On the day Sam Tyler woke up a woman, his first reaction was resignation.
Second. Second reaction. His first reaction was to sit up in bed with a strange weight on his chest, look down at his own admittedly decent new tits, and flop back on the rickety cot with a groan of sheer horror. Then came the resignation.
He left bed eventually, slightly off-balance from the redistributed weight, and discovered that his closet was full of skirts and blouses and bras and panties and nylons, for God's sake. "Of course," Sam said to the world at large, and his voice was a whole fucking octave higher. He winced, tried to dress without actually touching himself too much or getting too tangled up in the bra clasps and nylons, and went to his cracked mirror to assess the damage.
The good news was that he still recognised himself. The person looking at him out of the mirror was obviously a woman, but she was also obviously a terribly lost police officer with Sam's eyes and mouth. "Testing," Sam said, feeling ridiculous. "Testing, one two three." He laughed a little, and heard a nice tenor laugh very like his own, and felt just a bit better. "Today," Sam told the mirror, "I'm going to work through the gender issues I didn't even know I had."
He went to the station.
As luck would have it, the first person he ran into was Chris, in the lift. Chris gave him a sort of nervous sideways smile, but that was normal Chris behavior. The fact he hadn't run screaming meant either that only Sam thought Sam was now in a woman's body, or that Sam in a woman's body was now totally normal. "Morning, Chris," Sam said.
"Morning, Sam," Chris mumbled back, with another quick sideways smile, and -- yes, he was definitely darting a look at Sam's chest. Even without the look, the fact that Sam had been demoted from Boss cinched it. He groaned inwardly and used every inch of willpower he had to keep from letting his head thump back against the wall of the lift.
In CID Sam went straight to his desk, which still seemed to be his -- at least, no one else was sitting at it. After a moment's rummaging Sam came up with files for his current cases. So far so good, except that Sam was having a very difficult time believing that Gene Hunt would have allowed any DI Samantha Tyler from Hyde through his doors. Sam sat down and shuffled through the papers, frowning. Investigations into petty theft with Chris: feasible. Ongoing enquiries with the Guv as to the murder of Lisa Tiller: much less likely. Sam flipped through the relevant files, saw the evidence photos, read his own signature. At a total loss by this point, Sam fumbled in the pocket of his leather jacket -- embarrassingly well-tailored now to fit his curves -- for his badge. And there it was: her Majesty's sign and seal certified one, yes, Samantha Tyler's right to the rank of Detective Constable. Absolutely perfect. He was being slowly demoted in his own head. Next he'd wake up nineteen years old as the newest shiny recruit. Disgusted, Sam got up from his desk with some vague idea that this was about the right time to start yelling at Gene until he felt a bit better.
Luck had Annie arrive then -- in street clothing, not the WPC uniform. Sam felt a knot of tension loosen somewhere in his gut. The world was altering as little as possible, it seemed, so at least he had a fellow Woman Detective Constable around. The thought made Sam grin, and Annie, seeing him, answered with that beaming smile of hers. "Morning, Sam," she said, coming over, and for a moment everything felt so ordinary.
"Annie," Sam said, "I -- morning. Listen, d'you think we could talk?"
"Course." Annie glanced around. "Here?"
"No, let's -- canteen." Sam went to open the door for her and had his second great shock of the day: like it was the most natural thing in the world, Annie had slipped her arm through his and was pulling them both through the door and down the corridor in the easy way he'd now and then seen her walking with her girlfriends. It was that, that, Annie's camaraderie and total lack of nerves, which suddenly brought home to Sam the exact nature of his situation. This was a whole new level of totally mad.
"Now," Annie said, sitting down across from him at one of the vinyl-topped tables and giving him a wide-eyed look, "what is it then?"
"I, um." Annie was still holding his hand and he had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to do with it. "This is going to be one of those days, Annie. The ..." He tried the vague universal gesture for I'm totally insane.
"Oh," said Annie. To Sam's astonishment, she didn't segue into worried-and-barely-patient, but merely endeavored to look put-upon and sympathetic. "Voices, or ...?"
"No." Sam thought of saying, Normally I think I'm male, and as far as I know this is the first time I've ever woken up as a woman. Sam thought of the disbelief and barely-concealed horror that would cross Annie's face. Sam said, "Just -- humour me. When I arrived ... from Hyde ... was our first case the Ned Kramer case? The kidnappings and the soundproof walls?"
"Yes," Annie said slowly. She squeezed Sam's hand.
"And Gene --?"
"Well." Annie gave a grimacing little smile. "He didn't take to you at first, of course. But you helped solve the case and he started learning to take you seriously." She peered at Sam. "Does that ...?"
