I just realized that I had never posted this story over here. I've actually got a few fics that I need to archive on this site that are only at LJ or AO3! This was my entry for the 2013 Martian Holiday Armed Bastards exchange. :)
Also, this was written before I visited Manchester and realized there are basically no hills there. Let's just suspend our geographical disbelief, okay?
Where You Are
You ain't lost, pal. You're where you are, and you have to make the best of it. It's all you can do.
Glass and steel loomed from the city centre below, concrete dampening and twisting the shadows of icy cold metallic reflections. Gene Hunt frowned, tugging at the too-smooth collar of a shirt made from some poncy space-age synthetic that hadn't been invented yet in his time, which was not remotely when he currently was.
Standing beside Sam on the hill overlooking Manchester 2006, Gene narrowed his eyes. There was no warmth to the vista; blue sky and sunshine notwithstanding, the landscape seemed so disconnected from the horizon. Or perhaps Gene himself was held apart from the view. He had no way to relate, no point of reference to understand this supposed brave new world, but he'd be damned before admitting that it scared him right down to the marrow of his 'temporally displaced' bones.
"This isn't right, Sam. It… this isn't my city."
Sam glanced at him sympathetically. "It is, you have to believe that or you'll go crazy… I know I almost did. Look," he prompted, pointing into the middle of the jumble of structures. "There's Piccadilly Station."
Scowling, Gene crossed his arms over his chest. "That's Piccadilly? Wot the hell happened to it?"
"Renovations I suppose." His eyebrows knitted thoughtfully. "Does it really look that different?"
Gene didn't answer, just stared at the skyline thinking about the fact that he sometimes still slipped up and called Piccadilly 'London Road,' even though it had been re-christened thirteen years ago- or was it forty-six years ago? He desperately scanned the landscape for something familiar to hold onto. Sam, for his part, stroked the bottom of his face with a frustrated hand. Gene could almost hear the cogs turning in the smaller man's perpetually overactive brain, whirring along at speed.
"Okay, right. Look over there." Sam leaned in, shoulder pressing against Gene's arm as he gestured down and to the left. There was a block of red brick flats surrounding a small green space. "That's where we arrested Doug Rigby. Remember when he tripped and fell headfirst into the dustbin in the alley between those two buildings?"
He looked. And he remembered, yes, but maybe he wasn't ready yet to really see.
"At least tell me all the pubs haven't gone."
A comforting hand grasped his bicep. "No Guv. Plenty of pubs, I promise. More than ever, in fact."
Well that was something, at least.
Living things need to keep working on the inside. Once the inside stops—
Sam's flat was all sleek surfaces and frosted metal and subtle lighting and Gene hated it a hundred times more than the shit hole his DI- DCI Tyler in this twisted new reality, lord save us- had occupied in 1973. Sam had needed to show his face at work for a few hours, thus leaving Gene to fend for himself and try not to think about the idea that the ghost of Jimmy Saunders might well be watching from within the Grade 2 Listed walls as Gene showered beneath a roof that by rights ought to house a fully-functioning mill.
So far today Gene had enjoyed an undeniably adversarial relationship with his new surroundings. He'd broken the overly fancy coffeemaker. He'd attempted to watch a 'DVD' (whatever that stood for- clearly one of the 'D's' was for Div) copy of High Noon that he'd been surprised to find on one of Sam's neatly alphabetized shelves, unleashing his fury onto the unfamiliar technology and accidentally decapitating an unsuspecting houseplant when he'd flung the useless silver disc across the room.
Then there had been the internet. Sam had shown it to Gene, thinking that he might like to read up on the past thirty-odd years or do some research on time travel or 'out of body experiences,' whatever that was supposed to mean. All Gene had managed to learn was that Doctor Who was still around and was by all indications still utterly rubbish, and that some little Irish tosser called McFly had apparently achieved time travel back in the 1980s. That gave Gene some hope at first, but then a few accidental clicks had ended him up in one of the many shockingly pornographic corners of the internet. Overwhelmed and generally disgusted by the debauched offerings of the pop-up windows, Gene had crashed the 'browser' while frantically trying to click away from the filth and slammed the laptop computer shut in frustration.
After a few long hours full of worry and a certain amount of soul-searching on Gene's part, Sam returned to the flat with curry and beer in hand. Gene could have kissed him- and from what he'd seen on the internet that sort of thing would have been perfectly acceptable by 2006 standards. Instead he shoveled curry into his face and let Sam ramble on about the Johns robbery, the train tunnel, Morgan, and his theories about how Gene had ended up here with him in the future and what that might mean for his 1973 existence.
