The car. The station.
This time, he and Gene were quieter.
And early. Aside from a few PCs puttering about on the ground floor, they didn't come across anyone as they made their way up the lift and into CID, which meant that while they could take a rest from their little two-man show, the silence and dread between them grew taut and deadly as a hangman's rope.
"This is such shit," Sam moaned as he leaned his hands on the edge of his rightful desk. "Haven't my bloody cortexes sorted themselves yet? Weren't the seventies bad enough?" He stared morosely at the station's light fixtures. "What did I ever do to deserve this?"
"Be a pain in my arse for one." Gene walked out of his office, peering down at a sheet of paper in his hand. "This might cheer you up."
Sam leveled a glare at his own body, perfect and proper and not where it was supposed to be.
With a scowl, he snatched the paper and scanned it. "Sawdust."
"Under the nails." Gene crossed his arms. "Turns out you and Flash-Knickers passing love notes might've helped us along after all."
Sam frowned -- and then realized. "Rodrick's brother works at a carpentry shop."
"My, we'll make a Sherlock of you yet!" Gene straightened Sam's jacket lapels in the same emphatic way he usually did his camelhair and then turned to stride toward CID's doors.
Sam scowled at him. "Where do you think you're going?"
Gene kept walking. "Chasing a lead, or did you forget we were police officers in all your whining?"
Sam winced and rubbed his temple. "Gene, do you really think--"
"What I think?" Gene whirled on Sam with an explosive shout, face dark, eyes horrible and livid. "What I think is that my shoes are too small and my shirt's too poncy and while you've dragged me down whatever rabbit hole you crawled out of, I still have two hands and two feet and I'll not sit idle while villains ravage my city!"
Sam had shrunk a bit. "Okay, Guv."
"Okay!" Gene slammed out to the hall. Sam could almost imagine it'd been the Guv's true figure that had just stormed through the doors for all the gale-wind force he imbued them with, hinges swinging to-and-fro in his wake.
Sam fidgeted with the paper in his hands. Then he grabbed a pen, scribbled a note, and left it on Annie's desk before bolting out after him.
"I'm so sorry," the note read, "about yesterday. --Sam."
They'd agreed to use each others' names by the time they pulled up to the workshop, but Sam realized as soon as Gene slammed out of the car that the idea of not acting a complete thug was still beyond his boss' comprehension. Seeing Gene swagger into the workshop in Sam's body gave Sam the distinct impression of a lion with all its fur shaved off.
"Bartholomew Rodrick, is it?" Gene asked the figure at the woodworking table.
Rodrick's brother glanced up from his work table, covered in rough chair legs and a half-carved rocking horse. He looked burly and tall, but mild-mannered despite it. "Bart. Can I help you, sir?"
Gene stopped a few paces from him and flashed Sam's badge. "Wouldn't happen to know what sewer your piss-off scrote of a brother has burrowed himself in, would you?"
Bart frowned, then went back to sanding. "Like I told the other detectives, I haven't seen him in weeks."
"We have evidence that suggests otherwise," Sam said, keenly aware of how bloody ridiculous this whole exchange would look to any of their co-workers. He longed, briefly, for the comfort of a cigarette before stamping the urge down.
"Right." Gene leaned a hand on the edge of the table. "And here I thought Rodgy-Dodgy was the bastard liar of the family."
Bart paused, then straightened. "You'd be DCI Gene Hunt, then."
"What?" Sam's head snapped up, but Bart's eyes stayed on Gene -- on Gene in Sam's body -- like he didn't know any better.
Gene looked right back. If it weren't for his tight jaw and clenched fist, Sam might've thought he was calm. "You one of those idiot savants, emphasis on the 'idiot'?"
Bart pushed the chair legs to one side. "Piece on my brother in the paper had you quoted. 'Rodgy-Dodgy.' You must think that's quite clever."