"Yeah, sounds about right." Sam sighed and took his hand back from Annie to rub his forehead. "One more thing. Is the Guv in the habit of shoving me into walls?"
Annie looked astonished. "Course not!"
"Right," said Sam, and utterly failed to feel pleased by this news. Of course having fewer weekly bruises would only be a good thing, but if Gene were to curb his temper -- that would be too strange, especially with Annie acting just this side of different, and Chris failing to be subtle staring at Sam's nice new tits, and Ray -- "Oh Christ," said Sam, and got up. "Thanks, Annie. Really." He tried a smile and went back down the corridor to CID; there was nowhere else to go.
Ray was, as expected, a complete arse. The morning's case had Gene striding between desks as he briefed them -- missing girl, fourteen, family out of their minds with worry -- and Ray did spend most of his time paying attention to Gene, but he also spent some time giving Sam speculative looks when he thought Sam wasn't looking. Sam supposed that in this new version of whatever passed for reality, Ray didn't like him any better, skirt and breasts notwithstanding. Sam clenched his teeth and did his best not to notice.
Then they were out on the streets and it was worse. Of course Ray sat in the front of the Cortina beside the Guv, Sam shoved in back with Chris, who kept giving him nervous smiles. Sam couldn't figure out how to keep his skirt from riding up, or how to get it untangled when they reached the housing block where they were to begin enquiries. Sam asked questions at doors and was met with grins and non-answers and come-ons, and Chris, bless him, was useless. They got less than nowhere and, when they reconvened at the Cortina to report this, Gene didn't look at Sam. Didn't even look at him. Just snorted softly, unsurprised, and said, "We got a couple of blokes last saw her down at the canal. In."
Sam let his fingernails dig into the upholstery and just hung on.
They discovered nothing further that day; beer o'clock came round and no one invited Sam to the pub (which was normal) nor ordered him to go (which was less so). Sam stayed at the station as long as he could, going over leads and turning up nothing. When he ran out of things to do he went back to his flat.
Up the stairs, through the door; he sat on the bed, which creaked under his weight less than usual. Toed off his heeled loafers, peeled away the nylons. Shaved legs, Sam saw; he hadn't noticed in the morning. He sat there in his skirt and blouse and leather jacket and just tried to breathe for a while. "Okay," Sam said to himself. "Come on. Come on, you have to do this eventually."
Then he got to his feet and unbuttoned the blouse and slid off the skirt and panties and unclasped the bra and walked naked and shaking to the wardrobe. Squeezed his eyes shut while he wrapped a towel around himself before going the brief terrible open space across the hall to the little shower. The pipes shrieked as they always did and the water hit Sam hard, making his hair stick in wet curls against his cheek, making Sam really horribly aware of every last inch of skin. He found the soap and washed carefully, thoroughly, making sure to keep from letting it sting his eyes, making sure to keep breathing normally. Then he was done. He shut off the water and wrapped himself in the towel again and, back in his room, didn't even try to dry off; just collapsed on his bed dripping wet and tangled in the towel, and shook until he fell asleep.
In the morning Sam Tyler awoke in the wrong time with the wrong body and just tumbled out of bed to put on his nylons and get the damn day started. Until noon he was stuck in the collator's with Annie, bored half out of his mind and itching to get back onto the streets. Annie was wonderful company, but by quarter past ten she was just as bored as he was and by lunch they'd defaulted to swapping stupid stories, about Sam's gap year, about Annie's tenure as a barmaid, leaning on each other and laughing as they headed to the canteen. It was almost nice, except that Sam's jacket was still clinging to his curves, except that Annie was much more relaxed around him now than she'd ever been and Sam was trying very hard to not feel irrationally upset by this.
Halfway through a slightly soggy sandwich, Sam was interrupted in the middle of a really amusing story about his Aunt Heather by Gene slamming in through the door. "Tyler!"
The word went right past Sam's higher cognitive functions and to some part of his hindbrain that had him on his feet with his heart racing before Gene had even finished speaking. "Yes, Guv?"
"Got a lead on the girl. Done with your tea party?"
Sam rolled his eyes and headed for the door. Annie gave him a little smile and wave goodbye. Gene was never much inclined to elaborate until they were in the Cortina, and today was no different; they clattered down the stairs together, Gene in a much too impatient mood to deal with the lift, and all the while Sam's heart was rabbiting away like he'd already decided being on the streets with Gene was something important and rare. He was furious with himself by the time they reached the Cortina, and slammed his way into the front seat next to Gene before he remembered it was Ray's spot now. Neither Ray nor Chris were in evidence. "Where --?"
