Rating: PG-13 for use of expletives.
Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: Approximately 4000 words.
Notes: A big thank you to xwingace for beta-reading this for me and helping me work out some kinks, as well as highlighting for me the vital tool of description. This isn't the story I've recently been working on. This started eating my brain a month and a half ago and never relinquished it. Well, it's here now.
Summary: Sam/Annie. Sam knows he's forgetting something important, something to do with life and living. He's just not sure what it is. “Everyone deserves to live, it’s how they live their lives that determines what this world could and could not be.”
He sees it coming. Big and bright. Moving a mile a minute, or maybe more. In the next second, he’s barrelling through the air, hitting the ground on a skid.
“I told you about Maya, didn’t I, Annie?”
“Yeah Sam, you did. Why?”
“I built up a wall and burnt down the ladder.”
“This isn’t about those… ah… have you been getting any sleep, Sam? You look really tired.”
“I don’t want that to happen this time. I’m going to try, Annie. I’m going to try to be accessible.”
“Fire escapes and everything?”
“I mean that I don’t want to create a barrier between us.”
“I’d gathered that.”
“I want you to know everything.”
“Friends don’t need to know everything, Sam.”
“I don’t want us to just be friends, Annie.”
“You’re mad, you do know that, don’t you?”
Sam thinks he must be in a dream. Everything is calm, warm and comfortable. His eyes open and close slowly as his body feels like it’s floating on open water. The sky falls in and out of view. He lies on the asphalt staring up at the sky, imagining what it’d be like to spend his whole life floating through time.
Heartbeat’s fading. Quick, get the doctor in here.
Don’t go on us, Sam. You’re still there, I know you are. Stay with us, Sam.
Time is running out. We need the doctor now.
When he woke up, Sam found he was frowning, with his hand clenched on the left side of his chest and a heavy sweat on his brow. He had seen something during the night. What had it been? It’d been about recent events, that much he knew. It was like it was a direction, a place, or maybe an action? Christ. Maybe he really was mad, just like Annie said.
He got himself up. He showered, shaved and prepared himself for the working day. Hopefully the movement and action would jog his senses. He made it to the station and set about work.
The day continued as badly as it had begun. Chris had stayed home sick and somehow this meant Sam had adopted the role of office klutz. He kept getting things wrong. He’d filled out a report incorrectly (oh irony of ironies) and he’d found himself heading in the opposite direction to where he wanted to be. He had the niggling notion that he was forgetting vital information that was going to come back and smash him on the head. But Gene had said he “were acting like a prat,” and Annie’s expressions suggested she felt the same way, so he dismissed it.
He was transcribing part of an interview when his attention was drawn by Ray. The other man had previously been on the phone, but he’d put down the receiver and was now speaking to Gene. He also kept looking over at Sam with a surreptitiously malevolent glint in his eye.
“Guv? Apparently we’ve got a jumper,” Ray said, “Locals want CID to deal with it. Tyler looks to be the best one for the job. With his skills in negotiation and all that.” Sam could tell that it hadn’t been ‘negotiation’ which had caused Ray to stare at him so pointedly, but how did he know about the Neil incident?
Gene also gazed at Sam, but in genuine query as opposed to unbridled hatred. “Are you sure he’s the man for the job? Remember what happened at the Gazette and how successful that was.”
“Well, he did stop the nutso from killing himself, didn’t he?”
Sam just loved it when they talked about him as if he wasn’t there.
“Right’en, let’s skedaddle,” Gene replied.
“Do you have some sort of book of odd phraseology or something?” Sam questioned.
They grabbed their coats and set off for the great unknown, also known as the Rostrevor Housing Estate. It was just around the corner from the station, so the trip didn’t take long. Upon arrival, Sam rushed to assess the situation. He got close and looked up and about. There he saw a shape that was short and fat, possibly male, standing right on the edge of the roof. The roof of the estate wasn’t that high up, but it was high enough that falling would cause death.
“Shit. Double shit. Doubleshitwankshitfuck.” Sam threw his hands down by his sides, fists clenched. Gene Hunt raised an eyebrow.
