His heart kicked up and shied from the word.
Gene had dumped him. He could never forget it. He would often replay the moment in his mind, probing at the wound, never letting it heal. Gene might be here as a friend now, but he could never be any more. Sam drew the blankets close and shut his eyes tight, but still a tear escaped and rolled down his cheek.
Gene could see Sam's face clearly from his vigil in the least painful chair on offer, but he made no attempt at reading it, no guess at the cause of Sam's sorrow. Sometimes Gene wished dearly that he knew what was going on inside Sam's head, but at other times, he was glad he didn't.
He'd thought he'd known Sam. He'd thought he'd known Sam as much as one man could know the heart and mind of another; to know his thoughts, to finish his sentences, to act as one, to feel him, even across the distances. Even now he could feel Sam's distress squeezing at his own heart. He wished he could make it right, because even though he tried to deny it, they were like two lost souls, found at last. And separation was unnatural and unbearable.
Especially now, with Sam close enough to reach and touch, and the distance gaped between them. Something had gone wrong, and yet still, every thought he had, it turned on Sam.
He leant close to Sam, whispering his name, stroking his cheek, but Sam never heard him, already fast asleep. At least it was a more natural sleep now, and the demons shook him less.
Waking slowly, Sam pushed the bed covers down and realised he was wearing a pair of flannel pyjamas. He didn't even own a pair of pyjamas. He plucked at the sleeve, pinching the material between his fingers, making sure it was real.
"I went out shopping." Gene supplied, uncannily answering Sam's unspoken thoughts again.
"You left me alone?"
"Just for a bit. You weren't going anywhere."
Sam nodded vaguely, still blinking at his surroundings, as if he'd only just landed there. His flat stared back in challenge. That wallpaper was hard to take on a comedown. A line from Oscar Wilde about either that wallpaper going or he would flitted into his mind and left just as quickly. He wasn't going anywhere. He was stuck here, in this garish little prison. He buried his head in his hands.
"Tea?' Gene offered, waving a steaming cup at him.
Sam gazed up at him blearily and took the cup in both hands without saying a word.
A sip of tea was all it took. Sam started to retch and lean over the side of the bed, but Gene had the bucket ready, not that Sam had much to throw up. He was just spitting, wracked with the dry heaves. Gene had seen people come down in the cells but he'd never, ever thought he'd have to watch Sam go through this. Sam retched again, dribbling sour spittle.
Gene wondered when was the last time Sam had even eaten., though he guessed it had probably been around the last time he'd bathed, though at least Gene had sorted that problem, though Sam was sweating now so it hardly made a difference. He mopped Sam down with a damp cloth. It didn't help much, but at least it settled Sam enough to ease him back into bed and quiet for a bit. Gene wrung the cloth out in the sink and put the kettle on again. The sun was setting and it was going to be another long night. He forgot about the tea and poured himself a scotch instead.
Gene instantly snapped awake in his chair, and saw Sam standing at his mirror, razor in hand, dabbing fingertips in the blood from where he'd just cut himself.
"Bloody hell, useless you are. Are you trying to cut your own throat or what? Here, let me. This a job that requires steady hands," grumbled Gene, getting up, walking across to Sam, taking the razor from his hand and turning him around, lathering him up and tilting his head up slightly.
Sam winced, expecting a bloodbath, but Gene was surprisingly gentle. There was a real tenderness in his touch that punched Sam hard in the guts. Gene must still love him. After all this. After all they had done to each other.
"Why?" he had to ask, ignoring Gene's scowl as he interrupted him by talking. "Why are you doing this? Why are you here?"
"I'm here for you, Sam. I'll always be here for you. No matter how many cliffs you try to jump off, I won't let you fall."
"You're not a lost cause, Sam. I don't think you are. You've had a rough time and you let it get to you. It's understandable, but it's time to stand up, Sam."
Sam caught his wrist.
"Is this where you tell me to pull my socks up?"
"Something like that. It's not my fault you need telling, Sam. Now keep quiet or I really will slice you a second smile."