"Just you and me today, Tyler," Gene said, in exactly the same tone he said Gladys when he wasn't really annoyed with Sam but was pretending to be. Another stupid knot loosened in Sam's chest.
They roared out into the road. "Word on the street," Gene comments, "says little Rita Brown wasn't kidnapped. I've been asking around and I came across a few interesting little facts. One: she's living in a flat with a couple other kids. Two: her dear old dad has a couple old assault charges. Three: Mrs Brown didn't look none too upset when they filed the missing persons report."
"Runaway," Sam said. He winced. "Guv ..."
"Sometimes it's hard to learn to hit back," Gene said, eyes on the road. "Think we can get her home to Mum and arrest Dad all in a go?"
"We'd better," Sam said grimly.
"Good." They screeched to a stop in front of an old warehouse. Gene looked over at Sam. "Which is why you're going in to get her, Sam. No need for a crusty old DCI barging in on her. Use your womanly wiles."
Sam stared at him, for a long mad moment wanting to believe that somehow this was all Gene's fault; use your womanly wiles, just the way Gene always called Sam a girl. In a flash Sam saw that something was stable after all: Annie was treating him like a friend without strings or suspicions, Chris and Ray were giving him those same Neanderthal looks they treated to every girl, and here Gene was, still using exactly the same tone he always did and keeping his eyes on Sam's face. Somehow Gene the constant was more terrifyingly disorienting than any of the changes.
"On it, Guv," Sam said, the words sticking in his throat, and got out of the car.
Inside the warehouse, there was no one but a young teenage girl; she was sitting on a blanket in front of a television, watching what looked very much like The Sweeny, but as soon as she heard Sam she shut it off and turned to him with an angry look. "Rita Brown?" Sam asked.
She pulled her knees up to her chin. "Who wants to know?"
"Sam Tyler. I'm with the police." Rita made a disgusted little gestured and turned away. "Your mum's worried, Rita," Sam said.
"Yeah, well, Mum's a lot of things," Rita muttered. "What you gonna do, arrest me?"
"We were hoping we might arrest someone else," Sam said gently. Rita looked up at him, her eyes huge the way Annie's sometimes were, and Sam tried the smile he used to reassure witnesses. It was usually a bit hit-or-miss, but today it hit: Rita smiled, an awkward trembling little smile, and actually held out a hand for Sam to help her up. It was only after Sam had, and Rita didn't let go of his arm, that he remembered again what he looked like. Of course. A pair of breasts and he'd magically crossed the divide between professionally reassuring and, apparently, a sort of motherly comforting. It was almost funny.
On the way back to the station Sam sat in the back of the Cortina with Rita, who sat hunched and unhappy. He held her hand.
He and Annie were given custody of Rita while Gene took the cavalry to the Browns'. Sam thought useless things about warrants and evidence that would stick and the dirty evidence Gene kept in his office, and found he didn't care just this once. He and Annie and Rita had tea and biscuits, and after a short while Rita cheered up and started asking questions about policing. It turned out she had been watching Z-Cars (when Sam asked about The Sweeny both Rita and Annie gave him extremely puzzled looks) and wanted to know if there was anyone in the Manchester police like Bert Lynch. Annie smiled and answered Rita's questions as best she could while Sam watched the door. The moment he saw movement he was out of his seat and in the corridor. "Chris?"
Chris gave Sam a grin. "Guv says you'll be pleased to hear this. We got him for assault and drug-dealing and we didn't have to plant anything!"
"Pleased is one word for it," Sam muttered, but he was pleased, not least because he and Chris were sharing a smile and then Chris was off and hadn't once acted like he was painfully aware Sam was a woman. Of all things to feel pleased about.
They saw Rita and her tearful mother off, and while the boys were busy congratulating each other Sam took a half-hour to go over the evidence for the Lisa Tiller murder again. Then Gene announced pub time, and without thinking Sam shrugged on his jacket and followed the others out of the office. Ray shot him a mildly disgusted look, but that was normal, and no one else made comment. Of course when they arrived at the Arms Phyllis was already there, so perhaps Sam coming along wasn't so odd as all that.
A congratulatory round was bought for all, and when the other officers drifted off to play cards, Sam lingered at the bar with his pint. "Nelson?"
"Evening, Sam," Nelson said agreeably, rag-polishing his way through glasses.
"I'm really definitely not a woman," Sam said, going for broke.
Nelson smiled down at the current glass. "You're whatever you feel you are inside," he offered, and, just when Sam had relaxed enough to feel embarrassed that Nelson was humouring him, Nelson looked up and added gently, "Mon brav."
"Thanks," Sam managed.
