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[personal profile] jamie_dakin
Title: I Let My Oars Fall Into The Water
Pairing: Sam/various, Sam/Gene
Rating: Hard R / Brown Cortina
Wordcount: 4,401 (It, er, got away from me)

Warnings: Um, you've read the Hookerverse right? Unbetaed due to sheer shame, I apologize for any mistakes in advance.

Disclaimer: LoM belongs to Kudos and the BBC. The venerable magnum opus that is the Hookerverse is the wicked, beautiful child of [livejournal.com profile] darthfi and [livejournal.com profile] m31andy, who are also the suitable address for any complaints. The title comes from Jennifer Michael Hecht's poem 'September.'

A/N: Feeling quite heartbroken by the demise of the much beloved Hookerverse, I seem to have accidentally written this 'epilogue'. I'm not much for AU's, never have been. And so I was caught completely off guard by how quickly I fell for this 'verse, for a concept that should never have survived beyond a few cracktastic ficlets. But then it went and sunk its nails into my heart with its brilliant execution and consistency and (don't smack me) vision. And then all of a sudden it was over and, well, this happened.

As I'm typing this out I still don't really believe that I'll be able to muster up the bravado to post this, but if you're reading this I guess I have. And now I need a drink. And for nobody to look at me for a while. For the record - this is the perfect ending for this series as far as I’m concerned.

'I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.'

Direct long-hauls are hard to come by through Manchester International in 1974, but Gene had said to go - far and fast, and so by dusk the following day Sam is already leafing through a venerable wad of airline tickets in the half-light of his kitchen.

Tempted though he was to seek a favor from a client, a travel consultant who'd had the curious inclination of doing nothing more than watching him take baths, in the end he’d opted for the first unfamiliar agency to cross his path the morning after the warehouse.

"And where is it you would you like to go sir?" The rather mousy booking manager had asked him with feigned disinterest, slender glasses perched precariously on the tip of her nose as she gaped at his colorful myriad of bumps and scrapes.

Anywhere, it would seem, after such an infinite Nowhere, was far too expansive a concept to wrap his mind around properly. Ever since Gene had handed him that envelope less than twelve hours ago Sam had felt as though his ears had been stuffed with cotton, like his thorax had just been released from a full body cast and could not yet expand properly.

A diver, ascending far too quickly from the suffocating, reassuring pressure of the deep.

Out through the dusty pane of the storefront window pedestrian traffic was moving slowly, Sam watched a woman chase after a toddler with a bulky sweater in her hands. He smiled at that, briefly, had tightened his grip on his passport and swallowed down the nausea borne of his startling autonomy.

"I hear Mexico's nice."

* *

He packs a change of clothes and a toothbrush, pockets his medallion on its broken chain. Gene had snapped it months ago; flexing his grip at the junction of Sam's neck as he came. He'd barely noticed it then, Sam, too preoccupied with diligently attending to the task at hand. Its shine had caught his eye a minute later, as Gene had been zipping up.

He'd not prayed even the once since coming here. He wasn't the sort and he'd been somewhat adamant about not succumbing to the No Atheists in Time Tripping Comas Foxholes paradigm.

It would have been so simple, so easy; a quick quiet plea with the thin disc pressing into his palm.

Already on his knees as it was.

But his father hadn't come home, no matter how good he'd been that year or how fiercely he'd clasped his hands at his bedside every night and this wouldn't end; no matter how good he would be with the clients or how fiercely he sucked off Gene in the Flamingo backroom.

Sukey's knock on his door brings Sam back to his kitchen and the tickets. He smiles softly when she shouts for him to stop being a div and answer, flips the medallion between his fingers like one of his mother's few boyfriends had taught him when he was nine. She could get in, if she really wanted to. He'd given her a key despite soundly suspecting that Phyllis had already provided her with a copy when he first arrived.

He wants so desperately to say goodbye, to kiss her clever wicked mouth and hear the rasp of her nails across his back, show her that trick he they'd never gotten around to trying. To take her with him.

But the last thought feels forced, as though he were only thinking it out of courtesy. It should be surprising, how fast he'd gone from thinking her a near equal to slapping a neat scarlet label across the memory of her name.

But then this was her world. He'd never been able to think of himself as having been anything but a wayward tourist trapped in it and privately he'd always thought she liked that about him.