Sam kept quiet. A part of him silently seethed that Gene would tell him to just get over himself, as if it was that easy, when he'd been thrown through time to be nearly killed by his own father, amongst other things. That would do anyone's head in, surely. But the other part of him was feeling Gene's touch in his skin, breathing in the scent of him, sensing the warmth of his body, standing so close to his. A deeper part of him was succumbing to sensation, his desire for Gene and his arousal flared.
Gene felt Sam's skin flush and saw his pupils darken. It was unmistakable, just in his eyes, without needing to see the way his face had tilted closer, or the hitch in his breath. Gene closed the small distance between them and kissed him. Sam's lips parted under his, letting him in and Gene kissed him and kissed him and kissed him and Sam was really into it, pressing up against Gene, and Gene's hand ran down Sam's side, rested on his hip, and then started to slide over his crotch.
Sam reacted as if stung, and pulled away. Too fast. Too soon.
"I'm sorry," Gene apologised, seeing the look Sam was giving him, the one he saw in whores who been slapped around once to often, though he had never hurt Sam, not like that. Sam just had too much tangled up inside him.
He handed Sam back his razor.
"Get dressed. I need to go out and I'm not leaving you here."
Sam was hunched over miserably, propped up by a scrubbed down Formica table in one of the seediest cafes he'd even had the misfortune to wander into, a plate of sausages, eggs and beans slowly congealing in front of him. He wanted to retch.
Gene, meanwhile, was tucking in, mopping up the sauce with toast.
"Eat up, Sam," he managed to order between mouthfuls. "I won't have you withering away on my watch. I bet you can't remember the last time you had a decent meal. So dig in."
Sam regarded his plate with horror. Try as he might, he could not re-adjust to Seventies cuisine, which seemed to consist solely of several variations of bangers and mash. Not after he'd had his palate refined by far more the exotic fare available in his own time. Or what he imagined was his own time. Surely he couldn't have imagined all those hot Thai soups, the first time he'd tasted coriander and lemon grass on his tongue?
Realising that Gene wasn't going to let him go until he actually ate something, he pulled his black tea weakly towards him and balanced the cup in shaky hands, trying to ignore the grime ground deep into the chips around the rim of the cup, or the fly specked and yellowing menu shoved haphazardly in cracking plastic that lay open on the table, nor did he want to speculate on what had actually gone into his sausages or what toxic chemicals they had used to make his beans that precise and florid shade of red.
Gene was finishing up with innocent gusto, not at all bothered by what he was eating, and Sam wished he could be that naïve, but he wasn't, he couldn't, and that was the trouble. Try as he might, he would never be one of them. He was an alien, in an alien culture, and he would never really fit in.
It wasn't fair on Gene though, who, despite a rough start, had made every effort to try and make Sam fit in, even if it had been as pointless as trying to slam a square peg through a round hole.
To please Gene, then, and get him off his back, Sam tentatively scooped up some yolky goop onto his fork. He screwed his eyes shut. Look out teeth, look out gums, he repeated his now oft spoken mantra. Watch out stomach, here it comes.
And there it went, about halfway to the station, with Sam heaving up in the gutter and Gene swearing at him for nearly loosing it in the Cortina.
"Told you," Sam reiterated darkly, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand as he sat up again in the seat, pale and sweating.
"You're just not used to a good breakfast," Gene countered, and patted his own stomach for emphasis.
"Cast iron, this," he announced proudly.
"Amongst other things," Sam sniped, feeling brittle and tasting bile.
Gene shot him a look.
"You are far from being in my good books, Sam, so I shouldn't be trying my patience, if I were you," Gene advised, giving him fair warning.
Sam nodded, then wished he hadn't. He retched up more spittle into the gutter, then finally sat up again, indicating with a faint wave of his hand that Gene could carry on driving while he just sat there, gripping the seat with his eyes shut tight.
Sam almost reeled back as they entered the stuffy, smoke filled environs of the CID. He'd thought Gene was just taking him out for a packet of fags and breakfast, but now here they were, back in the thick of it.
Sam scanned the room worriedly. He was pale and sweating and his heart was beating rapidly, too rapidly. He was having a full blown anxiety attack, but nobody seemed to notice. He started shuffling towards his desk, but Gene grabbed his arm, tight, and marched him into his office and plonked him down on the chair in front of his desk.