A minute and fifty p later he was in the card game. Chris lost more miserably than usual, being more preoccupied with Sam's tits than with his cards; maybe it was the beer, but Sam found this amusing more than anything else. And Gene still beat them all, watching Sam's tells carefully as always, so that when Sam left an hour later, tripping over his heels a little in the dusk, his walk home was a strangely warm and contented one.
Perhaps it was the beer again, but this time when Sam undressed for bed, he didn't try very hard not to look. He just took off his clothes like he always did, and then he stood there and ran a hand over his hip, his side, all the strange new dips and curves. On Maya, on the few other girlfriends Sam had over the years, everything was familiar. Now all of the hairs on Sam's arms stood on end and he started shivering again.
He sighed deeply and went to bed.
The telly woke him slowly. Two characters on some early morning soap were talking to each other. "...healthy brain activity notwithstanding, it's possible Sam may sustain lasting psychological problems."
"Do you mean ... voices? Hallucinations?"
"It's difficult to be sure. My best guess would be some sort of identity disorder, to combat the crisis of a rapidly changing environment."
"God, it's not as though I want to be a woman," Sam told the television, sitting up and wincing. The room decided to pulse painfully, but that was less hallucination than hangover. Different body mass. Of course. Sam groaned and stumbled out of bed, and by the time he'd cleaned the horrible taste out of his mouth and brushed his hair into some sort of order, a different programme was on.
"Morning," Sam told his reflection. It smiled tiredly back at him with hair like Annie's and no stubble on its cheeks, and Sam thought for the first time that maybe the woman in the mirror was slightly pretty, hangover and all. The smile on her face became a bit less tired, a bit more real, and Sam went in to the station in a reasonably good mood.
He was barely up the front steps when he ran into Gene heading the other way. "Into the car, Tyler," Gene said without preamble, so Sam turned and followed Gene to the Cortina. Over the engine Gene said, "Just got a call in. Another one's turned up like Lisa: body taped up and left in the ditch like last time. Thought we might go while the trail's still fresh."
Sam started nodding and caught himself. "Guv?" he asked, staring steadily out at the street zooming by. "Why do you have me on this instead of ... Ray, or someone?"
Gene gave him a quick sideways look before watching the road. "Lisa Tiller's your case," he said, which was, yeah, true. How silly of Sam to suppose that the world had changed that much. "You're telling me you wouldn't've made an 'orrible stink if I'd handed it off to Ray?"
"Suppose you're right," Sam muttered, and had to turn away and grin at the window. He knew that tone. Tits in a jumper and still he could hear Gene saying, Course you're the best.
The good feeling lasted through their first set of interviews, right until the point when Sam knew that, painful as it was, they'd have to question both victims' families again at greater length, and Gene was absolutely convinced that Lisa's boyfriend Shaun Tracey knew something. "Come on, Guv, we've been through this," Sam said impatiently, striding after Gene up some residential street back to the Cortina. "He's a kid, and he doesn't know anything. It would be completely pointless."
Gene's lips were pressed into a thin line, his eyes burning as he snapped back, "And I say there's more to be had. I know from pointless, Tyler, and he's hiding something."
This would be the point at which Sam was to step up, get in Gene's space, retort scathingly; but Gene was too far away, the Cortina a sudden barrier between them, and like a punch to the gut Sam realised: through all of today there'd been a careful distance between them. Gene went through none of the usual motions, staying thoroughly in Sam's space, shoulder bumping his, circling when he wanted to make a point, grabbing Sam's arm if Sam said something of particular import. A lump welled up in Sam's throat and he had the brief savage thought that at least Gene wasn't going so far as to open doors for him.
A few months ago all of this might have been funny.
"Fine, Guv," Sam said tiredly. "Back to square one. Whatever you like."
"We'll --" Gene started, and the radio crackled. "Alpha one. What is it, Phyllis?"
"DS Carling requesting backup," came Phyllis' radio-garbled voice. She gave the address; Gene cursed and slammed the radio down.
"This one's yours for the afternoon, Tyler," he said. "You find out where our Tracey's about and hail me when you've got something."
Which was how Sam found himself, an hour later, bound in duct tape with the late Lisa Tiller's unassuming boyfriend giving him a lecture about the appalling state of modern policing, modern women, and modern society in general. Sam was nearly grateful for the duct tape; it kept him from laughing at the mounting absurdities, starting from the fact that bloody Gene Hunt had been bloody right about Tracey and going all the way to the bit where Shaun Tracey evidently thought Sam was one of those modern women he was filled with the need to deride. Also to tie up and then kill and throw into ditches, so Sam hoped Tracey had conveniently forgotten that Sam was a police officer and that Gene would start wondering where he was quite soon.