If she came they'd get caught, she'd drag him back down and he would have missed his only chance to get out - or, worse yet, she would say no and stay here. She would choose to stay and that meant he had a choice as well.

No, this had to be done with.

The knocking stops and he hears her door open and close. And then open and close again. Her Tuesday midnight regular.

It had to be done with.

* *

Airport security barely gives him a second glance and soon he's watching England shrink in the window, neat patches of green and brown and gray dissolve into each other and then disappear altogether under thick stormclouds. It'll be raining when Sukey wakes up for her noon appointment.

His stopover in Newark doesn't give him enough time to go into the city but the sharp disappointment is thrilling in its own right, proof his wanderlust had not, as feared, been strangled in a Manchester back alley.

The landing in Houston barely registers and he bounds out of the airport dazed, intoxicated. The world seems so vast just then, his anonymity without boundary or consequence.

There was so much more than just England, he could have run, back then, he should have run, why didn’t he… but the thought is mercifully gunned down and he watches it collapse atop the corpses of all the other thoughts he's slaughtered - that the Manchester microcosm had been enough for him, that he'd deserved any of it, that he had needed to be let go before he could leave.

He washes his face in the stained bathroom sink of his clean yet intrinsically shitty motel room just off the I-45, and looks at himself in the steam-fogged mirror. Real. Very real.

* *

He sleeps into the early afternoon and then braves the outside for coffee and flapjacks at an affable diner. Followed by a much-needed drink at the pub, sorry, bar, down the street.

He watches the sun set outside while the weak overhead lights flicker on, patrons slowly filling up the musty room and lazily dropping coins in the jukebox in the corner at random intervals. No darts but there’s a pool table and imported lager and he ends up chatting with the barman till past closing time, lets the jagged accent sand away rounded vowels and missing consonants.

He'd never been such a natural at this, the people thing, before.

But then, he thinks as they shuffle around each other in the supply closet, his radar has never been this honed either.

They fuck in relative silence and Sam doesn't come precisely on cue, as practiced and planned, but rather when the barman unexpectedly clamps his roughened hand over Sam's mouth, the concentrated stench of beer and nicotine American but universal enough for his purposes.

He accepts a lift in the obligatory broken-down silver pickup, gets a handshake, of all things,
and an invite to come back anytime. He's grinning when he climbs out and listens to the truck stutter and start and pull away, only to realize he'd spent the drive over working out the exchange rate for his services.

He knows this, knows it backwards. How many times had he heard the lectures, gone to the conferences, studied the literature? Under the banner of 'Breaking the Cycle – The Rehabilitation of Sex Industry Survivors,' they'd brought in a real live former prostitute to lecture them back in 98' and Sam had spent most of the session staring at her unfortunate gut and wondering if it counted as rehabilitation if you just weren't attracting punters anymore.

His drags his feet across the gravel courtyard of the motel and passes a family unpacking their station wagon near the reception office. The woman smiles at him and the man tips his gallon hat and two of the three children stick their tongues out to him and they know, they know, they know.

He sinks down against the twice locked door, panting from his harried sprint across the remainder of the parking lot. Sweat trickles down his neck and spine as he drops his head against his drawn-up knees and Sam can smell it on himself, the foreignness of it all – desert dust and closeted cowboy and residual Crisco.

He wishes he’d had the good sense to get drunk.

After all this time it's still that first night he revisits most often, though he’s never been able to piece together much beyond the pitiful and precious fragments he'd managed to hang onto until morning. His mind pours a nightly-changing concoction of unevenly mixed fear and shame and want over the empty cracks of the memory, the sole consistencies being the lingering taste of champagne tinged with blood in his mouth and Gene, sat in the corner.

They hold him down. He knows it's always the accurate five, but, like then, it might as well have been twenty. Might as well have been two. His arms are twisted behind his back and a soiled boot presses against the side of his face at an angle, temple to chin, keeping him still as he's thrust into.

The tears sting as they run down his slapped, bruised cheeks, as he tries to look up at Gene in
the increasingly brief respites between the turns being taken, tries to say 'I'm sorry' over and over and over but only manages to choke out sobbing half-syllables that ring sharply in his ears.

He is though, in that instance, he's always so sorry.

And Gene stands up and walks over, kneels to card heavy fingers through Sam's sweat-dampened hair and wipes away snot and tears with a handkerchief before whispering, almost kindly – 'I know.'