"I want you where I can see you." It was more of a command than an explanation.
Sam bridled. "What, are you going to treat me like a child now? Like a kid sent to the headmaster's office?"
"Are you going to give me any reason why I shouldn't?" Gene countered.
Sam had no answer to that, and he slumped in the chair, then , quickly bored, grabbed an old newspaper off Gene's desk and starting scanning the news. It was all old news to him. He folded the newspaper over and started filling in the crossword, which pushed Gene into action.
Minutes later Gene was thumping an old typewriter down in front of Sam, followed by an overflowing in tray.
"Here, put your typing speed to good use and get those done for us."
"Am I your secretary now?" Sam just about shot out of his seat in outrage, but Gene held him there with two firm hands on his shoulders.
"You are until I say otherwise. You are on very thin ice with me as far as your professional conduct goes, so I'd just sit here and type like a good boy if I were you."
Sam was fuming so richly he didn't even notice that Gene was now using phrases like 'professional conduct', nor did he appreciate just how much Gene was covering up for him. He only knew he'd been temporarily demoted to typist, and his pride raged against the indignity.
It was long after a solitary lunch of black coffee and whiteout fumes when Gene suddenly returned to his office from whatever mysterious errand he had vanished to. He clapped Sam on the shoulder and told him to get his coat on.
"We going somewhere?" Sam asked dully, seriously flagging in a mid afternoon slump.
"You'll see," was all Gene said, but Sam couldn't see, not even when they rolled to a stop on the dingy little street.
Sam didn't even recognise the seedy tobacconist/off-licence at the top of the hill until Gene pointed it out. It looked different in daylight, and stone cold sober.
"What are we doing here?"
"Shouldn't we have backup?"
"Not now. Now, we wait."
"The criminals," Gene explained, exasperated, as if he'd suddenly been partnered with an annoying four year old.
Sam sighed and slumped in the seat, then started fiddling with the dashboard, picking at the vinyl, restless and edgy.
Gene slammed the door and was soon striding up the slight incline to the row of three very down in the heel shops, all having seen better days. He returned ten minutes later, throwing a newspaper and a chocolate bar at Sam, and a packet of fags and chewing gum for himself on the dashboard.
"Are you sure that's wise, shopping at the premises you're meant to be watching?'
"More suspicious if I didn't," Gene countered. He settled himself in his seat and a tense and uncomfortable silence fell between them.
"Go on then, tell me how you'd do it in Hyde then. I know you're just itching to tell me."
"Depends on the operation. We can use undercover officers, or, for something major, we'd have a surveillance van, the place wired for sound, with a warrant, of course, and a hook up to the CCTV."
"Closed circuit television. Video cameras in stores. Like they have in some banks, only in Hyde they have them all over the place. In shops, on the street, in railway stations, in buses and cabs."
"How very Big Brother. Does it work?"
"It's good for identification."
"After the fact."
"Yes," Sam admitted.
Gene just lit up. He'd won that round. Nothing like a pair of eyes on the street, but Sam didn't need to be told that.
Sam was staring out of the window, feeling a little trapped. And a little hungry. He glanced down at the chocolate bar Gene had bought him.
"I haven't seen one of those since…a while."
"Glad you approve," Gene smirked.
Sam unwrapped the bar and bit into it. The sugar rush hit him hard, but it was just what he needed.
"Don't they have those in Hyde, then?"
Sam shook his head.
"If I were you, I'd been running around, getting my snout in all the things they don't have in Hyde. You should live in the now, Sam. You're here, now, you should at least try to enjoy it. You can be such a miserable git at times. You should let yourself go."
"Not like that. That had nothing to do with living. I'm talking about grabbing life by the balls and squeezing it dry."
Sam half smiled at Gene. He did appreciate the pep talk, really he did, and there were few people more alive than Gene Hunt. Which made it ironic, when Sam still clung tenaciously to his belief that none of this was real.