No such luck.
"Stop laughing," Tracey said suddenly, turning on a dime from his previous diatribe about the disgrace of female detectives. "Y'think I can't see it but I can, you know, right there in your eyes like y'know something I don't. Stop it!" And he backhanded Sam, hard.
It was the first time Sam had been hit in at least three days, and while Gene had given Sam a black eye or two in his time, it was usually the result of a misplaced elbow or a second salvo to the face after Sam's gut had been taken care of. Sam had never been anything approaching fond of Gene's tendency towards the physical, but there was a certain something about a punch to the kidney that made the sepia edges of Sam's 1970s dream world go abruptly Technicolor. Those times were not like this.
This was furious and impersonal and made Sam go cold in exactly the way he went cold when staring down the barrel of a gun. A soft noise of shock escaped him, and Shaun Tracey started smiling, the smile of a man at peace. The ice of terror started sliding gently down Sam's spine.
"Not so funny now, is it?" Tracey asked, and no, it really wasn't. Sam wondered where the hell Gene thought he was, and a small absurdity made itself known to him: he really was expecting Gene to come charging in like a white knight and save Sam. He hadn't thought his subconscious would be so backwards as to turn him into a woman in order to illustrate a point, though. It was so very not funny that Sam started laughing, a little wracking giggle that wiped the smile from Tracey's face and earned him another backhanded hit, another, another.
For fuck's sake, Gene, notice I'm gone already --
The door slammed open and a voice said, "Hands up, Mr Tracey."
She wasn't holding a gun, but the uniforms she'd brought along certainly were. After a long terrible moment, Shaun Tracey raised his hands, trembling with what Sam supposed was fury. Annie nodded, and at once Tracey was handcuffed. He glared at her. Annie looked back at him and said, "Shaun Tracey, I'm arresting you for assault of a police officer and on the charge of two suspected murders. You do not have to, um ..." She glanced at Sam and gave him a little smile. "Now I can't remember the rest either."
This Annie wasn't like the Annie Sam knew. This Annie had been watching a Samantha Tyler do exactly what Sam would do, and she stood a little taller and carried out arrests. Sam tried to smile back at her through the duct tape and his eyes blurred with tears.
Back at the station, Annie snuck Sam upstairs to the women's department to "patch you up," as she said. Sam was really none the worse for wear discounting the livid bruises starting on his face, but Annie made him hold some ice to them, and foisted a cup of tea on him afterwards.
"I don't know if you heard, but tea doesn't actually solve everything," Sam told Annie over his cup.
She laughed. "Doesn't hurt, though," she pointed out, and gave Sam a close look. "You're sure you're okay? You know you don't have to go downstairs yet."
"I'm sure the whole department knows by now," Sam said, pushing his unfinished tea away. "The least I can do is show them I'm fine." He offered Annie a smile. "And maybe tell Gene to promote you to sergeant."
"I'd like to see the look on his face." Annie leaned over and kissed Sam's cheek. "Off with you, then."
Familiar gesture, kind and meaningless.
Sam stood, a little dazed. He went downstairs automatically, one foot in front of the other, and thought about all the ways in which Annie was a wonderful friend, just as she'd said she'd be. He felt much less disappointed than he'd expected.
In CID he discovered that the news of his unconventional part in the arrest of Shaun Tracey had not arrived after all. Everyone was listening raptly to Ray's account of his collar that afternoon, and though Chris's head turned when he heard Sam come in, he just gave Sam a little wave and turned back to Ray's story. Sam smiled slightly and scanned the faces: no Guv. So he walked the perimeter of the office until he got around to the Guv's door, and slipped in without knocking.
Gene was sitting at his desk, looking pensive and cradling a glass of scotch. He glanced up when Sam entered. "Tyler."
"Guv." Sam closed the door but stayed in the doorway. "I take it Ray's backup helped."
Gene made a noncommittal noise that might have been affirmation.
"And I take it you've heard about Shaun Tracey," Sam went on. He smoothed his hands over his skirt, a stupid nervous gesture he hoped wouldn't turn into habit.
"Yeah," Gene said. He set his scotch aside and stood, a slow loom that made all Sam's muscles tense. "Hear it was Cartwright's job. Good for the team, Cartwright."
"Yeah, she is," Sam agreed. Gene just looked at him until Sam added, "And don't say I was being stupid. You sent me in without backup, which would have been fine if you hadn't been right about Tracey, so either you were taking a shot in the dark or being deliberately careless, and either way --"
"Sam," Gene said, and Sam shut up mid-syllable. He hadn't heard his name on Gene's lips in three days and he'd never heard it quite like that before.
