Word count: 4,046 for this section. 8,921 overall.
Rating: Brown Cortina for character death, sexual content, violence, language
Notes: Set after the series ends, this story deals with death and dark themes. There are also spoilers for both series and the last episode. Thanks to my beta ishamaellives</lj>.
Sam lay in a tightly curled position, back to the patterned wallpaper, head twisted at an angle that Gene could see was wrong from where he stood by the shitty little bedsit door. Blood stained Sam’s split lips and unhinged jaw, dry and dark now, broken hands limp against the floor where they’d fallen from being stretched out toward the room. His fingers bent at odd angles, like a kid’s first attempt at drawing hands without understanding how joints were supposed to bend.
Sam didn’t move. It was the first time Gene had seen him so still. Normally he was scribbling at his desk, or bouncing on the toes of his boots as his hands whirled; lost in explaining his latest crackpot methods. Or just sat in the Arms with that small smile of his in place as he sipped his pint.
There was no smile now. Sam’s sharply angled face was locked in an expression of pain and fear, dark with bruises and blood on top of sheet-white skin. The picky, messed-up, clever mind behind it was gone, leaving this broken shell behind. And Gene felt detached from the rest of his body - numb, like he’d drunk too much scotch and couldn’t feel his feet. He wanted to reach out and haul Sam up. Shake him until he stopped doing this and became normal again. Make him blink and breathe and clean up all the blood.
Sam’s hazel eyes stared back at him, sightless and empty, and it was with a sickening twist of his gut that Gene realised the hazel had begun to bleed into the whites. He twisted his head away to stop from gagging and grasped the wooden top of the fold-down cot that served as Sam’s bed. Leather-clad fingers dug into the surface as his stomach roiled, threatening to chuck up the bacon butty he’d stuffed down on the drive over. He stared at the photo of the little boy in a too-big policeman’s helmet instead - because if he looked back at the body, at Sam’s decaying eyes, he would go mad. Completely fucking mad.
The corners of Sam’s eyes crinkled as he smiled, raising his tumbler of scotch to meet Gene’s with a clink of glass. Gene’s mouth curled at the edges, approval reflecting back, and he nodded.
"To three less pieces of scum in my city," he grunted, and knocked the glass back in one.
Sam took a mouthful of the smoky whiskey and his face flashed in a small grimace before setting the glass back on the table.
"They’ll go down for at least twenty years. Judge won’t show much mercy, being repeat offenders." Sam’s fingers played over the tumbler; head tilting slightly as he watched Gene relax back. At one of the tables behind Gene Ray was leant in close to Chris, talking animatedly as they both grinned like schoolboys. Annie, sat opposite them and catching their conversion, was shaking her head, at once amused and disgusted.
Her eyes flicked over at them, sat alone in one of the booths, and she smiled as Sam’s gaze shifted away from Gene for a moment to meet hers. Daft soppy bastard. Gene patted his jacket pockets to find his cigarettes and pulled one out, lighting it as he waited for Sam’s attention to turn back to him.
The ciggie had the desired effect. Sam’s nostrils flared as he caught a whiff of smoke and his gaze travelled from where it hung from Gene’s lips up to his eyes, brows furrowing. "You work all bloody day in a smoke-filled office and can’t even wait two minutes to fill your lungs with it again."
Gene’s eyebrows raised. "It’s a pub," he replied, the cigarette bouncing as he spoke.
"Of course. Silly me," Sam shook his head. "Just wait until the ban comes in."
"Ban on smokes?" Gene snorted and tapped ash into the tray. "In your prissy daydreams, Tyler."
Sam’s face got that maddening expression that said I know something you don’t know and he crossed his arms over the leather of his jacket, opening his mouth to come out with some witty retort, but instead Gene blew smoke out between them and Sam coughed, spoiling the effect. "Be a good lad and drink up," Gene nodded to the scotch as Sam rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. "Stop being a self-righteous prick obsessed with my health for one evening, eh?"