Gene internalized his concerns, letting the fear and indecision bubble in his stomach right alongside the lager and Indian spices. Of course he would fight to get back home; it was plain as day that he belonged here even less than Sam had belonged in the past. He couldn't help but wonder, though- if he found his way back to 1973, would Sam stay here in this time? After everything the two of them had been through, could Gene return to an existence where they didn't battle tooth and nail only to balance each other out in perfect harmony? And when he opened his eyes back in 'his' world, would anyone else even remember that Sam Tyler had existed?
Maybe you're here for a reason. To make a difference. Gimme your hand.
After three weeks, the two of them finally had a punch-up.
They'd been for tea with Sam's mother, who had peered at Gene strangely and said he looked so familiar. Gene was finally forced to accept the reality that yes, Sam Tyler had been born in 1969 and Ruth and Vic Tyler were his parents and Gene really was in the sodding future and still didn't know what the hell he was going to do. Sam had become gradually more restless as the days passed, lamenting the assurances he had given to Annie and worrying for the others. Worrying for Gene and wondering what fate had befallen his body in 1973 in order to propel him into the future alongside Sam. That night after a Scotch or three, Sam admitted that he had begun to think that he needed to return.
"If I could make it back there I could save the others, find help…" Honey-brown eyes regarded Gene urgently. "I could get to your body and bring you back with me."
Gene looked at Sam incredulously. "And how do you plan to manage that, Einstein?"
"I made a promise. I just need to take the definitive step." He chewed on the cuticle of one thumb, full of restless energy.
"You arrogant little prick," Gene was up, fists clenched and long legs carrying him to where Sam was perched in three rapid steps. He grabbed the other man by the lapels of his well-tailored, boring suit and yanked him up from the sofa. "You really think the world revolves around you, eh Tyler?" A solid punch was laid in Sam's midsection, which send him tripping over the edge of the unflaggingly modern glass-top coffee table.
Sam righted himself quickly, posture challenging and a fire in his expression that Gene hadn't seen at any point since he'd arrived here in the future. "And what would you have me do, Guv? Eh? Pretend like nothing happened back there and leave the others to die?" He lashed out, taking a swing at Gene which the larger man barely even tried to deflect. They grappled and swiped at one another, landing blows that were thrown more out of frustration than any real intent to harm.
Eventually Gene managed to wrestle Sam up against the wall, pinning his struggling form and holding him still. "And what about me? You want to leave me here while you do what? Throw yourself in front of a firetruck and hope the fairies carry you back to 1973? You've got a life here, Sam. What have I got?"
The two were breathing heavily, some of the fight draining away. Sam shook his head, eyes wide with despair. "You could be dying in that tunnel, Gene. And if you do, what then? One minute you're standing here, the next you vanish in a puff of smoke and I have to pretend you never existed, that none of it ever happened? I can't do that!"
Gene released his hold on Sam with one final shove. Twisting away as the other man slid down and slumped onto the wall-to-wall carpeting, Gene ran a hand through his hair. The fear that Sam was expressing seemed so similar to what he himself had felt, envisioning the loneliness of returning to his proper time without his deputy in tow. Gut clenching with nervous anticipation, Gene realized that there was one obvious solution.
He turned his head just far enough so that he could see Sam out of the corner of his eye. "Together, then."
"What?" Sam perked up, straightening his neck and removing his face from where it had been cradled by his forearms and bent knees.
Lighting a fag in direct defiance of the 'no smoking in my flat' rule his host had laid down, Gene tried to project confidence. "We're partners, yeah? So we do it together."
A searching glance slowly transitioned into a razor sharp moment of shared understanding. Sam swallowed heavily. "Right."
Gene reached a hand down to help Sam up from his place on the floor. Sam grasped it firmly.
I see folk who walk about in a sunken dream 'cause they feel nothing. Are they alive?
There was a light breeze on the rooftop of the station, night firmly fallen and the twinkling lights of the city stretched out before them. In the darkness things didn't look quite so different, Gene realized. The outlines and shapes were the same, but perhaps in the end God was 'in the detail' after all.
Gene noticed how the ambient moonlight lent the weathered concrete a slate-blue cast. Sam glanced around and gave a small shrug. "It's… a place that connects us, I suppose. A constant between our time periods."
"Do you think that'll make a difference?"
"Might do. Not really sure how this works, actually."
Chuckling, Gene shoved his hands into his pockets. "Sam Tyler doesn't know something? Now that is a bloody first."
Sam, it seemed, couldn't help but join in the laughter. The two men continued to grin as they clambered over the steel barrier onto the unprotected overhang.
Feeling wildly alive and surprisingly unafraid, Gene breathed deeply and looked far out to the horizon. "When we get home, Sammy-boy, first round's on you."
"Let's hope I wake up with some notes in my wallet this time, then."
The smiles gradually faded, and Gene nodded grimly as he saw Sam's jaw set with determination. Hands clutched in a gesture of solidarity that defied decades, they stepped off the edge.