Right. Expect Gene's schoolyard name-calling to screw them all. Sam sighed and scratched his brow. "Actually--"
"Shut up, Tyler," Gene snapped as he marched into Bart's space. Had he not been so mortified, Sam might have admired the Guv's hellbent determination to intimidate. "Felicia Hartley was here as sure as money's in the bank, which to my reckoning gives you one of two options."
"Those would be...?" Bart asked.
"Tell us where your brother is or we arrest you on the spot," Sam finished.
Gene's silence meant he approved. He crossed his arms as Sam noticed Bart's hand close around his chipping tool.
"Oi, Bart, where's your..." Owen Rodrick trailed off as he walked into the room.
Several things happened.
First, Gene yelled "Oi!" Second, Bart thrust out at Gene's face with the wrong end of his tool. Third, Gene yelled and fell over himself as Sam ran at Owen Rodrick.
"Bart!" Owen yelled. "Get out of here!"
Why's Bart running? Sam thought. Then Owen's fist flew into his jaw.
Hot pain shot down Sam's face and into his shoulder, but it only propelled him back a half-step -- not even enough to knock him off balance. He stood, stunned, then balled his fist and threw the weight of his arm into Owen's stomach.
Owen flew toward the metal edge of the work table and hit it with a crack. He crumpled to the ground.
"Tyler!" Sam heard his own voice yell. His head snapped toward Gene, whose hand was tight on his nose and -- oh, god. Was that blood?
Sam caught movement out the corner of his eye as Bart Rodrick made a break for it out the warehouse door. Sam grit his teeth and raced for the exit, then the alley beyond it, and got about halfway down it with Bart in his sights when his legs turned to hot iron. He could hardly breathe.
Sam's shoulder slammed into the nearest wall. He heaved, and wheezed, and watched with horror and dizzy vision as Bart Rodrick disappeared into the distance.
"You broke my nose," Sam seethed.
Gene leaned back on the settee next to him. He adjusted the ice pack against his face and winced. "You let a suspect get away."
Sam turned to glower at him. "Your bad habits let a suspect get away. Also, you broke my nose."
Gene scowled. "Not like it's a particularly good one."
Sam crossed his arms, tight, and looked straight ahead again at Gene's Sergio Leone poster. He was sick of Sergio Leone. If he never saw another piece of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly memorabilia again, he'd be ecstatic.
"Chin up, Tyler," Gene muttered, though he didn't sound especially cheerful. "We lost the brother, not the murderer."
"Right -- I'll just drag him up from holding and into lost and found, shall I? Knock him about and see if he talks?"
Gene grit his teeth. "That's a start."
"Not as if being you is good for much else." Sam slumped in his seat. It almost made him feel better to think how petulant he was making Gene look, except that Gene was making Sam look like he was in a sodding world of pain, which Sam wasn't exactly looking forward to once he jumped back into his own shoes.
If he jumped back into his own shoes.
It was a horrible, gut-wrenching thought, the kind he could hardly entertain. But there wasn't anything to disprove it -- no rule, no precedent, no obvious little button. This had never happened before. It might never happen again.
Sam groped for the flask in his breast pocket. He didn't stop himself from twisting the cap off up with shaky fingers, from taking a long, deep swig.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Equally fucking miserable.
"We need to fix this," Gene muttered.
"How," Sam said in monotone.
"Wake up, probably," said Gene. "From this bastard nightmare."
Sam turned to look at him. Gene had closed his eyes.
"Is this what it's like?" he mumbled. "Being you?"
Sam blinked slowly.
The door opened with a thud. Annie strode in, wide-eyed, medical bag in hand.
"Sam!" she said.
"He'll live," Sam managed in a little rasp as Annie rushed toward Gene. Sam wasn't sure if it was the morose mood or their earlier agreement that kept Gene quiet as Annie put a hand on his shoulder.
"Here, let me--"
Gene grunted as she reached for the ice pack and gently pulled it away and -- Christ. Sam outright blanched. His face looked yellow and green across the bridge of his nose and inner eye sockets; a big smear of blood had crusted up under his nostrils.
"S'not bad," Gene announced.