Sam shook his head and picked up the glass, taking another swallow as the coughing subsided. Gene gave an approving nod and stuck the cigarette back between his lips.
"We sitting over here for a reason?" Sam asked, absently swirling the scotch, watching Gene through the acrid smoke that coiled between them.
"Yeah, another half hour of you and that plonk makin’ doe-eyes at each other and I’ll be forced to knock yer heads together."
Sam’s cheekbones coloured pink and he took another drink to cover his embarrassment. "We don’t make ‘doe-eyes,’" he retorted, glancing over at Annie as she sat somewhere behind Gene’s right shoulder.
"Bollocks. You’re like two kids who’ve just worked out the rules of doctors and nurses. Makes me wanna loose me lunch," he flicked ash at the ashtray, this time keeping the ciggie between his fingers as his lips jutted out, considering. "You ever gonna get the balls to ask her out, Gladys?"
Sam shifted uncomfortably, avoiding his eyes, and took another drink. "I dunno. It’s complicated."
"Complicated as in you’re both on my team, or complicated as in you don’t want to?"
Sam’s thumb rubbed over his own fist, twitchy, and Gene watched as he chewed the question over. Finally those sharp, slightly tilted eyes flicked back up to meet Gene’s again, open and honest.
"Complicated as in…I don’t think I’m good for her. Not in the long term. Not got a good record for girlfriends."
Gene grunted and took a long inhale, looking down his nose at Sam, before sniffing sharply and crossing his arms.
"Sounds like doubts to me, Sammy-boy."
"And me," Sam grimaced wryly, but seemed relieved Gene wasn’t taking the piss, and leant forward, lowering his voice. "I don’t want to get involved then mess it up, like I always bloody do. It’ll screw team dynamics, aside from anything else."
"Well if you’re not sure, stop bollocking around and quit the Romeo and Juliet act. After you shoved yer tongue down her throat the poor bird probably thinks you’re about to propose."
Sam shook his head and rubbed a hand over his mouth - a habit of stress Gene had long-since recognised and mentally filed away. "I know. I was…happy, y’know? To be back."
Gene just looked at him. The less said about those days, when that bastard Morgan had twisted Sam’s mind up like a piece of dishrag, the better. Sam got the hint and lowered his hand back to the table. "Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s doubts."
Hazel eyes rested on green, suddenly searching, and Sam straightened. When he spoke again his voice was soft. "And it could be even more complicated than that."
Sometimes Sam just didn’t turn up for work. Those were the days Gene would end up sending Annie over, or go himself, to make sure the bloody pain hadn’t drowned in his own paperwork overnight just to make Gene’s life that bit more difficult.
Sam’s neatly organised desk, aside from the few balled up pieces of paper that Ray had chucked over while Sam wasn’t around to stop him, still lacked its owner. Gene wasn’t worried and continued not to be worried even when he’d run out of things to do come ten o’clock. He fancied a drive, so when half ten came and went and Sam still hadn’t shown he grabbed a butty from the canteen and took a welcomingly nag-free drive to wake the lazy bastard up.
Sam didn’t answer his door when he knocked, he but this wasn’t unusual either. Gene was used to the mornings when Sam had spent all of last night fussing over case notes, or listening to singles on his clapped out old record player, or just staring into space for so long he forgot to sleep. Sam was an odd bloke most of the time, but somehow Gene had gotten used to the idea of working and being mates with - best mates, if he was honest - a man that sometimes came out with things that made little or no sense, and could gaze for hours at a wall, occasionally talking to himself.
Normally, if Sam didn’t open the door after two knocks Gene would kick it in, and invariably Sam would be in bed, blinking at him with tired eyes, or curled up in the chair with his head on a pillow, still in his clothes from the day before. So the logic of habit led Gene to put a shoe into the scarred wood and knock it off its lock by force. And, because it always happened that way, the words
"Get yer lazy arse out of bed, Tyler," were already out of Gene’s mouth before he realised that Sam wasn’t in the knacked camp bed, or cramped up in the armchair.