Gene came over to the shadow of the doorway and looked carefully at Sam's face, over the bruises and burned-out fear and months of this complete insanity. Sam gave him a steady look back, and saw: the Guv was tired too, and hadn't quite let go of the quiet panic he got when Sam was in danger.
"I'm fine," Sam said. "I'm fine."
"Like hell," said Gene, and this was the part where he put a hand on Sam's shoulder, a solid squeezing weight to make sure they were both still alive and something like whole; so Sam didn't twitch back when Gene moved, but instead of his shoulder, Gene's hand settled warm to cup the side of Sam's neck, thumb pressed to the pulse point just below his ear. Sam went utterly still.
"Don't you dare," Gene said, "do that again. I'm not losing my best copper cos some sad bastard can't have his way with birds."
"I won't if you think sometimes before you go tearing off," Sam said back, and it came out softer than he'd meant it to, but the miracle was that he'd managed to say it at all. The space between them was always close and electric, but Gene's hand was on his jaw and he couldn't fucking breathe.
Gene snorted softly, the nonverbal equivalent of like hell again. His other hand came up and touched one of the bruises just under Sam's eye with gentle fingers; Sam still twitched a little and gritted down the hiss of pain. "We're going to put him away for life," Gene said.
"I'm fine," Sam repeated.
"Sure, we all are," Gene said, and the moment shivered around them like a soap bubble, ready to disappear and leave them standing there awkwardly and checking the clock until pub opening. Sam's hands found their way into the lapels of Gene's camelhair coat, hanging on tightly to the moment, leverage for a fight, and though they were both standing still Sam could feel the rise of his breathing and the patter of Gene's heart through the coat.
"Gene --" he said, and Gene kissed him.
It was not a nice kiss. It was Gene slamming Sam into a wall and demanding what the fuck he thought he was doing, except that this time through Sam was a woman and Gene wouldn't hit him so this was substituting, or -- it came to Sam in a flash, not to his head but to his gut, so that he knew -- when Gene slammed Sam into walls he was trying very hard to not do this. This was Gene with one arm wrapped tight around Sam while the thumb of his other hand glided over Sam's cheek, this was Sam pressed tight against the door with the slats of the blinds digging into his back, this was Gene kissing him open-mouthed and devouring, tasting of scotch and cigarettes and Sam didn't care. His hands had gone white-knuckled on the lapels of Gene's coat, holding him in place and kissing him back just as hard for a long blinding moment.
Then Sam remembered several very important things all at once, and pushed Gene away.
They stared at each other for a long moment, gasping. Sam licked his lips and said hoarsely, "But you're married," which wasn't even the first in the long list of things that was very, very wrong, the most pressing one being and I'm not even a woman, for God's sake.
"And that means I can't have a little something on the side?" Gene demanded.
Sam flushed. "Of course it does!" he snapped; but that had never really been true. Had it? Gene knew any number of prostitutes, but even if he didn't always deal with them in the most diplomatic of terms, Sam had never seen him acting anything other than the Gene Hunt brand of professional, and knowing all sorts came with the job. And Gene was too married to said job to have any extramarital affairs, at least as far as Sam knew. Then like a slideshow he flashed through memories of Gene shaving in the office, there early in the morning, there late at night, and Sam took a deep breath. "I mean," he said. "It's none of my business. But -- Guv -- I work for you."
"Only when you're feeling cooperative," Gene returned. He still wasn't looking actually angry, just annoyed. "But I could've pegged you as the type to worry 'bout being unprofessional."
"Damn right I am," Sam said, and drew a shaking hand over his face. The bruises throbbed and he made a little noise of pain before he could stop himself.
"Have it your way," Gene said, and shouldered past Sam out into the main room. "Right, lads! Pub!"
Sam winced and decided that yeah, right now what he needed to do was get completely pissed. Pub.
Somewhere in the realm of an hour and three pints later, Sam was watching Gene play darts with his team and worrying vaguely that his skirt was riding up, because worrying about that was a lot easier than worrying about everything else that apparently came with being a woman. Of all the things he didn't want to deal with, the sudden revelation that Gene Hunt had a no-longer-closeted attraction to him just about took it. What he didn't want to deal with even more was his own reaction to it, which was, apparently, to kiss Gene back and really, really enjoy it. He glanced up from his pint at Nelson, who was leaning on the bar and watching the game, and remembered: You're whatever you feel you are inside. Definitely not actually a woman was one of them; now attracted to Gene Hunt was another. If Sam were to be honest with himself, which was a bit easier when he was well on his way to drunk, he'd have to admit the attraction wasn't actually new; it was just glaringly obvious now.