"Not...!" Annie let out an exasperated sigh and looked toward Sam. "What happened, Guv?"
"He's an idiot is what." Sam thought he sounded properly in character.
"I was knocked about the face by a carpentry tool." Gene sounded equally in character, aside from the horrible nasal quality.
"Okay, fine, just -- sit still." Annie pulled up a damp cloth she'd draped over the medical bag as she kneeled in front of Gene. She bit her lip and pressed a hand to steady one side of Gene's face -- Sam's face -- as she brought up her cloth with the other.
Sam took another drink from the flask, tense. Uncomfortable. Annie began to gently wipe away the dried blood under Gene's nose. Gene winced, but aside from a pained noise at the back of his throat, stayed quiet.
Sam noticed Annie wasn't looking at him. Like it was pointed, like she should be shy around the Guv at a moment like this, like even he should know to excuse himself. Sam stood up, suddenly, and walked to the other side of Gene's office. He felt something in his chest that he couldn't explain, something apart from the deep burn of Gene's whiskey.
"You have to be more careful," he heard Annie murmur to Gene, to Sam.
"Tell that to..." On the other side of the room, Sam heard his own voice trail off. "Tell that to the Guv."
"Not my fault you fight like a fairy," Gene's voice snapped out of Sam, out of his throat. It was ugly, raw. Sam's head swam.
Gene raised his head to look at him and Sam didn't know why it hit him now, visceral, the unfairness of it all. Gene didn't know what he had in this moment, what he was blithely ripping away. Didn't know it was something Sam wanted more than anything, that he'd earned but couldn't have.
A spike of something painful and irrational shot up through his stomach, worse than envy, than hate.
It was unfair.
"Guv...?" Annie asked.
Sam looked at her, at her big blue eyes. He realized he was angry at her. He was angry at everything.
"I'm fine," Sam said. He opened Gene's jacket, slid the flask back in. "Just sick of this spectacle."
He strode toward the doors, slammed out of them. Marched through the length of CID, down the stairs, out the hall, past Phyllis and into the holding cells.
"Oi, Guv--" Phyllis tried.
Sam ignored her. He got to Owen Rodrick's cell and turned the lock, yanked it open. Rodrick jerked up from his concrete slab as it clanged closed.
"Tell me how you killed those girls," Sam said.
Rodrick sat up. "I stabbed 'em. I carved 'em up, I..."
Sam grabbed Rodrick by the front of the shirt and yanked him up to eye level.
"I used a knife -- hunting knife."
"Hunting knife couldn't have made those stab wounds, Owen."
Rodrick hit the concrete like a ten-stone ragdoll, the kind that whimpered, and whined.
"Sorry -- sorry, I meant a... a kitchen knife." Rodrick curled up. "That's what I did, I sliced their bellies open while they screamed, I..."
"Wrong!" Sam shouted. "The evisceration was post-mortem!"
Rodrick wheezed. "Please, I'm confessin' -- just listen to me, please!"
"You know what I think?" Sam walked around him in a circle, footfalls heavy, steady. "I think you didn't do it."
"No..." Rodrick cried, snotty. He raised a hand in surrender. "I'm the murderer-- that's why there was blood in me bathtub, see, all over the floor--"
"Anyone could have used your flat -- anyone you trusted with a key, who you couldn't say no to."
"I'll sign anythin' you want--"
Sam yanked him up by the back of his collar, slammed his chest into the wall. Rodrick yelled.
"Truth is," Sam whispered behind him, "I don't think you've the bollocks to kill someone. But you had the bollocks to stay behind, didn't you? While your brother ran?"
Rodrick shook his head. "No, no!"
Sam twisted his arm. Rodrick screamed.
"The wounds threw us for a loop. Smaller than a knife, bigger than a screwdriver -- punctures, not cuts. Awful lot like the wood-chipping tool in your brother's hand."
"Please!" Rodrick wailed. "I borrowed it from him, I--"
"You'd rather people get hurt," Sam said. "You'd rather your brother kill innocent girls than see him get caught."