Sam had the paper folded open to the crossword and balanced on his knee, the crossword nearly completed, bar a couple of arcane clues that eluded his limited cultural references of the era. He really should get himself a yearbook or something, just to brush up on things, and not look like such a pillock when the most basic trivia flew over his head. He idly scratched at the scar just behind his ear. Brief stop for many in a trance ?
Gene shifted beside him, clothes rumpling against the car seat.
"When you disappeared, you were gone for days. I thought I was looking for a body," Gene admitted quietly, very quietly, the heartbreak still cracking his voice. Sam had put him through the wringer and now at least he knew about it.
"There was no word, no note. You just vanished. I was drawing up plans to have the canals dredged. God, I thought I'd lost you."
It took a moment, then his words cut across Sam's preoccupation like a knife, and for the first time in weeks, Sam suddenly saw the world beyond his own boundaries.
"I...I didn't think," he spluttered.
"I know you didn't," Gene agreed, just as softly. "I don't know what you were thinking, but you could have come to me. I'm not the villain you want to think I am."
Sam could see it. Gene was leaning back against the car seat, watching him carefully, and with concern. He looked tired, fed up and just a little bit heartbroken.
Sam trembled, looking very much on the verge of weeping, his eyes wet. He'd damn nearly broken Gene. He could see it clearly. Gene, the man who'd become his anchor in this crazy world, the rock to which he'd clung, he'd nearly destroyed him, without even thinking.
"I know that Sam, but it's about time you pulled yourself together and faced some facts, like your old man being bad news. Come on, Sam, it's not like you to just walk away without a fight. What happened?"
"I got tired." Sam admitted. Tired of struggling upstream in this unreality.
"Can't give up, Sam. Men like us, we don't give up. It's not our style." Gene smiled at that, and Sam was grateful, flickering back a faint echo of the smile.
"I didn't…I just wanted the pain to stop. All of it." Sam tried to explain.
Gene drew in a breath, then let it out again.
"I know it hurts, Sam, but if you don't feel pain, you're not alive. I didn't think you'd give up so easily."
"It wasn't planned. It just happened. I couldn't stop."
"Well, you've stopped now. How's the hand?"
Sam flexed his fingers, appreciating the sudden change in topic.
"Fine." He answered. The worst of the kicking he'd been given, it still ached, but he could live with it. It had been the nightmares he'd been trying to kill.
"Why did you buy me the chocolate?" Sam had to ask, now that it was gone, all gobbled up, trying to change the subject again.
Gene gave him an appraising look, a copper's look.
"I've seen a few junkies in my time. They like sugar."
That stung. Gene had called him a junkie. Even if it was true, it still stung.
"At least I'm not an alcoholic," Sam slapped back shrewishly.
Gene shot him a look.
"Listen, you. I drink because I've see some shitty things in this job, like my best mate covered in his own vomit and a needle stuck in his arm, but I have never, ever had a lost weekend. You, my friend, had a lost fortnight, so don't you go calling this little kettle black."
Sam couldn't say anything to that. He sat. He fumed. He reached for the door handle but Gene was quicker, reaching over him and slamming down the lock.
"You're going to sit here and be a policeman, for once in your life. No more tantrums, Sam. No more going off half cocked. No more silly stuff. You're messed up? Fine. You've been through some bad shit, I understand, but if you think you're Robinson Crusoe, you must be joking. So please, if you want to stay in my CID, just settle down and get on with the job. No more drugs and no more disappearing. I'm warning you, Sam."
Sam hunched down in his seat, wanting to cry. He'd been expecting Gene to read him the Riot Act, and he finally had. Sam wanted to scream at him that it wasn't fair, but it was perfectly fair. It was a tough job, and he either had the balls to stick at it, or he didn't.
It just hadn't hurt this much before. It hadn't hurt him. It had never been this hands on, this emotionally demanding. Before, he'd processed people like bits of paper, handing them on to their lawyers and social workers, never getting his hands dirty. He could see why Gene sneered at him. He could barely dish it out, and he certainly couldn't take it. At least, not on the evidence so far.
So this was it. Crunch time in the front seat of an old Cortina on a rancid little street on a hazy, late afternoon. Was he a man or a mouse?