“Impressive,” Gene responded, blatant in his sarcasm.
“I was hoping he wouldn’t be so close to the edge. I need to get up there.”
“Stairs’re on the right, through the main door.”
“No lift?” Sam raised his hands to the back of his head and threw them back down again when Gene spoke.
“What planet do you live on?”
“Look, I thought you said you had to get up there?”
“I do. Don’t say anything in the meantime, get me? Do not say a bloody word.” Sam ran towards the building, not stopping up four flights of stairs, getting ever more breathless as he went. This was not the way things were supposed to go.
Once he was on the roof, he took several deep breaths and crept forward. No sudden movements. No calling, or warning, or anything that could end in a man shaped splatter pattern by Gene and Ray’s shoes. The man was short and fat, with dark brown hair. He was wearing what appeared to be his Sunday finest. He couldn’t have been much older than Sam.
“I know you’re here,” the man said after a while. He didn’t look towards Sam, but kept staring ahead.
“Good. I’m DI Tyler. Sam. I’m here to talk to you. To help you.” Sam was still struggling to get enough oxygen into his system.
“Lucky you. You won’t stop me.”
“What’s your name?”
“Right. Listen Thomas, tell me what this is all about.”
“Well, it’s pretty simple DI Tyler. I don’t want to live anymore, so I’m going to kill myself.” Thomas opened his arms out wide, as if gesturing to a wide and entrancing landscape.
Sam crept forward some more, the movement catching Thomas’s attention. Thomas looked at Sam quizzically. During their entire conversation, Thomas either stared steadfastly forward or stared at him. It seemed to Sam that he couldn’t bring himself to look down.
“I understand what you’re going through, Thomas. But isn’t there another way?”
“You’re suggesting alternatives for offing myself?”
“No. I’m suggesting alternatives for dealing with how you’re feeling,” Sam made a conscious effort to soften his tone. He took another small step forward.
Thomas laughed half-heartedly, brushing a hand across his forehead. “Oh, that’s alright then. Would’ve thought you were right crap at your job if it had been the other thing.”
“Thomas. Listen to me. You don’t have to do this.”
“No.” Sam inched closer.
“There’s so much to live for. So much beauty.” Sam placed his arms out wide, mirroring Thomas’s previous action. The sky was not a brilliant blue. There were menacing grey clouds. Rostrevor estate was surrounded by other housing estates, comprised of both relatively new and dilapidated buildings. It wasn’t actually an awe-inspiring sight.
Nevertheless, Thomas nodded his head in agreement. “There is. I agree. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I should. I used to be the optimist like you, thinking everything would be alright because there are just as many good people as there are bad. Then I started to see… there aren’t. For a thousand shitheads out there on the street, there’s one good person. Only a few in a sea of millions who make a difference, who genuinely care about others,” Thomas said, pointing his finger towards the gravel with every assertion. His tone had started out melancholy, but he’d gradually become more and more irate with each sentence. He almost sounded accusatory.
“I met someone else recently who felt like that.”
“Well, that’s because it’s true, innit?” Thomas practically shouted, “I realised I didn't want to stop believing in the good of others. I may as well stop believing in life itself. And I have. No-one deserves to live.” Thomas stopped and took a deep breath, before continuing, his voice deepening with conviction. “Humans are base and cruel. They’re unthinking, greedy and at the very least, obnoxious. They forget and they continue. They wound and they destroy. No-one deserves to live in what could be such a beautiful world. Most of all not me.” Thomas gestured wildly to himself on this last exclamation, rocking backwards and forwards gently.
“You’re wrong. You deserve to live, Thomas,” Sam said, opening his eyes wider as Thomas bounced on the balls of his feet, teetering precariously on the edge. Sam tried to order the thoughts which were rushing through his head, each subconscious excuse and reason beckoning to his conscious mind to listen. “Everyone deserves to live, it’s how they live their lives that determines what this world could and could not be.” He swept his arm along the horizon. “Every single soul out there has the capacity for good. You don’t have to be on a one person crusade to make a difference. A good deed is as simple as smiling at someone who’s having a bad day. It’s holding the door open.”