Rodrick breathed hard. Sam grit his teeth, Gene's teeth, growled with Gene Hunt's voice to Gene Hunt's suspect the words Gene Hunt would want said.
"Where is he?"
Rodrick sobbed, broken. "I don't know -- I swear I don't know. Everything else is true, but I don't know!"
Sam tightened Gene's fist on Rodrick's arm.
Sam turned his head. His own face looked back at him, red and mottled across the middle, tan bandage on the nose. His cheeks were pale with the contrast.
Sam's hands went still. He dropped Rodrick's arm and shoulder, then stepped back from him. Rodrick crumpled to the floor.
He felt a hand grip his arm and drag him out to the hall. The door slammed behind them with an echoing clang as they made their way further down the corridor, toward the empty cells.
"Bloody Nora," Gene said.
"Gene, I'm sorry," Sam babbled. "I'm so sorry--"
"For what?" Gene turned, wide-eyed, like he'd seen icewater in hell. "For cracking the case like a grown man?"
Sam swallowed. His knuckles were sore, his palms clammy. He didn't know exactly -- why he felt shamed and shaken. Why he felt like he'd crossed a line, violated someone, done something he hadn't a right to.
He knew, but he didn't know.
"Oi." Gene took a step back. "You going to be sick, you jessie?"
"I..." Sam swallowed. He tasted bile and pressed a hand to his mouth. It was Gene's hand. It was Gene's mouth. It was--
"For god's sake, will you wait 'till it's your own shirt?!"
"Sorry," Sam choked, breathed. "I... I need some air."
Gene didn't respond for a moment. Then he clapped Sam on the back.
"What you need," Gene said, "is a drink."
Sam was embarrassed by how quickly he grabbed the bottle of scotch under his sink, how large a portion he poured himself. He downed it, then turned to throw open the window.
"How do you do this," he muttered as he tugged out Gene's Marlboros. "Every day, how do you do this?"
"By not acting a bleeding child." Gene grimaced from where he stood in front of Sam's bathroom mirror, testing the edges of his bruises with his fingertips. "How do you stand seeing this face in the morning?"
"By not looking like a train wreck." Sam took a drag on his lit cigarette and then turned toward his displaced body. He swallowed. "God, you look like a train wreck."
"Least I didn't sleep in these clothes," Gene muttered.
After a moment, Sam sighed. He padded over and offered Gene a glass.
Gene took it. Sam sat down on the edge of the bed and shifted his own drink to the same hand as his cigarette. He was getting good at this.
Across from him, Gene pulled up a chair backwards and straddled it. "Plods are combing the city. Annie's pulling nightshift. Ray and Chris are taking turns keeping watch on Barty-Farty's last known residence."
Sam smirked weakly. "Barty-Farty. Very good."
"Two blokes," Gene said as he rested an arm on the seatback in front of him, "pretending to do the other's dirty laundry. Can't imagine where you got the notion."
"Can't imagine," Sam agreed.
Gene drank his scotch. The space between them eased into something calm, comfortable. Sam realized he'd relaxed for the first time since waking up.
They were safe here, with each other. They could be themselves.
"Oi," Gene said. "Can I ask you something?"
Sam raised a brow. "You... want permission?"
Gene's mouth twisted. "Well, if you're going to be a right bastard about it--"
"No, just..." Sam exhaled smoke. "Sure. Go ahead."
Gene watched him stonily before he glanced down at his drink. His ice cubes clinked and it occurred to Sam that over the past two days, Gene hadn't drank much more than Sam did normally, hadn't asked for a single smoke. It unsettled Sam, that either the Guv had a hidden well of human decency or didn't bother with his personal vices if he didn't need them to function.
And he did need them to function. That unsettled Sam too.
"Why this time?" Gene gazed at his glass. "Why this time, of all times, to lose your sodding mind, go King Kong on our little captive?"
Sam looked away. He brought his cigarette to his lips and took a drag. "I was being you."
