Title: Lonely at Christmas - Sam
Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 900 words approx
Rating: White Cortina
Summary: Loneliest day of the year
A/N: This is the companion piece to Lonely at Christmas - Gene. Sorry it’s so late! It was supposed to be about the same length as Gene’s story, but you know Sam doesn’t work like that.
Lonely at Christmas (Sam)
Sam picks the glass up gingerly and inhales the aroma, letting it permeate his entire body: it’s harsh, not at all the warm welcoming friend it seems to be for Gene. Sam would be more comfortable with wine, but whisky seems to work for Gene, so Sam has bought some for himself as well. He contemplates the golden liquid for a minute or two, then takes a deep breath and gulps it down in one.
The drink is much stronger than he expected and it grabs his tonsils by the bollocks, metaphorically speaking of course, and doesn’t let go. His eyes are burning like the stuff has migrated into his tear ducts, and as he grabs a hanky from the drawer he wonders how Gene does this all the time. More practice, he thinks.
Ten minutes and two glasses later Sam doesn’t have a care in the world. He potters unsteadily around his tiny kitchen, deliberately taking ten minutes over chores he would normally power through in two. He hasn’t bought a Christmas dinner as such, because here in 1973 chicken seems to be the big luxury and he’s really not that desperate. The woman in the butchers’ took pity on him - perhaps she thought he couldn’t afford it - and put him by “a nice bit of lamb, dear, for the big day”. Sam’s plan is to eat it with a few potatoes and roasted vegetables at about six, if he hasn’t killed himself with the whisky by then.
In the meantime he’s got the special mince pies from the baker’s assistant, who always tells him there’s nothing to him and he should eat more, and the Stilton from the lady in the reference section at the library, who’s working on a biography of Gandhi. Her cousin in the country still makes it to their grandmother’s recipe, apparently, although Sam has never really understood why people in 1973 like to tell him these things.
His tipsy smile twists briefly at the thought of all these people looking out for him like he’s a little lost soul, which he is, and needs looking after, which he doesn’t. Mustn’t complain though, he tells himself firmly, and he pours another glass and doesn’t complain.
Three hours later he wakes up cold and uncomfortable and his neck hurts just like it does when Gene pushes him against the filing cabinet. There’s a smell from the kitchen like nothing he’s ever going to want to eat, so he pushes himself stiffly out of his chair and staggers out to the kitchen, where he decides he doesn’t even want to look. He turns the oven off and on the way back he grabs another mince pie, this time arranging himself in the more comfortable chair in front of the television. Emptying his glass again he decides he’d better slow down a bit; the goal is a pleasant timeless haze, not an evening scraping sick off the carpet. So far the time seems to be flying by - falling asleep was an excellent move even if it does mean no dinner - so he pours himself one more glass and resolves to make it last.
An hour later he jolts into consciousness as a boy on the screen hits a particularly high note. There’s a carol service on BBC1 and Sam watches lazily for a minute or two as another large whisky goes down warmly. There’s a clean-cheeked blond in the front row who looks like a very young Gene, and Sam smiles - Gene was surely never that innocent, that angelic. Sam laughs like a drain at the idea of an angelic Gene and wonders vaguely what Gene’s doing right now.
He shifts awkwardly in his chair, realising with a stab of guilt that he hasn’t given Gene a thought since he got home last night. In fact hasn’t thought of anything for hours except not doing himself in with the carving knife. One thing he has learned from too many lonely Christmases is how to get through them with his sanity intact. But Gene - probably the oddest and definitely the best boss he’s ever had - is spending his first Christmas alone since his wife left. Possibly his first Christmas alone ever.
He’ll have no idea how to cope.
Sam drums his fingers thoughtfully for a moment or two as the music changes and the Gene-choirboy soars into Adeste Fideles. Gene may have more years on the Force, but he definitely doesn’t have Sam’s experience in survival strategy. No twenty-odd years of detachedly brisk self-sufficiency, no handy reservoir of self-doubt telling him he deserves to suffer like this.
Right now Gene will be sitting alone in his too-big house. Eating his traditional dinner; drinking single malt from the new bottle that’s twin to Sam’s own. He’ll be all right. Won’t he?
But it’s no good, Sam can’t get back the comfortable glazed-over mood that was supposed to carry him through the evening, and finally he picks up the phone and dials. Squinting carefully at the strangely fuzzy numbers, Sam realises that this is what he’s been avoiding all day.
Two miles away the phone starts to ring and Sam chews his lip, trying to work out what to say. Then the phone is picked up, Gene is clearing his throat and the familiar voice turns the grey shadows of his room to warm, soft gold.
~ ~ ~