Time seemed to twist into crawling, all too-sharp clarity as Gene stood in the dank room that had somehow become his DI’s home, and stared down at Sam as he lay on the carpet under the window. And Gene knew, without checking for a pulse or holding a mirror in front of Sam’s lips, that he was dead. No one could look like that - no one could keep their chest so still - and be alive.
Sam stumbled out of the Railway Arms, Cuban heels clattering on the pavement, and almost fell flat on his face before Gene caught the collar of his jacket and yanked him upright again.
"Bleedin’ hell, Dorothy! Thought you could take your drink!" He chuckled as Sam looked up at him, shoulders comically hunched by the strength of Gene’s hold. Sam’s bottom lip pouted out and he wobbled in the sudden fresh night air that replaced the stink of beer, booze and cigarettes that filled the pub.
"I can. Don’t normally drink doubles after every pint…"
When Gene was sure Sam wouldn’t keel over he let go of his collar and instead clamped a friendly hand on his scrawny shoulder, steering him along the pavement. Sam obediently walked along at his side, blinking slowly as the air started clearing his head. Their conversation about Annie, and Sam’s unusual offering of insight his personal life, had soon been replaced by friendly banter as Ray, Chris and then Annie had joined them in the booth. Since then, the booze had flown and meaningfulness was lost to dirty jokes and drinking games.
"Lets get you back before you trip up and smash yer nose in," Gene smirked down at Sam, amused. He was pleasantly fuzzy but not pissed to the eyeballs like Sam was – just enough alcohol in his blood to keep him warm against the deceptively cold autumn wind. Sam’s eyes refocused on him and the pout was replaced by a wide, goofy grin.
"You takin’ me home, Guv?"
"Don’t get too excited about it, you bloody poof," Gene retorted. "I’m not makin’ you breakfast in the morning, if that’s what you call those girly yogurt things you have."
"I’ll make breakfast," Sam gave a decisive nod, which he seemed to regret as his eyes crossed for a moment. "Even cook you a fry-up. ‘m good at those."
"Oh yeah?" Somehow the assumption Gene was staying overnight didn’t surprise him. "Thought you disapproved of greasy breakfasts."
Sam waved a hand dismissively. "Once won’t hurt."
Gene didn’t point out that the fried portion of his diet hardly consisted of ‘once’ in case Sam started spouting about cholesterol and fuzzy arteries again. Sometimes it seemed like Sam was more concerned about his long-term health and life expectancy than the Missus was.
"Alright. Make up for me havin’ to sleep in that bloody armchair of yours," he mentally grimaced at the memory of previous nights crunched up in Sam’s armchair. It was perhaps one of the least comfortable places to sleep Gene had known. For Sam and his skinny frame it just about cut it, but for him it was like trying to stuff his foot into one of the Missus’ sandals.
"Can have the bed," Sam replied, just about managing to step over some dogshit piled on the pavement. "I keep saying you can."
Gene grunted noncommittally and didn’t reply. He’d slept in Sam’s tiny excuse for a bed twice. Once when he’d been accused of murdering Terry Haslam and Pete Wilkes, and another almost a month ago after a night similar to this one - both of them drunk, and his unwillingness to go back and face his Missus meant they both crashed round Sam’s.
Sam’s cot made him uncomfortable. When he led in it, between the sheets and blankets Sam slept in, he could smell Sam on everything. The shampoo and aftershave he used on the pillow; the distinctive, odd male scent of Sam’s sweat on the sheets. Sam didn’t smell like anyone else Gene knew. It was clean, almost clinical, but not unpleasant. As Gene had led there that night, eyes open in the dark and head muzzy with drink, sudden and all too-vivid images flashed up in sharp, cutting clarity from somewhere deep inside his brain: Sam in the very same spot Gene lay, knees bent and spread with his hand around his own cock, jerking himself off in sharp movements of his fist, eyes screwed up and gasping, sweat gathering on his skin and on the sheets.
It had made him feel angry, disgusted at himself, and confused that he’d ever imagine Sam doing something so blatantly sexual. He’d refused to take the bed ever since. Besides, the uptight little prick probably never indulged in something so normal.