Sam waved Nelson over to give him a refill. "I think I'm attracted to everything I thought I really hated about this place," he confessed. "Really horribly attracted. Maybe I'm going madder."
"Then this is your last pint," Nelson said seriously, and gave Sam a sympathetic smile. It did help a little.
Last pint done, Sam got to his feet -- only swaying a little, which meant he was becoming better at wearing heels -- and headed out the back. The cool dark was wonderful, the ache in his face lessening. Sam started towards the road when light and noise spilled for a moment out into the lot; pub door opened and closed again. Sam turned and breathed out steadily as he could. "Gene."
"Tired of the company, are we, Tyler?" Gene asked, completely failing to sound conversational.
"Look," said Sam. "I kissed you back. That doesn't make it anything besides a really terrible idea." He looked at Gene and Gene looked at him. Gene opened his mouth and Sam added, "And don't tell me it didn't mean anything, Guv, cos we both know better."
"Right," said Gene, in a peculiar half-defeated sort of voice. "Go home, then."
Sam stared. "Really? That's it?"
"It's a terrible idea," Gene said, and stalked back inside.
Sam almost went in after him. Almost.
Instead he walked back to his fake flat and undressed and lay on the little bed, half afraid the little girl from the test card would turn up to make things worse, replaying the kiss with Gene in his head over and over until he fell asleep.
In the morning Sam woke up in his own body, everything in its proper place again. For a moment he lay there without opening his eyes and felt astonished and then relieved, just savouring it. No more bras. No more nylons. No more -- well, lower heels. He grinned slowly and opened his eyes to beam at the water-stained ceiling. No more hair in his face every morning. He'd have to shave again, of course. And lunches with Annie would take on the old edge. And Gene --
Sam was out of bed in an instant. He went straight to the cracked mirror and stared into it and yes, there was a bruise yellowing high on one cheekbone, another on his chin, a third on his eyebrow. The past few days had definitely happened. "Today," Sam told the mirror, and started laughing helplessly because there was nothing funny about it at all. "Today I get to work out Gene's gender issues."
Of course, he reasoned as he dressed -- pants, trousers, socks, shoes, shirt, jacket, done -- the world might have shifted slightly so that Gene expressed his concern for Sam's brush with death by just slamming him into something as usual. But Sam very much doubted that, and even if it were so ...
"What fun," Sam muttered, and went to the station.
Chris gave him a wave hello, and Ray made some joke in horribly bad taste about duct tape, Boss. Sam astonished him utterly by grinning at the inclusion of his reinstated honorific. Then Annie came in to ask after the bruises, and Sam drew her aside. "Annie," he said, "I never properly thanked you for coming after me yesterday. It's thanks to you I'm still here."
"Well, sir, anything for a fellow officer," Annie said, and she did have that slight edge of nerves again but she gave Sam a smile, and she was wearing a pretty flower-patterned blouse, and Sam knew how it felt to be walking side-by-side against her curves. Impulsively he gave her a quick hug, and pulled away before she really had a chance to stiffen in confusion.
"Like I said, Annie," Sam said, "thanks."
Then Gene arrived. He absolutely did not in any way look at Sam, and maybe Chris and Ray and even Annie could miss it, but the slide of his eyes right past Sam as he went into his office told Sam very clearly that he should get the hell in the Guv's office right now.
Sam slipped in and closed the door behind him. "Talk to me."
Gene gave him a cool look. "About anything in particular, Gladys? Thought you and Chris had some petty theft to investigate."
"Gene," Sam said, and he said it at exactly the perfect pitch, because Gene was up out of his chair in a moment and glaring at Sam across the barrier of his desk.
"I thought we agreed it was a terrible idea," Gene said, in a soft and awful voice. "That's the end of it, Tyler, and we are not going to talk about it like a bunch of girls."
Sam laughed. It was just one quick gulp of laughter that he absolutely could not help, but the irony was too great, and so help him, it was funny. He laughed and Gene stalked over, slamming him into the nearest filing cabinet. The air left Sam's lungs and then he couldn't quite suck it back in, because this wasn't exactly the way it had been last night but it was pretty damn close, and outside the entire department was probably watching one of Hunt and Tyler's little fistfights for the entertainment. "Not the time or place, is it, Gene?" Sam said breathlessly. "I doubt it will look good for you to beat up an already-injured DI."
Gene let him go with a curse and stepped back, face livid.
"I believe I have some petty theft to investigate," Sam said. "I'll just show myself out."
"You do that," Gene snapped.