“Pull one over.” Thomas contorted his face into an angry scowl before looking the other way.
Sam shook his head quickly. “No, it is. Ordinary people living ordinary lives make the world a better place. Humans aren’t just base and cruel. Humans love.” On this, Thomas turned back to Sam, no longer a scowl on his face, but a calm look of detached interest. Sam forged ahead. “They love their mothers, their fathers, their siblings.” He tried to think of some more examples. “They love going down to the football, and sharing drinks with their mates. This love encourages them to help others. It makes them create works of art and beauty.”
Sam opened out his hands imploringly. He was standing quite close to Thomas, was almost reaching towards him. He was also aware of how close to the edge he was himself, could feel the breeze buffeting him slightly to the side. He willed himself not to look down at the ground because all that did was bring back the memories of when he’d been in a similar situation, and this made him empathise with Thomas just a little too much.
He believed everything he was saying to Thomas, he did, but he could also see the other man’s point of view. What good was beauty if you deemed yourself unfit to view it? He’d never actually wanted to kill himself. No, he’d been on a roof because he thought this would bring him back to life, but he could understand the despair that Thomas was feeling. It was an emotion that had echoed throughout his existence.
“I respectfully disagree,” Thomas replied after a pause.
Sam supressed a smile at the formality, choosing instead to use the lighthearted tone to his advantage. “Well, how about you argue your case some more over here? I’m sure you could convince me about your way of seeing things.” Sam motioned far into the middle of the roof.
Thomas wasn’t convinced. “Nice try, Tyler. Look, why don’t you just let me go? Who am I to you? How does it make any difference if I go over the edge or not, in the grand scheme of things?” Thomas nodded his head down towards the ground as he eyeballed Sam.
“For one thing, you’re on a rooftop. There’s any number of ways you could have done this, and you chose one of spectacle? You want help, Thomas. It’s here. I’m here.” Sam moved forward some more, beckoning to the other man.
“This isn’t about spectacle. It’s because I always wanted to know what it’s like to fly. You prat.”
“Look, if you come back here, I can show you the reasons you deserve, everyone deserves, to live.” Sam’s voice sped up slightly as he looked at Thomas. He held out his hand.
“Oh God, you’re not launching into another soliloquy are you?”
“Hey! You did one first.” Sam thought that if he just played along, kept this casual, Thomas would eventually see sense.
“I’m allowed to, it’s the long dramatic speech before death. It’s my right.” Thomas waved his arms around emphatically. Sam was exasperated. He didn’t know how to get through, couldn’t think of the right words to say. He was positive reverse psychology wouldn’t work, so what was next?
“Thomas, you strike me as a very intelligent, well reasoned man.”
“He said to the man standing on the edge of a fucking building,” Thomas shouted, “I’m sorry DI Tyler. I wasn’t expecting to bother anyone else with this, but it’s something I have to do. You talk about humans loving and the good that comes out of that, but if you don’t have love in your life, and I don’t, you’re pretty much stuffed. I hope you continue to focus on the light side of life, because I can’t anymore. Goodbye.”
Thomas closed his eyes and launched himself forward with force. Sam lunged to grab hold of him, thinking he was close enough, but missed. It happened in a split second.
Sam couldn’t look. He doubled over, fell to his knees, feeling sick to his stomach. He’d failed. Another life gone to limbo because of Sam Tyler. Getting things wrong. How did he think he could convince another man not to jump when he’d been perilously close to doing so himself not a few months before? Annie. If it hadn’t been for her, even if he hadn’t stepped forward that day, he’d have been in a situation like this several times since. And maybe his motives were different, but the result would have been the same.
Thomas shouldn’t have died because he was a screw-up, because of his mistakes. Sam lay on the gravel for a while, feeling the bile stirring towards his throat, ready to meet the world. He couldn’t go down, couldn’t face Gene and Ray and the evidence of yet another downfall.