They don't hold him down. He swaggers around the room and serves them drinks and sucks them dry, chooses the one with the boots and knocks him onto the couch, straddles him reverse cowboy and spreads himself wide. He arches his back and licks his lips wet and looks at Gene from under heavy-lidded eyes.

See how good I am? He's asking with every meticulously timed moan. See how much they want me, don't you want me like this Gene?

And Gene stands up and walks over, pushes Sam's right knee further back so he sinks the last
inch down and the man with the boots grunts softly beneath him. Gene smirks and follows a steady line down the inside of Sam's thigh with his fingertips, until he's tracing and retracing a sharp half circle along the edge of the expanded ring of muscle. Gene stills then, draws his hand back and up to brush against Sam's mouth, cocking his head to the side as he watches Sam greedily suck lube and sweat off Gene's fingers while struggling to maintain his balance

'Sorry luv,' Gene leans in to whisper, almost kindly, pulling his fingers out with a twist and wiping them pointedly across Sam's breastbone - 'I don't do sloppy seconds'.

It's the second viral strain of dream he usually can't go to sleep after.

They'd held him down, and sometimes he wonders if he'd ever gotten back up.

He doesn't get up now, just shuffles forward to sit with his back against the springy motel bed and doesn't move till the drawn curtains turn an opaque orange with the rising day. He thinks of nothing and touches himself for the first time since Gene.

* *

He runs again.

Spends most of the notes he'd exchanged in New Jersey on a third-hand Triumph and then the last of them to convince the dealer to turn a blind eye to his unexplainable missing driver’s license.

The wind feels right, even if it's the wrong side of the road. He'd had one of these back at Uni, though Maya had never believed him, but he’s still pleasantly surprised to make it to Laredo without ending up as roadkill.

He forgets sometimes that he’s middle aged but the border guards do a good job of reminding him when they wave him across without hassle while the two young men in the minivan in front of him are detained for a drug inspection.

He'd turned three tricks back in Houston before leaving to replenish his dwindling funds. It had been simpler than he'd expected to do it on his own and he'd carefully backdated the memories in his mind, fitting the two blowjobs and single fuck between the Phelps' kitchen floor and the United spectator box.

After all, he was done with that.

It certainly doesn't count if it's only for survival. And there is a part of him that is oddly, shamefully proud. Of knowing he can survive with nothing but his own body to provide for him.

He already knows he won't stay in Monterrey a few minutes after arriving, the smell simply too familiar. Maybe one of the big cities, he thinks, he could join the force again. Yeah, that could be nice.

Two Zed-cars zoom by and he flinches.

It had been a strange line to cross, back then. The mere suggestion of police presence had always been a lifelong source of comfort to him, yet learning to fear them had been easy. As though the seeds of distrust had been planted before any of it had happened, with every fit-up and every fist-induced confession.

He goes into a small souvenir shop to change a $50 into pesos for gas money and absently spins a creaking postcard stand near the register.

Maybe he could work in a place like this. Serve up coffee and advice in a friendly language to passing tourists. Almost like Nelson and…

The postcard stand shudders as it comes to a sudden halt. Yes - exactly like Nelson.

He grabs the first generic looking sand-and-sea card off the rack and slaps it down on the counter. The girl behind the counter has the courtesy not to look too frightened at his manic grin when he asks "Got any stamps?"

* *

It had been a hazy Monday afternoon when he finally crossed into Quintana Roo, its freshly minted statehood and burgeoning hot-spot tourism exuding an almost tangible optimism in the air.

There's money now. At first there hadn't even been enough to cover the bar's expenses but he had learned to make ends meet. And then meet again several times over.

He's not greedy, Sam, though he always makes sure to have enough to keep his arrangement with the local coppers well-oiled. He pays the higher ups enough to keep their flatfoots in line.

Better to hand over this month's bulging unmarked envelope over respectable drinks rather than
stuffing fistfuls of crumbled notes into dirty palms.

He'd thought to write Gene of this, of how unusually good he seems to be at this crime business.

Well, it's in his blood he supposes.

Instead he'd just ended up scribbling 'Far enough?' on the postcard he'd kept tucked away in his passport for so many months along with the accompanying thin strip of stamps. He'd wanted to wait until it felt right but inevitably had just drunk a few too many glasses of wine one slow afternoon at the pub. He'd meant to send it blank and later could never figure out if he'd meant it as 'Thank you' or 'Fuck you' or possibly, probably, still, 'Fuck me.'