He sat up and reached for one of Gene's cigarettes, and Gene was obliging enough to light it for him. It was all settled then.
Sam took a slightly unsteady drag and glanced at the box of cigarettes, bemused that it lacked any health warnings whatsoever. That was the main difference between him and Gene; Gene's choice of drugs had been legal. It was a very arbitrary difference, but one which Sam intended to observe in the future.
Mind you, smoking wasn't the sanest alternative. It'd be ironic if he finally embraced this life, only to cough up a lung or two. That was the bloody curse of his situation. Whenever he tried to embrace it, it kicked back. Whenever he tried to just keep his head down and get on, it wasn't good enough. The smack had just smoothed things over, made it easier, made him sweat less about the small stuff.
"It's not living, Sam, what you've been doing. It's dying, slowly."
Gene echoed Sam's thoughts again so closely that he gave him a guilty start. Gene turned to look at him sharply.
"What are you so afraid of? It's like you're too scared to live and too scared to die. Why can't you just commit to being stuck here for the duration like the rest of us? Why are you so afraid to live a little?"
"Lack of practice."
Gene looked him up and down.
"You sad bastard. You really have been sleepwalking through life, haven't you?"
"Life's too short, Sam."
"I know. Trust me, I know."
"Didn't look like it to me."
Sam tilted his head back., closing his eyes for a moment in quiet frustration. So they were back onto that. Gene was like a dog with a bone. He just would not let it drop. Still, it's what made him a good copper. It was just uncomfortable to be on the wrong side of the interrogation.
"I was self medicating. Trying to stop the pain." And the nightmares. The waking ones. At least, he'd tried to banish them.
"Oh, grow up," Gene snorted. "I warned you. You started this, you know, all of it. You should be more careful what you wish for. Actions have consequences. If you can't stand the heat "
"Stop it," Sam pleaded, unable to cope with the flood of parables. "I know I brought this on myself. It's just hard, okay?"
"You're not as tough as you like to think you are. You got your hands dirty, your nose bloodied. It was all paperwork in Hyde, wasn't it?"
"Kind of. It was never quite so…personal."
"Of course it's bloody personal!" Gene erupted. "It's us versus them. You've been a copper for how many years and you're only just getting that?'
"I guess so, yeah." Sam rubbed his eyebrow, feeling the twinge of a headache, wincing under the third degree.
"So why are we here again?" he asked, trying to change the subject. It didn't really work.
Gene nodded up to the off licence up the road.
"I know you scored here. I want you to give me the nod when your dealer shows up."
"You want me to shop him?"
"He's small fry. Just local. I doubt he turns over more than £100 a day."
"He sold you drugs. I don't like that. I don't like drugs in my city and I don't like drugs in my DI." Gene shot him a very sharp look. "Don't you dare roll your eyes at me, Sunshine. I should kick you out on your arse but I need you and you're a good cop when you're straight but I am going to make you clean up your own mess. So yeah, when he shows up, I want you to bust the little toe rag."
Sam said nothing. He went back to filling out his crossword angrily. He didn't know who he was more angry with: Gene or himself. He just knew that he was angry.
"Why aren't drug squad handling this?" Sam asked, somewhat petulantly.
"Because "I've had a man in undercover and they haven't," Gene explained wearily.
He waited for Sam to take the bait, to say nothing, but Sam kept his sullen silence. DCI Hunt had once glowed with the confidence of being one of the few people on the planet who could predict with any certainly which way Sam Tyler was going to turn on a given day, but that confidence had been broken and shattered. In it's place was the bitter realisation that he had never really known Sam, despite all the late night conversations over a whisky bottle or the times Sam lay himself open beneath him.
Sam was closed to him, then and now, Gene reminded himself, shaking that last thought from his mind with some effort, the sense memory of Sam groaning beneath him almost to vivid to dismiss without violence.
"Get out," Gene spoke quietly.
At first Sam was quite sure he hadn't heard him properly, but the next moment Gene was leaning roughly over him and opening the door.
"I said get out."
Sam did as he was told, wondering what he'd done wrong now.