He frowned when he heard what sounded suspiciously like Thomas’s voice floating up to him.
“Wankers. You fucking WANKERS.”
Sam got up, ran to the edge and saw firefighters beneath him, a firefighter’s rescue sheet starting to be rolled up, and Thomas wrestling awkwardly with Ray’s hands around his arm. Sam thought his heart was going to burst out of his chest. His head was pounding with pure glee.
“Yes! YES! I cannot believe, just… yes!” Sam ran back down the four flights of stairs before bursting out into the courtyard and beaming at Gene Hunt.
“Genius!” he exclaimed.
“You did a good job of stalling there, Sammy-boy.”
Sam looked over to Thomas, who was nursing his arm. It was sitting at an odd angle and looked broken. Thomas was in a fit of tears.
“Why didn’t you just let me die?”
There’s something trickling around him. He’s finding it harder to keep his eyes open. Things have been fading to black. He knows he’s lying somewhere, but he doesn’t know where, and he doesn’t know why. He wants his mum.
His heartbeat is returning to normal. All signs stabilising.
Yes! You’re going to be okay, Sam, I just know you are.
Things will be better if he wakes up in the next day or two. Shouldn’t you be back at work?
The faint glimmer of a void in the recesses of his mind. Sam knew there was a task, an achievement to be undertaken. If only he could remember what it was. He sat at his desk, correcting the mistakes of earlier on in the day. Well, the ones he could correct, anyway.
“I heard you did a good job today, Sam.”
“I wasn’t anything special, Annie.”
“Did you talk about sand?”
“You’re an evil woman, do you know that?”
“Course. So if you weren’t anything special, how come there’s a man who’s going to have a future getting the treatment he needs?”
“That’s your answer to lots of things. What’s wrong? Gene Hunt. Where are you going? Gene Hunt. What’s the weather like? Gene Hunt.”
“Okay, well ask me a question I can’t give an answer like that to, then.”
“Who do you fancy?”
“Ge… Annie Cartwright.”
When Annie left with a smile, Sam sighed. It had been through no action of his that Thomas had come off with a few broken bones and shattered pride. And this was niggling at him, because he couldn’t help but think that this was it, this was that responsibility he felt he had to accomplish. There was a life at stake.
Drinks at the bar often resulted in Sam saying things he ordinarily reserved for the back of his head. But Gene never seemed to care so it didn’t really matter. Sam was starting to assume that if all of this was real, Gene was just the oblivious type. If it wasn’t, he was pandering to Sam’s whim of needing to find expression without being told he should be locked in a padded room.
“I keep thinking that at some point or another, this job will suck the life out of me.”
“You are a cheerful sort, aren’t you?”
“Did you always want to be a copper? I did. I don’t know exactly what I thought it was that made the job so great. I think I wanted to make a difference.”
“And you do.”
“Yeah. Right pain in the arse you are, makes a huge difference.”
Saving lives, making a difference. When had it started? It’d started when he was a kid. But why? At first it’d been about liking the uniform. He vaguely remembered long and detailed discussions with his mum about the shining buttons and the hat. A constable had once visited the house doing routine enquiries or something and he’d let Sam wear the helmet. That’d been fun. As Sam grew older he became more and more sure that this was it for him, this was what everything was supposed to be about. What was it about this profession? It’d been about his dad, hadn’t it? Not only that, though. Something else. Something big. What? What had it been? If only he hadn’t had so much whiskey, he could probably figure it out through the haze.
Beep beep beep.
I hate that bloody noise, always sounds so clinical, don’t you think Sam? How about you wake up and get us out of here? Promise I’ll do something special for you. I’ll make you dinner, take you dancing, anything so that you’d join us again in the land of the living.
Beep beep beep.
Lying in bed didn’t seem to be helping. Sam opened and closed his eyes, brushing a hand down his face. Sleep would make things better. Precious sleep. If only he could sleep.
He woke up with a start, but didn’t remember ever nodding off. What he did remember, however, made him sit straight up and start pounding the heels of his hands to his head. This was it, this was it.