He'd sat on the bench next to the public mail box for almost an hour after slipping the card through its slot, the taste of aged stamp adhesive thick on his tongue.

The postcard had been meant to free him but instead only seemed to serve as a reminder that Gene knew where he was. And thus a lifetime of second glances at gruff-looking passersby was spawned, an existence of compulsively scanning any new crowd for the familiar breadth of shoulders.

Just as well that Gene would never come really, that he would never see this.

* *

It had just been about survival, again, at first. Cancun was only just being weaned off government subsidies and Newton's was only the first in a slew of outwardly identical pubs, unfortunately situated in a part of the resort town that was still under heavy construction.

Things would pick up; he knew that, once the hotels were standing. But there were still bills to pay and, well, it was what he knew to do.

Pulling himself together in a back alley after a blessedly quick encounter with a guest from the Blanca, he'd saved the life of a bright-eyed girl with small breasts getting at least five types of shit kicked out of her by a john looking to skip his tab.

The mustached little sod paid double in the end, more than that even; had turned out his pockets with shaking hands and a bleeding nose as Sam loomed above him with clenched fists, buzzing on reawakened copper endorphins. "Good," Sam had crooned as he dragged the battered trick to his feet and shoved him against a dumpster with a satisfying rattle and clang, "now run along back to your missus and if I ever see you 'round here again I'll have one of my girls feed you your knackers, comprehendes muchacho?"

Her name was Amata and he'd taken her back to his small room above the pub where he refused both her money and her services after having carefully dabbed her cheek with iodine antiseptic.

But then that Sunday when he meet up with the concierge of the Cancun Caribe, who now regularly supplied him with clients only too happy to pay extra for the simplicity of having Sam simply delivered to their suites, he remembered her.

And so there are eight girls now, though the number can reach well over a dozen during the season, and three boys. He's been thinking lately of branching them out to tend to all the bored and lonely wives his small army of concierges are always telling him about. It’s important to stay ahead of the market and when he tries to work out the rates in his head, he also manages to convince himself it’s almost a feminist gesture really.

Sam takes 50% and thinks it fair and he uses words, not fists. For the most part. Truth is that it's for their own good, so they'll learn from the smaller misdemeanors not to cross him.

They get two chances. It used to be three, but Sam's learned how drearily easy it is to replace them in a place like this, where people run away to with nothing but postcards from dusty souvenir shops in their back pockets.

There's a fine lad from Wisconsin who escaped the draft and hadn't found work. Not much for sucking cock but he's good with numbers and schedules and so Sam keeps him and teaches him to throw a punch and if he reminds Sam of Chris sometimes, well, the feeling usually goes away after a while.

And so there's money now. Along with it come a posh fusion restaurant and stakes in three new hotels to go with the bar. He keeps his streets safe and helps land investors for the municipality, goes to their cocktail parties and smooth-talks American businessmen with his smile and accent and, if need be, his girls. Who he never uses himself.

Things change. They don't exactly change back to anything he can remember but Sam sees it in the way he carries himself, the chronic ache in his lower back gone now that he isn't spending quite so many hours kneeling on stiff floors. His skin stops feeling tight and painfully dry when he stops showering five times a day.

And people know him, know his girls and boys are clean and well mannered and discreet and Sam allows himself to be proud. He cooks them exotic dishes for holiday meals and gives them alternating weekends off and watches Amata's son when her mother is busy.

He grows fond of his name again.

* *

Sam doesn't deal with clients, for the most part. Though he does believe it's good for morale to see the boss set an example. And besides this is the only way he can come with another person now. Gene's cruelest parting gift.

The workers talk amongst themselves of course, of why he opts for some of the rowdier, older Brits. But there, astride narrow hips and resting his weight on firm girth, sometimes even the smell is right.

It hadn’t taken long to grow accustomed to tequila but Sam still revels in the second-hand taste of whiskey kept secret from wives and children in cheap metal flasks. This one, Sam can tell as he leans forward to lick the tangy flavor out of the man’s gasping mouth, keeps his hidden somewhere ridiculous - where the combination of the local climate and body temperature have warmed it to the point of being uniquely disgusting. Like the last swig of Gene’s fifth emergency flask at the end of a long day.