"You weren't." Gene watched him now, like a hawk, like he had over the table last night. "You might fool someone else, but I saw Sam Tyler in that cell, through and through -- out of gran-gran's mittens, off the reservation."
"I thought you didn't need an apology," Sam muttered.
"Didn't ask for an apology. Asked for a reason."
Sam ran a hand down his face. Gene's face. Gene's skin, rough and pock-marked, solid and warm.
He dropped his hand, grit his teeth. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I'd give you a pound of my flesh except you already have all of it."
Gene barked out a laugh. "Tyler answer for a Tyler question. Fine."
Gene threw back his head to drink the last of his scotch and almost immediately slammed his palm down on the top of the seatback. He leaned forward, teeth grit, as he curled his other hand around the middle of his face. His glass had fallen to the floor.
Sam sighed. "Did you knock your nose against the--"
"No," Gene hissed. His hand gripped the edge of the seatback. "Sodding hell, are you made of peanut brittle?"
"I've got sensitive sinuses." Sam stood up as he finished off his scotch. He put his glass to the side and dropped his cigarette in it. "Particularly when they've been smashed in, I imagine."
Gene let out a grunt that sounded more like a suppressed groan. Sam rolled his eyes and walked toward him. "You shouldn't have taken off the ice pack."
"I'm fine," Gene growled.
"Oh, yes, I can see that." Sam leaned down to grasp Gene's wrist. "Here, let me look at you."
Gene yanked away. "I'm not a fairy."
"It's my own face, Gene."
Gene glared him down through the gaps between his fingers. After a few seconds, he lowered his hand.
Sam tried not to wince, but it was hard when he felt like he was looking at his own self -- his nose, his eyes, his own splotchy skin. He felt sympathy pain -- literal bloody sympathy pain -- surge through him as he swallowed and reached forward, clinically, to grab his chin and turn it side to side. As if he was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, that private moment when you inspect yourself, check yourself.
"You quite finished?" Gene growled.
Sam frowned. "I'm assuming Annie already asked you what kind of pain you were feeling, if you could breathe--"
"She tried to. Didn't get far."
"Of course she didn't." Sam tightened his grip on his face's chin. "Has it occurred to you that you should take better care of something you've borrowed?"
Gene grit his teeth. "I didn't ask for this."
"Neither did I, but here we are, aren't we?"
"Aren't we." Gene began to stand.
Instinctively, Sam's other hand shot out and grabbed Gene's shoulder, slammed him back into the seat. Gene's hand launched out to shove Sam's chest and Sam let go of Gene's chin to slap it away.
"For fuck's sake--" Gene said, turning his head.
Sam's free hand grabbed for his face, his jawline, to force it back toward him. Some vindictive fury thrummed through him, that same unfair, unfair from earlier, so strong that he didn't notice at first how he'd pressed Gene's palm into the skin of his own cheek, how he'd hooked Gene's thumb on the corner of his mouth. He didn't notice how his own body had gone still in front of him.
And then he did.
The body under his hands exhaled, just a bit, just enough that Sam wouldn't have noticed if it weren't his own skin underneath his fingers, his own breath against his thumb. He looked back at his own eyes and that should have broken it, this thing that had slammed out of nowhere and thudded under his ribs, except that his thoughts leapt, stupidly, from point to feverish point -- Is this what I would look like? Is this what he would see?
Christ. Fucking Christ.
Sam stepped away, turned around. He walked toward the door. He realized, as he turned the knob, that he hoped Gene would start yelling at him, blow cro-magnon smoke from a cro-magnon fire and that would be that, the end of it, the laugh of it.
But he didn't. Sam didn't hear Gene stand up until he'd already crossed the threshold.
"Takin' leave of your own flat?" Gene asked. There was a cold quality to his voice.
Sam swallowed. "We're not us right now."
Sam didn't turn around. His knuckles ached where his hand grasped the door.
"Get some rest, Guv."
He closed it behind him.
Day One | Day Two | Day Three