Sam tilted his head and looked up at him, receiving no reply to his offer. "Or there’s the floor. Got some spare blankets. Might be a bit cold though."
Gene shook his head. "Nah, it’s alright. I’ll have the chair like usual."
Sam examined Gene’s profile for a few moments, lips parted in that way he had when he was thinking over something, then turned his attention back to walking in a straight line.
"If you’re sure."
Chris was crying. He was trying to pretend he wasn’t, every so often wiping his face on his sleeve, but any half-brained idiot could see he was mess. He’d been Sam’s protégé, and Sam had been the first person to take a real interest in the young DC, in making him more than the office div and Ray’s tag-a-long. That was something Gene felt a mixture of guilt and annoyance about. Sam had always had a way of being both the most rewarding and downright frustrating person in the room.
Annie was worse. She was sat at her desk, stubbornly refusing to go home and with eyes so puffed up she looked like someone had smacked her. She clutched a file in her hands; one Gene knew had Sam’s tight, slanted handwriting on, tears streaking make-up down her face. The news of Sam’s murder had spread through the building like wildfire. Everyone either knew or knew of Sam; the odd DI from Hyde that had strolled into Gene’s kingdom and turned it upside down. Phyllis had come up to the office, tight lipped and angry, demanding answers, and Annie had ended up sobbing into her shoulder. Gene didn’t think he’d ever forget the sound of her grief, like someone had torn out her heart and left her lost and alone in a dark room.
He was in a dark room all of his own - and Sam’s loss left it cold and empty.
Ray sat smoking, silent and grim, staring into space. There was no triumph or pleasure there at the realisation that his rival, his enemy, was gone for good. If there had been, Gene would have kicked his arse all the way to the front doors and down the steps. Ray had seen Sam’s body in the flat before it had been covered and taken away. He’d seen how broken Sam had been before he’d finally died. He’d seen the clouded eyes that had been so fucking frightened.
He thumped his fist down into the desk and pain bloomed up from his knuckles and shot along his arm as the open scotch bottle rattled against the wood. With a muttered curse he poured himself another measure and knocked it back; then with a sudden snarl punched the desk again, feeling skin split and his hand burn with agony. He wanted to kill the bastard who had taken Sam away. Wrap his hands round their throat and squeeze and squeeze until the pain, the feeling of being ripped into pieces, would stop.
Gene couldn’t cry. He hadn’t cried for years, not even when he’d found out his brother was dead, long lost to addiction. Or even when some bastard had started raping little girls and slicing them up before dumping them in the canal. Instead of tears, something dark and animal built up in his chest, clawing at the back of his throat. Not like the little animal Sam had helped stop scratching at him as they’d brought down Warren. This was something entirely different, and Gene had the terrible, awful feeling that no amount of time would ever get rid of it.
"Guv, don’t go in there. There’s nowt Oswald will’ve found out yet and you don’t…" Ray swallowed and shook his head. "You don’t wanna see the Boss like that again."
Gene continued to stride forward, jaw fixed and hands clenched. Ray stopped following, perhaps finally realising it was a lost cause, and stood there by the lift door watching him go. Gene ignored him, leaving him behind, and walked past the tiled walls toward the room at the end of the corridor. It was always cold here, making the hairs on the back of Gene’s arms rise as cool air found its way up his sleeves.
Ahead he saw Oswald look up, the big man straightening from where he was bent over the slab, and he came to the door to wait for Gene to reach him.
"Mr Hunt," there was no surprise in his tone. They’d known each other for years now – no doubt long enough for Oswald to guess that Gene was going to turn up sooner or later. "I’m sorry about Sam."
Gene stopped in front of him and stuck his chin out. "I want to watch the autopsy."
"I really don’t think that’s a good idea," Oswald’s eyes flicked down to his gloves, stained dark red. Gene’s did not.
"I want to know what killed him."
"I’ll send you my report as soon- "
Gene cut him off with an angry shake of his head and took one step forward, scowling. "I want to watch it, Oswald. He’s my DI. I owe him that."