He rarely fights it anymore these days, the comparisons. Not with Manchester so incomprehensibly far away.

The balding businessman is just arranging his tie in the mirror when Sam, cleaning up in the bathroom and humming a 90's pop tune, hears him call out – "Say, don't I know you from somewhere?"

Later, he finally places him as one of the blokes they'd rounded up in the scuffle after the murder outside the Trafford Arms, a City supporter.

Later he wonders why he took that extra minute to unwrap a new razor blade from under the hotel sink when the one sitting on the soap dish didn't seem to be too blunt for his purposes.

They were mixing concrete at a construction site not far from here, some swanky new spa, he'd have to call the foreman and settle a price. Maybe throw in a couple of blowjobs to have some guys from the crew come down to do the heavy lifting. Or perhaps the pool of that hotel where the concierge tried to steal one of his girls with an offer of exclusivity. Maybe he would just leave the body here, why bother really? After all, he pays good money to stay untouchable.

The overhead light catches on the razor and the reflection blinds him.

He doesn't make it to the toilet quite in time but manages not to kneel in his own vomit as he crawls the remaining few inches across the bright tiled floor. The spotless razor cutting into his palm as he clutches the porcelain tighter with every heave, like his St. Christopher a lifetime ago.

The City fan knocks on the bathroom door tentatively, asks if he's alright. Sam nearly lets him in. The smell had almost been right. So was the texture of his hands and curve of his accent and Sam could let him in and exchange a moment of comfort for the price of the session and it would have been worth everything.

But his hands are burning with the phantom sensation of having slit that soft throat like custard, the warmth of slippery blood between his fingers far too tangible as he clenched his fists and tried to shake off the falsified muscle memory of drawing the blade firmly across a yielding windpipe.

Sam tries to yell for the guy to piss off but only offsets another round of dry heaves. The shadow of the businessman’s feet has vanished from under the bathroom door by the time Sam is upright again. Well, really, who sticks around to listen to their aging rentboy hurling in the next room.

* *

It’s late in the afternoon by the time Sam finally stumbles out of the putrid bathroom, the stain on his shirt scrubbed clean and still a bit damp.

He means to go home (a lovely Colonial on a cul-de-sac) but barely makes it down to the hotel’s beachfront before collapsing to his knees again. Strange how not murdering someone seemed to be as profound an experience as its opposite.

But then the act itself should meaningless, Sam thinks as he rinses his mouth out in a small tap meant for cleaning sand off vacationing feet. Regardless of whether or not the City fan walked out of the room in his double-breasted suit or a body bag, Sam had killed him.

But I didn’t, in the end says a determined voice that sounds disconcertingly familiar in tone to all the villains Sam’s ever brought up on intent charges.

The sugar-white sand sifts easily through his fingers, rasps against the flat of the razor still held tight in his hand. He sees the translucent green of Joni’s dead eyes in the Yucatán’s impossible waters and thinks of the twisting stench of melted film. In the end she didn’t either, he supposes.

He remembers the shifty look in her eyes when she’d come to say goodbye, how he thought it was probably just a little whore jonesing for a fix or a bad actress delivering unconvincing lines.

He recognizes it now as the edgy dizziness of having put such an abrupt stop to one’s own
spiraling descent, hacking off the drowning weight of hope for a forgiveness that could never be earned, for the absolution that would never come.

Sam doesn’t regret telling her that living in fear wasn’t living at all, but he wishes he’d known to promise her the unparalleled clarity of life after fear. Which isn’t at all the same as never having known it in the first place.

He worries a hole in the cool sand with his thumb, marveling as always at how the grains refused to absorb any of the sun’s biting, oppressive heat. How Cancún would trick you into thinking you could leave a mark on her when it was only ever the other way around. He pulls out his medallion then, rubs it back and forth against the thin razor blade a few times before wrapping them both in the chain and interring the makeshift parcel with infinite care.

This wasn’t supposed to be his life, of that Sam is sure. He’s taken to thinking now that perhaps its original owner had been hit by a speeding motor and he’d simply been assigned the first vacant life available. Maybe it was just deemed too odd a life not to have been lived by someone, anyone.

His shirt is still damp and it’ll grow cold soon, but Sam thinks that maybe he’ll stay here for just a little while longer.

He thinks maybe he’ll cook them mango chicken this weekend.

* *

"Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind."

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