Hey, watchers of the Life on Mars category! Here's part 1/2 of a fic that was written for the Advent Calendar at the Lifein1973 LJ community. I thought I might as well share it here, as well. It's a bit angsty, will contain pockets of smut, and is at least a little bit Christmas-themed.
This fic could be considered AU, or I suppose it could be viewed as a highly unlikely 'in between' scenario bridging the gap between Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. For a person who prefers to keep their LoM and their A2A firmly separated I sure do a nice job of mixing some aspects here. Be warned, I'm not the type of cook who tends to follow a recipe. I just throw in what I like and hum merrily while I'm stirring it up. In other words, the contents of this fic are of dubious canonicity. I will add more notes concerning this at the bottom of the chapter for anyone who enjoys or requires additional babbling. ;)
Beyond: Part 1
1 at or to the further side of
2 happening or continuing after (a specified time or event)
3 having progressed or achieved more than (a specified stage or level)
4 to a degree or condition where a specified action is impossible
5 too much for (someone) to achieve or understand
He wore a black coat to the funeral.
Annie didn't know if he'd owned it already or if he'd gone out and bought it for the occasion; all she could say for certain was that his appearance, dark and foreboding, was a perfect reflection of her mood. Encased in the inky black wool, Gene Hunt looked for all the world like a different man. And maybe he was- for Annie, life without Sam changed everything. She knew it changed her. Perhaps the loss held enough power in her own mind that even her friends and loved ones were transformed into unfamiliar creatures in this bleak new reality.
The fact that there was no body to bury didn't change the air of finality that the situation afforded. Annie Tyler wasn't sure that her husband was dead, but she knew he was gone. She'd been having these strange thoughts in the quickly-passing days since Sam's… disappearance. Thoughts that hearkened back to the time after Sam's arrival, when he used to talk of going home as if 'home' were a different planet.
This cemetery might as well have been Mars itself, as alien as everything looked and felt. On a day that should have been grey and dreary by rights the sun shone mockingly out of a perfect blue sky, and the grass glowed green with the vitality of an unusually mild winter. Annie stared at the cold stone marker, conspicuous in its lack of color, absent of life.
She hadn't even realized that her knees had given out until she felt a strong hand at her elbow, pulling her upright as a steadying arm clad in black wool slipped around her back to support her at the waist. Annie shut her eyes for a moment, surrendering to the smell of whisky, cigarette smoke, and Brut. A familiar, uncompromising voice growled quietly next to her ear.
"On your feet, Cartwright." The stabilizing arm bestowed a small squeeze, emphasizing the speaker's point. "You can save the falling down for the bottle of Scotch Nelson's got waiting for us."
Annie gratefully covered Gene's leather-clad hand with her own, absently tracing her fingertips over the ridge of his exposed knuckles. She felt stronger, and even as a stray tear dripped from her eyelashes she reasoned that maybe there was some measure of comfort left to be found in this world after all.
Gene Hunt does not joke about Scotch, a fact that became evident to Annie Tyler when the Guv bundled them all straight into the Railway Arms at the conclusion of the funeral service. Phyllis looked on disapprovingly as Gene poured yet another large measure of whisky into Annie's glass, instructing her to 'take her medicine.'
He hadn't said anything to her, about Sam. He hadn't said much at all in fact- but nothing, nothing about that. Annie was glad; many others had approached her at the grave site, offered platitudes, looked on with pity or as though she might shatter at any moment and they didn't want to be there to pick up the pieces. Some of them, she noticed, cast similar glances at Gene. There was a tacit avoidance among their CID colleagues, the like of which Annie had seen on many previous occasions when the Guv had been so angry or wound up over a case that nobody would go near him for fear of triggering the explosion. Here and now within the smoky confines of their pub, that bubble of protection was extended to her.
It seemed right somehow that they should share this. Perhaps out of anybody Gene was the only one who understood what Annie felt- was the only other person who had been close enough to Sam Tyler to deserve a place by her side in mourning. There had been times, in fact, where WDC Anne Cartwright (and even Mrs. Annie Tyler) had been jealous of the relationship between DCI Hunt and his second in command.