Seeing Sam's confusion and counting to ten through gritted teeth, Gene leant over to enlighten him through the open doorway.
"Go to the shop. Wait for your dealer." Gene glanced at his watch. "He's late so you can look impatient and wired. I'm sure you can manage that. Give him this." Gene waved a ten pound note at Sam.
"You want me to make a buy?"
"I want you to catch the bastard selling you drugs and drag him outside. Do you think you can manage that, or shall I call for Chris?"
Sam said nothing and they each waited for the other to move first, facing off at each other across the narrow width of the Cortina's roof, each so still and ready to twitch that Gene was sure he could hear the faint echoes of a Morricone soundtrack stirring faintly in the distance.
It was Gene who broke first, and he regretted it.
"Come on. You're going to make yourself useful by helping me bang up some villains. That is what you want to do, isn't, Sam?" he asked, appealing to the old Sam, the one who had seen policing almost as a vocation, a sacred duty.
Sam regarded him like a malcontent teenager, promising rebellion but unwilling to openly protest.
Gene felt himself age another year in a minute. Why did everything have to be such a struggle uphill with Sam? Why couldn't he just admit he'd fucked up and get on with cleaning up his mess? Just this once, just for a few moments respite, Gene would have liked some obedience without the stroppiness. If he knew how utterly mortified and humiliated Sam was by the whole business, then perhaps he would have measured out a little more sympathy, but Gene's patience was running dangerously low, and Sam still continued to tug at it.
"Sam," Gene prodded, and Sam relented, falling into line.
Huffy, Sam squared his shoulders in his leather jacket and marched up the hill. Gene smiled to himself as he slid back behind the steering wheel. Well, at least he still knew Sam well enough to push the big easy buttons. Gene let a breath out softly, wondering again what he'd done to deserve Sam Tyler.
Time seemed to move much more slowly in the Seventies. Sam was certain of it, and no more so than now as his watch seemed to take fifteen minutes at a time to make a single sweep. He paced and fretted and sweated slightly, hands clammy and sticking to the magazines he picked and flicked through, then replaced in horror. He wasn't sure which distressed him more: the platform shoes, big hair and flares in the rock mags, the wild and untamed furriness of the porn mags or the unchanging news of the more serious publications. Still the usual suspects, he noted with regret.
He'd flicked through just about every magazine twice and bought a new packet of fags when a rat like figure scurried across the threshold, unkempt, unwashed and furtive. Spying Sam he immediately made for the furthest corner and a deal was quickly done with a handshake.
"Wait," Sam asked, breaking out of the routine and instantly feeling the atmosphere suddenly charge. "I have a friend. He says he can buy more. He wants to see you."
The seedy little man regarded him suspiciously.
"Now," Sam added, far more forcefully than intended, grabbing his dealer by the elbow and pushing him, stumbling out onto the street.
Gene, waiting outside with a cigarette clenched between his teeth, was on him like a ton of bricks.
"Frankie, Frankie, long time no see," Gene greeted affably, all the way marching Frankie down the hill towards the Cortina, his fist firmly affixed to Frankie's greasy collar.
"I believe you know my friend Sam," Gene continued in the same friendly tones as he opened up the back door. "Say hello to Frankie, Detective Inspector."
"You're a cop?" Frankie reeled back, incredulous, then shot forward, spitting like a cobra.
Gene gave Frankie a hard shove that was more like a punch, sending him sprawling into the backseat of the car and catching his head with a resounding clunk on the open door as he fell through.
"Watch yourself there, Frankie. These doors can be so tricky," Gene offered solicitously, slamming the door shut and muffling the stream of abuse to a dull roar.
Sam was just wiping his face on the edge of his sleeve, saying nothing, but making his usual pinched face with regards to police brutality. He still found himself unreasonably squeamish, especially when Gene stepped well over where the line had been for Sam. Even now it was a reflex action, if only to remind himself that he'd once done things very differently, back in 'Hyde'.
"Happy now?" Sam asked of Gene, much more sarcastically than he had any right to, and Gene's returning glower reminded him of that fact.
"It's a start," was all Gene would say.