He didn’t bother dressing properly. He ran out of the house and was off to the station. Once there, he took command.
“Where is PC Mallows?”
“Down canteen, boss.”
“Great. Chris, I need you on the telephone, asking about an IC1 female…”
“White woman with blonde hair. Answers to the name Ruth Tyler. No, don’t say anything. She’s got a small boy with her. Uh… um… make enquiries in any of the shops within a mile radius of the intersection of Lightbowne and Oldham road, yeah? That should be the right area.”
Sam grabbed pen and paper and trekked to the canteen. Mallows was sitting drinking tea.
“Could you draw a picture for me, please? I need it for identification purposes.”
Blue skies ahead and the clouds in beautiful formation.
Sam looked at the house. It seemed vaguely familiar. He closed his eyes and tried to reimagine it, see it through his mind’s eye. He wasn’t sure he could. The thought of knocking on the door worried him. Something told him Ruth Tyler wouldn’t be pleased to see his face again. But he had to try.
No-one answered the knocking. No-one answered him calling out the name. In fact, Sam didn’t think anyone was home. He paced around for a while and set off down the road. He wasn’t sure how much time he had, but he was relatively certain that there was a reason he had remembered this morning.
The streets were eerily quiet. He turned the corner and saw himself. Playing with a ball on the pavement. He didn’t want to go any closer, didn’t want to disturb the peace, and he couldn’t see his mum anywhere.
He stood for a while longer watching. And his younger counterpart seemed oblivious to his being there. So what was he supposed to do? Go up and warn him to stay off the road? Maybe it was more than that. Sam looked around for someone else, but as he’d suspected, it was just him here.
If this didn’t work today, what, would he cease to exist? He’d said that there was beauty to live for. Love to live for. But was risking his life going to mean he would be doing these things, or was this all some sort of cosmic practical joke? If this had already happened, then obviously this was going to work. But what would the consequences be? The question was, would he go back home? Be out of the coma in 2006? Would he die, only to have given himself more leeway to lead what had been a productive but not especially joyful life before finding himself hurtled back in time?
He didn’t have much time to ponder the ramifications, because there was young Sam going into the road, and there was a Ford Granada driving towards him, and no-one else was diving into the fray. Sam ran forward and pushed the young body out of the path of the vehicle. Everything went black.
Mum is with the ambulance people, talking. She sounds scared but grateful. She looks down at Sam every two seconds. The person who got him out the way of the car is still lying on the ground. He looks hurt.
“He’s a police officer, I know him. His name… it’s the same as ours. Tyler. DI Tyler.”
Sam’s going to be a DI one day. He’s always said it, but now he knows for sure.
Beep beep beep.
“How long d’you think Sammy-boy’s going to keep us waiting?”
Beep beep beep.
“You were gone for a couple of days, off in the land of nod, but you’re back with us now and there’s no permanent damage. The doctor says you’re going to be okay, Sam.”
“Well, that’s good news. I feel like shit warmed up, but as long as I’m going to be okay.” Sam smiled weakly. Annie moved closer towards him and placed her hand on his.
“Are you going to tell me why that boy’s life was more important than your own?”
“It wasn’t. It was equally as important.” Sam coughed.
“Oh, Sam. Sometimes I think I’ve got you figured out and then you go and do things.”
“Yeah, it’s a horrible habit of mine. Doing things.”
“Should get that seen to.”
“Once you’re out of here, you’re gonna stay with me for a while.” Annie smiled. Her fingers started caressing Sam’s hand gently, rhythmically.
“Yep. And there won’t be any walls between us, Sam Tyler. No ladders neither. What do you say?”
“How will the accessibility be?”
“Fire escapes and everything.” A nurse came to the door as Annie spoke.
“I’m afraid you can’t stay here much longer, WPC Cartwright.”
Annie leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. It was 1973 and he’d just saved his own life, so things weren’t making much sense.
All Sam knew was that this was a strange kind of wonderful, like a good time that’d never been had.