Certainly the two men had been friends, at least to the extent that Gene Hunt 'did' friendship. There were more than a few punch-ups and not a rainbow or a unicorn in sight, but there was an unusual closeness built into their interactions. Annie was sure there were times when Gene and Sam could read each other's minds, and there was a physical tension that bordered so much on the sexual that she had no choice but to wonder…
Now, though? She looked across at Gene, leaning forward over the table and staring gloomily into the amber liquid in his glass. Such things didn't bear thinking about. Annie took a large sip of her own drink, and the motion seemed to snap Gene out of his trance. There were layers of emotion hidden behind that steely blue-green gaze. Pain, longing, the ever-present burn of anger waiting for a target, and so many more things that Annie couldn't decipher- that she was sure somehow if Sam were here, he could.
Several weeks passed by, and the atmosphere in CID did not improve. Annie had returned to duty sooner than anyone thought was wise, but Gene had allowed it. In fact, he tended to choose her first as his companion when they went out on a shout these days. They would tear off in the Cortina, leaving a baffled Ray and Chris to follow in a pool car.
Maybe you could say that their relationship was unhealthy. They didn't speak much, and he insisted on calling her 'Cartwright' with no regard given to the length of time she had spent as 'Tyler.' Sam was the elephant in the room, and the less they said about him the more Annie felt his presence between them- on the job, in the pub, and on those rare nights where they worked so late that Gene would insist on driving her home to the house she had shared with Sam.
Other people noticed, too. Phyllis finally pulled her aside in the canteen one day, confronting her with the reality of the co-dependent behavior exhibited by her and Gene. "I really don't think this is helping, Annie love. It's plain to see you're draggin' each other under. And if it's a battle for who can drown faster? Well, Gene Hunt is a fair sight heavier than you."
Before she had a chance to utter any throwaway retorts, the Guv's voice could be heard bellowing her name out in the corridor and Annie was off after him with the same reckless force as a poorly-aimed bullet.
At times when she was alone, Annie missed Sam with a physical ache. There were reminders scattered all throughout their house; records he'd enjoyed, a book he'd suggested but she hadn't had time to read yet, exotic but poorly labeled spices laying dormant on the rack, his clothes still sitting in the laundry basket. She viewed these remnants of their life together in a detached aspect, figuring she could find the time to read the book eventually and the laundry was just something that Sam no longer needed.
This numb approach only worried her when she saw Gene again after a day or two alone at home. She would look at him and feel Sam's life force screaming out at her, and Annie suspected it was the same for Gene when he looked back. They fed off each other, both feeling close to Sam but totally unable to crack through the barrier and have any sort of real connection to each other beyond that- beyond him.
It all came to a head on the Friday night before Christmas, when Gene openly mentioned Sam Tyler for the first time since they'd given up hope of finding him alive. They were all safely ensconced in the Railway Arms at beer 'o clock after a hellacious day, with Gene and Annie occupying what was now their usual table in the corner. To say that their latest bust had gone badly would be a gross understatement; Chris had nearly shot himself in the foot and Ray had been thrown into a bank of garbage bins like a rag doll, the ringleader of the latest criminal syndicate to grace the cracked streets of Manchester long escaped by the time Gene and Annie arrived on the scene.
Ray and Chris seemed to be taking it in stride, teasing each other about their respective mishaps to the delight of the other members of CID. Gene, on the other hand, was scowling into his pint as Chris drunkenly toasted the bin man for being late with his pickups so that Ray had somewhere nice and soft to land. Annie found their antics amusing, but refrained from showing it as she could sense a darkness in Gene's mood that extended beyond the sting of today's professional failure.
Sinking the remains of his first officially sanctioned whisky of the evening, Gene made a noise of extreme disapproval. "Those two twats couldn't catch the common cold if a sick prozzie sneezed in their faces. If Tyler had been here-"
Wide-eyed, Annie leaned closer to Gene. God how she wanted him to continue, to hear him talk about Sam, to remind her that he had in fact existed and their years together hadn't been the product of a very vivid imagination. The psychologist in Annie knew that these past weeks had been an obvious exercise in denial both for her and for Gene and, although she knew she was equally guilty of avoiding the subject, the strain of keeping those feelings corked was beginning to wear her down.
Gene was quiet as stone, obviously aware of his slip up. Annie opened her mouth to say something, but was instantly silenced by the look he shot her as he rose and stalked over to the bar for another round. Her own drink was practically untouched, heart hammering in her chest. As he returned to the table, she steeled herself, not willing to let the opportunity for deliverance pass by. "Guv, about Sam-"
"I don't want to talk about it, Cartwright."