So Sam spent an unproductive day with Chris and a squad car. It was nice to have the chance to drive, and nicer still that Chris wanted to tell Sam about the girl he was seeing, rather than looking at Sam's now-vanished breasts. It also gave Sam the chance to figure out what exactly he thought he was doing. He wondered if imaginary 1973 would imaginary fire him if he did some really excessive male bonding with his imaginary boss. He wondered again if Gene was even real, and what the hell his subconscious was playing at if Gene wasn't. He wondered if Gene would take it any better than Annie had if he said, jokingly or not, Please shag me, I'm in a coma. Of course the real problem was that, inside Sam's head or out of it, he was never quite sure what he wanted; and to be suddenly sure of this was its own special brand of absolutely insane.
Because they turned up no real leads, Sam and Chris went straight to the Railway Arms without checking in at CID. Chris went to join Ray at a table; Gene was getting another round of drinks, so Sam waited until Gene was heading back to the table before he went up to the bar. "Evening, Nelson. Pint of bitter." He watched Nelson pull the pint and added, "Do you remember what I said the other day?"
"Lots of people say a lot of things in my pub," Nelson pointed out, handing over the pint.
"I said I was, um, definitely not a woman," Sam said.
Nelson nodded. "And it seems you're right."
Sam smiled a little and turned away. There was something incredibly comforting in being told the right thing, even by a barman pretending to be from Jamaica.
He only had the one pint, then sat at the bar and waited. Gene could drink with the best of them, of course, but he stopped with the pints and went back to the flasks hidden around his person, sitting at the periphery of his officers rather than in the middle as usual. His eyes met Sam's for the flash of a second over Ray's head, and Sam casually left his seat at the bar and made for the door.
Outside he started walking slowly, and after a moment Gene came out to join him, both of them keeping pace in a sort of policeman's plod in the general direction of Sam's flat.
"Nothing new for the case today," Sam said.
"Well, it's Chris," said Gene. "Sometimes there's nothing to be done."
Sam smiled a little and thought: I enjoy this man's company. I enjoy his company when he's yelling at me and beating the suspects and slagging off our fellow officers, and sometimes there's nothing to be done about it. Sam said: "And sometimes there is."
"In Hyde," said Gene, "are they completely stupid?"
"Just more forward-thinking sometimes," Sam said.
Silence. "What happened to but you're married?" Gene asked.
"I can't answer that for you." Sam shoved his hands in his pockets and stared up at the dark sky. Clouds. "I thought you didn't want to talk."
"I don't," Gene said flatly. "I want you to take your noncy arse the hell back to Hyde, but we don't all get what we want, do we."
Sam stopped, back to a brick wall, and looked closely at Gene in the light of a streetlamp. "What do you want, Guv?"
"Hell if I know," said Gene tightly. He didn't look angry so much as he looked scared, but that was halfway to angry already. Sam remembered realising in the middle of yesterday's kiss that Gene had really meant to do that all along, that the fighting hadn't been, and knew what to do.
"I think," he said, "you shouldn't worry about it anymore. Yeah. Just forget it ever happened." He smiled a small angry smile and stepped right into Gene's space, blood humming. "Didn't matter at all." Gene's hands went to his shoulders and Sam was driven back into the wall with a thump. He laughed breathlessly and didn't try to get away. "Really, Gene?"
Gene's hands went tighter and he laughed too, soft and angry. "Are you trying to trick me into this, Tyler?"
"Um, yes," said Sam, because he was entirely past being subtle about it; and on a late-night deserted street thirty years ago, Gene Hunt kissed him again in his own body. Sam's arms went tight around Gene and his shoulder blades dug into the brick. Gene didn't even make a passing attempt at gentle. Sam's face ached and Gene still tasted like whiskey and smelled like nicotine and damp camelhair, and Sam wanted it so much that it hurt, just under his ribs.
They pulled back enough to breathe, foreheads pressed together, and Gene asked in a half-furious rumble, "Just how often do you plan to try tricking me, very bloody obviously, I might add?"
Sam grinned and clutched at Gene's coat. "Every time I get the chance, Guv."
Gene huffed quietly. "Fair enough," he said, and kissed Sam again.
On the day Sam Tyler woke on a half-collapsed bed with Gene Hunt next to him stealing all the covers and most of the warmth, his first reaction was an almost blinding happiness.
After that he moved on to things like worry and even a little panic, arguing with Gene about how he was going to eat a pansy-arsed fairy breakfast, which it wasn't, and why there was a bra in the back of Sam's closet, and whether or not they would have to sneak off separately or could get away with coming into the station together; and by the time they did get to the station (separately) Sam had even moved on to something like resignation in among everything else.
But it hadn't been his first reaction, and it was new, and good.