Oswald looked at him for a beat, then sighed and stepped out the way, going back in. Gene followed, nose wrinkling as the stench of death masked with embalming fluid and bleach filled his nostrils.
"I can tell you a couple of things already," Oswald told him, and stood at the side of the slab, watching him over the body. Gene forced himself to follow, standing opposite, and inevitably – because this had to be done, had to be faced – looked down at Sam.
He was naked, covered only by a thin sheet around his hips, so low down that the top of dark wiry hair showed above it. Gene fought back the urge to pull the sheet up and cover him. Sam would’ve hated being exposed like this. He’d always been uptight; buttoning his jacket whenever he was out working, uninterested in the porn mags strewn around the office. A deep bloodless cut touched the top of the hair there and travelled upward over Sam’s flat belly, avoiding his navel, to the middle of his chest, slicing through the small splattering of hair. There it split in two to make a Y shape, the two prongs running up over his collarbones and the sides of his neck, ending behind his ears. It was the first time Gene had seen Sam without that silver St Christopher he always wore. His throat looked empty without it.
Sam’s body was dark with bruises that contrasted sickly with his too-pale skin, and on the right side of his ribs a bone had torn through, broken and shockingly white. He was so thin. So bloody thin. Gene’s stomach clenched with guilt. Maybe he should have forced the stubborn wanker to stuff down a few more dinners, or have a proper breakfast. Then maybe he’d have been able to the able to defend himself against the bastard that killed him.
He forced himself to look up at Sam’s face, and Gene’s stomach clenched again, this time warning him against the sickness that would bubble up if he had to see the bleeding hazel and white of Sam’s eyes even one more time. But someone, presumably Oswald, had closed them to let Sam’s dark lashes rest against his cheeks. Gene felt his hands unclench as he looked into his DI’s face, still heavily bruised but at least clean of blood now. His jaw hung awkwardly to one side, the full bottom lip busted in half. Anger burned the back of his throat, and the animal clawed.
"Tell me everything."
Oswald took a deep breath. "From the temperature of the body, and the stage of decomposition, he was probably killed about twelve or one o’clock last night," his gloved fingers hovered over Sam’s sides and stomach, where bruises were thick and dark. "He was severely beaten, I suspect punched and then kicked, from the position he was lying in when he was found. The neck was broken, as was the jaw and nose. The compound fracture of the rib hints at a punctured lung, and the blood that was in the mouth and throat suggest internal bleeding - but I need to look inside to find out if I’m right."
Gene grunted and nodded toward where Sam’s arms lay still at his side.
"His hands were hurt."
"Yes, I’ve taken a look at them. It doesn’t seem they were deliberately broken - bent back like we sometimes see - but instead simply…got in the way of the assault."
"He tried to fight back? Defend himself?" Gene’s lips pressed in a tight line. Sam always fought back, every time. So often and so hard Gene used to feel he was pushing against a brick wall.
"There’s certainly signs of that, yes. Held his hands out to protect himself. He was in a curled position, knees brought up to try and shield his stomach. I expect he was kicked to the floor and trapped with his back against the wall. There were no signs of injury to the back or spine."
"What killed him? The broken rib?"
"I’ll have to do an internal examination to tell you for sure, but I suspect a stray kick broke his neck. Or massive internal haemorrhage killed him first, with the neck being broken after death," Oswald looked up at him, examining Gene’s face. He’d seen enough grieving relatives and friends, and Gene could tell he was gauging his reaction, working out what he could cope with.
"He was kicked to death. Kicked to death in his own friggin’ flat!" Gene’s lips curled as he snarled. It wasn’t right, any of it. If Sam had to die it should have been a hero’s death, a blaze of glory doing the job he loved. Not beaten like a piece of meat and left to bleed out into the carpet alone. "My DI deserved better. Sam deserved fucking better than that."
Oswald sighed quietly and looked down at Sam’s face. "I don’t think anyone deserved this, Mr Hunt."