He wouldn't look her in the eye and the tension in his frame was obvious, shoulders square and arms straight, both hands braced against the edge of the small table. These were danger signs in a fight or flight instinct, and Annie wasn't exactly sure which end result she was aiming for. "No, but… maybe we should. Talk about it. About him."
Gripping the tumbler with one long-fingered hand, Gene's eyes flashed an angry electric blue as they finally met hers. "What's to talk about? He was here, now he's gone. It's not a very complicated scenario. Even an over-educated tart with a brain full of fluff like you should be able to see that." He took a large gulp of Scotch. The expression he wore was outwardly contemptuous, but there was an edge of pleading for the careful observer to see. Annie was surprised to find that his desperation to avoid the subject made her even angrier than his barbed words, and in the next moment she was on her feet.
"And that's fine with you, is it?" She gestured between the two of them "This is fine? Well pardon my difference of opinion, but I can't see how pretending Sam never existed is supposed to help anyone!"
Everyone in the pub was carefully trying to act like they weren't watching, but the absence of so much as a clinking pint glass was a bit of a giveaway. Ray fiddled with his pack of fags, and Nelson polished a rarely used and already sparkling brandy snifter with focus and determination. Gene looked at her with an odd mixture of imploring and menace, gesturing toward her abandoned wine. "Sit down and finish your drink, Constable."
Annie ignored his instruction, pulling on her coat. "You go ahead and drink it for me, Guv. I don't want it anymore." She was about to stalk out of the pub when she remembered something that Sam had often told her. She turned back to Gene, speaking clearly and with purpose. "You know, Sam used to say that when you feel, you're alive. If you can't feel anymore, you might as well be just as dead as he is."
She was halfway down the block, arms wrapped tightly around herself when she heard the footsteps some distance behind her. Peeking over her shoulder, she could see Gene following her, trailing along at an almost hesitant pace.
"Cartwright, hold up."
There was no way she was going to fold or give in, not this time. It would be far too easy to fall back into that cycle, never talk about Sam, let Gene Hunt go on calling her 'Cartwright' for the rest of her earthly days and block out all the pain without a second thought for how it was eating them both up inside. She wasn't sure exactly what she wanted, not from Gene and not from life in general, but this definitely wasn't it.
"Dammit Annie," he shouted, "will you just wait?"
Annie. He hadn't called her that since… well, not ever. Not really. Her stomach flipped and she turned, feeling the cold from the sidewalk seeping into her nerves through the soles of her sensible low-heeled boots as she stood still and waited.
He caught up to her in good time, making the most of his long legs and arriving slightly winded. They regarded each other calmly, puffs of breath visible in the crisp and unmoving air. There was an openness in his face that hadn't been there before, slightly guarded, but apparent.
"Come on, I'll drive you home."
Gene put his hand on her elbow, much as he had done on that sunny day in the graveyard, steering her back toward the pub. Sheltered from the cold by his larger form, Annie didn't resist.
As far as I know, it was never explicitly stated that Annie disappeared along with Sam during the whole 'he put his car in the river' incident. I've always wondered about that; it's not that I think Sam would have chosen to leave Annie behind, but what if he wasn't given the choice? I'm intrigued by the possibilities of what might've happened to Annie if that were the case, and (if we want to swim around in A2A canon a bit) I've also been curious about what went on with Gene between Sam's 'death' and Gene's move to London. The only date I could find concerning Gene's transfer to Fenchurch was February 1980, so I'm taking a bit of chronological and creative license and speculating that Christmas 1979 wasn't such a good one. Hey, it's fan fiction. Let me have my fun!
I've been writing fic for a long time, but this is my first attempt in this fandom. I am excited, but also nervous. I've been chewing on this idea for awhile and I really wanted to post it all in one chunk. Unfortunately I am in the retail business, and it is December. THANKS, CHRISTMAS! I think I overestimated my available free time, so the rest (which is almost finished) will be posted sometime next week (after I finally get a day or two off)!
Please let me know what you think of the first part- reviews will be rewarded with bottles of Christmas Scotch. And cookies, for those of you who don't use the holidays as an excuse to ask for alcohol as a Christmas present! :P